Piece (2009)

As promised a few days ago, here is Studio Ghibli's latest short film, Piece, directed by longtime Ghibli director Yoshiyuki Momose. This is the music video for pop singer Yui Aragaki, and it's a catchy little pop tune, in the way that many Japanese pop songs are. It stays in your head and fits the video perfectly. Or, perhaps it's better to say the video fits the song.

But Momose manages to create such enjoyable film shorts that animation and music blend together perfectly. It's a fine balance, and difficult to achieve; Hayao Miyazaki had his one music video, On Your Mark; Miyazaki's short was brilliant, but that Chage & Aska song was terrible, hideous, almost painful. Yuck. Momose, thankfully, has been blessed to work with much better talent.

Piece feels like a continuation of Momose's three Capsule videos, in spirit and mood, even though the setting is really quite ordinary. It's a very sparse story, just a girl and her shoes, walking in the sun, walking in the rain, losing herself in her romantic dreams. And it works, it works brilliantly, because we're experiencing the moment on the woman's terms. I don't think this video could come from anywhere but the world's most famously feminist animation studio.

So this begs the questions, then. Why aren't more women in America pursing animation? Why don't we see more works like this? Why is everything in Hollywood manufactured towards 14-year-old boys? Half the population is female. I'm sure they have plenty of disposable income, at least when the economy is working. We certainly have skilled artists on our shores. So what gives? What's the deal?

Studio Ghibli produces more works created from, and aimed at, a feminine perspective than any movie studio in the world. Hardly anyone else in the West seems interested in trying. And it's not for lack of trying. Sita Sings the Blues and Persepolis are two excellent examples of animation at its best. Add in Ghibli's features and short films, add in Satoshi Kon's movies - Paprika, Tokyo Godfathers, Milennium Actress - and it's pretty clear to me where the future of the medium lies.

I think Momose's Piece is a great work of animation. It feels free. It portrays imagination and romance seeping into the ordinary, everyday world. It makes me smile, and reminds me of the many times Marcela and I were caught in the rain, high in the mountains, down in the streets of Bogota. It's enough to inspire you to walk through the rain, barefoot and daydreaming.


Alex Leavitt said...

This is an excellent short film, and it's such a piece for simply a music video. Thanks for sharing!

Adam Van Meter said...

I enjoyed it a lot more the second time around, when I understood that nothing incredible was going to happen and that there wasn't going to be any sort of 'adventure.' I was looking at it from the completely wrong angle.

Animators so rarely get the opportunity to depict the small and subtle sort of emotions and activities, the day to day things that make a character really alive, that one will admit - I wasn't looking for them. I don't expect them. To find a stylish and cute short which is made of nothing *but* those moments is a real treat.

Kenneth said...

Oh, wow! This short is really unique. It really does show how far ahead the Japanese animation industry is over the USA.... However, I disagree with the author of the article on one thing-- I actually liked the Chage & Aska song on "On Your Mark."

Ingrid Allen said...

Funny enough, how you say not enough women are pursuing animation. Well, I am and I am a female. But with the exception of me, I agree completely. I feel as though I might not be considered as much for a job as a male competitor so we gals have it tough, but thanks for thinking about that!

VinnyLT said...

There is great suff to be had here. I enjoyed it more than once.

Unknown said...

Great, really great clip!!

Unknown said...

I am a female animator who is also a teacher at an American university. I can tell you that I have seen time and time again that many male teachers favor their male animation students over the female students who do equal if not better work. The women in america that are doing animation get discouraged by this constant favoritism. We need the vision of women too because it is different and unique.

Daniel Thomas MacInnes said...

Thanks to everybody for the kind comments. Hopefully, someday we will get an extended Ghibli Shorts DVD or Blu-Ray and be able to see this film on a widescreen TV.

@Rebeca: Thank you so much for visiting and posting. That must be very frustrating to see such unfair treatment. I know I feel frustrated personally when American animation remains so male-dominated.

I've long believed that Ghibli's feminine focus is its strength, and there's no reason why such brilliant works could not be created here. I understand the business side of movies forces a very conservative (small "c") and risk-averse mindset, but surely there must be outlets for female artists.

Women need to stand up and make their voices heard. I'd like to believe the internet and social media can help bring this about. I see opportunities today that our grandparents could only dream of. Heck, the age of social media is driven by feminine values. This is the next true computer revolution, and it's happening right now. We need to seize the moment and change the world.

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