Jo Raku Ga Jo

Today I had the pleasure of visiting one of the most inspiring and moving art exhibits I've ever seen. I haven't been this enlightened at an art show, in fact, since I went to see the collection of original drawings and woodblock prints of Hokusai Katsushika.

Currently on display at The Illuminating Company is the Buddhist artwork of Ito Shinjo, (伊藤 真乗) in a wonderful exhibition called "The Vision and Art of Shinjo Ito." The elegant and artfully-displayed exhibit is free to the public and features Ito-sama's amazing and beautiful works created in devotion to his Buddhist faith. The collection features a variety of the artist's incredible sculptures as well as some of his prints, calligraphy and even photographs. Sculpture is the primary focus of the exhibit and the works include an assemblage of very moving images of Buddhist deities, including a 10-foot Parinrivana statue. His other sculptures are equally-impressive, depicting the people who were very close to him or had great influence in his life. Art-goers can also watch a well-made documentary about Ito Shinjo's life featuring his daughter, Ito Shinso, who is now head of the Shinnyo-en Order.

Ito Shinjo (1906-1989) was born in Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan, to parents of deep faith, and was dedicated to participation in family traditions. As a young man, Ito-sama got married and worked as an aerospace engineer for many years until, without any formal training, he started creating art in the 1930's just after the death of his two sons. Intensely-inspired by the Buddhist traditions of his family and the teachings of the Shingon monks with whom he studied, he, along with his wife Tomoji, went on to found the Buddhist Order-- Shinnyo-en. The basic principles of Shinnyo-en were about making esoteric Buddhism accessible to regular, everyday people. The name, itself, can be loosely translated into English as Garden ("en") of Ultimate Reality ("Shinnyo").

I wish that everyone who might find meaning and contentment from this awesome experience could see this exhibit. Sadly, it will close forever at 17:00 tomorrow. Should you feel inspired to take time off from your busy schedule to see it, as I did today, The Illuminating Company is located at 19 East 21st St. in Chicago. (312) 326-9500.

The title of this post represents a favourite concept of Ito-sama and can be translated as "Permanence, Bliss, Self and Purity."

The official website for The Vision and Art of Shinjo Ito is here:


Wormgear's Late Anime Pick

If you weren't paying attention like me, you may have missed a really exciting and well-made anime series last year called Black Lagoon (ブラックラグーン). Created by Hiroe Rei (広江 礼威), the series was first exposed to the public at the 2006 Tokyo International Anime Fair and was aired on networks across Japan a few months later, eventually inspiring the local fans to purchase over 3 million copies. In 2007, the English-language translations started making their way to the States.

The stories are creative, well written, and rich with action-packed, often violent gun-blazing adventures intertwined with exciting sub-plots and complex character-development. At the focus of the series is the Lagoon Company, a rogue group of half-pirate, half-mercenary social misfits based in Thailand who operate primarily from their PT boat. The group's primary objective is survival, which is facilitated by meeting the business needs of dangerous clients and drawing upon the support of shady contacts. The Lagoon Company has four members: Dutch, Bennie, Revy and Rock. Their very diverse backgrounds provide each with something unique to contribute to their missions and different ways to learn from each other.

This amazing anime series has been a fantastic new discovery for me, and I highly recommend this extremely kool first-season 3-DVD set. Fans of my favourite series, Death Note, may also appreciate the fact that Rock's character is played by the English-language voice actor Brad Swaile, who is also the voice of Yagami Light. Black Lagoon is available from Geneon in both English and Japanese with subtitles-- check it out!!

The Black Lagoon official website is here: http://www.blacklagooncompany.com


Once your heart is pre-occupied, your sword will not be true.

Alright!! I got 'em! If you have been following along, I'm on a quest to obtain all of the kick-ass figures from my favourite manga, Vagabond. This isn't exactly a simple task since all of these figures, made by Fewture, are discontinued and now quite rare.

I managed to get my hands on Shinmen Takezo and refined spearman / buddhist monk, Inshun! Takezō, of course, is the birth name of our hero Miyamoto Musashi (宮本 武蔵) before he started to make a name for himself. Here's Takezō, in the middle of his life-changing battle with Inshun, disciple of Master Hōzōin In'ei (宝蔵院 胤栄) of the Hōzōin Temple. This is the second duel between Takezō and Inshun that amounts to a major life-learning experience for Takezō in which he learns a great deal about himself and what it means to embrace fear. This duel also marks the first time Inshun steps ahead from the pure mechanics and technique of spearmanship and commits to putting his life on the line during battle. This amazing duel marks a turning-point in Takezō's life and in the Vagabond series, as well, that ultimately provides Takezō with experience necessary to learn the meaning of his mushashugyō (warrior's journey). Takezō wields his trademark wooden practice sword; Inshun, with Takezō's permission, uses the Hōzōin cross spear.

These figures are another masterful work of art by Fewture and I am very glad I could find them. As far as I know-- there is only one left in the series-- Master Hōzōin In'ei (宝蔵院 胤栄). Wish me luck!

Finally, let me just say that it is a great relief for me to return to writing posts about the things that I love instead of those that I hate. I never intended for my Blog to focus on stuff that pisses me off, but Follywood was on a real roll for a little while and I was extremely annoyed. Unfortunately, I doubt this is the last thing I'll have to say about it.


Spielberg gets in on the rip-off action

Next on the chopping block-- Kôkaku Kidôtai (攻殻機動隊) aka. Ghost in the Shell. This award-winning, complex and highly philosophical story was first a very popular late-80s/early-90s manga series by Shirow Masamune (士郎 正宗). In 1995 the manga was adapted into the highly-acclaimed, self-titled, full-length anime film by director Oshii Mamoru (押井守). The film was one of the very first to blend CG and cell animation a into perfectly-rendered anime masterpice, alluring anime-fans, movie-critics and otakus alike, worldwide.

The sad and disappointing part of this began in 2004 when Ghost in the Shell was acquired by DreamWorks. Then, last week, Stephen Spielberg announced his intent to rape the classic manga/anime story with a live-action re-make of this stunning, thought-inspiring movie. God only knows who will be cast to play the roles of these amazing characters. I certainly cannot think of one single Hollywood actor who could accurately portray Major Kusanagi (草薙 素子) or Chief Aramaki (荒巻大輔). Perhaps Spielberg will do the same thing he did for Memoirs of a Geisha and cast Chinese Actors to play the roles of Japanese people? Sure-- they all look the same to whitey, right? Riiiight.

This is just another Follywood dumbfuck idea from an industry that has already done and re-done everything, and can no longer create new ideas of their own. What a sham(e).


Hollywood is seriously starting to piss me off!!!

For F%*K SAKE! I wish I could say that there is no way for the situation to get any worse, but sadly-- it gets much MUCH worse. Harvey Weinstein has evidently started smoking f%*king CRACK or something, which is rotting his brain and has led him to believe that it's a good idea to create a re-make of one of the GREATEST MOVIES OF ALL TIME-- Kurosawa Akira's (旧字体) enlightening, awe-inspiring, film *masterpiece*, Shichinin no Samurai (The Seven Samurai).

This is one of the stupidest ideas I have EVER heard, and that is saying a LOT considering I live in a country that has had George Bush as president for the last 8 years. I don't see how the man who produced The Lord of the Rings movies, Fahrenheit 9/11 and Sicko (among many other great films) could possibly do this (it has to be crack).

What adds insult to injury is that this re-make will be starring Hong Kong actors Donnie Yen and Ziyi Zhang along with Hollywood big-screen jerk-wad George Clooney. Please excuse me while I go vomit in terror and then burst into tears of sorrow.

I hate you, Hollywood-- go f%*k off and find your own goddamn ideas!


Hollywood is totally LAME!

Hollywood is officially OUT of new ideas, aside from those that are very stupid or else tired and played-out. So where do Hollywood producers turn when they need to make money? The land of true innovation and creativity, of course, Japan. Here are two examples of what's coming down the Hollywood sewer-pipe:

A live-action interpretation of Ôtomo Katsuhiro's 1988 Anime CLASSIC of the same name, based on the amazing and very popular manga, Akira (アキラ). This new movie, produced Leonardo DiCaprio (*ugh*), will be set in "New Manhattan" and has lame-ass TV actor Joseph Gordon Levitt cast to play the part of Tetsuo! Ewwww. What a waste. Sorry-- I wish this were an April Fool's Day joke but sadly, it's not.

Speed Racer
Another live-action rip-off of a classic anime series-- Mahha GoGoGo ("Speed Racer" in the west) created in the 1960s by anime founding father Yoshida Tatsuo. This piece of crap "movie" also casts boring TV actors to play the main characters: Emile Hirsch as Mifune Gō ("Speed Racer") and Matthew Fox as Fukumen Racer ("Racer X"). Then there's Christina Ricci. I don't really have a problem with her, per se, but I certainly do not think she is a good choice for playing the part of Michi ("Trixie").

What a sorry-ass state of affairs for a city that at one time set the standard for film production world-wide. Pure garbage.