Friday, January 16, 2009

"Afro Samurai" anime and game follow 'soft power' Obama

(above: me [left] and Afro creator Takashi 'Bob' Okazaki at GDH in Tokyo)

From my latest column for the Daily Yomiuri--my first in 09--about the launch of anime AFRO SAMURAI's second season ("Resurrection") and first game release next week:

SOFT POWER HARD TRUTHS / Soft power meets 'Afro Samurai'

Roland Kelts / Special to The Daily Yomiuri

Harvard University Prof. Joseph Nye, who coined the term "soft power," a concept upon which this column is partly based, is being talked about as the possible next U.S. ambassador to Japan. As of this writing, it is unclear whether Nye will be the envoy in Tokyo after President-elect Barack Obama's inauguration, but his soft-power concept raises provocative questions about the Japan-U.S. relationship.

Can cultural attraction (soft power) really survive the strength of pure hard power? Don't the strong always beat the weak, as we are seeing in the Gaza Strip right now? And if culture is so powerful--who really controls it?

Answers are hard to find, as the roots of transcultural expressions can be absurdly tangled.

For instance, Japanese manga artist Takashi Okazaki, who grew up loving the 1970s American TV show Soul Train, the resilient American comic hero Batman and archetypal Japanese samurai films, turned his fascinations into a most unlikely manga series. He fashioned a black hip-hop samurai hero into an even more transcultural phenomenon two years ago, when his syncretic imagination went mainstream via Hollywood and Spike TV--with none other than Samuel L. Jackson in the starring voice role.

Now, as America prepares to inaugurate its first multiracial president on Jan. 20, Afro Samurai, an anime made by Japanese about African-American heroes and hip-hop culture, is set to launch its second TV season in the United States just days later. Afro Samurai: Resurrection will appear as a two-hour feature film on American television next Friday, and on Jan. 27, the Afro Samurai video game will be released for Xbox and PlayStation ... [read more here]

1 comment:

Edward said...

Have you checked out Shigurui Death Frenzy?