Posts

My first "Letter from Tokyo" for the Japan Society of Boston

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Photo: Nancy Keystone Letter from Tokyo, May 2021: Tokyo’s pandemic time warp This March, Kyoto’s cherry blossoms hit peak bloom on the earliest date recorded in 1200 years. Not 120. 1200. Here in Tokyo, the sakura trees below my office began blooming on the earliest date recorded in 60 years—after a winter so mild I never wore a scarf or donned footwear heavier than sneakers. Spring this year feels like early summer. Midday temps reach the upper 70s F / 20s C. If you brave the sun without a hat, you sweat. Tokyo’s weather is accelerated and overheated. But everything else feels frozen. After another week of less-than-golden holidays hunkered at home, we Tokyoites are watching a ‘fourth wave’ of Covid infections sweep the country. It feels redundant and endless. Vaccination appointments that seem plentiful elsewhere haven’t even started here. And we’re now preparing for two weeks of Olympic Games set to begin in just over a couple months, on July 23rd of 2021—an international extrav

My interview for the CBC about Black representation in Japanese popular culture

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I was recently interviewed by the CBC about Japanamerica and the rise of Black representation in Japanese popular culture. Investments from Netflix and other big global media companies are bringing multiculturalism to Japan's thriving creative industries. But are we ready for a multicultural Japan? (You can access the interview here .) [Excerpts] What is it about anime that makes streaming giants like Netflix so eager to invest in not only the content, but in studios and in talent? On the one hand, it crosses borders really well. Streaming services are global. They're not just located in one country or devoted to one culture. I also like to think of anime characters as anime tribes. Take a movie star in the U.S. or China and they may not be that well-known outside of their own nation, but anime characters have this unique ability — partly because they're just illustrations — to travel very, very well. So streaming services are looking for content that will appeal not only

My review of YASUKE: Black culture meets Japanese history in an anime first

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African samurai earns hero status in new anime ‘Yasuke’ Of the record-high 40 original anime programs Netflix is launching this year, none may be better pedigreed or more timely than “Yasuke,” a six-episode series about Japan’s only known Black samurai. Voiced and executive produced by Oscar nominee LaKeith Stanfield (“Atlanta”), scored and co-produced by Grammy nominee Flying Lotus, with Grammy winner Thundercat collaborating on the opening song, animated by studio MAPPA Co., Ltd (“Jujutsu Kaisen”), designed by Takeshi Koike (“Redline”) and created and directed by LeSean Thomas (“Cannon Busters”), “Yasuke” is more than just a nod toward diversification and representation in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement. It’s an open embrace of both — arguably a first for Japan’s anime industry. The historical record on Yasuke is scant, leaving large gaps that the artists fill with a smorgasbord of supernatural and sci-fi anime tropes. The result is a headlong rush through a tangle of pl

My story about six-time Oscar nominee MINARI, Asian immigration and anti-Asian hate crimes

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From NIKKEI . Oscar-nominated 'Minari' upends Asian immigrant stereotypes Actress Esther Moon on playing Mrs. Oh, a Korean immigrant who finds peace in rural America TOKYO— A little over a year after Bong Joon-ho's coruscating satire of class conflict, "Parasite," became the first foreign-language movie to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards, another film with a Korean lead cast, plenty of translated subtitles and dogged money woes is up for the same top honor. "Minari," directed by Korean American Lee Isaac Chung and based partly on his childhood, follows the Yis, an immigrant family of four, as they move from Los Angeles to rural Arkansas to start a new life on a farm. While Chung's script and direction are far more restrained than Ho's, the reception to his film has been anything but. Released in the U.S. during an alarming spike in anti-Asian hate crimes, "Minari" won Best Foreign Language Film at February's Golden Globe Awar

Live Event: Japanese Americans in World War II—"Facing the Mountain" w/Daniel James Brown in Boston

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Terribly well-timed to the rise of anti-Asian hate in the US, I will be talking about this brave and important new book, Facing the Mountain: A True Story of Japanese American Heroes in WWII , with author Daniel James Brown in Boston. The event is hosted and sponsored by Boston Public Library , GBH , Japan Society of Boston and New England Historic Genealogical Society . This is a critical time to reexamine the Japanese American experience of WWII—incarcerated in the camps at home, and fighting for the US overseas. We hope you'll join us. Daniel James Brown with Facing the Mountain: A True Story of Japanese American Heroes in World War II Virtual Event: Wednesday, May 12 at 6 p.m. ET / 11 p.m. UK / Thursday, May 13th at 7 p.m. JST • Register here Moderator: Roland Nozomu Kelts , author, journalist, editor, and lecturer Presented in partnership with Boston Public Library, the Japan Society of Boston, and GBH Forum Network From the #1 New York Times best-selling author of The Boys

Video: Interview for Hype Magazine

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I was recently interviewed in Tokyo by Darren Paltrowitz of Hype Magazine . He was in New York City, my former hometown.  We talked about my gig hosting the Japan Cats doc, but also a lot of stuff I hadn't planned to discuss, like pandemic work, my forthcoming Blade Runner book, the novel, the other books, my Who T-shirt and interviews with Pete Townshend, the shows "Better Call Saul," "Westworld" and "Barry"—and my cat.  Darren's opening gambit disarmed me.  Vid's up at YouTube:

My story on the new Netflix-sponsored anime-training school

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This month, Netflix and WIT Studio ("Attack on Titan") opened the WIT ANIMATOR ACADEMY, a scholarship-only training school at Tokyo's Sasayuri Video Training Institute. Despite massive commercial success, the anime industry is in crisis because there aren't enough skilled artists in Japan, and even fewer who are learning how to draw. I interviewed the main players behind the program for NIKKEI . Netflix-sponsored anime school goes back to basics New training academy for budding anime artists is surprisingly old school in its goals TOKYO -- For Japan's anime industry, the best of times could soon augur the worst. Never before have Japanese studios been so flush with contracts, licensing deals and cash. And never before has their talent pool been so shallow. The global market for anime hit a record $24 billion in 2019, according to the Association of Japanese Animations -- and that was before the 2020 pandemic sent audience numbers for streaming anime through the ro