31 January 2004 (fifth update)

  • I thought I'd written about this before, but I can't find where. Anyway, a new (fourth) series of Galaxy Angel is to be produced. Source: Animage magazine.
  • Work is underway on a sequel to the TV anime Sora no Stellvia. Source: Animage magazine. Half the time I write Sora no Stellvia. Half the time I write Uchuu no Stellvia. Sorry about the inconsistency...
  • The Deluxe version of DVD volume 1 of Ginga Tetsudo Monogatari (The Galaxy Railways) came with a box to hold five volumes (there will be 13 volumes in the series). First pressing of volumes 6 and 10 will also come with boxes. Source: Animage magazine.
  • Animate.tv reports that a second season of the TV anime Godannar is to be produced. Source: Magicalantique.com.
  • OB Planning has confirmed that the Initial D Fourth Stage TV anime will commence broadcast on one of Sky Perfect's pay per view channels in April 2004. Source: Magicalantique.com. For the past month, Sky Perfect has been broadcasting a "making of" TV special which also feature a digest of the first three stages as well as info on the new location. That special will be available on DVD for rental starting 9 April 2004.
  • Softbank Games reports that the TV anime based on the game Ragnorak Online will be broadcast in the (northern) spring of 2004. The anime will be produced by a Japanese-South Korean consortium. Source: Magicalantique.com.
  • I've heard about the t.A.T.u anime in the making. Somewhat surprising given the low turnout to their shows in Japan...
  • IT Pro reports that the company tmsuk has developed a "mobile suit". Well, sort of. But it's a 3.45 metre tall, 5 tonne rescue robot, the T-52 enryu, which as arms and seats a controller within a little cockpit. Armspan (with both arms stretched out) is 10 metres. Seven cameras are mounted on the robot to assist te controller's vision. Still in development stages, the company plans to market the robot for use in emergencies such as fires. Source: Tentative Name. See the IT Pro report above for pics (click on the pics for enlargements). Or try this page for movies. So we may soon see Labors in Japan, lifting debris etc... ^_^;;
  • Shoujo TV anime Futari wa Pretty Cure will commence broadcast on TV Asahi tomorrow, 1 February 2004.
  • GAiNAX's TV anime Kono Miniku mo Utsukushii Sekai (This Ugly and Beautiful World) will commence broadcast in April 2004. Its other anime Boukyaku no Senritsu (Melody of Oblivion) is also set for broadcast in the (northern) spring.
  • For Kill Bill Volume 1 fans, a Go Go Yubari figure. Source: Tentative Name.
  • The manga Tokyo Mew Mew A La Mode by Ikumi Mia and the manga Ashita no Nadja by Ayumi Yui both finished in this month's issue of Nakayoshi (the February 2004 issue). Source: Tentative Name. But the March 2004 issue (out on 3 February 2004) will contain a 40 page manga by Ikumi: "Girls Fight".
  • Yeah, I know - much/most of the stuff I'm typing up is old news. But too bad, I'm doing this partly my own sake...
  • The anime TV series Chou Henshin Kosu-pureiya (The Cosmopolitan Prayers) is being distributed free over the internet by makers m.o.e. Source: Tentative Name. Format is streaming 500K for Windows Media Player. They're already up to episode 3, which will be available until 2 February 2004. To view the episode, go to this page, and click on the first yellow button from the top. This will bring up a questionnaire (two questions) which you have to answer before you can view the episode. Select your ansers and click on the gray button. The licence to view the episode will be transmitted to you. Then press play on your Windows Media Player. Other things you can download from the same page are (from top to bottom) next episode previews, OP and ED. The next two of m.o.e's short anime TV series Hit wo Nerae! (Aim for the Hit!) and Love Love? will also be distributed over the internet in a similar fashion later on in the first half of the year.
  • On 26 January 2004, I wrote about the DVD release of Chou Henshin Kosu-pureiya (The Cosmopolitan Prayers). The m.o.e website has more details on the DVD release. Eight episodes will be broadcast on TV (and over the internet) but it looks like the DVD release will have a total of 12 episodes. Each DVD will contain two TV episodes and a new episode which is linked to those two episodes. Since the new episodes are not produced for TV or internet distribution, they're not bound by the same restrictions as to content (meaning they'll contain "special service" recommended for ages 15 and up). In addition, each DVD will be double layer, and contain two versions - one with linear PCM sound if you prefer best sound quality and one with Dolby Digital sound if you prefer better picture quality. As with some other DVD releases (eg AIKa, Honoo no Labyrinth), the jacket will have a sheet (or two) so that you can change the clothing of the character on the front. There'll also be a standard jacket included as well. Finally, each DVD will come with reversible card and will be picture labelled.
  • The manga Hagane no Renkinjutsushi (Full Metal Alchemist) by Arakawa Hiromu (serialised in Monthly Shonen Gangan magazine) has won the 49th Shogakukan Manga Award in the category of (best) shonen manga. Source: infoseek anime.
  • Egawa Tatsuya's manga Tokyo Daigaku Monogatari (Tokyo University Story) will be animated as an OVA. Produced by HMP and Sega, volume 1 will go on sale on 24 February 2004, with volume 2 out in March 2004. Each volume will cost 2,800 yen (ecluding tax) and have a duration of 30 minutes. It'll feature the voice talents of three photo idols, just as did HMP's other anime From I''s, so that you can select between voice actresses or idols. As with From I''s, the Tokyo Daigaku Monogatari DVDs will be sold at convenience stores. Source: goo anime and Watch Impress. Given the price, voice acting by idols and poor quality of From I''s, I won't be expecting much from this anime...
  • And if you recall, the From I''s OVAs were only available from certain convenience stores and distributor DigiCube. Well, as Animaxis reported in English, DigiCube declared bankruptcy at the end of last year. DigiCube was also the distributor of DVDs for those Sakura Taisen live action performances.
  • Animaxis also has an English language report that the Otomo Katsuhiro's movie Steam Boy will be released theatrically in July 2004.
  • Looks like theatrical release of Studio Ghibli's movie Hauru no Ogoku Shiro (Howl's Moving Castle) will be put back from July 2004 to November 2004 due to production delays. Source: goo anime.
  • Seiyuu Hayashibara Megumi is pregnant. She's about five months into the pregnancy and the baby is due in late June, early July 2004. Source: goo anime.
  • Computer crashed - if I lost some news, too bad.
  • The "heartful love comedy" manga Midori no Hibi by Inoue Kazurou, serialised in Shogakukan's manga magazine Weekly Shonen Sunday, is to be animated as a TV series. It'll commence broadcast in April 2004. The official website is now up. Seiji is a tough high school student, but he can't seem to pick up girls - until his right hand is transformed into a pint-sized one. Animation by Studio Perriot and others.
  • "X-1", the first volume of the Stratos 4 OVA series will be released on 28 May 2004. There'll be a first pressing limited edition version which comes with a 12cm model of the TSR.2MS jet (some assembley required), price 7,350 yen (including tax). Regular edition will cost 6,300 yen (including tax). DVD itself will be 30 minutes, Dolby Digital sound, single layer, standard aspect ratio. The concluding volume X-2 will be released in August 2004. Source: Bandai's Digital Beat and official Stratos 4 website.
  • Too tired last night and the night before. Maybe I need the Dream Workshop.
  • The "Innocence no Joukei" DVD to be released on 19 March 2004 (price 2,800 yen, catalogue number VWDS-9101) is related to the upcoming Oshii Mamoru movie. 6 music clips showing the world (not the characters) in which the movie is set. Music by Kawai Kenji, and featuring jazz vocalist Itou Kimiko. Planning by Oshii. The duration of the DVD is 35 minutes. The Innocence movie itself is to be released theatrically on 6 March 2004. Source: Neowing and Mangaoh Club.
  • Volume 1 of the new Area 88 TV anime will be released on DVD on 28 April 2004. CD Japan has the details here.
  • Friend watched Animation Runner Kuromi 2 (out three days ago) and loved it. Waah, when's my copy going to ship...?
  • Volume 1 of Katsu Aki's manga Futari Ecchi for Ladies was released in mid-December 2003, price 505 yen. Source: bk1 Comics Express.
  • And volume 1 of Watsuki Nobuhiro's latest manga Busou Renkin (Weapons Alchemy) was published in early January 2004, price 390 yen.
  • A Kino no Tabi Desktop Accessory Collection CD-ROM is to be released at the end of February 2004 for Japanese Windows 98/2000/Me/XP computers. Price 3,700 yen (including tax). Contains wallpapers, screensaver, icons, calculator, clock etc as well as illustrations by Kuroboshi Kouhaku for the original novel series, design works for the anime series and "print out data" so you can print out your own Kino no Tabi stationery (greeting cards, letter paper, envelopes). The CD-ROM also comes with special memo pad. See Chara-Ani's page for more details on the CD-ROM (in Japanese) and illustrations.
  • I notice there was an R.O.D theme at the Cure Maid Cafe in Akihabara for the ten days from 20 to 30 December 2003. There, you could try the "Happy Milk" that Anita-chan drinks (600 yen per serve).
  • Finally caught up with my emails from the past couple of months (sort of...)

28 January 2004

  • Maybe more later. Got other stuff to do at present.
  • I decided to check out how many episode titles for R.O.D - The TV - could be references to artistic works. What I found were (mainly books):
    Episode 6 Write Stuff (a pun on The Right Stuff - the book by Tom Wolfe)
    Episode 7 Yabu no Naka (In the Woods - the novel by Akutagawa Ryuunosuke, adapted into a movie)
    Episode 9 Yami no Oku (Heart of Darkness - the novel by Joseph Conrad)
    Episode 10 Christmas Carol (the novel by Charles Dickens)
    Episode 11 Sayonara Nippon (Goodbye Japan - the manga by Otomo Katsuhiro)
    Episode 16 Kashi 451-do (Fahrenheit 451 - the novel by Ray Bradbury)
    Episode 17 Sweet Home (the 1989 movie produced by Itami Juzo, who also acted in the movie)
    Episode 18 Kokuhaku (Confession - the 1969 movie)
    I'm not saying that Kurata Hideyuki was necessarily referring to the works which I've written up there - they're just possibilities that I'm throwing up. Some of the references are clearly intended, others are less clear. For example, a simple title like "Confession", even if it was even intended as an allusion, could be a reference to any number of artistic works... In addition, episodes 19 and 20 (to be broadcast on 1 February 2004), will be titled "Kanashimiyo Konnichiwa" (Hello Sadness) and "Kazoku Game" (Family Game). "Kanashimiyo Konnichiwa" is the title of the OP for Maison Ikkoku, but also the title of the manga by Itou Yuu. "Kazoku Game" is the name of a movie which also featured Itami Juzo.

27 January 2004 (second update)

  • I think this'll be all for today...
  • The anime version of Pugyuru (based on the manga by Konno Tohiro, serialised in Kodansha's monthly manga magazine Magazine Z) will commence broadcast in April 2004 on Kids Station. Official website is supposed to be here, but it doesn't seem to be working.
  • Media Works will release an Onegai Twins Poster Book on 31 March 2004, price 2,000 yen (excluding tax). 20 A2 size posters and a school calendar in a box. This will be a limited edition item. Source: Mangaoh Club. Mangaoh states that there'll be 20 sheets, but Media Works' webpage for the poster book states that there'll be 24 illustrations, of which four are new. BTW, the illustration you'll see on the webpage is the one that'll be used for the box.
  • Volume 1 of Watanabe Yoshitomo's manga Sono Mukou no Mukou Gawa will be released on 10 April 2004 by Mag Garden. There'll be a limited edition version which comes with mini (seven sheet) art collection, price 886 yen. Source: Mangaoh Club.
  • Sorry, I'm still catching up with things, so I'm not going to put in as many links as I'd like to at present...
  • New monthly shonen manga magazine Comic Rush went on sale yesterday. Published by Jive, price 562 yen. B5 size, on sale on the 26th of each month. Source: Mangaoh Club. It's manga lineup can be found here and here.
  • To add to what I wrote yesterday about the Chrno Crusade DVD release, looks like the first pressing limited edition of each volume will come with a die-cast model of a gun used by a character in the series, with the gun being housed in a hard case. 12 volumes in total. Source: Mangaoh Club.
  • The final DVD volume 7 of Onegai Twins will be released on 23 April 2004 and will include new episode 13. Regular edition, catalogue number BCBA-1507, price 3,500 yen. The first pressing limited edition Memories Special release will come with Onegai Twins Sound Collection 2 CD and a CD holder for the Sound Collection CDs. Catalogue number BCBA-1701, price 5,500 yen. Source: Mangaoh Club.
  • The Galaxy Angel S DVD will be released on 23 April 2004, containing the Galaxy Angel Special broadcast at the end of last year. There'll be a Limited Special edition which comes with special DVD (approximately 30 minutes in duration, containing sound drama and other items) and 70 page GA Official booklet. Catalogue number BCBA-1880, price 5,800 yen. Regular edition catalogue number BCBA-1879, price 3,800 yen. Source: Mangaoh Club.
  • Volume 3 of Iwahara Yuji's shonen manga Ibara no Ou (King of Thorn) will be published on 25 February 2004, price 620 yen. Source: Mangaoh Club.
  • Volume 1 of Hayashi Fumino's shoujo manga Shin Seiki Evangelion Koutetsu no Girlfriend 2nd (Neon Genesis Evangelion Girlfriend of Steel 2nd) will be published by Kadokawa Shoten on 17 February 2004, price 400 yen. Source: Mangaoh Club.
  • Volume 1 of Nagasawa Tomo's shoujo manga based on the novel series Maria-sama ga Miteru will be released on 25 February 2004, price 390 yen. The manga is serialised in Margaret magazine. Source: Mangaoh Club.
  • Volume 7 of Nakahara Aya's shoujo manga LoveCom (Lovely Complex) will be published by Shueisha on 25 February 2004, price 390 yen. There'll be a special limited edition with CD, price 476 yen. Source: Mangaoh Club. Sorry, I don't know what's on the CD ^_^;; For only 86 yen it can't be much - perhaps a real short drama...? Shueisha has a second website for the manga here.
  • Volume 7 of Miyasaka Kaho's shoujo manga "'Kare' first love" will be released on 26 February 2004, price 390 yen. There'll be a special edition with DVD available for 905 yen. Source: Mangaoh Club. The DVD will contain a digital comic. The manga is serialised in Sho-Comi semi-monthly manga magazine.
  • Volume 4 of Aoki Kotomi's shoujo manga "Boku wa Imouto ni Koi wo Suru" (I Love My Younger Sister) will be released on 26 February 2004, price 390 yen. There'll be a special edition of this tankoubon with DVD as well, price 905 yen. Source: Mangaoh Club. Don't know what'll be on this DVD, though. This manga is also serialised in Sho-Comi.
  • Speaking of loving younger sisters, I note that the manga Koikaze by Yoshida Motoi is to be animated. Koushirou works for a marriage agency and broke up with his girlfriend some time ago. His parents divorced when he was young - he went to live with his dad and his sister Nanoka (then two years old) stayed with their mum. When Nanoka, now a high school girl, comes to live with the two men, the two siblings start to have feelings for each other. Yeah, standard soap opera type storyline, but I still love Yoshida's artwork ^_^ It's a surprise to hear that this is being animated, but I just hope they can capture Yoshida's scratchy but warm artistic style in the animation. In the meantime, hopefully volume 4 of the manga will be released soon.

26 January 2004 (sixth update)

  • That's all for today. Need to get other stuff done.
  • The OP "X O X O X O (Kiss Kiss Kiss)" and the ED "Sora" to the TV anime Misaki Chronicle ~ Divergence Eve were released as a CD single on 21 January 2004. There's a first pressing limited edition which comes with DVD with music video, price 1,800 yen. Otherwise the regular edition is 1,000 yen. Source: Musicmarket.
  • Updated the info on Chojushin Gravion Zwei and Misaki Chronicle ~ Divergence Eve.
  • CLAMP's manga Card Captor Sakura is due to be re-released, with volume 1 out on 5 March 2004, price 1,000 yen. Could be some re-touching of the manga. I don't know how many volumes this re-release will comprise. (Update 1 February 2004 - whether there's re-touching or not is just a guess on my part. The increase price could be explained by other things, such as more pages per volume, less volumes...)
  • Volumes 1 and 2 of Fujisawa Touru's manga Tokko will be published on 6 February 2004, price 540 yen each. Further, there'll be a deluxe edition of each volume, price 1,050 yen.
  • Buena Vista will release a DVD titled "Innocence no Joukei" on 19 March 2004, price 2,800 yen. Source: dvd catalog. I wonder if it's about the upcoming Innocence movie...?
  • Volume 5 of the manga Air Gear by Oh! great will be published by Kodansha on 17 March 2004, price 410 yen.
  • Looks like the manga Orefeti by Kuwahara Hihihi, serialised in monthly manga magazine Dragon Age, is to be animated. The magazine itself is unclear, referring to rumours that the anime will be produced by GAiNAX and the game company Atlus. Looks to me like another opportunity for GAiNAX to work on comic ecchiness.
  • DVD release details for Gokusen (the anime version):
    Volume 1 to be released 7 April 2004, price 4,800 yen, three episodes
    Volume 2 to be released 21 April 2004
    Volume 3 to be released 26 May 2004
    Volume 4 to be released 23 June 2004
    Volume 5 to be released 22 July 2004
    Source: dvd catalog.
  • Volume 1 of the DVD release of Cinderella Boy will be out on 2 April 2004, price 4,800 yen. Source: dvd catalog.
  • Volumes 1 to 4 of the TV anime Omoikkiri Kagaku Adventure So Nanda! will be released on DVD on 21 March 2004, price 3,800 yen each. Source: dvd catalog.
  • The Hunter x Hunter musical (presumably the live action performance) will be released on DVD on 17 March 2004, price 6,800 yen. Source: dvd catalog.
  • The final volume 13 of Kidou Senshi Gundam Seed will be released on 26 March 2004, price 6,000 yen. First pressing will come with a folder for the playing cards and a case for the playing cards. Source: dvd catalog.
  • Updated the Hunter x Hunter Greed Island Kanketsu Hen info again - looks like volume 1 has been delayed.
  • Volume 1 of Gungrave will be released on DVD on 21 February 2004, price 5,800 yen. First pressing will come with a box. Source: dvd catalog.
  • Those who purchase all six volumes of Godanner from Animate will be able to apply for a special CD. Source: Animate Web Mail Order.
  • KSS is producing a two volume OVA series based on the bishoujo love adventure game Natsuiro no Sunadokei. Volume 1 is due out on 23 April 2004. There'll be a first pressing limited edition version, price 8,190 yen, though I don't know what the extras will be at this moment. The regular edition will cost 5,250 yen. The concluding volume is due out in the (northern) summer.
  • Volumes 1 and 2 of the OVA Aoi Umi no Tristia (Tristia of the Deep Blue Sea) will be released on 23 April 2004 and 23 July 2004 respectively, price 7,140 yen each. These DVDs will be available for a limited time only. Source: Animate Web Mail Order.
  • Updated the Hunter x Hunter Greed Island Kanketsu Hen info, as well as the Bottle Fairy and Chrno Crusade info.
  • DVD volume 1 of Chou Henshin Kosu-pureiya (The Cosmopolitan Prayers) will be released on 17 March 2004, price 3,990 yen. Volumes 2 to 4 see release on 7, 21 and 25 April 2004 respectively, each at the same price. Source: Animate Web Mail Order.
  • Jubei-chan 2 Siberia Yagyu no Gyakushuu (Siberia Yagyu's Counterattack) DVD releases:
    Jubei-chan 2 Preview DVD, to be released 24 March 2004, price 1,905 yen (excluding tax), contains episode 1 of the series together with a trailer for Horie Yui's live action Jubei-chan clip. Source: Neowing.
    Jubei-chan 2 DVD Box 1, to be released 8 May 2004, price 11,429 yen, two DVDs containing episodes 1 to 6 and Horie Yui's live action Jubei-chan clip. Source: CD Japan.
  • The OP and ED for the SD Gundam Force anime will be released on CD on 11 February 2004, price 1,223 yen (including tax) each. You can also get first pressing limited edition versions of each, which come with a Captain Gundam plastic model, price 1,538 yen (including tax). CD Japan's details for the OP is here, and for the ED is here.
  • First there was the Char model computer (see my 16 February 2003 entry). Now there's the Char Model Portable DVD Player for Gundam fans. Plays DVDs, audio CD and MP3. 8 inch wide display, with mono eye screen saver. 62,790 yen (including tax). Source: Animate Web Mail Order.
  • Second update to the list of releases at the bottom of today's update.
  • Today is Australia Day. Although the most important holiday in Australia, as I've mentioned before, a partly controversial holiday because of the plight of today's Aboriginal population, as illustrated by musician Paul Kelly's song Bicentennial (Australia's bicentennial was back in 1988). Paul Kelly's a great songwriter, BTW.
  • Ramadan, Hannukah, Christmas have passed again, as has the New Year. Many peoples are now celebrating the Lunar New Year. The next big festival would Easter, I guess. And Easter means chocolate. While you're eating your chocolate, particularly those of you in the US, remember that the Food and Drug Administration allows an average of up to 60 insect fragments per 100 grams (roughly 3 ounces) of chocolate and an average of 1 rodent hair per 100 grams, before it'll take action against the confectionary producer. Yum. For this, and other disgusting food facts, check out the FDA's Food Defect Action Level Booklet. And of course, as I mentioned two years ago, remember that a significant proportion of the world's cocoa (used in making chocolate) is produced by African child slaves. Have a nice day.
  • I've got lots to catch up on. Won't necessarily report on what's occurred in the past nine weeks. Then again, some of the stuff you read here for the next few weeks may be months old. Sorry, but it's still news to me ^_^;; As with last year, I'll start off again by writing about recent and upcoming product releases.
  • I noticed that I was somehow voted into Animefringe's top 25 anime/manga websites for the year. It's a big surprise - I seriously didn't think I'd get anywhere near that list. While it's nice to get the honour, it's not a big deal - it's not why I maintain this website. I didn't mention the voting on my website last year, and I'll never ask anyone to vote for me, but thank you to those who did in fact vote - it's very kind of you m(_ _)m Also, without meaning any offence to Animefringe and its polling, I really doubt that my website would be within the 25 most popular on the internet. I have no doubt that Anime News Network and Anime on DVD thoroughly deserve to be on top, but I think the results for some of the lower ranked websites - mine included - wouldn't be as accurate, particularly given the relatively low traffic to this little corner of the virtual world. I'll try to continue to update this website, and I hope people continue to find it useful, but unfortunately I can't guarantee what'll happen in the future. For one thing, there'll be other websites on internet and other people in the world who are better at doing this sort of thing than me - when I come across those, I'll just stop and read those websites instead ^_^ Also, I could just get bored and stop updating this page. As I've written elsewhere, I don't know why I maintain this website - I'd have a lot more time on my hands if I didn't. But then again, I'm like Ikari Shinji and this website is my cello - it's just that no one's told me to stop practising yet...
  • The International Herald Tribune had an article on Japan's GNC - gross national cool - a few weeks back.
  • The 3D CG Appleseed movie is now set for theatrical release on 17 April 2004. Official website is here, where you can also view a trailer. At least it looks better than the original trailers.
  • A special edition of volume 23 of the manga Bastard!! by Hagiwara Kazushi (serialised in monthly Ultrajump) will come with a figure sculpted by Ageta Yukiwo, who does great work.
  • After what seems like forever, volume 7 of Matsumoto Takahal's sci-fi manga Agharta will be released on 19 February 2004, price 590 yen (excluding tax). Source: Ultrajump and Mangaoh Club.
  • Back on 19 September 2003, I wrote that a special edition of volume 11 of the manga Tenjou Tenge (by Oh! great, to be published 19 March 2004) would come with a figure of Natsume Aya. There's been a change, it's volume 12 which will now have a special edition with Natsume Aya figure - volume 12 will be published in the (northern) summer. Volume 11 will just be a regular release. Source: Ultrajump. As with the figure of Natsume Maya which came with volume 9, the figure of Aya will be sculpted by Miyagawa Takeshi.
  • Mangaka Yamada Shutaro, artist for the R.O.D manga, now has a website. There's just a blog in Japanese, though. Volume 2 of his Samuraiji (Samurai Rising) was published on 15 January 2004. As with the R.O.D manga, this latest work is done in collaboration with Kurata Hideyuki.
  • Volume 7 of the manga Hagane no Renkinjutsushi (Full Metal Alchemist) will be published on 22 March 2004. A first edition limited edition will come with a full-colour schedule book to cover the period from April 2004 to March 2005. Price 600 yen (including tax). The regular edition will be released on the same day for 410 yen (including tax). Source: Animate.
  • Akita Shoten will release a Morishige Special Pack on 25 March 2004. This will contain the first limited edition of two the author's manga: volume 9 of Hanaukyo Maid Tai and volume 3 of Koikoi 7. It'll also come with an illustrated mechanical pencil, bandanna and special case. Price 1,800 yen (including tax). Source: Animate.
  • Another artbook by Minekura Kazuya (of Saiyuki fame) will be published on 25 March 2004. "Sugar coat" will cost 2,667 yen (excluding tax) and will be a softcover A4 sized, 110 page book with 96 colour illustrations and 16 pages of monochrome ones. In addition, the book will come with a CD-ROM containing five wallpapers, two icons, two screensavers and five greeting card patterns (to print out). Source: Animate.
  • CD Japan has listed the limited edition KaleidoStar Maboroshi no Oowaza Box to be released on 3 March 2004, which will contain volumes 5 to 8 of the series, an OST CD and booklet. Animate adds that it'll come with velvety digipak case, box to hold the four volumes and CD, picture labels on all the discs, picture postcard and poster and that the booklet is 60 pages of liner notes. Special editions of the individual volumes will be released, with volumes 5 and 6 due out on 25 March 2004 and 7 and 8 to hit the shelves on 25 April 2004.
  • Hisaishi Jo's album Private was released on 21 January 2004, price 1,905 yen, containing 11 songs including an insert song from Tonari no Totoro (My Neighbour Totoro). Source: Animate. Hisaishi is the composer of music for the various Studio Ghibli movies. CD Japan notes that it's a "best of" compilation.
  • Those who purchase all 8 volumes of the Ashita no Jo 2 DVD release will be able to apply for a T-shirt. Volumes 5 and 6 were released on 21 January 2004, price 4,700 yen each. Source: Animate.
  • Volume 4 of the DVD of Sumeba Miyako no Cosmos Sou - Suttoko Taisen Dokkaida was released on 23 January 2004, price 5,800 yen. First pressing came with booklet and box to hold three volumes. Source: Animate.
  • Those who purchase volumes 6 to 9 of the DVD of Matantei Loki Ragnarok will be able to apply for a special card set in a case. Volume 7 was released on 23 January 2004, price 4,980 yen. Source: Animate.
  • OVA Hunter x Hunter Greed Island Kanketsu Hen volume 1 on 18 February 2004 (see below), price 6,800 yen. First pressing with two character cards, Greed Island monster stuffed toy (5cm in size) and box to hold four of the seven volumes. Contains two episodes. Source: Animate and Neowing. dvd catalog states that the release date has bee put back to 3 March 2004. Those who purchase all the volumes will be able to apply for a calendar. Source: Animate Web Mail Order.
  • Volume 1 of the anime Papuwa will be released on DVD on 21 March 2004, price 3,800 yen. Source: Animate.
  • And volume 1 of the Chojushin Gravion Zwei DVD will be released on 25 March 2004, price 5,800 yen. First pressing will come with 64 page manga and reversible DVD jacket. Six volumes in total. Source: Animate. Volume 2 will be released on 23 April 2004, price 5,800 yen. First pressing will come with box to hold all six volumes and a reversible jacket. Source: Musicmarket.
  • DVD volume 1 of Misaki Chronicle ~ Divergence Eve will be released on 25 March 2004, price 5,800 yen. First pressing will come with six comic cards and box to hold a binder and all six DVD volumes. Source: Animate. Volume 2 will be released on 23 April 2004, price 5,800 yen and first pressing will come with four comic cards and a "comic card holder book". Source: Musicmarket.
  • DVD volume 1 of the live action Pretty Guardian Sailormoon series will be released on 26 March 2004, price 5,800 yen. First pressing will come with picture label. Source: Animate.
  • First pressing of DVD volume 7 of Bouken Yuuki Pluster World will come with a trading card and box to hold six volumes. Price 1,800 yen, to be released 17 March 2004. Source: Animate.
  • 7 Nin no Mugiwara Kaizoku Dan Live Daikaisen! One Piece Character Song Album Piece 2. The Mugiwara Kaizoku Dan seiyuu group from One Piece will be releasing another CD album, on 25 February 2004. There's a first pressing limited edition which comes with seven pin badges (price 3,500 yen) and a regular edition (price 2,913 yen).
  • Other upcoming DVD releases, with info taken from CD Japan:
    Nurse Witch Komugi-chan Magical te volume 5, to be released on 21 March 2004, first pressing comes with mobile phone mascot of an SD Komugi figure and pamphlet holder. The final volume.
    One Piece Theme Song Collection DVD, to be released 17 March 2004, price 2,700 yen. There's also a first pressing limited edition which comes with a figure of the ship Going Merry, price 5,000 yen.
    Chrno Crusade Chapter Zero, limited edition, promo DVD for the TV anime series. To be released 26 February 2004, price 2,500 yen. This is the same DVD as was available to those who purchased the September 2003 issue of Dragon Age magazine.
    GiTS:SAC Interval, a first pressing limited edition item, to be released 25 February 2004, price 2,800 yen.
    Volume 1 of the OVA Phantom, to be released 27 February 2004. There'll be a first pressing limited edition version with booklet and CD-ROM (price 7,800 yen) and a regular edition (price 5,000 yen). Animate makes no mention of a booklet for the limited edition version, but refers instead to a postcard, script and strap with serial-numbered dog-tag. 3 volumes in total.
    Bindume Yousei (Bottle Fairy) Box, to be released 24 March 2004, price 15,000 yen. All 13 episodes on two DVDs with a bonus desktop accessory CD-ROM. Or you can buy four individual volumes, with volumes 1 to 3 being released on 21 January 2004, 25 February 2004 and 24 March 2004 respectively. However, I think if you buy the individual volumes, you don't get episode 13...
    F-Zero Falcon Densetsu volume 1, to be released 18 February 2004, price 4,700 yen, first pressing comes with cardboard model of a craft.
    Prologue of Appleseed - Appleseed the Trigger Deunan version, first pressing limited edition item, to be released 24 March 2004, price 5,600 yen. "Making of" DVD with Deunan figure. There's also a Briareos version.
    Volume 1 of Planetes will be released on 23 April 2004, price 5,000 yen. First pressing will come with liner notes.
    OVA Angelique volume 1, to be released 17 March 2004, price 6,800 yen. Based upon the first game story of the ten year old Angelique game series.
    GiTS:SAC 2nd GIG volume 1, to be released 26 March 2004, price 6,000 yen. First pressing will come with box to hold five volumes. I assume the release details will mirror those for the first season.
    Peacemaker Kurogane volume 5, to be released 23 April 2004. The first pressing limited edition version will cost 7,800 yen and come with box to hold five volumes, mini-pencil board and dog tag.
    Chrno Crusade Chapter 1, to be released 23 April 2004. There's a first pressing limited edition Militia Senyo Ban which comes with miniature gun in a hard case, price 8,800 yen. Otherwise, go for the regular edition, price 5,800 yen. Animate Web Mail Order states that later volumes will similarly have a first pressing limited edition version and a regular edition, at the same prices as for volume 1, with volume 2 being released on 28 May 2004 and volume 3 in June 2004. The limited edition of volume 2 will come with a hard case, but I don't know what else.
    Volume 1 of the OVA Interlude, to be released 25 March 2004, price 6,800 yen. Three volume bishoujo suspense adventure anime.
    Battle Programmer Shirase, to be released 24 March 2004, price 15,000 yen. Two DVDs with a soundtrack CD.
  • And CD releases listed in CD Japan:
    Appleseed OST Complete Version, a two CD set, to be released 24 March 2004. There'll be a first pressing limited edition version which comes with DVD, 48 page booklet and poster illustrated by Shirow Masamune (price 5,000 yen). Otherwise you can get the regular edition, which comes with a 24 page booklet (price 3,000 yen). Additional information here was taken from the official website.
    UFO Princess Walkure Character Song Super Best, to be released 25 February 2004, price 3,500 yen. First pressing comes with DVD.
    Animation Runner Kuromi 1 & 2 OST, to be released 25 February 2004, price 3,000 yen.

25 January 2004

  • Another year, another update. My LD/DVD backlog hasn't shrunk, and my manga backlog continues to increase (particularly after shopping overseas). My first substantial update for nine weeks... this first update isn't going to have a lot of anime and manga news - and whatever there is may no longer be news, since I've been away for months. So will anybody bother to read all of this...?
  • Sorry, even though I've been back for a fortnight now, I still haven't even started to check out what's happening/happened in the anime and manga world, whether now or in the past nine weeks... My first week back I was really just getting settled back home. And in the past week, I've mainly just been reading some of the manga which I picked up on my holiday: I read through volumes 1 to 3 of Hana Yori Dango (\^_^/), volumes 15 and 16 of GTO, volumes 8 and 9 of Oku Hiroya's manga Gantz (set to become an anime movie), volume 1 of Berserk, both volumes of FLCL and the final two volumes 6 and 7 of Dance till Tomorrow. In the same week I also finally read the third and final volume of Iwahara Yuji's manga "Chikyu Misaki" \^_^/ and then started on his earlier manga series, the gothic horror Koudelka, set in turn of the century England. Being Iwahara's earlier work, the artwork isn't as polished as in Chikyu Misaki or his latest series Ibara no Ou. I've finished volume 1 and am now on to volume 2, but the supernatural elements in the storyline don't really grab me. Also read the four volume series Milk Closet by Tomizawa Hitoshi (of Alien 9 fame) in the same week \^_^/ Another sci-fi series, which is similar to Alien 9 in that it deals with a group of children with aliens attached to them. Milk - the Macrocosmic Invincible Legion of Kids. Despite the weirdness of Tomizawa's stories and artwork, he still has the ability to make you feel for his characters.
  • BTW, the Gantz movie website has updated with a few screenshots and a preview movie. The site uses Flash, but once you get to the main menu, you'll see that the options are in English, so you'll be able to navigate your way around. In any event, you can view the preview movie here. This sci-fi movie is set for release in the (northern) spring of 2004. The animation is looking pretty good.
  • And oh yeah, I still haven't replaced my cheap keyboard, with its faulty "g", "h" and other keys, so expect to see more typos of the kind that you know and love... m(_ _)m
  • As with the previous year (see my 25 January 2003 entry), my holiday this time around wasn't something I'd been planning for a long time. But things sort of fell into place (although the trip was a bit longer than I needed or perhaps wanted). And it was another opportunity to visit Japan, so why not? ^_^ Actually, since I was in Japan for a few days at the start of the trip and then ended up in Japan again towards the end of my six weeks, I guess they were officially my fourth and fifth times visiting Japan... ^_^;;
  • So, as I wrote, my trip started with a few days in Tokyo:
    Watched the League of Extraordinary Gentleman and Sinbad on the plane. I thought the voice acting in the latter was good and the animation of the characters' movements very natural. It deserved to do better, IMO...
    Stayed in Ikebukuro again - I'm used to it, and to the ryokan. At Ikebukuro train station, I happened to pass by the spot where Kaoru and Aoi meet at the start of Ai Yori Aoshi (on the west exit side of the Marunouchi line, IIRC). I also noticed that there's a lane named "Orange Road" in the same train station - not the Orange Road in KOR, of course.
    Of course I was there to pick up a copy of the Oh! great Reproduction Art Collection from a Manga no Mori store on the day it was released (well, actually, on the day before it was scheduled for release). All the artwork is from the mangaka's earlier (hentai) days, though the reproductions are nothing really adult (but there is some nudity). BTW, what I like about Manga no Mori is that they don't cover their books in plastic wrap like some other stores do - so you can browse before buying a manga, instead of relying on the cover and back.
    While at Manga no Mori, I noticed an announcement that a limited edition of 100 lithographs of one of Oh! great's artworks will go on sale on 1 February 2004. Each copy is signed by Oh! great and has a serial number. But at 25,000 yen (excluding tax) it's out of my price range. Exclusive to Manga no Mori. I'll type up more Oh! great news some other time.
    When I started my trip, I needed a key-ring, so of course it was off to K-Books to buy an episode 26-alternate-universe SD version of Katsuragi Misato key-ring ^_^ And while rummaging through the trays of odds and ends at the K-Books store, I found a KOR pin badge! \^_^/ Also needed to make a few phone calls, so I picked up a few cheap anime phone cards from the same store. Then, while at K-Book's second hand book section (which is what the chain of stores is really about), I picked up some of artbooks I've had at the back of my head for some time - some at a really low price. Including a copy of the E-Oppers limited edition poster collection, which includes one work by Oh! great, a couple by Shirow Masamune, etc.
    Picked up three kendo DVDs \^_^/ of the 1982 competition commemmorating the 30th anniversary of the foundation of the All Japan Kendo Federation. All the participating kendoka were 5th to 7th dan in proficiency.
    Made a day trip to Kamakura, where I witnessed a traditional wedding at the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine, complete with traditional Japanese musical instrumentation.
    At Kamakura I also tried an assortment of charcoal-fire-cooked sembei (rice crackers), the usual plain ones (my favourite), plum ones (I think the sakura flavour is in the sugar crystals sprinkled on the top), prawn ones, a blackish one (sesame, I think), one wrapped in nori seaweed, another one wrapped in some green-white wafer, one wrapped in purple leaves (sweet potato, I think), one with icing, etc. Also had a couple of croquettes, including a chocolate one (the taste of the chocolate and fried batter don't really compliment each other, IMO).
    Back in Tokyo I visited Jinbouchou, the book district where Yomiko Readman lives. I also visited the building with the external glass elevator, featured in both the R.O.D OVA and TV series. I took a photo, but it turned out crap (see below). I can tell readers there's no basement and there's no hidden panel. In fact, the buttons aren't even on the same wall of the elevator. There's a second hand manga bookstore on the second level (couldn't find that old issue of Shonen Magazine I was looking for), but almost all of the visitors to the building seem to be men going to the 8th floor, which houses some adult book or video store. While there are definitely a lot of bookstores in Jinbouchou, there aren't many that'd interest the anime and manga fan.
    Didn't have time to watch much TV in Japan, but caught a bit of Galaxy Angel. I did notice, though, that anime music would sometimes be used in TV shows. For example, some report on kids' baseball used BGM from the Card Captor Sakura TV series.
    On the recommendation of a friend, I picked up a copy volume 1 of "Yotsuba to!" (Yotsuba &!) by Azuma Kiyohiko (of Azumanga Daioh fame). This is a great read from the very start - I love the scenes of Yotsuba-chan discovering the joys of playground swings. Personally, I'm not such a big fan of 4-koma manga like Azumanga, so Yotsuba to! is more my style.
    Then again, I've always liked Mook's little cartoons for Comic Toranoana advertisements, so I bought Mook's cosplay manga Koro Koro Koromo-chan, even though it is a yon-koma manga.
    I visited a Cospa shop for the first time. This was just a small branch in Shibuya, but it was interesting to see inside a cosplay store. Everything you need to complete your Naruto costume. I think they stocked police hats from the Mini Skirt Police (live action) variety show too ^_^;;
    There is definitely a dearth of R.O.D - The TV - goods. I had to settle for just a set of character badges (one for each of the three Paper Sisters). I couldn't be bothered to pick up the two posters. Also invested in an old R.O.D (OVA) pencil board, though.
    Again on the recommendation of a friend, I bought the DVD of the live-action movie Azumi, based on the manga of the same name by Koyama Yu. The action scenes were good, though star Ueto Aya's physique gives lie to the idea that her character's supposed to have spent her whole life in the mountains learning the art of swordfighting.
    On this visit, with limited time, I just went back to the stores I'm familiar with, mainly in Ikebukuro and Akihabara: Manga no Mori, Liberty, Comic Toranoana, Yodobashi Camera, Melon Books, Animate, Books La Shin Bang, K-Books. No time for a trip to Nakano this time, and I thought about visiting the Ghibli Museum again, but left it out. Had to skip the Bandai Museum as well (then again, I'm not a Gundam fan). Maybe next time... ^_^ I picked up another point card, this time from Melon Books. Usually I don't bother to pick up each store's loyalty program point cards. The Melon Books card is at least cute, with a pic of Melon-chan on the front, but it's not hi-tech like some of the cards - it's just a stamp card.
    From Animate, I picked up a number of line art books: including Noir, Wolf's Rain, Mahou Tsukai ni Taisetsu na Koto ~ Someday's Dreamers ~, Full Metal Panic! and Azumanga Daioh. Of those, the best is the Someday's Dreamers one - no pages on objects, buildings and backgrounds - just the characters, in both the anime and manga styles.
    The Ikebukuro branch of Animate also had a Takahashi Shin exhibit (free) when I was there, so I had a look at original copies of his works, including pages from his manga Saishuu Heiki Kanojo ~ The Last Love Song on this Little Planet.
    Since nowadays I can buy anime and manga online, as with last year's trip I spent most of my shopping time on items which are harder to get, like doujinshi. Picked up a couple of R.O.D doujinshi (hentai, unfortunately), a Tenjou Tenge one, and another where Oh! great was a guest contributor. Also finding their way into my shopping cart were an Alien 9 doujinshi by the circle Yurichanchino 9 (which includes contributions by mangaka Tomizawa Hitoshi - it's just a shame that one or two of the stories were hentai) and a Front Innocent ~ Mou Hitotsu no Lady Innocent design works collection book (which comes with a DVD with a three minute promotion video for the upcoming Urushihara Satoshi hentai OVA - the animation being seemingly in the style of traditional cel animation). Note that Front Innocent website above contains adult images.
    The Gamers cafe in Akihabara has apparently closed (the Gamers store itself has also moved), but I went to the Sakura Taisen Cafe and Taisho Romando store in Ikebukuro with my friend. I tried the Okinawa Kanna Curry, washed it down with melon soda and finished with Sakura Shiratama (pink balls of mochi - rice flour dumplings - with a red bean paste centre, accompanied by some sweet syrup) for dessert. At the store, you can buy various Sakura Taisen items including Iris' band-aids and Chattes Noires toasters. The toasters have a sheet of metal in the shape of a simple cat's face blocking the heating element, so that when your slices of bread pop up, they'll have a cat face toasted onto them. Price is 5,800 yen (excluding tax). The store and cafe also exhibit various items of Sakura Taisen paraphernalia, including a roughly life-sized Sakura figure. I later found one of those figures for sale at Figure Hobby in Akiharaba, but it was 500,000 yen and didn't even seem to come with a sword.
    The Sakura store and cafe was at the top floor of one of Sega's entertainment centres. One the ground floor were various UFO catcher games. The next level or two had various video games, such as a the Lupin III The Typing typing game (there are two keyboards so you can play with a friend), the Initial D Arcade Stage Ver. 2 racing game (where you can use a memory card to build up your points and upgrade to better cars etc), a photo battle game (where you and friend take up camera-shaped controllers and fight it out to see who takes better photos of the same scene), a variant on the Taiko no Tatsujin game where you strum a shamisen instead of banging a taiko drum. Some video games you definitely have to be fluent in Japanese in: such as the one involving two comedians doing a comedy routine - depending on the lines which the first CG comedian delivers, you have hit the second comedian in the appropriate place (eg in the stomach, on the head etc). And with the Avalon no Kagi (Key of Avalon) card game RPG you'd have to read two rule books before you'd be able to play properly. Winners of this video game win trading cards. On yet another floor of the Sega entertainment complex are PuriKura (Print Club) machines - only females may enter, or males in the company of females (this restriction being put into place after a spate of guys trying to take photos up girls' dresses when the girls were using PuriKura machines).
    Also ate tonkatsu with my friend at the Shinjuku branch of the Saboten chain of tonkatsu restaurants, where you can free refills of lettuce etc to go with your tonkatsu. In addition, I found time in Japan for some ramen, gyoza, curry rice with soba, etc.
    On my last night, I decided to splurge and try a kaiseki meal at the Ikebukuro branch of Iraka restaurants, which specialise in Kansai cuisine. It'd have to be the most expensive meal I've ever had in my entire life. I could only afford a mini-kaiseki meal, not a full menu - and the cheapest mini-kaiseki meal at that. With a glass of cold oolong tea and some home-made peach and manga sorbet, the bill at the end totalled just under A$100 ^_^;; (A full kaiseki menu would've been up to twice the cost.) The mini-kaiseki came in seven small courses, not counting the rice, pickles and akadeshi. The food was good and an interesting experience - only the fried seafood at the end was average. The soup with crab-cake in the middle of the courses was a very clear broth, spoiled when my oily chopsticks made contact with the surface. I'm not sure what half of what I was eating was (I was able to get a copy of the menu for the different kaiseki sets, but I can't be bothered translating it now), but then again I never worked out what the dessert on my NorthWest Airlines flight to the US was either... maybe it was custard...
    In Japan, the vast majority of people seem to take photos with their mobile phones now. Last year, a friend told me that mobile phones in Japan now have two cameras, so you don't have to turn your phone around to take photos. While I was there, Vodaphone was promoting its new phone which you can watch TV on (I think the camera on that phone is 2 megapixels). I took some photos while on my trip, but all I had was a disposable camera, and it was my first time using one, so they didn't turn out so well. But I know more about disposable cameras now, so next time I'll do better - I'll just buy a real camera :P
    On the topic of photos, I saw a couple of young boys, maybe 7 or 8 years old, in their school uniforms - very cute in their black caps with black cadet-like, stiff-collared outfits and elaborate buttons and trim. Would've made a cute photo - until one of the boys spoiled the scene by commencing to pick his nose and then sucking hard on the finger as if trying to extract the very last morsel of what he'd been able to excavate -_-
    Would you believe I had something stolen from me which I was in Japan? On my second day, the sky wept, so I bought an umbrella - which I left in the umbrella stand at the ryokan at the end of the day. And the next day it was gone. So I guess the thief was probably a foreigner >_<
  • From Tokyo, it was across the Pacific to Seattle for a day. I wonder how many people answer question B on the back of the US Department of Justice's I-94W Nonimmigrant Visa Waiver Arrival/Departure Form "... are you seeking entry [to the US] to engage in criminal or immoral activities? Yes/No" in the affirmative? The NorthWest Airlines flight from Japan to the US was fine, but a bit different to other airlines I've flown on recently: all cutlery is plastic, no personal video screens, more leg room, a more mature cabin crew with a more informal (but nevertheless polite) approach to service. However, it's slightly disconcerting to find that the window frame next to you is broken (depressed too much into the cavity behind the wall) and that the wall of the plane is only a few millimetres thick when you're 35,000 feet above sea level... I was seated next to a Japanese lady (in her 50s to 60s, I'd estimate) travelling with a young guy (maybe 20 at most). He sat in the row behind her. I figured he was her grandson or relative, so I asked if they'd like to sit together, but she declined. I wonder if he was an employee of her business or something. She liked her beer and spirits ^_^
  • Then to Whistler Blackcomb in Canada via Vancouver for five days of skiing with my brother, sister and brother-in-law (the latter two were ski-virgins). IIRC, Whistler Blackcomb'll be the site of the 2010 Winter Olympics. My fourth time skiing - I'm no good, not athletic, but it's fun. Seeing as I had five days, this time I enrolled for a half-day lesson, the second in my life, which did help my ability. Next time (whenever that is - my aunt has mentioned that ski holidays in South Korea can be relatively cheap), I might try snowboarding... While in Canada I also managed to pick up a copy of Guy Gavriel Kay's poetry collection "Beyond this Dark House". The book starts with "Night Drive: Elegy" - a straightforward composition, but still beautiful and engaging, in part because it reveals some of the background to my favourite author. At Whistler I also bought a copy of Jane Siberry's latest CD "Shushan the Palace (Hymns of Earth)" - I was too busy to snag an autographed copy last year, unfortunately. Yep, my favourite author and favourite musician are Canucks.
  • Whistler was followed by a week driving around Washington state and staying in Seattle with my brother. Bought various manga (stocked up on hard-to-get-in-Australia Viz items such as the Rurouni Kenshin manga and some of the other books mentioned above) and anime. Watched Kill Bill Volume 1 with my brother. After Pulp Fiction and Get Shorty, I was expecting lots of smart dialogue from Quentin Tarantino, not just violence. This movie passed the time, but other than that, I wouldn't be concerned if I never got to see Volume 2. With nothing to do on the last night, I watched the Last Samurai. Most opinions I've read on the movie seemed positive. There's no doubt that the production values were great (the highlight for me was probably the presumably CG recreation of Tokugawa-Bakumatsu-era Yokohama), but IMO the story was unoriginal and the characters stereotypical, the themes as simple and obvious as any Hollywood production. Mononoke Hime is deeper than this movie. Then again, my views on movies don't seem to match up with everyone else's: I thought Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi was overrated and the Oh! My Goddess movie was a complete waste of cel paint (or computer resources). Yeah.
  • From the US, I spent a day or so in Amsterdam, staying with my cousin. Just my luck, the Rijksmuseum was closed and only re-opened the day after I left, so I missed my opportunity to admire the Dutch masters, but in general I saw everything else I wanted to. My cousin had a theory that the beauty of the prostitutes in Amsterdam's infamous Red Light District was inversely proportional to the breadth of the street on which the prostitute's window was located (the narrower the street, the more beautiful the prostitute), so I thought I'd test out her theory. I think she's generally right ^_^;;
  • Then I caught a KLM flight to Istanbul for just under a week:
    On the flight from Amsterdam to Istanbul, I met a Kurdish man, now living in Sweden, flying back to Turkey to catch up with friends. He was a nice guy - we talked a bit about Turkey, about Kurds and their treatment in Turkey, and his hope that the US would help the Iraqi Kurds create their own independent nation. I didn't want to upset the guy, so I didn't voice my thoughts - personally I don't think the US would do it. Firstly, the US has already expressly stated it won't break up Iraq, and secondly, such action could destabilise the whole region. The man said that it was his dream to visit Australia. Actually, from time to time when I travel I meet people who say it's their dream to visit Australia, but that it's too far away. That's sort of how I feel - Australia's so far away from everywhere else. That's why, when I take a holiday overseas, I tend to be away for some time - otherwise it just doesn't seem worth it.
    Back to Istanbul: the St Sophia cathedral, Blue Mosque and other old buildings there are beautiful and awe-inspiring, particularly when you bear in mind that the St Sophia cathedral was built in less than six years in the sixth century (though it collapsed a number of years later and had to be rebuilt).
    And the treasury museum at Topkapi Palace houses holy Islamic relics including hairs from the beard of the Prophet Mohammed (p.b.u.h.) and items of figures who would also be familiar to Christians, such as the rod of Moses, the sword of David, the turban of Joseph and part of the skull and armbone of St John. Many people in the West don't seem to realise the Islam has the same foundations as Christianity and Judaism. All are the children of Abraham (known as Ibrahim to the Muslims).
    I also took a three night, two day trip out of Istanbul to visit Ephesus (both the ancient ruins of the great city and the chapel built on the foundations of the house of the Virgin Mary) and the town of Parmukkale/ruins of Heiropolis (the former with its white calcium cliffs formed from mineral-rich hot springs, and the latter with its large necropolis). Unfortunately, no time to visit Cappadocia in central Turkey - winter was starting to set in anyway.
    One indication of how popular anime is around the world: Rurouni Kenshin was on TV in the town of Selcuk (basically Ephesus), albeit dubbed into Turkish. If you happen to be in the area, it's on on Tuesdays, at 8.30am.
    You can tell you're in a country where 98% of the population is Muslim because wherever you go, you'll hear the call to prayer five times a day. IIRC, originally Muslims were supposed to prayer 98 times a day, but the Prophet Mohammed (p.b.u.h.) asked God to reduce the requirement to five times a day. Yeah, so whether or not you like it, and even if you want to sleep in at your hotel, you can bet that at about 6.30am in the morning, you'll wake to the sound of megaphones wired to the top of minarets, calling you to pray.
    The only downside of travelling to Turkey are the ubiquitous touts (trying to sell you carpets, ceramics, leather, tours etc and are willing to mislead you to do so) and the people who'd try to short-change you (due to high inflation, prices are in the millions of lira, so some people try to give you hundred thousand lira notes instead of million lira ones, etc - all the zeroes can make it confusing). When I'm sightseeing, I like to feel like I'm on holiday, not like I'm on guard.
  • Next stop was Kuala Lumpur, capital of Malaysia, for a leisurely few days of sightseeing (in part dictated by the stifling heat and humidity). Kuala Lumpur perhaps doesn't have the star attractions that Istanbul has, but I recommend going up KL Tower, and a visit to the Islamic Arts Museum. In addition, the food is delicious and cheap, the shopping inexpensive and the people friendly (plus, there are no aggressive vendors like in Turkey). The Putra Jaya district, the new government centre, is kinda interesting as well. Planning for this area included placing all the electricity and telephone lines underground, so you won't see any unsightly cables and wires overhead. You can also visit the Prime Minister's residence at Putra Jaya, but remember that your shirt must have a collar, no shorts allowed, no slippers allowed and you have to bring your passport - as I found out when I turned up in a T-shirt, shorts, slippers and no passport -_-
  • Then it was off again to Japan, for a guided tour of Hokkaido. This part of the trip was really unplanned - in fact, literally the day before I was going to leave Australia for Tokyo, a distant aunt rang with the news of a cheap Hokkaido trip:
    On the flight to Hokkaido, I watched the Japanese movie Fukumimi. A comedy about a young man who's possessed by an old man who just died without completing a final task in his life. Not bad, but nothing to write home about.
    First stop was at Shiraoi and the Ainu Museum there, to learn about the aboriginal people of Japan. When I get some time, I'll have to see if I can buy a CD of traditional Ainu music online.
    At Tokachigawa, time for a dip in the rotenburo (outdoor hot spring bath) at the Tokachigawa Onsen Daiichi Hotel, followed by a traditional Japanese meal at the same place. Delicious.
    We reached Lake Kussharo, which surrounds are called "the land of the Northern Cross" by some. It was New Year's Eve, and we spent the night at the Kussharo Prince Hotel, which was fully booked, even though prices go up by about 60-70% for the few days around New Year's Eve. While the hotel did provide fireworks to usher in the new year, since we were in the Akan National Park, there was no shrine in the area which I could attend at midnight to experience traditional celebrations. I had to satisy myself with the rotenburo at this hotel and then watching the fireworks. At least it snowed while I was in the bath - a slightly unusual experience to have pinpricks of cold on your face when the snow lands, while the rest of your body is submerged in hot 40 degree Celsius water. The first time I've been in an onsen while it's snowing.
    A couple of days later I was in Sapporo. While the Snow Festival isn't held until February, since it just after New Year's Day at least I was able to witness the lights of the White Illumination at Odori Park. What was a bit frustrating, though, was that I was only in Sapporo for one night before flying out of Japan. Which meant that I stayed at a hotel a short walk away from stores such as Animate, Comic Toranoana and Melon Books but arrived in Sapporo in the evening (after the stores had shut) and left early in the morning (before the stores opened) >_<
    Particularly frustrating because after New Year's, some stores will sell various fukubukuro (lucky bags) of stuff to get help clear old stock. Sometimes that fukubukuro have set contents, often they're lucky dips - but generally they're good value (the value of the stuff inside sometimes being considerably more than the price you pay for the fukubukuro). I don't know if Animate had any fukubukuro, but Comic Toranoana did, and I couldn't buy one ;_; So near and yet so far...
    Plus, everywhere we went in Hokkaido was blanketed in snow and there were ski slopes everywhere, but I never had the chance to do a bit of skiing -_- I've never skiied in Japan before.
    On the J-pop side, I love Hajime Chitose's single "Itsuka Kaze ni naru Hi", with its quavering vocals (the fourth track on this page, if you want to sample it). Sayaka's "garden" caught my attention as well - I picked up a first pressing copy of the maxi-single, with digipak and 15 page photobook. That single comes with two other tracks, including the enjoyable "believe again". (You can sample her music on this page) A lot of J-pop singers may write their own lyrics, but at least Sayaka composes the music for some of her tracks herself. Copy Control is starting to piss me off, though. Also acquired a copy of Nakashima Mika's more jazzy and sometime-reggae-esque album "Love". And while I'm no Hamasaki Ayumi fan, I also picked up the CD and DVD package of her mini-album "Memorial address". "Greatful days" is the pick of that album, IMNSHO.
    Japan seems to be the only country in the world which doesn't sell fridge magnets for the average tourist. So while in Sapporo (well, Chitose anyway) I had to settle for a Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi fridge magnet, which I wasn't too displeased about. It's also a good quality magnet - very strong. Also picked up another key-chain which I couldn't resist - also a Studio Ghibli one.
    At Chitose, I also picked up a copy of the new anime magazine Animation Grand Prix (sister mag to Seiyuu Grand Prix magazine) from the (video rental) store Geo. Relatively expensive than other anime magazines at 980 yen, with more text and less artwork for the Western fan.
    Everything is made in China now. All my TenTen and R.O.D figures, including the Nancy Makuhari figure I just acquired \^_^/ , are made in China. Even in Japanese department stores, many of the clothes on sale are made in China now. Clothes made in Japan of course cost two to three times as much.
    Again, not much time to watch TV. Did catch a repeat of one of the earlier episodes of 12 Kokki, though, as well as an episode of Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch.
    Ate lots of good meals while I was in Hokkaido - a lot of seafood in particular. And tried a lot of yummy confectionary as well. Special mention goes to the Toumorokoshi Choco (corn chocolate) and melon brandy chocolate. But try the Sapporo Beer Caramel if you can - it's made from Sapporo Black Label (draft) beer - yum ^_^
    Since this Hokkaido trip was a guided tour, I stayed at fancier hotels and ate at more upmarket restaurants than I would if I was travelling alone. Which meant even the toilets were nicer - I came across a number of those hi-tech toilets, with heated seat, water jets to wash your rear etc. There were no such things in ancient Ephesus, but as I learned in Turkey, in those days, the rich folk created their own heated toilet seats by getting slaves to sit on the cold marble seats to warm them up -_-
  • Back to Malaysia for more relaxation and good food, this time at the refurbished Park Royal Hotel in Penang. Finally it was time to return to the land of the Southern Cross. In all, a good trip. Usually when I go on a holiday, it's several weeks rushing around for intense sightseeing. But this time it was a mix of sightseeing, shopping, skiing, visiting distant relatives and laying around ^_^ Somewhat unusually for me, there were no real problems on my holiday this time - no airport shutdowns, no earthquakes etc and I was only subjected to additional searching at the airports once (leaving Seattle).

12 January 2004

  • Arrived back home a few days ago. I've had no contact with the anime/manga world for the past seven weeks or so (save for a few days shopping in Tokyo and several visits to Kinokuniya stores around the world ^_^ ), so it'll be a while before I get back into the swing of things...


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