Highland Fling

patemaIn Heathrow just about to be shot out of a cannon at Scotland, ready for Andrew Partridge’s mini-tour of regional cinemas. Over the next four days, I am going to be introducing anime like Patema Inverted and Evangelion 3.0 in a number of places I have never been, including Dumfries, Bo’ness, Falkirk and Inverness. Andrew is driving. He has only just passed his test. No pressure.

All Aboard the Gravy Train

doraemonLike some magical artefact pulled from an Anywhere Door, the Doraemon manga suddenly arrives in English, in its entirety! Yes, that’s 12,000 pages of one of Japan’s best loved comics, a valuable missing piece of the manga puzzle.

Publishing Doraemon in its entirety is a big risk, but not as big as it once would have been. E-publishing means that the owners, Fujiko Pro don’t have to print ten thousand copies of a 12,000-page manga, but can store it on a hard-drive and wait for your money. More crucially, the long-running adventures of the time-travelling blue cat arrive part-funded by a Japanese government initiative.

It’s been five years since this column speculated about the likely bail-out package for Cool Japan (NEO #60). But finally we have the Japanese Contents Localisation or Promotion fund, or “J-LOP”, as it appears to have been termed by whimsical policy wonks with a love of Jennifer Lopez. One of the few schemes to survive the collapse of the Aso administration, J-LOP offers millions of pounds to subsidise the translation or promotion of Japanese works.

J-LOP is an impressive exercise in trickle-down economics, an incentive scheme for copyright owners (not publishers or distributors) to push their work in new markets. And while it can front up to 70% of the costs, the owners still have to come up with some of the cash themselves – this is mainly going to be a scheme that benefits the rich, in the expectation that their ventures generate employment for the rest of us.

So it’s a job creation scheme to attract foreign money, thereby creating work for Japanese tax-payers on which they can pay tax. It is, according to its website at j-lop.jp, also a tourism initiative, in order to keep foreign readers and viewers enthusiastic about Japanese stuff. One wonders if Doraemon is merely the first of many classics to get a leg-up, but I suspect that canny form-fillers will soon be at the trough, applying for subsidies not for worthy wallflowers, but for fan-bait that would have got translated anyway. A heroic tribunal will apparently be on hand to stop this happening. Now there’s an anime waiting to happen…

Jonathan Clements is the author of Anime: A History, published by the British Film Institute. This article first appeared in NEO #123, 2014.

Hamster Games

Just back from AnimeFest in the Czech Republic where, I taught my Storylining in a Corporate Environment workshop (the people who brought you Zombie Hitler, Choc Shock and Hattie Bast: Mummy’s Girl). The two teams of competing delegates digested the usual set of factors influencing animated TV shows, and then spat out ideas tainted with the usual degree of mentalism. The almost unpronounceable C<3R3 of Exe-CUTE-ors featured transforming mecha-students at corporate-sponsored high schools, leading a revolution against their exploitative masters after one pilot finds love in the locker room with a girl from a rival team. The other, the inspired Hamster Games, featured a gaggle of schoolgirls, unaware that their fluffy pets were in the middle of a vicious war against hellspawn, fought in the house at night with kitchen utensils and hamster superpowers.

As ever the victims teams had to battle against time constraints, corporate concerns and the everyday misery of having to run a team with no discernable leader. “Monoculture”, that perennial storylining problem, when copying other people means stuff just looks like everybody else’s, came to the fore, as did the perils of pitching. One team went in with a full-on movie-trailer for their concept, but forgot to use some of their best and funniest lines. The other team went for a more traditional approach, but fatally neglected to preface the whole thing with either their high concept: “CUTE + MECHA”, or their major inspiration (“Romeo & Juliet”) which might have saved them from a lot of abuse at the hands of their rivals.

cz legion armoured trainI also had the chance to drop in at the Bank of the Czechoslovak Legion in Prague, an intricate Rondo Cubist building like some sort of transplant from a world of steampunk deco, built with the spoils from the collapse of Tsarist Russia and the fall of the Far Eastern Republic, by the survivors of the army that fought its way across Siberia on an armoured train (^^ look! an armoured fricking train! ^^), in order to get back to Europe the long way round. But it’s not a tourist site per se, it’s an operational office building, so we celebrated by getting Mikiko Ponczeck to take some money out of the ATM.

Meanwhile, at the con proper, I was asked to sign copies of Schoolgirl Milky Crisis, Anime: A History and the long out-of-print Erotic Anime Movie Guide. And I was asked: “What is your favourite kind of meat?” Which has never happened before.

Eurovision Shouty I-Spy 2014

mother of dragonsAnd we’re back for the game of the year. Prepare the booze, dust off those shouting muscles, and prepare for what the Russian right-wing have called the HOTBED OF SODOM. And that’s before Ukraine gets a massive sympathy vote for, you know, being invaded.

We’ve already had to say goodbye to Moldova’s Mother of Dragons and her prancing beige Unsullied, and Latvia name-dropping Raiders of the Lost Ark while singing a chorus that went “Tepteptep Google Google.” Categories that appear to be resting this year include readily identifiable mullet dresses, our popular dubstep dance-off, and the much-missed Buddha Jazz Hands. I’m not even sure there will be much bimbling this year, what with the Turks out of competition. Meanwhile, Armenia have sent a man dressed like a Death Star tech support officer and Poland have just sent… well, you’ll see.

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. 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:

Jesus in a dress
Teleporting girl
Circular piano
One-handed voguing
KEY CHANGE! (every time you hear one)
Drumstick throwing (blink and you’ll miss it)
Giant seesaw full of blondes
Fingerless gloves
Lyrics: “Lalalalalala lalalalalala”
Chase her around the piano!
SCRUBBER! Every time someone is seen doing their laundry
Man-sized Hamster Wheel
WOO-WEE!: every time hamster boy does a 360.
Ballerina on roller blades
Onstage butter churning
Surprise Trampoline
Lyrics: “Tonight I’m going to eat you up.”
Kicks the camera
Band inadvertently dressed in the Tellytubby colours
Human letters spell: L-O-V-E.
Hair tied together
Onstage drums
ZZ Top on backing vocals
OMG, what’s the one in orange going to do!? Oh, nothing.

(*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).

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.

Orange is the New Black

ae3Over 1000 new entries, over 4000 updates and corrections, countless new arguments ended (and begun). The third edition of the Anime Encyclopedia brings the landmark reference work up to date with six more years of information on Japanese animation, its practitioners and its products, as well as incisive thematic entries on its history and culture.

It’s scheduled for publication in December, but already has a pre-order page up on Amazon (and in US).