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). Shinkaipoints 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.
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
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.
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
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.
Beginning with the lyrical image of cherry blossoms falling at five centimeters a second Makoto Shinkai paints a breathtakingly vivid tableau of young love, desire, loss and hope. Told in three breathtaking chapters we follow the young dreamer Takaki through his life as cruel winters cold technology silence and finally adult obligations and responsibility converge to crush the delicate petals of true love. Finding beauty in everyday objects and moments Shinkai reveals he is a master of animation and haunting beautiful storytelling. Fall in love with this gorgeous thoughtful film hailed by critics and audiences alike for its beauty truth and innovation in animation.
Of the anime titles turned into T-shirts by Uniqlo, One Piece is the biggest – the reigning king of all the anime and manga franchises, pretty much unchallenged in the 16 years since Eiichiro Oda began the manga, and 14 since Toei Animation started animating it. But perhaps Uniqlo would have turned One Piece into a line of shirts even if the saga hadn’t been a world hit. Just look at those pirate designs – brash, cartoony, uncompromising. There’s no whiff of a committee, no hint of a five-year product plan reliant on changing a heroine’s hair colour (or deepening her cleavage). It just helps that the pictures are as commercial when they move as they are when they’re a cool static graphic in a manga, or on the front of a T-shirt.
“Ninja or pirates?” While Naruto – representing the ninja corner, of course – has proven hugely popular, UK fans have long been unable to weigh in on the other side. With the long-awaited arrival of One Piece on DVD this May, that finally changes.
Matt Kamen finds out who’s who in the One Piece anime
Monkey D. Luffy: The founder and captain of the Straw Hats, Luffy is a carefree soul who wants to become king of the pirates. After eating the Gum-Gum Devil Fruit, he gained an elastic body, making him near-invulnerable and able to stretch but paradoxically making him unable to swim.
One-hit wonders. Every country has them. And, as PSY can most likely attest, very few musicians really want to be labelled as one. Sure, it’s all fun, games and fancy dinners when that royalty cheque floats through the letter box. The one with all the zeroes from that single from yesteryear that went massive. But what about the rest of your work? It must be somewhat unsatisfying as an artist to be known for one track, while everything else remains relatively overlooked, and expectations are high for that difficult follow up single. If you’re TOMATO CUBE, you do nothing. Ever again.
Jeremy Graves is joined by Jerome Mazandarani and Andrew Hewson for our 23rd podcast., featuring cover woes, delayed shows, and several uses of the word Slash. Your questions answered, dodged or otherwise belittled, while Jerome confesses to his Facebook addiction, and Jeremy is reprimanded for flagging his own segues.
Necromancy, ten years of NEO, and the carrot of continuations on our 27th podcast
Jeremy Graves is joined by the fragrant Gemma Cox of NEO magazine, the pungent Andrew Partridge from Anime Ltd, and the newly doctored Jonathan Clements to discuss Scotland Loves Anime, the Boom Boom Satellite Distraction Device, and rogue robot tanks.
Helen McCarthy reviews Mami Sunada’s Ghibli documentary
Show, don't tell: the mantra of every writer and film-maker, and a particular challenge in documentary film. Every work has its own agenda, hidden or not: for director-writer-cinematographer-editor Mami Sunada, the challenge was immense. And she rises to it with unobtrusive magnificence.
This weekend saw the 10th edition of the UK’s biggest J-culture event, Hyper Japan! Darcy headed down to the Kensington Olympia on Saturday to check out what was happening and give us the festival lowdown.
Suzuki’s swansong will be the ultimate in exclusivity
Rough artwork has been leaked of Studio Ghibi’s next film, announced as the ultimate in collectibles: a film released in a single print, with a guarantee of no DVD or Blu-ray release. Slated for release in one year’s time, Gertie the Dinosaur began with the most unlikely of inspirations for a much-loved children’s studio.
Andrew Osmond on the history of man-machine interfaces
RoboCop is thrown into interesting perspective by looking at his anime cousins. In Japan, RoboCop is one of a crowd. Two of anime’s greatest poster icons – Motoko Kusanagi in Ghost in the Shell and Tetsuo in Akira – are or become cyborgs. Moreover, a man-turned-robot was an anime hero back in 1963. We’re talking about 8th Man, shown in America as Tobor the Eighth Man. It’s a policeman who, yes, gets murdered by a crime gang, then resurrected in a robot body.