Showing together are two animated films that take a completely different route with their storytelling and their medium. Twilight (aka Hakubo, Yutaka Yamamoto, 2019) and A Japanese Boy Who Draws (Masanao Kawajiri, 2018) are each worthy of attention. Both are well crafted, intelligently thought-out, and showcase lovely artwork. And that’s where the similarities might end.
A Japanese Boy Who Draws begins as a frantic and chaotic glimpse into a child’s world of art creation. It’s offbeat – loud with color, jagged with movement. Just like young children’s artwork. Over time, as kids grow up, their art becomes more mannered, more purposeful as their mind develops more paths with which to interpret the world around them. The film’s art style too, transforms to portray different periods in the lives of childhood friends Shinji and Masaru. The proverbial kitchen sink of animation is thrown into the mix, from scribbles, paintings and pixel art to collage and puppet animation.
But sadly, Masaru must go. What happens to Shinji in his absence is something most artists would identify with. Keeping a job versus creating meaningful art. Feeling miserable because their work is underappreciated. Dealing with worried parents.
Is this what it’s really like to be a working artist? It wasn’t what Shinji always dreamed about.
A meditation on the disillusionment of the Struggling Artist.
Twilight is about sunsets, music and first love.
It is set under the natural beauty of Fukushima after the 2011 Tohouku earthquake. Yes, there is still beauty there. Yes, people still live there. But there is still aftermath rippling through the prefecture. The mind of teenager, Sachi is troubled ever since. She doesn’t socialize the way others do. She doesn’t enjoy the same things girls her age do. Instead, she enjoys meditative long walks home from school. It brings her close to nature. The rural setting of Iwaki fills her heart with things her friends can’t even comprehend. They may be focusing on school and boys, but Sachi is too busy enjoying sunset after sunset to think about stupid boys.
But then, life is funny that way. Sometimes it just takes one boy. A boy who likes to paint colorful sunsets and draw portraits of his favorite girl.
The story of Twilight is pure and taps into real emotions. Simple as they might be when you’re a teenager, it does not come across saccharine or cheesy at all. It is like the green sky Sachi and Yuusuke admire at dusk. When the yellows blend with the blue, it’s supposed to bring good luck. There is an underlying message of hope throughout Twilight. A parallel might be drawn between Sachi and Yuusuke’s budding romance and the idea that although Iwaki is recovering well from nature’s wrath, it still could use a little faith and good luck for a safe future.
A poetic and sweet slice of life.
Twilight / A Japanese Boy Who Draws – 5:30 PM, July 29th – J.A. de Seve Theatre