Casey Baseel

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Casey Baseel spent his formative years staring in frustration at un-subtitled Japanese TV programming shown on Southern California’s international channel. Taking matters into his own hands, he moved to Tokyo to study the language, then found work in Yokohama a decade ago teaching, translating, and marketing hotels he can’t afford to stay in. When not participating in the eternal cycle of exercising to burn the calories form his love of Japanese food, Casey scours used comic and game shops for forgotten classics, drags his wife around the country in a quest to visit all its castles, sings karaoke not nearly as well as he thinks he does, and counts the days until the summertime bars open on Enoshima Beach.

All Stories by Casey Baseel

Otaku generation gap – Fans in their teens, 20s, and 30s reveal what got them into anime

Otaku generation gap – Fans in their teens, 20s, and 30s reveal what got them into anime

Fans of Japanese animation are quick to point out that it’s not just for kids, with less of the stigma attached to its Western counterpart. Still, even anime tends to be heavily youth-oriented, and fan favorites can quickly fade into obscurity.

For a quick example, ask an anime enthusiast about Bubblegum Crisis. Depending on their age you’ll get a description of either the 1987 direct-to-video series, the 1997 TV reboot, or directions to the closest convenience store where you can buy a pack of Bazooka.

As further proof, in a recent poll people in Japan revealed which shows turned them into lovers of anime, with completely different top five lists for fans in their teens, 20s, and 30s.

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Not quite ready for ochazuke, rice with green tea? You might want to try using cola instead

Not quite ready for ochazuke, rice with green tea? You might want to try using cola instead

In Japanese cuisine, one of the easiest dishes to prepare is ochazuke, or a bowl of rice mixed with tea. While you can spruce it up with things such as plum, salmon, or spicy cod roe, the rice and tea are really all you need.

But while almost all Japanese people enjoy an occasional ochazuke session, some foreigners find it a little unnatural to pour what’s generally a beverage over their food. The whole thing becomes even less attractive if you’re not a particularly big fan of the Japanese green tea that’s normally used.

So if you’re interested in gradually easing yourself into ochazuke, maybe you’d prefer to start with a less astringent beverage, like cola.

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Sailor Moon getting another sequel, this time to its lingerie line

Sailor Moon getting another sequel, this time to its lingerie line

While the entire franchise gets collectively called Sailor Moon, the anime version of Japan’s most successful magical girl saga is technically divided up into a string of year-long sequel series. The initial 1992 season, Pretty Solider Sailor Moon, led directly into Sailor Moon R, Sailor Moon S, Sailor Moon SuperS, and finally Sailor Moon Sailor Stars, before the whole thing was rebooted with this year’s Sailor Moon Crystal.

So really it’s only natural that the now sold-out line of Sailor Moon lingerie is now getting a follow-up, with upgrades for the core cast of five Sailor Senshi and what appears to be a few new friends joining them.

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Japanese convenience store clerks ready to fight crime by hurling giant paint balls 【Video】

Japanese convenience store clerks ready to fight crime by hurling giant paint balls 【Video】

For the most part, Japan is an extremely safe country. Still, that doesn’t mean the country is completely crime-free, with convenience stores being one of the most likely targets of individuals who’ve been driven to extreme measures by their desire for cash (or a light snack).

Occasionally these crimes are diffused by clerks who are quick-thinking, daring, or possibly deliberately obtuse. On the occasion that a robbery does go down, however, victims in Japan do have one last resort: chucking a giant paint ball at the criminal.

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Anna and Elsa ready to visit homes in January with Frozen New Year’s osechi meals

Anna and Elsa ready to visit homes in January with Frozen New Year’s osechi meals

In Japan, it’s customary to celebrate the New Year with osechi, meals made of a large number of painstakingly prepared and beautifully presented small dishes. Traditionally, women would prepare all of the osechi for their families ahead of time, setting aside New Year’s Day itself for feasting leisurely.

Of course, the price for that relaxation on January 1 is a frantic bout of cooking at the end of December. Hoping to avoid that, more and more households have begun buying pre-made osechi, either to replace or supplement a smaller quantity of home-cooked food.

Mass-produced osechi doesn’t come cheap, though, so we imagine some people might scoff at the idea of buying Frozen osechi, until you realize that it’s Frozen with a capital F, as in Disney’s runaway computer-animated hit.

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Pair of goldfish play Street Fighter II, instantly become world’s coolest pets

Pair of goldfish play Street Fighter II, instantly become world’s coolest pets

Whenever I’m asked if I’m a dog or a cat person, I can always respond quite easily: “Neither.” I’m absolutely convinced fish make the best pets, since they’re quiet, relaxing, and never pee or cough things up on the carpet.

And just in case that wasn’t enough to sell you, consider one more thing fish can now do: play a game of Street Fighter II.

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*UPDATE* Retailer encourages Slam Dunk fans to slap anime character’s fat, wobbly neck【Video】

*UPDATE* Retailer encourages Slam Dunk fans to slap anime character’s fat, wobbly neck【Video】

For anime fans, there’s nothing quite like a visit to the local branch of Animate. The mega-retailer is a great place to pick up the latest Blu-ray releases or newest bits of anime merchandise.

Or, as of this month, to slap a fat dude in the neck.

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Truly horrific bar in Tokyo serves up cocktails and ghost tales【Video】

Truly horrific bar in Tokyo serves up cocktails and ghost tales【Video】

With summer winding down, people across Japan are scrambling to squeeze the last bits of entertainment from the season. We may be into the second half of August, but there’s still time for a last trip to the beach, one more barbecue, or a final icy cold beer.

As a matter of fact, you can combine the last of those pleasures with another Japanese summertime tradition – ghost stories - at a bar in Tokyo that provides stiff drinks, spooky tales, and truly terrifying interior decorations.

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Science museum’s elemental lockers provide chemistry lesson while you stash your stuff

Science museum’s elemental lockers provide chemistry lesson while you stash your stuff

The Nagoya City Science Museum, being located in one of the busiest urban centers of Japan, gets most of its visitors arriving by public transportation. Without a car to store their stuff in, most of them are carrying some sort of bag with their personal belongings, plus, in the case of tourists from out of town, any souvenirs they’ve been buying while in the country’s fourth-largest city.

For those who don’t feel like lugging their things around inside the museum, there’s a bank of lockers. Of course, a drab wall of solid gray metal wouldn’t be very visually appealing. At many other tourist attractions in Japan, you’d see a brightly colored mural featuring some local mascot character, but the designers at the Science System went with something a lot more original and appropriate by plastering the chemical symbols of the elements on them.

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Teaser manga, in effort to leave no fetish undrawn, depicts life of menstruating teen boy

Teaser manga, in effort to leave no fetish undrawn, depicts life of menstruating teen boy

The relatively low fixed costs of creating manga mean that you only need to find a small niche of loyal fans to make a series viable. In the past, we’ve seen such oddities as monocular schoolgirls and gradual sister-on-brother cannibalism, but a series of comic layout pages seems to be proposing an even stranger genre: menstruating males.

From here on out, the images are going to get pretty explicit, so you might not want to be reading this while you’re at work.

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Amazing papercraft Totoro house has 1,800 roof tiles, immeasurable love for Ghibli

Amazing papercraft Totoro house has 1,800 roof tiles, immeasurable love for Ghibli

While the house is definitely a bit of a fixer-upper, I think most anime fans who’ve watched My Neighbor Totoro have occasional daydreams about living in the quiet, peaceful country house into which main characters Mei and Satsuki move during the movie. Of course most of us have school, work or family responsibilities that keep us from packing up our things and moving to the Japanese countryside, but wouldn’t it be nice if you could have your own little version of the Totoro house?

That’s apparently what one papercraft master thought, and after years of folding, he’s finished his remarkably accurate recreation of Studio Ghibli’s most iconic residence.

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Fancy a change? Magazine survey picks Japan’s 10 best towns to live in

Fancy a change? Magazine survey picks Japan’s 10 best towns to live in

The idea of living in a high-rise condo in downtown Tokyo makes for a nice daydream. Between the high cost of housing and the inescapable hustle and bustle of Japan’s capital, though, when it comes time to actually pick a home, many people decide they’d rather live in one of Japan’s other cities, or one of Tokyo’s suburbs at least.

Underlining this trend are the results of a survey by newly formed magazine Aene which asked Japanese housewives which town they’d be happiest living in. Central Tokyo failed to crack the top 10, although the number-one pick isn’t too far away from the capital.

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Lupin III comes full circle as live-action cast turns into anime characters for bread line

Lupin III comes full circle as live-action cast turns into anime characters for bread line

Since I am in no way a gentleman thief, I can only guess as to what that lifestyle must be like. I imagine though, that staying one step ahead of the law means a lot of meals on the run, so it makes sense that Japan Railway stations are rolling out a new batch of baked goods endorsed by anime’s most roguish criminal mastermind, Lupin III.

The timing no doubt has something to do with the upcoming release of the live-action Lupin III movie. Even purists who scoff at the shift away from animation might want to check out the Lupin breads though, as their packages feature redone anime designs for the cast based on the actors portraying them in the new film.

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We take Doraemon home and eat him (in cream bun form)【Taste test】

We take Doraemon home and eat him (in cream bun form)【Taste test】

To get an idea of just what a huge cultural icon Doraemon is in Japan, all you have to do is take a look at the theatrical versions of the anime robot cat’s adventures. The first Doraemon movie was released in 1980, and a new film in the franchise has hit Japanese theatres like clockwork every year since, with the lone exception of 2005. Perhaps in apology for the tiny break in the streak, Doraemon’s producers gave us two films this year. The second just premiered this month, and even though Stand by Me Doraemon is the 35th movie in the series, it still breaks new ground by being the first to be computer-animated.

CG isn’t the only new frontier the beloved character is challenging though, as he’s going one more place he’s never been before: our bellies, in the form of the Doraemon cream bun.

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Why do so many anime characters have non-Japanese names?

Why do so many anime characters have non-Japanese names?

There are a lot of things that surprise newcomers to anime. Why are the characters’ eyes so big? How come everyone has funky hair colors? What’s up with all the panty shots?

A lot of those have simple answers. The giant eyes are an influence from legendary manga artist Osamu Tezuka, who was in turn inspired by classic Disney designs. Anime artwork uses a relatively small number of lines in drawing faces, and a large palette of hair colors is a quick and easy way to differentiate otherwise similar-looking characters. Male anime fans in Japan are extraordinarily open about their love of undies.

With those questions out of the way, let’s take a look at something a bit less cut-and-dried: Why are there so many anime characters with non-Japanese names?

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Pikachu ready for battle with his own set of samurai armor

Pikachu ready for battle with his own set of samurai armor

Even though it’s been a week since we made the trip to downtown Yokohama to see the packs of roaming Pikachus, and we’ve still got a warm fuzzy feeling. Actually, warm and fuzzy is also an apt description of the lovable pocket monsters’ plush yellow coats, which brings up a concern.

Cuddly softness is all fine and good when Pikachu is handing out hugs, but what about when he goes back to his regular duties of fighting other Pokémon? Shouldn’t he be wrapped in something a bit more durable, like his own custom set of samurai armor?

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Ghibli’s The Tale of Princess Kaguya gets a North American release date and new trailer 【Video】

Ghibli’s The Tale of Princess Kaguya gets a North American release date and new trailer 【Video】

With Hayao Miyazaki being the most recognized face of Studio Ghibli, and producer Toshio Suzuki the most currently active, there’s usually not a lot of room left in the spotlight for director Isao Takahata. One of Ghibli’s founding members, Takahata served as producer for the company’s first official release, Castle in the Sky, and his written and directed five films for Japan’s most respected animation house including the critically acclaimed Grave of the Fireflies.

Fans of Takahata’s work have learned to be patient, though, as his most recent film, 2013’s The Tale of Princess Kaguya, came 14 years after his previous feature, 1999’s largely forgotten My Neighbors the Yamadas. Foreign fans have had to wait even longer, but Princess Kaguya is almost ready to head overseas, as distributor GKids has announced a release date and put out a teaser trailer to whet North America’s appetite.

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The clever way Japanese drivers thank each other without saying a word【Video】

The clever way Japanese drivers thank each other without saying a word【Video】

Japanese culture places a lot of importance on taking care of yourself and not inconveniencing others. Sooner or later we all end up needing a little help, though, which is why the Japanese language has a half-dozen regularly used phrases that all mean “thank you.”

But while having that arsenal of expressions with which to show your gratitude comes in handy, it won’t do you much good if you want to thank someone who’s not in earshot, such as a fellow motorist who let you into their lane on the expressway. That’s why Japanese drivers follow a bit of automotive protocol that lets them deliver a message of thanks with the push of a button.

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BuzzFeed’s video of “anime expressions” delivers more laughs than useful language pointers

BuzzFeed’s video of “anime expressions” delivers more laughs than useful language pointers

Last spring, BuzzFeed released a pair of videos, one dealing with what people around the world eat when they get up in the morning, and the other about what they eat after they get liquored up in a bar. Those are both interesting concepts, since breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and the post-drinking, pre-hangover snack is the happiest, but we couldn’t help but scratch our heads at their selections for Japan, neither of which were things we remembered eating in our time living in the country.

Now, BuzzFeed has moved on from the foods Japan puts in its mouth to the words coming out of it, with a new video titled 11 Anime Expressions To Show How You Really Feel. Let’s see how they handled the switch from gastronomy to linguistics.

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Service with a tear? MOS Burger branch says hello with tales of loneliness, sleepless nights

Service with a tear? MOS Burger branch says hello with tales of loneliness, sleepless nights

Among Japanese fast food chains, MOS Burger tries to position itself as being just a little more upscale than its rivals. Sure, the prices are a little higher, but the ingredients taste a little fresher, their customer service a little better, and if your order isn’t to go, they’ll serve your drink in a glass instead of a paper cup.

A lot of MOS branches even add a personal touch by putting a blackboard in front of their entrance with a new message written on it each day. The one in my neighborhood, for example, usually has some sort of seasonal or daily greeting like, “There’s a fireworks festival tonight. We hope everyone who’s going has a great time!”

But things aren’t so chipper in Kawasaki, where the staff of one MOS Burger have decided to use their board to let everyone passing by know about their physical and romantic ailments.

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