Focus on the awards: four Japanese anime titles that could be Oscar nominees | Characteristics

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The Japanese animation market has almost doubled over the past decade. Revenues for the entire anime market, including films, television and merchandise, topped $ 18.4 billion in 2017, supported by international sales which now account for nearly half of all industry income based in Japan. Streaming services such as Netflix and AT & T’s Crunchyroll have invested heavily in the medium, and anime franchises have served as the basis for big-budget Hollywood productions such as Ghost in the shell and Alita: the angel of battle.

Meanwhile, in Japan, animated feature films regularly overtake their live-action counterparts. Of the 10 highest grossing Japanese local films of all time, seven are animated films, and the country regularly produces more than 50 animated titles for theatrical release each year.

After the introduction of the animated feature film category for the 2002 Oscars, Japan quickly made a strong impression – with Hayao Miyazaki’s film Abducted as if by magic winning the Oscar the second year in 2003. So far this film is the only one from Japan to win the award, but several other feature films (largely from Miyazaki himself or his famous Studio Ghibli) have been nominated over the years. Last year, Mamoru Hosoda Mirai became the first non-Ghibli animated film to be nominated – a sign that a generation of post-Miyazaki filmmakers is making sense. This year’s lineup of anime titles – four will compete for an Oscar nomination for an animated feature this year – shows how this generation continues to make its mark.

The most popular entertainment in Japan this year was Alter with you, arguably the country’s most anticipated film of 2019, animated or not. It was, after all, director Makoto Shinkai’s sequel to his success. your name, the story of a pair of time-traveling teenagers swapping bodies that broke box office records when it was released in 2016. This film is currently the second highest-grossing Japanese film of all. time in the world, with $ 361 million.

“After having had such success, how could I create a film that would be even more enjoyable? Shinkai thought. “I really had a hard time with that.”

Fan a storm

The result of this struggle was Alter with you, a teenage love story in the midst of visions of the apocalypse. The backdrop is torrential rain-battered Tokyo, where a runaway from the countryside meets a young woman with the mysterious power to stop the rain. The film is distributed by Toho and produced by Genki Kawamura, who also produced your name. It was funded by the Weathering With You production committee, which includes Toho, Shinkai’s CoMix Wave Films, and publisher Kadokawa, among others.

Shinkai films are known for their striking animation and Alter with you could be his best film to date. Her rain-soaked Tokyo is rendered in incredible detail – the search for places would have taken two whole months – and each raindrop seems to move on its own.

“When it rains, my team and I run to the window and shoot videos, then play them frame by frame,” says Shinkai.

The combination of the film’s visual appeal and its story of doomed lovers who ultimately have to decide the fate of Tokyo has proven itself to Japanese viewers: released in July, it is still in theaters and became the 12th film. the most profitable in Japan. time, after accumulating $ 128 million (13.9 billion yen). It is also finding fans in markets such as China and India, and is set to release in the United States in January via distributor GKids. In addition to competing for the Oscar for animated feature film, Alter with you is also Japan’s submission in the category of international feature films (formerly foreign language films).

Fighting chance

Apocalypse visions, although of a very different kind, can also be found in Promare, the new film from director Hiroyuki Imaishi and screenwriter Kazuki Nakashima, a dynamic duo known to anime fans for their frenzied and thrilling action TV series (like Kill La Kill) who both embrace and lovingly mock gender tropes. Promare, their first feature film, pits futuristic firefighters equipped with robots against a group of humans capable of controlling the flames in a battle that decides the future of humanity itself. It was hosted by Trigger and XFlag studios and distributed by Toho.

In cinema since May, Promare had steadily racked up $ 12.9 million (1.4 billion yen) at the Japanese box office in November – no small feat for an animated film with no manga or TV series history. The filmmakers attribute the film’s lengthy theatrical release to so-called audience participation screenings, in which members are encouraged to wave light sticks and applaud onscreen.

“We didn’t make the film with these events in mind,” Imaishi says. “But we feel like the public participation really deepened the work.” Writer Nakashima likens the experience to the “chemical reaction” that occurs between an audience and performers during a live performance, adding: “I never thought such a thing could happen with our film. . “

US fans have already had a dose of the action via distributor GKids, who posted Promare in limited theatrical release earlier this year in concert with Fathom Events. GKids is bringing the film back to US screens on December 8 and 10.

Yes Promare is the highest octane animated film of 2019, Children of the sea maybe its more complex. The title, produced by Studio 4 ° C and distributed by Toho, is based on a famous manga by Daisuke Igarashi about three people with a special connection to the sea.

Studio 4 ° C, run by producer Eiko Tanaka, is known for its striking visuals, and Children of the sea perhaps his most impressive animated feature to date. The film, created over a five-year span, uses a combination of hand-drawn frames and CG to replicate the intricate art style of the original manga.

“Usually, when you adapt a manga to an anime, you simplify the designs to make it easier to animate,” says director Ayumu Watanabe. “But I thought if we did that to this wonderful manga, it would destroy the whole point.” I wanted viewers to feel like they were seeing the original manga in motion.

Children of the sea features an original soundtrack by Joe Hisaishi, best known as the songwriter behind films such as Princess mononoke and Abducted as if by magic. But the soundtrack bears little resemblance to the Miyazaki films. “When I met Mr. Hisaishi, he suggested a minimalist style to me that would not overwhelm the viewer,” says Watanabe. “He took the words out of my mouth. “

Following the master

The 2019 film that most closely resembles Miyazaki’s works is Okko’s Inn – like many of Miyazaki’s films, it centers around a young female protagonist and features supernatural elements and idyllic scenes from nature. It is about a young girl whose parents die in a car accident. She then moves to her grandmother’s inn deep in the countryside, populated by ghosts that only she can see.

Based on a series of novels by Hiroko Reijo, Okko’s Inn was animated at DLE and Madhouse studios and directed by Kitaro Kosaka, who became animator at Studio Ghibli.

“I remember Mr. Miyazaki saying that he wanted people who watch his films to experience something that they had never experienced before,” says Kosaka. “That’s what I’m aiming for too.”

Okko’s Inn features several distinctly Japanese elements, including ghosts called “yurei” and a “kagura” dance, dedicated to Shinto gods. Still, Kosaka believes the film’s themes, such as persistence in the face of grief, are universal, which is confirmed by the reactions he has seen at international screenings.

In Japan, Okko’s Inn is distributed by Gaga. Like other anime titles competing this year for an Oscar nomination, Children of the sea and Okko’s Inn received theatrical screenings in the United States via GKids; the latter is now available in home video and digital from the same distributor.


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