© George Akiyama / ASURA Film Partners

16th Animation Division Excellence Award


Animated feature film

George AKIYAMA / SATO Keiichi [Japan]


In the mid-15th century, Kyoto was plagued by a ser ies of f loods, droughts, famines, and civil wars, reducing the city to a virtual wasteland. A boy named Asura was born into this world and fated to live like a wild animal. Abandoned by his parents as a baby, Asura learned how to survive in the wilderness. At times, he was forced to kill to stay alive. Af ter meeting a girl named Wakasa and an itinerant Buddhist priest, Asura f inds salvation and learns how to love. But in coming to understand humanity, Asura finds that there is nothing more beastly than a human being. This tale depicts Asura’s gradual transformation into a monk and later a high priest who guides people out of the depths of despair and toward a more peaceful existence. With its aim of “making watercolor paint ings move,” the work has evolved a new type of animation technique. All of the characters in the film were created with computer graphics, and all of the backgrounds were hand-drawn. This made it possible to move the camera freely and to imbue the work with a vivid realism. This new approach to animation was realized through a fusion of two-dimensional drawings and a computer-graphics interface.

Reason for Award

In terms of attempts to explore new expressive techniques in animation, I was left with the inescapable impression that there was a dearth of notable works in this year’s event. I can only conclude that the recent economic slump has also taken its toll on producers and directors. Under such circumstances, this work displayed an ambitious approach from the planning stage on, avoided animation-cel style design, and made use of innovative staging techniques, thereby not only adroitly reproducing the atmosphere of the original story but also conveying a strong presence as a film in its own right. It stands out from other theatrical animated works of recent years and therefore merits this honor.