Tag Archives: anime

The Friday Files

Square Enix is re-releasing Romancing SaGa 2 for the Nintendo DS (Final Fantasy Legend II as it’s known in the west). There’s also a retrospective video on the same site. It’s a crime how little of the SaGa series was actually translated into English. Via Gametrailers.com

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One more thing I forgot to mention about Tokyo: UFO catcher machines are everywhere. So much so that there’s apparently an industry event to showcase new toys. My favorite are these Gatchaman figures. There’s even a themed USB stick! Check out the rest of the 15th Prize Fair at Nekomagic.com

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I’ve never finished an Armored Core game before, but they sure put out some nice model kits. Check out the full review at CollectionDX.com

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Legend of Galactic Heroes. Seems like it’s the only science fiction series out there where the capital ships look built by an actual military. Via HobbyLink Japan

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There is absolutely no good reason why Tekkaman Blade is not in Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom. They should’ve gotten an injunction or something and just slotted him in there. Here he is (foreground)  in Soul of Chogokin form. Via SRW Hotnews

Star Wars Weddings and the Outer Rim of Good Taste

Have you ever wondered how much nerdiness is acceptable in your life? How will the other commuters take it when your bumper informs them that your other ride is a Millenium Falcon? How many Star Trek collector’s plates and Suzumiya Haruhi figures can you display in your house before your dinner guests begin to wonder about you? What will the boss say when he finds out you’ve been tele-commuting from a Battlestar Galactica themed case-mod? Some say that it’s a double standard that we nerds hide our ways from the general public, especially when we have to deal with the play-off beards and smelly jerseys of so-called “normal” people. We often forget that until recently, being interested in Science Fiction, Fantasy or Video Games didn’t have the built-in social component that sports always did. We are always fighting the image of the shut-in fan, locked away in his parents’ basement, wearing an ill-fitted “Lum” t-shirt and cat ears, surrounded by moldy towers of comic books, dvds, game discs, or whatever the heck else he’s used to keep himself off the streets. One can avoid running afoul of this unfortunate creature by being alerted to his distinct musk of corn-chips and feet. Granted, the shut-in fan represents a large enough percentage of nerds that he’s become the stereotype. People from all over the nerd spectrum are wondering, how far can we take our interests before we end up like him?

To solve this dilemma, some nerds have taken to letting their geek flag fly at their weddings. What better evidence is there that you like human contact and have left your parents’ basement than promising to spend the rest of your life with a real live human of the opposite sex? That’s the idea on paper, which holds up rather well until you break out the prosthetic  makeup.

Image from Klingon Wedding

Image from Klingon Wedding

Never mind that these guys will have to explain this picture to their future children, how are the bride and groom supposed to appreciate how young they both look under those tire-tread foreheads? I don’t even want to know what they used for centerpieces at the reception. Now, I understand that the mighty Klingon warrior culture can add some military pomp and circumstance to your ceremony, but the focus should be on the happy couple, not on how well the guests wield their Ma’stakas.

After seeing pictures like this, most nerd couples would probably  want to keep their nuptials free and clear of the hobbies that made them so happy and may have even brought them together. However, some nerd theme weddings go a little bit differently, such as this couple from my favorite tropical hotspot, the Philippines.

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If it weren’t for the lightsabers, you wouldn’t know that the groom’s suit was inspired by Han Solo’s jacket from The  Empire Strikes Back or that the bride’s dress combined elements of Princess Leia’s medal ceremony gown and Stormtrooper armor. I showed the photo gallery to Sara, and after reassuring her that we weren’t going to renew our vows this way, she agreed that it walked that fine line between nerd and outcast. Star Wars complemented and enhanced this wedding rather than just taking it over.

Nerdiness has gained increasing social acceptance in recent years. Thanks to the internet, most cities can hold conventions that bring nerds that social interaction generally reserved for sports fans. For me, being a nerd is a wonderful thing. It allows you to appreciate the things you love in popular culture in the most ostentatious way possible. It is an unpretentious an honest way of life. When we find the right way to share this way of life with other people, the results are enriching, fulfilling, and spectacular.

More pictures of K’Allen and Torsha’s wedding can be found here

Star Wars Wedding Gallery found via Toplessrobot.com

Thank you, Michael Bay. You have saved me $12.

My name is James Strocel. I have been a card-carrying Transformers fan ever since Generation 1 in the 1980’s. I say the following of my own free will. I will not be spending any money to see “Transformers 2: Revenge of The Fallen” this Summer. If I do so, I would be positively reinforcing actions that are a detriment to the world economy and my enjoyment of giant fighting robots. I would like to present the following as evidence in support of this stance.

While I did pay money to see the first transformers movie, I came away with a number of caveats. First of all, the story seemed to revolve around the human sidekicks more than it did the Transformers who I actually paid to see. Don’t get me wrong, history is full of examples where robots play prominently in a human-centred story-arc. The anime serials Gundam and Macross come to mind. However, the human story in this case surrounded Shia Lebeouf getting to first and a half base with Megan Fox. It seemed as though the writers felt that people would have trouble relating to the titular robots of Transformers, so they added all this extraneous filler to entice people who had already paid their ticket to watch a movie about robots. I was hoping that for the sequel, the good folks at Paramount would get their act together and give the Transformers the screen time they deserve. This will not be the case. The trailer at screened at the Showest film festival spent over one and a half minutes of a two and a half trailer explaining how Shia wanted to leave his transforming corvette at home so he can go off to college and be “normal”. Words cannot begin to describe what’s wrong with that statement.

The first Transformers film grossed over 700 million dollars worldwide. Anyone poke holes in my rationale by saying that Michael Bay is just giving the fans what they want. He doesn’t have to listen to me, an actual fan, because he has the numbers to tell anyone who doesn’t like his human interest stories to go to hell. If that’s the case, then I have some numbers of my own to show.

The Dow Jones has lost 50% of its value over the past year. The cascading effects of bank insolvency and freezing on lending has led to over $14 trillion dollars worth of companies being shut down. How did we get to this point? By pleasing two sets of people, prospective homebuyers unable to pay their mortgages, and investors looking for high risk and high return investments. Banks made billions by giving sub-prime mortgages to the first group and selling to the latter. People got what they wanted, but did they get what they need? Not by a long shot.

Designing our entertainment or any other product around “giving people what they want” is killing industries left and right. Pontiac finds out that people “want” extra plastic and spoilers on their cars, so they make a car like the Aztec. Papers make more money from advertising than from actual paper sales, so the pages are stuffed to foie-gras goose proportions with ads. If you run a business and are just “giving people what they want” you are abdicating your responsibility as an entrepreneur. When you try to engage all this marketing mumbo-jumbo by testing random samples with no vested interest your business, you are only fooling yourself. Entrepreneurs have a duty to make their products the best they can be, no matter what the polls say. People’s needs have remained the same for thousands of years, but what an entrepreneur does is take a small piece of the universe, be it coffee, toothpicks or even the laws of physics that allows your iPod to work and fashions it into a new frontier to satisfy those age-old needs. It’s like being in a tribe of hunter-gatherers and knowing which ridge leads to the best wild game. It would put you on the fast track to becoming chief hunter-gatherer. The very best entrepreneurs educate people. They know how to get the most benefit out of their products and they pass that knowledge on for a nominal fee.

I realize the philosophy of “giving people what they want” is not going to die over night. My absence at the theatre will be bearly noticed, and I have little hope of getting others to join me. However, we keep saying over and over that we need leadership to get us out of this crisis. We think that the leadership is going to come from our elected officials. I think that we’ll find that leadership in a decent cup of coffee, a well-made camera, or movies that don’t insult our intelligence. If we support decent leadership where we find it by our simple consumer choices, we support the very ideas and strategies that will get us out of any economic crisis.

The Trip Part 11: Why the Tokyo Tower can never catch a break.

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As a major landmark, the Tokyo Tower has seen a lot of action on TV and film. Destroying a 1000 foot tall tower is a sure way to get a rise out of any audience. The tower has run afoul of Godzilla, Mothra, Ultraman, Sailor Moon, and the many sullen psychic teenagers of the Clamp Manga series “X”. However, as Sara and I found, there is another reason that the Tokyo Tower gets the shaft so often.
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We started off the day attempting to wander the gardens outside the Imperial Palace near Tokyo station, but inclement weather put a stop to that.
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After a warm bowl of ramen, we decided to make our way to the Tokyo Tower. Tokyo is such a huge city that you can’t really get a sense of how the whole thing looks from any one point like you can with Vancouver or Seattle. Narita airport an hour outside of Tokyo, so we couldn’t see the city from our airplane. The Tokyo Tower’s observation deck seemed to be the best vantage point by which to get a holistic view of Tokyo.

The Tower was impressive even from the ground. Seeing it loom over the gate of the Zozo-ji really captured how Japan has one foot in the past while reaching out into the future.

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When we got to the foot of the tower, we finally got to see a monkey. He did some tricks while his trainer tried to play the “straight man” part of a comedy double act with him. I felt a little guilty enjoying the act because the monkey did not look like he wanted to be there, but I set out on this trip to find a monkey, and a monkey I did find.

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After getting a my picture taken with Noppon, the Tokyo Tower mascot, we got in line to get our tickets. Since it was the 50th anniversary of the Tower, it was really crowded. It looked like people from all over Japan were paying a visit. We were sandwiched into an Elevator with about 8 other people. At the observation deck, smooshed up against the windows, we finally saw how big Tokyo was.

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There was nothing but buildings for as far as the eye could see. There were patches of green here and there from the city parks, but there was no way to see where the city ended and the country began. It was magnificent but a little terrifying. The green hills of Abbotsford were never so far away.

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There were also a few musems located in the base of the Tower. There was a trick art gallery, a wax museum, and even a 3D Yatterman anime. Even after coming thousands of miles, the setup of these museums seemed a little familiar, like I was on some sort of field trip. Now, I visited the Tokyo Tower as a tourist, and of my own free will. If I had to come here 3 or 4 times over the course of my grade school career to yet again experience the wonders of the Statistics Museum (they had one there, I’m not making this up) ,I might have grown to bear a little disdain for that orange and white behemoth. Considering that I’d be stuck up there with a class of other bored teenagers, and the wonderful memories that experience would bring, I probably wouldn’t mind sitting in a theatre watching Godzilla and his friends rip that thing to rivets.

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While the Tokyo Tower was really impressive, I could understand it if people have a love-hate relationship with it. For some, it would be a birds-eye view of their city that couldn’t be achieved on any other building. For others, it would conjure memories of crowded elevators and dull field trip lectures. Personally, from now on I prefer to look at the Tokyo Tower from the exterior, and I sincerely hope it continues its prime function of transmitting all those wacky Japanese game shows.

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The Trip Part 9: Yatta! Yatterman!

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Now that I was in Japan, I would regret it if I didn’t take in some form of anime-themed entertainment that would take months to be released in Canada. Theo and Tarra invited Sara and I to the “Yatterman” movie, which had just come out the week before. It fit the bill perfectly. “Yatterman” was based off of the 1970s anime of the same name. It’s about  two mechanics, Gan-chan and his girlfriend, Ai-chan. They travel the world on a robot dog called the Yatterwan to recover the fantastic Dokuro stone from the clutches of the evil Doronbo gang. The gang consists of Tonzura, a pig-headed muscle-man, Boyakky, the lecherous evil genius, and the bossy Doronjo, who under all the bondage gear just wants to find a good man and settle down. Despite being in all Japanese, the movie was fun, campy and colorful. It made fun of the fact that it was based on a cartoon by showing how ridiculous all of the formulaic transformations would be if they were in real life. I won’t give away any spoilers, but it also teaches everyone about the evils of tea-bagging.

In addition to the lovely film, we were also treated to the little differences in Japanese theater-going. Every ticket was assigned a specific seat. There were detailed maps on the screen showing the way to the exits, which made the theater feel a bit like an airline flight. We saw previews for two American films, “Bolt” and “Marley”. I had only seen both films from their trailers, and the differences were striking. While the American previews played up the snarky humor of both films, the Japanese trailers focused more on the emotional parts of the films and, to my surprise, made me want to see them more. Are Western entertainment companies trying to hide the sad parts from the audience, or do Japanese audiences need to see more of a film before they make the decision to see it?

While we’re on the subject of Japanese entertainment, Sara and I had quite a bit of time to check out Japanese television. There is anime, although it’s not running constantly. If there is an anime cable channel, we weren’t getting it in the apartment. There was a documentary on NASA to commemorate Japan’s contribution to the International Space Station. It was interesting because they would show the stock footage, the narration, and the re-enactments (with Western actors, so this was a well-budgeted production) and then they would cut back to the studio with a couple of stalwart experts demonstrating the distance from the Earth to the Moon to a panel of celebrities. Occasionally, there would be an insert to the reactions of the celebrities to what they were seeing. For example, the actresses teared up on witnessing the funeral of the Apollo 1 astronauts. It turns out that Japanese television shows do this on a regular basis. They would show something, and have a panel of celebrities comment on it. In addition to the space program documentary, there was also a show where people would eat their dinner in a room full of puppies or pot-bellied pigs and the panel would watch what would happen. It seems almost crass to inject the opinions of celebrities into things like the space program, but do we sell ourselves short by keeping the idea of information separate from the guilty pleasures of VH1? We decry that Ashton Kutcher is getting more twitter followers than CNN, but instead of setting these two forces against each other, perhaps we should be getting them to work together.

Concerning Japanese game shows, there are many, and they are wackier than ever. My favorite of these was a show where these two guys dressed like Prince Valiant went to peoples houses offering them money if they could win a game of hide and seek.  The Prince Valiant guys would get clues on the contestants’ whereabouts via traps set near the hiding places. We watched a family win 1 million Yen (around $10,000) by hiding themselves in various places in their own house. The small daughter won by hiding in the bottom drawer of a china cabinet. The 100 million yen (million dollar) contest was much tougher. About 20 contestants hid in an electronics store, and when they were caught they would get mud, paint, and other substances thrown on them. One guy had tarantulas thrown on him, so subsequent prisoners would enter the losers circle saying stuff like, “Why is everyone stuck in the corner-OH GOD NO GET AWAY!” Suffice to say, nobody won the grand prize.

Seeing those people humiliated on national television reminded my why US shows often miss the point of Japanese game shows. They spend so much time trying to bare the souls of the contestants or checking the instant replay to realize that such shows are not about rewarding skill or knowledge, they are about hilariously punishing ignorance!