This blog entry is specifically for Vix, who is one of the people that I know is interested in the Gakken Otona no Kagaku kits, and who has spent a lot of time and effort mastering the twin lens camera. Vix has expressed interest in getting the Japanino micro-controller kit when it finally arrives in the U.S. So, Vix, I give this shout out to you.
For anyone else that wants to pick up the Japanino and has never done circuit work before, and isn't familiar with the Arduino that the Gakken kit is based on, I wrote up a short series of tutorial pages on my knol site. If you want to get started learning how to program the Japanino before you actually have it in your hands, you can grab the programming environment (called IDE) from either the Gakken or Arduino sites and install it on your Mac or PC. You can also take the programs (called "sketches") from either the Arduino site or my tutorial pages and compile them even if you don't have the Japanino connected up yet (you just can't execute the sketches if you don't have the Japanino hooked up).
Finally, I uploaded a short video to youtube of the Japanino running a sketch I wrote showing some of the patterns you can display on the P.O.V. that comes packaged with the kit. I just wanted to let you know that you can do a lot with the Japanino kit, even though it's really just 7 LEDs, one switch and a speaker. (Just think what you can do if you have *8* LEDs!)
Sunday, May 30, 2010
Garo #39, Nov., '67. Cover by Sampei Shirato. 234 pages.
One of the biggest problems with magazines this old (other than the paper becoming brittle and degassing) is that the inks fade. Up to this point, it really hasn't been so bad as to affect the scan quality, but in this issue some of the text has almost completely disappeared, so the resulting scans are close to unreadable. Sorry about that.
カムイ伝 (Kamui-den) #35
By Sampei Shirato (白土三平). 36 pages.
One of the shortest chapters from Sampei in recent months. We start out with Ikkaku on the road, attacking groups of samurai and slaughtering them. Back with Ryounoshin and Guntaro's little brother - the two face off, with Ryounoshin feeling at a distinct disadvantage, and Koroku bumbling about madly. Little brother tries his trademark "throw the victim in the air and skewer him when he comes back down" move, but Ryounoshin evades it. During the next attack, little brother leaps from a tree, lands, then collapses with a dagger sticking out of his ankle. Ryounoshin immediately figures out what happened and demands Kamui to reveal himself. Finally, Koroku takes his disguise off, showing himself to be Kamui. Ryounoshin wants to know the meaning of life, and Kamui leaves him with "lots of people can give an answer to that". Elsewhere, an old man looking a lot like Henyasai arrives at a checkpoint where the villagers are being turned away. The leader of the guards knows his name and lets him through, along with a girl, Atena, that he claims to be his daughter. Inside the walls, they see a young man coming out with a pack of dogs. One dog approaches Atena and gives her an insect husk, signaling that the young man is Kamui. Atena breaks into tears and runs off. Ukon recognizes Atena and tries to talk to her, but she keeps running away. He tries forcing her to listen to him and she easily throws him in the air before running away again. Ukon now sees her as a challenge and sets off after her.
禁じられた遊 (Prohibited Games)
By Shinji Nagashima (永島慎二). 13 pages. This is a featured manga on Nihon-go Hunter this week.
#5 in the Shinji Gekiga series. A young boy and girl are out playing in the woods when they find a dog that's been killed by a car. They take the body deeper into the woods and bury it with a marker saying "below here is a dog". When they look up, they can see the sea of graves surrounding them, marking a variety of other creatures. The boy initially states that now they have the full set, but he corrects himself, saying that they're missing one more - human. The two children are last seen running into a neighboring city.
イヌナンセンスにはイヌナンセンスを！ (Nonsense is as Nonsense Does!) #32By Koshi Ueno (上野昂志). 2 pages.
禁猟区 (Game Preserve)
By Ryouichi Ikegami (池上遼一). 24 pages.
A poacher out on a game preserve in mid-winter discovers a girl hiding in his cabin. The girl just huddles in a corner, not talking. Then, there's a sound of splashing and they run out to find the girl's father thrashing about in the freezing water. The girl pleads to have her father saved, so the boy dives in the water and pulls the guy out. Back in the cabin, the boy decides to go kill a duck for them to eat. But, while he is outside, the man apologizes for his past behavior, and says that with the girl's mother dead he's really lonely. He claims that the girl belongs to him and they struggle. The poacher hears the girl's screams and rushes back to the cabin where he shoots the older man. The poacher throws the body into the lake, then realizes that the girl's just stabbed him in the back. He falls in as well. The girl cries, apologizing to her father saying that she only wanted to have a little freedom of her own.
終りなき午後 (Endless Afternoon)
By 24 To (渡二十四). 25 pages.
A man wakes up in the middle of a desolate wasteland, and makes his way through the wreckage to a building. Within, he finds a bunch of bodies and a lone woman. The two then work their way in the building to a time machine. They set the machine to Tokyo, right after WW II. The guy then lives through the reconstruction, working as a thug and a punk until an old man finds him and leads him to the same time machine. The guy gets tricked into entering the machine and wakes up in the middle of a desolate wasteland... By the author of "Runaway".
勝又進 作品集 (Katsumata's Creation Collection) #17
By Susumu Katsumata (勝又進). 14 pages.
More satire by Katsumata.
日本忍法伝 (Japan Ninja Arts Legend) #24
By Mamoru Sasaki & Satsuko Okamoto (佐々木 守 & 岡本 颯子). 6 pages.
Subtitled (飛鳥葦笛 (Bird Whistle), Part 20).
By Masao Toyoshima (豊島雅男). 14 pages.
A young man who suffers insomnia at night gets chewed out by his boss for sleeping at work. He sees a doctor who gives him some sleeping pills, but he really doesn't want chemical help. That night, same problem. He takes the pills and dreams that he's walking in a desert, baking in the heat. The next day, firemen sifting through the wreckage of his apartment building conclude that he'd probably dropped his cigarette and it had started a fire in his sleep.
No immediate hits on Masao as a manga artist in Japanese or English . A few for a sumo wrestler of the same name that died around 1934.
アグマと息子と食えない魂 (Aguma, his son, and the uneaten spirit)
By Seiichi Hayashi (林静一). 7 pages. This is a featured manga on Nihon-go Hunter this week.
A wizard dies and goes to hell where the devil Aguma and his son are waiting to eat tainted spirits. The wizard doesn't think he belongs in hell, and Aguma tends to agree. The boy demon is outraged at his father's behavior and demands to know what's going on. After the wizard returns to the cycle of reincarnation, Aguma answers that the human wasn't plump enough yet. Wait for him to come back a few more times and he'll be tastier.
Finally, a new artist worth commenting about. Those of you more familiar with gekiga manga will recognize this name right away.
Seiichi (1945-) is most well-known in the U.S. for his "Red-Colored Elegy", published by
天国でみる夢 (Dreams of Heaven)
By Maki Sasaki (佐々木まき). 17 pages.
A surreal, nonsense series of images with a few repeating themes (such as the one-eyed ghost with its tongue sticking out). By the author of "A Common Story" and "At the Unknown Star".
狂人日記 (Lunatic's Diary)
By Kuniko Tsurita (つりたくにこ). 16 pages.
Picking up from the "Escape" story in the last issue, the escapee has returned to the asylum, where he takes on an apprentice and teaches the other inmate how to write and draw. The two eventually start competing with each other's tall tales until the former apprentice claims to have set his sights on the Nobel prize. This is the escapee's own private dream, and in anger he kills the other guy with a rock. Overjoyed to have won the battle, he throws the rock in the air, and it lands on his own head, killing him.
昼下りの妄想 (Delusions Beneath the Midday Sun)
By Yuu Takita (滝田ゆう). 18 pages.
Another series of short story gags. In the title story, a samurai with a wooden sword bangs up a few colleagues before being imprisoned in with a shogi board. While shogi is actually a strategy game embodying the concepts of combat, the best the samurai can do is stack the playing pieces up to form a little castle. In "Vexing" (口惜しい), the wife of a samurai is embarrassed with her husband's behavior and wants him to put up or shut up. He takes his swords to a shop and when he returns to supposedly commit seppuku his wife brightens up until it turns out that he'd traded his katana for a wooden practice sword that he then breaks over his head. "Disappearing Stone Plates" (皿石衛門失踪) revolves around a feudal lord that is unforgiving when servants break his estate's expensive plates, and when it happens again (earning a female servant a death sentence), the lower level samurai band together and force one of their own to go out to do something about the situation. As they comment on his strange name (Plate-Stone-Defense-Gate), the guy climbs to the top of the castle and shatters half of the roofing tiles with a hammer.
鬼太郎夜話 (Kitaro Night Stories) #6
By Shigeru Mizuki (水木しげる). 36 pages.
Mizuki and Mijima trade stories about their various fates, and Mizuki clues Mijima in on Kitaro's fearsome monster powers. They eventually go their separate ways, with Mizuki returning to the apartment Kitaro shares with his father above a shop that sells cat's heads (discarded after the guts are used for guitar strings). Kitaro is now preparing to attend school for the first time and needs 80 yen for crayons (which Mizuki supplies). Also living in the house is Neko-chan (寝子 - sleep + child), and they're both attending the same school. The teacher asks Kitaro to read the letters written on the blackboard (A, I and U) and when he can't is sent out to stand in the hall. In the playground outside, Nezumi Otoko is praising himself for being able to bring Dracula back by having implanted the vampire plant in Mijima. Nezumi and Kitaro get into a fight, and when Kitaro goes back into the school for lunch, gets chased outside again by Neko-chan after she goes into a frenzy over his eating dead mice for lunch. Turns out that Neko is a were-cat (neko = cat), and she absolutely loves mice. So Kitaro takes her out to where Nezumi Otoko (rat man) is trying to sleep, and she succeeds in taking a bite out of his head before he can escape. Later, Nezumi Otoko returns to his hovel, where the narrator tells us is a terrifying man that just happens to look like Kitaro.
(First appearance of Neko-musume.)
Saturday, May 29, 2010
Yurigaoka is a city west of Noborito, and is the next major stop on the Odakyu line. Technically, it's the next station after, Shin-Yurigaoka, that's the major stop because Yurigaoka station isn't that big. Anyway... If you take the local train, which stops at every station, it's about a 30 minute ride, but on the express you can get there from Noborito in closer to 10-15 minutes. Then, from the Shin-Yurigaoka station you can get to one of the parks by bus in about another 10-15 minutes.
This specific park, Gyokuzen-ji, is identified as "Kawasaki prefecture's 60th anniversary general park" and is part of a larger chain of parks as can be seen in the map. Gyokuzen-ji is the one in the red box and is a couple of kilometers square. (The circles on the map are parking lots, and the gray lines are major roads.)
At the entrance at the foot of a gently sloping hill, a small walking trail interweaves with a trickling stream that feeds into a small, dirty pool at the bottom. Every so often there'd be a ripple on the top of the pool indicating fish in it, but none of us could actually find the fish through the dirt.
(Young bamboo plant, about 8 foot tall.)
The park flattens out into a big open area used for frisbee games, catchball and sun tanning. Benches along the outskirts have places for barbecuing, and there's a small pavilion overlooking the stream for people that want to eat lunch outside of the direct sunlight.
The thing that's really interesting about this park is that it's perfectly designed to be used in an adventure game. There are hiking trails that wind through tunnels and over and under each other, through bamboo groves, and into deadend cul de sacs that don't actually have real purposes. To make the game, it'd just be a matter of going back out and taking about 100 photos from different angles, throwing them into flash, and then building a story line complete with some puzzles to make getting into the cul de sacs more challenging.
One cul de sac consists of a small open grassy glen with a tiny stagnant meditation pool, and a bench for resting and staring at the rock in the pool. A long, narrow step-lined path leads down to it. A second path goes through a bamboo grove to come out in front of a small circle with a big tree in the middle of it. It's not quite a dead-end - a barricaded path does continue on to the edge of the park in the direction of the next park in the chain. The sign in front of the barricade says "danger, pit vipers. Be sufficiently prepared". A third path runs in the opposite direction and comes out in back of a house leading out to a residential area. Makes me wonder how often the owners of the house wake up to pit vipers sunning themselves on their cars.
If someone wanted to sponsor this kind of adventure game, I'd love to put it together...
(Tunnel leading to the pit vipers. There's another path crossing over the top of the tunnel, invisible behind the trees up there.)
(Back of the house at the far end of the park, at the edge of another residential area.)
All of the manhole covers have animal-themed artwork.
Friday, May 28, 2010
The Suginami Animation Museum has started its next exhibit, this one featuring "Gegege no Kitaro". The mezzanine floor has a statue of Kitaro, glass cases containing example pencil drawings from various TV episodes and movie scenes, descriptions of several of the movies on the walls, and some of the goods that used artwork from the show for advertising purposes (such as swimming pool floats). The fourth floor has statues of the other characters, including Neko Musume. I just wish SAM allowed photos so I could should you the statues - they're very nice.
(Stamp for SAM. Again, the green ink looks really faded on the original stamp, and scans very poorly as a result.)
Naturally, the anime theater is showing some of the TV episodes and movies on the weekends, but it's also running some of the really old Betty Boop and Popeye cartoons from Fleischer Studios, and episodes from "Vandread, the Second Stage". I'd never watched Vandread before, so coming into the middle of the series with episodes 5 and 6 did leave me scratching my head a bit. But, the animation on it is really good, and the space battle scenes are very impressive.
Turns out that a number of the Kitaro episodes have been remade with each new incarnation of the TV show; there are three versions of "Ghost Train" displayed in the exhibit room. At 4 PM, the theater played the original "Ghosts' Night Game" (with a mediocre school team taking a ghost bat that never misses a swing, then having to play a monster team with their souls on the line) and "Ghost Train" (where a pair of disbelieving bullies harass the ghosts in a haunted house and then get a taste of their own medicine). Initially, I was the only one in the theater, but after a few minutes more people started coming in. A group of young girls arrived to sit in the front seats and when some monster suddenly jumped on the screen, they'd squeal in surprise. It's nice to see that the older Kitaro still has his charm.
There was a mention of a stamp rally for the Meitantei Conan exhibit last month, but I missed it. Fortunately, there's a Kitaro stamp rally, too. The stamps are placed next to the exhibit cases, and by the statues up on the fourth floor, and are really easy to find. All the rally gets you is a small Kitaro sticker, but I really just wanted images from the stamps so the sticker was a nice omake. Unfortunately, the green ink comes out really pale and doesn't scan well. The other colors lost their vibrancy as well during the scanning. At least, the quality of the stamp designs still comes across.
(The sticker from the rally.)
I also ended up talking to a few of the volunteer staff working the desks. One of them is currently studying English in order to help answer the questions from foreign visitors. So, if you are a non-Japanese speaking foreign visitor wanting to watch Kitaro anime, there's somebody at SAM waiting to help you.
Thursday, May 27, 2010
The Gundam Cafe opened in Akihabara several weeks ago, and the lines to get inside are still about an hour long. In part this is simply because the place can only seat 60 people at a time, and once they get inside the customers want to linger and talk with each other. However, the cafe also has a tai-yaki booth in the souvenir shop right next to the entrance. Tai-yaki is a kind of pancake batter poured into a waffle iron with shapes that look like sea bream ("tai") and with some kind of filling (traditionally red bean paste, but lately flavors like chocolate, caramel, pizza, German sausage, mango cream and green tea have become popular).
For Gundam-yaki, you put 100 yen coins into a ticket machine to select the flavors you want, then hand the ticket to the person at the window counter a couple of feet away. 400 yen ($4.40 USD) for two Gundam-yakis. One was red bean paste and mochi, the other was bacon, cheese and mayonnaise. Both were pretty good, but kind of pricey (one regular tai-yaki is between 110 and 150 yen depending on the filling.)
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Inazuma Eleven is the newest anime to be highlighted at the Tokyo Anime Center, from 5-25 to 6-13.
While I was at the TAC, there was a radio show broadcast recording going on in the booth at the back of the shop, and about 50 fans in attendance laughing at the voice actress's jokes. Outside, a group of about 10 foreign westerner tourists were standing in the hall, and taking photos out the windows at the anime shops along Chuu-ou Dori. None of the tourists bothered talking to me, so I can't say where they came from. I can say that they're not too aware of their surroundings, blocking up the wide hallway and preventing people from getting into or out of the TAC. Sheesh. Tourists.
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
I've written about the Big Issue before. It's a small brochure-like magazine that is provided to the homeless, who then sell them at street corners for 300 yen ($3.30 USD) to receive a small income. Most of the issues have feature stories on western actors or new hit movies, but occasionally there will be interviews with manga artists or their relatives. The first issue I'd picked up was #128, last November, with interviews with the daughters of Fujio Akatsuka and Osamu Tezuka.
This time we have an interview with Tetsuya Chiba, creator of the boxing manga "Ashita no Joe" (Tomorrow's Joe). I'm not going to try to summarize this, but you're welcome to if you want.
Monday, May 24, 2010
Garo #38, Oct., '67. Cover by Sampei Shirato. 234 pages.
カムイ伝 (Kamui-den) #34
By Sampei Shirato (白土三平). 98 pages.
Kazuma gets fished out of the river by a scummy-looking beggar, and taken to the beggar's home to be bandaged up. But, no matter how much Kazuma begs for food or water, the beggar refuses to listen to him. In fact, this is a very severe form of tough love, as the mysterious beggar steals anything Kazuma can catch, succeeding in strengthening the boy over time.
Guntaro and the rogue merchant, Kuroya, succeed in forcing the magistrate into a corner. His letters aren't making their way to Edo, and knowing full-well what's going on, he dismisses his yojimbo bodyguards (who are all cut down later to a man by Guntaro's little brother). Meanwhile, Ryounoshin's friend, Ikkaku, is questioning their purpose yet again. As he goes out to the castle walls to practice with his sword, he sees Yokome putting the vagrants through some very hard military training using pole arms and farming instruments. Anyone with rusty tools, or failing to perform exactly right, gets whipped. Finally, Ikkaku has had all he can take and he can takes no more. He and Ryounoshin part ways, with Ikkaku going out to kill all the oppressors he can find, and Ryounoshin staying in the village to figure out what his true path should be.
Probably the single most disruptive force in this series is about to be unleashed as Guntaro and Kuroya succeed in switching from the gold standard to paper currency. Private ownership of gold is banned and anyone found to be possessing it is arrested and has their shops destroyed. Merchants and consumers are confused as to the value of the scrip.
A rain maker comes into town to help the peasants during the current drought, and Shousuke confronts him, saying that he's got a good scam going - as long as it *doesn't* rain, he gets paid to keep dancing. Shortly after, the skies burst and the rain comes pouring down. Shousuke dances with him, but now, the rainmaker is really confused. Initially, Shousuke's happy, until the hail starts pounding down and rips up all the crops in the field. In the midst of the downpour, Guntaro's little brother happens on Ryounoshin sulking under a tree. The two face off to duel (little brother just enjoys killing anything that he happens across) as the madman Koroku shambles up and pisses alongside the road near them.
By Shinji Nagashima (永島慎二). 13 pages.
This is Shinji's fourth "Shinji Gekiga Collection" story, a silly little tale about two billboard painters up on a scaffolding at the top of a skyscraper. The dumber of the two is sitting, looking at the street below while the other one works. A fly comes buzzing by and the dumb one tries to catch it, eventually jumping out into the air after the insect. When the body hits the street, his hand opens up to show the dead fly.
『ピース』について (About "Peace") #31By Koshi Ueno (上野昂志). 2 pages.
勝又進 作品集 (Katsumata's Creation Collection) #16
By Susumu Katsumata (勝又進). 7 pages.
In the first strip, the main character notices that musicians get chicks. But when he plays the accordion all he gets is some spare change. In the second strip, the boy is yelling insults at the adult, saying that if he won't leave him alone, he'll keep doing things like pissing on him. In the third panel, the boy says he doesn't need anyone. In the fourth panel, the adult thanks the dog and notes that the boy's eaten the food the dog brought to him.
Chonmage Omnibus (Topknot Omnibus)
By Yuu Takita (滝田ゆう). 17 pages.
The "omnibus" is a set of four short stories featuring a low class samurai. In the first story, Pedigree of a Rumor (うわさの系譜), a feudal lord makes a comment about one woman and a low level samurai. The final result is that the samurai spends his final days as a drunk in a small bar. In Karamawari (からまわり) (to spin one's wheels), a group of samurai draw lots to see which one of them is to be dumped in front of a dojo as part of a scam for getting payment for medical treatment. Rather than take in the body, the dojo master has the body dumped in front of another school. This goes on until the "body" gets so banged up as to need actual medical care. For Makujiri (幕尻) (the lowest ranked wrestler in sumo), a samurai is the victim of a practical joke that sees him having to commit seppuku. But, the dagger turns out to be a wooden practice sword, and the samurai goes running after his boss for revenge. Finally, in Makizoe (まきぞえ) (to get mixed up in something), a group of samurai descend on a rival group in front of a noodle cart vendor. At the end of the bloody slaughter, the cart vendor has died of shock.
栄光への脱出 (Escape to Glory)
By Kuniko Tsurita (つりたくにこ). 19 pages.
A charismatic young kid forces his way into the dorm room of some students, eating their food, drinking their most expensive alcohol, and regaling them with stories of all the great things he's done. He tells them to come visit him, which they do. Turns out that the boy's actually a patient at a mental hospital, out during a rest break. He tells them that he's a Nobel prize winner as he returns to the compound.
自転車泥棒 (Bicycle Thief)
By Osamu Ashibetsu (あしべつおさむ). 13 pages.
A thief brings a bike in to a store that acts as a front for a stolen bike ring. The owner asks the guy to bring in some more high end bikes, so the thief goes out to pick the lock of a really good bike. At park a ways away, the thief is about to relax with a snack when someone else steals the bike from him. He goes chasing after the second thief, throwing a milk bottle at him, and then pummeling the guy out of sheer anger.
The only hits for Osamu Ashibetsu (あしべつおさむ) in Japanese are for this manga in Garo. Nothing in English. His style is developed enough, if not actually polished, to indicate that he may have worked as an assistant to someone.
茎, 2 (Kuki, the sequel)
By Shouhei Kusunoki (楠勝平). 25 pages. This is a featured manga on Nihon-go Hunter this week.
This is a continuation of the story from the last issue, which I literally translated as "Stalk". Shouhei has put hiragana alongside the kanji, which I'll use here - "Kuki". The silk painter from the first story is getting older, and watches as her friends all quit their jobs to get married and settle down. She starts dating the fighter, but when he jokes about her giving up her own job to be a kept woman, she stalks out of the room in a huff. Later, the fighter is walking alongside another woman when he sees the painter. He tries calling out to her, but she doesn't hear him. Her boss is talking about firing her, because there's always this possibility that she may get married some day. Meanwhile, the painter is walking by a shop when two dogs go running out, surprising her and causing the bolt of cloth she's carrying to unfurl in the middle of the street. The design on the cloth looks very pretty.
紅い花 (Red Flower)
By Yoshiharu Tsuge (つげ義春). 16 pages. This is a featured manga on Nihon-go Hunter this week.
A young man goes out to a remote village to do some fishing. He stops at a shop run by a small girl who talks him out of some money for snacks. She then recommends her friend, a small boy, as a guide to a good fishing hole. The customer agrees to this, and the boy takes him out into the hills. Along the way, they pass a big clump of red flowers, but there's no explanation for why the flowers are there. The guys get to the fishing hole, and the boy heads back, only to discover the girl squatting in the middle of the river. She seems to be emitting red flowers. She returns to the shop, where she's feeling extremely weak. Finally, the boy carries her out into the hills as the fisherman returns, spotting them off in the distance.
鬼太郎夜話 (Kitaro Night Stories) #5
By Shigeru Mizuki (水木しげる). 17 pages.
Mijima, an older man who's on his way home late one night, catches the last train. Along in the car with him is Nezumi Otoko. At one point, Nezumi leans up against Mijima and spits in his mouth. Given that Nezumi eats garbage and hasn't brushed his teeth in decades, this is a fairly foul thing. Mijima falls asleep and arrives at the home terminal. He notices that his jacket is torn at the shoulder and a plant is growing out of his arm at that point. A couple of days pass and he's feeling weak. He tries pulling the plant out, but it hurts too much. He goes in to see a doctor and the prognosis is not good - the plant is parasitic and can't be removed through surgery. Further, it's consuming his blood at 500cc a day. He can try drinking that much fluid to replenish himself, but eventually it will take him over. Despondent, he goes to a bar in Ginza where he tries to drink the place dry, only to discover that he's taken someone else's sake by mistake. The two guys introduce themselves, with the second one, looking very blue, saying that he's Mizuki, just recently returned from hell. They go out to a graveyard where they can trade stories in peace.