August 17, 2017

Ghost in the Shell


To start with, the casting of Scarlett Johansson (naming her "Killian" instead of "Kusanagi") wasn't an issue for Japanese audiences. Or for me, though I would have preferred an "unknown" (to western audiences) actor like Ko Shibasaki in a much "smaller" (budget-wise) production. The Deadpool approach.

Both 47 Ronin and Ghost in the Shell (2017) were ruined by absurdly generous budgets. Some tightening of the purse strings, some discipline in the art direction, might have reined in the compulsion to plaster every square inch of the screen with CG effects that make no sense in the context provided.

Hollywood needs a new movie-making rule: if you want that Blade Runner "look," pretend you have to do it the old-fashioned way, on a sound stage using in-camera effects. Otherwise, don't do it.

Not only is it wasteful, but the obsession with "big" CG overlooks better "small" CG possibilities. As Aramaki, Beat Takeshi speaks only Japanese. What about other languages? Definitely Mandarin and Cantonese. Simulating simultaneous machine translation capability would open the door to a lot of linguistic fun.

Cinematographic excesses aside, the biggest problem with the latest incarnation of Ghost in the Shell (and with most adaptations of this ilk) is a needlessly muddled and hackneyed script. It didn't stick closely enough to the source material (same problem with 47 Ronin).

Though I'm afraid that still wouldn't have turned it into a blockbuster worth its $110 million budget.


The original film had no problem making back its six (that's six) million dollar budget. But like Blade Runner (1982), which failed to break even during its theatrical run, Ghost in the Shell (1995) has since garnered a reputation that outstripped its initial box office appeal abroad.

Director Mamoru Oshii sifted through Masamune Shirow's manga and extracted the two classic questions at the nexus of philosophy and computer science: 1) At what point does an complex machine gain sentience? 2) How much of a human brain can be replaced with inorganic components before sentience is lost?

Here was cyberpunk done right, that took itself (a bit too) seriously. But it was prescient. The Netscape browser (version 0.9) had only been out a year. The Matrix came along four years later, drastically dumbed down the subject matter, tossed in a big bad mainframe antagonist and tons of gun fu, and made beaucoup bucks.

Hollywood learned exactly the wrong lesson.

Okay, so it was asking too much to expect American audiences to sit through a hundred-minute treatise on cyborg existentialism. But at least director Rupert Sanders could have made a movie that didn't immediately decompose into a mess of cliches, like spending the first five minutes serving up a bucket of unnecessary backstory.

Just start with the classic rooftop opener!

Oh, and about that opener. What Mamoru Oshii gave us in 1995 was not the Major going all cowboy in a shootout at the O.K. Corral (Sanders forgot he wasn't remaking John Wick), but the carefully executed assassination of a foreign diplomat engaged in industrial espionage.


I can well imagine that the Chinese financiers of the 2017 remake weren't too keen on a story that revolved around government-sponsored hacking of foreign entities and internecine battles between competing ministries. Too relevant! Just make the bad guy a Japanese corporation. Yeah, that'll do it.

So what we got instead was Robocop. Seriously. It's Robocop meets a self-involved Bourne in Hong Kong. The use-by date on the "big evil corporation run by Dr. Evil" trope expired a couple of decades ago. Have none of these malevolent CEOs heard of fiduciary duty? Somebody fire them before they wreck another company.

(Also see Kate's comments about the uninspired practice of hiding critical information from the protagonist and the audience in order to maintain suspense.)

Major Kusanagi's past isn't an issue. Her hardware isn't unique. Ghost-less androids are commonplace (Aramaki's assistants, for example). The existential angst doesn't kick in until the cat and mouse game with the "Puppet Master" is well underway, when the possibility arises that sentience can exist in an AI without a ghost.

And that cat and mouse game is smart (though a bit talky at the halfway point). The story hangs together well after twenty years, despite the enormous technological changes. The narrative isn't pushed forward by the characters crashing through doors and shooting everything in sight and taking unnecessary risks.

Major Kusanagi is a tough, competent, by-the-book team leader. She only steps out of line at the very end, when her inner existential crisis threatens her actual existence. And once she steps out of line, all is not forgiven and she's not coming back.

It's no surprise that the best scenes in the remake are exact copies of the original. Ghost in the Shell didn't need to be redone. It's just fine as the penultimate film in the franchise. Major Kusanagi doesn't even make a corporeal appearance in Innocence, the sequel to Ghost in the Shell.

Rather, the prequels provide more suitable material as entry points for American audiences. In particular, I consider the Stand-Alone Complex television series to be better than the manga or the latter two movies (though they are different enough to defy direct comparisons).

Along with the season-long arcs, there's plenty of material in the standalone episodes, plus the feature-length Solid State Society, to fuel a franchise of remakes. Forget about evil mainframes taking over the world. This isn't Deep Blue versus Garry Kasparov, but a bunch of Deep Blues and Garry Kasparovs all playing each other.

Person of Interest was headed in the right direction before it fell into the evil mainframe trap and contended that "there can be only one" (credit for that goes to Highlander). No, in the world of Stand-Alone Complex there can be millions, if not one for every person on the planet.

Sure, a supercomputer can beat a grand master at chess or go. But a pretty good computer teaming up with a pretty good human player is better than both. This is the fundamental concept The Matrix movies failed to grasp. Self-aware machines will need us as much as we need them. (An on-off switch is a powerful thing.)


Plus, the Tachikoma robots—some the most original characters in all of science fiction—would make for a marketing tie-in bonanza.

All the necessary ingredients are there. The next time Hollywood gets a hankering to serve up the latest cool Asian fusion cuisine, well, first hire a chef who bothered to read the cookbook.

Related posts

Innocence
Reframing the mainframe plot
The Medicator (they'll be back!)
What is the narrative need for secrets?

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August 13, 2017

Prison of Dusk (8)


I've posted chapter 8 of "Prison of Dusk."

Recently in the New York Times, Alejandra Sánchez Inzunza and José Luis Pardo Veiras argued for the consistent and predictable application of the rule of law as the primary instrument in reducing the murder rate.

[In Mexico,] people kill because they can get away with it. Punishment is rare . . . . It is impossible to attempt to reduce crime without the rule of law firmly in place. When the justice system doesn’t work, when investigations are not pursued, when crimes go unpunished, more murders will be committed.

Socrates famously uttered at his trial, "The unexamined life is not worth living."

The U.S. Marshals assist with court security and prisoner transport. They serve arrest warrants and track down fugitives (as does Tommy Lee Jones in The Fugitive).

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August 10, 2017

The drama of the PCB


The current NHK Asadora takes place during the 1960s. Mineko, a country girl, ventures from her rural farming village in northern Ibaraki prefecture (the "sticks" at the time, now a one-hour commute by Shinkansen) to Tokyo to help support her family.

During Japan's boom years in the 1960s, recruiters often turned to these outlying areas to supply factories with assembly line workers. The factories provided room and board (and many still do today).

Mineko's first job is "stuffing" or "populating" printed circuit boards (PCBs) for the brand new transistor radios. Women were deemed better suited for the job because of their slender fingers.


The 1964 Olympics was a big, big deal in Japan (even Hollywood got into the act). So much so that it produced an economic bubble, thanks to the accelerated work on the first showcase Shinkansen line and all the people buying the very latest radios and TVs.

The bubble popped when the Olympics ended, producing a short recession before the economic juggernaut got back up to speed again.

During this economic downturn, the company Mineko is working for goes bankrupt. Unsurprisingly. It was basically an overgrown mom & pop operation with factory floor the size of a basketball court and no room to expand.

Not much in the way of productivity gains could be made by hiring more girls to insert electronic components into circuit boards. This labor-intensive production model gave way to larger economies of scale and automation techniques such as wave soldering (patented in 1956).


In the drama, Mineko ends up working at a restaurant. Alas, the Asadora audience isn't as interested in electronics manufacturing as I am.

Populating PCBs is one of those invisible manufacturing processes our lives have grown dependent upon. Over the past half-century, the technology has become astoundingly efficient, not even counting the productivity gains made by replacing most of the components with integrated circuits.

The old way (what Mineko did on her assembly line) is "PCB Assembly Through Hole." The leads of the electronic components are literally fed through holes in the PCB and soldered.

Since the 1980s, "Surface Mount" PCBs have overtaken "Through Hole." With Surface Mount, there's no "threading the needle." The parts are glued onto the surface of the PCB and and then soldered using, for example, pre-soldered contacts and precision hot air guns.

But "Through Hole" remains alive and kicking wherever ruggedness and power transmission are primary concerns. Yeah, AI and humanoid robots are plenty cool, but the machines that populate PCBs never fail to impress me.



Related posts

Moore's Law illustrated
The accidental standard
The last picture tube show

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August 06, 2017

Prison of Dusk (7)


I've posted chapter 7 of "Prison of Dusk."

Jokyuu's soliloquy at the end of page 155 reminded me of the poem by John Donne.

No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
well as any manner of thy friends or of thine
own were; any man's death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

Back when Utah carried out executions by firing squad, the firing squad was made up of five volunteers, and one of the rifles was loaded with blanks.

The Daishikou (大司寇) heads the Ministry of Fall. The Shoushikou (小司寇) is his deputy.

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August 03, 2017

TV Wars


A long time ago
In a neighborhood far, far away . . . .

When television viewing leads to strife in the average American home (think way back when the typical American home had only one television), the battle typically concerns what somebody wants to watch, doesn't want to watch, or what somebody does or doesn't want somebody else to watch.

Not so during my childhood. My parents have never owned a television and probably never will.

Only once (well, twice) did they (officially) agree to allow a television in our house for an extended period of time. The summer I turned eleven, some friends of ours went on a long vacation to Canada. Before they left, they suggested that we tend their television while they were away. As it was a temporary arrangement, my father agreed.

My brothers and sisters and I were delighted! The veil of darkness was lifted from our lives! No longer would we miss all the great programs everybody else got to see; no longer would we have to put up with the strange looks people gave us when we told them that we didn't have a television.

The celebrations lasted exactly five days.

All it took was one more "somebody" up past his bed time, one more "somebody" late for dinner, one more argument about who was going to watch what. Up to the attic the television went, despite wailing and gnashing of teeth. Our dad knew what he didn't want in his house, and had garnered all the evidence he needed to put television back at the top of the list.

About that time, however, he inadvertently opened a backdoor in his defenses. An alumnus of the California Institute of Technology with a doctorate in physics, he had been teaching me something of his trade. I was soon building radios, making lightning with Van de Graaff machines and Tesla coils, and creating impressive explosions with my chemistry set.

I gained a reputation in the neighborhood as a junior mad scientist.

People began asking me to repair their frayed power cords and loose antenna wires. As payment they gave me old appliances they didn't want anymore or that couldn't be cheaply repaired. One day I was offered a broken portable television.

The first thing I did when I got it home was to plug it in. It didn't work, so I did the next best thing. I ripped it apart. Seeing the guts of that television spilled out over the basement floor made me think constructively. Sure, it was a complicated mess, but it was the same stuff radios were made out of. Perhaps I could fix it. What a thought!

In short order, I scrounged up several more televisions. Vacuum tubes were on the way out, color was on the way in, and many people discarded the old black and white the moment it balked during the Saturday afternoon baseball game. Neighbors were glad to part with their burned-out television sets, and my father didn't seem to mind. It was hands-on experience after all.

Courtesy Wikipedia Commons.

Before long had I coaxed a 1956 cabinet model, troubled only by a blown fuse and aging phosphorus, into producing a foggy, wavering picture. But a picture nevertheless! I discovered a cache of factory repair manuals at the library, but because I was still not very good at reading circuit diagrams, my methodology was still pretty much hit and miss and I tended to miss a lot.

Television chassis began to stack up: under tables, on shelves, in closets, behind book cases.

My mom fired the first salvo across my bow. My television carcasses were taking over the basement. The chassis were a valuable source of spare parts, I argued in my defense. I lost the argument. After scavenging all of the parts I could, my father and I hauled them out to the landfill, including the '56. Better prospects were on the horizon. Time for a fresh start.

The better prospect was a 1970 nineteen-inch Zenith. It required one new vacuum tube and a bit of soldering to replace a shunt resistor. When the cathode-ray screen hummed to life with a crisp, bright image, I rejoiced cautiously. Here was a television worthy of being watched, and in my house, that was dangerous news.

I lay low for about a week, watching my television only while pretending to make further repairs. I wired my stereo for closed-circuit sound and installed a remote switch. Then one quiet afternoon I moved the television into my room, carefully rearranging the furniture in order to make the new addition as inconspicuous as possible.

As Baldrick (from Blackadder) would say, it was a cunning plan. Fact was, It just took my farther a little time to figure out what to do. After all, it was his fault I was able to fix the television in the first place. But he thought up a simple solution. One morning he stopped by my room before going to work and deftly plucked several radio tubes out of the chassis.

Fair enough, I thought. I collected up my schematics and spare parts and soon had the Zenith working again. As a precaution, I made sure to remove the several indispensable tubes and stash them away every night, thus lending to the appearance of disrepair. But I was not above suspicion, and my father performed other acts of sabotage on a weekly basis; still I always managed to stay one step ahead of him.

He finally got tired of the game. In fact, I don't think he was playing at all. One day, he simply took all the tubes out of the television, and my back-ups as well!

I protested! That was going too far! He answered pragmatically: it would be unfair for one member of the family to have a television if everyone couldn't. My mother had a more philosophical approach to the matter: television was a bad influence. "It's television that causes all these arguments." Q.E.D. End of discussion.

So while other teenagers fought with their parents about getting in on time from dates, using the family car, or failing geometry, I was engaged in a losing battle over the disposition of my televisions. My friends couldn't understand. How could they? I suffered in silence. Deprived, cold-turkey, of the soothing, metallic light of the phosphorus screen, I solemnly returned to radios, Bunsen burners, and books.

Six months later, a friend of my father who came to my rescue. His television was on the blink, he mentioned to me one day, would I look at it? Lo and behold, it was a 1970 nineteen-inch Zenith black and white. The transformer was burned out. I didn't know what I could come up with right away, I told him, but I did have a fine set in prime condition that I didn't happen to be using at the time . . . .

My father produced the tubes, and his friend went happily on his way.

It did not take me long to dig up a matching transformer for the Zenith. After a successful transplant, I was back in business again. I had learned my lesson, though. I installed a more convincing set of dummy components and never left a tube in the chassis overnight for which I did not have a backup available in a safe and secret place.

Somewhere in this timeline is the (officially sanctioned) television I "lent" to my brother when he broke his leg and was bedridden for a month in traction. That set had a remote based on high-frequency sound waves. We discovered that any loud clanging sound would change the channels too.

My television viewing went on uninterrupted for the rest of my high school years, and I grew quite proud of my skulduggery. Then one day my mother asked me about a controversial program she read had been on television the night before.

"What television?" I replied (Baldrick again).

"Oh, come now," she said. "You don't think we don't know, do you? Your father decided that it wasn't worth the bother any more. If you wanted a television so badly, you could keep it, but he wouldn't condone it."

After all the planning and conspiracy! After all the effort! Victory had been wrested from my grasp. I slunk back to my room, wounded to the core.

Parents never surrender, though. When they moved to Maine, they got rid of every cathode ray tube, chassis, and television in the house, including an ancient oscilloscope I started working on two decades before and never finished (the electronic equivalent of your neighbor's 1968 Mustang that's been up on cinderblocks since the Clinton presidency).

On the other hand, they now have several computers. Which, of course, can stream video. But that's not television. Because it isn't. And, quite honestly, I agree. If I ever get serious about streaming, I'm plugging a Roku into the television. Because you watch television. You work at a computer.

Related posts

Complex simplicity
The better mousetrap
The last picture tube show

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July 30, 2017

Prison of Dusk (6)


I've posted chapter 6 of "Prison of Dusk."

The economics of the allotments is explained in chapter 25 of A Thousand Leagues of Wind. All citizens receive a plot of land when they reach their majority, equal to approximately one hectare. The allotment provides enough land to supply the food and a house for a family.

In a hamlet, eight families farm nine allotments (eight plots plus a commons). Three hamlets make a village. This structure is reflected at the national level, with nine provinces, one of which is the capital province run by the kirin.

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July 27, 2017

The bosozoku squat


In chapter 1 of Fox & Wolf, after giving him a thrashing, Yuki squats next to Jirou "bosozoku biker style, forearms resting on her knees, feet flat on the ground."

Courtesy of Dan Szpara, here's a veteran bosozoku (暴走族) biker dude showing how it's done.


As Szpara points out, the bosozoku have become a cliché, so in many cases the "acting out" just turns into "acting." Still, a few have kept the faith. Kyra Sacdalan describes the true believers as

a gang, now a lifestyle, still notorious amongst police enforcement. So much so that certain colors and stylings of their flamboyant West Side Story meets Lost Boys uniform are illegal in Japan.

As with the yakuza, the police in Japan have carte blanche to crack down as hard as necessary to maintain (the appearance of) public order. So these "wild ones" have to be careful about where and how they rebel.

But Harley-Davidson riders? "They appear to have an attitude which is carefree, cordial, and genuinely passionate."

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July 23, 2017

Prison of Dusk (5)


I've posted chapter 5 of "Prison of Dusk."

The old Chinese proverb Sotsuyuu cites is 「以刑止刑」 (yi xing zhi xing), or "Abolish punishment with punishment." A close western version is "Spare the rod and spoil the child" It's based on Proverbs 13: "He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes."

In this chapter, Sotsuyuu articulates a longstanding argument in regards to the U.S. Constitution and the death penalty. The question is whether capital punishment can be ruled "unconstitutional" (short of the amending process) when the Constitution itself assumes its lawful existence.

Rakushun explains the Divine Decrees in chapter 42 of Shadow of the Moon.

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July 20, 2017

Fox & Wolf


The second edition of Fox & Wolf is now available. It includes two new chapters and a redesigned cover.

Yuki Yamakawa comes from an old yakuza family. She loves training dogs and beating up bullies for a more secret reason: she's a werewolf. After one fight too many, Yuki's uncle sends her to Osaka's most exclusive girl's school to straighten her out.

There she meets her exact opposite, Ami Tokudaiji.

Ami is as high in society as Yuki is low. But with her family threatened by a financial scandal, the Tokudaiji fortune depends on Ami's mother breaking the law in a shady real estate deal. Just as Yuki's estranged father returns to Osaka to launch a criminal investigation.

As it turns out, on her father's side, Yuki's blood runs bluer than any of her aristocratic classmates. Even so, that long-hidden family connection pales in comparison to the most fantastic fact of all: Ami is a kitsune, a Japanese werefox, and doesn't even know it!

When the two of them end up in the same homeroom class at school, Yuki is determined to make Ami her new best friend. That is, if they don't kill each other first.

The Kindle and paperback editions can be purchased from Amazon, and ePub version from iTunes, Smashwords, and Google Books. Visit the Fox & Wolf website for more details, including maps and an introduction to were-creatures in Japanese folklore.

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July 16, 2017

Prison of Dusk (4)


I've posted chapter 4 of "Prison of Dusk."

Rikkan literally means "six ministries," the equivalent of the cabinet: Administration, Education, Protocol, Defense, Justice, Public Works. Also known as the Ministries of Heaven, Earth, Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter.

The Chousai (title) heads the Ministry of Earth and serves as the "Chief Cabinet Secretary" of the Rikkan.

Lingchi (凌遅), often translated as "death by a thousand cuts," was a form of torture and execution used in China from roughly 900 AD until it was banned in 1905.

"Eikou knelt and bowed with his hands locked together in front of his chest." The word in Japanese is kyoushu (拱手). The Chinese reading of the word (gong shou) should be familiar to viewers of Chinese historical dramas.


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July 13, 2017

Sub vs. dub


Watching stars like Keanu Reeves and Tom Cruise and Diane Lane on Asa-Ichi (NHK's morning show) plugging their latest movies, I'm impressed at what great interviewees they are--not only at ease going through a translator, but setting everybody else at ease too.


Charisma is a real thing. Of course, lots of practice doing lots of interviews helps too.

But it's also a reminder of how rarely American television viewers have to work through the intermediary of a translator. The Il Divo guys default to English on Asa-Ichi. It's easier than arranging for French, Spanish, and German translators everywhere they go.

2017 Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato did his post-race interview in English. Though he's more the exception than the rule. Due to the feudalistic posting system, Japanese baseball players come to the American game midway through their careers, too late in life to bother getting fluent.


Come to think about it, sports is where you're most likely to listen to an interviewee through a translator. English is the world's lingua franca, if not as a first language then as the default second.

Which also means that American rarely have to read subtitles. Unless you are an anime fan, in which case it is a perennially lively topic of discussion. I can't ever remember seeing the subject discussed on a mainstream American chat show the way it is on mainstream Japanese chat shows.

In Silence, Martin Scorsese believably minimizes the use of subtitles. The Shogun miniseries eschews them altogether, depending on in-context translators and the occasional Orson Wells narration. And 47 Ronin has Japanese actors speaking dang good English throughout.

(47 Ronin is a movie with a plethora of problems, beginning with a script that was never going to appeal to American or Japanese audiences. But it does demolish the canard that Japanese actors can't speak English well enough for standard Hollywood productions.)

When subtitles do pop up in lower-brow fare like John Wick II, the director tries awfully hard to pretend the subtitles aren't really subtitles. They're misplaced opening credits! Read them! They might help!

As a general rule, I prefer subs to dubs. For languages other than English and Japanese, my fluency is zero. But when I watch Inspector Montalbano, for example, half the fun is listening to Luca Zingaretti speaking Italian.


I saw an interview with Zingaretti (his English is quite good) in which in said that he plays Montalbano a bit over the top, more "Italian" than the typical Italian. You would miss that in a dub, unless perhaps he dubbed himself. Or recruited Al Pacino or Nick Stellino for the part.

I don't totally discount the possibility of a good dub. Thanks to John Lasseter, Studio Ghibil films can attract top-tier talent. Most U.S. anime releases can't rely on Disney's cache or deep pockets. Though I always hope to be, and sometime am, pleasantly surprised.

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July 09, 2017

Prison of Dusk (3)


I've posted chapter 3 of "Prison of Dusk."

The cruelties of the legal system in the Kingdom of Hou are documented in A Thousand Leagues of Wind. The Imperial Hou was eventually toppled in a coup.

The growing problems with imperial governance in Ryuu are also discussed in "Kizan." Traveling undercover on a fact-finding mission, Shouryuu meets up with Rikou of Sou, who's there for the same reason.

By now, the Kingdom of Ryuu was renown as a kingdom of law and order. And yet it was hitting the skids. To Rikou, this was an entirely unexpected turn of events.

When he said as much, Fuukan [Shouryuu] tilted his head doubtfully. "Unlike you, I'm surprised the dynasty lasted this long. When Rohou acceded to the throne, he didn't strike anybody as regal material. He'd been a county supervisor and then a governor in the provinces. The locals thought well of him, but not so much that word of his accomplishments ever made it to the capital. Nothing much to set him apart from the next guy."

Fuukan knew Rohou's given name as well, evidence that he moved in the same circles as Rikou.

"Well, you'd expect a man from En to know about such things. You're next door neighbors, after all?"

"I guess so. I swung by shortly after the coronation. A middling choice, was my impression. Like a ship that looked nice sailing out of port but would sink during the first real gale."

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July 06, 2017

Peeks at a post-Ghibli world


With Hayao Miyazaki again coming out of retirement to direct his (absolutely positively) last film, Renato Rivera muses about the Studio Ghibli legacy. At this stage, Miyazaki is a one-man show, recruiting free-lancers to work under the Ghibli banner on one-off productions.

Directors like Mamoru Hosoda, Makoto Shinkai, and Hideaki Anno are readily mentioned as heir apparents, but Rivera points our attention to what lesser-known Studio Ghibli alumni have been up to.

Debuting this summer is Mary and the Witch's Flower, with ex-Ghibli staffer Hiromasa Yonebayashi at the helm (The Secret World of Arrietty and When Marnie Was There).


At least based on the previews, what we have here is Kiki's Delivery Service meets Spirited Away (and perhaps Howl's Moving Castle), which certainly has me interested.

And for something completely different, an ad campaign from Francois, a Kyushu-based bakery chain. It's been going on now for ten years now. Edited together, the ads tell the ongoing story of Cassis and Arle.

The work of Ghibli veterans, it's Kiki's Delivery Service (Kiki lives above a bakery) meets Whisper of the Heart meets Only Yesterday




In these videos it's easy to spot almost identical scenes from original Ghibli productions. Not that there's anything wrong with that. I put it down to great artists stealing. Often from themselves.

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July 02, 2017

Prison of Dusk (2)


I've posted chapter 2 of "Prison of Dusk."

Japan has the death penalty and uses it, not often but consistently and with little fanfare or public controversy. Execution is always by hanging. Seika's arguments in this chapter are a good reflection of how the general public in Japan thinks about the subject (when they think about it at all).

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