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 2005, 20

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

08:09:33 pm , 760 words, 1331 views     Categories: Animation

9th Media Arts Festival

One year ago Mind Game took the grand prize at the Bunkacho Japan Media Arts Festival (time flies!), and this year an independent short entitled Furo (Mirage?) by Sumito Sakakibara took the grand prize. A year and some before that Sakakibara, born in 1980, had a short shown at the end of year show at the Royal College of Art, where he did his studies after moving to the UK at the age of 15. The still is beautiful and makes you want to see it in motion. Koji Yamamura's The Old Crocodile and Kihachiro Kawamoto's Book of a Dead Person were among the winners of the Excellence Prize.

Junpei Fujita has been among the most talked about recent graduates since he appeared on DigiSta with his colorful, evocative piece full of wonderful morphing, Mind the Gap, which (now retitled Seasons) here won an Encouragement Prize. It won the Audience Prize and shared the Excellence Prize with Shin Hosokawa's puppet film Oni at the Laputa Festival presided over by Yuri Norstein one year ago. He's certainly one of the most talented indies I've seen emerge in a while, and hopefully we can expect to see him continue making interesting shorts in the years to come.

You can sense that Fujita has real 'animation instinct' - the feeling for what works as animation, what feels good as animation. Fujita collaborated with Masahiro Tomotake on another watercolor short entitled Color of Windows, which appeared on a DigiSta ep hosted by Satoshi Kon one year ago. I've been wanting to see more watercolor animation after having loved the results Reiko Yokosuka shows with the medium, so it's great to see a young new face taking it in new directions. I heard the Chinese have developed a program to accurately simulate the characteristics of traditional brush ink, but I suppose Fujita must be using the real thing. I'd be curious to hear how he makes his films - why he uses watercolor, how he comes up with the ideas.

Though I doubt that such was the case for the teenage girls who seemed to comprise approximately 95% of the audience for the film in Japan judging by video footage of the advance screening, I was completely lost watching the FMA movie. But you can really sense that they set out to make a quality film, so I have to compliment them on having that pride in their work. The part by Yutaka Nakamura was naturally the animation hilight (perhaps by way of a nod there was one shot by Nakamura from the TV series in the op), and it's probably the biggest piece of work he's done after the end of the Bebop movie. The bit at the beginning with the drills reminded me of Luffy punching the count in Hosoda's Secret Island movie, so perhaps that was Yoshihiko Umakoshi. I suppose Hideki Kakita might have done some of the smoke FX in Nakamura's sequence. I recall one or two other nice bits of smoke elsewhere. But watching the film the whole thing is overall so well polished and carefully crafted that it seems pointless to try to single out bits of animation that were well done when other people are doing great work too. But that's all I can do since that's what I'm interested in. So it goes. One spot I'm fairly certain I can identify is Ko Yoshinari's. What he does is unique enough and I've now seen enough of it that I can ID his work with a fair amount of certainty. The timing of the animation, the particular way the background is blurred, and the smoothness of the movement where the character slides under and is then punched by the big monster, rebounding on the water, simply scream Yoshinari elder. I think he did a similar shot involving water in the fourth FMA opening, where again it looks like he handled the processing as well as the animation. I wish I could figure out what part Koichi Arai did. It's annoying seeing his name everywhere and not being able to pinpoint his work. If I recall correctly he did the flower transforming in Secret Island, so maybe the transformation shot in Nakamura's sequence...? Pathetic.

Actually, after thinking about it, Arai did the part where the flower is shot by the arrow. I don't know why I mixed it up, because Arai's part comes right before Hisashi Mori's part. Koichi Hashimoto was also there, and he did part of the action in Nakamura's op 4, so perhaps he was also involved in Nakamura's part.