Sunday, June 19, 2016

Frederik L. Schodt and new manga biography, "The Osamu Tezuka Story," for The Japan Times

Drawing on the past of Osamu Tezuka


By ROLAND KELTS

In 1977, American author and translator Frederik L. Schodt and three friends formed a manga-translation group in Tokyo, with the then-quixotic dream of introducing Japanese comics to a global readership. Schodt had arrived in Japan in 1965, courtesy of a father in the United States Foreign Service. He returned in 1970 to attend university after a short stint in the U.S. At the time, manga were everywhere in Japan, he says, and a lot more fun to read than textbooks.

Schodt became addicted to the gag-and-parody series published in boys’ magazines. But one day a friend loaned him a copy of Osamu Tezuka’s epic 12-volume “Phoenix” — and he was stunned. “It made me realize that the work of Japanese manga artists was sometimes approaching the best in literature and film,” he says.

So he and his translation team went straight to Tezuka Productions to get permission for their debut project. To their surprise, the artist, already a celebrity in Japan, known as “the god of manga” for hit titles such as “Astro Boy” and “Black Jack,” greeted them personally and said yes.

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Godzilla returns to Japan after 12 years

Godzilla Resurgence: Japan Reboots Its Most Iconic Monster

After a twelve-year hiatus, Godzilla returns to theaters in Japan this July, and could be more relevant than ever.

By Jonathan DeHart


If the trailer released in April is anything to go by, Godzilla Resurgence (Shin Gojira), could set a new bar for the series.

Set to a dramatic musical score and devoid of dialog, the minute and a half of footage teases viewers with scenes of epic destruction, as Godzilla looms above, swaying what appears to be the largest tail in the series’ history. Fleets of tanks, helicopters and battleships unleash a vicious onslaught of firepower against the gigantic, irradiated lizard – to no avail – as panicked military and government officials frantically formulate a game plan and terrified citizens flee for cover.

As the 29th installment in the monster’s sprawling filmography is being met with widespread anticipation, it begs the question: What gives Godzilla so much staying power?

“Godzilla resonates because it’s a great character, visually, acting-wise, all the ways that characters become great. It is a great anthropomorphic representation of forces beyond human control,” Matt Alt, author of numerous books on Japanese culture, including Yokai Attack!: The Japanese Monster Survival Guide,  told  The Diplomat.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Obama, Hiroshima and the view from Japan, for The Christian Science Monitor

For Japanese, Obama's Hiroshima visit is historic – but complicated


Obama toured Hiroshima's Peace Museum Friday, a move strongly supported by survivors of the first atomic bomb. But his trip stirred up tough questions about how Japan treats its own history.

By ROLAND KELTS, Contributor

TOKYO — As Japanese parsed the meaning of President Obama’s visit to Hiroshima on Friday, virtually all agreed it was historic. But that is where the consensus ​ends.

The controversy in the United States over whether he would apologize for the bombs dropped in August 1945 over Hiroshima and Nagasaki was answered unequivocally: He did not. But here in Japan, ​the event was being received with considerable skepticism, even as the city of 1.2 million prepared for Mr. Obama's tour of its Peace Memorial Museum – called "gut-wrenching" by Secretary of State John Kerry last month – and his speech near its cenotaph.

​Japan is acutely sensitive to its history as the only nation to have experienced the devastation of nuclear weapons. Memorial ceremonies take place every August and are broadcast solemnly on network television. Yet Obama's visit shines a spotlight on uncomfortable and potentially unanswerable questions about a deeper national identity crisis stemming from World War II: Was Japan primarily an aggressor or a victim?​ And if the president’s purpose was not to apologize, then what was it?

Monday, May 16, 2016

Manga pioneer Viz Media's 30th anniversary, for The Japan Times


photo courtesy of Bjoern Eichstaedt

By ROLAND KELTS

This summer, Viz Media, LLC, North America’s first-ever distributor of Japanese popular culture, turns 30. Founded in 1986 by Seiji Horibuchi, who has since moved on to other projects, the company is now housed in the so-called Twitter building in downtown San Francisco, and boasts the largest library of Japanese media content outside of Japan.

But don’t expect buses festooned with Viz banners circling through town. Viz plans to celebrate through events with and for fans, says Chief Marketing Officer Brad Woods. That means special offers at North American anime cons, starting with July’s Anime Expo in Los Angeles and Comic Con in San Diego, and rolling out through autumn 2016.

“We’re not going to throw a ridiculous party,” Woods says. “We just want to thank the fan base. That’s what it comes down to. A high-five for the people involved who made us.”

Sunday, May 08, 2016

Live in NYC at Parsons New School on May 10: The Roots of Manga

Roland Kelts, May 10, 2016 at 7pm

The 156th meeting of the NY Comics & Picture-story Symposium will be held on Tuesday,  May 10, 2016 at 7pm at Parsons The New School for Design, 2 West 13th Street, in the Bark Room (off the lobby). Free and open to the public.


Roland Kelts on The Hybrid Roots of Manga:
How the influx of American and other Western cultural artifacts after World War II evolved into a form of expression whose visual and narrative characteristics are today considered distinctively Japanese.


Roland Kelts is the author of the critically acclaimed and bestselling Japanamerica. His articles, essays and fiction are published in The New Yorker, Time, The Wall Street Journal, Zoetrope: All Story, The New York Times, Newsweek Japan, Guernica, The Guardian and The Japan Times, among others. He is also a frequent contributor to CNN, the BBC, NPR and NHK. He is a visiting scholar at Keio University and contributing editor of Monkey Business, Japan’s premier literary magazine. His forthcoming novel is called Access.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Live in NYC, 4/27 - 4/30

Authors: Hideo Furukawa, Mieko Kawakami, Rebecca Brown, Linh Dinh
Editors: Ted Goossen, Roland Kelts, Motoyuki Shibata
*All events are free and open to the public, unless otherwise noted.

  • April 27 Wed, 6:30pm: New York University (7 East 12th Street, Room 321, New York, NY)
  • April 28 Thur, 6pm: Kinokuniya Bookstore (1073 Ave of the Americas, New York, NY) *Brown and Dinh will not appear at this event
  • April 29 Fri, 7pm: BookCourt (163 Court Street bet. Pacific & Dean Sts., Brooklyn, NY)
  • April 30 Sat, 2pm: Asia Society (725 Park Avenue at 70th St.) : Monkey Business: Japan/America Writers’ Dialogue. Ticket $15
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Sunday, April 17, 2016

Anime goes live, for The Japan Times



By ROLAND KELTS

The first time I attended AnimeJapan, the industry’s annual spring showcase in Odaiba, Tokyo, it was called the Tokyo International Anime Fair. Members of the public couldn’t enter during the first two days, amateur cosplay (costume play) was prohibited, and while there were some presentations, most of the offerings were brochures, catalogs and swag bags. It was primarily a trade show and almost everything was printed in Japanese.

Not so at last month’s AnimeJapan 2016, where five stages kept the main halls booming with live music, variety shows, voice-acting demonstrations, panels and seminars. One stage hosted an anime career counseling center. Another presented a nearly nonstop lineup of mascots and singalongs for parents and kids under 12.

An expanded Cosplayer’s World section replete with dressing rooms, stage sets and an outdoor platform encouraged fans to pose and preen, then eat anime-inspired cuisine at an adjacent food court. Most of the signs and exhibitions had English translations, and often Chinese and Korean. The business area was in a separate hall entirely — soberly lit, filled with information booths and roundtables, comparatively hushed.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Satoshi on Monkeys in Manila

Artist and writer Satoshi Kitamura's illustrated account of the Monkey Business team in Manila.


Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Manga for beginners -- guest post by Danica Davidson

As manga has gone global, so has its fandom and its businesses. I started out as an American kid who watched anime without knowing it was anime, got interested in manga as a teen, began writing professionally about it, became involved with publishing companies to adapt and help edit manga, and am now releasing my first book on the subject, Manga Art for Beginners.


When I began writing about manga, it felt like literature’s best-kept secret in America. There were all these manga titles being brought over and sold in the manga section of bookstores, yet many people stayed away from reading manga because it was too“different” from what they’re used to (i.e., American comics). However, tides are changing.

Monday, April 04, 2016

Thank you, Tokyo Tour


Kinokuniya Bookstore, Shinjuku, Tokyo, 4/2:



Tollywood, Shimokitazawa, Tokyo 4/1:

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Live in Tokyo, Sat., 4/2: JAPANAMERICA / MONKEY talk, reading, signing @ KINOKUNIYA

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Books Kinokuniya Event

Culture Update: "Japanamerica" Next

WHEN: April 2nd, Saturday 2016
TIME: 3:00 PM -
PLACE: 6th floor, event space Books Kinokuniya Tokyo
Event is free, no pre-registration necessary

Ten years have gone by since the publication of the bestseller "Japanamerica: How Japanese Pop Culture Has Invaded the US", one of the most popular texts on contemporary Japanese culture. With this book as the centerpiece, we hope to have a discussion on popular texts before and after "Japanamerica" to paint a landscape of Japanese contemporary culture today. The speakers are writer Roland Kelts, the author of "Japanamerica", and Benjamin Boas, the author of "Nihon no kotowa Manga to Game de Manabimashita (Everything I Learned, I Learned from Manga and Games)", who are both Tokyo residents and know pop culture inside and out!
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Roland Kelts is the author of the acclaimed bestseller, Japanamerica: How Japanese Pop Culture has Invaded the US. He is a Steering Committee Member of the Rebuild Japan Initiative Foundation, a Tokyo-based think tank.
He writes for many publications, including The New Yorker, Time magazine, Newsweek Japan, The New York Times, The Guardian and The Japan Times, and his fiction has appeared in Zoetrope: All Story, Playboy, A Public Space and others. Recently, Kelts gave talks at the World Economic Forum in China and for TED in Tokyo. He is a contributing editor of Monkey Business International, the annual English edition of a Japanese literary magazine, and his forthcoming novel is called Access.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Bringing Britain to Japan, for The Japan Times




In Japan, Western culture usually means American products: hot dogs, hamburgers, Starbucks and Krispy Kreme donuts, and recent boutique outlets like Blue Bottle Coffee and the Dominique Ansel bakery — not to mention the nearly 50,000 United States military personnel still stationed across the archipelago.

The rest of the West, especially Europe, is often relegated to second-tier status. A bistro here, a trattoria there — a chain of quasi-pubs for ex-pats and tourists. While hipster Japanese may find European culture superior to American consumerism, its presence remains sparser.

British entrepreneur Dan Chuter is out to change that, at least as it applies to his homeland. Against economic odds, Chuter believes that genuine British culture can find a home in 21st-century Japan.