Japanese Films at the 2017 Annecy International Film Festival

The Annecy International Animated Film Festival has been running since it was established in 1960. It is the world’s oldest and largest animation film festival and it has become one of the best places to glimpse early footage of upcoming anime. This year, it runs from the June 12th to the 17th and the programme line-up has already been announced and there are many Japanese titles both in and out of competition.

Here’s what’s on offer:

In This Corner of the World Film Image

A Silent Voice   

koe-no-katachi-film-poster-2
koe-no-katachi-film-poster-2

声の形Koe no Katachi」 

Running Time: 129 mins.

Director: Naoko Yamada

Writer: Reiko Yoshida (Screenplay), Yoshitoki Ooima (Original Manga)

Starring:  Miyu Irino (Shouya Ishida/Mayu Matsuoka), Saori Hayami (Shouko Nishimiya), Aoi Yuuki (Yuzuru Nishimiya),

Website MAL ANN

I have been surprised by the power of this one as it tears through UK cinemas and earns lots of critical acclaim. There are many anime movies released in Japan but this one looks far more interesting than the rest of the pack. It is a story about a bully who tries to redeem himself by asking for forgiveness from his target, a girl who is deaf. This comes from Kyoto Animation (watch Hyouka, an awesome TV anime, to get to know them) and it’s directed by Naoko Yamada, one of the most promising female directors going. It has toured the UK as part of the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme and it was at the Glasgow International Film Festival. I hope it’s programmed by the festival I work for.

Synopsis from the Japan Foundation festival site: Shoko, a young Deaf student, transfers to a new school where she is bullied by Shoya for her hearing impairment. While Shoya originally leads the class in bullying Shoko, the class soon turn on him for his lack of compassion. When they leave elementary school, Shoko and Shoya do not speak to each other again, but Shoya, tormented by his past behaviour, decides he must see Shoko once more to atone for his sins – but is it already too late?

Blame!   Blame Film Poster

ブラム Buramu

Running Time: 105 mins.

Director: Hiroyuki Seshita

Writer: Sadayuki Murai (Screenplay) Tsutomu Nihei (Original Creator),

Animation Production: Polygon Pictures

Starring: Takahiro Sakurai (Killy), Kana Hanazawa (Cibo), Aki Toyosaki (Administration Authority), Aya Suzuki (Tae), Yuuki Kaji (Atsuji), Mamoru Miyano (Sutezo),

Website ANN MAL

Long-term readers will know that I am a fan of Tsutomu Nihei and I have written about his manga Abara, Biomega, and the anime adaptation of Knights of Sidonia. I am super-excited at seeing this Netflix funded anime that will be briefly shown in Japanese cinemas for a two-week period on May 20th while I am still in the country! People outside of Japan will be able to watch it through Netflix.

Anyway, Blame! is based on Nihei’s manga of the same name which is his first manga series . It was published in Kodansha’s Monthly Afternoon magazine from 1997 until it ended in 2003 and it has been published in many other countries around the world. This movie adaptation is from the team behind the TV anime adaptation of Knights of Sidonia and Ajin and it looks awesome as the trailer below reveals:

Synopsis (from the site): In the distant technological future, civilization has reached its ultimate Net-based form. An “infection” in the past caused the automated systems to spiral out of order, resulting in a multi-leveled city structure that replicates itself infinitely in all directions. Now humanity has lost access to the city’s controls, and is hunted down and purged by the defense system known as the Safeguard. In a tiny corner of the city, a little enclave known as the Electro-Fishers is facing eventual extinction, trapped between the threat of the Safeguard and dwindling food supplies. A girl named Zuru goes on a journey to find food for her village, only to inadvertently cause doom when an observation tower senses her and summons a Safeguard pack to eliminate the threat. With her companions dead and all escape routes blocked, the only thing that can save her now is the sudden arrival of Killy the Wanderer, on his quest for the Net Terminal Genes, the key to restoring order to the world.

Rudolph the Black Cat   Rudolph the Black Cat Film Poster

ルドルフとイッパイアッテナ Rudolf to Ippaiattena

Running Time: 89 mins.

Director: Kunihiko Yuyama, Motonori Sakakibara

Writer: Yoichi Kato (Screenplay),

Animation Production: Oriental Light and Magic

Starring: Mao Inoue (Rudolf), Ryohei Suzuki (Ippaiattena), Akio Ohtsuka (Kuma-sensei), Rio Sasaki (Rie-chan),

Website ANN MAL

Whilst this one won’t be high on my list of films to catch up on, it has gotten good reviews and it looks like an entertaining film for all of the family. Mark Schilling over at the Japan Times says,

“…the film’s animators have done an impressive job of making their cats walk, jump and otherwise behave like actual felines, when they aren’t comically acting human. And they have made Japan look three-dimensionally real in every finely observed detail…”

It is screened out of competition.

Synopsis: Rudolf is a cute cat currently enjoying a life of comfort and care in Gifu, Japan but when he lets his curiosity get the best of him he finds himself carried away to Tokyo in the back of a cargo truck. Alone in the metropolis, he faces new dangers but he befriends Ippaiattena (Japanese for Gottalot – got a lot…), a seasoned street cat who has a crucial and unusual skill that will help him find his way home: the ability to read the human language.

Mazinger Z   Mazinger Z The Movie Film Poster

劇場版 マジンガーZ Gekijouban Majinga- Z

Running Time: N/A

Director: Junji Shimizu

Writer: Takahiro Ozawa (Screenplay) Go Nagai (Original Creator),

Animation Production: Toei Animation

Starring: Ai Kayano (Sayaka Yumi), Showtaro Morikubo (Koji Kabuto),

Website MAL

Mazinger Z The Movie has been made to commemorate the 45th anniversary of the original Mazinger Z manga and television anime series which was first serialised in Shueisha’s Weekly Shonen Jump magazine in 1972. The television anime series premiered at the same time and the franchise has spawned three more television series, at least nine movies, and several OAVs.

Audiences will be able to watch scenes and get a glimpse into the making of the film as the creator of Mazinger Z, Go Nagai, will be on stage alongside two others involved in the making of the film.

Synopsis: Mazinger Z, aka “iron castle”and his high school boy moster Kouji Kabuto battle Dr. Hell, a mad scientist bent on world domination!

Ancien and the Magic Tablet   Ancien and the Magic Tablet Film Poster

ひるね姫 ~知らないワタシの物語~ Hirune Hime: Shiranai Watashi no Monogatari

Running Time: 110 mins.

Director: Kenji Kamiya

Writer: Kenji Kamiya (Screenplay),

Animation Production: Signal.MD

Starring: Mitsuki Takahata (Kokone Morikawa), Arata Furuta (Watanabe), Hideki Takahashi (Isshin Shijima), Shinnosuke Mitsushima (Morio),

Website ANN MAL

Director Kenji Kamiyama has been a stalwart at Production I.G having helmed TV anime such as Eden of the East, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, and Moribito – Guardian of the Spirit. These three titles are some of the best TV anime of the 2000s so it’s exciting to see him take on a big screen film animated by one of Production I.Gs subsidiary studios. It was released in March in Japan.

Synopsis: Kokone Morikawa is a high school girl in Kurishiki, Okayama, in the year 2020. It is three days before the start of the Tokyo Olympic games but despite this celebration of human physical achievement, the world dominated by machines. Kokone lives with her mechanic father and she should be studying for her university entrance exams, but she can’t seem to stay awake. This is problematic enough but hear dreams are home to strange visions of warring machines that seem to be connected to her family in some secret way. She will discover more as she travels between dreams and her waking life and she will find that the two realms are far more connected than she could have ever imagined.

Lu Over the Wall   Lu Over the Wall Film Poster

夜明け告げるルーのうた Yoake Tsugeru Lu no Uta

Running Time: 112 mins.

Director: Masaaki Yuasa

Writer: Masaaki Yuasa, Reiko Yoshida (Screenplay)

Animation Production: Science SARU

Starring: Kanon Tani (Lu), Shota Shimoda (Kai), Akira Emoto (Grandfather), Minako Kotobuki (Yuuho), Shinichi Shinohara (Lu’s father), Souma Saitou (Kunio),

Website ANN MAL

Lu Over the Wall is released in Japan a day before Blame! On May 19th so that’s the end of the month sorted in terms of cinema trips…

Back to the film. It is directed by Masaaki Yuasa. Produced by his protege Eun young Choi, and animated by Science SARU and these folks are the geniuses behind Mind Game, Ping Pong: The Animation, and The Tatami Galaxy amongst other great artistic titles. It is their second film released this year following the release of Night is Short, Walk On Girl (夜は短し歩けよ乙女 Yoru wa Mijikashi Aruke yo Otome) back in April.

It has the look of the 2009 Ghibli film Ponyo if I were to make a glib comparison but the animation and style are pure Science SARU, a studio finally picking up fans in the mainstream. It’s good to see their latest work at Annecy after Yuasa and co have been guests in previous years. The script comes from Reiko Yoshida, a woman who has written many different anime such as A Silent Voice, Yowamushi Pedal, and Shirobako.

The film has been picked up for UK distribution by Anime Limited.

Synopsis: Middle school student Kai finds himself forced to move from Tokyo to the declining fishing town of Hinashi to live with his father and grandfather following his parents’ divorce. For a kid from the big metropolis, there’s little for him to do besides composing music and sharing it on the Internet. One day his classmates Kunio and Yuuho invite him to join their band, and when he reluctantly accompanies them to practice on Mermaid Island, the three of them meet a mermaid named Lu. Through meeting her and playing music, Kai is slowly able to open up about his emotions but calamity soon strikes the town and he must find a way to avert it with his new-found friends and community!

In This Corner of the World   In This Corner of the World Film Poster

この世界の片隅に Kono Sekai no Katasumi ni

Running Time: 110 mins.

Director: Sunao Katabuchi

Writer: Sunao Katabuchi (Screenplay), Fumiyo Kono (Original Creator)

Animation Production: MAPPA

Starring: Rena Nounen (Suzu Urano), Daisuke Ono (Akira), Mayumi Shintani (San), Shigeru Ushiyama (Entaro), Megumi Han (Sumi), Minori Omi (Michiko), Natsuki Inaba (Harumi), Yoshimasa Hosoya (Shuusaku),

Website ANN MAL UK Site

This is an award-winning film that I had the pleasure of seeing in Hiroshima, the setting for part of the film, a couple of weeks ago. It took the Animation of the Year award at the 40th annual Japan Academy and I am not surprised since it is a beautiful and stately film about an absent-minded artistic young woman trying to survive the hardship of war. I wasn’t the only one impressed since the film won the Hiroshima Peace Film Award at the Hiroshima International Film Festival in November last year and the film magazine Kinema Jump named In it the best Japanese movie of 2016. and it awarded Katabuchi the Best Director Award.

The film was orchestrated by Sunao Katabuchi who directed the awesome Mai Mai Miracle and the TV anime Black Lagoon. It was animated by the studio MAPPA (Shingeki no Bahamut: GenesisTerror in Resonance) and it will be released in the UK in June.

Synopsis: Suzu Urano is a Hiroshima girl from a close-knit family but when she marries a naval officer, she has to move from Hiroshima City to Kure, the city which launched the battleship Yamato and the site of one of Japan’s largest naval bases. As a new housewife, she encounters uncertainty in her new family, her new city, and her new world but she perseveres and finds happiness even as the war grinds on and comes closer to home.

Summer’s Puke is Winter’s Delight

夏のゲロは冬の肴 Natsu no gero wa huyu no sakana

Running Time: 3 mins.

Director: Sawako Kabuki

MAL IMDB

Sawako Kabuki is back with another short film focussed on the vagaeries of relationships as seen from a scatalogical perspective. This is a graduation piece from her time at Tama Art University and the film has been at various festivals around the world and it’s on YouTube. The story is described thusly:

Painful events become memories over time. Still, we vomit and eat again. Life is eco.

Having sat through one of her films, I think audiences should anticipate a kaleidoscopic and surreal swirl of biomorphous blobs that take on the shapes of sexual organs squeezed together and ejected from other similar shaped blobs.

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