Presenting the studio take of "Feel in My Heart" (AKA "The Words Get Stuck in My Throat") as performed by the beautiful, vivacious, and very talented Kipp Hamilton in glorious 320kbps. Taken from the 1966 film WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS.
Editor of the national J-Pop mag Otaku USA, Patrick Maciasand August Ragonerespond to the Halloween call with a titanic tribute to the storied director of the original Godzilla, Ishiro Honda. With more than a nod towards the recently released Mushroom Clouds and Mushroom Men: The Fantastic Cinema of Ishiro Honda, the provocative pair of kaiju fanboys contextualize Honda's prolific career, which saw the production of Rodan, Mothra, The Mysterians, Monster Zero, Destroy All Monsters, Terror of Mechagodzilla, Atragon, and Battle in Outer Space (the latter two excerpted here). Starring Russ Tamblyn, the 16mm War of the Gargantuas is Honda's 1966 effort, in which two hairy humanoids spawned from Frankenstein's monster (!) wreak havoc on--where else?--Tokyo. Free hot sake! Doors open at 7:30 for cinematic trick-or-treats; come in cosplay! *8pm showtime.
OTHER CINEMA / ATA Gallery, 992 Valencia (@ 21st). Admission* $6.
Today, the Tokyo-based Web Technology Com Corp. held a press conference for their new software 「コミPo!」(AKA ComiPo!). This “manga sequencer” – the first of it’s kind for the PC – allows users to create their own Japanese comics with all the trimmings: character models, big eyes, facial expressions, panel layouts, dialogue, sound effects, speed lines, the works.
Before we go any further, I strongly suggest you watch the 5 min demo below, which rightfully sent shockwaves throughout the Japanese interwebs since being uploaded on Oct/3.
Three days before today’s press conference, I was invited down to Web Technologies HQ to get a demo from Keiichi Tanaka, General Manager & Solution Sales Division. A manga-ka himself who authored the raunchy Osamu Tezuka parody Minari’s Youthful Days (which was localized by my company jaPRESS), Tanaka explained a few things additional things about the ComiPo! software that aren’t in the YouTube demo video and answered some of my most burning questions.
ComiPo! has been in the works for two years. Most of the grunt work went into the creation of the elaborate user interface. During the early days of development Kentaro Takekuma, manga-ka and co-author of the cult classic “Even a Monkey Can Draw Manga”, was brought in as a consultant and helped the company to make connections to the manga world at large. The “mascot character” models, faces, and expressions for CompiPo! have been created by Kumi Horii. While users can create their own original characters, they also have the option to use Horii's designs as the basis for their manga as well. New DLC packages will go on sale monthly, each featuring new character models and props revolving around a different theme (the first package is a school-themed set as seen in the demo, the second theme will be “fantasy”).
Tanaka believes that the ComiPo! software can evolve in two different directions. It will allow “light users” to explore storytelling and the manga medium simply for fun. Meanwhile, professional artists and editors will also be able to use ComiPro! as a kind of storyboard planner for manga layouts and could conceivably impact the need for assistants in the field.
ComiPo! accepts JPEG and PNG files. Photos can be given a 2-D manga makeover using a built-in illustration filter.
The impressive 3-D modeling feature shown in the video demo and below will not be a part of the launch package. It will debut in a later version of the ComiPro! soft set for next year.
The launch version will be Japanese language only, but options for other languages – including English – are in the works.
Since the general level of “amateur” fan-created manga in Japan is already impressively high, it’s my personal feeling that ComiPo! will have the most appeal outside of Japan, where people want to create comics “in the manga style” but need a lot of help to get there.
Like pretty much everything in the 21st century, copyrights might prove to be tricky territory. ComiPo! will allow the user to make manga for limited business applications (such as fliers), but Web Technology Com Corp. retains rights over the basic building blocks of the program itself (i.e. backgrounds, character models, effects, etc). Still, expect the waters to be tested. How long until someone tries to make Harry Potter / Twilight hentai manga with this thing? Probably about 5 min after the beta goes live…
Speaking of which, the open beta will be made available as a free download at comipo.com in November. The release date for the final version of ComiPo! is set for December in Japan. It will be available in several configurations: a free DL version with limited features, a downloadable version for 6700 yen, and a deluxe software package that will retail in stores for 9700 yen. A flash-based web version with social networking applications is currently in the works. All in all, pretty exciting stuff!
Please contact me via email if you’d like additional information about ComiPo! or would like a direct line to Web Technology Com Corp. Also, if you are some kind of “journalist” and recycle any info from this piece, please remember to credit this blog as a source.
I was casing out the men’s floors at the LUMINE EST shopping center at Shinjuku station today for some fresh fly threads when I stumbled across the startling sight of the LUMINERV limited-time store lurking within.
A quadruple set of life-size Ayanami Rei figures heralded a mini-stop of Neon Genesis Evangleion goods. From 10/8 to 11/10, this space on the 5th floor is home to the LUMINERV store (full name – no, I am not making this up: “LUMINERV: We’ll Equally Evaluate the Fashion and the Animation Images”) where the faithful and the curious alike can snatch up Eva polo shirts, daily planners, watches, belts, NERV eco-bags, coffee mugs, and stuff like that.
Other Eva collaboration goods were strewn about inside of other stores on the 5th and 6th floors, such as T-shirts (from Beams), jackets (from goa MEN), backpacks (from Manhattan Portage), sneakers (from Chapter), and even glasses frames (from Zoff). The same deals are going down at the LUMINE MAN store in Shibuya. Full campaign details with participating brands here.
Unlike a lot of the other men's stores in the EST, there actually appeared to be some customer interest in the LUMINERV shop, thus insuring that a.) copyright holder khara will continue to milk this sucker for all it’s worth and b.) the sales staff were too distracted to do anything about a menacing & evil foreigner taking pictures and video. This gift, I give to you...
There’s a wedding going on atop a building parallel to my balcony view at Chogokin Heights. A female organist plays a thin Muzak-y version of Amazing Grace while the participants stand their ground. The preacher looks like a Norifumi Suzuki vision of Dracula: rubbery black floor length cape, tight orange punch perm. The couple is about what you would expect: rich, boring, barely enjoying any of this weighed down by an invisible web of obligation. A really odd touch is a trio of empty picture frames that the guests take turns standing in while the wedding photog snaps away. Months later, upon closer inspection, there I am in the left corner of a wooden circle, peeking out from behind a thin curtain, making very much the sort of mistake that Counter-ESPY will soon be making loud and angry phone calls to me in the middle of the night about. The security trip triggers a contingency plan somewhere in the Overtones. The area is renowned for sudden typhoons and heavy rains, so a vast & invisible hand can work with that. Sprinkles soon fall at odd angles pushed by gusts of wind. The flower girl begins to spin around like a top and everyone else runs inside.
The train to Chogokin Heights is the dobutsu-sen. At Counter-ESPY’s insistence, I’ve been given an electro-magnetic signature that will allow me to exit the train and enter THE building: a luxury residential apartment made out of “super alloy” scrapped from the destruction wrought during the Goka-na jyupun senso. Very little is known about the tenants or what goes on inside it’s cold blue and white walls routinely shown amidst many “oooohs” and “ahhhhs” on morning television shows. I’ll work for any side depending on what the perks are: Col Baldwin, Counter-ESPY, and ESPY proper. But mainly, I need a place to stay. So here I am on the train, holding a supposedly “invisible” key signature, but some sensitive riders are clearly picking up on it. Harsh old salaryman, whose eyes have always looked wet and rheumy in their heavy sockets, figures out where I’m headed and can barely disguise his contempt. He thinks I can't see him, but there’s his dim reflection in the window. He picks up on this instantly and starts to rest his arm in such a way to make sure I see his Expensive Gold Watch. “I’m one of them – or at least I want to be. You’re not. Never will be.” But only one of us exits at the right time at the right place. Nothing else happens on the way to Chogokin Heights save for a stroll through an rickety old shotengai they keep around just for contrast.
Supposed Former Otackers Pat and Matt search in vain for the toy show at the Kichijoji Anime Wonderland, witness a spectacular musical performance, make a hard pitch for their new web, TV, and book projects, break into a house, and tell heart-warming tales of life and hearty food at Abashiri Prison.
Since opening its Oniikei ("Big Brother Style") men’s floors in 2006, the Shibuya 109-2 building in Shibuya (duh) had become ground zero for those loveable big-haired roustabouts known as Gyaruo (“Male Gals”) and Center Guys and other purveyors of some of the most extreme fashions to be found anywhere on earth.
The logic behind the lifestyle was pure Evolutionary Psychology: some young Japanese men were willing to dress really silly because – like nature’s peacock or another such bird of paradise – resembling one’s own object of desire is sometimes the best way to attract a mate. In short, in order to fuck a Gyaru (the sort slurped down crepes and shopped at Shibuya 109 proper), it often helped to look like a Gyaru. So basically, no. They weren't gay, despite the jokes everyone made about them. Exhibit A below...
Since no was marketing men's clothes for such a highly specialized purpose, early-adopted Gyaruo were said to wear their girlfriend’s – or latest conquest’s – clothes in a pinch. And so, reacting with typical speed to a burgeoning market, the Japanese fashion industry gave these bold men a Kingdom of Their Own.
Originally, the 109-2 building existed merely an afterthought to the main 109-shopping complex just down the street. In addition to housing a Hello Kitty store, it mainly dealt in mega cheap girl’s accessories. The typical customers were female middle school students. But in the wake of the new Gyaruo boom and the instant success of the 109-2 men’s floors, a new empire was forged by foot soldiers who looked like this...
National demand for Vanquish Sex is Heaven jumbo towels and Buffalo Bobs Coffee and Donut underwear became so high that Mini-men’s floors began popping up at other 109 stores across Japan, including Machida, Shizuoka, and Ichikawa. Competing retailer Marui even got into the act by transforming one of the floors inside their 0101Men building (oringinally set up to compete with high fashion retailer Isetan Mens) into a “Gorgeous” and tacky shopping arena populated by the same brands that had become synonymous with 109-2, such as...
Of course, I also got caught up in the madness and mania surrounding the 109-2. After I’d written my book Japanese Schoolgirl Inferno: Tokyo Teen Fashion Subculture Handbook, I’d become invested and curious about where the energy in trashy low-rent youth culture was headed next. And so, trips to the 109-2 store soon became mandatory for me in order to follow the trail to the new frontier, although the reception to my presence at 109-2 – indeed, to any gaijin who dared to venture inside – was chilly at best. The quizzical and mildly offended expressions from the staff and customers gave off a none-too-subliminal message: THIS IS OUR SCENE, YOU DON’T BELONG, GET OUT AND GO HOME. After a lifetime of not belonging and outsider status, the last thing I was going to do was take this personally. They had a point, so how could I complain? Although I was guilty of dipping my toes into a few pairs of jeans and indulging in a couple of accessories, the last thing I wanted to do was look, or act, like this stupid guy...
Fast forward to Fall 2010…the classic Gyaruo has become an endangered species. You simply don’t the see guys looking like men’s egg models bumming around on the streets of Shibuya anymore. It is as if they’ve already followed the mythic Gonguro and Manba into the dusty pages of history. Clearly, some of the original kids graduated or leveled up to the more complete host clubs look and lifestyle…a trip to Shinjuku, Kabukicho on any given night will turn up hundreds of big haired dudes in cheap suits desperately trying to make a buck. But something deep and fundamental has changed at the base of operations. And all is not quite right at the Shibuya 109-2...
Wednesday night, around 6pm, scene of the crime: the 5th floor of 109-2…The second I stepped into the Jackrose store, a sales clerk literally begins chasing me around the show floor with a sales catalog in his hand until I broke down and let him give me the hard sell. He lead me to a stack of JACKROSE / ROLLING STONES / AC/DC collaboration shirts – a product line that about as fresh and exciting as Mick Jagger (age 67) and Angus Young (age 55) are themselves.
I passed by the remains of the CASVA store, which once sold “gorgeous” purple zebra jackets and imitation snakeskin trousers, suitable for a ‘70s Times Square pimp or a duke of Dogenzaka street. Now, all that once glittered was gone, replaced by boring and drab American Casual gear. But the main shock came from the simple and plainly apparent lack of customers inside the 109-2. Clerks sat behind registers playing with cell phones or reading from books (!!!), barely trying to look busy anymore. The VANQUISH store, formerly the best-selling brand at 109-2, looked like a Neutron Bomb had gone off inside. A sad black & gold Adidas tracksuit under a fake crystal chandelier surveyed the scene like the Ghost of Christmas Past.
I had to get out. I made for the escalator down and had nearly passed the threshold of safety when someone grabbed my arm and began to pull. It was the clerk from the S.I2.C. store. “Okyakusan! Okyakusan!” (“Customer! Customer!”) he screeched, like one of those man-starved hillbilly women in an old Popeye cartoon – or a post-war street hooker. In America, this is where you reach for the pepper spray, but in Japan, all you can do is meekly say “Sumimasen, sumimasen” and try and get the fuck out. And thus did the 109-2 rid itself of me…
After spilling out on the street, I struggled to find some answers for what had happened. How had 109-2 gone on the skids so fast? Why did everyone inside suddenly want to be my best friend when before they were laughing behind my back? An insider, who chooses to remain anonymous speculates: “It’s sad. No one can afford to wear and enjoy stupid clothes anymore. I think most of those guys are just shopping at (low-budget and largely suburban bad taste retailer) Shimamura now.” Hey, at least it’s not H&M or Forever 21, but still…
Other possible factors at work:
1. The Marxy theory (initially said as a joke, but I’m willing to consider it because crazier things have happened): Since most guys dressed like Gyaru in order to attract Gyaru, maybe the gambit worked all too well. Everyone (even this guy) got a girlfriend or got laid and just didn’t need to invest in Vanquish SEX IS HEAVEN rubber bands anymore.
2. The economic theory: 109 proper remains a busy bustling shopping center that now attracts female customers from around the world. Low priced items are the main draw. The “gorgeous” men’s goods at 109-2 never really reached the same level of affordability, and made a stupid move by beginning to focus on “limited edition” high profile tie-up goods with licensed properties like One Piece, Snoopy, even James Bond at prohibitive prices.
3. The big chill: A fashion movement based on cataclysmic levels of bad taste simply could not be expected to sustain itself for very long. Some of the basic Oniikei style DNA will survive in the form of host fashion and in the pages of Host Knuckle and Men’s Spider magazine but whatever larger trend there was has clearly cooled.
4. The world is not yours: Unlike the Gyaru look typified by Shibuya 109, which offers fare both extreme enough for the really wild girls *and* is diverse enough in terms of style to attract business interest from foreigners, guys dressing up like that was truly Some Next Level Shit that was never acceptable even at the best of times in Japan, let alone something that could attract anything beyond gasps of horror and laughter abroad.
5. Zen. Shinto.
Although the writing is on the wall, I doubt that 109-2 will go down quietly. The store staff inside have clearly been yelled at and probably slapped around until they bled from the nose to turn up the charm and go after anyone who ventures within, even a weird-looking Mexican American approaching middle age like myself.
But style is a weird and unpredictable thing. You can’t really make anyone wear any of this garbage, especially if they already bought a few items, got the joke, and feel like moving on now. You *can* spend a billion dollars on a marketing campaign, but there are no safe bets on whom, if anyone, will come through the door after total control over the customer base has ceased. And yet, still, it should never be forgotten, even in the heart of darkness that not all sales are final...
I was on my way out the 109-2 building, perhaps for good (although I'll continue to survey the scene from afar via this blog), just as another customer made his arrival. He was surrounded by a group of three or four girls who took his picture as he happily grinned, reveling in the sheer joy of JUST BEING THERE in Shibuya...at the *actual* 109-2, loving the "all new, all different" shopping experience as much as I held contempt for it. The clothes he was wearing were nothing special, but that could be changed easily so long he paid by cash, credit, or debit. I tried to pick up on what he was saying to his adoring flock of females, but I couldn't figure out a word of it.