The Metabolist Imagination

Over on All the Anime, I review William O. Gardner’s new book on the Japanese architects who dreamed of a brave new world in the 1960s, whose ideas informed so much of the science fiction of the years that followed.

“Gardner, for example, finds it ‘striking’ that so many of the mecha shows of the 1970s, starting with Mazinger Z and culminating in the iconic Gundam, should seem to allude so closely to Metabolist ideas of ‘cyborg architecture’ – a machine-based enhancement of human potential that was one of the central ideas of the movement. He points, most obviously, to Katsuhiro Otomo’s Neo-Tokyo in Akira, based on the architect Kenzo Tange’s Plan for Tokyo (1960), which proposed building into and onto Tokyo Bay – an idea subsequently riffed on by Patlabor and Ghost in the Shell.”

*Not* Big in Japan

“Why is that giant robot skipping…?” I return to the All the Anime podcast for another time-wasting podcast about (among other things) — the reasons for corporate pseudonyms in the anime business, why nobody likes Swedes, the politics of reindeer herding, “southern softies” from Helsinki, anime that are more popular outside Japan than in it, and, as ever, why I love Gunbuster.

APPROX TIME CODES FOR THIS EPISODE –

00:00 – 02:34, Intro.
02:35 – 07:53, An update on life in Finland during lockdown, the politics of reindeer herders
07:54 – 19:31, Jonathan on the re-recording of Gunbuster, then discussion about Diebuster too.
19:32 – 31:25, Who is (or isn’t) Hajime Yatate? A look at how this pseudonym came about and its impact on the industry to this day.
31:26 – 41:48, (continued from the section above) Have there been any more examples of blowback by a creative because they lost a credit to a studio?
41:49 – 56:15, Discussion on titles being more popular outside of Japan but also how a title may be presented to be perceived larger than it is.
56:16 – 1:02:53, (Continued from section above) The crucial missing component in the foreign attention pattern: China.
1:02:54 – 1:11:48, The Chinese animation industry as it is now.
1:11:49 – 1:15:13 [END], Show close.

Nightmares in the Dream Sanctuary

Over at All the Anime, I review Donna Kornhaber’s new book on cartoons and war.

“The Empire, in Leicester Square, was the venue at which the world’s first recorded screening of an animated film took place, with an animated advert in which the Bryant & May company promised to send a personalised box of matches to every British soldier fighting in the Boer War.

“But then [Kornhaber] leaps into the future, to a winter’s day in Moscow in 1983, when a very different film received its premiere. Garri Bardin’s ‘Conflict’ also features animated matchsticks, but was a very different presentation with a severe anti-war message.

“These two moments in cinema history mark the broad parameters of Kornhaber’s just-published Nightmares in the Dream Sanctuary, in which she investigates the relationship of animation and war, not merely as propaganda, but as protest, resistance and memorial. She is intrigued by the ways in which film can be used to tell outrageous lies about the acceptability of war, or to confront viewers with unwelcome truths about its costs, but also in which animation, in its plastic relation to reality, can prove ideally suited for depicting a world turned upside-down.”

Easter 1638

“Vital documents about the rebel state of mind were ignored until after the Rebellion because they used terms in Latin, the secret cant of the Christians, unintelligible to non-believers. Biblical allusions in rebel correspondence and rhetoric sailed completely over the heads of their enemies. Jerome Amakusa held his army together through a long siege that lasted through Lent 1638, only to discover that his most trusted lieutenant was plotting to betray him on Easter Sunday. This irony escaped the notice of the government troops, who did not know what Easter Sunday was.”

From Christ’s Samurai: The True Story of the Shimabara Rebellion.

Book Sale: up to 45% off

Haus Publishing tell me that the Kindle editions of my books are currently discounted for a limited time only (discount highlighted below).

Amazon discounts:
Although the majority of e-book readers choose to use Amazon Kindle, some may prefer to read in protected PDF and EPUB format. These can be purchased via Chicago’s website at a 40% discount, using the promotional code HAUSEBOOK40.
Also, over the coming weeks, any Haus books are available at a 30% discount in the UK if you order directly from them, and they will donate 10% of whatever you pay to NHS charities. A collection of the 143 charities that support the NHS. More information here: https://www.nhscharitiestogether.co.uk/what-we-do/#charities-together and here:https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/charity-web/charity/displayCharityCampaignPage.action?charityCampaignUrl=NHSCharitiesCOVID19
 
Postage and packaging is free of charge to UK residents. To order directly from Haus, one has to call their office 020 3637 9729 between 1pm and 4pm between Monday and Friday.

Jay Benedict (1951-2020)

Over at the All the Anime blog, I remember the actor Jay Benedict.

He had played Deak, one of the local slackers at Tosche Station on Tattooine, in a scene deleted from Star Wars: A New Hope, describing his performance as one of “playing space pinball” while Biggs (Garrick Hagon) told Luke Skywalker he was joining the rebel alliance, and Koo Stark “sat around looking beautiful.” When we worked together with Hagon on one anime dub, Benedict ribbed him about how Hagon’s character had made it to the final cut, only to get blown up above the Death Star.

Anime Versus Virus

I hope nobody was coughing at Minamicon…? Yui Ishikawa’s announcement last month that she was cancelling her appearance at the Violet Evergarden premiere at the Glasgow Film Festival over infection fears seemed briefly like a slap in the face (or head butt), but was soon revealed as a reaction entirely in keeping with the Japanese government’s own directives on restricting travel. Anime News Network has been spattered with announcements of cancelled press launches and concerts, as pressing the flesh becomes a no-no. You knew it was bad when the Ghibli Museum shut down.

Kyoto, which has been rammed with Chinese tourists for the last five years, is suddenly quiet. The Shuxiangge hot pot restaurant in London’s Chinatown, where I fought to get an upstairs seat in January, put me by the ground-floor window in February, when I was outnumbered by the staff, And on Valentine’s Day, I briefly and accidentally booked a hotel room in Helsinki that very evening, when usually the place is chock full of tourists.

Japan’s extreme reaction is an attempt to deal with a virus that may have little to no effect on 83% of victims, making it easier for them to spread it during the two-week incubation period. But it’s also based on the economic brinkmanship that has characterised the last couple of years, with a huge degree of Japanese economic planning resting on the hosting and completion of a successful Olympic Games. They need to get ahead of this now, or it will bring down the government. [Time travel footnote: the Olympic Games will now take place in 2021].

In the spirit of the school shutdown, the Doraemon and Shimajiro films scheduled for spring break have now been postponed. I can’t say anyone is likely to be that bothered, since in the case of Doraemon, this has to be the third or fourth time they have recycled the same dinosaur plot in living memory. Meanwhile, in Malaysia, the government has advised wives to “speak like Doraemon” when dealing with their husbands in lockdown, because nothing gets you through a global pandemic like impersonating an incompetent time-travelling robot cat.

But in the most surreal anime virus story so far, Tiger Ye, a resident of Wuhan diagnosed with COVID-19 in January, has told the world’s media that watching Idolm@ster had helped him get through it all.

“I realised I needed some spiritual support or maybe I couldn’t make it,” he told Michael Standaert in the Guardian. “So I watched my favourite anime show and seeing their normal, happy lives, I thought I may have to say goodbye to this life forever. But watching the show, the heroine had troubles in the first half, but she finally made it and succeeded in her career.”

“So watching the show, I thought: I must make it if I want to see her next concert alive. This really encouraged me and gave me some relief,” he said, “along with the medicine.”

Jonathan Clements is the author of A Brief History of Japan. This article was commissioned for NEO #199, but events overtook it when the magazine was put on temporary hiatus owing to the lack of sales venues during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Boxers in Lockdown

Over at the All the Anime podcast, I talk the ears off Jeremy Graves and Andy Hanley about video-watching in lockdown, managing convention colds, the genesis of Tomorrow’s Joe and sundry other topics of little consequence.

00:00 – 16:14, Intro, what lockdown life in Finland is like; what Ghibli Jonathan introduced his son to during this time!

16:15 – 49:54, Intro continued, NEWS: NEO Magazine going on hiatus; NEWS: Masaaki Yuasa retires as President of Science Saru

59:55 – 1:30:11, Questions/topics from the community

1:30:12 – 1:43:33, Megalo Box discussion primer: Jonathan Clements on the history of Ashita no Joe

1:43:34 – 1:54:14 [END], Close Show; discussion on Jonathan’s adaptation of Death Note.

Sankichiro Kusube (1938-2020)

Over at the All the Anime blog, I write the obituary for Sankichiro Kusube, a leading producer at A-Pro, and then its successor studio Shin Ei.

“Kusube not only dragged Doraemon back onto the air, but pushed for its leap into cinemas as well, personally guaranteeing the creator and the TV channel that he would take personal responsibility if Doraemon: Nobita’s Dinosaur (1980) proved to be a failure. It’s for this reason, his willingness to be the fall guy, that Kusube’s name made a rare appearance on the production credits for the film, which would go on to be the highest grossing domestic animation film of the year at the Japanese box office.”

Death Note en français

I am, perhaps, as surprised as you to discover that my 12-part audio adaptation of Death Note, released in German in 2018, has suddenly been released in French. The French version, available from Audible, seemingly uses the voice actors from the French anime dub, a nice little extra touch. Still no news on an English version; your guess is as good as mine.

“Pour éviter les foudres, des fans — qui n’ont pas épargné l’adaptation de Netflix — le choix de ces conteurs a été soigné,” says the Manga News website. “En effet, le site d’informations Manga News souligne que les comédiens que l’on retrouvera dans ce livre audio sont les mêmes qui avaient participé à la version française de l’anime.”