Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Speaking & signing in Brooklyn this Sat. 8/29 for "Waku Waku +NYC"

Roland Kelts
Category: Anime

"Who is the Real Osamu Tezuka, 'God of Manga & Anime'?"
Panel #305
8.29.2015 3:30pm-4:30pm 60 mins
Location: Wythe Hotel Conference Room


Roland Kelts was born to an American father and a Japanese mother, and grew up in both America and Japan. Kelts is the author of Japanamerica: How Japanese Pop Culture has Invaded the US, as well as a visiting scholar at Keio University in Tokyo. As a journalist, essayist and columnist, he writes for many publications such as The New Yorker, The Guardian and The Japan Times, and he is an authority on Japan’s contemporary literary and popular cultures. He imparts his unique perspective on Japanese pop culture to the rest of the world as a public speaker and media commentator on CNN, NPR, NHK and the BBC. Most recently, Kelts delivered a TED Talk in Tokyo at TedxHaneda.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

AKB48 goes American, for The Japan Times

AKB48 turns to an American studio

Director Keishi Otomo and AKB48
By Roland Kelts

AKB48’s commercial success in Japan is often derided as a sign of the culture’s patriarchal infantilization of women, and the girl group’s inability to appeal to Western audiences a sign of Japan’s increasingly isolated ideas about femininity, sexuality and pop music. Put simply: outside of Japan, AKB48 will never be Psy.

But inside Japan, it’s a reliable moneymaker. Its most recent single, “We Won’t Fight” (Bokutachi wa Tatakawanai), topped the Oricon charts in June. The idol group is the no. 2 bestselling music act in the entire history of Japanese pop music in terms of singles sold. And Japan is the second-largest pop music market in the world – just behind the United States.

Cuteness sells in Japan, especially if it’s well-marketed. Which is why AKB48’s latest music video is puzzling. The ironically titled 12-minute epic, “We Won’t Fight” [short v.], was released this summer. In it, the kawaii (cute) girls are more Ronda Rousey than Sailor Moon.

Cutters' Tokyo film editor, Aki Mizutani

Sunday, August 09, 2015

After Pixar, for The California Sunday Magazine.

In the studio with an Oscar-nominated startup

By Roland Kelts
Photographs by Hiro Tanaka

It’s 8 a.m. and the two founders of Tonko House animation studio are preparing to meditate. Their 200-square-foot space at the industrial edge of southwest Berkeley is filled with desktops and laptops, packed bookshelves, paint jars, brushes and carbon markers, and one ten-foot-long work table. There isn’t much room. The table and chairs have been shoved to one side and a heavy beige filing cabinet wheeled into the hallway. For 12 minutes, Daisuke “Dice” Tsutsumi, a wiry Japanese expatriate, and his co-founder, the younger and sturdier Japanese American Robert Kondo, sit lotus style at one end of the room while their business manager, Daisuke “Zen” Miyake, an ordained Buddhist monk, kneels at the other and chants in a droning baritone.

Tsutsumi moved to America more than 20 years ago. Kondo — palms turned upward, index fingers touching thumbs in gyan mudra formation — was born and raised in the San Gabriel Valley, east of Los Angeles. Kondo and Tsutsumi founded Tonko House in February 2014. Their first film, a heartbreaking 18-­minute animated short called The Dam Keeper, piled up festival awards. The film was nominated for an Oscar earlier this year.

Monday, August 03, 2015

Blue moon with loons

Lake break in New Hampshire