Wednesday, September 22, 2010

When the American way isn't enough, here comes JAPAN to beef things up!

When considering Japanese animation, super heroes, and manga one is usually filled with the thoughts of ninjas, samurai, mystical heroes that are half demon, or the stereotypical "kawaii", big boobed bringer of justice!

Usually the genres of muscular superheroes (such as Captain America, the Hulk, and Spiderman) and science fiction (excluding giant robots) are assumed to be American since that is usually what our animation style consists of. They never usually cross without some kind of terrible misunderstanding between the two cultures.
It's very obvious that America has done its part on messing up Japanese cartoons and heroes that the Japanese themselves consider as their own "Captain America" or "Luke SkyWalker". *cough* *cough*
But it's incredibly rare to find animations or comics from America that Japan has screwed up without some digging! Well dear readers, my hands are dirty for you as I've done some nice digging here and have found a few rare gems in the rough of horrible representations of American animation and comics that were released in Japan!

For starters, apparently the Japanese thought that the 4 fabulous turtles of the TMNT were not beefed up enough for their children to view properly. So add some steroids, samurai armor, a catchy tune, and of course some giant robot and Godzilla crossovers and you get THIS:

In short, while this set of Ninja Turtles is a bit more flashy, I think the pure fighting sense of TMNT that was in the original 80's cartoon has been "lost in translation" so to speak.
Although I will truthfully admit, that was hilarious!

Next up we have the amazing Spiderman! Anyone from the US will know the famous web slinggin' superhero from New York that would jump from building to building saving us "average joe" American's from crazy catastrophes of random super villains! So I'm sure that you, dear reader, are interested to see how the Japanese think Spiderman should save people in Tokyo!

Yes people, you DID just see a giant flippin' robot at Spiderman's whim! That's Japan and that's how they do it! Take whatever it is, throw a giant robot in there, and it instantly becomes Japanese AND cooler!

At this rate I'm sure you're wondering if there is some kind of animation or comic that Japan HASN'T messed up! Well you're in luck, because this next clip is equally (if not more) flashy and exciting than the original American intro of this show.

Yup, I have to say that was possibly the coolest way I've seen the X-Men introduced! The shadowing on the animation was definitely a nice touch.

Okay! Last but not least, I have something I never thought I would see coming while doing this search! We have:


I honestly thought that a Star Wars manga was a good idea. The art style fits several of the major scenes like this one:

It's definitely an American made story and subject, but the art style of this manga has such a good feel to it and definitely says," HEY! I'M STILL MADE IN JAPAN!" Quite possibly the perfect blend of American material and Japanese artistic abilities.

Here's another picture, this one however SCREAMS Japanese art though!

Ha ha ha! Oh Princess Leia, when will she ever learn?

Anyways, if you guys have anything out there you want me to write about, hit up the comment box! Or if you have an American story re-done in Japanese style I didn't do, lemme know and I'll edit into this post!

Everyone have a great week! Now that I'm settled in school I'll probably update more often!

Thanks for reading!


Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Japanese katana is not a play thing children!

Recently after a pilgrimage with my Iaido teacher to find a decent "beater katana" for our target cutting day, I looked on YouTube to see if there were any reviews on a factory made katana that could convince me to buy it. What I saw instead, was a bit more saddening than I wish to believe.....I witnessed what was a swordsman's holocaust and cringed often while witnessing such stupidity and daft handling of swords!

Let us begin with looking at how most katanas get to places such as the US, the UK, Spain, etc. First off, it should be known that it's incredibly difficult and/or expensive to export a REAL katana from Japan. This is mainly due to Japan's declaration of their swords being national treasures. Thus, if you wish to obtain a hand made katana resembling what could be found in feudal Japan you must be prepared to spend a 6 month process of being interviewed and obtaining a sword owner's license per sword you wish to have. On top of that, these swords don't come cheap boys and girls! On average one can expect to pay anything from $3,000 for your bare minimum sword while shelling out $20,000 for a real work of art!

However, a REAL katana has such beautiful attributes to it! Such as this:

I bet some of you didn't see that coming! Of course there are more reasons to wanting a real handcrafted katana that just to shoot bullets at it. But isn't that just cool?

Moving on, I beat that you are wondering dear reader what exactly people such as myself that don't have $3,000-$20,000 lying around and 6 months to kill do to get our katana fix? Well, we resort to factory made katanas that are made in either China or the west coast around California! These swords are a lot cheaper and allow us to practice our cuts with similar (albeit weaker) cutting capability.

This demand for cheaper yet functional katanas has thus created a huge market for them and has created countless websites and roadside China Bazaars that sell them! With this power of having decently machine made swords however, comes a great responsibility.


You are about to witness several people who sell or review machine made katanas and test them in the worst ways possible that can potentially break, chip, bend, or utterly destroy your katana not to mention hurt yourself! These sellers are so irresponsible by doing these tests as if saying: "Yes when you buy this katana you can try chopping a log in half too!"

As this man conveys through his stupidity:

What in the world was he thinking? A Japanese katana does not have the heavy back edge of a hatchet and thus will usually break or bend when such a stunt is pulled!

But does this particular man's stupidity end? Oh no! Of course not! Not until we try cutting up some 55 gallon drum barrels!

Chipping the edge of the katana is a BIG no-no! That's another way of telling your customer: "Hey kids! Buy this sword, grab a barrel, and YOU TOO can have your own red-neck samurai adventure in your very own back yard! You totally wouldn't be disrespecting a tradition that Japanese craftsmen and warriors have tried to uphold for HUNDREDS of years!"

Of course, the stupidity does not end here! Let's try cutting through another METAL object without any proper training with our brand spankin' new sword guys!

Even though the sword seems to be un-damaged in the previous video, that is by no means the proper way to test a katana's durability! That's just utterly disrespectful in my opinion!

Speaking of disrespectful:

I don't know about you folks, but to me that's just a HUGE pimp slap in the face to every Japanese sword maker out there! Why on earth would anyone think it was okay to test a swords flexibility by stepping on it? Not to mention your taking what was and still is considered a sacred and highly revered object in Japan's culture and STOMPING ON IT WITH YOUR FEET! I would pay money to transport a real samurai from Edo period Japan and have him watch this guy do that, then cut him down repeatedly for such idiocy!

To end my rant boys and girls, a Japanese sword (whether hand made or factory pressed) is an object that should be respected. It represents an entire country's history and a lifestyle that I personally try to abide by. If one obtains a new katana it should be tested by cutting like this:

See? He may not of been properly dressed or even that skilled, but he tested the the sword respectfully. Cutting rolled up mats or even plastic bottles is a respectful way of testing a sword. You are cutting something that shows you how good of a cut the sword makes without potentially damaging the sword or disgracing it.

As I get off my "high pedestal" here, all I ask of people wishing to buy or test a Japanese katana is that they do so respectfully. They are an art and an major asset to a swordsman's life and should be treated as such!

Have a good rest of the summer folks! I'll keep updating as often as I can!



Monday, May 31, 2010

Facebook's Affect on Friendship

It has become far more than apparent to me what social networking such as Facebook has done to the term and meaning of "friendship". Don't get me wrong, I think Facebook is a great way to find people if you've lost their phone number, e-mail, home address, etc.

However, Facebook has made the majority of people now incredibly lazy when it comes to contacting friends or keeping in touch with old ones they don't see anymore. Instead of calling, writing a letter, dropping by, or even texting we simply rely on Facebook that we can get a hold of someone, talk to someone, remember their birthday, etc.

I don't know if I'm the only one, but I feel like Facebook has turned a lot of friendships that I have had with people into a plastic, leave a message I'm not here right now, highschool-esque concept with people that I do truly care about.

Of course, I try to reach out to certain friends when I feel a particular friendship has transformed into something like that. However, my attempts to re-kindle old friendships are usually met with being ignored, or receiving a short and robotic reply to whatever it is that I say to them.

So, I have decided that while Facebook is incredibly handy to talk to other friends with, I am going to work on being a friend to those that I have lost touch with. I am going to be more up to date with my friends, stop relying on Facebook to be my everything when it comes to contacting friends, and try to get some old friends back.
I'm sure that if you're a Facebook user and you're reading this, you can think of at least one relationship with someone that has gone cold and plastic. So why not join me? Write that friend a letter, give them a call, shoot them a text about their day, drop by their work place just to see them, let them know that you care about being their friend!

Let's all break away from Facebook's hypnotic spell and try to be better friends to ones that we care about! I know this is a very hippie like thing for me to say, but I think being a good person and a great friend is important to any kind of lifestyle anywhere in the world!

In the end folks, don't do what I've done, don't let Facebook take all your friendships and turn them into a "friend count". Remember each and every one of those friends, the memories you had with them, and let them know that you care!

Thanks for reading! I'll have something a bit less dramatic up hopefully by the end of the week!


Monday, April 26, 2010

Takehiko Inoue's: Vagabond

As a martial artist, I like to have other things in my life such as movies, games, and manga have martial arts action in them involving some hero that's trying to perfect his technique and become a better person along with being a better fighter.

However, most martial arts manga usually involve something like.....ninjas in orange jump suits or....MMA fighters that expel poison out of their bodies just by "magic coincidence".

As you can imagine, it's hard to find a martial arts manga that is realistic and you can relate to on not only the character's attitude but on the techniques and the struggle of real combat.

That's were one manga comes in and leaves all other martial arts manga in the dust......

That manga ladies and gentlemen, is Vagabond by Takehiko Inoue.

First off, it's important to know what exactly this manga is about. The manga is based off of Eiji Yoshikawa's novel Musashi, which is of course a fictional novel about the legendary sword saint of Japan, Miyamoto Musashi. If you don't know who that is, basically, Musashi is the one true master of the Japanese sword and revolutionized Japanese sword fighting by integrating both swords that the samurai wore on their belt.

The manga follows our grungy hero as he attempts to become "invincible under the rising sun". The story begins after Musashi's defeat at the battle of Sekigahara (which is the fall of the year 1600). After his army has been defeated and left for dead, Musashi and his childhood friend Matahachi pick their wounded selves up and begin their quest to make names for themselves. Musashi eventually hones his wild animal like swordsmanship skills and becomes a smelly, tattered, and feared beast of a man among the swordsmen of Japan. The manga is still currently running and I impatiently wait every 2 months for it to arrive in the US translated.

What really hits me about this manga more than just the story or the characters is the artwork. The artist does a good majority of it using ink brushes as if it was calligraphy.

Here we have Inoue-sensei doing some of his artwork on a wall.

This is the finished project with Musashi on the left wall and his rival in the manga, Sasaki Kojiro.

Of course it's hard to imagine this on paper so here:

Here it's amazing to think he does all of this by hand with ink and an inkbrush. The sword effect of Musashi cutting is what got me with this one.

This one is done very well and I like the contrasting themes of snow and blood.

This combination of ink and watercolor is incredibly well done. I doubt I've ever seen anybody use both to bring such life to any image before.

This manga has won the Osamu Tezuka Rising Manga award (which is NOTHING to sneeze at in the world of manga) in 2003. Not to mention several others on top of that!

It's beautiful to look at, it's witty, full of internal struggle, amazing fight sequences, and is a story that I'm sure nearly everyone could fall in love with.

Vagabond by Takehiko Inoue folks. Make sure you read this one! It has become my number one favorite manga without a doubt.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Japanese Cell Phone Straps

In America, when one gets a new cell phone, we usually brag to our friends how amazing it is and how it can do several "useful" things like recognize songs, chop salad, or judo chop our enemies. Once the initial bragging stage is over, we usually then customize the background and ringtone to make that new phone we got a special piece of property that represents us and NOBODY else is allowed to replicate!

However, in Japan they take the whole "personalization" step of getting a cellphone one step farther! They use something called a "cellphone strap" or in Japanese " Keitai Strap".

Keitai straps originate from Japan and didn't start becoming popular and readily available online until around 2005. However, now there are keitai straps almost in every Japanese shopping website online now and people in the US, UK, and Hong Kong among others are catching on to the fad!

I'm sure some of you are wondering at this point, "Zack, how do the Japanese put these "keitai straps" on their cellphones? Is it magic?". Lucky for you dear reader, even us Western monkies can use these on certain cellphones and even our Nintendo DS systems!

First you must find a "lanyard hole" on your cellphone such as this:

After you locate the pesky thing, you then take the cellphone strap that you ordered from Japan, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, etc., then loop the string through the hole and around whatever is on the end of the strap to where it looks like this:

There! See how cool it is now? How many of you guys have samurai frogs on your cellphone? None I bet!

There are several different types of keitai straps available though. Ranging from:

A traditional charm that is to protect the wearer from sickness and keep the body healthy. (In this one, each gourd represents an organ that needs to be protected.)
A "magatama" that is a Shinto symbol for protection from all the gods of Japan. (Donated by Tamsen Elliot)
A little person with direction signs on it. I'm honestly not too sure what this one is supposed to be and neither is the owner! (Donated by Alyssa Kurzenknabe)
A samurai Hello Kitty (Date Masamune version), regular Hello Kitty, a baby seal, a cupcake, and Pochacco! (These are all on my girlfriend's, Erin Thomas, DS. Whom by the way is the love of my life! ^^)

Edward Elric from Full Metal Alchemist, Keroro Gunsou (Date Masamune version), an angry carton of milk labeled "LECHE", and a Korean good luck bead. (This are all the ones I have!)

So in short dear reader, the Japanese have created a fun way to personalize the cellphone! Keitai straps are great conversation starters, they let people know what you're into, and they are always interchangeable! If you're looking for one after reading this, I would reccomend:

Alrighty guys! I'll see you later! Remember, if you want a certain topic covered, COMMENT and let me know!


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Japanese Commercials.....Phew boy....

Okay, so I had a request to do a post on Japanese commercials the other day. While I'm working on my post about Japanese cellphone charms, I decided why not post a few Japanese commercials to please my one fan and probably get a couple of chuckles out of it on the way!

So, without further ado, here are some completely wacky Japanese commercials to entertain you loyal readers!

There you are folks! I hope you enjoyed wasting some time and laughing your rear ends off!


Friday, March 26, 2010

Ultraman, the Japanese answer to Superman.

It's the year 2000, I'm doing what every other 9 year old does on a Saturday morning....Sitting on my ass and watching cartoons while eating some cereal that is sure to stunt my growth after prolonged eating.

After watching my usual dosage of new Ninja Turtles and Power Rangers, I hear a new theme song on the television. It perks my interest and I look up to see:

That's right, I saw.....ULTRAMAN!

Now I know what you're thinking....Zack....This looks like a guy in a rubber suit kicking another guy in a rubber suit around a small model town....What makes this different from Godzilla?

Well, you see dear reader, unlike the rompin' and ragin' Godzilla which destroyed in the sheer name of destruction....Ultraman fought for justice and defended the world from alien intruders that attempted to destroy us all with their mind rays! (Or something like that....) Also, Ultraman had more than two special attacks as compared to Godzilla! (According to Wikipedia, our buddy Ultraman has 32 different powers!)

Unfortunately, Ultraman didn't make it that long in America....There were only 17 episodes or so aired here in the US then got cut....Sad day for Zack James indeed....

In Japan however, Ultraman is an absolute hit! He's been around since 1966! If an object exists, more than likely somewhere in Japan they have slapped Ultraman's face on it! Such as Ultraman child and adult pajama combos!

Yeah! You guys didn't see that one coming did you?

Ultraman even goes to baseball games with his fellow Japanese citizens to enjoy their favorite pastime!

Of course Ultraman must also pray at local temples before taking down monsters in Japan!

Recently, my good buddy Micah introduced to me a rather interesting clip that involved Ultraman! In the following clip, there is an "Ultraman Monster Dance Contest" where amateur monsters try out to become Ultraman's new nemesis! Eventually, it all breaks out into a dance sequence synchronized to Micheal Jackson's Thriller.

There you go folks! That is Ultraman then and now! Always remember, when you're visiting Japan and a fierce giant monster attacks, Superman's busy getting killed by green rocks....So call....ULTRAMAN!!!!!!!!