Friday, December 28, 2012

Downtown's No-Laughing! New Year's Special

Everyone one loves watching the YouTube videos of Japanese comedians maiming themselves in name of comedy. For senseless hilarity there is no better than Hitoshi Matsumoto and Masatoshi Hamada of Downtown fame. Matchan and Hamachan, as they are affectionately known, are joined by Hosei Yamasaki, and Cocorico duo Shozo Endo and Naoki Tanaka for a new years tradition that now rivals the 63 consecutive years musical bonanza of Kohaku Uta Gassen.

But every New Year's Eve my TV is set to watch the 6 hour feast of slapstick, scares and tomfoolery that these 5 guys inflict on each other in Downtown's Gaki no Tsukai, in their yearly "No-Laughing! Batsu Game" special. This year sees a return to a school setting, hopefully it'll live up to the 2005 classic, which is one of my favourite episodes. It's also one of the best ways to pick up on some Japanese that you won't find in any textbook.

I read an interview with Matchan last week stating that since he is turning 50 next year, he is getting too old, and he might have to give up on the slapstick and fart jokes. So fingers crossed that this isn't the last year we see Down Town's "No Laughing" special.

So, Happy New Year to everyone, and until next time.... ANDY OUT!

Really, this is just an excuse to post this video:

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Monster (Noaki Hyakuta)

This is not the manga by Naoki Urasawa, but a 2010 novel by Naoki Hyakuta. A friend recommended that I should read something by Naoki Hyakuta, and I'd already seen the excellent movie adaptation of his high school boxing drama, Box! So I had pretty high expectations when I picked up a copy of Monster.

The titles Monster is an unattractive girl who suffers through a lonely childhood, shunned by family and friends. I was expecting a formulaic ugly duckling transformation. Years of hard struggle, until she finally climbs toward her goal and overcomes the obstacles in her life. I'm trying not to spoil to much, but at the end of the novel when the transformation is complete, the Monster remains, she is just a horrible twisted person. In fact, it's very hard to find any likable characters in this novel, there is one, but I'm not sure why he makes the choices that he does.

I must applaud Naoki Hyakuta for avoiding expectations, and providing a twist to the ugly duckling transformation, the same avoidance of the mighty ducks style "school kids overcome hardships to achieve sporting glory" in Box!

If you are looking for an insight into the seedy underworld of snack bars and prostitution in Japan, then Monster is an interesting read. I'm reminded of the Akutagawa Prize winning novel, Snakes and Earings by Hitomi Kanehara. The sole purpose of the books seem to be to shock the reader by giving a glimpse into the Japanese underbelly.

The movie adaption of Monster featuring Saki Takaoka in the title roll will hit cinemas in Japan in 2013.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

I Am A Hero #10

I spend the last few days getting up to date with I Am A Hero. Volume 10 was released in November. Already securing a release in France, Italy and Spain, I wonder how far behind the English release is, especially if they want to capitalize on the popularity of The Walking Dead.

Volumes 7-8 finish up the Governor-esque story arc of Sango and his goons at the outlet mall. We see Hideo and "Yabu" searching for medical treatment for Hiromi.

There is a huge contrast between a zombie invasion in Japan, and those we are used to seeing on the Hollywood screen. And unfortunately recent events in America bring that more into focus. But the distinct lack of firepower in Japan calls for a much more cautious approach.

We have seen the zombies develop into the fast zombies of Walking Dead/28 Days Later. But there is also the emergence of repetitive behaviors from their past lives that dominates the zombies actions.

In the world of I Am A Hero a large part of city infrastructure survives intact. The large numbers of Shut-ins (引きこもり) whilst avoiding the dangers outside, have seen their rooms as cages in which they are trapped, and reach out through the still functioning internet for any help that is available. Volume 10 ends with a small group of survivors entering a home and freeing a shut-in boy.

I'm looking forward to seeing the interaction of Hideo and the new group in the coming year. I'm hoping we can see a movie adaption of this sometime in 2013.

More info:
I Am A Hero Official Site:
Kengo Hanazawa's Site:
Kengo Hanazawa on Twitter:

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Saint Young Men UPDATE!

I posted about this series only the other day, and I'm already way behind, as Volume 8 was released in early December. But along with the latest volume, a revamped website ( was released with details of an upcoming animated feature.

It will be released in Japan on May 10th, and will produced be A-1 Pictures who recently did the Uchu Kyodai (a.k.a. Space Brothers) anime series. Jesus is to be voiced by stage and screen actor Mirai Moriyama (森山未来) and Buddha by singer, songwriter, actor Gen Hoshino (星野源).

You can follow the movie twitter feed here:
Plenty of more updates to come on this in the coming months, stay tuned.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Saint Young Men

Or 聖☆おにいさん as it's called in Japanese. Jesus and Buddha are two twenty (going on a few thousand) somethings living in modern Tokyo. Trips to Disneyland, rides on the subway, summer festivals. As a foreigner living in Japanese, it's hilarious to see some of the same reactions and situations that I face in my every day life reflected through the actions and opinions of two religious icons. One of my favourite scenes is Jesus being confused with Johnny Depp at the convenience store.

I'm a big fan of the web comic Jesus and Mo, which a satirical slap in the face of the archaic views prominent in some sections of the Christian and Islamic communities. Saint Young Men is more a light-hearted affectionate poke in the ribs.

This is definitely the most hilarious, refreshing manga that I've read in a long time. It's written by Hikaru Nakamura who also writes. Arakawa Under The Bridge, which has recently been turned into a movie. I'm yet to read the manga, or see the movie, but they are definitely on my to-read list.

You can catch Hikaru Nakamura on Twitter here:
And the Saint Young Men website here:

Winter Reading

I set my self a goal of reading more Japanese literature over the winter break. I picked up the following three titles:

Meido Meguri by Maki Kashimada (冥土めぐり、鹿島田真希)
One of this years winner of the Akutagawa Prize. The Akutagawa Prize is one of Japan's most prestigious literary awards, and is awarded bi-anually to a new or up and coming author.Quiet often the award is given to short-stories or novellas, so it's an excellent way for people looking to dip their toe in to current Japanese literature.

Paprika by Yasutaka Tsutsui (パプリカ、筒井康隆)
This one should be familiar to amine fans as it was adapted into an absolutely amazing animated feature by Satoshi Kon. Yasutaka Tsutsui is a giant of science fiction, comparable to someone like Philip K. Dick, and had a huge effect on Japanese science fiction. Only a few of Tsutsui's works have been translated into English (Parika being one of them), so it's worth checking them out if you want some Japanese SF.

The Tatami Galaxy by Tomihiko Morimi (四畳半神話体系、森見登美彦)
This is a more recent novel that has also received a critically acclaimed anime series. I'm yet to see the series, and don't know much about the book. But I remember it being on the best sellers list a while ago, and it's been recommended by several friends.

Looking forward to spending some time reading something a bit heavier than my usual manga series.

I Am A Hero #6

This is one series that I've been reading electronically through my Sony Reader, and since the digital form of manga distribution is still in its infancy, it can take a will while for the digital version to catch up with the print version. Only the first 5 volumes of I Am A Hero are available online, so when I found myself stuck at the station the other day, I picked up volume 6 in paperback.

We often see with zombie series that continue long enough, that there is some evolution, whether it's George A Romero's zombies slowly developing and regaining some cognitive abilities, the 28 Days/Weeks later series where we see carriers of the Rage virus who don't turn.

The zombies in I Am A Hero are more the fast 28 Days Later, super aggressive zombies. I hope this is not too much of a plot spoiler, but after one of the main characters, Hiromi Hayakari is bitten by a zombie baby, she has some immunity to the virus and although she develops a speech and physical disability, she lacks the classic zombie brain crazing. This gives the group hope that infection is not a death sentence, and a cure is possible. I'm very interested to see how the story develops now that keeping Hiromi alive is one of the central story threads.

More info:
Kengo Hanazawa on Twitter:
I Am A Hero website: