You Shoumei Bijutsukan Line is an unusual ga-nime featuring a mix of You Shomei’s minimalistic paintings, an equally barren soundscape courtesy of Nakai Yuu, and tranquil live action sections peppered throughout.
You’s artwork here invariably consists of two horizontally split halves, creating a line effect in the middle of which this ga-nime is eponymous of. Sky comprises the top half, a seemingly perfectly flat surface on the bottom: both largely featureless but characterized by gentle gradients and soft colors. These stark landscapes are punctuated by lone objects, vaguely reminiscent of their respective real-life counterparts. Abstract at first, these objects take the shape of minuscule, dark rectangles— then later more defined structures— like a primitive church or what appears to be a lighthouse. These staunchly geometric shapes, while diminutive compared to the vastness of the landscapes they’re up against, carry a strong effect. Paintings depicting a tiny black rectangle, dwarfed by such monolithic environments; evoke feelings of loneliness and powerlessness. There’s a strange, unsettling beauty that permeates You’s otherworldly and desolate art.
There’s no actual animation to speak of in You Shoumei Bijutsukan Line. Slow pans and zooms do their job to accentuate certain aspects of the paintings, but there’s nothing beyond that in terms of animation techniques. However, You’s motionless world is brought to life aurally in a big yet understated way. Whether it be slow and ethereal drones, reverb-drenched bass notes that quietly interrupt the predominant silence, or arrhythmic electronic galloping: the largely neutral paintings are given tone and feeling by their audio counterpart. A simple house becomes a lugubrious figure at the hands of high-pitched synth moans. It gives the sense that the art and music were designed to go together since the production’s conception. Whether this is the case or not, the impeccable marriage of sight and sound is to be truly admired.
The live action segments, on the other hand, are a bit of a mixed bag. Most of them consist of one man in an almost entirely empty white room, slowly, slowly soliloquizing. Paradoxically, these segments have a tendency to be both cloyingly cryptic and preachy at once. For example, there’s a scene where the actor sheds a single tear as he slowly gropes the bare white floor, lamenting “The land continues to suffer”, apropos of nothing. It would not be hard for one to make a case for this being pretentious, but even beyond that, it’s more than just a little cringe-inducing. Although these segments were probably intended to give the audience greater perspective on the author’s intent, these ancillary segments manage to shoot holes in the otherwise stellar ambiance. The art would have been better off if allowed to speak for itself.
However, these segments are not totally without merits. For example, there’s one scene where it cuts from the glacially-paced painting segments to a live action clip of an ant frantically fighting for its life in a glass of water, paired with exaggerated splashing sound effects. While it’s tough to parse any concrete meaning from this, the effect of the juxtaposition is subconsciously very affecting. Moments like this one provide ample justification for You’s choice in medium, as this effect could not have been accomplished by merely hanging his paintings up in a gallery.
What does this all amount to? Well, a pretty neat slab of atmosphere, for one. A unique marvel— the enlivening of a traditionally static medium— for another. And finally, sight and sound conspiring together in a wondrously meditative vein. Minor shortcomings aside, immersing yourself in You Shoumei’s world is a worthwhile endeavor.