Monday, May 19, 2014

Young Animator Training Project 2010

The Young Animator Training Project is a yearly event where 4 short films, about a half-hour each, are screened in theatres. To give a little background here, in 2010 the Japanese Animation Creators Association (JAniCA) teamed up with the Agency of Cultural Affairs to make the Young Animator Training Project in an effort to both train new animators and to give various studios a chance to show off their newbies' stuff. Each time, studios bid for the chance to be part of the project, but only 4 studios are selected each year.

Don't we all wish we could have a cat this badass?

First up on the chopping block is Kizuna Ichigeki ("Bond Strike"), by the folks over at Ascension. It follows a freelance news reporter as she chases down the winner of an international martial arts competition, a young 7th-grade girl. Though she finds the girl, she gets a lot more than she bargained for rather than the interview she was seeking. The girl, Kizuna, teaches everyone at the end about having something to fight for.


What initially struck me about this show was the style. It looks as if a middle schooler sketched the characters in his math notebook during a geometry lecture. Were it not for more-fluid-than-water animation that accompanied it, one might get the impression that they were being lazy (or that this was intended as a net animation). However, if one pays attention to the background, they show as much effort as one would expect from a final product. Then, as if to prove that they know what they're doing, it changes style for two brief vignettes towards the middle with a stark contrast to the bulk of the episode, showing that this was indeed a style choice.

The style contrast is pretty obvious in scenes like this one.

Not only was the style impeccable, but so was the plot, humour, voice acting, everything. I would love to see this continue on as a show on a major network (Cartoon Network should pick this up), since it really echoes of some of the cartoons of my youth, such as Jackie Chan Adventures and American Dragon: Jake Long. The theme is easily accessable by kids (especially boys, I'd think), which makes me even sadder at the missed opportunity to turn this into something more.

Yes, yes I am.

Next up is Telecom Animation Film (TMS Entertainment)'s The Old Man's Lamp (Oji-san no Ranpu; alternatively, Grandpa's Lamp). When a boy finds an old oil lamp in the attic and uses it as a toy, his grandpa, initially irate, decides to tell him the story behind it.

I detect a hint of Sokka in this picture.

The look was something between Ghibli and AIC's Humanity Has Declined. It is the most serious of all the shorts from 2010, dealing with the initial prosperity and dreams of a young boy bringing light to his village, then his struggle to keep a hold on it as a young man. The ending was stark, beautiful, and extremely sad, but well-rounded.

It's both heartwarming and humbling to learn the origins of the things we take for granted.

Oji-san was a heartwarming story that was well-planned and well-animated. While I don't think it has the steam to survive outside of a short, it was still a great watch. You really feel for Minosuke both in good times and bad, and that's what any good piece of entertainment is supposed to make you do: feel.

While progress is necessary to move the world forward, all too often we forget what we're leaving behind.

Third up is Super Veggie Torracman (Banno Yasai Ninninman; alternatively, Versatile Vegatable Ninninman) courtesy of P.A. Works. It was delightfully strange, from start to finish. A 5th grader named Mari hates eating vegetables and milk, but one day, in an attempt not to get yelled at by her teacher, she scarfs all three down at once, and subsequently faints. When she wakes up in the nurse's office, she is accompanied by three spirits: Torracman (Ninninman), Peppuruman (Piman), and Miruku. Though she initially dislikes them, she comes to rely on them when in dire straights.

I want to make a dollfie of her.

This anime was pretty typical in its look, outside of the two slits for everyone's nose. It didn't look bad by any means, it was just very far from what I'm used to seeing. Combine this with the over-the-top characters, bright colours and flashy style, and it made for one helluva weird short. However, it was enjoyable enough that I'd gladly watch it again and again.

SUPER flashy.

This DEFINITELY couldn't survive outside a short. Maybe as a series of shorts.....MAYBE. Probably not. But even as a short, I was still sad when it was over, since I really did want to see more....even if there wasn't anything more it could say. I guess the cute, zany antics of the characters really endeared it to me...

And trust me, it has zany antics up the wazoo.

 Lastly, is Wardrobe Dwellers (Tansuwarashi) by Production I.G. Having another typically safe story style, it followed a Office Lady named Hiiragi Noel. Noel's life is that of any typical office lady: drinking with friends after work, eating nothing but convenience store food and not thinking of much but her day-to-day life. That is, until she receives the wardrobe. Sort of like Narnia in reverse, she comes back from work to find that her wardrobe has 6 tiny people living in it, each one specializing in a different feature that a grown-up lady should have. Having served the Hiiragi family for generations, they inform her they are there to make her into a proper "Mistress" of the Hiiragi household.

Surprise! Suddenly you have 6 children.

Sweet and light, this series looked familiar, but i can't put my finger on what it resembles. The main character looks a little like Olive Oyl, at first, but changes over time. They all have pretty small eyes for an anime, especially with the cartoony feel. The plot was somewhat standard anime fare, but was a little Ghibli-esque.

A subtle importance in this short is placed on family.

With that, I doubt Wardrobe Dwellers could survive as a full-length series....but I'd love to see it as a movie. Considering it came out 4 years ago, I doubt it'll go anywhere, but it definitely has the potential to be longer if someone would let it.

Though they can be viewed more as latent constructs of Noel's personality, they really do develop a bond like family.

Overall, 2010's YATP offering more than impressed me. Maybe it's because it was the first year and everyone wanted to make a good impression, but it was all spectacular. All of them are great for all-ages, too, as an added bonus. 

Fun Fact: In the old days, many people in Japan were quite superstitious. Striking a Flint on one's back as they leave was supposed to bring good luck.

It's very hard to find a consistent sub group for these shorts, as they tend to be fairly unknown (I only found out about them by accident, actually). However, [gg] has put out most of them in the past few years, and I filled in any gaps with eraser, Kamigami Subs and Deadfish Encodes. [gg] has subbed all 4 of the 2010 offerings, and though they might not be the best seeded, I got them all from there.

My question is, if only she can see them, what does this look like to passerby on the street?

Kizuna Ichigeki - 4.5/5
Grandpa's Lamp - 4/5
Super Veggie Torracman - 4.5/5
Wardrobe Dwellers - 4/5

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