Gorgeous Rosa: Cyborg Fights for Survival in Astounding Cyberpunk Animation

Gorgeous Rosa: Cyborg Fights for Survival in Astounding Cyberpunk Animation

Rosa is an epic sci-fi cyberpunk animated short film by the young comic-artist Jesús Orellana, which was created entirely by Orellana with no budget during a single year. Since its world premiere at the 2011 Seattle International Film Festival, Rosa has been an official selection at film festivals around the world and currently is in development to become a live-action motion picture.

Rosa takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where all forms of natural life have disappeared. From the destruction awakens Rosa, a gorgeous cyborg deployed from the Kernel Project, mankind’s last attempt to restore the earth’s ecosystem. The film follows the brief life and bloody death of the beautiful Rosa, who soon learns that she is not the only entity that has awakened and wanders through the dystopian steampunk landscape, scanning the strange frontier for danger as she fights for her survival.

Gorgeous Rosa: Cyborg Fights for Survival in Astounding Cyberpunk Animation

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Junko’s Shamisen: A Mini-Epic of Poetic Revenge

Junko’s Shamisen: A Mini-Epic of Poetic Revenge

Junko’s Shamisen is a super-stylized samurai tale by Canadian filmmaker Sol Friedman. The short film is an exquisite chanbara mini-epic of revenge, suffused with manga and kabuki theater. Junko’s Shamisen flawlessly integrates traditional cell animation, 2D “cut out” style set animation, comic book dialogue bubbles and even some stop-motion to round things out. All of this is woven into the live action base of the film, which leaps off the screen with vivid color, depth and texture.

Set in the dark and densely-forested, rural backwoods of feudal-era Japan, Junko’s Shamisen is the quiet story of a young peasant girl named Junko living with her blind grandfather, who plays a three-stringed instrument called a shamisena. One day, Junko returns to their simple home to discover that her grandfather has been brutally murdered. Devastated and filled with despair, Junko, accompanied by a mystical fox spirit, abandons her old life and sets off for the village in search of better fortunes. While she goes begging from house to house, young Junko inadvertently encounters the ruthless Samurai Lord Yamamura, who was responsible for killing her grandfather. Emboldened by the influence of the fox spirit, Junko breaks out of her petite and unthreatening shell and avenges her grandfather through an act of gruesome poetic justice.

Junko’s Shamisen: A Mini-Epic of Poetic Revenge

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Grave of the Fireflies: A Japanese Anime Masterpiece

Grave of the Fireflies: A Japanese Anime Masterpiece

Grave of the Fireflies is a Japanese anime masterpiece, an animated drama film written and directed by Isao Takahata, with animation production work provided by Studio Ghibli.  Grave of the Fireflies tells the story of two children from Japan’s port city of Kobe, who have been made homeless by the WWII American firebombing of the city.  The film is based on a semi-autobiographical novel by Nosaka Akiyuki, who was a boy at the time of the firebombs, whose sister did die of hunger and whose life has been shadowed by guilt.

Roger Ebert considers Grave of the Fireflies to be one of the most powerful anti-war movies ever made and has described the film as “an emotional experience so powerful that it forces a rethinking of animation….Grave of the Fireflies” is a powerful dramatic film that happens to be animated, and I know what the critic Ernest Rister means when he compares it to “Schindler’s List” and says, “It is the most profoundly human animated film I’ve ever seen.”

The film tells a simple story of survival. The boy and his sister must find a place to stay and food to eat.  But in wartime their relatives are neither kind nor generous, and and the boy soon is left to fend for both himself and his young sister.  He has some money and can buy food, but soon there is no food to buy.  His sister grows weaker and weaker.  Their story is told not as melodrama, but rather in the simple and  direct manner of the neo-realist tradition.  And there is time for silence in it.  One of the film’s greatest gifts is its patience; shots are held so that we can think about them; characters are glimpsed in their private moments; atmosphere and nature are given time to establish themselves.

Grave of the Fireflies: A Japanese Anime Masterpiece

Roger Ebert on Grave of the Fireflies (1988)

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Satoshi Kon, Leading Light of Anime Films, Dies at 46

Satoshi Kon, Leading Light of Anime Films, Dies at 46

Satoshi Kon, the Japanese filmmaker and comic-book artist whose dazzling visual compositions and humane, emotionally vibrant works won him a devoted following in animation circles and beyond, died in Tokyo on Tuesday at the age of 46.

While Mr. Kon’s film work incorporated many familiar anime elements, with pixie-like female characters, sensitive robots, futuristic cityscapes and an anxious fascination with both the creative and destructive power of technology, it was also well versed in literary and cinematic traditions far beyond contemporary Japanese popular culture.

Satoshi Kon: Good Morning

This commemorative piece honors Satoshi Kon by sharing two short films, which provide a small sample of Kon’s work and impart an impression of his cinematic style and thematic fascinations.  Good Morning is a one-minute short film that shows a girl waking up, who exhibits a personal sense of disconnection in the process of awakening.

Satoshi Kon: Good Morning

Satoshi Kon: Magnetic Rose from Memories

The second film presented here is one that marked the first time the world took notice of Kon as a filmmaker to closely watch.  In 1995, two years before his directorial debut with Perfect Blue, Kon wrote and provided the artistic direction for Magnetic Rose, a 45-minute film that screened theatrically as part of a short film triptych called Memories. The actual director of Magnetic Rose was the legendary Morimoto Kôji, who is known for collaborating with and accommodating new artists of great vision.  In Magnetic Rose, through his writing and artistic contributions, Satoshi Kon proved he could meet the  challenge of working with some of the anime world’s great luminaries, and now the piece is recognized as the most memorable part of the film.

Magnetic Rose presents a gothic ghost story in space, a narrative in which three astronauts come across a wrecked space ship and enter a surreal reality built upon dreams.  Created the same year that Ghost in Shell was released, Magnetic Rose similarly has become a touchstone work for a generation of serious, philosophically-minded anime devotees, and it is still frequently discussed 15 years later.  The film is presented here in five video segments.

Satoshi Kon: Magnetic Rose from Memories-Part 1

A detailed review of Satoshi Kon’s artistic contributions was published in today’s edition of The New York Times.

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Gala: Villagers Take Joyful Collective Action to Subdue a Giant Alien Object

Gala: Villagers Take Joyful Collective Action to Subdue a Giant Alien Object

Gala is a fantastical animated short film by admired filmmaker Mahiro Maeda, put out by the acclaimed Japanese anime production house Studio 4°c.  The film begins with a giant alien object crashing down in what looks like a traditional Japanese village.  At first, the villagers approach it courageously, trying to break through its outer shell by throwing stones and lighting fires.  Eventually the villagers turn away from their stance of fear and violence towards the alien object, and undertake the joyful collective action of creating music, which peacefully entwines itself with the object in order to draw out the alien’s ultimate potential.  Gala delights in being an anime with a multitude of approaches, cramming explosions, light, flight, transformation, music, history, and religion seamlessly into the plot.

Note: The film is in two parts.  Click through to part two upon the completion of part one.

Gala: Villagers Take Joyful Collective Action to Subdue a Giant Alien Object

(Note: Activate subtitles by clicking button on right side of screen)

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