Under an overcast sky, an old farmer plants seeds in a field that had been ravaged by a tsunami. An angel watches his efforts and begs the sun to show itself, which it does, giving the farmer some hope.
This is the story of “Blossom,” an anime set to music and released two weeks ago by the nonprofit Zapuni Project, which pays tribute to the anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11, 2011.
The Zapuni Project is the brainchild of Crunchyroll manager Vince Shortino. Six months after the Tohoku-region quake, he contacted London-based filmmaker Gregory Rood, who is well connected in the music world. They decided to link Japanese animators with musicians in order to create short music videos themed on the disasters.
“I think it’s a very powerful combination,” Shortino says. It also provides the chance for “artists to finally come together for a good cause. We find that a lot of overseas musicians or artists are quite attracted to Japanese visual art, but it’s very difficult sometimes for them to collaborate and work together. So it’s a good opportunity.”
The primary goal of the project, though, is to keep the events of March 11 in people’s thoughts and to encourage them to help survivors by volunteering or donating money. All profits will be given to quake-related charities.
“Blossom” is directed by Yutaka Yamamoto, who is known for directing anime series such as “Lucky Star” and “Fractale.” He says he was profoundly affected by the disasters and volunteered in the Tohoku region. His anime is paired with the song “Hoppípolla” by Icelandic band Sigur Rós. The two styles match beautifully, resulting in three minutes likely to leave viewers with teary eyes.
“The angels (in the video) are something more or like myself,” Yamamoto explains. “As you see in the video, the angels don’t really do anything. They just watch over Japan and pray, and I think that’s what I will do and what I’ve been doing for Tohoku for a long time. I don’t know what else I can do, but I want to help.”
The Zapuni website has also released a music video titled “Psychedelic Afternoon.” In it a young boy is haunted by nightmares of the tsunami, but memories of his grandfather comfort him by taking him into a colorful dream world. The video features the song “Psychedelic Afternoon” by singer David Byrne, formerly of the band Talking Heads.
Animation duo UrumaDelvi, comprising of husband and wife Uruma and Delvi (the pair only go by single names), created the video during their spare time to contribute to earthquake relief.
“The memory and focus of the disaster fades in time,” Uruma says. “So if artists get together to create something to help people remember their feelings about the disaster and to remember the people who are still struggling through these disasters, … using music and art is a good way to get people to remember and feel and then take action.”
Viewers are encouraged to spread awareness of the videos by sharing them through social-networking sites. Specially made phone cases for the videos can also be bought online at www.zapuni.com and www.crunchyroll.com. The song “Psychedelic Afternoon” is already available on iTunes, and should be joined this month by both videos. For the first year, profits will go to the School Music Revival, which helps schools in disaster-stricken areas with the maintenance of their musical equipment. In the future, the project aims to release at least two videos per year to continue supporting associations aimed at helping children.
“For three or four days, (images of the disasters) were on TV all the time,” Uruma says, “but it didn’t move people that much. If two artists get together and put their hearts into their work, it could probably move people more than just a news story would.”