20th Animation Division Critiques
Going Viral on Social Media
When we began screening this year's submissions in September 2016, I cavalierly thought to myself, "This year will be easy"--because I already knew that the entries included your name. At that point I hadn't even seen the film yet, but I soon had a chance to confirm with my own eyes what a recordbreaking hit looks like when I went to see it at a multiplex in Osaka on a weekday morning.In the series of meetings our panel held to select winners, your name. started out as the top candidate for the Grand Prize and remained in that position throughout. Not that there was no debate at all. The two main issues of contention were perhaps (1) it lacks originality as a story, and (2) it's not the sort of groundbreaker that's likely to create its own new subgenre.With regard to (1), couldn't it be said that your name. merely followed in the footsteps of The Girl Who Leapt Through Time? The latter got its start in 1967 as a YA novel by TSUTSUI Yasutaka, then became a live-action film starring HARADA Tomoyo in 1983, and finally was made into an animated film under the direction of HOSODA Mamoru, which won the Grand Prize in the Animation Division of the 10th Japan Media Arts Festival in 2007. Imitators and works with a similar premise abound. The plots basically boil down to boy meets girl across space and time due to some triggering event, but about the time their friendship deepens or they begin to have feelings for each other they must part, and the story comes to an end with the characters yearning to be reunited.With regard to (2), your name. certainly displays a very high level of technical skill and expressive power, but it's hard to think of it as potentially giving rise to a whole new current in Japanese animation the way the Kyoto Animation studio once did.These points were raised and debated during our meetings, but in the end the panel unanimously agreed that the work's near perfection deserved the 20th JMAF Animation Division Grand Prize.To add one final thought about the selection of your name., I think it was of considerable significance that director SHINKAI Makoto, who was once spoken of as the standard-bearer for sekaikei ★1 works, added a sense of heft to the production by bringing in TANAKA Masayoshi as character designer and ANDO Masashi as animation director.Among the many other strong works this year, the animated feature Boy and the World struck a chord in one way or another with jurors' experiences in life and brought a lump to everyone's throat. YAMADA Naoko, who directed the feature-length A Silent Voice, was a New Face Award winner two years ago, and the sure hand seen in her progress since then suggests great promise for the future. Similarly, Anna BUDANOVA, who directed the animated short Among the black waves, won the Grand Prize two years ago, and the high artistry of her work stood above the crowd. All of the jurors were blown away by the marvelous technique of the short A Love Story.For the New Face Awards, the youthful sensibilities displayed in both the subject matter and the miniature effects of the animated short Rebellious made me eager to see what the creator will do next. I recognize something extraordinary in the past work of the animators of the short MOOM, and see great possibilities for them in their new departure as independent creators. The animation in the short I Have Dreamed Of You So Much is sharp and beautiful, and shows an outstanding sense of color. The composition of the frames may be quite simple, but the animator applies a subtle touch to every corner and creates a universe all her own.The Special Achievement Award each year goes to someone who has contributed broadly to the field of media arts, and this year we selected IIZUKA Masao. Please see my separate "Reason for Award" statement (p.207).Finally, I'd like to note that, quite apart from my own personal assessments of the works, I sensed very strongly this time that social networks have become an important factor in creating hits. I think the speed and potency with which information and raves about your name. spread around the country catapulted the word-of-mouth effect into a whole new dimension.
Annotations★1─Sekaikei refers to a type of story in animation, manga, or popular fiction where events in the central character's ordinary life are directly linked to an apocalyptic crisis that shakes the world.