17th Animation Division Critiques
A Few Considerations at the Completion of the Jury Selection
The Japan Media Arts Festival has accumulated 17 years since its establishment, and while the two categories "animated feature film/animated series/original video animation (OVA)" (hereafter, feature film/TV animation) and "animated short film" (hereafter, short film) exist in the Animation Division, I felt there was a major problem in giving equal treatment to a feature-length film and TV series, of which one episode can also be regarded as a short film, and in judging an animation independently produced by an artist and a commercially commissioned short film in the same category. However, in actually being involved in the selection, I also felt the merits of hybrid categories which, in going beyond the standpoints and objectives of professionals, amateurs and students, or viewing-time divisions, can be considered to have few precedents among world media festivals. In the comprehensive final screening which transcends both categories, it is also possible to give ample consideration to the comprehensiveness, diversity, depth and range of popularity of each work. I have come to think that as animation continues to diversify, the ability to accommodate future works which go beyond existing formats, contents or expressions is, when viewing this division as a type of animation film festival, one of this festival's distinctive features, and if anything one of its advantages.Of course I can also fully appreciate differing opinions and criticisms. Focusing on the next ten or twenty years, in order to guarantee the easing/dissolution of the difficulties in judging work, and greater fairness/objectivity, it goes without saying that sustained efforts are required. And we can assume this effort will come to nurture the aforementioned feature into a clear strength of the festival.The total number of submissions to the Animation Division was 587, the most to date, while 511 short film entries received was, in comparison to other animated film festivals, a favorable figure we can be proud of. On the other hand, 76 feature film/TV entries received is certainly significant, but not necessarily a large number when considering that 159 new animated TV titles and 59 new feature-length titles were released in Japan in 2012. In terms of content, many of the featured short films were works that had gained popularity during the year, but this cannot necessarily be said about the feature film/TV entries. Insofar as this festival has adopted an open system of eligibility and from the viewpoint of fairness or validity in relation to pro-motion and the giving of prizes in this field, then this remains an unavoidable issue of the future.Among the entries, Japanese works again occupied the center of the feature film/TV category, but international expansion was seen among the short film submissions, leading me to sense the festival's establishment in the international animation world. It can also be said that in this division too the festival has enjoyed wide international visibility throughout its 17-year history, receiving entries of outstanding works in the same fashion as this year's Grand Prize Winner not through a domestic distributor but directly from the creators.In both categories the remarkable progress of digitization since the 1990s has reached completion, and its maturity can be seen not only in terms of technique but also expression. The 17 years of the Japan Media Arts Festival have also been accompanied by both an expansion and deepening of digitized animation. The benefits of a level of quality unattainable in the era of film undoubtedly apply to feature-length/TV animations, but also to short films by independent artists and the animated works of students. This is because even within Japanese specialist 2D animation (digital cell-like animation) which differs from European and American 3DCG photo-realism and digital puppet animation, 3DCG and digital 2D are making big contributions both to cost effectiveness and the expansion of expressive capabilities. Hurdles still remain in the integration of complex conventional analog techniques and expressions, but I sensed anew the maturity of digital animation techniques in achieving, almost without any incongruity, the seamless integration and fusion of cell-style animation and 3DCG-style expression, drawing and painting, puppets and objects, and cutouts. This time, the jury consisted of two artists from the field of short film and two artists from the field of feature film/TV animation with me acting as a bridge between them, and it can be said that, without extreme disparity of aesthetic values or outlooks on animation, and while respecting the standards of each jury member, a discussion in the final screening involving both parties was achieved in which mutual standpoints and opinions were reached to make an impartial and appropriate selection. As a result, I consider that a work with qualities different from Award-winning Works of the past was selected for the Grand Prize, and that prizes were given to many new talents for their outstanding work.