Thursday, December 31, 2015

Medama Oyaji

I'd written before about having several capsule ball figures that I had some interest in trying to buy, but that I was going to spread them out over a few weeks. Unfortunately, the next time I went to Amuplaza, the ball dispensers had been moved out again, and the Capsule Cafe shop in Tenmonkan didn't have the same figures anymore. But, I had a little spare time, and a couple extra 100 yen coins, so I checked out every machine in Capsule Cafe to see what they did have. There were only two machines that caught my eye - one with 3D puzzles, and another with Gegege Kitaro characters.

I got Kitaro's father - Medama Oyaji (old man eyeball). It's a tiny figure, maybe only 1/2" tall, and cost 300 yen ($2.60 USD). Price-wise, not a good deal, and I would have preferred Kitaro himself. But, this is a good second choice, and I do like the artwork on it. And, I'm currently using it as a tribute figure to Shigeru Miyazaki, who passed away at the end of 2015.

I'll satisfy myself with this one figure, because I don't feel like spending another 300 yen just to get Itaimomen or Nurikabe. Backbeard would be kind of cool to have, if I ever do D&D gaming again, though... But, the two characters I'd really want aren't in the set - Nezumi Otoko and Neko Musume.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Castrol Car

I've seen this "itasha" (car with anime decals) near the apartment before, but either when I didn't have the camera, or when it was pulling into a parking garage under another apartment building. Finally, as I was walking home from the school one night, the car was parked in front of the laundromat.

(I think mediafire is screwing this photo up. The link is right, but the page isn't displaying the image right now. I'll try rechecking mediafire in a few hours to see if the problem has gone away.)

I couldn't really get a good photo because of the bright lights coming off the laundromat and bouncing off the car, and because the driver was watching me from inside the building as he folded his clothes.  I hope to get a better opportunity in the future.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Inherit the Stars, vol. 4 review

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

Inherit the Stars, vol. 4 , by Yukinobu Hoshino, Grade: B
Ok, everything wraps up in this volume with a nice, pretty bow. Initially, it looks grim because the Jevlen apparently wipe out the Giant's ship as it's trying to go to their home planet, and the the enemy looks ready to fire another asteroid at Earth. But, the Russians ambush one of the Cro-mag Peace Council members while he's driving in his car, and the humans trick him into thinking that the planet is going to get wiped out now so he might as well talk and try to save all of them together.

Eventually, the Giants demonstrate that they knew the Jevlen would try to do something dirty, so they'd set up a dummy ship for them to attack. The Giants send a newer, smaller warp drive ship to Earth, and it's equipped with holographic technology to let them talk to the humans over a distance. The Giants are angry now, and agree to assist in the battle against the Cro-mags. The Human Space Council conducts simultaneous raids on the homes of all the Peace Council members, and the Russian member sends a message to the Jevlen home planet saying that he's changed allegiances and is going to help the humans in their war against the Jev. The Giants hack the Jevlen military communications feeds to project the illusion of a massive fleet of Earth ships coming in on a fast approach.

The Jevlen top politicians and military leaders panic and rush for an escape ship. The head Jev forces a warp jump too early and the ship implodes on its way into hyper-space. The Space Council is victorious, the remaining Jev assimilate with the humans, and Hunt is allowed to go back to civilian life as the humans continue on with their peaceful ways.

(The Jev leaders implode.)

Summary: Yeah, well... I guess I now know why I've never read anything by Hogan. I have tried a few other books by Hoshino, and I do like his Professor Case Books series, but I only want to get them if I can find them used. This time? Not so impressed. Hoshino does fine with his astronomical artwork, but his character designs can be all over the map, and he's not that good drawing combat scenes. And, unfortunately, he dumbs down the story by playing up the "peaceful resolution" element to shoehorn it in with the then-current Japanese mindset of "we're the peace lovers, and the peaceful route is the superior one". Again, there's a strong sense of wishful thinking in this manga. If you like Hogan, and the Giants books, then you'll probably like Hoshino's adaptation. Me, I'm going back to Q.E.D. and Area 51.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Star Wars and High Speed

Usually, the movie promo materials are installed on the 6th floor of Amu Plaza, in front of the theaters, or in the basement near the food court. It's not common to see stuff set up on the first floor. I like the fact that they have the droid model here. But, having seen the commercials for the movie on yahoo, I really hate this particular droid design. It looks like it's specifically aimed at the same target audience as the Ewoks were. Blech.

The technical name for this droid type? - dirty soccer ball.

High Speed

I've never seen the manga this anime is based on. The name is "High Speed". It may be the first sports manga about a swim team. Not sure if it makes marketing sense to release it in the middle of December...

I think it's going to be pretty easy to figure the story out without ever actually having to bother watching the movie.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Higashi e, Nishi e

My number 1favorite song by Bon DX is Higashi e, Nishi e, primarily because of two words that get belted out for the chorus - "dakara" and "gambare". For this reason, I've always thought the name of the song is "Gambare". Turns out, though, that it was originally written by Yosue Inoue in 1972 for his album "Inoue Yosue II - Sentimental," and has been dubbed the starting point of the Japanese surrealism genre. There are over 20 different cover versions on youtube (I didn't try counting them all; there's probably more), but Bon's is the only Ska interpretation I know of. I wanted to get a little more attention in the west for this version, so I took the Dec. 14th video footage and subtitled it in English as its own youtube video.

Direct youtube video

The original lyrics by Inoue, (c) 1972

昼寝をすれば夜中に 眠れないのはどういうわけだ
Hirune wo sureba yonaka ni nemurenai no hodou iu wake da
I took a siesta so now, in the middle of the night, I can't sleep.

満月 空に満月 明日は愛しいあの子に会える
Mangetsu, sore ni mangetsu ashita wa itoshii ano ko ni aeru
A full moon, in the sky a full moon, Tomorrow I'll meet a beautiful girl

目覚まし時計は 母親みたいで 心が通わず
Mezamashi dokei wa Hahaoya mitaide kokoro ga tsuuwazu
The alarm clock, just like my mother, has no heart

頼りの自分は 睡眠不足で  だから
Tayori no jibun wa suimin buzoku de dakara
I have to rely on myself, but I'm exhausted, therefore

がんばれ みんながんばれ 月は流れて東へ西へ...
Gambare, minna gambare, tsuki wa nagarete higashi e nishi e
Gambare, everyone gambare, the moon goes to east to west

電車は 今日もすしづめ 延びる線路が拍車をかける
Densha wa kyou mo sushidzume nobiro senro ga hakusha wo kakero
Again, the train is packed today, the outstretched tracks spur us on

満員 いつも満員 床に倒れた老婆が笑う
Man'in, itsu mo Man'in, yuka ni taoreta rouba ga warao
Standing room only, everyday standing room only, the old woman lying on the floor is laughing

お情け無用の お祭り電車に呼吸も止められ
Onasake muyou no omatsuri densha ni koyuu mo tomerare
Sympathy is futile, even breathing ends on this festival train

身動きできずに 夢見る旅路へ だから
Miugokidekizu ni yume miru tabiji e, dakara
Unable to move, dreaming of the journey, therefore

がんばれ みんながんばれ 夢の電車は東へ西へ...
Gambare, minna gambare, yume no densha wa higashi e nishi e
Gambare, everyone gambare, the dream train goes to east to west

花見の 駅で待ってる 君にやっとの思いで会えた
Hanami no eki de matteru, kimi ni yatto no omoide aeta
Going cherry blossom viewing, I wait at the station, after great length
I can finally meet you

満開 花は満開 君はうれしさあまって気が触れる
mankai, hana wa mankai, kimi wa ureshisa amatte ki ga fureru
Full bloom, the flowers are in full bloom, I can feel your great happiness

空では カラスも 負けないくらいに喜んでいるよ
Sore de wa karasu mo makenaikurai ni yorokondeiro yo
In the sky, the crows also, fight to be happy

とまどう ぼくには何にもできない だから
Tomadou, boku ni wa nani mo dekinai, dakara
Bewildered, I'm unable to do anything, therefore

がんばれ みんながんばれ 黒いカラスは東へ西へ
Gambare, minna gambare, kuroi karasu wa higashi e nishi e
Gambare, everyone gambare, the flying crow goes to east to west

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Carol Lay Commission

I received a lot of very nice things for Christmas this year (thank you, everyone!) What I want to talk about right now, though, is the commission from Carol Lay. Carol has been producing independent comics for quite a while, and has done work on the Simpsons comics, and stuff for MAD magazine and Kitchen Sink. Currently, she has a page on GoComics (Lay Lines), where she's rerunning her Story Minutes, as well as debuting a new series called "Murderville". Because there are so many threads going on with Lay Lines, I decided to help her out by compiling an index of links to the starting pages of the longer stories, and to the individual Story Minutes. She's a very talented artist and storyteller, and I like her stuff.

Lately, I've been requesting commissions from different artists for my birthday and for Christmas (Greg Cravens, Rich Powell, Matt Howarth, Gav Gnatovich) and this time I'd initially trying asking Dave Kellett (Sheldon, Drive) for something, but he turned me down, saying he doesn't accept commissions. I then turned to Carol, who said the same thing. I mentioned that what I wanted was a family portrait of the Scazzos from Murderville, and that she was happy to do. She also volunteered to personalize the artwork by mounting the head of a Totoro over the fireplace, which I think is a nice twist. Additionally, she tossed in copies of Murderville #2, Illiterature (the first volume of the collected Story Minutes) and issue #1 of Good Girls. LOTS of great stuff here. I even received a pencil sketch of an early version of Leo Scazzo (tentatively dated 2012) which is mucho cool.

Overall, I'm extremely pleased with the artwork in this bundle, and I highly recommend anything by Carol that you can get your hands on.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Final Comments on the Christmas Market

As mentioned in the previous post, I had to teach two lessons in the middle of the afternoon on the 25th, and then the initial plan was to have dinner outside and follow that with a city bus ride to look at the illuminations in the area. Unfortunately, our plans changed and I ended up having to stay home for the night, but we did have a good dinner of udon and a salted ham salad. What this means is that I pretty much missed everything on the final day of the Christmas Market. I did have to go shopping for a few minutes at the Plaza around 5 PM, which gave me time to take a couple pictures of the act then on the stage - the Tajima Trio again. The lead singer was doing kind of a solo with a piano accompaniment, while the rest of the band just waited and listened along. I didn't feel like I was missing much at that point.

On the 24th, I had a chance to talk to Bon, of Bon DX, and I gave him the DVD-ROMs I'd burned with the photos from the show on the 20th, and masters of the videos I've uploaded to youtube. I also gave him a SKA Brewing sticker (since the band plays ska music). He quickly ran into the support tent, and came back out with a CD, saying it was a Christmas present. The CD is a compilation of music from ska and reggae bands all across Kyushu. There's 66 minutes worth of songs, and I'm only 5 songs in so far. Good stuff.

Also on the 24th, Dion dropped by to watch Bon DX at 4 PM, and he took a selfie with me, which he emailed a day later. He had two more sets on the 25th, at 7 and 8 PM, and I really do regret not being able to watch them. Sigh. Oh well.

I took 1 hour of video with Bon DX on the 24th, and about 10 photos, and burned that to DVD-ROMs again. Bon has a show on Myu FM radio on Wednesday nights, so I contacted Yuki Arima (the person that did my radio interview) about being able to drop the disks off at the station for her to give to Bon. Given the holiday period lasts until the first week of January, I'm not sure when I'll be able to do that. We'll see. So far, no comments back from Bon or the rest of the band on the DVDs I'd given them last week. This may be a sign that I need to back off a bit...

Dion's set, Dec. 24

(The man is a hard act to follow.)

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Amu Plaza Xmas Market day 7 - misc

I didn't have to work on the 23rd, but on the other hand there wasn't anything I wanted to see at the Christmas Market until 4 PM. The first show was Rant and Rave, a steel drum orchestra. I'd seen them before, back in June, 2014. They're good, but the big camera had trouble adjusting to the sound levels, and I think it cut the base out after the first second or so of the recording. I don't think that's happened before, and I really hope this isn't going to be an on-going problem.

(It was a good crowd, for a Wednesday, and the fact that it had been raining all day.)

(The MC was from MBC, and the guitarist is backing Jimmy.)

At 5 PM, we got Jimmy Irieda and Triangle. Jimmy is a local personality on MBC Radio, and supposedly does doo-wop. He has a decent falsetto vocal style, but he seems to focus more on the visual element of his act than on the audio side. He had a lot of fans at the show, though, so he is popular. I just hung around to get a few photos, then I went home for dinner.


I came back at 8 PM, when Dion was getting ready for his second set. Christopher Dion is from the U.S., and apparently worked at Cisco Systems up until a round of layoffs 2 years ago. He then moved to Nagoya, where he's been working as a producer and singer. His set was all covers (Happy, YMCA, Uptown Funk), but he rocked the crowd and I stuck around for the full thirty minutes. After the show was over, I talked with him for a few minutes, then he had to go back to his hotel. Anyway, I liked Dion's set the best out of what I saw during the day. He's got energy, personality and he can dance.

Dec. 24th and 25th
I went up to Amu Plaza a little early to catch Bon DX's 3 Pm and 4 PM sets. Because Bon always performs the same 5-6 songs every time, I decided that I wasn't going to make duplicated youtube videos, or take that many photos. Instead, I just set the big camera up to make a static video to put on a DVD-ROM to give to Bon later as a souvenir of the show, and then sat back to enjoy the music. Dion arrived just before 4 PM because I'd recommended the band to him, and we talked a bit. After the second set was over, I returned home. I'd wanted to come back for Dion's 8 PM set that night, but the family had our Christmas Eve dinner at that time, and I missed both the 7 and 8 PM shows. Oh well. Maybe I'll see him again the next time he comes back to Kagoshima. I have to work part of this afternoon, and then I'm going out to see the seasonal illuminations, so I'll miss everything for today, too. And then the Christmas Market will finish and that will be the end of the event for this year.

Direct youtube video

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Amu Plaza Xmas Market, Misc Set 2

More assorted photos over the last few days. First, I was up on the top floor of the Amu Plaza department store, near the entrance point for the Ferris wheel, and I figured I might as well take pictures of two of the specially painted cars. Pokemon, and the Amu Plaza Christmas car.

I assume the interiors are done up to match the exteriors.

I had a class at 2:30 on Monday, and when that ended I went up to Amu Plaza to catch the 4 PM set. I don't know how to pronounce his name (鮫島 成彬). I think it's something like Seihin Samejima. I can't find a homepage for him, just a Twitter account. He was doing soft ballads (he sang well) so I went into the department store for free sample coffee.

Sun7Go got on stage at 5 PM. They describe themselves as a "no genre band," but they were just doing light pop and folk songs, so I returned home for dinner. Again, no website pages found.

I couldn't get back up after dinner, so I stayed home for the rest of the night.

On the way home, I saw this conjunction of a concrete pillar at the edge of a park by the Kotsuki river, an apartment building, the crow on the TV antenna, and the moon.

I hesitated on pulling the big camera out of my backpack, but in the end I tried getting artsy. I've got exposure dialed down, which is why the sky looks so much darker here.

Actually, I'm surprised at how much contrast there is on the craters near the shadow line. I should have taken a couple extra shots at max zoom of just the moon.

Tuesday morning I had an early lesson. As I walked by Hozan Hall, next to Central Park, I happened across some kind of a photo shoot.

Rock bands where the members wear animal masks seem to be gaining popularity, so maybe that's what this is.

Although, I'm not sure why Manabu (Study Pig), one of the local mascots, was part of the shoot...

I had classes and shopping on Tuesday, so I could only get to Amu Plaza at 7 PM, when Sakura Togo was starting up. She's a very good vocalist and guitarist. Her first piece was a purely vocal rendition of Silent Night. Then she went into a pop folk song. Again, not my kind of music, so I went home for the night to work on producing video DVD-ROMs that I want to give Bon DX on Thursday.