Posts in: June, 2004

ANS Exclusive Interview: Super Eurobeat Recording Artist Dave Rodgers

By: Jonah Morgan

Most anime fans will know the name Dave Rodgers ( from his massive talent and production contributions to the soundtrack of the Initial D animation. The pairing in 1998 occured as a bit of an experiment which involved drawing music from AVEX’s popular japanese release album series, Super Eurobeat, and an animation adaptation of Shuichi Shigeno drift racing manga, Initial D. Due to this and other promotional efforts Avex made (such as adding eurobeat tracks to Konami’s Para Para Paradise arcade game series) the Eurobeat scene exploded in popularity in Japan like never before. With fresh 18 track album releases occuring nearly monthly, the succes of Eurobeat continues through the present day. In recent months, the national sales charts across Japan showed the special edition release of SEB 150 debuting in the Top 30 at #20.

Dave Rodgers entered the scene relatively early on as the Italodance artist Aleph. This precursor to Eurobeat, the generally slower BPM “Italodance”, began in the 1980’s. the 1990’s saw Eurobeat proper breakout as it’s own form of music, with new studios emerging in Italy dedicated to exclusively producing the music. With lyrics almost exclusively performed in English, music produced in Italy, and albums released in Japan, Eurobeat itself is a bit of a musical experiment. Dave Rodgers took his unique sound as an artist and production qualities and created his own studio, AbeatC in 1990. His studio now produces the lion’s share of track content on Avex’s Super Eurobeat album series and has signed many of the most popular artists of the genre. ANS caught up with the prolific musician for this interview recently:

Anime News Service: Could you tell us about Dave Rodgers the musician? Where did you come from musically, who are some of your influences?
Dave Rodgers: I musically born with the music of seventies: deep purple, led zeppelin, david bowie, quincy jones and so on.

ANS: For those readers who may not be familiar with Super Eurobeat can you tell give us a brief primer on the series as it’s released in Japan? If possible could you elaborate on the philosophy of the series and “Eurobeat” as an artistic and musical expression as you understand it?
DR: I think that Eurobeat, like any other kind of music, is one way to give sensation and good vibration to the audience: It’s not important what you play or the style you choose, but the basic point is to give emotions.

ANS: And so how did you first come into the SEB series?
DR: I’ve been one of the firsts Eurobeat singer and Producer in the early 90’s: I was contacted by Avex and we started together the SEB series.

ANS: The SEB albums are released monthly in Japan by Avex, usually containing a song or 2 per artist. Can you tell us how this works? Where and how the music is recorded etc (Japan, Italy etc..).. How the artists actually do the recording? (ie: Are most of the tracks sent in several months in advance? Do you submit “rough” versions of songs in advance that are selected by AVEX and then rerecorded for the album version?)
DR: Yes, you’re right: the recordings are done in Italy, sometimes also in japan. The versions we send are definitives.

ANS: Now Initial D has been officially licensed for the the American market by Tokyopop with the first TV series released in 2003. A version in release has “localized” the series removing the SEB background music in the show. Do you have any thoughts on this move?
DR: That’s a very bad thing!

ANS: On to the present, There is a new Initial D Video Series being worked on in Japan, do you have any commitments on this new series you can talk about?
DR: Simply I hope to be present in the future for the background music of the new Initial D series.

ANS: SEB releases it’s 150th edition in Japan this month. Could you tell us of your contributions on this volume and reflections on SEB reaching the 150 milestone?
DR: Unfortunately I’m late for this answer: as you know I was in that compilation with some videos too.

ANS: On the Duet songs you’ve done who was your favorite partner?
DR: All the female partners!

ANS: Your name is of course larger than ever in Japan, what do you have taking place there currently, any tours or visits pending?
DR: I was there for the last time in February, in Osaka for the Osaka Automesse. I’m planning to come back there the next February for the same event.

ANS: There have been rumors for many years that AVEX will be bringing SEB to the American market along with alot of it’s music catalog, are you in the postion to comment on this possibility?
DR: No, I’m not so much informed about that.

ANS: Finally, any words to your international fans out there in North and South America and beyond?
DR: Hi everybody, I hope to have in the future the possibility to come there and to make some shows for you.


ANS Exclusive Interview: Author Joh Sasaki – Zero Over Berlin

By: Jonah Morgan

Several months ago, having reviewed New York based publisher, Vertical Inc.’s initial graphic novel release adaptation of Osamu Tezuka’s Buddha manga opus, I received a preview sheet of their upcoiming litterary works. There was one title that particulary caught my interest, Joh Sasaki’s ( “Zero Over Berlin”, the summary read:

1940. Hitler wants to rain death on London but he doesn’t have the aircraft. Classified info about a new long-range plane –– the Japanese “Type Zero” –– intrigues Nazi generals who ask their Far Eastern ally for a few prototypes to study. But how to get the planes from Japan to Germany? Unable to fly over the Soviet Union or most of the vast British Empire, the Zeros just might make it if they can refuel at the few secret pockets of resistance. An action-packed aviation novel that presents the geopolitics of WWII from the other side.

Being a world events / geo-politics buff and somewhat of a military otaku, the idea behind the novel was rivetting. A Japanese friend of mine had mentioned Mr. Sasaki has one of his favorite authors, having published close to fifty novels. The Japan Mystery Writers Association and the Japanese Adventure Fiction Association had awarded him for excellence in writing. He has also won the Yamamoto Shugoro prize, and over a dozen of his works have been made into films and/or stage plays.

Having finished the book just last week, I’m in somewhat of an afterglow of WWII military fandom. I can vouch that it has more than fulfilled any preconceptions I held about this story going in. Zero is a historical / aviation what-if tale like none other. Sasaki’s research into the technology that ruled the skies over The Pacific, and Europe is thoroughly executed and relayed in print. The technical detail is stunning, I found myself becoming a fan of the Zero plane which I had not given much thought to in the past. The gepolitical situation that existed over the route taken by the fighters during the time period is equally covered with great detail. The characters are plentiful and well defined. Some other reviews have mentioned there are too many characters for such a short work but having exchanged mails with Mr. Sasaki I understand the reason, Zero is not one book standing on it’s own but part of a trilogy where the same characters appear in different situations and themes across the range of the novels.

Fresh from the read, I had the chance to Interview the author of “Zero Over Berlin”, Mr. Joh Sasaki, via the gracious translation services of Vertical’s Anne Ishii:

1. Thank you for this oppertunity Mr. Sasaki, I have just read your novel, ZERO, over the past several days, it was an excellent read, very articulate and intelligently executed. About 1 month ago you were in the USA promoting for the release here. How did you find the reception?

There were mostly Japanese readers who had read the original that were excited about the English release. I learned that there are many people anticipating the crossover of Japanese genre fiction into foreign countries.

2. Do you travel outside of Japan often? To the USA often?

Until I hit my forties, I did go on a lot of research-related trips, now it’s about once or twice a year that I travel abroad. I come to the US about once every two years these days.

3. ZERO was originally published in Japan in 1988, how many printings and how many copies have sold there?

I can’t remember the exact print run of Zero in Japan, but the hardcover sold around 45,000 copies, and the paperback sold something like 140,000 copies.

4. Aside from the numbers, can you tell us from the author’s perspective how you feel the novel was received in Japan when originally published?

Until about when I wrote Zero, writing about the Second World War in entertainment genre was considered taboo. War was a serious topic to be written about in literary fiction. However, since the original publication of this book, I think novelists have lost at least the psychological inhibition towards the topic of war.

5. 16 years later, what are your own personal thoughts on ZERO seeing an English language release in 2004?

I’ve been hoping for an English translation of Zero from the beginning. Japanese publishers aren’t very proactive about getting their domestic writers translated into foreign languages.That’s why it ends up taking this long before seeing a translation, but it’s truly a feat for the title to have come this far.

6. How did you first concieve the idea for ZERO?

As I explained in the book, there were moments in the historical timeline of the Second World War that had a curiously coincidental way of unfolding, which caught my eye.
a. 1940, 9/13. The Zeros attack China in an all-out raid.
b. 9/15. Germany halts the English mainland invasion.
c. 9/27. Germany, Italy and Japan sign the Tripartite Alliance, forming the Axis.
d. Also, I found out that during the Second World War, Japan had dispatched some commuter planes (the A-26) from Singapore to Germany. They disappeared after takeoff.

7. How did you research the various elements for the book?

There’s a saying, “God is in the details”. To create this huge fabrication, the details must approach the truth as thoroughly and as close as possible. That’s my basic method.

8. Which area required the most research?

The most important part of my research concerned the Navy of that period, and especially the circumstances of the Air Corps. My interviews with fighter ace Saburo Sakai were crucial.

9. On the idea of a Zero or other Japanese plane flying from Japan to Germany during the time frame in ZERO, if done in secrecy in the real world, do you believe such a thing could have been undertaken and slipped into the mists of time without a trace?

It would have been really difficult (to get a Zero to make that trip). Like I said before,

ANS Exclusive Interview: Vertical Inc. Speaks Out On Buddha Eisner Win

By Jonah Morgan

BuddhaIn September 2003, ANS was one of the first to review newcomer Japanese to English publisher, Vertical Inc.’s initial public offering of manga in the American market. The company at the time had staked out some very interesting novelization properties including Koji Suzuki’s “Ring”, one of the best selling books in recent memory in Japan. Breaking out of the prevailing industry mold which almost always dictates a company chases after “cash-manga” based on a hot anime property, video game or one which was a pick of the draw from examining top weekly sales charts from Japan, Vertical’s debut manga title in graphic novel format, Osamu Tezuka’s Buddha, was first recieved with quite a mixed review by industry and fan alike. Upon release in October, one of the best manga releases of this past year hit the retail shelves with very little hype. Not a mass anime web ad campaign and nary a $20,000 convention booth tour could be found anywhere in sight.

But the people who do read an appreciate manga were reading and reading and reading….. And this past weekend in San Diego, the people who are widely accepted at picking the best comics released in America, the judges of the The Will Eisner Awards handed Vertical’s release of Osamu Tezuka’s Buddha Vol. 1-2 the award for “Best U.S. Edition of Foreign Material”.

ANS contacted Vertical’s Micah Burch for a brief bit of commentary on the Eisner Award win:

Anne Ishii, our publicist, along with Chip Kidd, accepted for Vertical at the conference, and so I wasn’t there to hear her reportedly tell the crowd that she almost peed her pants when they announced Buddha (I guess Persepolis really was kind of the conventional wisdom (it was, after all, very powerful).

It’s certainly the highest honor a Vertical book has received to date, and we’re amped. We’re a little humbled by the recognition (on behalf of Tezuka-sensei, that is), and thankful. The universe of graphic literature is so amazingly rich these days. But, we always believed Buddha was one of the true classics – in some ways, perhaps THE classic of the genre – and it’s nice that some experts also recognize its beauty, depth and humor.

This is of course Tezuka’s success more than ours, but there are a few people on the Vertical side who deserve special recognition for their work on this project: Yani Mentzas, the editor, of course; Chip Kidd, for his beautiful design work and de facto publicity work; and especially Kenji Ishimaru and his team of graphic artists: they were the real ‘translators’.