04 February 2009

Animation at the Japan Media Arts Festival

The Japan Media Arts Festival is underway from today until the 15th of February at The National Art Center in Tokyo. Every year this influential festival presents a selection of the year’s best films, animation, games, manga, and other media art to eager audiences. This year, the festival had 2,146 entries from more than 44 countries. For more information on exhibitions, screenings, symposia, workshops, and other events, go to their bilingual website here. The festival guide is available as a pdf download.

If I were in Tokyo, I would be heading to see the festival’s picks for top animation for this year – some of which, I have seen, others I am hoping will make an appearance at Nippon Connection in the spring. Animator Shinichi Suzuki (鈴木伸一), who runs the Suginami Animation Museum, was head of the Jury that selected the winners in animation.

It comes as no surprise that the Grand Prize went to Kunio Katō’s Tsumiki no ie (つみきのいえLa maison en petits cubes) which also won Kato prizes at Hiroshima and Annecy, and is nominated for an Oscar. See my review of the film here.

Excellence prizes were awarded to:

Masaaki Yuasa Kaiba (カイバ)

Yuasa is perhaps best known for 2004’s Mindgame. Kaiba is a 12-episode animation series that he animated with Madhouse. The series aired on WOWOW last spring. Check out Emru Townsend’s review at Frames per Second.

Chie Arai Dreams (ドリームス)

I have not been able to find any reviews of Arai’s work, but I do know that she has worked as a key animator and in-betweener at Disney Japan. She quit Disney in 2002 to do freelance work (including at Disney) including on Koji Yamamura projects such as Man & Whale and Atama Yama. She has also done freelance work for the NHK (Minna no Uta, Eigo de Asobo). Here’s her homepage. I like her online Fliptheatre, but I wish she had more info about her independent film work.

Taku Kimura Kudan (クダン)

Here's the official description:

Unlike the western mythological creature, the Minotaur, a Japanese monster, Kudan, has a human head and the body of a cow. Kudan is born from a female cow. It speaks a human language, predicts war or disaster, and dies in three days. This story is about a man who is accidentally transformed into a Kudan.

For more information, go to the film’s homepage.

Kōji Yamamura A Child’s Metaphysics (こどもの形而上学)

Here is the description from his homepage:

A child whose head is numerals, a child who winds his own face and has it under his arm. What was left is his identity, a child whose eyes are provided by fishes, a child who lies down on the floor and head-butts his identity, a child who cannot say anything because of a zipper across his mouth. He undo the zipper but under it is another zipper...

Ecology and philosophy of children with sadness and humour.

An Encouragement Prize was given to Noriaki Okamoto for his short film Algol (アルゴル). A low quality download of the film can be viewed in it’s entirety on the NHK website (click here). I would have to see a higher resolution copy before making a verdict on the film, but I do like when music and animation are used in interesting ways together and I love mixed media animation. I do hope the film come to Nippon Connection.

For fans of animation, the festival also offers screenings of selections from festivals around the world including Annecy, Ars Electronica, CICDAF (China), SICAD (Seoul), Ottawa, among others. On February 7th there is also a symposia with a panel that includes Kunio Kato, Taku Kimura, Masaaki Yuasa, and Shinichi Suzuki.