Friday, March 4, 2011

Mitaka and Suginami Anime Fests - Mar. 5 and 6

One thing that I've kept on missing in the past is the Mitaka no Mori Anime Festa. This year, the 9th annual festa will be March 4th-6th. Check out the details at the event website. The event is in the Mitaka Bunka Center (Mitaka City Arts Center), a short distance from the Mitaka station on the Chuu-Ou line. (Keep in mind that if you visit this event that Studio Ghibli's museum is also in that area. That, and that you have to buy the Ghibli museum tickets in advance; they're not sold at the door.)

To get to the Arts Center, take the north exit from the Mitaka station on the west side, and head north about a block to Mitaka Douri (Mitaka street). Go west along Mitaka Douri 1 kilometer. There'll be a large temple on your left at a major street intersection; you should see a small sign at the intersection for the art center. Turn right and go one block; the center will be on your left. Alternatively, you can take a bus from the station. It's about a 10 minute walk.

The Arts Center is a nice, big, open building. The lobby has 2 TVs playing recordings advertising Hayao Miyazaki's works and studio. The anime fest portion held on Friday was in the basement, down the stairs across from the information desk. The event is divided up into three separate parts. On Friday, it was the "Miyazaki Hayao's 50 Recommended Children's Books". On Saturday it's the showing of "The Illusionist". And on Sunday it's a showing of 15 independent animated films that had been submitted for judging.

As the title suggests, Miyazaki selected 50 children's books that he thinks everyone should read. Each one is available for purchase, translated in Japanese, from the gift shop. Titles include the standards - "Treasure Island", "Alice in Wonderland", "The Borrowers", "The Little Prince", etc. There are a number of titles that I didn't recognize, too. Along the walls of 2 of the display rooms are pictures of the Japanese book covers, a short description for each book, and a copy of Miyazaki's handwritten explanation for why he selected it. The first room also contains a TV playing the advertisement for Ghibli's "Kari-gurashi no Arietti" (Ghibli's recent anime movie based on the book "The Borrowers".

And in the second room is a glass case holding the original handwritten explanations from Miyazaki. The third room has a "full-scale" model of Arietty's house, and there's an interesting display where little windows are placed in one wall and you can see Arietty and her father moving around in the woodwork. The other half of the room was set up with chairs in front of a TV playing episodes of "Shawn the Sheep", plus there was a play space for children to draw their versions of the Art Center's mascot - Poki. One of the attendants coerced me into filling out the questionnaire at the end, telling me to hand it in at the cashier's table at the gift shop for a present. The present was one of three buttons made using bottle caps. I chose the one with Arrietty's picture on it (the other two were of a cat, and a building, all from Kari-gurashi no Arietti).

The events are free. The time for Saturday is 1 PM to 7 PM, and the event includes something called "Eating and Animation" from 1 PM to 2:45 PM (there's a cafe in the basement; the cafe will cost money). The independent animation festival on Sunday will start at 1 PM.


If you want to make a day of it, the Suginami Animation Museum (SAM), is also having an Animation Festival March 5 and 6. There's a live "anison" (anime song) event on Saturday, and characters in costumes from "Yes! PreCure 5 go go" on Sunday. There's also food, goods stalls, seminars, and workshops on making cell and clay animation. Admission is free and the museum will be open from 10 AM to 5 PM both days. The museum is between Ogikubo and Nishi-Ogikubo stations, about a 15 minute walk from either of them. Ogikubo is 3 stops from Mitaka on the Chuu-Ou line, heading towards Shinjuku.

(Namakuji-kun is the mascot for Suginami City, and I think it was designed by Suzuki, the director of the museum. There was a kind of beaten-up sculpture of Namakuji-kun in the 1st floor lobby of the building.)

Also, SAM is in the middle of its next major exhibit - "Crayon Shin-chan World", until May 22. The exhibit describes each of the Shin-chan movies, and there's glass cases with plush character dolls, original artwork from the early chapters of the manga, and a TV playing Shin-chan as dubbed into the various languages of the countries where it airs world-wide. I caught the U.S. version, which was immediately followed by the French dub, which I thought was a lot funnier.

(SAM doesn't allow cameras, normally, so I had to settle for shooting Namakuji-kun instead. I say "normally" because there was a camera crew filming the exhibits on anime production when I arrived this time.)

The anime theater is currently playing episodes of "Pumpkin Scissors". The two episodes I saw were from the middle of the series, so I was a bit lost, but it's a pretty easy story to follow and I picked up on it fast. The character artwork is inconsistent and in a way I thought I was watching "Ghost in the Shell", but it was fun and I'm tempted to watch more of the series now.

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