Feb 9, 2012
Yamamura Kōji has a way of making his work feel more like I am listening to a variation of Japanese
theatre with surrealistic images in the background rather than watching an anime, which is a large part of what makes watching it so interesting! This verve for stage direction comes mostly from his choice of story adaptation, seiyuu and musical directors as much as from his execution or art style, which often leave its viewer wondering what really happened there. And while his art style is unique, where Yamamura Kōji really shines is how he tells a story.
In my review for Inaka
Isha I mentioned the feel of Noh theatre in the work; for this adaptation of traditional Japanese rakugo* story Atama Yama, director Yamamura Kōji tells the story using another kind of traditional Japanese fare - rōkyoku (also known as naniwa-bushi), which is a genre of traditional Japanese narrative singing generally accompanied by a shamisen.
To help execute his vision, Yamamura selected rōkyoku singer and bluegrass shamisen artist, Kunimoto Takeharu, to play the narrator and various members of the cast. Kunimoto, who has a real vocal flare for the dramatic, transports us to contemporary Tokyo, Yamamura's choice of setting for his stage, where we are shown a man too stingy to let go and too greedy to leave behind. Is this another surrealistic perspective of man's eternal dilemma of Eternity and Death or simply a moralistic play about the dangers of greed? While it doesn't answer any of the fundamental existential dilemmas or make us grow in our interpersonal relationships, it is still interesting to watch, if only because of the insights we gain into Japanese culture and tradition.
One of the best parts about Yamamura's directing style is that he realizes how talented the people he hires are and basically lets them do their thing. This usually means that the seiyuu's skills at storytelling shine through with the first breath, and so it came as no surprise to me when the musical quality of Kunimoto Takeharu's voice took mine away. There were times watching this that I found myself unable to pay attention to the story because I was too busy listening to his narrative and the way he would change his voice or even how he paused to breathe. This alone would have been enough to capture my attentions, but when accompanied by the music of his shamisen, and at times a haunting violin as well, I went away chilled and thought to myself "I almost prefer to see this as a play rather than in it's animated form."
But see this once anyway, if only to hear the talented Kunimoto Takeharu tell you a story and listen to him play his shamisen.
*Rakugo (落語) is a type of Japanese verbal entertainment, originally known as karukuchi (軽口). A lone storyteller, called a rakugoka, (落語家) sits on a Kōza stage and using only a paper fan and a small cloth depicts a long and complicated comical story. The story always involves the dialogue of two or more characters, the difference between the characters depicted only through change in pitch, tone, and a slight turn of the head.
-- Information courtesy of Wikipedia
What did you think of this review?