Feb 7

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

Hollywood adaptations of famous anime and manga series have a history of troubled birth and indifferent reception. “Speed Racer,” “Dragonball: Evolution,” and “Ghost in the Shell” didn’t click with fans of the source material, nor did they gain new ones through the interpretations of directors who might not have grasped their appeal in the first place. “Alita: Battle Angel” looks to change that trend.

Produced and co-written by James Cameron and directed by Robert Rodriguez (the “Sin City” and “Spy Kids” films), “Alita” brings original creator Yukito Kishiro’s epic to the big screen. Rosa Salazar (“Maze Runner,” “Bird Box”) plays the titular heroine, a cyborg with saucer-like eyes and a combat-scarred past who is revived in the post-apocalyptic future world of Iron City. Using her newfound skills as a bounty hunter, Alita fights to rediscover her humanity and find a place in her new surroundings.

With a cast that includes Academy Award winners Christoph Waltz, Mahershala Ali and Jennifer Connelly, along with a reported $200 million production budget with Dolby Cinema and IMAX 3D screenings, “Alita” has received advance praise: “The A.V. Club” calls it Rodriguez’s “best movie in ages,” and “The Verge” calls it “a worldbuilding triumph.”

First published in 1990 under the title “Gunnm” and recently reissued here as deluxe hardcover editions by “Attack on Titan” publisher Kodansha Comics, the film adaptation was first considered by devotee Cameron as his feature follow-up to “Titanic.” Rodriguez came aboard in 2015 as the steward to his vision, which includes 1,500 CGI shots in native 3D, climaxing with Iron City’s motorball competition, which blends turbo racing with gladiatorial combat.

“Alita: Battle Angel” premieres in North America February 14. For more information, visit www.foxmovies.com/movies/alita-battle-angel.


Jan 25

WIT Life #332: Japanese Tennis and Film News

Written by professional Writer/Interpreter/Translator Stacy Smith (Kumamoto-ken CIR, 2000-03), WIT Life is a periodic series about aspects of Japanese culture such as film, food and language. Stacy starts her day by watching Fujisankei’s newscast in Japanese, and here she shares some interesting tidbits and trends along with her own observations.

明けましておめでとうございます (Akemashite Omedetou Gozaimasu or Happy New Year)!  A bit late, but this is my first post of 2019.  Those who have been following the Australian Open tennis tournament know that Kei Nishikori unfortunately had to pull out of his semifinal match against Novak Djokovic due to a leg injury.  This was actually his 18th career retirement from a match, a statistic that earned him some bashing, including from commentator John McEnroe.

Speaking of controversy, Japanese noodle manufacturer Nissin recently got into some trouble for its ad featuring Nishikori and his countrywoman Naomi Osaka for changing her skin and hair to be lighter and straighter.  Osaka has blazed her way into the Australian Open final and will be playing Petra Kvitova, and who will win is anyone’s guess.  What is known is that the victor will claim the #1 rank, and if it’s Naomi it will be the first time for a Japanese player.  For the night owls (or early risers depending on how you think about it), the match will be shown live on ESPN at 3:30 am tomorrow morning.  For people like myself who are not in this camp, the match will be replayed at 9 am.  Ganbare Naomi!

Speaking of Japanese who are receiving acclaim, Mamoru Hosoda’s animated film 未来のミライ (Mirai no Mirai or Mirai) and Hirokazu Kore-eda’s latest 万引き家族 (Manbiki Kazoku or Shoplifters) just received Read More


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 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.

Read More


Nov 4

JQ Magazine: Nippon in New York — Joe Hisaishi, Anime NYC, ‘Shoplifters’

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.

From the silver screen to the stage to J-pop, November is just as colorful as the autumn leaves drifting through the air. Add these live events to the mix and you’ve got an irresistibly epic rundown.

This month’s highlights include:

FUNimation

Nov. 3, 5

Dragon Ball Z: Saiyan Double Feature

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

AMC Empire 25, 234 West 42nd Street

$12.50

Catch these two DBZ films back-to-back for the first time in U.S. theaters—fully remastered! In Bardock: The Father of Goku, a low-class Saiyan soldier unexpectedly inherits the ability to see into the future. Haunted by visions of his own end as well as the destruction of his entire planet, Bardock sets off on a nightmarish race with fate to advert the impending disaster. Then, in Fusion Reborn, an industrial disaster in Other World unleashes the monstrous Janemba, a beast who grows stronger with each passing minute. While Goku and Vegeta fight for Other World’s survival, Goten and Trunks confront a ghoulish army of the undead back on Earth, where only an unprecedented act of teamwork can save the universe! Presented in English.

© SUSIE/© Takao Iwasawa

Saturday, Nov. 10, 7:30 p.m.

Akiko Yano + Seiho: Unusual Pairings

Japan Society, 333 East 47th Street

$38, $30 members

Beloved pianist/singer-songwriter Akiko Yano returns to Japan Society for a U.S. premiere collaboration with rising Osaka-based electronic sound artist/DJ and ikebana enthusiast Seiho. This one-of-a-kind concert mixes the singular stylings of Yano’s piano and singing with Seiho’s thumping, atmospheric beats, and flower arranging! Join us on this moody trip into the soundscapes of these two formidable artists as their music melds, merges and even takes shape in floral form.

Courtesy of Willow Arts (Shanghai)

Sunday, Nov. 11, 7:30 p.m.

Joe Hisaishi and David Lang: Music Future Vol. 5

Zankel Hall, 881 Seventh Avenue

$59-$99

Music Future is a concert series started in 2014 by Studio Ghibli film composer, conductor, and pianist Joe Hisaishi. Intended to introduce the latest in contemporary classical music, Music Future includes works from composers Arnold Schoenberg, John Adams, David Lang, Philip Glass, and Bryce Dessner performed by the Future Orchestra. In addition, Hisaishi presents a newly composed work each year. This year, David Lang will join Music Future at Carnegie Hall to present his latest work, Increase.

Read More


Oct 26

WIT Life #329: Japan-Related Films for Your Weekend

 

Written by professional Writer/Interpreter/Translator Stacy Smith (Kumamoto-ken CIR, 2000-03), WIT Life is a periodic series about aspects of Japanese culture such as film, food and language.  Stacy starts her day by watching Fujisankei’s Japanese news, and here she shares some interesting tidbits and trends along with her own observations.

This week the Museum of the Moving Image (MoMI) hosted the premiere of the 2018 documentary 3100: Run and Become from director Sanjay Rawal. It showcases the Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race which takes place in Queens every summer. This elite competition requires participants to run this unbelievable distance within 52 days, which means averaging at least 60 miles per day. Competitors come from all over the world, and some have run it as many as 14 times. Rawal also intersperses stories of other amazing distance challenges, such as a member of the Navaho Nation running 110 miles across the desert in memory of his father’s struggles when young, the Gaolo-San Bushmen running in pursuit of their prey and as part of their lifestyle, and the Tendai-shu monks of Mt. Hiei in Japan who carry out a practice of walking to attain enlightenment.

Spiritual training via walking is called 回峰行 (kaihōgyō), and the monks on Mt. Hiei carry out a version that takes place over 1000 days during a seven-year retreat period, called 千日回峰行 (sennichi kaihōgyō). During this time, the monk must remove himself from all family ties and other worldly distractions. Since this tradition began in 1885, only 50 plus monks have finished this quest, most in their 30s and the oldest in his 60s. The film tells the story of the monk Gyoman-san who is midway through his journey, and examines his mental state as he attempts to accomplish this major feat. He describes a point where you no longer Read More


Sep 30

JQ Magazine: Nippon in New York — New York Comic Con, ‘RWBY,’ ‘Spirited Away’

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.

The Japan-centric events of the month ahead promise to be as rich and full as autumn itself—brisk and colorful, with a dash of unpredictability.

This month’s highlights include:

FUNimation

Oct. 4-7

New York Comic Con

Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, 655 West 34th Street

$50 (for Thursday, Oct. 4)

Breaking attendance records each year, the East Coast’s biggest gathering for fans of comics, film, anime and manga returns with its biggest roster of Hollywood talent to date, featuring exclusive screenings, gaming, cosplay photo ops, and more! Enjoy interactive panels on Oct. 4-6 from publishers Vertical Comics and Kodansha Comics, and check them out at booth #2109 to pick up con-exclusive merch and pre-release titles like APOSIMZ, Battle Angel Alita and The Ghost in the Shell: Global Neural Network. Special guests this year include Masako Nozawa (discussing the upcoming film Dragon Ball Super: Broly at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden Oct. 5), Toshihiro Kawamoto (Cowboy Bebop) and Akira Himekawa (The Legend of Zelda)!

Vijay Iyer © Barbara Rigon; Nathan Davis © Sylvia Milo; Scott Johnson © Patricia Nolan

Friday, Oct. 5, 7:30 p.m.

Hidejiro Honjoh x ICE: Shamisen Evolution

Japan Society, 333 East 47th Street

$38, $30 members

Listen to Hidejiro Honjoh, young shamisen prodigy and disciple of Hidetaro Honjoh, create this traditional instrument’s 21st-century voice in an evening featuring living composers from the U.S. and Japan. Joined by members of the most sought-after contemporary music group International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), Hidejiro delivers three world premieres composed by Grammy-nominee Vijay Iyer, Nathan Davis and Yu Kuwabara. The program also includes pieces by Yuji Takahashi and Dai Fujikura, along with the U.S. premiere of the full score of Scott Johnson’s Up and Back for shamisen, electric guitar, cello and piano. Followed by a MetLife Meet-the-Artists Reception.

Courtesy of Foodcurated.com

Oct. 24-28

The Food Film Festival

Locations and prices vary

Taste what you see on the screen! The Food Film Festival specializes in creating multisensory food and film experiences. At their events, guests watch films about food and simultaneously taste the exact dishes they see on the screen…right in their seats! This year’s events include the world premiere of Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown / Lower East Side (Oct. 24), and Chikarashi: Sustainable, Chef-Driven Poke Bowl (Oct. 26), about the Manhattan-based contemporary sea-to-table eatery inspired by Japanese and Hawaiian cuisine. For a complete listing, click here.

Read More


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.

Read More


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 31

JQ Magazine: Nippon in New York — Sailor Moon, Liberty City Anime, Meg Okura

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.

In the dog days of summer, it’s best to escape the heat in a place that’s cozy and cool. For those into Japan-related cultural events, this month offers a diverse selection of film premieres and live music—all in the comfort of indoor air conditioning.

This month’s highlights include:

VIZ Media

Aug. 4, 6

Sailor Moon SuperS: The Movie

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

Empire 25, 234 West 42nd Street

$12.50

Sailor Moon, the beloved Guardian of Love and Justice, returns to the big screen for a special theatrical event! In the series, Usagi Tsukino is a clumsy but kindhearted teenage girl who transforms into the powerful Sailor Moon. Meeting allies along the way who share similar fates, Usagi and her team of planetary Sailor Guardians fight to protect the universe from forces of evil and total annihilation! The classic anime’s third movie, Sailor Moon SuperS is presented along with the never-before seen in theaters short, “Ami’s First Love.” All features are presented uncut and true to the original Japanese version, with English dubbed (Aug. 4) and subtitled (Aug 6) screenings available. 

Micah Joel Photography

Aug. 11-12

Play NYC

Manhattan Center, 311 West 34th Street

$25.50-$33.00

PLAY NYC is New York City’s first and only dedicated games convention. The weekend will feature three floors of playable games for all consoles, PC, virtual reality and mobile devices from studios large and small and developers old and new. Games will include indie projects with some larger triple A titles. Get access to some of the biggest games coming later this year and discover many you’ve never even heard of. PLAY NYC celebrates every facet of gaming in a way that only the Big Apple can by uniting players, developers and industry pros at a games event like no other.

GKIDS

Aug. 12-13, 15

Grave of the Fireflies

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

Empire 25, 234 West 42nd Street

$12.50

In this special 30th anniversary screening, Studio Ghibli’s Grave of the Fireflies has been universally hailed as an artistic and emotional tour de force. As the Empire of the Sun crumbles upon itself and a rain of firebombs falls upon Japan, the final death march of a nation is echoed in millions of smaller tragedies. This is the story of Seita and his younger sister Setsuko, two children forced to fend for themselves in the aftermath of fires that swept entire cities from the face of the earth. Their struggle is a tribute to the human spirit. Directed by Academy Award-nominated Isao Takahata and presented in its digitally remastered and restored format, Grave of the Fireflies is one of the rare films that truly deserves to be called a masterpiece. English dubbed (Aug. 12, 15) and subtitled (Aug. 13) showings are both available for this engagement.  Read More


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).

Read More


Jul 3

WIT Life #327: New York Asian Film Festival

 

Written by professional Writer/Interpreter/Translator Stacy Smith (Kumamoto-ken CIR, 2000-03), WIT Life is a periodic series about aspects of Japanese culture such as film, food and language.  Stacy starts her day by watching Fujisankei’s newscast in Japanese, and here she shares some interesting tidbits and trends along with her own observations.

In addition to being in the middle of a major heat wave, we are in the midst of film festival season here in the city.  Specifically I’m talking about the current New York Asian Film Festival (NYAFF), which is in its 17th year!  This year I have the honor of interpreting for several actors and directors during the festival, and so far I’ve worked on the films Dynamite Graffiti and The Hungry Lion.  For the former, both director Masanori Tominaga and star Tasuku Emoto were on hand, and you can access a Facebook recording of their Q&A here.  For the latter, director Takaomi Ogata attended the screening and his Q&A can be found here.

This year’s recipient of the festival’s Star Asia Lifetime Achievement Award was Masato Hara, who Read More


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 7

WIT Life #326: New York Japan CineFest 2018

 

Written by professional Writer/Interpreter/Translator Stacy Smith (Kumamoto-ken CIR, 2000-03), WIT Life is a periodic series about aspects of Japanese culture such as film, food and language.  Stacy starts her day by watching Fujisankei’s newscast in Japanese, and here she shares some interesting tidbits and trends along with her own observations.

Last night I caught day 1 of the New York Japan CineFest held at Asia Society.  2018 marks the seventh anniversary of the event, and it seems to get better every year.  The lineup featured six short films that ranged in length from eight to 28 minutes, and included two documentaries.

My favorite was the final film And So We Put Goldfish in the Pool from Makoto Nagahisa, which clocked in at the longest 28 minutes but went by in a flash.  It is based on a true story of four 15-year old girls from a small town in Saitama who released 400 goldfish into their high school pool in order to escape the boredom of their daily lives.  Its zany tone and fast-paced story kept the audience captivated and laughing.  Despite its humorous tone, it poignantly addresses the universal feelings experienced during high school and certainly brought back memories of that time in my life.  Last year it received the Short Film Grand Jury Prize at Sundance (you can watch the film via this link), and it was Nagahisa’s directorial debut.

Another highlight of the program was Sugihara Survivors, which told the story Read More


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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