09 July 2015

Track (2015)

I saw Tochka’s latest PiKA PiKA animation Track (2015) at Oberhausen 2015 as part of the MuVi Award international competition which celebrates music videos that are “trend-setting and visually exceptional.”  This year’s selection featured an eclectic mix of styles including the music videos for prominent artists such as Pussy Riot (I Can’t Breathe), Arcade Fire (We Exist) and Sia (Chandelier) and more off beat works such as Xiu Xiu’s Cinthya’s Unisex, Wang Rong’s Chick Chick, and a YouTube SmashUp of Wrecking Ball by Parag K. Mital.  Fellow Japanese animator Yoriko Mizushiri was also on the programme with her latest work Maku which features the music of Shuta Hasunuma.

Track made it into the MuVi selection because it features the music of Atsushi Yamaji (山路敦司), but I wouldn’t really call it a music video per se.  It is a collaborative stop motion animation made as a part of Smart Illumination Yokohama 2013 and was later reedited into a short film format for distribution.  At the core of Tochka are the co-directors Takeshi Nagata (ナガタタケシ) and Kazue Monno (モンノカヅエ) from Kyoto (Read about my visit to their new studio last summer).  They were assisted by a team of 28 animators (credited below) who draw in the air using penlights and are filmed at a slow framerate in order to pixilate the animators and their movements with light.  The animators in a nighttime PiKA PiKA animation film are visible onscreen usually as black shadows and remind me of the kuroko (黒子) stagehands in kabuki or bunraku.

The film was shot under the promenade connecting Zō-no-hana Park (象の鼻パーク,literally: “Elephant Trunk Park”) to the YokohamaRed Brick Warehouse.  The park gets its name from the Zō-no-hana breakwater which people say is shaped like the trunk of an elephant.  Renovated into a public space for cultural activity in recent years, Zō-no-hana is celebrated as the birthplace of the port of Yokohama.  Commodore Matthew Perry’s Black Ships (Kurofune) landed here on their second visit in 1859.  Yokohama quickly became the gateway of foreign goods into Japan, with freight trains departing from the port for Tokyo.

This is an inspired location for a nighttime shoot because the illuminated row of plinths running parallel to the promenade and the iconic Yokohama skyline with the illuminated giant Ferris wheel Cosmo Clock 21 make a perfect backdrop to the film.  In a nod to the history of trains departing the port of Yokohama, the animation takes place on a track built under the promenade. 

With every film that they make, Tochka seem to be widening the possibilities of animating with light.  This is one of their most complex uses of light with scenes depicting fish in the ocean, dinosaurs next to an erupting volcano, circus performances and a mural like those drawn by prehistoric man on the walls of caves.    

The synopsis of the film in the Oberhausen catalogue reads: “Humans invented tools, discovered fire, and drew pictures in dark caves.  Then murals were born with a mission to hand down everything to posterity.  In these murals, you can find dreams and the joy connected with the discovery of fire.  When I trace the history of the ancient peoples and imagine their lifestyle, I always feel grateful for modern civilization.” 

Indeed, as with all of Tochka’s PiKA PiKA collaborative works, Track is an uplifting film that celebrates life and the human imagination. 


Photography by LittleGrayT

Animators  /  アニメーター

Ivan Lee  /  アイバン リイ
Chihori Muro  /  室ちほり
Miyu Nakao  /  中尾 美愉 
Natsumi Fukunaga  /  福永奈都美         
Minayo Yamanaka  /  山中美奈代 
Ryota Iwasaki  /  岩崎亮太 
Yuka Mizutani  /  水谷友香
Masaaki Nakasone  /  仲宗根まさあき
Toshiyuki Tsurumi  /  鶴見利之 
Airi Komiyama  /  込山愛里
Yuki Masuya  /  桝矢由貴
Souta Tamura /  田村聡大
Kaito Otsu /  大津かいと
Akari Kawabata  /  川端明里    
Atsuko Miyake  /  三宅敦子     
Kim Yewon  /  キム イエウォン        
Nobuyuki Hanabusa /  ハナブサ ノブユキ
Kota Tsujimura  /  辻村洪太
Asami Sekiguchi  /  関口亜紗美              
Yasunori Kishimoto  /  岸本泰之             
Yoichi Inada /  稲田陽一             
Isao Shoganji /  正願地勲          
Ayaka Kibata  /  Ayaka Kibata                                     
Kumi Kono  /  kumi kono
Kanoko Yamaguchi  /  山口華乃子
Midoriko Hayashi  /  林みどり子

Music / 音楽
Atsushi Yamaji /山路敦司
Percussion /  パーカッション            
Satoko Ono  /  小野聡子                                            
Nozomi Nishizono  /  西園望    

Recording  /   録音
Koji Morita  /  森田浩司

Support  /  協力
Epson Sales Japan Corp.  /  エプソン販売株式会社
SMART ILLUMINATION YOKOHAMA 2013, 2014  /  スマートイルミネーション横浜2012, 2013
ZOU-NO-HANA TERRACE  /  象の鼻テラス       
The City of Yokohama /  横浜市                                              
  JIAMS (Joint Institute for Advanced Multimedia Studies)  /  JIAMS(先端マルチメディア合同研究所)
Directors /  監督
Takeshi Nagata / ナガタタケシ                                            
Kazue Monno  /  モンノカヅエ

Copyright  /  著作制作              
TOCHKA  /トーチカ

2015 Cathy Munroe Hotes