Initially daily but now sporadic blog about anime and world animation with a specific focus on the artists behind the work. Written by Ben Ettinger.
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Archives for: December 2004, 09

Thursday, December 9, 2004

11:50:26 pm , 749 words, 1510 views     Categories: Animation, Indie, Animator

Koji Nanke

A young Koji Nanke 南家こうじ talks about his first independent film in this old animation fanzine from January 1977, Fantoche. A year later he produced his first Minna no Uta short, which was aired during August and September 1978, and he went on to produce over 30 more over the next 20 years, as well as television commercials and the openings for the 1980s Takahashi Rumiko TV series, establishing a unique position for himself as an independent animator effortlessly living in both worlds - independent and commercial. He's one of the more prominent independent animator success stories of the 80s, his work having been seen regularly on TV. His colorful, up-tempo style has made him one of the most popular independents of the last two decades.

The name of his debut film is Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, and he was 24 at the time he made it. Early that summer in 1976 he heard from Seiichi Hayashi about an animation festival that was taking place in August, the "Animation '76 Summer Festival". He was interested in submitting a film, and had little time until the deadline for entry, so he started work right away in mid-July, spent one week on the animation, and received the finished print just in time for the screening. The spare, clean, almost minimalist look of the film, which is almost devoid of color and shows us a series of images stripped down to a bare collection of lines - a cup is a rectangle in the middle of the screen into which a vividly contrastingly three-dimensional red fluid is poured, a city skyline is rained on from above by a few faintly brushed-on clouds - is a compact starter's kit of the style that would later become his trademark.

Koji Nanke officially began his animation career in 1971, at age 19, in the finishing department of animation studio Tatsunoko. Over the next few years he learned all about the process of animation by absorbing what was going on around him. He was involved as an assistant animation director on various shows, including Gatchatman in 1972, where he worked alongside Tomonori Kogawa, before going freelance in 1975, when he began producing television commercials in the capacity of a freelance animator. The following year came his first personal creation as an independent animator.

One of the more atypical projects Koji Nanke was involved in was the comparatively long 1998 14-minute film Upon the Planet, animated by himself, directed by Sunao Katabuchi (Studio 4°C co-founder, director of Princess Arete), and produced by Anido. The visuals and narrative style are reminiscent of Frederic Back, who was appreciative of the film when it was shown him by Isao Takahata on the occasion of his visit to Studio Ghibli.

Advertised as "Japan's First Animation Periodical" (what about Film 1/24?), Fantoche is an impressive little 64 pages and ¥500. This particular issue contains quite a variety of material, touching on every facet of animation, indicating how much progress had been made in the time since the Animation Sannin no Kai had introduced Japan to the word "animation". There's a surprisingly technical feature on the two animation basics metamorphosis and perspective; an incredibly in-depth article by renowned film collector Goro Sugimoto about the history of 16mm talkie film projector lending practices before and during the war (there's an interesting before-and-after comparison of pre-film acknowledgements: one from 1943 on a reel of Momotaro the Sea Hawk reads "To the people of Japan in their fight in the Great Asian War" and one from a film provided by the occupying army in 1946 reads "This picture is lent by the American people. We wish to express our sincere thanks for their kindness."); news about various projects underway, including The Hobbit, and, more interestingly, an intriguing French-Japanese co-production called Minoie, touted as a satirical fable for adults, which apparently has something to do with Vietnam, but subsequently seems to have disappeared without a trace; an interview with Osamu Dezaki about his recent rise to auteurdom; a list of national "circles"; even an article by Yasuo Otsuka; and, as should be obvious from the cover, a 24-page special feature on Yasuji Mori, complete with lots of photos and new interviews with all the major Toei Doga figures of the period, which was really the only reason I got the magazine. The Mori article was indeed great, but as it turns out, so was the magazine, and it wound up acting as a nice time capsule of the state of animation fandom in Japan two decades ago at the start of the anime boom.