Fantasia & Japan Cuts Interview: Film Director Yurina Kaneko spoke to The Natural Aristocrat® about her movie, ‘People Who Talk to Plushies Are Kind’.
Living up to its title, it’s a compassionate & sensitive motion picture, both in terms of characters and subject matter.
This Yurina Kaneko interview contains spoilers for Japanese film, ‘People Who Talk to Plushies Are Kind’.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT (NIR REGEV): Is this film and the portrayal of Mimiko Mugito (actress Ren Komai) in particular, a subtle take on hikikomori social withdrawal in Japan?
YURINA KANEKO: It is true that hikikomori is a problem in Japanese society. But I think it’s okay to be a hikikomori.
Society tells us to overcome difficulties, but I think it is necessary to have a period of escape. People do things at their own pace.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: I found it interesting that Tsuyoshi Nanamori (actor Kanata Hosoda) grieves for his pet dog ‘Gon’ in the film as it appears the plushies are an inanimate object replacement for pets.
How do you feel about stuffed animals/plushies being a fully one sided relationship, even more so then a dog or cat?
YURINA KANEKO: I think that human communication should be distributed to everything.
In other words, just as some people form relationships with people, others form relationships with dogs, stuffed animals, and inanimate objects.
This movie cuts out people who happen to have a deep relationship with “stuffed animals”.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: How did you come up with the idea of showing the rainbow eye camera perspective of the plushie?
YURINA KANEKO: I wanted to express something other than the human perspective.
Also, I needed a perspective to look at the kindness of Yui Shiraki (actress Yuzumi Shintani) at the end of the movie.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: I felt the character of Yui Shiraki was cruel to Nanamori from the onset of their dating, hinting constantly she saw him non-romantically and as un-masculine.
It was a surprise to see Shiraki answer Mugito ‘that she didn’t know if she had feelings or not for Nanamori’, indicating she did.
Did she have feelings for Nanamori to end the film in your opinion?
YURINA KANEKO: I’m sure Shiraki had romantic feelings for Nanamori, but they weren’t sexual feelings.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: The scene in which Nanamori confronts Shiraki with acceptance of her vulnerability and ‘weakness’ as a person was particularly strong, the best in the film in my opinion.
What was it like shooting this moment where Nanamori tells Shiraki to quit the club where she’s being harassed?
YURINA KANEKO: Thank you. It was a tense shoot.
I believed in the two actors. I said, ”I don’t care if you make a mistake in your lines, say everything you want to say as the character you play.”
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: Did you personally decorate The Plushie Club room or did you have a separate set designer for it?
YURINA KANEKO: I hired a designer. There are a total of 600 stuffed animals in that room.
The placement is considered so that the line of sight of all stuffed animals stands out.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: How common is the female harassment that Mimiko Mugito viewed on the commuter train?
YURINA KANEKO: In the original, it is written that “the male genitalia is rubbed against the woman”.
Whatever experience it is, it can be a serious problem for the person.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: Why does Yui Shiraki believe in The Plushie Club as a safe space but also resents Nanamori and Mugito’s kindness?
Is it because she wishes she could be like them but can’t?
YURINA KANEKO: It may be that too. Shiraki feels resentment towards “society”.
People like Nanamori and Mugito can’t function well in “society”.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: Did Mimiko Mugito have feelings for Nanamori? Even though she said he was only a ‘friend’ to Shiraki, she was the only one to visit him at home at his lowest.
YURINA KANEKO: It may not be romantic feelings.
Although it is not explained in the movie, Nanamori and Mugito probably have a sexual orientation called “asexual-aromantic”.
The reason I didn’t explain it in the film was because I didn’t want to use sexual orientation as a narrative function.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: The President of The Plushie Club describes being seen as different everywhere for her sexual identity except at the ‘PLC’.
Do you feel that people who’ve experienced pain like at the PLC are inherently non-judgmental?
YURINA KANEKO: I do not think so. I want to criticize a society that forces judgment.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: Can you discuss filming the scene where Nanamori leaves his friend after being mocked and made a joke of?
YURINA KANEKO: I think it’s a scene where you part with your old community, that is, with your old self.
I think Nanamori was on the same perpetrator side as them and was laughing at others.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: What were some of the challenges filming ‘People Who Talk to Plushies Are Kind’?
YURINA KANEKO: During filming, I myself was also affected by the story and it was painful for a long time. The same goes for actors and staff.
But I believed that this suffering would lead to the salvation of someone’s suffering.
Also, I had to face the perpetrators in the position of a film director.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: What does it mean to you to have your film screened at the 2023 Japan Cuts Film Festival in New York City?
YURINA KANEKO: I’m honored. I’m curious to see how this film will be perceived in other cultures.
The characters may be criticized for being “too overthinking and too sensitive.” But there are people like them in society, and I want to make it visible.
I want to keep shooting movies so that I can come to this film festival again.
And if I have the next opportunity, I definitely want to go there and see the reaction of the audience.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: Thanks Yurina!
YURINA KANEKO: Thank you!
– ‘People Who Talk to Plushies Are Kind’ screened at the 2023 Fantasia International Film Festival on July 31 & August 2, and the 2023 JAPAN CUTS Film Festival on August 5 (US Premiere) at Japan Society NYC.
– ‘People Who Talk to Plushies Are Kind’ is adapted from an original novel / fiction collection by writer Ao Omae. Director Yurina Kaneko and Suzuyuki Kaneko co-wrote the screenplay.
People Who Talk to Plushies Are Kind: Lead Cast, Synopsis, Movie Trailer
Kanata Hosoda as Tsuyoshi Nanamori
Ren Komai as Mimiko Mugito
Yuzumi Shintani as Yui Shiraki
Gaku Hosokawa as Tarayama
Kogarashi Wakasugi as Nishimura
Yuki Kamiosako as Fujio
Mao as Mitsusaki
PLOT SYNOPSIS: “When sophomore university student Nanamori meets Mugito, they decide to join a club.
Intrigued by the Plushies Club, they soon realize it is not a place where people make plushies, but rather one where members are welcome to talk to stuffed animals about their feelings, or anything they might not want to discuss with other people. An introvert’s paradise.
A safe space. An escape from society’s pressures and rules.
For Nanamori, it’s a natural fit: the club allows him to explore his uneasiness about dating and society’s imposed gender roles.
But soon, an overwhelmed Mugito disappears, and the more pragmatic club member Shiraki begins voicing opposition to the group’s insular methods. Real life encroaches.”
Follow Director Yurina Kaneko and the lead cast on social media:
– Follow actress Yuzumi Shintani (Yui Shiraki) on Instagram.
– Follow actor Gaku Hosokawa on Instagram.
– Follow Yuki Kamiosako on Instagram.
– Be sure to read our review of Gako Hosokawa’s starring role in ‘Sasaki in My Mind’
More JAPAN CUTS 2023 and Fantasia 2023 Film Festival Interviews
– JAPAN CUTS 2023: KENTARO, Yuya Yagira Interview on moviem, ‘Under the Turquoise Sky’
– Fantasia 2023: Juliet Mills Interview on movie, ‘The Primevals’ (Video)
– Fantasia 2023: Director Mark H. Rapaport Interview on film, ‘HIPPO’
Visit the 2023 Fantasia Film Festival section for exclusive interviews and reviews, present and past.