Seven cool things set to happen in Japan during 2015

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RocketNews 24 (by Casey Baseel):

If there’s one thing we know, it’s that you should always wash your hands after going to the bathroom. If there’re two things we know, though, the second is that you’ll never get anywhere in life being fixated on the past. So while 2014 was a pretty good year for us, we’re already looking to the year ahead, which is already promising seven cool happenings for Japan in 2015.

1. Opening of the new Shinkansen line

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Japan may have a reasonably priced overnight bus network and well-maintained highways, but there’s no denying that the quickest and most convenient way to get around the country is the Shinkansen. Currently, you can travel by bullet train from Tokyo to Nagano, but the new Hokuriku Line will allow travelers to extend their Shinkansen trips from Nagano all the way to coastal Kanazawa. So starting March 14, you’ll be able to zip on over to the capital of Ishikawa Prefecture in record time to enjoy its historic Kenrokuen Garden, delicious seafood, and, provided you’ve still got some yen left over, golden handicrafts.

2. First flight of the Mitsubishi Regional Jet

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If tertiary travel is too tedious for your rarified tastes, there’s also the maiden voyage of the MRJ coming up in 2015. Jointly developed by Mitsubishi, Toyota, and Fuji Heavy Industries (parent company of automaker Subaru), the MRJ is scheduled to take to the air for the first time this spring. Airlines won’t be receiving their own until 2017, but nonetheless, the upcoming test flight is a major step towards Japan’s first domestically produced airliner since the financial failure of Nihon Aircraft Manufacturing’s YS-11, which was discontinued over four decades ago.

3. Osaka’s Dotonbori Canal becomes a pool

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If you’ve spent much time looking at photos of Japanese cityscapes, odds are you’ve seen Dotonbori, Osaka’s neon-lit entertainment district that straddles the Dotonbori Canal. After years of revelers diving into the water after victories by the local Hanshin Tigers baseball team, someone decided they may as well make part of the canal into an outdoor pool, which is just what’s scheduled to happen to a one-kilometer (0.62-mile) section of it for four weeks in August of 2015.

4. The next, and possibly final, Evangelion movie

Creator Hideaki Anno has never been particularly decisive about putting a period on his masterwork, as evidenced by how Eva’s cash-strapped TV finale has already been followed by a half-dozen movies. Signs point to a late 2015 release for the fourth Rebuild of Evangelion theatrical feature, though, which has been billed as the culmination of 20 years’ worth of groundbreaking animation (those of you who can’t wait until the end of the year can whet your appetite with a teaser-style Eva short film right here).

5. So long, SIM locks!

Like topknots and the feudal system, SIM locks are set to become a thing of the past in Japan starting this May.

6. The 70th anniversary of the end of World War II

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2015 is also a good time to stop and take a moment to appreciate that Japan can get excited about developments in consumer electronics because it’s a country at peace, as it has been for the last 70 years.

7. Prince William visiting Japan

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Another thing that wouldn’t have been happening during open war between the U.K. and Japan, Prince William is scheduled to visit the country as part of a trip through Asia in late February.

Studio Gainax confirms plans for anime production studio and museum in Fukushima

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RocketNews 24:

GAINAX, the animation powerhouse which has spawned massive hits such as Neon Genesis Evangelion, Nadia:The Secret of Blue Water, Kare KanoFLCL, and Gurren Lagann among others, has confirmed plans to open a studio and in-house museum in the town of Miharu, Fukushima. Specifically, the company will move into a refurbished school building that was closed two years ago.

Keep reading after the jump to find out what motivated this latest development!

Founded in 1984, Gainax‘s current corporate headquarters are located in Tokyo’s Koganei City (the same place as Studio Ghibli’s headquarters). The company is well-known both domestically and internationally for its line of often avant-garde hits, and its name is often taken as synonymous with Evangelion, the legendary 1995 TV anime series directed by studio co-founder Hideaki Anno.

Gainax’s current corporate headquarters in Koganei, Tokyo

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The latest news reports from Gainax state that the company plans to open a new regional animation and video game production studio in the town of Miharu, Fukushima (a bit east of the major city of Koriyama), which will supposedly be up and running by this April. In addition to the production studio, the location will also house a small museum dedicated to famous characters born from Gainax, as well as hosting lectures relating to anime production that will be open to the general public.

 ▼The location of Miharu (in red) in the Tamura District of Fukushima. Miharu is known for its over 1,000-year-old “waterfall cherry tree.”1

The site of the new production studio will be the former building of Miharu’s Sakura Junior High School, which was one of three local schools incorporated into a larger city junior high school in 2013.

According to Gainax, this new undertaking is being done in an effort to counteract the financial damage caused by the Great East Japan Earthquake and nuclear incident of March 2011. The administration hopes that the presence of a new studio will also bring tourists back to the region and dispel some of the negative publicity surrounding Fukushima ever since the 2011 disasters. Perhaps their mission can best be summed up in the following quote: “Now, we want to express stories to the next generation that can only be made in this time, in this place [Fukushima].”

While there’s no word yet on any new projects that will be produced at the Fukushima location, we’ll be sure to keep you in the loop if we hear anything!

Hayao Miyazaki receives honorary Oscar

Miyazaki with Pixar chief John Lasseter at the ceremony
Otaku USA:

Legendary anime director Hayao Miyazaki received an honorary Oscar for his “years of contributions to the motion picture industry” at a ceremony on Sunday.

Receiving the award, Miyazaki said, “my wife told me I’m a very lucky man,” according to the Japan Times.

To coincide with the honorary Oscar, Miyazaki was interviewed by Japanese film expert Mark Shilling for Variety, where he talked about a variety of subjects, including his current projects, the future of Ghibli and the industry overall.

On winning an honorary Oscar: “Somebody must have been pulling strings. Maybe [Pixar chief creative officer] John Lasseter.”

On Hideaki Anno (Evangelion) becoming an anime industry leader: “I wish him the best of luck. It will be hard work though.”

On making short films for the Ghibli Museum: “I will continue to make them.”

On the state of Studio Ghibli: “I don’t anymore. I don’t want to get involved in that sort of thing.”

On the state of the industry: “The kind of animation… made with paper and pencils is dying… There’s nothing inherently wrong or right about a method, whether it be pencil drawings or 3D CG. Pencil drawings don’t have to go away, but those who continue to use the medium lack talent. So sadly, it will fade away.

On retirement: “I intend to work until the day I die. I retired from full-length films but not from animation.”

The entire interview is a fascinating read, so take a look.

 

Miyazaki needs no introduction for most anime fans. Starting his career at Toei Animation, Miyazaki worked on titles like Gulliver’s Travels Beyond the Moon and Hols: Prince of the Sun, directed by Isao Takahata, with whom he would later found Studio Ghibli.

Miyazaki’s Spirited Away won the Oscar for best animated film in 2003, but he did not attend the ceremony.

Miyazaki is the second Japanese citizen to win an honorary Oscar. The first went to director Akira Kurosawa in 1990.