Thanks to Zeitgeist, this is a glorious collection from Japanese animator Koji Yamamura's career. If you've enjoyed Japanese animated features over the years---or perhaps popular cartoon series like "Astro Boy"--you may have missed Yamamura. Some of his recent works, like the Kafka story that titles this DVD collection, will provoke long discussions with friends. Some of his earlier short films are very creative little fantasies anyone--of any age--will celebrate. One such example is "Imagination," from the 1990s, which looks like an Eric Carle pre-school picturebook springing to life on the TV screen. (Don't know Eric Carle? One of his favorites in book form is The Very Hungry Caterpillar Pop-Up Book)
Yamamura developed his message, as well as his art, as he crossed into the new millennium. In recent years, he has been crafting short animated films that can best be described as calls to: Wake up!!! One such film, "Mt. Head," is the fanciful fable of a man so stingy that he eats not only fresh cherries, but the pits as well. He doesn't want those pits to be wasted! Because he is so obsessive about eating these cherries--eventually a cherry tree begins to grow from the top of his bald head! Obviously, that's where this crazy story of the stingy man explodes into what Americans would call a Tall Tale like Paul Bunyan. The rest of the stingy man's neighbors love the beautiful cherry tree atop his head--and finally he's the center of a happy community. But that just convinces the old grouch to get a "hair cut" and wipe out that miraculous tree. I won't spoil the end of the movie, but it's the kind of short film you can enjoy with any age group.
"Franz Kafka's A Country Doctor" is aimed at adults, although there's nothing specific in this animation that would spark even a PG-13 rating in the U.S. The old doctor is supposed to be a leader in his community--he's supposed to do many things, in fact! He's supposed to act quickly. He's supposed to act compassionately. He's supposed to heal people. Instead, he's lets himself sink into a funk of winter weather, his own lethargy--and, I don't want to spoil the film by revealing any more. But, when this old doctor allows himself to stand out in the winter's cold too long, he ends up opening a Pandora's Box.
If you're a parent, a teacher, a small-group leader or you simply love Japanese animation, this is a collection of more than a dozen animated films that will help you celebrate the arts--and share some global good will, along the way.