Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Koji Morimoto

Koji Morimoto is one of my favorite animators and directors working in the field of “anime” (essentially just meaning Japanese animation).

Morimoto is well respected in Japan, but not well known in the U.S., possibly because he has directed mostly shorts and short segments of films rather than feature length animations.

I first noticed him as the director of a segment called “Franken’s Gears” in Robot Carnival, a collection of short anime devoted to the subject of robots. There was just something about his handling of light and detail that made his segment stand out above the rest. At the time I didn’t think to try to find more about his work, and didn’t notice him again until years later when I came across his work in another collection.

Contrary to popular belief, there actually was a good sequel to the original movie The Matrix , it just wasn’t one of the theatrical releases. In 2003, there was a DVD release called The Animatrix, a collection of short animations by various directors, mostly anime directors, dealing with subjects within the Matrix setting.

The best of these was a wonderful short called “Beyond”, about a girl who goes looking for her lost cat and finds a “haunted house” where the normal rules of physics are broken. It’s a terrific short piece that is well written, beautifully drawn, luminously colored and smartly directed. As soon as I saw it, I said “Wow! Who was that?”, immediately played it again and looked to see who had directed it — Koji Morimoto.

I then found out that in addition to directing several other shorts, Morimoto had, in fact, worked as an animator on a couple of of my favorite anime, Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira and Hayao Miyazaki’s Kiki’s Delivery Service (see my post on Miyazaki).

Morimoto has directed a number of memorable, imaginative and very different short animations.

I don’t think he has an official site, but there is an extensive and professional level French site (that I assume is unofficial) at kojimorimoto.net. The English version isn’t online yet, but the French version isn’t too difficult for English speakers to navigate.

I found the version of the site not in a popup easier to deal with. Once you enter any of the interior pages, you will see a link at lower left for the site map (“plan du site”) that opens in a convenient little pop-up window. Go to any of the sections under “Panorama” to see images and information about many of his shorts.

Each section for an animation features a short video clip, preliminary drawings, scene backgrounds and screen caps; enough to get a feeling for the beauty and imaginative variety of his work. In particular, check out Beyond, Noiseman Sound Insect, Tekkon Kinkurito and Magnetic Rose (images above, top to bottom).

There is also a page on Catsuka.com where you can download clips and trailers of Morimoto’s work.

 

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