Award-winning Works
Animation Division

Grand Prize

Excellence Award

Social Impact Award

New Face Award

Jury Selections


  • UDA Kounosuke
    Animation Director
    Making Bold Advances into an Uncertain World Ahead
    Despite the overall decline in the number of works submitted to the Japan Media Arts Festival this year, the Animation Division alone saw an increase in submissions, many of them truly outstanding films. Even among the works that were not selected for the Grand Prize and the Excellence Awards, there were films that would likely have won an award if submitted in a different year. They placed a heavy burden on the jury members and, in fact, instilled a fair share of anguish during the jury sessions. Any disparity in our evaluation of the works was miniscule and seemed to simply come down to differences in the preferences of the jury members. As for this year's trends, what stood out for me were the stories on the theme of forward movement, one's struggle to change, individually, the environment's status quo. There were also many works that conveyed a powerful message of accepting change, and striving to move forward to an imminent world, to an uncertain future. I have served as a jury member for three years now, and each year I come across this interesting phenomenon of a common trend in many of the works, regardless of whether they come from Japan or other countries. Among them, Children of the Sea was distinguished with the Grand Prize. The image work of this film, which faithfully brings to the screen the appeal of the original manga book drawings, can only be described as brilliant. A ten-minute section of the second half, in particular, was truly overwhelming. In the first half, there were somewhat redundant and lengthy scenes, but the film overall is so powerful that no one seems to remember them after watching it to the end. LONG WAY NORTH, which won an Excellence Award, immersed us in the vast, harsh nature of the North Pole. Despite the simple character design, I was fascinated as much as the sailors in the story were by the strong willpower exerted by the central character, Sasha. The Social Impact Award was newly established this year and its first recipient was Weathering With You. The purpose of this award is to distinguish a work that has made a deep and lasting impact on society. The reason for the prize being awarded to Weathering With You is the effect that the aesthetic screen art, created by SHINKAI Makoto, has had on numerous films and creators. This year, the awarded works included a large number of animated short films. Three of the four recipients of the Excellence Award, as well as all three winners of the New Face Award, were short films. When the jury evaluates the works that all fall under the common category of "animation films," inevitably the winners of the Grand Prize and the Excellence Award tend to be dramatic, feature-length movies. In a follow-up to last year, however, when the Grand Prize went to La Chute, this year, too, we saw a large number of outstanding works worthy of the Grand Prize, giving me a great deal of satisfaction. GON, THE LITTLE FOX is a puppet animation based on the beloved children's story with the same title. The authors have come up with creative ways to help viewers empathize with Gon, for instance by depicting the little fox realistically when seen from a human viewpoint, but also as a lovable character from an animal perspective. The story is set in expansive surroundings, enabling the viewer to smoothly blend into the worldview of the film. With its original drawings and unique perspective, Nettle Head could be described as an animated version of the American coming-of-age film Stand by Me. The rite of passage from childhood to adulthood is skillfully depicted from the viewpoint of the main characters, and I felt drawn in by their expression of anxiety and fear. As for A Japanese Boy Who Draws, I was fascinated by the creators' concept of conveying the story through the very drawings of the young protagonist. The careful attention to detail in depicting the main character's friends as "friends' drawings," as well as the idea of using live action images in parts of the story, establish it as an impressive piece of work. These three animated short films are delightful, high-quality works that rival any featurelength movies in terms of dramatic plot and storytelling, but in fact, there were many more films of the same quality among the works that missed winning an award by only a slim margin. We also saw some expansion this year in terms of the countries and regions from which works were submitted, which led to a large number that were based on a diverse range of cultures and values, creating a sense of the prospects for animation that is completely different from the Japanese style. I believe this trend will grow even more, and so my work on this jury has filled me with great expectations.
  • SATO Tatsuo
    Animation Director and Scriptwriter
    The Spirit of Confrontation
    This was my first experience as a jury member, and I'd first like to share my impressions from reviewing the body of submitted works. What stood out was the large number of full-length films. In 2019, posters for various films, from blockbusters for nationwide release to films screened at independent art-houses, certainly incited a great deal of excitement in movie theatres. These works were different from special feature films based on TV series or standalone films, and some theatres screened them as sequels or otherwise changed their approach. The large number of such works caught my eye. In these cases, it is quite difficult to judge them based on the submitted video alone, and the evaluation inevitably becomes biased toward standalone films. Against this backdrop, the awarded works and the Jury Selections gave me the impression of an earnest spirit of "confrontation." Artists get their inspiration to create from a variety of different sources. Some come up with visual images of ideas they encounter in their daily life. Professional animation directors like us are sometimes approached with pitches to create a film based on an existing original work. Regardless of the origin of inspiration, once an artist embarks on the journey of creation, what they require is the spirit of "confrontation:" confrontation with themselves, with the original work, and with the means of expression. The winner of the Grand Prize, Children of the Sea, confronts head-on an image that transcends the original manga and which cannot be expressed in words to convey the delicate yet powerful approach of the creators. LONG WAY NORTH, which won an Excellence Award, fascinates with its thorough approach to depicting the vastness of nature. I believe that, in principle, the process of creation is a dialogue with oneself. It is through this process that SHINKAI Makoto continues to create works that confront young people today, for which I admire him greatly. A Social Impact Award was newly established this year, and there could be no better recipient of the prize than Weathering With You, a film that had enormous social impact, particularly on young people.
  • SUGAWA Akiko
    Professor, Institute of Urban Innovation Yokohama National University
    From Exclusion to Inclusion, and to the Power to Live
    Each work was dazzling in its own way, and so having to make choices was an extremely tough task for me. I would therefore like to review here my choices from the perspective of media and themes. In order for a work to be eligible to compete in the Animation Division, it must be either a film intended for release in theatres or on TV, or else a work broadcast via the Internet. Creators employ the characteristics of each type of media when creating their works, but when the work in question is a TV series broadcast over a long period of time, there are cases in which only a part of the program, the final episode for example, is submitted. Compared with films that feature complete stories in a single episode or works broadcast via the Internet, it is more difficult to evaluate TV programs. Regrettably, this time there were no TV works among the award recipients.From the perspective of theme, there were many works that function as a means to criticize modern society. Children of the Sea, which won the Grand Prize, and Weathering With You, which was awarded the Social Impact Award, touched my heart with some old, yet eternally renewed themes, such as the acute sensitivity of adolescents, their detachment from parents and other adults, and the sense of loneliness within a group. Jury Selections such as PROMARE, KABANERI OF THE IRON FORTRESS THE BATTLE OF UNATO, and DESPAIR OF THE MONSTER, include text that can be interpreted as an indication of minority exclusion as well as inclusion, or perhaps the impossibility of inclusion, making us reexamine our understanding of these issues particularly in the context of the contemporary widespread trend to exclude those who are different. Other works that stood out thematically were the films that depicted the lives of strong yet sensitive women who boldly faced their challenges. LONG WAY NORTH, which received the Excellence Award, as well as the Jury Selections WHITE SNAKE, Ride Your Wave, Her Blue Sky, and DORORO feature young heroines who, despite their concerns and problems, think for themselves, pursue their own goals, and take control of their lives. There were many interesting entries among the animated short films as well. GON, THE LITTLE FOX, which won an Excellence Award, is a well-known story featured in moral education textbooks, but through its sophisticated puppet animation technique, the theme of sin and atonement resonates emotionally with the audience. Overall, my job as a jury member was quite challenging, but I spent many enjoyable and entertaining hours watching all these films. I hope you will watch them as well, to experience their stirring realm.
  • YOKOSUKA Reiko
    Animation Artist
    The Appeal of Diversity in Animation Expression
    This was my first participation as a jury member and for a period of four months, I watched, one by one, animation films submitted from all over the world. Through this experience I reaffirmed my awareness of the diverse nature and limitless scope of animation expression. I encountered a broad range of expression in a variety of genres--drama, comedy, documentary, experimental, abstract--as well as rich imagination, which made watching the films a rewarding and enjoyable experience. There were numerous interesting and fascinating works as well that were not bound to a specific genre. As for the awarded works, I was overwhelmed by the awe-inspiring, rather than simply awesome, visual work of the recipient of the Grand Prize, Children of the Sea. GON, THE LITTLE FOX, which won an Excellence Award, is a powerful work created through the struggles of its main character. With its original idea of having the drawings change with the growth of the character, A Japanese Boy Who Draws made me forget my work as a jury member and simply watch and be moved and impressed by it. LONG WAY NORTH fascinated me with the symbiosis of its nostalgia and novelty, while Nettle Head and the worldview it expresses through the characters' secret rite of passage from childhood to adulthood made me appreciate the mysterious nature of the human race. Among the Jury Selections, I was deeply impressed by many of them: Purpleboy, for its profound theme and stunning purple images that appear to be visual expressions of music; LOCOMOTOR, for its vibrant imagery evoking ink bursting out from the screen; Mascot and its subdued depiction of the despair of young people; Bear With Me, which is not so much a documentary as an essay-like animation about love that has the power to delight its audience; Lola the living potato, which depicts the wobbly inner world of a young girl; and finally the expansive and powerful The Last Episode. Another impression I had from my work on the jury was that Japanese animators possess amazing techniques and sensitivity, and their works have a unique appeal that is different from that of animation films produced in any other country. I felt that, compared with the works of foreign animators that depict people and human society, the majority of Japanese animation films draw their inspiration from nature. Whether because of the impact of abnormal weather in recent years or because Japan is particularly prone to natural disasters, Japanese creators tend to project into their work a deeply-rooted reverence for nature. I am extremely pleased that this trend is reflected as a new breed of sensitivity in the creation of animation.
  • WADA Atsushi
    Animation Artist
    Reaffirming the Power of Animation
    It appears that 2019 was a bumper year for featurelength animation films. As a first-time jury member I did not know what the situation was in an average year, and so I should not say with certainty that it was truly a bumper year. There definitely were, however, numerous memorable works worthy of viewing. In addition to the high quality of animation technique, the depiction of rain, snow, fire, wind, and water were downright brilliant. Of all these great works, Children of the Sea received the highest marks from all five jury members. There were a few other films that similarly received high marks, but after collating the common evaluation standards with the individual standards of each jury member, cultivated through their experience and background, the film that stood out above the rest was Children of the Sea. The depiction of sea creatures reminded me of the longforgotten but overwhelming fear I experienced as a child when I came across a drawing of a whale in an encyclopedia or picture book, and learned of the existence of such enormous creatures. Once again, the awe-inspiring power of life made my hair stand on end. This film, which vividly brandishes the ability to evoke all those feelings and memories with only a single stroke and demonstrates the powerful appeal of animation, is undoubtedly worthy of the Grand Prize. Although I think that there were many decidedly good animated short films as well. In addition to the awarded works, these include films such as Dreams Into Drawing by YAMAMURA Koji, which features movements so fascinatingly agile and light as to transcend into a universal space. I would likewise include My Luxury Night by MIZUSHIRI Yoriko, which reaches greater depths than her previous works, thanks to the amazing harmony between its story and music; Winter in the Rainforest by Anu-Laura TUTTELBERG, an outstanding film that taught me about the roots of animation by intentionally highlighting the concept of foreignness; and also Now 2 by Kevin ESKEW, which features mysteries that leave the audience enthralled and are, in my opinion, the best mysteries of 2019. There were many other very good films, but the number of awards is limited and I find it truly regrettable that, in the process of evaluation, some works did not even make it into the Jury Selections.