Since discovering his site a few weeks ago, Ben Ettinger’s AniPages Daily has become one of my favorite blogs around, which is perhaps notable because the primary focus of his journal is Japanese animation. What makes his writing unique is that he doesn’t approach anime from the conventional fanboy perspective with lots of long plot synopses and the like, but instead focuses on the actual animation and the individual animators who are responsible for the work. Ben writes effortlessly about classic Japanese animation as well as modern films, and recently he posted a comprehensive look at the animated features produced by Toei Doga from 1958-1972, which includes films such as LITTLE NORSE PRINCE, JACK AND THE WITCH and a local favorite among the LA crowd LITTLE PRINCE AND THE 8-HEADED DRAGON. When not writing about anime, he also finds the time to praise the works of great non-Japanese animators like Oskar Fischinger and Yuri Norstein.
One film that Ben has been tirelessly plugging for the past couple months is MIND GAME, which opens this weekend in Japan. I was unsure of what the hype was about until I saw the trailer, and now all I can say is WOW! This film looks to be a pure demented visual trip along the lines of YELLOW SUBMARINE, but many leaps beyond; a perfect melding of art and technology and an incredibly beautiful use of animation. The director is Masaaki Yuasa, whose short film SOUND INSECT NOISEMAN both impressed and confused me when I saw it a few years ago. Despite a limited release in theaters, MIND GAME is generating a lot of buzz in Japan’s animation community, and according to Ben’s latest update, the animation studio Madhouse has even started a cheerleading squad to promote the film in the streets of Tokyo. That’s rather amazing considering that Madhouse had nothing to do with the film’s production; the equivalent would be DreamWorks animators running around the streets of Burbank to promote the latest Disney feature.