For Now

Hey, all-

It's been way, way too long, and I apologize for the silence.

It's scary how much things have changed over the summer. At work, the internal structure was rearranged and my job became much more specialized (and stressful). Health-wise, I haven't been quite right for a while--and the results of last month's annual health check call for further tests for possible breast cancer and diabetes, yikes! I don't yet have a car or Japanese driver's license, so that's now a top priority; otherwise, being in the boonies without much public transport, getting between the hospital and work is going to be difficult.

On the good side, my private book "The Soul Man of Anison: Akira Kushida" was gratifyingly well received, and I was commissioned to head up a similar one on a similar topic; code-named Operation Umanami, it goes to press in just over a month so has been making my nights pretty crunchy. There's interest on three fronts in my singable-English translations of anime and tokusatsu songs; I did three songs for the first, am working on one for the second, and learned about the third just last Sunday. On Sept. 26, I get to sing "Ai Senshi" at a live house in Roppongi as part of MIQ's VLOMIQ class happyoukai (still need a ton of practice, though), and am working on an English second verse for "Crystal Knights Necrime" for my entry in next month's MoJo x2 Nodo Jiman.

That hasn't left time for much else. But I have family on Facebook, so have been trying to get on there, read and post once a day. Not always successful, but having a character limit there is actually encouraging, since I don't feel obligated to ramble on, and so don't put it off because I'm feeling too whupped to write anything that might turn out to run long; write a few lines and it's did.

I'm trying to keep to a schedule of updating Anison Central on Tuesday nights (and my Baldios cel site on Monday nights). But for now, think it might be best to have this journal on a back-burner until some of the current crop of projects and worries are safely past.

In the meantime, you're certainly welcome to do the friend thing with me on Facebook, if you like; I do write some about anison (f'rinstance, I shot photos of Ken Narita and MIQ last weekend, and posted them there yesterday and today).

Thanks so much for your patience, and I hope to be back soon!

Shock Therapy

This was written June 12 but posted June 15 (interrupted by June 13-14's "One-Third of One Thousand" anime song marathon):

...Okay. Let's try this again...

In retrospect, the latter half of May I was so out of whack, have got to wonder whether the fabled "mid-life crisis" had at dreaded last munched my rump.

Why had I ever voluntarily moved half a world away from my family? Why had I ever left beautiful Battle Creek?

Well, of course you can't be both here and there. I miss my family, and friends, and home track (Jackson Harness Raceway closed in December; I visited the place for another farewell that trip) and horses--but I also love Japan, am happy in my house, am crazy for my job. This is just one point in the river's flow; earlier was different, later will be too. But still, those questions kept me down the hole a good while.

Looming the last weekend of May was the 11th renewal of the MoJo Two Days event, limited to 60 attendees. I had missed the 10-minute signup window while in the U.S., but friend SA-san had kindly made an extra reservation. Having to figure out which song to do in the second day's MoJox2 Nodo Jiman contest got me back out to karaoke for the first time in weeks. Gave everything MoJo in the catalog a try--even one I'd long avoided, Tsurikichi Sanpei opening theme "Wakaki Tabibito" ("Young Traveler"), because it was sure to be just too difficult:

But I tried it. And it was hard. It would need a ton of practice, on top of the time I'd need to write a singable English translation of the second verse. But grappling with the consequences of being a traveler myself, it really spoke to me--and with two weeks to get it done, I submitted it as my song choice.

Was busy on that when I happened to read about book-design software supplied by a print-on-demand publisher. Checked further into it, and got fired up by a sudden thought: If I could put together a quick book, that would be a memorable present for a certain performer having a 40th-anniversary event in June.

Commuting time became write-verse-two-of-"Wakaki Tabibito" time, and three nights a week I drilled on the song at the Karaoke Hangout of Justice. The rest of the hours after work went into sifting through my years of photos, laying out the book, and composing the text around the photos. I was a wee bit obsessed.

The MoJo Two Days arrived before the book's completion. The first day was the fantastic MoJo Zone Vol. 11 concert, and being back together with fellow fans, getting to enjoy MoJo's full-blast performance at close range, was great medicine!

Afterwards, as folks hung out and ordered from the bar, MoJo went from table to table to sit a bit and talk with fans. I mentioned that after my mom passed away last month, I'd been questioning why I'd ever left home and come to Japan, but that this had made me remember why. He was sympathetic and said that there's no getting around the fact that someday each of us will go--but until then, we should enjoy the time we have, and be as happy as we can.

The next day, I was super-nervous. After singing low for almost two years, I was going to switch back to soprano. Except for my glasses, everything I was wearing came from Battle Creek (including my doofy hat, a 1980 K-mart purchase that Mom dyed from white to red in the kitchen sink so I could have a hat like Joe Yabuki's). And I was going to sing this with the thought that my folks, together again at long last, might somehow hear it.

It was a huge relief to finish the song; my legs were shaking, and my voice had to have been, too. But I'd hit the notes I'd been worried about, and was going to be able to sit back down with no regrets--something that doesn't happen often.

At song's end, emcee Shocker Oh!No! commented on how moving it had been. Usually MoJo joins you onstage either between verses or at the end for a souvenir photo, but he seemed delayed in coming up...and I was stunned to see, grabbing a glance back at his seat in the music booth, that he seemed to be wiping away tears. That had to just be my imagination--but no, here he came, still teary-eyed. (Usually my singing just brings tears to people's ears...! ;^) ) That made me all misty too.

I had been lucky enough to win the women's grand prize three events ago, but starting this year, the rules had changed: Rather than awarding 10 various prizes, including a men's grand prize and a women's grand prize, there would now just be one prize awarded. In February, at this year's first of three planned MoJox2 Nodo Jiman contests (the third is slated for October), CB-san had won the tremendously deserved honors.

This time, to me it was a three-way race between Go-san's enormous "Kibou no Siren Builder," Nano-san's dynamite "Eyes of Justice," and Kou-san's deeply moving "Jinsei no Teishaeki"-- although I was rooting too for Shin-san to get rewarded after one of the guttiest performances ever, pro or no, finishing "Seiun Kamen Machineman" from the floor after landing flat on his back when his knee separated in landing from a flying kick.

Nimble and hilarious, crowd-pleasin' Shin-san always comes up with a wildly original delivery heaped with hee-hees--so when he went down with a mighty crash, it seemed like a breathtakingly skillful pratfall. But then he stayed down, with just one arm moving, feeling feebly for his dropped mike. No sooner had startled whispers started--"Was that not supposed to happen?" "Is he okay?"--then the front row surged up out of their seats, heading to his aid! Shocker and MoJo beat them there and helped him sit up, and he finished the song with dead-game gusto, propped on MoJo's shoulder.

I was still thinking about that, admiring Shin-san's guts, when MoJo announced the grand championship. "There were so many great performances," he said, "but to me, one especially stood out..."

Gotta be Shin-san!


Well, I sat there and cried until Ku-san made me go up, and then I stood up there and cried while MoJo and Shocker said kind things about my performance and fan activity, and then I had to speak. Usually speaking Japanese in public is my biggest bugaboo--but all the woulda-coulda-shouldas from after I stammered around when awarded the women's grand championship last year kicked in, and what I'd been regretting not saying then finally got to come out now.

I said that there are people all over the world who love anime and anime songs, and we see in anime magazines that in Japan there are events where you could meet the creators of your favorites, and concerts where you can hear the actual anime song performers sing. People dream of getting to Japan someday...and I'm one of the relatively few lucky ones who got to do it. I was drawn here by heroes and adventure--but now that I'm here, what I'm most grateful for isn't the anime and manga all around, but the comrades I've met, and the fun we have celebrating our favorites, and the willingness of stars like MoJo and Shocker to help keep that alive and provide fans opportunities like this.

Afterwards, as I was about to head out to grab the last train to Gunma, CB-san offered me a handshake at the door. Only then did it strike me--we're the only two overall grand champions. It's an honor that never, ever occurred to me could be the end result when I was racing the clock to get ready, ekeing out the English second verse line by scribbled line on jouncy bus rides and shoehorning in late-night karaoke practice.

A few days later I finished the book and sent it off for a test print run of 5. When it comes back, it'll be hardcover and 32 all-color pages long...and it's even expected to ship in time for the event (knock wood)! Need to keep it secret until then, but, here's a peek at the upper 1/5-or-so of its front cover:

That double dose of therapy projects had me pretty whupped...but so far it seems to have gotten me out of the hole. Am feeling a little more normal now--and thank goodness, 'cause the anything-but-normal annual anison karaoke marathon is just around the corner, yeeeee-hahhh!!

Shi-gu-ma, Shi-gu-ma...

It's hard to start back.

I was almost done with a longish LJ entry, quit for the night intending to tinker more in the morning before posting it...but then woke to a phone call in the wee hours from my brother. Two days of scrambling later, I was on a plane back to the U.S. for Mom's funeral.

Most of what's after that is a blur of grief and jet lag, but being back with family broke several bright spots through those clouds (my birth mother showing up was memorable, too, let's just say). And way too soon, I was back on the plane, then back in Japan--with us kept on the plane an extra hour as a squad of docs in surgical blues examined us--and then, allowed to enter the country but instructed to wear a mask for 10 days, had to speak daily with the city health department until May 12, when the prefectural health department was officially satisfied that I didn't have the flu.

But even free of flu, it's been hard to find the enthusiasm to do much after work other than sack out with a book or veg out in front of the TV. I kinda recall being like this after Dad died. But it's probably time to climb out of the hole.

From here, need to update the web site, and catch up on e-mail...but first, here's the darn LJ entry from April 22!

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Casey Rankin, 1946-2009

From friend Rad-san comes word that today Tatsuya Maeda learned that vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Casey Rankin, who he'd first met 28 years ago and performed with most recently in 2002, died on January 2 after a long battle with cancer. He was 62.

Born in Kansas, Rankin moved to Japan in 1971. According to his history at Pure Records' Casey Rankin Site, in 1976 his band Short Hope became the "First All foriegn band in Japanese industry to record and tour domesticaly."

In 1983, Rankin became possibly the first foreigner to record a TV anime theme song (he was predated by at least Mary MacGregor ["Sayonara," from "Adieu Galaxy Express 999," 1981] and Dara Sedaka ["Hoshizora no Angel Queen," from "Queen Millennia," 1982] in recording anime songs, but those had been for movies) when he not only performed "Orguss" opening and ending themes "Hyouryuu ~Sky Hurricane~" and "Kokoro wa Gypsy," but also wrote their tunes (the lyrics were by Kouji Miura):

The moment I first heard it back in '83, "Kokoro wa Gypsy" copped a near-top spot on my all-time anime hit parade, and hasn't slipped since. Have happy memories of friends gathered in various living rooms back in the day, all singing along with it between third-gen-copy "Orguss" episodes on VHS tapes...*sigh*

Am sorry there never got to be more Casey Rankin songs in the genre...but am mighty grateful to him for the two we have.

Edit: More info is on his MySpace page.

So THAT's a Quarter-Century..."Galvion" Turns 25!

Today the Give-A-Showa Projector salutes one of my guiltiest pleasures, the 1984 Kokusai Eigasha series "Chou Kousoku Galvion":

(And the very next day, February 4, 1984, saw the debut of "Heavy Metal L-Gaim"...so chalk up another quarter-century celebrant tomorrow! [That's the date its first actual animated episode aired; the previous week was a solid half-hour introductory special (we called it "episode zero" in those callow days of North American fandom), with a Tominocious jaw-fest punctuated with occasional shots of Mamoru Nagano drawing lifesize "L-Gaim" characters on clear upright panels around the set. So, anyway: celebrate with confidence! ;^) ])

Man, "Giant Gorg" hits the big 2-5 this year too, on April 5...Heck, get your calendar ready...
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"Anime Japan Fes 2009 'Fuyu no Jin,'" 1/11/2009

Had to survive feeling a hella lot of cosmo to get this special MAKE-UP CD of new recordings of Saint Seiya themes "Pegasus Fantasy" and "Eien Blue"...!

The Sunday morning before last, still ouchy after a recent traffic accident and sure to be more sore after the hours of standing that would be involved, I actually found myself debating whether or not to go to that afternoon's Anime Japan Fes concert.

The debate lasted some 33 seconds. ;^) Two factors decided it quick: My ticket's number, 298, was low enough to have a shot at entering the venue in time to get a position with a rail to lean against (which is thankfully what happened; wound up in the fifth row, parked on the rail that separates the front left and center sections)...and this concert's lineup of stars made it one I really did not want to miss!

Safely survived the concert, and headed with relief out to the lobby, looking forward to checking out the tables of CDs and DVDs for sale there...and then trouble struck. Who knew a simple CD would stir up an atypically aggressive mob that almost shoved over its sales table, crunching a few folks enroute? ...But I'm getting ahead of the story...

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Coming up next: the 24-Hour-Endurance Anison 1,000-Song Medley event report!

Who'da Thunk It? '09

Hey, look what's coming out tomorrow that Amazon.co.jp delivered today:

This two-CD set of all songs Go-onger is in for some pretty constant playing over the next month, 'cause in the lottery for tickets for the big February 11 "Project.R 1st Live: Song Grand Prix" concert, the group of friends I ordered with was mind-meltingly lucky in the draw: After none of us ever having gotten a ticket numbered under 200 in years of trying, we're suddenly the pole-axed holders of tickets whose first two of three digits are 01! Ohmigosh, we're gonna be in the front row! At a concert that's likely to have a DVD release! (And, uh-oh, has some songs with dances that I 'way cannot do...*gulp!*)

Still a little woozy after the last two days' double dose of fan manna, Anime Japan Fes Anison Spirits and the 24-Hour-Endurance Anison 1,000-Song Medley--so will call it a night, and then get banging away on their event reports tomorrow!

A Quick Look at Comiket

Shot from an adjacent outside walkway as Spoony, Naye and I made our escape after a three-hour feeding frenzy, here's a glimpse inside Big Sight's East Hall 1-2-3 on the first day of the Dec. 28-30 Winter Comic Market (with Spoony and Naye discussing its size)! This was just about a third of the doujinshi selling area; East Hall 4-5-6 was its mirror image, and West Hall 1-2 was crammed full too (West Hall 3-4 was the commercial vendors' area)...and of course, adding to the urgency, there'd be different circles at the tables on each of the event's three days.

Glad to have survived--and for the, uh...(let's see: winter '97, both in '98, winter '99, winter '00, winter '01, both in '02, both in '03, both in '04, both in '05, summer '06, both in '07, both in '08)...19th time, at that! ...yikes...

Happy Holidaze...!

Akemashite omedetou! Hope this finds the New Year treating you right!

December is crazy season from gate to wire, especially in the toy-selling biz--but work aside, this time two Christmas get-togethers, a half-dozen bounenkai forget-the-year parties (five of 'em anison-related!), two days of Comiket, and a countdown-to-the-New-Year concert wound 2008 up in a wonderful whirl.

Trying to fight off a colossal cold now so this will be short, but for now, here's a peek at two nifty Christmas gifts:

At MoJo's MoJox2 X'mas show on Dec. 20, which included special-guest performances by grand-prize winners in his MoJox2 Nodo Jiman events, friend Satomi-san and I were given the chance to debut our half-Japanese, half-English duet version of "Engine Gattai Engine-O G6"--and MoJo added even further to the thrill by leaping in on the final chorus, the three of us going like blazes! Wild beyond words!

Annndo on Almost-Christmas Day, the first Saturday after it's-a-weekday-so-of-course-it's-a-workday Dec. 25, Mighty M and Finder J and Spoony and I had our traditional get-together, where this "Dai Apollon"ophile received an astonishing item I hadn't known existed...

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Extreeeeeme Close-up! Lawson's Yamato Mechanic Collection

In celebration of the 35th anniversary of "Uchuu Senkan Yamato" (also known outside Japan as "Star Blazers") coming up in 2009, Japanese convenience store chain Lawson will offer eight different miniature spacecraft from the series, sold coupled with certain canned coffees, starting next week...and they kicked off the campaign with this hoot of a commercial!

Hey, the local denkiya has put its Sanyo Xacti video cameras on sale so cheap, couldn't help but give one a home tonight... That Lawson commercial is the first thing I tried shooting with it. Definitely plan on bringing it along to Tokyo tomorrow, in the hopes of grabbing a glimpse of something fun!