Friday, December 28, 2012

The Best of the Worst 2012

2012 was a year full of life-altering changes and satisfying victories—for the TSB team, in any case.  These personal triumphs will look great on our gravestones but reflect poorly on the blog. Still, we believe in quality over quantity, especially when it comes to justifying our frequent month-long hiatuses.

What say you dear reader, assuming there's any of you left? What content do you want to see from us in the new year? Throw us a comment and if it sticks we might humor you. Assuming our day jobs don't get in the way of what's truly important, that is.

Comiket 81: The High Cost of Fandom
Loli-con cosplay at Comiket 81.
Does joining the otaku club require you to sever ties with society and shun your parents? Comiket's ridiculous scheduling around national holidays leaves visitors with no other choice.

Making Sense of Dollers

Doller in a blue wig.
Hovering between abject horror and bewildered respect, our look into the misfit world of the Dollers may be the most even-handed piece ever written on the subject, if only because no one else can be bothered.

History of Akihabara Part 3.5: 2.5D
2.5D cosplay at Harajuku.
Authenticity has evacuated Akihabara and taken its mojo with it. The creative elements of the crumbled otaku Mecca have melded with the youth culture of Harajuku and Shibuya, resulting in a new lifestyle that melts together 3D reality with 2D idealism.

Robot Restaurant
Robot Restaurant in Shinjuku has bikini girls on mecha.
Robot. Restaurant. Kabuki-Cho. There's not much else to say, except that these are the finest photos of bikini girls riding mecha ever posted by us.

Screaming Mad George's Paranoiascape
Screaming Mad George's Paranoiascape
Our game of the year wasn't some greasy broshooter or minimalist art school ploy, but an unpolished PS1 gem rescued from the recycle bin. Crafted by "Screaming" Mad George, punk rock monster and master of drippy VFX prosthetics, Paranoiascape blindsides the "games as art" debate with the possibility of "games as recreational drugs."

Creepy Kids Songs Part 2: Kagome Kagome
Kagome Kagome Japanese nursery rhyme.
Traditional Japanese nursery rhymes are riddle boxes of cryptic lyrics where each stanza solved chips away another layer of the lies calcified over our eyes. Peer within, if you can handle the truth.

Wave Jack Series: Fighting Piracy With Pin-Up Girls 
Seiken Psychi Calibur from the Wave Jack Series with Poppins.
The Wave Jack series of games for the Famicom disk system is a case study in how not to run the media-mix sales model. Their deluxe packaging included soundtrack cassettes, comics, and strategy guides as pack-ins. A great way to deter bootlegs, but not enough to justify the deluxe price tag, even with smiling idols on the cover.

Just Say NO To Nukes with SKI

The doe-eyed darlings of SKI do their darnedest to swing right-leaning idol culture back towards a more moderate left with the help of Panta, role-model for the violent 70's student protest movement. They've already lambasted ex-prime minister Noda, nuclear power, and the TPP—I can't wait to see how they spin Abe's fiscal policy into a human rights violation.

Scummy Manga Reviews #7: Ressentiment
Kengo Hanazawa Ressentiment manga.
Written nearly 10 years ago, Ressentiment does for dating sims what Neuromancer did for the IT revolution—postulate a tomorrow that's familiar enough to be believable, yet so advanced as to be purely speculative. Unlike the retro-futurism of Golden Age sci-fi, much of its proposed technology has come into being, and not necessarily for the better.   

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Raid on the Blood Bank

BloodBank (24 of 34)
Even Godless heathens can get into the giving spirit this holiday season. We at TSB mustered up the last lingering traces of compassion from our coal-stoked hearts to visit akiba:F, a Red Cross blood donation center located in the otherwise morally bankrupt center of cloying consumerism, Akihabara.

We rolled up our sleeves, ready to make our first positive contribution to the country even as our minds raced with uncertainty. Assuming that our precious bodily fluids met Japan's regimented standards, could the nurse navigate her needle through the thick underbrush of our barbarian forearm hair? What if the recipient turned out to be a hard-line right-winger that chose death over race contamination? And would our fat gaijin hemoglobin fit through IVs intended for skinny Japanese blood cells? 
Such concerns are, in fact, behind the times. The facilities and philosophy driving them are ultra-modern, if not Apple-futuristic, wrapped in warmly curving white plastic backlit by soft neons. It took until 2012, but we finally have a functional model of the spaceport from 2001.

After signing in at the reception desk, we were led to ergonomically-designed Martini glass seats and asked to read comics until it was our turn. With baskets of snacks and an open drink dispenser, the room felt like a manga cafe on the U.S.S. Enterprise. Tea. Earl Gray. Hot. An issue of AKIRA open on my lap to kill time. Factor in vacuum-tube display cases housing figures and merch—currently a tie-in with the new Evangelion film—and it's easy to see why the center would be packed, even on a Saturday night. Otaku space has expanded into outer space, or a reasonable facsimile thereof.

The actual interview and needling process are strictly by the book and hardly worth mentioning—unless you were alive in Europe during the 80's, in which case you'll be turned away as a potential carrier of mad cow disease. Apparently infection is undetectable. Japanese ability is also a plus, if only so you don't accidentally sign-in as a needle-sharing junkie carrying Hepatitis B.

While you wait for the initial feeling of gee-whiz excitement and dizzy anemia to wear off, be sure to thumb through community sketch books filled with doodles and messages from past doners. Like trash blowing down the shoulder of the information superhighway, these journals last are the last scraps of organic communication in a digital age. Soon enough these spiral-bound pages will be replaced by drawing tablets prepped to instantly proliferate the illustrations across your choice of social media at the tap of a pen. Until then, you'll have to make do with our photographs.   
Blood monster fan art.
The fear of needles manifested as a Hakaijyu-looking monstrosity.
German Nazi Hound tank illustration.
A safer and more hygienic forum to advertise to like-minded individuals than scribbling graffiti on bathroom walls.
Madoka and Homura fan art in watercolors.
Some also use it as a way to pimp their dojinshi circles. The blood banks overflow in the weeks leading up to Comiket.
BloodBank (30 of 34)
Of course, certain artists would be better off selling their creations to private collectors.
BloodBank (26 of 34)
All this piece of modern art is missing is the glass-paneled frame.
BloodBank (1 of 3)
The only thing railway otaku love more than trains is the use of forced perspective.
BloodBank (9 of 34)
You have free access to my veins under the stipulation that you be an amnesiac junior high school girl with an otherwise incurable disease. And call me "Onii-San."
Kenketsu-Ken Akiba:F Bloodbank
"Give me your blood!" The Ministry of Welfare mascot Kenketsu-Kun reveals his true intentions.
BloodBank (16 of 34)
Pizza of Death fan art is always welcome.
BloodBank (17 of 34)
Probably also from the artist above, known only as "Unko."
Sunset city beyond Kadath in the cold wastes.
The magical sunset city beyond Kadath in the cold wastes. Check out those arabesques! 
BloodBank (20 of 34)
Throw in the kanji characters "献血" for "donate blood" and BAM, instant parody!
Moe rock and roll.
Kyun-Kyun Rock here is a fine example of collaborative works.
Initial D fan art.
Proof that INITIAL D still has fans, somewhere, somehow.
Each Red Cross branch in Tokyo is customized to fit the color of its neighborhood. Kichijoji is an earth-tone hippie paradise. Shibuya offers hand massages for your sore metacarpals after a long day of carrying shopping bags. The new center in Shinjuku is lined with mannequins sporting concept fashion. Once you run out of gimmick restaurants and wacky Japan tourist traps, the only thrill left comes from sticking a needle in your arm. At least you know where these ones come from.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Scummy Manga Reviews #8: Revolutionary Fighter Inudo Sadao

Kakumei Senshi Inudo Sadao manga by Sasaki Shohei
Title: Revolutionary Fighter Inudo Sadao (革命戦士 犬童貞男)
Serialized in: Young Magazine, Volume 46 2011-Volume 52 2012
Art and Story by: Sasaki Shohei (佐々木昇平)
Genre: Gag Gekiga Unleashed

What It’s About
The source of  superpowers are just as inventive as their application. Superman draws his strength from Earth’s yellow sun; Green Lantern, a ring limited only by his imagination. Or in the case of Sadao the Dog Boy, from a lifetime of pent-up sexual frustration.
Kakumei Senshi Inudo Sadao manga by Sasaki Shohei
His intense nerd rage triggered something primal deep within, unlocking his inner altered beast to transform him into a full-blown man-canine hybrid, fleshy muzzle and all. Vengeance will be his.

Following the bloody break-in of a television station, he hijacks the airwaves to declare war between the animal kingdom and their human oppressors. The crime—betrayal and ignorance. The punishment—extinction. With the exception of his junior high school crush, Yuri. No, she has a responsibility to watch the world burn. And let Sadao lap up the scent of a woman with his hyper-sensitive bloodhound nose, if you know what I mean.
Kakumei Senshi Inudo Sadao manga by Sasaki Shohei
Not if their former classmate Yuji has anything to say about it. He and Sadao were once kindred souls, bonded by an adolescence of shared bullying and abuse. But while Sadao let his anger consume him, Yuji channeled it into an abrupt career as a professional wrestler. It’s time for the great Chiwawa Mask to step back into the ring and pry the innocent Yuri from Sadao’s claws. There’s no time to re-train his body—a fistful of steroids will have to do!
Kakumei Senshi Inudo Sadao manga by Sasaki Shohei
Why It’s Awesome
Pomeranians go feral! Wild geese kamikaze into men’s eye sockets! Dingos eat babies! It’s a Tokyo Jungle out there, with a revolving-door cast of squishy humans as the prey.

The opening pages tease the reader with the would-be protagonist of a typical school comedy. Sixteen-year old Miku just moved to a new town and she’s running late on the first day of class. Chikuwa fish sausage flopping out of her mouth as a surrogate piece of toast, this walking cliche bursts out of the house and slams headlong into trouble—not the hunky upperclassmen she’s destined to fall in love with, but the waiting maw of a horse-sized Rottweiler!
Kakumei Senshi Inudo Sadao manga by Sasaki Shohei
Revolutionary Fighter Inudo Sadao, a pun that can be read as "virgin dog-boy," sets itself apart from the pack right out of the starting gates. While its name draws on classic surrealist titles such as Sexy Commando, this isn't a gag manga for the faint of heart. The excessive gore, bone-crunching violence, and throbbing red rockets mixed with smarmy satire and cherry boy humor brings it closer in line with the so-bad-it's-good heta-uma fare by Koizumi Tomohiro or Hanakuma Yusaku. Except while these authors hide behind a sketchy veneer of insincerity, author Sasaki throws it all out there in graphic detail.

Which isn't to say that it’s all grindhouse-style exploitation. There’s cliche, though complex dynamics between the three main characters. Yuji has always felt sorry for the insecure Sadao and wants to believe that there’s good in his twisted heart, even after the dog-boy makes mincemeat of a live studio audience. Sadao pines for Yuri, though his super-human strength doesn't include the courage to be honest with his feelings. And Yuri blames herself for the unfolding tragedy for seeing Yuji behind Sadao’s back.

It’s as heartrending as Macross. Or, with its former-schoolmate-turned-megalomaniac angle, a superior version of 20th Century Boys that delivers all the emotional suspense and payoff in its two volumes that Urasawa couldn’t force out in twenty.

Why It Won’t Come Out in English
Kakumei Senshi Inudo Sadao manga by Sasaki Shohei
What, you mean aside from the scenes of borderline bestiality? If anything I’d consider those a bonus for the book’s target audience—readers who appreciate realistic art blackened by dense hatchwork and blood spray ala Fist of the North Star, madcap contemporary humor like heta-uma but better, and terse Eisner-quality storytelling.

Unfortunately, filter this number down to the number of people actually willing to throw down cash on the underdog and you can squeeze potential buyers into a medium-sized convention center. Who has time to waste translating, marketing, and distributing a one-shot from an artist without any other exploitable titles? If that person is you, by all means do the humane thing and knock on Kodansha’s doors asking to adopt this mutt before it gets put to sleep.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Tokyo Compression

From the packed commuter prison cars of Push Man to the blood-soaked opening of Suicide Circle, Japan’s rush hour traffic has long been depicted as hazardous to your mind and body. Now artist Michael Wolf continues the proud, sadistic tradition with his Tokyo Compression series of photos. The German born photographer began his career with a focus on mega cities, gradually zooming in from landscapes to capture the lives crawling within. His lens shrinks train-goers down into tiny microbes rushing through an inorganic system of concrete arteries at 60 kilometers per hour.

Though the doors open to let in fresh air at each station, real decompression doesn’t occur until battered employees leave their offices and file into bars, cabarets, and karaoke boxes for intensive depressurization. Be sure to check our Michael Wolf's homepage for more candid portraits of life in cities, including some great snaps of the homeless box men.