16th Animation Division Critiques

A Diversity of Japanese Animation Shorts

Though there may be no specific trends to distinguish this year's crop from those of past years, I am happy to see how diverse the selection of Japanese animated short films has become. It was truly a challenge to whittle the entries down to the requisite number of Jury Selections. There were plenty of fascinating, well-made works that unfortunately did not make the cut. The final step in the screening process was a comparison with past works to determine if the current entry could be said to be superior to its predecessors in the same genre. If not, it was rejected.
Among the growing proportion of works from abroad were numerous CG animations by students who could clearly get jobs tomorrow at one of the world's major production studios. But I was more intrigued by works from Japan that glowed with a bright, do-as-you-please individuality in theme or style. Perhaps many of these overseas student works were created for the purpose of displaying their entire skill set with an eye to future employment in the industry, with a proportional loss of idiosyncratic charm.
Conversely, with so many superb young talents on display in the short-feature animations from Japan, it seems a shame they don't have more direct access to the commercial animation world. Many entrants are already working in CG or art jobs, but there are talented artists outside the animator-to-animation-director-to-director track too.
It also appears that a Japanese style is coming to fruition in the hybridizing of CG and hand-drawn animation, as evidenced by the high marks received by Grand Prize winner COMBUSTIBLE, Excellence Award winner ASURA, and New Face Award winner LUPIN the Third: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine, all masterful works. Also deserving mention is the sublime artistry of Oh Willy..., an overseas entry.

Animation Artist
Born in Mie Prefecture in 1941, FURUKAWA worked at TCJ and Kuri Jikken Manga Kobo, then became a freelance panel-manga writer, illustrator and animation creator. He has received numerous prizes, including the Special Jury Award at the Annecy International Animation Film Festival , the 25th Bungeishunju Comics Award, the Excellence Prize of the Japan Media Arts Festival, and the Medal with Purple Ribbon. He is currently a visiting professor at Tokyo Polytechnic University. Recent literary works include his manga anthology Buru Buru (Bungenko) and a picture book in the Kagayake Shi series, Kangaerunotte Omoshiroi (It's Fun to Think; Akane Shobo, 2008, edited by KOIKE Masayo).