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: November 2010, 17

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

08:44:00 pm , 620 words, 5274 views     Categories: Animation, Indie, Music Video, Animator, Art, Short

Takuya Inaba

I just discovered Takuya Inaba's Minna no Uta video from this summer for actress Juri Ueno's song Egao no Hana (The Smile Flower).

It's a delightful piece of animation, befitting an artist working at Robot, the studio that gave us Kato Kunio's Oscar-winning House of Small Cubes. They're one of the coolest new studios on the scene in Japan, doggedly going their own way in the vast shadow of the industry, making colorful, lovingly animated, creative little confections. Their films have a sense of wonder and whimsical fancy that sets them apart from every other studio in Japan.

I love this film's unique style. And it's sumptuously animated, unlike many Minna no Uta animated videos, which often aren't satisfying as animation. The characters are great - the designs are cute and appealing, and they're animated with great care. The domino sequence at the beginning is amusing and well done. The backgrounds are beautiful - early on the street looks like a child's drawing, and later on the forest is painted in bright, colorful strokes.

Then there are the little touches here and there that are unexpected and fun like the faucet in the sky that fills the ocean with water, and those little round guys walking on the fence having their own mini parade. There are strangle little characters doing things everywhere you look. And I just love the television cat with the chicken family inside.

I like the story of the film, too. The sun, the moon and a cloud come alive to help take a lost fairy back to her flower house. Behind the colorful fantasy, it's about cheering up a little girl who's feeling down in the dumps and making that 'smile' flower bloom.

Takuya Inaba was born in 1976 and graduated from the Kyoto Seika University Faculty of Design. He has been active as an animator since at least 2001, when he made an independent film called Haru-chan. He was hired by Robot in 2002, presumably on the merit of his film. Since then he's been quite active making short pieces of animation here and there on commission, as well as drawing picture books and other things.

He had already made a Minna no Uta music video in 2006 with Koi Tsubomi, which again has two layers - the song appears to sing of a girl who had to leave her boyfriend for the big city, while this is translated in the visuals into a little girl being seen off at a train station by her polar bear friend. The visuals are soft and mellow and pleasant, but it's not as creative and original as his most recent video.

The next year, in 2007, he directed a music video entitled Song of Sunrise for the band Sukima Switch. It shows a little girl and a hulking robot walking around in a desert landscape. I like the designs here much better, and the story is also quite interesting. It hints at a back story involving the robot either escaping from a robot city or being the only survivor, but doesn't make everything obvious. I like how it leaves it to your imagination to connect the dots.

Just before Egao no Hana, Takuya Inaba completed a 7-minute independent short film entitled Kuro. You can see a few shots from it on his home page. It's in black and white and appears to feature more fun creature animation like what was seen in Egao no Hana. Hopefully it's in the same vein as this film, but even more densely packed with nonsense antics from odd creatures, because this one left me wanting more of that sort of thing - something even crazier and more freewheeling, really letting loose with his unique style.

Takuya Inaba's blog and home page.