Souzou: outsider art from Japan March 30, 2013Posted by ayasawada in Culture, Japan, Personal.
Tags: Japan, Outsider art, Souzou, Wellcome Collection
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It’s not often (read: NEVER) that anything in my workplace crosses over with my love of all things Japan. So when my colleagues at Wellcome Collection told me that they were bringing a Japanese exhibition over I got very excited. What I actually saw when the exhibition opened this week blew my mind. (more…)
Kyary Pamyu Pamyu February 24, 2013Posted by ayasawada in Music.
Tags: Jpop, Kyarypamyupamyu
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Two weeks ago Harajuku superstar Kyary Pamyu Pamyu played in London. As I often say on this blog, it’s rare that any Japanese music comes to the UK so when a pop culture phenomenon who’s riding high in the Japanese charts comes to town, we’re in for an extra special treat.
In all honesty, I hadn’t heard of Kyary up until a few months ago, when a friend asked on the morning of the ticket sales if I was going. I bought one on a whim, figuring a) it’d be fun at least and b) I’m liable to like anything produced by the inimitable Yasutaka Nakata, the man behind my favourite group Perfume.
峯岸みなみへ：みいちゃんがんばって January 31, 2013Posted by ayasawada in Music.
Tags: AKB48, Minegishi Minami
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Since becoming an AKB48 fan, Minegishi Minami has been my favourite. Always bright, bubbly and playful, she’s never been as super super popular, but is a founding member and always in the top 20 of the Sousenkyou. So I was pretty upset to read today of this scandal broken in a Japanese tabloid and even more disappointed at the typical AKB management’s reaction to it. Punishment was swift, with Mii-chan demoted to Kenkyusei level for the indiscretion.
On the one hand, you could say this is what all the girls signed up for – the rules on boyfriends, or even to be seen to be doing anything vaguely construed as having anything to do with boys, is pretty clear and it’s not like any number of members haven’t suffered the same paparazzi treatment, scandal and punishment in the past few years. But there’s always the feeling that we, the fans, are far from inconvenienced and more saddened that the reaction to a girl just doing what any normal human being would be doing. And instead of being given a supporting arm around the shoulder she’s shown severe punishment – to the extent that Mii-chan felt she had to shave her head as some form of retribution (I never quite got that as a Japanese self-punishment, but it is one of the few noticeable actions one can do in such a powerless situation, particularly when your hair is one of your most attractive features).
The subsequent apology Mii-chan posted to AKB48′s YouTube channel is totally heartbreaking. (more…)
2012 anime retrospective December 30, 2012Posted by ayasawada in Anime, Film, Jdorama, Manga.
Tags: AKB0048, Anime, Ano Natsu de Matteru, Black Rock Shooter, Chu2Koi, Chunibyou demo koi ga shitai, Eureka Seven, Fate Zero, Gundam, Hyoka, Kokoro Connect, KyoAni, Kyoto Animation, Last Exile, Lupin III, Persona 4, Sakamichi no Apollon, Sword Art Online, Tsuritama
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Another year, another great batch of anime watching. Despite my ‘cutting down’ due to time constraints, I still ended up watching over 20 shows this year, not to mention the odd OAV, movie, drama, live-action adaptation etc. etc. As I rarely get a chance to blog on a series’ end, I thought it might be fun to follow many other blogs’ lead and gather my thoughts in retrospect. (more…)
Perfume LIVE: a dream come true November 29, 2012Posted by ayasawada in Music.
Tags: Jpop, Music, Perfume
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On Saturday night, something I never thought would happen happened: I saw my favourite jpop group live. And it was a miracle that I got to be there.
I’ve been a massive Perfume fan for 3 years. But living in London, I accepted long ago that I would probably never see any of my favourite jpop acts live. It’s rare enough that any of them play outside of Japan, let alone make it all the way to UK shores. And even if some do, all-female pop groups aren’t generally at the head of the queue.
I was therefore excited to hear the news of Perfume’s first “world tour”, but somewhat disappointed to discover that it was actually more of an Asian tour. I was due to be on holiday in Malaysia at roughly the same time period, but my hopes were dashed when I failed to secure tickets to any of the 4 gigs through the online ballots, which quickly sold out anyhow.
Shoganai, I thought. I was thankful to already be going to Anime Festival Asia (AFA12), with its 3 nights of jpop live goodness attached to the weekend (blog post to follow). Little did I know the best was yet to come.
Japanese film at #LFF 2012 October 21, 2012Posted by ayasawada in Anime, Film.
Tags: Anime, Japanese movie, London Film Festival, Mamoru Hosoda, Takashi Miike
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The 2012 BFI London Film Festival is nearly over and as usual there were more interesting films than one could possibly see/afford. So as usual, I made an effort for the Asian ones. Because of scheduling and budget, I ended up picking 4 Japanese films, but was overall very pleased with my choices.
A thought-provoking and incredibly well acted, if deeply deeply disturbing (in a very Sono Sion way), take on the Japanese model industry and the lengths to which people go for fame and beauty. I hadn’t realised Helter Skelter was based on a manga, though that partly explains why it interested me. Overly stylish, though not as much as Director Mika Ninagawa’s earlier feature Sakuran, and suffering from Lord-of-the-Rings-style over-endings syndrome, but absorbing nonetheless. Erika Sawajiri gives an absolute knockout performance in the lead role.
Wolf Children (Okami Kodomo Ame to Yuki)
Mamoru Hosoda‘s latest effort and the sole anime offering in the LFF this year. I have to admit, I was a little underwhelmed by Summer Wars and when I first heard the story of Okami Kodomo it sounded a bit meh. I was pleasantly proved wrong. From the stunningly animated opening this is captivating from start to finish. As with all Hosoda’s previous films, the fantasy element is almost totally irrelevant; the real focus is the very human drama – in this case the perils of growing up and single parenthood. As always, Hosoda, as writer and director, captures this, particularly the little life moments, so very very well. Yet what impressed me most is the character development – every character goes through a genuine arc of transformation leaving you with a lump in your throat as you follow them through hardship and relief along their life journey.
I have a feeling the ending isn’t going to stay with me as much as Toki wo Kakeru Shojo, but the film certainly will.
For Love’s Sake (Ai to Makoto)
Takashi Miike, you’ve done it again. Another (slightly baffling) cult classic with plenty of charm. This is the tale of two high school kids literally from opposite ends of the social spectrum, and what all of us will do ‘for love’s sake’. I love musicals, manga adaptations, Japanese music and weird Japanese humour (especially ones bookended by anime scenes), so I was guaranteed to love this, though I didn’t expect to be moved by it.
It’s not perfect by any stretch, mind. It’s based on a slightly off the cuff manga so the characters are pretty one-dimensional (though in a comedy, and one with so many characters, this works in its favour). Moreover, you can’t shake the impression that the film has cut the story a little short from the original manga. It’s a shame characters like Gumko never get fully realised, but there’s surely more to Makoto’s story than just ‘he wanted to save his Mum’. His father isn’t mentioned much and we never really know why his family fell into such disarray – I can only conclude that ‘the person he wants revenge on’ is actually his father, and he would have done so had he not [SPOILER]… you know. There’s also the puzzling role of the teacher, who only has a couple of scenes prior to his [SPOILER] surprising appearance at the end – why would he do that?? The opening also talks about the 70s, the start of the bubble economy and how not everyone felt the riches even when the country had its rise – hints of a larger theme probably explored in the manga but not one ably touched on in a musical movie adaptation.
Nevertheless, Ai to Makoto = great fun and with an ending that gives it poignance. More than the throwaway entertainment I was ready to brand it as.
Key of Life
Unexpectedly, the highlight of my LFF films (and that’s saying something considering how much I enjoyed the others). Key of Life (Kagi Dorobo no Method) is an outrageously good tale of swapped lives and the search for love and purpose in life. It’s a classic example of the off-kilter, slice-of-life comedy featuring an unbelievable, yet believable plot and weird but loveable characters that Japan does so well. Slickly plotted, brilliantly acted (particularly the ever-reliable Teriyuki Kagawa and Ryoko Hirosue, who I’ve had a soft spot for since Yasuko to Kenji) and so full of heart you’ll be smiling your face off, it was a wonderful way to finish off my LFF run. I defy you not to love the doki-doki car alarm bit at the end.
Confessions of an AKB48 fan July 29, 2012Posted by ayasawada in Anime, Film, Music, Rave.
Tags: AKB0048, AKB48, Jpop
I love AKB48. This might not seem surprising for a self-confessed otaku and firm pop fan, but for the longest time I was dismissive of huge synthetic supergroups.
In my years of fandom, I was surprisingly unenamoured with the likes of Morning Musume, an odd mix of loli idols with constantly rotating members — the extremity of what many dislike about the Japanese pop industry. When AKB48 came along, I thought, “Jeez, a group with 48 members — that really takes the biscuit”, then got on with my life.
What changed? (more…)
A Japanophile in New York July 23, 2012Posted by ayasawada in Anime, Books, Food, Games, Manga, Personal, Travel.
Tags: New York, shopping
It’s a common habit of mine that no matter where I go on holiday, I always end up drawn to the Japanese stuff. New York, the concrete jungle where dreams are made of, was no different.
As one of the most famous and most cultured cities in the world it’s no surprise NYC caters well for the Japanophile. So where should you visit if you find yourself in the Big Apple in need of a Japanese fix? (more…)
Tags: Anime, Anime movie, BFI, Ghibli, Makoto Shinkai, Miyazaki, Studio Ghibli
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I finally saw Makoto Shinkai’s latest at the BFI’s biennial anime season. It’s breathtaking enough to make me thankful to have caught it on the big screen, yet in its quest to deal with weighty issues it just misses perfection, and perhaps even some of the director’s usual heart. (more…)
There and back again: from Tsubasa to XXXholic June 10, 2012Posted by ayasawada in Manga, Personal.
Tags: CLAMP, Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle, XXXholic
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A couple of months ago, the last volume of CLAMP‘s long-running XXXholic was finally published in English. It brought to an end (of sorts) Watanuki’s journey from boy to man, from student to shopkeeper, and given that the series also happens to have perfectly spanned my working life to date, I can’t help but feel a bit of empathy.
I started following XXXholic and its sister series Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle back in the Spring of 2004. I happened to get my first proper job at a place round the corner from one of my favourite comic book stores (the brilliant Gosh! comics, then in Bloomsbury, now moved to bigger premises). Every lunchtime was spent spending my paycheck on numerous series, and having recently got into CLAMP’s works (like many, largely through a love of Cardcaptor Sakura and Chobits) I was excited to see these two crossover series, the debut titles from new publisher Del Rey, and so soon (relatively) after their debuts in Japan.
Eight years later, much has changed. Del Rey has now closed, my career has had its ups and downs, and so have these two manga. (more…)