BASKL speaks to Anas Abdul Aziz, Chief Creative Officer at Monsta, and one of the creative minds behind 'Mechamato', the hit new Malaysian animation which recently won the Anime Fan Award at the Tokyo Anime Award Festival!
By CHIN JIAN WEI
The Mechamato Movie is about a young boy named Amato who discovers a robot, named MechaBot after a mysterious spaceship crash-lands on Earth. As the bond between Amato and MechaBot develops, they are able to mechanise everyday objects into high-tech devices as they fight against the cybernetic alien Grakakus who is set on capturing MechaBot.
Going into a cinema for a screening of the Mechamato Movie, this writer had no idea what to expect. Without any personal experience of Monsta’s (otherwise known as Animonsta Studio) previous work such as BoBoiBoy, there was barely any frame of reference. However, as it turned out, the movie was an entertaining and heartwarming story of a boy learning to embrace responsibility and fight aliens alongside his plucky new robot friend. As someone who grew up watching cartoons like Digimon and Doraemon, Mechamato very much conjures up the same nostalgic feeling of science-fiction boyhood adventure, a feeling that Monsta Chief Content Officer Anas Abdul Aziz says is intentional.
“As a company, we make animation centred around kids, of course,” Anas says. “But also for people who had a childhood. ‘Kidadults’, as they say. Something that kids can enjoy, but also the general audience can enjoy together. It reminds you of when you were growing up, and that’s the inspiration that we had, that kind of joy of watching old-school cartoons and wishing you could go back to those days. We want to evoke that emotion when adults watch it, make them think ‘I remember those times when I could imagine so many things.'”
The concept behind the show was created by movie director, Nizam Razak. According to Anas, they had always wanted to make a show about robots. When Nizam pitched the idea, Anas says, “We all liked the concept of having a boy and a robot in the show because all of us grew up watching Doraemon, Gundam and Transformers.” But they knew they needed more to the concept in order to stand out amongst the crowd of robot-themed cartoons. Nizam was struck by inspiration as he was moving house: his young children were playing in the cardboard moving boxes, declaring that the boxes were trains and cars. That was when Nizam came up with the idea of a robot that could realise kids’ dreams by turning their imagination into reality.
This became “Mechanising”, the signature power of MechaBot, through which MechaBot, commanded by Amato, uses his mechanical transformation powers to turn ordinary items into futuristic weaponry. In the movie and show that continues its story, “Amato is a creative person that always comes up with ideas, and the robot realises his imagination into something cool,” Anas says.
Proudly Malaysian, the movie and series feature many Malaysian elements and influences in its design: the curry puffs MechaBot eats, a setting heavily inspired by Melaka, the keris-shaped energy sword wielded by the vigilante Maskmana, and even the Destar (traditional Malay headgear)-shaped building owned by Mr Aman, a tech CEO. “Some overseas viewers have told me they want to come to Malaysia to eat curry puffs,” Anas laughs. “At the end of the day, kids want action, robots and fun. But if we put those little things in the background, when they grow up, kids might come to realise that there’s thought and background behind the designs. Adult audiences actually love these kinds of cultural touches we put in the show. There are a lot of adults who love Maskmana!” It is not difficult to see the appeal of the masked vigilante with the high-tech gadgets and double life. As far as Malaysian superheroes go, he is definitely one of the most stylish.
Despite the Malaysian identity of the show, Anas was careful to ensure that foreign audiences could appreciate Mechamato just as well as Malaysians. “From the getgo, when we produced Mechamato, it had to be exportable,” Anas says. “We couldn’t just focus on the Malaysian market only.” By focusing on the general quality of the show, Mechamato was able to reach foreign audiences all the way in Korea and Japan, many of which were not initially aware that the show was Malaysian-made. “As a company, we have to break new ground to get into the bigger market.”
Recently, the Mechamato Movie won the Anime Fan Award at the Tokyo Anime Award Festival, becoming the first non-Japanese animation to do so! Evidently, the response to Mechamato has been very encouraging. “We feel relieved,” Anas confesses. “It’s the second IP that we created.” BoBoiBoy was the first intellectual property developed by Monsta, and is now a cultural juggernaut amongst Malaysian children. “We hoped that Mechamato would be as well received. One thing we knew was that the Maskmana character would be well-received, but we didn’t expect it to be that well-received. A lot of adults were drawing Maskmana, someone made a rap song based on Maskmana, some people cosplayed as Maskmana.” Perhaps with his newfound popularity, we can expect to see more of Maskmana in the future.
“At the heart of it, Mechamato is about friendship. The main hook of the story is about opposing types of people coming together to become friends,” Anas describes the message behind the movie. “Amato is more creative, and the robot is more technical, and they learn to work together. The movie is also about responsibility for kids. Even though you have the power of Mechanisation, it doesn’t mean you’re a hero. You have to earn it.
“Lastly, our goal is to promote creativity and imagination in children. Amato is bad at drawing, but he’s got lots of good ideas and he works with people, his friends to create things. It’s all about telling kids to just try things out and make something that they love become real. We’re happy to see that our animation not just entertains people, but also invites our fanbase to become creative as well,” Anas gestures at the wall across from him, decorated with fanart children have sent in, with most of the work depicting characters from BoBoiBoy and Mechamato. “For sure, I cannot draw as well as some of these,” he laughs. In fact, some of the earliest crop of fans from Monsta’s early years have gone on to become employees at the company themselves after graduation.
Check out Monsta’s website here to learn more!
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