Thursday, February 22, 2018

MOS Slogan




The MOS Burger fastfood shop underwent renovations at the end of 2017. One of the updates was the display of their slogan on one of the inside walls.



"MOS BURGER stores aim to provide delicious taste, health and happiness to customers and local communities, while also serving as a place where customers can recharge themselves for tomorrow."

In other words, "Beat Starbuck's at their own game."
Don't know how successful they'll be at this, but it is true that it's getting harder to find a free table because of all the school students camped out, doing their homework over a single cup of coffee.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Panacea and Nose Glass





I eventually broke down and took photos of the Nose Glass sign, simply because the name runs counter to the idea of "eye glasses". Panacea is a "relaxation" shop - that is, they give back massages.



Nose Glass - Wear and Zakka. Of course, now I have to figure out what a "zakka" is. "雑貨" translates to "miscellaneous goods" or "sundries." I guess the place sells clothes and accessories.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Saigo Marche




I went up to Amu Plaza Friday evening to get some post-Valentine's Day desserts from the food court in the basement of the department store, and discovered that they were putting on another Saigo Takamori-themed arts and crafts event this weekend. However, this time the sponsors had markers set out for people to draw on the big inflatable Saigo.



A small sampling of the writing on Saigo's back.



I got back to Amu Plaza on Sunday.



At this point, there was a promotion going on with a bunch of the local foamhead mascots, which apparently included rock-paper-scissors contests for children for small prizes.



Some of the foamheads.





Plus the big Saigo mannequin.



One of the vendors was selling products parodying Puma and Starbucks. (Buta = pig.)



Another interpretation of Saigo.



More mascots promoting a local area trying to get more tourists. I didn't catch which city they represent, but apparently they just started using these characters one month ago. Foxes.



Otherwise, another quiet weekend overall.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Ramen Oh




Kagoshima had another of their Ramen Oh contests (King of ramen noodles) at Dolphin Port over the weekend. The idea is that 18 of the big ramen restaurants in Kyushu face off, while a nearby live stage provides entertainment. You have to buy tickets at the entrance gate, at 700 yen ($6 USD) for one bowl of ramen each. The ramen dealers have little portable kitchens set up in a long line, and you exchange your ticket at the kitchen of the restaurant of your choice for a bowl of ramen, and a token. When you're done eating you drop the token in the box of the restaurant of your choice at the voting booth. At 3-4 PM Sunday, the restaurant receiving the most tokens is announced as the new "Ramen King." I'm not that big of a ramen fan to want to spend $6-$12 for one or two small bowls of noodles unless I'm really hungry. Besides, I had 4 hours to kill between classes this time, and I intended to find a quiet coffee shop to sit down and read manga, so I saved my money for that. I just hung around Dolphin Port long enough to check the event schedule for the stage, and take a few photos for the blog.



Most of the stage events consisted of advertising for the restaurants, promotions of the Kagoshima United FC pro soccer team, and manzai comedy (Japanese slapstick comedy duos). The only real music was by Cherries Union (former members of the Cherries elementary school student jazz players), 1 BelieveFNC (a kind of AKB-48 rip-off), and NEONE & Flamingo Rouge (pictured above).



NEONE & Flamingo Rouge did j-pop. I don't know if it was covers or not, but it wasn't really anything I felt like recording. I listened to two of their songs as I flipped through the schedule booklet to see what all was going on. When I finished, I decided that I might as well try recording one song, but that's when the singer announced that they were done for the day. The next stage event was going to be a talk interview with someone from one of the local TV station shows, and I had no interest in that.



The portable ramen kitchens. Things were kind of unbalanced - the lines for ramen were longest for booths 1 and 18, and nonexistent for all the other competitors inbetween.



Ramen Kokoro had the best-looking manga-influenced artwork.



We had rain on Friday, but perfect weather on Saturday and Sunday. The volcano was quiet, too. For the moment...

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Feb. 17, 2018




The last few weeks have been boring, event-wise. I've spent most of my time catching up on stuff that I hadn't been able to get to during January because of work. However, things did pick up a little this last weekend.



On Saturday, as I walking in to the school, there was a parade of local foamhead mascots through Tenmonkan. I'm thinking this is kind of a regular event for promoting the shops between Lotteria and 7-11, although I've only seen it happen a couple of times in the last year. But, on Saturdays, a bunch of tables get set up in the arcade in front of 7-11 for selling various jewelry, arts and crafts, and there's a jump room for small children. The parade ended in that arcade at the 7-11, where a lot of parents tried to get photos taken with their children and the mascots. The Kyocera Hotel robot is new.

Play and Art Marche


On Friday, one of my students told me there was going to be an event on the lawn in front of the Volunteer Center. I had a class on Saturday from 2 to 3 PM, and wasn't able to get to the VC until just after 3, when things were just wrapping up.



For the most part, it seems to have been a mix of food booths and art activities for children.



When I arrived, there was some kind of drum dance going on, with 3 people on stage wearing what looked like indigenous costumes from different cultures, and 10-20 people dancing. Naturally, everything ended before I could get close enough to take photos.



One of the dance groups posed for photos at the end. I'm assuming the foreigner in the front row is an English teacher at one of the high schools, but I didn't talk to him, so I don't know for sure. In the background, at the upper right edge of the photo, is some kind of foamhead mascot. I tried getting a shot of that one, but he disappeared in one of the art booths and started taking off his costume before I had a chance.



Some of the artwork created at the event.



This silkscreen looks like something inspired by Roger Penrose's asymmetric tiling examples. Not exactly mathematical, but close enough for jazz.



They had rope running between the trees around the perimeter of the front lawn, with t-shirts hanging from the ropes. The shirts seemed to have random designs on them, but the ones in front of the building on the second floor spell out "Asobu to a-to no Marushe" (play and art marche).

Because the event was ending already, I just hung around long enough to take some photos, then I went down to Dolphin Port to check out the ramen contest there. After that, I found a quiet spot in one of the Tully's coffee shops in Tenmonkan to read manga and kill time until my 8 PM English class at the school. Then I went home, had dinner, and read online comics before crashing at 2 AM.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Shirodon Bus Artwork




Shirokuma (white/polar bear) is a popular brand of shaved ice dessert made in Kagoshima.



Shirodon is a play on Shirokuma, and Sego-don (the nickname for local legend Saigo Takamori). He's being used as part of the event activities and tourism advertising tied to the 150th anniversary of the start of the Meiji Restoration.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Nobunagan, vol. 2



(All rights belong to their owners. Image from Amazon for review purposes only.)

Nobunaga, vol. 2, Masato Hisa. Grade: A-
This review is going to mark a first for me. Up to now, I've included scans of a few sample pages of each manga to give readers a feel for how good the artwork is, or isn't, in a particular title to allow them to better decide whether they want to buy the manga for themselves. Unfortunately, this no longer seems to be wise. So I'm not going to post scans at all, and will just link to Amazon.jp for the cover. I apologize if this is not a very satisfying solution, but at least I think that story summaries are still allowed.

I'm also going to change things around here a little bit, in that the E-gene holders (those people that can activate the powers of famous dead people) are becoming more plentiful in volume 2, and I want to start by listing the ones we know so far. Then, because Nobunagun is basically just an action manga with little real plot, I'll give more of a summary highlight than a blow-for-blow recap.

E-gene holders:
Nobunaga (operator: Shio Ogura, v1, attack type): Oda Nobunaga is one of Japan's best-known war lords. Shio is a school girl that loves military weapons. She's shy and unassuming, but fiercely loyal to people she calls "friends". The Nobuna-gun is a massive energy cannon with incredible fire power, but is bulky, hard to aim, and has a nasty recoil. In a pinch, Shio can also wield a smaller handgun, and a ponytail pistol. As the story unfolds, Shio also exhibits a strong tactical sense in anticipating how the enemy is to going to behave in certain situations.

Jack the Ripper (operator: Adam Muirhead, v1, attack type): Ripper is essentially a large knife that encases the wielder's arm, and can cut through most objects. Adam is a young man with a reckless streak. He's not particularly friendly, but he's one of the few people in D.O.G.O.O. willing to look out for Shio, and has some level of faith in her. Adam is the leader of Team 2, which includes Shio, Mahesh and Jess.

Galileo (operator: unknown, v1, support type): Galileo the E-gene is a large capsule that kind of looks like a cross between a Dalek and R2-D2. Actually, it's a caricature of the Tower of Pisa, and is accompanied by a little moon-like drone camera named Europa. Galileo's holder is a small girl, maybe in her teens, with long red hair (shown on the cover of vol. 2). Galileo can observe distant events, make recordings, and provide probabilities of certain event outcomes. The E-gene holder has a crush on Vidocq.

Gandhi (operator: Mahesh Mirza, v1, defense type): Mahesh is a greasy-slick guy, maybe in his mid- to late-20's, with slicked-back black hair. Gandhi manifests as a brick wall with hands, and can create a large force barrier. Mahesh is a womanizer who tries to hit on Shio. As Mahesh is quick to point out, most of the E-gene holders are nothing like their namesakes.

Newton (operator: Jess Beckham, v1, defense/attack type): Jess is a tall, masculine-looking woman with long hair pulled back into two braided ponytails. She's kind of a sadistic character, who will try to seduce anything that walks. She french kisses both Vidocq and Shio on arrival at their base ship after a major battle. In battle she hates to be given orders. Newton manifests as a pair of megaton boots, that can either be used for pinning an enemy to allow someone else to attack it, or for simply squishing stuff.

John Hunter (operator: unknown, v2, analysis type): Hunter is a surgeon who lived from 1728 to 1793. His operator is a guy roughly in his thirties, gruff, with a goatee. Hunter manifests as a big pair of mechanical-looking pincers that contain a variety of scalpels and other blades. Initially, his job is just dissecting the Evolutionary Invasion Objects (EIO) to see how they work, but he does operate on Galileo to save her eye after she is injured.

Vidocq (operator: unknown, v2, analysis type): Eugene Francois Vidocq (1775-1857) was a former criminal in France who turned into a criminal investigator, and was the founder and first director of the crime-detection Surete Nationale, as well as the head of the world's first known private detective agency. His operator is a young, very handsome man who is clever, but possibly too-focused. Vidocq is a big mechanical-looking chair in the shape of a large microscope. He analyzes data gathered by Galileo, and assists Iyo and Dogoo in developing strategies for combating the EIO.

Dai Zong (in the manga, pronounced "Tai Sou") (operator: unknown, v2, support type): Dai Zong is a mythical character from the "Water Margin", a Chinese novel apparently written some time in the 1300's A.D. Dai Zong is nicknamed the "magic traveler." His operator is a fat Asian variant of Elvis (which is funny, given that Dai is described as a very lean man), Dai Zong manifests as a pair of enhanced carbon-fiber like legs used by paraplegics, and which allows his E-gene holder to run on water.

Geronimo (operator: unknown, v2, attack type): Geronimo is the famous Apache medicine man and leader. As a weapon, he manifests as a giant axe or tomahawk that completely encloses the arm of his E-gene holder. This holder is shown in volume 2 as always wearing the E-suit, which only lets us see their face. This holder's face is rather boyish, with big dark eyes, and short dark hair. But, they also have a kind of feminine check mark at the outer sides of their eyes. Suuho keeps calling Geronimo "Princess", so maybe the E-holder is female with a flat chest. Or, maybe not. In either case, Geronimo appears to be the leader of Team 1, which includes Suuho and Gaudi.

Suuho (operator: unknown, v2, support type): Suuho, also identified in romaji as Cyx, is a young boy from the Mongolian legend Suuho's White Horse. His E-gene holder is a pudgy-faced woman with short wavy hair, and who always wears goggles. Suuho manifests as a tank-tredded motorcycle. She often refers to Geronimo as "Hime" (princess).

Gaudi (operator: unknown, v2, defense type): Antoni Gaudi (1852-1926) was a Modernist artist and architect from Catalonia, Spain. He is known for Casa Battlo, Casa Mila and Sagrada Familia. His E-gene holder is an intense-looking young boy with big eyebrows and bushy hair. Gaudi manifests as a big glove with fingers in the shape of the Sagrada towers. His ability is to shape rock to create bridges, walls and barriers.

Robert Capa (operator: unknown, v1, support type): Capa was a war photographer and photojournalist, and possibly "the greatest combat and adventure photographer in history." Capa's E-holder is a sukebe old man stuck in a wheelchair, able to make energy clones of people for training purposes. Capa manifests as a movie camera-like energy gun. His main purpose in volume 1 is to just assess Shio's abilities, and to try to get her to react faster with the Nobuna-gun. He doesn't really appear much in volume 2, outside of being teamed up with Newton prior to the big battle for vol. 3.

Non-holders:
Kaoru Asao - One of Shio's classmates, and the first person who really treated her as a friend.

Dogoo - A tall alien figure that resembles an ancient Jomon-era statue. Its planet was destroyed by EIO, and it's come to Earth to prevent a similar fate from happening here. Dogoo has collected the genetic material of various famous people in our past, and has injected it in others as a way of protecting those genes from deterioration over time until they're needed. Dogoo acts as an adviser to the E-holders from inside its life support tube.

Iyo (壱与) - Iyo isn't an E-gene holder per se, but she has been given life-extending powers by Dogoo in some form. She's at least 700 years old (we see her in vol. 2 as a young woman, some years after they first met, as Dogoo collects the blood of Christopher Columbus in 1492). In the present day, she's an aged crone, and human commander of the D.O.G.O.O. organization. Historically, Iyo is suspected to be the last queen of Japan at the end of the Yayoi period (248 A.D.), but according to the English wiki article, there's some belief that "Iyo" is a misspelling of "Toyo," otherwise there's very little on her in English.

EIO - Evolutionary Invasion Objects. These are the enemy. Initially, they're fish-based, but by volume two they start evolving to include insect-type monsters. There are different levels, from the smaller melee creatures, all the way up to behemoths. Many of them can self-destruct, and the behemoths can take out whole cities when they blow up.

Craft:
Alex Logan: Air base. Reference uncertain. Maybe someone related to Jesse Ventura?

George Atsumi: Air base. Reference uncertain. Maybe a singer?

Steven Hiller: Air base. The name of Will Smith's character in Independence Day.

Clayton Forester: Battleship. The name of one of the characters in MST3K.

E. Ripley: Battleship. While the above craft have the full names spelled out in katakana, the Ripley is just identified as "E.Ripley." Assuming that it's named after the main character in the Alien movies, "E." probably stands for "Ellen."

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Ok, the story. Shio starts out working as kind of a freelancer, shooting EIO's as the D.O.G.O.O. organization locates them. Along the way, Ripper slices up one EIO that Hunter dissects to see how the monsters work. Vidocq, the analyst, had noticed something during the battle in Taiwan, and it's not confirmed by the dissection. So, Iyo orders Shio to kill another large EIO, with Galileo observing and Dai Zong on hand for recovery. Shio shoots the monster, which then ejects a bunch of eggs before dying. Galileo identifies one specific egg, which Dai Zong (while racing on top of the ocean water) retrieves. The egg contains a thing that kind of looks like a spiky suction cup sea horse. Vidocq speculates that this is one way the monsters procreate - firing off creature eggs that get swallowed by fish and then carried around the world. The problem is that the current monsters are showing up in Florida, and there's no normal way for them to have gotten there from Taiwan so quickly, unless there was an underwater tunnel running beneath Costa Rica connecting the Pacific to the Atlantic.

After finishing their mission, Team 2, which now includes Shio, is assigned to the A. Logan, where Jess (Newton) proceeds to french kiss both Adam (Ripper) and Shio. Shio and Mahesh go below decks, and while Shio is still in shock (and suffering from blood loss from a major nosebleed), Mahesh tries to seduce her as well. During this time, Team 1 has been dispatched to explore the Costa Rica coastline, with Galileo guiding them from the main ship, the Forrester. They locate a cave entrance, and Geronimo and Suuho go inside, while Gaudi waits outside. Geronimo locates a cavern filed with bugs, then senses an approaching monster. Suuho switches to bike form and they race out of the tunnel, pursued by a giant squid or octopus, although it might be safer to call it a Kraken. An alarm is sent out on the Logan to go to battle stations, saving Shio from Mahesh at the last moment. The Kraken captures Galileo's camera drone, Europa, and squeezes it, causing Galileo's goggles to explode, injuring her left eye. Vidocq orders her to keep observing, which she does. Fortunately, Ripper arrives at the battle site, slicing off the monster's tentacle and rescuing Europa. Galileo's holder is able to eject from her observation mecha, and John Hunter rushes her to sick bay for surgery.

Teams 1 and 2 are ordered to fight the Kraken monster, and they are assigned to one claw arm each. As they engage the enemy, things seem to flow pretty easily. Eventually, though, Shio notices that the two teams are gradually getting farther and farther apart, leaving the Forrester exposed. She tries to draw Newton's and Gandhi's attentions to the situation, but both holders just snap at her angrily, and she remembers how they'd just been treating her. Suddenly, the Kraken spits out a huge bomb fish at the Forrester. The ship's captain says that there's no time to evade the bomb, and Iyo just stands stoically on deck. That's when Shio shows up and shoots the Forrester with the Nobuna-gun. The shot blows a major hole in the broadside of the ship, just before the bomb fish reaches the ship and passes harmlessly by. When it does detonate, it's safely out in open water. But, a piece of metal gets kicked back and hits Shio in the head, knocking her out. Iyo tells both teams to return to the ship, as Shio lies unconscious in the water.

Shio and Galileo recover in a hospital in Costa Rica, but Galileo remains unconscious. When Shio wakes up, she's visited by Adam/Ripper. He says that he'd been interested in her for a while now, and she panics thinking she's going to be harassed again. However, Adam wants to know how she'd anticipated the bomb fish attack. A little later, she's dressed and accompanies Adam to the war room, where a number of generals are arguing with Iyo and Vidocq about what the latter has discovered. Initially, the EIOs just took the shapes of fish, but Geronimo's team found insect-like EIO's in the cavern under Costa Rica. That indicates that the things are evolving, and they're possibly changing tactics to make land-based attacks now. Shio interrupts them to say that they've got the EIO's plans all wrong. The generals glare at her, and she almost runs away out of fear and embarrassment, but she remembers the photo of her and Kaoru Asao on her smartphone, and she forges ahead. She states that the Kraken is sitting in the cave entrance as a decoy, and the insects are going to tunnel up the spine of Costa Rica to emerge in the middle of the country for a full-blown invasion. The other generals are outraged at the upstart wasting their time like this, but Vidocq is kicking himself at overlooking this possibility. He asks for Shio's/Nobunaga's advice, and the next battle plan is hatched. Capa and Newton are paired up at Nicaragua Bay. Gaudi, Geronimo, Ripper and Hunter are sent to the town of Upala (which is evacuated). And Gandhi and Suuho are staked out in the jungle 3 km outside Upala. The volume ends with Shio preparing to take on the Kraken by herself, backed by a wall of tanks.

Summary: This is a fun, wild ride. The artwork is great, the monsters are highly detailed, the characters are off the wall, and the battle sequences are kick-ass. There's no real plot, just a bunch of fighting against space monsters. But it's still a challenging read because of all the strategizing and tacticsating. Recommended.