Weekly notable news (W37-38)

The first two weeks of September proved to be rather challenging. First, I was trying to see as many of the Japanese movies shown at the Montreal World Films Festival as I could despite the troubles that the festival was experiencing and the fact that the schedule was constantly changing. Then, my wife woke up in the middle of the night with excruciating abdominal pain and we ended up at the hospital's emergency ward. They kept her for five days and performed several tests without being sure of the nature or cause of the problems. They found some sort of enteritis to the small intestine and a gastritis. She feels well now, but it is a worrying situation since we're still waiting for the result of the biopsy and more tests are scheduled. She survived cancer once ten years ago, so we are waiting the results with apprehension.

It was tiring for me during that time because I had to shuttle back and forth between work (a.k.a the madhouse), the hospital and (once) the film festival. But the beginning of September also brought a few good news: Apple announced some new products as well as released updates, and I got a well over-due pay raise! Unfortunately, there's still five-hundred-and-fifty-seven weeks left before I can retire from work and dedicate my entire time to my personal projects (like writing).

Despite all this, I found time to watch a few dvds at home with my wife. First, we watch Belle et Sébastien 2: L'Aventure continue. It's a cute adventure dog movie, full of improbabilities but it also reminded me of the TV series I was watching when I was a kid. Then I watched Gods of Egypt (by myself because my wife doesn't like sci-fi stuff), which tells — super-heroes style — the founding myth of Egypt where Horus must fight his uncle Set who killed his father Osiris in order to reign over Earth. Horus is helped by the thief Bek, who just want to save his lover Zaya. If you would removed the specials effects from this movie, it would have nothing left of interest…

Finally, I watch Hail, Caesar. It's a star-laden film by the Coen brothers which poke fun of the Hollywood film industry in the 1950s while managing to recreate several of its archetypes: the peblum movies, the synchronized swimming and tap dancing movies, stunt-filled westerns, etc. The film follow studio manager Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) trying to hold production together while unmarried actress DeeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johansson) becomes pregnant and big star Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) is abducted by a conspiration of communists! Hilarious, beautifully written and an interesting window on the era.

As always I did my best to keep myself acquainted with the affairs of the world. So, let me share with you a few notable news & links that I came across in the last few weeks (in no particular order):

Apple new products


Dilbert: Tuesday, May 17, 2016 / “Boss Figures Out A System”

[A-Ah! That's what they are doing!]

Between Friends: Wednesday, May 18, 2016

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Weekly notable news (W36)

I always do my best to keep myself acquainted with the affairs of the world. So, let me share with you a few notable news & links that I came across this week (in no particular order):

Revue de Presse du FFM

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Akiyuki Nosaka passes away

Earlier this month, I read on Anime News Network that Akiyuki Nosaka, the novelist who wrote the famous japanese story Grave of the Fireflies (????? / Hotaru no Haka), passed away on December 9 at the age of 85. Written in 1967, the story was semi-autobiographical as it was inspired by his war-time experience as a kid, particularly the firebombing of Kobe in 1945.

In 1988, the novel was adapted into a beautiful animated movie by Studio Ghibli under the direction of Isao Takahata.

Shigeru Mizuki 1922-2015

Shigeru Mizuki 1922-2015

I just read on Anime News Network yesterday that Shigeru Mizuki passed away on Monday morning in a Tokyo hospital of heart failure following a bad fall in his home on November 11.

I just bought a couple of his manga to comment on them later. I had previously commented on two of his works:

Here’s what I wrote about him in those comments:

Shigeru Mizuki is one of those older generation’s mangaka (like Shôtarô Ishimori, Sampei Shirato, Yoshihiro Tatsumi, Osamu Tezuka, Kazuo Umezu) who tell stories in a relatively simple and rather crude, sometimes even caricatural, style. Born in 1922, he showed an early artistic talent but WWII did not give him the chance to make a career. Conscript in 1943, he found himself in Papua New Guinea where he saw the horror of war (sick, he barely survives the massacre of his unit) and was seriously injured in an Allied bombing at Rabaul in 1944. Amputated of his left arm, he learns to drawn with the right and, among other various small jobs, works as a kami-shibai artist and storyteller (story illustrated with painted cardboard panels and presented by a street storyteller). He starts his mangaka career late, with the release of Rocket Man in 1957. He first works mostly for the Kashibonya market (libraries who rented books at low prices) and then joined Garo magazine in its debut in 1964. Mizuki is "above all a creator of ghost stories" (Frederik Schodt, Manga! Manga!, P. 15) and is best known for his Kitaro series (first known as Hakaba no Kitaro [Graveyard's Kitaro] and later as Ge ge ge no Kitaro [Kitaro the repulsive] serialized in weekly Shonen magazine from 1965 to 1969; available in English from Drawn & Quarterly) as well as many other tales of horror inspired by the yokai (monsters) of the traditional Japanese folklore. I can only wonder: was he writing this kind of stories because he was haunted by all the deaths he witnessed during the war?

With the 70s, he is finally ready to directly address another kind of horror: the one he lived during the war. In 1971 he serialized Gekiga Hitler (“Hitler: A Biography”, available in french from Cornélius) in the seinen magazine Weekly Manga Sunday (compiled in a single volume by Jitsugyo no Nihon-sha in 1972). This book is both a kind of personal introspection (where he tries to understand what happened to him during the war) and his take on a period of history that most people would prefer to keep quiet (maybe trying to explain what happened during the war to a younger generation who didn't live through it). In 1973, he continued on the same line with the publication of Sôin Gyokusai Seyo (Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths, available in English from Drawn & Quarterly and in French [Operation Mort], from Cornélius), which is an "anti-militarist story denouncing the blind and vain sacrifice" of the japanese soldiers (Thierry Groensteen, L'Univers des mangas, p. 109) and is directly based on his own experience in Papua New Guinea.

This has given him a taste for autobiography, so he published NonNonBâ to ore (lit. "Grandma and Me" / NonNonBâ, available in English from Drawn & Quarterly) in 1977, where he looks back on his childhood and how he discovered, through the stories of an old woman, the supernatural "bestiary" of traditional Japanese folklore. He continues in 1988 with Komikku Showa-Shi (Showa: A history of Japan, available in English from Drawn & Quarterly), a history of Japan in manga dealing with the Showa era (1926-1989) in eight volumes. Finally, in 2006, he began a new series where he tackles a true autobiography: Mizuki Shigeru Den (“Mizuki's Life”, available in French from Cornélius).

His style and humane stories, expressing deep respect for all life, make him "one of the forerunners of the 1960s gekiga movement, which sought to introduce more realistic artwork to Japanese comics" (Jason Thompson, Manga: The complete guide, p. 123). For more information on the gekiga movement, I'd like to refer you to my comments on A Drifting Life by Yoshihiro Tatsumi. On Shigeru Mizuki himself, you can see ANN's entry and the 106th episode of "Jason Thompson's House of 1000 Manga" dedicated to him.

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Funérailles Claude E.

Pour ceux qui n’ont pas pu être présent aux funérailles de Claude E., en voici un petit mémento:

Le montage audiovisuel est disponible sur Vimeo et les photos comme telles sont aussi disponible sur Flickr. (Mis à jour avec des photos de la mise en terre)

J'en profite pour remercier tous les parents et amis qui sont venu nous offrir leurs condoléances et support en ce moment difficile.

Plusieurs m'ont demandé de pouvoir revoir le montage commémoratif que j'ai fait pour les funérailles. Le voici donc:

La video est disponible sur Vimeo (une version avec un peu plus de photo y est aussi disponible) et l'album photo commémoratif (annoté) est quand à lui disponible sur Flickr.

Ne soyez pas tristeCélébrez plutôt sa merveilleuse existenceSouvenez-vous de luiCar c'est notre devoir de le commémorerSouvenez-vous de luiCar il vivra toujours dans nos mémoires

Merci encore une fois.

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Précisions sur les funérailles

Pour faire suite au billet qui fait hommage à mon père, qui est décédé à Montréal le 17 octobre dernier, voici quelques précisions sur les funérailles.

La famille recevra les condoléances à la Résidence Funéraire de Laval de la Coop Funéraire du Grand Montréal (2000 rue Cunard, Laval, Qc) samedi le 31 octobre de 13 h 30 à 16 h. Un hommage en sa mémoire et une cérémonie de la parole suivra à compter de 16 h. L'inhumation des cendres se fera ultérieurement en privé.

Vous trouverez les détails dans les pages d'avis de décès du Journal de Montréal d'aujourd'hui ou sur le site de la coopérative funéraire.

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Claude E Pelletier 1928-2015

Mon père, Claude E. Pelletier, est décédé la nuit dernière (samedi 17 octobre) aux soins palliatifs de l'Hôpital Sacré-Coeur des suites d'une pneumonie. Il aurait eu quatre-vingt-sept ans le mois prochain. Il a eu une vie longue et bien remplie qui mérite amplement d'être célébrée sans le moindre regret.

Il a grandi sur la rue Marie-Louise à Montréal, derrière le Théâtre Saint-Denis, car son père, Jules-Alphonse Pelletier, était le concierge de l'École Jeanne-Mance qui, par un étrange hasard, abrite maintenant la Cinémathèque Québécoise. Il a fait carrière dans le cinéma, étant preneur de son d'abord au Studio Renaissance Films à Montréal, puis pour l'Office National du Film à Ottawa, puis à Montréal. Ce travail l'amène à voyager un peu partout au Canada et dans de nombreux pays du monde. À la fin des années soixante, il devient gestionnaire à l'ONF et s'occupe de son premier département de video, avant de prendre en mains la gestion des plateaux et des équipes de tournage comme superviseur des opérations au Service de la pré-production.

Un peu ébranlé par le décès de sa fille aînée, Johanne, et désabusé par le début du long démantèlement de cette grande institution fédérale qu'était alors l'ONF, il prends sa retraite en 1983 après trente-cinq ans de service et avoir vu son nom apparaître au générique de près d'une centaine de films. Il se consacre alors à sa véritable passion: la généalogie. Un des premiers maître-généalogiste agréé du Québec, il s'implique avec grand dévouement auprès, entre autres, de la Société d'Histoire et de Généalogie de l'Île-Jésus et de l'Association des Familles Pelletier.

Il laisse dans le deuil son épouse Laure Gauthier, ses enfants Luce, Francine et Claude J. (Miyako Matsuda), les familles de ses frères et soeurs (Alice [feu Jean-Vianney Yale], Pauline [feu André Langlois], Soeur Madeleine [Congrégation Notre-Dame], Pierre [Micheline], Cécile [Gérard Saint-Jean] et Gilles [Marguerite] lui survivent), ainsi que de nombreux parents et amis.

La famille recevra les condoléances à la Résidence Funéraire de Laval de la Coop Funéraire du Grand Montréal (2000 rue Cunard, Laval, Qc) samedi le 31 octobre de 13 h 30 à 16 h. Un hommage en sa mémoire et une cérémonie de la parole suivra à compter de 16 h. L'inhumation des cendres se fera ultérieurement en privé.

Vous trouverez les détails dans les pages d'avis de décès du Journal de Montréal ou sur le site de la coopérative funéraire.

Au lieu d'envoyer des fleurs, si vous désirez faire un geste à la mémoire de Claude E., nous vous suggérons de faire un don à la Société de l'Alzheimer de Montréal.

J'ai déjà parlé de mon père à deux reprise sur ce blogue (lors d'un commentaire sur le film YUL 871 et en introduisant les portraits d'artisans du cinéma de l'ONF). Aussi, je mettrai prochainement en ligne un album photo commémoratif (probablement sur ma page Flickr ou Vimeo). Pour le moment, je lui rends hommage en reprenant ici la video de son “portrait d'artisan du cinéma” que j'ai mis sur Vimeo l'été dernier:

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R.I.P. Joël Champetier

R.I.P. Joël Champetier

document.write(" Boréal 2008 by Clodjee Pelletier, on Flickr">Joel Champetier, Boréal 2008Joël Champetier est décédé d'une façon paisible durant la nuit du 30 mai. Je l'ai appris samedi matin par un coup de téléphone de Pascale Raud.

Il a vaillamment combattu la leucémie. Après de longues recherches afin de trouver un donneur compatible pour une greffe de moelle osseuse, il a dû subir plusieurs traitements expérimentaux afin de faire reculer suffisamment la leucémie pour permettre la greffe. Après de nombreux revers, il a du se rendre à l'évidence: les traitements étaient inefficaces. Le 19 avril il s'est donc résigné avec une certaine sérénité à attendre la fin. Le 25 mai, il a décidé d'interrompre les transfusions de plaquettes et de sang et de s'en remettre aux soins palliatifs. Dans la dernière semaine, son état s'est rapidement détérioré. Nous savions tous que la fin était proche. Le 30 mai, il s'est paisiblement éteins dans son sommeil et a finalement trouvé la paix. [Photo prise à Boréal 2008]

J'offre donc toutes mes sincères condoléances à sa famille, ses amis et ses lecteurs, mais tout particulièrement à sa courageuse compagne, Valérie Bédard.

Nous nous sommes rencontré, je crois, à l'un des ateliers d'écriture d'Élisabeth Vonarburg en 1981 et j'ai continué de le voir sporadiquement, de Boréal en Boréal. À mon grand regret, sans doute à cause de ma nature timide, je ne le connaissais pas très bien mais j'ai toujours grandement admiré tant sa personnalité affable et enjouée que son talent indéniable. J'ai eu le grand honneur de publier (sous la direction littéraire de Yves Meynard) deux de ses textes: “Les vents du temps” (dans Samizdat 8, 1987) et “Karyotype 47, XX, +21” (dans l'anthologie Sous des soleils étrangers, 1989). C'est la seconde fois que la leucémie emporte quelqu'un que je connais.

Une cérémonie de commémoration aura lieu à St-Séverin-de-Proulxville dimanche le 7 juin 2015 à 15h30. Pour en savoir plus ou pour rendre hommage à la mémoire de cet auteur des éditions Alire qu'on a parfois qualifié d'être le «Stephen King québécois» vous pouvez vous rendre sur la page Facebook de Joël Champetier.

De nombreux hommages lui ont déjà été rendu tant sur les blogues d'adeptes de la SFFQ (Culture des futurs, Frédérick Durand, Fractale Framboise, Michèle Laframboise, Une doyenne, une sorcière et un caniche pour ne citer que ceux là), dans les média (L'Écho Abitibien, Ici radio-Canada, Les Libraires, Locus, MonSFFA, Le Nouvelliste, et, bien sûr, Solaris) et même sur Youtube.

So long Joel, and thanks for all the soluble fish (and other stories) !

Pour plus d'information vous pouvez consulter les sites suivants:

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R.I.P. Yoshihiro Tatsumi

Earlier this month, on March 7, 2015, a member of the mangaka old guard passed away. Yoshihiro Tatsumi was seventy-nine year-old. He is most famous for having invented the word “gekiga” (lit. dramatic pictures) to describe the style of graphic novels he was producing in the '50s. Nearly a dozen of his works have been translated either in english by Drawn & Quarterly or in french by Cornélius or Vertige, but he is best known for his graphical autobiography A Drifting Life (which I have previously commented).

Yoshihiro TATSUMI [?? ????] was born in 1935 in Tenn?ji-ku, Osaka. Inspired by the work of Osamu TEZUKA and Noboru ÔSHIRO, he starts drawing manga in junior high school and has his first works (simple 4-panel and postcard manga) published in 1949. His first full-length story, Kodomojima (Children's Island), is published by Tsurushobô in 1954. He becomes part of a group of artists based in the Kansai region publishing mostly for the Kashi-hon ya market (libraries specialized in renting hardcover books—many publishers, like Hinomaru bunko, produced their books and anthologies exclusively for that market). He then starts to be regularly published in manga compilation (contributing to anthologies like Kage [Shadow] or Machi [City]) and constantly experiments with his storytelling. His stylistic research culminate with the publication of Kuroi Fubuki (Black Snowstorm) in 1956.

Tatsumi (and the group of artists he associated with: Takao SAITÔ, Masaaki SATÔ, Masahiko MATSUMOTO among others) was writing action-oriented stories that were darker than the typical manga, and therefore, aimed at an older, more mature readership. His stories were about people's everyday life and were using realistic themes that were more in sync with the socio-political problems of the time. In order to express such a complex storytelling he was using artistic techniques inspired by cinema (he was a big movie fan). That allowed for more expressive stories, as the narrative was better paced and the action flowing more naturally through the panels. In order to distinguish his style from the more comical and childish manga that was usual at the time, Tatsumi gave it the name “gekiga” (drama pictures). His group of artist was known as the “gekiga workshop.”

Yoshihiro TATSUMI is not my favourite mangaka (and so far i've read only A Drifting Life) but I have great respect for his role in the history of manga and for his work. His style was rather crude and cartoony (like most artists of his time) but he created great stories.

For more information you can check the following websites:

(Sources: ANN, The Guardian, ICv2 / Image Source: Andreas Rentz-Getty Images Europe [via ANN])

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Toren Smith (1960-2013)

This week, I was aghast to learn (via Anime News Network and James Hudnall) that one of the founding pillar of the manga industry in North America had passed away. Toren Smith was probably the first to go to Japan in order to negotiate publishing rights for manga titles, translate them into English (working with his friend David Lewis, later known as Dana Lewis, whom he met in Japan) and team up with American comics companies (like Viz, Eclipse and Dark Horse) to publish them -- for that purpose he created Studio Proteus and thus kickstarted the manga industry in North America. For this we should all be immensely grateful and indebted to him.

I met Toren for the first time in August 1989 at the San Diego Comic Convention, where my friend Alain Dubreuil and I interviewed him for Protoculture Addicts, and I kept seeing him in several other conventions after that. However, my wife knew him quite well. Married twice (mostly to the artist Tomoko Saito), he led a full and interesting life. He was an enthusiastic and multitalented individual, a shrewd businessman (he didn't talked much about it but a good part of his income came from translating hentai manga, most of them published through Fantagraphics' imprint MangErotica) and a great guy. He brought us so many excellent manga, gave us (with Adam Warren) the Dirty Pair comics and even had a cameo appearance in the anime Gunbuster (at first I thought he had seriously pissed off Gainax people, because when someone put you in their animation only to kill you off it's usually not out of love, but I later learned that it was meant as an expression of great respect and friendship).

Toren Smith died on Monday March 4th 2013 at age 52 (way too young) and the cause of his death has not been made public. My wife and I want to express our most sincere condolences to Toren's family, friends and fans. Requiescat in pace Smith Toren!

Many members of the anime and manga community commented on his passing (Japanator, Right Stuf, The Fandom Post, All Day Comics, Gilles Poitras, The Mike Toole Show and I'm sure you can find more on Google), but if you have to read only one piece about Toren I suggest you check the obituary by Jonathan Clements.

For my part, as a tribute to Toren Smith's life and career, I would like to offer you the interview we made with him and published in Protoculture Addicts #7 (pages 21-24) in the Spring 1990. Read the interview after the jump:

An Interview with Toren Smith

PA: Tell us about your background in Japanese animation: what are the series that marked your youth and how did you get so hooked to this japanimation thing?

TS: When I was a kid there were only two Japanese animation on TV, at least where I lived. Interesting enough, I liked them both. I didn’t like much else that was on TV, but I remember liking both of the shows. One of them was Kimba the White Lion, one of [Osamu] Tezuka’s works, and the other one was a show called Marine Boy, based on a Japanese show called Marine Kid which is really minor and obscure. Most of the Japanese people I talked to just never heard of it, even Japanese animation fans; but we have to remember there have been 500 animation series in Japan for the past 20 years, so it’s hard to remember them all. So that’s pretty much what I remember of when I was a kid. I remember liking Kimba quite a bit. I would actually hurry home from school so I could watch that one.

As far as getting turned on more recent stuff, what happened was that I moved from Calgary to California. I was living with a friend of mine in North California and she was a very popular SF/Fantasy artist. One of her fans came up to visit her and said, “have you ever seen Japanese animation? You got to see it, it’s great!” So we went to his grandmother’s house where he was staying and watched Japanese animation. He showed us Cagliostro Castle, the [Hayao] Miyazaki Lupin film. It was subtitled in English. We were all just completely blown away by that. He also showed us Phoenix 2772, the Australian dubbed version which didn’t impressed us as much but was still pretty good. When we came back the next week-end, he showed us Crusher Joe, some episodes of Urusei Yatsura and a couple of other things like that. My friend and I were completely astonished to find out that this stuff existed since we had never heard of it. And he told us about the C/FO [Cartoon/Fantasy Organization].

The person who did all this was James Hudnall, who of course is now writing for Marvel Comics. He does Alpha Flight, Strike Force Morituri and recently did Luthor for DC. It’s kind of interesting that he was the one who started us all on it. So, it’s pretty much how I got into it. And then from there, of course, I got interested in the manga itself.

PA: What were your first involvements with the animation fandom in this country?

TS: What happened was, James Hudnall decided he liked the area up there so much (we are living in Santa Rosa, around that very nice area about fifty miles north of San Francisco, the Sonoma county with a lot of wineries around) that he wanted to moved there. He was still a computer programmer at that time. He packed up everything, bought a house, and moved up there but he missed going to the C/FO meetings that they were having down in Southern California. I mean this was when the C/FO really did something, when people were still getting involved doing a lot of things. So we started a C/FO chapter – he started it and I came in to help out on it. I was working as a computer programmer at that time as well. So I started helping him out by making translation booklets. I would just take sheets of 8 by 11 paper, and use the IBM Selectric typewriter at work to produce a master copy, switching the balls to make different typefaces. I’d paste in drawings clipped out of animation magazines, then Xerox it off on the company machine when no one was around, fold it over once, and we’d give them away at the meetings. A lot of people would come and watch all different kinds of animation. I started collecting it about that time too.

Then I got contacted by a friend of mine, John McLaughlin, who is a SF fan and was putting on BayCon. He asked us to do an animation room, which was very progressive of him because at that time not many people had ever done one. That was BayCon ‘84. We had just a little tiny room – a room where the beds fold up into the wall. Well, it was jammed, it was absolutely packed with people, from the time it opened till the time it closed. John saw this and said, “God! It looks really popular! Next year we’ll have a bigger room”. So in ’85 we had a much bigger room. That was the first year I put together one of those animation booklets. It was stapled together, it was twenty pages Xeroxed on both sides, some of them were blue, most of them were yellow and I got Lela Dowling to draw a really nice Lum on the front. That was the booklet that started everything off. Again the room was absolutely packed from morning till night. So John said, “OK, next year what if we run it 24 hours? I’ll give you a huge budget so you can rent all the stuff you want, buy all the films you want and print a really nice booklet”.

I contacted Steven Johnson, and after I’d written all the synopses, I drove down to his office and we worked twenty hours a day for three days putting everything together. It was originally printed with a black and white cover, but when Books Nippan asked us to reprint it a few months later, we had Lela Dowling color her original cover illustration. So that was the big BayCon ’86 book. I really wanted to do an expanded version, I really did. I had plans for it; [Yoshikazu] Yasuhiko even did me a cover – I got it at home on my wall in a frame; [Hayao] Miyazaki’s also doing one for me, but I’m not sure now when I’m going to have time to do the book – it might not be for years. Besides, with all the subtitling that’s being done, and the English version coming out, the need for such a book isn’t as great as it once was. Anyway, that was how I got involved in BayCon and came out of that.

PA: What brought you to Japan and how did Studio Proteus start?

TS: What happened was that I had been in pretty close contact with Frederik Schodt who wrote Manga! Manga! He called me up and said, “look, a friend of mine wants to start publishing Japanese comics in America, can you help him at all?” I said, “well, maybe”. So I got into contact with this person, Seiji Horibuchi who is now president of Viz comics. At that time he was running his own company called Green Communications which was doing location research for movies and stuff like that; he had nothing to do with comics at all. He had a connection with Shogakukan. He talked about it a little bit, he asked my opinion on a few things. A couple of years earlier, James Hudnall had been working part time for Eclipse Comics as a Marketing Director. He was pushing them to get Akira and Lone Wolf and Cub. We didn’t realize at that time that First Comics was also negotiating for those. But no one was really interested in Japanese comics back then; they didn’t think it could sell.

I started talking to Seiji a lot. For about a year we talked about it, and made various plans. More and more I felt that I wanted to go to Japan. This was something I really wanted to do. To go to Japan, meet some people and see what it was like. At that time I had figured I would just work for Viz as a translator. Seiji was saying that I’d do Urusei Yatsura and all sorts of other stuff. I finally packed up, sold everything, quit my job, took all the money I had and went to Japan. I went over there with James Hogan, the SF writer. We went to the Daicon SF convention. We flew to Tokyo, spent two days there and then flew directly to Osaka for the convention. At Daicon V, I met with [Osamu] Tezuka, Mamoru Oshii, Mamoru Nagano; I just met this incredible list of people and that was it. Once I made the contacts, I could start talking to people about things.

I didn’t actually start working on Kamui until early ’87. Back in early ’86, Seiji had decided, based on my recommendation, that he should co-publish the book with an already established American company. So I said: “you should go with Eclipse because they are interested and because they are close” (they are very close to San Francisco, about 75 miles north). Seiji kept telling me, during the fall of ‘86, “Don’t worry, we’ll give you Kamui, and we’ll give you another book, Mai [The Psychic Girl] or Area 88. That way you’ll have two books so that you can survive while living in Japan doing them”. I finally got a letter from James Hudnall telling he’d been given Area 88 and Mai and Viz had never even told me in my face. So I was stuck in Japan with only Kamui to live on. It wasn’t enough; I mean I would have starved to death. So I merely had to start doing things on my own. So I gathered up a bunch of stuff I really wanted to get the rights to and publish in English. And I took it to Seiji and said: “look, these are things we should get. I could help you get them and if I do, you’ll have to give me the translation work on it”. “Well”, he said, “we can’t do anything that isn’t Shogakukan right now; we have to do only Shogakukan works”. “OK, fine, fair enough. We can’t wait on these things or other people will get them”. So I went off and got them myself. I got Appleseed, and a bunch of other things. When I told Seiji, he got really mad at me. So I did Kamui for him but I never did anything else. The only reason I’m doing Nausicaä now is because [Hayao] Miyazaki insisted that I work on it. That was the big split between me and Viz and that’s why I decided to start Studio Proteus.

One thing I realized is that I wasn’t going to get the rights to anything unless I could fool these people into thinking that I was a real company. I got a very expensive suit, spent most of my last money on it, so I would look very professional, and I got some really nice business cards. I planned everything out. I would go to them and show them the business card. They’d see the business card and they’d see the suit and they’d figure “this guy must know what he’s talking about”. That’s all it was. And of course I had copies of the stories I’d written for Epic and Eclipse and other people like that. So that’s how Studio Proteus really got started – an expensive suit, a nice business card, and a line of B.S. I contacted the Appleseed people first of all and they were very interested. Also at that time we were negotiating for Nausicaä so all I had to tell people was that we were doing Nausicaä and immediately everyone would say “you must be a big company, if you’re doing Nausicaä” because everyone knows Nausicaä there, it’s the Watchmen of Japan, everyone knows it. So after that, things started to fall into place, and Studio Proteus was off and running.

PA: What’s the readers’ feedback on your present projects?

TS: It depends on how you count feedback. Most letters you get are positive because most people who don’t like something, hate it, or got pissed off at it, won’t write in; they’ll just grumble to their friends. But if they like it, they’ll want to write, show their approval and maybe get published; so most of the letters we get are positive. From talking to other writers about how fan mail tends to run, I’ve determined that, actually, the negative mail on all of our series is very low, much lower than the average. So I think we must be doing something right. As far as sales go, all of our books are selling much better than the average B&W comic: the average B&W sells about 6000 copies; Appleseed and Dirty Pair are selling close to 30,000 copies, which is very good. Our lowest seller is Cyber 7 but that’s catching on and sales on everything are going up. Outlanders is selling 500 to a 1000 copies more each month as the series goes on; this is almost unheard of in the comic industry. Cyber 7 is also selling more, about 250 additional copies every new issue.

The only thing we’re getting a lot of flack on of course is Dirty Pair. A lot of people don’t like the fact that we changed the character designs and that they are too different from the TV series. I said it a million times before but I’ll say it again: we had no choice on that, we had to change them. If they don’t like what we’ve changed them to, well that’s a decision that only the individual reader can make. If they don’t like it, they really don’t have to buy it because we have to do what we want to do. Otherwise, we can’t do the best job we can on it. You have to want to be doing something; if the readers want you to do this or that, you feel like you’re being pushed around. It’s either the readers like what you do or they don’t but I don’t think people will go farther ahead if they try and do what the readers want. Once you do that, almost invariably you’re sunk. You can never guess. We’re making 30,000 people happy, I know that much. I think that maybe rather than try to make happy the two or three people that write in every month – that’s about all we get, maybe two or three very negative letters every month (although there must be much more people out there who don’t like it) – so I mean rather than trying to make those 200-300 people happy at the expense of the 30,000 people who like it, we’ll just continue to make what we feel is good. That’s the best we can do, I think.

PA: What are your near future projects and what are you thinking of for the next years?

TS: Coming up real soon is Dominion. As a matter of fact, I should probably have a script waiting for me in San Francisco. I’ll start working on that next week. That will be out in October [1989]. All the covers on that will be by [Masamune] Shirow – some people didn’t like the Arthur AdamsAppleseed covers. Within the next month, we’ll probably start working on What’s Michael? That’s a book-size thing, about 110 pages or so, that we’ll have coming out, sold mainly through bookstores. It’s a very funny comic. Following that, Black Magic will be beginning in February [1990]. What’s happening is that Appleseed Book three will end and, instead of Book four beginning a month later, we’ll have Black Magic. It will run for five months and then there will be a one month break and we’ll start Appleseed Book four. The reason for this is because the artist in Japan is very slow in producing the book and we have to space it out as much as we can. I’m afraid that Appleseed fans can’t expect to see Book 5 much before summer ’92. But we’re thinking of publishing the Appleseed Data Book, a 200-page encyclopaedia of the Appleseed world. It has around fifty new Shirow illos and a new 48-page short story. We might do that later next year.

The Venus Wars will be coming out from Dark Horse this summer, July or August. It’s written and drawn by Yoshikazu Yasuhiko, director and character designer for Gundam, Arion, Song of the Wind and Trees and other films like that. I’m sure every animation fans knows Yasuhiko. We will be doing that probably for Dark Horse, on a monthly basis. It will run about forty pages an issue and will cost about $2.25. It should run – if Yasuhiko does what he told me he was going to do – something between forty and fifty issues. About the same size as Outlanders.

We’ve got about four more projects coming up for ’90, but they’re all still waiting for final contracts, so I really can’t talk about them. One I can talk about is The last Continent, by Akihiro Yamada. It’s an homage to Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, but takes place in the world of 1950’s Japan, instead of Victorian England. The art is very detailed and realistic – it reminds me a bit of Mark Schultz’ art on Xenozoic Tales, with a dose of Frazetta’s comics work. Look for that from Eclipse about July or August.

The new Dirty Pair series will be starting in May. This one will be called A Plague of Angels. The WWWA has sent the Pair to an out of the way O’Neill colony, and assigned a reporter to follow them around as they (supposedly) keep out of trouble and show everybody how nice and sweet they really are. I think you can imagine about how well that particular plan works out. The first issue has the most action we’ve ever jammed into a single issue of The Dirty Pair so far. That’s pretty much it for the future that I can talk about, anyway.

PA: What can you tell us about the main new things coming in Japan in the near future?

TS: I’ve been away so long, actually, I’m due to go back. I’ll be going back in September. I know that there’re going to be a movie made called Maimu, directed by [Sh?ji] Kawamori, the guy who directed Macross The Movie and character design will be by [Haruhiko] Mikimoto; Mikimoto has been doing a lot of character designs lately and it started to look all the same because he’s doing so much work he doesn’t have time to really think up new things. But I’ve seen the character designs for Maimu and they’re going to be great. And of course Kawamori is just like a great director, so I’ve got real hope for that. The girl does a lot of riding around on a mountain bike in the movie and so Kawamori bought a mountain bike and he’s been learning to do tricks and things on it, so that he could direct it in such a way that is very convincing. That’s something that is coming up and I look forward to it.

[Katsuhiro] Otomo is working on a new film, Roujin Z, which is going to be – you’re not going to believe this – about an old man who’s gotten Alzheimer’s disease. He’s senile and he’s going to be inside a power suit like those in Appleseed or Gundam; he’s going to go out and do good deeds except he’s not very good at them because he’s senile. What a bizarre concept. But, anyway, that’s what Otomo’s got planned; we’ll see what happens with that. There’s also a rumour that Gainax, which did Wings of Oneamis, will be the one working on that.

The Gainax folks are also doing a series for NHK in Japan. The title is, literally, Nadia’s Strange Ocean, but they’ve been calling it Blue Water in English, which is a lot more euphonic. The character designs are by [Yoshiyuki] Sadamoto (Oneamis) and direction by [Hideaki] Anno (Gunbuster). I’ve seen the first episode, and it’s pretty damn good for TV animation. It’s heavily influenced by 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

There’s another rumour – that I’m not in position to confirm or deny – that Shirow Masamune (Black Magic M66 and Appleseed) will be directing a very high budget Appleseed movie; when I say very high budget I’m talking about the same as Wings of Oneamis or Akira, somewhere between.

PA: Thank you Toren.

Interview by Alain Dubreuil (and Claude J Pelletier; pictures by CJP)

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