Category Archives: Entertainment

Disney bringing Doraemon to US TV sets

The popular Japanese manga character Doraemon will make his debut on a US TV series next month.

Doraemon is a robot cat who travels back in time from the future to help a schoolboy in today’s world.

A TV channel operated by the US entertainment giant Walt Disney will start broadcasting the Doraemon show on July 7th.

The story will be set in an imaginary place in the United States and its contents will be adapted to US customs and culture. The characters will use forks, instead of chopsticks.

AKB48 team members assaulted with saw

Two members of all-girl pop group AKB48 and a male staff member were wounded Sunday afternoon when a man wielding a saw assaulted them at an event in Iwate Prefecture, police said, adding they had arrested a 24-year-old man on suspicion of attempted murder.

The group members were identified by the police and a local fire department as Rina Kawaei, 19, and Anna Iriyama, 18. They sustained cuts on their heads and right hands, while the male staffer sustained cuts on his left hand, the police said.

The arrested man, Satoru Umeta, is unemployed and from Towada in the neighboring prefecture of Aomori, the police said. He allegedly assaulted the victims with a saw, prompting an emergency call to the police that a man with a blade had been acting violently in an event hall.

Umeta has admitted to the allegations and was quoted as telling investigators, “I did it.”The victims were later transported to hospital.

But I’m Sailor Moon?

A scout reboot?

Anime is full of dreams that are enchanting, powerful, and legendary. Japan today may be more well-known for sushi, Hello Kitty, and Godzilla, but it was surprisingly innovative in tackling sensitive social issues in the early 90s, specifically same-sex relations. Today it is not difficult to discover media (be it in television, print, or web) that tackles this topic, making for great dialogue.  Japan brought it to the limelight in the least expected area: Naoko Takeuchi’s Sailor Moon (美少女戦士セーラームーン).

The manga featured two proud lesbian lovers (Sailor Neptune and Sailor Uranus) in a committed relationship fighting evil and protecting Usagi (うさぎ), the moon princess. The plot reads slightly borderline cheesy but it was progressive in featuring warriors in a dedicated relationship to one another.  It is a matter DC Comics has recently played with in making the Green Lantern openly gay for its Earth 2 series for the The New 52, making it the first for the super-hero. Yet it is a century behind Takeuchi’s undertaking. She provided a world to her readers where love is fluid and valid no matter the gender.

Sailor Moon had a strong audience in Japan that it was eventually picked up for an American dubbed version that unfortunately suffered severe editing for length and content and was supplemented with additional educational segments stealthily named “Sailor Moon Says.”  At least the kids were learning about recycling, bullying, and body stigma. Sailor Moon arrived at America during the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Digimon, and Pokemon era—all very male dominated—that its cult following was unanticipated. Allison, in “Japanese Superheroes for Global Girls Abroad,” attributed this devotion to Sailor Moon and the Scouts being new kinds of superheroes different from the American ones. That is, Sailor Moon kept the human and superhuman personas much more intact. Each volume never focused on an identity crisis; it targets saving the planet, forming friendships, and love. It was almost as if being a girl was a superpower of its own that allowed these murky terrains that can be unsettling and raw.  

Fans point out that Sailor Moon was a pioneer in bringing lesbian characters to a mainstream audience, but it accomplished it at a price. The series fantasized lesbianism that it took away from it at times the love and intimacy and shifted it to a basic girl-on-girl action genre. The Sailor Moon series are divided into 52 different acts following the adventures of Usagi Tsukino (月野うさぎ), a boy crazy 14-year-old, as she “morphs” into the pretty, loving, evil fighting Sailor Moon.  The Sailor Scouts each possess special powers they receive from their corresponding planets; for example, Sailor Mercury gains her power from the planet Mercury and Sailor Mars from Mars.  The first series begins with Sailor Moon (Usagi), Sailor Mercury (Amy), Sailor Mars (Raye), Sailor Jupiter (Lita), Sailor Venus (Mina) and Darien (Tuxedo Max). The Scouts all live in Tokyo, Japan and attend the American equivalent of middle school. Amy, Raye, Lita, Mina, and Usagi overcome daily obstacles in school work, love, and plans just as any other adolescent. That was certainly a connecting point for most American audiences that these characters were vulnerable and not indestructible.

A manga depicts a story through illustrations and words, using dialogs and interactions between characters to present the story. The movements and exchanges, and the facial expressions, become the focal point to readers. In Sailor Moon, lesbianism is presented in an erotic nature, maybe not intentionally, but none the less very sexualized because of the way the characters are positioned from their body stances, clothing, and mannerisms. The Sailor Scouts’ costumes, for example, for their superhero alternatives are very skimpy that it makes anyone wonder how they could possibly fight evil in 8 inch heels and 5 inch mini-skirts, and tight fitted blouses. In a later series the Sailor Star Fighters, another group of Sailor Scouts, after their transformations donning black high knee boots, extremely small bras emphasizing the body rather than the story, but this also applies to male heroes such as Superman, Batman, and Aquaman—can any realistic male achieve a lean twelve-pack? The series was probably drawing audiences with these depictions for attention risking being a caricature. Sailor Five, a hentai manga, meaning pornographic comic in English, was an erotic parody of the Sailor Moon, underscoring the hidden sexual appeal Sailor Moon unknowingly possessed (Clements 336).

The Sailor Scouts are middle school students, yet specific body parts are prematurely developed. In the Sailor Moon Stars volume, for example, Mina and Raye, Sailor Venus and Sailor Mars, respectively, confront the three new Sailor Star Lights while wearing clothing so small that is accentuates their chests and slightly curvy figure (Takeuchi 1.1.16). The Sailor Stars Lights were the most explicit in their homo-erotic behaviors apart from Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune. The Star Lights never label themselves lesbians, but the mannerism they exploited hinted the probable sexuality. These new fighters disguise themselves and lived as men while searching for their princess on Earth: they date, flirt with other girls, etc. When the day needs saving, they instantly transform into their female warriors; unlike Superman, the Sailor Star Lights “transform” into their new selves embodying new identities, emotions, and abilities hinting that gender is changeable, messy, and difficult depending on the context—really Sailor Moon dwelled into some gender studies 101 most 90s audiences were not ready to face, and it is definitely a magical point viewers overlook.

The transformation from female to male allowed the Star Light Scouts to no longer bottle up any act, longing, or expression. The male versions of themselves are assertive; for example, one of the Sailor Star Fighters while in her male consume kisses Usagi on the mouth to assure her she will never let anyone harm her (Sailor Moon II.4). The kiss is an obvious hint that the male versions of the female Star Fighters are extensions of the feelings they want to exhibit and repress while fighting in their female forms. In the last scene of the Sailor Stars volume, Sailor Tin Nyanko, tells Usagi, “you know [Usagi] I wouldn’t trust girls that pretend to be guys,” echoing that these heroes are imposters that need to accept their desires and show that it comes from a place of female attraction and love.

These instances and others in the animated and manga series are presented but are not marked “lesbian.” The Sailor Moon franchise taught its audience about friendship, acceptance, and support. As one critic noted about Sailor Moon’s success: its “strong plot, its earnest, honest romance, and its refusal to talk down to its audience” really made it thrive (Clements 336).  Sailor Moon remains a cult-favorite and has recently seen support from the online community that Hulu started airing unedited versions of the series that includes the same-sex relations—there’s even talk of a Takeuchi franchise reboot this Summer 2014. For all its stories Sailor Moon was beyond girl power, feminism, and heroes: it was a nucleus of love, determination, and defeating obstacles.

Keanu Reeves in Japan

Keanu Reeves, a leading exponent of scruff chic, put in the effort to look dapper for his fans in Japan on Sunday as he signed autographs for his adoring acolytes in the Land of the Rising Sun. In his new movie, The 47 Ronin, he plays a half Japanese half British swordsman.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=bNyB2vTok4k

Paul McCartney in Japan and Getting in Some Sumo – Watches Hakuho Win

Mongolian yokozuna Hakuho put on a show for Beatles legend Paul McCartney on Thursday, preserving his share of the lead with a clinical win on the fifth day of action at the Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament.

With McCartney, playing nearby Yafuoku Dome as part of his Japan tour on Friday, watching from the “masu-seki” boxed seats at Fukuoka Kokusai Center, Hakuho kept Toyoshima 2-3 at arm’s length after the charge and then picked his moment to haul the No. 2 maegashira down by the back of his neck.

McCartney, watching his first live basho in 20 years, having also attended the 1993 Fukuoka meet, nearly stole the show after the last bout as he posed for photographs and shook hands with spectators as chants of “Paul, Paul” rang around the arena.

Hakuho shares the lead with fellow yokozuna Harumafuji and rank-and-filers Masunoyama and Shotenro at 5-0.

Read the rest of the story: Beatles legend watches Hakuhos latest triumph.

Jane Austen was Japanese?

We all react differently to Jane Austen’s books: some of us love them, obsess, and some think she just wrote really unrealistic love stories. Japan, however, developed a unique relationship with the famous writer. Unlike her fellow countrymen’s ambivalence about her talents, Austen was welcomed during the early Meiji Restoration period. Early Japanese scholars and authors believed Austen depicted her works so accurately that she must had been highly regarded in her time. Unbeknownst to them was the fact that Austen was largely unrecognized as a writer during her life; it was not until 1817 that her works amassed a larger readership building the path for what would later be dubbed Austenmania.

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Japan was partially closed off under the Shogun rule until 1868 when it became open to Westerners again. Besides making its ports accessible, Japanese officials decided that the country needed to integrate Western ideas, customs, and business models. The campaign was meant to foster creativity and revive the country’s culture that had not contributed to the world ever since it exiled foreigners. Japan even expunged all foreign influence by relocating any Non-Japanese to Dejima, a 130-acre artificial island built in 1634 in Nagasaki. It sounds unlikely that Japanese during the Meiji restoration would even undertake translating or reading Austen’s works; after all, her focus centers on marriages, family dynamics, and social constrictions. How could the newly engaged Japan connect with these scenarios? The time frame between Jane Austen’s death in 1817 to Japan reopening its ports in 1868 is also another point that potentially could had stilted her fame from germinating as her works could had been lost, forgotten, or never been introduced to any eminent university in Japan.

Japanese students in Tokyo University were presented works by Flaubert and Zola and the social and existential ideas of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky that by the time Lafcadio Hearn, an early English literature professor at Tokyo University in 1896, gave lectures on Jane Austen’s “genius” Japanese students resisted him. They thought Austen works were outdated, trivial. Hearn also had his own reservations about introducing the Pride & Prejudice author to Japan, voicing: “I am not sure whether you [the Japanese] could like Austen or not. . . [T]he kind of life described, the suffering and the follies described, would probably seem very strange to most of you.” Hearn was obvious in signaling out that Japanese readers would not understand the nuances around marriages, proposals, and courtships because that was not the culture they followed. Austen’s descrition can muzzle any audience from understanding what is important because some relative background about the time period is needed to notice undertoned jokes. For example, in Emma, Jane Fairfax (the impoverished Miss Bates’s niece whom Emma dislikes) and her aunts arrive after the other guests have dined because they are impoverished gentry, but Emma can dine first as she is gentry. In other words, Emma is the cool lead in the lunch table and no one else can sit until she sits down. Not knowing the social customs, however, did not prevent Japanese readers from engaging with Austen’s wit.

Hearn campaigned for Jane Austen’s canonization in Japan, but it was Natsume Sōseki’s (夏目漱石) that established Japan’s love for her works. Sōseki had a tremendous impact on Japanese culture that he was honored by being printed on Japan’s currency until 2004. Sōseki considered Austen’s writing superior that of any “advanced writer,” declaring she captured reality’s undertone beauty. Sōseki fell for Austen’s writing because it mirrored his idea that nature (that is everyday life) must be presented to readers objectively rather than in florid banter and psychological runoffs. He nurtured Austen’s image in Japan and even based the literary ideal of 側転 きょうし (follow Heaven, forsake the self) on Austen’s novels.

Nogami Toyoichirō (野上 とよいちろう), under Sōseki’s tutelage, translated Pride & Prejudice (高慢と偏見) for a Japanese audience in 1926. Toyoichirō’s wife, who went under the pen name Yaeko Nagomi, proofread her husband’s translations because she read the original English version under Sōseki’s supervision and guidance. During the Meiji restoration, however, some Japanese worried that Western beliefs and customs were dominating their culture, suppressing Japanese from creating a new powerful identity. But Austen’s novels connected with Japanese readers because her works revolved on decision, using sense and logic, and finding happiness by keeping to one’s morals. At the time, the West was courting Japan similar to Mr. Wickham’s flirtations with Elizabeth Bennet: accepting a hasty proposal would only hinder Japan from contributing to the world. Possibly, it was this contrast between Austen’s novels and what the Japanese felt at the time that made her works popular. Yaeko Nagomi (やエコ 和み), for example, was so enamored with Austen’s writing style that she mimicked it for her novel, マチコ (Machiko). She wrote in her journal: “Every time I read [Pride & Prejudice], I admire it more than before…this is, indeed, a novel true to nature…I had hoped that the quality of my next novel would match at least that of Austen… If I reached such a level of accomplishment, I would surely congratulate myself.”

Machiko tells the story of a modern Japanese Elizabeth Bennet, Machiko, who must decide whether to marry the cultural industrialist Kawai (Mr. Darcy) whom she “judg[es] to be incapable of distinguishing” his friends from his enemies or the revolutionary activist Seki (Mr. Wickham), who “attracts her strongly both ideologically and physically.” Machiko, however, unlike Pride and Prejudice, uses the industrial Japan in the throes of economic crisis and workers’ militancy as the main background that propels Machiko to decide between being a industrialist or a revolutionary. Yaeko’s Machiko is one of the earliest spinoffs of Jane Austen’s work in Japan. The second was Kurahashi Yumiko’s 夢の浮橋 (The Bridge of Dreams, 1971) where she fused the Austen story with classical Japanese narratives.

In Japan, it was not until 1950 that Iwanami, a prestigious publishing house, made available a second Pride & Prejudice translation by Akira Tomita. This particular translator saw the book as an educational novel and “the best social novel in the world.” Though Japanese admired Austen’s works and satirical voice, they also made dialogue changes to fit verbal expressions that a Japanese audience would understand better. These translations were commercially successful because they maintained Austen’s witty spirit without changing the entire novel’s flow or adding any archaic language.

The history of Austen’s translated adaptations is important because it let’s us see that even though we are different ethnicities, culturally we value similar customs: morality, justice, and marriage.. Japan made Austen Japanese because her works connected with their literary and cultural beliefs. It was her early admirers and translators that initiated her fame that had it not been for them she would had remained unknown in Japan. Today it seems unrealistic for someone to not know Austen. Japan made her their own, Spain the same, and Americans too, nurturing new readerships and even greater devotees.

Hiroshi Yamauchi, who turned Nintendo into a Video Game Powerhouse, Dies at 85

Hiroshi Yamauchi, who transformed his great-grandfather’s playing-card company, Nintendo, into a global video game powerhouse, died on Thursday in Kyoto, Japan. He was 85.

The cause was complications of pneumonia, the company said.

Mr. Yamauchi, who led Nintendo from 1949 to 2002, was Japan’s most unlikely high-tech success story. Named president of the family business at 22, he steered Nintendo into board games, light-emitting toy guns and baseball pitching machines – fruitless forays that he later attributed to a “lack of imagination” – before the company arrived at arcade games.

Its Donkey Kong and the original Mario Bros. became hits and gave rise to Nintendo’s wildly successful home video game business.

The Nintendo Entertainment System, a console first released in Japan in 1983 as “Famicom,” unseated early leaders in the video game industry, selling more than 60 million units thanks to shrewd marketing, close attention to product quality and a crop of games based on unlikely yet endearing characters that soon became household names.

Read the rest of the story: Hiroshi Yamauchi, Who Steered Nintendo to Dominance, Dies at 85

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=XPuR3o66ztc

Studio Ghibli’s Hayao Miyazaki Retires from Anime

Leading Japanese animation film director Hayao Miyazaki will retire from movie production, it was learned Sunday.

According to participants in the ongoing Venice International Film Festival, Studio Ghibli Inc. President Koji Hoshino told a press conference in the Italian city that Miyazaki, 72, will retire with the latest full-length film, “The Wind Rises” (Kaze Tachinu), released on July 20. The movie, which features the chief engineer of the Zero fighter plane used in World War II, has become a box office hit drawing an audience of over 6.49 million as of last Monday.

After producing the “Future Boy Conan” (Mirai Shonen Konan) television animation series in the late 1970s, Miyazaki started his career as a movie director with “Lupin the Third: Castle of Cagliostro.” Later, he launched Studio Ghibli and released many animated features.

With Ghibli, Miyazaki helmed the feature films Laputa: Castle in the Sky, My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Porco Rosso, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, Ponyo, and finally, The Wind Rises. He also co-produced Takahata’s directorial efforts and directed smaller projects such as the “experimental film” On Your Mark and Ghibli Museum Shorts such as Mei and the Kitten Bus and Mr. Dough and the Egg Princess.

Spirited Away remains the highest earning film ever at the Japanese box office, 12 years after it opened in 2001. It won the Academy Award for Best Animated Film in 2003.

Starting in September Street Solicitation is Banned in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward

Shinjuku Ward in Tokyo, home to one of the country’s largest nightlife districts, is set to ban any kind of soliciting in the street not only for sex clubs but also karaoke parlors, pubs and bars from September.

The move comes in the wake of growing incidents involving trouble with touts in the ward, particularly in the Kabukicho area, ward officials said.

A metropolitan ordinance already bans aggressive solicitation such as pulling at the clothing of passersby, but the ward’s new ordinance, set to be enforced Sept. 1, will ban any kind of street solicitation.

Although the ordinance carries no penalty, with violators to be given “direction” from neighborhood wardens, it is only the first step and the ward will “consider adding a punitive clause if it proves to have no effect,” a ward official said.

Read the rest of the story: Street solicitation to be banned in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward from September.