Thursday, October 31, 2019

Oct. 31

Final comments. I had an English lesson in the middle of the afternoon, and when I was done, I decided to walk up to Amu Plaza just on the off-chance that there might be something going on in the evening. Instead, I found all the craft and jewelry tables moved out, and the big trucks in to start putting up the annual Christmas decorations. I went into the basement of Amu, and the Kaldi import store had also gotten rid of their Halloween chocolate displays and replaced them with winter stuff (powdered coffees, sugar cookies, etc.) A few stores in the area still had their decorations out at the fronts of the shops, but all of the seasonal things they sold had been switched over.  Effectively, Halloween had been exorcised before the morning of the 31st had even started.

I had another class in the evening, and when that finished at 8 PM, I walked up to Streetcar Street, and cut through Tenmonkan. I did encounter 20-25 people in costumes (zombie nurses, zombie school girls, zombie characters from Gin-Tama) walking around outside, but there didn't seem to be anywhere for them to go. They were kind of gravitating towards the red light district, so maybe there was still one bar running a Halloween party, but that was it for this year.

This has been a real major let-down since the big dance party at Amu Plaza 3 years ago. Sigh.

I have little hope for anything good this winter/Christmas, either.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Heppy Halloween

Parking Zone

Japan preparing for Halloween.

Public broom parking.


Chocolate-filled pretzel sticks.

Cut slits on the ghost and slip it onto a straw for your orange juice. This won't work if you try to drink juice through a Toppo stick.

Bridal House Roppongi

When you want a drop-dead wedding.

Shiro Chalk Board

"Let's patty."

Trombone Coffee Shop

Nothing says "Halloween" like candy canes.

Hungry Ghost

KFC is 100% "Made in Japan"

Spooky, babies!

Happy Sugar

Not really Halloweeny, but undead is good.

Starring You

Perfect timing, to star in a horror movie.
That make-up is ghastly, babies.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Oct. 25 Batch of Anime Movie Fliers

Doraemon Contest

I was up at Amu Plaza, visiting the movie theater on the top floor, and the flier for the Dec. 16 release of the new Lupin III movie caught my eye. I figured I might as well get the other anime fliers at the same time (to act as protection to keep the Lupin one from getting crinkled in my backpack).

First up, another drawing contest for Doraemon. For this one, children are to draw their ideas for new kinds of dinosaurs.

Suggestions are for jet cars, dolphin hybrids and tapioca drinks.


Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata, AKA "How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend."

Based on a light novel series, turned into manga and then a TV series in 2017. The movie features the original voice actors reprising their earlier roles. A high school otaku works with two female friends (an artist and a game designer) to create a video game that features an attractive, but ignored, classmate as the "heroine" of the game.


Yuri (lesbian) series about a girl that can freeze time for three minutes a day, and the girl immune to her powers. Almost nothing on this either in the wiki page, or the English publisher Seven Seas website.

Lupin III The First

Forty years of Lupin, from Castle Cagliostro to today, have not prepared you for the first CG Lupin, in which he tries to uncover the legacy of his grandfather, Lupin I.

Check out the trailer.

I may have to see this one in the theater.


You probably know more about this one than I do.

Starting another life in a different world.

Seven Days War

Anime based on the live-action movie, Seven Days War, pits high school kids against the adults in a social satire rebellion. The new film moves the action to Hokkaido.

Red drops on pure snow.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Namaiki Voice Art Fair, Oct. 28

I keep feeling like I'm in rant mode lately. The current topic is how Halloween celebrations have gotten so pathetic in Kagoshima over the last couple of years. Three years ago, there was a big dance party in the open space in front of Amu Plaza. Live DJ, radio personalities, lots of food and drinks tables, and make-up artists. It was a fun time. The following year, less music, no personalities, still food, drink and make-up tables. Last year, no music, no party, one make-up table, things shut down at 8 PM, but there was still a Halloween parade in the store for children on Sunday morning.

This year, the only thing on the weekend of the 26th and 27th was the Namaiki Voice Art Fair, which is kind of an amateur contest for artists, with judging and some stage events to introduce children to the artists, or something. At its heart, the fair was just a way to get people to buy paintings and jewelry, but from what little I saw, everyone was mostly window shopping. I hung around on Sunday just long enough to take 3 photos, then left.

The only thing Halloween-related according to the Amu events page is a 2-week shopping campaign. Spend a certain amount of money and you get entered in a drawing for coupons worth up to 15,000 yen ($135 USD, one winner). That's it. There's nothing even mentioned for a children's costume parade this time.

Nothing advertised where I could see it for a children's parade in Tenmonkan. There was a little bit in Maruya Gardens, mainly shopping sales, and something for kids (I didn't look closely for the details). Most of the advertised parties are on college campuses for university students, and a few bars in the red light district. On Sunday afternoon, I saw two university-aged girls with zombie make-up walking through Temonkan, maybe going to a bar or something, and one guy in a Spiderman outfit, walking with two friends not in costume.

Maybe something else will go on Oct. 31st night, but I'm not holding out any hope.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Wicky's Anisong Poster, Sept. 15

Last month's poster advertising anisong night at Wicky's House.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Horned Beetles

One day, towards the end of summer, I found these horned beetles on a park bench near the apartment. I was pretty excited to see real beetles, but they turned out to just be empty shells.

No idea how they got there.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Q.E.D. iff volume 12 review

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

Q.E.D. iff, vol. 12, by Katou Motohiro. Grade: B

1 Oku en to Tabisuru Otoko (The Wanderer with 100,000,000 yen, Shonen Magajin R, 2019)
One night, a police patrol car finds an old man wandering the streets in his pajamas. The officers ask to look in the bag he's carrying, and find 100,000,000 yen in wrapped stacks of bills. 2 months later, Kana is called into a care center, where one of the female workers tells her about the man, and the fact that he has no memory. They've identified him as Tarou Urashima, age about 60. His address places him at a very expensive apartment complex (mansion) near the main train station. The worker says that the cause of memory loss is a car accident a long time ago. He'd been in a coma for years, and his wife, Naoko Urajima, had been caring for him, keeping him on an IV drip, and bringing in physical therapists to keep his body from atrophying. For some reason, Naoko kept the bag of money on the floor near the bed. When one therapist asked about that being safe, she replied that Tarou would need the money when he woke up. Three years ago, she was diagnosed with cancer, and then died the previous year. 2 months after her passing, Tarou woke up. Kana visits the man and asks if he remembers anything. He mentions a music box Naoko used to play next to his bed. He adds that in a dream, she told him to find Otoguchi.

Kana decides to learn more, and tries to enlist Touma's help. There's little on either Urashima online, but Touma does locate one Masaoshi Otoguchi - a prosecutor who handled a murder case 29 years ago. Turns out, the case involved Tarou Urashima. Kana goes to the library to look up old newspapers, discovering that Tarou had a hard upbringing. At age nine, both parents were killed in a car accident, and he was passed on to an alcoholic gambler uncle. When Tarou was old enough to find a job, the uncle would show up at the office demanding cash. He'd get into fights and expect Tarou to bail him out. When Tarou met and fell in love with Naoko, the uncle told Naoko's parents that he expected them to "treat him well." Eventually, someone broke into the uncle's apartment and stabbed him to death. He had plenty of enemies, but after one year, the prosecutor's office decided to arrest Tarou and charged him with the murder. Tarou and Naoko both claimed he was in Ehime at the time, but the prosecutor presented security camera video footage of Tarou getting out of his car at a coin parking lot next to the uncle's apartment.

The judges sentenced Tarou to 15 years for the crime, and added 3 years for lying about his whereabouts. Kana also talks to Tarou's defense lawyer, who adds that Tarou and Naoko had gotten married while he was still in jail. Kana does some more footwork, taking pictures of the area near the crime scene, which is unchanged from 30 years ago. Then she goes to the prosecutor's office to check their records. Problem is, there are no records. All of the files have been expunged. There is some information about when he was released, though. He was met by Naoko. Unfortunately, he apparently was unable to start a new life and committed suicide by hanging himself in the couple's apartment 4 years later. And, there's no information on Masaoshi Otoguchi starting from about 26 years ago.

Questions: Who is the old man, if he's not Tarou? Since Naoko knows who her husband is, where did the story of the suicide come from? Why did the police take 1 year to arrest Tarou for the murder of his uncle? Where did all the money come from? Why was the prosecutor able to break Tarou's alibi?

Science and math: Nothing.

***** Spoilers *****

The surveillance footage of the parking lot showed only one streetlight, and part of the claim against Tarou was that no one else was seen in the area that night, even though there was no lighting in front of the apartment. But, comparing Kana's picture of the coin parking lot in front of the apartment, and the video camera still, it's obvious that the street lights are in different locations. Conclusion? The prosecutor, Masaoshi Otoguchi, took the video footage at the lot in Ehime, and claimed that was actually from the Tokyo parking lot. Afterward, Masaoshi was found out by someone in his office, and all the evidence from the case destroyed to protect their reputation. Kana goes back to the old man, tells him what she's found (you're innocent of the crime, the prosecutor faked the evidence), and takes him to Naoko's grave. There, they spot the music box. Tarou takes the box to his apartment and plays it. At the end of the song, a little drawer pops open, revealing a piece of paper and a key.

Questions: What's on the paper? What does the key unlock? Has Touma been 100% truthful with Kana?

***** More Spoilers *****

Touma goes to the defense lawyer's home and makes him promise to complete silence about this case. Naoko knew that Tarou was innocent of the crime, because she'd been with him in Ehime, so the prosecutor must have faked the evidence. One night, she drugged Otoguchi, stuffed him in a car and drove him to her apartment, where she kept him doped up. The real Tarou got out of jail, couldn't take the strain and hung himself. Naoko kept tending to Otoguchi, eventually bringing in other therapists to maintain the illusion that this was Tarou after losing his memory from a car crash. When she knew she would die from cancer, she switched the IV bags so they were not drugged. The message for "Tarou" when he woke up was "look for yourself." The paper has his old address on it, and the key is for his door. Otoguchi finds his old apartment completely lined with photos and newspaper clippings documenting everything, and he goes insane. The money was the final twist of the knife - the government pays the wrongly accused a certain amount per day spent in jail, which Naoko calculated to be $1 million total for the time incapacitated. Money the government denied the real Tarou. Touma says that since the defense lawyer is the only one who still remembers what Tarou looked like, he wants to make sure Kana never learns what really happened at the end.

Note, 100,000,000 yen is about $1 million USD.

Memori (Memory Stick, Shonen Magajin R, 2019)
Fan Son was an international student at MIT when Touma was still there. He was a brilliant theoretical physics undergrad, but he tended to violence, and often relied on Touma to post his bail. At the time, he was working on 2-slit experiments, and couldn't figure out why the results weren't coming out right. Touma helped explain the problem, making him one of Fan's only friends. Fan was born in a Russian-controlled part of Korea, and grew up on a farm until showing his skills at math and winning international math competitions, which let him enroll in MIT. He had a younger sister, Fan Hai-shin, who was taken to China when she was very young when their parents broke up. Fan Son eventually left MIT and started working on quantum encryption (using quantum states of photons for password protecting encrypted data), and there's a very strong indication that he succeeded. Unfortunately, on one of his annual fishing trips to Alaska, his boat overturned and he died in the accident. Six months later, Touma receives a letter telling him to come to Alaska and not be late.

The caretaker of the cabin Fan stayed at says that a lot of strange men in dark suits and sunglasses have been in and out of the area, but whatever they were looking for, they didn't find it. Remembering the part about "don't be late," Touma notices a coo coo clock that has a front plate resembling the nearby window and mountain and tree outside. The clock hands point to the tree. Touma goes out, sees a cavity in the tree, and discovers the frog head memory stick keychain Fan always carried with him around his neck like a necklace ornament.

Back in Tokyo, Shunji Nashida, the Internal Affairs officer who had bumped elbows with Touma before, shows up at Touma's house, and says he knows the boy has Fan's memory card. It's well-known Fan had been working on quantum encryption as a hobby, and now China, Russia and the U.S. all want the card. Japan is caught in the middle of what looks like could turn into a diplomatic disaster. Touma says that the rightful owner is Fan Hai-shin, Son's only living relative, and that he'll give the card to her once DNA testing proves she's a true relative. The story jumps between two plot lines, the first being Touma's and Loki's interactions with Fan in MIT, and the other the current line with Touma and Kana trying to safely hide the memory stick. In the past, Fan was abusive and confrontational with everyone, and even setting up a deal with Russian agents to sell them research data. Loki hears a rumor that someone had seen Fan copying data off of Touma's laptop to the memory stick. Touma tells his friend to keep quiet about this, and he'll check this on his own. Eventually, Fan is approached by the police, but when they inspect the frog head keychain stick, it's completely blank. Fan never figures out how Touma tricked him. He also tells Touma that he'd seen people die because of alcohol and cold three times before; as a child when an old man got drunk and froze to death in the winter, and another when a drunk laborer was messing around on a large stack of logs, slipped and got crushed under them. This is what got Fan to buckle down, study, and get out of the village. Now, for him, it's all about hard work and survival.

In the present, Kana and Touma set up deadman traps around the school grounds and parks, then make a public appearance with the stick. Agents from Russia, China and the U.S. all try to intercept the two, but Kana is too much for them. After much shenanigans, the two kids arrive at a bank and lock the stick in a safety deposit box. The Chinese government approaches Fan Hai-Shin, and offers her a massive amount of money if she turns the stick over to them. She agrees. She then goes to Tokyo, where she is taken to a hospital and swabbed. The DNA results come back saying she's 99% likely to be Son's sister. Word also goes out that an Indian broker living in Singapore, Carbina Shin, is promising to get the stick and sell it to the highest bidder. He comes to Tokyo and causes the U.S. and Russia to join in a bidding war, but at $120,000 USD, it's still small potatoes for something that promises to be worth billions to the winner.

When Hai-Shin's DNA results are announced, Touma sets the date and place for the hand-over - an outdoor amusement park in the middle of a busy day. All the actors are given time to move into place, dressed up as animal mascots, carnies, and security guards. Touma is sitting on a park bench, when he is approached by a dark-haired young woman claiming to be Hai-Shin (same one shown receiving the DNA swab test). Touma says "This is for you, your brother wants you to be happy." Hai-Shin takes the stick to the Chinese agent, presses a button on a tablet computer to transfer $1 million USD to a Swiss bank account in her name, and then all chaos breaks loose. Carbina swoops in on a merry-go-round horse to grab the stick, and runs through a parade and fog machines only to be intercepted by the American team. The Russians knock the stick loose, maybe, while one of the Americans runs off with it until Hai-Shin rams him with a bench, and gives the stick to the Chinese agents again. The squabbling goes on for a while. Finally, the scene shifts to a shipping dock, where Fan Son apologizes for stealing the data. He knows he copied it to the stick, but when the police looked at it, the stick was clean. He wants to know how Touma tricked him.

Questions: How did Touma trick Son? How does this relate to the handover of the stick to Hai-Shin? Who ultimately gets the quantum encryption algorithms? Do the algorithms work? What happens next?

Science: Just a very brief mention of quantum encryption, and how this threatens to overturn the entire computer security industry. Plus, a visual proof for how sin(a + b) = cos(a)*sin(b) + sin(a)*cos(b), and cos(a + b) = cos(a)*cos(b) - sin(a)*sin(b).

***** Spoilers *****

First, the empty USB flash card trick. Touma knew that people were going to try stealing his data, so he gimmicked his laptop such that only the USB port at the back worked, and he had an ultra-small flash memory plug-in in that port which fit flush with the back of the case in a way no one would normally notice it. Then, he disabled the front and side ports. Whenever anyone tried to copy data, they'd click on "To USB Drive", and it would just go to the micro-stick at the back.

Next, for the hand-over, Touma wanted the other actors to believe that Carbina and Hai-Shin were who they said they were, hence the DNA test and the in-person negotiations with the Indian broker. During the scuffle, the Americans got the stick first, and then Carbina threw out a second stick which the Russians grabbed. Supposedly, the American also had a fake stick prepped up, and that was the one Hai-Shin grabbed from him after ramming him with the bench, and that's what she gave the Chinese agent. Shunji, the Japanese Internal Affairs officer thinks that America has the real stick. Touma says, "No, they're all fake." But, each government is afraid of admitting that their stick is blank, and instead is intent on getting the real one from either of the two other countries. How did Touma know this? Because he and Kana were Carbina and Hai-Shin in disguise (the DNA data had been faked). Now, the three governments will be watching each other and will leave Hai-Shin alone.

Some time later, Touma visits the real Hai-Shin in Hong Kong (she doesn't look anything like Kana in a black wig), who thanks him for helping her brother. Son had sent her a letter, saying that if anything were to happen to him, she should wait 6 months and then mail a letter to Touma. She asks if the saliva she'd sent him had arrived in time, and Touma replies, "yes, you helped everything go perfectly." He gives her the Swiss bank account book and frog head memory stick, saying that he's already memorized Son's notes. Hai-Shin puts the bank book and stick on an altar with paper money that she burns as an offering to her brother in heaven. Later, Touma goes to an outdoor cafe, where his is visited by Son's spirit. Son demands to know if his ideas on quantum encryption are perfect or not, and the boy tells him to be quiet, because he has to think.

Summary: Motohiro has a tendency to write plot elements that copy themselves between C.M.B. and Q.E.D., this time, it's having his main heroines fighting vastly superior enemies, and winning more-or-less easily. 1 Oku En is an interesting twist on the "abducted victim" trope, but there's the unanswered question of why none of Otoguchi's family noticed him missing, or why the police wouldn't investigate Naoko due to her relationship with someone Otoguchi had recently prosecuted. That, and apparently she was never prosecuted for perjury in the "fake" alibi. Regarding Memory, I have become very interested in cryptography, and breaking simple cryptograms as produced by the American Cryptogram Association (ACA). I've read the chapter on quantum encryption in Simon Singh's The Code Book, and I'm "familiar in passing" with the concept. Motohiro never goes into any detail - his explanation is just empty hand waving. The gimmick with the trick laptop USB port would have required a major patch to the operating system to look convincing. Since the manga first started in 1997, with Touma just graduating from MIT, he would supposedly be using Win 95, or possibly a Sun portable workstation, and the micro flash drive Touma claims to have used apparently was USB type 2 revised, which wasn't adopted commercially until after 2001. I assume Motohiro is retconning the manga so that Touma didn't graduate until 2016 or something, since the boy has never been stated to have graduated from high School in Japan yet. Ignoring all of the above, the artwork is good, the character designs are the same as ever, and story pacing is good (although, the fake Hai-Shin looks like Tatsuki from C.M.B., and Carbina looks like Tatsuki's grandfather). Recommended if you like the series.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

C.M.B. volume 42 review

(All rights belong to their owners. 
Image from Amazon used here for review purposes only.)

C.M.B., vol. 42, by Katou Motohiro. Grade: B
Three stories this time.

Gekka Bijin (Queen of the Night, Monthly Shonen Magajin, 2019)
Kanta Yamazaki, 34, is a part-time worker trying to become an actor. The problem is, he's bad at it. The company he's with gives him some posters and tickets for their upcoming show, and orders to sell all the tickets (whatever he doesn't sell comes out of his pocket). He gets a notice in the mail that there's a class reunion coming up, and he recalls his former flame, Haruka Fuji. Hoping that he can meet her again, and sell tickets to everyone else, he goes to the reunion. That night, he's having trouble placing the names to the faces of his former friends, but Haruka is completely unchanged. At the end of the evening, she gives him a card, which just turns out to be a business card for a bakery. However, she owns the place, and he'd never bothered to ask her about that. But, she sends him an email, and they meet for a date at an aquarium. Kanta has a wonderful time, and goes back to the bakery the next day to talk to her again, but the shutters are down and there's a piece of paper reading, "closed for the duration."

Frantic, Kanta tracks Haruka down at her parent's house to find out what's going on. They sit on a pier and talk. She says that both of her parents died recently, and she's not certain how much longer she can keep the bakery going. Kanta gives her advice to cheer her up, and she tells him about the flowers her father used to grow, including one called Gekka Bijin. At the end of the conversation, they split up at an intersection, and she says, "look for the Gekka Bijin." She walks away, and Kanta takes a minute to react and run after her. He turns a corner, and she's gone. There's a little tunnel nearby, but the street on the other side is clearly visible. Confused at this show of magic, Kanta returns to Tokyo. That evening, he goes to Tatsuki's family's sento (public bath) and asks the men there for help. The men just offer idle speculation, while the women listening in call them all idiots.

Questions: How did Haruka vanish? What's the meaning behind "Gekka Bijin"? What do the women know that the men don't?
Natural history: Just a mention of Gekka Bijin.
Payment: Nothing specified, but Tatsuki does all the brain work this time.

***** Spoilers ******

Gekka Bijin, or "The Beauty under the Moonlight" is a nocturnal plant that opens its flowers at night. This is a hint. The women berate Kanta for only thinking about himself and not trying to learn more about what Haruka is going through (i.e. - giving unwanted advice when she just needed someone to listen). Kanta returns to the village and tries to talk to her again, apologizing and saying that he really wants her to show him this plant. She walks off, replying, "I'll think about it." Kanta runs after her, and on turning the corner finds that she's disappeared again. Just as he's about to give up, he realizes that the hint is to look into the shadows. He goes into the tunnel and finds Haruka waiting there in a cranny. They fall into each other's arms, crying.

Jaga- no Mori (Forest of Jaguar, Monthly Shonen Magajin, 2019)
Ana Santos is the daughter of a plantation owner in the Pantanal region of Brazil. She and her uncle, Alex, are out in the west side of the plantation jungles looking for jaguars (Ana hopes to go to university and study animals of some kind, but her father, Mateus, refuses to let her go). She and Alex spy a jaguar tugging on something, but it spooks and runs. The two go over to investigate and discover the body of a dead man who turns out to be a drug smuggler named Ricardo, who'd been shot to death. Alex is a former member of B.O.P.E. (anti-drug task force), and he's heard there's a drug lord named Onsa running drugs through the area. Some of Mateus' workers claim that a local shaman, Lula, had said that Ricardo was going to die soon, and Alex wants to question her. Shinra and Tatsuki are at the plantation to look for jaguars, and Ana has volunteered to guide them. She and the two kids go out on horses, and Shinra identifies all the animals they see, making Ana jealous - that's what she wants to do. Alex and two cops visit the Catholic shrine-filled home of Lula, who claims that she can't explain what God chose to reveal to her. When Alex presses her, she says that Mateus will be the next to die.

That night at dinner, Mateus shrugs off the threat, then the conversation turns to Ana wanting to go to the big city to study. Her father is dead-set against it. Ana storms off, and the others go to bed. In the middle of the night, Mateus feels the jaws of the jaguar closing down on him, and he bolts upright in bed. The next morning, the rest of the family has noticed that he's missing, along with his horse. The kids go to talk to Lula, but she's still not helpful. Shinra asks her where Mateus is, and she quietly replies "in the forbidden zone." Mateus had forbidden travel in the west jungle, and that's where Shinra runs to. He sees buzzards circling overhead, and races to the jungle below them, where he finds Mateus' dead body. They're ambushed by drug gang members who chase the kids. They escape by jumping into a raging river.

Below the falls, the kids recover, and Ana mourns the death of her father (and she blames herself for it). They return to the plantation, where the workers race out to recover their boss' body. Alex leaves to strong-arm the local dealers into revealing the whereabouts of Onsa. It's looking more like Onsa has been recently bumped off and a new lord has taken his place. At the plantation, Mateus' horse returns, and the kids follow its tracks back to the jungle, where there are pools of blood, mixed with animal fur, near where the man was killed. Going farther into the jungle, they find a small shrine house that apparently also belongs to Lula. In trying to explain how Lula knows so much about the drug trade, the speculation is that the gang members meet in her house and plot with each other in front of her. Shinra wants more answers, so they return to Lula's main house, where they find her lying on the ground, bleeding from multiple gunshot wounds. She says that Mateus' killer is beyond punishment, then dies. The kids return to the jungle and Alex finds them, and threatens to shoot. Tatsuki pulls Ana and Shinra down, and Alex hits a drug gang member hiding behind them. There's some gun play, and two members get the drop on the kids. Suddenly, a jaguar shows up and kills both of the men. When it is all done, Ana is convinced that the soul of her father shapeshifted to save her (one of the beliefs in the story is that jaguars can turn into people, and people can turn into jaguars).

Questions: How did Lula know that Ricardo and Mateus would die? What was the second shrine for?
Natural history: A bit of information on the animals in the Pantanal, and the history of Lula's brand of shamanism.
Payment: None.

***** Spoilers *****

One thing Alex discovered was that no one had ever seen Onsa. He issued his orders anonymously. Ricardo had stolen some of the drugs from the gang and Onsa had put out orders to kill anyone in the western part of the jungle next to the ranch. Surprise, surprise, Onsa was Mateus, who had been out putting animal blood on the trails to attract predators to eat any bodies that cropped up. Since none of his minions knew who he was, one of his patrols ran across him and killed him by accident. Lula was part of the plot, and a walkie-talkie was hidden in her second shrine shed, which is what Mateu used for issuing his commands. Shinra explains all this to Alex, with the promise to not tell Ana. Ana then leaves for university, in the belief that her father's jaguar spirit is watching over her. (Left unexplained is why Lula was shot. Maybe she was trying to take the gang over and they protested.)

Shindai ga nai! (There are no Corpse, Monthly Shonen Magajin, 2019)
The neighbors of Taizou Umenaka, a powerful businessman, are shocked when a blood-covered guy holding a knife walks out of Umenaka's mansion right in front of them. The police are called, and the guy is put into a squad car, but he won't talk. Det. Kujirazaki decides to investigate, and brings his men into Umenaka's house. Umenaka is outraged at the invasion, and calls Kujirazaki's superior to complain. The superior calls Kuji, and demands that his minion call off this harassment. The knife guy is identified as Dato, a Vietnamese brought in to Japan to work part-time under Japan's current employment visa laws. This is the kind of work where people are treated as slaves, packed into small rooms at night, and their passports confiscated so they can't run away. The police get a warrant and search the mansion, finding a broken window and some blood on the floor. Umenaka claims it was caused by a stray cat that smashed into the window by accident. The police don't find anything else, and Dato just says "I want to see Shinra Sasaki."

Kuji visits his friend, who tells him that Dato and his girlfriend had visited the museum a few weeks ago, and the girl, Licchi, had enjoyed looking at the lotus flower he has. Three days ago, Dato had returned to the museum, badly beaten up. He'd found out that some yakuza had kidnapped Licchi and some of the other foreign women for the sex trade. When he tried to stop them, they smashed him up and let him leave. Forensics contacts Kuji, saying that the blood on the knife is human, and there was a rayon thread wrapped around the handle that probably came from a Hawaiian shirt with a dark background color. That matches the description of the shirts that one of Umenaka's henchmen is known to wear. Kuji is now convinced that Dato stabbed the henchman, and that Umenaka is hiding the
body in the mansion somewhere. But where?

Questions: Where is the henchman? Do the police find the women before it's too late? Is this all a bit too pat?
Natural history: Nothing.
Payment: None.

***** Spoilers *****

The mansion has a large wine cellar, with two sets of light switches. The second set is at the bottom of the stairs, but if the door is closed, the cellar goes pitch black. Why have the second set of switches where no one would use them? Answer, when the door is open, it hides a second door behind it that leads to a second storeroom. The police never thought to close the door while they were searching the cellar. Now knowing about it, they open the second door and discover the henchman standing over a number of bound women. Later, Kujirazaki confronts Shinra, saying that this all stunk of one of his plots to get the police to investigate a crime that they wouldn't have otherwise. The boy refuses to deny or confirm. They are all just happy that Dato and Licchi are flying back home to start up a new life together.    

Summary: Nice artwork, and some of the animal designs were good. The jaguars were drawn funny, though. All of the stories had plot holes that gave away the culprits and/or tricks, so that could have been better. Recommended if you like the series.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Mud Men, vol. 2 comments

(Image from Used for review purposes only.)

Mud Men, vol. 2, Daijiro Morohoshi, Grade: B+
(Monthly Shonen Champion, 1981-82)
The story picks up again with a flashback of a newspaper report of a Japanese man found buried at a land development site. He's taken to a hospital in Tokyo, and Miss Barton is brought in to verify that he is speaking Gawan, the language from Kodowa's village. He escapes supervision and finds his way to Namiko's house, where he gets excited at seeing all the masks. Namiko and Barton fly the man, whom the girl nickname's "Piki", to New Guinea. Piki is incredibly naive, and the natives quickly talk him out of all his clothes. At the same time, missionaries from various churches have converged on the country to flood the place with cheap western goods to entice them into becoming followers.

That night, a native from a distant forest village shows up saying that he comes with a message from Kodowa and that they should follow him. The trio, accompanied by a native warden, go the village, where they find a bamboo and sheet replica of an airplane, marking further evidence of a cargo cult. The next night, Piki wanders into the forest on his own, followed by Namiko. The girl gets lost in the woods and is rescued by Kodowa. The following morning, Barton and the warden discover the other two missing, as three of the missionaries arrive at the village in a helicopter. A villager finds Namiko's head scarf, and Barton and the warden go with him to track the girl down. The missionaries get frustrated at not being able to impress the other villagers with cheap t-shirts, and decide to take the helicopter into the most sacred part of the forest to show the gods there who is more powerful. Meanwhile, Namiko is witness to a Mudmen rebirthing ceremony.

Mudmen belief has it that sometimes people are born in the wrong bodies and in the wrong place or time. Piki is one such case, and needs to be reformed to be born as a Papuan. The ceremony is a success. Subsequently, Kodowa takes Namiko to a different part of the forest, where they find a demon skeleton bound in a ritual trap. Before the demon can answer Kodowa's questions, the missionaries arrive and demand to know what is going on. The demon, one of a pre-human race, called "Dema," that had lived here long ago, offended at the western sacrilegious treatment of sacred land, causes the ground to open up and swallow the intruders and their helicopter. The Dema jumps into the hole as well, pausing to tell Namiko that she is the foretold reincarnation of Namite (kind of an Adam and Eve first couple myth). Namiko passes out.

She comes to in the arms of Barton and the warden. They get back to the village, but it's been abandoned. Looking out, they see the cargo cult plane taking the people to a new land, and one of the passengers is the reborn Piki. The story then jumps to the present, with Namiko bent over Kodowa's inert body. A group of mudmen (spirit creatures only, with no physical bodies) tell her that she can save her half-brother, but only if she hurries and has the broken totem restored. They take her to an old shaman woman who is somehow tied to a gigantic overgrowth-covered dinosaur fossil. The woman tells the girl to take the totem to the forest of "octopus trees," and when they ask, say that her name is "Namite." She does this, and the spirits of trees with raised roots attempt to kill her for food. She escapes through a process initiated by the old woman that imitates coming out of a birth canal (another example of rebirth).

Elsewhere in the jungle, the true nature of the Japanese "tourists" and "missionaries" is revealed - they're a part of a team sent by a Japanese oil company for petroleum research, consisting of the one archeologist, a priest, two HQ reps, and a scientist. The priest becomes obsessed with obtaining the damaged totem, and the archeologist wants the big Aen mask. The team wanders into the lair of the Skull Collector, who gloats a bit before disappearing. They then find the fragments of the totem where the minion had shattered it, and bring it back to the collector. Namiko arrives to collect the fragments to save Kodowa, and it's looking like someone needs to be sacrificed in order to restore the totem. Namiko knows that the Masarai are head hunters, but the mudmen aren't. She refuses to fall into Aen's trap, and offers herself as the sacrifice. The Dema appears, tells Skull Collector to not touch the girl, then takes Namiko and the totem back into the forest. This sets up a chase as Namiko takes the fragments to the Octopus Tree men, and the oil company men try to capture her.

Namiko goes to Kodowa's village, where she's recognized as Namite. She accepts this role and works with the headwoman to prepare for a festival. Barton and the oil team get to the village, and are subjected to a rebirth ritual that prevents them from getting close to the girl. The one archeologist and the priest finish the ritual and put on masks to blend in with the villagers. Namiko and the village men take all of the gathered food to the Octopus Tree woods to feed the ravenous tree spirits. The spirits repair the totem, and in return, the villagers throw the food at them and then run madly back home. The village women put out all the fires and other lights and go into hiding. One of the oil team, the scientist, balks at all this and tries getting back to civilization. He sets up camp for the night, including a fire and a torch. When night falls, the Octopus tree men scour the mountains looking for more food, and they see the torch. The village women take refuge at the dinosaur fossil, which comes to life. Some of the boulders the fossil knocks loose plummet to the ground, killing the headwoman, and releasing a pocket of natural gas. The gas combusts and sets the fossil aflame. The scientist has his suspicions confirmed and he radios back to the HQ base that he's found oil. The fire destroys the Octopus tree men, but they scream that this will never stop them. They will be back to feed again.

With the totem restored, Kodowa and N'Baki recover enough to try reaching Namiko. The girl is taken by the surviving villagers to a sacred mountain housing a sacred cave. The priest spies her, and chases her up to the cave mouth, insane with desire for the totem. The archeologist is close behind, hoping for his chance at the Aen mask. Namiko escapes into the cave, and is joined by Kodowa. Inside, they find a massive cavern and a colossal humanoid skeleton half-embedded in the floor. In this place of magic, and in the presence of one of the "big masks", Kowoda gets some more of his power back, and fights with the priest to keep him away from Namiko. The archeologist pulls out a pistol and debates over who he should shoot in this battle. He aims for Kodowa, and Namiko throws the repaired totem at him. It hits him in the eye, causing him to miss his shot, before rebounding towards the skeleton. It reaches up with one long arm and catches the figure.

Kodowa and Namiko escape from the cave and have to fight their way through masked worshipers out to the forest. The skeleton puts on the Big Mask and stands up, destroying the mountain and towering over the forest. It calls for Kodowa to come back and complete the ritual necessary for repeating the Namite and Kaunagi creation myth. The boy refuses to return, and he and his half-sister disappear in the distance. Back in the cave, the archeologist wakes up, his right eye missing. The missionary priest is dead nearby, lying under a boulder. The guy is visited by several Dema, and he follows them through the back of the cave to another land dominated by a skeleton-covered beach, and an endless ocean. Time passes, and occasionally something will wash up on shore and be eaten by insects.  Once, the Aen mask appeared and was claimed by what looks like a ghost. The archeologist subsists on what meat he can find on the things from the ocean, and records his thoughts in a notebook. Time ceases to have meaning. Finally, he takes a giant bone from the piles on the beach, and pushes it into the waters in an attempt to see where the other lifeforms are coming from. The scene shifts to  New Guinea. The warden gives the battered notebook to Miss Barton, telling her it was found in a cavern in Australia. Nearby, an oil company is clearing out the forest and putting up oil drilling rigs. Barton recognizes the symbols on their safety helmets as being the same worn by the Octopus tree men, showing that they were right - they are back and they are consuming everything in front of them.

Barton goes into part of the remaining forest, thinking about everything she's seen. As she walks, she catches just brief glimpses of Kaunagi and Namike frolicking in paradise.

Sabaibal (Saba + ibal = Survival) (Manga Action, 1979). The first filler chapter has an airplane crash in a desert. The survivors wander across the sands until they find a huge can of tinned fish (saba). The story revolves around their attempts to open it, and the fighting and failures that follow. They do find an appropriately sized can opener, but it's too unwieldy to get to actually work. Eventually, one person is left, and he too dies from dehydration and starvation. Later, the can is found by nomads, who take it back to camp and work together to get it open to feed their people.

Daonan (Young Jump, 1979). An African bushman tracks an animal that looks like a springbok to a weird rock outcrop. The animal is dead, a bit too quickly for the poison he used, so he is suspicious. Nearby is a blobby creature that eventually reveals itself to be the occupant of a crashed spaceship. Daonan treats the blob, which he calls "Bubi", as a companion, but keeps repeating that the meat from the Springbok is his to be taken back to his people some week's travel away. The two protect each other from the threats in the bush, and become more or less good traveling companions. One day, they reached a packed stretch of dirt used as a road. Nearby is a truck with white hunters. One of the hunters shoots and kills the blob. Daonan stands there, staring at them as they inspect their trophy. The scene switches to an old woman telling tales to the village children. When she is done, one of the kids asks what happened to Daonan, and the woman looks up at the sky and says that his gentle spirit has ascended to the stars to join the soul of Bubi.

Last Magic (Young Jump, 1980). Monof is from Africa, maybe Nigeria, currently living in Tokyo. The world's leaders have gathered to address the crisis facing them. A thick blanket of clouds has covered the world, plunging it into an ever-deepening winter. No one has answers. One day, Monof's father visits him, and performs a ritual begging the sun to come out (people have forgotten that they need to do this periodically to show the sun they love it). The ritual succeeds and everyone is saved.

Death of the Emperor (Business Jump, 1984). A young Japanese salaryman flies back to Tokyo to rejoin his father's company, as the next in line to succeed him as CEO. The guy, who is never explicitly named, is greeted by several board members. At first, things look normal, but after a few weeks the CEO gets more fragile, demanding and manic. The son is prepped for the handover ceremony when the old man collapses and is hospitalized. On the day of the ceremony, the old man charges from the hospital and into his offices, yelling that he's still young, still powerful, and still CEO. One of his assistants gives him something to drink, but he throws it to the ground. The crashing sound alerts the son, who runs into the room as everyone else warns him to keep out. The glass had been poisoned. Since the old CEO wasn't willing to die quietly, one of the bodyguards strangles him with a scarf. The son discovers that the most important thing for a company is the smooth transition of leaders, and there can only be one. This is how the father had taken over, and now it's the son's time. He's taken to the auditorium, where all the employees applaud their new CEO.

Summary: Macabre. But still, fun. Morohoshi has a very recognizable character style, and his background artwork is really detailed. I can't comment on the accuracy of the Mudmen myths, but it was still fun to read about them and the cargo cult history. The stand-alone stories weren't quite as good as the ones from the first volume, but they were readable. A little bit of frontal nudity, if you are bothered by that kind of thing. Regardless, recommended if you can find it used.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Mud Men, vol. 1 comments

(Image from Used for review purposes only.)

Mud Men, vol. 1, Daijiro Morohoshi, Grade: B+
Morohoshi is one of Japan's more influential manga artists. I've written about his works, most recently Box, in 2017. The Mud Men series began in 1975 in Monthly Shonen Champion. This volume has chapters up to 1980. The last three chapters of the 2006 Shueisha printing are stand-alone stories (Unicorn (Young Jump, 1980), Alligator (Manga Action, 1979) and the previously unpublished "Karakuchi Kaidan" (Spicy Mystery Story). When Haruomi Hosono, guitarist for YMO, saw Mud Men, he decided to write a song for his album Service, which accidentally got mistitled as "The Madmen." I liked Box, and a few weeks ago I decided to get both volumes 1 and 2 of Mud Men.

Namiko is a school girl living in Tokyo. One day, her anthropologist father returns to Tokyo from Papua New Guinea with surprise guests in tow - Miss Barton, a fellow specialist in New Guinea culture, and a native boy covered head to toe in tattoos. While life in the house gets slightly disrupted (the boy kills a rat in his room and leaves a few arrows in the corpse in a closet), the real shocker occurs one night when Namiko can't sleep, and goes into the hallway where she hears her father in another room talking to Miss Barton. Turns out that her father had been so desperate to be the first foreigner to see the secret tattoos of the New Guinea shamen that he had a baby with a New Guinea woman years before and groomed the resulting child to become the village's next shaman. The boy, Kodowa, is Namiko's half-brother.

That night, their father drugs the boy, and while Kodowa is unconscious, has his photographer take pictures of the tattoos. When the two men leave the room, Namiko peeks in through the door and sees a Mudman disappear through a wall. The next day, Kodowa is up and walking around, seemingly unaffected by the effects of the drug, but he gives Namiko an ornate necklace, telling her this will protect her from whatever happens next. What happens is a heavy storm, summoned by the boy and several Mudmen spirits, along with the appearance of a monster called N'Baki. Kodowa kills the cameraman, and N'Baki destroys the family's house and kills Namiko's father. Kodowa tells her that this is the result of violating Mudmen taboos, and he returns to New Guinea.

The subsequent chapters have Namiko going to New Guinea to reunite with Miss Barton and her half-brother, and being drawn deeper into Mudmen legend. Kodowa gets entangled in a Cargo Cult revival, in which the leader, a Maori skull collector, uses magic to kill N'Baki and mortally wound Kodowa. At the same time, several Japanese anthropologists, oil company execs and missionaries use Namiko and Kodowa to get their hands on a Jomon totem that looks like Kodowa, as part of a plan to steal the "big face mask" of the forest god Aen, and/or explore the forest for oil. While none of the interlopers do get the mask, or keep the totem, the Maori skull collector uses a minion to steal the totem and crush it, which is what kills N'Baki and almost kills Kodowa.

The story stops here. In Unicorn, a girl encounters a crazy old man on a hunt for unicorns. He discovers some deep gouges in a utility pole, which he claims came from a unicorn using it as a scratching post. One night, the girl is out wandering around the city, and is attacked from behind by the old man. When she wakes up, she's in a park, being approached by a big horse with a horn in its forehead. The guy, using the girl as bait, lassos the unicorn, but it breaks free and escapes, with the crazy old man chasing after it. Some years pass, and the girl is an adult, currently on the hunt for Griffons.

Alligator revolves around a man who had seen a picture of an alligator climbing up the back of a victim in a book when he was a child. One day, he goes to a zoo, and is reminded of the book when he sees an alligator in a pit. The creature follows him back home, and no one else notices it. It bites his foot and slowly works up to swallow him whole, still unseen. Finally, it shows up at the guy's office place, wearing a full business suit and tie, and bellows out the joke "Doumo Arigator" (Thank you-gator).

The book closes with a very early work, Spicy Mystery Story. The protagonist goes to a curry shop, where one of the customers is crying over a plate of curry rice. There's a fire, and the customer dies in the flames before being able to eat his meal. The protagonist runs screaming away from the blaze and escapes through the front door. When he turns around, there's no shop, only an empty lot.

Summary: Mud Men is a mystery adventure set mostly in Papua New Guinea, specifically featuring the traditions and mythology of the Asaro Mudmen. Morohoshi spent several weeks there researching the myths and taking lots of photos and sketches. The stories show how the people of New Guinea were exploited by capitalists and religious missionaries, and the conflicts in the manga are influenced by these issues. The artwork is highly detailed, the characters are mostly well-drawn. Morohoshi has improved as an artist since then, and his pacing has gotten tighter, but this is still a fun read. My only complaint is that the Shueisha printing is too small, making the kanji almost impossible to read in places. Still, recommended if you like mystical adventures in jungles, and cargo cult airplane replicas.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Oct. 19-21

Tenmonkan Baru

This weekend had a lot more going on than there has been in a long time, but very little of it was all that great, for what I saw of it. First, I was walking in to the English school at 12:45 PM for my first lesson on Saturday, when I discovered a stage being put up in the Tenmonkan arcade. The sign advertises "Tenmonkan Baru Machi," which is essentially a coupon book for restaurants in the area, I guess. It costs 4000 yen ($38 USD), and I've never bothered getting any more detail than that. The sign says that there will be an Ukon (drink to help you sober up faster) give away at 4:30 PM, followed by a wine give away at 5:10 PM.  After that, there's supposed to be live entertainment from 5:15 PM, but it doesn't mention when things end.

I was in the school until 7 PM, and I came back here after I got out, and the stage had already been dismantled. 

Milk Days

A couple blocks farther on, the Japan dairy association was running another one of their periodic events to promote milk sales, and provide bone density testing for women. At a previous event, they had a machine mock-up of a cow. This time, we have the real thing. Notice the bucket to deal with "manure spills." Japan is a clean country.

Bessy doesn't look too unhappy.

Can't say as much for everyone else participating.

The banner reads, "As expected, let's do milk."

The table here was giving out small cup samples of Daily brand milk. The servers didn't offer me any, and I didn't bother trying to grab any. It's not a brand I normally buy.

The live stage also had the perennial live-action show with Milkman, the Princess, and Mr. Bone Decay. Two of the actors here posing for the meet-and-greet after one of their performances.

Bouzu Meets

On the other side of Tenmonkan, at Honganji Temple, the priests were holding another of their "Bouzu Meets" fests (Bouzu = "priest"). It was running from 11 AM to 4 PM, and I just had enough time to run into the grounds for a few photos before I had to be at the school.

The front parking lot had booths for food, and a "Priest Bar" (priests serving cocktails as bartenders).

Some of the other tables had arts and crafts, and children's activities.

Boombox balloons.
As mentioned above, I had to work Saturday. Initially, my schedule was to go from 1:30 PM to 5 PM, then 6-8 PM. However, one of the students decided to move their lesson start time to 5 PM, effectively eliminating the break I would have had. Regardless, Bouzu Meets ended at 4 PM, so it wouldn't have mattered. On the other hand, there was nothing on the schedule I had any interest in. The last time, they hosted Bon DX, which was great. This time, all the stage performances were by the priests themselves. Sigh. Funny enough, the posters promoted this fest as being music oriented, with a priest DJ. The closest thing I saw coming to that was a priest standing at the front gates, staring at a mixer board, and some music blaring from the PA system inside.

In the main temple building, the signs advertise "baby massage" for 100 yen ($1 USD).

The priest on stage was just climbing up onto his sitting stand prior to starting his set. This is "rakugo," a traditional form of comedic storytelling. I couldn't stick around to watch any of it.

His biggest laughs came from his struggle to get on the platform, and then being unable to figure out how to turn on the mike.

A pair of photo cutout boards stood next to the room entrance. If you wanted to look like the gods of wind or thunder.

From the posters.

Craft Beer Splash

I had to swing by Maruya Gardens to get the newspaper for the school on my way in, and I had just enough time to go up to the rooftop garden to check out the Craft Beer event they had Saturday and Sunday. I was at the first one last year, and there was a lot of good live music both days. This time, the music was piped in, and the space that had been taken up by the stage was given to two more beer tables. They also had distillers selling Japanese gin (Komasa) and whiskey (Mars brand). I'd bought a bottle of Mars whiskey a couple years ago, and it was ok. I wasn't about to get anything to drink here before going into the school to teach, so I just ran around, took some photos and left.

Cassis beer, Skull Rocker (American pale ale) and La Sirene. I just liked the artwork and name for Skull Rocker.

A few tables sold food, including Japanese ultra-thin dish pizza. I didn't get anything to eat, myself.

More great advertising artwork. Weird Weather Hazy IPA, Beavertown Lupuloid IPA and Peanut Butter Milk Stout. Note the prices - 800 yen. Some of the other tables had small glasses for 300 yen, regular for between 500 and 600 yen. Shiroyama Hotel was selling their sampler set for 1,000 yen, but I've had that and wanted to try something else this time.

So, my 7 PM lesson got moved to 5 PM, and my 6 PM lesson turned out to be a no-show. Unfortunately, I had to stay at the school for the full 1 hour anyway, and couldn't get out until just before 7. I ran back over to Maruya Gardens, and things were still going strong (until 8 PM). I got one small beer at the stand right in front of the door. It was an IPA, and VERY strong on the hops. That was the best beer of the night.

I also got a cup of Skull Rocker, which was smooth and very mild.

Because I was standing right next to the Watering Hole as I was drinking my Skull Rocker, I asked one of the guys there what the Kir Royale IPA was. He replied that it was a cassis fruit beer. So, I got the Yuya Boys IPA instead. That was also hoppy, but not as impressive as that first beer had been. The Watering Hole is in Shinjuku, near Yoyogi station in Tokyo. I used to spend a lot of time in that area, so I asked what things were like there now. As I was talking, a white woman overheard me say I was from Minnesota, and she mentioned that she was from St. Paul, and is now working as a translator in Kagoshima. We talked a bit, then she went back to her table to keep eating dinner. I talked to the Yuya Boys guy a bit more, but he'd gotten sullen. I finished my beer and returned home for dinner and to work on the computer for the night. I did swing by the Tenmonkan Baru spot, but the stage was gone, and all that was left was a table for selling the 4,000 yen coupon books.

Asian Fest 2019

Going in to Tenmonkan Saturday, I was mostly in the middle of the arcade, so I couldn't see Central Park from where I was. After getting the newspaper and leaving Honganji, I was able to catch part of the far corner of the parka block away, and I spotted part of a white tent. I wasn't able to get back there that night, but the advertising banners that had been hanging from the ceiling of the arcade in Tenmonkan had been advertising Asian 2019. This is the school cultural exchange event where groups from Korea, China, the Philippines, Vietnam and elsewhere meet in Kagoshima for two days to show off their songs and dances. I returned to the Arcade on Sunday specifically to verify if that was what was going on. I didn't get out of the apartment until 2 PM, arriving here in the middle of a musical performance from Thailand (I think).

This was followed by a dance by the girls. I've seen this dance before, so I continued over to the park.

All of the real music and dancing takes place in nearby Houzan Hall on Saturday (which I obviously missed). The little happening in Tenmonkan is more of an "audience service." When I came back here 15 minutes later, the Thai group was just leaving and crews were tearing down the stage and sound equipment.

The weather the day before had been near-perfect, but we've had reports of another pair of typhoons coming in. On Sunday, the sky was heavily overcast and very humid. We didn't get rain until Monday morning, though.

The park had tents for food, travel advertising, and various arts and crafts. Here, one group demonstrated tea ceremony.

The games (Othello) and music instruments tent had live demos of flute and koto. The music was surprisingly interesting.

The tents were all around the perimeter of the park. Everything else was empty. Food consisted mostly of small bowls of curry, curry rice, naan, and Pho from the local Sri Lanka, Thai and Indian restaurants. I wasn't hungry that early in the day, but I did want a glass of iced Vietnamese coffee. Unfortunately, it had been pre-made in a pitcher and the ice had melted. Too watery, but only 100 yen, so not that much of a loss.

The park also had a small stage at one corner for hosting Japanese school performances. Here, three teams of two students each are blind-eating curry soba. The idea is that the one sitting down has a bib on, and does the eating. The one in back wears a blindfold and must try to feed the first one by touch. First pair to finish the bowl wins. The guy on stage is some local TV personality. He tried to be funny by using broken English at the foreigners sitting in the front row. "I am number one genius performer in Japan. You understand?" Almost no one laughed at him, but he didn't seem to notice.

I recorded part of the contest, but the camera battery ran out towards the end of it. I put in the replacement, and got bored waiting for the next stage thing to start. Instead, I headed for Amu Plaza.

KKB Days

I'd been at Amu Plaza Friday night for dinner, and the crews were putting up the stage and camera stands for KKB TV's big new season TV shows promo. I've seen this before too - mostly boring talking on stage, and stuff for children out on the promenade. I wasn't expecting much on Sunday, but I did want to try getting a few photos for the blog.

Sunday, I got to Amu at about 3 PM when there was a manzai comedy duo on stage. I got one photo of the schedule, with part of the audience for atmosphere, when a security guard came up and said "no cameras." This after some Japanese guy had walked by and taken pictures on his smartphone. I expected a "no camera" rule for the music acts (Tower Records is especially notorious for this), but not for a manzai act. The two guys basically just stood around and insulted each other in Japanese. I got bored and went to the promenade.

They had the same stuff as at past events.

The "Prappy" bounce room.

The pose area for getting your photo taken with Doraemon. This was really popular with mothers wanting photos of their young children. Previously, the KKB staff were really eager to take your camera and get you in the shot with Doraemon (and your children, if you had them), but this time, they just stood around and looked unhappy.

For some reason, the Purikure TV anime show characters get used year after year for the voice over booth. The staff runs a clip from the anime, and you get to do the voices for it. Popular with female junior high school-aged students.

I went into Amu and sat down for coffee and a sandwich at Seattle's Best, and read volume two of the Mud Men manga. When I was done, I returned to the KKB stage. On the sidelines, I spotted a tall white guy recording video of the AKB 48 Team 8 girls. Team 8 is way, way down the list of popularity for the AKB-48 franchise, but there were still a couple hundred people (mostly young guys) packing the area in front of the stage. I looked around for security guards, wondering why they weren't enforcing the no camera rule now (the sponsors sell glossy photos for autographing, and DVDs, so they're really hardcore when it comes to anyone trying to get free likenesses of the girls). The nearest guards were around the corner at the front of the plaza. I debated telling them about the foreigner taping their show, then thought, "More luck to him" and left.

I needed to do a bunch of shopping, part of which took me back to Maruya Gardens. I knew that the latest volumes of the Q.E.D. and C.M.B. manga had hit Tokyo on the 17th, and that they probably wouldn't reach Kagoshima until the 20th. Kinokuniya didn't have them, but Junkudou in Maruya did, so I got them then. I did have the option to go up to the rooftop garden for the last couple hours of the Beer Splash, but I'd spent all my beer money the day before, so I went to Don Quixote to buy cleaning supplies for the apartment. I was also going to get a couple bags of Doritos, which they sell for 80 yen (75 cents), but nearly all of the snacks shelves were completely cleared out. I guess the waves of tourists and Asian Fest school kids had hit the store like locusts over the weekend before I could get there. Oh well.

Then, it was back to the apartment for a very early dinner, and to spend the rest of the day working on the computer. Lots of stuff happening this weekend, but nothing I really got to see much of. I liked the Skull Rocker, though.