Fresh Air

In science fiction and related fields, it was once possible to smell demographic changes. The old Forbidden Planet basement used to stink of wet dog, Wotsits and monosodium glutamate sweat. Suddenly, in the mid-1990s, it began to smell of peaches, lemons and vanilla. Had they finally fixed the air conditioning? Nope, but The X Files had brought in a sudden influx of female fans, and they… you know… washed.
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The Nolans System

In the early 1980s, five sisters took Japan by storm. The Nolans sold 9 million records, and appeared on TV, singing in Japanese. Their biggest hit was “Dancing Sister,” which we know better as the Christmas party floor-filler “I’m in the Mood for Dancing”.

Anime producers fell in love. Some shows already had five-man teams modelled on Thunderbirds, but the video market favoured all-girl action. Soon the Nolans’ media-friendly archetypes, expressed in their costumes and made-up Japanese puff articles, were incorporated into the Five Ideal Anime Women…
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Any Old Irony

In summer 2005, part-time academic Natsuki Matsumoto found a three-second scrap of hand-drawn animation in Kyoto. The tiny two-colour piece of film was less of a movie than a comic drawn onto celluloid, fifty frames in which a boy in a bright red cap dashed off the words “Moving Pictures” onto a black board, then took a bow. It was rudimentary and if screened, would jump all over the place.

Matsumoto (a respected figure in the anime history world, and a leading authority in pre-war anime) announced that the item could be “up to ten years older” than the oldest known cartoon in Japan. It probably isn’t. The oldest cartoon known in Japan is currently Oten Shimokawa’s Mukuzo Imokawa, and there’s plenty of scope for something to turn up that might be older. But ten years older?
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Snack Attack

To Ikebukuro, where in a modest three-room apartment in a lively Tokyo suburb, an unemployed 36-year-old woman was ordered by her parents to clear a little space. It seems that Millie Manga, as we shall call her, had allowed her comics collection to take over her room, and the “spare” room vacated by her older sister.
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The Price is Wrong

I was in the post office sending off a translated script, when the man behind the counter said: “We can’t just send it to America Small Packet Rate, we have to know how much it’s worth.”

“That depends,” I said. “The Writers’ Guild say it’s worth £18,000, the Institute of Translators and Interpreters say £12,000, in France it’s a thousand pounds a throw, and The Company That Shall Remain Nameless won’t pay for it at all because they’ve got someone who does it for 50p and a bunch of grapes.”
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Since so many English-language programmes are dubbed in Japan, the voice-acting industry is much better established than in the UK. This has led to an international variant on stunt casting, whereby certain actors can trade off the reputation of the Hollywood stars whose voices they replace. NHK has done a superb job of translating British sci-fi caper Doctor Who into Japanese, with former Fellowship of the Rings translator Katsushige Hirata handling the script, alongside a string of notables from the voice-acting world.
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The Tiger’s Tail

It has always struck me as strange that the stories of Robin Hood should crop up in Europe at the same time as stories of the heroes of the Water Margin in China and of Yoshitsune in Japan. What is it about the late 12th century that suddenly favours stories of noble outlaws opposing dastardly governments? Why is it that for every story of Robin Hood facing Little John on a log across a stream, there is an analogue in the East, like that of Yoshitsune fighting Benkei on the Gojo Bridge?
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Iron Man

The lavishly illustrated Iron Man: The Cinema of Shinya Tsukamoto not only examines the maverick director’s films, but his formative years, fighting with his little brother (who he would eventually shove into a boxing ring in Tokyo Fist), watching anime and Gamera movies. A life of salaried drudgery beckons, until Tsukamoto strikes it lucky with an ultra-violent tale of metallic possession – Tetsuo.
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