"Edge of the World" Asian animation shows have already become a tradition. This year the program is named "Inward Trajectory". It features stories, lit with "inner light", their authors are Japan's leading film directors.
Makoto Shinkai is called a "new Miyazaki", he is absolutely atypical for Japanese anime industry. He keeps at significant distance from this stereotyped industry, engaging minimal number of specialists and spending minimal money. Shinkai combines successfully such professions as scriptwriter, film director, chief animator, inbetweener, sound producer, 3D-modeller, and even sometimes reads texts. Thanks to his creative independence, the artist manages to bring all his concepts, ideological and artistic, to his viewers. Of course, there are many individualists among Japanese animators, but Makoto Shinkai is the brightest figure of the Japanese animation of the latest years.
His first colored fantastic animation film, Voices of a Distant Star, was released in 2002 and it made Makoto famous at once. "Edge of the World" festival features two of his works: The Place Promised in Our Early Days (2004) and Children Who Chase Lost Voices (2011).
The Place Promised in Our Early Days is Makoto's first movie made in the genre of science-fiction love drama. The director has elaborated very thoroughly the image, action and rhythm, and paid a special attention to the sound and its combination with the picture (the film earned his author a number of prestigious awards).
Three students find a drone plane crashed near the border between the Soviet and American occupation zones. They want to restore it to reach a mysterious tower. The film plot lines refract through this dream, as if through a prism: love and friendship, life and death, dream and reality.
While creating this anime, Makoto limited the assistants' help to minimum. The character design was put in hands of Ushio Tazawa, an illustrator, while Kazunori Takada, a 3D-modeler, created the Velaciela aircraft.
Children Who Chase Lost Voices conquered both critics and viewers. They wrote in their reviews: "The fact that in his work many things for which Shinkai is beloved by the viewers were turned inside-out and put with the other side, it may only mean one thing: the artist took up new altitude and showed that he may accomplish even the most difficult tasks, both from visual and from narrative point of view."
A schoolgirl lives a rather boring life, and the most interesting thing are sounds which can be sometimes heard on the radio. They appear as if from another world, distant and unreachable. What is hiding behind these mysterious signals: is it serenity or anxiety? What should one do when in the moment of rescue you face a deathly danger, and the help of the only person which is on your side in this place is not enough?
In his film, Makoto as always is generous for emotions and details, he is constantly playing with shapes, light, shadows, creating the effect of participation. Picturesque setting dips viewers in the world where the characters live, where the nature breathes, vibrates, bewitches. Even sakura, so distant, seems so close, as if it were growing somewhere near your house. The characters in this movie are alive, warm, their actions are full of familiar emotions and sense.
Another film, Summer Wars (2009) by Mamoru Hosoda, is made in a completely different manner and with another message. It is a science-fiction anime about the adventures of mathematics genius Kenji, a part-time moderator in OZ virtual reality program.
Mamoru prefers hand-drawn animation, although he admits that some visual effects are possible only with 3D technologies. In Summer Wars there are elements of realism and it touches upon social issues.
The main character, Kenji, tries to stop the world destruction by a virus, whilst solving very difficult computer tasks in his computer-like mind, but in the end he saves his own relationships. Mamoru Hosoda, who became famous for a rather chamber work, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, has suddenly broadened the scale of used techniques and with a light irony, typical of the animation genre, showed the invincibility of the samurai spirit, built in the Japanese temper. The box office takings in 2010 were about $17 mln, and the film got Japanese Academy Prize as the best animation film of the year.
A full-length animation film by Hiroyuki Okiura, A Letter to Momo, is made by his own script. An outstanding artist and animator, he once shocked the animation community with his debut, Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade (it earned the grand-prix and a special prize of the international commission of Tokyo Cinema Festival, a platinum grand-prix of Future Film Cinema Festival).
Momo, a young girl, should face a challenge: a transfer from Tokyo to a town on the periphery. But the expected and explainable difficulties are accompanied with strange and supernatural phenomena: suddenly, the events which couldn't have even been dreamt of in the capital, burst in the life on the silent island. In attempt to cope with them, the girl will make a lot of discoveries, among which there will be the key to a mystery of the letter which long ago was not finished by her father.
The program is developed with the support of Reanimedia.