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Shocking news! Star Pokémon Pikachu’s design isn’t based on a mouse

Posted: 02 May 2018 08:00 PM PDT

Original designer reveals that the real inspiration for the "electric mouse" was a different animal altogether.

Perhaps my strangest experience with learning Japanese has been having to remember two sets of names for Pokémon species. For example, the Pocket Monster called Magikarp in English versions of the game/anime? In Japan, he's "Koiking," since he's essentially a koi ("carp") with a crown-shaped fin on his back. Slowpoke? Over here he's "Yadon," a syllabic jumbling of doya, which refers to a sort of blissful cluelessness.

But Pikachu's name is the same around the world. As a matter of fact, the franchise mascot is so famous that even most non-Japanese speaking fans know that his name comes from a pair of Japanese onomatopoeias: pika, referring to a flash of light, and chu, the squeaking sound mice make. It's the perfect name for a character that's essentially an "electric mouse," right?

Except, it turns out that Pikachu's visual design wasn't based on a mouse at all.

▼ "Whaaaaat?"

Ken Sugimori, head of Pokémon video game developer Game Freak, and Atsuko Nishida, an illustrator who contributed monster designs for the series' original Pokémon Red and Green installments in 1996, recently reminisced about Pikachu's origin. The only specific guidelines Nishida was given were that the character should be cute, use electricity-based powers, and be able to evolve twice.

Aside from those criteria, Nishida was free to do whatever she wanted in terms of design. So she turned to the animal kingdom for inspiration, and took design cues from…a squirrel!

▼ Pika?

So why did the character end up being called Pikachu instead of Pika-whatever-squirrels-say-in-Japanese? Probably because there's no set onomatopoeia for a squirrel's cry in Japanese. As a matter of fact, squirrels themselves aren't nearly as common in Japan as they are in rural and suburban communities in America, and if you live in a Japanese city, you could easily go several years without seeing one, even in parks. Odds are when Nishida showed her design to the rest of the staff, the reaction from many was "looks like a mouse," making the name "Pikachu" a perfect fit.

But wait, what about the stipulation that the character be able to evolve twice? Pikachu can only evolve once, into Raichu (though later games added in the diminutive Pichu as the lowest level of the evolutionary path). Sugimori and Nishida don't explain why the two-evolution requirement was dropped, but it's pretty easy to imagine it was a result of Pikachu's design being unbelievably adorable. Consider that in 20-plus years of anime adventures, human protagonist Ash has never evolved his Pikachu into Raichu, and the same can be said for many Pokémon gamers. In the case of Pikachu, even one evolution is one too many, so why waste time designing a second evolution that no one is ever going to use?

Source: Livedoor News/Yomiuri Shimbun via Jin
Photos ©SoraNews24

With great power comes the responsibility to interview movie stars: We sit down with Tom Holland

Posted: 02 May 2018 06:00 PM PDT

The newest actor to play Spider-Man gives us insight into what it’s like to be a popular superhero.

With the worldwide release of Avengers: Infinity War on April 27, we Marvel fans are finally able to witness the first installment of what is said to be the culmination of ten years of Marvel films. In celebration, SoraNews24’s Japanese language correspondent and biggest Marvel fan, P.K. Sanjun, sat down with Tom Holland, the actor who plays Spider-Man in the most recent installments of the Marvel universe.

This isn’t the first time Holland and P.K. have met; P.K. also talked with Holland at the release of his movie Spider-Man: Homecoming. But with a whole new film behind him and a new association with a cast of A-list actors, how has Holland’s experience changed?

Holland: Oh! Haven’t we met before? I think you interviewed me when I came to Japan the last time.

P.K.: What! You remembered me? I’m so honored! I vow to be your fan for the rest of my life.

Holland: Hahaha, of course I remember you!

P.K.: Ooh, I’m so happy! Shall we begin the interview?

Holland: OK, let’s start.

P.K.: The last time I interviewed you, it was before Spider-Man: Homecoming. That movie turned out to be a big hit. Has your life changed much since then? For example, how do your friends and family feel about you being Spider-Man?

Holland: Hmm…actually it hasn’t really changed much at all! (laughs) My little brother likes to say, “My big brother is Spider-Man!”, but my friends haven’t really changed how they interact with me.

P.K.: Oh?

Holland: Oh, but when I’m walking down the street there are more people who recognize me now. It’s really nice to be able to interact with the fans like that.

P.K.: I see. In the last film, Spider-Man only met Iron Man, but in the new movie there are a lot of superheroes. Is there a relationship with a certain superhero that you’d like fans to pay attention to in Infinity War?

Holland: My personal favorite is the relationship between Spider-Man and the Guardians of the Galaxy Star-Lord, Peter Quill. It was amazing to get to work with Chris Pratt. It was so much fun!

Instagram Photo

P.K.: Is he as fun as he seems on-screen?

Holland: He is fantastic. He’s not only so full of humor, but he also brings so much liveliness to the set. I always really looked forward to working with him.

P.K.: The relationship between Star-Lord and Spider-Man is new, isn’t it? What other superheroes do you want to work with next? Last time you said you wanted to meet Ant-Man and Thor.

Holland: Now I want to have scenes with Black Panther. Wouldn’t it be cool to see Spider-Man in Wakanda? They might make me a better suit than Tony! (laughs)

P.K.: That would be cool. By the way, what do you think Peter has been doing in the time between the last movie and this one?

Holland: Hmm…maybe he was doing homework, stopping small crimes, saving the people of New York? I think he was enjoying teenage life while also trying to be the best hero he can be. In that sense, he probably didn’t change all that dramatically between the two films, but I think you’ll see in the next film that he’s grown a lot.

Instagram Photo

P.K.: I’m sure. You mentioned his being a teenager. On a related note, April is when people in Japan advance to the next grade or start work at new companies. Because of that, people attending new schools or who have just started work in new companies sometimes have what we call the “May blues”. Do you have any advice for people who might be experiencing that?

Holland: Well, I think having to work through hardship and pain is a step towards becoming an adult. That’s why I think it’s important to always do the best you can. And if it turns out to be something worth putting your all into, it’s the best feeling!

P.K.: That’s a really nice thought. By the way, this is your second time in Japan, right? Is there anything in particular that you want to do while you’re in Japan?

Holland: Actually, yesterday I got on the bullet train and went to Kyoto! I got to see lots of temples and shrines…there was even a thousand-armed god statue! It’s hard to describe Kyoto…it’s really breathtakingly beautiful there.

P.K.: Kyoto, huh? Yes, that is definitely one place where you can get a good sense of Japan.

Holland: Also, the teppanyaki I ate was delicious. I even got to do a tea ceremony and drink some real green tea! If I ever have the time, I’d love to check out some other cities in Japan.

Instagram Photo

P.K.: Is that so? Alright then, how about a last message for your fans?

Holland: Thanos is so incredibly strong that he can’t even be compared to any of the other villains we’ve seen up until now. There are a lot of scenes in the move written from his point of view, so it’s really interesting. I think this is going to be the biggest movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I’d really love to know what Japanese fans think of the movie!

He’s right; Avengers: Infinity War is said to be the biggest film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Although there’s no Captain Japan in it, and it doesn’t have popular anime characters like this cool re-imagined trailer, it’s still a highly entertaining film and a great movie, so if you haven’t seen it yet, do Tom Holland a solid and go check it out!

Top image: ©Marvel 2018
Insert images: ©SoraNews24

Spider discovered that looks like an old man having a really good time

Posted: 02 May 2018 10:30 AM PDT

I haven’t seen a face like that since Friday night bingo.

“Gross,” “scary,” and “deadly,” are some common words used to describe spiders. Even their strongest supporters would go as far as to call them “fascinating,” or “beneficial,” but still stopping short of praises such as “delightful.”

However, on 8 April, Ibaraki-based Twitter user Yomikikaseya Sachie (@yomu556) posted an image of just that on Twitter, showing us what can only be described as a downright delightful little spider.

“There is a spider that looks like the face of a cheeful old man.”

This type of spider is a variety of crab spider called hanagumo in Japanese. You’ve probably seen them on the Internet before as their patterned green abdomens occasionally make human-relatable shapes like smiley faces or hearts.

But the level of detail in this face is quite amazing, right down to the bushy eyebrows and grey mustache of a happy pappy. The scene is made more perfect by the background that makes it look as if the gnome-like grandpa is happily sliding down the petals of a daffodil.

The scene brighten the day of many, as one might expect:

“I think that’s the first cute spider I’ve seen.”
“He looks kind of like [artist] Tamakichi Sakura.”
“Looks like a mascot character.”
“He’s having some fun right there.”
“He looks so carefree. We should all be so happy.”

There were also many comparisons to the character Tingle from the Legend of Zelda series. That’s a result of the green body which will unfortunately fade to a deep brown as the spider gets older.

This is a serious upgrade from the creepy-faced crab spider found in Hong Kong a while back and makes you wonder if this might turn into an evolutionary trend. Cute spiders would certainly have an advantage when it comes to human threats. After all, who could squash a face like that?

Source: Twitter/@yomu556Niconico NewsMy Game News Flash
Featured image: Twitter/@yomu556

Starbucks’ cool new Japan Geography tumblers will take you on a trip around the country

Posted: 02 May 2018 08:00 AM PDT

Local sites and foods of five prefectures proudly displayed on mugs, bottles.

Japan has accepted Starbucks with open arms, to the point that the chain's coffeehouses are now a common part of the urban landscape. Things are now coming full circle, with the sights of Japan serving as the motifs for Starbucks’ Japan Geography series of drinking vessels.

Each member of the lineup highlights a different part of the country, saluting local culture and traditions. Five new designs have just gone on sale, starting with Nara, which features the prefecture's temples, Great Buddha statue, and tame deer which are considered messengers of the Shinto gods.

Many overseas visitors may not be familiar with Tochigi Prefecture by name, but its mountains are where you'll find the town of Nikko and its gorgeous shrines, as well as the famous "see no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil" monkeys. More recently, Tochigi's capital Utsunomiya has earned a reputation for making the tastiest gyoza (pot stickers) in Japan, so the Tochigi cup also shows a couple digging into plates of the delicious dumplings.

Moving on to Gifu, Starbucks resists the temptation to cash in on the landlocked prefecture's connection to anime smash hit Your Name, and instead goes with a scene of cormorant fishing on the Nagara River, in which the fast-swimming birds catch fish for their human handlers in a centuries-old tradition.

Two prefecture on the southwestern island of Kyushu also join the Japan Geography Series: Nagasaki, which gives a nod to its international heritage with depictions of a Chinese-style dragon dance and western-inspired architecture from the 19th century…

…and Oita, which boasts the hot spring resorts of Beppu and Yufuin and so fills its design with steamy onsen baths.

Tumblers are on sale now, priced at 1,800 yen (US$17), as are tumblers, which just a little ore at 2,000 yen. At the top of the line are the 4,200-yen stainless steel bottles which are scheduled to go on sale May 14, except for the Nagasaki bottle which for some reason won't be available until late July. The designs will be offered in limited quantities outside their prefectures, but the most certain way to get them is to travel to their respective parts of the country while seeing Japan's real-world geography too.

Source: Starbucks via Entabe
Top image: Starbucks
Insert images: Starbucks (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)

Universal Studios Japan roller coaster stops, leaves passengers dangling 98 feet above ground

Posted: 02 May 2018 07:00 AM PDT

Video shows prone passengers awaiting help in hours-long rescue operation.

In Japan, roller coasters and other amusement park thrill rides are called "zekkyou mashiin," literally "scream machines." It's actually a pretty apt description for attractions such as Universal Studios Japan's Jurassic Park-themed The Flying Dinosaur, as evidenced by the audio in its promotional video below.

But on May 1, those screams probably shifted from a mix of frightened excitement to just plain fear. At roughly 4:45 in the afternoon, one of the ride's safety sensors activated, automatically bringing to a halt two cars that were traveling its course. Unfortunately, as you can see in the video, The Flying Dinosaur's gimmick is that you ride it in the prone position, and so when the cars stopped, the riders found themselves suspended in the air, with nothing between them and the ground below.

Even worse, the emergency stop occurred when the cars were making their way to the highest point of the track, leaving the passengers hanging at heights between 20 and 30 meters (65.6 to 98.4 feet) above the pavement.

▼ Video of the stopped cars

Rescue workers sprang into action and were able to access the cars via a maintenance walkway that parallels the coaster's course. However, the one-by-one evacuation process proved time-consuming, with the last of the 64 stranded passengers to exit the cars spending roughly two hours in their predicament. Thankfully, no injuries were reported.

This marks the fourth time The Flying Dinosaur has had to execute an emergency stop since the attraction was added to the park in 2016. The first incident, in 2016, was prompted when workers noticed a passenger was holding a mobile phone while riding (ostensibly to film a video), which is prohibited. Two stoppages occurred in 2017, one when a security sensor initiated an automatic stop, and the other when employees noticed a child had entered a restricted area underneath the coaster.

Universal Studios Japan has yet to say what sort of problem caused the latest emergency stop, but in the meantime, we won't blame you if you skip The Flying Dinosaur and ride USJ's Final Fantasy coaster, or perhaps Japan's slowest roller coaster, instead.

Sources: NHK News Web, Hachima Kiko
Images: YouTube/ユニバーサル・スタジオ・ジャパン(USJ)公式チャンネル

Japanese convict, nicknamed Lupin, busts out of island jail, swims to mainland, still gets caught

Posted: 02 May 2018 06:00 AM PDT

Three week manhunt comes to an end on quiet residential street in Hiroshima.

Growing up in Fukuoka Prefecture, Tatsuma Hirao liked playing tag with his friends. He was good at it, too, with his fleet feet and slippery moves making him so hard to catch that he earned the nickname "Lupin," after the cunning thief protagonist of anime/manga Lupin III, who's always a step ahead of his pursuers.

Unfortunately, the Lupin nickname took on another aspect as he got older, as Hirao became a real-life criminal, eventually ending up in prison in Ehime Prefecture on the island of Shikoku. On the night of April 8, however, the 27-year-old Hirao managed to slip out from the confines of the Matsuyama Prison's Oi Shipbuilding Facility.

For weeks he evaded capture, but the police suspected he might be hiding out on Mukaishima, an island on the Shimanami Kaido road/bridge network that connects Shikoku in the south and Japan's main island of Honshu in the north. Following Hirao's escape, a series of burglaries was reported in northern Mukaishima, with food, cash, and clothing being taken from homes while their owners were out.

▼ Matsuyama Prison Oi Shipbuilding Facility (red) and Mukaishima (blue)

The authorities tightened their net, carefully monitoring the bridges leading off of Mukaishima. However, even three weeks after Hirao escaped captivity, he still hadn't been found, until police officers were contacted on April 30 by an employee at an Internet cafe in Hiroshima City, some 70 kilometers (43.5 miles) west of Mukaishima, saying Hirao had come to the cafe and used its shower facilities.

▼ Hiroshima City (green)

So how did Hirao make his way across the one and only bride to Honshu with the police on the lookout for him?

▼ Closeup of Mukaishima

He didn't. Instead, he swam across the channel, which according to the Japanese Coast Guard is 200 meters (656 feet) at its narrowest point, a not-impossible distance for a capable swimmer. Once on Honshu, he used the money he had stolen to purchase a train ticket to Hiroshima.

▼ The channel between Mukaishima and Honshu

The details of how Hirao slipped through to Honshu might have remained a mystery, but following the tip from the Internet cafe worker, officers rushed to the scene, apprehending Hirao in a residential area not far from Hiroshima Station.

▼ The police proved more adept at running Hirao down than his elementary school pals had been.

Upon being apprehended, Hirao told the police "I swam across to Honshu," and also revealed that the reason he'd fled incarceration was "I didn't like the human relationships of being in prison." Unfortunately for Hirao, with his escape itself and the multiple subsequent burglaries added on to his original unreported crime, he'll now have to spend even more time in jail than before.

Sources: Livedoor News/Sankei News via Hachima Kiko, Yahoo! Japan News/Yomiuri Shimbun via Otakomu, YouTube/ANNnewsCH, Asahi Shimbun
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert images: Google (edited by SoraNEws24)

Nintendo’s newest president announced for when Kimishima steps down

Posted: 01 May 2018 10:00 PM PDT


Nintendo’s sixth president is confirmed to start his job in June, although Tatsumi Kimishima will stay on in an assisting role. 

It's been a turbulent time for Nintendo when it comes to company presidents. The gaming world was shocked by the sudden loss of then-CEO Satoru Iwata in 2015, and throughout the last three years Nintendo has been working through its grief in all manner of touching, inspired references to him in the games he loved so much.

Thankfully, a strong replacement stepped up in the form of Tatsumi Kimishima. Iwata himself had replaced Kimishima as Chief Executive Officer of Nintendo of America back in 2013, when Kimishima was promoted to Managing Director of the main company. Since being appointed to the position Kimishima has overseen big changes in the company, like the hugely successful launch of the Switch console.

▼ This little powerhouse stressed out a lot of parents last Christmas.

Who could imagine how this little guy could rock the gaming industry?

But according to Kimishima himself, it's time to give younger members of the company a chance to lead.

A document filed by Nintendo shows the details of the staff change. First on the list is Kimishima's retirement, which will be made official as of their 78th shareholder's meeting on June 28th.

The second item concerns the new president of the company, the relatively young Shuntaro Furukawa. The reason given for his new role is 'to replace the retiring president, Tatsumi Kimishima, and to assist in implementing the new structure of the company.'

Here's the information they give about their new director in the statement:

  • Name: Furukawa, Shuntaro
  • New Position: Representative director president
  • Previous positions: Managing Executive Officer and Director, General Manager of Corporate & Planning, Supervisor of Global Marketing

Kimishima will reportedly be staying on as a consultant for Furukawa, which is reassuring as ever in a time of big changes. Furukawa isn't the youngest president Nintendo has ever had at the helm – that would be Hiroshi Yamauchi, who became president at 22 years old way back in 1949 – but he is a big deal in that he's the first president the company has had who grew up with the company's games.  

▼ Furukawa is the first Nintendo president to truly understand this pain.

He also speaks fluent English and worked as a director for the Pokémon Company, as well as being a self-professed avid gamer. The document Nintendo sent out includes a handy biography, which is as follows:

  • Date of birth: 1972/1/10
  • Education: Waseda University, Political Science & Economics Department
  • Hometown: Tokyo
  • Employment history:
    April 1994 – Joined Nintendo
    May 2012 (to present) – Made Outside Director of Pokemon Company
    July 2015 (to present) – Made General Manager of Corporate and Planning
    June 2016 (to present) – Made Director
    Made Managing Executive Officer
    Supervisor of Sales Management
    September 2016 (to present) – Global Marketing Office Supervisor
  • Shares owned in Nintendo: 100

Mr. Furukawa sounds like a great pick for the games industry, so let's cheer him on once he takes the wheel in June! And of course, a hearty ‘well done’ to his predecessor!

Source: TDnet via JIN115.com, Nikkei
Top image: Wikipedia/MZ31 (edited by SoraNews24)

Insert images: Wikimedia Commons/Elvis untot, TDNer, Pakutaso