A polygon of animation

Vendredi pointed out to me one of the unique offerings of anime from Russia. Recently, we were exposed to a Russo-Japanese collaboration in First Squad. I thought it was disappointing, especially because the Japanese part of the collaboration was done by Studio 4C, one of the more hallowed anime studios around. More of the blame, however, can be placed on the poorly told and executed story of the Russians. It didn’t help that the trailer was so different from the film itself: the viewer was made to imagine that the film was going to be a creative action film featuring a girl with a katana, and it was going to be done by Studio 4C. What came out was a quasi-documentary, quasi-feature film, and it was entirely a disappointment.

I became more wary of Russian animation after that experience, but I’m glad to say that Polygon changed that perception into something a little more positive: it’s a short animation that aged very well considering it’s more than 30 years old.

Quoting Vendredi,

Polygon was produced in the Soviet Union in 1977 with a completely analog animation technique known as “photographica”, where characters were coloured using two sets of cels, rather than one – having two sets allowed a very complex portrayal of colour which gives Polygon a rotoscoped or almost computer generated look.

It is only ten minutes long, but I liked how the short portrayed the dynamism of war’s spectrum. Something created to be a weapon of war was actually a weapon of pacifism: isn’t war just the other side of peace?


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10 Responses to “A polygon of animation”

  1. RyanA Says:

    Hmm, that is a strange style. Seems like I’ve seen it before, but very retro.

  2. Angelus Says:

    I suspect the reason it looks rotoscoped is simply that it actually was rotoscoped.

    I have a lot of respect for Russian animation, though. A lot of it was done on ones, and often employed experimental techniques such as the one we see here. Their paint-on-glass animation can be quite stunning, like Natalya Orlova’s “Hamlet” and Aleksandr Petrov’s “The Old Man and the Sea” (actually a Russian-Canadian-Japanese co-production).

  3. Michael Says:


    The animation is quite aged. Where have you seen it before?



    I see. Is ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ you pertain to also known as Ursa Minor Blue? I have it on my to-watch list. 🙂

  4. Angelus Says:

    Ursa Minor Blue is by Tamura Shigeru. You can watch Petrov’s The Old Man and the Sea in various places. There’s an English version on YouTube, but the video quality is appalling. Veoh has by far the best video quality, but it’s the Japanese version. Take your pick 🙂

  5. vendredi Says:

    @Angelus – I initially thought it was rotoscoped, myself – but apparently no rotoscoping was involved at all in the whole photographica process, from what I’ve discovered.

    As for First Squad – well, I can’t say it was a masterpiece myself. I don’t necessarily think all the fault is on the Russian side of the equation; the flip-flop between perspectives would have worked, I think, if the interviews had more of an animated touch, or if the aesthetic look was done differently.

    I think part of the problem is Studio 4c itself: they’re unparalleled at doing short and incredibly impressionistic pieces, but I’ve found they do not string together “conventional” narratives together very well, and their longer pieces always feel a little rushed, as if trying to desperately go from one set piece to another.

  6. Michael Says:


    Thanks for the heads-up. I loved that Hemingway novella, so I’ll probably look into the short on YouTube. 🙂


    That makes it all the more brilliant. I mean, I think the animation aged gracefully, and compared to the shows during that time period (Red Blooded Eleven, Mobile Suit Gundam), this could hold its ground.

    Yes! I thought I was the only one thinking of that. The film just didn’t seem complete, and it was irksome. They’re brilliant as creators of shorts, but … I can’t say the same for their movies and exploits in longer pieces.

  7. Ronin AnimeLover Says:

    Polygonal animation? Looks pseudo-3D, haha.

    Never knew other countries could be that adept. Only glaring mark is the choice of Studio 4C, though. Reasons I have yet to elaborate… :/

  8. Michael Says:


    It is. What’s more surprising is that it was made more than 30 years ago. 🙂

  9. hoji Says:

    watch this

  10. Anime Watcher Says:

    do you thing that cartoons are more popular than anime?

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