Yasuhiro Yoshiura is probably best known for his feature film Patema Inverted or his cult hit ONA Time of Eve. But before he went into more major productions through his self-founded Studio Rikka, he made a number of independent solo works. One of the very earliest such was Kikumana, which also remains one of his most interesting. It was created during his sophomore year at Kyushu University, conceptually inspired by the classic – and to him very personally impactful – puzzle game Myst. That being said, there isn’t, according to himself, much to take away from it thematically, but is mainly just an emotional piece (“略歴”, Studio Rikka; “キクマナ”, Studio Rikka).
Indeed, emotional intrigue is perhaps where Kikumana‘s greatest strength lies. A mystic atmosphere permeates its six minute run, evoked by its surreal imagery as well as delicate editing and sound design. As we follow the titular girl within her small and isolated library-like space, we drift with her between reality and dream/imagination. This drifting takes on both explicit and subtle forms. For instance, we have on one hand the striking, almost nightmare-like montage that Kikumana enters after she opens her book – and on the other the opening seconds, where a light snowfall accompanied by a piano piece suddenly get interrupted as the girl opens her eyes. There is also the sound of a vinyl crackle that lingers in the background throughout the entire film. This is a wonderfully elegant exercise in gentle surrealism, reminiscent of hypnagogic dreaming.
Additionally, Kikumana is the first example of Yoshiura’s distinct approach to space. What has become the director’s perhaps most notable visual trademark is his incorporation of CG, particularly in the form of 3D modeling of backgrounds. This he furthermore utilizes in his “camerawork,” with constant angles and movements allowed by the camera eye’s unconstraint to both the physical limitations of live action and the flatness of 2D animation (see VHSfx). Another effect of this is an enhanced sense of space and consequently place, as characters aren’t so much pasted onto a flat image as placed within a space. Many of Yoshiura’s works feature specific places that are central to both narrative and characters. Whereas, say, the underground structure in Pale Cocoon is a place of mystery and lost collective memory, the café in Time of Eve is a place of sanctuary, and the café in its spiritual predecessor Aquatic Language is a place of ventilation and hidden wonder. The small library in Kikumana, then, is a place of isolation and contemplation, of uncannily yet melancholically dreamlike meditation.
A trailer for Kikumana can be seen via Studio Rikka’s official YouTube channel:
“略歴”, Profile, Studio Rikka, <http://studio-rikka.com/profile/>
“キクマナ”, 自主制作アニメーション, Studio Rikka, <http://studio-rikka.com/private/>
VHSfx, Making of “Time of Eve” – Yasuhiro Yoshiura [Contains Spoilers], YouTube, 4/29/2017, <https://youtu.be/UAplm5WLOUI>