Gisaburo Sugii

Gisaburo Sugii was born in 1940 in Shizuoka Prefecture and was raised in Harajuku, Tokyo. He began his career in animation at the animation movie studio, TOEI Dōga which is the studio that made Japan’s first colored feature animation called The Tale of the White Serpent (1958) that followed the tradition of Walt Disney styled animation. He became an apprentice, studying under Yasuo Otsuka who also taught Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata. Gisaburo worked a small part in the film as an in-between animator, which was his first assignment after entering TOEI Dōga. He also took part in The Magic Boy (1959) and Journey to the West (1960) as in-betweener.  After spending three years with TOEI Dōga, he decided to join Mushi Productions that Osamu Tezuka had just established. This is the place where Gisaburo developed and polished his talent and skill for animation under Tezuka who was a great figure in the Japanese Manga (comic book) industry. While there he also met a sound engineer, Atsumi Tashiro, and the two of them formed their own company called Group Tac in 1969. Gisaburo became involved with large scale animation as an animator on Cleopatra (1970) and Belladonna of Sadness (1973). His first feature animation as director was Jack and the Beanstalk created in 1974. It was a success at the Box Office but he was not satisfied with the quality of the film. It is around this time that he abandoned his career and traveled aimlessly for about ten years. He thought he had given up on animation but he took an interest in Mitsuru Adachi’s comic books during his travels and eventually he returned to the industry.  With works based on some of Adachi’s comic books, he developed techniques called Jiwa-pan or slow panning, Jiwa-yori, or slow camera movement in close ups, and Tome-e known as paused motion. These are referred to slow movements in the camera. Then came Night On The Galactic Railroad (1985), which is considered to be one of the great masterpieces in the all of Japanese cinema history. With this feature animation, he broke fresh ground and continued his work to become one of the most prolific directors of animation. 

Animation Maestro Gisaburo(Anime-shi Sugii Gisabur)
(2012/ Hdcam・BD/1920 x 1080/92 min/color/5.1 channel UpMix/16:9)
director: Masato Ishioka
© 2012 Animation Maestro Production Committee

Seventy one year old Ginsaburo Sugi is one of the founding fathers of Japanese animation. He is a wonderful human being and a great artist who has always driven himself to surpass his earlier work and has never allowed himself to be fettered by conventions.

His work includes some of the great masterpieces of Japanese animation, including Astro Boy, Dororo, Japanese Fairy Tales and Tatchi. All of Sugi’s work is hand drawn and his delicate lines encompass the eroticism of “A Thousand and One Nights”, the emotional depth of Tachi, the beautiful silences and soul-searching depth of expression in the eyes of Giovanni the cat in his masterpiece, “Night On The Galactic Railroad.”

This documentary also follows the development of the Japanese animation industry from its early years in the shadow of Disney to its emergence as an international cultural phenomenon and symbol of “Cool Japan.”

Night On The Galactic Railroad(Miyazawa Kenji-Ginga Tetsudo no Yoru)
35mm/110min/color/dolby/American vista/animation
director: Gisaburo Sugii
© Asahi Shinbu-sha/TV Asahi/Kadokawa Pictures

This animation is based on the original novel written by MIYAZAWA Kenji, an author well known throughout Japan. He was a poet and the author of many children’s books. His name and the list of his works are in all elementary school text books nationwide.  Night on the Galactic Railroad, a wonderful representative of his works has been the source of inspiration for many creators and has been adapted into many formats in entertainment field.

Gisaburo Sugii, the Director of this feature animation aimed to make this film force you to ‘feel’ rather than just understand. So he paid special attention to visualizing the world of MIYAZAWA Kenji through the film’s production design. Mihoko Magori, the Production Designer and Tsuneo Maeda, the Animation Director were sent to Spain to find a location that could inspire the design of backdrops to the story. 

Giovanni is a boy from a poor family, hoping to feed his sick mother by taking part time job after school. Because of this, he is bullied by his classmates and feels all alone at school. His father has been away from home, deep-sea fishing. Campanella is the only classmate whom Giovanni likes and thinks of as his friend.

At the night of stars festival, Giovanni, who is on his way to fetch a bottle of milk for his mother, sees a gigantic train approaching toward him on the top of the hill. In the next moment Giovanni finds himself on board and soon Campanella joins him. The fantastic journey to Milky Way has begun. 

The Tale Of Genji(Genji Monogatari)
35mm/107min/color/dolby/American vista/animation
director: Gisaburo Sugii
© Asahi Shinbun-sha/TV Asahi/Kadokawa Pictures

The Tale of Genji is based on a classic piece of literature by the same name written by MURASAKI Shikibu, a lady-in-waiting in the Court during early 11th century Japan. The original novel consists of 54 chapters and tells the tale of a handsome aristocrat, Hikaru Genji (Shining Genji), his uprising at the court, his romantic relationships with noble ladies, the collapse of his love life and finally coming to terms with uncertainty of life. Even after Genji’s death, the novel continues to tell the romantic saga of Genji’s offspring. It is sometimes referred to as the world’s first novel. This film covers the 1st through 12th chapters in which not all of female characters from the novel are featured.

Hikaru Genji is the second son of the Emperor Kiritsubo and his beloved concubine who died when Genji was three years old. The Emperor missed the concubine so much, he took a former princess of the preceding Emperor, Lady Fujitsuo - who resembled Genji’s mother - as one of his wives.  Genji first loved Lady Fujitsuo as a Stepmother, but later he loves her as a woman. Lady Fujitsubo also falls for Genji, but it is a forbidden love.

Genji is married to Aoi, but the couple does not get along. Genji engages in a series of love affairs with other women. During this period, a man of aristocracy was allowed to make advances to a woman without her consent. Some women would rebuff these advances but most did not.

Genji meets with ten-year-old beautiful Murasaki, who happens to be the niece of his Stepmother. He decides to take the little girl and raise her to be the ideal woman for him. In the mean time Genji’s wife, Aoi gives birth to a boy, who triggers the Lady Rokujo who Genji is having an affair with, to become the ghost of someone who still is alive. Out of jealousy, Lady Rokujo haunts Aoi to death.