Sasebo schoolgirl killing prompts cancelation of anime series “Psycho-Pass” episode

Written by: William on August 1, 2014 at 4:02 pm | In CULTURE | 1 Comment

Japan has been reeling the last few days in the wake of the Sasebo schoolgirl murder in which 15-year-old Aiwa Matsuo was killed by an unnamed classmate, possibly helped by a friend. The victim was reportedly dismembered and decapitated in the perpetrator’s home.

Sasebo is a small city in Nagasaki that by coincidence also had another horrific school student murder ten years ago. The new incident, as shocking as it is, may well ignite a moral panic as is so often the case, though for now TV broadcasters are rushing to respond appropriately.

psycho pass episode cancel sasebo murder killing anime

As part of this, one seemingly harmless piece of entertainment found itself comprised over unfortunate coincidences in its content and the Sasebo killing. The result was that an episode of the anime series “Psycho-Pass” due to air on Thursday was canceled since it featured a storyline eerily similar to the recent Sasebo incident. In place of the fourth episode of the “Psycho-Pass” Extended Edition series, Fuji TV aired episode five instead.

Art imitates life, as they say, though in this case perhaps it was a case of animation being too close to life. The unaired episode of the crime series apparently featured a schoolgirl who was also dismembered and decapitated, and then displayed like a kind of sculpture.

The “Psycho-Pass” website says there are no plans at present to broadcast the canceled episode.

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Transformers, Anime in Disguise: Chogokin Chogattai SF Robot Fujiko F Fujio Character Robot is an amazing six anime character combo!

Written by: Japan Trends on July 15, 2014 at 10:14 am | In CULTURE, PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

While the latest Michael Bay Transformers movie is shooting up the box office around the world (though not yet in Japan), it’s worth taking a look at a pretty spectacular local Japanese version. A veritable manga character Transformer!

Celebrating 80 years since the birth of Hiroshi Fujimoto, one of the manga-writing duo Fujiko Fujio, here is Bandai Tamashii’s Chogokin Chogattai SF Robot Fujiko F Fujio Character Robot! We don’t know how to begin describing this. It is made up of SIX Fujiko F Fujio (Hiroshi Fujimoto) characters that combine into one model. The “SF” in the name stands for both “sci-fi” and “sukoshi fushigi” (a bit mysterious), while “Chogattai” is a play on the name of the series (Chogokin) and means “super combo”.

chogokin chogattai sf robot fujiko f fujio model bandai tamashii toy doraemon

How’s your anime and manga character knowledge? How many of the “parts” can you name?

Okay, here’s a spoiler: The cast is made up Doraemon, Dorami (Doraemon’s sister), Perman, Korosuke (from Kiteretsu Daihyakka), Chinpui, and Gonsuke (from 21emon).

If you wondering what that big thing the Chogattai is carrying, it’s artist Fujimoto’s iconic red beret hat and pen. Another accessory included is the popular time machine from the Doraemon series.

chogokin chogattai sf robot fujiko f fujio model bandai tamashii toy doraemon

This rather strange but also rather awesome model/toy will get a release in late November.

Chogokin (literally “super alloy”) is a series of die-cast metal toys and models that first appeared in the late 1970′s. It’s pretty geekily Japanese — after all, who names a series after a fake material?! It is undergoing something of a revival at the moment. It’s the 40th anniversary of the model series owned by parent company Bandai, who now release the series through its Tamashii arm.

In recent years Chogokin has only been known for superior scale models of bullet trains, GX-64 Space Battleship Yamato 2199 and other modes of transport. However, of late we have seen an incredible Chogokin Hello Kitty there are more original releases to come, it seems. Look out for a Chogokin model based on the iconic Tower of the Sun by Taro Okamoto!

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“One Piece” exhibition canceled in Seoul due to Rising Sun Flag “nationalist” images

Written by: William on July 11, 2014 at 10:11 am | In CULTURE | 4 Comments

An exhibition based on the massively popular manga “One Piece” scheduled to take place at the War Memorial of Korea in Seoul from July 12th has been canceled, it was announced on July 10th.

Organizers said they have made the decision after people realized that numerous motifs in the original manga were reminiscent of the Rising Sun flag, a symbol of Japanese militarism and which has a particularly painful resonance in Korea, a country which suffered from decades as a colony of Japan.

The TV anime version of “One Piece” has already been broadcast in Korea and so the content of the exhibition had previously been judged as harmless, according to the museum. As such, they agreed to rent out a section of the venue for the event. However, after being told that Rising Sun Flag images appeared in the original manga they changed their minds, although no such images were featured in the actual planned exhibits. As the museum is run as a public organization funded by the state they had no choice but to cancel the exhibition.

one piece manga expo exhibition korea seoul cancel politics rising sun flag nationalist symbol wartime aggression

Like in Japan, Eiichiro Oda’s “One Piece” is popular in Korea and the exhibition, along with sketches and other materials, was going to feature life-size models of the characters, bringing the world of the manga and anime to 3D life for visitors. It would have been very successful too if early numbers are anything to go by. The events company behind the show said it had received reservations alone from 5,000 people! Not surprisingly they are now looking for an alternative venue for their exhibition since there is clearly demand for it, regardless of the politics.

While it might seem inappropriate or even bizarre to hold a mainstream exhibition (i.e. a piece of entertainment) like this at a war memorial in the first place, the Seoul venue is actually very large and has multiple spaces for all kinds of functions and events.

A similar exhibition opened recently in Taiwan, also a former Japanese colony, apparently without similar issues.

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Toyota shows off Pikachu, Fennekin Toyopet Pokemon cars at Tokyo Toy Show 2014

Written by: William on June 13, 2014 at 9:42 pm | In LIFESTYLE | 3 Comments

Toyota really did steal the show at the Tokyo Toy Show 2014. On top of their awesome Camatte Lab, which lets grown-ups see how a car works through driving a transparent vehicle and also allows kids to customize a sports car hood with their own drawings, the world’s biggest automobile maker also exhibited these Toyopet Pokémon cars.

toyopet pokemon toyota car pikachu fennekin tokyo toy show 2014

toyopet pokemon toyota car pikachu fennekin tokyo toy show 2014

No prizes for guessing what’s going on here. This is a Pokémon-themed Toyota car, a very striking Pikachu yellow. Toyopet was actually first exhibited back at the 2012 Tokyo Toy Show and is making a welcome return.

toyopet pokemon toyota car pikachu fennekin tokyo toy show 2014

This time the Pikachu car is joined by a Fennekin character (known in Japan as Fokko) vehicle too. The fox-like Fennekin’s nose really sticks out.

toyopet pokemon toyota car pikachu fennekin tokyo toy show 2014

toyopet pokemon toyota car pikachu fennekin tokyo toy show 2014

toyopet pokemon toyota car pikachu fennekin tokyo toy show 2014

Pokémon might be pretty old now but it still retains the power to make an impression, especially when it’s got the backing of a major car maker!

toyopet pokemon toyota car pikachu fennekin tokyo toy show 2014

And if you’re curious why you’ve never heard of the car model itself, don’t worry, it’s also not such a new one. The Toyopet line dates back to the 1940′s and made its last appearance on a series in the 1970′s.

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Takashi Murakami directs Hatsune Miku video “Last Night, Good Night (Re:Dialed)”, re-mixed by Pharrell Williams

Written by: William on May 15, 2014 at 12:20 pm | In CULTURE | No Comments

Artist Takashi Murakami has directed the music video for virtual idol Hatsune Miku’s song, “Last Night, Good Night (Re:Dialed)”. It has also been re-mixed by Pharrell Williams, whose “Happy” has inspired some neat Tokyo videos recently.

last night good night re-dialed takashi murakami hatsune miku pharrell williams

Not surprisingly, then, Murakami has put Williams into the video. He’s the black guy with the hat.

The song is actually not new, dating from last year. But this new collaboration is a promo for Murakami’s feature-length film debut “Jellyfish Eyes”, currently screening in America until early June, on a tour organized by Blum & Poe, Murakami’s American gallery.

Billed as “a big screen tale of poignant memories and wondrous dreams,” it was, however, not a success in Murakami’s native Japan. The film had a troubled production, with Murakami frequently rejecting his animators’ efforts to make the characters he had created move in the way he wanted. The financial losses — Murakami and his company apparently poured in some $7 million — and the unhappy scenes behind-the-scenes have likely scuppered Murakami’s vision of two sequels.

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Sharp goes moe for Premium Cocorobo with imouto anime character

Written by: Japan Trends on March 26, 2014 at 9:32 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

When Sharp first released its Cocorobo, the world was pretty impressed. Here was a low-cost robotic vacuum cleaner that could respond to its owner’s commands and be controlled by Android and iPhone devices, not to mention go about cleaning your home on its own accord. While it certainly isn’t a RC mop by any means, it is perhaps the most futuristic way to clean your home that we’ve encountered on a mass level.

Following strong sales, Sharp came up with a new version, the Mini Cocorobo for people with more compact residences (very common in space-strapped Japan). So what to do next? What are target consumers are there?

Of course, otaku!

premium cocorobo cleaner vacuum robot moe anime character

Sharp has develoepd the “Premium Cocorobo”, which is decorated with a cute moe girl character and features a imouto younger sister-like voice. What more could you want? Okay, so this isn’t going to be everyone’s tastes, but we still find it pretty cool that Sharp is doing this.

The voice is by Ibuki Kido and the illustration by mangaka Kinusa Shimotsuki. And unlike a real anime girl character (or real girlfriend), this one won’t get all tsundere on you and refuse to do the housework!

premium cocorobo cleaner vacuum robot moe anime character

Before you get too excited, though, the current Premium Cocorobo is just a trial. They are testing the new features of the vacuum cleaner by recruiting people to sample it in their homes for a month. We imagine competition will be fierce for places.

Fingers crossed Sharp will make this into a full commercial product to add to the Cocorobo robotic cleaners already on the market.

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Life-size Patlabor robot guards over Toyosu, Tokyo Bay

Written by: William on March 21, 2014 at 9:15 am | In CULTURE | No Comments

Condos aren’t the only thing rising in Tokyo’s bayside area.

Following on from the life-sized Gundam robot already standing proud in Odaiba, Patlabor is getting in on the act as a promo for an upcoming film adaptation.

patlabor next generation tokyo bay toyosu robot real size

On March 17th the life-size Type-98 AV Ingram arrived at the Urban Dock Lalaport Toyosu, near to Tokyo Bay.

The Patlabor robot was used in the forthcoming film, the first chapter of the new Mobile Police Patlabor series. The prop is used by police to patrol for crime and stands 8 meters tall. This model is life-size with the “actual” Patlabor robots, though this is nonetheless only half the height of the Gundam.

Here’s it being erected:

The first part of the mammoth The Next Generation Patlabor series will be released on April 5th in Japan, with the other six films’ release dates staggered over 2014 and 2015. It stars Erina Mano, and the series is supervised and written by Mamoru Oshii (Ghost in the Shell).

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Spring Cheapo Calendar: 5 Events Not to Miss

Written by: Tokyo Cheapo on March 4, 2014 at 12:04 pm | In CULTURE, LIFESTYLE | No Comments

This article by Frances Maeda first appeared on Tokyo Cheapo.

spring japan cherry blossom

Image by dat’, used under a Creative Commons Licence.

Make the most of the pleasant weather in Tokyo this March and April with Tokyo Cheapo’s guide to the best festivals and flowers. This is the first installment of a new bi-monthly events wrap where Tokyo Cheapo will be giving you the lowdown on what’s on (and cheap) in the coming months.


1. Hanami: Late March to Early April


For some, it’s the reason they come to Japan — to contemplate the transience of life while gazing at the cherry blossoms coloring the landscape pink. For others, it’s an opportunity to get drunk in a poetic setting. And yet for others, it’s a bit of both. Whatever you’re into, cherry blossom season is traditionally celebrated with chilled picnics under the trees, while the petals fall around you. The parks of Ueno and Sumida are popular spots for these hanami parties, as is the Chiyoda area (around the Imperial Palace) — you can even boat around the moat there. Rikugien, known for its “weeping” cherry trees, is worth a visit too.

When: Late March – Early April. You can check the sakura forecast (in Japanese) here.

hanami sakura cherry blossom

Image by Les Taylor, used under a Creative Commons Licence.


2. Anime Japan 2014 (March 22nd and 23rd)

As the website says, “Here is everything about anime”. A dream come true for any self-respecting otaku, it’s two full days of all things Japanese animation. You’ll have a chance to see the newest anime, as well as enjoy screenings of classic titles. There will also be exhibitions, talks, music, all sorts of other stage events, seminars on the business side of things, and stuff you can buy. And did we mention the cosplay?

When: 22-23 March. Where: Tokyo Big Sight, East Exhibition Hall. Ariake, Koto-ku.


3. Mt Takao Fire-Walking Festival (March 9th)

You know those stories of monks walking barefoot across scorching coals? You can see that first-hand (and maybe try it too) at the Mt Takao Hiwatari Festival. Hotfoot it to Yakuouin Temple on Tokyo’s most popular mountain (less than an hour from Shinjuku) to experience the haunting sounds of conch shells, Buddhist prayers and fire (lots of it). When the flames have subsided, the monks cross the burning embers — said to be part of a path to an ultimately peaceful and enlightened existence.

More details here.

mt takao fire walking festival

Image by Gideon Davidson, used under a Creative Commons Licence.


4. Kamakura Festival (April 13th to 20th)

The city of Kamakura (the one with the giant Buddha statue) in Kanagawa Prefecture was the political centre of Japan in the 12th century, and it’s hailed as the birthplace of samurai culture — giving it instant cool cred. Just an hour away from Tokyo, it’s a great spot to visit — especially during the Kamakura Matsuri (Festival). Held at Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine, there will be music, dance performances (on the first Sunday of the festival), mikoshi (portable shrines) and — the highlight — horseback archery (on the second Sunday). This style of archery dates back to medieval times and is said to have been used as a brain training technique for the samurai.

More details here.

kamakura festival horse riding archery horseback

Image by gullevek, used under a Creative Commons Licence.


5. Kanamara Penis Festival (April 6th)

What would the fertile season be like without a fertility festival? Except that, contrary to appearances, this festival is not exactly about that. The “Festival of the Steel Phallus” is held at Kanayama Shrine — where prostitutes apparently used to pray for protection from STIs, back in the day. The spot also came to be associated with prayers for prosperity, easy births and happy marriages. The festival is a celebration of all things penile (never thought we’d use that word in an article), with a big pink penis that gets paraded around, penis-shaped snacks and decorations, and even carved veggies. You’ll never look at pumpkin the same way again.

More details here.

Read on Tokyo Cheapo.

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5 “Wacky Japan” myths we don’t agree with (and why)

Written by: Japan Trends on February 19, 2014 at 12:25 pm | In CULTURE, LIFESTYLE | No Comments

Japan is a country that seems to inspire more than its far share of stereotypes and myths. The overseas media is also complicit in perpetuating many of the images of Japan that make it seem weird, exotic and unfathomable. What irk the most are the ones that mold Japan as a nation of wackos with bizarre tastes in fashion, beauty, sex and entertainment. This isn’t just Japan; the western media continually likes to mock and belittle Asian countries. Would Psy have been such a hit if there hadn’t been a “weird dance” (actually originally very tongue-in-cheek)?

Here are five we particularly dislike and feel are wrong (in whole or in part), and also harmful and patronizing.

Mascot obsession

Yes, there are mascots — lots of them.

The Self-Defense Force has them, as does the police and even the Japanese Communist Party. Some days it feels like you can’t get away from mascot characters, on TV, advertising or merchandise. But that doesn’t mean people are stupid or only interested in something because of a mascot.

funassyi yuru kyara japan mascots

Mascot culture has been a big success story for regional tourism, hence why it has become something of a phenomenon in recent years. This is a fascinating social development and offers lessons in tourism. But also don’t confuse it with the idea that everyone in Japan walks around with mascot toys in their bags.

A nation of geeks

This links in with the mascot thing. Sure, manga and anime are popular here. hHwever, one of the biggest mistranslations and inaccurate use of language concerns the idea of “subcultures”. If we had a yen for every time we saw the words “anime subculture” in Japanese or English. More often than not, it’s being used incorrectly. What’s important here is how manga and anime are indeed mainstream — but in the sense that cartoons and comics are part of popular culture in America too. No one calls American geeks because of how successful “The Avengers” was, right? But the movie was seen by thousands of non-fans too.

What has changed in recent years is that certain types of manga and anime have risen in status — by which we mean subcultural content previously associated mostly with hardcore fans, especially science fiction. However, manga and anime itself is not a subculture. Quite the opposite: they are part of pop culture. So just because they are a visible element in Japan, it cannot be correlated solely with “geeky” culture.

he Idolmaster Movie: Kagayaki no Mukogawa e! The Idolmaster Movie: To the Other Side of the Light

The difference is that there is a whole wealth of anime and manga that can be enjoyed by adults too, not to mention the tens of thousands of titles specifically meant for older audiences (and we don’t mean “adult content” either). This is like how there are graphic novels and the likes of Robert Crumb in America, plus a quality Pixar animation is entertaining for all ages.

That’s what’s interesting; not that everyone in Japan is an otaku because they read comics even after the age of 18, but that there are comics that cater to predilections that go way beyond superheroes. If you look at the annual list of bestsellers, Japan has some of most varied reading tastes. What was the biggest box office hit recently in Japan? Yes, it was an anime. But it was Studio Ghibli’s “The Wind Rises”, which frankly is as mainstream as any Disney picture.

What makes us doubly angry is that “Cool Japan” is also getting it wrong, promoting a subculture — something for a select taste — as representative of all that’s good about Japan. And so we have embarrassments like AKB48 (not even a true example of genuine otaku culture anymore) performing at the ASEAN gala banquet.

Weird beauty

We have been guilty of helping with this myth ourselves. Sure, there are some bizarre beauty gadgets in Japan. But they are genuine skincare and health tools, no matter how odd the pictures sometimes look. From electric nose-lifters to face sliming mouthpieces, there is a whole pantheon of frankly visually alarming gadgets out there. But we actually think these are pretty amazing and not just to be scoffed at.

japan wacky beauty gadget crazy bizarre cosmetics tool

Either way, they are unusual items that are used by a minority of people. It’s not the case that everyone women is walking around with wacky mouthpieces jutting out of their jaws in a quest to retain their youthful beauty.

And at the end of the day, the beauty trends that should really be grabbing the headlines are the amazing quality of Japanese cosmetics and make-up, from Shiseido to Kanebo and shu uemura.

Sexual disfunction

The catalog of articles here would be notorious and too long to list, but the perennial claim is one of two extremes or even both at the same time: the Japanese are not interested in sex anymore, and/or they are super kinky and like to get their kicks at strange fetish clubs or through 2D characters.

There are extremes in every culture and we love how Japan, free of the notion of original sin and other moral hangups in the monotheistic world, is able to find a way for more unusual sexual customs to exist alongside the so-called mainstream. But they are just that: fringe elements. As healthy and often refreshing (if mind-boggling) as they are, the majority of men in Japan are not interested in pursuing anime girls or even Akihabara “idols”.

japan sexual disfunction dysfunction no romance moteki film

And we find it laughable this image that young people are not interested in sexual relations (any reporter who writes an article on this should go and visit a college campus or nightclub).

Japan is prohibitively expensive

Not so “wacky” this one but we still hate it always gets rolled out as a stereotype to explain how “opaque” and formiddable the lifestyle in Japan — especially Tokyo — is. Japan is not expensive. Sure, if you take the average apartment in America and Europe and compare it to a similar size in Tokyo, it will seem crazy. But no one lives like that. Things are compact in Japan (not small, compact) and you have to adjust your scale a little. In fact, it is far more affordable to live alone in Tokyo and go out for meals on a very regular basis than other cities.

tokyo most expensive city world

What is expensive? Up-front fees for apartments, though this has improved recently. Some fruit and vegetables. Hostess clubs. Shinkansen bullet train tickets.

Everything else is pretty reasonable, not least because consumption tax is relatively low (it’s going up this spring, though) and prices have hardly changed in over ten years (the up side of the “Lost Decade”). You can shop at UNIQLO et al if you are on a budget and there is a host of great eating-out options for as little as ¥1,000-¥2,000 yen for a nice meal. Try getting an apartment for one, paying for daily transport costs, utility bills and going out half a dozen times a week in New York or a major European city… and then you’ll see what we mean.

And if don’t believe us, head over to Tokyo Cheapo for some tips on enjoying yourself in Japan on a budget.

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