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 
2020, 6 min. 

 Ryotaro Miyajima 宮嶋龍太郎
 2019, 5 min. 

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

Masa Kudo 工藤雅 
Difference and Repetition and Coffee 
2020, 4min. 33 sec. 

Isaku Kaneko 金子 勲矩
The Balloon Catcher 
2020, 6min 

Isaku Kaneko 金子 勲矩
2019, 3 min. 

Tomoe Obayashi 大林 知恵 
2019, 6 min. 

Hayato Nove 野辺ハヤト
2021, 30 min.

2021 Cathy Munroe Hotes 

03 March 2021

Parallax Exhibition


To mark the release of his latest independent work Parallax (2021), the animator Hayato NOVE (野辺 ハヤト) is having a solo exhibition next week (8-13 March 2022)  at Gallery Kobo (巷房) in Ginza. Nove’s independent animation are auteurist works in the truest sense for not only does he direct and design he visuals for his animated shorts, but he also composes and performs the soundtracks. His films are usually in a sombre palette, but the preview images for Parallax show a surprising use of a vibrant red. It will be a nice break from the monotony of pandemic life to get out and see Nove’s latest work. 

Parallax / trailer from Hayato Nove on Vimeo.

To learn more about this artist, check out his website: 
or follow him on instagram

Gallery KOBO 
Okuno Building, 1-9-8 Ginza Chuo-ku Tokyo, 104-0061 Japan 
March 8 - 13, 2021 
Noon – 19:00 ( on the final day the gallery closes at 17:00 )

23 September 2020

Strawberry Candy (いちご飴, 2020)

Strawberry Candy (いちご飴 / Ichigo Chigo, 2020) was the film that made the biggest impact on me at the Geidai Animation 11 Neo screenings in February in Yokohama.  It is a powerful short film that tells sensitively tells the story of familial child abuse from the perspective of a young girl.

The film begins innocently enough with the central protagonist, a Chinese girl of about kindergartner age, talking about her likes and dislikes.  She likes playing hide-and-seek with a cardboard box used for storing pears, she doesn’t like the new telephone because her mom makes her call people; she likes her red marble that her father gave her on Children’s Day, but she doesn’t like the boys next store who took it from her; and so on.

As she continues telling us her likes and dislikes, the director, Nianze Li, masterfully builds a sense of unease.  This innocent child is dealing with a secret that she doesn’t fully understand.  She is able to express her distress at the situation her finds herself in and Li’s beautifully rendered animation shows how a child’s animation can be a coping mechanism.  The boundaries between dreams (or nightmares) and reality can blur together until it is difficult to distinguish one from the other.

It is a powerful film, that will no doubt be distressing to viewers with personal experience of domestic abuse, but it is a very important tale to tell.  It reminds us that we really need to listen to the stories children tell us and take seriously when they express that something is wrong.  The story is beautifully illustrated with colourful pencil drawings, in an elegant evocation of the most common medium of children’s art.

According to her “Making Of” blog, the story came out not of personal experience but of research Li had done into the subject of child abuse.   She studied films and books that gave her insight into the psychology of abuse, and wanted to give an empathetic portrayal from the point of view of the victim.  

The film is playing this weekend and next at the Image Forum Festival where I will be watching it again.  I am sure it will be picked up at other international film festivals around the world in the coming year.

Nianze Li (李 念澤, b. 1995) did her undergraduate education at the Sichuan Fine Art Institute New Media Art Department (2017) and completed her master’s at Tokyo University of the Arts Graduate School of Film and New Media earlier this year. You can follow her on twitter, Instagram, and Vimeo.

2020 Cathy Munroe Hotes