20th Animation Division Critiques
The Diversity of Japanese Animation
Being a member of the jury for the Animation Division in the 20th Japan Media Arts Festival was quite taxing but also a genuine delight. I'd like to remark here on a few observations I made. First is that the works by Japanese artists show a strong interest in the past. Although this inclination is not entirely new, it seems to have grown more pronounced. In your name., for example, there is an attempt to return to the past to (or an actual participant tries beforehand) to prevent the damage that occurs in a major disaster. In ERASED, a character tries to go back in time to prevent his mother from being killed. In A Silent Voice, past experiences as both bully and victim have a major impact on the present.While on the one hand I observed this fixation with the past, I also noticed a distinctive characteristic in portrayals of the present--specifically, a sliding into fantasy. In Pigtails, a girl who lives alone watches objects in her home begin to talk as if they are living creatures. In Chieri and Cherry, protagonist Chieri wanders into another world. Or in some instances the entire world being depicted is an alien one, as with KABANERI OF THE IRON FORTRESS and Owarimonogatari.Some works do portray ordinary reality. For example, Sound! Euphonium: The Movie - Welcome to the Kitauji High School Concert Band shows the process by which members of the band work to improve their performance. As I look back over the animation selections in this way, I am struck by the diversity of the Japanese entries, but I also see that they hold something in common. They display a shared belief in the importance of the human heart, and that heart-to-heart contacts between people are to be cherished above all else. Among the works from overseas, for example, THE EMPTY shows dust piling up in an empty room to suggest the end of a relationship, and Boy and the World treats a boy's encounters in an unfamiliar world as the essence of life. When you compare the Japanese entries with works like these, it becomes clear just how much store they place in close, heart-to-heart communication among people.