Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Triangles and Pyramids

When I decided to make my "art project" out of construction paper, consisting of a series of multi-sided pyramids of simple isosceles triangles, the principle concept was "powers of two". That is, I started with a four-sided pyramid, then I went to 8-sided, then 16-, 32 and finally 64-sided. In all cases, I wanted the smaller ones to fit into the bigger ones, meaning that I needed to keep them all the same height, and I wanted the base side to be the same width for all pyramids as well. So, the question became, how do you calculate the length of the triangle in order to get a specific height for a pyramid of n-sides? It's actually pretty simple, if you do it right (and use Excel to do the math for you).

First, a four-sided pyramid is simply 4 isosceles triangles taped together. It's easy enough to get the width of the base ('b' in picture 1) because we're the ones making that decision. It's the length of the paper triangle ('x' in pictures 1 and 4) that's the problem. Let's assume that the pyramid is 0 inches tall (just flat paper that we're looking down on). This gives us picture 2. The angle at the center of the square, theta, is 360/n, where 'n' is the number of sides for the pyramid. In this case, n=4 and theta=90 degrees). The distance of center point 'p' to the middle of the square in picture 2 is the same as the value of 'c' in picture 3. Since

c = a * cos(theta/2) and b/2 = a * sin(theta/2),

a = (b/2)/sin(theta/2), and c = (b/2) * cos(theta/2) / sin(theta/2). We'll stop here.

Now, let's say that the height of the pyramid is greater than 0. If we look at the pyramid in picture 1 from the side, we get picture 4. We can see here that the length of our paper triangle is,

x = sqrt(h^2 + c^2)

and we know that

c = (b/2) * cos(theta/2) / sin(theta/2)

If we choose the number of sides, 'n'; the base of the triangle, 'b'; and the height of the pyramid, 'h'; we can easily get the length of the triangle to cut, 'x'. Conversely, if we cut the triangles with length 'x', then we know how tall the pyramid will be, for any number of sides greater than 2.


number of sides = 8
height = 3 inches
base = 2 inches

theta = 360 / 8 = 45
theta / 2 = 22.5

c = 2/2 * cos(22.5) / sin(22.5)
c = 0.928 / 0.383
c = 2.414

x = sqrt(3^2 + 2.414^2)
x = 5.68

Which then gives us the dimensions of the triangle in picture 5. Tape 8 of those picture 5 triangles together, and you have something close to a cone, 3" tall.

What's nice about this formula is that if you keep the size of the base and the height constant, the length of the paper is then just a matter of the number of sides you want. If b = 2" and h = 3"

x = sqrt(9 + (cos(180 / n) / sin(180 / n)) ^ 2)

And, that's exactly the information I wanted to make my pyramids of sides 4, 8, 16, 32 and 64.


In the Pyramids entry, I said that this project is a great example of practical calculus. We can get the area of the isosceles triangles by noting that this kind of triangle can be cut in half and rearranged to make a rectangle that's "c" long and "b/2" wide. The area is then c * b/2. And we have "n" triangles. If we keep "a" constant and vary "b" as a function of the number of sides (b/2 = a * sin(360/(n*2))), then "c" would get closer and closer to the radius of the circle (c -> a) as "n" approached infinity. We'd be able to get the area of the circle by adding up the areas of an infinite number of infinitely thin triangles.

That is:

area of approx. circle = n * c * b/2
= n * c * a * sin(360/(n*2))

In the case of my 64-sided pyramid, if the height = 0; b = 3; and c = 30.533.

area = 64 * 30.533 * 1.5 = 2931 cm^2

For a circle of the same radius:

area = PI * r^2
area = 3.14159 * 30.57^2 = 2935 cm^2

2931 is 99.84% of 2935.

So, just by using 64 triangles of a known size, I can get within 0.16% of the area of a circle. That's not too bad. What I should mention here is that the difference from the actual area of the approximate circle has nothing to do with the size of the triangle slices used. The percent difference is purely a matter of the number of sides used.

% diff = (area of circle - area of triangles) / area of circle

Since the radius of the circle is "a"; "c" for the triangle is a*cos(360/2*n); and "b/2" is a*sin(360/2*n).

% diff = (PI * a^2 - n*(a*sin(360/2*n) * a*cos(360/2*n)) ) / PI * a^2)

factor out a^2 and we get

% diff = 1 - n*sin(360/2*n) * cos(360/2*n) / PI

if n = 64, % diff = 0.16%, which is what we obtained above by actually adding up 64 triangles of 3 cm by 30.533 cm.

What's really important here is that this is all simple arithmetic that tells us in advance how much paper we'd need to make cone-pyramids of any given size. This can save us from needing to make multiple trips to the store in the middle of an art project, or from over-buying paper because we over-guessed what we needed.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Manga review - Rave, Fairy Tail

Silly action time! Mashima Hiro has been at this game for a while. Although only 32, he's had 2 long-running titles and a handful of short stories, including Monster Hunter Orage and Monster Soul. Rave ended at 35 volumes, and Fairy Tail is on-going at 13. Both longer titles are being carried in the U.S. by Del Rey. So far as I can tell, Hiro pretty much recycles his character designs, so while there may be some tweaks or an occasional new design, for the most part each title looks the same as the others. This may be a bad thing if you dislike recycling, but good if you like consistency in your reading. The character designs are generally cartoony, kind of along the lines of One Piece, but not quite as bad. The artwork is very clean, though, with thin smooth lines and highly detailed backgrounds. Even though there is a lot of drama, with people getting slaughtered all over the place, there's a heavy dose of slap stick running through every chapter as well.

(Image from wikipedia, used for reference only)

Groove Adventure Rave, by Mashima Hiro, Grade: B+

Released in the U.S. as "Rave Master", Groove Master Rave is yet again one of those many titles that I ignored when I first read it in Shonen Magazine. Since I wasn't trying to understand the Japanese, and I only caught one issue out of 10, I had no idea what was going on, and the artwork looked kind of childish to me so I didn't put any effort into following it. Later, I started reading the Del Rey books from the beginning and got hooked. There are a lot of similarities to One Piece, so if you like OP, you'll like Rave.

Haru Glory is a young teenager living on an island with his older sister. He quickly gets swept up in a battle with members of an evil organization that uses the Dark Bring - powerful stones that corrupt the user - and their ongoing attempts to rule the world. Haru uses one of the mysterious "rave" stones he finds and discovers that he has the ability to unlock it's great powers, thus learning that he is the Second Rave Master (the first, Shiba, acts as Haru's first teacher). From here, Haru leaves the island on a journey to collect all of the rave stones and to defeat the ultimate leader of the bad guys. Along the way, he meets people on both sides, some who join him and others that don't. He also finds that the world is a *big* place and that there's always somewhere else to go that holds new mysteries.

Rave is good, goofball fun in the vein of the really early Dragonball series. Friends spend a lot of time ganging up against each other and breaking into arguments in the middle of the battle. But, there's a lot of action as well, and the artwork is good enough to make the fight scenes exciting. The characters don't get into the "hey I have a new attack that no one's heard of before" rut that is so common in manga, but you know that there's always going to be another power up just around the corner. A lot of the story revolves around the "quest for the next item", in this case, to find the other rave stones. But, it's still a fun read, and the entire series has been released by Del Rey (One Manga is still trying to catch up, and isn't at vol. 30 yet, or thereabouts. The fan groups had abandoned Rave for over a year and just recently took it back up again.) So, you can read this non-stop and see how it all ends without having to wait months for the next book to come out.

Summary: Rave is a goofball quest adventure along the lines of early Dragonball, with Haru trying to find all of the rave stones in order to beat the bad guys. Recommended if you like fighting and silly mind candy.

(Image from wikipedia, used for reference only)

Fairy Tail, by Mashima Hiro, Grade: B-

According to the wiki entry, Fairy Tail started out as an experimental short story, then was combined with the concepts from some of Hiro's other shorts to become his second full-length series. It's kind of a disappointing follow-up to Rave, in that I think Rave is the better title. Largely this is due to the characters getting overly boisterous and arrogant. We keep getting people coming in and telling us how great and powerful they are, only to have their butts handed to them after a few chapters. It's the same one pattern repeated endlessly with small variants. And, when a character goes down in a battle, they get back up and keep fighting some more shortly afterwards. There's no such thing as "game over" here. So, you know that the good guy's going to win, the question is just "how long is it going to take and how are they going to pull it off?"

Initially, the series starts with Lucy Heartphilia, a young female magic user who has left home to join the Fairy Tail adventurer's guild. Lucy uses "keys" that lets her summon powerful symbols of the zodiac. She encounters Natsu, a fire magician, possible offspring of a dragon, and one of the members of Fairy Tail. She is soon allowed into the guild, and gets wrapped up in some nasty guild versus guild squabbling that's going on. From here, the story starts following almost everyone else BUT Lucy. There's a huge battle around volume 10 or so, where the series could have ended. But, Hiro threw in some hints saying that there's more going on than we know of, and the story continued almost as if nothing had changed. This is one of the things that I dislike about Fairy Talil - the greatest villian uses the greatest powers to almost destroy the world and is just barely stopped, and then we're told that there's something 100 times worse that hasn't come out yet. This ruins the suspense, since we don't know if Hiro's going to do the same thing again after the new disaster is averted. And this is where we get into the rut of a mindless "battle of the week" series that loses its focus.

Summary: To be fair, Hiro's artwork is as good as ever, and his fight scenes are exciting. It's just that all the bragging everyone does before the fights has gotten old. But, Fairy Tail's slapstick is still funny at times and the fights are good. The story starts with Lucy's attempts to get into the Fairy Tail guild, then turns to Natsu's ongoing interest in being the best fighter on the planet, while also learning whether he's the last "dragon" remaining. Recommended if you still need a "Rave Master" fix.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Learning Japanese - Part 57, Wrap Up

I've found that translating manga is an error-prone process. My approach is to first write out the original dialog on a sheet of paper, one line at a time, followed by the hiragana-only version of the sentence. This step right here is problematic because various kanji have multiple readings, and I'm likely to pick the wrong one at any given time. Second, I type up the full dialog into NJ Star, for both the original version and the hiragana-only version, so that I can use both as a learning tool for memorizing kanji readings. Here, I introduce more errors by dropping words, adding typos, and mistyping "は" as "わ". Finally, I use both my handheld dictionary and NJ Star's pop-up dictionary for getting word meanings as I do the actual translation work. This last step depends on my ability to pick the correct meanings from context, and well as looking up the right word (given that I probably misspelled it when I typed it up).

Of course, there's lots of slang phrases and common colloquialisms that I don't know, so I have to ask native Japanese speakers for help. And, surprisingly often, they don't know the answer either. Turns out that most Japanese people, when reading manga, gloss over a lot of the dialog and just get the gist of the sentences rather than really try to understand everything word by word. When asked to explain what a particular phrase means, they're stunned to discover that they don't know. Therefore, while I can translate the paragraph as a whole, I may not always be able to say what each word or particle contributes to that sentence (as I tried to do in the proceding blog entries).

What this all boils down to is that if you find mistakes in these "Learning Japanese" blog entries, let me know and I'll try to correct them.

If you want to go over all of the blog entries in order, please visit my "Index into TSOJ" page. The links are already compiled together in the "Learning Japanese" table.

And, the full set of manga pages is here for the Japanese version, and here for the English version.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Art Project 1 - Pyramids

I decided to try something that caught my eye. There was a lamp shade at a restaurant that had an inner ring of 4 wooden panels, surrounded by an outer ring of 8 panels. The panels were all the same size, and the outer ring looked like an extension of the inner one. They were also examples of powers of two. So, I wondered what would happen if I did something similar, using construction paper, and adding a pyramid on top as a hood.

Initially, I just planned on stopping at 16 sides, and when I discovered how much work 32 sides took, I vowed to stop there. But, I figured that 64 sides couldn't be that much worse, so I went for it. My mistake. Took over 3 hours just to cut the 64 pieces of paper for it.

First, I needed to find a way to make sure that all of the pyramids would be 3 cm tall, regardless of the number of sides. That took about an hour, including sketching it out and verifying the math via an Excel spreadsheet. Initially, I got the math wrong, but I did eventually discover my mistake. The edge pieces are 3 cm square, connected to isosceles triangles of varying lengths, and the resulting assembled cones themselves are 3 cm tall.

The last pyramid is 64 strips, and the tips taper off to be so thin as to be really hard to work with (it's physically impossible to cut the paper thinly enough for 128 sides, and each strip would be 3 feet long - longer than the construction paper sheets themselves). The paper collapses under its own weight and requires a supporting skeleton underneath (unlike the smaller cones). It's over 1 meter across, took over 3 large sheets of construction paper, 30 feet of tape, and more than 5 hours to assemble.

Both the 32 and 64-side shapes are hypnotic when you spin them, and the bigger one is actually hard to look at when it's standing still since my eyes can't focus on any one spot on it. The 16-sider can be worn like a pillbox hat, and the 64-sider is big enough to act as a parasol. They'd just have to be made out of stronger materials in order to be practical.

I don't have space for storing these pyramids in the apartment as-is, so I compacted them at the end.

This art project is also an excellent example of calculus in action. By taking thinner and thinner strips (or in this case, keeping the strip width the same and making the cone significantly bigger), I'm getting closer to approximating a circle. This is the heart of integrating over a curve, using an infinite number of infinitely narrower slices to determine the area (or volume) of the curve. At 64 slices, if I multiply the area of the triangles by their number I get within 0.16% of the area of the respective projected circle. At 8192 sides, I'd be within 0.0000016%. However, even at only 16 sides, the circumference is already looking pretty circle-like. So, the point is that just by using little triangles, I can calculate the area of a circle without needing to know how to calculate the value of pi. And that's cool.

(The binary data compression process.)

(The final art project, after binary compression.)

(The stack of paper triangles required at the beginning for making the project. It's at least half an inch thick.)

Friday, March 27, 2009

Learning Japanese - Part 56, Page 18

Here's the dialog for the last page. If you stuck with me through all of this - "毎度ありがとうございます!" If not, then "おきゃくさま。 ごいっしょにポテトはいかがですか?"

ベル。エポックの作家が洋菓子に託したように。 店主の願いのこもった フライド
ベル。エポックの さっか が ようがし に たくしたように。 てんしゅ の ねが
いのこもったフライドポテトは はしかし の きおくをほんのいっしゅんだけかい

芋のスチックを揚げたものが殺人に値するとは。 俺にはとうてい思えなかったが、
いものスチックを あげたもの が さつじん にあたいするとは。 俺にはとうてい
思えなかったが、 むかし のいしょう をきた ろうふじんは 十分にチャーミング


ベル。エポックの作家が洋菓子に託したように。 店主の願いのこもった フライド

ベル。エポック の さっか が ようがし に たくしたように。 てんしゅ の ねが
い の こもった フライドポテトは はしかし の きおく をほんのいっしゅんだけかい

beru eppoku - Belle Epoch
no - possessive
sakka - writer
ga - subject marker
yougashi - sugary confection
ni - towards
takushita - make excuse of
you - in the direction of
ni - towards
tenshu - shop keeper
no - possessive
negai - desire
no - possessive
komatta - to be filled with (i.e. - desire)
furaido poteto - fried potato
wa - topic marker
hashikashi - wife
no - possessive
kioku - memory
wo - object marker
honno - only / just
isshun - one moment
dake - only
kaifuku - recovery
saseta - to make / to allow

Belle Epoch's . writer . (subject) . sugary confection . towards . make excuse of . in the direction of . towards
shop keeper's . desire's . to be filled . fried potato . (topic) . wife's . memory . (object) . only . once . only . recovery . to allow

"Like the sugary writings of a Belle Epoch poet. A shopkeeper's desire-filled french fry for giving back to his wife a single memory."

Now THIS is a hard sentence to figure out. First, the Belle Epoch (1871-1914) was a period of intense creativity, during which we had the creation of impressionism. Second, "yougashi" usually refers to western style confections, but can mean something sickly sweet or over-done. Third, "tenshu no negai no komatta furaido poteto" gives us "a fried potato filled with the shopkeeper's desire."

I went with "Like the florid writings of a Belle Epoch poet, a shopkeeper's one wish for fried potatoes to return a single memory to his wife."


芋のスチックを揚げたものが殺人に値するとは。 俺にはとうてい思えなかったが、昔の衣裳を着た老婦人は十分にチャーミングだった。

いも の スチック を あげたもの が さつじん に あたいするとは。 俺にはとうてい思えなかったが、 むかし の いしょう を きた ろうふじん は 十分にチャーミング だった。

imo no schiiku - a stick of tuber
wo - object marker
ageta mono - foods that have been deep fried
ga - subject marker
satsujin - murder
ataisuru - to be worth
to - is said
wa - topic marker
ore - me
ni wa - in regard to
toutei - can not possibly
omoenakatta - negative of "had thought"
ga - but / however
mukashi - old
no - possessive
ishou - clothing
wo - object marker
kita - wore
roufujin - elderly woman
wa - topic marker
juubun - enough
chaamingu - charming
datta - was

a stick of tuber . (object) . was deep fried . (subject) . murder . to be worth . is said . (topic) . I . in regard to . can not possibly . had not thought . but . old's . uniform . (object) . wore . elderly woman . (topic) . enough . charming . was

"I've never thought that a fried stick of tuber was worth commiting murder over, but that old woman in her old uniform really was quite charming."

We saw "agemono" (deep fried foods) on page 17. Here, it's "ageta mono" (foods that have been deep fried).

"chaamingu" - I love katakana English words. Especially as in "juubun chaamingu", which is literally "satisfactorily charming", or "charming enough".

"imo" generally means "potato", but can also refer to "tuber" and "taro". Obviousy, the idea is to say "a stick of potato" (i.e. - french fry), but we already have "fried potatoes" in the previous balloon. To avoid being redundant, I stuck with "tuber".

I went with "However, murder is a high price to pay for a stick of tuber. Then again, I wouldn't have thought it, but that old woman looked quite charming in
that old costume." Not quite the same meaning, but in keeping with the "hardboiled gag" humor of this comic.



Thursday, March 26, 2009

Epson Photo Fair

I love working in Akihabara. Even if there's no anime, manga, game, figure or cosplay events going on during any specific day, there's a good chance that *something* will be happening. The weekend of the 21st, that something was an exhibit of cameras and photo printers from Eizo, Epson and Nikon.

The event was held in the exhibit space on the fourth floor of the UDX building, near the Tokyo Anime Center. It consisted of several walls of photos taken by various people with Epson cameras and/or printed out with their photo printers; displays of images from professional photographers; tables of monitors, cameras and printers for sale; and demonstrations of photo editing software. One area was dedicated to floral displays that you could practice shooting, and another allowed you to print out large-scale prints of your photos for 1000 yen each.

I never realized just how advanced the technology has gotten. The smaller range finder camera ($2,500) looked and acted just like a manual film camera, but with a huge amount of additional power. I looked at the R-D1x, with its ability to manually set the range on a given part of the image, and the options for using whatever lenses you wanted, and if I had the money I would have bought it right then and there. Then there were the wide body printers. The output quality for some of these printers ranks right up there with professional poster printing services. I didn't ask about the prices for these printers and inks, but I'd love to get one, assuming that I can ever take pictures that justify this level of display.

One table had 12 or 16 poster-sized pictures available as free samples. These pictures were 12" by 18" and looked gorgeous. They could easily have sold for $15 or $25 apiece at an art gallery. I don't have any photos (yet) that would do justice to these kinds of printers.

Visitors to the exhibit were given a tote bag filled with catalogs, a packet of Epson photo paper (3"x5" stock) and a small mouse pad.

(The photo in the upper left corner is of Tama, the cat that's gotten so famous recently. He comes into one specific train station every morning and sits there all day before going back home. The train line personnel have adopted him as a mascot, and tourists have been visiting from all around just to see him.)

(Some of the photos from specific professional photographers.)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Learning Japanese - Part 55, Page 17

The dialog for page 17.

いや 油のー 揚げものの音だ! ボケ で火をかけっぱなしにすると危ないから厨房には入るなと

いや あぶらのー あげものの音だ! ボケ で火をかけっぱなしにすると危ないからちゅうぼうにははいるなと



お帰りなさいあなた。 ご一緒にポテトはいかがですか?


いや 油のー 揚げものの音だ! ボケ で火をかけっぱなしにすると危ないから厨房には入るなと

いや あぶらのー あげもの の音だ! ボケ で 火 を かけっぱなしにする と 危ない から ちゅうぼう に ははいる な と

iya - no
abura - oil
no - possessive
age mono - deep fried food
no - possessive
oto - sound
da - desu
boke - spaced out
de - from
hi - fire
wo - object marker
kakeppanashi - not turned off
ni - towards
suru - to do
to - is said
abunai - danger
kara - from
chuubou - kitchen
ni - towards
wa - subject marker
hairu na - to enter + emphasizer
to - for said reason

deep fried food's . sound . is
spaced out . from . fire . not turned off . towards . to do . danger . from . kitchen . towards . (subject) . to enter . for said reason

"No! That's oil... That's the sound of food frying. I must have spaced out and not turned the fire off . We have to get to the kitchen because of the danger."

"boke" is an interesting word. It's like the sound you get when you hit something hollow. As in the head of someone staring out into space. "boke de" can be treated as "I must not have been paying attention" or "I must have gotten careless."

In the above sentence, there's an implied danger from the fire having been left on, but exactly what that danger is is left up to the reader to figure out. I should probably have used just "It's dangerous - we have to get to the kitchen!"

Instead, I decided to spell everything out and went with "No! That's the sound of sizzling oil! I must've forgot to turn the heat off. We have to get to the kitchen before a fire breaks out."




itsu - when
no - possessive
ma ni - while / during

when's . while

"Since when?"

Ok, here's where we really have to explain things in English, when in Japanese a really simple phrase can be used. The point is that the box from the costume shop has been opened, and our hero hadn't noticed it happening. "itsu no ma ni" has the nuance of "when did that happen?" I went with another phrase that has the same nuance:

"I didn't notice?"


お帰りなさいあなた。 ご一緒にポテトはいかがですか?

This is almost the exact same phrase as when Mushu returned home from his failed study trip abroad to Paris.

okaerinasai anata - welcome back, dear
go issho ni poteto wa ikaga desu ka? - How about having potatoes together?

The only difference here is that in the first instance, the girlfriend used "okyaku-sama" - honored customer." This time, she used "anata". Now, "anata" has the standard polite meaning of "you". But it is mostly used by married couples when talking to each other, in the English equivalent sense of "dear".

I used "Welcome back, dear. Would you like to have potatoes with me?"

To be continued.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

2010 Calendar Event

One of the nice things about making calendars is that they're pretty predictable. You know what day August 9, 2137 is going to fall on, when Golden Week will occur, and when you'll get the first day of Lent. So, printing up the calendar portion itself years in advance is pretty easy. It's trying to decide what themes to sell and the photos/images/drawings to package per title that's the hard part.

The Japanese calendar industry had its 2010 products available for preview at the UDX building a couple of weeks ago. The doors kept closing both days long before I got into Akihabara for work. But, I think it was an industry-only event closed to the public, anyway.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Learning Japanese - Part 54, Page 16

Dialog for page 16.

この き をにがすとれいとうポテトは二度と手に入らない かもしれなかった。。。 もみあってるうちに。。。







kono - this
ki - chance
wo - object marker
nigasu - escape
to - and
reitou poteto - frozen potato
wa - topic marker
ni do to - never again
te - hand
ni - towards
haranai - negative of "to enter"
kamoshirenakatta - past tense of "possibility"
momiatteru uchi ni - during a struggle

this . chance . (object) . escape . and . frozen potato . (topic) . never again . hand . towards . not enter . possibility
again . during a struggle

"I knew that if I took this chance to escape, there'd be the possibility of never getting my hands on frozen potatoes again. Then, in the struggle..."

I used "I knew I may never get a second chance to get those frozen potatoes... Then, during the struggle..."


This next section is just a series of sound effects.

hi - hiii (a scream)
gu - ugh
do - thud
peta peta - smear, smear
sha - patter patter (the sound of falling rain)



ame ka - rain + question marker

"Rain?" (used as-is)

To be continued.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

TAF - Part 2

(The madness)

As mentioned in Part 1, the 2009 Tokyo International Anime Fair (TAF) was held at the Big Sight in Tokyo, from March 18 to the 21st. As given by the Japan Times (JT), TAF had 255 booths and expected to pull in 130,000 visitors. The first 2 days were only open to industry insiders and the press, the second two to the general public. Tickets were 1000 yen for adults, (I got mine for 800 yen in advance at the Tokyo Anime Center in Akihabara).

(Black Jack with a fan)

While the JT emphasized the presence of the Tezuka 20th anniversary, Chinese anime and tourism at TAF, they weren't particularly major themes that I could see when I visited on Friday for 5 hours. Yes, some of the booths had Tezuka stuff, but since Black Jack and Tetsuwan Atomu are major features as anime on their own, it would have been surprising if Tezuka-related things weren't present.

(Lucky Star shrine next to what seemed to be a tourism booth)

As for tourism - I guess that had to do with the Lucky Star shrine at one booth, and the fact that Lucky Star has been boosting the number of visitors to Washimiya City in Saitama. But again, it's not like there were travel agencies all over the place trying to sell tickets to people wanting to visit locations that their favorite shows are set in. On the other hand, China had a big, visible presence in the middle of one floor, although the anime produced by those studios and shown at the booth weren't attracting crowds of any size.

(Figures at one of the goods shops)

My thoughts? TAF is a great place to get swag, buy stuff, see free anime, and get trampled by massive crowds. The last point may not be as high on most people's list of things to do, though. The booth exhibitors included a number of Japan-based animation colleges trying to sign up students; foreign animation studios from Hungary, China, Taiwan, and the U.S., among others; anime DVD, goods, figures, cel and t-shirt shops; video game makers (largely softcore games); big anime studio names (Aniplex, Gainax, Bandai, Toho, Toei); small subcontract studios; and animation equipment producers (such as a maker of 3D printers).

(Yoko Littner from Gurren Lagaan)

Several of the booths handed out demo DVDs or other items if you filled out a survey; others handed out tickets to exclusive stage events. A lot of the booths just handed out fliers, newsletters, balloons and catalogs. I picked up 5 packets of tissues; sampler DVDs from Studio Anima, Nihon Kogakuin College, a Taiwanese distributor, and Studio Animal; some free amateur manga; a small poster; some post cards; and a few plastic notebook sleeves. I also bought a small Ghost in the Shell Tachikoma for 500 yen(which is very cute, thank you for asking). (I threw away about half of what I rceived, which came to about 5 pounds of fliers and catalogs.)

(Actors advertising for one booth)

There were 2 big stages, and 3-4 smaller stages scattered around the floor. Most of the stage events that featured voice actors or pop artists were surrounded by fans, and I didn't bother spending the couple hours per line to get tickets to them. In fact, the popular events were jammed. But, because the good people at Studio Animal gave me a ticket, I was able to see the "Tokyo Tantei Hime Festa", as well at the Caramaru-kun live show described in TAF, Part 1.

(Cat Shit One ad)

Other comments - I love the CG on the new Cat Shit One anime (mentioned by Peter Evans). There's a Chinese anime production for Imax that a Taiwanese distributor was advertising, set in a Chinese art museum after-hours (when the statues come to life), that looks gorgeous. And, the Hungarian animation booth had an interesting cartoon named "The District" that used scanned drawings to create a 3-D effect, with a story that features a group of inner-city kids that build a time machine to go back and bury a bunch of mammoths under where their apartments will be built in order to have their own oil field when they return to their own time. The people at this booth were very friendly and rightly proud of the work produced by their studios.

(Full Metal Alchemist booth)

TAF visitors included pretty much everyone - couples, singles, families, industry professionals, booth bunnies, small children, old-timers, and tourists from around the world. Metropolis and the Japan Times both mentioned the presence of cosplayers. Interestingly, the TAF website FAQ specifically stated "no cosplay". The only ones in costume on Friday were those working the booths. I didn't see any "unofficial cosplay zones" elsewhere around Big Sight, but since I didn't really try looking, I don't know if there were any or not.


I enjoyed myself. If you want to see all 70+ photos I took on Friday, visit my Media Fire album.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Learning Japanese - Part 53, Page 15

Just 4 more entries to go. Not that anyone is paying attention anymore...

最初から殺す気ならここには包丁がズラリとそろってる。 あんたは単にカムフラージュのために持っていた。 絵描きの道具で彼を刺りすはめになったんだ

さいしょ から ころす き なら ここ には ほうちょう が ズラリ と そろってる。 あんた は たん に カムフラージュ の ため に 持っていた。 えかき の どうぐ で かれ を しりすはめになったんだ

saisho kara - from beginning
korosu ki - kill-nature
nara - if conditional
koko ni wa - here is
houchou - kitchen knife
ga - subject marker
zurari - complete series of
to - speaking of
sorotteru - all together
anta - you
wa - topic marker
tan ni - simply
kamufaraaju - camouflage
no - possessive
tame ni - for the sake of
motte - to hold
ita - exists
e kaki - painter
no - possessive
dougu - implement
de - from
kare - him
wo - object marker
shirisu - thorn
hameninatta n da - be stuck with

from beginning . kill nature . if . here is . kitchen knife .(subject) . complete series . speaking of . all together
you . (topic) . simply . camouflage's . for the sake of . to hold . exists
painter's . implement . from . him . (object) . thorn . be stuck with

"If you'd planned on killing from the beginning, you'd have had this complete set of kitchen knives to choose from. It would be easy for you to use this for camouflage. You stuck him with a painter's tool."

I went with "If you'd intended the attack initially, you could have easily used a kitchen knife and then camouflaged it here. Instead, you stabbed him with an artist's implement."


昼間 監察医と美術鑑定士にこの絵を見てもらった。 死体の血をぬぐったのとペインティングナイフのタッチが同じだと言っていたよ。

ひるま かんさつい と びじょうかんていし に この え を みてもらった。 したい の ち を ぬぐった の と ペインティングナイフ の タッチ が おなじ だ と いっていた よ。

hiruma - day time
kansatsui - coroner
to - and
bijutsu kantei shi - art expert
ni - towards
kono - here
e - painting
wo - object marker
mite - to see
moratta - received
shitai - corpse
no - possessive
chi - blood
wo - object marker
nugutta - past tense of "to wipe"
no - possessive
peintingu naifu - painting knife
no - possessive
tatchi - touch
ga - subject marker
onaji - the same
da - desu
to itte - to say
ita yo - exists + emphasis

day time . coroner . and . art expert . towards . here . painting . (object) . to see . received
corpse's . blood . (object) . wiped's . painting knife's . touch . (subject) . the same . is . to say . existed

"Earlier today, I brought in the coroner and an art expert to look at this painting. They said that the smearing of the blood had the same touch as from a paint knife."

I used "During the day, the coroner and an art expert looked at this painting. They
agreed that the blood had been smeared with the same touch as with a paint

To be continued.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Tokyo Anime Fair, Part 1

The Tokyo Anime Fair runs from March 18 to the 21st this year, and there was a fair amount of publicity for it in the Japan Times paper and Metropolis magazine. Of course, none of the write-ups are really worth anything in preparing you for the event itself. I'll add more details about TAC in part 2.

Some of my favorite people had their booth at TAC Honda-san and the other members of Studio Ekura Animal were promoting their latest work - Kyaramaru-kun (Caramel) and Dokumaru-kun. Animal finances their personal projects by taking on piecework from other studios; the last time I visited them, they were working on Card Liver. But, Kyaramaru-kun is their own creation and something they have a right to be proud of. It's aimed at young children, and as such the live-action figures are popular at various other events.

At TAC, there was a 30-minute live show on Stage 2 at the back of the convention space, starting at 5 PM. Some of the voice actors and studio personnel were introduced, and the actors performed a live reading while a short 3-5 minute piece of the anime played on the back screen. Then, 2 children that had won a drawing were invited on stage to play Kyaramaru and Dokamaru themselves while the same anime played again. Unfortunately, the show ran out of time and the other 4 kids that had won the drawings had to live with just getting on stage and introducing themselves to the audience, and then being able to meet Kyaramaru and Dokumaru "in person".

It was fun, and I enjoyed watching the actresses at work on stage. I hope to be able to attend other events like this in the future. Also, Honda-san, Animal's director, gave me a demo DVD to watch. Thanks, Honda-san!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Learning Japanese - Part 52, Page 15

Time to get back to Frozen Food Agent, and the (slow) process of learning Japanese. There's only 4 more parts left after this, so let's get this done with.

しかし片方 から その思い出が消えてしまったら

しかし かたほう から その思い出 が 消えてしまったら

shikashi - but
kata hou - one of us
kara - from
sono - that
omoi de - memory
ga - subject marker
kiete shimatta ra - disappear did

but . one of us . from . that memory (subject) . disappear did

However, one of us lost those memories." (Used as-is.)



donata deshitakke - very polite version of "who are you?

"Who are you, sir?"



ざんされた はた は。 いったい なに を こころ の ささえ に して生きればいいと思います?

zansareta - left behind
hata - near
wa - topic marker
ittai - what on earth
nani - what
wo - object marker
kokoro no sasae - emotional support
ni - towards
shite - to do
ikireba - if to live
to - as such
omoimasu - to think

left behind . near . (topic)
what on earth . what . (object) . emotional support . towards . to do . if to live . as such . to think

"I'd been left behind. What do you think I should have done for emotional support if I wanted to keep living?"

I went with "I'd been left behind. How do you think it feels, losing your moral support?" although I should probably have used "I'd been left behind. What do you think I should have done?"


計画敵な殺人でないのはわかってるさ。 現場に悪徳警官がからんできたのは不運だった

けいかくてきな さつじん でない の は わかってる さ。 げんば に あくとく けいかん が からんで きたのはふうん だった

keikaku teki na - In regards to planning
satsu jin - murder
de nai - from not
no - nominalizer
wa - topic marker
wakatteru sa - understand + emphasizer
genba - crime scene
ni - towards
akutoku keikan - corrupt policeman
ga - subject marker
karan de - pick a fight with
kita - came
no - nominalizer
wa - topic marker
fuun - bad luck
datte - was

In regards to planning . murder . from not . (topic) . understand
crime scene . towards . corrupt policeman . (subject) . pick a fight with . came . (topic) bad luck . was

"I understand that you did not plan on killing anyone. Having a corrupt cop come to the scene was just bad luck."

Nothing really new here. For the hard-nosed cop setting I went with "I understand that you didn't premeditate the killing. Having a corrupt cop show up on the scene was just bad luck."

To be continued.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Gakken kits: #13 and #16

Kit #13: Kaleidoscope (2100 yen). Not all Gakken kits are made of the same high-quality materials. Or, it might be that some of the materials degrade faster over time than others do. In any case, this kit (and the planetarium) had a part that shattered too easily. The light bulb for this kit also burned out within 12 hours of assembling it, which was about 15 minutes of actual use, but fortunately I could find a grocery store that carried spare bulbs pretty easily. It cost about 120 yen ($1) for a package of 2 replacement bulbs.

Kaleidoscopes are generally very straight-forward things, conceptually - three mirrors facing each other, with bright sparklies at one end and a protected eye piece at the other. Aim at a light source, rotate the container of sparklies, and you get to see very elaborate, complex patterns, regardless of how simple or plain the sparklies themselves might be. Of course, the first step at making the kaleidoscope more interesting is to just fancy up the outer case, adding external design work, or making the case out of brass or other materials. The next step is to change the mirrors, either making them taper to an angle at one end, or form them into a box with the aperture in the middle of one side, and the eye hole in an opposite corner. What Gakken did was to turn their kaleidoscope into a projector, putting batteries and a lamp into the base unit, and adding lenses at the end of the tube to focus the light either on a nearby sheet of paper or on the far wall. There's also an option to look directly into the thing ala a microscope. The kit has about 20 parts and took between 1 and 2 hours to build.

For this kit, the sparklies consist of some small colored beads and glitter placed in a clear plastic tube. The suspension liquid could be plain water, while Gakken suggests adding a little wood glue and sugar syrup as thickeners. I tried their suggestion, and the result was an ugly cloudy mess that I just tossed out right away. Instead, I went with straight artificial sweetener syrup, which works fine. The problem was that when I put the end cap in the tube as instructed, part of the end of the tube broke off. Fortunately, the break wasn't so bad as to make the tube useless; I just wrapped the end up in heavy tape and there's been only a very small amount of leaking. I'm planning on finding more tubes so I can try some of the other suggested sparklies (which include using colorful flowers, cooking ingredients, insulated wire, stone fragments and even small insects). The kit's fairly small and easy to store when not in use.

The mook contains a biography on Sir David Brewster, who wrote the book on kaleidoscopes in 1816, and received a patent for his design in 1817, although the idea was previously known to the ancient Greeks. There are examples of various kaleidoscope designs and products (with plans for making them yourself), plus explanations of optics and how kaleidoscopes work. There's a section on how to build Gakken's 3-vacuum tube radio, as well as a look at Zeno's Paradoxes. Another article shows the construction of Tokyo Tower, and part of the city's skyline, while there's also a story on Niels Bohr (who visited Japan in 1937). There aren't as many DIY projects this time, but some of the examples of combining art with physics are easy to replicate (such as the anamorphic paintings, which are woefully under-appreciated). Both the kit and mook are worth getting if you like bright sparkly things.

Kit #16: Edo-era Tea Carrying Windup Doll (2300 yen). I'm starting to question exactly how good these kits are. Ones like the Stirling engine are good quality and run right after being built. Then there's the planetarium, with it's brittle plastic parts and lamination that threatens to delaminate as you build it. Some of the designs are highly imaginative, such as the tea doll, but the execution isn't that great and the result takes forever to troubleshoot. Such as is the case with the design of this kit.

The original doll was constructed roughly 200 years ago as a way of carrying tea into the owner's dining room. It consists of a drive mechanism, and a gearing system to cause the doll to stop when you remove the tray, and to turn around and head back after reaching a particular distance. Kit 16 is a smaller version of that doll, but still incorporates the same features. A counterweight attached to the back of the arms pushes a stopper into the gears to halt them when the tray is removed and the arms raise. A guide along one gear puts a brake on one wheel, causing the doll to turn after traveling about 30 cm. The drive is a coiled spring that you wind up with a key. And here's where the problem comes in - the counter weight occasionally disconnects the spring from the gears and unspins the spring by accident. I haven't found a good way to stop this from happening, except to keep the doll leaning forward more. Even then, the system freezes up and requires a push to keep moving.

I like this doll, when it works, because the entire design is so simple yet fascinating. It's also almost infinitely customizable, from changing the head out, to giving it a wig, replacing the weighted tea cup, and even making the clothing more cosplay-like. Another modification is to connect the feet (initially fixed to the base plate) to a jiggle bar to make it look like the doll is walking as it moves. Some of the pictures in the mook show the doll carrying edamame and a small tea bottle.

The default clothing is an Edo-era 3-layer kimono and hakuma (pleated pants) outfit. The material is made up of heavy paper with foil details. Instead, I decided to use colored origami paper with a floral pattern. It took over an hour to trace out the pattern onto the origami paper, and then another 4 hours to assemble everything. (The doll itself has about 20 pieces and took 1 hour to build, and then a couple hours to unbuild and troubleshoot.) While the final result looks pretty good, the paper is too stiff and bulky and prevents the doll's arms from moving, locking the thing up. So, I either take the outfit off and have a naked doll that runs, or leave it on and have an attractive art object to place on my shelf that doesn't actually do anything. Sigh. The hat was my idea, and was made from black construction paper.

The mook is great, though, with stories on old windup dolls; articles featuring Honda's Asimo robot (Honda is a sponsor of this volume); sections on other wind-up machines, wood carving tools, and robots; and various kinds of Stirling and steam engines. There's also a how-to for making your own gears and a feature story on an author assembling a 17-jewel wrist watch. This kit is worth getting just because this kind of stuff is really cool (although you'd probably be better off getting the higher-quality 6000 yen ($65) version of the doll if you really want a working version.)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Movie Display Ads and Keroro Gunsou

The Tokyo Anime Center is a great place to go to find out which anime movies are either already in the theaters, or will be coming out soon. Here are the advertising displays from March 14.

Keroro Gunsou (Sgt. Frog) has a new movie in the theaters, and as part of an advertising tie-in with E-Mobile, there was a photo op event in Akihabara on March 14 for children that wanted to meet their favorite green hero.