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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Wednesday, September 21, 2005

04:38:13 pm , 795 words, 1000 views     Categories: Animation, Indie

Indies at the VIFF again

Kunio Kato - Cell no KoiThe good news from the VIFF is that there's going to be another volley of independent Japanese animation shorts. The bad news is no Mind Game. Looking at the lineup for the former, it's particularly nice to see young names who just appeared on the scene recently like Norihito Iki, who was featured on Digital Stadium some time ago with his enjoyable short A Ghost Story, in addition to all the welcome returners like Nobuhiro Aihara and Naoyuki Tsuji. Kei Oyama's piece being shown here happens to be included on the upcoming Thinking & Drawing DVD. I for one would have been more than happy to have to sit through a two-hour program, but I gather festival organizers are loath to break the 80-minute barrier with shorts programs for fear of... something. A shame. This stuff is so hard to come by that I think they should go hog wild with this particular program, which even they admit is quite popular.

I can feel the dread of the pick setting in already as I load the list of 300+ films and the very first title sounds like a must-see film. As I get older I find that I can predict what kind of films I'm going to jump for, so I'll probably try to break out of my habit with a few films, but 13 Lakes sounds too irresistible to pass up: 13 10-minute long static shots of 13 lakes. Sounds like it could have been inspired by the recent films of Abbas Kiarostami, especially Five, which I'm disappointed to see is not on the lineup.

On the subject of independents, I've heard that Atsuko Ishizuka is working on another music clip for Minna no Uta at Madhouse. I'm not sure how I'm going to manage to see it, though, since the only reason I got to see her first was because it happened its way onto a 'best of' issued around the time it came out. It's certainly an interesting thing she's doing: creating what essentially look and feel like independent shorts at one of Japan's biggest studios. She's directing films alongside the veterans just a few months after having joined the studio. Not bad.

Continuing in the Minna no Uta news, Kunio Kato of Aru Tabibito no Nikki fame has got a vid entitled Cell no Koi (Cell Love) showing right now.

Satoru Utsunomiya made an obligatory appearance in the next-to-last ep of Aquarion, and a headliner at that, but the only movement I could pinpoint definitively was the swing of the sword near the end. He must have been being a good boy after the ruckus of the prank episode. Was he perhaps drawing the (few) animated effects?

A little bird brought to my attention the work of an interesting French independent, Valerie Pirson, whose original and convincing film Pistache can be viewed here along with an interview in French. (lots of other interesting stuff on the site)

Watching Shigeru Tamura's 1993 film Ursa Minor Blue today, I noticed there were several spots that actually felt well animated, and the animation in general seemed to be more present than the CGI, in contrast with his 1998 film Glassy Ocean, which made heavy use of glassy diffracting CG. Though obviously professional-level animation is not the reason you watch these films, I found it helped immensely. Of course, I could just as easily make the opposite argument - that anything more realistic or ornate would be a mismatch with the simplicity of the drawings, dialogue and colors.

Seeing Megumi Kagawa's name in the credits seemed to explain the reason why the animation seemed better. Kagawa has been a key animator in every Ghibli feature since Nausicaa. She forms part of the cabal of female animators that kind of stuck on with Miyazaki after the last two Telecom Lupin episodes, eventually making their way to Ghibli, including Atsuko Tanaka, Makiko Futaki and Masako Shinohara.

I have reservations about Tamura's films, but I think they work if looked at as moving extension of his illustration work - picture books come to life. I think there's room for more animated films like that. I liked the idea of getting as much movement as possible out of Hisaichi Ishii's characters in Yamada-kun, but Tamura's films actually seem to benefit from the more minimalistic look of a smaller animation staff. It didn't feel right to see the mouths of those characters moving. The look of his image boards is very close to the finished product, which shows that he's doing something right. His films aren't about moving characters or telling a story, but about establishing a mood. Or rather, a color, which in turn evokes a mood. Ursa Minor Blue blue; Glassy Ocean green. His films feel like a massage session in a tinted room.

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