Wednesday, November 10, 2010

What I Like About Japan - Ivan

Another day, another entry here on the JFF blog! The festival is fast approaching and we have so much to cover. Just a quick note, we are running a competition over on the JFF website, where you can win a great Onitsuka Tiger prize pack including a double pass to Feel the Wind. Get your entry in now.

Today festival volunteer Ivan Tongue takes a look at what it is that intrigues us about Japan. After reading below, let us know what your favourite things about Japan are!

"Playstation, Hello Kitty, Toyota, sushi, anime, cosplay, karaoke. Do all these words sound familiar? That’s right. They all come from Japan. With the 14th Japanese Film Festival just around the corner, I’d like to know from anyone attending the festival, what do you like about Japanese culture? Do you have a favourite manga, anime or Playstation game? What Japanese delicacies do you like to eat or would like to try? Do you love karaoke, like cosplaying or do you simply enjoy the Japanese culture?

Here is a list of what I love about Japan.

I don’t have an encyclopedia-sized collection of manga that more avid and crazy fans have and I don’t consider myself as an otaku. But I do collect manga, mostly my favourite titles, and like many other otaku of manga series, I am one of those eager fans who read scanlated versions of manga that are released weekly on several manga fan sites.

So far I have a collection of Claymore and Bleach manga (not all that have been released so far, but most) as you can see below. I will soon begin collecting the Fullmetal Alchemist series, which, after watching the Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood series not too long ago, has become my favourite Japanese anime/manga. All of these titles and many more can be bought at Kinokuniya, located at the Galeries in Town Hall.

My manga collection ...

… cannot compare to the collection from these crazy but dedicated manga fans.

In my opinion Japanese anime series have some of the most interesting and unique stories and characters in the world, which is probably why Hollywood cannot make one good film adaptation of a Japanese anime or manga (remember the Dragonball movie released last year?). Nevertheless, Hollywood is planning on producing a number of live-action films based on several manga and anime series. Rumors have it that these series will be adapted: Akira, Battle Angel Alita, Bleach, Cowboy Bebop, Death Note, a reboot of Dragonball, Evangelion, Ghost in the Shell, Macross/Robotech and Ninja Scroll. Whatever happens, I hope they do a much more better job at it then they did on Dragonball, Streetfighter, and even Resident Evil. And with word that Steven Spielberg and James Cameron will be involved in several of these projects, it’s possible.

So going back to my favourite anime series, it’s very hard to decide because of how good many of these anime series are. I’ve already said that Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood is my favourite anime/manga but not far behind are series such as Death Note, Trigun, Ghost in the Shell, Claymore (excluding the ending), Bleach (excluding the fillers), Samurai 7, Gurren Lagann, Burst Angel, Scrapped Princess and Kenichi. There are probably many other series that I haven’t watched that could be added to the list, but with so many to choose from, it’s easier said than done. I’ve also excluded my childhood favourites such as Pokémon, Digimon, Dragonball and Zoids. Most of these anime series can be found at JB Hi-Fi.

I’ll admit I haven’t watched as many Japanese films as I should, and from the films I have already watched, it’s a shame that I haven’t watched more because Japan offers a number of remarkable and memorable films. That said, it’s probably no surprise that Hayao Miyazaki is one of my favourite directors. His animated films are both fantastical and visually inventive. Princess Mononoke is my favourite from Miyazaki because the animations are just as stunning as his artistry while the narrative is deep, complex and thought provoking. 

The film is about a boy named Ashitaka who has been cursed with a wound on his arm that will eventually kill him. He seeks to find a cure for the curse but ends up in the middle of a struggle between creatures who live to protect the forest and humans from a village called Iron Town who consume the forest’s resources. It is an incredible film and a must watch for those who have enjoyed Miyazaki’s other works such as Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle and Ponyo.

Among other Japanese films I’ve seen are the original Ring and The Grudge films. Unlike the failures of live-action adaptations of anime and manga series, it seems Hollywood is much better at remaking Japanese horror films such as The Ring, The Grudge, Dark Water, One Missed Call and Pulse. It’s easy to understand why these films have become so popular among Western audiences. The original Ring and The Grudge series are among the most terrifying yet thrilling horror films that I have ever seen and ranks among my favourite horror films.

Another film I have found interest in is Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, a computer-animated sequel to the Playstation game, Final Fantasy VII. I didn’t particularly enjoy the film itself despite the visually stunning graphics the film had to offer. However, I was particularly impressed with the release of the Limited Edition Collector’s Set of Advent Children. It included: a 2-Disc DVD set of the film, the script, the novel and some postcards containing very amazing artwork from Tetsuya Nomura, all packed in a specially designed box. It’s a must have for any Final Fantasy fan like me, and can be purchased at JB Hi-Fi.

Speaking of Final Fantasy, these are among my favourite games to play. From the ones I have played (IX, X, X-2, Tactics) IX has been my favourite, closely followed by X. The reason IX is my favourite is because of the gameplay, which I find to be the most important factor for a game. While the storyline could have been better, it was the extra quests and minigames that convinced me. The storyline to X is one of the best I have seen and the Blitzball minigame is both fun and addictive, but there wasn’t much variety to the sidequests.

Among other titles I have played, including Chrono Cross, Grandia, Legend of Dragoon (I love Japanese RPG games), Chrono Cross is my all time favourite game. It’s unique battle system, complex narrative and vast selection of characters really made it a worthwhile game to play and finish over and over again with its new game plus feature.

While the anime conventions held in Sydney and around Australia can in no way compete with the size and grandeur of those held in Japan and the United States, they are still a great place for fans and geeks alike to come together to share their same appreciation for manga and anime series. 

The three major conventions in Sydney are Supanova, Animania and SMASH! (which is one of the special event partners of the Japanese Film Festival). I’ve had the privilege of attending and volunteering for these events, and its clear to see why it attracts thousands of people. 

One of the major features of these conventions is the hundreds of otaku who cosplay in their favourite characters. It’s amazing to see how much time and effort these hardcore fans put in to like their heroes. Check out the cosplayers below!

Sushi is no doubt the most popular Japanese delicacy in Australia and probably in the world. It really doesn’t matter what type of fillings and toppings are included in them but to me they all taste exquisite. Whether it’s seafood, vegetables or meat, they are a treat. Many sushi restaurants can be found in Sydney. There is a Sushi Train restaurant located right next to Event Cinemas for all you sushi enthusiasts.

Apart from sushi, other Japanese cuisines I enjoy include sashimi, ramen, tempura, and teriyaki. If there is one thing I don’t enjoy it would be Miso soup. There’s just something in that soup that makes me cringe every time I taste it. Nevertheless there is an abundance of Japanese restaurants in the Sydney CBD so if you’re preparing to have lunch or dinner before watching a film at the festival try these places: 

Ichiban – located next to Kinokuniya in The Galeries
Sakura – Pitt Street
Tetsuya’s – Kent Street
Kushiyaki Azuma – George Street

And if you’re up for some good old fashioned KARAOKE try Mizuya Japanese Restaurant & Karaoke located on George Street.

So there you have it: my list of what I like about Japan. There’s so much more I can put into this list but this post will go on for ages. If there is something that you enjoy about Japan that I haven’t mentioned fell free to comment about it :)" - Ivan Tongue

WOW! There really are so many interesting things about Japan! What is it that fascinates you? Post your reply below so we can all find out the best tidbits about Japanese Culture that may have passed us by.


    Here is what my son and his friend love about Japan...they recently won 'Best Cinematic Work' in Japan Foundation Video Matsuri ( see link) xx AJ