Category Archives: Pop Culture

Disney bringing Doraemon to US TV sets

The popular Japanese manga character Doraemon will make his debut on a US TV series next month.

Doraemon is a robot cat who travels back in time from the future to help a schoolboy in today’s world.

A TV channel operated by the US entertainment giant Walt Disney will start broadcasting the Doraemon show on July 7th.

The story will be set in an imaginary place in the United States and its contents will be adapted to US customs and culture. The characters will use forks, instead of chopsticks.

AKB48 team members assaulted with saw

Two members of all-girl pop group AKB48 and a male staff member were wounded Sunday afternoon when a man wielding a saw assaulted them at an event in Iwate Prefecture, police said, adding they had arrested a 24-year-old man on suspicion of attempted murder.

The group members were identified by the police and a local fire department as Rina Kawaei, 19, and Anna Iriyama, 18. They sustained cuts on their heads and right hands, while the male staffer sustained cuts on his left hand, the police said.

The arrested man, Satoru Umeta, is unemployed and from Towada in the neighboring prefecture of Aomori, the police said. He allegedly assaulted the victims with a saw, prompting an emergency call to the police that a man with a blade had been acting violently in an event hall.

Umeta has admitted to the allegations and was quoted as telling investigators, “I did it.”The victims were later transported to hospital.

But I’m Sailor Moon?

A scout reboot?

Anime is full of dreams that are enchanting, powerful, and legendary. Japan today may be more well-known for sushi, Hello Kitty, and Godzilla, but it was surprisingly innovative in tackling sensitive social issues in the early 90s, specifically same-sex relations. Today it is not difficult to discover media (be it in television, print, or web) that tackles this topic, making for great dialogue.  Japan brought it to the limelight in the least expected area: Naoko Takeuchi’s Sailor Moon (美少女戦士セーラームーン).

The manga featured two proud lesbian lovers (Sailor Neptune and Sailor Uranus) in a committed relationship fighting evil and protecting Usagi (うさぎ), the moon princess. The plot reads slightly borderline cheesy but it was progressive in featuring warriors in a dedicated relationship to one another.  It is a matter DC Comics has recently played with in making the Green Lantern openly gay for its Earth 2 series for the The New 52, making it the first for the super-hero. Yet it is a century behind Takeuchi’s undertaking. She provided a world to her readers where love is fluid and valid no matter the gender.

Sailor Moon had a strong audience in Japan that it was eventually picked up for an American dubbed version that unfortunately suffered severe editing for length and content and was supplemented with additional educational segments stealthily named “Sailor Moon Says.”  At least the kids were learning about recycling, bullying, and body stigma. Sailor Moon arrived at America during the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Digimon, and Pokemon era—all very male dominated—that its cult following was unanticipated. Allison, in “Japanese Superheroes for Global Girls Abroad,” attributed this devotion to Sailor Moon and the Scouts being new kinds of superheroes different from the American ones. That is, Sailor Moon kept the human and superhuman personas much more intact. Each volume never focused on an identity crisis; it targets saving the planet, forming friendships, and love. It was almost as if being a girl was a superpower of its own that allowed these murky terrains that can be unsettling and raw.  

Fans point out that Sailor Moon was a pioneer in bringing lesbian characters to a mainstream audience, but it accomplished it at a price. The series fantasized lesbianism that it took away from it at times the love and intimacy and shifted it to a basic girl-on-girl action genre. The Sailor Moon series are divided into 52 different acts following the adventures of Usagi Tsukino (月野うさぎ), a boy crazy 14-year-old, as she “morphs” into the pretty, loving, evil fighting Sailor Moon.  The Sailor Scouts each possess special powers they receive from their corresponding planets; for example, Sailor Mercury gains her power from the planet Mercury and Sailor Mars from Mars.  The first series begins with Sailor Moon (Usagi), Sailor Mercury (Amy), Sailor Mars (Raye), Sailor Jupiter (Lita), Sailor Venus (Mina) and Darien (Tuxedo Max). The Scouts all live in Tokyo, Japan and attend the American equivalent of middle school. Amy, Raye, Lita, Mina, and Usagi overcome daily obstacles in school work, love, and plans just as any other adolescent. That was certainly a connecting point for most American audiences that these characters were vulnerable and not indestructible.

A manga depicts a story through illustrations and words, using dialogs and interactions between characters to present the story. The movements and exchanges, and the facial expressions, become the focal point to readers. In Sailor Moon, lesbianism is presented in an erotic nature, maybe not intentionally, but none the less very sexualized because of the way the characters are positioned from their body stances, clothing, and mannerisms. The Sailor Scouts’ costumes, for example, for their superhero alternatives are very skimpy that it makes anyone wonder how they could possibly fight evil in 8 inch heels and 5 inch mini-skirts, and tight fitted blouses. In a later series the Sailor Star Fighters, another group of Sailor Scouts, after their transformations donning black high knee boots, extremely small bras emphasizing the body rather than the story, but this also applies to male heroes such as Superman, Batman, and Aquaman—can any realistic male achieve a lean twelve-pack? The series was probably drawing audiences with these depictions for attention risking being a caricature. Sailor Five, a hentai manga, meaning pornographic comic in English, was an erotic parody of the Sailor Moon, underscoring the hidden sexual appeal Sailor Moon unknowingly possessed (Clements 336).

The Sailor Scouts are middle school students, yet specific body parts are prematurely developed. In the Sailor Moon Stars volume, for example, Mina and Raye, Sailor Venus and Sailor Mars, respectively, confront the three new Sailor Star Lights while wearing clothing so small that is accentuates their chests and slightly curvy figure (Takeuchi 1.1.16). The Sailor Stars Lights were the most explicit in their homo-erotic behaviors apart from Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune. The Star Lights never label themselves lesbians, but the mannerism they exploited hinted the probable sexuality. These new fighters disguise themselves and lived as men while searching for their princess on Earth: they date, flirt with other girls, etc. When the day needs saving, they instantly transform into their female warriors; unlike Superman, the Sailor Star Lights “transform” into their new selves embodying new identities, emotions, and abilities hinting that gender is changeable, messy, and difficult depending on the context—really Sailor Moon dwelled into some gender studies 101 most 90s audiences were not ready to face, and it is definitely a magical point viewers overlook.

The transformation from female to male allowed the Star Light Scouts to no longer bottle up any act, longing, or expression. The male versions of themselves are assertive; for example, one of the Sailor Star Fighters while in her male consume kisses Usagi on the mouth to assure her she will never let anyone harm her (Sailor Moon II.4). The kiss is an obvious hint that the male versions of the female Star Fighters are extensions of the feelings they want to exhibit and repress while fighting in their female forms. In the last scene of the Sailor Stars volume, Sailor Tin Nyanko, tells Usagi, “you know [Usagi] I wouldn’t trust girls that pretend to be guys,” echoing that these heroes are imposters that need to accept their desires and show that it comes from a place of female attraction and love.

These instances and others in the animated and manga series are presented but are not marked “lesbian.” The Sailor Moon franchise taught its audience about friendship, acceptance, and support. As one critic noted about Sailor Moon’s success: its “strong plot, its earnest, honest romance, and its refusal to talk down to its audience” really made it thrive (Clements 336).  Sailor Moon remains a cult-favorite and has recently seen support from the online community that Hulu started airing unedited versions of the series that includes the same-sex relations—there’s even talk of a Takeuchi franchise reboot this Summer 2014. For all its stories Sailor Moon was beyond girl power, feminism, and heroes: it was a nucleus of love, determination, and defeating obstacles.

Paul McCartney in Japan and Getting in Some Sumo – Watches Hakuho Win

Mongolian yokozuna Hakuho put on a show for Beatles legend Paul McCartney on Thursday, preserving his share of the lead with a clinical win on the fifth day of action at the Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament.

With McCartney, playing nearby Yafuoku Dome as part of his Japan tour on Friday, watching from the “masu-seki” boxed seats at Fukuoka Kokusai Center, Hakuho kept Toyoshima 2-3 at arm’s length after the charge and then picked his moment to haul the No. 2 maegashira down by the back of his neck.

McCartney, watching his first live basho in 20 years, having also attended the 1993 Fukuoka meet, nearly stole the show after the last bout as he posed for photographs and shook hands with spectators as chants of “Paul, Paul” rang around the arena.

Hakuho shares the lead with fellow yokozuna Harumafuji and rank-and-filers Masunoyama and Shotenro at 5-0.

Read the rest of the story: Beatles legend watches Hakuhos latest triumph.

Hiroshi Yamauchi, who turned Nintendo into a Video Game Powerhouse, Dies at 85

Hiroshi Yamauchi, who transformed his great-grandfather’s playing-card company, Nintendo, into a global video game powerhouse, died on Thursday in Kyoto, Japan. He was 85.

The cause was complications of pneumonia, the company said.

Mr. Yamauchi, who led Nintendo from 1949 to 2002, was Japan’s most unlikely high-tech success story. Named president of the family business at 22, he steered Nintendo into board games, light-emitting toy guns and baseball pitching machines – fruitless forays that he later attributed to a “lack of imagination” – before the company arrived at arcade games.

Its Donkey Kong and the original Mario Bros. became hits and gave rise to Nintendo’s wildly successful home video game business.

The Nintendo Entertainment System, a console first released in Japan in 1983 as “Famicom,” unseated early leaders in the video game industry, selling more than 60 million units thanks to shrewd marketing, close attention to product quality and a crop of games based on unlikely yet endearing characters that soon became household names.

Read the rest of the story: Hiroshi Yamauchi, Who Steered Nintendo to Dominance, Dies at 85

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=XPuR3o66ztc

Project Phoenix Kickstarter: A Japanese Role Playing Game Set to Change the Future of Gaming

Project Phoenix announced earlier this week of their plans to set up a Kickstarter, a Japanese role-playing game (JRPG). The big difference with this project is that it’ll be combined with Real Time Strategy (RTS). The future of gaming is set to be changed with the founder of Creative Intelligence Arts, Hiroaki Yura in the head of the game development.

Uniting top game developers from the West and the East, Project Phoenix takes on the JRPG genre with art direction from Kiyoshi Arai, best known for Final Fantasy XII and XIV. Music is set to be headed by Nobou Uematsu, the legendary composer of the Final Fantasy series. This is the first independent game project Uematsu will be commited to.

“For 25 years, I’ve been working on a lot of video game music like the Final Fantasy series. This is the first time I’ve worked on an independent game,” says Uematsu, Project Phoenix’s lead composer, adding, “Although it’s fun to create a game within a large company, I’ve always been interested in being able to work in a small, passionate independent games team. I’m really looking forward to it.”

The team members in charge of development have quite the impressive credits of which include Halo 4, Final Fantasy series, World of Warcraft, Star Craft II, Diablo III, L.A. Noire, Soulcalibur V, Steins Gate and the Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya.

A few other members are yet to be announced of which includes a secret designer from one of Japanese leading anime mecha title who had changed pop culture influence in the world. Project Phoenix Kickstarter seelks $100,000 in funding for programming and artistic development of the game. Check out Project Phoenix for more information on the game set to change the history of Japanese role playing game.

Ken Hirai Married?! どうしてねえ!

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       Ken Hirai (平井堅) is famous for his sensitive ballads, style, and often “Western” facial features has, according to sources, tied the knot in Tokyo’s Shinjuku district. The internet forums are a blaze with rumors that the J-pop superstar said his vows to longtime boyfriend at a ni-chōme restaurant (二丁目), a famous LGBT hub of subculture that houses most of Tokyo’s gay bars.

              The Pop Star singer, of course, has never confirmed or denied his sexuality but most people either suspect or know for a fact. According to an industry insider, “ Ken-chan rented out a restaurant in ni-chōme and held a private gay wedding ceremony. This is true since my partner attended that ceremony.” If this is the case, then K-Hirais (name for fans) everywhere will be both disheartened but eventually happy he found love. This sudden wedding will not hamper record sales which have been steady throughout his career. His most recent album peaked at number 3 on the Japanese charts.

       Tabloids speculate that the newlywed is the man Hirai has been photographed alongside numerous times in Tokyo, a tallish scruffy, athletic built man in his early 40s. This again, however, is just speculation.

             Photos of the wedding have yet to leak, but this rumor could prove to be just that, a rumor. In 2008, Hirai was romantically linked to singer and actor OdaYuji (織田裕二), which proved to be false–a welcomed relief to netizens who thought the match was quite imperfect. Will the singer announce his marriage or deny it? Fans will surely wait in anticipation, but until then they can just listen to his sanguine, cool voice to his new album Japanese Singer.

Japanese Film Festival at San Francisco: From ‘Helter Skelter’ to ‘Lesson of the Evil’

Japanese films don’t only air in Japan alone. In fact, Japanese and fans of J- films are in for a treat at the first ever upcoming Japanese Film Festival held in San Francisco. So what should fans look forward to at the nine day J-Fest in Bay Area?

The J-Film fest is the first of its kind to happen in Bay Area of the greater north of California. This is slated to be part of the J-POP Summit Festival that showcases J-music and culture.  Fans of J-cinema are sure to enjoy nine days of full-length features at the inaugural JFFSF or Japan Film Festival of San Francisco.

Curtains will go up at the San Francisco New People Cinema for the screening on July 27. Both live action and anime flicks will be shown every day until August 4. The hit sword swinging, “Rurouni Kenshin” is included in the J-cinema spectrum.

Other notable titles set for screening at the event include Mika Ninagawa’s thriller, “Helter Skelter” featuring the sexy and talented, Erika Sawajiri. Psycho-thriller, “Lesson of the Evil” starring Hideaki Ito is also included in the J-fest films.

Lesson of the Evil

As for anime otakus, better get those tickets early for the US premiere of “Naruto Shippuden: The Lost Tower”, “Hunter X Hunter: Phantom Rouge”, “Summer Wars”, “The Girl Who Leapt Through Time” and “Wolf Children.”

Naruto Shippuden: The Lost Tower

If you are a J-film lover or Japanese in San Francisco, better be in the Bay Area in celebration of Japanese cinema.

Akihabara: The One Stop Japan Spot for Otakus

Japan is notable for its many splendour tourist spots such as Shibuya, Okina and Kyoto. However, if there is one spot Otaku’s from all over the world wish to visit and this would be none other than Akihabara. Akihabara has been considered Japan’s one-stop-shop for all anime lovers and enthusiasts.

Where in Japan:

Located in Sotokanda, Tokyo Prefectur, Akihabara (秋葉原) is two stations north of Tokyo Station. Locals call the area Akiba after the local shrine. This area has gained quite the recognition from all over the world due to its diehard otaku culture. Major developments have already occurred thanks to the Akihabara Crossfield complex that promotes Akihabara as the centre for global electronics technology and trade.

How to Get There:

It’s easy to head to Akihabra thanks to Japans’ complex train systems plus their trains give meaning to “faster than a speeding bullet.” There are two options of which are as follows:

  1. From Tokyo Station: Akihabara is located two stations north of Tokyo Station by Keihin-Tohoku or JR Yamanote Line. The trip costs 130 yen and will only take three minutes. However, during the weekdays, Keihin-Tohoku line skips one station between Akihabara and Tokyo which will cut off a few seconds off travel time.
  2. From Shinjuku Station: Travellers should take the JR Chuo Line (colour orange) from Shinjuku to Ochanomizu Station of which takes approximately ten minutes. After, take a quick transfer to JR Sobu line (colour yellow) for one more station headed to Akihabara. This trip takes two minutes max. Alternate options also include taking the yellow train without transfer from Shinjuku to Akihabara for seventeen minutes trip. The fare costs 160 yen for either case.

What to See:

As mentioned, Akihabara is the centre for Otaku enthusiasts and lovers. From maid cafes to Tokyo anime centres selling merchandise and games, everything can be found here. It’s best to load up the wallet because the merchandise scattered around can easily lure Otakus in.

  1. Maid Cafes: Cosplay themed restaurants abound where food is served basically by waitresses in frilly and colourful attires. These “maids” also engage in fun activities with the guests.
  2. drinks

  3. Tokyo Anime Center: This is found on the UDX building of Akihabara Crossfield where anime related exhibitions are held.
  4. akihabara-2

  5. Gundam Café is extremely popular where food is served in gundam themes. A gift shop is also connected where visitors may purchase souvenirs and goods.

gundam-cafe

Why Visit Akihabara:

While Akihabara is heaven on earth for Otakus, some visit the area for real steals when it comes to the latest gadgets and electronics. Various centres offer whopping deals that are definitely a real steal as compared to any other place in Japan or overseas.

When to Visit:

Akihabara is open all year round! Take a trip to one of Japan’s busiest and most Otaku-friendly place on earth.

Important Reminders:

Japanese don’t like tourists taking photos inside stores. Unless you’re a famous celebrity or you’ve got special permission, keep the trigger happy camera’s to yourself or outside the store.