“Sailor Moon” musical heads to Oahu theaters

A few weeks ago, Anime News Network broke the news that Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon: The Musical-Le Mouvement Final, the last in a trilogy of live-action musicals based on the Sailor Moon saga, would be screening in theaters across the country starting March 10. I looked at the website ANN linked, saw Hawaii wasn’t on the initial list of 18 cities, shrugged and went on with my life.

This morning, the Otaku Ohana Anonymous Director of Forced Social Interaction sent along a link to that same website. I clicked through again, and … yay! We’re on distributor CineLife Entertainment’s radar now!  Specifically, the musical’s listed as screening at Consolidated’s Pearlridge theaters, and Regal’s Dole and Kapolei Commons theaters.

Here’s the plot, according to CineLife:

In “Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon: The Musical-Le Mouvement Final,” Usagi Tsukino says farewell to Mamoru Chiba as he is set to leave for school in America. As Usagi says goodbye, she faints, and a super idol group called the Three Lights appear to catch her fall. Meanwhile, new enemies – the “Shadow Galactica,” are calling themselves Sailor Guardians and are aiming to steal Sailor Crystals! A mysterious young girl named Chibi-Chibi and a new group of Sailor Guardians, called the Sailor Starlights, also appear, but are they friend or foe? Can Sailor Moon and the Sailor Guardians stop the Shadow Galactica before it’s too late?

I cross-referenced the theater listing with what Fandango has in its ticket database, and while tickets and dates are available for the Pearlridge screenings (11 a.m. Saturday, March 24, and 7 p.m. Monday, March 26), there isn’t any word yet on the Regal screenings. I’ll update this post (and our various social media channels) whenever that information arrives.

A really, really fast plug for the Anime Swap Meet and Hawaii Collectors Expo

The Anime Swap Meet, hosted by Kawaii Kon, is back for a fourth year at the Hawaii Collectors Expo at the Blaisdell Exhibition Hall. And after a year’s hiatus, tag-team partner in fandom Wilma Win and I are back to sell more of our stuff!

Here’s a sneak peek at one of the six(!) boxes we’re bringing.

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The sign still isn’t for sale. But I’m still bringing it for display purposes. Because it really is a cool sign.

So as you can imagine, we’ve been doing a lot of running around, gathering extra stuff to pack, taking care of a lot of other assorted life things in between and not having a lot of extra time to write a post about it for this here blog. Considering showtime for us is in a little over 12 hours from my writing this, we’re cutting publication of this post pretty close.

So here are the high points, in handy bullet-list form:

  • Collectors Expo 2018We have stuff! Come buy it!
  • A number of like-minded fans will be there to sell their stuff, too, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.
  • We have stuff! We’d like to think it’s all quite affordable!
  • Speaking of affordable, Kawaii Kon will be selling three-day passes to next weekend’s convention. (Holy cats, it’s next weekend already!) It’s your last chance to buy ’em at a discounted rate.
  • Did I mention that we have stuff to sell?
  • The Anime Swap Meet is just one corner of the 28th annual Hawaii Collectors Expo, which, in addition to housing vendors of any collectible you could possibly imagine, is also spotlighting the Costumers Guild of Hawaii and artists Jon Murakami, Roy Chang and Mog Park. You should buy stuff from them.
  • Although we’ll be happy and grateful if you buy stuff from us, too.
  • Admission is $5 general per day, $2 for senior citizens, and free for anyone with a military ID or a badge from last year’s Kawaii Kon or Comic Con Honolulu. You can also get $1 off by printing out or showing the image available at this link.

Hope to see you there! (And please buy our stuff. Lugging six heavy boxes into the Blaisdell Exhibition Hall and setting everything up in about an hour is going to take a lot of work. I should get some coffee chilled and ready.)

Anime is Culture: Pulling the Trigger on Peace

 

Hey there everyone, sorry for the recent lack of articles.  My class fell behind on the syllabus, and we just got done reorganizing ourselves and getting back on track.  Anyways, Lancen here with another article on anime and its reflection of Japanese culture.  This time, I’ll be talking about anime/manga and its relationship to violence.

In my latest class on anime, we were assigned to watch the film Momotaro’s Divine Sea Warriors.  For those who don’t know, this movie is one of several in a series that were produced during World War II.  The movie features cute animals, reminiscent of Disney characters, going off to battle to fight against the devils in the West.  Just like in the original Japanese fairy tale.  Except the ones heading off to battle are dressed in Japanese military uniforms, parachuting out of planes, using WWII-era guns, rushing tanks to stab the drivers with their bayonets, and ultimately forcing the devils to surrender.

Just from this description, one can see that this movie was a propaganda piece made to motivate the Japanese to join the army and fight for Japan’s victory in the war.  However, there’s more to this than just having a story of victory for Momotaro, Japan’s hero.

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This cute rabbit is ready to unleash hell in Momotaro’s Divine Sea Warriors.  Notice the amount of detail put into his surroundings despite the obvious cutesy character.

The film’s animation demonstrates incredible attention to detail.  Whether it’s the facial expressions of the characters, or the weapons they use, the detail put into them is very realistic, especially with the animation technology they had at that time.

Why go through such incredible effort for the sake of a “children’s” movie? This is where the term “hyper-realism” comes in.  Hyper-realism is when the simulation — anime in this case — feels more real than actual reality.  The attention to detail draws the viewer in and makes them “feel” the reality.  In the case of Momotaro, making the “victory” as real as possible was one way to instill nationalism in its viewers and stoke the fires of the wartime spirit.

Even after the Japanese defeat in WWII, this use of violence in animation to stoke the audience’s spirit did not wane after the war. It just turned in a different direction.  Instead of war, violence is used to promote peace.

How is violence supposed to bring about peace?  Once again, hyper-realism plays a key role.  An example of this was our assigned reading of volume 1 of Barefoot Gen.  Barefoot Gen is an autobiographical manga created by the late Keiji Nakazawa, one of manga’s most influential creators and a survivor of the A-bomb strike on Hiroshima.  In this manga, there are gruesome depictions of wartime Japan: starving children, the atrocities the Japanese military inflicted on the Chinese and Koreans, and of course the terrifying effects of the atomic bomb, both from the initial blast and the effects on the survivors.

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Nakagawa didn’t pull his punches when he wanted to show the effects of the A-Bomb in Barefoot Gen.  Keep in mind that this manga is required reading in many Japanese elementary schools.

If you look at the images from the manga and your stomach turns, then Nakagawa’s manga is affecting you in the way it was intended to.  His use of graphic violence and gore makes it all feel very real, despite being a manga aimed at young children.

The realism of the terrible effects of war makes people want to avoid it as much as possible.  The reader is drawn into the hell that Nakagawa saw that day, and it sends a powerful message.

In America, it is the norm to avoid showing children violent programs or materials until we deem them old enough to handle/understand it.  However, Japan’s incredibly strong stance on peace and pacifism encourages exposing the horrors of violence and war to children at a young age.  According to my professor, Barefoot Gen is required reading in many Japanese primary schools.  Instead of “the children aren’t ready for this,” it’s “This is what happens when you wage war.  This is why we have to promote peace.”

A quick aside from Jason: First off, hi, remember me? I’m still around! Just been busy with some unexpected things, that’s all. Anyway, I just wanted to let you all know that if you want to read more about Barefoot Gen, you can take a look at this reflection that I posted back in 2015, or the related Manga Movable Feast archive, or even the Google Books archive of the profile I wrote in The Rough Guide to Manga. OK, back to you, Lancen.

Have you ever noticed that in many anime, especially more popular ones, killing another person is usually a last resort?  This reflects the changed mentality of the Japanese.

A good example is Vash the Stampede from the famous anime, Trigun.  Despite being one of the best gunslingers in the world, he never shoots to kill, even if that would get him out of a sticky situation much more quickly and effectively.  When he is forced to kill, it shakes him down to his very core, and there is an entire episode dedicated to him trying to cope with it.

After the Allied victory in World War II, the American occupation pushed for the Japanese government to restructure itself, changing from an imperial system to a democratic one.

Included in this change was the ratification of Article 9 in the new Japanese Constitution.  This article declared that Japan would give up the right to wage war and have a standing military.  This would result in the Japanese pro-peace mentality that we see today.  They dislike having military bases in their country, as they see it as them being accessories to war in Asia.

This feeling was especially strong during the Korean and Vietnam wars, where protests broke out against the establishment of U.S. bases.  The U.S. keeps its bases there to deter its rival in the East with a show of strength.  However, Japan’s policy of peace speaks the opposite.  If you have no need for weapons, then neither does your enemy.  Instead of countries fighting one another, let’s work together towards peace.

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Why should countries fight each other when they can work together?  Strike Witches is a good representation of this mentality as the Joint Fighter Wing, comprised of girls from various nations from around the world, work together to fight the Neuroi; a dark, alien lifeform that disturbs the peace the world has enjoyed.

What do you think, especially in light of recent events?  Would the Japanese approach to peace work in the West?  Is it too idealistic?

Anime is Culture: What’s the deal with fan service?

[WARNING: SOME IMAGES MAY CONTAIN MILD NUDITY AND SEXUAL THEMES.  VIEWER DISCRETION IS ADVISED]

Hello everyone, I’m back.  It’s been a little over a week since I returned from Japan, and I’ve had to hit the ground running since I missed the first week of the Spring Semester during the trip (IT WAS TOTALLY WORTH IT THOUGH).  As I’ve been grinding my way through catching up with homework, I thought of something interesting: Why not take what I learn in my anime class (yes, there’s an actual anime class that exists), and share a little bit of it with you readers? The first topic I thought would be interesting was the topic of “fan service.”

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A poster of Matsuura Kanan from Love Live! Sunshine!! in Dengeki G’s magazine.

What is fan service?  To readers who may not be familiar with the term, “fan service” is the practice of adding elements that attract viewers and keep them watching/reading.  What many people in the West think of as just blatant perversion is actually a production and marketing strategy used in the hyper-competitive and capitalistic manga/anime market.

I’m sure most of you have heard the line “Sex sells” before, and Japan’s popular manga and anime market has taken it to heart.  To understand this, one has to understand the way manga works and how it differs from the Western concept of comics.  The reason I am using manga in this comparison is that many anime are derived from manga, and therefore a lot of the same techniques used in the marketing of the original manga get used by the anime side of the industry.

Unlike Western comics, which are published primarily monthly, all popular manga are published weekly.  It doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner trying to break into the game, or if you’re a seasoned veteran.  If you are a beginner, to get your start, you would have to send your manga to companies to be published in a collection among numerous other new artists’ works.  These collections are sold in cheap books that are meant to be thrown away after reading.

These collections of new manga artist works all have surveys at the end asking readers to give their opinions on which artists’ manga they enjoyed.  If the company sees that people like your manga, they will offer to put your manga in one of their more mainstream publications.  You have one week to send in your next chapter.  If that week’s publication gains traction, then you get another week from the company.  The process will continue until you quit, or the audience loses interest.  If your audience starts waning, the company will ask you to end your manga, and you’ll be kicked out of the lineup.

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Manga artists never get a break.  Especially when they’re trying to break into the mainstream. (image from Bakuman by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata)

How do you stay in the game?  With a good story?  That’s impossible with only 25 pages a week, with people looking at your pages for only 4 seconds each, and with your manga just one of thousands of other hopefuls.

That’s where fan service comes in.  It’s not a far-fetched notion to say that the first thing a person will notice is an attractive image of a character, whether it be a man or woman.  If you can catch the eyes of readers with a girl in a swimsuit, or a guy with his shirt off and muscles glistening, you can increase your chances of being noticed by a small margin.

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Fan service isn’t limited to girls in revealing outfits!  Even men are presented in such ways to keep the female fanbase coming back for more!
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Fan service is mainstream in Japan.  This is an advertisement for the new TV anime for the manga series, Citrus.  Sometimes fan service isn’t what’s blatant, but what’s implied.

In a market where everyone thinks the same way, and wants the same thing, you have to be the one that stands out the most, which leads to the generous amount of “fan service” given in manga.  It can be seen as lecherous in nature, but the reasoning behind it is almost strictly for business purposes.  Fan service can lead to getting noticed.  Getting noticed can lead to becoming popular and mainstream.  If you can make it to the mainstream, the more fan service your manga has, the more ways it can be marketed in spinoff products like figures, posters, and other character goods.  Good fan service leads to the establishment of strong anime/manga franchises.

In the end, manga is not a niche industry like its Western comic counterpart.  It’s a mainstream, hyper-competitive industry in Japan, and fan service is just one of the ways to hopefully get yourself noticed, and HOPEFULLY that gets your foot in the door.

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Even a manga as dark and serious as Death Note needed to employ some sort of fan service!

I hope you all enjoyed this little tidbit from my anime class, and I hope you learned something that you didn’t know before.  Fan service plays upon people’s desires, but it’s not perversion or sexualization for sexualization’s sake.  It’s a survival mechanic.  The Japanese market is drastically different from the Western market regarding things like comics and manga, and I hope I could shed a little light on that.

If you’re interested in more content like this, please leave a comment and let me know.  I sincerely enjoy writing about the things I learn in class.

 

Day 7: Forests, Fashion Districts, and Farewells

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Hello everyone, sorry this one took so long to get out.  I’ve been home for about three days now, and the jet lag has just destroyed my sleep schedule and energy levels.

Anyway! Our final day in Japan was just as exciting and energy-filled as the others.  Our first stop was the Meiji-Jingu Shrine just outside the famous Harajuku district.  The shrine is surrounded by a massive forest, which makes it stand in contrast to the concrete jungle around it.  Upon entering the forest, almost all sounds of the city are drowned out by the numerous trees and the crunching of gravel beneath your feet.  The entire area was so serene and calming, it was hard to believe that the entire forest surrounding the shrine was completely man-made.

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At the center of the forest, the main shrine building stands in quiet splendor.  Its simple, yet elegant design brings an instant feeling of peace as visitors wash their hands and mouths to purify themselves before entering.  The inside is simple, yet beautiful.  There is an open courtyard, giving the area a huge sense of space.  The walls are lined with hundreds of letters written by young Japanese students, detailing their wishes for the new year.

The main shrine stands at the back of the grounds.  According to the Japanese, the soul of Emperor Meiji resides there, as the shrine and forest were built in his honor.

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After visiting the shrine, we were unleashed upon the Harajuku district right next door.  For those who don’t know, Harajuku is Tokyo’s renowned fashion district.  Brand-name cosmetics and clothing can be found here.  There are some particularly special brands or designer clothes that are hard to find, that can be bought here.  I bought some perfume for my mom, and she liked it a lot.

The main street is full of more mainstream brands, but the side streets are where the cool stuff can be found.  There was a store dedicated entirely to condoms.  It was so blatant, it was hilarious.  There was also an owl cafe.  As an owl fan from Hawaii, I would never have an opportunity to interact with owls, so I jumped at the chance while I could.  It was a guilty sort of pleasure, as I felt bad for the owls, being cooped up indoors.

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After Harajuku, it was time to say farewell to everyone, as we were bused to the airport.  This trip has been a real blessing to me, and I’m glad to know that if I had chosen a different career path last year, I never would have had this opportunity.

I met so many people, went to so many places, and learned so many things.  The week went by so quickly, and there were so many more things I wished I could see and do.  Hey, at least that gives me more than enough reasons to go back soon, right?

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As this small series of posts comes to a close, I find myself pondering.  How will I use these experiences to improve my life even more?  How can I share this feeling of wonder and joy with others?  How can I convince more people to go to Japan?  How do I get more people more interested in learning about this incredible country, it culture, and its people?  Well, I have a few ideas, but you’ll have to wait and see.  😉

But what will I possibly write after finishing this series of journal posts?  While I won’t be posting any amazing adventure posts for a while, I’ll finally be able to touch on other topics I’ve always wanted to write about.  Anime news, my opinions on current events in the otaku world, highlighting local otaku creators, etc.  There’s a plethora of other things for me to write about.  I just hope that you readers will be interested.

Lastly, I just wanted to thank all you readers for your support over the past week.  It has been a real pleasure to share my experiences with you, and I ask for your continued readership as I work to improve myself while on this internship.

Look forward to it!

Day 6: Finishing Up

It’s very late and I’m very tired, so this will be a short post.  Today was our last full day in Japan, and what a long day it was.  We woke up early to get on the Shinkansen back to Tokyo.  The Nozomi line got us back in no time.

After arriving, we were hurried onto the bus and taken to the Prime Minister’s residence.  There, we made a courtesy call to to the Japanese Cabinet Secretary.  I was pretty nervous as there were TV cameras filming us, and we were in a high-security building.  As such, we were prohibited from taking pictures.

After the courtesy call, we were bused to another hall, where we met, once again, with Hideaki Yamaji, senior coordinator for the North American Affairs Division.  This time, we were the ones addressing him, as our group presented our action plans for disseminating out experiences and lessons learned from this trip once we return to our respective homes.  We all made a commitment to make efforts to increase interest in visiting and exchanging with Japan to our fellow students, and within our home communities.  This could be through Facebook, Instagram, and even blogs like this one!  Once again, we were not allowed to take pictures as this was an official government function.

After our presentations, we were released to explore Tokyo.  This time, we were released a good deal earlier so we could really go out and see the sights.

This was my chance to visit the Mecca of anime, Akihabara.  To get there, I had to learn how to use the train system.  Thankfully, our group of Akiba pilgrims had a guide.  Our friend Marvin has taken the trains to Akihabara a few times before, and he was more than willing to teach us how to use them and guide us.

The regular metro system was incredibly quick and efficient.  We boarded during the end of the workday rush hour, so I got to experience being packed into the crowded train car.

We arrived in Akihabara in about 15 minutes, and I was greeted with a sensory overload.  The city was lit up with signs displaying various anime and game series.  There were J-Pop and anime songs being blasted on speakers in front of multiple stores.  The arcades were boisterous and loud as players tried their hand at crane games.  It was everything I had imagined and more.

It’s one thing to see it in pictures, but I had to go there to really feel it.  We only had an hour and a half there, so I didn’t get to see much, but I definitely enjoyed myself.  I HAVE to come back now that I know where things are.  Hopefully that day will come soon.

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We’d have been lost if it wasn’t for Marvin!

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Even if the sky is dark, the city is still so bright!
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Had to react quickly to catch these Mario Kart-ers!
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The famous stairs featured in the idol anime, Love Live!  As a huge fan of the franchise, I was so happy to be able to run up these stairs just like in the anime.

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If I had more time, I would’ve entered the Owl cafe.

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I’m now back in the hotel, repacking my luggage and prepping for the flight home tomorrow.  I’ll miss the friends I made on this trip, but through the power of the internet, it won’t be hard to stay connected.

Day 5: Into the Woods

Today we said goodbye to the families that ran the minshuku Japanese-style inns.  We only knew them for a single night, but I felt so comfortable and welcome, as if I had been there for weeks.  We were treated to a Japanese breakfast in the morning, along with an impressive blanket of snow from the night before.  The landscape was absolutely gorgeous.

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The wife of the Yoshinoya Family Head.  Can you believe Obaa-san is 104 years old?
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Snowman!
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Yoshinoya no Ojii-san and Obaa-san.

Our experience with the landscape would only grow as we made our way from the minshuku, deep into the Kutsuki Forest.  The forest is filled with indigenous plants and animals, though most of them are hidden away until the spring comes.  We were brought to the visitors’ center in the middle of the woods, where we were split into 2 different groups.  One group would go out for a guided tour of the grounds, while the other would stay inside the center and make their own pairs of chopsticks.

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This tree was planted by the groundskeeper 30 years ago.
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Nina and I just had to make snow angels!

My group took the forest walk first.  The snow had piled up into a good 5-inch blanket, but that didn’t deter us from walking around.  Our guide showed us around the grounds, which used to be rice paddies before the forest reclaimed it.  The area is a popular area for campers during the warmer months.

On the other side of the grounds, an international garden of trees stood.  The groundskeeper said he goes to the city every year to find new trees to plant.  He has been working in the forest for more than 30 years!  Most of the trees on the grounds were planted by him.

After our walk, we returned to the visitors’ center and swapped places with the other group.  In the main hall, we were given sticks of Japanese Cypress to make our own chopsticks (o-hashi) out of.

Using a wooden apparatus, we shaved away at the sticks until our chopsticks formed.  After this, we sanded them until they were smooth, then wrote on them with soldering irons.

To finish the process, the sticks were covered in a coat of sesame oil to prevent moisture from getting soaked into the wood.  We’ll have to reapply oil to the wood every 2 weeks or so for maximum life expectancy.

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We got to keep the shavings too.  Apparently, the Japanese Cypress’ wood is good for its aroma as well.

After Kutsuki Forest, we bid farewell to the groundskeepers and staff, then hopped on the bus back to Kyoto.  There we’ll be prepping our presentations for the Japanese Ministry to share our findings and our action plans moving forward after the program ends and we return home.

Tomorrow is our last full day here.  Here’s to making the most of it!