Tagged: review

Chronopolis (1983)

Chronopolis is a 1983 stop-motion science fiction feature from Polish director Piotr Kamler.

The film’s sparse narrative involves a group of Immortal beings who inhabit a colossal city which sits above the clouds. The Immortals spend their time constructing, sculpting and bringing to life various forms of matter. A group of mortal explorers scale a tower, and one of them loses their grip and falls. After floating through the cloudy ether for some time, they land, unconcious, on a pipe. One of the Immortal’s creations, a living orb, wakes the unconcious figure. The figure and the orb begin to dance together and journey along the pipe. The pair eventually appear before three immortals which tower over them. The faces of the Immortals begin to pit and disintergrate, as do the walls of their city and their creations. The city is engulfed in a creeping darkness. The film concludes with the explorer and living orb moving along a line through a white void.

As far as narratives go this one is pretty loose, and the events that unfold throughout the film can be interpreted a number of ways. Kamler’s UbuWeb profile states itwell; “Completely unalike to more conventionally linear and text-based narratives, Kamler’s films instead explore a series of dynamic visual motifs.”. The narrative is set by an opening crawl which details the Immortals boredom and desire. Everything else is implied visually as there is no dialogue throughout the film. The original 1982 version had narration, however in the final cut the narration was removed.

Chronopolis drifts between the borders of abstraction and figurative representation. Often, you can tell you are looking at a physical object in  3-dimensional space, but the nature of the object is obscured and incomprehensible.

You really get the sense of great age in the design of the Immortals and their city. They exhibit small imperfections, marks and physical flaws throughout their seemingly inorganic forms. Their reserved movement also betrays age, or at least apathy.  The city’s old stone panels with intricate patterns and reliefs give a feeling that it might be from a time of early agrarian pre-history, or perhaps from a far off alien culture. The world of Chronopolis seems almost devoid of colour. The muted earthy tones, of concrete or stone are only ever punctuated by the occaisonal flashes of orange or red energy.

The inventiveness of the editing and compositing throughout Chronopolis is the work of a master. Both Kamler and the Immortal figures within the film playfully manipulate time. Kamler uses rapid jumpcuts, swiftly layered wipe transitions, microcuts and undulatinglight to create the sense that the city of Chronopolis follows it’s own laws of time and entropy.

The final shot in the film is particularly telling; a human figure walking in a void and a bouncing ball following. Perhaps this is a self-reflexive reference to the form of animation itself as two of the first sequences an animator will likely learn is the simple walk cycle, and the physical properties of a bouncing ball.

The version I viewed was the final cut which ran at 52 minutes however the original 1982 version runs at 66 minutes which I am keen to get my hands on. Chronopolis‘ production ran for 5 years, from 1977-1982 with Kamler completing most of the animation and editing himself. It’s interesting to note that he recieved a grant for $400,000 by utilising a script which had nothing to do with the final film.

Chronopolis is a film which might not appeal to many viewers due to it’s sparse narrative and recurring abstractions; however I really enjoyed the fascinating world Kamler created and his masterful use of the medium to self-reflexively examine the artform. Check it out.

-Hamish S

Sam Barnett – Operator (2013)

I came across this pretty neat short stop-mo animation by Sam Barnett. The animation and models are pretty crude but I like the look and feel of them. The story is simple but well executed. I really like the jerky camera work which added a level of abstraction to the film and it made me really uneasy. The short reminded me of a cross between Robert Morgan’s ‘The Cat With Hands’ and ‘Wallace And Gromit’. For fans of dystopian science fiction.


Strange Frame: Love & Sax is a queer science fiction feature animation from 2012 and was directed by G.B. Hajim and written by Hajim and Shelley Doty. The film is set in the 28th century after humanity has abandoned the polluted Earth and settled on several of Jupiter’s moons. Much of humanity has been genetically modified to handle the pressures of various tasks and environments, giving them various combinations of wings, extra arms, eyes, fur and figures. Race, gender and sexual orientation seem to be non-issues and everyone seems to be free in that regard, however corporate tyranny and indentured slavery still exists.

strange frame poster

The story follows a woman named Parker who meets a debt slave Naia in a riot. They fall in love and begin to play in a band together in the dives on Ganymede, the band is popular and they attract the attention of Dorlan Mig, a record company executive. The band goes to a party to discuss a deal with the shady Dorlan, they imbibe in narcotics and have intense psychedelic experiences. The next morning Parker wakes up in a street and discovers that Naia and the rest of the band have signed a deal without her and she’s effectively been kicked out of the band. Parker is so lovesick and depressed at the betrayal that she leaves to drown her misery.

strange frame

Strange Frame has probably the ONLY lesbian protagonists in an animated feature film. The vast majority of moving image media features only hetero-normative characters, and the animation genre seems particularly bad in this regard. I found a list of all the LGBT characters in animation and even though I know they missed a couple, it’s still sorely lacking. It’s refreshing and a good step in the right direction to see an independent feature animation feature strong LGBT characters, and strong characters of colour. I also found out after watching the film, that Hajim trained and employed young disadvantaged people in the economically depressed pat of his state (Hawaii) rather than produce overseas. This style of ethical filmmaking is to be commended.

strange frame 1

Strange Frame: Love and Sax is a film about quest for love, which could be interesting however the narrative is largely full of cliche’s. Despite the lesbian protagonists and strange science-fiction universe, the base narrative of lovers in a band who are torn apart by drugs and an evil music executive is hardly new or particularly exciting. The film has pacing issues as well. The use of voice over narration by the protagonist Parker is overused from the get go and the development becomes stagnant throughout the middle of the film. The pace picks up towards the climax but then the truncated conclusion cuts off several story lines abruptly.

The animation style is digital cutout with some CGI animated elements and the occasional clip of found footage. The 2D assets have a bizarre aesthetic, they’ve got a look similar to airbrushed paintings, this is due to the smooth digital gradients. Strange Frame’s animation is a form of limited animation. Much of the character movement seems to be done with the After Effects puppet pin tool which distorts the drawings and gives it a constantly undulating and morphing look. There’s rarely an asset that’s not constantly in motion. Due to the limited nature, the majority of shots are closeups and the camera is constantly in motion which ended up making me a bit seasick. There are quite a few weird psychedelic trip sequences which are used to get from one scene to another or utilized as a form of montage when a song plays, however these are over-used and become tedious.

strange frame 3

There are quite a few animation references throughout the film which was a nice touch, such as a flying Corvette in space which references HEAVY METAL (1981), various COWBOY BEBOP references and the 3 singing wise women which could be a nod to the muses in HERCULES (1997) but on the other hand it could just be a common trope. Strange Frame is without a doubt influenced by a long list of science fiction; from the already mentioned COWBOY BEBOP to BLADERUNNER and NEUROMANCER. This makes the film seem at once incredibly familiar yet also quite peculiar.

Strange Frame features an impressive list of well known sci-fi actors for voice work, including Claudia Black (Farscape), Michael Dorn (Star Trek TNG, DS9), Tim Curry (Rocky Horror), George Takei (Star Trek), Tara Strong (Boondocks, Drawn Together), Ron Glass (Firefly), Juliet Landau (Ed Wood, Buffy), Alan Tudyk (Firefly, Death At A Funeral). It’s not really a surprise then that the voice acting is excellent. The music pieces on the other hand let the film down which is a problem as it’s a fairly large part of this film. The music is often quite cheesy, campy and awkward. I can see that they were going for a Cowboy Bebop feel by juxtaposing jazz/soul and science fiction but it’s not really cohesive in this case. One scene in particular is the flying chase scene through skyscrapers which heavily resembles one in the COWBOY BEBOP movie yet without the execution.


All being considered, Strange Frame: Love & Sax is a film that fortes in it’s use of a strange visual aesthetic. It’s not a visual aesthetic that I find particularly comfortable or cohesive BUT it’s different and tries something new. On the other hand the narrative is riddled with cliche’s and overused tropes which make the story seem stale. It would be unfair to say that Strange Frame particularly stands out in this manner. It doesn’t, but it pushes a standard approach to storytelling that it doesn’t pull off. It seems to me that Hajim and Doty walked the knifes edge of weirdness for originality yet staple narrative for popular appeal, but unfortunately landed too far on the standard cliche side. In saying that though, It’s an interesting landmark for more diverse and socially conscious animation with it’s LGBT + 3 dimensional characters of colour and ethical production.

-Hamish .S


I AM NIGHTMARE is the third and latest animated feature from M Dot Strange. It’s a supernatural horror film of sorts and it clocks in at 128 minutes making it his longest film yet, which is necessary as it’s also the most complex and intricate narrative M Dot Strange has worked with yet.


The story follows a group of orphans and their caretaker Marie who have newly arrived at the ominous ‘Lantern Town’, “a town that never changes”. The town is curiously devoid of other children and the adults that live there spend their nights in the tavern engaged in acts of hedonism, while the orphans are forced to go out on patrol for monsters. When Marie enters the tavern to talk to the Mayor about changing this policy of child labour, she is shut down quickly. The Mayor exclaims “It’s just the way it is. Your children will get to live this good life as well once they’ve worked hard enough and reached the proper age.” Something is definitely a bit off with the townsfolk in the tavern.

It then shifts to Shy, a teenage girl who’s hiding by a well. Simmons (the Mayor’s advisor) comes and tells her that she must go and work at the inn as she’s of age. As he drags her away her tears fall down the well. Luminous pages suddenly spiral out of the well and a dark figure with a sword materialises. Meanwhile the rest of the children are out patrolling in the woods. One of the children Mack tells a story about a nightmare trying eating a boy who escapes down a well. They are distracted and then attacked by several black cloaked monsters which swallow two of them. The monsters are subsequently defeated by a mysterious and silent nightmare hunter and the children are saved. The nightmare hunter then appears at the tavern and tells the Mayor that he’s been summoned to the town. The Mayor questions him but the hunter walks off in silence and enters a shrine. The townsfolk are uneasy and the mayor wants him gone.

I AM NIGHTMARE is a supernatural horror film that has many similarities to Kaidan or Japanese Edo period ghost story films. It’s setting and tone evoke comparisons to films such as KWAIDAN, UGETSU or KURONEKO. It’s a tale of murder, betrayal, a vengeful spirit, immoral monsters and the loss of a loved one. True to M Dot Strange’s style, he manages to weave these into a fantastical world which contains elements such as a bizarre town surrounded by monster infested woods and even a Mecha battle. It’s clear that M Dot is influenced by Mecha fiction as it is a recurring element in I AM NIGHTMARE as well as his 2008 film WE ARE THE STRANGE.


The supernatural horror theme of I AM NIGHTMARE is pulled off with M Dot Strange’s use of an excellent atmosphere, frantic but well placed action and fleshed out characters. The set design and visual style is much more minimal compared to his previous films. Perhaps this is due to time limitations but it still looks great due to M Dot Strange’s use of lighting, colour and particle effects. The minimal style makes it all the more effective when chaotic and surreal scenes are introduced towards the climax and M Dot’s signature visual mayhem unfolds.

The lip syncing is quite jarring at first (the mouths only move up and down and not phoneme shapes), however you soon get used to it and it even makes sense when you remember that it’s a world of strange humanoid dolls. The character animation is for the most part good, but seems a little rushed at times, and occasionally the camera movement is a little clumsy. These small defects start to make sense when you find out that M Dot Strange produced this film in 1 year, pretty much by himself.


The voice acting for the most part is really great. I believed in all the characters and the dialogue fit well, especially with the adult characters. Some of the towns creepier denizens like Bore and the town drunk had me in stitches with their perverted lines. Some of the children’s jokes fall flat but this adds the fact that they’re y’know… children. The voice of one of the children Teenee is fucking annoying, but again this is because the character is an obnoxious hyperactive child, so it works. The soundtrack by M Dot Strange and Mad Dashiel is excellent and the diegetic sound design and really makes the world come alive.


I AM NIGHTMARE is a film about children for adults. The world is fantanstical, vivid and cohesive but M Dot Strange has always done that well. What I AM NIGHTMARE succeeds at best is the narrative. The story is relatively complex and it’s executed with finesse. Early on in I AM NIGHTMARE themes arise such as the painful division between child and adult but as the story begins to unravel it shifts to ideas around loss, pain and willful ignorance. My one criticism of the story is that it becomes too simplistic and black and white towards the conclusion. Throughout the first half of the film things aren’t so clear. You weren’t sure what everyone’s exact motivations were and the characters existed in a world of gray which I found really interesting. However as things become clearer in the delirious climax, the world turns to one of good and evil, black and white, which I found too simplistic and less interesting. In essence I AM NIGHTMARE is a sort of fairy-tale analogy and it works well as one, but i’d find it more interesting if there was a bit more realism and duality to the characters.

Overall I AM NIGHTMARE is M Dot Strange’s best film yet. The visuals aren’t quite as impressive as his first two films (likely due to the fact he created it in one year) however it’s minimal style is effective and it works. The films characters are cohesive with the story and it explores some interesting themes. Throughout I AM NIGHTMARE you can really see an artist begin to gain mastery with his medium. It’s definitely recommended for fans of weird independent animation.

-Hamish S.


CITY OF ROTT is a 2006 animated feature film created solely by Frank Sudol. It’s an action zombie comedy which are three of my least favourite genres, but to counterpoint that it’s an independent animation which interests me greatly. I’ll try and not let my personal taste in genre get in the way of an impartial review.

The story follows an old man named Fred as he navigates a treacherous world in which zombies have eaten most people and the few remaining struggle to survive. Fred also talks to his walker which gives him advice. Not surprisingly other survivors Fred encounters think he’s a bit crazy. Throughout the film Fred’s motivations are simple. The first being to find a new pair of shoes, the second being to not get eaten. It soon becomes apparent that the zombies are created by parasitic worms which breed in earth’s water supplies.

city of rott 2Fred might be old but he is by no means defenseless. He kills an astounding amount of zombies by bashing their heads in, decapitating them with his walker or shooting them with guns he finds later on. Gore fans won’t be disappointed. There are possibly more zombie fatalities in this film than any other I’ve seen. This abundance of blood and gore is amusing and even comedic at first but tends to wear a bit thin thin in the second half.

city of rott 1One of the things that I found really enjoyable in CITY OF ROTT was the character of Fred. He’s definitely not your average old man and it’s good to see a character that really defies genre stereotypes. Fred is also a bit of a bastard, which leads to some great comedic scenes. For example he meets a nurse who’s been bitten. She wants an antidote and Fred agrees to help, taking her to the zombie infested mall. He then tells her that she needs to go in and get him some new loafers and he’ll give her the antidote. When she refuses and presses Fred for the antidote he lies and tells her that the cure is to get bitten again by a zombie. I found myself laughing pretty hard. The downside to Fred’s character is that it doesn’t really develop. At the beginning his primary motivation is to get new shoes and it never really progresses from there, leaving the story feeling a bit flat.

Fred meets several survivors through his quest including the nurse, a violent gunman, another old man and an office worker who is nailing himself inside a box to escape the zombies and parasites. While these characters are well fleshed out and often funny, they don’t really seem to advance the story much and for the most part, are simply excuses for something to happen to Fred.

City of Rott 4

Due to it being made by one person, the animation is extremely limited and done in a 2D digital cutout style. The characters, background and props are hand drawn but digitally coloured which works fairly well. The visuals are bleak and the colour palette is mostly browns and grays which is what you’d expect from a zombie film. The voices are all done by Sudol and work well with the exception of the Nurse. She’s the one female character in the film and her pitch shifted voice shook the illusion, however I can’t think of a better voice for Fred. I really enjoyed the score and thought it worked with the mood and animation really well, reminding me of industrial-esque midi songs that were in old FPS games like DOOM and QUAKE.

CITY OF ROTT is no masterpiece but it’s a titanic debut effort from Frank Sudol (he’s gone on to make DEAD FURY, SHOCK INVASION, GNOME IN THE HAUNTED CASTLE and CITY OF ROTT 2.) It’s definitely also not for everyone, but if you’re a fan of zombie films or weird action animation this might be for you. CITY OF ROTT is a refreshing take on a fairly stale genre. I’ll be interested in seeing Sudol’s more recent work to see how it’s evolved and developed.

-Hamish .S

Ultra-Violent Anime – Sex, Blood and Political Incorrectness Pt. 1


This article is NSFW and contains all kinds of fucked up shit. If you’re easily offended go here.

Last night I was drinking with some friends in a bar and we got onto the subject of bad ultra-violent anime, often from the 80’s and early 90’s(as most new anime is super PC and tame). The conversation made me realise how much weird, fucked up anime i’ve seen and how I should share it here for any other weirdos out there who’re into it.

The anime on this list are for the most part, not the most amazing pieces of art. Most of them probably couldn’t even be described as ‘good’ or even ‘ok’ and they are littered with political incorrectness, misogyny and hardcore ultra-violence. The reason I find them interesting is partly because of how ludicrous, absurd and ridiculous they are. Most of them are so poorly written that they’re more comedic than anything. They’re also visually interesting, having been drawn purely by hand(mostly). They have an atmosphere and mood to them seldom seen these days, and they tend to trigger a nostalgia in me that only anime from the VHS era can.


Cyber City Oedo 808 (1990)


Cyber City Oedo is a 3 episode cyberpunk anime from 1990. It follows 3 hardened criminals who are working for the authorities to reduce sentence time from their imprisonment within an orbital penitentiary. Being a cyberpunk anime, the crimes these characters are forced to stop are all based around technology and humanity’s interaction with it.

The characters are interesting and their past is layered making this one of my favourite animes on this list. The art is vivid and well done, and the world is well thought-out and atmospheric. On top of the characters not objecting to a bit of the old ultra-violence, they swear like syphilitic sailor trash making the dub is pretty much the best thing ever.

“You wouldn’t recognize a goddamn vampire if one jumped up and bit you on the end of your fucking dick.”

Quality: Excellent

You Should Watch This If: You’re into dark violent cyberpunk with a 90’s feel.


Violence Jack (1986-1990)


Violence Jack was originally a manga written by Go Nagai who is famous for such works as ‘Devilman’. It was turned into a series of 3 OVAs from 1986 to 1990.

Violence Jack is set in a post apocalyptic wasteland where the human survivors are divided into groups of the strong, often commanded by psychopath killers and rapists; and groups of weak regular people who are often prey for the strong. A giant humanoid is uncovered from rubble in an underground city. He’s wields a jackknife the size of a regular human’s torso and is uh… violent…. so he calls himself ‘Violence Jack’ and starts his journey.

The narrative pretty much revolves around Jack being petitioned by weak groups to save them from the rapists and murderers which are pretty common. How these people have even survived up until this point is anyone’s guess. Violence Jack is completely evil yet he tends to side with the weak groups to murder and dismember the strong which he does with much pleasure. And that’s pretty much it, Violence Jack is a pretty fucking dumb animation with wooden characters and a basic plot, however the ridiculous amounts of gore and violence, along with terrible dialogue makes it worth watching for the humour and morbid curiosity if nothing else.

Go Nagai pretty much made the Violence Jack OVAs to piss off censors. And piss them off it did, with Violence Jack having a long run in with censorship. There were large cuts on the Violence Jack OVAs when being released to western audiences in the UK, USA and New Zealand having up to 5min of footage cut from each episode. In 1997, the already cut UK version was submitted to the Australian Office of Film and Literature Classification and was refused a rating. Once again the dogs at the Australian Office of Film and Literature Classification(now incorporated into the Australian Classification Board) censor anything remotely abject or immoral to ‘protect’ us easily influenced adults, making Australia one of the most censored developed countries in the world.


Quality: Insanely fucking stupid.

You Should Watch This If: You’re into dumb ultra-violence in a post-apocalyptic setting.


Mad Bull 34 (1990-1992)


Mad Bull 34 is a manga series by Kazuo Koike that was adapted into a 4 part OVA series from 1990 to 1992. It follows Daizaburo Eddie Ban who joins New York’s toughest precinct, the 34th. Daizaburo is partnered with John Estes, also known as ‘sleepy’ or ‘mad bull’. Mad Bull is incredibly reckless and violent, often shooting petty criminals to death, pimping, and destroying property. He often gets into disputes with the straight arrow Daizaburo over his behaviour, however Mad Bull’s heart seems to be in the right place(if the right place is street executions) and he tries to help the weak and defenseless with his actions.

Mad Bull 34 is a display of violence, police brutality and sexism; however it’s largely a comedic play between two ill suited partners. Some of the situations they get in are ridiculously over the top, such as a scene where Mad Bull and Daizaburo get trapped under a hail of gunfire on a water tower. Mad Bull then pulls down his pants and shows a cluster of grenades tied to his pubic hair. He then proceeds to rip them off and throw them at the enemy while crying.

Quality: Insanely fucking stupid… and funny.

You Should Watch This If: You enjoy watching police brutality with an early 90’s flair.


Genocyber (1994)


Genocyber is a 5 part OVA series from 1994. It is set in the near future and follows a young girl named Elaine who is is dragged into a mad scientist’s ambitions to combine her psychokinetic powers with that of her sister Diana’s; to awaken a Genocyber. A Genocyber is a biological weapon in the form of a large monster that has vast telekinetic and pyrokinetic powers, which is being created by the Kuryu Group(a military research mega-corporation).

genocyber mutilation

While not being the most amazingly executed anime I’ve ever seen, It is one of the most ultra-violent and gore filled spectacles ever animated and is possibly the only anime on this list that isn’t overtly misogynistic. It depicts intensely brutal death and torture on a mass scale. Genocyber also crosses the unspoken line of depicting a child getting seriously injured or killed. It’s almost as if the creators want us to vomit up our lunch while watching this. Sadistic bastards!

Quality: Ok, but not great.

You Should Watch This If: Your morbid curiosity gives you the desire to watch some of the most disgusting stuff ever animated. Yum!


Wicked City (1987)

wicked city

Wicked City is an animated feature from 1987, adapted from a novel of the same name. It takes place at the end of the 20th century in Tokyo, however there is another ‘Black World’ full of monsters and demons nearby. There has been peace for years between this world and the ‘Black World’ with a treaty having to be re-negotiated between them every few hundred years so widespread war won’t break out. The story follows Taki Renzaburo, a human ‘blackguard’ who’s job it is to protect our world from demons. He gets an assignment to guard an important dignitary until he can sign the new treaty between worlds. Taki is assigned a partner Makie, a woman from the ‘Black World’. A whole lot of radicals from both sides of the faction then proceed to try and kill the dignitary they’re charged with keeping safe.

wicked city claw

Wicked City like many in this list, contains high levels of misogynism, rape and violence towards women which makes it difficult to watch. It is also animated really really well. The shot’s are artfully composed and this fucked up world really comes to life throughout the film. The characters tend to be your standard fair neo-noir lot, the disgruntled worldly main protagonist and femme fatale who isn’t as tough as she seems etc. etc.

Despite the lack of great characters or interesting dialogue, the imagination gone into the world and the monsters that inhabit it is amazing. One of my favourite scenes in the film is where Taki is taken home and having sex with a beautiful women he’s been interested in for months, only to have her turn into a spider-like monster with clawed vagina who tries to bite his dick off then scuttles out of the window hissing “I got what I came for”.

Quality: Looks great but the story is lacking.

You Should Watch This If: You’re into fucked up monsters and the occult and can sit through some absolutely disgusting rape scenes.


Stay tuned for part 2.

-Hamish .S

Kihachiro Kawamoto – ‘The magician of puppet animation’

When thinking about Japanese animation, people mostly think of hand drawn or computer generated animation often characterized by colourful graphics and vibrant characters. That’s probably because most Japanese animation is in this form, however there are other amazing Japanese animators out there who work in their own forms and styles.

One of these animators is Kihachirō Kawamoto who has been called ‘the magician of puppet animation’. I don’t like this title because it implies that Kawamoto didn’t work his arse off to make his amazing stop-motion and mixed media films, instead he is somehow ‘magical’. Nevertheless Kawamoto is an amazing animator producing at least 11 short films, 2 feature length animations and a live-action puppet feature.


He began his career in the 1950’s as an assisstant to Tadahito Mochinaga who himself a pioneer in stop-motion puppet animation. In 1962 Kawamoto’s animation really took of when he travelled to Czechoslovakia to study under master animator Jiří Trnka for a year. On his return he began utilising Japan’s rich heritage and mythology in his own works with animations such as in ‘The Demon'(1972).

‘The Demon’ is based on a 12th century tale that says that when people grow old, they turn into demons who devour their own offspring. Two brother go hunting in the forest and they hear prey approaching. One of the brothers climbs a tree while the other hides in a bush, bows drawn. The brother in the tree is attacked by a demon and his sibling shoots an arrow severing it’s arm. Upon inspection of the arm, they realise it resembles their mother’s. They run home to discover their mother has transformed into a demon. Kawamoto draws heavily from Noh and Kabuki theatre and Bunraku puppetry. The mood and atmosphere created by Kawamoto is almost palpable, making it one of my favourite animations.

Another short from Kawamoto is ‘House of Flames'(1979), the tragic tale of a woman who comes between two suitors and the disastrous results. Heavily inspired by Noh theatre, Kawamoto combined watercolour background paintings with stop-motion puppets. The result is ethereal and dreamlike.

In addition to Kihachiro Kawamoto’s short animations, feature animation(The Book of the Dead, 2005), and live-action puppet feature(Rennyo and His Mother, 1981); he also directed a collectively animated film called Winter Days(2003) based on the 17th century renga of the same name by Matsuo Bashō. The 36 stanzas were independently created by 35 different animators from around the world. The film is an amazing collection of varied animation. One of my favourite stanzas is the first, created by master Russian animator Yuriy Norshteyn(who I will talk about another day). The beautiful cut-out stop-motion animation shows his mind-boggling levels of perfectionism.

Kihachiro Kawamoto passed away in 2010 at the age of 85. In my opinion he was one of the greatest animators to have ever existed. Not because his animation was particularly painstaking or technical, but because his unique style and blend of influences led him to create some of the most atmospheric and mood driven pieces ever. We can learn a lot from the aspects of animation he concentrated on and used to depict his stories.


– Hamish .S