Japanese Animation at the London International Animation Festival 2018

The 15th London International Animation Festival (LIAF 18) returns to the Barbican for a run between November 30th and December 09th. There will be ten days of talks, forums, workshops and over 200 animated shorts and features from around the world. For a second year in a row there is a focus on the on-screen and off-screen representation of women in animation with the section Female Figures which will showcase works by female animation talent that explore female desire, physicality, and more. In the centenary since the end of WWI, there is a section called Aftermath which is dedicated to animation inspired or rooted in that conflict. There is also a lot of British talent getting the chance to show their works and there will be lots of independent animation to revel in. Heck, there’s even a film featuring Conan O’Brien! (trailer)

As the organisers have written on their press release,

The Festival promises to inspire, delight and challenge the notion that animation is merely for the 3D blockbuster genre, or cute cartoons. Independent animation is an art form that continues to thrive and develop as a breathtaking medley of styles, materials, techniques and production – from hand drawn, paint on glass, collage, sculpture, to some of the more interesting developments in CGI – all of which can be seen at this year’s LIAF.

I’m interested in everything Japanese so here’s what’s on offer:

dwarf studio-mogu-and-perol

December 01st: Amazing Animations for 0-7 year-olds

This is a selection of short films aimed especially at children and we find that Japanese animators and their delightful stop-motion and 3D-CG works will be on the screen. I’ve seen some and can recommend them.

Konigiri-Kun: Music Box (2017, Dir: Mari Miyazawa, 5 mins)

Mari Miyazawa turns food art into fun with an onigiri (rice-ball) that gets into adventures. In this adventure, he grabs a music box to show to his friend Kerokke, the croquette, and the two try it out.


Watercolors (2017, Dir: Takashi Yoneoka, 2 mins)

Ever wonder what happens when an artist leaves their room? Their paints decide to come out and play on a canvas. Here’s the film from the artist’s own YouTube channel.

Mogu and Perol (2018, Dir: Tsuneo Goda, 8 mins)

Mogu and his naughty friend Perol are two animals who live on Yummy Island. Mogu is a master chef  and makes yummy meals but Perol swoops in to scoff every scrap. This leads to a quarrel between the two…

This one played at the Kotatsu Japanese Animation Festival and I was sat front-row with some friends. It won the Audience Award in the short film category.

December 01st: Abstract Showcase

Cosmopolite (2017, Dir: Rina Okada, 4 mins)

Rina Okada uses various minerals in her animation has created a subtle journey through difference substances to map the shapes of light.

December 01st: International Competition Programme 1: From Absurd to Zany

Rabbit’s Blood (UK/Japan 2017 Dir: Sarina Nihei 5 mins)  Website.

Tokyo-based Sarina Nihei is a graduate of London’s Royal College of Art and now works as a freelance animator and illustrator. She has won awards and her RCA graduate work, Small People with Hats was the first student film to win the Ottawa International Animation Festival’s top prize for short films. She is inspired by entertaining and surreal films and lists the work of David Lynch and David Cronenberg as favourites in this  interview. Check out her Vimeo channel.

This was made for Channel 4 in the UK.

Two rival groups battle for survival underground – sinister cloaked men and neutralist rabbits.

December 02nd: Marvellous Animation for 8-15 year-olds

This section has twelve films from ten different countries and they are aimed at kids 8 and older. The one Japanese-themed one was at this year’s Berlin International Film Festival.

Neko no Hi / Cat Days ねこのひ, 2017, Germany/Japan, Dir: Jon Frickey, 11 mins.

Starring: Kanon Yamamoto, Yusuke Yamasaki, Iroha Sato, Shinobu Sawada, Fumio Okura, Yuna Fujiwara,

 An animated short film directed by Jon Frickey (website)

Synopsis: Jiro, a little boy, feels sick. His father takes him to the doctor’s. She diagnoses a harmless condition. But it shakes the core of the boy’s identity.

December 02nd: International Competition Programme 4:  Playing With Emotion

This section is a look at emotions such as love and hate, sadness, anxiety, and confusion. World War I and female sexuality are some of the settings animators have made to explore these feelings. There’s a familiar Japanese animator here:

Waaah「えーん, 2018, Dir: Sawako Kabuki, 1 min.Website

Everyone is born crying and as they grow up they continue to cry. And then what? There is no substitute for the ultimate pacifier.

You know what? I’m so used to seeing Ms. Kabuki at these events I now believe, “No Sawako Kabuki, no animation festival”.

December 05thFemale Figures 2 + Q&A

CHROMOSOME SWEETHEART 「染色体の恋人 ,2017, Dir: Yano Honami, 5 mins.」

People facing each other in a cafe; ex-lovers. People sucking their hair; people running very hard, a city passing by; a girl walking in a dry riverbed. There are all sorts of people, and all sorts of love.

This, and Rina Okada’s film, were both included in the Geidai Animation Graduate Works 2017 collection which was released on DVD.

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. Here’s a full list of films featured on the DVD.

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!!! There are a couple of specialist festivals I should focus on like Ottawa. I’ll get on it at some point.

Here are past articles – LIAF 2012 LIAF 2013 LIAF 2015 LIAF 2016 LIAF 2017

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

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