‘Gekimation’: Japan takes a post-Ghibli leap into another dimension

Using thousands of lovingly crafted props and painstaking stop-motion, animator Ujicha is reviving the gekimation style with his grotesque, visceral films

Japanese animation is the envy of the globe. From Pixar to Aardman, studios the world over ape its dazzling variety and astonishing creativity. Yet it also finds itself at a crossroad. Now master director Hayao Miyazaki has left the stage, where will the next Japanimation genius going to come from? As it turns out, the country’s most exciting works aren’t coming out of Disney-sized production powerhouses such as Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli, but from a desk underneath a bunk bed at a family home in Kyoto.

This auteur goes by the mononym Ujicha – named after the distinctive green tea grown in the fields near Uji, Kyoto, where he grew up. And, like the verdant plantations that were the backdrop to his childhood, Ujicha’s work, too, is rich with the kind of warm, bright tones you might find on the cover of a children’s storybook. With up to 3,000 lovingly illustrated, hand-sized props crafted by hand for both of his two feature films, his work is certainly painstaking. But it’s the unique, hybrid animation style that is unlike anything else out there.

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