Sunday, July 31, 2011

Commentary: Big Comic Superior

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

Big Comic Superior is a biweekly (every other Friday) (300 yen, 365 pages) aimed at an older audience, with stories ranging all over the place, including soccer, baseball, office politics, ninja fantasy, police procedurals, horror and street criminals. Half of the stories have relatively well-drawn art but the characters look really stiff and posed. There's nothing in here that I would buy the magazine regularly for, but a couple of titles are kind of fun.

Some of the artists here are easily recognizable, including:
Buronson and Ryouichi Ikegami (Heat and Sanctuary) with Lord
Masaya Tokuhiro (Jungle King Tar-chan) with Teishu Genki de Inu ga Ii
Hidenori Hara (Train Man) with Oh-sama no Hometown (King's Hometown).


Lord is a fairly brutal, graphic retelling of the Three Kingdoms story. Inu is a very raunchy gag series with a dog and a woman working as detectives. Hometown has a very strong Monkey Punch vibe, and features a hapless woman trying to manage a baseball team (at the moment).

Other titles that may be familiar to western fans are:
Moonlight Mile

(King's Hometown)

Of all of the titles, I think I like Hometown best, solely because of the Monkey Punch-like characters and gag setups. Yuurei Tou (幽麗塔) (the cover manga) has promise, but I haven't decided if I like the main characters.


Follow-up on last week's mention of Young Gangan. I'd shown a page of "The Arms Peddler", saying that it had the single best panel in the issue. Suddenly, this weekend, Manga Fox started carrying scanilations of it. Turns out the art is by a Korean artist. Go figure. (The writing is by the creator of "Jesus" and "Yami no Aegis", so there's at least some "manga" involved in it, anyway.)

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Lights Out

I've written before about how there were 5 major stone bridges commissioned in the late 1800's to cross the Kotsuki river, and how they were replaced with more modern structures in the 1990's. There are more than just the 5 now, but the majority of them, especially along the stretch within 5 miles of the Kagoshima-chuo train station are in very good condition and still look pretty new. That's why it seems so strange to me to see one of the bridges with the light globes removed and the bulbs gone. At the least, in the U.S. they've be covered over to prevent people from vandalizing them further.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Cookie House

About 3 weeks ago, there was a pastry event at the Tenmonkan shopping complex, in the middle of one of the walking streets. There were about 20 shops displaying different kinds of cookies and cakes. Two of the centerpieces was a 7-tier wedding cake (fairly plain-looking) and the "gingerbread house".

It was made using actual cookies, and the aroma from it was almost overwhelming. None of the children I watched tried taking a bite out of it, but they were probably just biding their time and waiting for their chance.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Anpanman bus

You may have noticed that several of the last blog entries were kind of weak compared to my recent spate (i.e. - the nerd jokes). The reason is that I've finally caught up on all of the Kagoshima travel photos, and still had several really old entries sitting around waiting to be used. The backpack keitai straps photo was taken over 6 months ago, and "Embarrassing Way to Go" was written in March. I just wanted to clean out the last of the backlog before writing up the newest entries. Also, I haven't been going outside quite as much lately because it's gotten really hot and muggy, and there's not as much new left to see within easy walking distance. So, I'm finally going to go back to single-themed posts with just 1-4 photos per days. I apologize to anyone that's gotten used to my monster 20-photo entries of the last 3 months. And to those of you that hated the monster posts, "welcome back".

Officially authorized Anpanman school bus.
The above notice describes an event for children where food will be provided. The below one talks about a "minori club" to run in July and August.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

O-gion-sa 2011

O-Gion-sa is a festival in Kagoshima, Japan. This year's was on July 24th. It's characterized by groups of men, women or children carrying portable shrines. This type of activity is common throughout Japan at this time of year. It's just that each region has its own spin on the traditions. O-Gion-san features a large shrine weighing a couple hundred pounds, not including the two men standing on it, and it is hand-carried by the porters. The men wear fundoshi, a traditional kind of loincloth similar to that worn by sumo wrestlers.

Tram Douri was closed off all the way to the end of Tenmonkan, with crowds standing on the streetcar rails. This meant that either you had to drive in really early to get a parking space and then leave late, or park a few blocks away and walk in. I'd estimate 200 people in my immediate area near the end of the route at the Aimu Building.

Youtube video 1

Youtube video 2

Naturally, mediafire continues to screw up and not display some of the photos.

(Back of the Aimu building staging area for the main shrine.)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Kagoshima Travel event #2

A couple of weeks ago, Japan Rail (JR) had a promotional campaign in front of the Kagoshima-chuo station to highlight trips to Osaka, Hyogo and other tourist destinations. This weekend, they did it again, but with different mascots and spotlight cities. They still had the local produce and souvenirs booths, but this time they were moved in with the booths with the advertising posters.

There was also a little more emphasis on manga-driven ads. Such as with Meitantei Conan above, and Mekuri Mekuru (which hasn't gained all that much popularity with western fans yet, but seems to be about a nostalgic travel destination. Kind of an obvious tie-in.)

Some of the mascots.

And a fan(?)

The one on the right is Momotchi. "Momo" means "peach", and that's what's in the background for the button below. Notice that her dress has a tiger pattern, which traditionally indicates that she's a demon, explaining her fangs and the horn on top of her head. According to the wiki entry, Okayama grows white peaches in the mountainous northern area of the city.

The one with the yellow hair and orange vest on the left is Uratchi. Not sure what his tie-in to Okayama is. The banner on the woman on the right says "friends".

The one play zone for children was the bouncing balloon in the shape of the bullet train.

There weren't that many freebies this time. Just this pin with Momotchi and Uratchi, a fan with Conan characters on it, some Conan stickers, and a package of tissues. Because it's so hot and humid now, the fan is actually a very popular item.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Nerd Jokes

Guess the movie references. What do they share in common?

The Predator photo is from:

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Commentary: Young Gangan

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

As I'm going through the shelves of magazines at Kinokuniya, I'm kind of forced to pick up anything that starts with "Young", just because there's so many of them, and to get them out of the way so I can skip them all more easily to find the other stuff I haven't read yet. That's why this time we have Young Gangan. This one is also part of the Square Enix collection of publications which includes Monthly Shonen Gangan, which I've already commented on.

(One of the three freebie mini-posters.)

Coming out on the first and third Fridays of the month, YG is 320 yen for 490 pages. Like the other "Young" titles, this one features various photo spreads of scantily-clad young women. Nothing really provocative, mostly bikini shots (ref. cover). There is an insert this time, a set of three mix-and-match manga character drawings of girls at an onsen.

(Kiba no Tabishounin - The Arms Peddler, with what's arguably the single best panel in the magazine.)

The manga titles themselves cover the standard young men themes of fantasy battles, SF, daily life, vampires and school girls having adventures. There are quite a few titles recognizable by western fans:

Black God
Mangaka-san and Assistant-san
Astro Fighter Sunred
Aria the Scarlet Ammo Double
Arakawa Under the Bridge
Densetsu no Yuusha no Densetsu Revision
Time of Eve
Star Driver


On the whole, a large number of the titles have good artwork and interesting character designs. I wouldn't mind following Young Gangan for several issues to see how the storylines pan out. One title in particular does amuse me - the 4-panel gag strip "Gohho-chan". Here, Van Gogh is the main character in a series of oddball gags based on his paintings, with appearances by Paul Gauguin and Toulouse-Lautrec. Weird stuff.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

An Embarrassing Way to Go

An Embarrassing Way to Go
Lyrics by Curtis Hoffmann, Music by Whoever Writes It

Johnny was standing by the side of the street
Looking both ways before moving his feet
Knew there were no cars and the road was clear
Got hit in the head with someone's bottle of beer

His friends, they all agreed....
it was an embarrassing way to go
Everyone's time has got to come, no two ways about it
But if it seems a little dumb, just go and shout it -
I want an embarrassing way to go.

Patti was a looker and she loved to breed,
And a dinner and movie was all she'd need
Didn't ask for cash, not motivated by greed
Crushed by a couch as she sat and peed.

Her date, he certainly agreed....
it was an embarrassing way to go
Everyone's time has got to come, no two ways about it
But if it seems a little dumb, just go and shout it -
I want an embarrassing way to go.

Hemophiliac Tom was a real trip
Scratch him once and he'd begin to drip
Cut himself while shaving on his lip
Took fourteen days to achieve that R.I.P.

Oh yeah, his obit really did read....
it was an embarrassing way to go
Everyone's time has got to come, no two ways about it
But if it seems a little dumb, just go and shout it -
I want an embarrassing way to go.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Time for more Japanglish:


Seek the Angle

Shiroyama Grocery Store

Teatro Angero Pachinko Parlor

Smack Engineer (Fashion shop)


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Keitai Pack

Remember that entry on Gundam Bear keitai (cell phone) straps? Most people don't put them on their phones because it makes the phone too bulky to keep in their pockets. Some people do like keitei straps, though. Maybe a little too much...

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Just GIMPing along

While I was working on some photo touch-up for the blog, I started feeling a little frustrated with the way GIMP was changing the chroma values of the images if I cranked the saturation or contrast settings too far either way from the original values of the image. As a result I began messing with some of the other built-in effects (embossing, curves, etc.) The "Animation" option caught my eye and I played with that as well. There's not much to work with for the standard plug-ins, and things like waves are only useful for very limited applications. But the globe option turns out pretty well, as long as you're careful to pick starting pictures that don't leave seams where the left and right edges of the image join. The sprinkler panel almost looks like a UFO, and the building exhaust lines come out absolutely perfectly - no seam at all.

Original sprinkler panel.

Original exhaust vents.


Rotating vents.

Waves in water. Actually, this was a photo of the Kotsuki river, which already had some ripples in it. The animation looks a little fake to me, but it does seem like the river is boiling, like something's about to come up out of it. Unlike with the globes, where the resulting animation gif comes out under 100K even with 10 frames, the waves gif is huge, between 500K and 1M for only 6 frames, depending on the original image size.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Nanchate, Kitkat, makers of Lifegaurd softdrink, also have a joke brand called "Nanchatte" (lit. "Just kidding!"). One of their previous sodas was a parody of a hot sauce bottle. This time, it's soy sauce. The text at the bottom says "Do not drink (real) soy sauce". On the back, in smaller text, it says "Unlike with Nanchatte Cola, do not drink plain (real) soy sauce as if it were juice". Elsewhere, it says "contains 0.3% soy beans". The taste is similar to western colas, but there is kind of a salty element evocative of soy sauce that may be offputting if you don't know what it is that you're drinking.

Zunda Fuumi Kitkats
"Fuumi" is "taste" or "flavor". Zunda is a sweet paste made by mashing up edamame beans, which is a popular snack in Miyage prefecture. So, this time around we have edamame-flavored Kitkats. Actually, this seems to be a re-issue of a flavor released in 2008 but with different packaging. It's kind of like eating snow peas, but as with any specialty Kitkat, the artificial sweeteners overpower the other flavors. At least this one isn't waxy, and it is rather crunchy. Not worth eating more than once, though. Note, though that the back of the box has a "to" and "from" space for gifting purposes.

Another of the Pepsi/Snoopy Gourmet World cell phone straps. This is probably the closest I'm ever going to get to a full tin of caviar.