Discover Japan's Traditional Mask Culture
Soon it will be Halloween all over the world and many people will don masks to celebrate the occasion. In some places, people will do online Halloween parties since there will be lockdowns in place. Masks are not just for Halloween and many cultures have their own traditional masks. In this bento, we will explore Japan’s traditional masks, especially the scary ones, we will also look at the top anime of 2019, talk about October’s anime challenge, watch great anime AMVs and much more content. We are YOUR monthly anime and Japanese News source. Itadakimasu!!
Japanese and Anime News
Anime from India
It is not just Japan, or China, but also Asian countries like India that make and produce anime. A new anime movie, Karmachakra looks like it came straight from Japan! Back in February Studio Durga released a 20-minute pilot segment for the upcoming 80-minute movie on their YouTube channel.
The Delhi-based studio made Karmachakra with a tiny core team of four and it took four years to create quite different than the usual 12 to 18 months for a hand-drawn movie of this length. The problem was, according to Rajorsi Basu, the movie’s creator was that he wanted to keep the production entirely Indian, but finding the right kind of animators was very difficult. His core team consists out of Samadrita Ghosh on character design and art, Monideep Chakraborty on art, and Ananya Garg on direction and pre-visualisation. Basu himself wrote and directed Karmachakra and created and performed the music.
Karmachakra is a mystery anime with supernatural, Hindu Mythology, hacking, cyber spying and popular science elements are woven within. It tells the tale of an orphan girl coming from a friends funeral and finding a text message from her deceased friend on her phone.
Studio Durga’s mission statement on their YouTube channel show promise of more amazing content in the future:
‘We are the first Indian animation studio that creates anime, or hand-drawn animation in the art-style of Japanese manga comics, wholly independent of foreign collaboration. We design original entertainment for young adults, we do not create cartoons for kids. We believe in telling powerful stories through the medium of animation.’
Enter the Bus Maze!
2020 has been a tough year for businesses, especially those tied to the tourism industry due to COVID-19. One such business is Japan’s Hato Bus company, which are one of Japan’s leading tour operators. Tours started up again on a much smaller scale since June which made the Hato Bus company put their creative hat on and start to think out of the box to create more revenue and came up with a brilliant idea – using their empty busses at their main depot to create a giant maze.
The bus maze is made up of 60 busses, showing expert parking skills, all parked tightly in different formations creating narrow passageways on the grounds of the Tokyo Station depot. This unusual maze adventure is also part of a special bus tour from Tokyo Station to the Small Worlds Tokyo theme park in Ariake. The tour was limited to six groups of 30 and ran during the 19-22 September long weekend, and when the public caught on to this ‘bus maze’ tickets sold out before the event.
A Peek at the tour
Ventilation safety and more
The End of Horriblesubs
A farewell message is all that will greet you when you enter the Horriblesubs site. After more than a decade this popular site for anime lovers that love to ‘procure’ subbed anime has gone into the ether joining the ranks of sites such as KissAnime that vanished from the net in 2020. According to the message on the site, it was a hard decision to make for the Horriblesubs team.
“…our real life responsibilities have been growing, especially in the times of COVID-19. COVID-19 has really impacted us in various ways, but ultimately it negatively affected how much time we were able to frequently contribute. After some reflection and evaluation, we realized moving on was the best way forward. You could technically say COVID killed HorribleSubs.”
As Summer season ended now Horriblesubs also ended, their journey is now over, On the site’s Disqus thread a multitude of fans praised the site for all its hard word and mourns its surprised passing…
Netflix’s First Spanish Anime Series
On September 11th Netflix premiered its first Spanish-produced anime series “The Idhun Chronicles,” which was adapted from “The Resistance,” the first volume of bestselling young adult novels from writers Laura Gallego and Andrés Carrión. The 5-episode series was first announced in February 2019 by Netflix and was originally set to have 10 episodes in its first season.. According to author Laura Gallego it would cover the entire first volume La Resistencia (The Resistance).
The Idhun Chronicles is directed by Maite Ruiz de Austri and produced by Zeppelin TV (Skam Spain and Virtual Hero.) The script was written by Laura Gallego, herself and Andrés Carrion, drawing inspiration from the 2009 comic book adaptation of the novels. The Idhun Chronicles is extremely popular in Spain, and the books have been translated into dozens of foreign languages. Originally published in 2004 by SM, the trilogy was into a comic book series in 2009, and the anime series is its latest adaptation.
The series is set in the Earth and Idhún, a parallel world created by six gods. These gods also created the six warm-blooded races as well as the divine dragons and unicorns. A seventh god opposed them, creating the cold Szish as well as the divine winged snakes, the sheks. When the powerful necromancer Ashran took over the magical world of Idhùn, he is determined to obliterate all dragons and unicorns, and any Idhunites that might have flown to Earth. To accomplish this, he sent out his assassin Kirtash to Earth. That is where we meet the Danish boy Jack who returns home to find his parents murdered by Kirtash. Jack is drawn into an adventure to fight Ashran and his evil minions and hopefully change the ill fate of two worlds. A second series has already been confirmed.
The Cosplay Pianist
A lot of fun can be had when you put on cosplay outfits and dance to the theme song of said outfit. But in Taiwan, a talented pianist named Pan Piano took it a brilliant step further and her performance videos on youtube boast with millions of views. When she decided to don cosplay clothing that goes with the theme of the songs she plays her views skyrocketed.
Demon Slayer, “Gurenge” (“Red Lotus”) by Lisa
One Piece Medley
Pan Piano only films from the neck down, but it just adds to the mystery and creates an illusion that the pianist may actually be the character she is cosplaying, performing the song. Her fandom adores her and keeps on praising her piano skills and her impressive cosplays. She regularly uploads videos, two to three a week, so go and check out her channel for more sugoi covers Pan Piano-style.
Attack on Titan medley
Kiki’s Delivery Service
Kawaii Kulture: Japan's Scary Masks
Masks have been associated with both the light and dark. Light, as in when people don costumes and masks at Halloween to keep the sinister creatures of the dark at bay, dark because some do wear masks to do nefarious deeds, humans and demons alike in many cultures…
The Japanese masks were originally used in prehistoric religious rituals in the Jomon period (10,000 B.C to 300 B.C., but Buddhism’s arrival to Japan changed and purposes and masks became part of Shinto dances and the stage. In Japan, most masks are mostly decorative and can be obtained at shrine festivals and events, other masks are worn during specific Shinto dances or by actors like kabuki actors, performing a role on stage. These masks are archetypes borrowed from myths and legends. In theatre, they can set the tone and mood of the performance, physical embodiments of the spirits they represent…
Then there is a mask we came very acquainted with, the medical and surgical mask. In Japan, sick people usually wear them to keep the rest of the public from getting sick but COVID-19 change the rules and every person had to carry the mask to help in the prevention of the disease.
Masks can have dark origins such as the popular Hyottoko mask. There are myths from the Iwate Prefecture about an old man who, once upon a time, was gathering wood high in the mountains. He came across a princess from the underworld who, one can say, spirited the man away to her underworldly palace during which time she gifted him with a Hyottoko, a child with strange facial features. The boy could produce gold from his belly button, so the man was impressed and very happy with his gift. He took the child home.
The man’s wife was a greedy woman and here is where our story turns dark… The foolish woman wanted more gold so she, quite not in her right mind, started to dig around the poor fey child’s abdomen with a pair of tongs and in the process killed him. The man, who actually cared for the little boy was grief-stricken, and made a mask resembling Hyottoko’s face to remember him by and hanged the mask over his fireplace. It is said that the mask brings happiness to the homes of those that hang it over their fireplaces, but, it is rather creepy that a death mask of a murdered child should bring good luck, isn’t it?
Spread the Word: Types of Japanese Masks
There are many types of masks and in this unusual edition of Spread The Word, we discuss some of the various types of masks of Japan. Some are creepy and some are jolly and nice. Let’s explore the mythological connection to the masks of Japan.
We already told you about Hyottoko’s story in Kawaii Kulture, so let’s talk more about the mask. Hyottoko is actually very cartoonish and a festival favourite. His Japanese name translates to Fire (hi) and man (otoko) and his most famous trait is blowing fire with a bamboo pole! This silly childlike mask’s mouth is almost always rounded and skewed to one side, to show off his ability to blow fire. When someone dances with a Hyottoko mask it is usually in a clownish role.
Okame the cheerful lady with her cherubic face is Hyottoko wife, she is also associated with good luck. She’s usually portrayed as a woman with a large, oval-shaped head, small nose and smiling eyes. She actually is known by two names; Otafuku and Okame. Otafuku means good fortune whereas Okame means tortoise, which is a Japanese symbol for longevity. She usually appears together in dances with Hyottoko to perform silly and amusing dance steps. It is said that the origin of her name stems from kame (water jar).
Some Westerners may have Santa Claus or Krampus to keep their children in check but in Oga City, Akita tales of the Namahage is far more creepy and terrifying as coal in your stockings. So much that on New Year young men wear terrifying masks of Namahage (Mountain Demons) to scare children into behaving. These creepily stylish masks vary depending on the area they were created, and are made from wood or paper mache. They have grotesque features with sharp teeth and an ugliness that might turn the most menacing child into a sweet little angel.
Tengu, protector of mountains and fearsome demi-gods. They are depicted with red faces and angry expressions, and long, red noses. It is said that in the past they were more birdlike but as they became more human, their beaks turned into long noses. Some believe they were inspired by the image of Tiangou the Chinese dog-demon.
Tengu masks are made from either wood, paper mache or plastic. They are worn in theatre performances, festivals, certain Shinto festivals and hung in houses for good luck. Some also believe the masks to frighten away bad spirits. Since 2015 there’s also been a Tengu emoji for iPhone and who knows if someone wishes you bad juju, maybe sending the emoji their way may dispel it…
Do not mistake Oni for small-nosed Tengu as the two creatures are two entirely different yokai. Oni is very common in Japanese folklore and its origins vary as well. Oni are demons and their masks look frightening, with horns and long sharp teeth. Most masks are painted red but some are also painted blue, yellow, green, or black. Each colour represents something people must overcome; red is greed, yellow is regret, blue is hatred, green is disease, and black is grumbling.
These terrifying masks are most common during Setsubun, known as the Bean-Throwing Festival when they are worn for festival performances at shrines. People throw beans at people wearing Oni masks to scare the oni away and to invite ‘good luck’ into the house for the year. Parents may also wear them to thrighten the kids and the kids will throw beans at them to ‘scare’ the Oni off, all in good fun.
One of the most enigmatic and most loved figures in Japanese folklore is the Kitsune (which means fox in Japanese). Do not think of the foxes that roam on farms, the Kitsune is more epic than that. In the Shinto belief-system, the kitsune is a messenger of Inari, the god of fertility and agriculture, rice, commerce, and prosperity. Foxes are also believed to be shapeshifters.
Kitsune masks are worn at Shinto festivals by participants or festival-goers for fun. It is even said that the Gods will show up there as foxes. The masks are available in a variety of forms and found in costume, souvenir, and gift shops everywhere.
Noh Art Masks
1. Noh Masks
There are various art masks, such as Noh masks which are worn in Noh musical dramas. In these musicals, all roles were traditionally played by men (just like in the time of Shakespeare in the Western world where all roles were performed by men. Yes, even in Romeo and Juliet. Noh performances are usually serious and solemn. Noh masks are still used today. They have complex designs and are so well made that the masks can show different facial expressions, depending on the angle from which they are viewed. One moment they can look sad, or anger from another angle. These masks are amazing.
2. Kyogen Masks
Kyogen is usually performed as comic relief during intermissions in Noh theatres. Usually, non-human roles are performed.
3. Onnamen Masks
Since women do not traditionally act in Noh, men play female roles and wear onna-men (woman’s) masks. These masks can also take on many forms, from beautiful women to working-class women to older, middle-aged women.
A specific major figure in Noh theatre is Hannya, a jealous female demon. They are portrayed as a female with much jealousy and hatred with long horns, sharp teeth, and distorted eyes. Like onnamen masks, Hannya masks display a complex number of emotions depending on how the light catches the features of the mask. When an actor wearing a Hannya mask looks directly at the audience they see an angry female face; however, if Hannya looks at the ground, an illusion is created where she almost looks as though she is crying.
Colour in Hannya masks represent different standings of the character: a white mask means a woman of refined character, red is for those who are a little less refined, while the darkest of reds is reserved for the evilest of all the demons – a woman completely lost in her own jealousy.
Recipe of the month: Masks worn at festivals
As shared in Spread the Word, various masks are worn at festivals such as Namahage, Tengu, Oni and Kitsune masks, but one cannot just look pretty or creepy, one has to eat! At festivals are various yummy food to choose from such as Takoyaki (たこ焼き), a ball-shaped snack made from a flour-based batter and octopus, Okonomiyaki (お好み焼き) which are savoury pancakes, Kakigori which is shaved ice served with flavoured syrup on top and Yakitori (焼き鳥) which are a skewered chicken dish. To find out more about these yummy dishes we give you two videos which feature them all and more. Itadaimasu, minna!
Street Food in Japanese Festivals
Yakitori, Takoyaki and More at a Tokyo Festival!
The Top Five Anime from 2019 Recommendations
2019 was an incredible year with many great new titles. Fantasy lovers were glued to their screens as they watched Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, while the Science-Fiction series Dr. Stone entertained us. Not to forget the robotic action of No Guns Life or the Supernatural teenage angst that the Fruits Basket remake brought. It was an epic year and we’re still hoping for a season two for some of these series.
Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba
Enn Enn no Shouboutai
Fruits Basket (2019)
No Guns Life
There is so much to choose for the top five that we have to mention some honourable mentions that almost made it. Dororo, for one, was such a great series that we’re doing an anime challenge on it this month. Vinland Saga, the action/Historical anime is worth a watch and for the Isekai addicts, there is Maou-sama, Retry! (Demon Lord, Retry!). Another great fantasy anime was Tate no Yuusha no Nariagari (The Rising of the Shield Hero), especially because of the character growth and for the creepy anime lovers there was The Promised Neverland, an anime that was horribly fun to watch.
October Anime Challenge – Dororo
Our challenge, which is perfect for Halloween, is Dororo. It is based on the manga series written and illustrated by the mangaka Osamu Tezuka. The manga is a classic and was first serialized in Shogakukan’s Weekly Shonen Sunday between 1967 and 1968, before being cancelled, then the series was concluded in Akita Shoten’s Boken’o magazine in 1969. A 26-episode anime series adaptation by Mushi Productions aired in 1969. There was also a live-action Dororo movie in 2007. Our challenge is actually the 24-episode second anime series adaptation by MAPPA and Tezuka Productions that aired from January to June 2019. Since part of our anime theme, this month is anime from 2019.
In Dororo, a Samurai’s newborn baby boy miraculously survive even after a samurai bartered away the baby’s organs to 48 demons in exchange for dominance on the battlefield. Abandoned, a medicine equips the baby with primitive prosthetics with which the wronged son will use to hunt down those demons to reclaim his body, piece by piece, until one day he will confront his father.
Anime Birthday: Asuma Sarutobi from Naruto
Our birthday boy, Asuma Sarutobi, is the son of the Third Hokage and the uncle of Konohamaru. Asuna is known as a Jonin of Konohagakure’s Sarutobi clan, a former member of the Twelve Guardian Ninja and the leader of Team 10, which consists of Shikamaru Nara, Ino Yamanaka, and Choji Akimichi, Asuma was a wise teacher that inspired and motivated the team members of Team 10 and strengthened their resolve to carry the Will of the Fire that is part of the Konohagakure shinobi philosophy. He was a very laid-back, well-liked shinobi. He was a chain smoker and always had a cigarette in his mouth.
After Asuma became the leader of Team 10, he had a special interest in the genius Shikamaru and became great friends with the young shinobi. They often played shogi together and Asuma honed Shikamaru’s mental abilities and motivated Shikamaru to become a great tactician and strategist. Asuma and Kurenai Yuhi were in a relationship for quite a while and they have a daughter called Mirai. It is interesting to note that the name ‘Asuma’ translates to ‘true tomorrow’ and the surname ‘Sarutobi’ means ‘monkey jump’. His daughter’s name is Mirai, which translates to ‘Future’.
AMV of The Month: Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba x Enen no Shouboutai
On the topic of the best anime of 2019 we bring you two AMV from two anime of 2019. First up we have Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba and the song is Whatever It Takes by Imagine Dragons and next up we have the anime Enen no Shouboutai with the song Fight Like The Devil performed by ONLAP.
But that is not all, if you are crazy about AMVs we also bring you a little surprise as we will also add two more AMV from both series in our Discord channel for you to enjoy. Please join and enjoy even more anime content with us.
Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba
Enn Enn no Shouboutai
Anime Meetup: Horror Anime Day
Our Anime Meetups are back, and this Meetup will be a Horror Anime Meetup. There will be spine-chilling anime horror series and movies to brave through. Expect the unexpected, the thrill of the scare, the rise and or fall of heroes and monsters alike. Entrance is free! Grab a friend and come join us for a super sugoi horror day.
Be advised that details may change due to the lock-down rules and the COVID-19 situation.
When: 24 October
Time: 11:00 AM to 18:00 PM
Place: Cool Runnings, Centurion (120 Ivan Str , Hennops Park Centurion, Pretoria) The anime day is at the back of the club in the anime screening room
Be sure to look at our event page on our website as we may update with more news on events.