Monday, November 30, 2009

October/November edition of the "related articles in the media"

Here's the batch of articles to show up in the media from October and November, regarding anime, manga and related stuff. Sorry about not running this entry sooner - there wasn't as much to include regarding just October, and nothing particularly worth repeating right away.

Japan Times

Ex-Prime Minister Koizumi to voice act in new Ultraman movie

Foreign filmmaker wrestles with legacy of manga hero

Shogakukan Publishing to halt magazines running Doraemon and Pocket Monsters

Jobs, animation drive popularity of learning Japanese

Areview of RED SNOW, by Susumu Katsumata



Probably one of the weakest elements of the Metropolis' new website design is the "Multimedia" section. The problem is that they don't give you a way to access articles from previous weeks. The "Saikin Spotlight" will occasionally highlight a given manga title, but if you want to go back and read the article you can't, cause it's not in the archives. Anyway, here's the important part from the Oct. 9 issue:

"The crossover is a classic plot device in the world of nerd entertainment. What kid didn’t totally geek out reading about Batman and Superman bashing bad guys, or when Wolverine and Chun-Li paired up for a round of fisticuffs in Marvel vs Capcom? But one manga artist has dreamed up a truly heavenly storyline. Imagine this: Jesus and Buddha, spending their “vacation” by experiencing the mortal world from their shared apartment in Tokyo’s Tachikawa area. Ongoing series Sei Oniisan (Saint Young Men) brings you this impossible duo as your classic odd couple, with Buddha the tightwad playing straight man to Jesus’ impulsive and laid-back funny man persona. Watch as this dynamic duo discovers the joys of Mixi, public baths and Disneyland, while realizing just how little their divinity matters in the modern world. Part divine gag comedy, part social statement, this manga can probably rouse up a few snickers no matter what your denomination."

I love the caption "Japan's new media sensations blur the line between the real and the imaginary". This "virtual idol" is neither new nor revolutionary. The Gorillaz showed us that. All we're getting now is an elaboration on a theme.
Virtual Idols

Hiroki Azuma, the philospher of otaku speaks out

Otaku Fighters

Anime Festival Asia 2009

I really should stop reading anything by Galbraith. The way he twists his descriptions and constantly works to make otaku look bad never seems to change. So I keep ending up complaining about him here. It's interesting that Galbraith makes Tezuka look like a "me-too" copycat for his "sexualization of young girls" when Tezuka was at the forefront of trying to use manga to help educate children about topics the government couldn't handle. I guess I shouldn't expect more from the Met, but Galbraith's visibility in one of the few English entertainment information magazines in Japan makes his misinformation that much harder to ignore.



It's not actually manga, but I really do like the "Asterix and Obelix" books. The silly thing here though is that the below story ran in the Daily Yomiuri paper, yet it doesn't exist in the Yomiuri's online archives. Yet more proof that the English papers in Japan consist mostly of stories clipped from other sources, and have very little original reporting from their own staff.
Half a century on, Asterix retains his magic

Meiji University opens manga, subculture library

Baseball player who inspired comic character runs yakitori restaurant

'Anime hall of fame' plan revised

Sunday, November 29, 2009

From the stack

Time to clear out more of my miscellaneous photos. I've got such a backlog of blog entry ideas that I have to start combining them again to catch up.


Back when I was visiting the Naiki Contemporary Manga Library and the Tezuka mural at Takadanobaba, I was walking along Waseda Dori on my way back to the Takadanobaba station when I found this pastry shop. Mostly, they just had bread and rolls in the display case, but the photo out front advertising "original creation cakes" caught my eye.

I think the Gundam artwork looks especially good.


It amazes me what you can find in Tokyo if you wander around enough. This is indeed a gallery displaying a variety of wooden and paper matches. Located just west of Takadanobaba station on Waseda Dori.


Another day, I went to Ochanomizu to visit the Yonezawa Subculture Manga Library, and walked past the Meiji University theater building with their ad for their performance of "Hamlet". I think it's interesting, what happens when a live stage play gets the manga treatment.


Yes, Japan, in its quest to make everything smaller, has gone that last remaining step!


Yodobashi Camera has spiffed up its spokescharacters for the new holiday season. Yo-chan, kawaii!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Bar Lupin

Those of you familiar with the Lupin III series probably know about Lupin's ancestry, and the fact that he's based on the original stories of Maurice LeBlanc's (1864-1941) "Gentleman Thief" - Arsene Lupin.

Bar Lupin first opened in Ginza in 1928, where it became the second home of writers like Ton Satomi, Kyoka Izumi Ken Kikuchi, Kafu Nagai and Yasunari Kawabata, as well as various painters, actors, and even medical practitioners. They renovated in 1935 to take on an L-shaped bar, and in 1941 the military government banned foreign names, so they renamed themselves "Pan-tei" ("Mansion Bread"). During the War, Ginza was the site of heavy bombing; although Lupin did escape a direct hit, the building became structurally unsound. Immediately after the War, the Urgent Bar Control Act prohibited the sale of alcohol, forcing Lupin to turn into a coffee shop while selling hard liquor secretly behind the scenes. Lupin remained a strong attraction to the publishing industry through all this. In 1972, water and gas leaks due to the building damage finally forced the owners tear the place down, so the bar owners tore out the interior and put it into storage. When the new structure was completed, the old interior was moved into the new basement in 1974.
-- From the pamphlet handed out at the bar.

(Sign board for Lupin.)

Lupin's just a few blocks from the JR Yurakucho station in a little side alley. I have no idea if there were any writers there that night, but the bartender did mix me up a smooth little martini, which was then followed by a splash of very good cognac. About 3400 yen for the two ($36 USD), but in Ginza, that's cheap. Arsene may be a thief, but he's a very elegant one. Good times.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Kamiigusa Kara

(The clear file.)

As part of the Gundam 30th Anniversary celebrations, the Suginami Animation Museum (SAM) is going to start showing the Gundam anime in its theater, starting in December. And, in conjunction with the city of Kamiigusa, where the bronze Gundam statue stands outside the train station, they also put on the Gundam stamp rally. Like most rallies, it's aimed at kids, and the prize for getting all of the stamps was just a clear file with a picture of the bronze statue on it. However, also like most stamp rallies, the stamps are high quality and worth keeping just for themselves. The rally was held from Nov. 26th to the 29th.

(Front of stamp card.)

The route was pretty simple. Pick up the card from the table at the station and get the first stamp there. Continue west along the tracks to the school grounds for stamp 4. Return to the station, turn right at the street and go inside the Aoyagi bakery and cafe for stamp 2 and to fill out a survey card (where you came from, how you learned about the rally, comments). Then keep going along the same street away from the station for at least a mile to get to SAM. At the counter on the 3rd floor is stamp 3. While you're there, look at the "Gundam and Kamiigusa" exhibit. Finally, backtrack to the station, follow the side street east along the tracks past the Sunrise building and enter the Genro stationery shop and cafe for stamp 5, the same survey form and to claim the clear file as your prize. Because I had my bike, I was able to finish the route in about 15 minutes, but I added to that time by stopping and talking to a number of people along the way (especially at SAM). I also returned to Aoyagi to buy some small cakes for 240 yen to snack on. (It was about 13 miles one-way along busy streets just to ride out there, and I was starting to get hungry. The cakes were good.)

(Back of card.)

As for the SAM exhibit, it was also interesting (from Nov. 25th to the 29th). Kamiigusi is the home to one of Sunrise's offices, and Sunrise is the company that produced the Gundam anime. So, the shop owners in the area have embraced Gundam as part of their own. The exhibit shows a number of the banners that have hung from the Kamiigusa street poles, photos of the creation of the statue and its eventual unveiling, and pictures of some of the store fronts that have Gundam paintings on their shutter doors. Along with the one shop I found, turns out that a dry cleaners also had a very nice painting. On SAM's fourth floor, there's a TV with a DVD player showing a story on the creation and unveiling of the statue as well. If you're a Gundam fan and live in the area, you'll definitely want to visit SAM to watch the anime in their theater. The anime showing runs from Dec. 1 to Feb. 21.

(Aoyagi store front close-up.)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Billy Bat

Volume 2 of the Billy Bat manga is now on sale, and it got the star treatment on the pillars in the central concourse of the Shinjuku JR station.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

GoFA - Ah, Megami-sama

A couple of weeks ago, I made mention in one of my composite, multi-topic posts that the Gallery of Fantastic Art (GoFA) was going to have an exhibit dedicated to the 21st anniversary of "Ah, Megami-sama". The exhibit started at the beginning of November, but for various reasons, I wasn't able to drop by until the 21st, and even then I didn't arrive until just before closing at 6:00 PM. Naturally, they don't allow cameras (the pictures here were taken of the advertising boards in the stairwell).

GoFa is primarily an office where they plan art sales, located on the second floor of the Oval building on Aoyama Dori, halfway between Omotesando Dori out of Harajuki, and Shibuya station. The office is on kind of a mezzanine floor that the elevators don't stop at - you have to take the fire escape stairs up. Although the office name is on the fire escape doors, the route is so off the wall that I couldn't believe that I was going the right way. That, plus the signs don't stand out much.

The exhibit isn't that big, essentially a 20' wide band at the front of the office space, running from the door across over to the balcony looking down at the main lobby entrance. Lots of pencil drawings of the Megami-sama characters, some finished ink drawings, a few litho prints and some posters for sale. The front of the exhibit includes t-shirts (4000 yen each) and post cards, and the back has 3 large statues of the goddesses sitting on pillars playing instruments, also for sale (if you saw the little figurines packaged with Afternoon magazine a couple of years ago, you know what statues I'm talking about). The art sale closed on Nov. 23 and reopen for a limited time in Osaka. There was an author signing at GoFA on the 21st (although it was long over by the time I arrived) so there may be another signing at the Osaka show. The next exhibit is going to be for "Saiyuki Reload" in December, with the author signing on the 27th and a janken event (rock-paper-scissors) on the 20th.

Entry to GoFA costs 500 yen, which gives you a coupon good for one free small coffee from the cafe on the first floor. The cafe also advertises a special "megami coffee" for 500 yen, which seems to be a cafe au lait with one of the goddess' pictures drawn on top of the milk foam in cinnamon powder. I didn't buy one, so the details will have to wait until later. Overall, this wasn't an event that I'd want to revisit, but if you're a "megami" fan, you'd probably want to get the manga sketch packet and maybe even brave the crowd to get a glimpse of the author.

If you're a "Saiyuki" fan, you'll want to be there on the 27th next month for the author signing.

GoFA is closed between events.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Origami Kaikan

The Origami Kaikan (International Origami Center) bills itself as the birthplace of origami. According to their English flier (available within the center), they were established in 1859, and were "the first company to produce and sell origami at the request of the Education Ministry", as well as being registered in the Bunkyo-ku cultural heritage list. They're in their own 6-story building, where on the fourth floor they make their own paper.

Floor 1 is the public display area. The second floor is normally closed to the public. The third floor has a classroom area and supplies shop, where they sell paper, pre-packaged kits with instructions and paper for specific patterns, and how-to books for both origami (paper folding) and kirikama (paper cutouts). Generally, either the primary teacher (sensei) is available for free classes, or one of the other staff members. When I was there, the sensei made little reindeer for the rapt audience.

(Set piece telling the story of Kintaro.)

The paper-making floor is open to the public, but the workers were on their lunch break. But, I'm kind of familiar with the process and didn't really need to watch it. The staff didn't try speaking English to me, but the sensei did use a few words when trying to get the idea of "reindeer" across to me. Both the front desk attendant and the sensei were very friendly and willing to talk, although the sensei couldn't spare much time from the Japanese customers who were there to learn how to make their own creations.

(Hinamatsuri set - Dolls Festival.)

As you can see from the photos, there's a mix of "oh my god, how can anyone make something like that", to "wow, that's elegant and simple at the same time". Origami purists refuse to use tape or scissors on their creations. The sensei here doesn't mind making a few key cuts to get the exact shape he wants. And, there are times when you want to use a marker or pen to draw in facial features when you're making a panorama setting like the Kintaro and Hinamatsuri pieces.

(2010 will be the Chinese Year of the Tiger.)

When I arrived, the sensei pointed out one of the students as having come from Texas. During one of the breaks, the woman came over and we started talking. Turned out she was attending university in Boston, and had just come in from a 1 month stay in China where her class had been studying entrepreneurship. She was flying out for the States on Saturday, and had 2 days to sight see in Tokyo. She'd found the Kaikan website and had dropped by just to see what it was like. We discussed a few places that she could get to easily (the sumo stadium in Ryogoku, Ginza, and the Tsukiji fish market). Then we split up on our separate ways.

(Supplies shop on the 3rd floor.)

I talked to the sensei for a few minutes, explaining the correct pronunciation of reindeer and writing it down in katakana. He tolerated my broken Japanese, and at the end gave me one of the pieces he'd made earlier and had set off in a discard pile - a big shrimp. Looks just like one, too.

(Part of the display on the first floor.)

The Origami Kaikan is a lot of fun, and is worth visiting if you're in the area. It's a little tricky to get to, even if you have a map, so you'll definitely want a good map to work from. Take the Chuu-ou rapid line from Shinjuku (as a reference point) to Ochanomizu station. Go out the west exit, turn right and go over the river to face the University Hospital. Continue straight forward between the hospital and Yushima Seido (the old Confucian school) two long blocks (the first block will have Yushima Seido on the right, the second will have Kanda Myojin Shrine on the right). You'll be facing Kuramae Bashi Dori, but there probably won't be any street signs saying that here. You should see a noodle shop on the corner to your left. Turn left and the Origami Kaikan entrance will be about 10 meters from the corner. Open Monday-Saturday, 9:30-6 PM.

(Display space in front of the elevator on the first floor.)

(My shrimp.)

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Big Issue, #128

There's a magazine in Japan (and in 7 other countries), called "The Big Issue" that purports to be dedicated to helping out the homeless. The concept is that a handful of copies of each issue are given to specific homeless people to sell at 300 yen each. After that, additional copies are available for purchase at about 140 yen that they can also sell at 300. Whatever they make as profit is theirs to keep. Partly it's a form of business training, and partly it's a way to give them some kind of income that they can feel proud to receive. I've seen people selling these magazines before, mainly around Shinjuku, but I hadn't bothered trying to get a copy until recently.

A few weeks ago, when I was in the Tokyo Dome area, I noticed one guy hawking this magazine with Tetsuwan Atomu and Tensai Bakabon no Ojisan (Astro Boy and Bakabon's father) on the cover. On impulse, I bought a copy. Later, I realized that it had an interview with the daughters of the creators, Rumiko Tezuka and Rieko Akatsuka. The article is way too text-heavy for me to go through all of it. And I don't want to deal with the copyright issues involved in posting a translation here. Instead, I'll just mention the story, and give you a glimpse of both women. I'm happy I got this issue, and I'm more likely to buy another copy in the future.

(Photos copyright of The Big Issue. Used here for review purposes only.)

Rumiko has her own record label, which is currently promoting a new release of music from "the Phoenix" anime. Rieko is an artist/illustrator living in London, although she is involved in managing her father's estate.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Left behind

Insect husks found in the garden at Kyodo no Mori, near Fuchu.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Creator's Fair at GAoh!

Back towards the end of October, I'd mentioned Design Festa as something I had no interest in seeing this year. I'd seen parts of it last year and was unimpressed. Essentially, Design Festa is a multi-location art exhibit that includes interpretive dance, cosplay and painting as part of a whole. I'm not big on modern art, which I consider silly and over-commercialized. But mostly just silly. It's just rehashing the same concepts first explored to greater effect back 40 to 60 years ago.

Anyway, game company Bandai-Namco decided to get involved, and allowed their in-house staff to go crazy. The results were then exhibited at GAoh!, the rental artspace in Shimo-Kitazawa that features the works of Umezz. The exhibit had two parts, with one set of paintings appearing at the beginning of November, and the other set at the end of the month. These photos are for set two.

There were more pictures in the exhibit, but these are the ones that turned out the best. The lighting in the room played havoc with my camera, so the colors may be a little off.

Friday, November 20, 2009

TAC - Ranga Murata Exhibit, Yamato

The Tokyo Anime Center had started up its next big exhibit, this time for illustrator Range Murata. The poster reads "Range Murata Original Works Exhibition". You may recognize his illustrations from the art books "Robot" and "Futurhythm". He also did the game design for the "Spy Fiction" PS2 game, and contributed an anime piece to "The Animatrix" (The Second Renaissance).

You can find the full photo album here.

The exhibit didn't stay up all that long. A couple of days after I took these pictures, it had been replaced by crap from Pixar's various films, with the emphasis on promoting "Up". I guess that Pixar had the deeper pockets. Either way, in terms of the materials available to put on display, the Pixar exhibit is one of the most boring that the TAC has hosted so far (some toys from Toy Story and the other films, and a handful of printed sheets from "Up").

Funny enough, about a week or so after TAC ran the "Up" display, they took that down to make room for the new Space Battleship Yamoto DVD promo display. See photos below. The full album is here.