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October 1996, Week 4


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Ono Seiko and Aaron Gerow <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Fri, 25 Oct 1996 22:34:38 +0900
text/plain (92 lines)
At 13:08 10/24/96 +0000, Brigid Cherry wrote:
>I have been endevouring to ascertain some background information
>on Japanese animation. Every avenue or lead I follow brings me to
>Anime - contemporary cell (and computer) animation. Thus far I have
>been unable to find any clues as to other forms of animation used by
>Japanese filmmakers either now or in the past. Are there no
>Svankmajers, Quays, Len Lyes, Nick Parks, Terry Gilliams or Starevichs
>in Japanese cinema, or do we just not hear about them in the West?
>Brigid Cherry
>University of Stirling
There are quite a few other animation filmmakers who have shown at
international festivals, though you may have to do some digging to find out
about them (one obvious source is the Hiroshima Animation Festival
The granddaddies of puppet animation in Japan are Kawamoto Kihachiro and
the late Okamoto Tadanari.  Okamoto tended to have a larger range, with
work in puppet, cut out, and cel animation (his famous last work, _Chumon
no oi ryoriten_).  Kawamoto is still very active today with work on NHK and
elsewhere.  Two books were recently published about them in Japanese:
_Okamoto Tadanari sakuhinshu_.  Tokyo: Kadokawa Shoten, 1994.  ISBN 4048524992.
_Kawamoto Kihachiro_.  Tokyo: Kadokawa Shoten, 1994.  ISBN 4048525096.
As for cel animation, one should distinguish anime from other genres of
animation.  If we can provisionally define anime as the animated film
equivalent of gekiga manga (postwar story comics), then other cel animation
tends to have other sources.  The most famous 60s individual animators like
Furukawa Taku, Kuri Yoji, and Wada Makoto (now a feature film director)
mainly came out of gag manga (very different from gekiga) or, as with Wada,
illustration.  Other early independent animators include Manabe Hiroshi and
Yokoo Tadanori (famous as a designer).
Even the father of anime, Tezuka Osamu, was interested in more experimental
works that crossed the boundaries of anime (_Jumping_ and _Broken Down
Film_ are two examples).  His son, Tezuka Makoto, has tended to carry on
this experimental tradition more than the commerical anime legacy.
Since the 1980s, experimental animation using a variety of techniques has
become quite prominent in the experimental world, with Kurosawa Keita,
Aihara Nobuhiro, Hiruma Yukio, and IKIF being prominent examples.  Okuyama
Jun'ichi does "animation" on film, Iimen Masako sand animation, and VISUAL
BRAINS are known for their computer animation.  Many experimental
filmmakers like Ito Takashi (the landmark film _Spacey_) and Ota Yo work
with frame-by-frame photography.
Jan Svankmajer and the Brothers Quay have shown extensively in Japan, so
one can see their influence on the "puppet" animation of several young
filmmakers like Asano Yuko and others.
As for resources, the main history of Japanese animation is _Nihon
animeshon eigashi_ (Osaka: Yubunsha, 1977) by Yamaguchi Katsunori and
Watanabe Yasushi, but that is already 20 years old.  It, however, covers
the range of styles, unlike other histories in Japanese.  In English, there
are probably several books that discuss Japanese work, but the only one I
have on hand is Ralph Stephenson's _The Animated Film_ (London: Tantivy
Press, 1973).  Image Forum, the main distributor and source of information
on experimental film, has recently been publishing its catalogs in English,
so one might want to check out them, or their special retrospective
catalog, _Japanese Experimental Film and Video 1955-1994_, which does have
a section on animation.  Oberhausen printed a catalog for their 1994
retrospective of Japanese short cinema called _Retrospective of the
Japanese Short Film_, and this also has a section on animation.
There is information if you look for it, but it is true that much of this
work is not getting the exposure of anime.  Much of this is due to domestic
factors.  Unlike other nations, Japan offers no public support for
independent animators or film projects, so most simply don't have the money
or the time to make films unless they make stuff that sells (which is now
anime).  People like Kawamoto are successful because they make the kind of
works NHK likes, and thus conform to the "fine taste" the government
Given this situation, I think it is imperative for foreign scholars and
foreign festivals to focus more attention on and support these struggling,
but very fascinating filmmakers.
Aaron Gerow
Yamagata Film Festival/Meiji Gakuin University
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