With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013
With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

Friday, September 30, 2011

ACF 1166: Chinese documentary "Please Vote For Me" reviewed

Cheng Cheng, Xiaofei and Luo Lei
 Please Vote For Me
Directed by CHEN Weijun
China/South Africa/Denmark, 58 minutes, HDCAM
When: Sunday, October 2, 2011, 3:00 pm
(Part of a double bill with New Beijing: Reinventing a City,
which will be shown at 4:10 Sunday afternoon)
Where: Asia Society
725 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10021

This fascinating documentary follows the campaign of three elementary school third graders, two boys and one girl,  to become the first elected Class Monitor in China, where monitors traditionally were appointed by teachers.

This may be the first democratic election of its kind in China, but each candidate at least to some degree demonstrates adroitness in the art of courting voters. These skills can be found in students in almost any school in the United States or most anywhere else in the world. And that's one of the remarkable aspects of the film: that while some of the specifics are particular to China, the general approach to getting votes is pretty much universal.

 

Good debating skills - poise, pointing out the faults of one's opponent - are important and do have their effect. But there are other tactics that are also, perhaps even more, significant. These include dirty tricks, promises of appointments to lesser class roles, other forms of bribery, and just outright nastiness. All three candidates are coached, if not controlled outright, by their parents. In this regard the two boys have a distinct advantage over their female competitor. She is being raised by a single mother, while the boys not only have both parents, but those parents are in positions of some power and influence. Bottom line? Being well connected to someone who can help you buy votes always has a significant impact.

It's easy to see why Please Vote For Me was a NY Times Critics Pick by A.O. Scott, whom I respect immensely. It's a remarkable work that I look forward to watching again in the future.

ACF Rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars, very highly recommended. 

Both Please Vote For Me and New Beijing: Reinventing a City are part of the documentary film series Visions of a New China, which runs though October 29th. For the series schedule, information about the films, and to order tickets, click here.

Note that in addition to the film's trailer, there are several other clips from it that are available at YouTube.

ACF 1165: Korean thriller "Midnight FM" reviewed

Midnight FM / Shi-myuai FM
Directed by Kim Sang-man
South Korea, 2010, 106 minutes

Go Seon-Yeong (Ae Soo), a  young female DJ is hosting her last two-hour radio show before leaving for the United States where she hopes an operation will cure her daughter who is mute. Meanwhile, Han Dong-Soo  (Yu Ji-tae), a demented fan, has invaded her apartment and taken her daughter, her sister and her niece hostage. His demand: that she plays the songs on the playlist he has created. Problem is, the playlist can't be found! The situation becomes more and more dire, as Seon-Yeong can not meet Don-soo's demands, partially due to the interference of the producer of her program and the station manager.

When I first read about the film, I immediately thought of Play Misty for Me (1971), the first feature film Clint Eastwood directed. To Midnight FM's credit, that film is the first of several that are either cited or otherwise referenced. Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver (1976) also features prominently in FM's plot.

Go Seon-Yeong at her mike

I'm not a huge fan of this type of film, but I was captivated by Midnight FM, and found myself intimately involved with what was going on and how things were going to play out. There's one helluva terrific chase scene with Dong-Soo in a taxi being followed by Seon-Yeong in her car. She in turn is not only being trailed by the police, but is being terrorized by a group of motorcycle bikers!

I did have a problem with the daughter. She seemed just a bit too composed and self-possessed in the midst of some madness and mayhem she witnesses in the apartment. i would expect someone her age to be wide-eyed and nearly paralyzed with fear. I know I would've been at that age. On the other hand, making her a mute was a nice plot device, because, of course, she can't scream!

ACF Rating: 3 out of 4 stars, a good film, well-worth watching. 

Midnight FM was a co-presentation of The Korea Society and MoMA as part of the film series Yeonghwa: Korean Film Today, 2011, which runs through this Sunday, Ocotober 2nd. For the schedule, individual film descriptions, and to order tickets, visit either The Korea Society or MoMA.

ACF 1164: Sentai Filmworks acquires "Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere"

 

Sentai Filmworks has acquired the upcoming anime mega-series HORIZON IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE, based upon best-selling author Minoru  Kawakami’s ongoing, eight-book franchise that has already sold over 750,000 copies in Japan.  Directed by Manabu Ono (My Hime, Saki,) the huge and epic story that combines everything from giant robots and aerial ships to witches and werewolves will employ a staff of four Character Designers - Tomoyuki Fujii, Shinya Nishizawa, Yukiko Aikei and Kanta Suzuki- to adapt the original concepts by Satoyasu (TENKY), while script supervision and adaptation falls into the capable hands of Tatsuhiko Urahata (Nana, Master Keaton, Monster, Strike Witches 2.)

Weekly episodes of HORIZON IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE will begin airing digitally on The Anime Network on Tuesday, October 4, 2011 in Japanese with English subtitles.  Additional digital outlets and home video releases will follow in 2012. 

Synopsis: ‘History’ is coming to an end. When humans came down from the sky they brought with them the Testament, the guide to the path they must follow if they wish to return to the skies again.  Now, in a strange world where only the islands of Japan are inhabitable, the nations of the world vie for power and protect the portions of Japan that they have claimed, each armed with its own ultimate weapon: a Roysmoi Opro, the Armor of Deadly Sins. But there may be a far greater threat to mankind than the Roysomi Opro, for the Testament ends abruptly, and it is now the last year.  Is this the end of humanity, or can Tori Aoi and his fellow students from the aerial metropolitan ship Musashi somehow affect the course of destiny?  Who and what is the HORIZON IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

ACF 1163: "Sion Sono: The New Poet" at the Museum of Arts and Design

Exte: Hair Extensions / Ekusute
 Sion Sono: The New Poet
When: October 7th - November 11th, 2011
Where: Museum of Arts and Design (MAD)
2 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

New York's Museum of Arts and Design will be presenting an exciting eight film retrospective of the works of master of the macabre filmmaker Sion (a.k.a. Shion) Sono. (Access MAD's Sono webpage by clicking here.)

I reviewed his terrific "hair-raising" thriller Exte: Hair Extensions (2007) a few years ago in Asian Cult Cinema magazine (issue number 56) and listed it as one of my five "Most Extreme, Most Outrageous Asian Films of All Time" (issue number 57). Recently I participated in a discussion of it for the VCinema Podcast, which should be airing soon.

I also recently watched a screener of Cold Fish (2010), which is loosely base on an actual Japanese husband & wife serial killer duo. It's another fine film that, like Exte, I'll be posting a review of here in the near future. (Cold Fish is also being screened at the Velvet Bullets and Steel Kisses retrospective of Nikkatsu films, a Masterworks sidebar to the NY Film Festival at Lincoln Center. For info about that screening, click here.)

I'm very much looking forward to going to the MAD series and fleshing out my exposure to some of Sion's other films, particularly Suicide Club, Noriko's Dinner Table, and Love Exposure. Actually, I've seen about 98% of Love Exposure, but the 2 disc DVD screener I got from a different film series several years ago didn't include the last few minutes! Gotta find out what happened!

In the meanwhile, here's MAD's description of their Sono program:

Chainsaws, serial killers, and mutant hair extensions merge harmoniously with true love, coming of age, and the delicate family dynamics in the bracingly original cinema of Sion Sono.

Sono began his artistic career as a poet at the age of 17. Not long after, the Japanese artist expanded into cinema.  After winning the Grand Prize at Tokyo’s PIA Film Festival for his short “A Man's Hanamichi,” Sono received a fellowship from the festival for his 16mm feature debut. “Bicycle Sighs,” a coming-of-age film about two underachievers in the perfectionist Japanese society, became an unexpected hit in Japan.  Since then, Sono has garnered acclaim and awards from both prominent international film festivals, including the Berlin Film Festival, Karlovy Vary Film Festival, and Sundance; he also gained a rabid cult following for films like “Suicide Club,” “Strange Circus,” “Norioko’s Dinner Table,” and “Love Exposure.”

Known for his fiercely independent roots (often writing, producing, and scoring his own films) Sono has followed in the footsteps of poets before him by mining the overlooked cultural artifacts of his time. Exploring the human condition found in these underground places, Sono elegantly crafts together stories of cults, horror, and violence with themes like individual alienation, the desperate desire for love, and the often-brutal reality of life in contemporary society. In his work, Sono continues to break down the marginalization of genre films by poetically revealing the human heart that beats underneath.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

ACF 1162: "Mardock Scramble: The First Compression" available now


MARDOCK SCRAMBLE: THE FIRST COMPRESSION, a new trilogy, is now available on DVD from Section23 Films.

Title:                 MARDOCK SCRAMBLE: THE FIRST COMPRESSION
Running Time:   60 min.
Age Rating:       TV MA (V, D)
Language:         English & Japanese with English Subtitles
Published by:    Sentai Filmworks
Distributed by:  Section23 Films
Street Date:      9/27/2011
Format:             DVD
SRP:                $29.98

SYNOPSIS: To stop the unstoppable you need the irresistible.  To kill the unkillable, you need someone for whom death no longer has a meaning.  And to catch the perfect serial killer, you need the one person who knows his methods the best… his last victim!  Murdered and reborn, no longer human, the female cyborg named Balot exists for only one reason - to track down the man who killed her and bring him to justice.  But can even the ultimate hybrid between ghost and machine take down a monster who wipes his own memory… especially when HIS partner already has HER in his sights?  The future will be painted blood red as vengeance hit the streets in MARDOCK SCRAMBLE: THE FIRST COMPRESSION.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

ACF 1161: "MAJIKOI ~ OH! SAMURAI GIRLS" licensed by Sentai Filmworks


Sentai Filmworks fulfills the fantasies of fans of feudal fighting females with the company’s newest announcement, MAJIKOI ~ OH! SAMURAI GIRLS!  Based on the mega-hit PC game Maji de Watashi ni Koi Shinasai!! from MinatoSoft, the 12 episode series focuses on a city where almost everyone has a Samurai obsession.  Direction is by Keitaro Motonaga (Getbackers, Yumeria,) using character designs by Mayumi Watanabe (Fandora, Fairy Tail, Freezing) and story supervision by Katsuhiko Takayama (And yet The Town Moves, e.f. A Tale of Memories.)

Digital distribution of MAJIKOI ~ OH! SAMURAI GIRLS will begin next month through many outlets.  The series will see a home video release next year.

Synopsis: It’s one thing to honor your ancestors and keep old traditions alive, but there IS such a thing as taking it to a ridiculous extreme.  In Kawakami City, having a samurai ancestor and enormous ‘fighting spirit’ isn’t just an interesting fact, it’s a huge part of how you end up being ranked on the social totem pole.  That, in turn, rolls over into the school curriculum.  Fortunately, that’s something the local kids like Yamato Naoe have learned to deal with by forming into small ‘bands,’ (that’s the samurai type, NOT music.)  However, while the delicate sexual balance of Yamato’s group seemed fine when there were three girls and four boys, the sudden addition of two MORE girls starts to send everything spinning out of control!  Seven’s a band of samurai and nine is a riot as boys, girls and naked blades all come together in MAJIKOI ~ OH! SAMURAI GIRLS!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

ACF 1160: Action manga "PSYREN" to debut on Tuesday, October 4th

 NEW VIZ MEDIA MANGA SERIES PSYREN
TAKES READERS TO AN ALTERNATE DIMENSION
WHERE YOU’VE GOT TO FIGHT TO GET BACK HOME…
OR DIE TRYING 

A Teenager And His Friends Embark On A Dangerous Adventure
To Alter The Future And Save The World

VIZ Media has announced the debut of the riveting action manga (graphic novel) series – PSYREN – on October 4th. The new series, by Toshiaki Iwashiro, will be published under the company’s SHONEN JUMP imprint, is rated ‘T’ for Teens, and will carry an MSRP of $9.99 U.S. / $12.99 CAN. PSYREN is also currently featured in VIZ Media’s monthly SHONEN JUMP magazine.

"Save me!" Those were Sakurako Amamiya's last words to her friend Ageha Yoshina before she mysteriously went missing. Now Ageha's on a quest to find her. He's convinced that the mythical Psyren Secret Society has something to do with the recent rash of disappearances. And now he seems to be caught up as a player in their very deadly game...

“Ageha Yoshina embarks on a dangerous adventure in this action-packed new series where he attempts to alter the future and save the world,” says Joel Enos, Editor. “Readers will be transported to Psyren, a stark wasteland inhabited by insect-like monsters, where Yoshina and his friends must complete missions assigned by the mysterious Nemesis Q if they ever hope to return home. PSYREN is a bestseller in Japan, where it also spawned a pair of popular novels. Don’t miss the new manga release coming in October!”

Manga creator Toshiaki Iwashiro was born in 1977, in Tokyo, and his debut manga series was the popular Mieru Hito (Divine Eye), which ran from 2005 to 2007 in Japan in Weekly Shonen Jump, where PSYREN was also serialized.

For more information on PSYREN, or others titles from VIZ Media, please visit ShonenJump.com.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

ACF 1159: Documentary Film Series "Visions of a New China" opens at Asia Society NY tomorrow


Once Upon A Time Proletarian

Documentary Film Series: Visions of a New China
When: September 25-October 29, 2011
Where: Asia Society and Museum
725 Park Avenue New York, NY 10021

China is undergoing the fastest economic growth and social transformation known in human history. In urban centers, a booming economy, an unfolding physical landscape and shifting demographics have created new and evolving realities. This documentary film series, focusing on urban life, explores how millions navigate this changing China and the cost behind China’s dream of becoming an economic power. While some Chinese mourn the loss of the past, others try to find ways to survive and ride the wave. Opportunities are abundant for the lucky ones. And yet there are ample stories of struggle and heartbreak.

The nine documentaries in the series were made between 2005 and 2011, eight of them by Chinese filmmakers. The series sheds light on an unparalleled spectrum of experiences across social and economic classes. It also takes critical looks at the repercussions of China’s unstoppable development. These are stories of success, disillusionment, and caution.

For complete information about the films and schedule, click here.

Tickets: $7 members; $9 students/seniors; $11 nonmembers
Series discount (in-person only): Buy 4-7 tickets for 4-7 "unique" programs in one transaction to get $1.00 off each ticket.

This series is supported in part by a grant from the Open Society Foundations. Additional support is provided by the Center on U.S.-China Relations and New York State Council on the Arts.

Friday, September 23, 2011

ACF 1158: "Chocolate Underground" at IFC Center this Saturday & Sunday

Chocolate Underground / Chokorêto andâguraundo
Directed by Hamana Takayuki 
Japan, 2009, 97 min
Where: IFC Center
323 6th Avenue @ West 3rd Street, NY, NY When: Saturday & Sunday, Sept 24th & 25th @ 11:00am
Recommended Ages: 7 to Adult (Subtitled)


It is the not-too-distant future, and society is run by the Good For You Party, an all-powerful government organization that has outlawed all things sweet and delicious - and most especially chocolate. Gigantic sniffing robots patrol the streets, zeroing in on even the faintest chocolaty scent and sending all sweet-toothed lawbreakers to jail for "re-education" (think Orwell's 1984, but with candy).  Unable to resign themselves to a lifetime of bland, healthy foods, teenage best friends Smudger and Huntly decide to take matters into their own hands and create the Chocolate Underground, a secret club where revolutionaries can indulge in their coveted confections.


This tasty, tongue-in-cheek allegory comes to a head when the boys stumble upon an abandoned mine filled with sugar and cocoa beans, leading to a climactic showdown between the free-snacking youth resistance and their corrupt Big-Brother oppressors.  Featuring a perfect mix of fast-paced action scenes and montages fueled by a sugar-sweet J-pop soundtrack, Chocolate Underground is a delectable celebration of chocolate freedom, and a film to make even Willy Wonka salivate!

Chocolate Underground is presented by the NY Int'l Children's Film Festival.


Theater Buy Tickets
Sat Sep 24 IFC CENTER
Sun Sep 25 IFC CENTER

ACF 1157: VIZ sweeps NY Times manga bestseller list

 VIZ MEDIA SWEEPS THE LATEST
NEW YORK TIMES MANGA BESTSELLER LIST
FOR THE SECOND TIME IN A MONTH

Latest NARUTO Edition Takes #1 Spot And Is Complemented
By Other Top Manga Properties Including BLEACH, BLACK BIRD,
BLUE EXORCIST, ULTIMO, DEATH NOTE And More!

VIZ Media has swept the latest Top 10 on the New York Times Manga Bestseller list for the week of September 10th. This is the second time the company has dominated the list in less than a month; VIZ Media previously swept all Top 10 spots for the week of August 20th.

The top selling VIZ Media manga (graphic novel) titles included:

    1.    NARUTO Vol. 52
    2.    BLEACH Vol. 36
    3.    BLACK BIRD Vol. 10
    4.    DENGEKI DIASY Vol. 6
    5.    KIMI NO TODOKE: FROM ME TO YOU Vol. 10
    6.    LIBRARY WARS: LOVE & WAR Vol. 6
    7.    BLUE EXORCIST Vol. 1
    8.    BUTTERFLIES, FLOWERS Vol. 8
    9.    ULTIMO Vol. 6
    10. DEATH NOTE BLACK EDITION Vol. 5

The New York Times Bestseller lists are an expanded version of those appearing in the September 25th, 2011 print edition of the Book Review, reflecting sales for the week ending September 10th, 2011. Rankings reflect weekly sales for books sold in both print and electronic formats.

“We’re very happy to see such a diverse roster of manga titles dominate the latest New York Times manga bestseller list for the second time in a month,” says Leyla Aker, Vice President, Publishing. “The titles range from science fiction to fantasy to romance to suspense, and are a good representation of the breadth of VIZ Media’s catalog. We look forward to continuing to offer fans the most extensive and varied manga catalog of any publisher in the industry!”

For more information on VIZ Media manga titles, please visit: www.VIZ.com.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

ACF 1156: Japanese Experimental Films coming to 2nd Zipangu Fest

ZIPANGU FEST TO HOST FILMS BY STAR OF
JAPAN’S CONTEMPORARY EXPERIMENTAL SCENE

Screenings at the ICA and Café Oto with soundtracks
by Jim O’Rourke and Machinefabriek

Four films by the leading light of Japan’s contemporary experimental scene, Takashi Makino, will be screened at this year’s Zipangu Fest. Three of Makino’s abstract visual odysseys – with soundtracks by avant garde musicians Jim O’Rourke and Machinefabriek – will be shown at London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts as part of a programme entitled Enter the Cosmos, while the fourth will be screened at Zipangu Fest’s benefit night for the Japan disaster fund to be held at Café Oto in Dalston on November 22nd.

Organised by Julian Ross, the benefit night at Café Oto – Nippon Re-read Radical Fragments and Abstractions from Japan I and II – will include experimental works from the late 1960s by Takahiko Iimura and Toshio Matsumoto, as well as recent films by Tomonari Nishikawa and Shiho Kano. The programme was curated by Aily Nash and Nine Eglantine Yamamoto-Masson of Kinema Nippon.


Festival director and head programmer, Jasper Sharp comments:  ‘One of the goals we’ve always had with Zipangu Fest is to bring some of the more interesting and challenging stuff from Japan over here and present it in a fun and informative context to bring it to as wide an audience as possible. We’re particularly keen on the more experimental, non-narrative side of Japan’s independent scene, both in film and animation, because it doesn’t really get shown anywhere else. Yet there seems to be a growing audience hungry for something different among UK film-goers, as we noticed last year with the Nippon Year Zero programme of experimental films from the 1960s we presented in collaboration with Close-Up, and Julian Ross’s own seasons he put together over the summer, so it’s great to have him working on this side of the programme. Both events I think will be unforgettable, and if we can raise any money for the disaster relief fund, so much the better. 

The second Zipangu Fest – celebrating the best of cutting edge and avant garde Japanese cinema – will be held at London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts from November 18th to 24th, before moving to venues around the UK. The festival will showcase a selection of Japan’s finest features, documentaries, shorts, animation and experimental films.

Full details and descriptions of the films to be screened will be available soon at: http://zipangufest.com.

Monday, September 19, 2011

ACF 1155: "Pokemon - Zoroark: Master of Illusions" DVD release tomorrow

 
© 2011 Pokémon.
© 1997-2010 Nintendo, Creatures, GAME FREAK, TV Tokyo, ShoPro, JR Kikaku.
© PIKACHU PROJECT 2010.
Pokémon properties are trademarks of Nintendo.
 

ADVENTURE AWAITS POKÉMON FANS AS VIZ MEDIA 
ANNOUNCES THE RELEASE OF 
POKÉMON—ZOROARK: MASTER OF ILLUSIONS 
ON DVD

VIZ Media will excite POKÉMON™ fans everywhere with the DVD release of the full-length feature film from the venerable kids franchise, POKÉMON—ZOROARK: MASTER OF ILLUSIONS. The DVD, rated ‘A’ for All Ages, will be released on September 20th under the company’s VIZ KIDS imprint and will carry an MSRP of $19.97 U.S. / $19.98 CAN.

As Ash and his friends journey to Crown City to join the crowds watching the Pokémon Baccer World Cup, mysterious forces are in motion that could bring untold misfortune to them all! What secrets does Zorua, a Pokémon they befriend along the way, hide? Why is the powerful Zoroark rampaging through the city, and what does the appearance of the Legendary Pokémon Raikou, Entei, and Suicune mean? All these questions and more will be answered in POKÉMON—ZOROARK: MASTER OF ILLUSIONS. 

“We are thrilled to bring the POKÉMON—ZOROARK: MASTER OF ILLUSIONS DVD to Pokémon fans across the country,” says Brian Ige, Vice President, Animation. “The Pokémon community is incredibly passionate and they will be excited to add this movie to their home DVD library.” 

For more information on VIZ Media’s POKÉMON manga and anime titles, please visit www.VIZ.com/Pokemon/.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

ACF 1154: NY Film Festival side-bar to feature over 35 Nikkatsu films!!!

Meiko Kaji (left, wearing hat) in Stray Cat Rock: Sex Hunter

From September 30th through October 16th, the Film Society of Lincoln Center will be celebrating the approaching 100th Anniversary of the founding of Japan's Nikkatsu Corportation with a side-bar to the 2011 New York Film Festival entitled “Velvet Bullets and Steel Kisses.”

The series will include over thirty-five movies ranging from Shozo Makino's Jiraiya the Ninja (1921) to Sion Sono's Cold Fish (2010). By far the bulk of the films being shown will be from the 1950s to the present and will include an outstanding sampling of the incredible output of this venerable studio.

I'll be running reviews of quite a few of the films, but in the meanwhile, further information about the films and showtimes, as well as links to order tickets, can be found at the FSLC website by clicking here.

“Velvet Bullets and Steel Kisses” was organized by the Film Society of Lincoln Center with Nikkatsu Corporation, the Japan Foundation, and the National Film Center of Japan.

Friday, September 16, 2011

ACF 1153: "Modern Magic Made Simple" coming in December from Sentai Filmworks


SENTAI FILMWORKS LICENSES
MODERN MAGIC MADE SIMPLE

Sentai Filmworks hasn’t added a starter course in sorcery to their catalog, but they have added the thoroughly enchanting new series MODERN MAGIC MADE SIMPLE to their ever expanding line up of animated hits. Based on the hit manga  ‘Yoku Wakaru Gendai Mahō’ written by Hiroshi Sakurazaka and illustrated by Miki Miyashita (Maburaho,), the 12 episode series about a world where the task of casting a magic spell is the equivalent of writing computer code has been mystically crafted under the supervision of director Yasuhiro Kuroda (Kampfer, Amazing Nurse Nanako) with Makoto Koga (Aria, Sola, Bludgeoning Angel Dokura-chan) adapting the character designs from Miyashita’s bewitching originals.

MODERN MAGIC MADE SIMPLE will be coming out on subtitled DVD this December in time for Christmas.

Synopsis: Life hasn’t been fair to Koyomi Morishita.  Even though she’s in High School, she’s so short that everyone assumes she’s still in grade school.  The boys and girls in her school tease her mercilessly and she’s not exactly graceful either.  On the other hand, she’s still better off than Yumiko, who has a magician trying to kill her.  Or at least Koyomi WAS until their paths crossed!  Fortunately, salvation arrives in the form of master mage and graduate student Misa Anehara, who agrees to take Koyomi under her wing in learning the new style of magic, which breaks enchantment down into sequences of code.  That will be quite a task, given that so far Koyomi’s talent seems to consist of making washbasins randomly fall out of the sky.  But if it was easy, it wouldn’t be magic, would it?  Get ready for a whole new kind of ‘spell’ing lesson as Koyomi takes a desperately needed crash course in charm school in MODERN MAGIC MADE SIMPLE!


ACF 1152: "The Cage of Zeus" coming September 20th from VIZ

THE CAGE OF ZEUS © 2004 by Sayuri Ueda

A RACE OF GENETICALLY MODIFED HUMANS
BATTLES GENOCIDE AND EXTINCTION IN
THE CAGE OF ZEUS

Award-Winning Author Sayuri Ueda Delivers A Kinetic Action Story
With A Distinctly Japanese View Of Gender Politics

VIZ Media has announced the release of the newest novel to be published under its popular Haikasoru imprint. THE CAGE OF ZEUS, by author Sayuri Ueda, will debut on September 20th and will carry an MSRP of $14.99 U.S. / $16.99 CAN. The eBook edition will also debut the same day on the Amazon Kindle, the Apple’s iBooks Store and the Sony Reader Store for $8.99.

Haikasoru publishes some of the most compelling contemporary Japanese science fiction and fantasy stories for English-speaking audiences, and is the first imprint based in the U.S. dedicated to Japanese science fiction and fantasy in translation.

THE CAGE OF ZEUS introduces readers to the Rounds, humans with the sex organs of both genders. Artificially created to test the limits of the human body in space, the Rounds are a minority, despised and hunted by the terrorist group, Vessel of Life. Aboard Jupiter-I, a space station orbiting the gas giant that shares its name, the Rounds have created their own society with a radically different view of gender and of life itself. Security chief Shirosaki keeps the peace between the Rounds and the typically gendered “Monaurals,” but when a terrorist strike hits the station, the balance of power and tolerance is at risk...and an entire people is targeted for genocide.

Sayuri Ueda is one of Japan’s most interesting new science fiction authors, and her work has won or been nominated for a number of awards,” says Haikasoru Editor Nick Mamatas. “THE CAGE OF ZEUS delivers an optimum mix of hard science fiction and thriller, combined with a distinctly Japanese view of gender politics, and the future of humanity itself.”

Born in Hyogo Prefecture, Sayuri Ueda is one of the most innovative science fiction authors in Japan. She won the 2003 Komatsu Sakyo Award with her debut novel, Mars Dark Ballade. Her second novel, The Cage of Zeus, was originally published in 2004. Her recent short fiction collection, Fish Boat, Animal Boat, was highly acclaimed in the sci-fi community and was nominated for the 2009 prestigious Japan SF Award. Ueda has also been nominated for the Seiun Award in the short story category for The Grave of the Bird. Her latest novel, The Ocean Chronicles, won the first prize of Best Science Fiction 2010 in SF Magazine and was one of the most noteworthy books of the year in any genre.

For more information on CAGE OF ZEUS and the Haikasoru imprint, visit the dedicated website at www.haikasoru.com.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

ACF 1151: "Fiber Futures: Japan’s Textile Pioneers" exhibition opens tomorrow at NY's Japan Society


Some of the works in the first room of the exhibition.
Fiber Futures: Japan’s Textile Pioneers
 Where: Japan Society Gallery
333 East 47th Street, between 1st an 2nd Avenues
When: September 16-December 18, 2011

Tomorrow, Friday, September 16th, will mark the opening of this magnificent exhibition at Japan Society. I was fortunate to attend a  press preview luncheon and a walk-through yesterday. Joe Earle, Vice President of the Society and Director of the Gallery, led the walk through and provided fascinating information about the pieces. At least six of the artists were present and spoke about their works.



A "shop curtain" by Jun'ichi Arai.

All photos in this post were taken by me using only my cell phone camera. While my images don't begin to do justice to the pieces, they do, I hope, convey some idea of their qualities. Of course, in one sense no two-dimensional image can do justice to such fascinating three-dimensional works.

Akio Hamatani's W-Orbit. Note the door to the right to gain a sense of the scale of the work.

Now I am not a textile person, but I appreciate talent and creativity in any medium. I was mightily impressed. The more than 35 works in this juried show demonstrate the brilliant use of a wide range of materials, from hemp to modern-age microfilaments and nearly everything in-between.

Yours truly reflected in the mirrored side of part of an untitled piece by Machiko Agano.

Quite simply, Fiber Futures: Japan's Textile Pioneers is a must-see. The creations are visually stunning and endlessly fascinating.

Kyoko Kumai's The Shape of Time on the floor below Naomi Kobayashi's suspended MA 2000.

For more information about the exhibition, including gallery hours, click here. Note that docent-led walk-in tours (which I highly recommend) are given at 12:30 pm Tuesdays thru Sundays, and Japanese language tours occur on Friday nights at 6:00 pm.

And for ACF's original announcement post about Fiber Futures, click here.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

ACF 1150: VIZ announces digital manga title "Speed Ups" and new volumes every Monday

BLEACH © 2001 by Tite Kubo/SHUEISHA Inc.

VIZ Media announces Manga "Speed Up" for BLEACH and
ONE PIECE Digital Releases on VIZMANGA.COM and VIZ MANGA APP 

New Digital Volumes To Be Released Weekly
And Complement Latest Additions
To 19 Other Popular Manga Series

VIZ Media continues to offer manga (graphic novel) fans a vast library of newly added digital titles for September through VIZManga.com and the VIZ Manga App for the Apple iPad™, iPhone™ and iPod™ touch. The latest update includes a just-announced manga “speed up” for BLEACH and ONE PIECE that will bring both series up to date with their North American print counterparts by December.

Starting this past Monday, and continuing every Monday thereafter, new digital volumes of manga creator Tite Kubo’s supernatural action saga, BLEACH, as well as the high seas pirate adventures of Eiichiro Oda’s ONE PIECE, will for be available online on VIZManga.com and also for download on the VIZ Manga App.

The latest manga speed up complements a similar accelerated release schedule announced earlier this month for NARUTO, which just saw the release of 7 manga volumes in 7 days on VIZManga.com and the VIZ Manga App, and established digital parity with the bestselling series’ print counterpart.

Other notable September digital manga releases for both platforms will include the concluding volume to Inio Asano’s WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD!, which will launch on September 12th, as well as final volume to Akira Toriyama’s DRAGON BALL Z, available the same day. The newest edition of Natsume Ono’s acclaimed samurai drama, HOUSE OF FIVE LEAVES Volume 4, is scheduled for September 19th, a day before the print counterpart’s national release. 


Additional new VIZ Media manga volumes launching include:

September 12th:
BAKUMAN Vol. 6
BLEACH Vol. 23
CLAYMORE Vol. 18
D GRAY-MAN Vol. 19
DRAGON BALL Z Vol. 26 – Final Volume!
FUSHIGI YUGI: GENBU KAIDEN Vol. 6
HYDE & CLOSER Vol. 5
NEON GENESIS EVANGELION Chapter 6
ONE PIECE Vol. 43
OTOMEN Vol. 10
SATURN APARTMENTS Vol. 2
WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD! Vol. 2 – Series Conclusion!

September 19th:
BLEACH Vol. 24
HOUSE OF FIVE LEAVES Vol. 4 – Debuts a day before the print counterpart!
KEKKAISHI Vol. 13
NATSUME’S BOOK OF FRIENDS Vol. 8
NEON GENESIS EVANGELION Chapter 7
ONE PIECE Vol. 44
ROSARIO + VAMPIRE II Vol. 5
RUROUNI KENSHIN Vol. 22

September 26th:
ARATA: THE LEGEND Vol. 6
BLEACH Vol. 25
CHILDREN OF THE SEA Vol. 4
D. GRAY-MAN Vol. 20
INUYASHA (VIZBIG) Vol. 4 – Exclusive to the VIZ Manga App for iPad
MAOH: JUVENILE REMIX Vol. 6
NEON GENESIS EVANGELION Chapter 8
ONE PIECE Vol. 45
VAMPIRE KNIGHT Vol. 11

VIZ Media’s digital manga application allows for universal access for fans for reading manga from their iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, and now, VIZManga.com for desktop/laptop computers and Android-powered devices with built-in web browsers. With one account, registered users are able to view their purchases across even more devices than ever.

The free VIZ Manga App is the top application for reading manga on iOS devices and features a rapidly growing library of the most popular manga series in the world, currently offering 40 series and over 400 volumes, with new additions and free Chapter 1 previews added weekly.

For more information, visit VIZManga.com or www.VIZ.com/apps.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

ACF 1149: Maggie Q is returning in "Nikita" on Friday, September 23rd



Maggie Q will be returning as Nikita on the CW Network next week, but on a new day and at a new time.The show will start airing at 8:00 PM on Friday, September 23rd. Hopefully this second season move from Thursday evenings will not have a negative impact on viewership. I'm eager to see how the show will handle all three principles, Nikita, Alex (Lyndsy Fonesca) and Michael (Shane West), being on the outside of Division.
Photo from the rear cover of Asian Cult Cinema magazine, Issue #56

I recently came across a ten page, picture packed interview with Maggie in a 2007 issue of Asian Cult Cinema, for which yours truly was a columnist for nearly nine years until it ceased publication at the end of 2009. The interview was conducted by regular A.C.C. contributor Jerome C.Morris. At that time Maggie was set to start filming Three Kingdoms: Resurrection of the Dragon, which also starred Andy Lau and Sammo Hung, and which was subsequently released in 2008.

Back issues of A.C.C. #56 are currently still available online from Asian Cult Cinema. Click here.