Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Dragonball Kai Postage Stamps



As a continuation of their Anime Heroes series, the Japan Post released the Dragonball Kai stamps on Jan. 25th. These are the standard 80 yen stamps, 800 yen ($10 USD) for a sheet of 10. All of the Japan Post stamps seem to be of limited runs, so when they sell out, there won't be a reprint. And these will probably go fast.


(Advertising flier, front)


(and back.)

Monday, January 30, 2012

Two-faced building



Coming down the road south of the hilltop hotel, along the east side of the cul de sac, we have this apartment building. Looks pretty new from the front.



And from the side.



But, on closer inspection, the nearest apartment is empty and the bars over the window are rusted.



Now, we get to the back. The sign is actually just an ad for the leasing company.





Note just exactly how rusty those bars over the windows really are. Mail boxes aren't in great shape either.



The exposed rebar at the underside of the roof is the real give away. Night lighting could use a new coat of paint, too.



The meter to the right is for water, I think. The beige panel to the left over the apartment door is where the electric meter is supposed to go. I assume that if someone moved in, the power company would come in and install a new one. I guess this is one way to keep squatters from stealing power.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Commentary: Jump Next!


(All rights belong to their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)

I'd mentioned a few weeks ago that it's hard to document all of the manga magazines. First, because they come and go so much. Ones with declining readership get discontinued and new titles start up every so often to target new readerships or feature new artists or stories. Second, simply because they are so many of them. There's a good 60 magazines just for women, maybe another 60 for kids, etc. Third, because there are those pesky special issue releases.



Right around New Years, I was at 7-11, and I noticed several "Jump" titles that I wasn't familiar with, including Grand Jump, and the following Jump Next. Rather than buy any of them outright, I went home and did a web search, where I found out that Jump Next, at least, is a seasonal title that comes out on national holidays. It's used as a vehicle for giving amateur and budding artists an option for exposure to an audience. So, I went back, and even after several weeks there's still lots of copies at both conbini and regular bookstores. I figure that this is as good a time as any to take a look at it.



Jump Next!. It's kind of difficult making comments on specific artists or stories because I don't know any of these names, and most of the stories are one-shots. There is a definite "amateur feel" to the entire magazine. Very little of the artwork is polished, and a lot of it isn't very good. The stories are marginal at best, with a few being about sports, the rest covering school life or fantasy adventures. The cover story makes almost no sense, being a battle between a new student and the class rep (I guess, I didn't bother reading it all that closely), with both sides using magical attacks. The "hero" shoots out screws and bolts, making for some very easy "cheap shots" about people getting screwed. The art varies between "not bad" and "not that good".



The one story that I did find amusing featured a loser who accidentally summons the demon "Cupid God of Love", and then has to deal with Demon Cupid moving into his house and accompanying him to school. As a gag story it could work in Weekly Shonen Jump pretty well.

Otherwise, there's nothing in this issue that I much care for. It was worth buying Jump Next! to get a feel for it, but I probably won't do it again. There's just too many other magazines on the market to wade through first.

-------------------------

Dates for 1/30 to 2/5:

Birthdays (15):
Dick (Rowan and Martin) Martin, 1/30/1922
James Franciscus, 1/31/1934
Franz Schubert, 1/31/1797
Terry Jones, 2/1/1942
Thomas M. Disch, 2/2/1940
Ayn Rand, 2/2/1905
Tom Smothers, 2/2/1937
Shelly Berman, 2/3/1925
Victor Bouno, 2/3/1938
Alice Cooper, 2/4/1948
Red Buttons, 2/5/1919
John Carradine, 2/5/1906
H. R. Giger, 2/5/1940
Christopher Guest, 2/5/1948
Alex Harvey, 2/5/1935

Died (8):
Gordon Dickson, 1/31/2001
Edmond (writer on Superman comic) Hamilton, 2/1/1977
Werner Heisenberg, 2/1/1976
Buster Keaton, 2/1/1966
Edgar ("West of the Sun") Pangorn, 2/1/1976
Mary ("Modern Prometheus") Shelly, 2/1/1851
Boris Karloff, 2/2/1969
Alex Harvey, 2/4/1982

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Sea of Cement



From the road leading south down from the hilltop hotel, we have the urban sprawl portion of Kagoshima. That yellow line thing running from the middle of the photo to the bottom right corner is the main train line that heads northeast to Kagoshima Station. Kagoshima Chuo Station is to the far top left.



A little bit closer to the Kagoshima-Chuo Station.



The squarish green, white and orange sign at the top of one of the buildings at the top center of the photo is the Taiyo grocery store that I walk to 2-3 times a week for orange juice. "Taiyo" means "sun", and that's what the sign is supposed to represent. Towards the bottom of the photo you can see part of the wall for the Kotsuki river, running under the bridge. My apartment is half a mile from the left edge of the photo.



The Amupla building, which is connected to the Kagoshima-Chuo Station.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Cul de Sac



Kagoshima is a big city, at least on par with St. Paul or Minneapolis. But it's built in with a number of large hills, and because of earthquakes, there's a law preventing buildings from being constructed above a certain height on the slopes of the hills (being at the top of the hill is ok). So, we get these little cul de sacs in the crooks of the hills that may only have one way in and out, with no tunnels to the other side. These photos were taken from the backside of the hilltop hotel parking lot, facing west.



The little parking lot down there looks like it belongs to a department store, company office, or maybe even for the hotel. If it is for the hotel, though, it's a nasty little walk up the hill every morning for employees. I think, rather, it's for one of the apartment buildings to the left of the photo.



Looking to the south, at the mouth of the cul de sac. You'd think that this would be a great, upscale place to live to get a little peace and quiet from the rest of the city. In fact, most of the buildings are rundown, and at least a couple look like they've been completely abandoned. It's the "trailer park of Kagoshima".

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Review: Kurogane

Kurogane is a relatively common Japanese name, so doing a google search on it will bring up several different hits. The one I want to introduce this time is the manga by Kei Toume, creator of Acony. Kei (born April 13, 1970) is an established artist with a very particular style, with an emphasis on "seinen" (young adult male) stories. Manga Fox has 11 of her titles fan scanilated so far, while the Japanese wiki shows 14 completed series.

I like the artwork on Acony, so I wanted to try out some of Kei's earlier works, starting with Kurogane (AKA: Black Steel). Regrettably, the files on Manga Fox are from the Del Rey officially licensed books (which aren't available here in Kagoshima). I would like to hope that if you're interested in this title that you'd at least buy them used, if not new.


(Images from Manga Fox. All rights belong to their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)

Kurogane, by Kei Toume, Grade: B
The basic story is fairly straight-forward, although a bit twisted. Jintetsu is a young teenage boy living in the Edo era (roughly 1700's) as an assassin-for-hire. Right at the beginning he dies and is found by an inventor that resurrects him in a semi-mechanical body. A second corpse, Haganemaru, a samurai, is repackaged as Jintestu's sword. Since Jintetsu's throat (ripped out by trained dogs) was never repaired, Haganemau acts as his voice. The story then consists of Jintetsu's adventures as he wanders between towns, either taking commissions or meeting new friends or adversaries. Of course, there's the occasional "misunderstanding" as the boy is mistaken for someone else and arrested or attacked. Although he is a killer for hire, Jintetsu does have a weakspot for people trying their hardest, and he will help them out even if they're sworn enemies.

The artwork is kind of erratic, and not at the same level as Acony, but there are similarities between the two that pop up consistently. The backgrounds are highly detailed, and the fight sequences are more than simple poses (not in the same class as Vagabond, though). Kei is good at showing Jintetstu's emotions even within her self-imposed limits (the boy's face is a steel mask, with just one eye showing). Most of the stories revolve around honor (or the lack thereof), greed and the basic human desire to survive against insurmountable odds. Probably, the main message is that once you choose your own path, remain consistent to it.



What I liked was in seeing Gennai Hiraga's static electricity generator in the bottom right panel of the scene set in the inventor's house. This is the same generator that you can build from Gakken. I'm betting that the inventor, Genkichi, was based on Gennai.

Summary: An Edo-era assassin is killed and brought back in a puppet-like body. Along with his talking sword, the boy wanders Japan and has various (mostly-) humorous adventures. Kind of a cross between Mushishi and Blade of the Immortal. Recommended for anyone that likes Kei Toume's other works.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Small Adventures #27

When I first came to Kagoshima, I thought that the big brown brick building at the top of Shiroyama was part of the Kagoshima University campus. Turns out, though, that it's the most upscale hotel in town. It's about 1 block long and maybe 10 stories tall. The north end lobby is on the 4th floor, and the south end lobby is on the 1st. A terrace on the east side overlooks the city and has a great view of the volcano. During the "end of the year" period last month, I had a small bonnenkai party in the French restaurant on the top floor, although the food was a French-Japanese fusion that didn't work all that well (bonnenkai = "forget the old year party"). At the end of the meal, I was exiting the south lobby when I noticed a small sign advertising free classical music performances twice a month, with the location alternating between the two lobbies.

Every so often, I'll climb the stairs behind Terukuni shrine, either for the exercise, or to take sunrise photos of the volcano from the observation point at the top of the hill. The walking trail passes right under the hotel terrace, and comes out at the bus parking lot in front of the souvenir shops closer to the observation point. It's a 2 minute backtrack to get to the hotel's north entrance. On Jan. 22nd, I climbed the hill (took a little under 20 minutes from the apartment to the observation point, 7 minutes from the bottom of the stairs to the top) to try to track down that poster again and find out when the next classical performance would be. Going through the hotel, I decided to go out on the terrace and take photos of the water fountain shooting spray into the air with the volcano in the background. The sky was perfectly clear and bright, deep blue, as was the water in the bay. I noticed some tables to the side, covered with dayglo 12" tall wax block candles, and took a couple of shots of that with the intent of coming back at night and getting matching pictures of the candles when they were lit. Then I continued to the south end, and saw the poster with the announcement that the next performance would be on the 23rd at 2:30 PM. From there, I went down the back side of Shiroyama and took additional pictures of stuff that caught my eye.

The next day, I returned up the staircase behind the shrine, and went into the hotel. The performance consisted of 4 members of a Japanese philharmonic orchestra, playing harp, flute, cello and clarinet for 45 minutes. The music included works by Hayden, and a Japanese composer. The lobby seating space was packed with about 50 people, and the entire thing was well received. I video recorded one of the songs with the digicam and took another 10 photos of the performance.

Back in the apartment, I started copying the files from the SD card to my laptop, and when the video file, which was taking the majority of the time, was through with the transfer, I pressed delete to clear off the SD card. A few seconds later, an error message popped up saying that Windows couldn't find the next file to copy. That's when I discovered that the transfer hadn't finished - it's just that Windows had closed the progress box on me prematurely. So now, only 25 of the 35 files had made it over, and the SD card doesn't have a recycle bin on it. Thinking that I might get lucky, I pressed CTRL-Z, the standard Windows "undo function". Rather than undoing the last delete, Windows undid the file copy, and in the process lost another 13 files. I copied the files again, and this time I only got 12 of the 35, plus the huge video file. I was left with the first half of the photos from the concert taken prior to the video, and a couple that were taken on the way back from the hotel that day. Among the lost files were the ones of the candles and the fountain with Sakurajima. (The video itself wasn't worth keeping because I could only shoot it from behind the crowd and the performers were blocked out of view half the time.)

The next day, I went back up again, and headed straight for the terrace, only to discover that the tables and all of the candles were gone. Apparently they had been put up just for a 1-night event. Further, the sky was all overcast, and Sakurajima looked dull and gray in the distance, ruining the shot with the fountain. Not only did I lose what probably were great, unreproducible photos, but I'd made that third trip up the stairs for nothing (discounting the exercise from it). Stupid Windows.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

What I'm reading now

I grew up with newspaper comics. The ones I remember are Li'l Abner, Wizard of Id, B.C., Peanuts, Doonesbury, Pogo, Buz Sawyer, Marmaduke, et. al. Over time, most of the conventional strips got stupid (Family Circus, B.C., Wizard of Id), became too mainstream (Peanuts, Garfield) or disappeared (Pogo, Calvin and Hobbes, Far Side, Bloom County). But, I'd always turned to the comic section the second I opened the paper, and after that was done, I'd check the front page to make sure the world hadn't ended or something. After coming to Japan, I found that the majority of Japanese newspapers don't have manga, and the English papers have virtually no western strips (just Dilbert, Doonesbury and maybe Peanuts). So, I've spent more effort online looking for either digital comics syndicates, or webcomics. Which brings me back to the above issue that most newspaper strips aren't worth reading anymore. I find most webcomics to be a waste of energy as well. But, there are a few that I do like.

Webcomics:

Scary-Go-Round:
Light-hearted monster-hunt/adventure series set in England. Fun characters, silly monsters.

Order of the Stick:
Silly D&D-based adventure series with everyone drawn as stick figures. Lots of wordplay and crude jokes.

Doc Rat:
Pun-filled gag strip featuring a rat that is a medical doctor in an anthropomorphic universe. Sometimes, there are longer storylines and darker plot elements. The artist is a full-time Australian doctor that draws cartoons on the side.

Girl Genius:
Phil Foglio. 'nuf said.

Erf World:
Another D&D-style series, this one based on a unique rule set that is explained as the story unfolds. Marginal artwork and too many jumps in viewpoint, but sometimes funny. Unfortunately, the artist had a death in the family, and while she's recovering the writer has gotten lost in the ozone in a serialized text novel.

The Adventures of Dr. McNinja:
He's a doctor. And a ninja! He fights pirates, and giant lumberjacks. The story makes absolutely no sense, but stuff dies occasionally so it's all good.



Traditional Comics:

Back when newspapers were first trying to make the transition to the internet, there were something like three different websites that carried comics, run by the different syndicates. No one site had everything I liked, and at one point, one of them started requiring a membership to look at the strips. Over time, there were mergers and stuff, and now it looks like GoComics is the last one left standing. Most of what they carry is dreck, in the bad sense of the word. Almost 20% seems to be reruns and old archives (Calvin and Hobbes, Boondocks, The Norm, PreTeena, Bloom County). But, once every one to two years, I'll go through the full index of strips to see if there's something new that catches my eye. One of the reasons that I decided to write up this entry is because I've found some new stuff that I like.

Basic Instructions:
Now, this one is subversive! Scott Meyer gives underhanded advice on how to survive your friends, family, coworkers and boss, with a lot of knife twisting thrown in. One of my favorites, but only comes out 3 times a week.

Brewster Rockit:
Brewster is a spaceship captain whose brain was turned to mush after being probed by aliens one too many times. It's not laugh-out-loud funny, but there are some chuckles, and I find myself making a bunch of stupid jokes in the online comments section. Best if you're an SF fan, or if you just like science.

Calvin and Hobbes:
It's all reruns, but it's still funny.

Cul de Sac
Adventures of little 4-year-old Alice and her wiser, more finicky 7-year-old brother, Petey. The world is very twisted and unpredictable as seen through their eyes. Plus, Richard Thompson can draw good background setups.

Dilbert:
Because.

Doonesbury:
Gary Trudeau has always been good at making conservatives angry, and that's good enough for me. Besides, I like early Zonker and Bernie, and present-day Toggle.

Endtown
I've written about Endtown before. Heck, I'm the one that wrote up the entry on wikipedia. Anthropomorphic mutants try to survive in a harsh post-The End environment against monsters and genetically pure humans. Great art, great story, great characters.

Foxtrot:
I used to love the original strip, but Bill Amend went into semi-retirement, only running new strips on Sundays. It's still funny, but has lost any sense of character development or plot that it used to have. Now it's just three kids (a science nerd, a self-obsessed teenage girl, and a sports jock wannabe) that bug each other. Not quite at the "cute for cute's sake" stage yet.

Get Fuzzy:
Rob Wilco, his psycho cat Bucky, and his idiot pooch Satchel. Lately, the strip has been in reruns, so there's some concern that Darby Conley may be suffering from health problems or something. For the most part, Bucky is a parody of modern-day conservative extremists, and most of the gags revolve around his being obnoxious.

Monty:
Originally Robotman and Monty, this was a commissioned strip that the publishers created to sell a product. Eventually, the strip outlived the product and the Robotman character got dropped. The early strips were just insane, with a lot of surreal humor. Lately, it's more just a series of set gag pieces where either Monty reacts badly in public, his friend, Moondog, gets obsessive about food and beer, or it's a lampooning of the rich and elite. Most days are just "meh", but there's still an occasional zinger that makes it all worthwhile.

Non Sequitur
I like Wiley's off-the-wall sense of humor, and his political gags skewer the far-right extremists. But, he's also good at telling children's tales. Fun stuff.

Tank McNamara:
I used to love Tank for his clumsy way around women, and Dr. Tzap's mad scientist shtick, but the jokes have gotten fairly formulaic, and Tank and Tzap don't really have any character development anymore. It's still funny sometimes, but I may drop it in a few weeks.

The Norm
It's in repeats, but I do like Norm's slightly off-center look at dating and living in the workplace. And there are strips that I hadn't seen the first time around.



Brand New Strips:

Incidental Comics:
I just starting reading this one this week. It only comes out a couple days a week, but the artwork is pretty elaborate. The jokes are relatively intellectual, mainly about art and life, sometimes about math or arithmetic. Fairly surreal, in the vein of Far Side or Bizarro.

Lost Side of Suburbia:
A fairly dark collection of short stories with children being kidnapped by fairies, trolls and other baddies. Kind of like Gahan Wilson for kids. Nothing really disturbing yet, but good artwork and interesting ideas. I don't really like the preachy nature of some of the dialog, though.

TerraTopia
TerraTopia just started recently, and it's a kind of a serialized illustrated children's fantasy story. Every day there's one page of text with an accompanying picture. The art is really high-grade, but the writing is unpleasantly flowery at times. It's still too early to say what the story is about, but it features wizards, monsters, a boy from London, and a female shape-changer. I'm down to checking in on this strip about once a month to see if the story's progressed or not.



What I stopped reading:

Barney & Clyde:
This started out promising, about a homeless guy and the rich president of a big pharma company meeting and becoming friends. But, lately, it's gotten formulaic with silly puns and carping about modern life.

C'est la Vie:
Some French people take up living in California. Initially, I liked this one because of the weird jokes and strange scenarios, but again it got formulaic. Then again, the artwork looks like it's been ripped off from a Disney comic - very derivative.

Lio:
Even when Lio was first advertised as a "soon to be carried strip", I thought it was a weak rip-off of Charles Addams and Gahan Wilson. But, I made it one of my favorites on GoComics, and because of that I read it every day along with the other titles. Finally, I had to acknowledge the fact that it can never measure up to Gahan's work, and I mercifully pulled the plug on it.

Pibgorn:
I originally started reading Pibgorn because the idea of a fairy finding her way into the human world and having adventures was rather intriguing. But, Brooke McEldowney forgot how to tell a story and at the end all sense of continuity disappeared. Now, he's recycling the artwork and adding commentary, where mainly he just likes to use lots of big words and complain about his readers not getting his jokes.

PreTeena:
A precocious pre-teenager, named Tina, tries to make sense of her life between school, her friends, and her fashion-obsessed older sister. It was quite funny for a while, but Allison Barrows discontinued the strip and now it's just in reruns that I've seen before.

Rose is Rose:
I used to love Rose! Once, it was hip, off-the-wall and entirely original. Now, it's just like every other cartoon about a cartoon family - family-friendly and resorting to "cute for cute's sake". Bleh. Still has great artwork, though.

Yenny:
Yenny is a teenage Puerto Rican girl living with her single mother in a cottage by the sea. She's obsessed with fashion and wants to become a model, but her feet are too large for normal catwalk work (they're huge!) The character designs are very sexy, but Yenny reminds me too much of Bugs Bunny in drag but without the fur. Plus, David Alvarez has been slipping his schedule, with gaps up to a month between new strips.

Monday, January 23, 2012

My New Gakken Blog

I mentioned this before, but I want to increase my visibility more.

google has decided to discontinue its knol system, and replaced it with something called annotum. I don't like the new application at all, but in trying to move my knol files over, I had to create an account on the wordpress blogging system. I figure that because I have the account anyway, I might as well use it for hosting a Gakken-dedicated blog.

The new blog has been up for close to a month, and I've been rerunning a past review of the Otona no Kagaku kits per day. I also have the knol files converted and accessible from the menu at the top of the page, and I've added some supporting pages for a short history of Japanese science, and translations of the news announcements from both the Otona no Kagaku homepage and their Facebook page.

Right now, there's only about 15-20 page views a day (compared to the 50-75 for the old Otona no Kagaku kit list knol alone), and half of that seems to be either spambots or browser robots. I'm thinking the problem is that yahoo and google haven't registered the blog in their search lists yet.

I've got another 4 backlogged kit reviews to post from the numbered mook series, plus maybe 6 reviews of the unnumbered kits (the sound vibrator, the synth, the vacuum tube radio, etc.) This will take me right up to the release of the desktop vacuum robot (#33). The official release date is set for Jan. 30, but it usually takes 2-3 days for new products to reach Kyushu. Then, it may be another day or two before I can build the kit, take the photos and write up the review. So, if the timing works out right, the kit #33 review will be the last one published on a daily schedule and I'll drop down to maybe a post a month, depending on how often Gakken comes out with new press releases, or new kits.

P.S. : Gakken has run out of blank blocks for purchase for the Denshi mini kit. They have also teamed up with the rock band White Stripes to produce a WS-themed version of the theremin kit (available in the U.S. for $50). Finally, Gakken celebrated getting 2000 likes on their facebook page by writing a new sketch for the Japanino POV kit.



P.P.S : They've also just announced kit #33 as their latest kit on the Otono no Kagaku home page. And they've taken down the link for "Next Up", so there's no hint now about what #35 is going to be.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Commentary: Grand Jump


(All rights belong to their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)
(Cover shows Bartender a Paris.)

Grand Jump is one of those magazines that aren't included in the wiki list. This may be either because it's too new, or too low-profile. It comes out every 1st and 3rd Wednesday of the month, and is 330 yen for 430 pages.

GJ doesn't have much in the way of well-known titles. Probably the best-known artists are Hikaru Yuzuki and Takeshi Okano. Yuzuki's Amai Seikatsu: Second Season, is a silly little sex romp that had originally run in Business Jump. He also did the raunchy Cinderella Express, among about 15 other titles. Then there's Takeshi Okano, who with partner Shou Makura, had produced Hell Teacher Nubee, and are now doing Reibaishi Izuna Ascension (Spirit Medium Teacher Izuna) as kind of a spin-off with one of the Nubee characters.


(Amai Seikatsu)

GJ is aimed at adult males, but there's not that much overt sex, as opposed to what shows up in the Young title series. Probably the most explicit title in GJ is Mankitsu (manga cafe) by Haruki (who also has about 15 titles to his name). The artwork is a mix of very good and very bad. The stories range from mahjong and street fighting, to science and interoffice affairs.


(Reibashi Izuna Ascension)

Probably the best art is in Mankitsu, Amai Seikatsu (The Sweet Life), My Night is as Beautiful as Your Noon by BOHA by Ylab and the recently started Wazumashi Kazuha by Tsuzuku Yabuno (Lost+Brain). In terms of story, on the other hand, I can't really recommend anything based on just this one issue. Bartender a Paris might be promising in the future - the first chapter ran in this issue. It's a spinoff of Araki Joh's Bartender series, but with a different artist (Osamu Kajisa). The story starts out with a young Japanese bartender getting on a plane for France and starting up a conversation with a rich, cranky old man. He tries to talk to a woman in the seat next to him, but she ignores him (it's an in-joke reference to Arai's Sommelier). In Paris, the guy immediately loses his passport, cash and hotel reservation. In desperation, he tries to go to a bar to get a drink with his remaining change, but the owner of the place summarily beats him up and throws him on the street. Coincidentally, the cranky rich guy can't sleep and goes out for a drink at his favorite bar where he encounters the Japanese bartender. The boy is challenged to show his stuff, and he makes a high ball, going so far as to pack his hands in ice for several minutes to avoid heating up the glass when he handles it. Typical Araki over-the-top presentation, and the artwork isn't that great, but it may improve eventually.


(Imouto no Jinteze)

One title that has caught my eye, though, is the new Imouto no Jinteze (Little Sister's Synthesis) (now on chapter 3), by Hinako Konno, written by Fumihiro Juuzen. In this chapter, the young girl Chie Jinno and two classmates in school are introduced to the works of Gauss and several inventors by their female science teacher. The first half of the chapter is taken up with an explanation of Gauss's solution to "what is the total of all of the numbers from 1 to 100". It's a nice way to learn science in easy to digest bits.

(As for what the solution is: The point was that the assignment, "find the total by adding up all the numbers from 1 to 100", was supposedly intended to just keep students busy for an hour doing a manual calculation. But there's a shortcut. If you add 1 + 100, you get 101. 2 + 99 = 101, 3 + 98 = 101. It's an obvious pattern, up to 50 + 51 = 101. So, to find the answer fast, just multiply 101 * 50 to get 5050. You can use the same approach for adding up 1 to 1000.)


(Wazumashi Kazuha, doing the linking rings trick.)

Grand Jump doesn't have a lot of attraction for me, but I do want to try getting the first volume of "Little Sister's Synthesis" if/when it comes out.


(My Night is as Beautiful as Your Noon)


(Mankitsu)

---------------------

Dates for 1/23 to 1/30:

Birthdays (18):
David (mathematician) Hilbert, 1/23/1862
Brothers Hildebrandt, 1/23/1939
Ernie Kovacs, 1/23/1919
John Belushi, 1/24/1949
David Gerrold, 1/24/1944
E.T.A. ("The Nutcracker") Hoffmann, 1/24/1776
C.L. ("Doomsday Morning") Moore, 1/24/1911
Warren Zevon, 1/24/1947
Robert (Boyle's Law) Boyle, 1/25/1627
Shotaro Ishinomori, 1/25/1938
Philip Jose Farmer, 1/26/1918
Paul Newman, 1/26/1925
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, 1/27/1756
Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, 1/27/1836
John Banner, 1/28/1910
W. C. Fields, 1/29/1880
Tommy Ramone, 1/29/1952
Dick (Rowan and Martin) Martin, 1/30/1922

Died (11):
Johnny Carson, 1/23/2005
Jack LaLanne, 1/23/2011
Kieth ("Retief") Laumer, 1/23/1993
David (comic) Frye, 1/24/2011
L. Ron Hubbard, 1/24/1986
Charlie Callas, 1/27/2011
Jack Parr, 1/27/2004
John Banner, 1/28/1973
Shotaro Ishinomori, 1/28/1998
Jimmy Durante, 1/29/1980
James (Professor Backwards) Edmondson Sr., 1/29/1976

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Cloud



It's hard to make out, but every so often, Sakura-jima belches out some impressive ash.

Friday, January 20, 2012

The World's Largest Papercraft Project



I like They Might be Giants, and I'm on their mailing list. Recently, there was an announcement of the "When Will you die" video, which has the BIGGEST papercraft project I've ever seen! (A 12' tall version of the pink hearse monster truck featured on their "Join Us" album.)



Now, they've announced a PDF file with the designs for making a smaller desktop version of the monster truck. Most cool!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Review: Gamble Fish

There's a certain class of manga that focuses on tricks, gambling and misdirections, that includes Liar Game, Kaiji and Gamble Fish.



Gamble Fish, by Hiromi Aoyama (writer) and Yamane Kazutoshi, Grade: B-
I actually read Gamble Fish about a year ago on Manga Fox, when they just had the first 40 chapters or so. They're now up to 81, and I decided to give it a try again. The number one drawback to this class of manga is that the main characters all know more about a particular trick or game than the readers do, so the readers are led around by the nose until the author chooses to explain what's going on. This is compounded by all of the characters in a given scene acting in severe shock when a revelation is made. In small doses, these reactions are amusing, but given that they occur roughly once a chapter, it gets old really fast. And that's my biggest complaint with all of these kinds of stories. That, and the amount of expository explanations of the tricks just drags the story down. As a result, I just skip several pages at a time to get to the parts where the story starts moving again.

Of the three titles, Gamble Fish has the better artwork. The faces of many of the characters are a little too cartoony and stylized, but the backgrounds and body art are very polished. On the other hand, in terms of clothing details and etchi body designs, Yamane is on par with Oh Great's Air Gear. Again, though, with all of the times the characters get shocked, surprised, or just stripped down to their bare skin, per chapter, it gets kind of old.

Even the title, "Gamble Fish", wears poorly on this manga. It sounds too much like a girl's love story manga, such as "Banana Fish". But, there s a logic to it - the main character is a gambler, and he sees his targets as fish to be caught in a net and exploited. As for the story: Middle schooler Tomu Shirasagi has just transferred to the elite private school, Shishido. He immediately sets out to badger the most headstrong students into gambling against him. Initially, the stakes are just 100 yen, but with each game he vows to double it and wrap up by getting several million dollars out of everyone and shut the school down. However, since many of the students come from rich families, they bump the stakes up fast themselves, and they all lose. So far, the games include hide and seek, pool, cards, dice and survival "capture the flag". Pretty soon, the demonic sadist head teacher Abidanai surfaces as the main antagonist, and the games include riders for Tomu either being expelled if he loses, or dying. Tomu takes gambling to extremes, with his plans including having a finger lopped off with a chainsaw, or his eardrums punctured with a stick. In the case of the finger, he did spend a month in the hospital having it reattached. No word yet on how his hearing will be restored.

The real question then becomes "what is his motivation for all this?" So far, the details have been slow in coming. His family dates back at least 400 years, to the age of Toyotomi, when they were powerful advisers. When they were betrayed by other families, their crest - a sword hilt guard - was seized and the members either fled or were killed. The crest is now in the hands of the headmaster of the Shishido school, and Tomo has reason to believe that his father is Abidani's prisoner. So, one of Tomo's goals is to get either the hilt guard or his father back. Currently, Manga Fox has 10 of the total of 19 volumes uploaded and translated. Depending on the release schedule, the end may be in sight. Or maybe not.

I'm torn over this title. On the one hand, it's stupid and juvenile. On the other, the artwork isn't that bad, and the plots twist around so much that I can't guess where they're going to end up next. I do consider most of the female characters to be shallow, predictable stereotypes, and their falling in love with Tomo after being "conquered" is a lazy writer's gimmick. But the "reader service shots" are part of the appeal of this kind of story. At least it's not as mentally insulting as Air Gear.

Summary: A middle school student enters a private school with the intent of using his gambling skills to bring the place to its knees. Lots of mind games and cheap tricks intermingled with the reader service. In the same vein as Liar Game and Kaiji. Recommended only if you have too much time on your hands.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Announcement boards



The December JLPT test was held on the Kagoshima University campus. The stairs in building 1 were lined with announcement boards for clubs looking for new members. A couple of the announcements used anime/manga characters.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Big Issue - Reiko Saibara


(All rights belong to their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)

I've talked about The Big Issue before, but not recently. It's a small, bi-weekly magazine that comes out on the 1st and 15th of each month for 300 yen a copy, and is sold by homeless people as a way to give them some kind of an income. Occasionally there's a cover story on a popular manga artist, so when I moved down to Kagoshima I immediately went online to see if it was available here. According to the website, someone does sell it in front of the Kagoshima Chuo train station, but until just a few days ago I hadn't seen any traces of them. Then again, there haven't been any issues that I've wanted to buy, so I wasn't looking very hard.



Finally, on the 12th, I was walking from the station along towards the main post office on my way back home when I saw an older gentleman holding up the latest copy and trying to get someone to pay attention to him. Since I didn't want that one, I was about to just keep going past him when he shouted out that he also has some of the back issues. Now, in Tokyo, I would only occasionally see Big Issue vendors more-or-less by accident, so there were a few times when an issue would come out that I wouldn't know about it until a month or two later. Specifically, there was the Jan. 1st, 2011, issue on Gegege no Kitaro that I really would have liked to have gotten. So I turned around and went back. The gentleman very eagerly pulled out a stack of the back issues, and apologized that he didn't have anything manga-related that I hadn't already bought. At that point, I was almost just looking for an excuse to give him the 300 yen ($3.60 USD) because it'd represent a major portion of his day's sales, when I saw the above cover.



Reiko Saibara is not one of the most visibly-talented manga artists on the market, but her stories are very popular because they're more or less autobiographical, and she does a lot of interesting things. Like visiting Egypt and Africa, or getting drunk and then writing about it. Her Mainichi Kaasan (Everyday Mother) was turned into a TV anime series and a live action movie.



The rest of the magazine has lots of articles on charity work around the world, animals, nature, and current movie reviews. Definitely recommended if you can find someone selling a copy on the streets.



(Interestingly, based on the list of back issues on the back of this issue, Saibara was also featured on April 1, 2007, which had already been sold out at the time of this publication.)

Monday, January 16, 2012

2012 Kagoshima Speech Contest, Prelim

As mentioned in the last few Small Adventures posts, I'd signed up for the 17th Annual Kagoshima City Foreigner's Speech Contest. The preliminary round was last Saturday. Leading up to the prelim, I'd been spending 3-4 hours a day practicing the Japanese speech and getting to the point where I had it mostly memorized. In the last few days prior, I was focused on speaking it out loud clearly, and getting the timing to within the 5-7 minute requirement. I'd wanted to get as many chances to practice in front of an audience as I could, but I had to teach a last minute English lesson on Wednesday morning, when the first class of the new Japanese speaking community course would start. This left me with having to go to the Thursday night class, where I could only give the speech once, but at least I got a little feedback and the assurance that I could read from the paper copy during the prelim if I needed to.

My prelim presentation group was at 10:30 AM, Jan. 14. I arrived early to get a little practice in with my Wednesday morning class teacher, and the only real change was the addition of a short sentence introducing myself, and another sentence to thank the crowd for listening to me. At 10:30, 6 of us (including one other person from my Wednesday class) were told the rules for the contest. We then had our photos taken (the 10 finalists would have their pictures in the brochure for the Jan. 21 round, and the top 4 speakers would be featured on the website and on the poster for next year's contest), and then we went up to the second floor of the International Exchange building to wait our turn. The third of my Wednesday class members that was participating was in the 9:30 AM round, and I got a chance to watch him. There's a bell that's rung at 5 minutes telling you that you've reached the minimum time, and a second at 7 minutes for "time over". The third person came in just under 5 minutes, costing him some points on the total scoring.

The first group wrapped up and it was our turn to get up on stage and sit in chairs in the corner. There were 5 judges in the main seating area of the auditorium, and 20-30 audience members - either other participants or their friends. When our round started, the MC introduced each of the judges (who were either university professors, or somehow connected to the Exchange center). I was number 2 in the group, and I knew I was in trouble because I was looking at an audience rather than at the back of my eyelids for remembering my lines. I messed up my introduction and had trouble with several places in the first paragraph. Halfway through I settled down and finished off with no further trouble at about 6 minutes. None of the others in my group gave mistake-free presentations either, but at least half of them seemed more polished than me, in that it was like watching an amateur actor delivering their lines. The one from Vietnam yelled his lines like an angry Japanese politician, and one Chinese woman was as cheerful and beaming as a Miss Universe contestant. At least two of them included specific references to the contest within their speech.

After we were done, one of the Exchange Center people gave us envelops as we walked off stage. The packets included fliers for 2 upcoming events (an introduction to a hospital that caters to foreigners, and a seminar for foreign and Japanese parents that want to exchange ideas about child rearing in Japan) and a gift cert. for 1000 yen ($12 USD) at a national bookstore chain. The three of us from the Wednesday class got together with our teacher, told each other that they had the better chance of winning, and then we went to lunch at a restaurant in Tenmonkan to release stress.

There were 24 people signed up for the prelim, and were all divided up into 4 groups. The first two groups presented in the morning, and the second two would be in the afternoon after a lunch break, to wrap up around 5 PM. We'd been told that the Exchange center would only call the 10 that made it to the finals and to expect the call between 7 PM and 9 PM. After 9, if there was no call, too bad. Regardless, everyone would receive letters with the results some time during the week. Everyone I talked to told me that of our 3-person group that I had the best chance of making the cut. However, from what I saw in my round, the judges were going to have a really tough time narrowing the list down to just 10 names. At 4 six-person groups, only 2 or 3 people from each would pass.

Update, Sunday: Still no phone call. I sent email to the other 2 from my class and they said they hadn't gotten selected either. The most depressing part about all this is that I spent at least 40 hours preparing for the contest, and there's absolutely no purpose to having written the speech. I can't use it anywhere else, and the majority of the vocabulary isn't used in regular conversation. There won't be another speech contest until next year, and I don't know if I'll be in Kagoshima then. So, my speech is kind of pointless at this stage. Oh well.

Update, Monday: Got the letter in snail mail. "Thank you for participating. We're sorry but you weren't selected. We hope you have good fortune in your future." I was really hoping for some kind of feedback, like being told that I was number 24 out of 24, or a brief explanation of what the judges had been grading on. Right now, I can't tell if it was a grammar problem, that I didn't bow deep enough, if my choice of topic was too frivolous, or that I stuttered too much. Hard to correct something if no one tells you what needs improvement.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Commentary: Weekly Shonen Jump


(All rights belong to their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)

It may seem odd that I haven't commented on Weekly Shonen Jump before, and, in fact, I did make a mention of it over a year ago when they included the papercraft version of the Merry (the ship from One Piece). I've been holding off until the publishers decided to run another one-of-a-kind freebie. Well, now is as good a time as any.


(Punchout calendar holder)

Weekly Shonen Jump is easily THE most well-known manga magazine on the market. At its peak, in 1995, it had a world-wide circulation of 6.5 million copies. (Probably due solely to the serialization of Dragon Ball). In 2007, it was 2.7 million copies. There is an English version of the magazine in the U.S., put out by Viz as well.


(Pages for January and February of the calendar, plus assembly instructions.)

Along with past titles like Dragon Ball, Slam Dunk, Doctor Slump and and Hell Teacher Nubee, Jump currently has Naruto, One Piece, Bleach, Hunter x Hunter, Gintama and Beelzebub, along with the insanely-long running Kochira wa Kameari. All of the popular titles have been licensed for U.S. release, and are also currently being fan scanilated. This means that there's really very little point to discussing those titles here now. In fact, you probably know more about them than I do.


(Every New Year, Jump has the artists do 4-panel gag strips with their characters. Here, with Kameari, the gang wastes all 4 panels complaining that all they ever do in here is normal stuff.)

As the name implies, Shonen Jump is targeted at younger boys, primarily in the lower teens range. As such, the stories tend to simple adventures, fighting action, school intrigues and slapstick comedy. The artwork is all over the board, but as the artists mature when their series runs more than 1 year, their techniques generally improve quickly. Currently, the titles with the most sophisticated art are Bleach and Kochira wa Kameari. But, I think that most of the storylines are a little too silly or superficial. So, the one that I gravitate towards the most is Kameari (which is sillier than most) because of its great insight into otaku culture in Tokyo and Akihabara. If you want to know what fad is trending now, Kameari will be lampooning it.


(Kurogane 4-koma page.)

As for the freebie - it's a small punch out desk calendar featuring all of Jump's main characters. The calendar sheets are double-sided and double-folded on 3 pieces of paper. It's not that big, and therefore is perfect for placement on a crowded desk.


(Kagami no Kuni no Harisugawa (Harisugawa of the Land of Mirrors))


If you like manga, you probably like the stories that appear in either Shonen Jump, Shonen Sunday or Shonen Magazine. Jump will also probably be at the top of your list, too.

---------------------

Dates for 1/14 to 1/21:

Birthdays (16):
Fujio (Tensai Bakabon) Akatsuka, 1/14/1935
Hal Roach, 1/14/1892
Robert Silverberg, 1/15/1935
Jim (Wildwood Weed) Stafford, 1/16/1944
Steve Harvey, 1/17/1957
Andy Kaufman, 1/17/1949
Mack Sennett, 1/17/1880
Oliver Hardy, 1/18/1892
Danny Kaye, 1/18/1913
Robert Anton ("Illuminati Trilogy") Wilson, 1/18/1932
Edgar Allen Poe, 1/19/1809
Andre-Marie Ampere, 1/20/1775
Arte Johnson, 1/20/1929
DeForest Kelly, 1/20/1920
Nancy ("Beggars in Spain") Kress, 1/20/1948
Benny Hill, 1/21/1924

Died (4):
Doodles Weaver, 1/17/1983
Curly Howard, 1/18/1952
Rudyard Kipling, 1/18/1936
George Orwell, 1/21/1950

250 yen, 560 pages.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Sigh

Back in October, I wrote about the Kagoshima Stamp Rally. Because I went out of my way to get all nine stamps (actually, 10 stamps on one of the cards) from areas around the city, I was kind of hoping to get at least a "thank you for participating" post card in the mail. I knew the deadline for submitting the entries was Nov. 30, and that there going to be some kind of decision regarding the prizes some time in December, but when the first of January came and went, I got to wondering what the exact details of the contest were. On Jan. 7, I went back to the brochure with the rules, and it said that the drawings were going to take place in the middle of Dec., the lower-level prize winners would be notified by mail, and that the two top winners (one for getting all 9 stamps, the other for honorable mention) would receive notification by phone. At that point, I resigned myself to the fact that I hadn't won.

This last Friday, I had my first group English lesson for the new year, and one of the students, the one who drove me around to get 5 of the stamps in one day, told me that there'd actually been an official ceremony with the mayor of Kagoshima last week, awarding out all of the prizes, and she'd gotten a ceramic tea serving tray worth 5000 yen ($60 USD). Congrats to her. And I guess this proves that I got squat.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Small Adventures #26

Japanese department stores are really nothing like those in the U.S. The bigger ones (those that take up a full block and are at least 7 stories tall) are self-contained cities that are similar to small-scale indoor shopping malls. The basement will be taken up by food stalls and a grocery or produce store. Floors 1-5 may be divided up into clothing sections for women, men and children. Then the upper floors will be a variety of restaurants and possibly an art gallery or movie theater.

As mentioned in Small Adventures #24, I'd entered the local foreigner's Japanese speech contest, and I needed a quiet place to practice speaking out loud for several hours a day leading up to the preliminary round on Jan. 14. I tried going into the International Exchange Center on the previous Sunday, but no matter where I went in the building, there were people milling about. I found a quiet bench on the second floor, but when I took a restroom break, I came back to find that someone else had taken over my bench. Besides, the Center closes at 5 PM and isn't open on Mondays. So, I wanted to find an alternative space.

The Daiei department store is right across from the main train station, and is much closer for me to walk to (under 10 minutes, rather than the 20 for the Exchange Center). Similar to the above description, Daiei has a drug and grocery store in the basement, and a bakery, grocery and liquor store on the first floor. Women's and kid's clothing on the 2nd and 3rd floors, men's on the 4th, and housewares, stationery and a small video game arcade on the 5th. There's a couple small restaurants at the far end of the 4th floor, and a coffee shop on the 7th. The 6th is made up of medical clinics. The 7th has the store's information office, a big open lobby space with benches and a few personal computer workstations (looks to be free use, but I haven't tried logging into them yet), one large room where people can read magazines and newspapers for free, and some small meeting rooms. Both days I visited that floor, several people were in one of the meeting rooms playing Go. They all carried their own Go sets with them. The 8th floor has a basketball gym, and a small exercise room with lockers and probably a set of showers. Also on the 8th floor is what seems to be a rehearsal space (the doors have always been closed, but once it sounded like some high school students were giving a classical recital to their parents; and another time there were voices and background music, either from a very old-fashioned movie, or some troupe practicing a stage play.

The lobby space on the seventh floor turned out to be the most practical for me. Although there usually were several people just coming in for an hour or two to read a book, or a high school couple making flirty eyes at each other, I was free to pick out one set of benches and pace around as I read my speech out loud. Oddly enough, though, when someone new came into the area to sit and read, no matter how empty the place was or where I was standing, they'd always pick the bench about 8 feet from me.

The best part of being in a department store is that, rather than paying full price for the drinks in the vending machines on the 7th floor, I can stop on the 1st and grab a soda or a bottle of coffee for 30% off and some snacks from the Mister Donut just around the corner from the bakery section on my way up.

The most interesting thing I've seen in Daiei so far was the group of 100 Japanese women wearing European-style skirts and blouses in the basketball gym, practicing something that looked like either a square dance, or a waltz-style folk dance. I challenge you to find something similar in Mall of America.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Review: Desert Punk

1997 was a strange year. It saw the start of a new manga, called Desert Punk, in the magazine Comic Beam. DP later came out as a 24-episode TV anime series (licensed in the U.S. by Funimation). Manga Fox has the first 5 of the 14 volumes scanilated, and I've just started learning about this title.



Desert Punk, by Usune Masatoshi, Grade: A-.
DP is the name of the main character, a sneaky, underhanded "handyman" working in the Great Kanto Desert (what's left of central Japan after the End of the World As We Know It). The Desert is occupied by various bands of bandits, and the villages have a kind of bounty hunter system set up to protect them. Handymen serve as jacks-of-all trade, accepting jobs that can range from delivering a package, to defending a water well from thugs. Desert Punk has established a name for himself as "the demon of the desert", primarily because he fights dirty. While he claims to have never failed a mission, every few chapters sees him being bested by a rival. His biggest weakness is women with large breasts, and this generally leads to his downfall. Offers of large sums of money, or the possibility of seeing a naked woman are his two main motivators.

DP the manga is filled with black humor and silliness, in the vein of Appleseed and Dominion. Some of the situations that he gets himself into are pretty funny, and the interaction between himself and his new apprentice, Kosuna, sometimes turns into as much of a brawl as when Punk fights the enemy. Along with Masamune Shirow's earlier works, DP shares the same sense of humor as early Akira and possibly Dorohedoro. The artwork is really good, with emphasis on the different kinds of weapons in use. In the first few volumes, there's not much of a storyline. Punk takes on various jobs that bring him to different parts of the desert, and into conflict with just about everyone he meets. He does (unwillingly) adopt an apprentice, and is occasionally saved by a trio of former childhood frenemies. His reputation grows, and eventually other thugs start tracking him down to make names for themselves. Otherwise, though, there's no interwoven story arc yet (that comes later).

Summary: A rather unattractive "handyman" for hire, known as Desert Punk, lives a Clint Eastwood-like "man with no name" existence in the desert that used to be central Japan. Lots of silly jokes, and tongue-in-cheek fights. Recommended if you are over 18 and not easily offended.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Small Adventures #25

Last November, I got a small temporary job teaching English at a conversation school about a 15 minute walk from the apartment. One of the two teachers at the school had returned home for a 3-week vacation and I was asked in to cover a couple of 1, 2 and 3-student lessons a couple of times each week. It wasn't great money, but it did help cover part of the expenses that month. After the teacher returned, the owner of the school had me come back to teach one specific student that had an erratic schedule and wanted lessons during the week when the other two teachers were tied up at other schools. Again, it was just enough to cover for lunches in December. Then the holidays came up and the work dried up.

In September, I started taking Japanese lessons at the International Exchange Center. 10 lessons, 2.5 hours every Wednesday from 10:00 AM to 11:30, for 1500 yen total ($20 USD, a very nice deal). The group was split in 2, one half focusing on conversation and the other on writing kanji. About halfway through the course, the teacher told the speaking group to create our own speeches as if we were going to enter the foreigner's speech contest to be held in January (the preliminary round is on Jan. 14). On the last day of the course, in mid-December, the conversation group gave our speeches (5-7 minutes each) and the writing group had to present 1-2 paragraphs that they'd written based on a favorite kanji character. That day was just before the deadline for entering the speech contest itself, and I figured that if I was going to put that much effort into writing one that I might as well go all the way. No entry fee, one first place prize of 40,000 yen ($480 USD) and one honorable mention. There's no way I can possibly win, given the number of graduate foreign students studying at the neighboring university that are sure to also compete, but I figure that I might get a little visibility this way.

The next Japanese conversation course is just starting up, with the first Wednesday lesson on Jan. 11, from 10 AM to 11:30 AM. This would give me just one chance to practice in front of an audience prior to the preliminary round 3 days later. Tuesday night, the 10th, I was out at a quiet public space, trying to memorize my speech when I got a cellphone call from the English school saying that the student I was teaching last month had gotten their work schedule for the week, and the only time they're available for two back-to-back English lessons would be Jan. 11 from 10 AM to noon...

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Small Adventures #24

Most people probably know about the Kevin Bacon Effect, or the Kevin Bacon game. Originally, the game consisted of linking two otherwise unrelated actors based on which movies they'd appeared in that also featured Kevin. Some researcher decided to study this concept and determined that you can link any two people together through just 6 steps (i.e., I know the manager of my department, he knows the regional manager of Toastmasters in Texas, who knows the regional Washington, D.C., Toastmasters manager, who knows Dick Cheney, etc. So, if I ask around, I could conceivably get a chance to be introduced to Cheney. (Fake example.)) Some of the current social networking services (specifically linked-in) are built based on this premise. The idea being to maximize the number of people online that can find you for your skill set or for increasing the number of contacts you can exercise.

Bottom line is, the more people you talk to, the more that know who you are, the greater your chances of the unexpected happening.

Last Summer, I went to the Kagoshima City aquarium. As I was getting ready to leave, one woman at a cash register in a souvenir shop near the exit asked if I was an English teacher. I had to apologize to the group I was with for delaying them, in order to talk to this cashier. She said that she wanted to study English, and was wondering if I had a business card so she could contact me later to discuss the details. I gave her my card, and that was it. She didn't email or phone me after that.

Suddenly, a couple of nights ago, I got a call. It was the woman from the aquarium. She stated that she'd been talking to a friend of hers who works for a tourist group in the city, and the friend needed to find a foreigner for something her company is working on. The aquarium woman remembered my business card, and suddenly I'm talking to some travel planner out of the blue about play-testing a new city walk tourist brochure for a couple of hours one day next month.

Sure, why not. I might find more chances of handing out my business cards along the walk.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Tensai Bakabond



If anyone knows more about "Tensai Bakabond" (a parody of Vagabond), let me know. I think this is hilarious.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

November-December edition of the "related articles in the media"

Here's the batch of articles to show up in the media from November-December, regarding anime, manga and related stuff.

Generic New News
===============


Japan Times

'Gegege no Kitaro' artist Mizuki's WWII works on display in Yokohama

Comic anthologies offer visions of hope after 3/11

'Cosplayers' tout tsunami recovery

Miraikan uses anime to teach

'Masked Rider' heroes feted at Yokohama show


Daily Yomiuri

Anime's impact on personality and the world

New card game sure to win players' hearts

Overseas anime market online only

TV surprises in store as Jean Reno plays a certain robot cat

New generation takes on challenge of portraying Lupin III characters

New website to provide info on media arts

Carefree 'K-On!' makes leap to big screen from comic strip

Nakano capitalizes on its mecca status

Fujiko Fujio A on comics and self-righteousness

Anime warms Russian, Japanese ties

L'Arc-en-Ciel blaze a global anime music trail



Asahi

Lupin III franchise relaunches website

Manga explores human feelings in aftermath of March 11

Nerima animation carnival set for Nov. 19-20

'Ryujin Mabuyer' gets manga adaptation

Japan aims to squeeze more cash from Hollywood

'Tiger and Bunny' film anime coming to mobile phones

Anime portrays heroic story of tsunami-hit railway

Latest volume of 'One Piece' manga lands place in record books

'Zetman' anime adaptation to air in April 2012

Exhibition held to mark release of 'Evangelion' art book

Hatsune Miku goes global with DVD release

'Ghost in the Shell: S.A.C.,' 'Hipira' win 3D awards

Square Enix launches 'middle-aged' manga

Viz Media's SuBlime line to focus on yaoi manga

Chopper meets Hello Kitty in new Sanrio line

'Madoka Magica' nominated for SF award

Escape games offer a way out of ordinary life

Russia, Britain join World Cosplay Summit 2012

Young anime artist makes commercial debut

"Little Battlers eXperience" to be Data Carddass game series

Evangelion energy drinks poised to hit stores

Kyoto Seika University starts manga website

'Tamagotchi' turns 15, still a big seller

SIGGRAPH Asia 2012 to return to Singapore, its birthplace

Season 2 of "K-On!" available as streaming video

Present-day 'Invaders' are lovable, bumbling bunch

'Madoka Magica' film trilogy project planned

Anbe created "Ika Musume" manga over dinner

Captain America tries out the Kewpie look

Publishing heavyweights see light in growing 'light novel' market

Studio Ghibli retrospective slated for U.S.

'The Tibetan Dog' to premiere in Japan in January

Japan Post to issue 'Dragon Ball Kai' stamps

'Space Battleship Yamato 2199' TV series to follow feature film

Kadokawa and Dwango working together to launch online manga services

'Ordinary life' anime finds a special place in fans' hearts

Kosuke Sugimoto wins big at TBS DigiCon6

"Ten Billion Days and One Hundred Billion Nights," published in English

"Cruel Angel's Thesis" No. 1 anime karaoke song for 2011

'Kinnikuman' makes comeback with new series

Santa can't find Kamen Rider belts

Feature film adaptation of "Blood-C" to hit cinemas next summer

Anime explains cycle of life on atomic level

ShoPro releases Japanese version of 'Les Cites obscures'

E-book store attracts customers in Shinjuku

'K-On!' rakes in $4 million in two days

Film director gets details right in 'Magic Tree House'

Updated 'Evangelion' book hits the stores

Female producer helps supercharge 'Kamen Rider'

U.S. nominates 3 Japanese works for Annie Awards

King of anime songs releases commemorative DVD set

Angouleme comics festival nominates Japanese manga

Oscar-winning artist Kunio Kato releases new book

Plastic model developer has 'The Force' with him

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Hungry Bird



This is one of the strangest birds I've encountered in a while. I was walking down the main street in front of the Kagoshima Art Museum, and one bird came swooping down at me, followed by a second that seemed to be chasing it. The first billowed its wings open to stop in front of me and the second flew off. Initially, the first one had looked like a owl. Then it hopped up on the fence railing and looked down at the carp pool for a snack, looking like a kiwi.







Here, it looks like a 'fisher of some kind.



Now, like a hawk.



Finally, it resembles a light-colored raven.
Very strange. It's also very brave, letting me get within 5 feet of it for the photo without reacting at all.