For Honor: Samurai vs Everyone

Over at Samuel Steele’s YouTube page, he interviews me about the technology and culture of the samurai. It’s “just a bit of fun” as the TV historians like to say, designed to think through some of the implications of the ideas behind the computer game For Honor, in which samurai, Vikings and knights duel for control of thinning resources. The interview is split into three parts, the first, largely on weapons and armour, the second, largely on “the warrior code” and the existence of the ninja, and the third on archery, women, and who would win in a stand-up fight.

The Day Heidi was Born

Over at the All the Anime website, I review Kaori Chiba’s new Japanese-language book on Heidi, Girl of the Alps, the landmark anime series that carved out an entire niche in evening programming.

“Chiba deals with the anime’s planning, the shooting of its pilot, and the crew’s location hunt in Switzerland, wherein Miyazaki, Takahata and their long-term collaborator Yoichi Kotabe descend like dervishes on the farmhouse of a baffled local family, demanding to photograph their kitchen table and their cows. From Maienfeld, they head up to Ulm and Frankfurt, soaking up the metropolitan imagery for Heidi’s later adventures in Germany.

“Chiba devotes ample space to the production of the first episode – the scoring of the music, the theme song, and the auditions for the voice actors, the character designs and the backgrounds. It’s only towards the end of the book that her account takes a darker tone, drawing on the complaints of the staff, particularly Miyazaki himself in many later articles and interviews, that television animation was a brutal, relentless, unending task, gobbling up talent and time. The animators put their all into Heidi, only to find that television networks greet its manifest quality with an indifferent shrug.”

Eurovision Shouty I-Spy 2017

This year’s Eurovision Song Contest is in Ukraine, land of some of the best ever Eurovision mentalists. Sadly this year we’ve already lost Latvia’s disco-goth Sailor Moon and Montenegro’s ponytail whirling spacefarer, but there’s plenty of nutters left for Saturday..

This year is the year of the Man-Bun, with these monstrosities appearing on singers, dancers and band members. We also trial our new SHOW A LEG category, for any moment when someone has a single bare leg poking out their costume. This replaces our usual Mullet Dress category, since too many things that look like a mullet dress from a distance turn out to be miniskirts with bum veils. Yes, we have probably thought about this far too much.

Step One: you will probably need to be quite drunk. Step Two: The following sights will be seen during this Saturday’s Eurovision Song Contest. Can you see them first? Remember to shout it out. Party hosts will need to keep score of who gets what first, or otherwise dish out the forfeits to those that aren’t quick enough. As ever, there is more than one key change, and plenty of orbital cleavage, but this year you have to be quick to catch the subtlest of bimbles. Keep your eyes (or ears) open for any of the following. And when you notice it, SHOUT IT OUT!

In no particular order, in Saturday’s final you should look out for:

SHOW A LEG!
The Star Trek Away Team (science, command, security and… orange)
Tap that jug!
Hold my microphone for me
The one-legged hoppy dance
MAN-BUN!
Hands make a heart (several)
Singing in a boat
Conveyor belt dancing
It’s the man in the moon!
WINKING (a lot of winking this year)
COSTUME CHANGE
It’s the Eiffel Tower!
Suddenly shouts “SAMURAI!”
Yodelling
Mask made out of fairy lights
Bouquet throwing
KEY CHANGE! (every time you hear one)
Slapping a pond
Writing on people with chalk
DANCING GORILLA!
Walking on a line he just drew
Onstage cannons
Sign: “Feeling all alone and insecure.”
Big Giant Head
Girl standing in a kaleidoscope (you’ll see three of her)
Xena Warrior Princess voguing in the back (looky likee)
Fat man in half a leather jacket
Glitterboobs (Visible glitter on boobs)
FLAME ON! (every time there’s pyrotechnics)
Man with a horse’s head on top of a stepladder
Woman on a pedestal
Topless man/men
Mask made out of fairy lights
Brushes off imaginary dandruff (got to be quick with this one)
Bimbling*
ORBITAL CLEAVAGE**
Buddha Jazz Hands***

(*swaying one’s head from side to side in a snakey fashion)

(**ostentatious cleavage sufficient to see from a satellite in orbit, which, according to Eurovision bra consultant Tom Clancy, requires a minimum of C-cup)

(***the dancers all pile behind the singer in a line and then fling their arms out, creating a multi-limbed oriental deity-look)

BONUS SCORING

Cyprus gives Greece 12 points
Greece gives Cyprus 12 points
Finland gives Sweden 12 points
Britain scores nul points
Brazilian or Russian flag spotted in the audience.
Eastern European delegate makes ominous comment about friendship
Ukrainian hosts compliment themselves on their attractiveness

Apologies to American readers, who will have to just imagine what the world’s biggest, gayest song contest is like. Just imagine, for one day every year, Europe gets to behave the way that Japan does all the time.

The Phantom Pippi Longstocking

Up on the All the Anime blog, my article on the aborted Pippi Longstocking anime project that caused Hayao Miyazaki, Isao Takahata and Yoshio Kotabe to walk off their jobs at Toei and jump feet-first into the world of television.

“There is no real evidence for [Astrid] Lindgren’s reluctance at the Japanese end, apart from a cryptic comment from Tokyo Movie’s Keishi Yamazaki, who thought that she had once said in a TV programme that Japanese animation was ‘too violent’. Where on Earth she got that idea from in 1971 is anyone’s guess — I like to imagine a Stockholm tea-time coven of famous children’s authors, complaining about foreign cartoons.”

Splendor & Misery

Up now at the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, I add three new entries about modern issues in science fiction — the Hugo-nominated rap album Splendor & Misery, the controversially whitewashed Ghost in the Shell, and the “maliciously” reviewed Great Wall. I’ve still got a bunch of Japanese science fiction authors to add, but these three were just a little diversion to keep me busy over Easter.

Who Will Make Anime Now?

Over at the All the Anime blog, I review Tadashi Sudo’s just-published book on disruptions to the Japanese animation business.

“Sudo’s book is no simple statement of the obvious. Despite its pocket size, it is an admirable synthesis of two decades of anime business writing, and of the immense changes wrought upon the industry by developments in technology and shifts in demographics. China is, sensibly, a huge part of his argument, as he deals with the seemingly unsolvable problem of pushing Japanese products into a marketplace with willing fans but hostile gatekeepers. He not only points to the disruption of traditional models, but also the growing influence of the likes of Netflix and Amazon in how anime is watched, and how it is funded in the first place. He also deals directly with issues of single personalities, and how they might be expected to influence the business.”