In 1906, in a letter to a friend, Japanese novelist Soseki Natsume wrote, “I am an ambitious man who wants the people of 100 years hence to solve my riddle." A century later, this most celebrated writer of the Meiji era must be smiling down from the heavens, because a host of exceptional Japanese filmmakers have accepted the challenge of bringing his famous book of fantastic stories Yume Ju-ya (“Ten Nights of Dreams”) to life on the silver screen. Ten directors, ten tales, ten adventures into artfully executed surrealism laden with levels of symbolism and secrets.
Among the talents assembled by the venerable studio Nikkatsu for this ambitious centenary project are numerous names familiar to Fantasia-goers, including legends like Akio Jissoji –- whose work is celebrated at Fantasia this year with the Arthouse Ultraman 2 collection –- and the venerated Kon Ichikawa, a master of literary adaptation, as well as Takashi Shimizu, creator of the Ju-on series, anime star Yoshitaka Amano (Vampire Hunter D, Final Fantasy), Otakus in Love director Suzuki Matsuo, Yudai Yamaguchi (Cromartie High School, Meatball Machine) and more.
These directors are all amazing visual stylists, and each takes a distinctive approach to their particular “dream,” from Ichikawa’s jab at Buddhism and Bushido (delivered in a deliberate mock silent-film style) to Yamaguchi’s signature wackiness, which as always nods in no small part to Looney Tunes and Sam Raimi (and in this case stars the unbearably foxy Mikako Ichikawa of Cutey Honey fame). Yoshitaka Amano’s offering –- a truly stupefying, psychedelic fusion of 2D and 3D animation that pulsates with rich colours and textures –- is arguably the most spectacular, and a rich treat for anime fans. The shorts are uniformly engaging, though, as Soseki Natsume’s magnificent stories, flights of fancy from a unique point in time which found Japan on the cusp between its magical past and modern future, reveal their wit, wisdom and wonderful imagination.
Directors: Yoshitaka Amano, Kon Ichikawa, Akio Jissoji, Masaaki Kawahara, Suzuki Matsuo, Miwa Nishikawa, Atsushi Shimizu, Takashi Shimizu, Keisuke Toyoshima, Yudai Yamaguchi, Nobuhiro Yamashita
Screenplay: Soseki Natsume, Shinichi Inozume, Gatarō Man, Miwa Nishikawa, Takashi Shimizu, Keisuke Toyoshima, Nobuhiro Yamashita
Cast: Kenichi Matsuyama
Producers: Tsutomu Kuno, Hiroki Ōta, Yutaka Tsunoda