Year Released: 1994-2006
Distributor: Facets Video/Tidepoint Pictures/Asian Edge
Running Time: Anthology, 5 short films, 3-17 minutes
Rating/Recommended Audience: 17+
Related Films/Series: N/A
For Fans Of: Art of the Short Film, The Astonishing Works of Osamu Tezuka, Rejected, The Quay Brothers: The Black Drawings
-Naoyuki Tsuji is from the Shizuoka Prefecture and specializes in charcoal drawings in his illustrations and animation. Some of his later works involve Zephyr, Mountain, and Fragments.
-Jun Yamaguchi composed the music for the shorts. He’s won awards such as World Music Days and the 72nd Japan Music Competition.
-Hilarious in Hindsight: During the final part of the Trilogy about Cloud[s] series, people are sucked up by a jet-black sun. Come on, like you weren’t thinking of Soundgarden’s Black Hole Sun song when you saw it? Was it washing the pain away? I certainly don’t know.
You all should know by now that I have an affinity for Japanese animation. Japan certainly dominates with all of my animated reviews which we can certainly agree on. Some of you in the aniblogger community have given me compliments over the past couple of years about how I know things about various creators, animators, and voice actors. I really appreciate that and it’s good that my knowledge (such as it is) has shown more often than not. Now, I’ve been into anime since I was a child even before I knew what the term meant. In all the years of my life as an on and off otaku, I have never heard of the animator Naoyuki Tsuji. This is coming from a guy who thrives on obscure films and animation! I could tell you about Yoshitoshi ABe, Jafar Panahi, or even Nate Parker, but I knew nothing about this experimental animator and his charcoal art style of drawing things.
Is the work of Tsuji a diamond in the rough or should it be thrown into the dustbin of history? Let’s find out.
The Naoyuki Tsuji Animation Collection is an anthology that deals with five of his works from the 90s and the 00s. These are all short films with charcoal drawings as animation and even some stop-motion works were thrown in between. We’ll go through the shorts as shown in order on the DVD.
The collection starts out with a trilogy of sorts called Trilogy about Cloud[s]. This particular trilogy is exactly what it says in the title, yet the imagery goes into the clouds changing shapes into various things at first. The other parts involve a class getting enveloped in a cloud from inside the school while the last part involves a civilization literally living in the clouds. I had to get used to the animation style with this and all of his other works. It certainly was unique with the charcoal animation. While it was unusual, I think it got way too bizarre for me. The multitude of sexual organs around, cannibalism, and rampant nudity without a clear purpose really left a bad taste in my mouth while watching this trilogy.
The next short is also the longest one. It’s A Feather Stare at the Dark which continues the charcoal trend of animation. It takes place in a bizarre civilization where angels make love to each other and they birth a new society out of water and fire. The sexual imagery increases not just with the graphic nudity, but part of the imagery involves rivers of semen (I wish I was making this up), defecating humans after being eaten, and the sun poops out a moon out of its butt. The imagery was just disgusting to me. There was one surprisingly tame thing that made me just as angry and it involved winged humanoids hatching out of eggs. Really, Naoyuki? You’re going to rip off Haibane Renmei? YOU LEAVE THAT ANIME SERIES ALONE! That was uncalled for, and if I was Yoshitoshi ABe, I might have sued him if I wasn’t so repulsed by the meaninglessness and graphic sexual aspects.
The third short is The Rule of Dream. This uses a pencil drawing and is far shorter than the previous two films. It involves a man who gets shot while his naked spirit floats in the sky to find peace in the afterlife. This would’ve been fine by itself, but the body parts infest this film again. There’s nudity from both genders involved and the man’s spirit is defecating birds and urinating bullets which made me want to vomit. As much as cartoons like South Park or Family Guy get bashed for their toilet and sex humor, I certainly bash this short since at least I’m equal when it comes to that kind of review.
The penultimate short is For Almost Forgotten Stories. Things get changed up with claymation for this particular short. There’s an elephant who emerges from a fountain and a doll with needles on his head (insert Hellraiser joke) walk around and try to find these forgotten stories. This was one of the more tame things even though Naoyuki Tsuji’s tendency to put sex organs still shows up again with a figure with a screw for a penis (not making this up) popping up later in the film. The animation reminds me of a Brothers Quay or Tool music video if there were a lot of drugs being used. I thought it was pretentious in its absurdity much like the other films.
The final short is Wake Up. It’s only a three-minute film and there’s actually spoken dialog in this feature. It ends up being a stop-motion apocalyptic work of sorts with poetry to bring the story forward. It is bizarre, but more tolerable compared to the other shorts that I dealt with. It switches from stop-motion to pencil animation at the end. While it was slightly better, I still couldn’t stand that work.
The Naoyuki Tsuji Animation Collection was a waste of time and I couldn’t believe that there was a cult following for his works. I found the animated shorts to be pointless, too disgusting, and far too pretentious for their own good. I can handle experimental films and animation if they have a point, but this was too much for me with the lack of storytelling or even redeemable qualities. Stay away from this, anime fans and experimental animation fans!
Trilogy about Cloud[s]: 1/10 points
A Feather Stare at the Dark: 1/10 points
The Rule of Dreams: 1/10 points
For Almost Forgotten Stories: 1/10 points
Wake Up: 1/10 points
Adjustable Rating System:
Add 1-4 points if you like surreal animation.
-Creative charcoal drawings
-Way too much sex and nudity imagery with no point
-Lack of storytelling
Final Score: 1/10 points
Content Warning: The Naoyuki Tsuji Animation Collection is for older audiences only. There’s nudity in every short with both genders represented. The imagery gets disturbing with people being eaten and then defecated by some characters. There’s sex and toilet imagery like ejaculating and civilizations being built out of it. One man kills himself and there’s blood in different shorts.
All photos property of their respective owners and used under US “Fair Use” laws. The Naoyuki Tsuji Animation Collection is property of Facets Video, Tidepoint Pictures, and Asian Edge. The DVD cover is from Facets DVD and is property of Facets Video.