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There are two manga I will discuss in this post Parasyte and MPD Psycho

Parasyte - Iwaaki, Hitoshi

Here is the description from Wikipedia:

Parasyte centers on a teenage boy named Shinichi Izumi (Shin in the Mixx English version.) He lives with his mother and father in a rather quiet neighborhood when, one night, an alien invasion occurs. The aliens are called Parasites. They are worm-like creatures that enter human "hosts" through their ears or noses, and take over their brains. A Parasite attempts to crawl into Shinichi's ear and take over his brain while he sleeps, but is stopped by his headphones and accidentally burrows into one of his hands instead. In the Japanese version, it takes over his right hand and it is named Migi (ミギー, Migii?). In the Mixx English version, it takes over his left hand (because the images in the book are flipped to allow for left-to-right reading) and is named "Lefty." [I just want to add that in the newest English version by DelRey the alien is still called Migi which means right. Also, newer manga are read in English from right to left - the same as the Japanese ones.]

My comments:  Apparently the newest version by DelRey is the best and way better than the older versions from a few years ago. The art work has been significantly redone from the 1970s version.  It is a lot of fun and compelling storylines. Everyone wants a movie but the author says he will probably never consent to one.  As far as a real version, just see John Carpenter's The Thing which was inspired by this manga back in the 80s.

MPD Psycho - Sho-U Tajima and Eiji Otsuka

[wikipedia entry]

MPD Psycho or Multiple Personality Detective Psycho (多重人格探偵サイコ Tajuu Jinkaku Tantei Saiko) is a manga series by Eiji Otsuka and drawn by Sho-u Tajima, later adapted as a live action six-episode TV miniseries by director Takashi Miike. The main character is a detective suffering from multiple personality disorder, hence the name. The first volume in the series was published in February, 1997 by Kadokawa Shoten, and it consists of eleven volumes, the latest published on 2006.

Starting out as a violent detective series with a twist (the twist being the variant personalities that take over Detective Amamiya at various intervals), the series evolves into an exceptionally complex and involved sci-fi conspiracy story.

At Anime Weekend Atlanta, the weekend of Sept 22-24 2006, Dark Horse officially announced that they had acquired the license to MPD-Psycho. Dark Horse has released the first three volumes of the series unedited thus far.

My comments:
This manga is so graphic and disturbing.  It is way darker than Parasyte and a lot less fun but intriguing.  It is like the manga version of Hannibal in some ways.  However I find Takashi Miike's TV miniseries great though brief. It is reminiscent of the movie Suicide Club/Circle with its freaky cultish feel and bizarre music tracks.  MPD can be downloaded from Isohunt with the English translations in .srt format.


Blinded by Beauty

"Blinded by Beauty" is a short film written and directed by Akihiro Kitamura (Writer/Director of "PORNO" and "I'll Be There With You".)

Film maker, director, and actor Aki Kitamura is one of the more edgier film makers coming out of the USA. Akihiro's films have an international quality because he uses actors from many cultures in the USA and from Japan. His film Porno premiered at the Vancouver Asian Film Festival. Essentially Porno is a semi-autobiographical account of Aki's coming of age years as a shy Japanese visa student in LA. His new feature I'll Be There With You is about a Spring Break Vacation which ends up as a mass murder. We at BTG-WTV haven't seen IBTWY yet but we are urging Akihiro-san to get it in the festivals up here.

Though str8 himself, Aki's comedic, edgy approach to the subject of sexuality and the angst of romance is gathering a following of people from every orientation. In his films sexual orientations and subcultures are thrown in your face; campy, edgy and vibrant. There is nothing more hilarious in Porno, for example, than seeing geeky Aki-kun have to deal with an aggressive dominatrix set date set up by his wild and out-of-control Japanese bisexual friend. This man himself wants to have sex with everyone he can.

Though Kitamura's films also have the violent edge reminiscent of gay indie film maker Gregg Araki, Akihiros's films can also at one moment have you laughing until the tears come a (or his characters do :) Porno is probably the only movie I have ever seen where a young man is in tears while he is being felatted - because he is in love and for her, it's just sex.

Check out AKIHIRO KITAMURA OFFICIAL BLOG to find out what he is doing now!!
Aki's previews for his feature length films I'll be There With You and Porno can be found on his myspace at:

In the Miso Soup - Murakami Ryu

Ryu Murakami is one of japan's most on-the-edge novelists and film makers. So far three of his novels are available as English Translations. They include 69, Coin Locker Babies, and In the Miso Soup - mostly written in the 1990s. His noted film is called Tokyo decadence.  ryu Murakami could be called Japan's Stephen King if he only wrote horror.

read more about Ryu Murakami at Wikipedia

In the Miso Soup is a tour of the underbelly of the nightlife of Kabukicho, Tokyo. Kabuki-cho is one of the most notorious and dangerous of Japan's entertainment districts. Contrary to its name a kabuki theatre was never allowed to open there in the early 20th centrury. Kabuki, a form of Japanese theatre was seen to be counter-government propaganda at the time.  You can read more about this neighborhood here.  However, I went to kabuki-cho during the day-time for discount movies all the time and, in the day, the neighborhood is fine. Even at night it isn't all that dangerous but you have to be careful that if you go into one of the many clubs there that you know the payment policy and that you are erady to pay when its time. Otherwise you might be dealing with a yakuza chimpira* or worse, a Korean triad member about how to repay.

Here is the cover's plot tag for in the Miso Soup.
It is just before New Year's. Frank, an overweight American tourist, has hired Kenji to take him on a guided tour of Tokyo's sleazy night life. But Frank's behaviour is so strange that kenji begins to entertain a horrible suspicion - taht his new client is in fact the serial killer currently terrorizing the city.

The characterization, as seen through the jaded eyes of just-20 Kenji, of Frank is ominous and equisite. You wont find a more detailed analysis of the empty heart of a psycho killer in much of today's post-modern literature.  The intricate description of Kabuki-cho is cinematic.  One also cannot miss the searing criticism of the alienation of modern Japanese society that underlies the theme of this short novel. I wont forget Frank anytime soon: what a kowai piece of work that guy is.

*chimpira - literally means "little prick"; a term used to refer to entry-level members into the Japanese crime mafia syndicate known as Yakuza. Yakuza are readily identified in Japan by their colorful tattoos and dark sunglasses. Cimpira are often more violent and unstable than yakuza higher on the ladder because they are still trying to prove themselves.  Usually they are enforcers and bouncers in Japan's many entertainment districts which include gambling halls, massage parlours, strip clubs, karaoke clubs, and discount movie theatres.

The Host (South Korea)

Japan is still the master of the Asian cinema genre as long as the cheap remakes from North America don't bring it to its knees any further. Long denigrated into cheap imitations which have stripped any pulpy horror for fear of Korean squeamishness, the thought was until a couple of years ago that edgy Korean cinema was always going to be a toss off to those across the Sea of Japan (aka Sea of Corea).

Not lately. Like a cynical phoenix rises Korean cinema of the past two years. With the release of Old Boy, Attack the Gas Station, See You After School and now The Host you have the element of satirical humour and searing analysis of both societal and family values which give Korean cinema it unique edge.

The Host is a horror comedy that is more about one family's dysfunction, and the almost fascist and underlyingly violent society which allows it, than an actual creature gliding through the toxic Han. But it helps a hell of a lot that the CGI special effects are miles ahead of anything the Japanese Toho studios (Godzilla) keep cranking out.

And watch out what you dump down the drain because I don't want one of those freakin' things coming out of English Bay or the Humber ! These days this shit is almost documentary.

Battle Royale

Hi folks,  I thought that this post of a review of Koushun Takami's Battle Royale by  xcorpuschristix would be a nice (and lazy way) for me to summarize this important post-modern Japanese novel.


The first three paragraphs of the review (summarizing the novel) are here:

Battle Royale was a much better book than the film. First of all, the book was a political indictment of Japanese right-wing sentiment concerning the events of WWII. Most history books in Japan, especially those in public high schools, do not properly explain the Japanese government's true motives in WWII, which was to establish an empire in Southeast Asia. Takami's novel takes place in a satirical alternate historical timeline in which Japan, victorius in WWII, has achieved that empire (which apparently includes China and most of Korea). Japan is referred to as the "Greater Empire of East Asia" in the book....

Takami explains the reason behind the game, the results of which are highly publicized, just as they are in the movie. The game creates an atmosphere of distrust among citizens, which makes them reluctant to join each other in allied movements to overthrow the government. The fact that the game is random and so high school students of many different social statuses and backgrounds are forced to play just reinforces this atmosphere of distrust. To mirror the game, individuals in society don't trust each other and rat each other out to government officials, just as you would expect in a fascist dicatorship. For example, Shinji's uncle dies mysteriously because of his anti-government views. It's implied that Shuya's parents die in a similiar way.

The Wikipedia entry starts as follows:

Battle Royale (バトル・ロワイアル, Batoru Rowaiaru?) is a novel written by Japanese author Koushun Takami.

Battle Royale (ISBN 1-56931-778-X) was first published in Japan in April 1999, and it is one of Japan's best-selling and most controversial novels. It later formed the basis for a popular movie (which spawned a sequel), and has been adapted as a manga series (released in 15 volumes, which were later adapted into English by Keith Giffen and published by TOKYOPOP), which itself now has a sequel.

An English translation of the novel was published in the United States by Viz in February 2003, and has been available in the United Kingdom since July 6 2006, Orbit Books [1]. Furthermore a German translation exists, published by Heyne (Heyne ).

Battle Royale takes place in an alternate timeline; according to the book's prologue, Japan is a police state, known as the Republic of Greater East Asia (大東亜共和国 Dai Tōa Kyōwakoku). From time to time, fifty randomly selected classes of secondary school students are forced to take arms against one another until only one student in each class remains. The program was created, supposedly, as a form of military research, though the outcome of each battle is publicized on local television. A character discovers that the program is not an experiment at all, but a means of terrorizing the population. In theory, after seeing such atrocities, the people will become paranoid and divided, preventing an organized rebellion.


I must say myself that though the book was violent - necessarily protraying the horror of war, it is a completely compelling read.  Though many of the characters do not live long the author makes you care about them before many of them die.  This elicits a cascade of strong emotions in the reader which may be the closest those of us who live in peaceful times may come to feeling the senseless loss of war. In addition, the absolutely humanity of the range of emotions that rise when humans are placed in a situation of mutual distrust  is sobering to say the least.  The plot itself is compelling. I read it in three days carrying it with me on the bus, into work, staying up for hours into the the late evening.  The novel is also a strong indictment of the fascist idealism that all to often leads to war: a necessary read for the current times.

Because of the youth and gun violence being all to real in North America, don't expect a Hollywood remake of the Japanese movie any time soon.

An Online Death Note

Now there is a REAL online Death Note which anyone can sign. Already there are over 600 entries.


Coin Locker Babies - Ryu Murakami

My first novel discussion.

Coin Locker Babies, Kondansha Press (1980, 1995 eng), is authored by Ryu Murakami 村上,(not to be confused with Haruki Murakami the author of Kafka on the Shore).

from: http://www.amazon.com/Coin-Locker-Babies-Ryu-Murakami/dp/4770028962/ref=si3_rdr_bb_product/103-0497861-5447866

It is an intense novel about  two boys, Kiku 聞くand Hashi 橋, both of whom were abandoned in coin lockers at a train station on the same day.  They are put in an orphanage and they grow up together. One grows up to become a bisexual rock singer and the other grows up to be a champion pole vaulter.  They both seek vengeance on their birth mothers and move to a hyper-surrealistic part of Tokyo full of freaks and hustlers called Toxitown. (it only exists in the novel).  Both boys have a sadistic streak. One gets into an SM relationship with his girlfriend who has a pet crocodile and the bi-singer cuts off the tip of his tongue with some scissors at one point.

The novel is written in a vivid and visual style. It is pretty gripping and intense from start to finish; 393 pages - helv 9 print (pretty small).  When made into a film -the USA/France film release date starring Val Kilmer, Sean Lennon (Paul's son), and Tandanobu Asano is currently in pre-production and is planned for 2008 release- it will be one of the strong Nihon-edge ones right up there with Suicide Circle but hopefully with less of a B-movie feel.

Here is the opening passage:

The woman pushed on the baby's stomach and sucked its penis into her mouth; it was slimmer than the American menthols she smoked and a bit slimy, like a raw fish. She was testing to see if the baby would cry, but the little arms and legs were still, so she peeled away the plastic wrapping over its face.
You can read more at: http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/4770028962/ref=sib_dp_pt/103-0497861-5447866#reader-link

Ryu Murakami's other novel Almost Tranparent Blue and manga novel Sixty-Nine are also available in English. Ryu is a drummer and made the SM-themed motion picture Tokyo Decadence (1991).

Cute Cosplay

I found this ingenious cosplay idea on deathnote Community forum.

Hiro of Heroes

One of my favourite characters in the new hit American TV series Heroes is Hiro (Masi Oka)

Heroes is about a group of everyday people living across the USA and centred in New York. Each of them find oout they have superhuman abilities - some of them horrifying. There is an onimous warning when a painter who can see into the future and paint it; creates a canvas of a man obliterating New York in a nuclear blast. Also, there are some characters who both good and evil trying to find the “list” of people who have their abilities. The evil character is murdering the “special” people.

More info can be found hereat Wikipedia.

The Nihonjin angle is with Hiro. Hiro is an otaku who takes a long vacation from the drudgery of his salriman life in Tokyo with his coworker Ando to “save the world”, Ando is a bit more jaded and somewhat of a hentai and who himself wants to meet the webcam lady he pays for online sexshows. [That lady herself has the “superpower” of having a violent alter-ego that she cannot control].

Hiro has the ability, though not quite under control, to bend space and time so that he can teleport himself to the future or past. He can also “freeze” time and then move objects around so as to win at gambling - on Ando’s suggestion. It is Hiro who witnesses the nuclear catastrophe first hand when he jumps nine months into the future. His guide back to solve the mystery is a manga comic which features Hiro in cartoon form taking action to get to America and travel to New York. The manga can predict future events and may have been drawn by the painter mentioned above (but we are not sure yet how this comes about because the painter is a drug addict).

Hiro at this point is genki to the max and in being so is adorable. He also exibits a kind compassion. However, when his future self returns to warn another character to “save the cheerleader” in now-fluent English that character has transformed into a dead-serious version of himself. It makes us wonder, what happens to make Hiro lose his boyish, genki, innocence. It can’t be good.

The bio of Japanese American actor Masi Oka can be found here.

I think the inclusion of Hiro (and Ando) into this Heroes series is a great global leap in the "hard-series" network TV shows such as 24 and Lost. The protrayal of modern Japanese culture is as cartoonish as that being portrayed in Japanese film and media now so whoever the writers are - they are up on the cutting edge of the Nihon Naifu. I should also mention that one character also goes to India so that this show, along with it's Nihon Naifu connection, is truly pan-Pacific.