On November 23rd, Studio Ghibli’s latest film Kaguyahime no monogatari (The Tale of Princess Kaguya) was released in all theaters across Japan.
I have already seen a number of reviews so far, most of which are specifically focused on how different the film looks, compared to other Ghibli works from the past. But I would like to take a different approach.
Director Isao Takahata is famous for his depiction of real life, while his longtime friend and another Ghibli guru Hayao Miyazaki uses fantasy as a basic setting of his stories.
“The Tale of Princess Kaguya” is based on a Japanese folktale from the tenth century called Taketori monogatari – or ”The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter”. It’s a story about an old bamboo cutter who finds a tiny baby girl inside a bamboo stalk and together with his wife raises the baby as his own. The girl grows up to be a woman of ordinary size and of extraordinary beauty. She is approached by a number of suitors, but she somehow manages to reject all proposals. Finally, she reveals her biggest secret to her parents that she was sent from the moon as a result of some “promise” that she made and must return there. In the end, an emissary from the moon takes her back to where she belongs, leaving everyone in tears. It definitely doesn’t sound like a happy ending, doesn’t it?
One could easily argue that this film might be the most “fantastic” of Takahata’s all past works. Yet the primary focus of the story is not the encounter between humans and aliens but answering many questions of why. Why was she sent from the moon in the first place? Why was she sent to earth? Why was she so sad when she left earth? Why did she need to return?
The tag line reads “The crime and punishment of a princess”, which implies that this is not a simple feel-good story of a lunar princess who comes down to experience life on earth. Takahata says in one interview that the earth and the moon stand opposite from each other: while the moon might represent sanctitude but without any color or life of its own, the earth is full of life, hardships – and joy.
If the earth was considered ultimate hell where all sinners are sent to serve their sentence, Princess Kaguya would be happy to return home, which is obviously not the case here. Perhaps this is where he portrays realism over fantasy, in an imaginative story setting where he suggests that life on earth might at times be too cruel, yet it does have something that even heavenly beings from above envy.
Sometimes I just wonder.
Japan is such a small country (geographically speaking, at least), so why do they even have to divide themselves into forty-seven prefectures and compete against each other? Recently I wrote a post on the result of recent survey which basically defined Japan’s most and least attractive places. The battle of yuru-kyara mascots is another means through which we get to know the undiscovered parts of this string of islands. Maybe we are all subconsciously waiting for super heroes who could represent all that Japan has to offer and unite us all together.
And One Piece might just offer the gang of heroes to do it.
Now that the manga series has sold over 300 million copies, One Piece has no doubt proven its worth to be the ultimate representative of all prefectures in Japan. In the 3-Oku [300 million] campaign, forty-seven characters from One Piece appear on ads in local newspapers to represent each prefecture in collaboration with various local specialties, events and tourist destinations across the nation.
Although almost all the featured items in these ads can be seen on the cover of major guidebooks, it’s a new approach that each prefecture is taking to show what they are proud of — whether it be the Tokyo Skytree (above), the hot springs of Gunma, Nebuta Festival of Aomori, Sasakamaboko (fish cake in the shape of a bamboo leaf) of Miyagi — or wara natto (natto wrapped in rice straw) for Ibaraki (below), recently announced the most unappealing prefecture in Japan.
About two-thirds of the ads have been revealed on the website so far, and we have yet to see the remaining works.
In addition to newspaper ads, One Piece posters can be seen on the walls of seven major stations across the country (Sapporo, Sendai, Shibuya, Nagoya, Umeda, Hiroshima and Nishitetsu Fukuoka Tenjin) from November 4th to 26th at intervals of a week or so.
While I’m not the biggest fan of the manga, I do have to admit that One Piece is loved by so many that it has the power to surpass regionalism, which sometimes can get really ugly and messy.
Today Bandai continued its commemoration of 20 years since Sailor Moon’s first TV broadcast with an interactive publicity event featuring the range of cosmetics released earlier this year by CreerBeaute to celebrate the anime series.
The third in the series of cosmetics products was being promoted by five ladies dressed up like Sailor Moon characters, to a specially invited audience selected by lottery from over 3,000 applicants.
Sailor Moon will likely need no introduction for JapanTrends readers. The iconic anime series not only was integral in spreading the general popularity of Japanese anime overseas for the generation now in their twenties — especially girls — but also cemented a lot of the funky images we have about Japanese schoolgirls in anime. (The magical girls’ clothes in the series are modeled on “sailor”-style girls’ school uniforms.) The anime was first broadcast in 1992, adapted from the original manga by Naoko Takeuchi.
This event took place at Spiral in Aoyama and showcased the latest in the Sailor Moon cosmetics, set to be released simultaneously in Japan and also Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore where the franchise is popular.
The new products are Miracle Romance Star Power Prism, a series of three types of eyeliner in five colors inspired by “Moon Prism Power, Make Up!”, the phrase the main character, Usagi Tsukino, uses when she transforms herself.
Visitors could also get their photo taken with the Tuxedo Mask, one of the characters from the series, and also get a closer look at the make-up products a day before they went on sale.
This isn’t the first time that the Creer Beaute has collaborated with anime to create new cosmetic products and brands. Past inspirations include Urusei Yatsura, Creamy Mami, Evangelion and The Rose of Versailles.
Studio Ghibli’s The Wind Rises, the final film of director Miyao Miyazaki, in spite of the controversy over its extensive use of smoking scenes, has surpassed all box office expectations for the decidedly uncommercial story of an airplane designer.
It has now taken over 10 billion yen ($100 million) at the domestic box office, the first Japanese film to achieve this feat since Miyazaki’s Ponyo in 2008. Overall it is the first movie to take this much money since Toy Story 3 in 2010. Distributor Toho is expecting the film’s receipts to slow as the summer holidays end but it may well come close to Ponyo‘s final take of 15.5 billion yen by October. By comparison, Monsters University has taken $88 million in Japan since its release in early July and remains in the top ten.
While Miyazaki and Ghibli might well be box office genies, with the unusual story and premise of the film (and a title that is a reference to Paul Valéry!), its success was anything but certain. However, controversy over Miyazaki’s pacifist rhetoric and the anti-smoking lobby’s campaign, have likely done nothing to harm interest in the picture. It was also announced amidst a media frenzy that it would be the last feature film that 72-year-old Miyazaki would direct (although he has said this before). Miyazaki’s shock announcement at a September 1st press conference at the Venice International Film Festival led to a box office boost as domestic audiences were keen to catch his final film on the big screen. Audience numbers jumped 134.5％ the following week.
On September 11th, in 54 days since it opened it had been seen by around 8 million people (of course, some may well have seen the film more than once). It was released on July 20th and is still being shown at 454 screens. This is far less than newer releases like Man of Steel (611) or Captain Harlock (578), and yet last week it took four times their grosses. It has been the number one film at the Japanese box office for eight straight weeks. If it can do this for two more weeks it will surpass another Miyazaki film, Howl’s Moving Castle, which managed nine consecutive weeks. The Wind Rises will be released in US in February 2014 in two versions — one with subtitles and one dubbed.
We only hope that Miyazaki, having gone out on a high, can be persuaded to come back and make a contribution to the Opening Ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. We couldn’t stand it if it’s just mascots and AKB48!
While the weekend was all about the announcement that Tokyo would host the Olympic Games in 2020 — the city’s second bid and ultimately its second time to host — some netizens and keen-eyed manga fans have been noting an interesting parallel to the situation today and one that was predicted in the Eighties.
Okay, so we were hardly jumping with joy over the prospects of the Olympics — and not least for the government’s hypocrisy (Abe flies off to South America and promises to clean up Fukushima — now finally taking responsibility for a disaster 2.5 years ago and only because it might affect Tokyo’s prospects?!).
This is the Reuters photo that everyone has been posting.
But it’s happened so we need to move on. We’ll be interested to see how much the municipal government tries to “clean up” the city — there are rumors that the days of convenience store pornography magazines may be limited — or how much talent goes into the design side of things. And then there’s the whole opening ceremony to think about. Will mascots like Funayssi be making an appearance? Or just AKB48? With this kind of boondoggle, the actual sports runs a not-so close second.
Regardless, it has now come to people’s attention, belatedly, that the manga AKIRA was already ahead of the curve.
In the Katsuhiro Otomo comic series (1982-1990) and the subsequent film in 1988 — the film which basically launched Japanese anime on the international circuit — the setting is Tokyo in 2019 on the verge of an Olympic Games.
Of course, the Tokyo in the film is very much not Abe’s Utsukushii Kuni Nippon (Japan, the Beautiful Country). It is a dystopia of motorcycle gangs and is suffering from the fallout of radiation from another war, leading to monstrous mutations (an ironic reference to the “glorious” 1964 Games when Hiroshima had been banished from the memory but was actually less than twenty years old). What has usually been seen as a very Eighties cyberpunk vision might not be too far from the truth.
With Fukushima still pumping out radiated water into the oceans and the authorities talking about building an ice wall (WTF?!) to contain the fiasco, AKIRA is starting to sound very prophetic — and the new Olympics’ optimistic slogan “Discover Tomorrow” might just be a very bittersweet ideal indeed…
Audiences are a bit divided about Hayao Miyazaki’s latest blockbuster anime, The Wind Rises, which takes as its subject the rather uncommercial story of an airplane designer.
However, perhaps more so than the film’s arguably anti-war message in a time of increasing militarims, or even Miyazaki’s recent article explaining why he is against reform of the Japanese Constitution, one other aspect of the film has been generating headlines.
In the film, in keeping with the pre-war period, there are lots of scenes showing people smoking. The film is not ostensibly a children’s film — it is, like all Miyazaki films, a family film but very engrossing for adults too — but it has surprised and irked some that an anime certain to be seen by lots of kids features so many shots of puffing.
Many people noted the extensive shots of characters smoking. And now the latest voice to be added to the clamor is the Japan Society for Tobacco Control. Although the scenes in hotels and restaurants use smoking for naturalistic purposes, the JSTC has particularly criticized the film for its scenes featuring the protagonist holding his wife’s hand while smoking when she is supposed to suffering from tuberculosis. Gratuitous depiction of smoking or just plain marital neglect?
Tobacco advertising is strictly controlled in Japan, despite the large numbers of smokers in the country (saying that, the numbers are falling). Japan Tobacco, for example, frequently advertises on TV but its commercials do not feature any actual smoking, a peculiar state of affairs which takes some getting used to. (The company also makes canned coffee, which isn’t as incongruous as it sounds. Coffee and cigarettes and all that…)
According to this interesting research paper about how Philip Morris succeeded in the Japanese tobacco market
the tobacco industry’s success in Japan was not only due to aggressive marketing, but also due to its strong influence on Japanese government tobacco control policy. The tobacco industry anticipated the ban on television advertising in Japan well in advance of its enactment, and worked to delay its implementation using the same strategies it successfully deployed in other parts of the world: hiring local experts and other third parties to speak on behalf of the industry questioning the relationship between advertising and youth smoking, and adopting incremental voluntary restrictions without outside enforcement as an alternative to stronger legislation. Moreover, the 1998 voluntary agreement that ended television advertising in Japan also preserved many of the alternative promotional activities the industry expanded during the prior decade.
Is The Wind Rises, then, an unwitting “alternative promotional activity” for the tobacco industry? Well, of course not, but in these more prissy times we can be easily shocked by period realism.
It’s not just Miyazaki’s anime. Research has highlighted the amount of smoking featured in manga and how it glamorizes the habit.
A preliminary study from the University of Tokyo showed that, of the top four selling boy’s comic magazines in Japan. . . teenage smokers accounted for 17.6% of the smoking depictions.
Ahead of its North America premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, here is the English-subtitled trailer for The Wind Rises. Can you see any smoking?
Studio Ghibli’s latest film Kaze Tachinu (The Wind Rises) has revealed yet another face to anime director Hayao Miyazaki, who reportedly was against the making of such film that he knew would be primarily targeted at adult audience. Yet one question comes to mind. Were any of Ghibli films from the past ever intended to entertain the younger crowd only?
I remember the first time I watched Princess Mononoke I was so scared that I literally had to turn away from the screen multiple times and as a result did not get the story at all. If he had expected a 12-year-old to fully understand the theme of the story (which I don’t think I do, even to this day) then Japan would not have needed any educational reforms over the past two decades or so. Whether he wanted it or not, Ghibli has become a brand of its own, wholly separate from the rest of anime in its realistic depictions of people and characterization.
Kaze Tachinu is a product of Miyazaki’s own struggle. The story depicts the life of an aircraft engineer Jiro Horikoshi most famous for designing the Zero fighter (known as zero-sen in Japanese) that was used during WWII. Miyazaki had to overcome his internal conflict of whether or not he should make a film about someone who devoted his life to designing military aircraft, which could possibly invest a sense of positive heroism in what is essentially highly-skilled creation of wartime weaponry.
Perhaps it’s no coincidence, then, that Miyazaki recently decided to talk about his own stance on the proposed amendment of Article 9 of the Constitution of Japan, long advocated by the Liberal Democratic Party, which recently regained its majority control over the House of Councilors in the election just a few weeks ago.
The above cover is the July issue of Studio Ghibli’s monthly journal Neppu. In his article Miyazaki talks extensively about how much he detested Japan as a little kid and why he objects so strongly to Prime Minister Abe’s proposed plan to change the Article 9 of the Constitution, which ostensibly states the Japan will not have any armed forces. As we know, though, due to the Cold War, the Self-Defense Force was later created as a fudge in order to give Japan some sort of army but without “belligerency”.
Miyazaki’s argument is in two parts. One: the National Constitution is not something that can be or should be amended on a whim by a shoddy government (such as the current one). Two: Article 9 and Self-Defense Forces have always “coexisted” since the end of WWII, tolerating the alleged contradiction of language for over sixty years (i.e. that Japan does not have a “military” when in fact it kind of does). If it’s a lie that has helped us stay in peace for decades then we should keep lying — at least it would be better than claiming the right of belligerency when we don’t even know exactly who we are fighting against.
(Until August 20th you can read Miyazaki’s article online for free.)
Here’s the official English translation of Article 9:
Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes. (2) To accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.
Last week I was having lunch at a restaurant. At a nearby table there were a mother and her son (who was probably in his early teens). The mother was lecturing his son about why there are so many US military bases in Japan. First I was struck by the subject matter of their conversation, something I never expected to hear in a quiet restaurant on a peaceful Thursday afternoon. Yet the mother’s explanation reminded so much of Miyazaki’s argument.
“We do have our own military. What we have is the Self-Defense Forces but we can only protect our own people, but not attack enemies. So for us, it’s either a draw or a defeat. There is no victory.”
Told in a matter-of-fact way, I saw some truth to the existence of the Japan’s Self-Defense Forces in her words. To me, there doesn’t seem to be any inconsistency with Article 9.
In 2013, Shingeki no Kyojin (Attack on Titan) became no longer just a popular comic book. It has evolved into a social phenomenon which will be remembered as one of the biggest hits of the decade. So far, the manga series by Hajime Isayama has sold over 20 million copies and the anime series has been broadcast on MBS since April.
A smash hit in one industry basically means a big business opportunity for non-competitive others. Pizza Hut, for example, has recently launched a new campaign in collaboration with Shingeki no Kyojin.
The campaign is expected to attract millions of fans out there. If you become a Pizza Hut member and order pizza online, you get a chance to be chosen as one of the 32 lucky people to get Shingeki no Kyojin original merchandise: anime scripts and posters with the autographs of voice actors, author-autographed comic sets, and other character-printed goods. Yes, there is really no such thing as free lunch, but they are generous enough to offer some freebies as well.
You can also download two wallpapers, so in case you don’t want to bet for a one-in-a-million chance (unless, of course you simply want some pizza) there is still a way to get some Shingeki no Kyojin goodies.
In this version, the Titan is eating a slice of pizza… as opposed to a human.
While its story might seem a little complicated due to the number of characters portrayed and the different layers of background stories intertwined, given that a typical reader understands the basic structure of military forces, the plot itself is quite simple. The story is about a battle between humans and Titans — either kill your enemy or they kill (and eat) you.
Since killing is required for a victory on the human side, at first glance there seems to be no other way to win this battle — or in other words, the physical battle looks like the core element of the entertainment in Shingeki no Kyojin. However, there is another aspect: the survival of the fittest within human society as well. As mentioned earlier, understanding the hierarchy of the military depicted in the story reveals the double-layered theme.
The military force is divided into several units, yet only one of them is obliged to go outside the walls — which have served as their only protection against the Titans for a long time — and risk their lives in battles. The protagonist, Eren Jaeger, unlike many other recruits, chooses to enlist in this deadly unit and hopes to wipe out the enemies, even though he knows that he will get a much higher chance of survival in other units.
Shingeki no Kyojin has proved itself to be a great addition to the Japanese graphic literature since it was first published in 2009. Given its popularity, we can look forward to many more spin-offs and promo campaigns.
There is no doubt that Japanese anime‘s stories vary greatly from cute, funny, educational, heroic, romantic, horror, erotic to grotesque. Makoto Shinkai’s latest animation film “The Garden of Words” (Kotonoha-no-niwa) — which was released on May 31st — seems to have its own genre: a collection of picturesque words, and images that speak a thousand words. As the title says, the story is about spoken words that show, not tell, one’s emotions.
Shinkai states that “The Garden of Words” is a love story focused on the feeling of longing for someone. In ancient Japan, people wrote the word for love, koi, in two kanji with some different variants, and one of them was a combination of kanji for “lonely” and “sad,” showing how people felt about being in love with someone. Evidently, these were the two major emotions associated with the state of longing for someone, and the implication was that their love would not have a happy ending.
Takao Akizuki is 15 years old and wants to be a shoemaker. One rainy day in a garden, he meets Yukari Yukino who has forgotten how to walk, figuratively speaking, because she is lost in life. Takao wants to make shoes for her so that she can start walking again, but their rendezvous occurs on rainy days only, which will surely be less frequent as the end of rainy season approaches and summer begins to unfold. You can check out the trailer below.
Despite high anticipation, Shinkai’s past work has received a rather degrading title of “an anime (film) that makes one depressed.”
This film titled “5 Centimeters per Second” (released in 2007) is a story about first love and its loss. Perhaps the depressing aspect is attributed to the protagonist being indecisive and cowardly when it is so obvious that he wants to meet his first love again.
According to Shinkai, however, our life in general is not made of dramatic events or changes; yet it is still beautiful enough and worth living.
There are indeed a number of hopeless anime in Japan which may or may not leave the viewer in the state of depression afterward. Most of the stories, however, seem to depict the theme of life and death which does not call for, in my opinion, much subtlety unlike an emotional loss. After all, it’s our personal experience that plays a role in labeling just about anything that we see or hear around us, so let us all sit back and enjoy what this new film has to offer.