And the florist says, "White lily."
November 14, 2011 3:22 PM   Subscribe

This one time in Edo Japan, Bashō got together with a bunch of his rich friends from Nagoya to make up a set of interlocking poems (renku) — 36 of them, to be exact (a format called kasen). Then, 320 years later, the complete cycle was animated by a diverse international team of artists.

Released in 2003, 『冬の日』 (Winter Days) is a collaborative animated treatment of Bashō's 1684 poem cycle of the same name. Kasen renga follow a schema that introduces a particular sequence of seasonal and sentimental themes and crucially relies on being split across two separate folios. The animated interpretation follows the same format. Except for the first, each "visual poem" is just about a minute in length.

Sheet 1, Side 1jo (opening)Sheet 1, Side 2ha (development)Sheet 2, Side 1ha (development)Sheet 2, Side 2kyū (denouement)Sources: the indispensable Nishikata Film Review blog and Haruo SHIRANE's Early Modern Japanese Literature, which explains and annotates many of the poems. Enjoy!
posted by Nomyte (26 comments total) 167 users marked this as a favorite
Fantastic post!
posted by vorfeed at 3:25 PM on November 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Here's a YouTube playlist, if you want to sit back and watch them all in a row.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:34 PM on November 14, 2011 [9 favorites]

posted by beefetish at 3:45 PM on November 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

posted by troll on a pony at 3:50 PM on November 14, 2011

Amazing post. Thank you, Nomyte.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 4:02 PM on November 14, 2011

posted by Nomyte at 4:19 PM on November 14, 2011

Before I delve into this, can you tell me what it has to do with Lauri Anderson?
posted by The Bellman at 4:27 PM on November 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

Thanks for this, Nomyte; and to FLT for the playlist.
posted by cerulgalactus at 4:30 PM on November 14, 2011

This just delights me all to pieces! Thank you.
posted by Anitanola at 6:29 PM on November 14, 2011

INsane. Sidebar, please.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:11 PM on November 14, 2011

These are marvellous. The variety in animation styles is huge, from child-like drawings to sophisticated CGI.
posted by Huw at 12:13 AM on November 15, 2011

This so fantastic... thank you, Nomyte! Now I know how I will be spending my winter evening tonight.
posted by taz at 3:09 AM on November 15, 2011

This is what makes MetaFilter cheap at $5

Thankyou for pulling this post together
posted by infini at 6:26 AM on November 15, 2011

A heartfelt "Thank you" for assembling this, Nomyte. I've been reading and ruminating on Basho's Narrow Road to the Interior lately; this is very timely for me...
posted by OneMonkeysUncle at 9:47 AM on November 15, 2011

There's so much room for discussion here I'm struck silent.
posted by Twang at 10:49 AM on November 15, 2011

I'm still diving in to this, but this is an astoundingly interesting, beautiful, well presented post, I'm trying to recall ever seeing a better one on MeFi. There's a lot here that I know nothing about and now I am enthralled.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 12:13 PM on November 15, 2011

I will definitely have to watch again after work but I have a question:

It seems like a written version of improv, where one poet sets the scene and one describes the action or feeling in the scene. But I'm confused as to the whole "sided sheets", "number of pages", and different authors. Is each author describing his own meta story while still contributing to the overall work? Or is it supposed to be one cohesive story about the same characters?
posted by Khazk at 1:17 PM on November 15, 2011

This is a gorgeous post. Thanks!
posted by methinks at 3:07 PM on November 15, 2011

Khazk: Each line is intended to be read with the one previous to form a distinct "poem." The task of each contributor is to recontextualize the previous line.

So, for example, #7 appears to be about a recluse watching some farmers harvesting rice. The author of #8 implies that the recluse is in hiding, possibly a monk waiting to return to the secular world. In #9 we discover that the recluse is a mother whose child was taken away by someone. In #10 we learn that the child had died. Each verse subtly changes the scene.

There is also a set of rules for which poems should refer to which seasons. A number of poems must obligatorily mention the moon or love.

Most readers can get a Google preview of the book I linked, which includes detailed commentary. Begin on p. 197 (you can get to it by searching for "Yasui" in the text of the book).
posted by Nomyte at 5:02 PM on November 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

posted by nickyskye at 5:42 PM on November 15, 2011

post of the year
posted by facetious at 6:19 PM on November 15, 2011

Exquisite! Rules and collaboration make me think of my old Odyssey of the Mind days back in middle school. It's so exciting to test limits, and to do it with a bunch of your friends... ! Poetry is sort of like creative problem solving, right?
posted by carsonb at 7:19 PM on November 15, 2011

This is wonderful. Thanks, Nomyte.
posted by homunculus at 12:37 AM on November 16, 2011

Thank you. This is grand.
posted by pleasebekind at 3:46 AM on November 16, 2011

Thank you, Nomyte. This is a treasure trove.

On the one hand, I think YouTube has been incredible at making obscure animation accessible. On the other, animation suffers far more than live-action video from video compression. It just about makes me cry sometimes to see the art so desecrated. Better than not seeing it at all, but still painful.

It's probably even more painful for animators to imagine people knowing their work only through YouTube. I once spoke to an animator who was unwilling to release his work on DVD due to the loss of quality compared to film.
posted by snarfois at 1:03 AM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:21 PM on November 27, 2011

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