A pokemon/godzilla-esque movie set in the aftermath of Fukushima, anyone? Takashi Murakami, best known for his ‘Superflat’ style of painting and commercial art, is the creative mind behind what may be one of the most unique films ever made. “When I went to work on Jellyfish Eyes after the earthquake, the tsunami and the nuclear disaster of Fukushima, I noticed that Japan as a society always looks away from the real issues and tries to go on as if nothing had happened. I feel like that’s actually the issue for contemporary Japan as a whole. I wondered, how do children respond to this kind of phenomenon?”1 The story centres around a boy who, upon moving to a new town in the wake of the disaster, befriends a pink creature whom he names Kurage-bo, and soon discovers all the children in the town have similar creatures for friends. Meanwhile, a group of shady individuals is manipulating the children into generating negativity by getting them to engage their creatures in battle. The idea to create a Japanese creature movie set in the wake of a radiation leak seems poignant, as famous Japanese creatures such as Godzilla also found their origin in the collective Japanese unease over radioactivity in the wake of Hiroshima and the proliferation of nuclear power in the nation. Rather than taking a man vs. nature stance like in Godzilla, Murakami seems to be looking inward, at the forces that drive people to ignore that which is hard to look at.
Murakami’s creatures of “Jellyfish Eyes” are undoubtedly the stars of the film, and he is no stranger to creature design. Murakami is well known for his ‘Superflat’ work, a term which he himself coined, “combining the flatness of commercial graphic design and the hyper-sexualised cartoon characters of Japanese comics with the aesthetic concerns of fine art.”2 His work is very interesting for the lack of depth in what are otherwise fully realized characters. Animation and illustration typically offer the illusion of depth and perspective, but Murakami’s work forces the mind to create depth where there is none. “Combining a Pop aesthetic with the kitsch of Japanese kawaii (cute) culture, Superflat overtly references the flatness and two-dimensionality of Japanese anime (animation) and manga (comics). But the term also conceals a double meaning: according to Drohojowska-Philp, Superflat also stood for ‘the shallow emptiness of […] consumer culture.'”2 If that’s the case, perhaps the suggestion is that the depth we perceive in consumer products is really an illusion? Maybe this is also Murakami’s suggestion that we need to take a deeper look at things we don’t necessarily want to see. Though no stranger to CGI (Murakami has, among other endeavors, directed animated music videos), seeing his creature creations come to life alongside human actors gets me very excited. I will see this film the first chance I get.
Follow Nerd Speaker on Facebook.