Brain training takes aging Japan by storm

Sun Apr 9, 2006 3:23 AM ET

By George Nishiyama

TOKYO (Reuters) – Tamako Kondo says 10 minutes of exercise every morning keeps her fit.

But the 80-year-old doesn’t hit the treadmill or take aerobics classes. Instead, she sits at a desk, pencil in hand, and tackles simple arithmetic and other quizzes, part of a “brain training” program that has taken Japan by storm.

Bookshops now have separate sections for workbooks with the exercises and video game versions are selling like hot cakes among the growing ranks of older Japanese who hope the drills will reinvigorate their gray matter.

“I want to delay becoming senile as much as possible,” said Kondo, who lives in a Tokyo home for the elderly.

“I know someone who gets things that happened recently mixed up with tales from the war days. I don’t want to become like that,” added Kondo, after attending a weekly “Healthy Brain Class” course run by the Shinagawa ward in Tokyo.

At the class, 30 students — all over 70 — perform the drills for half-an-hour once a week and are given more exercises to work on at home, every day for six months.

Scientists say a daily dose of such exercises improves the memory and even the condition of dementia patients.

“I wanted to make a contribution to society through my findings, to tell the world that you can train the brain,” said Ryuta Kawashima, professor of brain science at Tohoku University, whose theory has been featured in many books and video games.

“But I didn’t think it would become this big.”

BRAIN TRAIN GAMES

For video game makers eager to expand their clientele beyond youths as the number of children dwindles in Japan’s rapidly aging society, software featuring Kawashima’s brain-training program has proved to be a huge success.

Nintendo has sold a combined total of more than 3.3 million of its “Brain Training for Adults” released in May 2005 and a sequel that came out last December. Its portable DS consoles on which the games are played are constantly out of stock in shops.

“We see people who may have been to our store, but probably never to the video game section, come and buy them,” said a sales clerk at the game section of a major electronics shop in Tokyo.

Nintendo also said about a third of those who bought the games were 35 or older.

“We wanted to reach out to those who were not interested in video games … But we did not expect such success,” said Ken Toyoda, a Nintendo spokesman.

“We were able to ride the ‘brain craze’.”

Rival Sony Computer Entertainment, which has the “Brain Trainer” using Kawashima’s theory for its PlayStation Portable (PSP) console, is holding “Video Game Workshops for Grown-ups”, in a bid to appeal to older generations.

At one workshop on a Saturday afternoon, 15 participants, aged between 30 and 63, listened intently as a 63-year-old instructor took them step-by-step through how to play games, including the “Brain Trainer”, on the PSP.

Sachiko Kumagai, who had come to check out the brain-training game, was impressed after the 90-minute class.

“My forgetfulness really got bad after I turned 50 … With this, you can see the results right away, so it’s handy,” said the 55-year-old who works for a local government office.

The players are given grades on their performance on the PSP game, while on the Nintendo version, they are given their “brain age”, ranging from the optimal 20 to 80, the worst.

ELEVATE INNER SELF

Other toys and puzzles seen as stimulating the brain have also benefited from the boom.

Sales of Rubik’s cube, the famous cube-shaped puzzle, increased by fivefold last year in Japan to around 500,000.

“The brain-training phenomenon has had an effect … We purposely put ‘IQ’ on the package so that it would appeal to grown-ups,” said Kazuo Usui, a marketing official at Megahouse Corp, which sells the puzzles in Japan.

Those involved in the phenomenon agree that the interest in brain training comes from a desire to minimize the inevitable effects of aging among Japan’s graying population, but cited differing reasons for it becoming a national obsession.

Nearly one in five Japanese is aged 65 or older and the ratio is expected to rise to one in four over the next decade due to a rock-bottom birth rate and improved longevity.

Brain scientist Kawashima said people were fed up with materialism and were eager to seek other means of fulfillment.

“There is the issue of aging society, but more than that, I think people want to train and elevate their inner self.”

Nintendo’s Toyoda said it was part of a health-conscience craze which has been around for years now.

“Health consciousness is branching out … It’s a trend.”

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Zoo’s phone monkeys forced to tone it down

Zoo’s phone monkeys forced to tone it down
(Dailey Mirror)

A troop of mischievous monkeys at London Zoo have had to be re-trained after showing too much interest in mobile phones.

The ring tones and bright lights proved just too attractive to the squirrel monkeys in their new no-barrier enclosure.

Visitors who held out their phones to video or take photographs attracted attention from the monkeys who attempted to take the object.
 
A short training programme was developed which put an end to their interest and the monkeys are once again roaming their environment in a more natural state of play.

Malcolm Fitzpatrick, curator of mammals at the Zoological Society of London, said: “The new barrier free enclosure means the monkeys are in closer proximity to visitors.

“They had started to take an interest in visitors’ mobile phones when they were held out towards them because they could see the lights flashing and hear the interesting noises they make.

“It’s important that the monkeys maintain their natural behaviour and training them not to go for visitors’ phones was essential to achieving this.”

Staff at the zoo used old mobile phones that some of the keepers donated and put sticky substances on them that squirrel monkeys don’t like.

“They soon learned not to touch the phones. They are back to their usual pastimes of sleeping and foraging now,” said Mr Fitzpatrick.

Squirrel monkeys are native to South America where their status in the wild is threatened. They are used for biomedical research, as pets and for bait and food.

Currently London Zoo, along with other zoos in England, is involved in breeding programmes aimed at increasing numbers of the species.

Opened at Easter last year, the new walk-through enclosure at the zoo has been designed to mimic the forests of Bolivia.

Laptop Detractors Shrugged Off

Associated Press 11:45 AM Apr, 04, 2006

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor who hopes to give $100 laptops to the world’s children dismissed recent criticisms Tuesday and said his project could begin distributing the computers by early next year.

Kicking off the LinuxWorld conference in Boston, Nicholas Negroponte said he was undeterred by skepticism from two of the leading forces in computing, Intel and Microsoft.

“When you have both Intel and Microsoft on your case, you know you’re doing something right,” Negroponte said, prompting applause from the audience of several hundred open-source software devotees.

Negroponte, founder of the One Laptop Per Child nonprofit association, also revealed a few new tweaks to the design of the computers.

One distinctive element of the original design was for a hand crank to provide power to the laptops where there is no electricity. To compensate, the devices are being engineered to use just 2 watts of electricity, less than one-tenth of what conventional portable computers generally consume.

But having a hand crank stuck to the device likely would have subjected the machine to too many wrenching forces, so it will now be connected to the AC electrical adapter.

In fact, because the adapter can rest on the ground, the power generator might take the form of a foot pedal rather than a hand crank altogether.

Negroponte had previously said the flexible devices will have a 7-inch screen that can be read in sunlight. It will save on costs by using the Linux operating system, peer-to-peer wireless connectivity and a 500-megahertz processor — which was top of the line in the late 1990s.

One Laptop Per Child has big-name partners, including search leader Google Inc., chip-maker Advanced Micro Devices, Linux distributor Red Hat, laptop maker Quanta Computer and News Corp., the media company led by Rupert Murdoch. All have helped finance the project, which Negroponte said has raised $29 million.

However, skeptics have questioned whether the device can meet Negroponte’s goal of inspiring huge educational gains in the developing world.

Microsoft chairman Bill Gates has criticized the computers’ design, including its lack of a hard disk drive — though many people in the tech world believed he was more irked by the laptops’ use of Linux, the free, open-source system that competes with Gates’ proprietary Windows systems.

Intel executives, meanwhile, have suggested that Negroponte’s laptop is a mere gadget that will lack too many PC functions. Last week, Intel announced its own plans to sell an inexpensive desktop PC for beginners in developing countries.

Negroponte expressed frustration with Gates in particular, saying that the $100 laptop designers are still working with Microsoft to develop a version of the Windows CE operating system that could run the machines.

“Geez, so why criticize me in public?” Negroponte said.

Microsoft did not immediately return calls for comment.

Negroponte’s current plan is to begin distributing 5 million to 10 million of the laptops in China, India, Egypt, Brazil, Thailand, Nigeria and Argentina by early 2007.

Governments or donors will buy the laptops for children to own and use in and out of school, and the United Nations will help distribute the machines.

Eventually, Negroponte expects many other governments — and not just those in technology-deprived places — to come onboard. For example, Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has expressed interest in buying the machines for schoolchildren here.

In time, Negroponte expects the $100 laptop to be a misnomer. For one thing, he believes the cost — which is actually about $135 now and isn’t expected to hit $100 until 2008 — can drop to $50 by 2010 as more and more are produced.

He also said the display and other specifications could change as enhancements are made. In other words, he seemed to be saying to his critics: Don’t get too hung up on how this thing operates now.

“The hundred-dollar laptop is an education project,” he said. “It’s not a laptop project.”

Jesus may have walked on ice, not water: study

Tue Apr 4, 2006 6:21 PM ET

By Jim Loney

MIAMI (Reuters) – The New Testament says that Jesus walked on water, but a Florida university professor believes there could be a less miraculous explanation — he walked on a floating piece of ice.

Professor Doron Nof also theorized in the early 1990s that Moses’s parting of the Red Sea had solid science behind it.

Nof, a professor of oceanography at Florida State University, said on Tuesday that his study found an unusual combination of water and atmospheric conditions in what is now northern Israel could have led to ice formation on the Sea of Galilee.

Nof used records of the Mediterranean Sea’s surface temperatures and statistical models to examine the dynamics of the Sea of Galilee, which Israelis know now as Lake Kinneret.

The study found that a period of cooler temperatures in the area between 1,500 and 2,600 years ago could have included the decades in which Jesus lived.

A drop in temperature below freezing could have caused ice thick enough to support a human to form on the surface of the freshwater lake near the western shore, Nof said. It might have been nearly impossible for distant observers to see a piece of floating ice surrounded by water.

Nof said he offered his study — published in the April edition of the Journal of Paleolimnology — as a “possible explanation” for Jesus’ walk on water.

“If you ask me if I believe someone walked on water, no, I don’t,” Nof said. “Maybe somebody walked on the ice, I don’t know. I believe that something natural was there that explains it.”

“We leave to others the question of whether or not our research explains the biblical account.”

When he offered his theory 14 years ago that wind and sea conditions could explain the parting of the Red Sea, Nof said he received some hate mail, even though he noted that the idea could support the biblical description of the event.

And as his theory of Jesus’ walk on ice began to circulate, he had more hate mail in his e-mail inbox.

“They asked me if I’m going to try next to explain the resurrection,” he said.

America’s war on the web

America’s war on the web
02 April 2006
(Sunday Herald)

While the US remains committed to hunting down al-Qaeda operatives, it is now taking the battle to new fronts. Deep within the Pentagon, technologies are being deployed to wage the war on terror on the internet, in newspapers and even through mobile phones. Investigations editor Neil Mackay reports

IMAGINE a world where wars are fought over the internet; where TV broadcasts and newspaper reports are designed by the military to confuse the population; and where a foreign armed power can shut down your computer, phone, radio or TV at will.
In 2006, we are just about to enter such a world. This is the age of information warfare, and details of how this new military doctrine will affect everyone on the planet are contained in a report, entitled The Information Operations Roadmap, commissioned and approved by US secretary of defence Donald Rumsfeld and seen by the Sunday Herald.

The Pentagon has already signed off $383 million to force through the document’s recommendations by 2009. Military and intelligence sources in the US talk of “a revolution in the concept of warfare”. The report orders three new developments in America’s approach to warfare:

lFirstly, the Pentagon says it will wage war against the internet in order to dominate the realm of communications, prevent digital attacks on the US and its allies, and to have the upper hand when launching cyber-attacks against enemies.

lSecondly, psychological military operations, known as psyops, will be at the heart of future military action. Psyops involve using any media – from newspapers, books and posters to the internet, music, Blackberrys and personal digital assistants (PDAs) – to put out black propaganda to assist government and military strategy. Psyops involve the dissemination of lies and fake stories and releasing information to wrong-foot the enemy.

lThirdly, the US wants to take control of the Earth’s electromagnetic spectrum, allowing US war planners to dominate mobile phones, PDAs, the web, radio, TV and other forms of modern communication. That could see entire countries denied access to telecommunications at the flick of a switch by America.

Freedom of speech advocates are horrified at this new doctrine, but military planners and members of the intelligence community embrace the idea as a necessary development in modern combat.

Human rights lawyer John Scott, who chairs the Scottish Centre for Human Rights, said: “This is an unwelcome but natural development of what we have seen. I find what is said in this document to be frightening, and it needs serious parliamentary scrutiny.”

Crispin Black – who has worked for the Joint Intelligence Committee, and has been an Army lieutenant colonel, a military intelligence officer, a member of the Defence Intelligence Staff and a Cabinet Office intelligence analyst who briefed Number 10 – said he broadly supported the report as it tallied with the Pentagon’s over-arching vision for “full spectrum dominance” in all military matters.

“I’m all for taking down al-Qaeda websites. Shutting down enemy propaganda is a reasonable course of action. Al-Qaeda is very good at [information warfare on the internet], so we need to catch up. The US needs to lift its game,” he said.

This revolution in information warfare is merely an extension of the politics of the “neoconservative” Bush White House. Even before getting into power, key players in Team Bush were planning total military and political domination of the globe. In September 2000, the now notorious document Rebuilding America’s Defences – written by the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), a think-tank staffed by some of the Bush presidency’s leading lights – said that America needed a “blueprint for maintaining US global pre-eminence, precluding the rise of a great power-rival, and shaping the international security order in line with American principles and interests”.

The PNAC was founded by Dick Cheney, the vice-president; Donald Rumsfeld, the defence secretary; Bush’s younger brother, Jeb; Paul Wolfowitz, once Rumsfeld’s deputy and now head of the World Bank; and Lewis Libby, Cheney’s former chief of staff, now indicted for perjury in America.

Rebuilding America’s Defences also spoke of taking control of the internet. A heavily censored version of the document was released under Freedom of Information legislation to the National Security Archive at George Washington University in the US.

The report admits the US is vulnerable to electronic warfare. “Networks are growing faster than we can defend them,” the report notes. “The sophistication and capability of … nation states to degrade system and network operations are rapidly increasing.”

T he report says the US military’s first priority is that the “department [of defence] must be prepared to ‘fight the net’”. The internet is seen in much the same way as an enemy state by the Pentagon because of the way it can be used to propagandise, organise and mount electronic attacks on crucial US targets. Under the heading “offensive cyber operations”, two pages outlining possible operations are blacked out.

Next, the Pentagon focuses on electronic warfare, saying it must be elevated to the heart of US military war planning. It will “provide maximum control of the electromagnetic spectrum, denying, degrading, disrupting or destroying the full spectrum of communications equipment … it is increasingly important that our forces dominate the electromagnetic spectrum with attack capabilities”. Put simply, this means US forces having the power to knock out any or all forms of telecommunications on the planet.

After electronic warfare, the US war planners turn their attention to psychological operations: “Military forces must be better prepared to use psyops in support of military operations.” The State Department, which carries out US diplomatic functions, is known to be worried that the rise of such operations could undermine American diplomacy if uncovered by foreign states. Other examples of information war listed in the report include the creation of “Truth Squads” to provide public information when negative publicity, such as the Abu Ghraib torture scandal, hits US operations, and the establishment of “Humanitarian Road Shows”, which will talk up American support for democracy and freedom.

The Pentagon also wants to target a “broader set of select foreign media and audiences”, with $161m set aside to help place pro-US articles in overseas media.

The Award for Best Satanic Rabbit Goes to …

April 2, 2006
(New York Times)

By VIRGINIA HEFFERNAN
Tokyo

DAI SATO rarely wears suits, but he was in a good one last Saturday afternoon, a black salaryman special with a nice white shirt. On him, though, the get-up looked slept in, dusty and too tight — perfect, in other words, for the occasion: the Tokyo International Anime Fair, the sublimely dorky annual convention for Japanese animation. As the crown prince of anime screenwriting, Mr. Sato, at 36, is a consummate creator of the characters, busty schoolgirls and shaggy-haired heroes, that inspire Asian teenagers to devote their irreplaceable youth to the worship of cartoons. He hadn’t shaved. He was smoking American Spirits. He looked rumpled, and obscurely amused, as he almost always does.

The vast halls of Tokyo Big Sight — the Death Star-sized convention center that housed the fair, with its sprawling trade show, closed-door industry symposiums and awards ceremony — were decked with images of exuberant candy-colored anime figures. As they gazed down on the hundred thousand or so fans who ambled among the booths, their googly baby eyes (the centerpiece of the anime aesthetic), seemed to monitor the proceedings. Under this scrutiny, Mr. Sato worked up a peculiar merriment, hopping around in a boxer’s victory pose, and chanting, “Hai, hai, hai.” Yes, yes, yes — as if in assent to all that this trippy universe has offered him so far: money, girls, fans, fun, artistic credibility, international acclaim, superb pot and a working relationship with Radiohead.

What more could a guy want? And now Mr. Sato had arrived at Big Sight so that Shintaro Ishihara, the brash reactionary governor of Tokyo, could pronounce this slacker dude par excellence a credit to the great nation of Japan.

If an anime featured this meeting of Mr. Sato and Mr. Ishihara, the affable Mr. Sato, who is happy to share anime’s wealth with the rest of the world, would almost certainly have the voice of a lovable Smurf, at ease in the global village. By contrast, Mr. Ishihara, who is known for ferocious nationalism, would require a basso profundo, the kind reserved for giant warlike robots.

But life isn’t anime, or not always, and Mr. Ishihara may have more in common with the hip-nerd artists at Big Sight than it would initially seem. In 1955, at 23, Mr. Ishihara became the Jack Kerouac of Japan, publishing the scandalous novel, “Season of the Sun,” which depicted the debauchery of rich college students after the war. With his brother, Yujiro, a movie star in the Brando mode, Mr. Ishihara drew followers who dressed in Hawaiian shirts and called themselves the Sun Tribe. Sure, he later turned chauvinistic, both in the best-selling book he helped author, “The Japan That Can Say No,” and on the political stage, where he exhorts Japan to stand up to the United States and assert its intrinsic superiority. But Japanese pride, he believes, should be inclusive: business, technology and literature, and the nation’s indigenous postmodern art forms, too. As he said Saturday, of anime, “The Japanese are inherently skilled at visual expression and detailed work.”

Thus, the Tokyo International Anime Fair, of which Mr. Ishihara is chairman. Here, anime’s creators are enjoined to come up with inventive, culturally salutary and above all export-worthy cartoon concepts that will bring honor to Japan and, once and for all, unseat Mickey Mouse.

“I hate Mickey Mouse,” Mr. Ishihara pronounced acidly from the podium on Saturday afternoon. “He has nothing like the unique sensibility that Japan has.”

That Japanese-cool-is-the-new-Japanese-car ideology is fine with Mr. Sato, as most things are. If he sees the creative ascendancy of Korea and China as one day making Japanese anime obsolete, and if he moreover thinks that’s a good thing, he doesn’t emphasize those views here, where patriotism is as much the order of the day as satanic-looking bunnies and hip-hop bounty hunters.

He, and the like-minded colleagues he greets as he makes his way through the crowd, don’t see themselves as belonging particularly to their country; if they have an affiliation at all, it’s to the confederacy that the Japanese call otaku — the vast network of slovenly, asocial and diffident fanboys who spend their days watching anime on DVD; reading the heroic, erotic, cutesy or literary comic books known as manga; and surfing the Internet. The otaku are a proud group, in their way, but they’re not used to getting medals of honor from state officials.

Mr. Sato mused on the award he was there to receive: best screenplay, for “Eureka seveN,” which chronicles the adventures of a teenage boy, a pilot girl named Eureka and a traveling group of mercenaries. “Is it really that exciting to be appreciated by the regime?” he asked, through a translator. Triumphantly thrusting his arms in the air, he rendered his surprise answer: Hai, hai, hai.

AMONG the most dedicated fans of anime, it has become popular to dress up as favorite characters — not just in T-shirts and masks but in wigs, body makeup, wax prosthetics and lifelike elf ears. The spectacle of misfits turned out as sexpots and musclemen is a considerable part of the allure of most otaku conventions. But the practice, known as cosplay, for costume play, was prohibited at Big Sight. As a result, there were no giant Sailor Moons or Dark Elf Gatekeepers, and the fans seemed more obsessive than playful.

One young man sat trembling on the floor near the entrance to the trade-show arena, where he rocked rhythmically while clutching the pink DVD cover for a show called “Pretty Cure.” Someone had signed it: perhaps one of the voice actresses. The fan let a reporter hold the valuable insert for an instant, then snatched it back and continued his rocking.

Elsewhere, fans pressed in to see Mr. Sato, who was appearing with the actor Kouji Yusa to promote their latest television show, “Ergo Proxy.” Mr. Yusa, who resembles a young David Cassidy, lends his voice to the character of Vincent Row, a government worker from the provinces whose “listless” exterior, Mr. Sato explained, conceals internal reserves of “violent energy and wildness.” The fans, most of them female, were loving Vincent. Miwa Ishikawa, 23, and Fumiko Fujiwara, 27, had come to the fair just for him. “Vincent seemed weak at first,” Ms. Ishikawa said, giggling and blushing. “But the more we get to know him, the more we find he’s full of deep mysteries.”

“Ergo Proxy” is a post-apocalyptic sci-fi story of humans and androids living together in the domed city of Romdo, “a paradise that doesn’t require emotions,” as the trailer puts it. But a murder, a virus and a monster all conspire to defile paradise, induce emotions and force a mayhem in which it’s unclear who is real and who is robot. This show, Mr. Sato explained, marks a departure from past projects because it’s openly about adults and “mature” themes, including what the English-language Web site Anime News Network calls “sex, drugs and extreme graphic violence.”

“My anime has grown up with me,” Mr. Sato explained. In the past, when he wrote for younger characters, he entertained himself with references for an older generation: the hero of “Eureka seveN,” for example, is Renton, named for a character in “Trainspotting”; his father, Adrock, is named for the Beastie Boy; and a helpful duo named Jobs and Woz are named for Steven P. Jobs and Stephen Wozniak of Apple.

All of this Mr. Sato is willing to explain, and patiently, but he does so somewhat by rote. It’s plainly no great pleasure anatomizing anime for people outside otaku culture; the plots and characters sound stupid when you spell them out, and it’s much more comfortable for fanboys to be around people who just get it. But Mr. Sato indulges the naïve questions because he is determined that his work find an audience outside Japan, among what he refers to as the “foreign otaku.” Already American audiences know his work from “Cowboy Bebop” and “Ghost in the Shell” on the Cartoon Network. Where Mr. Ishihara’s sloganeering concerns Japan’s primacy, Mr. Sato’s rallying cry comes closer to “Otaku of the world unite.”

That call would please Alex Stamoulis and Richard Anderson, two American college students who were making their way through the thick crowd. Mr. Stamoulis, a 20-year-old student at Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y., has been an anime fan since he was a child. A shy man with a convincingly otaku demeanor, he seemed kind but nervous, and in a rush to talk about his favorite shows.

In studied contrast, Mr. Anderson, the 24-year-old president of the anime club at Drexel University in Philadelphia, had a point to make. “American fans have made anime into our own,” he said. “We have totally assisted Japanese culture. American anime artists really know their stuff.” Moreover, he said: “Japanese anime fans never leave their houses. But I leave my house. I even came to Japan! American fans are more social. I see being into anime just as another normal thing I do, like belonging to a fraternity.”

As the presentation of “Ergo Proxy” wrapped up, the fans of Vincent the listless g-man gathered their things to leave. Had they found it disillusioning to see their hero in the flesh? “Nah,” said Ms. Ishikawa, newly blasé. “We know this is anime, you know. We don’t think it’s real.”

MR. SATO and a laid-back entourage from his production company, Frognation, filed into the auditorium for the final ceremony, which some had promised would be the Academy Awards of anime. At a glance, it was clear the event had been overbilled; most of the audience wore jeans, and the stage, with its amateurish lighting scheme, looked like the kind of place where an American charlatan might hold a self-improvement weekend.

The first awards went to animators whose work had appeared as far back as the 1920’s. Several bohemian-looking elders emerged from the wings as images from their work played on a monitor. Black-and-white woodland animals jumped around and spoke Japanese like children. A waiter went to pop a Champagne cork and his head popped off.

But no one laughed. As the animation got increasingly artsy and curious, that absence of laughter grew harder to understand. Tim Burton-style Claymation cats fell into puddles and a depressing pencil-sketched crow donned a top hat. Finally in an anime called “Odeki,” a doltish cartoon man sprouted a boil on his behind that grew longer and longer, and kept getting caught in places like the spokes of his bicycle wheel. It was gross-out humor of the best kind. But no one laughed, or winced, or made a sound. The artist who created the piece, an irrepressible Osakan named Naoki Yamaji, was given something called the special award. The crowd clapped politely.

Acceptance speeches for the awards ranged in tone from modest to downright self-abasing. Kenichi Yoshida, who won for best character design, told the audience, “I’ve always considered my design line to be rather lukewarm, neither low-key nor flashy, but receiving this award has installed in me some confidence.” Another winner, Sumito Sakakibara, sold out his own film, “Kamiya’s Correspondence,” in its very tagline: “This is the first memorable ‘Neo-Realist Moving Manga’ (though it’s not a very successful attempt. …).”

When Mr. Sato was called to the stage and given the award for best screenplay he took it, typically, in stride. He grinned. Like all the other winners, he shook hands with, and bowed to, a designated local captain of art or industry while he accepted a looped trophy of hand-blown glass, whose shape is meant to symbolize, among other things, a “ring of global expansion,” or so the program notes clarified. “Eureka seveN” received, in all, three awards — Mr. Sato’s, as well as best character design and best television anime. (The Cartoon Network promptly acquired the show for an April airdate.) The gang at Frognation seemed pleased. Everyone, in fact, seemed pleased, in an extremely understated way.

But then Governor Ishihara appeared. He looked tired. Perhaps it was the two days he had just spent talking about the anime industry. Still, he marshaled his dark charm. “This is a place for business,” he began. “I’ve been at the trade show booths, and met people who are doing anime alone. What they do begins as manga, then becomes anime, and each needs our support.”

“But too much anime looks alike,” he said. It really seemed to bother him. He cautioned anime creators to think about how they’re positioning their audience. “Can’t you guys work on a story a bit more?”

“I don’t play games or watch anime,” he continued, gathering momentum. “I saw one or two. Some are interesting, but I’m not going to quit my job to go be an anime creator.”

He paused to tell a fable about a sinking ship on which some passengers fed tainted food to a cat. It was a parable about the cold war, he said; anime, he believed, should tackle such important themes. He continued, “We’re so clever, so used to doing things the so-called correct way. But why don’t you really try to raise the level of this art form? Can’t you bring in some interesting thoughts? Practice some concision, as in haiku.”

With that, he hit his stride. “We can go further,” he urged the assembly. “We can make something that’s more revolutionary. You’re talented people. Let’s make something extraordinarily Japanese. That’s what I’m hoping for.”

No one talked back, but many looked uneasy. Later, Takayuki Matsutani, the president of the Association of Japanese Animations, told reporters to ignore the statements of Mr. Ishihara, but it was impossible. In the meantime, Mr. Sato let the speech roll off him. He lit up a cigarette, and headed back to the studio, where he would once again control his own animated universe.