Monday, July 7, 2014

Young Animator Training Project 2012 (Anime Mirai 2012)

Continuing the efforts of the 2010 Young Animator Training Project, JAniCa greenlit the project once again in 2012, renaming it Anime Mirai (Anime's Future). This time around, there's Buta, Minding My Own Business, Dudu the Floatie, and Wasurenagumo. The absence of a 2011 offering was never explained, but one could chalk it up to the name change and the settling of the project into a regular event.

We got some tasty looking selections here.

To start, Buta is a short by TMS Entertainment, set in an alternate Edo period where anthropomorphized animals coexist in both peace and war. At the start, a young fox boy is given an ancient map by his father for his upcoming birthday. The map is their family's treasure, and the time has come for the young fox boy to guard it himself. Sadly, their home is raided by pirates just seconds later, leaving the house in shambles and the fox boy kidnapped, left to the mercy of fate....until he hires the samurai pig, Buta.

Sure, he's a powerful ronin, but he's no babysitter.

Buta is in a style one expects from your typical anime. Strangely enough the fox boy bears a slight resemblance to the Toei Animation cat, though i'm sure this is pure coincidence. It was very cute, which worked well with the more comedic flair the OVA had. TMS took their time to make each character unique, even those of the same species, and made sure the costumes, items, and backgrounds were all appropriate for the time period (well, mostly). It all enhances the quality of the short, making it that much better overall.

Weirdly enough, Buta sort of looked like a Don Bluth movie.

The narrative was hilarious and strong. The light-hearted nature of it was nostalgic for me, as if I were reading something off the pages of Shonen Jump. It was really nice to see a samurai series as playful as this one, since, while I know lighter ones exist, the majority of swordsman series tend to be very serious and dramatic in nature. The plot was also quite solid, leading me to believe that, given a bigger budget and more time, Buta could make for a fine movie. I don't feel it has enough material to make an actual series, but a 90-minute OVA wouldn't be out of the question.

OH THE HORROR

Next up is Minding My Own Business, by Shirogumi. This one struck me from the start (and even before I watched it) due to its bold, striking art style. It meshes well with the characters and setting, which are some 5th grade boys in what looks to be the mid Showa Era. The story follows a boy as he witnesses bullying happen and does nothing to stop it, despite feeling guilty for doing so. It eventually reveals that not everything is as we see it to be.

An excellent question.

In Minding My Own Business, the pallet is limited, the lines sketchy and thick, and the shapes angular. This might sound like a bad thing, but it works EXTREMELY well with the OVA, whose emotions run fast, hot, and high all of the time. The rough, charcoalesque lines capture the anger, the fear, the hopelessness, and the righteous fury so brilliantly that it's as if the emotion burst right out of the screen. This helps the high points stand in sharp contrast to the quiet moments, making this a true art piece.

Not quite what I meant by "Art Piece"...

The story starts off in such a way that it feels as if Shirogumi was attempting to make an art film. It also deals with a pretty heavy topic and does so in such a confrontational, real way that this short feels more for older than younger people, as children may be put off by certain aspects of it (the overt use of red, or the sketchy, violent lines, for example). However, from an objective perspective this only makes it more appealing. Not many anime are willing to be as serious and real as this short was, and though it doesn't have the potential to be anything longer than a half-hour short, I earnestly wish I could see more things like this.

Haven't we all been here?

Third on the chopping block is Dudu the Floatie, by Answer Studio. This follows a young girl of about 5 or 6, named Mika, as she goes on a magical sea adventure with a pool toy her father bought her. Mika uses the underwater fantasy as an escape from the disappointment her father leaves her with when he runs off to work rather than fulfilling a promise to take her to the beach.

Admittedly, the beach can be legitimately frightening.

This short was bright, colourful, and cutesy, as a happy ocean adventure should be. Everything looked either subtropical or squishy and plasticine, sort of elevating the idea of "pool toys" to a new level. It was rather fun, though typical, as you see a lot of anime like this. On the upside, the proportions were quite new (you don't see many people in anime of different shapes and sizes, honestly), but overall the artistic offering was rather typical fare.

Told you we had some tasty looking selections.

The story, while good, was also quite average in nature. I will admit that I had my hopes raised quite a bit too high by a gag byline planted by the sub group [gg], which I didn't realize was a gag until after seeing it. Despite this, I'm thankful for the gag, since were it not for that, I never would have discovered the Young Animator Training Project as a whole. As for how this translates to Dudu's story, however, leaves him sitting in a kiddie pool of mediocrity.

Literally!

Last but sure as hell not least is Wasurenagumo (otherwise known as Little Spider Girl), released by Production I.G. The story covers a vintage book seller and his landlord's granddaughter who inadvertently release a demon from a sealed Heian-era diary, and go off on a journey to reunite her with her mother.

Presenting Spiderman's Illegitimate Daughter.

I didn't really know what to expect with Wasurenagumo. The art style is somewhat typical, but has its painterly moments, especially the vignettes depicting the Heian flashbacks. Still, it remains on a more normal level than Dudu in that it has a less pastel, cutesy pallet and style. All the animation is nice in a "usual fare" sort of way without standing out too much.

On the other hand, I.G. really took their time with the backgrounds.

Where Wasurenagumo gets you is the plot. The story is adorable, and the ending was sheer genius, the kind of plot twist M. Night Shyamalan has wet dreams about. It was unexpected, gripping, and brilliant in the last quarter, leaving with a super-powered story you never saw coming. Even the ending was lovely, with a funky little tune (that I named "Dream Wizard" and snatched up for my iphone) and a cute, storybook style not seen in the series. When you think about it, there's even potential there for further episodes of this too, involving people and their demonic "pets", if you will. Maybe not much more material (potential to get stale is high if not done properly), but there's something bigger there.

My Little Sister Can't Be This Terrifying.

2012 rounded out to be a fine year for the Training Project, with the 4 studios bringing their A game for the most part, leaving the viewer with an interesting, entertaining sampling. The shorts this time are more varied than the previous, to boot, with two that could be aimed more at children (Buta and Dudu) and two that might appeal more to someone a bit older (Minding My Own Business and Wasurenagumo).

Well Screw You Too!

Unlike last time, [gg] did all 4 of the shorts in English, so getting them is a breeze. From what I can tell, however, no one else has done them, so [gg] seems to be not only the best choice, but the *only* choice. Kamigami Subs (Chinese) seems to have done a few from random years as well.

Indeed we did.

Buta - 4/5
Minding My Own Business - 5/5
Dudu the Floatie 3-3.5/5
Wasurenagumo - 5/5

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