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.
The mother of a Japanese hostage held by Islamic State extremists appealed publicly Wednesday to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to save her son after his captors issued what they said was a final death threat. (Japan Today)
Police have arrested a 19-year-old girl on suspicion of killing a 77-year-old woman. The girl, who is a student at Nagoya University, was quoted by police as saying she wanted to kill someone and that anyone would do, NTV reported Wednesday. (Japan Today)
Last week, officers from the Yotsuya Police Station in Tokyo took Takahiro Arimoto, the 44-year-old manager of massage parlor Honey Candle and one other employee into custody for the harmful employment of minors, a violation under the Labor Standards Act. (Tokyo Reporter)
Workers have begun tearing down structures at a train station here that was devastated in the deadly tsunami of 2011, citing the danger of collapse they pose to the growing number of visitors to the site. (Asahi)
Fukuoka Prefectural Police on Monday took the acting chairman of the Kudo-kai organized crime group into custody for allegedly blackmailing the owner of a building, reports the Yommiuri Shimbun (Jan. 26). (Tokyo Reporter)
Crown Prince Naruhito met Saudi Arabia's new King Salman in the Saudi capital of Riyadh on Sunday and expressed his condolences over the death of King Abdullah, who passed away on Friday. (The Japan News)
A fire drill was conducted at Horyuji temple, a UNESCO World Heritage site in Ikaruga, Nara Prefecture, on Monday, which was Cultural Property Fire Prevention Day. About 100 personnel participated, including temple priests and local firemen. (The Japan News)
Social media users around the world have deluged a special Facebook page calling for the safety of Japanese hostage Kenji Goto, who is being held captive by the Islamic State extremist group, with selfies proclaiming "I AM KENJI." (Asahi)
Tokyo Metropolitan Police on Monday the arrest of a former organized crime member for the sale of stimulant drugs to musician Aska two years ago, reports Nippon News Network (Jan. 26). (Tokyo Reporter)
The Islamic State beheaded one of the two Japanese citizens it has been holding, but signaled a potential willingness to negotiate over the fate of the other one - offering a tiny sliver of hope to a Japan reeling from shock and grief. (foreignpolicy.com)