Hosted at the Grammy Museum, the inaugural JX ’23 honored Studio Chizu as a cultural pioneer for its global success in film. JX, which stands for Japan Crossover, brought together guests from all facets of the entertainment industry under one roof with the help of The Consulate General of Japan Los Angeles, Japan House LA, and the LA Next Generation Japanese American Leaders Initiative. Described as the “crossover for entertainment and culture from Japan to the world,” the JX Network event aimed to promote collaboration between leaders in music, animation, fashion, and technology.
Kicking off the panel discussion, Studio Chizu introduced the audience to a walkthrough of the studio’s resume and an explanation of its seven core values. These values included openness, family, and identity. Director Mamoru Hosoda was originally scheduled to speak at JX, but he was unable to attend. Producer Yuichiro Saito spoke in his place, sharing his insight into the studio’s origin and its next steps. Although the three other panelists enthusiastically presented their applications and integration of Metaverse and Web3’s functionalities, producer Saito did not mention those technologies during his talk. Instead, he broadly highlighted the influence and power of the digital world as a bridge between people.
“The movies that Studio Chizu produces, if you’ve seen any of them, you may know the internet is a very strong and core theme of them,” said Saito. He talked about the generational divide between the environment he grew up in and the one his children are currently in and how they now have the power to connect to the rest of the world at their fingertips. Even though he grew up hearing the ideology of Japan as separate from the rest of the world, he sees Japan as part of it. “It’s that identity that we tap into to make these films, and within that are a lot of different universal themes.”
When asked to expand on the studio’s core values, he framed how he and his team think about who those principles are important to. “With animation, you have to assume at some point kids are going to watch what you put out into the world,” explained Saito. “How do we help guide these younger generations through the values we infuse into our films is a question that we always keep in mind.” He emphasized family as the global core value, which the studio uses as a compass to “chart a map” into a “brighter, more hopeful future.”
In relation to the topic of family, he reflected on how he and Director Mamoru Hosoda almost didn’t work together. The three people Saito credits for connecting him to Hosoda were: his biological father, Studio Ghibli producer Toshio Suzuki, and Madhouse producer Masao Maruyama. While his biological father encouraged Saito to broaden his perspective on the movie industry, Suzuki guided and shaped Saito’s values. Maruyama was the last piece that connected the two founding members of Studio Chizu. Hosoda had reconsidered his time in the animation industry after being pulled from Studio Ghibli‘s Howl’s Moving Castle. During that period, Maruyama promised Hosoda he’d “make the environment” for him to stay in the industry because he was “born to tell stories.” As the story goes, he introduced the two together; the rest is history.
In Japan, the role of a producer is not clear-cut. “My role is to create an environment that is the best possible one for creators to flourish and enable their creativity.” Producer Saito envisions Studio Chizu‘s foundational purpose to share stories as its motivation behind their plans for the future. “To share the story, and if at all possible, translate that into…reception and critical acclaim so that we can reinvest that into the next project.”
The other speakers—ASOBISYSTEM, Amuse Group USA, and Animoca Brands—explained how their companies have developed projects utilizing the Metaverse and Web3 to create global content. Yūsuke Nakagawa, CEO of ASOBISYSTEM, presented his company’s use of new technology with their talent. In the past two years, ASOBISYSTEM launched its creation of MetaTokyo and the Metaani x Kyary Pamyu Pamyu NFT at Coachella 2022.
“We want to position our artists in a way that we can fully take advantage of whatever new delivery mechanism the world presents to us,” said Nakagawa. He touched upon how the Japanese media focuses on the potential of “higher wages outside Japan,” possibly because people are looking for opportunities “outside their own borders.”
Concluding the speaker panels, JX awarded the Cultural Impact Award in Film to Studio Chizu for its strides in the animation industry. In addition, Daniella Urbina, the Deputy of Housing and Homelessness, awarded a Scroll to the animation studio for its cultural achievements. Eric Moon, the field representative for Little Tokyo, also bestowed a certificate for their work in Japanese animation.
“I hope that through this intersection and community building, we can spark the trigger for something that happens in the not-too-distant future,” said Saito. “Today, I know we are on the receiving end of an award, but hopefully, as Studio Chizu—and members of this entertainment community—we can give back and help chart the map for the next 10, 20, 30 years in this space.”
JX then awarded the Global Achievement Award in Music to Japanese rock band ONE OK ROCK. Due to their stadium tour in Japan, Taka Moriuchi virtually thanked the organizers for recognizing the band’s hard work in broadening global interest in Japanese music.
Closing out the show, Kenko Sone, the Consul General of Japan in Los Angeles, handed off the stage to MIYAVI. The Samurai guitarist performed a short set of songs on an acoustic guitar alongside his live band. After “WHAT’S MY NAME?” he took the time to acknowledge the efforts to bring together the different groups who attended JX ’23.
“We need to unite artists, companies, government, and media. I believe we can do it. Now the time has come, and the door is open.”