Archive for the ‘Otaku culture’ Category

Ultra Hawai’i: Even superheroes need a vacation

Sunday, May 25th, 2014

oahu_1280_800

The Ultra tourists get a quick lesson before hitting the waves

In a stroke of genius, travel-deal website TravelZoo, in collaboration with the Hawaii Tourism Authority and tokustasu pioneers Tsuburaya Productions, has enlisted serious star power to promote its current Hawaii travel packages.

Targeting a wide range of would-be travelers, the “Ultra Hawai’i ” campaign follows the well-loved characters from the generation-spanning Ultra series as they engage in classic tourist activities on the main Hawaiian islands of Maui, O’ahu, Kaua’i and Hawai’i.

For a look at how the Ultra family spends its time off,  click over to the campaign site and travel along with Ultra Dad, Ultra Mom (yes, they really do exist in the series), Ultraman Taro and even their alien cohorts — the friendly, spindly-fingered creature Pigmon and the pincer-handed Alien Baltan.

Best of all, their special moments have been chronicled on their YouTube channel and set to the Ultraman theme song, played on ukelele no less.  In true Japanese fashion, they pack a lot into their vacation, which includes surfing lessons, hula dancing, poolside yoga, a friendly game of golf and a side trip to the volcanic terrain of Kīlauea, which surely must feel like a home away from their extraterrestrial home.

The campaign is both hilarious and touching in the way it humanizes the superheroes as they shoot selfies in a gelato shop and are moved by an afternoon of whale watching. In  rare moments away from the universe-saving day jobs, the family take in romantic sunsets and even Baltan Seijin, one of Ultraman’s archenemies, can put aside their differences to attend an intimate Ultra wedding on O’ahu. The beauty of Hawaii clearly brings people together.

The Ultra Hawai’i campaign runs until July 18. Oh, and there’s an island-hopping stamp rally. Collect ‘em all and get a special campaign souvenir.

Schwatch!

J-blip: Pipo-kun’s new song and dance

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

The Pepo-kun song on the website of the metropolitan police

Pepo-kun, as seen on the metro police’s website

Japanese netizens are apparently all in a lather regarding the question of whether virtual pop star Hatsune Miku is the new voice of police mascot Pipo-kun. The “Pipo-kun Song” video, made to celebrate the fact that the Tokyo Metropolitan Police’s counter crime initiative Twitter account now has more than 60,000 followers, is a collaboration between a synthetic voice and the police headquarters’ orchestra.

However, the consensus on the web seems to be that there is no mistaking that Pipo has Hatsune’s distinctive saccharine sweet voice. When asked by J-Cast if this was a correct assumption, the police replied, “The identity of the singer hasn’t been announced.” One wonders why they’re being so reticent as Hatsune’s “dulcet” tones are now commonplace, having been widely used in the many commercials and TV show theme songs.

Tweet Beat: #七夕, #鯖アニメ, #愛国競争

Friday, July 12th, 2013

The Twitter Japan blog releases a list of top hashtags for each week. Tweet Beat investigates the buzz behind the hashtag.

A tweet is a wish your heart makes

May everyone’s wishes come true. Hikoboshi casually greets Orihime in English.

#七夕 (Tanabata, the Star Festival) takes place at different times depending on where you are in Japan, but July 7 is the first major date. It’s a holiday for making wishes and celebrating the once-a-year reunion of legendary separated lovers Hikoboshi and Orihime. The accompanying decorations make for great tweets, but the concise format (and this tool that allows your text to mimic the shape of a traditional paper tanzaku) is also perfect for sharing wishes.

Write your wish on a tanzaku.

Some people expressed personal aspirations or concerns:

“I want to belong to Amuse.”

“I wanna be a hottie.”

“May I become fluent in Japanese.”

“May my smartphone not break until I can buy a new one.”

“I want friends.”

Some looked outward:

“World peace.”

“May black kigyo go under.”

“May I be able to repay many favors.”

One person wrote a wish for the manga character Detective Conan, and one, instead of wishing, realized that he hadn’t done anything Tanabata-ish at all.

May all my follower’s wishes come true.

Continue reading about last week's top hashtags →

Kimo-kawaii: a chronology in 13 steps

Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

Kimo-kawaii, the slang that mashes up kimoi (yucky, gross; which is a shorter, slangier version of kimochiwarui, itself) and kawaii (cute, sweet) has become an apt description of more and more things over the years. While aficionados might disagree on what defines kimo-kawaii, generally if something has an eerie, sweet creepiness that makes it hard to look at but harder to look away, it’s kimo-kawaii.

Here are 13 things deemed so in Japan, in chronological order:

1999: Dancing Baby, a funky CG animation, became a meme in United States in the ‘90s (even appearing on the TV show “Ally McBeal”), but it became so popular in Japan that Toyota put it in a Cami ad (above). Young people of the time who had already begun saying kimo-kawaii applied it here in an early use case.

Mid 2000s: Ungirls, the comedy duo comprised of Takushi Tanaka and Yoshiaki Yamane became known as kimo-kawaii, somewhat cruelly, mostly due to their looks. Over the years and depending on whom you ask the assessment seems to change from “Tanaka is kimoi, but Yamane is kawaii” to just deciding that Tanaka himself is kimo-kawaii. Or maybe not even kawaii. . . Last year on the variety show “London Hearts” when Tanaka ranked high (low?) on a list of most disliked celebs, he said everyone should give being him a try because it’s a hellish life, but he will keep doing it as long as he lives.

Kobitozukan

Kobitozukan

May 2006: “Kobito Zukan” originated as a picture book illustrated by Toshitaka Nabata. Literally “dwarf encyclopedia,” these weird little humanoids were first aimed at children. Adult fans, however, greatly expanded the fan base and the dwarves became a popular Nintendo 3DS video game last year. The official online store is also chock full of figurines, which one could argue are an art form all their own.

By the way, 2006 is the year that the word “kimo-kawaii” is considered to have really “arrived.”

August 2007: Face Bank, the piggy bank designed by artist Eiichi Takada that actually pigs out on your savings, went on sale. When you place a coin near its mouth, it opens and swallows the currency — a perfect way to add some kimo-kawaii to your everyday life.

2008  Noi Asano’s manga “Chiisai Oyaji Nikki” (something like “Little Old Man Diary”) about a girl who one day discovers a tiny man began airing as a series of anime shorts  last year and most recently got promoted with latte art at Double Tall in Shibuya.

nishikokun

Nishiko-kun

October 2010 Nishiko-kun (right), the mascot of Nishi-Kokubunji, was born. The “fairy” is one of many regional mascots that have become widespread across Japan in recent years. Unlike its traditionally cute counterparts, however, Nishiko-kun is a lanky, armless thing with a huge head that evokes the image of a happy manhole. His proportions have made for some especially awkward dance moves, but he remains oddly alluring, don’t you think?

October 2010 Jigokuno No Misawa‘s “Kakkokawaii Sengen” comic was collected and published. Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, the extravagantly eccentric singer known for being the current flag-bearer of Harajuku kawaii fashion, is a big fan of series. In fact, she had a cameo in the comic last year — of course with the artist’s trademark pudgy-faced style.

nameko

Nameko

June 2011 BeeWorks‘s “Mushroom Garden” (aka “Nameko Saibai Kit”) smartphone game series has exploded in popularity since its release two years ago. These nasty-yet-endearing fungi have gained quite the following (ask almost any elementary schooler), leading to an avalanche of merchandise, including a Nendoroid that reaches back to its “Touch Detective” roots on Nintendo DS.

June 2012 Body part jewelry makes a kimo-kawaii splash from across the globe. Handmade in the U.K. and sold on crafty website Etsy, these doodads allowed people to attach ears to their ears, mouths to their fingers and noses to their necks, among other things.

alpaca

Alpaca

Fall 2012: Later that year, the freaky-looking toy with its own language, Furby, relaunched with a smartphone app and a Momoiro Clover Z campaign (including the above commercial).

March 2013: There are plenty of kimo-kawaii videogames, but Cocosola‘s smash hit “Alpaca Evolution” is a textbook example of how strangely addicting bizarre characters can be. Your objective is to absorb other alpacas in a cannibalistic fashion as you mutate into a more and more grotesque creature. A prequel has already been released and it looks like the merch parade is marching along.

June 2013:  Isopods are something like gigantic, aquatic cockroaches. Naturally, the Numazu Deep Sea Aquarium decided to make a life-sized stuffed animal based on the critter, because who wouldn’t want to cuddle one? As evidence to the popularity of kimo-kawaii nationwide, all 140 were sold out within a few hours, despite costing a hefty ¥6,090 (around 60 USD) apiece. Another creepy aquatic sensation is based on the NHK television documentary that captured footage of a giant squid  for the first time. With help from the National Museum of Nature and Science, the TV channel is selling a variety of tentacle-related merchandise.

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“Attack on Titan” stamps for LINE

June 2013: “Attack on Titan”-branded LINE stamps feature a number of human characters from the anime, but also explore a kimo-kawaii side of the monstrous titans that will give fans a chuckle (or surprise/gross out the unsuspecting friend on the other end of your LINE chat).

This is by no means a comprehensive list, nor do we presume to be authorities on the matter. In fact while researching we noticed Tofugu had nicely summarized the trend recently. We’re sure the wave of kimo-kawaii will be good surfing for years to come, so remember this useful word when you come across a sort-of-cute character that makes you feel kind of icky at the same time.

Additional research for this story contributed by Emily Balistrieri. (Full disclosure: Emily is the Japanese-English translator of “Alpaca Evolution.”)

Tweet Beat: #音楽の日, #ときレス, #シュール

Friday, July 5th, 2013

Each week, the Twitter Japan blog releases a list of top hashtags. Tweet Beat investigates the buzz behind the hashtag.

Music Day

The No. 1 trend in Japan last week was #音楽の日 (Music Day), a 13-hour (and 40 minutes) live television extravaganza featuring almost 100 artists. TBS has been producing the show for three years now, and once again SMAP’s Masahiro Nakai and TBS announcer Shinichiro Azumi hosted.

With every new artist came a rush of emoticons and exclamation points.

I was trying to think what Tomohisa Yamashita would sing, and what would would it end up being but “Idaite Senyoriita” …!!! How many years ago is that song from?

I think the last number was great!

At the end of the show, there was a great outpouring of love for the hosts, praising them for their hard work. Nakai is also currently filming the ATARU movie, so fans were worried he would exhaust himself.

Many people recorded the event to watch later, so the tweets are still coming. That said, some apparently missed the memo and thought it was just a day designated for us all to listen to music.

Happy Birthday to Kento Fuwa

It’s not uncommon for fans of celebs to tweet birthday congratulations on Twitter. Even this in this batch of top tags we have #happybirthdayseohyun, wishing Girls’ Generation member Seohyun well on June 28. However, she did not get as much love as Kento Fuwa. Who’s Kento Fuwa? Well…

Happy birthday, Fuwa! Thanks for being born!

Turns out he’s a fictional idol in the world of iPhone/Android game Tokimeki Restaurant (#ときレス [TokiResu] for short). Yes, in the world of otaku fandom, and perhaps especially romance games, the birthdays of favorite characters are quality times to be cherished.

For more info about TokiResu, check out this detailed blog post, but the premise is that you run a restaurant that happens to be next to the company that produces idol groups 3 Majesty and X.I.P. How could there not be a bit of chemistry simmering there? A cute girl who can cook, cute guys who can sing — and what better way to utilize a touch-screen than “skinship” events?

Kento’s fans were thrilled when he showed up in their restaurant to eat birthday cake on June 26, but some went all out in real life.

I made meat-wrapped onigiri, so please come by and have some!

A Kento bento, elaborate strawberry cake, and plenty of fan art made this hashtag a fun one to browse.

Sur-really?

The number eight top tag this week was #シュール. It takes a little more than katakana reading skills to grok that vocab, but it means “surreal.” People use it to tweet things that strike them as out of the ordinary, bizarre or sometimes just kind of funny.

There was a madman at the bowling alley!

The reason it trended so high, though, was that @surrebot appeared posting a bunch of meme-y images and jokes resulting in a pile of retweets. But what’s this? The account gave up and deleted all its content after attracting almost 3,500 followers. Mysteriously, another account showed up and earned about 4,100 followers in two days doing the same thing.

By the way, remember @fanghibli? Two weeks ago we pointed out that account and @ghiblitalk doing a similar dance and speculated that they were up to no good. As it turns out, @fanghibli has indeed been repurposed into a spam account spewing links to a website that pays you for advertising.

“In general, the more followers you have, the more your tweets are worth, so the amount of points you get goes up, too,” says Tweepie’s about page, although it notes that its algorithm will assign low reputation to accounts who are abusing the system.

There’s no proof that @surrebot will turn into a spam account, but let’s hope this trend-and-run scheme is not a trend of its own.

Tweet Beat: #6k_live, #都議選, #進撃の育児

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

Each week, the Twitter Japan blog releases a list of top hashtags. Tweet Beat investigates the buzz behind the hashtag.

Deep sea voyage live-streamed for the first time

On board mother ship Yokosuka, the research team and Shinkai 6500 pilots continue their strategy meeting, laying out data regarding the underwater expedition zone.

The Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (#JAMSTEC),  the same people who discovered Atlantis’s cousin in May, paired with Nico Live (#nicohou) to stream a deep sea voyage of the same sub, the Shinkai 6500. The Nico Nico page was very honest in expressing their concern about whether the stream would succeed or not: “Will the live broadcasting go well? . . . Not sure. If not, . . .sorry,” but #6k_live appears to have gone off as planned; over 300,000 people are said to have tuned in. The highlight was the discovery of a bunch of shrimp.

Upon seeing the shrimp at 5,000 meters, super Japanese comments started flying, like “Can you eat’em?” “Seems like they’d be good with mayo, right?”

Getting the Tokyo assembly election vote out, or not

Politically minded Twitter users encouraged their fellow citizens to vote in Sunday’s Tokyo assembly election, but turn-out was only 43.05%.

I went to go vote and was surprised by the extent to which it was entirely old people. If that’s the case, there’s no way society will turn out as one young people will like. What good does it do to lament the future after waiving your right to vote? Use this to research and get going!  

One of the main themes once the results came in was the perceived Communist Party “surge” (from eight to 17 seats).

That the party that held power until recently would lose at assembly seats to the Communist Party is just lol.

Some had the feeling that the results of this election will serve as a lesson of what happens when voter turn-out is low, while others couldn’t stop smiling.

Of course there were also those were more concerned with how election coverage disrupted the normal TV schedule.

Pretty much all of today’s late-night anime are at 1? I’m only watching “Kingdom” and “Attack on Titan” so I can cover by recording, but for people watching all of them it’s gonna be chaos. “Kingdom,” “Attack,” “Nyaruko” and “Flowers of Evil” — all four start at 1!

“Titan” children terrorize their parents

In addition to being a successful manga and anime series, “Attack on Titan” is proving to be a veritable meme machine. This time, parents have taken up #進撃の育児 (following the formula straight would yield something like “Attack on Childcare” but that makes about as much sense as “Attack on Titan”) to chronicle the battles waged raising their children by comparing them to the struggles of humans living in a walled-city trying to protect themselves from people-eating giants. Sounds strange, but the results are pretty amusing.

Wall Diaper has been breached by Infant (extra large female type), heavy damaged confirmed in the Bouncer district.

Our 60cm grade is attempting to breach Wall Playpen by standing tip-toed. You can already stand on tip-toe? Amazing!

Some participated by cleverly rewriting well-known dialogue  while others just pointed out how funny the tag is for people familiar with the anime/manga. For more, check out a round-up here or here.

Tweet Beat: #e3, #ふなっしー, #ジブリファン

Friday, June 21st, 2013

The Twitter Japan blog releases a list of top hashtags for each week. Tweet Beat investigates the buzz behind the hashtag.

Was this generation’s console war fought and won at E3?

Last week gamers turned their attention to the action happening at this year’s #e3 in Los Angeles June 11-13. That includes Japanese gamers, who reacted much the same way as gamers elsewhere when it came to comparing Sony and Microsoft‘s press conferences on the 10th.

One person noted they were glad they weren’t interested in the (Xbox exclusive) Halo series, while another was surprised that the price of the #PS4 was lower than they expected (it undercuts the Xbox One by $100).

Nintendo showed off their new lineup via streaming video (#nintendodirectjp) and #pokemonxy got #pokemon fans around the world fired up. One observer of the “Super Mario 3D World” (for Wii U) trailer compared Mario’s cat form attacks to the way another game character, Kirby, sucks up his enemies and steals their powers.

“News flash! Final Fantasy Versus XIII will be sold as Final Fantasy XV on PS4! Yesssssssss”

Of course, a three-day conference had too many game announcements to include in this post, but there is an organized run-down of them all over here.

What the heck is a Funassyi?!

Maybe you’re not familiar with the unofficial yuru-kyara of Funabashi: #ふなっしー (pronounced “Funasshii,” but officially romanized “Funassyi”). Well he’s a pear from Funabashi, Chiba . . . and don’t be thrown off by the unofficial nature of “the fairy of the Funabashi pear.” He appears in Asahi Soft Drink’s Juroku-cha commericals alongside the likes of Sky Tree-neighboring Azumabashi’s Azu-chan and Yoshida-no-udon-buri-chan, who promotes Yoshida City’s noodles with her bowl-shaped head.

But let’s not get distracted. Funassyi leads a bustling life, so bustling it’s sometimes hard to tell whether it’s the real Funyassi or someone ripping him off. The above makankosappo meme pic is pretty great, even if it was posted by a “bot” that collects Funassyi memes such as this mash-up with the manga “Attack on Titan” and not the official account (which boasts over 150,000 followers).

The real source of the current trendiness, though? New crane game-prizes released on June 14:

https://twitter.com/prize_adores/status/345485537668395008

“[Prize Info] Pear fairy “Funassyi Mascot” has boldly appeared! Dazzled by the pear juice, huh. The list of participating stores apPEARs on our official website!”

Studio Ghibli fans unite in hashtag . . . or?

Trend #9, #ジブリファン (“Ghibli fan”), seemed like a no-brainer: Who doesn’t love animated classics such as “My Neighbor Totoro” and “Porco Rosso”?

But why now? In little more than a week, the account @fanghibli amassed thousands of followers on the back of this tag. The account’s bio roughly translates as “A bot for Ghibli fans. I’ll be sharing misc. info, urban legends, funny or heartwarming jokes — anything.” Here’s an example of how the account engaged fans:

“Black hair! (RT @Fanghibli: Which Howl do you like?)”

Strangely, though, by June 19 , every single tweet had been deleted.

What’s even more mysterious is that another account, @ghiblitalk, has appeared, tweeting some of the exact same memes and jokes, racking up followers at the same breakneck speed — over 10,000 in four days.

The account’s bio reads, “I’ll be tweeting interesting or moving Ghibli stories. And maybe some scary stories?!”

Obviously this is only speculation, and the owner may have a perfectly good-yet-unfathomable reason to abandon such a “valuable” account, but one could guess that someone is taking advantage of Ghibli fans to fatten up follower counts just like Chihiro’s parents in “Spirited Away.” For what purpose? Probably not anything allowed by Twitter’s rules.

Tokyo Toy Show . . . for little people and grown-up kids

Thursday, June 13th, 2013

Bandai's new line of water guns enables players to shoot around corners.

The 52nd annual International Tokyo Toy Show, which kicked off today at Tokyo Big Sight, is featuring 35,000 products from almost 150 companies from around the globe. Organizers estimate the four-day event will attract at least 160,000 visitors.

At a press preview on June 13, one notable trend was smartphone- and tablet-compatible games and interfaces. Some allowed players to interact with their environment and other gamers.

Another was the emergence of figurines and merchandise spinoffs from popular phone apps.

But the show clearly wasn’t just for kids. Many companies showcased toys aimed at the child inside. And who knows? Maybe Ultraman, Sailor Moon and Mazinger Z can one day appeal to a new generation.

The Tokyo Toy Show is open to the public June 15-16. Admission is free.

[Photos by Mai Hasebe and Eric Ruble]

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