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After this issue, the newsletter will be on hiatus until mid-January due to the holiday season madness. Until then, wishing everyone a happy holiday season and a safe and wonderful new year!
Some people say that entertainment is fleeting - some things that were hilarious a few years ago now seem antiquated and passé today. However, there are some pieces of comedy or drama that manage to endure. Glass Mask is one of these gems.
Glass Mask started serialization in Hana to Yume more than 30 years ago in 1976. The Hana to Yume magazine has seen lots of wonderful manga such as Angel Sanctuary, Fruits Basket, Gakuen Alice and Skip Beat!. But none of these mangas have managed the feat that Glass Mask has – even sudden stops to the series and going on for years without knowing if the pauses would affect audience’s loyalty and attention. Casual and dedicated fans have not only stuck with it as a manga but much more - Glass Mask has been made into 3 different anime series, 1 live-action Japanese drama that ran for 2 seasons and one special, and even a Noh play! Now one of the anime series you might find familiar, has been adapted and added to Crunchyroll for the streaming generation.
The very first series was a, too short, 23 episode anime from 1984. It lends to a nice adaptation of the manga but is cut off shortly after the Helen Keller story arc. It is also a bit dated by having been made in the 80's. You'll notice new things in the 2005 series that would have been unthinkable in the 1984 series like cellphones. Also one of the great first moments of the series - seeing Maya play Bibi - is sadly missing from this original anime series.
Following the 1984 anime was a 3 episode OAV remake of the 1984 series in 1998. This OAV series looked back at the beginning of the Glass Mask story with an updated look to the animation - including giving Maya black hair. In between these two series was a Japanese live-action Glass Mask television series that spanned two seasons in 1997 and 1998 and one special. The girl who played Maya Kitajima (Yumi Adachi) was handpicked by the creator of the manga herself - Suzue Miuchi - just like Maya was picked by Tsukikage-sensei. But no matter what was done with the series fans still wanted more. Finally in 2005 one of our prayers was answered - not only was a new anime series broadcast but this one finally having a length worthy of the series!
From generations upon generations of overlapping fans, there's a reason that fans have stuck with the author through all of these years. Perhaps it’s the timeless essence of this particular series that keeps us always wanting more; or its subtle ability to quietly speak to what we secretly yearn for; or it’s the powerful performances and moments that capture hearts. All I know is that it's caught mine again and again. Now, as we have for years and years, we will watch to see what happens, not only on stage, but also between the destined rivals of Maya and Ayumi.
For those who are new to this series, you might be thinking the same thing most Americans might think: “American football in Japan? What’s going on here?” Most people would know that historically speaking America’s other favorite pastime, baseball, has a firmly planted seed in Japanese society. But American football is uniquely…well…American! When you ask what the greatest event in football would be in any other country they will describe the World Cup, but in America we think Superbowl. In some counties in the US, football is so engrained in their culture that many joke it has become a religion. Because so few countries outside of the US play American football, Americans might even consider the sport as a token of national pride. Though the reasons why Americans love football so much are practically endless, there is something about a sport that demands so much raw power and endurance that appeals to the American public…or it could be that Americans just enjoy seeing guys in padding literally slam the stuffing out of each other. So why would such a sport that has a rough reputation appeal to a mild mannered Japanese public?
If you look deeper into the heart of football, then you’ll see that the values critical for success are ones that ring true for the Japanese as well. Take such values, pump up the adrenaline to a ridiculous level, and you’ll get Eyeshield 21.
Beneath all the flashy techniques and ridiculous training sequences (fighting an angry bull with your bare hands?), the viewers will get to know the true heart of the game. The real strength that allows the Deimon Devil Bats to climb their way towards the Christmas Bowl is their bond as a team. Each player of the Devil Bats has their own strengths and weaknesses; from Sena’s speed to Hiruma’s strategy, Kurita’s sheer strength to Monta’s catching ability. This anime does its job of establishing unique characters that all have something significant to contribute to the team. As each character grows in their own right during the series, we also see how the team grows from a scrappy football team into a force to be reckoned with. Seeing how the entire team can combine all of their strengths to overcome insurmountable odds is a staple in any shonen anime, and it is also the most thrilling part of watching a football team play.
Another quality that an underdog story such as this tends to have is the team’s undefeatable spirit that is common in shonen series. Nearly every opposing team the Deimon Devil Bats have faced had something that no normal team should have and, by all accounts, the Bats should have been wiped out. But it was moments like this that sheer determination carries the team to victory with incredible results, much to the delight of the fans. Even if the characters are completely cartoonish, the story does a fantastic job of conveying the raw emotion that comes with playing the game. You can sense the burning desire that shows that the Deimon Devil Bats will win this game no matter how hard they have to charge through. Such spirits almost always catch the opponents off guard and in the end the team earns the right to compete in the Superbowl of this series: the Christmas Bowl. While all of this may sound like the typical shonen fare, putting it in the context of football allows the audience to connect even closer to the team instead of a crew of pirates or ninjas.
Finally, the blend of raw power and strategic thinking involved in football creates a perfect backdrop for a shonen series. In many shonen stories it is not simply the might and will of the heroes that allow them to succeed but also the ability to outthink an overwhelming opponent. In Eyeshield 21 one can see that every play and practice the team captain Hiruma makes has a definite purpose, even if his methods are rather extreme (side note: AK47s do not make good motivators). This idea that one does not have to be physically strong to overcome obstacles is certainly something that a Japanese audience can take to heart.
So after a hard look at what Eyeshield 21 has to offer, maybe American football isn’t that foreign for the Japanese to understand. The audience follows the exploits of Sena Kobayakawa, a small boy with a knack for running fast. He is thrown into a position in which he has no choice but to play American football. Here we have a sport that offers a world of pain, guaranteed for a naïve newcomer. With the exception of a combat sport, American football creates the kind of one-on-one intensity that feels almost like a warzone through its hard hitting tackles and its systematic strategy. And yet through it all, Sena not only manages to survive the onslaught, but also becomes a hero that any young Japanese boy can look up to.
It’s intense, intelligent, and awe inspiring: everything that a good shonen story should be.
I’ve always thought the sun setting was a sight to behold, and that the gritty feel of sand between my piggy toes from an all-day affair at the beach was humbling. But do I feel gratitude for having witnessed or experienced such occurrences? Surely I should, and I do, yet it behooves me to confess that sometimes I don’t. We humans more often than not take advantage of what we presently have. We are spoiled rotten by the notion that the sun will indefinitely set every afternoon, that the waves lapping against the sandy shore will never cease its motion, or that our habitat will remain forever hospitable and abundant. What we have in our grasp at the moment is the hindsight to avoid the loss of something dear to us; an opportunity that Ura and his generation in Pale Cocoon do not have.
Ura and his peers exist (I say exist because I wouldn’t consider their way of being as “living” per se) in a world completely deprived of history and of memories. Undoubtedly, they have the technology to remain alive, but not much else can be done for them in their situation. Ura is an analyst who works in the archive excavation department. He uses high-tech computers to recover lost data in hopes of uncovering any links to the past. He literally thrives on rummaging through binary code whereas his co-workers, day-by-day, slowly and unfortunately start to lose interest in recovering their past. Aside from Ura, everyone else seems to accept their state of reality as is, and don’t wish to hope for anything more, lest their expectations fall short. Riko, one of his co-workers and probably his only companion, said it was “better to not understand the green world, or the fact that humans destroyed it” because their generation didn’t want to be reminded of their own human stupidity. Sadly, they subsist in fragments of the former world.
Pale Cocoon instills a certain kind of fear in me, mainly because our lifestyle now could lead us to a mock version of Ura’s world later down the road. Most of us just take and take and take, and give nothing back in return. It saddens me to think that a world void of vibrancy and color, void of emotions and opportunities, could await us in the near future if we don’t make changes now. Ura himself, when we first meet him, seems to lack emotions. He is a grey, infinitesimal character who has an obscure flame of hope inside his heart; everyday he works to dig up the past, to find out what his current life is lacking. He is monotonous, nearly robotic in his activities. One fateful day, however, he comes across a broken audio/media file and endeavors to restore it. His curiosity is peaked, and only then do I see any semblance of color, of livelihood in his piteous life. Upon restoring the file, his existence takes on a whole new meaning, and now he has a reason to live and to dream. What could possibly be on the media file that made him change so drastically? I’m not telling!
The term “pale cocoon” refers to the world Ura is trapped in (you’ll see where it is if you watch the movie!), a world untouched by nature. It sets a firm example of how important record keeping can be, and how we as humans should cherish and protect Mother Nature instead of harnessing all of her resources for our selfish needs. We need to give back to the world as much as we take. We need goodwill in our lives! Or, we can say bye-bye to life like Ura’s generation did, and forget how to live altogether. After watching this movie, I realized that one of the most important things we need to do as a whole is to treasure our memories, and remember our past so as not to repeat the mistakes. Pale Cocoon is a quiet, beautifully drawn thriller, a thought provoker. It’s a message, a faint cry for help from our little blue planet.
In the Akatsuki hideout Sasuke comes face to face with Madara. Announcing himself as Itachi’s accomplice from that fateful night, Madara goes on to tell Sasuke the truth about Itachi that he could never have known.
Arashi was asked by manga illustrator, Anamori, to act out a kissing scene that will inspire her to draw the scene. First, Kaya was chosen to be her partner for the scene, but the scene failed because Kaya’s breath had the smell of gyoza. Yaoi and Kanako followed, but they were not able to successfully act out the scene either. Hajime and Jun tried to act out the scene, but this was stopped by Arashi. The place turned into chaos as Sunglasses and Yamashiro were called out to do a kissing scene.
Dino begins the Vongola Box training. Reborn holds an even higher position than Dino, watching over everyone as the “Tutor Fairy". But he tells Tsuna that he’s all alone until he can figure out how to properly open his box. Tsuna can’t hide his embarrassment, and when he goes to Yamamoto, he is just told to wait. According to Dino, the one person who truly understands Yamamoto’s potential is making a move. Who is this person exactly? Additionally, Kyoko and Haru decide to act on their own. What are they setting out to do?
Word of the Day
能登かわいいよ能登 (pronounced: Noh-tou kah-wah-ee Noh-tou)
This is a phrase to praise voice actress Mamiko Noto