While everyone is comparing careers and counting grey hairs at the high school reunion, two people stand strangely apart. One is Michiko, the one-time straight-A student who dropped out and now works as a lowly shop assistant. The other is Kenji, an average salaryman, who’s trying to put a brave face on his wife’s death in a Philippines car crash. Former childhood sweethearts, they resume their relationship, but this time their kids bring complications. Her teenage son Masahiko is a tearaway biker who shows her no respect. His son Kazuma is a latchkey kid, isolated by his father’s new-found love interest, beaten up at school because his mother never comes to pick him up. One day, as Kazuma walks home alone, he is hit by a car. Continue reading →
Yesterday was a hot holiday Monday in London, so naturally I was standing in front of a galleon on the South Bank, talking about Chinese pirates. There’s a film crew in town making a documentary about Coxinga, the pirate king of Taiwan, who led the resistance against the Manchu occupation in the 1600s. The director wanted pictures of me doing quintessentially London things, so I suggested playing tinny music from my cellphone out loud on the train until someone punched me. Instead, he plumped for walking beside the Thames, until we were moved along by Tower of London security.
In Japan, where the concept was first invented, they were called the Money Tigers. In Finland they are the Lions. In Israel, the Sharks. We call them the Dragons, and their job is to audit the plans of would-be entrepreneurs in the Dragons’ Den. If Judge Judy isn’t on, I’m there, watching the way they pierce to the heart of bad ideas. And sometimes, for fun, I imagine what it would be like if someone tried to attract the Dragons to invest in the anime industry. Continue reading →
In Hotman, a former gang member tries to put his life in order to raise his four younger siblings – no surprise that the leading role of Enzo Takaya is taken by Takashi Sorimachi, still widely known for his role as a gangster-made-good in GTO. But Enzo doesn’t merely have to teach classes in fine art and chase around after his surrogate family, he also opens his door to find five-year-old Nanami (Nana Yamauchi). Her absent mother has left a note informing Enzo that he is the father. Enzo now has to contend with a fifth hungry mouth to feed, and one with a series of allergies and intolerances that force him to become an instant expert on organic produce and health food. It could only be based on a manga… Continue reading →
Nothing describes the Chinese transition into capitalism quite as well as the Beijing Olympic mascots. Five little critters swarm all over the Beijing merchandise, in a move that guarantees a Pokémon style supermarket sweep for any parents at the games. Oh yes, you’ll have to catch ’em all, and since there are five of them, that’s five times the foreign currency for Beijing. Behind the scenes, the multiple mascots might have been intended to prevent any single Chinese region from speaking for the whole. You can’t have just a panda, as that only means Sichuan to the Chinese. Can’t have just a swallow, as that’s the symbolic bird of the Beijing region. A fish is too Shanghainese. What about a big red personification of the Olympic flame? What about a politically-sensitive Tibetan antelope? What about all of the above, darting across the merchandise like a squad of colour-coded Power Rangers. Continue reading →
Anime schoolgirls are a distinctive breed. Lithe and long-limbed, these sailor-suited sirens are prone to demonic possession, often found with magical powers, and quite likely to be martial artists. Any resemblance to real-Japanese teenagers is purely coincidental. But then again, once in a while someone in the live-action world will wonder – just how difficult would it be to try this kind of story with real girls…?
Ever since she was bullied as a child, Mann (Jun Matsuda) has nurtured her own natural abilities in the martial arts. A few years of living abroad in Hong Kong and Thailand have allowed her to hone her skills in kickboxing, which come in handy on the tough streets of Shinjuku. Well, there’s tough and there’s tough. The bars and accessory shops are hardly mean streets, but it’s still the home turf of gangs of sailor-suited schoolgirls, and they’re fighting over their territory.
It’s hard not to like Yasuhiro Takeda, the hapless nuclear physics student who repeated his second year at university five times before giving up. His reason, the passion for sci-fi that led him to run conventions, sell model kits, and eventually become General Manager and Producer for the Gainax company. This textual autobiography takes him from his failed student days, through his time as fanboy and amateur actor, right through the tax evasion calamity that dogged Gainax in the wake of Evangelion.
In the movies, life is planned out for you. You meet someone special, you fall in love, and then you live happily ever after. But while you might be able to choose the love of your life, you don’t have so much luck with their family. And in Japan, there’s less likelihood that you’ll be sharing a love-nest for two than moving in with your new in-laws. In manga and live-action drama, the Cinderella story often does not begin until after the wedding, when our pretty young heroine gets the man of her dreams, only to find herself an unpaid slave to a vindictive mother-in-law. This is the ever-growing dramatic genre of “in-law appeasement,” likely to expand further as Japan’s population grows and house prices soar ever higher – and The Curse is one of its more famous examples. Continue reading →