Our minds on media.

Musings on the effects of media on cognition.

Japan Society: WORK-IN-PROGRESS: Deadly She-Wolf Assassin at Armageddon!

At first I thought I was going to a film screening. I had mostly come to the Japan Society to watch Anime like Akira on high-definition televisions and feel cultural and high-class as opposed to watching the same fair on my couch and feeling like a geek. But it wasn’t a screening at all I was there to see, rather a new kind of stage play of the genre “staged manga”. The first thing of note from the show was without a doubt the music that accompanied it. It is absolutely clear the Fred Ho is a great musician and composer. I felt totally at home with his rambuncious mix of jazz and traditional Japanese music. The score felt like it could have easily accompanied an episode of Cowboy Beebop with its crime jazz sensibility.

The performers, unforunately, left a little to be desired. It has to be kept in mind that this is a work in progress and might not be fully rehersed. I’ll make the assumption that this was the case. Most of the fight scenes just lacked a feeling of tightness. Where each performer really soared was when they were allowed to accomplish their own acrobatics — standing flips, armless cartwheels — obviously they have talent. So I assume that there is more to come in this regard.

The story was largely inspired by “Lone Wolf and Cub,” an extremely popular manga in Japan (and fairly well-known over here too) But as for whether the staging accomplished the effect of “staged magna” there again I felt it left a little to be desired. There was the occasional silouhette and the narrator (cleverly) performed all of the character voices creating a nice disjunction. But you could do more. Really, for such an innovative idea I felt the whole style and presentation was far too tied to traditional Japanese theater. I would love to see stage manga pushed with multimedia — the stage laid out like a comic book with hanging scrims that capture live close-ups of characters faces. The fight choreagraphy could even work out a few live bullet-time sequences if they wanted to.

Generally a good presentation with the one exception of the Q&A toward the end. I really don’t want to go to far with describing this poorly coordinated long awkward moment. Mostly I would tell the curator who ran it, “Don’t talk about yourself so much, and get a translator.” After one excrutiatingly long question the choreographer did his best to absorb it before finally saying, “Uhhh… long question.” After another brief pause, he added, “Please shorten.” She, of course, proceeded to ask exactly the same question slower and louder. So much for her early claims of being multiculturally sensitive. And they probably should’ve have mentioned where you could see the final production. It’s so nice when beaurocrats get to be in charge of the climax (or complete lack thereof).

When it is fully produced though, I will be happy to go and check out “Deadly She-Wolf Assassin at Armageddon!” I’ll tell you how it goes too.

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