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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Thursday, September 30, 2004

05:40:42 pm , 443 words, 4540 views     Categories: Animation, Indie

Imagination Practice

Nobuhiro Aihara; Ten Nights' Dreams (Tanaami); Memory of Red (Aihara)Probably my favorite discovery from Imagination Practice was Nobuhiro Aihara, who was represented by the solo short Memory of Red and an animation battle with Keiichi Tanaami, 10 Nights' Dreams. Kentaro Onitsuka's Blooming Ink Tale was the surprise of the selection for me - imaginative concept executed with sophistication and flair. It was the only film there that went outside of the boundaries of animation-as-drawings. I felt distant echoes of Norman McLaren's stop motion films. I like that no CG was used here; they used good old-fashioned paint. Kentaro Onitsuka was present and said a few words before the screening, as was current Kyoto U animation student Suwami Nogami, whose amusing loop film opened the screening.

Aihara's film struck me the most because watching it I was reminded why I fell in love with animation in the first place: the joy of seeing fantastic movement. Aihara and Tanaami have extremely different styles. Aihara creates abstract shapes moving through intricate metamorphoses (I was reminded simultaneously of Oskar Fischinger and Gisaburo Sugii), while Tanaami comes up with a succession of bewildering oneiric images. Both are extremely appealing, and I look forward to seeing the rest of their animation battles after seeing this one, which got the most enthusiastic applause of the whole show, and for good reason. It was not only exquisitely imaginative and consistently interesting but also fun. Adding to the pleasure was a brilliant soundtrack that was every bit the equal of the mad images created by these veteran animators. It didn't take me long to be able to pick out when Tanaami was animating and when Aihara was animating. That even added to the fun of watching the film: grasping when one was taking his turn at the canvas, responding to the rival's salvo. Aihara's constant-motion-in-stasis filigrees, seen undiluted in his solo film Memory of Red, made for a compelling contrast with Tanaami's menagerie of mad dream figures.

The head organizer of the animation selection at the VIFF stated before the Lee Sung-Gang shorts screening that he had wanted to program anime originally, but had been given the red light by the distributors. Frankly I'm glad it turned out this way. It would have been ludicrous to screen some big anime blockbuster at an international film festival like this, thus shutting off independents like those featured here, when the film was going to be released soon nationwide anyway. As for audiences, the theater was nearly full for both the Lee Sung-Gang shorts and Imagination Practice (though moreso for the latter). There were a few loudmouthed louts of the sort that make me avoid cons, but otherwise the audience seemed fairly diverse and appreciative.


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