Saturday, May 2, 2015

Calvin and Hobbes Print

Back about a month ago, GoComics had a small contest right before Easter. They placed pictures of Easter Eggs on the pages of certain comic strips, and if you clicked on one of these images, you could send in your email address to register for the contest. The prize was a free 90-day trial membership to GoComics Pro, and a print of some kind. I only know of one other person who won, and he got a copy of a Red and Rover strip. In my case, it's an archive-quality print of the very first Calvin and Hobbes comic.

(I think I got the better prize.)

Friday, May 1, 2015

Gundam G DS Comments

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

SD Gundam G Generation: Cross Drive (2007, Vanguard/Bandai)
Sometimes, when you buy something used for 150 yen ($1 USD), you get something that's pretty much a 150 yen game. If you're not familiar with the franchise, Mobile Suit Gundam was a giant mecha anime series that first aired in 1979, and there have been sequels and spins-offs ever since. In the 1980's, a junior high school student named Koji Yokoi started submitting 4-panel gag comics to the Model News magazine published by Bandai. The Gundam mecha in these gag strips were drawn full-sized, but with the body proportions and behaviors of small children, a style he called "super deformed" (SD). Ever since, SD Gundam has been a separate but parallel product to the regular titles. The SD video games feature the super deformed mecha in space battles, with a storyline lifted from, or separate from the TV anime or manga.

(In the space station, deciding which room to go to for customizing the mecha and putting together teams with specific human operators.)

I have no idea what the story is this time. I bought Cross Drive to have a Gundam title in my collection, and this was the cheapest one on the shelves. But, I did try to play it, and the tutorial section took so long to crawl through that I gave up to play Code Geass instead. The initial battles are pure strategy role playing: you have up to 6 mecha in your party, which you can combine into two groups of 3 if you want, plus your support battleship. The enemy gets the same arrangement. You can choose to have one team shoot at an enemy team, or have your ship fire at an enemy team to force them to break into individual mecha. If you surround an enemy, there's a chance of capturing him if his HP is low enough. (The ships can fire at each other, too.) Once you've decided your plan, the game takes over and "rolls the dice" for you. When the smoke clears, you just keep repeating the same steps until one side runs out of party members.

(Prepping for a space battle. Move a Gundam, fight a Gundam.)

If you like giant mecha anime (which I don't) and strategic RPGs (which I don't), then you may like Cross Drive (side note, G Generation refers to a series of video games that are based on the original anime and manga). But for me, just finishing one round of one battle in the tutorial mode took several minutes, which is way, way too long. I'd rather spend that time playing sometime I like more. Not really recommended, and this is one game I'm not going to bother finishing.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Jump Papercraft - Law

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

A few days ago, I had some time to kill between lessons at the conversation school, so I swung by a konbini to get some can coffee for a snack. I glanced over the latest issue of Weekly Shonen Jump magazine, and discovered that there was a paper craft project this time. (Note that this was issue 22-23. Next week is the Golden Week holiday, so there's no issue then.) Normally, the manga magazines are sealed to prevent people from standing around and reading them for free, which is why I missed the last two paper crafts. This issue was 260 yen ($2.40 USD)

The project is Trafalgar Law, which is part of the "Dessaroza georama". Since back issues of weekly magazines are hard to come by, I doubt I'm going to be able to make the earlier figures or building-scapes.

This magazine also has a "where's Waldo"-style fold-out poster featuring just about every character there's ever been.

On the reverse side, the editors mapped the major characters to each of the prefectures. Kagoshima got a reworking of local legend Takamori Saigo.

There's also a sheet of "Jump hero" stickers.

(The papercraft page.)

(And reverse side.)

Actually, there's one more project - a fold-up stand for holding your smartphone when you're not carrying it.

You can pick which of the two designs you want to look at.

Finished projects. The holder took all of 5 minutes, including the time needed to punch it out of the page. Law required maybe 15, 20 minutes, mainly because of how the tabs in his hat interlace to be more or less circular. Those were a bit finicky.

The edges of Law's back weren't completely lined up for the photo. That was a simple thing to fix.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Coke Life

What you think of when you see Coca Cola with a green label?

What's your first reaction? For me, it's to see if this is a short-term campaign to introduce a new flavor. The second is to check if it's diet. At first, I thought they'd come out with green tea cola. But, no. Then I checked the label to see if it's low-calorie, or zero calorie. Again, nothing specifically identifying what's different from regular Coke. In very small print, there's a mention that it has 19 calories, and in the ingredient list there's some kind of artificial sweetener.

It's like the Coke company is ashamed of having a low-calorie product and/or is afraid that someone will figure out that they're not using real sugar. Regardless, the drink itself tastes metallic and strangely oversweet. Not recommended.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Bourbon Street Plaque

The Bourbon Street bar in Tenmonkan has changed its sign from the gray alien to a gray version of blue people.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Dai Hanya, 2015

Day 1

(Waiting to go on stage in front of Lotteria)

Dai Hanya is a major dance festival held in Kagoshima in the spring. This was the 9th annual event, which fell on April 25th and 26th. There are about 10 stages located around the city, but many of them were only used for 2-4 hours, and some for only one of the 2 days. There weren't many people at the stages in or near Tenmonkan on either day, and for Saturday the only group I caught at the first stage wasn't that good. So, I headed for the open space in front of the Lotteria. The groups there were really good, but they were backlit by the afternoon sun, and the camera recorded them too dark. I only taped the first team, but stuck around to watch 2 others.

(Flea market at Dolphin Port, with the volcano in the background.)

There were 100 teams, with over 2,000 dancers total, mainly from all parts of Kyushu, but 1 or 2 teams were from other cities farther north. Each team performed on both days, and may have danced at least twice at different stages (I don't know about that for sure, though, because there was no schedule listing who would be where at what time).

(One of the dance teams, in idol formation.)

I didn't have to work the first half of the afternoon that Saturday, so after checking the areas around Tenmonkan, which were almost deserted, or were shutting down for the day, I went down to Dolphin Port. That's where the main stage was, as well as a huge flea market event. I made a swing over to Tenmonkan Park, then up to Chuo train station before returning home to change shirts before heading in to work.

(Over at Tenmonkan Park, they were taking down the stage and loading up the Yasakoi truck.)

Direct youtube link - Day 1 sampler

Day 2

(Waiting and watching, at Dolphin Port.)

Sunday was better, but because some of the stages had overlapping times, I couldn't get to all of them. I completely missed the dances at parts of Tenmonkan and in front of the main train station just because they only lasted 2 hours and I had to prioritize my time. However, I caught some great teams at Dolphin Port again.

(Sakurajima has been spitting out ash a lot more often lately. Fortunately, the wind was blowing away from the city this time.)

(One of the scheduled half-time events was the Guree-buu promotion of Kagoshima City. I didn't stick around for this.)

The sun was brutal, and I could feel myself getting burned, so after a while I headed back to Tenmonkan. There was a wave of other teams going the way I'd just left, and I asked one group if they'd pose for me. Happily, they said yes.

The next stop was Central Park, just a couple blocks west of Tenmonkan. I passed by the Lotteria, but again the lighting was bad so I didn't try shooting video this time. There were several good teams at the Park, so I recorded them until my memory cards filled up. After that, I went home to process the videos, which took the better part of both Sunday and Monday.

I had a great time on Sunday, but things just went by too quickly. I'm feeling a big letdown now as I'm writing this up. I really hope that I can do this again next year and enjoy it a bit more.

Direct youtube link - Day 2 sampler, Part 1

Direct youtube link - Day 2 sampler, Part 2

Direct youtube link - Day 2 sampler, Part 3

Sunday also had a special stage show by the local idol group Seven Colors. I decided to record all 4 dances/songs, which I then had to group into 2 videos because of youtube's 15-minute time restriction. One of the songs was a cover of something by Momoiro Clover, and 2 were original to Seven Colors. I don't remember about the 4th one, but that was another cover.

As I was getting ready to go to bed Monday night, I got an email saying that the video Seven Colors Part 1 was being blocked because it contained copyrighted material. I guess that King Records owns the rights to one of the songs that Seven Colors sang at the end of the video, and because of that the entire file was being muted. You'd be able to see the video but there'd be no sound at all. I ended up spending another hour editing the video and re-uploading it. It wouldn't have taken so long except that Microsoft's Movie Maker screwed up and forced me to recreate the thumbnail versions of all the raw files, even though Movie Maker still had them on disk. Sigh. Anyway, you'll be able to watch Part 1 when youtube finishes processing it again, assuming that there's not another block on it...

Direct youtube link - Day 2, Seven Colors, Part 1

Direct youtube link - Day 2, Seven Colors, Part 2

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Ergo Baby

Tired of old-style, hard to operate babies? Check out the new ergo babies!