Katsuhiro Otomo’s acclaimed animated short Combustible won Japan’s prestigious Media Arts Award on Thursday (Dec. 13). Set in mid-18th-century Edo (the old name for Tokyo), the short centers on a merchant’s daughter and her childhood friend, who are attracted to each other, but forced to stay apart by their families. Fate brings the star-crossed lovers together later in life. Combustible is also one of 10 selected titles that have been shortlisted for the Oscar for Best Animated Short of 2012.
The backdrop for this spectacle is one of the great fires that frequently occurred in Edo. Using traditional Nihonga (Japanese-style) paintings as a motif for the animated images, the work meticulously recreates the manners, implements, and lifestyle of Tokyoites some 300 years ago. In addition, by combining hand-drawn animation with 3D computer graphics, Otomo (Akira, Steamboy) has developed an innovative form of expression through moving images.
“The quiet, exceptionally beautiful pictures fill us with anticipation as we await the tale of passionate desire that is about to unfold,” noted the judges. “Then the view suddenly switches back to the rear, and we realize that we are looking through the camera’s eye. The fictional story, inspired by incidents such as the Great Fire of Meireiki (also known as the Furisode or Long-Sleeved Kimono Fire) and the Great Fire of Greengrocer Oshichi, is depicted in an ornate and dramatic manner. There has never been a work that was better suited to the 16:9 aspect ratio. It creates a special sense of excitement, allowing us to vicariously experience the spectacular pictures in these old dioramas as if we were watching a kabuki play from the front row on the second floor of a theater. Hinoyojin is a uniquely Japanese animated work.”
Keiichi Satou’s Asura (Toei Animation), The Great Rabbit by Atsushi Wada, The Life of Budori Gusuko by Gisaburô Sugii and Mamoru Hosoda’s Wolf Children were also given awards of excellence by the jury. The New Face Awards went to Yorkio Mizushiri’s Futon Monkey Punch/Sayo Yamamoto’s Lupin the Third: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine and Emma De Swaef and Marc James Roels’ Oh Willy….
The 16th Japan Media Arts Festival will be held in Tokyo from February 13 to February 24 of next year. Previous winners of the Media Arts Festival Awards have included Summer Wars, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, The House of Small Cubes, and Franz Kafka’s A Country Doctor.
For more info, visit www.j-mediaarts.jp/awards/gland_prize?locale=en§ion_id=3.
You can also read an article about the making of Combustible, in this month’s edition of Animation Magazine.