The Kotatsu Japanese Animation Festival takes place in Wales later this month in Cardiff and again at the end of October in Aberystwyth. It is the only film event in Wales to show anime on the big screen and takes place over the course of a day in the two locations. The programming team has brought out a selection of classics and some newer titles that show some of the best modern animated films from Japan.
This year’s events once again take place in the Chapter Arts Centre and the Aberystwyth Arts Centre and there are titles from Madhouse and Production I.G with the psycho-thriller Perfect Blue (directed by the genius auteur Satoshi Kon) and Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honneamise, the film which launched studio Gainax, being two highlights.
I’ll be travelling to the Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff to see the festival there.
Here’s an article I wrote for Anime UK News which gives the times and dates. Here’s more about the films themselves. To find out when the festival is screening and the prices of tickets, click on the links to the venues (tickets are already on sale at Chapter):
A Letter to Momo (2011)
ももへの手紙「Momo e no Tegami」
Running Time: 120 mins
Director/Writer: Hiroyuki Okiura
Starring: Karen Miyama (Momo Miyaura), Yuka (Ikuko Miyaura), Cho (Mame), Toshiyuki Nishida (Iwa), Takeo Ogawa (Koichi),
This is the second film from director Hiroyuki Okiura and it was a passion project he spent seven years developing following the critically acclaimed sci-fi thriller Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade (1999), a magnificent ultra-masculine political tale of life in an alternate world Japan where a right-wing government cracks down on dissent with brutal force. This is completely different…
A Letter to Momo is a supernatural comedy-drama about a little girl coming to terms with the loss of her father. Audiences will see shades of Studio Ghibli in the painstaking work which has gone into making the beautiful hand-drawn animation produced by Production I.G as well as the story which features a mixture of the realistic and fantastical and a well-written young female protagonist people will be able to relate to.
Following the death of her father a young girl named Momo and her mother Ikuko move from the bustling metropolis of Tokyo to Ikuko’s childhood home on the remote island of Shio. Momo finds it difficult to adjust to the loss of her father and her new surroundings but when she explores the attic of her new big house and finds an antique picture-book with sketches of fantastical creatures strange things happen and she discovers she is sharing a house with three mischievous yokai.
Tiger & Bunny: The Rising (2014)
劇場版 TIGER & BUNNY -The Rising- 「Gekijouban Tiger & Bunny -The Rising- 」
Running Time: 108 mins
Director: Yoshitomo Yonetani, Writer: Masafumi Nishida
Starring: Hiroaki Hirata (Kotetsu T. Kaburagi/Wild Tiger), Masakazu Morita (Barnaby Brooks, Jr.), Yuuichi Nakamura (Ryan Goldsmith/Golden Ryan), Rina Hidaka (Kaede Kaburagi),
Tiger & Bunny: The Rising is a continuation of the hugely popular TV anime and acts as an epilogue to the series that adds some great character development and melds together 2D and 3D animation in thrilling action sequences.
The heroes of TIGER & BUNNY Kotetsu T. Kaburagi, a.k.a. Wild Tiger, and Barnaby Brooks Jr. resume their careers as heroes fighting crime in HERO TV’s Second League following the events of the Maverick incident but the new owner of Apollon Media, Mark Schneider, splits up their partnership and pairs Barnaby with a new hero, the powerful and egotistical Golden Ryan. The two are sent to investigate a series of events linked to Stern Bild city’s Goddess Legend and discover new super powered NEXTs plotting to destroy everything. Barnaby and Golden Ryan must overcome their differences to save the lives of millions while Kotetsu rediscovers what it means to be a hero.
ショート ピース「Sho-to Pi-su」
Running Time: 68 mins
Short Peace is a compilation of four short films written and directed by four different directors each giving their take on the theme of Japan. It’s notable for being the brainchild of Katsuhiro Otomo, the director of the seminal sci-fi title Akira and one of the short films, Possessions, was nominated for the best animated short Oscar. The director of Possessions, Shuehei Morita, went on to direct the TV anime Tokyo Ghoul. Some of these shorts look absolutely fantastic!
Director/Writer: Shuhei Morita
Starring: Takeshi Kusao (Kaeru Hebisakka), Aoi Yuuki (Komachi Sorimono), Kouichi Yamadera (Frog),
In 18th Century Japan, a lone traveller deep in the mountains loses his way on a stormy night and chances upon an abandoned shrine which houses otherworldly creatures.
火要鎮「Hi no youjin」
Director/Writer: Katsuhiro Otomo
Starring: Masakazu Morita (Matsuyoshi), Saori Hayami (Owaka),
In 18th Century Edo-period Japan, Owaka and Matsukichi long to be together but when Matsukichi becomes a fireman he is disowned by his family and Owaka’s family set up an arranged marriage for her, it seems that fate is against them but a fire will bring them together.
Director: Hiroaki Ando, Writer: Katsuhito Ishii, Kensuke Yamamoto
Starring: Mutsumi Tamura (Kao), Daisuke Namikawa (Nigenji),
A giant red demon appears and attacks an isolated village in a mountainous region of northeast Japan at the end of the 16th century. A young village girl named Kao seeks the help of a mysterious white bear in defending her home.
A Farewell to Weapons
武器よさらば「Buki yo Saraba」
Director/writer: Hajime Katoki
Starring: Issei Futamata (Marl), Tomoyuki Dan (Rohm). Ryotaro Okiayu (Junky), Akio Otsuka (Jin), Shigeru Ushiyama (Gimlet)
In a war-torn future Tokyo, a platoon of armoured soldiers battles a robotic tank.
Extra Short Films
Before the main feature, there will also be three additional short films that have been at film festivals around the world like Annecy:
Director: Yoriko Mizushiri
Duration: 5m 26s
Kyogen Stage/Eye Examination Room/Sushi Bar Counter – There are two people who face each other in each space. Each pair keeps a few distance between their partners and find some fearful, tender, and comfortable feelings that fascinate them. The feelings are put into practice immediately, and they start groping each feeling.
The Night of the Naporitan
Director: Yusuke Sakamoto
Duration: 6m 18s
The Naporitan Spaghetti, the main character of the film, is neither Italian nor Japanese cuisine. Having lost his identity, Naporitan Spaghetti embarks on a journey of self-discovery around the world. This is a tragic story of Naporitan Spaghetti who never learnt how to love others. This animated film has been both produced and directed by Yusuke Sakamoto, who also provided the voiceover for Naporitan Spaghetti.
The Small Garden
Director: Shunsuke Saito
Duration: 12m 22s
Did the universe begin with a yin-yang globe or with an egg? The most plausible, science-based insight into the mystery of everything since The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
王立宇宙軍オネアミスの翼「Ouritsu Uchuugun – Oneamisu no Tsubasa」
Running Time: 121 mins
Director/Writer: Hiroyuki Yamaga
Starring: Leo Morimoto (Shirotsugh Lhadatt), Mitsuki Yayoi (Riguinni Nonderaiko), Bin Shimada (Yanalan), Aya Murata (Manna Nonderaiko), Hiroshi Izawa (Darigan), Hirotaka Suzuki), Kazuyuki Sogabe (Marty), Yoshito Yasuhara (Nekkerout),
I’m really in this festival to see The Wings of Honneamise. It is magnificent and many long-time anime fans hold this up as a great watch. Not everybody felt that way when it was first released.
The Wings of Honneamise was the first commercial movie project created by legendary anime studio Gainax and features early work by director Hideaki Anno and character designer Yohiyuki Sadamoto who both went on to find fame with Evangelion. Initially a large commercial flop it has gone on to achieve cult status and is now regarded as a classic. It is one of my top three anime of all time and I have multiple copies of the film. It is a profound and moving tale of human endeavour and belief in trying for a better future all told through some sterling character development. The soundtrack by Ryuichi Sakamoto (which I also have) is a mixture of traditional Japanese instruments, piano pieces, and synthesizers but despite being dated it remains one of the best I have heard and I still play tracks from it.
In a world somewhat similar to our own, two nations are on the verge of war and use their technology for destruction. An amiable dreamer from the Kingdom of Honneamise named Shirotsugh Lhadatt fails to make the grade as a navy pilot and finds himself in the underfunded and unloved Royal Space Force. He is inspired to reach for the stars after a chance encounter with a pacifist but he finds himself in a race against time to leave the Earth and become the first man in space because war looms large and there are those supporting his mission that have an ulterior motive.
Running Time: 80 mins
Director: Satoshi Kon, Writer: Sadayuki Murai
Starring: Junko Iwao (Mima Kirigoe), Rica Matsumoto (Rumi), Shinpachi Tsuji (Tadokoro), Me-Mania (Masaaki Okura), Shiho Niiyama (Rei),
This is the debut film of Satoshi Kon, a man who would push the boundaries of anime with dark psychological stories such as Millennium Actress (2001), Paranoia Agent (2004), and Paprika (2006). Satoshi Kon’s works are the type that many anime fans hold up to show how mature the medium is and it’s easy to see why because he uses animation to make a twisting and devious story hacking into a character’s fractured psyche as she battles to establish what is reality and a nightmare. The story comes off as something Brian DePalma might make only it’s much more high quality and it supposedly served as an inspiration to the film Black Swan.
Mima Kirigoe was a member of a successful J-pop idol group named “Cham!” but she turned her back on music to pursue a career as an actress on a television crime drama called “Double Blind.” This decision unleashes the anger of obsessive fans who stalk her online through a website called “Mima’s Room” and their obsessions enter her real life when one stalker named Me-Mania enters the scene and threatens her life. Soon people involved in Mima’s career start showing up dead and Mima looks like the chief suspect. As her life begins to unravel, Mima finds herself in the grip of paranoia begins to lose track of what is reality and nightmare
It’s also gratifying to see that the Cardiff portion of the festival features the return of the popular family-friendly marketplace with Japanese food and goods and the raffle with great prizes such as a subscription to Neo magazine.