Lodestone Theatre's first musical production revamps 1885's controversial opera, The Mikado, and celebrates Asian American theatre with dose of politics and sweet harmony.
Spring is festival season here in Los Angeles, especially for fans of Asian and Asian American cinema. But rare is the new festival that combines innovative programming with a love for contemporary world cinema.
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JETRO's Showbiz Japan!, held at the American Film Market, is living proof that there's no business quite like Japanese show bizness.
What is Showbiz Japan!?
Showbiz Japan! @ American Film Market: the Japanese Anime meets Hollywood! Le Merigot Hotel, Santa Monica, California. Thursday, November 3, 2005
Showbiz Japan! consisted of a greeting from Mr. Keizo Tsuchiya from JETRO Los Angeles, keynote speaker Tom Yoda -- a chairman of Gaga Communications -- and a panel discussion on the new entertainment franchise Afro Samurai.
The event was literally packed with people; approximately 200 guests showed up to the panel discussion, and 300 to the reception. It was coordinated and run by Entertainment Platform of Japan (EPJ), a newly established division of JETRO Los Angeles.
Guests not only included the buyers and exhibitioners, but also entertainment lawyers, press, promoters, filmmakers, and even those from the world of finance, covering virtually every aspect of the entertainment industry.
Japanese entertainment -- these two words mean so much: state-of-the-art anime, cutting-edge movies, Kurosawa’s timeless classics, the unforgettable Pokemon craze, the worldwide popularity of comics, samurai and geisha, etc. As clearly stated throughout the event, Japan is a critical source of entertainment aimed at success in the global market. Now it is no longer just geisha, but Geisha, co-opted for Hollywood blockbusters. No longer is there only Kurosawa’s The Seven Samurai, but various other new anime and cartoons in and outside of Japan tracing their origins back to The Seven Samurai. Entertainment knows no borders or bounds. East now meets West.
A set of substantial data was provided by the keynote speaker Mr. Tom Yoda, chairman of one of the world’s leading content distribution companies, Japan's Gaga Communications. He claimed the attractiveness and potential of Japanese entertainment content, especially that of audio/visual contents, such as Pokemon and the Oscar-winning Spirited Away. In his opinion, the key to their success was the full utilization of the strength of Japan’s audio/visual contents. Unique content and the latest audio/visual technologies has provided the Japanese entertainment industry infinite possibilites.
As the event moved on to the panel discussion, it became clear that Afro Samurai is the perfect example of the utilization of such strengths.
So what is Afro Samurai? The name itself already sounds intriguing. Does he have an afro and fight with a sword?
Yes and no. Afro Samurai is the latest entertainment franchise based on a comic series with the same original title. Gonzo -- whose portfolio is filled with fantastic anime -- will take on the motion anime, Namco will create the video game, and the anime will be aired on Spike TV next year. Samuel L. Jackson will appear as the voice of the Afro Samurai. As you can see, the production team is a collection of some of the greatest talents in the industry.
This unique name Afro Samurai, as the panelists explained, means a combination of various things, all of them embodying tremendous creative output. Such production is a sign that the entire crew has a strong belief in the substance of Japanese anime. Samuel L. Jackson’s involvement should also trigger media interests.
Although the bareboned story is about a loner who is driven to revenge his father’s murder at all costs, there is a hint that it will be portrayed humorously. The panelists disclosed very little about what the final product would be like, but they did not forget to leave us with massive anticipation. According to them, there will be many elements that are familiar not only to Japanese but also to Americans about Japan and Japanese culture incorporated into the entire anime, such as a hair band with the phrase “Ichiban” (No. 1), a cowboy hat, and robots. The video game is in its pre-preproduction at this moment, yet this project is also exciting to video game fans. The anime will not be broadcasted until 2006, but we can hardly wait for this product that is “inventive but fits within the perimeter.”(moderator Eric Calderon)
So what are the ultimate goals of the Afro Samurai franchise? To: 1) Shock and awe the audience with great visual presentation; 2) Shatter the notion of samurai as historical relics; 3)Create an anime culture for future generations to come.
For more information about Afro Samurai, please visit their official website at:
The potential of Japanese entertainment does not stop here. In the near future, it will foster intercultural understanding and hopefully begin to mend some of the cultural, economic, and political gaps between countries. As the entertainment industry becomes a more lucrative source of commerce, the protection of intellectual properties will be more important than ever. Enacting laws will be critical in combating piracy, and international collaboration may become necessary. Entertainment will be more than just entertainment, but the reservoir of ideas and social changes. JETRO Los Angeles came up with the great idea of bringing Afro Samurai into the limelight for this occasion. Overall, the speakers were experts in the field, and the panelists were both insightful and resourceful. With its huge turnout, the event seemed to almost point toward the positive future of Japanese entertainment.
Yuki Machida, the event coordinator of EPJ states that EPJ aspires to be the “platform” where the Japanese entertainment contents serve as a bridge to the North American market. She also says, “JETRO itself participates in various movie festivals and trade shows, aiming at introducing Japanese contents to the world, assisting networking and business deal-making.” An opportunity like Showbiz Japan! is one of the perfect forums for such intellectual exchanges. EPJ, of course, intends to continue events like this reception where people meet and shift the course of the world entertainment market.
For more information about JETRO and EPJ, please visit:
Date Posted: 12/8/2005