Short visit at Comiket 90

My busy weekend impairing my plans for my third day of Comiket 90 last Sunday. The original intention was to go there and write an article about it, but then realise the sites I write for actually wants news—like when I reported in French about whether or not Comiket will happen during the Olympics of 2020—not just photos of cosplayers.

That, plus me forgetting a few things about my camera, turning some of my photos into a blurry mess. I promise myself I’ll do a better reporting job at Tokyo Game Show later this year.

I could complain more about that day, but do you really care? Do you really want me to also rant about the hot humid weather? Nah. I certainly don’t need to tell you how busy Tokyo Big Sight is during that event, if you really need a reminder:

Now moving on to the reason why you’re here. Check out below photos of the place and a few cosplayers I managed to capture during my short visit on the last day of Comiket 90:

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Nairu was a Pokemon trainer on the lookout for creatures to catch.
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Paula incarnated her original character, Ninja Hina, and she writes about her love to ride her motorcycle.
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Tidus (by Shion Kaito) and Yuna (Shion Takamura) from Final Fantasy X.
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Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman from Batman vs. Superman.
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From Idolmaster, Airi Totoki (by Watapachi) and Shiki Ichinose (Rise).
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Maev of Fate/Grand Order by Chigoku Yuugi.
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Kyoko of Madoka Magica decided to let her beard grow this time. I get that.
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I still believe Tokyo Big Sight is a dormant Transformer just waiting to manifest itself one day.
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Big letters for Big Sight.
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The organising committee estimated 530,000 people attended the 3-day event last weekend.

See you at Tokyo Game Show 2016! I’ll be at Tokyo Big Sight again for Comiket 91 in December.

Playing Super Mario Maker with a live orchestra

What’s better than playing Super Mario Maker? Playing Super Mario Maker while having an orchestra perform the soundtrack for you, of course!

In a cute attempt of recreating the experience of playing the Wii U game in a living room, if your living room happened to have a giant projector screen and a stage dedicated to musicians and a concertmaster, L’Orchestre de Jeux Vidéo (Orchestra of Video Games) in Montreal, or OJV for short, accompanied a gamer playing one of the levels by GiantBomb.

As any game soundtrack would, the orchestra changed their matched their melodies to the events happened in the game, e.g. when Mario fell of a cliff and cleared a level.

Be sure to check the other performances by the orchestra, like their Super Mario Bros. medley, if you’re now in a Mario mood.

 

NESPi: the DIY mini NES

Why wait for the NES Classic Edition by Nintendo to have that old 8-bit console replica in your living room?

Daft Mike is an electronics geek and loves retro games. He wasn’t going to sit around for the release of the official mini NES on November 11! Oh no… He has a 3D printer, a Raspberry Pi 2, the will, and the skills. He wanted to make his own and nothing was going to stop him.

Sure! There are endless 3D models available to download. But that wasn’t enough. He wanted it to be a perfect replica, to scale, with the original north-american design by Lance Barr.

So, he did. Behold, the NESPi.

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At first sight, it’s simply a NES and its controllers at 40% of their original scales. But look closely and you’ll notice the nice touches Mike added to make the experience more authentic. One of them, notably, is the cartridges.

The cartridges for the NESPi also look like their normal-size counterparts. Each of them are made to look like the original game, label, colour, and all. The interesting part is what they have inside: an NFC chip. It contains the name of the game file stored on the SD card inserted underneath the NESPi. Once the cartridge is inserted and the Power button is pushed, a program Mike wrote will read the datum in the NFC chip and load the game ROM if found on the SD card. With the amount of games an SD card can hold, the library of titles can be far more varied than the one offered with the NES Classic Edition.

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Actually, since it’s just a file name, you can also load any ROM of any platform supported by EmulationStation, the emulator manager used on the Raspberry Pi. He showed an example with the Pokemon cartridges he made to look like if those Game Boy games were initially released for the NES.

Everything feels authentic, albeit small, especially the controller. Maybe that should have stayed at scale. And let’s hope Nintendo doesn’t react to this with a cease-and-desist.

After his detailed blog article and his first video about the NESPi (shown above), Mike has released two videos with updates already. He’s also currently releasing the blueprints for his mini console while he teased his new project to miniaturise the Japanese Super Famicom.

Photos from blog by Daft Mike.

Realistic visuals of Tokyo in “The Garden of Words” resurface

The Garden of Words (Koto no Ha no Niwa, 2013) is an anime masterpiece with remarkable realistic visuals. The trailer will show you how rich and artistic the movie is and you’ll be begging to watch the entire movie:

The story takes place in the Meiji Jingu Gaien, or in other words, the outer precinct of the Meiji Shrine. The area is one of the rare large green spaces in Tokyo, and the house of various sports facilities, stadiums, and a memorial hall.

Montages comparing stills from the movie with photos of the actual locations were posted anonymously on a Korean forum soon after the theatrical release. After the film’s television broadcast earlier this month on the NHK, those images resurfaced and regained their much-deserved attention:

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This quality is expected by the production studio, CoMix Wave Films, well known to pay great attention to details in the photographs of actual locations they use for reference.

If watching The Garden of Words is not enough, you’ll also want to see 5 Centimeters Per Second (Byōsoku 5 Senchimētoru, 2007). Their next feature-length animation, Your Name (Kimi no Na ha) is scheduled for release in Japan this August.

Visit to Akihabara with Patrick and TOKYO WAY

A few months ago, I joined American expat Carl Kay in Japan as Web director and fanatic of Japanese popular culture in building TOKYO WAY. The new service offers people visiting Tokyo to experience the area in unique ways matching their hobbies and interests with local experts. Earlier this month, we were happy to open our new Web site at tokyoway.jp for people to browse and what we have to offer and sign up for events.

Akihabara station.

The creation of the Web site, combined with the subject matter, was a rare compelling experience. I’ll get into the technical details related to Web development on Rémi Code another day. For now, not only as a programmer, but also as a cosplayer who loves the otaku subculture and a traveller at heart, I thought I ought to at least try our Otaku Experience, set in Akihabara.

Cover of "The Moé Manifesto", with maid next to Patrick dressed up as Goku from "Dragon Ball."

Last week, with other guests interested in world of otaku, I joined local otaku expert, Patrick W. Galbraith, a Ph.D. student in Cultural Anthropology at Duke University and author of various works related to the phenomena of the area, including the latest title, “The Moé Manifesto: An Insider’s Look at the Worlds of Manga, Anime and Games.”

Hallway in Radio Center building.

After we gathered in front of a convenience store near Akihabara station, Patrick led the way around the station, beginning with a walk between little shops of radio, lighting, and electronic equipment nearby. He explained how Akihabara got the nickname Electric Town, as the area became famous for the tiny stores forming the compact two-floor market in which we were. Called Radio Center, reflecting the passion of radio the frequent shoppers there shared in the yesteryear, the shopping mall was formed after World War II and remains much unchanged since.

Akiba Shrine niche.

Historically, there was confusion whether or not a god, or kami, was present on the second floor of Radio Center. The uncertainty nevertheless turned into belief, exposed by a small niche over a fire hydrant, housing a local spirit of the nearby Akiba Shrine who protects the area against fire accidents. I’d say the entity is doing a good job so far.

Front of the Radio Kaikan building.

Before venturing further away from the station, we visited the floors inside Radio Kaikan. One of the first tall buildings in the area after the popularity of Radio Center, it closed in 2011 for renovations and finally re-opened in July.

Street with Radio Department Store.

Walking along the train tracks above us, then down one of the most crowded streets of the area, we peaked inside several stores of manga, arcades (or “game centers,” as they are called here), cosplay pieces, and boutiques selling second-hand items or material made by fans of popular anime series. Patrick explained how most places in Akihabara target men with some objectification of women, as opposed to Ikebukuro where women are usually targeted. This makes me think the police concerned about disturbances isn’t the only reason why taking photos is usually forbidden.

Sign for Animate store.
Animate, famous chain store of anime, manga, and cosplay items across Japan. This location is in the Akiba Cultures Zone building.
Sign at Maidreamin.
Maidreamin, popular chain of maid cafés with six locations in Akihabara, several others elsewhere in Japan, and one in Thailand.
Front of crane arcade.
If you’re lucky with these cranes, you can win some nice stuffed animals or figurines. For me, I bring a Mason jar, to store all the empty air I catch every time.
Sign pointing to a maid beauty salon.
T-shirts hanging in front of a store with all kinds of anime-like characters.
Store sign for Nadeshiko sushi.
Cute ladies prepare and serve you sushi at Nadeshiko, a twist on the typical sushi counter usually run by older men.

Canned oden in vending machine.
Opened can of oden.

All this walking made us hungry, just in time for the unique culinary experience of the trip: canned oden sold in a vending machine. The recipe for oden normally consists of konjac, daikon, boiled eggs, and fishcakes in broth, and usually varies by family and region. But this industrially-prepared oden, with its canned taste, was probably made by old rusty robots. Somewhat fitting, as people eating it are properly early-risers who have no where else to go for breakfast. For processed food, it’s passable — I wouldn’t expect the meal of a fancy restaurant in a can. Besides the taste, I did wonder if the meat was not actually a mix of tofu and konjac. What resembled a boiled quail egg had a strong yolk that spread itself down my oesophagus, and nothing seemed to wash it down. My oden experience was also diminished by the dispenser not giving me a tiny plastic fork like it should have, so I had to dip my fingers in the can to find that little toothpick poked in the piece of konjac inside. I certainly washed my hands since then, but rubbing those fingers extra hard to get the sticky oden broth off them formed into a habit of mine during my morning shower. I’m fairly certain the experience would have been greatly enhanced by that missing plastic fork. Damn you, greedy vending machine! At least, the konjac was nice.

Front of gachapon store.

Talking of things that look like eggs, a stop by a gachapon store was in our plan. The place welcomed us with rows and rows of colourful machines dispensing gachapon, little plastic shells with tiny toys, fake jewels, or mini figurines inside: put in a few coins, turn the dial, and see what you get!

A gachapon prize: a miniature dog wearing an alien mask.

One of the little things we won was a little dog disguising as an alien. Turns out even animals do cosplay here, it seems. Or was the dog getting ready for Halloween? I forgot to ask.

Front of cat café.
Cat café, where they won’t serve you cats, but they’ll let you pet them.
Front of Don Quijote store.
Don Quijote, a novel of chivalry to the Spanish, a famous store of cheap merchandise to the Japanese.

Sight of Hanabusa Shrine.

On our way back to the station, Patrick pointed to a shrine. Tucked inside a cluster of skyscrapers, the Hanabusa Shrine is currently visible through an open piece of land currently for sale. As everything around it is private property, including the narrow alleys leading to it, people without permission are forbidden to get there. In spite of that, it is good fortune, so it was kept intact. I was still hoping to prey there for the gods to help me get rid of that quail egg that slid down my throat, but I relied on more coffee instead.

Even if I lived in Japan for 5 years now, I still learned a lot from Patrick during our walk around Akihabara. Thank you, Patrick! He lived in Japan for twice as long as I have, and his knowledge of the surroundings showed that — the two-hour walk was only scratching the surface of how much he knows. For TOKYO WAY, Patrick is curating two regular events in Akihabara: the short one of two hours we participated in that day, and another one of four hours on weekdays, revealing more details and secrets of the electric town.

Tokyo Way

If you are curious to know how to join Patrick on his walk around Akihabara, check out the experiences offered by TOKYO WAY. And if you join him, there’s no need to bring a plastic fork for the canned oden — I’m sure that was only a fluke. Besides, food is clearly not the only thing Akihabara has to offer.