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Japanese influence on US pop culture

Page history last edited by PBworks 13 years ago



Barenaked Ladies


Chickity china the chinese chicken

You have a drumstick and your brain stops tickin

Watchin x-files with no lights on, were dans la maison

I hope the smoking mans in this one

Like harrison ford Im getting frantic

Like sting Im tantric

Like snickers, guaranteed to satisfy

Like kurasawa I make mad films

Okay I dont make films

But if I did theyd have a samurai

Gonna get a set of better clubs

Gonna find the kind with tiny nubs just so my

Irons arent always flying off the back-swing

Gotta get in tune with sailor moon

Cause that cartoon has got the boom anime babes

That make me think the wrong thing





The Harajuku Girls are four young women who were hired in 2004 as backup dancers for AmericansingerGwen Stefani's Love. Angel. Music. Baby. album. The "Harajuku Girls" have continued to appear alongside Stefani, and are featured in the music videos for "What You Waiting For?", "Rich Girl", "Hollaback Girl", "Luxurious", "Crash", "Wind It Up", "The Sweet Escape", and "Now That You Got It". They have also toured with Stefani.

"Hollaback Girl", "Luxurious", "Crash", "Wind It Up", "The Sweet Escape", and "Now That You Got It". They have also toured with Stefani.


Image:HarajukuGirls.jpgGwen Stefani performing "Cool" during The Sweet Escape Tour.


[edit] Background


The characters and storylines originated in Japan as the manga and anime series Mach Go Go Go from the anime studio Tatsunoko Productions.

Mach Go Go Go was first created by anime pioneer Tatsuo Yoshida (19331977) as a manga series in the 1960s and made the jump to TV as an anime series in 1967. The central character in the anime and manga was a young race car driver named Gō Mifune (Mifune Gō). Yoshida selected the names and symbolism in his creation very carefully. The large red M on the hood of the Mach 5, which in North America was assumed to stand for "Mach 5", is actually the emblem of Mifune Motors, the family business. That's also the origin of the "M" on Gō's helmet. This was a homage to Japanese film star Toshiro Mifune (Yoshida was a huge fan). His given name Gō is also a Japanesehomophone for the number 5 (the number on his race car). This is also represented by the yellow letter G embroidered on his shirt. The name of the series, Mach Go Go Go is actually a triple entendre, (1) as mentioned, it stands for the number 5, i.e. it's the name of the car, the Mach 5, (2) it's the name of the main character, (3) the English word "go". Put it all together, the title of the show means, "Mach 5, Gō Mifune, Go!" The names themselves constitute a multi-lingual wordplay of the kind that started to become part of the Japanese popular culture of the time. Yoshida got his idea for Speed Racer after seeing two films that were very popular in Japan at the time—Viva Las Vegas and Goldfinger. By combining the look of Elvis Presley's race car driving image (complete with neckerchief and black pompadour) and James Bond's gadget-filled Aston Martin, Yoshida had the inspiration for his creation.

The English rights to Mach Go Go Go were immediately acquired by American syndicator Trans-Lux. The main character Gō Mifune was given the name "Speed Racer" in the English version. A major editing and dubbing effort was undertaken by producer Peter Fernandez, who also voiced many of the characters, most notably Racer X and Speed Racer himself. Fernandez was also responsible for a retooling of the theme song's melody and its subsequent English lyrics, provided by Danny Davis and the Nashville Brass. When the series emerged before U.S. TV audiences as Speed Racer, fans were quickly drawn to its sophisticated plots involving fiendish conspiracies, violent action, hard-driving racing, and soulful characters with sparkling eyes. In an effort to squeeze the complicated plotlines into existing lip movements, the frenetic pace of the dubbing made Speed Racer famous for its quirky "fast" dialogue.

In the late 1990s the series made a comeback as reruns on Cartoon Network in late afternoon (and later on in late night/overnight) programming. The series was distributed in the 1990s by Group W's international unit with the mention of Trans-Lux deleted from the show's opening sequence.

Early versions employed the Syncro-Vox technique by superimposing live-action human lips over limited-motion animation or even motionless animation cels.


[edit] The Car

Mach 5 Steering Wheel Hub
Mach 5 Steering Wheel Hub
Sparky repairing the Mach-5
Sparky repairing the Mach-5
Spritle & Chim-Chim
Spritle & Chim-Chim
Main article: Mach 5

Mach 5, the car Speed Racer drove in the series (known as the "Mach Go", or simply the "Mach" in the Japanese version), is a technological marvel containing useful pieces of equipment. These gadgets were easily deployed by pressing buttons marked 'A' through 'G' on the steering wheel hub. There was another button, marked 'H', mounted in the console.

The buttons had the following functions:

  • Button A (Auto Jacks): “Releases powerful jacks to boost the car so anyone can quickly make any necessary repairs or adjustments.” Although not designed for this function, the auto jacks can also be used to “jump” the car short distances at high speeds. The "chyock chyock" sound effect played whenever the car jumped through the air is instantly recognizable to the show's fans.
  • Button B (Belt Tires): Toggles special grip tires for traction over rough terrain (firm, icy, or unsteady ground, ocean floor, vertical mountainsides). At the same time, 5,000 horsepower is distributed equally to each wheel by auxiliary engines.
  • Button C (Cutters): For use traveling over heavily wooded terrain. A matched pair of powerful rotary saws protrude from the front of the Mach 5 to cut away many obstacles.
  • Button D (Deflector): Releases a powerful transparent cover which seals the cockpit into an air-tight chamber. The cover is bullet- and crash-proof. The cockpit becomes a water-tight chamber which then allows the car to be completely submerged under water.
  • Button E * ("Evening Eye"): Controls special illumination lights "which can be controlled singularly or in tandem", allowing the driver to see more clearly than with ordinary headlights. When used with the “night shades” attached to Speed’s helmet, his vision is enhanced with infrared light. The original Japanese version strictly translates this as "illuminating eyes".
    • Button E was later modified to activate mini-wings that would slide out from under the car to assist Speed in long jumps.
  • Button F (Frogger mode): Used when the Mach 5 is submerged. An oxygen canister supplies the cockpit with breathable air. A periscope can then be raised to scan the surface of the water. Everything viewed is relayed to a video screen inside the Mach 5's cockpit. The 100-pound auxiliary supply of oxygen is enough to last for thirty minutes.
  • Button G (Gizmo Rocket): Releases a flying, gull-shaped "homing robot" from under the hood of the car.
  • Button H (Home): Mounted in the center console with the rest of the controls for the homing robot, this button sends the homing robot back to the Racer house.
  • Extra Button: Pops, in one episode, put an extra button in the car that makes it glide short distances.


[edit] Characters

Racer X
Racer X
Rex Racer (a.k.a. Racer X)
Rex Racer (a.k.a. Racer X)

Speed Racer had a younger brother named Spritle (Kurio Mifune) who, along with his pet chimpanzeeChim-Chim (Senpei), constantly got into mischief by hiding in the trunks of cars.

Other regular characters included Sparky (Sabu), the company mechanic (the "S" on his shirt matches both his original Japanese name and North American renaming); Speed's father, Pops (Daisuke Mifune), a former wrestler-turned race car owner and builder; his mother, Mom (Aya Mifune); and also Speed's chaste girlfriend, Trixie (Michi Shimura). The "M" on "Trixie's" blouse stands for "Michi". Michi would often fly around in a helicopter during a race, advising Speed Racer via a radio link to the Mach 5. Though this is never made clear in the anime, in Michi's first manga appearance she is presented as the spoiled, willful daughter of the head of a rival car company who first meets Gō when she is sent to spy on Mifune Motors. When she falls in love with Gō, the plan is scotched. The character's background as a "rich girl" explains why she owns her own helicopter and drives a Mercedes.

A frequent recurring character, driving car number 9 (the "Shooting Star") is the enigmatic Racer X (Fukumen (Masked) Racer), a heroic, mysterious, selfless, sympathetic and often brooding soldier of fortune whose secret identity is that of Rex Racer (Ken'ichi Mifune) Speed's older brother, who years earlier had a falling out with his father, Pops Racer, after Rex wrecked the first race car that Pops had built. Pops had told Rex prior to the race that Rex was not yet prepared to compete at the professional racing level. With less than one lap to go in his first major race, Rex was leading and cruising toward victory, but as he happily waved toward Pops in celebration of the impending victory, Rex lost control of Pop's car and wrecked it. Pops exploded with anger. After being berated by Pops, Rex left the family and exiled himself while vowing to become the world's greatest race car driver. It was at that time that Rex assumed the mysterious, Racer X (a/k/a Masked Racer) identity, to pursue his racing career.

It was acknowledged by both Pops and Speed over the years that Racer X was the superior driver of the two, and the greatest driver that they had ever seen, but Speed always vowed to defeat Racer X as the two vigorously competed. Speed was often suspicious of Racer X's identity and motives because Racer X would repeatedly, and inexplicably, sacrifice winning races to protect Speed from drivers and others who tried to harm or even kill Speed. The assistance from Racer X nearly always led to Speed winning races, while Racer X came in second place. Racer X always left the scene unnoticed, receding into his secret life. It is not until the celebrated episode, Challenge of the Masked Racer, that fans of the show finally get to see the face of Racer X. It was during that episode that Speed began to expect that Racer X may, in fact, be his estranged older brother. In that episode, Racer X again rescues speed from villains who attempted to kidnap him. Racer X then brings an unconscious Speed to his home. When Speed awakens, the first thing he sees is a vase of white roses, and he states that they are his mother's favorite flowers. While Speed stares at the vase of white roses, and then at the mask of Racer X that has been left behind in the room, an emotional Speed is thought to be speculating that Racer X is, in fact, Rex Racer, his long exiled older brother. The episode ends, however, without confirmation to Speed that Racer X is his older brother. After the completion of their next race, Speed adoringly comments that he will someday find out the true identity of Racer X, as Rex once again mysteriously recedes into the background. The "M" on his tunic stands for Mifune, the family name.








Contemporary Japanese pop culture such as anime and manga (Japanese animation and comic books) is Asia's equivalent of the Harry Potter phenomenon--an overseas export that has taken America by storm. While Hollywood struggles to fill seats, Japanese anime releases are increasingly outpacing American movies in number and, more importantly, in the devotion they inspire in their fans. But just as Harry Potter is both "universal" and very English, anime is also deeply Japanese, making its popularity in the United States totally unexpected. Japanamerica is the first book that directly addresses the American experience with the Japanese pop phenomenon, covering everything from Hayao Miyazaki's epics, the burgeoning world of hentai, or violent pornographic anime, and Puffy Amiyumi, whose exploits are broadcast daily on the Cartoon Network, to literary novelist Haruki Murakami, and more. With insights from the artists, critics, readers and fans from both nations, this book is as literate as it is hip, highlighting the shared conflicts as American and Japanese pop cultures dramatically collide in the here and now.
For more information visit http://www.japanamericabook.com/


Author Bio
Roland Kelts is a Lecturer at the University of Tokyo and a co-editor of the New York-based literary journal, A Public Space. His first novel, Access, will be published next year.His articles, essays, and stories have been published in Zoetrope, Playboy, Salon, The Village Voice, Newsday, Cosmopolitan, Vogue and The Japan Times, among others. He has lectured at New York University, Rutgers University and Barnard College, and he is a graduate of Oberlin College and Columbia University.  He currently splits his time between New York and Tokyo

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