28 April 2007

Thinking and Drawing (シンキング・アンド・ドローイング, 2005)

The walls of video rental shops in Japan are lined with hundreds upon hundreds of animation DVDs, but experimental and art animation on DVD are rare. To remedy this situation, Image Forum put together this showcase of the work of contemporary avant-garde animators trained in Kyoto and Tokyo. Image Forum has been the centre for the creation, exhibition, and distribution of alternative film in Tokyo for over twenty-five years. In the early days, it was known as the Underground Center but renamed itself in 1977 when they established the Institute for Moving Images, where they train students in experimental film and art animation techniques.

Released in 2005, Thinking and Drawing features a wide selection of animation styles from line drawing to CGI manipulated photographs. The subject matter ranges from feminist allegory to ghostly tales. Although each film has a short running time of between 5 and 17 minutes, the depth of meaning in each is truly astonishing. The films have shown together and separately at festivals in Europe, North America, and Australia.

Along with Tabaimo (Ayako Tabata), Maho Shimao and Atsuko Udo, Mika Seike represents a growing number of women in experimental film. Seike's films are instantly recognizable by their signature monotone backgrounds and human figures. The shades of black and white vary in texture, sometimes giving one the impression of old newsprint, while at other times having the texture of birch-bark or handmade paper. When accompanied by the sound of electronic feedback it reminded me of the static on a disconnected television.

Continue reading my review of Thinking and Drawing at Midnight Eye!.

Tokyo Loop / Animation

© Catherine Munroe Hotes 2007

01 April 2007

Osamu Tezuka at Showa-kan

The Showa-kan, a Tokyo museum dedicated to wartime and post-war Occupation Japan, is currently running a free-of-charge special exhibition on the experiences of Osamu Tezuka (手塚治虫). Through photographs, archival objects, and original drawings by Tezuka, the exhibit demonstrates the impact that the war had on the budding artist. The most powerful displays are the ones that put documentary photographs of the war next to wartime scenes from Tezuka's manga. The war forced young Tezuka (born in 1928) to grow up very quickly. The horrors that he witnessed (the firebombing of Osaka) and the hardships that he endured (wartime labour in a munitions factory) left their mark in his later work. Tezuka's manga and anime often feature a hero - his most famous is Astro Boy (鉄腕アトム) - fighting for peace and justice against a violent, totalitarian force.

The exhibition is entirely in Japanese, but most of the materials are visual and many of them speak for themselves. Fans of Tezuka will have an opporunity to examine original drawings up close as well as get a look at original cover art for Tezuka's manga such as Shin Takarajima, Lost World, Metropolis, and many more. The museum can be found at Kudanshita Station (on the Tozai, Toei Shinjuku, or Hanzomon lines).


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