Monday, February 21, 2005

Shimotsuma Monogatari

Great News! Kyoko Fukada won best actress in the Japanese Academy Awards for her roll in the amazing Japanese film "Shimotsuma Monogatari."

Kyoko Fukada



Currently the movie is touring films festivals world-wide under the title of "Kamikaze Girls", which if you ask me is a bad title. If I personally were to pick a title I would call it "The Lolita Princess".

Anyhoo, you can order the film in its original Japanese from: www.aznfilms.com, and www.yesasia.com -which both carry "Shimotsuma Monogatari". The title itself translates to "The Story of Shimotsuma" or "Shimotsuma-town's Story". This is one of my all time favorite films, and one of the greatest comedy movies ever made (in my humble opinion). Yet, its profound look at Japanese society is both one of playful social comentary and satirical wit.

Fukada-san


The story follows a young woman Momoko (played by Fukada) who is addicted to the Lolita fashion. It is a real trend sweeping pop-culture fashion craze among the bold renegades of style in Japan today, in which young girls are dressing in classical outfits fashioned after doll clothing. If that's not a bizarre enough character for you, wait until you hear about the story! Momoko, our fashion clad heroine, meets a highschool gangster, or "Yanki" in Japanese, named Ichigo (played by Anna Tsuchiya). The unlikely duo become friends -Ichigo basically forces Momoko to accept her in a weird encounter in which a shopping bid for unliscenced brand-name clothing (a rare double brand name vintage I might add) brings our two characters together. Ichigo continues to be a pain in Momoko's side until Momoko reluctantly starts to accept her, even as she drags Momoko into Pachinko gambling clubs where they meet many other colorful characters.

The main story focuses on the friendship of the unlikely pairing of these two "social cliques" unique to Japanese culture and societal construct, but the story also contains a more contemplative philosophical tone which takes a look at contemporary Japanese culture without becomming openly preachy. It does, however, raise the issue of why these various outlets exist, and the role they play in helping define the individual -a fairly modern concept roaring across Japan. This individual identity (often thought of westernization or modernity) is leading towards an open debate of civil rights, more specifically those rights for the individual -as this film takes a look of empowerment through expression, and more importantly has too female leads existing in a world which doesn't seem to be governed by the patriarchal traditions which still linger in Japan. In fact, the males roles in the film are more characaturized than the women, who although appear quite stylized, exist more of an antithesis to the domination of their own male governed society.

The main adventure sends our wacky, yet dynamic duo, to Tokyo together in search of a legendary stitcher who can embroider a correction to Ichigo's trench coat -which apparently has the wrong Kanji symbol printed on it. While there, Momoko meets God, and becomes a fashion designer. The after-math leaves Momoko wondering if she really desires to make the clothes, or if she just loves wearing them. They fail to find this legend and Ichigo offers to have Momoko stitch the coat, a grand gesture which solidifies their friendship. Later, Ichigo falls in love with a guy, but her heart is broken when he starts dating the leader of her own gang, and so she turns to her friend for consultation/comfort. When Momoko and Ichigo start spending too much time together, Ichigo's gang decides to teach her a lesson in dissobediance and her lack of loyalty to the clan. The end is a knock em' sock em' brawl, scooter-mopeds blazing at high speeds, a wacky car crash, a cow, and a show down with a bat wielding crazed Lolita doll out to defend her best friend.

Our Heroines


The movie is a laugh a minute, has some of the most interesting lighting, coloring, and cinematography I've seen in any film, and is supported with an all star commedian cast of veteran tallent. Kirin Kiki plays the Grandmother of Momoko, and steals every scene she is in! If you're interested in crazy fun, or Japanese pop-culture in general, this movie is for you. If you want a fun commedy with intelligent philosophical and sociological commentary -this movie is also for you! One reviewer put it as, "As wacky as "Tank Girl", but instead of tanks they drive scooters!" I must say, this film is way better than the previous mentioned, and a heck of a lot more fun too. This ground breaking Japanese movie's musical score is written by none other than the legendary Yoko Kanno! The hip-hop beats and score blend to become nothing more than fantastic, truely the icing on the cake. Please check it out!

For another review check out:http://www.midnighteye.com/reviews/kamikazegirls.shtml

For those who can read Japanese, you can check out the Movie's official website at: http://www.shimotsuma-movie.jp/index_main.html

Here is an article about the movie at the Japan Time website: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/getarticle.pl5?ff20040623a2.htm

Sunday, February 06, 2005

What Osama Might Have Told America: A response

Osama in America



In response to this article at Asia Times.com: http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Front_Page/FK02Aa04.html


My Letter to the Editor.

In the Article "What Osama Might have told America" I was horrified by the comments of Osama and what others like him may think about America (i.e. the U.S.A). Not because of the things he is saying, but rather I was shocked at the open acceptance of the rhetoric that Osama's beliefs require one to adhere too which themselves stem from the same problem. My first point being: NOT ALL AMERICANS WATCH TV -Television. I don't even own television, cable, or recieve tv broadcast of any kind, myself. For those who openly condemn America solely on the artistic merit of the media are themselves being duped by the propaganda of a corporate world. Osama and those who believe in like ideologies should be careful in their own folly to believe that all Americans are robots following the beliefs instilled by a corrupt government and immoral media. To make that claim, that those of us are not free because of such, is to also fall victim to the same fate. It seems Osama and others believe our own media’s propaganda and coarse rhetoric more than we Americans do. Shame on them, to then use the same medium to sponsor their cause. A medium in which they say have corrupted us, and I which they define the parameters of freedom. How can they themselves be free, when they also submit to the power of media television when sponsoring their cause? Corruption for them, it would seem, is in the eye of the beholder, and not in the manmade dogmatic principles they so blindly follow. Or rather, power is in the television and those who control it control this power –and so too the world. Why is Osama then any different than corporate America? When can men of the world see that it’s not about conversion, power, who has the most media billing, or who has the sharpest swords and biggest armies? None of this matters when such people have enslaved themselves and their followers by their own impenetrable egos, inflexible lack of tolerance, and no love or compassion for anyone different than themselves which bind them to their own ideological tyranny. A fate far worse than any death, even if sworn on Holy names or Godly crusades, they will forever suffer each and the same fate, and to argue over dogmatic means to any such point of total conversion of one ideal over another is only self destructive. We cannot impose our viewpoints upon anyone else without becoming openly intolerant and prejudice against those beliefs which may differ from our own to the extent of bigotry and hate. I pity these people who, like Osama, do the very exact same thing that the U.S. does to preach its agenda. It appears that everyone is walking in small circles and not making any real ground towards a mutual acceptance. Peace only will come from the purity of love.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Anime Awareness

In reply to this article http://news.com.com/Anxious+times+in+the+cartoon+underground/2100-1026_3-5557177.html?tag=st.num on the pirating of Anime, and the slew of fansubs, I brought some of my own insite into the foray. As well versed in Japanese culture, I thought I would share my own view-point on this debate.

Response:

Quote:
From Article Above: But even with this new interest, sales of DVDs--which amount to about 5.7 million copies a year, according to internal industry estimates--are holding steady or dropping. Companies worry that the easy prerelease availability of fansub versions means that the otaku class has already seen their products, and no longer need to buy anything but the must-haves.


This quote made me laugh. For several reasons; One, DVD sales wouldn't increase because not every store distributes an even number of Anime titles as such other films.

Also, the companies wouldn't worry so much if they new there product would sell. Look at any title that has sold well recently, and it probably was pre-released as a fan-sub. They sell now because they are of good quality. The lesser known titles may never sell well, and there's not enough advertising to sponsor Anime titles which hardly anybody has heard of.

As far as I'm concerned, until every magazine, news paper, and loose paper add has such mundane and lesser known titles plastered alongside a slew of other titles which may or may not be popular, the American distribution companies like ADV studios will continuously worry.

Other companies like MANGA Entertainment only pick a handful of titles which they know will make a return, and so far I don't think the slew of fan-subs of any of those series has hurt the American sales. Which isn't to say that the folks in New Zealand aren't enjoying the fan subs either.

I too know that most Japanese studios are lenient on the fansubs issue, because how else can people in Russia, Bangkok, Australia, Canada, Germany, Poland, etc. view the same Anime? Anime which is so interlocked with Japan's own popular culture that fan subs are the only way to export that portion of Japanese culture to other places. Because an American studio picks up the license and shuts down fan-subbers only leads to less world-wide promotion. It's this capitalistic greed for money and power that limits the companies. If they would use intuition, a bit of ingenuity, and think of a new way to incorporate the business strategy on a global scale, they may have greater success. But like I said, they can barely push there product as is, and no offense, but that's not breaking any records. Figure out how to advertise, even with (what may be the equivilant to Dojinshi in animated form) having to compete against your own property. By importing a Japanese artform/product, you're going to inadvertantly import the problems that inherently come along with it. For the Anime studios in America, researching how Japan approaches Dojinshi may lend insite on how they can continue to sell their properties. Start thinking outside of the "limited" cultural box a little; after all, you're dealing with an alien culture and the ideologies that come packaged with it, and those who absorb it. Much like the fans that watch it. If you alienate the fan base, nobody will continue to buy the product.

Legality will ensure that they make the desired return, but perhaps at a cost which hinders the promotion of a product they themselves are trying to promote. Conundrum I say.

In other news, there is no slowing down in the MANGA craze. Which oddly enough is the direct counterpart to ANIME. Without Manga there would be no Anime, and nowadays a lot of Anime spawns new Manga titles. So as interelated as these texts are, I think I doubly prove my point that American Anime distributors don't get the picture. If you know what I mean.

Find out what I mean here: http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/afp/20050131/lf_afp/afplifestyleusjapan_050131160526

And now you know, the rest of the story.