A few weeks ago, the studio I’m working for held a party for the production team. The timing was a bit off for this to be considered a kick-off party and it’s definitely too early to celebrate the end of production. It was explained to me later that they chose to do it at this time as a way to build camaraderie among the quickly-assembled team. As expected, I didn't see any familiar faces there, but the coordinator kindly took his time to introduce me to the main staff and I was able to get some positive feedback on the work I’ve submitted so far. Not all studios can afford to organize parties like this one, so I try to take advantage of it whenever I’m invited. So many great people to meet and so little time!
February 3rd is Setsubun (Bean-Throwing Festival) in Japan, which celebrates the beginning of spring season on the lunar calendar. It is customary to throw roasted soybeans or peanuts to bring in good fortune and drive away the bad. In the recent years, though, the convenience stores put in a lot of sales effort to establish the custom of eating thick sushi rolls called eho-maki on this day, a tradition that originates from Western Japan. Okay - eating sushi rolls doesn’t sound all that bad, right? But there is a guideline one must follow to effectively bring in the good fortune to your household. Each person has to eat an entire unsliced thick sushi roll in perfect silence, facing a particular direction determined by the Chinese zodiac of that year. Unfortunately, this somewhat odd practice never quite appealed to the Tokyoites, who much preferred a more festive way to celebrate. I remember watching the news last year showing the convenience stores discarding a shameful amount of left-over eho-maki. I noticed there was less advertising going around this year probably because of that, but it still looks like a lot of it is going to waste. The only good thing that came out of this mess is that nobody here has ever heard of eho-maki several years ago, but are now more aware of different traditions of Setsubun in other regions of Japan.
A special edition of “Akatsuki no Yona (Yona of the Dawn)” manga vol.23, accompanied by a 56-page / B5-size illustration book, will be released in Japan on 04/20/17. Mizuho Kusanagi had mentioned on her Twitter that it will feature Yona and Haku illustrations used in Hana To Yume publication, calendars, posters, and some anime-related material. This limited offer is available in Japan through pre-order only, and I have no information on if it would be made available in other countries. So if you’re a die-hard Yona fan, grab your Japanese friend and get your copy through Amazon Japan. The deadline is 03/15/17.
I recently finished up on my work with “Hirune Hime”, a feature film directed by Kenji Kamiyama. Its production studio, Signal MD, is one of the few companies in Japanese anime industry who is trying to go all digital (yes, we still animate traditionally!) When I accepted this opportunity to receive the on-the-job training of TVPaint, it turned out to be the best thing I did out of curiosity. The learning part was mostly about applying the traditional animation technique to TVPaint, and thanks to the free download version and online tutorials, I was able to get the hang of it while at home before my first day of work. All in all, it took about a week to learn the basics, and another couple of weeks to actually start on the animation work. After getting used to the tools, the biggest challenge was to get the speed up to my usual pace, but that just never happened and it probably never will. I noticed this problem with others, too. I’m guessing this is going to be a serious issue we are to face as we move into the digital environment.
But now that I left the project and with no other project produced in TVPaint, I’ll just have to keep up with the training on my own until another opportunity comes along. I’d really hate to go extinct by clinging onto my paper and pencil for too long, so I was very fortunate to get this training in at this time when things are just about to change. Honestly, it’s never easy to ditch the old ways. I’m the first one to admit that I still prefer drawing traditionally. But I’m more excited to think about the possibilities it would bring to the anime production process and would like to be ready to embrace the change when it happens.
I'm still trying to figure out how these website templates work, but after a long absence, I felt the need to just go ahead and do it and worry about the details later. I haven't found anyone to keep it going on regular basis, though. In the meantime, I will do my best to build it back again to a full functioning site!
It's been a while since I updated this blog. A lot of things happened since I stopped the updates, but I have to say the passing of Mark Giambruno is the single most shocking thing that had happened in the recent years. We worked together at Mondo Media in San Francisco, and he assisted me with various anime, manga and novel translation projects for many years even after I moved to Tokyo. He will be missed by all of us who knew him.
New Year's Day is celebrated quite differently here in Japan. There are no parties, no fireworks, no drunken crowds in the streets. The trains and buses run all night from the eve to the New Year so people can visit the shrines and temples. There, they pray for good luck and prosperity, buy charms to protect their families, and draw omikuji, a fortune for the year written on a piece of paper. Those who draw bad luck fortunes will tie that piece of paper on a tree branch in the shrine, and it is said the god will take on the bad luck for them.
I've been going to various famous shrines for the past few years, but since I had to work late into New Year's Eve, I decided to go to a local shrine called Hakusan Jinja this time. I noticed the temple on the way to the shrine allowed people to ring the bell, which is struck 108 times beginning a little before midnight and into the New Year to cleanse sins. I was there too late to be part of the ritual, but it still was enchanting to see the people taking turns striking the bell by the light from the bonfires as the monks watched nearby. Sweet sake was offered to those who finished the task. I proceeded to the shrine, which was couple minutes away from the temple. There already was a long line at the shrine when I got there. I was in the line for about 20 minutes in the freezing cold till I got my turn to offer my prayers. I tugged on the long rope with the bells attached to it, tossed in a coin, and prayed for health and well-being throughout the year. There was an area where people can place their old charms and other lucky items to be burned by the monks later on, so I took mine out from last year and threw it in the covered area. I bought my new charm and drew my fortune as the shrine maidens watched. It showed I barely had any luck, but the terrific fortune I drew last year really didn't happen either...so I decided to keep the paper for the heck of it. My friend texted me later that night to see if I wanted to go for another round of visiting the shrine. I suppose it doesn't hurt to offer prayers twice. Today I'm going to Kanda Myoujin. I went there last year (the CG company I worked for back then was in the area), and it definitely was more festive with small shops offering sweet sake and food for the visitors.
BTW, the pic is of a real-life shrine maiden. No, they don't fight evil monsters...they just sell lucky charms.