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Kotatsu Japanese Animation Festival Workshop and Talks with Award-Winning Animator Takeshi Yashiro and Producer Satoshi Akutsu in the UK

Cardiff’s Kotatsu Japanese Animation Festival and the Japan Foundation have teamed up to host award-winning stop-motion animator Takeshi Yashiro and his producer Satoshi Akutsu on a tour of the UK as they take part in talks and a stop-motion animation workshop.

On October 05th, the two men will show their latest collaboration, Gon, The Little Fox (2019) at a Masterclass and will talk about their careers as Yashiro explains why he chooses to work in stop-motion and how he makes his movies. Satoshi Akutsu presents an equally interesting talk considering he has extensive experience in the role of producer for a variety of projects in Japan and America, having worked with Japanese broadcaster NHK, animation production house Madhouse, and DVD distributor Geneon Universal.

Here’s a trailer for their latest work Gon, The Little Fox, an adaptation of the classic 1932 children’s story about the fateful encounter between a farmer and a mischievous fox.

On October 06th, Yashiro will lead a stop-motion workshop where attendees can animate their own scene with actual puppets used by Yashiro in the film. It is open to people from the age 8 and up at the cost of £27 (for booking please contact the festival info@kotatsufestival.com).

Following their stint in Cardiff, the two men will be in London for a special talk.

Takeshi Yashiro is a graduate from Tokyo University of the Arts who got his career started making CMs and studied different stop-motion techniques in his spare time until he decided to go full-time with the style in 2012 with his debut Dear November Boy (2012). He’s had a string of award-winning films like Norman the Snowman The Northern Light and Firewood, Kanta & Grandpa (both 2013) and Moon of a Sleepless Night (2015), which won the Japan Competition Best Short Award at the Short Shorts Film Festival 2016 (source).

Commenting on the win, Yashiro said about stop-motion,

“The best thing about using stop motion animation is that the characters and the set really “exist” in front of the camera. Though technology has enabled CG to create brilliant images these days, it is still worthwhile using stop motion pictures because the audience can feel everything being there and sense the texture of the materials. In this sense, stop motion films are developed from art design. While sculptors interpret the world by capturing single moments of objects, I like to animate figures to show my interpretation of the world. I hope you will enjoy the story and I’d be glad if you could spare a few moments to think about the art design in the film.”

Here are the events and dates:

Kotatsu Japanese Animation Festival (October 05th and 06th at the Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff)
Japan Foundation in London (October 07th, 18:30 at the Courthouse Hotel Cinema in London)

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A Japanese Boy Who Draws  ある日本の絵描き少年 Dir: Masanao Kawajiri (2018) [Japan Cuts 2019]

A Japanese Boy Who Draws  Aru Nihon no ekaki shonen Film Poster

ある日本の絵描き少年 Aru Nihon no ekaki shonen

Release Date: March 02nd, 2019

Duration: 20 mins.

Director:  Masanao Kawajiri

Writer: Masanao Kawajiri (Screenplay),

Starring: Takeshi Uehara, Yasumi Yajima, Kenta Abe, Yoshiko Ishii, Shota Suzuki,

Website

Masanao Kawajiri’s experimental short animation depicts the life of a boy aiming to be a manga artist. It took the Runner-up Award for the Grand Prize at last year’s Pia Film Festival awards (missing out to Orphan’s Blues) but took the Gemstone Award which is given to, “the most progressive and daring film made beyond the common ideas of filmmaking”. A Japanese Boy Who Draws definitely fits this bill as it marries the magic of art and animation and their many different styles to a mockumentary to tell an enjoyable story of someone pursuing their dream.

The film follows the life and career of Shinji Uehara, someone who pursues his passion for drawing, from the age of one to his life as a professional enduring the vicissitudes of the manga industry.

Continue reading “A Japanese Boy Who Draws  ある日本の絵描き少年 Dir: Masanao Kawajiri (2018) [Japan Cuts 2019]”

Japanese Films at Annecy International Animation Film Festival 2019

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“If I had to name one country with a true culture of animation, it would definitely be Japan.”

This quote was made by French director Georges Lacroix in 1999, the year when the Annecy Festival celebrated Japanese animation for the very first time. Since then, the fest has been packed with Japanese animation, many of which have often taken awards, and now, twenty years later, Annecy celebrates Japan again by packing in classics and new titles and giving space for much of the talent working today to shine.

The Annecy International Animation Film Festival is back from June 10th to the 15th and it’s packed with anime feature films, TV anime, and conferences because the organisers have chosen this year to celebrate 100 years of Japanese animated films (1917 – 2017). This celebration spans classic shorts never before seen outside of Japan to forthcoming works that are being pitched to producers and distributors around the world. Netflix has a presence here thanks to their positive contribution to anime and the student graduation works look equally enticing. With WWII propaganda films, adaptations of classic western novels, animated documentaries, 80s sci-fi, and more going to be screened, festival-goers are in for an exceptional and exciting collection of films that shows what Japan can do.

As per usual, titles contain links to the festival and sources used for information range from the festival site itself to My Anime List (MAL) and Anime News Network (ANN). Let’s start with…

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“The Depth if Yagen” Stop-motion Horror Anime Kickstarter

I recently had a news tip about an interesting Kickstarter for a stop-motion indie horror film from Japan called “The Depth if Yagen” by animator and author Shigeru Okada, an animator and educator who has a YouTube channel dedicated to the art of stop-motion animation. I reported it on Anime UK News (AUKN) and V Cinema. It looks like something really unique due to the style of animation and the story it tells. Here is the Kickstarter campaign trailer: 

The story draws upon Japanese history and mythology and mixes in themes of family and betrayal:

Once upon a time in Japan, there was a poor couple living with their only daughter. One day, the father, an avid gambler, sells his daughter to human traffickers in order to settle his gambling debts. The traffickers, on their way back to the village with the man’s daughter, decide to take a shortcut by entering the forbidden mountain. The girl’s mother pursues the traffickers into the mountain in a bid to reclaim her daughter. The mother begins a terrifying transformation as the curse of the mountain settles on her. Yet, she continues her pursuit to save her daughter…

As can be seen in the video, the transformation is really creepy and you can expect the model work to be exquisite in order to deliver the body-horror, a transformation that would make Junji Ito proud. What is the depth of a “yagen”, you may be wondering? Well the yagen is the mortar which the creature is seen using. How this plays into the story will have to be discovered.

Stop-motion animation is expensive and time consuming so a Kickstarter campaign will be needed to help finance everything and funds will need to be raised by June 10th. The money raised will be used on the production but will also be used to create a set of “making-of” materials ranging from a book to a film. This film will detail the fabrication of puppets and props, lighting, animation and editing processes, all of which Okada is doing. Both the film and the materials are something Okada hopes to use to inspire aspiring animators and he will do so by putting them online for people to access. There’s actually a demonstration video online to give people a taste of how in-depth it will be:

The anime Okada is working on will be split into five episodes. It will be animated in 2019 and released in 2020 in two versions, one a shorter, atmospheric version that forgoes any graphic images – each episode lasting three minutes and released for free on Okada’s YouTube channel NARIOMARUDARKSIDE – and the other version will be completely uncut and last 7-8 minutes. This one  will be made available on payable video viewing sites, such as VIMEO (One episode: 300JPY. All five episodes: 1,500JPY). Subtitles will be available in Japanese. English and Spanish.

Anybody who backs this project will get the chance to own it (either digitally or on DVD depending upon the tier you select) and, if you pledge enough, you can appear in the film as a model. This is a great way for Okada to use his skills as an animator to teach and get people involved in the project.

The minimum Kickstarter pledge is £3 and that gives a person access to all five episodes. After that, rewards keep increasing including access to a PDF version of the “Making-of Book”, a physical version of the “Making-of Book” and a DVD copy of the anime and the higher tiers include an invitation to the film’s cinema screening and the aforementioned model. 

Now, anime on Kickstarter tends to have a good reputation (at least, better than video games) and my experience with it is with Under the Dog and Mai Mai Miracle, both of which I got a film at the end of the process so I’m fairly confident you’re guaranteed to get a product and this guarantee is good because Okada is an experienced animator and is actually currently involved in the Netflix production of Rilakkuma which is making waves around the internet. He has a YouTube channel (NARIOMARUDARKSIDE) which shows examples of his works so you get an idea of what the end product will be like and, judging by the work.., he has the skills to deliver. 

As I stated in the AUKN report, stop-motion isn’t as common as 2D animation and horror stories told by stop-motion are even rarer. The last time I saw something like this was Junkhead which played at the Raindance Film Festival a few years ago.

This sounds good to me so I plan on contributing. There are 46 days left to help out so if you like the look of the work and want to get involved, head to the Kickstarter page.

Blame! ブラム Dir: Hiroyuki Seshita (2017)

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), Sora Amamiya (Zuru), Kazuhiro Yamaji (Pop), Aki Toyosaki (Administration Authority), Aya Suzuki (Tae), Yuuki Kaji (Atsuji), Mamoru Miyano (Sutezo), Saori Hayami (Sanakan)

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. Blame! is based on Nihei’s manga of the same name which was his first commercial manga series when it was published in Kodansha’s Monthly Afternoon magazine from 1997 until it ended in 2003. This movie adaptation is from the team behind the TV anime adaptation of Knights of Sidonia and Ajin and it looks awesome thanks to the financial muscle and time given to the animation studio Polygon Pictures by their backers Netflix:

The story of the film takes place in the same setting, a distant dystopic technological future where civilisation has reached its ultimate net-based form and transhumanism is rife. Unfortunately, an “infection” wipes out the one way humans control everything – Net Terminal Genes. This causes the automated systems to spiral out of order, resulting in artificial intelligence running amok as it fulfils its function to create an ever-expanding multi-levelled city that replicates itself infinitely in all directions.

Continue reading “Blame! ブラム Dir: Hiroyuki Seshita (2017)”

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

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A Preview of the Kotatsu Japanese Animation Film Festival 2018

Kotatsu Japanese Animation Film Festival 2018

Mirai Film Image

Cardiff                                                                                         Aberystwyth

Chapter 28th – 30th September      Aberystwyth Arts Centre 20th – 21st October

So I work as a writer for the Kotatsu Japanese Animation Festival and it’s going to launch soon. More than 10 feature films have been programmed to present the wide variety of stories and styles in Japanese animation. This year, we welcome two guests from Japan who will treat audiences to special events.

The festival gets off to a start on September 28 at 14:00 at Chapter Arts, Cardiff, with a screening of the Masaaki Yuasa’s latest film Lu Over the Wall.

Continue reading “A Preview of the Kotatsu Japanese Animation Film Festival 2018”

Anime Weekender at the BFI Southbank in London in May

The BFI Southbank in London is running another “Anime Weekender” event in May with three days featuring some of the most recent anime releases. The tickets for the Weekender are on sale so just scroll down to see what is on offer. Dates and times have been put in as well as links to each film which will allow you to book tickets so just click on the titles.

Here’s what’s on offer:

In This Corner of the World Film Image

Continue reading “Anime Weekender at the BFI Southbank in London in May”

Japanese Films at Annecy International Animation Film Festival 2018

Annecy 2018 Banner

The Annecy International Animation Film Festival is back from June 11th to the 16th and it’s packed with anime feature films, TV anime, and conferences. The Japanese presence is heavy this year and everything looks high quality from the student works to the feature films from the likes of Naoka Yamada (A Silent Voice) and Mamoru Hosoda (The Wolf Children)! Netflix has a presence here thanks to their positive contribution to anime and it’s an exciting TV anime. The student works look equally enticing with one from Tokyo University of the Arts. I feel glad to see so much diversity in content and approach!

Here are the titles:

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Kotatsu Japanese Animation Festival presents: Japanese Animated Shorts at Cardiff International Animation Festival 2018

Lady Nosferatu Film Image

On Saturday April 21st and Sunday April 22nd, staff from Kotatsu Japanese Animation Festival will be at Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff to present a series of short film screenings from Japan as part of the Cardiff International Animation Festival (CIAF). These are from a special programme of animated graduate films from Japan’s top National art University, Tokyo National University of Arts Graduate School and Kotatsu was able to get these thanks to Professor Yuichi Ito who oversees the course and came to last year’s Kotatsu Japanese Animation Festival.

The stories are some of the best to have been produced by graduates from the university and this is a rare chance to see the likes of them outside of the London International Animated Film Festival and Japan. Here are more details on the CIAF page and a Geidai page set up to showcase some of the content.

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