Japanese Animation at the London International Animation Festival 2017

The 14th London International Animation Festival (LIAF 17) returns to the Barbican from 1st-10th December and there are 200 animated shorts and features slated to appear as well as a lot of guests who will take part in Q&As and presentations. There is a focus on the on-screen representation of women and the usual high-quality and diverse selection of films which show the various media used in making the many different films.

As the organisers have written on their site,

This year’s uncompromising programme promises to inspire, delight and challenge the notion that animation is merely for the 3D-CGI blockbuster genre or cute cartoons for kids. Independent animation is an art form that continues to thrive and develop as a breathtaking medley of styles, materials, techniques and production – including hand drawn, paint on glass, collage, sculpture, cut outs, puppets, abstract, sand/salt, the interesting developments in CGI – all of which can be seen at LIAF 2017.

Here’s what’s on offer:

Gokurosama Image

December 02nd: Amazing Animations for 0-7 year-olds

This is a selection of short films aimed especially at children so it’s going to be a guaranteed good time for a family audience which is why it’s surprising and intriguing to see that Takashi Miike is included in this section!

Keep on Rolling (2016, Dir: Takashi Miike, 5 mins)

Written and directed by Takashi Miike for Japanese broadcaster NHK, this is a stop-motion tale of an ambitious dung beetle can’t stop rolling poo. Every round object he comes across is used for practice but when he tries it on an obese hamster, he meets his match. This was made for the 20th anniversary of the Puchi Puchi Anime series which is just too cute for words so expect kids to be charmed!

? Jack City

December 02nd: International Competition Programme 1: “From Absurd to Zany”

Gokurosama (France 2016 Dir: Clémentine Frère, Aurore Gal, Yukiko Meignien, Anna Mertz, Robin Migliorelli, Romain Salvini, 7 mins)

Not animated in Japan but featuring a Japanese director and story, this animation is about a shopkeeper suddenly becomes paralysed one early morning while preparing bento in a Japanese shopping centre that is just about to open. Her young employee has to help take her across the shopping centre. Here is a clip:

Gokurosama is a word that comes up when you want to thank thank someone in a junior position for helping you, much like the shopkeeper in this story. It was animated by students at MoPA Computer Graphics Animation School in France.

December 02nd: International Competition Programme 2: “Being Human”

This section looks at what it means to be human and there’s a film with a Japanese director involved:

Negative Space (France 2017 Dirs: Ru Kawahata and Max Porter, 5 min) is from a team based in America, Tiny Inventions in the Baltimore. It is based on the poem by Ron Koertge and shows a young man and his relationship with his father who is constantly travelling. Ru Kawahata is one of the two directors and his experiences helped create the highly detailed puppets and hand-crafted sets used to tell this tale. Here’s a trailer:

December 02nd:

CleopatraCleopatra 1970 Anime Film Poster

クレオパトラ 「Kureopatora     

Running Time: 112 mins.

Release Date: September 15th, 1970

Director: Osamu Tezuka, Eiichi Yamamoto,

Writer: Shigemi Satoyoshi (Screenplay),

Animation Production: Mushi Production

Starring: Chinatsu Nakayama (Cleopatra), Hajime Hana (Julius Caesar), Osami Nabe (Marcus Antonius), Nachi Nozawa (Octavian), Jitsuko Yoshimura (Lybia), Tsubame Yanagiya (Rupa),


Osamu Tezuka is famous for creating beloved characters/anime like Astro Boy but he also made anime for adults. Animerama was a series of three anime films he was involved with and they were based on classic tales with a unique take on history. The titles were 1001 Nights, Cleopatra, and Belladonna of Sadness. In fact, some say they were the first feature-length anime movie directed towards adults. Belladonna of Sadness had recently been restored and gone on tour around the world and now Third Window Films has picked up the distribution rights to Cleopatra and 1001 Nights. Here’s a trailer:

Synopsis: Some time in the far future, an alien race called the Pasateli launch an invasion of Earth. Three friends named Jiro, Harvey, and Mary discover this danger and find out that the Pasateli are using the “Cleopatra plan” so, in order to stop it, the three people use a time machine to transport their minds into the bodies of members of the historical Cleopatra’s court to discover and stop the plan. Alas, Harvey goes off-script and vows to use the opportunity to secure the title of the greatest lover who ever lived by having sex with Cleopatra…

December 03rd: International Competition Programme 4:  “Playing With Emotion”

This section is a look at emotions such as love and hate, sadness, anxiety, and confusion. There’s a familiar Japanese animator here:

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


Sawako Kabuki is back with another short film focused on the vagaries 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 like this:

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. 

First Hand Memories

てのひらのにわ 「Te no hira no niwa

Running Time: 5 mins.

Director: Haruka Umemura

Haruka Umemura’s story is about a girl who looks at her surrounding world through a roll of toilet paper. It is one of two films included in the Geidai Animation Graduate Works 2017 collection. The other film is, Yelp. Actually, looking at the names of most of the directors on the DVD (as in, the DVD case is currently in my hands), it’s clear that the majority of animators from this year’s crop of graduates are women! Great stuff especially as LIAF is celebrating the lives of women this year.

For more information and trailers from the films produced by students at the Department of Animation, Graduate School of Film and New Media,  Tokyo University of the Arts, check out their YouTube channel.

December 04th: International Competition Programme 6 “Below the Surface”

This section is all about experimentation and reinvention in animation.

Starting Over (2016, Dir: Mika Seike 8 min)

Not much information on this one but I like the sound of it: You fall down every time before you reach your goal. At each fall, the glass you held shatters, and everything starts all over again. But there are things you can only discover through repetition. The answer lies within yourself.

Here’s the director, Mika Seike’s Vimeo channel with more of her work.

This blog has supported all sorts of animation since I make an effort to cover different titles appearing in various festivals and I also work for an animation festival that promotes different types of styles so I’m happy to see LIAF continue to forge ahead with its yearly celebration of animation!!!

Here are past articles – LIAF 2012 LIAF 2013 LIAF 2015 LIAF 2016

I hope this helps you see a film that will inspire you and you’ll treasure!

2 thoughts on “Japanese Animation at the London International Animation Festival 2017

    1. That whole strand of stop-motion anime is pretty charming but yeah, Takashi Miike pushing those boundaries yet again. Give him enough time and he’ll cover all genres, subjects, and media.

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