Jason is a former Marvel Comics’ staff writer who went on to live and work in Japan as an English teacher for five years.He returned to the UK and now lives in West London with his wife and five children. With a full-time day job, even he doesn’t know how he finds time to write.Twitter: @JasonRohan1
I still remember the first time I saw anime. It was in 1987, at a New York Comic Convention which I’d managed to get into on a guest pass because I was working at Marvel at the time. A video tape recording was playing clips and I just stopped and stared, completely absorbed by the skill and technique of morphing robots, hyper kinetic action and finely observed detail. I’m sure my mouth was open at some of the camera work, such as a 360 degree panoramic shot. I mean, these were advanced cinematic techniques more often seen in Hollywood productions, not kids’ cartoons, and that was a huge lesson to me about applying and appreciating craft in any medium.
I’d had earlier moments back when Frank Miller was drawing on manga influences for his epic run on Daredevil, playing with shadow and choreographing balletic action scenes. As an avid comics reader, I was aware that storylines were maturing, readers were growing older and becoming more demanding, and that independent publishers were shaking things up, and it was around this time that English translations of classic manga, such as Kozure Okami (Lone Wolf and Cub), and hit anime movies like Akira were arriving on our shores and I loved it.
Given this introduction to Japan and its world of myth, magic, sci-fi, samurai and romance – sometimes all at once – I guess it was no surprise that I ended up teaching English for five years in Ichikawa, just outside Tokyo. Life as a gaijin was a daily adventure. Simple things like going to the corner shop presented challenges such as finding goods when everything is written in three kinds of alphabet, buying bean paste thinking it was peanut butter, or finding your way home again when streets are unnamed and buildings all look the same. But the key thing that drew me to Japan, and fired my imagination as a writer, was the tension between the new and the old. It was everywhere. In a single family, you had a kimono-wearing grandma with her smartphone, a sarariman father bunking down at a capsule hotel after a late night out, and his college student son with bright orange hair on his PlayStation: three generations living in three worlds simultaneously.
In the same way, popular modern Japanese myths often portray the world as illusory and subject to sudden destruction, as if there is an underlying wish to raze the modern world. I take Godzilla as a prime example. He is, essentially, a dragon but also a force of nature, a living symbol of an ancient world wreaking havoc on the glittering future. When I came to write about life in Japan, I took this theme, ran with the idea of ancient gods settling old scores with modern technology, and created the Kuromori series because Japanese life and myth are still largely unknown in the West and I wanted to share it with a wider audience. If you, too, like anime, manga, comics, travel, myths and kick-ass action, then maybe this is for you.
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Ends 19th March 2018
The Matrix meets Percy Jackson in this exciting series packed with monsters, magic and mayhem, set in modern day Japan.
Kenny Blackwood arrives in Tokyo to spend the summer with his father and is stunned to discover a destiny he had never dreamed of when he finds himself in the middle of a hidden war that is about to explode.
Racing against an impossible deadline, Kenny must find the fabled Sword of Heaven and use it to prevent the disaster. But a host of terrifying monsters is out to destroy him, and success will come at a price.
With clever, fearless, sarcastic Kiyomi at his side, Kenny must negotiate the worlds of modern and mythic Japan to find the lost sword, before it’s too late.