What were your first impressions of Chang Kuo-Li’s novel, the novel from which the graphic novel is adapted? What left the deepest impression? Why did it move you?
Chao: I’ve always read Chang Kuo-Li’s novels. When I read The Eye of Sarutahiko in 2018, I loved it because it has Chang Kuo-Li’s warmth and humor. I also identified with the values in the novel. The main character, Hui-sheng, would be considered a loser by most people. But he never gives up. He’s always working to change his life, which creates all kinds of possibilities. Not miraculous changes, but more like the aspiration to create something beautiful. I also like Chang Kuo-Li’s environmental views. He’s concerned about the environment, but he’s not focused on blame.
Han: I like the gentle tone of the novel. Like the way Hui-sheng is always concerned about the people around him. He doesn’t express his concern as criticism. Instead he works to improve himself and others.
What made you want to create an animated film and graphic novel based on the novel?
Chao: I had images appearing in my mind the whole time I was reading the novel. As a director of animated films, I really wanted to see what these characters and settings would look like if they could move. Especially the scenes of the submarine restoration. Another thing is the way the stage of the story is filled with all these props and backdrops familiar to Taiwanese people. This is the kind of story I like to bring to life, so I decided to speak with the author about the rights for graphic novel and film adaptations.
Han: I wanted to see the characters interact with one another. (The story) brought back memories of my youth.
What attracted you to the various characters?
Chao: We both liked Li Wang. There is a lot of the author in him. Witty, honest, broad minded, and a bit mysterious. He’s rough around the edges, but also sharp and meticulous. He supports the kids, but at his own pace, and in his own way. He’s this magical character who is directing things behind the scenes. The character design for Li Wang contains a lot of my feelings from my first meeting with Chang Kuo-Li.
Hui-sheng has the most depth in the novel. Our emotional journey follows him, and we care about him the most.
Han: Because Hui-sheng cares about his friends, we, in turn, care about him.
The plot and characters are altered a bit in the graphic novel. Why is that?
Chao, Han: The Hui-sheng of the novel is a bit simple-minded and naïve. Hui-sheng in the graphic novel thinks more about things, which makes him feel a bit older. Also, we made Hsiao Lai a tomboy to help with gender balance.
As for the length, we end the graphic novel when the submarine is discovered, but we also quickened the pace so that most of the story takes place in Laomei. If we were to complete the story it would take three more graphic novels!
An animated film adaptation is also in the works. What is the relationship to the graphic novel?
Chao, Han: Animation and comics are two different mediums. The pacing is different, but the atmosphere and feel of the characters are the same. We hope that readers of the graphic novel will be eager to see the movie. We also hope that we will have the opportunity to do three more graphic novels!
- Han Tsai-Chun: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/authors_info.php?id=370
- Chao Ta-Wei: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/authors_info.php?id=371
- Chang Kuo-Li: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/authors_info.php?id=20
- The Eye of Sarutahiko: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/books_info.php?id=385