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.
July 2007
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Archives for: July 2007, 08

Sunday, July 8, 2007

09:01:32 pm , 443 words, 1571 views     Categories: Animation, Misc, Live-action

Postmen in the Mountains

Wandering around Chinatown yesterday I wandered into a DVD shop where I picked up a DVD of a film I'd never heard of but that looked up my alley, Postmen in the Mountains. Watching it it felt like it was from the early 80s, but in fact it's a film from 1999. Its washed out color palette is a delight, and the film is a delight, one of the most moving I've seen in a while. The sort of film where nothing much happens but each moment is filled with meaning and tremendously moving. My eyes were burning the whole time. It brought back memories of crossing the Pyrenees with my dad a few years ago, which certainly helped make it more resonant to me.

One-track-minded person that I am, I couldn't help but think that this is the sort of thing I've been wanting to see done properly in animation. The film does what films rarely manage to do, convey the sensation of another human being beside you. Normally film is a medium where the medium is foregrounded and human warmth is a distant dream, but this film did what few films I've seen do - evoke that strange tingling sensation of uncertainty and tentativeness when there's someone there beside you. What it is to be alive, basically. Animation is a tool that can evoke reality by careful selection and emphasis, and for some reason I felt that would have been a good way to achieve what they did here. Hara strikes me as the closest to this I've seen in animation. Been feeling particularly sick of anime these days and wanting to see a film that goes back to something more fundamental like this.

I'm excited that I'll be able to see Tokyo Story on the big screen for the first time in over a decade in the next few days.

I saw Ratatouille and thought it was perhaps the best CGI film I've seen. I'll admit no previous CGI films did much for me, but this was a very solid and most of all tremendously entertaining and engaging film, even aside from the technical aspects, which are obviously without par in the genre. For the first time ever for me there were even moments of movement that I enjoyed as movement. I particularly liked the bit where Remy is about to run out of the restaurant at the beginning but gets lured back to fix the soup. For some reason a lot of the drama flow and humor felt slightly Miyazaki-influenced. Was shocked to realize that one of my favorite actors, Ian Holm, voiced Skinner, but I didn't even realize it.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

03:57:30 pm , 987 words, 1447 views     Categories: Animation, Translation, Interview

Keiichi Hara interview

Ran across an interview with Keiichi Hara, so I thought I'd translate it, just to see if I could get a feel for his voice, though there isn't much of anything by way of new information in the interview. Original interview from here.

I hear you've been warming this project for years.

I first ran into the original story about 20 years ago, back when I was working as chief director of the TV show Esper Mami. Few projects at the time were original, instead always focusing on adapting popular comics. I didn't think it was a good thing for the industry to keep going in that direction, so I took it upon myself to buy a few books on my own tab every week and read through them to look for a potential interesting project. Kappa Uproar by Masao Kogure was the one that I found at the time that seemed to have the most potential as animation. A baby kappa born in the Edo period comes back to life and experiences life in our own times. I thought the situation had a lot of possibility. Unfortunately it took me 20 years to finally get to the point where I could actually do the project. The author, Masao Kogure, passed away earlier this year. When I'd met him before, I had mentioned that I wanted to change the story a bit to make it into a film. Instead of asking me how I was going to change it, he just said, "I'm just happy that the book will be coming back to life, so I'll leave it up to you." The film was completed at the end of last year, but sadly Masao Kogure passed away before I had a chance to show it to him. I still tremendously regret that I didn't have a chance to show it to him.

There's a gap of 5 years between this film and your last film, the Warring States Shin-Chan film.

I didn't actually do much during that time. I wrote a script someone asked me to write and gave some ideas for an SFX movie, but none of those things came to fruition. I was glad that people were asking me to do these things, but at the time I was still employed at Shinei, so I wasn't exactly free to just do as I pleased. Coo had been on my mind constantly ever since I started working on Shin-chan. Every time one of the films ended, I thought, "Now is my chance to get started on Coo." But then I'd be forced to start working on the next film - over and over again. So in the end after Warring States I just decided to put my foot down and shift to working on Coo. People who'd seen my Shin-chan work asked me if there was anything else I'd like to do, which made it a lot easier to set to work on it. In way, it's thanks to Shin-chan that I was able to do Coo.

The film touches on some environmental issues.

I look at the yokai (traditional Japanese monsters) more as minorities than monsters. Many ethnic groups have been persecuted and marginalized throughout history, but nobody has ever even seen a kappa, so thinking of kappa in terms of a minority helped me come to grips with how a kappa might have felt in Coo's situation. So in a sense there is a bit of overlap with Native Americans. People move into the area inhabited by the kappas, use the land to their own ends, and drive out the kappas. In that sense it's a parallel with what happened to the Native Americans.

The scene with the family on the Tokyo Tower is kind of similar to the scene you did in the Adult Empire Strikes Back movie.

Actually, it's the other way around. I already had the idea to use that scene in Coo when I started making Adult Empire, and I just borrowed the idea in the Adult Empire film. Then I came to Coo and was in a bit of a fix since I'd already used the scene in that film. But I decided to go ahead with it anyway. I just accepted that the Tokyo Tower would be this recurring theme in my work.

Who do you want to see this film?

20 years ago when I first came up with the idea for the film I was thinking it would be for kids, but after years of working on the Shin-chan films I changed and wanted to make films that not only kids would want to watch but also adults. So I'd like kids to watch it, but I'd also like people of my generation to watch it. I'm satisfied enough with the results to be able to say that. It's been about one full generation since the original story was written, so I'll be happy if moms and dads who read the story back then come to the film with their kids and it brings back some memories.

What's your next project?

Right now I'm feeling really empty after having finished this project I'd been working on for 20 years. I don't know what to say whenever somebody asks me what I'm doing next, because it'll take me some time to get over that feeling. It's not like I've got a spare project I can just pull out of the drawer. Coo was everything. I'm freelance now, so I'd like to try my hand at various things if people want me. I'm also interested in live action. But I'm well aware that it takes more than enthusiasm to get a project done. In any case, in the coming days I'd like to focus on creating dense drama, so I'd like to continue to direct feature films.

(Actually, I found a few more interviews, so I'll probably be translating them as well soon.)

Sunday, July 8, 2007

02:43:09 pm , 172 words, 1386 views     Categories: Animation, Denno Coil, TV

Denno Coil #9

We were back to the level of quality of the early eps here, with feature AD Ei Inoue, another storyboard by Shinsaku Sasaki (ep 4), and more than anything the animation headed by Toshiyuki Inoue and Takeshi Honda again, joined by Kazutaka Ozaki and Yoshikazu Honma. They'd been absent for a while, and the difference was quite noticeable.

The ep was one of the more entertaining in a while, showing how important the storyboarder is. The wittiness of the script was nice in this ep. I liked the gag about getting drunk on chocolate liquor bottles. Watching this ep I got to thinking it would have been nice if they could have gotten Shinji Otsuka to work on the show. I'd like to see him do some TV work, and he seems a good fit with the rest of the crowd. He could have brought some good humor to the animation that would have worked to the benefit of the ep. He's probably busy at work on some feature project somewhere, as usual.