Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I’m still here. Busy podcaster is busy. Haven’t had any time to produce any content lately, even blog posts. So sorry! I’m hoping to have some time to record an episode soon. In the meantime I’ll try and find the time to kick out some blog posts such as this one.
When my girlfriend and I went to Japan in 2004 (wow… that’s 10 years ago now… sigh) communication was a major concern for us, since neither of us knew a lick of Japanese. (Thanks to my anime watching, I could understand a very small smattering of Japanese, and could more or less speak some of it, but it was definitely not enough to carry out even a brief conversation with a native speaker, unless they wanted to talk about transforming giant robots or special attack moves or something. :)) The good news is that most of the signs in Japanese rail stations, as well as the train stop announcements, plus signs in more popular businesses in larger cities are in both English and Japanese. That helped a lot. Also most of the major hotels had signage in both languages, and their staff spoke both as well. But there were still plenty of times where we needed to communicate with someone who didn’t understand English, be they a restaurant employee, store clerk, etc. We had an absolutely wonderful tour guide that helped with making arrangements and translated for us (Hi, Iko-san, wherever you are!) However she wasn’t with us 100% of the time, and there were plenty of moments during the tour when we were given free time to roam about when we really needed to be able to communicate in Japanese.
Unfortunately, the smartphone and tablet hadn’t come out yet, so all we had to rely on was our trusty Japanese phrasebook. It worked fairly well, although using it was kind of awkward. We had to flip through it to find the section appropriate to the type of conversation we were having (ordering food at a restaurant, buying something in a store, getting directions, etc.) Then, once we found the phrase we needed, we had to stumble through the phonetic pronunciation, hoping and praying that we got it right and didn’t end up accidentally saying something offensive about the other person’s parents or something. Then there were those times when none of the canned phrases in the phrasebook were really appropriate to the situation, which is when we had to resort to the stereotypical dumb tourist’s technique of enunciating loudly and slowly, combined with a lot of hand waving, pointing and various other gesticulations. It’s a miracle that we weren’t arrested and charged with criminal insanity or something.
Well, you lucky travelers of today have it easy, thanks to the aforementioned smartphones and tablets which are now all the rage. Today, smartphones and tablets and their always-on Internet connections are a traveler’s best friend. Gone are the days when you had to lug around large collections of maps, guidebooks, etc. Now all of that information is at your fingertips. Lost your way while wandering about? No problem, just pop open your Maps app and you’ll be back at your hotel in no time. Looking for a good place to eat? Between the over 9,000 restaurant review/travel sites out there, I’m sure you’ll find something pretty quickly. Bored and looking for something cool to do? Well, Google can help you with that; just search for wherever it is you’re staying at and soon you will have plenty of search hits telling you the various museums, parks, gardens, and various other interesting spots nearby. But what’s even cooler is that now, your smartphone and/or tablet can actually translate for you too!
Simply install the free Google Translate app (available for both iOS and Android) and your device becomes a lean, mean translating machine. Just type in or speak (!) the phrase you want to translate, choose the language you want to translate it into (the app supports many languages, including of course Japanese), tap a button, and voila! – your phrase gets instantly translated. It’s displayed in the language you chose to translate it to (e.g. into Japanese characters if you chose Japanese) and is also spelled out phonetically, should you want to attempt to speak it yourself. Or you could have the app speak it for you by tapping on the speaker icon. Or turn your device sideways, and the phrase is displayed in large type, perfect for if you want to show the translation to the person you’re attempting to talk with.
But what happens if the person talks to you in response? Well, you can tell Google Translate to reverse the translation. You can have the person speak into your smartphone/tablet and it will actually translate their words back into English for you! Unfortunately I had no Japanese-speaking volunteers to help me test this, so I tried the next best thing: I put on some anime and held my phone up to the speakers. And it worked surprisingly well, well enough for me to get the gist of what was being said. Your mileage may vary of course, and using this with regular peoples’ voices (as opposed to voice actors doing their in-character voices) may work better.
Now, bear in mind that this is machine translation, which doesn’t always get it right. (If anyone can read/speak Japanese, I’d be curious to hear your opinion on how good (or bad) its translation is.) But it should be at least good enough to get your point across. (Although you might get a snicker or two from the person you’re “talking” with if the translation is particularly weird or funny.) But I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s a darn sight better/faster/easier to use than those phrasebooks of yesteryear.
So go grab it today on the iOS App Store and Google Play – it’s free!
One of the most successful media franchises to come out of Japan is Pokémon. Second only to that juggernaut Mario in terms of success and lucrativeness, Pokémon grew from its humble beginnings as a Game Boy role playing game to encompass not only a great many sequel video games, but tons of derivative works, including manga, anime, trading card games, toys, and books. To this day it remains one of the most popular and lucrative, and Pokémon properties continue to be produced to this day.
Of course, us anime fans are most familiar with the anime incarnation of Pokémon, which began its long and illustrious career back in 1998 when the infamous 4Kids Entertainment, Inc. licensed and began broadcasting internationally the original Pokémon animation. This served as many a fan’s introduction to anime, and helped bring quite a few newcomers into the fold.
In my case, I hadn’t really taken notice of the whole Pokémon thing. My introduction to anime (though I didn’t know what “anime” was at the time) actually came courtesy of Robotech, back in the mid-80s.(I have spoken ad nauseum about this in the past; I will refrain from doing so now so as not to infuriate or bore those reading this post.) I wasn’t (re)introduced to anime until the early 2000s, when, while casually chatting with a friend, the subject of Robotech came up, and he turned to me and said “you know, you should really check out this “anime” stuff…” and lent me his badly-degenerated (must have been 8th or 9th generation) VHS tapes(!) of a little show called Bubblegum Crisis, which remains one of my favorites to this day. So, yeah, the whole Pokémon thing sorta passed me by: it came during my long dark years when, after coming home from a failed attempt at getting a higher education, I slummed around SoCal jobless, penniless and rather sad.
By now you’re probably wondering why I’m blathering on about Pokémon and/or shouting at your computer for me to STFU. Patience, grasshopper. For today, I bring you, as my Cool Find, the Pixelmon mod for Minecraft!
As the name implies, Pixelmon adds a Pokémon-inspired game mechanic to everybody’s favorite retro blocky sandbox game. Fortunately, no Pokémon knowledge is required to enjoy this mod. When you first create a character (or the next time you log in to an already-created world) you will be given the option to choose your first Pokémon. (Don’t worry, you won’t miss out if you happen to sleep through your alarm and end up arriving late to the party.) With your new-found friend, you can go out and explore the lands of Minecraft. As you do so, you will find many other Pokémon wandering around, whom you can do battle with and attempt to capture. (gotta catch ‘em all!) If you’re on a multiplayer server, you can do battle with other players on the server; and in single-player mode, you will also see computer-generated (NPC) Pokémon Trainers wandering about whom you can challenge.
Of course, a young Pokémon trainer needs quite a few supplies — Pokémon balls, PCs, healers, trading machines and the like — and you can either find a convenient Pokémon Center and use theirs (they are randomly generated and scattered throughout the world) or you can go out, harvest resources, and craft your own.
As for the Pokémon themselves, as near as I can tell (remember, I’m no Pokémon expert) pretty much every Pokémon from the franchise is represented. You’ve got your Pikachus, your Magikarps, your Squirtles, your Bulbasaurs, your Mareeps, your Miltanks, and… You get the idea. There are even Pokémon fossils that you can find while mining, which you can regrow into ancient Pokémon. And, every now and then, a Legendary Pokémon appears, which you can take down and make yours, if you’ve got the right skills. Each Pokémon is lovingly rendered in Minecraft block style, and the developers have also recreated many of their signature noises. Each has its signature attacks, and as your Pokémon win battles, they gain levels, increasing their stats and unlocking new attacks. And under the right conditions, your Pokémon will evolve as well. Of course, there’s an in-game Pokédex you can craft up that helps you identify Pokémon and look up their stats, etc.
Oh, and by the way, the Pixelmon mod is very well written specifically to maximize compatibility with other mods. It works with all of the mods I use, including littleMaidMob, Mo’Creatures, Flan’s Mod, Twilight Forest, Millénaire, and more.
You don’t really need to be a Pokémon fan, or know a lot about Pokémon to enjoy this mod. It’s really fun. Read more about it and download it at the Pixelmon website or the Minecraft forums. Check out the installation video (also embedded below the cut) to find out how to install it (it’s really easy). They have a Getting Started guide with the basic steps to get started
There’s also a third party wiki with an even better Getting Started Guide, along with tons of other info. And finally check out YouTuber and Minecraft “let’s play” video creator paulsoaresjr’s Pixelmon Let’s Play videos (also embedded below the cut) to see the mod in action (and besides, his videos are always awesome).
Gotta catch ‘em all!
Continue reading Cool Find: Pixelmon mod for Minecraft – gotta catch ‘em all!
Welcome to a new segment on Otaku no Podcast. In this segment I will be highlighting some of my favorite Anime Music Videos (AMVs).
I have often spoken of my love of Anime Music Videos (AMVs), and the fact that the AMV contest is one of my favorite events at any given anime con. For me, AMVs serve as a great vehicle to discover both new anime as well as new music. Often I’ve seen an anime featured in an AMV that looked really cool, and made me rush back to my hotel room to go look up the AMV in question on the org to figure out what anime was used; more often than not, I ended up finding an anime that I really liked. Likewise, I have often heard a song that I really liked, and rushed off to buy it on iTunes. (Hint: the Shazam app, which I have spoken of before, works really great at identifying what music is playing, even in a crowded noisy AMV room!) More often than not, I end up liking other stuff that the song’s artist has put out.
If you asked me “what makes a good AMV?” I would have to say, first and foremost, does it truly spotlight the anime that it is using? To make a good AMV, IMHO, you have to tell a compelling story. That could be as simple as summarizing the anime’s plot; or expanding on a side story or side plot; or focusing on the interactions and relationships of the characters in an anime (either the leads and/or supporting characters). But some of the best AMVs I’ve seen take clips from anime and use them to tell a completely different story. This is really hard to do, and the AMV creators who manage to pull this off have achieved legendary status.
But, as is true in other parts of life, there are always exceptions to the rule. There are a class of AMVs out there that aren’t focused on telling a story. The creators of these videos just want to show off their favorite anime and/or music. And these types of videos can be great too. However, even then, you still have to put the anime that you’re using in the spotlight. Part of that is picking the right anime that goes with the right music, not just in terms of matching the beat, etc., but also matching mood and emotion. Anyone can take clips of random anime and slap them together with music in the background. (This also applies for any other type of AMV. You really have to pick the right kind of music that goes with the overall theme/emotion of the anime you’re using. Unless you’re going for irony and/or comedy, which sometimes works but can be very tricky to pull off.)
Anyhow, all this long-winded exposition is leading up to the video I am featuring in today’s AMV Spotlight, and that is “JaAM – Just Another Anime Mix,” by ViviFX. I first saw this video at Anime Expo 2013, and it just made me want to get up and dance! (Apparently I wasn’t the only one; there were quite a few people in the audience tapping their toes, and perhaps even outright dancing.) This video hits all the right notes (heh, pun), pairing a really awesome mashup of pop tunes by the French electronic artist Madeon, who I haven’t heard of before, but am now a fan of) with clips from a wide variety of anime, everything from Macross Frontier to Panty and Stocking. The pairing is perfect: the energy and enthusiasm of the anime matches perfectly with the lively beat of the music. It just fits together very nicely. No, it doesn’t really tell a story, but darn it all, it just makes you want to get up and dance. Which is fine by me.
Watch it on YouTube or via the embedded player below the cut.
Continue reading AMV Spotlight: JaAM – Just Another Anime Mix
We have often spoken at great length about the virtues of staying at an official convention hotel when attending an anime convention. You’re usually closer to the con (for smaller cons, the con itself is probably hosted in the hotel itself as a matter of fact – you can’t get any more convenient than that!), you usually get a discount on the rates, you often get free or discounted admission to other events associated with the con (concerts, film screenings, etc.), and you’ll be staying at a place where many other con attendees are also staying, opening up many cool hanging-out-and-socializing opportunities.
Well, good news for those of you even remotely interested in attending Anime Expo (our favorite con, and not just because it’s located practically in our backyard): the Anime Expo hotel blocks have opened up! Yes, folks, that’s right, the online hotel reservation system is now live, meaning you can book your rooms right now, from the comfort of your own desk. And doing so ASAP is a really good idea. Considering how the number of people attending Anime Expo keeps going up and up (61,000 last year!) these hotel spots are bound to fill up fast. And it’s looking like the mad rush has already begun. It has now been a few days since the hotel system went live, and already most of the hotels are starting to show unavailable days (with some of them even being completely sold out). They’ll probably open up some more room blocks in the weeks and months to come, but you never know, so you might want to make yourself a “just in case” reservation – remember, you don’t need to pay anything upfront, and reservations can always be changed or canceled until a few days before the reservation date without penalty. (This policy could vary, so it’s best to check with your prospective hotel just to be sure.) Definitely keep an eye on the hotels page as well as the main Anime Expo site, so that you’ll know when more hotel room blocks have opened up!
Currently, single and double rooms are available at the L.A. Hotel Downtown for $172/night; the Westin Bonaventure for $170/night; the JW Marriott for $194/night; the Millennium Biltmore (recipient of the prestigious Otaku no Podcast Seal of Approval) for $130/night (single) and $150/night (double); and the Sheraton LA Downtown for $160/night.
Yeah, it’s almost half a year before the convention, but it’s never too early to start planning. So get on it already! The guest list has started taking shape and is looking to be pretty impressive. Pretty much the entire English voice cast of Sailor Moon will be in attendance (just in time for its 20th anniversary), plus Kimura U will be the fashion guest of honor. Of course there’s all the usual anime con fare as well: a dealer’s room of epic proportions; an Artists Alley of equally epic proportions; panels and workshops galore; an AMV contest that always impresses us; a masquerade unlike any other; and tons more events equally worthy of hyperbole. Registration is open and will currently run you $60 for a full 4-day adult pass, and $25 for a 4-day child pass. So go register already, but then right after doing so, better get yourself a room pronto!
Well hello there! What? Yes, it has been a while, hasn’t it? Right. So things have been, shall we say, pretty crazy at the start of 2014 for me, and as such, I haven’t had a chance to produce any content for the site. And here, one of my New Years’ resolutions was to try and produce Otaku no Podcast content on a more regular schedule. I’m still going to try and do just that. Of course, podcasts take a lot of time and effort to produce and edit, so don’t expect those very often. Blog posts, on the other hand, are comparatively easy, and I will try and post them on a fairly regular basis. These could include Cool Finds that I stumble across while I wander the internet, or reviews of anime that I’ve just finished watching (yes, I am starting to write more reviews now) or various other random things.
“But how will I know when you have posted something new?” you may be asking yourself. Easy! You can keep an eye on our Twitter and Facebook statuses, as every time I post something new, those get automatically updated with information on the new post. And if you have the Otaku no Podcast app, you can choose to have it send you a push notification whenever a new podcast episode or blog post goes up. (And, before you say it, yes, I know, the app needs updating pretty badly, plus there still isn’t an Android app. Those are two things that I hope to fix soon.)
Well, if you happen to be a Mac user running OS X Mavericks and you use the Safari browser, you now have a third option. We have just added support for Safari Push Notifications. The next time you visit otakunopodcast.com you will see a popup (pictured above) asking you if you would like to subscribe to push notifications. Once you click “allow,” nothing else will appear different to you. But, the next time I publish a new podcast episode or blog post, you will receive a push notification announcing that glorious event, either as a banner that appears momentarily, or an alert that waits for you until you acknowledge it. (This setting can be changed in the Notifications panel in System Preferences.) Clicking on the push notification will instantly launch Safari, bringing you straight to the new podcast episode or blog post. Easy peasy.
We’ll only use this to announce new blog posts or podcast episodes — nothing more. And at any time you can choose to stop receiving these messages by going to Safari Preferences, and in the Notifications tab, click the “Deny” button next to Otaku no Podcast.
In life there are but three certainties: death, taxes and late Otaku no Podcast posts. I tried, really tried, to get this post up in time for the great December 25 Anime Secret Santa reveal, but I just missed it, darn it all. At least it’s not too late!
I have spoken at length about my love of the two Key visual novel based anime, Kanon and Clannad. Give me half a chance and I’ll talk your ear off about the subject, extolling their virtues and emotional impact long into the night. Listening to me prattle on about it, you’d think that Key and/or KyoAni has the lock on tear-jerking, soul-wrenching emotionally-charged romance stories. As it turns out, nothing could be farther from the truth. Perhaps this is the reason why my Anime Secret Santa picked ef – a tale of memories as one of my choices to review. And I am glad that they did.
ef – a tale of memories is a 12-episode series animated by Shaft (they say that anime studio Shaft is a bad mutha – SHUT YO’ MOUTH!) and is based on the visual novel series ef – A Fairy Tale of the Two published by minori, which I honestly have never heard of before. (Then again I’m still a neophyte when it comes to visual novels.) It follows a cast of characters as they struggle through life and as their lives intertwine with each other. Hiro is an aspiring mangaka trying to juggle his work and school lives, and feels that his world is “missing a certain color.” Kei, his childhood friend, longs for Hiro’s affection but is unable to confront him with her feelings. Miyako, a cheerful, somewhat ditzy girl who Hiro runs into one evening, immediately becomes attached to Hiro, but underneath that cheerful exterior she is hiding some past sorrow. Kyosuke, a photographer and cameraman, seeks to capture true emotion in his work, but never feels like he has done this satisfactorily. Renji, a high school upperclassman, is faced with the decision of how he should go forward with his life; he has aspirations to become a novelist but is unsure of himself. Finally, there’s the quiet and mysterious Chihiro, who Renji encounters by chance one day; always cheerful if quiet, but who seems to be a different person every day. As the story progresses we see that these seemingly disconnected individuals’ stories do relate to each other.
So how does ef – a tale of memories stack up against my beloved Key/KyoAni properties? Read on to find out!
Continue reading Anime Secret Santa Review: ef – a tale of memories
Well, once again, it’s holiday time, which means it’s time to hit the malls and get serious about your holiday gift buying. So how’s that going for you? Well, if you, like 99.99999% of the rest of civilization, are either (A) having trouble deciding what to buy someone, (B) procrastinating right up till the end and need to find someone a gift RIGHT NOW!!!!11, (c) are lazy and need someone to help pick gifts for you, or (d) all of the above, well, guess what, we can help youwith that. Because it’s once again time to unleash that wonder of wonders we like to call The 12 Days of Kurisumasu!!!
In case you’ve been living under a rock (or in the desert, or deep in the Himalayas, or on Mars, or in a distant galaxy/another dimension/etc.) for the past year, and haven’t the faintest idea what the heck I’m talking about, here’s the scoop: starting tomorrow, Saturday, December 14 and going through Christmas Day, Wednesday, December 25, I will be picking a cool new otaku-themed product each day and will be featuring it on our Twitter and Facebook. (They’ll also be posted on the 12 Days of Kurisumasu page here, along with a witty (well, at least I think so) writeup.) And if you’re still clueless as to what the heck I’m talking about, you can also check out the 12 Days of Kurisumasu from years gone by at the 12 Days of Kurisumasu page.
Each product I’ll be featuring will come from one of our affiliate advertisers — Amazon, CDjapan, Right Stuf, J-List, etc. Yeah, I know what you’re saying, you’ve been waiting for the “catch” and it finally came. But as catches go, this isn’t much of one. Remember that purchasing through any of the links here costs you nothing extra but brings us a little much-needed income, which helps keep the lights on and the bits flowing.
What products will you be choosing, you might be asking. No real rhyme or reason to it, really. As long as it’s even tangentially related to anime or other otaku-worthy pursuits, then it’s fair game. That means anime DVDs (and even Blu-rays); calendars; figures; “stuff from Japan” (food, snacks, etc.); plushies; dating-sim games/visual novels; whatever. Hopefully, among this cornucopia of consumer goods, you’ll find something cool and out of the ordinary to give to any otaku-leaning friends/acquaintances you’re looking for gifts for. (Or even yourself…)
So why subject yourself to the hassle, expense and bloodletting of doing battle in the malls and on the streets, and come shop with us instead?
This year has been especially hard for me, thanks to some unexpected bad medical news (and the large medical bills that tend to come with things like that) so your help is gratefully appreciated. If you don’t see anything that strikes your fancy among my picks this year, then perhaps you can find something else among our many affiliates? Donations are also accepted (and are very much appreciated). You can find links to all our affiliates as well as donation links on our How You Can Help page (which, I just noticed, looks really weird/crappy on the iPad. Gotta fix that.). And, as always, you have my thanks. You rock.
At long last, we bring you our coverage of Anime Expo 2013. (Part 2 of 2)
In this week’s episode we conclude our coverage of Anime Expo 2013. And, naturally, we go into some of our favorite anime picks as well.
I still intend to finish processing our video and photos from AX, so those will be coming out piecemeal over the next few weeks. So keep your eyes on our YouTube and our Photo Gallery.
Sponsor: Listeners like you! Please help us bring this website and podcast to you.
Today’s Theme: Opening theme from Space Battleship Yamato 2199 (aka Uchuu Senkan Yamto 2199, aka Star Blazers 2199)
On today’s panel:
Michelle Klein-Hass (TOKYOPOP, LessFatChick, Otagenki)
Avi (personal Tumblr, Fashion Monster Blog)
Continue reading Episode #0041 – Anime Expo 2013 Recap of Doom! (Part 2 of 2)
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One of the many things I find annoying about the holidays is that the Gods of Retail, for whatever reason, seem to want to move Christmas earlier and earlier every year. I mean, c’mon, it isn’t even Halloween yet, it’s still beastly hot in many parts of the country, and the kiddies have only just returned to school, and yet we’re already starting to see holiday promotions from businesses large and small. The latest entity to join this ungodly trend are none other than our anime blogging compatriots, the Reverse Thieves. But I’m willing to give them a pass on this, because it’s for a good cause. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it’s Anime Secret Santa time once again!
I can hear it now, some of you are probably staring at your screens yelling “WHAT YOU SAY !!“. Well obviously you must be new around here, because if you’ve been hanging around this blog and podcast for any appreciable length of time, you would know about Anime Secret Santa. After all, I’ve written about it several times before, and we’ve even participated in it for the past few years as well.
Basically the Anime Secret Santa project involves a bunch of bloggers (and perhaps podcasters too) who get together and put their names into a virtual hat, which the Reverse Thieves then proceed to mix up. They then pair off bloggers, and ask each of them to recommend an anime for the other to watch. The trick is that they don’t tell them who the recommendation came from. Once you have your anonymous donors’ recommendations in hand, you then proceed to pick an anime off their list, watch it and review it. Yes, exactly like that whole Secret Santa thing, which you are undoubtedly familiar with. (After all it’s probably been used as a plot device in at least a few Christmas-themed anime episodes…) The idea is to get people to step outside their comfort zones if you will, and watch and review shows they may not have considered before. It’s a great way to find out about anime that, maybe you might not have considered before, but ended up liking a lot. (Or maybe you hated it, and then you can write a really scathing review. There have been some pretty hilariously epic ones.) Plus it’s a lot of fun.
Want to participate? It’s pretty simple. First, you’ll need to set yourself up on one of those “keep track of what anime I’ve watched” sites, such as Anime-Planet (my personal favorite) or MyAnimeList. They are all free to join, and are pretty useful in their own right. Then, once you’ve listed all the anime that you’ve seen, e-mail your name, blog/podcast’s URL and the URL to your anime listing site profile page to the Reverse Thieves with the subject line “Secret Santa Participant.” (Also, if for whatever reason you would prefer not to have to watch/review fansubs, be sure and mention that in your email.)
All entries are due by Sunday, October 6th, so you better hurry! Check out the Reverse Thieves blog post for full details and where to send in your entry. Naturally, if the fates allow it, Otaku no Podcast will be participating this year as well. And we hope that you will too!
Minecraft 1.6 was recently released, and it requires a new procedure to install mods. Also new versions of the littleMaidMob and PlayerFormLittleMaid mods that support Minecraft 1.6 are now out. In this video I show you how to install Forge, littleMaidMob and PlayerFormLittleMaid in Minecraft 1.6.
Watch this video on YouTube
Watch our previous video on how to install littleMaidMob (links to all the files you will need to download in the show notes for that video)
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