Monday, August 13, 2012

6:00 am in Tokyo

I’m spending most of my waking hours, and the ones during which time I should be sleeping, waylaid by Japan’s lovely August humidity – and also on novel #3 – Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa? The current pitch is this:

Heropa: a vast, homogenized city patrolled by superheroes and populated by the adoring masses. A perfect place a lifetime away from the rain-drenched, dystopic metropolis of Melbourne. So, who is killing the great capes of Heropa?

Yep, as you can figure out, the Capes are superheroes. Kind of. It’s set in the future Melbourne dystopia of Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat (without being a sequel) where the only escapism is a computer game wherein people play out the role of superhero/villain. All fun and games until someone starts knocking off these superheroes… hence the mystery.

Thing is I’m just past the half-way mark of writing the thing, so I’m sure there’ll be more twists and turns to come that I have no idea about at this stage. I just today changed my mind regarding tone – I had a dramatic segment set for the finale, which worked (I thought) as author, but detracted from the over all tone of the project. The simple fun of the comic.

While it’s shaping up as a wink, aesthetically speaking, to the Golden Age of comics in the 1930s/40s (one of my favourite periods for the noir, pulp, movies and cars) this is definitely more of an homage to the classic 1960s work of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby at Marvel – and still gets to poke fun at the auspices of the Comics Code Authority.

There's also a sequence of a murder that reminded me of the death of Marat (and in particular that famous painting by Jacques-Louis David, so my wife Yoko sketched up this image above.

I waffled on a bit more about the writing stuff here.

Anyway, enough rambling. I need to get stuck back into the manuscript, if I can only ignore the fiendish cicada outside the window that sounds like a malfunctioning dentist’s drill.

Friday, August 10, 2012

A Wolf in Stormtrooper's Clothing

It might well be that Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade (1999) is one of the most underrated anime offerings of all time – a situation no one into the more adult leanings of the medium should ascribe to.

Here you’ll find gallons of action, philosophical undertones, and sizable armaments involved - set alight with manic abandon. Kiddie stuff this most certainly is not.

With equally big gun anime production houses Production I.G and Bandai Visual working together here (along with one Mamoru Oshii) there was never any real doubt about the grown-up nature of this material or the quality of the animation.

Add to the military hardware and action a tall, dark, silent-type protagonist, a mysterious, unlikely femme fatale who’s a member of a terrorist organization, government-condoned death squads, post-modern German World War 2 helmets, gasmasks, full-on body armor, and – hidden amidst all this – some overt references to the Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale.

Penned by Mamoru Oshii of Ghost in the Shell fame as part of his Kerberos saga, the alternate reality late 1950s story underpins Oshii’s earlier live-action film Stray Dog (1991) – a movie which starred actor Yoshikatsu Fujiki, who here returns to voice our hero Kazuki Fuse.

Fujiki also starred in Oshii’s more recent live-action movie Assault Girls (2009) and his presence is all the more reason that you should watch the movie in the original Japanese dub with English subtitles, rather than opting for the easy-listening local lingo.

The depth of talent involved in this production is guaranteed to smack around anyone vaguely interested in anime.

Kenji Kamiyama (later the director of TV series Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex) worked as sequence/animation director, the character designs (based on director Hiroyuki Okiura’s originals) were embellished on by Tetsuya Nishio (a key animator on Millennium Actress and FLCL) and you’ll also find Hiromasa Ogura - the man behind the surprisingly cool background art in Drawer Hobs (2011).


Saturday, August 4, 2012

Coffee & Soda, anyone?

OK, so this came out on the market a couple of days ago in Japan, and Suntory have been doing blanket advertizing on the telly and the trains here in Tokyo. 

The theme is fun - three Blues Brothers-like types running amuck in a fairground. Given that I love my coffee (and caffeine in general) and I've always dug soda water, the idea of a combination of the two was, well, intriguing.

I simply had to try it.

The verdict, sadly, was what most realistic people would expect. It was shocking. As much as I'm fond of coffee and soda water, never EVER shall the twain meet.

Suntory, you make pretty decent beer, but please (PLEASE) do not make fizzy coffee.