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From Naoshima With Love

Sunday 14th October 2012


Jonathan Clements on 007’s Japanese trail


You Only Live Twice

Japan’s idyllic Inland Sea is the setting for several crucial events in the life of James Bond, who, you will remember, read Oriental Studies at university, and revealed in You Only Live Twice (or in Japanese, just to be difficult, Die Twice) that he spoke fluent Japanese. In the original book, he ended up living for several months as a fisherman on the coast of the Inland Sea, shacked up with Kissy Suzuki and waiting for his memory to return after some sort of SMERSHy trauma. Unknown to him at the time, when he left, Kissy Suzuki was pregnant with his son, James Suzuki, who turns up in a later James Bond story.

The Man With the Red TattooIn 2002, author Raymond Benson wrote a follow-up called The Man With the Red Tattoo. Officially approved by the Ian Fleming estate, it featured an older James Bond returning to Japan to hunt down the origins of a deadly poison. He ends up back on the Inland Sea, on a tiny little island called Naoshima, which has now gained its own James Bond Museum. It is a single large room containing Japanese language histories and paraphernalia about James Bond, as well as a section dedicated to The Man with a Red Tattoo. This includes Raymond Benson’s first-draft outline for his magnum opus, as well as the inadvisably legible manuscript of his booze-soaked “research trip” to Japan. Here’s a man who knows his way around junkets, who managed to get a chunk of his holiday paid for by the Japanese National Tourist Board, on the understanding that he would write something about Naoshima.

Considering that one of the non-Fleming James Bond novels (Icebreaker) is literally the worst book I have ever read, I doubt that Benson’s effort will set the world on fire. However, it has obviously charmed the locals on Naoshima, who were ecstatic that someone mentioned their pokey little island in a book, and have clearly been praying for the last decade that someone will be mad enough to turn Benson’s novel into the next Bond film, and thereby put it firmly on the international tourist map.

NaoshimaPride of place in the museum is given to a TV running a constant loop of From Naoshima With Love, a clumsily written, leadenly-paced, “thriller” about a British secret agent who is sent to Naoshima on a quest for a vaguely defined MacGuffin. On the way, he discusses artwork installations with various stuffed shirts. Clearly, at a long and boozy lunch, the local bigwigs of Naoshima had voted to spend their 2007 tourism budget on making a film about their island, in which they themselves starred as the local equivalents of Q and Tiger Tanaka.

Hence, we have a handsome but wooden British “actor” (played by the local JET coordinator, Andrew Cockburn), stumbling around Naoshima, for a series of scenes with even woodener middle-aged Japanese civil servants, who robotically recite dull details about the island. Cockburn’s character refers to himself as “JB”, and the inattentive visitor who only stays for five minutes is presumably expected to believe that this is a bona fide, Fleming-approved James Bond story. The sign next to the screen optimistically calls this a “television show” although it is difficult to imagine any other television that is likely to be showing it apart from the one in the museum itself.

NaoshimaAt the end, “JB” ends up shagging his Japanese assistant in a boat on the beach, while a Moneypenny substitute tells him that the mission was a diversion merely to give him a day’s vacation in Naoshima. I pondered the implication that Naoshima tour guides are actually pimped out by the town council to visiting Englishmen – hopefully that wasn’t on Raymond Benson’s itinerary, but who knows? The final title pops up with “James Bond will return to Naoshima again… hopefully”.

I found the whole thing rather sweet. Where else would a town devote so much time and effort to celebrating a mere media tie-in novel (the prison-shower bitch of the writing world)? And no matter how doomed to failure, imagine the money it would have made for Naoshima if it had somehow worked – well worth the effort, and hopefully a creative leap that other small towns should embrace. And just think of the fun they must have had – a JET coordinator is responsible, among other things, for improving their district’s cultural relations. This usually means making sure that nothing obscenely inappropriate is written on the municipal website in English, but can also mean they get to play at being producers and event organisers. Mr Cockburn, who graduated in Japanese and Management from the University of Leeds, clearly had a whale of a time spending Kagawa Prefecture’s tourism budget on making a silly movie. The local girl he gets to mount in the final scene apparently won her role in a talent contest. Make your own jokes.

The Naoshima James Bond Museum is one of those bizarre curios that makes travel on Japan's backroads such a  joy, and should surely be on the itinerary of any Bond fan. You can even have your photo taken dressed as Bond, and inexplicably punching a sock monkey. So, something for everyone.

James BondThe Naoshima James Bond Museum is a short walk from the ferry terminal at Miyanoura. Open 9-5 364 days a year except New Year’s day. Admission free.

From Naoshima With Love

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Dragon Ball Z The Movie Double Pack: Battle Of Gods / Resurrection Of F

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For the first time ever! Two of the biggest anime movies of all time collected into one amazing box set; Dragon Ball Z: Battle Of Gods and Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection of F.

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Launched in 1984 in the pages of Shueisha’s Weekly Shonen Jump, Akira Toriyama’s original Dragon Ball was a very different beast to the one western viewers would eventually meet. introduced the boisterous Son Goku, an adventurous and unusally strong boy with no social graces whatsoever. Raised in seclusion by his adoptive grandfather, he doesn’t even that know what girls are – making for some prime gag moments when he meets treasure hunter Bulma. Soon teaming up, the pair track down seven rare ‘Dragon Balls’ – powerful items that can summon the wish-granting dragon Shenron. These early stories were very loosely based on Chinese fables but Toriyama gave them a fresh twist, his distinctive art style and perfect balance of comedy and action making the series a hit.

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Son Goku. Goku was originally cast as a naive but powerful young boy who was spurred onto the path of adventure following the death of his grandfather. By the time Dragon Ball Z rolls around, Goku’s a full-grown adult, the victor of several martial arts tournaments and a married man. He’s only slightly less naive though, and his strict wife Chichi frequently has to rein in his less socially acceptable habits and wilder impulses. The first arc of the series marks Goku learning of his alien origins for the first time – before meeting other Saiyans, he thought he was just another average monkey-tailed boy!

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Yamcha. One of Goku’s oldest friends – even if they did first meet as enemies! A reformed desert bandit and an ex-boyfriend of Bulma, Yamcha is one of the strongest human fighters in the world. Having regularly entered World Martial Arts Tournaments and fought against a multitude of foes, he’s earned his place as one of the core Z-Fighters. However, he was overpowered and killed by one of Nappa’s drones in the Saiyan invasion of Earth. Luckily, death is rarely the end in the world of Dragon Ball, and Yamcha’s path continues as he trains under King Kai in the afterlife, preparing for a return to the living world to help his friends against the threats they’ll face on the distant planet Namek.

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Cell. The deadliest enemy the Z Warriors have ever had to face – themselves! Cell is a hyper-advanced android from the future, created using the DNA of the present day heroes and possessing all their skills and abilities thanks to genetic memory. Goku’s Kamehameha? Cell can use it and counter it. Tien’s Solar Flare? Just one of Cell’s basic attacks. Piccolo’s regeneration? That serves to make Cell even more difficult to defeat. Already an incredibly powerful figure, Cell has travelled back in time to physically absorb more fighters and add their powers to his own repertoire. His goal? To achieve his Perfect Form and become the mightiest figure in the Universe – and he won’t let anything or anyone stand in his way.

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