I'm back from NYAF. It was magnificent. A big part of that was due to Hideyuki Kikuchi and Yoshitaka Amano being there — both of whom I was able to greet, although not sit down in detail with. There's a longish discussion of the Amano panel here at AMN, although I'll chomp out the best bit here.
At the end of the panel the moderators unveiled a goodie: four Vampire Hunter D T-shirts designed by Amano himself. Rather than just chuck them into the audience at random (hey, it worked for Del Rey and those compulsively squishy gavels), they elected to pick people, have them stand up, say why they were an Amano fan, and have the best responders picked by Amano himself.
In the end we had to play jan-ken-pon with Amano to determine the winner.
The responses were wide-ranging and perennially enthusiastic:
"It makes you want to be an artist yourself!"
"You are contemporary Art Nouveau."
"When I was little I used to copy Final Fantasy art all the time; I owe myself to you as an artist."
"I went to art school because of you."
"This is the only reason I'm here for this convention. There's no limit to what you can do with your imagination and he's proof of that."
"Amano has created some of the greatest watercolor work that I didn't even think could exist."
"Amano made sure Final Fantasy is never final."
"To me it's more than just artwork; it's the one thing that brought me and my brother together, looking at the artwork for Final Fantasy and playing the games. We're both in our 20s now, and we come together for Final Fantasy, still."
"I don't care about the shirt — just, thank you for being in New York, you've ben an influence, And thank you for signing the book earlier!"
My own answer:
"Your art makes me feel like I'm dreaming even when I'm wide awake."
I guess he liked that one.
If you love a series because it plays to a whole array of personal fascinations, is that a bad thing? Nightmare Inspector is an anthology of things I adore without apology — 1920s Japan, gorgeously dreamy art, and of course manga itself — but at the same time, I know I’d be doing a disservice to anyone reading this if I didn’t review it instead of simply gushing about it.
And so with the third volume, the series has settled into a comfortable formula, although one where they ring enough twists on the basics to make it perennially interesting instead of leaden and repetitive. Each night a new customer comes to the Silver Star Tea House, seeking the aid of Hiruko the baku or dream-eater. He’ll devour their nightmares for them, and often play amateur psychoanalyst while doing so … but what his clients find is not always what they have been seeking. The way each search is visualized and played off is a big part of the fun, and the conclusions to each story often involve a clever O. Henry-style twist. There’s very little meta-plot in this particular volume, and so the individual stories tend to be highly self-contained, but the few times such connections come up they hint at a larger and more all-encompassing storyline that’s only just now being hinted at.Read more
Word has it the guy was nearly blown to bits when he was a kid, which explains that ugly piebald face and that mess of scars all over it — none of which is completely hidden by that also-ugly shock of white hair. The string tie and the cape he’s always wearing only make him seem all the more aloof. Small wonder people only go to him, with suitcases full of cash in hand, when they’re desperate. No one hires Black Jack, the underground doctor, unless they absolutely have to. And even when you do hire him, there’s no guarantee you’re going to get exactly what you ask for.
Consider the case of Acudo, son of the billionaire Nikula. The kid was a bad seed; nobody disputed that. Drove his car right into a phone pole and ended up a barely-living pile of meat. Nikula threw around money like it was falling leaves to get someone to heal his son — and sure enough, he got Black Jack to do the job. Trouble was, even Black Jack couldn’t do anything for the kid without some donor parts … and so Nikula was only too happy to railroad some poor kid, a tailor named Davy, into “providing” his body for the noble cause. What Nikula didn’t expect was for Black Jack to pull a switcheroo on everyone and give that poor Davy a way out. That’s Black Jack for you: two-fisted surgeon of the underworld and equally covert humanitarian. He may not tell you he cares, but he’ll show you … that is, if you’ve earned it.Read more
There's little that's more frustrating and saddening to see than a writer hung up on their own ability to just write. The pressure to produce something, anything is so strong that, in the end, nothing comes out at all. The internal censors are too loud and too strident, and the pencil ends up meeting the page maybe once. It's doubly frustrating when you are barely able to eke out a couple of pages at a time, and then you know people who can sit down and hammer out thousands of words as if they were turning a tap.
It isn't hard for me to just sit down and write, partly because I've made a career out of doing it (albeit not writing fiction). But I'm close to a number of people who are not like that, and they are deeply frustrated by it. To them, I can only share the advice that I took to heart which, in time, helped get the tap opened up:
Some people (mostly regular visitors to the site) have been asking me, "So what's the deal with you losing TheGline.com and moving to GenjiPress.com?" Some of this has been discussed in the About Me page, but I thought some description of what Genji Press itself is would be worth bringing up.
I'll be posting a version of this to the FAQ section of the site and updating it from time to time, but for now I thought I'd post this to the front page as well for comment.
What is Genji Press, exactly?
Genji Press is my own personal imprint, an ægis that I will be using for books of my own creation. Since I'm discovering that most of what I want to write and publish centers around Japan or Asia / the Far East in general, I chose a name and an image (the Genji clan crest) that seemed fitting.
Everything that is published through Genji Press is my own creation — not just the writing, but also the artwork, typesetting, layout, the whole package.
Why did you start doing this?
I started Genji Press for a few reasons:
With the advent of print-on-demand publishing, it's become not only possible but easy for me to make all this happen at minimal cost to myself. I can sell individual copies and still make a profit, although I do make a bit more if I manage to sell in volume.
Will your books be available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.?
Yes. My strategy is to issue a standalone, direct-print edition first, leave that in print for about a year, and then replace it with a barcoded version that is available through major online retailers. I do this because barcodes are expensive — $100 or so for each book — and I want to make sure the content and design are both "locked" before committing myself. I will post notice of when the barcoded versions are available.
[If you have other questions, don't hesitate to post them here so I can add them to the FAQ.]
That's right! The first new copies of The Four-Day Weekend are back in-house and ready to be signed, sealed, delivered and sent your merry way!
Signed copies are $25 (includes shipping and any applicable sales tax). Unsigned copies ordered directly from the printer are $15, as always.
Go to the main 4DW page for the purchase link!
Criterion did it again. Namely, they rescued a movie that's been out of circulation since it was filmed: Samuel Fuller's controversial White Dog. Previously only available in (bad) import editions and (even worse) bootlegs, this didn't even make it into theaters when it was first filmed. Nifty trivia: Curtis Hanson adapted the story from Romain Gary's novel, which was based on his own experiences with a dog he picked up.
The sudden death of David Foster Wallace prompted me to check out the commencement speech he delivered. The whole thing is absolutely worth reading; it's a wonderfully Dutch Uncle-esque talk about the value of being the master of your own mind.
What I may do this year is file excerpts from the ongoing NaNo on a daily basis — nothing major, just little teasers here and there to keep people curious. They will probably be enormously different from the finished product, mind you, but I love teasers regardless.
I'm also in the process of straightening up the way the archives are organized, especially the categories, which are still a little messy and have a bit too much of the stock Movable Type feel to them. I've also been making aggressive use of SSIs and other mechanisms to minimize the amount of rebuilding that needs to be done. (I toyed with the idea of using dynamic pages a la WordPress, but for now I'd like to see how far a static page mode can carry me.)
You probably noticed I posted a bunch of new stuff in the Movies department — it's actually backlog that I had piling up and wanted to get published before it got too stale.
Much of the tinkering that has been going on behind the scenes here at Genji Press has been about making it easier to post things like that. It used to be a terrible pain to get movie reviews formatted and posted, but thankfully I've streamlined things enough to remove most of the gruntwork. (The slowest part is dealing with the images, but Irfanview helps with that a great deal.)
One interesting trick I've found is to pick a movie (or a book, or what have you) and write one paragraph per day for it. Since such things don't tend to weight in at more than a thousand words tops, I can usually crank out one or more a week by following this method. That was, in fact, what I did this time out and it worked spectacularly well.
Some of the other stuff floating around in various stages of completion that I'll turn back to: The Face of Another, Shinobi no Mono, Space Is The Place, the recent live-action Sukeban Deka remake (there's no way I couldn't talk about that after doing Machine Girl!), Death Trance, and all the stuff I finally have time for from my NetFlix queue: Zebraman, Seijun Suzuki's Taishō Trilogy (pretty fitting considering this year's NaNo project), and maybe some of the "pinky violence" movies that I never got to in my queue.
I'm also throwing in the BD versions of Sarah Connor Chronicles and Heroes Season 1 (yes, I'm horribly behind), since the former isn't available as Watch Now and the latter will be well worth it in HD. I don't think I'll be writing those up, just watching them, but they'll be well worth the time either way.
Neil Marshall’s Doomsday is like something you’d get from a random movie generator, with the Genre Mashup and Stylistic Overkill meters all turned up to 11. I can safely say that no other movie I have seen so freely intermixes post-apocalyptic action, medieval-level survivalism, political intrigue, zombie hordes, dead-zone infiltration squads, swordplay, gunplay, and Malcom McDowell. With a film this unrepentantly, cheerfully bonkers, Malcom McDowell is actually one of the saner things in it, which is saying a lot.
He’s not just confined to his relatively small role as (what else?) a mad scientist; he even narrates the chaotic opening scenes, which depict the United Kingdom crumbling into anarchy when a murderous Ebola-esque virus begins spreading and leaving legions of both dead and walking dead in its path. Scotland is walled off and left as a no-man’s-land, and an uneasy twenty years go by. Life becomes all the grimmer, with the all-seeing Department of Domestic Security enforcing curfews and watching sternly for any sign of another Reaper Virus outbreak. Read more
Pyrokinesis (Cross Fire in Japan) is a frustrating mixture of good and bad elements, a solid premise dragged down by needlessly hammy emotional moments and outright clumsy direction. I’m fairly sure this isn’t a case of things getting lost in translation, just weak filmmaking.
The story’s an adaptation of Miyuki Miyabe’s novel, which I read and enjoyed in its recent paperback edition in English. Miyabe’s book is like a more adult version of Stephen King’s Firestarter — it begins, in some sense, where King’s book left off, and gives us a woman in her twenties who uses her powers of pyrokinesis to exact justice. I liked the way it kept the story firmly anchored in reality, and used its premise as a way to mull over the concept of revenge in a society where many crimes go unpunished. Read more
Some movies come off like actor’s workshop experiments, where the players are given a scenario — no matter how improbable — and are expected to play it straight through without breaking character. Karaoke Terror plays like an anthology of such scenes, with the common denominator not really being the plot but the way everyone has to treat the most absurd goings-on with complete seriousness. They do, much to their credit, but sadly not to ours.
As you can probably guess from the title, Karaoke Terror deals (however peripherally) with one of Japan’s most broadly-exported pastimes apart from the Nintendo Wii. On one side we have a gang of twentysomething guys whose idea of a big thrill is to drive a van out to the shore, set up a PA system, and sing the greatest hits of the Showa era in kooky costumes. On the other side, we have a clutch of women in their forties — all named “Midori”, all divorced and with only the most tentative of connections between them at first. When one of the kids flips out and slashes a Midori’s throat open, the other girls band together to get revenge. Soon each side is arming themselves with progressively more dangerous military hardware, from motorcycle-mounted spears to illegal guns to rocket launchers to … you get the idea. Read more
Tags: Movable Type
My test for any live-action adaptation of an anime or manga is simple: Can I walk into this cold and not feel like I came to a stranger’s family reunion, where I have no idea why people are fighting or embracing? That was the problem I had with Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children — it wasn’t made for anyone who wasn’t a fan, and boy did the fans ever know it.
Thankfully, that hasn’t happened with the live-action adaptation of Death Note. I knew just enough about the series to get in the door but nothing beyond that, and in the end it scarcely mattered. By the one-third mark I was intrigued; by the halfway mark I was enthralled; and by the time it was over I was hankering for the follow-up. If you’ve been avoiding the series because it seems like a lot to swallow at once, the movie serves as a nice crash-course introduction to the goings-on.Read more
The copies I've ordered (which I'll be signing and sending out) should be in sometime next week. Sorry to keep everyone waiting, but I wanted to make sure everything was right.
UPDATE: For those of you who wanted signed copies, I'll eventually have a PayPal link directly from the book page. Look for that in the coming week or so.
After reading Ebert's wonderful essay on his favorite movie, I had to ask myself: What is my favorite movie? I don't know, for several reasons:
But that doesn't mean I can't try, and to that end, here's a quick rundown, right now, of some that I love the most. They are the movies I can put in every day of the week and feel excited about, that if I'm channel-surfing and I come across one of them I'll stop right there and watch them through, even if I came in somewhere in the middle.
In no particular order, here are the first five. I'll post more in the days to come. Click the star for my review.
When Viz announced their VIZBIG line of reprint editions for select titles, I couldn’t help but let my mind go scurrying off in a dozen directions at once. Three volumes in one for the price of two; an 8 ½” × 6” trim size, French flaps, top-notch print quality … the last time I was this jazzed was when I found out the Criterion Collection was preparing to offer its catalog titles in Blu-ray. But if Criterion was offering The Man Who Fell To Earth and The Last Emperor, what did Viz have planned?
As it turns out, they picked one of the best titles they could possibly have elected to offer in the VIZBIG format. I speak of Takehiko Inoue’s Vagabond, which is not only one of the best titles Viz has under its wing right now but probably one of the best manga to see print, period. I try not to hyperbolize, but believe me, this is one of the few times where the comic in question is worth every bit of the fanboy gush. Doubly so in this edition, which not only gives you that much more Musashi for the money but serves it up on a page that’s even bigger and bolder than the original editions did.Read more
Breno Mello, the star of the enchanting Black Orpheus (available domestically from Criterion), died earlier this year at the age of 76. He had been in a number of other films in his native Brazil, but eventually opted for a career in soccer. It's single performances like his that often capture my attention far more vigorously than a career — but then again, along comes someone like Tatsuya Nakadai to prove me wrong...
Attention everyone who was at AnimeFest 2008 and came my way:
Sometime between 2PM Sunday afternoon and the following Monday, my camera went missing. The camera in question was a Canon PowerShot A560, with a small silver "REWARD" sticker on the side. The sticker has a serial number (which I will not reveal here to avoid abuse).
I have already talked to the convention staff, the hotel management, many of the people I dealt with that evening (including the folks who were up in my room that night and might have mistakenly packed the camera in with their things), the trash cans in the room, the restaurant we ate at that night, etc., etc. Nothing has turned up.
I am not as upset about the loss of the camera as I am the pictures that were on the memory card — I had shot quite a few photos and videos that day, and would have liked to include them in my collection.
If you have any ideas, information, leads, what have you, please get in touch via the feedback form for this post. There is a reward for the return of the camera, so if you are aware of its location, please keep this in mind.
Thanks to everyone who might be able to help!
I spent most of the last two days highballing NyQuil and wishing I didn't feel like red-hot pokers were being shoved into my eyesockets. That's right — Con Crud (or Con Staph, ha ha), which is rather surprising since I felt more than fine after I left, followed pretty scrupulous self-sanitization measures, and haven't gotten a case of serious consickness since about 2003 or so.
So I dosed myself, and slept — or tried to — and was plunged into a fever nightmare the likes of which I hadn't experienced in a long time. The good news is that fever dreams are, for me, usually a source of inspiration.
The dream was set in Japan's Taishō Era — sort of the Roaring Twenties of Japan, but also suffused with a heavy dose of dread and deathly decadence. Kawabata's novel The Scarlet Gang of Asakusa and Edogawa Rampo's detective thriller The Black Lizard both do a great job of encapsulating the aroma and flavor of the era — the former in a more literary way, and the latter in the guise of pulp fiction.
My dream, though, revolved around a young man who was caught in the Kantō Earthquake and finds himself curiously "unstuck in time". He journeys to the past before the devastation of the quake, and finds comfort there in things he remembers, but that comfort soon turns out to be short-lived — everything that was familiar and happy there quickly turns strange and terrible. He returns to the present, but there finds himself pursued by hellish apparitions bent on consuming his soul. He finds some shelter with a spirit medium, but even she isn't able to help him. The only answer lies in the future ...
... and if I start talking about how all that works out, I'll ruin one of the best reasons to read it when I finish writing it. Which, by my best estimates, will probably start sometime in, oh, November. Hint, hint.
One key thing is the look and feel of the whole work, which is hard to put into words. My closest point of comparison would be the art of Suehiro Maruo — he of the phantasmagorically evil Mr. Arashi's Amazing Freak Show, the brilliant if also vile Ultra-Gash Inferno, and many others that will probably never see print in the U.S. at this rate. His nostalgia for the Taishō-era look and feel comes through in all of his works — even the ones that are allegedly set in the present day — and so does an all-pervading sense of unease, something else I want to capture in this thing when i write it.
I even have a tentative title: 関東地獄 Kantō Jigoku, or Tokyo Inferno. Kantō is the Eastern part of Japan that contains Tokyo, and there is a certain cachet associated with using that word, although in English "Tokyo" carries more of a meaning than "Kantō", sadly. Hence the substitution.
I'll be tagging posts about this and setting up a separate category for it before long.
So what's the deal with Criterion's new edition of Salò missing a few seconds of footage as opposed to the BFI UK version? The whole story is far more interesting than you might imagine. My original theory was a permissions issue with the poem, but apparently the sequence doesn't appear in the original Italian vault-master interpositive at all. The link has video clips from both Criterion's edition and what appears to be the Region 2 PAL BFI edition, and even despite the tiny window sizes you can still see a marked difference in quality.
I should also point out that the BFI is bringing out its own 2-disc Blu-ray edition (and conventional DVD) of the film, with markedly different extras than the Criterion edition.
About time I got caught up, hm?
This is a long one, so I'll put everything after the cut.Read more
Note: To all those who replied, thank you — I haven't forgotten about you. I've just been dealing with a horrid case of the flu for the past two days. I'm hoping to have all the pending orders fulfilled by this weekend. Thanks for being patient — I'll have some extra goodies in it for you!
ATTENTION: ANIMEFEST 2008 COUPON CODE HOLDERS!
If you came by the Genji Press table at AnimeFest 2008, some of you got a coupon code — a six-character code redeemable for a signed copy of either Summerworld or The Four-Day Weekend at the convention price of $15 (instead of the usual price of $25 for a signed copy).
Here's what you need to do to redeem your code:
All comments will be screened here and will not be published, so don't worry about leaving additional personal information. If want to leave me a note about another subject — a thank you, etc. — reply to this post instead.