Archive for October 23, 2014

We Love Hi Tech Japan

Japan was once the home of the world’s supply of schlock. They excelled in things you never thought you wanted, but they were everywhere. You may not remember miniature paper umbrellas for drinks and little wooden toys like yoyos or blocks—all “made in Japan.” There was a lot of this stuff, and it put the country on the export map for a long time, engendering major revenues. Now Japan is the home of hi tech innovation at its very best. The transformation in image has been astounding, and people look to the advanced country for the latest and greatest digital devices and technological advancements. You can count on Japan to be on the forefront of computers, phones, printers, and the like; but did you know they are also on the cutting edge of the design of everyday appliances from automated state-of-the-art toilets to computerized bathroom scales.

For the most mundane of purposes, manufacturing in Japan has produced ways for people to keep tabs on their weight and personal hygiene—all in one small room of their home. They have set a new standard and the world is barely catching up. You can get every measurement possible on your bathroom scale including BMI and body fat. There is also a composition analyzer. Your personal porcelain throne adjacent to the scale will satisfy the seated with a system of hoses and nozzles that massage as they clean and dry. No degree of comfort is sacrificed with the new generation of toilets.

Who doesn’t love Japanese hi tech! Its bullet trains levitate off the ground and its robotics are mind-bending in their extraordinary practicality. (Watch for facsimiles in anime.) They invented the compact disc player and the portable CD. Cameras, pocket calculators, the electric rice cooker, and the videocassette recorder go to Japan’s credit. Where would we be without Blu-ray, flash memory, and the quartz wrist watch?

The Japanese are also video game inventors of the first order—witness Sony PlayStation and Nintendo. Their industry dominates in sales and popularity. In another vein, their animation reflects a modern world gone mad with martial arts, military machinations, witches and monsters, and magical realms. There is nothing as clever or enticing. Everything else pales or is a poor second sister. You should pay attention to Manga Movies like Spirited Away, Akira, and Howl’s Moving Castle. You should know about Porco Rosso, Ponyo, and the Animatrix. You have hours of enjoyment in store. More and more people in the US are getting on board with Japanese anime and its fantasy stories that appeal to young and old alike. If you are a newbie fan, you will need months to catch up.

It all comes down to an extraordinary culture that has permeated the world with marvelous entertainment opportunities as well as utilitarian devices. Japanese inventions have become staples of modern life. I cannot imagine the world without them. We can only look forward to another round of items that will become necessary tools of our lives.

Anime Therapy: A Real Eye Opener

If you want to take a deep look within yourself, I can certainly tell you how.  Recently, I set out to put together an anime production with myself as the main character.  It was to be a “just for fun” creation and “just for me”.

I wrote my storyline in true anime form without the restraints of a good vs. bad plot.  It leaned toward fantasy but had some real life connotations too as most of my stories do.  Writing the story was no big deal.  I have written plenty of fiction with my own story or character as a basis.

It was the anime illustrations that got me.  It was making my eyes huge and full of wonder and making myself sweat tear drops of blood when I was hurting on the inside and not just a few drops, but a bucket full.

It was uncomfortable when it came to really bringing emotions to life and that is when it really hit home just how much goes into the art of anime.  The characters are definitely brought to life.  They wear their hearts on their sleeves.

So, here’s a little self-analyzation exercise I put together based on the one I accidentally did on myself.  Put together some notes on your “time-line” which is, in short, a brief story of your life.  Note the highlights, not neglecting the negative impacts you have encountered.

Then, draw yourself in anime form.  You will need a separate drawing for each of the main events of your life.  For times you were feeling happy or powerful, large eyes and a pleasant smile are in order.  For worried times, you can mark your forehead with harsh marks and furrow your eyebrows as well.  Squinty eyes portray less than ideal situations and for times that you shut the world off, your eyes can relay that message too.  Make them dark and black or…even blank.

Don’t stop there.  If you are sad, illustrate the tears.  Scared?  Drops of sweat will tell the tale.  If you are in love, well, a nose bleed is the general way in which anime communicates that emotion. If you were physically hurt, be sure to exaggerate the injury like a basketball size bump or add a signature white cross bandage to the affected spot.  Feel free to create your own symbols too.

You can put your story into animation form or even into manga, or comic book style.  Or, you can just add the cartoons to your timeline if you please.  The main thing is that you give every important event in your life an anime creation.  Bring it to life and don’t hold back.

For me, it was a real experience to draw myself.  I felt a little naked as I drew my life in anime.  I guess I had never thought how creating anime could be so emotional to the artist as they birth the character.  Even to give a character a negative emotional status is emotional, maybe more so than giving them a pleasant or happy one.  And to make one blank…that takes a lot as well.

I learned so much from my personal creations that it did, indeed, take me by surprise.  If you want to really get in touch with your inner self, I assure you, an honest anime or manga of your own life will certainly reveal more than any trip to a psychologist.  So grab a pencil and paper, if you dare, and let it all out.  There’s nothing that will open your eyes and your heart like a little Anime therapy.

Anime: The Joy of Creating Your Own

The Joy of Creating Your Own

One of the most challenging yet rewarding anime creations I have done were from a recent story I wrote that was not originally intended to be anime at all.  I decided to put an anime spin on both illustrating the characters and the storyline itself.  It turned out to be very spontaneous and amazing.

The thought came to me as I sat down to draw the characters I had just written about.  Each of them had such strong personalities and emotions, it just seemed fitting to make their expressions come to life through anime-type drawings.  Illustrations just don’t get more emotion packed that they do in anime productions.

As the characters began to take their form, I decided to put the animation production in full anime style as well.  That meant changing the storyline a bit.  I didn’t want to put a big American spin on anime.  That just didn’t seem right.  So I made the plot a little more twisted and lightened up on the predictableness of it.  Would my characters live?  Would good triumph over evil?  Hum…that was no longer a given.  I was lost in the haphazard freedom in the world of anime.

I may have created a better anime-based story had I originally gone for that but I’m not so sure.  Anime is raw and quirky and not bound by rules and regulations so I think I was freer to create first and then go back and recreate.  Regardless, it was fun to do it this way.

Rory, in my original cast of characters, was in love with Penelope.  He was, however, shy and under-confident.  As an anime, his heart sweated tear drops and when he was around Penelope, he became small, literally.  I loved the freedom of making him a tiny guy.  It really allowed me to show how he felt on the inside and I think that most of us can relate to feeling small at times.

Penelope, on the other hand, was a very beautiful and popular girl.  Although she could appear to be stuck up and uncaring, she was not really that way at all.  But because she lived the life of such a debutant, she got wrapped up in all the activities of that her popularity brought such as being homecoming queen.  When she was around Rory, she realized how she came across.  During these times, I was able to shrink her down to size, Rory size.  Then and only then did she communicate with him and other characters that were not in her lofty social class.

It was quite a feat to write the story, illustrate my anime characters and then change the story to fit the new plot-less plot.  Then, the actual animation was not easy either.  Then end product though, was the closest I have ever gotten to a “masterpiece” and I am happy to say that for one of the first times ever, I am truly pleased with my work.  I think I will be doing much more anime in the future.

Eating Japanese

More westerners partake of Japanese culture, but they get rooted in what they already know. Not adventurous for the most part, they miss wonderful opportunities to broaden their horizons. Yeah, our cartoons and movies have reached the American and European markets and a lot has been translated and regurgitated for new audiences. It still skims the surface of what the country has to offer which goes way beyond stereotypes. I appreciate it, but there is also much more to the blithe Japanese spirit. Take cuisine. Exceptional dishes with incomparable native ingredients grace the table of families and restaurant diners. Tokyo citizens eat out a lot. There are great foods to savor and share on both the street and behind closed doors.

Japanese fare in the US is more or less authentic, unlike Chinese which has undergone a massive transformation. There are dishes that were invented in New York that have spread to the hinterlands. With our well-known tradition of fresh, even exotic, sushi, fans have been building worldwide and are now on the level of fanatics. They have developed a taste for the very best that we confect. Everyone loves to watch the knife-wielding pros create delightful, elegant fantasies for the taste buds of aficionados. They do understand that it is an art in every respect. No cuisine emphasizes presentation as much as the Japanese. It always looks as good as it tastes, maybe better. Curlicues of fragrant ginger, elongated sprouts, and wedges of orange are par for the course. This is no formula production but a parade of whimsical and appealing culinary fabrications.

It’s all about rice with sashimi and sushi, not to mention teriyaki beef or chicken. You get this staple with every order. It is consumed as part of a typical meal. A rice cooker is an essential appliance in a professional or amateur kitchen, and it gets used a lot. Every chef has a good one in tow. Making rice is simple, but has to be done just right to adorn the delicacies for which the local cuisine is known. Yes, you can just boil it in a pot, but if you have a state-of-the-art cooker, you can set it for perfect texture and consistency every time—and fast. It is easy to measure everything (after the rice has been washed). It has to be made fresh and not sit on the counter for hours congealing. Whether ready-polished or brown (increasingly popular in the west), it is the perennial accompaniment of choice.

Eating Japanese therefore entails time-honored tempura preparation, very particular vegetables, and wasabi mustard in sufficient quantities. It implies plenty of white rice that is fluffy, and not too moist. It is a side dish, of course, but it counts as more. Wash it down with hot green tea and you are in heaven. Put a dollop alongside succulent beef sukiyaki (using only the very best cuts) and your mouth will water. Eat it with chopsticks right from the bowl. Get down with eating Japanese!

Anime: Animation Without Limits

When I first heard the term “anime”, I had no clue what it was.  Then, I mistakenly thought it was any clip art or animation that had huge eyes and adorable faces.  Boy, was I wrong!

I have since discovered that it is unique and intriguing Japanese animation.  The genuine work is done in Japan by the Japanese but some, myself included, accept anime from any nation and as created by an artist of any nationality, as long as it looks and feels genuine.

I must not be the only one who has a misconception of what anime is.  When I mention that I am working on an anime project or that I like anime, I get some crazy looks.  It took a while to figure out why.  Finally, I asked.

As it turns out, many are under the belief that not only is anime from Japan, it is sexual in content.  And…not just sexual but a bit raw and sometimes perverted as well.  Ha!  No wonder I have been getting such reactions.

Anime is actually made for a wide variety of genres and in all sorts of niches.  A good bit is erotica and sells like hot cakes.  But there is also a lot of anime productions for children and for more conservative adults.

In Japan, many popular movies are in anime.  While Americans are more apt to tune in to a drama or action movie with human characters, the Japanese are as likely, if not more likely, to watch an animated version.  It is part of the culture.  Anime has been around as a mainstream form of entertainment in Japan since around 1917 but the manga, or Japanese comics that are often in anime go back much further in history.

The more I learn about anime, the more interested I become in it.  It amazes me.  The artists of the illustrations are so talented to create such emotion-filled characters and the stories in the productions are amazing as well.

While the Western World tends to stick to certain plots such as good vs. evil or “happily ever after”, such is not the case with anime movies.  You really never know what is going to happen or how they may end and often the end is really just the beginning as the next episode may take up where that one left off.

There is some form of anime that will interest most everyone.  There is anime for children, anime for tweens, anime for females and anime that is geared for guys.  Some anime is sexual while other anime have complicated plots.

Anime movies are full of imagination.  You can find everything from complete fiction and fantasy to situations that relate to real life.  There are no rules in anime.

Anime is definitely not limited to cartoon porn flicks.  Anime, in my estimation, is not limited to animations that are made in Japan by a Japanese.  Anime is not limited…at all and that is one of the things I love most about it.