A Letter to Momo Director Hiroyuki Okiura Receives Media Arts Award

posted on by Joanne Mertz
Ai to Makoto actress Sakura Andō also honored in 2013 MEXT Art Encouragement Prizes

The Japan Agency for Cultural Affairs of the Japanese government announced the 30 winners of the 63rd Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology (MEXT) Art Encouragement Prizes on Tuesday. This year's winner of the MEXT Art Encouragement Shinjin (Rookie) Prize in the Media Arts category is director Hiroyuki Okiura (Jin-Roh) for his work on the A Letter to Momo anime film. Okiura was chosen for his ability to capture the power of expression through hand-drawn animation in the film, and for the way he used the two hours of the film to force the protagonist Momo to face the challenges of growing up.

Okiura created the concept, wrote the script, handled the character design and storyboards, and directed the 2012 film. A Letter to Momo received the Grand Prize for Best Feature Film at last year's New York International Children's Film Festival, won the main prize in the "Feature film" category at the Czech AniFest last year, and also won Best Animated Feature category at the 6th Asian Pacific Screen Awards in November. The film was also nominated for the animation category of the Japan Academy Prize this year, but lost to Wolf Children. GKIDS plans to release the film in theaters in the U.S. this year.

Sakura Andō also won the Rookie prize in the Film category for her role as Gamuko in Takashi Miike's Ai to Makoto (For Love's Sake) film adaptation of Ikki Kajiwara's manga, as well as her roles in the Kazoku no Kuni and Sono Yoru no Samurai films. The Agency for Cultural Affairs particularly praised Andō's role in Ai to Makoto, explaining that it was her overwhelming personality and genuine acting talent that raised the value of the film overall.

The awards ceremony will be held on March 18.

The MEXT Art Encouragement Prizes began in 1950, and the Rookie Award was added in the 1960s. This is the fifth year in which prizes were awarded in the Media Arts category, which focuses on newer expressions of art through media such as anime, manga, and video game art. Tatsuyuki Nagai, the director of the Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Boku-tachi wa Mada Shiranai. (anohana) television anime series, won the same award in 2012, Mamoru Hosoda, director of the Summer Wars and The Girl Who Leapt Through Time anime films, won the same award in 2010, and Takehiko Inoue, the manga creator of Slam Dunk, Vagabond, and REAL, received the award in 2009.


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