Mamoru Hosada’s Superflat Monogram and Kojiro Shishido’s Naked Youth

March 6, 2009

Superflat Monogram

I recently had the chance to re-watch in high quality (well…higher than youtube) a 5-minutes-animated-commercial for Louis Vuitton, so this might be a good time to talk briefly about that. It’s directed by Mamoru Hosada, which may interest fans of Toki wo Kakeru Shoujo. The ‘story’ is about a girl who suddnely gets sucked into a strange dimension full of pretty colours and shapes, then sadly returns to reality…only to realise that you can experience it all over again when you next visit Louis Vuitton retailer (dot dot dot).

Superflat Monogram

On the bright technical side, I liked how real world was presented as dull and lifeless in that grey colour palette, which served as a great contrast to the Superflat dreamscape the girl enters. The combination of colours and shapes are obviously Louis Vuitton-related, the Monogram Multicolour design (funny colours on white background) you see above happens to be Takashi Murakami’s, who produced this commercial. The part where she enters the world through a wormhole above looks like it’s Louis Vuitton Damier (those brown checkered design you see everywhere), and I mention this because I appreciate how the combination of colour, patterns and animation has so perfectly captured its rough, leatherly texture.

It does occassionally have that sense of Muarkami‘s Superflat characteristics coming alive in animation, especially in cuts where the LV monograms are responding to her jumps and tree-like shapes grows in a flattened form. Obviously a commercial product and doesn’t have the impact of other 5 minute shorts such as Kigeki or She and Her Cat, but still an intriguing exercise in style by the director of Toki wo Kakeru Shoujo. Here’s the link to higher quality download for those interested (58 MB).

::[Superflat Monogram]::


Speaking of shorts, the works of Kojiro Shishido in comparison…is not as easy to watch. I don’t know much about him to be honest except he happened to fall under my never-ending hunt for the obscure. His works are all about atmosphere. There is no dialogue, strong use of uneasy BGM and very disturbing adult content. So if you don’t want to see male penises or ejaculations, I don’t recommend watching any of his videos.

Naked Youth above is actually uploaded on youtube by the artist himself for us to see. It’s an impressive piece of story-telling of two guys finally becoming ‘naked’ towards each other, both literally and figuratively. The way he’s structuring his narrative is particularly fascinating. There is one disturbing scene of a guy showing his penis to a friend, which is like WTF DUDE!?! may seem unusual, but is actually a accumulation of many hesitations, frustrations and desires suggested through subtle glances and awkward moments. Tension is mostly built up through its disorienting soundtrack, which slowly builds up through entire length of the short and makes the ending that much powerful. There is a repetition of a particular scene that leads to that final ‘revelation’, it’s hard to describe, but it’s exactly the kind of narrative structure that works only in film/animation (impossible in print form at least) and it always pleases me to see more animators taking advantage of that.

This is Shishido‘s earlier work titled Sweet Sweet Virgin, which was unpolished and quite bad to say the least. It was like watching Kim Ki Duk‘s second film Wild Animals. The talents are there and sadly it hasn’t matured enough at the time of its making.


18 Responses to “Mamoru Hosada’s Superflat Monogram and Kojiro Shishido’s Naked Youth”

  1. animekritik Says:

    The Vuitton ad is wonderful. I like the colors and I love the music. Plus the bags are nice, wish i could buy one for the mrs..

  2. gaguri Says:

    Ah the music is something I forgot to mention, it certainly puts you in the right mood (i.e. buy the bags). I’m sure you can find nice and cheap ‘not-so-genuine’ ones on your side. I once had to shop around for high priced purses in my trip to Rome long ago. I personally went to Piazza di Spagna, although from what I hear you can find better deals in Milano especially leather products, probably not the latest items like in Rome though (plus tax refund).

  3. Kitsune Says:

    Superflat Monogram has nice colors and fun music. Murakami’s works, just like many modern artworks, are overhyped though. The cowboy really does not worth $15 million. Dead sharks don’t worth millions either.

    I love films without dialog because the images have to be very carefully selected and arranged. Sound and music of Naked Youth were quite fitting. I didn’t like the animation style that tried to feel like a live action film too much. Also I didn’t like some pictures of the environment because the way they just showed off what the animator can do. If you can does not mean you should. I wonder if the filmmaker will move on to some other themes or will keep exploring that area…

  4. animekritik Says:

    actually, i was really close to buying the super-expensive Murakami TASCHEN artbook in a plastic wrapper. The other day I saw a copy without a wrapper: the pictures were tiny with a lot of gigantic size font around. i was glad i didn’t get it.
    The concept of Superflat is spot on. But even though Murakami created it, i like Aya takano’s work much better.

  5. gaguri Says:

    Hmm my perspective of the way animation was utilised is bit different than yours, as I thought the details, including the pictures of environment, helped build up to the tension throughout the short. I have no problem with an artist revisiting his themes (that’s what many anime auteurs do: Satoshi Kon=line between reality and dream, Makoto Shinkai=physical and emotional distance, Mamoru Oshii=existential themes), but what is interesting is how their insights into these ideas mature with age and experience, and it comes through their work. Makoto Shinkai’s 5 cm/sec for example, has an insight into the idea of distance that’s more cruel and realistic than his previous works.

    Yep, the creators aren’t always the most skilled or appealing artists :3, although they should be credited for breaking new grounds, showing new worlds and inspiring others.

  6. Kitsune Says:

    Details help build the atmosphere and are necessary – my minor complaint is about the stylistic implementation.

    I also have no problem with an artist revisiting his themes. Since you seem to know his work, I was just curious what path he’ll take. As Edgar Degas said, “One must do the same subject over again ten times, a hundred times.”

    Indeed, as you mention, the perspective on life changes with age and experience. Henri Matisse put it nicely, “The role of the artist, like that of the scholar, consists of seizing current truths often repeated to him, but which will take on new meaning for him and which he will make his own when he has grasped their deepest significance.”

  7. gaguri Says:

    Well…I ‘know’ his works by watching his only two anime that’s listed on MAL page. Which happens to be those two youtube shorts posted above ^_^b

  8. ghostlightning Says:

    For the life of me I fail to understand what Superflat is. Please educate.

  9. gaguri Says:

    It’s an art style that looks like it’s super flattened, like its colour and form for example.

  10. animekritik Says:


    Superflat has a basis in the postmodern situation as well. Imagine the medieval world as a very rugged terrain. You have Buddhism as one peak, Christianity as another, Italian food as a 3rd, Japanese food as a 4th etc. For one thing, the religious peaks are taller than the food peaks (religion is valued more). In addition, if you wanted to convert from Buddhism to Christianity it would be as arduous a journey as Frodor’s to Mordor.
    Now, the point of Superflat is that the terrain is completely smooth. You can call yourself Christian one day, Buddhist the next, no sweat. You can even combine religion and food, nothing is there to stop you. It’s all in the same plane. In one sense, it’s nihilism, in another it’s absolute freedom. Call it what you will, it’s the world we live in today, or at least it’s the future world current trends might lead to.
    Superflat artists (heck, Japanese pop artists in general) work on that terrain.

  11. ghostlightning Says:

    @ gaguri
    @ animekritik

    Wow thanks for that. Now it really makes sense. It’s the kind of nihilism that levels values. No thing is necessarily more important than another thing. I like it, because I see possibility in the emptiness and meaninglessness. Thanks again.

  12. gaguri Says:

    I don’t know what I did to piss you off ghostlightning but I don’t appreciate your sarcasm when we’re being sincere. I apologise for any misunderstandings but comments here are for discussion, not trolling.

    That thing with nihilism/freedom is animekritik’s take, not mine. I described exactly what Superflat is: “It’s an art style that looks like it’s super flattened, like its colour and form for example.” How this technique of visual representation is utilised is entirely different.

    The thing with understanding art style/movement is that you have to actually look at and analyse various artworks before coming to any understanding of your own. I mentioned ‘deconstructivism’ in my last post on Utena.

    In my previous posts, I also used words like ‘deconstructivism’ to describe the architecture of Utena. “All there is to know is that Deconstructivism is characterised by displacing and deforming of surface and volume in an unpredictable manner. Basically it’s all those weird angles, shapes and strange looking windows you see in contemporary buildings (above).” This is exactly what I said.

    How this technique is used is an entirely different matter. Ghery’s Vitra Design Museum for example subverts functional aspects of a typical white cubical modernist gallery by ‘deconstructing’ it using abstract geometries. Its usage has evolved however, some people using it to create fun and exciting sense of place, although today you’re likely to see it being used mostly to look bizarre for no particular reason.

    But I’m not here to give you a lecture on art, which even if I tried, would be less effective than you googling for more eloquent writings (although libraries and museums would be better). I’m here to talk about anime, and I do try my best to use screenshot and short descriptions to identify and describe how such and such art movement is relevant to what I’m talking about.

    So here’s the thing that you must be aware of when trying to understand an art movement. No one can spoon feed you what it is or what it means, because it’s ultimately what you get out of after reading, viewing, analysing various artworks, how they’ve been used throughout history, and how they’re being used now. animekritik is very well-read and although I don’t exactly agree with him that’s the way he sees Superflat but you have to find your own way of seeing it.

  13. ghostlightning Says:

    @ gaguri

    Whoa, I have ZERO sarcasm on that comment. I apologize if it seems that way. Trust me, I meant no sarcasm at all!

    You certainly did not piss me off. As I mentioned, in my solicitation comment, I respectfully requested for an education. I read both of your comments and found them quite valuable. I know too little of visual art to see the distinctions between your explanations as animekritik did not disagree with what you said. It fully occurs to me as an addition.

    And I really meant what I said about the kind of nihilism that levels values. In my saying so I am actually appropriating (or at least beginning to) the ‘understanding of superflat’ for myself as you would recommend when you said that I have to find my own way of seeing it.

  14. gaguri Says:

    Well…that was embarrassing. I sincerely apologise for that. When I first read animekritik’s comment, it did sound like the kind of pretentious statement to be made by an artist (you know, some over-blown words like “oh my random pictures of square is so mathematical and calculated so precisely to provoke such and such reaction!”). One thing for sure, Hosada wasn’t thinking about nihilism when he was making this commercial for Louis Vuitton! In this particular example, I was interested in his exciting method of using flat planes of shapes and colours that’s been converted into three dimensional (at least the illusion of) world, which is made more visually exciting when it’s in motion as well.

    And again, sorry about that tl;dr nonsense orz

  15. ghostlightning Says:

    No problem. I do admit it was a shock – it’s the first time I’ve ever been accused of such in the anime blog community.

    Moving forward, I’ve never really had the level of articulateness for visual art the same way I have with narrative and lyrical text so I really appreciate what you’ve been doing here, even as I struggle to follow the discussions (not that I’m asking you to dumb things down for my sake heavens no!).

    The way I see your presentation of Superflat is that you sought to communicate with the least interpretation. I appreciate this too, as this is a great way to start exploring a subject on one’s own. However I do rely on filters such as animekritik’s comment as well, now especially since it seems to agree with my own aesthetic sensibility.

    Will it necessarily be the ‘Truth?’ If it did it would be ironic to an absurd degree. But as you’ll see I am fond of indulging this kind of thing.

  16. animekritik Says:

    Boy…Well, what happened with my comment is that I’ve never had a chance to formulate coherently all the data on Superflat that I’ve gathered, so I jumped at ghostlightning’s question as a great chance to do so (plus I know he likes LOTR so I threw that in!). Of course, my explanation was simply of the basis (i.e. literally of what they themselves say they want to do) and not at all of the actual technique.

    whether superflatters can actually communicate their ideas through their color schemes and forms is another question.

  17. gaguri Says:

    Thanks for the kind words ghostlightning, that means a lot to me. And sorry you guys had to see me in one of those bad days.

  18. Linette Says:

    It’s awesome for me to have a site, which is helpful for my knowledge.
    thanks admin

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