Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Artnia, The New Square Enix Cafe and Store in Shinjuku

It wasn't that long ago I blogged about the old store that is now closed along with the One Piece Store which is new.  And now there is the new Square Enix store with a cafe to boot!  Artnia, the new store / cafe, is located very near the Higashi-Shinjuku Subway Station (東新宿駅) that is served by the Toei Ōedo Line, and also the Tokyo Metro Fukutoshin Line.  It is still in the vicinity of Shinjuku Station, but it will be a longer walk from there.  All this was because Square Enix moved their headquarters and decided to jazz things up.  Artnia kind of looks like a big concrete slime in front of Square's new HQ located in Tokyo's Shinjuku Eastside.
Artnia Slime? CLF / Flickr (Creative Commons License)
CLF / Flickr (Creative Commons License)
Everything looks futuristic in this new location.   The underground Shinjuku Eastside Area you walk through to get to the cafe if you take the metro from Shinjuku (it is a fairly long walk otherwise) takes you through some nifty underground architecture.  You'll walk by an Ootoya, a Lawson, a coffee shop, etc., so you could have a meal here if you needed too.


At Artnia there is a very glitzy looking museum area, a gift shop, and of course the cafe. The cafe that serves sandwiches, coffee, parfaits and other desserts, pancakes, and Final Fantasy inspired cocktails or potions. I'm here to snag myself a Chocobo or another slime!  However, I will say that the shop area is not huge.  Much of the merchandise can be found at other stores like Animate or in Yodobashi Camera, but you would come here to look for exclusive merchandise (jewelry included).

Chocobo by CLF

Official website is at http://www.jp.square-enix.com/artnia/ Check the various tabs they have in the red area.

East Side Square 1F 6-27-30 Shinjuku, Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 〒 160-0022
TEL    03-6457-6714
Opening Hours    11:00 to 22:00
Closed     Thursdays
Nearest    Fukutoshin Tokyo Metro Station A3 exit directly connected "Higashi" Oedo Line
6 minutes Fukutoshin-Tokyo Metro Marunouchi Line, walk from Exit station E1 "Shinjukusanchome" Toei Shinjuku Line

These two stations are actually connected like many train/subway stations.  Look for the signs to exit to Shinjuku Eastside.

The location of Artnia is shown by the martini glass on the map below. Click on it to zoom in.

View Shibuya Shinjuku Harajuku in a larger map

More Tokyo Highlights
More Japanese Pop Culture

Akihabara Attractions Hotspots Guide
Japanese Souvenirs For An Otaku Or Others 
Anime and Games Set In Akihabara
Where to Find Giant Robot Statues in Japan
Tokyo's Theme Cafes
Gundam Cafe and AKB48 Cafe in Akihabara
Gundam Front Mini-Theme Park in Odaiba (with another Gundam Cafe)
Shonen Jump Theme Park (J-World) with Naruto, One Piece, Dragonball, and more
The First Evangelion Store in Harajuku

Pokemon Store in Hamamatsucho
Giant Robot Toys - Macross, Godzilla, Gundam
Gundam Video Games in the Arcade and Home (Gundam Pods)
Evangelion's Rei and Asuka Figures Homage
Nifty Japanese Cat and Train Coin Banks
Canned Bread and Other Nifty Japanese Souvenirs
UFO Catchers and How to Win at Them  
Gashapon / Gachapon Capsule Toys in Japan

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Time Travel Movies Involving Japan (Final Countdown, Zipang, Returner, Girl Who Leapt Through Time)

A story involving time travel is a pretty common science fiction plot line in both print and in the movies or TV.  Common in Star Trek and it even appeared in shows like Heroes.  Some of my most favourite time travel movies would be My Science Project, the original Time Machine in the 1950s, the low budget sci fi western Time Rider, Terminator, Back to the Future, Time After Time, The Final Countdown, and the Japanese movies Returner and The Girl Who Leapt Through Time.  I think these types of shows are hard to do as you need to blend both a period film / characters and have them interact with modern / future characters.
Zero Fighter   mikemac29 / Flickr


Out of these films, there happen to be three that involve Japan in some way.  There is also an anime series called Zipang, based on a long running manga, that is quite good.  I'll tie Zipang in with The Final Countdown.  This is a nice contrast as it is kind of like comparing Flags of Our Fathers and Letters From Iwo Jima to see two points of view.

The Final Countdown (1980)
This has to be the grand daddy of military science fiction time travel movies.  When I first saw this in the theater as an impressionable youth I probably would have run out to join the US Navy except for the fact that I'm Canadian.  This film is both good SF and a fine Navy recruiting film.  I think the navy pulled out the stops to support it.

The nuclear powered super carrier, Nimitz, travels back in time via a weird time storm.  It ends up back in the Pacific a few days before Dec. 7th, 1941.  The story then evolves around what the crew should do next when they realize they have enough firepower to stop the attack on Pearl Harbor and sink the entire Japanese fleet too.  Catch this if you like aircraft carriers, F-14 Tomcats, Japanese Zeroes, and are a history buff of the what if!  How would an F-14 dogfight a Zero?  You'll find out.

Well, the Japanese couldn't be outdone by the Final Countdown so mangaka, Kaiji Kawaguchi, wrote and illustrated the long running manga Zipang.  In his story, the Japanese Aegis missile destroyer Mirai goes back in time via a weird time storm.  They show up in WWII during the Battle of Guadalcanal where they must decide if they should interfere with history.  Just their one little ship also has enough firepower in Tomahawk and Harpoon missiles to sink all the US Carriers and severely cripple the US fleet.

In this show, the senior officers must deal with both a militant Japan, their own modern code of ethics as the "Japanese Self-Defence Force," and American ally who isn't an ally in the current time frame.  There are some great scenes in this series.  There is a major ship versus Dauntless diver bomber scene and an engagement with the USS Wasp, a US Carrier.  Another recommended viewing for science fiction time travel fans and history buffs.  What would Sea Sparrows and a CIWS do to a dive bomber attack? 

Finally, a full science fiction film that even involves aliens!  This 2002 film did not have a high budget and had limited CG effects, but it was really well done.  Good fight scenes and a great story made this a must watch for me.

The premise of this film involves our female heroine going back in time to prevent a misunderstanding from happening that will end with Earth losing a brutal war against aliens.  I don't want to tell you any more as you should get the full meal deal from seeing this show.  Well worth a watch again for me too!  I love the ending on this one.

Samurai Commando: Mission 1549
This is a 2005 film where an experiment goes wrong and a modern Japanese army unit is accidentally sent back in time.  The commander goes local and decides to set himself up with his nice high tech toys in feudal Japan.  Like Apocalypse Now, another unit is sent back to bring them back.  Shades of Timerider too in this movie.  You get to see tanks drive through cavalry so how bad can it be?

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time
They made the animated movie first, then there was another remake as a live action film.  I think the anime version of the story is better, the the live action one had its moments.  Also, if you enjoy time travel and anime, try out the series Stein's Gate too. I previously blogged about Stein's Gate and Anime set in Akihabara here.

In The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, a school girl aquires the ability to time travel in a mysterious accident in a school lab.  It all makes sense later and the story develops with her exploring her new powers and solving the mystery behind them.  This is a nice character driven story about high school kids being friends and not violent (other than accidents).  A very enjoyable time travel story.

This movie is quite different from the animated movie other than the very similar time travel premise.  It is basically a whole new story.  Entertaining if you can find it and there are parts of this movie I really like.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Favourite Zombie Games and Cover Shooters For Iphone, Ipod and Ipad

I'm not normally a big fan of zombie movies and games. For movies I really only like the original Dawn of the Dead and missed out on all the new zombie series on TV (even though I hear a few are really good).  However, I've been hooked on a few games with zombies and can say I loved playing them.

I also like a few cover shooters on the Ipad as they don't utilize virtual sticks that I have a really hard time using.  A cover shooter is where you move from side to side, can duck to cover, and aim with your finger on the screen.  I basically never play shooter games with virtual sticks after trying a few.  The Ipad is a pretty good platform for many games and I'll blog again about the other games that chew up my time and keep me from writing Exocrisis Blue, my SF stories.

To kick things off, I've recently bought Zombie Panic in Wonderland and it is both pseudo cover shooter and a zombie game.

Zombie Panic in Wonderland.
This is a well designed shooter with great colourful graphics, a Japanese theme, and a nifty soundtrack of Japanese folk music.  You play a ninja or another fantasy character such as Snow White or Alice and fight your way through a Japanese inspired Wonderland.  You can get the game for free to try at the time of writing.  It plays well, the controls are great and is FUN, but beware of the in app purchase.  If you are going to purchase anything more than the full game for $3.99, then you might look for the $12.99 unlock for everything other than extra lives as it is the best deal.  On the expensive side for an IOS game, but I've spent money on it and am enjoying it.

Zombie Gunship
This game had me hooked for a long time.  You play the gunner on an AC130 Gunship with a 105mm howitzer,  40mm cannon, and a minigun at your disposal.  Your plane orbits around a bunker in the base scenario and you basically blast all the zombies while sparing the humans running for shelter.  Your screen looks like a thermal display with the zombies being dark and the humans showing up as white.  If you've played Call of Duty Modern Warfare and like the gunship sequences then you'll probably like this.  Drag your finger, select weapon, and shoot.  Hit a big crowd of zombies with the artillery! Or save a human fighting with a zombie with a carefully aimed burst of the mini-gun.
Plants Vs Zombies
This is a great little strategy game where you must stop the zombie hordes from attacking you by using plant based weaponry.  Plant the right plants and they will utilize their various abilities against the zombie assault.  Lots of fun and an old classic by now on a bazillion different platforms.

Frontline Commando
This is my favourite cover shooter of all time.  You are the surviving commando that needs to take down a warlord and his various chiefs.  I've actually finished the entire game and only bought $5 worth of gold to do it (they had a gold sale).  You have to be careful about purchasing your weapons and spending your gold which is hard to come by for some of the weapons or ARMOUR!  If save your in game money you can buy some of the more advanced weapons and not need gold.  At one point I couldn't survive long enough without some extra armour against a boss (the only time you need armour BTW) and then I polished off the game.  The controls are good, sniper mode is good, and the weapons selection is fun.

A sci fi cover shooter where you play a robot that has reactivated in a ruined world.  You go on a quest to locate your master and engage many enemies as the story unfolds.  Another great game and the story and graphics are good too.  This is a game I'll keep on my Ipad for a long time.  You also get to upgrade yourself as you pick parts off the enemies you defeat.

Starbase Gunship
This game feels a little like Zombie Gunship, but it obviously isn't.  You defend a starbase from wave after wave of attacking robot drones, fighters, capital ships, and missiles.  Your enemies come from all sides and you are rotating your turret around to engage them with laser, mass driver, vulcan, or missiles.  I prefer the vulcan cannon with a massive powerplant upgrade to provide long long bursts of fire.  Lasers are accurate but not powerful enough.  Don't forget to upgrade your starbase's armour and your weapons too to advance past level 20.  A well designed and fun game.

That's all for now, but even one of these games will keep you occupied for hours and not reading my blog or downloading my ebooks (which I would appreciate too!).

Monday, January 21, 2013

Godzilla Comics and Kaiju World Wars Boardgame.

I'm a big Kaiju (Japanese monster movie) fan.  They're not very realistic, but they're fun, especially if they're really cheesy in some cases.  The Big G or Godzilla is the king of these.  While the original Godzilla and Godzilla verses Mothra were some of the best of the old Toho films, I'm kind of fond of Godzilla verses Megalon (very fun), and Destroy All Monsters too.  I'm wondering what the next Godzilla movie is going to be like and am also eagerly awaiting Pacific Rim (with big robots and big monsters).

While I'm counting down to these fabulous new feature films, time can be filled in with some fine products created in North America for the Godzilla fan or JRPG fan if they're not on their computer, console, or handheld gaming device.  Both Godzilla games and Godzilla comics have been made under license over here for awhile and they range from bad to pretty good.

Godzilla Kaiju World Wars Boardgame
This is a fun little board game with some fairly nice production values.  The board, building figures, and monster figurines that come with the game are well done.  There are four monsters in the game: Godzilla, Gidorah, Gigan, and Rodan.  You play a monster stomping a city and whoever collects the most points wins!  The army will try to stop you with their puny tanks.  There are a few problems though as the game rules are a little confused and there are corrections available at boardgamegeek.  Still, a nice board game if you are into playing these.
The box cover
Some of the game components.
The monster miniatures.

Godzilla Comics
There are also plenty of Godzilla comic books available.  Way back in the 1970s there was a series of Marvel Godzilla comics that featured S.H.I.E.L.D. and the heli-carrier verses Godzilla and a many monster threat.  I haven't read that in awhile but I'm going to have to dig the box out of the closet and give it a read through one rainy afternoon.

These days, Dark Horse Comics is giving Big G lots of love and publishing many compiled volumes of Godzilla.  Some of these stories have been pretty good and well worth reading.  One of my favourites has a gigantic, guardian statue take on Godzilla when it threatens its island. The latest was a big three volume set "Godzilla: Kingdom of the Monsters" that had Godzilla rampaging through America and even features Obama as president.  Just pop over to Amazon and give it a search.

The latest set of Godzilla comic compilations
Some of the older comics.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Ikebukuro, the Animate Flagship Store, and Sunshine City

Ikebukuro in Tokyo is a major stop on the the Yamanote Line and Ikebukuro Station is the second largest train station in Japan.
JR Ikebukuro Station Sign
The Tobu Department Store here is the largest department store in Japan and major branches of the other depachika are located here such as Seibu.  Large outlets of Tokyu Hands, and Bic Camera are also here.  Accomodations are usually somewhat cheaper here and there is plenty to do in the area without having to take the train somewhere.  If you are coming in from Narita Airport you can take the Keisei Skyliner to Nippori Station then transfer to the Yamanote Line.  Connections via the Narita Express are not as good and it takes longer if you can line one up.
Ikebukuro at night
Sega Game Center with the crowds
Anime is everywhere.
This area is still very busy, with booming nightlife, but off the more beaten tourist path than areas such as Shinjuku or Shibuya.  It is also known as a major anime outlet for women with the Otome Road area.  The flagship store for Animate is here and a Gamers store is also here amongst many other anime related goods shops.  The anime Durarara!! about an underworld courier was also set in the area.  Sunshine City, a large mall complex, is also located here with its own highrise viewing deck at Sunrise 60, has an aquarium, and miniature theme parks such as Namja Town. Even Nekobukuro, an established cat cafe, can be found on the 8th floor of Tokyu Hands. Nekobukuro has about twenty cats and kittens that you can pet and play with for a small fee. Playing with cats makes sense to the Tokyoites who may have small living spaces and no pets rules to deal with in their apartments.  The area is also known for its many ramen shops and there were "ramen wars" in the area to see whose ramen was the tastiest.
New Animate Flagship Store

The new Animate flagship store here is not just for the ladies though, even though it does have an extensive selection of anime, goods, and doujinshi geared towards them. Recently moved, it has 9 floors of anime goodness and a cafe, but only 7 floors dedicated to merchandise!  It is packed full of merchandise and is a welcoming environment for men and women.  I didn't notice as many of the ladies in the anime stores in Akihabara, but they made up a good percentage of the customers here.  The old Animate store across from Sunshine City is still open too, with 3 floors of cosplay related goods, but the rest of the building is mainly devoted to exhibition or event space at the time of writing.

7F:DVD's, CD's Games
6F:Character Goods, T-shirts, Cushions
5F:Trading cards, Figures, Shokugan, Fancy Goods
4F:Manga (Shojo, BL, Girls) Novels, Doujinshi, Drawing Tools
3F:Manga (Shonen, Seinen) Comic Bunko
2F:Manga (New, Shonen, Seinen, Anime)
1F:Magazines, Food / Snacks, New products

New Animate Store Address:
Tokyo toshimaku higashiikebukuro 1-20-7

Inside the new Animate Ikebukuro 

Picture of the old Animate store across from Sunshine City
Mutekiya Ramen. Mutekiya is legendary for its tonkotsu (pork-bone) broth painstakingly prepared for 20 hours a batch. Lineups are not uncommon (I've seen it myself).  See map below for location.
I have compiled a list of locations of interest for Ikebukuro below and you can see a guide and the locations on the map if you click through.

View Ikebukuro in a larger map



Friday, January 4, 2013

Ekiben Matsuri (Train Bento Festival Store) at Tokyo Station

Ekiben (駅弁)are the "legendary" bento lunch boxes sold at Japanese train stations to feed you on the long train ride.  Ekiben and the Shinkansen bullet trains seem to be a very cool combination of food and transportation. The "eki" in ekiben means station and "ben" is short for bento.  Each train station or region in Japan has their own special bentos and part of the fun in traveling by train in Japan is the sampling of all the different kinds of local specialities in the different ekiben. Regions on the coast could have seafood delicacies and inland regions could have local vegetables and recipes.  Ekiben are super popular with the Japanese and if you're taking a train trip - get one for the road as they are affordable!
When I was in Tokyo I only travelled on a bullet train from Yokohama for like 12 minutes, but I did buy an ekiben one night at Shinagawa Station just to try it and it was pretty tasty with lots of different pickles and veggies.  I'd try something more meaty or rice-like next time I think.

In August of 2012, yet another wonderful store "Ekibenya Matsuri" opened in Tokyo Station.   This store is truly a festival of ekiben as they carry 170 types of ekiben from around japan.  That's a lot of choice and you can see the food models demonstrating what the different ekiben look like.

Their amazing wall display of the ekiben available.
A small selection of the fresh bento in their many fridges
I like ekiben as they look so pretty, taste good, and often have fancy packaging that resembles a wooden box even if it is only made out of styrofoam.  So even if you're not traveling outside of Tokyo you can stop here and pick an ekiben to try for lunch!  The store is located in the first floor in the Central Street mall area of the station (中央通路). It sells 170 different type of ekiben from all over Japan. It sells about 10,000 ekiben each day. Some ekiben are purchased by travelers transiting through Tokyo station while others are bought by Tokyo-ites bringing them home to enjoy.
A bento I chose.
Even have umi on rice in this assorted bento with pickles, veggies, meat and dessert.

Read about the Ekiben we had on our bullet train ride to Kyoto.

Access    Central Street on the first floor in the East JR Tokyo Station ticket
Address    JR Tokyo Station East ticket gate on the first floor in the No. 9, No. 1-chome, Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
Contact     03-3213-4352
Opening Hours    5:30 to 23:00

Maps to Tokyo Station in Japanese. They also show 1st Avenue with Character Street.

The map above shows the location of the Ekibenya Matsuri in the North Central Court on the main floor of Tokyo Station (zoom in or out to orient yourself).  Also note that you should visit 1st Avenue for amazing shopping of anime merchandise, more wonderful food, and even a selection of very popular ramen restaurants.  I previously blogged about this here.

Tokyo Station's Popular Ekiben
Why Are Ekiben So Popular in Japan?
Also at Tokyo Station is Gransta Dining with more ekiben shops such as Komezanmai 米米米 (triple rice) or Nippon no Ekiben ニッポンの駅弁 who also have wonderful ekiben. Gransta Dining is in the North Court on the first floor, close to North and Marunouchi Central Exit as well as Tohoku, Nagano, Jyoetsu Shinkansen gates.
Gransta Dining official site: http://gransta.jp/dining

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Shopping and Dining at Tokyo Station, Kitte Marunouchi Building, and GranRoof
Tokyo's Ramen Streets at Tokyo Station, Aqua City, and Shinagawa Station
Ekiben Matsuri (Train Bento Festival Store) at Tokyo Station
Sweets Land, Character Street, and Ramen Street at Tokyo Station