“Schoolgirl Animals” exhibition in Kyoto features stunning anthropomorphic female student portraits

Written by: William on May 27, 2015 at 11:22 am | In CULTURE, GO SEE | 3 Comments

“Schoolgirl Animals” is an exhibition currently running at BAMI Gallery in Kyoto until May 31st, featuring an array of beguiling images of female school students in their uniforms and other schoolgirl paraphernalia, but with incongruous animal heads.

The solo exhibition showcases the work of Takumi Kama. His stunning portraits include schoolgirls combined with a zebra, cheetah, monkeys, giraffe, deer, and more.

takumi kama schoolgirl animals exhibition kyoto uniform school japanese anthropomorphic art

takumi kama schoolgirl animals exhibition kyoto uniform school japanese anthropomorphic art

takumi kama schoolgirl animals exhibition kyoto uniform school japanese anthropomorphic art

takumi kama schoolgirl animals exhibition kyoto uniform school japanese anthropomorphic art

takumi kama schoolgirl animals exhibition kyoto uniform school japanese anthropomorphic art

takumi kama schoolgirl animals exhibition kyoto uniform school japanese anthropomorphic art

takumi kama schoolgirl animals exhibition kyoto uniform school japanese anthropomorphic art

takumi kama schoolgirl animals exhibition kyoto uniform school japanese anthropomorphic art

takumi kama schoolgirl animals exhibition kyoto uniform school japanese anthropomorphic art

Schoolgirls are a continual obsession for artists and designers in Japan, especially their uniform as a motif.

Photographers like Yuki Aoyama have made whole careers out of series of schoolgirl images and the results aren’t necessarily sleazy (though that taint does also, unmistakably, linger).

The recent Design Festa featured an “interchangeable schoolgirl uniform” by Maori Iguchi.

tsukekae seifuku maori iguchi-interchangeable school uniform japan design festa

“Schoolgirl Animals” also taps into the culture in Japan for moe anthropomorphism, specifically kemonomimi. This is most famously expressed in the form of catgirl characters, where anime or illustrated figures have cat tails and cat ears (nekomimi) — something even clothes for pet-owners like to indulge in!

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Otouto no Otto (My Brother’s Husband): New Gengoroh Tagame manga raises issue of same-sex parenting and marriage in Japan

Written by: William on May 25, 2015 at 2:46 pm | In CULTURE, LIFESTYLE | No Comments

Contributing further to the continuing public discourse in Japan about gay rights and same-sex marriage, the first volume of Otouto no Otto (My Brother’s Husband) was published as a paperback on May 25th.

Published by Futabasha, Otouto no Otto is written by Gengoroh Tagame, whose website says he creates “gay erotic art”. Clearly that also includes manga too and this new manga seems relatively mainstream compared to his more risque other titles. It is currently being serialized in Gekkan Action.

otouto no otto my brother husband manga gengoroh tagame gay marriage parenting

Otouto no Otto not only raises the timely issues of gay parenting and same-sex partnerships, it also examines interracial couples too. The story revolves around Yaichi and his daughter Kana, who are visited by Mike, the Canadian husband of Yaichi’s twin brother.

Tagame, who is openly gay, has a growing reputation overseas and his work has been translated into French and English. He is arguably the most influential gay manga-ka today.

Shibuya ward recently gave tacit legal recognition to same-sex couples and the “marriage” of lesbian celebrity couple Ayaka Ichinose and Akane Sugimori also attracted a lot of media attention.

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Tokyo’s New National Stadium to open for 2020 Olympic Games without controversial roof

Written by: William on May 19, 2015 at 9:26 am | In CULTURE | 1 Comment

It was meant to be the triumph of the 2020 Olympic Games. But now it’s going to be naked.

The controversial New National Stadium, the centerpiece of the Tokyo Games, will not be ready for the opening of the Olympics in five years’ time. In order to be usable, the government says it wants to abandon the plan to have the stadium’s dramatic retractable roof.

zaha hadid national stadium tokyo olympic games 2020 roof retractable design

Japan’s sports minister, Hakubun Shimomura, says it won’t be complete in time and they need to make cuts to ensure it is ready for the opening. This also entails making 35% of the seats into temporary seating.

Designed by Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid, the stadium’s arching roof is meant to rise 70m into the air. The stadium was proposed as a main venue for the 2020 Games as well as the 2019 Rugby World Cup, which is also taking place in Japan.

zaha hadid national stadium tokyo olympic games 2020 roof retractable design

The 80,000-capacity stadium has been an albatross around the neck of the capital’s Olympic preparations. Much criticized by Japanese architects since it was designed by an outsider and looks like a giant bicycle helmet, its size and budget has been heavily scaled back (it was $3 billion, now it’s “just” $1.42 billion), and the national government and Tokyo are also haggling over who will foot the bill.

One of the main criticisms levelled at the stadium by Japanese architects was the roof, which heavily increases the cost of the project. However, the retractable roof was proposed to give the stadium a second life as a concert venue.

zaha hadid national stadium tokyo olympic games 2020 roof retractable design

An opening ceremony in the stadium sans roof will affect the content of the ceremony, since the stadium is located in central Tokyo where there are strict rules on noise pollution.

The Tokyo Olympics was marketed as an “eco Games” because it could reuse many venues and facilities from the iconic 1964 Olympics.

zaha hadid national stadium tokyo olympic games 2020 roof retractable design

However, in reality, the 2020 bonanza has proved a major boon for real estate development around Tokyo Bay and the previous National Stadium has been completely demolished to make way for Hadid’s new stadium.

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Sonia Rykiel opens library-themed store in Aoyama, Tokyo

Written by: William on May 15, 2015 at 9:02 am | In CULTURE | No Comments

Sonia Rykiel has opened a new store in Aoyama, the designer fashion district of central Tokyo. Located at the former Jil Sander Navy flagship address, the shop features a unique interior with striking red fittings and floor-to-ceiling bookcases.

sonia rykiel tokyo aoyama store pop-up library book bookshelves shop

sonia rykiel tokyo aoyama store pop-up library book bookshelves shop

The Japan branch is part of a global campaign. The designer’s flagship store in Paris recently featured 50,000 books as a pop-up makeover themed on the history of the Left Bank. A similar theme is going to transform the London store in May.

In partnership with artistic director Julie de Libran, publisher Thomas Lenthal and artist André Saraïva, the launch is to present the Sonia Rykiel autumn-winter 2015 collection.

sonia rykiel tokyo aoyama store pop-up library book bookshelves shop

sonia rykiel tokyo aoyama store pop-up library book bookshelves shop

The two-floor, 165-square-meter Tokyo location features a carpet with artwork by Saraïva, as well as an exclusive fragrance created especially by Daniela Andrier.

sonia rykiel tokyo aoyama store pop-up library book bookshelves shop

sonia rykiel tokyo aoyama store pop-up library book bookshelves shop

The new Sonia Rykiel boutique can be found at 5-2-12 Minami-Aoyama, Minato-ku.

We’ve seen a growing interest in bibliophilic spaces in Tokyo.

Bookstore Junkudo began to offer special overnight stays for bookworms in 2014, while Mori no Toshi Shitsu is a book-themed bar in Shibuya that opened last year.

And although it’s now long-closed, Nakameguro was once home to Combine, a kind of hipster book lounge bar-cafe, for many years.

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Kadokawa’s Comic Walker Global: now available for manga from China, Taiwan, Singapore

Written by: William on May 12, 2015 at 8:57 am | In CULTURE | 3 Comments

Publisher Kadokawa opened the beta version of Comic Walker Global on April 27th to be a platform for promoting the work of overseas manga artists.

Comic Walker already launched in 2014 as Japan’s premier official (i.e. not pirated!) online manga service, offering a vast library of titles and translation (into English or Chinese) options. It also started programming manga original to the digital service. The aim was to achieve 100 million page views by the end of the first year of operation.

While we’re not sure if they achieved that or not, Kadokawa’s confidence is obvious from how they have made good on their international aspirations, especially in the Asian region.

kadokawa comic walker global chinese taiwan singapore manga reading digital service

The Comic Walker Global site includes the work of popular manga-ka like Chiya, Foo Swee Chin, and more.

And the best thing about Comic Walker Global? It’s free to view on your smartphone (Android and iOS), tablet or computer via the dedicated app.

kadokawa comic walker global chinese taiwan singapore manga reading digital service

It now offers Chinese-language options and English is planned for the future.

kadokawa comic walker global chinese taiwan singapore manga reading digital service

kadokawa comic walker global chinese taiwan singapore manga reading digital service

Currently there are only 9 manga titles available, though with the gradual growth of overseas manga, US graphic novels and bandes dessinées in Japan, we can expect the portfolio to expand quickly from the summer.

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E-Sakuga Evangelion 3:0 You Can (Not) Redo. utilizes “tap-motion” to show future of manga digital publishing

Written by: William on May 11, 2015 at 9:43 am | In COOL PRODUCTS, CULTURE | 4 Comments

E-Sakuga has released a next-generation e-book that serves as a neat example of anime tie-in merchandise and also an interesting idea for how anime and digital publishing can intersect successfully.

E-Sakuga Evangelion 3:0 You Can (Not) Redo. was released on iBooks on May 8th in a format specifically tailored to combine the advantages of digital publishing with the features of manga and other local types of literature.

e-sakuga evangelion 3:0 you can not redo ebook tap-motion digital book publishing content anime

The E-Sakuga series employs an original “Tap-motion” function that allows you to browse the digital content like a flip book. The interactive Evangelion e-book feature original drawings from the anime and allows the reader to view each frame in detail, and also “anime” key frames to see the drawings transform into the cult Evangelion film.

e-sakuga evangelion 3:0 you can not redo ebook tap-motion digital book publishing content anime

e-sakuga evangelion 3:0 you can not redo ebook tap-motion digital book publishing content anime

e-sakuga evangelion 3:0 you can not redo ebook tap-motion digital book publishing content anime

Priced ¥2,000 (around $16), E-Sakuga Evangelion 3:0 You Can (Not) Redo. is available only for iPad or Mac. It is published both in Japanese and in English.

E-publishing has been making headway in Japan, though the manga market remains dominated by big, heavy weekly comic magazines. Saying that, even these are far past their prime and no longer sell anything like the millions they did at the peak of the industry. Manga magazine sales have been dropping every year since 1996. That said, general manga sales have started to creep up since 2010 after years of decline, following the success of One Piece. So-called e-manga (manga e-books) dominate e-book sales, accounting for somewhere in the region of 80% of the market.

Innovations like this represent a way forward for manga and anime-related publishing.

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Japan’s first robot wedding: Maywa Denki’s Frois and Yuki Kashiwagi android Yukirin join together in holy matrimony

Written by: William on May 4, 2015 at 11:03 am | In COOL PRODUCTS, CULTURE | 1 Comment

Get ready for what tech fans have been waiting their whole lives for: a robot wedding.

The “Robo-kon” marriage ceremony event is being produced Maywa Denki, the cult makers of nonsense machines and music gadgets.

frois yukirin robot marriage ceremony wedding event tokyo japan android maywa denki cay aoyama june yuki kashiwagi akb48

The mechanical bride and groom will be walking (or equivalent motion) down the aisle at Aoyama Cay on June 27th in central Tokyo.

Who are the happy couple?

The “groom” is Frois, a robot developed by Maywa Denki with a head inspired by a bath stool (we’re not kidding), while the “bride” is Yukirin, the android made in the likeness of AKB48 idol Yuki Kashiwagi.

For the occasion — and perhaps copyright reasons — Yukirin has been renamed Roborin by creator Takayuki Todo. Fear not, “she” still looks like Yuki Kashiwagi.

frois yukirin robot marriage ceremony wedding event tokyo japan android maywa denki cay aoyama june yuki kashiwagi akb48

If you want to see Frois and Yukirin exchange their vows, tickets cost ¥10,000 (over $80) and are limited to the first 100 persons.

Shibuya ward recently gave tacit approval to same-sex marriage. Is human-robot marriage next on the agenda?

After all, there are no android receptionists in Japan’s department stores.

Appropriately enough, the MC for the wedding ceremony will be Pepper, the robot co-developed by Softbank and who is “manning” some branches of the mobile phone giant in Tokyo.

We’re looking forward to the way the ceremony will work. Will there be a kiss? And what will they be wearing?!

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Yaoi goes mainstream? “Katana-danshi” photo book showcases samurai sword boys

Written by: William on April 30, 2015 at 9:19 am | In CULTURE | 6 Comments

If you like Japanese swords and Japanese boys, then this is the book for you.

Katana-danshi is an unusual new photo book set for release on June 10th.

katana danshi yaoi boys love sword samurai pose photo book libre publishing

Its title means “sword boys” and that’s exactly what you get here: attractive images of attractive men posing with their blades drawn and ready.

There are over 120 pictures in the book (marketed as a “po-zu-shu” or “pose collection”), featuring the male models even locked in mortal combat in their underwear! Needless to say, the samurai cosplay explores the full possibilities of traditional Japanese costumes, from kimono to obi belts and hakama.

katana danshi yaoi boys love sword samurai pose photo book libre publishing

katana danshi yaoi boys love sword samurai pose photo book libre publishing

It is published by Libre Publishing, who mostly release boys’ love (BL) or yaoi titles. Previous photo books include one devoted to male bookstore clerks.

katana danshi yaoi boys love sword samurai pose photo book libre publishing

The choreography and overall supervision for the book has been handled by Hiroyuki Nakagawa, who was also responsible for swordplay for the rock musical adaptation of the manga Bleach as well as TV samurai dramas. The photography is by Seita Ando.

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The Second Stage: a magazine about ex-Takarazuka Revue performers

Written by: William on April 29, 2015 at 9:37 am | In CULTURE | No Comments

A new magazine has been launched dedicated to former performers with the all-female Takarazuka Revue.

The Second Stage was released this week and examines the lives of ex-Takarazuka stars, now in their thirties or older, and the beauty tips they can offer readers.

second stage takarazuka revue former ex actress performer magazine

The first issue, priced ¥1,200 (around $10), features Kei Aran and Tsubasa Makoto. It is produced by a music magazine specialist, rather than Takarazuka itself, and there is no word yet on how regular it will.

The famous Takarazuka Revue attracts passion fans, mostly female, for its kitschy performances of musicals. Entering the troupe is very competitive and, like Kabuki, performers are assigned to play “male” or “female” roles. Members lead a closeted life, training for years with the company and living in dorms. Like with music idol groups, are restricted in what they can do in their private lives.
 
The afterlife of Takarazuka actresses (so-called Takarasiennes) can be up and down.

They often go on to marry well (former prime minister Yukio Hatoyama’s wife was a Takarazuka actress, for example) but only a few have retained a career in entertainment.

These include Hitomi Kuroki, Yuki Amami, Rei Dan, Miki Maya and Sarara Tsukifune.

takarazuka revue actress performer magazine graph

Not surprisingly for a phenomenon that has been around for 100-plus years, Takarazuka already has several magazine titles, joining Japan’s pantheon of niche magazines.

takarazuka revue actress performer magazine graph

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