18th Animation Division Critiques

The Power of Young Creators of Animated Shorts

The judging started with viewing all 371 animated short films. Last year there were over 500, so I had anticipated things to be smoother this year, but actually we had trouble. There was an increase in the must-see works and the works we wanted to introduce. In general, this year student works were an elite minority. What stood out the most were the energetic works of younger artists in their late twenties and early thirties, who had studied animation during their student days and then continued to make works after graduating. While a student you have your school to fall back on; the problems come when you leave. With animated shorts, they are difficult to commercialize, meaning you have no option but to pull it off by your own ability either by paying for everything yourself or through government subsidy. This strength to thrive in such a world with gusto, in spite of the challenges, and to produce new works continues to overwhelm. There were many works I wanted to introduce to audiences, but we were limited to how many Jury Selections we could have, making the judging truly an irksome process. That five (including the Grand Prize-winner) of the eight award-winning works were animated short films by young artists shows the accolades now being heaped on this youthful power.
One trend in the content that was particularly striking was the many works themed around the individual and its existence. This is always a frequent topic for self-produced animated shorts, though conversely its poignancy may be intensifying the more communication becomes global and instantaneous. However, this year there seemed to be many imaginary works that broke down the axes of time and dismantled narrative. The artistic expression was excellent but often the works forfeited objectivity by getting lost within themselves, instead falling into a self-imposed framework to become conventional by-the-numbers private films. In this way, the award-winners The Wound, My Milk Cup Cow, and Man on the chair were masterpieces in that they treated the individual and its psychology objectively, but also achieved universality by their exceptional artistic expression. And to this, I also want to highlight the ambition of veterans like ITO Yuichi (Blue Eyes - in HARBOR TALE -) and TEZKA Macoto (Legends of the Forest Part 2), and add that storytelling still burns brightly. At any rate, this was the 18th Japan Media Arts Festival, where one can get an overview of everything.

WADA Toshikatsu
Animation Artist
Born in 1966 in Fukuoka Prefecture, WADA graduated from the School of Law, Waseda University. A fan of the animated short films of OKAMOTO Tadanari, he went to work for the visual planning and production department of DentsuProx. In 1996 he began developing original techniques to produce animated films. His short animation Bippu to Bappu (The Adventures of Bip & Bap) has won prizes at animated film festivals in Japan and overseas. He also wrote and directed the making-of documentary that forms the second part of KAWAMOTO Kihachiro's Fuyu no Hi (Winter Days). In 2007 his animation of ARAI Ryoji's Sukima no Kuni no Poruta (A Country Between the Worlds) won an Excellence Prize at the Japan Media Ar ts Festival. He is currently active in the animation unit G9+1, a group of veteran animators. Having retired from DentsuTec in 2011, he is currently an adjunct professor at Tokyo Zokei University, managing director of the Japan Animation Association, and secretary-general of the Japan Society for Animation Studies.