Posts in Category: blog

Jojo’s Hirohiko Araki Illustrates Cell Cover

An illustration by Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure mangaka Hirohiko Araki dominates the cover of the current issue (Volume 130, Issue 3) of Cell Magazine. The American biweekly scientific journal publication focuses on exceptional research articles in areas including molecular biology, biochemistry, cancer research and cell biology. The issue is publicly available on September 7th. The cover image shows a character like that of an ESP powered member of Stand in Jojo’s stories destroying a harmful protein. From Cell’s own description: On the cover: Presynaptic plasticity is a fundamental, yet poorly understood, a neural phenomenon that is thought to be the basis of learning and memory. In this issue, Yao et al. (pp. 943?957) identify a novel ubiquitin ligase named SCRAPPER, which is responsible for tuning of synaptic vesicle release probability. SCRAPPER ubiquitinates presynaptic active zone protein RIM1, triggering its proteasomal degradation. Neurons from the Scrapper-knockout mice have hyper electrophysiological activity and contained an increased amount of RIM1, and these phenotypes could be rescued by re-expression of SCRAPPER or knockdown of RIM1. The results highlight the importance of protein degradation in the regulation of synaptic activity in vivo. On the cover, the purple SCRAPPER humanoid is putting blue heart-shaped ubiquitins on the red RIM creatures. Japanese manga artist Hirohiko Araki created the cover image with scientific direction from Drs. Setou and Ageta.


Life TV Drama Generates High Controversy

The Fuji TV live-action drama adaptation of Keiko Suenobu’s manga Life has recently been the subject of a viewer row due to its extreme depictions of high school bullying. At the center of the storm are both the sympathetic voices of high school students themselves and the harsh criticisms and protests of older parents regarding the content. Some of the scenes of contention involve a girl student being thrown out a window and another getting spray paint sprayed in her hair. The show which started broadcast in June has drawn around 2,000 criticism inquiries and 13,000 posts to the official BBS as of late August. 55 criticisms and complaints were publicly announced by the “Committee Concerning Broadcasting and Youth” and “Broadcasting Ethics and Program Improvement” on September 3rd. In the USA, the English-language version of the manga, published by Tokyo Pop has seen some changes due to the content of its own, originally having been rated OT (Older Teen; 16+), Volume 6 saw an abrupt and unexplained change of rating to M (Mature; 18+).


Zou No Senaka Manga Adaptation To Be Serialized By 14 Publishers

Author and Producer Yasushi Akimoto has revealed plans that his novel (and soon film to be released October 27th) “Zou no Senaka” (The Back of an Elephant) will get an unprecedented cross-media promotion when it is soon adapted by 14 publishers. Plans are in the works to adapt the story to a picture book, radio, TV, drama, and animation as well. Koji Yakusho (Babel) will star in the movie to be directed by Satoshi Isaka. For the manga adaptations, Akimoto’s words will provide the story and script basis and leave the illustrations to the various publishers. Magazines “Chorus” (Shueisha), “BE-LOVE” (Kodansha) and “Young King” (Shonen Gahosha) have all been confirmed to run the comic. The plot centers on the love story of a 48-year-old white-collar worker diagnosed with lung cancer in the advanced stages who is given 6 months to live. The highly acclaimed text was originally serialized by Sankei Shimbun and published as a book in 2006. Akimoto lost his own father in 2004 and drew from that experience in this fiction.


TAF2007 Exclusive Report: Kenko Zenrakei Suieibu Umisho

  • 28th Jan 2007
  • Blog

By Jonah Morgan

Less than 10 days after it was initially announced in Japan (see our March 11th entry), Marvelous Entertainment stepped out of the shadows at The Tokyo International Anime Fair 2007 for the first time announcing its production involvement in the forthcoming anime adaptation of Mitsuru Hattori’s comedic swimming manga Kenko Zenrakei Suieibu Umisho. Their booth featured the first-ever released art-still from the TV series (the same image you can see on the main page of the official website now), in poster and flyer format. Although Umisho is expected to begin broadcast in Japan in June, MMV spared no time at all getting on with trying to sell the series abroad. It was fully ready to offer overseas distribution rights and was handing out a specially prepared English language press release to prospective buyers. By the time I made it round to their booth on Thursday they already chatted up several interested foreign leads.

The story features perhaps the strangest high school swimming club on Earth including a talented young green haired girl, Amuro Ninagawa, who likes to swim nude and always (at least in the promo art) has a huge mishchievious toothy grin on her face like she’s doing something naughty under the waters. She regularly substitutes undergarments with swimsuits and also wears her swimsuit to summer festivals. Staff includes Director Sohtome Koichiro (Mushishi, Bokura Ga Ita, Galaxy Angel), Series Composition by Ikeda Mamiko (Sgt. Frog, Ojaru-Maru) and Chara Design + Art Direction by Rie Nishino (Save Me Lollypop), Production by Art land. The short and simple English press release reads as follows: “The original work produced by Mitsuru Hattori is serialized in Shukan Shonen Magazine [debuting in SM No. 33 in 2005], Kodansha. Comics has been published up to 4th volumes (the newest one is coming in the middle of April). The comedy story with slapsticks unfolded by high school students belong to Swimming club in Umineko Commercial High School, some times with the erotic constituent, has been gaining the popularity since the start of the serialization. The animation is being planned with 13 episodes series and the broadcast in Japan is expected to be in June, 2007.

Having a read of some of the manga I think the formula to be found in Umisho is brilliant. It has an appeal similar to what we’ve seen from shows like Tenchi Muyo or Love Hina. In the west these kind of shows are quick to be branded and stereotyped as “harem genre” (and I’ve already seen folks in internet land talking of this one in that way). I’m not a big fan of labels myself and sticking a name on something and shelving it without giving it a chance however. I think Umisho will work extremely well overseas, is one of the hot series to watch for in the 2nd half of ’07 and has an all star staff to boot!


The Loot Report: Yamato Nadeshiko Shichihenge TV Flyer

By Jonah Morgan

Having just started running a few weeks earlier on Japanese television, our visit to the TV Tokyo Medianet and Nippon Animation booths at TIFFCOM revealed the North American license for Yamato Nadeshiko Shichihenge was still up for grabs. Directed by fan favorite anime supervisor Shinichi Watanabe (aka Nabeshin of Excel Saga fame), the original story is already available in book form in the USA through the original “Wallflower” manga by Tomoko Hayakawa courtesy publisher Del Ray. That combination alone ensures this TV series is one of the hot properties to watch for future release in America and beyond.

Flyers and promotional material obtained by the original Japanese anime companies at trade events like the business days of the Tokyo Anime Fair or TIFFCOM are really special one-off items. Sometimes there are real nuggets of previously unknown information to be read in them. Most of the time the language is aimed at prospective buyers and representatives of potential licensees in prime foreign markets like the USA. Based on seeds planted by the British Empire in the 18th and 19th centuries, in the 20th and 21st centuries English has emerged as the first truly global language (the language of science, business, the internet, and the most common 2nd language people from entirely different parts of the world commonly use to communicate). As such, the convention these days for Japan’s anime sellers is to have something printed in English.

The show title at the top center of the flyer for Yamato Nadeshiko Shichihenge reads broadly in English: “How to make a Cinderella”. Now given the several titles this story is already known by, does it really need another one? TV Tokyo assured us this was not an official title they were giving it but rather a tentative they were shopping it around with. Getting back to the one off special nature of these promotionals, it’s an interesting trivia item none the less. Continuing, with smaller subtitle text out to the right of the title it reads: “(Out of a Splatter Movie Addict Young Lady Absolutely Convinced Shi is Ugly and Gloomy)”. The the writeup follows: “Met Sunako, our protagonist, a born horror movie addict, who is depressed of her conviction that she is ugly and plain. After a case of heartbreak, Sunako locks her[self] up in a mansion owned by her aunt, saying: ‘I hate myself as I am so ugly.’ Her aunt, very concerned of the young girl’s attitude, talks four hyper nice looking boys into making a deal: The boys are offered free lodging in her gorgeous mansion should they be successful in ‘bringing her up’ to be a nice lady who is confident of herself. The boys have no reasons to reject the proposal, thus their odd life kicks off, with Sunako ‘dazzled’ by the boys’ shining beauty and ever aggravating her complex. Will they ever make it to help her to regain her lost self esteem and drag her out of her seclusion? ‘How to make a Cinderella Out of a Splatter Movie Addict Young Lady Absolutely Convinced Shi is Ugly and Gloomy’ is a wacky off-beat comedy that deals with the contemporary question of inferiority complex, an issue none of us are free from in a uniquely humorous way. (25 half-hours [episodes]) “


ANS Review – Dragon Ball Z Movie: Cooler’s Revenge

  • 19th Jul 2006
  • Blog

By Gage Lamay

Now uh days I take it not a whole lot of people are fans of Dragon Ball Z around the U.S. though there are still some around. Around other anime websites, there does not seem to be a whole lot of fans who feel the same way but I suppose I could say DBZ was a Classic indefinitely. Ah yes I can remember my first exposure to the Dragon Ball Z anime. Around 1994 or so, I remember buying action figures (unknown to me at the time) and when I got home, I remember seeing that a show on Cartoon Network was airing entitled “Dragon Ball Z” and I remember thinking that that name appeared on the toy boxes. So I went there and the Namekian Saga was in it’s early stages.

From then on DBZ was my favorite show at the time. Heh, my only show I have ever watched that had to do with anime. Hell, I didn’t even know what anime was seems I was so young at the time. Anyway, enough about me babbling’ on about my past and let’s get started with the movie review, shall we? Good!!

Basic Movie Information
– Original release was in 1991 but the new version was released in 2001
– Licensed by FUNimation ProductionsR and was produced by Toei Animation
– Written by Akira Toriyama

The Story – Contains spoilers, my apologies
The whole timeline of this movie occurs during/”between” episodes 83 and 84. During the time after the battle between Goku and Frieza has ended on Planet Namek. Goku, Gohan, Krillin, Oolong, and Icarus go on a camping trip. Unknown at the time, there was evil lurking around. The evils of Frieza’s brother, Cooler.
Cooler is first introduced at the beginning of the movie when there is a flashback of the footage, which is shown in the DBZ feature, Bardock: The Father of Goku, which depicts Bardock, who has the ability to look into the future, and sees Planet Vegeta’s destruction, putting up a revolt against Frieza and his army who are just above the planet.

In the Cooler’s Revenge, it shows that a nearby ship is monitoring Frieza’s actions. Who is the monitor you ask? Why, it’s Frieza’s brother and his “Armored Squadron.” Cooler made a big mistake that would one day cost him his life; he let the Sayan space pod fly by him which held baby Goku. Though the order to destroy the pod was issued by the leader of the Squadron, Sauzu, Cooler delayed it saying “he isn’t a threat to us.”

So in a nutshell, years later, Cooler learns of Frieza’s defeat and now targets the person who put a mark of shame on his family. He “plots” a course for Earth where he finds Goku and the gang. Cooler orders his squadron to blast the planet until they find him and kill. Though, Cooler finds Goku in good health and finally fights the good fight he had been waiting for. Now, the story basically included a small retelling of the movie.

The Movie Overall for Me On a scale from 1-10 I give Dragon Ball Z: Cooler’s Revenge a 9. Something that contributes to liking the movie is the music which is featured. Disturbed, Breaking Point, Deftones, and Drowning Pool is featured in the movie and it is pretty good music. It is a good movie and I think you would think so if you watched it. Pay attention to the music! 🙂


ANS Interview – American Comic Legend Jim Lee

By Jonah Morgan

Jim Lee was born in Seoul, South Korea in 1964. He graduated from Princeton University with a degree in medicine but decided to try his hand at comic-book art – his childhood fantasy. He found work at Marvel Comics, where his work quickly proved so popular that the company created a new X-Men title just to showcase it. In 1992, Lee formed his own comics company, WildStorm Studios, which became one of the founding components of Image Comics. There, he launched the best-selling WILDC.A.T.S and helped to create many other characters. He also helped to discover and train a phalanx of writers, artists, and colorists. With its steady success, WildStorm as a business grew so demanding that Lee found he no longer had any time to draw, leading to his decision to sell the company to DC Comics. He remains WildStorm’s creative director but now concentrates on his first love, art including penciling ALL-STAR BATMAN AND ROBIN, THE BOY WONDER. He lives in La Jolla, California with his wife Angie and three daughters. Jim is also the spokesman for DC’s CMX Manga line.

ANS: I was a hardcore American comics fan in my early teens when I was first introduced to your work. You were a favorite artist among myself and circle of friends who were drooling over your incredible illustrations and there buying your books towards the end of your stint at Marvel. So naturally, when you and the other guys at Image (Mcfarlane, Larsen, Liefeld) broke out and started doing your own thing, I can still recall how much of a revolution in the industry it was. From that point, it seemed more attention was being given to Indy books by the fans. It was during this period that I first discovered Manga. A lot of my friends started passing around Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira (released by Marvel) some of the early Eclipse (VIZ) titles and the odd one-off book you could get through the Previews catalog (Masamune Shirow’s Intron Depot 1 comes to mind). Seing just the miniscule amount Manga available on these shores (USA) even then I knew, this type of art and storytelling was destined to become something big here. It took a while, but here we are in the Manga revolution. The stuff is so hot that even the big three (Marvel, DC, and Darkhorse) have gotten involved releasing Manga and bringing in Manga artists in to draw their original books. Can you tell us your perspective on Manga’s march in fan popularity and industry impact from around the early 1990’s to the present?

Jim Lee: Funny thing is that my experience was very much like yours and probably many other hardcore American comic book fans. I started buying the early Marvel colorized editions of Akira but it was hardly a household name. Most American artists loved not only the attention to detail and visualization but the storytelling really opened up our eyes to what was possible in more ‘decompressed’ style. In other words, the cinematic approach of Otomo to the presentation of static images and the use of ‘speedlines’ and blurring of moving objects through rendering (vs the use of the blur filter in Photoshop these days) really made the action on the page feel alive and kinetic. Also, the way manga artists values and textures through gray tones really opened a lot of eyes here to how flat our standard black and white artlook could look. I think that probably helped usher in or at the very least inspire the drive to bring fuller color palettes and color rendering techniques to our work, perhaps as a substitute to the richness we were seeing and experiencing from all this great, imported material.

I also had purchased the laserdisc of the animated movie and was really impressed with Otomo’s conceptualizations of the future megapolis. I think one still sees these influences in the way many American artists visualize the look and feel of the near future. It certainly was a big influence when I was drawing X-Men for Marvel. I also bought Appleseed and fell in love with the tech and mecha look that Shirow Masamune crafted. That too made a huge impact in the way I approached the design of battle armor, spacecraft, vehicles and even standard Superhero costumes. I must have bought 3 or 4 different editions of the same Appleseed material over the years as well as the video tapes. I also loved Gunsmith Cats (published by Dark Horse I believe) being a big gun nut and Lone Wolf and Cub. So even though much of our readership were not following manga, the artform certainly affected the artists creating American comics and their approach to storytelling. Even as I was impressed with all this material, I had no idea that it would grow to the phenomenon it is now today. Moreover, it’s very interesting to see that the explosion of manga in the US has not been limited to just the action genre. The popularity and support of shojo manga really shows how diverse and strong the movement is America today and bodes well for the future of our craft and artform.

ANS: With such a variety of Manga titles on the shelves these days, how does CMX distinguish itself as a label and continue to sell books?

Jim Lee: Our goal for CMX is to have a tightly focused line of high quality books. The marketplace for manga is changing and has become far more demanding. Overwhelming fans and retailers with sheer quantity is not an effective strategy. Each prospective title is evaluated carefully by the CMX team based on how interesting the story is, the quality of the artwork, and whether or not we believe the series fills a currently under-represented but viable niche in the marketplace. If the series also has a tie-in to a well-known anime series and is a fan favorite, we certainly consider those factors as well. We publish


ANS Feature: Religion In Anime And Manga

  • 31st Jul 2004
  • Blog

By: Jonah Morgan

Spiritual beliefs and traditions from across the world have been present in Japanese cartoons and comics since the beginnings of the media. The greatest masters of these respective art forms have touched upon the topics with works bearing their influence having gone on to become some of the most popular successes with fans. From Christianity to Hinduism to Buddhism, it can all be found within these 2 staples of Japanese pop culture.

Director Hideaki Anno drew on elements of Christian and Hebrew Mysticism in arguably the most popular anime series in the last 10 years, Neon Genesis Evangelion. Anno has been mentioned to have used Japanese books on the Kabbala and Christian theologies for his source material although a great mystery has always surrounded which publications were specifically referenced.

The early 1980’s saw the production of 2 of the most highly successful Bible related animation series in history: Superbook and the New Testament focused Flying House. Produced jointly by Pat Robertson’s CBN and Tatsunoko (Gatchaman/G-Force, Macross/Robotech), both weigh in at 52 episodes apiece and recieved a great deal of popularity in Japan when they originally aired. Since then Superbook has gone on to be translated into 25 languages and shown in 70 countries. When broadcast in Russia and the Ukraine in 1991, the series reportedly produced more than thirteen million requests for gospel literature.

Ranma 1/2 creator, Rumiko Takahashi, made a novice Roman Catholic Nun the focus of her One Pound Gospel story. In the series, Sister Angelica must deal with the affection of young and reluctant boxer, Kosaku Hatanaka.

The great Eastern traditions have been represented as well in recent series such as Earth Girl Arjuna and 2000’s Yugo Sako film, The Prince Of Light which were both rooted in Hindu philosophy. The god of manga himself, Osamu Tezuka, made religion the focus of one his last great works, Buddha which chronicles the events surrounding the life of young Siddhartha.


ANS Exclusive Interview: Hello Kitty 30th Anniversary

  • 20th May 2004
  • Blog

By: Jonah Morgan

The Year is 1974, the current anime and manga fueled Japanese character industry in America is 20 years away. A company in Japan named Sanrio begins marketing items with the character graphic of a cute white cat. In 1976, Hello Kitty appears in the USA……. licensing you ask?? what’s that? Sanrio brings Hello Kitty here….. entirely on it’s own. Today, we’re taking it back to the old school, 30 years ago, when Sanrio in Japan (www.sanrio.com) first introduced the Hello Kitty character into it’s product merchandising line. The move marked the birth of a global character icon 30 years later which is synonymous with cute and cudley.

Sanrio itself was started in Japan in 1960 when President and CEO Shintaro Tsuji founded the company. Traditional Japanese greetings call for the common exchange of small gifts and the firm’s first products were stationary, little purses and other inexpensive items designed for exchange. In ’76 when the first Sanrio stores appeared in the U.S. city of San Jose a store devoted entirely to one line of character based prodcts was unheard of. Today, there are over 300 Sanrio boutiques in the western hemisphere, with 120 in malls across the USA. In addition, Sanrio products are available in department stores and retail outlets such as Target.

From the perspective of being introduced to Japanese characters via games and animation, what Sanrio has been able to do with Hello Kitty has always been a curiostiy for me. There’s definetly some relation there……. but it’s hard to qualify. Hello Kitty is almost in a league all it’s own. If you think of manga type characters as cars on a road, every so often one passes another in popularity, switching lanes and merging back into the traffic lane. To fit Hello Kitty into the analogy, it wouldn’t even be on that road, it would be a bullet train on a track next to the road doing about 200 mph. Part of the curiosty lies within how Hello Kitty is marketed. Unlike anime, manga or video game characters that spin off from media into product lines, Sanrio’s characters begin their own existence as retail products. Becuase they are not tied to a definitive story line the customers can – and do – project their own feelings and emotions onto the characters.

To help explore the fascination with Hello Kitty over 30 years we recently spoke to Sanrio’s marketing director Bill Hensley:

1. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Hello Kitty brand for Sanrio, could you tell us Sanrio’s brief thoughts on this milestone?
Hello Kitty’s 30th Anniversary offers us an opportunity to look back at 30 years of great Hello Kitty design that has led to her pop icon status. More importantly, to look forward to more great design in the future.

2. Across Sanrio’s Global Holdings how vital has the American market been to the Hello Kitty brand and ultimately Sanrio’s success?
The American market still represents a minority share of Sanrio’s global revenues, but it represents the fastest growing Sanrio market.

3. Can you give us an estimate of how many unique product offerings related to Hello Kitty have been marketed in the USA since the 1976 debut?
Just an educated guess – In Hello Kitty’s history, somewhere between 50,000 and 100,000 unique products have been marketed in the US.

4. The Japanese character industry has been increasing in it’s popularity in the American market in recent years. This has come about in the form of Anime, Video Games and manga all being localized for the market and the underground movement of fans who directly import character goods into the country. It’s kind of funny, I’ve always seen Hello Kitty and Sanrio as existing outside of this sphere of influence that is commonly associated to Anime’s boom here which began growing in the 1990’s. Has Sanrio watched this phenomena and how has it affected your company’s approach to marketing Hello Kitty given it’s Japanese roots?
Sanrio is a character brand developer and designer. We’re happy that many fans of Anime are also fans of Hello Kitty or other Sanrio characters, but the Anime phenomenon has not affected the way we develop and market the Hello Kitty brand.

6. You have many special events planned over the coming months for the 30th anniversary of Hello Kitty, can you tell us if any special Japanese guests associated with the creation of the brand will be attending or coming to the USA?
We were pleased to have Ms. Yuko Yamaguchi, Sanrio’s chief designer for the Hello Kitty brand, join us at our official Anniversary Kick-Off event this past June at Rockefeller Center in New York.

7. Besides Hello Kitty, how are Sanrio’s other character brands performing in the USA market?
Hello Kitty is obviously the star, but other characters in the Sanrio family are showing their strength. Most notable is Chococat, who is red-hot is our boutique stores.

8. What’s coming up on the horizon for the next 6 months to 1 year for Sanrio?
At least 100 to 300 new items each month, plus new characters as well.


ANS Exclusive Interview: Musician Eric Zay

By Jonah Morgan

There is a song in the vast sea of anime music which has secretly been one of my favorites since I first saw it attached to the ED sequence of the Golgo 13 OAV: Queen Bee around 6 years ago. You wont find it listed on a single all time fan favorite songs lists or even downloadable from an online file sharing network, such is it’s obscurity. The song is “Turquoise Blue” with lyrics by Eric Zay, music composed and arranged by Fujimaru Yoshino, vocals performed by Fujimaru Yoshino and Hitomi Ono. With a bit of research I found the musician who drafted the lyrics for “Turqouise Blue”, Eric Zay, who has recently been taking his own career in Japan to new heights. Following is our brief interview:

1. Could you give us a brief intro into your background regarding music? Do you have any influences, particular style or are you more of a maverick and forge your own path?

I was born into a musical environment, having a very well known singer-song writer as a father, music was always in the air. Dad gave me much support in sending me to school at Berklee in Boston. We now run our own label .and Yes, My influence will always be my father.

2. I first became of your work through the release of Golgo 13: Queen Bee around 1998, can you tell us how you got signed onto the project?

I was playing in a band called Shogun at the time when Fujimaru (singer/gtr) asked me to write lyrics for a song he wrote.

3. The song, ‘Turquoise Blue’ called for English lyrics. How did you approach writing the song and were you given any pointers in which direction to go in lyrically speaking.

I don’t remember any of the lyrics or even have a cd to listen to. I was probably given the song and the lyrics were done. I usually try to write what ever comes out pretty and will avoid becoming waste of plastic.

4. Is having the skill of composing song lyrics in English a pretty hotly saught after talent [In Japan] these days?

I don’t really know about how saught after English writers actually are but, I think it’s all a matter who you know and the connections you keep.

5. Have you done much other work in the Animation industry in Japan?

not much. . . opening and ending theme for “Black Jack” by Tezuka Osamu with a band called Orange Vox

6. On to your present music career, what has been going on recently? Anything coming up?

I have a new album coming out in september called Not Afraid, I was touring with a guy named Sugizo from a band called Luna Sea for the past 3 years Presently touring with Monoral and Bloom UnderGround Writing for tv cms’ like KDDI, Coca Cola, Nissan andToyota. . . etc.

7. For those who may be unfamiliar to your music can you reccomend a good “jumping on” point album wise?

please come and visit the homepages for music and more info:

http://ericzay.com
http://pure-records.com
http://monoral.com


Anime News Service Feature – Does The Yakuza Influence The Anime And Manga Industries?

  • 27th Apr 2004
  • Blog

By Jonah Morgan

3 years ago at a rather large American anime convention, I sat with some industry colleagues after a busy day of networking with company representatives, attending panels, interviewing fans and the usual con fare. We were sharing some drinks and shooting the breeze on the growth of the industry, behind the scenes developments etc… The conversation was all over the place. Then, with a laugh, someone at our table said: “You know…. the Yakuza funds the anime and manga industries in Japan.” At the time, I sort of laughed, and brushed it off…. “Yeah right!” I thought.

The topic did not expand beyond that point but the profound, albeit, off handed and unsupported statement continued to stick in my head. A few days after returning from the convention, I tried to research this specific information via search engines on the internet to zero success. It seemed Yakuza influence could be traced to backing enough high profit industries in Japan and abroad through the media reports and links I was able generate but nothing official on anime and manga industry connections. For the uninitiated, the Yakuza is of course, Japanese mafia or organized crime. The topic is quite popular and glamorized In fictional Japanese comic books and animation such as Ryoichi Ikegami’s Sanctuary and the films of director Takashi Miike and Takeshi “Beat” Kitano. Japanese gangsters have been a plot fixture which has been visited on occasion in Hollywood in larger release films such as 1989’s Black Rain starring Michael Douglas and directed by Ridley Scott and the humerus Showdown In Little Tokyo starring Brandon Lee and Dolph Lundgren.

In the real world, however, information on the Yakuza is scarce and rather Taboo in the American media. To see the mention on commercial television news in the USA is almost unheard of. Indeed, most of the mass consciousness surrounding the subject in this country seems to be shaped more by fiction than factual data. Along these lines, I drew an interesting parallel after just viewing the film “Black Rain” about a year ago when I sat down to examine the news of the day. A new report had just been released in Japan stating the country had made 4.36 billion dollars worth of animation product exports to the United States in 2002. This represented 3.2 times more than Japanese steel exports to that country. In the film Black Rain, one of the key scenes has the Michael Douglas detective character, Nick, following the Yakuza counterfeiters in Japan back to a steel foundry which was being used as a back-office operation and totally conspicuous meeting place for the gangsters. Now there is a real world precedent for Japanese organized crime being associated with steel holdings…….. and, if Japanese steel exports to the USA has been exceeded by animation related exports……. could the possibility of Yakuza investment in these industries truly be ruled out?

Further research that anyone with access to the internet can do will uncover mentions to Yakuza links in the Entertainment Industry in Japan dating back 60 years. The Patrick Macias book TokyoScope mentions Yakuza influences had ingrained themselves behind the scenes at various film companies after the second world war. Daiei’s top producer and president, Masaichi Nagata, boasted of a past as a former street punk. Toei’s many artisans and contract workers with traditional master-apprentice style relationships were said to be inseparable from the Yakuza of the period.

To what degree organized crime elements may influence the current animation and manga industries in Japan is information that will most likely not be forthcoming in any total or definitive capacity in the mainstream press. The actual involvement of those elements in such a profitable industry though is almost certainly assured it would seem.