Taniguchi Takashi’s brilliant absurdities

31May09

I recently got clued into  Taniguchi Takashi’s animated shorts, which are absolute monuments of comically understated absurdist maximalism. And if that doesn’t make sense now, it will once you watch a couple of them yourself. There doesn’t seem to be much information about Taniguchi in English, though it’s clear from the Japanese Wikipedia page that he’s a fairly prominent voice actor in the world of  animation and video games, as well as taking the occasional bit part in live-action films.

SalarymanMan is a brilliant send-up of the trope of corporate loyalty that underlies so much of Japanese corporate culture, as well as a comedic testament to the difficulty of imagining what a hero that might emerge from within that culture would look like (i.e. exactly the same as everyone else, but older and with more powerful name cards).  The (purposely) poorly synchronized speech track and the fantastically flat vocal delivery only add to the ridiculous sense of dislocation that you get when you combine fat, purple-clad villians who like to torture by tickling with the workaday alienation of corporate culture.

Mr. Ando of the Woods is equally absurd, though perhaps ultimately more disturbing than SalarymanMan.  This short includes a forest setting and animal characters (all with human faces), as well as disturbingly disjunctive references to global warming and overdevelopment.  Mr. Ando himself is a human who thinks he’s a penguin, a condition that causes all sorts of confusion among the animals in the neighborhood who hold a kind of meeting with a wise old monk-turtle to debate Ando’s status.  Ultimately Ando saves the forest from the destructive force of overdevelopment and is accepted as a member of the animal realm, no matter what his ontological status.  What I like most about Mr. Ando of the Woods is its willingness to step outside of the tired binary that pits humans against nature and imagine hybrid alliances between those who would defend the natural while not being part of it and a natural world that itself bears traces of civilization (the animals of the forest do meet in what looks like a small traditional Japanese house, after all).  It’s the sudden and violent destruction of space that’s clearly the enemy here.  And before you spend too much time thinking about how weird these animals with human faces are, just remember that that’s basically all that a domesticated pet is.

You can view more of Taniguchi’s videos at his website, but only in Japanese.

Plenty of Taniguchi’s material is available on YouTube, but I first stumbled across the versions with English translation at Pink Tentacle.



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