Award-winning Works
Animation Division

Grand Prize

Excellence Award

New Face Award

Jury Selections


  • HIKAWA Ryusuke
    Animation Critic
    Anime that generates the power to surpass reality
    We are at a watershed moment for the culture of animation. Television has switched completely to digital terrestrial broadcasting and cinemas are also shifting to digital projection. With the decline of analog elements in our audio-visual environment has come the digital diffusion -- both legal and illegal-- of work around the world. On the other hand, this intensification of consumption has made it more and more difficult to leave a lasting impression. From a business standpoint, it is only natural that playing it safe would lead to an increase in anime adapted from manga or light novels with proven track records. Jury meetings were notable for a stance of rejecting works that were exact copies of their originals. From the standpoint of media arts, even adaptations must be held to the some standard of originality with regard to what the animation staff is trying to accomplish. This value judgment was reflected in a final selection that included jury recommended works.
    Selection of the Grand Prize winner, as was also the case last year, required long hours of passionate debate. Ultimately, the argument for rejecting the ordinary won out and we decided on PUELLA MAGI MADOKA MAGICA. The tragic disaster that shook Japan on March 11, 2011 delayed the broadcast of the series climax. Nevertheless, turning adversity to advantage with full-page newspaper ads promoting the catch-up broadcast, the series came to a miraculous conclusion much in synchronized with the content of the story. Those who saw it felt moved to say something, compelled to act. I was deeply moved by a Grand Prize winner that reminded me again of anime's potential to generate the power to change reality. My hope is that encountering it may even change the course of the Japan Media Arts Festival.
  • OSHII Mamoru
    Film Director
    Among perfect copies, strong stories stand out
    There was a conspicuous trend among television series: a strangely large proportion was adapted from original works and executed in a way that suggests they must have been trying to copy those works exactly. Furthermore, their subjects were images of daily life from beginning to end, no longer needing dramatic developments or structure; they shared a tendency toward thinner narratives. Translating or transplanting a manga work into animation -- that is, creating an exact copy-- actually requires a high level of artistic technique and directorial skill, and in this sense supports the fact that the relative technical level of staff working on such series has risen. This may be praiseworthy insofar as it meets the demands of today's animation fans but is clearly a step backwards as a creative activity. If this trend of specialization to meet specific demands continues-- and it seems sure to do so -- it will go beyond the level of something to be apprehensive about and approach a suicidal act by the industry as a whole. Among entrants, however, a certain number of creators and directors have turned this trend to their advantage, testing out high-level narrative and standout direction. It is their works, though perhaps lacking universal appeal, which I decided to rate highly.
  • SUGII Gisaburo
    An annual evolution of expressive techniques
    This was the first time in the 15 years of the Japan Media Arts Festival that I was able to serve as a member of the jury. Rarely being able to come into contact with such a broad range of the animation work being produced today, I found the opportunity most appealing. Most of all, I had hoped that I might be able to draw some creative energy from the work of so many active animators.
    In the last few years, and for a variety of reasons, production conditions in the animation-as-entertainment industry in which I work-- theatrical animation and television series-- has grown appreciably worse. So I was very surprised at the large number of entries. I was also impressed with the resourcefulness with which creators overcame the production conditions given and took on challenging content. Animated short film entries were received not only from Japanese creators but also from those in other countries such as France and South Korea.
    Animation methods and technique continue to evolve with each passing year, and I sense that computer graphics technology is now firmly established in the realm of animation as cinematic expression. Looking to the future of animation culture, one issue for the Agency of Cultural Affairs will be how to ensure that efforts like the Japan Media Arts Festival are more than mere events and lead to support for artists and the industry.
    Animation Artist
    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.
  • Anime that generates the power to surpass reality
    Becoming an art festival that nurtures talent and sends it out to the world
    This year's was a challenging screening process for two reasons. The first was the inconsistency of the viewing conditions employed -- the need to review an enormous number of works using a variety of media formats. This is a situation born of our transitional age and its mix of web-based submissions, expected to further increase in the years to come, with DVD and Blu-ray media. The second is the contradiction, one growing ever more conspicuous, inherent in trying to judge on the same stage works that are heir to a tradition of animation as commercial product together with independent works that value the "different," including those evolved in an art tradition centered on the individual creator. The struggle for the Grand Prize between PUELLA MAGI MADOKA MAGICA and Muybridge's Strings, I think, is a symbol of this.
    The animated short film category for which I was responsible was notable perhaps for the overall decline in the number of entries and the concentration among them of submissions from distinguished French and German schools. Also remarkable was the dearth of entries from surging Asian countries. Although 3D computer graphics are often used in the pursuit of artistic expression overseas, where group work is the norm, in short-form works from Japan I sense a tendency for the creativity of young talent to remain inhibited by faith in work that is "hand-made" by individuals and an attitude of negativity toward technical skill. I'm sure there are steps that the national government could take in moving toward a solution. At the same time, there should also be further debate about what should guide the Japan Media Arts Festival in conveying to the world a style of its own.
    I hope that initiatives like the New Face Award that was inaugurated this year, as well as the talent development projects conducted for previous young award-winners, will further spread the word about the growing importance of the Japan Media Arts Festival, raising interest among domestic creators and leading to more enthusiastic submission activity in the coming years.