By Jonathan Clements.
Poor boy that I am, when I arrived in Japan I did so knowing nobody and nothing – author Ian Buruma turns out to have the Hollywood director John Schlesinger for an uncle, and an oil-business bigwig with a Tokyo mansion for a “distant relative” in 1975. He also already has a Japanese girlfriend ready to up stakes and return to her homeland with him – poor Sumie Tani is relegated to the margins of a book called A Tokyo Romance – barely mentioned in the first 40 pages, as Buruma bums around town meeting people who boast they knew Yukio Mishima.
Eventually, he gets around to talking about the woman who must have played a major role in luring him to Japan in the first place, grudgingly ticking off her family history, and observing, with a trenchant eye, that the supposed harmony of multi-generational Japanese family life was utter bilge, and that having seen Sumie’s parents and siblings bickering with her grandfather, he could totally understand why so many modern Japanese ran gratefully for the isolation of suburban tower blocks. But there is little more of her in this book, and a couple of chapters later, she is discarded as easily as Pinkerton casts aside his Butterfly. At the very end, she wanders back in, still without anything to say, to marry him, although he mentions within a sentence or two that they would also get divorced.
A Tokyo Romance is not about that sort of romance. It’s about the young Buruma’s deluded, whimsical obsession with a distant land to which he, like many expats, flees because of the privilege it offers him for being different – a rebellion, he confesses, not against Japan, but against the home he left behind. It all starts for him with a screening of Francois Truffaut’s Bed & Board (pictured), in which he falls in love with the character of Kyoko, “willowy, with long shiny black hair and dark eyes set in a pale moon face... I wanted a Kyoko in my life, perhaps even more than one. How happy I would be in a land of Kyokos.” Continue Reading
By Andrew Osmond.
Despite its hefty name (this is anime!), Sword Art Online Alternative Gun Gale Online is a simple series. It’s an adventure-comedy with a central sight-gag; a pint-sized little girl in pink, dashing and leaping around her larger foes, shooting heads, cutting throats, and blowing up the survivors with grenades. Before you envisage a Chucky girl from Child’s Play, we should specify that this tyke doesn’t kill anyone, or even spill blood. All the carnage is done within an immersive VR fighting game that’s entirely safe. Continue Reading
By Raz Greenberg.
With the release of The Art of Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind: A Film by Hayao Miyazaki, Viz has now published all of the art books that document the work on the Studio Ghibli films directed by Miyazaki – sadly, no art book has ever been published on his debut feature The Castle of Cagliostro. Collectors will certainly rejoice, but does the book hold any kind of interest for the average Miyazaki fan? Continue Reading
By Jonathan Clements.
Women’s Manga in Asia and Beyond: Uniting Different Cultures and Identities seems at first glance like a grab-bag of buzzwords assembled to attract the attention of search engines rather than humans. The introduction by Fusami Ogi gives up on defining what manga actually means, and her colleague Kazumi Nagaike announces that “...the term ‘women’ in the title of this book... does not refer to biological women but includes other non-masculine subjects.” So by the time it begins in earnest, its notional title has already shifted to something more like Comics (and cultural products and activities) for, or by, or about Non-Masculine Subjects (some related to Japan, some not), All Over the Place. Its publication comes after an upwelling of books on similar themes, including contributions from some of the same authors (such as the same publisher's recent Shojo Across Media), which leaves the impression, perhaps coincidentally and unfairly, that it is a compendium of all the left-overs from the last decade of conferencing. Continue Reading
By Andrew Osmond.
That the first “original” cinema film in the Gundam franchise contains the word “counterattack” suggests two things. First, that someone at the Sunrise studio was thinking of a certain other 1980s film with spaceships and epic duels; and second, that it’s warning the audience that the film is a sequel. Which Char’s Counter Attack is, but it doesn’t require you to have seen that much Gundam before. Continue Reading