Tuesday, August 15, 2017

AOF ’17: Bosatsu—Year of the Dragon (short)

It is always nice when animated films can teach us a lesson in comparative religion. Take for instance, Fugen Bosatsu, a Bodhisattva (an enlightened one, who defers Nirvana to help point us crass mortals in the right direction) and one of the eight Buddhist zodiac guardians. He will play a significant role in Siddharth Ahluwalia’s animated short film Bosatsu—Year of the Dragon, which screens during this year’s Action on Film Festival.

The Chinese zodiac is represented by twelve animals, but there are only eight guardians, so some will have to double up. Fugen Bosatsu has responsibility for Snake and Dragon. As it happens, Jake was born in the Year of the Dragon, so his connection to the Dragon Guardian makes some kind of sense. Under Fugen Bosatsu’s guidance, he is pursuing a quest through what looks like a Southeast Asian pyramid.

Bosatsu essentially plays like a proof-of-concept superhero origins story, but with considerably more spiritual significance. There is no question Ahluwalia’s concept could be expanded to support a feature or series treatment. With a visual style clearly inspired by anime, it should be quite accessible to genre fans, even if they are completely ignorant of Buddhism.

Maddeningly, Osamu Tezuka’s second film in his anime adaptation of Kozo Morishita’s manga life of Buddha has yet to screen in North America—at least not to any extent that we might notice, so Bosatsu is a nice bite-sized consolation while we continue to wait. It is fun, stylish, and well-versed in Buddhist teachings. Highly recommended, Bosatsu—Year of the Dragon screens this Friday (8/18), as part of the 2017 Action on Film Festival.