Archive for July, 2010

Pulsations (7.22.10)

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

Here are the latest Pulsations, links to fresh stories and visuals about Japan, shout-outs to fellow bloggers, and highly clickable stuff that we think you might enjoy.

In no particular order, they are . . .

3D bunnies kick butt on Youtube

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

Cat Shit One, not coming to a theater near you yet

Cat Shit One, not coming to a theater near you yet

Fans of 3D CG are being treated to a free 20-minute episode of military action drama “Cat Shit One” before it hits Japan’s cinemas. The episode, which details the exploits of a pair of commando bunnies who attempt to spring hostages from a Middle Eastern jail, can be viewed on YouTube until Sept. 20.

Adapted from the original “Cat Shit One” (“Apocalypse Meow” in the States) manga created by Motofumi Kobayashi, the 3D version moves the action away from the Vietnam War to a more modern setting. As with the original, all the characters are animals, with the Arabic enemy being depicted as bumbling camels – the reason our heroes, plucky Packy and panicky Botasky, of the Cat Shit One team are rabbits is because the Japanese word for rabbit, usagi, when written in the roman alphabet becomes USA GI (geddit?).

The 3D graphics are flawless and in scenes that don’t contain anthropomorphic animals with machine guns, it almost feels as if you’re watching real footage of the desert. Director Kazuya Sasahara put in some comical touches that made me giggle: When Packy and Botasky are lying on a knoll staking out the prison, their little fluffy tails twitch cutely while they plan out how to take care of the enemy. Military buffs will eat up the action sequences which, while not bloody, have quite a raw feel to them.

This isn’t the first time an animation has been released for free on the web before its theatrical release. “Eve no Jikan (Time of Eve),” an animation movie by Yasuhiro Yoshiura about a café for robots, was broken up into episodes and made available for free on Yahoo!, stirring up lots of interest and garnering numerous fans before it hit the cinemas in March this year.

iPhones become ice-breakers at gokon dating parties

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

gokon

iPhone apps like “Shuffle de Gokon” are helping singles make connections – this will mix up your seating arrangements.

After an initial dormancy, the iPhone has boomed in Japan over the past two years and attracted hordes of app developers. Japan Pulse has previously reported on iPhone apps for car sharing, moms and moms-to-be, streaming concerts, children’s books and business cards, but now app store dealers have infiltrated the gokon – the Japanese group blind date.

Gokon (合コン) is a contracted form of the word godo konpa (合同コンパ), which literally means “combined company.” For a gokon, generally one girl and one guy will reserve a location and agree to bring along a set number of their friends (of the same sex) for a combined date. The goal? Get your drink on and woo/be wooed.

iPhone apps and Japanese blogs have found many ways to use the ubiquitous phone while at a gokon. What Japan Thinks has an English-language rundown of a Goo survey that asked site visitors which apps are best suited for use at a gokon.

Standard gokon etiquette states that initial seating arrangements should be men on one side of a table and women on the other. “Gokon de Shuffle” gets things off to a running start with seating randomization, a fun way to mix up the evening. Will it put you next to the girl of your dreams? Or the friend she brought with her who is . . . nice. This was the highest rated app in the survey.

There are plenty more ice-breakers at the App Store. “Touch Scan Pro” and “Love Touch” both offer love compatibility tests where users give fingerprints in exchange for readings. (The former also includes lie detection, an IQ scan and a horoscope reader.) While apps like this may claim to offer services, in the end they are really just plain fun, and the Love Touch site rightly warns users not to take the results too seriously: “This is really random . . . please don’t fight.”

Once the beverages start to work their magic, conversation topics get more daring. “Dice Talk” helps catalyze that process with a little Truth-or-Dare style sets of questions, with three different modes for friends, significant others or gokon.

Clearly the goal of all these apps is to induce some sort of interaction. A group of young adults huddled around an iPhone on a date, however, unfortunately recalls the world author Gary Shteyngart describes in “Lenny Hearts Eunice,” an excerpt from his upcoming novel “Super Sad True Love Story” which details a future in which people lie next to each other and, in lieu of actual interaction, stare at their “äppäräti” – futuristic iPhone-like entertainment devices.

But not all of this can be blamed on the iPhone – people have been always been searching for shortcuts to meaningful interaction, and some of these apps only mimic things that exist in the real world. One Japanese blog suggests using “PullPullPic,” an app that lets users alter photographs – not unlike purikura, which has existed for decades.

Passion for ‘garage kit’ models mounts at Wonder Festival

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

Wonder Festival showcases some of the top garage kits - handmade models of characters from anime and manga.

Wonder Festival showcases some of the top garage kits – handmade models of characters from anime and manga.

The Japanese are renowned for otaku-levels of devotion to their hobbies, whatever they may be, and this is especially true for “garage kits,” plastic models of anime and game figures that are constructed by hand and are as professional as products produced by major companies.

Garage kits, like anime, came of age in the 1980s. The growth of the hobby has been channeled through Wonder Festival (Won-fes, for short), a biannual convention where garage kit artists have been displaying and selling their wares since 1984. In the beginning, the kits occupied a legal gray market, which led to a uniquely Japanese moment of corporate compromise – the invention of “day-of copyrights” (tojitsu hanken, 当日版権). These copyrights are issued through the event, which is hosted by Kaiyodo, a company that produces garage kits, figures and other toys. Dealers who apply can receive a copyright that allows them to sell and display only accepted models only during the event. They can’t take reservations during the event and ship them later. They can’t sell models that haven’t been accepted. The copyright ends when the event does. This year there will be 1,900 dealers selling their kits on July 25.

If the ’80s was the boom of garage kits, which created a so-called “garage kit spirit” where artists aimed to create the most detailed models possible, then the ’90s was when it became more corporate. Notably, the popularity of “Neon Genesis Evangelion” baptized a generation with the breasts of Asuka and Rei, the two main female characters from the legendary sci-fi anime. Almost singlehandedly, the show increased the number of casual fans of garage kits, fans who were more interested in seeing the characters they liked (in revealing positions, nonetheless) and less interested in the quality the models. Additionally, corporations have taken advantage of the event to release limited edition, already completed models that pander to non-fanatics.

In response to the influx, the label “Wonder Showcase,” closely connected with parent organization Wonder Festival, in 1999 began to highlight some of the highest quality garage kits. For each show they select several artists and profile them along with their works. They help promote the artists and put them in a great position to meet people within the industry during the show, but don’t force them into a management contract – the goal of the showcase is to promote the “garage kit spirit” that initially sparked the boom. Due to the questionable legality of their hobby, artists often use pseudonyms to hide their true identity.

The event was held at Tokyo Big Site until 2008, when an elevator malfunction caused injuries to visitors and drew a surprising amount of attention from the national press. Since 2009, Makuhari Messe has hosted the event.  This year the festival takes place July 25, from 10 a.m.  to 5 p.m.

To follow the coverage from abroad, Danny Choo‘s Web site might be one of your best bets. Here’s his roundup of Wonder Fest 2008.

It’s a dress! It’s a yukata! It’s both!

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

Nissin's yukata dress: the top and skirt can be worn separately

Nissen’s yukata dress: the top and skirt can be worn separately

As festival season gets underway many girls are getting into the swing of things by donning a yukata dress, which marries traditional Japanese fabrics with a more modern shape. Sales of the yukata dress have been brisk since it was launched this year, and Tokyo Walker reports that Web store Yumetenbou have sold more than 5,000 dresses since the item was released for sale in May.

The frilly dresses are popular with both young girls and women who are drawn to the voluminous knee length skirt and cute but pretty floral fabrics. Similar in style to a Gothic Lolita outfit, the yukata dress is a cute confection dripping with lace and ribbons. This lace-trimmed outfit sold by Yumetenbou comes complete with hair ribbon accessories and a pink ribbon belt. Yumetenbou’s costumes go for around ¥5,000, but a cheaper version sans accessories is available from Nissen web store for under ¥3,000. Best of all is that the yukata dress is not a dress at all but a skirt coupled with a top that can be worn separately for a more casual effect.

If the yukata dress is a little girly for your taste head down to China House Kamome in Yokohama to buy a sexed-up version of the yukata. The store sells dresses in the Vietnamese audai style made from yukata fabric with a slender silhouette and slit down the side that is bound to get pulses racing during the summer party season. Costing around¥12,900, they’re a lot more pricy than the yukata dress but since the store started selling them six years ago they’ve grown so steadily in popularity that they’re now flying out the door.

But what to wear with your yukata? Not just any old bag will do. Luckily this summer the kago bag (a boxy straw basket) is a hit item that suits both traditional and modern garb. They come in all shapes and sizes to suit your style, many, of course, topped off with a ribbon or bound in lace, while other more flashy numbers sparkle with glitter or display the wearer’s favorite cartoon characters. Check out TokyoFashion.com’s gallery to see a range of popular styles.

What do you think of the yukata dress trend? Are you digging the lighter style or is the whole thing a little bit too girly?

Japan by the numbers (07.16.10)

Friday, July 16th, 2010

Pulsations (7.16.10)

Friday, July 16th, 2010

Here are the latest Pulsations, links to fresh stories and visuals about Japan, shout-outs to fellow bloggers, and highly clickable stuff that we think you might enjoy.

In no particular order, they are …

Big (only) in Japan? Free fans

Friday, July 16th, 2010

Fans are commonly given out for free during the summer in Japan

Fans are commonly given out for free during the summer in Japan

If you’re suffering from the heat while out and about in the muggy urban streets of Japan this summer the good news is there’s a free way to cool down. During the summer months many companies give out free uchiwa (handheld fans) to heat-frazzled pedestrians and by doing so are able to create a feeling of goodwill and generate plenty of free advertising – free uchiwa are typically emblazoned with the logo of the company in question. It’s also possible to pick up free commemorative uchiwa at certain events (the uchiwa pictured above right was given out at last year’s sumo tournament in Ryogoku).

Uchiwa, which originally came to Japan from China,  is made by splitting the top half of a bamboo stalk. The splinters are then splayed out to create a frame for the paper that is then pasted on top. These days frames are typically made from plastic though there are still shops where you can buy the genuine article.

Uchiwa are particularly prominent if you visit local festivals where dashing men and graceful women in yukata typically carry around an uchiwa to keep cool. While many use freebie uchiwa, there are also plenty of people who have rather more stylish store bought versions. Unless you’re buying a bamboo uchiwa, store bought ones are very reasonable and even the ¥100 store stock a nice selection of traditional and modern prints. Click here for a gallery of uchiwa.

This best uchiwa freebie this summer has got to be those given out by summer popsicle brand Gari Gari Kun. These special uchiwa have QR code printed on them that allows you to register via your cell phone for a chance to get free Gari Gari Kun items. Only 500,000 fans are available and it’s reported by J-Cast that they’ll be giving 30,000 out around Shibuya Station on July 24. Grab yourself a free fan while you can.

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