How anime ‘Yo-Kai Watch’ beat ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ at the box office in Japan

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Japan Times (by Giovanni Fazio):

As 2015 came to a close, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” was the movie on everyone’s lips, with fans dressed up in costumes and camping out to buy tickets, and a social media presence bigger than the Jabba the Hutt. Yet, despite breaking all box-office records on its opening weekend in the United States, the new “Star Wars” ranked only No. 2 in Japan (with more than 800,000 viewers), beaten to the top spot by “Yo-Kai Watch the Movie 2: King Enma and the 5 Stories, Nyan!,” which had almost 1 million viewers. A week later, this cheap and chirpy big-screen version of a Japanese kids cartoon derived from a Nintendo game kicked Jedi butt again.

So, the story would seem to be that anime still rules the domestic box office. A quick look at Japan’s top-grossing films in 2015 reveals that six out of 10 were animated movies (three of which were domestic), and anime topped the box office for 20 individual weeks with films like “Big Hero 6″ and “Bakemono no Ko” (“The Boy and the Beast”) beating competition such as “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” and “Terminator: Genisys.”

Then again, opening weekend in Japan is still based on Saturday-Sunday figures. If the Friday opening revenue for “Star Wars” was included, the film would have beaten “Yokai Watch” by a good margin. The force finally prevailed and on week three of release, “Star Wars” is No. 1.

It’s worth noting though that despite the graying of Japan, cinemas are scoring best with films aimed squarely at the pre-teen market.

Resort in Philippines has literally giant Gundam rip-off, plus Disney and Marvel knockoffs galore

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RocketNews 24:

Although the Philippines have plenty of seaside travel destinations, Jed’s Island Resort isn’t one of them. Being located in the landlocked municipality of Calumpit means that while Jed’s isn’t far from Manila Bay, it doesn’t have any coastline to call its own.

That’s OK, though, because you can still relax in one of the resort’s nine advertised swimming pools. And while you may not be able to enjoy listening to the sound of the waves, you will be able to look up at Jed’s gigantic Gundam statue that’s as tall as the one in Tokyo yet far, far skinnier. Not into anime? Not a problem! Jed’s is also home to beloved characters from Disney, Marvel, and DC…or at least their disturbingly off-model, knockoff doppelgangers.

The facility’s grounds used to be a private estate, but were opened to guests as Jed’s Island Resort in 1995. The resort’s website boasts that “During its five summers of existence, Jed’s has welcomed actors and actresses, singers, and band members from showbiz as its guest.” Ordinarily, we’d write the use of “guest” off as a typo, but considering that the reference to Jed’s five summers of existence is on a web page updated in 2014, nearly 20 years after the resort’s opening, it’s possible the management simply isn’t very good at math.

But hey, who needs statistical accuracy when you’ve got the most iconic giant robot in the history of Japanese animation, the RX-78-2 Gundam!

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Wow…looks like Gundam needs a sandwich. Or, seeing as how he’s in the Philippines, maybe a plate of lechon, the local variety of suckling pig. The robot is looking so skinny that we’re surprised it can still stand, and also so anemic that there’s no way it could survive an attack by the bellicose Zeon forces.

Gundam is so gaunt that at first glance it seems like the photo is the product of a weird camera lens, but the proportions of the woman standing between his feet aren’t warped at all.

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As further proof, here’s the anorexic mobile suit from a different angle that reveals more of its narrow dimensions.

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Still, this is a pretty gutsy move by Jed’s designers. Non-official wonky physique and large letter J on its crotch, that’s clearly and literally a huge Gundam rip-off. We’re sure executives at Bandai, the company which holds the licensing rights to all things Gundam, aren’t happy about it. If it’s any consolation, though, Bandai’s lawyers should bear in mind that Jed’s Island Resort isn’t just ripping off Gundam, they’re ripping off everybody!

Well, maybe not everybody, but that only seems to be because there’s not enough space for a project of that magnitude. Still, Jed’s has done an impressive job of filling its property with as many unlicensed likenesses as it can hold. The resort isn’t shy about this, either, at least in the case of these two photos from its Facebook page, which are excitedly touted as “New attraction-One Piece at Jed’s! and Big Hero 6 Robot Baymax!”

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Among Frozen’s many crowd-pleasing aspects, some fans were thrilled to see a Disney movie with two princesses. But apparently the special Jed’s edition of the film features no less than three royal ladies.

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Elsewhere, Jed’s gets the number of siblings just right. Can’t say the same about their facial features, though.

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▼ Elsa must be hitting the gym regularly to have added that much muscle definition to her shoulders. She’s apparently become so addicted to the pump from lifting weights that she’s curling half a head of cabbage.

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Going from Disney’s newest hit characters to their oldest, here’s Mickey and pals Goofy, Donald, and Mickey Clones 1 through 3, plus rival Bugs Bunny, all posing in front of a brachiosaur.

 

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We’re guessing some older, hand-drawn cartoon characters must look down on their nouveau rich CG counterparts. How else could you explain why the heroes of Avatar were left out of the Disney/Warner Bros. group photo?

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Of course, not all classic animated characters are so set in their ways. For example, Snow White has expanded her social circle beyond her seven stout housemates, and is seen here in the company of 1977 anime mecha Voltes V.

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As a matter of fact, Jed’s Island Resort seems to be all about crossovers, like this snapshot of the Sesame Street gang hanging out with Mother Goose.

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Awesome as it is to see Superman and Captain America in the same place, it’d still be cooler if they were fighting.

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Spider-Man, Wolverine, and Wonder Woman seem to have climbed all the way to the top of the water slide tower before losing their nerve to actually go down it.

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Legalities aside, we can at least see why the management of Jed’s Island Resort would want to decorate their pools with these instantly recognizable and hugely popular characters. They may have been a little too zealous in their efforts to copy as much as possible, though. For example, can you imagine any travelers picking where to stay according to which resort has the cast of free mobile game Clash of Clans?

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But even then, Jed’s “creative” team wasn’t done scraping the bottom of the barrel, because you haven’t exhausted every option until you’ve made a knock-off based on the cover 1980’s flight disaster satire Airplane!

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Emojis as a new art medium

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RocketNews 24:

If you’re as addicted to your phone as we are, there’s a good chance you can draw 95 percent of the emoji you know with your eyes closed. Much to the chagrin of high school English teachers everywhere, it can sometimes seem that half of our communication is taken up by the colorful little faces. And it’s understandable–they can express quite a bit!

But thanks to a new site, anyone can freely combine emoji for a hundred times more expressiveness. That’s exactly what Kazuki Takakura, art director for a Tokyo theatre company, did–and the results are nothing short of spectacular! And slightly nightmarish.

▼Forget your paint palette, we have emoji!

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With the evocative URL emoji.ink, the website presents users with every emoji available, as you can see above. After selecting an emoji, the user is presented with a blank canvas, upon which your chosen emoji can be placed. Clicking and dragging will paste a string of the images, like a paint brush. You can quickly select other emoji by pressing any key on the keyboard or change their size. With a bit of practice, you can get something like this!

 

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Or, if you happen to be a real artist, unlike us, you can create something a bit more impressive.

But as impressive as the hip-hop art above is, things can always get…weirder. Especially when Kazuki Takakura, art director for Tokyo theatre company Hanchu-yuei, decides to get involved. While we’re sure that not all theater company art directors create bizarre works of emoji art, Kazuki has certainly gone a long way towards scarring us for life with stuff like Creepy Pikachu.

▼When you turn the lights off tonight, just remember: It’s under your bed.

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▼The only explanation offered for this was “Robo.”

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▼Sure, this might be a rooster. Or it might be the Devourer of Souls.

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▼Are those eyes…or tentacles? Or both?!

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▼This just reminds us of the Hifana “Wamono” video.

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 ▼This is supposed to be Pokémon’s Venusaur (Fushigibana in Japanese).

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▼Annnd…this non-edible version of Baymax is actually pretty cool!

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Disney’s Baymax appears in curry, hot pots, and more, thanks to cheesy food-based pun

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RocketNews 24:

You might not guess it, given the country’s well-known acceptance of stoicism as an admirable virtue, but Japan absolutely loves puns. In fact, the characteristics of the Japanese language, such as multiple potential pronunciations for the same kanji character, make it a veritable pun-producing machine.

For example, the character for “rice,” 米, is usually read as kome. When it’s combined with other characters, though, it’s read as mai or bei, with the latter being pronounced like the English word “bay.”

Of course, that also means bei is pronounced like the first half of Baymax, the loveable caretaker/combat robot from Disney’s Big Hero 6. And now that Japanese fans of the film have figured out how to put a little rice into Baymax, they’re also coming up with ways to put a little Baymax into their meals by making Baymax curry rice, rice balls, and nabe hot pots.

You can thank pop idol Haruna Kojima for kicking off the culinary trend. Earlier this month, the AKB48 member found herself with some extra time on her hands, so rather than make a plain old plate of curry rice, she decided to shape the fluffy white grains into a likeness of Baymax, adding two small, connected circles of dried seaweed to recreate his simple facial expression.

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Identifying her creation as Baymax, but written with the kanji for rice, Kojima posted the above photo to her Instagram account, where it put smiles on the faces and rumbles in the stomachs of all who gazed upon its appetite-stimulating cuteness. Even better, in contrast to the difficulty in trying to craft an edible version of Pokémon’s Pikachu or Yo-Kai Watch’s Jibanyan, Baymax’s soft, simple form and almost entirely white color scheme means that just about everyone can manage this cooking project, as proven by the steady stream of Rice-max photos that have been popping up since.

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View image on Twitter

Even six weeks after its release, Big Hero 6 is still going strong in Japan, wherepositive word of mouth about the films variety of action, comedy, and heartfelt emotion made it the highest-grossing movie in the country last weekend, just like it was for the three weekends before that. It’s a testament to the film’s broad appeal that stretches beyond just the kiddie demographic, and includes fans old enough to enjoy a little alcoholic refreshment with their Baymax curry.
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Of course, Japan has a lot more ways to eat rice than just covering it with curry roux. How about a Baymax oyako-don, a rice bowl with chicken, egg, and the cuddly robot?

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If you’re after even lighter fare, you can combine rice and miso soup, which is also a great way to make use of leftovers of the two Japanese staples.

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It’s also worth bearing in mind that the rice/bei/Baymax pun still holds up even if you’re not using plain white rice. For example, mochi (rice cakes) are just as appropriate for adding a dash of Disney to your hot pot.

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Amped Asia’s Top 20 picks of Marvel’s most magnificent Asian superheroines

Amped Asia:

In the last decade we have seen an unprecedented resurgence of comic books into mainstream culture. The once niche market that many erroneously believed only appealed to the stereotypical image of the nerdy anti-social comic book fan has now become a full fledged pop culture phenomena.

Amped Asia knows a little bit of what it’s like to have what was once considered nerdy suddenly be cool. Most of what we are passionate about within Asian culture has suddenly now become cool like sushi, Asian characters for albeit terrible tattoos, K-pop, and the list goes on. And this might be hard to believe, but before we became the incredibly handsome, muscular, genius, shooting machine guns while riding dinosaurs badasses we are now, we too could be caught reading a comic book alone in our nerd hovels.

You see we were once/still are nerds. So that being said, with the comic book craze at arguably its zenith and Asian culture rapidly becoming more and more popular, we wanted to give a little love to some of the top Asian female super heroes in the Marvel Universe!

20) Lotus Shinchuko (Japanese)

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With a name like Lotus Shinchuko, one kind of expects her to be the star of a weird “exotic far east” stag film than that of a character from the Deadly Hands of Kung Fu series. Wait, scratch that, her name sounds EXACTLY like what you would expect from that exploitative 1970’s comic book. The Deadly Hands of Kung Fu piggy backed off the kung fu movie craze of the times, giving us Lotus Shinchuko; a master of the martial arts who was as deadly as she was beautiful. She might not be the most well known character on our list, but can be seen making cameo appearances in the Marvel Universe, including working as a bodyguard for Luke Cage. Although seeing her maybe a bit of a rare treat, SWEEEET CHRISTMAS are they are treat!

19) Nancy Lu (Chinese)

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Nancy Lu first started off as a member of a rival basketball team against Peter Parker’s own daughter, May “Mayday” Parker in Spider-Girl#23. After May Parker discovered that Nancy Lu had been using her mutant powers of telekinesis to win games, Lu would be convinced by Parker to use her powers for good. Soon she would establish herself as a hero, adopting the name Push, and offered an invitation to join a group called the X-People. Fortunately for Lu, it was a future incarnation of the X-Men and not a group of people really into going to raves.

18) Dust (Afghani)

As long as not EVERYTHING is sandy we aren't going to have a problem...am I right fellas?

Sometimes a little less is more, and although most of her is covered up, Dust is still one sultry super hero. A member of the X-Men and possibly the most modestly dressed comic book hero of all time, we respect Dust, AKA Sooraya Qadir’s decision to wear her niqab as a an X-Men, although we might not fully agree with it. You know, not at all because she is quite the looker underneath it all, but because.. freedoms, and Americas.. and women’s rights… yes..

17) Nico Minorou (Japanese)

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Next up is our favorite gothic character from the Runaways, and no we don’t mean Joan Jett. We are talking about Marvel’s own Nico Minorou. To say this Goth sorceress has some unusual character traits, especially in a comic book universe, would still be an understatement. You see, Nico like many Goths we know loitering outside our local mall’s Hot Topic, has a bit of an emotional, clingy, and anti-social personality. However unlike most Goths we know, she has the ability to ACTUALLY control magic, cast spells, and even has a powerful magic staff appear out of her chest whenever she bleeds! Yup EVERYTIME SHE BLEEDS.

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16) Omega Sentinel (India)

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Unlike a lot of the other X-Women on our list, Omega Sentinel, AKA Karima Shapandar  is one of the few members of the X-Men and later Excalibur, who is more or less human and not mutant at all. And we do mean more or less. You see Omega Sentinel, as her name would imply, actually started off as a human police detective in her native India, until she became a sleeper cell Sentinel agent thanks to Bastion of the Operation: Zero Tolerance program. This program, intended to hunt down all mutants across the United States, used nanite technology to augment her strength, speed, and reflexes to superhuman levels. It also equipped her with a bevy of powers including flight, regenerative abilities against damage, and built in cybernetic weapons which allow her to shoot energy blasts of radiation and electricity. She basically became a living human Sentinel however she chose to use her powers to help the X-Men rather than harm them. With all her doohickeys and power upgrades, it begs the question what other “enhancements” does she have? If she would like to test them, we will be waiting in the bedroom.

15) Honey Lemon (Japanese)

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It’s fitting to have our #15 and #14 on this list following the release of Big Hero 6. Who better embody the rise of Asian culture with the rise of comic book nerd culture than two of the characters from this great animated collaboration from Disney and Marvel? A lesser known but still very popular Marvel comic book, this is one of the few series in the Marvel Universe with a mainly Asian roster. Little is known about Aiko Miyazaki, the secret agent/genius scientist known as Honey Lemon. But we do know she has a Power Purse, or Nano Purse, that contains miniature artificial inter-universe wormholes that can be used at her discretion. She is like a hot Felix the Cat, although we would be afraid to tell her that.

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14) Gogo Tomago (Japanese)

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Another member of Big Hero 6, Leiko Tanaka, better known as Gogo Tomago, was a tough as nails youth from the streets before she joined up with Big Hero 6. It was with this team that she channeled her aggression into mastering her voice activated battle suit which allows her to absorb and amplify kinetic energy into thermochemical energy. She can even transform her body into a spherical “powerball” during which she has near invulnerability and can hurl herself at enemies, clocking in at speeds of 185 miles per hour. And as long as Gogo doesn’t hurl herself at our balls at that speed or give us blue ones, we will continue our admiration for her.

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13) Silk (Korean)

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Basically the female Korean version of Peter Parker, this web slinging heroine shares much of the same origin story as her male counterpart, even the radioactive spider that gave them their powers. However unlike Peter Parker, she creates organic web from her finger tips and in our humble opinion has a much more appealing costume. Hey maybe we are biased, but we at Amped Asia would much rather be caught in her web. Sorry Pete.

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12) Surge (Japanese)

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This electrifying member of the New Mutants is quite the survivor. Hailing from the Land of the Rising Sun, she fled to America in her teens, living on the streets until the X-Men found her and brought her back to the X-Mansion. A former drug addict, she beat her addiction to become a promising member of the New Mutants, former leader of the New X-Men, and one of only 27 mutants that retained their powers after the events of House of M story arc.

11) Karma (Vietnamese)

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Vietnamese mutant X’ian Coy Manh, better known as Karma, has the ability to take possession of the minds of other people and even animals. With this power she has the ability to change a victims’ perception of memories, command them, and basically take over their whole body to do her bidding. And as a member of the New Mutants and agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., I am sure there are many fanboys out there who wouldn’t mind seeing her using those powers on say Maria Hill or one of the other hotties on our list. You know for national security and such.

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10) Kabuki (Japanese)

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Whenever we attempt to compile a list of pop culture icons, we understand a certain amount of our readers, will shall we say, “Voice their discerning opinions” on our entries. And by that I mean whine and bitch that we included/didn’t include their favorite character because of XYZ reason. Add in the fact that comics are especially rife with cannon/non-cannon and publication semantics our next entry may stir up some hullabaloo. The tragic yet beautiful tale of the young woman named Kabuki is a good example of this. Although she is not associated with the Marvel Universe per se, and was once an Image Comics property, she is now currently being published under Icon Comics, an imprint of Marvel. So now that that is cleared up we just wanted to include the masked mysterious heroine on our list because it is a pretty great read. So quit your bitching.

9) Black Widow (Chinese)

Hate to say we told you so Nick, but should have had her sign that prenup. Also when did you become 50 Cent??

The original Black Widow is a classic, no question about that. So to be the follow up act to the widely popular Natasha Romanoff was no easy task, especially since her character has been so fully fleshed out so to speak, with the recent live action portrayal by Scarlet Johansson. But we here at Amped Asia think that the Monica Chang version of the Black Widow has done pretty well for herself. First off, she is the ex-wife of Nick Fury and that alone deserves entry onto this list. Think about what the “irreconcilable differences” must have been for that divorce. What is the alimony like? Who gets the Helicarrier nights, weekends, and every other Thursday? Anyway she even helped capture both the Punisher AND Captain America at one point. And she was the Director of S.H.I.E.L.D before Norman Osborn burned her face off. We haven’t seen an Asian do such a bang up replacement job since the Arnel Pineda era of Journey. Well done Chang, well done.

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8) Colleen Wing (Japanese)

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Although Colleen Wing possesses no super powers of her own, except incredible athleticism and detective skills, she still holds her own among Marvels’ top heroes. Armed with a 1,000 year old katana and her wits, Colleen has appeared mainly in the Iron Fist series as well as aiding the X-Men in battle. This Hero for Hire makes reading Iron Fist a little more tolerable, and looks just as sharp as her sword in her skin tight white cat suit. How she keeps it clean when so many of her readers want to see her get dirty is beyond us.

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7) Yukio (Japanese)

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This being a list of Asian female comic book characters, you knew we would eventually have a ninja on our list. And boy what a ninja do we have for you! Yukio is equal parts badass as sexy. Her character is associated mostly with the X-Men series, specifically her encounters with Wolverine. Once tasked by Shingen Yoshida to assassinate Wolverine, Yukio instead developed a crush on the Canadian Casanova. Although her appearances were sporadic her influence never was. Her short hair, sense of style, and “madness” and lust for life even inspired Storm to rock her Mohawk punk look for awhile. She was even chosen by Wolverine to raise his adoptive child, Amiko Kobayashi. So to recap, badass sexy ninja, who even Weapon X himself thinks can raise his family. That is some BAMF status.

6) Jolt (Japanese)

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Before becoming the living embodiment of electricity known as Jolt, Hallie Takahama was just your ordinary girl who happened to be a super hero buff. Not only was she a huge fan of the superhuman heroes she aspired to be, but also memorized the details of the superhuman battles that took place. Although once only a spectator, Hallie would become no stranger to the often tragic origins of becoming a hero. After her parents were killed by Sentinels, Hallie would go into hiding until she would be captured by the villainous mercenary group the Rat Pack. Their leader, the not Frank Sinatra Arnim Zola, would experiment on her along with their other victims, leaving most of them either mutated or dead. That is except for Hallie, who due to the experiments, would gain superhuman abilities, such as hyperkinetic agility, transform any type of energy into physical strength and speed, and turn her body into living electricity, allowing her to fly and shoot electrical force blasts. With all these amazing powers, you would think that she could have stopped her costume from looking like she ripped off the design from a can of Jolt Cola. But hey nobody’s perfect.

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5) Mantis (Vietnamese)

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Mantis grew up in Vietnam at the Kree alien temple of the Priests of Pama, the latter which believe she would one day become the Celestial Madonna and mate with the eldest Cotati on earth, becoming the Celestial Mother. In other words, one day become the most important being in the universe. While prepping for this role she even found time to master martial arts, become a member of the Avengers, and even act as a counselor for the Guardians of the Galaxy. With all this life experience, her next role in the Marvel Universe may not be the Celestial Mother, but Marvels’ toughest Asian tiger mom.

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4) Armor (Japanese)

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Look, we hate stereotypes just as much as the next person, and well aware that a good amount of our list is comprised of characters that are either ninjas, wield katanas, or are throwbacks to Chopsocky Kung Fu exploitation flicks of the 1970’s. So naturally adding a Japanese female character whose mutant powers allow her to create a psionic mecha exoskeleton kind of puts us in an awkward position.

However the fact that this character was created by Joss Whedon, who as we all know would never use Asian culture for his own gain *coughFIREFLYcough*definitely makes up for it. Indicative of Whedon’s work, her character is as well written as it is interesting. We got to admit, her psionic mecha exoskeleton is pretty badass, and even though old man Logan gives her guff for her choice of codename, that Armor is one tough costumer. While surrounded by her exoskeleton she is nearly impervious, and has veteran X-Men such as Wolverine and Cyclops taking her under their wings. So all joking aside, ya did good again Mr. Whedon. P.S. Don’t mind that Firefly crack; we actually really enjoy that show here at Amped Asia.

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3) Jubilee (Chinese-American)

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With her giant yellow trench coat, oversized neon pink sunglasses, and mall brat attitude there seems to be no better representative on our list of the 1990’s era comic book industry than Jubilee. Hell she was even a member of GENERATION X, all she was missing was some superfluous Jim Lee inspired pouches, a can of Surge, and a copy of Nirvana’s Nevermind and she might as well be a Smithsonian time capsule of the 1990’s. But despite all that, and possessing mutant powers that fellow X-Men Dazzler would even find lame, Jubilee was one fiiiiiiine member of the X-Men. No on looked better in a pair of roller blades and walkman better than her back in the day.

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2) Ms. Marvel (Pakistani)

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Kamala Khan is not only the first Asian Ms. Marvel, but also the first Muslim character to star in her own series in the Marvel Universe. Debuting in Captain Marvel #14 in 2013, the new Ms. Marvel has helped shatter stereotypes of what Asian American heroes can be as well as Muslim characters. No small feat considering the post 9/11 political climate she debuted in, as well as high expectations set by the previous Ms. Marvels when she took over the mantle. Nothing has held this character’s raising popularity back. Kamala Khan has overcome ethnic and religious stereotypes and bigotry, and most impressive of all, proved that even someone from Jersey City, New Jersey could do great things. Seriously, NEW JERSEY. And that is a super power within itself my friend.

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1) Psylocke (Japanese-British)

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As with most popular comic book characters, Psylocke’s origins and story have been retconned and rebooted so many times it’s hard to keep up with what is cannon and what is not. What we do know is at some point the British born Elizabeth “Betsy” Braddock became the Japanese Psylocke, becoming one of the most popular female X-Men as well as fan favorite of cosplayers world wide. And I think we can all agree that an Asian looking girl with a British accent parading around in a leotard is something we can all enjoy.

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Mosogourment (Japan) presents Big Hero 6 Baymax Marshmallow Cookie Recipe

FoodBeast:

If you’ve seen the film Big Hero 6, then you’re aware that Baymax is probably the most huggable, squeezable character on the Disney roster since Pocahontas.

Just when you thought he couldn’t get any cuter, wait until you see him in marshmallow cookie form.

Studio Ghibli’s “The Tale of Princess Kaguya” nominated for Academy Award

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RocketNews 24:

We’re just about a month away from the 87th Academy Awards presentation, and if you’re a general cinema fan, odds are you’ve been looking forward to the event. However, if the only thing that can make you take a trip to the theater is a screening of a Studio Ghibli anime, you might not have been expecting too much from the gala to be held at Los Angeles’ Dolby Theater.

Ghibli’s newest film, When Marnie Was There, hasn’t been getting the sort of rave reviews of a Spirited Away or Princess Mononoke. Six months after its Japanese release, Marnie is mostly forgotten in its home country and still unreleased in North America, making it ineligible for this year’s Oscar race.

Thanks to the time lag caused by international distribution, though, Ghibli does have one film eligible for the upcoming academy awards, and it just cleared the first hurdle with the Academy announcing The Tale of Princess Kaguya as a nominee in the Best Animated Feature Category.

Although Kaguya premiered in Japanese theatres in late 2013, it wasn’t until the following year that it arrived in North America. Helmed by Isao Takahata, the director best known for heart-rending Word War II tragedy Grave of the Fireflies, Kaguya is based on the Japanese folktale often referred to in English as The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter.

KH 1

Many of Kaguya’s elements will be familiar to viewers who’ve read or know the basic structure of the 10th century literary classic it draws from. Its visual style, though, is unprecedented, composed of subdued colors and vaguely sketched outlines that are in stark contrast to the ultra-polished look of most other Studio Ghibli films.

Also nominated for Best Animated Feature are Big Hero 6, The Boxtrolls, How to Train Your Dragon 2, and Song of the Sea. Unlike Ghibli’s last shot at winning an Oscar, when Hayao Miyazaki’s swansong The Wind Rises got steamrolled by Frozen in 2014, none of Kaguya’s competitors completely set the world on fire (despite our growing infatuation with Big Hero 6’s Baymax). As such, what’s assumed by many to be Takahata’s final film has a fighting chance, although it will still have to overcome what seems to be a growing distaste in North America for non-CG animation.

▼ Since the establishment of the Best Animated Feature in 2001, Miyazaki’s Spirited Away is the sole hand-drawn film to win the award, and one of only two winners that weren’t computer animated.

KH 2

With Hayao Miyazaki retired from theatrical animation and having already received an honorary Oscar for his body of work, Marnie’s lukewarm reception, and the possible disbanding of Studio Ghibli as we know it, this may be the last opportunity for Japan’s most respected animation house to bring home the Academy’s highest honor. We’ll find out whether or not it did at the awards ceremony on February 22.