originally posted at https://canmom.tumblr.com/post/716688...

I did it.

Happy birthday Animation Night, my weird little baby. You are now three years old.

Gif source: @fluorescentfries

Three years ago, I was watching the Japan Animator Expo. I was blown away and charmed and overwhelmed. So I was like, I have to make people experience Me! Me! Me! for themselves. And while I’m at it, everyone needs to absorb Aeon Flux. What if I were to… stream some cool weird animations on Twitch instead of my usual videogames?

Well, that was a hit!

So I did another week, pulling in package films like Robot Carnival. At some point I decided to try screening entire movies. My friends helped me research films I’d never heard of, and compiled two wonderful lists of animated music videos. At some point we switched from mostly short films to mostly movies. Runtimes got more and more ambitious. The writeups got stupidly elaborate. Every week I’d nerd out and research some new director or studio or subject.

Before I knew it, I was celebrating a whole year of that. And then another! And now, what do you know, it’s three. We have covered a truly startling cross-section of animated films from across space and time.

At this point it feels like if I missed a week, I’d die or something.

Gif source: @thatanimescreencapguy

(You might be thinking, hold on, I thought you said the anniversary was next week? Well, I did a maths oops. I was trying to take into account the difference between ‘52 weeks’ and ‘365 days’ and I screwed up! No, 156 is the closest week to the anniversary. Except… actually all the previous anniversaries were actually celebrated a week early, since I was counting from a notional ‘Animation Night 0′.  But uh… having established that tradition I’m not gonna break it.)

So, let’s go over a few highlights from the last year, as has become traditional. But what are we watching tonight? Well, previously we marked the occasion by rewatching some of my faves from the early days, like Aeon Flux, Tekkonkinkreet or Dahufa. This time, the spotlight is going back to the Japan Animator Expo, which was a thing that Hideaki Anno’s Studio Khara organised, pulling in an incredibly varied collection of short films from all sorts of different studios - a chance for some of the greatest animators to cut loose and make some concepts that would be too weird or elaborate to make normally. More on that in a bit!

Gif source: @lullabiesinaglasswilderness

So. The last year. The first week AN 105, we took a look at old school Imaishi at his most stylish in Dead Leaves, and a strange Japanese-French angle on LA in Mutafukaz. Fun movies, a promising start.

But the next week, I lost my friend Fall. It still makes no fucking sense, and it won’t ever. On Animation Night 106, I used this ritual to remember her by showing Haibane Renmei, an anime deeply important to her. It proved to be exactly what I needed to see at that time - one of the most truthful depictions of grief. I still miss Fall. I wish I could talk to her about everything that’s happened in the last year. (I’ve done my best to learn Japanese in part to honour her love of languages, but now I’m at the point I can somewhat hold a conversation, it hurts that I can’t actually talk to her in ‘her language’.)

The next few weeks, I kept this up despite everything. We visited the ingeniously grotesque ‘gekimation’ of Ujicha (AN108), visited Mamoru Hosoda twice to more or less charming effect (AN107, AN 113), recreated Studio Ghibli’s one-two punch of 1988 (AN 111), and had a look at some absolutely unique directors like Bill Plympton and Joann Sfar (AN 112, AN 114). I got to show @mogsk​‘s original fansub of a film of Croatian animator Milan Blažeković (AN 116). On AN 117 I wrote another love letter to independent/web animation.

Short films would continue to have a presence all throughout - AN109 we checked out the latest Love Death and Robots and nearly every CalArts film of the year, and AN135 we did the same with a fantastic selection of Gobelins films as well as some unique animators like Poul Robertson and Pulpe. AN 141 took us out to China, with the glorious return of Shanghai Animation Film Studio, and the brilliant Mee’s Forest by Busifan of Dahufa fame, now with a fresh translation by the writers of Animation Obsessive.

Gif source: @suddenlysomewherethatsgreen

On AN 119, I wrote a post about Richard Williams and The Thief and the Cobbler, telling the story of Williams’ lifelong project to try to live up to his ideal of Disney’s Nine Old Men, no matter the cost. That proved to be one of my post popular posts of the whole year and it’s definitely one of the bits of writing I’m happiest with.

The next week on AN 120 I was in America! We saw something just as technically ambitious in another way: Richard Linklater taking Bob Sabiston’s ‘rotoshop’ software and a great deal of animator sweat to portray the world of dreams, and then Philip K Dick’s tragic scifi version of his experiences at edge of society, caught between exploitative cops and the effects of heavy drug use. It’s a unique style, and an effective one. Another American week took us into the archives of Liquid Television, the incubator of Aeon Flux and Beavis and Butthead, to see what else they had in their vault (AN 121).

On AN 122, we had a look at The Hakkenden, an incredibly ambitious and varied OVA… if one that’s now mostly remembered only by sakuga fans. AN 125 took a look at the rest of Peter Chung’s career besides Aeon Flux, notably the delightfully strange Alexander Senki, which we’d revisit to finish a few weeks later, but also some of his franchise work like Riddick and Tomb Raider.

AN 127 took us to see the three adaptations of the works of ‘Project Itoh’, Hideo Kojima’s best friend and purveyor of sharp near-future scifi. Itoh died tragically young; these posthumous adaptations by three different studios each have a very distinctive style and are powerful films in their own right.

Gif source: @seinaet

Halloweens are when we go and take a look at horror animation - they’re always memorable. On AN 129 we got to see more of the work of Ujicha, and dive into the baroque, slimy hellish dreamworld of Phil Tippett’s thirty-year magnum opus Mad God.

On AN 130, I got to have another headscratch at the old question of ‘what the hell is up with Hayao Miyazaki’, comparing his old film Porco Rosso against the most recent The Wind Rises, which both approach the tension between his pacifism and his love of old warplanes.

On AN 136 I took another leaf through Animation Obsessive to collate their writing on the Zagreb School into a film night. This unique group of animators put a unique spin on the UPA style, breaking all the supposed rules of animation timing.

Back in the day I wrote a monstrously long post about samurai to introduce an animation night on jidaigeki, Japanese historical stories. AN 137 returned to that subject, with three very different but all excellent films by Production I.G. and Toei.

Gif source: @schwarzfee

AN138 was a chance to compare Pinocchios old and new, with del Toro’s new stop-motion interpretation making a hell of a splash. The new one was undeniably beautiful, but could its story hold together..?

On Animation Night 139, I had a look at the mighty realist animator and occasional director Hiroyuki Okiura. Okiura was one of Production I.G.’s secret weapons, renowned for his contributions to films like Ghost in the Shell, but we had a look at some of his more obscure works like Run, Melos. The next week (AN 140) I followed this up with a deep dive into Oshii’s ‘Kerberos Saga’, trying to figure out what Anpo man Mamoru Oshii was doing with all that nazi power armour. Of all the films in that sprawling story, Okiura’s Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade was certainly the most impactful and coherent, but Oshii’s bizarre pixilation film Tatsuguishi-Retsuden was a historical oddity I was glad to discover despite the wonky translation.

On Animation Night 143, I finally gave the Lupin III franchise its due. We took a look at some of the wonkier entries in the long history of Lupin, such as The Mystery of Mamo in which Lupin goes up against a weird blue immortal guy, and the recent attempt to reboot it in C.G. And we had another look at Takashi Koike’s dark, heightened take on Lupin, which is always… an experience.

The next week on AN144, I continued my efforts to get into Gundam by taking a look at Sunrise Studio 1′s overwhelming film duology Gundam Thunderbolt. Jazz and space battles, a nonstop orgy of robot violence, it was a ride.

On Animation Night 146, we commemorated Leiji Matsumoto, one of the most influential artists in the history of sci-fi anime, creator of such immortal characters as Captain Harlock. It was a chance to take a look at his whole career, even the early WWII comics, where we saw his fixation with the figure of a reluctant soldier on the wrong side. The next week (AN147) we saw the time that Daft Punk collaborated with Matsumoto and Toei to make a movie for their album - and some weeks later on AN152 we’d return to Captain Harlock again, with Shinji Aramaki’s odd CG interpretation.

Animation Night 148 was a long overdue return to the world of Korean animation, with a fascinating set of angles, from viciously dark drama to rural nostalgia to… kinda like yugioh? AN149 took things historical, looking at Toei’s adaptations of mythological stories from the earliest days of anime - which hold up really quite well.

Gif source: @iyashikei

Then on Animation Night 150 came the long-awaited day where I got to show everyone Masaaki Yuasa’s incredible film Inu-Oh. A blind monk and a cursed boy join together to tell the stories of the fallen in medieval glam rock. It’s such an expression of the joy of what animation can be, and honestly one of my favourite films, and I’m really glad everyone seemed to enjoy it as well.

After all that, were we running out of steam? Not at all! Animation Night 151 saw the release of Lackadaisy, showing that webcomic dorks on Discord can make animation to rival any big studio; Bani-Chan’s beautiful film for Toby Fox and Itoki Hana, and most of all, Studio Ponoc’s Modest Heroes, the effort of a bunch of former Ghibli staff to bring something new to anime. The third film Invisible, featuring the unbelievably sophisticated animation of Akihiko Yamashita, has to be seen to be believed.

Gif source: @muppethole

And that almost brings us up to now! Animation Night 153-154 took us into a dive of an early work by the master of chuunibyō, Kinoko Nasu, with year-spanning nonlinear story of wizards and traumagirls and murder - as envisioned by the madly ambitious early Ufotable. And last week, I wrote a monster of a post covering the story of Kunihiko Ikuhara for AN 155 - the man launched from Sailor Moon to create such uniquely powerful works as Utena, Penguindrum, and Sarazanmai. Thanks for reading that, it means a lot that so many people did!

So… phew. Hell of a year.

I wasn’t sure I’d be able to bring new material every week for a third year running. I’m kind of amazed that I did - and it’s not like this is the dregs, we’re still finding things that amaze and delight. But that said, I am kinda running out of stuff to show. Animation Night will continue, but I’m going to start introducing more reruns - which I hope isn’t a bad thing because a whole lot of you joined quite recently so it will probably be new to you!

And with that in mind, it’s time to go watch one of the very first things I ever showed on this film night: The Japan Animator Expo.

If I was to write a full writeup on the Animator Expo, it would take so long that we’d have no time to actually watch the films. So with that in mind, here’s the short version.

Gif source: @darkishasian

So. Hideaki Anno (AN: if u don’t know who she is get da hell out of here!) left the hot organisational mess that was Gainax to run his own studio Khara, their primary mission being to create the four-movie Rebuild of Evangelion series (see: AN 18, AN 66). But this mammoth project was not their only undertaking. In 2014, Anno and Khara organised a series of short films for the Tokyo International Film Festival, designed as a showcase of both new and old animators. The series was called the 日本アニメ(ーター)見本市 Nihon Anime(etā) Mihonichi or Japan Animator Expo. Each week, a new short would be released on the web.

The shorts vary incredibly wildly. Some of them are incredible technical flexes by some of the most experienced in the business; others rougher work by independent animators. Some tie in to existing franchises (mainly Eva), or function as pilots for later works; others are standalone. Some are music videos, some are short films, some blur the lines. Some use a relatively standard anime style, some are CG, some have a unique design aesthetic. It’s an incredibly varied and cool collection.

Gif source: @arirna

^a brief clip from the psychic bomb that is Me! Me! Me!

I will write up a full breakdown of every film in the animator expo and what’s interesting about who made each one at a later date. Tonight let’s just watch the thing - it’s not short! So Animation Night 156 will begin pretty much right now; movies will begin in 10-20 minutes once people are in so please get over to twitch.tv/canmom and watch for as long as you like! ^^

See you there!


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