Archive for August, 2012


Comiket 82 & Odaiba

I just got back from the first day of Comiket 82, the bi-yearly comic market held in the Tokyo Big Sight convention hall. For reference, here is a picture of the iconic Big Sight:

This is a side view, and no, the convention is not held on the second floor of this building. In fact, the actual buildings sprawl out underneath and behind this one (there are six East Halls and four West Halls).

The Comic Market (shortened to Comiket by lazy Japanese people and lazier otaku [anime fans]) is a magical place filled with wonder and amazement. And, of course, beautiful, beautiful art. The thing that makes Comiket so unique is that the entirety of the East Halls and half of the West Halls are devoted to lesser-known artists and smaller companies. While many of them have professional quality work, Comiket is one of the few times where they can both communicate with their fans and make a lot of money selling their products wholesale. The reason many of them cannot be published ‘officially’ is due to copyright laws–many Comiket artists create doujinshi, or fan-created comics.

Doujinshi take fanfiction to a whole new level. They take the universes, characters, or storylines of a ‘mainstream’ original work and provide a different perspective on it. Perhaps in this one, your two favorite characters get into a relationship that was never canon. Or, say, some little plot thread that the original author never followed through on is now embellished and given voice through fan work. Comiket also gives artists a chance to play with the art styles of popular works. See below:

This is the official style of the animation known as Prince of Tennis.

And now, see one of the gorgeous remakes of these characters I found and purchased at Comiket:

Can these possibly be the same characters?! I much prefer this art style to the official one.

So as you can probably tell, a lot of the works available for sale at Comiket are meant as fan-service. That is to say, they make a series more appealing to a broader fan base by providing higher variety. Be warned that you will run into ‘questionable’ subject matter at Comiket and that it’s really not a place to bring small children (I know, I know, comic books for adults? What’s the deal, Japan? We thought that was kid stuff!) Unfortunately, pictures are not allowed inside of the Big Sight (unless if you specifically ask permission from the staff, and even then, they mostly say no), so I could not get as many as I’d hoped.

One thing you also see a lot of at Comiket are cosplayers. Simply put, cosplayers are people dressed as characters from fictional mediums. And Comiket is world-famous for its amazing cosplayers. Just today I saw creatures from Silent Hill, Sora and Riku from Kingdom Hearts, Vincent from Final Fantasy VI, and countless other detailed and stunning costumes. Here are some pictures, not taken by me, of cosplayers at Comiket 82:

After Comiket closed at 4 (it will open again tomorrow at 10), we wandered on down the train line to the largest shopping mall in Tokyo to get ‘linner’ (you can buy food at Comiket too, but who would when there is so much ELSE to see?) and ran into a life-sized Gundam model:

Just to show you HOW TALL 18 meters are, that guy by the foot is only about 10 feet away.

Even if you’ve never seen Gundam, even if you wonder what the POINT is of a non-working life-size battle robot, you have to admit that this is pretty cool. And the attention to detail… I mean, there’s even serial numbers on each part! Truly a work of art, here.
I will definitely be returning to Odaiba in the future. I haven’t yet explored it as much as I would like–Comiket takes a lot out of a person–and there is still so much more to see. For now, I leave you with some pictures I managed to take on the run between stations and destinations.

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Well, here it is, a comprehensive list of all of the lessons Japan and in particular APU has as of now taught me. Some (not many) are serious, most were fun to learn, and all are things that made me scratch my head, laugh out loud, or boggle over. Enjoy~

1. Sometimes, it’s better not to ask.

Seriously, what were they thinking when they made this an official sign? These are dug into the pavement all around Taito-ku.

2. English grammar has more of what we call ‘guidelines’ rather than actual rules.

I have to wonder if Koreans and Chinese people, too, have to put up with grammar like this in Japan…

3. Just because something calls itself “American” does not make it American.

This was… disgusting, by the way. Dry cake, banana filling that was so sweet it made my teeth ache, and some sort of pebbles masquerading as chocolate chips on top of said banana filling.

4. Japan’s college students are worse at world geography than America’s… which I hadn’t previously thought possible…

I want to know what kind of atlas they were using for reference and why, suddenly, Africa is an island. 😛 Not to mention the fact that many countries (like Iceland and several parts of Indonesia) simply Were Not Included on the World Festival map.

5. The entire nation of Japan is pulling the most massive prank ever on the world and its name is natto cake.

Natto is, for those unaware, fermented soybeans (yes that’s the same thing as rotten). I just wish I could find a picture of the way it actually retains its stringiness even AFTER baking… but that might cause sickness in the masses, ne. xD

6. Fastest way to freak out domestic Japanese students (besides pretending that the Health Check is actually unimaginable torture)? Eat grapes… WITH THE SKIN STILL ON!

“K-kore… NANDE?!!! Majide!” (That’s… WHY! No way!) And you thought that only spoiled brats wanted the skin peeled off of grapes. No, apparently, in Japan, eating grapes with the skin on is equivalent to nomming tomatoes on your front porch in the early nineteenth century (don’t know the reference? Shaaame). We literally got looks like we might drop dead at any second.

7. Explosives are cool and we sell them in dollar stores, but open flames are not allowed anywhere within the city. So you’re in no danger, because no one will be able to LIGHT the explosives. See, see? It’s only logical!

I do not own the awesomeness that is Spock.

8. Apparently. Every single time a cloud passes over the fair city that is Beppu, a warning must be issued, and it sounds like this: “Attention. A Thunderstorm Warning. Has been. Issued. Please come inside of buildings. Immediately. Classes will operate as. Scheduled. Bus services will operate as. Scheduled.”

Of course it’s not mine. But, sadly, this is never what the weather was like when one of these warnings came on (though you’d certainly think it by the urgency of the warning). Half the time it was hardly even raining. I kept wondering to myself how I was supposed to get to my regularly scheduled classes while staying inside of buildings…

9. And speaking of warnings:

Every. Single. Night. EVERY NIGHT. At 9:50 PM exactly. Yeah. We got to a point where we’d be running around the kitchen yelling along with both the English AND Japanese versions of the announcement. Oh, and of course, the guy sounded so cheerful when he said “Punished” that it was just so creepy.

10. Soda can be so green that it looks like the toxic sludge from some bad cartoon. This is melon soda, and it is very popular.

This is not edited. Yes, it even TASTES that green.

11. Anything can be made adorable through the magic of cartoons. Even horrible and deadly STDs.

This is from a booklet we got at the “Student Health Assessment” lecture entitled “Safe Sex Guide” by one of Japan’s leading condom producers. I… have no words to describe it, still… it is just too awesome not to post again, here.

12. The bad habit of native speakers, that of talk-ing slow-ly and LOUD-LY and expecting to be understood, is not merely an American universal.

Sadly, this has happened to me so often. Me: “Wakarimasen…” (I don’t understand you.) Them: “DAH… RE… GA… IH… KEH… RU…” Me: “*mutters* Yeah, still don’t understand the words.” I will never again do this to anyone who doesn’t speak English. It’s infuriating.

13. Fun must be scheduled, recorded, and organized. If you don’t have fifteen sheets of paperwork by the end, you’re not having fun.

This is the preliminary paperwork for renting the kitchen for a span of two hours… 😛 No, but in all honesty, I have had this happen to me on multiple occasions. “Fill out this form, we’ll stamp it, give you THIS form, and you keep it. Then on the day of the event, exchange it for two more forms, write down the names and ID numbers of everyone who attends, and hand in the forms at the end. Oh, and make a copy for yourself.” How no one in Japan drowns in paperwork is a real mystery…

14. Ketchup makes anything edible~

 

I could not have survived Japan without Heinz. Thaaank you, imports. Don’t get me wrong; I love Japanese food and find most of it delicious just the way it is. But… some things… especially my floormates’ cooking… 😛

15. People on scooters are either insane, suicidal, or both.

I honestly would not have been surprised to have seen an APU student riding this down the mountain. They randomly added entire extensions to their scooters for bookbags; they had friends without helmets clutching their backs and not attached to the seat in any other way; they swerved in and out of traffic and around cars… as my karate sensei said, If I had some money for every time I saw a student pull some stupid stunt on a scooter, I would be very, very rich.

16. There are awesome people from all over this planet, just as there are morons and bigots from all over this planet. Me, personally? I found the awesome ones!

Picture Credits: Kurozone Photography, 2012.

Thank you, APU. I know that I’ve had my share of quarrels with your nonsensical policies, frustratingly stubborn adherence to the guidebook, and your long and boring orientations, but without you, I’d never have met all of these people and done so many incredible things. I know that I will keep the memories of the last four months in my heart forever, no matter how much time passes.

Thank you, also, to the nation of Japan. For being so awesome. For always giving the lost American directions, even going out of your way to make sure I got to the right place. For your never-ending patience with my stumbling, stuttering, stilted Japanese (getting better now, but at first… I’m sure you wanted to slam your head into a brick wall repeatedly when I spoke ve-ry …………slow-ly………….. and in sim-ple… … … phrase-es). And finally, for being delighted that I am fascinated with your culture. And a final thank you to my parents and to everyone who has supported me, for providing me with this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

I’ll end with a quote. Mom, you’ll know this one: “Never in my life did I think I would end up in such a beautiful place, doing so many incredible things… And it’s truly been my pleasure to meet you all.”