Sunday, February 24, 2019

Haruki Murakami at 70: my latest interview

Still swinging for the fences: Murakami in conversation

The Times Literary Supplement

“You see, I’m like a cat”, he tells me, twice. “I know the best position, and I go there straight. And I do it on my own time. Many people don’t like that about me.”

Despite Murakami’s discomfort in Japan, and the disdain he receives from Japanese literary critics ten or more years his junior, his legacy is everywhere in contemporary Japanese culture. He’s there in the unvarnished prose and surreal happenstance in the work of younger writers, including Sayaka Murata (whose bestselling Convenience Store Woman is an eerily Murakamiesque blend of the magical mundane punctuated by violence) Mieko Kawakami and Hideo Furukawa (who wrote what he calls “a remix” of an early Murakami story, entitled Slow Boat), all of whom claim that his model as an independent, uncompromising artist forged their paths from the parochial forests of Japanese letters to the broader plains of world literature. The authors Masatsugu Ono and Aoko Matsuda, twenty and thirty years younger than Murakami, both pursued his double-life as a translator, Ono tackling French novels, Matsuda the short stories of Karen Russell.

For his part, Murakami has returned the favour, publicly praising for the first time a younger Japanese writer, Kawakami, and her novel, Chichi to ran (“Breasts and Eggs”) (2008). “She has a vision, voice and attitude. She doesn’t care what anybody else thinks, or about her reputation. She just writes what she feels is important to her.”

Murakami’s influence is there, too, in anime’s youngest superstar, the director Makoto Shinkai, who studied literature as a student, specializing in Murakami’s oeuvre. Shinkai’s best-known films, Five Centimeters Per Second and the box-office record-breaker, Your Name, swirl elliptically around stories of lost love, longing and the mysteries of time.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Localizing anime

The story behind anime localization

Les and Mary Claypool

For the past 10 years I’ve been guesting at anime conventions across the United States. Each one is unique. On the coasts they tend to be larger and older than cons in middle America, with massive crowds and decades of history. But they’ve each become more diverse. Most today report a near 50-50 gender mix, with attendees spanning racial and ethnic spectra.

What’s frustrating, though, is that I hardly ever get to talk with anyone. (I talk to them, of course. That’s my job. But sustained conversations are rare.)

Once the crowds show up, cons are dizzying. Your liaison escorts you to the venue, navigating through clumps of cosplayers. The fans pour in, get their book signed, mutter their thanks and maybe share an anecdote about their favorite show, a trip to Tokyo, or a story you wrote that they read. It’s nice, but brief.

Unfortunately, the same goes with other guests, many of whom are professionals I’m eager to meet. A quick hello in the green room, an exchange of pleasantries at the breakfast buffet. Hello, good to see/meet you, goodbye.

Mitch Iverson (photo: Sean Yates)

I’ve come to appreciate being asked to moderate panels on top of hosting my own presentations. I’ve moderated silly ones (AKB48 in New York stands out), others with rising stars who have now risen (Makoto Shinkai) and some with industry staff who really know their stuff: the sausage-makers working the factory floor.

At Anime Los Angeles last month in Ontario, California, I was lucky enough to be hosting a panel with writing, dubbing and adaptation/localization experts Les and Mary Claypool and Mitch Iverson.