Are you one of the Ghibli fans waiting anxiously for “Ni No kuni: Wrath of the White Witch?” It’s a PS3 exclusive video game released in Japan last November and scheduled for a Western release in January 2013. A collaboration between anime film makers Studio Ghibli and the creators of “Dragon Quest V,” the game has Ghibli’s fingerprints all over the charming animation. The Western version will be published by Namco Bandai Games and will include both English and Japanese voice tracks. The best news? A Namco representative told Digital Trends, “The Western release of ‘Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch’ will include all the content found in the newly announced ‘Ni no Kuni: All-in-One Edition for Japan.’ ”
The story follows a boy named Oliver who, saddened by the death of his mother, is visited by a fairy named Drippy who tells him how to bring her back to life. The creature speaks of another world existing within our own, and says that every being on earth has a soul twin in the other dimension. Are the Japanese and English versions each other’s soul twins, then? Check out the trailer and decide for yourself.
Political kabuki in Japan (From Ampontan): Observers who toss around the term “political kabuki” are usually way off base, Ampontan says. However, he explains why the Osaka political maneuvering around the restart of the Oi reactors is indeed a drama worthy of the name.
Making sense of dollers (From Tokyo Scum Brigade): Everything you wanted to know but were afraid to ask about dressing up like a giant, silent, perpetually grinning anime doll. Did we say “afraid?” Maybe “terrified” is the word.
Are Japanese Moe Otaku Right-Wing? (from Neojapanisme): Passionate about anime? Check. Teen idols? Check. Right-wing politics? Ch . . . wait, what? It may be surprising, but those are some of the most common topics on Alfalfa Mosaic, a popular blog and 2ch aggregator. Is this is the start of an otaku political movement?
Simplifying Chopstick Etiquette (from Spoon & Tamago): You know that awkward moment when you’re using chopsticks and aren’t quite sure where to place them after a bite? Fear no more, because designers Takeshi Hamana and Yuya Iwagaki plan to teach proper dinner etiquette with their new chopstick packaging. (Disclaimer: Basic origami skills required!)
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 . . .
Hashimoto Toru (from Ampotan): Toru Hashimoto, mayor of Osaka, is locked in a battle with the central government over nuclear power. This looong read — in six parts — tracks the background and political ambitions of Hashimoto and his party One Osaka.
The Ultimate Guide to Reading Food Labels in Japan (from Surviving in Japan): Japanese supermarkets can be a confusing place for the allergy-prone, calorie counters and anyone curious about what they put in their mouths. This detailed guide takes some of the mystery out of grocery shopping.
Japan, Land of the Rising Meth (from Tofugu): Crystal meth makes you less hungry and more productive (for a short while, anyway) … and —surprise, surprise — it was made in Japan. Tofugu looks at the history of the drug, from its invention and wide use among Japanese soldiers in World War II to its hallowed place in yakuza culture.
First Impressions — Polar Bear Cafe (from Isugoi): The young panda is forced to find work, but the polar bear would rather have a human working in his cafe. Confused? Who wouldn’t be .. but John Howard Marshall tries to figure out what on earth is going on in the popular animated sitcom “Polar Bear Cafe.”
YouTube Hanami Party 2012 (from Tokyo Jin): A frenzied look at the costumes, crowds, parties, lines, food, drinks and — oh yeah — flowers that made up a day of hanami in Tokyo’s Yoyogi park this past weekend. Kampai to that!
A long anime series of 24-26 episodes will typically change gears halfway through with brand new theme songs, a new story arc and a fresh set of characters. But this spring’s crop sees five titles buck this trend, in a move that has surprised the industry. Cyzo News reports that “Fate/Zero,” “Medaka Box,” “Kimi to Boku 2,” “Jormungand” and “Hirono no Kaera” all have lengthened story arcs and will be keeping the same theme tune throughout the season. This effectively slims down the merchandising package for the season. Sales of DVDs, singles and figurines make up a significant part of the earnings for anime shows, and the move is seen as a reflection of economic hard times in otaku industries.
Fate/Zero's non-increasing cast
The ostensible reason is that anime creators want more time to develop story lines, rather than being forced to come up with fresh ideas every three months (the time needed to air a set of 12-13 episodes). But the real reason may be that while merchandise sales are still strong, the numbers of hardcore fans willing to buy up an entire collection of CD, DVD, and character models is dwindling. The slimline package is a way of enticing fans to splurge on the full set of merchandise instead of picking and choosing.
Japan’s falling birth rate means that anime aimed at adults (broadcast late at night) has enjoyed huge popularity in recent years among those in their 20s to 30s. During the 1980s, as the number of children fell, the number of kidults hungry for sexier, gorier anime rose. In the latter part of the noughties the number of fans willing to purchase anime merchandise aimed at adults increased. However, unlike hadcore fans, they opt to purchase only the merchandise that appeals to them. In fact, otaku culture is no longer the preserve of the hardcore nerd. According to Sankei, a recent study by Yano Research Institute showed that one in four Japanese identified themselves as otaku.
Though Japan is a nation of passionate hobbyists, it’s also a country in which space is at a premium. This poses a dilemma for otaku who spend years amassing huge toy collections, gearheads who want to work on their greasy motors, or arty types who want room in which to slap around some paint without ruining the tatami. Rather than renting out a cheap apartment or storage space, a new solution has been supplied by Reise Hobby, a company that offers versatile units for hobbyists to rent.
Founded in 2006 as a subsidiary of Reise Box storage company, Reise Hobby now own 30 buildings in Kanto and Kansai that house more than 200 “loft” or “maisonette type” spaces. Each space has two floors with private access via a garage door; the lower garage area serves as a workspace, while the upper area can be used as a storage space. This style has proved extremely popular, according to Nikkei Trendy: When the company opened up their new Tama Center in December 2011, half the units were snapped up on the first day they were first offered for sale.
Though users are generally male, the kinds of hobbies they pursue are diverse, ranging from those who want to store bikes or cars to artistic types to avid collectors. Some people rent units just to have a private space of their own, sort of like a secret club house. Units do not come cheap: A 41-sq.-meter unit at their Tama Center, for instance, costs ¥84,000 a month. However, on the plus side, these spaces are well-equipped with toilet, water supply, air conditioner, 50 kw electricity supply a month, electrical outlets and free Internet access. Add to this the freedom to customize the space as you please and these units look increasingly attractive.
If the rental fee still seems steep, there are places where you can rent time in a shared space. The increased interest in railways, for example, has resulted in a number of businesses offering track rental time on train dioramas. Models IMON, for instance, offer track time in locations across Tokyo, in Harajuku, their rental layout costs¥2,100 for just under two hours and rental of trains comes extra. Since 2010, the Akihabra Washington Hotel even has a special room for densha otaku (train geeks) who can bring along their own trains and whizz them round a diorama of Akihabara for a rather pricy ¥23,000 a night.
The rent-a-space entrepreneurs are also amateur seamstresses. As we mentioned a few years back, there’s been a surge of interest in “remake“ fashion (restyling second-hand clothes) and some stores like Sewing Machine Cafe & Lounge Nico, which opened in Setagaya in September 2011, have caught on to this and are offering sewing machine time for budding clothes designers for a small fee.
For some, hiring a space in which to practice their craft becomes the step from being merely an enthusiast to becoming a full-fledged professional. In our next post, we’ll take a look at how new kinds of shared rental spaces are cutting down costs and helping budding entrepreneurs build connections.
According to the folks at Chocokure, the era of men patiently waiting for Valentine’s chocolates is over. Now they can stand up and be counted by demanding chocolates from the woman they love. If something seems a bit skewed about this picture, it’s important to remember that in Japan it’s customary for men to receive chocolates from their sweethearts or colleagues, not vice versa. (The favor is returned on White Day, March 14.) The idea of demanding chocolates via social networking platforms, however, is brand new.
Valentine's chocolate could be yours for the tweeting ... if you're lucky.
A witty little one-off service for Valentine’s Day, men type in the Twitter username of the lady they wish to demand chocolates from, then enter their address and telephone number. A cheeky tweet is then sent that roughly translates as, “Choco please. Pretty pretty please.” A link on the tweet takes the lady to a page where she can click on either the “Present” button, or “Sorry.” If she is obliging she can then pay ¥500 by credit card and, presto, the requested chocolates will be sent.
The ¥500 “one coin” choco is a pretty popular price range with women purchasing giri (obligitary gift) chocolates for co-workers, but when it comes to really satisfying the man you love, nothing beats posh chocs from a department store. So unless you’re sure your girlfriend is in danger of forgetting this important occasion, it might be wise to hold out and drop some heavy hints instead.
This year chocolate on a stick is trending as a Valentine’s Day gift for lovers. According to Nikkei Woman, the modern man is apparently not adverse to receiving a chocolate lollypop like Savarin’s bitter chocolate or caramel flavoured numbers, available at Isetan Shinjuku. An interesting variation on this trend is the Chocolat-o-Lait milk drink by patisserie Aoki Sadaharu. Sadaharu, who has a shop in Paris no less, has developed this choco lollypop to melt once placed inside hot milk, producing a delicious drink, available in matcha, yuzu or noir flavors.
If lollypops seem a little too girly, how about the Mechasaurus, a chocolate mechanoid dinosaur to melt the heart of the most hardcore of otaku? Only available at L’eclat, Osaka, this incredible creation comes with the equally incredible price tag of ¥52,500. If your girlfriend presents you with this on Valentine’s Day, you’ll know it’s for real.
Tamagochi reached the ripe old age of 15 yesterday. To celebrate, Bandai brought out a special Tamagotchi iD L 15th anniversary edition in pink or purple with plenty of new functions. Not just for the 8- to 9-year-old girls, those who recall their cute digital pets with fondness, rather than mild irritation, are bound to want to get their hands on these special models which have one of the game’s first-generation characters, Oyajichi, among their sets of 32 characters.
The commemorative version of the Tamagochi features one of the game's original characters
Tamagochi have come a long way since their birth and the iD L has a color screen, is decorated with sparkling crystals and has a function that allows you to swap items and propose marriage with other players.
The success of the toys sparked a virtual pet rearing boom that continues to this day. It’s not that surprising, especially when you think of all the city apartment dwellers who aren’t allow to keep real pets at home. Though some simply get around a landlord’s strict rules by keeping a secret pet (small dog owners can resort to hiding a dog in a bag when entering and exiting a building), many have sublimated their need with virtual games.
Pet-raising games have continued to be popular in Japan and the increased complexity of games like Nintendo’s Nintendogs has arguably brought pet games to an adult market. More recently this popularity has spread to smartphone apps. Just this month, for instance, a new pet-rearing app, featuring a cute cat called “Mecha-kun,” was released on the market.
But the area in which pet-rearing games are really evolving is within games that combine the usual game-playing characteristics, such as feeding and petting your animal, with a social networking element. Online game Meromero Park, for instance, allows you not only to raise your own cute creature, but to meet and chat with other users who share your interests while going out for a walk.
“Tiger & Bunny,” which just ended its first season, has been one of the most popular anime releases this year, despite that fact that contained blatant product placement for Calbee, Softbank, Pepsi and Bandai. The show features superheros called NEXT who perform acts of bravery about the futuristic city of Stirnbild, earning points as they do so. As their activities are filmed on TV in this fictional world, each hero is sponsored by a different company and sports the logos of a sponsor.
Characters include Pepsi’s Blue Rose and Rock Baison, a bull-themed hero who advertises the yakiniku restaurant Gyu-kaku. According to Tokyo Walker, fans of Rokku Baison have even affectionately nicknamed him Gyu-kaku -an. These companies are keen to capitalize on their involvement in the show: Pepsi is running ads featuring Blue Rose (see above) and Gyu-kaku are offering discount vouchers for a special Rokku Baison set meal (a pretty good deal for yakiniku lovers btw).
Despite anime characters being used to sell just about anything in Japan via product tie-ins, product placement within a contemporary anime is unusual, according to Nico Nico Pedia. One reason is that anime creators believe this would turn off fans, another reason is that once the toy industry got involved in anime and tokusatsu, toy companies had strong objections to introducing other products onto a show, so instead sponsers names were announced at the beginning and end of ad breaks.