Sunday, November 30, 2014

Oct.-Nov. articles in the media

Here's the batch of articles to show up in the media from Oct.-Nov., regarding anime, manga and related stuff.

Japan Times

A Drifting Life

Hideaki Anno: emotional deconstructionist

Vision of anime's future at the Tokyo International Film Festival

Tatsumi: Godather of alternative manga is reborn on film

Tatsum: Alternative noir histories from Japan's postwar period

Manga library opens at Peking University

Daily Yomiuri

Manga artist reveals life with monster mom in film

Solitary cool in manga

Free online manga browsing helps sell printed publications

AGF beckons all 'otome' girls

Warlord’s wife gets moe-kyara makeover

Back-to-back doses of 'Magic Kaito,' 'Meitantei Conan' coming soon

Human touch in age of computer graphics

Okayama powers forward with 'Yowamushi Pedal'

Anime Heroes unmasked as schlubs

Manga gateway to Japanese culture for Taiwan youths


Best-selling ‘Naruto’ ninja saga to reach finale next month

Tokyo Game Show draws 250,000 visitors

Fujiko F. Fujio Museum attracts 1.5 millionth visitor

Gundam robots based on plans from a school in Tohoku region will be in Osaka

Mamoru Oshii's epic 'Garm Wars' to debut at Tokyo film fest

Sapporo airport to host first international anime festival

McQuarrie to direct Hollywood film based on 'Space Battleship Yamato'

'Evangelion 3.0+1.0' next in line for animated franchise

'Psycho-Pass' feature film adaptation to hit screens in January

'Lupin the Third' returning to TV screens in new anime series

'Yokai Watch' newest smash craze with kids

Royalty-free digital diva Hatsune Miku helps everyone become music creator

Kyoto manga-anime fair sees record turnout

Tokyo One Piece Tower to feature pirate ship, casino house

Satoshi Kon retrospective to open Oct. 29 at Tokyo

Sailor Moon alights on home turf in Azabu-Juban for stamp and DVD event

Animated 'Garo' series aiming for global audience

Show fit for a king chronicles rocker Imawano's life, admiration for Tezuka

'Princess Kaguya' hits U.S. cinemas as it gears up for awards season

'Naruto' musical adaptation to hit stage in March

Tezuka's fame a touchstone of global manga phenomenon

Locally run websites for anime, cosplay a hit with Asian fans

Fan letters from overseas made me realize the popularity of Naruto

Kishimoto to release extra 'Naruto' episodes next spring

Hayao Miyazaki-inspired kagura performed at historic Kyoto shrine

Anime giant Miyazaki receives honorary Oscar for lifetime of work

Kishimoto: 'Naruto' reflects my childhood of 'inferiority,' breaks taboo of boy's comics

'Pokemon' TV show ranks No. 1 with kids in India

'Attack on Titan' creator returns to his rural roots and finds salvation

'K-On!' school to play host for anime tourism event

New entry in ‘Doraemon’ robotic cat comic series to be released next month

Ikebukuro Halloween Cosplay Festival draws 10,000 cosplayers

New 'Macross Delta' series, singer auditions announced

Shunji Iwai's animated prequel to 'Hana & Alice'

'Yokai Watch' film sequel slated for winter 2015

Sendai Airport to display wall relief designed by Akira Toriyama

'Madoka Magica' movie, 'Love Live!' series win big at Animation Kobe Awards

Original 'Psycho-Pass' production team members return for feature film

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Dream Rooms

It looks like Mizumi Homes worked with the local schools in Kagoshima to produce the "Konna heya iina kaiga kontesuto" (I wish I had this room picture contest). A few of the pictures are accompanied by CG renditions of the room, indicating that Mizumi gave special attention to those particular images. The map on the poster above shows how each of the display boards in the exhibit are arranged.

Tree room and CG version.

Elephant room and CG version.

This may have been the winning entry, turned into the real thing. The telescope is a Vixen, which is popular in Japan. It may have been donated by Bic Camera, which carries them in their photography department at the west side of the train station.

Some of the other entries.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Heureka review

I'm thinking that if Iwaaki is known outside of Japan for anything, it's as the artist on Parasyte and Historie. Historie is based on Eumenes, the real-life secretary and general to Alexander the Great. But, before Historie (2003-present), there was Heureka.

(All rights belong to their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)

Heureka, by Hitoshi Iwaaki. Grade: B
The story revolves around the battle for Syracuse between the Carthaginian general Hannibal and Roman consul Marcus Claudius Marcellus, at the center of which is the Spartan Damipos, his Roman girlfriend, Claudia, and Archimedes.

(Back cover, with the ship catcher claw.)

Damipos currently lives in Syracuse (which had been an independent kingdom in what's now Sicily), but he's something of a wanderer and is considering returning to Sparta. Claudia is from a Roman family that has settled in Syracuse, and this is where she's grown up. One day, Claudia takes Damipos to a remote northern sentry post that has long been abandoned, for a picnic. When they return home, they find that Epicudes, a Syracusan soldier working on behalf of Hannibal, has taken over the government (killing all of the statesmen in a quiet coup d'etate), and has had all of the Roman citizens rounded up and imprisoned. Claudia's remaining servant whisks her to the home of a family friend, the inventor and philosopher Archimedes. Damipos is amazed by the various inventions, and Archimedes takes him on as a student. The problem is that the old man is in his 70's, and his mind is slipping, so the lessons are slowed down by the need for constant naps.

Marcus sweeps down on Syracus with a fleet of ships, and for a short time things look a little grim. Then, various inhabitants start activating the "monsters" - huge machines that act like claws to sheer through the ships, and circular saw blades that cut the invaders in half. The final beast is a steam-powered pitching machine that spits boulders out from the city walls and punches holes in everything in their way. Epicudes visits Archimedes to congratulate him on saving the city, then recognizes Claudia as a Roman and has her imprisoned as well.

(A ship crusher.)

Damipos goes ballistic, and confronts Epicudes in front of the cheering people, demanding to have Claudia released. Epicudes agrees only if the boy can demonstrate himself as an equal. Damipos pleads with the townswomen to meet him on a hill outside the city, and to each bring a large mirror. That night, he works on building a circular mirror attached to a pole handle. The next morning, Damipos uses the mirror to reflect sunlight at the sail of one of the Roman ships, with the women aiming their own mirrors at the circle of light. This eventually causes the cloth to burn. As the sailors try to save their ship, Damipos moves to the next target. Epicudes gets jealous and very impatient, and grabs the circle mirror to try to roast Marcus from a distance. This fails when Marcus escapes below ship and the sky clouds up. The women are disgusted with their "leader-savior", and pressure him into releasing Claudia.

(The steam-powered boulder pitching machine.)

The girl returns to Archimedes' home only long enough to make preparations for slipping out of the city to return to her parent's homeland. Damipos tries to talk her out of it, but she's adamant. So, the two of them leave, taking a small boat out to sea. Unfortunately, they're spotted by city guards who unleash a volley of arrows at them as traitors. One arrow catches Claudia in the back. With no other choice, Damipos rows to the nearest Roman ship and demands she be treated by a doctor. As Claudia undergoes surgery, Marcus interrogates Damipos. The boy receives bad news - when the Romans fought Hannibal's forces, Claudia's family's village was wiped out, and all of her remaining relatives killed. A servant arrives to summon Damipos - the surgery failed and Claudia is dying. Damipos comes to her side, and she demands to know what the news is of her family's village. The boy lies and says everything turned out ok. Claudia sees through him, thanks him anyway and passes away.

(Syracuse spits out a few fast balls.)

Angry, Damipos tells Marcus of the abandoned watch tower at the north end of the city. The next day, the Romans finally succeed in getting past the walls and Syracuse falls immediately. Epicudes escapes in a small boat. Marcus dies in battle a few years later. Damipos returns to Sparta. Hannibal eventually dies as well. Archimedes, now senile, gets into an argument with a Roman soldier who was part of the crew looting his home, and is slain at age 75. None of which really matters, because after 2,000+ years, all of Syracuse had become forgotten ruins and everyone that had lived there is now long turned to dust.

(Marcus agrees to Damipos' demands that Archimedes and the other Syracusans be unharmed, in return for information on how to invade the city.)

Comments: Iwaaki's art style is still evolving in this story. The character designs are recognizably his, but they're pretty rough, and lack some of his trademark snark. The backgrounds and buildings are very good, and the story is interesting, although depressing at the end. His takes on Archimede's war machines are interesting, but I'm pretty sure that technology at the time wasn't quite advanced enough to forge the kind of claw depicted on the back cover. The hand-cranked circular saws are plausible, though. Overall, Heureka is a fast read, and recommended to anyone that likes Historie, or ancient Greek-Roman battles.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Fureai Dai

(Announcer, some local radio personality, I guess.)

Nov. 24th was a national holiday, and to capitalize on it, Japan Rail (JR) hosted a Fureai Day (Connectedness Day) to advertise various package tours around the country. The stage events alternated between some of the cities promoting themselves, and a few singing acts. I was supposed to meet someone at the event at 6 PM, because the final act was a singer from her home island of Amami, but she never showed. I arrived just as one 4-person act gave up on finishing their set because of problems with the keyboard. Their keyboardist returned, though, to back up the final singer.

The main act was Kousuke Atari, a self-trained singer specializing in songs native to his hometown of Amami (an island within Kagoshima prefecture, known for its production of brown sugar). Three of his songs have been used as ending themes for anime ("Natsu Yuuzora", in Natsume Yuujinchou; "Tane wo Maku Hibi", in Bleach; "Koi" in Genji Monogatari Sennenki).

There were at least 200 people in the audience, most of them there specifically for Kousuke. He sang soft ballads, which aren't my cup of tea. Additionally, I was too far back from the stage to get a good recording. Funny enough, I didn't notice his makeup from where I was standing, but in all of the photos his face is too brown compared to his neck and hands.

(Final photo op at the end of the night.)

Another band that performed, according to the schedule, was 7!! (pronounced "Seven Oops"), although I didn't get to see them. When the show ended, DJ Pocky and a few other people came out to talk, and Mu FM radio handed out some free presents (selection was with rock-paper-scissors, which I didn't bother trying to compete at.)

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Plugging Holes

I went up to the main train station one Saturday afternoon, and the ash from the volcano was so heavy it turned the sky dark gray. I was surprised to see part of the sidewalk over the river blocked off by a crane and cement mixer. I'd thought there'd been an accident or something. When I got to an open area of the bridge, I could see what was going on.

The walkways on either side of the river have always had mysterious rectangular openings next to the walls. I've never been sure what they were intended for, but suspected they were planned to be decorative floral displays. I guess the city decided it was too much work to have the displays and that they present trip hazards to the joggers there. So, the city used sandbags to block up the openings in the walls and cement to fill in the ones in the sidewalks.

The crane was used to lower wheelbarrows filled with cement.

Edit: Those gray rectangular sheets are a clue. A few weeks later, the city had put in long rows of planters, filled with flowers. Not sure how they plan to maintain them all...

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

T-1 Gran Prix

The plaza on the east side of the main Chuo Train station hosted the T-1 Gran Prix on the 23rd. One half consisted of a competition for who had the best Japanese green tea. Apparently, the teas were all from Kagoshima. The judging kind of looked like a Texan chili cook-off.

(Tools of the trade.)

(Stage show for the kids.)

(Demonstration of hand-rolling fresh tea leaves.)

The other half had tables selling tea.

People here like their tea in a traditional setting.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Eki Machi Festa

On the west side of the main Chuo train station, a small stage was set up for the Eki Machi 1-choume Kagoshima Festa Nov. 23rd (Station City Neighborhood 1 Kagoshima Festa). There were 4 acts that performed a few times each during the day. One was Masayan, an acoustic guitarist, and the second was the Golden Seniors cheer dancers. The third was Shiho Nagai, who, with her teacher, played Okinawan songs on a jamisen (like a samisen) accompanied by a small taiko drum. It's not really my kind of music, but I was amazed by the finger work of both jamisen players.

Direct youtube link

The fourth act was Tomoyuki Onoda, a magician I haven't seen here before. Most of the magic at the beginning of his set were scarf tricks, all of which I'm familiar with. Technically, he did a good job, but his stage approach didn't really connect with the audience. Like many jugglers and magicians here, he had music playing behind him, and just went through the motions of the illusions one right after the other without talking. I'm not sure the audience really had time to register what they'd just seen before he went to the next bit. Regardless, I was too far away, and he was moving too fast, for me to get good photos from where I was standing. But, as I say, I know most of these tricks, so I didn't stick around all that long.

Sunday, November 23, 2014


Last year at about this time, I'd been walking past along the Kotsuki river at 9 PM when I heard music coming from the park. Investigating, I found a large tent set up in the park, and bleacher seating for 30 people. I had no idea what was going on, or why. The next afternoon, when I came by to take pictures in the daylight, the tent, bleachers and everything were already gone.

This year, I happened to see pretty much the same tent set up in the same place, but on Thursday afternoon. Inside, someone was loudly reading out their lines, which consisted of repeating the English vowels. A small wire rack next to the tent held fliers for the show. I'd seen these fliers in Tenmonkan over the last couple weeks, and recognized them right away.

I stopped by the park Friday night, and the show was already running. It was raining, and the dim red and blue lights coming from the stage at one end of the tent gave it a very strong Ray Bradbury feel. Actors kept running off the sides of the stage and outside of the tent, then grabbing props or dashing to the other side of the tent, and going back in. For the most part, they ignored me as I stood there with my camera out.

(Sunday afternoon. The main equipment truck and a personnel van. The closest tent acts as a barracks for the cast and crew.)

The group calls themselves Dokungo They're a "gekiga" (drama) troupe that engages in surrealistic comedy. This is their 14th "Naked Dog Tour". The story combines UFOs, Edo period characters, and electric guitars. The name on the flyer, "Ouf", is intentionally misspelled.

Kind of looks like a circus.

The stage area was uninhabited, but a sign in front did welcome people to come in and look around.

(Some of the props and costumes.)

The bleacher seats can't hold that many people, but there is only one performance per evening. According to the schedule, they started in Izumi, in Kagoshima Prefecture, last April, toured around Japan for the last 7 months, and then held their final performances of this season back in Kagoshima from Friday the 21st to Sunday the 23rd. The shows started at 7 PM, and ran maybe 2 hours. I seriously considered attending the one on Sunday, but the tickets were 2,800 yen ($26 USD) at the door, 2,500 yen in advance, and that was more than I wanted to pay at the time. If things go the way I expect, they'll have Naked Dog Tour #15 next April, and I'll try watching that one.

(Goods shop.)

When not in use, the stage doubles as the wardrobe closet.

Dokungo was formed in Nagasaki in 1983. They started their national tent show tours in '89, and then relocated their base of operations to Kagoshima in 2009.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Chaos Note review

I've mentioned Hideo Azuma before. He's a manga artist that was popular in the 1970's for his lolicon drawings, primarily of high school girls. In the 80's and 90's, due to the pressures put on him by his editors, he cracked and became a homeless alcoholic on several occasions. His Disappearance Diary recounts his time in a rehab clinic.

(All rights belong to their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)

Chaos Note, 2014, East Press, Grade: A.
Chaos Note is Hideo's first manga work following Disappearance Diary. While he describes this as sort of a daily diary, it's really a collection of short surreal gags that follow the pattern "XX Day, X Month, I turned into a cat", or something similar. Many of the gags are only 2 panels, with two gags on one page. Others can be grouped as "Today I went mountain climbing", "Today I read a pop-up book" and "Today I went on a pilgrimage". These specifically are recurring themes that resurface occasionally. A few of the gags can be up to 2 or 4 pages long, while "Man eater" and "Trip to Hell" are probably the longest, at 5-6 pages.

If you're familiar with Tori Miki's Anywhere but Here gag series, there are a lot of similarities, in part because Tori is a fan of Hideo's, but possibly also because Hideo worked with Tori on producing at least one of his own books (Tori's interview with Hideo appeared at the back of one book). Regardless, Hideo has his own unique style which shines from cover to cover.

"(XX Day, X Month, I read a pop-up book.")

Some of the artwork isn't appropriate for minors, or anyone who is easily offended. Hideo is a heavy smoker, and cigarettes and sake, are a part of his character. Some of the jokes poke fun at his relapses, while the word "Sober" on his t-shirt is a constant reminder that alcohol is not his friend.

I enjoy Hideo's gag work and the more surreal elements. I highly recommend Chaos Note to fans of Anywhere But Here.