In Japan, currently in a hotel in the middle of the Inland Sea, with giant tankers gliding past a backdrop of green, hilly islands, stretching back into the mists. And because I’m been busy writing all year, I haven’t been following this year’s Sunday night taiga drama, Yae no Sakura, all about a gunsmith’s daughter from Aizu-Wakamatsu, who gets dragged into the Boshin War — the last gasp of the samurai. This is a topic I have written about twice already, as it was also a proving ground for a young Admiral Togo, and I’ve got all the materials assembled for another book about its end, called Samurai Republic, which I have yet to sell. But today it’s mainly an excuse to print a picture of Haruka Ayase with a gun, in her role as “the Bakumatsu Joan of Arc.” The titular Yae (Yaeko Yamamoto, a.k.a. Yae Niijima, 1845-1932) went on to become the first non-imperial woman to be decorated for service to her country, serving as a nurse in the Sino-Japanese and Russo-Japanese Wars. Then she helped found Doshisha University.
His name was Supap Kirtsaeng and he made a few bucks on the side. While a studying in the USA, he realised that while his expensive college textbooks were also available in substantially cheaper editions in his native Thailand. So, he figured, why not buy a few and and sell them to his mates? Why not buy a dozen? A hundred?
John Wiley & Sons, a respectable academic press, took Kirtsaeng to court, claiming that his little sideline had already notched up lost sales of $1.2 million. And after appeal, Kitsaeng won in March of this year, with a Supreme Court ruling in his favour, stating that the First Sale Doctrine supported his little loophole. According to American law, in line with the laws of many other countries, once you buy an item for yourself, it’s your legal right to do whatever the hell you like with it, including selling it to someone else.
You may be wondering, what the hell does that have to do with you? Well… for starters, don’t be surprised if it’s a major contributor to the new X-Box policy on forcing people to rent access to their games instead of buying them outright. More importantly for the anime fan, it makes it unpleasantly clear to Japanese rights holders that if something sells cheaper, say, in the UK, than it does in Japan, then it is unlikely to be possible to argue someone can’t import it back into Japan. Take the argument to extremes, and it is a strong case for making all foreign fans pay the same high costs as Japanese fans, in order to protect the Japanese business.
Fast forward to June, and suddenly Macross Plus is released in Japan as a region-free blu-ray with English sub and dub. Great news for you if you want to drop £70 on it. But why on earth would a British distributor buy the rights, when they already know a substantial number of customers will have already bought it direct from Japan? The anime companies are now calling our bluffs. We said grey importing wasn’t worth worrying about. Okay, they’ve said, how do you feel about grey exporting…?
Jonathan Clements is the author of Schoolgirl Milky Crisis: Adventures in the Anime and Manga Trade. This article first appeared in NEO #113, 2013.
The Game, by Neil Strauss, is a book about a tribe of colossal asshats who go around the world trying to get off with gullible women. It is absolutely outrageous, and I had to do a degree of Googling to determine that it wasn’t some cunning hoax by a radical feminist. If I were an eccentric millionaire, and if the film rights hadn’t already been sold, I would have totally optioned it, because it starts off as a bunch of scared little boys trying to pull girls, like something out of The Inbetweeners, and soon turns into an oddly homoerotic farce, as alpha chat-up artists fight over who gets to train their alleged wingmen. The accounts of their conquests are also oddly Brechtian, with fellow pick-up artists somehow able to communicate with the author while he is mid-conversation with some tart from Toledo, making me wonder if they aren’t a figment of his imagination.
Meanwhile, although there is a degree of human hacking and cod-psychology at work, their ideas for attracting women are absolutely bonkers, and seem to involve dressing up as WIZARDS, dripping with disposable costume jewellery (to give as “gifts”) and conversation-starting gewgaws, and carrying a man-bag full of Magic Circle paraphernalia in order to dazzle impressionable young dollymops. Forget the implied reader, I am more worried about the implied target — presumably an educationally sub-normal magpie who likes card tricks. By the end, despite supposedly being based on a true story, it turns into an obvious and deliberate pastiche of Fight Club, with the collected tools all living together in some awful Hollywood mansion with nothing but pillows on the floor and peanut butter in the fridge, fighting over women (and each other), and struggling with the realisation that they have become a bunch of “social robots”, obsessed with the appearance of being interesting, rather than actually being interesting for real. It’s like some massive, multi-venue, long-term Situationist art installation about being a total prick.
And the women? Largely fake-boobed, opinion-free gigglers, often with psyches plainly already on fire, daddy issues and baggage. I am amazed that the men found that many to chase, although they largely seem to score in strip clubs and casinos, so I guess you find what you’re looking for. If there were a chapter set in a bookshop, it might have had more practical application for me, but I like to think that the kind of women who lurk in bookshops wouldn’t be all that interested in a bald-headed man in a shiny shirt and four-inch platform boots, pretending to read minds and trying to give her a Ratners necklace.
Jonathan Clements is the author of Mannerheim: President, Soldier, Spy, a biography of Finland’s ultimate pick-up artist.
Expletives deleted on our 19th podcast
Jeremy Graves, Andrew Hewson and Jerome Mazandarani (with Jonathan Clements of Schoolgirl Milky Crisis joining from the interwebs) are on hand to discuss new releases, upcoming releases, behind-the-scenes gossip, and a whole bunch of topics from jobs in the anime business to Google glasses, available to download now.
00:00 Jeremy’s usual hello, and an announcement of Sword Art Online, coming in December.
03:00 Thoughts on the Manchester Comic Con.
04:20 Jonathan’s hottest events — probably Finland.
06:00 How does someone get into the translation business? Is there any way to talk them out of it? What advantage do students from Edinburgh have? Spotting references in Japanese films and whether or not you should dedicate your entire efforts to nothing but anime translation. Another hymn to the glories of Bethan Jones. The politics of running a blog for promotional purposes.
15:00 The trouble that anime fans have finding work in the anime business
20:00 Delay to Deadman Wonderland. The Panasonic play issue with Un-go.
21:00 Last Exile, Fam the Silver Wing, pushed back to December.
22:00 Blue Exorcist definitive edition.
23:00 Streetfighter II the Anime — WTF is going on with the English dub?
For those who missed it last week on the Manga UK blog, my obituary for Ryutaro Nakamura, the director of Serial Experiments Lain.