Sunday, July 31, 2016

One Piece Gold advertising

New One Piece movie - Gold - came out on the 23rd.

One Piece in 2D/3D!

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Ansatsu Kyoshitsu, vol. 4 comments

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

Ansatsu Kyoshitsu vol. 4, by Yusei Matsui, Grade B+

Koro-sensei intervenes in Lovro's attempts to pull Irina from the school and sets up a test - whoever "assassinates" Karasuma first gets to choose what happens to Irina. Karasuma wants to know why he has to be the target, but he agrees, and fairly easily damages Lovro's arm so badly that Lovro drops out. Irina shows that she's been studying mantraps as part of her attempts to kill Koro, and she uses a cable trap to get close to Karasuma. He gets bored with this entire escapade and allows Irina to "stab" him with a rubber knife. Lovro accepts this outcome, and he leaves. Meanwhile, Koro is happy at his close shave - he'd agreed to stand still for one second and not evade or retaliate, if Karasuma won the game, and his odds of surviving Karasuma's attacks for that long had terrified him.

(Lovro attempts to take Karasuma out using the direct approach.)

This is followed by Koro taking Karuma and Nagisa to Hawai'i at Mach 20 to watch a rubber suit monster movie. When it's over, Koro is crying unstoppably at the sad ending, then he races to another student's house to help with their homework, as promised. He zips past a white-robed figure and a blank-eyed long-haired boy that thinks Koro is his older brother. The next day, the class is told to welcome another transfer student. Ritsu tells them that this "monster" was scheduled to show up when she did, but he was delayed because his destruction was so uncontrolled. When the long-haired boy walks through the wall to take a seat at the back of the class, the students are already spooked. The robed guy introduces himself as "Shiro" (white), and the boy as Itona Horibe. Itona only has one goal - to be the strongest person in the room. He ignores the other students, and his studies, to attack Koro.

("She's got a ticket to ride, and she don't care.")

There is one material that is guaranteed to cut or melt Koro's body, and this is generally used on the airsoft pellets and rubber knives the students attack him with. Someone manufactured Itona to have tentacle hair that is coated with the same material. Shiro gets Koro to accept a closed-ring dual, with the first person stepping out of the ring losing. When Itona cuts Koro with his tentacle hair, Koro goes insane, demanding to know who the scientist was behind the boy's creation. Shiro refuses to answer, and as the fight proceeds, Koro takes more and more damage. Nagisa starts feeling outraged that an outsider could just waltz in like this and simply take over their assassinations. He takes out his knife and approaches the ring. The next thing anyone knows, Itona attacks with his hair, smashes a huge hole in the floor, and his hair is now melting off. (Koro had grabbed Nagisa's knife without anyone noticing, and put it on the floor, where the anti-Koro coating would have a similar effect on the boy's tentacles.) Koro throws Itona out of the building, winning the match. Unfortunately, Itona goes berserk at being told he's weak, and has to be subdued by one of Shiro's tranq darts. Shiro takes the boy and leaves, refusing to answer Koro's questions, but promising to come back again later. The students demand to know what Koro is, and he replies that he will only tell them if they succeed in killing him.

(Itona, the tentacled little brother.)

The kids now have a reason to improve their skills, and they ask Karasuma to train them harder, which he is more than willing to do. The last chapter has some of the boys in the class entering the school's sports tourney to try to defeat the top-ranked 3-A class team. Koro overtrains his students by throwing 300-kpm balls at them, so they do well in the first 3 at-bats. But, chairman Gakuhou Asano paralyzes the 3-A coach to justify stepping in and taking over the 3-A team. (Note that no one outside of 3-E and the various assassins sent after him are supposed to know of Koro's existence. When he goes outside, he has to be disguised somehow. For the baseball game, he's disguised as one of the balls lying on the ground, and he gives signals by changing face colors.)

(Koro - "Where did you get that technique?" Shiro - "You'll be dead soon, so there's no reason to tell you.")

Summary: The story is getting a little more serious with the introduction of Itona, and Asano has firmly established himself as a bad guy by his continued mistreatment of the 3-E students as incentive for the other classes to keep their grades up. It's pretty easy to root for Nagisa and the other "losers." But, there's still a lot of light-hearted humor, as we explore better living through assassination. Recommended.

Inside cover quote:
"He shows a scarlet circle when you give the right answer.
If you sadly say "You don't have a girlfriend, do you", he shows this expression."

Back inside cover quote:
"Hey, tentacles, that's a Parisian tentacle!!
- Koro-sensei"

Friday, July 29, 2016

Ansatsu Kyoshitsu, vol. 3 comments

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

Ansatsu Kyoshitsu vol. 3, by Yusei Matsui, Grade B+

The Kyoto school trip is all that Koro-sensei can hope for. A gang of high school dropouts kidnap Kaeda Kayano and Yukiko Kanzaki, and Karuma and Nagisa use the "sightseeing" guide he wrote to track down the villains and rescue their classmates (the guide has a supplemental map of all the locations where someone could make remote hideouts). Koro tracks down the rescuers, and between them they destroy the gang by smashing them all over the heads with the guide. In the meantime, Karasuma has instructed the sniper known as "Red Eye" to kill Koro during the school trip. Koro makes a point of remaining out in the open to give Red Eye clear shots at him (while on a train, at ballgames, and at an Edo-era recreation park filled with actors portraying samurai) just to keep the students from being hit by accident. Each of the sniper shots are thwarted, and Red Eye decides to give up and start a new profession, but Koro meets up with him at a restaurant to encourage him to try harder next time. There's also a hint that at one time, Koro had a love interest, back when he had fewer arms and legs (implying that he was human, once.)

(Book'em, Danno.)

The world leaders are panicking over how long Karasuma is taking to off Koro, and they send in the next assassin. This one is a duo, with one member already at the school. In actuality, the first killer is a monolithic slab, a computer programmed with an AI based on the Aegis missile control system, and built-in 3-D printers for manufacturing weapons and ammo. Her creator is the scientist heading the AI project. Over the first couple days, the AI keeps disrupting the class by shooting air soft pellets at shotgun speeds, with the intent of slowly improving its accuracy by the end of the year. Koro decides to reprogram the monolith to teach it how to get along with its classmates, turning it into a very "moe" virtual girl that gets nicknamed "Ritsu" (percentage). Her creator sneaks in one night with his military team to remove all the unnecessary software to turn her back into a killing machine, but Ritsu expected this and backed up her memories just in case. The next day, she's back to "normal."

(Ritsu is an angry girl.)

The next couple chapters are about a pair of upper level students that bully one of the 3-E members, so the rest of the class bands together to humiliate them (standard "exlax in the coffee" trick, but with weapons.)  The book ends with Irina's teacher, the teacher of assassination, Lovro Brovski, showing up to pull Irina out of the school because she's not good enough to go up against Koro.

(But she's feeling better, now.)

Again, lots of fun stuff in with the heightened tension moments. Recommended.

(How to deliver laxatives, the Koro-sensei way.)

Inside cover quote:
"When he's pink, he's relaxed.
He makes this face when he thinks of disgusting or careless things."

Back inside cover quote:
"Tentacles are great!
I'm going to try my hardest today!!
- Coach Koro
(From his World Baseball tournament victory speech)"

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Fukushima and Tokyo Ward coins

Well, the last of the Japan mint commemorative 500 yen coins have finally hit the streets. With Fukushima (the prefecture that had the big tsunami and nuclear reactor meltdown in 2011) and the 23 Tokyo Wards (the city of Tokyo by itself can almost be a prefecture in its own right), that's the full 48 coins. The series started in 2008, and I've put in links to the Japan Mint posts if you click on the year for each release. I discovered these coins in 2012, and I wasn't able to get any of the ones released before then. The coins with an asterisk are the ones I did get. Unfortunately, I waited too long at one point and Kagoshima sold out, and I was never able to find someone living elsewhere in Japan to get it for me. Either way, it's not too bad. And the coins are legal tender at all stores and banks, although they don't work in vending machines. So, I can still spend them, if I want to.

2008:  Hokkaido,  Kyoto,  Shimane            
2009:  Nagano,    Niigata                        
2009:  Ibaraki,   Nara                           
2010:  Kochi,     Gifu,       Fukui              
2010:  Aichi,     Aomori,     Saga               
2011:  Toyama,    Tottori,    Kumamoto           
2011:  Shiga,     Iwate,      Akita              
2012: *Okinawa,  *Kanagawa,  *Miyazaki           
2012: *Tochigi,  *Oita       *Hyogo              
2013: *Miyagi,   *Hiroshima, *Gunma                
2014: *Okayama,  *Yamanashi,  Kagoshima, *Shizuoka
2014: *Mie,      *Ehime,     *Yamagata           
2015: *Saitama,  *Kagawa,    *Ishikawa           
2015: *Yamaguchi *Tokushima  *Fukuoka            
2016: *Wakayama, *Osaka,     *Nagasaki,  *Chiba  
2016: *Fukushima,   *Tokyo Wards        

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Jump Ryuu #14 - Masanori Morita

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

Jump Ryu vol. 14 - Masanori Morita (1,290 yen)
Finally, a Jump Ryuu issue that I want to buy. Morita is the creator of the high school delinquent fight manga, Rokudenashi Blues, and the school baseball series, Rookies. I'm not really a fan of either title, but Rokudenashi Blues was still running in Shonen Jump magazine when I first came to Japan, and when I was on my first flight here, one of the other passengers on the plane, from South Korea, lent me one of the volumes he was reading to kill the time into Narita. And, I have read the English translations of most of Rokudenashi, so I do have an interest in Morita, and I was looking forward to listening to him if he was interviewed on the DVD.

(The insert art sheet on the left, the blue sheet on the right.)

(The alternative DVD clamshell wrapper sheet.)

The mook package has the standard DVD, 20-page magazine, and two art sheets. The main art piece is the lead character from Rokudenashi, and the blue sheet (for practicing inking) is from Rookies. There is one extra item this time (don't know if it's new to this volume, or if it was introduced some time after Ansatsu Kyoshitsu) - an alternative wrapper for the DVD featuring the above artwork from Rokudenashi. This is cool, and I don't want to damage it by actually putting it around the DVD clamshell case. The magazine also has the standard stuff - Morita's timeline (he debuted in 1984 with "It's Late"), the manga he drew leading up to the current date (in the "Road to Jump" section), and a sampling of screen shots from the DVD showing his studio and some of the signed artwork he's collected from Tezuka. Then there are the sections on how to ink the blue sheet, and examples of artwork from the other Jump artists (Dragonball, Naruto, Hunter x Hunter, etc.) and finally closing with the advertisement for the next volume, featuring One Punch Man.

The DVD starts out with Morita giving a tour of his house, with photos of boxers, artwork from Tezuka, and bookshelves filled with Tezuka manga. Morita is a collector who likes figures, and signature cards he buys from Mandarake. Then, the camera goes to Morita's studio, where he has tables set up for 6 assistants (none of whom were around at the time of taping). He spends several minutes talking about his choice of pens and brushes, and what his drawing style is like. He also has a huge library of photos he's taken from around Tokyo for manga references. This is followed by the video of Morita drawing the artwork for the magazine insert sheet from scratch, with commentary. Unlike with some of the younger artists, he uses real brushes with actual watercolor paints, topped with acrylic paints for highlights.  The last chapter has the Jump Ryu editors talking about how to draw sand (deserts, beaches, the moon, etc.)

(Highlights from the DVD.)

(How to ink the blue sheet.)

In terms of learning how to draw manga, as well as getting a better understanding of who any one of the specific artists are, vol. 14 probably has the best DVD of the set so far (it's certainly the best of the ones I've bought). Recommended.

After this we get: Vol. 15 (Aug. 4) - Yusuke Murata (Eyeshield 21, One-Punch Man), Vol. 16 (Aug.18) - Mitsutoshi Shimabukuro (Toriko), Vol. 17 (Sept. 1) - Masakazu Katsura (Video Girl Ai, I"s) and Vol. 18 (Sept. 15) - Osamu Akimoto (Kochira Kameari). I only want Masakazu and Akimoto.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Bad Mediafire

I'm getting very tired of having to fight with messed up software. First, Norton loses my anti-virus subscription and one of their techs ends up spending 2 hours remote-logging into my PC to manually force an uninstall and do an all-new install. That causes my camera management software to stop auto-launching when the camera is plugged in, so I have to delete the camera driver and reinstall that. That's followed by "network connection issues" preventing me from uploading videos to youtube from Firefox (Chrome uploads just fine). I haven't had time to address that yet, but it's probably something in the Norton firewall settings.

And now, Mediafire is breaking its own links to my photos. A few weeks ago, the photos I uploaded to mediafire for hosting for this blog stopped displaying when I would write up the blog entry. Not all the photos, just half, or so. If I went to the mediafire page for a given photo, it would display fine. I could copy the direct link for the photo and paste that into Notepad, but pasting the direct link into Firefox would result in a bad link indication. Chrome behaves the same way, so the problem is with Mediafire, not my computer. With some experimentation, I found that if I try downloading the photo from the Mediafire page, and IF the download works the direct link gets fixed. The first step is to left click on the photo itself. Mediafire will attempt to display the full-sized version of the file. If that times out, the next step is to click on the Download button. That opens a separate download screen, with the message "preparing file for download". When the message changes to "Download File," try step 1 again. If that still fails, then click the download button from step 2 and hope that the file downloads to the PC (if it does, open the file using photo viewer, or whatever). If step 3 works, then return to step 1 and do that again. Generally, one of the above methods will fix the direct link, eventually, but it can take maybe 5 minutes of screwing around for one file, and if there are 10 broken links, then I AM going to get impatient...

Keeping in mind that the problem isn't on the Blogspot side in my HTML. If the link gets restored on the Mediafire side, then all I have to do is refresh the blog page and the photos magically start showing up in the blog page.

Stupid Mediafire.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Ogionsa 2016, Day 2

On Saturday, one of my students mentioned that on Sunday he was going to take his son to the aquarium at Dolphin Port, and then go watch Ogionsa. He said that the mikoshi parade was going to start at 10 AM, and that's the time I thought I remembered from previous years. I got up late on Sunday, and figured I'd get out the door at 1 PM and see what I could catch on camera. So, I got to Central Park a few minutes later, and it looked like a couple of the mikoshi groups were just starting to stage their entrance to the parade, which was 4-5 blocks away at Streetcar Street, which seemed strange to me. I cut through Tenmonkan, and encountered another group that was also getting set up in the middle of the shopping district. I continued over to Izuro street, at the south end of the parade route, and there were still cars zipping along the street. That's when I tried tracking down an advertising poster to see if it had the schedule printed on it. It took a bit, but I finally located one poster along the street, and the schedule said that set-up would start at 1:30 PM, and the parade itself would go from 2:30 to 5 PM. I went back home to work on the computer for an hour.

At 2:30 PM, the fireworks went off at Terukuni shrine to indicate the start of the matsuri. I got out the door again at 3 PM. Finally, I could watch the parade. At one point, the announcer stated that the last of the mikoshi had been added to the route, bringing the number this year up to 54 portable shrines, total. I still think this  is less that what they had two years ago, but it's better than last year. However, one thing missing this year, that was here in 2015, was the food booths. There were no food booths like the ones at Rokugatsu-gou last week. The only tables were for drinks and shaved ice desserts, run by the shop owners in front of their own stores. That was disappointing, but all of the food is over-priced anyway, and I rarely can bring myself to spending money for any of it. I did get one large highball at one table, for 400 yen ($4 USD). That was good.

At the beginning of the staging, the primary attraction for Ogionsa - the cart with the two "princesses" - was being prepared at the head of the route. I took this opportunity to take a couple photos of the women. It was a hot muggy day, so that make-up, the heavy costumes and wigs must have been uncomfortable during the entire time.

Children's mikoshi.

Tengu (long-nosed mountain demon). He would walk a few feet, then pose for pictures.

Every year, there's a different horse in the parade. This one was not happy at having to wear a bridle.

One of the medium-sized mikoshi.

I'm not sure who this guy is. But, each of the mikoshi groups would present themselves to him at the end of Streetcar Street (where the route turns left to go to Izuro street), and he would then tell them to do their best. Generally, he just sat in his chair and looked bored.

I just had to get a shot of the guy in the middle of the crowd. He looks prototypical gangsta.
I took 20 minutes of video, and about 40 photos, mostly with the big camera. It gave me a lot of trouble this time, and I'm not happy about that. The camera locks into a loop where it can't decide if it's in Auto mode or Sports Scene, flipping back and forth and not letting me do anything else. Sometimes it wouldn't recognize my changing the settings knob, nor would it focus when I pushed the shoot button. It wouldn't even start recording when I pressed that button. I'd have to turn the camera off then back on every 10-15 minutes just to get it to reset. So, that cut into the time that I could have spent taking more photos.

At 4:30, the announcer said that the street was going to be opened to traffic again soon, and that the mikoshi were going to have to be taken back to their staging areas. At about 4:45, the announcer declared the matsuri to be finished. So I went home and tried to edit the video files. At 7 PM, the fireworks went off at Terukuni again, to indicate that Ogionsa had officially ended. But... for some reason, Microsoft Movie Maker had dropped to a crawl when I imported the first 7 minutes of files to it. Some days ago, I'd talked to one guy that edits his movies on his Apple smartphone, and he'd said that he could manipulate his videos as he liked, and upload them to the net within 15 minutes. With Movie Maker, the videos have to be converted to thumbnails first, which generally takes 20 minutes right there for a 7 minute movie. This time, though, the files were only 40% converted after an hour and a half. I canceled the conversion and rebooted the computer. This time, the files converted a lot faster, but it still took 3 hours to convert, edit and export the finished movies, not including upload times to youtube. I'm getting very disgusted with Microsoft stuff, and I'm seriously thinking about getting a used Mac... On top of which, after Norton messed up and had to be reinstalled, I can no longer upload files to youtube from Firefox (Google Chrome works fine, but I don't like the feel of Chrome). Sigh...

Direct youtube link to video 1

Direct youtube link to video 2

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Ogionsa 2016, Day 1

Ogionsa has also come and gone. Man, these things are going by fast.
Ogionsa is the festival where different groups carry mikoshi (portable shrines) along Streetcar Street. It's a two-day event, but the first day is mostly just small performances around Tenmonkan. I had to work all day Saturday, with a short break between 3 and 4 PM. I arrived at the space next to 7-11 just as K@ito, the juggler, was leaving the stage. I had to wait 20 minutes for the next act to start, so I went into 7-11 to grab a microwave ham and cheese burrito. I then recorded 15 minutes of the taiko group on my little camera, and had to turn it off when the battery began overheating again. When I got out of work at the end of the day, it was 9 PM and the stage had already been torn down. So, that's all I saw of day 1.

Then again, most of the students I talked to at the school said they had no interest in seeing Ogionsa at all, so I guess I did better than most.

Direct youtube link

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Ansatsu Kyoshitsu, vol. 2 comments

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

Ansatsu Kyoshitsu vol. 2, by Yusei Matsui, Grade B+

(Irina leads Koro-sensei into an ambush.)

As mentioned in the entry for volume 1, I don't want to do a full summary or character guide for Ansatsu Kyoushitsu because Viz has the U.S. English rights to the manga. But, I do kind of want to mention that I am reading each book as I go along, so I need to pick something to write about. I think what I'm going to do is make a few general comments, and talk about new key characters as they are introduced.

In volume 2, Karasuma, the dark-featured teacher that kind of is in charge of getting Koro-sensei killed at the school, has been told by the school chairman (initially a faceless guy that hides in the shadows) that 11 professional assassins have been summoned from around the world and that Karasuma has to manage them when they're in Japan. The first outsider is the 18-year-old black widow killer, Irina Jelavich, who works as a seductress to get close to her target before offing them. Koro finds her way too attractive, and claims to be unable to defend himself against her. He has no problems dealing with her henchmen, though. Irina is brought in as a language teacher, but her arrogance immediately turns the 3-E class students against her. Koro gives her a lesson in humility (rather, he tells her to be a better teacher) and she settles down a bit. However, the students continue calling her "vich-sensei", which with the Japanese inability to pronounce "v" and "ch" correctly, keeps coming out as "bitchy-sensei." Later, she's treated mainly as comic relief.

(Introduction of the school chairman, Gakuhou Asano.)

Gakuhou Asano runs the junior high school, and is an incredibly calculating man. When he first appears, he says that the fastest way to solve a Rubik's Cube is to dismantle it with a screwdriver and reassemble it correctly. He uses a metal wire puzzle to entrap Koro-sensei, and claims that the status quo in the school has to remain intact. That is, class 3-E is the bottom of the totem pole, insects swimming in the mud, used as incentive to the other students to not screw up and get demoted. The problem with this system is that the other students bully the 3-E group, and when anyone like Nagisa stands up for themselves, they get punished by the other teachers instead. This gives Koro-sensei extra work in trying to protect his students more surreptitiously. Gakuhou gives a test to the entire school, and Koro gives cram lessons to his students in an attempt to get the entire class to earn decent grades on the exam. The testing company schemes with Gakuhou to manipulate the scores anyway, and Koro falls into despair. Turns out, though, that Karuma got some of the best scores in the school, but he's not interested in being promoted to the next level, and had intentionally failed the test. He talks Koro into getting revenge on the next test. And Koro is ALL about revenge.

(Karuma tries to cheer up Koro-sensei after the class does poorly on a school-wide test.)

At the end of the volume, the school gets ready to go on a trip to Kyoto. Koro prepares a 40-pound "sightseeing guide" for each of the students. One entry in the index is - if someone kidnaps members of your group, go to page 1243. So, when a gang of dropouts beat up Nagisa and Karuma, and drive off with Kaeda Kayano and the most beautiful girl in the class - Kanzaki, the guide is there to help them.

What's interesting about this manga is that Koro-sensei views himself as a teacher first, and assassin and assassination target second. He's there to help everyone who needs him, including other assassins, become better people through focused killing techniques. And, like most manga, the core values include taking care of your "nakama" (friends, or in this case, classmates). Lots of humor in with the more serious elements. Recommended.

Inside cover quote:
"His regular expression is to have a yellow face.
When he really thinks that something is too below him, he looks like a barber pole."

Back inside cover quote:
"Small birds understand not the will of the tentacle.
(Baby birds can not understand the larger intent of a tentacle.)
- Koro-sensei
(??? - 209 B.C.)"

Friday, July 22, 2016

Ansatsu Kyoshitsu, vol. 1 comments

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

Ansatsu Kyoshitsu vol. 1, by Yusei Matsui, Grade B+

I'm not really sure how well-known this manga/anime is in the U.S. It's relatively popular in Japan, but a few of my students have never heard of it, so it's not as ubiquitous as something as, say, Dragonball, Naruto or One Piece. I do know that Viz has the rights for the manga in the U.S. so I'm not going to bother doing full summaries or character guides this time. I do want to make a few observations as I go along, so this is more of a commentary than a review.

(The inside covers have a brief description of Koro-sensei's color schemes as a form of mood ring. This time: "His regular expression is to have a yellow face.
But, the colors of his face tend to change often.")

The artist, Yusei Matsui, first came to my attention with his series, Neuro: Supernatural Detective (English title), back 7 years ago (when I was still in Tokyo) and that was a bit disturbing. The artwork on Neuro was ok, although kind of on the primitive side, and the story could be funny and educational in turns. Unfortunately, the entire premise was "who's the most sadistic creature in the demonic plane, and on Earth?," and yes, there was a strong S&M theme running through each of the stories. It was handled in a childish, cartoony way, so it was hard to take seriously, but, still...

(The inside back cover has commentary or a short poem by Koro-sensei.
"I don't know what weapons will be used to fight World War 3,
but WW4 will probably be fought by tentacle.
- Koro-sensei")

According to the wiki entry, Matsui worked as an assistant for Yoshio Sawai, on Bobobo bo, Bobobo. He also shows up in volume 6 of the Jump Ryu DVD magazine series on how to become a manga artist.

(Nagisa tries to assassinate Koro-sensei.)

The premise for Ansatsu Kyoshitsu (Assassination Classroom) if you're not familiar with it - A yellow alien with a smiley face and an octopus-like body, destroys 70% of the moon, and announces he will wipe out Earth at the end of a year if no one can stop him. He becomes the homeroom teacher for class 3-E at Kunugigaoka Junior High School, and these students are tasked to become assassins and kill the alien. He is soon nicknamed Koro-Sensei (korosu = kill), and the story follows a fixed pattern. People try to kill him, and he uses his ability to travel at mach 20 to avoid the attacks. The $100 million bounty on his head attracts a lot of outside killers.

(There are few things that make Koro-sensei mad. Putting other students at risk of injury is one of them.)

There's a lot of physical humor and tongue-in-cheek gags in the early chapters. One student (previously kicked out of the school for being too violent) buys an octopus and sticks a knife through it as a way of insulting Koro-sensei. The teacher, rather than getting upset, races out to grab a missile the Japanese Navy launches at him, a knife and carving board, and uses the missile's exhaust to cook tako-yaki (battered octopus dumplings) that he pops in the boy's mouth. In another chapter, a girl who is a poor cook, but a decent chemist, mixes up a set of poisons that she asks Koro to drink. He does so, and then advises her on how to make them more effective (the first poison makes horns grow on his head, and the second gives him wings. The third makes him look like a text emoji.) I found the reactions to the poisons to be pretty funny. Every time he races to Hawai'i or Italy to buy food (Koro loves food, but can't buy much on a teacher's salary) he brings back a surface-to-air missile as souvenir.

The character artwork is better than on Neuro, but is still kind of old-school. The backgrounds and school buildings are good, and the action scenes are fun. Personally, I think the gags are funny. And, even in volume 1, there are hints to the backstory, with a creature kind of looking like Koro holding a female teacher following what looks like a fatal classroom explosion, and she says that she loves him. Koro takes care of the main protagonist - the overly feminine-looking male student Nagisa Shiota. And we also meet Karuma (Karma) Akabane, a very strong, unhappy boy. Karuma had been one of the best students in class 3-E, but when he went overboard in beating up one of the school's most popular 3rd year students (who had been bullying a weaker, younger boy), Karuma's teacher, rather than praising him for standing up to a bully, attacked him for humiliating the school by hospitalizing their "sports hero." Karuma lost his faith in teachers at that point and turned into a delinquent. Koro tells him that he shows promise as an assassin. This interaction between Koro and his students is part of the charm of this manga.

Overall, recommended.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Vending Machine Free Manga Challenge

Ad campaigns on the vending machines come and go every few weeks. The current one is a free manga give away. According to the sign, if you get a seal on one of the products from this machine, you get free manga. There's nothing here I have any interest in, but I was curious as to what the seal would look like. There are 4,000,000 seals available, total, but the odds of getting a winning can don't seem to be that great. The only reason for buying anything from these machines is that you usually do, and you are not changing your patterns in anyway. In this case, if you do win, bonus. Otherwise, don't bother wasting your money.

On a side note, I decided to get the cafe au lait premium coffee advertised in the above photo. Stuff tastes like sweetened creamer. No matter how much I concentrated on it, I couldn't taste any coffee at all. 140 yen. Not recommended.

Ok, a couple weeks after I wrote the above section, I wanted to get some can coffee, and I walked over to a vending machine near my apartment where I'd gotten some of the coffee before, and it was no longer part of this campaign. I looked at a few other machines in the area, and they'd been changed over, too. I was starting to wonder if the campaign had been discontinued already, then I eventually did find one machine that still had the ad sheets on it. I bought a can of coffee, and there it was.

The Suntory site is a bit of a hassle to navigate, but I did find the right link for typing in the serial number. There are only the manga shown on the vending machines, and it's only one chapter each. I decided to sample MMR (MMR Magajin Mystery Chousanhan (Investigation Group)), which is a kind of UFO/paranormal mystery series that ran in the 1990's. There's very little on it in English on the net. The artwork is old-school, and the story is silly, with the characters yelling and acting surprised a lot, and in the middle of the story there's a huge product placement bit for Boss coffee. So, yeah, it's just an ad tie-in. The manga is presented in e-book format, and you can't save the pages to disk to read later when you're offline. The browser is clunky, too. While you can sample the other manga titles on the Suntory page, you only get the first 1-2 pages of each one, then a warning saying that you should go buy more coffee to get another serial number to activate the next manga chapter. As I mentioned before, your best bet is to buy the can coffee only if you like Boss, and if you get the serial number label by accident, fine. But, it's not worth it to get the coffee simply to try to win the "free" manga.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Egypt Exhibit

The Reimeikan history museum is hosting an Egyptian exhibit until the first week of September. I was interested in seeing what they have, so I dropped in on the 17th. The museum does allow cameras in the exhibit space, but most of the objects are behind glass, and none of the pictures would have come out well if I'd bothered taking photos. So, I didn't. On the other hand, the exhibit is billed as having "100 treasures" from ancient Egypt, and a number of them are just rocks...

Entry is 1,400 yen ($14 USD) for adults, and you can pretty much see everything in about 15 minutes. There are some nice necklaces, a few good statues, and what's supposed to be a solid-gold face mask pounded from a single sheet. None of the really famous pharaohs are represented, though. Some of the signs are in English, so I could read those ok. And there was a space set aside for a theater, showing a few modern archeological sites. The film looked more like an advertisement for a travel agency.

The real point of the exhibit was to get people to buy over-priced sleeping masks, t-shirts and olive oils.

$10 for pyramid chocolate. And, they did have the "magical plastic pyramid power" kits, too, if you wanted to get one of those...

Overall, not really a bad exhibit, just on the pricey side. If you really want to learn more about old Egypt, you could spend more time reading the signs. And the author of a coffee table book sold at the store is supposed to give a couple presentations in August.

One thing I found interesting was one sign that made a point of dismissing the belief that the pyramids were built by slaves. This supposedly was an unconfirmed statement made by someone that had never been in Egypt. The sign went on to state that the manual labor was voluntarily provided by farmers wanting to enter the afterlife along with their pharaoh, and that the entire project was a coordinated team effort. The Japanese love stories about how "one person can't do anything alone; that everything important must be the result of selfless team effort."