15 October 2009

Mirai Mizue's Fantastic Cell (2003)

Mirai Mizue (水江未来, b. 1981) is an exciting young talent in Japanese art animation. His work has recently been featured on the NHK’s ground-breaking Digista program (see Metropolis here).

Fantastic Cells (ファンタスチイック・セル, 2003) is an early work of Mizue’s that he completed while he was a student at Tamabi (多摩美術大学). In his animation, Mizue demonstrates an affinity for creating animation that is inspired by music. I think of him as a kind of Norman McLaren or Oskar Fischinger of the computer generation. His films appear to have been designed by CG animation, but in fact he carefully draws each image by hand and then scans and edits them into an animation on his Mac computer. 

For his music, Mizue chose Tchaikovsky’s ‘The Waltz of the Flowers’ from the Nutcracker Suite. This choice of music is quite bold for a young artist. Not only is the piece an emotive, well-known favourite but, as Mizue mentions on his website, it was also used for a sequence in Disney’s Fantasia (1940 watch it here).

‘The Waltz of the Flowers’ begins quietly and Mizue mimicks the gentleness of the music by using the frame sparingly at first. The shapes that he creates are composed of little cells. As the music’s tempo and volume increases, the cells densely pack the screen creating beautiful creatures both realistic and fantastic. The film also starts out entirely in black and white, but when it reaches it’s climax, pastel colours are added to flagellate-like creatures that pop out of a pod like balloons. At the song’s peak, the colourful cells combine to briefly form the shape of a human before cutting to a title card. Throughout the film, I was reminded of moments from McLaren’s Begone Dull Care (co-directed by Evelyn Lambart, 1949) – particularly in Mizue’s use of the image to complement the music.

This film and others can be viewed using Quicktime on Mirai Mizue’s website. He also has a gallery of some of his illustrations which show the depth and range of his talent, from off-the-wall to mildly disturbing to the truly beautiful and inspiring. You can also read more about him at anipages.

© Catherine Munroe Hotes 2009