Fifteen different animators all take on the challenge of making a one-minute short. "How many animators does it take to screw in a lightbulb...."
What we have here is actually a pretty neat little experiment: get fifteen well-regarded directors and animators and give each one minute in which to tell a story. The challenge, basically, is that each gets to show off their style, but with the challenge of doing it for a very, very short snippet. The shorts don't have anything in common outside of their running time, and so the complete set makes for an interesting little animation showcase; they're meant as the sort of television spots you see airing between "regular" full-length TV shows, and they're the type of thing you might forget if you only see them once, but there's a lot of really high quality stuff here, not to mention that this is a nice little treasure trove for fans of some specific directors who want to check out some more obscure material.
Tone-wise, the different episodes of Ani*Kuri15 are all over the place, ranging from somber, to funny, to surreal; it's unlikely that you're gonna love every single one of them, since that definitely wasn't true for me, but the variety means that there's at least something in here that you're going to find interesting. Of course, this sampler can't really represent the absolute "best" Japan has to offer, since for one thing, that's a fool's errand, not to mention that I sense a bit of political favoritism happening here; a lot of the animators come from Studio 4˚C, for example, and some animation studios I love aren't represented at all.....obviously, given Hayao Miyazaki's disdain for other anime studios, I'm not surprised to see that there aren't any Ghibli shorts here (though studio Ghibli has its own version of this idea), but if I'm going to name off some directors who I personally really like, Masaaki Yuasa's an obvious one, then you have people like Sayo Yamamoto or Hiroshi Hamasaki, and they aren't here. I'm not exactly complaining; if anything, I'm saying, don't treat this as an absolute "best of Japanese anime" collection, because even if that's what it was intended as, it really doesn't work that way. As far as my own enjoyment went, there were about four shorts that I liked for every one that I thought was a dud, and that's nothing to complain about.
One of my favorites was Makoto Shinkai's "A Gathering of Cats", where a cat who's sick of getting his tail stepped on plots revenge; Shinkai's earlier works tended to be on the humorless side, but he actually makes a very cute, funny little short here (I think cats bring out his best side), and it's a precursor to some of his later movies, which feel a lot less stiff in that regard. Another was Satoshi Kon's "Good Morning," which has him putting his fascination with dreams to use in a much more mundane setting than unusual....a montage of a woman waking up and preparing for the day. It's a short but haunting little piece, and it makes me miss him even more. I also really liked Shinji Kimura's (Studio 4˚C) humorous stop-motion take on an alien invasion in "Attack of Higamshimachi 2nd Borough," and Mamoru Oshii makes a rare return to animation with "Project Mermaid," another stop-motion short in which a fish is transformed into a mermaid made of cut-out photographs and swims through a collage-style underwarter city. And there are a few episodes that surprised me: I'm not a huge fan of Michael Arias and I've always thought that studio 4˚C was a little overrated, but the studio puts its quirky visual style to humorous use in "Invasion From Space-Hiroshi's Case", and Arias himself makes a cute little slice-of-life bit with "Okkakkeko". And Gainax, who, outside of Hiroyuki Imaishi's shows, haven't made anything good in years, do a nice job with a bittersweet, earnest little music video called "From the Other Side of Tears," the only short directed by a woman (Akemi Hayashi).
As far as my least favorites go, Gonzo's "Blaze Man" is just a chaotic battle scene with a lot of bad CGI, and the same studio's "Princess Onmitsu" is a token magical girl story that didn't do anything for me (their third short, "Gyrosopter," is a lot better). There's one that tries too hard for a plot but runs out of time and misses the mark (Studio 4˚C's "Supaatsu Taisa"), and another that's just a vaguely amusing sequence of an animator drawing a scene (Kazuto Nakzawa's "Yurururu ~Nichijou Hen~"). But the good outweighs the bad by a big margin, and while your feelings about different studios and directors are going to influence your overall opinion (that certainly happened with me), that isn't necessarily a bad thing. In a way, the fact that these snippets are short, standalone, essentially plotless, and, mostly, devoid of dialogue makes them a bit more broadly interesting than these directors' famous works might be.
My point is: if you're at all into anime (probably true if you're even looking at this site) or if you enjoy quirky short films, check this out. It's never going to be widely available, probably, but it's easy to find on the internet if you know where to look. If you're procrastinating and sick of looking at Facebook or Tumblr for the fifteenth time in one hour, give this a try.
Fifteen animated shorts, most of them excellent, and several by directors I really like...what's not to like? — Nicoletta Christina Browne
Recommended Audience: These were made to air on the NHK, which isn't really known for letting "risqué" content slide, so you can expect that this is going to be pretty tame (there's just a bit of violence here and there but nothing kids shouldn't see).
Version(s) Viewed: Digital Source
Review Status: Full (15/15)
Ani*Kuri15 © 2007-2008 Various Creators
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