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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Sunday, June 24, 2007

11:02:53 pm , 632 words, 1766 views     Categories: Animation, Movie

Leading into Summer with Coo the Kappa

It seems the release of the Kemonozume DVD box was moved back from June 22 to July 13 for some reason. I'm looking forward to receiving it for all the extras it is reportedly packed with, in particular the interviews with Nobutake Ito and Masaaki Yuasa. Reportedly it will include reproductions of the full keys for a number of shots. I'm crossing my fingers that Hisashi Mori's shot from episode 5 is included, although I remember reading somewhere or other that Mori drew upwards of 300 drawings for this shot - in keys alone - so it might be asking a bit much to reproduce them all.

Keiichi Hara's new film Summer with Coo the Kappa (official site) will be hitting theaters on July 28. In advance of this, they have been doing extensive test screenings, some for the press, some public, and even some on the internet for bloggers, so I've been able to read a number of user reviews. The reviews are uniformly positive. There are only 60 or so reviews on Yahoo Japan so far, but the rating is already 4 1/2. The reviewers usually went in expecting little (not helped by the admittedly underwhelming preview shown on TV) but wound up being surprised by how solid the film was, saying that it held up for the full 2-hour-and-20-minute running length, packing tremendous nuance into every shot, with a surprisingly acidic thematic bite and realistically portrayed characters. I remember reading somewhere that the release length is actually considerably shorter than the length Hara had originally intended - by some 30 minutes or more, if I recall - so I'm very hopeful that we might be able to see a full director's cut for the DVD release, if there is one, as Hara's style is clearly one that needs all the room to breathe it can get.

Following in the footsteps of predecessors like Mimi wo Sumaseba and Junkers Come Here, the setting for the film is reportedly closely based on an actual location in Japan - Higashikurume City on the Northern edge of Tokyo, 25km away from the city center, on the border with Saitama prefecture. In an interesting development, Higashikurume and some of the other neighboring towns were apparently so enamored with the film that they have joined forces to create a special committee aimed at devising citywide activities to promote the film, including holding screenings for students. The film has in effect whipped town officials into a fever of so-called 'machiokoshi' or town revitalization, as they hope the town's central role in the film may help to act as a force to breathe new life into local tourism and commerce. This is a fascinating and unexpected new role for animation, and perhaps testament to how important a cultural force animation has become in Japan. The film has also received the backing of a number of big institutions like the Bunkacho and Dentsu, Japan's biggest advertising agency.

The very first screening was held on Earth Day on June 5, preceded by a talk between Keiichi Hara and anatomist and author Takeshi Yoro. Takeshi Yoro is perhaps best known for a 2003 bestseller entitled Baka no Kabe (The Wall of Stupidity), a monologue-style essay about the roots of unilateral thinking in modern times. Yoro set a serious tone for the event, talking at length about the need for Japan to be more forceful in urging its neighbor countries to take a more active part in CO2 reduction activities. Hara commented that such concerns were not at the fore of his mind when he made the film, but the film does have some underlying environmental and other messages. The film is a member of Team Minus 6%, an organization that proposes ways for individuals and institutions to help Japan attain the Kyoto goal of reducing CO2 emissions by 6% by the year 2012.

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