31 August 2022

Hiroshima Animation Season 2022: Day 1

The first day of Hiroshima Animation Season 2022 was the easiest for me to negotiate because there were fewer scheduling conflicts than on other days. While on one hand it is wonderful for an animation festival to be jam-packed with excellent films and events, on the other hand it forces hardcore animation devotees like myself to make difficult screening choices. 

As with the original Hiroshima International Animation Festival, the central venue was JMS Aster Plaza with its two large concert halls and community spaces. The new festival opened up screening venues to include local businesses and institutions such as the Hiroshima City Cinematographic and Audio-Visual Library, Yokogawa Cinema, and Salon Cinema. I had hoped to be able to squeeze in seeing some of the anime classics on the big screen such as The Little Prince and the Eight-Headed Dragon (わんぱく王子の大蛇退治, 1963) and The White Snake Enchantress (白蛇伝, 1958), but it was simply impossible. Even though I was unable to partake in these offsite screenings, I feel that it was a good idea to include local businesses. These screenings were more likely than the central venue to draw in local crowds and engaging with the local community is an important part of any festival. From what I understand, many of these events were well-attended, which bodes well for future collaborations with local establishments. 

The first thing I noticed on Day 1 was that instead of stalls run by animators and artists from elsewhere in Japan, all of the vendors were local businesses selling their crafts and other wares. One really big problem for the festival is that the JMS Aster is not close to many restaurants and the one in-house restaurant takes its Obon summer holiday during the festival. It was great to see stalls selling coffee, baked goods, and even fresh hamburgers, so that we could grab a quick bite between screenings. 

I began the festival with one of the Hiroshima Animation Season Classics screenings: Karel ZEMAN’s Inspirace (水玉の幻想, 1949) and Invention for Destruction (CZ: Vynález zkázy / JP: 悪魔の発明, 1958). Inspirace had no dialogue and needed no subtitles and Invention for Destruction was shown with Japanese subtitles only. There were several screenings without English subtitles that offered a “whispering” where one could sit in a section of the theatre where an interpreter would live “whisper” the proceedings in English to those who could not understand the Japanese. As someone with sensitive hearing, I found this really obnoxious. Even though I sat far from the whispering section, I could still hear the whispering and it felt like someone was rudely talking during the screenings and events where it was happening. I don’t understand Czech and I can’t read Japanese quickly enough for the subs, but as I was familiar with the film, and I just focussed on enjoying the animation on the big screen. Zeman’s films may be more than 60 years old now but they have not lost their ability to inspire wonder at their technical brilliance. 

After briefly considering hopping on a streetcar to the Cinematography Library to see The Little Prince and the Eight-Headed Dragon, I decided to listen to my stomach instead and headed to the legendary local restaurant Otis! with its delicious Tex-Mex and vegetarian dishes. The walls are filled with the signatures and drawings of animation guests past as the venue opened in 1987 and is an easy walk from the JMS Aster. I was delighted to find the interior and the hosts unchanged from my last visit in 2014, and I found fellow animation researchers Jason Cody Douglass (Yale) and Chris Taylor (John Hopkins) at a table inside. We discussed our viewing plans for the festival and just as I was about to pay my tab, I heard my name spoken behind me by the stop motion animator Masaaki MORI (森まさあき). 

I first discovered Mori’s work when he participated in the Kihachirō KAWAMOTO omnibus work Winter Days (冬の日, 2003) with his delightful clay pig figures. Mori retired from Tokyo Zokei University last year and I went to see his retirement exhibition on the Zokei campus (see the above instagram post). Since joining JAA late last year, I have encountered Mori often and we seem well on our way to becoming fast friends. In Otis!, Mori introduced me to Yoshimi KAKURAI (加倉井芳美) and Masaaki OIKAWA (及川雅昭) , the PR rep and producer for TECARAT studios. Unfortunately, director and stop motion animator Takeshi YASHIRO (八代健志) could not come to Hiroshima due to the production of Hidari – you can follow the exciting progression of this new stop motion animation on Tecarat’s Instagram

I had not yet met Yashiro, but my Nippon Connection selection for this year featured his Noburō Ōfuji Award-winning short animation Pukkulapottas and Hours in the Forest (プックラポッタと森の時間, 2021) and I had been fascinated by his adaptation of Nakashi NIIMI’s Gon, the Little Fox, which I saw at a stop-motion animation in Kichijoji shortly after I moved back to Japan in 2019. 

Even though Yashiro was not at the festival – I was able to meet Gon the fox! Such a beautifully crafted puppet: 

 After getting to know more about Tecarat Studios, we headed to the Opening Ceremony and Golden Carpstar Award Ceremony, which I will discuss in my next post. 

Coming Soon: Hiroshima Animation Season: Day 1 Opening Ceremony

2022 Cathy Munroe Hotes

29 August 2022

Southpaw (サウスポー, 2019)


I first saw this delightful music video when the director and animator Sawako KABUKI (冠木佐和子) first posted it on YouTube back in 2019. When it screened at the Hiroshima Animation Season as part of the Japan Animation Association (JAA) selection Dive into the Sea of Japanese Independent Animation!, it stood out from the other films for its exceptional use of humour and movement. 

Kuricorder Quartet - SOUTHPAW | Music Video from SAWAKO KABUKI on Vimeo.

The video was commissioned by Kuricorder Quartet (栗コーダーカルテット): a quirky, multi-instrumental band featuring recorders (soprano, alto & great bass) and many other instruments. Since 2015, when Kenji KONDŌ left the band, they have actually been a trio but did not change their name. They are known in particular for doing covers of popular music and writing and performing film and TV soundtracks. Southpaw (サウスポー, 2019) is Kuricorder’s cover of the duo Pink Lady’s 1978 hit song “Southpaw” – which is said to have been inspired by the left-handed baseball pitcher Tomotsu NAGAI who played for the Crown Lighter Lions (now known as the Saitama Seibu Lions). When performing the song on television, Mie and Kei of Pink Lady wore glittery pink and white disco interpretations of baseball uniforms. 


No doubt inspired by the amazing choreography of Pink Lady, Kabuki chose to use dance as the main theme of her music video. She filmed fellow animator Manabu HIMEDA (whose delightful 45R Official Site Animation also featured in the JAA program) dancing and rotoscoped him into neckless humanoid character. A master of metamorphosis, Kabuki multiplies the dancing figure and positions the multiple figures in various moving patterns on the screen – always in perfect time with the rhythm of the piece and dynamically capturing the spirit of the performance. The audience was moved to gales of laughter. In a short amount of time Sawako is able to evince precisely that irrepressible urge to dance one feels when one hears a song like that really slaps (to use the modern lingo). 

 2022 Cathy Munroe Hotes

Hiroshima Animation Season 2022: Introduction


 Hiroshima Animation Season 2022 

This year marked the beginning of a new era for animation in Hiroshima. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the city of Hiroshima abruptly broke ties with ASIFA-JAPAN, who had run the Hiroshima International Animation Festival since its inception in 1985 until its final online edition in 2020. The new Hiroshima Festival will run for the month of August biannually and will feature two “seasons” – the Hiroshima Music Season and the Hiroshima Animation Season, with some crossover events.
Although it grieves me that ASIFA-JAPAN is no longer running the festival, I came to the new festival with an open mind and a hope for the sake of the city of Hiroshima and for the Japanese animation community that the new festival would be a success. It was strange not to see Sayoko KINOSHITA and her team at the festival, as I know how much hard work they put into the festival over the years. Kinoshita has been unwell this year, and it was decided at an extraordinary meeting of ASIFA-JAPAN, that Hiroshi ONISHI (Kyoto University of the Arts) would take over administratively while she is in rehabilitation. 

The new team at Hiroshima Animation Season is led by producer Nobuaki DOI and co-artistic directors Kōji YAMAMURA and Shizuka MIYAZAKI. Doi brings with him the experience of running the New Chitose Airport International Animation Festival and years of experience as a producer and collaborator in the international animation scene. Initially it seemed that Doi would run both festivals, but it seems that he has left New Chitose and they have a new programming team led by Tomoko ONO, with the assistance of Hirotoshi IWASAKI, Daisuke TANAKA, and Manabu KATO.

The Hiroshima Animation Season was very much stamped with the artistic personality of Yamamura. Gone is the familiar Lappy character designed by the late Renzō KINOSHITA. In Lappy’s place, the new mascot of the festival is the Golden Carpstar designed by Yamamura. Lappy was a fictitious character whose name was a portmanteau of the themes of the original festival “Love and Peace” and the word “happy”. The Golden Carpstar brings together the carp fish, a local symbol associated with the city of Hiroshima, and a twinkling star (presumably in reference to the artists featured at the festival). The association between carp and Hiroshima runs deep as the city is known for its carp dishes, Hiroshima Castle’s nickname is Rijō (鯉城) or “Carp Castle”, and the local baseball team is called the Hiroshima Toyo Carp. 

The new poster design was done by local artist shunshun, who has been living in Hiroshima since 2012.  The egg shape represents the birth of a new festival and it is filled with the motif of water, which was the theme of this year's program. shunshun explains in the catalogue: "The gentle sea where the sun shines brightly, the beautiful rain that pours down to the earth, gentle starlight twinkling in the night sky. . .  I depict these scenes that touch my heart by hand-drawing each line one by one carefully." 

Not only was the new mascot designed by Yamamura, but the program also featured Yamamura and many of his former students. His debut feature film Dozens of Norths (幾多の北 / Itaku no Kita, 2021) screened and Yamamura had a talk session about it. Isshin INUDŌ, a college friend of Yamamura’s from Tokyo Zokei University, showed his Min TANAKA documentary The Unnameable Dance (名付けようのない踊り / Nazuke you no nai Odori, 2022) which features Yamamura’s animation for dream sequences and other flights of fancy. Inudō, Tanaka, and Yamamura held a talk session about the film and Tanaka was also on one of the world competition juries. Yamamura also gave a screening and lecture called “Water in Animation: Fluidity and Discontinuity” as part of the water-themed special program of screenings and lectures, and his works screened alongside those of the late experimental animator Nobuhiro AIHARA in a special screening. I presume that the heavy presence of Yamamura at this inaugural edition of the festival may have been due in large part to the difficulties of organising a new festival when there are many travel and other restrictions still in place. I presume that future festivals will put the spotlight on the work of people other than the artistic director. 

Co-director Shizuka MIYAZAKI brings a much-needed female and local presence to the festival’s core team. She graduated from Yamamura’s Tokyo University the Arts (Geidai) program in 2013, but her MA work was supervised by Taruto FUYAMA. She has been teaching animation for many years at Hiyajima University Junior College in Hiroshima. 

2022 Cathy Munroe Hotes