This Week: Nimrod.
It would not be the first notion of folks using language to rebel against a higher power.
Every animator knows they are using visual art to get a message across.
It is a rather basic, but rather essential foundation notion. Even if the intent is a mechanical move to get a character from Point A to Point B in a room. There are even in that considerations for weight, momentum, and so on. In all but the most time crunched production schedules, one can sell demeanor, mindset, urgency, and more. As a natural extension, this applies as well to when one gets into things like visual metaphors and other such imagery.
Ryu Kato is a 2007 graduate of the Tokyo University of Fine Arts and Music, having received his Master’s through their Design department. This would be months before the institution changed its name to Tokyo University of the Arts, having expanded its reach and resources in extensive fashion over the decades. A common association the school would have to most anime fans is though Yoshitoshi ABe. The illustrator who has done character design work on the likes of Serial Experiments Lain, Texhnolyze, the off and on Despera project, as well as being the creator of Haibane Renmei. He also holds a Master’s degree from the school, is known for a rougher style, and notably had his artistic career get its start through graffiti works.
I feel it is in a way quite fitting that the first Ryu Kato piece I talk about on this site involves him defacing a piece of property.
While I can not track down any evidence of Ryu Kato ever having a graffiti phase or associated run-ins with the law a-la ABe, he does seem to possess a glee to push against animating by traditional methods
When he has, they often involve heavy repetition and severe playing with visual form (Old City Ward, Balloon) to make up the difference. Otherwise, he appears much more comfortable using methods like watercolors on glass (Calm), or in the case of Nimrod, painting on a book. If one takes a look at the links to these videos (which all go back to either the Zankyo Record or Ryu Kato’s own official YouTube channels), one will see Kato collaborates often with the post-rock trio People in the Box. Recent television anime viewers may know them in ending credits song form though the first season of Tokyo Ghoul.
Nimrod operates as being a 2011 music video by Kato for the song of the same name.
If one dabbles even a little into religious studies, one is likely to slam into the Tower of Babel or similar stories. Explanations for how different languages came to be from the perspective of a given tradition, that sort of thing. In the case of the Tower of Babel, it is often used as a means of showcasing a perceived arrogance by mankind against God as they build to the sky. Depending on which version one receives, God in turn either shatters the project or leaves it alone, but in either case scrambles a previously unified human language so as to prevent such collaborative efforts in the future. Nimrod is often associated in these tales as a great-grandson of Noah and the King of Shinar who led the construction effort. In turn, associating the word as one which has become slang for “idiot,” and related insults.
In light of all of this, it is difficult to view a lot of the visuals in Nimrod without calling these stories up. When an all seeing eye over the world is pouring forth all types of animals with mankind at the end. Page fill eradication via flooding. Mouths having so many words or symbols flying out of them. Likewise also though, representations for later developments like motion pictures and human flight via airplanes. They are not unwarranted subjects to bring up in such a light. With the options of mass distributions of art and travel available to us, today the world has never been able to be closer together than it is right now.
It is a difficult thing to imagine at some points to be sure, given what one may see on the news on a given day. But, the base idea that folks are able to reach out or have commonalities through experiencing similar things like films? That there is visual language understood across spoken or written language divides? It is always an appealing one.
Particularly in a short video that delights so much in slathering layer after layer of paint to scrub out traces of the text being animated on.
If one has a peak over at the Anipages consideration towards Kato’s art style, Ben mentions how his qualities are such that they “speak to your subconscious rather than your rational mind.”
It is no less true in this case, even in a music video. The book painting aspect grants considerable texture to the visuals, coats applied again and again to form a given scene before moving on. It is an element I found of great appeal in Takashi Ishida’s short film Gestalt (Heya/Keitai), where he animated on walls for about a year. The absorbance of the surface shifts, the way pigments change with such repeated coats. In the case of Nimrod, there are extra vectors for page turns and the kinds of bleed and small aspects of mirroring revealed. How pages bend or warp with the additional weight or wetness (then shifting again to dryness). Being able to see little bits of the past through pages peaking out from the edges. The colors they leave along the side or bottom of the book together as the short goes on. It takes a chunk of several pages to get to a clean enough slate again for a new animation bit, and there is play in how various words and paragraph sections try to hold on or find themselves demolished as Kato develops a new scene. How some sequences go with the flow of how one would read the language on a given page. Or instead, against it.
The video remains locked in relative place throughout all this. It only deviates once, when Kato tilts the camera upward a bit to fit in a globe he was painting on for one scene early on. While by all means a functional decision in its own right, there is also something there indicative of aiming for a unification. What in our world one has open before them to share in together.
I feel he would have tried more camera movement tricks than for a globe alone otherwise. That one visual choice, seen as important enough to send across to break Nimrod‘s form for it. To fit that the frame is a rather keen little message in its own right.
While the title is associated with folly and not thinking things through, I feel Nimrod is a smartly constructed little piece.
Even if one were to purge a lot of being able to identify the symbols and stories it is drawing on and points it may be reaching for, as a technical work alone it has an awe to it. Ryu Kat has a real eye for painting perspective shifts, and so in turn when figures are being rotated around the visual field and wind is kicking up, there is a massive kinetic quality to it all. At the same time, his brushwork style is one that makes it all quite ethereal and dreamlike. Ideas of what we may imagine in our heads that a story or experience may be able to look like, even if we know that actual reality does not present itself in that style. Whimsical, and escapism worthy.
Even if one were to boil things down to rather well trodden territory regarding text having rich and imaginative words in our minds, Nimrod still stands.
Ryu Kato has become ever increasingly busy as an animator and his professional portfolio has expanded, so I do look forward to where he will continue to build towards.
Mothballs is a weekly write-up of already completed anime I have either removed from my backlog or have recently revisited. A crash space for my immediate thoughts and personal processing, these are not intended as full reviews.