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Diary of Tortov Roddle, The

Entry updated 3 May 2021. Tagged: Film.

Japanese animated film series (2003); original title Aru tabibito no nikki. Robot Communications. Created, written and directed by Kunio Kato. Nine 2-6 minute episodes (including three OVAs). Colour.

Tortov Roddle is a lanky young man in top hat, scarf and black coat: his diary records "One day I travelled to the northern plains"; he does so riding a pig whose elongated legs recall Salvador Dalí's Los Elefantes (1948). He witnesses many odd sights: pterodactyls flying overhead; towns built on the backs of giant frogs; a movie projected onto the back of a bear; eight humanoid rabbits traipsing across the plains – he follows and finds them sitting in a tramcar which flies off towards the Moon ("I exchanged a silent how-do-you-do with the rabbit people. We wished each other a safe journey."). The top of his hat expands as he dreams: burning the resulting balloon, its smoke, and that of the town's other chimneys, forms clouds from which a melancholy rain falls. The last diary entry reads "I opened up my map. The journey continues. My name is Tortov Roddle, I am a traveller from Tortalia."

In one of the DVD's OVAs Tortov hallucinates after eating fruit (see Drugs): meeting a moustachioed man in a rabbit costume, they pursue a fairy (see Supernatural Creatures) as the landscape transforms around them, until Tortov awakes next to a rabbit. Tortov is absent from the other OVAs: one, "Fantasy" is a series of short, reflective scenes; the other, "The Apple Incident", is darker, with a discordant soundtrack: immense apples appear in a town, initially causing alarm but are later eaten by the populace – whereupon apples grow on their heads.

The influence of Lewis Carroll may be detected. The animation style of these gently surreal shorts by Kato is similar to his later, Oscar-winning La Maison En Petits Cubes (2008; vt The House of Small Cubes), but more suggestive of watercolours, giving a softer tone. Dialogue-free, the mood is subdued and odd: viewers who do not desire narrative urgency or plot will find themselves pleasantly engaged. [SP]


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