20 December 2010

The Noburo Ofuji Award (大藤信郎賞)


The Noburō Ōfuji Award (大藤信郎賞) honours excellence and innovation in Japanese animation. It is awarded at the Mainichi Film Concours (毎日映画コンクール) – the Mainichi Shinbun’s annual film awards. The award was established following the death of animation pioneer Noburō Ōfuji (大藤 信郎) in 1961. Ōfuji was known for his innovations in silhouette and cutout animation, (ie  The Village Festival / 村祭, 1930) often using traditional Japanese materials that gave his work a unique look compared to his international contemporaries.

Osamu Tezuka was the first recipient of the award for his experimental animation Story of a Certain Street Corner. During the first two decades of its existence, the award was primarily used to honour independent short animation by the likes of Tadanari Okamoto, Kihachiro Kawamoto, Yoji Kuri, Makoto Wada, and Taku Furukawa. Ground-breaking feature films like The Little Prince and the Eight-Headed Dragon and The Castle of Cagliostro were also honoured during the early years.

In the 1980s, the rise of Studio Ghibli and other innovative animation studios meant that big budget feature films began to dominate the award and move it away from the kind of independent spirit the award was intended to honour. In response to this shift, the Mainichi Film Concours established the Animation Film Award (アニメーション映画賞) in 1989 to award the big budget films separately. Although feature films do still win the Noburō Ōfuji Award, they are usually low budget films, independent films, or films that the jury consider highly innovative. The wide range of animation styles considered in this category is apparent by just looking at recent winners: Koji Yamamura’s hand drawn A Country Doctor won for 2007, Studio Ghibli’s Ponyo for 2008, and in February 2010 Hideto Nakata’s puppet animation Elemi got the prize for 2009. 

Non-Japanese directors have also been honoured when the animation has either been made in Japan (Michael Arias with Tekkon Kinkreet) or co-produced by Japanese partners (Aleksandr Petrov’s The Old Man and the Sea, Kihachiro Kawamoto et al.’s Winter Days).

With 2010 drawing to a close, I have been giving some thought to which films I think might win the Noburō Ōfuji Award at the Mainichi Film Concours in February 2011. It seems likely that Studio Ghibli’s The Borrower Arrietty (借りぐらしのアリエッティ/Karigurashi no Arietti, Hiromasa Yonebayashi) has a good chance of winning an award. I am hoping that the Mainichi Film Concours considers it for the Animation Film Award, thus freeing up the Noburō Ōfuji for an independent animator of note – like Atsushi Wada for In a Pig’s Eye, Saori Shiroiki for Woman Who Stole Fingers, or Mirai Mizue for Playground. It would seem to me that Keita Kurosaka is overdue to get some recognition, and although I haven’t seen it myself yet, judging from his past work and from what critics have been writing about Midori-ko, this might be the year that Kurosaka wins. Let me know in the comments who you think should win for 2010.

Here is the list of past winners:
1962  Osamu Tezuka
 Story of a Certain Street Corner
ある街角の物語 / Aru machikado no Monogatari
1963  Toei Doga
 The Little Prince and the Eight-Headed Dragon
わんぱく王子の大蛇退治 / Wanpaku Ōji no Daija taiji

1964  Makoto Wada
 Satsujin – Murder
殺人 Murder
Read Review

1965  Yoji Kuri
 Clap Vocalism (人間動物園/Ningen Dōbutsuen) Read Review
Love (愛/Ai) Read Review
The Chair (椅子/Isu) Read Review
AOS (アオス)
tied with
 
1965  Tadanari Okamoto
A Wonderful Medicine
(ふしぎなくすり/ Fushigi na kusuri)

1966 Osamu Tezuka
Pictures at an Exhibition
(展覧会の絵/Tenrankai no E)
Read Review

1967  Yoji Kuri
 The Room (部屋/Heya)
Two Grilled Fish (二匹のサンマ/Nihiki no Sanma)

1968  Gakushū Kenkyūsha (Gakken Co.)
 The Ugly Duckling
(みにくいあひるのこ/Minikui Ahiru no Ko)

1969  Takashi Yanase (Mushi Pro)
 The Kindly Lion (やさしいライオン/Yasashii Raion)

1970  Tadanari Okamoto
The Flower and the Mole (花ともぐら/Hana to Mogura)

1971  Video Tokyo (Akikazu Kawano and Takeo Nakamura)
 Tenma no Torayan (てんまのとらやん)

1972  Kihachiro Kawamoto
 The Demon (鬼/Oni)

1973  Tadanari Okamoto
 Praise Be to Small Ills
(南無一病息災/Nanmu Ichibyo Sokusai)

1974  Kihachiro Kawamoto
 A Poet’s Life (詩人の生涯/ Shijin no Shōgai)

1975  Tadanari Okamoto
The Water Seed (水のたね/Mizu no Tane)

1976  Kihachiro Kawamoto
Dojoji Temple (道成寺/ Dōjōji)

1977  Tadanari Okamoto (Dentsu Eigasha)
Towards the Rainbow (虹に向かって/Niji ni mukatte)

1978  ----- no award ----

1979  Hayao Miyazaki (Tokyo Movie Shinsha)
 Lupin the Third: The Castle of Cagliostro
(ルパン三世 カリオストロの城/ Rupan sansei: Kariosutoro no shiro)
Read Review

1980  Taku Furukawa
Speed (スピード)
1981  Isao Takahata (OH! Productions)
 Gauche the Cellist
(セロ弾きのゴーシュ/ Sero Hiki no Gōshu)
1982  Tadanari Okamoto
 The Magic Ballad
(おこんじょうるり/ Okonjōruri)
1983  Mori Masaki (Gen Productions and Madhouse)
 Barefoot Gen 
(はだしのゲン/Hadashi no Gen)

1984  Hayao Miyazaki
 Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind
(風の谷のナウシカ/ Kaze no Tani no Naushika)

1985  Gisaburō Sugii
  Night on the Galactic Railroad
(銀河鉄道の夜/ Ginga Tetsudō no Yoru)

1986  Hayao Miyazaki
 Laputa: Castle in the Sky
(天空の城ラピュタ/ Tenkū no Shiro Rapyuta)

1987  Osamu Tezuka (Tezuka Pro)
 Legend of the Forest (森の伝説/Mori no Densetsu)
Read Review

1988  Hayao Miyazaki
 My Neighbour Totoro 
(となりのトトロ/Tonari no Totoro)
1989  ----- no award ----

1990  Kihachiro Kawamoto
 Briar Rose or the Sleeping Beauty
(いばら姫、またはねむり姫 / Ibara-hime, Mata ha Nemuri-hime)
Read Review

1991  Tadanari Okamoto/Kihachiro Kawamoto 
(Sakura Eiga-sha and Echo)
 The Restaurant of Many Orders 
(注文の多い料理店/Chūmon no Ōi Ryōriten)

1992  ----- no award ----

1993  Shigeru Tamura
 URSA minor BLUE
(銀河の魚/Ginga no Sakana)

1994  ----- no award ----

1995  Katsuhiro Otomo

1996  N&G Production
 Rusuban (るすばん)

1997  ----- no award ----

1998  Shirogumi (Tatsuo Shimamura)
 Water Spirit (水の精/Mizu no sei)
Kappa Hyakuzu (河童百図)

1999  Aleksandr Petrov and his technical staff
 The Old Man and the Sea (老人と海/Roujin to Umi)

2000  Hiroyuki Kitakubo

2001  Hayao Miyazaki (Studio Ghibli)
 The Whale Hunt (くじらとり/Kujira Tori)

2002  Satoshi Kon
 Millennium Actress (千年女優/ Sennen Joyū)

2003  Kihachiro Kawamoto et al.
 Winter Days (冬の日/Fuyu no hi)
2004  Masaaki Yuasa
2005  Shintaro Kishimoto

2006  Michael Arias (Studio 4°C)
 Tekkon Kinkreet (鉄コン筋クリート)

2007  Koji Yamamura
 Franz Kafka’s A Country Doctor 
(カフカ 田舎医者/Kafuka Inaka Isha)
2008  Hayao Miyazaki (Studio Ghibli)
 Ponyo on a Cliff 
(崖の上のポニョ/Gake no Ue no Ponyo)

2009  Hideto Nakata (Sovat Theater) 
 Elemi
(電信柱エレミの恋い/ Denshin-Bashira Elemi no Koi)
Read Review

Update: This post is regularly updated with links to reviews of the films.

Available at CDJAPAN: 
Cello Hiki no Goshu (Gauche the Cellist) / Animation


© Catherine Munroe Hotes 2010

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