Friday, November 30, 2012

Gashapon: Japanese for "toy gambling"*

One of my favorite things to do in Japan is to check out the capsule toy machines.

You can find just about any capsule toy you want at Yodobashi Camera.  
For a paltry few hundred yen, you can get a nice keychain or similar toy. The one you get is, of course, random, but here's a tip: before you pump tons of cash into a capsule toy machine trying to get the chase figure that you want, there are numerous stores in Akihabara, Nakano, and Osaka's Den Den Town that buy, sell, and trade single capsule toy figures. It's a gamble that you'll be able to find the toy that you want in one of those stores -- older figures may not be in stock, or popular figures might be sold out, but it's a gamble that you'll get what you want out of the machine anyway. You might end up with tons of common figures, and not the chase figure that you want. But almost always, you're going to get the figure you actually want for a dramatically cheaper price than you'd get by randomly, and only barely higher than the selling price from the actual machines themselves.

For example, I ended up with piles of Akiba Blue, Akiba Yellow, and Machine Itasher keychains while attempting to get an Akiba Red keychain -- which I never got. I couldn't find them in any store in Osaka, either. Next time, I'll be looking in Akihabara.

My advice is to always check the loose toy stores first. If you don't find the one you want, decide if you want to gamble. When in Osaka, be sure to check "Torejaras" which is like "Traders" but not because Traders is already a copyrighted store name. You'll recognize them because they have a cute pirate cat on their sign, and they're in a building called Naniwa Dengyosha on "Ota Road". Yes, that is Ota as in Otaku. They also have stores in Osaka in Daito City, Matsubara, and waaaay up in Otsu, Kyoto, on the shores of Lake Biwa. Here's their official site! -- they have never steered me wrong, and their prices and selection are better than I've found in Akihabara.

If you do decide you want to gamble on toys straight from the machine, Yodobashi Camera stores almost always have almost every Gashapon machine currently out (not always), and they have change machines next to them now so you can easily convert your large currency into 100 yen coins. You'll need 100 yen coins for gashapon. Nothing else will do. If you find a capsule toy you really want and there's no change machine around, try buying a cheap drink from a drink machine. Water is usually 100 yen for a full bottle, and it's important to stay hydrated while walking around and toy hunting, especially if it's in the summer.

I was lucky enough to get this keychain out of a capsule toy machine in Osaka. If you're a fan of Kamen Rider Wizard, you'll especially enjoy this Flame Dragon style keychain.

My one minor complaint is that the metal on the mask is slightly incomplete. It's nothing I can't fix with my Warhammer 40k Boltgun Metal paint, however. But then again, these are cheap capsule toys mass produced in China; I can't expect complete perfection, and for 200 yen, I was quite happy with it. I was trying to get Flame Style, but while attempting to get it, I also got a Den-O Gun Form and Water Style Wizard.

What about you? Got any amazing or rare finds from Japanese capsule toy machines, or a recommendation for a store where you can get them?

* Gashapon is not Japanese for toy gambling, that was a joke. Gashapon is an onomatopoeia for the sound that the machine makes when you turn the handle, and the capsule drops into the slot.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Rider Parfait: UCHUU KITAAAAA Edition!

The time is drawing nigh when I will have my review and photos of Kamen Rider: The Diner, a themed restaurant in Tokyo with a large amount of original Kamen Rider memorabilia and props on display, as well as themed Kamen Rider dishes. But before that, I thought I would post here how you... yes YOU... can make your very own RIDER PARFAIT: UCHUU KITAA EDITION, exactly like how they make at the Ikebukuro Kamen Rider: The Diner!

You will need:
* A brownie.
* Powdered sugar
* Pocky (chocolate)
* Corn Flakes (cereal)
* Chocolate pudding
* Whipped cream
* Gumdrops (two, red)
* Pretzel sticks (small ones)
* A glass to put it in

1. Cut brownie into teardrop shape.
2. Trace edges of brownie with powdered sugar.
3. Lightly wet bottom of red gumdrops and place near bottom of brownie to make the eyes.
4. Place pretzel sticks above the eyes in the brownie to make the antenna.
5. Ingredients go into glass in following layers: chocolate pudding, corn flakes, whipped cream, corn flakes, pudding, corn flakes, whipped cream on top, brownie.
6. Place Chocolate Pocky into whipped cream on both sides of the brownie in UCHUU KITAAAAAA position.

Picture is of the genuine article. If you make one or something similar, please post it and share with us.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving, Internets. In case you missed it, Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade again featured a Power Rangers themed float. Many of the classic reds made an appearance, including Zeo 1 (OhRed), Red Mighty Morphin' (Tyrannoranger), Red Space Ranger (Megared), and Lightspeed Red (Ginga Red).

This year's showcase was the public American appearance of Tensou Sentai Goseiger, called Power Rangers Megaforce here.

"Hey, I don't see Gosei Gree--- oh. Too soon?"

It is universally accepted that Power Rangers Samurai was really poorly written. Only time will tell if Megaforce suffers the same fate. Though most Super Sentai fans agree that the Japanese version of Goseiger had an amazing concept and fantastic suits, but an overwhelmingly mediocre plot. There's so much that could have been done with it, and so much that they DIDN'T do.

As for me...
Hipsterdom suits Gai.
From me and mine to you and yours, have a great Thanksgiving. Now we're on the rollercoaster ride to Christmas. If you go in to brave the Black Friday sales, then try not to die.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Pon Pon Pon Pon! MECHA GATTAI!

Hello, Internet. Happy Monday.

The Ad Council of Japan (AC) posts a variety of pro-social themed public service announcements. Much like the American Ad Council, these are universally mocked at pretty much every turn by popular culture. One of the most well known is the "Pon Pon Pon Pon!" video, also known as the Magical Greetings video.

The idea is every time we greet someone kindly, we can make new friends! And the greetings are made more memorable by association with cute animals, such as "Konnichiwan!" -- "wan" is the sound a dog makes in Japan. Yay! What a wonderful pro-social message.

Except much like everything else, the Internet found it, and... well, uh... you'd better have a look. This is a compilation of all the different versions that have been created for each character. And yes, before you ask, Itadaki-Mouse DOES use the music from HeartCatch PreCure. The little intermission scene is from Gurenn Lagann, and the ultimate mecha combination at the end is the God Finger music from G Gundam.

Friday, November 16, 2012

No Fun Allowed with your Wizard Rings

The hot toy this season in Japan is, as you might have guessed, the WizarDriver, the new belt featured in Kamen Rider Wizard. I had the opportunity to play with it for a bit in Akiba, and I have to say, I was highly impressed with it. The belt itself is a large, hefty piece of well painted plastic with a transparent black hand in which numerous LED lights are inlaid. The belt contains a receiver, which can receive and interpret signals from the transmitters located inside Wizard Ring toys. Just like in the television show, when you shift your WizarDriver into either the Lupacchi Magic Touch Go or Shabadoobie Touch Henshin mode, the ring is ready for you to touch your ring to the sensor.


When you buy the WizarDriver, you get the Flame, Water, and Kick Strike rings. If you want to get the Land and Hurricane rings, you'll need to do one of two things: buy the Wizard SwordGun toy (which also has a sensor in it), which comes with both of them, or take your chances with the Gashapon sets, which are 400 yen a pop -- quite expensive for gashapon, which on average is only 200 yen for most toys.
Put your money right in the hand and never look back.

There also exists a line of MiniMini Wizard Rings at the more bargain price of 200 yen, which are smaller sized rings with a keychain attached. They also react when placed close to the Wizard SwordGun or WizarDriver, but they also have one of the "chase" gashapon, the rare MiniMini WizarDriver Light Version, which contains a miniature WizarDriver. Not only can you change the position of the hand, it also lights up.

If you want the newest hotness, the new Flame Dragon ring which was just revealed a few weeks ago on the show, you have to either gamble on Gashapon, or find a used store with one in stock and get gouged. I can tell you that I checked most of the major collector stores in Akihabara, Nakano, and Osaka's Den Den Town and I only found a handful of Wizard Rings for sale, and didn't once find the Land ring that I was looking for. I did, however, get two Hurricane rings and one Defend ring out of the gashapon. Unfortunately for me, the WizarDriver eluded me. It is THE hot toy this Christmas season, as is the Wizard SwordGun, but even the SwordGun is dwarfed by the popularity of the WizarDriver. I was in Yodobashi Camera Umeda, a huge store with 8 floors of electronics, toys, games, clothes, and more. While I was there, a shipment of Wizard SwordGuns came in -- they sold out in less than thirty minutes. In Akihabara, they posted when a shipment was due, and people camped out in the rain to get one.

No, I didn't buy one -- my luggage, in fact, was falling apart, and I was quite honestly afraid that it was going to split open on the plane and I'd lose it. Not only that, I guess I sword of did the "nice" thing and assured some kid (or deranged otaku) a Merry Christmas. A little old lady was looking at them when they came in before people noticed they'd been stocked. I said to her, "Those sold out in immediately in Akihabara." and she said, "I guess I should buy one for my grandson, he really wants one. I must have been lucky to find it."

Here's a secret tip, though: if you're interested in a WizardDriver, you might consider waiting until the "Super Best Henshin" collection comes out near the end of the show's run. The Super Best Henshin versions (of which one exists for Decade and Double that I know of), usually contain all the "main" collectable items; the Double Driver contains all the main six Gaia Memories, for example. Rather than putting yourself to fate and the whims of the cruel gashapon god, you probably will be able to get all the major rings in one box set. They also typically release the alternates in large packs; the Gokaiger Ranger Keys have been released in large sets. AmiAmi and all the other major import sources are completely sold out... you could risk eBay or Amazon, or you could go to Japan and hope for the best... or you could do what I'm going to do and wait.

To those of you who plan to get one, remember... don't beat you friends with your Wizard Rings, and don't put them on if your fingers are too big! Use the ring size extenders included with the belt!
Any stories of getting WizarDrivers or other rare toku toys this holiday season? Share 'em!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


I am Sailor Otaku, a regular poster on 4chan's /m/ board, and a fan of giant robot anime such as Mobile Suit Gundam, tokusatsu series such as Kamen Rider and Super Sentai, and yes, even magical girls.

I actually got my interest in Japan at a very young age: one of my teachers was Japanese and introduced me to Japanese culture at an early age, and I think the first major thing that drew my attention was when the Disney Channel ran the classic Osamu Tezuka anime Unico.

When I was first learning Japanese, Sailor Moon was one of the very few properties that was readily available in both manga and tape form. In those days, the tapes were all crappy VHS copies of one another, seventh or eighth generation with the original commercials and bizarre audio distortions. There are large portions of my Sailor Moon S copies which have severe audio distortions and are almost unintelligible. I have a soft spot for Sailor Moon since the level of conversation in both the comic and the TV show was quite easy to understand. Like young children learning how to count, interact socially, and learn vocabulary words from Sesame Street, Sailor Moon was my introduction to Japanese language.

Now I make regular trips to Japan and enjoy taking photographs. I consider myself something of an evolved otaku: I still like grown ups in spandex slapfighting with one another, but I have normal interests as well. I hope to use this blog to cover some of the past, present, and upcoming trends in Japanese entertainment with people living all over the world. Expect reviews of television shows and movies, toys, games, as well as photos from Japan.
"Pain is power!"

For example, let's talk about Akibaranger, a recent sentai comedy show that got many people interested in tokusatsu. Here is a photo of a diorama I snapped with my cel phone in Yodobashi Akihabara just the other day (cameras weren't allowed, so I had to pretend to be texting -- THE FOOLS! THEY'LL NEVER KNOW...). Not only does it include the officially licensed Tamashii Nations S.H. Figuarts figures of the Akibarangers leaping from the top of a scale model of the Yodobashi Akiba building, the Akiba Yellow figure was signed by Karin Ogino, the actress for Moegi Yumeria. I purchased an Aoi-tan figure while I was there, and it is even more beautiful than I imagined. More on that at a later date.

Akibaranger was incredibly popular in both Japan and the US. Merchandise for Akibaranger is still selling quite well even eight months after its initial release. Rumors have been flying for a while about a possible feature film -- and there's even been a movie poster floating around, which was actually just one giant troll at the Tamashii Nations event at Akiba UDX. Despite that, there's a rumor that Akihabara UDX (a major office building with a number of anime stores and displays) had a mockup of the Secret Base Cafe set up, and then taken down only a few days later. With the persistent popularity of Akibaranger, these fake movie posters, and the ending... can an Akibaranger movie or second season be in the works?

Should there be? What do you think?

Some of the greatest series were short enough that they left viewers wanting more, but never ran the concept into the ground.