Karma – it’s a funny old thing. One dastardly deed and somewhere down the line the repercussions will bite you on the backside. Likewise, karma can also bring great rewards. The concept is one with which Japanese songstress KOKIA is all too familiar – not least because it’s the title of her single from the opening of Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom.
It also defines her career as a musician. She had been involved in music from the tender age of two-and-a-bit, when her instruments of choice were the violin and piano. Later in life she had stints at music school in America and Japan before being snapped up by a major label while still at university. She provided the theme to a PlayStation game, and her first few singles had been penned by the same team behind one of the biggest hits from the previous year. If that wasn’t enough, the singles had also found their way into dramas and anime. Yet, even with such a large amount of backing, exposure and her own extensive musical background, her releases barely made the top 100 of the Oricon chart.
Yet, karma wasn’t going to let all the hard work go unwarranted. As if by divine intervention her fourth single ‘Arigatou...’ made her a star. Though, not immediately. And not in Japan. In fact, KOKIA’s debut album failed to chart in her home country at all. Fortunately for her, its release in the rest of Asia was an entirely different story and can be credited to Hong Kong’s super star diva Sammi Cheng. She released a cover of ‘Arigatou...’ the same week that KOKIA made her Asian debut, catapulting the Japanese singer to the stardom she was unable to achieve back home. KOKIA’s original version was eventually awarded third best song in Hong Kong’s Best International Song Awards. Suddenly, her career was back on track.
And thank goodness. Without Sammi Cheng’s success, a second major KOKIA album would have been highly unlikely. And without a second album, her continued career in the world of the anime-song would have probably died as well. The opening to Gunslinger Girl: Il Teatrino would not exist as we know it, the ethereal and haunting vocals that set off the beginning of Origin: Spirits of the Pastwould simply not be, and a whole line of yet-to-be- anime would have very different theme songs.
Her relative success outside of Japan, particularly Europe, has come from the exposure anime has given her voice. In 2010 she conducted her first world tour (and by ‘world’, she clearly meant Europe and Japan) which included dates in London and Ireland, the country which inspired the creation of her seventh studio album Fairy Dance – it also includes three covers of traditional Celtic songs. The album, along with seven others are available digitally from the iTunes UK store courtesy of Wasabi Records, yet both singles taken from Phantom (‘Karma’, as well as closing theme ‘Transparent’) remain unreleased in this region.
KOKIA’s ‘Karma’ and ‘Transparent’ feature in Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom. Part 2 of the series is out on 12th March on UK DVD from Manga Entertainment.
Lightning bolts rain from the heavens and cloud-dwelling citizens run for their lives as Luffy and Eneru go toe to toe to determine the fate of Skypiea! The rubber-man is determined to make this exceedingly evil villain pay for his sins against the innocent, but Eneru won't be easily defeated. With his electric ark chock full of gold, the heinous holy man sets in motion a petrifying plan to obliterate life on Angel Island! Luffy is ready to rumble, but his shipmates are falling one by one, and his punching power bottoms out after Eneru encases his hand in a giant ball of gold. Only one hope remains: Nami and Luffy must risk their lives in a desperate attempt to ring the sacred bell of Shandora - and chase away Eneru's looming cloud of death!
Of the anime titles turned into T-shirts by Uniqlo, One Piece is the biggest – the reigning king of all the anime and manga franchises, pretty much unchallenged in the 16 years since Eiichiro Oda began the manga, and 14 since Toei Animation started animating it. But perhaps Uniqlo would have turned One Piece into a line of shirts even if the saga hadn’t been a world hit. Just look at those pirate designs – brash, cartoony, uncompromising. There’s no whiff of a committee, no hint of a five-year product plan reliant on changing a heroine’s hair colour (or deepening her cleavage). It just helps that the pictures are as commercial when they move as they are when they’re a cool static graphic in a manga, or on the front of a T-shirt.
“Ninja or pirates?” While Naruto – representing the ninja corner, of course – has proven hugely popular, UK fans have long been unable to weigh in on the other side. With the long-awaited arrival of One Piece on DVD this May, that finally changes.
Matt Kamen finds out who’s who in the One Piece anime
Monkey D. Luffy: The founder and captain of the Straw Hats, Luffy is a carefree soul who wants to become king of the pirates. After eating the Gum-Gum Devil Fruit, he gained an elastic body, making him near-invulnerable and able to stretch but paradoxically making him unable to swim.
One-hit wonders. Every country has them. And, as PSY can most likely attest, very few musicians really want to be labelled as one. Sure, it’s all fun, games and fancy dinners when that royalty cheque floats through the letter box. The one with all the zeroes from that single from yesteryear that went massive. But what about the rest of your work? It must be somewhat unsatisfying as an artist to be known for one track, while everything else remains relatively overlooked, and expectations are high for that difficult follow up single. If you’re TOMATO CUBE, you do nothing. Ever again.
Japan Underground's Tom Smith on how to rock and roll all nite in Tokyo
I wanted to see bands playing live music, experience local pubs and bar culture, and not get back to my hotel until it was light. Now, my nights in the city are as busy, if not busier, than my days. Here’s a quick look at some of the Tokyo hotspots worth hitting for music fans.
It is a real testament to how far things have progressed in the U.K. that this trilogy has been released uncut; in the 1990s the BBFC would never have allowed it. In that sense, the ten years it has taken Ubukata to get his books on-screen may, despite the frustrations caused him personally, have ended up benefiting U.K. audiences.
At their production peak, Shaw Studios sanded down some of the historical elements in their epics, concentrating on acrobatics and heavier violence. This, in turn, made them more palatable or at least accessible to non-Chinese audiences, and inadvertently stoked the fires of the Kung Fu Boom.
Turning Point offers invaluable peeps at Miyazaki’s mind at work, including the way he grows his imagery out of lyrical ideas. “I am experiencing old age for the first time in my life,” he comments at one point, managing to be both wise and dotty at the same time.
Mamoru Oshii’s unashamedly esoteric sequel to his earlier global crossover Ghost in the Shell lent the most credibility to claims for anime as ‘Art’ with a capital ‘A’, when it became the first animated film from Japan to be entered in competition at Cannes.
Andrew Osmond on the history of man-machine interfaces
RoboCop is thrown into interesting perspective by looking at his anime cousins. In Japan, RoboCop is one of a crowd. Two of anime’s greatest poster icons – Motoko Kusanagi in Ghost in the Shell and Tetsuo in Akira – are or become cyborgs. Moreover, a man-turned-robot was an anime hero back in 1963. We’re talking about 8th Man, shown in America as Tobor the Eighth Man. It’s a policeman who, yes, gets murdered by a crime gang, then resurrected in a robot body.
Jonathan Clements on the movie that turns anime on its head
Boy-meets-girl has never been so strange as in this feature, in which the leads must literally cling to each other or fall away to an uncertain fate. Patema Inverted winningly plays with matters of spatial awareness, perspective and weight, regularly flipping its angles until the viewer literally can no longer remember which way is truly up.
By the time you’ve read this, the eight 15-minute episodes of Robot Atom will have been aired by the Nigerian broadcast network Channels TV. Based on one of anime’s most iconic creations, Tezuka Productions’ Astro Boy (Tetsuwan Atomu), this Nigerian-Japanese co-production brings a new slant to glocalization