Above, "Twintail" from Ultraman. Below, the "Slide-Rock Bolter" from Fearsome Creatures of the Lumberwoods, a 1910 guide to mysterious creatures of North America.
Incubot, proud purveyor of all that crazy stuff we wish we'd owned as kids, is proud announce the launch of the Grendizer USB figure! Yes, Grendizer: that classic Seventies Go Nagai anime show featuring UFOs, giant robots, screw punches, more UFOs, and screaming robot space-turtles. Did I mention UFOs? And robots. Anyway, viddy this:
Freshly launched on Kickstarter, it's yours for a $45 contribution. 8 gigabytes, docks with the Spacer, which in turn acts as a USB hub that plugs into your PC via a fold-away cable... You know you want this.
I thought that cat looked familiar. You know, the one from the case involving the demented guy threatening online to launch a killing spree at Comic Market. He was caught yesterday after cops tracked him down from a USB thumbdrive he'd attached to a stray cat on Enoshima Island. (Pics here.)
Hiroko happened to photograph that very same cat back in 2006! Little did we realize how famous he'd become just a few years later. Glad to see he's none the worse for wear after his big break.
Japan loves mascots. There are enough of them out there to fill a book and many, many posts on the subject. Super-cute mascots aren't intended to be childish or condescending here; Japan's animistic, polytheistic roots seem to have given the nation the mutant power to transform nearly any object or concept, no matter how arcane, into a happy little mascot.
Japan's nuclear industry is no exception. Many of the nuclear facilities it built throughout the nation came complete with little museums -- basically, PR facilities -- to help educate and reassure locals as to the safety of the nuclear plants sitting in the middle of their neighborhoods. Looking back from the devastation of March 2011, a lot of these seem almost gross, but it's important to remember there was no special effort to brainwash anyone or specifically target children with these super-cute characters. EVERYTHING has a mascot in Japan. Even the tsunami waves themselves.
That said, I don't think anyone has actually gone to the effort of trying to collect these nuclear-related mascots in one place. Below are a sampling I found in a scan of the net. I am sure there are many more out there - post 'em if you find 'em!
First up: the notorious Pluto-kun ("Mr. Pluto"), one of the mascots used by the Japan Atomic Energy Association to calm fears about nuclear power at their Atom World PR facility. Which has been shut down to the public since March of 2011 (go figure.)
This looks like an R. Crumb character, but it's Tomarin, the mascot of the Hokkaido Electric Power Company's Nuclear PR center.
"Welcome to Onagawa Nuclear Power Plant!"
"Welcome to the Hamaoka Nuclear Power Museum!" He's still hanging out with the kids post-3/11, at least as recently as March 2012.
1W-kun ("Mr. One-Watt"), the mascot of Kinki University's teaching reactor.
Uranboya ("Uranium Boy"), another of the JAEA's helpful PR flacks.
Miss Sodium, another mascot used at Atom World to explain the workings of sodium-cooled fast reactors.
Rikki, mascot of the Shimane Nuclear Plant PR facility. (Free admission, people!)
"Super Atomic-kun," with a wave motif that looks quite unfortunate, in hindsight...
From the Israel in Japan Facebook page, a contest that proves yet again that no concept can escape being made into a yuru-kyara mascot.
This time, the mission is to design a supercute character to represent the Israeli Embassy of Tokyo. As always, the point is to ride that fine line between silly and just plain lame - and don't forget to toss in as many local foods, customs, and tourist attractions as possible. Meet some of the top contenders below.
Lions and menorahs:
A positively proctological kebab:
Falaffels in a pod:
Meshugana for moé:
Cats? Why not.
This season, why not give the gift of total frickin' terror? The Yurei Attack ebook is here, satisfying all of your portable, digital Japanese ghost-hunting needs. In fact, you can download it from the Kindle Store instantly. That means you've never been closer to the ghosts of Yurei Attack than right this very second. Kind of spooky, when you think about it.
Yokai Attack! and Ninja Attack! ebooks to follow soon... Stay tuned for details!
Updated for 2012! It's that time of year again... When Godzilla-shaped Christmas trees start to appear! Here's a round-up of a few from the last few years.
Godzilla in Shinjuku.... Just kidding! It's actually only a little bigger than human-sized. You can spot this one most years among the Christmas illuminaton behind Takashimaya Times Square.
This pic of a smoke-breathing 'zilla-tree has been popping up a lot over the last few days, but the tree hasn't actually been sighted since its appearance in a November 2000 Godzilla festival held in the Odaiba Aqua City mall.
This one also appeared in front of Odaiba Aqua City in 2007. (What is it with these guys and monsters? Then again, they have a scaled-down Statue of Liberty right outside, too.) Love the pro-wrestling style tree take-down.
This rather chubby-looking one hails from the distant year of 2004, when it appeared in the Osaka Business Park.
And last but not least, a totally unoffical neighborhood Godzilla light-o-rama from 2007, which gets points for having awesome taste if not exactly awesome execution. Then again, the fact it looks like a kid's drawing really "makes" it.
The airwaves are silent with regards to Godzilla Christmas sightings this year so far, but I do have one report from the far-flung city of Hekinan (碧南市) in Kansai....
Baltan Seijin from Ultraman! (See the big red-and-silver guy himself here!)
And speaking of which...
"Kanzen Henkei" means "perfectly transforming" in Japanese. It was a buzzword of the Eighties toy world. Now it's back again, because robot builder Kenji Ishida has succeeded in creating the world's first perfectly transforming remote-controlled car.
Attention Hong Kong readers! I will be presenting about yokai in both English and Japanese (with Cantonese simultaneous intepretation) at the Japan Media Arts Festival in Hong Kong on December 8, 2012. It's being held at Taikoo Plaza. For more details, check out the official website. See you in Hong Kong!