:: 3:AM Asia archive

Japanamerica: Fantasy, art & the real Japan published 24/05/2011

monkeybusinessThis month, I had the good fortune to participate in an evening that gracefully wedded both. Amid a series of events in New York City to launch Monkey Business: New Voices from Japan, the first English-language edition of a Japanese literary magazine by University of Tokyo scholar and literary translator Motoyuki Shibata and York University scholar and translator Ted Goossen, I shared the stage with Shibata, American novelist Steve Erickson and Japanese novelist Hideo Furukawa to talk about storytelling. We focused on the visual elements of all narratives – fiction, manga, film, woodblock prints and scroll painting. Miraculously, it all made sense.

By Roland Kelts.

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Notes From a Neo-Geisha: People Who Eat Darkness: The Fate of Lucie Blackman published 19/04/2011

rlpReading People Who Eat Darkness: The Fate of Lucie Blackman, unearthed a cache of buried memories, mostly comic and surreally vivid, I’d kept from my own time in late-nineties/millennial Tokyo. Lucie and I had drunk at all the same off-duty-hostesses-and-the-guys-who-adore-them bars. She’d worked in a club just meters from my own. [The club where I hostessed gets a mention in the book as having employed much prettier girls than did Casablanca, where Lucie worked, and indeed, when we were contemporaries, I was prettier than Lucie. Now, however, that I’m in my thirties and she is still twenty-one, Lucie is much prettier than I.]

By Hillary Raphael.

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When Cyborg Daughters Become Giant Octopus Mothers published 02/03/2011

janiceleeI know I wanted to do something about the lack of an archetype for the “daughter” figure. We seem to have many archetypes in mythology and psychology for fathers, mothers, sons, but not really for daughters. I don’t count Freud’s because it seems like sort of a cop-out, carbon-copy of the son’s dilemma, in reverse. I also knew I wanted to investigate the identity crisis a god might have, and in some way, I wrote this novel partially backwards. I knew where it would end, and I sort of knew where it would begin, a daughter wandering in the desert finding the body of a giant octopus, which becomes the body of a dead god.

Maxi Kim interviews Los Angeles-based writer and curator Janice Lee.

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Japanamerica: Why Fry Got Fried published 14/02/2011

jeye2The footage didn’t play well in Japan. And in this age of instantaneous visual language, all subtlety was lost, especially on reactionary right-wing Japanese folks keen to kick up a fight. In response to a formal complaint from the Japanese Embassy, the BBC issued a formal apology on behalf of [Stephen] Fry and cohorts. Last week, after being informed of where I would meet the crew, host and director for lunch, I was told the entire shoot would need to be canceled. Threats against Fry’s welfare were dutifully recorded and conveyed by the embassies. Not a good time for him to visit Japan.

By Roland Kelts.

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Japanamerica: Rebellion & dissent published 24/01/2011

idiotsguideThe stakes in the battle of the anime industry versus the Tokyo metropolitan government over Bill 156 have risen conspicuously over the past few weeks, and cooler heads are hard to find. The bill does nothing to address the production or possession of live-action depictions of rape or child pornography. After failing to pass it last summer, Ishihara and his ilk rushed the vote in December without once asking industry leaders or artists to discuss or compromise on the issue. In the wake of Bill 156’s passage, the decision by 10 of the nation’s top manga publishers to boycott this year’s Tokyo International Anime Fair came as something of a surprise.

By Roland Kelts.

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Stray Cats and Samurai published 06/01/2011

Layout 1The bigger influence in terms of current writing is undoubtedly my experiences in Japan, mostly because I have quite a natural affinity for the place as well as having very close friends there who are like family. Japan is a place full of wild contradictions and, for me, was a liberating space to be in. Without the overarching influences of Christianity, Freud and Descartes, it was an enormously stimulating experience and this feeds into my sense of creativity. It helped me chuck out a lot of Western influences that I sometimes find quite stifling.

Jayne Joso interviewed by Kerry Ryan.

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Japanamerica: A Cautionary Tale published 18/12/2010

shintaro-ishihara_pikachu_astro“They did their best to not raise publicity. And they did their best not to [let anyone] examine [the legislation]. I think it’s disingenuous, since it’s something that could possibly have a lot of impact. The publishers and artists had little to no input, and the bill was rushed into law to ensure that. That’s why the industry is so angry. What’s more, this is not a bill about pornography at all. It’s about enforcing morality, some vague notion that has nothing to do with the real protection of real children.”

Roland Kelts on Japan’s “non-existent youth” bill.

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Japanamerica: Galapagos vs. Global published 04/11/2010

jeye2“I really wanted to bring some diversity into the Japanese industry. Diversity is one of the keys to survival. It’s strange that we have tons of translated novels and films here, and Japanese love those works, mystery novels and Hollywood movies and Disney. But for some reason, we don’t like the comics that others [like].” The Internet may provide the illusion of greater proximity and transparency for overseas fans and artists, but trend spotting from thousands of miles away is inadequate. “People think that with the Internet, you can follow everything, but that’s just not true.”

By Roland Kelts.

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Japanamerica: A Tribute to Satoshi Kon published 23/09/2010

paprika2More than almost any other animator in Japan, Kon had truly liberated himself from what anime was supposed to be. He didn’t envision his audience to be mainly young children or adolescents, and he shied away from creating stories laden with robots, cute sexy girls, and inane, formulaic, feel-good plots. As a result, he was able to create works that stand up well to the best in serious live-action film making. But he was also able to exploit the strengths of hand-drawn animation, and to utilize its potential for infinite deformation and flexibility, while still retaining a special human warmth. In the process, he created something uniquely powerful, a blend of the reality we live in, with the borderless imagination of his own mind.

By Roland Kelts.

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Scrying in Shin Urayasu published 08/09/2010

jesseglassEdward Kelley would gaze into a black, table-tennis paddle-shaped piece of obsidian, or into a smoky crystal ball and relate the visions he saw to John Dee, who would write them down. Among proto-surrealistic landscapes and symbolic acts of poppets and monsters, a genuine language called Enochian was dictated to Dee via Kelley…I used a small crystal skull (large enough to lay within my left eye socket), and a crystal ball, and attempted to replicate the conditions of the scrying session and thereby touch the Enochian well-springs, as it were, of the text.

David F. Hoenigman interviews Jesse Glass.

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