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17th Entertainment Division Excellence Award

The Burning Buddha Man

Cutout animation

Ujicha [Japan]


The Burning Buddha Man is made using “gekimation”, an animation technique that is primitive but nonetheless makes for free expression due to its simplicity.

Kyoto has been hit by a series of mysterious Buddha statue thefts. A Buddha is stolen from a temple that is home to high school student Beniko, and her parents are murdered. With nowhere to go, she is placed in the custody of her parents’ old friend, the monk Enju. At his temple, she encounters a hideous “Buddha man” which is half statue, half her parents. The beginning and end of the film feature live-action inserts, IGUCHI Yuca playing the heroine inviting viewers into this strange “gekimation” world. The theme of the film is “fusion” and, through its fantastical narrative where Buddha statues are fused with people, it portrays Beniko’s development and muted love. Though full of the grotesque, the theme song by SAKURA INAGAKI Saki cheerfully evokes Beniko’s emotions.

Reason for Award

The Burning Buddha Man is made using the onerous method of “gekimation”, a type of animation technique that is the ultimate form of “limited animation”. “gekimation” is a fusion of strip cartoon and animation that was first attempted in the 1976 animated TV series, Yokai Den: Nekome Kozo. The fashion for ultra-low budgets through cutouts and special effects has become a trauma for the Japanese animation industry, which has had to abandon the foundation of animation, the sequence of consecutive still images. This film and its depiction of a human and Buddha “fused life form” almost seems as if it will overcome this trauma, with its psyche seared by grime and malice, as if mocking the sterile supremacy of technology. The film confronts us with the truth that, even in this century, paints and paper are one of the most effective of technologies, a fleeting but precious, pure media. (UKAWA Naohiro)