[Script] The Prodigy Animator Behind One of the Best Yuri Shorts

If you’re a fan of yuri anime or short anime, there’s a significant chance you’ve seen the outstanding Kanamewo. Its story of visceral love and loss is excellent and while its plot is a bit vague, there’s enough there to get emotionally attached. Its animation is brilliant, more than making up for the lack of dialogue, clearly demonstrating the shift from maternal love to sexual love to pure grief.

Kanamewo is a short that only gets better the more you look into it. A small amount of knowledge on Japanese spirituality and aesthetics elevates this anime from really cool to amazing. Take the opening shots of Osugi Shrine being demolished, particularly the tree which serves as a yorishiro, attracting kami. This knowledge makes it clear that the creature in the video is the kami of the tree, explaining why she slowly dies as time goes on.

Mono no aware, a common theme in anime I love, also shows up in the woman’s acceptance of the kami’s death, something else that could easily be missed if you aren’t interested in Japanese aesthetics or spirituality.

As little narration as there is, it’s easy to care about the relationship between the woman and the kami. The woman’s life is clearly improved by the kami’s existence and given that the kami would’ve died even earlier without her help, I think it was a mutually beneficial relationship, even if it was rushed. Of course, we can only glean so much from a 5-minute video but there’s quite a bit I haven’t covered because this perfectly paced short manages to do so much.

Kanamewo was almost entirely made by the effort of one animator: rapparu. It’s certainly rapparu’s most notable creation, having garnered the most views on youtube as well as the most MAL members out of their solo works. That said, it is not rapparu’s only work, nor is it their only work of value. Rapparu’s portfolio is interesting and worth looking at because its full of wonderful works that truly demonstrate just how much of a prodigy this person is.

Rapparu is a webgen animator, a member of a diverse group of people which has gained prominence from posting their animations online. Rapparu is only 24 but they’ve been working on animation for well over a decade now. If you go back and look at some of their earlier works, you can tell they’ve been animating well before they got ahold of any tablets, using the pen tool and such to draw. Their style clearly fits within the webgen paradigm, with extremely good effects work and a certain distinctive style of animating that is common among webgen people. That said, their work is still quite unique even among their peers in the webgen scene. Their rough, sketchy style is wonderful and lends itself well to fantastic and visceral animation.

Rapparu is well-known for their unique voice and they generally work on projects that give them a lot of freedom. Because of this, they haven’t worked on too many TV shows but they have worked on some. Rapparu has done cuts for Muromi-san, Valvrave the Liberator, Yama no Susume, Yuyushiki, Walkure Romanze, and Double-J. I don’t know exactly what cuts they did for these but many of these shows, particularly Muromi-san and YamaSusu, are known for their use of webgen animators and the relative freedom they gave their animators. For Double-J, rapparu even got to do the entire ED, which stands out as particularly strong.

Rapparu seems well-liked and tends to work with a clear group of other webgen animators, so it’s clear that their absence from TV anime is by choice and not by necessity. Their skills are on a level which could easily get them other jobs, but it seems likely that they’d rather have the freedom to draw as they like and I believe that’s a good decision.

To start, let’s look at some of the works which are most similar to Kanamewo. Those who are fans of Kanamewo for the yuri should look into ‘Just Like This, Until the World Ends’ or ‘Kono Mama Sekai ga Owaru made’. This 48-page manga is one of rapparu’s earlier works, relatively speaking, but it clearly demonstrates both their immense talent and their continued interest in certain themes.

‘Just Like This’ focuses on two girls in the week before an asteroid strikes Earth, which seems to be inevitable. Once again mono no aware appears as a theme as well as yuri. These two girls have both felt uncomfortable with themselves and others, but in the final moments of the human race, they’re able to find love with one another, staying together even after the asteroid hits. There’s motifs of self-harm, suicidal feelings, the afterlife, and abandonment issues that you’ll see when looking at some of rapparu’s other works. In many ways, this manga calls to mind the works of Tsukumizu, the mangaka behind Girls’ Last Tour, who draws in a similar way and engages with the same concepts quite frequently.

In 2016 rapparu planned on making an animated version of ‘Just Like This’, first producing a 15-second preview for it which can be found on their Youtube. It looks quite ambitious, perhaps even widening the scope from the already fairly expansive manga, so it’s easy to believe that it would be significantly longer than Kanamewo, hence the 2018 planned release. Unfortunately, the project has been put on indefinite hiatus by rapparu. Whether it’ll ever come out is currently unknown, but what we have is still something special.

Meanwhile, if you’re a fan of Kanamewo because you like short anime, then it’s worth looking at rapparu’s music video for BIGMAMA’s song, Crystal Clear. This video is the closest thing rapparu has made to Kanamewo since its release, only coming out in July of this year. Once again it’s a 5 minute or so animation about love and loss, this time between a woman and her cat. The cat dies in the middle of the short, driving the woman to focus on finding a way to reach it again. There are yuri elements here, but that’s not really a big focus. This one is somewhat bittersweet because while the woman does end up meeting the cat again in the end, she clearly ignores what she has going for her in life, particularly her partner in working towards her goal. Once again, common themes like the afterlife and loss are central. Even with just these three works, it should be fairly clear what rapparu’s idiosyncrasies are.

Another thing demonstrated in Crystal Clear is rapparu’s animation. As their newest major work, it’s not a shock that it’s the most well animated, but it’s really amazing what they’ve accomplished here. This is especially true after the woman launches into space, as the animation on the rocket is absolutely outstanding. Really, it’s a shock that this video isn’t more highly regarded, though I guess that may come down to it being unavailable on YouTube in the US.

If you’re looking for even more yuri, it’s not hard to find. Take a look at Present Made no Minochiri, a fun yuri short animated by Rapparu all the way back in 2009, a time where they were in high school. In fact, it’s worth looking at many of their works from that period. Shorts like Nakanaori, Kerorinpasu, Kakegae no, and Touhou Clock show their absurd skill even though they were all made more than half a decade ago. During this time they clearly lacked a lot of the tools that gave their later works polish, such as a drawing tablet, but they still understood what good animation looked like and how to create it. It’s not overstating things to call them a prodigy.

Their high school works also show their interest in those same themes and imagery that still pop up in their works today. Take the very common yuri for instance. They’ve clearly had an interest in the genre for at least the past 8 years, if not longer. Many of their works from this time have this theme, including some that they’ve posted on twitter more recently. You can also find imagery focused on self-harm, suicide, and the afterlife from the same period and often in the same works. The fact that these themes came together shouldn’t come as a shock if you look at rapparu’s works through what we now know about their gender identity and it’s cool to see that be expressed as far back as their high school days.

Another common theme that you can find in some of their works from back then is a focus on Japanese and Chinese spirituality and tradition. Touhou Clock and Tenkou Kotofumi – which also has some yuri hints – show this off the best. Touhou is obviously set in the world of Gensoukyou, but Tenkou Kotofumi seems to be set in another spiritual Japanese world, with some Chinese characters as well alongside the obligate animal ears, something also seen in another of their works, Jingle. Rapparu has quite a fondness China, having worked at a Chinese restaurant and having visited the country for New Year’s in 2016, something that comes through with many of the characters they draw. Tenkou Kotofumi is also their earliest polished work and while it’s not perfect, it’s absolutely outstanding for something they made at 18 and is well worth a watch.

Of course, as good as Rapparu’s early works were, they have improved as time has gone on. Outside of Kanamewo and Crystal Clear, they have Anisong Nippon, a great little work which combines a ton of disparate elements into a short, flashy, and obviously well-animated kaiju battle.

Crystal Clear is hardly the only music video rapparu has done animation for. In fact, it seems that most of rapparu’s animation work comes from doing animation for music videos, and they have a real knack for it.

Rapparu worked with many other webgen animators on Nihonbashi Koukashita R Keikaku, a music video for the Vocaloid IA. This was in 2012 so they were only 19 when they worked on it alongside other popular animators like Bahi JD. The entire video is amazing and not a single second is boring but even before I knew who animated which cut, rapparu’s were my favorites. This is especially true for the cut of IA cooking an egg by hitting it with a frying pan, which is possibly the most amazing idea I’ve ever seen.

However what’s more interesting is the instances where rapparu lends their animation to a primarily live action video. Take Kyary Pamyu Pamyu’s Mottai Night Land, which has a short cut of outright animation, as well as some effect work. Effect work tends to be the most common thing that rapparu lends to this kind of video, though it isn’t the only thing.

We can look at rapparu’s cuts for Kelela’s song, A Message, which show that their skills are acknowledged to the point they can get work for non-Japanese artists. Remember, this person is only 24 and is able to get all sorts of jobs which are inaccessible to most people who are much older.

Outside of Crystal Clear, there are two main videos that I really want to highlight when pointing out rapparu’s amazing work for others. These videos are King by GRADES and GIRL ELECTRIC by THE BREAKAWAYS. Both of these show not only rapparu’s talents at drawing over live-action footage but also their talent at merging scenes of live action and animation.

King’s animation adds to the already present choreography, really demonstrating the fun that the girl is having in messing around after school. GIRL ELECTRIC does a great job at showcasing the energy of the band and how they came to be the way they are. As always, these scenes are distinctly rapparu, from the effect work to the character designs to the way everything moves. It’s clear that working on music videos gives rapparu a certain amount of freedom to animate as they like, something they’re clearly happy to take advantage of. Both of these videos are worth watching if you’re just interested in great animation.

Outside of their animation work, rapparu is just a fun person. They’re an ordained minister for the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, a fan of Undertale after its Japanese release, and a “Cultural Killing Machine.” Their love of yuri persists, and you can find countless drawings along those lines and of other things if you check out their twitter. They love their cat and don’t love work. As they said to me in when I asked about their gender, “it is painful to live in society as it is, but in any case I would like to change myself.” I hope they’re able to do so and I hope that they can keep finding happiness in the animation they’re so good at.

 

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One thought on “[Script] The Prodigy Animator Behind One of the Best Yuri Shorts

  1. Though I was initially excited by it, the premise of Kono Mama Sekai ga Owaru made is oddly similar to Melancholia the film. And they were oddly both published in 2011. I can’t avoid the thought that the mange is just a yuri rendition of the film.

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