Sunday, September 30, 2007

Short Stories: Alive, Not Well

What Ails the Short Story - Stephen King - Books - Review - New York Times

Being one of the charter members of the Sesame Street generation, I've grown up with the short attention span endemic to one exposed to faster and faster TV editing.  Thus, I've always enjoyed the short story as one of my favorite literary vehicles.  I think genre fiction (science fiction, fantasy, mystery and horror) in particular benefits from the short form:  there are many clever ideas that will support a short tale and a punchline, but that cannot be developed far enough to support a whole novel.

In this New York Times article, Stephen King -- the editor of the 2007 BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES, and a fellow who knows something about genre fiction -- describes the limited marketing and availability of short stories today; and the resulting inbred, airless nature of many such stories.  (Stories from my relatives excluded, of course.)  The problem he describes -- the "bottom shelf" nature of short story magazines -- has probably been an issue in genre fiction ever since the surviving pulps mutated from 8 1/2 by 11 broadsides into digest-sized periodicals that are still carried in supermarkets and drug stores -- albeit on the shortest shelf in the store, just above the ant traps and the rat poison.

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Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Deepressing [sic] Search

Before our trip to Japan in late August and early September, I set myself three goals. The first was to score a legal, Region 2 copy of GEDO SENKAI, the anime adaptation of Ursula LeGuin's Earthsea novels produced by Studio Ghibli, which for licensing reasons won't be released in the US for a few years. Done; I picked it up in the dealer's room at Worldcon. The second was to buy a new digital camera in Akihibara. Done.

The third was to find a can of Deepresso. As I've blogged earlier, Deepresso is a canned coffee drink sold through Coca-Cola's Georgia brand. The name is so hilarious that I had to have a can for my own.
Things looked promising when we landed at Narita Airport. As I walked down the arrivals lobby, headed for a restroom, I saw a vending machine with a can of Deepresso. At the time, I hadn't had time to break any of the Japanese bills I'd brought with me into the coins required for a vending machine, so I didn't buy it. No problem, I thought; I should have no problem finding it in Japan, land of convenience stores and vending machines.

You can probably see where this is going.

Suffice it to say that both Amy and I searched every 7-11, AM-PM, Family Mart, Lawson's, Daily Hot, and independent convenience store and deli we came across in Yokohama and Tokyo; and a myriad of vending machines. We even checked vending machines devoted to Coca-Cola products; and the Coca-cola merchandise store and fountain on Takeshita Street in Harajuku.

No Deepresso.

Our last shot was the Narita Airport on our return trip. We had some time between check-in and boarding, so we returned to the same lobby where I spotted Deepresso almost two weeks before.

We found ourselves on the opposite side of the terminal from the vending machine where I had spotted the caffienated elixer. I asked Amy to wait while I ran over there (wearing a heavy backpack) and checked it out.

She insisted on coming with. "I've looked all over Japan for this stuff," she said. "I want to see it!"

So we trekked over to the machine. No Deepresso.

On the way back, Amy finally spotted a lone vending machine with Deepresso proudly displayed in it. She took my picture pointing to it.

Then I fed in 120 yen in coins, and pressed the button for the drink, anticipating the bittersweet ambrosia that would soon be sliding down my throat.

A red light appeared below the button.

It was sold out.

Deepressing indeed.

Ramble On

If it's fall, that means I'm going out and speaking to people about what I do to put green tea on the table -- law.

A little over a week ago, I and one of my law partners lectured about public entity law in Harrah's Lake Tahoe. The organizers apparently expected a few people, so they put us in the South Shore room on the casino floor. I thus trod the boards on the stage where sixties rock bands play when they do Harrah's. In fact, Paul Anka was scheduled to sing there a few days later. (No word on whether he'd discuss the non-application of qualified immunity to Bane Act causes of action.)

Next month, I'll be one of the speakers at a Continuing Education of the Bar seminar on government tort law. My job: educate; illuminate; and keep them awake.

God Save This Honorable Court

Poof! ‘God’ Answers Suit, Asserts Lack of Jurisdiction | ABA Journal - Law News Now

From the ABA Journal's Webpage comes this story of litigation against the Almighty. 

To show how easy it is to sue anyone, Nebraska state senator Ernie Chambers filed suit in Douglas County Superior Court in Omaha against God.

A few days later, two answers were filed on behalf of the Defendant.  One was filed by a Corpus Christi law office.  According to the court clerk, the other simply appeared -- "Poof!" -- on the filing counter.

The answer that appeared pleads logical defenses.  It denies responsibility for mankind's sufferings, citing free will.  It asserts lack of proper service.  And, naturally, it pleads Souvereign immunity.

In my opinion, this conclusively proves that, contrary to popular belief, there are lawyers in Heaven.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Geneon No More?

Geneon USA to Cancel DVD Sales, Distribution by Friday - Anime News Network

Geneon USA, a Japanese-owned company that sells dubbed and subtitled DVDS of Japanese animation, has announced that as of Friday it "is ceasing the sales of all DVDs and all related distribution and marketing operations . . . ."No matter how you slice it, this is bad news. Geneon is one of the major anime sellers/distributors in the US. Further, its Japanese branch (which, to our knowledge, is still functioning) puts together the HELLSING ULTIMATE original animation video series, which of course Amy loves dearly. HELLSING ULTIMATE reportedly would not have been made but for the American market for HELLSING, where the property is more popular than in Japan.As reported on Don Burr's blog (see link at right), Geneon and another DVD seller, ADV, had planned a sales and distribution alliance that fell through at the last minute. Alas, by that time Geneon had laid off 20% of its staff in anticipation of the alliance. The compnay has thus been gutted.Possiblities include Geneon hiring a new staff and carrying on; subcontracting its production to other companies; licensing its properties out; or simply selling them. Its top-selling titles (including HELLSING ULTIMATE) are likely too valuable to allow to simply drift off the market.

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Big in Japan

Topics Board
Here's a photo of me from the home page of Masashi Watanabe, taken on the first day of Worldcon last month. Mr. Watanabe sat next to us at the Young King Manga Artists' Panel. He was a big help, because the panel was conducted in Japanese, without a translator, and Mr. Watanabe speaks excellent English. I won the sketch (by Monma-sensei -- I'm afraid I don't know his given name) by prevailing in multiple rock-paper-scissors matches, includinga one-on-one with a Japanese fan.
The katakana above the cat-Enterprise says, "Nyaaa," which is the Japanese equivalent of "meowww."
Mr. Watanabe sells figures, scale models and toys on his Website at Click on the "Topics Board" link for tons of beautiful photos he took at Worldcon, many with captions in English.
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Happy Birthday, Dad!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Heroes All

On Friday, I finished watching the first season of HEROES. My viewing encompassed a startling array of media. I started watching episodes in real-time on HDTV. I fell behind, and started recording episodes on the DVR in hi-def. Those took up a lot of room, so I started recording the episodes on DVD, using the one-hour timer on the DVD recorder. The episodes looked great on playback; but unfortunately, each episode ran a little more than one hour. Result: the ends of the episodes were clipped off. For a show that often put startling twists into the last few seconds, that was a fatal flaw. So I downloaded the last seven episodes from iTunes (quickly, before NBC pulls its programming from iTunes) and downloaded them onto my iPod. I watched episodes both going to and coming from Japan; and watched others by hooking up the iPod to various TVs in the house.

Today, I bought the DVD set at Costco, so I can avoid all the hassles (and so that Amy can catch up on the series).

Is the series worth all this? Yes. This is the type of series that was practically made for me. It's a collaboration between a show creator (Tim Kring) who knew little about comics, and other creative folks (such as comics/TV writer Jeph Loeb) who are steeped in comics. There were so many wonderful touches -- the artwork by Seattle native comics artist Tim Sale (Isaac's art) and DAREDEVIL/ALIAS artist Alex Maleev (for another character's art -- I won't give it away); the cameo by Stan Lee as a bus driver; the use of genre veterans George Takei, Richard Roundtree, Malcolm McDowell, and Eric Roberts; Kirby Plaza (named after the King of Comics, Jack Kirby); and most of all, otaku hero Hiro Nakamura (who compares his time-space teleportation powers to the "Days of Future Past" storyline in X-MEN) and his Sancho Panza, Ando. (The actor who plays Hiro, Masi Oka, truly deserved the Emmy he was nominated for but didn't get for the episode FIVE YEARS GONE, in which he portrays both his optimistic current self and his hard-bitten, corroded possible future self.)

Further, the series managed to be both complex (weaving the characters and plotlines together in often startling ways) and easy to follow. Kudos to the producers for setting up several mini-arcs that come to definite resolutions during the season, rather than simply stringing out endless mysteries without resolving them.

One aspect of the show, however, that sometimes took me out of the story was the use of familiar locations. A scene supposedly set on a Japanese street was actually filmed at Astronaut Ellison Onizuka Plaza in LA's Little Tokyo. (The space shuttle sculpture was a dead giveaway.) And what was supposed to be a Texas airport lobby in one episode was plainly the lobby of the Long Beach Convention Center -- evident from its unique fish-scale wall and swirling-ocean carpeting. One of the perils of living in LA: recognizing locations.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Fast Track: The Trailer

A Writer's Life: Fast Track Trailer

Here's a link to the trailer for FAST TRACK: NO LIMITS, the European pilot about illegal street racing that my cousin Lee Goldberg wrote and produced.

You can tell it's a European series -- not only from the Berlin locations, but from the young woman who signals the start to a race by ripping off her bikini top.

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Ditko, Ditko Doc » Blog Archive » In Search of Steve Ditko

I posted below about Jonathon Ross's documentary for BBC4, IN SEARCH OF STEVE DITKO.  Well, it's up on YouTube (totally unauthorized, I'm sure), and Colleen Doran has posted it on her blog.  This might be morally ambiguous, and so objectivist Ditko might disapprove; but catch the documentary before it gets yanked.  (I can only hope it will come out on video.)

Featuring guest appearances by Ayn Rand, Stan Lee, Neil Gaiman (NOT kissing Ross this time), Alan Moore (and his beard!), Ralph Macchio, John Romita, Joe Quesada, and lots and lots of beautiful artwork.

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Monday, September 17, 2007

Pop-up Video

news from me - ARCHIVES

On his blog, Mark Evanier runs the full one-minute version of the best commercial ever made for suckers:  The 1969 Tootsie-Pop animated ad.  As Mark points out, this ad is still running almost 40 years later -- albeit truncated to a mere hint of itself. 

How far down can it be cut?  The world may never know . . . .

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Saturday, September 15, 2007

Sunny September Saturday

On Saturday morning, the sun was bright and the weather in the 70's -- perfect weather for a beach bike ride. So I rode out to Venice Beach. Amy met me there, and we had breakfast at the Venice Sidewalk cafe. I had thought that because summer was nearing an end, there'd be fewer people there -- but no, the boardwalk was full of (often strange) humanity. Fortunately, I also gave my new camera a ride there.

The Looting of Japan

One of our traditions after taking a trip to Japan (all two of them) is to spread out on our bed the loot we bought, and take a picture of it. This time, one picture couldn't take it all in.

Hence our hallowed vacation battle-cry:

"Quick! Let's buy more crap!"

Ditko Doc

Jonathon Ross, the Brit entertainer who snogged Neil Gaiman at July's Eisner awards, is premiering a documentary tomorrow on BBC4 about legendary comics creator Steve Ditko. Ditko is one of the three architects (along with Stan Lee and Jack Kirby) of the Marvel Universe. He is best known for co-creating Spider-Man. (Marvel's current position is that Stan Lee is the creator of Spidey; but since Ditko designed the character's visuals, came up with the idea for a mask that hid his face entirely, came up with the wrist-mounted webshooters, formulated Spider-man's unique vocabulary of movement, drew the first 38 issues of the comic, and plotted or co-plotted most of them, I think he can be safely credited as co-creator.)

The documentary won't be available on American TV; but Ross's article in The Guardian (follow the link) makes me wish it was. I hope it comes out on video in the future.

Ponjya -mick

"Excuse me," the Japanese man asked in English. "Can I ask you a question?"

We were walking down the street from our hotel in Ikebukuro, Tokyo on the next to last night of our Japan visit. The man buttonholed us as we passed in front of the Sunshine Cinema.

"Yes," I said warily. I recalled the folks in Yokohama who had asked me for money for earthquake relief.

"What does ponjya-mick mean?"

"Could you repeat that?"


"I'm sorry, I don't know that . . . ."

"Pandemic?" Amy suggested.

"Oh, pandemic!" I said. "That's a disease that spreads all over."

"Thank you," said the man.

"Why do you ask?" I said.

"It's the name of a movie over there," he replied.

I looked over at the cinema. Indeed, the Japanese title of the Japanese/American sequel to "Ju-On" (known over here as "The Grudge") was entitled -- in phonetic Katakana -- "Pandemic."

That's the problem with foreign movie titles: unclear phonetics.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Manga Fan to Take Over Japan?

Manga Fan Tarō Asō is a Frontrunner to Lead Japan (Updated) - Anime News Network

The Prime Minister of Japan has resigned, and Japanese stocks plummeted on the news -- with a few noteable exceptions.  Stock in Mandarake (covered in a previous blog post) rose 12.95%; and shares of Broccoli (owner of the Gamers chain of anime and manga stores) soared 71%.

Why?  Because a frontrunner to replace the PM, Tarō Asō, is a huge manga and anime fan.  Unfortunately -- as manga creator Kouta Hirano pointed out at a panel during Anime Vegas last year -- he is also known as a jingoist, and as extremely conservative.  It remains to be seen whether the Liberal Democratic Party will cater to otaku voters and elect Asō to the office.

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Sunday, September 09, 2007

Japan 2007: The Final Two Days

On Friday, we spent the morning in our hotel room. The typhoon had blown through Tokyo in the early morning hours, leaving both clear skies and a wild wind whipping through the city streets. But because of reports that rail service had been disrupted, we opted to spend our last full day in Ikebukuro.

The effects of the winds (shown in one of my previous posts) were evident on the buildings around our hotel. The first "a" on the "animate" building sign was clearly damaged.

Amy explored "Kinkado By Hand," a crafts store that included quilting patterns and supplies. I, meanwhile, set off for some of the remaining anime/manga stores in the neighborhood (of which there are several) that we hadn't yet visited.

Both Ikebukuro and Akihibara have tons of anime and manga stores. The primary demarcation, according to our guide from Tuesday's tour, is that Akiba mainly appeals to boys, and Ikebukuro to girls. That was evident when I visited Mandarake in Ikebukuro.

Mandarake specializes in doujinshi. Doujinshi are creator-published comics. Some feature original characters; some are based on Western properties, such as Harry Potter and the Lord of the Rings; but most are unauthorized manga versions of copyrighted anime and manga characters. Further, many (not all) of them envision romances between the characters. Now, such fan-created fiction also exists in the US, and has flourished on the Internet. But doujinshi are sold for profit. Indeed, some creators make a living from selling them. And they are not sold quietly. Mandarake had racks and racks of them, organized by subject matter; and was stuffed with female fans buying and reselling them by the bushel. Further, Comic Market -- a twice-yearly event in Japan -- is attended by hundreds of thousands of folks who come principally to buy and sell doujinshi. The idea of an unlicensed, fan-produced, adults-only X-Men, Batman, or Star Wars comic book being sold openly in the US, in numbers high enough to be profitable, beggars the imagination. Yet in Japan, it's reality.

As noted, the customers at the Ikebukuro Mandarake were almost entirely female; and the doujinshi tended primarily (according to the covers I saw) toward stuff appealing to those customers. On the other hand, one of the many storefronts of K-Books, a block away, featured doujinshi aimed almost entirely at male customers.

Other K-Books storefronts had tons of remaindered and used anime dvds and premium goods. In one of them, I scored my favorite acquisition of this trip: A complete set of dvds of the first season of CAT'S EYE, packaged with a memo pad set, a mouse pad, and the first part of a paper version of the larcenous ladies' coffee shop. (One apparently gets the second part by buying the second season box set.) As the photos show, the paper coffee shop's interior is quite detailed; they include all of the house's bathrooms.

I got the box for less than half of the retail price. I may never open the box, or put together the paper house; but having it is cool enough.

On Saturday morning, the sky was the clearest it had been during our trip.

We checked out and stored our baggage with the hotel. We then set out on our last Tokyo field trip. We had heard that on weekends (primarily Sundays) teenagers in costumes flocked to Harajuku. We therefore hopped a train over there. Although it was Saturday (with some schools in session), and blazing hot, we managed to find a few dedicated cosplayers in front of the Meiji shrine.

We then took the train back. Our last trip through Ikebukuro confirmed that the Japanese merchandising industry was putting its full, awesome strength behind the Evangelion franchise. Not only did a pachinko parlor, across the street from the theater playing the Evangelion movie, blast the TV series opening theme into the street over and over again (I'm sure the workers there are thoroughly sick of it), but department stores had opened "Evangelion Stores" where they sold models, t-shirts, plastic figures, designer ties, yukatas with Eva prints, and, yes, Evangelion Doritos, coffee and cookies.

After we got back to our hotel, we took the limousine bus to the airport, and winged our way back to the states. As usual, the long flight passed surprisingly fast. I watched the third "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie (which, on a tiny screen, was probably far less impressive than it was meant to be), read half of a GHOST IN THE SHELL manga collection which I had purchased during our last trip to Japan, and edited a chapter of the law book manuscript I'm working on.

We managed to slog our way back to our house, using a hard-of-hearing cabbie. (I told him as we left the airport that I was going to pay by credit card. When we got to our house, and I pulled out the card, he yelled at me, "Why didn't you tell me that at the beginning?") At that point, although we had left Japan at 5:25 pm Saturday, it was 12:30 pm Saturday. We had traveled back in time. We took the extra hours given us to sleep.

A Japanese Perspective on the Japanese Worldcon : Weekend Beat: When science-fiction worlds collide - ENGLISH

Here's an article about the Worldcon we attended, from an english-language Japanese newspaper.

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Jim Shooter Returns to Legion of Superheroes


Forty-one years ago, a fourteen-year-old named Jim Shooter made comic-book history as a teenager writing the adventures of teenagers -- specifically, DC's far-future team series THE LEGION OF SUPERHEROES.  The concepts Shooter created are still making money for DC; the recent animated incarnations of the Legion, in the JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED series and in their own Sat-AM series, have used Shooter's characters heavily.  Shooter returned to the title in the early '70's; then left for a controversial career, including a run as Marvel's editor-in-chief in the late '70's through the mid-'80's; and a couple of comics line start-ups at other companies, with varying success.

Now, a 50-something Shooter is returning to his roots.  He will begin writing the current version of the LEGION with issue #37.

The Legion has been a tough book to handle.  It has been through numerous "re-boots" in the last couple of decades.  The most recent version, written by ace comics writer Mark Waid, started out engrossing, then lost me after about 10 issues.  The animated series shows that the concept of a bunch of super-powered teenagers in their own law-enforcement club retains great potential for fun entertainment.  Let's see if Shooter can meet that potential.

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Brutus v. Bluto


Amidst the myriad troubles and tribulations of this early 21st century world, it's good to take some time out for the really important things in life.  Such as the difference between the two incarnations of Popeye's arch-nemesis:  Bluto and Brutus.

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Thursday, September 06, 2007

Tokyo Typhoon!

It sounds like the punchline for a joke: "How was your vacation?" "Fine, other than the typhoon."

Yes, a typhoon hit Tokyo this morning. Yet at present, the sun is actually visible behind the clouds, as the tropical cyclone spins its way north toward Hokkaido.

The winds are still pretty fast, and train service was disrupted, so we'll scratch Tokyo Tower today. But the storm's biggest impact on us was last night, when heavy rain and winds preceded the typhoon. We saw the cheap white plastic umbrellas, popular with commuters here, smashed and torn and littered across streets. The storm dashed rain against the windows in the early morning, but otherwise, knock wood, we're not affected.

Tokyo Day 4: Harajuku is Full of Crepes

This morning we slept in, relieved of any deadlines or obligations for the day. After hitting the Sunshine City mall for brunch (curry), we boarded the train for Harajuku, the fashion capital of Tokyo.

On the way, we exited at Shinjuku station, so I could take pictures of the train station. The station is renowned among fans of the CITY HUNTER manga and anime series as the means of contacting the title character. There used to be a message chalkboard in the station; and someone who wanted to hire City Hunter would write the code "XYZ" -- meaning the last resort -- on the board. The recent sequel series, ANGEL HEART, pointed out that because of cell phones, the chalkboard had been phased out. And, to my disappointment, I discovered that another landmark of the series, the huge sign on the station's east side reading "MY CITY" (the name of the mall in which the station is located) was no more. The name of the mall was changed to "Lumiere Est." (I found this out from a barista at the nearby Starbucks, after we walked around the station trying to find the sign.)

We got back on the train, got off at Shinjuku station, then walked down Takeshita Street, a collection of funky clothing shops (lots of rock, punk, "gothic lolita" and similar young folks stuff), fast food restaurants, and lots and lots of crepe stands. (The crepe seems to be the food of choice of young Tokyo fashionistas.)

We then walked a block over to Omotesando, the other side of the fashion equation. It was chock-full of high-end fashion shops, reminiscent of Beverly Hills. It also featured Kiddyland, a terrific multi-story toy store with a great collection of Disney, Peanuts, and anime merchandise.

My one clothing purchase was a motorman's cap. We glimpsed the open door of a hat shop, and walked down the stairs of the shop. The stairway turned out to be the entire shop; the display shelves lined the stairs, and at the bottom the floor was only large enough for the sales counter and one customer. I picked up several hats, then finally found a dark flannel -wool blend hat, made by Kangol, and placed it on my head. I turned to the young sales woman behind the counter. She glanced at the hat on my head, and gave me a thumbs up. That was all I needed.

After dinner at a steak fast-food chain outlet on Takeshita, we took the train to Shibuya. I was intent on walking around the station to see the sights.

Unfortunately, the rain and wind grew heavier and heavier as we strolled. Eventually we got the hint. We took the train back to Ikebukuro. On the way, the screens in the train indicated that some Japan Railway lines (including the Chuou line, which we took yesterday) were suspended due to "typhoon." When we got back to the Ikebukuro station, the rain was cascading down. We swam back to our hotel.

Tomorrow -- hopefully -- Tokyo Tower.

Our latest photos can be found here.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Tokyo 2007: "Bye-bye, Robot-san!"

Yesterday's weather in Tokyo was quite Hawaii-like -- apparently typical of the monsoon season. The sun was out as we walked to Cafe Momonga for breakfast. As we sat savoring our thick toast, the rain started. And started getting heavy. And then started sheeting off the sidewalk and rising in a mist of smashed raindrops. And then lightened. And then stopped. Within the space of about an hour. We just ordered extra cups of tea and waited out the weather.

That day, we took the train to the Studio Ghibli Museum in Mitaka -- a must-visit for any anime fan; and a heavily-visited one, judging from the capacity crowds we saw on a Wednesday afternoon.

This trip, like the previous day's visit to Akihibara, was partially designed to redress an injustice during our 2004 Japanese vacation: When we visited the museum that time, the tour guide gave us just one hour to look at the museum -- the result of both the traffic jams encountered driving through Tokyo, and of three members of the tour who wanted to go to a concert later that evening. (They eventually decided not to go to the concert.) This time, we arranged the trip ourselves; and we were able to devote four hours to the museum, enough to sample all of the delights there.

Even better, because we took the train over (which we managed with only one problem -- a train that left Shinjuku apparently for Mitaka, but then reversed itself just past Nakano) and walked the 1.2 kilometers from the train station to the museum, we were treated to an environment that seemed ripped from a Hayao Miyazaki movie: We strolled along a stream covered with foliage, cicadas shirring in the heavy September air, past apartment houses and narrow streets with a mixed European and Japanese look.

The museum was terrific. Along with some of the stuff we saw last time (such as the mockup of Miyazaki's study, and the room explaining the process of making animation -- now updated with materials from the Ghibli movies SPIRITED AWAY, HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE, and TALES OF EARTHSEA), there were new exhibits -- such as a mockup of the Three Bears' house, from an illustrated children's book; and a gallery of art from a French animation director's film PRINCES AND PRINCESSES. As usual, the theatre at the museum showed a short subject. This one was called GORO NO DAI SENPO. It featured the simplest of stories -- a little girl's dog, Goro, runs out of her front yard, and runs around the neighborhood -- but was rich with details of everyday Japanese life. Further, it made no attempt to anthropomorphosize Goro; he was recognizable as a not-to0-bright but enthusiastic puppy.

The museum was filled with delighted children. Thus, the capper to our visit: As we left the museum, a Japanese child gazed up at the rooftop -- where one of the robots from LAPUTA stood patiently, always prepared to pose for photos -- and called up, "Bye-bye, Robot-san!"

After a dinner in Mitaka, and a train ride back (which got crowded when we boarded the train at Shinjuku for Ikebukuro), we ended the evening by experiencing an anime movie in its native habitat. Specifically, we went to the Sunshine Cinema to see the just-premiered movie version of Neon Genesis Evangelion, titled "Evangelion 1.0: You are (Not) Alone." Evangelion was the science fiction anime series of the mid-nineties which turned the whole giant robot genre on its ear; it featured giant armored biological constructs that could only be piloted by teenagers with various emotional problems. The kids would be put into bio-plugs and injected into the Evas. The movie apparently exists as a vehicle to sell even more Evangelion merchandise to the Japanese fans, besides getting them into theatres and having them pay 1,800 yen to see what their older siblings saw for free on TV. Indeed, the movie copied numerous scenes from the TV series nearly verbatim -- albeit with better animation, and rampant product placement (particularly of UCC Coffee and Doritos, both of which issued packages of their products with Eva characters on them). The movie even featured a TV like episode title card (although it wasn't shown until an hour into the movie); and a preview of the next installment of the movie series, designed to look just like the "next episode" clip at the end of each episode of the TV series -- complete with the voice-over from the Misato character.

Despite these disparaging words, the movie was tremendously exciting. There's a reason Evangelion has remained popular on both sides of the Pacific for over a decade. Amy enjoyed it too, even though she had not seen the original series, and the movie was entirely in Japanese without subtitles. And the film must be doing well, since it filled the theatre on a Wednesday evening.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Post -Con Tokyo Day One

If yesterday we feasted on anime goodness at the Ikebukuro Animate store, today we stuffed ourselves to bursting. We started off with a half-day bus tour of Tokyo with a bunch of other people who headed over here from Worldcon (which unfortunately meant a bus with a healthy dose of know-it-alls).

We had a choice of being dropped off in Ginza or Akihibara. Those who know Tokyo know that we chose Akihibara.

You should understand the circumstances of our 2004 visit to Akihibara. It was a stop on a tour of the Studio Ghibli museum. Due to traffic, we got to the area about 50 minutes before all the stores closed. That was barely time to look at a couple of stores.

This time, we took the train back to Ikebukoro; so we were free to stay as long as we wanted. So we spent six hours there.

Akihibara, you see, is anime heaven. It is full of so many anime-related stores, big and small, that it would take multiple visits to hit them all. And that is in addition to the numerous electronics and gadgets stores, most of them duty-free.

One of my shopping goals in Akiba (the short name for the area) was replacing my digital camera. My Minolta Dimage is a pretty good camera, and it has served me well for three years; but it is lacking compared to current cameras. Its once-mighty 3.2 megapixels now pale in comparison to today's cameras, which start at 6.1 megapixels. And its LCD screen is microscopic. Not to mention a lens perfectly positioned for my finger to get in the way.

So I visited several duty-free electronics shops before settling on a Sony Cybershot DSC-T100, in red, with 8.1 megapixels and advanced anti-shake technology. When I came back to the room and did a Google search on it, I of course found that the camera is also available in the States, and at about what I spent for it (adjusting for the exchange rate). But what the heck -- it was the camera I chose, even over 12.1 megapixel monsters. (Why does anyone need that much resolution in a snapshot camera?)

But the bulk of our time was spent with the anime stores. We hit Gamers (six stories), the Akihibara Animate (lots of stories -- I lost count), The Anime Center (which had some great historical stuff for sale; and at which numerous kids lined up at closing time to watch an anime recording session); Cospa (T-shirt paradise) and its related costume store, Cospatio; the Yellow Submarine stores (somewhat of a disappointment); Gachopon Akihibara (filled with wall-to-wall anime toy vending machines); and a snack at one of the infamous maid cafes, Cure Maid Cafe. At this last location, we had cake, tea and coffee in a comfortable room lined with dark wood, jazz playing on the PA, as we were served by waitresses dressed as -- yes -- french maids. The maids greet male customers by saying, "Welcome home, Master," in Japanese; and they bow incredibly deeply whenever they bring something to your table. As you might imagine, this is something that nerdish Japanese boys who can't muster the courage to actually talk to a girl love -- although we did see couples in there.

We were nervous about taking the train back. We had heard about train attendants who shove passengers into trains to make sure that every possible space is filled. But since we rode back around 8 pm -- after rush hour -- the trains were only crowded, not packed like sardines.

When we came back to Ikebukuro, we found it in many ways very like Akihibara. We exited the train station at a camera store. The "Evangelion" theme blazed from doorways. And the movie theatres were playing the newly-released movie version of "Evangelion," along with a movie version of "Naruto Shipoden" and other anime movies.

New photos can be found here.