Sunday, June 30, 2013

June articles in the media

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

Japan Times

NTV unearths oldest TV anime film

Asahi

Kinder Film Festival to include teenage competition

Mechanic-turned-illustrator set to release historical manga

Osamu Tezuka's 'Buddha 2' rescheduled for release in February

Manga artist recreates Imabari Castle with paint and ink

'Sword Art Online' to air on U.S. Adult Swim in August

SIGGRAPH conference to highlight OLM Digital's 'Pac-Man,' 'Pokemon'

Aniplex Channel offers free anime streaming for U.S. fans

Anime singers, voice-over artists to join Toyako anime fest

'Time of Eve' Blu-ray project meets $18,000 fund-raising goal in one day

Tachikawa sells demon items based on 'Saint' comic

Agency to provide aid to produce live-action films, animated movie

Tezuka's previously unpublished manuscripts found

Tokiwa-so recruits budding manga artists for Kyoto project

Ghibli art director seeks funds to make anime about 'miracle' tree

Latest 'Conan' movie highest grossing in the series

New 'Pac-Man' CG animated series set for U.S. premiere

Slam Dunk Scholarship accepting applications from hoop hopefuls

Futuristic anime mecha world to come to life at 'Macross' exhibition

Free Japanese anime channel planned for Nigeria

Ryo Okawara wins big at Stuttgart animated filmfest in Germany

Japan Expo to host 'Evangelion' art exhibition

Kyoto railway offers 'Space Battleship Yamato 2199' tickets

Oldest domestic TV anime found; to be broadcast in July

Russian animation exhibition tour to reach Tokyo in July

Live-action 'Gatchaman' to hit screens on Aug. 24

Miyazaki goes tragic with first new anime in five years

Morinaga fetes caramel candies with Studio4°C short

English-subtitled Japacon TV streams free online

French CG film 'Autumn Leaves' scores big at Short Shorts film fest

Theatrical trailer for full-CG 'Captain Harlock' film released

'Naruto' exhibition held in author's Okayama hometown

Exhibition of 'GeGeGe no Kitaro' goblins opens in Osaka

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Q.E.D. volume 2 review

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

Q.E.D., vol. 2, by Katou Motohiro. Grade: B


(The adventure starts!)

Rokubu no Takara (Rokubu's Treasure, Great Magazine, 1998). The lack of a callback is never more blatant in this series than with this story. There's absolutely no correlation between how things start out and how they end (except for the fact that at the beginning some servant is pleading with his mistress to not open a sealed box for fear of unleashing the demon Rokubu and at the end, there's no Rokubu). Kana and her classmates are playing in the olympic-sized swimming pool in Touma's building. Kana wonders where Sou has disappeared to, and one classmate answers back with "who cares? He's a weirdo. All that's important is that we can take advantage of him now". Kana beans the kid with a water polo ball and then rescues Touma, who has passed out at the bottom of the pool. A caretaker comes in with a package for Sou - it's a worm-riddled manuscript sent by a professor in the U.S. that Touma had studied under. The professor writes that she was contacted by a Japanese girl asking for help in decyphering the text, and she figured that Touma would be more easily able to visit the girl's estate to talk with her directly (rather than containing a curse, the sealed box had the manuscript, which spilled out when the cover was opened, and is now completely out of page order).


(The girl explains the history of the Rokubu legend, localized version.)

On hearing that the estate has hot springs, Kana drags Touma out to a remote town, where a villager gives them directions. Unfortunately, the local beat cop is already at the estate investigating a crime involving some other university researchers. The two of them get to the estate just as a big storm sweeps in; the rain washes out the only bridge, trapping everyone there for several days. The first night, one of the research students is found dead with a spear through his chest. The next night, the professor is attacked by the demon, and the third, another student is killed with a ice pick to the back of the neck. According to the legend, Rokubu was a wandering priest that had visited the village several hundred years ago and had been killed by the villagers who coveted a solid gold statue he had been carrying. Rumors in the village are that the estate's wealth was derived from that gold, and that Rokubu is still haunting the place, looking for revenge. So, is there a ghost demon? Why were the students killed the way they were? Does the worm-eaten manuscript hold the key to the whereabouts of the gold statue?

There's no real science this time, just a short mention of how aspirin can work as a blood thinner, and some background on the Rokubu folktale that is told in a number of places around Japan.


(Touma relates the history of the Bugatti Royale.)

Rosuto Rowaiyaru (Lost Royale, Great Magazine, 1998). Kana and a friend, Iwasaki, are coming out of the local kendo dojo one night when they encounter Touma staring into a police car and wondering if he could get a ride in it. Iwasaki needs a ride to get to the hospital, and the cops also training at the center offer to help out the three kids. At the hospital, they find a strange Frenchman threatening Iwasaki's bedridden grandfather regarding the whereabouts of a mythical 7th Bugatti Royale. Ettore Bugatti had produced 6 of the Royale monster cars (21 feet long and 7000 pounds each) between 1927 and 1933, initially only for royalty, but there were only 3 buyers then, in the middle of the Great Depression. Old man Iwasaki had gone to a French museum with "proof" that a 7th Royale exists, but then collapsed and now refuses to tell anyone where the car is. When the Frenchman leaves, the old man tells his granddaughter to believe in him, so Kana forces Touma to figure out all the details.


(At home in Touma's apartments. Top panel: The chief suspect.)

Turns out that old man Iwasaki's best friend is/was the CEO of a department store chain, and is an avid car collector. Kana and her friend think that this CEO stole the Bugatti, but his cars are available to the public to view, and he specifically states that there is no such thing as the 7th Royale. Kana and Iwasaki do a lot of sneaking around and trespassing in an attempt to find the car on their own, but they fail. Touma visits the old man in the hospital, who gives him a hint - "The Treasure of Troy". The questions raised are, how can there be a 7th Royale if only 6 were built? Where did the old man find it? How does the smuggling of Heinrich Schliemann's Trojan treasures into Russia at the end of WW II relate to the Royale? Why would an old friend betray someone over a car like this? And where do you hide a 21-foot-long, 7000 pound car, anyway?

No real science in this chapter either, but there is a detailed discussion of Buggati Motors, and some cultural information regarding Troy.

Comments: In the early books, Kana is shown to have quite a few friends, while a lot of effort is put into demonstrating that Touma is an outsider that virtually no one else wants to associate with. Which actually works to Sou's benefit, because it gives him more time to do the stuff that he actually enjoys. Recommended.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Dream Jam Husk




I'd written about Dream Jam back in February. It was a karaoke studio that had become mostly abandoned, with just a hair stylist on the 2nd floor. Work started in May to tear the building down, Japanese-style (meaning "slowly").



Parking elevator shaft. A lot of the metal has pretty much rusted through.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Cider Madoka Majica



(Front and back of the can.)

Mitsuya Cider (apple soda) has teamed up with Madoka Majica to have 3-4 designs on the cans. Nothing on either of the 2 websites showing the full set of designs, though. Found at Lawson's, for 140 yen per 500 ml can.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Morinaga anime

The Japanese candy company, Morinaga, is celebrating the 100th anniversary of its milk caramels by partnering with Studio 4℃ to present a 2-minute anime short. The only reason I know about it is that the Asahi newspaper ran an article on it on their website. The short is basically an extended ad for the caramels, so the newspaper article is like free advertising for the ad. In any case, the character designs are nice to look at, the backgrounds are good, and animation is fairly fluid. It's worth watching once.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Sao Bar




Sao Bar is at the south end of Tenmonkan. It's a typical bar, but I like the dragon in the name.



Monday, June 24, 2013

Kitaro DVD Review, vol. 2



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

Volume 2 of the Gegege no Kitaro TV series DVD set is now out. As with vol. 1, we get a 38-page magazine and the DVD (details below).



There's a pull out poster at the front of the magazine, and the back cover shows the full images of both the front and back of the poster.



Kitaro's father, Medamaoyaji (Old Man Eyeball), is the featured character this time. There's comparative artwork from the original manga, and the 70's series. In the manga, Kitaro was abandoned as a baby. He was thrown into a cemetery, where he hit a gravestone face-first and damaged his left eye. Elsewhere, a mummy-like yokai husband and his yokai wife were suffering from a disintegrating disease that kills the wife and is threatening the husband's life. The two had wanted a child, and the husband puts all his life-force into his own left eye. The eye falls to the floor and begins crawling to be near Kitaro. Eventually, the eye takes up residence in Kitaro's empty eye socket and the two become family.


(Nekomata)

There are 4 full-page yokai descriptions: Ashimagari (Foot Impeder), Moryo (Corpse Inhabiter), Nekomata (Forked-Tail Cat) and Akaname (Filth Licker). Each of them are traditional Japanese monsters, but given a Mizuki spin. For Nekomata, the legend goes that when a cat gets really old, it can become a bake-neko, or demon cat, and it's tail will split in two. They can then walk and dance on two legs, and manipulate the dead like puppets.



The majority of the magazine is dedicated to summarizing the DVD episodes. This time, we have Ashimagari (Foot Impeder, 11/4/71), Shijin Tsuki (Corpse User, 11/11/71), Nekomata (Forked-Tailed Cat, 11/18/71), Manmosufurawa- (Mammoth Flower, 11/25/71) and Kami-sama (Mr. Hair, 12/2/71). Plus, there's the second half of the Mizuki interview. One nice addition to the magazine this time is a fold out schedule of the upcoming DVD releases, listing each of the episodes, the original TV air dates, and the names of the yokai debuting in each episode. And, it turns out that while the advertising talks about the series only including the 1971-72 season, that only spans 45 shows. So, DVD volumes 1-11 cover 1971-72; then, volumes 12-27 will have the 65 episodes of the earlier black and white '68-'69 season.

The artwork and stories from the 70's season really are campy, and the animation is a bit limited, but it's still fun to watch. Recommended.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

T-Shirts




There's a shop near Tenmonkan that has displays advertising some of their t-shirt and coffee cup designs. Two of the designs caught my eye.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Q.E.D. volume 1 review

Technically, you could say that it would have made more sense for me to start reviewing Q.E.D. from volume 1 to begin with, rather than jumping around like I have. Would it help if I said that I had a perfectly good motive for my behavior? Thought not. Not that it really matters. When I stopped using Manga Fox 1.5 years ago, the first 10-12 volumes had been fan scanilated. Since I'd already read them in English, I didn't see much point to doing it all over again in Japanese. And, as I'd mentioned in the review of book 31, I was getting the used manga just to see if the series had ended yet. But, over time I've come to like the science parts, and the used books are cheap, so I decided I'd get the first 10, both for the Japanese reading practice, and to see just how accurate, or not, the fan translations are (it's a mixed bag on that count). And, since I have them, I might as well mention them here as I go along.

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

Q.E.D., vol. 1, by Katou Motohiro. Grade: B



Mineruva no Fukurou (Minerva's Owl, Great Magazine, 1997). Being the first story in the series, obviously this is where most of the introductions take place. Sou Touma first shows up in a game center, where he makes enemies by defeating everyone in the shop at a specific game mainly because he can predict their moves by reading their faces. Tomboy Kana Mizuhara steps in to protect him from being attacked by an angry game opponent, but her friend, Noriko, tells her to keep away from the boy because he's a weirdo that's transferred to their school to adapt to life in Japan. Touma has lived in the U.S. for years, and apparently graduated from MIT, the school that churns out Nobel Prize winners. Since the trains have stopped running, Noriko begs to stay at Kana's house for the night. Then she gets a phonecall telling her to rush to the AKS Game Development company. There, she learns that her father, the AKS president, has been murdered. Kana sees her father, a Tokyo police detective, coming into the building, and she tries to follow him, but is stymied by the electronic key lock. Touma reinforces his image as a weirdo by shaving a pencil with his pocket knife as Kana fumes. However, when he blows the graphite dust on the keypad, it sticks to the oils on three of the keys and the two of them hack the lock very quickly. From here, we get to see that Det. Mizuhara is a hardnosed cop who can follow the easy clues, but is desperate for Touma's help to connect the dots on the harder cases.


(Touma acts as Nero Wolfe, while Kana plays Archie and does all the footwork. Touma doesn't wear glasses in later chapters.)

This first story is a straightforward locked-room mystery, and Touma relies heavily on high-tech gear to gather information, including the wire that Kana wears while interviewing people, and a modified cellphone circuit for plugging into AKS' network for hacking into the servers. We also get to see his den in an expensive highrise, which is a library packed floor to ceiling with books. As for Kana, she is portrayed as being loyal to her friends and insanely strong (stomping on some tiles of the school roof and pulverizing them). Her father is something of a buffoon, and we actually get to see her mother here a little bit. The artwork is erratic, with Touma looking really young in one panel, and almost adult-like in another. There are a lot of throwaway gags, but some emotional scenes as well. Finally, there's not that much in the way of science or background exposition this time. We're given one hint - Minerva's Owl, but that just turns out to be a reference to The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury. This is one of the few, if not the only, stories that incorporates a "dying message" cliche.




Gin no Hitomi (Gold Pupil, Great Magazine, 1998). Kana starts out narrating this chapter, further emphasizing that Touma is a weirdo who likes to hide up on the roof of the school. She states specifically here that he'd graduated from MIT at age 14. She's rounding up classmates to visit an art museum where her childhood friend, Suzu, is running the sign-in at the door. The exhibit consists of lifelike dolls crafted by Suzu's mother. An unscrupulous collector attempts to steal one of the dolls by framing a classmate, but Touma quickly catches him. The collector leaves but vows to get all of the dolls one day. Some time passes, and Suzu's mother succumbs to heart failure. Suzu, her boyfriend and the collection's caretaker then receive some unwanted news - the hated collector had used a shell company to donate money to the museum and he now owns close to 50% of the property. The guy shows up to gloat. He's soon found dead in the middle of a room next to a lifesized doll, and Suzu, her boyfriend (whose company was owned by the collector) and the caretaker are the only suspects.


(Kana, all-round acrobat.)

Kana's house is next door to the the museum, so she drags Touma over to spy on the police, and unsuccesfully tries to avoid getting caught by her father - they get locked in the room next to the one used for interrogations. Touma figures things out pretty fast, and is eventually allowed to help Det. Mizuhara solve the case. There's a little bit of science and exposition this time, mostly revolving around the history of the 9-tailed fox (a pattern embroidered on the doll's kimono) , the effects of static electricity on pacemakers, and the theory behind the Leyden Jar. We also get to see Kana in action as an acrobat. She is established as an excellent athlete and kendo artist pretty early on in the series.

Comments: The character designs are rather unpolished, and Kana and Touma look pretty young in this book as compared to later on in the series. The first two stories are essentially locked room murders, and everything revolves around very contrived tricks. The backgrounds are often quite detailed, but the characters look static and frozen in various poses. The artist never does figure out how to draw fluid motion ala Akihiro Ito (Geobreeders). But, all of the main pieces for his stories are in place, including the two principle characters, the two-chapter per book format, and the use of the Q.E.D. gimmick to show that the reader has all of the clues for solving the mystery on their own. Not great stuff, but still entertaining. Recommended.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Q.E.D. volume 20 review

(All rights belong to their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)
Q.E.D., vol. 20, by Katou Motohiro. Grade: B



Mugen no Tsuki (Infinite Moon). Fuu Jia Hoi was a high school classmate of Touma's and initially had been part of a 3-man gang that had bullied the boy just to see why Touma never got angry with them. Since Fuu would have continued to bully him anyway, Touma simply put up with it. Eventually, Fuu realized that he was dealing with a kindred spirit and they became more-or-less friends. However, while Touma focused on math, which Fuu said made him a romantic, the taller boy was more of a cynic, which is why he wanted to become a doctor. One of Fuu's obsessions was with the concept of infinity, as embodied in Georg Cantor's idea of aleph-null, which allows theorists to assign sizes to infinite sets within set theory (that is, if the set of all natural numbers is called S0, then S1 = 2 * S0 will be twice as large. Even though both sets are infinite, S1 grows faster than S0.) Phi, which represents an empty set, for a doctor, would have the meaning of "death".

The story jumps between Touma's time with Fuu, and the present. In the present, a Chinese police detective arrives in Japan to enlist Touma's help in solving the murder of one of the 4 big Chinese crime lords. He, Kana and Kana's father are flown to Shanghai, where the Chinese detective fills them in on the results of various investigations. Over the course of a few days, all 4 crime lords turn up dead. Three of them were shot and dumped in the ocean a month earlier, and the fourth is found in an apartment building, the body burned to a crisp. From the questioning of various informants, it seems that crime lord #1 was killed by #2, #2 by #3, #3 by #4 and #4 by #1, in an infinite loop. The reason Touma was contacted is that one common factor is Fuu, and he had sent an email to the boy saying "meet me at phi". So, where is "phi", how could a dead man kill someone else to create the infinite loop, why doesn't Touma help the police, and why would a medical student desperate to save lives be involved in Chinese crime?




Tabouna Enari-san (The Busy Ms. Enari). In many ways, this story is a departure from the regular format. First, it's broken up into two parts, the puzzle, and the solution. Second, it's told from the point of view of Himeko Enari, the arrogant female president of the high school's detective club. It starts out with Himeko, self-nicknamed Ellery Queen ("Himeko" can translate to "princess", so Princess Enari = Enari Queen) becoming offended at "that person's" (i.e. - Touma) telling her to rethink her conclusion. We then get a flashback to a family dinner, where her grandmother, Hinae, a former club singer, is hosting her 70th birthday party at her home. It seems that Hinae, a widow, has been dating a new man, and several of her adult children are afraid that they'll lose out on the inheritance if she remarries. Himeko, an aspiring detective, figures that the person most likely to turn violent and hurt someone to prevent the marriage is a cousin, Shinichi. Himeko forces the other two members of her club, who are both inept, to help her prevent a crime. Since this gets her nowhere, she latches onto the gorilla-strong Kana, and her "weird little friend", Touma as well.

During the course of her investigations, there's a second-floor window that becomes mysteriously unlocked and thrown open, Hinae's boyfriend is attacked after a dinner date, three identical dolls are found in a cabinet, a gift box of Chinese snacks is sitting on a shelf even though the date to Yokohama's Chinatown is called off, a shadowy figure is spotted outside the house, and the team succeeds in thwarting Shinichi's attack on Hinae's life. Obviously, Shinichi is the villian, so why does Touma say her reasoning is off?

Normally, I don't give away any spoilers because I'm assuming that someone may want to search out these volumes themselves and read them cover to cover. But I want to illustrate the nature of the crimes in Q.E.D., and this is a good example, without being all that important to the series as a whole.

As the story progresses, we see Hinae walking through the city, or living at home. When she passes a fish vendor, he asks if she's going to buy something else today. During the birthday party, she talks to her boyfriend on a cell phone, then later gets an email canceling the Yokohama trip. When an incoming call causes the main landline phone to ring, she complains that she stopped answering it because it's always advertising calls. When Himeko visits to act as a bodyguard, there's a banging sound on the second floor, and Hinae says she never goes up there because she has bad knees. Himeko rushes upstairs and finds someone lurking outside, but the stranger disappears before he can be caught. That night, Hinae goes on her date, and Himeko follows. Himeko confronts the boyfriend after the meal, and the next morning he calls from the hospital because he was assaulted. Himeko visits her grandmother again, and finds her collapsed on the floor. She's helped to a taxi for an appointment, and Himeko returns to the house to discover the landline phone answering machine has a threatening message demanding money right away. Finally, the group spies on Hinae as she happily gets into a taxi the next day, and Touma grabs a second taxi to follow the first. They see Shinichi on a motorcycle weaving past them through traffic, so Touma, realizing that both cabs are from the same company, has his driver radio dispatch to find out where the other car is heading to. They get to a river, and find Shinichi demanding more money to cover his gambling debts. Hinae refuses to cave in so the man attempts to kill her with a bat. Touma intervenes, and Kana rushes in to use a judo throw on the guy. End of story, right?

Ok, ignoring the fact that Touma was smashed in the face with the club and still shows up at Hinae's house for the big reveal having no bruising or cuts... Everything revolves around motive. Why did the fish seller say "here again?" and why was the second floor window open? - Hinae can't cook. She'd burned the fish earlier that day, and opened the window to let the smoke out. She didn't say anything because it was embarrassing and she then called her boyfriend to have him take her out to eat instead.

Next clues - why would Hinae write down the details of her conversations in a notebook, and why did she have three ways of conversing with people - the land phone, the cell phone and text messaging? Answer, she is dating three men simultaneously. Each of the three discovered the others, which is why one was assaulted, and another was looking through the window. The three dolls indicate that she always asked for the same presents from each boyfriend to make it easier to remember what she got. The Chinatown gift came from boyfriend 1 while it was boyfriend 2 that cancelled out. She collapsed the one time because boyfriend 2 learned about #3 and broke up with her. She went to the river to meet boyfriend 3, who also broke up with her. So, due to Himeko's meddling, Hinae survived Shinichi's attack, but none of her dates want to see her again. When Himeko asks why her grandmother did this, Hinae answers that to Himeko, she's "grandmother", to her son she's "mother" and to her dead husband she was "wife". But to herself, she's still "me". The story ends with a close-up of a photo from when she was a beautiful young club singer, with 10 guys all trying to fit into the shot.

Comments: Q.E.D. isn't perfect. As a mystery series, what's really missing in most cases is an early explanation of the motive. While Touma can piece that together from the clues, it generally seems to be an afterthought to the reader. Often, too, the story ends with a focus on the feelings of some incidental character, while leaving several loose ends flapping in the breeze. And, there's no call back to the story's opening scene. As an example, in The Busy Ms. Enari, we're never told if Himeko learns from this experience, or if she disbands her detective club. But still, any manga that can talk about Georg Cantor and Ellery Queen between the same covers is still interesting to me. Recommended if you like bits of science with your corpses.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Kagoshima Bijin Tokei




I first learned about the bijin tokei project (beautiful woman clock) about 4 years ago when I was still working in Akihabara. The idea was to take photos of women holding a sign showing the time, with each woman representing 3 or 4 times each, and then use software to display the correct photo on your computer. Since then, there have also been bidan tokei (handsome men), and city-specific clocks for Osaka, Kyoto, Shibuya and even Hawai'i. I'd heard from someone that a maid cafe clock was being shot in Akihabara, but I haven't been able to find it with a google search. In any case, a couple months ago, I stumbled across a bijin tokei photo shoot in Tenmonkan in Kagoshima, but it was just wrapping up. So, I knew that something was going on here, too. Then, on May 18, I saw a TV crew interviewing a photographer and some support staff in Tenmonkan. Nearby, a young woman was writing the time and putting in doodles on a blackboard. I hung around to ask what the URL was for the clock, but the bijin crew ignored me. Instead, I waited for them to set up in a side street and took a few quick shots before anyone could object.



Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Moyashimon Cover




Time for a little backtracking. First, the Moyashimon "mini-poster" from the bookstore raffle. The sheet is on really thin paper, so it's not good as a poster, but it's too big to be simply slid into a clear folder. The store supplied it rolled up in a cylinder, and I was debating whether I should fold it in half and risk devaluing it later as a collector's item. So, it sat on the floor next to my bed for several days. As I looked at it, trying to decide what to do with it, the thought kept crossing my mind that maybe I could use it as a book cover. Eventually, I decided, "sure, why not". Turns out that this is exactly what it is for. It fits over volume 12 of the manga absolutely perfectly.



Next, are these origami cranes. When I went to Izumi to watch the cranes nesting for the winter, in February, the friendly staff at the Izumi crane museum gave me a small packet containing 2 patterned sheets of origami paper plus instructions for making an origami crane.  It took me until May to get around to folding them. The thought never occurred to me to draw pictures of cranes on the paper before folding it, so I think it's a pretty cool effect. I had a lot of trouble following the instructions on the first crane, so it's a good thing that the paper is really durable.



Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Kiri-e 3


On May 19, one of the local cultural groups had it's second kiri-e (cut paper pictures) class for the year. Previous venues have been at the San-El building, and the Mirai-kan (environmental museum). This time, it was at the Kankou Kouryuu Center, located in the main tourist information buildin just east of the Chuo train station along Napoli Douri. 300 yen ($3 USD) participation fee to cover the costs of materials. The instructor in all classes is a junior high rugby coach that likes doing kiri-e for relaxation.



At the beginning of the class, I asked where the instructor gets his patterns from. Turns out that there are as many styles of kiri-e as there are practitioners. Our instructor goes to the library and copies pages of a specific artist that he likes. Later, I went to the Kinokuniya bookstore, and went through about 30 books to see if I could find the same artist. I couldn't, but there were some books that look really challenging (half were simple patterns for young children, and a quarter were of pop-up greeting cards).

In the last class, the organizer had said that this one was going to be targeted at beginner and intermediate students, with some patterns too difficult to finish in one sitting. But, the instructor had mostly the same patterns as in the previous classes. He did locate copies of one sheet that he said would be challenging, and gave it to me and one other student. This time, the class was made up of primarily foreigners, with some Filipino women I know, and some new people from Germany and Canada. I was kind of antisocial during the 3-hour class because I really did want to try to finish before time ran out. I got really close, but at 4:30 PM, every one got up to have their pictures taken with their works. When I did get the main image pasted to the backing sheet, all of the other kiri-e were packed up, so I couldn't take photos of them myself.  All that's missing below are the paper strips representing falling rain.



The paper is still damp from the glue, which is why it looks a little lumpy. I'd asked the instructor about where to get kiri-e supplies, since most stationery shops don't actually carry cotton-fiber colored paper. He mentioned Shinpuku; the main outlet store is only 2 blocks away from the tourist information center. I plan on adding the rain drops at home.

After the class ended, everyone sat around and discussed life in Kagoshima over snacks, coffee and cold tea. Definitely a good time overall.  The next kiri-e class will be in July.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Hideyo Noguchi Postage Stamps




Hideyo Noguchi was a Japanese bacteriologist. He's credited with discovering the agent cause of syphilis, but the majority of his research, especially on yellow fever, was eventually debunked. He's still identified as one of Japan's best researchers, but also acts as a cautionary tale against chasing a goal while excluding contradictory evidence.



Japan Post released this new set of stamps on May 31st. A sheet of ten 80 yen stamps is 800 yen ($8 USD).

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Pen Magazine, Shojo Manga Article


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

Pen, along with Brutus and Switch, is one of the three men's magazines that occasionally dedicates half an issue to anime- or manga-related topics. The most recent Pen story had been on Cyborg 009 and the remake movie (Re)Cyborg. This June, the editors decided to open up the world of shojo manga to its male audience, in the form of a historical recap and overview of important titles. The cover illustration is from The Rose of Versailles, a girl's story set during the French Revolution, and heavily influenced by the all-female musical Takarazuka Revue.


(Tezuka's Ribbon Knight.)

The first article is an 8-page photo essay on Tezuka and Ribon no Kishi (Ribbon Knight), which had appeared in Shojo Friend, while a remake ran in Shojo Club. This is followed by 8 pages on Rose of Versailles, 6 pages on Suzue Miyuchi's Glass Mask, and 6 pages on Ryoko Yamagishi's Hi Izuru Tokorono Tenshi (Emperor of the Land of the Rising Sun). Additional shorter pieces cover The Poe Family and Patalliro! There are 12 pages on additional assorted shojo manga like Sailor Moon, Banana Fish, Basara and Nodame Cantabile.

(Glass Mask)

This is followed by 2 pages of live-action adaptations of shojo manga for TV and the big screen, a timeline of girls magazines and a 6-page interview with Teruhisa Saji, editor Nobumasa Konagai, Producer Yoshio Irie, and Director Kazuo Mori. Finally, we get 18 pages of sample artwork collected into headings like Heroine, Step, Dialog, Situation and Heartthrob (a lot of the art here is sex-related).


Overall this issue of Pen is an excellent introduction to the history of shojo manga, and is recommended to anyone that is interested in manga history as a whole. Cover price: 600 yen, including sales tax.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Q.E.D. volume 17 review

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

Q.E.D., vol. 17, by Katou Motohiro. Grade: B



Saiyaku no Otoko no Saiyaku (The Worst Man's Worst). There is a character that pops up in the Q.E.D. universe occaionally. He's Alan Bred, president of Alan Soft software. (I'm guessing at the romanization of his last name. In romaji, it's Bureedo, - "Bred" or "Bread". He's kind of a parody of Bill Gates)  He's attempted before to get Touma to join his company, and this time he's desperate to find someone brilliant willing to put up with him. He tasks his assistant, Elly Francis, with sending out invitations to his primary targets in a game of burglary. The guest list includes Kana and Touma, Loki and Eva Sukta, Ryu Han and Elliot Web. Ryu heads a software conglomerate that competes directly with Alan Soft, and Elliot is a world-renowned hacker that had gotten caught and used by the FBI to capture other hackers. Ryu, Elliot, Loki and Touma have all been assaulted by Alan before, and each has turned him down. This time, Alan proposes a game at his South Seas private island. There are 4 cabins, plus the main mansion. Each of the principals is given a suitcase by Elly containing $100,000 USD. At the end of the 4-day stay, whoever fails to return their suitcase must work for him. Touma and Loki are in one cabin, Eva and Kana in another, and Ryu and Elliot each have their own places. After the first night, both Loki's and Touma's suitcases disappear. A search is made of their cabin, plus the women's, and the main mansion - the missing cases aren't found. The next night, Elliot's vanishes, and the night after, so does Ryu's. By the final day, Alan is furious at not being able to find any of the cases, and everyone else pleads innocence. Since no one else is on the island and there's no other hiding places, who's taken all the money?



Inuhoosuke (Black Nightshade). Kana's police detective father is tasked by some movie fan in the department with providing security on a movie set. Basically, this means keeping autograph-seeking fans away from the star actors. The main cast consists of notorious womanizer Toujiyaku Karasawa, aging beauty Harueyaku Misaki, Misaki's beautiful daughter Natsuki Kojima, and the hard-nosed director Kazumasa Oosawa. Plus the regular production crew, including prop master Yanagisawa. When Yanagisawa finds a loose strand of hair on Misaki's outfit, he pockets it after taking a long whiff of it. He has a shrine in his apartment plastered with posters from her various movies and is very jealous of Karasawa. Some time ago. Karasawa and Misaki were engaged to be married, but Misaki called it off for some reason. Natsuki is going to have her acting debut in this film, and currently she looks just like her mother did 20 years ago. When she exits her trailer to join the set, Karasawa tries to ask her on a date. The director, watching all this, has picked the cast specifically for its history and current chemistry. He's even written a scene specifically where a drunken Karasawa tries to assault Natsuki, thinking that she's Misaki. The director later says that he'd certainly kill anyone that interferes with one of his films.



Anyway, in the final scene, Oosawa shows Misaki how to lean in with a prop knife as she kills her ex-lover. He gives her the knife, the cameras start running, she does the scene exactly as instructed, and both Karasawa and Misaki fall to the ground. Oosawa yells "cut", but neither actor moves. Turns out the knife is real, Karasawa is dead, and Misaki has passed out in shock. Both Kana and her father try to question the cast and production staff, but they make no progress. The prop knife had been on a table in front of Oosawa and in full view of the staff. There was never an opportunity to switch it, outside of when Oosawa and Misaki were handling it, and after the murder the prop couldn't be found. Later, when everyone else goes into the screening room to watch the rushes, Yanagisawa locks himself in the editing room to do some final work (the editing room is actually several stacked movie set panels in one corner of the set stage, and the sliding door is blocked by a table if the person inside doesn't want to be disturbed.) After the screening, Yanagisawa doesn't respond, and Touma is the only one light enough to climb over the wall to get inside to move the table out of the way. When the door is opened, Yanagisawa is revealed to have cut his throat with a box cutter; on the table in front of him, under the blood splatter, is the missing prop knife and a note confessing that he was the one to switch knives. Without any other evidence, Yanagisawa is identified as the culprit, who had then committed suicide in a locked room. After the movie comes out in the theaters, a special version is screened to fuel rumors that Misaki is the guilty party, based on her grin as she stabs Karasawa. Touma finally decides that now is the time to tell everyone what had really happened during the filming.



Comments: This isn't one of the stronger volumes. One of the "rules" in mystery writing is that the protagonist isn't supposed to be the criminal. Motohiro breaks this rule occasionally, so Saiyaku no Otoko no Saiyaku is treated more for laughs than anything else. Inuhoosuke has kind of a plot hole, in that the motive for Yanagisawa's death is never fully justified. But, overall, this volume is as entertaining as any of the early Ellery Queen stories. Recommended.


(As mentioned before, Motohiro embeds the Q.E.D. letters in the manga after Touma does his recap of the important clues to the case. This is to encourage the readers to develop their own answers before the big reveal.)

Friday, June 14, 2013

Q.E.D. volume 11 review

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

What the heck. I've got some free time, Book Off is just a 5 minute walk from the apartment, and Q.E.D. isn't that bad of a series. The first 20 books are only 105 yen each ($1.10 USD), so I'll probably keep buying them. Book Off doesn't have the complete set though, so I'll be picking them up out of sequence.



Q.E.D., vol. 11, by Katou Motohiro. Grade: B-
There's not much new to say about the series as a whole. The artwork is pretty much tweaked by book 11, so the characters you see now are more-or-less the same all the way up to volume 36. There is some aging going on over the 16 years that the series has been running, but it's still very gradual. The two stories this time had run in Magazine Great in 2001, and were published in book form in Nov. of that year.



Yorube no Umi (A Sea to Depend On). The story starts out with a faceless man writing a confession letter in front of a computer. As detailed in the letter, there's a flashback to a scene 40 years earlier, when 4 kids dared each other to swim out to a tiny island, called Horse Rock, 2 kilometers away, in the dead of night. Three of them make it to the island, and then started wondering what happened to the fourth. Later, the missing boy's body turns up on a beach downshore, and the kid's father demands to know what happened, but the remaining three keep their mouths shut. Back in the present, Kana and Touma's school class have a field trip to the same beach, but Kana is confused. She'd told her father about the trip, and he reminisced about the soft sand and quiet surf. What she's seeing now is a tourist resort with food stalls, a yacht harbor, and big waves. A local security officer tells them that the yacht harbor went up a few years earlier, bringing in extra business, and the construction ended up changing the undertow currents and water salinity, making the waves stronger.



Kana overhears a conversation between two men that had received a strange letter talking about someone wanting to confess about the "accident" 40 years ago. One, Saburo, is angry about this distraction from his own family and a possible promotion to school principal. The other, Koukichi, is equally concerned, but more willing to talk to the dead boy's father, Naito (his son was Ryuusuke). The remaining guy, Kazuaki, hasn't shown up at the beach yet. That night, Koukichi is found near Horse Rock, drowned. The next night, Kazuaki disappears. While the police search the waters for his body, Naito is seen chasing Saburo with a sickle in what appears to be a murder attempt. So, who wrote the letter, and what really happened that night so long ago?



Fuyu no Doubutsuen (Winter Zoo). Kana finds a manuscript that's been dropped in front of a book kiosk, and Touma determines who the owner is. The unkempt man reclaims it and on hearing Touma's explanatory deduction, declares him the greatest boy detective in Japan. In the next scene, the man's ghost is hovering over a dead body placed inside a lion's cage, and he blames everything on the corpse. Kana's father is called to investigate the death, and it's determined that the body is of an editor at the publisher the unkempt author was going to visit, and he'd died of hypothermia. It's in the middle of winter now, and the assumption is that the editor had gotten drunk, climbed into the cage, and froze in his sleep. The problem is that the groundskeeper had driven by at 5 AM, and he claims the cage was empty at that time. 10 minutes later, on his return trip, he saw the body and called the police. One of the CSI experts notices a bite mark on the back of the editor's neck, and a zookeeper says it matches the Japanese ringed grass snake (yamakagashi). The grass snake is poisonous, but doesn't have fangs. It's an egg eater, and the only way it could have struck the victim is if someone else held it against the guy's neck. So, this is obviously a murder case, but there's no way the murder could have happened within the 10 minutes between the groundskeeper's rounds, and a search of the grounds fails to yield up the snake. Additionally, the would-be author is later discovered to have committed suicide by jumping off the roof of his apartment building. As the case drags on, the ghost of the author tries to find ways of communicating with his potential savior - the boy detective he met earlier.

Comments: Overall, the two stories are pretty convoluted. There's a lot of misdirection, and I have trouble figuring out along the way who-dunnit, partly because the actual killer is too obvious and the main motive doesn't get explained until the end. Generally, the stories have a very logical explanation, and there's some science or math involved in the lead-up. Which is why Winter Zoo is a bit jarring, with the ghost of the victim trying to talk to Touma through Kana. This story doesn't really fit in with the rest of the series, especially when compared to the second half of the volumes (issues 20 on up). Otherwise, it's recommended if you like mysteries.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Doraemon Postage Stamps




Doraemon is the latest of Japan Post's Anime Heroes. Released on June 4th. A sheet of ten 80 yen stamps is 800 yen ($8 USD).