The Central Japan Railway Company (JR Central) has launched a series of 15 short gif animations by various Japanese and international artists to celebrate the bullet train or Shinkansen. The Art of Shinkansen project heralds the iconic trains’ perpetual movement, innovative technology and impeccable service, specifically the original line joining Tokyo and Osaka, in an eclectic range of animated artworks spanning illustration styles and subject matter.
Each focuses on a detail of the Shinkansen experience, from the pragmatic to the purely enjoyable. For example Guillaume Kurkdjian highlights the swift and efficient overnight maintenance of the tracks, carried out – in his film – by cute, animated shapes. Conversely, Shota Sakamoto borrows from traditional Japanese illustration style for his film showcasing the diverse landscape that flies past the train window.
“When I first heard about the project, Ukiyoe – Japanese art from the 17th-19th centuries – and platform video games came to mind,” Shota explains. “Also a music video I previously worked on called “_Engawa de Dancehall_”:https://vimeo.com/30251760. I thought I could make something new if I laid out many different kinds of Ukiyoe parts and add the characters in a world of horizontal side-scrolling, similar to a platform game like Super Mario.”
Furze Chan has taken a completely different approach, applying delicate hand-drawn illustrations to a film about train station bento boxes, or Ekiben. “I am a food lover,” Furze tells It’s Nice That about why she so enjoyed the brief. “It made me wonder in a dreamy world of yummy food!” She used coloured pencils to illustrate all the artworks, then animated them in a “naive” way, similar to stop-motion, she says. “To me, coloured pencil drawings always conjure warm and nostalgic feelings. This somehow echoes the joyful feeling you have when you enjoy the well-made Japanese Ekibens.”
Sylvia Boomer Yang’s animation depicts the train crew and station staff “pointing and calling” on the platform; something she remembers vividly from a trip to Tokyo. “There are many vibrant, colourful neon lights on the street and sophisticated packaging design with very nice hand-drawn textures and patterns,” she says. “Before I created the art, I carefully watched videos of how the conductors operate on the platform so that I could depict and deliver precise information. I also wanted to create simple character designs with strong personalities, that can smoothly show the clear gestures. Each action the conductors make should be easy to read and remember.”
Watch all 15 animations here.