- Busty Japanese jazz pianist returns, performs as a sexy courtesan in lingerie 【Video】
- What would anime hit Your Name look like without its biggest storytelling cheat? Manga shows us
- Kitakyushu is the life of the party again this Coming of Age Day with gold-trimmed rickshaws 【Photos】
- Japanese middle school promotes long pants to full-uniform status for girls, equal with skirts
- Tokyo’s Ranma 1/2 cafe is open, and we just stuffed ourselves with awesome anime nostalgia
- Perk up with a “Princess Urine Sour” alcoholic enzyme drink from Japan
- Elderly couple show off Dance Dance Revolution skills at Japanese video game arcade 【Video】
- Amazon strikes down its Anime Strike video streaming service just before its first birthday
Posted: 08 Jan 2018 06:00 PM PST
Now she even frolics on her bed before her half-naked piano performance.
Just last month, Japanese jazz pianist Riyoko Takagi decided to celebrate the festive season by performing a Christmas medley on the piano while dressed in a revealing Santa outfit.
After receiving support and praise from thousands of people who viewed her holiday video, Takagi decided to celebrate the New Year with another performance, this time dressed as a seductive courtesan.
In her new video, Takagi plays a piece called “Haru no Umi” (“The Sea in Spring”), which is often played around Japan at the beginning of the New Year. Composed by Michio Miyagi in 1929, Takagi puts a jazz spin on the original arrangement, while adding her own special flair to the performance.
Take a look at the clip below:
Takagi’s performance is on point throughout the entire video, as the talented pianist hits all the right notes with her dextrous fingers.
She doesn’t even miss a beat as she raises her left hand to pull her robe off her shoulder, revealing her pink bra to the camera.
This time, Takagi gives fans more than just a piano performance, as she shows us some of her Japanese New Year’s trinkets from the window by the side of the bed.
And if you watch until the very end, Takagi gives us an affectionate “Koto Yoro” greeting, which is short for “Kotoshi mo yoroshiku onegaishimasu“, meaning “Please be kind to me again this year.”
Takagi’s fanbase grows with every performance, with more and more people now looking forward to important holidays in the calendar, hoping they’ll coincide with a new video from the jazz pianist. We can’t wait for February to see what Valentine’s Day will bring!
Source, images: YouTube/Riyoko Takagi
Posted: 08 Jan 2018 05:00 PM PST
The main characters in Makoto Shinkai's anime film have a major blind spot, but not in this reimagining.
A lot of anime these days fall into the slice-of-life genre, with slow, meandering, almost nonexistent storylines that exist solely to give their likable characters a reason to appear on-screen. Makoto Shinkai's mega-hit Your Name, however, is not one of them.
In addition to the movie’s romance and comedy, mystery and suspense are major reasons for Your Name's success. The body-swapping aspect of the story may be something that the audience already knows about going in to the film, since it's heavily featured in the anime's marketing, but there's another big plot twist waiting in the second-half of Your Name, which is that…
…the movie is also a time-travel story. Every time male lead Taki hops into female lead Mitsuha's body, he's also leaping three years into the past. But while this development raises the dramatic stakes considerably, it's also a pretty blatant cheat. By the time Taki catches on to the time difference, he and Mitsuha have been swapping bodies for weeks, and it's pretty unbelievable that neither of them notices anything that tipped them off until someone basically spells it all out for Taki.
So what would Your Name look like without that cheat? Probably something like this manga from comic artist and Twitter user @yokoyama_bancho (who previously recast the film with American characters), which reimagines Taki and Mitsuha as geekier but also more perceptive versions of their in-anime selves.
▼ Mitusha:"What? Did we…"
▼ "Huh…it's suddenly a different day of the week [according to the newspaper]. I bet this is going to turn out to be some really important foreshadowing."
▼ "Wait, I've never seen this version of iPhone before. Well, looking at this, now even I can guess what the twist is going to be!"
▼ "The story is totally boring."
As the last panel explains, there's a pretty good reason, in an ends-justify-the-means storytelling philosophy, for Taki and Mitsuha's lack of perception. The time difference is related to another big twist that presents them with a crisis that requires immediate attention, but before that the film needs time for their interpersonal relationship to develop. If the two characters noticed the time slip from the very beginning, Your Name would be a very different film, and one that's less about the connection between Taki and Mitsuha and more of a straight-up natural disaster story.
But hey, even if Your Name's protagonists are kind of dense, at least there're some clever secrets for sharp-eyed viewers to find.
Source, images: Twitter/@yokoyama_bancho
Posted: 08 Jan 2018 09:30 AM PST
And pompadours? You bet!
As always, the second Monday of the year is Coming of Age Day in Japan. During the public holiday, all young folks who turned 20 in the previous year gather for a special ceremony in celebration of their adulthood.
However, some places like Kitakyushu add an extra layer of flair to the proceedings. As we saw last year, coming of age here – at least for those who associate with the subculture of rough-and-tumble working class types known as “yankees” – involves lavish outfits, make-up, and hairstyles.
This year saw some new additions around the city’s Media Dome though, in the form of rickshaws to give these leaders of tomorrow an extra classy ride around the premises.
Yankees are known for their civic pride and often bring along banners and flags with their names or the names of their communities or schools written on them.
Every now and then, they would also shout out the names of these places in unison. With all the banners and battle cries you might think they were about to go to war with each other. But there was no fighting on this day, at least not while our reporter Masanuki Sunakoma was around. Everyone was very friendly and open to having their picture taken.
Unfortunately, scuffles and alcohol-fueled mischief are not unheard of at these ceremonies. However, for the vast majority of participants, it's just about having a good time and living it up while you're still young.
While some of the more extreme attendees bared their flesh on the chilly winter day, many opted to keep warm by pairing their outfits with fake fur stoles.
▼ Fake fur trimmings were popular with male attendees too.
One of the day’s must-have accessories, though, was the folding fan, which proudly displayed their names, and sometimes the words “Kitakyushu” in Japanese.
There was much more to the day than just outfits and accessories, as the young people of Kitakyushu were creating memories with friends to last a lifetime.
By the way, some of these ensembles (hair, make-up, nails, clothing rental) are said to cost upwards of 400,000 yen (US$3,500). The guy who appears to have had his entire head of hair crafted into a German shepherd’s head is probably entering that territory.
▼ And hey, who are these weirdos in suits?!
And so, another vibrant and hopefully incident-free Coming of Age Day ceremony comes to a close. As these young women and men head out into the world we wish them he best of luck. Who knows? Maybe one of them will eventually become Prime Minister of Japan… At least we hope so, because then we'd have some really juicy pictures of him or her.
Posted: 08 Jan 2018 07:00 AM PST
Principal emphasizes that skirt is no longer to be considered the "main" or "standard" uniform.
Taiyo Middle School, located in the Kanagawa Prefecture city of Hiratsuka, is celebrating the 71st anniversary of its founding this year. To mark the occasion, the school is introducing new uniforms for students enrolling in April, when the 2018 school year begins.
But while uniforms are usually designed to implement sameness, Taiyo's girls will actually be able to show more variety in their mode of dress, as the new uniforms officially allow girls to freely choose between wearing a skirt or slacks.
This won't be the absolute first time for girls at Taiyo to wear long pants on campus. During the winter months, for example, some girls opt to wear slacks because they're warmer than a skirt. However, with the new uniforms principal Yugo Kuriki is stressing that slacks are not an "alternate" or "modified" girls' uniform, but have full standing equal to the skirt version. "I want to express that the skirt is not the 'main' uniform for girls," Kuriki said. "I think it's OK for us to free the students from such preconceived notions."
▼ Taiyo’s 2018 uniforms
While not specifically mentioned in the school's announcement of the new uniforms, the option of slacks for girls is being seen as an acknowledgement that transgender and other sexual minority students may feel uncomfortable being forced to wear a skirt, which could in turn negatively impact their mental health, class attendance, and ability to learn. "I intend this as a way to eliminate gender differentiation in uniforms," Kuruki has stated. No comment has been made about allowing boys to wear skirts.
Parents of local elementary school PTAs have also been told of Taiyo's new uniform policy, and no complaints have been made. Taiyo has also said that going forward, all three versions of the uniform (boys', girls' with skirt, and girls' with slacks) will be displayed together when depicting examples of the school's uniform.
Posted: 08 Jan 2018 06:00 AM PST
Food, art, and exclusive merch are part of love letter to one of the most popular anime of all time, and totally worth a six-hour wait for a table.
At the height of its popularity, Ranma 1/2, the story of a teenage martial artist who changes from male to female with a splash of cold water, was just about the biggest thing in the anime and manga world. But creator Rumiko Takahashi's manga finished serialization in 1996, and the last Ranma 1/2 TV episode aired in 1992. In the minds of many younger anime fans the series has been displaced by Takahashi's subsequent franchise Inuyasha, which features some similar character dynamics and storytelling tropes, so if I'm being totally honest, I didn't expect the Ranma 1/2 Cafe, which just opened in Tokyo this last weekend, to be all that crowded.
Then I showed up at the restaurant, and was told the wait for a table would be six hours.
So suffice it to say that there are apparently a lot of people who fondly remember Ranma. Luckily, the staff doesn't expect you to stand in line for a literal quarter of a day. Instead, they'll give you a numbered ticket and an approximate seating time, and if you register your email address or Line messaging app ID, you'll receive a message when your table is expected to open up within the next 30 minutes. I got my ticket around 1:30, and my Line message came in at just about 7 p.m.
Luckily, there's an adjacent pop-up store selling all sorts of limited-edition Ranma merchandise, which is a pretty ideal way to kill some of that incredibly long wait time.
However, on the limited-time cafe's opening day (January 6), the early afternoon crowd was so huge that there was even a line to get into the shop, with about 40 people in a 30-minute queue that stretched half-way down the stairs to the lower floor of the department store that houses the Ranma 1/2 Cafe.
Once inside, though, there's some very cool stuff for sale, like this whiteboard that lets you flip through various Ranma character art and word balloon shapes to find the perfect combination for the message you want to write.
Before wading through all the merchandise, though, let's flash forward to the cafe itself.
The venue for the Ranma 1/2 Cafe is The Guest, a restaurant in the Ikebukuro branch of department store Parco which rotates between different themes. For its current tie-up, the interior is decked out with all sorts of large-scale character artwork and manga panels covering the walls and hanging from the ceiling. Monitors play clips from the anime adaptation, while Ranma theme and character songs stream out of the speakers, with the music occasionally stopping so that the anime's first episode can be played, with audio, in its entirety.
▼ The place mat is yours to take home with you.
The menu is a mix of recreations of food that actually appears in the source material, such as the ramen served at the Cat Cafe, and original creations inspired by characters and memorable scenes from the series. While the ramen, which can be ordered with an optional VR headset introduction, was tempting, I couldn't resist the urge to try the series' two extreme endpoints of culinary skills: the okonomiyaki made by Ukyo (Ranma's fiance who runs her own restaurant) and the curry made by Akane (Ranma's other fiance who's one of anime's all-time worst cooks).
The okonomiyaki (600 yen [US$5.35]) comes on a comically oversized spatula, though not quite as big as the one that Ukyo uses as a weapon. A random message of love (like the ones the character writes to Ranma) is drizzled in mayonnaise across the top. Kansai-style okonomiyai like this usually has a variety of extra ingredients mixed into the batter, but the Ranma 1/2 Cafe keeps things simple, as its okonomiyaki is a pretty plain pancake with a pleasingly sweet sauce that makes it a nice snack/side dish.
Next up: Akane's Training Cooking (1,290 yen), based on a storyline in which Akane accompanies fiance Ranma and his father into the mountains on a training mission, and makes curry for dinner.
Despite Akane's status as one of anime's all-time worst cooks, it actually doesn't look half-bad. Sure, the unsliced beet, still with its leafy stem, is something I've never seen in curry before, but aside from that, the carrots, potatoes, chicken, and eggplant were all perfectly normal and tasty curry elements, and the roux was flavorful with a mildly spicy kick.
But read the menu's description carefully, and you'll learn that this is a recreation of Akane's curry before the addition of her secret ingredients, which are served on the side. So if you want the curry's canon flavor, you'll need to pour in the salt, mayonnaise, and vinegar (yes, straight-up vinegar).
Only then can you truly experience Ranma's pain for yourself!
▼ Akane, you dummy!
Thankfully, a pair of desserts were on their way to get rid of the bad taste Akane's cooking had assaulted me with.
A quick glance around the restaurant showed that the P-chan No Sense of Directions Pancakes (1,290 yen), named for the pint-sized pig that directionally challenged character Ryoga transforms into, are the most popular item on the menu, and with good reason. They're the spitting image of the adorable mascot character, and as a nod to how easily Ryoga gets lost, they come with a sata andagi fried pastry from Okinawa (Japan's southernmost prefecture) and a cup of Yubari melon gelatin, made with the representative fruit of Hokkaido (Japan's northernmost prefecture).
▼ Footprints made of dusted cocoa powder
The angular accents (P-chan's eye, ears, and bandana) are made of extremely bland wafers. The rest of the plate, though, is deliciously flavorful. The two-stack of pancakes is glazed with a chocolate cream that's sweeter than its jet-black color suggests, but doesn't overpower the natural pancake flavor of the fluffy flapjacks.
▼ Messy eaters beware: the chocolate cream will definitely leave its color behind if you get any on your fingers or clothes.
The P-chan pancake plate is a pretty filling dessert combo, but with stomach space for just one more dessert, the Romance Fortune-telling Sakura Mochi Parfait (1,190 yen) filled the role of the meal's finale.
Like the Training Cooking, this is another based-on-a-scene-from-the-manga dish, but with a few creative liberties. In one chapter, Akane makes a batch of sakura mochi confectionaries, which have the ability to make cherry blossom marks appear on the face of the man destined to be her true love after he eats one. The Ranma 1/2 Cafe took this inspiration to create a parfait with sakura ice cream, sakura mochi, matcha green tea warabi mochi, and granola.
▼ The sakura mochi here is Kansai-style, as opposed to the Kanto-style that appear in the manga chapter in question.
In the manga, Akane's hand-made sakura mochi taste, of course, terrible. But unlike the Training Cooking, there're no unpleasant optional surprises here (though the sakura ice cream does have a bit of an unexpected coconut flavor to it). This is just an outstanding Japanese-style parfait, and worth ordering even if it doesn't quite have as strong a connection to the Ranma 1/2 theme as some of the other items on the menu.
By the way, don't feel bad if you show up as a solo diner. Along the counter where parties of one are sat are some Ranma figures to keep you company, sort of like how Pikachu used to sit with unaccompanied patrons at the Pokémon Cafe.
▼ Gosunkugi, as usual, goes almost entirely unnoticed.
Okay, now let's head back over to the shop. Remember how I said there was a line to get in during the afternoon? The crowd tapered off during the evening, and at 7 p.m., you could just walk right in.
Coming later in the day carries the risk that some items might be sold out (on opening day, the store ran out of okonomiyaki spatulas sometime between 1 and 7), but it also means that you can actually move around the interior freely and compare one item to another as you struggle with the economic dilemma of limited resources and unlimited Ranma merchandise desires.
▼ Manga post-it notes
▼ Serving plate
▼ Plastic clear files
▼ Hand mirrors
Since hot and cold water serve as transformation triggers for Ranma and about a half-dozen members of the cast, the shop also sells coffee mugs and towels with patterns that change when in contact with hot or cold liquid.
▼ Need a beverage for your new Ranma 1/2 mug? There's a whole line of flavored character teas.
For big spenders, there's even a Ranma 1/2 Yokosuka jacket, with retro-style embroidery, for 36,000 yen, which more than a few cafe customers were proudly sporting.
▼ The P-chan canvas bag sums up Ryoga's internal monologue for roughly half his scenes.
▼ Outside the shop are gatcha capsule toy vending machines selling keychains and pins, and which don't require you to wait in the shop admission line to use.
But while hitting the shop later in the day is a smart move, you'll still want to show up early to get your seating ticket. The cafe caps seating at 200 parties per day, and when I got my ticket at 1:30, I was already number 181. So really, the best plan is to head to the cafe early in the day, get your ticket, go do some sightseeing, and come back to shop before your projected seating time. Granted, that kind of splits your day up into two separate parts, but considering this is the Ranma 1/2 Cafe, that kind of duality is pretty appropriate.
Posted: 08 Jan 2018 05:00 AM PST
Fill yourself with “Sparkling Energy” from a couple of pretty anime girls.
With so many similar products on the market in Japan, companies are always looking for creative ways to stand out from their competitors. One way to make sure you get noticed is to incorporate cute anime images into your packaging, and if you really want to get customers to open their wallets, you could throw in a surprise twist that makes everyone’s eyes bulge out from their sockets.
That’s the marketing plan behind the new Ojosama Seisui Sour alcoholic enzyme drink from Rivaland, a Japanese manufacturer that specialises in food and drink products designed to enhance health and beauty. The name of their latest beverage immediately commands attention, as it literally translates to “Princess Urine Sour“.
The sour in the title here refers to a common cocktail in Japan that’s made with a shochu (distilled alcohol) and soda water base, and usually mixed with juice or soft drink.
Rivaland first made news back in 2015 when they introduced their first “Princess Urine” enzyme drink to the market. Behind the bizarre concept of drinking urine from a princess was a beverage marketed as an energy drink, containing 117 different all-natural, beauty-enhancing ingredients made from fermented plants.
The drink proved to be a hit, prompting the company to expand the “Princess Urine” range in December last year with a new alcoholic version that packs in 8-percent alcohol content in each 275-millilitre (9.3-ouce) bottle. There’s also a whopping 107 different natural ingredients used, and two anime-girl designs to choose from, to help “awaken the goddess within you.”
▼ Since its release, a number of popular social media users have been helping to promote the product online.
The long list of ingredients contained in a bottle of Princess Urine Sour include fermented extracts from plants like lotus root, lily bulbs, gourds, edible chrysanthemum, and bamboo shoots. There’s also a whole lot of fruit used, like loquats, grapes, prunes, persimmons and pears, along with things like brown rice, barley, oat, millet, and beans thrown into the mix. To top it all off, you’ll find wasabi and seaweed in there as well.
A half-dozen box of bottles from their website will set you back 1,980 yen (US17.50), while two-dozen bottles retail for 7,920 yen. The carbonated drink is said to be a tasty blend of enzymes and alcohol, which promises to taste nothing like the leftover bathwater drink we tried last year.
Source, images: Ojosama Seisui Japan
Posted: 07 Jan 2018 09:00 PM PST
Proof that you can enjoy video games no matter how old you are.
One of the things we love about Japan is the spirit of the people here, who refuse to let things like age stop them from doing the things they’re passionate about. So far, we’ve seen an 88-year-old grandma take up Photoshop, a 93-year-old become a star model on Instagram, and a hip-hop dancing trio with an average age of 59 years between them, and now it’s time to be inspired by the older generation yet again, after a new video surfaced online recently.
The clip, posted by Twitter user @XEP_BOSS, shows a couple at a Japanese game arcade, casually enjoying a game of Dance Dance Revolution. The couple don’t seem to care who is watching them, as they get caught up in matching the steps that appear on the screen as they make their way through the game.
Take a look at the video below:
@XEP_BOSS was impressed by the couple’s skills, affectionately dubbing them the “DDR grandpa and grandma“. People who saw the video were equally impressed, leaving comments like:
This spritely DDR-loving couple certainly prove that you don’t have to be young to enjoy video games, and it’s true that it might not be long before we see more older people waiting for their turn on the machines at gaming centres around the country. Let’s just hope it doesn’t create the perfect setting for an intense video game showdown like this one between a father and his potential son-in-law!
Posted: 07 Jan 2018 08:00 PM PST
Good news! If you've got an Amazon Prime membership, you've now essentially got an Anime Strike membership too.
Sometimes you have to stop and remind yourself that in the beginning, Amazon just sold books. It wasn't long, though, before the company's growing distribution and marketing know-how allowed them to find profitable and consumer-pleasing ways to sell seemingly anything.
Paid anime streaming service, though, seems to be a bit of an exception.
On January 12, 2017, with much fanfare, Amazon launched its Anime Strike streaming service. As of January 5, it's gone, meaning that Anime Strike failed to survive a full year. Videos previously displayed as Anime Strike exclusives on Amazon are now designated as being watchable with an Amazon Prime membership, and the company has said it will be refunding the unused portions of already-paid subscriptions that extend past January 5.
In some ways, Anime Strike seemed like a smart idea. Anime fans in the U.S. (Anime Strike's territory) are overwhelmingly comfortable with online shopping and streaming, so there's no doubt a large overlap between the American otaku and Amazon Prime demographics.
However, Anime Strike wasn't simply a marketing banner for anime content on Amazon Prime's pre-existing video service. Access to Amazon Strike cost US$60 a year plus the $99 users had to shell out for Amazon Prime. You couldn't cut down your expenses by signing up for Anime Strike exclusively, since it functioned as an upgrade to Prime membership.
Other North American anime streaming services, like Crunchyroll and Funimation, also cost about $60 a year, and Amazon's theory was likely that the Anime Strike surcharge would be seen as fair by people who already were signed up for Amazon Prime anyway. The way things actually panned out, though, was that anime fans felt like they were being charged $160 annually for anime streaming, and even if Anime Strike had a few gems like exclusive U.S. streaming rights to gems like 2017 sleeper hit Made in the Abyss, 160 bucks a year felt extremely pricey when other, less expensive streaming options had more extensive anime catalogs.
There's also the fact that American anime fans, in addition to being technologically savvy, tend to be extremely price-conscious. They've historically shown not only an unwillingness to pay what they feel are unfair prices, and also ample ingenuity in obtaining what they consider to be overpriced content without having to spend a cent for it.
Along with the Amazon Strike catalog, Amazon's Heera titles, a collection of Indian movies and TV shows, is also being transferred to the regular Prime video service.
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