Feb 12, 2021
The war has ended. Imperial Japan was dealt a catastrophic loss and American occupation had become just another fact of life as the restoration process had begun in full swing. Yet we see here dramatic undertones that reflect both the acceptance of the new reality that the Japanese were now beholden to Americans as well as the desire to rebel against the prescribed norms of the occupations.
When the war was still in full swing, Japanese animators were still enthralled by the allure of western animation trends. Most works followed Disney's footsteps in both style and substance. It reflected the societal ambitions of the Japanese to
become like these developed countries in every facet of life.
Once the ego of the nation collapsed along with the end of the war, defeatism became a part of the reality. The fact that the marriage takes place in a church, the wealthy live in an American style suburban home instead of a traditional Japanese Minka as the aristocratic elite used to, reflects the acceptance of American intrusion into some very isolated Japanese lives.
We see the grandfather speak about times changing. How marriages against the elder's wishes, once considered murderous sacrilege were now becoming an inevitable reality as feudalism began to recede into the shadows towards a more democratic political order
Yet in the artistic direction we see a very urgent need to rebel. Art that used to copy the likes of Disney only a few years earlier were now beginning to incorporate elements of traditional Japanese art and local aesthetics into their animation. From the anthropomorphic cats to the the grandfather tiger, both in dressing sense as well as physical features, there's a definitive new aesthetic incorporated into this work of art.
The story is deceptively simple on the surface, but deals with pretty complex themes. We are shown both the rapid divergence in mindsets of the prewar and post war generation, but also the Japanese society's desire to quickly adapt to this change and acceptance. From the beginning to end, we see the grandfather go through five stages of grief which are personified by the mischief of the two little kittens.
The short also incorporates some excellent and very original visual gags. It's one thing I have noticed as I watch through the history of Japanese animation, is that the Japanese were very innovative at introducing innovative and out of the box visual gags and making beautiful use of the animated medium.
It is lamentable that modern animation has lost this drive for innovation and settled for established and safe self referential tropes that pass for visual gags now. There are some incredibly poignant lessons in here for patrons of all arts to look for inspiration, to see not only how limits can be circumvented using traditional tools but also how simple stories can have brad thematic depth.
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