03 November 2008

Bloomed Words (おはなしの花, 2006)

This cute little Flash animation by young animators Amica Kubo (久保亜美香 aka アミカ) and Seita Inoue (井上太) rose to acclaim in 2006 when it won the Excellence Prize at the Japan Media Arts Festival. The film has since appeared at international festivals around the world and in 2007 was one of the 7 winners (out of over 200 entries) of Studio 4°C's Next Genius competition.

The short animation features two cute little creatures discussing possible travel plans to Hong Kong. As they talk to each other, their thoughts are animated above their heads. For example, when the female speaker first brings up the idea of traveling to Hong Kong, a depiction of skyscrapers is seen above the head of the little brown creature. The blue bird-like character with a male voice, on the other hand, things of panda bears. As their conversation progresses, the playful nature of their dialogue is expressed in the ever more elaborate visual displays of their thoughts, blooming like flowers above their heads.

The dialogue sounds very unscripted and reminded me of Nick Park's early film Creature Comforts (1989) which used a documentary soundtrack of interviews conducted with real working class people to animate animals talking about living conditions in their zoo. The idea in Blooming Words is that the words only give a mere suggestion of what the speaker is thinking about. Japanese, particularly informal Japanese, suggests many more things than what are explicitly said and I think this film does a superb job of demonstrating that. As the visuals build higher, we also get to see a visual display of stream-of-consciousness thought as the female speaker begins talking about Hong Kong, then moves on to mention Hokkaido another popular holiday destination), a TV ad featuring Tsuyoshi Shinjo and so on.

Amica Kubo, a graduate of Tokyo Polytechnic University, has a new film, Go! Moo Coaster! (ゴー!モーコースター) being distributed overseas by Duck Studios. The trailer suggests that the film will feature a small animated rollercoaster on everyday objects such as the spiral binding of a sketchbook. Kubo also sat on the judging panel at this year's animation festival in Ottawa.

Kyoto-born Seita Inoue has been studying at Tama Art University under the tutilage of such animators as Taku Furukawa, Georges Schwizgabel, and Sylvain Chomet.