Posts Tagged ‘otaku’

Pulsations (06.01.12)

Friday, June 1st, 2012

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 . . .

  • City of Kitakyushu Starts Test of Tidal Power Generation (from JapanFS): Solar power is so last decade. Check out how the city of Kitakyushu is looking to harvest the power of the moon by generating electricity from the tides.
  • 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!)

Streamlined offerings from new adult anime titles

Friday, March 30th, 2012

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.

Dentsu advertising agency now considers the market so significant that they will be setting up a branch dedicated to studying otaku spending habits. Nevertheless, Cyzo’s article states that last year these otaku were spending less, so watch for the anime industry to keep looking for creative ways to keep the cash flow going.

Plenty of room for passions to grow

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

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.

B-kyu boom: The magnificence of the mediocre

Friday, August 5th, 2011

“Not exceptional, not bad, just middling” is one definition of the phrase b-kyu (b class), but this term has lately come to mean so much more. From B-kyu gourmet to B-kyu sightseeing, B-kyu fans are appropriating the phrase to mean something more positive, which ranges from “no frills” to “fabulously kitsch.” With the recent release of a new book, the latest B-kyu mindset is being applied to toys.

"Super B-kyu Transformating Robot Great Battle Dagangu"

Wikipedia Japan states that the phrase B-kyu has its origins in the English term “B movie” — a subpar, cheaply made film. Just as in the West, B-movies also have ardent fans in Japan who embrace the term. B-kyu moviegoers relish the celluloid output of directors such as Yoshihiro Nishimuru, who delights them with lashings of blood and guts in titles such as “Tokyo Gore Police,” “Suicide Club” and “Machine Girl.” If you also have a fondness for bad dialogue and blood splatter, check the B-Class Movie Blog.

The biggest B-kyu craze since B-kyu movies has been the B-kyu gourmet trend. While you might think this is all about retro food such as cheese and pineapple chunks on cocktail sticks, you’d be mistaken. B-kyu gourmet simply means no-frills home cooking that utilize local ingredients. The trend even has a B-kyu gourmet cooking competition called the B-1 Grand Prix. Convenience stores have got in on the act too, with Circle K and Lawson both bringing out special B-kyu meals for limited periods.

But B-kyu hasn’t totally lost its kitschy connotations. Being a B-kyu fan entails seeking out stuff that doesn’t register on most people’s radars. We really love the B-kyu sightseeing website, which features great suggestions on weird and wonderful places to visit. A quick browse through entries for Tokyo brought up a fabulous shop in Akihabara that is heaven for fans of instant ramen, as well as the Toto Toilet museum.

The latest B-kyu movement is focused on the B-kyu toy, or the Fukkutoi, as it’s also been dubbed by the author of a book on cheap plastic toys. “Super B-kyu Transformating Robot Great Battle Dagangu” was published on June 18 and features full color illustrations and commentaries on a variety of cheap plastic playthings. These products, which faithlessly copy the merchandise of bigger toy companies, can be bought in gas stations, souvenir shops and near the cash registers of family restaurants across the country. Until recently, they hadn’t really caught the attention of hardcore adult toy fans, but perhaps it’s time for this cheaply produced tat to emerge from its place in the back of the toy cupboard and enjoy its moment in the spotlight.

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 Wonder Fest 2008.

A peek inside an otaku’s inner sanctum

Thursday, October 29th, 2009

Danny Choo in his element

Danny Choo in his element

Out on Amazon today is a very funky book titled “Otacool Worldwide Otaku Rooms.” The project, organized by self-confessed otaku Danny Choo is for the moment only published in Japan by Kotobukiya. Otaku around the globe responded to Choo’s call to submit images of themselves posing alongside their precious figurine collections in their homes and the best of these images were put together for the book.

Continue reading about "Otacool" →

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