While here in Japan we’re often forced to wait an absolute eternity for blockbuster movies from abroad to hit the screens — just as an example Star Trek Into Darkness doesn’t arrive until 23 August, making this the last country listed on imdb.com to screen the sequel, three months after even Iceland — there are some home-baked goodies to keep us entertained.
It helps, of course, if you’re into anime and manga, which I most certainly am, and 2013 is bubbling with big-screen versions of some titles you may’ve heard of before.
For starters there’s something out later this month (July) courtesy of the great Katsuhiro Otomo, the genius behind both the Akira (1989) movie and manga, and one of my favourite Japanese comic book short-story books in English: Memories.
If you’ve never picked up this weighty tome, you should, since it’s a 250-page compendium of short stories that veer wildly from surprising twists verging on Twilight Zone to silly slapstick, but it’s the title-tale ‘Memories’ that always grabs me.
A space salvage vessel with a cranky crew finds a drifting Marie Céleste with plush carpets, chandeliers, empty books and homicidal robot watchdogs — not to mention a mummified cadaver reaching out from beyond the grave.
With his new film Short Peace, Otomo has negotiated with Shuhei Morita, Hiroaki Ando, Hajime Katoki and Kōji Morimoto to produce a four-part short story omnibus, apparently based at least partially on Otomo’s 1979 manga of the same name.
Though I haven’t had the opportunity yet to go to a screening, this one looks fantastic.
72-year-old filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki, better known to most Westerners as the director of anime opus Spirited Away (2001) but also the director of superb romps like My Neighbor Totoro, The Castle of Cagliostro and Nausicaä, has once again abandoned retirement (a running joke here in Japan) and is set to release his new movie the same day as Otomo: July 20.
This one is titled Kaze Tachinu (The Wind Has Risen), loosely based on the manga of the same name, which was itself sourced from a short story by Tatsuo Hori. Basically it’s the fictionalized biography of Dr. Jiro Horikoshi, the designer of the Mitsubishi A6M Zero — the famed World War II era fighter aircraft.
In an aside for Neon Genesis Evangelion fans, the creator of that romp (Hideaki Anno) is doing the voice acting chores here in the role of Dr. Horikoshi.
Classic anime is also being translated into live-action with the upcoming release of Gatchaman (a.k.a. aka Battle of the Planets, or G-Force) in late August, based on 1972’s Kagaku Ninjatai Gatchaman (Science Ninja Team Gatchaman) created by Tatsuo Yoshida of Speed Racer fame.
This version was directed by Toya Sato, who helmed the TV series Sexy Voice and Robo, and stars Tori Matsuzaka (Kamen Rider Decade), Gō Ayano (Love Exposure), and model/actress Ayame Goriki.
Anyone who’s brushed up on the wayward back-stories of Flash in Japan might be lucky enough (or not) to recall that I was a gaijin extra in that film and ran a story with on-set happy snaps back in January — see here,
Other upcoming anime features?
Winner of the longest-winded title goes to Gekijōban Gintama Kanketsu-hen: Yorozuya yo Eien Nare (no shorter in English, since it’s been translated as Gintama: The Movie: The Final Chapter: Be Forever Yorozuya), has just been release on 6 July.
And the delayed second volume of the Code Geass offshoot ‘Akito the Exiled’ is now to be released in September, directed by Kazuki Akane (The Vision of Escaflowne) and again featuring the original character designs by CLAMP.
So, yep, while we may be waiting twiddling out thumbs for Hollywood fare, there’s certainly enough on one’s plate here in Tokyo to keep the senses amused.