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The Anime Contents Expo

Sunday 21st April 2013

Andrew Osmond on the ins and outs of the Anime Contents Expo

Anime Contents ExpoThere’s nothing obviously surprising about the Anime Contents Expo (ACE), an exhibition of the current anime scene, held just outside central Tokyo at the end of March. It took place a few stops away from Tokyo Disneyland, in a venue called Makuhari Messe, which isn’t so different from London’s ExCel centre. Makuhari Messe also hosts the terrifyingly huge Tokyo Game Show in the autumn, beside which ACE looks pocket-sized. It’s actually about the same size as a London MCM Expo, perhaps even a bit smaller.

What’s really interesting about ACE is how it came into being. Western pundits often talk about how Japan’s pop-culture, especially its comics, seems entirely unregulated. Supposedly any content goes, no matter how extreme. (In recent years, there have been a rash of stories about Westerners being arrested for importing dodgy manga.) However, in December 2010, the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly approved a revision to its “Youth Healthy Development Ordinance” Bill. It was targeted at what it called harmful manga – harmful, specifically, to the development of people under 18.

“Harmful” manga were already illegal, at least in theory, but the revision attempted to define what the word meant. For example, it introduced a “marriage test,” suggesting that any depiction of a sexual relationship between characters who could not be legally married should be outlawed. It’s amusing to wonder if that would extend to, say, Mamoru Hosoda’s The Wolf Children. It also outlawed manga whose content was “excessively disrupting” of the social order. So, goodbye to Akira?

However, much of the wording of the bill, even in its revised form, was so woolly that it seems worthless in practice. Some wording suggests the bill would outlaw any sexual content or innuendo in manga. The cynical might wonder if what was left could be called “manga” any more! Of course, it’s arguable that a strict ban on titillation would encourage healthier, less sexist manga depictions of females. However, that doesn’t necessarily follow; the highly-regulated American comics of the 1960s weren’t exactly feminist models.

Shintaro IshiharaIn fact, there seem to be more worrying agendas behind the Japanese bill. Its top proponent was Tokyo’s mayor, Shintaro Ishihara, and his big concern seemed to be less sexism than the prevalence of homosexual characters (he also complained about the ‘casual’ appearance of gay people on Japanese TV). As Jonathan Clements commented in Neo magazine, “the proposal might have begun as a well-meaning attack on images that glorify rape and child abuse, but before the law was even passed, an authority figure was gleefully implying that it could be used to infringe the human rights of law-abiding citizens.”

In the bill’s third year, it’s perhaps still too soon to judge its impact. Arguably, manga was here before, twenty years ago - there was a moral crackdown on manga in the early 1990s, following the horrors of a so-called “otaku” child killer, Tsutomu Miyazaki. On that occasion, the manga publishers themselves reined back some of their excesses (most notoriously, the appearance of child-sex strips in magazines aimed at minors). This time round, the picture is… ambivalent. Last June, for example, a parent complained about frontal nudity in a volume of To-Love-Ru. This title was examined but passed by Tokyo’s Council, as was the incest-themed anime series Yosuga no Sora (reportedly because the show didn’t depict incest as acceptable). This March, though, a sexual manga called Welcome to Sugarpot was reportedly pulled from bookstores “due to Tokyo’s ordinances,” according to Anime News Network.

However, the most tangible result of the Ordinances may be the industrial backlash. The homophobic Mr Ishihara wasn’t only Tokyo’s mayor at the time; he was also the nominal chief of the Tokyo Anime Fair (TAF), which has run since 2002. When the new legislation was announced, ten manga publishers joined forces to become the Comic 10-Shakai Association. (They include Kadakowa Shoten, Kodansha, Shueisha and Shogakukan.) They announced they would boycott TAF; Shueisha’s senior managing director belligerently called for manga to “blow away” Ishihara, and Bleach creator Tite Kubo was among the boycott’s supporters.

At first, there was speculation that TAF could be cancelled. Japan’s prime minister, Naoto Kan, himself expressed concern in his blog, urging all parties to work together. The result, though, was a rival to TAF, Anime Contents Expo. It was first meant to run in 2011, but it and TAF were both cancelled that year because of the Tohoku earthquake. In the two subsequent years, TAF and ACE have both run in spring, a few days and a few miles apart, putting the political dispute very literally on the map.

The audience drawn to this year’s ACE was mostly male – at a guess, the male attendees made up somewhere between two-thirds and three-quarters of punters. Anyone expecting the clouds of costumes at London’s MCM Expo would be disappointed; the cosplayers were restricted to an adjoining hall or to posing in commercial promotions. Predictably, a lot of ACE’s emphasis was on the new (spring) TV anime season. Attack on Titan – based on Hajijme Isayama’s manga – had the most eye-catching advertising; a life-size inflatable head of one of the man-munching titans!

Second place went to some heavyweight cars (though sadly not tanks), liberally decorated with the heroines of last season’s Girls und Panzer. The most intriguing product, though, was being shown off by Sony. The company was offering to turn fans into figurines by means of a computer body-scan (so you can put yourself on a shelf!) If you’re interested, the Japanese web page is here. On the movie side, Ghibli was presumably holding itself aloof from the event, but there was a huge display for Makoto Shinkai’s next film, The Garden of Words. It opens in Japan in May after an Aussie premiere at the end of this month.

If nothing else, the event was a useful way to gauge Japanese fan interest in the new products. For example, there were large crowds around a Puella Magi Madoka Magica shop (the movie sequel was being trailered at ACE), and a display stand for last season’s Psycho-Pass. However, you could almost see the tumbleweed blow past a pink stand for the Japanese-dubbed My Little Pony. Of course, there’s next to nothing at ACE in English, but there are still incidental pleasures for foreigners. It’s nice to know, for instance, that anime theme songs are just as thoroughly murdered in karaoke when the singers are Japanese…


Akira (the Collector\'s Edition) Triple Play Edition (incl. Blu-ray, Dvd, Digital Copy)

was £29.99
Iconic and game-changing, Akira is the definitive anime masterpiece! Katsuhiro Otomo’s landmark cyberpunk classic obliterated the boundaries of Japanese animation and forced the world to look into the future. Akira’s arrival shattered traditional thinking, creating space for movies like The Matrix to be dreamed into brutal reality.

Neo-Tokyo, 2019. The city is being rebuilt post World War III when two high school drop outs, Kaneda and Tetsuo stumble across a secret government project to develop a new weapon - telekinetic humans. After Tetsuo is captured by the military and experimented on, he gains psychic abilities and learns about the existence of the project's most powerful subject, Akira. Both dangerous and destructive, Kaneda must take it upon himself to stop both Tetsuo and Akira before things get out of control and the city is destroyed once again. 
AKIRA The Collector’s Edition features both the original 1988 Streamline English dub and the 2001

Pioneer/Animaze English dub!



Katsuhiro Otomo's Akira then and now

Helen McCarthy examines Katsuhiro Otomo’s landmark Akira, then and now
1988 in Japan: Yamaha Motors won the J-League but Nissan won the Cup. Western pop divas Bananarama, Kylie and Tiffany were on TV. Japanese real estate values climbed so high that the Imperial Palace garden was worth more than the State of California, and Tokyo’s Chiyoda ward had a higher market value than Canada. The Government signed the FIRST Basel Accord, triggering a crash that wiped out half Japan’s stock market. Katsuhiro Omoto’s movie Akira premiered on 16th July.

Akira's Ancestors

Andrew Osmond on the unexpected forerunners of Neo-Tokyo
In Akira’s opening moments, a sphere of white light appears from nowhere in the centre of Tokyo, and swells to obliterate the city. Many Western critics saw the image as a symbol of the Bomb, like the earlier Japanese pop-culture icon, Godzilla. But the designer apocalypse could be taken as Akira’s own mission statement – to be a new kind of entertainment, blowing away its peers and reshaping the cinema landscape.

The Impact of Akira

Andrew Osmond reviews the reviews from 20 years ago.
On its explosive arrival in the West, Akira crossed the Pacific to catch the generation that grew up on the films of Spielberg and Lucas; it was also the generation that read adult superhero strips such as Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns. Akira, though, offered the shock-and-awe widescreen violence akin to that of enfant terrible live-action director, Paul Verhoeven. For example, both Akira and Verhoeven’s Robocop (1987) have a gory money-shot scene in their early minutes, in which a luckless bit-part player is graphically torn apart by a hail of bullets. Unsurprisingly, such imagery excited reviewers.

Akira 25th Anniversary Screenings

Your chance to see it in the cinema in the UK
Neo-Tokyo is about to E.X.P.L.O.D.E. Katsuhiro Otomo’s debut animated feature AKIRA had its Japanese premiere on 16th July 1988. We are very proud to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of what is undoubtedly, one of the most celebrated animated movies of all time. Voted by Empire readers as one of the top 100 best films ever and cited by everyone from James Cameron, Ridley Scott, Daft Punk and Kanye West as a massive influence on their work, AKIRA kick-started the anime business all over the world, opening the doors for everything from Pokémon to Princess Mononoke.

The Art of Akira

Joe Peacock tracks down the original images from the anime classic
Watching Akira for the first time provokes a universal reaction of awe. And justifiably so: there’s often an overwhelming sense among audiences that this animated film is unlike any other they’ve ever seen. Casual viewers won’t be able to put their finger on it; they just know that Akira is visually striking. Art and illustration aficionados appreciate the intricacy of individual scenes, sometimes pausing the film to appreciate the detail in a particular frame.

Katsuhiro Otomo's Akira then and now

Helen McCarthy examines Katsuhiro Otomo’s landmark Akira, then and now
1988 in Japan: Yamaha Motors won the J-League but Nissan won the Cup. Western pop divas Bananarama, Kylie and Tiffany were on TV. Japanese real estate values climbed so high that the Imperial Palace garden was worth more than the State of California, and Tokyo’s Chiyoda ward had a higher market value than Canada. The Government signed the FIRST Basel Accord, triggering a crash that wiped out half Japan’s stock market. Katsuhiro Omoto’s movie Akira premiered on 16th July.


Who's Who in Dragon Ball #4

A rogues' gallery from the latest DVD box set
Ever wonder just how Goku and friends became the greatest heroes on Earth? Wonder no more, as the original Dragon Ball reveals the origins of Akira Toriyama’s beloved creations! The faces may look familiar, but everything else is different in this classic series!

The Early Anno

Andrew Osmond on the adventures of Young Hideaki
22nd June sees the first ever British release of Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water on Blu-ray and DVD, courtesy of Animatsu. Nadia is a splendid adventure on its own terms, but it’s also an insight into the development of Hideaki Anno, who made Nadia five years before he unleashed Neon Genesis Evangelion on the world.

Cosplay: Naruto Shippuden

Photographer Paul Jacques says fangs for the anime memories
Cosplayer Daisey Johnson gets ready to strike as an unleashed Naruto, the orangest ninja to ever try to camouflage himself in a forest setting.

Good Luck Girl

Helen McCarthy goes in search of a teenage goddess
Momiji Binboda is no normal teenage girl, but a Goddess of Misfortune sent into the human world to correct a dangerous imbalance in the flow of good fortune and happiness.
This week we have the fantastic Beyond The Boundary and The Last Naruto Movie for you all!
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