31 October 2008

UrumaDelvi Paint

Uruma Delvi (うるまでるび) are a husband and wife team known for their distintive CG animation style. They have done a lot of educational shorts for the NHK including Kabuseru Samurai (The Capsule Samurai), a series which ran over the space of four years from 2003-2006. They have also tried their hand at more independently minded projects such as their 2003 contribution to Kihachiro Kawamoto's collective project Fuyu no Hi and their film Mr. Calpaccio (2005) which they sent to numerous festivals around the world including Annency, Animafest Zagreb, and Ottawa.

In the past year they have enjoyed phenominal success with their humorous Minna no Uta short Oshiri Kajiri Mushi (The Bottom-Biting Bug). The film features a dancing and singing bug who travels from the countryside to the city biting people's bums. Normally Minna no Uta shorts run on the network for about two months, but due to its popularity the short ran for five months and the song rose to number 6 on the Oricon charts. The popular little bug was then offered a show of his own entitled "Oshiri Kajiri Mushi to Odorou!"

I generally have a rather lukewarm response to straight CG animation (when it is all done onscreen and nothing has been prepared by hand), but I have recently been warming up to the work of Uruma Delvi. Their recent shorts about a little girl called Sumiko are really excellently done and I am working on a review of them for the near future. Today, however, I wanted to share with you a newsclip I found on Youtube of an interview with Uruma-san as he demonstrates Uruma Delvi Paint. This is an animation software that Uruma Delvi developed with researchers from Tokyo University. It looks very user friendly and I could imagine both children and adults having a lot of fun with it. To see a demo click here and for more information about the product click here. Apparently they hope to have a Beta version ready for public use soon.

Under the clip, I have also written up a filmography of the animated work Uruma Delvi have done so far. This does not include their work in illustration and games. They designed some kind of an animation game called Bikkuri Mouse for Playstation 2 with Toshio Iwai, but I haven't read any reviews of the product yet.


  • 1992 Burutabu-chan, shikato, Kutama (Ugougoruuga)
  • 1993 Mamagauro (Koizumi no Tsukaenai Eigo)
  • 1997 Odekake Makihara-kun (Masahara Takeyuki CD)
  • 2003 Uruma Derubi GOLD (shockwave.com)
  • 2003 Fuyu no Hi (Winter Days, collaborative film directed by Kihachiro Kawamoto)
  • 2003-4 Capsule Samurai  NHK educational shorts, 15秒x8話 )
  • 2005-6 Caspule Samurai (English Version, 20秒x40話 )
  • 2005 (a long day of) Mr. Calpaccio (independent short animation, 7分32秒)
  • 2005 Uruma Delvi DELUXE (excite)
  • 2007 Tetemete (Viacom)
  • 2007 Oshiri Kajiri Mushi (The Bottom-Biting Bug, NHK, Minna no Uta, 3分30秒)
  • 2008 Sumiko Forever (independent short animation, 4分55秒)
  • 2008 Anato no Taido ga Ki ni Hairanai (I Don't Like Your Attitude, independent short animation, 4分03秒)

11 October 2008

Takashi Ishida

Artist, poet, and filmmaker Takashi Ishida will be promoting his work overseas this autumn. I first encountered his films when watching the collection Thinking and Drawing, and was quite taken by his experimentation with the relationship between time and space in animation. His training as a painter has had a big impact on his work and he belongs to the tradition of experimental art animation. One can see influences of Oskar Fischinger, Norman McLaren, Ken Lye, and Nobuhiro Aihara in his films and installations.


Ishida has been working in Toronto this year having won the Goto Commemorative Culture Award in 2007. A new site-specific installation by Ishida will be presented by The Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival (November 12-16, 2008) and Trinity Square Video. The exhibition pairs Ishida with young Canadian artists who also combine drawing, painting, and video.

Installation Opening Reception: Friday, November 14, 5-8pm
Exhibition: November 15 - December 20, 2008
Trinity Square Video, 401 Richmond Street West, suite 376, Toronto
(416) 593-1332


Filmmaker and critic Chris Gehman has also curated a a retrospective of Ishida's work so far at Cinematheque Ontario and the event promises to include some new pieces. The 50 minute screening will be followed by a discussion with the artist himself.

December 3, 2008 7:00 PM
Jackman Hall,
Art Gallery of Ontario, 317 Dundas Street West, Toronto
(416) 968-FILM


Although he's not listed on the official programme, according to his website Ishida will also be attending part of the Aurora Festival in Norwich again this year. The multidisciplinary event promises a wide range of activities related to the manipulation of images. It runs from November 12 -16, 2008 at the Norwich Art Center. Tickets may be booked online or phone 0871 704 2053 (films and discussion events) or 01603 660352 (performance events)

Norwich Arts Centre, St. Benedicts Street, Norwich, England

Memories of Matsuko (嫌われ松子の一生, 2006)

Tetsuya Nakashima's Memories of Matsuko (Kiraware Matsuko no Isshou, 2006) bursts onto the screen like a modern day Busby Berkeley spectacular. However, unlike a Berkeley musical, which usually has a superficial plot with a dash or two of light romance, Memories of Matsuko tells the tragic life story of a woman who has been brutally murdered in a field near her squalid apartment. While most musicals try to 'normalize' their musical numbers by having their main characters be singers or dancers, the musical numbers in Memories of Matsuko products of the imagination of Matsuko or her nephew Shou. Often they provide the same kind of function as a monologue: giving us access to the subjective mind of the central protagonist.

Before we learn about the tragic life of Matsuko, we are first introduced to the chaotic life of Shou Kawajiri whose life has been on a downward spiral since breaking up with his girlfriend. His father visits him with the ashes of his deceased aunt, Matsuko Kawajiri, and asks Shou to help clean up Matsuko's apartment. From there, the story unfolds using a similar narrative technique as Orson Welles's Citizen Kane with Shou piecing together the sordid tale of his aunt's life through the stories told to him by people that knew her such as her punster next-door neighbour, an elegant porn star, a yazuka who was her former lover and one of a long line of men who abused her.

Although the flashbacks are told by others, the narrative voice changes to that of Matsuko, so that we feel her presence telling her life's story throughout the film. She undergoes several tranformations during the film from an apparently motherless young girl desperate to please her father to being a school teacher, a convict, a hair stylist, the devoted girlfriend of an abusive yazuka, and eventually her end as a mentally disturbed bag lady.

The dramatically depressing reality of Matsuko's life is counterbalanced by her colourfully imaginative internal life represented by the musical numbers. Nakayama's dynamic editing and use of CGI was honed during his time as a director of commercials and contributed to the financial and critical success of Kamikaze Girls (Shimotsuma monogatari/下妻物語) in 2004. Both films are adaptations of novels by women and feature women as main protagonists. Muneki Yamada (山田宗樹)'s original novel was also adapted into a television drama on TBS in the autumn of 2006 – with a much tamer, romanticized representation of Matsuko's life.

This film has been slammed by many respected film critics, despite the fact that the film evokes for them memories of film classics like Fellini's Nights of Cabiria (1957), Citizen Kane (1941), not to mention the works of film legends like Kenji Mizoguchi, Mikio Naruse, and Douglas Sirk. The main complaint seems to be that the films visual and emotional excesses, particularly in the drawn out ending making the film come off rather cloying instead of heartfelt. This is perhaps true if the film is compared to the kind of dramas made in the States and Europe, however I think that in the context of contemporary Japanese drama traditions, which seem to revel in the outlandish and overwrought, the ending does not seem out of place. I don't think that this film is for everyone – Chris MacGee at Toronto Jfilm Pow-wow found it disturbing – but certainly is fascinating and thought-provoking.


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