My moment with Yowamushi Pedal 30

Yowamushi Pedal 29 & 30

I just finished part 29 of Yowamushi Pedal, the bicycle manga. (I haven’t read part 1 to 28.) It’s the first thick, normal, mainstream manga that I read in Japanese, so it feels like an accomplishment. I never looked up words, because I read it mainly on the trains and while eating my tendons. But I think just reading without looking up words is as important as reading carefully and looking up every single word. Both ways are good ways to study. The first one gives you flow, the second one deep understanding. The doujinshis are perfect for the second method, because they are so slim. Likewise, it would spoil the fun in a thick manga since you would get bored reading a full volume at such a slow pace.

Anyway, my interest in manga and anime isn’t actually that genuine. Or at least it wasn’t in the beginning. I wanted to read manga because it’s a vital part of the Japanese culture, but a novel by Mishima or Murakami is more what I consider my culture. Or used to do at least. All the more fun when you actually take real pleasure in anime and manga.

For anime, this has been the case for some time now. I used to say that anime simply wasn’t my kind of art form, just like opera isn’t. But now I would say it is. In the last three years, I’ve watched more hours of anime than of feature films and tv series. Maybe anime make up for 60 percent of my screen time. In the beginning it was a strategy, I wanted to get to know this famous art form. But then it started to come naturally and then I started to love it. It was Ashita no Joe and Bakuman that really got me hooked. I discovered anime through Loveless, but even though I love the theme in that anime, the actual watching was a bit like enduring an opera.

I’ve watched some Japanese drama with real actors too. They’re all terrible. Actually, I’ve only watched two; the first episode of a bowling series and the first four episodes of Attention Please, about a flight attendant school. Oh, and an episode of a sushi drama as well, that was the worst one. It’s the acting/directing that sucks. It’s amazing to me that anime can be so well done – because it almost always is – whereas drama sucks so much. (This goes for the first feature film of Ashita no Joe too.) I mean, anime demands acting too, by voice actors. It’s amazing that the creators of an anime can get exactly the right facial expression where a real actor fails.

Anime is usually considered a superficial art form, at least from a Western perspective. It’s often pointed out that this is because we connect it to children’s television and Donald Duck. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that everyone watches anime in Japan no matter the ages (as the defense often goes), because most anime is actually made for young people (though teenagers rather than children), which goes for many tv series and other pop culture as well. But to claim it’s like cartoons for children or superficial is just ignorant.

I would argue that anime in a way is “higher” (if we’re using those labels) than movies and tv series with real actors. Anime is closer to a book, and books are usually considered to be a higher, or let’s say harder to consume art form. Isn’t watching people (real actors) the thing that demands the lowest resistance for a human being? Whereas anime distils that world to simple pictures, a process that is taken even further in manga (even fewer lines) and furthest in novels (the world distilled to kanji images). (I’ve discussed this process before in the post My epiphany with Yotsuba to!)

So the scale from lowbrow to highbrow culture should actually go like this:

drama → anime → manga → novels

Over to manga. Maybe I’m in the same process with manga now as I’ve been with anime for the last years, going from reading it “because one should”, via actually enjoying it, to finding it fantastic and brilliant. I had such a moment today, as I continued the roadbike race between Naruko and Midousuji that began at the end of volume 29. Is it only because I bike myself that I find it so fantastic? I hope not. This is what it looked like when Naruko had taken the lead and Midousuji suddenly felt his powers grow:








Looks almost avant garde, but keep in mind this is a mainstream manga and that it’s not SF. It’s just brilliant. I love how the drawing looks so rough despite all the strokes are in the right places to convey this extreme feeling to the reader. What a moment. I’ll remember these pages, and how they made me smile on the Chuuou train.

I’d like to add a couple of things about “Western manga”, but I’ll save that for another post. It’s just about to become “otsukaresama desu” at the coworking space where I’m sitting today, and apparently we will drink some beer together afterwards.

My first capsule

I’ve slept in a capsule twice, in Kyoto (October 2011) and Morioka (January 2013), but I’ve actually never bought the little capsules that you get from vending machines in Japan. Tonight I met with a mangaka in Kichijouji, and afterwards we went to the local Animate store. But they had just closed (kind as they were, they said: “if you know what you want, you can buy it quickly”, despite it was five past eight). While waiting for the elevator I spotted this capsule machine with Kuroko’s Basket nendroids. I put in 200 yen in the slot and out came a capsule containing one out of six possible characters…





(Yes, I got Kuruko himself, the main character and my favorite, obviously.)

Anime: いちご100%

Ichigo 100 % is a mainstream harem anime, meaning the male protagonist is constantly approached by sexy females. High school student Manaka Junpei has to choose between four girls who all declare their love for him. He struggles to keep sane and not get aroused, but is constantly placed in challenging situations. It’s both fun and sweet. And actually, it’s the first time ever that I see an erection bulge in a mainstream anime. It happened in the “onsen episode” of course.

I was recommended the series by my Japanese friend, who used to read the manga in Shounen Jump. My friend was a bit surprised that an “etchy” manga like that was published in a boys magazine, but apparently it was within the borders of what was okay.

What I like most about anime is the reality aspect. I don’t like SF, but I don’t mind SF aspects of an anime that takes place in contemporary Japan. Since Japan is such an extremely homogenous society, watching realistic anime lets you get a quite accurate glimpse into it. It always gives me a little kick to recognize something less obvious than the konbini (convenience store) chains. Like the design of stamps or brands of notebooks.

In Ranma½ and Ichigo 100% I noticed that they use the same kind of blue plastic stool in the baths, despite Ranma½ was made in the 80s and Ichigo 100% in 2005 (the anime). I think my host family had the same kind of little plastic stool, though I don’t remember the colour; the traditional Japanese bath setup seems to be as rigid as the stroke order of a kanji. Here are the two scenes with almost 20 years in between them:

Ranma ½ vs Ichigo 100 %: Same blue stool in the bath!

Another very rigid setup is that of the school. All animes have the same ring signal, just like all schools in all of Japan, I suppose. The same ringing is used in the opening and ending of my favorite Japanese radio show: ハイスクール (High School) on FM Tanabe. And the school buildings seem to have exactly the same design all over Japan and in all anime. Quite a nice design actually, with windows spanning over the whole facade. But that’s another post.

I liked Ichigo 100%. It’s very well drawn and romantic, but mostly frustrating, since nothing really happens; as soon as Junpei is going to kiss someone, you know that they will be interrupted in some way. It’s in the genre. Some screenshots below. Notice the beautiful anime sky. And the characteristic nosebleed trope.












Ranma ½

I’m currently watching Ranma ½, a popular anime that ran in 161 episodes from 1989 to 1992.

A Japanese friend recommended it to me. He said he read the manga when he was nine. It was on the border for what a nine-year-old was allowed to read – it was embarrassing to “be caught” reading it – but still the manga was included in Jump, the mainstream boy manga magazine.

Ranma ½ is a light anime. The main character Ranma turns into a girl when water is poured on him. His father turns into a panda. In the stills below, from episode 9 and 10, a new character, Ryuuga, turns into a little pig. (Girl-Ranma saves herself from his attack by sprinkling water on him, thus making him transform.)

But despite the gag factor, the story also has depth, like when the main female character Akane burst into tears at the chiropractor’s office in episode 9. Unexpected (she’s a hard tomboy) and logical at the same time, just like a good script should be.

























Anime: 男子高校生の日常


I found out about 男子高校生の日常/Danshi koukousei no nichijou/Daily lives of high school boys at Tokyo Anime Fair, which I visited with my friend Freija in March 2012. That’s where I got those nice marketing クリアファイル (clear files). I just love those. The plastic. The design. The boys.

Each episode is made up of a number of separate comical sketches from, well, the daily lives of high school boys.

It’s an easy watch and quite entertaining, especially since I like realism. And when anime is realistic, it’s super-realistic; it says BOSS on the coffee cans, they eat their onigiri and 7-Eleven sandwiches on the riverbanks, and they order from colorful plastic menus at their local family restaurant. It’s almost like anime realism is a sport; how detailed can you go? I’m impressed when it even says “Campus” on the notebooks – if you’ve been to the stationary departments of Yodobashi or Tokyu Hands, you know what I mean. Since most Japanese’ lives look very much alike, it must be extremely easy for them to relate. For me, it’s the excitement of getting a peek into the extrapolated daily lives of the Japanese, paired with the thrill of recognising parts of it.

However, since there is no overall story in 男子高校生の日常 (since it consists of shorter shetches), I never really got hooked on the series, never longed for the next episode.

I also thought the boys’ voices sounded a bit too old, as if a bunch of guys my age were voicing the teenage characters. Which seems to have been the case (see the list of characters below). I guess not all anime can be voiced by actual 14-year-olds.



Tadakuni (タダクニ)

  • Age: 15-16
  • Height: 170 cm (5’7″)
  • Voiced by Irino Miyu (入野 自由), age 24



Tabata Hidenori (田畑 ヒデノリ)

  • Age: 15-16
  • Height: 175 cm (5’8″)
  • Horoscope: Virgo
  • Voiced by Sugita Tomokazu (杉田 智和), age 32



Tanaka Yoshitake (田中 ヨシタケ)

  • Age: 15-16
  • Height: 172 cm (5’7″)
  • Horoscope: Virgo
  • Voiced by Suzimura Kenichi (鈴村 健一), age 38



President (会長)

  • Student Council President of Sanada North High.
  • Voiced by Ishida Akira (彰 石田), age 45

I’m at episode 8 of 12 now, watching an episode each night, sort of. And I love the ending theme. It always makes me smile:

Ba ba ba ba ba ba ba!

男子高校生の日常 is extremely popular in Japan and was voted the best anime of 2012 in a recent internet poll. Which also adds to my excitement; to watch something mainstream for a change!




それに、友達は「茄子 アンダルシアの夏」をおすすめした。あのアニメも面白そうだね。



一緒に走ろう!Let’s ride on a bicycle together!

イナズマイレブンGO vs ダンボール戦機WのBD!

アニメイトによると、僕は盛岡市で見た映画のイナズマイレブンGO vs ダンボール戦機のBDが二ヶ月間ぐらい後に発売しそうだ!買うつもりだよ。



映画の前に「NO MORE 映画泥棒」が見せられた:





Anime: 放浪息子

I just finished watching 放浪息子 (Hourou Musuko; Wandering Son), a Japanese anime based on a manga. As always, Wikipedia sums it up:

The story depicts a young boy named Shuichi Nitori who wants to be a girl, and his friend Yoshino Takatsuki, a girl who wants to be a boy. The series deals with issues such as transsexuality, gender identity, and the beginning of puberty.

It’s a beautiful anime, not only because of the sensitive way it deals with the issues mentioned above, but also because it’s painted in water colours. It’s also a kind of slow anime, perfect to spend time together with on a mellow afternoon. But most of all, I found 放浪息子 convincing and touching. I scored it 8 out of 10 at MyAnimeList, where I’ve started to document my anime adventure. (I haven’t really watched much anime until recently.)

Here is a trailer:

[iframe 630 358]


An extra quality to 放浪息子 is added by the voice actors, and especially 畠山航輔 (Hatakeyama Kousuke – written with his family name first as the Japanese do it), who does the protagonist. Often in anime, young males’ voices are done by women. Such is the case in Loveless for example. Or, if the boy is past puberty, their voices are done by older male actors, as is the case in Junjou Romantica, where the 18 and 29 year olds’ voices are done by 35 and 50 year old actors. But in 放浪息子, the main character’s voice is done by a real and very talented 14-year-old boy. That makes a difference to me. Especially since he even looks like Nitorin:

Japanese Cinema: 4x Hayao Miyazaki

Hayao Miyazaki (born 1941) is the famous Japanese animator. I fell in love with his films when watching Spirited Away when it was running in Sweden. Among other rewards, it received an Oscar for Best Animated Feature in 2002. I even have it on dvd!

Some year ago, I watched Kiki’s Delivery Service with my Japanese sensei. Yesterday I watched Princess Mononoke and today I’ve started watching Future Boy Conan, a children’s anime series from the 1970s, set in the future, after “the War” and “the Great Disaster”, when all continents sank into the sea. The future = year 2008 … Remember how exotic those 2000 something years were back then?

So here are my four Miyazakis:

  • 未来少年コナン (Mirai Shōnen Konan/Future Boy Conan, 1978)
  • 魔女の宅急便 (Majo no Takkyūbin/Kiki’s Delivery Service, 1989)
  • もののけ姫 (Mononoke-hime/Princess Mononoke, 1997)
  • 千と千尋の神隠し (Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi/Spirited Away, 2001)

I already loved Spirited Away, with its wonderful bathhouse, whose guests of various shapes and sizes I always come to think of when I’m in a sauna.

Scene from Princess Mononoke (1997).

But Princess Mononoke actually topped Spirited Away. It’s a classic adventure, a saga of good and evil, the temptation of Man to destroy Nature, the challenge to live in harmony with it. Add some love between a beautiful boy and a wolf girl – I was sold! The battle scenes reminded me a lot of those in Kurosawa’s Ran. The forest with all its animals and fantasy creations reminded me of the rich worlds in Haruki Murakami’s novels – you just want to stay there forever.