Akiyuki Nosaka, celebrated author of Grave of the Fireflies, passes away

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RocketNews 24 (by Casey Baseel):

Famed writer’s best-known novel served as basis for Studio Ghibli anime of the same name.

Born in the city of Kamakura in 1930, Akiyuki Nosaka didn’t have an easy childhood. His mother died two months after giving birth to him. His adoptive father was killed in an air raid on Kobe in the closing months of World War II, and growing up Nosaka would also lose an older sister to illness and a younger one to starvation after evacuating their home.

Nosaka would channel the pain of these experiences into his semi-autobiographical novel Grave of the Fireflies, which was published when the author was 37 and would be awarded the Naoki Prize for literature in 1967. While the novel has had limited exposure abroad, it was also adapted into an animated theatrical feature in 1988, which earned international acclaim for its powerful story, Studio Ghibli-produced animation, and direction by renowned anime icon Isao Takahata.

Nosaka suffered a stroke in 2003, and had been receiving convalescent care from his wife at their Tokyo home since then. On the morning of December 9, at roughly 10:30, Mrs. Nosaka discovered that her husband was not breathing. The 85-year-old author was taken to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead by medical staff.

In addition to his wife, Nosaka is survived by his two daughters, both former members of the Takarazuka all-female stage troupe. The deeply respected writer’s passing brings great sorrow to fans of literature and animation alike, and its suddenness, like Nosaka’s signature work itself, is a solemn reminder of the preciousness of life.

“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny” – Trailer

Netflix has dropped the first trailer for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword Of Destiny, the upcoming sequel to Ang Lee‘s 2000 martial arts epic. Michelle Yeoh reprises her role as Yu Shu-Lien, now tasked with protecting the legendary Green Destiny sword against an evil warlord.

Directed by legendary martial arts choreographer Yuen Wo-Ping, and written by John Fusco, the film is based on the wuxia novel Iron Knight, Silver Vase (Book 5 in Wang Dulu‘s Crane-Iron Pentalogy).

Sword of Destiny also stars Donnie Yen, Jason Scott Lee, Harry Shum Jr., Roger Yuan and Eugenia Yuan.

Book review: “Allegiance” depicts the isolation and struggles of Japanese-Americans during WWII

Japan Times (by Mark Schreiber):

Caswell “Cash” Harrison, the protagonist in this legal thriller set during World War II, is a fortunate young man. Fresh out of Columbia Law School, his family ties to the network of Philadelphia patricians promises him a cozy legal career. But having failed his military physical on a technicality, Harrison winds up in Washington, D.C., as a clerk to Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Hugo Black, toiling at the mundane task of screening petitions of certiorari to determine the cases that are relevant for the court to hear.

Soon, however, Harrison finds himself caught in a web of intrigue, and what at first seems to be a typical Washington tug-of-war between conservatives and liberals transforms into something more sinister, including murder.

Allegiance” shifts between the halls of power in wartime Washington to the gritty, isolated conditions of the Tule Lake internment camp in California. Through meticulous historical research, the author — a great-grandson of U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt — touches on the plight of Japanese-Americans, and particularly the so-called “no-no boys,” U.S. citizens threatened with deportation due to their refusal to give loyalty oaths.

While Harrison is fictitious, the book is peopled with real-life historical figures, including Justices Black and Felix Frankfurter, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover and unsung heroes like Masaaki Kuwabara, who refused military conscription until his rights as an American citizen were restored.

Although not as tightly spun as a John Grisham thriller, “Allegiance” is of particular interest for its depictions of Japanese-Americans’ struggles during the war years.

Paramount to produce another ‘Monkey King’ film

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Shanghaiist:

Hollywood’s Paramount Pictures is next in line to milk millions out of the never-ending Journey to the West franchise with yet another adaptation of The Monkey King.

The studio is partnering up with Beijing‘s Ruyi Xinxin Film Investment to release a 3D movie based on Wu Chen-en‘s classic novel Journey to the West. Countless adaptations of the literary fantasy exist in China, but this version will be similar to the popular 1980s TV series and will include actors from the series.

Rob Moore, Paramount’s vice chairman, announced the news on Wednesday while in Beijing. Oscar-winning producer Mark Johnson has signed on to produce the film and Zhang Jinlai, who played the Monkey King in the TV version, has been confirmed to take part in the project as well.

I told the American friends that the Monkey King should not have a [romantic]relationship,” the actor was quoted as saying in a Wall Street Journal report. “This film will not twist the original story.”

Hong Kong director Pou Soi Cheang‘s 3D version of The Monkey King raked in 167 million USD in China last year, making it the third-highest grossing film in 2014, and a sequel starring Gong Li is set to hit theaters early next year. Those who need more Journey to the West to tide them over until the next one can look forward to US network AMC’s upcoming martial arts drama “Badlands“, which will be loosely based on the tale and broadcast sometime in late 2015.

Japanese voters pick the top manga, anime, and other works they wish to see introduced abroad

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RocketNews 24:

With the ever-growing presence of Japanese media abroad, fans of various mediums might sometimes find themselves at a loss as to which series to begin next. Fortunately, a massive poll has now made the process much easier by picking out the cream of the crop as chosen by the Japanese public.

Sponsored by Japanese newspaper the Yomiuri Shinbun, Sugoi Japan recently held its first Grand Prix to determine which works in four categories–manga, anime, light novel, and entertaining novel–people deemed most worthy of being introduced abroad. Though the choice of Attack on Titan as the top manga will surprise few, given its explosive popularity, the winner of the anime category might catch some by surprise.

The award was established last year to mark the 140th anniversary of the Yomiuri Shinbun. Among works released between January 1, 2005 and July 31, 2014 (hence, no Neon Genesis Evangelion, Dragon Ball, etc.), voters were asked to choose those which they would like to see gain greater recognition around the world or which they thought most likely to prove successful with foreign audiences.

The list of choices, which included both expert and general recommendations, comprised a total of 203 works. Participants could cast three votes in each category any time between October 1 and December 31, 2014.

Attack on Titan won over the agriculture-themed Silver Spoon and volleyball shōnen Haikyū! to take the top manga prize. Meanwhile, Magical Girl Madoka Magica, a dark take on the popular “magical girl” genre, emerged victorious in the anime category with a total of 77,631 votes.

Iwakami Atsuhiro, the Aniplex producer of Madoka, was present at the award ceremony to collect the prize. He commented:

Anime as a genre has had a big impact these past ten years, even while undergoing many changes–for example, the birth of late-night anime and hit series. I think this award proves just how active the industry has been. I want to carry Japan’s creative works abroad, so I’d like to see them gain even greater recognition at home.”

Foreign publishers and filmmakers are certainly keeping a close eye on products from Japan. For example, one prominent contest endorsement comes from none other than Guillermo del Toro, the acclaimed director and self-proclaimed Japan fanatic whose film Pacific Rim (2013) notably paid homage to the mecha genre. In a statement on the Sugoi Japan website, he writes:

The Sugoi Japan project will reveal amazing Japanese properties that will enrich the exchange of ideas, characters and stories that has connected both hemispheres of the globe for centuries now. I, for one, couldn’t be more eager to discover them and be stimulated by their great creativity and originality.”

Take a look below for the top ten in the four categories. Personally, we found our to-read list just doubled looking through these.

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■ Manga Top 10

1. Attack on Titan

2. Silver Spoon

3. Haikyū!

4. March Comes in Like a Lion

5. Space Brothers

6. Everyday

7. One-Punch Man

8. A Bride’s Story

9. Saint Young Men

10. Assassination Classroom

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■ Anime Top 10

1. Magical Girl Madoka Magica

2. Tiger and Bunny

3. Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion

4. Idolmaster

5. Love Live!

6. Mushishi

7. Attack on Titan

8. Natsume’s Book of Friends

9. Psycho-Pass

10. Steins;Gate

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■ Light Novel Top 10

1. My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU

2. Sword Art Online

3. Spice and Wolf

4. No Game No Life

5. Humanity Has Declined

6. Fate/Zero

7. The Irregular at Magic High School

8. Baka and Test

9. Horned Owl and King of the Night

10. My Little Sister Can’t Be This Cute

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■ Entertainment Novels Top 10

1. Library War

2. From the New World

3. The Night is Short, Start Walking Young Maiden

4. Tenchi: The Samurai Astronomer

5. Confession

6. Genocidal Organ

7. Another

8. Accuracy of Death

9. The Glorious Team Batista

10. It’s Me, It’s Me

Columbia University student Karen Bao debuts science fiction novel

AsAm News: 

Columbia University student Karen Bao’s science fiction novel Dove Arising was published by Penguin Random House in February 2015.
Bao’s story concerns a 15-year-old named Phaet Theta who joins a paramilitary force to save her family.  The story takes place 200 years in the future on the moon. As Bao continues to pursue her career as an author, she finds balancing her undergraduate studies at Columbia University a welcomed challenge.
Bao is part of a growing trend of Asian American women authors and writers such as Celeste Ng, who is the author of Everything I Never Told You. Ng has begun to compile a list of just some of the other Asian American women authors.
We definitely have a lot of stories as an Asian American community, and I think some of us definitely have to speak up and get our work published,” Bao said.
 
To read more about how Bao’s parents supported her writing efforts, click here

‘The Lotus and the Storm’ by Lan Cao

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Audrey Magazine:

From the author of the critically acclaimed debut novel Monkey Bridge comes The Lotus and the Storm, another look at the Vietnam War and its aftermath, this time from the alternating perspectives of Mai, a law librarian in the D.C. area, and her father Minh, a former commander in the South Vietnamese army.

The book opens with a carefree, tranquil picture of 5-year-old Mai’s world — her elegant mother, affectionate father and adored older sister — all embraced within the walls of the family’s lush French colonial style villa in Cholon, Saigon’s sister city, in 1963. To Mai, war seems far away, despite her father’s “satiny eggplant color” and “boots, muddied and nicked” after months away. It is when we are jarred into the more recent present of Minh that we realize those halcyon days will indeed have been shattered by unspeakable loss and tragedy.

With many parallels to author Lan Cao’s own personal story, as well as that of her father — relatives on opposite sides of a civil war, the death of a sibling, political intrigue and near-death escapes, the long-term devastating effects of war — The Lotus and the Storm is an important piece of the Vietnam War story.

 

Details Hardcover, $27.95, penguin.com.