:: 3:AM Asia

Japanamerica: Anime & Rock published 21/02/2012

hydeosakaJ-pop and J-rock’s connection to anime has long been both a burden and an opportunity. In the 1970s and 80s, anime soundtracks were heavily localized to attract American viewers, just as anime scripts were butchered to fit expectations shaped by Hollywood and television.

But in the late 90s and early 2000s, the Internet connected global fans to Japanese creators with an immediacy that transcended distance. An edited Pokemon or Naruto episode was no longer acceptable. And original songs, written and sung by Japanese artists, were prized as a sign of authenticity.

Roland Kelts on L’Arc~en~Ciel in New York, London & Paris.

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Japanamerica: Cosplay in the USA published 16/12/2011

jeye2The appeal of cosplay outside Japan is a perfect example of the transcultural boomerangs that characterize much of contemporary popular culture. As Japanese otaku of an older generation will tell you, cosplay, and the devotional fandom behind it, came from the United States: photos of costumed fans at North American sci-fi conventions, such as those revolving around Star Trek, appeared in magazines imported to Japan in the 1960s and 70s. Japanese readers adopted the practice, using characters from their homegrown anime and manga series. As the popularity of manga and anime spiked outside Japan, fast-evolving Internet access provided overseas fans first with a peephole and then a massive window onto what looked like an enticing made-in-Japan phenomenon.

By Roland Kelts.

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Alex-chan ganbare! published 18/11/2011

alexpailleI’ve made three films until now, Karma, You+Me=Love, and Mari-chan. I started getting into filming four years ago, because of Sion Sono, but before that I wasn’t into filmmaking, I wanted to draw manga. I met Takashi ”Bob” Okazaki, the creator of Afro Samurai, and he taught me the basics of Manga. So I was pretty serious about that. I don’t have the patience for comics though, it’s just too time consuming. I wanted Mari-chan to have a manga feel to it, that’s why the characters are so over-the-top and she keeps killing everyone but nothing happens to her.

David F. Hoenigman interviews filmmaker Alex Paille.

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The Necrology Interview published 30/09/2011

necrologyWhoever concocted the world did so under the influence of monsters, incarnations sired from states of self-reflexive revulsion. Reality is horror – it eats people like a carnivorous fog – a construct so diabolical that man has been unwittingly cajoled into adorning the effervescence of his dreams and his fantasies with costumes of malleable terror: ghouls, hybrid creatures, fused entities, seditious organs and limbs, malignant slimes, mythic decapitations, supernatural possession, psychotropic pestilence, brains worm-eaten with paranoia (insanities of truth)… myriad extremities of man’s dull fug.

David F. Hoenigman interviews Gary J. Shipley, Kenji Siratori & Reza Negarestani.

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Darkness at Noon published 19/08/2011

aiweiwei2From one art opening to the next, it is suddenly enough for us to witness an uprising for a link to appear. Directions that seemed contradictory cease to be so. Of course, it is easy to be disheartened by the recent wave of mindless looting and violence in London’s streets. But don’t you go believing, reader, that art institutions can once again retreat into the background. Comrades, let us continue on this path we have stumbled upon earlier this year. If the Ayatollah’s call to murder a novelist was a hinge moment for a previous generation, the Chinese government’s kidnapping of a visual artist is our hinge moment. Ai Weiwei’s release is merely the beginning.

Maxi Kim reflects on Ai Weiwei.

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Japanamerica: Blind at home, beloved overseas published 09/07/2011

jeye2The pressure on U.S. distributors of manga, anime and other J-pop products has proved unbearable in recent cases. TokyoPop, a trailblazing distributor and publishers of manga and anime in the United States, responsible for global versions of the Sailor Moon series, closed its manga publishing division for good three months ago. “I’m laying down my guns,” wrote founder Stu Levy, who built his company from scratch in 1997. “Some of it worked. Some of it didn’t.” Levy is a friend of mine. His passion for manga and anime is palpable. If he’s quitting the biz, it’s a good bet that the biz is battered.

By Roland Kelts.

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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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