25th Animation Division Critiques

How to Evaluate a Workʼs Theme

I participated in the 25th Japan Media Arts Festival as
a jury member for the first time. For me, this was a very
enlightening experience. Everything was truly instructive, from watching foreign short films that I usually see
rarely, the need to make an effort to verbalize my value
judgments, to the experience of understanding other
members’ evaluation criteria.
I believe the judging process itself went well, although I have nothing to compare with since it was my
first time. It seemed to me that it was not only because
the jury members had clear evaluation criteria, but
because we shared an idea about what kind of works
should win awards (i.e., whether a work demonstrates
an approach and message of the Animation Division).
Precisely because we had a shared idea of our goal,
we smoothly reached the result in which “everything fit
into the right place,” even though the result rested on a
very delicate balance. This was also a great experience
for me.

In the course of the judging process, I found it hard
to evaluate the theme of a work. Entertainment works
often have simple themes. In the case of the entries,
this tendency was more pronounced in majorly distributed works from Japan. This in itself is not a bad thing.
Still, when compared to short films with intense themes
that can be portrayed only in a short timeframe, these
works certainly give the impression that they are not
innovative. Since “an ability of a work to contribute to
expanding the range of expression is an important factor” for these awards, a simple theme alone is inevitably
hard to evaluate—even though the theme itself is not a
flaw of the work. In the judging process, how important
should the theme of a work be? This was a question I
kept asking myself during the judging process.

Anime Critic
Born in 1968. FUJITSU became a freelance writer after working as a newspaper reporter and weekly magazine editor. He writes for web media and anime magazines. His books include Purofuesshonaru 13nin ga kataru watashi no seiyudo (13 Professionals Discuss Their Voice-Acting Careers, Kawade Shobo Shinsha, 2019), Bokura ga anime wo miru riyu (Why We Watch Anime, Film Art Inc., 2019), and Anime to senso (Anime and War, Nippon Hyoron Sha, 2021). He is also an adjunct instructor at Tokyo Polytechnic University.