Archive for February 8th, 2008

IT’S SPREADING, DOCTOR. IT’S SPREADING: Japan is slowly taking over my life. I call Shintoist conspiracy.

So, somewhat belatedly, I’ve noticed something horrific incredible about myself: slowly, through the magic of anime, my other “hobbies”, namely, reading books and listening to music, are starting to fall more and more in line with that of Japanese popular culture. The music thing’s been going on for a while, but here in the last month or so it’s started to spread into a general exploration of Japanese music in general. I mean, I started off exploring into well-tread avenues for otaku: I’ve sound, Momoi Halko, MOSIAC.WAV, various other denpa acts. Then I started following doujin and related music, such as Sound Horizon, ALSTRORMERIA RECORDS, IOSYS, and Shikata Akiko. Then I found the Polysics. Then on some random whim I started hunting down music from bands who were featured in one of the two Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan games (I maintain against the tide of the internet that the soundtrack to 2 is fantastic, although 1 is fantastic as well, but in a different way), so now my musical interest is kind of spread into this general mismash of all things both music and Japanese.

The book thing isn’t quite as bad (despite being an avid lover of books, I don’t have much time to sit down and read, unfortunately) yet, but many of the books I’ve read in recent months have been Japanese in orgin. Brave Story, the first Twelve Kingdoms novel, Socrates in Love, and I’m working on Good Witch of the West v.1 now. Plus, I have copies of Dragoin Sword and Wind Child, Kino no Tabi v.1, and Boogiepop and Others lying around unread (and come March I’ll have to add Shinigami no Ballad to the growing pile), so it’s not like I have a dearth of things from Japan to read.

It’s just an unusual trend I’ve noticed in myself, but slowly, and directed by anime, I’ve started exploring tangentially related parts of Japanese culture I hadn’t seen before. I don’t think I’d call myself a “Japanophile” in the sense than one might normally call oneself that, by which I mean you think that Japan is the best country ever and that it can do no harm. However, at the same time, “Japanophile” is probably the best term for it. I don’t know what it is about the material I’ve seen from them, but it’s all been farily interesting. I think what gets me most is that they do things with a flavor and style I rarely see outside of Japan. Sure, Americans and Westerners in general are experimenting with rock and going down one direction, but I don’t like that direction, whereas Japan’s direction is much more palatable to my ears.

And there’s just something about Japanese narratives that I really like, especially ones that pertain to anime in some shape or form. I don’t think I can actually quantify it in words, but anime has, thus far, been the only genre (or medium, however you want to term it) of film that has held emotional power over me. American cinema can’t do things to me like Toki o Kakeru Shoujo did. American TV can’t hold a mesmerizing spell of suspense and intrigue over 74 episodes like Monster did. American books just feel like they have something missing, something to pull me in (Robin Hobb is a notable exception, however, most non-Japanese literature I read comes from Canada, the UK, or elsewhere). There’s just this mystical something that makes things better for me.

Maybe it’s the allure of the unknown or the foreign. Or maybe I’m sick of the way I lived for 18 years on American pop culture. Whatever the reason, there’s some kind of powerful grip on me.


Brave Story novel wins little-known ALA children’s book award; also Tokyo Media Arts Festival awards

I have no idea when the award was given out, but the 2008 Mildred L. Batchelder Award winner is none other than Miyki Miyabe’s own epic fantasy novel masterpiece Brave Story.

You’re probably looking at me like I’m crazy and saying “What on Earth is the Mildred L. Batchelder Award and why do I care?” I hadn’t heard of it hitherto this point either, but (according to the ALA award information page I linked above) it’s an award given to a foreign-language book of exceptional merit that has been translated into English. A list of past winners is available, in case you were curious (the only book I recognize off that list is Cornelia Funke’s The Thief Lord,and I work in a library, so you’re not alone in going “Say what now?”) but, of course, the important thing is that it won an award, which means that at least someone out there is paying attention. Japanese books have won the award before, of course, as that list I linked proves; the difference here is, of course, that the publisher for Brave Story is VIZ Media. Which means that a manga company has won an ALA award. I’m probably the only one impressed by this, of course, due to my librarian nature.

In other award new, spurred by the Brave Story award discovery, I checked Wikipedia for the winners of the Tokyo Media Arts Festival prizes and, lo and behold, two of the four winners of the Excellence Prize are none other than Tengen Toppa Gurren-Lagann and Dennou Coil. It’s not as awesome as taking home the Grand Prize, like Toki o Kakeru Shoujo deservedly did for 2006, but now people can mention Gurren-Lagann and Kamichu! in the same sentence and not raise eyebrows quite so much. Past Excellence awards winners include Neon Genesis Evangelion, Serial Experiments: Lain, Tokyo Godfathers and Mahou Shoutengai Abenobashi. By contrast, past Grand Prize winners include Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, Millenium Actress, Blood: The Last Vampire, the aforementioned Tokikake, and Mind Game (Kemonozume fans are probably rejoicing at this news, all three of them).

I still, however, don’t know if Youhou won a prize in the Entertainment/Interactive Art category. If anyone knows what happened with that, please let me know. It could probably win just on how interactive the fanbase is with the actual source material, in terms of generating content, but we don’t know.


I cannot understand those that take anime seriously, but I can love them, and I do. Out of my love I warn them to keep clear of this blog.

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February 2008