Award-winning Works
Animation Division

Grand Prize

Excellence Award

New Face Award

Jury Selections


    Animation Artist and Professor, Tokyo University of the Arts
    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 Director
    Life Itself is the Asset for a Creator
    Rhizome is a work in which small pieces of the ecological system on earth are beautifully described. Most creators' ideas are influenced by culture, philosophy, creatures or their relations, and this work incorporates all of them in the short film. It was highly evaluated that the creatures and objects were drawn using a very sublime analog technique. Programmed algorithm was introduced into scenes where hierarchies of characters and an ecological system formed a balanced harmony between analog and digital. I recommend to watch it on 8K.
    The Case of Hana & Alice was interesting because the "pause or atmosphere when people talk" is included in animation by incorporating on-the-spot filming. In addition to the original layout and character descriptions from particular viewpoints, what animators typically not describe (nor had not wished to describe) is done in this work by on-the-spot filming. Other animators should watch this work for future reference.
    Yùl and the Snake, akin to The Case of Hana & Alice, is an animated film incorporating on-the-spot filming, and characters in this work are more "deformed" than in The Case of Hana & Alice. I feel that such fascinating portrayal would not have been realized without the author's outstanding technique and originality as a painter. Moreover, this work is so vivid, it provokes one's physiological reactions and the author's directing ability surpasses others. Typhoon Noruda, which won a New Face Award, would be better if the scenario producer was more actively involved. Any work can be easily askewed if the dynamics are not directed along the essential axis. This work would be much better if the dynamics of movements was made clearer.
    As an overall evaluation, dynamism and realism can bring life into the works, although innnovative expression is also good to have in the field of animation. Vivid vitality, as well as harsh sensation and tingling pain that make you want to avert your attention, exist there simultaneously. Such personal experiences and life itself is the greatest asset for a creator yearning for originality, which one can only feel through "one's own skin", and not by just nonchalantly seeing or hearing.
  • TAKAHASHI Ryosuke
    Animation Director
    The Japan Media Arts Festival is Really a Match of Mixed Martial Arts!
    This time, it was really difficult to "judge" and "choose" again. After all, we have to endure the ordeal of choosing "Award-winning Works" from over 800 candidates. Asking myself repeatedly whether all works can be judged on the equal footing, I reached a conclusion after writhing in agony that this is like a one-time-only serious match of mixed martial arts. Thus, an evaluation can be different from another point of view. That is why I beg you not to be too critical on the results.
    My general impression is that, while many works from abroad address social issues and universality, domestic works focus more on very personal issues in all divisions including animated short film, animated feature film, and animated series. In my last jury comment in 2014, I mentioned that Japanese animation has developed so uniquely since the animated series Astro Boy started in 1963 that the word "Japanimation" was invented. While we have recognized fundamentally different diversity, current Japanese animation seems to have lost that quality. It is said that Japan is fortunately blessed with the environment where animation is established as an industry. However, it seems that there are some unbalanced works created from such environment. This is what I, daresay, would coin as "fishing pond business". In a fishing pond, fish are released and easy to catch, but they are no tuna, bonito or sharks. Instead, I suggest going to the river, lake or ocean searching for big fish instead of the local fishing pond where you can always catch only small fish.
    Lastly, the Grand Prize winning Rhizome gave a knockdown punch nobody has seen before in this fighting match of mixed martial arts, and it was great for us to be knocked out at once.
  • KOIDE Masashi
    Animation Researcher and Professor, Tokyo Zokei University
    The Japan Media Arts Festival – Approaching it’s 20th Anniversary
    This year, we have received a record high of 823 entries in the Animation Division, and in particular, short films showed a marked rise reaching 756. Also, entries from 62 countries and regions marked the largest number among the four divisions. This shows the worldwide popularity of animated short films. Animation is one of the four divisions in the Japan Media Arts Festival, but the words in the title, namely "Japan", "Media Arts", and "Festival", made it difficult to cowey the inclusive nature to foreign animators. Due to these reasons, it was difficult to bring attention to parties overseas in animation industries and have them apply until recently, compared with other international animation film festivals. However, for these three years, works from overseas have received the Grand Prize of the Animation Division, and short films have won the Grand Prize over long films. The increasing presence and popularity of the Japan Media Arts Festival in the international animation scene can also be one of the factors.
    In contrast, 67 pieces of animated feature films and animated series entered. Not so many considering the number of domestic and international productions in this category. It can be said that the difference in quantity of both categories leads to the difference in the number of awards received, two for animated feature films (zero for animated series) versus six for short films out of eight awards, including three types of awards, Grand Prize, Excellence Awards, and New Face Awards, however, at the jury, a member who knows the field well also pointed out that new and provocative Japanese commercial animations are decreasing. Such tendency may be apparent in the breakdown of 23 Jury Selections, which is 19 short films, three animated feature films, and one animated series. The Japan Media Arts Festival is an open competition, and not all animations made in Japan are automatically considered for the competition. We, therefore, cannot categorically claim that selected works always reflect the state of Japanese animation totally. Despite the large number of production★1, including 232 new works in the genre of animated series and 73 new works in the genre of animated feature film in 2014, the current decrease of momentum in the Japanese animation industry is a matter of great concern. Judging from Award-winning Works or Jury Selections, one might point out we tend to focus on or value works from overseas. Needless to say, we committed to judge them without any prejudgement and bias. Considering the purpose of the Japan Media Arts Festival, which is to honor and introduce superior works of high artisty and creativity, we have our own criteria, different from general standards such as popularity or commercially great hits. In this sense, Rhizome can be really considered an appropriate selection for this festival. It neither depends on story nor characters, of course, neither an abstract animation nor a CG simulation. Starting from analog drawings, a certain "ecological" animation with revolutionary expressions, techniques, and formats is created by making use of the digital filming techniques. Although it may appear suitable for the Art Division, this work is superbly created as a straightforward film animation. The Case of Hana & Alice, which won an Excellence Award, is the first animation film by an experienced movie director. His harmonious, skillful use of cell-like 3DCG, rotoscope, and analog drawing animations are innovative. It is a work that provides a critical view of the formats or the concepts of genres in films. All chosen works were meaningful and significant, and we can say the purpose of recognizing and introducing superior works was achieved.
    However, it doesn't mean that there was't any problem. To judge all animation works in one category - such as long and short films, which have different playing times, works one episode long or TV series episode - is a characteristic feature of this festival, but at the same time it makes the decision difficult. There are many works which include animation expression or techniques in the Art Division as well as the Entertainment Division, and there are some "moving images" using digital media even in the Manga Division. Next year, we will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Festival. Now, I suppose, is the time to review and rebuild the divisions or categories, as well as the methods and system of judgement.
  • OHI Fumio
    Animation Artist
    Encounter with Characteristic Animated Expression
    Reviewing selected animation works in this judgement, I was amazed about the substantial difference between animated feature film and animated series works, and short animated films, regarding the concept of expression, and concerns for the target audience, among others. It was almost impossible to judge works from both categories on an equal footing this time. There were similar tendencies in the previous two years I joined, but it was interesting to see a wide range of animated expressions and there were more contents to focus on and make comparisons in both occasions. Animated feature film and animated series works that remained until the final selection process were mostly domestically produced entertainment and commercial works, and none from abroad were included. In contrast, animated short film finalists included artistic and personal works exploring the spiritual world. I might have felt this way because of this extreme contrast. In the future, if directions in both divisions are far apart like this, we may have to reconsider the screening method.
    The most difficult part was choosing the Grand Prize winner. Although nobody had opposed that Rhizome was an excellent work, there were some different opinions among jury members whether it was appropriate for the Grand Prize. This is related to the problem mentioned above, and the difficulty or senselessness of choosing was even more apparent. Rhizome, an extremely unique work, can be described as philosophical, due to its spatial expression like the Mobius loop. I think the work was highly praised for the brilliance of expression, which cannot be evaluated within the conventional genre of animation works. This time, many short films have applied, and I found many excellent ones. Yùl and the Snake, which won an Excellence Award, is well-balanced for the artist's first work. Chhaya, which did not get an award, is a young director's graduation production which successfully describes the sadness of aging like an old and mature artist. In contrast, SIGNUM is a wonderful work directed by an 88-year-old director showing no signs of old age.