Archive for May, 2009

UPdate on Hayao Miyazaki’s visit

A lot of hits and a lot of people linking to my post about Miyazaki-sensei’s visit. So, to clarify, Mr. Miyazaki is visiting in July and will be making a public appearance in Berkeley on July 25th. There are plenty more details to come and I will be updating this blog as the information becomes available.

One note I need to make: I jumped the gun in saying that scholar and author Roland Kelts would be in conversation with Mr. Miyazaki on the 25th. As it turns out, he is not yet a confirmed guest, but the organizers hope to have him. My mistake for the error which I do hope to clarify through this update.

Kelts interviewed Haruki Murakami during his public appearance after accepting the Berkeley Japan award. From what I hear, that talk was dreamy and Kelts did a fine job. Here’s to keeping fingers crossed that it will be him again.

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“No! I’ll never be done with gekiga!”

When it comes to long essays, I normally do a lot of beating my head against the wall or my desk or any other hard surface that can withstand repeated impact from my thick, thick, fortified skull. But when the muse is a stylish 73 year-old Japanese man in a freshly pressed shirt and lightly distressed denim with thousands upon thousands of pages of work under his belt, and thousands more to come, I try to forgo the headbanging and just dig deep to make it happen.  At this point, given the type of attention he’s been getting for A Drifting Life, I hope that Yoshihiro Tatsumi is everybody’s muse – at least for a day.

Massive love to my saintly editor in Abu Dhabi who did a stellar job of guiding me and trimming down my 3500 word submission to a neat and tidy 2000 words. (*Note: he asked for the unabridged version.)  And to D&Q  for all their help.

My article, Gladly Drawn Boy, on Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s graphic memoir, A Drifting Life for the Review section of the Abu Dhabi National.

My interview with Tatsumi-sensei for Publishers Weekly.

And no, as long as sensei is crankin it out, I will never be done with gekiga.

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Hayao Miyazaki is coming!!

Remember this?

I blogged about Hayao Miyazaki’s new movie, Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea, last summer when it was released in Japan.  This summer we’ll see it’s U.S. release – and if you’re in LA (or Berkeley) and if you’re damn lucky, you’ll get to see Miyazaki-sensei himself.

Miyazaki-sensei will be visiting the U.S. this July for the very last time a) to pick up the Berkeley Japan award, b) because he’s contractually obligated to Disney to make a U.S. appearance, before returning to Japan to crank out the two last movies he’s got in him.  The award event is taking place at U.C. Berkeley on July 25th where he’ll also be in conversation with scholar, professor, and Japanamerica author, Roland Kelts.

More details to come.  This is a rare opportunity to see Miyazaki-sama outside of Japan (he didn’t even come to the U.S. for the Academy Awards the year Spirited Away swept) so if you can make it, go.

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Hara Kazuo lives in Brooklyn

Well, this weekend he does.

Light Industry in BKLYN is screening Hara’s Extreme Private Eros:  Love Song 1974 followed by a Q&A with Mr. Hara himself.  (scroll down for more info)

Hara Kazuo also produced (and just about everything else) the movie, The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On .

KAYA Press is releasing Camera Obtrusa: Hara Kazuo’s Action Documentaries this month – I think there may be copies of the book at the screening tomorrow.

Saturday, May 9, 2009 at 7:30pm

An Evening with Hara Kazuo
Extreme Private Eros: Love Song 1974
Hara Kazuo, 16mm, 1974, 98 mins

“I want to drag my audience into my life, aggressively, and I want to create a mood of confusion. I am very frightened by this, and by the things I film, but it’s because I am frightened that I feel I must do these films.” — Hara Kazuo

One of Japan’s most provocative and controversial filmmakers, documentarian Hara Kazuo is best known for The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On (1987), in which he follows a lunatic political protester’s violent quest to literally beat the truth out of elderly war veterans. His harrowing journey through the lives of the handicapped, Goodbye CP (1972), had shocked audiences years earlier with its stark and unblinking portrayal of a subject still taboo to mainstream Japanese society.

For this rare in-person appearance, Hara will introduce and discuss his autobiographical film Extreme Private Eros: Love Song 1974, an ultra-personal diary centering on his ex-girlfriend, radical feminist Takeda Miyuki. Not long after their breakup, Hara decides to follow her around with his 16mm camera as an unlikely way to continue their relationship. At first portending a sadistic macho trip, Extreme Private Eros proves to be an unexpectedly moving and even humanist film as it chronicles Takeda’s later relationships with other women and Black American GIs in the low-rent, gutter-tough world of Okinawa go-go bars. Hara himself never appears in frame, but remains present as a self-deprecating, masochistic voyeur to his former lover’s ongoing life.

Followed by a conversation with Hara.

Hara’s event takes place in conjunction with the release of his first English-language book Camera Obtrusa: Hara Kazuo’s Action Documentaries, published by Kaya Press.

Tickets – $7, available at door.

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James Dean+Yoko Ono = weekend with the Tatsumi’s!

I’ve been putting some long hours into a mammoth essay that I’m writing about Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s gekiga memoir, A Drifting Life.  One thing that helped, aside from John Dowers’ history of post-war Japan, Embracing Defeat, and the tomboy shojo manga series High School Debut, was bummin around the city with Mr. and Mrs. Tatsumi.


The most stylish couple in comics: James Dean and Yoko Ono.

The Tatsumi’s were visiting NYC from Japan for the PEN World Voices festival over the weekend – they’re now in Toronto for TCAF – and sharing a plate of nachos with them – and Peggy Burns, and Anne Ishii, and this other reporter, Casey from the New York Press who I wasn’t all that thrilled about having around – was really quite dreamy.  Peggy set up this interview for the two of us journos with Anne translating and between bites of vegetable fajita,  Mr. Tatsumi just answered our questions.

I’m going to quantify the next statement by first admitting to having only interviewed a handful of people, but outside of Mr. Tatsumi, I have never met anyone as prolific who is so gracious, so modest, so sincere, and so captivating. I was hanging on Tatsumi’s every word and I don’t speak or understand a lick of Japanese.

At the Austrian society where Tatsumi first spoke on Thursday, the man moderating had set up a slideshow of the short story, The Pushman.  As we all looked at it, Tatsumi offered commentary like “I don’t remember this story” and  “The artwork isn’t very good”  In the scene where the women are ripping off the pushman’s clothes, Tatsumi said “Hmm. I really don’t know how to explain this” then added “I guess I had some issues with women.”  At the last slide, Tatsumi commented “I’d really like to see what happens next.”

I can’t say much about the interview or the talks – you kinda just had to be there – since my story hasn’t run yet, but here are some photos of Mr. Tatsumi signing my copy of A Drifting Life:



The evening ended with a Szechuan dinner where the Tatsumi’s were telling stories about comics and life in Japan, and teasing Adrian about his facial hair.  My grandmother used to tease me the same way, and I hated it.  But watching Mr. Tatsumi do it to Adrian was mad funny.  I started laughing so hard I thought rice was gonna come out of my nose.


Big love to Peggy Burns of D&Q and Anne Ishii of herself for making this happen.  Check out the James Dean+Ono stylings of the Tatsumi’s in Toronto if you can.  This blog post is boring as hell given how good the weekend went – but it was so good that I don’t even want to share.

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