Saturday, August 25, 2012

Six Favourite Magical Girl Anime

Magical girls go back a long way in Japan.  The American show Bewitched that ran from 1964 to 1972 was dubbed into Japanese and became popular amongst young Japanese girls.  This inspired Mitsuteru Yokoyama (the creator of Tetsujin 28-go) to invent Sally the Witch,which aired on television in 1966.  Magical girls have been a core type of anime since, even though they have moved away from being a witch. I haven't watched much of the early magical girl anime, but the ones that I have watched and like the most I have listed below.  As a youngster, I have to say I enjoyed watching Bewitched on TV, so I guess I was all set for the later magical girls.  In Bewitched, a witch named Samantha marries a mortal named Darrin. She pledges to not use her powers and become a typical suburban housewife.  However, she is often forced to use them as the rest of her magical family disapproves of the mixed marriage. Much hilarity ensues.

http://tokyoexcess.blogspot.ca/p/my-sf-writing.html

Magical girls anime feature young girl heroes with superhuman abilities that are often forced to fight evil to protect the Earth. The Japanese language identifies magical girls as majokko (literally "witch girl"), though this term does not generally apply to modern magical-girl anime. These girls often obtain their powers through some type of enchanted object and they have intricate transformation sequences to change to their fully powered form. A magical girl can work on her own but many series are about teams of magical girls that can join their abilities together to created super-charged attacks.

I like the magical girl stories as they tend to be upbeat and cheerful (none of the shades of grey found in real life) and that the heroines are usually fighting for idealistic causes such as love, peace, hope, and friendship. The girls are strong and resilient and often bounce back to defeat the bad guys just because they don't give up.  Magical girls can represent that special time in a young, Japanese girl's life where she is free from adult responsibility and submission.

There are many other magical girl anime out there but I'm only going to cover the six I like the most out of the ones I have seen.  As usual, don't be offended if I have missed something you like.

Cardcaptor Sakura
This was probably the first magical girl anime I ever saw and I think it is still my favourite to this day.  In Cardcaptor Sakura, our heroine accidently releases a powerful deck of magical cards created by a great wizard.  The cards all have a magical spirit / personality and represent a particular magical power such as flight, water, wind, etc.  Sakura spends the rest of the series capturing them back, becoming the master of the deck, and then solving the mysteries left behind in the second half of the series.  Several movies were also made.  I love the magical Clow Cards who become Sakura Cards later and the simplistic fun of the series.  Lots of toys were released based on this series and I have a video of one of Sakura's wands in action below.

Kamichu!
This was a charming little series about a typical girl, Yuri,  who finds out that she is a kami or Japanese god (not quite a god in the western sense - more like a powerful nature spirit).  Using her powers she helps out the people of her town and become the kami of a local shrine.  It is handy that some of her friends are shrine maidens there!  Kamichu! had some great episodes like how the god of misfortune arrives in town and the friendly meeting with Martians.  One of the most innovative things about this particuliar series was the fact that Yuri grows as a person and a god over time and also gets to meet other kami who represent other facets of our environment and invention.  There are even kami for CDs and other old tech - it was very imaginative.

Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha
There are multiple series for this particular magical girl franchise.  I have seen a few of the later episodes and the first two seasons which were released on DVD in North America.  Nanoha and friends are the kick-ass type of magical girl with powerful staff weapons and a definite sci-fi slant as their powers are technology based.  They even work for a galactic police agency later.  Out of the six anime mentioned here, this is probably my third favourite as she always fights for good and justice.  It is also nice that her character and the other characters evolve over time as the series are set apart, with the StrikerS series set 10 years later.  The staff weapons are also partially sentient or have really smart AIs - I like them.

Pretty Cure
The original Pretty Cure  or Futari Wa Pretty Cure aired on TV in Canada years ago and was pretty fun to watch.  This original series with Cure White and Cure Black was about a pair of magical girls who fight evil forces that want to basically expunge life and plunge our world into darkness.  The girls have some special attacks such as Marble Twister, but use hand-to-hand combat to take care of the monsters (zakana). The original series was my favourite as the concept was the simplest, with more focus on just the two girls and their magical mascots.  The transformations to become magical girls are pretty amazing with this franchise!  As of the writing of this article there were seven Precure series made and a number of movies.  The movies are fun as they involve crossovers between all of the Precures from the various series.  It is always fun how they discover they are not the only Pretty Cures out there combating evil.  This franchise sells a lot of video games and toys, as the Precures use magical devices to transform and fight, and I've included a video of a wand in action - the wand actually looks pretty cool.

Puella Magi Madoka Magica
Madoka is a magical girl anime that twists the other conventions behind most magical girl anime.  This short series was released in 2011 as a recent addition to the genre.  It is almost an anti-magical girl anime as it has a dark twist to the genre.  I won't mention a lot about the twist, but what if everything wasn't just about good and evil and becoming a magical girl wasn't all it was cracked up to be?  The show was well done and I enjoyed it a great deal (nice opening music too), but it probably isn't for all magical girl fans.  This show has a big following and is very popular.  There are tons of character merchandise and creepy Kyubey plushies.

Sailor Moon
I have to admit that I haven't seen much of this classic that shaped a lot of later magical girl anime.  Sailor Moon gets a mention as it is very important in the magical girl genre.  There are lots of fans of this show and they can't be wrong!  One of these days I'll probably watch some more or read the manga or something. 

Read or Die
That pretty much wraps it up for the six magical girl anime, but I'd like to mention one other series. I'm not sure most people would classify it as a magical girl series, but Read or Die (R.O.D.) does have a female protagonist who has magical powers that give her mastery over paper.  Yomiko Readman is a papermaster who can shape paper to be a weapon, shield, bridge, glider, etc.  She is an avid bookworm and fights for her friends and what is right.  The OVA and the subsequent series were both very good.

See ya all later!

Other Six Favourite Anime Posts
I've also written some mecha anime inspired SF. It has received some good reviews. Visit here if you are interested.  I could always use some community support from anime fans!


Monday, August 20, 2012

Vancouver Fun (With Japanese Goods Too!)

It's been a pretty busy summer 2012.  With some holiday time off from work I was able to write a novella set in my Exocrisis Blue setting, fly to Chicago, attend the Calgary Stampede, visit the Heritage Festival in Edmonton, and I just finished attending the wedding of a close friend in Vancouver.  Obviously I've been keeping the blog up too.  Going to need a holiday from all this...  :)

I haven't been to Vancouver in about ten years and the wedding was a great opportunity for me to catch up with friends, family, and see some sights!  There are a great many Japanese restaurants and places to buy Japanese goods in Vancouver - it was quite surprising as I hadn't researched it all that much.  The flight out was pretty uneventful and there were some great views of the Canadian Rocky Mountains from the plane.
Awesome Atmospheric Haze
Mount Assiniboine
After landing at Vancouver International, we rented a car and drove downtown to visit Robson Street and Grandville.  We started by taking a look at the Pacific Centre Mall area where we checked out Vancouver City Centre and the Art Gallery.  If you don't have a car it is pretty easy to get here by Skytrain from the airport.  This area is nice on a sunny day and bustling with people.  Robson used to be pretty interesting over a decade ago but it isn't anything like that any more.  It still is a nice part of town to browse and shop but you have more of the chain stores occupying it.  Still, there are some interesting shops at either end of the street.  Caught a really good sale at the Sears that was closing down - I wonder what will replace it.
Food Trucks at the Art Gallery
View of the Courthouse from the Art Gallery
We then wandered down to the Public Library Building which looks like a modern Roman Colosseum.  Let the games begin!  There were food trucks here and at the Vancouver Art Gallery.   They filmed the Arnold Schwarzenegger film "The 6th Day" with the library as the Replacement Technologies Headquarters.
Vancouver Central Public Library
A little ways down Robson going NW is a pretty funky block of good eats with an Asian / Japanese theme.  There is Gyudon Ya, a beef bowl diner (500 Robson Street), Beard Papa, a sushi shop and the Japadog diner.  Wanted to stop to eat here almost but we wanted to see more of Robson first.  This block of good eats is between Richard and Seymour Street.
Japadog on Robson
Way down on the other end of Robson was a pretty darn good Japanese sushi restaurant called Miko Sushi (1335 Robson Street) where we did stop for lunch and it was yummy!  Also nearby is a place called Konbiniya Japan Centre (1238 Robson Street) where you can buy all types of Japanese food with sushi and onigiri to go.  They have an excellent selection of Japanese candy and snacks of all types.  Many candies and snacks were purchased, including canned coffee.
Konbiniya
Lots of Pocky
Miko Sushi
Chirashi Sushi  for lunch
Lunch Bento.
We wrapped up late in the afternoon and went to my friends wedding in West Vancouver later that evening.  It was a perfect day for a wedding along the seashore where you could see the Lions Gate Bridge and Stanley Park across the inlet. Very awesome views. 
Lion's Gate Bridge
Seaside View
The next day we did the walk along the waterfront in West Vancouver along a very nice trail as you can tell from the pictures below.  Lots of nature.  My friend has seen eagles and all sorts of wildlife here.



We then went to Richmond to visit Aberdeen Centre, a large 3 story Chinese mall. The traffic out was awful, but the mall met expectations and we easily spent three hours here shopping and eating at the food court (all Asian food from tonkatsu cutlets to beef brisket or Chinese BBQ on rice).  There are all types of Japanese toy stores and candy stores here too.  Best of all, there is a big Daiso (2 floors of $2 and up merchandise - pretty much like the 100 yen Daiso in Japan) and it was great!  Bought lots of stuff from stationary, origami paper, decorations, various supplies, canned UCC coffee to Japanese snacks.  I even managed to find a couple of nice big ramen bowls ($8 each) to replace one I broke while doing the dishes.  There is also a nice Japanese pottery shop in the mall too where we picked up a very pretty plate that looks like the surface of a pond with goldfish swimming in it.
Daiso
Cat Mugs
Toy Store with Japanese Gashapon Machines!
Chinese Food Menu

All too soon it was time to head back.


Monday, August 13, 2012

Tokyo's Theme Cafes - Alice In Wonderland, Dragon Quest, Resident Evil, Tokyo Robot Restaurant, and more.

I actually love reading about all of the nifty themed restaurants over in Tokyo.  If I had tons of extra money and time I'd probably visit more than one, but some just scare me.  Listed here are some interesting ones that are more geeky and possibly adventurous.

Tokyo Robot Cabaret Restaurant
This show doesn't come cheap as it is at least $50 a person, but you do get a dazzling floor show with giant robots and dancing girls.  It seems to have become one of the things to do on many bucket lists.



Official Site: http://www.shinjuku-robot.com
http://www.cnet.com/news/sensory-overload-tokyos-robot-restaurant/
http://www.tokyoweekender.com/2013/07/robot-restaurant/
http://patrickmacias.blogs.com/er/2012/07/eye-popping-robot-girls-restaurant-opens-in-tokyo.html
Dragon Quest Bar
Luida's Bar is located in Roppongi in a narrow space (standing room only) connected to Pasela, an upscale karaoke place.  You can get themed drinks and quick snacks here like buns modeled after the cute slimes and indulge in some classic Dragon Quest decor.  One of my most favourite Dragon Quest Games was DQ VIII - I loved the ending or the second ending that came after the first ending.



Official website: http://www.paselabo.tv/luidas_bar/index.html
http://www.wired.com/gamelife/2010/04/dragon-quest-bar/
Nice post about a 2014 Visit to the Dragonquest Bar from Gameinformer.

Curry Station Niagara
This is one man's vision of a train themed curry restaurant.  Just good food, love for his work, and train memorabilia.  I saw this on Food Network and thought it was absolutely charming and wonderful.  The next time I'm in Tokyo I am going here for sure.  The old owner seems like such a nice guy who loves his work and I'm sorry to hear that he was thinking of retiring.  Your food even arrives by train!



カレーステーション ナイアガラ
〒 153-0052
2-1-5 Kosaka Yutenji Building, Meguro, Tokyo
TEL :03-3710-7367
Access: Yutenji Station, Tokyo Metro
Web: www.niagara-curry.com
http://japan.stilltravelling.com/2011/08/31/niagara-curry-where-your-food-is-delivered-by-train/

Alice of Magic World Restaurant
This is an Alice in Wonderland themed restaurant(s).  The tables are giant playing cards and classic Alice imagery is on the walls.  Wonderfood!  There are two locations in Tokyo.
Alice Cakes   Flickr / anna_d
http://tokyoexcess.blogspot.ca/p/my-sf-writing.html

Other Articles About Theme Cafes
Why reinvent the wheel?  These people have done a grand old job answering the question about theme cafes in Tokyo!  There are Christian themed restaurants, ninja restaurants, jail house restaurants, goth restaurants, etc.  You name it and they probably have it. Wow!

Biohazard Cafe & Grill S.T.A.R.S.
This cafe just opened on July 13, 2012.  It is located on the 7th floor of the Shibuya PARCO with a Resident Evil inspired atmosphere and menu.  Apparently there are uniformed dancing girls that subdue a mutant giant Tyrant as a floor show.  Hmmm....



Official website: http://www.c2s.co.jp/biohazard/stars/
https://www.japantoday.com/smartphone/view/food/resident-evil-restaurant-opens-in-tokyo


Other Tokyo Anime / Otaku Highlights Worth Visiting

Monday, August 6, 2012

Gorgeous Hokkaido Blue Pond on OS X Mountain Lion

OS X Mountain Lion (released in July) included a beautiful background wallpaper showing a tranquil blue pond with trees coming out of the water and snow in the air.  This image was shot in Hokkaido near the town of Biei at "Blue Pond" and won an honorable mention in National Geographic’s 2011 photo contest.  Japanese photographer Kent Shiraishi captured the first snow in October and is very moved by all the attention and the fact that Apple is showcasing it.  Thousands of tourists photograph the lake every year, but not usually so late in the year as the lake does freeze over in the winter.  Still, there are also many other beautiful images of this body of water. 


Saturday, August 4, 2012

Six Favourite Real Robot Anime Mecha

I've picked six anime series that should fall under "Real Robot" mecha category.  This excludes "Super Robots" such as Mazinger, Gurren Lagaan, Voltron, Gunbuster, and many more.  Super robots would be another post.  What is a Real Robot?  Like many of the definitions in anime it is going to be a little vague and a little porous.  BUT, I think the key trait is that it behaves like a real machine, with limitations from the real world in terms of abilities and behaviour.  It runs out of ammo or power, takes damage, breaks down, can't go from zero to 60 in 1 second, and all that.
ARX-8  Flickr / GogDog
Wikipedia has a pretty good post about this.  "Mobile Suit Gundam (1979) is largely considered the first series to introduce the real robot idea and, along with The Super Dimension Fortress Macross (1982), would form the basis of what later people call real robot anime." Real_Robot

http://tokyoexcess.blogspot.ca/p/my-sf-writing.html

Picking just six favourite real robot mechs to talk about was pretty tough.  Everyone is going to have a different bunch of favourites too so don't be offended if your favourite is left out.  I picked these six based on their "real-ness" (which I don't even think is a real word) and the fact they stood out in my memory.  There were many other anime such as Nadesico, Samurai 7, Fafner, Genesis Climber Mospeada, Armored Trooper VOTOMS, and of course the aforementioned Gundam series that didn't make the cut.  I've actually never watched a VOTOMS although I think the realism level is quite high. Evangelion and Rahxephon are almost super robots with their amazing abilities, even if the batteries on an EVA only last 5 minutes.  Gundam may have started out as a real robot show, but some of its mechas and pilots border on Godlike in battle when compared against their foes.  Gundam would also be its very own post as the franchise is SO BIG.

Drum roll please.....

Here are my six real robot picks.
  1. Knightmare Frames from Code Geass.
  2. Valkyrie Transforming Fighter from Macross (all series)
  3. Gernsback M9 / ARX-7 Arbalest / ARX-8 Laevatein from Full Metal Panic!
  4. Tactical Armours from Gasaraki
  5. Humanoid Walking Tanks from Gunparade March
  6. Police Labour From Patlabor
Code Geass Knightmare Frames
These mechas have some unusual designs that resemble medieval armour.  They are equipped with road wheels and pack quite a wallop as they were used to conquer the world.  Their use of lances (e.g. like a real knight from the middle ages) is interesting, but they are armed with plenty of other conventional weaponry.  Code Geass had some pretty wonderful world building with the Britannian Empire and the conquest of Japan.  Lots of plot twists too.  Very enjoyable show. Code Geass from Wikipedia.

Macross Valkyrie
There are so many variants of the Valkyrie!  From the original series to the Macross Plus OVA, Macross Zero, and now the Macross Frontier series and movies.  Macross was good as it was the pioneer of transforming mecha (not like Getter Robo) in the real robot theme.  Much like an F-14 Tomcat with its variable wing geometry, a Valkyrie variable fighter can go from an aircraft, to a half-walking GERWALK mode, to a full humanoid battroid mode. Eureka Seven had some pretty good mechs that also transformed, but those cool surfing mechs lost out to Macross for the pick.
Valkyrie Fighter   Flickr / lucamascaro
Love the aerial dogfights, the waves of crazy twisty missiles, and the transformations.  The Macross Plus OVA and variable fighters still rank highly as some of my most favourite anime and mechs.  All series were very entertaining, but I think the show really kicked up the action in Macross Frontier. Macross from Wikipedia.

Full Metal Panic Gernsback / Arbalest
Full Metal Panic was one of the gateway anime that actually started me watching anime on a regular basis again.  The mechas such as the M9 Gernsback and the ARX-7 Arbalest are probably my most favourite mechas out there - the Strike Freedom Gundam is a close second.  This show treats the mechs, known as Arm Slaves, as more realistic battlefield weapons and it doesn't hurt that these mechs seem to be one generation ahead of everyone else in technology.  Regular tanks and opposing mechs can still do real damage to them.  Good series with the second series being better animated and much more serious than the first (far fewer high school hijinks - a side effect of anime).  Full Metal Panic! from Wikipedia

Gasaraki
The tactical armours from Gasaraki are focused on the being very real from the beginning of the show and are smaller than most of the other mechs here.  There is tons of techno-babble about feedback actuators, synthetic muscles, and other technical systems.  They are used to wipe out an opposing force of conventional armour with their maneuverability and firepower.  These mechas deserve a mention as this older show wasn't very popular even thought was a fairly serious show. The heavy background Japanese metaphysics, philosophy and slow plotting took away from it. Gasaraki from Wikipedia.

Gunparade March
The humanoid walking tanks or HWTs from this show are pretty cool.  I have a real soft spot for this particular anime and the world building.  It is a show based on a videogame where is enemy is an invasion of bug-like aliens who have conquered a good portion of the world.  The HWTs are basically strike weapons used to clear the way to deploy a big implosion type bomb that can take out the big momma bugs.  The two seater heavy weapons/artillery support version of the HWT is a nice touch. Gunparade from Wikipedia.

Patlabor
Patlabor is a bunch of animated series and three really good movies.  The Patlabor II movie is probably the best and of course it is by Mamoru Oshii of Ghost in the Shell fame.  The robots are called labours in this world and there are civilian construction labors, police labors, and military labors.  The world building is well thought out and the mechas are believable.  It is a pretty nice touch where the police mechas have flashing lights, over-sized hand weapons such as revolvers and batons for keeping rogue mechas down.  Excellent mechs and story telling in a hard political SF vein.  Patlabor from Wikipedia.

Special Guest Mention - Zone of Enders
Zone of Enders was originally a video game but was adapted into an anime series and an OVA called Zone of Enders: IDOLO.  The OVA was better than the series and showed some pretty awesome mecha battle scenes.  The mechas in ZOE are called Laborious Extra-Orbital Vehicles, or LEVs and are designed for combat around Mars.   The LEVs are some of the most beautiful mechas that look mechanical in nature and probably have inspired many imitators.  In this series there is a Martian Independence movement with the colony being oppressed by the central Earth government.  The Jehuty mecha in IDOLO is beautifully designed and a joy to watch in action. ZOE on Wikipedia.

A remastered version of Zone of Enders in HD is being released for the Playstation 3 in late 2012 and I hope it gets ported over to North America as I would like to play it.

Exocrisis Blue
I was inspired by these mechs along with a lifetime of reading science fiction, and playing video games to do a little writing of my own in the genre.  I created the world of Exocrisis Blue, where the Earth has been invaded by the Blue Newts and mankind strikes back with reverse engineered technology in the form of a type of mecha called HARM. You can visit my author's site for more information here.  I could always use some community support from anime fans!

Other Six Favourite Anime Posts

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Japan's Amazing Love of All Things Cat

Japan is pretty big on cats.  Most places in the world like cats, but there are some pretty unique twists on this love for cats in Japan.  Japan has cat girls, lucky cats, stray cats, wild cats, island cats, ramen cats, train cats, and cat cafes.  That's a lot of cats in one sentence or for an island country.  Cats are cute and so are the cosplaying cat girls.  In anime, you have animated cat girls that are supposed to be real.  I'd suspect that Neko on the brain applies here in a good way. I started out with a short article and it turned into this long one.  Enjoy!
Sleeping Cat   Flickr / rahen z
http://tokyoexcess.blogspot.ca/p/my-sf-writing.html

Cat Girls
Girls that are cats or girls that dress up like cats are a pretty common theme in Japanese pop culture.  They are also popular in cosplay where real people dress up and have cat-like characteristics such as cat ears and tails and exhibit cat-like traits (e.g. see the paw gesture below).
Cat Girl Wikipe-tan  Wikimedia Commons.
All-purpose Cultural Cat Girl Nuku Nuku   Flickr / Selva

Lucky Cat
The Maneki-neko (literally "Beckoning Cat); also known as Welcoming Cat, Lucky Cat, Money Cat, or Fortune Cat) is a common Japanese figurine (lucky charm, talisman), usually made of ceramic, which is believed to bring good luck to the owner. The origin myths behind this cat are pretty interesting. This cat is usually displayed in shops, restaurants, pachinko parlors, and other businesses.
Lucky Cat (right paw up brings good luck and wealth)

Cat Islands
There are two famous islands involving cats in Japan.  One is a tropical rainforest island that has a large national park and the second is famous for its many cats that are everywhere bringing good fortune.

Iriomote is one of the Okinawan islands.  It is the largest of the Yaeyama Islands and the second largest in Okinawa Prefecture after Okinawa Island itself.  The total population is less than 2,000 and a single coastal road connecting the hamlets on the northern and eastern shores. The island does not have an airstrip, and most visitors—over 150,000 in 2003—arrive from Ishigaki by ferry. Iriomote belongs to tropical rainforest climate and 90% of the island is covered by dense jungle and mangrove swamps. Over a third of the island forms the Iriomote National Park.

The island is famed for the Iriomote Cat, a Critically Endangered wild cat found only on Iriomote. The population size is estimated to be fewer than 250 adult individuals. In Japanese the cat is called 西表山猫 Iriomote-yamaneko.  The manga and anime Azumanga Daioh made the little wild cat famous (to me at any rate!).
Stuffed Yama Neko at museum there (sad...)   Flickr / jamesfarnham
Tashirojima lies in the Pacific Ocean off the Oshika Peninsula, to the west of Ajishima. It is an inhabited island, although the population is quite small (around 100 people, down from around 1000 people in the 1950s). It has become known as "Cat Island" due to the large stray cat population that thrives as a result of the local belief that feeding cats will bring wealth and good fortune. The cat population is now larger than the human population on the island. (A 2009 article in Sankei News says that there are no pet dogs and it is basically prohibited to bring dogs onto the island.)  Since 83% of the population is classified as elderly, the island's villages have been designated as a "terminal villages" (限界集落) which means that with 50% or more of the population being over 65 years of age, the survival of the villages is threatened. The majority of the people who live on the island are involved either in fishing or hospitality.
Cat   Flickr / rahen z
Cat Shrine on Tashirojima  Flickr / rahen z
Cat Cafes
There are also cat cafes where Japanese people who cannot own pets or do not have the time to take care of them can unwind after a long day.  They can have some refreshment and play or cuddle a cat before they head home.  There are also bunny cafes (of the rodent variety) but that would be for another day.
Nyan da Cafe entrance is very cute! See map below for location in Odaiba.   Flickr / Acetonic

Neko Ramen
There is a the Neko Ramen gag manga about a cat who is a ramen chef.  Some of it is funny but some of it is just strange.  The Ramen Museum in Yokohama uses him as a mascot too.
Neko Ramen merchandise. Tostzilla.
Sleeping Cat Who is Apologizing Meme
m(_ _)m
The character string above says it all in e-mails and texts.  It represents a front view of a sleeping cat with its head and eyes down on its paws.  The posture of a sleeping cat like this also look like a deep bow for someone who is seriously being sorry.  In Japanese they call it "gomen ne."

Hello Kitty
Everyone knows who Hello Kitty is, right?  Who doesn't know Japan's most famous cat icon from Sanrio?
Lots of Hello Kitty
Tama - The Station Master CatIn 2005 all stations on the Kishigawa Line went from manned to unmanned in an effort to cut costs. Station masters were selected from employees of local businesses near each station. For Kishi station, Toshiko Koyama, the neighborhood grocer, was selected as station master. Koyama had adopted Tama and other stray cats, and she fed them at the station.  In January 2007, railway officials decided to officially name Tama the station master. As station master her primary duty is to greet passengers. The position comes with a stationmaster's hat and the railway provides Tama with free cat food instead of a salary.  Tourists flocked to see this official cat!

>

Sleeping Tama   Flickr / woofiegrrl
Other Tokyo Excess Japanese Pop Culture Links

Mobile Suit Gundam: Extreme Vs. Full Boost Arcade

http://tokyoexcess.blogspot.ca/p/my-sf-writing.html 
Mobile Suit Gundam: Extreme Vs. Full Boost was released in arcades on April, 2012 as a sequel to the original Mobile Suit Gundam: Extreme Vs.  I just recently found out about this pretty cool looking fighting arcade game with Mobile Suit vs Mobile Suit combat.  This version includes 74 Gundams and new ones are added every month via net updates.  This is a full sequel for arcades with new mobile suits like Impulse Gundam and Strike Noir Gundam. Check it out in a Japanese arcade.  From Wikipedia.

Mobile Suit Gundam: Extreme Vs. is a 3D Arcade Fighting game and the newest in the series of Gundam VS video game series developed and published by Namco Bandai Games. It's the sequel to Mobile Suit Gundam: Gundam vs. Gundam NEXT. This game was later released on the PlayStation 3 in December 1, 2011, featuring balance tweaks.  The game's theme song is titled "The Catalyst", performed by Linkin Park. Bandai and the band also cooperated in the development of a special HGUC 1/144 RX-78GP-01-FB kit.

Official Site.
http://gundam-vs.jp/extreme/acfb/index.html