Emerging Auteur Animators

Emerging Auteur Animators
Japanese animators were in the Toronto Worldwide Shorts festival spotlight this year, offering an experimental blend of shorts that leaned more on the abstract rather than straightforward narratives.

The standouts include Hikaru Tamakawa’s Oh Hisse, a wordless computer animation showing uniformed school kids walking on enormous stilts and performing other acrobatic feats — all in perfect unison, of course. The carnival visuals are dazzling. Another highlight is Ryu Kato’s Around, which features three minutes of line drawings depicting a day in the life in a big, busy city: traffic jams, running to work, murder on the street, drinking coffee and the endless grind. Images dissolve rapidly into one another to create a dreamy, swirling effect.

The playful Pika Pika by Tochka blends still photos taken at night in Tokyo with what appears to be people running around clutching coloured lights in their hands. Stringing together these countless stills to a rhythmic soundtrack creates the illusion of lights dancing across the screen. It was a gamble that paid off.

Yusuke Sakamoto’s witty A Song of Horse Mackerel (Yakizakana-no-uta) follows the last moments of a fish who’s bought at a store and taken home, where he’s thrown into an oven. The fish philosophises, saying that he respects humans even though they "kill each other violently.”

Koji Yamamura’s adaptation of Kafka’s A Country Doctor offers the programme’s most traditional storytelling, using distorted angles and elongated drawings to capture the story’s mood of illness and death. However, at 21 minutes, the film either enchants or drags. Possibly both.

Aside from a few shorts that are too oblique for their own good, Emerging Auteur Animators was a good programme and more consistent than many of the festival’s other slots.