In this series, we profile the most interesting independent animation filmmakers working today — the artists who, through short films and other projects, change our ideas of what the medium can do.
Today’s subject is Atsushi Wada, a key figure in Japan’s contemporary indie animation scene.
In a sentence: Gentle and minimalist comedies that examine the often strange, repetitive movements and rituals of human beings.
Where to start:In a Pig’s Eye (2010). Though Wada had already made many films by this point, he decided to study at the Tokyo University of the Arts. While there, he made this hilarious piece of absurdity about a family that lives in a house with a giant pig in their yard. Wada contrasts the daily monotony of domestic life with the unexpected world that sits outside. It is also a sly commentary on our hypocritical relationship with animals.
What to watch next:The Great Rabbit (2012). In this offbeat comedy/psychological study, Wada’s plump protagonists stand in line with a giant ball that they present to a rabbit-like character who inspects each ball while standing on a chair. Along the way, Wada explores the notion of greatness, disobedience, and blind worship.
Other key works: There are so many to choose from out of his 19 or so films, but be sure to check out the early gems Day of Nose (2005), Well, That’s Glasses (2007), and Manipulated Man (2006), as well as The Mechanism of Spring (2010) and My Exercise (2020).
Influences:Igor Kovalyov, Jan Švankmajer, Kenji Miyazawa (novelist/poet), Hitoshi Matsumoto (comedian)
Says: “I laugh at the comical nature of people, who never notice the meaning of their behavior and firmly believe that repeating such stupid acts mechanically is their work. But at the same time I feel sympathy with the very same nature and feel sad. Sometimes I even feel love.”
Currently working on: Wada’s latest short, Bird in the Peninsula (see trailer below), just had its world premiere at the Berlin Film Festival where it took home a special mention for a short film. This 16-minute film is about a group of boys performing a dance for an initiation ritual. The dance is disrupted by a girl and a strange bird. Wada is also developing Ikimono-san, a series for children.