OK Go’s Japanese-inspired music video and Sailor Moon’s special birthday were some of the most read and shared Culture articles of 2014.
Warner Entertainment Japan — whose Hollywood blockbusters have hurried the samurai period drama toward its demise — has emerged as the genre’s unlikely savior, with its locally made “Rurouni Kenshin” films. Based on a best-selling 1990s manga by Nobuhiro Watsuki, the first “Rurouni Kenshin” became a domestic and international hit following its 2012 release, earning $36 million in Japan and over $60 million worldwide.
Director Yasuyuki Ebihara’s first feature film, “Inochi no Call: Mrs. Inga wo Shitte Imasuka?” (“Lifeline: Do You Know Mrs. Inga?”), tells the tale of a young woman who is newly married and in the clutches of cervical cancer.
The cute cartoon girls, or bishōjo, are visual hieroglyphics in the language of otaku (obsessive) desire. Their dewy saucer-like Bambi eyes seem to encode an inscrutable message that can be bewildering to the uninitiated. Why the endless repetition of this waif? Is there some pre-”Sailor Moon” archetype they are trying to recapture? What does it all mean?
Golden-gai, a warren of tiny bars near Shinjuku’s Kabukicho entertainment district, has long been a refuge for writers, musicians, filmmakers and other artistic types, who congregate at drinking establishments with like-minded patrons. The area also has a seedier, less reputable side, which is graphically shown in Shinji Imaoka’s erotic drama “Tsugunai: Shinjuku Golden-gai no Onna.”
“When you’re employing hundreds of umbrellas that all have to go up at the same time — there’s going to be problems,” says Damian Kulash, the lead singer of OK Go.
She became a hero for young women around the world, saving them from evil and from the macho male heroes that permeated the media at the time. Her name was Usagi Tsukino, but you may know her better as the one named Sailor Moon.
Daisuke Miura’s new film of his own award-winning 2005 play “Ai no Uzu (Love’s Whirlpool)” offers up a 1970s swingers’ twist on the ancient fūzoku business model. At a split-level flat on a backstreet of Roppongi, Tokyo, men pay ¥20,000, women ¥1,000 and couples ¥5,000 apiece to spend the hours of midnight to 5 a.m. at a sex party. Presiding over this orgy are a jaded manager (Tetsushi Tanaka) and bartender (Yosuke Kubozuka) who explain and enforce three simple rules: Take showers prior to sex, use protection and respect the wishes of the women.
After years of talk, 2013 marked a watershed moment in the government’s Cool Japan campaign. Which begs the question: Is Japan cool?
Before wrapping up my interview with Marie Kondo, who might well be world’s foremost cleaning consultant, I promised I would put one of her de-cluttering lessons to the test prior to reviewing her book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.” And so here I am in my narrow hallway, between the entrance and the living room, with a Mount Fuji-sized pile of more than 200 books.
Although born in Japan, Mariko Nagai, author of the just-published novel-in-verse “Dust of Eden,” was raised mostly in Belgium and the United States.
“I grew up all over the world because of my father’s job,” she says. “First in Belgium, where I spoke Flemish then French, then back in Japan where I learned Japanese at age 5. Then, when I was 8, we moved to San Francisco, where I learned English by reading street signs and with the help of librarians.”