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Roland Kelts
For Roland Kelts's latest contributions to The Japan Times, see below:
Japan Times
CULTURE / Film / CULTURE SMASH
Jun 25, 2017
Director Sunao Katabuchi shares his corner of this world
Last summer saw the release of what would become the highest grossing Japanese animation film to date, Makoto Shinkai's "Your Name.," which was also the country's top box-office draw of 2016. The surprise hit's main characters are a pair of body-swapping teenagers. A survey conducted by the Fields Research Institute earlier this month revealed, unsurprisingly, that its commercial success was driven by the nation's teenagers — over 30 percent of whom said they bought tickets, compared to 4 percent of those 65 and older.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Music / CULTURE SMASH
Apr 23, 2017
Anime gives Japanese bands a new route to potential fans
"Retro" was the theme at this year's Anime Boston, the largest anime convention in the Northeastern United States, and that idea extended to the event's featured musical acts: veteran pop duo Puffy AmiYumi and 1960s-styled rock quartet Okamoto's.
Japan Times
CULTURE / CULTURE SMASH
Mar 18, 2017
Breaking the comic book glass ceiling
Four years ago, Chinese-American writer Marjorie Liu had a simple but persistent idea: create an epic fantasy comic book series about a classic Japanese kaijū (strange beast) movie monster that has a connection to a girl.
Japan Times
CULTURE / CULTURE SMASH
Jan 21, 2017
Japanese folklore meets anime in Kyoto
The colors were jarring. Beneath the vermillion torii gates of Kyoto's Shimogamo Shrine and surrounded by the olive broadleaves of Tadasu Forest was a pool of furry, bright yellow ponchos, decorated with the brown facial features, rounded ears and bulbous oblong tails of the tanuki, or Japanese raccoon dog.
Japan Times
CULTURE / CULTURE SMASH
Jul 16, 2016
Anime discovers a rural outpost
For the past few years, the beginning of July has found me on a flight from Tokyo to Los Angeles to attend Anime Expo (AX), the largest annual North American convention devoted to Japanese popular culture, and its related industry-only event, Project Anime (PA). Both continue to break attendance records. This year, AX tallied 100,420 unique attendees, while PA brought together 102 international anime convention organizers with studio executives and their staff from Japan.
Japan Times
CULTURE / CULTURE SMASH
Jun 18, 2016
Drawing on the past of Osamu Tezuka
In 1977, American author and translator Frederik L. Schodt and three friends formed a manga-translation group in Tokyo, with the then-quixotic dream of introducing Japanese comics to a global readership. Schodt had arrived in Japan in 1965, courtesy of a father in the United States Foreign Service. He returned in 1970 to attend university after a short stint in the U.S. At the time, manga were everywhere in Japan, he says, and a lot more fun to read than textbooks.
Japan Times
CULTURE / CULTURE SMASH
May 14, 2016
Viz's 30 years pack a punch in the U.S.
This summer, Viz Media, LLC, North America's first-ever distributor of Japanese popular culture, turns 30. Founded in 1986 by the intrepid Seiji Horibuchi, who has since moved on to other projects, the company is now housed in the so-called Twitter building in downtown San Francisco and boasts the largest library of Japanese media content outside of Japan.
Japan Times
CULTURE / CULTURE SMASH
Apr 16, 2016
Anime biz sings the praises of shows
The first time I attended AnimeJapan, the industry's annual spring showcase in Odaiba, Tokyo, it was called the Tokyo International Anime Fair. Members of the public couldn't enter during the first two days, amateur cosplay (costume play) was prohibited, and while there were some presentations, most of the offerings were brochures, catalogs and swag bags. It was primarily a trade show and almost everything was printed in Japanese.
Japan Times
CULTURE / CULTURE SMASH
Mar 19, 2016
From Cool Britannia to True Britannia
In Japan, Western culture usually means American products: hot dogs, hamburgers, Starbucks and Krispy Kreme donuts, and recent boutique outlets like Blue Bottle Coffee and the Dominique Ansel bakery — not to mention the nearly 50,000 United States military personnel still stationed across the archipelago.
Japan Times
CULTURE / CULTURE SMASH
Feb 20, 2016
CG gains a 'real' foothold in anime
Japanese audiences have long responded tepidly to the use of extensive computer graphics (CG) in anime. Even as CG has become the global standard for animation studios, anime fans prefer their homegrown artists to stick to labor-intensive 2-D illustration techniques and cel animation — or to at least create work that looks like they did.
Japan Times
CULTURE / CULTURE SMASH
Jan 16, 2016
Online streaming keeps anime afloat
Last week in California, I caught up with some of the chief purveyors of Japanese popular culture in the United States and elsewhere in the world. It became rapidly clear that 2016 won't be at all like 2015 — or any other year before it.
Japan Times
CULTURE / CULTURE SMASH
Dec 19, 2015
Hatsune Miku: the 'nonexistent' pop star
My 2015 kicked off with a January concert by Hatsune Miku, Japan's digital pop star, in Las Vegas. It is winding down with a visit to Miku's creator, Hiroyuki Itoh, at his company's head office in Sapporo, Hokkaido.
Japan Times
CULTURE / CULTURE SMASH
Nov 14, 2015
Get the goods on manga and anime
Back in the Stone Age of streaming media, the most notorious and popular of pirate anime websites suddenly went legit. In January 2009, after securing distribution agreements with Japanese studios, and a licensing deal with TV Tokyo that included episodes of the global hit series Naruto Shippuden, the San Francisco-based fansite Crunchyroll banished all illegal content and started offering paid-subscription packages.
Japan Times
CULTURE / CULTURE SMASH
Oct 17, 2015
Localization: Has Japan lost the plot?
Japan once ruled and defined the global gaming industry. In the arcade age, Japanese developers gave us "Pac-Man," "Space Invaders" and "Donkey Kong." In the era of physical consoles: "Metal Gear Solid," "Snatcher," "Final Fantasy" and "Silent Hill." Japan's creative use of technology, physical design and narrative whimsy once made it the only country in the world that consistently delivered interactive pleasures via buttons and joysticks.
Japan Times
CULTURE / CULTURE SMASH
Sep 19, 2015
Finding opportunities overseas with the 'art of hentai'
When Jacob Grady began pirating anime and manga online eight years ago, he was still in college. He took out student loans to pay the server bills, and he figured that if he ever made enough money from the site to purchase a round-trip flight to Japan, the effort and expense would be worth it.
Japan Times
CULTURE / CULTURE SMASH
Aug 15, 2015
AKB48 turns to an American studio
AKB48’s  commercial success in Japan is often derided as a sign of the culture’s patriarchal infantilization of women, and the girl group’s inability to appeal to Western audiences a sign of Japan’s increasingly isolated ideas about femininity, sexuality and pop music. Put simply: outside of Japan, AKB48 will never be Psy.
Japan Times
CULTURE / CULTURE SMASH
Jul 18, 2015
Project Anime asks the right questions
More than 90,000 attended the 24th annual Anime Expo (AX), North America's largest Japanese pop culture convention, held at the Los Angeles Convention Center from July 2 to 5. The four-day event featured a concert by idol group Momoiro Clover Z, who were joined onstage by two members of veteran American rockers, Kiss — a result of their unlikely collaboration earlier this year on the song and music video, "Yume no Ukiyo ni Saitemina." (In March, the two groups also performed together at Kiss' Tokyo Dome show.)
Japan Times
CULTURE / CULTURE SMASH
Jun 20, 2015
Can #socialmedia boost music sales in Japan?
Last week, Line Corp.'s, the operators of Japan's most popular messaging app, launched an in-app music streaming service called Line Music. Japan is the second-largest music market in the world after the United States, but its consumers have so far been global outliers, clinging to physical products like CDs and DVDs, which comprise 80 percent of all sales, when everyone else switched to digital. Line Music joins the only other active streaming service in Japan, AWA, established late last month by Avex and Cyber Agent. Apple Music, Spotify and Google are said to be studying the market but have yet to make moves.
Japan Times
CULTURE / CULTURE SMASH
May 16, 2015
Anime oasis of the Midwest flourishes
The 18th annual Anime Central (ACen), North America’s third largest anime convention, is underway this weekend in Rosemont, near Chicago. Last year's event drew a record 29,000 unique attendees, tallying 81,000 in total over its three full days. Organizers expect to breach those figures again in 2015.
Japan Times
CULTURE / CULTURE SMASH
Apr 18, 2015
At last, Japan gets it
The Japanese entertainment industry is finally growing up, says Shin Unozawa, and he should know. Unozawa joined Bandai Entertainment back in 1981, and serves as chair of the Computer Entertainment Supplier's Association (CESA), co-hosts of the Tokyo Game Show.

Longform

Historically, kabuki was considered the entertainment of the merchant and peasant classes, a far cry from how it is regarded today.
For Japan's oldest kabuki theater, the show must go on