15th Animation Division Critiques

To create works of animation that draw in the world

How did the jury approach the selection process in the animation division?
Before we even began screening works, in the animation division we agreed that each jury member would work from his own individual selection criteria. In my case, I decided to base my evaluation strictly on how interesting a work was, taking an agnostic stance in weighing story and plot against expression and style, and making no distinction between what tools were used or whether the work was long- or short-format.

Could you comment on the reasons for selecting each award-winning works?
The Grand Prize winner, PUELLA MAGI MADOKA MAGICA, leave a deep impression. At first I thought it was just another adorable anime but it quickly revealed itself as an extremely powerful story. As a television series, its well-formed plot and ability to keep viewers looking forward to the next episode were really impressive. This is why the show became such a web sensation, inspiring so many people to rush online to share their thoughts after every broadcast. It was clear that the number of core fans was growing by leaps and bounds with each episode. The arrival of Madoka Magica has surely breathed new life into animation in the late-night time slot. The drama also unfolded during a special period in Japan's recent history: spring to summer 2011.
Koji Yamamura's Muybridge's Strings was the standout among this year's animated art films, a work by a solitary artist that attained the highest level. To tell the truth I didn't get it on the first viewing but listening to the artist speak at a symposium finally gave me the sense that I'd grasped the core message. The work will reward multiple viewings at the exhibition, giving opportunity to ponder the unhappy arc of Muybridge's life and the nature of time.
It is impossible to compare two works as different as PUELLA MAGI MADOKA MAGICA and Muybridge's Strings.

Did this year's submissions exhibit any overall tendencies or trends?
There seemed to be more graduation projects by art and animation school students than in past years. Many of these came from overseas and there was a pronounced difference in the approach taken by Japanese students and those from other countries. Overseas artists were clearly looking at the global market when producing their graduation projects, while students in Japan were perhaps too free in their approach, indifferent to either markets or artistry. At the same time, the work of Japanese students covered a broader range. A similar disparity was also evident in terms of style.
Full 3D computer graphics are now the mainstream overseas but in Japan they tend to be used only sparingly and only in some works, as a kind of special effect. Even when digitally produced, works from Japan tend to take pains to retain a hand-drawn look.

What changes do you think the future will bring to animation?
Hand-drawn animation will probably continue to decline, and not only in art films. This brings a measure of sadness, of course, but I think the foundation of hand-drawn technique will remain even as tools change. Young creators, wherever they're from, need to do more to collect rich life experiences. Animators are crazy by nature (laughs) and can go adventuring anywhere in the world--even without speaking the language--as long as they have a pencil in hand. It's fine to approach animation in a uniquely Japanese way, but there's absolutely no need to get fenced in. I really hope young people will get mixed up in all sorts of things, travel the world, and create new kinds of animation.

What role do you think the Japan Media Arts Festival will play going forward?
I think there is some fuzziness about where the lines are drawn: are we offering international awards or something more Japanese? There is plenty of room for new activity. Both submissions and judging could be handled online, for example, so that the festival takes place on a global scale in keeping with the times. Speaking only for the animation division, although Muybridge's Strings could win an Academy Award there is no forum overseas for rewarding works like PUELLA MAGI MADOKA MAGICA. Film festivals were the last century's means of serving the cinematic. I think it would be interesting if the Japan Media Arts Festival led the way in serving a different kind of creativity.

Do you have anything to say to future entrants?
I think independent creators don't have enough of production funds, live in an environment in which they are able to create freely and face almost no obstacles in finding outlets for their own work. I hope they keep on producing work, even they are while working to make it possible. The Japan Media Arts Festival is just one of many competitions and awards around the world.

Animation Artist
Born in Mie Prefecture in 1941, FURUKAWA worked at TCJ and Kuri Jikken Manga Kobo, then became a freelance panel-manga writer, illustrator and animation creator. He has received numerous prizes, including the Special Jury Award at the Annecy International Animation Film Festival , the 25th Bungeishunju Comics Award, the Excellence Prize of the Japan Media Arts Festival, and the Medal with Purple Ribbon. He is currently a visiting professor at Tokyo Polytechnic University. Recent literary works include his manga anthology Buru Buru (Bungenko) and a picture book in the Kagayake Shi series, Kangaerunotte Omoshiroi (It's Fun to Think; Akane Shobo, 2008, edited by KOIKE Masayo).