Showing posts with label Japan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Japan. Show all posts

Friday, June 24, 2011

Curious seventh singer

Some of my readers are likely to wonder whether I found this story by hanging around sleazily on websites about Japanese adolescents. In fact, it was a tweet from the British New Scientist magazine that provided me with the initial link, since the technological feat in question is quite astonishing, along with its artistic and cultural repercussions.

That's a photo of the seven members of a Japanese girls' band named AKB48. In the middle, you have the lead singer, named ‪Eguchi Aimi‬, whose harmonious facial features can be admired in this portrait:

For a while, the group was composed of only six girls. Then they were joined by Eguchi Aimi, and one of the first performances of the enlarged group was a video ad for candy, seen here:

Fans of the AKB48 group were recently flabbergasted to learn that the charming lead singer ‪Eguchi Aimi‬ is in fact, not a real human being, but rather a synthesized screen-only creation. In other words, a virtual singer. But the most amazing thing of all is the way in which this artificial singer was assembled. The design team "borrowed" features from each of the real singers, and then scrambled them all together to give birth to ‪Eguchi Aimi‬. For example, the eyes of Eguchi (on the left) come from the real-life young lady on the right:
Eguchi's sensuous mouth has been taken from another member of the group:

Her nose comes from yet another genuine singer:

Here's a fascinating video that provides you with a taste of ‪Eguchi Aimi‬'s talents as a performer, while showing you briefly how she was put together:


In any case, she's an attractive girl, she sings quite well (using God only knows whose voice), and she's certainly a natural seventh member of the group. If Eguchi Aimi didn't exist, it would surely be a good idea to invent her…

CORRECTION: Since writing this blog post, I've discovered that AKB48 is not simply a small girls' band, as I mistakenly imagined, but an entire cabaret company of some 60 performers, with their own theater in Tokyo. The Japanese are so well-behaved that no Japanese cabaret audience would ever dream of standing up and crying out for a live on-stage appearance of Eguchi Aimi. Fortunately...

Friday, March 25, 2011

Images of Japan

The celebrated woodblock print of The Great Wave off Kanagawa by Hokusai [1760-1849] evokes, for many westerners, a tidal wave. Even Mount Fuji, in the distant background, appears to be belittled by the proportions of the swell.

[Click the image to access a diaporama of Hokusai's work.]

But then we distinguish the presence of a boat in the foreground, and probably others further back. And we realize that our viewpoint has been tricked by distance distortion. The wave, while grandiose, is nevertheless quite ordinary… no greater than the so-called breakers that I used to confront regularly, as a child, when I was body-surfing at Yamba in Australia. It is hardly a tidal wave of the kind that hit Japan recently, leaving scenes of devastation.

[Click the image to access an article on this place.]

The tidal wave that hit the seafront at Ofunato perched that boat some 20 meters up in the air, on a sea of debris. Meanwhile, magazines in France and elsewhere have resorted to another striking image to symbolize devastated Japan: that of a young woman clad in a pale orange blanket, holding a shopping bag.

Why has this simple but moving image caught the attention of so many cover designers and graphic artists? I have the impression that a poet could write a book in attempting to answer that question. In a nutshell, the photo places the tender beauty of a fragile creature against a backdrop of savage destruction. And we have the impression that the tangled elements of the destroyed scene belonged to the society of the young woman. A vegetal presence might be that of a pot plant. Vague movements in the background indicate that other individuals are already determined to set the ball rolling once again, even at the height of this moment of great destruction. In the photo, around the young woman protected momentarily by her blanket, all is calm. The calm after the storm. But the anguish in her regard hints that it might be the calm before further storms. We realize that the "storms" in question are in fact those of our everyday existence and survival on the planet Earth.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Hands up, or you'll die!

This news photo of a child being examined for radioactivity in the vicinity of Fukushima is poignant.

The child is too young to understand what it's all about, but the troubled expression on his face (his brow appears to be wrinkled) and the docility with which he is standing with his legs apart and holding his hands outstretched in the air indicate that he realizes that it's a no-joking situation. His big sister (?) in the background appears to be leaning forward as if to understand clearly what is being asked of her.

If all goes well, and these kids grow up to become normal young Japanese citizens—or, better still, future citizens of a new and more intelligent planet—their parents and teachers will tell them about 20th-century ancestors upon whom the night once descended.

And the adolescents will react: "Yes, we remember that terrible night… when we were kids."