Greek Otaku Radio 1st Anniversary Party

Posted in Errata, Events with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 5, 2014 by speedxgrapher

Here we are again and time for another post, this time an event announcement (wow, haven’t done one of these in forever). You know, with the advent of social media, smartphones and what-have-you, posting this sort of event on a blog seems kind of a moot point to me. However, all these events are usually posted in Greek, seeing as they take place in Greece and I thought that one such as this, the one year celebratory landmark of a Greek, online otaku radio station, deserved to have a mention in English.

Greek Otaku Radio 1st Anniversary Party.

Greek Otaku Radio 1st Anniversary Party.

So then, on February 15th, 2014, the event will take place in Ostria Café (corner of 65, Themostokleous St and 6, Oikonomou St., Exarcheia). It all kicks off at 17:00 and will probably go on into the wee hours after midnight (at least, I assume it will). There’s plenty to see and do, from contests, lotteries, to cosplays and boardgames, among other things. There will be Japanese music, both from the decks as well as live, Greek adaptations of anime openings by MusicPrincessGR and Nikubitsa (I’ve listened to one’s asaptation of the Sword Art Online Opening, “Crossing Field” and it was not half bad).

The guys and gals of Greek Otaku Radio went as far as to make a video announcement for this event, which you can enjoy below, along with a few lines fot he aforementioned anime adaptations:

I’m even considering swinging by to check out the action, although that largely depends on how busy I’ll be with work. In any event, Happy Birthday Greek Otaku Radio!

Cheerio,

Speedgrapher

Oni Market #30: Nobunaga Za Fuuru

Posted in Oni Market with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 14, 2014 by speedxgrapher

Three years later, the 30th installment of Oni Market. You might recall that, in my last post, I was wondering whether I should revive this blog, posting in it on a more regular basis. I am still wondering. However, the occasion of stumbling upon this new anime gave me reason for yet another post, since the jury is still out on whether I want to do a detailed review of it (likely, upon its completion). Given the abundance of review blogs in English out there, I usually do these reviews in Greek and post them on COMICDOM. Since this anime has only aired two episodes so far, I find it better to comment and speculate from over here.

Nobunaga Za Fuuru

The title, Nobunaga Za Fuuru, translates into “Nobunaga the Fool” with a 100% accuracy, since “Za Fuuru” is katakana for “The Fool”, as “Za Peipaa” was “The Paper”, Yomiko Readman’s code name in Read or Die (for those who remember that great series). Now, not much can be said of the story, since the anime is still building towards it, but much can be said of the setting, which is created using historical knowledge and anime tropes. Actually, it’s a bit more complicated than that, but we’ll get to that later.

Nobunaga Za Fuuru - Da Vinci

The anime assumes a universe different than ours (and yet not foreign to it), where East and West are two different “stars” (essentially, a binary planetary system). The Star of the West has a more technological, European feel to it, where medieval arthurian monarchy meets sci-fi, whereas the Star of the East is basically feudal Japan (more accurately near the end of the Sengoku Jidai) with a bit of a technological twist, used (so far) exclusively in the making of Giant War Armors (i.e. rather crude mecha).

The anime uses prominent historical and mythological figures from a number of eras, especially in the governing body of the Star of the West. Arthur is King (a strange, robed figure with a soft voice) and his council includes (among others, to be named further on, I assume) Generals Gaius Julius Caesar (whose adjutant and confidant is Brutus), Hannibal and Gupta (this one likely based on the historical Maharaja Sri Gupta of India, of around 240-280 AD).

Nobunaga Za Fuuru - Hideyoshi

On the other hand, the protagonist of the series is Oda Nobunaga, often called “The Fool”, accompanied by his two closest friends, Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Akechi Mitsuhide.  As the historical Hideyoshi was often called “Kozaru” (“little monkey”) by his Lord, Oda Nobunaga, so is this one often called “Saru” (“monkey”) and in an interesting twist along the line of literary connections, portrayed as and styled after Son Goku the Monkey King of the Chinese epic, Saiyuki Monogatari (NOT as he is depicted in Dragonball).

Initially the anime follows Jeanne Kaguya d’Arc, a peasant girl who hears voices, much like the historical Jeanne and is asked by Leonardo da Vinci to accompany him on a journey to the Star of the East, “where she may find her destiny”. Taken there by Captain Magellan (captain of a star-ship, of course and confusingly pronounced “Mazeran”, which makes me wonder whether it foreshadows something to do with the historical Cardinal Mazarin, but that may be pushing it). Da Vinci is a fun, odd and extremely suspect character, who I foresee will play a major part at some turning point. So far, he is responsible for building and stealing to the East with the latest Giant War Armor, as well as Jeanne, whom he took along “as a bodyguard”.

Another interesting factor is that these incarnations of the historical figures seem to have dreams and visions of their alternative timelines, as well as each other. Jeanne has a recurring dream of being burned at the stake, while Nobunaga sees his friend, Mitsuhide, betraying him again and again (as it happened in our universe, at the Battle of Yamazaki), though he pays no mind.

Nobunaga Za Fuuru - Jeanne

So far, the whole plot relies on coincidence, destiny and necessity, so there is not much to comment on. However, I currently enjoy the building blocks of the setting and I do not mind. What I am not crazy about, is the fact that, with all this thought process behind, the creators went and used the easy, overplayed trope of “huge boobs”, which Jeanne is “blessed” with and completely self-conscious about. Not that I have anything against huge boobs in general but they just don’t gel with the character; furthermore, the comedic effect they offer is weak.

Nobunaga Za Fuuru - Tarot Star

On a final note, the anime, produced by Satelight, is part of a larger franchise which includes a stage play by Avex Live Creative and signed by anime legend Shouji Kawamori (Macross, Ulysse 31, Vision of Escaflowne among MANY others). It seems interestingly and complexly thought out, though the end result remains to be seen.

Give it a try and tell me what you think,

Speedgrapher

Greek Cosplay Wishes 2013

Posted in Errata, Events with tags , , , , , , , on December 29, 2013 by speedxgrapher

It has been literally years since I last posted anything here. There were a few ideas, still less time and procrastination of epic proportions. Recently (that is to say, over the last year, or even two years), the concentrated efforts of Cassiel, an otaku I consider among “The Old Guard”, based in Greece’s Katerini and Salonika, have prompted me to reexamine a scene I left under considerably bad terms (those who know, know – for the rest, let us just say I could crunch a sopa opera book series out of the events of that time).

At any rate, repeated contact with new (and some seasoned) cosplayers over the course of Comicdom Con, meeting the great people behind Greek Otaku Radio, as well as the aforementioned activities and some discussions with Cassiel, I am considering whether there is a point in reviving this blog. The jury’s still out yet, but as a token of respect for Cass’s work, I will share with you a video he made, encompassing wishes for the coming year from cosplayers and people involved in the scene in other ways.

If you watch it all the way through, you will also see me, in a photo from much happier times (The Maid Cafe at the Athens Mall fnac in 2009 – the fnac has since become a Public, but in the photos you can also see Cassiel cosplaying as one of our shared favorite characters, Captain Harlock), accompanied with a text I sent for the video, since I could not get a camera to record my message in time. Now, all the video is in Greek, but you still get to see many cosplays and much Christmas  lunacy.

It has been a hard year (hard 3-4 years, come to think of it) for most people in Greece. Let us hope this year treats us better and sees this rotten government fall.

Peace,

Speedgrapher

The J and Halloween in Paris

Posted in Otaku no Tabi with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 7, 2011 by speedxgrapher

Hello again readers, whoever you may be, for I no longer have the faintest idea on that account. It’s been a dog’s age (August 4th in fact) since I last wrote anything in this blog but I am glad to see that my past endeavors still draw some readership. It is a special and unforeseen occasion that I have something to put on here, after so many months.

Recently, my father decided to take the whole family on a 5-day trip to Paris which, besides everything else (entailing a LOT of walking), meant I would be able to visit Rue Dante, Paris’s main geek artery. During one of my forays there, I stumbled upon a group of French cosplayers, who decided to celebrate Toussaints (All Hallows’ Eve or Halloween, although in France it’s a week-long holiday) by dressing up as DC characters from the BATMAN menagerie and visiting comic shops up and down this very special street – “Album”, “Pulp’s”, “Little Tokyo” and a number of other shops were happy to receive them. Evident;y, I could not stand idly and not photograph them.

On another note, while tracking down the itinerary I had written for my two heroines in Paris, over the course of “Culture Pop” (included in the detective story collection DANGER ENTRANCE, sadly only available in Greek), I stumbled upon a Manga Café on Rue des Carmes, the owner of which kindly let me take some photos as well. It’s not much: seven photos in all, but two for two in the space of such a small stay is pretty indicative of wonders waiting around every corner.

That is all for now. There’s some more stuff from France I want to show you, but I’ll take care of that ina couple of days.

Cheers,

Speedgrapher

Oni Market #29: OUT (by Natsuo Kirino)

Posted in Nihon no Weirdness, Oni Market with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on August 4, 2011 by speedxgrapher

Once more, it’s been a little over three months since I last wrote, but there was in truth nothing relevant to write about, with the exception of having watched Studio MADhouse’s new WOLVERINE and X-MEN anime (IRON MAN is next). However, I decided to do extensive posts on both of those over here. X-MEN still needs doing and the WOLVERINE review is in Greek, so maybe I will endeavor to write something here over the summer.

Prologues, intros ans updates aside, I finally managed to finish Natsuo Kirino’s other book that has been translated in Greek by Metaichmio Publications, entitled OUT (of course, it’s also been translated in English by Vintage Books and Kodansha USA – take your pick). Remember how I had said that REAL WORLD was more of a psychological drama and depiction of the distorted views of Japanese teenagers? Well, the drama element is also present here, but the wealth of different, interesting characters, as well as a number of derangements they have  or develop, evident or subtle, turns this book into a celebration of Alfred Hitchcock’s ROPE. But, once again, I am getting ahead of myself…

The book begins as the story of four women (do I see a pattern there? Four girl students in REAL WORLD, four adult women here…) working part-time in the night shift of a bento box factory, in what must have been one of the most glum cities of the Tokyo Prefecture, some time around the 90s (or perhaps as far back as the 80s – clues in the book could not point me to something more). These are, in order of age, Yoshi Azuma, Masako Katori, Yayoi Yamamoto and Kuniko Jonuchi. Their lives, are, to say the least, rather miserable, though at first they bear them with the stoic outlook that is on the surface of most Japanese people: Yoshi, whom they call the Captain (I suspect that is “Kaichou” translated) at thefactory, as she is the eldest, tries to make ends meet while taking care of her half-paralyzed mother-in-law and catering to her adolescent daughter’s monetary needs (usually, as idiotic as most adolescent needs). Masako has to deal with the near-android coldness and routine of her family, her husband drawing ever further away from her and their 17-year-old son, having dropped school, never speaking a word out of some ill-defined spite. Yayoi has to deal with an uncaring, abusive husband who has turned to gambling and escorts, blowing away all their savings, exposing her and their children to the danger of becoming destitute. Finally, Kuniko, a rather unsympathetic character, who progressively became the object of my disgust, is a fat, ugly young woman obsessed with the skin-deep prestige of expensive brands and living with an impotent male partner, who decides to leave her and take all the money he could dig up from their common savings. Meanwhile, not only can she not pay her numerous debts, she  also starts to worry about paying of a loan-shark from whom she borrowed to pay them off in the first place.

Out.

A rather miserable bunch and yet they somehow find a niche of reality to exist in, trudging along night in and night out; that is, until one of them is pushed over the edge and takes the other three along for the ride. Yayoi’ s husband, as mentioned above, is frequenting a hostess club and gambles away at an illegal casino situated in the same building. Both are owned by ex-yakuza Mitsuyoshi Satake, a calm, rather frugal man with a peculiar, eerie quality about him. In fact, many years ago, Satake had brutally raped, tortured and murdered a woman stealing business from his gang; in a sick manner, twisted beyond all belief, he found the apex of pleasure by puncturing her body numerous times with a knife and raping her at the same time as sticking his fingers deep into her wounds, gaining a sense of their bodies almost fusing through copious amounts of blood. After that, he has never been with another woman, nor has resorted to any violence worth mentioning, his criminal activity restricted to his two illegal establishments. In fact, until his past is revealed by the narrator, Satake seems the perfect  underworld gentleman.

One night, after Yayoi’s husband has lost every last yen of their savings, has stalked one of the hostesses to her home address over the past week (a Chinese girl, Anna, who is in love with Satake) and then tries to gamble on credit, Satake  ends up kicking him out and having to rough him up a bit. By the time Kenji Yamamoto gets home, Yayoi has been obsessing with the bruise on her stomach, from where he punched her, when she screamed at him for gambling away their savings. Now, feeling like the complete loser that he is, after being thrown out the club and being beaten, he tries to demean her even further, not even turning around to look at her. That is the tipping point, where Yayoi snaps: she wraps her belt around his neck and tightens it until he is dead, all the while repeating to herself like a mantra that she wished him gone and only half-realizing that she is strangling him.

Suddenly, he is dead, she is liberated, a weight lifted from her heart and shoulders. The elation does not last, as she realizes she now has a dead body in her entrance hall and absolutely no idea what to do with it. She decides to call Masako and ask her to help her dispose of it. Masako reacts in an unexpectedly and rather chillingly calm manner, deciding that the best way is to chop him into small pieces, effectively separating all the joints, emptying the organs and removing the head; and feels she should call on Yoshi’s help, who is desperate for money and can make a hefty sum by being paid from Yayoi for the task, who intended to borrow the money from her parents. Masako, on the other hand, initially asks for nothing and even she cannot say why with certainty.

After she convinces Yoshi, she puts the body in the trunk of her car and goes to her shift as usual, waiting for the morning to deal with the gruesome business. Somewhere along the way to the factory, she is attacked by a Brazilian immigrant worker, Kazuo Miyamori (actually, half Brazilian, half-Japanese), who seems intent upon sexually assaulting her and yet she easily talks him down and leaves him in awe of her. His behavior definitely points to something else than your run-of–the-mill sexual predator.

Mind you, all this takes place during the first 100 pages out of a staggering 545 (416 in the English edition). Over the course of the book, with the body being chopped to pieces, Kuniko becoming involved, the pieces being disposed of, the police becoming involved and investigating, Satake becoming a suspect and the four women becoming slowly or rapidly altered from the experience, there’s a lot to chew on here. What starts out as one battered woman’s bid for freedom and dignity and another’s offer of a helping hand, rapidly turns into a spiral (however, not necessarily a downward one) of intrigue, greed and (further) murder. This is definitely not the law’s side of the story, although its representatives are far from two-dimensional, as they were in REAL WORLD.

OUT is more of a crime thriller than a detective story, since any and all truly interesting detective work and maneuvering is done by people who are, both essentially and typically, on the wrong side of the law, some even on the wrong side of humanity. It’s a surreal dance of monsters slumbering as banal people and people finding that, when all meaning is lost in life, not necessarily in the aftermath of a tragedy, there is a terrifying aspect of humanity that does justice to the biblical concept of inherent evil.

All in all it was a very satisfying book, much more carefully planned and laid out, its characters frightfully believable and once more, a portrayal of the sick underbelly of Japanese society, an underbelly that doesn’t hide exclusively in the slums and criminal syndicates, but in the average home where reigns supreme the anguish of a deafening silence and the unthinkable lies just beyond the self-induced numbness. I highly recommend it.

See you around,

Speedgrapher

Oni Market #28: Kokuhaku (Confessions)

Posted in Oni Market with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 12, 2011 by speedxgrapher

Here we are again, not nearly as much time having elapsed from the last update as (what has ended up being the) usual. Whereas once I had the luxury (and, let us be honest, the drive) to update my blogs on a regular basis, especially this one, now I follow the “having something interesting to share” pattern. Thankfully, apparently such things have started emerging again (with the exception of the whole Japanese disaster, which has taken quite a bit of space here and for which I am NOT thankful), so it seems you will be seeing more of me (lucky you, heh).

At any rate, I have a couple of things lined up for you:

Item #1: I know I have posted the professed “Final Update” on this matter, but now that we know the things bought with the money raised from the charity event have reached their destination, we’ve really come full circle. Here is Hiromi Komatsu’s “thank you” mail:

Dear Olga

We’ve got all your presents at 2nd of this month. All of your stuff are fine, cute and with good sense of design. Some of them have been already taken for kids. Not only kids but also their parents seem happy with your stuff. I really thank you for this and kind words always.

I have a dream here, Olga.When people in my home town can live in peace and quiet some day, I’m sure to go to Greece. If I can meet you there, that would be fantastic.

Take care, Olga, and have fun with your family and friends! :)

Hiromi Komatsu

Item #2: Kokuhaku (Confessions). This is obviously the main subject of this post, a 2010 Japanese live-action movie (as in “traditional cinema”, not anime you bleedin’ otaku!), which I watched with some friends on DVD the other day. It was described as a “psychological thriller”, but Japanese live-action cinema being what it is (i.e. usually a disappointment), we did not really expect much. The short description said that a Middle School teacher, Yoko Moriguchi (played by Takako Matsu), has her life torn down, when her 4-year-old daughter is murdered by two of her students (aged 13, I think) and after she quits her job, she resolves to get revenge on them. Sounded fairly interesting, so we gave it a shot.

Let’s start with first impressions: great photography, great shooting and carefully picked music but the fact of the matter was, the first 15 minutes were dominated by Moriguchi’s near-monologue in front of her class (she was their homeroom teacher), as they mostly ignore her. However, the movie actually begins with them drinking little cartons of milk, as part of a government campaign (this is important for later). At first she goes on and on about  renowned Dr. Sakuranomiya, who was her inspiration as a whole and who sadly died of AIDS. Then she announces that she is going to retire because of her daughter’ s death, a murder in fact by two students in that very same classroom and goes as far as saying that she thinks she has been a bad teacher because she wanted to be devoted to her dingle parenting. Thus far, the speech being completely rehearsed and delivered in a droning, monotonous voice, evokes almost no reaction from a class of misconducting, bullying, text-messaging 13-year-olds and yawns from us.

Then, surely and steadily, Moriguchi ups the ante, saying that Sakuranomiya was her lover and once-future husband, that he gave her HIV and that they decided not to marry, in order to avoid stigmatizing their child. The reaction is almost instantaneous, as students shy away from her in panic, as if she is carrying the plague and freak at her merest touch. Various scenes make perfectly clear that, not only her students ignore basic facts about AIDS, but also many adults have complete and hysterical misconceptions on it. Further on, talking 0f her daughter’s murder, she mentions facts, referring to the perpetrators as students A and B, as well as the reactions of student B’s mother, who finds no fault with her son (naturally). She also says that the Juvenile Law part of the Japanese Criminal Justice System protects them from any actual prosecution, so they can walk away from this murder without any real consequences. At this point, the downward spiral begins, as Moriguchi is of course not satisfied with such leniency: therefore, the milk cartons of the two murderers, she informs them, were laced with her dead lover’s  HIV-infected blood! Gasps of horror from the class, round of applause from us.

From this point onward, there is not a dull moment in the movie, as we see the impact of these news on the two boys, as well as the reaction of their classmates (which is bullying, a lot of it!), which is a spiral of madness and hate. The movie is segmented as its title: confessions. So gradually, we get all the facts of the story from the viewpoint of each character, including, the teacher, the murderers, one of the two murderers’ mother, as well as the other’s girlfriend. Amazingly, it is both a mind and time trip, which largely revolves around Shuya Watanabe’ s (student A) mother complex and rejection issues, as well as his conviction that he is a genius (of which his mother, a brilliant mechanic, convinced him at a very young age, then abandoned him).

The whole movie is an elegy to the cruelty and stupidity of adolescence, the hubris of privileged youth (believe me, for all their problems, these kids had not had to fight for anything yet) and how, when taken too far, those who afford them this protection can utterly destroy them. It is also a disturbing look into Japan’s youth, much like REAL WORLD, where juvenile delinquency is glorified, a tendency represented by Mizuki Kitahara (who idolizes Lunacy Girl, a teen murderer who poisoned her parents and becomes the girlfriend of Shuya). Furthermore, the movie is not afraid to point the finger at the parents who are responsible for the delinquency of these children, whether by pampering or negligence and abuse, the two extremes represented by the two murderers’ mothers. In the end, they too will pay the ultimate price.

However, the story reigns in its theme and avoids the mistake of creating an all-around “hate film”. With the exception of Moriguchi’s daughter (a “background victim” to the movie ‘s action), everyone who is destroyed absolutely deserves it. In contrast, the replacement teacher of Moriguchi-sensei, nicknamed Werther (played by Masaki Okada), who is only guilty of being good-natured, naive and hopelessly optimistic, merely has his feelings hurt and Moriguchi-sensei herself is obviously left with nothing when her revenge is done, but not before she has completely taken apart the lives of the two young murderers, both metaphorically and actually, inflicting upon them the full extent of the loss she feels, without ever being caught – it’ s the essence of Nemesis, as the ancients called it, only set in modern-day Japan.

Even with all I have said, I have not gone into any terrible spoilers, for the way everything comes together and more so, the way everything is depicted, is the true treat of this movie. It has the careful plotting of a Sherlock Holmes mystery and the emotional impact of Greek tragedy, centered around the theme of vengeance. Just be patient for the first 15 minutes. It will all make sense in the end and it is totally worth it. The movie was based on the novel of Kanae Minato.

Item #3: Tatsumi: A Life in Animation. As I have said before, I have stopped watching anime for quite some time, but this is one I am willing to give a try. It deals with the real life, as well as the stories of post WWII manga creator Yoshihiro Tatsumi, one of the most “human” and iconic storytellers of manga. This goes beyond retro: it is history, treated by a modern medium.

Well, that is all for today and quite a bit, if I do say so myself. Keep reading. You never know what else I might dig up.

Peace,

Speedgrapher

Feel, Pray, Give [Support Japan Music Event] Final Update

Posted in Archive, Events with tags , , , , , , , on April 28, 2011 by speedxgrapher

Back again dear readers (wow, 3 posts in a week – that’ s scary; maybe we should do this charity thing more often, if for no other reason than forcing me to write here). This is indeed the final update on our (Bloody K., Kami, KrizD, Kyoshiro, N8 and yours truly) effort to provide some support for the people of Fukushima, struck by multiple calamities and still struggling with hardships and the danger of radioactivity.

It all started with an idea over coffee, the event took place on the 15th of April and just two short weeks later we were able to send our boxed prayers and support, with the help of everyone who chose to lend a hand in helping these people in need. Did we change the world? No. Did we turn the tide of this disaster? Surely not, but we did what we could , knowing that each person receiving help is one less person in dire need of it; and when every such gesture is added to the others, then perhaps change can be effected, hope restored, lives rebuilt. We are but a pebble and proud to count ourselves among every other pebble of support from around the world.

The clothes have shipped and are on their way to Fukushima as we speak.

It’ s been an interesting process, revealing how easily will turns into a way, as well as how unwillingness can be an insurmountable obstacle. If anything, it was a very edifying experience, illustrating not just the weight of words and images, but also the deeper meaning of one’ s presence or absence. Thank you all for your support – you know who you are.

Peace,

Speedgrapher

P.S. If you are interested in the full story, you can begin here, then read the two previous posts on this blog. Also, KrizD has posted more photos of the clothes’ shipping on his blog. All photos are courtesy of Kyoshiro.

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