This last week gave us a number of stories that showed up in the news.
First is "itasha" - cars that are dressed up by anime and game-character fans. The article is fairly even-handed, but the description of "otaku" by Patrick Galbraith, a "University of Tokyo scholar" (a 24-year-old punk student) who is commissioned by Kodansha publishing to write a book on otaku cuture, is very derogatory. I'm assuming that his book will be worth avoiding when it comes out. Galbraith apparently leads tours of Akihabara, and I guess he has written for the Japan Times before, but he doesn't seem to have a good opinion of the people he associates with, so he doesn't impress me. But the cars are cool. I actually saw one in Akihabara a few hours after reading the article, and it's basically just a muscle car with anime decals on it. Be more interesting if it was permanent air-brush work
Second is "Oretachi no Taro". A number of websites have carried this story (including Wired), but it's the first time I've seen it. Back in September, when now-Prime Minister Aso Taro was running for the Prime Minster position, a gift shop opened up in Akihabara, called "Our Taro". The shop was only open for about 6 days, but the goods produced with manga-style versions of Aso's likeness on them are still available from Assorted Products. As I mentioned in the blog entry on Enta Matsuri, Aso is known as being a big manga fan. The space Oretachi no Taro was in had previously been occupied by a food shop that closed after less than a year. The space is about 1 block west and north of the UDX building, and the shop paintings are still on the outer walls, making it easy to spot. (As a side note, although Aso is a fan of manga, he's not that popular with a lot of Japanese, mainly due to his hawkish stance and his willingness to spend his family's fortune in a splashy fashion.) I included my photos below.
Third, we have "Shin Takarajima" (New Treasure Island). This is a reissue of a Tezuka Osamu manga that's been long-out-of-print. According to the article, the original manga, printed in 1947, marked the beginning of the modern story manga. Previously, the only way to get this title was to buy it from collectors, at around $10,000 US per copy. The reprint comes out in February, from Shogakukan Creative, Inc.
(Ore-tachi no Taro shop front, now abandoned)
(Have your photo taken with Taro!)
(The top manga on the table by his hand has the cover from Rosen Maiden)