Posts Tagged ‘anime’

Anime fan pilgrimages help boost tourism

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

A new anime set in Ashikaga, Tochigi Prefecture, seems set to revitalize the city’s flagging tourist industry. Since the anime “Yosuga no Sora” (above) went on air Oct. 4 the local government and tourist office of Ashikaga have been deluged with enquiries about visiting the city. But it isn’t the first case of popular anime sparking a boom in local tourism, as Kuki, Hakone and Kyoto have all become popular destinations among hardcore anime fans.

Perhaps the biggest success story is Washinomiya, a beautiful shrine located in Kuki, Saitama Prefecture, that provided the backdrop for “Lucky Star.” The surge in tourists has revitalized the town, partly thanks to sales of  “Lucky Star” branded souvenirs. Even the mikoshi at a local festival this year was decorated with “Lucky Star” characters.

In November the area will host a special matchmaking event called otakonkatsu” (organized dating for otaku), providing an opportunity for single shy anime fans to hook up. Interest in the event saw daily visits to the chamber of commerce and industry’s website rise from around 500 to over 10,000, though some men were peeved that women could attend for free whereas men have to shell out ¥8,000 to participate.

Though already a popular tourist spot, Hakone is getting an extra boost from “Evangelion” fans who often make a pilgrimage to the area to view places featured in the smash hit anime. There’s now an official map of the area especially for fans called the Hakone Hoken Map.

Kyoto, featured recently in both the hugely popular “K-On” and in the cult hit “The Tatami Galaxy,” is another well-established tourist destination that’s profiting from otaku tourism. Earlier this year we reported that “K-On” fans were putting up ema plaques at a shrine featured in an episode depicting a “K-On” school trip. (If you’d like to visit these spots yourself check out The K-On Guide to Kyoto.) More recently, “The Tatami Galaxy,” which is set entirely in Kyoto, was featured in the travel issue of Spoon magazine, which included a travel guide to the sites shown in the cartoon.

Tourism tie-ups aren’t limited to anime/manga. As Pulse, and everybody’s blogging brother, reported in August,  fans of Konami’s virtual dating game Love Plus got a chance to live out their fantasy dates in Atami (the latest version of the game Love Plus + featured an option to go sightseeing in the seaside resort town). Fans who went on the tour could take augmented reality photos of their Love Plus girlfriends, fill in a special stamp book at sightseeing spots and buy Love Plus/Atami souvenirs. The augmented reality photos, available to iPhone customers, superimpose an image of your virtual date onto the actual background, though it was noted by Game Watch, that there were some proportional glitches. In one instance, the digital girlfriend appeared to be as tall as a building in the real-world backdrop. Bug or a programmer’s private joke – you decide.

Pulsations (09.08.10)

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

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 . . .

3D bunnies kick butt on Youtube

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

Cat Shit One, not coming to a theater near you yet

Cat Shit One, not coming to a theater near you yet

Fans of 3D CG are being treated to a free 20-minute episode of military action drama “Cat Shit One” before it hits Japan’s cinemas. The episode, which details the exploits of a pair of commando bunnies who attempt to spring hostages from a Middle Eastern jail, can be viewed on YouTube until Sept. 20.

Adapted from the original “Cat Shit One” (“Apocalypse Meow” in the States) manga created by Motofumi Kobayashi, the 3D version moves the action away from the Vietnam War to a more modern setting. As with the original, all the characters are animals, with the Arabic enemy being depicted as bumbling camels – the reason our heroes, plucky Packy and panicky Botasky, of the Cat Shit One team are rabbits is because the Japanese word for rabbit, usagi, when written in the roman alphabet becomes USA GI (geddit?).

The 3D graphics are flawless and in scenes that don’t contain anthropomorphic animals with machine guns, it almost feels as if you’re watching real footage of the desert. Director Kazuya Sasahara put in some comical touches that made me giggle: When Packy and Botasky are lying on a knoll staking out the prison, their little fluffy tails twitch cutely while they plan out how to take care of the enemy. Military buffs will eat up the action sequences which, while not bloody, have quite a raw feel to them.

This isn’t the first time an animation has been released for free on the web before its theatrical release. “Eve no Jikan (Time of Eve),” an animation movie by Yasuhiro Yoshiura about a café for robots, was broken up into episodes and made available for free on Yahoo!, stirring up lots of interest and garnering numerous fans before it hit the cinemas in March this year.

Passion for ‘garage kit’ models mounts at Wonder Festival

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

Wonder Festival showcases some of the top garage kits - handmade models of characters from anime and manga.

Wonder Festival showcases some of the top garage kits – handmade models of characters from anime and manga.

The Japanese are renowned for otaku-levels of devotion to their hobbies, whatever they may be, and this is especially true for “garage kits,” plastic models of anime and game figures that are constructed by hand and are as professional as products produced by major companies.

Garage kits, like anime, came of age in the 1980s. The growth of the hobby has been channeled through Wonder Festival (Won-fes, for short), a biannual convention where garage kit artists have been displaying and selling their wares since 1984. In the beginning, the kits occupied a legal gray market, which led to a uniquely Japanese moment of corporate compromise – the invention of “day-of copyrights” (tojitsu hanken, 当日版権). These copyrights are issued through the event, which is hosted by Kaiyodo, a company that produces garage kits, figures and other toys. Dealers who apply can receive a copyright that allows them to sell and display only accepted models only during the event. They can’t take reservations during the event and ship them later. They can’t sell models that haven’t been accepted. The copyright ends when the event does. This year there will be 1,900 dealers selling their kits on July 25.

If the ’80s was the boom of garage kits, which created a so-called “garage kit spirit” where artists aimed to create the most detailed models possible, then the ’90s was when it became more corporate. Notably, the popularity of “Neon Genesis Evangelion” baptized a generation with the breasts of Asuka and Rei, the two main female characters from the legendary sci-fi anime. Almost singlehandedly, the show increased the number of casual fans of garage kits, fans who were more interested in seeing the characters they liked (in revealing positions, nonetheless) and less interested in the quality the models. Additionally, corporations have taken advantage of the event to release limited edition, already completed models that pander to non-fanatics.

In response to the influx, the label “Wonder Showcase,” closely connected with parent organization Wonder Festival, in 1999 began to highlight some of the highest quality garage kits. For each show they select several artists and profile them along with their works. They help promote the artists and put them in a great position to meet people within the industry during the show, but don’t force them into a management contract – the goal of the showcase is to promote the “garage kit spirit” that initially sparked the boom. Due to the questionable legality of their hobby, artists often use pseudonyms to hide their true identity.

The event was held at Tokyo Big Site until 2008, when an elevator malfunction caused injuries to visitors and drew a surprising amount of attention from the national press. Since 2009, Makuhari Messe has hosted the event.  This year the festival takes place July 25, from 10 a.m.  to 5 p.m.

To follow the coverage from abroad, Danny Choo‘s Web site might be one of your best bets. Here’s his roundup of " target="_blank">Wonder Fest 2008.

Wish upon a lucky star: ema cartoon craze

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

These ema at Chichibu shrine are the work of Sugar and Salt, a blogger who is doing a pilgrimage of Japan's shrines

These ema at Chichibu Shrine are the work of Sugar and Salt, a blogger who is doing a pilgrimage of Japan’s shrines

On a recent visit to Chichibu Shrine, I was surprised to find a few ema (wooden prayer plaques) decorated with colorful anime characters. While it’s common for ema to be decorated with pictures of animals significant to the Shinto religion (most typically horses), anime ema are a little out of the ordinary, so I decided to do some digging.

The ema pictured above are the work of blogger Sugar and Salt, who has been doing a pilgrimage of the country’s shrines since November 2009 with the aim of putting up 108 anime-themed ema. But Sugar and Salt is not alone in his/her quest. Just last week on July 7, armies of otaku converged at an unremarkable shrine in Washinomiya, Saitama, to put up “Lucky Star” ema which were for sale, one day only, at Washinomiya Station. The shrine was a setting for the popular anime and since 2007 on the occasion of the “Lucky Star” twins’ birthday votive plaques have been a big tourist draw. Sugar and Salt was reportedly there him/herself to pick up one of the limited-edition plaques.

Another attraction for anime fans is Kitano-Tenmangu in Kyoto, which was visited by the girl-band cartoon sensation K-On! during an episode depicting a school trip. It’s typical for ema to be inscribed with personal wishes and most of the K-On! plaques are drawn by budding musicians who are hoping to improve their skills on the guitar.

Anime-style illustrations have also been proliferating in gokoku jinja (shrines to commemorate war dead) due to a surge in interest in the Sengoku Period. The period of civil unrest lasting from 1560 to 1619 has been the subject of many popular TV series recently. Particularly popular with women, who are getting a little cheesed off with those wussy herbivore men, many ladies are visiting shrines like Migagi’s Gokoku Jinja and putting up ema that contain comic book-style illustrations of the heroes of the day. Sankei JP report that there were mixed reactions to the ema from older visitors to the shrines, some of whom thought the plaques were a little disrespectful to the war dead.

In Tokyo’s Rihouji Shrine (another gokoku shrine), there are many painted ema of Benten sama (the goddess of art and wisdom) in a cartoon style. The young men who put these ema up usually write a little prayer alongside the illustrations asking for success in work. A Buddhist priest at the site noted that the quality and number of the ema has risen as visitors try to outdo each other.

Sales of ema and o-mamori (good luck charms) are an important source of income for shrines, so we’re wondering if, for example, like o-mamori that have characters like Hello Kitty printed on them, shrines will keep up with the times by beginning to sell ema with anime characters already printed on them.

The merch of May

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

Read the comic? Saw the the movie? Ready to buy some awesome, one-of-a-kind merchandise to show your loyalty? Well, obviously someone knows what you like.

Today Softbank revealed a Gundam-themed cell phone. The 945SH G Ver.GP30th comes complete with a super-cool charger stand on which stands a iconic RX-78-2 Gundam figure. Even more exciting, while it charges, a special movie will be shown on the phone’s screen. Each one can be individually decorated by the user with Gundam stickers so that no two are the same. Makes you go all tingly, doesn’t it?

The Gundam phone is waterproof, has a touch-panel display and other features include GPS and WiFi. While the phone won’t available till mid-December, Softbank will start taking pre-orders from tomorrow at their online shop.

Also on pre-sale are these funky One Piece sneakers. Of the four available designs, three come in a checkered pattern with skull motif, and the the fourth displays a print of the One Piece comic strip. Designed by Baroque Works, the sole is embossed with the One Piece logo, so budding Pirates can leave their mark when exploring uncharted lands. They cost ¥6,825 and pre-sales close on June 21; unfortunately, you won’t actually be able to put them on until after Aug. 1, when they’re scheduled to ship.

To celebrate the launch of Takashi Miike’s “Zebraman 2: Zebraman Strikes Back,” Arinco are serving up a Zebraman-themed Swiss roll cake named after Zebraman’s catchphrase: “Shiro Kuro Tsukeruze Roll” (Let’s turn on the black-and-white Swiss roll). The black stripes are achieved by rolling in cocoa to the white sponge. Those buying the cake will receive a free Zebraman tote bag along with their cake. Costing ¥2,100, the cake will be on sale at Patisserie de Paradis until May 31.

Cheburashka set to topple Kitty-chan?

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

Doutor Cheburashka original coffee set

Doutor Cheburashka original coffee set

From Dec. 3 visitors to Doutor coffee shop can get their mitts on limited-edition Cheburashka items unavailable elsewhere. Each week the free gift changes: in the first week free stickers are available, from Dec. 10 you can receive a clear A5 file and from the Dec. 17 customers get two free postcards. Stocks are limited so visitors to the store best get there early.

In addition you can buy a Cheburashka mug for ¥630, a Cheburashka original coffee set including mug, bag of drip coffee and tote bag for ¥1,800 and a 200-gram bag of premium mild blend coffee for ¥850.

It should be no surprise that despite being a Russian character, Cheburashka has connected with the Japanese and in early last month, a Japanese anime version of Cheburashka debuted on Japanese TV. Small childlike  (chibi) characters with large heads such as Rilakkuma or Hello Kitty are extremely popular in Japan, so diminutive Cheburashka with his cute voice and giant bonce ticks all the right boxes for entry into Japan’s kawaii (cute) hall of fame.

Originally a character in a Russian storybook, Cheburashka became a popular Russian stop-motion animation in in the late ’60s. The furry homunculus has a number of comical friends such as Gena, a kind of gentleman crocodile, and an enemy called old lady Shapoklyak who plays pranks on him.

The original stop-motion animation first aired on Japanese television in 2006, and the ensuing popularity soon turned the original Russian Cheburashka products into must-have collectibles. This toy is now on sale on Yahoo Auctions for a hefty buy-it-now price of ¥55,000. As the Dotour campaign attests, the merchandising of Cheburashka is no doubt generating a mountains of rubles.

The copyright to the character has been fiercely debated in court between Eduard Uspenskiy, the writer of the original books, and Leonid Shvartsman, the art director of the animated films. Uspenskiy won a recent ruling in 2007. Given the proven money-making record of Hello Kitty, Shvartsman is no doubt feeling extremely put out right now.

Moving portraiture by Julian Opie

Monday, October 26th, 2009

Julian Opie's

Last week SCAI the Bathhouse opened a new showing of recent works by Julian Opie (until Nov. 14). Unlike last year’s solo exhibition at Art Tower Mito, this show focuses on portraiture work, which can be just as engaging as the  walking and dancing LED figures that many people now associate him with.

Opie collects Japanese art, both old (ukiyo-e masters Kitagawa Utamaro and Utagawa Hiroshige) and new (hand-painted anime cels). You’ll see similarly flat and vivid color schemes in these portraits, but they are far from static.  Take “Clare with Landscape” (right), for example. Depicted on a vertical LCD screen, at first glance the subject stands as regal and motionless as a Rembrandt or Rubens. But then she blinks. Her bracelet then twinkles in the light and her earring sways slightly, as if to her own pulse. The landscape behind her is alive as well, with clouds lazily crossing the sky and the sound of crows and passing cars.

Opie has also recently utilized Lenticular printing to give 18th-century portraiture styles a modern spin. Many of his subjects are larger-than-life.  Seen here, wavering slightly as you walk from one side to the other, their faces stare down on you with a depth that is both intriguing and somewhat unnerving.

SCAI the Bathhouse is a beautiful 5-10 minute walk from Nippori Station, past the Yanaka Cemetary.

Julian Opie’s site and wiki

A small interview on Youtube from the “This is Shanoza” series

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