Monday, May 12

Inside the Robot Kingdom

"It is about robots and Japan, and in the larger sense, about technology and culture. Like most people, until recently my image of robots confused science fiction and real life. I have always been fascinated, however, by the way robots in all forms-- in fantasy and industry-- are so celebrated in Japan. Around the end of 1984, while touring some factories in the United States, and seeing so few industrial robots at work, I began to realize that "robots"-- in all their various forms-- can really be seen as a symbol of a larger relationship between people and technolgy. To understand why America was having trouble with robotization and other steps on the road to the twenty-first century, and why Japan seemed to be more successful, it would be necessary to look beyond the machine. This led to my interviewing people with all kinds of different connections with robots in both nations, touring factories, attending international conferences, and reading hundreds of books, magazines, and journals and, especially, the daily industrial newspapers of Japan."


This book talks about Japanese singular obsession with robots and it is penned by one of the most famous author who also translated Gundam novels, Frederick L.Schodt. The book maybe old but some ideas are still fresh and relevant; if any English speaker seeks to understand the robot craze in Japan might want to start with this book first.

History of Tatsunoko Animation and Gatchaman.

The story of “Battle of the Planets” started in Japan with a comic studio named Tatsunoko and an artistic visionary named Tatsuo Yoshida. It was 1933 when Tatsuo was born in Kyoto, Japan; the eldest of three tight-knit brothers who, from very early on had to fend for themselves to put food on the table. He quickly discovered that he had a gift in art and soon became known as an impeccable illustrator in his hometown. Yet he knew that if he were going to survive living as an artist, he would have to go Japan's biggest city of Tokyo in the hopes of being able to provide for his family.

It was in Tokyo where Tatsuo started to draw manga (Japanese comics), and rapidly rose to top of the comics scene with adventures like “Iron Arm Rikiya” and “Boy Ninja Squad Moonlight.” Work was steady and there was an ever-increasing demand for his talents. So Tatsuo asked his brothers, Kenji and Toyoharu (the latter better known by his pen name - Ippei Kuri) to come to Tokyo to help him with his workload. Very soon, all were enjoying great success. "My brother Tatsuo had a genius for drawing," remembers Ippei Kuri. "He moved to Tokyo and worked there for a publishing company, and I joined him shortly afterwards as an assistant. When I was seventeen I was already working on my own comics, and the same publisher even asked me to write some of them."

More here

A small tribute to one of founders of modern anime. I still remember Gatchaman with great fondness, no doubt it will look cheesy and tacky now but back then when I was a kid, I think it is one of the coolest cartoon. It have same place of childhood happy stuff in my life like Airwolf, Knight Rider, Saber Rider and many more.

This series is also the first who uses archtypes here, one pure hero, a rebellious hero, a gentle giant, a whizz kid and hot chick as team of superheroes, fighting masked villain for the sake of mankind to me. After that almost all other animea have same grouping concept,a meme that I keep looking out for whenever there is new series to watch.

I do wonder if Hollywood will pick this one up if Speed Racer is a commercial success.

Microsoft joins the anime bandwagon

Microsoft Corp. has announced that its digital entertainment brand, Zune, is about to expand beyond music. The Zune device and online network will now include downloads of popular television shows in the content offered for its small screen MP3 players. As well as shows from Comedy Central, MTV, NBC Universal, and Nickelodeon, Zune will include some anime series from FUNimation Entertainment and Starz (which includes Manga Entertainment).

Only a few programs have been announced thus far, as Microsoft struggles to catch up to the wide variety of entertainment offered by its rival, iTunes.
But three anime series were included in the new content mentioned in the initial announcement: FUNimation's Afro Samurai and Witchblade, and Starz' Ghost in the Shell.

More here

Oooooh, I can hear the Imperial March in background as Microsoft now coming to use anime to assimilate people! Repent all Microsoft haters who liked anime! Repent!

Malaise of anime DVD slowdown in USA?

In the United States, Japanese manga and anime are both increasingly popular, yet the manga business is thriving while anime sales are languishing. More people seem to be enjoying anime, but fewer are paying for it.

At the Tokyo International Anime Fair held late last month, the US-based Society for the Promotion of Japanese Anime (SPJA) hosted a panel discussion to address the anime paradox.

In opening remarks, SPJA chief executive officer Trulee Karahashi said US manga sales had grown from US$60mil (RM228mil) in 2002 to US$200mil (RM720mil) in 2006, with the number of titles released rising from 1,008 volumes in 2005 to an estimated 1,700 volumes in 2008.

But meanwhile, she said: “The sales of anime (DVDs) in the US have dropped dramatically, from US$500mil (RM1.9bil) in 2002 to US$400mil (RM1.4bil) in 2006, and that is expected to drop further.” The number of released volumes has also fallen, from 756 in 2005 to just over 500 expected when the final numbers come in for 2007, she said.

“The anime market is under threat in North America,” said panellist Christopher Macdonald, editor-in-chief of the website Anime News Network, attributing the problem to “pressure from illegal online alternatives”.

Macdonald suggested that a lack of nimbleness on the part of the legitimate industry helps pirates operate.

“Right now, fans want to see an anime, and they are told that this anime isn’t going to be available in North America for six months, two years, whatever. They’re not going to wait six months or two years. They’re going to go get it (illegally),” he said. “When we’re dealing with a TV series, very often Japanese TV networks ... (demand) a 90-day monopoly on that product. From the day that it premieres on whatever TV network in Japan, for the next 90 days, absolutely no one is allowed to show that product anywhere else in the world,” Macdonald said.

Panelist Summer Mullins, editor of Anime Insider magazine, said: “It’s really a limited number of groups that are actually making the piracy – and the millions of downloads that you can see of people watching Naruto for free every week – possible.

So beating the fansubbers at their own game via advanced digital (security) methods, possible simultaneous releases and things of that nature are really the best way to go.”

Mullins also said: “The people who are buying these DVDs are so young that I think education on Net etiquette and the realities of intellectual property (would help).”

“The anime industry in the States isn’t ailing necessarily because there’s a lack of interest in anime,” she said. “It’s simply the piracy issue.

Another Source

The article seem to target fansubbers as main culprit of the dwindling anime DVD sales in USA. It is paradox that they don't mention that fansubbers are the one who introduced the works in first place to non Japanese speaking crowd. So blaming on subbers squarely for the issue is a little extreme here.

Not to mention too that most US anime DVDs were poorly marketed, substandard subs or largely indifferent dubbing. Most common complaint is of course, it is too expensive.

But the fans also have role in the malaise too. It is difficult for them to purchase the anime after they seen the subs. Some fans also a bit anal on dubbing or essence of Japanese purity of subbing; citing commercial subbing are sub par compared to fansubs.

I see this as multifaceted issue. Not just that, it is tricky issue to walk on.

Soft Power, Japanese style.

SOFT POWER, HARD TRUTHS / America in Speed's rear-view mirror

Roland Kelts / Special to The Daily Yomiuri

As Speed Racer's Hollywood blockbuster adaptation opens in U.S. theaters today, Western media outlets are trumpeting its Japanese source: the 1960s manga and anime created by Tatsuo Yoshida and Tatsunoko Productions, the studio he formed in Tokyo with his two brothers, Kenji and Toyoharu.

Originally titled Mach Go Go Go, Speed Racer debuted on U.S. television in 1967, bearing many of the aesthetic characteristics now associated with anime as a global juggernaut--jerky, hyperkinetic action, ethnically stateless or even Western-looking characters, visceral violence and a complex, multifaceted, episodic storyline.

Its commercial success marked a watershed moment in anime history. Though Osamu Tezuka's Astro Boy had arrived a few years earlier, Speed Racer was the title that catapulted anime into the U.S. marketplace and penetrated the consciousness of a generation now entrenched in middle age.

But despite its very Japanese roots, Speed Racer was, from the very beginning, made for America.

"We were surprised about the success [of Speed Racer]," Ippei Kuri (the brother formerly known as Toyoharu Yoshida) said in an interview last year, the 40th anniversary of the original TV series, "but it was actually what we had been planning. We had been studying American culture, and its style was something we tried very hard to emulate."

Speed Racer's protagonist was named Go Mifune in the Japanese original, a nod to Toshiro Mifune, the actor who appeared in Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai and other classics--but his appearance is modeled on Elvis Presley, specifically the race-car driving, scarf-wearing Elvis of Viva Las Vegas. The Mach 5, Mifune's gadget-equipped car, was inspired by Ferrari, and its elaborate equipment was lifted from the 007 movies, specifically James Bond's Aston Martin DB5 in Goldfinger.

Most importantly, the familial bonds at the heart of Speed Racer--the macho yet lovable father, competitive male siblings, patient mother, helpful girlfriend and family pet (a chimpanzee)--all emanate from American television shows broadcast in Japan in the 50s.

"America in the 50s had a growing economy and was the global leader after its victory in World War II," Kuri said. "After that came Vietnam, and I think Americans lost their peaceful family image. We in Japan saw the '50s America as an ideal, and we presented that in Speed Racer. I think Americans in the '60s and even today like our show because it feels nostalgic for them. It was about a time when America was the world's ideal."

Peter Fernandez, the American writer and voice actor largely responsible for turning the Japanese original into a U.S. TV series, agrees. "Speed Racer had family values," he told me from his home in New York. "It wasn't about a hero who won in the end, or a robot. It had a family of characters who were all concerned about what happened to their members. That was and is immensely attractive, and I think that has helped the series maintain its longevity."

Fernandez spoke to me the day after he attended a preview of the Hollywood movie, directed by the Wachowski Brothers, the anime-obsessed makers of The Matrix. "I think they got it right," he said.

And what did they get right? A story created in postwar Japan by artists imagining an America that would no longer exist by the time it reached American viewers: projection turned nostalgia via transcultural boomerang.

The crowning irony? Not one of the original Japanese creators of Speed Racer actually knew how to drive.

More from here.

This short article talks about cultural power and appeal of anime as it trying to be in mainstream of US cinema goers with Speed Racer leading the way currently. On the gist, I agreed with the author but I also felt he is oversimplifying few things here and there. In the spirit though, it is an excellent article.

Nodame Cantable Paris Chapter

Well, well.

Looks like next installment of Nodame is coming and it talks about the adventures of 2 aspiring talented classic musicians from Japan in Europe.
I am looking forward to this.


This is one of the few animes that managed to show, not tell the story. Good characters and nicely done pacing also helps.

For those who yet to read or watch this, get it.

US Business views on anime as product

Embracing Japanese pop culture
'Cuteness, coolness and playfulness' could bring big business to U.S.

Once one starts listing the examples of Japanese culture infiltrating the United States, it's pretty hard to stop. One of the most-anticipated summer movies, "Speed Racer," is based on a '60s anime. Leonardo DiCaprio, James Cameron and M. Night Shyamalan are all attached to anime-based projects.

Anime peppers cable channels like IFC, Spike and, of course, Cartoon Network, whose Toonami block features Japanese animation every Saturday night. Manga fills racks upon racks at Borders and Barnes and Noble. Japanese aesthetic has found its way into mainstream department stores, helped along by pop star Gwen Stefani's Harajuku Lovers line of clothing and accessories, Le Sport Sac bags featuring Tokidoki designs (created by an Italian artist obsessed with Japan), and famed artist Takashi Murakami's bags for Louis Vuitton.

Cosplay and anime conventions don't just happen in hot spots like Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York, but all over the country. The nation's first J-Pop mall is in the works in San Francisco, created by Japanese film distributor Viz Pictures, and will feature a Japanese-only film theater, bookstore, café and fashion boutiques with the U.S.'s first boutique for Gothic Lolita fashion. Names once foreign to Americans — Pokèmon, Tamagotchi and Totorro — have become beloved household brands.

More from here.

Despite news of collapse of Geneon USA and ADV is in the trouble, this article shows why there is still some space for anime growth in USA commercial appeal.

Ga Rei, anime adaptation coming soon.

I just read some of the manga and it leaves the feeling of Bleach with just little bit more edge. But it does have some redeeming moments like focused relationship aspect of the characters. The fights are fairly standard and so are most of the characters in the narrative.

My friend has more extensive discussion on this work. Here

So expect typical supernatural fights, demons, school girls with power, clueless hero with latent potentials etc etc etc.

Blade of the Immortal Anime Promo, better quality version.,

Finally a better quality promo of Blade of the Immortal anime. Enjoy.

Hatsune Miku

Hatsune Miku (初音ミク, Hatsune Miku) is the first installment in the Vocaloid Character Vocal Series released on August 31, 2007. The name of the title and the character of the software was chosen by combining Hatsu (初, First), Ne (音, Sound), and Miku (未来, Future).The data for the voice was created by actually sampling the voice of Saki Fujita, a Japanese voice actress. Unlike general purpose speech synthesizers, the software is tuned to create J-pop songs commonly heard in anime, but it is possible to create songs from other genres.

Nico Nico Douga played a fundamental role in the recognition and popularity of the software. Soon after the release of the software, users of Nico Nico Douga started posting videos with songs created by the software. According to Crypton, a popular video with a comically altered software mascot holding a leek, singing Ievan Polkka, presented multifarious possibilities of applying the software in multimedia content creation.As the recognition and popularity of the software grew, Nico Nico Douga became a place for collaborate content creation.

More from ubiquitous Wikipedia

My personal experience with it is one of amusement to be honest. The software is no doubt pretty interesting and cool but what leaves me in smoke is the cultural impact generated by this seemingly innocent looking software. It even has cameo in Zoku Zetsubo Sensei anime. The new idol of anime fans around the world has been a subject of controversy in Net Neutrality when Google was accused of censoring images of Hatsune Miku. Here are some samples of this stuff here.

Fly me to the Moon to

Haktivah, Israeli anthem to

Full Metal Jacket running cadence and finally...

My favourite song of ANGELA.

The versatility of the software is amazing, a great tribute to programmers who did it.

Now Nico stuff made me go brain dead, to be honest, again. My friend showed to me and I am scratching my head as to how it is becoming so popular. Most of the vids I saw are schizophrenic, it looks like it is tacked on by dozens of people who did it out of sheer boredom.

Here is the samples that I can scoop out.

But yeah, it is an interesting phenomenon. For Japanese speakers, this article discussed on how it was created.

The creation story