Japanese Anime Has Strong Presence in Annecy Film Festival 2021 Lineup

Annecy Film Festival 2021

After Annecy Film Festival 2020 was, like other events last year, forced online as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s event returns with a hybrid format that brings creative talent together in person at the beautiful Annecy lakeside while bringing much of the festival to participants around the world online. While the end of the COVID pandemic appears to be in sight, it’s still not safe to hold a festival as normal in this climate, requiring this hybrid Annecy 2021 event.

While feature films, TV films, screening events, and VR Works will only be showcased in person this year, the rest of the schedule will be available online to audiences around the world. For those with an interest in Japanese animation in particular, there’s a lot to be excited about with this year’s selection.

Three Japanese feature films will compete at this year’s event. While we have discussed two of these movies in the lead up to their release in the past on the site (Poupelle of Chimney Town from Studio 4C and Josee, The Tiger and the Fish from Studio BONES), the third film is a welcome surprise. The Deer King, directed by Masashi Ando and the latest film from Production I.G, is currently scheduled to release in Japanese theaters this September and will make its world premiere at Annecy Film Festival 2021.

Adapted from a Japanese fantasy novel series of the same name by Nahoko Uehashi, the film takes place at a time when the tribal homelands of the ‘Lost Antlers’ are under siege. They’re the latest target of the Empire, but Van is able to flee from their enslavement with a young girl after wild dogs attack. These dogs bring plague to the land, however, and now Van must work with a doctor to find a cure.

The Deer King

With three Japanese films in competition, the joint-most of any country, Asian animation in general is making a heavy presence at Annecy 2021. This is alongside highly anticipated animated features such as Sundance favorites Flee and Cryptozoo. In the short film category, a Japanese-Polish co-production based on Matsuo Basho’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North will also be screened, titled On Time, joined by The Mark of Emi in the Graduation Films category showcasing the best animated graduate films from around the world.

Maison Book Girl’s music is also making an appearance in the event. In the Commissioned Films in Competition category, the animated music video for ‘Kanashimi no Kodomotachi’ will be competing.

Away from the finished productions, Annecy typically hosts a strong work-in-progress selection that often previews and showcases incredible works of animation in an unfinished state prior to their premiere. They’ve shown off Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse, Wolfwalkers, and The Red Turtle here in the past, and last year gave us our first glimpse at Inu-Oh, Masaaki Yuasa’s latest movie.

Fena: Pirate Princess

This year, Crunchyroll have something to showcase: Fena: Pirate Princess, an upcoming original IP project produced by Adult Swim and Crunchyroll in partnership with Production I.G, will be previewed at the event. Directed by Kazuto Nakazawa, the key visual blends ninja and pirates together and features some compelling designs. The series centers on Fena Houtman, an orphan raised in a brothel whose life changes when she escapes to an island of pirates where she discovers the truth of her family.

As ever, Annecy Film Festival 2021 also features a range of master classes and keynotes that will be included in accreditation passes for both online and in-person visitors to the event, promising everything from a showcase of African animation to classes from Disney. Only in person, a special exhibition looking back at the history of the event through art, previewed with an image of Totoro wandering the streets of France, will be open to the public.


Comparing the 2021 event to the online-only 2020 showcase sees a greater return to normalcy and the return of some larger films that skipped the 2020 event because of its online-only nature and uncertainty on release dates due to COVID-19. Still, whether you can attend in person or need to take part in the open-to-the-public online event, the event promises something for anyone with an interest in animation and an insight into how everything is made.

If you’re reading OTAQUEST, that person may be you. You can find out more details over on the Annecy Film Festival website.

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