Stories of Roland Told to the Children (Yesterdays Classics)
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Lots to look forward to as slouches ahead? Any thoughts on last night's Afro Samurai premiere? I'm due on a morning flight to Los Angeles and must sleep for an hour or two.
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The artwork, direction, production, conception and script all come from Japan. Samuel L. In many respects, this is a signal series? If anime is going to continue to grow as a medium, and as a product, this is one crucial way it might do so.
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Talent is both aging and thinning back in Japan, right at the time the audience is expanding in the US and elsewhere. Far too many Japanese producers seem at a loss, befuddled by both scenarios.
As author Matt Alt, anime director Michael Arias, and others told me, even the medium itself seems to have reached an aesthetic plateau? The Americans want contracts, deadlines, and storyboards. It's been a very long and difficult road. American Eric Calderon, who headed MTV's animation division in the Beavis and Butthead years, managed the creative side, working directly with the author of the story, Takashi Okazaki, and the Japanese artists and animation director.
After my book was completed, both told me in separate conversations that there are at least two other big-budget, collaborative anime projects in the works to follow Afro. Based on the riveting visuals of episode 1 , there ought to be more to come. I am finishing a novel at the moment? There will a bit more to come from me. Somewhat defensively, my first response is that I am no anime otaku? And there are plenty of excellent texts out there that serve as encyclopedic introductions to manga and anime. Frederik L. Schodt's Manga, Manga , first published in , remains a thorough and breezily written account of the medium's history and aesthetic virtues; Susan Napier's Anime from Akira to Howl's Moving Castle , while more academic, proffers well-grounded insights into how that form functions.
Both books, and their generous authors, contributed significantly to my account of Japan's pop cultural convergence with American tastes. Still, I did watch a lot of anime, and read a lot of manga, not to mention books and magazines about both, while conducting interviews in four countries, so I ought to have something to recommend. I go into considerable detail describing the inner workings of Ghibli, the histories of and relationships between Miyazaki and Takahata, and the shared creative genesis and release of both Grave and Totoro in Japanamerica.
But for the purposes of this blog, friends, family and readers, and to account for yesterday's lunch, I am unreservedly recommending Grave as a starting point for the anime-intrigued. It is the story of two orphans, a brother and his younger sister, roaming Japan near the end of World War II. Their mother perished in the firebombing of Kobe; their father is in the Imperial Navy… somewhere. The two children are taken in by a foster family that includes some extended relatives, but it is clear they are not wanted.
Stories of Roland Told to the Children
No spoilers here. As in most Ghibli productions, the visuals are exquisite, the silences sometimes symphonic in scope and meaning. And the story, based upon a novel written as an apology, is as riveting and moving as it is distinctive. There aren't many great stories about the non-incestuous love and need shared between close siblings.
The closing pages of The Catcher in the Rye come to mind. Grave cuts through your preconceived notions and expectations about war films, road stories, familial dramas, children's stories? He moved to the city more than five years ago, but only started driving a cab in the past three months. This was followed by the typical run of questions and comments: Was I part Japanese? Did I like living there? Was I from New York? And: Did I know that the Japanese occupied Korea for "more than 30 years?
Can you believe it? Turns out his grandfather had attended Waseda University, my Japanese poet grandfather's alma mater, in the s? There was no rancor in his voice.
It was just a flat retelling of shared knowledge, a reaching out across the headrest dividing driver from passenger as I patiently pointed out street signs. Because we come from polite culture. This country is a hard place, a tough place. I nodded in the semi-dark as we rolled to a stop, confiding that I had just published a book about the convergence of Japanese and American sensibilities. Great, great. I pray your book becomes a bestseller.