23 August 2012

Ink Brush Animator Reiko Yokosuka

I first became aware of the beautiful ink brush animation of Reiko Yokosuka (横須賀令子) when I saw Kihachiro Kawamoto’s renku animation Winter Days (2003).  Yokosuka was one of several notable women animators (which I discussed in my Forum des Images postings earlier this year) to participate in the collaborative project.  Her interpretation of stanza 24 by Yasui (1658-1743) is minimalist in comparison to the animations of Keita Kurosaka and Yuko Asano that precede and follow her.  Delicate lines of black ink brushed onto washi paper flow gracefully across the screen transforming into a path on which a veiled lady in a broad hat walks.  As it begins to rain, ghostly forms of bamboo appear behind her as she removes her hat and veil and closes her eyes to take in the elements.  The vignette ends with the woman dancing in the wind, her long hair and kimono swirling around her as she transforms into a tree. 

Yokosuka’s animation style comes out of the tradition of sumi-e (brush painting) and she has experimented with the medium since her very first animated short Illusions (1981).  Yokosuka was born and raised in the small city of Hitachinaka in Ibaraki Prefecture where she developed an interest in both the natural and supernatural with trees, mermaids, and the spirit world appearing regularly in her works (source).  Growing up she was a fan of the female mangaka such as Ryoko Yamagishi (山岸 凉子, b. 1947), whose work often has occult themes, and the “founding mother” of modern shōjo manga Moto Hagio (萩尾 望都, b. 1949).

In 2003, Yokosuka participated in the Laputa Top 150 Japanese and World Animation poll where she revealed a fondness for an eclectic range of animation styles foreign and domestic, popular and alternative.  Among the mainstream works that she listed were Horus: Prince of the Sun (Isao Takahata, 1968), Disney’s Fantasia (1940), Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (Hayao Miyazaki, 1984), the anime adaptation of Takashi Yanase’s Ringing Bell (Masami Hata, 1978), and even Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks! (1996). Works she lists by her fellow alternative animators include: The Man Who Planted Trees (Frédéric Back, 1987), Hedgehog in the Fog (Yuri Norstein, 1975), Dojoji Temple (Kihachiro Kawamoto, 1976), Revolver (Jonas Odell/Stig Bergkvist/Marti Ekstrand/Lars Olsson, 1993), The Snowman (Dianne Jackson, 1982), The Restaurant of Many Orders (Tadanari Okamoto/Kihachiro Kawamoto, 1991), The Sand Castle (Co Hoedeman, 1977), ATAMA (Keita Kurosaka, 1994), PULSAR (Katsushi Boda, 1990), The Bead Game (Ishu Patel, 1977), Bavel's Book (Koji Yamamura, 1996). 

In addition to ink brush on washi paper, Yokosuka has experimented animating with coloured pencils, pastels, watercolour, and even copper.  Her works are quite difficult to track down, but fortunately the Sapporo Short Fest did a retrospective of her works in 2009 and posted sample clips from some of her films online:

A Piper (aka Crater Tree, 1987):

Movement (2003):

GAKI Biwa-Houshi (2005):

She also did a short short called Monban (Gatekeeper) for an animation omnibus sponsored by Open Yokohama which they posted earlier this year:

Yokosuka is currently based in Sapporo.  For more information, check out her official homepage (JP only).  I also just posted her profile on the Japanese Animation Filmography Project.