Apr 4

JQ Magazine: Nippon in New York — Studio Ghibli Fest, ‘Okko’s Inn,’ Sakura Matsuri

By JQ magazine editor Justin Tedaldi (CIR Kobe-shi, 2001-02). Justin has written about Japanese arts and entertainment for JETAA since 2005. For more of his articles, click here.

Spring has sprung in the Big Apple, and that means one thing: a new season of sounds, colors, and spectacular performing arts to match the blossoming sakura trees throughout the city.

This month’s highlights include:

Eleven Arts

April 5-11

Penguin Highway

Village East Cinema, 181-189 Second Avenue

$8-$15

The acclaimed directorial debut from Hiroyasu Ishida! Budding genius Aoyama is only in the fourth grade, but already lives his life like a scientist. When penguins start appearing in his sleepy suburb hundreds of miles from the sea, Aoyama vows to solve the mystery. When he finds the source of the penguins is a woman from his dentist’s office, they team up for an unforgettable summer adventure. Presented in Japanese; select screenings are also English dubbed from April 6-11.

GKIDS

April 7-8, 10

Howl’s Moving Castle: 15th Anniversary

Regal E-Walk 42nd Street 13, 247 West 43nd Street

AMC Empire 25, 234 West 42nd Street

AMC Kips Bay 15, 570 Second Avenue

$12.50

Kicking off this year’s Studio Ghibli Fest is an Academy Award-nominated fantasy adventure for the whole family from acclaimed director Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away). Sophie, a quiet girl working in a hat shop, finds her life thrown into turmoil when she is literally swept off her feet by a handsome but mysterious wizard named Howl. The vain and vengeful Witch of the Waste, jealous of their friendship, puts a curse on Sophie and turns her into a 90-year-old woman. On a quest to break the spell, Sophie climbs aboard Howl’s magnificent moving castle and into a new life of wonder and adventure. The April 7 and 10 screenings are dubbed in English, and the April 8 screening is presented in Japanese with English subtitles.

© Julieta Cervantes; Karole Armitage © Marco Mignani

April 12-13, 7:30 p.m.

Karole Armitage’s You Took a Part of Me

Japan Society, 333 East 47th Street

$30, $25 members

You Took a Part of Me is a wired dance production with choreography by “punk ballerina” Karole Armitage for her five-member dance company Armitage Gone! Dance. Loosely based on the 15th-century noh play Nonomiya, it explores erotic entanglement, unresolved attachments and the search for harmony, all of which are hallmarks of noh drama. Set to live music by Reiko Yamada and Yuki Isami, the show embraces new technologies created by MIT Media Lab designers. The lead role, by Armitage’s longtime collaborator Megumi Eda, highlights sinuous, seductive movement executed with ferocious intensity in a dream-like state. The April 12 performance is followed by a MetLife Meet-the-Artists Reception, and the April 13, performance is followed by an artist Q&A.

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Mar 22

JQ Magazine: Nippon in New York — Genji at the Met, Perfume Returns, Sailor Moon on Broadway

By JQ magazine editor Justin Tedaldi (CIR Kobe-shi, 2001-02). Justin has written about Japanese arts and entertainment for JETAA since 2005. For more of his articles, click here.

Stay warm this winter with some hot local events, from live showcases that will transport you to another time and place, some new anime screenings, and a 2.5D musical performance you won’t want to miss.

This month’s highlights include:

Courtesy of Metmuseum.org

Now through June 16

The Tale of Genji: A Japanese Classic Illuminated

Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 Fifth Avenue

$12-$25

This is the first major loan exhibition in North America to focus on the artistic tradition inspired by Japan’s most celebrated work of literature, The Tale of Genji. Written by Murasaki Shikibu, a lady-in-waiting in the early eleventh-century imperial court, and often referred to as the world’s first psychological novel, the tale recounts the amorous escapades of the “Shining Prince” Genji and introduces some of the most iconic female characters in the history of Japanese literature. Covering the period from the eleventh century to the present, the exhibition features more than 120 works, including paintings, calligraphy, silk robes, lacquer wedding set items, a palanquin for the shogun’s bride, and popular art such as ukiyo-e prints and modern manga. Highlights include two National Treasures and several works recognized as Important Cultural Properties. For the first time ever outside Japan, rare works are on view from Ishiyamadera Temple—where, according to legend, Shikibu started writing the tale.

© Sopheak Vong

March 22-23, 7:30 p.m.

Akiko Kitamura’s Cross Transit

Japan Society, 333 East 47th Street

$30, $25 members

How can Cambodia’s past be preserved through the human body? Akiko Kitamura, internationally acclaimed Japanese dancer and founder/former choreographer of Leni-Basso dance company, tackles this challenge together with Cambodian visual artist/photographer Kim Hak. Ambitious yet poetic, Cross Transit is a multimedia dance piece in which Hak’s video, photos, voice and personal experiences intertwine with Kitamura’s bold, progressive choreography. A MetLife Meet-the-Artists Reception follows the March 22 performance, with an artist Q&A following the March 23 performance.

 

Courtesy of Sailormoon-official.com

March 29-30

Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon: The Super Live

PlayStation Theater, 1515 Broadway

$30-$75

See Sailor Moon and her friends fight the forces of darkness—live on stage! Directed and choreographed by Takahiro (Madonna’s Sticky and Sweet Tour) with book by Akiko Kodama (Takarazuka Revue Company), and music by Hyadain (pop groups Momoiro Clover Z and AKB48), The Super Live is the first time that Sailor Moon (one of the most popular anime and manga heroines of all time, generating $5 billion in sales) comes to the New York stage in celebration of its 25th anniversary. These special performances (three in total) marks the first time a 2.5D Musical will be on an American stage. 2.5D Musicals, which began around 2000, are based on popular contemporary Japanese culture: manga comics, anime and video games. Presented in Japanese with English supertitles.

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Feb 19

JQ Magazine: Nippon in New York — ‘Alita: Battle Angel,’ ‘Urusei Yatsura’ Returns, Puppet Theatre

By JQ magazine editor Justin Tedaldi (CIR Kobe-shi, 2001-02). Justin has written about Japanese arts and entertainment for JETAA since 2005. For more of his articles, click here.

Stay warm this winter with some hot local events, from live showcases that will transport you to another time and place, some new anime screenings, and a theatrical performance you won’t want to miss.

This month’s highlights include:

20th Century Fox

Now playing

Alita: Battle Angel

Various locations/prices

The number one movie in the world! From visionary filmmakers James Cameron (Avatar) and Robert Rodriguez (Sin City) comes Alita: Battle Angel, an epic adventure of hope and empowerment based on the acclaimed manga series by Yukito Kishiro. When Alita (Rosa Salazar) awakens with no memory of who she is in a future world she does not recognize, she is taken in by Ido (Christoph Waltz), a compassionate doctor who realizes that somewhere in this abandoned cyborg shell is the heart and soul of a young woman with an extraordinary past. As Alita learns to navigate her new life and the treacherous streets of Iron City, she discovers a clue to her past through unique fighting abilities that those in power will stop at nothing to control.

VIZ Media

Tuesday, Feb. 19

Urusei Yatsura, Vol. 1

$19.99 MSRP

After decades out of print, the hilarious manga classic that launched the career of Rumiko Takahashi (Ranma ½, Inuyasha) returns in all-new deluxe English editions! Beautiful space alien princess Lum invades Earth on her UFO, and unlucky Ataru Moroboshi’s world gets turned upside down! Will Lum become Earth’s electrifying new leader? Or will Ataru somehow miraculously save Earth from space alien onslaught? In a high-stakes game of tag, Ataru must touch Lum’s horns in ten days—or aliens will take over the earth! As it turns out, the game of tag is only the beginning of Ataru’s troubles, as he continues to attract strange encounters with otherworldly beings like beautiful snow spirit Oyuki and the sexy crow goblin Princess Kurama!

Courtesy of Ticketfly.com

 

 

Friday, Feb. 22, 7:00 p.m.

Marty Friedman

Saint Vitus, 1120 Manhattan Avenue (Brooklyn)

$20-$70

Fluent in Japanese, this ex-Cacophony/Megadeth axeman’s overwhelming love of Japanese music and the Japanese language found him moving to Tokyo in 2003. It is there where his career took off in very unexpected ways. Currently he is a constant fixture on Japanese television (appearing on hundreds of network programs of all types, and as the face of long running campaigns for Fanta/Coca Cola, Sumitomo Bank, Suntory etc.), as well as appearing in major motion pictures. He is also the author of two hardcover books in Japanese detailing his unusual views on the current Japanese music scene, as well as two best-selling manga-related books, which are both in their eighth editions now. Catch Friedman as he supports his latest release, One Bad M.F. Live!!, with his band featuring Kiyoshi (bass), Jordan Ziff (guitar), and Chargeeee (drums). Featuring support by Immortal Guardian.

© Hachioji Kuruma Ningyo Puppet Theater

Feb. 28-March 2, 7:30 p.m.

Hachioji Kuruma Ningyo Puppet Theater

Japan Society, 333 East 47th Street

$40, $33 Japan Society members

Koryu Nishikawa, the fifth grand master of Hachioji Kuruma Ningyo Puppet Theater, returns to NYC (and marking the first bunraku performance at Japan Society in a decade) with four female-focused stories from classic literature: Kuzunoha, about a mother’s undying love for her child; Date Musume Koi Higanoko, which depicts a woman’s heroic sacrifice for her lover; Tsuri On’na, a comical piece about “fishing” for a wife; and Yugao, a new work from Nishikawa based on a story from The Tale of Genji, in which the jealous spirit of one of Genji’s lovers possesses a young woman he’s courting. Kuruma ningyo, literally meaning “puppets on wheels,” refers to the company’s unique technique in which the puppeteer sits atop a three-wheeled dolly, adding an element of dynamism and power to each character. Don’t miss this rare chance to see a full-scale production with chanters and shamisen players. Performed in Japanese with English titles. A pre-performance lecture begins one hour prior to the start of the performance. The Feb. 28 performance is followed by a MetLife Meet-the-Artists Reception.

Want to stay in the loop on future eventsFollow Justin on Facebook and Twitter.


Dec 31

JQ Magazine: Nippon in New York — ‘Modest Heroes,’ ‘Dragon Ball Z Super: Broly,’ ‘A Silent Voice’

By JQ magazine editor Justin Tedaldi (CIR Kobe-shi, 2001-02). Justin has written about Japanese arts and entertainment for JETAA since 2005. For more of his articles, click here.

Start the new year right by heading down to your local concert venue, cinema, or arts center for some fantastic new year’s fare. Whether you enjoy movies, travel, or orchestral performances classic video games, treat yourself and catch a break from the cold.

This month’s highlights include:

Silver Knife © Jusung Lee; Pollen Revolution © Hiroyasu Daido; Kids © Etang Chen

Jan. 4-5, 7:30 p.m.

Contemporary Dance Festival: Japan + East Asia

Japan Society, 333 East 47th Street

$30, $25 Japan Society members

Formerly known as the Contemporary Dance Showcase, this year’s festival continues with three revelatory and robust works from three countries. From Japan, Mitsutake Kasai performs butoh master Akira Kasai’s legendary piece Pollen Revolution. Hailed as “energetic and altogether wonderfully human” two decades ago, Sr. Kasai choreographs a revival of this eclectic dance for his son. From Taiwan, choreographed by emerging star Kuan-Hsiang Liu, Kids is a tribute to death and the choreographer’s mother. Performed to voice recordings of Liu with his mother during her fight against cancer, this modern-day grief ritual is full of idiosyncratic motion and moments of serenity. From Korea, Silver Knife by Goblin Party delves into conflicting portrayals of female identity through the eloquently crafted movements of four women. The Friday, Jan. 4 performance is followed by a MetLife Meet-the-Artists Reception.

GKIDS

Jan. 10, 12

Modest Heroes: Ponoc Short Films Theatre, Volume 1

Regal E-Walk 42nd Street 13, 247 West 43nd Street

AMC Empire 25, 234 West 42nd Street

AMC Kips Bay 15, 570 Second Avenue

$10

Studio Ponoc, the new animation studio founded by two-time Academy Award-nominee Yoshiaki Nishimura (The Tale of The Princess Kaguya, When Marnie Was There) and featuring many artists from the venerable Studio Ghibli, made an immediate splash with their acclaimed debut film Mary and The Witch’s Flower last year. The studio returns this year with Modest Heroes, an ambitious anthology of three thrilling tales created by some of the greatest talents working in Japanese animation today. The Jan. 12 screenings will be presented in English.

Courtesy of Facebook.com/vgmjamnyc.jpg

Sunday, Jan. 13, 6:00-9:00 p.m.

VGM+ Jazz Jam Session

Black Cat LES, 172 Rivington Street

No cover

Every first Sunday of each month, Black Cat LES hosts the J-MUSIC Pocket Band’s VGM+ Jazz Jam Sessions, which showcases live collective performances of legendary tunes from Pokémon, Zelda, Sonic, Mario, anime, J-pop, and everything in between! In celebration of the latest release of another storied Nintendo franchise, the group (led by Grammy Award-nominated composer Patrick Bartley Jr.) will dedicate the first theme of the new year to Super Smash Bros. This one-of-a-kind performance will include music from every game in the series—something you won’t want to miss! For more info, click here or contact info@jmusicband.com.

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Dec 11

JQ Magazine: Book Review — ‘Dragon Quest Illustrations: 30th Anniversary Edition’

“Packed with over 500 iconic hand-drawn illustrations, this handsome, 240-page hardcover edition is a testament to the artist who helped set the visual standard for RPGs, raising the bar impossibly higher with each release.” (VIZ Media)

By JQ magazine editor Justin Tedaldi (CIR Kobe-shi, 2001-02). Justin has written about Japanese arts and entertainment for JETAA since 2005, and is eagerly awaiting the 30th anniversary edition of All Purpose Cultural Cat Girl Nuku Nuku. For more of his articles, click here.

In the summer of 1988, the “World News” page in the debut issue of Nintendo Power magazine reported: “Ninjas and Kung-Fu Masters are no longer heros [sic] to Japanese players since they are now being replaced by warriors and sorcerers who bravely confront dragons with their swords and shields.”

With this mind-blowing description, my eight-year-old self was introduced to the world of Dragon Quest.

With over 71 million copies sold, this landmark video game series published by Enix (now Square Enix) is still going strong, with eleven main titles and thirty overall, securing a legacy that spans at least three generations. While role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons and Ultima existed long before game consoles invaded our homes, DQ was the one that rewrote the book and kept adding chapters that everyone from Final Fantasy to Pokémon copied from, long after its initial release in Japan in 1986 (and in the U.S. as Dragon Warrior in 1989).

Ironically, those other series are probably better known in the West, likely because for years Dragon Warrior lacked the “star power” associated with one man whose fame in Japan easily rivaled any game: Akira Toriyama. As the creator/illustrator/genius behind the back-to-back manga smashes Dr. Slump and Dragon Ball, Toriyama was coaxed by his trend-savvy editor to lend his talents to a new sword-and-sorcery title, marking a profound transformation (and future synergy) between the manga and gaming worlds. After DQ, nothing would ever be the same.

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Dec 1

JQ Magazine: Nippon in New York — Radio City Christmas, Mickey Mouse @ 90, Miyazaki Doc

By JQ magazine editor Justin Tedaldi (CIR Kobe-shi, 2001-02). Justin has written about Japanese arts and entertainment for JETAA since 2005. For more of his articles, click here.

With Thanksgiving (and the hopes of sensible eating) now just a memory, we turn to colder weather, falling snow, and the new year to come. Fortunately for Japanese culture fans, December is just as busy as the holiday season itself. Whether you’re hosting guests from out of town or looking to squeeze in an event or two in between parties, we’ve got you covered.

This month’s highlights include:

Courtesy of MSG Entertainment

Now through Jan. 1

Radio City Christmas Spectacular

Radio City Music Hall, 1260 Sixth Avenue

From $41

Featuring an all-new finale number (with costumes to match), the seasonal tradition of this legendary New York show, now in its 86th edition, features the Rockettes, ensemble dancers, and Santa himself, for a show guaranteed to delight all ages! Among the more than 50 dancers for this year’s performance is Tokyo native Arisa Odaka, who performed with Ken Watanabe in the Lincoln Center Theater production of The King and I in 2015.

© Disney

Now through Feb. 10

Mickey: The True Original Exhibition

60 Tenth Avenue

$38

Featuring exclusive works from Keichi Tanaami (SPIRAL) and Tetsuya Nomura (Kingdom Hearts), Mickey: The True Original Exhibition celebrates 90 years of Mickey Mouse’s influence on art and pop culture. This immersive, one-of-a-kind experience is inspired by Mickey’s status as a “true original” and his consistent impact on the arts and creativity in all its forms. Guests will have the chance to explore the 16,000 square-foot exhibition featuring both historic and contemporary work from renowned artists.

© Sony Pictures

Friday, Dec. 7, 7:00 p.m.

Tokyo Godfathers

Japan Society, 333 East 47th Street

$14, $11 seniors/students, $5 members

While rummaging through trash heaps on Christmas Eve, three homeless companions—a middle-aged alcoholic, a transgender ex-drag queen and a hot-tempered teen runaway—stumble upon an abandoned newborn. Determined to find the child’s mother, the trio search Tokyo’s sprawling streets, buildings and back alleys, helped along by a series of coincidental encounters that gradually reveal the truth of their traumatic pasts. Imbued with deep empathy for its down-and-out yet lively characters, this atypical holiday comedy by celebrated animation director Satoshi Kon (Perfect Blue, Paprika) highlights the redemptive power of love and family (chosen or otherwise) amidst life on the fringes of society. Presented in Japanese with English subtitles.

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Oct 5

JQ Magazine: Book Review — ‘Japanese Cooking with Manga’

Japanese Cooking with Manga is an entertaining introduction to the world of Japanese food, and an approachable book for those interested in learning more about Japanese food culture.” (Tuttle Publishing)

By Alexis Agliano Sanborn (Shimane-ken, 2009-11) for JQ magazine. Alexis is a graduate of Harvard University’s Regional Studies-East Asia (RSEA) program, and currently works as a program coordinator at the U.S.-Asia Law Institute of NYU School of Law. Additionally, she is an artist and independent filmmaker, currently working on a documentary about food education in Japan entitled Nourishing Japan.

Tuttle’s latest cookbook, Japanese Cooking with Manga, captures the ethos of creating food which suits the place you live. This quirky read was written by the Gourmand Gohan team comprised of Spaniards Alexis Aldeguer and Ilaria Mauro and Japanese-living-in-Barcelona “Maiko-san,” highlighting the universal love of Japanese food and its adaptations around the globe.

Created to be part comic book and part recipe book, this is a cookbook that you “read,” filled with colorful and humorous visual explorations of preparing Japanese food. Drawn in an artistic style more reminiscent of Tintin than Totoro, the trio guides us through visuals of chopped ingredients and simmering pots culminating in the completed meal. In truth, it would be difficult to consult the book while cooking (there’s something to be said for a more traditional layout); it’s more coffee table or bedside reading. Nevertheless, readers, especially those with an appreciation for comics, will likely enjoy this book.

In addition to recipes and narrative, the writers take care to provide background information, context and history to the world of Japanese cuisine—such as the importance of seasonal ingredients, the history of sushi, or how to identify fresh fish.  For anyone embarking and revisiting the world of washoku, these principles are good reminders of the foundation to the cuisine and culture.

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Sep 8

JQ Magazine: Film Review — ‘Kusama: Infinity’

“Clocking in at just 78 minutes, this documentary from director Heather Lenz is deceptively compact. Within its swift running time, viewers will be regaled with how Kusama overcame impossible odds to become the top-selling female artist in the world.” (Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures)

By Stacy Smith (Kumamoto-ken CIR, 2000-03) for JQ magazine. Stacy is a professional Japanese writer/interpreter/translator. She starts her day by watching Fujisankei’s newscast in Japanese, and shares some of the interesting tidbits and trends together with her own observations in the periodic series WITLife.

I’ve always been an admirer from afar of Yayoi Kusama’s polka dotted and pumpkin themed artwork, but I have never waited hours in line to see it, as many New Yorkers did when her mirrored “Infinity Room” made it to the city last year. This lack of intimate knowledge regarding her work might be why I found the new film Kusama: Infinity about this amazing 89-year-old artist to be so revelatory. Clocking in at just 78 minutes, this documentary from director Heather Lenz is deceptively compact. Within its swift running time, viewers will be regaled with how Kusama overcame impossible odds to become the top-selling female artist in the world.

Born into a dysfunctional family in Matsumoto City in northern Nagano Prefecture, Kusama grew up during World War II. Her father was unfaithful and her mother’s reaction to this was to become angry and violent, even destroying Kusama’s artwork which she began creating at age 10 (The film suggests that this trauma is behind the maniacal energy that Kusama channels into her creations). Interestingly enough, her mother agreed to let her attend art school on the condition that she attend finishing school as well, but Kusama never set foot in the latter.

I had known that she spent time in New York, but the story of how she got here was fascinating. Kusama respected Georgia O’Keefe, and sent her a letter along with some of her works. After receiving a reply, in 1958 Kusama came to New York on a wing and a prayer. Before she left Japan she burned most of her early works, promising to make better ones in the future. During her time here she met legendary artists like Andy Warhol and Donald Judd, the former of whom she was distraught to later find had stolen her work. Kusama got caught up in the spirit of the 1960s counterculture and was involved in many “happenings,” such as body painting festivals and anti-war demonstrations. She even crashed the Venice Biennale exhibition in 1966 with an installation of 1,500 mirror balls on the lawn outside the pavilion, clad in a red leotard amongst them. Despite the double punch of sexism and racism that Kusama faced, she managed to make a name for herself.

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Sep 4

JQ Magazine: Nippon in New York — ‘Akira’ @ 30, SCANDAL from Japan, ‘Dragon Ball Z’

By JQ magazine editor Justin Tedaldi (CIR Kobe-shi, 2001-02). Justin has written about Japanese arts and entertainment for JETAA since 2005. For more of his articles, click here.

As the summer winds fade into fall colors, the weeks ahead are shaping up with these exciting events, ready to be enjoyed after Labor Day.

This month’s highlights include:

FUNimation

Now through Sept. 6

Akira: 30th anniversary

Metrograph, 7 Ludlow Street

$15

More than any single feature film, Katsuhiro Otomo (Memories, Steamboy)’s adaptation of his own manga series is the one that introduced the glories of Japanese anime to an international audience. In 2019, thirty-one years after the Japanese government nuked Tokyo as damage control for an experiment involving using ESP on children, biker Kaneda rides one of the most iconic motorcycles in cinema into the unknown, on a mission to save his friend Tetsuo from a vast and far-reaching conspiracy. A feast of imagistic imagination, climaxing in an unforgettable battle royale in the Tokyo Olympiad. Presented in Japanese with English subtitles.

Sony Music Entertainment (Japan)

Thursday, Sept. 5, 8:00 p.m.

SCANDAL from Japan

PlayStation Theater, 1515 Broadway

$45

SCANDAL is one of Japan’s most popular rock bands, epitomizing the J-rock aesthetic. The four-piece unit adeptly blends pop, rock and alternative music sensibilities with hip and contemporary fashion sensibilities and unstoppable girl star power. The band is presently in the midst of a world tour in support of its eighth record, HONEY, which was released in February and peaked at Number Three on the Japanese Oricon weekly sales charts and extended the band’s streak of being the only girl group to consecutively have each of their albums place the Oricon Top Five. The album features ten tracks including a rendition of the band’s 10th anniversary single, “Take Me Out.”

GKIDS

Sept. 6 & 10

Perfect Blue: 20th anniversary

AMC Empire 25, 234 West 42nd Street

AMC Kips Bay 15, 570 Second Avenue

Regal Union Square 14, 850 Broadway

$12.50

Perfect Blue, the groundbreaking and rarely screened first film from the legendary late director Satoshi Kon (Tokyo Godfathers, Paprika), returns to theaters for its 20th anniversary in a brand-new digital transfer. Rising pop star Mima has quit singing to pursue a career as an actress and model, but her fans aren’t ready to see her go. Encouraged by her managers, Mima takes on a recurring role on a popular TV show, when suddenly her handlers and collaborators begin turning up murdered. Harboring feelings of guilt and haunted by visions of her former self, Mima’s reality and fantasy meld into a frenzied paranoia. As her stalker closes in, in person and online, the threat he poses is more real than even Mima knows, in this iconic psychological thriller that has frequently been hailed as one of the most important animated films of all time. The September 6th screenings are presented in Japanese with English subtitles and the September 10th screenings are dubbed in English.

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Jul 18

JQ Magazine: Film Review — JAPAN CUTS 2018 at Japan Society

An “oh-my-god-it’s-too-accurate portrayal of first love” starring Aira Sunohara, Amiko makes its U.S. premiere at Japan Society July 16. (Amiko © Yoko Yamanaka)

 

By Katharine Olla for JQ magazine. A Friend of JET, Katharine taught as an ALT in a public elementary school in Gunma Prefecture from 2015-16. She currently works at Japan Society in New York.

It’s summer in the city, and that means another year of JAPAN CUTS, North America’s largest festival of contemporary Japanese cinema. From July 19-29, Japan Society will screen 30 films ranging from dramas and comedies to documentaries, anime, and experimental works. The festival will also feature special guest appearances by directors, documentary filmmakers, and actors, including the legendary actress Kirin Kiki, who will receive the CUT ABOVE Award for Outstanding Performance in Film.

It was difficult to choose just three to review, so I decided to watch films with strong female leads (because that’s one of the categories that Netflix tells me I like).

Kushina, What Will You Be

What if I just ran away and lived in the woods? is a question some of us ask after a morning commute on New York public transit. Get your fix by immersing yourself in the surreal, visually-striking world of Kushina, What Will You Be.

Anthropologist Soko (Yayoi Inamoto) and her assistant Keita (Suguru Onuma) trek through the forest to locate and study an elusive group said to be in the mountains. What they find is a women-only colony led by matriarch Onikuma (Miyuki Ono). Onikuma’s family consists of her daughter Kagu (Tomona Hirota) and granddaughter Kushina (Ikumi Satake), whose secret pastime is listening to her cassette player. After the outside world intrudes, how will this closed community react? And what is Kushina listening to on her Walkman?

This is Moët Hayami’s debut feature film, and it’s a labor of love: as its writer, director, art director, costume designer, and editor, with this level of care she’s managed to curate every detail of this film to create a truly singular world within a world. It’s hard to shake off after the credits roll.

Featuring an intro and Q&A with writer/director Moët Hayami and actress Tomona Hirota, Kushina, What Will You Be screens Wednesday, July 25 at 6:30 p.m. (international premiere).

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Jul 2

JQ Magazine: Nippon in New York — Hatsune Miku, JAPAN CUTS, Sailor Moon

By JQ magazine editor Justin Tedaldi (CIR Kobe-shi, 2001-02). Justin has written about Japanese arts and entertainment for JETAA since 2005. For more of his articles, click here.

Before and after the outdoor fireworks, enjoy some summer events in the cool indoors, whether it’s catching one of the dozens of films premiering at Japan Society’s annual festival, or enjoying anything from interpretative theater to the latest pop sensation.

This month’s highlights include:

© 2018 Movie Inuyashiki Production Committee : Hiroya Oku : Kodansha

Now through July 15

New York Asian Film Festival 2018

SVA Theatre, 333 West 23rd Street

Walter Reade Theater, 165 West 65th Street

$15, $12 seniors and students, $10 Subway Cinema members

From vicious, life-destroying phone scams to balletic battles between equally corrupt cops and yakuza, NYAFF offers films that reflect on contemporary society while offering extreme genre pleasures. There are self-referential takes on cinematic zombies, existential date nights, and teens finding their own corners of the world despite familial and societal expectations. showcasing the most exciting comedies, dramas, thrillers, romances, horrors and arthouse films from East Asia. Features the North American premieres of Japanese films Blood of Wolves (July 2), River’s Edge (July 3), Liverleaf (July 8), Midnight Bus (July 11), One Cut of the Dead (July 13), and Inuyashiki (July 15).

GKIDS

July 3, 5, 7

Fireworks

E-Walk 42nd Street 13, 247 West 42nd Street

Empire 25, 234 West 42nd Street

$12.50

Producer Genki Kawamura follows up his mega-hit Your Name with another anime tale of star-crossed teenage lovers with a sci-fi fantasy twist. Shy Norimichi and fast-talking Yusuke are goo-goo-eyed over the same elusive classmate, Nazuna. But Nazuna, unhappy over her mother’s decision to remarry and leave their countryside town, plans to run away and has secretly chosen Norimichi to accompany her. When things don’t go as planned, Norimichi discovers that a glowing multi-color ball found in the sea has the power to reset the clock and give them a second chance to be together. But each reset adds new complications and takes them farther and farther away from the real world—until they risk losing sight of reality altogether.

Courtesy of Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda

Premieres Friday, July 6

Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda

Francesca Beale Theater, 144 West 65th Street

$15, $12 seniors and students

From his start pioneering synth pop music with Yellow Magic Orchestra, in the late ’70s to winning an Oscar for his score for The Last Emperor in 1988, Ryuichi Sakamoto quickly established himself as one of the most original and intuitive composers of his generation. But, never content to rest on his laurels, Sakamoto’s life journey eventually led him to find musical inspiration in the unlikeliest of places: the Fukushima nuclear disaster and a personal battle with cancer, both of which gave way to a late-life shift in his artistic process. With Coda, director Stephen Nomura Schible (a co-producer on Lost in Translation) crafts a portrait of the artist as an ageless man, one who can turn the worst news into the most refined and purposeful moment of productivity in an already storied career. Shot over five years, this graceful music documentary is an elegantly observed examination of the creative process, following as Sakamoto builds from nothing the album he must assume will be his swan song. Sakamoto and Schible will appear in person for the 7:00 p.m. (Q&A) and 9:30 p.m. (intro) screenings on July 6 and the 4:45 p.m. (Q&A) and 7:30 p.m. (intro) screenings on July 7. Q&As moderated by Sasha Frere-Jones.

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Jun 1

JQ Magazine: Nippon in New York — The Joy of Sake, BoroughCon, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu

By JQ magazine editor Justin Tedaldi (CIR Kobe-shi, 2001-02). Justin has written about Japanese arts and entertainment for JETAA since 2005. For more of his articles, click here.

After an unusually chilly spring, it’s finally starting to feel like summer. Enjoy some seasonal events this month that celebrate the best of both fine art and pop art.

This month’s highlights include:

Courtesy of Asiasociety.org

June 6-7, 6:30 p.m.

New York Japan CineFest 2018

Asia Society, 725 Park Avenue

$12, $10 seniors/students, $8 members

Highlighting some of the most exciting new voices in cinema, New York Japan CineFest is an annual event that features works by emerging Japanese and Japanese American filmmakers. This two-day program of short films includes Sugihara Survivors, a short documentary film about Chiune Sugihara (considered Japan’s Oskar Schindler); Hatis Noit, a glimpse into the music of the titular musician whose experimental vocals recollect memories of snowy Hokkaido; and Dolphin Dreams, a groundbreaking experimental documentary that builds on the communicative power of dance to give audiences an unprecedented visceral experience. The first night’s program is followed by a reception.

© Yow Kobayashi/Yamaha

Thursday, June 7, 7:30 p.m.

Makoto Ozone: Jazz Virtuoso

Japan Society, 333 East 47th Street

$38, $30 Japan Society members

Celebrated jazz pianist Makoto Ozone, hailed by the New York Times as “thrilling, virtuosic and unabashedly personal,” performs selections from his wide-ranging repertoire, from Gershwin and Bernstein to Piazzolla and Ravel. Known for his large concert hall performances with prestigious philharmonic orchestras and jazz legends such as Gary Burton and Chick Corea, Ozone offers an upbeat, freewheeling and fearless solo in our auditorium.

Bakuretsu Records

Friday, June 8, 7:30 p.m.

Super Chon Bros Tour 2 (featuring Tricot)

PlayStation Theater, 1515 Broadway

$20

Prog rockers Chon and Polyphia have announced a second installment of their Super Chon Bros tour, set to take off this spring with help from TTNG and Kyoto-based Tricot. Rolling Stone calls the latter quartet “adrenalized math rock sped up and given pop’s candy coating.” Their meticulously painted set—complete with shadows and amps brushed into the background—picks up on the Kyoto band’s brilliantly colored math-rock, its hooks popping into view like neon splashes against a canvas.

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May 23

JQ Magazine: Film Review — ‘Isle of Dogs’

Isle of Dogs is a fun film and a stylistic ode to legendary Japanese director Akira Kurosawa about a boy and man’s best friend that’s full of beautiful visuals and is equally enjoyable for both kids and adults.” (Fox Searchlight)

By Andy Shartzer (Shizuoka-ken, 2014-16) for JQ magazine. Andy graduated from the University of Virginia with a degree in chemical engineering, and currently works for JETRO New York. He is also the Community Development Chair for JETAA New York.

Isle of Dogs is director Wes Anderson’s first animated film since 2009’s Fantastic Mr. Fox. While it has received mostly positive reviews (with some reservations), it’s still interesting to see Anderson hone his storytelling skills using a colorful and vibrant world created with stop motion animation. The story opens with a prologue titled “Before the Age of Obedience” that supposedly explains how cats became more prominent in Japan. Fast forwarding to “Japan 20 Years in the Future,” the movie cuts to fictional Megasaki City, its residents, and Mayor Kobayashi (Kunichi Nomura), an authoritarian who declares that all dogs must be banished to nearby Trash Island because of the outbreak of dog flu and snout fever. The first dog that arrives on Trash Island is Spots (Liev Schreiber), the personal guard dog of Atari Kobayashi (Koyu Rankin), the ward and orphaned nephew of the mayor.

Atari soon takes matters into his own hands and flies a propeller plane to Trash Island to find Spots. He unfortunately crash lands on the island (in the meantime getting a piece of the plane stuck in his head, ouch) but is rescued by a pack of five dogs: Chief (Bryan Cranston), Boss (Bill Murray), Rex (Edward Norton), Duke (Jeff Goldblum), and King (Bob Balaban). The dogs—except for Chief, who was a former stray—agree to help Atari find Spots and accompany him on his journey to another part of Trash Island.

Though reluctant at first, Chief decides to join Atari and the other dogs after getting some extra persuasion from Nutmeg (Scarlett Johansson), a female purebred dog. Back in Megasaki City, Mayor Kobayashi orders the extermination of all dogs on Trash Island. Tracy Walker (Greta Gerwig), an American exchange student, gets involved and investigates further.

A couple fun Easter eggs in the film include: Ken Watanabe (The Last Samurai, Inception) as a head surgeon, Yojiro Noda (lead singer of RADWIMPS) as a news anchor, and Yoko Ono (artist, singer, peace activist) as a medical assistant named…Yoko Ono.

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Apr 23

JQ Magazine: Nippon in New York — Japan Day @ Central Park, Miyavi, In Praise of Natto

By JQ magazine editor Justin Tedaldi (CIR Kobeshi, 2001-02). Justin has written about Japanese arts and entertainment for JETAA since 2005. For more of his articles, click here.

As spring continues and the weather continues to warm, New Yorkers can enjoy activities all over the city both indoors and out.

This month’s highlights include:

© George Hirose

Sunday, May 6, 11:00 a.m.

Children’s Day Festival: Kodomo no Hi

Japan Society, 333 East 47th Street

$18, $10 Japan Society members, children ages 2 and under free

Hang the koinobori (carp streamers) and don your kabuto (samurai helmet): Children’s Day is on its way! Come join us for Japan’s national holiday where all children are stars and their happiness is celebrated. Enjoy a performance of Peach Boy (Momotaro) featuring storytelling, music, dance, taiko drumming and lots of audience participation. Continue the adventure with other authentic Kodomo no Hi activities!

Courtesy of Sonyhall.com

Sunday, May 6, 8:00 p.m.

Keiko Matsui

Sony Hall, 235 West 46th Street

$34.50, $74.50 VIP

Keiko Matsui’s music speaks to the hearts and souls of fans around the world, transcending borders and building bridges among people who share a common appreciation of honest artistry and cultural exchange. Journey to the Heart, her 27th recording as a leader, marks the 30th anniversary since her recording debut and is her boldest statement yet. On Journey to the Heart, Matsui more than delivers what she has come to be loved for breathtakingly beautiful transcendent melodies that transport the listener. A master storyteller, she crafts passionate and emotive songs with lush harmonies and global rhythms to create timeless musical anthems.

© Connie Ma

Tuesday, May 8, 6:30 p.m.

Cool Tokyo: Harajuku, Akihabara and Beyond

Japan Society, 333 East 47th Street

$14, $11 Japan Society members, seniors and students

From street fashion to street food, kawaii to cosplay, Tokyo is the epicenter of Japan’s latest trends. With so much to explore in this vibrant, fast-paced city, it can be hard to know where to start. At this talk, Sebastian Masuda, visual artist and founder of Harajuku shop 6%DokiDoki, and Abby Denson, comic book artist and author of Cool Tokyo Guide: Adventures in the City of Kawaii Fashion, Train Sushi and Godzilla, help to navigate Tokyo’s vending machines, subway etiquette, hidden treasures, and much more. Followed by a book signing reception.

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Apr 22

JQ Magazine: Film Review — ‘Mary and the Witch’s Flower’

“Director Hiromasa Yonebayashi delivers a film packed with many of the attributes that characterizes Studio Ghibli at its best.” (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)

By Lyle Sylvander (Yokohamashi, 2001-02) for JQ magazine. Lyle has completed a masters program at the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University and has been writing for the JET Alumni Association of New York since 2004. He is also the goalkeeper for FC Japan, a New York Citybased soccer team.

Mary and the Witch’s Flower, the debut feature film from Studio Ponoc, an anime outfit founded by Studio Ghibli veterans Hiromasa Yonebayashi and Yoshiaki Nishimura after Ghibli closed its doors in 2015, starts in medias res, with a violent firestorm engulfing the screen. A small girl with bright red hair escapes the maelstrom by flying away on a broomstick, pursued by dolphin-squid-fighter-jet hybrids. She plunges down through the clouds and crashes into a field, where her stolen cargo of glowing blue flowers scatters, instantly transforming the landscape as trees burst out of the earth to towering heights in the blink of an eye. Who she is, where she is, and why she needs to escape isn’t revealed until the final act.

Director Yonebayashi delivers a film packed with many of the attributes that characterizes Studio Ghibli at its best. In this story (based on The Little Broomstick, a 1971 children’s novel by popular British author Mary Stewart, a young female protagonist journeys through a fantastical world, battling witches on a magical quest. As in the best films of Hayao Miyazaki, the hand-drawn animation (a novelty in the CGI-dominated marketplace) depicts a European fairy tale setting while retaining a unique Japanese otherworldliness. This family-friendly film recalls such Miyazaki masterworks as Howl’s Moving Castle, Spirited Away and Kiki’s Delivery Service. Unlike those films, however, Mary and the Witch’s Flower falls short of being a masterpiece.

The animators invoke worlds upon worlds here: the green woods and mist-filled forests of England rendered in swooning evocative watercolors, and the show-stopping Endor, a psychedelic space from out of a dream or drug trip, packed with strange objects, unexplainable phenomena, students floating by in soap bubbles, fountains morphing into human form, grotesque creatures loping out of the shrubbery, only to disappear just as quickly. Endor is dazzling in an off-putting way (similar to some of the “worlds” presented in Ari Folman’s The Congress, where animated avatars engulf their originals). The action sequences are intricate and thrilling.

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