Saturday, October 31, 2015

Lots of blogging

I'm going to be incommunicado for a bit. In the meantime, here's some reading material for you.

Ancient Creatures Collection

I wrote about Capsule Cafe opening a new shop in Tenmonkan. Well, they also have a good 50 capsule ball dispenser machines up on the 6th floor of Amuplaza, near the UFO Catchers. Recently, I'd noticed that they had one machine for plastic trilobites and stuff, and the set included an Opabinia. Endtown creator Aaron Neathery likes Opabinias, and the capsule only cost 300 yen ($2.60 USD). I figured I'd try getting capsules once a week or so until I got an Opabinia to mail to him.

Got it on my first try. While the little info sheet says it's worth 400 yen, the dispenser was set to 300 yen. He's about 2" long and just sits on top of the stand; there's no mounting peg this time.

He grows on you, doesn't he.

Drinking with Golgo 13

This batch of Golgo 13 capsule ball figures actually got mentioned in one of the local English newspapers. At 400 yen it's pricier than I'd like, but now I do have someone to hang and share a drink with.

He's about 2" tall.


Just a thought.

Sept.-Oct. articles in the media

Here's the batch of articles to show up in the media from Sept.-Oct., regarding anime, manga and related stuff.

Japan Times

Famed animator plans children's nature retreat in Okinawa isle forest

Down and out with Tokyo's manga artists

'Racist' illustration of refugee girl sparks ire among Japan's netizens

'Bakuman' depicts a life-or-death quest for manga success

Daily Yomiuri

In praise of 'Beshari-gurashi'

Manga publishers form JV to sell books overseas

Powerful 'Ooku' flips Edo gender roles

Snow White with the Red Hair

Chaser review

After 18 years, ‘Dragon Ball’ returns to TV

Kasane review

Terra Formars review

Chumei Watanabe / Anime music composer still going strong at 90

Publishers develop manga markets overseas

Golden Kamuy review

Gatchaman Crowds - Insight

Student slips back in time to become Nobunaga

Aikawa, Mizushima team for 'Concrete Revolutio'

Eiko Mutsu draws romance from the familiar

March comes in like a lion review

Uchu Kyodai (Space Brothers) review


Mamoru Hosoda art exhibition moves to Osaka after it wraps up in Tokyo

Manga for girls gets retrospective exhibition in Niigata

First overseas Anpanman shop to open in Taiwan in September

Japan Manga Alliance aims to butcher retail pirates in Thailand

Exhibition featuring Ghibli animator Kondo now running in Takamatsu

Two-part 'Attack on Titan' film to hit North America in autumn

Gallery devoted to Fujiko Fujio A reopens with extensive art collection

Musical adaptation of 'Touken Ranbu' set for this fall

Fans get first glimpse of protagonist in stage adaptation of 'Ghost in the Shell'

Oshii's 'Garm Wars' to hit North American theaters in October

Ume Aoki's first solo art exhibition coming to Tokyo

Kyoto to host 1-day Animation Boot Camp for up-and-coming illustrators

Titles announced for Hokkaido anime festival competition

Taiyo Fujii's 'Orbital Cloud' wins big at Seiun Awards

Assassin Golgo 13 hangs out with you while you drink

Hairs pulled from beret reveal 'Astro Boy' creator's genes, traits

Manga artist gives back to hometown with events related to 'Shoot!'

'Sazae-san' twins join forces to promote Fukuoka shopping area

Miyagi Sendai anime festival to accept applications Nov. 2

Taiwanese artist Antenna wins 1st KYOMAF Manga Award

Man behind popularizing flexi discs for anime songs releases autobiography

World Cosplay Summit 2016 set for Nagoya

Yamazaki to star in film adaptation of 'Wolf Girl and Black Prince'

'Fujiko house' recreating atmosphere of manga artist's childhood

'Ghost' just got a bigger 'Shell'

Shogi manga 'March Comes in Like a Lion' gets TV anime, live action adaptations

Dioramas, figures from ‘Neon Genesis Evangelion’ on show in Hyogo

Thai manga festival scheduled for November

First Gundam Square shop in Kansai to open in November

Tokyo art school students' animation shared online

Kon Ichikawa's rediscovered 1935 anime to screen in Tokyo

Bicycle racing manga 'Yowamushi Pedal' on a roll

Second season of 'Assassination Classroom' to hit small screens in January

'Sailor Moon Crystal' third season to feature Death Busters arc

Tokyo exhibition puts spotlight on 'Cobra' creator Buichi Terasawa

Second in new 'Sinbad' film trilogy to open Jan. 16

Evangelion-themed bullet train set for Nov. 7 start

'Lupin III' returns to small screens in Italian adventure after 30-year hiatus

Manga to train men as 'house husbands' pulled after drawing online anger

Dates set for AnimeJapan, Family Anime Festa

Miyazaki comes out of retirement for short film with CG animator Yuhei Sakuragi

Hoops manga 'Kuroko's Basketball' ready to score on the big screen

Manga warns Taiwanese children of sexual exploitation dangers

'Yo-Kai Watch' anime premieres in U.S. with retail items set to follow

Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume, review

(All images used for review purposes only.)

Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume (Square Enix, 2009)
I do not understand why strategy RPGs are so popular for the Nintendo DS. I played Valkyrie Profile: Silmeria for the PS2, and that was a really great game. With Plume, the story path is dictated for you, and there's virtually no option for churning to build your character levels up. Everything revolves around the tactics you use for each battle. Fortunately, it is possible to earn extra experience if you do the battles right, but it's equally possible to go into the battle with the wrong approach and get your butt kicked. I was following one of the walkthroughs on GameFAQs, and I figured that when I got to the point where I could choose between the easy, normal and hard paths that I'd take normal. After dying horribly for the fifth time on the same stupid battle, I had to reboot the game and start all over again from the beginning, throwing away 3 hours of game play, just to opt for the easy path instead. Very annoying. Having said that, I finished the game, got the New+ screen and went back through with all of my equipment and items, and this time Normal wasn't much of a challenge at all. But still...

(Sequence from the opening CG.)

The story is that your character is fighting in a war in Europe, while a few of the Norse gods (Odin, Frey) are watching above to see how you do. If you don't get the "best ending" of the game, they send you back to try again (New+). Your character's father was killed by a Valkyrie, so you have this revenge motive going for you. However, Hel picks you as the minion for a rival Valkyrie and you get the Valkyrie Plume. This Plume let's you sacrifice your party members during battles. A sacrificed NPC becomes invincible during the battle, but then dies when the fight is over. You, however, pick up specific skills from "plumed" characters, such as being able to paralyze all of the enemy for 3 turns, silencing everyone, or guaranteeing critical hits for all party members for 3 turns. The first time through the game, you're expected to plume between 3 and 5 characters; any more than that and you get a "game over". The second time, it's 2 to 4 characters, and the third time through you can't sacrifice anyone. Fortunately, "plume skills" carry over to New+ games.

(Party configuration and setup menu. This shot is actually from the Seraphic Gate optional dungeon that only opens after you get all three endings.)

The game is divided into a Prologue and 6 chapters. In the Prologue, Hel forces you to sacrifice your best friend, which gives you the plume. In Chapter 1, you meet a warring father and daughter who eventually join your team. In Chapter 2, you can pick between the easy, normal and hard paths, which each tell a different version of a story about a war in one city, and which each gives you 2 or 3 different party member depending on which path you pick. Chapters 3, 4 and 5 continue the storylines about the war affecting different people in different ways, and giving you a few more party members. This time, the path changes depending on how many times you plume your party members. 2-3 times will give you the bad ending, 1-2 times will give you the normal ending (depending on WHEN you plume them) and 0 times gives you the best ending. Chapter 6 is the ending, and can consist of 1-2 boss fights. So, it is possible to take the easy path and try for the best ending, but you'd have somewhat weaker party members, and absolutely no plume skills to work with. And believe me, the ability to sleep ALL of the enemy for 3 turns can be the difference between winning and losing the later fights. Having every hit turn critical can speed up boss battles a lot, too.

(Character movement phase.)

The game mechanics are interesting, though. You have your basic stats (Atk, Hit, Mag, Def, MDef, etc.), which are boosted by your weapon, armor and temporary item buffs. Your character is a warrior, while the party members can consist of archers, magicians, lancers, brawlers and samurai. Movement and attack range depends on the character class. You can have 4 members in the party, while the enemy may have 4 to 10 members. If two or more members can attack the same target, then when one member decides to attack, the others join in. So, for stronger bosses, you could have the entire 4-member party hitting him 4 times (once for each member's turn). As you hit the enemy, a counter tracks the number of hits. If it becomes full, and if your weapons include Soul Crush specials, you can get an SC super attack. You get 1 second to push the button associated with one of your SC-equipped party members to pull off a Crush attack. If the counter reaches full again when that Crush ends, you can press the button of one of the remaining characters to do another Crush attack. In this way you can "over attack" the enemy. This means that when the enemy's HP goes to zero, you start accumulating "karma points" (called 'sin' in the U.S. version of the game). Each enemy can represent up to 100 karma points. Each storyline battle has a karma requirement (100 karma, 200, etc.). Reaching this requirement gives you a couple rewards from Hel. At 150% and 200% levels, you get better rewards. As an example, say you have a battle with a 240 karma requirement, and 6 enemies on the field. If you can over attack each one of the enemies to zero their HP and then bring the karma counter up to 100 before the fight times out, then there's a possible 600 karma from the battle, and rewards at 240, 360 and 480 karma points. Rewards include rare healing items, accessories, and top shelf weapons and armor. Pluming a party member automatically gives you 100% of the karma requirement for that battle...

(Combat phase. If they're within range, it is possible to have multiple party members involved with each attack, on both sides.)

Over all, I consider Valkyrie Profile: Plume to be a very frustrating game. I like the character designs and background artwork, and I love the music. The story is ok, although I generally jumped over the dialog without trying to read the kanji. The problem is that even if you have super-powered weapons and equipment in the New+ game, things just drag. There's too much time spent waiting for the enemy to finish moving, or for fights to end. Strategically, the fights follow a "surround the enemy one at a time, hack them to bits, repeat" pattern. You can end certain fights fast by killing the enemy leader, but then you're sacrificing experience points - which are hard enough to get as it is - money and weapons. And if you don't meet the karma requirements, Hel will send Reapers in the next battle, which will force you to plume a party member, meaning you won't be able to get the best ending. Additionally, while the New+ games let you carry over equipment, items and any skills you learned, you lose all your experience, money and levels. So you're always restarting back at level 1 each time. Unless you saved certain items that give you 30,000 exp. (obtained as rewards from Hel), which can give you a good boost up. On my third play through the game, I had ten of those exp. boosts, which kicked me up to level 27 at the prologue. This helped a lot when I finally got to the best ending in Chapter 6.

Again, there's a disadvantage to buying some games used. In VP:P, it's that you get the optional dungeon already unlocked. When you turn the machine on, there's New Game, Continue, Seraphic Gate and Options. Seraphic Gate is the optional dungeon that becomes available after you unlock all three endings. There are 10 main floors, with half-floors in between them. You start on floor one, which gives you one of the main storyline bosses, and some minions. The bosses and enemies have item drops, and there are occasional hidden treasures you can reveal if you're equipped with the right accessory. The half-floors just have 4-8 standard enemies. The top 5 main floors house the Valkyries, and a super-boss. When you clear floor 10, you're transported back to floor 1 and you have to climb back up again, but this time with tougher enemies, although the dialogs for the bosses seem to remain the same. If you clear floor 10 ten times, you receive the strongest sword in the game. But at that point, there's really nothing to use it on, making the entire exercise kind of stupid.

Summary: I bought VP: Plume used for 500 yen because I enjoyed playing Silmeria on the PS2. It's a good game if you like SRPGs, but I consider the game play to be too dragged out. Not really recommended

Inherit the Stars - First Contact

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

Inherit the Stars - First Contact, by Yukinobu Hoshino, Grade: B
Not a lot more to add regarding my opinion of the manga. The artwork is still good, although the character faces are occasionally messed up. The narration is still too wordy and doesn't add that much to the story. And I have a few complaints about the "science" part of the SF.

(Danchekker describes what he's been able to figure out about the Giants' physiology.)

The story: Shortly after Hunt and the others learn about the Giants, they reconstruct what they think happened. The Giants lived on Minerva, but the CO2 levels were rising and they built space ships a few million years ago to explore other worlds where they could live. They tried moving to Earth, but the CO2 levels were already too high and the planet was too cold. Instead, they just collected samples of the Earth species, including a Cro-Magnon Man. This guy figured out how to escape the cage, saw the Giants controlling the ship, and tried duplicating their actions to get back to Earth, managing to crash the ship on Ganymede and killing everyone on board instead. Meanwhile, a different Giant ship traveled to another star to try to rebalance it to make that system livable, and again, they screwed up and blew up the star, destroying their hyperdrive. The crew of the ship used their orbit around the star to reach near-light speed before sling shooting back home just in time to intercept the beacon that Hunt and crew turn on. The Giants visit Hunt and the other humans, and everyone becomes friends.

(First contact with the surviving Giants.)

One part of the speculation has the surviving Minervans leaving the moon and going down to Earth, where they turned into Homo Sapiens and wiped out the pre-existing Neanderthals 50,000 years ago. It seems, though it hasn't been explained yet, that the Jevlen "Peace Council" might have been from the other side of the Minervan conflict, and they've been on Earth trying to get the humans to kill themselves off, while stockpiling weapons and slowing down human technological advances. Both WW II and the Cold War were instigated by the Jevlen. Currently, the Jevlen claim to be enforcing the peace, as a cover for hiding information on the Giants. When the Jevlen learn that humans have made contact with the Giants, they go into a panic and begin work on wiping out the humans once and for all. Meanwhile, Danchekker and a couple assistants do some DNA analysis on the tissue samples they've managed to amass. They have a lab rat running a maze to find the cheese, then inject that rat's DNA into other rats to show that the transferred DNA allows the other rats to run the maze faster, too. But, the injected rats turn violent and attack each other rather than share the cheese. Hypothesis - human intelligence is the result of failed DNA manipulation by the Giants, as is the human tendency towards violence. The book ends with the Giants making their first visit to Earth, where they are greeted by the humans as friends.

One note on the title: The original English title was "The Gentle Giants of Ganymede". The Japanese title of the wide books is "ファースト コンタクト" (First Contact).

Inherit the Stars - Fish

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

Yukinobu Hoshino is relatively well-known as a science fiction manga artist. I've reviewed one of his stories before (vol. 3 of Case Records of Professor Munakata). From 2011 to 2012 he serialized an adaptation of James P. Hogan's Giants series. In 2015, My First BIG Special began reissuing the manga as three wide volumes. Vol. 3 will come out in November. In 1981, the Japanese translation of Inherit the Stars won the Seiun Award for best foreign language translation of a novel, and Entoverse (book 4 of the series) won in 1994. Hoshino's manga won in 2013 for the Comics category.

(Hunt and Danchekker examine their Lunarian.)

Inherit the Stars - 異星の魚 (Fish from a Different Planet), Grade: B
I haven't read the original novels, in part because I've never been a fan of Hogan's works, and I skipped a lot of the more detailed narrative in the manga. So, I can't say how faithful the manga is to the novel. I can say that the manga is very wordy, and most of the hard-core SF explanations (for how the ships work, or how the giants and mankind evolved) aren't really necessary. The artwork is mostly good, especially the ships, and all of the background art of the moon, other planets and the stars. I assume Hoshino has assistants helping him in his studio, and that some of them have serious problems drawing faces in the smaller panels. Otherwise, visually Inherit is a good manga. Story-wise, it's slow and plodding, unless you really like the alternative evolution explanations.

(Hunt and company try to explain how all life prior to 50,000 years ago suddenly made way for homo sapiens.)

Since you can read the novels in English, I'll just give a brief summary of the story here. In 2027, mankind begins space exploration again, and they discover a body in a cave on the moon. A team of scientists, including Victor Hunt and Christian Danchekker, go to the moon to investigate the body, determining it to be human, but 50,000 years old. The "Lunarian", as he is called, had kept a diary, which is deciphered. It says that the Lunarians came from a planet divided into two continents, Cerios and Lambian, which had been at war with each other. The war ended with the use of nuclear weapons that destroyed the planet and left this one person stranded on the moon. Because Hunt can clearly see the Earth from the moon, it takes him time to realize that the "Lunarians" actually lived on a planet nicknamed "Minerva", located between Mars and Jupiter. When it was destroyed it became Pluto and the remnants were scattered through the asteroid belt, while Minerva's moon was ejected and then captured by the Earth. This theory doesn't explain the connection of the Lunarian and homo sapiens, yet.

To some extent, the Earth governments are controlled by a "peace-keeping group" called the Jevlen. They step in and confiscate the Lunarian and a space tank located nearby. However, the space council that hired Hunt secretly puts the scientists on a ship they've been building on the far side of the moon to send them to Ganymede, where other Earthlings have uncovered a crashed spaceship 1 million years old. In the ship are cages holding samples of Earth creatures, although the Cro-magnon Man sample is found lying out in the corridors. On the bridge are the bodies of huge aliens, nicknamed "Giants".

Summary: Volume 1 of the manga in wide version matches up with the first novel. Overall, the story is ok, but not really great. As mentioned above, I like the space artwork, and the character designs are good. I've got a number of complaints regarding the science in the story, the biggest of which is why the asteroid belt is so uniformly thinned out, given that Minerva was shattered only 50,000 years ago. The age of Pluto should be easily measurable given the tech in the book, and even with our own tech, we'd be able to tell something was "off" about Pluto if it originally had been part of Minerva. Regardless, I will keep reading the manga when the third volume is released in November.

One note on the title: In English, Hogan's books are part of the "Giants" series, and the first volume was named "Inherit the Stars". Hoshino decided to name his full series "Inherit the Stars", and the first book is "異星の魚" (Isei no Sakana, or "Fish From a Different Planet").

Q.E.D. iff volume 2 review

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

Q.E.D. iff, vol. 2, by Katou Motohiro. Grade: B

(Akashi tries to cheat Yuuki out of his script, or at least turn Santa into the fall guy.)

素つ裸の王様 (Sutsubataka no Ousama, The Naked Emperor, Shonen Magajin R #2, 2015)
Yuuki Yuubari is a comedian-wannabe. He'd had some minor success doing slapstick comedy with a partner, but the partner quit and got married, and Yuuki's career went into a downslide. Now, it's his 30th birthday and he's got nothing to show for himself, which really hits home when his younger brother, who's married and starting a family, gives him 10,000 yen as a present. Yuuki knuckles down and pens the script for a new comic play based on the "Emperor's New Clothes". He gives test performances of the play and is generating enough buzz that he comes to the attention of Natsuhiko Akashi, the manager for the famous comic Santa Suzuka. Akashi is really good at his job. So good, that his employer, Gonzou Ishizuchi decided to knock him down a peg by assigning him to Santa, who's always acting like a dumb prima donna. Santa needs more work, but he doesn't have a script, so Akashi suggests that he steal Yuubari's. On the night of Yuuki's big break, Santa visits the dressing room, naked. The script disappears, and Yuuki's younger sister, Mitsuki, asks her friend, Kana for help. Kana forces Touma to get involved, and he figures out that Santa, a big fat guy, had backed out of the room, still naked, with the script clenched between his butt checks. Akashi turns over the script, but then offers to buy it from Yuuki. The guy declines because this is his last chance to show his worth as a comic and he wants to do the show himself. Then, Akashi makes him an offer to join the company as an employee. Touma keeps tripping the manager up, asking for a contract, asking to read the contract first, and then asking for copies. The meeting ends, with Akashi insulting Kana, and Touma being impressed that Kana didn't get angry like she usually does.

(Akashi learning that he's out of a job, and Yuuki getting to play opposite Santa.)

From here, things go bad fast. Akashi works Yuuki so hard the guy collapses and is sent to the hospital. Akashi again tries to buy him out, but Yuuki insists he can still keep working. Touma has Mitsuki start up an SNS campaign to promote her brother, and a kickstarter to raise money for Yuuki's one-man show. This causes Akashi to enlist all of the comedians in Ishizuchi's company to smear him on the same SNS sites, and a counter kickstarter for Santa's own show of the same script (funded by the same comics). It looks to Mitsuki that the big company guys are going to win and she's losing faith. Question: How does Touma break the contract between Yuuki and Akashi?

Science: None.
Payment: None.

------------ Spoilers ------------

Touma calls a surprise meeting with Ishizuchi, attended by Santa, Kana and Mitsuki. Akashi walks into the meeting cold and unprepared. Touma starts out by showing the SNS smear messages as proof that Yuuki was intentionally overworked and his illness was job related. Akashi counters by saying that Yuuki contracted through Santa's company and Santa is solely responsible for damages (Santa's not happy to hear that). Touma continues, showing that the smear campaign was conducted by the same comedians that work for Ishizuchi and were funding Ishizuchi's kickstarter campaign, linking Ishizuchi directly to the attacks on an employee. This is enough to justify bringing a lawsuit against Ishizuchi directly. Ishizuchi capitulates, allowing Yuuki to co-star with Santa on the show based on his script, and he fires Akashi. The show gets produced, and everyone loves it. Afterward, Yuuki gives up show business and starts working at his father's ramen shop, where his girlfriend becomes a waitress. They're talking about getting married. Later, Mitsuki comments that Touma had gotten serious about taking down Akashi only after he insulted Kana. Kana laughs that off as crazy talk.

(Sadok talks about the night of the murder. Upper right: Camellia hits on Derrick in front of Fannie. Middle, Camellia gives Alf the brush-off.)

殺人のかたち (Satsujin no Katachi, Shape of a Killer, Shonen Magajin R #3, 2015)
Alf Rets is an Oxford math professor married to Camellia, a spoiled socialite. Camellia had so many affairs and scandals that her parents threatened to disown her if she didn't marry someone they approved of. She agreed to the marriage, but then started hitting on Alf's best friend, Derrick, right in front of Derrick's wife, Fannie. One vacation, the four of them, plus Camellia's family's lawyer, Sadok, went to Malta, where they stayed at the Geometry Hotel (the hotel has a few geometric puzzles in the lobby; the rooms have glass panels in the doors that identify them - the Moon suite, Sun suite, etc.) On the first night, Camellia complained of having a headache and demanded Alf go out and buy sleeping pills. Derrick and Fannie left the hotel to see the town, and Sadok fell asleep at the bar. About half an hour later, Alf returned to the hotel, and found Camellia dead in bed, with a single gunshot through the bed covers. The police come up empty and put the blame on a thief that took all her money and jewelry and left the island. Alf announces that he will find the killer himself. So, for the next four months, he keeps returning to Malta on his breaks, dragging Fannie, Derrick and Sadok with him. He's becoming an emotional wreck, so his friend, Loki, invites Touma to the island to help out. Once there, though, Touma is completely uninterested in the case. Kana wants to whack him in the head, but Loki tells her to wait until the "switch in his brain clicks on" and he gets interested on his own. Kana and two of her friends are looking at the exhibits in the lobby, including the Pretzel Knot (the wiki entry doesn't have the exact same puzzle as used in the book), the Luzin Problem (AKA: Squaring the square) and the phrase "Publish or Perish" written over the lobby doorway. Kana says that "shapes are interesting" and Touma suddenly starts thinking.

(Kana talks to Alf's witness, who says he saw a woman on the beach near the window to Camellia's room.)

Kana is sent out to interview everyone, and the picture that builds up is of a weak-willed, bland husband being steamrollered by a manipulative spoiled brat of a wife. Derrick had tried to get Alf to divorce Camellia, while Fannie was afraid that if Camellia were single, she'd go after Derrick even harder. No one understands why Alf is destroying himself looking for Camellia's killer. Additionally, there's the question of how the killer could get into the room - the door and windows were locked and the key was at the front desk with the attendant. The police think a thief waited until the attendant fell asleep, grabbed the key, entered the room to steal the money and jewels and killed Camellia when she woke. Alf claims that Camellia had wanted separate rooms and that originally she was supposed to be in the Sun room. But, he'd accidentally knocked over the wine stand, spilling wine all over the floor, so they switched rooms. When she was in bed, she was covered in blankets and her face couldn't be seen; he was supposed to have had that room and he thinks that the killer had been after him. Then, Alf finally finds a witness who'd been out fishing that night. The witness claims to have seen Fannie standing on the beach in front of the hotel at 9 PM. When confronted by the police, both Fannie and Derrick admit to the murder. Question: What really happened that night?

Science: A brief description of topology and the properties of shapes, including the Pretzel and Squaring the Square problems.
Payment: None.

------------ Spoilers ------------

Touma points out that at 9 PM, when Camellia had gone to bed, Alf had left the Moon and Sun room keys on the table, where Fannie could have gotten to them and switched in her own key for the Moon room key. Then, she received a note telling her to stand on the beach in front of the hotel (where the witness could see and identify her). She heard a gunshot, and saw Derrick standing in front of the window inside the room. She and Derrick both got to the front entrance of the hotel at the same time the police had arrived, and had concocted the story about visiting the town together to protect each other (Derrick thinking that Fannie's disappearance was suspicious, and Fannie knowing that Derrick was the killer). The problem was that the police didn't follow the clues far enough, so the real killer kept pushing for the evidence that the police were supposed to have found themselves. In fact, the real killer had made sure Camellia would be in the moon room, because it was the only one with the properly-shaped glass frame on the door. The killer used a glass cutter to cut out the moon panel and reached through the opening to unlock the door from the inside. Then he slid the remaining glass down inside the panel to hide the hole. Wearing a jacket that looked like Derrick's, he stood in front of the window and shot his wife. Touma offers to have the police dismantle the door to see the hole in the glass and Alf confesses. He'd agreed with something Derrick had once said, about Camellia being poison, because he'd done all this after she'd poisoned him. But, what had pushed him over the edge was the motto over the doorway in the lobby - "Publish or Perish".

Summary: Both Emperor and Shape are weak. Emperor's main message seems to be "get everything in writing", which duplicates the chief point in Dreamcatcher in C.M.B. vol. 30. Otherwise, it's going to appeal to people that like looking behind the scenes of Japanese comedy teams. I had great hopes for Shape when I saw that the name of the hotel was "Geometry", but there's very little real math in the story, and there's no connection between math, and how the murder occurred. The "Publish or Perish" link makes for an extremely weak motive. I've said before that my favorite part of Q.E.D. is when Motohiro sticks to math, science and logic, which doesn't really happen in either of these stories. I recommend this volume only to fans of the series.

C.M.B. volume 30 review

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

C.M.B., vol. 30, by Katou Motohiro. Grade: B

Finally, book 30 is out. Back last Spring, I'd read "Soya has Disappeared" in Monthly Shonen Magajin when it had come out. Not one of the stronger stories. Sigh. And, it turns out that "Soya" is the one chapter that gets the youtube treatment...

Note, there WILL BE SPOILERS here.

(Happy Takao.)

Takao Kitamori is a part-owner at a furniture importing company, along with the buyer, Nishimiya. Takao lives with his girlfriend, the interior designer, Koharu Higashimatsu (note the last names: North Forest, West Shrine and East Pine). Lately, Takao has been waking up in the middle of the night from bad dreams. He holds up a dream catcher, and says that it's not working so he's going to make a new one. He suddenly disappears, and a couple days later a lawyer shows up at Koharu's office, announcing that Nishimiya has reported a lot of money missing from the company and only Takao could have taken it. Koharu panics, then remembers a flier she'd picked up when the two of them had visited Shinra's museum, thinking that the boy might know something about the dream catcher. Soon after, Shinra, Koharu and Tatsuki are flying to Alaska. The boy hires a native medicine man, Blue Eagle, as a guide. Blue takes them into the brush, where Koharu is thrilled by all the animals. She wants to get closer to a grizzly and her cubs, and has to be told of the danger. Blue adds that 10 years earlier, a young boy, who had been alone at the time, had had to shoot and kill a grizzly to protect himself. Soon, the mosquitoes, jet lag and everything starts wearing on Koharu, and the hard ground and weird sounds keep her from falling asleep. She blames Takao for all this hardship and swears revenge. The next day, a different group happens by and one of them tells Blue to be careful because one of the grizzlies has gone rogue and killed someone. Blue asks for the guy's spare rifle, and they keep going. Blue finds Takao's old campsite, and the discarded old dream catcher. Shinra speculates that Takao no longer needs it. That night, Shinra notices Blue missing from his guard post in front of the campfire, and goes into the bushes to find him. Blue has spotted the grizzly, and wants Shinra to wake the others and get them into the boat. Unfortunately, Koharu sees a bear-like shadow and screams - it's only a curious moose. But the rogue bear reacts to the sound, spots Blue Eagle and rushes him. Shinra tries to use the spare rifle to save Blue, but it's too heavy for him and the shot misses. The bear turns to face Shinra, and Koharu thinks the boy is going to die.

Questions: What happens next? Is Takao guilty of the theft? The money was locked in his desk and Takao was the only one with the key. Why did Takao go to Alaska to make a new dream catcher in the first place?

Natural science: We have some nice artwork, and a bit of a description of dream catchers.
Price: Shinra asks for the old dream catcher.

----------- Spoilers -----------

Takao rushes out of the brush and kills the bear. Koharu runs up to hug him, then demands answers. Shinra explains that since Nishimiya was the buyer, the really fancy furniture advertised in their brochures was his responsibility. Problem is, the materials include Brazilian Rosewood, which is used heavily in making guitar bodies and cabinets. Rosewood has been over harvested and there's a restriction on bringing it into Japan. Nishimiya discovered this and had to pay a big fine. Rather than explain himself to his partner, Nishimiya waited until Takao requested an extended vacation, then popped the top off of Takao's desk to bypass the lock and steal the money, to put the blame on Takao. Meanwhile, Takao was the boy who'd killed the bear 10 years ago - his real name is Hawk Eagle. He's an Alaskan native, but looks Japanese. He'd gone to university in Japan with a friend, then stayed there when he found work. His bad dreams came from his fear when facing the bear before, but those stopped when he returned to Alaska, so he doesn't need a dream catcher to help him anymore. Koharu demands to know if Takao had written proof of permission from Nishimiya to take the vacation, and the guy says no. She's about to blow up over his gullibility, when he pulls out his phone and plays back the conversation. Koharu returns to Japan, while Takao stays in Alaska to find himself, but with the promise that they'll meet up again during her next vacation to discuss wedding plans. Shinra and Tatsuki also go back home, along with the discarded dream catcher.

(Hayato finally meets up with Soya again.)

Soya has Disappeared
I'm pretty sure I typed this story up before, but I can't find it in the blog archives. Anyway, it's not one that I particularly like so I'm going to keep the summary short. Hayato Tsugaru is a first year university student, and works part time at a convenience store. He's from the countryside, and had been feeling lost until he became friends with Ryuusuke Soya, a fellow hick student and co-worker. Everything was going fine until the girl showed up. This young office lady was being harassed by an older man, and Soya confronted them. Later, Soya was seen with the woman a few times. But, suddenly he disappeared, his apartment was abandoned, and no one wants to talk about what happened to him. Hayato has worried himself so sick that he passes out in Tatsuki's family's public bath. Tatsuki asks Shinra for help, and the boy agrees in exchange for a strange souvenir that supposedly contains a puzzle related to the mystery (it's a key holder showing a cat sitting over a bowl of food). Questions: What happened to Soya? Did he fall in love with the woman and gotten killed by her angry boyfriend? Why doesn't anyone want to tell Hayato what happened to him?

No natural history.
Price: The key holder.

----------- Spoilers -----------

It turns out that Hayato is as thick as a brick when it comes to listening to what people tell him. At the bottom of it all, Soya was feeling homesick, and Hayato didn't pick up on that, so Soya dropped out of school and returned to his home in the countryside to help his ailing mother care for their farm. "The woman" was just a new-hire at a customer service company, and the "angry guy" was a corporate trainer helping her learn how to cope with mad customers. Soya realized that Hayato had become enamored with the woman, and was staying on the sidelines to avoid conflicts; there was nothing going on between the customer service trainee and him. When Hayato finally meets up with Soya again, he has to face the fact that he's an idiot, but it looks like the two of them are friends again. As for the souvenir, it's completely unrelated to everything else; it's just something the woman had picked up on a trip and had asked Soya if he could figure it out for her. Rather than a cat sitting over a bowl of food, you turn the picture over. The bowl now looks like teeth and the cat is upside down, meaning you read "neko" backwards. Ha (teeth) + ko + ne = Hakone, a resort town near Mount Fuji.

(Innes shows Shinra the painting made by Owen Jones.)

Mau has gone to Barcelona, Spain, to meet with a guy named Bernardo to discuss the sale of a painting he'd exhibited at an art museum. (At the time, he'd acted like he didn't know what it was that he had, making Mau think she's going to pick it up cheap.) The day she visits his mansion, Bernardo is getting married to Innes, a former waitress at a nearby bar. The streets are packed with cars, with one car double-parked. Mau instructs her driver to push the offending car out of the way, which damages it pretty badly, then she goes to the reception area to eat snacks before trying to locate Bernardo. She finds him in the shadows of one of the rooms in the mansion, but he's been stabbed and Mau trips over the knife and picks it up as the guards run up to apprehend her. So now, she's in jail and she wants Shinra to help spring her. The painting in question is an original artwork by Owen Jones, a famed architect and painter who worked on the Great Exhibition building in 1851, which was later reopened as the Crystal Palace, which he also worked on. But, he's also known for having quantified color theory, and doing research on middle eastern artistic patterns. The painting is actually one of Owen's designs for playing cards (he sold a lot of artwork to the De La Rue printing company, which produced playing cards, decorative tins, and postage stamps. They went on to print bank notes, too.) Shinra talks to Innes about alternative potential attackers that might want to kill her new husband. There is one - her former boyfriend, Habi Gerello. Habi is a thug who had gotten drunk and beaten her up one night. Bernardo saw her working in the cafe the next day and took care of her. When Habi confronted Bernardo over stealing his girl, Bernardo stood up to him, and gotten beaten up as well. Habi is the main suspect, but he was working as a clown at a birthday party 10 km away on the same day, and therefore has an alibi. Habi's uncle had drawn his nephew's face paint. Habi has a partner, a younger brother named Richardo, that had similar face paint and had worked at Bernardo's wedding making balloon animals, but there was only one car between the two of them, and Habi had it at his party. While the obvious solution is that Richardo and Habi switched places that day, it would have meant that they'd both have to go to their respective parties, establish themselves there, and then drive 10 km each to the other party for Habi to attack Bernardo. That would mean that one or the other of the clowns would have been detected missing during part of their party. Additionally, Richardo had injured his arm some days ago and it's in a cast; he isn't the one that stabbed the victim. Question: How does Shinra break Habi's alibi.

Natural history: Some really nice artwork on Owen Jones and his paintings, plus a brief description of his creation of playing card designs that are still in use today.
Price: The playing card painting.

----------- Spoilers -----------

There was a third sibling, Nemi, who Habi painted up and was wearing a spare clown suit. On the day of the crime, Ricardo and Habi had both gone to their respective parties, and Nemi remained hidden near Habi's party. Nemi and Habi switched places, and Habi drove to the wedding, where he switched in with Richardo, stabbed his hated rival Bernardo, and then Richardo switched back in again. Habi returned to his own party and switched with Nemi again, so it looked like Richardo and Habi had stayed in place working all day. The problem is that Habi was in such a rush that he double-parked, and Mau had sideswiped his car on the passenger side. Habi didn't notice this and had returned to his party, unsuspecting. Later, Richardo discovered the damage and took the car in for repairs without telling Habi because he was afraid his older brother would get angry. Habi supposedly had the car at the birthday party all day, so its presence at the wedding is proof that Habi had pulled this trick. Habi and his brothers go to jail, Bernardo recovers and leaves the hospital, Innes is happy, and Shinra gets the painting that Mau had gone to all this trouble to try and buy.

(Cathy wants to know why her employees aren't working to find her inheritance.)

Mr. Peter's Legacy
Mau has been contacted by Cathy Simon, the widow of the famed French wine producer Peter Simon, to try to find her husband's treasure. Peter had spent a lot of time and money putting in floor tiles in the house, growing irises in his garden and making display boxes for the rocks, seashells, plants and insects he'd collected. All activities that his wife objected to. One day, he and Cathy had gotten into a spat, and she threw a flower pot at his head. Later in the day, he took a break from building his latest display box to grab a shotgun and track down his wife in her bedroom. Security cameras in the hallway show him opening the bedroom door, and then getting shot and collapsing to the floor. Cathy is shown coming out of the bedroom, holding a pistol. She was arrested and put on trial, but found not guilty by reason of self-defense. However, when the estate was assessed, it came to only a fraction of its reported wealth. Cathy wants to know what happened to all the money, so that it can go to her son, Enzo, and daughter, Lydia. Mau can't find anything of real value in the house, and asks Shinra for help. While asking around, Shinra talks to Lydia, who explains what happened that night, and she sides with her mother. Enzo yells that everyone is treating his father as the villain, and that Cathy is the one that should have died. Lydia slaps him in the face and he runs away. Cathy discovers the party doing everything but looking for the treasure, and coldly states that she's been tried once for the murder; in France, she can't be tried again. Questions: Did Cathy get away with murdering her husband? Why did Peter work on the display box before deciding to shoot his wife? Where's the money? What's going on between the kids and their parents?

Natural history: A little bit of talk about floor tile patterns, iris flowers and display cases.
Price: Not given.

----------- Spoilers -----------

The floor tiles hint that the patterns within the tiles match up to the patterns made by multiple tiles. It's a clue. The rock and insect display cases in the den are pointless and a waste of effort. A case labelled for one thing contains something completely different instead. There are rocks, leaves and insects with no value at all. The clue is to look at the colors of the display boxes themselves, which match up to the colors of one of the photos on the other wall of Peter's study - a picture of a chateau on a vineyard that Peter had purchased in secret. When the family finally visits the vineyard, the caretaker asks them what took them so long. In the chateau is a massive collection of antiques and artwork worth a lot of money. As Tatsuki, Mau and Lydia run inside the building, Shinra stays behind to tell Cathy and Enzo what had really happened that day. When Cathy had been yelling at Peter for spending so much money on flowers, Enzo had been standing around a corner some distance away, listening. After she threw the flower pot at Peter, she went to her bedroom, where Enzo came in to complain to her. He'd asked "What if the pot had killed him?," and Cathy replied, "I wish it had." Enzo noticed that her nightstand was open and had a pistol inside. He took it out and pointed it at her angrily, saying "Maybe you should be the one to die then." She yelled for him to put the gun down. Peter heard the yelling, and grabbed the shotgun thinking there was a burglar in the house. When he opened the bedroom door, Enzo turned and accidentally pulled the trigger, shooting his father in the chest. Cathy grabbed the gun from Enzo and then went out to the hallway, knowing where the security cameras were. Peter's dying words to her were "Protect Enzo". Which is what she's done, but the boy can't live with the guilt anymore and tells his mother that he wants to turn himself in to the police and stop living the lie.

Summary: Dreamcatcher is an ok story, but kind of predictable. Unfortunately, the drawings of the moose and bear aren't all that good. I still think that Soya is ignorable filler. Joker and Mr. Peter's Legacy are both stronger stories, and I like the fact that they each have Mau, and some decent natural history stuff (especially the material on Owen Jones). I'm disappointed, though, at Mau being reduced to comic support. When she's on her own, she's shown that she's at least on the same level as Shinra for problem solving. Here, she's at least 2-3 steps behind Shinra all along the way. Overall though, the book is good. Recommended if you like the series.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Halloween Night Kagoshima in Amuplaza, 2015

Myu FM radio and Amuplaza teamed up for a Halloween event on the afternoon and evening of the 30th. They had food booths, face makeup tables and the stage event. I had a class that Friday, in the afternoon, but I had to go up to Amuplaza to get printer ink from Bic Camera. I arrived at about 4:30, and the radio announcers were just getting ready to bring Doll Elements up on stage.

The event was pretty well-attended for most of the day, with maybe 100-200 people at any given time.

Shunji Maehada, one of the Myu FM announcers.

Doll Elements. The light was getting dim outside, and it had been raining all day, so when the dancers started moving around fast, the camera kept blurring them. I was only able to get two shots before one of the stage hands came up and told me, "no cameras". Good luck with that rule - there were twenty people in the audience clicking away by that time. At that point, there was nothing else I wanted to watch so I went home for dinner. I worked on the computer a bit then went back up at 9 PM to catch a little more of the stage show, since the program was going to run until 10 AM.

Some of the Halloween makeup artists. Knife wounds were everywhere that night.

I was taking photos from the back of the crowd when one of the Filipino women I know in Kagoshima recognized me and waved me up closer to the stage. As we were talking, I decided that I really wanted to get pictures of the skeleton family standing next to me. They were more than happy to pose for both of us.

Rose then mentioned that she'd been interviewed by one of the other Myu FM personalities, Yuki Arima. We went up closer to the stage so that Rose could introduce me to Yuki. We talked a bit more, then Yuki went off to keep doing her job, and Rose returned home on one of the last trains. That left me right next to the stage, by the mixer table, as Dance Studio Da Da performed on stage and tried to get the crowd to dance with them.

Some of the Da Da dancers, as Boy Scout slasher victims.

More of the Da Da dancers waiting their turns.

DJ asm closed the night with a dance mix. The radio personalities, of which there were 4 or 5, kept trying to get the audience to dance, and then pull them up on the stage. This is a losing proposition in Japan, but I was getting into the groove and I kept looking for an excuse to get on the stage myself. Problem was, I was just in street clothes, and no makeup. Towards the end, one of the personalities, who I've seen before at other events (the partner of the guy in the yellow body suit above) was standing at the corner of the stage right next to me and I took that as my cue to join in. The two of us started doing a hip bump dance on stage, and suddenly Shunji was on my other side, dancing too. We hip bumped for about a minute, they laughed, thanked me, and turned to walk away. I now had to figure out how to get off the stage. It was only a foot tall, but I wanted to make an exit. So, I jumped as high as I could and when I landed on the ground my shoes bounced from the impact. Rather than let myself go sprawling, I turned it into a shoulder roll and came to a halt on my back. Most of the audience thought this was a pure accident and were going to ask if I was alright, until I acted like a dog on its back with its legs in the air. The one radio announcer ran over and started giving me CPR for my broken leg, and everyone had a good laugh.

The show ended about 10:15, and Myu FM announced that they wanted a group photo of the audience, and Shunji shoved me into the middle of the crowd in the center of the shot. The staff took some pictures and that was it. I went home and wrote this up before going to bed.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Red Cloud

I was walking from Tenmonkan one afternoon when I saw the sunset reflecting off the clouds near the apartment. I used this as a test of the new pocket camera. I think the colors came out pretty close to real life.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Quick Milk

I saw this product in the Kaldi import and coffee beans store, and figured that I might as well give it a try. "Quick Milk" is marketed as a way to quickly add flavor to a glass of milk, from Hungary. It's about $1.50 USD for 5 straws, and this packet is caramel flavor. The idea is that you have a regular plastic straw that is sealed off at both ends, with little holes in the sides for the milk to flow through. (You're not supposed to cut the ends off with a scissors.) Let's just say that the concept doesn't really work. You get a little burst of caramel flavor in the first 2-3 seconds, but that disappears fast, leaving sugar that doesn't dissolve much. The milk is hard to draw through the straw, and the product itself is 90% plastic that you end up throwing in the trash. It'd be better all around, for your pocketbook and the environment, to simply buy a carton of Nestle Quick.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Learning Kagoshima-ben

As mentioned a couple days ago, the City of Kagoshima is hosting a furusato event from Oct. 23rd to Nov. 15th. Almost all of the food and activities are only available on the weekends, but there are short stage shows during the week at 11:30 and 2 PM. On Tuesday, I decided to go back up to the park to see what kind of show they were putting on. At this particular time, it was a local group that conducted three 5-minute skits, after which the teacher would come out and explain certain phrases they'd used in Kagoshima dialect. I've heard a similar show on the radio (I think it's on Sundays), so it may be the same group.

The wind was strong, there was building construction the next block over, and the PA system was turned down too low, so the sound quality on the videos isn't that great. Even so, if you want to learn regional conversational Japanese, I think these videos are still usable. As for the audience, it was mostly older people from a nearby hospital or senior center, plus one or two young mothers out walking their children.

Direct youtube link for part 1

Direct youtube link for part 2

Direct youtube link for part 3

Additionally, as I was coming home, I encountered a street car advertising the upcoming Ohara matsuri (the big traditional dance festival held in the Fall). Unfortunately, it's going to be on Nov. 2nd and 3rd this year, and I'm going to miss it because that's a Monday and Tuesday. I'm very unhappy about that. Anyway, I caught a little video of the street car pulling away from the platform.

Direct youtube link for the street car

Monday, October 26, 2015

Totoro Cat Bus

This was the first time I'd seen the Totoro Cat Bus for shuttling preschoolers to and from school. Naturally, I had to get a photo before it sped off.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Oct. 23-25, 2015

I'm kind of getting desperate here. During the summer, I was close to running out of things to blog about several times, but now there are so many events taking place over the weekends that I have to combine them all into one post, and I'm still building up a backlog that's close to one month of material...

House and Home Fair

(Gundam, to the right.)

On Friday, I had a lesson at the English school at 2 PM, and I got out at 3. It was a little earlier than normal, so I decided to drop by the International Volunteer building to see if they had anything going on this weekend, too. The answer was "yes". They were just setting up booths and example building structures for a Home and Energy Saving fest. The buildings on the front lawn wouldn't be ready until Saturday, but inside the event center, in the halls on the second floor, they already had tables set up for energy companies (solar and wind power), architecture firms, and construction companies.

This booth was part of the display by a local Kagoshima architect, and consisted of a number of really good papercrafts. The designs all came from the Yamaha site, the architect just printed them out and built them. Having made the Himeji Castle papercraft myself, I think I have a good idea of just how much work went into all of these projects here...

(The One Piece ships, plus Space Battleship Yamato.)

(Goku, Frozen, Pokemon, Miku Hatsune, and random animals.)

(Tigger and a really nice blaster.)

These building card cutouts were probably based on the architect's own designs. He uses something similar for his business cards.

Gundam, from the back.

Next door, the same guy had a workspace for people that wanted to make things themselves. I asked if he'd let me make something, and his assistant pulled out two sheets of laser-cut wood, asking if I wanted to make the piggy bank house or the pencil holder house. I chose the pencil holder because I don't have anything to put into a piggy bank. I was told that I had 30 minutes, which I thought meant that they'd be closing up at 3:30 or 4 PM. So, I sat down and started punching pieces out of the wood. Initially they said that I wouldn't need glue to hold the pieces together (which was true for the walls and roof) but I did have to glue on the window and door frames. The edges where the laser burned the wood were very ashy, and that covered my hands and stained one side of the wooden pieces. I ended up flipping the pieces to be "wrong-side out" because that side wasn't getting stained. Fortunately, they had lots of wet wipes, which I needed constantly. I think it actually took an hour to finish everything, and that was with the architect sanding down the locking pegs for me because he'd discovered that he'd designed the matching holes to be a little too small. The finished pencil holder is about 6" cubed.

Very nice for something that was free.

He also let me have papercraft sheets for the local advertising mascots, Gree-bu and Sakura. Sakura is pre-cut, Gree-bu isn't. Other freebies being handed out at the tables included pens, calendars and a solar-charged LED keyholder pocket light.

(Greebu papercraft sheet)

(Sakura papercraft sheet)

Kanoya Rose Garden

There was a lot of activity in the open space in front of Lotteria in Tenmonkan. On Friday, it was a health screening and health-awareness event sponsored by one of the hospitals. There was nothing I wanted to take photos of, so I ignored it. On Saturday, they had roses on display to advertise the Kanoya Rose Garden, located on the far side of the Osumi peninsula, the other side of the volcano. I got here just before noon on Saturday, and things were still being set up. The main reason for taking the photos was to show the Kanoya Garden mascot, on the banner above. I've seen her at events in Kagoshima before, but I hadn't know what it was that she represented until now.

Tenmonkan Halloween

On Saturday, the 25th, Tenmonkan had its children's Halloween event.

There was a stage show, prizes for the kids, and appearances by the local advertising mascots. Unfortunately, I had to work during the stage shows, and there wasn't much going on during my breaks.

They did have a "Tenmonkan Halloween parade" around 3:30, though, consisting of the kids being led past various shops where salespeople handed out little candies. There was a pause in front of the Yamakataya department store for photos. I was on my way back to the school, so I don't know if the parade actually continued into the store.

Fursato 2015

(Entrance to the park with the event banner)

Up at the Kotsuki river, the city of Kagoshima, supported by the local restaurants near the train station, had another of their Furusato (hometown) festivals. This one started Friday afternoon, and is going to continue until Nov. 15th. They had this last year, too, and it looks like it's pretty much the same thing this time. I made my way from the Home and Energy Saving fair at the International Volunteer Center and got here about 4-4:30 PM. Some of the booths were still open, selling food and shochu, but none of the event stages were ready. I had a little food and drink, then wandered around to take photos.

(Event map, showing the park along the river.)

I didn't have time to get up here on Saturday during my break, and on Sunday I stayed in the apartment to write up manga reviews until 3:30 PM. When I did get to the river at 4 PM on Sunday, all the stage events were over and the Satsuma-England friendship event, which was only for this weekend, had completely finished and the tents were being torn down. It wasn't a complete loss, though, because the actors in Meiji era (1860's) costume were still strolling around and pausing for photos.

The real activity is going to be on the weekends, so maybe I can catch some more of it next Sunday (I'm going to be extra busy teaching lessons at the school next Saturday, so that's going to be a wash). I'm not interested in spending money on overpriced food, but I do want to see some of the stage events, if possible. Anyway, part of the event is continuing during the week, including one stage play at 11:30 AM and 2 PM weekdays. I'm hoping to record that this week, if possible.

(Saigo and Atsu-hime)

There's a little 3-person stage show, with local legends Saigo Takamori, Atsu-hime, and one other guy whose name I forget and isn't pictured here. It's a comic, semi-historical bit that I saw last year. I think the actors may be doing the same bit this year, too.

People keep insisting on taking my camera to get me into the shot. I don't know of a graceful way to avoid this... I was slouching down a bit, because I didn't want to tower over the actors too much (in real life, Saigo was a very big man).

As Mama's Fair

Back at the Lotteria space on Sunday (I said they were busy - three days, three different events) they had something put on by AS Mama, Inc. I think part of the services they offer is babysitter referral. There were at least 100 visitors when I got here at 3:30.

One of the tables was run by ECC, which is an event-based English school (they have English events for Halloween, etc.) The guy here had a lot of free time, since all the parents wanted to watch their kids performing on stage.

There were a couple groups of young kids dressed up as cheerleaders and dancing to "Mickey". The parents were all very proud of their kids.


Because the Furusato event at the river was winding down, I continued up to Amuplaza, where they had the Zubaiyoka fest. I assume this word is part of the local Kagoshima dialect, but I don't know what it means. The poster at the back of the stage says that the local shops are trying really hard to survive, so maybe this is just a merchant fair. They had some food booths, the stage, several aquariums with tropical fish, and the above booth here. There's a different event running from Oct. 31st to about Nov. 15th, called the Kokubunsai, which translates roughly as "National Cultural Activities". The booth has fliers for Noh theater, ballet, opera, ballroom dance, and karuto (a Japanese card grabbing contest). Some of these cultural events are too far away for me to get to, others cost money, and others are on days when I have to work. The karuto event is next Saturday and Sunday, along the streetcar line, and it's free. If possible, I'd like to see that next Sunday.

The first few events were children's hula dancing.

One of the tables had photos of cats, and books of the photos available for sale. My understanding is that the cats like to travel and pose for photos at different locations around Kagoshima.

More hula. I went downstairs for free sample coffee at Kaldi and wandered around in the department store for a while. I returned to the plaza, where the Shiranami company had free samples of shochu, which is always good. Then, some local radio people that I've seen before tried to entertain the crowd until the next stage act came up at 5:30 PM. The two guys aren't that good, but they never let on that the lack of a crowd bothered them. I spent the time watching music videos on the jumbo screen behind them. The one video that caught my attention was Crazy Party Night by Kyary Pamyu Pamyu. Not great, but still weird..

The 5:30 act was Ai Nishida,a local Kagoshima singer. She's sponsored by Tower Records, so I didn't bother trying to record her (youtube would just block the video as being copyrighted material). She just did some karaoke songs, so I took a couple photos and headed back home.