Podcast: Scotch Tape

Necromancy, ten years of NEO, and the carrot of continuations on our 27th podcast sla-2014.jpgJeremy Graves is joined by the fragrant Gemma Cox of NEO magazine, the pungent Andrew Partridge from Anime Ltd, and the newly doctored Jonathan Clements to discuss Scotland Loves Anime, the Boom Boom Satellite Distraction Device, and rogue robot tanks. You can download the podcast here.

0:00 intros and hellos

04:30 Dealing with a film festival in the shadow of Ghibli.

09:30 Bad hair days and uncanny valleys on Appleseed: Alpha.

11:30 The miseries of live television.

14:00 Appleseed: Alpha, the jury’s view.

16:30 The true nature of the Golden Partridge Award, soon to be renamed the SLA Glass… Thing.

20:00 Déjà vu and original dialogue in English.

22:00 Bayonetta and evocations of the beer-and-curry era.

25:00 Trigger warnings in The Wings of Honneamise. Berserk 3 and the “carrot of continuations.”

32:00 A young lady’s primer to fan service and fighting the patriarchy. Questions on the nature of the Noitamina target audience, and plugs for Psycho-Pass and Rolling Girls. Why do less women get promoted to anime director?

neo_double.jpg41:00 Gender demographics at NEO and Scotland Loves Anime. The flexibility of the female audience, and the desirability of girls in bikinis saving the world from aliens.

45:00 Just how involved is a “supervising” director?

46:30 The audience turn-out for Ghost in the Shell. The suggestion that fandom is a non-renewable resource. The longevity of Cowboy Bebop, outliving the television technology that originally screened it.

52:00 Celebrating ten years of NEO magazine with the 130th issue. The haptic luxury of print magazines, versus beaming digital data into your brain. The international reach and originality of the long-running Manga Snapshot feature. Deciding what goes on the cover, and the perennial problems of timing content to available releases and images.

68:00 Why commissioning your own artwork isn’t always the answer.

73:00 Paper quality, fonts and leading – a bunch of things that nobody ever thinks about.

76:00 Let’s go on a journey, a journey into NEO time… where did the name come from?

79:00 One more round on the whirligig of the “Manga” Entertainment name controversy.

space-dandy-honey-boobies-breastaraunt-fried-dragon-ramen.jpg81:00 The scandalous secret behind NEO’s recipe column. The tax-deductible nature of a “research” trip to Hooters.

85:30 The difficulties of knowing more than one’s readers when the readers have got all weekend to torrent, stream and binge the latest shows.

87:30 The desirability of “balanced” reviewing. What can we learn from Australian Vogue…? Would you buy a DVD compared to “colonic irrigation with cheap caustic soda” or with a review that promised “another shouty advert for stuff you don’t want”?

94:00 How do you define a star rating? We are 87.5% certain we know the answer to this question. The spoilerific nature of Sight & Sound and “the conversation.”

102:00 The need for necromancy in reminding fans of forgotten simulcasts. “Not all people live in the same Now.”

105:00 The perils of online search bubbles. Sting’s informational message for the future and the nature of the “closed circle of consumption.”

110:00 Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods.

117:00 Giovanni’s Island – the festival winner.

127:00 Jeremy returns from his dead battery to plug MCM Expo and events pertaining thereto.

And we’re out. The Podcast is available to download now HERE, or find it and an archive of previous shows at our iTunes page. For a detailed contents listing of previous podcasts, check out our Podcasts page.

Two Downloads

02After many years of waiting and wrangles, my book on the controversial medieval Chinese Empress Wu is finally re-released on Kindle from Albert Bridge Books (US/UK). Follow the links to buy the ebook. There should be a print-on-demand version available soon as well. As the blurb recounts:

Empress Wu Zetian (624-705 AD) was the only woman to be the sovereign ruler of imperial China. A teenage concubine of the Tang Emperor Taizong, she seduced his son while the emperor lay dying. Recalled from a nunnery as part of an intricate court power-game, she caused the deaths of two lady rivals, before securing her enthronement as the Emperor Gaozong’s consort. She ruled in the name of her husband and two eldest sons, presiding over the pinnacle of the Silk Road, before proclaiming herself the founder of a new dynasty. Worshipped as the Sage Mother of Mankind and reviled as the Treacherous Fox, she was deposed aged 79, after angry courtiers murdered her two young lovers.

The subject of countless books, plays and films, Empress Wu remains a feminist icon and a bugbear of Chinese conservatism. Jonathan Clements weighs the evidence of her life and legacy: so charismatic that she could rise from nothing to the height of medieval power, so hated that her own children left her tombstone blank.

Meanwhile, it’s a condition of my doctorate that my thesis be freely available to other researchers, but to spare you the bother of going to the Library of Wales and photocopying it, here’s a PDF. The title is A History of the Japanese Animation Industry: Developing Technologies, Changing Formats and Evolving Audiences. I’m afraid what blurb there is is couched in significantly more sesquipedalian prose:

This thesis offers a discursive genealogy of the Japanese animation, or ‘anime’ industry, outlining changes to its prevailing form caused by successive disruptions – fluctuations in economic conditions, applications of new technology, and changes in available formats. Instead of focussing on the content of the anime texts themselves, it addresses the form of the content – treating the anime texts as manufactured ‘objects’ or as performative ‘events’ that are created, refined, marketed and sold.

The approach is historiographical, favouring published testimonials and memoirs from the participants in the Japanese animation industry, and assessing them in terms of possible errors of historical practice. The participants’ activities are categorised as points on a chain from Ownership of the intellectual property to Access to the text, prompting not only consideration of changes in the processes of production, but also in the oft-neglected areas of distribution and exhibition.

Spanning the 67 years from 1945 to 2012, in overlapping periods defined by developments in formats and technology, a picture is presented not only of the anime industry, but of its participants’ changing sense of what that industry is, its traditions and potential. This will present a foundation for future research into anime’s history, not only through this narrative of events, but also through consideration of the theoretical issues deriving from the nature of the sources.

And of course, if you like what you see there, a significantly expanded version, losing a lot of the theory and introduction, but adding four extra chapters, has been published by the British Film Institute (US/UK).

Fifteen Minutes of Infamy

kurokoOne almost doesn’t want to comment, lest it amount to either feeding the troll or mocking the afflicted. But in the interests of chronicling Japanese popular culture, warts and all, this column reluctantly reports that a Tokyo judge has sentenced Hirofumi Watanabe (36) to the full four-and-a-half year jail sentence called for by the prosecution. The crime: being a colossal douche.

Since 2012, Watanabe had been harassing manga creator Tadatoshi Fujimaki, and anything connected to the artist’s popular manga Kuroko’s Basketball. I say “popular”, although it is bitterly ironic that Kuroko’s Basketball, the tale of a high-school sports team trying to make it to nationals, has barely attracted any foreign attention apart from the hate campaign directed at by Watanabe.

Seemingly jealous that Fujimaki was successful, and determined to drag him into a suicidal vortex of his own making, Watanabe sent poisoned packages, including one containing hydrogen sulphide to Fujimaki’s alma mater, and threatened terror attacks on any convention or event that included coverage of Kuroko’s Basketball. Japanese stores, fearful of some sort of big-eyed al-Qaeda, removed Kuroko’s Basketball from their shelves, and cinemas started demanding ID and proof of invitation from anyone older than 16 trying to get into an anime roadshow.

Why? Because Watanabe was jealous of Fujimaki’s success. Jealous and, frankly, mentally disturbed enough, and idle enough to send 250 threatening letters in a single calendar month, signing himself The Fiend with 801 Faces (a punning reference to 8-0-1 = yaoi). Watanabe was carted off in handcuffs to begin the sentence, still bragging that the whole exercise was a “good revenge” against his parents, and that as soon as he was out of prison, he intended to kill himself.

Stories like this break my heart. In a fandom that crowd-funds artists and has whip-rounds for local charities, in a subculture that welcomes and embraces all lifestyles and all kinds of weirdo, it saddens me that press column inches get expended instead on nutjobs like Watanabe. The Japanese system now has four-and-a-half years to get to the bottom of his problem before he’s out to cause more trouble. Like life isn’t difficult enough. His life, your life, mine…

Jonathan Clements is the author of Anime: A History. This article first appeared in NEO 128, 2014.

Judging Anime

DBZ_02-1024x576On my way to Glasgow today for my annual film festival obligations. I’m up on the Scotland Loves Anime blog with a piece about being the jury chairman, and a rundown of the films in competition for this year’s Golden Partridge award. Meanwhile, festival director Andrew Partridge and I are interviewed on the Daily Record website about the festival, and I talk solo to TV Bomb.