Evangelion designer’s illustration of virtual idol/vocaloid Hatsune Miku released as a cool new figurine

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RocketNews 24 (by Casey Baseel):

Virtual idol or not, there’s no denying that Hatsune Miku is a bona fide star in the Japanese music scene. But while human vocalists might have professional photographers eager to take their pictures for a glossy photo spread, the equivalent for Vocaloids like Miku is being drawn or redesigned by famous artists of the anime and video game world.

Last year we saw Miku as reimagined in CG by Final Fantasy’s Tetsuya Nomura, and now the world’s most popular computer-generated songstress is being given a new physical form as a figure based on a redesign by the character designer of seminal anime hit Evangelion.

While Yoshiyuki Sadamoto is best known for creating the look of Shinji, Rei, Asuka, and the rest of the Eva cast, he’s got a number of other impressive designs on his resume. Sadamoto’s history with animation studio Gainax stretches back to long before the company produced Evangelion, as he was also the character designer for Gainax’s professional debut work, The Wings of Honneamise, as well as Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water, the studio’s first television series.

Gainax isn’t the sole beneficiary of Sadamoto’s talents, either. In recent years, he’s provided designs for several of director Mamoru Hosoda’s animated films, including Summer Wars and Wolf Children. Sadamoto also collaborated with sound producer Mitchie M by providing the cover illustration to 2013 Greatest Idol, an album created by Mitchie M using Hatsune Miku’s Vocaloid program.

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Given how many fans Miku and Sadamoto have separately, Japanese anime merchandiser Good Smile Company figures there should be plenty of people intrigued by their team-up, and so recently unveiled this 1:8 scale figure of the Sadamoto-designed Miku.

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Standing roughly 20 centimeters (7.9 inches) tall, Good Smile Company has done an excellent job bringing Sadamoto’s characteristically slender limbs and angular jaw line into three-dimensional space.

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The Hatsune Miku Greatest Idol Ver. figure, as the piece is officially called, goes on sale in May, but Good Smile Company is taking preorders through its website here between now and September 30.

For those who purchase early, 12,000 yen (US$100) gets you not only the figure, but also a 420 by 297 millimeter (16.5 by 11.7 inch) tapestry of the original Sadamoto Miku illustration.

J-pop unit Perfume’s innovative projection mapping at SXSW performance creates worldwide buzz

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RocketNews 24:

Perfume, the three-member electro-pop group from Hiroshima, Japan, took to the stage for a special performance at the 2015 South by Southwest (SXSW) festival in Austin, Texas. The annual event, held this year from March 13-22, always includes a unique lineup of musical artists, independent films, conference panels, and technological exhibitions, all carefully selected to showcase the highest levels of creativity in the current industry.

Even in that environment, Perfume’s musical and dance performance seems to have blown away the crowd with its ground-breaking use of projected visuals. Is their performance really happening in the physical world? Folks from around the world who’ve seen the video online say it’s enough to give them goosebumps!

The lovely ladies of Perfume, Kashiyuka, A~chan, and Nocchi, are no strangers to the world circuit, having embarked on sold-out concert tours in not just Asia, but in Europe and North America as well. As a result of all of this international exposure, the group was invited to perform at SXSW in the U.S., where they’ve already built up a considerable fanbase. And if those lucky fans have any say in it, this particular concert is likely to go down as legendary in the history of Perfume’s live performances.

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The group performed at SXSW on Tuesday, March 17, taking the stage for 50 minutes beginning at the late (early?) hour of 1 a.m. As part of the set list, Perfume performed a new song called “STORY (SXSW-MIX) for the first time ever which involved the use of adjustable, semi-transparent screens onto which a variety of images were projected. The girls danced in front of, behind, and around the screens while being hit with a deluge of constantly shifting patterns and lights.

If you weren’t lucky enough to catch the trio in person, you can see the video of the performance right here:

Sega to turn the addicting Puyo Puyo puzzle game into a live show in Tokyo for its 24th anniversary

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RocketNews 24:

If you live outside of Japan, you’d be forgiven if you said you’d never heard of a wildly popular tile-matching video game Puyo Puyo. The puzzle game may have been initially inspired by Tetris, but the combination of competitive gameplay, cute characters, and a fun storyline have gained a huge following in Japan since it was first launched there in 1991.

And to celebrate the 24 years since gamers first got addicted to arranging rows of colorful, little blobs, Sega is turning the game into a live show next month with a cast of Japanese idols, actresses and models.

Puyo Puyo, which was first released on the Sega’s Mega Drive system in 1991, has become a hit in Japan and has spawned a series games over many different systems and even teamed up with Tetris last year to launch a crossover title. The game was originally created by the company Compile, but after it went bust in 2003, Sega got the rights and has been keeping Puyo Puyo alive for its many fans in Japan. Sega has said the special anniversary live show will be an original story based on the many characters that have come out of the series in the past 24 years, including the heroine Arle Nadja.

 

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The show kicks off on May 2 and will have eight performances over five days in the Akasaka ACT Theatre in Tokyo. Among the cast are Japanese actresses, idols and a J-Pop star or two, including fashion model Risako Ito who will play the role of Arle. There will also be a chance to win a special edition Aime IC card to use to save your status in the latest arcade version of the game called Puyo Puyo Quest Arcade. And everyone who comes to the show will be given a special code to use in the Puyo Puyosmartphone app.

▼ A flyer for the 24th anniversary live Puyo Puyo show

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Japanese netizens were excited to see one of their favorite video games coming to life with some shocked that it has been 24 years since Puyo Puyo first came out.

Can’t wait for Utada Hikaru’s new music? Reminisce with these 5 songs

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Audrey Magazine/Team-Yellow:

Let’s hear it for our former boss, J-Pop singer Utada Hikaru! Unlike most J-Pop idols, Utada Hikaru is well-known for writing and producing all her music, a feat that has paid off with the 52 million albums she’s sold. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Jpop, you may recognize Utada Hikaru for her Kingdom Hearts songs “Simple and Clean” and “Sanctuary.”

Although she was considered one of the most influential Japanese artists of the 2000s, Utada Hikaru announced she was going on hiatus in 2010 for personal reasons. She added that the hiatus shouldn’t last more than five years.

Now it’s 2015. Although she stepped out of the limelight, rumblings from her personal life have made it’s way to the public. Some of the news, such as her marriage, were good. Other news, such as her mother’s death, were tragic. All the while, fans made it clear that they missed her. A tribute album was released in Japan featuring artists such as Sheena Ringo and Ayumi Hamasaki.

But recent news has hinted that the wait may finally be over. Utada Hikaru has announced via twitter that she is working on a new song with the working title “Sasshire Cappucino.” Is it the end of her hiatus? No one is sure yet. But new music from Utada Hikaru is welcome and we here at Audrey thought it would be great to reminisce on five of her greatest songs while waiting for “Sasshire Cappucino.” Ranked in no particular order, here they are:


1. First Love

Released as her third single in 1999, “First Love” was written and composed by Utada Hikaru at the tender age of sixteen. This is especially surprising considering the first lines of the song translate to “our last kiss, taste like a cigarette.” Despite this edgy opener, “First Love” is primarily a song of heartbreak, with a chorus that is both wistful and devastated. Who wouldn’t cry when she sings “I’ll remember to love, you taught me how.”

 


2. Passion

Primarily known as the Japanese version to the second Kingdom Hearts opening theme, “Passion” is a beast on it’s own. The closest English equivalent would be an Enya song, but that doesn’t even fully capture this ethereal rock-ballad with the soaring background vocals. There’s also quite a few english lyrics sung backwards in the chorus. Can you find them?

 


3. FINAL DISTANCE

A ballad re-arrangement of her song “Distance,” Utada Hikaru reworked the song after she heard that the 6-year-old victim of a school stabbing, Rena Yamashita, was a fan of hers. It’s hard to do a slow, mostly-piano driven ballad without boring the listener, but “FINAL DISTANCE” always seems to evoke tears.

 


4. Kiss & Cry

Speaking of working song titles, Utada Hikaru once revealed the working title of “Kiss & Cry” was called “Dancing Leah” after the Filipina American model Leah Dizon. While “Kiss & Cry” certainly has a danceable beat, it’s not exactly club material. But then again, as long as “Kiss & Cry” is playing, we are down for anything.

 

 


5. Flavor of Life (Ballad Version)

Lastly there is “Flavor of Life (Ballad Version),” which many know as the theme song to Hana Yori Dango 2 (Boys over Flowers 2). Equally heartbreaking and catchy, “Flavor of Life” is undeniably one of Utada Hikaru’s biggest hits. In Japan alone, it sold 700,000 physical copies and 7.7 digital downloads in the year of 2007. Yeah, it’s huge and we can understand why.

 

 


 

BONUS: Sakura Nagashi

We’re cheating with this one, but this song, which was released in 2011 (after the the hiatus) for the Neon Genesis Evangelion movie, is simply exquisite. Bring on your new material when you are ready, Hikki-chan!

 

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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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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American teens watch J-pop music videos for the first time

RocketNews24:

In this video, which has piqued the interest of quite a few people online in Japan, regular American teens watch three J-pop music videos (from groups Perfume, EXILE and AKB48) and give their thoughts.

The video is part of the “Teens React” series on YouTube, which, as well as light-hearted videos on popular culture, also touches on more serious topics like “Teens React to Bullying.” Basically, it’s all about getting the reactions of modern-day teens on a range of different topics, including classic ’90s movies, retro video games, and current online fads and trends.

In “Teens React to J-pop,” the youngsters are tasked with watching the following music videos by three popular J-pop artists:

Japan Society’s 16th Contemporary Dance Showcase: Japan + East Asia

How to say (c) Chang-Chih Chen
Beyond Chinatown:

Japan Society’s 16th Contemporary Dance Showcase: Japan + East Asia, one of their many great performance programs this season, brings from astonishingly agile artists from Japan and Taiwan for two nights of performances Friday, January 9 and Saturday, January 10.

From Japan:

Nobuyuki Hanabusa’s group enra performs Newton, an out-of-this-world amalgamation of motion graphics and choreography.

Mikiko Kawamura’s street style solo Alphard is set to a bold soundscape with J-pop and classical music

In Kaori Seki’s quartet Marmont, bodies morph into nebulous creature-like positions.

 

From Taiwan:

I-Fen Tung’s (董怡芬) fresh duo How to Say grapples with communication through words and dance.

In Shang-Chi Sun’s (孫尚綺 / 孙尚绮) Traverse, graceful martial arts-like movements oscillate between combat speed and tranquility.

Here’s the preview trailer: