The Diary of Ochibi

“So little time, so little to do.” – Oscar Levant.

While most anime fans are used to ordinary 2D animation and perhaps some 3D CGI animation, there are few stop-motion anime. Here we see a rare example in a short movie adapted from a manga by the great Moyoco Anno.

One of a series of shorts made for the series “Japan’s Animator Exhibition” or “Animator Expo”, of which one of the people behind it is Anno’s husband Hideaki Anno (of Evangelion fame), The Diary of Ochibi is a heart-warming tale of Ochibi, a boy curious about the world around him. The story itself is split into four parts, each based around one of the seasons. 

It begins in spring, with the animation using a bento (packed lunch). Ochibi is shown walking around in the rice and eating his fill of the contents of the bento. It then moves to summer where Ochibi walks along bamboo fans, goes to a beach, dives into the sea and watches a firework display with his canine friends Nazeni and Pankui. In fall/autumn Ochibi is animated using fallen leaves. He rakes up a pile of these fallen leaves and plays with them merrily. Lastly, in winter the animation takes place on a traditional tea cup, and shows Ochibi, Nazeni and Pankui making a snowman.

At seven minutes (or nearly nine minutes if you include the animation at the start of the film promoting Animator Expo), this film could end up producing the first review on this website that takes longer to read than to watch the original animation. However, there are many things of note about this film. 

For starters there is how the film came to be made in the first place. It was crowdfunded via Indiegogo. Director Masashi Kawamura wanted $3,000 to make the film ended with $3,852. He also got funding from the Japanese crowdfunding website Green Funding, where he asked for ¥700,000 and received ¥1,140,000. Clearly there was a demand for people to see this production being made.

Then there is the animation itself. A stop-motion anime is a rare thing, especially when you consider that most people have a particular idea of what anime looks like and how it is made, but The Diary of Ochibi has a beautiful look to it. It is so charming. You know that a lot of effort has gone into producing the film. Indeed you could say that more effort has been put into the making of these seven minutes than has been gone into making entire full length mainstream TV anime, without wishing to name names. Of course, stop-motion animation always has its appeal to audiences. Nearly all of Britain’s Oscar winning animations are stop-motion for example. 

Another feature that stands out about this film is that not only is it stop-motion, but it is also a silent film. Although there is music, there is no dialogue, so the movie is entire visual. The music is used brilliantly. For example, in the summer scene Ochibi dives underwater and the music changes appropriately. This makes the viewer more aware of both the beauty of the animation as well as certain aspects of humour that occur in the film. There is a wonderfully funny moment in the winter scene which concerns the fate of the snowman.

The Diary of Ochibi is worth watching because it makes a refreshing change to most anime. The way that it is filmed adds to the charm, the comedy and the cuteness of the entire piece. 

The film can be watched on the Animator Expo website, where other short films can be seen including an Evangelion short.

© Moyoco Anno/鎌倉市豆粒町オチビ動画製作振興

9 / 10

Ian Wolf

Ian works as an anime and manga critic for Anime UK News, and is also the manga critic for MyM Magazine. Outside of anime, he also is the editor of On The Box, data specialist for the British Comedy Guide, is QI's most pedantic viewer, and has appeared on Mastermind.

More posts from Ian Wolf...