The Kotatsu Japanese Animation Festival (KJAF) is a yearly happening, taking place at two art spaces located in Wales: Chapter Arts Centre and Aberystwyth Arts Centre. The 2015 programme featured a number of Japanese animation films that were Welsh premiere screenings, including classics such as Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnêamise and psychological horror Perfect Blue, as well as contemporary films like Tiger and Bunny: The Rising and A Letter to Momo. The festival also featured short films including the Short Peace collection and a Japanese market place.
An animation filmmaker herself, Eiko has taken part in many animation features such as Frankenweenie and Fantastic Mr. Fox. She tells us about her move to Wales, the film selection process, and an insight into the festival’s future projects.
Eiko, when and why did you create Kotatsu Japanese Animation Festival?
I created the KJAF in November 2010 because there was no animation festival in Wales at that time. I’m originally from Hiroshima in Japan, which hosts the International Animation Festival Hiroshima, which I’ve been involved with as a volunteer since I was a student. I moved to Wales after I married my husband. I love Wales – it’s a very nice place to live – but for me, a country without an animation festival is imperfect! It felt as if something was missing, so I thought it would be great to bring an animation festival to Cardiff. At that time there was less anime than Japanese films shown in Wales. I went to Chapter Arts one day when they had just finished refurbishing the cinema and thought, “It would be nice to show lots of anime here.” I had a meeting with Sally, the director of cinema at Chapter, who kindly gave me a chance to screen films, and thus the Festival was made. With lots of people’s help, the festival is getting better and better.
Could you explain what a Kotatsu is in Japanese culture and how it relates to the festival?
A ‘Kotatsu’ is a table unique to Japan, which is draped in a blanket, futon or quilt, and which has a heater underneath. It’s ideal to keep your feet and legs warm during the cold winter. When we started the Kotatsu festival, it was held during winter. We thought watching Anime at Chapter would be nice and cosy, the perfect way keep away from the coldness as if you are in the Kotatsu. In fact, the first year we had terrible snow – at least audience was warm inside the cinema!
What is your process for choosing the films that are screened?
I normally choose feature films from Anime Limited. This company has a good selection of films every year. Sometimes I get hold of films directly from Japan, such as Komaneko’s Christmas by Tsuneo Goda. I programme short films as well as feature films. I do my research first before selecting them. I will have a look at other festival websites to see which Japanese animated films are shown in UK and then I consult with my resources in Japan who are independent animators and anime fans. When I’ve decided which titles to screen I contact the directors. Although I normally choose films for the festival, I’m open to suggestions from the audience.
In your experience, has there been an increase or decrease in popularity for Japanese Animation in Wales?
I definitely feel that the popularity is increasing. When I started Kotatsu festival, there weren’t many Anime related events in Wales. Five years on there are more events such as Cardiff Anime Con.
Can you tell us some of Kotatsu festival’s future goals and projects?
Kotatsu festival’s goal will be to keep screening a diverse array of anime films in more venues, especially in Wales. I hope to invite directors from Japan in the future, such as Tsuneo Goda, the creator of Domo kun. If there’s a chance, we’re happy to collaborate with other Japan-Anime related events outside Wales.
One quick last question! What’s has been your favourite film at the festival?
This is a very hard question to answer. Of course, all the films are my favourite! However, it’s very rewarding for me to show new talent such as Yasuhiro Yoshiura. We showed his short film Aquatic Language in 2011, and we showed his feature film Patema Inverted in 2013. This is very exciting, as we can see how his career develops. Not everyone who makes short films has a chance to create features. Apart from established directors such as Hayao Miyazaki, I am happy to show the diversity of directors willing to show their works outside Japan.
The festival has received many messages and wishes of success from Japanese animation industry individuals such as both Tsuneo Goda and Yasuhiro Yoshiura, mentioned by Eiko, and also internationally acclaimed Studio Ghibli co-head and director Isao Takahata. SineScreen joins in wishing Eiko all the best with Kotatsu Festival, her gift of Japanese animation to Welsh cinema audiences.
For more information about Kotatsu Japanese Animation Festival, check out their website: www.kotatsufestival.com and follow them @Kotatsufestival for updates