It is well known that many of Japan’s great independent animators, like Yuri Koji, Taku Furukawa, Sadao Tsukioka, Shinji Fukushima, and Fumio Ooi, have designed animations for the NHK’s Minna no Uta series. Unfortunately, it is not so easy to get a hold of these little treasures due to regular crackdowns on people who upload them onto filesharing sites. Occasionally one can luck out and find a few gems. Recently I tracked down a couple of Taku Furukawa (古川タク, b.1941) Minna no Uta shorts.
First, a little background on the animator himself. Furukawa started off with an interest in manga, but was inspired by the work of early animtors like Ryohei Yanagihara to go into the field of animation. He got himself an apprenticeship under Yoji Kuri at Kuri Jikken Manga Kobo, which led to his own debut at the Animation Festival in 1966 with Akatombo (The Red Dragonfly). In 1970, he founded his own studio Takun Jikken Manga Box. Over the years he has produced dozens of independent animated films. He also publishes manga and picture books for children, as well as lecturing at universities and art colleges. Furukawa is notable for his active support of young artists through his teaching and his participation in animation festivals.
On top of his independent films, which screen regularly at festivals, Furukawa has done over a dozen Minna no Uta shorts. Kitte no nai okurimono (切手のないおくりもの) first aired in June 1996. The catchy tune is sung by Kazuo Zaitsu (財津和夫, b. 1948)
Furukawa takes a fairly simple, straightforward song, and makes it visually interesting by opening up multiple frames within the TV frame and having several small animations on the screen at the same time. The illustration style is very typical of Furukawa’s work and the colourful colour palette and amusing vignettes capture the spirit of Zaitsu’s song.Have a look for yourself here.
The above screencaps are from 1990's 東の島にコブタがいた (Higashi no Shinma ni Kobuta ga ita) featuring music by Bakufu Slump. The sense of humour of the song is a good match with Furukawa. I find it interesting how Furukawa switches between two different styles of animation. The comic scenes with the pig are done in a straightforward cel animation, but the more lyrical scenes of landscapes and forests are like a moving pastel drawing. These scenes create a particularly emotive effect during the musical bridge. Check it out here.
In case you didn’t catch my brief mention of it last August, you can also check out another favourite of mine by Furukawa: Kumo ga Hareta. Here are some screencaps of the brilliant dancing umbrella sequences. One can't help but think of Gene Kelly in Singing in the Rain:
For up to date information on Furukawa, check out his blog right here. Even if you can't read Japanese, it's still worthwhile if you'd like to see images of Furukawa's recent work such as a short piece he did for the NHK show Eigo de asobou (Let's play in English--- my kids were mildly amused by that show when we lived in Tokyo, though the male host is a bit goofy). The Furukawa piece is called The Bear (Mori no Kuma-san).
© Catherine Munroe Hotes 2009