Hollywood has a somewhat chequered history when it comes to depictions of Japan and Japanese culture. From the thoroughly reprehensible Bond excursion You Only Live Twice, to the twin monstrosities that were 1989's Black Rain and 1993's Rising Sun (Sean Connery really should have known better by this point), film-makers have rarely strayed far beyond cliche and stereotype when depicting life on the archipelago.
James Mangold's comic-book adaptation The Wolverine, for which a new expository featurette hit the web earlier this week, may face serious criticism should it slip into stereotyping. In the Marvel universe, Japan really is a country populated almost entirely by ninjas, samurai, Yakuza and geisha girls. The Wolverine is based on a 1982 limited series run by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller, and sees X-Men character Logan battling crime boss Shingen Yashida (Hiroyuki Sanada) and the Silver Samurai (Will Yun Lee), a fearsome warrior with an electrified suit of armour.
Unlike its predecessor, 2009's X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the story is set after the events of 2006's X-Men: The Last Stand, with Wolverine alone and vulnerable following the superhero ensemble's disintegration. Earlier trailers have shown him losing his self-healing power as part of what appears to be a devious conspiracy.
The new featurette helpfully explains how the adamantium-clawed superhero ends up in Japan in the first place. Riffing on Logan's advanced age and apparent inability to ever get any older, it is revealed that the mutant saved the life of Yashida during the second world war. Lost and alone after the breakup of the X-Men in Brett Ratner's execrable The Last Stand, Wolverine takes up an invitation to travel to Japan. There he is offered a change to achieve mortality, though it appears the "gift" comes with a price: vulnerability. That's not to say Wolverine is totally incapable of defending himself: winning fights tends to be a lot easier when your bones are reinforced with the hardest (fictional) substance known to man and you have retractable blades protruding from your knuckles.
Japan's whaling fleet set out for the Antarctic on Tuesday to resume a hunt for the mammals after a year-long hiatus, prompting criticism from Australia as well as key ally, the United States. (Japan Today)
East Japan Railway Co. suspended operation of its new train on the Yamanote Line in Tokyo only a day after its debut Monday after multiple malfunction warnings were displayed on the driver's cab monitor, company sources said. (Japan Times)
Police in Yonezawa, Yamagata Prefecture, have arrested a 23-year-old man and his 17-year-old wife over the fatal abuse of their 16-day-old daughter. The infant died after she was placed in a trash can, Fuji TV reported. (Japan Today)
Manga artist Shigeru Mizuki, who died Nov. 30 at age 93, enjoyed living like a cat--sleeping whenever he felt like it, and then waking up with a big yawn. He was convinced from boyhood that he "could never live any other way than as a lazy bum." (Asahi)
Tochigi Prefectural Police on Monday arrested a 33-year-old housewife in Utsunomiya City for attempting to kill her estranged husband by poisoning his alcohol, reports Nippon News Network (Nov. 30). (Tokyo Reporter)
The Osaka District Court on Monday found a 20-year-old mother not guilty of causing the death last year of her 3-year-old daughter, who had an intractable disease, by not feeding her sufficiently. (Japan Today)
Seventy seated Buddhist monks intoned "nenbutsu" prayers and "wasan" hymns while swaying their bodies in unison during the annual memorial service at the famed Higashi-Honganji temple in Shimogyo Ward here on Nov. 28. (Asahi)
Tokyo Metropolitan Police on Friday re-arrested more than a dozen suspects, including one organized crime member, as a part of an ongoing health insurance fraud investigation that now includes comedians affiliated with a major entertainment agency, reports Sports Hochi (Nov. 28). (Tokyo Reporter)