The Beginner’s Guide to Anime, No. 104 – The Diary of Ochibi

Ochibi 1

We are continuing our current examination of anime films, but this week’s movie is of an entirely different feel to any other film, and indeed any other anime, so far covered in this column. Most anime are animated in a conventional 2D style, but today we looking at a stop-motion animation.

Released only a few weeks ago, The Diary of Ochibi is not only a stop-motion anime; it is a crowdfunded movie; it is also a short movie at only seven minutes long (making this possibly the only article in this column that takes longer to read than to watch the actual thing), and it is also a silent film: there is no dialogue, only background music. It is based on a manga by Moyoco Anno, a highly respected manga artist. The film is part of a series of short anime movies made for the “Japan’s Animator Exhibition” or “Animator Expo”, which is partly organised by Moyoco’s husband Hideaki Anno, who is most famous for his work on Neon Genesis Evangelion (No. 21).

The story follows a boy named Ochibi, recognisable in his red-and-white striped top and bobble hat, who is fascinated by the everything around him. The film is split into four sections, each based on the four seasons and filmed in a particular way.

Starting in “Spring”, the animation takes place in a lunch box (or “bento” as they are called in Japan), where Ochibi is animated on a background of rice, eating the contents of the lunch. Then in the “Summer” the animation is filmed on the back of traditional bamboo fans. In these scenes Ochibi is filmed going to a beach, diving into the sea, and watching a firework display with his two canine companions, Nazeni and Pankui. Moving onto “Fall”, Ochibi is animated using brown leaves. Here he is seen raking up piles of leaves and then playing with them. Finally, in “Winter” the animation takes place on a traditional Japanese tea cup, where Ochibi, Nazeni and Pankui are seen building a snowman.

For such a small film there is much to highlight. Firstly there the four different stop-motion animation techniques that are used to make the film. This is particularly interesting when you consider what people mostly think of in terms of anime style. Here we see something drastically different. It goes to show the appeal of stop-motion animation, which is probably the one form of animation that we British excel at more than anyone else. After all, nearly all the animated Oscars that Britain has won were from stop-motion movies.

But even before this, there is the process of how the film came to be created in the first place. Director Masashi Kawamura used two different crowdfunding websites, the Japanese-language site Green Funding and the English-language site Indiegogo to raise the funds to create the project and did so successfully.

There is also the use of sound in the film. As stated, this is a dialogue-free film, but the background music helps to make the film come alive. For example, in the Summer scene where Ochibi dives into the water, the sound changes so it is as if you too are hearing the music underwater. The animation works wonderfully with music to create rather funny scenes, particular in the Winter scene with regards to the fate of Ochibi’s snowman.

The Diary of Ochibi mixes music, comedy, and different animation styles to create something truly unique. The quality of this seven-minute short is even arguably better than the animation of TV anime that are currently being broadcast.

The Diary of Ochibi can be watched via the Animator Expo website.