Xmas eve 2011

You know what?

I want to get a full sleeve and wear a big arm band in the summer to cover it, and when people ask me why I have a sleeve-bandage-thing on my arm, i’ll say its because i am covering a tattoo (this would be at some office of employment), and i dont want to break protocol (in a totally sarcastic tone), and thus potentially lose my job?  perhaps this is what i think would happen, or maybe its a little overblown.  i dont know.  the point is….i would want to make a point.

Anyways, its xmas eve, and i just want to say merry xmas.

see you soon japan.

Zero to Superhero: “Zebraman”

Last post I mentioned that there are some superheros in Japan that fight for the inherent good that can be found in all of us.  Well, here is a film that speaks to both the courage and the absurdity of superheros.

Miike Takashi is known to fans and critics for his extreme filmmaking style, often defying genre conventions, incorporating into his films black humor, shattered cultural taboos, over-the-top, intense bloody violence, and grotesque and shocking sexual acts that can offend even the most seasoned movie-goers.  His films are eccentric and thought-provoking, feature predominantly marginal characters, and comment on Japan’s contemporary decay.  Social alienation, deteriorated family relations and civil chaos are pervasive themes within his films.  Miike has experimented with a wide array of films, a testament to his directorial skill, and making his style difficult to categorize.  With his 2004 film Zebraman (Zeburaman), Miike tones down the ultra-violence, sexual perversions, and taboos in order to present a light-hearted, comedic, dramatic, fantastical narrative that satirizes Japan’s tokusatsu (special effects) sentai (squadron) genre, in which superheros and computer-generated special effects are the focal points of a live action television program or film.  Miike’s Zebraman exhibits postmodern content – integrating parody, satire and intertextuality, commenting on dysfunctional families, making light of authoritarian establishment – but yet portrays two marginal characters in a positive fashion.

This film has the ability to make me laugh, shake my head, and touch my heart.  It’s hilarious, yet ridiculous.  And its very easy to develop a soft spot for the protagonist.  He is ridiculed at home, ignored at work, and disrespected by almost everybody.  Luckily for the viewer, he overcomes his sad reality and grabs a pair!  He turns himself into a self-respecting hero in no time, much to the delight of those cheering for the underdog.

A good all around film by an eccentric, talented and accomplished director.

Superheros Japanese style

I’m sure everyone had a favorite superhero at some point in their childhood.  Superman, Batman, perhaps Green Arrow.  You could probably agree that superheros perpetuate certain social-political archetypes, based on classic paradigms like good vs. evil.  Fighting bad guys, capturing criminals, rescuing helpless cats from tall trees.  Superheros reinforce everything that is morally acceptable and good, exhibiting humanistic qualities you could say.  Often they captivate children’s imaginations with their good deeds and feats of superheroism.  So perhaps we could take the narrative a step further and suggest that such characters are useful in disseminating social rhetoric.

Take this guy for example:


                                                 ザ シートベルト

The large red lettering to his right reads, “A habit! The seatbelt”.  I suppose he is probably The Seatbelt Superhero, fighting for a safer society; one which has all citizens safely buckled up.  His cause is a good one too.  I can’t count the number of times I have seen children riding around on their parents laps in Japan, completely unbuckled, while they drive along, putting both themselves and their children in reckless danger.  Or people who sit in the backseat of cars, unbuckled for whatever reason.  There really is no excuse.

Maybe these kinds of characters appeal to the innate morality of parents out there on the winding, narrow roads that permeate Japan.  If so, then perhaps we would witness less people riding around unbuckled, rolling the fate dice, flirting with probability and statistics.

Best just to buckle up.  If not for any other reason than for the sake of super-cool superheros like “Za Shi-toberuto”.  Do your thing, Seatbelt Man!  Keep fighting the good fight!