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 MANGA MAD: Film by Ray Castle


Tokyo (2007)

A 60 minute documentary.

4 minute trailer

An introduction to the pop culture history of comics and animation in Japan, particularly adult comics, and the obsessive fantasy world of comic & animation fans, called 'otaku', their media mecca, cybersex paradise, Akihabara Electric Town, and the world's largest comic market, Comiket.

Comics (manga in Japanese) and animation (anime) are the biggest pop entertainment media in Japan. More people in Japan read comics than any other country. Comics account for 40% of all magazines & books sold in Japan. 60% of all cartoon animation broadcast around the world on TV is made in Japan.

Comics in Japan are for adults, not only children. Politicians, doctors, office ladies and salarymen read them. Otaku are geeky adult males who mostly live with their parents who lack communication skills and don’t date girls, preferring to reside in a comic/animation virtual reality world.

The film reflects on the Japanese penchant for ‘cuteness’ exploring cultural psychological innuendos evident in comic/anime character craze and doll figure fetish. And stylised, sentimentally, in the 'Moe' character trend, which have a fairy tale erotic mythos and violent heroism themes.

Comics have evolved into sophisticated interactive computer games where otaku geeks can escape into a cosy familiar imaginal world. An emotional simulacrum fantasy media for adult children. A wish to live in a protective imaginary world free from the alienations of a paradise-lost, impersonal, technocratic, metropolis.

The core theme of Manga Mad is to illustrate and explain the passion Japanese have toward comics & animation. It is estimated otaku spend up to $200 million a year on comic & animation related products. Akihabara is the current boom district in Tokyo with IT companies now relocating there in the latest crop of office high rise.

There are diverse comic genres: psychological, mythical, graphic novels thru to gratuitous hard core porn with heavy violence. Japan is a Buddhist country morally tolerant toward extreme themes in media and has liberal censorship.

Historically, Japanese art history – ukiyoe for example – is rich with explicit erotic pictures, and sword-culture blood lust. Art, movies and comics are not shy of strong themes which intrigue and confound western sensibilities. In striking contrast, the society itself, is highly ordered, mannered and polite, with Tokyo rated the safest city in the world.

“The narrative of comics & animation are mirrors and windows into Japanese society, it shows what we really think and feel ”, says Toshi Ueno, Professor of Sociology at Wako University.

Manga Mad features scintillating, eye popping, footage of comic/anime fantasia in architectural, sci-fi surreal, Tokyo, with it’s denizens happily at home in a cartoon world. The stories they are reading or watching reveal other sub realities, cravings, yearnings, fears.

It’s literally a pop, surreal, disneyland, megatropolis, where comics and animation are omnipresent in advertising, magazines, books, TV, mobile phones, music, fashion and public signs. Comic character iconography is so embedded in the cultural media melange and environmental milieu that it has become an integral national language akin to pictogram kanji, katakana & hirogana alphabets.

The Godfather of Japanese comics – 'the Walt Disney of Japan' – is Osamu Tezuka. His sophisticated manga stories during the post World War 2 era were the primary popular entertainment and his Atom Boy series was the first comic to be animated and translated into English for the American market. The film features interviews with is daughter, Rumiko and producers remaking his stories, plus rare material of his days as a medical student during the war. He graduated as a doctor, but persued his passion to draw and write comic stories professionally instead, which had profound philosophical plots and themes.

The film features the biggest comic market in the world – Comiket – which is staged two times a year, at the inverted, pyramid-like, gargantuan, Tokyo Big Site. It’s a feverish spectacle of fans and otaku from all over the world. The three day gathering, of 200,000 people per day, show cases the independent underground, dojinshi comic creators, as well as commercial mainstream exhibits.

The rooftop costume play by fans is an exotic masquerade of innovative, eccentric, and classical anime & manga character styles and uniforms. Plus ubiquitous, ever present, camera magnet, maid & school girl poseurs, surrounded by adoring possees of otaku.

Interviews include: Leiji Matsumoto (veteran comic & anime artist). Shozo Furukawa (President of Manderake comic chain store). Rumiko Tezuka (daughter of Osamu Tezuka), Yoshihiro Yonezawa (president of Comiket, world’s biggest comic market), Fusanosuke Natsume (comic critic & historian), Kodansha Publishers, IG Animation & Gonzo Animation producers, comic artists, fans & collectors.

The soundtrack is exotic, cyber and racy.


TOKYO TECHNO TRIBES:(2002) A Film by Ray Castle

TOKYO TECHNO TRIBES is an informative documentary about contemporary urban life in the most technologically refined city in the world. Cyber youth cultures have developed through the imaginative and novel use of technology in the various media: music, art, pop, manga and fashion. Underlying social, cultural and economic trends are examined such as Japan's unique, isolated island culture, the post-economic boom recession and changing attitudes towards the role of the corporation in work and career attitudes.

The film is a visually and aurally rich techno odyssey through the hyper-space, myriad layers, of Tokyo's sophisticated recreational cyber cultures that are producing some of the most intensely refined music, art and fashion scenes in the world. The fascinating blending of tradition, ritual and craft are evident in Japan’s relationship to fashion, industrial design and ergonomic living. It is the most technologically savvy, cybernetically synchronised country in the world. Its highly disciplined work force and socialistic collectivism is a formidable economic juggernaut.

But cracks are appearing within it’s fixed, rigid structures as an emerging younger generation break out of strict social codes of uniformity. A growing youth movement of lifestyle dissent and non conformity is arising. This is evidenced by way of outlandish shocking fashion fads, loud colourful raves in the mountains; and many young adults are choosing not to marry.

Tokyo is a densely populated pressure cooker city of precision living. Within its microcosm of urban villages and armies of suit-clad workers, youth sub cultures have evolved strident, sophisticated, fashion trends, in an assertion of codified rebellion. The story features frank interviews with a reactionary new wave of 'individuated' Japanese cliques.

These first-person narratives penetrate the corporate mask of uniformity. It follows the lives of a selection of Japanese striving for a new identity beyond being salary men and women for ‘the company’. In their quest for a redefined identity, some speak of a ‘new age romanticism’ derived from reconnecting with Buddhist teachings and early Japanese shamanism. Others reveal how they are reclaiming a re-invented Asian tradition from the blanket influence of post war American culture.

Tokyo is the digerati temple of electronic recreational escapism. Artists high-jack corporate products in novel ways. The hi-res consumer tech hardware, that technocratic 'god-head' corporations, like Sony produce, are utilised by local artists to innovative effect. To create mind boggling animatronics creations derived from a sci-fi mythic-melange of comic fantasy and virtual realty futurisms, yet still referencing a rich tradition in allegory, ritualistic theatre and refined craftsmanship.

Top techno music producer/DJ, Ken Ishii, reveals that night clubbing has replaced Karaoke as the main form of participatory musical recreation.

Yasuaki Matsuki is a 3D graphics, virtual reality, animation artist, who works for NHK TV and Sony but also VJs at raves on the weekend in the mountains of Japan. He is fascinated in Asian animism and feels that techno dance parties are akin to a traditional Japanese Matsuri, rice harvest, drum festivals. He says: "There is a lot of techno karma in Japan. I need a high density prison to be creative in. If I was really free with lots of space around, I wouldn't want to make visuals".

Kana Yamamoto, a magazine editor, says: "This is the age where spirituality and technology come together".

Ree-K has orange hair and dresses like an extra-terrestrial alien. During the week she illustrates manga comics. On the weekend she DJs at outdoor raves and clubs, plus composes her own dance music on computers and has her own band.

Top manga (comic artist) Reiji Matsumoto, talks about technological design history in Japan and cartooning. Sony Play Station designer, Susumu Takatuka, explains why computer games are so popular in Japan and their influence on techno music.

Japanese fashion tribes are renowned for their bizarreness. The emergence of the 'Konoyarou trendy-gal' movement is indicative of its extremes. This infectious, kitsch, revamped 70s glam-rock style, with towering platform boots cut n pasted with haute couture Louis Vuitton accessories has usurped all fashion codes into a unique theatrical, sub culture, statement.

A rebellious affront to a society which adheres to strict uniform codes. The garish girl movement has an in-your-face attitude with ultra-mini-skirts in electric colours, severely bleached hair, glitter make-up, white lipstick and intense suntans from salon lamps. Their jarring look is utter kitsch sophistication, fascinating and shocking.

In a society obsessed about personal grooming, the gals see themselves as iconoclasts in Japan's group-structured system. They say the craze is a rejection of traditional Japanese notions of geisha beauty. But it directly relates to its traditions of doll-like make-up, in ornate wrappings, trotting around in ungainly towering boots.

The shadow aspect of Japanese society is evident in the underground Bhuto dance movement. A kind of punk theatre, where body paint is used to evoke a raw expressionism, serving to vent a darker pathos, in a highly mannered, masked society.

The film features stunning footage of party productions like the annual Equinox Festival in the Nagano mountains, which feature elaborate installations of sculpture, decoration, holographic pyro-technical projections, state-of-the-art VJs, theatrics and music from DJs and live performances.

The influence of the Asian traveler Goa party scene is revealed, which has evolved into highly sophisticated techno trance party events in the mountains of Japan every summer weekend. Particularly on the Equinox and Solstice, which are holidays in Japan, and date back to ancient animistic traditions.

The film's footage and soundtracks propel you through the bewildering odysseys of Tokyo's fashion districts, resplendent with outlandish, dandyish, expressions. Intricate enviro-tech surreal, science fiction-like, architectural labyrinths, that intoxicate the senses with their sensoria of futura fantasy.

As well as delivering vivid audio visual entertainment appeal, the story elucidates contrasting, freshly percolating, sociological paradigms. Its style is captivating and insightful, through its depiction of a curious blend of the ancient with the future. Which is the intriguing mystique and juncture of Japan as it enters the 21st century.

The documentary reflects its subject matter in style and construction using the latest in digital technology to visually garnish the milieu of the Tokyo Techno Tribes.

Over 30 interviews with artists, designers, producers, editors and commentators are featured. All illustrated with visually rich, cutting edge, cyber culture footage and graphics, kooky futuristic styles and exotic electronic, sound-byte, dance beats and Asian ambiences.

Tokyo Techno Tribes
Movie length 52 min.

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