Hello, everyone. Welcome to our Japanese learning series hosted by Crystal Base. We hope you enjoy our first video in this ever growing series.
REMEMBERING A MASTER OF ANIME FILMMAKING
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: MILWAUKIE, OR—This August, Dark Horse remembers an animation legend and his works with The Art of Satoshi Kon.
A director who blazed a brilliant animation career before his tragic passing in 2010, Kon is immortalized in this special hardcover volume that covers the whole of his incredible career. Encompassing everything from illustrations for his movies Perfect Blue, Tokyo Godfathers, Millennium Actress, and Paprika and his television series Paranoia Agent, to his manga, commercial art, and more, The Art of Satoshi Kon is an oversized, 136-page tribute to a master of anime filmmaking.
Including a special appreciation from Darren Aronofsky, The Art of Satoshi Kon celebrates a lifetime of Kon’s work, including several little-known and incomplete projects.
About Dark Horse
Founded in 1986 by Mike Richardson, Dark Horse Comics has proven to be a solid example of how integrity and innovation can help broaden a unique storytelling medium and establish a small, homegrown company as an industry giant. The company is known for the progressive and creator-friendly atmosphere it provides for writers and artists. In addition to publishing comics from top talent, such as Frank Miller, Mike Mignola, Neil Gaiman, Brian Wood, Gerard Way, Felicia Day, and Guillermo del Toro, and comics legends, such as Will Eisner, Neal Adams, and Jim Steranko, Dark Horse has developed its own successful properties, such as The Mask, Ghost, Timecop, and SpyBoy. Its successful line of comics and products based on popular properties includes Mass Effect, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Aliens, Conan, EVE Online, Halo, Serenity, Game of Thrones, and Domo. Today Dark Horse Comics is the largest independent comic book publisher in the US and is recognized as one of the world’s leading publishers of both creator-owned content and licensed comics material.
By Cass Pineda
Every era has its monster. During the reign of England’s Queen Victoria, fear of a generation’s rising sexuality popularized the charismatic, blood-sucking vampire. During the Cold War, communists became grey-faced, saucer-flying aliens bent on dissecting red-blooded American capitalists. Today, our technology-obsessed and mindless consumerist society makes us the perfect targets for the latest and possibly most terrifying monster of all: zombies.
From Dawn of the Dead to Shaun of the Dead, zombies have become popular in Western movies in recent decades, but undead hordes with boners for human brains are known the world over. They embody everything people fear about death and also cause us to question about what it means to be human, themes that the high-octane anime High School of the Dead (based on the manga series by Daisuke Sato) addresses with class. Combined with almost nonstop brain-splattering action and a cast of attractive, well-endowed young women, HotD has quickly become one of my most favorite animes of all time.
However, many would be inclined to disagree. It appears to be one of those shows where, as a watcher, you will either love it or hate it. A lot of it probably has to do with how you feel about panty shots and oscillating boobs. Those aside, however, it is a powerful story, driven by a cast of passionate characters determined to survive during a zombie pandemic and subsequent nuclear holocaust.
The main protagonist, Takashi Komuro, is an average second-year student at Fujimi High School, dealing with ordinary problems (like his girlfriend dumping him and dating his best friend) when he witnesses a horrific attack on a group of teachers. As things begin to escalate, he gathers up his friends in order to escape: ex-girlfriend Rei Miyamoto is a skilled spear handler, and best friend Hisashi Igo is a black belt in karate. They are joined by Takashi’s childhood friend and self-proclaimed genius Saya Takagi, pudgy gun otaku Kohta Hirano, and level-headed kendo aficionado Saeko Busujima. Eventually with the help of ditzy school nurse, Shizuka Marikawa, they escape the school grounds on board a bus, with plenty of zombie-smashing along the way.
Violent zombie annihilation became popular with recent movies like Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland—in fact, it became almost an art. In HotD, the students are just as creative in fighting for their survival, but it is not always as easy as decapitating undead foes for twelve wonderful episodes. They also face human adversaries, such as the sinister pedagogue Koichi Shido and other desperate survivors in a world gone mad. In the first episode, Takashi is even forced to kill his best friend, a traumatic experience that comes back to haunt him later in the show. These interactions are handled artfully, and in some ways are more frightening than the conflicts with the obvious zombie enemies.
Zombies themselves vary in representation throughout mainstream media: in the popular game series Left 4 Dead, they are mutated “rage” zombies, undead who have physically morphed to become stronger, faster, and decidedly more ugly than living humans. In Zombieland, they still looked like people, but are driven only by hunger. The zombies in HotD are more akin to the shuffling, unthinking masses first brought to us by George A. Romero, and more recently, Shaun of the Dead. This consistency in characteristics is important in creating a realistic scenario and world for the story to play out in as Takashi and his friends learn more about the zombies’ strengths and weaknesses. In fact, zombie movies and culture exist in Takashi’s world, but the characters, in some effort to keep themselves separated from the bizarre circumstances around them, do not call them zombies; instead, they refer to these creatures cryptically as “Them.”
While the manga was first released in Japan in 2007, the anime adaptation did not arrive until 2010. It is visually brilliant, with smooth (yet bouncy!) animation and fantastic, mood-setting music. The opening theme is exciting yet haunting, and the ending theme is different for each episode. There is no laziness from the studio when it comes to action shots or even mundane scenes, and it is beautifully cinematic. As I mentioned before, they also seize upon plenty of opportunities for panty shots and sideboob, and while in any other show this would be tasteless or even offensive, these comedy elements are needed to break the intensity, and are done within the reasonable realms of their situation.
As with any show that exercises elements of a “harem” style anime, the main group’s characters fall into familiar tropes and behaviors (like tsundere Takagi and kudere Busujima) but this is actually beneficial to their interactions, lending some spice to their relationships rather than making them obnoxious and repetitive. Nor are they two-dimensional and predictable, and over the course of the series, reveal surprising aspects of themselves and their pasts.
The anime series itself ends on a boggling cliffhanger, but the seven-volume manga (distributed by Yen Press) was made available in the States in the beginning of this year, and the hardcover omnibus of the full color version is due in November. The anime series is available (subbed and dubbed) on Zune Marketplace, iTunes, Netflix, as well as DVD and Bluray. The phenomenal soundtrack was released by Geneon last year.
High School of the Dead thrilled me because it is different, and contains everything I love about action shows and zombie horror, with the right amount of comedy mixed in. It is a must for zombie flick and action-anime fans, but be careful with who (and where) you watch it. The sexual themes are obvious and while appreciated by some, might get you in trouble with others. The strong voice actors in both Japanese and English keep pace with their on-screen counterparts to create a likeable cast that kick so much undead ass that you’ll hope they’ll be on your side when the zombie apocalypse eventually comes.
(And it will.)
Maid Cafe NY grand opening
On August 18th, Maid Cafe NY officially open to a packed crowd.
But have they given the fans the true Maid Cafe experience? Or at least made changes that we had so desperately asked for?
Lets first explain what an actual maid cafe should be: Maid cafes (メイド喫茶 / メイドカフェ Meido kissa / Meido kafe?) are a subcategory of cosplay style restaurants found predominantly in Japan. In these cafes, waitresses dressed in maid costumes act as servants and treat customers as masters (and mistresses) in a private home, rather than as cafe patrons.
Maid cafes come in all shapes and sizes. Most provided a vivid depiction of master and servant without crossing the ecchi line (creepy). Usually, the cafes aren’t about the level of food but more about the experience. It’s a little weird to Westerners because you’re basically waited on hand-and-foot.
Here’s a link to a bunch of sample maid cafes:http://matome.naver.jp/odai/2133810394961862001
So, our correspondents attended the grand opening only to find that nothing has changed at all.
Still no awning…
Still no TV screens…
and no actual “Maid” service.
They had J-Pop music and girls on stage but this was just for the event and held in a separate restaurant above. Plus, there was a 5 dollar cover charge, for a cafe grand opening?
They did nothing to bring the true experience of a Maid Cafe to life. Most of the girls looked as if they didn’t even want to be there. This is a grave mistake and we feel the owner, who is Japanese, is “phoning it in” just to make a quick buck and figured Americans wouldn’t even know the difference, but we do.
The Japanese Curry was sub par and the lack of decor was still uneventful and empty.
If they would have called this an Express Maid Cafe or something else, fine, but making a Maid Cafe without the interaction is like going to Disney and not meeting Mickey or Goofy or riding on any rides.
In the end, we were hoping to recapture the unique and wonderful experience we had in Tokyo, but all we got was a watered down sweet shop with some young women dressed in maid outfits. This is not the same thing as an actual Maid Cafe.
So to all the Otakus and Japanese fans looking for something you only read about in Manga or seen in Anime and J-Dorama, look somewhere else. The best thing to do is to buy a plane ticket and head to Akihabara or Ikebukuro.
Final thoughts: Hopefully, if Maid Cafe NY wants to keep their doors open for a long time, they simply need to add something truly authentic that could only be found in Japan. Unfortunately, many other Maid Cafes have tried but could not keep their doors open for very long: click here
Agree? Disagree? let me know follow me on Twitter @AltMindz
On August 11, 2013, my wife and I went to Maid Cafe New York, the first attempt of trying to bring the very popular Maid Cafe’s from Japan to the States.
In the past, makeshift maid cafes have been set up at the Anime and Comic Book conventions.
We have personally been to ones in Akihabara so, for the most part in our minds, we have this expectation of what should be done.
Each cafe has their own unique take. Some host as a Manga/Anime place where you can read Manga and even do voice over work in a sound booth. Some treat you very mean. Yet, most have this very traditional style of the servant/master relationship.
Mixing all the awesome Otaku flair with this very hands-on approach makes maid cafes a must-stop attraction while visiting Tokyo.
I never thought in a million years something so different as a maid cafe could be brought to the States. Yet, here we are for our 13th wedding anniversary with the hopes of getting a little taste of Tokyo in our collective tongues.
Now let me first point out that the shop has not done it’s official opening so we attended a “beta” test of the shop. They haven’t even officially placed an awning
above the shop yet.
The decor is pink and white and at least one of the servers was actually Japanese (which we feel should be a must since this is an import specialty shop).
The other two servers where not readily able to speak Japanese. The owner spoke Japanese as well, so we are thankful that the person behind the shop is Japanese (Is it necessary for him to be? No, but it helps).
The shop is rather small for a maid cafe (not all maid cafes are really that big anyway). This shop could only legally hold at max 25-45 people standing. The tables are made of solid wood with green chairs which gives a nature feel to it.
I do feel at this stage of the game that maybe having a LCD screen showing Anime like Maid Sama or just cute Anime characters would add more to this experience. This could bring a lot more fanboys and fangirls to shop. Maybe even having some Anime or Manga artwork of the Maid Cafe girls around the shop would boost the atmosphere.
Also, the music playing was smooth jazz while we where there. Once again, to get that awesome feeling, adding Anime soundtracks or famous J-Pop music or any modern Japanese music would add a new level of fun. I believe it would showcase the shop as something more than just a sweet shop and something very modern Tokyo.
With the decor aside, how was the food?
Unfortunately, I can’t speak about the Japanese Curry since it was not ready at the time we arrived. So my wife had a matcha green tea cheesecake with a green tea flavored bubble tea.
I ordered a crepe with bananas and ice cream while drinking a famous Japanese soda, Ramune. The menu also consisted of shaved ice, hard boil eggs, different cakes and yogurt.
With all this in mind, we shall wait until the official grand opening to give a full verdict as to how Maid Cafe NY measures up.
Follow me on Twitter @AltMindz
Anpanman (アンパンマン) is a Japanese picture book series written by Takashi Yanase since 1973. The anime adaptation Soreike! Anpanman (それいけ!アンパンマン, Let’s Go! Anpanman) is one of the most popular anime series amongst young children in Japan. The show has been on the air in Japan continuously since October 1988. On October 4, 1996 (Episode 398) the show changed its time slot from Monday to Friday. On November 10, 2000 (Episode 588) the show was made with digital editing. On August 28, 2009 the show had aired 1000 episodes. Since April 2, 2010(Episode 1029) the show started airing in High Definition. As of 2011, the titular Anpanman is the most popular fictional character among people age 0 to 12 years in Japan in 10 consecutive years, according to 2chan the show was originally going to premiere in 1987 and it was originally going to end with 24 episodes, according to research by Bandai. Although the series is popular in its country of origin, the franchise is not well known outside of Japan.
Heavily merchandised, the Anpanman characters appear on virtually every imaginable children’s product, from clothes to video games to toys to snack foods. The Anpanman books have collectively sold over 50 million copies in Japan.
Many times during the Second World War, Yanase became faced with the prospect of starvation, which made him dream about eating anpan (a bean-jam filled pastry).
This inspired the creation of the Anpanman character.
Kōichi Yamadera and Mika Kanai, the voice actors for Cheese and Melonpanna respectively, are married. This is also translated in a way to the cartoon as Cheese spends most of his time in Melonpanna’s company in the episodes she’s in. Yamadera also does voices for recurring characters in the show, such as Kamameshidon. They divorced in Spring of 2006.
The series spawned a short lived spin-off show featuring one of the more popular recurring characters on the show, Omusubiman.
In each episode, Anpanman fights with Baikinman and helps the people of the town. He always goes on patrol in the area around the house of Uncle Jam. He is a symbol of justice, fighting for the cause of justice every day. Anpanman has a long history and new characters are frequently introduced, keeping the series fresh. In 2009, Anpanman was verified as a Guinness World Record Holder for the highest number of characters in an animated franchise; as of March 27, 1,768 characters have appeared in the first 980 episodes of the TV series and the first 20 Anpanman films.
- Anpanman (アンパンマン Anpanman)
- Voiced by: Keiko Toda
- The main character of the anime, whose head is a bun made by Uncle Jam. His name comes from the fact that he is a man with a head made of bread (Japanese: pan, a loanword from the Portuguese word meaning “bread”) that is filled with red bean paste (Japanese: an) called an anpan. The rhythm of the rhyming name might be loosely idiomatically translated in English as “Bean Bun Boy”. He doesn’t need to eat or drink to sustain himself and has never been seen eating, as it is believed the bean jam in his head allows him to sustain himself in this manner. His weaknesses are water and anything else that makes his head dirty (In order to prevent his head getting wet when underwater or in wet weather, he is usually seen with his head concealed inside a protective bubble in such situations). He regains his health and strength when Jam Ojisan bakes him a new head and it is placed on his shoulders. Anpanman’s damaged head, with Xs in his eyes, flies off his shoulders once a new baked head is made for him by Uncle Jam. Anpanman came to life when shooting star landed in Uncle Jam’s oven while he was baking. He has two special attacks: An-punch and An-kick (with stronger variations of both). When Anpanman comes across a starving creature or person, he lets the unfortunate creature or person eat part of his head. He also has super hearing in that he can respond to anyone that calls his name out in distress from anywhere in the world.
- Uncle Jam (ジャムおじさん Jam Ojisan)
- Voiced by: Hiroshi Masuoka
- The creator of Anpanman, and a very kind baker. A skilled cook with knowledge of nearly everything in the world.
- Batako-san (バタコさん Batako-san)
- Voiced by: Rei Sakuma
- Assistant to Uncle Jam. She’s dedicated and hard working, but is prone to forgetting things. Her Japanese name means “Butter Girl”. She makes and mends the capes Anpanman and the other heroes use to fly with.
- Cheese (チーズ Chiizu)
- Voiced by: Koichi Yamadera
- A dog that lives in Uncle Jam’s bakery. He became a loyal friend after Anpanman saved his life in the manga. In the anime, a young Anpanman feeds Cheese, who is starving, a part of his head as a part of his very first patrol and became inseparable afterwards. Cheese tends be an effective sidekick when he’s around.
- Currypanman (カレーパンマン Currypanman)
- Voiced by: Michiyo Yanagisawa
- Another of Anpanman’s friends. His head is made from currypan, a pastry filled with red-hot curry. He is quick tempered and hot-headed on the surface, but gives way to a kind and sentimental interior. Tends to be the strongman of the trio. Wields the Curry-punch and Curry-kick, which are similar to the fighting techniques of Anpanman’s other sidekicks. However, he can also use the hot curry concealed in his head as a weapon, using it to burn villains. He first appeared in episode 2b.
- Shokupanman (しょくぱんまん Shokupanman)
- Voiced by: Sumi Shimamoto
- A friend of Anpanman. His head is made from sliced white bread (Japanese: shoku pan). He is handsome and level-headed and kind, but narcissistic. Tends to be the thinker of the trio. His job when not helping Anpanman is serving lunch to the schoolchildren. Dokin-chan has a crush on him. Wields the Shoku-punch and Shoku-kick, which are similar to Anpanman’s fighting techniques. He also has a multi-functional delivery van known as the Shokupanman-go with many implements to help avoid trouble. He first appeared in episode 3b.
- Melonpanna (メロンパンナ Meronpanna)
- Voiced by: Mika Kanai
- Anpanman’s friend. Her head is made from melon bread. She is extremely softhearted, being caring and sensitive, and is sometimes clever. When she’s in trouble, she usually needs Anpanman or somebody else to save her, or if there is no one available, she calls out for her sister, Rollpanna. Sometimes she likes hanging out with Cheese. Her special attack, the Melo-Melo Punch, makes bad guys woozy with affection or awakens others from deep sleep. She first appeared in episode 200.
- Rollpanna (ロールパンナ Rollpanna)
- Voiced by: Mina Tominaga
- Melonpanna’s older sister who has two hearts: A red one of goodness, and thanks to Baikinman, a blue one of evil. The sight of Anpanman can trigger her evil heart while the sight of Melonpanna can trigger her good one. She started out in the series as a loner at Baikinman’s beck and call, but she broke from his power and wanders the world doing good deeds, but stays away from others for fear of what she would do if her black heart is triggered. Her nickname is “The tragic heroine”. Uses a gymnastics ribbon as her main weapon. She can use it to wrap up her enemies or cause tornadoes. She first appeared in episode 300.
- Creampanda (クリームパンダ Creampanda)
- Voiced by: Miki Nagasawa
- The youngest of Anpanman’s friends and the foster brother of Melonpanna and Rollpanna. He is 6 years old. His is head made from a cream bun and his eyes that looks like those of a panda’s. Despite his immaturity and relative weakness as compared to Anpanman and his hero friends, he is courageous, protective of his friends, and has a “never give up” attitude. He has a immature character causes him to sometimes get into petty squabbles and competitions of one-upsmanship with the other younger characters on the show. Because his head resembles a hand, he has a special headbutt attack called the “Guu-Choki-Punch” (Guu-Choki-Pa means Rock, Scissors, Paper in Japanese). Relatively powerful when it connects, it fails to connect more often than not. He first appeared in episode 469.
- Baikinman (ばいきんまん Baikinman)
- Voiced by: Ryusei Nakao
- The villain from the “Germ Planet” and is the leader of the Viruses. His Japanese name means “Bacteria Man”. His ambition is to destroy Anpanman and spread bacteria all over the latter’s world, yet he is perfectly content to play tricks, steal, and bully those weaker than him. He and Anpanman were born at the same time, making them physical representations of moral dualism. He has a weakness to soap, which shrinks him to the size of a fly. He constructs machines and thinks of intricate plans to counteract Anpanman’s strength. His two famous phrases are signature cackle, “Ha-hee-hoo-hey-hoo!”; and “Bye-baikiiin!”, which he utters out whenever he’s sent flying by Anpanman or another character.
- Moldyrunrun (かびるんるん Kabirunrun)
- Baikinman’s henchmen. They have the ability to rot Anpanman’s head with mildew/mold (Japanese: kabi). They first appeared in episode 2a.
- Dokin-chan (ドキンちゃん)
- Voiced by: Hiromi Tsuru
- Baikinman’s female partner in crime. She is selfish, demanding, childish, and greedy, but sometimes shows kindness. She has a crush on Shokupanman. Her Japanese name is a combination of “Doki”, the Japanese onomatopoeia for a quickly beating heart, “baikin” (meaning “germ”, also the case for Baikinman), and the diminutive/affectionate suffix “-chan”. She first appeared in episode 13a.
- Horrorman (ホラーマン Horrorman)
- Voiced by: Kaneta Kimotsuki
- A skeleton who often works with Baikinman and Dokin-chan. Although he seems scary on the outside, he is very weak and often falls to pieces, and can magically put the pieces back. He is neither a hero nor a villain. His special attack is the Bone Boomerang, where he takes off one of his bones and throws it. He is also in love with Dokin-chan and often stalks her. He first appeared in Fly! Fly! Chibigon.
After the events of 3/11
A volunteer worker helping out in some of the worse areas affected in the Northen area of Japan started singing the Anpanman theme song to brighten the spirits of his fellow helpers and has become a tradition ever since!
Buy it here. Good Smile
By Cass Pineda
The genre of “space westerns” is still relatively young, but it is exactly what it sounds like: the transposing of Wild-West themes onto the wide-open frontier of outer space. While the wild west environment and lifestyle was a uniquely American experience, it is still captured perfectly in Yasuhiro Nightow’s Trigun.
Trigun, however, is not the only “space western” known to Western audiences. The more notable anime Cowboy Bebop, which Trigun predates by two years, showcases similar themes of lawlessness and moral ambiguity. The short-lived, cult favorite Firefly matches Trigun’s dirty, gritty aesthetics, but differs in that the show takes place on several planets instead of one.
The story of Trigun centers around a young man named Vash the Stampede, who somehow manages to cause enormous amounts of damage wherever he goes, so much so that he has been nickaned the Humanoid Typhoon. He has become such a problem that the Bernardelli Insurance Society sends two agents, Meryl Stryfe and Milly Thompson, to keep an eye on him and settle the claims left in his wake. Anyone who is familiar with Western films knows that often the driving force behind characters’ actions is something like revenge or greed, making the resulting relationships and stories of Vash, Meryl, and Milly unexpected and interesting. Meryl and Milly don’t even believe who Vash is when they meet him, since his goofy and lighthearted attitude is the opposite of the destructive and menacing man they had come to expect.
Vash is the archetypal tragic hero. Over the course of the series, audiences learn, though the eyes of Meryl and Milly, about Vash’s dark past. It becomes clearer that his behavior and actions, including his strict refusal to take the lives of others, is caused by his sense of guilt brought on by events long before. Unlike most protagonists, Vash’s core beliefs do not change through the show; but through him, characters like Nicholas D. Wolfwood, reach new understandings. Vash has the power to change those around him through his position as the “too-human non-human,” a caste he shares with such familiar faces as Astro Boy and Goku of the Dragonball series. While Vash is more powerful than a normal human, he empathizes with them, and instead uses his strengths and abilities to protect them, a path not chosen by his brother, Knives.
Serving as the main antagonist, Knives possesses powers similar to Vash, but very different viewpoints and attitudes. This is easily seen in a flashback in which the young pair are watching a butterfly trapped in a spider’s web. To Vash’s horror, Knives kills the spider in order to free the butterfly, believing that if one must live, the other must die. Vash, being kindhearted and opposed to killing, thought there was a way to save them both; these battle of ideologies is repeated throughout the show’s run, up until the final battle.
The brother-against-brother theme is nothing new, and recalls the Biblical story of Cain and Abel. It also harkens to something much older, the story of Romulus and Remus, the legendary brothers who founded Rome. Like them, Vash and Knives brought civilization to Gunsmoke, the desolate desert planet discovered by humans aboard gigantic space ships. These space ships housed people in cryogenic sleep, sent to populate the stars in a program called Project Seeds. The humans piloting these ships–including Vash’s friend and mentor, Rem–are akin to the shepherds that raised Romulus and Remus in the ancient story. And, like those brothers, Vash and Knives reunite to hash it out, once and for all.