The hidden side of anime

Madrid exhibition showcases creativity in Japanese film

A piece of original artwork from the Casa Encendida anime show.
A piece of original artwork from the Casa Encendida anime show.

Futuristic cities under attack by aliens, supersonic vehicles, technological crimes, cyborgs with human brains and tragic heroes who sacrifice their lives to save the planet -- these are some of the key ingredients of Japanese animated cinema, which reached its apex in the late 1980s and 1990s with such films as Akira (1988) and Ghost in the Shell (1995).

"These films have an incredible creation process, much more complex than you'd think," says Stefan Riekeles, the German curator of Proto Anime Cut. Espacios y visiones en el cine de animación japonés (or, Proto Anime Cut. Spaces and visions in Japanese animated cinema) at La Casa Encendida in Madrid.

The first show outside of Japan to reveal the creative process behind anime, it is divided into three rooms that combine a selection of unpublished drawings, designs and sketches of scenes from different films alongside the movies themselves, projected on screens.

These storyboards are good enough to be exhibited in their own right"

In a scene from music video Extra (1996) the main character is reflected in a bright train that passes like a lightning bolt in front of his face. Director Koji Morimoto drew three series of sketches each comprising 12 drawings in order to illustrate the scene. The quality is amazing: in the drawings you see the reflection in his glasses, the wave of his hair and the rays of light running around his neck and shoulders. The character finally leaps into empty space and his body falls slowly in a tracking shot showing the city from the air. The sets drawn to outline the view of the city are just as detailed.

It's just one example of the virtuosity in these storyboards, which according to Riekeles "are good enough to be exhibited in their own right." Almost all form part of the production process, which the Japanese call sekai-kan - the invention of the sets where the director shoots the film. The cities are based on photos of real urban areas to which futuristic elements are added.

The exhibition brings together the works of Hideaki Anno (director of Evangelion), Koji Morimoto (Dimension Bomb), Mamoru Oshii (Patlabor and Ghost in the Shell) and others who collaborate in the scene design, such as Hiromasa Ogura (illustrator), Takashi Watanabe (conceptual designer) and Haruhiko Higami (photographer).

What's more, as a sidebar to the main exhibition, a cycle of Japanese anime films will be screened on the La Casa Encendida terrace every Friday and Saturday evening at 10pm throughout July and August.

Proto Anime Cut. Espacios y visiones en el cine de animación japonés. Until September 23 at La Casa Encendida, Ronda de Valencia 2, Madrid. www.lacasaencendida.es

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