two boys on a bird in the imaginary

Netflix’s New Anime Was Inspired by a Sweet Father/Daughter Moment

The Imaginary is a new film on Netflix, brought to us by Studio Ponoc. Amanda is a young girl who has an imaginary friend in Rudger, but what happens when a man who doesn’t want to grow up tries to take Rudger away from her?

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Before the release of the film (based on a book of the same name), I sat down with writer Yoshiaki Nishimura to talk about it. Speaking through a translator, we talked in depth about the inspiration for the film, and one thing he shared was that his daughter reminded him how a child’s imagination is so much more powerful than an adult’s, at times.

“When I first created the movie, I thought of three things. Within that, something you just mentioned, memories and remembering things,” he said. “When my daughter was three years old, we walked from our house to the shrine. That’s something that takes maybe one minute for a grown up but for children, it takes 10 minutes.”

He went on to talk about how he was thinking about the film and how his daughter inspired him by picking up something on their walk together. “My daughter just started walking, but had something in her hands, and then she opened her hand and had a small tiny flower that was like, to her, a mountain full of flowers. I was shocked. I stood up, and I looked at the street and I didn’t see any flowers.”

But he went on to explain that his daughter’s imagination helped him in understanding the movie. “For my daughter that asphalt, the street was like a flower garden for her. So I felt that this story can become a film. It’s not like they don’t exist, but grown ups, the speed of walking and the height of sight, you just can’t see. So I think it would become something wonderful if you can connect that memory and the fact that you can still see those things.”

A villain who won’t grow up

It is really interesting to look at our recent slate of movies about imaginary friends. We had Imaginary, which is a horror movie about an imaginary friend who wants revenge for being left behind. Then came IF, which is about imaginary friends trying to find a new place in the world. With The Imaginary, it is a bit of a lesson to us all about growing up but still keeping our imaginations alive. Just don’t resort to childish antics to do it.

When I spoke about the difference between all these films, Nishimura said he heard about those other films but that he was “trying to create a piece that uses imagination to look back at the past.” Nishimura pointed out that pieces of memory tend to become nostalgic, but he wanted this to be different since it was for children.

“So, because we are creating piece for children, we thought about what is imagination that’s looking towards the future. In reality, children create their own secret world when they’re young. Sometimes that world is happy, fun, but sometimes that world includes something scary.” That was how Mr. Bunting (Jeremy Swift) was created.

Mr. Bunting is a man who clung to his imaginary friend and refused to grow up. “In that world, the scary thing is Mr. Bunting. That is something very real to the children. There are many scary things that are depicted in the original story, but we could have eliminated all these scary things, but we needed to maintain that scary part too, because we didn’t not want to lie to the children,” Nishimura said.

“We created this piece hoping that children have power to overcome sadness, hard things, scary things. So that’s why we wanted to include these scary things, Mr. Bunting and that scary little girl next to him. I kind of wanted them to work as a metaphor because I was thinking about, when children are growing up, what is it that would chase them and is always kind of creeping behind them. I was always thinking about that, and they are kind of a metaphor of that existence.”

The Imaginary is on Netflix now!

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Rachel Leishman
Rachel Leishman (She/Her) is an Assistant Editor at the Mary Sue. She's been a writer professionally since 2016 but was always obsessed with movies and television and writing about them growing up. A lover of Spider-Man and Wanda Maximoff's biggest defender, she has interests in all things nerdy and a cat named Benjamin Wyatt the cat. If you want to talk classic rock music or all things Harrison Ford, she's your girl but her interests span far and wide. Yes, she knows she looks like Florence Pugh. She has multiple podcasts, normally has opinions on any bit of pop culture, and can tell you can actors entire filmography off the top of her head. Her work at the Mary Sue often includes Star Wars, Marvel, DC, movie reviews, and interviews.