Sasami-san@Ganbaranai has gotten noticeably darker with the appearance of Sasami’s dead mother. By now I’ve dropped the hypothesis that Sasami is an ordinary girl with Shinto-based delusions. This really is an offbeat story about ancient Shinto gods and goddesses. (I think.)
Anime in general is full of references to the Shinto religion, but it is usually a lightweight pop Shinto. Sasami-san takes a more scholarly approach, one that is both more esoteric and darker. To fully understand the show you need some background in some of the older Shinto traditions.
There are actually 3 fairly distinct concepts of death and the afterlife associated with Shinto.
A reporter for The Register visits Tokyo’s Akihabara district and finds it’s not quite the tech paradise that he was hoping for
Step out of the station’s “Electric Town” (denki machi) exit today and it’s difficult to see what all the fuss is about.
Along spotlessly clean pedestrian precincts you might spot the odd PC or computer parts store but for the most part it just looks like the rest of Tokyo – restaurants, cafes…, pubs and bars jostle with karaoke emporia, book shops and endless branches of the ubiquitous 7-11.
Cross the main thoroughfare – Chuo Street, which bisects the district – and the streets get narrower, the otaku (geeks) a little thicker on the ground and it’s all generally a bit more “Akiba”, as the locals call the area.
You’ll see the odd store here devoted to electronic parts, used PCs, smartphone accessories, gaming gear and even spy cameras, but still – where’s all the cutting edge tech? Where’s the unusual and bizarre gadgetery we’ve been led to believe only Japan can produce thanks to the curious Galapagosization of its technology industry?The answer lies partly in an overzealous mayor who has for several years been driving out the old electronics shops to replace them with shiny glass and metal tower blocks like Akiba Ichi – filled restaurants and offices – or gigantic family-friendly mega-tech department stores like Yodobashi Camera.
This is pretty consistent with my own observations but I suspect the redevelopment is more a symptom than the cause.
Akihabara’s reputation as Gadget Central peaked in the late 1990s, in the early days of the Internet. Today someone who wants to buy high-tech gadgets can find a better selection and lower prices on the ‘net. This leaves little room for the specialized boutique electronics stores that the district used to be famous for. If you want an innovative gadget that no-one else has you would probably do better to look on Kickstarter.
Meanwhile the anime and manga stores and the maid cafes continue to flourish and expand. Their otaku fans aren’t just looking for something that they could buy on the Internet. They want a chance to get together with like-minded people. And for mainstream tourists there are the shiny new department stores selling upscale mass-market goods.
The festival is based on a rather charming myth that goes something like this:
I don’t know if it is possible to microchip a parakeet but an elderly Japanese lady has come up with a cheap and effective alternative.
A heartwarming story. The only unfortunate part is that the bird’s name is Piko-chan, a close Japanese equivalent to “Tweety Pie.”
The high point of Episode 5 of Space Brothers is Hibito’s appearance on an American talk show. The American host gives a short statement introducing the famous Japanese astronaut. Hibito walks on-stage and they shake hands. Then the host puts his hands in the gasshou position and bows.
This symbolizes veneration and is normally used for praying, not greeting.
This is a sports anime, but it is unusual in a couple of respects. The vast majority of sports manga and anime are shounen stories. A few are shoujo or seinen. This one however is based on a josei manga, which accounts for both the drawing style and the strongly character-oriented story.
The other unusual thing in the choice of the “sport.” It’s fairly common for sports anime and manga to cover things that Americans wouldn’t consider sports, including board games. (There are any number of manga series devoted to the adventures of heroic Mahjong players.) Still there seems something particularly unique about the sport of Competitive Hundred Poets Karuta.
The game is played with 100 cards printed with the last two lines of poems from a medieval collection called The 100 Poets. Fifty cards are arranged in rows between two competitors and they are given some time to memorize the layout. A reader starts to chant one of the poems. The goal is to hit the card containing the end of the poem before your opponent does without touching any other card. (There is only a 50% chance that the correct card is even in play, so it is easy to make a mistake.) The game requires lightning-fast reflexes, superb memorization skills, and enough endurance to keep focused over multiple 50-card rounds during a full day of competition.
Now I’ll be honest. This is not a game that I would ever be tempted to play. I’m not sure I’d even be interested in watching an actual tournament. However I do care enough about these characters that I want to watch them play.