The “Moving Ukiyo-e” Raising Smiles Online


Funny gifs from a young filmmaker

An ukiyo-e picture of Heian nobles playing the ball game kemari moves comically, with one player heading the ball. Not only that, but their kimono are in the team colors of Kawasaki Frontale—and if you look closely, they’re Frontale stars Yoshito Okubo and Kengo Nakamura!

These “moving ukiyo-e” have been raising smiles online for a few years now, finding new fans through social networks each time a new one is released. Their creator is freelance filmmaker Thirty Seven Segawa. A graduate of Tokyo University’s Faculty of Letters, Segawa spent his student days studying humorous performing arts, even joining the Rakugo Research Club. Working on movies to use on stage in that period was what led to his involvement in filmmaking.

“It wasn’t that I was interested in movies so much as that I was the club member whose computer had the best specs. But when I gave it a try, I was hooked.”

After graduation, he joined a cable TV company, but left after 4 years to focus on his own work. Six months after that, he entered a “moving ukiyo-e” made on his computer in an animated gif contest. The response on Twitter and other social networks was immediately positive, and work began to come his way.

Photo (above)/Thirty Seven Segawa

“Blue Bruise”: One of six pieces commissioned by Mitsukoshi Isetan on the theme of “Blue.” Based on Utagawa Kuniyoshi’s Kan’non-in Deshi Hosaku,.

“Blue Buzz Cut.” Another from the “Blue” series. Based on Toshusai Sharaku’s “Sawamura Yodogoro II as Kawatsura Hogan and Bando Zenji as Oni Sadobo.”

“Blue Ocean,” also from the “Blue” series, turns “Ejiri” from Utagawa Hiroshige’s “Fifty-three Views of the Tokaido” into a boat race!


Next page: “Ukiyo-e: The perfect source materials for funny gifs