Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Ryoji Arai: An Artist Between The Worlds

To be honest it’s quite probable that, if you live outside Japan, you haven’t yet heard of Ryoji Arai or of the animated TV series Sukima no Kuni no Polta (Polta: A Country Between The Worlds).

My hope is that some day everybody will get the chance.

First regarding the TV series: Polta’s initially short run on Japanese national broadcaster NHK in 2006 generated such a hugely positive response from critics and TV viewers alike in this country that it prompted production company Aniplex to generate a new batch the following year; it’s been on repeat in various time slots ever since.

While ostensibly aimed at kids no taller than most people’s kneecaps, Polta is such a gamely surreal romp that it comes across as deliriously upbeat and gloriously quirky all at once – due in no small shrift to the original character designs by Ryoji Arai, a man rightly considered the best kids’ book artist in Japan, and a one-time winner of the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award in this field.

“I was really surprised!” Arai says now of that honor, which he won in 2005 for the book Refrain Refrain.

...the rest of this interview/story has just been chucked up on the way cool Forces Of Geek website, on which I'll be doing a monthly column from now on. Just click HERE with your mouse thingy to read more - then go explore the that site.

Big thanks to Arai-san for his time, plus Yoko on translation chores.

IMAGES © Arai Ryoji / NHK / NEP, Aniplex Inc.

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