Friday, May 04, 2007

Japanamerica JAPAN mini-tour

We're gearing up for the Japanamerica mini-tour of Japan in anticipation of the May 24 release of the book's Japanese-language edition, published by Random House Kodansha. Dates are being settled, but the first will be this Sunday, May 6, at The Pink Cow in Shibuya, Tokyo. The evening is billed as "Japanamerica Night," and will feature an exhibition of anime and manga artwork, DVD clips, live music and much talk and discussion among me, Leo Lewis of the Times of London and other writers, artists and producers on hand in Tokyo.

More info is on the invitation flyer posted above. If you are in this vast city of spectacle and sprawl, you are more than welcome to join us. Admission is free.

Other currently confirmed dates include:

In the works are some bilingual events in Tokyo co-hosted by author, translator and University of Tokyo professor Motoyuki Shibata, who reviewed Iyasu Nagata's excellent translation for final publication. The bilingual presentations will likely commence in June, when the Japanese edition is readily available.

I have now been in Tokyo for a few weeks since wrapping up the US tour. The days have been thrilling, if a tad dizzying. In addition to The New Yorker's Roz Chat's visit with Azuma-san, which I began to chronicle in an earlier post, the kind folks at GDH invited me to attend their world premiere screening of Afro Samurai, which is just now debuting on Japanese TV. The screening was the first of a two-hour version of the episodes, involving previously cut scenes and additional footage. While it didn't quite play like a feature film, the richness of the visuals combined with a more contiguous, commercial-free version of the narrative resulted in a spellbinding experience.

I believe the version I saw at a theater in Shibuya will be available on DVD in the US later this month.

Reports from Tekkon Kinkreet's week-long MoMA premiere screenings in New York have been equally gratifying: Screenwriter Anthony Weintraub notes that all were sold-out, and the responses of those who attended (including dear friends and family of mine) has been characterized by awe and and enthusiasm for the medium and its possibilities.

I also managed to squeeze in a lunch with the brilliant and prolific Susan J. Napier, whose forthcoming book, From Impressionism to Anime, promises to significantly expand discussion and understanding of the historical and critical relationships between the forms.

During our meeting in Tokyo, Susan said that she keeps expecting the rising Western interest in the manga and anime media--and in the contemporary culture in general--to peak. All evidence, however, points to the contrary.

Forthcoming are the Michael Bay/Steven Spielberg" big-budget blockbuster version of "Transformers", due in July and based on the assorted robot toys produced by Japan's Takara over 25 years ago; The Wachowski Brothers' (The Matrix series) version of Speed Racer, to which both Christina Ricci and Susan Sarandon have both committed, and based on the manga and TV series created by Tetsuo Yoshida in the 1960s; and new animated/CGI versions of both Astro Boy (Tezuka Osamu) and Gatchaman (Battle of the Planets, also by the Yoshida brothers of Tatsunoko Productions), currently being created and produced by the Hong Kong and LA-based Imagi International--whose very friendly folks invited me to a lunch meeting in LA, and described Japanamerica as "our business plan in a book."

Speaking of LA, if you happen to be there this weekend, do attend the special screening of Tekkon Kinkreet at the Visual Communications Festival. You won't be disappointed.

More to mention, but for now: Watch your back, Spidey.

Hope to see you Sunday in Tokyo.

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