29 August 2022

Hiroshima Animation Season 2022: Introduction


 Hiroshima Animation Season 2022 

This year marked the beginning of a new era for animation in Hiroshima. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the city of Hiroshima abruptly broke ties with ASIFA-JAPAN, who had run the Hiroshima International Animation Festival since its inception in 1985 until its final online edition in 2020. The new Hiroshima Festival will run for the month of August biannually and will feature two “seasons” – the Hiroshima Music Season and the Hiroshima Animation Season, with some crossover events.
Although it grieves me that ASIFA-JAPAN is no longer running the festival, I came to the new festival with an open mind and a hope for the sake of the city of Hiroshima and for the Japanese animation community that the new festival would be a success. It was strange not to see Sayoko KINOSHITA and her team at the festival, as I know how much hard work they put into the festival over the years. Kinoshita has been unwell this year, and it was decided at an extraordinary meeting of ASIFA-JAPAN, that Hiroshi ONISHI (Kyoto University of the Arts) would take over administratively while she is in rehabilitation. 

The new team at Hiroshima Animation Season is led by producer Nobuaki DOI and co-artistic directors Kōji YAMAMURA and Shizuka MIYAZAKI. Doi brings with him the experience of running the New Chitose Airport International Animation Festival and years of experience as a producer and collaborator in the international animation scene. Initially it seemed that Doi would run both festivals, but it seems that he has left New Chitose and they have a new programming team led by Tomoko ONO, with the assistance of Hirotoshi IWASAKI, Daisuke TANAKA, and Manabu KATO.

The Hiroshima Animation Season was very much stamped with the artistic personality of Yamamura. Gone is the familiar Lappy character designed by the late Renzō KINOSHITA. In Lappy’s place, the new mascot of the festival is the Golden Carpstar designed by Yamamura. Lappy was a fictitious character whose name was a portmanteau of the themes of the original festival “Love and Peace” and the word “happy”. The Golden Carpstar brings together the carp fish, a local symbol associated with the city of Hiroshima, and a twinkling star (presumably in reference to the artists featured at the festival). The association between carp and Hiroshima runs deep as the city is known for its carp dishes, Hiroshima Castle’s nickname is Rijō (鯉城) or “Carp Castle”, and the local baseball team is called the Hiroshima Toyo Carp. 

The new poster design was done by local artist shunshun, who has been living in Hiroshima since 2012.  The egg shape represents the birth of a new festival and it is filled with the motif of water, which was the theme of this year's program. shunshun explains in the catalogue: "The gentle sea where the sun shines brightly, the beautiful rain that pours down to the earth, gentle starlight twinkling in the night sky. . .  I depict these scenes that touch my heart by hand-drawing each line one by one carefully." 

Not only was the new mascot designed by Yamamura, but the program also featured Yamamura and many of his former students. His debut feature film Dozens of Norths (幾多の北 / Itaku no Kita, 2021) screened and Yamamura had a talk session about it. Isshin INUDŌ, a college friend of Yamamura’s from Tokyo Zokei University, showed his Min TANAKA documentary The Unnameable Dance (名付けようのない踊り / Nazuke you no nai Odori, 2022) which features Yamamura’s animation for dream sequences and other flights of fancy. Inudō, Tanaka, and Yamamura held a talk session about the film and Tanaka was also on one of the world competition juries. Yamamura also gave a screening and lecture called “Water in Animation: Fluidity and Discontinuity” as part of the water-themed special program of screenings and lectures, and his works screened alongside those of the late experimental animator Nobuhiro AIHARA in a special screening. I presume that the heavy presence of Yamamura at this inaugural edition of the festival may have been due in large part to the difficulties of organising a new festival when there are many travel and other restrictions still in place. I presume that future festivals will put the spotlight on the work of people other than the artistic director. 

Co-director Shizuka MIYAZAKI brings a much-needed female and local presence to the festival’s core team. She graduated from Yamamura’s Tokyo University the Arts (Geidai) program in 2013, but her MA work was supervised by Taruto FUYAMA. She has been teaching animation for many years at Hiyajima University Junior College in Hiroshima. 

2022 Cathy Munroe Hotes