01 February 2016

Blue Eyes -in Harbor Tale- (ブルーアイズ イン ハーバーテイル, 2014)

Blue Eyes -in Harbor Tale- (ブルーアイズ イン ハーバーテイル, 2014) is a sequel to stop motion animator Yūichi Itō’s 2011 animated short Harbor Tale (read review), which saw a brick from one of Yokohama’s famous red brick buildings come to life and lead us on a fantastic adventure through the history of the port city.  Spectators who watched Harbor Tale will be brought right into the location immediately as it starts with Mr.Brick rowing in Yokohama Harbor close to Yokohama Marine Tower

The scene then shifts to a wide-eyed dancing bisque doll, the “Blue Eyes” of the title.  When the performance comes to an end, a woman applauds.  The woman expresses admiration for the dancing doll, but the doll exerts her independence by going out for a walk.  As she walks from the ship to the shore, a strong wind blows her into the lap of Mr. Brick rowing in the canal. 

Mr. Brick and Blue Eyes go out for a drink to a bar that features some of the imported culture for which Yokohama is famous: the barman is a cocktail shaker who prepares their drinks in his own “body”, while a mustachioed beer stein sitting at the bar chuckles.  Blue Eyes talks to Mr. Brick, who seems a bit overwhelmed by the situation.  She reveals that she, like the brick, came alive about a hundred years earlier and was a witness to the ships in the harbor coming alive (a reference to the events that took place in Harbor Tale).  She gets out a giant smart phone in order to show Mr. Brick a video of the theatrical troupe she wants to join on the other side of the ocean.  She is saving money in order to go.  When the doll tells the woman her plans to travel, the woman traps her in a birdcage and Mr. Brick and his seagull friend try to rescue her. 

There is no doubt that the stop motion animation mixed with computer After Effects is top notch in this film.  In particular, Itō’s mixing of a live actor with a stop motion character is artfully done.  However, the story is not nearly as strong as in Harbor Tale, where Itō was able to tell the story with less dialogue.  I am also not sure that the story in this film makes much sense if one has not seen Harbor Tale first. 

The live action performer in this work is the actress Michiko Godai (五大 路子), b. 1952, whom fans of Death Note (2006) will recognise for playing the role of Sachiko Yagami in the live action adaptations of the popular manga.  Godai has a special relationship with Yokohama.  Not only is it her birthplace, but she has deep roots in its arts community as the co-founder of the theatrical troupe Yokohama Yumeza in 1999 to bring high quality theatre to the city. 

The casting of Godai is a nod to the theatrical traditions of Yokohama and the bisque doll represents the interchange of technologies and cultural practices between Japan and other countries.  Particularly in the 19th century, when bisque dolls imported from France and Germany had their heyday, Yokohama was the epicentre of that cultural exchange.  With Blue Eyes -in Harbor Tale-, Itō continues his homage to the culture of the city that he calls home.

Blue Eyes -in Harbor Tale- won the Best Animation Award at Universe Multicultural Film Festival in 2015.  It has played at many festivals around the world.  I saw it at Nippon Connection 2015 where Itō was our guest.

Director, Story and Character Design:
Yūichi Itō

Maria Kawamura (doll)
Yūichi Itō (Mr. Brick)

Michiko Godai
Yokohama Yumeza
Offside Incorporated

Sayaka Yamamoto (composer, synthesizer)
Kazuha Takahashi (violin)
Kazune Koshikawa (cello)
Hidehito Naka (clarinet)
Kenji Furukawa (recording)
MicroMacro Studio

Sound Design:
Masumi Takino

Puppet Animation / Assistant Director:
Fumi Inoue

Clay Animation:
Yuko Yamada

Model Crafts Crew:
Hideto Miyazaki (Chief of Model Crafts)
Fumi Inoue
Mayumi Yamamoto (Bisque doll, clothes, modelling assistant)
Kiyomi Aoyagi (assistant)

Special Modelling:
Kanao Yamaguchi

Assistant Model Makers:
Masami Tsurumi
Yuko Yamada
Masahito Ohara
Yuri Nakamoto
Ataru Sakagami

Shouta Horiuchi

Cathy Munroe Hotes 2016