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.”