Reviews

TamaGra Animation (2012) and related work:

TamaGra Animation (2012)

An annual showcase of student films from Tama Art University’s Department of Graphic Design (TamaGra) under Prof. Nomura Tatsutoshi, who got the job in 2012.

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“Cycle” (2012)

Seen in 2019.

Matrioshka animals.

Pretty. It reminds me of Pokemon-style worldbuilding for cognitive ease, but the water colours obviously required a lot of effort.

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“Drop” (2012)

Seen in 2019.

A little fish imitates the clutter on the ocean floor.

Not nearly as jazzy as the director’s “Garden” (2012).

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“Garden” (2012)

Seen in 2019.

Mostly arthropods.

Vibrant, fluid, beautiful and engaging. Norman McLaren would have loved it.

References here: “Drop” (2012).

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“Internal Organs University” (2012)

Seen in 2019.

Anthropomorphic internal organs usurp their own kind in sleeping humans.

Arthouse. Paper cut-out animation. The sun prefigures the later memetic Gritty the mascot.

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“Love-Hate Relationship” (2012)

Seen in 2019.

A bit lighter than Igor Kovalyov, but also more poorly made. A bad case of strobing water-colour backgrounds.

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“Monocyclic Flower” (2012)

Seen in 2019.

A mad bike race through town.

The combination of water colours and vector animation is simplistic but effective.

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“New Tokyo Ondo” (2012)

Seen in 2019.

A man and a girl find a coin worth a fortune in the desert outside New Tokyo. Maybe they go to the movies.

It holds my attention, but the flat-colour MS-Paint-style animation is pretty annoying. For a student film it’s very much like an uncommonly high-effort post in an amateur animation forum, down to the director’s pseudonym, ぬQ.

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“Popping, Mixing” (2012)

Yamada Ryōji (animator).

Seen in 2019.

Arthouse. Like Igor Kovalyov with the benefit of digital composition, but with even less storytelling.

References here: “Waiter” (2013).

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“Airy Me” (2013) IMDb

Seen in 2019.

It looks like (lightly coloured) draft animation, which is an interesting look.

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“Anal Juke” (2013) IMDb

Seen in 2019.

Lo-fi flat-colour cel-style grotesquerie.

References here: “Summer’s Puke is Winter’s Delight” (2016).

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“Someday” (2013)

Seen in 2019.

A bulldog man’s everyday life in a near-monochrome world.

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“Tayutaum” (2013)

Seen in 2019.

Professional and mainstream traits, as far as the character design and cel-style animation go, but there’s no substance to it.

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“Waiter” (2013)

Yamada Ryōji (animator).

Seen in 2019.

An alcoholic waiter with a head like a heavy drop of water has a bad day. A three-headed customer hits its coffee cup with a baseball bat. Later, there are more of the customer, hitting itself.

Like the animator’s “Popping, Mixing” (2012), it makes me think of Igor Kovalyov. This one is even dim and sinister like early Kovalyov, but good, like “La La La, Brothers” (2011). The flickering dirt is coarsely grained, not the natural byproduct of the animator’s style but an affectation. Even so, this is that sweet spot in arthouse animation where the absurd invites attention and curiosity.

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“Yokosobokudesu Selection” (2013)

Seen in 2019.

Children with rosy cheeks and knees dance to simple songs.

A slightly weirder and more interesting version of common toddler programming. The base of the title, 「ようこそぼくです」, means “Welcome; it’s me”.

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“A Friend in the Memories” (2016)

Seen in 2019.

Anthropomorphic animals deal with ethnic strife and bullying in what looks like developing Africa. A brittle friendship develops across preconceived lines.

Paper cut-out animation over scale-model backdrops. The two species/races/breeds look very similar, but perhaps that’s the point. It’s clearly made with a lot of emotional intelligence, shining through the somewhat crude scripting and model work.

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“Balloon Vendor and Weeping Girl” (2016)

Seen in 2019.

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“Bonkei: Miniature Garden” (2016)

Seen in 2019.

An old man waters his miniature garden. A rock in it comes alive. At night the old man dreams of sitting in his bonsai and looking at the moon with the living rock, like the Totoros.

Roughly in the style of My Neighbors the Yamadas (1999). The visuals are carefully crafted and it’s quite relaxing, but the characters are weak and the story is non-existent. Prefer the similar “Ohana & Osora” (2016).

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“Drowsily” (2016)

Seen in 2019.

Playing with fire.

Poor anatomy.

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“Gimme Milk” (2016)

Seen in 2019.

A little honey bee is jealous of its newborn sibling. They have to share the mother’s milk.

Drawn in a set of distinct visual styles that follow the plot well, such as it is. Also, the bees have hexagonal TV and hexagonal mirrors; this is good.

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“Illuminate” (2016)

Seen in 2019.

Points of light discover a forest around them at night.

A neat illustration of mostly basic ideas about animation as a medium.

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“In the Forest” (2016) IMDb

Seen in 2019.

The monkeys keep pelting the white troll with rocks because it kills everything it touches. So lonely.

Arthouse animation. Good concepts. The animation is well conceived but the execution is flawed, both in revealing the fruit baby and in the numinous climax.

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“Moment of Truth” (2016)

Seen in 2019.

A large amount of watercolour paintings tell a broken, evidently symbolic story of a flower-faced red deer woman and a blue man who are both birds.

References here: “Tan: The Dream of a Young Actor” (2016).

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“Ohana & Osora” (2016)

Seen in 2019.

A pink bunny tends a sprout in the last days of winter.

Neat. Anthropomorphic A Star Is Born (1937) for toddlers, and a meditation on fragility.

References here: “Bonkei: Miniature Garden” (2016).

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“Oldman Youngman” (2016)

Seen in 2019.

Grandpa has to take care of the baby until it’s taking care of him.

Arthouse cut-out animation. Neatly composed and completely derivative.

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“Summer’s Puke is Winter’s Delight” (2016) IMDb

Seen in 2019.

Food, vomit, feces, semen.

Pop-art psychedelia. It’s got an inkling of an idea beyond the mere grotesquerie: A high-density meditation on broken relationships with the body. This is an improvement over the animator’s previous “Anal Juke” (2013). Both are competently composed.

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“Tan: The Dream of a Young Actor” (2016)

Seen in 2019.

More coherent than “Moment of Truth” (2016) but not coherent enough and visually less accomplished.

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“Feed” (2016) IMDb

Seen in 2019.

Food preparation and masked yin-yang bears counting trees.

Arthouse animation. Meditative.

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“Kaijū Bath” (2016) IMDb

Seen in 2019.

A clay-flute-headed man pukes at the taste of celery.

Arthouse riff on pop culture. Fine craftsmanship: Simple colours, highly detailed line-art backgrounds with lots of tiny gags like “Yamadayama Whiskey”. The story is predictably nonsensical in a wholesome sort of way.

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“So Near Yet So Far” (2016) IMDb

Seen in 2019.

Like one of Norman McLaren’s abstract musical shorts but with an excess of Gaussian blur filtering.

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