Pop culture such as anime and comics are thriving in Japan, but I wonder how many people have heard the words “Hentai Animation.”
At the moment, “Hentai (Metamorphosis) Animation Night 2017” is being held at Human Trust Cinema Shibuya(Tokyo). “Hentai (metamorphosis)” is the animation technique of gradually transforming one image into another, but at this screening, we’re using a broader definition. We’re playing the strange animations that come about when the creator is free to do whatever they want. This year, we’ve gathered 19 shocking short animations from around the world that you wouldn’t normally get to see in Japan. You may be wondering just why all these weird animations were gathered; let’s think about the reason while talking with the host.
Hentai Animation Night 2017
■Space Stallions － Thorvaldur Gunnarsson and others, Denmark, 2012
This film starts off with the spectacular title of “Space Stallions!” 4 warriors, each with different powers, ride a horse-shaped spaceship and fight evil aliens. In this epic story, one of their own is captured, they break down in tears, but they overcome these challenges to defeat their enemies…… but this is only the opening theme. This movie was made by Danish people who love 80’s SF cartoons a little too much, but for some reason it feels like you’ve watched the whole story, and it’s also nostalgic.
■Going to meet aliens, and a gloomy return….
The host of this short animated film festival “Hentai Animation Night 2017” is Newdeer’s Nobuaki Doi.
Newdeer Nobuaki Doi
Doi has been researching short films since he was a student, and since there aren’t many opportunities to see them in theaters, he started his own screening projects. This project was one of these, a one night event started in 2012. To make it more popular, he added the word “hentai” to the title, aiming for catchiness.
In the beginning, it was a one-time event where after playing each animation he and animator Mirai Mizue would analyze it, but every time it was held it got more and more attention and fans, and from 2014, he decided to occasionally hold roadshows for movie theaters. This is the second of these, 100 minutes of 19 strange short films will be played. In Doi’s own words, “I want them to come prepared to meet aliens.” He also says, “I want people to take the films from this crazy 100 minutes home with them.” Something about wanting people to “unwind their minds” and take it in. He hopes it will be an addictive screening that you’ll want to see again and again.
■Dana Sink’s Mystery Series “Bicycle”－ Dana Sink, America, 2013～2015
Balls roll along pipes. Tangled wires. A cup spins. The screen is filled by different kinds of machinery moving around. At first, you have no idea what’s going on. Then it gradually speeds up. As it does, the image that appears is…. Ah, it’s a bicycle, you realize.
“Power,” another film played, is confusing at first, but something gradually becomes visible.
It’s like the excitement you get when you’re looking at an optical illusion with a hidden image inside, and you suddenly realize, “I got it!” This is an “Aha Experience” created through animation.
■Demand for Absurd Content!
But why are films like these getting popular?
They’re aimed at people in their early 20s, and the gender split is about even.
When you consider that anime is for people in their 30s, and mini theater is 40s/50s, you see they all have different demographics.
Doi has determined that “right now, there’s a demand for absurd content.” In anime, “King of Prism” is one example, and for variety shows, “Arabiki Dan” is another example.
The younger generation is less interested in story, and more interested in the visuals, and an event/concert-like feeling. Doi says that this is spread through SNS, and linked to popularity.
Hentai Animation Night 2017 is filled with these “absurd” short films, but we asked Doi for his recommendations.
■“Unhappy Happy”－ Peter Millard, England, 2016
Doi:“Through this film you can see that Peter Millard is the freest animator in the world right now. The film stops moving often, there are long scenes of just blackness (I always start worrying that my projector’s broken), even when something is moving, all that’s happening is some confusing abstract pattern twisting around, it looks like he’s just doing whatever he feels like… and yet for some reason, as I’m watching it, I’m overcome with this rush of emotion…. It has an experimental feeling similar to Godard or Evangelion.”
■“Wink Rabbit”－ Hak-Soon Hong, South Korea, 2014
Doi:“In this film, Hak-Soon Hong－the animator with an underground popularity in South Korea, whose illustrations were used for the hot protagonist’s drawings in “Vanishing Time: A Boy Who Returned”, the Korean film being released in Japan this summer, and a candidate to get the next big break－and his most well-known character, Wink Rabbit, run wild. The protagonist’s repeated winking, even though the world seems warm and peaceful, keeps going to the point that it’s a bit scary…. But even still, as you’re watching it you feel your brain gradually (like you’re taking a bath) get softer. I also feel inspired by how the creator is enjoying the process of pure creation….”
Hentai Animation Night 2017 is kind of like art, kind of like watching an acid trip, and it’s kind of like noise music. Maybe this is a new style of entertainment designed for the avant-garde demographic who think, “I get bored of story-focused films after only one watch, I want a physical experience.” Recently, entertainment that engages all five senses, such as VR and 4D, have been gaining popularity, and perhaps Hentai Animation is attempting to achieve that with only sounds and images.
“Hentai Animation Night 2017”
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(Article by: Kenichi Nakamura)
(Research Assistance by: Nanae Kan)
Fields Research Institute (FRI) conducts research in entertainment.
This article was written by a member of FRI, through the original coverage of his/her interests observed in their daily lives.