Friday, November 29, 2013

Ghost In The Shell: Arise

I was in high school when Mamoru Oshii's (押井守) original Ghost in the Shell (攻殻機動隊) anime was released in 1995. It was about the same time I read Ray Kurzweil's The Age of Intelligent Machines. I'm not sure if Kurzweil's idea of the singularity had hit mainstream conciseness at the time, but they were ideas that lead me towards studying Computer Engineering. It was the philosophical side to Ghost in the Shell that attracted me as a teenager. The blurring of man and machine.

The Internet was just in it's early stages but it allowed me to track down an import of the soundtrack by Kenji Kawai (川井憲次). Kawaii wrote a lot of the soundtracks for Mamoru Oshii's animes, and also for the films of Hideo Nakata (中田秀夫) including Ring, Ring 2, and Dark Water. He is certainly one of my favourite Japanese film composers. Here are live versions of the main themes from Ghost in the Shell, and Ring.

I haven't kept up the Ghost in the Shell Series, Innocence, Stand Alone Complex, or the latest reworking, Arise. But something that drew my interest back to the new series was the soundtrack, since the original film's soundtrack was so memorable, I noticed that the new series' soundtrack was being produced by Cornelius the muti-facited mutli-instrumental musician who achieved fame in the late 90s on Matador Records. I'm not sure how Cornelius' eclectic style will match with Ghost in the Shell, he hasn't released a studio album since 2006s Sensuous, but has composer for TV commercials, and films. But you can check what he is doing for Ghost in the Shell Arise here:

Ghost in the Shell Arise 2 is in limited cinema release this week in Japan, and will be available later in the month on DVD.

Ghost in the Shell Arise website:

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Billy Bat #13

It's been a busy weekend for new releases. Billy Bat (ビリーバット) jumps between many time lines, many characters, conspiracy theories, and mysteries. Volume 13 focuses on Michael Jackson look-a-like 1980's Kevin Goodman, not to be confused with the original protagonist Kevin Yamagata. Although they are both key successors (or 後継者) to the Billy Bat saga.

There is also flashbacks to a conversation between Hilter and Einstein, fake moon landings, and the 1923 Great Kanto earthquake (which also appeared recently in Ghibli's Kaze Tachinu).

I always enjoy the suspense and mystery the Naoki Urasawa (浦沢直樹) weaves through his stories, so equal credit needs to be given to Takashi Nagasaki (長崎尚志) who has worked closely with Urasawa for many of my favourite series including Monster (モンスター), 20th Century Boys (20世紀少年), and Pluto (プルートウ).

Billy Bat:

Friday, November 22, 2013

Real #13

Takehiko Inoue's (井上雄彦) Real (リアル) is always my most anticipated manga release of the year. I wait all year, spend an hour or two devouring it, and then begins the next year long wait for next November.

Volume 13 takes a break from the regular story line of wheelchair basketball, and focuses on one of the secondary characters, professional wrestler 'Scorpion' Shiratori (スコーピオン白鳥). Through a serious of flashbacks we are shown Scorpion's background, wrestling history, and what drives him to keep pushing himself even in the face of a debilitating spinal injury.

This is why I am drawn to Inoue's Real, I have no interest in basketball, or professional wrestling, but the depth of Inoue's characters is something that keeps me enthralled, a depth that I've rarely seen in another manga series. Inoue's passion for the people and their lives is shown through his involvement and promotion of the related sporting communities in real life.

For those who can't wait, you could always pick it up episodically in Young Jump starting with chapter 79 on November 28th.

Check out the Real webpage:
Takehiko Inoue online:
And on Twitter:

Thursday, November 21, 2013

No Laughing! New Year's Eve 2013

The first details for Downtown's 2013 'No Laughing!' New Year's Eve special have been released today. The Japanese title is 「絶対に笑ってはいけない地球防衛軍」 or in English "Definitely No Laughing! Earth Defence Force!" After recent visits to hospitals, airports, police stations, schools, and newspapers, I'm guessing by the title, there is nowhere else to go but space! So expect some Sci-Fi inspired madness on your TVs this New Year's Eve. This special has become so popular in recent years that it has challenge the traditional Kouhaku Song Contest (紅白歌合戦) , and it certainly gets my vote.

Check out the official webpage here:
Also catch the chatter on Twitter:

Monday, November 11, 2013

Samsa In Love, Murakami

The New Yorker has a new Hauki Murakami (村上春樹) short story, 'Samsa In Love', translated by Ted Goosen. You can check out the story here:

Asymtote also has a review up on their blog:

OOIOO - Gamel

OOIOO's new album, Gamel, will be released on November 22nd. Last time I saw an interview with Yoshimi she was discussed her love of traditional music, specifically the Ainu of Northern Japan. So with their latest release we hear OOIOO bring their experimental post-rock noise via traditional instrumentation. Gamelan (ガムラン) refers to the traditional instrumentation of Indonesia, mainly on the islands of Java and Bali. OOIOO are also touring around major cities later this month. Here is a live recording of the opening track of their new album, recorded last December in Yamaguchi.

For more details:
Also check them on Twitter:

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Revenge, Yoko Ogawa

I've recommend Three Percent before, definitely check it out if you are interested in international literature. This week the have a review of several collections of short stories including one by Yoko Ogawa (小川洋子) called Revenge. Translated into English by Stephen Snyder.

Yoko Ogawa won the Akutagawa Prize in 1990 for Pregnancy Calender (妊娠カレンダー) which was also translated by Stephen Snyder who has been responsible for translating much of her work in English.

Three Percent:

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Shueisha English Edition

Once I had the confidence to start reading novels in Japanese, one of the first Japanese author's I became interested in was Otsuichi (乙一). Otsuichi is the pen name of Hirotaka Adachi (安達寛高) known for his mystery and horror short stories. Publishing company Shueisha (集英社) have been busy recently, putting some work into English translations of some of their most popular novels, including several by Otsuichi. My personal favourite is the Zoo anthology, which has seen a fantastic short film adaptation. Check out the trailer:

Check out some English translations of Otsuichi's work here:
Also check out the further range of Shuesha's English translations on Facebook:

I Am A Hero #13

Last weekend I just picked up and took a bite out of the latest volume of Kengo Hanazawa's (花沢健吾) zombie series I Am A Hero (アイアムアヒーロー). At the end of volume 12 we left Kurusu and his gang searching for survivors and a safer hideout at the local school, and this volume picks up the original group of survivors, struggling manga artist Hideo Suzuki, semi-infected school girl Hiromi, and nurse Yabu.

I've mentioned before the similarities to few other popular zombie franchises, the central characters' resemblance to the otaku Kondo Tatsumi from Max Brooks' World War Z, and the theme of immunity which is explored in Naughty Dog's PS3 classic, The Last Of Us. But with I Am A Hero starting in 2009, The Last Of Us only being released earlier this year, and the Japaense language edition of World War Z didn't hit stands until April 2010, and resemblance in story is purely co-incidental.

This definitely one of my favourite series in 2013, it manages to stay fresh among the proliferation of similarly themed zombie media. Kengo Hanazawa's sense of humour keeps the mood light, but the zombie action is brutal enough to please the most discerning zombie connoisseur.

Kengo Hanazawa's website:
Kengo Hanazawa on Twitter:
I Am A Hero Official: