Category Archives: Japanese

Conflicted About “47 Ronin”

Related Post: Attack on Titan: Analogy to World War II.

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From Left to Right: Rinko Kikuchi, Tadanobu Asano, Hiroyuki Sanada, Keanu Reeves, and Kou Shibasaki.
Disclaimer: I do not own this image!!

I am very conflicted about going to see 47 Ronin starring Keanu Reeves in theaters December 25th.

On one hand, the film seems to have little to do with Chūshingura (忠臣蔵), the original kabuki (歌舞伎) play I read in the “Traditional Japanese Literature” class I took at Sophia University (上智大学) in Tokyo. Moreover, the film has reportedly not done well with Japanese audiences.

BUT, on the other hand, I really want to support the amazing selection of Japanese actors cast in the film. And, for that reason, I’ve devised the following list…

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Disclaimer: I do not own this image!!

Hiroyuki Sanada (真田広之)

  • Best known for in the U.S.: Dogen on Lost (Season 6).
  • Notable Accolades: He performed with the Royal Shakespeare Company and received an honorary MBE award.
  • Why is he awesome?: While filming The Last Samurai (2003), he almost cut off Tom Cruise’s head (“Cruise has brush with death”).
  • Film Recommendations: Sanada-san stars in my favorite samurai film The Twilight Samurai (2002). This film has only two fight scenes (one short and one long), but they are both jaw-dropping in their seemingly effortless choreography and will have you on the edge of your seat!

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Disclaimer: I do not own this image!!

Disclaimer: I do not own this image!!

Kou Shibasaki (柴咲コウ)

  • Best known for in the U.S.: Mitsuko Souma in Battle Royale (2000); she was slated to play Gogo Yubari’s twin sister Yuki in Kill Bill, but dropped out due to other commitments.
  • Notable Accolades: She won a Japanese Academy Award for her performance in Go (2001).
  • Why is she awesome?: She starred in the first Japanese television drama I ever watched called Orange Days (2004) in which she played a deaf character, performing all her lines in Japanese sign language.  Plus, she’s an adorable pop singer (“KISS Shite” by KOH+).
  • Film Recommendations: Shibasaki-san stars alongside Joe Odagiri in one of my favorite Japanese films called La Maison de Himiko (2005) about a young woman who is asked by her dying father’s young male lover to work in her father’s nursing home for gay men.

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Rinko-Kikuchi-2

Disclaimer: I do not own this image!!

Rinko Kikuchi (菊地凛子)

  • Best known for in the U.S.: Mako Mori in Pacific Rim (2013).
  • Notable Accolades: She was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance in Babel (2006).
  • Wh is she awesome?: She’s the first Japanese actress in 50 years to be nominated for an Oscar! Plus, she’s appeared in a number of films with Tadanobu Asano (see below) including his directorial debut Tori (2003).
  • Film Recommendations: I absolutely adore The Brothers Bloom (2009), starring Rachel Weisz, Adrien Brody, Mark Ruffalo, and (of course) Rinko Kikuchi!! :) Kikuchi-san silently pantomimes throughout this film and is an absolute delight to watch.

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Disclaimer: I do not own this image!!

Tadanobu Asano (浅野忠信)

ONE OF MY ALL-TIME FAVORITE ACTORS!

Some of these film recommendations might be hard to find outside of Japan. If you’re having trouble finding a title and really want to watch it, message me at gegallas@hotmail.com and I’ll see if I can help! :)

Also, for those of you who go see 47 Ronin, leave a comment here and let me know what you think!

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Please visit my store: thepoetandtheflea.storenvy.com!

For more updates, follow me on facebooktumblr and twitter.

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Copyright 2013 by G. E. Gallas


Attack on Titan: Analogy to World War II

Okay, I just had to get this off my chest…

The Japanese manga and anime series Attack on Titan made absolutely zero sense to me until I realized it is an unmistakable analogy to World War II.

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All over the internet, I kept seeing disturbing images of a giant human with no skin. I’m not particularly squeamish about violence in the media — most horror movies drive me into a fit of hysterical laughter. Plus, I’m generally fascinated by the macabre.  But certain things just get to me. Like the part in the brilliant Pan’s Labyrinth when Captain Vidal’s face is mutilated and he sews it back together (though I adore the Pale Man). Or in Boardwalk Empire (one of my favorite shows) when Richard Harrow (one of my favorite characters) scalps another character without hesitation.  And this giant skinless human is no different — sending shivers down my spine!

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Image from Attack on Titan
Disclaimer: I do not own this image!!

I soon discovered that this giant skinless human is from a series called Attack on Titan (進撃の巨人, Shingeki no Kyoujin). When I first became interested in Japan around middle school, I used to watch a lot of anime. But I tend towards live-action series or movies nowadays (a wonderful tool for practicing my language skills). I do find the occasional anime series like the amazing Gankutsuou (巌窟王): The Count of Monte Cristo (which is actually the most faithful adaptation of Dumas’s masterwork) and the gripping Monster (モンスター) (scheduled to be adapted into live-action for HBO by Guillermo del Toro). In other words, I’m usually extremely picky about my anime. But, after being utterly confused by the Attack on Titan Wikipedia summary, I decided to give the series a try out of pure morbid curiosity.

So, I’ve been working my way through the episodes on Hulu. It might be a bit melodramatic at times and the so-called “Vertical Maneuvering Equipment” that allows the characters to leap around is pretty implausible. But it has a relatively well-constructed plot line and decent character development. The main characters Eren and Mikasa have particularly tragic yet compelling backstories. But I couldn’t help a strange feeling of déjà vu

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A page from Barefoot Gen by Keiji Nakazawa
Disclaimer: I do not own this image!!

And then it hit me! I realized that certain elements of Attack on Titan bear a striking resemblance to the renowned manga Barefoot Gen (はだしのゲン, Hadashi no Gen), about the bombing of Hiroshima and its survivors.

For instance: In Attack on Titan, Eren and Mikasa attempt to free Eren’s mother from underneath their collapsed house. But Eren’s mother begs them to save themselves. Eren and Mikasa, with the help of a city guard names Hannes, flee from danger as Eren’s mother is killed and eaten by a titan. This directly parallels Barefoot Gen. After the atom bomb drops on Hiroshima, Gen and his mother Kimie discover Gen’s father Daikichi and Gen’s siblings trapped underneath their collapsed house. Gen and Kimie attempt to free the rest of the family before they are consumed by the fire that has broken out all across the city. But Daikichi begs them to save themselves. Gen and Kimie are forced to flee from danger.

This parallel leads me to believe that the humanoid titans may have been inspired by the victims of the atom bombs. In Hiroshima and Nagasaki, many victim’s skin melted off or hung from their bodies in tatters. These victims must have been in excruciating pain and are depicted moving very slowly and blindly, almost like zombies. Although the titans are not meant to be sympathized with (at least not yet) as one would sympathize with the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, their movements are very similar. In this context, the one skinless titan makes so much more sense to me. I really won’t be surprised if the series reveals that the titans are resulted from a human scientific experiment gone wrong and that we are indeed meant to sympathize with them.

Attack on Titan‘s analogy to World War II does not stop with the atom bombs. The series often explores themes related to militarism, group mentality, and self-sacrfice — topics often associated with Japan during World War II as well as World War II across the board.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Perhaps I’ll post more correlations between Attack on Titan and Barefoot Gen as I continue watching!

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Please visit my store: thepoetandtheflea.storenvy.com!

For more updates, follow me on facebooktumblr and twitter.

***

Copyright 2013 by G. E. Gallas


Brief Update

★ Don’t forget to check out my graphic novel, The Poet and the Flea!

A new page every Wednesday!

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Preview to upcoming post, “Experience of EBABZ (East Bay Alternative Book & Zine Fest)”:

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Here is a brief update on my current creative projects and endeavors…!

Tuesday, December 4th

  1. E-mails, e-mails, e-mails…!
  2. Sent out some more fellowship/internship/job applications.
  3. Worked on the second rough draft for Elias & The City of Cats.

Wednesday, December 5th

  • Under the weather!

Thursday, December 6th

  1. Was supposed to go on a date with Wes, but I caught a nasty cold. (;へ:)
  2. E-mails, e-mails, e-mails…!

Friday, December 7th

  • Recovering from cold!

Saturday, December 8th

Sunday, December 9th

  1. Today, was nominated again for the Very Inspiring Blogger award! Updated information on this post.
  2. Hired to do a small freelance translation job (English to Japanese). Began working on first assignment!

Monday, December 10th

  1. Worked on The First Reich.
  2. Worked with client on translation job.

Tuesday, December 11th

  1. First day of cat sitting!
  2. Sent out some more fellowship/internship/job applications.
  3. Worked on The Flea script.
  4. Received e-mail informing me I have a phone interview, yay!!
  5. Worked with client on translation job.

Etcetera

  • The Poet and the Flea: 53 pages of written script (1 page of script = 4-6 illustrated pages), and about 36 pages (1-24, 27-30 completed, and 25-26, 31-36 in progress) of illustrated work.
  • The First Reich: about 1-10 pages of illustrated work in progress.

To Do:

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For more updates, don’t forget to follow me on tumblr and/or twitter.

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Copyright 2012 by G. E. Gallas


October 2010: VAMPS at Roseland Ballroom, NYC

I can’t believe it’s already been two years since I saw VAMPS in New York City. I made so many great friends in line, and I still communicate with them via Facebook today! –G. E.

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Waiting for Hyde:

Curiosity Killed The Average New Yorker

It was 7 in the morning when a skinny, middle-aged woman in a tracksuit jogged up to us and asked “What are you guys waiting for?”

Carey, one of many fellow fans I had met for the first time that very morning, asked her friend Shannon to hand her the signs. After receiving the pile of lined paper from Shannon, Carey proceeded to display the first page to the skinny woman. In crude Sharpie marker, the sign read:

We are here for VAMPS.

After staring at the words for a moment with a confused expression on her face, the skinny woman responded by asking, “What is that?” Carey tucked the first page behind the others to reveal the second sign.

They are a Japanese rock group!

“VAMPS” is the popular side-project band of Japanese rock star Hyde. In Japan, “Hyde” has been a household name for over a decade.

Hyde’s major band, L’Arc~en~Ciel, keeps busy dishing out one hit single after another and playing Tokyo Dome (a venue with more than twice the capacity of Madison Square Garden) for the umpteenth time. This year, the band celebrates its 20th anniversary.

Hyde performing at the Roseland Ballroom in New York City.

Although Hyde doesn’t sport fame in the United States equivalent to that of bands like Green Day per se, his fame among American Japanophiles is enough to earn VAMPS a spot in the 2009 Vans Warped Tour and a 2010 World Tour including four concerts across America.

On Saturday, October 9th, I attended VAMPS’s concert at The Roseland Ballroom in New York City.

After reading the second sign with an increasingly confused expression on her face, the skinny woman asked “How long have you all been here?” Carey revealed the third sign.

Yes, we’ve been here ALL DAY.

VAMPS fan Carey and her signs.

My friends thought me insane for heading over to the venue at 5 in the morning. But I knew better. By the time I got to Roseland, there was already a block filled with VAMPS fans standing in line for the 8 p.m. concert.

By “standing,” I mean fans huddled in blankets, sleeping sprawled out on the dog-piss-covered Manhattan sidewalk.

Chatting in line, I could tell that these fans were truly dedicated.

According to Josh (a friendly, chubby VAMPS fan dressed in a kangaroo costume for some unknown reason), some fans had been waiting in line since Wednesday.

Many had come in from Syracuse, Connecticut and the like. Some – such as die-hard fan Mayline – had flown all the way from faraway places – in Mayline’s case, Puerto Rico – just for the concert. Mayline had even lied about a death in the family just to get time off work.

The skinny woman, confused as ever, continued asking questions. And for every question, Carey had a pre-made sign with the corresponding answer. “7 in the morning, and Carey was already an expert at this,” I thought to myself. “Only 13 hours to go.”

Taxi drivers stopped at the light would shout out their windows at us. We would shout back and, once the light turned green, they would drive away still chuckling.

Tourists stood with their cameras snapping pictures of us. Fans in line would retaliate with their own cameras. Upon seeing cameras flashing in their direction, the tourists would flee.

Theater-goers would ask us, “Is this the line for Jersey Boys?” or “Is this the line for Promises, Promises?” They would leave moping about how young people don’t appreciate Broadway anymore.

Sometime during the afternoon, the VAMPS American tour manager came around and handed out flyers with Hyde’s face on them. We figured the flyers would make our lives easier, a visual tool to show curious passersby.

VAMPS World Tour official flyer.

Unfortunately, the flyer just seemed to confuse people more.

Around 5 p.m. and about the gazillionth curious passerby, VAMPS fans in line started getting fed up with all the questions. Down the line, we started hearing people walking past, complaining, “Why didn’t anyone tell me there was a Justin Bieber concert today?”

By that time, the VAMPS line must have already reached the Letterman Show a few blocks up. I can only imagine the kind of hell that part of the line was getting. “What, you’re not here for Letterman? What’s wrong with you?”

After all her questions were answered, the skinny woman seemed disappointed. As she jogged away, she sighed, “Okay then, enjoy yourselves.” She didn’t even stop to read Carey’s last sign:

Thank you for your time! :)

Perhaps the skinny woman would have been less disappointed if Carey’s first sign had read “Bette Midler.”

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2012: L’Arc~en~Ciel went on to become the first Japanese band to headline Madison Square Garden. The “WORLD TOUR 2012 LIVE at Madison Square Garden” concert DVD will be released December 26th.

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For more updates, don’t forget to follow me on tumblr and/or twitter.

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Copyright 2012 by G. E. Gallas


Brief Update

Here is a brief update on my current creative projects and endeavors…!

Tuesday, August 7th

  1. Today, had lunch with the lovely Tina C.  She’s a really smart and wonderful lady. She gave me some helpful advice about The JET Programme (something I may do in the future) and the JLPT Japanese Language Proficiency Test (something I’ve been considering). We ended up speaking English with a bunch of random Japanese words thrown in (●´∀`●). I’m not sure if she’ll be staying in SF, but I hope we can become friends!
  2. Lately, been trying to practice my Japanese language skills thanks to my new iPad!  Downloaded the app “iBunkoHD” to read literature in the original Japanese (Akutagawa Ryūnosuke, Natsume Sōseki, Dazai Osamu, etc.). Downloaded another app “Japanese Advanced Phrases” to practice newspaper terms, 四字熟語 (yojijukugo: a word consisting of four kanji), idioms, etc.

Wednesday, August 8th

  • Continuing work on The Flea and The Man…

Thursday, August 9th

  1. Posted a new topic at a forum called Making Graphic Novels to promote The Poet and the Flea. Check out post here.
  2. With a discount from Stage32.com, applied to the Emerging Screenwriters 2012 Screenplay Competition. Information updated on “Applications” post, here.

Friday, August 10th

  1. Continuing work on The Flea and The Man…
  2. Thinking of signing up with Top Web Comics: Comic Rankings. Any advice?
  3. Finally connected with potential director/producer. He seems experienced, interested, and enthusiastic. Going to send him a few short scripts.

Saturday, August 11th – Sunday, August 12th

  • Continuing work on The Flea and The Man…

Monday, August 13th

  1. E-mails, e-mails, e-mails…!
  2. Trying to figure out the best way to scan The Poet and the Flea. Options, options, options…

Tuesday, August 14th

  1. Continuing work on The Flea and The Man…
  2. As recommended by a fellow artist, signed up with mlkshk.com. It’s a bit like Tumblr and Pinterest. Not quite sure how it works yet though… Forgot to mention, a few days ago, signed up with stumbleupon.com. Not quite sure how this one works either… I’ll figure it out eventually.
  3. Spoke again with potential director/producer. He has lots of interesting ideas for Robots Are a Girl’s Best Friend. Will speak again soon.

Etcetera

  1. The Poet and the Flea: 37 pages of written script (1 page of script = 4-6 illustrated pages), and about 36 pages (1-18, 21-23, 27, 29-30 completed, and 19-20, 24-26, 28, 31-36 in progress) of illustrated work.
  2. Continuing to help fellow screenwriter/filmmaker Jay Dial.

To Do:

  • Work on research, character sketches, etc. for Shannon.
  • Schedule second meeting with Shannon for August.
  • Attend The Pixel-Flick TV Actor/Filmmaker Alliance Second Meeting (August 18th).
  • Finish The Man Who Never Smiled by end of August.
  • Sign up with IMDbPro.
  • Apply to the Bluecat Screenplay Competition (before October 15th).
  • Sign up with Top Web Comics: Comic Rankings.

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For more updates, don’t forget to follow me on tumblr and/or twitter.

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Copyright 2012 by G. E. Gallas


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