Thursday, January 17, 2008


For those seriously interested in anime or the history of anime, Youtube has more to offer than anime music videos, hentai, and fansubs of current series, if you're willing to search for it. Here are a few examples I found recently, in roughly chronological order. None of them resemble "anime style" at all.

Ugokie tori no tatehiki is an imaginative, well animated, Fleischeresque short from 1933. Except for the music, there's no stylistic difference between this and American cartoons of the same period.

When you think of Osamu Tezuka and anime, you probably think first of Astro Boy and Kimba the White Lion, though these are just two of the series he created. But in the 1960s and 1980s, he made some short animated cartoons which are totally unlike the anime of his that have been licensed. Of these, I had previously heard of Jumping (1984) and Broken Down Film (1985). I was actually a bit let down by the latter: it's certainly funny, but if you've seen Duck Amuck, it won't be any breakthrough. (Also, the deliberately poor quality of Tezuka's image combined with Youtube's low resolution makes it difficult to watch.) But Jumping is a miniature masterpiece. Youtube also has several UPA-like shorts by Tezuka, all very much worth watching: Osu (“Male”) (1962), Mermaid (1964), Memory (1964) and Drop (1965)

Belladonna (1973)(Kanashimi no Beradonna), directed by Eiichi Yamamoto, is a feature film intended for an art-house audience, combining animation with still illustrations and making generous use of symbolism. Set in medieval France, it's about a beautiful woman who is raped on her wedding night, persecuted by the villagers, becomes a witch and is eventually burned at the stake. (The copy on Youtube has no subtitles, but someone has translated the dialogue, of which there isn't much, in the comments.) It's full of sexual imagery which is occasionally very disturbing; it's NSFW and definitely not for kiddies. The first segment is here, and the "Related Videos" window will take you to the other segments.

This is a seriously amazing film, and I'm shocked that it's virtually unknown in the U.S. Here's a review on the AniPages Daily site, in which it's described as "one of the small handful of anime films that can stand up to comparison with the most innovative work in 20th century animation, beyond mere niche (ie anime) appeal."

If you need more persuasion, here are some noteworthy sequences:

A symbolic and horrifying rape scene in pt. 2.

A sudden burst of psychedelic and blatantly anachronistic animation, with music to match, in pt. 7.

The plague sequence in pt. 8.

The orgy scene in pt. 9 (overflowing slightly into pt. 10).

Originally this post would have also included the 2001 Crayon Shin-chan movie The Adult Empire Strikes Back, but by the time I got around to finishing this post, the copyright owner had had it pulled from YouTube (the perils of procrastination!). Given their age, the films above will probably remain up longer.

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Saturday, January 12, 2008


A long time ago, I wrote on this blog that I'd read the first two volumes of Iron Wok Jan and enjoyed them, but didn't feel inclined to pick up more. Actually, since then I have picked up more: not the entire series, but ten volumes here and there, ranging between vols. 3 and 18. Shinji Saijyo's storytelling may be overblown, but it's effective: he can actually build suspense over whether Jan can come up with a liver preparation that's better than foie gras. And it's also fun to read about the dishes and methods of preparation Jan and his rivals come up with, though I have no idea whether or not they would actually work. So when I saw in Previews (yes, I go through Previews, because my local comics store gives a 30% discount on preordered comics and graphic novels) that vol. 27 would be the last volume, I decided to get it. (The option of waiting to check it out when it arrived in stores wasn't open, since I don't know any place that carries the later volumes of the series.) Mild spoilers follow.

The first chapter of vol. 27 finishes up the Rising Chinese Chefs competition, which has lasted quite a long time. (I don't know when it starts, but when vol. 18 opens, it's already in the midst of its third round.) And the finale of the competition is both funny and unexpected -- or rather, it would be unexpected if the back cover blurb didn't give it away. On the other hand the ending of the series as a whole is disappointing: in fact, it's a washout. I was expecting a final showdown between Jan and his rival Kiriko, featuring the most bizarre and spectacular dish of all, or something like that. Well, not only is there no final showdown with Kiriko or anybody else, Jan doesn't even do any cooking in this volume. Just going by what you can deduce from this volume about vol. 26, it looks like that one may be better. I may pick it up.

On the plus side, Jan never reforms: he's as arrogant and obnoxious at the end as he was at the start, something I wouldn't have predicted after the first volume. Also on the plus side, there are several panels showing Kiriko folding her arms beneath her breasts. (That's a joke, I hasten to add. And it only makes sense if you're aware that all the female characters in Iron Wok Jan are F-cups.)

The ending of Iron Wok Jan only occupies 150 of vol. 27's pages. The rest is taken up by a "special alternate ending" which is basically a joke and not particularly funny, and by Saijyo's debut manga, a horror story which is pretty enjoyable, though nothing special.

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