Andrew Osmond looks at the cream of the homebrew anime crop.
Makoto Shinkai is one of the most famous anime directors in the world today, but he took the toughest path to the top. He initially decided to make complete anime films by himself, starting with the five-minute film She and her Cat. Solo anime is an enticing and terrifying prospect. You’re the sole creator, so when impressed friends ask who did what on your film, you can proudly say everything. You can articulate your tastes and idiosyncrasies; you can bare your soul.
But solo animation is hard work, a journey that might never end (unless the computer is doing it for you). Shinkai points out that your priority must be to finish the thing, even if that means ditching many of the impressive shots you’d planned. If Shinkai hadn’t finished Voices, he’d have had a very pretty showreel to send to animation companies. Because he did finish it, he’s now the world-famous director of the staffed feature films The Place Promised in Our Early Days and the new 5 Centimetres Per Second.
Some other examples of home-brewed anime:
This lovely seven-minute short was created by student Sumito Sakakibara, while he was studying in London at the Royal College of Art. Its influences include Yasujiro Ozu and Isao Takahata (Only Yesterday), while a playful demon character harks back to Japan’s early picture scrolls. “Kamiya’s Correspondence took me a solid year to make,” Sakakibara says, “working day and night. The drawings were drawn straight into Photoshop using a Wacom tablet and composed in AfterEffects. It saved me from having to scan a deadly load of paper!”
A WOLF LOVES PORK
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A piece of low-tech genius, created by animator Taijin Takeuchi. It’d be a shame to spoil this beautifully droll film, but ask yourself the “Road Runner” question afterwards; were you rooting for the wolf or the pig? Wes Anderson, the indy-icon director who recently directed an animated version of Fantastic Mr Fox, astutely sums up stop-motion as “That magical effect where you can see how it is accomplished.” It’s a perfect description of A Wolf Loves Pork, the director of which would go on to reprise his achievement on a much larger scale, professionally.
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This two-minute dash is the closest of these films to stereotypical anime (complete with copious fanservice), but it’s bracing all the same. It’s not a solo anime, but most of the work was done by its creator, 21 year-old Hiroyasu Ishida, who has a Japanese-language blog here. If you like the pace, try the French CG student film Oktapodi, which does the same thing with cephalopods rather than schoolkids. Since releasing this, Ishida has gone on to produce another short, Rain Town.
NEGADON: THE MONSTER FROM MARS
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A 25-minute CG monster movie, though some of the imagery will remind British viewers irresistibly of Gerry Anderson. Again, it’s not technically a solo anime, but it was made by an incredibly small team over two years. “The goal was to create the film on a low budget and with an almost independent production staff,” says creator Jun Awazu. “I wanted to have the film style of the 1960s, when the Kaiju (monster) movies were at their best. The old film look is intended to evoke nostalgia in the audience.” Negadon can be purchased on R1 DVD, while Awazu has since made a second film, Planzet.
Makoto Shinkai’s 5cm/second is out now on UK DVD.