Veteran anime voice actor Kappei Yamaguchi displays hidden artistic talent… yet again!

Perhaps the 52-year-old voice of Inuyasha and Ranma should seriously consider a mid-life career change to manga artist?

If you grew up watching subbed anime from the 90s, chances are you’ve heard Kappei Yamaguchi’s instantly recognizable, uniquely nasal voice. He’s known for playing somewhat brash characters with hidden vulnerabilities, especially during his frequent collaborations with prolific manga artist Rumiko Takashashi, for whom he’s voiced the titular characters in Ranma ½ and Inuyasha.

His other signature roles include playing L in Death Note, Shinichi (Jimmy) Kudo in Detective Conan, and Usopp in One Piece. He’s even been playing the latter two continuously for 22 and 18 years respectively! After hearing his voice in hundreds of hours of anime episodes, Yamaguchi feels like an old friend to us — even though we’ve never met the guy.

▼ Manga artist Rumiko Takahashi (seated center) with the vocal cast of Ranma ½ at the Ranma ½ Cafe in Tokyo in February. Yamaguchi is standing behind her.

As Japanese netizens have discovered over the past few years, Yamaguchi is not just insanely talented with his voice acting skills, but also at replicating his favorite anime characters with a pen. 

He most recently popped up in some photos on the official blog of fellow veteran voice actor Toshiyuki Morikawa. Morikawa (who ironically played Yamaguchi’s character’s arch-nemesis Naraku in Inuyasha) portrayed One Piece antagonist Enel alongside Yamaguchi in the television special Episode of Sky Island, set to air in Japan on August 25.

Despite their fictional characters’ rivalries, in real life the two appear to be quite chummy. During the recording session, Yamaguchi apparently picked up a marker and began recreating Enel’s infamous “shocked” expression on the board:

“Kappei-kun is drawing Enel! Yahahaha!”

▼ A part of the original drawing from the
manga for reference. Not bad at all!

A few days later, Morikawa posted a follow-up message:

“Master painter Kappei Yamaguchi and Morikawa-san.”

This isn’t the first time, nor will it be the last, that Yamaguchi has demonstrated his artistic prowess. Just this May he posted the beginnings of a self-drawn portrait of Shinichi Kudo, the main character from Detective Conan, in celebration of the character’s birthday.

“I’m not gonna make it in time! Sorry, Shin-chan.”

A few hours later he uploaded the finished product:

“Happy belated, Shin-chan!”

Netizens were also quick to dig up another birthday tribute to Shinichi from three years ago:

In light of his impressive artistic skills, netizens posted comments such as the following online:

“Even the Shinichi sketch is really good.”
“He could animate and dub his own anime. Cool!”
“He seems like an ordinary middle-aged guy. I’m a bit let down tbh.”
“I think he could sell those over Yahoo! Auctions.”
“Voice actors should do voice impressions, not artistic impressions!” (Wow, what a party pooper.)

Follow Yamaguchi on his Twitter account to see what other creative endeavors he’s been up, including a recent foray into the world of rakugo (a form of comedic storytelling). We also certainly wouldn’t mind if he decided to create a portfolio of his artwork!

Source:  Toshiyuki Morikawa Official Blog via Hachima Kiko
Featured image: Twitter/@axl_mt_info

Synchronized Shiba siblings spark spontaneous satisfied squeals【Video】

Who can resist those smooshy faces and all-too-cute tongues?

Some people claim that Disneyland is their version of heaven on earth. Others argue that Japanese depachika are more worthy of that title. If you ask us, however, it’s neither of those places–instead, paradise is wherever in the northern Japanese city of Sendai that the following adorable trio of Shiba Inu siblings happen to live.

The Shib sibs (oops, has that nickname already been taken by a pair of figure skaters…?) even have their own Twitter account, @yumatsuyamas, though we presume they get some help with typing from their human family members. The oldest brother is named Hinata, and he’s mostly black in color. The second brother is Aoi, and he’s also mostly black. The youngest brother is named Sora and he’s a reddish hue. Hinata and Aoi are 7 years old, while Sora is 6. Despite the small age difference, we’d pretty confident that we can see the family resemblance:

▼ They even lick their chops in synchronized order!

Even more impressive to us is the fact that they don’t seem to mind pressing their faces so closely against one another like that. Would you enjoy doing that with your own siblings? We think not.

Also note that the boys have many innate talents, including being masters of stealth…

…head-butting (literally)…

…and symmetrical sleeping.

If you’re feeling a bit down that three dogs have more social media followers than you, it gets even worse–they even have their own official photographic collection as well as an online shop of merchandise:

▼ “Do these cushions make us look fat?”

Feeling downright in the doghouse yet?

If you want to see more of their adorable sibling antics, be sure to follow Hinata, Aoi, and Sora on Twitter or Instagram for your daily dose of delight.

Source: Twitter/@yumatsuyamas
Featured image: Twitter/@yumatsuyamas

Illustrator for Square Enix, Capcom stuns with whiteboard armor artwork and more

Some people just have too much talent…save some for the rest of us! 

If you’re one of those people who’s insanely jealous of natural-born artists, then you may want to stop reading now because you’re about to get supremely frustrated.

We’ve seen a fair number of impressive drawing skills over Asian social media, especially inside of the classroom, but this next stuff blows it out of the park.

Prepare to be amazed by Twitter user @PonkichiM, an illustrator and occasional manga artist who has produced artwork for prominent video game companies such as Square Enix, Sega, and Capcom. He also teaches at a drawing school, where his “casual” whiteboard reference drawings (for the benefit of his students, of course) have the rest of us retrieving our jaws from the floor. Check out some of his recent gems:

“A whiteboard drawing of some old dudes I did for my students. I may never draw such giant old guys again, so soak it in now.”

▼ OK, I seriously thought these were decals before enlarging the pictures. Even his writing in both languages is perfect…

“A collection of medieval armor and warriors that I did for my students which includes the names of the various parts. For any drawing you’re doing, research the subject, accumulate new discoveries, deepen your fundamental knowledge, and from there everything will become habitual. Your breadth of artistic choices and designs will expand at once so let’s work on researching our drawing subjects even more and deepening our knowledge.”

Sadly, erasing his work seems equivalent to a funeral…

“Everything is hand-drawn. The students worry about me because I don’t eat lunch and use the break to keep drawing (lol). If I just leave the drawings on the board without erasing them the school staff will get mad (the drawings are just too big and hard to erase), so I erase it like this with big swipes.”

OK, this one might be our favorite one of all:

▼ Canine warriors about to set off on an epic quest! 

“I’ve been drawing a lot of fluffy animals recently.”

As a professional artist, @PonkichiM is also skilled in other mediums as well. His social media presence suggests that he particularly enjoys drawing animals and people’s pets:

“Cat eyes”

▼ The most squishable cheeks in the world

“Good night”

A style undoubtedly influenced by traditional ink paintings

“#Cat and owl #Tanabata (the Star Festival, traditionally celebrated with branches of bamboo and written wishes)”

If you’ve enjoyed @PonkichiM’s artwork and want to see more, be sure to follow him on Twitter and check out his online gallery of work for (mostly fantasy-themed) video games and trading card games found here. For the rest of us, who aren’t as talented as Japan’s many artists, it’s time to go back to basics…

Source: Togech
Featured image: Twitter/@PonkichiM

Nine times Japanese people got schooled on their own country and culture by foreigners

Japanese people dish on things foreigners told them that they’d never realized before about their home country.

Remember that photo of Canadian cops doing something unthinkable by Japanese societal standards? While most Westerners wouldn’t bat an eye at two on-duty officers drinking coffee (or think it anything out of the ordinary), that simple act was enough to make some Japanese people’s jaws drop. It just goes to show that the world-views of individuals from different countries and cultural backgrounds may not always overlap neatly, and we may be completely oblivious to certain things in a different context. It’s also one of the multiple reasons why I find that studying a second language or culture is so important–it often teaches you things about yourself and your own country that you’d never even considered or had always taken for granted were ‘right.’ 

Today, it’s time to flip the coin and see what traditionally Japanese behaviors and ways of thinking Japanese people have finally honed in on only after interacting with foreigners. Let’s get right to the intercultural schooling!

1. A Romanian Lesson

“A Romanian male in his late twenties told me, ‘I read in a book recently that Japan in the ’80s had the second-highest GDP in the world and 40 percent of total transactions on the global stock market were Japanese business dealings, and I thought it was an amazing country.’ I had no idea.’”

Japanese reactions:

“Wasn’t he probably itching to ask the secret to how we managed to fall so far?”

“Even now we have politicians who can’t break free from visions of the past.”

While it’s no secret that Japan’s Bubble Economy of the 1980s was marked by exponential growth, high disposable incomes, and extravagant spending, sometimes it takes someone from the outside to put it all into perspective.

2. A German Lesson

“A German guy seeing an enormous helping of shirasu [young sardines] at the Ameyoko market: ‘Why are they selling bugs?’ The same German guy seeing sausages with bones being sold at a supermarket: ‘Why do Japanese people put bones back into the sausage?’ The same guy seeing Alto Bayern [a brand of Japanese sausage]: ‘These are Vienna-style wieners, Bayern [Bavarian/German for ‘Bavaria’] has nothing to do with it!’ (he was maddest at this)” 

▼ Alto Bayern sausages

Japanese reactions:

“I’ve been told by a German person that it’s strange that Vienna wieners are small and Frankfurt frankfurters are large in Japan!”

“Japanese people do the same thing (lol).” 

“He’s the kind of guy who doesn’t want the culture of his homeland to be misinterpreted.”

Hey, we get it–no one likes to see the beloved food of their homeland being sold under a false name. That is, unless you’re American and see Burger King Japan trying to sell black-bunned burgers with black cheese…that’s all yours for the keeping, Japan.

3. An Uzbek Lesson

“An Uzbek exchange student who has been in Japan for almost half a year messaged me over SNS that ‘Being asked ‘Genki [How are you]?’ every day makes me happy.’ (In Uzbekistan it’s very important to ask about others’ well-being/current state of affairs in passing.) This type of greeting isn’t done in Japan so he seemed to be feeling out of touch with himself and isolated. I get it now.”

Japanese reactions:

“Genki [How are you]? :)” 

When living in a foreign place, sometimes it’s the simplest things that keep you feeling connected.

4. An Italian Lesson

“This Italian was raging about Japanese companies that expound the notion of ‘Taking care of yourself is part of your job!’ but then get mad when you want to take time off due to poor physical health. When she requested her paid leave and wrote ‘Taking care of myself,’ as the reason, the company said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding–that’s not a valid reason!’ 

I think ‘Taking care of myself’ is the best reason for requesting time off.”

▼ What’ve you gotta do to take vacation around here??

Japanese reactions:

“I just remembered when my senior at work didn’t get the change he wanted and took a holiday ‘To mend my heart.’”

“Maybe it’s only because since elementary school it’s been imprinted on us that not being late and perfect attendance are the ideals. The Japanese education system may be trying to destroy Japan.”

“I wish something would happen to those meddling middle-aged women who say ‘Is it really OK to use your vacation time now? You should be saving it before you get married~’ even if I say ‘Please let me use my paid leave.’”

According to a Japanese friend, even Japanese employees are reluctant to take time off because “it inconveniences others” (他人に迷惑をかけるから).

5. A Dutch Lesson

“Today my geoscientist guest from Holland was surprised: ‘Huh!? There are very few high schools in Japan that teach the earth sciences!? 10 percent of the world’s volcanoes are in Japan. Shouldn’t earth science be the most necessary here?’ This is the latest opinion that I wholeheartedly agree with.”

Japanese reactions:

“I took earth science as a third-year high school student. It was an elective, but I learned it. Is it really that uncommon?”

“This has been added to my list of the Seven Wonders of Japan. I wonder if it’s some kind of conspiracy, ignoring earth science.” 

At least Kobe University can say they tried to warn us when Japan is annihilated by a massive eruption in the next 100 years.

6. A French Lesson

“I met a French person at a pub in New Zealand who up until then had been living in Japan for an extended time.

French person: ‘I went to many places–Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka…’

Me: ‘Where was your favorite place?’

French person: ‘The basements of department stores.’

Me: ‘…?’

French person: ‘They’re the most wonderful places in the universe.’”

▼ A typical assortment of freshly prepared foods in a department store basement…aka Heaven on Earth

Japanese reactions:

“When I led a German couple around a Japanese department store basement, they also couldn’t stop yelling, ‘Oh!! KAWAII!!’”

“My French instructor in Japan also loved the department store basements. Lol. Maybe it’s because everything delicious is gathered in one place?”

Snapping up free samples or visiting depachika (as they’re informally known) right before closing time is one way to save big when on a tight budget in Japan.

7. An Australian Lesson

“Australian city bus strikes are unlike Japanese ones. Without stopping service, they stop collecting fare from passengers. This method doesn’t cause any inconvenience for the passengers. Rather, the longer the strike, the more people rejoice. Also, the management definitely takes a hit. I don’t know who thought up this method, but I think it’s clever.”

Japanese reactions:

“Nagoya city buses did that in the past.”

“I wonder if that’s OK under Japanese law? It’s good as long as the strikers won’t be slapped with a claim for compensation by intentionally causing the employers to lose money by not taking fare. Cool! I suddenly thought of this while retweeting because they’re making expenses.”

“Within Japan there are railway ticket gate strikes. If, in the present era, the Tokyu Line with its majority IC-specialized gates, magnetic tickets might come to a complete stop.”

Interestingly, bus drivers in Okayama Prefecture have actually tried out this tactic since this tweet was originally posted in August 2017 around the time of fare strikes in Brisbane and Sydney.

8. An English Lesson (1)

“I asked an English person (living in Japan) what the meaning of the Stones’ ‘Jumping Jack Flash’ was and he replied, ‘I dunno. Why do Japanese people always pay such close attention to the meaning of individual lyrics? There’s no meaning behind ‘Odoru Pompokolin’ [a 1990 J-Pop song used as the original ending theme of the Chibi Maruko-chan anime], right?’ I couldn’t object.”

▼ …And a legend was born.

Japanese reactions:

“A long time ago the official Japanese translation of that song on some radio program was ‘Lightning Rascal’…”

“I understand that logic, but it’s for the same reason that foreigners don’t want to get a tragic tattoo in Japanese kanji that reads ‘shit’ (this example’s a little different, but hey…)” 

“On average, I don’t think Japanese people think about the meaning all that much. I think the reason the Japanese person asked the English person about the meaning of the English lyrics was simply because he wasn’t a native speaker. I wondered what kind of person that English guy was.”

Speaking of strange Japanese song titles, have you checked out Kyary Pamyu Pamyu‘s discography recently?

9. An English Lesson (2)

“Everyone at the major English animation company that I’m working at left work at the fixed time. There was no overtime.

After doing a little bit of research I found that overtime basically doesn’t exist at English companies.

I finally understood why foreigners are always saying that ‘Japan is heaven for sightseeing but hell for working.’”

Japanese reactions:

“Japan is all like…during the day you’re buried in meetings, meetings, meetings, meetings, meetings, meetings and then you realize it’s night…then overtime…but overtime’s not good!…Huh?” 

“That’s a misunderstanding. Self-employed people and agricultural workers overseas also have no concept of a set time to finish work. Japan’s unique characteristic is that even company employees and government officials are in the same vein and have a weak sense of the end of the work day. Because the concepts of ‘family’ and ‘household’ have been expanded to include the company and public office, it’s a phenomenon characteristic of island nations. You can’t say that it’s unconditionally bad.”   

“There are plenty of companies in England where overtime exists. Variations exist depending on the kind of business. Also, there are actually fewer national holidays compared to Japan, and the total number of working hours per year is higher…unexpected, isn’t it!”

Thankfully, some Japanese companies have begun taking serious measures against excessive overtime in light of karoshi, or “deaths by overwork.”

Have you made a similarly unexpected discovery about your home country after a foreigner pointed it out to you? Let us know in the comments section below!

Source: Naver Matome
Top image: Pakutaso

Photos of abandoned power plants in Japan show the hidden beauty in ruins【Photos】

Deteriorating facilities remind us of the power of time and the fragility of man’s monuments.

Japanese Twitter user @98naykkan is no stranger to scenes of abandoned buildings in the process of being reclaimed by nature. He even mentions his penchant for searching out forgotten ruins around the country in his Twitter introduction. However, even he was surprised by the Internet’s viral reaction after posting photos of an abandoned power plant earlier this week.

▼ “You guys like this stuff, right? An abandoned power plant overflowing with greenery.”  

The photos’ atmosphere of neglect is somehow both eerie and peaceful at the same time. You can almost feel a natural power radiating from the scenery as the sunlight streams through the broken glass. Actually, @98naykkan’s Instagram account, subtitled “Abandoned World,” is completely dedicated to his collection of mesmerizing discoveries. The following are just a small sampling of his artistry.

This corridor is especially haunting.

Instagram Photo

▼ When was the last time this car went for a drive?

Instagram Photo

A stunning sunset reminds us of a Makoto Shinkai film

Instagram Photo

▼ Gorgeous ivy slowly encroaching on a statue

Instagram Photo

▼ It makes you wonder who the very last people were to sit in these chairs…

Instagram Photo

@98naykkan even posted a video of some of his explorations on YouTube, set to a catchy beat:

His photos inspired other net users to share their own photos of similarly abandoned buildings, including other types of power plants:

▼ “I heard Twitter is like a Power Plant Festival right now, so I’m leaving these shots of the famous Okunoshima [aka Rabbit Island]‘s former thermal power station.”

▼ “Hydroelectric plant”

▼ “Hydroelectric plant (2). I’m taking advantage of this sudden surge in popularity of abandoned power plant sites covered in vegetation.”

▼ “The ruins of a hydroelectric plant covered in greenery”

But alas–all good things must come to an end. After expressing some lighthearted concerns that his followers were getting tired of seeing so many power plant ruins, @98naykkan decided that it was time to move on to posting some different photos:

▼ “I think it’s about time to bring this ‘Power Plant Festival’ to a close. As a parting gift, here are some scenes of other power plants.”

Net reactions to @98naykkan’s original tweet compared his photos to video games:

▼ “It looks like this place was used as reference for the Wii game Fragile Dreams…they’re really similar. I really like it…”

▼ “It reminds me of this”

To be perfectly honest, our first reaction after reading “abandoned power plant” in the original tweet was recalling the run-down power plant encountered in Pokémon Red and Blue. We half expected to see a Zapdos lurking in the corner of one of the photos!

Source: Twitter/@98naykkan
Featured image: Twitter/@98naykkan

Sailor Moon’s Moonlight Densetsu as played on traditional Japanese instruments

The classic theme song comes to life in a brand-new way that evokes a different style of “miracle romance.” 

“Moonlight Densetsu (‘Legend’),” the opening theme of the 1990s anime classic Sailor Moon, is still a beloved tune and karaoke go-to even though it first graced TV screens over 25 years ago. The song is instantly recognizable no matter if you grew up watching the original Japanese version or the English dubbed version, as the latter actually retained the original song’s melody (unlike many other popular anime of the time such as Pokémon). Doesn’t just hearing its familiar opening notes set you awash in a wave of nostalgia and childhood daydreams?

There have been countless covers of the song over the years, but a particular one making use of wagakki, or traditional Japanese instruments, especially piqued our interest. The video was posted earlier this year by Nami Kineie, a master of the three-stringed shamisen who has an impressive repertoire of CDs under her belt. Not one to shy away from traditional kabuki nagauta “long songs” nor modern tunes, Kineie has blown us away us by leading the following utterly unique arrangement of “Moonlight Densetsu.”

Particularly heartwarming to us is the video’s comments section, which is positively brimming with love and praises from people all around the world.

“So beautiful!”
“It’s awesome to see older musicians covering Sailor Moon songs.”
“It feels like I’m watching the Sailor Senshi, but dressed in kimono!”
“I love how the kimono colors match the characters’ image colors.”
“The seriousness of traditional Japanese music and this elderly band, against the bright, chirpy anime music of Sailor Moon! Wow!”

This isn’t the first–nor will it be the last–Japanese pop culture-influenced cover that Kineie and her companions provide. Check out this much earlier cover of Hatsune Miku’s “Senbonzakura” (complete with vocals):

If you liked what you heard, be sure to follow Kineie’s official website, YouTube channel, or Twitter account. Hopefully we’ll see many more anime-inspired videos in the near future!

Source: JAPANkyo
Images: YouTube/kineienami

Literally wipe out your chances of academic failure with prep school’s unique erasers

One school hopes a simple motivational tool will help students get into their dream universities.  

When a traditional o-mamori charm or a good-luck Kit Kat just doesn’t cut it, what’s a stressed-out test-taker to do? The answer, according to one preparatory school in Takamatsu City, Kagawa Prefecture, is to erase your chances of failure altogether.

Takamatsu Preparatory School was recently featured in the digital version of the Asahi Shimbun, one of Japan’s most prestigious national newspapers, for a little trinket that they give to their high school graduates who are currently studying for the dreaded university entrance exams. The item in question at first seems like an ordinary rubber eraser, but it actually contains a hidden message:

Readers who have studied kanji may recognize 合格 (gokaku/“pass”), a word which every test taker dreams of seeing, written on the eraser cover. But astute word sleuths may also recognize the common negative prefix  in front of the characters, which turns the expression into 不合格 (fugokaku/”fail”). So why the heck would a school give its paying students something that contains their most taboo word as a gift?

The answer is actually quite clever. Pay particular attention to the placement of the character 不:

Unlike 合格, which is on the eraser cover, 不 is printed onto the eraser itself. In other words, after many hours of studying and correcting answers, the 不 will eventually wear away, leaving nothing but 合格 behind in a symbolic gesture.

A local commercial for the prep school also encourages its students to study until the 不 has been erased. This short clip can be viewed on the school’s website (the video in the upper right), and is narrated by the words “Making a mistake again, again, and again…and passing. Now giving out fugokaku erasers.”

Unfortunately for the rest of us, the erasers are only offered to students enrolled in the school’s post-high school college prep course and are not on sale for the general public. Students are also said to receive a special “non-slipping notebook” to be placed on their desks, which is a nod to a Japanese expression not to ochiru, meaning either “slip” or “fail” in Japanese.

Japanese net users responded to the eraser buzz in a variety of ways: 

“Didn’t these already exist in the past?”
“I think this sounds like a super Japanese idea.”
“But what happens if the cover is ripped and 合格 is lost…?”
“You can change your destiny with your hand!”
“I can’t believe they’re using tuition money on something so ridiculous.”

By the way, Takamatsu Preparatory School assures the public that it does not distribute the erasers immediately before exam season in case any students are especially superstitious. Also, if the erasers don’t work and students still end up failing their exams, at least they have a juicy steak waiting to make them feel better.

Source: Asahi Shimbun via Hachima Kiko
Featured image: Twitter/@sakae0826