MONDAY 11 - SUNDAY 17 MAY
For nearly as long as Japan’s rich anime scene has been around, there have been those that have rejected the big companies and traditional style. These independent animators were not bound by the same rules as their corporate counterparts, and so were free to experiment with form, content, and basically everything else. This history project of a programme ranges from ‘the Godfather of Manga’ Osamu Tezuka growing tired of mass-market animation and making cult hit Jumping in his spare time, to a spoof of murder mysteries, spy thrillers, and just about every other genre in Murder! by Makoto Wada. These come together to show that the Japanese animation scene is, and has been for a long time, a lot more than just anime.
In 1960 an anti-government political broadcast hired three young animators, who quickly realised they were onto something special. They formed the Animēshon Sannin no Kai (Animation Association of Three), and started an animation festival, showcasing the best in Japanese independent animation (which at the time wasn’t much more than the three of them).
The most prolific of these was Yoji Kuri, now a legendary figure in independent animation. His 1964 Love of Kemeko is a truly bizarre take on Lolita.
One of his first students was Makoto Wada, who created his genre-spoofing Murder! for an early iteration of the animation festival.
Tadanori Yokoo and Keiichi Tanaami were (and are) big figures in the pop-art world, but during the 60s and 70s they began breathing life into their pieces, creating animation as colourful as their artwork.
Another early student of Kuri’s was Taku Furukawa. Furukawa attended the first animation festival, and wanted to drop out of university to begin animating. Kuri convinced him to finish his studies, immediately after which he went straight back to animation.
A major figure in Japan’s animation is the ‘God of Manga’ Osamu Tezuka, the legendary creator of Astro Boy and much of early anime. Fed up with the regimented process of commercial animation, began experimenting in his spare time.
The main name in modern experimental animation is Koji Yamamura, and his excellent 2002 Mt. Head makes use of the Japanese tradition of Jōruri, or sing-narration.
Akaya Yakata’s 2008 Cornelis exemplifies the fact that into the 21st century, Japanese animators continue to play with form, content, and basically everything else.
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