19th Animation Division Critiques

Unique Evaluation Criteria for Animation

This year, French works received five awards and did well as a result. Many of these works had solid narratives, a sophisticated sense of graphic as well as color, and we saw signs of maturity from French authors in recent years. It may have been influenced by their education or funding.
As an overall evaluation, firstly, short films have increased in numbers, but I felt that the number of remarkable works has not increased proportionally. I am teaching at Tokyo University of the Arts, so I recused myself from reviewing any works by students of that university. I left them at the hands of other jurors. Works by art college students, such as Tokyo University of the Arts, Royal College of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, and Tama Art University, which have been active in the world of short films, did not do so well. Also, works by Asian authors from Japan and Korea did poorly in spite of their entry numbers, and as a whole tendency, there are many works expressing an introspective world or self-referential works that targeted only limited viewers online. Among these works, I found some impressive ones with well-crafted completeness, but they were not chosen.
There were few feature films or animated series which were provocative. Among them, all works that remained until the final selection process were Japanese, but they were created in their limited rules of their isolated worlds, and there were many problems such as thoughtless emotional expressions and unclear focus. They represent more conservative works, which tended to succeed commercially by following past methods and skills.
Against them, Award-winning Works have unique strengths, and particularly, I was convinced that Rhizome would win the Grand Prize soon after I watched it.
There are some short film entries which have been popular at film festivals all over the world this year. However, not all of them were chosen this time. The problem of the current animated short films world is that there is a tendency to value skills and superficially and can lead directly to recognitions at these festivals. It seems that these works are created according to the tendency of the festival or its audience and it is different from the artist's own search for profound creation.
Hidden behind such works, more serious works focusing on various issues did not rise to the surface. The weakness is exposed of review or theory in the animation industry, which is supposed to imform evaluation criteria. I think the field of animation cannot be independent from other fields such as movie, art, or manga, because it does not have a defined standard of values on its own. Through this screening process, I greatly admire unique works that propose new possibilities of animation or challenge new narratives, over skills, perfection level or continuation of tradition.
What impressed us during the jury process is that the Polish author of SIGNUM, Witold GIERSZ, was 88 years old. According to his filmography, he has been producing works since 1956. Also an experienced Swiss author, Georges SCHWIZGEBEL's new work Erlking had fascinating, powerful qualities of animation. Retirement does not exist for such authors.
Lastly, I would like to mention other works that did not get recognized, but I was personally interested in putting them the among the Jury Selections. Ivan MAXIMOV's Benches No. 0458 is high in quality, and it is a variation of his past works that carries on his good sense of humor, and his loving attention to small creatures. Alessandro NOVELLI (The Guardian) is a young author, but precise, well balanced, and achieving a high level of perfection in graphic, motion, sound, narration, and creating animated KAFKA's Before the Law from a fresh viewpoint. A midcareer artist Theodore USHEV's Sonambulo, which he had already transformed into an animation once before, is an enjoyable work in which he exerted his delicate visual sense. Edmunds JANSONS's Isle of Seals has unique dynamism and abstractive forms, and the film "showing nothing" that lacks any particular goal is witty and impressive. All of them are humorous and witty. It is quite unfortunate for these works to not be evaluated highly, not only at the Japan Media Arts Festival but also in other occasions.

Animation Artist and Professor, Tokyo University of the Arts
Born in 1964. Graduated from Tokyo Zokei University. Animation creator and picture-book author. Professor, Tokyo University of the Arts.