08 May 2022

Resonance – A Selection of Japanese Animated Shorts

Resonance – A Selection of Japanese Animated Shorts
Sunday, 29 May 2022, 14:45
Naxos Cinema
Frankfurt am Main

I am proud to announce my animation selection for this year’s Nippon Connection in Frankfurt am Main.  Unlike my friends and colleagues overseas, my cinema-going habits have not been infringed upon by pandemic restrictions… I have only missed out on many of the usual social activities in the animation community here in Japan.   Any pandemic depression has been alleviated by the beauty of the animation I have seen in the past year and my mind has been engaged by the compelling ideas that Japanese and Japan-based animators have been exploring through their work.

This selection represents the best of the films whose images and ideas resonated in my mind for weeks and months after seeing them.  YANO Homami’s compelling pointillist A Bite of the Bone (my review), the first animation produced by YAMAMURA Kōji’s Au Praxinoscope, has been collecting awards at festivals around the world including OIAF and DigiCon6.  Another former Geidai student of Yamamura, YUKI Yōko (幸洋子) has just released her new film produced by Au Praxinoscope: In the Big Yard inside the Teeny-Weeny Pocket (ミニミニポッケの大きな庭で, 2022) which I am hoping to see at the Hiroshima Animation Season.

We have shown films by Yano, IWASAKI Hirotoshi, TABATA Shizuki, KUDO Masa, KIM HakHyun, and HIRANO Ryō at Nippon Connection before and I am delighted that these artists are continuing to make such excellent work. Trigger warning for Hirano's Krasue - it has horror motifs and is not appropriate for children.

I discovered the work of SAKAKIBARA Sumito for the first time this year watching the New Chitose online selection.  Originally from Hokkaido, Sakakibara lives and works in Nagano Precture but got his animation training in the UK.  His use of colour in Iizuna Fair is quite fantastic and I love the slow tracking shot from right to left like the deliberate unfurling of a scroll – check out the trailer here.

YASHIRO Takeshi’s reputation for unique stop motion animation with a handmade feel has grown and grown since he started specializing the aesthetic in 2012.   His talents were recognized by his peers this year when he was awarded the Noburō Ōfuji Award at the Mainichi Film Awards for Pukkulapottas and Hours in the Forest.  The film experiments with stop motion using location timelapse photography (ロケコマ撮り/ Roke-komadori).

My thanks to the animators and to Florian Höhr for his hard work at Nippon Connection.

A Bite of the Bone / 骨嚙み / Honekami
YANO Homami / 矢野ほなみ / 2021
10 min.

On Time Off Time
IWASAKI Hirotoshi / 岩崎宏俊 / 2020
9 min. 8 sec.

Iizuna Fair / 飯縄縁日 / Iizuna Ennichi
SAKAKIBARA Sumito / 榊原澄人 / 2021
11 min. 32 sec.

TABATA Shizuko / 田端志津子 / 2020
7 min 15 sec.

Still Life
KUDO Masa / 工藤 雅 / 2021
3 min 30 sec.

KIM HakHyun / キムハケン / 2021
7 min 22 sec.

Pukkulapottas and Hours in the Forest
Takeshi YASHIRO / 八代健志 / 2021
15 min 27 sec

HIRANO Ryō / ひらのりょう/ 2021
11 min 50 sec.

 2022 Catherine Munroe Hotes

18 November 2021

A Bite of the Bone (骨嚙み, 2021)

When a loved one passes away in Japan, their remains are ceremonially cremated.  After the cremation, the remaining remnants of bone ( 骨/hone) are picked out by relatives using long chopsticks and passed from chopsticks to chopsticks and placed into a large urn.  This practice is called kotsuage (骨揚げ).   Newcomers to Japan often learn about it when they are admonished at dinner for making the faux pas of trying to pass food to another person directly by use of chopsticks.

Homami YANO (矢野ほなみ)’s latest animated short, A Bite of the Bone (骨嚙み/ Honekami, 2021), concerns the lesser known tradition of honekami (骨嚙み), when members of the family actually consume some of the bones during the funeral ceremony in order to a keep a part of their loved one inside them.  This was famously done by the actor Shintarō KATSU (勝 新太郎, 1931-1997, star of the Akumyō, Heitai Yakuza, and Zatōichi series), with the bones of both his beloved older brother, Tomisaburō WAKAYAMA (若山 富三郎, 1929-1992, star  of the Kozure Ōkami series), and his father.

With A Bite of the Bone, Yano revisits the traumatic childhood experience of having refused to consume her father’s bones when he died.  As she explains in her director’s note, “The bone I did not eat stayed with me, as if stuck in my throat, and I found myself unable to express the experience in words nor forget it.”


The tale is narrated by the young female protagonist and opens with the sound and images of her father’s funeral.  The nonsense funereal sutra is performed by Yano’s mentor and producer, Kōji YAMAMURA (山村浩二) .  The scene then transforms into a loving recollection of life growing up in a small island community.  The narrator and her sister playing with an inner tube in the water, her father taking them on hikes in the hills, and the haunting memory of an abandoned WWII ammunition dump.  

Yano uses a pointillist style – the many colourful dots giving the memories a shimmering, dreamlike quality.   There is a poetic moment when the girl’s father is pruning the pine trees of the island into the shapes of clouds and waves against a pinky-red evening landscape.  The sadness of the theme of the death of her father is softened by the sweet childhood memories of her dog and the stunning nature of the island.  


Yano’s short animations have always delved into profound issues about love and life, but with A Bite of the Bone, she has reached a level of maturity in her animation style. The constantly changing perspectives and transitions between scenes show the influence of her mentor, renowned award-winning animator Kōji Yamamura, who produced with film at his studio Au Praxinoscope in Setagaya.  During the pandemic, I happened upon Yano working on the film when I stopped into the studio shop to browse the DVDs.  It is wonderful to see that such a beautiful work of art could come out of such dark times.  

A Bite of the Bone has won numerous awards at festivals in Ottawa, Chitose, Raindance, to name but a few.  It has also been entered for consideration at the Oscars.  Thank you to the New Chitose Airport  International Animation Festival for making this year’s short film selection available for screening online for those of us who are still restricting their travel.  

To learn more about Homani Yano, visit her website: https://honamiyano.com/  

2021 Cathy Munroe Hotes

07 October 2021

Crowdfunding: 10th Anniversary Edition of Harbor Tale DVD + Book


This year marks the 10th anniversary of the release of the charming animated short Harbor Tale (ハーバーテイル, 2011).  To celebrate the occasion, the animator Yūichi ITŌ (伊藤有壱) and his team at I.TOON are crowdfunding for a special edition DVD and book on CAMPFIRE

 I have been a fan of Itō’s stop motion animation since I first discovered the delightful series Knyacki! (ニャッキ!, 1995-) on the NHK when my children were small. He has a real knack for expressive character design and diverting visual storytelling.


Harbor Tale brings to life the idiom “if these walls could talk” quite literally. The central character is Mr. Brick – one of the famous red bricks from the historical buildings of Yokohama. Through Mr. Brick’s perspective, we are taken on a colourful journey through the history of this port town from the days when the clack of geta could be heard on the city streets to the modern era. 

 It is a culturally significant work for the way that it engages audiences of all ages with the history the city of Yokohama. Since moving to Yokohama in 2019, I have been delighted to see Mr. Brick in souvenir shops all over town. Don’t miss out on your chance to support this artist.