It is with a heavy heart that I report that Nagi Noda, a brilliant art director, grand imaginer, and my personal hero, passed away on September 7, 2008, from surgical complications due to injuries sustained in a traffic accident last year. Nagi Noda was just 35 years old – it’s always terrible when someone so young dies, but when that person is so full of talent and inspiration, it is all the more upsetting. Nagi was at such an exciting moment in her career, her work reaching a broader audience and receiving greater acclaim than ever before. The work she would have created in the next decade I am sure would have been even more brilliant and inspiring than anything that came before it, and it saddens me deeply to know that we will never be able to experience it.
As a designer, Ms. Noda followed the path that is every designer’s dream: from her humble beginnings in print advertising, Nagi’s work won her such acclaim that it wasn’t long before she was working with larger company’s, such as Nike and Laforet Harajuku. But it wasn’t until Nagi took the step into directing commercials and music videos through her self-created production company, Uchu Country Ltd., that the world got to see just how much talent and creativity this petite girl could conjure up.
By far Nagi Noda’s most popular and recognized work is her viral video entitled “Ex-Fat Girl,” which Nagi both directed and starred in. In the video, Nagi plays the part of a spunky, formerly overweight aerobics instructor, who guides the viewer through a series of exercises guaranteed to give you a perfect “poodle-like” figure, complete with round pom-pom growths on your arms, calves and even hair. Her students in the video are disturbingly human bipedal poodles in leotards, who mystify the viewer as they go through the exercises with Nagi doing squats, arm-crunches, and bends.
Nagi Noda’s work captured magic, plain and simple. It expressed an innocence and delight in the simple illusions we can create as individuals, teasing and tantalizing us with the potential for surreal in things we took for granted. Nagi Noda’s work never tried to dazzle with the complexity of its effects, but rather used simple methods that were never hidden or obscured. The “how” of the process would be visible to the viewer, and add to the wonder and art of the work. For instance, in the music video “Sentimental Journey” by the artist, Yuki, Noda captures Yuki’s entire day of actions through the remarkably effective yet utterly simple trick of positioning dozens of girls posed in small gestures; when panned across, each girls actions relate to the ones beside her, and simulate activity. It is clear to the viewer from the very start that these are girls wearing wigs to resemble Yuki, and a close up shot at the beginning even proves that many of them don’t even particularly resemble the singer. However, there is almost a tangible moment when the illusion takes hold in the work, and the viewer “sees” the magic, even with the strings in view. In fact, the strings make the magic far more believable and captivating.
Saturday, 9/14:“Sentimental Journey” by Yuki
We can count ourselves fortunate that Nagi Noda did leave us with one final piece of art. Noda’s final completed project was a music video for J-pop star, MEG, for her song “Precious.” The video utilizes an old Japanese theatre technique called kuroko, in which objects are manipulated by actors completely hidden in black. It is a video that culminates all the great aspects of Nagi Noda’s work: whimsy, the surreal, simple effects and fantastic dose of imagination. I personally can think of no better piece to leave us with.
Nagi, we will miss you so much. And I hope wherever you are now, it is filled with hair tigers and dancing cats.
Nagi’s character line of half-panda, half-other-creature hybrid furries: Hanpanda
The Coveted’s Farewell to Nagi Noda:
“I’ll miss your hair hats and poodle arms….”