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, March 10, 2005

11:41:02 pm , 687 words, 1542 views     Categories: Animation, Indie, Animator

Tomoyasu Murata

It's surprisingly easy to just ignore digital and make animation however you want using real materials. At least, it's surprising how many people actually still do it. In Japan this trend has been particularly noticeable of late. Shin Hosokawa's taking of the debut prize at last year's Hiroshima festival for his puppet film Oni is but a recent example. Tomoyasu Murata, also born in 1978, began making puppet films while still an undergraduate in 1998, and since taking the excellence prize at the 5th annual Japan Media Arts Festival (alongside Cat Soup) and the audience prize at the 2nd annual Laputa Animation Festival (among other awards) for his 2000 film Nostalgia, he has gone on to create the short films Scarlet Road (2002) and White Road (2003), the first two in a projected five-volume series about the life of an aging concert pianist, at Tomoyasu Murata Company, the company created upon his graduating from graduate school in 2002. These have equally won him numerous awards including the excellence prize at the 2002 Hiroshima festival and a recommendation at Annecy in 2003 for Scarlet Road. In 2002 his name became known to a large audience after he was asked to provide the visuals for a promotional music video by the pop band Mr. Children. He has since provided several tour videos for the band. That same year he provided a short for a TV show on NHK, and since then he has focused on his Road series. He also paints and has held regular exhibitions in various galleries over the last fiew years.

The keyword to his films is probably iyashi or healing, in the sense with which the word was applied to those minimalist films of the last decade like Maboroshi no Hikari and Eureka. The characters depicted are going through a process of healing after some traumatic experience, and the visuals are slow and meditative in a way that bounces that healing back onto the viewer. Like those films, Murata's films are dialogueless and consist of slow, lengthy shots composed with painterly perfection. The striking use of light and shadow in his films is particularly masterly for someone who never studied that aspect of filmmaking. We follow the protagonists around on existential peregrinations as they remember relics of a past long gone - happy days with a family in one film, a deceased child in another. Despite the seemingly morbid pensiveness, the films thoroughly glow with warmth and positive hope for the future. The fact that he achieves all of this using puppets and not live actors is in itself notable. He has succeeded in carving out a unique niche for himself with his films. In February 2004 his company put out a DVD of White Road, and he followed this up with three DVDs in November: Scarlet Road, Nostalgia and a DVD collecting all of his other work. Murata is surely a leading example of the young generation of independent animators in Japan, not just for the originality and independent-mindedness of his films, but also for the way he finds his own way of handling their distribution.

Filmography

1998    Tug Tug    (4:30)
1998    Chorus of Cicadas せみしぐれ    (9:00)
1998    An Introduction to Human Zoology    (7:30)
1999    Tokyo    (5:30)
2000    Nostalgia 睡蓮の人    (16:00)
2001    Memories オモヒデ    (4:30)
2002    Keep on smiling いつでも微笑みを    (5:00)
2002    Hero promo video    (6:00) (Mr. Children tour 2002)
2002    Ponyu Town ポンユタウン    (5:00)
2002    Scarlet Road 朱の路    (12:58)
2003    White Road 白の路    (14:00)    (excerpt)
2003    Talking to myself 独り言    (19:00) ("autodocumentary")
2004    Fire-blowing bamboo 火吹竹    (2:00)
2004    Pink    (6:00) (Mr. Children tour 2004)
2004    Veins 血の管    (4:00) (Mr. Children tour 2004)
2004    Four brothers ヨニン兄弟    (1:00)

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