Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Just arrived back in time to find a just arrived package

Got back about 40 minutes ago from visiting my mom for Christmas to find a box from The Right Stuf in my mailbox.

Inside the box was the new Nozomi Entertainment release of the entire 10 episode Dirty Pair OVA series.

This is a great tongue in cheek science fiction series involving two attractive, female agents who always succeed in their missions. However often with lots of collateral damage. It's fun, action oriented and has some great lines.

Warning contains violence and exposed female flesh.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Handy for the family

In Japan there is a high degree of simple supporting mechanisms for community health. One of them is a simple booklet given to pregnant women to track the development of their pregnancy and the child's health.

This is the:

Boshi Kenkō Techō (Maternal and Child Health Handbook) 母子健康手帳

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Arrived today

I was sitting in the living room when a clatter was heard from the porch.

It was the arrival of a box containing 2 DVD box sets released by Nozomi.

Revolutionary Girl Utena Box Set 3: Apocalypse Saga

Utena I have seen in the earlier release from Software Sculptures but this new release is an excellent one which I highly recommend.

The third Utena box includes the movie, "The Adolescence of Utena" which is a retelling of the Utena story aimed at an older audience than the TV series.

Each box in the three Utena box sets also comes with a great little book of interviews, commentaries by the creators, art etc. Nozomi also tossed in the duelist ring that is sent to buyers of all three box sets, a nice extra.

The other title was:
The Emma: A Victorian Romance Seasons 1-2 Complete Series Bundle

The Emma series also also comes with two books, one in each box.

I'm curious to see Emma as it is a show I have heard such good things about. The idea of a romance caught up in the class biases of Victorian England has so much potential as a story I want to see how it was addressed in this award winning tale.

Monday, December 5, 2011

How far have you gone

This week I have another transportation related entry.

This time for the distance markers on the major roads of the Edo Period.

This week's entry is:

ichirizuka (milestone mound) 一里塚

Monday, November 28, 2011

The high roads to Edo

A busy weekend but I have a new entry for the Anime Companion Supplement.

This week I write about the Gokaidō (Five Highways) 五街道. Even today you can still see the marker at the Nihonbashi Bridge that was the starting point for measuring distances on the five roads.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Another yokai book is out.

While poking around in the iTunes store, rather than doing what I should be working on, I found a small book by Mizuki Shigeru. Specifically his Mujara: The Encyclopedia of Japanese Yokai Illustrations and Episodes published by Softgarage.

This is the only one of Mizuki's many yokai related works in this one page per entry format to be translated into English. While the book is limited to 40 yokai the illustrations are delightful and the text informative. The price is also very low at $4.99.

If you like yokai, or are just interested in things supernatural and folklore you should check this one out.

Monday, November 21, 2011

More kabuki

This week I have another kabuki play that I have seen referenced in an anime, this time from the Vampire Princess TV series and relates to Abe no Seimei.

This time it is:

Ashiya Dōman Ōuchi Kagami (Ashiya Dōman: A Mirror of the Imperial Court) 蘆屋道満大内鏡

Monday, November 14, 2011

Do you see this...?

OK I'm pretty much recovered from the vacation and unpacking etc.

So I have a new entry for the Anime Companion Supplement.

This week's entry is of a fellow you have seen in some anime, exposing a cherry blossom tattoo on his shoulder in TV dramas.

This week entry is:

Tōyama no Kinsan 遠山の金さん

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Eye's back

Got back yesterday morning from 21 nights in Tokyo.

Made a phone call and went to bed after not having slept for over 24 hours. Tried to sleep on the flight but only occasionally dozed.

United Airlines earned some major criticism from our group for crappy movies with computer generated animals and showing sitcoms on a trans-Pacific flight.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Stepping back

I'm going to slow down on posting new entries for the Anime Companion Supplement and new recommended titles.

I have some projects that must be given priority for the next several months. Some of of the time is to be devoted to getting ready for my vacation (and enjoying it), the rest for writing.

I will make an effort to occasionally post, just not the weekly schedule I have followed until now.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Gun controller

This week I add another Edo Period administrative post. These are often not easy to find information on in English, it took some digging to find just a little on this one, but enough for an entry.

This week I present the:

Teppō Bugyō (Commissioner of Firearms) 鉄砲奉行

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Breaking Rules, Breaking Faces.

My newest addition to my Recommended Japanese Live Action Cinema page is:

Director: Shinagawa Hiroshi
Screenplay: Shinagawa Hiroshi
Based on a work by: Shinagawa Hiroshi (story) Suzuki Dai (art)
Drop is the first film by comedian turned manga writer, turned director Shinagawa Hiroshi. This is an autobiographical work based on Shinagawa's middle school days as a delinquent, which he had previously documented in a manga drawn by Suzuki Dai. I had to wait a couple of years for this film to get a US release after I read Mark Schilling's review in the Japan Times.
The Hiroshi of the film is portrayed as a naive fan of bad boy manga who grows up to be a self confident, if brawling and often irresponsible, teen with the help of his new delinquent friends. Much of the humor is low key and shows up in the dialogue, some of it will go over the heads of those not familiar with Japanese popular culture, however anime fans will easily catch most, if not all of the references.
Order Drop from The Right Stuf

Monday, August 29, 2011

Back to (entries on) Tokyo

This week I have an entry on a famous, though not in the West, Tokyo temple. Those of you who know the Tora-san movies will have seen this location in several of those films.

This week I have an entry for Kyōei-zan Daikyōji 経栄山 題経寺

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Chasin' the thief

My recommended title for this week is also a live action film. In fact I'll focus on live action for the next few months in order to build up that new page.

This week I have one for fans of the Lupin III stories, actually a very early Lupin III adaptation. At the time it had been made only the first TV series had been broadcast with Goemon as a very minor character and none of the animated features existed. Speaking of the first series Discotek, has announced they will release the first season of the Lupin III TV series in 2012 in the US. Up to now all we had was a few episodes on VHS and re-dubbed only.

In any case this week I recommend:
Lupin The Third: Strange Psychokinetic Strategy
Director: Tsuboshima Takashi
Screenplay: Nagano Hiroshi
Based on a work by: Monkey Punch
The only live action adaptation of the original famous Lupin III crime stories that ran from 1967 - 1972. This film is very different from what fans of the Lupin III anime may expect as Goemon does not play a role in the movie. One major reason for this is that the film was released in 1974 when the Lupin stories were still relatively new, the characters in the animated adaptations of the manga had not settled into the form we are familiar with today. For example the first Lupin TV series (1971-1972) had Goemon as an occasional character and none of the animated features had been released. In any case there is much to enjoy in this tale which is actually about how Lupin, Jigen, Fujiko and Zenigata first met. The film shows its age, however this is a major advantage: with all the excessive super thief/James Bond silliness this movie is excellent entertainment for fans of the original manga series. Order Lupin The Third: Strange Psychokinetic Strategy from The Right Stuf

Monday, August 22, 2011

Hookin' Up

This week I add another entry on the Japanese sex trade. Specifically a type of business that takes the pick-up aspect of bars and mediates it for a fee.

This weeks new entry is:

omiai pub (matchmaking pub) お見合パブ

For readers who are interested in the sex trade in Japan I highly recommend Joan Sinclair's excellent book Pink Box: Inside Japan's Sex Clubs.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Lovable Loser

One meets many fools in a lifetime. Some are memorable and stories of their exploits are told.

In the realm of fiction fools have played a role since ancient times, and as technology advanced so did the ways to spread such stories. A major classic series of films in Japan about a fool were the Tora-san films. The first box set from Animeigo is this week's title recommendation which I have just added to my Recommended Japanese Live Action Cinema web page.
Tora-san: Collectors Set 1 (films 1-4)
Director: Yamada Yōji (1-2) Morisaki Azuma (3) Kobayashi Shun-ichi (4)
Screenplay: Yamada Yōji and Morisaki Azuma (1) Yamada Yōji, Morisaki Azuma and Kobayashi Shun-ichi (2) Yamada Yōji, Kobayashi Shun-ichi and Miyazaki Akira (3) Yamada Yōji and Miyazaki Akira (4)
The Tora-san movies, original title: Otoko wa tsurai yo (男はつらいよ, "It's tough being a man"), were a major institution with 48 films made between 1969 and 1995. This box set is the first four films, two made in 1969 and two in 1970. Each film involves Tora-san's old neighborhood of Shibamata in eastern Tokyo where he returns to at some point in the film. In the first film it is after 20 years, having run away as a child. Each visit has Tora-san causing some sort of a problem, usually due to his good intentions, for his family and neighbors. Tora-san causes problems for them, but great amusement for us. The problems often result in him hitting the road; he makes a living selling shoddy goods, doing fortune telling and any other petty scam that comes his way. The films are great lowbrow comedy with a delightful loser making his way in the world. The series ended in 1995 when Atsumi Kiyoshi, who played Tora-san in all of the pictures, passed away.
Order Tora-san: Collectors Set 1 from The Right Stuf

Monday, August 15, 2011

Flowin' on

This week I give you an entry for another major river that flows through, or rather alongside Tokyo.

This weeks new entry is:

Edogawa 江戸川

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Boys growin' up

This week was nuts at work. I have been tired enough I almost forgot to add my weekly recommendation.

So here we are:
20th Century Boys 1-3
Director: Tsutsumi Yukihiko
Screenplay: film 1: Fukuda Yasushi, Nagasaki Takashi, Watanabe Yûsuke, Urasawa Naoki film 2: Nagasaki Takashi, Watanabe Yûsuke film 3: Nagasaki Takashi, Urasawa Naoki
Based on a work by: Urasawa Naoki
Not so much a whodunit but more of a whodoin'it. The story involves a group of adults who as children spent a memorial summer playing together and hanging out in their 'secret base' - a hut built of very tall weeds tied together at the tops in a large empty lot. One of the things they did was put together a draft of a story involving an evil organization out to destroy the world. Decades later a charismatic cult leader has arisen and he may be connected to a series of events linked to story the kids made up. Then people start dying, some of a strange disease, in the same places as in the story. Kenji, the main author of the story starts to gather his friends to attempt to find who is doing this and to stop him.
This film, based on a 22-volume manga, is a suspense story that hops from the events of the story to the past of the children showing how their actions then influenced the later events. It is also a mystery in that we don't know the actual identity of the leader who is controlling what is happening. The original story is so complex that it was decided to tell the story over three films with a total running time of something like seven hours. The events of the story start in 1999, with flashbacks to the past, but finish around 2017. As the story continues you see characters age, you learn more about their pasts, and find that much is not what it seems on the surface. Serious fans of Japanese cinema will be pleased to see cameo appearances of many well-known actors, some without speaking parts.
Order 20th Century Boys 1: Beginning of the End from The Right Stuf
Order 20th Century Boys 2: The Last Hope from The Right Stuf
Order 20th Century Boys 3: Redemption from The Right Stuf

Monday, August 8, 2011

Over the river

It took some time to write up this one. All the information I had was scattered here and there in various books.

But it is done, I present to you another entry related to Edo and Tokyo:

Honjo 本所

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Easy to stay awake

This week I've added another live action film to my recommended titles web pages, this one has death but no killings and humor, plenty of humor and not for the easily offended, but great for the rest of us.

This week I add:

Wakeful Nights
Director: Makino Masahiko
Screenplay: Omori Sumio
Based on a work by: Nakajima Ramo

The film centers around a group of Rakugo (traditional Japanese storytelling) performers and their teacher's family. This group has been together for years in the traditional master apprentice relationship one still finds in some occupations. However several members of the group are elderly and a great deal of the story involves wakes, wakes with drunken storytellers have got to be interesting. But then the disclaimer on the box says: "Warning: Contains Adult Situations and Language, Disgusting Puns, Sick Jokes, Filthy Karaoke, and a Traumatized Manta Ray."

This is also an instructional film, I learned more Japanese terms for female genitailia from this DVD than from all the books on my walls.

There are also tea spewingly funny extras on the disc, including a dirty song contest and off color lyrics set to old children's tunes and spoofing patriotic songs.

Order Wakeful Nights from The Right Stuf

Monday, August 1, 2011

A long long river

This week I continue with my posting Tokyo related entries with a river that was so powerful the Japanese government spent 10 years splitting it into two as part of a major flood control project.

This week we have the:
Arakawa 荒川

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Dragon of the streets

This week I am recommending yet another live action title.

This one from Miike Takashi. Some of the fans of his films don't like his recent work. I wonder how many of those simply like him for the shock value of his early works. I find his recent works highly enjoyable and this one falls into that category.

Yakuza: Like a Dragon
Director: Miike Takashi
Screenplay: Togawa Seiji
Films based on video games are usually avoidable; their quality as films is often dismal. Then there are a few that shine, this is one of them. Based on the Sony video game and directed by Miike Takashi Yakuza: Like a Dragon is actually an interesting and amusing action film. Kiryu has just been released from prison and is looking for his boss who has gone missing. He finds himself helping a girl who has run away from an orphanage look for her mother. He also ends up coping with other yakuza that assume he has something do to with the sudden disappearance of 10 billion yen from the gang's various bank accounts, and wanting to settle old scores. Then there is a stoic, and wounded, guest of a host club, inept bank robbers in knit masks in the middle of a heat wave, lovers turned stick up artists, a baseball bat armed gang and other fun. Fans of Miike know to expect over the top elements in the film as well as his dark humor, both are delightfully in evidence here.
Order Yakuza: Like a Dragon from The Right Stuf

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Edo ditch

This week I have an entry on an Edo landmark that no longer exists.

The rather un appetizingly named:

Ohaguro-dobu (Ditch of Black Teeth)

The ditch was filled in long ago, in fact I've walked over it while visiting the neighborhood.

Expect more Edo/Tokyo entries as I'm planning to focus on that interesting city for the next few months in my reading and writing.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Edo Killing

This week I am recommending another live action title, this time a TV series. Somehow this one has been below the radar of many fans of Japanese cinema. I hope more people pick it up especially since the series is available at such a low price.

Baian The Assassin - TV Series

Director: Yoshida Keiichiro (ep.1), Sugimura Rokuro (ep.2-3), Ogasawara Yoshifumi (ep.4), Mimura Haruhiko (ep.5-7)
Screenplay: Abe Tetsuro (ep.1-2, 7), Shimoiizaka Kikuma (ep.3), Nogami Tatsuo (ep.4), Furuta Motomu (ep.5-6),
Based on a work by: Ikenami Shōtarō

Watanabe Ken stars as Baian, a doctor who moonlights as an assassin in Tokugawa Period Edo. Baian has a code of honor and will accept only assignments that target the wicked and those deserving of death. Don't expect a fast paced swashbuckling action show with big fights. Baian carefully stalks his targets looking for the right moment to strike. He works through an agent who acts as an interdiary between him and the clients, after all keeping his identity secret is crucial to his survival. His weapon, large needles which combined with his medical skills are deadly.

Order Baian The Assassin from The Right Stuf

Monday, July 18, 2011

Another from history

This week I bring you an entry for a historical personage who is best known as a villain in popular lore, fiction, and theater.

This is :

Kira Yoshinaka 吉良義央

who was the target of the loyal samurai in the Akō Jiken.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Sweet Flashy Honey

I have added a new page to my web site. This one for Japanese Live Action Cinema. At present the page is sparse, with only one entry.

The first title I am listing is Cutie Honey. I had the pleasure of introducing this film at the Asian American Film Festival at the Castro Theater in San Francisco. The audience loved it, it was fun to see well dressed adults stomping their feet at the opening animation.

Here is the entry from my new page:

Cutie Honey
Director: Anno Hideaki
Screenplay: Anno Hideaki, Takahashi Rumi
Based on a work by: Nagai Go
Kisaragi Honey, Cutie Honey, is an android created by the late Dr. Kisaragi. Honey's special ability is that she can transform to meet the challenges she faces. Now the original story ran in a boy's manga magazine and the creator is known for pushing the limits of respectability. This means he gets more than a bit naughty at times and in the Cutie Honey series this included Honey's clothes vanishing during her transformation sequences, something you also see in the later Sailor Moon girl's TV show, not that you see much in either. Also expect outrageous villains, exaggerated situations and fights, lots of fights as Honey takes on the villains and their minions. This adaptation of the original is extremely well done with stylistic use of computer special effects and great costumes. The director is best known for his science fiction anime work such as GunBuster and Neon Genesis Evangelion as well as directing serious live action cinema. Nagai Go has a camio as the driver of a car Honey falls onto.
Order Cutie Honey from The Right Stuf
Order Cutie Honey LiveAction Limited Edition w/Lunchbox from The Right Stuf

Monday, July 11, 2011

Handy for writin'

This week I cover an object you rarely see in use today, in fact I've only seen one person pull one out and use it, and that person was an artist from Japan.

This week I bring you information on the:

yatate (portable Ink and brush kit) 矢立

These days with such modern implements as cartridge filled brushes and even that thing called the ball point pen we don't see too many yatate in use.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

A suit and fists

I have added another new title to my list of anime recommendations:

Here is the text from the web site:

Salaryman Kintaro - TV series - 20 episodes

Kintaro is the new hire at Yamato Construction. He is a mid term hire, unusual in Japan here most new white collar workers start work as a group in the spring. More unusual is he has not gone to college, in fact dropped out of night school as a teen, and once led a motorcycle gang. But he has been hired as a favor given to him by the chairman who expects him to not last long. However his willingness to work, persistence, openness to others and his occasional use of fists pay off and before long he is given other assignments. Workplace stories are not unusual in Japan but titles about white-collar workers, no matter how unconventional, rarely come out in English.

Note: The chapter breaks are unusual in this one, you cannot skip the opening without being tossed into the middle of the episode.

Cultural Details: Office work, construction industry, nightlife.

Cautions: Made for adults, sex and one rape mentioned, both are not shown.

Order Salaryman Kintaro disc 1 on DVD from The Right Stuf

Monday, July 4, 2011

Ring Time

This week I have an entry suggested by Dan Snyder who recently spotted one of these in Japan.

This will be of interest to those of you who are curious about religious objects and practices in Japan.

This week I bring you the:

chi no wa (large standing ring) 茅輪

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Summer Wars

I've added Summer Wars to my recommended anime list.

It is available on DVD and also on Blu-Ray

Here is the description I gave it in the list.

Kenji almost made it into a major math competition and instead expects to spend his summer break just doing his part time job as a low level administrator for the massive international network OZ. Then Natsuki talks him into working for her during the break at her grandmother's house for a few days. But things get complicated and Kenji is not only caught up in a small scheme of Natsuki's but ends up being suspected of being the hacker who cracked the security of OZ. Now things are really getting messed up and lots of people may end up dying.

Monday, June 27, 2011

For Black Lagoon and kabuki fans

In episode 21 of Black Lagoon The Second Barrage Gin enters the Russian restaurant and says: "Souga's Sukeroku has come to play. Now where can I find Ikyu the Bearded?"

Ever wonder where that line came from?

Now you can know:

Sukeroku Yukari no Edo Zakura (Sukeroku Flower of Edo) 助六由縁江戸桜

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Utena returns

I have been doing a rather poor job of adding new recommended titles to my web site. On the whole this is not a problem as I avoid putting up works until the release is complete and has proven itself so the list is never current.

I have now re-added a title which I have removed years ago when it went out of print. I now again have entries for the Revolutionary Girl Utena TV series and movie.

Monday, June 20, 2011

One for the ladies, and a few lads.

This week I have another entry for adults so if your parents are likely to object make sure they are out of the room you don't click the link.

This weeks Anime Companion Supplement entry is for an item found all around the world with varying degrees of social acceptance.

This week's entry is the :

harikata (dildo) 張形

Monday, June 13, 2011

Big crime, no arrests

This week I have an entry for one of the most famous crimes of the post WWII era. Part of the fun of the Anime Companion Project is that I can cover not only commonly seen in anime and manga but obscure to non-Japanese items but also the un-common.

This weeks entry is for:

San Oku En Jiken (300 million yen robbery) 三億円事件

By the way I strongly recommend the two books I list as my sources for this entry, plenty of other great stuff in those.

Monday, June 6, 2011

For easy transit around Tokyo

This week I have an Anime Companion Supplement entry for one of my favorite small things that make visiting Tokyo easier. This is a card that you add value to and use in mass transit and elsewhere. Similar cards such as the Translink system in the San Francisco Bay Area do exist in the US. Rather than go into detail here I refer you to the entry for:

Suica スイカ

I highly recommend getting one of these cards when visiting the Tokyo area, when your trip is over just keep the card as the value on it is stored for 10 years and you will need it again on future trips.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Sweets for long life

This week I have an entry for an item that is often present and not visible.

chitoseame (1000 year candy) 千歳飴

Usually what one sees is the bag it is in rather than the sweet itself.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Famine Con to date

Last day of the con.

In the Green Room one of the Japanese guests was walking around with his phone streaming live video and reading viewer comments. I wonder what they thought of Piper, the very cute dog.

The Panels have gone well, the last one is Be You Otaku in a few hours.

Well I think I'll get on to the rest of the day. I'll post the new Anime Companion Supplement entry tomorrow.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Fanime 2011

I have my schedule for Fanime 2011 which starts tomorrow.

There is always the possibility of last minute changes but this is a final schdedule.

Friday 7pm - Anime for Parents - badge not required - Panels 1 Mariott Salons I & II

Saturday 1pm - Anime and Manga for Grownups - Panels 1 Mariott Salons I & II

Sunday 12 noon - Older Titles for Newer Fans - Panels 2 Mariott Salon III

Monday 1 pm - Be You Otaku? - Panels 2 Mariott Salon III

Other than that I'll be haunting the halls, talking with folks, looking for toys in the dealers room and generally hanging out.

For those of you who were hoping I would repeat my Sex Trade in Anime and Manga presentation from last year I plan to do that one on occasion but not two years in a row.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Beauty as commercial product

This week I chose a genre of art that has continued to be popular in one form or another for centuries.

bijinga (beauty picture) 美人画 OLD FORM: 美人畫

While usually associated with woodblock prints the subject is found in many other media to this day.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Shizukanaru Don (The Quiet Don)

My review of the Shizukanaru Don (The Quiet Don) manga is now up on the Japan Subculture Research Center site.

Lingerie designer by day, yakuza by night: Shizukanaru Don (The Quiet Don)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Anime and Manga for Grownups

A week after doing panels at Fanime Con I will be doing a presentation at the main branch of the San Francisco Public Library.

Click on the image for a better view.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Bringing lunch from home

This week's entry is a common sight in classrooms and offices in Japan.

I bring you the humble bentō bako (bentō box) 弁当箱.

Do you use one for your lunch?

Mine is a Crez which came with an insulated bag and is made from steel.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

From here to there, but how?

This week's new entry to the Anime Companion Supplement is something any urban dweller or experienced traveler is likely to have used. Train schedules.

This falls into the: "not seen in anime and manga often but important in real life" category.

Of course it also falls into the: "Gilles wanted to write about this" category.

In any case I present you with:

jikoku-hyō (timetable) 時刻表

By the way, my main two sources of information were articles in JRTR Japan Railway & Transport Review, a magazine that has all of the issues online in PDF format for easy downloading.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Small ordinary, seen often

This week I'm adding an entry to the Anime Companion Supplement for something you commonly see in stories set in the Edo Period. Modest as this is it has a name, it is the :

kanzashi dama (hairpin bead) 簪玉

Monday, April 25, 2011

Back to the Yōkai

I'd been holding off on adding more yōkai entries until I got the copy of The Great Yokai Encyclopedia I had ordered.

The book has finally arrived so am I now returning to adding more yōkai entries.

This week I bring you:

tankororin (persimmon yōkai) たんころりん

As for The Great Yokai Encyclopedia it is an ok book. It would have been nice if the author had spent more time on many of the entries and I was surprised that he did not include Mizuki Shigeru's book on yōkai which has been available since 2008 in a French translation as Yōkai: Dictionnaire des Monstres Japonais. On the whole The Great Yokai Encyclopedia is a useful book used in conjunction with other works just not as detailed and fleshed out as it could have been. Perhaps we shall see a better second edition in a few years.

Monday, April 18, 2011

A most wonderful fool

I finally pulled the first Tora-san box set, released by AnimEigo, from my pile of unseen DVD discs. What a great series, from the opening dialogue of the first film (1969) to the ending of the fourth I found myself wanting to see the next film. Atsumi Kiyoshi's portrayal of Kuruma Torajiro, aka Tora-san, is a delight. The bighearted fast talking Tora-san is enough of an idiot to get himself into all sorts of situations, usually complicated by his good intentions. Tora-san always manages to work his way through the mess he got himself into and in doing so drags others into it to our amusement.

If you are looking for a classic series of highly entertaining films I recommend these. You will see why they were popular enough to become a 48 film series.

One of the places I plan to visit in my next trip to Tokyo is the Tora-san Museum in Shibamata, the neighborhood much of the stories take place in. I even intend to take the Yagiri Ferry to Chiba and walk the banks of the Edogawa river just like Tora-san does in the movies.

I have now added two new entries to my Anime Companion Supplement. These are:

Atsumi Kiyoshi 渥美清

Otoko wa Tsurai Yo (It's Tough Being a Man, aka: The Tora-san movies) 男はつらいよ

Monday, April 11, 2011

Flat and tasty

This week I cover a food item few non-Japanese know about. Originating in the Kantō region it is a tasty treat I plan to have in Tokyo when I visit again this fall.

It is: monjayaki もんじゃ焼き

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Eternal Idol

This week I cover one of the major stars of Japanese entertainment who started as an idol singer and continued to perform and eventually play roles in movies, including a cameo in Michael Bay's Armageddon.

Matsuda Seiko 松田聖子

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Takehiko Inoue's latest

The Asahi Shinbun English website has an article on noted manga artist Takehiko Inoue's latest peoject. A large folding screen for Higashi-Honganji temple in Kyoto.

'Slam Dunk' artist's folding screen honors monk Shinran


Sunday, March 27, 2011

Shakin' in the '50s

No I'm not talking about dancing to R&B or Rockabilly.

This is the 1850s, specifically 1855, when Edo was hit with a major quake.

Ansei Edo Jishin (Ansei Edo Earthquake) 安政江戸地震

Given the social tensions of the time this, and other events were given a social interpretation of a society gone wrong and needing rectification.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Gettin' caught up on something

It has been over one and a half years since I updated my Titles Available in More Than One Format in the U.S. page.

I received a few suggestions from Ono-san and ended up spending almost the entire day sitting here updating the lists.

This project is an attempt to list every manga or anime item that exists in more than one format in North America. This includes live action movies and prose fiction.

I hope folks find this a useful page, it originally created it to help librarians locate such items.

Please let me know of any errors, I'm sure there are some in all of that text.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Seismic fishiness

This week I continue the seismic series I began last week.

In Japan there is a legendary catfish whose motions underground cause earthquakes. The two entries below relate to that catfish (as well as to the natural catfish).

namazu (catfish) 鯰

namazu-e (catfish picture) 鯰絵

Not only did Ono-san in Tokyo suggest these entries he sent me a link to a multipage series of modern namazu-e drawn in response to the Tohoku earthquake that has so dominated the recent news.


The whimsical nature of many of these illustrations is very much in the tradition of the late Edo Period prints.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Starting a seismic series

Ono-san in Tokyo has suggested a series of earthquake related entries for the Anime Companion Supplement.

With the disaster in Japan on many people's minds I think this is s good series to do at this time. Fortunately everyone I know in Japan is fine, tho' it took three days for Taki to get home and post that fact on Facebook. I had no idea he works at Fukushima Dai-ichi, and his office was right in front of Unit 1.

What with various things (taxes are done!) I only have the energy for one entry today. Expect several interrelated ones next week as a set.

This week's entry is on one of the pioneers of seismology in Japan.

Terada Torahiko 寺田 寅彦

Monday, March 7, 2011

I'm Buddhist, no wait now I'm Shinto?

This week I have another religious entry to the Anime Companion Supplement

Kompira 金比羅

This one illustrates the haziness between Buddhism and Shinto in Japan.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

New recommended manga

I have added two new entries to my recommended manga list:

Times of Botchan.


Satsuma Gishiden

Both of these are presently incomplete in English but still worth picking up as what is out pretty much stands alone.

Monday, February 28, 2011

A word for now and then

This weeks entry is for lovers of poetry.

kigo (seasonal word) 季語

Why for lovers of poetry? Read the entry and find out.

I'm getting this entry in a little later in the day than usual. Got a box of discs in the mail so I just finished watching Assault Girls and am about to view something literary.

Fist of the North Star!!!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Jake Adelstein in NYC

Folks, on March 10 Jake Adelstein will be speaking NYC. If I was in the area I'd be there!

This is one man I want to hear speak (great film afterwards). I also highly recommend his book Tokyo Vice

Yakuza in Popular Media & Real Life: Cracks & Chasms

Monday, February 21, 2011

Sweets and toys for the good girls and boys

This week I get to cover a type of neighborhood shop, which while declining in numbers, still exists in many parts of Japan. This week's entry is on the dagashiya (cheap sweet shop) 駄菓子屋. Those of you who are enjoying 20th Century Boys will recognize this one.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Of the splitting and adding of subjects...

I'm (not) enjoying this weekend with a tickle in my throat and a slight cough so I am staying indoors.

But a 3 day weekend is a good time to get caught up on things so I started editing the: Topical/Subject Index for the Anime Companion.

I have changed:

Clothing to Clothing & Accessories

Clothing - Headwear to Clothing - Headwear & Hair Ornaments

Under Food & Drink I have subdivided - Vegitables & Fruit, Including Aquatic & Mushrooms into:

- Aquatic Vegetables

- Fruit Vegetables

- Leaf, Inflorescent & Stalk Vegetables

- Root, Bulb & Tuber Vegetables

- Seed Vegetables

- Mushrooms, Fungus & lichen

- Vegitable based ingredients & dishes

- Vegitable Other

I also subdivided Sounds into:

Sounds - Human and Sounds - Natural

I have added a new section for Seasonal Clues subdivided into:

- Winter

- Winter - New Year

- Spring

- Summer

- Fall

And another new section for Terminology - Criminal

Monday, February 14, 2011

Out, out damn you!

This week I have a term that is used in a varity of contexts but always means the same thing.

Expulsion, banishment, excommunication are a few of the words used to translate hamon.

hamon (formal expulsion) 破門

Monday, February 7, 2011

More administration

This week I have another administrative position that played a significant role in the Edo Period.

This week we have:

gundai (district deputy) 郡代

For a full list of such positions that I have already covered see:

Occupations, Titles & Ranks - Administrative

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Durarara!! reviewed


Released by Aniplex of America

Part 1 avail now, part 2 due March 29,, part 3 due May 31.

Official US website: http://www.durararausa.com/

Episode 1 opens in Ikebukuro Ward in Tokyo, with landmarks shown in a nice series of images to set the location.

In ep 1 you have Ryugamine Mikado who just moved to Ikebukuro to go to high school. As his childhood friend Masaomi shows him the neighborhood, giving advice on places to check out, people to avoid; both individuals and gangs while chattering because he is jazzed to see his old friend again after 4 years. (Note: It was kinda fun to catch the reference to the Ikebukuro West Gate Park series in the dialogue as they chat.)

The animation sequences in episode one are interspersed with screens showing dialogue in a chat room, with voice over, that help set up the next sequence of actions. This is an interesting and plausible use of technology to carry out conversations.

A kidnapping takes place with a girl lured to a location expecting something very different. However a meeting with the kidnappers and their superiors never happens due to interference from an unexpected person in the form of a biker.

A mysterious biker who can really kick ass brutally, a biker on a black bike, dressed in black wearing a yellow helmet with air vents that look like ears, a biker rumored to actually be a bakemono. By the way the biker rides at night with no lights on and is considered an urban legend by many.

In Ep 2 the chat room is replaced with cell phone text messages between two characters. This episode goes over many of the incidents in the first, but from the perspectives of different characters. This is a rather nice filling in of the story that drew me in rather well.

I won't go much more into what happens in the second episode, or even go into the later ones at all. I want to avoid spoilers and frankly I'd have a hard time putting what I see into the words this show deserves, Durarara!! is that good.

The original story is by Narita Ryôgo who also wrote Baccano! and this adaptation, done by the same crew of animators, is as interesting as the adaptation of Baccano!. As was the case with Baccano! the opening animation sequence is a delight of transitions that show us the major characters of the show as it switches from scene to scene, this time to the music of Theatre Brook's song Uragiri no Yûyake (Betrayal of the Sunset).

Aniplex was kind enough to send me a press screener of the first five episodes even after I told them that I would not be able to do the review for a certain magazine as someone else had beat me to it. However the copy was dub only and I'm one of those guys who strongly prefers subs. Luckily Crunchyroll has the episodes subtitled. so I was able to watch them there.

I'm ordering this one, this is a show I definitely want to own.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Low pressure selling

This week I have an entry I have wanted to add for some time.

karisuma tenin (charisma clerk) カリスマ店員

However it took years for a print source to describe the phenomenon. I tend to be pretty strict when it comes to relying on web sources. Finally when the book Japanese Schoolgirl Confidential by Brian Ashcraft and Ueda Shoko came out I had my source.

Charisma clerks are a highly interseting subject that just escaped the attention of the English language media.

In fact before the book came out the only reliable source I found was the "Petit Celebrities" tutorial on the MEKAS website. If you are interested in Japanese fashion in any way check out MEKAS, The site is no longer active (since March 2009) due to the economy but it is still up and has some of the best information you will find on Japanese fashion in English.

Fashion scholar W. David Marx handled much of the work on the site and the quality is top notch. He continues to write for several periodicals and maintains a blog, Néojaponisme, that has truly interesting stuff you probably won't find anywhere else. He also occasionally writes for CNNGo.

Monday, January 24, 2011

More Kannon

I finally found a title with the 11 headed Kannon in it. A statue is clearly visible in the sequence in the ruined temple in Sword of the Stranger. If you have not seen Sword of the Stranger I highly recommend it as one of the best recent titles available.

This weeks entry is:

Jūichimen Kannon Bosatsu (Eleven Faced Kannon) 十一面観音菩薩

Monday, January 17, 2011

Fishy no Eggy

This week I have a couple of food entries.

karasumi (botargo) 鱲子 or 唐墨

kazunoko (herring roe) 数の子 or 鯑

Working on this one made me want to go out and get some to have with some sake or beer.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Video Ai

This week I add two entries to the Anime Companion Supplement in the entertainment category, with an adult entertainment slant.

This week we have:

AV (Adult Video)

Iijima Ai 飯島 愛

Monday, January 3, 2011

Confucian studies

This week I have an entry for the supplement for an institution that played a major role in education in Japanese history.

If you have ever visited Tokyo and crossed the bridge on the Kandagawa that leads from Jimbōchō to Kanda Myojin you may have noticed a series of traditional buildings to the east of the bridge on the north bank of the river.

This is commonly referred to as Yushima Seidō, more properly it was called the Shōheikō 昌平黌.

I hope to visit the buildings on my next trip to Tokyo, the last time I was in the area it was early evening and they were closed for the day. I have heard that on Sundays you can have greater access to parts of the grounds normally not open to the public.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Currently watching

Just finished watching Samurai Vendetta. A great film from 1959 staring two greats of modern Japanese acting: Raizo Ichikawa and Shintaro Katsu.

This film belongs to the large number of films that take the Chushingura story as it's background. I believe this is the third such film AnimEigo has released in the US. Unlike most chanbara (sword fight) films this one has actual samurai as main characters. This means many elements of samurai custom play an important, if uncomfortable, role in the story.

At first I thought I was watching something I had seen before, the duel sequence in the beginning threw me off. I now realize I have seen the same sequence at the beginning of another film I own. This is due to the duel story being based on actual events.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Currently reading:

For fiction I'm re-reading The Tale of the Heike in the Kitagawa/Tsuchida translation from University of Tokyo Press. Great stuff, it has been years since I last read it and I'm picking up on all sorts of historical, cultural and religious (especially Buddhist) elements I missed in earlier readings.

For non-fiction I just started Louis Perez's Daily Life in Early Modern Japan, so far a great book on 18th century commoner life. There is much here I have not found a good source for in the past so I expect I'll be mining it for my The Anime Companion Supplement web pages.