After almost a year of hard work and planning, the Kotatsu Japanese Animation Festival 2010 launched on Friday 26th November, with a series of short animated films screened at the Atrium, part of the University of Glamorgan in Cardiff. Although the extreme weather conditions caused a greatly reduced turnout – even our own festival organiser was snow-bound 10 miles away – about 40 cold but dedicated people still managed to turn up to revel in the animated offerings of some of Japan’s finest up and coming artists.
Thankfully the weather eased off a little for Saturday, as more people turned out for the two screenings of Ponyo, which was also shown on Friday afternoon. An old story retold by none other than the master himself Hayao Miyazaki, co-head of Studio Ghibli, Ponyo follows the story of Sosuke, a 5yr old boy who lives with his mother by the sea, and his relationship with Ponyo, a goldfish princess who is desperate to become human, only to find out that to do so would jeopardise the delicate balance of all life on Earth. It is interesting, as an aside, to note that since the success of Studio Ghibli’s oscar-winning Spirited Away, Disney are taking a much larger interest in all things Ghibli, and Ponyo is no exception being distributed by Walt Disney Pictures.
Next up was the Masterclass with Barry Purves, an animator, director and writer held in high regard, with a long list of successful credits such as Mars Attacks!, Chortle and the Wheelies, Captain Kremmen, Dangermouse, King Kong and many others. Interviewed by Tim Allen, whose work includes Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride, Creature Comforts and Fantastic Mr Fox, Barry recounted stories and insights from his life in animation. Barry’s films have achieved more than sixty awards around the world, with his theatrical style and often controversial themes. Barry Purves’ website can be found at www.barrypurves.com.
One of the many highlights of the 2 hour masterclass, was a short film by talented french student Damien Ferrié entitled “Overtime”, which was produced as a tribute to the late, great Jim Henson. Animation was done completely in CGI, whilst faithfully and convincingly recreating all the subtleties and nuances of hand made puppets.
Sunday kicked off with a card making workshop, Japanese themed of course, under the expert guidance of Vanessa Feuillade from Inspired Bliss. The short film screenings that followed were each hand picked by the guest speakers Midoriko Hayashi and Tetsuji Kurashige and showing three distinct styles of animation; anime, hand-crafted and artistic. Midoriko Hayashi organises animation screenings in Japan, through her organisation Animation Tapes, while Tetsuji Kurashige is a lecturer in animation at Hokkaido University of Education.
So what was next, ah yes, the raffle. There were so many prizes this year that it took nearly an hour to call out all the names. Suffice to say that there were some really good prizes on offer, especially the Ghibli art book, and the top prize of a Wacom graphics tablet (you know who you are you lucky people).
Last, but certainly not least, was the Welsh premiere of Summer Wars, finishing off the festival in style. From Mamoru Hosoda, who previously directed the multi-award winning “The Girl Who Leapt Through Time” (時をかける少女, Toki o Kakeru Shoujo), comes this mixture of traditional Japanese animation with a thoroughly modern twist. The story surrounds Kenji Koiso, a high school student who, on request, pretends to be the boyfriend of class mate Natsuki Shinohara at her large family house for a summer holiday. Whilst there he receives, and solves, a mysterious mathematical puzzle sent to his mobile, resulting in his online account at OZ, the world-wide social and financial Second-LifeTM type network/virtual world, being hacked by The Love Machine, an artificial intelligence out to destroy the system. The film is a mixture of traditional anime style and CGI, with the CGI being used to portray the vast online virtual world of OZ, which looks like it could possibly be inspired by the artwork of Takashi Murakami.
The real atmosphere of the festival came from the events in the Chapter foyer, as it played host to guest stall holders selling a fantastic and wide ranging selection of Japanese art, books, food, snacks, drinks, merchandise and more.
Over the weekend, visitors were able to wander through the marketplace and savour the treats on offer from vendors such as London-based TK Trading, the UK’s No.1 importer of Japanese and Oriental Foods, the delightful sumi-e artwork from the studio of Takumasa Ono, the pop-culture merchandise from Cardiff-based Otakuzoku, and the delicious food from Yakiniku, a Japanese and Korean restaurant based in St Mellons.
Oh and not forgetting the various exhibits, such as the animated Flipbooks, there was even one drawn in 3d! with anaglyph red/cyan glasses, and the beautiful stop motion animation puppets on display. There was so much to see, and it was nice to have the Chapter buzzing with excitement; surely a fun filled and interesting day out for all ages.
So, it’s all over for this year. We’ll be posting blogs throughout the year to keep up to date with developments in Japanese animation, and maybe a bit of pop culture too. Stay tuned for news of next year’s festival due to be announced early next year. We’ve already been offered a rough date, and hopefully we’ll avoid any snow! So all that remains is to thank everyone who came along to any of the events, and especially the event organisers and guest speakers, we couldn’t have done it without you.
If you have any questions or requests for this or next year’s festival, be sure to leave a comment below.
Once again, thank you all.