If you think mainstream japanese animation is boring (even that?), always trying to please the audience with pointless stories (generating so many useless arguments), you may want to check out indie japanese animators’ works. Which are always trying to experiment, with sharp stories.
Make your choice, open up!
Let’s begin with Anima, directed by Kazuhiro Hotchi (official website), an incredible dance whose main idea is to show the “human condition”. In other words, expressing the simplest way possible human emotions through body movements. Somehow, it reminds me of Koji Morimoto’s Dimension Bomb (the role of rhythm – music & body – to provide an original experience)
From the same director, a short clip on Ryoma Sakamoto, a historical figure which was the main character of japanese TV channel NHK’s annual drama. At some point, NHK contacted several young talents, every one of them was to create a 30-seconds clips inspired by Sakamoto. So, here Hotchi shows the most important steps of Sakamoto’s life, one of the man who helped Japan enter into modernity. Notice the first image of the clip is based on the unique existing (?) photo of Sakamoto. And suddenly, he’s animated. Nice idea?
Something more strange with Kei Oyama‘s Hand Soap. In fact, he made this short-film on his own skin. This explains the original appearance, and the suffocating feeling viewers may experience while watching this coming-of-age story of a japanese teenager. This short trailer offers some footage from this short-film (at 0’40 sec) so that you can have a small idea of Oyama’s strange touch.
By the way, Oyama co-founded with other animators the indie label CALF, to help alternative j-animation becoming widely available. Atsuhi Wada is also part of this label, and here’s one of his work, Day of Nose. Kind-of absurd, with metaphorical images, Wada offers an interesting vision of the salaryman. Replaceable and anonymous by nature.
Another big name of CALF is Mirai Mizue. As an example, JAM. And as the title suggests, the director tried to overcharge everthing. Visually, with cyclical movements added one after the other, with tons of colors. And of course, there’s the music too. It becomes quite hypnotic at some point (more Mizue’s works can be watched here).
The japanese collective Tochka is best known for Pika Pika. Using light-animation to create something unique, and funny. The idea is so simple, Tochka used it to teach the basics of stop-motion animation to neophytes.
And let’s try Akino Kondoh (official website)’s poetic universe with her Ladybirds’ Requiem (digest version). It’s visually gorgeous yet sobre, plus the captivating music accompanying this original parade of red-orange insects. Somehow, it seems sad.
Finally, Koji Yamamura (official website). His works have influenced many (of these) independant animators. For example, watch Mount Head, a funny and well-thought story about some japanese habits and how this literaly weighs on people’s head/mind. The visuals are beautiful, and the narrator’s voice is priceless.
To go further, you may want to check out;
# Nishikata Eiga, one of the best blog to find useful information on the indie japanese animation. You’re wondering what are some of the most interesting animated short films of 2010, here’s your answer. Want to know more about artist Akino Kondoh? Read this interview. And what about Tochka’s other works? Try this!
# Who is Kei Oyama, this “organic” director? Start with this interview.