While mostly relegated to the realm of indie animation and rarely recipients of the same scale of press coverage at home or abroad, Japanese indie animation is home to a huge breadth of unique and individualistic pieces of animation. Works like Gon, The Little Fox and perhaps the most recognizable piece of Japanese indie animation, the 2008 Oscar-winning short film La Maison en Petits Cubes, show there’s much more to Japanese animation than most traditionally associate with it. One of the best Japanese indie animators currently active in Japan, Koji Yamamura, has unveiled their first feature-length animated feature since 2006, A Dozen Norths, with production on the film set to be completed at some point in 2021.
As revealed by Cartoon Brew, A Dozen Norths is an abstract animated co-production between Koji Yamamura’s Yamamura Animation and French animation studio Miyu Productions, who themselves have worked on a number of Japanese co-productions before with animators like Sawako Kabuki (I’m Late) and Yoriko Mizushiri (Anxious Body). Koji Yamamura has proven themselves countless times before with award-winning short films like Mt. Head and A Country Doctor, success that has made him a recognizable name on the indie animation circuit and also led to his work being featured by the Archipel YouTube Channel as part of their toco toco series.
Early preview images for the film suggest a desolate and disorienting landscape for the film’s story to take place within, with rough backgrounds, chalk sketches and mysterious creatures and settings. The synopsis for the film similarly emphasizes the film’s foreboding nature:
Everywhere the North is solitary. Here it’s all North. This is a record of the people I met in the North. However, my memories are fragmented and imprecise. I’m starting to wonder if my efforts amounted to nothing. I’m just getting an occasional sign of the dull existence of the world through my perception of its shape, little by little.
Production of A Dozen Norths will be completed in 2021, and this could be a film worth keeping an eye on if you’re a fan of more experimental animated features.