Time to fill that anime-podcast-shaped hole in your life by joining us in conversation with fearless leader of Anime Limited, czar of Scotland Loves Anime and all-round top bloke Andrew Partridge. Nakama Britannica XII: Interviewcast! Andrew Partridge Edition iTunes iVailable … Continue reading
Recently recovered from the wilds of darkest Edinburgh, it’s…
In a special bonus episode, we forgo social pleasantries such as research and preparation to bring you the low-down on SLA Edinburgh – a report so fresh, it was partially recorded in the Filmhouse bar! Sadly this lead to me not saying much in the first part, as I was convinced the middle-aged hard-man at the next table was about to tell us to shut up, but never mind. Stagger on.
01.45 Tokyo Marble Chocolate and Phoenix Wright. Contains no actual confectionary, nor objectionable content.
07.55 From Up On Poppy Hill and Mass Effect. Goro rides again, Production I.G. Lose their paragons.
15.35 After School Midnighters. SCIENCE!
23.45 Berserk and Berserk II: Berserk Harder. “I like swords!”
38.20 Nerawareta Gakuen. We attend a world premiere! Sadly, the world is not impressed.
55.40 The Anime Mirai Project. Juju the Weightless Spider Girl Who Pretended Not to See Buuta.
65.06 Wolf Children Ame and Yuki. In which I find out what the word “nadir” actually means.
83.46 Closing – Aria (Susumu Hirasawa)
So, a ninja, a vampire and an immortal Scotsman walk into a bar in…
00.00 – Intro – Yakitori (Yoko Kanno)
02.44 – “Journey to the West”: 1993-2007 – Jubei (Kaoru Wada)
In the concluding part of our retrospective, we tie some monofilament wire round the hilt of our katana to discuss Ninja Scroll, Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust and Highlander: Search for Vengeance. When asked about the possibility of a sequel to Search for Vengeance, Kawajiri replied “No, there can be only one”.
Followed by: “Sandmantas Rest Area” (Marco D’Ambrosio)
1.22.07 – Closing – Forces (Susumu Hirasawa)
Thanks once again to daichi383 for his work on the edit.
iTunes link available shortly.
Coming to you direct from space prison, it’s…
00.00 – Intro – Yakitori (Yoko Kanno)
02.22 – “City on Fire”: 1987-1991 – Burning World (Hidemi Miura)
In this first installment of our retrospective on action director extraordinaire, Yoshiaki Kawajiri, we walk softly and carry a wooden sword to investigate the ‘city trilogy’ of Wicked City, Demon City Shinjuku and Cyber City Oedo 808. Anyone who suggests having the word ‘city’ in the title is not sufficient grounds to call something a trilogy, will automatically have fifty years added to their sentence.
Followed by: “I May Be In Love With You” (Hidemi Miura)
1.01.24 – Closing – Forces (Susumu Hirasawa)
Massive thanks as always to daichi383 for his work on the edit. We’re also still looking for additional audio editors, so if you are the true successor of Audioshin-ken, we’d love to hear from you. It would help us get the episodes out that bit quicker.
This episode is now available in iTunes! Find is in the iTunes store by searching for “Nakama Britannica”.
Before beginning this article for Nakama Britannica it is worth noting that this is the start of many new posts for this blog. Although inactive for sometime it is back and not with just the weird articles I post either! Other great posts are in the pipe line from veterans of this blog and also authors who are new. I think this could be a very interesting tenure in the development of the blog. So watch this space every Sunday, or so, for articles on all aspects of anime from issues that are considered mundane, yet are extremely important like the industry, to the far more important issues, like what exactly you should be buying in retail outlets around the country…
This article at the start of our new season is taken from a piece which unsuccessfully did not make the cut when I submitted it to Asian film magazine ‘Jade Screen’ last year. It covers some of the work from Satoshi Kon and was designed as part of a series, which never got written, to attract a new group of fans to explore the genre whilst providing existing fans with something new to read. The reason why only two of Kon’s films are critiqued is because the word limit imposed by the magazine. I might get round to completing the whole thing when I’m less ill and less busy. Perhaps you guys could fill in the article or comment and critique Kon’s other films to get any new fans to watch a film by Kon. Anyway I hope you enjoy…
Anime is a kaleidoscopic genre. It is comprised of many diverse genres and transcends its own boundaries on an almost constant basis. However these changes are mediated by the constant awareness of its Japanese roots. So just what is anime? Just like a child, we will twist the tube of anime to answer this question; examining its nature one pattern at a time.
The first twist of the tube takes us to an image of a man who fashions stories that are just as kaleidoscopic as the genre itself: Satoshi Kon. Kon joins a pantheon of Japanese directors who push the boundaries of Japanese animation further and further. Just like Tezuka, Otomo, Oshii, and Tomino, Kon is creating anime that is transcending previously known boundaries. However what differentiates Kon from those four directors and creators is to spawns a story that is much like an optical illusion. That is that he creates stories that play on our perceptions of what is real and what is fictitious.
Satoshi Kon is of a host of directors who are fantastic at producing some of the most underrated material possible. Kon presents his audience with a warped sense of reality and fiction and takes us on a journey to explore what exactly is reality and what is fictitious. Kon’s speciality is this ability to take that warped clash of reality and fiction and synthesise them together to form some great films. This article will examine all of his major films and, will shortly, critique them also. This is because Kon is largely ignored by the more scholarly of the anime community. What he produces is, often, a breed of very challenging, deep films which are bypassed in favour of the pretentiousness of Mamoru Oshii (‘Ghost in the Shell’, ‘Patlabor’, ‘Sky Crawlers’) or the, frankly, insanely talented Katsuhiro Otomo (‘Akira, ‘Memories’ and ‘Metropolis’).
However Kon’s almost constant flirtation with the subject of reality is something that will bring his work into the fore in the future. However his work is not always about this constant fluctuation in and out of reality, indeed works like ‘Tokyo Godfathers’ and ‘Paranoia Agent’ present stories that are, respectively, conventional yet provide cleverly convoluted plots to provoke thought and debate. This is a director that does not do ‘bog-standard’, boring fare. Rather here is a man that wants to challenge and confuse you. An easy thing to do when your films are the manifestation of an infatuation with probing the depths of what humanity calls real and what it, conversely, calls fictitious.
This article will deal with his two of his four feature films. The reason why I selected Kon, as the first of Jade Screen’s anime articles, was mainly because of his ingenious way to fashion films that are essentially universal in content, but they are performed in a Japanese context and obviously made within the context of the anime medium itself. Satoshi Kon could, possibly, create these films in Hollywood but he is an up and coming director of Japanese animation and as such is a great way to begin exploring the genre, to keep exploring the genre for fans who have not seen a Kon production, or a reflection for those anime fans who are well acquainted with the wonderfulness of Kon’s work.
Perfect Blue DVD coverIn 1997 anime fandom was faced with an anime that both was infinitely illusive yet remarkably brilliant in the deployment of its fascinating story line. ‘Perfect Blue’ synthesises together the concepts of psychological definition, philosophical perceptiveness on life, how communication has evolved with the internet and finally a greatly disturbing idea of what it is like to be famous.
The story revolves around a former pop idol, Mima Kirigoe, and her decision to change her career from being a pop idol to being an actress. This prompts a negative reaction from her fans who believe that she should remain as a pop idol in the band ‘CHAM!’. Her decision leads to her taking up one of the leading roles in the programme she was cast in. However the lead role comes with a price, she will have to act out a completely unsavoury role. This sends her sense of reality completely spiralling out of control! Add this to an internet website, designed to completely track Mima’s life from the most important to the most mundane moments, setup by Mima’s stalker ‘Me-Mania’ which causes Mima’s delicate sense of reality to implode.
The story is not a classic in the sense that the story it works on the basis of is not particularly fantastic. Indeed the concept of the pop idol trying to throw off the shackles of her former life as a pop star is one that feels uncharacteristic of Kon really. However the way in which he uses such a poor foundation to build a great film is fantastic! He takes this overused trope and gives it a great makeover.
Kon uses the idea that the pop idol is one created in an atmosphere of greater communication. This communication is streamed through a variety of ways including TV, radio and, in 1997, more increasingly the internet. ‘Me-Mania’s’ website, Mima’s room, is the natural escape from a life that craves and more communication. Unfortunately for ‘Me-Mania, he has not benefited from this increase in communication. Indeed the depiction of ‘Me-Mania’, who runs this website, as grotesque is therefore the way in which his life is stranded in between this need for others to communicate with others yet this repulsion of the very same others who cannot treat him properly because he is physically different. The juxtaposition is important because ‘Me-Mania’ believes that Mima is what epitomises a good life. She is someone who, for him in his warped reality, has beauty and therefore has a great degree of ability to exercise communication with others, when really this is just not the case. As much as the film deals with fictitious concepts, this is part of the subtle social commentary underlying meaning residing in Kon’s many films. This is present in any good director of Japanese Animation.
The film therefore raises issues of one’s personal psychology and how it is developed in a society with predefined concepts of what it is to be right and wrong. Mima is depicted unflatteringly, especially in the English Dub, where she is seen to be delicate and in a constant transition from being a young teenager to being a young adult. Her aspirations are clear but her maturity is not in place yet. However it is this description of ‘Idol’ that fixates many people and disguises someone who is essentially fragile, yet in the media is made out to be a woman who has a greater amount of inner-strength.
‘Perfect Blue’ is a great example of what exactly anime actually is. It is a synthesis of great animation which is bolstered by a striking story and involves tropes which are communicated, occasionally, with glaring depiction yet some are communicated subtly. It manages to incorporate a very Japanese trope of communication and, perhaps, the lack of it in Japanese society but also talks about the individual personality and whether that personality can be created and maintained in reality or whether one creates a personality that is fictitious and requires fictitious things to operate it.
‘Millennium Actress’ is a continuation of the kind of weird psychological mind games spawned by Kon in his previous film ‘Perfect Blue’. A gap of four years had passed since ‘Perfect Blue’ and ‘Millennium Actress’ was to follow in 2001. It alludes any true critique because Kon’s mind games make the film especially convoluted and complex! Indeed from one moment to the next one cannot tell whether they are seeing Chiyoko Fujiwara’s, the protagonist who has acted since The Mukden Incident (1931) and during the course of the film has retired becoming a recluse, actual flashbacks or part of a film she starred in or a mixture of the two. The concept of a play within a play imbues the film with an ability to create a complexly perplexing plot because reality is interacting with fiction to make a story where reality and fiction are undefinable in the sense that they cannot be told apart for much of the film.
The focus of the film is the relationship between Chiyoko and, her interviewer for the film, Genya Tachibana. The two are both coming to deal with their unrequited love for partners of whom will never be able to reciprocate love back to them. Chiyoko is following a man who cannot be found while Genya loves Chiyoko; a woman who cannot love him. The complexity of the story lays in the format of the flashbacks which inform Genya as to Chiyoko’s inner most thoughts and feelings as she guides him through her life until she dies at the end of the film.
The plot is simple, much like ‘Perfect Blue’, which allows for Kon to diffuse a degree of the reality warped mind games into the mix. Indeed the film’s two main protagonists’ imaginations link together throughout the film to explore their thoughts and feelings. Genya, who has always loved Chiyoko, therefore during the flashbacks acts Chiyoko’s protector and helper. This could never have had happened because he crops up later on as a member of the production staff for Chiyoko’s films. Also the idea that her flashbacks occur within her films could also be down to his influence because he has the hallmarks of being a fanatical fan of Chiyoko’s films and therefore can act as her protector.
Chiyoko, alternatively, is telling her story about something she can never have and therefore is living in her world of make belief. Both of these protagonists are blurring the lines between reality and fantasy mainly because the two cannot get what they really want. Essentially Kon is evoking a theme that sometimes humans live in their imaginary worlds far too much leading them to miss out of the things that matter in reality. Therefore the film acts as a great medium for telling this play in a play because we are witnessing fantasy. Perhaps Kon is offering us a little bit more social commentary?
The film, like ‘Perfect Blue, is not a classic as such. It is not a bad film in anyway but certainly shifts down from fifth gear into third. A slower, much more powerful gear is required for us to traverse the meandering manner in which the film is told. We are observing a whole life after all rather than watching just a snippet of one life and the impacts of the blurring reality and imagination together throughout a life. The film is certainly brilliant and again transcends the usual fare.
Satoshi Kon will certainly go down as one of Japanese Anime’s greatest directors of recent years. Rather than spawning more of the ‘boring fare’ he provides a delectable mixture of reality and fantasy imbuing this trope with both panache and flair making this trope his very own. Well, at least in Japan. Japanese Anime has certainly more series and films in this kind vein of greatness; perhaps some are greater than the works mentioned here. For the seasoned veteran this may all be apparent but for those of you less acquainted with this great genre then Satoshi Kon is a great place to start. He synthesises the uniqueness of Japanese Animation into stories that are truly universal. Also the eccentric fashion that they are crafted also makes anime a truly special genre and very different from anything else despite the universal themes some anime deal with.
‘Perfect Blue’ and ‘Millennium Actress’ are two of Kon’s four films. The other two are the conventional ‘Tokyo Godfathers’ and, a return to form with, ‘Paprika’ and Kon’s TV series ‘Paranoia Agent’. If you wish to really experience something a little different that I urge you to explore these films. They offer entertainment for those viewers who do not wish to be overly challenged yet for those who do Kon is the perfect remedy for films that seem to lack any underlying themes and attitudes that make the audience think. Satoshi Kon is also directing a film in development as we speak, ‘The Dream Machine’, which has yet to be confirmed when it is due out. I hope you can turn the kaldiscope of anime with me to and discover just what else you can make of the weird and wonderful paterns of anime.
Nakama Britannia has been dormant for quite some time and I thought it was time to revive it from its slump into hibernation. What an interesting way to revitalise the blog than by awakening it from its electronic sleep than actually talking about electronic sheep. The inspiration behind this article is precisely to look at the recent American film ‘Surrogates’ and compare it to the anime which so obviously inspired it. Yet the films I reference all have their roots in the book ‘Do androids dream of electronic sheep?’ or its film adaptation ‘Blade Runner’.
‘Surrogates’ is a fascinating film concerning the proliferation of technology that enables humans to be exceptionally safe and free from harm’s way by way of providing, for its host, a shell they can go and roam around in. Essentially they are shells without ghosts actually inhabiting a brain case actually in the suit. Bruce Willis stars as an FBI agent who uses a surrogate to navigate his way through life, his decision hinged on the guilt of not being able to save his child from a terrible car crash. His child would have survived if it had used a surrogate.
The interesting thing about the film, and perhaps the whole genre, is the idea of exploring what exactly humanity is and what is the point. The idea of the surrogates is like a desperate mother trying to protect her child from anything that may harm it. This is the idea that surrogacy is stifling humanity from actually seeing the problem they are creating for themselves. There is, perhaps, too much cotton wool.
In ‘Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex’ (GS:SAC) it is interesting to see how the world is changing but not in the sense that surrogacy has made the world. One ‘commentator’ from the introduction of ‘Surrogates’ believes that surrogacy is the next step in our evolution. ‘GS: SAC’, and the film versions particularly, make reference to the idea that technology is not the catalyst for evolution rather it makes it clear that it is not.
In SAC episode 8, ‘Missing hearts’, Motoko Kusanagi, the series’ protagonist, attempts to recover a set of organs meant for transplant patients. On her way she encounters the Jameson robot who is in fact the leader of a big Transnational Company involved in the growth of organs. Insinuating that the world’s population still believes that ‘upgrading’ themselves is not the way forward. In fact would that company not be making spare parts if it was chasing real profit? We could perhaps say that ‘Ghost in the Shell’ is the Tachibana labs to the Knights of Surrogacy.
This has only really touched upon the physical part of being human however. It has not touched upon the emotional and mental part of humanity. The surrogates also represent something else. Not just a liberal dose of cotton wool but also allow their masters to be who they want to be. The film has a lot of middle aged characters, who’s puppets look very beautiful and youthful yet are in real life, who are not youthful and look wizened. Greer’s, the film’s protagonist, wife believes that her surrogate gives her the life she really wants to live. This film is more than meets the eye. Just like when we see the film we should not judge it on face value and look to the heart of it. The film is also talking about out inbuilt stereotypes and judgements that we label each other with and how that is wrong.
The film insinuates the concept of subtle subversion manifesting itself from a system built on our collective, at least in the west, stereotypes that fuels capitalist growth. The more negativity against a certain stereotype is rewarded by a way to escape that particular stumbling block. In ‘Surrogates’ the stereotype of being an old person is greeted not by a traditional eastern respect for the aged but rather by a need to escape: a way to be younger. Greer’s wife therefore detests her own body and the surrogacy offers a release from something she ultimately hates because that would encourage an outsider’s psychology to blossom in her because of the system of negativity built around that stereotype.
In contrast Kusanagi is the antithesis of this psychological system. The viewer does not know her age but what we do know is that she is very old and may not actually be a woman. This suggests that there is a difference in terms of attitudes prevalent in the making of the two stories. Kusanagi is gifted respect because of her great experience which could have only been yielded via years and years of work. Therefore this idea of a ‘job for life’ in Japanese culture polarises the two visions of the future.
In essence we could draw the fact that both stories explore a different view of human evolution but ultimately only one story has the real path to that conclusion. The climax of ‘Surrogates’ demonstrates a need for technology to remain in the background if humans are to dream of real sheep and not electronic ones.
In conclusion, and using another famous book, if we use ‘Nineteen Eighty Four’ by George Orwell to assess both stories, which is the barometer of what happens when technology is used to create a human that is not quite a human because of the impact of technology within the science fiction genre. Orwell’s tale is perhaps more on a par with ‘Surrogates’ because of the fact that humans wish to grow a culture that suffocates humanity rather than ‘Ghost in the Shell’ which is dealing with humanity as it exists now but in the future e.g. the 2nd Gig’s refugee storyline and resolve what is wrong with this culture. ‘Surrogates’ is in a way a warning, like ‘Nineteen Eighty Four’, about the future impact of technology upon humans. ‘Ghost in the Shell’ merely uses technology, like ‘Star Trek’ to prove a point.
As to whether ghosts dream about electronic sheep…always. They will always want to return to their orginal shell because flesh and blood is part of what makes a human a human.
First off, apologies for the delay (and for the crooked images, wordpress is weird). I have exams this week and I was through in Glasgow watching The Kings of Leon rock the house at the S.E.C.C.
Anyway, earlier on during the week I had to endure one of the worst films I’ve seen in the last year or so. Speed Racer. I haven’t felt that my time has been wasted this bad since I reviewed Divergence Eve last year. (And no, I will never, ever get around to reviewing the third volume)
The biggest problem that I have with this whole scenario is that we, as the regular punters, know that Tinsel Town can chuck out a decent adaptation of something. Insert Spiderman and Batman here. But when it comes to using source material from Asia, everything turns out to be like Daredevil, and the first Hulk, and the Fantastic Four. These three films on their own almost put the last nail in the coffin for comic related films until X-Men and Spiderman came along to save the day.
“In the near future- corporate networks reach out to the stars, electrons and light flow throughout the universe.The advance of computerisation, however, has not yet wiped out nations and ethnic groups.”
Oshii and Shirow have a lot to say in their masterpiece(s). This introductory paragraph is no exception. Setting the scene it illustrates the rate at which the corporations have controlled technology to their advantage in, not just making money but, controlling the lives of those people it relied upon to fuel their original growth and their insatiable appetite for more.
‘Ghost in the Shell’ is one of the classic anime. It is certainly, and will be in the future, regarded as one of the greatest films of the genre. In many ways Oshii created a philosophically and aesthetically beautiful film. However, just what is inside that beautifully crafted, yet Byzantine, shell? Well, this article is designed to delve into and, ultimately, understand just what Oshii, and too a extent Shirow, is attempting to say in this landmark film.
Before this piece commences on its journey though the heart of ‘Ghost in the Shell’ it is, perhaps, more important to understand what the surrounds The Shell of ‘Ghost in the Shell’. This part of the article is focused on defining ‘Ghost in the Shell’ adequately whilst simultaneously examining the sub-genre ‘Ghost in the Shell’ redefined in 1995: Cyberpunk science fiction.