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‘Japan Sumo Cup’ is possibly the most Japanese thing ever

Wednesday, November 25th, 2015

Do you like sumo? Into horse racing? Longtime fan of “Street Fighter”? Well, then do we have a game to match your specific and varied interests.

Japan Sumo Cup” is a free web-based game that — prepare yourself — lets you play as real sumo wrestlers riding actual horses from the Japan Racing Association while competing against characters from “Street Fighter.”

No, this isn’t a joke. The Japan Racing Association developed the game with the Japan Sumo Association and Capcom to help promote an upcoming race on Nov. 29, and also created the most Japanese thing in quite some time.

In this rhythm game, players can choose from different sumo wrestlers and then compete against characters from Capcom’s popular fighting series, including Blanka, Guile and M. Bison. The best part is that there are many nods to “Street Fighter” in “Japan Sumo Cup,” such as Dhalsim riding an elephant instead of a horse.

Each fighter’s stage comes with a remixed version of their background music from the original game, and they even perform their signature moves when the race gets close. Ryu shoots out his Hadouken blast and Chun-Li does her Spinning Bird Kick.

Ryu gets an extra speed boost by shooting out one of his Hadouken blasts.

Ryu gets an extra speed boost with one of his Hadouken blasts.

In order to win, players have to tap the arrow buttons on their keyboards at the right moments to rack up combos and win the race. Since the beats match the music from “Street Fighter,” old-school players who have the original soundtrack burned into their brains will have a leg up on the competition.

With this game, the JRA and Sumo Association, long the pastimes of elderly men, are clearly trying to reach out to the next generation. It kind of reminds us of when JRA put QR codes on betting tickets in 2002 or when the Sumo Association held “gokon” matchmaking events at one of its matches.

You can place your bets now on whether or not this joint venture pays off.

“Japan Sumo Cuo” can be played for free online. The site says that more characters will be unlocked later this week.

Ginza Cozy Corner takes dessert into hyperdrive with ‘Star Wars’ cakes

Thursday, October 22nd, 2015

One Japanese confectionary vendor is about to find the Force deep within a sweet tie-up.

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The (caloric) force is strong with this one.

Ahead of the December release of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” Ginza Cozy Corner, which has outlets nationwide, has made a line of “Star Wars” sweets that are truly out of this world. The treats themselves are all based on people from the the films, and regardless if the characters were good or evil, the desserts will end up being sweet.

The cake set includes Darth Vader, Yoda, Jabba the Hutt, an Ewok, a Stormtrooper, C-3PO and R2-D2, each having its own unique taste. The yellow C-3PO cake is lemon-flavored; the white R2-D2 one is cheese mousse; and so on.

If that wasn’t enough to satisfy sci-fi fans, Ginza Cozy Corner is also releasing a “Star Wars” tin and pouch filled with the store’s original creations. They will also be selling an R2-D2 sponge cake that is covered in white frosting and colored biscuits.

The “Star Wars” collection will be sold at select stores beginning Nov. 1, and the nine-piece cake set will sell for ¥2,000.

For more information, visit the Ginza Cozy Corner website.

Warning: This viral video of high school girls might make you blush

Wednesday, October 21st, 2015

Cosmetic company Shiseido has recently uploaded a YouTube video that is blowing viewers’ minds with a bona fide twist.

In the promo video, titled “High School Girl? — The Makeup Secrets of High School Girls,” the camera weaves through a classroom full of drop-dead cute young women who pout and wink like true pop idols. But everything is not as it seems.

The camera zooms in on the page of a book that one girl is reading. The small text reads “Did you notice the boys in this classroom?” As the camera backs out of the room, the viewer realizes that — SPOILER ALERT — they’re all dudes.

The big gender-flipping reveal highlights the transformative properties of Shiseido’s makeup, which give you the tools to be whatever you want to be (granted, having veteran hair & makeup artists helps).

Whether this invokes deeper commentary on herbivore men or gender fluidity or whatever, the bottom line is Shiseido has struck viral-video gold.

[This behind-the-scenes video shows how the makeup specialists pulled it off.]

Sharp dials up the fan service to celebrate 20 years of ‘Evangelion’

Tuesday, October 20th, 2015

For those who have always dreamed of owning an Evangelion robot, this might be the closest you get.

Just in time for the 20th anniversary of “Neon Genesis Evangelion”  a mecha lover's wet dream (Kyodo photo)

Just in time for the 20th anniversary of “Neon Genesis Evangelion” a mecha lover’s wet dream (Kyodo photo)

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the popular “Neon Genesis Evangelion” animated series, Sharp is releasing a special smartphone that pays homage to the show both in the device’s hardware and software.

The phone itself is detailed in purple and green with a backside decorated with an Evangelion mech. Naturally the phone’s custom interface echoes the show’s iconic purple and green coloring. For the extra devout, there’s a special themed phone cover.

Perhaps the biggest fanboy perk is 365 different wallpapers that feature illustrations and concept art from the show. Its calendar app will reveal a new wallpaper each day of the year. In addition, the phone will have original character voices and sound effects from the anime.

“Evangelion” fans can apply for the phone, which costs a hefty ¥84,240, at 7-Elevens nationwide on Nov. 2 (or register online). Make sure to suit up and grab yours because the company only plans to make 30,000 units, to be divvied out in December (5,000) and April (25,000).

J-blip: Ipsa’s Face Melody

Saturday, September 5th, 2015

Every face has a name, a story and . . . a song? That’s the idea behind cosmetic company Ipsa’s newest creation.

We should, uh, take it at face value, but the company claims that its Face Melody program can measure the user’s appearance and write a unique tune based on their attributes. The application will even create a personalized song title for your fantastic face.

Users can go to Ipsa’s website, upload a picture of their face and watch as the program measures their smile level, face balance, face color and lightness. Then Face Melody will generate a song based on a special algorithm and produce a trippy music video complete with 3-D effects and psychedelic visuals.

Go to the Face Melody website to hear your song.

Japan celebrates the GIFs that keep on giving

Friday, August 21st, 2015

GIFs — which stands for graphics interchange format, don’t you know — have made the Internet an even more enjoyable place than before, and we have the receipts to prove it.

These digital designs were technological wonders back in the days of AOL and Netscape (Google it, kids). But they eventually went from high-tech animation to cliched novelties.

In recent years, the retro aesthetic of GIFs has been making big comeback. Nowadays, instead of flashing text, they often reference classic signifiers in pop culture and have become a sort of emotional shorthand, a form of emoji.

They’re now a hip way to express a gamut of feelings — excitement, annoyance, surprise . . . Name an emotion and there’s bound to be the perfect GIF for it. That’s why sites and apps such as Giphy and Nutmeg are becoming the must-have tools for when a smiley is just not enough.

They are not only being used just to express LOLs and winks, but recently GIFs have entered the realm of boda fide art. This year Japanese artist Toyoi Yuuta set Tumblr ablaze by posting a beautiful series of 8-bit GIF creations depicting sometimes melancholic, sometimes surreal scenes of life in Japan.

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Thousands of users reblogged the pieces as the designs invoked memories of the Nintendo Entertainment System and took the seemingly trite medium of GIFs to a new level.

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The artist Segawa 37 took the genre a step higher for Adobe’s GIF contest by giving a modern twist to classic works of “the floating world.” Segawa 37 humorously tweaks the time-honored woodblock prints by including things such as a spaceship swooping in and beaming up Mount Fuji or a group of kimono-clad travelers watching a shinkansen train zoom by.

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Segawa 37’s GIF set also includes pieces that rely more on aesthetics than humor, including paintings of the warm glow of lanterns in Edo’s Yoshiwara district and people watching the Sumida River fireworks.

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It seems that GIFs are beginning to get the artistic credit they deserve, and some are even making the jump from computer screens to galleries. The GIF Exhibition will be held Sept. 5-13 at Tokyo’s Tetoka and will feature a variety of works from around 10 artists. Although the pieces may be over in a flash, visitors are encouraged to slow down and take in every frame.

GIFs have gone from Internet meme to art, but where will they go next? It’s anyone’s guess.

Make 12th-century art using 21st-century tech

Thursday, July 30th, 2015

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The Choju-Giga, the famed animal caricature ink paintings displayed Kyoto’s Kozan-ji Temple have been captivating people for centuries. The four scrolls, which date to the 12th and 13th centuries and depict rabbits and monkeys getting into mischief, are often cited as the first manga comics in Japan’s history.

Now art lovers can create their own masterpieces from the comfort of their Internet browser with the Choju-Giga Construction Kit website.

The site allows users to drag and drop a variety of ink-drawn animals and hiragana letters onto a virtual scroll to make whatever scene they choose. Some of the options include a fiddle-playing frog and a bow-wielding rabbit, giving users numerous story possibilities. The tools — enlarge, shrink, erase — are naturally depicted in hand-drawn calligraphy.

In the Q&A section of the site, the creator basically says he or she simply wanted a free way for users to create classic art. So go forth and roll your own epic scroll, one mouse-click at a time.

Pokemon ages ungracefully with middle-aged ‘Ojisan Monsters’

Thursday, July 16th, 2015

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Someday Pikachu and friends will have to stop following Ash Ketchum around the world, retire from battling and get a real job.

That’s part of idea behind “Ojimon,” a new mobile game that is a portmanteau of ojisan (middle-aged man) and Pokemon. Using “ojiballs,” players can catch aging pocket monsters, who have disturbing Kobito Dukan-like faces, and make them do their bidding.

Players can put their new Ojimon to work in gold mines and construction sites, but they’ll need pay attention: These Poke-oldies have a tendency to doze off on the job but can be woken with a quick jab on the touch screen. If enough gold is harvested, players can build roads to the next town and find new Ojimon to catch.

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The game includes the original 150 Pokemon, with graying versions of Charizard, Haunter and Gyarados. Even though it’s not as exciting as battling wild monsters, your Ojimon can still gain experience points through their menial labor and evolve into more powerful forms, albeit with the same sad, unshaven faces.

For an extra laugh (or to avoid copyright infringement), all of the monsters have been given punny names. For example, Fushigidane (Bulbasaur) has been renamed Oyajidane.

“Ojimon” is available for free on Android and iOS.

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