Rarely-seen historical concept arts and developmental sketches of young Gainax members – animation legends Hiroyuki Yamaga, Yoshiyuki Sadamoto, Maeda Mahiro and Hideaki Anno – was showcased in an unprecedented exhibition on 19 March in Singapore.
Through 60 to 80 conceptual artworks, sketches, coloured celluloid drawings and handwritten notes, visitors are offered insight into the creative and interdisciplinary energy that went into Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnêamise (1987) – a highly ambitious sci-fi film for its time that gained critical acclaim as Gainax’s cinematic debut. Gainax would go on to gain international fame for producing the classic Evangelion series.
The exhibition, A World Is Born: Emerging Arts & Designs in 1980s Japanese Animation, is part of a series of activities earmarked within a five-year Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed between LASALLE College of the Arts and Niigata University (NU) that focuses on archiving methods and production systems of animation. Also on display were works by current LASALLE BA(Hons) Animation Art students who went on an exchange trip with NU last November, where they attended seminars with local Japanese students, and visited prominent animation studios such as TMS Studio, I.G. Production and Toei Animation to learn about their workflow.
Student Christabel Mervyn shared, “Like any other industry, anime is driven by the commercial market and its profits, and companies usually dispose of pre-production materials once projects are complete. This is such a pity because there is a wealth of material within these developmental stages, such as line art and shading techniques, that students can study to expand their visual library. Looking back at what early animators sought to achieve within a then-budding field, I feel humbled by their passion and this only strengthens my resolve to continue honing my craft.”
“Preservation of animation history is critical because there is a legacy from which we can review why certain modern methods are employed, and refine these practices in order to further the standards of the industry. Pre-production materials allow us to analyse the aesthetics of distinguished artists, understand important concepts within animation such as world-building, and better our practice. But for these to occur, archival is a necessary first step. This joint effort with Niigata University demonstrates our commitment to nurture the next generation of animators,” said Chris Shaw, Head of LASALLE’s Puttnam School of Film & Animation.
Collectively housed under the Animation Archiving Project, the first part of the MOU’s vision also came to life in the Archiving Popular Culture symposium held on 18 March at LASALLE. Researchers, academics, curators, librarians, collectors, and industry personnel convened to discuss the archival of creative materials, from acquiring and cataloguing, to preserving and digitising.
As the project leader, Dr Gan Sheuo Hui from LASALLE shared, “The Animation Archiving Project enables researchers and students to study and contextualise media arts, specifically the production processes and its structures, which otherwise will be just concealed within a final work. This setting allows us to avoid certain established discourses or canon by looking at the artefacts. It also provides glimpses into how the available technology affected creators in their creation process.”
About Animation Archiving Project
LASALLE is honoured to collaborate with NU’s Archive Center for Anime Studies (ACASiN), which is the first and only national university in Japan to establish an archive for anime. With other esteemed industry partners such as Gainax and animation studio Khara participating, this project is envisioned to be an invaluable learning platform for animation students, academics and practitioners in Japan and Singapore. Both institutions are planning for the next phases of the project, and there are academic publications, annual student exchanges, film documentaries and workshops in the pipeline.
“For ACASiN, the Animation Archiving Project is a first ambitious step with LASALLE. ‘Anime’ is not merely a corpus of Japanese animated films or television series, but also a global locus where a variety of people around the world participate, communicate and create. As co-directors of the Center, we appreciate LASALLE’s deep understanding and support of the art form, and eagerly anticipate the fruits of our joint partnership,” said Associate Professor Minori Ishida and Associate Professor Kim Joon Yang
Archiving Popular Culture Symposium event details