07 February 2019

Ghibli Museum Special Exhibition: Painting the Colours of Our Films / 三鷹の森ジブリ美術館「映画を塗る仕事」展


The current exhibition at the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka examines the “integral role” of colour as a form of expression in the films of its founders, Isao Takahata (高畑勲, 1935-2018) and Hayao Miyazaki (宮崎駿, b. 1941). The exhibition highlights the techniques used to ensure that even a limited range of colours “can give characters a real sense of vitality and even convey their emotions.” This is something that the exhibitors contrast with the current mainstream digital colouring and computer animation, emphasizing “the wisdom and ingenuity of Studio Ghibli staff who spared no effort to respond to the ever-increasing demands of the directors while working within the limitations of animation paint.” 

 Takahata and Miyazaki, were steadfastly committed to their philosophy of “carefully depicting characters and their everyday life and giving them a reality that is different from live action films.” For them, this was the crucial to winning over the hearts of their film audiences. During the process of film production, this meant the careful selection of particular scenery to represent reality, the use of lighting to depict time and weather, and the precise selection of colour to express minute details such as texture. 

This exhibition aims to demonstrate the commitment to expression using colour by Takahata and Miyazaki. It showcases original cel drawings painted by the late colour designer Michiyo Yasuda (保田 道世, 1939-2016). Yasuda began working with Takahata and Miyazaki when they were at Toei Animation on projects such as Hols: Prince of the Sun (太陽の王子 ホルスの大冒険, 1968) and The Wonderful World of Puss 'n Boots (長靴をはいた猫, 1969) and followed them to Topcraft for the making of Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (風の谷のナウシカ, 1984). She then stayed on during the formation of Studio Ghibli and where she worked dedicatedly until her official retirement after the release of Ponyo (崖の上のポニョ, 2008). Despite her retirement, she was coaxed into working on Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises (風立ちぬ, 2013). 

In 2011, Yasuda’s achievements were recognized with the Animation Lifetime Achievement Award at the Japanese Movie Critics Awards (日本映画批評家大賞) and with the posthumous Meritorious Service Award at the Tokyo Anime Awards in 2017. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times in 2009, Yasuda said “What I like best is when I am building up the colours in my head, thinking of how to get the tone worked out. Colour has a meaning, and it makes the film more easily understood. Colours and pictures can enhance what the situation is on screen.” 

 Ghibli Museum Special Exhibition: Painting the Colours of Our Films 
三鷹の森ジブリ美術館「映画を塗る仕事」展 

Where: Museo d’Arte Ghibli at the the Ghibli Museum, 1-1-83 Shimorenjaku, Mitaka, Tokyo, 〒181-0013 (take the bus from Mitaka Station on the JR Chuo Line
When: 17 Nov 2018 – Nov 2019 Organiser: Tokuma Memorial Cultural Foundation for Animation 
Sponsors: Nisshin Seifun Group, Marubeni Electricity Inc. 

This text has been adapted from the official press release of the Museo d’Arte Ghibli.

07 November 2018

NC2018 Animated Shorts 4: Slowly Rising by Hideki Inaba



Nippon Connection 2018 Animated Shorts 4: Slowly Rising by Hideki Inaba 

Hideki Inaba (稲葉 秀樹, b. 1988)’s Slowly Rising came to my attention because the film was part of the Jury Selection at the Japanese Media Arts Festival 2017. Inaba is originally from Ibaraki Prefecture but is now based in Tokyo where he works as a freelance video artist. He has had a lot of success in the past couple of years, participating as part of the filmmaking team that did the animated special effects for the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Getaway Tour and having his work featured at many international festivals and online media platforms.

Slowly Rising from kanahebi on Vimeo.

Slowly Rising is a music video for the Dutch artist formerly known as BEATSOFREEN, now using the moniker Stan Forebee (Beatsofreen is an anagram of this name). Forebee is based in Melbourne, Australia. He describes himself as a beatmaker and multi-instrumentalist who grew up immersed in jazz and classical music in a musical family in the Netherlands. In March, he released his debut jazz album Jazz Sessions and he promises another album in the near future. 

On the Japanese Media Arts Festival Website, Inaba describes the music video thusly: “Under the sun that is the source of life, a single seed is born. Seeking light, the seed forms a group that gradually increases in numbers, then dies off. Another seed then grows in its place. The creator brings a cel animation touch to a story that overlays human relations in the corporate world with the rise and fall of living organisms.” (source). 

The film begins as simply as the music, with plant-like fronds waving against a starlit, other-worldly galaxy. As the music becomes more layered, the variety of imaginary organic creatures multiplies – some resemble plants, others pulsing sea creatures, and still others flying insects. They fill the screen like a colourful, ever-changing kaleidoscope. The result is a hypnotic video as entrancing as the music itself. 

Learn more about Inaba (username: kanahebi): 

Daibutsu Animation Club: 

Learn more about Stan Forebee: 

2018 Cathy Munroe Hotes

NC18 Animated Shorts 3: How Low Sympathy by Decovocal



Nippon Connection 2018 Animated Shorts 3: How Low Sympathy by Decovocal  

How Low Sympathy (ハロウシンパシー) is a music video for the three-piece Japanese band Scenarioart (シナリオアート). The band is from Kansai and features Kōsuke Hayashi (@kosukedao) on guitar and vocals, Kumiko Hattori (@drumkumiko) on drums and vocals and Yakahisa Yamashita (@yamapio) on bass and vocals. Their music demonstrates the influence of rock, electronica, and shoegaze pop. Their first single, Raincoat Man was released in 2013 and their single Sayonara Moon Town featured in the end credits of the popular anime series Boruto: Naruto Next Generations. The single How Low Sympathy can be found on their debut studio album Happy Umbrella.

How Low Sympathy | ハロウシンパシー from Decovocal on Vimeo.

How Low Sympathy is animated by the husband and wife team Decovocal (デコボーカル): Tomoyoshi Joko (上甲トモヨシ and Hiroco Ichinose (一瀬皓コ). I wrote about Ichinose and Decovocal in my last post about (read here), so for this post I will focus on the other half of the team. Like his wife, Joko also studied at Tokyo Polytechnic University where he was mentored by art animator Taku Furukawa (古川タク). I first wrote about him back in 2011, when my kids fell in love with his animation short Lizard Planet (read more). Joko has a remarkable ability create fantastic visual worlds using simple line drawing and computer colouring techniques. In addition to Lizard Planet, his film Buildings (2008) is clever and engaging. 

This combination of originality of design and colourful aesthetic has led to a successful carrier in commercial animation design. In addition to music videos, Decovocal make animation for television and advertising. 

Check out the work of Decovocal on their official channels: 

Learn more about Scenarioart: 

2018 Cathy Munroe Hotes 

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