Tag Archives: shoujo

Madhouse/Team Chihayafuru Press Conference

Takuya Tsunoki (producer), Kunihiko Hamada (animation director), and Asaka Morio (director).

This is the full transcript/translation of Madhouse’s Chihayafuru production team at their press conference during Anime Expo 2012. The team consists of Asaka Morio (director), Kunihiko Hamada (animation director), and Takuya Tsunoki (producer). Morio did most of the speaking, and is known for directing other shoujo works such as Card Captor Sakura and Yawara! A Fashionable Judo Girl and others.

Translation help provided by KylaranAeldin of The Nihon Review. Our questions are bolded and underlined. This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Was there anything about Chihayafuru that made you want to take on this project?
ASAKA MORIO
: The idea was just to make the original manga into an anime.  Since the manga was about karuta, we simply had to do it. In so far as we had to do an anime about karuta, even if it was difficult, it was necessary.

Has the anime spread knowledge of karuta and made the game more popular?
MORIO
(translator paraphrase): well, basically there aren’t a lot of people who play karuta in Japan, but because of the anime, there were more people playing karuta than before.

Do you play karuta yourselves? How good are you?
MORIO
: I don’t play at all. I’m terrible.
KUNIHIKO HAMADA
: Same.
TAKUYA TSUNOKI:
Sorry, but I also don’t really play karuta… At first, when we started making the anime, we were all talking about making our own team and joining a competition, but that never ended up happening. We instead put all of our passion into making the anime. All three of us are basically newbies.

Chihayafuru is billed as a shoujo anime, but it has appeals to boys as well. Why do you think that is?
MORIO
: Well, the original manga is serialized in a publication for girls, but what is being told is a story about high schoolers deeply passionate about their afterschool activities. I think that part reaches out to both guys and girls.

What is special about the character of Chihaya and what draws you to her?*
MORIO
: I see… This may be different from what the original author is thinking, but in terms of Chihayafuru, the main character Chihaya is incredibly straightforward, which is an incredibly important axis for the entire series. I think that might be why it’s her.

Do American action movies have an influence on your scenes?
MORIO
: Well… Er, I do like movies, so I might be influenced by them unconsciously. We don’t make an anime with the intent to draw from some other work, but I do think that there are influences from what we normally watch. What I mostly watch— in Japan, there’s a lot of American films shown, so there’s probably some influence there.

Last year Madhouse lost director Osamu Dezaki. How has the studio taken his passing and what influence, if any, did you take from his work?
MORIO
: Dezaki-san is someone that everyone in the industry respects, so there’s a lot of people who’ve been influenced by him in addition to us.

Did you ever expect Chihayafuru to get such a warm international reception?
MORIO
: Nope, we didn’t expect it at all. See, we didn’t even know the best way to get Japanese to like it, so difficult a theme it was. To come to America and talk to people about it something was far from what we were thinking.

The anime was incredibly well done in terms of moving the plot and developing characters while explaining karuta. How did you balance all these elements?
MORIO
: Oh, so people see it as being executed smoothly. That’s pretty… *laugh* “Honestly, did people here see it as smoothly done?” I wonder.

What is the most important element to make a good anime series?
MORIO
: It might depend on the type of work involved, but for producers and directors, we think the most important thing is… probably, how well people can be drawn into the anime’s world. I think our job is to create a believable imaginary world. For example, with Chihaya, we want people to feel like they can see the characters and look all over the place, along with telling that to our staff. So, getting people sucked into the world is very important.

You created different works with a female characters as leads, but it seems that men seem to get into your shows more than others. Why do you think that is?
MORIO
: Well, as me mentioned earlier there’s that part about the character’s passions, but… Even though I’m a guy, I like girl’s manga. How do I put this? I don’t really think it matters that the main character is a girl.

(Card Captor) Sakura was the first winner of SaiMoe competition, and the show was one of the very first series to popularize moe culture. What’s your reaction to being one of the formative influences on the current moe trend?
MORIO
: Um, I don’t really know that much about moe culture, but Cardcaptor Sakura was a show for little girls and their mothers. So, um… I wasn’t aiming to make a “moe” product or anything, so I don’t really understand moe.

How would each of you define your own artistic styles?
MORIO
: I’ve never thought of trying to put a piece of myself into a piece of work before. Depending on the show, the style is going to change, so each one is unique. We emphasize that when we work, so… Personally, I haven’t tried to put a part of my personality in my work. I think it’s something that’s within the work already. However, from other people’s point of view, there might be a semblance of something, but I don’t try to do it myself.

What are your feelings about the late Satoshi Kon’s unfinished film? (Dreaming Machine)
MORIO
: We knew about his condition from even before he passed away. I think his passing was really unfortunate because he had a lot of talent. Um, it’s really a shame [a waste]. He should’ve been someone to continue living and making interesting anime….We do know that was in the middle of a project before his death, but unfortunately, nothing’s been done to it due to his passing.

How did you come up with the musical motifs in the show, and how much was the composer’s input vs yours?
MORIO
: Well, the one who made the music was our composer, but what I ordered to be done was… Since the show is about the youthful times of high schoolers, I ordered lively music to be made.

While Chihaya is the main character, Kana Oe is very popular among fans, the one they want to be their girlfriend. Which one of the girls do each of you prefer?
MORIO
: You’re asking me about my favorite girl character? [Translator: Yes.] The only two choices are Kana-chan or Chihaya. Not a lot of options are there? From those two choices, maybe Chihaya. Kana-chan sounds like she would be annoying. She has big boobs though.
HAMADA
: I– If I had to choose, Kana-chan I think. If it was Chihaya, it’d be a bit hard to get on the same page with her. So, I definitely if I had to pick it’d be Kana-chan.
TAKUYA
: I like Kana-chan too. My wife is short, but… well, her breast size is a secret. But I do think some of her traits resemble those of Kana-chan’s, she’s my pick.

When did you decide to use certain directorial techniques in each scene, particularly motion scenes?
MORIO
: It differs from scene to scene, but for that first scene, there first poem that’s read in the Hyakunin Isshu (100 Poets)—Naniwazu ni. There’s a poem that starts with that, and the poem talks about a flower. That flower is the Sakura, so we decided to animate Sakura.

Did you deliberately try to correlate the flowers in the poems to the visuals on screen?
MORIO
: At first, we did try to match the flowers in the poems with the scenes. Other than that, the characters. Like flowers blossoming behind Kana-chan or something. We didn’t do it for male characters though. That part was based on the atmosphere as a girl’s manga plus the character themselves.

Did you get any help or cooperation from the official karuta league or organization in Japan?
TAKUYA
: Um, there’s a group called the All Japan Karuta Organization. Even in Japan karuta isn’t that big, but there are groups that want to make it popular and we did get some help from them. We learned things like the order to place the cards, so they helped us in those areas.

Are you thinking of any co-branded marketing, like, say, branded card decks?
MORIO
: We haven’t thought of something like that at all. What’s used in competitions already has a set design, so they can’t create their own.

Madhouse is known for darker works like Yoshiaki Kawajiri’s Wicked City, Ninja Scroll, etc. You tend to do lighter works. Which one is closer to Madhouse’s identity?
MORIO
: None in particular. Some of the stuff I’ve worked on before is dark, like one where the characters may be bright and happy but the story itself isn’t. It’s not like I’m always picking light-hearted shoujo manga to adapt.

*This was not the original question asked, which was: “What draws you to making stories about strong female protagonists?” It was lost in translation.

Chihayafuru: The Rules of the Shoujo Game

Strategy.

Early in its run, I remarked on Twitter that Chihayafuru was an example of how good writers can make any situation and any subject interesting. This is because what a good writer can do is make almost any specific experience or subject matter universally relatable. Someone may not necessarily know much about the exact rules of karuta, but he or she will know what it’s like to find new friends and do things together with them, and how painful it is to part after being together for a while. Karuta is just a catalyst, or an organizing principle, in which the human drama can play out.

The first few episodes of Chihayafuru started this way, with plenty of subtext and hints of things to come: for instance, Chihaya’s neglectful home situation, the rivalry between Taichi and Arata, the implicit love triangle between the three of them. Chihaya’s enthusiasm, concern for the outcast, and diligence are infectious and make her a surprisingly likable protagonist—especially later on, when some of her actions might seem grating and obnoxious were it done by someone in reality. (No doubt, it also helps that she is pretty, and seems to have a soft spot for lonely nerds. If only there was someone like that in my life at that age—ahem, moving on…) Taichi, too, comes off as initially unsympathetic compared to Arata, but his character grows over time and matures subtly.

All this happens while large amounts of screen time is given to the game itself, to a degree that often feels like the show is sponsored by whatever official league might exist for karuta in Japan. Various strategies for passing cards are discussed, in detail. The etymology, and later the meaning, of many of the poems of the Hundred Poets is lovingly explained (and indeed, given the name of our heroine and the show itself, this is an important detail). The swiping of cards is presented with such kinetic force it manages to make the game feel badass. To a large extent, the show actually serves an educational function, though if the game is played in most elementary schools (as I’ve read), one might wonder why the show forms such an extensive tutorial in the basics. I walked into this show knowing nothing about the game, and now, after watching 10 episodes, I have a grasp of the basics.

The problem is: I’m beginning to feel like it’s a bit much in the game-focusing department. The sense nagged me even as early as the childhood arc in the beginning, and it’s gotten moreso over time.

Not hating the game: worth a dozen shoujo sparkles

More specifically, the game is frequently called upon to serve as the singular metaphor or analogy for what the characters are going through, and it’s getting more and more strained. Chihaya’s frequent declarations, both as a child and as a teen, that all she wants is to play karuta forever and that karuta will bring them all together is overstated. So, too, are the stories of Arata and Nishida (Porky), in which their lack of playing the game is the chief sign of their trauma—and of course it’s up to cheerful, persistent Chihaya to coax them back into the game, and thus into friendship? love? (Shades of Fruits Basket here; this is a very shoujo-y kind of thing.) Taichi, who is the most complex character of the lot, is also the only character who doesn’t seem to be basing his entire life around playing, or not playing, karuta. The attitudes toward the game actually kind of typecast most of the characters and define their roles in the story.

I think this is fine in the initial stages, but I’d like to see the more overtly human element pick up more emphasis as the series continues. We’re seeing some good hints of that, fortunately—Chihaya’s sweet 16 was a particularly well-handled scene, if a tad melodramatic. Part of Chihaya’s maturing, no doubt, is to be able to grasp her own feelings beyond the filter of the game and understand what the pining Taichi, and the hurting Arata (among others) are trying to say. The exclusivity of that filter so far has been a little grating. Yes, I know, a lot of it is not-very-subtle sublimation. It just feels somewhat, well, overused.

But only somewhat. The show has charmed me and I’m glad I caught up on it. Its earnestness and likability is a good counterpoint to the cynical Mirai Nikki, and it stuns me that this isn’t a Noitamina title and Guilty Crown is. (More on that one in a future article…)

Kamisama Kiss – Are you sure you want to be kissed?

Kamisama Kiss
Story and Art by Julietta Suzuki
Published by Viz Media/Shojo Beat. 200 pages. 2010 $9.99

Nanami Momozono is quite alone after her deadbeat father ran out on her. She unwittingly becomes a Tochigami, after she saves a man from being mauled, and accepts his offer of staying at his home. Adjusting to being a god is not easy, especially with the shrine’s Shinshi, Tomoe a fox youkai. How can she even adjust, and just what would she have to give up? As a god, in order to get the obedience of youkai for her shrine, she has to kiss him.. (Tomoe). If Tomoe hates her guts then what?

Now what is a Tochigami and a Shinshi? As the book describes it, they are a location god and a familiar. I was pretty amused by this story, since it reminded me of a lot of Chinese mythical folk tales, such as the aspect of 土地公. That’s what I thought when I read of Nanami’s role. Then I thought of Tomoe as the image below.

Julietta Suzuki shouldn’t be as unfamiliar to manga readers. She has published Karakuri Odette in the past, and it happened to be a MMF pick. So this is her newest manga to be published in the United States. On Amazon, there is three more volumes scheduled to be released this year. Volume 2 has already been released.

Now what points that made me smile about this series:

  • Has been a while for me on seeing a deadbeat father. I am not surprised, but it has been a while, since I see this concept (Ranam 1/2), or in Japanaese dramas (Atashinchi no Danshi).
  • Himemiko of the Swamp, though she is a fish makes for a pretty cute schoolgirl. She also has a tick that makes her interesting to look at.  She is a fish with a motive though, trying to confess to a human boy she likes.
  • The dialogue between Nanami and Tomoe amused me until I finished reading the book, and hoped for more.
Who looks more dismayed?

 

Dengeki Daisy: trust and temptation of an unlikely relationship.

Dengeki Daisy
Story and Art by Kyousuke Motomi
Published by Viz Media. 192 pages. 2010. $9.99

There must be a low tolerance level to reading about the actions of a puny A-cup High School Girl and a lolicon delinquent custodian in this Daddy Longlegs-esque story. There is certainly chemistry in this highly unlikely pairing. Really, I honestly swear. I definitely want to read more, beyond the three volumes I just recently consumed. There are five more volumes available so far in Japanese.

Teru is a scholarship high school that is left alone with her brother’s death. Sure there’s a unique gang of friends who looks out for her, but she relies more on the attentions of a secret person known to her as Daisy. What is unknown to her is that Daisy is in fact very close to her. Daisy is in the form of a Kurosaki, who is determined to overwork Teru, on the basics of treating her like a servant. If you think that tsundere was a anime female characterstic, how about try it for a male character, what do they call those types anyway?

I was mostly cracking up to the insane expressions that Teru or Kurosaki gets when things don’t go their way. In spite of how much I don’t mind the funny moments of this story, sometimes the actions of Kurosaki does make me want to strangle him if he was alive. He won’t reveal his identity to Teru, and in these emo moments he reflects on an unspoken and not revealed yet reason as why he doesn’t openly confess his feelings.  Yet with all these emotional tormented scenes, (sighs) the parts when Kurosaki rescues Teru, or reveals a part of himself to her, my heart goes pitter patter.

For probably reading similarities, for a type of servant commanding apect, Zombie Loan is a good fit. For the protector and unspoken role, Wild Ones would be a similar read. For the dead brother, and age gap aspect, Loveless is also another similar read.

Poor Teru!

Happy Cafe: Light hearted story about yet another dense lead

Happy Cafe
Story and Art by Kou Matsuzuki
Published by Tokyopop. 192 pages. 2009. $10.99

Easily one of the things I notice about this series is the covers for each of the volumes, and then when you look at the page under the cover, you’ll probably laugh as I did. Because for every serious pose there is on the cover. There’s always a funny NG or parody of the main cover image on the insert page. I noticed the same exact treatment within the pages of Wild Ones. Another similar point  to make about the cover page is the fact that there is always three characters.

Happy Cafe is another shoujo title that I have been reading. It looks to be finished at 15 volumes, so English once again has some catch up to do. I have only read up to volume six so far. Now Uru is a high school student who gets mistaken to be a child a lot, because of her short statue. She is also very very strong, and very determined to not be in the way of her mother’s happiness. She gets hired to work at the Cafe Bonheur, where at the first volume, she meets two guys Shindo who is the unsmiling patisserie chef, and Ichiro, her co-worker who falls asleep when he’s hungry.

Despite her appearance and personality, she attracts nearly every single guy around her. I am pretty interested in seeing who Uru ends up with. Somehow the main pairing seems to be Shindo and Uru, since they won’t talk about their feelings for one another, but somehow into the mix gets thrown in Ichiro and a lot of other shoujo type-supporting characters.

If you want to read any other similar titles, for the dense and unassuming female lead check out Haruhana by by Yuana Kazumi. For the bakery setting read Antique Bakery by Fumi Yoshinaga. Working as an anime series, should be the most similar pair for this type of book title.

I.O.N – Nothing scientific here!

Another of Arina Tanemura’s works. This is actually for her first full length manga of short stories. So the art is not as pretty as her later manga release such as The Gentleman’s Alliance Cross, Full Moon or Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne, but you still see the style of Tanemura, and probably similar works from that time. Any creator/artists always has to have a beginning somewhere, so if you want to even see what Tanemura’s initial artwork looked like, then voila!

I.O.N is about a girl who is pursuit by one boy, and falls for another boy, based on his ambition. Throw in some telekinesis power as well. Since this is a very simple shoujo series.. there is some reasons for picking up this book.

  • Fan of Tanemura’s works! So reading any title of her is a must.
  • Message of this story is quite uplifting. To definitely believe in one’s self.. and I thought it was quite neat as Ion often chants her name – I-O-N and something happens. Though the plot is slightly far fetched.. when Ion teaches Mikado to say Mi-Ka-Do.. that is quite optimistic.
  • With this one shot, I thought that there should be more mention of Ion’s mothers. The one shot spoke too little of Ion’s mother, so it is with a new hope that the new chapter probably has more mention of her. Perhaps this is a fate of something new.
  • Tanemura is going to be re-visting this series. ANN announced that she wrote a new chapter for I.O.N. So isn’t that cause for needing to go back and read this title then?
  • Read-alikes for this series… magical girl meets romance titles. You can probably pick and choose what to read. Want title suggestions?
Look!

Monkey High – Opposites attract in an interesting way.

No one would really want to be in the shoes of Haruna Aizawa, not after her politician father gets booted out of office for corruption charges. So with a “bright future” obviously out the window, Haruna transfers to a  nameless local high school. First day there, she mentally labels the description of monkey for a majority of the students there. So what happens if she begins to like Macharu (Masaru), a goofball classmate – who is around her height and definitely opposite in personality to Haruna. Everyone else thought that Haruna would end up with Atsu, who is the class’s reigning cutie. So Haruna falling for Macharu is definitely something unique.

We Go Together... ^_ ^

Reasons why you would want to check out this title:

  • Medium length series – there’s only eight volumes to read through. All published in English by Shoujo Beat
  • Funny.. I am quite tickled and definitely enjoying parts where people realize that there is a relationship between the two leads..
  • It is sweet/fluffy enough so that readers can say awwww..
  • Read alike is probably – based on the height and comedy aspects – Love.com aka Lovely Complex, that I wrote a movie review for a while ago.

The Gentlemen’s Alliance Cross – Tanemura ai!


Buy Gentlemen’s Alliance +, Vol. 1
by Arina Tanemura Published by Viz Media. 208 pages 2007. $8.99

Since I started to frequent a library in one of New York’s three library systems – my reading of Shoujo manga has increased. It is not to say that I don’t sample any type of manga – but there are more and more English translated graphic novels to tackle, and the library has more shoujo that catches my eye.

The plot in The Gentleman’s Alliance Cross, is quite interesting. Yanki girl who was sold off to repay a family’s loan, eventually catches the eye of the richest guy in her school. From there, she has to win the approval, win her love, and gain happiness. Does that catch you or what? It caught me.

The mangaka for The Gentleman’s Alliance Cross is Arina Tanemura, who’s has some previous works already released in English and released by Shoujo Beat. Time Strange Kyoko, Full Moon, ION.

Her dreams realized?

This gem of an image is from Volume 11, the final volume in the series,  and it reminds me so much of Tanemura’s earlier work of Kamikaze Kaito Jeanne, which is released in English, and currently out of print with the defunct CMX Press.

Within the series of The Gentleman’s Cross, Tanemura has some fantastic artist comments on the side. These are points that she made that I definitely found to be of interest.

  • She has an Japanese active blog.
  • This the first series, where she has drawn and interacted the most varied character in the cast, and trying to catch up with it, is a bit confusing – since some authors do draw character so similar to the point where you’re like “huh”…but it is fantastic shoujo representation. At least though, differentiating between characters is not as bad as trying to differentiate in Korean manhwa. The mangaka mentions that she gave a majority of the character the same surname, so that it won’t be so confusing to name.
  • She also made some of her viewpoints. Other than finding out that she is a pretty big gamer, I found out that this series is her response to the popular bl-fandom pairings – and she is not a bl-fan. So this series introduces her opinion as to what is the solution of bl-pairing. Cross-dress anyone?

So before I write way too much than readers can go on reading, and since my heart is positively giddy with the feelings of her work. Reasons why you would enjoy reading this series.

  • There’s an element of action drama, not just romance drama that saturates a lot of other shoujo manga.(*cough* I am not naming names… and no I did not review any of those mangaka – not on this blog yet…) This series also has angst. I was mentally bouncing up and down, as I saw Haine in yanki garb.
  • Want to see lots of lovely shoujo images, cute girls. Fashion fashion fashion!
  • Read a-likes for this series obviously are Baka To Test for the matter that there are specific hierarchy mentioned, and cross dressing characters. SA – for the fact that this is the student council, and everyone’s pretty filthy rich. I won’t really say that Ouran High School Host Club is also a read alike – but if you count the element of dark pasts, then yes.. that is also a read alike.  Shugo Chara is also a read alike – based on the fact that there is the mysterious element of characters in this series.
  • Love triangles fits for many shoujo series, so this one is not any other difference.
  • Want read a long yet not so long series. This series is done with 11 volumes.
Isn't she cute?

Any other points I missed? Read this title, if you definitely feel like reading a shoujo, and know that one is not is as frilly as everything else.

Yakuza and Shoujo of “Wild Ones” = Love in the Air!

Yakuza Princess meet World and Entities!

Buy Wild Ones, Vol. 1
by Kiyo Fujiwara. Published by Viz Media. 200 pages. 2007. $8.99

Sachie Wakamura never imagined that she would lose her beloved mother, but she did. Since she was a minor, she was sent to live with her maternal grandfather who she has never met. Her grandfather is revealed to be the head of a yakuza gang. So you can imagine Sachie’s dismay as she was assigned a bodyguard, and forced to conceal her family’s business. There are more adventures for Sachie, as she goes through high school, foremost is considering her feelings for Rakuto Igarashi, her bodyguard/caretaker, and any other plot development or character interaction the mangaka writes in.

This is a fairly normal shoujo title variety, with beautiful girls/boys, love triangles, and happy endings for all. Why am I even thinking about recommending this series, for several reasons… some superficial and some profound.

  1. I have been on a slight shoujo kick, so getting to read this entire series was courtesy of Teen Central at New York Public Library.
  2. Hard boiled looking male supporting characters. I love the romantic image of Yakuza… reminds me of specific characters. Quite cute to read through.
  3. Sadistic yet pretty boy male lead, with a clumsy yet sincere female. Plenty of romantic imagery is in the series.
  4. I loved the covers for a majority of this manga series – all with red backgrounds, and nice pose. There are some spoofs with the covers, that warrants a chuckle or so.
  5. This is definitely a female/teen comparison for the more shonen/Great Teacher Onizuka comparison type  for Gokusen, of which there are 15 volumes of manga, 13 episode of anime, and about three seasons of live action. Both series has female heiress to a yakuza group, loving grandfathers,  a need to conceal existence of  group, and all the while trying to see if there is going to be a love story for themselves. (I saw this in the live action, whereas the manga is on my to be read list.)

If you are attracted by this entry, do check out this ten volume series by Kiyo Fujiwara and released as part of Shojo Beat’s line of manga. There’s a preview of the actual manga on the Shojo Beat site.

Kimi ni Todoke: Or, Why I Cheer for Sawako

jpg00087.jpg

You are a self-doubting, introverted, and scary-looking high school student. Deep down you are a kind and considerate person, but because you are awkward, people think you’re strange and naturally avoid you. You long to be liked by others–anyone, really, though the most popular and attractive member of the opposite sex would be nice. But because you know it’s impossible, you sigh in resignation every time they call you names. It’s all right. You got used to it a long time ago. It’s not going to change anyway, so why get worked up about it?

Was this you in high school, in part or in whole? It was me to a large degree. (Even little kids at one point called me, quote, “creepy.”) It was also Sawako Kuronuma, in Kimi no Todoke (Reaching You)–and then, with the smile of one special boy and everything that followed, Sawako’s (along with almost every shy, lonely introvert’s) dreams started to come true.

How could this not be a joy to watch?

Continue reading Kimi ni Todoke: Or, Why I Cheer for Sawako