A skeptic’s guide to anime – Five series to ease you into Japan’s most popular export

A skeptic’s guide to anime – Five series to ease you into Japan’s most popular export

Viewed from afar, Japanese animation may appear to be populated entirely by giant-eyed, squeaky-voice schoolgirls and young men who suffer from frequent nosebleeds. Their plots, too, can seem awfully convoluted at first glance, and so anyone who didn’t grow up with anime or have the chance to catch popular series when they were just getting started may feel completely out of their depth when trying to get into it.

If you’re the kind of person who, like me, despite being into Japan and Asia, never really understood what all the fuss was about anime, or who would like to give this strange medium a chance but doesn’t know where to start, then we have a special treat for you today: no fewer than five anime recommendations from members of our very own writing staff, guaranteed to be easy for even anime-skeptics to get into. Who knows, these might just be the gateway shows you’ve been looking for!

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Cinemas in China let audience post comments onto the screen during the movies

Cinemas in China let audience post comments onto the screen during the movies

With home entertainments systems always evolving, there seems to be less incentive to head on out to the local movie theatre for a $10 cola and four-year-old running up and down the aisle during an R-rated movie. This means it’s up to the cinemas to raise the stakes and provide new and intriguing movie-going experiences.

Some theaters in cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, and Hangzhou think they have found such an experience by allowing those in the audience to post their comments onto the screen for all to see while the movie plays. So now when I take my mother-in-law she can ask everyone “Why did Bruce Willis just shoot that guy?” instead of just me.

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Blown all your cash on anime? New restaurant in Akihabara has pasta for less than two bucks

Blown all your cash on anime? New restaurant in Akihabara has pasta for less than two bucks

With the highest concentration of anime and video game specialty stores on the planet, it’s pretty easy to go over-budget spending a day in Akihabara. But while some otaku might claim that Japanese animation is their lifeblood, eventually everyone needs to eat something.

So for everyone with a crying wallet and a grumbling stomach, a new restaurant has just arrived in the neighborhood, serving pasta to-go, starting at just 190 yen (US$1.88).

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Shark Cat entertaining Shark Baby while riding a Roomba? Why not!

Shark Cat entertaining Shark Baby while riding a Roomba? Why not!

While some people escape to the beach during the sweltering days of August, others jump in front of the TV to feast their eyes on all the glorious carnage that the Discovery Channel’s annual Shark Week has to offer. And now we can add a new form of entertainment to that summer bucket list–watching cats cosplaying as sharks.

Some of you may have already seen this video of a cat dressed in a shark costume riding a Roomba floating around the internet, but don’t let that stop you from giving it another watch!

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Hello Kitty as we’ve never seen her before: Drawn by Osamu Tezuka, The God of Manga

Hello Kitty as we’ve never seen her before: Drawn by Osamu Tezuka, The God of Manga

Revered as “The God of Manga,” the late Osamu Tezuka is simultaneously Japan’s most revered and prolific comic artist. More than 700 manga series sprang from the mind of the tireless Tezuka, but even with that busy schedule, he still found time to draw his version of Japan’s most famous cat, Hello Kitty, combining her with one of his most-used characters.

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Pic of the Week Round 3: WINNER!

Pic of the Week Round 3: WINNER!

Babies and gentlephlegm, noise and churls, it’s time to announce the winner of our weekly photo contest!

This week, we mixed things up a little by asking you, our dear readers, to vote for which of our 10 favourite photos you thought most deserved to be crowned Pic of the Week, and the results are in! Join us after the jump for our overall winner and two very special mentions!

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China’s People’s Liberation Army recruitment video promises aerial dog fights, lots of dancing

China’s People’s Liberation Army recruitment video promises aerial dog fights, lots of dancing

Making a recruitment ad for military service is probably one of the hardest sells around. It’s easy to make someone want to buy a cookie. In fact, I want to buy a cookie just after typing that sentence, but motivating someone to put their life on the line takes a whole lot of finesse.

And finesse is what this new recruitment video for the Chinese communist party’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has in spades. Clearly intended for a younger audience, some of the hipper aspects of military service such as flying helicopters backwards, firing missiles and ensemble dancing are highlighted in this high-adrenaline three-minute promo video.

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Are Chinese “dama” masks actually fashionable now?

Are Chinese “dama” masks actually fashionable now?

After saving global gold prices in 2013, Chinese dama, or middle-aged women, have found another claim to fame: Influencing world fashion trends.

While most think of going to the beach as an excuse to wear as little as possible, many of these women prefer to stay covered up. But don’t start calling them prudes, since, for them, it’s a matter of practicality and beauty!

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Make a map of Japan in your oven with these intricate cookie cutters

Make a map of Japan in your oven with these intricate cookie cutters

Think you can identify all the prefectures of Japan? Yeah, neither can we. But that’s okay because now with the help of this impressively accurate cookie cutter set, you can study and eat a map of Japan at the same time. Mmmm, knowledge.

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Anime mega-store lets fans handcuff themselves to hunky 2-D swimmer for photos

Anime mega-store lets fans handcuff themselves to hunky 2-D swimmer for photos

Being the biggest anime retailer in Japan means having to please all of the many different subgroups that Japanese animation aficionados fall into. So while one day mega-store Animate might cater to old-school fans by letting them slap 90s basketball saga Slam Dunk’s coach in the neck, they also have to do something for fans of more modern series too.

Stepping up to the challenge is Animate’s Yokohama branch, where lovers of high school swimming story Free! can now photograph themselves handcuffed to  shark-toothed pretty-boy Rin.

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We check out the new Rose of Versailles comic — the first one to come out in forty years!

We check out the new Rose of Versailles comic — the first one to come out in forty years!

Earlier this month, we reported to you about how a new volume of the popular girls’ manga The Rose of Versailles was coming out, after more than 40 years since the last volume was published in May of 1974. Now, that’s certainly a long time to wait for a comic, and just as promised at the end of our previous article, we were at the front of the line to get our hands on the new volume when it was released this Monday. We didn’t want to be kept waiting any longer than necessary, after all, to take a look at the newest addition to the series. And how was the new volume? See our impressions and pictures below to find out. Oh, and we’ll also take a look at a collaboration between the manga and a fashion magazine as well!

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Are Women-Only train cars illegal in Japan?

Are Women-Only train cars illegal in Japan?

File this one under things we hope don’t fall into the wrong hands: Those Women Only train cars in Japan aren’t actually enforceable under the law.

All foreign men in Japan can recount their first harrowing experience of obliviously stepping onto a train, only to find that literally every single other passenger was a woman. There’s a moment of confusion and, if you’re lucky, a good Samaritan politely explaining that wieners don’t belong here, followed by the terrible realization that you’ve broken not only an official rule set forth by the train company but also an unwritten social rule, which is kind of almost worse. But, from here on out, you can rest assured that even though you’re committing a social taboo, you’re not breaking any laws!

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“You’re so messed up!” Complaints come after broadcaster edits infamous Evangelion scene

“You’re so messed up!” Complaints come after broadcaster edits infamous Evangelion scene

The 1997 anime movie The End of Evangelion was in many ways an unprecedented exercise in creative freedom for animation studio Gainax. The franchise-starting TV series had wrapped up a year earlier, with Gainax’s coffers drained and a highly metaphorical, sparsely animated finale. End of Eva would be a reimagining of the ground-breaking anime’s final act, and its theatrical release format meant a bigger budget and no more pesky broadcast content restrictions.

As a result, the film is graphic and jarring in its raw depictions of both violent urges and sexual desire. But while none of that was a problem in theatres, it was a different story when End of Eva was recently shown on TV in Japan, which necessitated some fan-angering cuts, including the movie’s most infamously shocking scene.

Heads-up, gainfully employed readers! While you won’t see any offensive pictures below, the subject matter might not be the sort of thing you’ll want your coworkers to see you reading at work.

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These candy-inspired chairs look good enough to eat

These candy-inspired chairs look good enough to eat

If you ever wished you could visit the infamous candy house from Hansel and Gretel, then have we got the chair for you! Looking absolutely delectable and fairytale-ready, this “Hard Candy Stool” from Taiwanese designer, Jojo Chuang is the perfect combination of function and fantasy.

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New research suggests even low-level radiation in Fukushima negatively impacting wildlife

New research suggests even low-level radiation in Fukushima negatively impacting wildlife

Dr. Timothy Mousseau, professor of Biological Sciences at the University of South Carolina and researcher for the Chernobyl and Fukushima Research Initiative, presented new findings to the International Ornithological Congress in Tokyo last week that suggest radiation contamination around Fukushima Daiichi, even at low levels, is negatively impacting biodiversity and wildlife populations.

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Nintendo announces Pokkén Tournament for arcades in 2015

Nintendo announces Pokkén Tournament for arcades in 2015

Nintendo announced during the “Monthly Famitsu feat. Pokémon Special” live-streamed program that an action/fighting game titled Pokkén Tournament (Pokkén being a pun on the words Pokémon and ‘fist’) will be released for Japanese arcades in 2015. Bandai Namco Games is collaborating on the development of the project.

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Going Bananas for Bananart on Banana Day! Students create a “bananamation” movie【Video】

Going Bananas for Bananart on Banana Day! Students create a “bananamation” movie【Video】

We know what you are thinking: “Really? There’s a Banana Day?” In Japan there is! It comes from the date “August 7″ and the way you can pronounce “8” (ba) and “7” (nana) in Japanese. The two of them read together become Banana Day, an informal holiday where the amazing powers of bananas are reviewed and admired, which is mostly achieved through nutritional campaigns that teach you fun facts like “bananas are high in potassium” and “they are good for giving you a quick boost of energy”.

In fact, an elementary school in Kanagawa Prefecture took advantage of Banana Day to squeeze in a nutrition class and, surprisingly, the kids didn’t go bananas because they had to go to school during summer vacation. Instead, the students took the day to its most artistic and clever form yet by creating a stunning video that all banana lovers should watch.

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Coca-Cola’s new vending machines don’t need electricity during the day to keep drinks cold

Coca-Cola’s new vending machines don’t need electricity during the day to keep drinks cold

In some ways, the huge amount of vending machines in Japan seems like a win-win situation. In a country that gets incredibly hot and sticky in the summer, it’s nice to never be more than a few minutes’ walk from a cold drink, and for beverage companies like Coca-Cola, the machines are a huge source of income.

That said, all of those vending machines are essentially coin-operated refrigerators, collectively sucking up a huge amount of electricity. In an effort to cut down on their energy consumption, Coca-Cola has developed a new type of unit that spends as much as 16 hours a day not using any electricity at all to keep its products nice and cool.

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Advertising 101: Choose your words carefully, even when selling fish food

Advertising 101: Choose your words carefully, even when selling fish food

Making a succinct sign can be tricky. You want to be economical with your words, but that can lead to the trap of be too vague. A good rule of thumb would be to assume you – the sign maker – is of average intelligence. This means a lot of people are smarter than you but just as many people are stupider than you.

That strategy might have stopped this poor koi pond manager from lowering his “Koi Food 10 Yen” to “Koi Food Free.” The rest of the sign in the following translation tells the sad tale.

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Great hotel in Hokkaido has hot spring, all you-can-eat seafood for under 10,000 yen a person

Great hotel in Hokkaido has hot spring, all you-can-eat seafood for under 10,000 yen a person

With beautiful natural scenery, delicious food, and an unhurried atmosphere, Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido is one of the country’s most popular vacation spots. There’s one big drawback, though, which is that airfare to and from Hokkaido can eat up a big part of your travel budget, leaving you less cash to spend on a hotel with nice amenities or local delicacies like fresh salmon roe and scallops.

Recently, though, we found a hotel in Hokkaido that offers it all, with soft beds, all-you-can-eat seafood, an all-night hot spring, and even a price that makes it a very affordable luxury.

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