Friday, March 22, 2013

Billy Bat #11

The catch copy on the sleeve of the latest Billy Bat (ビリーバット) release says, "Will the scroll that controls time finally shed like on the true identity of Billy Bat?!" And since Naoki Urasawa's (浦沢直樹) manga are known for their multi-layered twists and turns I was a bit skeptical of the claim. And here I should also point out the excellent work of Takashi Nagasaki (長崎尚志) who writes a lot of the stories with Urasawa including the past series of Monster, 21st Century Boys, Master Keaton, and Pluto to just name a few.

I won't give anything away about the latest story line, but I finally feel like the puzzle is starting to be solved. After I was a bit frustrated with the previous volume, volume #11 steps up an delivers some answers. Einstein and Saint Frances Xavier pop in for some more flashback cameos and shed light onto the origins of the scroll that everyone is in a mad scramble trying to track down, and Billy Bat.

But as the story takes a small step toward it's conclusion, a new 1981 story line is introduced which references the space shuttle Columbia, and new Kevin. Could this be Kevin Yamagata's son? I guess we'll have to tune in same bat time, same bat channel. Until next time.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

36th Japanese Academy Awards

Best Picture: Kirishima Quit Club Activites (桐嶋、部活やめるってよ)
Best Director: Daihachi Yoshida (吉田大八)
Based on the best selling teen fiction by Ryo Asai (朝井リョウ), and directed by Daihachi Yoshida who also won best director. It features Ryunosuke Kamiki (神木隆之介) who I know from the Otsuichi short film So-far, Ai Hashimoto (橋本愛) who was in Confession (告白) . Both up and coming actors that you should keep an eye on.

Best Animation: Wolf Children Ame and Yuki (おおかみこどもの雨と雪)
Directed by Mamoru Hosoda (細田守), and co-produced by Madhouse. Hosoda has found recent acclaim for Summer Wars, an adaptation of The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, as well as working one many well known series such as One Piece, Dragonball Z, Digimon, and Slam Dunk.

Best Actor: Hiroshi Abe (安部寛)
for Thermae Romae (テルマエ・ロマエ)
Based on the popular manga by Mari Yamazaki (ヤマザキ マリ). Starring Hiroshi Abe who is an extremely prolific Japanese actor who has started in countless movies and TV dramas.

Best Actress: Kirin Kiki (樹木希林)
for Wagaha no Ki (わが母の記)
Based on the autobiographical novel by highly acclaimed author Yasushi Inoue (井上靖). This is Kirin Kiki's 5th Academy Award. Her second for Best Actress, and she has won Best Supporting Actress 3 times including 2011's Villain (悪人). After a long and distinguished career, Kirin shocked everyone during her acceptance speech by announcing her cancer diagnosis. In good humor she joked that she may not make it to next year's awards ceremony. Let's hope we can see her in several more features during the next year.

Best Supporting Actor: Hideji Otaki (大滝秀治)
Best Supporting Actress: Kimiko Yo (余貴美子)
for To You (あなたへ)
To You is based on the novel by Akio Morisawa (森沢明夫). The best supporting actor award was posthumously awarded to Hideji Otaki who died in October last year. An extremely prolific actor of both stage, TV and screen. This is first academy award. Kimiko Yo is also extremely prolific, also appearing in Hoshi Mamoru Inu and Akunin in a supporting role. The film features a large ensemble cast including Ken Takakura (高倉健), Yuko Tanaka (田中裕子), Koichi Sato (佐藤浩市), Tsuyoshi Kusanagi (草彅剛), and Beat Takeshi (ビートたけし).

I Am A Hero #11

Following up after being awarded the 58th Shogakkan Manga Prize (小学館漫画賞) in the general public section (一般向け部門) comes volume 11 of Kengo Hanazawa's I Am A Hero. Previous winners of the prize include Space Brothers (宇宙兄弟), Gaku (岳), 20th Century Boys (20世紀少年) and Monster (モンスター).

This volume continues the second story line of Takashi Ezaki after he is rescued and taken to the hideout of Kurusu (来栖) and his group in Saitama. Kurusu is mentally unstable, and revels in the lawless anarchy of the zombie apocalypse, with little regard for the life of his fellow survivors. Although in the uncertainty of their situation, his penchant for violence is regarded as a necessary skill by the others in the group. Kowashi is the most realistic and level headed of the group, and acts as a default leader. Tomabechi acts as the scientist of the group, he runs the wireless radio, in which we find out that other groups of survivors are Japan are aware that the group at the shopping mall have have been overrun by ZQN (The name given to the zombies based on DQN which is Japanese netspeak for delinquent.).

One of the problems faced by mangaka is that the real world also changes during the time the story is told. The first time I noticed this was while reading Space Brothers, the story relies on the continuation of NASA's manned spaced flight which has seen a dramatic decline in funding since the series started. As for I Am A Hero which started in 2009, the 2011 Eastern Japanese Earthquake didn't occur, and as such, the nuclear power stations are still operational in the world of I Am A Hero.

I'm a resident of Fukushima, and after the initial explosions at the Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, there were several weeks where it seemed like we were living in a zombie infested society. A sense of panic ran under the surface, and everyone was forced to stay inside with dwindling supplies of food. Electricity, water, and internet were still available in the area I was in, but a lack of petrol meant that use of the car was for life threatening situations only. Thankfully after several weeks, services returned to normal.

We see the same thing in I Am A Hero. Some people are holding out hope that the situation will soon be brought under control, and government services will be resumed. But there is a group of individuals who didn't fit into regular society and are more suited to the uncertainties, and want to build a new society from the ground up.

Kengo Hanazawa on Twitter:
I Am A Hero Official Site: