Diary of an Anime Lived: The Slice-of-Life Age, Part 3 (FINAL)

On the strands that make up “slice of life” in our day, and what it means to be a fan in this time where it is the predominant standard of quality and popularity.

Continue reading Diary of an Anime Lived: The Slice-of-Life Age, Part 3 (FINAL)

Yoshiki at SiriusXM

In the midst of a truly busy week of about three conventions in real life, (not Anime conventions, but of Book/Publishing/Blogging conventions) I received an exclusive press invitation to Yoshiki being in New York to promote his monthly aired hour long Yoshiki Radio, that would be debuting May 27, 2011 on SiriusXM. Then on June 5, the show will be airing the first Sunday of each month at 9PM EST. The show will have Yoshiki choosing his samples of music, from various sources, inspirations, and there would also be anime music as well. (This is from the Press release, so I am possibly reiterating it for facts and clarity.

yoshiki meet and greet-2

When I arrived at Sirius XM’s Main Office, Yoshiki was recording for his radio show. Near the entrance was an open bar, and behind it were tables. Toward the window there were two-three LCD screens showing clips of Yoshiki’s appearances over the years. Since the screens were muted, there were the background music of piano/instrumental Forever Love.

yoshiki meet and greet-5

Waiting patiently, the area quickly filled up with invited media and fans. Finally the man everyone’s waiting for arrives!

yoshiki meet and greet smile-9

There was a press conference, where media was allowed to ask questions.. and silly me.. forgetting to bring along a voice recorder. However I was able to take notes, so here is what I got.

  • The reason why Yoshiki is doing this radio show, is because of a desire to be closer to fans. Fans have been a very big support to Yoshiki himself, and for X Japan.
  • Yoshiki will be coming back to New York Ciy after his Europe tour.
  • There was a request for X Japan to perform at larger venues like Madison Square Garden, and a question about X Japan touring with a U.S. star such as Lady Gaga. The possibilities are endless at this point, so Yoshiki will be seeing what can happen.
  • Last year’s North American tour gave a confidence to X Japan on touring to places outside Asia.
  • Yoshiki who has been taking more English lessons, has difficulty in pronouncing songs, and artists names.
  • Other than working on X Japan’s Europe Tour, he has been working on a Hello Kitty theme.

I was actually able to ask two questions to Yoshiki, one: the status of his Stan Lee collaboration, and two: how successful has his foundation has been for Japan Earthquake Relief, so these were his answers.

  • Issue 0 has been in the midst of being produced from the Stan Lee collaboration, where Yoshiki is portrayed as a hero.
  • Yoshiki Foundation has recently raised around $150 million in donations from fans and supporters.

The press conference ended, and fans were treated to listening to X Japan’s latest song, Scarlet Love Song, which is the theme song to Osama Tezuka’s Buddha movie, that is going to be released in Japanese movie theaters on May 28, 2011. (Waiting for the release of this theme song, has been a bit of a challenge for me, since listening to the sample has made me want to listen to the full version, so I was quite happy. Of course I also hope that Osamu Tezuka’s Buddha gets to be released here with subtitles, and their English album.)

yoshiki meet and greet-13

There was then a time of meeting a greeting. Chosen fans from Sirius Radio contest drawings were led in, and introduced to Yoshiki. Fans came from parts of the United States, and even from Japan. Yoshiki has a long reputation of being sweet and considerate toward his fans, so I believe I melted a bit. His right hand had recently been  injured, and wrapped up. He has had such a time writing and using his left hand. Of course I wish for his speedy recovery, and continued health.

So here at Anime Diet’s Flickr are images I took from the event.

Yoshiki will be heading back to the West coast, heading to FanimeCon 2011.

Regarding The Ranma 1/2 Live Action Fluff

Can It Be True?

A live action Ranma 1/2 dorama series? Well this is out of the blue. Upon receiving scant, somewhat puzzling news from a respected source, it looks like we may be amidst something of a live-action anime renaissance that doesn’t seem to be slowing down. And since the information at hand has merely been shared via this blog, the gears have been turning via fellow writers and fans, musing the expected responses; Where? And more importantly; Why? And since the aforementioned post offers no links to an official site, or any hint of a teaser video anywhere. All we have here is a cast & crew roster, and a premiere date & time: July 10th, and starting at 10pm. Again, all one can do at the moment is to speculate which is always rife with obvious problems.

For those playing the home game, the Rumiko Takahashi martial arts genderwarp comedy Ranma Nibun No Ichi has long been regarded as one of the more iconic anime/manga creations of the last twenty odd years, and has garnered one of the most passionate and enduring international fanbases any show has experienced. The tale of woe that befalls young, hotheaded martial arts student, Ranma Saotome, and the family he is planned to be married into by a conniving, lazy father has been something that a near-entire generation of anime lovers have long embraced, made references to, and at times reviled for its wacky cast of colorful characters, bizarre gimmickry, and martial arts silliness. It’s kind of difficult to imagine the “harem anime” without it, not to mention other favorites including the Fruits Basket manga/series. Mixing a romantic comedy with water-based gender/species-switching hijinks gene grafted with a Shaw Bros. movie was something of a knockout melange that connected, and helped create the anime fandom explode in the west come the early to mid 90s. Translated into a multitude of languages (including Spanish, where yours truly caught a remainder of the show during those days), the series and its characters have retained something of a timeless quality that continues to gather new fans.

Now again, as one not to normally speculate, perhaps it might be good to just express a mixture of openness and worry to the prospect. As much as this sounds infinitely more interesting than say, an American rendition of AKIRA, one cannot help but express concern for this particular project as a live-action concept. Say that for a moment, that this is a possibility; that the approach utilized by previous live-action dorama could be implemented (a good example is 2003-04’s Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon), would it be optimal for a series that became known later for it’s visual bombast & exaggerated action? Or would it become something far more character-based, which would be fine provided the universe Takahashi created was brought down to Earth just a smidge. One could argue that a large part of the original’s success was the world in which the Ranma characters lived in, and their interactions based on such a setting. Also worth bringing up is the live Maison Ikkoku that was created as a vehicle for model-actress Misaki Ito. And this is where worry for yours truly comes in. If the object of this particular game is merely for co-opted natsukashii purposes, it may end up becoming little more than a mourning for a day long gone, and not so much a celebration of the series’ enduring legacy.

Can a “good” Ranma 1/2 project be borne out of such a notion, even if this is little more than a rumor? One would like to believe so. Recently, we’ve seen a live action love comedy with bent toward the hyperbolically surreal in theaters last summer, but again- this was with a budget & talent able to do merely one film with enough energy and style to actually pull it off. And since that film didn’t do ideal business, it is feeling less and less probable that Japanese producers would even consider this possbility.

 

 

Yumekui Merry

A boy meets a magical girl, the lost inhabitant of another world. Despite her unrivaled prowess in fighting, this girl is confused and amnesiac, hoping only to get back home. Despite being clearly nonhuman, she has the appearance and emotions of a teenage girl. Will she find a way back home? Even if she does, will she really want to go, or will the burgeoning relationship hinted at with the male lead compel her to stay? Yumekui Merry has interesting character designs, good background music, and – refreshingly, given the stale setup – a male lead who is neither a parody of hypermasculinity (as Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann‘s Kamina was) nor a spineless noodle (as Evangelion’s Shinji was.)

Sadly, that last sentence contains all there is that is good about Yumekui Merry. Production values are terrible, pacing is worse than Witch Hunter Robin, and the writing lacks direction. Entire sequences are shown with a white background and crudely sketched faces. Certainly, this show contains many dream sequences, which can’t be expected to conform to reality, but just one look at Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica shows what can be done with alternate reality settings in a contemporary show. Merry’s low-budget lapses don’t even begin to compare.

A finished product?
Ask yourself: is this a finished product?

 

Mistleteinn is a properly epic adversary, if ridiculously flat: she is given no backstory and no personality beyond whimsy and naked cruelty. The sensei that serves as her vessel is foreshadowed as being two-faced and scheming, but there is no examination of why he wound up this way. The victory of the main characters over such unmitigated evil is predictable and boring, involving no real plot twists or justification. The heroes triumph against a vastly superior adversary because they are the heroes of the show, not because they have found the villain’s weakness, undergone training, unlocked the power of their heritage, or any other such pretext.

In the end Yumekui Merry assembles a lot of effects without causes. There is a parallel to Tom Stoppard’s existentialist work Rozencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, but in Stoppard’s work, it is made clear that the backstory exists and the appearance of arbitrary phenomena is a result of the perspective of the title characters. The audience knows what is going on, and is thus able to appreciate the confusion of the characters and how it results from a combination of circumstances. In Yumekui Merry, no one really knows what is going on – not the humans, not the dream demons, not the audience, nor, one suspects, the producers themselves.

Diary of an Anime Lived: The Slice of Life Age, Part 2

The first period of my anime fandom ended with my college years. While I never stopped watching anime, the age of discovery was over, and I saw relatively few new shows from 2003-2005. By the time I returned to active fandom in 2006, an entire generational shift had happened in anime.

Continue reading Diary of an Anime Lived: The Slice of Life Age, Part 2

Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths is not a light read.

It has been a while since I have done a graphic novel review, and this is a book I would recommend older teens to college age students to read. Shigeru Mizuki is considered to be a living mangaka legend, well respected and influential to generations of Japanese manga readers. His work GeGeGe no Kitaro, popularized the concept of youkai usage in manga, so if you mention either the title or author to any Japanese they definitely would know it.

However that work is still not avaliable in English, so rather last month at Mocca, I saw Drawn & Quarterly release one of Mizuki’s wartime memoirs, Onward Towards Our Noble Death. The story is a semi-autobiographical account from the mangaka’s own experiences fighting in World War II, where in real life he did survive and only lost an arm.

War is not a pretty thing, and as history pointed out, Japan took the role of a aggressor. American’s may know of the famous Bataan Death March, but Onward Towards Our Noble Death, is from the perspective of Japanese soldiers surviving and taking a last ditch desperate stand on the island to what is to be known as Papua New Guinea.

At the beginning of the book, there is a roll call of who is going to be in the unit/cast, but the simplistic style of Mizuki proves a challenge to keep a track of who’s who in the events of the story. There are detailed black and white depictions of background art, since that is what Mizuki is known for, comedic depictions of humans but great detail for background. The cultural notes from the text is quite interesting, and reading this book made me think that in war there really is not victor. There is always victims and hardships for both sides involved.

If you want to definitely want to see a comparison in film, Letters from Iwo Jima covers a similar scenario that Onward Towards Our Noble Death did.

 

Moshidora review

Moshidora(もしドラ). もし高校野球の女子マネージャーがドラッカーの『マネジメント』を読んだら “What if a high school baseball team’s girl manager reads Drucker’s “Management?” Such a long title. Continue reading Moshidora review

Diary of an Anime Lived: The Slice-of-Life Age, Part 1

Or, a caricature of how anime has evolved in the last 15 years.

Today, many of the most popular, acclaimed anime TV series are labeled “slice-of-life” shows: tragicomedies about the ups and downs of ordinary life like Honey and Clover, or quirky, plot-light ensemble comedies like Azumanga Daioh or K-ON!. It’s quite a shift from the kind of SF/fantasy anime that were being held up as exemplars in the late 1990s, back when I first became an anime fan, and it’s a shift that seems to track with the way my own life has changed since then.

Part 1: F&SF&E(va)
I have been a fantasy and science-fiction fan all of my life, and I started writing my own stories in those genres in elementary school. Being a stereotypical kind of nerd, complete with the thick glasses and the social awkwardness, the book that most moved and reassured me was Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game. Ender was both brutalized and brutal, a child praised and cursed with his gifts and the responsibilities they carried, and unable to relate to other children normally as a result. Card, at his best, portrayed characters with both compassion and hard-edged honesty about their flaws, particularly in the sequel, Speaker For The Dead. Despite my voracious appetite for novels by David Eddings, Terry Brooks, and Isaac Asimov, I never could find another SF writer who quite managed that balance in my younger years. His stories were not just cool, but moving, and true to the human condition as I understood then.

Would the Ender's Game manga look like this?

My attraction to anime was, at first, an extension of my love of SF and fantasy. Record of Lodoss Wars was actually the first anime I watched all the way through—and despite its rather elementary plot, it fulfilled my appetite for a different take on traditional Western fantasy. Ghost in the Shell of course fit the cerebral SF mold, not too unlike stories by Arthur C. Clarke or the movie Blade Runner. Akira at least had spectacle and the post-apocalyptic mood.

As many of you know, though, none of those shows captured my heart the way Neon Genesis Evangelion did. The words I used back then was: “this is a Japanese Ender’s Game.” On some forum in the deep recesses of the Internet, in 2001-2002, there are posts by me arguing the very same. While Ender and Shinji are very different characters, the situations they are thrust within are very similar: world-consequential battles where they have little say in their fates. Shinji, though, was much more “Asian” than Ender, the product of the parental neglect and tyranny endemic to many Asian and Asian-American households. It was easy for me to identify with him, and more closely than I could with Ender. And Eva at its best also had the same mix of brutality and compassion which I found so compelling in Card’s novels, though perhaps Anno was harder on his protagonists than Card ultimately was. There was a sense that he was expiating his own sins and trying to warn otaku of going down the same road in the original series and movies, a raw confessionalism that the polished remakes seem to lack.

I needed that hardness, that unflinching glance at the depths back then. Catharsis isn’t supposed to be painless. It felt like a new experience, to see a ”cartoon” do the sort of thing that Ender’s Game and Speaker For the Dead had done for me years before. And while it was new, it was also deeply continuous with my love of SF/F. Anime wasn’t really a separate thing for me then. It was one more notch alongside my copies of A Canticle for Leibowitz and Lord of the Rings and 2001: A Space Odyssey.

My voracious search for information about anime began around that time, and I discovered an entire world of anime and gaming that drew upon Eva’s well of dark, psychological SF. There was the story of Final Fantasy VII, Serial Experiments: Lain, and the later homage RahXephon. There were parodies, like Martian Successor Nadesico and Vandread. And if I wasn’t in the mood for SF, most anime series contained some fantastical elements, and not necessarily of the Western medieval variety like in Slayers or Lodoss Wars. Even the romances, which I was just beginning to discover, had overt fantasy elements: Ah My Goddess!, Kimagure Orange Road, Video Girl Ai, to name a few.

There were, in short, few shows that had no fantasy or SF elements on the radar of my fandom then. Little did I know that in those days, from 1999-2003—my college years, and the first period of my fandom—the ground had already begun to shift in the anime landscape.

To be continued in part 2: the hinge years


This is part of 21stcenturydigitalboy’s ongoing Diary of an Anime Livedseries, which is a blogosphere-wide series of articles about the intersection of anime and personal life.

 

A New York City evening with mangaka Natsume Ono

New York City manga fans recently had an opportunity to meet Natsume Ono, the author of not Simple, Ristorante Paradiso, Gente, and House of Falling Leaves. The titles just listed are works that are available in English, and from those works, Ristorante Paradiso and House of Falling Leaves have been adapted into anime. This event took place at midtown’s Kinokuniya. There was an author talk, and then book signing. Since there were so many fans, everyone was allowed only one item to be signed.

Due to the author’s camera shyness, there was a no photo policy, but the table where the talk was conducted was filled with her manga in English and Japanese, so I snapped a photo of that. The author talk was conducted by Megumi Sato of Samurai Beat Radio, and the event began slightly early since the space was packed with appreciative fans.

I didn’t have my recorder, but with my iPad I spent the event tapping away at notes, so this entry is going to be summing of my notes. Natsume Ono was physically petite, and looking at her, you definitely wouldn’t believe that she is over 30. She was a soft spoken women with long wavy hair and glasses. She was dressed in an outfit that was of typical Japanese fashion, that a friend commented probably won’t be as popular in the U.S. (Simple orange toned shirt dress with a olive green leggings).

This was Natsume Ono’s first appearance at Kinokuniya, but not her first time in New York City. Her prior trip to New York City was to conduct research for a not translated manga titled Coppers, that depicts the New York Police Department.

Her inspiration for Ristorante Paradiso came as she was studying abroad at Italy. In Ristorante there is the mention of food a lot, so Ono mentions that she wanted to draw about everyday life. Eating provides a ready setting of conversation and what she wanted to depict. Family is also a very important part of her writing.

Personally, she loves her father, so there was a dango experience in her life.  One time when her father was not traveling with her and her mother, he personally arranged for dangos to be delivered to the ryokkan where they were staying at. So on the phone, he mentions that he wanted to share the same dessert at the same time they were having it.

She has a sweet tooth, but also likes alcohol, and potatoes… (french fries, and the U.S. has so many different type of fries). She is also a fan of Hill Street Blues, and REM. In a typical work day, she starts early, but as the day goes longer…she would end up drinking alcohol, then working some more, with finally falling asleep. (Typical salary man behavior as Megumi comments). There are typically no established days that she gets to take off with nothing to do, but if there are things to do with friends and family, off she goes.

She has drawn a version of something similar to herself in La Quinta Camera, and this is a work that would be translated/released around July. Ono is set to have a new series at this time in the Japanese version of ikki, the work is untitled. But is set in Edo featuring two men around Kawasaki Temple. She wants to eventually experience writing fantasy or a manga work with lots and lots of characters.

By this time the audience question segment came on, and there were questions about what inspires her. She stated that she was very impressed by the anime adaptations, since it went beyond her expectations. When inquired about Ristorante Paradiso and the many gentleman’s appearances. She confirms to female sequels in the audience that she has a thing for reading glasses.

After the audience questions, a line began for her book signing, and I am very impressed. She drew for every fan a depiction of their favorite character. When it was my turn, I request for a picture of Gigi, and I got this cute image of him eating. I also got a postcard depicting images of the Ono Kuma, (Natsume Ono’s mascot). I was pretty happy, and ended up also with another autograph image of Claudio, a friend of mine was great to wait on line for me. (Can I just say that I really liked Ristorante Paradiso a lot, when I first watched the series.)

Now several days later, I am still feeling happy from my experience at meeting Natsume Ono. I am crossing my fingers here, Natsume Ono as a writer has also written several bl manga, under the name of Basso. So I spent some time trying to think about any publishers that would snap up her older works. Kodansha USA maybe for her Coppers work, or what other publisher in the United States would want to publish her bl-works? DMP?

May 29, 2011 EDIT: Samurai Beat Radio has actual audio podcast of event, so here check out Part 1 and Part 2.

Bridging The Gap: Live Action Cobra – Why No Panic?

 

Flare up your favorite Cuban, and shine your psychoguns, the news is now feeling very real. Nearly a week ago, the folks at AICN revealed a surprising piece of promotional art that pretty much stopped me dead in my nonbelieving tracks. Upon first hearing that French horror favorite, Alexandre Aja was looking to step beyond the confines of scream fuel, and take on a manga icon even less known stateside than Mach Go! Go! Go!, my first reaction was simple; another director’s dream project, never to come to fruition. As I just mentioned, with such a title that has more recognition in Europe than here, a big budget live-action version of Buichi Terasawa’s Space Adventure Cobra seemed doomed to remain collecting dust in some development dustbin somewhere. But to finally see this poster, it is hard to express in words how surreal a feeling it is to even see this considered. And seeing as how the anime version was mostly sheperded by the just recently late, great Osamu Dezaki, a part of me feels mixed, and yet strangely hopeful that we will see a grand compliment to both creators in what is clearly something that the recent AKIRA flap feels nothing like; a labor of deep love.

So for those unfamiliar with the character, and the super-retro high romantic sci-fi fantasy world he wreaks havoc upon, here’s a little breakdown: Cobra features the adventures of a one-time self-administered amnesiac coming to terms with his former life as a brazen & wily space pirate as he performs all a manner of thievery & derring-do in a distant future complete with human & alien civilizations co-existing in distant galaxies, all the while dodging the near omnipotent hand of the space-mafia like Guild; a rogues’ gallery of weird villains. Mix this Star Wars-esque universe with enough love for the wilder early James Bond films, as well as a hopelessly old-world regard for those films’ feminine elements. That’s right, Cobra almost always seems to get himself in enough trouble that he is often seen saving, or receiving assistance from any variety of exotic women.

Further adding to the campy flavor of the original manga, Cobra’s main partner-in-crime is a Sorayama-like cyborg, Lady Armaroid, an ever loyal, and serious counterpart to our often aloof hero. And let’s not forget Cobra’s signature cannon for an arm & ever-present cigar, and one has one of the more iconic characters to come from Japan that never really hit it big here. As part of the whole “space war” obsession Japan media dabbled with for a bulk of the decade, Cobra represented a longing for another era of high adventure that possibly went a long way toward inspiring cosmetically similar projects such as Dirty Pair & even Cowboy Bebop.

(Only recently did Cobra receive a little 30 year revival, and remains one of the very last projects to bear the name of Dezaki, who has long been a favorite of mine.)

My first exposure to the franchise was, naturally via the Matthew Sweet music video for the track, Girlfriend, which was something of a revelation moment for me as I almost instantly recognized the animation & art style. And being a big admirer of the 1983 Golgo 13 movie, my desire to see this earlier film was something of a holy grail chase that ended years later when Urban Vision brought the film dubbed to US audiences. And by that time, the name of Osamu Dezaki was already a well-regarded one in the domicile, as one of the early anime guard with a flare for character iconography, and incredibly versatile hand-drawn mastery. The Cobra movie, while by all accounts typical of a compressed movie version of a much longer story, remains a fun remnant of a Japan ready to embrace escapism with loving, manly arms, and with a wink of an eye. It wasn’t until years later that I was able to delve into the original tv series, as well as some of the Terasawa manga.

Which leads me to why I’m nowhere near as bothered about this project as I had been over the Hughes Brothers’ apparent clusterpunk of an AKIRA adaptation. The simple fact is that as something that has less of a fan-centered shadow stateside, perhaps this is the kind of project that can be the making of a cult anomaly. A part of me still envies many a fan from europe who grew up watching the original television series, and over the years have wondered why this hadn’t been brought up before. Looking back it seems as if this had been something of a dream project for someone to eventually take on. (Anyone remember the meetup between Terasawa & La Femme Nikita/ Leon director Luc Besson in the mid-90s? And anyone else notice a little Cobra DNA well nestled within the color & camp of his cult-fave, The Fifth Element?) It’s always felt inevitable, and it’s nice to see it in the hands of a director known for being able to push the energy button when necessary. Now surely, there is worry that is valid since Aja’s filmography has largely been centered on either relentlessly dark horror tales, or shamelessly hyperbolic 3D revamps, but a part of me feels that horror has never been terribly far from humor, which is very necessary when dealing with the over the top world that Cobra inhabits. Not everyone can mix laughs with tension, which is why I’m looking forward to seeing Aja give this a go, even if it’s a leap outside his normal realm. One of Aja’s biggest strengths is his lack of fear when dealing with just how crazy his films can get. He can be pretty unhinged when he wants, and even when one thinks it can’t get crazier. And that’s something of a boost in my mind.  Call me silly, I’d rather have this than another production by non-understanding Hollywood committee. And besides, something tells me, Besson is watching closely. And with that comes a little added dash of faith.

Cobra is at its most memorable, a wild, sexy, and fun fantasy world rife with some real potential for a global movie project. Now from what I’ve gathered, they may be taking on the ever-popular Royal Sisters story, which could go either way on us, especially in lieu of how much has changed in the world since the manga. But as an admitted fan of the oversimplified 1982 movie, I’m eager to see how much Aja is willing to bring into the live version. Personally, I’d love to see a truly psychotic, and visually impressive Crystal Boy brought to the big screen. (Creepy internals and all.) Maybe we’ll see some Rugball(!!). If anything, this all feels like a project made with energy and enthusiasm for the source material, because otherwise, it really doesn’t scream box office, particularly to an audience not familiar with the character, or the world he lives in. And that’s something that has me curious.

 

Oooh...