13 July 2015

Fusako Yusaki: Master of Metamorphosis

Fusako Yusaki (湯崎夫沙子, b. 1937) is a Japanese clay animation pioneer.  Most of the early independent Japanese animators who came of age in the 1960s are men.  Women animators in this period were often behind the scenes working as inbetweeners and assistant animators and rarely took a directorial credit.  Yusaki is the exception to this rule, but she made her name not in Japan but in Italy.  Her works range from the abstract to narrative works – though many combine elements of both.  Using a colourful palette of clay, her works are defined by her use of metamorphosis.  Scenes flow seamlessly into one another in a very organic style. 

Interview with Yusaki at the  Ca' Foscari Short Film Festival this year: 

Yusaki was born in the city of Moji-ku, one of the five cities that merged to create the city of Kitakyūshū in Fukuoka Prefecture in 1963.  She graduated with a degree in Fine Arts from Joshibi University of Art and Design in 1960.  She then won a scholarship to study at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera in Milan in 1964 and has lived and worked in Milan ever since. 

She established her own independent studio – Studio Yusaki (スタジオ・ユサキ) – and is famous for her commercials and for her children’s television programming in collaboration with public broadcasters such as RAI (Italy’s public broadcaster) and the NHK.  Yusaki rose to fame in Italy in the 1960s for her popular series of clay animation advertisements for the liqueur Fernet-Branca (1968-1977), for which she won the Bagatto d’oro (the top prize for Italian commercials) in 1971. 

In the 1990s and 2000s, she became known for her sweet clay animation characters such as Peo (ペオ) the blue dog and the red and blue figures Naccio + Pomm (ナッチョとポム).  Naccio + Pomm have been released by the NHK in Japan as part of their Petit Petit Anime (プチプチ・アニメ) series for kids.    

Among her many honours, Yusaki has won a Bronze Lion from the Festival international de la créativité - Lions Cannes (1972) and the award for lifetime achievement from the Festival Internazionale del Cinema d'Arte in Bergano (2004).  She has been on the international juries at many festivals including Annecy (1989), Hiroshima (1990), Zagreb (2000), Espinho (2002), and Wissembourg (2003).

Yusaki continues to be very active on the animation scene, teaching workshops and participating in festivals as well as making films.  She teaches three-dimensional illustration at l’Istituto Europeo di Design in Milan and her films are part of the collection of the Hara Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo.


Animated Shorts – Claymation

1972  Pentalogia del mondo perduto 
1973  Ballata dell’omino stanco 
1974  Ominide
1975  Termituomo 
1983  Ama gli animali 
1984  Convergenza 
1986  Rotondo quadrato triangolo 
1988  Buongiorno 
1991  Stagioni senza parola  
1992  T.V.U.O.G. 
1998  Un giorno sì, un giorno no 
1998  Gioco di forme  
2000  Gioco di numeri 
2000  Gioco di colori 

Animated Series - Claymation

1989-90  Toki Doki – 13 x 2’  
1992-4  Talpy – 60 x 1’
1997  Peo plastilina – 13 x 30”  
1997-9  Peo in Svizzera, I parte – 13 x 2'  
2000-2  Peo in Svizzera” II parte – 13 x 2'  
2001-3  Naccio e Pomm – 13 x 5'  

Educational Film - Claymation

1984  Dipartimento Litosfera, 10 films 
1986  Unità 2, film for videodisc
1987  La struttura interna del computer – animated inserts
1998  Ippocrate – RAI Educational
2000  Ecolabel, emas, rifiuti – 3 x 30”

Advertisements – Claymation

1968-78  Fernet Branca – 56 ads
1976  Marcolin  
1977  Zurigo Assicurazioni
1978  Ariston  
1978  TVS sigla TV   
1980  Telenova sigla TV  
1981  A.I.E.D.  – 6 ads
1982  SAIWA  
1982  A.I.E.D.   
1983  Rete A sigla TV
1984  Rocher Ferrero  
1984  Bi-Bici  
1985  Mobilsol
1985  Denise  
1986  Ars Nova  
1987  Asgow  
1991  Valle d’Aosta
1991  3 x 2  
1992  Pubblicità Progresso – 5 films
1994  Volta pagina 
1995  Peo (sigla) 
1999  Glu-Glu (sigla)  
2001  Albero Azzurro (sigla) 
2001  Intermezzo per pubblicità  
2001  Colazione con Peo 

Animated Shorts - Cel animation

1985  L’incredibile Usil   

For more information:
Fusako Yusaki / Documentazione,” arskey: magazine d’arte moderna e contemporanea  

2015 Catherine Munroe Hotes

09 July 2015

Geidai Animation: 6th Graduate Works 2015 (DVD)

Geidai Animation: 6th Graduate Works 2015 (DVD)
東京藝術大学大学院映像研究科アニメーション専攻第四期生修了作品集 2015

Nippon Connection’s presentation of a selection of animated shorts by the Tokyo University of Arts (aka Geidai) Animation Department’s graduating class of 2015 was sold out again this year.  For those of you who could not be there, the Geidai DVD of their 5th year of graduate works is now available to order online.  

Order Now!

The works were presented this year by Yūichi Itō, who is one of Japan’s top stop motion animators (learn more).   The class of 2015 was also taught by the Oscar-nominated director Kōji Yamamura, the animation producer Mitsuko Okamoto, and Taruto Fuyama of the Koma Koma Lab

In addition to these supervising professors, animator Hiromitsu Murakami is an Assistant Professor in the MA programme and Ilan Nguyen is a lecturer.  Hiroki Kono (Geidai 2011), Yuanyuan Hu (Geidai 2012), and Hakhyun Kim (Geidai 2013) provided additional assistance.  Sound instructors for the films were Tatsuhko NishiokaToru KamekawaYuichi Kishino, and Hiroshi Takayama.

Each Geidai graduating class is given a pithy one-word theme.  This year’s theme is “DAWN”, which is an inspired idea in the way that it evokes the promise of a new generation of animators.   At the graduating class’s screening event in March, talks were held with special guests including Tomoyasu MurataSumito Sakakibara, Masaki Fujihata and the Dutch-Canadian animator Co Hoedeman.

Of the 12 students graduating this year 2/3 of them are women, which is a trend at many animation schools in Japan suggesting that the era of male dominance of the animation industry in Japan may finally be coming to an end.  

Some of the students that I have my eye on for future greatness include Shishi Yamazaki, whose sensual works featuring self portraits such as Yamasuke Yamazaki (2013) are a breath of fresh air. 

Yukie Nakauchi is also one to watch.  I featured her adaptation of Niel De Ponte’s Celebration and Chorale (2013) at this year’s Nippon Connection as an example of one of Tamabi’s top recent graduates.  With her abstract works she demonstrates a great understanding of the relationship between music and animated movement. 

Satomi Maiya’s graduate film has a more mainstream appeal.  The soft watercolour look and character design in A Place to Name reminded me of the renowned children’s picture book author Chihiro.  

There are two stop motion animators in this graduating class who also attracted my interest: Kohei Takeda and Ataru Sakagami.  Sakagami’s stop motion of the interior of his old family home, with its tatami floors shredding up and filling the room is brilliant and he is definitely one to watch out for in the near future. 

I will review some of my favourite films from this graduating class in the near future.  The consensus at the Nippon Connection selected screening was that there were not as many exceptional works as last year, but the quality of animation is solid and they are certainly a very talented group of animators.  

Note: The film descriptions below are by the filmmakers themselves.  I have made a couple of improvements to the spelling / wording but I have not corrected everything. 

Graduate Films
収録作品  第三期生修了作品

Scutes on my Mind
かたすみの鱗 / Katasumi no Uroko /  8’58”

“The scutes glisten in the corner of her mind and she starts to dig her memories up.  What was like the museum director she encountered when she was lost?”

Note: "Scutes" is the zoological term for bony external plates or scales overlaid with horn, as found on the shell of a turtle, the skin of crocodilians, and the feet of birds.

Megumi Ishitani (石谷恵, b. 1991) was born in Hyogo.  She also has a degree in Intermedia Art from Geidai (2013).  Check out her website, or follow her on tumblr, twitter, and vimeo.

Wild Boys Advance
超ラジオ体操 / Chō Rajio Taisō /  5’12”

“An ensemble play with men full of distorted energy.”

koya (b. 1990) was born in Aichi and is a graduated of Musashino Art University (2013).  He leads the video production group KENJA.  Follow him on twitter, instagram, and vimeo, or check out his profile here.

A Place to Name
その家の名前 / Sono ie no namae / 4’31”

“This place is where my grandparents, my parents, and I once lived.  Even though I lose my memories and feelings of it, it does exist there and keeps to be in existence.”

Ataru Sakagami (坂上直, b.  1986) is from Niigata.  He graduated from the Kyoto University of Art and Design with a degree in Video and Performing Arts in 2010. You can find him on twitter.

Fox Fears
きつね憑き/ Kitsune Tsuki / 7’38”

“In the evening of a village festival, a young boy named Bunroku goes to the festival with his friends and visits a clog shop on the way.  There he learns an old superstition about the fox.”

Miyo Sato (佐藤美代, b. 1989) is from Nagoya in Aichi Prefecture.  She graduated from the School of Design at Nagoya University of the Art (2011). Check her out on tumblr.

Moonlit Night and Opal
月夜&オパール / Tsukiyo to Opāru  / 3’21” 

“Half asleep with my eyes closed, my conscience flies beyond time and space and I transform myself to all the life forms existing.  I become the universe and the universe becomes me, until I fall asleep.  .  .  It is a song to pray for the existence of heart and soul at an awakening.” 

Shishi Yamazaki (シシヤマザキ, b.1989) is from Kanagawa.  She has a degree in Design from Tokyo University of the Arts (2013).  Follow her on twitter, check out her website, or buy products that feature her art from Kotobukisun Shop.

Holy Shit!

“One elephant lives in a mountain.  He spends his life drawing pictures and fishing.  Pigs with swollen crotches live in the city.  The city is full of towers.  One day a tower is built near the elephant’s cabin, the elephant starts to climb it. 

Takashi Shibuya (澁谷岳志, b.1988) is from Fukushima.  He has a degree in Geology from Shinshu University (2012).  Follow him on twitter and vimeo, or check out his website.

Helleborus Niger
“A story of a father and a daughter.  The father projects the images of [his] former [him]self on his daughter.  Their feelings start to merge as his memories get clearer.”

Kohei Takeda (武田浩平, b. 1990) is a stop motion animator form Ibaraki.  He graduated from the College of Education at Ibaraki University in 2013.  Follow him on tumblr.

I’m Here
“One doesn’t know where to go but has to move forward.  He has to go to his goal.  Always transforming himself, his heat and mind drift and run towards the goal when he finds it.”

Yukie Nakauchi (中内友紀恵, b. 1989) was born in Hokkaido.  She graduated from Tama Art University in 2013.  Follow her on twitter or check out her website.

Tepid Bath 
“The borderline of water, a body, or a bathtub gets more and more unclear.  All are mixed together in the lukewarm water.”

Tsumugi Harunari (春成つむぎ, b. 1983) is from Ishikawa.  She graduated from the International Academy of Media Arts and Sciences (IAMAS) in 2008.  Follow her on twitter or check out her website.

Missing You
白いうなばら / Shiroi Unabara / 6’25” 

Satomi Maiya (米谷聡美, b. 1990) was born in Miyagi.  She studied animation at Tokyo Polytechnic University (2013).  Follow her on tumblr, vimeo, or twitter.

Hollow Mind
/ Shina / 5’29” 
“The mind grows hollow leaving the body behind.  Soon she is almost swallowed by the swelled one.  The fruit that failed to fruit.”

yagi (山羊, b. 1990) is from Aichi.  She graduated from the School of Design at Nagoya University of the Arts (NUA, 2012). http://yagigoya.wix.com/228

ズドラーストヴィチェ! / Zudorāsutovische / 5’36”

Yoko Yuki (幸洋子, b. 1987) was born in Aichi.  She has a degree in Visual Media from Nagoya University of the Arts and Sciences (NUAS, 2010). http://yokoyuki.com/

First Year Films (2014)
一年次作品 2014

Reinventing the Square Wheel
四角い車輪の再発明 / Shikakui Sharin no Saihatsumei / 2’24”

“On various forms expanded in all the direction[s] and a dance by a man in tights.”

Yasuaki Adachi (足立靖明, b. 1986) did both his undergraduate and graduate studies at Tokyo University of the Arts.  Follow him on twitter or tumblr.

Oh Dear
あらら / Arara

“Naoko had a fight with her brother over a trivial thing and pushed him away.  She knew she was childish but she ran away from home.”

Megumi Ishitani (石谷恵) – profile above


“A boy’s spoon falls on the floor when he is having a breakfast.  The moment he is trying to pick it up, the boy is thrown into the [a] different world.  There he begins the adventure to take his spoon back.”

Yikun Wang (王禕坤 / オウ・イコン, b. 1991) was born in Shanghai.  He has a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Tokyo and a degree in Design from Tokyo University of the Arts.


“Signs such as circles, points, and lines get together to make the shape of a ‘bear’.  ‘The bear’ starts to walk to find the concrete places and comes across animals in the forest.  We tend to find a story in the relationship between ‘The bear’ and other animals.”

koya – profile above

Return to Dust

“A skeleton is tied with red threads and stuck by clay.  How much control do we have in our own actions?  And what does hinder these actions?”

Ataru Sakagami (坂上直) – profile above

Through the Windows

“The gaze of a woman from a window to  [at other] windows leads to a recollection of the various scenes.  The metamorphosed windows transfer, expand, reflect, conserve, and sometimes shine like a lighthouse.”

Miyo Sato (佐藤美代) – profile above

aaH / Hee
ああ/良い / aa / ii / 2’12” 

“When the mind says aah, the body says hee.  I dance around the confusion and the consensus, and my whole life is getting composed of these dances.”

Shishi Yamazaki (ししやまざき) – profile above

/ Ryō/ 3’ 
Ai Sugaya (菅谷愛) belongs to the animation group Onion Skin along with other Geidai students Toshikazu Tamura, Onohana (Geidai 2014) and Yewon Kim (Geidai 2014).

“[A depressed] and isolated mind is similar to the sense of floating in the water.  Underwater as a man’s mindscape and the real occurrences at the beach are portrayed”

Kohei Takeda (武田浩平) – profile above

tumbled cat
“A record of sensation and sign[s] of watching tumbl[ing], moving and then floating.”

Toshikazu Tamura (田村聡和) belongs to the animation group Onion Skin along with other Geidai students Ai Sugaya, Onohana (Geidai 2014) and Yewon Kim (Geidai 2014).

Scape Escape
ぜんぶわかってる / Zembu wakatteru / 1’59”

“A man wanted to escape.  He wanted to stay unaware but he found them all.”

Yukie Nakauchi (中内友紀恵) – see profile above.

The Closet

“A young girl takes it into her head that her mother is taken by her newly born sister.  Out of jealousy she hides her baby sister in darkness.”

Satomi Maiya (米谷聡美) – see profile above


“The everyday life of an elephant and a woman, his wife in a lakeside house.  Their life together with a certain distance repeats itself.  The traces of the passing time cover the familiar landscape.  One day an accident happens to the couple living together with contradictions and secrets.” 

Madoka (円香, b. 1990) is an animator, filmmaker and illustrator.  Before coming to Geidai, she studied animation at Tokyo Zokei University (2011).  Check out her website.

My Dear

“At the waterside surrounded by factories and the [waste] lives a white frog.  It loves a goldfish who also lives in the neighbourhood.  Recently the goldfish appears to be in poor health, which worries the frog.”

Yagi (山羊) – see profile above.

Mind Game
形而上の無限思考 / Keijijyō no Mugenshikō / 4’50”

“The devices not used for a story are fed and then destroyed.  This is a reproduction of reminiscence when a heroine runs about a neuron in a moment of waiting for the world that didn’t happen.”

Risa Yamashita (山下理紗) is in her early 20s.  She only lists rather vague information about herself in her profile on her website.

See ya, Mr. Banno!
黄色い気球とばんの先生 / Kiroi Kikyū to Banno Sensei / 4’23”

“One day out of [the] blue Prof. Banno of next class came to school with his hair shaven.  Students made fun of his bald head.  Prof. Banno flew in a hot air balloon the other next day.  Nobody knows anything about what happened to him afterwards after that.” 

Yōko Yuki (幸洋子) – see profile above.

Cathy Munroe Hotes 2015

Track (2015)

I saw Tochka’s latest PiKA PiKA animation Track (2015) at Oberhausen 2015 as part of the MuVi Award international competition which celebrates music videos that are “trend-setting and visually exceptional.”  This year’s selection featured an eclectic mix of styles including the music videos for prominent artists such as Pussy Riot (I Can’t Breathe), Arcade Fire (We Exist) and Sia (Chandelier) and more off beat works such as Xiu Xiu’s Cinthya’s Unisex, Wang Rong’s Chick Chick, and a YouTube SmashUp of Wrecking Ball by Parag K. Mital.  Fellow Japanese animator Yoriko Mizushiri was also on the programme with her latest work Maku which features the music of Shuta Hasunuma.

Track made it into the MuVi selection because it features the music of Atsushi Yamaji (山路敦司), but I wouldn’t really call it a music video per se.  It is a collaborative stop motion animation made as a part of Smart Illumination Yokohama 2013 and was later reedited into a short film format for distribution.  At the core of Tochka are the co-directors Takeshi Nagata (ナガタタケシ) and Kazue Monno (モンノカヅエ) from Kyoto (Read about my visit to their new studio last summer).  They were assisted by a team of 28 animators (credited below) who draw in the air using penlights and are filmed at a slow framerate in order to pixilate the animators and their movements with light.  The animators in a nighttime PiKA PiKA animation film are visible onscreen usually as black shadows and remind me of the kuroko (黒子) stagehands in kabuki or bunraku.

The film was shot under the promenade connecting Zō-no-hana Park (象の鼻パーク,literally: “Elephant Trunk Park”) to the YokohamaRed Brick Warehouse.  The park gets its name from the Zō-no-hana breakwater which people say is shaped like the trunk of an elephant.  Renovated into a public space for cultural activity in recent years, Zō-no-hana is celebrated as the birthplace of the port of Yokohama.  Commodore Matthew Perry’s Black Ships (Kurofune) landed here on their second visit in 1859.  Yokohama quickly became the gateway of foreign goods into Japan, with freight trains departing from the port for Tokyo.

This is an inspired location for a nighttime shoot because the illuminated row of plinths running parallel to the promenade and the iconic Yokohama skyline with the illuminated giant Ferris wheel Cosmo Clock 21 make a perfect backdrop to the film.  In a nod to the history of trains departing the port of Yokohama, the animation takes place on a track built under the promenade. 

With every film that they make, Tochka seem to be widening the possibilities of animating with light.  This is one of their most complex uses of light with scenes depicting fish in the ocean, dinosaurs next to an erupting volcano, circus performances and a mural like those drawn by prehistoric man on the walls of caves.    

The synopsis of the film in the Oberhausen catalogue reads: “Humans invented tools, discovered fire, and drew pictures in dark caves.  Then murals were born with a mission to hand down everything to posterity.  In these murals, you can find dreams and the joy connected with the discovery of fire.  When I trace the history of the ancient peoples and imagine their lifestyle, I always feel grateful for modern civilization.” 

Indeed, as with all of Tochka’s PiKA PiKA collaborative works, Track is an uplifting film that celebrates life and the human imagination. 


Photography by LittleGrayT

Animators  /  アニメーター

Ivan Lee  /  アイバン リイ
Chihori Muro  /  室ちほり
Miyu Nakao  /  中尾 美愉 
Natsumi Fukunaga  /  福永奈都美         
Minayo Yamanaka  /  山中美奈代 
Ryota Iwasaki  /  岩崎亮太 
Yuka Mizutani  /  水谷友香
Masaaki Nakasone  /  仲宗根まさあき
Toshiyuki Tsurumi  /  鶴見利之 
Airi Komiyama  /  込山愛里
Yuki Masuya  /  桝矢由貴
Souta Tamura /  田村聡大
Kaito Otsu /  大津かいと
Akari Kawabata  /  川端明里    
Atsuko Miyake  /  三宅敦子     
Kim Yewon  /  キム イエウォン        
Nobuyuki Hanabusa /  ハナブサ ノブユキ
Kota Tsujimura  /  辻村洪太
Asami Sekiguchi  /  関口亜紗美              
Yasunori Kishimoto  /  岸本泰之             
Yoichi Inada /  稲田陽一             
Isao Shoganji /  正願地勲          
Ayaka Kibata  /  Ayaka Kibata                                     
Kumi Kono  /  kumi kono
Kanoko Yamaguchi  /  山口華乃子
Midoriko Hayashi  /  林みどり子

Music / 音楽
Atsushi Yamaji /山路敦司
Percussion /  パーカッション            
Satoko Ono  /  小野聡子                                            
Nozomi Nishizono  /  西園望    

Recording  /   録音
Koji Morita  /  森田浩司

Support  /  協力
Epson Sales Japan Corp.  /  エプソン販売株式会社
SMART ILLUMINATION YOKOHAMA 2013, 2014  /  スマートイルミネーション横浜2012, 2013
ZOU-NO-HANA TERRACE  /  象の鼻テラス       
The City of Yokohama /  横浜市                                              
  JIAMS (Joint Institute for Advanced Multimedia Studies)  /  JIAMS(先端マルチメディア合同研究所)
Directors /  監督
Takeshi Nagata / ナガタタケシ                                            
Kazue Monno  /  モンノカヅエ

Copyright  /  著作制作              
TOCHKA  /トーチカ

2015 Cathy Munroe Hotes


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