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 these 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. 

24 May 2021

Alteration Finds: A Selection of Japanese Animated Shorts

 


The pandemic has forced long periods of sameness upon us. These recent indie animated sorts challenge us to break free from lockdown apathy and look at the world from a new perspective.

 Die Covid-19-Pandemie hat uns lange Perioden der Eintönigkeit aufgezwungen. Zeit für einen Ausbruch: Diese animierten Kurzfilme fordern uns auf, die Lockdown-Apathie hinter uns zu lassen und die Welt aus neuen Perspektiven zu betrachten.


I am pleased to announce that I have curated another independent animation short film programme for Nippon Connection together with festival director Florian Höhr.  Despite the challenges of the ongoing pandemic, I have been able to go to some festivals such as Image Forum Festival (IFF) and the Japan Media Arts Festival (JMAF), but they haven't had their usual vibe with the 3 Cs rules in effect ... particularly without the ability to go out to drink and chat with artists afterwards.  

In particular, I really miss gallery opening parties and film debut screening events, which are a great place to find out what people are working on at the moment.  In March, the graphic designer, musician and animator Hayoto NOVE invited me to the opening of his latest work Parallax (2021) in a gallery in Ginza.  We were limited to a maximum of 6 people per screening, but it was such a pleasure to at least be able to talk to the artist and his "team" (his wife & collaborator, the equally talented Tomoko NOBE).  Nove-san was concerned that with a run time of about half an hour, that the film might be a bit on the long side for an animated short, but I could tell him truthfully that I had not even noticed the length!  Nove's films tend to envelope me in their visual and soundscape so thoroughly that I am hardly aware of my surroundings.  These independent works are a real labour of love for Nove, and it is wonderful to follow him on his artistic journey.  Florian & I are so honoured that Nove-san has allowed us to have the world festival premiere of this most impressive work.  

I saw the indie animation legend Keita KUROSAKA's most recent animation The Living Wall (生きる壁, 2020) at IFF2020.  His masterpiece Midori-ko (2010) was a big success at NC2011 and this latest work does not disappoint.  

Another gem from IFF2020 is Masa KUDO's Difference and Repetition and Coffee (差異と反復とコーヒー, 2020).  Kudo is new to the animation scene but has an amazing future ahead of her. She grew up in Hokkaido where she graduated from Hokkaido Kyoiku University.  She also studied at the Image Forum film school which specialises in experimental film and animation.  The influence of IFF film school is very apparent in this film!

Geidai 2017 grad Ryotaro MIYAJIMA's first post-grad school independent film has found much success at animation festivals both at home and abroad. I first saw it at IFF2019, and have delighted whenever I have seen it on a screening programme.  Every time I watch this visual journey into the Sengoku Period, I catch another small detail I missed the first time.  It is a study of how to use movement and transitions masterfully in animation. 

Shunsaku HAYASHI brings his painterly magic to his animation films and I am so thrilled that we can include his latest work Leaking Life in our programme this year.  The film won Best Short Animation at the 24th Riga International Short Film Festival.  Hayashi-san first featured in one of my animation selections at NC2019 with Railment (2019).

The TamaGra (Tama University of Arts Graphic Design Department) animation programme has been producing really wonderful animators for the past couple of decades.  Isaku KANEKO's Locomotor (2019) and The Balloon Catcher demonstrate that he is someone to keep an eye on in the future. I was also quite taken by Tomoe OBAYASHI's Mubi (2019) and was compelled to include it in the programme.

Due to the ongoing covid-19 restrictions, Nippon Connection (June 1-6, 2021) will be hosted online again this year.  I am crestfallen for the festival, because part of its allure is all the in-person events, activities, and culinary delights.  On the other hand, the online forum means that the films can attract a larger audience than is possible with the limited seats of a cinema.  For rights reasons, this screening selection is region-restricted to Germany only. 

Booking information can be found here: 




Keita Kurosaka 黒坂圭太
The Living Wall 
生きる壁 
2020, 6 min. 






 Ryotaro Miyajima 宮嶋龍太郎
 Castle 
 2019, 5 min. 







Shunsaku Hayashi
 林俊作
Leaking Life 
2019, 14 min. 32 sec. 






Masa Kudo 工藤雅 
Difference and Repetition and Coffee 
差異と反復とコーヒー 
2020, 4min. 33 sec. 






Isaku Kaneko 金子 勲矩
 
The Balloon Catcher 
2020, 6min 








Isaku Kaneko 金子 勲矩
Locomotor 
2019, 3 min. 








Tomoe Obayashi 大林 知恵 
Mubi 
夢寐 
2019, 6 min. 







Hayato Nove 野辺ハヤト
 
parallax 
2021, 30 min.







2021 Cathy Munroe Hotes