21 September 2016

The Little Match Girl (マッチ売りの少女, 1967)


Since it was first published in 1845, Hans Christian Andersen’s tragic tale “The Little Match Girl” (Den Lille Pige med Svovlstikkerne) has been adapted into a wide variety of media from theatre to manga.  Director Kazuhiko Watanabe and screenwriter/producer Matsue Jinbo’s adaptation, The Little Match Girl (マッチ売りの少女 / Machi Uri no Shōjo, 1967), was Gakken Film Company’s latest in a series of puppet adaptations of international fairy tales.  Since 1958, they had already adapted many Japanese folk tales, as well as several by the Grimm brothers and Aesop.  In 1970, they would go on to adapt another popular Andersen tale “The Ugly Duckling” (Den grimme ælling) – The Ugly Duckling (みにくいあひるの子/ Minikui Ahiru no Ko). 

Plot

The adaptation is quite faithful to the original story.  It begins with the little girl asleep in her bed in a cold room on New Year’s Eve, with the wind blustering in through a broken window.  She looks to a portrait of her late grandmother for comfort.  Her father, depicted only by his shoes and his stern voice, tells her to get up and get to work, warning that she should not come home if she hasn’t sold any matches.  The streets are busy with people shopping for Christmas.  One woman notices the girl and is about to buy matches, only to be distracted by a friend.  A kindly grandmother with her impatient grandson trigger the little girl to recall her own grandmother.


The tragedy of the little girl’s situation is emphasized by a scene contrasting her life with those of children playing in the snow.  The girl passes forlornly by the park as the children laugh and throw snowballs at each other.  The original author of this tale gets a nod in this scene as the park features a bust that looks very much like Hans Christian Andersen himself.  In a dramatic sequence the girl almost gets run over by a horse-drawn carriage, causing her to lose her shoes (a dog takes off with one of them) and scattering her matchsticks on the ground.  

Night falls, and the girl’s luck does not improve.  She wanders the city streets a lonely figure peering in at the warm interiors as doors and curtains are closed in her face.   She shivers under a streetlight, recalling her father’s words telling her not to bother coming home empty handed.  She curls up shivering on a step and lights a match.  In the match’s light she sees a vision of a warm hearth.  The match blows out so she lights another and sees a vision of a Christmas feast.  A third match brings up a vision of a Christmas tree covered in candles.  The candles transform into stars and she sees a shooting star.  In a terrible premonition of the girl’s fate, she recalls that her grandmother used to say that a shooting star means that a soul is travelling to heaven.  The match girl lights her remaining matches in the desperate hope of seeing her grandmother again.  The sequence ends with the girl embracing her grandmother.

The next day, the townspeople wake to a lovely winter’s day, bright with sunshine.  The promise of the day is blighted by a gathering crowd around the girl’s body.  They react with shock and pity, and the film does not shy away (as many adaptations do) from showing the girl lying still on the ground. 

Review 

The elaborate sets and costume design for this puppet animation are simply wonderful.  Great care has been taken to recreate a 19th century European city.  The attention to detail can be seen in particular in the scene when the girl walls through the city as night falls.  A whole city street was built including lit interiors with moving puppets in each of the windows or open doorways.  The camera moves through the city at ground level following the girl in a very complicated sequence. 


In fact, no expense seems to have been spared as each scene appears to use a new set.  The most brilliant sequence technically is the scene when the girl almost gets run over by a horse-drawn carriage.  This is shot from the perspective of the girl, with the horses running straight at the camera.  Compared to the earliest Gakken puppet animations, this sequence shows to what a high standard the level of puppet animation at Gakken had achieved by the late 1960s.  It conveys the heightened drama of the moment using the same camera shots as a classical Hollywood live action sequence.  

The other marker for me of the level of sophistication of the cinematography is the way in which the night sequences are filmed.  In particular, the little match girl sitting under the streetlight in a spotlight that seems to emanate from the streetlight itself, followed by a very sophisticated shot of her top lit with snow gently falling.  

The icing on the cake is the lyrical score by Hikaru Hayashi (林光, 1931-2012).  Hayashi scored over 100 films in his career, including over 30 collaborations with the renowned filmmaker Kaneto Shindō (新藤 兼人, 1912-2012).  In fact, before The Little Match Girl, Hayashi had already composed the brilliant soundtracks to Shindō’s The Naked Island (1960), Kuroneko (1961) and Onibaba (1964).  He had previously worked with Gakken for the puppet animations Poron Guitar (1959) and Taketori monogarai (1961).  For The Little Match Girl, Hayashi took a classical European approach, using strings and woodwind instruments to express the emotional context of the drama. 

In Context


Gakken’s adaptation holds up extremely well in comparison with the three most well-known animated adaptations of the tale.  The character design is much better than that found in Charles Mintz’s 1937 animated short which was produced as part of Columbia Pictures’ Color Rhapsodies series – the studio’s attempt to emulate Disney’s Silly Symphonies.  It was made using a two-strip Technicolor process and puts the emphasis on an extended dream sequence that suggests the little girl is going to heaven.  The colours are kitschy and the little girl’s features are so exaggerated as to be distracting.  It was however nominated for an Oscar in 1937, but was no match for the Disney classic The Old Mill (Wilfred Jackson, 1937).  

Tōei Dōga included the story in its 1968 anime The World of Hans Christian Andersen (アンデルセン物語 / Anderusen Monogatari) directed by Kimio Yabui.  It alters the story by adding more characters and presents a romanticized, melodramatic take on the story.  Although this is a very good, if schmaltzy, take on the story, I prefer the subtlety and nuance of Gakken’s version.

The Disney adaptation The Little Matchgirl (Roger Allers, 2006) – with “Matchgirl” written oddly as all one word – was originally intended to be included in the canceled project Fantasia 2006 (aka Fantasia III).   Although the music score is beautiful, the animation does not “dance” to the music as it did in the original Fantasia (1940).   It transfers the story from 19th century Denmark to 19th century Russia, doubtlessly because they chose to pair the story with the music of Alexander Borodin.   It paints a grey and bleak picture of the little match girl’s world.  Colour only seeps into the picture when the girl strikes the match and has visions of an idealized Christmas with her late grandmother.  Even more so than the Gakken adaptation, it allows the visuals to speak for themselves, but it does so in a way that assumes the audience has some knowledge of the story.  The girl’s death is depicted in such a way that the less keen observer might believe the girl is being rescued at the end. 

 Legacy 

The Little Match Girl was acknowledged with an award by the Ministry of Education in 1967 as well as an award at the 22nd Mainichi Film Awards.  It also screened at festivals in Europe winning the Golden Mermaid Award at a festival in Copenhagen in 1975 to celebrate the centenary of the passing of Hans Christian Andersen.  The film was dubbed in English and distributed to schools and libraries in the USA by Coronet Instructional Films in 1968.  

Director / 演出 
Kazuhiko WATANABE  渡辺邦彦 

Producer and Screenplay  /プロデュース + 脚本 
Matsue JINBO  神保まつえ 

Production / 製作 
Shōji HARA 原正次  

Design / 企画 
Shigeki ISHIKAWA 石川茂樹

Original Work / 原作 
 Hans Christian ANDERSEN
ハンス・クリスチャン・アンデルセン   

Cinematographer / 撮影 
Hiroshi HIRAI 平井寛   

Art Design / 美術 
Ryō NAKAKAWA 中川涼   

Music / 音楽 
Hikaru HAYASHI 林光    

Voice Actors / 声の出演
Gunichi UCHIMURA 内村軍一 
Hiroshi SUNAKA 須永宏             
Nobuaki SEKINE 関根信明
Tamae KATŌ 加藤玉枝
Kyōko SATOMI 里見京子
Kazuko SAKAMOTO 坂本和子
Sachiko IJMA 伊島幸子
Noriko SHINDŌ 新道乃里子
Keiko IIDA 飯田桂子

2016 Cathy Munroe Hotes

08 September 2016

Hiroshima 2016 Focus on Japanese Animation: Day 4




Hiroshima 2016 Focus on Japanese Animation: Day 4
Sunday, August 21
8月21日(日)

Japanese Animation Special 15:
Taku Furukawa Retrospective (Screening and Talk)


Taku Furukawa is one of the Sōgetsu generation of animators who came to prominence at the Sōgetsu Art Centre animation festivals of the 1960s and 1970s.  Initially mentored by indie animation pioneer Yōji Kuri, Furukawa soon founded his own studio and developed an animation style all his own.  He has a caricature style that is influenced by renowned New Yorker caricaturist Saul Steinberg, with a playful approach to animation that is one of a kind.  In addition to being a member of ASIFA Japan, he is currently the president of the JAA (Japan Animation Association), which he took over after the passing of stop motion master Kihachirō Kawamoto.  In addition to his independently produced works, Furukawa is famous for his numerous contributions to the long-running NHK series Minna no Uta as well as his commercial work.  He is visiting professor at Tokyo Polytechnic where he has mentored many students, including two of my favourite animators – Hiroco Ichinose and Tomoyoshi Joko, aka Decovocal.  Earlier this year, Furukawa’s former students made a tribute to him called Moving Colors (2016).  Click on titles below to read reviews of individual films by Furukawa.

1.  Coffee Break (1977), Taku Furukawa 
2.  Speed (1980), Taku Furukawa 
3.  TarZAN (1990), Taku Furukawa 
4.  Tyo Story (Jyōkyō Monogatari, 1999), Taku Furukawa 

日本アニメーション大特集15:
古川 タク特集 (上映とトーク)

1. コーヒーブレイク 古川 タク 
2 . スピード 古川 タク 
3. ターザン 古川 タク 
4. 上京物語 古川 タク

Japanese Animation Special 16:Contemporary Directors Collection


This selection features a cross section of top contemporary Japanese animators with established careers.  Hyogo-born, Kansai-raised Maya Yoneshō is based in Germany and is famous for her mixed media approach to animation.  Her work shows us that animation can be a kind of international language and with her workshop students she has created a series of Daumen Reisen (literally “Thumb Trips” – a term suggested to Yoneshō by an Austrian friend) – animated post cards against city backdrops based on flip books (Daumenkino/"Thumb cinema" in German).  Each of these short films is an hommage to the places where the workshops are taking place.  The first such film she made by herself – Vienna Mix, or Wiener Wuast in the local, Viennese dialect.

Shin Hosokawa is a graduate of Tama Art University (Tamabi) who specialises in stop motion animation.  Hiroco Ichinose and her husband Tomoyoshi Joko (Joko is not included in this screening) are graduates of Tokyo Polytechnic University where they were mentored by Taku Furukawa (see above).  They currently work under the collective title Decovocal making commercials and TV programmes.  Kaoru Maehara is a graduate of Kyushu Visual Arts College. Like Hosokawa, Kanna Iida is also a Tamabi grad but she specialises in drawn animation. 


Reiko Yokosuka is a talented sumi-e (ink brush) artist who makes animation using her modern take on traditional sumi-e style.  Read her profile here or check out her homepage.  Kunio Kato was the first Japanese person to win the Oscar for Best Animated Short Film.  A graduate of Tamabi he works for Robot Communications.  Taruto Fuyama is a graduate of Keio University and is known for the development of his own stop motion animation software called Koma Koma as well as his stop motion animation workshops.  Frank, an adapation of Jim Woodring’s cult comic series Frank, is Fuyama’s best known work.  Kei Oyama studied animation at Tokyo Zokei and at the Image Forum Institute of the Moving Image.  He is known for his unusual style of using scanned flesh for the textures in his often surreal films.  Hand Soap is his most acclaimed film to date.  Kei Takahashi has a BA in Oil Painting from Musashino and a graduate degree in Video Art. 

1.  introspection (1998), Maya Yoneshō
2.  Vienna Mix (Wiener Wuast, 2006), Maya Yoneshō
3.  The Demon (2004), Shin Hosokawa 
4.  Ushi-Nichi (Cow's Day, 2008), Hiroco Ichinose
5.  Tōsenbo (I Won't Let You Through, MV, 2009), Kaoru Maehara
6.  A Tender Soldier (2007), Kaoru Maehara 
7.  The Girl and the Crocodile (2006), Kanna Iida 
8.  GAKI Biwa-hōshi (2005), Reiko Yokosuka
9.  La maison en petits cubes (2008), Kunio Kato
10.  Scenes (2012), Kunio Kato
11.  Frank (2003), Taruto Fuyama
12.  Hand Soap (2008), Kei Oyama
13.  Child Trip (2006), Kei Takahashi

日本アニメーション大特集16:現代作家コレクション

1. introspection 米 万也 
2. ウィーン・ミックス 米 万也 
3. 鬼 細川 晋 
4. ウシニチ 一瀬 皓コ 
5. とおせんぼ 前原
6. 優しい兵隊 前原
7. 少女とワニ 飯田 甘奈
8. GAKI 琵琶法師 横須賀 令子
9. つみきのいえ 加藤 久仁
10. 景 加藤 久仁生
11. フランク 布山 タルト
12. HAND SOAP 大山
13. こどものたび 高橋

Japanese Animation Special 17Contemporary Directors Collection


This selection features more top contemporary Japanese animators with established careers, as well as a couple of lesser known names.  Ayaka Nakata is a graduate of Tokyo Zokei who makes independent animation and commercials. In addition to animation, Yuki Sakitani is a videographer and visual effects composite artist.

Atsushi Wada is one of Japan’s top independent animators.  He is a self taught animator who refined his skills first at Image Forum, then in the first class of Tokyo University of the Arts’s (Geidai) graduate programme in animation.  He has won many international prizes for his work, most notably the Silver Bear at the Berlinale in 2012.  Learn more about him in my review of his CALF DVD and in this 2010 interview.  Wataru Uekusa is also a Geidai grad, as is stop motion animator Mari Miyazawa (Geidai 2014).

With her minimalist aesthetic, Yoriko Mizushiri has been a popular addition to international festival programmes in recent years.  Mizushiri studied at Joshibi University of Art and Design.  Tama Art University (Tamabi) grad Yoko Kuno has been wowing audiences both online and at festivals with her innovative animated music videos for Cuushe. 

Arisa Wakami dabbles in a wide variety of animation techniques from sand animation to stop motion.  Tamabi grad Mirai Mizue has also tried out a number of techniques but is mostly famous for his “cell” animation style.  Learn more here.  Daiki Aizawa is also a Tamabi grad.  Loop Pool was his graduate work.   He mostly makes digital content for various clients – I am guessing he was included in this line up because he is a member of ASIFA Japan, of which festival director Sayoko Kinoshita is also president.   In preparing these blog posts I have noticed that most members of ASIFA Japan appear to have been included in the Hiroshima 2016 screenings.  


I am not familiar with the work of Takashi and Motoko Tokuyama, but their 1992 work Paralysis, which was shot on 16mm screened at the 2015 PIA festival.  They do not have a web presence at all so it is a bit curious that they were included in this particular selection instead of one of the "history" sections.

Mai Tominaga (Tamabi) is a multi-talented artist who has also directed some quirky feature films such as Wool 100% (ウール100%, 2006), Have a Nice Day (ハヴァ、ナイスデー, 2006) and one of my faves Rinco’s Restaurant (食堂かたつむり, 2010).  Her animation has featured on the NHK and she has also directed commercials and live action TV drama.
                                                                                                                                       
Seiji Shiota is a freelance artist based in Osaka.  Tohru Patrick Awa is a character / concept designer who was born in Santa Monica but raised in Tokyo and has been based in California since 2001.  He has worked for Disney and Warner Brothers (Learn more at Japan Cinema).  The Fly Band! is a short work Shiota and Awa made for Polygon Pictures early in their careers.  It won the Prix Ars Electronica 1999.

1.  Yonalure: Moment to Moment (2011), Ayaka Nakata / Yuki Sakitani 
2.  In a Pig's Eye (2010), Atsushi Wada
3.  The Tender March (2011), Wataru Uekusa
4.  Futon (2012), Yoriko Mizushiri
5.  Snow Hut (2013), Yoriko Mizushiri
6.  Airy Me (2013), Yoko Kuno
7.  Decorations (2014), Mari Miyazawa 
8.  Blessing (2011), Arisa Wakami
9.  Modern No. 2 (2011), Mirai Mizue
10.  Wonder (2014), Mirai Mizue 
11.  Loop Pool (2004), Daiki Aizawa
12.  Paralysis (1992), Takashi Tokuyama / Motoko Tokuyama
13.  Sirop de Namaquemono (2003), Mai Tominaga
14.  Buonomo the Second Night (2002), Mai Tominaga
15.  The Fly Band! (1999), Seiji Shiota / Tohru Patrick Awa

日本アニメーション大特集17:現代作家コレクション

1. ヨナルレ M o m e n t to M o m e n t 中田 、サキタニ ユウキ 
2. わからないブタ 和田 淳 
3. やさしいマーチ 植草
4. 布団 水尻 自子
5. かまくら 水尻 自子
6. Airy Me 久野 遥子
7. デコレーションズ 宮澤 真理
8. Blessing 若見 ありさ
9. MODERN No.2 水江 未来
10. WONDER 水江 未来
11. ル ーププール アイザワ ダイキ
12. パラリシス 德山 高志、德山 元子
13. ナマケモノシロップ 富永 まい
14. ボーノーモ第二夜 富永 まい
15. ザ・フライ・バンド Seiji Shiota、Tohru Patrick Awa 

Japanese Animation Special 18:Contemporary Directors Collection


Keita Onishi has an MA in Design from Geidai.  He is known for his video and audio installation works.  Koichiro Tsujikawa makes commercials and music videos in addition to his independent work.  He often mixes live action with animation.  Isao Nishigori is a visual artist who does music videos, installations and other works pairing visuals with music.  Atsushi Makino studied graphic design in Prague before doing a graduate degree in animation at Geidai (2011).   He works as an animation director for Eallin Japan. 

I’m not sure why Ko Nakajima is in this selection.  He should have been put into a programme with experimental animators of his own generation (Nobuhiro Aihara, Takashi Ito, et al.)  – he began experimenting with animation in the 1960s.   His work focuses on technological development and environmental concerns.  

The Higa brothers (Kazutetsu and Yukinori Higa) are from Okinawa.  They are known for their passion for special effects (they are huge fans of Ray Harryhausen and David W. Allen) and puppet animation. Yūichi Itō and Takuya Ishida are two of the top stop motion animators working in Japan today.  Mainly known for his clay and puppet animation, Itō works with a variety of media.  In addition to his work for the NHK and his independent works, Itō is a professor at Geidai.  Ishida is known as an expert in clay animation.


Acclaimed 3DCG animator Hiroyuki Okui is a graduate of Musashino.  I am not familiar with Yoshiyuki Okada, his co-director on Cave, and couldn't find any inforamtion about him online, but they jointly won recognition for the film at Hiroshima 1994.

1.  Dynamics of the Subway (2012), Haisuinonasa / Keita Onishi
2.  Cornelius / Fit Song (2006), Koichiro Tsujikawa
3.  ACIDMAN short film "SAI (Part 1) / Revolving...to the core" (MV, 2004), Isao Nishigori
4.  Baloney Speaker (MV, 2004), Atsushi Makino
5.  Seizōki (1964), Ko Nakajima
6.  Kanahiru: The Iron Boy (2007), Kazutetsu Higa / Yukinori Higa
7.  Harbor Tale (2011), Yūichi Itō
8.  Knyacki Ep. 43 “Knyacki Pen” (1995), Yūichi Itō
9.  How How Den Den (1987), Takuya Ishida
10.  Minikoni Ep. “Chinese Zodiac Signs” (2003), Takuya Ishida
11.  Cave (1994), Hiroyuki Okui / Yoshiyuki Okada
12.  Affordance (2002), Hiroyuki Okui
13.  Fushigi Circus (2012), Hiroyuki Okui

日本アニメーション大特集18:現代作家コレクション

1. 地 の動 /ハイスイノナサ 大西 景太
2. CORNELIUS 「Fi t S o n g」 辻 幸一郎
3. ACIDMAN  Shortfilm「彩 -S A I -(前 ) / 廻る、廻る、その へ」 西郡
4. 戯 言スピーカー 牧
5. 精造器 中嶋
6. 鉄 の子カナヒル 比 一哲、比
7. ハーバーテイル 伊藤 有壱
8. ニャッキペン 伊藤 有壱
9. はうはうでんでん 石田 卓也
10. ミニコニ十二 支 石田 卓也
11. ケイブ 奥 宏幸、岡田 義之
12. アフォーダンス 奥 宏幸
13. 不思議サーカス 奥 宏幸 

Japanese Animation Special 19:Contemporary Directors Collection

This selection of contemporary directors features a mixture of generations, all of whom have become associated with certain styles of animation from CG to hand made puppet animation.


Hiromi Habuto is Nara-based CG designer and director.  Saku Sakamoto is a Tamabi grad who is a freelance CG animator.  I was someone who was slow to warm to CG animation, but his 2002 work The Fisherman made an impression on me at my first Nippon Connection in 2008.

Yoshinao Satoh (or Satō) is a Yokohama-based video game maker who makes terrific experimental animation.  His film Newspaper (watch here) was popular with Nippon Connection spectators in 2015 where it screened in the Everything is Visible programme.  He is one of my favourite artists at the moment.  Check out some of his works here.

Kotarō Satō is a University of Tsukuba graduate who specializes in computer graphics design.  In addition to his short animation works he has taught animation at Tamabi and since 2009 at Kanto Gakuin.  He has co-written two textbooks about computer graphics and digital moving images.


Dino Satō began his artistic career with the study of architecture, but retrained as a CG animator.   His innovative works have screened widely at international festivals.  In addition to his freelance animation work, Satō splits his time teaching at Musashino Art University and Kyoto University of Art and Design

Nozomi Nagasaki was the first woman to win the Noburō Ōfuji Award for innovation in animation for her film Home Alone (1996).  She has her own studio where she directs and animates stop motion using a variety of techniques including puppets, clay, objects and cutouts.   In addition to her independent animation Nagasaki has made animation for commercials, children’s television, movies, and video packages.  She directed a film about stop motion animation


Pecora’ped (ペコラペッド) are a female animation team whom I met at Hiroshima 2014.  In addition to their animation they hand make jewellery and other tie-in products using their unique designs and characters.  Saeko Akagi is a Musashino grad who joined Robot Communications after graduation in 2005 as a commercial director.  This year, she left the company to concentrate on freelance storyboarding under the name Kibichu.  Yuta Sukegawa is a CG animator.  His work The Light can be viewed in full on his Vimeo page.  Kiyoshi Nishimoto is a professor at Musashino who specializes in Visual Communication Design.  He has been a freelance animator since 1981. 


1.  Distortion (1998), Hiromi Habuto
2.  The Fisherman (2002), Saku Sakamoto
3.  Finder (2016), Yoshinao Satō
4.  The Essence of War (2002), Kotarō Satō
5.  Magnifying Glass (2006), Kotarō Satō
6.  Let Out (2012), Kotarō Satō
7.  Internal Peace and External Peace (2016), Kotarō Satō
8.  Treedom (1999), Dino Satō
9.  Scrapland (2006), Dino Satō
10.  Frog Seed (2010), Dino Satō
11.  The Sexual Fish - The Fish that Forgot to Breed (2014), Dino Satō
12.  The Fourth of the Narcissus Month (1998), Nozomi Nagasaki
13.  SPONCHOI pispochoi (2010), Pecora’ped  
14.  Shimomomo (2003), Saeko Akagi 
15.  Apple Colored Water (2003), Saeko Akagi 
16.  The Light (2010), Yuta Sukegawa 
17.  Laminated Structure (1982), Kiyoshi Nishimoto
18.  Laughing Moon (2000), Kiyoshi Nishimoto 

日本アニメーション大特集19: 現代作家コレクション

1. ディストーション 羽太 広海
2. フィッシャーマン 坂元 サク
3. Finder 佐藤 義尚
4. 戦争の本質 佐藤 皇太郎
5. 虫眼鏡 佐藤 皇太郎
6. レット・アウト 佐藤 皇太郎
7. 内的平和と外的平和 佐藤 皇太郎
8. TREEDOM ダイノ サトウ
9. SCRAPLAND ダイノ サトウ
10. カエルのタネ ダイノ サトウ
11. 性的な魚‐繁 殖を忘れた魚 達 ダイノ サトウ
12. 水仙 月の四日 長崎 希 
13. SPONCHOI pispochoi pecoraped
14. しももも 赤木 沙英子 
15. りんご色の水 赤木 沙英子 
16. 灯花 助川 勇太
17. 積層体 西本 企良
18. 笑う月 西本 企良

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