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Tokyo International Film Festival’s animation section aims beyond hardcore fans

The 34th Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF), set to run from Oct. 30 through Nov. 8, will feature a section dedicated to Japanese animation for the third year in a row.

The creation of the section in 2019 was the festival’s overdue nod to Japan’s biggest cultural export, the worldwide market for which has grown steadily for the past decade (OK, there was a small dip in 2020, for obvious reasons).

Like the previous two editions, this year’s section is made up of three segments: a retrospective, recent and upcoming films, and a look at a live-action tokusatsu special effects franchise.

For my money, this year’s most interesting piece is the retrospective, which focuses on legendary animator Yasuo Otsuka. Otsuka, who died this year at age 89, isn’t a household name in the same way as Hayao Miyazaki, but he should be. About a decade older than the “Spirited Away” director, Otsuka had both worked with and influenced Miyazaki and fellow Studio Ghibli co-founder Isao Takahata, as well as generations of other animators.

Otsuka was a part of Japan’s postwar animation industry from the beginning, working as an animator at Toei Animation on “Hakujaden” (“The White Snake Enchantress” 1958), Japan’s first color animated film. Toei was where Otsuka met and mentored Miyazaki and Takahata, championing both young creators. The trio later left Toei, but kept working together on classics such as “Lupin III” and “Future Boy Conan.”

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