Sunday, December 29, 2013

Oyasumi Pun Pun #13

As 2013 comes to a close, so does my favourite manga series, Inio Asano's Oyasumi Pun Pun (浅野いにおのおやすみプンプン). Definitely the longest series that Asano has ever written, an emotional roller-coaster.

One of the reasons I started writing this blog was because I found that a lot of Japanese culture sites cover media that is unappealing to me. I don't want the shallow pop idols, ninja pirate robot action adventures, pre-pubescent protagonists for socially awkward man-childen with a lolita complex. I want real depth of character, social commentary, an engaging story. And Inio Asano never fails to deliver. The final episode of Oyasumi Pun Pun concludes an amazing story of innocence lost, the difficulty of adolescence, growth, loss, sorry, responsibility, and so much more.

Reading Oyasumi Pun Pun I'm reminded of Dan Savage's It Gets Better campaign, it doesn't deal with homosexuality, but it does deal with isolation and depression in young people. And I do find a final message of hope, even after great lose, if you can hold on and weather the down times, you can improve your situation and move on.

Each volume of Pun Pun comes in a simple coloured jacket, volume 13 is white (check under the jacket for some beautiful hidden art work). A symbolic finish to the series, as you can't handle the comic without leaving a finger print, which mirrors the central theme of loss of innocence. Everything you interact with leaves a mark, you can't erase it and go back to a white slate, and you must deal with the consequences of your actions.

I've talked a lot here without really saying anything about the story. If you've kept up with the story so far you may realise there is little hope of a happy ending for Pun Pun and Aiko. I expected the worst, and I was still surprised by the events, and there is hope for the future.. for some.

Oyasumi Pun Pun is without a doubt my favourite manga series. As a piece of art it ranks along side my favourite novels and movies. I can't recommend it highly enough. Sometimes shocking, sometimes funny,  sometimes scary. Always beautiful and always brilliant.

Inio Asano on Twitter:
Pun Pun at Shogakukan Comics:

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Yasutaka Tsutsui

Yasutaka Tsutsui (筒井康隆) may not be a familiar name to western audiences, but what if I said Paprika (パプリカ)? Or The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (時をかけた少女)? That would certainly draw a lot more recognition. Born in 1934, Yasutaka Tsutsui is a multi award winning author, and one of the major voices of Japanese science fiction.

The Encyclopaedia of Science Fiction has a very thorough run down on his work. Including the fact that such a prolific and significant author has received relatively little attention by western audiences. (

Relatively few of his works have been translated into English. His most well known work to western audiences, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, originally published in the 1960s was translated by David Karashima in 2011. Andrew Driver translated Paprika in 2009, and a collection of short stories in 2008 titled Salmonella Men on Planet Porno. His most recent work to be translated in 2007 by Evan Emswiler was his 2003 novel Hell.

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time has seen numerous movie adaptations, the 1983 version being my favourite, which launched the career of idol Tomoyo Harada (原田知世).

Also, the 2006 Japanese Academy Award winning anime version, directed by Mamoru Hosoda (細田守), showed that Ghibli have some stiff competition for the crown of leaders in Japanese animation.

And Satoshi Kon's (今敏) 2006 masterful adaptation of Paprika, is a seminal piece of Japanese film history.

But Tsutsui's work is not all high concept, award winning adaptations. Here is a 2006 adaptation of The World Sinks Except Japan (日本以外全部沈没). It is a black comedy, and a parody, criticizing the ideas of racism and nationalism. It is directed by Minoru Kawasaki (河崎実) who is known for his absurdist comedies. Check out Executive Koala (コアラ課長) if you've never seen it. Here is The World Sinks Except Japan.

Encyclopaedia of Science Fiction:

World Order - Last Dance

I promise this is my last music post for tonight. From the noise punk rock of Melt Banana to the happy jams of Cero, and finally on to a band known more for their dancing than their music, World Order. Since their debut in 2010 they have really captured the attention of the Japanese public, with numerous appearances on a menagerie of variety programs. This is not a style of music that I'd usually be interested in, but the quality of their unique dance style is simply amazing. Check out their latest single, Last Dance.

They'll  be travelling around Japan in late Jan, early Feb if you want to check them out, but you'll need to get in quick for tix.
World Order website:
Follow them on Twitter:

Cero - Yellow Magus

My second music post tonight comes from Cero (Contemporary Erotic Rock Orchestra) who released their new single this week. Their first studio album World Record was released in early 2011, and followed up with My Lost City in 2012. Their latest single comes with a Live DVD from the My Lost City Tour in Jan/Feb 2013. They are hard to classify into a specific genre, maybe if Sean Lennon joined Special Others? Very infectious vibrant pop with some great jams.

Check out the clip for Yellow Magus here:
Which I can't embed, so here is their track Mountain Mountain from the My Lost City album.

Their current tour which is in Sendai tonight, has already sold out next month in Tokyo and Osaka.
Official website:
Kakuba Rhythm site for Yellow Magus:

I found cero earlier this week while tumbling through 10000 professional tracks. A good place to check out new indie Japanese music.

Melt Banana - Fetch

While I've been busy over the past few weeks, I've missed a few things that I've wanted to blog about. The first is the new Melt Banana album, Fetch, that was released way back in October. The have a psychedelic clip for the second track, The Hive, up on YouTube.

The album is being released on A-Zap in Japan, Revolver USA in the US of A, and Forte in the UK. So you should be able to find it in stores if not online.

Follow them on Twitter:

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Books from Japan

I've just stumbled across a new site that's great if you wanna keep in touch with what is happening in Japanese literature, Books from Japan. They provide news, commentary, and profiles on current Japanese authors, their works, and information on books that have won major literary awards since 2000, including the Akutagawa Prize, and Naoki Prize. There are also links to various translations where available.

Books from Japan: