Animator Expo: Season Two

Part two of my exploration into Animator Expo’s brilliant shorts.

To keep the format of my previous post (check out Season One here), I’ll chat about my top three favourite shorts and perhaps a couple honourable mentions. There will be spoilers, so heads up.

#3:  Rapid Rouge

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The first thing I noticed in this short was the relative silence; at first you only hear a soft piano melody and the sound of footsteps which eventually give way to combat. This is fitting since there is a stealthy rescue mission under way involving Samurai-esque soldiers. The second thing that stands out is the colour scheme. The entire short is primarily in black and white accompanied with dark, muted red (this in itself is important, considering the title Rapid Rouge). Our unknown enemy soldiers are all in black. The Master Hateruma is the only one in white. Tomoe (our main character pictured above) and our soldiers are in red; both in their armour and their equipment. Blood is the only other thing shown in red, and it is a bright, vivid red as opposed to a muted one. Darkness pervades and there is little light. The symbolism is unmistakable in this short, I hardly need to mention it.

Once a few of our soldiers reach Master Hateruma (the objective of their rescue mission), they find that he doesn’t approve of their methods. There’s quite the commentary here on violence, political uprisings, and what one’s duty to their country and people ought to entail. In the words of Hateruma, “The easy path endangers many. History has taught us that. Do not pause! You must ponder! Think! . . . There must be a path to salvation untainted by strife. Forgive me. Too many too young have died in vain. Might is not enough to keep a nation safe.” 

I loved how this short immersed me into its world. Even the faceless soldiers who die within the first minute are shown to be important and loved. I wanted to watch ten episodes of what led up to these events and another ten episodes of the aftermath. Rapid Rouge made me pause and ponder, and for that I am grateful.

#2: Kanón 

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This was one doozy of a short. “The World Must Be Destroyed” is Adam’s slogan, and with it this story begins with a bang.

Based on Adam Stvořitel, a 1927 Czech play by Karel and Josef Čapek, this short is smashed full of dialogue and follows its philosophical exploration to its inescapable ending. Kanón begins and ends with two short conversations between Adam, our lead, and God. The first conversation, however, is less a conversation and more a monologue. Adam rails and raves against a world he believes is wrong, unequal, and essentially not worth preserving. However, when he negates/destroys the world, he forgets to negate himself. For his punishment, God commands Adam to create the world on his own.

I greatly appreciated the gorgeous sketch-style art and animation (someone let me know if there is a definitive term for this so I can stop calling it “sketch-style”). It’s a style I love and obsess over. I’m not surprised that I adore this short’s appearance so much considering much of the team from 20min Walk from Nishi-Ogikubo Station (which is artistically similar and still my favourite Animator Expo short to date) worked on this short as well.

I’m actively refraining from typing out a whole synopsis of this short because I’d rather you go watch it yourself. Instead, I’ll just share a couple (probably unconnected) points and/or observations.

  • All of Adam’s creations rebel against and reject him; they are revolted by him (especially his first, “superhuman” creations), incessantly critical of him, jealous of him, desiring to be equal (or greater) than him, or simply don’t believe he is actually their creator but ridicule him as a fool. This all makes sense, since these creations come from Adam himself. As Adam later says, when watching his creation brutally killing each other, “Where do they get their destructive instinct? That’s inside them. I know this. I was, I did… I once negated the world. I will destroy him. I once again will destroy the world.” In a way this speaks to the truth that we can’t escape ourselves in our creation. We can only create with the materials we are given and with the materials inside ourselves. And in Adam’s case, the thing created from destruction is more destruction.
  • The “superhuman” was mentioned quite a bit, in a negative light. It would be interesting to examine the Čapek’s view of Nietzsche’s Übermensch, especially considering the rise of fascism in their time period.
  • I laughed when the cheerful Lilith popped up on screen because I wondered if the animation team was making a commentary on the anime industry’s obsession with moe girls.
  • I liked the theme of the impossibility of fairness amidst a radical, almost oppressive demand for it.
  • I also liked the theme of the impossibility of absolute and complete originality.
  • In a way, this short reminds me of the story of Noah. Except that God only destroys the world once, whereas Adam continues to negate and recreate his world (at least, that was my interpretation of the ending).
  • There’s a whole lot I’d like to examine regarding man’s relation to God, but I’ll save that for another day.
  • And now, some quotes:
    • “Adam! Why didn’t you create a more decent World? Why don’t we have four legs? Why isn’t our skin covered with hair? Why do we have to work our guts out? Why do we have to die?”
    • “Creating is torture.”

 

 

#1:  I can Friday by Day!

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In terms of art design and colour, I’d say this was my favourite of the season. It is bright, energetic, and the visuals are paired with a cheerful song. This short consists of tiny (alien?) animal creatures controlling a robotic girl’s body otherwise termed a “beast-vehicle”. These little creatures are adorable. I started empathizing with the little buggers and it got me interested in their world, war, and mission. What is their mission? To capture the rare crystal Ikemeshium carrier that has been commandeered by a traitor who was once a trusted ally. By the end, only a few of our creatures are determined to fulfill the mission despite everyone else giving up.

On the one hand, this short gave us a different take on the robot-girl trope and the clumsy/tired-girl trope. As for my overall interpretation, I’d say I can Friday by Day! illustrated the trials of a girl who had her love-interest stolen by someone she trusted. One of the first shots we see is a picture of our protagonist/”beast-vehicle” with both the crystal Ikemeshium boy-carrier and the traitor. For a moment, our protagonists’s eyes tremble and her mouth quivers before we hear the mechanical start up sequence… or perhaps it’d be more accurate to call it a shut-down sequence. If we were to imagine these three to actually be human, the trio probably were good friends once… but alas, romance and drama have literally torn them apart. Love and war, folks, love and war. 

I’m still oddly grossed out by seeing a skull crack open to reveal bright crystal-gem-things. Something about the colourfulness and cuteness of it all makes me uneasy.

Also, I will henceforth refer to myself as a “beast-vehicle” whenever I feel emotionally dead.

Honourable Mentions:

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Obake-chan

Just an adorable little girl who is training to be a true ghost. Comprised of little vignettes, it was very cute in an understated way. And sometimes in an absurd, over-the-top way (a.k.a. the milk incident). I loved the way it was made with a paper texture as its base, with the drawings in black, white, and tan animated on top of it. I liked the credits too.

The Diary of Ochibi

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Another perfectly adorable short. This one features some impressive stop-motion animation. We go through the seasons with our little protagonist, Ochibi. First, we have spring in a lunch box, then summer on a set of fans, followed by fall in a pile of leaves, and finally winter on a cup of tea. This short was thoroughly delightful.

What did you think of these shorts? Were there others in Season Two I didn’t mention that you loved most? Speak away, good reader, speak away…

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