20 Years Ago

My friend Kyle tweeted out that today marks 20 years since the release of the film The End of Evangelion (July 19, 1997). I actually got to see it in theaters in Tokyo that summer, as part of my first visit to Japan, and this made me think back at how much my life changed that year.

It was at the start of May 1997 that I went to the city of Tianjin, China as part of a 10-week program to study Chinese at Nankai University — along with a group of students from McGill University and the Université de Montréal (where I was studying in their East Asian Studies program). The first day I was in China, I would meet the Japanese woman who is now my wife (it took a few weeks before we actually got together though). At the end of the 10 weeks, the entire group returned to Montreal, but I decided to stay — yeah, because of the girl — and so enrolled at the university there to continue my Chinese studies.

During that summer, my wife had returned to Japan (it was the university’s summer break) and I decided to go visit her for two weeks. That would be my first visit to Japan, a place I would later call home for over 15 years.

My wife is originally from Kobe, and so that’s where I went. By boat. It was a two-day journey from the port of Tianjin to the port of Kobe, and it was an amazing way to slowly take in Japan, small island by small island, until we reached the port. I still have vivid memories of listening to Fugazi’s Repeater on my walkman, while taking in the sight of Kobe as we approached.

I stayed a couple of days in Kobe, but for the majority of the trip we were in Tokyo, staying at one of my wife’s friends. It’s during that trip that I got to go see The End of Evangelion, which was my introduction to the series — I knew zero Japanese, and considering how, ahem, narratively adventurous that movie is (especially the ending), you can imagine what a trip it was to take in. That July also marked the release of Ghibli’s Princess Mononoke, which I also went to see at the theater (and as I mentioned recently, it may have been my first taste of Ghibli).

I still have quite a few vivid memories from that trip — like the first time I watched Mecha Mecha Iketeru, a comedy series on TV starring the comedy duo of 99, who I’ve continued to love for 20 years. I also bought a PlayStation while I was there to bring back with me to China, and the first words of Japanese I really learned where while playing Tomb Raider and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night in Japanese.

After the trip, we both returned together to Tianjin by boat (this time taking 4 days because of a tsunami), and would end up staying in China until the end of that year — at which point we went to Montreal for one semester so I could get the missing credits I needed for the program I was doing, before moving to Tokyo at the start of May 1998.

I’m certainly thankful for the interesting journey my life has taken, as well as for all of the unexpected swerves I’ve decided to take a chance on and follow.

Ghost in the Shell (2017)

I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but I actually liked it. I was so upset when they first announced the casting of Scarlett in the main role (not only because of the white washing, but also because I think she’s a terrible actress), but then when the trailer came out I thought that the world that was presented looked pretty interesting, and figured I’d eventually watch the film for at least that reason — I love the Total Recall remake for the same reason, not because it’s comparable to the original in terms of story, but just because I love taking in the sci-fi world that is depicted in that movie. As for the new Ghost in the Shell, on a visual level, I was not disappointed — not only do I love the world that is shown here, but I thought the film was really well shot (by a director I knew nothing about). As for Scarlett, I still think she’s the weakest link in the film (and the explanation for why she looks like Scarlett doesn’t make it better), but I still quite enjoyed watching this for the visual treat on offer.

Lucha Underground (Season 1)

Right now I’m incredibly addicted to watching the first season of Lucha Underground — I’m currently on episode 31 of 39 (they have the first 2 seasons on Netflix). I watched it for the first time back in 2015 while I was still in Japan, and was enjoying it at that time as well, but then stopped around episode 9 or 10 (probably in part due to the move). Getting back into it, I’m just reminded of how much fun it is, and how it scratches the pro wrestling itch I still have occasionally, but that I can’t get scratched from checking in again on WWE (there’s too much of it, and I just don’t care for most of the current roster, and I find most of the matches boring to watch). Lucha Underground has super fun (and silly) stories (and I like that they’re shot in a slick “TV drama” way), the high-flying action is truly exciting to watch, and I just can’t get enough of it.

Sunday Morning Cartoon Cavalcade (July 2017)

So even though I haven’t been posting updates on a weekly basis like I was doing, I have in fact still been watching cartoons every Sunday morning. My standby continues to be a couple of Mickey Mouse shorts (I just finished season 2, so from next week will be attacking season 3) and old Merry Melodies/Looney Tunes shorts. For the rest, I’ve been sampling a few things, including some old The Scooby-Doo Show episodes (the Scooby-Doo series I remember the most), but what I’ve watched the most is the old G.I. Joe cartoon, which I loved as a kid. I watched the 5-part “Rise, Serpentor, Rise” that kicked off the second season of the 1985 series, and this morning I watched part 4 of the 5-part “Operation Dragonfire,” that kicked off the first season of the 1989 series (which I didn’t see much of back then). Sure, it’s pretty awful, but I still get a fun nostalgic kick out of watching these. I did try watching some more Steven Universe at some point, but just wasn’t really feeling it. I did really enjoy the five Ant-Man shorts that were recently released, that have an old-school vibe to them.

Osamu Sato

I find The Art Of Computer Designing: A Black and White Approach by Osamu Sato to be pretty fascinating. Released in 1993, it’s an intriguing look at ways to produce art on computers, by someone who has created pretty trippy games (Eastern Mind: The Lost Souls of Tong-Nou, LSD: Dream Emulator). Read more about Sato and the book here, and you can download the whole thing here, courtesy of Archive.org. Via Simon Carless.

Working in Anime

Kotaku has a great interview up with Tokyo-based Thomas Romain, a French person who has been working in the Japanese anime industry for over a decade, and who shares his experience. As we all know by now, it’s a tough industry to make a living in (low pay, long hours) — and the interview reflects that — but it’s also an industry filled with passionate people who love the craft.