Sunday, December 31, 2017

Building Work

The parking tower next to City Hall is being torn down, so it's been completely surrounded by scaffolding.

An attempt at being artistic.
The sign is for the Yoshimaru Group. The catfish is kind of symbolic, since there's a Japanese belief that with their whiskers, catfish can predict earthquakes.

Happy New Year! And welcome to the lunar new year of the catfish.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Google Doodles, 2017

I've been collecting the links to the Google Doodle's that I find interesting for several years now. For a while, there were so many science, math, Japan, animation, and game-related doodles that I had to split them up into 6-month groupings. 2017 hasn't been as good, though, and back in July I decided that I wouldn't post the links that I'd assembled at that time. Instead, I'd just dump them here in this post for the entire year all in one big blocks. And, here we are.

Sandford Fleming’s 190th Birthday (created modern-day time zones)

Bessie Coleman’s 125th Birthday (first black American female pilot)

Seven Earth-size Exoplanets Discovered!

Cassini Spacecraft Dives Between Saturn and its Rings

100th Anniversary of Giro d'Italia

115th Anniversary of the Antikythera Mechanism's Discovery

Dia dos Namorados 2017 (game)

271st anniversary of Hanawa Hokiichi's birth (animated)

Eiko Ishioka’s 79th Birthday (Japanese movie costume designer, slideshow)

The Great American Eclipse

Eduard Khil's 83rd Anniversary (animated)

Fridtjof Nansen 156th anniversary (animated)

Celebrating the Studio for Electronic Music

S. Chandrasekhar’s 107th Birthday (animated)

Halloween 2017 (animated)

Hirotugu Akaike’s 90th Birthday

Christian Doppler's 214th Birthday

50th Anniversary of Children's Programming (Logo) (game)

Jan Ingenhousz's 287th Birthday (discovered photosynthesis)

Max Born's 135th Birthday (quantum mechanics Nobel Prize winner)

Friday, December 29, 2017

Nobunagun, vol. 1

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

Nobunagun, vol. 1, Masato Hisa. Grade: A-
In the review of Jaberwocky 1914, I mentioned that I was looking for other manga by Masato Hisa now that Area 51 ended. Turns out that Maruzen books, in Tenmonkan, has the first five volumes of Nobunagun (2011-2015, Earthstar magazine). They're about $6 USD, with tax, so I hesitate to get them all at one time. But, I wanted to at least try the first book. It's not too bad.

The book starts out with Oda Nobunaga trying to get through his castle at the end of the siege he fails to survive. He enters a room and is speared by something that looks like a Jomon-era statue. The creature, which calls itself Dogoo later on, says that it's taking Oda's life now for use in a future war. Jumping to the present, Shio Ogura is a high school girl on a school field trip to Taiwan. She's sleeping through it, because all anyone wants to do is visit statues and stuff.

(When Oda met Dogoo.)

Kaoru Asao, one of the more popular girls in the school, teases her, takes their picture together, and promises to upload the photo to her phone after they exchange email addresses. Asao runs into a nearby Buddha statue, just as a series of fighter jets zip by. THESE Shio gets excited over. She's a big military freak and recognizes the models of all the weapons converging on Taiwan now in an attempt to destroy a giant fish monster. One guy, Jack the Ripper, parachutes out of the planes and uses a sword arm to cut the fish in two, only to end up releasing a whole bunch of smaller monsters into the area.

(Shio would rather look at a tank flying through the air, than a giant floating fish monster.)

Jack gets speared from behind and drops a weird metal "AU" ball that Shio picks up. The other students escape the Buddha statue, but Asao is trapped inside and about to be killed by the monsters. Shio goes into a rage that Asao hasn't asked for her email address yet, and discovers that Dogoo had secretly passed Nobunaga's DNA down through her family for generations. The AU ball activates the DNA to give Shio the super-weapon - Nobunagun.

(When asked what he wants to be, Oda replies, "Naturally, a gun.")

Newton shows up (a woman that can activate super gravity boots) eventually, followed by Gandhi (a flashy young man with brick wall hands on his head and back for putting up protective barriers). Shio tries shooting the monsters, but the recoil from the big gun keeps throwing off her shot. She tells Newton to push down on her back with the gravity boots, which helps a lot, while also putting a terrible toll on her body from the punishment.

(Hurricane fish have eggs.)

Newton and Gandhi are strictly support personnel - Ripper and Nobunagun are the only fighters on the field now, and Jack's down. Gandhi protects Asao, and Shio gradually learns from Nobunaga how to active up to three guns total (one is a smaller "hand" gun, and the other is a pistol in the Nobunagun mask).

(Jack rips.)

When all 200+ monsters are dead, the original ship fish self-destructs. Gandhi protects Jack, Newton, Shio and Asao, but half of Taiwan bay is obliterated in the blast. Later, Shio visits Asao in the hospital where she is recuperating from a head injury. The TV carries news of the battle, and the announcement of a new military organization called "Defense Organization aGainst Outer Objects (DOGOO)". The DOGOO rep says that the monsters are invaders from outer space, and that Shio is one of the newest members of the AU fighters, and the only one from Japan. Shio confesses to being terrified of all the attention, and Asao just thanks her for saving her life. Shio pulls herself together, and eventually strides outside past all the news reporters and their cameras.

(Inside front cover: Dogoo's Famous Person Collection - Nobunaga.)

In the second half of the book, we get Robert Capa, a sukebe old man stuck in a wheelchair, able to make energy clones of people for training purposes. His main weapon is a movie camera-like energy gun. And Galileo, a girl that lives inside a Dalek-suit, and uses telescopic vision to find enemies and predict their movements. There's also Commander (a 2,000-year-old woman working with Dogoo, and Dogoo itself (which is now living in a fluid-filled support tube). Apparently, the enemy fish monsters, only known as "Evolutionary Invasion Objects" (EIOs), had destroyed Dogoo's world, and it is here on Earth to prevent the next invasion. DOGOO the organization has a super-carrier craft in the ocean, heading toward Florida to anticipate the next outbreak. From what they know, there was one EIO that landed in the seas on Earth some time ago, and it's given birth to something like 10 "mother monsters".

(Inside back cover.)

The current mother monster fish lives in a hurricane barreling down on Florida, and the heroes have to stop it before there's a repeat of Taiwan Bay. The problem is that this one carries eggs, and killing the monster will only cause the eggs to be released before land fall. Shio, Ripper and Galileo work together to save Florida, with Shio and Jack both turning out to be master (and highly reckless) strategists. Along the way, Jack grabs Shio in his arms as they fall through the sky, and tells her to use Nobunagun as a steering tool to get him closer to the monster in the hurricane. This gambit works, but now Shio is embarrassed at the thought of being hugged by a boy. The book ends with Shio wanting someone to confess everything to, but not quite getting the courage up for calling Asao.

(Back cover.)

Summary: Yeah, I like this book, but it's not yet at the same level as Area 51. The wiki article says that the manga was turned into a TV anime from Jan. to Mar., 2014, to mixed reviews. I like the artwork for Nobunaga, and the character designs for the other "heroes" are pretty good, too. The background art is great, and I like the story. The actual character designs are a bit too-cartoony, though, and the battle sequences go WAY over the top. Still, small school girls with big guns. What's not to like? Recommended.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

McDonald's Placemat Advertising

Found this placemat for McDonald's at the food court in the lower level of Amu Plaza.
"Let's become cool by working part time at McDonald's."

Naw. Not even manga can make minimum wage at McDonald's "cool."

Wednesday, December 27, 2017


There's a contemporary clothing shop on streetcar street, between my apartment and Amu Plaza. It's a relatively new shop, and when it was remodeled, they had a chalkboard installed next to the door. Every so often, an artist will come in and draw new art. This one was just finished a couple days before I took the photo.

Detail close-up. Past drawings have been of flowers and a pair of sneakers. The place is popular with college-age guys.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Yamakataya Ad - Studio Fix

Not all of the Yamakataya cosmetics department ads are ugly, but there are still those that make you wonder what the photoshop guy has against women...

Monday, December 25, 2017

Hario Collection

There are rip-offs, and then there are rip-offs. Here's one of the more blatant types. Hario Corp. started out in the 1920's as a maker of heat-resistant glass used in the production of coffee pots. As a tribute to their products, Hario arranged to have miniature versions produced as capsule ball machine toys.

There are five figures in the collection, for 400 yen ($3.75 USD) each. I know someone whose sister owns a coffee shop, and she sometimes buys these kinds of toys to give to her sister for the shop. The Hario collection is a new series, so I decided to get one in spite the price to show her what the series looks like, and because I also like coffee and was hoping to get the vacuum drip maker at best, or the grinder at the least.

Instead, I got the one figure that I absolutely didn't want - the pyrex pot. This thing is tiny, maybe no more than half an inch tall. It comes with a little ring insert for the top of the pot, but there's not even a cover. I would have accepted this IF it was packaged along with the filter holder, but they're two separate prizes. So, yeah, at $3.75 for this thing, I'm extremely disappointed. And no, I'm not going to waste any more money trying to get something else in the series.

Sunday, December 24, 2017


Christmas Chicken

It's a miracle! Miracle Chicken.
Merry Christmas.

And here's your Three Wise men for this year.

The 24th

Ok, so, yeah, anyway, on Sunday I had to work at the school from 4-6 PM, and I had a bit more proofing work to do on one of the translation clean-up jobs. I get the proofing done, and that gets me to 3 PM. I get ready for work and walk in to Tenmonkan. A two-woman group, violin and piano, are getting set up on stage, and I figure that I'll get a couple photos and hang around to see if I want to capture any video. I pull the camera out, and finally remember that I'd taken the battery out to recharge overnight, and I'd forgotten to put it back in the camera that morning. Sigh. The women continued to set up, and I eventually got bored waiting for things to get moving. Instead, I went to Tully's, got a coffee and a donut, and read Attack on Titan a bit more.

(Yuko on vocals, and one of the dancers in the foreground.)

I got to the school on time, taught my classes, then went back through Tenmonkan on the way home. The performer at that time was a high school girl playing acoustic guitar and singing soft folk-pop songs. She was pretty good for her age, but without the camera I had no way of documenting her set for the blog.

In the space in front of Lotteria and Yamakataya, the department store had set up a bunch of jewelry and gifts shops, plus some food tables. They added a little shack they labeled "Santa's House, and charged 500 yen to have your photo taken in it. Nothing there was exciting enough to justify my taking photos earlier in the week, but on Sunday they had a jazz band playing to entertain the diners. I was wishing I had the camera battery for that, but as I got close enough to see what was going on, the flute player took lead on the song, and to me he sounded like he couldn't keep tempo with the rest of the group. They all sounded like they'd never practiced together, so I kept walking again.

Also, I had a schedule to keep - dinner. The weather was poor all day, with heavy rain in the morning, eventually tapering off to a drizzle at 7 PM. The family went to a nearby restaurant for Christmas Eve dinner, which was good despite the walk in the rain on the way there, then we got back to the apartment at 8:30 PM. By that point, the drizzle had ended, and a sliver moon was peeking out from the clouds. I figured I might as well try my luck with Amu Plaza. I got my camera battery and jogged the quarter-mile to the main train station.

Even with the dinner and the company during the meal, I was now in kind of a funk because the rest of the day hadn't gone all that well (the rain, missing Bon DX two days in a row, forgetting the battery, etc.) So, I suddenly found myself being amused as I got up to the little restaurant district in front of the train station, and saw Santa sitting behind a BBQ smoker. The chef at a tiny corner ramen shop had the smoker set up on the sidewalk, plus a small table that two patrons were sitting at, drinking and talking. The chef wore the red Santa jacket and cap, and as I walked by, I seriously considered taking a photo. I got even with the smoker, and had this overwhelming need to know what was inside. I stopped and turned, and Santa and both patrons shouted "present!" The next thing I know, they're pressing a take-out tray with a leg of grilled chicken on me, and wishing me a happy Christmas. We talk in broken Japanese and English for a few minutes, and I keep checking to make sure that they don't want me to pay for the food. I get Santa to open the smoker so I can see the slabs of chicken being grilled up, and then we wish each other a merry Christmas again and they wave me away. So that cheered me up a lot.

(It IS miracle chicken.)

When I do get to Amu Plaza, I'm greeted by 4 women doing jazz dancing through the packed audience in front of the stage. The band is on-stage, but they're just standing around as canned music plays over the PA, letting the dancers do their thing. They're very frisky. A few minutes later, the song ends, and the band takes up again, with a kind of rock-jazz instrumental. That ends, and they go into "I wish you a very merry Christmas", with Japanese lyrics that have nothing to do with the original meaning of the song. The singer, Yoko tries hard, but it's not my kind of music. I eat my free chicken leg, which tastes good, even after having had a large dinner 20 minutes earlier, take pictures for the blog, then finally return home for the night. I spend the rest of the evening typing up stuff for the blog, and then crash at 2 AM. It's been a long day, but I had free chicken. I can't ask for more than that.


Happy Christmas.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Tenmonkan Christmas Concert, 171223

Tenmonkan has a little concert stage, and a few food and crafts tables set up in the arcade in front of 7-11, running from Friday to Monday. I've been in the middle of a heavy workload and didn't get out of the apartment on Friday. I didn't really know that it had started already, I just knew that Bon DX was supposed to play on Saturday when I was scheduled to teach classes. So, I didn't try getting to Tenmonkan on Friday, and I wasn't interested in the music line-up at Amu Plaza, either. So, I missed the stuff on Friday. I finished most of what I needed to get done on Saturday, and headed out of the apartment at 3:30 PM to see a little of what was going on in Tenmonkan. Again, I didn't really have the time or interest to go the other way to Amu Plaza as well.

At 3:45 PM, the manzai comedy duo, Party, were in the middle of their MC duties, interviewing some of the Kagoshima foamhead mascots and preparing to hand out snack packages to the children. I needed to find a quiet place to sit down and do some proofreading on the work I still had remaining, so I continued to Maruya Gardens and found an empty space at the back of the bookstore there. When I was done, I returned to Tenmonkan to catch the juggler/performer K@ito. The guys in Party recognized me from past events, and agreed to pose for photos. I took two shots, but the first one came out blurry for some reason, and I had to settle for the second one. The little camera might be acting up on me, and it may be time to give it a cleaning.

K@aito added a couple new bits to his routine, such as juggling metal cups, and a really slow variation on the linking rings magic trick. He likes to think of himself as a "performer", so the juggling and magic he does is tightly wrapped up in the music and posing he picks. Unfortunately, it's all copyrighted music, so I can't post the video to youtube. I did put it on Facebook, which detected music that belongs to a Japanese singer, and that part got muted anyway. Sigh. But you can watch him perform here.

I stuck around for the entire performance, in part because the schedule showed that at 5 PM they'd be giving out wine to the first 100 people. From where I was standing, I could see two guys setting up a table on the other side of the stage, and pouring red and white wine (a Japanese label) into little plastic cups.

After K@ito finished, the crowd thinned out and I started ambling over to the table. Suddenly, a whole bunch of people started jumping into line, including what looked like some very determined homeless folks. I didn't have to go very far back, though, and it only took a few minutes to get to the head of the line. The guys running the table handed me a little glass of red wine, and a baked donut from one of the shops nearby. The donuts ran out fast, while the wine lasted much longer. I've had these donuts before, and they're pretty good. The wine wasn't bad either, and there wasn't enough that I had to worry about it affecting my work. At this point, it was about 5:10 PM, and I didn't have to be at the school until 6 PM. I stopped at the Lotteria burger shop and got a cup of coffee so I could sit at one of the tables and read manga in the meantime (Attack on Titan, #24).

The thing that really bugged me was that Bon DX was scheduled to play at 6:30 PM, and I knew I was going to miss that. Plus, he's playing on Sunday at Amu Plaza at 3:30 PM and 4:30 PM, and I have 2 more lessons at the school from 4 PM to 6 PM. So, I'm pretty much missing out on the things I really have any interest in this time. On the plus side, the rest of my workload is getting close to subsiding, so I'll be able to relax on Christmas Day. There just won't be any free live events then that I want to go out to watch.

Merry Christmas.