05 March 2010

The Red Thread (赤い糸, 2010)

The Red Thread (赤い糸/Akai Ito) by Kazuhiko Okushita (奥下 和彦) was featured on the NHK’s Digista program in February. The film takes a simple idea – creating a picture using a simple thread – and transforms it into an engaging flow of animated images. 

 The concept itself is not new. The Italian Cartoonist Osvaldo Cavandoli (aka Cava, 1920-2007) had a very famous series of shorts called La Linea (The Line, 1972-1991) that showed on television around the world. It was a comical series featuring a male figure who talked like Pingu (in fact, it’s the same voice actor: Carlo Bonomi) and interacted in a humorous way with the cartoonist himself. Okushita’s film made me nostalgic for children’s television programming on TVO in the 1970s and 80s. 

 Cavo's La Linea #215 (watch here)
 The thread brings the couple back together in Akai Ito

While the basic design concept is similar to that of La Linea, Okushita takes the concept to a whole new level both visually and in the narrative. From East Asian folklore, Okushita takes the symbol of the red string of fate. There are many variations of this ancient tale, but the main idea is that the gods tie men and women together who are destined as each other’s soul mates together with a red thread.

An invisible red thread connects those who are destined to meet,
regardless of time, place, or circumstance.
The thread may stretch or tangle, but it will never break.
- ancient Chinese belief

This image of interconnection can be seen in the image that Okushita’s college (Kanagawa College of Art ) is using for the homepage for their department of Visual Communication Design is currently featuring art from The Red Thread, demonstrating the development of the subtle narrative line in the film from childhood to falling in love and having a child.

The music accompanying the animation builds with the story coming to a climax when the couple argue and the thread, in defiance of the original myth, breaks. However, the thread reforms itself and the story eventually ties itself up nicely (sorry, I couldn’t resist the pun) by ending as it began with the image of a child. This short animation is a great success because of its combination of a brilliant design concept with a universal storyline. While the red thread idea is specific to East Asian folklore, threads (esp. weaving with threads) are quite a common metaphor internationally for the ties that bind us all to one another. 

A brilliant little film. Can’t wait to see what this young artist does next. On his Twitter profile, he calls himself a Live Painter.

la Linea / Original Soundtrack (Music by Franco Goddi)
Original Soundtrack (Music by Franco Goddi)

© Catherine Munroe Hotes 2010