From November 26 to December 1, the cinema of CGV blitz at Grand Indonesia, Jakarta, had hosted a Japanese Film Festival. Organized by the Agency of Cultural Affairs of the Government of Japan, along with the Embassy of Japan in Indonesia, the Japan Foundation Jakarta, and Japan Image Council, the Festival presented some of the latest Japanese films, among them are four theatrical animated films and two short animations selections. As a part of this Film Festival, on Sunday (November 29) a forum with the topic “Beyond Anime: Analyzing Japanese Animations Beyond Conventions” had also been held in cooperation with HelloMotion Academy, a local private institution that teaches visual design and animation.

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The forum brought together three guests from Japan and two from Indonesia. The guests from Japan were animators Ayaka Nakata and Mirai Mizue, as well as a producer from Robot Animation Production, Emi Matsumoto. Guests from Indonesia were the founder of HelloMotion Academy, Wahyu Aditya (better known by his nickname Wadit), and the founder of Lanting animation studio, Firman Widyasmara. The moderator in this forum was Aji Yudistira, lecturer from Japanese Literature Program of Al-Azhar University in Indonesia.

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From left to right: Aji Yudistira, Wahyu Aditya, Firman Widyasmara, Mirai Mizue, Ayaka Nakata, and Emi Matsumoto

The forum began by showing the animated works directed or produced by the guests. The works were Boundary Line (Kyōkai Sen) from director Nakata, Poker from director Mizue, Golden Time from director Takuya Inaba and produced by Matsumoto, and Balloons by Firman. The guests then discuss and share stories about their works, as well as answering questions from attendees.

Nakata recounted that Boundary Line was created for a drama titled Kanshosha. The animated short was made on three simple requirements: the lead character should be a woman, has no dialogue (only accompanied with music), and themed “wall”. The wall represents the idea of “boundary”, and the way the character in the animated short interacted with the wall reflected the malleable relations between a person and the boundaries that are often self-imposed.

Mizue explained that the abstract-styled Poker is a music video to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the debut of musician Shūgo Tokumaru. The short also celebrated the 100th anniversary of animator Norman McLaren, who experimented a lot in combining animation with music. Because of that, the short incorporates various visual motifs from the works of McLaren. Poker was created in collaboration with another animator who also specializes in abstract animation.

Matsumoto explained that director Inaba’s inspiration for the short Golden Time came from a chicken coop that his father made from an old television set. She also explained that Golden Time was developed by Robot Productions as a “media mix”. In addition to the animated short, it is also available in a book format During the Q&A session, one of the attendees asked Matsumoto what is the job of a producer in making an animation. After remarking that she got asked that question often, she answered that her job is arranging the budget for an animation project, managing the production schedule, and apologize for any mistakes that happened. Wadit then added that having a producer like Matsumoto is important for producing animation, for it is the producer whose duty is to ensure that the production of an animated work will be completed.

Firman recounted that Balloons was made while he was studying stop motion animation at the Osaka Electro-Communication University. The experience of studying stop motion animation abroad was a delightful challenge for Firman, for he had to create his own materials for his animated short project. Having founded Lanting, the focus of the animation studio was creating animated shorts to participate in international film festivals, not producing commercial works.

After the creators share their experiences, Wadit delivers a presentation about the influence of anime to Indonesian animators. He explained that Indonesian animators who made their works with anime-styled drawings are often bashed for being “too Japanese” or lacking Indonesian identity. Wadit warned that such bashings are not productive for the development of Indonesian animation; for it discouraged young animators from creating more works if judged not representing Indonesian style.

For Wadit, being inspired by foreign animation styles shouldn’t be a problem. He reminded that Osamu Tezuka, whose style left lasting influence on modern anime styles, was actually inspired by the style of Disney animations such as from the film Bambi1). Because of that, Wadit encouraged young animators to “continue drawing with whatever styles that you like!”

It is also worthy to note that the animated shorts presented in this Film Festival have diverse styles, most of which doesn’t look like the typical “anime style” at all. However, these Japanese animators are confident in creating their animations with styles that differ from the style that has been identified as “Japanese style”. Why then should we debate whether Indonesian animators should be obliged to create their works with “Indonesian style”, whatever such style might be like?

Thus, the topic “Beyond Anime” of this forum presents multiple meanings that can be taken as lessons. The first, we could observe that animation in Japan is not limited to the typical “anime-style”, but there are also a variety of other styles that develop along with popular styles, that follow from the variety of expressions pursued by respective creators. The second, commentaries on Indonesia’s budding animation scene should not be trapped in merely bashing the use of the so-called “anime-style”. More important to evaluate is whether local creators are able to develop interesting works, out of whichever styles that they feel most comfortable to create with.

Note

1) Manga critic Eiji Ōtsuka once even commented in a conference at the Concordia University that it is okay if Disney stole from Tezuka with their film The Lion King, for Tezuka himself stole from Disney anyway. This comment was recounted by Ian Condry in his discussion with Henry Jenkins, which can be read in the following link.

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