In a departure, Japan’s Shin-Ei Animation, the studio behind two of the biggest anime TV franchises ever, “Doraemon” and “Crayon Shin-chan,” is teaming with France’s Miyu Productions to co-produce “Ghost Cat Anzu,” an auteurist animated feature film.
Directed by Japan’s Nobuhiro Yamashita and Yoko Kuno, “Ghost Cat Anzu” also marks the latest expansive move by Miyu, a major French force for years in graduate and professional short film production and distribution – “Inés” was a standout at last year’s Annecy – which is moving ever more forcefully into feature films, as a producer and sales agent.
Adapting the manga by Takashi Imashiro, “Ghost Cat Anzu” turns on Karin, 11, left by her father at the home of her grandpa, a small town monk living in the Japanese countryside. Her grandfather asks Anza, his ghost cat, to look after her.
The feature draws on the Japanese folklore that cats that have lived long lives can become frightening spirits, drinking blood and haunting humans.
Anzu is a ghost cat, but in contrast, has none of that evil, being described as jovial, though rather capricious, and very helpful. Among his virtues, he massages old people from the village and goes fishing with his friends. The meeting between two such strong characters such as Karin and Anzu “causes sparks, at least at the beginning,” the synopsis says.
Targeting young adults and families, “Ghost Cat Anzu” will yoke what it describes as the best of Japanese and French animation know-how, using mixed techniques, such as shooting the whole of the film in live action and then rotoscoping the results.
The film will also combine different skill sets in its directors. One of the anchor directors of Netflix series “The Midnight Canteen,” Nobuhiro Yamashita, a live action director, caught attention for 2005’s “Linda, Linda, Linda,” praised by critics for its writing, and 2016’s misfit-centered “Over the Fence.”
Yoko Kuno broke out with her short, “Airy Me.” As an animation director she joined multiple projects, such as Shunji Iwai’s 2015 rotoscoped youth drama “The Case of Hana and Alice,” she has also created several mangas.
Shin-Ei Animation has produced around 100 animated films, including 1972’s “Panda Little Panda” (“Panda Kopanda”) directed by Isao Takahata and written and designed by Hayao Miyazaki.
At Annecy, Miyu will be handling sales on “Archipelago,” a Contrechamps player, while presenting in Work in Progress its first feature film as majority executive producer – “Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman,” by Pierre Földes, adapted from the work of Haruki Murakami, sold by The Match Factory and presented at March’s Cartoon Movie.
Arte has boarded another adventurous title from Miyu, “Flavors Of Iraq,” an animated doc feature tracing a father-son relationship over decades of recent Iraqi history.
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