I’ve written a new post at the Waku Waku +NYC blog, about how ketchup is treated as a versatile ingredient in Japanese food in contrast to its reputation in the US as a one-note, non-exciting condiment.

What do you think of ketchup? Is it worthy of respect, or another example of people having no taste?

BIG HERO 6

When watching the Disney animated film Big Hero 6, one of the first things that stands out is the city in which the characters live: the portmanteau of “San Fransokyo.” How it relates to either San Francisco or Tokyo remains a mystery, but it’s probably meant to pay tribute to both Disney’s own American origins and the inspiration Big Hero 6 takes from Japanese media.

However, Big Hero 6 hasn’t been the only work of fiction to combine American and Japanese cities. One such work is an anime that dates back to the 1970s: Hurricane Polymar.

hurricanepolymar-promoart

A series by Tatsunoko Production, the same studio responsible for classics such as Gatchaman and Casshern, Hurricane Polymar comes from that same era and young Amano Yoshitaka-derived aesthetic sense. A mix of Inspector Gadget, Bruce Lee, and Superman, the series takes place not only in the capital of “Washinkyo” (Washington DC + Tokyo), but in the country of “Amehon” (America + Nihon [Japan]).

I think it’s fun to imagine what an actual “Amehon” would be like, or where it would come from. Would it literally be the US and Japan deciding to be one nation? Would it be some strange alternative universe where they were the same land mass all along? Would anime fans who despise American culture and love Japanese culture be more at home, or would the appealing “foreignness” of Japan be lost in the process? Going back to anime itself, could Hurricane Polymar himself be considered a blend of American and Japanese superhero tropes and qualities, similar to how the characters of Big Hero 6 occupy a similar category?

GoGo_Suit_back_Render

If you liked this post, consider becoming a sponsor of Ogiue Maniax through Patreon. You can get rewards for higher pledges, including a chance to request topics for the blog.

I’ve written a post on Waku Waku +NYC blog on the interesting life of ex-Megadeth lead guitarist Marty Friedman, particularly how he began studying Japanese and how he eventually even contributed to anime music.

Also I recommend watching the video above, because.

 

This is a sponsored post. If you’re interested in submitting topics for the blog, or just like my writing and want to be a patron of Ogiue Maniax, check out my Patreon.

mysteriousjoker-crunchyroll

A comedy/adventure anime about a phantom thief named Joker and his bumbling ninja sidekick, Mysterious Joker (also known simply as Joker) is one of many anime derived from the Arsene Lupin-inspired archetype. In fact, this anime began the same season as a similar show, Magic Kaito 1412, and in that respect Mysterious Joker initially seems pretty unremarkable. Having watched the first 4 episodes, however, I noticed a couple of interesting qualities about the series. First, is that the visual designs of its characters are really indicative of a comics lineage that gets somewhat less attention from English-speaking audiences. Second, is that each episode has been better than the last.

mysteriousjoker-v11

In regards to the first point, I’m referring to the fact that Mysterious Joker was originally a children’s manga. However, when people talk about a category like “shounen,” they probably think of series like Dragon Ball or Naruto. Though titles like those are indeed meant for children, what some might be unaware of is that there are also manga magazines dedicated to very young kids, and chief among them is Corocoro Comics. This is where Mysterious Joker (created by Takahashi Hideyasu) comes from, and while the anime cleans up the look of the characters for consistency (generally a must when it comes to commercial animation), their appearances remain colorful and bombastic, with large facial features beyond even what people typically expect out of anime.

The reason why I bring all of this up is that I think it can make Mysterious Joker feel somewhat odd even for those who are accustomed to most other anime that are targeted towards children, as many of them, even if they do not expect an additional older readership, have qualities that almost inherently appeal to a roughly 15-21 demographic. This is not to say that Mysterious Joker is a show that can only be enjoyed by kids, as it can be quite clever in how its mysteries and puzzles play out, and the humor is delightfully crass at times without being crude, but it requires on some level an acknowledgement that it is indeed a kids’ show and that older viewers may not even be taken into consideration. I think this can be a sticking point for a lot of anime fans, particularly teenagers, and so enjoying Mysterious Joker, even on a basic level, requires something of an open mind.

mysteriousjoker-diamond-small

As for the second point, which is about how the show seems to improve with every episode, it’s as if each episode adds a bit more to the story and the world of its characters, and motivates viewers to keep watching. I originally planned on stopping at Episode 3, but then saw the reveal of a female rival phantom thief, which compelled me to see how that turns out. Episode 4 doesn’t feature her in any way, but it explores the friendly rivalry between the main character and another established in the previous episode, and in doing so gives even more reason to keep watching.

mysteriousjoker-jokerspade-small

I looked up the staff for Mysterious Joker and was surprised to see that Satou Dai of all people is responsible for series composition. While I can’t say how much of the story’s quality comes from the original manga and how much Satou himself is a factor, from my experience with his work I think you get a true sense of what it means to be responsible for series composition. Eureka Seven, another show of his, builds upon itself beautifully. Satou wasn’t around for the sequel, Eureka Seven AO, and it really shows. A more relevant work of his Battle Spirits: Shounen Toppa Bashin, which took the humble card game anime and made it into something more substantial and mature, yet still very attuned to its young audience. While I’ve not seen all of Mysterious Joker, I would not be surprised if it ends up developing in a similar way.

 

I’ve written about a bit off recent news involving an anti-foreigner demonstration in Japan, and the way that otaku mobilized to counter it. You can check it out at the Waku Waku +NYC blog.

 

Name: Tohno, Maria (遠野まりあ)
Alias: N/A
Relationship Status: Single
Origin: Cyber Yaoi Girl

Information:
A fellow student at the same school as Tanaka Mitsuki, Maria is also a fan of yaoi and the manga Ai no Doronuma. Unlike Mitsuki who is a closet fujoshi, however, Maria wears her fandom on her sleeve, showing no restraint in expressing her interest in BL and related topics. In addition to being an avid reader of yaoi, Maria also draws doujinshi as part of a circle.

Fujoshi Level:
Lacking any sort of inhibition, Maria is even willing to ask her teacher in the middle of class if he’s gay.

This post was sponsored by Johnny Trovato. If you’re interested in submitting topics for the blog, or just like my writing and want to be a patron of Ogiue Maniax, check out my Patreon.

As part of my Patreon rewards, I was recently asked to write about “Voca Nico Night,” a series of concerts celebrating Vocaloid music broadcasted over the Japanese streaming site Nico Nico Douga. This topic is somewhat outside of my normal purview, as I will admit to not being especially knowledgeable about Vocaloids or the scene surrounding them (I enjoy the music and recognize the characters but would not call myself a devoted Vocaloid fan), but as I watched recordings of Voca Nico Night I found that the performances seen at Voca Nico Night can be viewed as a reminder that, at the end of the day, talented human creators are an integral part of the success of Vocaloids and the music that is created using them.

The story of how virtual idol Hatsune Miku became an international sensation is the kind of tale that can cause some to proclaim the green-haired, leek-twirling, robot-voiced “singer” as the sign of a glorious future, and others to describe her as the death of music. For years the music company Yamaha had put out a voice synthesis program, but with some improvements to the software and the use of a cute girl in chic, futuristic clothing, things changed. Suddenly it was embraced by composers, musicians, music enthusiasts, artists, and writers both amateur and professional, and you can find countless examples of Vocaloid music, art, and more on sites such as Youtube, Pixiv, and Nico Nico Douga.

All of this has culminated in Vocaloid live concerts, where holographic projections of the Vocaloids sing and dance as live crowds cheer them on. This presents a fascinating contrast in the “life” of the Vocaloid. At the same time that Miku and the others become more “real”, their artificiality becomes even more pronounced. After all, even if she were to be brought into reality, Miku still has the appearance of an anime character, and that stylization and abstraction cannot be divorced from her even they’re re-drawn and individualized by various creators.

This can be viewed as a strength, as Miku’s self, constructed from the effort and desires of millions, makes no illusions about the synthesized elements of her music (as opposed to the auto-tuning that regularly occurs in popular music these days), but for those who believe that music comes from the soul, that way of thinking is certainly difficult to swallow. While I’m more of the former opinion, the latter I think is something worth keeping in mind.

This is where I think Voca Nico Night really shines, because without the expensive holograms, without the explicit desire to see Hatsune Miku or Megurine Luka or the Kagamine Twins, what’s left are the DJs, the musicians, the performers at center-stage, engaging with their audience both online and in the flesh. You can still hear the distinctly robotic tones of the Vocaloids, but their images are not taking all of the attention. Instead, the Vocaloids’ role as tools for producing music comes to the forefront, and while talking about the “functionality” of an actual musician would be crass and unfair, the origins of the Vocaloids means that they can be as “useful” or as “soulful” as one needs them to be. Voca Nico Night exists somewhat opposite the live concerts that get all of the attention, and while I hesitate to use a “yin-yang metaphor,” I do think that having both is for the better.

In many ways it reminded me of the times I’ve attended chiptunes concerts (another scene where I have interest but cannot call myself a true fan). Like the Vocaloid scene, chiptunes creators and fans embrace a type of music often associated historically with a visual component that arguably puts less emphasis on the music or the musicians (video games in the case of chiptunes), but people who love chiptunes use concerts to show their appreciation and their talents outside of what is typically expected out of a “performance.” I have to wonder if Vocaloid concerts and the like are at an intersection between the rock concert where band members are sometimes viewed as gods, the orchestra where the relative significance of the individual musicians versus the composers’ original scores can be argued, and the club where a DJ combines beats and melodies together to form something new.

Check out the list on the Waku Waku +NYC Blog. And no, the answer isn’t “Ogiue in that Cardcaptor Sakura cosplay that one time.”

Top 10 rankings are surprisingly difficult for me, because I think I dwell on them longer than you’re supposed to. Still, I understand that they’re accessible and easily digestible content and a great way to introduce anime and manga fans to series they may not have heard of, so you’ll see my try them every so often.

Of course, feel free to leave comments, either here or at the link above.

Ever since the April 1st Nintendo Direct, one of the biggest talking points in the gaming community has been the Smash Bros. Fighter Ballot, which asks everyone who they’d want to see duking it out with the likes of Mario, Pikachu, and Marth. You can tell it’s a big deal when actual video game companies are pushing their own characters explicitly or implicitly, whether that’s Shantae, Sol Badguy, Gunvolt, the Giana Sisters (who began as clones of the Mario Bros), or Banjo-Kazooie. My vote has been cast, and if you’re on the fence as to who might be interesting, I made a few posts last year detailing characters that I think would be cool in Smash Bros. along with their movesets.

King K. Rool

Great Puma

Princess Daisy

Geno

(Or you could vote for NiGHTS).

Readers might find it odd that I’m talking about the Smash Ballot so late after it was first announced, as all of the news sites, blogs, and forums, were on that like white on rice in Hanayo (Love Live! for Smash?! Think about it), but I intentionally delayed my post on it to emphasize one of the most surprising and noteworthy aspects of this poll. Though it began in April, the deadline is October 3rd, which is the anniversary of Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS. That’s six months for people to make a decision, which means that this isn’t some flash in the pan popularity poll that goes up for a week to gauge interest in that specific moment, but rather a genuine question as to which characters have captivated generations of Nintendo fans in such a way that we want to see them slam plumbers and princesses into the abyss.

Not only that, but it was revealed that Nintendo is willing to take even 3rd-party suggestions, which opens it up to just gamers in general. As crazy and as impossible as it likely is, could someone like Master Chief or Scorpion make it into Smash Bros.?

I think one of the reasons why being in Smash Bros. is such a big deal is not only the idea that your favorite character appears in a crossover fighting game, but that the series as a whole has done such justice to its characters, at least for the most part (seriously, Ganondorf, where are your projectiles?!). Just look at Mega Man, Solid Snake, and Sonic, all of whom are not Nintendo properties but were given so many visual, aural, and gameplay cues that make them feel as if they’d been ripped straight from their original games. Mega Man’s crisp movement feels almost just like the NES, Snake’s explosives made him a unique experience in Brawl, and Sonic drives people nuts with his spinning hit-and-run style that makes every person feel as if they were shouting, “I HATE THAT HEDGEHOG!”

Not to say that other crossover games and the like don’t give characters their due. In fact, Mortal Kombat X probably has the best portrayal of Jason in any video game ever (not that there’s much competition). However, I think what Smash Bros. epitomizes above all else is just deep respect for the characters involved. To become a Smash Bros. character is to know you’re something special, or perhaps a time-saving clone, but it’s an honor unlike any other, and if video game characters were real it’d probably be like winning an Oscar.

I’ve written a blog post on Sailor Moon as my introduction to Japanese food over at the Waku Waku +NYC official blog. If you’re interested in me waxing nostalgic and rambling the way you expect out of Ogiue Maniax, take a look.

Sailor Moon Was My Gateway into Japanese Food

I’ll be a regular contributor to the Waku Waku +NYC blog from now on, so look forward to more posts from there in the future. As always, I will continue to devote myself to Ogiue Maniax as well.

If you’re curious, Waku Waku +NYC is an upcoming Japanese popular culture festival from August 29-30 in Brooklyn, NY. Unlike a lot of anime cons and Japanese events, this one looks to more thoroughly integrate food with Japanese anime, games, fashion, etc. If you’re even half as interested in eating and watching anime as I am, it might be worth your while.

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