16th Animation Division Grand Prize


Animated short film

OTOMO Katsuhiro [Japan]


Set in mid-18th-century Edo (the old name for Tokyo), COMBUSTIBLE centers on Owaka, a merchant’s daughter, and her childhood friend Matsukichi. Though the two are attracted to each other, Matsukichi’s family has disowned him because he wants to work as a fireman. But just as their relationship is starting to bloom, Owaka’s family begins to move forward with plans to find her a husband. Unable to forget Matsukichi, in a fit of crazed passion Owaka causes a huge fire to break out, burning down the town. The two lovers happen to cross paths again in the midst of this blaze. The backdrop for this spectacle is one of the great fires that frequently occur red in the metropol is of Edo. Using traditional Nihonga (Japanese-style) paintings as a motif for the animated images, the work meticulously recreates the manners, implements, and lifestyle of Tokyoites some 300 years ago. In addition, by combining hand-drawn animation with 3D computer graphics, the creators have sought to develop an innovative form of expression through moving images.

Reason for Award

A picture scroll unravels to the accompaniment of a firefighter’s work song from the Edo era. And along with the title, the following words appear on the screen: “A moving color-print play.” Sounds exciting! The panoramic scenes of the Okawabata, a basin of the Sumida River, are reminiscent of UTAGAWA Hiroshige and KEISAI Eisen’s landscape prints, and drift by in the same direction as the unfurled picture scroll, moving from Ryogoku Bridge to Kanda Nishiki-cho. Gradually, the focus narrows to a boy and girl playing in the garden of a large store. It is a scene with the beauty of one of HISHIKAWA Moronobu’s ukiyo-e prints. The quiet, exceptionally beautiful pictures fill us with anticipation as we await the tale of passionate desire that is about to unfold. Then the view suddenly switches back to the rear, and we realize that we are looking through the camera’s eye. The fictional story, inspired by incidents such as the Great Fire of Meireiki (also known as the Furisode or Long-Sleeved Kimono Fire) and the Great Fire of Greengrocer Oshichi, is depicted in an ornate and dramatic manner. There has never been a work that was better suited to the 16:9 aspect ratio. It creates a special sense of excitement, allowing us to vicariously experience the spectacular pictures in these old dioramas as if we were watching a kabuki play from the front row on the second floor of a theater. COMBUSTIBLE is a uniquely Japanese animated work.