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Independence in Japan
(continued from page 3)

Yamamura's latest independent work-in-progress is Mt. Head (Atama-yama), a slapstick comedy based on an old "rakugo" story. It is about a man whose head has become fertile ground for a beautiful, live cherry blossom tree. As a result, his head attracts many cherry blossom viewers and he decides to uproot the tree. Adapted to modern Tokyo, the animated work will relate to themes of co-existence and the present lives of urban Japanese.

Sponsorship, Funding and Projects
In Japan, NHK has been the leading source of funding for independent animation production. However, awarded projects are usually children related and have become increasingly one-time only offers. Perhaps more attention is needed to support independent productions that could have the potential to develop into series. On the periphery are research organizations and academic institutions lending support to artists for their proposed innovative and experimental projects.

Music video fun in Yamamura's Jubilee.
© Koji Yamamura/Y.A., Inc.

A very Kafka-esque scene from the 1997 film The Morning Papa Flew. © Music Channel Co., Ltd.

For the past decade, MTV Japan has granted funding and broadcasting space to independents in Japan. According to producer/creative director Hinonori Terai, MTV Japan has helped to "broaden the creative visions of independent animators' advancing their skills to cross-match the underground, art and entertainment scenes." For example, as a result of several MTV Japan projects, the previously avant-garde adult world of Kurosaka has been mutated into a youthful groovy world challenging his artistic instincts to communicate to new audiences. Kurosaka's The Morning Papa Flew (30sec, 1997, also known as Flying Daddy), an MTV ID, collected awards worldwide including the Most Outstanding Sequence Award at Annecy 1998. MTV Japan is no longer in existence, in its place is vibE (meaning "visual beat") under the local ownership of the Music Channel Co. Ltd. It is hoped that the latter will continue to nurture independent animation and find the space to expose and exhibit a different kind of Japanese animation.

Anime cartoons have dominated Japanese animation for nearly half a century, but independent works such as those made by Kurosaka and Yamamura have provided other entertainment options. It may be the case that in the near future, their works will grow in strength offering new directions and alternatives in Japanese mainstream animation.

The author expresses her sincere thanks to animator, Sumire Kiyose for her patient assistance and translation help.

Gigi T. Y. Hu is a PhD candidate at the University of Hong Kong, Department of Comparative Literature. She is currently, a visiting researcher at Sophia University, Institute of Comparative Culture, Tokyo. She is also the co-founder of the first Singapore Animation Fiesta in 1996. Her research interest in animation studies began in the early '90s when she was a postgraduate student at the Universities of Strathclyde and Glasgow.

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