Thursday, October 9, 2014

And the winner is...

It's that time of year, Murakami doesn't win the Nobel. But it always stirs up a lot of talk.

Asymtote have an interview with Murakami translator Jay Rubin:

The New Yorker has a Murakami short story translated by Ted Goossen:

And Granta have a piece written by Yukiko Motoya, translated by Asa Yoneda:

I've just finished Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki, and I've been thinking recently about the lack of critical reviews of translated works. There is usually a single line that mentions 'this is a translation' for good or bad, and nothing more is said. But a decent review of the work as a translation can be hard to do without falling down to nagging about word choice. I was pleased to see translator Philip Gabriel keeping some Japanese specific terms such as kotatsu, but bento was jarringly translated as boxed lunch, and it was also quite strange to see distances measured in miles and not kilometres. But how much do such word choices effect the reading experience for the majority of Murakami readers? Not much. One section of the novel deals with the use of the masculine pronoun ore and how that influences the relationship between Tazaki and Aka. Gabriel did quite well to explain the usage within the context of story. I enjoyed restraint of Colorless TsukuruTazaki much more than the sea of unnecessary text that was 1Q84.

I also recently read All You Need Is Kill, the acclaimed sci-fi novel behind the latest Tom Cruise movie, Edge of Tomorrow. The underlying storyline was quite interesting, but I was quite turned off by the immature characterisation and juvenile conversations. It felt more like Japanese high school 'light novel' drama pulp, unsatisfying as a sci-fi novel. It is rating very well over at Goodreads (4+), but if anyone can tell me why, I'd really like to know.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Special Others - Light

Yes, I'm still alive! Sorry for the lack of updates, I moved back to Australia recently, so there was a lot of down time and general house moving business.

There has been a lot happening in the last few months. I'm excited by the new Special Others album that's coming out October 8th. It's an all acoustic album called Light, and features 6 new tracks as well as 4 classic SPA tracks including Waiting for the Sun, and BEN. If you get in quick it comes with a DVD.

Also, I have a big backlog of manga titles to get through. I've been really enjoying Matsumoto Taiyo's Sunny. Volume 5 came out back in May, but I'm still on volume 3. Inoue Takehiko's Vagabond (37) was out back in July, and it won't be long until the release of Real (14). Space Brothers (24) and Billy Bat (15) were out this week. And best of all, next week sees the long awaited release of Asano Inio's new one, Dead Dead Demons D-D-D-D-Destruction. Crazy title and all.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

I Am A Hero #15

Great news with the release of volume 15 of Kengo Hanazawa's (花沢健吾) I Am A Hero, with the movie adaptation announced to hit cinemas in 2015.

It is set to star Yo Oizumi (大泉洋) as struggling manga artist turned hero, Hideo Suzuki (鈴木英雄). I'm not familiar with Oizumi's work at all. He has featured in a huge amount of TV dramas, and variety programs as well as regularly appearing in movies. If you've seen the original Japanese cast version of Spirited Away (千と千尋の神隠し) or Howl's Moving Castle (ハウルの動き城) you would have heard his voice. He was one of the main staff members at the bathhouse in Spirited Away, and also the Prince and Turnip Head in Howl's Moving Castle.

Kasumi Arimura (有村架純) is set to star as school girl Hiromi (比呂美). Kasumi is a young actress who has featured recently in several popular TV dramas, and is looking to establish herself as a movie actress well. Masami Nagasawa (長澤まさみ) is a more established actress taking on the role of Yabu (藪) a.k.a. Tsugumi Oda (小田つぐみ). You might have seen her work if you've seen the film adaptations of Gaku (岳) and Moteki (モテキ), both worth checking out.

The story covered so far is probably too much for one movie, so I can see the Kurusu (来栖) Gang story arc not being included for now. I don't want to give anything away for those that haven't read this yet, but the movie will probably deal with the initial outbreak, and the story from the outlet mall. I'm really looking forward to it, I'll let you know once a trailer or any footage has been released.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

All You Need Is Kill

If we ever met, we'd probably disagree on politics and religion, but I have to give credit to Tom Cruise for choosing interesting roles. His latest sci-fi escapade, Edge of Tomorrow, comes from a Japanese novel titled All You Need is Kill (オール ユー 二ード イズ キル). The movie keeps the original title for the Japanese release.

The original novel was written by Hiroshi Sakurazaka (櫻坂洋) and published in 2004. It was highly regarded upon release and nominated for the Seiun Award. Between January and May this year, a two part manga was released, written by Ryosuke Takeuchi (竹内良輔), and illustrated by Takeshi Obata (小畑健).

You can check out Viz Media's All You Need Is Kill page, they have an English translation of the original novel (translated by Alexander O. Smith), a translation of the recently released manga, and also an American produced graphic novel.

Saint Young Men #10

I'm in the process of moving, so excuse the lack of updates recently. The latest volume of Saint Young Men (聖おにいさん) was released just over a month ago, and I just got around to reading it.

If you haven't read any of the earlier volumes, don't worry, there are some minor running gags, but each episode stands alone, and juxtaposes Japanese culture with Christian and Buddhist theology. The more you know about either of those subjects the more you will get out of it.

The lack of continuity does feel a little jarring, as the comic jumps from a summer barbecue, to Jesus' rivalry with Santa at Christmas, and back to hanami in spring. Although I guess if you are reading the series as it is originally released in Morning Moai, then it might make more sense.

Saint Young Men Official Site:
Saint Young Men on Twitter:
Hikaru Nakamura on Twitter:

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Melt Banana - Lefty Dog (Run Caper Run)

Melt Banana finish up their UK tour in Brighton on Monday night. And they've released a music video for Lefty Dog (Run Caper Run) from their latest album Fetch which was released earlier in the year. The video is as equally manic as their noisy punk pop grindcore goodness.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Momotaro (Episode 1)

Following on from last month new Pepsi Next Zero Momotaro campaign featuring Shun Oguri (小栗旬) is the second install. Check it out here, Episode 1:

Here is Episode 0 for those that haven't seen it yet.

As I said last time, I would have loved to have seen this as a feature length film.


I posted recently about Asano Inio's newest comic, Dead Dead Demons D-D-D-D-Destruction, in a recent edition of Big Comic Spirits. In that same issue a chapter long running manga series Oishibo (美味しぼ), written by Kariya Tetsuya (雁屋哲) and drawn by Hanasaki Akira (花咲アキラ), has taken all the head lines. Several characters in the comic experience nosebleeds that are attributed to exposure to nuclear fallout from Fukushima. There was public outrage over the unverified health risks linked to Fukushima by the manga.

There is a good run down of the whole saga at Rocket News 24.

I'll my own 2 cents, and say that I've lived here in Fukushima for 8 years, including the 3 years since the earthquake/tsunami/nuclear accident, and I'm unaware of any such illness or health concerns.

If anyone is looking for further reading on the impact and health effects of the Fukushima incident check out these links:

Tuesday, May 6, 2014


SA (or a.k.a. Samurai Attack when travelling overseas) are a Japanese punk band that formed in 1984, but it wasn't until 1999 until they released their first full album. They have support Rancid on Japanese tours, and have also done several overseas tours including SXSW. They are currently touring around Japan in support of their 7th studio album, The Show Must Go On.

Ping Pong

The anime adaptation of Taiyo Matsumoto's (松本太陽) 1996-97 manga series Ping Pong (ピンポン) began airing on Japanese TV last month. Ping Pong was the follow up to Matsumoto's Japanese Academy Award winning Tekkonkinkreet (鉄コン筋クリート), the anime adaptation is being directed by Masaki Yuasa (湯浅正明) famous for his work on family favourite Crayon Shin-chan (クレヨンしんちゃん), and more recently The Tatami Galaxy (四畳半神話体系).

There was also a film adaptation in 2002 directed by Fumihiko Sori (曽利文彦) which was nominated for several Japanese Academy Awards, starring Yosuke Kubozuka (窪塚洋介), Arata Iura (井浦新), and Shido Nakamura (中村獅童).

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

April Manga Round Up

It's been a busy month and I haven't written a post in a while, but here is a review of what I've been reading over the past month.

Space Brothers #23 (宇宙兄弟)

The latest Space Brothers was out late March but it took me a while to get around to picking it up. Chuya Koyama again showing his love of American comedies with a cameo from Jim Carrey in a minor role. Mutta's relationship with Serika comes back into the foreground, but Hibito remains MIA.

Also recently announced is a new Space Brothers movie, Number Zero, which a pun on the family name of Mutta and Hibito, Namba. The animated movie is an original story that takes place before the start of the manga/anime series. The movie is dues in Japanese cinemas on August 9th.

Manga info at Morning Comics:
Movie website:

Billy Bat #14 (ビリーバット)

I won't spoil any of the mystery of Naoki Urasawa's (浦沢直樹) latest release of Billy Bat, but it's great to finally have some answers in a series that has only shown riddles up until now. Volume 14 wraps up the story of the malevolent Kiyoshi Kurusu (来栖清志) who has spent his life searching for the scroll that contains the answer to the riddle of Billy Bat. And new Kevin, Kevin Goodman, steps into his roll as the next author of the authentic Billy Bat as the empire of Walt Disney doppelganger Chuck Culkin begins to crumble.

Billy Bat at Morning Comics:

Dead Dead Demons D-D-D-D-Destruction (デッドデッドデーモンズデデデデデストラクション)

A mouth full of a title, and the latest release from Inio Asano (浅野いにお) that's going to play havoc with my tags. It's been 5 months since the release of the final episode of Oyasumi Pun Pun. I've been waiting for news of Asano's next release, and the first episode was released on the Monday the 28th in Big Comic Spirits. Asano excels in telling coming of age stories of characters in emotionally charged situations. In Dead Dead Demons D-D-D-D-Destruction we are introduced to a group of junior high school girls. The twist to the story is the gigantic spaceship suspended above the city Section 9 style.

Follow Asano Inio on Twitter:
Check out Big Comic Spirits:

1F (いちえふ)

1F is a reference to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. This comic was written by Kazuto Tatsuta (竜田一人) and chronicles his experiences working at the crippled nuclear plant for 6 months, working on clean up and maintenance. I just picked this up today, so I'm looking forward to getting some inside knowledge on what work is currently being done to secure the plant.

Follow Kazuto Tatsuta on Twitter:
You can check out more info at Morning Comics:

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Momotaro sponsored by Pepsi Next

A bit of a different post today. Maybe I should be asking Suntory for some free samples, but I love the new Pepsi ad starting Shun Oguri (小栗旬). It is a remake of the Japanese fairy tale Momotaro (桃太郎). For those that don't know the story, Momotaro is found by an elderly couple after floating down the river inside a giant peach. Momotaro grows up and goes on a quest (along with a monkey, dog and pheasant) to save the troubled island Onigashima from a marauding hoard of demons. The commercial is very nicely done, and I'd love to see a full length feature film along the lines of the 2009 film adaptation of Where The Wild Things Are. Momotaro is played by Japanese heart throb Shun Oguri. I'm a big fan of his work, I would compare him to a young Johnny Depp or Brad Pitt, in that he doesn't rely on his good looks but also chooses interesting roles. He has played the lead roles in several film adaptations of popular manga including Uchu Kyodai (宇宙兄弟), Gaku (岳), and Crows (クローズ). He also appears frequently on stage productions including the lead in a Japanese production of Clockwork Orange. His next movie is a live action version of Lupin the Third (ルパン三世). Anyway, here is the ad, this looks like the first in a series of ads.

The Wake Of 3/11

I mentioned earlier this month documentary film maker Nao Kubota's (久保田直) film Ieji (家路) dealing with the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami that hit north eastern Japan on March 11th 2011. This week The Daily Beast has an interesting article about Ring director Hideo Nakata's (中田秀夫) upcoming documentary, The Wake of 3/11. Check it out here:

Sunday, March 9, 2014

37th Japanese Academy Awards - Winners

The winners of the 37th Japanese Academy Awards were announced on Friday night. I gave a run through of the movies that were up for the major awards back in January, you can read that here. But now on to the winners.

The Great Passage (舟を編む)
Best Picture
Best Director - Yuya Ishi (石井裕也)
Best Actor - Ryuhei Matsuda (松田龍平)
Best Screenplay - Kensaku Watanabe (渡辺謙作)
Best Sound Recording - Hirokazu Kato (加藤大和)
Best Film Editing - Shinichi Fushima (普嶋信一)

The Wind Rises (風立ちぬ)
Best Animation
Best Music - Joe Hisaishi (久石譲)

Like Father, Like Son (そして父になる)
Best Supporting Actor - Lily Franky (リリー・フランキー)
Best Supporting Actress - Yoko Maki (真木よう子)

Sayonara Keikoku (さよなら渓谷)
Best Actress - Yoko Maki (真木よう子)

The Unforgiven (許されざる者)
Best Cinematography - Koichi Watanabe (渡邊孝一)

Ask this of Rikyu (利休にたずねよ)
Best Art Direction - Takashi Yoshida (吉田孝)

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

I Am A Hero #14

It's a good week for zombie fans Japan this week in Japan, Hulu Japan start showing the second half of Season 4 of The Walking Dead from Thursday, and the volume 14 of Kengo Hanazawa's I Am A Hero was released.

The cover illustration shows off some fan service, as the protagonists (Hideo, Hiromi, and Oda) find themselves cornered in an onsen in Hakone and decide to make the best of the situation by taking a relaxing soak. I'm still a bit undecided about how I feel about the unexpected turn of events, I won't spoil things here, but it's odd to say the least.

I Am A Hero has been out paced by The Walking Dead, and upstaged by The Last of Us, but still feel it's a worthy read for those looking for more zombies.

Follow Kengo Hanzawa on Twitter:


The latest film starring Kenichi Matsuyama (松山ケンイチ) tells a story lies close to my heart. Directed by documentary film maker Nao Kubota (久保田直), Ieji (家路), which translates to The Homeward Road, tells the story of a family from a farming community that was evacuated due to it's proximity to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Jiro, played by Kenichi with a Fukushima accent, sets out to cultivate and rebuild the contaminated land.
Ieji is currently in limited release in Japan, and was shown at this year's Berlin International Film Festival.
Film Website:

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Pop Disaster - DIS:COVER

Recommended by a friend of a friend who knows the band, Pop Disaster are a pop-punk melodic hardcore band from Kansai (?) which originally formed in 2003. Their 5th studio album, DIS:COVER, was released this week. They have appeared on several pop-punk compilations. The band are playing various shows around Japan from March to June to support the new album. You can check out their webpage here:

Giovanni's Island

You don't need to fear that the retirement of Hayao Miyazaki (宮崎駿) will lead to a lull in the production of quality animation. Giovanni's Island (ジョバン二の島) is a new animated feature film from Production IG and directed by Mizuho Nishikubo (西久保瑞穂). Nishikubo has a long history working on story boards and direction at Production IG including Patlabor 2 and Ghost in the Shell.

The story of Giovanni's Island is set post war Japan on an island north of Hokkaido in the Sea of Okhotsk, Shikotan Island. Two young boys, Junpei and Kanta, are separated from their father after Soviet soldiers take control of the island, disrupting the local fishing industry, and imprison the boy's father who is the local commander of the Japanese Defence Force.

Giovanni's Island was in limited released in Japanese cinemas from February 22nd.
Official Website:

Monday, January 20, 2014

37th Japanese Academy Awards - Best Picture Nominations

The award ceremony for the 37th Japanese Academy Awards will be held in early March. Here is a quick run down on the films nominated for Best Picture.

The Devil's Path (凶悪) (5 Nominations)
Director Kazuya Shiraishi's second feature film. Based on a true story of a convicted murder on death row. Starring Takayuki Yamada in the lead role with a strong support cast including Taki Pierre (ピエール瀧) and Lily Franky (リリー・フランキー).
Also nominated for: Best Director (Kazuya Shiraishi), Best Screenplay,  Best Supporting Actor (Taki Pierre),  Best Supporting Actor (Lily Franky).

A Boy Called H (少年H) (3 Nominations)
Based on the auto-biography of Kappa Senoh (妹尾河童), his real name is Hajime (肇) which is where the H in the title comes from. The story retells his memories of wartime Japan. Young actor Tatsuki Yoshioka (吉岡竜輝) picked up a nomination for Best Newcomer for his performance in the main role. There is an English translation of the book translated by John Bester.
Also nominated for: Best Art Direction, Best Newcomer (Tatsuki Yoshioka).

Like Father, Like Son (そして父になる) (12 Nominations)
Hirozaku Koreeda (是枝裕和) has picked up many international awards for his critically acclaimed direction, but this is his first Japanese Academy Award nomination. Masahara Fukuyama (福山雅治), Machiko Ono (尾野真千子), Yoko Maki (真木よう子), and Lily Franky (リリー・フランキー) all pick up nominations for their portrayal of two couples who deal with the fall out after it is discovered their sons were switched at birth. There is a Hollywood remake in the works being headed up by Steven Spielberg. So check out the original.
Also nominated for: Best Director (Hirozaku Koreeda), Best Screenplay, Best Actor (Masahara Fukuyama), Best Actress (Machiko Ono),  Best Supporting Actor (Lily Franky), Best Supporting Actress (Yoko Maki), Best Music, Best Cinematography, Best Lighting, Best Sound Recording, Best Editing.

Tokyo Family (東京家族) (12 Nominations)
Yoji Yamada (山田洋次) directed the original film version of The Yellow Handkerchief (幸福の黄色いハンカチ) which won the first Japanese Academy Award for Best Picture, although he didn't pick up the prize for best director. Yamada is well known for his Otoko wa Tsurai yo (男は辛いよ) series of films that spanned 48 releases from 1969 to 1995. Isao Hashizume (橋爪功), Kazuko Yoshiyuki (吉行和子), Satoshi Tsumabuki (妻夫木聡), and Yu Aoi (蒼井優) all got nominations for their performances.
Also nominated for: Best Director (Yoji Yamada), Best Screenplay, Best Actor (Isao Hashizume), Best Actress (Kazuko Yoshiyuki), Best Supporting Actor (Satoshi Tsumabuki), Best Supporting Actress (Yu Aoi), Best Music, Best Cinematography, Best Lighting, Best Sound Recording, Best Editing.

The Great Passage (舟を編む) (13 Nominations)
Based on the book by Shion Miura (三浦しをん), and directed by young director Yuya Ishi (石井祐也). The Great Passage was nominated as the Japanese entry into the 86th American Academy Awards for best foreign film, but failed to make the short-list. The cast also picking up several nominations, including Ryuhei Matsuda (松田龍平), Aoi Miyazaki (宮崎あおい), Joe Odagiri (オダギリジョー), and Haru Kuroki (黒木華).
Also nominated for: Best Director (Yuya Ishi), Best Screenplay, Best Actor (Ryuhei Matsuda), Best Actress (Aoi Miyazaki), Best Supporting Actor (Joe Odagiri), Best Music, Best Cinematography, Best Lighting, Best Art Direction, Best Sound Recording, Best Editing, Best Newcomer (Haru Kuroki).

Ask this of Rikyu (利休にたずねよ) (9 Nominations)
Based on the historical novel by Kenichi Yamamoto (山本兼一). Features kabuki actor Ebizo Ichikawa (市川海老蔵) in the main role of Rikyu Senno (千利休) from ages 19 to 69, and for which he received a best actor nomination. Miki Nakatani (中谷美紀) also received a nomination for best actress.
Also nominated for: Best Actor (Ebizo Ichikawa), Best Supporting Actress (Miki Nakatani), Best Music, Best Cinematography, Best Lighting, Best Art Direction, Best Sound Recording, Best Editing.

Friday, January 17, 2014

150th Akutagawa Prize

The Akutagawa Prize is awarded twice a year, in January and July, and is award to new and up and coming authors. The first prize for 2014, the 150th prize, was awarded this week to Hiroko Oyamada (小山田浩子) for her short story Hole (穴). Hiroko has had her short stories published in literary journal Shincho/New Tide (新潮) since 2010, and she has released two collections of short stories, Factory (工場, 2013) and Hole (穴, 2014).

Shincho/New Tide (新潮):

Asymptote - January 2014

The January 2014 edition of online quarterly journal is out, it's a great place to check out what's happening in the world of literary translation.

One of the feature articles is an interview between world renowned artist Yoshitomo Nara, and author Hideo Furukawa. Furukawa is from Koriyama which is just up the road from me, so it's interesting to hear his reaction to the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami.

I've been a fan of Yoshitomo Nara for a while, I try to check out his exhibitions if one is nearby, and I have a limited edition version of Fantomas' 2005 album Suspended Animation which featured his artwork and a special calendar.

And interesting interview, check it our here:

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Mariko Goto - [m@u]

Like a twisted caricature of Japanese people idols, Mariko Goto (後藤まりこ) is an avant-garde punk pop singer. Her second solo album [m@u] was released in December 2013.

I'm having trouble embedding the video of the lead single [m@u], but here it is:

I was a much bigger fan of her previous band, Midori. They were active between 2003 and 2010, released 5 studio albums, a live album, appeared on several compilation albums. They were described as a twisted version of Judy and Mary. And as much as I love the band, Mariko's school uniform served more as a distraction to their music which was a really interesting pop/punk drums, keyboard, bass combination with Mariko on guitar and vocals.

You can check Mariko on Twitter:
And her web page:

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Taiyo Matsumoto

Since my favourite manga Inio Asano's Oyasumi Pun Pun finished last month I was looking around for some new series to read.  One of the series I picked up was Taiyo Matsumoto's (松本大洋) Sunny. The fourth volume of the series was released in October 2013, and it's published on IKKI, an imprint of Shogakukan.

IKKI also publishes the work of Daisuke Igarashi (五十嵐大介) who I'm a big fan of too. Both Iragashi and Matsumoto have uniquely identifiable artistic styles, and great story lines.

People might be familiar with Taiyou Matsumoto's earlier work Tekkonkinkreet (鉄コン筋クリート). The manga was published in 1993-94 and reached a much wider audience with the 2006 animated adaptation. Directed by Michael Arias, and made by Studio 4°C. It was the first anime feature film directed by a non-Japanese director, and won the 2008 Japanese Academy Award for Animation.

There are a lot of similarities between Tekkonkinkreet and Sunny. Both focus on the relationship of imaginative young boys. Tekkonkinkreet has the street-wise Kuro/Black (クロ) and the simple-minded Shiro/White (シロ). Sunny features the smart beyond his years, aggressive, easily provoked, Haruo (晴男) and his simple sidekick Junsuke (純助). The manga's title Sunny refers to an old broken down Nissan Sunny that rest on their front lawn that the boys use to play and travel where ever their imagination takes them. As with most of Matsumoto's work, the characters speak with strong Kansai accents, which can be hard to follow if you've never read/heard much colloquial Japanese.


The Guest Cat - Takashi Hiraide

Last week, Asymptote posted an excerpt from the soon to be released translation of the novella The Guest Cat (猫の客) by Takashi Hiraide (平出隆), translated by Eric Selland.

It's being published by New Directions on January 28th. You can get links to buy the book from the New Direction website:

Saturday, January 4, 2014

The Snow White Murder Case

The Snow White Murder Case (白ゆき姫殺人事件) is the next movie from director Yoshihiro Nakamura (中村義洋). Nakamura has had recent success with Ahiru and Kamo's Coin Locker (アヒルと鴨のコインロッカー) in 2006, and Golden Slumber (ゴールデンスランバー) in 2010.

The film stars Mao Inoue (井上真央) a young prolific actress who won the 2011 Japanese Academy Award's Best Supporting Actress for her role in Rebirth (八日目の蝉) in 2011, and is currently appearing in cinemas in Eien no Zero (永遠の0). She appears along side Go Ayano (綾野剛).

The story revolves around a mysterious murder of an attractive office worker, and the effect of vicious Internet rumours and gossip, interference by mass media and paparazzi, on a suspected co-worker.

The Snow White Murder Case is adapted from the novel of the same name by Kanae Minato (湊かなえ) who also wrote the novel behind the award winning 2010 film Confessions (告白). Similar to Confessions, The Snow White Murder Case tells the same story from the point of view of several intersecting characters. I'd assume that the same successful format will be kept for the movie.

The Snow White Murder Case will be in cinemas on March 29th.