After getting beat by Ultraman, the bad guys need a vacation.
Channel Fuji TV One is letting the monsters loose in a new travel program called “Ultra Monster Walk.” It will resemble other Japanese travel shows on which hosts visit a featured city’s landmarks, sample local cuisine and soak up the area’s flavor — but this version has a kaiju twist.
In the first out of 12 total episodes, scheduled to air on May 22 at midnight, the monsters invade, er, visit Yokohama and Kamakura.
This isn’t the first time Ultraman’s enemies have taken a well-deserved rest. Last year saw the opening of Kaiju Sakaba, a Kawasaki restaurant-bar themed on the space monsters from the sci-fi TV series that invited visitors to share a pitcher with the costumed evil-doers.
Even Ultraman has to take a break from saving the world once in a while. In May 2014, he flew to Hawaii to help promote Hawaii Tourism Authority’s travel packages. Ultraman even had enough time and money to bring the entire Ultra family to the islands as they tested the waters with surfing and whale watching.
Maybe someday Ultraman and his enemies will bury the hatchet and they can all go on a relaxing trip together. Stay tuned.
At the end of 2014, YouTube took a look back at some of the fun, freaky and unforgettable videos that went viral over the past year. Titled “YouTube Rewind,” the official retrospective (which has 50 million views) gave special recognition to dozens of online personalities, including Kid President and Jenna Marbles, who YouTube decided were the top of class in 2014.
Japan was well represented with 14 YouTubers joining the global ranks. Their talent ranges from makeup tutorials and video game walkthroughs to clever pranks and English lessons. Without much further ado, here are the top YouTubers from featured in Rewind 2014:
Human beatboxer Hikakin has drummed up more 300,000,000 views on YouTube. He usually makes beatbox covers of hit songs including Disney’s “Let It Go” and even collaborates with pop stars like Ariana Grande.
Astro Boy is using his seven powers not to fight evil to but to direct traffic in Kangawa as a new traffic light was erected in the prefecture using Astro Boy’s image as the pedestrian walk signals.
The traffic light was created to draw attention to the Sagami area, which is rebranding itself as the premier robot town and a “robot industrial zone.” Kanagawa Prefecture recently released a video highlighting the technological advances being made in Sagami.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, hesaid everyone should give being him a try because it’s a hellish life, but he will keep doing it as long as he lives.
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.
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?
June 2011BeeWorks‘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 2012Body 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.
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: “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.”)