Animator Expo (2014)

Viewing

Seen in 2016.

Seen on www.animatorexpo.com.

Categorization

Short films (max. 10 minutes) produced as talent showcases or experiments.

Japanese production animation series

Segment 1:

The Dragon Dentist (2014 IMDb)

Viewing

Seen in 2016.

Categorization

Alt-history adventure directed by Tsurumaki Kazuya of FLCL (2000).

Subject

Revered caretakers of the teeth of living dragons help bring the great beasts to war in the approximate equivalent of the 1930s.

Commentary

Effective as a pilot.

Japanese production Tsurumaki Kazuya animation movie

Segment 2:

Hill Climb Girl (2014 IMDb)

Viewing

Seen in 2016.

Categorization

Sports action comedy.

Subject

Two high-schoolers race each other to school on bicycles, in contemporary Japan. One of them is inspired by a professional racer's spurt to the finish. Her victory turns out to be a meet cute.

Commentary

A somewhat impressive technical showcase, with a lot of the usual 2D character CGI bugs ironed out, but it still looks dull. The title song is also not good.

Japanese production animation movie

Segment 3:

Me! Me! Me! (2014)

Viewing

Seen in 2016.

Categorization

Hyperviolent house music video double feature.

Subject

A peculiar blend of Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995) references, MTV-like softcore porn and zombie pastiche imagery among other nerdiness.

Commentary

Impressive editing work, more than anything else. There is a readily available reading of this short as negative commentary on Japanese masculine geek culture, because it combines anti-realistic sexuality and violence with images of the sleeping and dreaming protagonist being wounded, screaming and crying, possibly having had a bad breakup or romantic rejection. However, there is no sign of depth or sincerity to such a criticism, and no suggestion of a solution.

References here: Spring Song (1931), Me! Me! Me! Chronic (2015), Girl (2015).

Japanese production animation movie

Segment 4:

Carnage (2014 IMDb)

Viewing

Seen in 2016.

Categorization

Western revenge story.

Subject

Many years after being maimed and having her father(?) hung and shot by ruffians, a woman seeks revenge.

Commentary

This attempt to make a compressed and less flashy Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003) falls apart on several levels. The protagonist is rarely dressed for no apparent reason, the scratched film look is not done very well, the lighting design is ineffective—notice how the candles in the church produce a steady, fuzzy elliptical mask rather than a natural pattern—and the technology of the setting—with a tiled shower room and a pretty modern semi-automatic pistol—is inconsistent with the mid-1800s Western genre elements of the setting. The only good parts are a few realistic character designs and a flashback scene where every line is spoken in Japanese and subtitled in Japanese to recall the Japanese experience of watching actual Westerns.

Japanese production animation movie

Segment 6:

20min Walk from Nishi-Ogikubo Station (2014 IMDb)

Viewing

Seen in 2016.

Categorization

Adventure.

Subject

One half of a young couple dreams that she wakes up as a cockroach, but unlike Gregor Samsa, she perceives herself as human, and is only the size of a real cockroach. In the dream, though apparently not in reality, her boyfriend has a phobia of bugs.

Commentary

The full title translates as “20min Walk From Nishi-Ogikubo Station, 2 Bedrooms, Living Room, Dining Room, Kitchen, 2mos Deposit, No Pets Allowed.” This is quite telling. It's about the giddiness and initial insecurity of the transformation into living as a couple, though on another level, it's entirely about fantastic animation.

Japanese production animation movie

Segment 7:

Until You Come to Me (2014)

Viewing

Seen in 2016.

Categorization

Wordless, plotless apparent sequel to Evangelion: 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo (2012).

Subject

Quiet scenes in the ruins of Tokyo-3.

Commentary

Worth seeing only for the pretty backgrounds, and even then, probably only if you like NGE.

Japanese production animation movie

Segment 8:

Tomorrow from There (2015)

Viewing

Seen in 2016.

Categorization

Music video.

Subject

A young adult with an egg-shaped phone finds her wings.

Commentary

The blue-grey digital ink and near-absence of on-character shadows make it look a bit dull, but the theme is quite well done.

Japanese production animation movie

Segment 9:

Lightning Superman Gridman (2015)

Viewing

Seen in 2016.

Categorization

Mecha action.

Subject

Little more than a very long series of mecha transformation sequences.

Commentary

Fetishistic.

Japanese production animation mecha movie

Segment 10:

Yamadeloid (2015)

Viewing

Seen in 2016.

Categorization

A comedic music video crossing the samurai drama and shy romance of Rurouni Kenshin (1996) with the more stylized design and outré plotting of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure (2012).

Commentary

A pretty good comedic tone, but not much else is achieved.

Japanese production animation movie

Segment 11:

Power Plant No. 33 (2015)

Viewing

Seen in 2016.

Categorization

Yoshiura Yasuhiro SF.

Subject

Kaijuu as a source of electrical energy. Sparks everywhere.

Commentary

Strongly reminiscent of Ōtomo Katsuhiro's imagination, with 1980s-size cell phones sparking away and everybody wearing some kind of armour (insulation?), apparently accustomed to occasional robot-monster battles in this mad industrial world. Boring 3D CGI parts.

Japanese production animation movie

Segment 12:

Confidential: Evangelion: Another Impact (2015 IMDb)

Viewing

Seen in 2016.

Categorization

Technical demonstration.

Subject

Some time after Tokyo-3's landscape has become dominated by lakes of blood, a dark Evangelion briefly goes berserk and trashes some more of the city.

Commentary

Aramaki Shinji helmed this near-plotless short, which I can only assume was intended to suggest improvements upon the cel-shaded 3D Evas of Evangelion: 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo (2012) using a wide range of tricks.

References here: Making of: Evangelion: Another Impact (2015).

Japanese production animation movie

Segment 13:

Kanón (2015 IMDb)

Viewing

Seen in 2016.

Categorization

Filming of the play Adam the Creator (Adam stvořitel in the original Czech, 1927). More strongly reminiscent of European art animation than of anything else in the Animator Expo series. The season 2 opener.

Subject

A man, Adam, destroys the world with a special cannon, and then tries and fails to create a better one, one person at a time. Ultimately, the spawn of his creations go to war, hating him for their human flaws.

Commentary

The romantic chibikko character of Lilith, I assume, was not one of the Čapeks' many original contributions to world literature.

Japanese production animation movie

Segment 14:

Sex & Violence with Machspeed (2015 IMDb)

Viewing

Seen in 2016.

Categorization

Imaishi Hiroyuki—Tengen toppa gurren lagann (2007), Kill La Kill (2013)—directs this comedic short in an exaggerated form of the style of his own Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt (2010). That being the case, this one would also have fit in at Animafest Zagreb.

Subject

Sex and violence, which are of course characters.

Commentary

I have nothing against Imaishi's bad taste, but there's nothing else here.

Japanese production animation movie

Segment 15:

Obake-chan (2015)

Viewing

Seen in 2016.

Categorization

A series of tiny, often-sexual comedic skits patterned after Habanero-tan comics and similar works.

Subject

Pre-teen translucent girl Obake-chan (“Little Ghost”) wears a ghost costume and looks up to her senior, Death. She can't intimidate anyone, but is lucky enough to obtain several copies of Excalibur where a D&D adventuring party—fighter, barbarian, wizard, cleric—do not.

Commentary

Nicely realized. The beige cardboard background gives it a soft and friendly feel. The Evangelion musical cue jokes are particularly nice. The entire end credits sequence is set to an instrumental version of “Komm, süsser Tod” over a montage of unremarkable photos with a ghost edited into them, which is fun.

Japanese production animation movie

Segment 16:

Tokio of the Moon's Shadow (2015)

Viewing

Seen in 2016.

Categorization

Test film.

Subject

A hero whose eyes produce twinkling dust saves the inner planets from destruction.

Commentary

I suppose it wasn't intended to be taken seriously. Mission accomplished.

Japanese production animation movie

Segment 17:

Three Fallen Witnesses (2015)

Viewing

Seen in 2016.

Categorization

Very soft crime SF.

Subject

Cops construct and actively interfere with holographic renditions of memory obtained from genetic samples of criminal suspects, looking for evidence.

Commentary

A stupid supernatural premiss. The only interest here is in the atypicality of the cel-shaded character animation: Near-realistically proportioned and relatively deeply shaded adults, directed almost like live action.

Japanese production animation movie

Segment 18:

The Diary of Ochibi (2015)

Viewing

Seen in 2016.

Categorization

Mixed-media animation.

Subject

A young boy's innocent adventures through the four seasons.

Commentary

The mix of digital and analog tools is unconvincing. So much is edited in digitally, over the stop-motion photos of physical objects, that there is very little sense of physicality. I suppose photography was used as some kind of homage to the old masters.

Japanese production animation movie

Segment 19:

I Can Friday by Day! (2015)

Viewing

Seen in 2016.

Categorization

This one has everything. Competent cel-shaded 3D animation in an epic sci-fi action romantic comedy by Tsurumaki Kazuya.

Subject

Rival units of tiny rodent-like aliens use humanoid vehicles to do battle over resources of pan-galactic importance. This is the true story behind what appears to be two ordinary girls from different schools, and their romantic competition over a boy.

Commentary

The target substance, ikemesium, comes from ikemen, “hot guy”. A brilliant combination of underdog tank combat with a stereotypical dojikko romance. It's actually poignant in all its weirdness. Don't miss the final scene after the credits.

Japanese production Tsurumaki Kazuya animation movie

Segment 20B:

Making of: Evangelion: Another Impact (2015)

Viewing

Seen in 2016.

Categorization

Literally a set of instruction materials for CGI makers, but only 4 minutes long and with no explanations at all.

Subject

Some of the effects work on Confidential: Evangelion: Another Impact (2015).

Japanese production animation documentary

Segment 20A:

Me! Me! Me! Chronic (2015)

Viewing

Seen in 2016.

Categorization

Aurally more grating and visually more abstract ruminations upon Me! Me! Me! (2014).

Commentary

Little new material and little merit.

Japanese production animation movie

Segment 21:

Iconic Field (2015)

Viewing

Seen in 2016.

Categorization

Mecha action.

Subject

Plucky guy-girl pilot team with ancient mecha versus some kind of bio-horror Darth Vader.

Commentary

I agree completely with ANN's Kevin Cirugeda. A lot of the details are beautifully crafted, but the whole thing is thrown together like a teaser for a movie that was neither written nor planned to exist, and it shows.

Japanese production animation mecha movie

Segment 22:

On a Gloomy Night (2015)

Viewing

Seen in 2016.

Categorization

Dystopia based on a novel (Sakaki Ren's The Faceless Dictator).

Subject

Japan is Balkanized, apparently by Chinese expansionism and the withdrawal of US support. Much of the remaining country comes to be controlled by a charismatic pro-business politician who sells off underperforming regions to other nations, despite having been propped up by a righteous protagonist protester who was chemically castrated following some of the early ANPO-like riots.

Commentary

I know nothing of the novel. The story recalls A Spirit of the Sun (2006) and is probably a commonplace thing in political Japanese SF. At face value the premiss isn't very well implemented, but I would have been curious to see a feature film based on this short, it if it hadn't been for the stereotypical women: The dark femme fatale sleeping her way through politics versus the unattainable, light, artistic girl on the balcony of a classicist country house. A fine but threadbare choice of music: The degradation of Japan in a new age set to “Auld Lang Syne”. '

Japanese production animation movie

Segment 23:

Memoirs of Amorous Gentlemen (2015)

Viewing

Seen in 2016.

Categorization

Barely animated trailer for an Anno Moyoco comic.

Subject

The impossibility of romantic success among early-20th-century Paris prostitutes and their clients.

Commentary

A superficial comic, boringly adapted to a medium for which it is ill suited. When I think of era brothels, I think of Black Venus (2010), not this cleaned up abstraction full of beautiful people. The Shirō Sagisu music is OK though.

Japanese production animation movie

Segment 24:

Rapid Rouge (2015 IMDb)

Viewing

Seen in 2016.

Categorization

Alt-history steampunk action.

Subject

Soldiers try to liberate the jailed shōgun of Yatsushima—i.e. Japan—from the Aestern realm—i.e. the West—which covets its water, or so says the Animator Expo exposition. These heroes of Yatsushima wear Tokugawa-style lamellar armour and fight with swords, while the Aesterners have guns and bayonets, though the guns apparently fire something like crossbow bolts. Both sides have radio technology and computers. The leader has in fact surrendered, refuses to be liberated by force and urges the team to analyze the situation and seek a peaceful solution. The soldiers do not listen, getting their leader killed.

Commentary

The alternate history is weak with this one, and the thematic fulcrum is tossed away when the continued fighting is shown as though it were heroic. With his dying breath, the shōgun urges the sole survivor to use his death—which she caused—for political advantage, when it would have been more pragmatic and clever for her to surrender by his command. Unimpressive cel-shaded 3D animation.

Japanese production animation movie

Segment 25:

Hammerhead (2015)

Viewing

Seen in 2016.

Categorization

Gory superhero drama. Season 3 opener for Animator Expo.

Subject

A criminal superhero with half a brain fights anything strong, as a means toward suicide. When it finally seems that he's got his wish and is no longer able to repair his broken body, government forces step in and revive him once again to fight a skeletal titan menacing the city.

Commentary

Notice how the daughter character is never bloodied, an obviously deliberate break from the realism of the animation. This is well written and brilliantly animated, but actually more idealistic than the great Western interrogations of the genre by Moore et al. I am reminded more of The Running Man (1987).

Japanese production animation movie

Segment 26:

Comedy Skit 1989 (2015)

Viewing

Seen in 2016.

Categorization

Sketch comedy.

Subject

A mob assassin contacts his twin brother, also a mob assassin, to give him some bad news.

Commentary

Watchable, but notable only by the low standards of a one-man show.

Japanese production animation movie

Segment 27:

Bubu & Bubulina (2015)

Viewing

Seen in 2016.

Subject

Two sisters in an absurd candyland run into trouble with a cursed pair of shoes.

Commentary

An homage to Catnapped! The Movie (1995), which also has a mean character named Buburina, in a similar setting.

Japanese production animation movie

Segment 28:

Endless Night (2015 IMDb)

Viewing

Seen in 2016.

Categorization

Sports bromance music video.

Subject

Figure skaters train and compete.

Commentary

Good use of manga-style dot-pattern overlay shading. I was hoping this would be used for moiré effects, but alas, it's just competent figure animation thrown away on a disinteresting subject.

Japanese production animation movie

Segment 29:

Bureau of Proto Society (2015)

Viewing

Seen in 2016.

Categorization

Comedy.

Subject

Historical committee members meet in a version of the war room from Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) to interpret scanty archives of the doomed aboveground civilization which preceded their own, not knowing that a lot of the videos they have unearthed are fiction films.

Commentary

The seriousness of the war room characters is a good starting point, but the jokes never take off. Poor tone and timing.

Japanese production animation movie

Segment 30:

The Ultraman (2015)

Viewing

Seen in 2016.

Categorization

Sci-fi action. Nostalgic tribute to Ultraman (1966).

Commentary

Not being a fan of 1960s tokusatsu I see little on offer here, but I am somewhat impressed by the effort expended on the old style in the new media.

Japanese production animation movie

Segment 31:

Girl (2015)

Viewing

Seen in 2016.

Categorization

Music video. A second follow-up to the popular Me! Me! Me! (2014).

Commentary

The critique against introversion and sexual commodification that could be read into the original is gone here, replaced by Nakamura Chieko's purely escapist, ultra-feminine dreamworld designs. The female protagonist, named Meme in the original concept art, is now almost expressionless, until emotionally crushed by the sight of the original male protagonist with Hana, the other girl from the original, who has none of her menace in this version and no longer collaborates with Meme. What this implies is unclear.

Japanese production animation movie

Segment 32:

Neon Genesis: Impacts (2015 IMDb)

Viewing

Seen in 2016.

Categorization

Musical romance.

Subject

Three friends in a Tokyo-3 high school are in a band. Divided by the civilian evacuations, they upload their last song to Nico Nico Douga (as stated in a blurb accompanying the video), where it plays while the last girl stuck in the city sits alone in one of the shelters.

Commentary

A poorly executed romance with no meaningful connection to NGE, despite the theme of loneliness.

Japanese production animation movie

Segment 33:

Ragnarok (2015)

Viewing

Seen in 2016.

Categorization

Escapist mecha action.

Subject

The Japanese contribution to an international robot exhibit runs amok. The other exhibitors—the US, UK, Russia, China and Germany—all have single robots of the same size. The crowds cheer and place their bets as the unexpected battle escalates.

Commentary

A lot of good detail work, especially with the various civilians. Design drawings even include a pair of 白人ナード, meaning “white nerds”: foreign mecha fans. There is obviously no point to this beyond Sontag's “aesthetics of destruction”, but do note that Dandai's offices are destroyed in a disaffected reference to Gundam's Bandai, and in a brief cut of animation, even a weeping, armless version of Okamoto Tarō's “Tower of the Sun” takes a hit.

References here: Cassette Girl (2015).

Japanese production animation mecha movie

Segment 34:

Robot on the Road (2015)

Viewing

Seen in 2016.

Categorization

Sleazy sci-fi comedy.

Subject

A woman travelling alone with a large mobile home picks up an old robot, who claims to need maintenance. Actually, it's got a creep blog.

Commentary

The opening recalls Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou, and the whole thing is so beautifully designed and animated that it's worth watching for that reason alone. In its sincere celebration of the robot, who takes risqué pictures without permission and posts them on the Internet with obvious selfish malice, this film is genuinely creepy. The victim is fooled by a third, obviously fake, layer of sob story. It is hard to imagine anything this sexist getting made with these production values in contemporary Europe, or even the US. Fortunately, it is impossible to take anything seriously in kitsch SF where humanoid robots, as in Star Wars, have near-human mentalities and go hitchhiking alone without anybody lifting an eyebrow.

Japanese production animation movie

Segment 35:

Cassette Girl (2015 IMDb)

Viewing

Seen in 2016.

Categorization

Sci-fi action.

Subject

In “20XX”, a treasure hunter scavenges for Betamax tapes in the ruins of a city wiped from history, specifically Nagaoka.

Commentary

Going well beyond the recycling of the “Tower of the Sun” in Ragnarok (2015), this one is built almost entirely on reference: it is the “remix culture” of Bambi Meets Godzilla (1974) with production values. The credited cast is Hayashibara Megumi and Kōichi Yamadera, both giant stars relative to the size of the Japanese animation industry. San-kun is a Studio Nue Starship Trooper from 1977, as used in the animated Starship Troopers. Yuri transforms into the bunny girl from Daicon IV (1983), including a flying sword vehicle. She's got little mascot versions of a Maschinen Krieger and an NGE Asuka clipped to the handle of her gun. I can only see Asuka clearly in the design drawings, which also feature a pizza made up of Imperial Star Destroyers from Star Wars (1977), not included in the final film. The villain appears to be some combination of the Ideon from Space Runaway Ideon (1980), Optimus Prime from The Transformers (1984), the Gunbuster from Aim for the Top (1988) and many other giant robots painted black like Vader. Lots of video covers form a list of further references.

In a reference I was not clear on myself, the 2-Dimensional Champions tentatively identify the final few frames as Anno Hideaki dressed up as Ultraman à la Blue Blazes (2014) in Rei's LCL tube from Evangelion: 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo (2012), to which I would add that he seems to be wearing Gendo's glasses and plotting to make 4.0. The bunny-girl portion of the battle is reformatted to 4:3 with a filter to get the right distortions, just the way it should be. Unfortunately the focus on T&A is heavier than it was in the classics, and the slightly choppy 3D animation does not remind me of the good old hand-drawn stuff.

Japanese production animation mecha movie