Wedding ceremonies with handsome anime men now being offered at Akihabara VR center

Slip on a headset and let one of three handsome dating simulator stars slip a ring on your finger.

A while back, Japanese media companies wised up to the fact that female fans of the anime aesthetic want many of the same things that male fans want. Lovingly animated TV series. Live appearances by their favorite voice actors. And, yes, the chance to wallow happily in the delusion of a romantic connection with their 2-D crushes.

In keeping with that spirit, video game developer Sega is now offering women the chance to take part in a wedding ceremony with one of three handsome anime-style men, through the magic of VR technology.

On April 17, the Sega VR Area Akihabara arcade in Tokyo added VR Wedding (“Kyoshiki” VR in Japanese) to its lineup of virtual reality attractions, as part of a collaboration with Voltage, a maker of otome games, female-oriented romance titles.

The trio of eligible bachelors consists of three characters from existing Voltage games, starting with Yamato Kougami, who hails from Chikai no Kiss ha Totsuzen ni Love Ring. A 26-year-old high school physics teacher, Yamato is haughty yet doting, and is voiced by veteran voice actor Hikaru Midorikawa, so if you close your eyes you can also pretend you’re tying the knot with Gundam Wing’s Heero, Fushigi Yugi’s Tamahome, or Slayers’ Zelgadis.

Those with a thing for foreigners, blond dudes, or rich guys can instead wed Henry A. Spencer, a literal prince from Ojisama no Propose Eternal Kiss with an IQ of 200 and a penchant for teasing his lover.

Nobuhiko Okamoto (Blue Exorcist’s Rin) provides Prince Henry’s voice.

And finally, Date Masamune was an actual 16th-century samurai warlord before he was co-opted into historical-themed otome game Tenkadoitsu Koi no Ran Love Ballad, where he’s voiced by Kaito Ishikawa (One Punch Man’s Genos).

▼ The real Masamune did indeed lose an eye, but the remaining one having a brilliant green iris is probably a fangirl-pleasing break from historical record, and the boy band-ready hairstyle most definitely is.

Although VR Wedding definitely leans farther to the “experience” side of the game/experience scale, there is some interactivity involved, as after the wedding your conversational choices with your new husband will result in one of three different endings.

And for those wishing to preserve their memory of the special day, a marriage certificate, including a photo of you and your hubby, is available for a 700 yen (US$6.50) surcharge, in addition to the 800 yen it costs to play the game.

VR Wedding will be available for play at Sega VR Area Akihabara until May 8, and if you’re the indecisive type, virtual polygamy is allowed, so there’s nothing stopping you from going back multiple times and marrying all three men. If you’re hoping to obtain family support benefits from this otaku-accepting Japanese company, though, you’ll need to pick just one as you primary spouse. And if you’re still not sure if you’re ready to take the virtual marriage plunge, perhaps Mr. Sato’s hands-on sneak peek of VR Wedding will help you decide.

Location information
Sega VR Area Akihabara / セガVRエリア秋葉原
Address: Tokyo-to, Chiyoda-ku, Soto Kanda 1-11-1, Soto Kanda Icchome Building Sega Akihabara Building 3 6th floor
東京都千代田区外神田1-11-11外神田1丁目ビルディング セガ 秋葉原3号館 6F

Source: Voltage via IT Media
Top image: Voltage
Insert images: Voltage (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)

New illustrated Studio Ghibli folding fans: A beautiful way to deal with Japan’s summertime heat

Totoro, Jiji, and No Face are here to provide a cool breeze as you set out on warm-weather adventures of your own.

If you’re an anime fan who’s planning a trip to Japan, it’s pretty much a given that going to Donguri Kyowakoku, the chain of shops stocked with amazing Studio Ghibli merchandise, is something you’ll be doing. And should said trip to Japan happen during the next few months, another thing you’ll definitely be doing is sweating profusely, thanks to the high temperatures and humidity of Japan’s summer months.

So while you’re tossing voice-activated Laputa levistone pendants and moving No Face coin banks into your shopping basket, make sure you leave a little room in your budget for some of these gorgeous Ghibli Japanese-style folding fans to help keep yourself cool.

Four designs are available, starting off with the Cool Breeze Totoro, which features the beloved Studio Ghibli mascot on a deep blue background, with a soot spirit ornament dangling from the base of the fan.

If you’re after a more classically feminine look, or want all three differently colored versions of Totoro together, the Wisteria Totoro has the large gray and medium blue forest spirits on the fan itself, with the micro-sized white one as the ornament.

Summer Smile Kiki’s Delivery Service may not feature the tituar witch herself, but the logo of her (also titular) business is found at the far right. Multiple images of Kiki’s easygoing familiar Jiji appear on a field of sunflowers, with the black cat also taking on the ornament role.

And last, in the Camellia Spirited Away fan, decorated with a soot sprite ornament, it’s No Face who immediately draws the eye, but let your perspective expand a bit and you’ll discover Haku, in his dragon form, streaking across the sky.

Should you worry that carrying these lovingly illustrated fans around in your bag will leave them soiled and bruised, Donguri Kyowaoku also has a cloth fan pouch, although only the Cool Breeze Totoro motif is offered.

▼ Front and back sides shown

The fans measure 21 centimeters (8.3 inches) in radius, and are priced at 2,980 yen (US$28), while the pouch sells for 900 yen. All go on sale later this month at Donguri Kyowakoku branches and the chain’s online shop, and should you still be looking for Ghibli-inspired ways to deal with Japan’s humid summers, the Kiki’s Delivery Service body mist fragrance line would be a good place to start.

Related: Donguri Kyowakoku, Donguri Kyowakoku online store
Sources: Japaaan, PR Times
Images: PR Times

Visionary itasha design gives us a glimpse of what might become the newest trend for anime cars

An amazingly simply but cool idea to really help your itasha anime characters’ eyes “pop.”

If you want to turn your car into an itasha, the only real requirement is that you slap some anime character art on it. But with anime being a medium with a highly polished aesthetic, you’ll probably want to take the contours of your car’s bodywork into account when selecting and positioning the images of your favorite characters (or voodoo doll substitutes for the characters you hate).

Some itasha owners have even gone as far as to make the character artwork animated by using the car’s wipers or windows. But one thing we hadn’t seen, until now, was an itasha design that uses the vehicle’s taillights as the character’s eyes.

Japanese Twitter user @404_m9’s itasha design honors Pop Team Epic, the bizarre comedy hit of this year’s winter anime season. As seen above, the rear end of the Nissan R35 GT-R is festooned with a triple helping of the likeness of Popuko, the shorter of Po Team Epic’s two schoolgirl protagonists. While the central Popuko is seen in her usual form (flipping the bird with each hand), the corners of the car have Popuko positioned so that the car’s distinctive round taillights serve as sinister glowing red eyes for her.

▼ Even in the daytime, the effect is startling and slightly unsettling, much like Pop Team Epic’s artwork itself.

@404_m9 has done something similar with his itasha design for the R32 GT-R, which was sold three model generations before the R35, back when the car was still part of Nissan’s Skyline series.

It’s an extremely clever idea, and even if a car doesn’t have round taillights, incorporating the red glow of the brake lights into the itasha design, perhaps as an aura of magical energy, seems like a great idea. But aside from the originality, something else stands out about @404_m9’s itasha efforts.

Often, itasha owners choose sports cars from the mid to late 1990s as their canvases, since they’re fun to drive but also cheap to buy, but the R35 Skyline is very expensive, with prices starting at 10.2 million yen (approximately US$95,000).

▼ @404_m9’s Pop Team Epic R35 on the track

So does this mean that @404_m9 is rich? Not necessarily, since buying and building his two Pop Team Epic GT-Rs, and even a pair of Toyota 86s…

…only cost him about 6,500 yen (US$61), since they’re all cars he decorated using the livery editor in Sony’s Gran Turismo Sport video game for the PlayStation 4.

▼ A time-lapse video showing the extremely detailed production process.

Considering that the Gran Turismo franchise has long billed itself as “the real driving simulator,” it makes a lot of sense that the real-world itasha phenomenon is now possible within its virtual space. And since the game includes an in-depth photography mode as well, here’s hoping that the parking lot of the UDX building in Tokyo’s Akihabara, the sacred mecca of itasha, gets added to the game in a future update.

Source: Twitter/@404_m9 via Otakomu
Featured image: Twitter/@404_m9

Studio Ghibli fans surprised to find hidden images in Grave of the Fireflies anime poster

The new meanings revealed in this image, thirty years after the film’s release, have anime fans reaching for the tissues.

It’s been a sad month for anime fans after internationally acclaimed anime director and Studio Ghibli co-founder Isao Takahata passed away in Tokyo on 5 April, after being hospitalised for heart and health conditions during a long battle with lung cancer.

As tributes poured in for the 82-year-old, Nippon TV paid their respects to the accomplished director by broadcasting one of his most well-known films, Grave of the Fireflies, on national TV on 13 April. Known for its heavy content, depicting the lives of two siblings struggling to survive in the Japanese city of Kobe during World War II, anime fans knew to have the tissues nearby during the televised broadcast, but what they didn’t realise was that there was another heart-wrenching moment on the way for them, waiting to be discovered in one of the promotional posters for the film.

The poster, which has now become a hot topic on chat forums in Japan, appears to show the two main characters of Seita and Setsuko sharing a rare moment of joy while surrounded by a field of fireflies.

Instagram Photo

This particular poster has been around since the film’s release thirty years ago in 1988, so fans wouldn’t normally think twice about looking into the details of the already-familiar image. One Twitter user, however, has now caused a stir online by unveiling a hard-to-see object in the darkness, which gives the poster a whole new meaning and a poignant sadness that many fans are seeing for the very first time.

The lightened image on the right of the tweet clearly shows a warplane in the sky above the children’s heads; a striking detail that’s easy to miss on first glance in the original poster. What’s even more heartbreaking is the implications of the plane on our initial reading of the image, which @comicloverhouse mentions in his accompanying text:

“I just read a theory that the fireflies in the Grave of the Fireflies poster aren’t all insects, so I analysed the image and it’s really true. I never knew about this.”

Given that the movie contains a number of scenes showing Japan being firebombed, it becomes clear that the differently shaped lights glowing in the night sky show not only fireflies but bombs from the air raids as well.

With tens of thousands of likes and retweets for @comicloverhouse‘s tweet, Ghibli fans have been expressing their surprise at the revelation.

“Wow. I’ve seen this picture a hundred times before but never seen these details.”
“So the round lights are fireflies and the longer ones are firebombs? That’s a heartbreaking image.”
“It’s amazing that they could conceal these types of details in a poster.”
“So “fireflies” has a double meaning…”
“Is that why they use the kanji for “fire” and “dangle” to mean “fireflies” in the title?”

It’s true that the movie title in Japanese, “Hotaru no Haka“, is written out as “火垂るの墓“, which uses  (hi), the kanji for fire, and (tareru) which describes something dangling down, like a droplet of water about to fall from a leaf, to make up the word hotaru, which means firefly in Japanese. Ordinaily, hotaru is written out in its own kanji – 蛍 – so the double meaning in the title actually references the incendiary bombs, which appear on the poster.

Instagram Photo

If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll know how important the firefly motif is, not only to the animated scenes onscreen, but also to the storyline, with the short lives of the insects symbolising the young lives lost during war. While the firefly/firebomb reference is clear to see once it’s been pointed out, its initial subtlety and the understated subtext are great examples of the small details that make Studio Ghibli films stand out in the anime film world.

To uncover some more of the studio’s secret details, don’t forget to check out this video here, which reveals all the Easter eggs hidden inside Ghibli films!

Source: Otakomu
Featured image: Instagram/ryuzi_kobayashi

Anime film Your Name’s director Makoto Shinkai is immortalized in an asteroid’s name

Makoto Shinkai can add one more special achievement to his resume that is quite literally out of this world. 

45-year-old director Makoto Shinkai, best known for his animated films bursting with lush visuals, had an asteroid named in his honor earlier this month.

If your immediate reaction is that naming a hunk of rock and metal after someone is not so much of a compliment, then recall the pivotal role that a comet, another type of celestial body, played in Shinkai’s 2016 worldwide hit Your Name. In that sense, the newly christened “55222 Makotoshinkai” asteroid pays homage to both the film and its director.  

▼ The comet is even a prominent focus in promotional images for Your Name.

55522 Makotoshinkai was actually discovered back in 2001 by astronomer Roy A. Tucker at the Goodricke-Piggott Observatory in Arizona, USA. The discoverer of an asteroid has the right to propose a name for it, which must then undergo a lengthy approval process following strict protocol by the International Astronomical Union. Certainly not all proposed names make the final cut, so Tucker must have been incredibly pleased that this one passed the test. Check out his celebratory announcement over Twitter earlier this month:

Shinkai’s asteroid is recorded as being 7.25 kilometers in diameter and is located in the outer main asteroid between Mars and Jupiter. More information about its physical properties and orbital path can be found at NASA’s JET Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology.

Your Name and Shinkai fans took to the net to share their excitement about the asteroid: 

“Not every naming is approved. I’m happy that this one was allowed!”
“Your Name strikes again! Its influence is everywhere…”c“Let’s pray that it won’t come crashing down to Earth like the comet in that story.”
“Before I knew it an anime director was immortalized in space.”
“Why hasn’t someone named an asteroid ‘Namek’ or ‘Vegeta’ yet?”

By the way, this isn’t the first time that Tucker has named an asteroid after a famous Japanese cultural figure. He even appears to be an anime/manga fan himself, as evidenced by this tweet:

The same day that he made the 55222 Makotoshinkai announcement, he also tweeted news about other recently approved asteroid names including ones named after  Godzilla films composer Akira Ifukube, anime and video game  composer Yasuhara Takanashi, author Yukito Ayatsuji,  manga artist Lynn Okamoto, and author Kinoko Nasu.

Source: Yurukuyaru
Featured image: NASA/JET Propulsion Laboratory

Plan to turn real-world shrine from Studio Ghibli anime into a parking lot upsets fans, residents

Shinto shrine was featured in recently deceased anime director Isao Takahata’s Pom Poko.

Last week, the anime world suffered the sad loss of Isao Takahata, one of the medium’s most respected directors and a founding member of Studio Ghibli, who passed away on April 5 at the age of 82. Though Takahata is best known for his 1988 postwar tragedy Grave of the Fireflies, his 1994 Pom Poko (also known as Heisei Era Tanuki War Pom Poko) has its own tale of sadness to weave as it follows a pack of tanuki (raccoon dogs) who, like their folklore counterparts, can speak and have magical powers.

In the film, the tanukis’ woodland home in the Tokyo suburbs is being increasingly encroached upon by human residential development, mirroring real-life expansion of the city during the period when the anime was released. Pom Poko is filled with fantastical and farcical comedy (such as tanuki swinging their famously large testicles as weapons), but also presents the conflict as a genuine life-or-death situation, with casualties on both the human and tanuki sides dryly included as a matter-of-fact consequence of the conflict.

▼ Trailer for Pom Poko

Once again opting for realism over sentimentalism, as the movie goes on the tanuki have to resign themselves to the fact that their animal concerns and coercive capabilities aren’t enough to deter the construction, and their land is redeveloped. Now, in a parallel to that, a Shinto shrine featured in Pom Poko might be being torn down in order to make room for a parking lot.

Kincho Shrine (pictured at the top of this article) is located in the town of Komatsushima, Tokushima Prefecture, on the island of Shikoku, far away from Tokyo. However, the shrine has long had a connection to tanuki. The shrine was originally constructed in 1956 using money from a donation from a film company executive who’d made a successful movie based on local tanuki folklore, and it also serves as the setting for a scene in Pom Poko, where it’s depicted as the home of a group of wise tanuki elders.

▼ Tanuki statues (and their massive balls) welcome visitors to the shrine.

While the shrine is private property, it sits on municipal land, which is part of a park. Last summer, it was announced that sections of the park would be redeveloped, with tsunami preparedness the initial impetus for the project. Part of the proposed plan, though, calls for Kincho Shrine to be demolished, and a parking lot to be put in its place.

▼ An aerial view of the area

That proposal has sparked a backlash, though, among local residents who want to preserve the shrine, who have received shouts of support online from anime fans. In March, an online petition was started to keep the shrine even after the park’s renovation, garnering roughly 2,000 signatures so far.

Luckily, the city itself is showing a willingness to be flexible on the issue, At the very least, planners say they want to leave behind a tanuki statue, and they’ve reminded everyone that while the initial proposal is to replace the shrine with a parking lot, that’s by no means finalized, and planners are still debating the exact details of the redevelopment. “The shrine itself is private property,” a member of the city’s development bureau reminded those who were upset, “and so it can’t be torn by unilateral decision.” So hopefully Kincho Shrine’s future will be less bittersweet than the ending of Pom Poko.

Source: Livedoor News/J Cast via Jin
Top image: Wikipedia/Reggaeman
Insert images: Wikipedia/Reggaeman, Wikipedia/タコノマクラ

Cowboy Bebop anime themed cafe coming to Tokyo and Osaka next month

Okay, three, two, one let’s eat.

Long-term popularity can be hard to come by in the anime world. With so many new series being made and commanding attention, last season’s hits get quickly pushed out of fans’ collective memory. Then there’s the fact that some otaku simply can’t keep themselves from picking apart a show for even minor flaws, preventing them from developing positive feelings about it in the first place.

And yet, Cowboy Bebop remains one of the most widely respected, admired, and enjoyed anime ever. Credit a combination of director Shinichiro Watanabe’s inimitable storytelling style, Yoko Kanno’s unbelievably eclectic musical score, Toshihiro Kawamoto’s distinctive yet well-aging character designs, and a fantastic voice cast for keeping Bebop in fans’ hearts, even two decades after its initial release.

So in honor of the show’s 20th anniversary, a Cowboy Bebop Cafe is coming to Tokyo and Osaka, courtesy of a collaboration with the standing Animate Cafe branches in the two cities. Unlike other limited-time themed welcoming diners in both Tokyo’s Akihabara and Osaka’s Nihonbashi neighborhoods.

The management promises an interior filled with Bebop artwork and visual motifs, plus a lineup of food and drink saluting Spike, Faye, and the rest of the colorful characters involved in their bounty hunting adventures. The series’ soundtrack being played over the speakers hasn’t been expressly mentioned, but seems like a given.

As part of the festivities, Kawamoto has drawn a brand-new illustration of the show’s central quartet (fittingly with Jet being the only one doing any work). The new artwork will also be found on some of the exclusive Cowboy Beboop merchandise offered at the attached gift shop.

The cafe has yet to announce if it will be allowing reservations, but if not, you’ll want to show up early, if the six-hour wait for a table we had when we visited the Ranma 1/2 Cafe is anything to go by, The Cowboy Bebop Cafe opens on May 15, and goes out with a “Bang!” on June 10.

Restaurant information
Animate Cafe Akihabara / アニメイトカフェ秋葉原
Address: Tokyo-to, Chiyoda-ku, Soto Kanda 1-7-6, Akiba Culture Zone 5th floor
東京都千代田区外神田1-7-6 AKIBAカルチャーズZONE 5F
Open 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m.

Animate Cafe Osaka Nihonbashi / 大阪日本橋
Address: Osaka-fr, Osaka-shi, Naniwa-ku, Nihonbashi 4-15-17, 2nd floor
大阪府大阪市浪速区日本橋4-15-17 2F
Open 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m.

Related: Cowboy Bebop Cafe website
Source: Comic Natalie via Anime News Network/Lynzee Loveridge, PR Times
Top image: Cowboy Bebop Cafe website