This is an excerpt from a talk I’m preparing for Anime North about the Ghost in the Shell Controversy on May 28/17.
Last week I had a debate about the Ghost In The Shell Movie with a friend who was born in Asia. I’m born in North America, so I knew from the start that our views would be very different. She said that she didn’t see any problems with casting in the movie because once an American company buys the rights to a Japanese product, it becomes American. Since the majority of the population is Caucasian, why wouldn’t they cast a Caucasian person? I told her that it really bothered the fans who expected the studio to make better choices with casting Asian actors and keeping the story close to the source material. The debate went no where so we agreed to disagree.
It got me thinking as well, how do I explain this controversy to people?
The best way I decided, was to talk about food. An American restaurant owner goes to Japan and tries the best teppenyaki dish in a restaurant. He falls in love and decides to buy the recipe to bring back to America. Teppenyaki fans in America are super excited that this dish is coming! Chefs who specialized in teppenyaki in school want to cook this dish, but never have because the restaurant owner never had it on the menu. There is a lot of hype and the marketing people go nuts.
On opening night, critics come to the restaurant to discover that they are being served a hamburger with teppenyaki sauce. The owner didn’t employ the chefs that knew how to cook teppenyaki to help because he didn’t think the dish would be suitable for Americans. Instead, he called in the hamburger chefs who decided to just take the teppenyaki sauce and cover a hamburger with it. After all, hamburgers always sell, right?! Teppenyaki fans refuse to go to this restaurant because they know that they are only going to be served the sauce and not the actual dish. The critics shake their head at this missed opportunity at being served a real teppenyaki dish in America and that regular hamburgers tasted better without the sauce. Teppenyaki chefs are disappointed that their skills are being wasted. The owner defends himself by saying that teppenyaki can be cooked by anyone and they made a good choice by selling the sauce on a hamburger which always sells.
There are many sides to this story and at the end of the day, the owner missed a chance to distinguish his restaurant from other restaurants by serving a dish people were craving for. Of course, the teppenyaki in America was not going to be the same as the one served in Japan. It was going taste different and new. People in Japan would never see the teppenyaki in America as being “real” teppenyaki…ever…so why should they care that it be done properly or not?
Ghost in the Shell is a product just like teppenyaki which Americans tried to import from Japan. As Asian people continue to grow up outside Asia, this debate will happen again and again. The new generations of Asians want to contribute to the society they are living in currently, not the one in Asia which their ancestors left behind. They want to see themselves represented in the media they consume and believe in the fair, just society that they supposedly live in.
Avatar, Dr. Strange and Death Note all had opportunities for studios to touch base with audiences, but they blew their chances. The only thing for certain is that dollars matter. If more money can be made with changing casting choices and hiring writers that understand the original material, I’m sure things will happen. Until then, the internet will just keep exploding with disbelief!
Yesterday I was with a friend who told me about a new manga cafe called Akiba Kissa in Markham, near John & Woodbine (7634 Woodbine Ave). I was actually super tired and full from eating too much beef brisket noodle, but we stopped by this cafe anyways.
I was blown away by the wall to wall shelves of English manga! For a few seconds…ok, minutes…I thought about how I would want to visit every night if I didn’t have a son and husband. Alas, the joys of being a single otaku! Anyhow, the cafe had all my old school favorites – Fushigi Yuugi, Kenshin, Inu Yasha, Uzumaki as well as newer stuff such as Blue Exorcist or Rin-ne.
The front of the cafe had a huge space for cosplayers and tables for special events along with murals of Akira among other titles.
When you enter, you will see large sofas in front of a large screen broadcasting anime (they had The Devil is a Part-Timer when we entered) and tables for people to snack, lounge and read. There is a large dressing room for cosplayers to get ready and the cafe also sells lots of limited edition figurines imported from Japan.
Here you can see walls of manga and the back room had rows of arcade machines and video game setups.
Snacks available for purchase includes ramen, pocky, fancy Japanese pop, hot/cold tea and cute cakes in the shape of Totoros, rabbits or bears. Full hot and cold menu of drinks listed here. Along the walls there are displays by local vendors who display their wares such as 3D printed anime masks or original origami Sailormoon art cards.
If you have an afternoon/evening free and want to relax by reading manga, this is the right place to be!
Today is the first day I’m doing a quick promo to give away a few e-books for free in exchange for reviews. Also, I’m at a Japanese Animation convention, Anime North, doing a few panels on publishing and Asian vampires.
After a long day of chatting with friendly people dressed as Sailormoon, Naruto and other fabulous creatures; I came home to do a quick check to see how the downloads were going. Surprisingly I hit number one in Fiction/Asian American and Fantasy/Asian!
Admittedly these are very niche categories, but hey, No. 1 is better than No. 100 at the moment! Here’s hoping that I’ll find a great audience who likes to read things from a different perspective!
Meanwhile, greetings from me and a plant lady at Anime North (pic below)!
I am a panel guest at Anime North, so I didn’t expect any big announcements. But wow, there was a big Anime North blast on Twitter and on the website announcing me as a writer guest, so I feel super honoured.
Anime North is Canada’s largest Japanese animation convention and it is a not-for-profit with funds going to Sick Kids Hospital. I’ll be there with my Viking husband on May 24-25, Sat & Sun to do lots of panels on Japan, Asian vampires, writing and publishing. As well, in the dealers room I’ll have a table so I’ll be giving out limited edition art cards and selling my book. I had hoped to have more books finished, but alas, marketing activities has been taking up much of my time.
Here is the announcement pic and the art cards I’ll be giving out. See you soon!
Shopping, Geeking Out on Anime Stuff & some Videos
Generally, shopping in Japan is pretty awesome. There is incredible customer service and everything is so damn small and cute! There are lots of pictures in other posts about retail at Skytree and the temple already.
One of the anime cons I volunteer for asked if I could look for “Attack of Titan” buttons. There was an anime store at Skytree, but they didn’t have any merchandise for this series. So I dragged my Viking to Akihabara, the anime central of Tokyo to look for stuff because that’s where Reddit people recommended that I go.
Here are some picks on Harajuku where there were lots of Lolita clothes I couldn’t afford and Akihabara, the place to geek out for anime stuff.
Evangelion & Japanese Swords Exhibit
At the Mori Art Museum in Ueno, Tokyo, the “Evangelion and Japanese Swords Exhibit” ran from Nov 23 to Dec 23, 2013. I went on my own for this one as my Viking husband went to another museum nearby. Indeed, there were many otakus at this exhibit!
Sword masters were recruited to create weapons based on the Evangelion movies and Japanese swords in the image of the characters using traditional techniques. There was a second exhibit as well with scenes from the anime recreated with figurines. They were pretty amazing!
Prince Park Tokyo Tower Hotel Toilet
I miss my heated toilet! Here I show its covers opening up automatically. My husband thought I was silly for shooting this…
Prince Park Tokyo Tower Hotel Christmas Light
This is outside the hotel and so pretty!
Garden Eels at Skytree Aquarium
Cute and creepy at the same time. I think they are Nature’s snacks for other animals!
Swimming Penguins at Skytree Aquarium
I was surprised to see so many penguins!
Toy trains at Skytree
This would have been difficult to carry back, I could watch it all day!
My favorite space hero dubbed in Japanese!
Subway Train Coming!
Why can’t we also have barriers and warnings like this?
Floor mini display at Edo Tokyo Museum
This was suppose to be a miniature English Garden estate, but underneath your feet!
Eating in any Asian city is superb since there are so many people and it is super competitive for businesses. Many restaurants have signs or “plastic food” on display to attract patrons and sometimes a mall will have giant displays to let you know of the many restaurants on each floor. All the food I had in Tokyo was excellent, in particular, the Family Mart sushi was better than in the restaurants we visited!
If you have dietary restrictions, I would recommend using Google Translator to list out all the items you can’t eat ahead of time and show the service people to avoid getting killed by allergic reactions, etc.
The hotel we stayed in (Prince Park Tokyo Tower) had a lot of Western guests, so the staff spoke English. My favorite thing about the room was the toilet, it was amazing and I am sad that I could not bring it back!
Pictures below are separated into general food, breakfast, lunch, dinner and lodging. Each pic has some notes to let you know what the heck is going on…
General food – pics of menus, advertisements and plastic food
Dinner & Dessert food
Lodging – hotel and my beloved hotel room toilet!