Thursday, September 24, 2009

On Gundam, girl-power AKB48 and this weekend's NYAF

My new column for the Daily Yomiuri (co-hosted by 3:AM Magazine) covers Gundam's creator, Yoshiyuki Tomino, and girl-power via AKB48--both of whom are in town right now to prep for appearances at this weekend's New York Anime Festival at the Javits Center in Manhattan. I'll be hosting panels with Tomino-san, AKB48 and voice actress Yui Makino. (Full schedule forthcoming.)

Special thanks to NYAF Director Peter Tatara for his time and insights.

SOFT POWER, HARD TRUTHS / Mecha auteur and mega girl group hit New York

This evening in New York, I will have the privilege of introducing and conversing with Yoshiyuki Tomino, veteran anime creator, director, screenwriter and novelist. Tomino is most famous for his now 30-year-old seminal mecha anime masterpiece, Mobile Suit Gundam. He has been making the rounds of late, granting public appearances and interviews both in Japan and overseas, and speaking out on topics as diverse as video games and world peace. Gundam, too, has resurfaced--most literally as a life-size, 18-meter-tall statue in Odaiba, Tokyo.

Organizers anticipated 1.5 million visitors to their gigantic giant robot. An estimated 4.15 million turned up over the statue's 40-day life span, which ended with its ceremonial dismantling earlier this month.

At least one couple even got married between its massive feet.

Tomino is in New York this weekend to participate in the third annual New York Anime Festival (NYAF), among the United States' largest and most media-friendly celebrations of Japanese popular culture. But while he and his giant robot are both consecrated classics at home, they may be yesterday's news--or not even newsworthy--for many of today's American otaku.

"Tomino is on the same level as Hayao Miyazaki," says Peter Tatara, NYAF's 26-year-old director of programming. We are at a folksy Japanese luncheon in Manhattan, where my shrimp-fry set is as much a sign of hybrid Japan's cultural presence in New York as the tower of nori seaweed perched atop his mushroom spaghetti.

"As soon as we knew he would come, we booked him," Tatara says. "But although he is legendary, the U.S. fan base is so young right now. They're 13 to 15, and skew slightly female. Tomino's name won't register at all with our younger fans."

To bridge the gap, Tatara has booked AKB48. [more here ; also at 3:AM]


Toby said...

Hi Roland, just found your blog. Have a great time at the NYAF. I'm afraid I'm missing it. Haven't seen Ponyo yet, tough to get to the movies with the little one and all. BTW, have you any inside info on when 1Q84 will be published in English? I'm afraid my Japanese has grown too rusty to attempt reading it without a translation to back me up.

Roland Kelts said...

Great to hear from you, and congrats on 'the little one.' Wonderful news.
I'm sorry you can't attend NYAF this weekend, but definitely make an effort to get to Ponyo. If anything, it's just such a joy to look at. The colors and all (as Don DeLillo once wrote).
Translation of 1Q84 will likely take a while. Jay's working on it now, but Haruki is writing a third volume, due out in Japan next summer (though a friend in Tokyo tells me they may try to bump up the release). I'm not sure how Knopf will handle the English-language edition(s) in the US. If only Haruki could write in Japanese and in English at the same time ...

Toby said...

Yeah, that would definitely make things convenient. Thanks for the info. Hope to catch up with you some time.

mabel said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Roland Kelts said...

thanks. hope you continue to enjoy reading.