Astro Simpson, Obama the Hedgehog, and more weird/depressing knockoff toys from around the world

Have you heard of the “moron in a hurry test“? It’s a legal test for trademark infringement. Basically, if you can successfully argue that “only a moron in a hurry” could confuse your product with another, you can get away with slightly ripping off somebody else’s design. But you’d have to be a real dingbat to confuse this gallery of 30 knockoff toys for the real things!

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Celebrate the start of the new Pirates movie with “Asian Johnny Depp” and a skull drink!

The newest Pirates of the Caribbean movie, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, has begun principal photography in Australia, so the production team released its very first still from the set–something that is bound to fire up all the pirate fans and Johnny Depp fans around the world. A return of Captain Jack Sparrow is as exciting as, “yo ho ho, and a bottle of rum.”

After the cast and crew, the person most excited by the news is probably RocketNews24’s own Go Hatori, AKA Asian Johnny Depp! He’s back to toast the new movie with a costume and a special drink in the form of a human head analogue. Because… Well at least we kept him off the streets.

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Mr. Sato visits the Retro Space Saka Hall, full of syringes, Mediocrity, and bittersweet memories

While visiting the city of Sapporo, our adventurous reporter Mr. Sato stumbled upon this bizarre looking complex called the Retro Space Saka Hall. The whole place looked incredibly sketchy, but that was right up his alley.

Little did he know, however, that this dingy-looking industrial complex nestled in snow would almost move him to tears.

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Talented eight-year-old Thai musician brings a tear to our eye with her angelic singing voice

If your post-Valentine’s Day sugar crash has left you feeling bitter and despondent, then pint-sized Thai singing sensation Gail Sophicha could be just the thing you need to put some sweetness back into your life. This eight-year-old musician has the voice of an actual angel and some impressive guitar and ukelele-jamming skills to boot.

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NTT creates two-dimensional pictures that can move: Harry Potter photographs are now real!

One of my favorite things about the Harry Potter universe was the fact that all the photos and paintings of people moved around on their own. Sure it was only a tiny detail, but it was all those little details of how a wizarding world might actually work coming together that made the final product so amazing.

And now, our muggle world has taken one step closer to Harry’s: NTT, Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation, recently announced that they’ve developed a way to make normal, printed-out two-dimensional pictures look like they’re moving through a bit of magic of their own.

Well, I only have one thing to say: “You’re a wizard, NTT!”

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Seven awesome 1990s PlayStation commercials from Japan to tug at your heartstrings

In Japan, as in the rest of the world, the PlayStation brand is famous for its wacky, original adverts. So much so that the keen beans over at YouTube channel Yawaraka Uchū Kenkyūjo (‘Soft Space Laboratory’) have put together a bumper collection of classic PS1 commercials that range from the sublime to the ridiculous.

Sharp and impactful, these short ads (in keeping with Japanese advertising norms, most are a mere 15 seconds long) are a nice little insight into the ins and outs of 1990s Japanese TV commercials. Join us after the jump for our pick of the bunch!

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The voices behind the Ghibli dads: Some weren’t even actors at all

A lot of work goes into making animated films, but what is it that really makes a particular film stand out? Of course the animation itself is important, as is the storyline, but you can’t forget about the voices that give the characters their unique personalities and help bring them to life.

If you’re a fan of anime, you probably have a favorite voice actor or two, be they English-speaking or the original Japanese seiyuu. But how many of you are familiar with the Japanese people behind Hayao Miyazaki’s animated characters? As it turns out, professional voice actors are seldom used in the making of Miyazaki’s films. In fact, some of the voices behind the father characters aren’t even actors at all, with the likes of journalists and copywriters even being used to fill key roles.

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North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un’s new haircut makes him look like an evil anime mecha

Whether they’re being called dear, supreme, or great, North Korea takes the image of its top leaders very seriously. After all, this is the same country which claims the late Kim Jong-il, in his first round of golf, finished 38 shots under par (in case you’re not familiar with the technical terms, one under par is a “birdie,” two under is an “eagle,” and 38 under is generally referred to as a “crock”).

So it’s a little surprising that current head of hermit state Kim Jong-un’s fashion consultants have let him rock a hairstyle that seems to perfectly gel with the rest of the world’s image of North Korean dictatorship as cartoonish supervillainry, with a ‘do that makes him look like one of the antagonist mecha from classic anime Mobile Suit Gundam.

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Sony makes Korean gamers’ dreams come true by finally giving them Metal Gear and Dragon Quest

Korean gamers and netizens are crying tears of joy now that Sony has announced it will be translating some of the most popular Playstation titles into Korean for the first time. This might come as a surprise for many considering the popularity of video games in Japan’s close neighbor, but for years fans of these series were deprived of the ultimate gaming experience in their native tongue. However, that will finally change this summer.

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Want your mecha models to look amazingly realistic? Don’t stop at the robot – Make the buildings!

Whoa, hold on a second! We know Amazon Japan now sells giant robots, but we didn’t know someone else had made something this big! This mecha looks like it’s at least twice as tall (and three times as awesome) as the one offered by the online retailer. Don’t you need a permit to build something that huge?

Actually, the only legal paperwork involved in this photo was for model-making supplies, as that’s not a real giant robot, but a scale replica. What’s more, the way it appears to be standing with its head almost in the rafters of the structure housing it isn’t thanks to a mere trick camera angle, but rather the considerable skills of the modeller who also crafted a miniature hanger for his compact mobile suit.

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Look inside Apple’s massive new store in China

Apple Stores are always painstakingly designed, but the Cupertino company’s latest efforts in China take it to a whole new level. Cult Of Mac has published photos of Apple’s latest store, located in Hangzhou. Its defined by its huge glass facade, and minimalist staircases.

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Magazine asks Japanese women if they’d rather date an ugly millionaire or unemployed hottie

Japan’s got an unabashed soft spot for beautiful people, with attractive models and celebrities used to promote everything from fashion lines to insurance packages. At the same time, the country also has a deep respect for financial stability and economic vigor.

Recently, fashion magazine AneCan pitted these two cultural values against each other by asking readers which guy they’d rather date, an ugly dude who’s flush with cash, or a hottie who doesn’t have a job?

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Have the “best coffee in Paris” in Tokyo! We visit new Coutume shop in Futakotamagawa

Paris is certainly a city with no shortage of cafes, and when the coffee you’re serving is good enough to be highly praised by discerning Parisians, you’re bound to get noticed — even half way around the world in Tokyo! That’s exactly what’s happened with the cafe Coutume, which opened its third location in Japan earlier this month. The new shop, located in Tokyo’s Futakotamagawa neighborhood, provides a slightly different service style from the first two branches in Japan that opened last year in Aoyama (also in Tokyo) and Osaka.

And of course, we were more than eager to go and check the new shop out on opening day to taste what some people are saying is Paris’ best coffee!

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R.I.P. Ginji – Japan’s bartending hamster makes us smile one last time with his brave last words

If you’re a fan of hamsters or just cuteness in general, you might remember a few months ago when talked about Ginji, the adorable little hamster with an adorable little izakaya (Japanese-style pub). But while we all took a moment (or much longer, if we’re being honest) to ooh and awe over Ginji, today we’re instead having a moment of silence, as the heartwarming hamster has passed away.

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Drive off In an official One Piece Nissan Serena

Nissan is collaborating with One Piece to offer a limited edition Serena Highway STAR S-HYBRID. Dubbed the “Thousand Serena,” a play on the Straw Hat Pirates’ Thousand Sunny ship, it features a special One Piece car wrap and hubcaps.

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DyDo’s coffee drink & Nintendo collab: We get nostalgic with limited edition 8-bit Mario figures

If, like me, you’re a tad obsessive when it comes to character goods and love the kitschy cross-promotions that often infiltrate Japanese convenience stores, here’s something that’ll perk you up: beverage company DyDo Drinco recently announced its “Super Mario Bros. Dot Figure Collection” campaign, to commemorate the anniversary of both its canned coffee drink and Nintendo’s worldwide phenomenon of a game.

Read up on the collaboration’s details after the jump and bear with me while I get a little sentimental. Also, thanks to excited YouTuber and goods enthusiast Satoshi Machida, you’ll get a close-up look at the pixelated (but not pixilated) cuties!

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Kind train station staff help lost entrance exam takers get to, and hopefully into, high school

Many people who have spent time in Japan have stories of someone doing something really nice for them out of simple kindness. Such encounters range from getting a bag of onions from a shop owner to receiving an umbrella from a stranger, while standing in pouring rain (both true stories). Even on the job, workers’ kindness and sense of duty to show such consideration comes through in the form of outstanding customer service.

Such was the case in Chiba Prefecture last week when two junior high school students got on the wrong train and were about to be late to one of the most important tests of their lives: the public high school entrance exam. Thanks to some kind Japan Rail staff, they made it– although, we’re not sure if they passed.

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Radiant photos of Audrey Hepburn, legendary singer wearing kimono surface online

Oftentimes, foreign celebrities visiting Japan will don a kimono or hakama to take commemorative photos of their trip. While they can sometimes appear incredibly awkward or constricted while dressed in the traditional clothing, a photo of silver screen darling Audrey Hepburn reveals that she looks right at home in the beautiful garb. Furthermore, the picture wasn’t even taken in Japan!

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Akihabara Internet cafe looks like a beautiful Japanese inn, still has tons of free manga to read

Being the very heart of the anime and consumer electronics scene in Japan, it’s no surprise that Tokyo’s Akihabara neighborhood has Internet cafes where you can also read comics from a massive in-house manga library. But as nice as it can be to immerse yourself in all of the extremely important information available online, or to gorge yourself on a year’s worth of manga at a fraction of the price you’d pay to buy it, you might find yourself wanting to do so in relaxing, even traditional surroundings.

If so, a visit to the Nagomi-Style Cafe Akiba is in order, as it’s the only manga and Internet cafe in Akihabara designed with the look and atmosphere of a Japanese ryokan inn.

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Peach-scented and flavored strawberries seriously trip us up, still taste deliciously sweet

As I’m currently teaching at a high school, I already have plenty of teenagers trying to do things like change the due dates of their assignmentsmess in order to mess with my brain, thank you very much. The last thing I need is for my fruit to try to do the same…so imagine my frustration when I learned that there’s a place in Japan where you can buy strawberries pretending to be peaches (or is it the other way around!?)!

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