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Sunday May 20, 2007

Akihabara changes


BUZZBOX: Compiled by KITTY SENSEI 

MANY computer merchants are shutting down in Akihabara, Tokyo. Long populated by stores selling computer parts, the electronics district is now being overtaken by otaku love, says CNet Asia writer Matsushita Shuji. 

In Akihabara, you can find quirky computer gadgets like this life-sized personal computer ‘cover’ figure. However, many of its computer shops are closing down to make way for ‘maid cafes’
Says Matsushita: “Contents sub-cultures might overrun our Akihabara soon. Keywords are: anime, manga, games, fanzines and figures. And, also, quasi-libido sub-cultures: moe and ubiquitous maids’ tearooms/costumes”.  

Although shops selling otaku merchandise have existed side by side with computer stores for some time in the area – thus its label of Japan’s “nerd capital” – they now appear to be taking over, laments Matsushita. 

“Our beloved Akihabara is going to shed the PC business from its busy streets some day in the near future? This unthinkable of unthinkables might actually take place,” he muses. 

However, this is not the first time Akihabara has changed its “look”. Once upon a time, after World War II, electric gear and components from American and Japanese military were sold around the area. Therefore, Akihabara started with junk shops and radio components stores. It was paradise for amateur radio aficionados. 

Then, came the electrical utensils and television. Later, hi-fi audio equipment dominated the Akihabara marketplace. Stores selling computer gadgets are the more recent (and longest) phase of Akihabara. 

Read the rest of the article here: asia.cnet.com/reviews/blog/mobile ojisan/0,39050793,62012122,00.htm 

Russian talent 

CANADA’S The Toronto Star recently featured an interesting article about popular Original English Language manga artist Svetlana Chmakova, who created Dramacon (published by Tokyopop), a manga about, fittingly, a manga artist’s life.  

Dramacon Vol.1 was nominated for several awards such as the Harvey Award, a North American comic book award, and was on the 2005 Publishers Weekly list of best comics.  

Chmakova, 27, says she was surprised at its success.  

“I wrote it as a fluff piece but I did get deep into characters and try to be profound,” she says in the article. 

Chmakova fell in love with manga when she picked up ElfQuest in 1993 while she was still living in Russia (she emigrated to Canada a few years later). 

“My heart was beating so hard ... I was so absorbed in it,” she says. “I tried to make my own stories recreate that feeling in myself.”  

She then went on to create and post a few of her comics online, and Tokyopop liked what they saw. The offer to publish her manga came subsequently. 

Chmakova now has a busy schedule: besides Dramacon, she also pens a comic strip for the CosmoGirl! magazine and has just clinched a deal for a second manga series called Nightschool with US manga publishing house Yen Press. In addition, she may have a Cartoon Network show in the making. If that’s not enough, she’s also going to teach teens and adults on how to draw manga at a course at Max the Mutt Animation School (maxthemutt.com) in Toronto. 

You can read the rest of the article at www.thestar.com/Life/article/211329

Fight over remains 

JAPANESE newspaper Mainichi Shimbun recently reported the bizarre tale of a mangaka’s remains being fought over by her loved ones. 

The late mangaka Yutsuko Chusonji.
The late Yutsuko Chusonji, a mangaka popular in the 1990s for her work Sweet Spot (which coined the term oyaji gyaru or “gals behaving like middle-aged men”), passed away in January 2005 at the age of 42 from colon cancer. After her death, her husband and mother apparently agreed to divide her remains between them. However, Yutsuko’s mother-in-law had said it was an unnecessary thing to do, so Yutsuko’s mother kept all of her remains. 

Well, it looks like the husband still wants his share.  

The Yokohama District Court ordered Yutsuko’s mother to return half of her daughter’s remains to her husband on May 9. 

For a less bizarre take on her life, you can visit her official website (in English) at www.chusonji.com/en/index.html

Novel move 

WITH Harry Potter about to end his last adventure, what can book-hungry teens read next? Well, popular US-based manga publishers such as VIZ Media and Tokyopop are not resting on their laurels. They are translating Japanese “light novels” into English, and these novels may prove to be the next big thing with young adults. (Many of these light novels have inspired manga and anime; examples are Full Metal Panic! and The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzimaya.) 

Svetlana Chmakova’s Dramacon manga is a success.
Tokyopop’s pop fiction arm has already published several Japanese light novels such as Scrapped Princess, Trinity Blood: Rage Against the Moon and the impressive hardcover light novel by Fuyumi Ono, Twelve Kingdoms Vol.1. (All were turned into anime.) 

VIZ Media’s selection is just as eclectic. It has released shojo novels such as Be with You, Kamikaze Girls and Socrates in Love. In June, it will release Picture Letters from the Commander-in-Chief by Tadamichi Kuribayashi – the book that inspired the recent Clint Eastwood movie Letters from Iwo Jima. Also in the pipeline are several novels that have inspired (or are based on) anime series such as Brave Story by Miyuki Miyabe, which has spawned a manga series and anime show by Gonzo. (Brave Story is about a 10-year-old who has to enter a fantasy world to save his mother.)  

Due out in July is the novelisation of the anime movie Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, by Masaki Yamada. 

Agro-anime 

MASAYUKI Ishikawa’s manga Moyashimon (Tales of Agriculture), which was recently nominated for Japan’s 11th Osamu Tezuka Cultural Prize, will be made into an anime. The manga with an “agricultural” theme is serialised in Japan’s Kondasha’s Evening since August 2004.  

There are four volumes of the manga to date, and some of them were appropriately printed on recycled paper and soybean ink was used. (Source: Anime News Service)  

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