2015 Resolutions from a Japan Fan

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2015 Resolutions from a Japan Fan

Last year, I made some typical resolutions–losing weight, saving money, reading 50 books, and completing 33 art projects–and I met some of them. I lost 15 pounds after July’s knee injury (no exercise, too) and read 55 books in 2014. I unfortunately didn’t finish 33 art projects nor save money, so I felt a little disappointed in myself. Still, I’ve battled the horse through injuries, failures, and burn-outs, and I’ve found one thing to be tried and true: I’m going to do accomplish many goals before I leave Japan this year.

Read more manga. I really want to read old manga. I feel like old manga had more meaning. If you look at my reading list for last year, I started reading older or re-released manga including Barefoot Gen, 47 Rounin, Doraemon, Sazae-san, Children of the Sea, Gundam Wing, and Evangelion. The reason why I’m looking at older manga and classics is because the newer stuff isn’t cutting it. I also read Assassination Classroom, Crimson Empire, Devils and Realist, Sankarea, Ultimo, and Zero’s Familiar Chevalier. This latter group just rubs me the wrong way. Every plot device in manga is glaringly obvious, so much so, I just dropped them off my reading lists–or ranted about them on the Anime3000 and Manga Corner podcasts. If you have any good recommendations for me with atypical plots and characters, please contact me right away.

Do more art projects. So I didn’t do 33 art projects last year, but I’m set on doing it this year. I’ve set a goal for myself on Anime3000’s Manga Corner: to do a motion comic per podcast. I can do it. I just need to buckle down…and get a Mac. ( ̄◇ ̄;)

Wean myself off the internet. Yes, yes, it’s a weird resolution, but I sit in front of a computer maybe 8 to 10 hours a day. That’s too many hours sitting down.

Post more manga artist stuff. If you’re an aspiring manga or comic book artist, I’ve got the section for you. Last year, I posted “Online Communities for Aspiring Manga Creators“, “Manga Pens for Manga Artists Outside of Japan“, “Deals and Savings for Manga Artists“, and “Manga, Comic Book, and Graphic Novel Courses for Aspiring Creators“. Got something you’re always looking for as a manga artist? Let me know in the comments section, and I’ll compile a list of resources for you and other artists.

I hope I can accomplish this stuff in a year. I’ll be leaving Japan, my second home, in July or August after 5 years, and I’ll have to adjust to American culture again.  \(^▽^@)ノ

How to Lose Weight According to Anime and Manga

After I got married, I gained 36 pounds. All my co-workers, even the ones with kids, were skinny. It made me wonder how Japanese people stayed thin without any effort. I’ve turned to anime and manga (and my Kinesiology background) to find the answers.

Anime/Manga Advice True or False?

cousin-l0Cousin (Unlicensed) Food and Baths

·         Eat brown rice instead of white rice.

·         Cook at home.

·         Avoid eating out.

·         Eat small portions.

·         Take 45-minute baths before going to sleep.

·         Brown rice has more dietary fiber and fewer calories than white rice.·         Cooking at home will mean you won’t overeat or buy unnecessary food.·         Your body operates on an input-output cycle. Smaller portions mean smaller fat deposits.·         Steam may exfoliate the skin, but 45-minute baths do not cause weight loss. They only cause you to lose water weight, or weight that can easily be regained by drinking water. Sure, your heart rate goes up, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good thing—some people have heart problems or palpitations. Hot baths also dry out your skin. I would stick with a 20-minute bath for relaxation.
Real ClothesReal Clothes (Unlicensed) Exercise and Heartbreak··         Go running in the morning.

·         Get dumped by your lover and pine away by refusing meals.

·         If you exercise in the morning, your metabolism will get a wake-up call greater than your cup of coffee. Plus, you get better sleep than people who exercise in the evening.·         Some people experience heartbreak–and quickly ditch their meals to dwell on the shards left by their lovers. I’m not an advocate for skipping meals because it’s counterproductive: you might actually gain more weight when you get your mojo and regular eating habits back. Results may vary.

High_School_Debut_volume_1High School Debut (Licensed by Viz) Exercise

·         Go running in winter gear.

·         Heat will help you lose weight, but it is only temporary. You’re just sweating water weight, which will return once you drink water.

cromsonheroCrimson Hero (Licensed by Viz) Exercise

·         Play a sport.

·         Tired of running past the same scenery? Devote yourself to a sport like basketball, boxing, soccer, or in Nobara’s case, volleyball.

Doubt_volume_1_by_Kaneyoshi_IzumiDoubt! (Licensed by Yen Press) Food and Exercise

·         Don’t eat sweets.

·         Use a treadmill or home exercise program.

·         Do a diet program.

·         Ditch the processed sweets and pick up fruits, nuts, veggies, and yogurt.·         If you don’t have a treadmill or gym membership, I would suggest a home exercise program like FitnessBlender Youtube videos or Jilian Michaels’s DVDs.

·         Diet programs may help you lose weight, but if you don’t make it your lifestyle, you’ll balloon into a state worse than your previous weight. Certain diet programs were created for specific types of bodies (ex. Atkins’ No-Carb Diet was made for obese people). My advice: re-create your eating habits and stick to it.

wallflowerThe Wallflower (Licensed by Tokyopop) Drink Water

·         Drink water as soon as you wake up.

·         Nothing metabolizes fat better than water. Drink lots of it instead of sugary alternatives. Soda, energy drinks, and sports beverages all have exuberant amounts of sugar that’ll send your energy downhill when it hits 3 o’clock. If you don’t like plain water, squeeze a lemon into it. Also try green tea or black coffee for your energy fixes.

Anime and manga say that this idea of effortless thinness is not so effortless. On a daily basis, Japanese people are mindful of their eating habits, portions, and exercise regiments—something that the rest of us can do in a quest towards weight loss.

Jade’s Rant

I’ve tried all of these suggestions, and the one that has worked for me the most is my diet. Without exercise, I lost 15 pounds by revising our eating habits and sticking with it. My husband and I stopped eating meat and processed foods—chips, ketchup, soda—and replaced them with vegetables, fish, fruits, and wheat. Our lunches are measured every day, and they usually include beans, eggs, rice, salad, vegetable soup, and pasta. This lifestyle of cooking most of our meals is a little tough, but we plan ahead.

Exercise won’t account for most of your weight loss. In some cases, exercisers will see increased weight. What exercise does is build muscle, and that muscle will help burn some fat but not all of it. Your waist might get smaller and your arms might get leaner, but the real fix for your fat is your diet. If you’re about to make an excuse for not losing weight—“It’s too hard”, “I don’t have time”, “I don’t have money”—I’m sure collapsed lungs (around $20,000), heart failure ($20,000-$93,000), diabetes ($7,000-$13,000 per year), and death ($3,000-$6,600 average cost) can convince you to re-think those excuses.

How to get started for free?

Change 1 meal out of your day. That meal can be breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Make sure that meal has lots of veggies, fiber, and lean protein such as grilled chicken or fish. When you’re ready to change another meal, do it! You’ll start to see changes in your body after 30 days.

Eat less processed food. They aren’t good for you. Did you know soda is used by police officers to wash blood off the streets? Did you know mechanics use soda to take the corrosion off car batteries? Imagine what it can do your stomach. Did you know most processed food is made up of sugars, corn, and salt? Next time, look at the label and find the nutritional value.

Cook at home. A restaurant isn’t going to understand your taste buds or weight struggles. Make your food at home and check out Youtube and websites for awesome and delicious recipes. My favorite is AllRecipes.com!

Try FitnessBlender’s (or any other Youtube channel’s) chair or low-impact cardio programs. They take 10 to 30 minutes, and they’re great for anyone who has leg or knee injuries (like myself).

Go walking with a friend or loved one. When my friend was learning English, we used to take walks twice a week around our neighborhood. If you want to burn more calories, add a 1-minute jogging interval to your walk, and you’ll burn triple the calories of walking.

Laugh those pounds away! Depending on the intensity of the laughter, you can trim 10 to 40 calories off with comedy. If you’re a comedy head like me, watch George Carlin, Bill Hicks, Steve Colbert, Kevin Hart, Patrice O’Neal, Sheryl Underwood, Sommore, and Loni Love.

Squat it out while watching TV or listening to a podcast. Every time I tune into Sleepy Hollow or Elementary, I do squats, pushups, and tricep dips. It’s better than being a couch potato…and later becoming a potato.

Uzumaki Volume 1 Review

Uzumaki Volume 1

Art and Story by: Junji Ito

Published (JP) by: Shogakukan Inc.

Licensed (US) by: Viz Media

Spirals seem pretty harmless—until Junji Ito’s Uzumaki comes into the picture.

Uzumaki is a manga about Kurozu, a small coastal town cursed by all things spiral. When Shuichi Saito’s father becomes obsessed with anything spiral, a series of events reveal the deep-seeded curse of uzumaki, or the spiral. Told from the perspective of Shuichi’s mild-mannered girlfriend, Kirie Goshima, Uzumaki follows the twisted fates of the town’s inhabitants.

Uzumaki is more of a psychological horror with a corporeal feeling about it—almost as if spirals can grab any reader and drive them crazy. With each event surrounding the residents of Kurozu, readers become just as confused and fearful as the townspeople. No one knows why the spirals are causing such chaos, and the characters don’t try to seek out why the events are happening in the first place.

By the end of the first volume, the spirals seem to be just a natural occurrence. With the repetition of spirals throughout the manga and the characters not making a break for another city, Uzumaki leaves any reader wondering how much more damage can be inflicted by spirals.

The art of Uzumaki is truly beautiful while depicting gory scenes. There are points in the manga where certain scenes could be isolated from the rest of the manga and framed inside a J-horror exhibition. Ito does an excellent job in making impossible things—Shuichi’s father twisting his entire body into a spiral—believable. It helps the imaginative story become more realistic and visceral for the reader.

Uzumaki showcases the talent of Junji Ito, one of Japan’s leading horror comics artist. Besides Uzumaki, Ito has released horror greats like Gyo and Tomie, which was turned into a live-action movie. Drawing from famous inspirations Kazuo Umezu, Hideshi Hino, and H.P. Lovecraft, Ito has forged several unforgettable horror manga that garnered him the prestigious Umezu Prize for Horror. His background as a dental technician also appears in his work, especially in the various illustrations of the human body.

With its chilling story and convincing artwork, it is easy to see why Uzumaki was nominated for “Best U.S. Edition of Foreign Material” in the 2002 Eisner Awards.  Uzumaki has the whole package in a horror manga. This is one manga that will definitely have readers thinking twice about spirals.

This Week at Jade’s Escape: Bloody Kiss and the Vampire Trend

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Topic: The Vampire Trend in Manga

Manga: Bloody Kiss by Kazuko Furumiya

The first installment of Bloody Kiss is one manga fit for the Twihards and the Vampire Knight cosplayers who aren’t tired of bloodsuckers and half-baked romances. It begs the question– do manga creators just decide that no matter how overworked a vampire story is, they should add to the fantasy simply to make sales?

It’s no secret that the vampire mythos can sell. Among the uprising of TV shows and movies boasting vampire stories, anime and manga have followed the neck-sucking trend with the same aggression. The sales drown out the opportunity for releases to settle into a legacy. There’s a stop sign in red somewhere, and creators ignore it. For instance, after Blood: The Last Vampire took the anime movie world by storm in 2000, fans received a subsequent anime series, Blood+, in 2005. However, Blood: The Last Vampire was made into a live-action movie in 2009, biting a big fat hole into the entire Blood franchise. If creators had stopped at the anime series, the Blood line would be pure enough to be considered memorable anime.

In trying to squeeze out dollar bills from a perfectly fine anime, creators don’t know when to call it quits with the vampire trend in general. It shows in several shabby releases, including the transparent Tokyopop title, Bloody Kiss. The plot is ordinary: a high school girl inherits her grandmother’s dilapidated mansion, instantly becoming a landlord to two male vampires. On a daily basis, Kiyo has to maintain her school life while trying to keep her vampire roommates off her neck. It’s a step up from Vampire Knight–at least Kiyo wants to be a lawyer someday–but Bloody Kiss falls flat when it comes down to conveying depth. Every serious moment has to have a joke, and even those aren’t really that funny, just sad.

On top of the failed comedy, the characters aren’t that lovable, and in a vampire story, you can’t expect them to be. Vampire stories aren’t about connecting with people– it’s all about the angst, undead creatures who suck blood. What can be so lovable about those Debbie Downers? Bloody Kiss makes the attempt to humanize these bloodsuckers with humor, but it doesn’t work in copious amounts of annoyance. It seems that this lifeless manga was rushed to the world just to make a few more bucks off the popularity of the vampire trend. But was it really worth it? Was it even good timing?

Though it appears that the vampire trend is as alive as the main characters are undead, a closer look at the trend reveals that it’s starting to wane. Between 2005 and 2008, at least 8 vampire manga or manhwa circulated at the same time. Blood+, Hellsing, Rosario + Vampire, and Trinity Blood were released or already circulating in 2005. Dance in the Vampire Bund started its serialization in Comic Flapper in 2006 while Vassalord was released that same year. But after 2008, some series ended and fewer began. Since then, at least 3 series have continued giving fans the bloodsucker treatment, a big drop from the 8 vampire stories from years prior. In 2010, Bloody Kiss, along with equally unfinished and un-funny vampire manga, would’ve had little chance of surviving its predecessors in an overall downturn of vampire stories.

The deflation of the vampire trend in manga may relate to the quality of content from titles. Today’s vampire manga rely heavily on the bells and whistles, not enough on the interesting aspects of the vampire-human interaction. Look at the late 1990’s vampire manga. The core story lines featured vampires without overdoing the dramatic plot twists. Former CMX’s Canon (1994) starred a sickly girl who uses her second chance as a vampire to exact revenge on a powerful vampire responsible for her classmates’ deaths. The late Tokyopop’s Lament of the Lamb (1997) depicted a high schooler who learns that he and his sister were born with the same vampire-like terminal illness inherited from their mother. Even Hellsing (1997) hosted an engineered vampire who works against other undead creatures in the interests of Great Britain. No vampires from another planet, no stupid jokes, and aside from Alucard’s love of humiliating enemies, no games. The straightforward approach for these vampire stories did well in humanizing the undead.

Even though taking a hint from the past is a world apart from planning for the future, giving Bloody Kiss and similar manga some extra time for development would have helped their overall quality. Given that more time means pushing against the trend, sometimes the best thing to do is not to cash in on the current tasteless buzz.

This Week on Jade’s Escape: How Attack on Titan Isn’t Actually About Titans

 

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Topic: How Attack on Titan Isn’t Actually About Titans

Manga: Attack on Titan by Hajime Isayama

When anime fans look at Japan, they look at the anime and manga and the weirdness that seems to pour out of its red sun. They are part of Japan, but just as The Simpsons, American football, and twerking don’t represent the Western world, strange otaku culture doesn’t encompass all of Japanese society. The only way to truly understand Japanese culture is to live in Japan—and from there, things like Hajime Isayama’s Attack on Titan become commentaries on today’s world.

Most fans would say that Attack on Titan, a horror manga where Titans eat humans, is a story about survival, the key component to all horror manga. If survival was removed, the walls that protect human civilization from Titans would be the barrier dividing traditional Japan from foreign cultures.

Since the end of sakoku, or national isolation (literally “chained country”), and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, Japan has been chasing the rest of the world in technological advances and cultural inclusion. However advanced Japanese society seems to foreigners with its cars and ASIMO robots, Japan hasn’t broken away from its traditions. Miso soup and zen gardens are still part of Japanese homes and schools, and tattoos continue to be scary marks of the Japanese mafia. One of the most-iterated proverbs in Japan, “The nail that sticks up gets hammered down”, is ingrained in Japan’s soul—so much so creators have made a living from selling uniqueness.

Just as the first wall in Attack on Titan is easily compromised by a single Titan in the first volume, foreigners and visitors will see through Japan’s image after living in Japan for a few months. Though Japan has English education, revised immigration laws, and communication with foreigners, those things just say, “We’re not totally oblivious to the rest of the world.” The reality is Japan is uncomfortable with diversity: Japanese students can’t use the impractical English they’ve memorized; biracial Japanese people can’t hold dual citizenship after the age of 22; and Japanese people are not likely to meet foreigners in their entire lifetimes.

The other two walls in Attack on Titan aren’t easily fallible. After living in Japan for a few years, foreigners see Japan’s true colors, and they’re redder than people think. In Japan, being different or individualistic isn’t a good thing. People who are selfish, have outgoing personalities, or don’t look like other Japanese people are “less Japanese”. Students are punished more for long hair, shaven eyebrows, or ear piercings than their classroom behavior and grades. Handicap or disabled citizens have “bad blood”. Students who have mental or learning disabilities are placed in regular classes because everyone must have an “equal” opportunity to education. Speaking English is also viewed as a big difference, and many times, foreign language teachers of Japan won’t speak English with others because they’ll be labeled “strange”. These kinds of images aren’t seen by foreigners even when they’re placed in a Japanese workplace. It takes time and English-speaking friends to find the real Japan underneath its otaku underbelly.

But the walls aren’t the only thing that links Attack on Titan to the undazzling sides of Japan. When readers look at the three main characters, Eren, Armin, and Mikasa, they’ll find that they represent the different eras in Japan. Mikasa, the unaffected muscle of the three, doesn’t just represent Japanese women who still endure harsh sexism even till now—she’s the old Japan. In the past, it was good etiquette to never show emotions, as depicted in historical hand scroll paintings such as Ban Dainagon Ekotoba (12th Century) by Tokiwa Mitsunaga. Mikasa’s perseverance is a characteristic of the bushido code which has changed its samurai heritage into lengthy work and cram school hours.

Mikasa is accompanied by physically weak yet genius Armin who looks outside of the walls, and in essence, outside of Japan to improve their chances of survival. Unlike Mikasa, Armin shows his emotions, but he doesn’t go as far as Eren in expressing his thoughts. Armin represents Japan’s post-World War II attitude towards rebuilding the nation, as seen with Japan’s quick advances in technology. Japan’s advances in the public domain, such as artificial intelligence in cars via robots and Shinya Yamanaka’s stem cell research, owe their successes to outside influences (German A.I. specialists and British researchers).

The last and most pivotal character, Eren, is the opposite of Mikasa. He has a bold personality with a grandiose idea of destroying Titans. He represents the new Japanese person, one who is trying to break out of the sameness that Japan wants all its constituents to mimic. Because of his differences, Eren is punished the most in Attack on Titan. Though both him and Mikasa have lost their families, Eren watched a Titan eat his mother. During his military training, Eren faced multiple setbacks from his friends, peers, superiors, and later, his own government. But Eren drives the story and the reader because he exists—the outgoing, selfish, passionate, inquisitive, diverse Japanese person is alive at this very moment. Japanese people are questioning the government and using any means to get attention on important issues in Eren-like fashion. A salaryman in Tokyo lit himself on fire to protest the Japanese Constitution changes in June this year. Okinawan people marched against the Ospreys and the American military’s acquisition of Henoko. And most citizens are vocalizing their disapproval of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, especially with Abenomics’s unsuccessful inflation plan to improve the economy. Of course, these kinds of Japanese persons are very proud of their nation. They also juggle their questions with their patriotism as does Eren throughout the entire manga series.

While most readers look at Attack on Titan as a simple horror manga or another odd manga from an artist’s mind, people who live in Japan will uncover the hidden side of Japan buried within its metaphoric walls and diverse characters.

Viz Media’s “Jump Start” Initiative to Deliver English Digital Premieres of Brand New Weekly Shonen Jump Manga Series on the Same Day as Japan

That’s great! Man, the digital age sure is delivering!

Lesley's Anime and Manga Corner

VIZ Media generates additional synergy between its English language Weekly Shonen Jump digital manga magazine and the original Japanese print counterpart with the launch of the new “Jump Start” initiative.

Moving forward, VIZ Media will simultaneously premiere the first three chapters (one chapter per week) of every brand new, first-run manga series that appears in the Japanese Weekly Shonen Jump in its digital English language edition on the same day of that issue’s general print release in Japan.

The first “Jump Start” title to be featured is the high impact martial arts series – Judos – by Shinsuke Kondo, which launches September 8, 2014 in the latest issue of Weekly Shonen Jump. Hana Yanagi is just fifteen and aims to be the best judo practitioner in his village – a remote hamlet that just happens to produce the world’s most powerful fighters.

VIZ Media’s Weekly Shonen Jump is also…

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This Week at Jade’s Escape: Liars = Itsuwaribito

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Topic: Liar Liar

Manga: Itsuwaribito by Yuuki Iinuma

Whether it’s been for good or for bad, everyone’s told a lie. As humans, we’ve convinced ourselves that white lies, honest lies, and noble lies are acceptable in society. Why are we dishonest? The simplest answer is that we’re selfish. We want money, fame, kids to leave us alone, things our way, even if it means setting traps for unwilling and inquisitive souls, namely investigators and child protective services. (That’s what spam blockers, boogiemen, and fact checkers are for.) The other answer is childish–we don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. The lies in which feelings are spared are seen to have good intentions while truths that lead to depression or anger because they’re honest are seen as rude or cruel. Those who can’t master lies in certain situations–“Do I look fat in this?”, “Am I annoying?”, “Was I a mistake?”– are labeled weird, rude, and immature.

itsuwaribitoItsuwaribito, which translates to “a person who lies”, is a manga that focuses on the good and bad of lying. Utsuho Azako first has trouble with lying. Not that he’s a bad liar, quite the contrary, but he doesn’t know how to use his deceitful skills. When his orphanage is raided by a pack of itsuwaribito, he realizes that lying can be used for good. Some people could look at Utsuho as a professional scammer, especially in today’s society, but I see him as K-20, an acrobatic Japanese version of Robin Hood. Utsuho takes from richlings, gangs, and other itsuwaribito and gives to the untouchables and wronged peasants.

Not only does this manga illustrate the difference between a good lie and a bad lie, it also shows that no matter what, lies have consequences. Maybe some truths can lead to a happy ending, such as in many of Itsuwaribito‘s scenes, or they can lead to hardships, as is the case in Utsuho’s past. I think that nowadays humans can’t accept the consequences because we don’t recognize the lies coming out of our mouths. How many times have we said, “You don’t look fat in that” when your friend does look fat; “You’re not annoying” when your best friend asks; and “Santa Claus won’t bring you presents” to kids when they won’t behave? Do we think, “Hey, that’s a lie”? No. We simply brush it off. Manga like Itsuwaribito reminds us that lies will never stop being lies, and we should accept our punishment for frequently using them.

The Escape!

Different kinds of lies: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lie#Honest_lie