Trending-setting high school girls are at it again. The latest extracurricular craze is call Makankosappo, which is the name of the move that killed the main character Goku in the popular anime. In homage to Dragon Ball Z, these clever high school girls, through the magic of photography and careful timing, are staging scenes in which they blast away their classmates with powerful ki (気), or “special beam cannons.”
The creative variations on the Makankosappo theme keep coming, and so far the the love shown on Twitter has resulted in more than 20,000 retweets. Can’t say we’re surprised. They’ve got special power that forces you to smile.
Melting the coldest of hearts and turning the most rigid of spines to jelly, certain voices can have an almost magical effect on us. This effect has been dubbed “koe moe” (vocal charm) in Japan and, according to a recent study carried out by Trend Soken, Japanese apps with that “moe” voice are seducing smartphone users in droves. The report, published at the end of February, included a survey of 500 young male and female smartphone users. A whopping 82 percent of respondents said they had downloaded apps that have an enjoyable vocal element.
To satisfy the predilections of this growing market, some developers have been recruiting the talents of seiyu(voice actors) who have established a name for themselves in the anime industry. Seiyu have proved to be big draws for the game industry, so it’s no surprise that there is a big buzz around “Girlfriend,” a smartphone dating game in beta testing that employs the talents of more than 60 seiyu, including Yui Horie, Hitomi Harada and Haruka Tomatsu.
Moe koe apps are not limited to games. “Rodoku Shojo” (Young Girl Reading Aloud) has, according to Japan Internet, been a massive hit, with downloads hitting the one million mark this month. The concept is simple: a young animated girl in a school uniform reads a book of your choice in a sugary voice. Check out the video above to get an idea. The app “Dentaku Girl” (Calculator Girl) a friendly face and voice on your calculator. It’s possible to get Dentaku Girl to change her outfits as she reads out calculations to you from your screen background. In this way koe moe adds a personal touch to smartphone apps, increasing their user appeal.
About 66 per cent of respondents said that they preferred a certain kind of voice in a member of the opposite sex. Preferences were revealed to be highly personal: While a high-pitched girly tone can grate on one person’s nerves like a fork down a blackboard, it could just as easily make a grown-up businessman weak at the knees. One 29-year-old guy described his preference as “a little nasal and cute.” Another 36-year-old guy admitted a weakness for a “low and calm, charming voice.” A 19-year-old woman said she was into “a deep calm voice that makes you feel tenderly protected.” While a 25-year-old woman stated a liking for “a husky voice that sounds a little decayed.”
If you go down to the Boys’ Love section of Animate in Otome Road in Ikebukuro today, you’ll most likely see, alongside the crowds of fujoshi (“rotten girls”) browsing the stacks for a fix of sugar sweet boy-on-boy romance, the occasional guy checking out the mildly titillating depictions of young gay love. Yes, Fudanshi are boys who like manga written by girls for a female audience about boys who like boys, and, according to J-Cast, they’re on the rise.
Though Boys’ Love — yaoi — is a niche genre that’s been going strong for some time, with a fervid if furtive following of female fans, up until recently it was thought that men had little or no interest in the scene. Indeed, with their own, far more explicit “bara” (or Mens’ Love) titles, gay men have generally scorned the rather treacly voyeuristic erotic fantasies of female Boys’ Love authors.
Now, however, more and more fudanshi are coming out of the woodwork. J-Cast reports a lot of fudanshi activity on Twitter. Tweets tend to be imagined romances between pop idols or favorite anime characters, as well as discussions between those who share the same interests. A 2chan fudanshi thread has also attracted a lot of traffic. One 2chan user explained how he got into the genre: “My eyes were opened thanks to the influence of my sister.”
The influence of older sisters, a fondness for shōjo manga (young girls’ manga) or mistakenly buying a boy’s love dōjinshi(amateur manga title) featuring a well loved character from a favorite manga or anime, were all reasons cited for stirring up a passion for boy’s love in male hearts.
Taimatsu Yoshimoto, a self-described fudanshi who does research into the history of the otaku, agrees that fudanshi appear to have increased lately. He’s quoted by J-cast as saying, “It’s a hidden hobby, but around ’05 to ’06 society began to be a lot less censorious of fujoshi, that is, those who’d previously hidden it would introduce themselves as fujoshi. On Mixi and Twitter men calling themselves fudanshi started to appear.”
Fudanshi can, of course, be gay, but they are also bisexual or even straight. “Fudanshi Nante Yomu no?” is a blog by Tamaki, a self-confessed Boys’ Love manga fan. In his profile he describes his sexuality this way: “If you had to sum it up in one word, I’m gay. I’m not interested in any other guys apart from my boyfriend, but because I like women I guess you could say I’m bi.”
It’s hard to say just how many fudanshi there are out there as Boys’ Love continues to be a secret passion even among female fans. However, we were interested to note that the Japanese Wikipedia page on Otome Road states that fudanshi have been spotted shopping for Boys’ Love in the area.
At Machi no Kumasan (“The Town Bear”) bakery in Takasaki, they’ve recently added ramen, soba and pork katsu to their menu. That’s right, a bakery. A closer look shows the dishes are actually sweets made of pudding, chocolate and creamy Mont Blanc chestnut paste cunningly shaped to look like savory dishes. Not surprisingly, they’ve gone viral on the web.
We called Ken Ichikawa, the bakery’s head chef, to get the sweet low-down. “I wondered if we could make a cake that looked exactly like the ramen on instant noodle packages,” he said. Obviously, it was a success since many customers are fooled by the lovingly crafted details … from the ramen noodles in the glassy soup to the slices of pork (chashu) sitting on top.
Even Ichikawa himself says he is amused when a customer comes in and orders a ramen. “It’s a funny thing to hear that in a bakery, no?” he says with a laugh. The ramen cake is the same size as a regular bowl of ramen, about 18 cm across. Ichikawa says that on busy days, they make about 40 of them a day.
Ichikawa says he’s thinking of ending the ramen cakes at the end of the month. As for the next surprise, Ichikwawa said, “That’s a secret.”
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 . . .
Tips & tricks for the game centre, or: the spoils of war (from Tiny Plastic Food): Hate walking away from UFO catchers empty-handed? This self-described blonde, Japanese-speaking game-center addict tells us which game centers (at what time) are most likely to give up the goods — and how to know when to just walk away.
A is for Advertising, Part Two (from Vivian in Japan): Blogger Vivian collects posters and scenes around town that make us do a double take. And in Japan, there is a lot of stuff that makes us look again. And again. Also check out part one.
Kanji, Kanji Everywhere (from J-List Side Blog): The kanji of the year is out — it is kin, Japanese for gold. Know what is currently the most popular name for a girl? Hint: at present, every other anime seems to have a character with that name.
This HDR time-lapse video of Tokyo is perfect for reflecting on city life with a beer in hand. It’s easy to become self-absorbed in this fast-paced society and to forget that things will always continue to keep going, with or without us.
Breastfeeding doublespeak in Japan (from StarryBrooke): A new mother discusses Japan’s seeming inclination towards formula milk and its take on a healthy infant’s recommended weekly weight gain.
Dead Sensei Society (from Little Japan): Need to let out a few sniggers at work? This web comic features a “bumbling ex-pat who loves Japan, and reluctantly and inexpertly teaches English in order to stay.” Art imitating life, it seems.
The frustration of fruit (Japan As I Find It): Blogger Ciara airs her frustration with the cut-throat prices of fruit in Japan. Has your intake of natural vitamins taken a dip since moving here, too?
Good news, Doraemon fans. You’ll soon be able to relive your childhood, for the tubby and resourceful blue cat will be back on the big screen this coming March. Keep your fingers tightly crossed that the world doesn’t end on the 21st of this month…
And the winner is . . . wairudo darō (wild, isn’t it? ワイルドだろぉ).
Every year Jiyu Kokuminsha, which publishes an annual tome of new words, selects its top buzzwords – or more often than not, catchphrases — for the year. And today the committee picked Sugi-chan’s profound words as the year’s best.
A popular comedian, Sugi-chan (real name Eiji Sugiyama) is known for his tough-guy parodies. In September he broke his back while filming a stunt for a TV Asahi variety show, so maybe he’s also getting a sympathy vote here.
Still, it’s a far cry from last year’s winner and symbol of national pride, Nadeshiko Japan, the women’s soccer team.
Here’s the rest of the top 10 (chosen from an original pool of 50):
LCC (short for Low Cost Carrier): This year saw the birth of several budget airlines — Peach Aviation, Air Asia Japan and Jet Star Japan – which promise to upset the reign of JAL and ANA and change the nature of domestic travel in Japan.
Bakudan teikiatsu (爆弾低気圧 literally “low pressure bomb”): A rapid drop in atmospheric pressure that precipitates a sudden and intense storm, like typhoon Guchol, which caused dramatic flooding, injuries, and rail line closures in June.
Tebura de karaseru wake ni ha ikenai (We can’t let him go home empty-handed, 手ぶらで帰らせるわけにはいかない): Said by Olympic swimmer Takeshi Matsuda after Japan took silver in the medley relay about his teammate Kosuke Kitajima, who failed to win any medals in the individual events. Even though Kitajima has four golds from previous Olympics.
Tokyo Solamachi beats out the big Skytree
Tokyo Solamachi (東京ソラマチ Tokyo Skytown): We’re not sure why this – the shopping center under Tokyo Skytree – beat out the tower itself.
To be honest, the results were a bit disappointing – and not just because a few of the trends we’ve covered over the past year failed to make the final cut (like shio kōji, Tanita Shokudō and Sagawa danshi).
Seeing as this was a year of ongoing protests and politicians making bold statements in favor, or against, taking all nuclear plants offline, surely genpatsu zero (no nukes) should have made the top 10.
None of the web-related words – sōkatsu (social media job-hunting), netōyo (internet nationalists), or ii ne! (the Japanese version of Facebook’s “like”) – made the final list either.
We were also rooting for bimajo, “beautiful witches” who seem to defy aging.
This year was, oddly, not without scandal. The word namapo was struck from the list at the last minute, for fear that it promoted discrimination against the poor.
Namapo is a contraction of seikatsu hogo – Japanese for “welfare” (the first character can also be read as “nama”). The word spread on Internet forums, becoming part of the web’s colloquial language. Welfare recipients have been increasing in Japan, to the tune of 5,499 a month, and a successful (read: wealthy) comedian, Junichi Komoto, was slammed by the media earlier this year when it was revealed that his mother was living off of welfare (rather than her son).
From enthusiastic train spotters to history buffs, young women are getting into hobbies that have been traditionally thought of in Japan as being mostly for men. Part of the reason for this is undoubtedly down to changing attitudes towards gender roles, but both of these trends were in part due to the popularity of manga that presented these hobbies in an appealing light to a female audience. With manga so popular with young adults these days, it’s more than likely that the next big hobby trend amongst women could well be fueled or even ignited by a popular manga title. Indeed, according to Nikkei Entertainment, the next male hobbies to be embraced by the fairer sex will be shogi, rakugoand mah-jongg.
”March Comes in Like a Lion” might inspire a trend among women for shogi
Manga and anime for adults has been increasingly popular since the 1990s. “Tetsuko no Tabi,” for instance, was serialized in the weekly manga magazine Big Comic from 2002-2006 and adapted into an anime in 2007. It tells the true story of female illustrator Naoe Kikuchi accompanying travel writer and train freak Hirohiko Yokomi on a tour of Japan’s railways. Soon tetsu-ko or tetsu-chan (female train-spotters) could be seen at railway stations checking out the rolling stock.
So what’s next? Well, it seems like shogi, which is known as Japanese chess, is already attracting an increasing number of female spectators at professional matches and this could well lead to increasing numbers of female players.
Two popular shogi titles — “Hachi-one Diver” and “Hirake Goma!” — have been going for a while, but the title that’s particularly drawing in the ladies is “March Comes in Like a Lion,” which combines both romance and game play in its storyline. Winning the Annual Manga Taisho in 2011 and the Kodansha Manga Award in the same year, the series has been a huge hit.
Rakugo, a stylized Japanese form of storytelling, is already enjoying a renaissance, especially among women, who now make up about 50 percent of rakugo audiences. This has only been strengthened by the serialization of “Jyoraku” in 2009, a manga about a female rakugo storyteller. Hopefully this will inspire more women to to perform themselves in this traditionally male-dominated field.
The popularity of the manga “Saki” might inspire a mah-jongg trend. First serialized in 2006, the manga tells the story of a bunch of high school girls getting into mah-jongg. Now that a third anime adaptation of the title is in production, perhaps high school girls will soon be clamoring to play the game, in just the same way that female high school students were inspired to pick up the guitar and form bands after the phenomenal success of the K-On series.