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3 of 3 chapters read
Kayou Gogo 9-Ji was one of three stories composed by Okado Tatsuya which started in September 2008, run in the monthly magazine Afternoon. 9-Ji ran for 3 issues, the shortest of the three stories, and later was collated into a thin tankobon with the second story, Natsu o Oboeru. The third, DoLL, ran for a year and was collated into two volumes. Afternoon is one of the most respected seinen magazines: seinen referring to the 'adult male' demographic, Afternoon being probably the most age-advanced of these magazines (it does have a small percentage of female readers as well).
Yet 9-Ji does not hold to the standards of Afternoon, which has a number of respected long running series. And no other author had been allowed 3 concurrent series as a debut. 9-Ji and Tatsuya's other works was the start of ushering in the new generation of mangaka and an entirely new paradigm of perspective in manga. A lofty statement, let's unpack it.
9-Ji is a story about a 20-something salaryman who rents out a room in his leased property and the 20-something female freeter who moves in. Their names are unimportant. 9-Ji is a pastiche of society, using these two character types. Yet unlike the eminent Hirokane works of salarymen, or the 'ningen kankei' [human relations] that a Josei would inspect the modern day female 20-something freeter from, 9-Ji is up-to-date in its use of these character types. The salaryman is incorporated into society, yet is alienated from his own identity. He has a maladaption to sexuality which he imposes upon this freeter in trade for covering half the freeters rent. The freeter herself is adrift, not knowing "whether these days are good or bad". Both are restless, in a pidgeonholed role yet with their psyches crying out.
By exploring the pairs perceptions of life, Tatsuya remarks upon society. It is not in a quest to prove anything. Tatsuya is of the post-post-modern generation; accepting the lack of authenticity or truth as post-facto. The cultural role of the salaryman is explored, his job unsatisfying yet numbing. Her role as being in listless stasis, fraying against her equally dis-satisfied friends who are married or full-time employed.
One could describe 9-Ji as a psychodrama; the two eventually coming together in an embryonic relationship that holds no water. Yet the narrative spins a larger web that tells of the socio-economic situation. The minutiae even suggests the current rise of long-term work in tandem with fluidity, disparity, and the phenomena of NEETs.
The entire dialogue of 9-Ji is comprised of half-finished paragraphs; the rest can be felt or predicted, the words the same of that of real discussion now- flailing, en-shortened, desperate, alone. It is certain that Tatsuya's world is bleak; there are no characters who are happy with the conception of their self. The two other stories which are more focused upon the sexual confusion of modernity feature a young teacher and her student; a mature student and her professor. These kind of relational diaphragms the plot is built upon does reduce the pulling power of the narrative, yet in the brevity of a short 3 chapter narrative, Tatsuya brilliantly outlines the new perceptions of the foundling adult generation. The artwork, panelling, and other technical qualities are exquisitely achieved, as per evidenced by Tatsuya's victory of the 4 seasons competition, so there is no worries in this sense as to the means of Tatsuya achieving his message through form. Indeed some of the panels are creative in their choice of framing- many are miscentred or focused upon less central things, a trick Tatsuya is employing to let the emotions of the characters interplay without woodenness and to exhibit the intricature of the structural life both live.
It is probable that if Tatsuya was older and embittered, the plot would have been more sadistic, more gratuitous, or more resigned and colluding with outlined sociocultural frameworks. Yet Tatsuya is at a crossroads where he can accurately distil the underlying perception of current time without these subtle failures, and without juvenile hyperbole. (It may be remarked this manga was September-November 2008, yet its moral conclusions have become only more pertinent, or increased in clarity, as of 2013 May.)
While Kayou Gogo 9-ji may be short, and the plot feels like it could have attempted to develop, the lack of further thematic exploration in DoLL suggests this was the perfect length for the message to be communicated without becoming forced or more explicit. Unfortunately, this results in a rather subtle work that will be disregarded, misunderstood, or misidentified by many. Furthermore, some may naturally prefer works that deliver staid genre-driven or demographic-driven narratives. read more
1 of 1 episodes seen
Apparently based on real events, Summer of Dioxin portrays a chemical fallout on an Italian town and the effects on the occupants, especially following a group of children. There is nothing fair or good about this fallout, and realistic consequences are shown. This anime is, in a word, cruel.
We find that the conception of Summer of Dioxin follows an entirely different route than normal. Since the earliest days of anime movies for kids by Toei Douga, a intrinsic nature of attempting to indoctrinate behaviours and gift essential knowledge with educational content has been virtually absolute. This would be done by giving characters strict morals and/or 'wrong' things to fight against, axiomatic conduct, and featuring a narrative ingrained with (usually Japanese specific) foreshortened historical content and/or cultural practices.
While Summer of Dioxin attempts to interleave these same properties that would make a kids movie 'wholesome', the approach is shockingly different. Whereas a normal anime kids movie would have kids who knew what was happening, who could make a difference, independent and strong in mind, there is absolutely none of this in Summer of Dioxin. Rather, each depicted kid is shown more realistically. Weak, innocent, capable of malice and reprehensible actions, unsure of the events encompassing them and ignorant of the wider and adult world.
Not only are the kids in Summer of Dioxin portrayed like this, the events outlined are simply cruel in inequity and tragic results. Rather than fight against something, or work towards a goal, or achieve teamwork, any of these regular moralistic motifs in a anime kids movie, the children in Summer of Dioxin are shown simply surviving. All they want to do is live their lives, just like any other real life kid. It is in this realistic depiction of childrens' lives that the morals, the respect of others and humanity, is communicated in Summer of Dioxin.
This approach taken by Dezaki and Magic Bus is in some ways the reaction against the mainstream kids movies that consistently sell well in Japan. The movie has very low production values and was probably created on a shoestring budget. Dezaki's approach in Summer of Dioxin could be described as idiosyncratic- the feeling one attains watching is that the moral lessons taught are part of his own personal ideology that he wishes to convey to children on a wider scale. Summer of Dioxin was released in 2001, and was the second of this type of film by Magic Bus and Dezaki. The others in this series of what could simply be called 'cruel' anime kids movies, are 'Happy Birthday Inochi Kagayaku Toki' in 1999, 'Momoko, Kaeru no Uta ga Kikoeru yo' in 2003, 'Glass no Usagi' in 2005, 'Hurdle' in 2005. These films portray physical and mental disability, extreme hardship, and bullying respectively.
As much as Dezaki and Magic Bus' approach to the genre of kids anime movies is charismatic and fairly unique, unfortunately the sub-par assets of Summer of Dioxin in relation to its production equates to a film which is hard to watch, as while it may have an interesting narrative and ideology to its content (at times unintentionally hilarious), it is simply not at all a very beauteous or majestic anime.
The most visible disappointment is that of the backdrops used through the film. There is very little authentic development of the setting, rather each is simplistic and many appear as collages of reused compositions. The palette of the anime is overly-bright, which is a common aspect of kids anime, but does absolutely no merit to what should be a memorable depiction of an Italian countryside. A similar malaise is cast upon the domestic scenes, which make up the propensity of the duration, and the mise-en-scene is laughable. Cultural customs have been eschewed in place of Japanese ethnocentrism, perhaps the only exception the (very much incorrect) portrayal of Italian food. Another pitfall is the over-reliance on key animation and static frames, that only further hamper the viewing enjoyment.
Thankfully, the soundtrack is passable, though nothing at all spectacular, again likely there was little time invested into sound directing. The voice acting was a pleasant surprise- some quite authentic acting on behalf of some adults was enjoyable, this is probably a result of Dezaki's approach at trying to make Summer of Dioxin a more human and realistic tale. The children however, are all fairly standard, and some minor playing-to-stereotypes is abused, though the falsettos are grating enough.
So while Summer of Dioxin may be a surprising, somewhat anti-mainstream kids anime movie, that attempts to deliver a more realistic tale for kids to truly appreciate and change their understanding of life, it is simply ugly. Furthermore, once acquainted to Dezaki's approach, the repetition of this 'life is as life is' becomes either entirely too cruel and sad, or hilarious because of the pure melodrama of such a film. Summer of Dioxin may not have drawn a tear from me, but it did draw me in like a moth to a flame with its bold and daring narrative basis. read more
1 of 1 episodes seen
Coo was the highest grossing animated film for the year 1993 in Japan. It was received well by Japanese critics. Coo even secured a place in the pre-eminent Japanese film societies Kinema Jumpo top 200. The book that Coo was adapted from won the auspicious Naoki prize. Yet for non-Japanese viewers the acclaim has been almost silent. The construction of the book, reminiscent of a Mishima, is uniquely designed to appeal to Japanese viewers through the use of personalised politics- some of which is blatantly racist and escapist. As such in the West Coo is practically unknown even though it did cause major waves in its home country.
Coo begins and end as a family film. The narrative is developed in a similar pattern to Miyazaki's work, and integrates many of the same themes. However, as the film develops, the contrasts become stark. Miyazaki's films have been from the outset concerned with the protection of environment, even developing Shintoistic concerns. Coo obviously deals similarly with the idea of environment. But where Miyazaki's statement is refined and mostly tasteful, told in the usage of metaphors and synecdoche, in opposition Coo has the subtlety of a jackhammer and the sophistication of an angry gorilla. Utilising mercenaries who wish to destroy the earth, and a female activist soldier who wishes to protect Coo and the environment, the message Coo tells could not be more simplified. And whereas the outcome of a Miyazaki is predictable but takes a meandering path that is sure to tease out the ethics of the situation, Coo also has an infinitely cliched ending where a pod of Plesiosaurs save Coo and subdue the evil French-men.
Further dis-uniting the comparison is the usage of a male protagonist. Yusuke is resourceful, strong, but also susceptible to melancholy from unfortunate events, just like a Ghibli heroine. Yet the very substrate of the film changes. The absence of a mother creates a male-dominated environment in the home unit. Cousteau, Blue Chip, and Coo are also males. The only female of import in Coo is an invasive green activist, who threatens the ideology and security of Yusuke and Tatsuro's home. The art style may stand out to many viewers as looking particularly like an art style used in 'bara' 'yaoi' 'boy's love' or 'shotacon' manga, and this would not be wrong. Coo actually started a precipitous uptake in the usage of such an art style in these genre's- the sexualisation of Yusuke and Tatsuro as males became stated from the lack of a female presence in the film combined with its popularity.
The predominance of males is one step in the direction of attuning Coo to a Japanese domestic market politically. To shortly list some of the other examples of this politicising in Coo would be the very presence of Tatsuro and Yusuke in Fiji. The pacific islands is seen as an extension of the Japanese kingdom in some aspects, certainly within the sphere of influence, yet the portrayal of islanders in Coo never goes beyond the somewhat negative attributes of being lazy, of being respectful of females, of having little bureaucracy, of having little civility, of relying on external business forces to live, being fat, and portrayed as being excessively dark skinned. This is a very myopic view of the pacific islands to say the least. Another example is that of the negative forces in Coo. They are French, and they wish to enact nuclear testing. This is a loaded topic to say the least, and lumping blame on the French, and having the defenders of Coo and the environment as being Japanese (notably not the locals), is another step towards promoting the dominance and ethical superiority of the Yamato peoples.
While Coo is weighted down by a marred inclusion of politics, and a very obvious and cliched ecologically-themed narrative, there is also a reason why it was a success. Adding to the merits of Coo is excellent animation, some interesting plot devices such as highly resourceful actions taken by Tetsuro and the green activist (in military defence), a pretty good soundtrack, and naturalistic development. By naturalistic, I mean the flow from scene to scene is logical and paced well, something often absent of modern Japanese animation. There are a few plot holes that is caused by this adoption of naturalistic development, but this is to be expected. The reason for this naturalistic development is most likely that Coo is an adaptation of a novel.
The animation is as stated excellent. There are many scenes of sea animals and movement within environments in Coo, and each is masterfully done. There is very little to criticise technically for Coo. The colours and portrayal of the pacific islands is also simply beautiful. The depiction stays idyllic, and is a power tool for making the audience appreciate the value of the earth that becomes key in Coo. Character designs stay extremely consistent throughout, though as mentioned it does to a contemporary audience look like character designs found in homosexual manga. It is important to remember it was a progenitor of the now-popular style, so if anything this is a strength in Coo, though in trade-off the character designs of females stay unimpressive throughout.
Overall Coo is just really interesting. It's exciting to try and figure out what caused its huge and enduring popularity in Japan. And to wonder at the extreme similarities Coo holds to some Western media such as Lilo and Stitch. It is a well produced anime, so it's easy on the eyes and ears. But there are a few things in Coo that is simply hilarious or distasteful. The very blatant politics on display in Coo is usually nothing but tiring, and the environmental theme in Coo is reiterated enough times to be solely annoying. Nevertheless it is an enjoyable watch. The feeling one walks away with is Coo might very well be the sort of anime you would get if Al Gore and Julian Assange were Japanese and collaborated on producing a movie. read more
12 of ? chapters read
Sunny is currently serialised in Shogakukan's Ikki magazine, the mangaka responsible Taiyo Matsumoto. Matsumoto has come a long way since his career started in 1986 in Kodansha's Morning magazine. 25 years later comes Sunny, succeeding works like Ping Pong, Zero, and No. 5. It is plain to see how Matsumoto has honed his craft in this time.
The most obvious aspect, that gives shape to Sunny, is the art style of Matsumoto. It's not regular. His work is an overabundance of lineart with often mindbending angled frames and intricate yet cryptic details. From almost authentic graffitti to peculiarities of character design to marred-yet-beautiful urban landscapes. As a sort of adapting to the predominance of line, Matsumoto's use of shading and tones lacks equilibrium. It is not unusual for a whole chapter to be almost black and another lack any form of affectation. The lines themselves are non-uniform. Scaling is often incorrect, character design nearing incoherency from a lack of consistency. Yet one would be entirely wrong to think that this approach would simply be ugly and entirely unimpressive. Rather, there's often a deeper sense of place from the style, and many larger panels are confusingly majestic and impressive. The characters with their personal attributes become sincerely real, and ensuing drama concrete. This art style is something that Matsumoto has slowly gotten better at. In his earlier works it is not obdurately difficult to lose comprehension. The panelling, the connections, is something achieved well in Sunny, including the usage of so called 'pillow shots', a Japanese convention of scene transitioning.
Sunny's attributes are hardly only aesthetic however. We are presented with multiple personalities at Hoshinoko. From the eponymous car that becomes refuge for many, from the senile owner who lies down quietly and sleeps most of the time, to the carers who are devout yet ever under-fire, to the teenagers without parents. Matsumoto's depiction of these lost children is depressingly accurate, and his portrayal of their thoughts pin-point accurate. Like most of Matsumoto's work, there is a lack of structured linear narratives. Each chapter plays as a teasing-out of character, of setting. There is little rush, rather there is a definite reaching to really communicate the feelings of the characters who inhabit Sunny. It comes as a welcome change to the majority of serialised manga that do little than reinforce conventions and deliver a factory-line narrative.
Sunny is definitely something special. The time spent reading is illustrious with awe, heartbreak, 'wabi sabi' and a deep sense of flowering hope. The manga is much a testament to the human condition as it is a serialised story.
This review may be filled out when the manga is finished, but for the moment it is here to hopefully inspire you to read Sunny, as it really is something special. read more
1 of 1 episodes seen
The simple animation follows a very old cicada climbing a tree to complete its shedding of carapace, natural cyclical reproduction, and thus complete its life. It is disturbed after it has shed by the earthquake and tsunami which nearly kill the cicada. Then comes the viscous clouds of radiation from Fukushima. Managing to reproduce, we are shown the cicada's young at the end of the film, following the same path, climbing the same tree, but definitely not the same cicada.
The Tohoku Great Disaster encompassing the earthquake, tsunami, and radiation from broken reactors, has proved to be the most economically costly natural disaster in the history of mankind. Many different attempts have been made since to encapsulate the effects of Tohoku Great Disaster in audio-visual form. Some eminent examples include the documentaries '3.11: Surviving Japan', 'Pray for Japan', and 'The Cherry Blossom and the Earthquake', nominated for an Oscar. Also are television documentaries like 'Megaquake: The Hour That Shook Japan' and 'We Are All Radioactive'. In fuller thematic approach is the film 'The Impossible' directed by Juan Antonio, also nominated for an Oscar. The common element of these productions is that they are not solely Japanese productions.
The initial reaction to the Tohoku Great Disaster in Japan was protocol. Follow the standardised pre-written pre-prepared instructions. Television stations stating the information given to them from government departments. As the scale and impact became clearer, so did the abundance, bluntness, and excess of the disaster's depiction, and the detached neutral tone in deliverance of the media. In contrast gossiping housewifes exchanged cynical sagacity that they should start hoarding food even though it was directly unadvised, and otaku began (after repairing their model girls, guns, whatever) rigging up their own little geiger-counters in their three-tatami-mat apartments. The overarching collectivist quality of Japan's society showed keenly in opposition to the development of emotions in individuals.
As the truths of financial debauchery, media cover-ups, and both private and governmental conspiracies came to light, the Japanese public was left wan with sickly disbelief. In another country, the events would have already led to thousands of invigorated individuals looking to intellectually capitalise on the disaster in the form of grand narrative expression in varied media, especially audio-visual. Yet in Japan, this was not clearly the case at all. Excluding a slurry of ill-formed, mis-advised, self-filmed documentaries that had quick runs with short half-lives, no major projects were born from the ashes.
Rather, the concept of '出る釘は打たれる' or, 'The nail that sticks out gets hammered down', reared its apathetic head for the audio-visual industry in Japan in relation to the Tohoku Great Disaster. The most prominent Japanese work in pop-culture media featuring the Tohoku Great Disaster as a major theme (as of the start of 2013) is Sion Sono's 'Himizu'. Sono has developed a reputation in the Japanese film market as being an outsider, a rebel, if one of potent skill at unraveling the dis-satisfactions in contemporary Japan- the much allegorised difference between Honne and Tatemae; directing such works as the adaptation of the manga "Suicide Club". In Himizu he does no differently, deconstructing understandings of how the fabric of society is knitted through the advent of the Tohoku Great Disaster as well as some other factors- though admittedly Himizu is achieved on a shoestring budget and rushed production schedule.
This is where 663114 joins the scene, and already starts to show its ambitious vision. Hirabayashi is not a director, like Sono, concerned primarily with fundamental sociological issues such as race or deviance in the regular manner. Rather Hirabayashi has made a tradition of his own by directing multiple short films that point to the degeneration of the world in terms of its natural equilibrium. The harming of a 'gaia'. As such, his films almost exclusively feature scripts built on parable, and inclusion of plants or animalism. 663114, as we see, is no exclusion from this. But 663114 goes further by morphing, or perhaps coalescing, a viewpoint on the Tohoku Great Disaster and its greater meaning and relevance for Japan.
The first step Hirabayashi has made is the deliberate step of utilising animation. Hirabayashi's previous works have been in film. In this usage, Hirabayashi distances himself from the propensity of film-media such as news stories and talk-show clips that do little more than deliver images of the desolation, and messages such as 'gambatte-ne' (fight through it!). The advantages of animation is such that it offers the use of metaphorical form in place of fact and concreteness- the difference between a photo and a drawing. In using animation Hirabayashi also wanted to prioritise his message over establishing the foundation of the topic, evident in the sparsity of 663114. By doing this Hirabayashi is evidently polemicising the topic, something that while perhaps being exploitative, is necessary to deliver any resolution, denouement, or developed dialectic. If the distillation of events is something entirely dehumanised and made empirical instead of emotional, both the true impact and tragedy of the Tohoku Great Disaster cannot be grasped by a greater populous. This ironic fact is evident with such artists as Bill Henson, a pre-eminent photographer who formulates and moulds images in a very conscientious manipulation designed to avoid simply 'recording'.
Music is used as a major part of the production, for both emphasis and transition. As Catherine Munroe Hotes explored with an interview with Hirabayashi, the soundtrack is deeply spiritual and intrinsically tied to the political and humanistic goals Hirabayashi wanted to express. Produced as 'an offering' in a mix of Shinto and Buddhist rites, the sounds effects of the cicada, of the tsunami, of the earthquake, are produced by packaged food such as noodles, cabbage, and natto. Traditional music employing instruments such as the Japanese flute that would accompany mantra comes to give atmosphere at points of the animation, and is used effectively to transition the tone between the telling of the cicada's story and the larger ideas at play.
The vehicle of visual elements that compose the animation of 663114 is in opposition rather simplistic. The frame is static throughout, and the only change in image is that of interstices for the credits and title (though used purposefully, the finale of this animation comes after the listing of staff). Located in the frame are two distinct divorced zones. A background, and what we discover is a tree. The division is achieved by harsh lines. Interacting between the surface of the tree and background is a cicada who is slowly but surely inching his way upwards. The background takes the texture of aged paper, the tree another slightly more wrinkled paper, and a pattern of chrysanthemum that is synonymous with the early Shouwa period. The cicada is digitally inked, and its animated functions take semblance to that of kirigami.
While Hirabayashi was the genesis of 663114 and the overseer of the project, Ken Murakami is the art director who facilitated Hirabayashi's ideas. His accomplishing of the projects ambitions in representation have been achieved admirably, if perhaps a little obviously and without poeticism. The derivative meaning behind the construction of these materials becomes an analogue used throughout. The paper is of obvious organic origin, which becomes only more stated as the coloration changes and later becomes despoiled by black water. The tree in contrast is that of the character of Japanese civilisation, with its patterning, and it "solidness", and its connection to the soil, which is described as 'good' and 'free of strong pesticides' and 'mines' (the pesticide mention is a definite political touch by Hirabayashi). After the radiation, which is represented as expanding clouds of ink blots, It is the dirtying of the purity of the soil that is voiced as a concern for Hirabayashi. The contrast between the paper and the patterning suggests a further interpolation of nature and artificiality in Japan's identity, enforced by the proliferation of stamps upon the tree. These stamps are 'inkan', crests for contracts, and provide much of Hirabayashi's greater vision.
The stamps represent tradition, and greater capitalistic concerns of Japan's business empire. The tree is Japan in both its natural and artificial form. The cicada represents nature and in a touch of anthropomorphism, the Japanese peoples. The cicada is 66 years old, and in its climbing, moving past the numerous stamps. This journey is that which the Japanese peoples must also face, and the disaster that almost kills the cicada and comes to mutate its young. An interesting point is that the cicada is born from the ashes of Hiroshima and does not seem to have any physical deformities, yet that of its young affected by the Tohoku Great Disaster does. The mutation that encounters ataxia and encumbrance is the destination of the journey. Like the cicada's life, the process is cyclical, we have come from one mistake to simply repeat it again. The mutagenic results for us and the cicada is that which also defines us. The stamps of families the repetition of tradition but also the repetition of mutation in Japan's history, from Meiji to Taisho to Shouwa to Heisei. Hirabayashi is warning us of the dangers of radiation, the dangers of tradition and thus the repetition of cyclical tragedies that will inevitably occur and destroy or sicken the earth like that of ther Tohoku Great Disaster.
Each part of 663114's production is intentional. Much of the film is a personal political message from Hirabayashi to flavour the perception of how we understand the Tohoku Great Disaster. It is as mentioned a polemic. And Hirabayashi has taken some steps to simply negate dialogue and instead try espouse his view to a greater audience, which is perfectly admissible. As such, 663114 has been taken to innumerable film festivals by Hirabayashi, and because of its great production and greater ideology, winning awards. The self-referential qualities of this animation are evident in even its own title. A code whose significance must be learned by accepting an interpretation of values from Hirabayashi.
663114 is despite some of its blatant and slightly wearing political messages, an inspirationally concise dialectic upon the Tohoku Great Disaster, and furthermore the effect of tradition and mutation- with absolute clarity as to its purpose. A very neatly constructed animation. And while Hirabayashi has not gone out of his way to market 663114 within Japan itself, his message that is actively pursuant of a Japan that would not live by the idiom 'the nail that sticks out gets hammered down' is heartwarming if perhaps a little futile.
3 of 3 episodes seen
Everything in Dream Dimension Hunter Fandora is a pure distillation of Go Nagai's work. From the depiction of a fantasy world in the future where everything has been made entirely commercial in a capitalistic system, and includes the depictions of varying fantastical creatures and races, to the dynamics of Nue and Fandora's relationship where Fandora is a ditzy bimbo with absolutely no good points except her looks and Nue is cynically smarter but enslaved to Fandora's beauteous body. It is the closest to representing the essence of Nagai's constructed ouvre of manga over the decades of working that there is in anime.
Go Nagai is a mangaka who has defined the development of manga and anime perhaps more than any other single person. Nagai started it bigtime with his manga 'Harenchi Gakuen' in 1968. A flagship work of the debuting magazine 'Shonen Jump', Harenchi Gakuen immediately became controversial. Portraying sexual themes as never before made so utterly deliberate and explicit in tone, he had created what we now call 'ecchi' (and thus would give Shonen Jump much attention, aiding it to be the pre-eminent shonen magazine today). While Harenchi Gakuen inspired the ire of innumerable parties for displaying characters whose sole goal in life is sex, voyeurism, and other depravities, this type of story caught on like wildfire and has come to dominate 'shonen' magazines.
Nagai would go on to not only expand the usage and prevalence of sexuality in manga and anime, he would also compose manga that led to new developments in the very fabric of pulp-produced manga for demographics such as shounen and shoujo; he would develop character archetypes that would become the standard of the industry; he would revolutionise the depiction of mecha; and violence; and teenagers; and pop culture; transforming magical girls; foment new ways of depicting horror and supernatural/fantasy; and create elementary change in action and comedy coding in manga: Nagai was simply unprecedented. His works achieved enduring popularity in entire generations of the Japanese peoples, his works and their style now truly imbibed into the national psyche.
Dream Dimension Hunter Fandora is a landmark in that it was the first Go Nagai anime creation instead of adaptation. Fourteen anime television series, seven anime movies, and another early OVA (Barabanba, a Hentai also from 1985) had already been adapted from his work. Here however, was Nagai's vision in its most pure form for anime. The process of going straight to the video market instead of airing on television gave Nagai greater freedom in exactly how he wanted to mould the plot, as illustrated by the pornographic nature of preceding Barabanba. As a kind of expansion and contrast of mediums, a light novel of Fandora would be concurrently released with the last episode featuring Nagai's illustrations.
Something that had also been more evident in earlier Nagai adaptations was the changing of his essential vision by the team producing the adaptation. With Fandora, this is much less the case as the production team were working directly with Nagai and also as the number of staff was much smaller with correspondingly tighter production protocols.
The result for Fandora is of eclectic focus in narrative, featuring a wide variety of the elements that had made Nagai famous, as well as being more extreme in the representation of sexuality and violence than previous anime. Just the tip of the iceberg would be graphic decapitation, gratuitous showering scenes, lesbian wrestling, and euphemisms of ejaculation. Nagai's mixture of comedy, horror, ecchi, romance, action, sci-fi, fantasy, might be a bit misogynistic and lacking in depth of portrayal in any one facet, but it sure is memorable and mindlessly entertaining.
The production team did a good job of making Fandora look fairly good for the time, and with a limited budget. The crew shuffled each episode, but the demands were fairly simple to meet. Scenes such as exploding spaceships, wrestling, constant running, jumping and dancing, shootouts, bursting things of different varieties- lots to give Fandora a feeling of kinetic exuberance. This is, perhaps surprisingly, on a par with the best of OVA's at the time like Area 88, though not good enough to warrant a bluray transfer say. The soundtrack and sound effects are more stock standard, utilising regularised synth and eighties pop sounds. Voice acting was also especially cheesy and over-dramatic, though suits this kind of story.
Fandora is the most articulate expression of Nagai's work in anime. As a consequence, it is lewd, silly, and ultra-violent in parts. Because Nagai's mixture is so very personalised and thus very much context based, Fandora has received little continued popularity past the period of DVD adoption, and has had little individual impact on the industry of its own. Fandora effectively is an anime built to the demanding sensitivities of a hormone-enriched teenager of the mid-eighties. It is entertaining as such, and contrastingly annoying for audiences who wish for some kind of developed timeless theme, a complicated narrative, or characters with backstory.Fandora is great because it excels at its function to provide entertainment for the lowest-common-denominator.
16 of 16 episodes seen
The overarching story serves up a multitude of characters, such as a school nurse lusting after a student, a cat who works part-time at a sushi joint, a hamster putting up with a family of yakuza, and the list goes on. These set-ups don't build up very much back-story, but prove to be continually hilarious. They provide endless, mindless entertainment. Many of the character-type jokes that are so invasive in Japanese comedies takes its archetypes from depictions common to the 80's and 90's though, so a few jokes might feel dated or elusive.
Nupu exploited a wave of televised anime which previously would not have been put to air because of their explicit content, beginning with Berserk in 1997, simply so it could exist. Consequently, Nupu is infamously naughty and raunchy- such as almost depicting oral sex, fingering, and the use of taboo fetishisms like coprophilia. This is to the extent that Nupu has the somewhat dubious claim of being the first anime series which had a central theme of shotacon.
Mitsumori found success with her stories in the 90's, but as the times changed, so did her work. After composing some other serials, in 2007 Mitsumori restarted Nupu under publisher Takeshobo. With a new title 'Let's Nupu Nupu Super Adult', Mitsumori took advantage of less strict moral codes in publishing standards. Super Adult is not extant in English, but you don't need to worry about this. The simple difference between Nupu and Super Adult is in Super Adult, lurid things like oral sex is graphically depicted.
The art style is somewhat dated in Nupu, in fact more reminiscent of mid 80's design and animation, but this takes the sideline for the comedy. Background work is almost non-existent, the anime being set in a modern city, presumably Tokyo. In terms of palette, Nupu is similar in the use of a high range of disquietingly extreme bright and vibrant colours to 'F' or 'Ronin Warriors' from 1988.
The sound, in terms of quality and music, also has not kept its age gracefully. Absent of some of the heavy guitar, drums, and middle-eastern influences that made some of the classic anime soundtracks of the period 1996-2001. Nupu instead combines vibes, piano, an amount of limited percussion, light wind instruments; in what amounts to more forgettable sound effects than an actual soundtrack.
I don't think Nupu has the technical grace that will allow it to stay popular, but in terms of utterly gratuitous humour in anime, this is one of the starting points and a definite highlight. I'd especially recommend it to fans of Ping Pong Club or Ebichu. read more
4 of 4 episodes seen
The plot or, what semblance there is of one, revolves around a ninja family with fantastical powers, battling with innumerable foes of whose existence is never explained, vying for control of the shogunate from the shadows. The story begins with an injured brother accused of killing his father transferring his soul into his sister so he can possess her later. This synopsis is being a bit kind however, as the viewer is not given any semblance of a rational explanation of events. A fantasy period setting with superpowered ninjas doesn't really invoke the most aspirational of narratives on a normal day, but Akai Hayate proves to be not only underwhelming, but purely distasteful.
The explanation of how this anime came to be, and what that entails, is synonymous with its mediocrity. In 1984, Mamoru Oshii spearheaded the first OVA, 'Original Video Animation', with 'Dallos', made possible by VHS and Betamax. The OVA format signified was an ingenious innovation of systemology: with an OVA, the content of an anime can be more detailed to a target audience, giving relative freedom to creators. This is because television networks would not broadcast anything excessive in either risk or mature content. Previously it was almost impossible for a fan to watch any anime except on TV. An OVA usually would have a small number of episodes, with running times not tethered to television network demands. The ramifications of the industry adapting to OVA's would prove to have effects that were not only positive however.
Within a year of Dallos, the first Hentai had been released. Adding to the function of an OVA would be the production of small-budget small-run anime, which were 'testing the waters' so to speak, gauging the rental market to intuit whether a full anime would be economically successful, or whether a franchise was still popular. A yet further addition, but one of positive influence, would come a little later, that of full series of strings of movies being marketed in the OVA format, which actually enabled some very notable works like Legend of the Galactic Heroes and Berserk. These are only practical actions for a studio to take, surely, but herein lies the problem.
The market becomes flooded with quickly produced anime with skimpy budgets and short durations. The choice becomes much greater, but the anime themselves are devalued by declining production values, limited access to quality staff, and en-shortened narratives that have very little chance at achieving anything great, especially those which are adaptations.
Akai Hayate is one of the keenest examples of the industry wide breakdown. Like the great majority of OVA at the time (now all anime of all varieties do this virtually) the project was subcontracted. Minamimachi Bugyosho would be the studio taking the reigns (remember this is supposed to be Studio Pierrot's "Anime V Comic Rentaman"!), a little-known studio of limited capacity. In fact, it is to be doubted they had more than 5 staff working on Akai Hayate. Osamu Yamasaki was the only major name pertaining to the production of Akai Hayate who worked for Minamimachi Bugyosho.
This subcontracting, for Akai Hayate and many many other OVA's, provides a generous lack of cohesive structure. People simply worked on their little splice, got it signed off, moved on. A huge amount of cynicism was almost visible on screen as each crew member trying to vye for recognition in an uncaring industry. The board that oversaw Akai Hayate would not have had more than 5 members, and it is certain those planners would have been involved in many other anime at the same time. No-one had any commitment to the project, and there was certainly no teamwork, no shared vision.
For these OVA, quick cheap and nasty as they were, big names rarely worked on them. They'd rather (rightly) do a movie or series. As such, OVAs were the chance for unproven young'uns to have their go. Not a single crew member involved in Akai Hayate had been working since before 1980. Indeed, Masahiro Sato, art designer, had started his career with Dallos.
Let's look at how massively they stuffed up with staff for a moment. Osamu Tsuruyama took direction for the first time, and has since been relegated to animating and storyboarding. Obari Masami, now the head of studio G-1 Neo, worked as a storyboarder instead. Chiharu Sato did the character design. She now exclusively works as an animation lackey. Kouichi Oohata, a now famed director and mechanical designer, was only allowed to work as a general design assistant. Takashi Kudou was responsible for music, which is not a pleasant fact. Having named some of the people who went on working in the industry who worked on Akai Hayate, contrastingly there are just as many who left. Working on this project was soul-destroying in many ways.
Resultant, Akai Hayate is dreadful, and not just a little bit sad. The art is poor, changing styles very often with none achieved well, and non-existent work on settings. Animation is rudimentary, perhaps most evident in conspicuously terrible techniques exploited to save money. No reputable voice actors, bad recording, bad acting (not that they had anything work with). Terrible narrative, illustrated not simply in plot but also choice of scene, pacing and chronicity. The characters are not worth anybody's time. Only the sound is solid; Junichi Sasaki, Tooru Nakano, and Fusinobu Fujiyama, who have all gone on to become consummate professionals in sound effects and production, exceed expectations in Akai Hayate, though sadly not affecting much as a whole.
With very often the wrong people doing the wrong jobs, most eminently the screenplay by Osamu Yamasaki that was a nightmare, Akai Hayate is a trainwreck. While it is not possible to say 'everything went wrong', it is simply that nothing went right. Nothing had the chance to go right.
Japan suffered a depression from 1989-1994, and never fully recovered. This depression actually led to more of these disgusting OVA projects at the cost of larger anime productions. Overseas, America was booming. Thus Japan was all too willing to try export its anime, and the U.S. had capital. The simple outlook of this is that there is actually a dub of Akai Hayate. What should have been an abortion is wrung out for all to see. Unsurprisingly, Akai Hayate did not fare well. It's virtually impossible to find now. As is the raw. Perhaps people burned the tapes in vehement disgust.
Akai Hayate is not a 'forgotten gem'. Rather it is purely awful and distasteful. Don't go looking for it unless you want to see the off-putting ooze of an anime industry in decline.
16 of 16 chapters read
Each story focuses on a lower class man, each initially just a normal person in the framework of a modern Tokyo, each subsequently drawn into a downward spiral of depravity and perversion in a city gone mad with the Shouwa reinvigoration.
Yoshihiro Tatsumi is a name becoming increasingly recognised in the west. This is not least because of the efforts of Canadian comics publishing company Drawn and Quarterly, whom in 2005 began an effort to publish work/s of Tatsumi's each year. Born in 1935, Tatsumi began his career in manga in the 1955. In 1957, Tatsumi first used the term he would become famous for, 'Gekiga'- literally 'dramatic pictures'. This style constitutes the combination of a largely filmatic application of visual construction, as well as a noir or hard-boiled narrative construction divergent from the formulaic Shonen/Shojo/etc found in mainstream manga magazines and the popular anthologies found in manga rental stores. Deriving from a Herculean career spanning over fifty years, Tatsumi has been called 'the father of alternative manga', perhaps a little rashly. Penning innumerable manga, running the publishing of a number of serials, and maintaining manga stores, Tatsumi has been one of the absolute linchpins of post-war manga in Japan.
To simply make those statements probably needs a little explanation though. Manga is a medium born from multiple influences- western comics and cartoons, newspaper comics (both political and situational), hokusei and other 'traditional' manga, various oriental influences such as Buddhist scrolls, and perhaps most tellingly; woodblock prints which bear the strongest resemblance of form. These woodblock prints, produced for preceding centuries, were in tone educational and slightly comedic. Which is exactly what the manga industry would try to be at first. But with the aid of figureheads such as Tezuka Osamu, manga from 1946 onwards started to be seen more as a form of visual entertainment with a coded plot, virtually all adventures. This would immediately cause the rise of stories revolving around super robots, talking animals, ninja, pirates, aliens, etc. The kinds of things for young boys. Within a matter of a few years, similar stories in tone were being produced for young girls.
Yet overwhelmingly there was a lack of mature manga. It would take until late fifties for the conception of 'Seinen' manga, manga for young men, which overwhelmingly was simply violent instead of thought-provoking or meaningful. Similarly, Josei, manga for young women, was founded in the early sixties and infamously began verging into salubrious territory. Garo, the most famous and one of the first manga magazines for alternative works, was founded in 1964, and only began releasing relevant works from 1967 onwards.
The drought of mature manga up to the mid sixties was because of the strict editing and regulations, even of the relatively more free market for 'manga rental' (kashihon) shops. The pressures of the sixties, the rising vocalisation of political matters, is most likely the overarching reason for the publication of mature manga from various sources. Manga in the current day has little to do with the sixties however. The liberalisation and natural variance of manga only became greater as time went on, and now, nearly anything can and will be published. While codes and conventions are still as pronounced, or perhaps even more-so, the dexterity of the medium is at its greatest. The creative landscape of manga in 1969, when the content of 'Push Man and Other Stories' was composed, is as illustrated, a completely different world.
In Japan, Tatsumi is not as widely respected compared to his peers as the recent renaissance of his work in the West may suggest. Gekiga started in the manga rental business, and would become adopted by many mangaka, seen as superior to Tatsumi; the likes of Yoshiharu Tsuge and Shirato Sanpei for instance. Yet it was Tatsumi who underpinned the definition of Gekiga, having worked tirelessly since the beginning of his career in 1955 to concrete its delineation. In 1969, the year of Push Man, Tatsumi was working as an overseer of a Gekiga publication. He would have to concurrently make time to fulfil a commission for two stories a month at eight pages each in 'Young Gekiga Adult'. With the exception of 'Who Are You?' and 'My Hitler', this comprises the contents of Push Man and Other Stories.
In these eight page stories, the essence of a Gekiga story is perhaps at its greatest. Each story is open-ended, yet with a definite conclusion, a rebalancing of equilibrium. It is the creative height of Tatsumi's attempt to identify the shortcomings of a Japan in an economic boom (at the cost of many). And while many of the stories take cues from Western influences, and other Japanese media, the clarity of thought, of message, found within Tatsumi's short stories is breathtaking. Both deeply depressing, and celebrating life, the varying stories both sicken and humble. Such content as aborted foetus', bestiality, sexual depravity, disability, murder- find their spiritual home in Push Man and Other Stories.
The style of Gekiga is fairly synonymous with a 'G' pen, that is thick lines. Supporting this is much use of blocks of black in opposition to light. Most importantly visually though is a choice of frames that is similar to a storyboard of a film. Often with numerous panels, and always extremely conscious of framing, angle, light, mise-en-scene, Gekiga was similar to a noir, though also taking reference from directors such as Mizoguchi, Shohei, and Ozu. Faces do not betray many emotions, a handy trick such contemporary mangaka as Ashinano adopt, as it begets interpretation in place of lurid explicity. Much use of props and setting is adopted, the intricate trappings of dirty life. Usage of simple metaphors such as people employed with repair, cleaning- dealing with the byproduct of humans, further a cynical out-take on life, as well as the only slightly more elusive usage of youth, water, mutagen, etc.
The propensity of the stories in Push Man can be obdurately summarised in but a few sentences. It is from this brevity that both praise and criticism of Tatsumi is usually aimed. In totality they are short, blunt, to the point. Unlike many more auspicious works which are lyrical or poetic or swimming in symbolism, as such that length is not as much a defining point as interpretation.
As well many define Tatsumi's work as homogeneous. While it is true that the urban sprawl, the perversion of a collectivist society, the woes of the lower class, are themes pervasive in much of his work- and everpresent in this collation- the nuances of the varying narratives provide a continued fascination. Tatsumi's career has provided multiple variances in output, from celebrating traditional artforms, to his recent well received autobiography 'A Drifting Life'. As such, featuring a collation of work from only one year of a truly epic career can inspire myopic judgements of Tatsumi's canon.
This should not be of too much concern however. A highly idiosyncratic, somewhat reticent style, especially with content featuring deviant behaviours in 'the faces of a crowd', is something that will quite naturally inspire the ire or outrage of those sensitive to such things as 'sensibility', 'moral decline', and other demarcations of unacceptable behaviours. And to some extent, these things are required.
Push Man is 'cudgel'-like. It will knock you in the head with a fatalistic fog of aimless depravity in a modern Tokyo. Many enjoy it, many find it crude or unwieldy. Yet it is an important part of manga history, and Tatsumi is a figure becoming vogue in the Western comics world, such as that his work would be defined as 'mature', 'thought-provoking', 'evocative'. The fact that he can do this within the space of just a few pages surely must be of some merit. read more
3 of ? chapters read
Published in 1968, Struck by Black Rain was author Keiji Nakazawa's first manga dealing vocally with the issues surrounding Hiroshima's bombing. Because Nakazawa concentrated on the taboo topic of Hiroshima, no mainstream manga magazine would publish the work. Eventually, Nakazawa managed to publish Struck by Black Rain in 'Manga Panchi', a magazine featuring mostly prurient material.
It is of some import to note that Nakazawa had become a fairly successful mangaka before writing Struck by Black Rain. The manga industry at the time was dominated by a limited number of publishers; Kodansha, Shogakukan, Hobunsha, Shueisha. While it is true the same can be said of today's situation, the manga market was much smaller. Nakazawa's works appeared in magazines by many of these more illustrious publishers, illustrating his relative success as a mangaka. When Struck by Black Rain was rejected, Nakazawa was forced to go to an independent magazine. There was a limited number of these- Garo the most famous. Nakazawa's manga is a died in the wool manga though- coherent with the established aesthetic of the medium- and as Garo was 'alternative', or 'underground', he would be denied this publishing avenue too.
Nakazawa was born in 1939, in Hiroshima. At the age of six, he became victim to the atomic bomb 'little boy'. The bomb killed his younger brother, his sister, his father, and his mother's newborn child. The bomb also annihilated his home, his opportunities in life, and his family's livelihood. Nakazawa growing up in Hiroshima found himself discriminated against by those who came with a government project to repopulate Hiroshima. The term for an atomic bomb survivor was 'Hibakusha'.
Nakazawa learned to hide his Hibakusha status as he matured. Unlike his father who had been a painter, Nakazawa became a mangaka. In 1961 Nakazawa left Hiroshima to head to the shining citadel of hope and new opportunities that Tokyo constituted at the time. He would debut in Shonen Gaho with 'Spark One'. And while Nakazawa actively hid his Hibakusha status during his initial years in Tokyo, references to themes of the atomic bomb often appeared in his manga. In 'Universe Giraffe' published in Shukan Shonen King in 1964, there is an occurrence of deadly mutated plants. 'The Eleventh Spy', published in Bokura in 1966, features a physicist kidnapped by Americans during the war developing a "new-type" bomb. And in 'Super Battleship Fujimi', published in 1968 in the magazine Shonen just months before Struck by Black Rain, Nakazawa depicts the tale of a battleship larger than the Yamato carrying out successfully a secret mission to attack a Pacific island where atomic bombs are being produced.
The event that spurred Nakazawa into creating what is essentially an opinion piece about Hiroshima and its effects in the form of a manga, was the death of his mother to radiation sickness. She was cremated, and the fact that even her bones were turned to cinders infuriated Nakazawa who had personally dug up the bones of his deceased family members after the bomb.
Struck by Black Rain is compartmentalised into eight chapters, each a stand-alone story featuring survivors of the Hiroshima bombing. Nakazawa elucidates pure discontent in Struck by Black Rain. Not only in the tragic mutagenic results of radiation and so forth upon victims of the bombs, but the continued inequity of their situation in a 'new' Japan. For example, one story tells of a survivor who goes on to father a daughter. This daughter falls in love, and proposes. The discovery of the father's Hibakusha status results in the disintegration of the marriage and the daughters subsequent suicide.
It may be ironic to note that Nakazawa's stylisation of manga is quite westernised. The character designs are adherent to the aesthetic that Tezuka Osamu had propagated in the shonen manga industry- a style derived from Disney (and in some part internal influences like Kenzo Masaoka and Noburo Ofuji who also had western influences). Nakazawa's characters are thus rounded, simplistic, and slightly diminutive. Yet advanced anatomical structuring and unique facial structures allows his work to stand alone. Heavy use of simple backgrounds, and focal toning in a set of three depths, quite clearly distinguish the period of the piece and the fast pace of composition Nakazawa employed. Furthermore defining Nakazawa's oeuvre is the propensity of point-of-view panels, tightly cramped panel pages, and a confluence of characters conversing while looking away from each-other. So though it is commonly admitted Nakazawa's artwork is not astounding, and his panelling and framing somewhat lacks dynamism or innovation, the visual content is quite sufficient to empower Nakazawa's political message in Struck by Black Rain.
The political element in Struck by Black Rain is the genesis of Nakazawa's true importance in the industry. Due to the potency and in some regards outrageousness of the stories content, Nakazawa would be offered the opportunity to run four more similar 'black' serialisations in varying adult magazines. The utter power of Nakazawa's anti-American, anti-empirical, anti-militarist content gave Nakazawa a kind of infamy. This would directly result in Nakazawa gaining the chance to create a one-shot in Weekly Shonen Jump called 'Ore Wa Mita' / 'I Saw It' in 1972. Following its success, Nakazawa was offered the chance to write the work he is now almost exclusively known for 'Hadashi no Gen' / 'Barefoot Gen'.
Barefoot Gen would come to be 'the' manga that defined the Hiroshima experience. It became part of the national curriculum, being one of very few windows for a new generation of Japanese children to understand the event. Equally for foreigners it would come to be one of very few pieces of media depicting Hiroshima in whole. It was also the first manga translated into English. It has been the gateway into the manga medium for innumerable readers, being stocked in libraries all over the world. It is then of interest to ask why Barefoot Gen was of such radical success, and Struck by Black Rain was clandestine and never popularised.
I've discussed the (damning) issue of Struck by Black Rain being published in an adult magazine, but there is more than simple publishing issues separating the two. Struck by Black Rain was the beginning of Nakazawa's focus on Hiroshima and its effects, penned in 1968, 5 years before Barefoot Gen. While the themes of Struck by Black Rain were the base for Nakazawa's success story, these themes are presented in a very different course of content than in Barefoot Gen.
Much of the difference can be explained by context. The sixties was a time of rapid modernisation, vocalisation of previously unheard stories, evolving expression in artistic thought, and harshly delineated politics. Japan had experienced its liberalisation a few years earlier than other the U.S.A, and by the late 60's, the realisation that most of the effort had resulted in very little was nascent. 68' was the year of the Prague spring, and several international scuffles. It was the start of what is described as 'détente'- incorrectly described as 'relaxing' of militarism, more accurately the realisation of the futility of protest and conflict. During this time, there was a global feeling of helplessness. Like a cornered rat, this is when Nakazawa wrote his highly inflammatory Struck by Black Rain, decrying the injustice of Hiroshima and its effects, not least the treatment of Hibakusha by a Japan who should have been doing the opposite.
Thus the result is of Struck by Black Rain being highly myopic- inciting violence against Americans, virulent in its anti-establishment message, and providing plots which are solely manipulative in trying to evoke emotion in readers. All of the content in Struck by Black Rain additionally is focused upon others. The content is hearsay and rumours Nakazawa encountered. Barefoot Gen in contrast is semi-autobiographical, and has much more a sense of authenticity in result.
In content, much of Struck by Black Rain is objectionable. And in artwork and composition, this manga provides little. But Struck by Black Rain gives incite into the work of an invaluable honored mangaka that Nakazawa is, gives perspective to the Hiroshima dialectic, and is in its manipulative glory very evocative. Contextually invaluable, my hope is that the translation of this manga will prosper a heightened understanding of both the issues Nakazawa has given denouement to, and a heightened understanding of the circumstance and evolution of the manga industry. read more