23rd Animation Division Critiques

From Exclusion to Inclusion, and to the Power to Live

Each work was dazzling in its own way, and so having to make choices was an extremely tough task for me. I would therefore like to review here my choices from the perspective of media and themes. In order for a work to be eligible to compete in the Animation Division, it must be either a film intended for release in theatres or on TV, or else a work broadcast via the Internet. Creators employ the characteristics of each type of media when creating their works, but when the work in question is a TV series broadcast over a long period of time, there are cases in which only a part of the program, the final episode for example, is submitted. Compared with films that feature complete stories in a single episode or works broadcast via the Internet, it is more difficult to evaluate TV programs. Regrettably, this time there were no TV works among the award recipients.From the perspective of theme, there were many works that function as a means to criticize modern society. Children of the Sea, which won the Grand Prize, and Weathering With You, which was awarded the Social Impact Award, touched my heart with some old, yet eternally renewed themes, such as the acute sensitivity of adolescents, their detachment from parents and other adults, and the sense of loneliness within a group. Jury Selections such as PROMARE, KABANERI OF THE IRON FORTRESS THE BATTLE OF UNATO, and DESPAIR OF THE MONSTER, include text that can be interpreted as an indication of minority exclusion as well as inclusion, or perhaps the impossibility of inclusion, making us reexamine our understanding of these issues particularly in the context of the contemporary widespread trend to exclude those who are different. Other works that stood out thematically were the films that depicted the lives of strong yet sensitive women who boldly faced their challenges. LONG WAY NORTH, which received the Excellence Award, as well as the Jury Selections WHITE SNAKE, Ride Your Wave, Her Blue Sky, and DORORO feature young heroines who, despite their concerns and problems, think for themselves, pursue their own goals, and take control of their lives. There were many interesting entries among the animated short films as well. GON, THE LITTLE FOX, which won an Excellence Award, is a well-known story featured in moral education textbooks, but through its sophisticated puppet animation technique, the theme of sin and atonement resonates emotionally with the audience. Overall, my job as a jury member was quite challenging, but I spent many enjoyable and entertaining hours watching all these films. I hope you will watch them as well, to experience their stirring realm.

Professor, Institute of Urban Innovation Yokohama National University
SUGAWA completed her Ph.D. in the Department of Film and Television Studies at the Graduate School of the University of Warwick in the UK. Her focus of study was animation, 2.5D theater and other elements of popular culture theory, as well as audience and fan research. She is the vice chair of the Japan Society for Animation Studies. Her research focuses on audiences and representations of young girls in television animation in terms of gender. Recently, she has been engaged in researching female fans in 2.5D culture. Author of Shojo to maho: Ga-ru hi-ro ha ikani juyo sareta no ka (Girls and Magic: How have girl heroes been accepted?) (NTT Publishing, 2013), she received the 2014 Japan Society for Animation Studies Award. Co-author of works such as Japanese Animation: East Asian Perspectives (University Press of Mississippi, 2013), Teaching Japanese Popular Culture (AAS, 2016), Shōjo Across Media (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019), and Women's Manga in Asia and Beyond (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019). Co-editor of works such as Anime kenkyu nyumon: Oyohen (Introduction to Animation Studies: Practical Version) (Gendai Shokan, 2018) and Anime-shon bunka 55 no ki-wa-do (55 Keywords of Animation Culture) (Minerva Shobo, 2019).