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Fortune Favors Lady Nikuko Is A Change Of Direction For Ayumu Watanabe - Exclusive

Anyone trying to predict what direction Ayumu Watanabe and anime production company Studio 4ºC would move in for their second feature together might not have expected something like "Fortune Favors Lady Nikuko." The new slice-of-life comedy movie — based on the novel by Kanako Nishi — couldn't be further in style, tone, or approachability from Watanabe and Studio 4ºC's previous movie, the complicated, mystical sci-fi drama "Children of the Sea." Of course, those familiar with Watanabe's other TV and franchise work will know he's a difficult director to pin down; everything he makes is different, his résumé filled with an eclectic assortment of storytelling styles.

Looper got the opportunity to speak with Watanabe (via a translator) in advance of the American release of "Fortune Favors Lady Nikuko." The first question we asked was about the experience of making two films almost as opposite as "Fortune Favors Lady Nikuko" and "Children of the Sea." It turns out that the difficult experience of the latter inspired a desire in the filmmakers for something wildly different.

Abandoning stoicism for a simpler direction

Ayumu Watanabe says he "aspired to be stoic" when directing "Children of the Sea." While he wouldn't go so far as to call himself "tired" from the experience, he made it clear that he and his crew wanted a change of pace for their follow-up film: "We really wanted to go in a simpler direction, or a simpler way of moving characters, and we wanted to change directions and change our feelings. That's really what motivated me to make this film."

Following up serious, more complicated projects with more "fun" and relaxing ones is something that happens often in the anime industry. Following "Children of the Sea" with "Fortune Favors Lady Nikuko" echoes, for example, how the teams at Gainax and Production I.G used "FLCL" as a chance to unwind after the intensity of "The End of Evangelion." In this case, it has paid off: "Fortune Favors Lady Nikuko" has received much more positive reviews than its divisive and confusing predecessor.

"Fortune Favors Lady Nikuko" is now playing in limited theatrical release and will be available on digital and Blu-Ray/DVD on July 19.