02 June 2020

Watch: White Road (白の路, 2003)

Tomoyasu Murata (村田朋泰) has made his early independent film White Road (白の路 / Shiro no michi, 2003) available on YouTube for the first time.  It is one of a series of short puppet animations with a pianist as the main protagonist. White Road brought Murata’s work to a wider audience in East Asia because it was re-edited and used as a music video for popular J-Pop band Mr. Children’s 2004 song Hero. Images from other animated films by Murata were projected onto screens during Mr. Children’s 2004 Shufuku no Oto tour.


Memories of a boy and a girl. Even now, as an adult, I can't forget the memories and wistful pain. Like running through a white landscape forever.

The film has an elegiac tone.  Instead of dialogue or narration, the story is told through character expression, puppet movement, sentimental music, foley effects (wind, the crunching of snow), silence and expressive use of colour.  The predominant colour of the film is indeed the white of the title, but it is complemented by the use of blue light, which adds to the melancholy atmosphere.

White Road shows the nameless pianist returning to his rural childhood home in the winter. He is haunted by the memories of a young girl who had been his playmate and the puppy that they loved but died, possibly due to their unwitting neglect. The pianist’s memories are evoked through flashbacks that sometimes involve him sharing the screen with his younger self. Particularly poignant is the scene in which he mourns the puppy and an adult ghost of the dog looks on as if forgiving him for his childhood mistake. We are also invited to share in the pianist’s grief for his lost childhood friend, who moved away with her family.

For more information about the director see: https://www.tomoyasu.net/
Follow Murata's production company on twitter: @TMC_STAFF

2020 Catherine Munroe Hotes

24 April 2020

The World of Ryōji Yamada / 山田遼志の世界

The World of Ryōji Yamada / 山田遼志の世界

In the “before times”, when we were still able to meet in small groups in Japan, I was able to attend one of the The World of Ryōji Yamada ( 山田遼志の世界) special screening events hosted by tampen.jp. The screening selection featured a mix of Yamada’s acclaimed animated shorts and his commissioned works (music videos).

Waiter (2014)
Popping, Mixing (2012)
LaLaLa Brothers (2011)
Keita SANO’s ‘Mad Love’ (music video, 2017)
King Gnu’s ‘Prayer X’ (music video, 2018)
Doodle Project II (2019)
Kicell’s ‘Hitotsu dake Kaeta’ / キセル「ひとつだけ変えた」(music video, 2018)
Natsu to Suisei’s ‘27th’ / 夏と彗星「27th」 (music video, 2020)
WONK’s ‘Cyberspace Love’ (music video, 2017)
Hunter (2017)
handshake (2018)
Firehead (2019)

Yamada has an MFA in Animation from Tama Art University, and in 2018-2019 he had the opportunity to live in Germany as a Trainee Japanese Council Affair of Culture. During this time was a guest student of Andreas Hykade at the Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg, and he was able to join us at Nippon Connection for a screening of his film Hunter.

I went to the event to see the film Yamada made in Germany, Firehead. I am glad that I did because I had never sat down and watched a selection of Yamada’s films altogether before and it was interesting to see how his style has developed over the years. I was also impressed by Yamada’s ability to adjust his style to suit the needs of his clients in the commissioned music videos.

Music is an integral part of Yamada’s films and the music for his independent works are composed by his long time collaborator Makoto Takahashi. I purchased a CD of the music Takahashi composed for the films at the event and it came with a fold-out poster featuring Yamada’s art.

Apart from Firehead, all the other films from the screening can be found online and I have assembled them for you below (plus the trailer for Firehead). The discussions with the director from the screenings can be found on tanpen’s YouTube Channel (JP only)

Waiter from Ryoji Yamada on Vimeo.

Doodle Project II (2019) from Dante Zaballa on Vimeo.

HUNTER from Ryoji Yamada on Vimeo.

handshake from Ryoji Yamada on Vimeo.

FIREHEAD Trailer from Ryoji Yamada on Vimeo.

Cathy Munroe Hotes 2020

23 April 2020

Affordance (アフォーダンス, 2016)

Hayato Nove (野辺ハヤト, b. 1971) is a graphic designer and illustrator by profession. Along with his web designer wife Tomoko Nobe (野辺智子), he has his own company breath piece which specialises in illustration, album cover design, web design, logos and other art projects. In addition to these commercial endeavours, Nove is also an artist and musician. In recent years, he has experimented with the medium of animation. Affordance (アフォーダンス, 2016) is his second film after his 2013 work Caterpillar (watch here). It was a part of the animation selection that I curated for Nippon Connection in 2017, and we were lucky enough to have Nove join us at the screening and answer questions about the film.
The term “affordance” is relatively new to the English language. It was coined by the late American psychologist James J. Gibson in a 1977 article entitled “The Theory of Affordances” and explored more deeply in his 1979 book The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception. Gibson is considered one of the key 20th century researchers in the field of visual perception, with his work exploring how we see the world we do. Affordance pertains to how our perception of an object defines the possibilities of how it can or should be used. Thus, the concept of affordance is a key one in design (See: Don Norman, “Affordances and Design”, and Nove encountered the term during his studies at Musashino Art University.

Using Nove’s characteristically minimalist monochrome palette, Affordance is a mesmeric film, weaving in and out between simple line drawings to elaborate patterns of movement and metamorphosis. The varying pace of the animation is matched by the soundtrack, which was composed and performed by the artist himself .

You can immerse yourself in Nove’s unique poetic vision on Vimeo now:

Nove is currently working on his latest work Parallax, due out sometime this year.  Watch the trailer:

Cathy Munroe Hotes 2020