A gent by the name of Josh Inman said it best, “Everybody wants diversity…….until it happens.”
My time in Japan is dwindling down fast so I have been trying to travel a lot. I went to Tokyo last week to check out a video game exhibit (more on that another time) but my friend informed me that there was a Sailor Moon exhibit over at Tokyo City View, the observation deck in Roppongi Hills. Being a huge Sailor Moon fan, I knew I needed to check it out for myself.
Ever since I moved to Japan in 2011, I have been checking out Osaka’s (my current hometown) cosplay extravaganza, the Nipponbashi Street Festa. Every year around the end of March, hundreds of cosplayers, anime/video game fans, and photographers collide in Nipponbashi (aka Den Den Town), Osaka’s answer to Akihabara. Sadly, this was my final experience in witnessing this wonderful event as I will be moving back to the U.S. this summer.
As always, it did not disappoint.
Japan has long produced visual media that has captivated readers and viewers for decades. Manga and anime are two classic mediums through which fantastical worlds and profound characters come to life. Of all the hundreds of thousands of characters that exist in these worlds, there are a handful that share a close resemblance to African Americans. Though these characters are not always explicitly identified as black, they are heavily coded as black or Afro-descended. The aesthetic of black coded characters in anime and manga reflect the same ideologies of black males in U.S media and society. Popular series like Naruto and Samurai Champloo both use tropes of black males and demonstrate common ideas about their masculinity and how they are read by others. Hip hop is the vehicle through which Japan understands American blackness which manifests itself in various ways in Japanese media.
Japan. The land of anime and manga. When those two are brought up, usually the district of Akihabara in the city of Tokyo comes to mind. Sure, Akihabara still is the mecca of countless arcades with floors full of games, stores full of anime merchandise, and tons of specialty stores that will probably have what you are looking for. However, Akihabara is not the only area where these things can be found.
Nipponbashi, otherwise known as Den Den Town, can be seen as the Akihabara of Osaka. While not the size of Akihabara, Den Den Town still caters to the needs of many nerds, myself included. The laidback and easygoing pace of Den Den Town is a lot more relaxing than the hustle and bustle of Akiba. Den Den Town is also home to one of my favorite events of the year: the Nipponbashi Street Festa.
The above picture did it. This was the image that broke the representation camel’s back. I was with my family in San Francisco’s Japantown where we stumbled upon a mini faire of artists hawking all things influenced by anime and manga1. It was astonishing. All ages, colors, and genders — there were few demographics not represented — milled about. Artists sold t-shirts, buttons, posters and postcards, handmade mecha figures, and independently produced films and comics. And there was cosplay — lots and lots of cosplay. Needless to say, money was spent.
Last week, we brought you Black Girl Nerds’ account of the shooting of Darrien Hunt, the 22-year old Utah man who was killed by police for “brandishing a sword” that happened to not be a real sword at all. Depressingly, Hunt’s murder is part of an all too common pattern of high-profile killings of unarmed black men by those who have been sworn to protect and serve them.
The death of Darrien Hunt did not happen in a vaccum. In the wake of similar instances in Staten Island with Eric Garner, or Ferguson with Michael Brown, and Ohio with John Crawford1 — and these cases are just from this summer — the mainstream media and society in general is paying attention more than they ever have in the past.
Originally posted at Reappropriate
I went to see the new Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt science-fiction film Edge of Tomorrow, which is based on the Japanese novel and manga All You Need is Kill.
The racial cross-casting of Cage’s character aside — he is inspired by Japanese protagonist Keiji in the manga — this film is phenomenal. Nerds and feminists — and especially nerd feminists — will adore this movie. It’s sharp, funny, entertaining, compelling, and visually stunning. Haters of Tom Cruise get to see Tom Cruise get killed about a hundred times in stunt scenes that Cruise himself described as “channeling Wile E. Coyote” on The Daily Show. Emily Blunt’s Rita is stellar: she is the aspirational super-soldier, and not the simpering girlfriend; she’s also got a bad-ass giant sword. Those who loved Pacific Rim‘s portrayal of a male-female peer relationship that was largely non-sexual will adore the relationship between Rita and Cruise’s Cage in this film.
Basically, it’s just really good. Go see it. I’ll wait.
Out of all of the Hayao Miyazaki films I have known and loved, only one has remained my favorite over the years: Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. Nausicaä is famous for a number of reasons, not least of which is for being the film that more or less is the reason Studio Ghibli got off the ground, as its success led to the formation of the studio. It is also the first feature-length film that Miyazaki based on an original property, following his entry into the Lupin III series, The Castle of Cagliostro. In Nausicaä, several motifs and themes that would dominate Miyazaki’s work would be established: flying, an inclination toward pacifism and eco-consciousness, a strong female protagonist (and antagonist in the case of this film). All of these things would be featured repeatedly in Miyazaki’s films, but Nausicaä featured them first.
But the most curious thing about Nausicaä is how it has existed in the US. There have been three distinctly different portrayals of the property, each with their own quirks and interests, that have been given to American audiences, and it’s worth examining what each of them represent.
It’s been a little over a day since I saw both versions of Oldboy — one by Spike Lee and one by Park Chan-wook — back to back. The more I reflect on the Spike Lee version, the worse and worse it gets in my head. So I’ll just barf out the major wrongs about this sad re-make and be done with it.
This write-up will be chock full of spoilers which will save you a lot of time and money. I’m also assuming that my readers have seen the original, Korean version of Oldboy. And if you’re keeping track at home, both versions (American and Korean) are based on the Japanese manga of the same name by Garon Tsuchiya and Nobuaki Minegishi.