This short film of roughly 20 minutes was one of the entries in the JAniCA Animator Training Project, a competition aimed at developing younger talent from various animation companies. Ojiisan no Lamp comes from Telecom Animation Film, headed by Takiguchi Teiichi, an animator who worked on such films as Whisper of the Heart and Piano no Mori. Here, he gets to flex his storytelling skills by contributing both the screenplay and the direction itself. In a certain way, the origins of the film remind one of Ocean Waves, which was a project by Studio Ghibli to achieve essentially the same goal – build the skills of the younger staff while producing something worthwhile. Of course, that was a full length film while this is a short story.
The film begins in a very familiar manner – a young boy finds a rusty lamp in his home and asks his grandfather what it is – triggering a moment of reminiscence from the grandfather and a flashback for the audience taking us into his memory. Ojiisan no Lamp is the story of a boy who, in his youth, becomes enamored with oil lamps, which had been recently imported from the West. He grows up to become a lamp merchant, but finds that the times have changed, and the world has moved onto a new technology – electricity, leaving him behind. The concept is very fitting for a short film such as this, and Ojiisan no Lamp does manage to hit many of the right notes and present itself in a polished manner. The main character is the sort that is easy to immediately like, and the progression through his life in the span of a few minutes was tackled well.
However, there are a few issues which present themselves throughout the film. I think this story, in this format, would best be handled with a gently bittersweet tone of nostalgia, and while the film often manages to hit that note, there are also times when it seems to overreach in terms of its own dramatic potential, trying to make an emotional impact that doesn’t feel as though it has been earned. Regardless, the film is certainly a rewarding enough experience for a 20 minute investment, and shows a lot of promise considering its roots. A simple story with a pure heart.
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