This Week in Tokyo Pop Culture: A Festival of Pirates

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Welcome to a new Tokyo Weekender feature where we will be taking a look at what Tokyoites are watching, listening to, and laughing at, in the non-Big Brother sense. From new movie releases to TV show recaps, this is what’s been happening in Tokyo pop culture this week:

Tokyo Pop Culture round-up

New One Piece Movie Breaks Records

On August 13, Toei announced that after just four days the new One Piece: Stampede movie officially out-earned the previous film in the series, One Piece Film: Gold. Upon its release in 2016, Gold was shown on 739 screens, making it the most widely-circulated movie in Japanese cinema history at the time. However, this now only serves to emphasize the success of Stampede, which itself was shown on “only” 429 screens.

Based on the best-selling manga by Eiichiro Oda, Stampede is the 14th movie about the fantastical adventures of the Straw Hat pirates. The series is well known for its outlandish plots and frequent plot callbacks, and the new movie is no exception, as its antagonist, Douglas Bullet, is a massively built pirate in a faux-Nazi uniform whose origin is connected to a One Piece anime arc from 2010. With some amazing animation thrown into the mix, Stampede is a can’t-miss for any One Piece fan.

New TV Releases are Touching – in Every Sense of the Word

August is usually a barren time for new TV releases in Japan, but this year had some notable exceptions. On August 4, the premium Wowow channel started airing Soshite, Ikiru (“And, Live”) a touching drama about the Great East Japan Earthquake. The new series focuses less on the tragedy itself and more on the reconstruction efforts. Its main character, Toko Ikuta (played by Kasumi Arimura), lost her chance to become an idol because of the quake, but now finds meaning in life by volunteering to help others in the disaster-stricken Kesennuma region. Also worth noting is the inclusion of Toko’s friend, a Korean named Han Yoo-Ri (played by Kang Ji-Young), whose character seems to symbolize the international cooperation and help that Japan received in the wake of the devastating earthquake.

On the opposite end of the spectrum there’s the new Netflix series The Naked Director. Premiering on August 8, the show is a semi-biographical story of famed porn director Toru Muranishi (played by Takayuki Yamada), who is said to have revolutionized Japan’s adult film industry in the ‘80s. From the get-go, the series tries to legitimize itself and Muranishi by having a porn performer talk about how sex is ultimately natural and healthy for women, and therefore (it’s implied) so is pornography. At the same time, though, the series also wants to be shocking, which is why one of the first scenes with Muranishi involves him touching himself in a bar toilet. Despite that, The Naked Director definitely has a sense of humor about itself and you get a feeling that all its “outrageous” scenes are there because the show knows it’s dealing with a larger-than-life character.

Film still of Netflix show The Naked Director
Photo by Mio Hirota, courtesy of Netflix

In anime news, the new Try Knights series is currently in its third episode and continues to carry on with the theme that you don’t need to be huge in order to play rugby, as shown by the scrawny yet tactically-brilliant protagonist, Riku Haruma. Seeing as Japanese kids will soon be picking up the sport due to the upcoming Rugby World Cup, that’s probably not the worst message to purvey.

Dealing With the Heatwave, Tokyo-Style

With Tokyo temperatures exceeding 30 degrees, everyone’s looking for new ways to prevent heatstroke. On August 12, Twitter user @smpn_channel posted a picture of a poster promoting one, creative approach to the problem: appealing to people’s wallets. According to the tweeted image (which currently has over 40,000 likes and retweets), heatstroke-related medical costs can go as high up as ¥85,000 (~$800) so you should play it safe and go grab a cold drink.

On the same day, the Twitter user @kakkoyo posted an excerpt from a newspaper about ways of combating the heat during the upcoming Summer Olympics. Apparently, one idea is to plant morning glory flowers outside Olympic venues because, although they can’t do anything to physically lower the temperature, they are “visually cooling.” Let’s see how fighting the Tokyo heat with the power of the mindworks out for them.

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