24th Animation Division Critiques
Experience and Imagination
When asked to participate as a member of the jury for the 24th Japan Media Arts Festival, I was unsure of being able to fulfill my responsibilities and pick and choose the winners. As I came into contact with the many submissions, however, I realized there was something familiar about the process, like it was something I'd done before--and I had, in bookstores, where I'd peeked into the minds of authors I'd never met or heard of and experienced their embodied intellect. And thereafter I'd experienced the joy of overcoming those apprehensions with curiosity and surprise. While screening primarily short-form animation, I found myself invited to experience these unknown worlds that, rather than falling into the trap of being only abbreviated versions of feature-length animation, aroused in viewers that essential ingredient: the imagination. They are condensations of their creators' thoughts, concentrates of creation on the verge of bursting. If you'll excuse the layperson's grasp on the topic, it's like Bach using a harpsichord, an instrument with fewer keys than today's pianos, to convey to those of us here and now a wider range of images than he could with an entire orchestra. I'm a working animator, so I screened submissions with an eye on stellar animation techniques, but I'm sad to say I couldn't nominate them all. You can make a hard nail soft, mobile, and alive with CG, for example, but you won't bring out its character, nor will it compete in a contest with technical excellence alone. I hope we make progress in the future by reaffirming the relationship between themes and animation techniques. Given its proximity to my profession, our Grand Prize winner, Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! captured my attention when it aired. It isn't buried in animator inside jokes and instead evokes empathy from multitudes of creative people, expanding our imagination with what-ifs and all the questions that are so vital to animation, whether long- or short-form. I'm grateful to its director for allowing the audience to experience the creative process simultaneously with the characters. And last but not least, I wonder how this unprecedented disaster will affect the next round of submissions. I wonder what new perspectives the submissions will lead us to, and I hope this festival reflects the artists' intentions.