14 June 2008

Kojiro Shishido

One of the biggest challenges in CG animation is how to create a unique vision using a medium that encourages uniformity. The work of Kōjirō Shishido (宍戸幸次郎, b. 1983) stands out for me because of the way he has used a wide variety of CG techniques in order create images that directly relate to the themes of his short films.

Browsing through the online examples of the work of Kōjirō Shishido, aka Hosozao (his YouTube user name is a type of shamisen), it becomes apparent that he has experimented with the capacities of his software (Bauhaus Software Mirage 1.5, Corel PainterX, Adobe AfterEffects CS3, Photoshop CS3) in a variety of amusing shorts such as Deep Sea Tentacle, Drawing!!, Wakame Buildings, Collapse Zen, and Superfluid, in a manner reminiscent of Norman McLaren’s early experiments with animation on film at the NFB. Using these playful, engaging films to explore the possibilities of his tools, Shishido applies what he has learned in his more introspective films such as Doutei Kawaiya (Sweet, Sweet Virgin, 2003), Kagami no Genon (sound/phantasma/mirror aka Mirror’s Fundamental Tone, 2004) and his most recent film Naked Youth (2006).

In Doutei Kawaiya, Kagami no Genon and Naked Youth Shishido takes us on a journey through the uncertainty and excitement of young love and homoerotic love. These gentle films quiver with sexual tension, which is linked to the natural world: trees reflecting on the surface of a pond, butterflies fluttering in the breeze. Of the three films, Doutei Kawaiya is least concerned with the outside world, focusing instead on the claustrophobic world of young people discovering their sexuality. Although their faces and bodies take centre stage, nature is represented by images of flowers, a brief shot of the sky, and a striking painting of trees.

Shishido clearly enjoys the possibilities of light and shade in his films. Not only does he experiment with intensity of light, but he also plays with the patterns made by light when it encounters different objects. Moments like the graphic play of the light passing through window blinds as they flutter around in Kagami no Genon or the mesmerizing quality of the light of the summer sun pushing through dense trees demonstrate Shishido’s sensitivity to small details that create ambience.

One major theme in Shishido’s work is reflections. He shows us beautiful reflections not only in surfaces like water, mirrors, but also polished floors. Shishido renders his realistic backdrops images slightly blurry, endowing them with the hazy quality of memories or dreams. The characters are set apart from the backgrounds with their sketch-like quality that makes them seem more like cel animation than the more obviously CG settings. You can see for yourself how Shishido creates his images in stages in his Breakdown of Animation of Naked Youth.

It is a delight to watch these three films in the order in which they were made because you can see Shishido’s growth as a visual storyteller with Naked Youth bringing together the best elements of his earlier films. I particularly like how he layers his images using real architecture and interiors as his inspiration. He also composes his own music for his films. Shishido uses music in a minimalist way to add to the emotional impact of the images. For a young filmmaker, he has already learned that sound effects (cicadas, hiyodori, running water, etc.) and silence are equally as important for creating ambience. I do hope that Shishido continues to make independent films so that we can see the full blossoming of his potential as an artist.


  • Undercurrent (2001)
  • Doutei Kawaiya (Sweet, Sweet Virgin, 2003)
  • Kagami no Genon (sound/phantasma/mirror, 2004)
  • Deep Sea Tentacle
  • Drawing!!
  • Wakame Buildings
  • Collapse

© Catherine Munroe Hotes 2008