Dec 27, 2012

Victor and Edwards, and "Rockin the Suburbs"

Ben Folds sang "Rockin the Suburbs" as follows.

Let me y'all what it's like
Being male, middle class and white
It's a bitch, if you don't believe
Listen up to my new cd
Sham on

I got shit running through my brain
So intense that I can't explain
All alone in my white boy pain
Shake your booty while the band complains

I completely understand what Ben Folds wanted to convey with his song.  I'm not "white" but I'm "male and middle class", and I've been feeling that "it's a bitch," too.

I was born in a middle class family in Tokyo, and went to a "good" elementary school, a "good" high school, and a "good" university. And then I've got a "good saralyman's" job, and I'm now in the mainstream in Japanese society. Nothing special ever happened in my life. Now I'm really happy, but at the same time I feel that my life is really "a bitch." I'm quite uncomfortable with Japanese society despite being successful here.

In "Edward Scissorhands" Tim Burton described the exclusiveness, which was hidden behind ordinary suburban towns in the U.S. In a similar way Victor in "Frankenweenie" is living in an insensitive suburban town, New Holland, which is clean and neat. Victor's mother wants to be a "good mother," but in fact she isn't really interested in her son and she doesn't find what he really does. People in New Holland are so exclusive that they fire the teacher who Victor respects, but they even can't imagine that they, themselves, are exclusive.

I'm writing in English on the Internet, partly because I want to be just a member of a minority group in the world, Japanese. As I wrote, I am uncomfortable with Japanese society as a member of the mainstream in Japan, but I became comfotable as a member of a minority group in the world. Maybe in Japan I'm uncomfortable, because I suppress someone unintentionally, but in the world I don't have to suppress anyone.

Tim Burton's films are popular all over the world. I hope that this fact means that the fans of Tim Burton's films also feel what I feel.

Dec 25, 2012

What Is the Lesson from "the Gift of the Magi?"

Before I buy a Christmas present for my wife, I ask her what she wants for her Christmas present. Just before Christmas day, all the good things were already sold out, so I went with her to the store, where the thing that she wanted is sold, and I bought it for her. Although my present isn't surprising at all, I'm deeply satisfied with the fact that she is satisfied with getting the thing that she wants.

It isn't romantic, is it? I don't care if it is or not. I'm just a philistine.

I read O. Henry's "the Gift of the Magi" again. At the end of this story, O. Henry wrote as follows.

Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication. And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were wisest. Of all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest.Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi.

O. Henry said that this couple was wise because they love each other enough to give presents each other, even if their presents were not completely useful. But I'm wondering if it is true.

I imagine that I would bring this story as a case into a class in a business school. Students might point out that the cause of this problem is lack of communication between this couple.

I always tell my people that they should never surprise me. When they know something will happen, they must tell me about it that as soon as possible. Close communication brings mutual trust.

Why should a present be surprising? A surprising present is quite risky, isn't it? Aren't you happy, if you get an unsurprising present which you want to get?

Who Is Santa Clause?

I was born and raised in an ordinary non-Christian family in Tokyo, Japan.

I went to a Christian kindergarten, just because it was the nearest kindergarten in my neighborhood. I played the part of the first shepherd in the Christmas play so I understood that Christmas day was the day on which Jesus Christ was supposed to have been born.

On Christmas Day, my family ate Christmas cakes and my parents gave me a present, but I didn't believe in Santa Claus whatsoever and my parents didn't pretend that it was Santa Claus who had brought me my Christmas present. It was lucky for me not to have to pretend that I believed in Santa Clause.

Anyway, who is Santa Clause? He is one of the most popular characters, who are often really weird.

I couldn't even imagine that I, who lived in a small wooden house without a chimney and a fireplace, had any relationship with the fat old white man who ware a red coat and a red hat and rode on a sledge pulled by reindeers. There was no sledge on the streets in Tokyo and I had never seen reindeers except for at a zoo. How could I believe in Santa Clause in Tokyo?

And I don't understand why some parents want to make their children believe in Santa Clause. It was happy enough to be given a Christmas present not by Santa Clause but by my parents.

Dec 23, 2012

Victor Was Created in His Image

I've been too busy to find time to write a new entry for two weeks, because I had to finish my work no matter what in order to enjoy Christmas weekend with my wife. Fortunately I could finish it and last night my wife and I went to see "Frankenweenie" and ate Christmas and her birthday's dinner.

I love "the Nightmare Before Christmas" and "Corpse Bride" best in Tim Burton's films.

I guess that his animated films are more faithful to what is in his head than live action films. In his live action films, "Edward Scissorhands" might be the most personal film. Edward, who was played by Johnny Depp, represented what Tim Burton felt in his childhood. In a similar way, Tim Burton projected his feelings on Victor in "Corpse Bride" and "Frankenweenie." (The names of the central characters of these films were common.) Although Johnny Depp did a really great job in "Edward Scissorhands," a living actor can't be exactly what a director imagines. It is Victor that was created in his image.

"Frankenweenie" is a remake of his own short film of the same name, which was shot before his first major film "Pee-wee's Big Adventure." One's first work usually contains their possibility in their future. We can find every motif of Tim Burton's films in "Frankenweenie," for example, his affection for old horror movies in "Beetlejuce" and "Ed Wood", and his bad taste in "Mars Attack!" and "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory."

I have been wondering why Tim Burton's films are so popular despite they are full of his personal partiality. In the first scene of "Frankenweenie" Victor show his handmade motion picture to his parents. I guess that Tim Burton, himself, did the same thing. He has kept doing just what he wanted to do since he was a child until now. He just makes what is in his head in the form of films and shows them.

I love his films, because I find the partiality that I also have. People who love his films also have the same partiality, don't they?

Dec 9, 2012

M Is for Mum: My Impression of "Skyfall"

I saw the movie "Skyfall" yesterday. 

I don't want to criticize it, because the film "American Beauty", directed by Sam Mendes who was a director of "Skyfall", is one of my all time favorite films, but I can't say that I was satisfied with "Skyfall."

I like Daniel Craig's James Bond more than even Sean Connery's. Someone might think that Daniel Craig was too athletic, but I think that he looks intellectual enough at the same time. At least he looks really good in a suit and tie. The 007 movies had been slumping after Sean Connery resigned, and the first Daniel Craig's James Bond movie, "Casino Royale", revived the 007 series. In "Skyfall", Daniel Craig did a great job too.

And I found many scenes that impressed me. One of these was when Bond stopped his old Aston Martin, and he and M stood in front of a desolated land in Scotland. The scenery was truly beautiful and I could feel that they were struggling with a feeling of heplessness in order to fight with their enemy.

But as a whole this movie had lack of harmony. Although the story was basically serious, sometimes the 007 movies should be absurd and comical. The seriousness and comicality were dissociable, so I couldn't empathize with the story and laugh about the jokes enough.

On the serious side, the story of this movie was about fictional mother-son relationships. Both Bond and his enemy Silva, who was played by Javier Bardem, were agents who have no family. They were asking motherhood for M. In this sense, M is for mum. Sam Mendes has dealt with family affairs in his films, so "Skyfall" was no less his film.

In the 007 movies, directors have to use many clichés, for example, the self-introduction, "Bond, James Bond," and these are their chances to show their skill. I guess that Sam Mendes studied 007 movies quite hard, but he couldn't use them well, because the story was too serious.

The point of the 007 movies is the balance of seriousness and comicality. I like "From Russia with Love," because it was moderately absurd and moderately serious. Sean Connery's James Bond movies kept their balance, but Roger Moore was too comical.

Although Javier Bardem gave a good performance, but the character of Silva was too similar to Anthony Hopkins' Hannibal Lecter, and the killer in Coen brother's film "No Country for Old Men" was far more horrible.

I wrote bad things about "Skyfall", I enjoyed it enough, even if it wasn't a masterpiece. Anyway I am looking forward to Sam Mendes' next film.

Dec 2, 2012

The Interview with Moto Hagio about Receiving the Medal with Purple Ribbon

I introduced three of my favorite manga authors, Moto Hagio, Katsuhiro Otomo, and TaiyoMatsumoto on my weblog.

Moto Hagio was received the Medal with Purple Ribbon, which honors the achievement in the academic and artistic fields.

The entry about the translation of "Haruki Murakami's Speech on Catalonia InternationalPrize" was well received, so I'd like to translate the interview with Moto Hagio about receiving the medal with purple ribbon (「萩尾望都さん・紫綬褒章インタビュー」) into English.

It made me understand what she said more deeply to translate this interview.

Interviewer: At first how do you feel about receiving the medal with purple ribbon?

Moto Hagio: I've been really surprised until now. I'm wondering if I am suitable for this prize.

When I was preparing for attending "Salon du Livre" at Paris, I heard about receiving the prize. I was so surprised that I can't remember what I replied to the call, which told me that this news wasn't unofficial and you shouldn't tell about the prize before the official statement. I told about it only to my stuffs.

I wanted to tell about this news to my father, because he was admitted to a hospital. I thought that he would pass way while I had been visiting Paris, and he did so. After I returned Japan, I went to the ritual at the forty-ninth day, and I reported about the prize to my father and mother.

She was also surprised and said to me, "Well, congratulations." She is a fan of the drama "the Wife of Gegege", which described the detail of the manga author's life, and she was surprised with it. She might realize that even manga authors lived seriously. She called me and said, "I watched "the Wife of Gegege", and I realized your life at last. I'm sorry." I thanked her.

Interviewer: How do you think about that your manga works are described as "literary?"

Moto Hagio: I have no idea about it. I'm introvert, so I tend to take everything too seriously. I've wanted to be a "girl manga" author, and I've been publishing my works as "girl manga", but at the same time I might be influenced by science fiction and the works of Herman Hesse and Romain Rolland, which I've read.

From my childhood, I've also read both of "boy manga" and "girl manga", and I thought vaguely that I could express my soul through the style of manga, so I began devoted to drawing manga.

Usually I couldn't share my worries, but I found people who worried about the same things, when I read Herman Hess's works, so I was fascinated by them and I felt that I got help from his works.

Interviewer: When did you read Herman Hess's works?

Moto Hagio: When I was about twenty years old. At that time I thought about the reason why I existed and the way that I should live. In everyday life people told me that you should stop thinking about them and do only proper things, like studying hard and getting a job. Ordinary people stopped thinking about them, because thinking about them impeded doing proper things.

But Herman Hess faced such worries seriously, and wrote about wondering how he himself should live and his failure and success. His novel told me that I could worry about them.

Interviewer: Did you want to express them through "girl manga?"

Moto Hagio: I might be permitted to this extent. In "Heart of Thomas (トーマの心臓)" the central character worried himself over. In my adolescence I also worried myself over about everything that my friends did and said. I thought that humanity was quite delicate and I wanted to express the delicacy.

Interviewer: How did people around you thought about expressing these things in "girl manga?"

Moto Hagio: I thought that the works of Osamu Tezuka, Sanpei Shirato, and Tetsuya Chiba actually expressed them. In "girl manga" world, Minori Kimura and Ryoko Yamagishi were pursuing the subtleness of the human mind, so I thought that I also could express them. But at that time we were minor.

Interviewer: How about the reaction from the readers of your works?

Moto Hagio: Some readers were moved deeply, and others complained that they couldn't understand at all.

Interviewer: But "the Poes (ポーの一族)" was sold out.

Moto Hagio: Fortunately "the Poes" in book form was sold out soon. It was really good.

Interviewer: Were you surprised?

Moto Hagio: When "the Poes" was sold out, I was drawing "Heart of Thomas" regularly for a magazine, but it was really unpopular. It could be dropped, but the editors changed their minds, because "the Poes" was sold well. It helped me a lot. I just felt relieved that I could continue "Heart of Thomas", and I couldn't analyze the popularity of "the Poes" objectively.

Interviewer: How do you think about the power of "girl manga?"

Moto Hagio: At Salon du Livre, I was asked why there were "boy manga" and "girl manga" in Japan. At that moment I couldn't understand the meaning of this question, because it was so natural for me that there were both of them. But a person who asked me couldn't understand the differences of these genres. To explain simply, the reason why there were the two genres is that interests of boys and girls are different. Girls are interested in love, and boys are interested in adventures and teamwork

Most early works of "girl manga", which I read in my elementary school days, were almost stories about relationship between mother and child, valley ball, detective, in which girls played active roles or are faced with tragedies. As "girl manga" magazines increased, more female authors were needed. Kodansha and Shueisha established manga awards, and young authors applied to them. At the beginning Machiko Satonaka and Noriko Aoike came out. A little while ago Sachiko Nishitani drew love stories, and then Machiko Satonaka and other young authors began to make the second boom of "girl manga."

They described girls' minds from the girls' stand point of view. Almost of their works were fantastic and some of them were about sports, for example valley ball. From the late 1960s to the 1970s, they draw these manga works, and manga readers liked to read them.

Interviewer: What do you think of the attractiveness of manga?

Moto Hagio: Graphics and words. We, manga authors, construct frames in order to express a story by graphics. When we make perfect series of frames, they could move readers deeply like great films or music. They pierce directly through readers' hearts. I, myself, was moved by great manga works, and I'd like to give something back by drawing manga, which will move someone.

I think that manga, as a genre, resemble to music and films. When we read a novel, sometimes we stop reading them and think about the reason why the main character talked about such things, but we watch through a film without stopping it to think about the meanings. It's the same with music. We don't think about the meaning of the sound of a cymbal, when we heard it. Films and music move us at once. Manga is like them. When we want to stop reading, we couldn't stop reading through, if we watched the next frame.

Interviewer: Manga is the art of time, isn't it?

Hagio Moto: Yes, it is. We manipulate time freely.

Interviewer: After you have been drawing in the front lines for forty years, what would you like to draw now?

Moto Hagio: I wanted to keep drawing manga in the same way, but I was really shocked with the images of the earthquake and the tsunami of the East Japan last year. And then I could hardly believe that it was real to explode Fukushima nuclear power plants, because I had believed that it should be the happening just in the science fiction. I felt like that the world came to the end.

I found that I only draw the stories about this disaster, so I intend to draw other kinds of stories, like "Nanohana." It's really hard to think only about the disaster, so I'd like to get away from it and draw science fiction or a historical story, in which beautiful costumes appear.

I tend to be drawn into this topic, and the half of the books that I read is about nuclear power.

Interviewer: What manga authors should express in this situation?

Moto Hagio: Some manga authors, for example KotobukiShiriagari and Osamu Yamamoto, drew manga works about last year's disaster in their own ways. Someone drew a fantasy, and another drew a real story. I can understand that there are someone who can't help but drawing about this disaster, because it is a really big affair.

Interviewer: It's a long time since manga have taken root in Japan. Do you think if manga will be attractive?

Moto Hagio: Yes. When I was a child and I just became a manga author, the genre of manga was criticized, especially at school. But now people are favorable about manga. I wonder when they turned to be favorable. I guess that the generations who read manga in childhood have grown up and they are not negative about manga.