Before producing the film On Happiness Road, my original intent was to make a Taiwanese version of Chibi Maruko-chan. After so many years of watching Japanese anime, it was inevitable that as a director I would want to make something for my fellow Taiwanese to watch.
The 1980’s society was still in the closing years of martial law, but there was a wonderful feeling in the air. Things were simpler. If I had taken these everyday tales from the life of eternal first-grader Lin Shu-chi, with all their absurdity and wonder, and turned them into animated shorts, I’m sure the results would have been fantastic. At the time I wrote out the stories, I couldn’t help but be moved, or even laugh out loud when I read them. I was so pleased with myself, I even imagined that these animated shorts would outdo Chibi Maruko-chan.
However, for a variety of reasons, I later decided to produce a full-length feature. I wrote the script from the perspective of the adult Lin Shu-chi. The stories of her childhood were all there, but when told from the perspective of an adult, these childhood memories inevitably became more sentimental.
Later, the film toured the world, won various prizes, and received good reviews from a number of critics. I should have felt deeply satisfied and continued on with my life. But what a shame it would be to abandon those short stories that were still sitting on my hard drive! I wanted the world to see these little treasures. Thus, my mind got working on the idea of turning them into a graphic novel. After talking to a few artists I hired Lo He. The reason for my choice was simple. Just as I had throughout the entire process of making the movie, I followed my gut, and my gut believed Lo He was the best person for the job.
In the end, my gut was right. Despite being twenty years my junior, Lo He’s handling of a story that took place before she was born was pitch perfect. She produced an outstanding work. Her layouts have verve, and her art brings out the absurdity and silliness of Lin Shu-chi’s school days. Being the first reader of this comic universe, I often laughed out loud while reviewing the drafts on my computer screen. Passing by, my husband would ask, “Are you all right?” I’m proud of the graphic novel now that it is finished, but there is also a sense of sadness. What will I do now that there are no new drafts to chortle over?
Our childhood memories are a kind of eternal homesickness. I wasn’t particularly happy as a little girl, and I sought comfort by immersing myself in manga, movies, and TV shows. Now that I’m an adult, Taiwan is a radically different place, and I’ve become someone who tells stories for a living. Looking back on my childhood, an era of absurdities, of tragicomedies shaped by history, all I see are these wonderful stories everywhere. Recently it has become popular to say, “I laughed until I cried, then cried until I laughed.” To me, a good story has to play things up in this way. As a creator of stories, this is what I hope to deliver to my audience.
I hope that readers of On Happiness Road will find that their laughter touched with tears, and their tears touched with love.
- Sung Hsin-yin: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/authors_info.php?id=369
- Lo He: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/authors_info.php?id=368
- On Happiness Road: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/books_info.php?id=384