My Neighbor Totoro Musical Ferris Wheel

It's hard not to be smitten by the world of Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli's films with their fanciful (and downright cute!) characters, and the beautiful melodies of composer Joe Hisaishi. As a collector of Ghibli music boxes, I always love to keep an eye on what new creative piece is out there. While I am still short a "Porco Rosso" and wondering if "Nausicaä" will ever get an anniversary edition release or something, "My Neighbor Totoro" is never in short supply and rarely fails to impress.

Take for example the 2011 "My Neighbor Totoro" musical ferris wheel. Standing at 10" tall, you can watch Mei, Chu-Totoro, Shu-Totoro and the sootballs (and a hearty stock of acorns and corn) take a ride on the magical forest tree. And, of course, no forest party is complete without our wondorous ride conductor Totoro and an appearance by the Cat Bus!

Instead of having a a classic wind-up arm, the wheel is controlled by an ON/OFF switch powered by 3 AA batteries (sorry, batteries not included) and plays the "Tonari no Totoro" theme. I do wish that one day Ghibli switches up the song in their "Totoro" pieces (perhaps with "The Wind Forest") as the theme is ALWAYS used.

It's not easy to quickly get your hands on Ghibli music boxes and they are certainly not cheap (trust me, I know), but searching auction sites like eBay and Japanese specialty sites like JBOX are always good places to start. But in the case of this featured ferris wheel and rare items, check out Love Ghibli, an online store dedicated only to the finest Ghibli items.


Happy Recipe! - Binantachi no Hirusagari

It was on a sweltering June day this year when my air conditioner at home broke down and I was forced to wait for the "I'll be there sometime between 10AM and 3PM" repairman to rectify the problem. In an attempt to distract myself from the appalling temperature, I decided to do a little web surfing.

Well, consider my attention averted when I paid a visit to the respective blogs of Daisuke Watanabe and Yukihiro "Takki" Takiguchi (two of my favorite Japanese actors that I embarrassedly gush over whenever I see them) and found they both posted this little gem pictured left. Them dining along with Ren Yagami, Yasuhisa Furuhara and Hisanori Sato?! Yes, attention temporarily averted but the combined hotness didn't help with the heat. "How I wish I could have a place at that table!" I thought. After all I am a huge "Takumi-kun Series" and "Tenimyu" fan and appreciate ikemen in general, so whatever could they be doing altogether and what could they be discussing?

The answer has come this November with the release of "Happy Recipe! - Binantachi no Hirusagari". This variety DVD features our five gentlemen enjoying a casual afternoon at a chic flat in the city, while each takes a turn cooking a specialty dish for their group dinner. Off the bat the musical theme for the show is a sweet melody that almost feels like it would be in a romantic shojo-genre TV series. You could almost imagine the guys being dressed up in waiter uniforms running a restaurant, and each of them with a distinct personality (the always smiling goofball, the pragmatic boss, the cute kid, etc). But no, the guys are just being themselves, albeit in a clever marketing fluff geared toward us fans willing to pay.

The special opens up with each of our stars walking separate streets to our location, appearing to have just come from the market with their ingredients in bag. Seems it was a hot month in Japan as it was for me, if the sweat dripping off a rushing Daisuke is any indication.

Ren is our first star to arrive and expects to find our "Licensed to Cook" Takki already there (Takiguchi-san in 2008 passed his exams to be recognized as a chef; nice fallback career if I do say so myself). Unfortunately he quickly discovers he is alone and instead decides to investigate the place. "Sugoi kirei jan..." he voices aloud, impressed by the diggs with its shiny white kitchen. Soon he discovers a pad and markers on the dining room table. With nothing else to do, he spruces up the table with a nearby vase of daisies and then starts doodling a portrait to occupy himself until there is a knock at the door. "Dai-chan!" he exclaims (how cute are his random assumptions?) and gets up to greet another one of our hosts, but is surprised to find it is instead Yasuhisa.

Ever the gentlemen, Ren offers to pour water and decides to make use of the wine glasses in the cupboard. Way to make it classy, my good man. Takki and Hisanori arrive next and are, too, surprised to see Yasuhisa there. Did the film crew not inform the boys of his appearance? It is important to note that Yasu was a previous "Engine Sentai Go-onger" lead and not in the same series & specials as the rest of the boys, so with all the "nice to meet you" greetings it appears this is their first time interacting. (If anyone out there wants to correct me, feel free to kindly do so.)

But where is Daisuke? According to Ren he is about 30-minutes away. 30 minutes?! Meanwhile, pan over to a miserable Daisuke muttering "chotto...chotto..." and having to take a breather. Sheesh, camera guy, you could have called the poor man a taxi and saved him from this grueling march in the heat! Eventually, as the guys chill out at the table in their nice cool digs and giving a toast with their wine glasses full of ice cold water, there is a loud set of bangs at the door. All heads turn to the ruckus, when Takki declares, "No, ignore it." The boys give a look which can only be described with an emoticon: 0_0. Just a wee bit sadistic are we Takki? The knocking continues, and they clearly know whom it must be, but no one budges. Finally, in one of the very funny moments on the DVD, Daisuke storms in, shouting a very loud and perturbed, "OI!" Everyone points out he is late as they observe his heated appearance (look at those arms glisten... someone get him a towel!). They redo the toast with Daisuke and he apologies for being late. We take a quick poll as to who is ready to cook and everyone raises hands but Takki quickly picks on Daisuke who is wearing a sleeveless shirt so the armpit hair is not very attractive and he bashfully covers it up.

The cooking segments are very entertaining. Takki is up first in the kitchen and being the licensed chef that he is, everyone is all impressed with his kitchen skills. By far Takki's preparation and presentation is the most fanciful with a mouthwatering shrimp and mussels dish, and I can imagine how good he would be running a restaurant as he gets all hands on deck with a task for each of our hosts.

Next it is Daisuke's turn to cook and whip up a meat and green onion dish and also a special desert (at which point did I hear Takki demand, "Make something decent!"?). Time to get out the tofu maker (??) and gets to work. However, the whole gang doesn't seem done [jokingly] punishing him for his lateness. While everyone was happily put to work for Takki, the gang has decided to play on their PSP handhelds at the table. Whenever Daisuke tries to chat or inquire from the kitchen, he is quickly cut off with a blunt "Urusai!" Eventually the gang let's up and takes interest in his preparation (not before my man fires back with his own "Shhhhh!!" when they speak).

Yasuhisa, who I must give my Best Dressed award for pulling off that cute polka dot bow tie with his black ensemble, makes a delicious curry with his special ingredient: apples. But one of the disappointments of the special occurs here as Yasuhisa makes a sudden and apologetic departure. I guess that does get him out of having to sample the spread. Haha!

Ren makes salad, but not just any salad. Out comes the drawing pad to excitedly introduce the Happy Colorful Salad! And you can't make a Happy Colorful Salad without first changing into a chef costume. Well you can, but it's just not as much fun. Commence applause! His Iron Chef look was totally worth it in the end. Had he only taken a bite out of the yellow pepper...

Can't have a nice meal without a tasty beverage to wash it all down, so Hisanori takes his turn in the kitchen to create his Fruit Tonic Juice. It is a combination of sliced kiwi, oranges and bananas tossed into a blender with ice. This quick smoothie is then topped off with a generous helping of carbonated water. As good as that sounds I have to admit the final product didn't appear as appetizing. Maybe if he put a colorful slice of fruit on the glass it would take my mind off of the beige color. Yep... beige...

Charming and amusing downtime cuts between cooking segments held my interest, including a very random and "spazzy duel" between Hisanori and the boys with the flowers from the table vase. The credits conclude with thoughts from the boys on the evening which, as this reviewer sees it, was a great time.

My heart can't help but do a thumpty-thump at the DVD cover alone. These actors are very talented, but they're currently not acting and I am not blind, so let's face facts that this really is delicious fluff for fans and we all can let out our inner fangirl without shame. I'm smitten by the handsome head shots (especially Daisuke's <3) and it definitely is one of the reasons I picked this selection up in the first place. That's good marketing for ya. Upon tearing off the cellophane and opening up the case, you will see that the cover has a reverse side showing the scene of our gang toasting to their happy event. And it's pink. Hey, this is "Happy Recipe!"

There are audio issues in spots. When the camera is focused on the preparation of the meals and away from the dining table, it can be difficult to tell who is speaking, especially when everyone is talking at once. But if you are familiar with TV talk shows in Japan, colorful and handy Japanese subtitles appear for parts of the dialogue with appropriate name tags.

If any of the dishes catch your fancy, the DVD comes with a bonus feature of how to make each of them yourself. These recipes are written all in Japanese, and there are no English subtitles for the main feature either, so if your Japanese-language skills are poor, you may have difficulty following along in both areas. As for myself, I am still learning, and this gives me a good excuse to watch it over again as a teaching test. ^^

Nevertheless, the interaction of the guys is still a lot of fun. You can't help but wish to be friends with them as you are taken in by their joking, happy smiles and kitchen skills (though in the case of some I got a tad nervous over their chopping ability... thankfully none of my crushes were hurt during the making of this program). The Daily DVD Rankings at CD Japan for November 5th had "Happy Recipe" peaked at #5, and they sold out of their original stock during pre-order time. If you are hungry for a little fun, tasty dishes and ikemen, pick up your copy today.

So, who's hungry for seconds?


Nobuo Uematsu + EARTHBOUND to perform at MAGFest X

I am super stoked to announce that the all powerful master of music Nobuo Uematsu and his new band EARTHBOUND PAPAS will be attending as guests and performing at MAGFest X!!! This is HUGE news and as a long supporter and attendee of MAGFest, I couldn't be happier!

Best known for creating the sound tracks for almost all of the Final Fantasy series, Uematsu created his new band, EARTHBOUND PAPAS, after his former group (The Black Mages) disbanded. Several former members of The Black Mages join EARTHBOUND PAPAS. Together, they are:

  • Nobuo Uematsu: Keyboards (Composer for most of the Final Fantasy Series)
  • Michio Okamiya: Guitar (Performer/arranger on several Square Enix soundtracks, and former Black Mages member)
  • Yoshitaka Hirota: Bass (Shadow Hearts trilogy composer)
  • Tsutomu Narita: Keyboards and Guitar (Composer for UnchainBlades ReXX)
  • Arata Hanyuda: Drums (Performer on the More Friends, and Final Fantasy III (DS) albums, and former Black Mages member)

Since we overgrew our regular location, the 10th MAGFest, celebrating music and gaming, will take place at its new location at the Gaylord National Hotel & Convention Center, January 5-8, 2012!

If you haven't already, be sure to register NOW!


Assassin's Creed Movie Update

Let's keep the love for Assassin's Creed going today.  From the look of things, the Assassin's Creed Movie is a done deal.  Sony has already registered 16 domains for such a picture, all registered on Oct 20th, the day before Variety's story reporting that Sony Pictures is closing in on a deal to develop a film franchise based on the AC game.

"Through the division, Ubisoft wants to maintain more creative control over the development of its games for other platforms rather than broker traditional one-off licensing deals with studios, something that proved key during the bidding process with Sony."

The project will be overseen by Ubisoft Motion Pictures, so we can be sure (and hopeful) that they'll be scrutinous with the adaptation. [Source: Kotaku]

Soul Calibur V...Meet Ezio Auditore

There's still more time until Soul Calibur V is in our grasp. But joining the guest list is Ezio Auditore! Straight from Assassin's Creed and his birthplace, Firenze, Ezio will appear in Soul Calibur V equipped with his wrist blades, sword and dagger.

Check out the trailer, and a special thumbs up with the adaptation of select AC-authentic idiosyncrasies, such as the distorted video and of course the emblematic "A." Project Soul is really making it hard to wait for SC:V!

Other confirmed characters include: Siegfried, Mitsurugi, Patroklos, Pyrrha, Nightmare, Leixia (daughter of Xianghua), Raphael, Dampierre, Astaroth, Viola, Hilde, Maxi, Tira, Voldo, Ivy, Natsu (Taki's student), and Z.W.E.I.


Kotobukiya's Yoshimitsu 1/6 Scale Statue

Attention Tekken Fans! Attention Yoshimitsu Fans! Attention Kick-assery Fans!

Kotobukiya spins whips a 1/6 cold cast statue of Tekken Tag Tournament 2 character, Yoshimitsu.  Sculpted by Takayuki Takeya, Yoshimitsu, joines the Fine Art Statue series with this impressively detailed statue, only matched with its equally impressive base.  While Yoshimitsu is looking vicious here, I can't help but cast my eye over that incredible base.

Yoshi will run you a whopping 45,000 yen (just under $600) and is due out May 2012. 

For those interested, Hobby Search is currently taking pre-orders at a discount price.  Be sure to check out all their pics for all its glory.

Hatsune Miku Live Party 2011 One-Night Only Screening

To commemorate the November 16th release of "Hatsune Miku Live Party 2011" on Blu-ray/DVD/Live CD, distributor Live Viewing Japan will be screening the live in theaters worldwide.  The set includes both 39's LIVE IN TOKYO (that took place on March 9th) and 39's LIVE IN SAPPORO (that took place on August 16-17th).

Three locations in Japan will screen the Live Party on Nov 15th.  Other screening locations include Thailand, Brazil, Singapore, France, England, and the US!  That's 9 US cities on November 10th to be precise:
  1. Baltimore, MD
  2. Boston, MA
  3. Chicago, IL
  4. Houston, TX
  5. Los Angeles, CA
  6. New York, NY
  7. Orange County, CA
  8. San Francisco, CA
  9. Seattle, WA
Check out the full list for specific theater information on the official Live Party Event site.  [Source: Live Viewing]


Guild Wars 2 Art Trailers

It's no secret that I've got a thing for Guild Wars.  Make that, a rather BIG thing for everything Guild Wars.  Sure I play other MMOs, but to this day, Guild Wars remains to be my top ultimate favorite MMO.  Take your titles like World of Warcraft and keep them, it's Guild Wars for me all the way.  And one of the major reasons for this is Guild Wars' undeniable stunning art. 

Horia Dociu, concept and storyboard artist for GW2, directed several trailers (shown below) showing off the art of GW2, including the works of Kekai Kotaki, Daniel Dociu, Richard Anderson and Jaime Jones.   And it goes without saying, that these are absolutely gorgeous! [Source: Kotaku]

Guild Wars 2 Real-Time Intro from Horia Dociu on Vimeo.
Guild Wars 2 Animated Trailer from Horia Dociu on Vimeo.
Guild Wars 2 In-Game Cinematic from Horia Dociu on Vimeo.
Guild Wars 2 Manifesto from Horia Dociu on Vimeo.

DIR EN GREY's UROBOROS Album Remastered

Dir en Grey announces the upcoming release of a remastered version of UROBOROS, titled "UROBOROS [Remastered & Expanded]!" The remastered album will include 14 tracks with some lovely trimmings.   The album also brings about the return of sound engineer Tue Madsen, who worked on Diru's latest album, DUM SPIRO SPERO.  UROBOROS [Remastered & Expanded] will be released on January 11, 2012.

The album includes:
- The long version of "SA BIR" that, until now, was only heard live before.
- The exclusive version of "BUGABOO" that was previously only available on the limited first press analog release.
-  "DOZING GREEN" and "GLASS SKIN" with Japanese lyrics, and 'HYDRA -666-' the coupling track on single "DOZING GREEN." 

Track Listing
10. HYDRA -666-


1/1 Scale Fist of the North Star Kenshiro Statue

"It belongs in a museum!!"

Because this is exactly what your collection is missing, the good folks of Comic Zenon (Tokuma Shoten's Monthly magazine) brings forth the creation of a life-sized figure of Fist of the North Star manga lead Kenshiro.

Kenshiro stands at 185 cm tall (about 73 inches tall) and did I mention that he happens to be inlaid with 500,000 Swarovski crystals! The crystals alone are worth 10 million yen (about $130,000). Figure maker Kaiyodo produced the life-size figure under the supervision of Fist of the North Star's very own creator, Tetsuo Hara.

Comic Zenon will offer the fully decked Kenshiro figure in a charity auction on their online store. For those with sparkly determination and a sparkling wallet to match can join in the auction which starts in mid-November. Minature version of the figure will also be sold at their online store.

The 1/1 scale statue was officially unveiled at Tokyo's Ginza Hakuhikan store with the opening of the Comic Zenon Online store. The first 77 people who bought the December issue of Comic Zenon there were given a photo-op with the statue and received a 7-inch Kenshiro figure. Starting today, "Swarovski Kenshiro" will be on display at Tokyo's Haneda Airport.

Check out Mainichi Shimbun's Mantan site for more close-ups of the statue. [Source Mantan Web via ANN]