Friday, April 30, 2010

Random Akiba

Alice in the Necrosis. Not your mother's Alice. I like the music on the CD page.

Age Soft.

Clockwork owl.

Ad for Aeon.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Waseda Building

If you take the Yamanote line to Takadanobaba (2 stops north of Shinjuku), then go out the north exit, you can walk east along Waseda Dori about 2 kilometers to get to one side of Waseda University. Right about at this point is one of the more interesting commercial buildings I've seen so far. A hairdresser or watch store needs to have a special sense of humor to want to operate from here.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Garo Status Updates

Ok, I've been at this for a while, and those of you that like Garo magazine may have been wondering what's going on. For those of you who don't care, we'll see you tomorrow.

On average, I can process two Garo issues a week, and I'm trying to upload each review on Mondays, although sometimes I forget and grab some other pending blog entry instead. Part of the idea is to get a backlog of entries in case I get busy with something else and have to switch my focus (like what's going to happen pretty soon). Partly, it's because while I can read Garo whenever I take the trains, I can't always get access to a scanner to scan in the highlighted pages, so I'll have the summaries written up long before I've got the scans in.

In any event, I realized pretty quickly that the html index pages, recording which stories appeared in each issue, and which artists did which stories, was going to be unmanageable. It was taking a good hour just to update those two html pages and proofing to make sure there were no mistakes. So, a couple of weeks ago I sat down and wrote up some scripts to automate the process for me. So far, it looks like I've caught all the bugs, and not only are the html pages being updated, but I'm also adding the links to the scanned pages, adding "target=_"blank"" to all of the links, automatically generating the "features" blog entry for Nihongo Hunter and building up a hefty database of artist and story entries. This means that I can manipulate the database any way I want to display the data as desired, such as printing out the story index by year. What was taking about an hour per issue now takes about 1 second.

Therefore, I'd like you to check out the online index of stories I've recorded so far. If you see any errors, or have anything to add to the artist bios, please let me know.

I took the 1964-1965 index data from Welcome Datacomp and worked it into the same format and put it into its own page. If you find this information useful, please go over to Datacomp and let kransom know. If you find errors, they're my fault; please let me know. If things work out, I'll be going back and writing up summaries of the earlier issues as well and I'll add them to the main index then (donations made in the name of purchasing the earlier issues will help expedite the process...)

As mentioned on Same Hat and Welcome Datacomp, The Center for Book Arts is running an exhibit (April 14, 2010 - June 26, 2010) on Garo right now, covering 1964-1973. If you're in New York, drop by the Center and grab the exhibit book. I'd love to know what additional information they have on the lesser known artists (like Kuniko Tsurita).

Those of you who follow Nihon-go Hunter already know that I wrote up the translation for Sampei Shirato's "War" short story. If you feel like it, you can grab the scanned pages and photoshop in the dialog from the translated script. Loads of fun for the whole family. Even the little ones will enjoy "change font size" and "left justification"!

Finally, about the "needing to have a backlog" thing. There's this thing in Japan called the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT). They've recently revamped it to have 5 levels (up from the previous 4) and I'm hoping to find the new study books this week, and to get my application handed in for the N3 test by the April 30 deadline. If that happens, and I can get vacation from work for July 4, then I'm going to spend the next 8 weeks doing nothing but work and Japanese language study. Things will get quiet here on the blog then, but I'll be sure to upload the weekly Garo summaries first thing Monday mornings, anyway.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Gakken and Trick

The other day, I was in the bookstore in Noborito train station when I noticed a new Gakken kit that was obviously familiar. There's a TV drama series on in Japan now called "Trick", which teams up a physicist and a stage magician to debunk fake spiritualists. Well, apparently the show's producers paired up with Gakken to repackage kit #22, the static electricity generator. It's the exact same kit as before, but with new labels from the show to stick on the case, a slimmed down mook, and a picture of the professor character on the box. Oddly, I can't find an image of the new box on either the Gakken site, or on One big difference, though, is that the "Trick" version is 1900 yen compared to 2500 yen for the regular kit. (I apologize for the photo. When the cell phone made the clicking sound a nearby shop clerk stood up really fast and I wasn't able to try to get a better image.) The slimmed down mook contains the same static electricity experiments as the original mook, plus some photos of the Trick actor in his professor character explaining the science behind the kit.

Also out now (as of April 17) is a new "nostalgia" kit. Called "kagaku to gakushuu" (science and learning), the 1,680 yen kit consists of a small assemble-it-yourself human skeleton model, and a thick 148-page mook of fifth grade science lessons circa 1976.

I'm still waiting for kit #27, the 8-bit microcontroller, to come out. The Otona no Kagaku site still says "due out in mid-May", while Amazon lists a May 12 release date. It's a good month behind schedule, so no way of knowing if it'll be delayed again for some reason.

Monday, April 26, 2010


The same day the Gundam cafe opened up next to the Akihabara train station, another Gundam event was taking place in the Belle Salle building a couple of blocks away on Chuu-ou Dori. According to the wiki entry, the SD Gundam Capsule Online game has been out in South Korea since 2007, and only recently became licensed for Japan. There's a chance that the link to the Japan site won't work if you're not in Japan, so try going to the wiki and visit one of the other sites from there.

The event to promote the game consisted of a head-to-head tournament against various players. There didn't seem to be a line to get in to compete when I went by at 1 PM, and the majority of people there were out on the sidewalk taking pictures of the show, watching some of the competition on the big screen TV.

I'm not a big Gundam game fan, so I didn't mind not having time during my lunch break to try getting in to play. But, I did like the big robot head out front. Thing's got to be at least 12 tall. Love to have that in my bedroom as a nightlight. Or, maybe even turn that *into* my bedroom...

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Garo #34

June, 1967, issue #34. 202 pages, cover by Sampei Shirato.

カムイ伝 (Kamui-den) #30

This is a rather oddball story for the Kamui series. Shouseki is wandering the countryside and he enters a village that is essentially a corpse field. Bodies thrown into heaps everywhere. He runs into a priest that is praying for the lost souls and is directed to a nearby castle. Right after he arrives, hundreds of starving peasants rush the castle gates demanding food. The guards cut the peasants down and shoot rifles into the crowds. Shousuke looks on in horror as victims resembling everyone from his village dies. Later, he retraces his steps and finds the priest has also been killed. He gets ambushed by vagrants that steal his loin cloth and food and leave him for dead. The castle lord rides by and laughs at the fallen outsider. Shousuke recovers, but now he's covered in bruises, has no food or papers, and no pants. Sampei writes in an afterward that this was an attempt to show a "parallel world" version of the village where events had turned out differently. 41 pages.

『防衛』について (About "Defense") #27
Koshi Ueno (上野昂志). 2 pages.

日本忍法伝 (Japan Ninja Arts Legend) #20

(Subtitled: 吉野八荒 (Yoshino Boundaries) #16)
Mamoru Sasaki and Satsuko Okamoto (佐々木 守 & 岡本 颯子). 6 pages.

生命 (Inochi (Life))

A mother wolf and two cubs are out walking through the heavy snow one winter. Conditions are harsh and one of the cubs dies. They find a human hunter living in a cabin and the mother attacks him to get food for the other cub to eat. There's a fight, and the wolf rips off the guy's forearm while the hunter cuts off one of the wolf's ears. Years go by and the cub has survived, having enough pups to start a new pack. The mother wolf is now old and grizzled and has the respect of the new pack. After killing a deer, there's a gun shot and the rest of the pack scatters. The old one stands her ground and faces off against the hunter, who now has a sword blade attached to his stump. They fight again and this time the wolf dies. The hunter takes the body back to the cabin, while her daughter follows behind out of curiosity. The hunter places the body on the ground across from the fire pit and sits down just as time catches up to the both of them. The young wolf watches on as the cabin and its occupants turn to dust and are blown off into the wind. 40 pages. This is the feature story on Nihon-go Hunter this week.

Shinji Nagashima (永島慎二). Shinji drew "Le Masque" in the last issue. A footnote says that "Inochi" was drawn for the Dec., 1966, issue of Shonen Gaho magazine. Note also that "Inochi" is the first story in what Nagashima is calling his "Shinji Genkiga Collection".

かわりみ (Kawarimi (Lightness of Foot))

Yuu Takita (滝田ゆう) gives us yet another black comedy, this time featuring a schmuck that doesn't know how to behave at hostess bars or izakayas. His company's president, essentially a small-time yakuza-like boss, is threatened by a yazuka rival. The solution is to have the schmuck take the boss's place when the fighting starts, but the guy finds the money in the safe and goes out partying before being thrown into jail at the end. 16 pages.

参加 (Participation)

Another atypical story in this issue, this time by Shouhei Kusunoki (楠勝平). Set in modern day Tokyo, rather than old Edo, we have a family of four that is currently facing a tipping point. The oldest son is looking at surgery for a life-threatening disease, and one of the other patients with a similar problem dies during the operation. The mother confronts her fears by praying regularly at a shrine. The father has just given up smoking and drinking, and is being ridiculed by his co-workers when they go out together at night. The day of the surgery comes and goes, and the boy has been healed. However, some days after getting out of the hospital, he's hit by a car and dies instantly, with both of his parents showing up in the crowd to see him at the last moment. The mother had stopped praying at the shrine, and she thinks this is all her fault. The husband dismisses this claim and spends his days playing with the younger daughter, and his nights out carousing, smoking and drinking again. 25 pages.

マンガ革命 (Manga Revolution)

A young manga artist, upset at having his story rejected again, bands together with other artists having similar problems, to form an army to overthrow and destroy the current publishing industry. Their new stories, printed later on, go over well, but history has a way of repeating itself... 14 pages.

No real information on Kazuo Masuda (升田かずお) in either Japanese or English.

反乱 (Revolt)

An unnamed hunter arrives at a village where there's a fresh corpse, but it had been cleaned down to the bone too quickly to have been from normal causes. Eventually, the hunter encounters an old man and 4 hillbilly types. The old man warns the hunter against the hillbillies, but the 5 of them head out of the town anyway. Soon, the hunter discovers what the threat is. In along with the unnaturally strong winds and rain, thousands of insects, birds and small animals converge on them. The hillbilly leader kicks one of the others out of the circle and he's quickly cleaned down to the bone. Pretty soon, the animals eat up the other three hillbillies and the hunter arrives back at the village, where the old man comments that a whole bunch of other hillbillies have arrived, just as much of a threat as the animals are. In the end, the hunter is beaten to death by one of the new hillbillies. 28 pages.

Makoto Ikeuchi (池内誠) is a pen name for Seiichi Ikeuchi, who also wrote under different hiragana and kanji spellings of his own name. According to the Akame fan page (Aka Me Pro, or Red Eye Productions was Sampei Shirato's studio), Ikeuchi was born in 1947, and entered Aka Me Pro around 1966 as an assistant, where he worked on "Watari" and "Kamui Gaiden". "Revolt" was his manga debut, and he went on to create various golf manga, including "The Swing". There's an interview with him at Comipress.

李さん一家 (Sumomo's Family)

Yoshiharu Tsuge (つげ義春) is out in the woods staying at a cabin he's found. As he starts up his own garden, he encounters Mr. Sumomo, a strange little man that can communicate with birds by whistling. The guy lives on the 2nd floor of the cabin with his wife and two young children. This is basically just a slice-of-life story as we're introduced to people that don't really show emotions or much intelligence. Later, Tsuge returns home, and the other four continue living on the second floor of their cabin. 12 pages.

作品集 (Creation Collection) #12

3 more pages of satire by Katsumata Susumu (勝又進). In the gag on the right, a teacher is berating her pupil for messing up on a kanji test. She goes to the child's home, then realizes that the kanji used for "husband and wife" was correctly written reversed as "wife and husband". In the second gag, a martial arts master tells his student that the way to defeat the enemy is to not look them in the eye. In the last panel, the customer is requesting extra food for free and the clerk is refusing to look up at her.

鬼太郎夜話 (Kitaro Night Stories) #1

Shigeru Mizuki is starting up a new Hakaba Kitaro storyline here. A doctor that has been plagued by a demon cow dies while trying to locate his tormentor. At the end of the story, he wills rats to bury his bones where he lies. 10 pages.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Gundam Cafe

About a week ago, the Japan Times paper ran a small side bar article on the April 24th opening of the new Gundam Cafe in Akihabara. There've been attempts at a Gundam-themed restaurant before, and there's one in the Bandai museum. But, Bandai is trying again. There wasn't a lot of hoopla leading up to the event yesterday morning, and the Daily Yomiuri didn't make much of it in advance either. But the Anime News Network did have some additional info, and the fact that the Bandai map indicated that the cafe would be along my path from the Akihabara train station to my office did at least make me wonder why I hadn't seen any signs of the construction work earlier.

Turns out that the new cafe is going into the space under the tracks where an old electronics shop used to be but had closed over a year ago. The day after the story ran, I went past the site, when some interior decorator firm was unloading gear to take into the building. At this point, just about everything inside was done. What was lacking was the exterior ornamentation.

3-4 days later, the Gundam "V" was up over the door.

The morning of the 24th, at 8:45 AM, the lines of people waiting to get in were already a block long, and TV crews were out filming. Actually, there's two lines. One for the cafe proper, and the other to get into the "gunpla" (gundam plastic figures) shop at the door to the right. I went by 3 times total that day, once in the morning on the way to work. A second time during my short lunch break. And the third at 5 PM on my way home. The lines were the same length each time. I figure it'll take at least a week before the wait to get inside will drop down to something more reasonable. I'll write more about the cafe then.

Friday, April 23, 2010

More fun with Roots Lupin

Back a while ago, I used some of my remaining airlines miles to buy a Canon HF100 HD digital recorder. It's a cute little toy, very compact, and it saves video and images to an SD card, meaning that there's no need for tapes. But there were two problems and one major issue. First, Japan is very touchy about the use of video cameras in public, so security people will descend on you at events like Comiket (although using a cell phone camera seems to be no problem, so go figure). In any case, there aren't that many things I've been able to, and want to record. Second, the auto white balance causes the shot to wash out badly with bright lighting or if the flash is too close to the subject. I'm starting to play with the other settings to compensate for this, but I haven't wanted to spend the time on messing with it since I've got so much other stuff I'm working on as well. And third, my old laptop had lots of problems working with the video editing software I had, and couldn't read the 16 gig memory card unless it was through the USB cable connected to the camera itself; meaning that even if I did take video I wasn't able to do much with it on the old setup.

But now, with my new desktop PC, I can plug the SD card into the reader and bypass the camera menus. And, the editing software works. So I decided to try taking a couple still shots of my latest Lupin-Roots figure to see what I can do about the white balance issue. Fortunately, the camera has a x12 zoom, so I can get slightly better shots than with the old digicam, but it still has the washout problem when the flash is too close to the subject and moving the camera farther back results in autofocusing problems when the subject is too small. And without the flash, the tinting from the ceiling lights makes the shot yellow-greenish. So there's still a major learning curve for this recorder.

As for Lupin... I wrote before that there are 10 figures in the set, plus one limited edition figure winnable from the website. Actually, not quite true. Seems that there are 12 regular figures. The 10 normal ones are one each of Fujiko, Lupin, Goemon, Jigen and Zenigata with their normal weapons, and then also with each one holding a can of Roots. The variations are that Fujiko can have a dress or a black skin-tight suit, and Lupin is in his season 1 green jacket or season 2 red jacket (no season 3 pink jacket). Well, while looking for the green jacket Lupin for taking the practice shots with the camera, I came across the rarer black jacket Lupin, also holding a Roots can (there's also one more figure for Fujiko). So I decided to get this one instead.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Clash of the Titans

Advertising for the new "Clash of the Titans" (タイタンの戦い) movie. I've seen it a bit around Tokyo. But here we have wall posters in Shinjuku station. Looks like the artwork is by Masami Kurumada, creator of "Saint Seiya" (but I'm not sure of that).