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.

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.

Lupin the Third: Goemon Ishikawa’s Spray of Blood

I watched this fantastic Lupin the Third film over the weekend, Goemon Ishikawa’s Spray of Blood (Chikemuri no Ishikawa Goemon) that tells the tale of how Lupin and his crew met up with Goemon. It’s a more adult take on the series, and features much tenser action than I’m used to seeing in Lupin stuff — think more along the lines of the animated sequence in Kill Bill — and I absolutely loved it. Great action, great character moments, and what made me even happier is that I later realized that it follows a Jigen movie from a few years ago, which itself is a follow-up to The Woman Called Fujiko Mine (Mine Fujiko to Iu Onna) series that I remember hearing about when it came out, but never saw — I watched the first episode and it was killer.

Another

We binged the entirety of this series today (12 episodes), which is based on a book by Yukito Ayatsuji, who is my wife’s favorite author (and I read his mystery novel The Decagon House Murders not too long ago). Ayatsuji is better known for his mystery novels, but this story is horror, although there’s certainly a mystery surrounding the whole affaire, which is capped with an ending I didn’t guess (same as Decagon). It’s a fantastic series, beautifully animated (while quite gruesome at certain points), with an opening theme song that is just insanely weird (and kinda suits the series). Highly recommended.

Atom: The Beginning

I watched the first episode of the new Atom: The Beginning series, which acts as a prequel to Atom (or Astroboy). Can’t say that this first episode super hooked me, although it is neat to see young Ochanomizu and Tenma interacting as young researchers. I’m open to giving it another episode or two though, to see where they go with it.

Sherlock Hound

I was in the mood to start watching another old anime series, and remembering how much I enjoyed watching Future Boy Conan last year, I dug up another old Hayao Miyazaki series in the form of Sherlock Hound (or Meitantei Holmes). Miyazaki only wrote/directed the first 6 episodes before moving on (because of issues with the Doyle estate that halted production for a while), but I’m looking forward to going through all 26 episodes. I just watched the first episode this morning, and it’s deliciously Miyazaki in style and tone.