Dec 4, 2022
It takes too long to write a description for all 16 shorts, so I'll just touch on the good, the bad, and the ugly (maybe even the weird). Don't be fooled by the looping shorts and the name Tokyo Loop, or you will be thrown for a loop, because most of these shorts aren't especially loopish other than 2 or 3. You definitely do get dull experiments, like the clock short with M.C. Escher patterns—or a bland digital rehash of Stan Brakhage's splashes of color on celluloid, which at least improves a bit as the hues shift into various shapes and figures: it might pique
the eye, but it's ultimately irrelevant. An avant-garde screensaver. Whoop-de-doo. It's whatever, and like a lot of experiments, you can expect failures.
While Yoji Kuri might occasionally fashion a gem out of his crudity, his take here is literally doggy poo. It consists of nothing but dog doo doo, and it turns into the boulder trap from Indiana Jones, engulfing numerous objects and people like this is a scatological version of a Katamari Damacy game. I'm really not making that up. Just be thankful Smell-O-Vision died out long ago, because this stinks.
There are also some truly ugly ones like the side-scrolling Mario knockoff drawn with the stick art of kindergarten and mixtures of live action and 3D models, making for an obscene mess of stale Doge memes and tackier atrocities. There are plenty of others with a more geometrical or aimless nature, as well as musical mashups of abstraction, which was very common with older animators like Len Lye or Norman McLaren. Pretty much all of these are rather experimental and set to minimal amounts of sound design and focus on 1-2 music tracks. Koji Yamamura's short is perhaps the one that synergizes the most strongly with its visual creativity and audio; it has a rather sketchy look without being entirely alienating or drab like some of the more abstract offerings, and the minimalist inkblot-like designs allow for plenty of free-flowing character movements that are charmingly messy and some very exciting transitions and camera movements.
Murata Tomoyasu's short I initially mistook as Takashi Ito's work during the drab daytime urban shots that the short opens with, but we're instead treated to lots of digital effects and color washes, just before we're blazing past neon lights, or rotoscoped passersby resembling pastel-colored ghosts that teeter into and out of frame. The nocturnal minimalism and calming ambience lend it a much greater resonance than most of Ito's more mundane urban time lapse shorts.
Takashi Ito mostly downplays his time lapse roots for a less disorienting, more human-focused, and contrasty black and white short with a more punkish aesthetic and noisy music, reminiscent of the work of Shozin Fukui, Sogo Ishii, or Shinya Tsukamoto. Shaky camera, plenty of DIY effects, raw energy, and a few rather striking scene transitions define this as more of a stylistic short, without much of a focus, but it's disorienting and nervous enough to simulate a breakdown.
A few are a bit more narrative based: Kei Oyama's vision is an exceptionally dark POV shot without edits that never fully clarifies what's going on, but it appears to involve death and deterioration, and it's on the eerie side—a low-key nightmare. Mika Seike's is quite cryptic but has some fairly obvious gender-based symbols and the common motif of insects that seems to be spread throughout her work. Atsushi Wada uses the familiar salaryman artwork from various shorts of his, including Hana no Hi, to depict a very absurd sequence of events that make little sense, but the experience of watching a man shoot miniature humans out of his mouth like he's emptying a machine gun clip is priceless. Furukawa Taku's fixed-camera on a wobbly setting and its haggard and even adorable caricatures is kind of amusing, and the collage-like and Tadanori Yokoo-esque pop art surrealism of Tabaimo is at least vivid, and even the randomness of Tanaami Keiichi provides some interesting morphing animation, bizarre designs, and acid-drenched colors.
Anything I didn't mention is probably pretty skippable, and even a few that I did mention are interesting for one aspect or another, but they're usually not the most well-rounded shorts—they are hit or miss experiments from several interesting creative minds. A few may seem underwhelming or too cryptic at first, but I warmed up to several of them with an extra viewing—it definitely helps if you're familiar with any of these artists prior to watching, as I feel I probably would have been a lot less receptive, had I not been familiar with about half of the artists. As a compilation, this is pretty firmly average, but it's easy to get picky because of a few shoddy segments.
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