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.