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kafka

Left: Inaka Isha, Right: Atama Yama

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The Last Unicorn

October 15, 2009

snapshot20081012235147

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fantasy railroad

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angel's egg

Beauty of Angel’s Egg is timeless. For me this 1986 vintage film is more beautiful and captivating than most flashy CG animated works today. Aesthetics aside, its value and meaning remain elusive to many simply because it relies too heavily on obscure Christian symbolic imagery. What does it all mean? One must remember that Oshii once aspired to become a priest, before he changed his mind and chose the path of a director. Oshii also claims that the movie is very personal for him. If so, can one see Angel’s Egg as the death of Oshii’s innocent faith in Christianity? I won’t pretend to have found my answer to many symbolisms in the film but I do want to share my views so far. In this post, I will be talking about a number of scenes/imagery and what I thought and felt about each one, before offering my humble attempt at an interpretation.

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Winter Days

April 4, 2009

winter days

Take 35 stanzas from the poems of Basho (Japanese poet), give 35 different animators to animate each stanza and walla, you have an anime titled Winter Days. For example, the above animation by Raoul Servais is on this following stanza:

My grass hut – where I offer the heron my belonging

Having to hide while the hair grows back

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angel's egg

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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).

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lam

Before his Oscar winning La Maison en Petits Cubes (House of Small Cubes), director Kato Kunio was respected among cult anime circles for his collection of animated shorts titled Diary of Tortov Roddle. They are stylistically very similar and there is no denying the immersive beauty of Tortov Roddle. Its art has that soft and grainy texture of a pencil sketch, rendered with great composition and sensitivity to colour. Animation is kept to a minimum while the score is very subdued and appropriate to its whimsical atmosphere.

Diary

Diary of Tortov Roddle

In my opinion however, such aesthetics are better suited to complement a good story rather than acting as a driving force (as opposed to 1001 nights for example). So while I was thoroughly captivated watching Tortov visit wonderful places, meeting strange people and doing amusing activities, I felt there was something missing behind that fictitious landscape. Diary of Tortov is an exercise of ‘what if’ without ever getting around to ‘what then’. Like Tortov, we are always the observer, watching the charmingly bizarre castle built on top of a gigantic frog without ever visitng it, or handing a flower to a mysterious woman without ever knowing her. Lot of our fascination is derived from the bizarre first impressions we get (thanks to Kunio’s imagination rendered by the aforementioned aesthetics) and speculations as to what may lie beyond it but very little more. That’s where La Maison en Petits Cubes for me, becomes more compelling than Diary of Tortov Roddle.

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oseam

“Oh my god… this one’s a real tear-jerker. This movie is THE proof that the Koreans can do more than just produce pretty graphics á la Wonderful Days.” – psgel

Like Mari Iyagi, Oseam is a miracle that sprang forth from the creative hands of Korean animators. Google for reviews and you’ll find it universally acclaimed by fans like psgels. Since he did such a splendid job describing the awesome that is Oseam, I will skip the reviewing part and offer a  translation of Lee Jung Ho’s (producer) commentary as he has some really interesting stuff to say. But before that, a brief introduction to the original fable that inspired this wonderful film is due, by yours truly.

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"Belladonna. Beautiful is she. Belladonna. In love is she. She isn't hearing the footfall of sadness yet."

"Belladonna. Beautiful is she. Belladonna. In love is she. She isn't hearing the footfall of sadness yet." - Sadness of Belladonna

Click here to view more artwork. Scroll down the page to view the screenshot gallery.

Kanashimi no Belladonna (Sadness of Belladonna) is a personal favourite of mine when it comes to experimental animation. Despite being produced in 1973, it is timelessly affectionate, and still continues to influence contemporary animators like Ikuhara (Utena) and Yuasa (Kaiba, Kemonozume) today. One of the most interesting thing about this movie is that, as an erotic animation, sex scenes are 1. more sensory than representative, 2. essential tools used to develop the character of Belladonna.

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Iblard Jikan

January 5, 2009

iblard jikan

Recently, I had a pleasure of watching an unusual Studio Ghibli work titled Iblard Jikan. It’s more or less like watching a collection of Impressionist stills for 30 minutes brought to life(…?) through minimal animation and meditative music. There are no characters or story. Well you could argue that it’s a story of beautiful landscape, houses, their harmony, and the ways in which people inhabit them to make up a world of Iblard. If that doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, then at least scroll down to the screenshots at the bottom as they’ll make fine wallpapers. To review works like this, I think, it’s best if I make brief commentaries along with screencaps as visual reference.

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To get over my denial of Kim Yu-na’s demise at the hands (or feets) of her arch nemesis friendly rival yesterday, I thought I’d introduce an esoteric Korean animation directed by Lee Sung-Gang, My Beautiful Girl Mari. Here is my short summary of the film before we go on:

It has been years since Nam-woo and his childhood friend Jun-ho met together. During their conversation of good old times, Jun-ho gives Nam-woo a small marble, their childhood memento. Looking at it, Nam-woo is transported to the memories of his childhood, of his school, of his days with his mother and Nam-woo. And of that wonderful girl Mari and wonderful land of fantasy.

Typical dinner scene; drinking Soju, sizzling Korean BBQ with rice and free side dishes

Typical dinner scene; drinking Soju, sizzling Korean BBQ with rice and free side dishes

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