The anime industry has grown exponentially after establishing a massive global audience which is why it continues to attract top talent year after year. While many animators currently feel as if they are restricted by the strict standards of the commercial industry, there are some visionaries who are constantly innovating and Masaaki Yuasa is one of them.
Known for pioneering works such as The Tatami Galaxy and Ping Pong the Animation, Yuasa’s surreal animation style has mesmerised anime fans all over the world. Through his whimsical aesthetic framework, Yuasa often explores serious themes such as existential despair and the haunting social realities of the modern world.
“For animation, the most important thing is movement, which you can’t express in manga or live-action films,” he once explained. “For me, it’s the most important thing. It’s animation’s strong point… Dancing shows a form of liberty and expression. Running expresses passion and it’s very easy to show those emotions through these movements.”
For this edition of Short of the Week, we have chosen Masaaki Yuasa’s 2013 work Kick-heart which incorporates Yuasa’s characteristic surreal visual style to explore the love story between a nun and a wrestler. For those who are not familiar with the Japanese auteur’s works, this is the perfect introduction to his unique way of looking at the world.
The animator added: “I try to show the landscape that the characters see subjectively, not objectively. For example, if they see something which does not exist, I will make it appear, or if something vanishes in the environment, in space, I erase it. So, I think if things become less rigid, wavier, I think I see space like that. It’s intimately linked to emotions.”
Like many great animators including Hayao Miyazaki, Yuasa’s focus on movement and motion often results in spectacularly fluid visual spectacles that distort the rigid boundaries of our world. Apart from its artistic achievements, Kick-Heart is also memorable because it was the first crowdfunded anime by a major studio.
Watch the short film below.