My review of Keiichi Hara’s Colorful is now up on the Manga UK blog. It’s one of the most thoughtful and mature anime movies of recent years, and well worth a look if you are in any of the towns being visited by this year’s Japan Foundation tour.
It’s “Beadlemania” in Manga UK’s 22nd podcast
Jeremy Graves is joined by Jerome Mazandarani, Andrew Hewson and Jonathan Clements for a run-down of what’s coming up and what’s going on, available to download now. Contains the phrases: “engine of Japanese oppression,” “invaded by bots,” “secret file from the chamber of balrogs” and “where do you think all the cocaine’s been hidden?”
00:00 The song that ruined Christmas.
01:30 Introductions all round, which turn out to be largely wrong.
03:50 Jerome paints a Yuletide picture, using only words.
04:20 Bad marketing ideas from Gatwick Express.
05:00 Round-up of the December releases. Jude Law, not appearing in anime near you any time, ever.
09:00 The traditional Andrew Partridge baiting session, and tales of his odd fetish for ice cream. Other odd things you can buy in a Japanese convenience stores. The world’s greatest segue, ruined by everyone else.
11.00 Evangelion 3.0, coming in March. Controversy arising over The Wind Rises, Miyazaki’s best- and worst-reviewed film ever. Chinese reactions to Studio Ghibli, as demonstrated in Lifeweek magazine.
17:30 Looking back on 2013 – highlights including moustaches, conventions and stuff. The prospects for Attack on Titan, convention disasters, and the high road to Scotland.
29:00 “A Buddhist purple cat that never does anything and then dies.” Comments on judging films, with time out to discuss coalition politics and the Evening Standard awards.
34:45 The Kuroko basketball threats, and other scams and scandals arising in the Japanese media.
36:00 The perils of licensing sports anime. Hidden synergies in Summer Wars.
39:00 The nature of female fandom, and its long-overlooked presence in the history of anime (as noted by Paul Dini).
42:00 The Hell of Heidi: “We’ve created perfection, you morons!”
44:00 Jerome takes on Ofcom, and explains where all the pornography is hidden.
46:50 Godzilla, and re-enacting it in your living room.
49:20 Ask Manga UK. What pre-2000 anime do you think deserves an HD redo?
50:50 Giving credit where credit is due. Steve Kyte unmentioned on Firestorm, and Spike Lee’s response to an offended artist on Oldboy.
57:00 Which releases have surprised you in terms of 2013 sales?
59:00 Possible title issues with Tiger and Bunny.
59:30 Watching Manga UK releases on iTunes.
61:45 What effect will disintermediation have on your business model? Predictions for anime becoming a closed circle of consumption, less visible to the public.
67:50 The possibility of Jormungand appealing to al Qaeda.
70:00 Jerome explains content-driven marketing.
72:00 The legal tangle of the Macross licence.
75:00 Has there been an increase in Blu-ray sales this year? It is now cheaper to release stuff on Blu-ray than DVD! Who would have thought it?
78:30 The chances of a Manga UK modelling agency.
80:30 What’s coming up on Blu-ray in 2014.
81:30 Why can’t we have Celtic Frost back?
84:00 It’s the final QUEST-ion! Doodle-doo-doo… A few other surprises coming in 2014.
91:00 And with that, we’re out. Bye for this year.
One of the pleasures of long-haul flights is getting to mainline a bunch of movies that you wouldn’t otherwise stand a whelk’s chance of watching. Which is how, somewhere two miles above Novosibirsk, I found myself watching The Treasure of Lake Kaban, a completely bonkers movie set in Tatarstan.
The poster says it all, from the Lara Croft rip-off and the aspirant Bond, all the way to the irritating little dog. Ivan the Terrible scowls at the left – it is he, in flashback, who attacks Tatarstan’s capital, Kazan, causing the beautiful princess Soyembika to bury her greatest treasure in a secret location. Meanwhile, over on the right is an “American” carpet-bagger called, wait for it, Diana Jones.
The tagline shrugs: “Nyet vremeni obyasnyat” (There’s no time to explain). And apparently there isn’t, as a frustrated army doctor-turned-archaeologist, a nutjob who thinks he’s an alien, and a Russian navy conscript trying to find enough cash to buy out his commission, all converge on the small republic, where local colour amounts to a whole bunch of relics of Russian’s Mongol marchland – dances, cossacks, daggers, and most memorably in the gene pool, if the smouldering Elvira Ibragimova (that’s her in the shorts) is anything to go by.
The script, by Georgiy Kirvalidze and Dimitriy Terekhov, is based on ideas by three others – although there is such antic chaos in the movie that one might be forgiven that three completely different films were being made at once. There are allusions to many tourist sites in Kazan, and local legends such as the Zilat, the region’s own variant of the Loch Ness monster.
Played straight, there would have been plenty of majesty and scenery here to out-Dan Brown Dan Brown. But The Treasure of Lake Kaban plumps for madcap “comedy”, all pratfalls and kicks in the goolies, as wannabe rock star Kiril (Alex Sparrow, who is apparently something big in Russian X Factor) gurns and mugs his way around a series of monuments and sewers, trying and largely failing not to stare down the cavernous cleavages of his co-stars and nemesis. The result plays as if the Chuckle Brothers have been put in charge of the Da Vinci Code, with all that that implies.
Jonathan Clements is the author of An Armchair Traveller’s History of the Silk Road, which doesn’t have any monsters in it, but does have more belly dancing.
For readers in the UK, I shall be on Channel Four on Sunday 8th December at 8pm, as a talking head on New Secrets of the Terracotta Warriors. Lots of metallurgy fun, and possibly even the entertaining sight of me interviewing the man who discovered them — I don’t know, I haven’t seen it yet myself.
We had been hoping to get a reprint of my First Emperor of China book out in time for it, but that won’t be until 2014. But you can apparently pick up the original edition for a penny behind the link, so knock yourselves out. Photo courtesy of Two Chiefs.
You should definitely buy books as Christmas presents. In an age of Kindle binges, actual paper books are becoming unique luxuries.Which books, you say? Well, these, for starters:
Anime: A History — Out on the 6th so just in time for Christmas (in the UK… I doubt it will reach American readers in time), the British Film Institute’s landmark history of a century of animation in Japan, from the first appearances of foreign cartoons in Tokyo cinemas, through early innovators, wartime propaganda and the rise of TV “anime”, the video boom, the wave of foreign interest and Miyazaki’s Oscar, all the way to the shut-down of the analogue broadcast signal in 2012.
Modern China: All That Matters — China as the Chinese see it, a history of the People’s Republic since 1949 with special emphasis on the most crucial points and issues of the Mao years, the Deng years, the Hong Kong Handover, territorial and cultural issues, right up to the inauguration of Xi Jinping.
The Art of War — for the truly dangerous sister-in-law, the mad granny or the eccentric uncle who spends the whole dinner using peanuts in an attempt to explain how the Battle of Talas went, Sun Tzu’s original classic of military advice, newly translated in a no-nonsense, waffle-free edition.
Mannerheim — Now available in paperback, the unbelievable tale of the “last knight”, the Tsarist cavalry officer who fought against the Japanese in Manchuria, spent two years pretending to be a Swedish anthropologist while spying on the Chinese, and ended his career accidentally becoming the president of Finland. Battles, derring-do and malicious puppet shows.
Schoolgirl Milky Crisis — for the anime fan who thinks he or she knows it all, a broad sweep of the anime, manga and Asian media worlds, including libellous accusations, misguided confessions, and things a whole bunch of people never wish they’d said within earshot. Why do anime studios hang onto a glove full of rancid custard? Is it possible to write a subtitle script without using the letter “Y”? These questions and more, in the book that this blog is the blog of. Oh yes.