Since it started its festival run in 2018, I’ve had a few chances to see Yosuke TANI’s Quest of the Battling Gods, and the same thoughts have struck me each time. The most immediate is how utterly striking its animation style is. Vibrant colours, varied textures, shifting perspectives, varied camera angles—it’s an eye-grabbing, unpredictable film that’s a joy to watch.

Beyond the inventive visuals, though, I find myself puzzled by the story. Ultimately, it’s about a battle (as the title suggests) between two giant beings, which manifests as an epic brawl between two kaiju. Two monsters, seeking each other through multiple layers of reality, eventually coming together and, well, punching each other for the benefit of an interplanetary audience. If that’s all it is, it’s enough for a captivating short.

But there’s something else, something fable-like that I can’t quite pull together from TANI’s tale of micro- and macroscopic worlds, parallel universes, gods, monsters and afterlives. I keep re-watching, trying to pay more attention to the subtitles without getting distracted by those frenzied visuals. And every time, I find myself wrapped up in its movement, dazed by the vibrant colours. Then the battle concludes, creation “celebrates the fight with cries of joy” and that’s it again.

It’s slightly frustrating, but it’s just so tantalizing. There’s no question it’s a stunning film, and a testament to the strength of the animation program at Tokyo University of the Arts (if you aren’t following their Vimeo stream, you need to fix that right now). But what’s lurking below the surface?

I guess I’ll just have to watch it again.


怪獣神話 (谷耀介) / Quest of the Battling Gods (Yosuke TANI)

dir: Yosuke TANI

syn: In the moments before death, one of the Battling Gods recalls his defeat in a magnificent fight. That battle transcended meta worlds, time and parallel universes as the Battling God faced off with another of his kind. All living creatures celebrated their fight with cries of joy.

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