23 May 2018

1964: Best Japanese Animated Shorts

Year in Review

1964 was the year that saw animation combined with live action in Disney’s Mary Poppins (Robert Stevenson) and the release of the first Pink Panther short The Pink Phink (Friz Frelang/Hawley Pratt). In Japan, Mushi Pro tried to make more money from their budding Astro Boy franchise by editing together three episodes of the popular TV series into a feature film called Astro Boy: Hero of Space (鉄腕アトム 宇宙の勇者/ Tetsuwan Atom: Uchū no Yūsha, 1964). They jazzed things up for the cinematic release by adding colour to the sections of the film adapted from episodes 56 and 71. Rintarō (who was still using his real name, Shigeyuki Hayashi), Yoshitake Suzuki, and Eiichi Yamamoto are credited as directors.

The career of stop motion animation pioneer Tadahito “Tad” Mochinaga reached a pinnacle with the release of the Rankin/Bass TV special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (Larry Roemer) (Learn more). While the story and character designs were all conceived of in the United States, Mochinaga’s MOM Productions made and animated the puppets. Since its debut on NBC on December 6, 1964, it has been televised annually becoming the longest continuously running Christmas TV special in the United States.

The independent animation scene was blossoming in Tokyo and the Animation Group of Three (アニメーション三人の会) expanded into an Animation Festival (アニメーション・フェスティバル) which ran from September 11-26 at the Sōgestu Cinematheque 11 (草月シネマテーク11). From my research so far, the films that screened at the festival that year included:

The Button (ザ・バタン , Yōji Kuri, 1963)
Man, Woman and Dog (男と女と犬, Yōji Kuri, 1963)
Ring Ring Boy (リングリングボーイ , Yōji Kuri, 1963)
AOS (アオス, Yōji Kuri, 1964)
Moon Story (月のはなし, Ryōhei Yanagihara, 1964)
The Strange Tale of Ichinosuke (女一条助異聞, Ryōhei Yanagihara, 1964)
Submarine Cassiopeia (潜水艦カシオペア, Hiroshi Manabe, 1964)
Memory (メモリー, Osamu Tezuka)
Mermaid (人形, Osamu Tezuka) La fête blanche (白い祭, Akira Ono, 1964)
Anthology, No. 1 (アンソロジーNO.1, Tadanari Yokoo, 1964)
Kiss Kiss Kiss (Tadanari Yokoo, 1964)
Murder (Makoto Wada, 1964)
Bon Bon Bon (ボン・ボン・ボン, Hayashi Masamichi)
Zuraw (Daitaku Furukawa - better known today as Taku Furukawa)
Night on Bald Mountain (禿山の一夜, Alexander Alexeieff, 1933)
Faces and Fortunes (Morton Goldsholl, 1959) (watch: Chicago Film Archives)
Dissent Illusion (Morton Goldsholl, 1963) (watch: Chicago Film Archives)

Although she is not mentioned on the Japanese programme notes, the experimental film Dissent Illusion was co-directed by Mort’s wife Millie Goldsholl (1920-2012), who also wrote Faces and Fortunes. Millie ran the film division of the family’s Chicago-based design firm Morton Goldsholl Associates. Her animation Up is Down (1969) is a rare anti-war gem. Night on Bald Mountain was, of course, co-produced by his wife Claire Parker

This was also a significant in the career of independent Japanese animator Fusako Yusaki (湯崎夫沙子, b. 1937). In 1964, she moved to Milan to study sculpture and found that clay animation was her métier. Her first films were made in the early 1970s and she is now considered one of the pioneers of stop motion animation in Italy.

The winner of the Noburō Ōfuji Award for 1964 was Makoto Wada (和田誠, b. 1936) for his droll hand drawn animated short Murder (click here to learn more). These days Wada is best known for his illustrated book covers and movie-themed art.

Best Japanese Animated Shorts of 1964:

 Satsujin – Murder
殺人 Murder
Makoto Wada (和田誠, b. 1936) 

Tokuten Eizou Anthology No. 1
特典映像 アンソロジーNO.1
1964年 /7'
Tadanari YOKOO (横尾忠則, b. 1936)

1964年 /2'
Tadanari YOKOO

Submarine Cassiopeia
Sensuikan Kashiopea
1964年 / 3’
Hiroshi MANABE

The Chair
1964年 /10’
Yōji KURI (久里洋二, b. 1928)

1964年 /9'
 Yōji KURI

1964年 /8'

1964年 /6'

Shiroi Matsuri: La fȇte blanche
白い祭 La fete blanche
シロイマツリ ラ・フェット・ブランシェ
Aquirax UNO (aka Akira UNO / 宇野亜喜良, b. 1934)

The Crying Red Giant
Naita Aka Oni
1964年 /17'


Moon Story 
Tsuki no hanashi 
Ryōhei Yanagihara (やなぎはら りょうへい, 1931-2015)
1964年 /6'

The Strange Tale of Ichinosuke 
Ryōhei Yanagihara
1964年 /7'

Cathy Munroe Hotes 2018

22 May 2018

Animation at Nippon Connection 2018

Animation at Nippon Connection 2018 

Nippon Connection has put together another wonderful programme of animation this year. One of the must-see feature films is Masaaki Yuasa’s Lu Over the Wall (夜明け告げるルーのうた, 2017), which won the coveted Cristal for Best Feature Film at Annecy last spring and went on to win the Noburō Ōfuji Award for innovation in animation at the Mainichi Film Awards earlier this year. 

Equally worth watching is Yuasa’s adaptation of Tomihiko Morimi’s novel The Night Is Short, Walk on Girl (夜は短し歩けよ乙女, 2017). Morimi’s works are usually set in his native Kyoto, and this particular story shares not only the Kyoto setting but also many of its the characters with The Tatami Galaxy, another Morimi novel that Yuasa famously adapted into an acclaimed TV anime series. The Night Is Short, Walk on Girl is a critically acclaimed feature film that won Animation of the Year at the Japanese Academy Awards and Best Animated Feature at OIAF 2017. 

Although we lost the wonderful Isao Takahata this year, the Studio Ghibli spirit lives on in Studio Ponoc, formed by former Ghibli producer Yoshiaki Nishimura in 2015. Its debut feature film, Mary and the Witch’s Flower (メアリと魔女の花) is directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi, who also made his name at Ghibli. The visually stunning film was one of the top grossing Japanese films at the Japanese box office for 2017. 

Mutafukaz (2017) is a French-Japanese co-production combining the forces of Ankama Animations (an offshoot of the publisher Ankama) with popular anime house Studio 4C. It is a wild, frenetic ride in the vein of Tekkon Kinkreet, which co-director Shōjirō Nishimi worked on as character designer. The film is the vision of the French co-director Guillaume “Run” Renard, who created the original graphic novel series. The film will be shown in French with German subtitles. 

Popular anime director Mamoru Hosoda’s 2015 film The Boy and the Beast (バケモノの子) will play at the annual Film Breakfast – this event always sells out so book your seat early. 

If your taste runs to more alternative fare, Ujicha is back at the festival with his cutout film Violence Voyager (2017). A graduate of Kyoto Saga Art University, Ujicha coined his primitive yet effective technique “gekimation” (劇メーション). He has made a number of shorts in this style and his debut feature film The Burning Buddha Man (2013) won an excellence award at the Japanese Media Arts Festival and was shown at Nippon Connection 2013. Watch the trailer for Violence Voyager to see if it’s up your alley. 

Tokyo University of the Arts is back with a selection of its recent graduate works – read my full article on it here – and I have once again curated a selection of independent animated shorts. Learn more about it here.  I am pleased to be able to announce that animation artist Yuki Hayashi will be able to attend the screening this year.

Catherine Munroe Hotes 

Yoake tsugeru ru no uta 
Director: Masaaki YUASA Japan 2017, DCP, 107 min., 
Japanese with English subtitles German premiere 
Thursday, May 31, 12:00 Mousonturm Saal 
Friday, June 1, 15:30 Mal Seh’n Kino 

Meari to majo no hana 
Director: Hiromasa YONEBAYASHI Japan 2017, DCP, 102 min., Japanese with German subtitles
Thursday, May 31, 15:30 Mal Seh’n Kino (with German live voice over) 
Friday, June 1, 12:00 Mousonturm Saal 

In the presence of the curator Dr. Catherine Munroe Hotes and director Yuki Hayashi
Sunday, June 3, 18:15 Naxoshalle Kino 

Director: Shojiro NISHIMI, Guillaume Renard Japan / France 2017, DCP, 90 min, French with German subtitles 
Sunday, June 3, 12:00 Mousonturm Saal 

Yoru wa mijikashi arukeyo otome 
Director: Masaaki YUASA Japan 2017, DCP, 93 min, Japanese with English subtitles German premiere
Saturday, June 2, 12:00 Mousonturm Saal 
Sunday, June 3, 22:30 Mal Seh’n Kino 

Bakemono no ko 
Director: Mamoru HOSODA Japan 2015, 120 min, Blu-ray, Japanese with German subtitles
Thursday, May 31, 10:30 Naxos Atelier 

In presence of Yuichi MATSUMOTO 
Saturday, June 2, 17:30 Naxoshalle Kino 

Director: Ujicha Japan 2017, Blu-ray, 83 min, Japanese with English subtitles European premiere 
Thursday, May 31, 22:15 Naxoshalle Kino 

Thursday, May 31, 15:00 Naxos Atelier 
Workshop in Japanese with German translation 
"Even if you can’t read notes and don’t play any instrument, you can be a composer - just by painting pictures! Yuichi MATSUMOTO of the Tokyo University of the Arts has invented a fantastic instrument, which conveys images into music. He, a composer himself, will show you how you can use your own drawings to make a short 'music-film'."

Music of the Visual World: Japanese Indie Animated Shorts

Music of the Visual World: Japanese Indie Animated Shorts
Sunday, June 3, 18:15 Naxoshalle Kino

When I heard that our animation guest at this year’s Nippon Connection would be the composer and innovator Yuichi Matsumoto, I decided to make music the theme of this year’s independent animation selection.  Music and animation have had a close relationship since the earliest days of commercial animation.  Many of the most innovative early animated films from Japan were the record talkies (レコードトーキー) of the late 1920s and 1930s animated shorts designed to be played simultaneously with a record (See:  Belly Drum Dance at Shojoji Temple, Song of Spring, The Black Cat, The National Anthem: Kimigayo, The Village Festival).

In Japan, the NHK (the national public broadcaster) has supported many independent animators by hiring them to do short pieces for their programming.  The most prominent of these programmes is the long-running series Minna no Uta (Everyones Songs/みんなのうた ) which has been pairing filmmakers (both live action and animation) with music since 1961.  Many early independent animators, like Taku Furukawa, Yōji Kuri, Sadao Tsukioka, Shinji Fukushima and Fumio Ooi, made names for themselves animating for Minna no Uta. 

Todays music video scene has provided a great source of income for innovative animation artists and many of the films featured here are recent music videos.  I have also selected recent animated shorts where I felt that music was integral to the theme/s of the work.  The first work in the programme, Moving Colors, is a group project featuring the work of 12 animation creators (aka Taku Team) with each team member representing their favourite colour.  The title design is by Taku Furukawa (the Taku of the Team name).  The team consists of: Takuma Hashitani (orange), Waboku (aka Wataru Nakajima, brown), Hakhyun Kim (purple) Yoshiyuki Kaneko (black), Shiho Morita (red), Moe Koyano (raspberry/turquoise), Yū Tamura (green), Yasuaki Honda (crimson), Yewon Kim (mint), Tomoyoshi Joko (blue) and Hiroco Ichinose (gold).

Many thanks to Florian Höhr for his help in putting together this programme.   I am pleased to announce that animator Yuki Hayashi has indicated that he will attend the festival again this year. 

Moving Colors
by TAKU TEAM, 2016, 5:04 min

by Hiroco ICHINOSE, 2009, 3:20 min

How Low Sympathy
by Decovocal / Music by scenarioart, 2014, 3:20 min

Slowly Rising
by Hideki INABA / Music by BEATSOFREEN (aka Stan Forebee), 2015, 3:30 min

On + On
by Akihiko TANIGUCHI / Music by Cumhur Jay, 2016, 5:30 min

The State of Things
by Ryo ORIKASA / Music by Tamaki Roy, 2017, 3:52 min

by Sarina NIHEI / Music by Whitney, 2016, 3:33 min

Mad Love
by Ryōji YAMADA / Music by Keita SANO, 2017, 3:16 min

La Madrague “Country of Westering Sun
by Yuki HAYASHI / Music by youcan ゆーきゃん, 2017, 5:00 min

The Synesthesia Ghost
by Atsushi MAKINO / Music by Sasanomaly, 2015, 3:20 min

I’ve Got to Take the Laundry In
by Naoya SANUKI / Music by Siamese Cats, 2016, 4:28 min


Enjoy Music Club
by Whoppers (Naoya SANUKI and Zuck), 2017, 3:38 min

Spring Time - Old Man
by Hōji TSUCHIYA / Music by Uri NAKAYAMA, 2017, 4:25 min

A Long Dream
by Hōji TSUCHIYA, 2016, 2:40 min

Oldman Youngman
Ryoya KAGA, 2016, 10:53 min

lilac (bombs Jun Togawa)
by ONIONSKIN / Music by Vampillia, 2015, 4:13 min

Nandaka Mou
by ONIONSKIN / Music by Kidori Kidori, 2016, 3:30 min

とう きょう
by Tsuneo GODA, 2017, 4:05 min

 Catherine Munroe Hotes


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