Hideyuki Kikuchi "Talk Live" Event in Tokyo, September 2002 Given that most folks outside Japan learned of writer Hideyuki Kikuchi and his creations through their animated incarnations, it may come as some surprise that he makes no secret of the fact that he really has no great love of cartoons. Of course, there are a few exceptions to that--he seems quite satisfied with the anime versions of his novels, and there are a few older theatrical features that he's spoken highly of, such as Toei's "Hakujaden" or "Legend of White Snake." Still, I was rather startled to hear that this evening's topic would be animation--Soviet animation from the Cold War era, to be more precise. All the Soviet animation in the evening's program came from the "Masters of Russian Animation DVD 1", and were in Russian with English subtitles. Since there was no Japanese translation available, Kikuchi-sensei and his co-host Fumihiko Iino wanted to check a few things with me before the show started. In one story in particular, there was some question as to the meaning of this one word, as the main character wandered all over the world in search of this, but it turned out to be the surname of a man the hopeless bureaucracy sent one determined worker to find. According to Kikuchi-sensei's introduction, perhaps the only thing Stalin didn't hate about the United States was Walt Disney's animation, so there was considerable support for the art in the Soviet Union. And yet, the animators there didn't seem to just pump out mindless party drivel. In fact, they work shows how stifling they found their over-protective state, how ridiculous spies and bureaucrats could be, and how greedy and shortsighted some people were by nature. In short, they were exactly like artists in America or anywhere else. There were several shorts that were very well received. "My Green Crocodile" tells the story of a flower-loving croc having a rather strange romance. "Mountain of Dinosaurs" is a great tale of how the shells of dinosaur eggs grow thicker and thicker to protect the babies until it is no longer possible for them to break free. Very deep stuff. "Passion of Spies" is an amusing spoof of cloak-and-dagger cliches. And "Ball of Yarn" is a solid fairy tale with the usual message about being too greedy and selfish, though the imagery is really quite twisted. A number of other shorts from the same DVD were also screened, but at this point I was busy talking to other people in the bar, so I can't offer too much commentary on them. I did catch a bit of one of the Fleisher Superman cartoons from the 1940's, which are recognized by such Japanese animators as Hayao Miyazaki for their style and excellent attention to detail. So, instead of watching more of the video program, I spent quite a while chatting with Japanese fans and some of Kikuchi-sensei's publishing connections. On the fan front, I was particularly interested in finding out if there were many VHD doujinshi out there, as they seemed to have become something of a hot item on eBay. Apparently VHD wasn't quite as popular a target as, say, "Final Fantasy" or "Street Fighter", but there are surely more out there than people know about in the West, and more are being published all the time. Japanese VHD fans are also curious as to exactly how popular D is overseas, and they're eager to see the books in English so that others can enjoy the "real" world of VHD. I was also very pleased to hear that talk live attendees are confident the books will be given the best possible treatment because they're being done by someone who knows and loves the series. Following the event, we had our traditional coffee and BS session, which is "hanseikai" in Japanese, at the usual place. I asked Kikuchi-sensei how work was coming on the latest VHD novel, and when he said it would take a while longer, I told him not to hurry on my account, as I still had one book to go before I'd read up to where he'd written, forget about getting caught up to him on the translating end. Iino-sensei had shown rare insight into the evening's video program, but he was well into his cups shortly before six when we saw Kikuchi-sensei off. As we both take the same train into Tokyo, we decided to ride home together. We made the 6:00 train by the skin of our teeth, finding the only seats remaining in one of the smoking cars. Now, normally I have it quite easy--I get on at the first stop and off at the last and in between I'm free to catch up on the sleep I missed out on earlier. However, Iino-sensei had to get off right in the middle, and it didn't seem like he'd be able to manage that himself. Well, I managed to stay awake so I could get him up at the proper stop, then enjoyed what sleep I could for the rest of the voyage while surround by the sights, sounds, and smells of a gigantic ashtray.
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