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One of the films shown in Japan Cinema Week 2018 at CGV Cinemas Grand Indonesia, Jakarta, is the short film anthology Ponoc Short Films Theatre Volume 1: Modest Heroes. Featuring three short animated films from ex-Ghibli staff at Studio Ponoc, the anthology consists of a tale of two crab brothers from director Hiromasa Yonebayashi (The Secret World of Arrietty, Mary and the Witch’s Flower), a story of a mother and her son who is allergic to eggs from Yoshiyuki Momose, and a day in the life of an invisible man from Akihiko Yamashita.

On Sunday (9/12), director Momose and producer Yoshiaki Nishimura from Studio Ponoc were present after a screening of the short film anthology. The two of them introduced Studio Ponoc, explained about the short films, and answered some questions from the audience.

Firstly, the works in the anthology are the first short films produced by Studio Ponoc after previously debuting with the full-length feature film Mary and the Witch’s Flower. As the heading Modest Heroes suggests, Nishimura explained that the common theme of the three films is exploring simple heroics that we can find around us. They show that it doesn’t take being Superman or what can be seen in Marvel films to become heroes, but rather through small acts of bravery in our daily lives. Another point that Nishimura highlighted is that they made the films with hand-drawn animation.

Momose’s short particulary drawn attention as it is the only short that does not feature fantasy elements. The short’s characters and depiction of allergy, as Momose explained, are based on actual mothers or stories from people with allergies that the creators know in real life. One of the audience who also has allergy praised Momose’s short as being very relatable, and asked about the short’s climax scene when the boy was having allergic reaction. Momose responded that he doesn’t mean the scene to be scary, but rather he wants to show the boy’s strong will to live. By showing that, he hoped that the short can give some encouragement for people to face the problems they encountered in their daily lives.

The next question from the audience was about the invisible man in Yamashita’s short. Nishimura explained that the character is not meant to evoke the classic monster character. But rather, it is a metaphorical representation of those people in Japan nowadays who feel like they’re invisible to the society, alienated as if they didn’t exist. Another question asked about the crab brothers short, and Nishimura explained that they are inspired by the crabs that inhabit the river near Ponoc’s studio.

Unlike the full-length Mary and the Witch’s Flower or previous works by Yonebayashi at Ghibli, the shorts are all original stories not directly adapted from an existing book. However, Nishimura noted that there are some influences from the work of literary figure Kenji Miyazawa, who is well-known for his children’s stories. Nishimura also recounted that they had taken the time to visit the Taman Mini Indonesia Indah theme park in South Jakarta, and were surprised to see the richness and diversity of Indonesian cultures showcased at the park. They’re so different from the European fantasy setting in Mary or the Japanese setting of the short films, so Nishimura considered the possibility of making a film with Indonesian setting some time in the future. At the end of the talkshow, the guests from Studio Ponoc tell the audience to look forward to future works from Studio Ponoc and had a brief photo and signing session with the audience.

The Indonesian Anime Times | Report and photos by Dody Kusumanto and Halimun Muhammad

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