published in Empire No.64, Sydney
Best known to many as the creator of Astro Boy and Kimba The White Lion, Osamu Tezuka also produced an impressive string of animated shorts. Compiled into this single volume covering his work from the early 60s to the late 80s, this release stands as an outstanding compendia of animated art.
Two key early works are particularly memorable. Pictures At An Exhibition (1966) reconfigures the famous suite by Russian composer Mussorgsky as musical narration to a suite of wry observations on mid-60s Japanese life. Taking this concept further, Story of A Street Corner (1962) is a wonderful tale of the posters adorning a street corner, which come to life in a series of vignettes over time. An artful and charming work that stands as one of Tezuka's best experiments due to its use of bold poster graphics as the visual language to narrate a macrocosm of Japan during the war years.
A later work continues this tradition of contrasting visual styles and episodic mini-tales: Legend of the Forest (1987). A saga of wood creatures' livelihood being threatened by a timber company intent on indiscriminately razing their forest, the story progresses through distinct and contrasting animated techniques. It soon becomes apparent that we are in fact watching the history of animation - starting off with stilted stick figures and ending up in rounded fleshed-out colourful forms. It's a moving story - maybe a bit cloying for some - but the expressive characterization and gorgeous backgrounds provide a rarefied aesthetic experience.
Other shorts collected include the hilarious Broken Down Film (1985) and Self Portrait (1988). But perhaps most memorable is the technical tour de force Jumping (1984). Taking the view point of a young girl who imagines herself to jump ever higher off the ground, it proves why animation is capable of portraying things cinema can only dream of doing.