Hideyuki Kikuchi

“…”it recounts the efforts of Earth’s vampire aristocracy to repel an alien invasion, revealing at least some of the back-story to what appears to be Kikuchi’s magnum opus, a millennia-spanning conflict between Dracula and Cthulhu, glimpsed in mere fragments across a time abyss that only appears vast to mere mortals.”

“It surely did the franchise no harm that its unifying surtitle, written in a syllabary unintelligible to American lawyers as the word eirian, leapt out from bookshelves at passers-by who might have assumed it was a tie to the film Alien (1979). Yoshitaka Amano’s cover artwork might also be complicit in this subtle fakery, depicting the schooboy hero as an occasional lookalike of the actress Sigourney Weaver…”

Over at the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, I contribute a monstrously huge entry on the work of Hideyuki Kikuchi, creator of Wicked City, A Wind Named Amnesia, Vampire Hunter D, and many more.



Over at the Science Fiction Encyclopedia, I sneak away from my usual China and Japan entries to write up the Norwegian thriller Occupert (Occupied), in which the perfidious European Union colludes with the nasty Russians to invade Norway.

“…if the narrative of similar Anglophone sf is one of good versus evil and open conflict, Occupert draws instead on a national experience of quisling collaboration, the thinning of everyday comforts and freedoms, and the slow but sure assembly of an effective resistance…”

If This Goes On…

ten yearsWork continues over at the Science Fiction Encyclopedia, where I’ve contributed new entries on the Chinese tomb-raiding author Tianxia Bachang, and the controversial Cantonese polemic Ten Years (pictured), about life in a near-future Hong Kong. The China entries in the SFE constitute a book within a book, covering everything from early pioneers to Party people, and it’s all online for free, because that’s how they roll. Blessings of the state, blessings of the masses…

Martial Artistry

big troubleSpun off from my work on A Brief History of the Martial Arts, the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction gets to feel the benefit, with several new entries from me on Chinese authors. There’s a new thematic entry on Wuxia (martial arts fiction), as well as author entries on Louis Cha (a.k.a. Jin Yong), Ni Kuang and Wang Dulu, the author of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. I’ve now written well over 100,000 words in the SFE on the literature of China and Japan, and the work is still ongoing.

Yoshiki Tanaka

gineiNow up in the online Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, my justifiably massive entry on the Japanese author Yoshiki Tanaka. Despite being a familiar name to anime fans and manga readers, this is the first time anyone has published an overview of his work, and even this 2500-word behemoth misses out a lot of his detective fiction and Sinology publications.

However, there’s plenty there on The Legend of the Galactic Heroes and the Heroic Legend of Arslan, as well as his lesser-known works like the Victorian Horror Adventures and Red Hot Dragoon.

Kaoru Kurimoto

guin sagaOver at the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, I finally get around to writing the necessarily massive entry required on Kaoru Kurimoto, possibly the most influential female author in Japanese science fiction for much of the 1980s and 1990s. I’m pretty proud that it takes five paragraphs to get to Guin Saga, which is liable to be the only thing of hers that most non-Japanese people have heard of, if at all.

Bodacious Data

b-pirate-1-2Work continues over at the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, with yours truly writing entries about Yuichi Sasamoto, creator of Bodacious Space Pirates, and Kazumasa Hirai, creator of Harmagedon. The wordcount of my combined Japan and China entries in the SFE is now actually bigger than Anime: A History, and it’s all available for free.

Haruki Kadokawa’s Struggle

kadokawa pictureOver at the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, the need to revise the entry for the blockbuster flop Virus led me to also write a new entry on its producer, the flamboyant, ever-entertaining Haruki Kadokawa. That’s him in the picture, dressed as a samurai on a Tokyo overpass, photographed by Annie Leibowitz, with a book title that’s the same in Japanese as Mein Kampf. Because if you’re that rich, you would, wouldn’t you?

Bubble Fictions

It is a scene straight out of Evangelion. At the offices of a secret government project, a stern-faced leader informs a reluctant young protagonist that the world is about to end. A clock on the wall counts down the seconds until disaster, unless… unless someone climbs into a dangerous, untested prototype machine, and does battle with the fates themselves.

But Japan is not under attack from avenging angels. The countdown clock is financial, ticking away the moments until Japan’s debts spiral completely out of control, and the country comes crashing down – collapsing banks, armies of starving ex-workers, and considerably less anime in the stores.

2007’s big Japanese sci-fi movie was the satirical Bubble Fiction, in which Ryoko Hirosue is catapulted back to the boom year of 1990 in a last-ditch attempt to save the Japanese economy. The effect is not unlike Back to the Future as written by accountants – Japan’s modern woes are tracked back to a tiny loophole in a proclamation by the Finance Ministry, and high jinks inevitably ensue.

Inevitably, there are sly digs at the fashions of yesteryear, and cameos from whichever future stars the producers could persuade to play their younger selves. Most notably, Ai Iijima, the future author of Time Traveller Ai, can be found dancing at a discotheque. Phones are the size of bricks, shoulder pads the size of helipads, tight ruffled dresses on body-conscious Tokyo ladies and men wear suits two sizes too big for them. Written by Bayside Shakedown’s Ryoichi Kimizuka, Bubble Fiction presents a fantasy view of the 1990s, in which people literally give money away in the streets, taxis need to be hailed with a ten thousand yen note, and champagne flows freely among the party set.

But there is also a sense of impending doom. It’s here, as Tokyo land prices soared to silly heights, that the seeds were sown of economic collapse. The Bubble, warned some pundits, was sure to burst, bringing disaster on the hedonistic Japanese.

Creatively, the Bubble years have a lot to answer for. Outside Japan, the economic might of Japan led Hollywood to make Black Rain and Rising Sun. The great growth in wealth among the Japanese turned them into the owners of video players, and hence helped drive the modern anime industry. The idea of a future economic implosion even gave us the name of a famous anime, Bubblegum Crisis. Deep pockets nurtured the garage kit and figurine industries. The largest disposable income of all turned out to be in the hands of the charmingly named “parasite singles”, twenty-something women living rent-free with their parents, hence a similar emphasis on bespoke cute. Hello Kitty might have been around long before the Bubble, but she certainly achieved megastar status with the help of all those yen with nowhere else to go.

But let us also remember the indirect effects of the crash. With profit margins constricting in Japan itself, producers and publishers became more amenable to foreign sales. Anime and manga abroad, particularly in America, are another side-effect of the boom and bust, and a generation on, the fact that the American market plays such a great part in Japanese business decisions is, at least in part, a result of deals done in the Bubble period.

But what if the American economy starts to slump…? Who’s going to pay for anime then? Sub-prime days ahead, my friends?

This article first appeared in Newtype USA in 2007, and was reprinted in the book Schoolgirl Milky Crisis. Bubble Fiction is screening at several UK cinemas as part of the Japan Foundation’s touring film season.