Have you ever looked at a landscape painting and imagined it coming to life? Japanese videographer Yusuke Shigeta decided to transform an ancient artwork into an animation that now looks like something from a video game. His work is titled Sekigahara-Sansui-zu-Byobu (Folding Screen of Painted Sekigahara Landscapes) and is based on a 17th-century multi-panel screen that depicts the Battle of Sekigahara.
One of the most important wars in Japanese history, the Battle of Sekigahara took place during the Sengoku period on October 21, 1600, in what is now Gifu prefecture. All told, 160,000 men faced each other; the samurai warriors of Tokugawa Ieyasu against a coalition of Toyotomi loyalist clans. The Tokugawa troops won, leading to the establishment of the Tokugawa shogunate which ruled Japan for another two and a half centuries until 1868.
Inspired by this moment in history, Shigeta based his artwork on an ancient, multi-panel screen that depicts the battle. The original artwork was made in the 1620s and belonged to the Lord Ii of Hikone. A replica made in 1854 illustrates the details of the bloody battle, and even in its still composition, there’s the sense of movement. Shigeta further brings the scene to life by transforming the 19th-century painting into a digitally animated loop.
For Sekigahara-Sansui-zu-Byobu, Shigeta used pixel animation to reconstruct the battle, just as it’s depicted on the folding screen. Viewers can watch as the tiny samurai figures charge towards each other on horses and by foot before using their swords to battle it out. In other parts of the composition, figures are depicted navigating the ancient landscape and working to protect their territory. Even the clouds and rivers are animated to look as though they’re moving just as they would in real life.
Check out Shigeta’s work below, and if you want to experience it up-close, you can visit it in Chubu Centrair International Airport‘s Culture Gate to Japan exhibition.