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The five best anime of 2017【Seiji’s World of Anime】

Posted: 03 Jan 2018 07:00 PM PST

The biggest otaku in the SoraNews24 office runs down his picks for the five series you need to see to feel like you "watched anime" in 2017.

Due to a historically unprecedented boom in otaku culture, there's more anime being produced than ever before. In 2017 alone, more than 200 anime series were shown on TV, and while the hardest of hardcore otaku may have cleared out their schedules for each and every one, you can still have a burning love for the medium of Japanese animation without having found the time to watch all of them.

Luckily Seiji, our in-house Japanese-language anime otaku, is here with his picks for the five best anime of the past year, so that you know what to go back and watch if you missed them while they were airing.

Take it away, Seiji!

Kemono Friends

There were a a lot of great, and highly regarded, anime that started airing in January of 2017, like Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid and Little Witch Academia, but this is the one that became a pop cultural phenomenon in Japanese society.

A second season has been announced, but in the fall the director of Season 1, Tatsuki, has been removed from the project, which is causing a lot of controversy. For both good and bad reasons, this was the most-talked about anime in 2017.

Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinjū – Sukeroku Futatabi-hen

Like Kemono Friends this one also premiered in January of 2017.

Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinjū> might just be the anime most deserving of being called a "masterpiece" to have been released in recent years. The thorough depiction of the way of life of rakugo performers leaves you thinking "Just what does it mean to be alive?" even after you've finished watching the show, and the voice actors do an incredible job working with that sort of deep thematic material. The series is a shining jewel created by the honed skills of anime professionals.

Made in Abyss

If the best anime of the first half of 2017 was Kemono Friends, the best of the second half, in my personal opinion, was Made in Abyss. The theme of children facing challenges head-on, and the contrast of the despair-filled imagery of the deadly abyss and the beautiful background scenery made for an engrossing atmosphere. I can't say enough how happy I am that a second season is on the way.

Welcome to the Ballroom

If we're talking about big-name anime in 2017, we can't leave out the two-cour Welcome to the Ballroom, which takes us into the world of competitive dance. As the series follows the shy protagonist into this unfamiliar-to-him setting, those of us in the audience also get swept up in the excitement, in keeping with time-honored sports anime traditions. It's a series you can watch with a parental feeling as the main character evolves.

Saekano: How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend ♭

It was hard narrowing the list down to five anime, but I settled on last spring's Saekano: How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend ♭, which follows a group of indie game developers. You could call it a lightweight harem series, but it also shows the struggles and conflicts that come with being a media creator, and before I knew it, I had tears in my eyes almost every episode.

Top image ©SoraNews24

【Lucky Bag Roundup 2018】Animate’s awesome set has over 70 anime goodies for under 30 bucks

Posted: 03 Jan 2018 05:00 PM PST

A near-unbeatable equation for anime otaku to start the new year with.

As always, our staff has spent the first days of the new scurrying across Tokyo snatching up lucky bags (or fukubukuro, as they're called in Japanese) filled with food, fashion, and gadgets. But for our Japanese-language correspondent Seiji, the must-get fukubukuro is always the one from anime retailer extraordinaire Animate.

Animate has a handful of branches in downtown Tokyo. The nearest one to SoraNews24 headquarters is in the Ikebukuro neighborhood, though, so that's where Seiji headed to stand in line with other otaku and patiently wait his turn to get his hands on a bag stuffed full of anime goodies.

And stuffed it was! Despite its moderate 3,000-yen (US$27) price tag, Animate's fukubukuro was packed with more than 70 different anime trinkets!

For starters, Animate's fukubukuro contained 32 key holders and 25 pin badges, representing anime franchises including Gintama, Osomatsu-san, Tanaka-kun is Always Listless, Idolish7, Servamp, and Bakuon.

Plastic files are always handy to have around, and inside the bag were a total of five, with artwork from (Scared Rider Xechs, Marginal#4 Kiss Kara Tsukuru Big Bang, and Tsukiuta.

Next up, stickers (from Yuri!!! on Ice, High School Fleet and Tsukiuta), a Yoshiko Tsushima (from Love Live! Sunshine!!) flat case, and a Prince of Stride Alternative shitagaki (pencil board).

And finishing off Seiji's haul photos, a Yume Okoku to Nemureru 100 Nin no Oji-sama Short acrylic character stand, Days smartphone cover, some Dragon Quest Monsters 2 stickers, and a Tsukiuta pen.

Add in the six cellphone/bag straps from Idolish7, Trickster, and a few more anime, and Seiji's per trinket cost works out to only about 50 yen (US$0.45) per item, which is an incredible deal. Granted, due to Ikebukuro being a mecca for female animation fans, the lucky bag contents were a little heavy on dreamy anime boys for Seiji's personal tastes, but he's still happy to be sitting on a mountain of merch, and now has plenty of souvenirs and presents to give to his anime-loving acquaintances throughout the year.

Photos ©SoraNews24

【Lucky Bag Roundup 2018】McDonald’s Japan brings out exclusive goodies for customers this New Year

Posted: 03 Jan 2018 09:30 AM PST

These are some of the cutest McDonald’s items we’ve ever seen!

It’s that time of year again when we head out to stores around town, buying up all the fukubukuro lucky grab bags we can get our hands on. These bags traditionally come out on the first day of the New Year in Japan, enticing customers with the promise of big discounts on goods and exclusive items not usually available in stores.

Lately, some of the big retail chains have been getting in early, releasing their fukubukuro before the start of the New Year and keeping customers on their toes by selling them only at select stores, making them a lucky purchase indeed. This year, McDonald’s was one of the fast food giants to release their fukubukuro before January 1, and we were lucky enough to get our hands on one of their 3,000-yen (US$26.61) bags.

Like many of the fast food fukubukuro, this one came filled with coupons for us to use during the year. The long expiration date – until 31 May – is a lot longer than those offered by their competition, which usually expire within the first three months of the year.

We were happy to find that we immediately made our money back with the cost of the coupons alone, which came to a total of 3,250 yen. There were five coupons each for a free hamburger, small fries, small Coca-Cola, apple pie, soft-serve ice cream, and small coffee.

With our 3,000 yen investment already back in our pocket in the form of coupons, everything else in the bag was an added extra. And what they gave us at no extra cost was even more exciting as they were McDonald’s-branded items not usually available to purchase in stores.

▼ First up was this tote bag, featuring an image of their signature Big Mac burger.

▼ Next up was this adorable Big Mac coin purse.

▼ And a pencil case in the shape of a McShake.

▼ Finally, there was a towel emblazoned with the delicious image of a pack of fries.

We were incredibly impressed with the contents of the fukubukuro, and if you’re a fan of the Golden Arches, this is a bag you’ll definitely want to try hunting down in the next day or two. They won’t be available for long though, so make sure you get in as quick as you can!

Photos © SoraNews24

Finally, a chance to cuddle up to Japan’s “No. 1 Cosplayer”, Enako

Posted: 03 Jan 2018 08:00 AM PST

Fans of cosplay star Enako will now be able to get their hands on her, or at least her new dakimakura cuddle pillow.

While Enako, who claims to be making up up to a million yen (US$8,854) a month, isn’t offering the chance to actually date her like Mika Kano, she’s offering the next best thing. At the recent Comic Market (better known as Comiket) fans were able to buy a large cushion bearing her delectable image to take home.

▼ First, Enako in non-cushion form.

Instagram Photo

The cushion, which looked like the one below but without the unhelpful “sample” text plastered over it, was sold through the Animate Group Booth for 12,000 yen (US$106) before tax, on a first-come, first-served basis. The pillow measured a full 160 centimetres (5 feet, 3 inches) making it actually taller than the diminutive star herself, who measures a mere 153 centimetres in height.

Enako, who caused chaos at this summer’s World Cosplay Summit, was also be present at the booth on one day for photographs, autographs, and to look buyers in the eye as they carried away the fluffy piece of idolatry, though perhaps some claimed they were making the purchase because of all sorts of chaste reasons to buy a giant person-sized cushion.

▼ Second, third and fourth pictures of the real thing, just to make really, really sure you know who we’re talking about.

Instagram Photo

Instagram Photo

Instagram Photo

You can also be buy the scantily-clad pillow online through the Movic online store, though only those who bought theirs at the Animate Group booth were entered into a drawing to be invited to a radio event and photo opportunity with Enako herself, to be held in February.

Oh, and unless you also happen to have a Gentleman's Bag to put your new dakimakura cover in, expect to get just as many looks on the train as if you were going home with the real girl.

Reference: Comiket Official Site
Source: Otakomu
Featured image: Instagram/enakorin
Insert image: A&G

【Lucky Bag Roundup 2018】KFC Japan fukubukuro makes fried chicken dreams come true

Posted: 03 Jan 2018 07:00 AM PST

Colonel Sanders has been kind to his finger-lickin’ customers this New Year.

It’s a hard time for fast food lovers resolving to eat better at this time of year, as big international restaurant chains in Japan continue to destroy all our healthy eating resolutions with fukubukuro lucky grab bags filled with coupons and exclusive goodies.

While some fast food chains like to fill their bags with lots of limited-edition merchandise, KFC is keeping things simple by offering a 2,500-yen (US$22.18) fukubukuro that concentrates on enhancing the finger-lickin’ fried chicken-eating experience for their customers.

Inside this year’s lucky bag is one of KFC’s most rare and coveted items: a bottle of their famous Honey Maple Sauce. After first appearing in their 2015 lucky bag, the bottled sauce became so popular that they decided to release it for sale in limited quantities during the year. Since then, it reappeared as the star of last year’s fukubukuro, so fans will be thrilled to know that they’ve got another chance to receive a bottle of the famous sauce in this year’s lucky bag too.

And of course, customers need something to pour all that sticky sweet sauce on, so KFC has included five coupons for free two-piece fried chicken sets, valid until the end of June.

There’s also a discount coupon sheet, offering reduced prices on a variety of menu items, which can be used any number of times until the end of February.

And of course, there’s the cute cotton tote bag, which changes year by year, although the insulated insert to keep your fried chicken warm is a handy staple that’s usually included with the tote. This year’s version is one of the best designs we’ve seen, steering clear of the company logo and opting for a cute cursive version of their company name instead.

The KFC bag represents great value, especially for fried chicken lovers who will be able to reap their savings with the unlimited-use vouchers for the next two months. Plus, the inclusion of the rare Honey Maple Sauce in a bottle makes this a fukubukuro that’s definitely worth buying!

Photos © SoraNews24

【Lucky Bag Roundup 2018】Meg tries her luck with a fukubukuro from Japan’s top lingerie maker

Posted: 03 Jan 2018 05:00 AM PST

Intiame apparel lucky bag is available only through Amazon Japan.

With the new year here, shoppers across Japan are snapping up fukubukuro, also called lucky bags. We've already picked up a couple from some of our favorite purveyors of sweets, drinks, and anime merchandise, but our Japanese-language reporter Meg recently got her hands on a particularly unique fukurukuro: a lingerie lucky bag.

Available exclusively through Amazon Japan, the pantie fukubukuro contains intimate apparel from Wing, a sister brand of Wacoal, Japan's largest lingerie manufacturer. Considering Wacoal's reputation for exceptional quality and reasonable prices, Meg already had high hopes for this lucky bag, and her confidence in it was bolstered even further by the involvement of online retail giant Amazon.

Oddly enough, though, when she went looking around for online impressions, she found plenty of one-star reviews of the Wing fukubukuro. But this merely served to get her investigative journalism juices pumping even harder, so she logged onto Amazon and ordered the Wing fukubukuro, which is priced at 2,268 yen [US$20] (after tax).

When the package arrived, Meg quickly opened it up, and out fell a pair of snowy white panties, wrapped in clear plastic.

This was Meg's first surprise. Usually, fukubukuro are festively decorated, so it was a little startling to see such austere packaging, especially since the transparent plastic meant that anyone in the vicinity could see her new underwear. Then again, if you order lingerie over the Internet, you're probably not going to tear open the next package that comes to your door in front of prying eyes.

The second surprise came when Meg emptied out the rest of the contents and saw the three pairs of panties the lucky bag contained. As with all fukubukuro, you don't know what you're getting until you open it, but you do at least get to pick what size of clothing you're buying, and Meg had asked for medium-sized panties. The three pairs of boxy undies she'd received looked much larger, however.

Double-checking the tags, though, confirmed that these were indeed mediums (or, technically, two mediums and one medium/large intermediate size).

Looking at the tags also revealed that the three pairs of panties are from Wing's Pants Parlor series, and that cleared up why they looked like larger sizes than they really are. Pants Parlor is Wing's line of "seamless" panties, with a design that emphasizes comfort and not interfering with the appearance of your outer clothing. Their construction does make them a little on the boxy side, though.

On the pure-plus side, the material is all high-quality. But the big question with lucky bags is whether or not they represent a good value. To find out, Meg took the model serial numbers on the tags, and searched online for the panties' regular sale price, and found that the pink and purple pairs are each listed at 1,000 yen and the off-white at 1,200. After tax, the total for the three would come to 3,456 yen, meaning that she'd saved almost 1,200 yen with the fukubukuro.

Granted, the three pairs of panties she got are all sort of drab-looking (though Wacoal isn't known for bold designs in the first place), and Meg did find herself wishing there'd been at least one cute or sexy pair included as part of the mix. But she can always put the money she saved towards buying a special pair of her own choosing.

Photos ©SoraNews24

Researcher claims North Korea’s Kim Jong-un loved manga, got bad grades as a teen

Posted: 03 Jan 2018 01:00 AM PST

Plus, his familial connection to Sailor Moon fandom.

Sometimes, it's easy to spot a hardcore anime or manga fan. The guy in the faded bootleg Tenchi Muyo T-shirt, for example, is probably a life-ling otaku, and so too is the woman who plays the Yuri on Ice theme every time she gets in her car.

But sometimes, otaku can pop up in unexpected places, like when you suddenly find out that your coworker's sister is really into cosplay, your neighbor's living room shelves are lined with anime figures, or the supreme leader of North Korea loves manga.

Japanese TV program Yabai Hanashi The World recently sent pro boxer-turned-media personality Daiki Kameda to Bern, Switzerland, where North Korean Workers' Party Chairman Kim Jong-un studied under a false name for four years, starting when he was 12. While in Bern, Kameda spoke with researcher Gabriel Myer.

"[Kim Jong-un] loved the NBA," Myer said in a taped segment, referring to the American professional basketball league, "and was a big fan of Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant." But Myer claimed that Kim was also a big fan of manga, and, not surprisingly, basketball manga.

"Slam Dunk, something like that was the name of one of the manga he read," Myer continued, invoking the name of the most popular basketball manga of all time, which was serialized from 1990 to 1996, which would overlap with Kim's reported time in Bern during the mid-'90s. Myer went on to say that Kim's younger sister, Yo-jong, who studied in Bern at the same time, was also a manga fan, with a particular fondness for Sailor Moon. Back in the Yabai Hanashi The World studio, Kameda also relayed Myer's statement that the older Kim was a Dragon Ball fan as well.

In the taped segment, Myer also asserted that while Kim Jong-un spent a lot of time reading manga, he apparently didn't spend so much time studying, and got poor grades during his time in Switzerland. So now we're left to wonder if his father, previous North Korean leader Kim Jong-il was ever seen grumbling to himself and worrying if his son was going to end up a hikkikomori otaku NEET.

Source: Livedoor News via Anime News Network/Lynzee Loveridge, The Guardian
Top image: Wikipedia/Lukepryke

【Lucky Bag Roundup 2018】Krispy Kreme ups their game in these trying times for donuts

Posted: 02 Jan 2018 09:00 PM PST

With a simple wish to start your year off with some tasty donuts, Krispy Kreme delivers big in this year’s bag.

It’s been another hard year for the donut industry in Japan. The nation has been in the grip of a prolonged donut war that has still to see a clear winner emerge. Ever since major convenience stores have made an aggressive attempt on the market, the whole thing has become diluted, causing profit losses all over.

Krispy Kreme is no exception. After making a huge initial splash in Japan, we assume the American donut chain, like all the others, is now trying to find that delicate balance between cost cutting and aggressive marketing to ride it out until the convenience stores decide to abandon their donut ambitions once and for all.

So, in this year’s lucky bag offering we wouldn’t be surprised to find that austerity has taken over, but when our writer Sachi Ojiya picked one up for 3,000 yen (US$27) she couldn’t have been happier with what she found!

Krispy Kreme Donuts Lucky Bag

  • 12 donuts
  • Donut Passport, good for another 12 donuts of your choice
  • Thermal bag
  • Notebook

According to Krispy Kreme, the Rollbahn brand notebooks were brought back from a previous year’s Lucky Bag due to popular demand.

Insulated bags are certainly the item of 2018, popping up all over Lucky Bags this year, and Krispy Kreme is in on the trend too!

But the best part of their 2018 offering is the array of donuts. Sachi has been covering the Krispy Kreme bags for four years now and every other time she had just gotten a box of plain glazed donuts. However, this year she got four Plain Glazed plus two Creamy Cheese, two Chocolate Sprinkle and four specialty flavors.

▼ 2017

▼ 2018

To celebrate the Year of the Dog there are two dog-faced donuts with cookies ears called the Lucky Happy Caramel.

And for those who aren’t into the astrological aspect of the holiday there is the simple yet elegant Lucky Strawberry Ring with tiny flakes of gold for that sophisticated donut experience.

And hey, if you’re still not satisfied with those, then Krispy Kreme is also giving a Donut Passport which will give you an additional 12 donuts of your choice.

While the price for this haul had gone up by 600 yen ($5) from previous years, the value of contents has also increased by 1,000 yen ($9), making this their most cost-effective Lucky Bag yet!

It certainly seems that Krispy Kreme is kicking off 2018 in celebratory fashion, which may suggest an end to the donut war is finally nearing. In my own field research, convenience stores’ stocks of donuts have been shrinking everywhere day by day.

Having personally lost a neighborhood Mister Donut in 2017, this is truly encouraging news. Hopefully this year may bring an era to Japan wherein my children need not worry if they can have access to animal shaped donuts or not.

Photos ©SoraNews24