A common misconception about animated shorts states that they, bathing in creativity or not, never reach the same heights of storytelling as full-length features. While it's true that there's little room left for plot devices and character development if you happen to have a running time that doesn't even surpass half an hour, I still find this notion absolutely ridiculous. Rather than observing a short film and condemn it based on the lack of things you'd find in a movie, I've always been under the belief that the approach itself needs to be changed in accordance to the runtime. Hopefully, viewers who happen to come across the subject of today's pointless scribbles will have their perception of animated shorts changed by the beautiful, mesmerizing and absolutely "pointless" creation that goes under the name: The Diary of Tortov Riddle.
Now, visually speaking this little eccentricity plays out exactly like one would expect the incestuous offspring of Tim Burton and Cat Soup to do; character designs tend to be tall and slim; the color palette is muted to the extreme and there are enough semi-artsy oddities to give Yoji Kuji an orgasm. Story-wise though, the atmosphere seems a lot more inspired by Kino's Journey as the protagonist of the film, Tortov Riddle, travels on a pig with extraordinarily long legs, facing various encounters with other creatures as well as experiencing various strange things. His travels are documented in his diary which is shown at certain points, usually at the end of each story. Unlike Kino’s Journey though there are no fables or general lessons in morality to be found. Tortov is merely a lonely traveler whose motivations are never revealed and who seems to treasure his bizarre encounters more than anything else.
All in all there are six stories that together create a running time of approximately 18 minutes. These minutes are well spent on beautifully surreal artwork that depicts everything from Tortov's encounter with a mysterious woman to a town hosting a cinema party by projecting an animated movie on the back of a peculiar bear-hybrid thingy. Keep in mind that few of the stories have actual conclusions and there is no continuity to find whatsoever. The best way to enjoy it is to take in the beautiful but simplistic visuals as well as the equally harmonic soundtrack that relies on everything from pianos to more unusual instruments to establish a dreamlike feeling few other movies manage to invoke.
The world of animated shorts suffers from an over-representation from the admittedly masterful Makoto Shinkai whose Voices of a Distant Star continues to rightfully mesmerize. However, in recent years it's become quite apparent that there are other creators out there producing shorts that reach an almost similar kind of quality. The Diary of Tortov Riddle was directed by Kunio Katou who later went on to create the Oscar-winning La Maison en Petits Cubet which I also recommend. However, inside the realm of anime shorts, that I have explored somewhat thoroughly, Tortov Riddle stands out as one of the better creations I've seen. It's able to invoke a strange feeling of an almost childlike wonder that makes you absolutely content just witnessing the peculiarities the film exhibits rather than questioning them. Sleep is never an easy thing for me, but after I finished watching this for the second time I fell asleep almost immediately and although I can't remember any of my dreams I'm sure they were quite pleasant acid trips from the fascinating and beautiful world of Tortaria.
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