Once again this year, I may have more excess anime/manga merchandise than I can actually transport to my Necronomicon convention dealer’s table next weekend. And I’ll also need to figure out how to fit plastic shelving into to car as well.
Archive for the ‘Random Thoughts’ Category
Biblical history and esoterica have been subject to literary adaptation for centuries, from Milton’s 1667 dramatization of the fall of Lucifer to modern novels and movies like Left Behind and Legion and Dogma. Despite Japan not being a predominantly Christian country, Scripture has inspired numerous Japanese manga artists as well, including Kaori Yuki’s Angel Sanctuary, Kazue Kato’s Blue Exorcist, Daisuke Moriyama’s Chrono Crusade, Kent Minami’s Angel Para Bellum, and Nanae Chrono’s Vassalord, to name a few. Writer Masao Yajima & illustrator Boichi’s 2008 manga series Raqiya: The New Book of Revelation takes a more prominent than typical approach to adapting Biblical concepts for its own ends, resulting in a tense, provocative action manga for open-minded mature readers.
Having grown up as a geek during the 1980s, the Hernandez brothers’ independent slice-of-life comic book series Love and Rockets defined the offbeat, alternative, independent comic book in my mind. Since I grew up with America’s independent comic boom, I was also aware that indie comics featured belligerent anthropomorphic animals, ninja (of the female, fat, turtle, and high school varieties), all manner of criminals, hardboiled detectives, and much more. But twenty years later I still find my core definition of “indie comics” falling back on slice of life stories about the small existential anxieties of everyday life. So no title from GEN Manga’s stable better illustrates the translator’s canon of imported Japanese indie comics than Fujimura Takayuki’s deceptively simple routine life drama manga Sorako.
Numerous well-known manga and anime have wrestled with the hypothetical circumstances of human relationships with androids or artificial people, such as Ghost in the Shell, Android Announcer Maico 2010, and Chobits. But it’s been largely left up to independent productions like The Time of Eve to penetrate beneath superficial comic relationships and stylized violence to examine the psychological effect that human and android relationships have on both parties. Amateur Japanese manga creator Kosuke Kabaya’s Android Angels manga follows in the footsteps of animator Yasuhiro Yoshiura’s Eve no Jikan to present its own thoughtful and affecting examination of human relationships in a world where not everyone that appears to be human actually is human.
Since its inception in 2011, GEN Manga has concentrated on licensing & translating a purposefully diverse array of manga genres and styles from amateur, grassroots Japanese artists. GEN Manga volumes 11 through 15, published from April through August 2012 included the first five chapters of the original shounen ai manga story “One Is Enough” by artist “LOVE.” The brand new August 2014 One Is Enough graphic novel contains an archival reprinting of the first five chapters plus the concluding, never before published final 25 pages of the honest & affecting love story.
My final full day of 2014 in Tokyo began with a walk down the street to the bank to exchange a final hundred dollars. Along the way I snapped daytime photos of two of the restaurants that I’d eaten eat during the previous week. Then I stopped in at the Somo Somo 100 Yen store primarily to pick up some hard plastic re-sealable boxes that I could use to transport home delicate collectables within my suitcase. Once again, even though this was a small 100 yen store, I was impressed by its selection and some of the odd, unexpected items it stocked.
With the conclusion of my stay in Tokyo approaching its end, I considered how much money I had remaining and how much I’d need, and decided to walk down the street to the bank to exchange $250. The bank was somewhat less crowded on its ground floor this time around; the small third floor lobby was one again deserted. I filled out the form and took a seat. Ten minutes later I received 24,800 yen. On the way out I politely refused a bank employee that encouraged me to register for a Mitsubishi Bank credit card.
A variety of subtle and minor cultural differences between Japan and American occur to me as navigate Tokyo. During my two weeks here, I’ve seen about a half-dozen women wearing traditional Japanese kimono or similar attire on the street, but to a person the women have been elderly ladies. I wonder to myself if these women are individuals who have spent a lifetime wearing traditional Japanese clothing, if they’ve only adopted the grace of tradition with maturity, or if they represent a contrast with the contemporary, younger generations of Japanese citizens who aren’t interested in the formality of traditional Japanese attire.
I woke somewhat excited about the prospects of some sort of interesting publicity event surrounding the debut of Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Crystal being held in conjunction with a sale at the Shibuya 109 department store. But I also tempered my expectations, knowing the that publicity even could turn out to be nothing more than a bunch of posters and banners. Around mid-day, Jon and I took the trains to Shibuya, exiting the station at the Hachiko exit into a mild rain. As soon as we crossed the intersection, we could see the giant Sailor Moon banners attached to the 109 building.
For otaku in Tokyo, Akihabara and Nakano Broadway are the primary satisfying destinations and will remain so for the foreseeable future. Ikebukuro’s Otome Road is increasing in prominence and awareness, but the Otome Road otaku district at present remains small – a mere two blocks – and near exclusively devoted to female consumers and collectors. The hidden gem of Tokyo’s anime otaku destinations is the relatively little known Tokyo Character Street, which is actually not literally a street at all. A basement section at the north Yaesu exit of the Tokyo railway station houses a strip of roughly 20 consecutive gift shops collectively known as “Tokyo Character Street.”
I’ve mentioned before that my fascination with anime culture and collectables is so intense that I’m entirely happy to just surround myself with fictional alternate rainbow-colored worlds and smiling cartoon girls. Not everyone – in fact – most people probably wouldn’t empathize with my obsession for more than a day or two, and certainly not two weeks. But my vacation is for my own amusement, and if visiting anime shops brings me the most pleasure, then that’s what I’ll do during my vacation. Because my temporary room-mate had to go to work for the day, and I knew that I wanted to pick up some goods for a friend back in Florida, I returned to Nakano Broadway.
The venerable Tokyo Tower straddles a three-story building that houses a visitor’s center, numerous pop restaurants, and even a small aquarium. I’ve visited the historic structure twice before but never gone up to its observation decks. Although Tokyo Tower is now no longer Tokyo’s tallest structure – that designation now belongs to the more recent Tokyo Sky Tree – Tokyo Tower remains an iconic symbol of Tokyo, and I decided that since I had time and opportunity to see its peak, I should do so before a giant monster lays waste to the structure.
The primary point of coming to Tokyo for slightly over two weeks is to allow time for a variety of activities and sightseeing. Given the intensity of my collecting obsession, I could happily spend my entire trip exploring only Nakano Broadway & Akihabara. In fact, every time I go to either place, I seem to discover new anime shops that I haven’t visited before. But I also want to expand my experience (and conserve some money), so I decided to visit the free Toei Animation Gallery.
Yoshinoya may be the native Japanese equivalent to McDonalds – cheap, blue-collar, omnipresent – but I happen to highly enjoy the taste of the standard, no-frills Yoshinoya gyudon: thin sliced simmered beef and onions served over white rice. Throughout many of my previous solo visits to Japan, I’ve subsided near exclusively on Yoshinoya beef bowls. So although I’m eating better on this trip than usual, I can’t make an extended visit to Tokyo without at least once getting a Yoshinoya beef bowl.