29 June 2016

Geidai Animation: 7th Graduate Works 2016 (DVD)

Geidai Animation: 7th Graduate Works 2016 (DVD)
東京藝術大学大学院映像研究科アニメーション専攻第七期生修了作品集 2016

The seventh graduating class of Tokyo University of the Arts (Geidai) has summed up their collective artistic efforts with the slogan “Yell”. It is meant to capture the spirit of not only the finished works but also their “motivation for creating animation, the act of creation.” They pledge to “achieve the fruition of that yell that resides within each of us, and not to achieve an idealized goal demarcated by the [graduating class’] exhibition.”  The trailer for this year was directed by Keigo Ito with Ryotoro Miyajima as the assistant director and Erica Ohyama as production assistant  Many other students contributed to the art, animation, editing and special effects.

There were two scheduled talks with guests at the exhibition event in March. The first was the renowned illustrator Tadahiro Uesugi (上杉忠弘, b. 1966) who was chosen by Henry Selick to be the concept artist for the stop motion animation Coraline (2009) and was the visual development artist for Big Hero 6 (Don Hall / Chris Williams, 2014). The second was with manga-ka Taiyō Matsumoto (松本大洋, b. 1967), famous for his innovative works like Tekkonkinkreet (1993-94), Ping Pong (1996-97), No.5 (2000-5), Takemitsuzamurai (2006-10), and Sunny (2010-15). 

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The class of 2016 was taught by Professors Yuichi Ito (model animation), Mitsuko Okamoto (project planning and development), Koji Yamamura (2D animation), and Taruto Fuyama (research and theory).  Yuichi Kushino and Hiroshi Takayama lectured the students on sound.  Additional assistance came from lecturer Ilan Nguyen, assistant professor Hiromitsu Murakami and animation assistants Hiroki Kono (Geidai 2011), Yuanyuan Hu (Geidai 2012), and Hakhyun Kim (Geidai 2013).

I was delighted when I discovered at Hiroshima 2014 that Kansai animator Mika Seike would be in the class of 2016. I first discovered Seike’s work back in 2006 when I saw her film Fishing Vine (2005) in a screening of Tokyo Loop at the Image Forum Cinematheque in Shibuya. After the screening, I purchased the DVD Thinking and Drawing (2005) in the lobby of the cinematheque on my way out and discovered her early works Place Where There are Moths (2001) and Dialogue Between Two (2004). I was quite taken by the texture of her works and her poetic use of visual motifs to create meaning. After spending some years teaching, she undertook the master's programme at Geidai to take her animation to the next level.  In her new works she has become more minimal in her expressive use of animation, focussing on the sensuality of petting a cat in A Black Cat (2015) and on the subtleties of movement and repetition in Starting Over (2016). 

Apart from Seike, the other MA students were all recent graduates of art colleges and film schools. Of the twelve graduating students, only two were men, continuing the recent trend in women dominating the study of animation at art colleges in Japan. Another trend at Japanese post-secondary institutions in general is the internationalisation of the student body. This class features four East Asians: Yikun Wang from Shanghai, Xuequin Shao from Beijing, Xinxin Liu from Dalian, and K. Chayanit from Bangkok. The Japanese students were not just from the Tokyo area but from further afield, giving the class a good mix of cultural backgrounds. Takuto Katayama from Fukushima, for instance, expressed his emotional journey in the wake of the 2011 disaster in his native prefecture in his graduate work In Inertia (2016). 

As always with Geidai graduates, the calibre of the works is very high and they represent a wide variety of styles including hand drawn, CG, stop motion, mixed media, pixilation, and more. After my initial screening, my three "ones to watch" are: Xinxin Liu, who has a real flair for use of colour, humour, and movement; Iku Ogawa, whose I Think You Are a Little Confused had a dark vibe reminiscent of Eastern European stop motion; and Madoka, who has a unique design aesthetic and a wonderfully dark sense of humour.  Madoka’s first year work was done in 2014 – a darkly amusing short film called GYRØ (watch here) that screened widely at international animation festivals. If you can’t afford the DVD, keep an eye out on Geidai Animation’s official YouTube and Vimeo channels next year to see if they get posted there….. or head over to those sites now to watch the works from previous years of Geidai students. 

7th Graduate Works 

Red Forest 10’06” 
“Amii runs and runs on a bloodstained earth, through dark forests and warm fields. She keeps running in fear.” 

Yikun WANG (王祎坤/オウ・イコン, b. 1989), was born in Shanghai. Wang says that he is interested in making films that appeal to “the viewer’s spirit of childhood.” 

Calling You 
おもかげたゆた / Omokaketayukta / 9’23” 
“This is the first letter addressed to you. A voyage to trace the vague images of memories.” 

Hitomi OHTAKARA (大寳ひとみ, b. 1988) did her undergraduate degree in Design Informatics at Musashino. You can follow her on tumblr, vimeo, and twitter

I Think You’re a Little Confused 8’30”
“One day a letter takes a blood sausage to his friend, liver sausage. So, he went. . .” 

Iku OGAWA (小川育) was born in Tokyo. He has a degree in Graphic Design from Tamabi (2012). You can follow him on twitter, blogspot and tumblr

In Inertia 
愚図の底 / Guzu no Soko / 7’30” 
“From that day an anxiety started to root in the man’s room. He just keeps walking [so as] not to sink in[to] listlessness. This is a document to reflect my own anxiety arisen after the Fukushima nuclear disaster.” 

Takuto KATAYAMA (片山拓人, b. 1989) was born and raised in Fukushima, where is experienced the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and its ensuing disasters. He studied design at Nihon University (2012). He does illustration and design in addition to animation. Check out his profile on vimeo or YouTube, or follow him on twitter

Dear Little Tim 
 "Little Tim reveals how he understands his little universe through his unique ways of expressing feelings and emotions."

K. Chayanit (K・チャヤーニット/ Kiatchokechaikul Chayanit / b. 1990) is from Bangkok, Thailand where she graduated from Sipakorn University with a degree in Decorative Arts (2012) 

The Question 
アンケート/ Anketto / 8’58” 
“An attitude survey on bullying was conducted at a junior high school. . . a question in that questionnaire if there was any [fault] on the part of the bullied. One student answered “yes.” This [becomes] the top news [at] the school.” 

Eri KINOSHITA (木下絵李, b. 1991) is from Fukuoka. She has a degree in Design from Kyushu University (2014). 

Out of My Mind 
“In my deep dream there comes the landscape in my shapeless eyes. The peaceful sign gradually distorts. When anxiety and upsurge stands behind us, the nightly liberation begins.” 

Tomomi KOMAZAKI (駒﨑友海, b. 1991) was born in Tokyo and studied Visual Design at Joshibi (2014). You can follow her on tumblr and vimeo

Awakened Seed 
“Memories from the ancient times have been engraved on his body. ‘Where do we come from?’ he asks, ‘Where are we going?’ Would the light guide us there? This is a journey of blind pursuit [of] wisdom.” 

Xueqing SHAO (邵雪晴 / ショウ・セツセイ, b. 1991) is from Beijing where she studied animation at the Beijing Film Academy (2013). Check out her work on YouTube

Starting Over 
ふりだし / Furidashi / 8’22” 
“You always stumble before [you] reach. The glass in your hand gets chipped every time. Then everything starts again from the start. There are, however, things you can discover only through repetition. The answer resides in yourself.” 

Mika SEIKE ( 清家美佳, b. 1974) is from Kansai. She started making independent animation films in 2001. After working for many years in the field of education, Seike rejuvenated her animation career at Geidai in 2014. Learn more about her through my reviews of Thinking and Drawing: Japanese Art Animation of the New Millennium and Face to Face (お向さん2007). You can follow her on twitter to learn more. 

To Heel 
愛のかかと/ Ai no Kakato / 10’05” “These girls live by the law of heels. As painful as the codes may be, they’re also the source of so many of their secret pleasures.” 

Madoka (円香, b. 1990) was born Madoko Saito in Chiba, but prefers the singular nom de plume “Madoka”. She majored in animation at Tokyo Zokei University’s Department of Design (2012). 

4 Stories 
物語たちへ / Monogatari-tachi e / 5’20” “You can hear three stories, and see one story. That makes four different stories [told] at the same time.” 

Mio YAMANAKA (山中澪, b. 1990) was born in Ehime and graduated from the Department of Human Expression at Kobe University (2013). 

At the Mouth of Summer 
Natsu no Jōshin no Kuchi no Naka / 5’49” 
“The beach is packed in a Chinese resort. People are enjoying the summer holidays. An abrupt thundershower makes them run around in a flurry.” 

Xinxin LIU (刘新新 / リュウ・シンシン , b. 1989) was born in Dalian, China. She studied animation at the China Academy of Art (2012). Check out her work on vimeo

Dozing on Doomsday  
Madoromi no Shūmatsu / 9’52” 
“Provided the world ends tomorrow, what would we want in the last day of grace? A beam of light embraces a woman and a man then, the world gently closes its eyes.” 

Kaori RYŌ (梁佳緒里, b. 1991) was born in Tottori. She graduated from Musashino in 2014. 

1st Year Works 2015 

“In a dimly lit kitchen as a chunk of meat is sliced, bugs creep out from the cut. Ordinary action like cooking transforms [it in]to the weird and the creepy.” 
Hitomi OHTAKARA (大寳ひとみ) – see profile above. 

I Wanna Be Your Friend 
“For friendship it is the most important to be cooperative.” 
Iku OGAWA (小川育) – see profile above.

Melting Down 
Sugoyaka-na Yugami 
“The fear to be ruined calmly without any conscience. Everybody is getting distorted soundly and gently.” 
Takuto Katayama (片山拓人) – see profile above.

Will Hatching Day Come? 
“This is a story of a little girl who believes she can hatch an egg one day if she keeps warm.”
Kiatchokechaikul CHAYANIT (キアートチョクチャイクン・チャヤーニット) – see profile above. 

Fair Winds 
はるのかぜ / Haru no Kaze 
 “One day when I came home, I found my mother [had] become a cat. Unfamiliar appearance of the parents confuses the child. Yet, the time of the parents and the child passes quietly like a spring breeze.” 
Eri KINOSHITA (木下絵李) – see profile above. 

“One morning in the rainy season. A woman with curly hair wakes up. Phantasmagorical images of self-hatred come to her one after another.” 
Tomomi Komazaki (駒﨑友海) – see profile above. 

Crossing Sight 
“Various visions of life and death, as seen from an operation table. Did the operation succeed? Is the patient still alive?”
 Xueqing SHAO (邵雪晴 / ショウ・セツセイ) - see profile above

Color Blots 
 “A game to find image in a chance. In this Aleatoricism there are much more potentials than what I have moved.” 
Saori SUZUKI (鈴木沙織, b. 1988) is a painter and sculptor in addition to making animation. Follow her on tumblr

 A Black Cat    
黒い猫 / Kuroi Neko
“It consists of only [a] woman who keeps caressing a resisting cat.”  
Mika SEIKE (清家美佳)

Rain Shower 
通り雨 / Tōriame 
“Rain showers briefly bring back flashes of color to a shopping [trip].”
Tomoko TAKAYA (高谷智子, b. 1992)  was born in Tokyo,  A graduate of Musashino Art University's Department of Imaging Arts and Sciences, Takaya began her MA studies at Geidai in 2013.  

Misfit Lil’ Sparrow 
Chunko no Nande? 
“A little sparrow, Hanko, cannot make her head still like other sparrows. She wonders why.”
Yuriko NODA (野田ゆり子, b. 1992) is from Chiba.  She has a majored in oil painting during her undergraduate studies at Tokyo University of the Arts (Geidai). Upon graduation she began her MA studies in animation at Geidai in 2014.

and, end 
En en 
“‘Someday, this will end. I hate it. I wanna live forever,’ murmurs a girl over and over again. Does she repeat the same moments, or does she move forward? It looks and sounds either way. A wordplay animation.”
Mio YAMANAKA (山中澪) – see profile above

The Yellow Ball  
“A mysterious yellow ball falls down into the present city across time and space. It involves many people and unfolds various dramas.”
Xinxin LIU (刘新新 / リュウ・シンシン)  – see profile above. 


mind scape 
“The things are formed in the mind from the casual scenes of daily life. These [imaginings] accumulate and make an assembly of fantasy.”
Kaori RYŌ (梁佳緒里) – see profile above.  

2016 Cathy Munroe Hotes

1960: Best Japanese Animated Shorts

Year in Review

1960 was a seminal year in Japanese animation, marking both the birth of TV anime and the beginning of the first wave of post-war independent animation.  Independent animation, which was known at the time as “art animation” (アートアニメーション), refers to both animation made by independent studios and to animation made in non-mainstream styles. 

Three animation innovators, the iconoclastic experimental artist Yōji Kuri (久里洋二, b. 1928), the illustrator and cartoonist Ryohei Yanagihara (柳原良平, 1931-2015), and the illustrator Hiroshi Manabe (真鍋博, 1932-2000), came together to present their animation together at the Sogetsu Cinematheque, calling themselves the Animation Group of Three (アニメーション三人の会/ Animation Sannin no Kai).  Their collective name was a nod to the Sannin no Kai composers Yasushi Akutagawa (son of the great writer Ryūnosuke Akutagawa), Ikuma Dan and Toshirō Mayuzumi, who from 1953 to 1962, collaborated together to stage performances of their avant-garde style of music. 

The first screening of the Animation Group of Three occurred on November 26, 1960 followed by three more screenings on December 3, 10, and 17.   The films screened were Kuri's Two Grilled Fish and Stamp Fantasy,  Yanagihara's Sea Battle and Manabe's Marine Snow (see below for more details).  The group would hold two more Animation Group of Three festivals, before expanding the festival to include other emerging experimental animation talent (Osamu Tezuka, Makoto Wada, Tadanari Yokoo) in 1964.   

Also in 1960, the NHK aired the first televised domestically produced anime.  On January 15, 1960 an experimental anthology of three short animated films were shown under the name Three Tales (新しい動画 3つのはなし / Mittsu no Hanashi).  The shorts are adaptations of tales by Japanese authors: The Third Plate (第三の皿) by Hirosuke Hamada, Oppel and the Elephant (オッペルと象) by Kenji Miyazawa, and Sleepy Town (眠い町) by Mimeo Ogawa.  The directors were Keiko Osonoe, Shūichi Nakahara, and illustrator Makoto Wada.  Wada would go on to make experimental animation in the 1960s, but he is best known today for his pop art and book covers.

Anime could also be found on the big screen in Japan in 1960.   Toei Dōga’s Alakazam the Great 西遊記 / Saiyuki) is an adaptation of the 16th century Chinese novel Journey to the West.  It is directed by Taiji Yabushita and Daisaku Shirakawa, with character design by Osamu Tezuka.  Although Tezuka  was not involved in the animation of this film, it nonetheless marks the beginning of his professional shift of focus from manga to animation.  One of the first anime films to be released in the USA, Alakazam the Great is notable for its sequences by animators Yasuo Otsuka and Yasuji Mori. 

Stop motion animation was also enjoying success in 1960.  The educational book publisher Gakken had been making puppet animation on 16mm for distribution to schools and libraries since 1958, with distribution in the United States by Coronet Instructional Films.  The two main directors / animators were Matsue Jinbo (神保まつえ, b. 1928) and Kazuhiko Watanabe (渡辺和彦), and 1960 saw them produced several wonderful short adaptations of Japanese and European fairy tales.  Click on the links below to watch the films and read in-depth reviews.

1960 saw the debut of what is now the oldest and most respected international animation festival - Annecy.   Three Gakken adaptations of Aesop fables, The Dove and the Ant (ありとはと, 1959), The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse (いなかねずみとまちねずみ, 1960), and The North Wind and the Sun (きたかぜとたいよう, 1960) screened out of competition at the first Annecy festival under the title Trois fables d'Ésope : La fourmi et la colombe, Le rat des villes et le rat des champs, Le vent du Nord et le soleil.  The programme listed Shin'ichi Kanabayashi as the director and Kazuhiko Watanabe as the screenwriter with Kachiko Terashi credited as an animator.

Meanwhile, animation pioneer Tadahito ‘Tad’ Mochinaga (持永 只仁, 1919-1999) and his studio MOM Productions had been recruited in 1958 by the American production company Videocraft, run by Arthur Rankin, Jr. and Jules Bass, to help them bring their vision of Animagic to life.  Videocraft, which changed its name in 1968 to Rankin/Bass would go on to become famous for their Christmas Specials, but they began their MOM Pro collaboration with the TV series The New Adventures of Pinocchio (ピノキオの新しい冒険 / Pinokio no Atarashii Bouken, 1960-61)  - a total of 130 five-minute shorts for kids.  Unlike the Japanese black and white broadcast of Three Tales, these animated shorts were shot in full colour.  The New Adventures of Pinocchio were broadcast on Japanese television in 1963.

 Although uncredited, The New Adventures of Pinocchio provided work for many important puppet makers and animators who would go on to shape the future of stop motion animation in Japan.  The puppets were made by Ichiro Komuro, Kyoko Kita, Reiko Yamagata and Sumiko Hosaka.  The animation was done by Hiroshi Tabata, Koicihi Oikawa, Fumiko Magari, and Tadanari Okamoto.

Tadanari Okamoto (岡本忠成, 1932-1990) receives an individual Special Mention on the list below for his first puppet animation, which was his graduate work for Nihon University.  Mentored initially by Mochinaga,  Okamoto would go on to become one of the two great puppet animators of his generation along with his friend Kihachirō Kawamoto.  

Best Japanese Animated Shorts of 1960

1960年 / 3’
Yōji KURI (久里洋二, b. 1928)

Two Grilled Fish
Nihiki no Sanma
1960年 / 22’
Read Review


Stamp Fantasy
Kitte no Gensou
1960年 / 7’

Marine Snow
1960年 / one reel
Hiroshi MANABE (真鍋博, 1932-2000)

 Sea Battle
1960年 /2’
Ryohei YANAGIHARA (柳原良平, 1931-2015)

Gourd Sparrow
Hyōtan Suzume
1959年/ 55’
Ryuichi YOKOYAMA (横山隆一, 1909-2001)
Otogi Pro
Yokoyama Memorial Manga Museum 

Kasa Jizō
1960年 / 9’37”
Kazuhiko WATANABE (渡辺和彦)/ Gakken

The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse
1960年 / 9’09”
Kazuhiko WATANABE (渡辺和彦)/ Gakken

The North Wind and the Sun
Kitakaze to Taiyō
1960年 / 7’29”
Kazuhiko WATANABE (渡辺和彦)/ Gakken

The Elves and the Shoemaker
Kutsuya to Kobito
1960年 / 14’25”
Matsue JINBO (神保まつえ, b. 1928) / Gakken

The Musicians in the Woods
1960年 / 13’55”
Matsue JINBO (神保まつえ, b. 1928) / Gakken

Special Mention:

1960年 / 12'40"
Tadanari OKAMOTO (岡本忠成, 1932-1990)


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