Saturday, April 22, 2017

KOTSUAGE, my story about grief in 2 cultures, for ENDPAIN


KOTSUAGE, by Roland Kelts
Photos by Yuki Iwanami

The doctor's pencil drawing reminded me of one of those Etch A Sketch toys from the 70s. Its gray lines were asymmetrical and squiggly or squared off like sidewalk curbs. Other times they looped from what I guessed were the body’s nether regions back up to the heart.

He held the sheet of paper to the window’s hazy light. “It’s really just plumbing,” he said.

He was the handsome younger surgeon, swarthy and Mediterranean-looking, and what he was showing us, my younger sister and me, was a solution to the problems they’d found in our father’s chest. Until our meeting that morning, the problem had been singular: an ascending thoracic aortic aneurysm, a swelling of his heart’s central artery that could be life-threatening if untreated.

But when they injected dye into his chest to get a clearer sense of the problem, the problem became plural. The procedure was called a cardiac catheterization, and it transformed his arteries into a multi-colored subway map, where you could see the blood routes that were slowed or nearly blocked.

Monday, April 10, 2017

On Hollywood "whitewashing," Scarlett Johansson & "Ghost in the Shell"

My interview with NPR's Eric Molinksy on Hollywood "whitewashing" in casting Scarlett Johansson as Motoko Kusanagi in the live-action adaptation of "Ghost in the Shell." (NB: Her mother will be Japanese, Kaori Momoi.) For Eric's podcast, "Imaginary Worlds."






Monday, March 20, 2017

The women behind Asian feminist comic "Monstress", for The Japan Times

Breaking the comic book glass ceiling


Four years ago, Chinese-American writer Marjorie Liu had a simple but persistent idea: create an epic fantasy comic book series about a classic Japanese kaij┼ź (strange beast) movie monster that has a connection to a girl.

She knew it should take place entirely in Asia, and that Asian women should be the main characters. She also knew that she wanted to work with an Asian artist. The West, and men, would remain peripheral.

The artist she wanted to realize her vision was Japanese illustrator Sana Takeda. The two had worked together on the Marvel comic series “X-23” in 2010, and Liu says their chemistry was uncanny.

Marjorie Liu

“She was one of the finest artists I ever worked with,” she tells me at a cafe in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she lives and teaches at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“Sana is capable of illustrating silence, quiet moments. That’s rare in comics. And I write superheroes as real people with real problems, not just power and action. Sana’s art makes me feel like I’m pulled into moments, standing right in front of the characters as they think about things, not just watching them fight.”

Saturday, March 04, 2017

Anime and folklore in Kyoto, for The Japan Times

Japanese folklore meets anime in Kyoto



The colors were jarring. Beneath the vermillion torii gates of Kyoto’s Shimogamo Shrine and surrounded by the olive broadleaves of Tadasu Forest was a pool of furry, bright yellow ponchos, decorated with the brown facial features, rounded ears and bulbous oblong tails of the tanuki, or Japanese raccoon dog.

Out of roughly 2,500 applicants, 200 anime fans, the majority of them young women, won entry to the Jan. 12 “Uchoten Kazoku 2 (The Eccentric Family 2) Event: Tanuki Gathering at the Forest of Tadasu, Shimogamo Shrine” via raffle tickets sold at ¥2,000 each in November and December. 

The lucky fans had access to an intimate seating area to view the solemn Shinto blessing of the series’ second season, which premieres on April 9. They also received swag bags of merchandise supplied by the show’s sponsors, attended a talk show including photo ops with its seiyu (voice actor) stars, sipped ceremonial sake and cosplayed en masse in the complimentary ponchos.

Even Kyoto’s mayor, Daisaku Kadokawa, arrived to officially christen the show as his city’s “Special Goodwill Ambassador.”