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Watch This: Studio Ponoc's Olympics Film 'Tomorrow's Leaves'

Last Friday, following a year's delay, the very confusingly titled Tokyo 2020 Olympics finally opened. These games may be unlike any other as they will take place with no spectators and with various other Covid-related safety protocols in place, but they still have the potential to be something of a light shining through in these tough times. The Olympic spirit, of the world coming together in friendly competition, can hopefully be something of a distraction from the worries of 2021.

Of course, one thing that host nation Japan is known for is their animation, so it's only fitting that a special animation should be made to mark the event. Studio Ponoc, the new studio founded by and staffed by former Studio Ghibli staff (Mary and The Witch's Flower) were commissioned by the Olympic Foundation For Culture and Heritage to make an animated film that portrayed the Olympic Spirit. After a delay due to the Olympics postponement, the short is finally available to watch online.

Luckily for the sport-averse, it has very little to with the actual event, and luckily for everyone, it's utterly charming. Taking place in some sort of fantasy world, a group of children from different regions come together to try and bring light and colour back into the world.

It cleverly works in sequences that have connections with real sporting events- with the children racing, swimming and throwing a ball-like object around. Smartly, the film is without spoken dialogue, so it can be enjoyed by anyone around the world, and the whole thing is set instead to some beautiful music.

The film is directed by Yoshiyuki Momose, a Ghibli veteran who also directed the Life Ain't Gonna Lose segment of the Modest Heroes Ponoc anthology film. That explains the look of the short, which as in that segment,  still has a Ghibli-esque look to it, but also has a bit of a more original style to it. The backgrounds have a looser, more impressionistic look, and the whole thing has more of a painterly style. It made Momose's instalment in the anthology stand out, so it's a thrill to see more work in that vein.  It's definitely a sensible move for the up and coming studio, as Mary And The Witch's Flower did face some criticism for sticking too closely to the Ghibli template and not looking out for a style of their own. While that Ghibli influence is still there (probably unavoidable seeing as that's where most of the staff came from in the first place) but it suggests that Ponoc is starting to find more of a style of its own. Fingers crossed for a feature from Momose before too long. Gorgeous stuff.