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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Friday, March 25, 2005

11:58:22 pm , 425 words, 1762 views     Categories: Animation, Indie

Young animation

After seeing the recent crop from Digital Stadium, it felt like the most interesting animation being made in Japan at the moment was coming from students - a feeling that is reinforced by watching the winners in the animation division of the 10th annual Student CG Contest hosted by the Bunkacho, the same government body that hosts the Japan Media Arts Festival.

The quality of the films is amazing. There's no feeling of being infected by preconceived notions of what animation should be, which is what makes films by students these days so exciting. You feel they're really using these new methods to explore new forms of animation. Not knowing the methods used to produce the films surely adds some to the mysterious effect achieved in several of the more abstract of the films, like Kashikoki Mono (The Wise Ones) by Takahiro Hayakawa, a dazzlingly beautiful explosion of color and movement that's an exploration of the concept of Japan's animist spirits. With traditional animation, for example, you know how it's done, so you can break it down and explain it, but it can be so much more interesting and liberating to be thrown into the ocean without those floaters, for once permitting the images to speak for themselves. That's the power of animation that Oskar Fischinger and Norman McLaren opened our eyes to. Maybe because of technical difficulties, but more likely because of the culture of anime, there hasn't been much animation of that sort in Japan until recent years as far as I know. Changing technology seems to be changing attitudes. Most impressive is that Hayakawa's film is not merely abstract - it communicates. It connects with the viewer and has an emotional resonance and narrative flow, which is an impressive achievement for an entirely abstract piece. Colors, shapes, pacing, music and theme all come together as a unified whole to create an exceptional little film.

The rest of the films in the small selection show a variety of approaches, each successful in its own right. The uncanny optical illusions of 2.5 Camouflage by Sayaka Maruyama were a delight to watch. The film achieves a great effect with the most rudimentary means. Kojiro Shishido's Kagami no Genon (Mirror's Fundamental Tone) shows great sensitivity towards the delicate gradations of light and shadow in the natural world, with a matching delicate soundtrack by Shishido himself. The tour-de-force of the selection is the laboriously animated spiral rhythm by Mayu Inose. The designs were all very carefully researched and differentiated, with movement and colors well matched to the music.

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