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Fans wonder if children’s show Pretty Cure’s next season will go “full lesbian”

Posted: 01 Dec 2017 05:00 PM PST

This long-running children’s series may not be doing it on purpose, but is making significant strides in LGBT acceptance in Japan.

Toei-Animation recently announced that the next iteration of Pretty Cure will begin in Spring of 2018 titled Hugtto Pretty Cure. This is normal for the Pretty Cure franchise which reboots with new characters, plot lines, and merchandising opportunities every year.

● Hugtto Pretty Cure

For those unfamiliar with the show, Pretty Cure is a long-running anime series that began in 2004 in which teenage girls gain magical powers to battle the forces of evil. The series is hugely popular with young girls in Japan and has a massive line of toys, along with live musical shows that draw large crowds.

With the announcement Hugtto Pretty Cure one 2-chan poster remarked: “This is totally going to be a lesbian anime…”

At first, that might seem like a crass assessment of a show aimed at little girls, but if you’ve watched Pretty Cure you’d quickly find that it’s not unwarranted.

● Chocolate Macarons anyone?

My first experience with Pretty Cure came with the current season Pretty Cure A La Mode as my daughter had just gotten old enough to get into it. In A La Mode there is a team of five girls who use the combined powers of animals and baked goods to battle with.

It had surprisingly good action scenes considering they were essentially just throwing giant cakes at their foes. However, while watching, it didn’t take long to notice that something was going on between the two older teammates of the group. Of course, my daughter didn’t pay it any mind, but any adult could easily tell that Cure Chocolat (the brown one) and Cure Macaron (the purple one) were totally into each other.

This subtext is both so obvious and yet so coy, it’s actually rather impressively handled. To give you a quick sense, here is a fan-made video showing some of the pair’s more intimate moments over the season.

These two characters are said to be based on roles in the all-female Takarazuka Revue, a legendary theatre company in Hyogo Prefecture. While the character designs are certainly a homage, there is still more to unwrap with this show.

● Yuri Fanbase

The previous music video clearly wasn’t made by a six-year-old, so you can probably realize that there is a wider fanbase to Pretty Cure than meets the eye. Digging a little into the series’ past seasons, there has been a growing number of yuri fans getting behind these magical girls. Yuri is a genre of manga and anime that deals with romantic relationships between female characters.

Given the themes of camaraderie between young women in Pretty Cure, it is no surprise that yuri fan fiction began to arise. It is, however, a surprise that Toei-Animation has clearly been playing into this and adding yuri elements to the series without getting too explicit.

Nothing against yuri, but this is a little sad because at first I was hoping the creator was simply trying to raise awareness of LGBT equality and acceptance among the youth of Japan. However, considering the creator and writer of Pretty Cure is Izumi Todo, a pseudonym for the entire corporate entity of Toei-Animation, it is rather likely that they just found an exploitable market to tap into.

● Akira Kenjo doesn’t owe us an explanation

Back when my four-year-old daughter was first teaching me about the Pretty Cure lore I noticed that Chocolat was the only one dressed in suits and had the real name of Akira which is a rather unisex name. So I asked, “Is Cure Chocolat a boy?”

“No,” she answered, “because Pretty Cure is all girls.”

“But Chocolat has pants, and is named Akira… and kind of looks like a boy.”

“Yes, Chocolat is a boy.”


Watching the anime yielded little clarity as well. I watched as the feminine-yet-deep-voiced (by former Takarazuka member Nanako Mori) Chocolat and Macaron gave each other doe eyes. I grew increasingly frustrated that the show never definitively explained what gender or sexual orientation Akira is and if there really was anything going on between her and Cure Macaron.

However, while my crusty old brain was busy trying to assign gender roles, my daughter was just enjoying Chocolat, Macaron, and the rest for what they were – and that’s pretty cool.

Akira never explains herself or her actions in the show, and she shouldn’t have to at all. Sadly, it took me a bit to figure out, but my kid already gets it and hopefully she’ll carry that attitude with her as she grows up.

● Back to the future of Pretty Cure

It’s no secret that Japan isn’t really known for its touchy-feely personal interactions, and hugging isn’t very common. So while westerners might find “hug” to be an innocent concept, given what we’ve just learnt about the series, there does appear to be some foreshadowing of more heavy-handed yuri content to come.

Of course, in order to keep the revenue flowing from the much more lucrative little girl market, they can’t go too far without drawing the wrath of conservative parents. It’s obvious that the real reason Akira doesn’t come out is because the backlash would be bad for Toei-Animation’s bottom line. But for kids, it simply comes across that her and Macaron’s orientation is not a big deal – which incidentally is exactly how it should be.

And so, as it has before and as it will in the future, this yin and yang of yuri fans and kid fans has – in an amazingly unintentional way – resulted in Pretty Cure being one of the more progressive children’s series around, featuring positive and grounded female role models living alternative lifestyles free of judgment.

Source: Toei-Animation, Kinisoku
Top image, video: YouTube/Luna Midnight
Insert image:  Toei-Animation

Disaster video game series resurrected with support from the Kobe Fire Department

Posted: 01 Dec 2017 09:30 AM PST

The Zettai Zetsumei Toshi disaster survival video game series has been revived, and will be more realistic than ever before.

The Zettai Zetsumei Toshi (literally translated as “A City in Desperate Straits“) video game series created by developer Irem seeks to recreate the atmosphere and tension of survival immediately following a serious environmental disaster. The series debuted in 2002 on the PlayStation 2 with its first entry, set on a crumbling artificial island. The game, which was localized as Disaster Report in the US and in the PAL region as SOS: The Final Escape, featured survival gameplay from a third-person perspective, where you as the main protagonist must make your way off the island, utilizing whatever items you can loot from the debris, whilst making sure to stay hydrated by locating potable water, and helping NPCs on the way. With sudden deaths from falling construction and collapsing walkways continually interrupting gameplay, it’s a tense yet often frustrating experience, although it does feature kooky gameplay elements like being able to build your own raft and paint it with polka dots to float downriver to reach your objective.

Nevertheless, the game performed well enough to spawn a sequel in 2006, Zettai Zetsumei Toshi 2, also for the PlayStation 2. The sequel was also localised for Western audiences under the name Raw Danger! The third entry, however, never saw Western localization, but was released in Japan and Korea in 2009 for the PSP handheld.

A fourth entry in the series, Zettai Zetsumei Toshi 4: Summer Memories, planned for the PlayStation 3 in 2011, was suddenly cancelled for sensitivity reasons following the events of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. However, hardcore fans of the series have long clamored for the series to continue, and Summer Memories is now finally due for release in 2018 on the PlayStation 4, with the PlayStation 3 version being scrapped and new developers Granzella starting over from scratch.

▼The official Zettai Zetsumei Toshi 4: Summer Memories trailer

As announced in Famitsu magazine, in order to provide an authentic experience, the game’s developers have teamed up with the Kobe City Fire Bureau, utilizing their expertise to recreate disaster response scenarios realistically. Kobe suffered heavy damage in the 1995 Great Hanshin earthquake, making the Kobe City Fire Bureau experts in disaster response.

In a press release on the Granzella website, Takeshi Takeoka, the Kobe City Fire Bureau PR chief, was quoted as saying:

We at the KCFB have long been aware of the “Zettai Zetsumei Toshi” video game series’ popularity, and that is why we took the initiative ourselves to reach out to (game developer) Granzella to collaborate with them on this project. We would be delighted if people are able to learn how to stay safe in a disaster through playing this game.

The game will also apparently feature realistic scenes of earthquakes, etc, with disaster prevention documents and manuals obtained in-game complying with official regulations to provide essential disaster response information. Clearly, the newest entry in the series will prove educational as well as entertaining, especially for those living in Japan, which is prone to environmental disasters.

Source: Jin115
Featured Image: YouTube / Granzella Inc

Cute Japanese hamster T-shirt has a secret weapon: boobs【Photos】

Posted: 01 Dec 2017 08:00 AM PST

Designers claim shirt was "born of a desire to show the appeal of hamsters," but the real motivation seems to lie elsewhere.

Japan's Mocolle is known for high-concept, unique apparel. With its name a mashup of "mousou" ("delusion" of "fantasy") and "collection," Mocolle specializes in fanciful fashion crossovers, such as its Lolita maternity wear and Shinto shrine maiden swimsuit.

So it's a little strange to find out that Mocolle's latest item of clothing is…a hamster T-shirt?

Granted, the artwork is pretty cute, with the furry little guys stuffing their cheek pouches full of sunflower seeds. You also get your choice between the ever-popular golden/Syrian hamster or a gray Djungarian breed, which is a nice bonus for those well-versed in hamster-related knowledge. But where's Mocolle's well-established flair at catching the eye with attention-commanding design?


As demonstrated by spokesmodel and cosplayer Saki Miyamoto, Mocolle's hamster T-shirt has to be worn for the full effect. Because the drawing of the hamster is positioned high on the shirt, its cheek pouches align with the wearer's chest, which really makes the illustration pop, so to speak.

It's not entirely clear whether the shirt absolutely requires a prodigious chest to pull off the 3-D effect, or if the artwork itself provides a visual augmentation, as with the breast-enhancing optical illusion T-shirt that went on sale in Japan last summer.

As with all of Mocolle's designs, the Check Pouch T-shirt is being initially offered as part of a crowdfunding campaign on Japanese website Campfire. The page for the campaign, which can be found here, has 57 days left to go as f this writing, with reward tiers that include a shirt starting at 3,850 yen (US$34).

Source: Campfire via IT Media
Images: Campfire

Japanese high school volleyball player beaten by coach, teammates for violating no-dating rule

Posted: 01 Dec 2017 07:00 AM PST

Coach retains job, school says it does not think attacks by other students constituted bullying.

While it's become common knowledge that many Japanese talent agencies prohibit idol singers from dating, there are similar rules in place at some Japanese high schools. The logic is that teens should be focusing on their studies and wholesome extra-curricular activities, as opposed to squandering their precious youth trying to get a date (when exactly they are supposed to become interested in romantic companionship is a question anti-dating schools quietly sidestep in its entirety).

Tochigi Prefecture's Ashikaga High School isn't so strict as to have a blanket ban on dating, but its boys volleyball team, a regular competitor at national championship tournaments, does set internal limits on its members’ love lives. Players aren't allowed to date anyone else involved with the volleyball program, such as the equipment managers, who in Japan are usually female students, so as to prevent jealousy and animosity from breeding among teammates.

However, young love isn't always so easily contained, and one boy on the team, a 17-year-old second-year student, began dating a first-year female student equipment manager. Their tryst was discovered, though, and it's now come to light that on June 29, the 66-year-old coach confronted the boy about violating the team's internal rule. After telling the boy to kneel on the floor in the traditional Japanese style, he began to berate the teen for his actions, kicking him in the chest repeatedly and striking him on the back when he toppled over, angrily declaring "This is corporal punishment."

Ashikaga High School principal Shigekazu Matsushita relayed all this at a press conference held on November 30. In addition to the above incident, the boy was assaulted multiple times by his teammates both in the dormitory in which he lived and in the school gymnasium.

Sadly, real life doesn't always operate like a feel-good youth sports movie, and despite the deplorable actions of the coach and players involved in the attacks, it's been another successful year for Ashikaga's volleyball team, which once again earned entry to the national high school tournament, scheduled to take place between January 4 and 8. Matsushita announced that the coach will not be travelling with the team to the venue, Tokyo's Metropolitan Gymnasium.

Startlingly, the coach will not be fired for the incident, though the school says he regrets his actions. Instead, he'll be allowed to serve out his current contract until its end at the conclusion of the school year in spring (the school has said his contract will not be renewed). Matsushita also said that the attacks on the boy by his teammates "are not recognized as incidents of bullying" by the school, one of the more reprehensible denials of bullying in recent memory.

Making things even more troubling is that in 2008, in a separate incident, a pair of third-year students who were members of Ashikaga’s volleyball team were expelled after months of assaulting their underclassmen teammates, including punching them and scalding one student’s face with hot water in the dorm’s shower facility, because they “had been playing poorly” or “had bad attitudes.” The two third-year students were subsequently expelled (it’s unclear whether the team’s current coach was also in charge of the team at the time).

However, there is a happy ending, of sorts, in that both the recently assaulted boy and the manager have since left the team, apparently having the mature wherewithal to realize that some people, no matter how many games they win, are losers who it's not worth spending time with.

Source: Livedoor News/Sankei News via Jin, Eduon
Top image: Wikipedia/あばさー

Japan’s Family Mart convenience store chain adding fitness clubs to select locations

Posted: 01 Dec 2017 06:00 AM PST

A convenient way to stay in shape.

We can't overstress how many more viable meal options Japanese convenience stores have compared to their overseas counterparts. Any of the country's major chains is stocked with bento boxed lunches, rice balls, sandwiches, and pasta dishes, all of it tasty, fresh, and affordably priced.

However, convenience stores in Japan also have plenty of high-calorie temptations, from Japan-exclusive Kit Kats to cream-filled pastries and, of course, refrigerated cases filled with beer and canned shochu sour cocktails. So as enjoyable as a trip to forage for snacks at the convenience store may be, the aftermath can often have you feeling like you should get some exercise to offset the indulgences, and convenience store chain Family Mart is planning to let you do that all in the same building.

The company has announced that it'll be getting into the fitness industry with the creation of a fitness club chain called Fit & GO, which, like Family Mart's shops, will be open 24 hours a day. Around-the-clock gyms are few and far between in Japan, but they've been growing in popularity recently, especially among exercisers in their 20s, 30s, and 40s, which is also the age range of Family Mart's primary customer demographic.

Exact equipment will likely vary by location, but Family Mart says that Fit & GO gyms will have treadmills and weight machines, as well as personal trainers to assist clients develop a fitness program (Fit & GO will have its own dedicated staff, so convenience store workers won't be pulling double duty). There will also be shower facilities, and the company expects a certain amount of synergy since customers can buy workout-related items such as towels, soap, and dietary supplements in the convenience store to use before or after they hit the gym.

The first Fit & GO is expected to open in February, attached to a Family Mart in Tokyo's Ota Ward. While the gyms won't have as much floor space as larger fitness centers, the aim is to provide a convenient place for people to get in a quick 30-minute workout at the start or end of their daily commute, and could be a great way to stay in shape, provided you don't make a habit of rewarding yourself with a piece of Family Mart's fried chicken after you're done.

Source: Family Mart
Top image ©SoraNews24
Insert image: Family Mart

Japan’s new imitation Oreos are here, but how do they compare to the made-in-China real deal?

Posted: 01 Dec 2017 05:00 AM PST

Company that previously produced made-in-Japan Oreos is back in the sandwich cookie game, and our reporter Meg is ready to score the fight.

Oreos have been popular in Japan for decades, but the version of Nabisco's beloved sandwich cookies available here wasn't actually made by Nabisco. Instead, as part of a licensing agreement, Japan's Oreos were made domestically by Tokyo-based Yamazaki Biscuits.

However, that license expired last year, and Mondelez International, Nabisco's corporate owner, moved production of the Oreos it sells in Japan to China, which are then exported to Japanese wholesalers and retailers. When the changeover happened, we compared the new made-in-China-sold-in-Japan Oreos with the previous made-in-Japan Oreos, and found some differences that had us missing the Yamazaki version.

But even though its tie-up with Nabisco has run its course, Yamazaki is still in the cookie business, and after keeping us waiting for more than a year, it's released a successor to the Japanese-made Oreos called Noir, which are made in the same Ibaraki Prefecture factory in Japan where the Japanese Oreos were produced and went on sale December 1.

▼ SoraNews24's in-house Oreo expert Meg poses with the product

While Noir ditches the traditional blue Oreo packaging for a red-and-white color scheme, it's pretty obvious that they want you to think of Oreos when you look at the bag.

Noirs are the same size as Oreos, and the same color, too, with two thin cocoa biscuits sandwiching a cream filling. At first glance, you might even think Noir has copied Oreo's iconic clover motif.

But look closer and you'll see that those are actually sakura cherry blossoms, Japan's most beloved flower, encircling the initials of Yamazaki Biscuits Company.

Yamazaki is obviously targeting fans of the discontinued Japanese-made Oreos, so we decided to do a bite-by-bite comparison between Noir and the Chinese-made Oreos on sale in Japan.

▼ Meg, hard at work

Starting with the biscuits, they seem pretty similar at first, as both are light and crisp. But Noir's cocoa flavor leaves a longer-lasting flavor, which means the chocolatey notes become stronger as you continue to chew, whereas the Oreo's cocoa element tops out pretty early.

Where the real difference is, though, is the cream.

▼ Top: Oreo, bottom: Noir

The Noir cream's sweetness is more subtle, which helps in letting the chocolate flavor get its share of the attention, whereas the Oreo's is more spotlight-grabbingly sweet. What's more, the creams have different consistencies. The Noir cream seems to have a lower melting point, and as you chew, it liquefies, giving the Noir a moistness, even without milk, that the Oreo lacks.

Which is better? It's really a matter of personal, or even momentary, preference. The Oreo has the appeal of straightforward sweetness, whereas the Noir takes your taste buds on an enjoyably winding journey, one that's filled with nostalgia for the Japan-made Oreos, but still does enough of its own thing.

So while some may scoff at Yamazaki for making a blatant Oreo substitute (while forgetting that Oreo itself copied Hydrox), honestly we're just happy to now have two great-tasting cookies to choose from.

Photos ©SoraNews24

Japanese Emperor’s abdication date set, end of Heisei era now officially on the horizon

Posted: 30 Nov 2017 09:00 PM PST

The Japanese Prime Minister made the announcement today, following a meeting held by the Imperial Household Council.

Ever since news of Emperor Akihito’s plans to abdicate the throne emerged in July last year, the Imperial Household Agency has refrained from making any official announcements about the reports, with the Emperor himself even skirting around the issue in his video message to the public last August.

At 9:46 a.m. today, however, the 10-member Imperial Household Council met at a special conference room at the Imperial Household Agency, where Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe listened to opinions and gave his government’s recommendations for the date of abdication.

Prime Minister Abe later spoke to the press, announcing that the date of abdication had been set for 30 April 2019.

The meeting, which was attended by members of the royal family, high-level Diet Members and top-ranking Imperial Household Agency officials, comes after the Japanese Government approved a special bill in April, allowing the reigning Emperor to abdicate the throne.

The bill, which specifically names the successor as Crown Prince Hironomiya Naruhito, makes this a one-time provision designed specifically for the current Emperor.

▼ Crown Prince Naruhito is pictured here with his wife Masako and their daughter Aiko.

As Japan’s first abdication in nearly two centuries, this historic event will also bring an end to the country’s current Heisei Era, which, in keeping with the Japanese calendar system, began when Emperor Akihito took to the throne 29 years ago, following his father’s death in 1989.

Following today’s announcement, Prime Minister Abe will inform the Cabinet of the Imperial Household Council’s decision on 5 December, with the Cabinet expected to make the 30 April abdication date official by law on 8 December.

Akihito will be succeeded by his eldest son, 57-year-old Crown Prince Naruhito the day after abdication, on 1 May 2019, with the official name of the new era expected to be announced sometime next summer.

Source: Mainichi Shimbun via Otakomu
Featured image: Wikimedia Commons/William Ng