SeaShorts'18: Girls, Animated

"There are very few female directors in animation," Programmer Koyo Yamashita commented as he introduced his programme ‘Me and Me’: Female Japanese Animation Artists Now’ during the second edition of SeaShorts Film Festival held in Penang in conjunction with George Town Festival.

I was not surprised (as it is indeed a patriarchal world after all, especially in Japan’s society), but intrigued, I did a quick Google search. It was then that I found some startling statistics. 

According to Women in Animation, an advocacy group, 60% of animation students in the US and Europe are women. But the dropout rate as they move into the industry is staggering, with only 20% of all animation creative’s being women.

Where did the other 40% go?

With my personal experience in production, I commonly observe that more women facilitate and drive the creative voice and vision of men; they are mostly present in production roles, yet not equally represented in directorial or technical roles. 

With sets powered with more ‘male energy’ so to speak, it is natural for women to be intimidated to confidently step up. And inevitably, socio-political conditions play a part too. Japanese animators are notoriously known to be lowly-paid, perhaps resulting in fewer female Japanese animator directors. 

Representation is crucial and I couldn’t have been happier seeing a programme at SeaShorts that focused on female directors. “Most of them born in the 90s, the female artists take up animation as a tool to carve the world outside.” Programmer Koya explains his curation and adds that many of these films have attributes of sexual awakening. 

The short film I particularly favoured was ‘Hairy Heaven’ by Minori Yamanda, a six minute short illustrating a wife’s dissatisfaction with her husband’s lack of sensitivity, accelerating the growth of her armpit hair. 
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In my opinion, the story reflects the ironic and hypocritical stance in women’s thinking today. While female empowerment has been of a rallying influence, little has been done for our male counterparts. 

For a man to simply desire for a ‘fantastic marriage’ is wishful thinking, as responsibilities have to be prioritised. Unemployed, entomophobic, and insensitive, the husband also represents a new age of men who are no longer alpha males. Yet, why should this hegemonic masculinity still be expected of men? The empowerment of women should not dismiss the alternative forms of masculinity as well.  

Subsequently, his repeated failure to safeguard and shower her with her desired manifestations of love made her feel unloved. The last straw that broke the camel’s back was his exquisite opus of snores and farts which triggered an eruption of her axilla follicles.    

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The growth of her armpit hair intensifies like never before and she evolves into a hairy monstrous creature, engulfing the entire city together with her lover. I draw parallels from the phenomena of gradual cumulation of dissatisfaction within a woman which eventually culminates in an outburst, stupefying the male species. The clueless husband has to now face the wrath of his lover, who has been suppressed time and time again. 

The understanding of the song lyrics could have possibly given more context to the turn of events. However due to language barriers, I could only be carried along by the brilliant colours and catchy rhythm. It was only at the credits that I managed to catch a glimpse of what the song means. ‘I hate you, but I love you, HAPPY Yeah!’ was credited as the song’s title. 

This love-hate relationship is often relatable where many times, the relationship runs stale and leads to an eventual split. The story seems to reflect this notion as well, as the end credit scene shows the husband back in his relaxed form reading a book while everything has already been infected by the hairy epidemic. And on their photoframe, lies a missing space where a photo of the happy couple once belonged. 

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When ‘Hairy Heaven’ ended, the audience as a whole laughed and cheered. The film clearIy communicated with us, which is more than I can say of the couple featured in the film. 

In today’s society where women are able to choose and fend for our own happiness, let us also not forget the men who too, are also learning and changing. We should communicate with them too. 

Hairy Heaven by Minori Yamada was in the programme ‘Me and Me’: Female Japanese Animation Artists Now’ of SeaShorts 2018. You can catch this short film over here.

Interested in what else showed at SeaShorts? Check out the full line-up here. SeaShorts Film Festival 2018 ran from 01 - 05 August. You can support the festival here.
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