22nd Animation Division Critiques

Depictions of the Vicissitudes of Life and Emotional Connection in Animation

While short animated films in this year's Japan Media Arts Festival depicted the various difficulties of life, long-form works featured vivacious female characters spreading cheer to others.Grand Prize in the Animation Division was awarded to the short work La Chute. The way the work unfolds in looping form presents symbolic representations of life and death, heaven and hell, human activity in whole; and this was something seen in other works as well: human activity expressed in looping form. In Circuit, for example, disparate events form a series, and that series serves to express their recursive nature. WATER IN THE CUP, a Japanese work, also depicts internal recursion that stems from drinking the water. In contrast to works from overseas which depicted series of external events, this Japanese work was singular in its inward focus.Such qualitative difference between works from Ja- pan and overseas was seen in other aspects as well; in their depiction of difficult experiences, for example. Carlotta's Face depicts the hardship a disabled child unable to recognize other people's faces meets with, such as bullying and lack of teachers' understanding. The work gives a real sense of the absurdity involved with lack of facial recognition in interpersonal relation- ships. In the New Face Award-winning Am I a Wolf?, a boy who dresses as a wolf to terrify a little goat in a play feels as if he actually is a wolf. The quality of interper- sonal relationships depicted in these two works reveals aspects of inscrutability from the perspectives of oth- ers. In contrast, the works by Japanese artists took on a slightly different tone. In Life Ain't Gonna Lose, which deals with a child's allergies, the boy's parents and neighbors strive to tackle the issue. While not involving a medical condition exactly, the New Face Award-winning Invisible depicts a man whose body is not only invisible but also so light so that it floats up unless weighted. The work offers an abstract representation of how hurtful it is to be ignored by society with such an abnormal body form. Yet the course of action this invisible man takes is to aid a baby in a recklessly-driven stroller. It may not be fair to consider these two works representative of Ja- pan; still, the Japanese works can be said to emphasize the fact that helpful actions facilitate connection.The theme of forging emotional connection is also shown in the long-form works from Japan, and interest- ingly enough, not only between people. The Excellence Award-winning DRAGON PILOT: Hisone & Masotan shows a female Air Self-Defense Force pilot finding connection with a dragon, and in Okko's Inn, which similarly won an Excellence Award, a sixth-grade girl finds connection with a ghost. Though they may meet with adversity in the course of making these emotional connections, the protagonists never fall into conflict. In addition, Liz and the Blue Bird depicts the dissolution of connection between close friends, yet with conver- sation between their connection is easily restored. In short, the Japanese works seem to hold a premise that emotional connections will be forged. Interfamilial connection is taken up as well. In dealing not only with past family relationships but future ones as well, MIRAI suggests that individuals grow not with the help of past familial support alone, but future as well. Also, in I want to eat your pancreas, which depicts an adolescent boy- girl relationship, a mother offers her emotional support to the young couple with nonchalance.In contrast to these Japanese works, the heroine in the Excellence Award-winning The Girl Without Hands has her relationships with father and husband severed at the hand of the Devil to finally connect with her hus- band following potentially deadly hardship. Here it was miraculous for this connection to be made, even in a spousal relationship. This sort of difficulty in finding emotional connection stands in unique contrast to the Japanese works where connections develop right away.

MD and Ph.D., Professor, Nihon University
Born in 1954 in Saitama Prefecture, YOKOTA studied animation in the Creative Image Course of the Department of Cinema at the College of Art, Nihon University. Upon graduation he entered the Psychology Program of the Graduate School of Literature and Social Sciences at Nihon University and received a master's degree in 1979. Starting with a presentation at the 19th Convention of the Japan Society of Image Arts and Sciences titled "A Psychological Analysis of Motion in Animation," he has presented his research results on animation at the Japan Society of Image Arts and Sciences, the Japan Society for Animation Studies, and the Society for Animation Studies. He has also published articles in academic journals. His animation related activities include guest lecturer at I Castelli Animati, and serving as both a jury member and a lecturer at Puchon International Student Animation Festival. His major publications include Japanese Animation: East Asian Perspectives [University Press of Mississippi, 2013; co-editor and author], Animation no jiten (The Encyclopedia of Animation) [Asakura Shoten, 2012; co-editor and author], Nikkan animation no shinri bunseki: deai, majiwari, tojikomori (A Psychological Analysis of Japanese and Korean Animation: Encounter, Interaction, and Withdrawal from Society) [Rinsen Shoten, 2009], and Media kara yomitoku rinsho shinrigaku: manga, anime wo aishi, kenko na kokoro wo hagukumu (Clinical Psychology of the Media: How to Love Manga and Anime and Develop a Healthy Mind) [Science-sha, 2016].