TACHIGUISHI RETSUDEN is an upcoming Japanese animated film by Mamoru Oshii (GHOST IN THE SHELL) and Production IG. It is yet another example of the type of innovative animated features that are being produced in seemingly every corner of the world nowadays except the United States. I was really impressed with the film trailer. The film’s visuals are comprised largely of digitally manipulated photo cut-outs mixed with some straight-up CG. It’s worth noting that the filmmakers don’t hide the fact that these are flat photos, and the animation style emphasizes the flatness when characters are turned and moved around. The last film I saw that innovated this much with photo cut-outs was Virgil Widrich’s mind-bending FAST FILM.
A synopsis of the film at Twitchfilm.net is both confusing and intriguing for its nuttiness: it is apparently some type of historical comedy/fantasy about “fast-food grifters.” At least that explains why people continuously yell ‘Hamburger’ in the trailer. Catsuka.com offers some other interesting details about the production. The film uses 30,000 photos, taken in only five days, and a lot of the digital animation was created by students. Most of the cast was made up of folks who work in animation: the actors include the CEO of Production IG, Mitsuhisa Ishikawa, Ghibli producer Toshio Suzuki, ESCAFLOWNE director Shoji Kawamori, and storyboard artist Shinji Higuchi. One can sense that the filmmakers and crew were truly having fun on this project. This anything-goes spirit of experimentation and playfulness is one of the primary factors that makes cartoons from the Golden Age of Hollywood animation so appealing, and it’s something that’s largely absent from contemporary animation. It’s nice to see the spirit is alive and well in Japan.