Welcome to From the Mouths of Babes
Gio's Note: This is a blog of sorts by Shizuki Yamashita, a member of Akadot that followed Ikuhara around during his time in the United States. It's presented in chronological order, so oldest to newest!

Famed director Kunihiko Ikuhara has moved to America to learn English and attend film school at the American Film Institute. But these lofty endeavors belie the daily hustle and bustle that plagues us all - the kind of daily hustle and bustle for which Ikuni (Ikuhara-san's endearing nickname) has solicited the help of the Digital Manga staff, a motley crue of semi-Japanese speaking do-gooders whose reverence for the "Utena" director is matched only by the daunting task of having to ease his transition into American life. But the effort gives DMI's VP of Operations, Shizuki Yamashita, a chance to study and record the life of a famous alien in LA. 

Ikuni Observation Journal

by Shizuki Yamashita / DMI staff

File date: 3/1/01 
Subject: Living in the Lap of Luxury 

Ikuni found an apartment. According to Tiffany (who helped him find the apartment), he was excited the complex's pool and three (count them!) three jaccuzi's.

"It's probably the most luxurious apartment I've ever lived in" says Ikuni, used to Tokyo's cramped quarters.

Matsukura, Be-papas' general manager responsible for the day-to-day expenses of the company, writes in her email the next day: "One month... times 12-months a year... Ouch!" 

As another who takes care of corporate budget, I understand the caprices of the creative elite. 

File date: 3/3/01
Subject: Ohtori Academy in a Furniture Store

IKEA may be the American equivalent to the Ohtori Academy.

We took Ikuni to IKEA to buy furniture. A circular, bright red rug hangs from the ceiling, and Ikuni sits admiringly in a chair underneath it. 

Wait... It looks like the 'Rose Crest!' - the school emblem of Ohtori Academy.

Damn... a photo opportunity missed! 

File date: 3/7/01
Subject: English Pains

Ikuni has been feeling pain in his stomach for a while. He says it's mainly when he has to think a lot or study. 

Diagnosis: Fake sickness - still has a lot of vocab to learn. 

File date: 3/9/01 
Subject: Going Back to School

DMI PR manager Ardith took Ikuni to the UCLA anime club meeting on the March 7th. She's a former president of the club. Same goes for Rhona Medina, Marketing Manager at Urban Vision. UCLA anime club presidency gets you in the industry? The question sat for a moment on Ikuni's face before the barrage of questions.

A group of about six to eight girls kept stealing glances at Ikuni, quickly turning around giggling when he would return the stare. 

Ikuni went on stage and talked about how he stopped watching anime when he started chasing after girls.

"Who cares about where the boosters are on the mecha! I want to know how to ask her out tomorrow." 

Girls over Gundam. This is another way of getting into the anime industry? 

File date: 3/17/01
Subject: Don't Bite More Than You Can Chew 

DMI intern Ken takes Ikuni to Best Buy to buy a TV. 

I suggested that Ikuni buy a 20" TV because it's big enough to enjoy and easy enough to carry by yourself. What does he do? Ikuni listens to Ken, who tells him that a bigger TV would be cooler. Men!

It's fine and dandy if they're able to carry the TV on their own. Can they? Nooooo. I get a call on Saturday morning, "Can you bring your car out? The TV doesn't fit in Ken's car." Men!

File date: 3/31/01 
Subject: Comedic Duo 

Digital Manga accompanied Ikuni to Fanime Con in Santa Clara, California. The Ikuni panel on Friday was filled with "Utena" cosplayers. Ikuni and interpretor Taka, a translator who occasionally works for VIZ and was picked personally by Ikuni to translate the "Utena" movie, look pleased with the big turn-out of young, nubile women. 

With a straight face, Ikuni talks about how he doesn't understand why he doesn't have a girlfriend with his good looks. Sitting in the back of the room, I choke on my Jamba Juice smoothie. 

With a straight face, Taka translates Ikuni's comments by using the word "spiffy." Spiffy?! Sitting in the back of the room, I fall out of my chair.

Ikuni panels are bad for my health. 

File date: 4/1/01 
Subject: Daylight Saving 

Ikuni's autograph session started at 10:00am. It's 10:15 and he's still not here. Hiroyuki Yamaga, the president of GAINAX, noted director of "Wing of Honneamise" and a fellow guest of honor at Fanime, is sitting at the other table, busily signing posters, artbooks, even styrofoam cups. 

Where is Ikuni?! 

Ikuni overslept because he forgot that daylight saving started, and we're an hour ahead. He finally makes it down to the autograph session 30 minutes late.

File date: 4/10/01 
Subject: Warm Sunny Day 

Day two of auditions for "I'm Gonna be an Angel," the Studio Pierrot title that Digital Manga's production division, Synch-Point, has picked up for North American distribution. At a break in the auditions I realize that Ikuni is supposed to be in house. Concerned, I look around for him. Production staff Agnes points towards a hallway littered with old anime convention booth equipment.

One entire wall of the hallway is a continuous window through which the warm springtime sunshine pours. I see Ikuni's feet sticking out from the side of an old couch on which he's slumbering in the warm, afternoon sun. 

File date: 4/17/01 
Subject: Check Itinerary Carefully 

I take Ikuni to the airport so he can catch a plane to New York where he will participate in the "Utena" movie ADR sessions being produced by Central Park Media. The flight information sent to us by CPM noted that the departure time was 8:45am, so we responsibly arrive at the airport at 8:00 am. Plenty of time. We arrive cool and collected, check the departure time monitor and discover that there are no flights to New York listed. 

Check the itinerary again. The flight was at 8:00am. The CPM staff had accidentally highlighted the departure time from New York to Los Angeles. 

Damn. We rush to the American Airlines counter and book Ikuni on the next flight to New York. Ikuni is on stand-by. We wait for an hour and a half, and he gets on a plane. Whew. 

File date: 4/21/01 
Subject: Ikuni Returns 

Ikuni returned from his excursion to NY. Aside from sitting in on the ADR sessions, he had several interviews with magazines and websites. 

Comment from Ikuni: "Justin of CPM is a good-looking guy." 

Note to Self: Check out Justin of CPM at the Big Apple Anime Festival this October. Apparently he's a good-looking guy. 

File date: 4/24/01 
Subject: The Pain Continues 

Ikuni calls me on my cellphone. He wants to go see a chiropractor for the pain on his left side.

File date: 5/3/01 
Subject: Failed! 

Ikuni takes the paper test to get a driver's permit. Failed!

Ikuni took the Japanese language version. Failed!

Ikuni studied all night long, but didn't know that road signs were going to be on the test. Failed!

Ikuni missed four, when he can only miss two. Failed!

Better luck next time, Ikuni.

File date: 5/4/01 
Subject: Congratulations!

Ikuni takes the paper test for the driver's permit again. He gets the same test as yesterday. Lucky! He passes with a perfect score. Congratulations!

Time to get off the road, folks.

File date: 5/7/01
Subject: Don't Tell Mummy

Ikuni goes to see "The Mummy 2" with Ken over the weekend. He doesn't like it as much as he thought he would.

"The use of CG wasn't very good." 

File date: 5/9/01
Subject: Marooned 

The DMI staff forgets to pick up Ikuni from school, leaving him stuck there for over two hours. Usually he calls Shizuki's cellphone for pick-up, but she is out of town on business. 
Ikuni comes back to the office starving & cold. 

File date: 5/10/01
Subject: Doodling at the Office

Ikuni has been drawing DMI staff caricatures for the past week. He thinks it would be funny if everyone is depicted as cats.

I take a look at the initial pencil sketches. Great. I haven't lost weight in this new version either. And I have even darker rings under my eyes. 

All that aside, Akadot will be uploading Ikuni's original sketches soon, which he's inked and colored himself. 

File date: 5/16/01
Subject: Taking Shots at DMI

Luis, our poofy-haired editor of Akadot, wrote an Ikuhara drinking game - based on reports from this observation journal. 

Ikuni gave up drinking and smoking when coming to Los Angeles. As he put it, the reason for giving up smoking:

"(A young girl) looked at me as if she was looking at a criminal."

The photo for the Ikuhara drinking game was shot at DMI's conference room. Pictured (from left to right) are: Tiffany, Shane, Ikuni, Shizuki, and Luis. Contrary to popular belief, DMI staff do not always drink during work hours. Only sometimes. 

File date: 5/19/01
Subject: Forgotten Again 

The DMI staff took a field trip to E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo).

As I waited in line to take pictures with the Tecmo booth girls cosplaying as Dead or Alive 3 characters, a thought crossed my mind:

Ikuni would have liked to take a picture with these girls.

Then another thought:

Damn. I forgot to invite him to come.

File date: 5/20/01
Subject: No Hard Feelings

Ikuni loves hot tubs. On some days, he goes to the jacuzzi twice a day.

Apparently, it's a great place to meet women.

He writes in his Exchange Diary with Maria Kawamura on the Japanese Ikuni Web:

"I was swimming when a woman in a bathing suit and her child join me in the pool. The child is about 3 or 4. Even though she had a child, the woman was in excellent shape and had an amazing body."

Over the phone, Ikuni tells me that he was sitting in the hot tub today, when two women joined him and started talking to him.

"They were talking fast, and I got flustered. American women are really outgoing, aren't they?"

I guess h e didn't have to go to E3 afterall. 

File date: 8/27/01 

Ikuni went to Japan to take care of some business. 

(Excerted from email from Ikuni. Translated loosely by Shizuki) I'm going to have a meeting with Watanabe-san. Well, I'm gonna go drinking with him.

Watanabe-san is the editor-in-chief of Newtype magazine, an anime magazine published by Kadokawa Shoten. He's a delightful, old-school, otaku-type of a man, who I would also like to do an observation journal on... but who am I kidding? I'm already backlogged with this simple journal!

File date: 8/28/01

Ikuni will be having an autograph session during the OmochaBoxretail store grand opening on September 15. Tickets for the autograph session will be passed out on a first-come, first-served basis to the first 75 customers. (Editor's note: This event has been postponed. Please see above)

Ikuni will be dressed as Sailor Mars, as he did during the Tokyo Character Show a few years ago. Ikuni, along with Sailor Jamboree, will be doing a song & dance.

OK, the second paragraph is a COMPLETE LIE. But wouldn't that have been fun? If enough people make the request, it may happen in the future. If Newtype can make it happen, Akadot can too!

Sailor Jamboree will be at the grand opening, though, dressed as characters from "I'm Gonna be an Angel!" (Tenshi ni Narumon!).

File date: 8/31/01

Ikuni came back from Japan. He stopped by the DMI office to pick up his mail that's been piling up in our office.

New issue of Shoujo Teikoku, a manga anthology that is running Ikuni's new project with Chiho Saito -- "World of S & M."

Several copies of Animerica Extra.

Documents from CPM. (call-out to CPM: gimme a free Utena movie DVD when it's released!)

Enough begging for now. Back to the topic.

Ikuni wanted to eat Thai curry. So we head off to Chili Thai, a Thai restaurant that's a block away from the OmochaBox store (enough plugging of the store, you say?)

Ikuni drove. Like a madman. Ran a red light at the intersection of Westwood Blvd. & Pico Blvd. Almost backed into a car that 
passed by behind us.

But we got there safely. 

File date: 9/13/01 

Had dinner with Ikuni at a local Italian restaurant to discuss the English language version of Newtype. After I drove Ikuni home (I will not ride in Ikuni's car again. Read journal entry 8/31/01 for more information), we continued to discuss until one of Ikuni's neighbors complained that my headlights were too bright.

File date: 9/15/01

After a 1-hour delay (due to electrical difficulties), we opened the doors to our retail store.

Several Ikuni fans (Utena fans) came. I hope that they knew that the autograph session was delayed.

Ikuni dropped by in the afternoon with Ken and pal. Ikuni was impressed how clean it was (since the store was practically empty the day before).

Ikuni made a circle around the red monster, tapped it a few times despite the "please do not touch" sign, and left.

Ikuni will be back later this month for an autograph session. 

Ken has offered these additional Ikuni observations:

File date: 8/30/2001
Ikuni returns from Japan. It took him about 2 hours to get through the arrival customs at LAX due to his incomplete immigration forms. I was a bit surprised to see him come out of the gate with his new haircut. As I took him to his LA home, we stopped by RadioShack to buy a stereo-mini to RCA cable to hook his MiniDisc player to his stereo, so that he could listen to his ESL MDs he made in Japan.

File date: 9/2/2001
Ikuni wanted to visit Melrose to buy some clothes. So we went there, hoping that the stores won't be closed for the Labor Day weekend. Unfortunately, most stores were closed for the holiday, so we strolled around looking for decent places to buy clothes. He tried on several T-shirts, however we learned that most of the clothes that fit him were for girls. After buying some clothes, we dropped by at Antonio's on Melrose to eat dinner. I hope that his first quesadilla experience was satisfactory...

File date: 9/3/2001
Ikuni told me he wanted to go to the beach so we decided to go to Venice Beach. However, the weather today was cloudy, so we postponed our visit until the afternoon. We strolled around Venice Beach even though it was chilly. We dropped by a pasta joint near the beach. Ikuhara-san especially seemed to enjoy the appetizer breads. However, this later proved to be disastrous as we couldn't manage to eat the pasta we ordered.

File date: 9/5/2001
Around midnight, I received a call from my friend KF, who tells me Ikuni needs assistance on his computer. As computer geeks on call, we head on to his place to see what was wrong. Apparently he downloaded the newest version of Netscape (shrugs) and all his image files became associated with that browser. It was only the matter of unchecking, and after a bit of fine tuning, all was well...

File date: 9/16/2001
We went to a nearby US Federal Building on the wake of the national tragedy to mourn those that had perished and to support the heroes that continue to search for survivors in this horrible event. Ikuhara-san paid his respects with a moment of silence before the numerous American flags at half-staff.

Shoujo Kakumei Utena (Revolutionary Girl Utena) is © Kunihiko Ikuhara, Chiho Saito, Shogakukan and bePapas/TV Tokyo and/or their respective copyright holders. The US release of the Revolutionary Girl Utena series and movie was © Central Park Media and now belongs to Right Stuf. The US release of the Utena manga is © VIZ. The various sources used in this site are noted where their content is presented. Don't sue us, seriously. Blood. Stone.