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

SONY DSC

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.

Shingeki_no_Kyojin_manga_volume_1

■ 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

MadokaBD

■ 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

My_Teen_Romantic_Comedy_SNAFU_cover

■ 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

ToshokanSenso

■ 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

A brief history of Hollywood trying — and mostly failing — to adapt anime

edge-of-tomorrow

A weird truth: Even in the midst of the current comic book gold-rush, major studios can’t seem to get a good anime or manga adaptation off the ground—although the influence of those works can be seen everywhere. This weekend’s Big Hero 6 is based on a Marvel comic that’s heavily (perhaps even problematically) inspired by anime and manga. As tangentially connected to the art form as Big Hero 6 is, could it be the harbinger of a sea change in Hollywood’s approach to manga and anime?

Tackling this question can be kind of tricky—after all, “anime” and “manga” are styles rather than the names of genres. While works that fall under those umbrella share a general visual language and similar approaches to storytelling, anime and manga tell all sorts of stories—slice of life, romance, mystery, supernatural thriller, action.

One of the reasons it took so long for American filmmakers to even begin considering adapting manga or anime is because of how long it took for the source material to even become popular stateside. The first anime to find success here weren’t the action-heavy, mind-bending sort that would become prominent in the boom years of the late ’80s and early ’90s, but much lighter fare like Speed Racer and Astro Boy in the ’60s and ’70s. But even during those boom years, anime adaptations usually didn’t fare well. For example:

The GuyverOne of the first notable anime adaptations to be made in the US, this 1991 film starred Mark Hamil and was based off the 1985 manga Bio Booster Armor Guyver, by Yoshiki Takaya. Both the film and manga centered on a young man who discovers The Guyver Unit, an alien device that spawns a sort of biological super-suit that an unwitting young man bonds with in order to fight an evil megacorporation (and also alien monsters). The film was panned both for being B-movie cheese and also for straying from the source material’s far darker, more violent story.

A direct-to-video sequel, Guyver: Dark Hero would stay closer to the manga’s more violent roots, but the rubber-suited aliens still left a lot to be desired when compared to the manga’s anime adaptation.

Street Fighter: While not technically based on an anime or manga, Capcom’s legendary fighting game would go on to inspire plenty of adaptations—including the notorious 1994 Jean Claude Van Damme film. There are many reasons why this did not go well, but at least people saw it—unlike the 2009 reboot, Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li, which you’re probably remembering for the first time right now.

Fist of the North Star: Another hyper-violent action anime received an unfaithful adaptation that doubled as a really bad movie. Here’s clip from that movie. It is very bad. Unless it’s after 2 A.M., and you’re looking for this sort of thing. Then I suppose it’s great.

The MatrixWhile, again, not technically based on an anime or manga, The Matrix represents a watershed moment in how Hollywood looked at anime. According to producer Joel Silver, the Wachowskis pitched him the film by showing him an anime film (according to Wikipedia, it was Mamoru Oshii’s 1995 classic Ghost in the Shell), saying “We want to do that for real.” The 1999 film, with its mix of philosophical science fiction and stunning action scenes, is the closest a major Hollywood release had ever gotten to faithfully depicting the medium of anime. Incidentally, while a large number of anime adaptations would enter development in the intervening years, none would make it to the big screen until the Wachowskis’ next directorial effort, five years after 2003’s The Matrix Revolutions.

The debt that the film franchise owed to anime would be acknowledged in the direct-to-video release The Animatrix, an anime anthology of short stories set in the film’s world.

Stronger: Kanye West’s music video for his hit 2007 single heavily references Katsuhiro Otomo’s landmark 1980s anime film/manga series Akira. Let’s talk a little bit about Akira. Both the manga and the film adaptation are pinnacles of their respective mediums, cyberpunk masterworks that use their dystopian futures to explore deep philosophical and societal quandaries. Critically acclaimed in the U.S., Akira is largely responsible for popularizing anime and manga stateside. A Hollywood film adaptation has been in development hell since at least 2002—the last update came in February of 2014—but don’t hold your breath for it. It’s quite likely that Kanye’s music video is the closest we’ll get to an American adaptation—and maybe that’s a good thing.

Speed Racer: While it was poorly received at the time, the Wachowski’s Speed Racer succeeds by being exactly what it set out to be—a bright, colorful adventure for kids. Which, in turn, makes it exactly like its source material. Unfortunately, the film’s poor critical reception and box office performance very likely served to further stigmatize anime adaptations to big studios.

Dragon Ball: Evolution: Akira Toriyama’s seminal manga Dragon Ball and the anime it inspired, was, along with Sailor Moon, an entire generation’s introduction to the medium. As such, the series is pretty sacrosanct in the eyes of fans—and even if it doesn’t hold up all that well, it retained a certain heart and charm that never really gets old. The film that came out in 2009 had none of these things.

Pacific Rim: Like The Matrix, Guillermo del Toro’s 2013 blockbuster isn’t an adaptation of any particular manga or anime. Instead, it’s a Western take on giant mecha-action epics like Gundam. While it’s a pretty straightforward bit of sci-fi action, it is very, very good at what it does—and perhaps clears the way for the genre’s stranger, more complex fare like Neon Genesis Evangelion.

Oldboy: Spike Lee’s 2013 revenge thriller is an unfortunate case of Hollywood’s inability to leave well enough alone. Originally a 1996 manga by Goron Tsuchiya and Nobuaki Minegishi, the story already received an acclaimed film adaptation in 2003 by South Korean director Park Chan-wook—one that’s far preferable to the American version. Which is a shame, because the U.S. cast is pretty stellar.

Edge of Tomorrow: Although it received really good reviews, Edge of Tomorrow didn’t perform so well in the box office. Perhaps if it kept the name of the manga it was based on — Hiroshi Sakurazaka and Yoshitoshi Abe’s All You Need Is Kill—it would’ve been more more memorable to those watching the trailers. But as the latest Hollywood effort in manga/anime adaptation, it’s quite the hopeful note to end on.

[UPDATE — As some readers have pointed out, All You Need Is Kill was originally a novel. The manga adaptation, by Ryusuke Takeuchi and Takeshi Obata, came out roughly at the same time as the film.]

While this list is pretty spare, it doesn’t include the wealth of optioned material languishing in development hell or shelved for any number of years. James Cameron’sBattle Angel Alita is a great example—the director has the rights to make a movie, but won’t even start thinking about that until he’s done with the next ten Avatar films.

But if you’re not too jaded by the number of non-starters, it’s quite possible that we’re now on the cusp of a new wave of quality Hollywood films based on anime and manga. With the previously-noted critical success of Edge of Tomorrow and reports of Scarlett Johanssen signing up for the lead role in Ghost in the Shell, it looks like Hollywood is finally ready to start looking at comic books that weren’t made in America for inspiration. If they do, then movie theaters will doubtless become a stranger—and more interesting—place.

Rinko Kikuchi in ‘Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter’

Screen Shot 2014-12-19 at 10.59.09 AM

Audrey Magazine:

Rinko Kikuchi just keeps on going. After the release of mainstream action films such as Pacific Rim and 47 Ronin, Rinko Kikuchi took a break from all the fighting and robots to shoot films steeped in human drama and to record her first J-Pop album Kaigenrei under the name “Rinbjo.”

Earlier this year, Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter premiered in Sundance and received rave reviews for both the film and Rinko Kikuchi’s performance.

Synopsis from Sundance:

Kumiko lives in a cluttered, cramped apartment in Tokyo with her pet rabbit, Bunzo. She works as an office lady, robotically preparing tea and fetching dry cleaning for her nitpicky boss. But on her own time, she obsessively watches a well-known American film on a weathered VHS tape. Rewinding and fast-forwarding repeatedly, she meticulously maps out where a briefcase of castaway loot is buried within the fictional film. After hours of intense research—convinced that her destiny depends on finding the money—Kumiko heads to the United States and into the harsh Minnesota winter to search for it.

 

Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter hits select theaters on March 13, 2015. In the meanwhile, Rinko Kikuchi is already nominated for Best Female Lead at the Independent Spirit Awards, which will air on February 21, 2015 on IFC.

Video

“Behind the Magic: “Pacific Rim” Hong Kong Battle”- How ILM created Hong Kong with special effects just to destroy it

Probably the most insane fight sequence of Pacific Rim was when a Jaeger fought a Kaiju in the streets of Hong Kong. The entire city was destroyed, glass shards flew everywhere, neon lights were exploding, streets were being crushed, shipping containers somehow were involved and the whole battle was just beyond epic.

Here’s how ILM made it happen. It involves a lot of computers, yes, but also a miniature scale set filled with 3D printed goodies.

Link

One-woman film staring Rinko Kikuchi (Babel, Pacific Rim, 47 Ronin) slated for Sundance Film Festival line-up

Kumiko First Look - Rinko Kikuchi

One of the many interesting films just announced as part of the 2014 Sundance Film Festival line-up is one called Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter, starring Japanese actress Rinko Kikuchi (Babel, The Brothers Bloom, Pacific Rim, 47 Ronin) and pretty much her alone (the cast lists no one else). The film, directed by actor-writer-filmmaker David Zellner, is about a Japanese girl who becomes “convinced that a satchel of money buried in a fictional film is, in fact, real.”

That film is actually Fargo, as you might have guessed, and it’s actually based on a real story from back in 2001 (read more on the girl here & here). We have some first look photos from Sundance to go along with the announcement (congrats!), so check them out below.

Here’s the first photos for Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter, which kinda make this look like a Jarmusch film:

Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter First Look

Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter First Look

A lonely Japanese woman (Rinko Kikuchi) becomes convinced that a satchel of money buried and lost in a fictional film, is in fact, real. With a crudely drawn treasure map and limited preparation, she escapes her structured life in Tokyo and embarks on a foolhardy quest across the frozen tundra of Minnesota in search of her mythical fortune.

The film is directed by David Zellner, with a screenplay by David Zellner & Nathan Zellner. It’s set to premiere at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival in January in the US Dramatic Competition category. We’ll be catching the premiere there. For more updates on Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter, you can visit the film’s official website or find them on Facebook.

Check out this link:

One-woman film staring Rinko Kikuchi slated for Sundance Film Festival line-up

Video

Behind the Magic: Creating the Kaiju for “Pacific Rim”

Although “Pacific Rim” begins more than a decade into the battle with the city-destroying Kaiju, in this video the visual effects team at Industrial Light & Magic will discuss the process of creating the incredible race of alien monsters from the earliest stages of concept and design. Enjoy the video!

Video

Behind the Magic: The Visual Effects of “Pacific Rim”

For over 2 years the team at Industrial Light & Magic in San Francisco, Singapore and Vancouver worked tirelessly to bring Guillermo del Toro‘s science fiction epic “Pacific Rim” to life. This reel represents a taste of the visual effects work the team was tasked with in creating everything from monstrous Kaiju to the man-made Jaegers and the environments they are seen in.