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Akuemon

Japan, 1993 (MIFF 1995, Buried Treasures – Osamu Tezuka)

Director: Makato Tezuka

Akuemon is a good example of animation in the gekiga style which has developed in Japan by the start of the 60s. This was a more seriously toned adult-oriented form of manga, which stressed realistic effect and emotional impact, as opposed to the visual symbolism and hi-keyed archetypes displayed in early postwar manga. Establishing himself in the early postwar period, Tezuka defined much of that period's manga: a mix of kawaii, mysticism, fantasy and playfulness. By the mid 60-s, Tezuka not only carved his niche in anime, but also incorporated the gekiga shift of tone which was shipping both industries. Intriguingly, Tezuka did so by retaining a sometimes disturbing cuteness which made his dramatic situations all the harsher. Akuemon is a tale about a baby's relationship with a cute fox who becomes a human spirit after the baby's mother dies. The original mother's husband is Akuemon ( nickname for a savage, animalistic man), who killed the fox's mother. Further twists ensue which make this film a fascinating mix of chintzy fairytale and brooding morality play.

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