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Interview With Yuri!!! on ICE Creator Sayo Yamamoto: Part 2

July 28, 2017 10:30pm
by Lachlan Johnston

Sayo Yamamoto is, without a doubt, one of the most diversely talented individuals in the Japanese animation industry. She's a woman shrouded in a veil of mystery, cast simply to ensure attention is set on her work, rather than herself as an creator. Set aside a few convention appearances, Sayo Yamamoto has always been one to ensure that her own hard work does all the talking she could ever need to do herself. That's why when the unique opportunity to conduct the first ever English-language interview with Ms. Yamamoto presented itself, there was no way we would turn it down.

Even if you're not familiar with Sayo Yamamoto as a person, it's almost certain that you will be familiar with her works. From "Lupin the Third: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine" to "Michiko and Hatchin", all the way to her more recent "Yuri!!! on ICE", it would appear that everything Sayo Yamamoto touches is destined for greatness. She started off at the bottom and worked her way to the top, one step at a time. Unafraid to move forward without ever looking back, Ms. Yamamoto is more than just a role model for women, she's a role model for society as a whole. Her signature style would go on to portray women as more than just side characters, but as powerful leaders that could do everything their male counterparts could and so much more.

Conducting the interview was Dai Sato -- an individual who is equal parts a collaborator and friend of Sayo Yamamoto's. In the past, the pair worked together on animated treasures such as "Lupin the Third: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine", "Samurai Champloo", and "Space Dandy", amongst a diverse list of other titles. The interview had a distinct air to it, feeling more like a discussion between old friends than the nitty-gritty talks between publication and director. Split up into multiple-parts, you can find the second and final part of our interview with Sayo Yamamoto below:

-- Sayo Yamamoto, it’s an honor to have you here with us. Before anything else, I’d like to ask what experiences lead to you becoming an anime director?​

When I first entered the industry, I worked as a production manager at Studio Madhouse. That was around the turn of the century. From my very first day working there, I was driven to eventually become a producer. To do that however, I had to start as a production manager. Though, I didn’t really think that the job of production manager suited me very well. Managing schedules and wrangling people was not suited for me at all (laughs). I was thinking that if I had any breaks, I could try out some of the duties of a producer. I kept telling myself  “You can do this!” While performing production manager duties, I was also drawing storyboards - I was assisting in producing.

-- So what project did you first do storyboarding for?

At the request of my art director, Hideyuki Tanaka, I started working on some animations which were used as live visuals at a SMAP concert. The character designer and producer was animator Takeshi Koike. I was put in charge putting the storyboards into clean copy using Tanaka’s directorial notes and memos. Prior to this, I’d never actually storyboarded, yet I somehow manage to learn simply by watching others. 

Because I went to an art college, I was familiar with programs such as Photoshop and Illustrator. It seemed like everyone at the Studio wanted me to make use of these skills, so I began studying key animation illustration so I could assist in those areas. I worked on Koike’s "TRAVA," "World Record" from "The Animatrix," and "Redline."

-- After that, what was your first project as an independent producer?

The first story I produced was an OVA called ‘Trava: Fist Planet, episode 1’ for a DVD magazine known as "Grasshoppa!". I was doing storyboarding and producing, but Takeshi Koike was director on top of doing all of the series key animation, there wasn’t much I could actually “produce” (laughs). Koike made most layout timing decisions when he reviewed them, and even when it came time for editing, most of those decisions were left intact. There wasn’t much left for me to do because the degree of completion on those layouts was already very high. 

-- You continued to have a good relationship with Takeshi Koike after this, and even did some more projects with him, right?

That’s right; I took up more jobs at Takeshi Koike’s side. During that first project, I felt like I had seen something quite amazing. Koike truly is a genius.

-- Following this, you moved from Studio Madhouse to Studio Manglobe, if I remember correctly? 

I wanted to continue honing my production ability by getting used to handling television series, but there weren’t many opportunities for me to do so at Madhouse, especially since I was asked to serve as an assistant director on one of their new film projects. If I were to continue being employed at Madhouse, I wouldn’t have much control over my workflow, so I started to consider my options. It was around this time that I first met Watanabe Shinichiro.

-- It would seem that you meeting with Watanabe Shinichiro would go on to shape a large portion of your career. What was it that lead to you two first meeting?

A fellow animator and acquaintance of mine was working at Madhouse at the time doing key animation for "Cowboy Bebop: Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door," who was invited to work on "Samurai Champloo." Around the same time Watanabe was looking for someone to fill a production role, where I was introduced shortly after. I believe that was sometime around the Autumn of 2003. I quit Madhouse and switched over to freelancing. As a freelancer, I joined with Studio Manglobe, and participated in "Samurai Champloo" as an episode director.

-- After this you would take on many more episode directorial roles, with your first full directorial work being the animated series Michiko and Hatchin. Before that however, I’d like to take a step back and ask about some other things. What anime influenced you, and was there any series in particular that prompted you to begin working towards a job in the industry?

There really wasn’t any series in particular that prompted me to work towards the industry. However while I was an art student, there was this Mac program called "Director." It was basically this presentation software that allowed you to animate things in 24 frames per second, which is the same as anime. Around this time I came across some still-shots of "Yojimbo" at school. (laughs)

-- Akira Kurosawa’s "Yojimbo"?

That’s the one. Especially the scenes in which Toshiro Mifune drew his sword and slashed people. I watched all those scenes and thought they were really cool. I tried drawing and animating the scenes myself in ‘Director’, and that was probably my first real inspiration for working in the anime industry. 

-- It was quite the coincidence that you would get to work on ‘Samurai Champloo’ then, wasn’t it?

Of course, at the time I had no idea that I would ever be doing that. (laughs) Looking back on it, I think that if I had seen pictures from Akira Kurosawa’s other work, "Ikiru," instead of "Yojimbo," I may have never even thought about trying out animation. 

-- So it was around the time you were in art school that you started to think about working in the anime industry? 

That’s right. At the time, Japan was undergoing some sort of employment recession, which made things quite difficult. Art school students already didn’t seek employment in traditional ways. If you were a graphic design student, then it would be common for you to join a design company, but for people like illustrators and painters, it’s not common to go job hunting. I was into environmental design, so I was in a similar situation. Many others lost the motivation to continue job hunting and decided to simply start their own businesses. I didn’t have that kind of confidence though. 

I was under the belief that having no job would be the equivalent to being homeless, and this led me to think that if I didn’t do something with momentum, I’d be stuck in a rut after graduation. However, I also didn’t have any distinct qualities as part of my artistic nature, so I figured I needed to hurry up and join some kind of organization or else I’d be in trouble. 

-- Since you mentioned your “artistic nature,” I’d like to discuss that briefly. In your directorial works "Michiko and Hatchin" and "LUPIN the Third: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine," the protagonists were women who can, in many ways, be seen as both cool and strong in nature. However in your latest work, "Yuri!!! on ICE," this seems to change completely with the introduction of a mostly-male cast; and while there are some strong-willed women involved in the anime, the show still largely revolves around their male counterparts. To me, this seems to be your biggest artistic change. Would you mind explaining the reason behind that? 

For me, my artistic nature and the gender of my protagonists have no relation. In the case of Michiko, it was more the president (of Manglobe) saying that he wanted to do an action-battle show with a female protagonist. Since I had worked with Koike in the past, I suspect that I was seen as having a knack for a more “American Comics” style... Of course, in terms of my work, I can more or less tackle drawing (the depiction of) women, but really I had no strong interest to do so (laughs).

I think I was sometimes also seen as being skilled at drawing woman because I was a woman myself. But if you do watch my works, you’ll realize that I haven’t drawn women all that much! Requests for specific character traits like “lovers” or “family” are just that -- requests. Sometimes, I feel that to be a bit stifling. I like to depict whomever I please, regardless of age, race, and gender. With “Yuri!!!”, I was able to depict relationships and bonds without creative influence from others. This time, I wanted to create an impactful depiction of Men’s singles in figure skating in anime form! It wasn’t so much a matter of “I’m definitely going to draw men this time.” I had a love for figure skating that could not be suppressed, and since I did not have any orders from above, I planned the project with an attitude rather of “I’m definitely going to draw figure skating this time!”

-- The Japanese anime industry is often considered to be a place where women don’t really have the opportunity to flourish. Do you think that bias exists, even now?​

It was true that there were few women on production staff in the industry. When I was first looking for work, it was like that as well. And because there were few women on production staff, it was the men who moved up from those roles to become general producers and directors. But even in the past, I don’t think there was any huge split in the number of male and female animators.

-- Do you think this is changing?

I think so. I’m currently working at MAPPA, and most of the people who come on to projects are women. 

-- What do you think changed?

Although I’m not really interested in defining people in rigid terms of two genders… I feel like girls are more likely to get the job these days. That’s really all there is to it. (laughs) There’s a lot of diligent women, and there’s a lot of men who drift around a little too much. Perhaps men have gotten used to an easygoing lifestyle -- but that’s just life. 

I think it’s just because they can continue doing what they love at work their whole lives. Women on the other hand; they get married, have kids --these are critical junctures that place a limit on what they can do throughout their lives, and they realize that they don’t have time to rest on their laurels as much. As soon as you realize that, it’s difficult to live that easygoing lifestyle. Before I originally began looking for a job, I knew an assistant stylist who was in her 50’s. She once told me that “idiocy is only forgiven until age 26.” And “If you only do as well as a man, you’ll never be recognized.” She probably lived quite a tough life to have said that. She originally started working in the 70’s, and I felt a really persuasive tone from her. It really got me thinking about a lot of things.

-- She must have lived through a much crueler time, right?

I agree. That’s why I ended up leaving Studio Madhouse when I was 26 years old. I believed that I had to become a producer on my own, and it was at this time I became involved in the aforementioned "Samurai Champloo."

-- Not only women, but now more and more foreigners are getting involved in Japanese animation. Do you think the industry will accept such changes in the future?

I think that it’s best that we embrace this. I don’t think there is any difference between Japanese and non, besides our nationality. If one has a vision of what they want to create, then as an industry, it’s best for us to work together. If you are motivated, then I urge anyone to get involved in the industry regardless of race.

-- Going back to your first directorial work, "Michiko and Hatchin," what aspects of your workflow and planning have changed significantly leading up to your more recent works? ​

The director creates while imagining what they want to make. The director can embody the image of the project while sharing what they can say "is the most interesting" with their staff... as I had imagined. It is completely different.

-- As you mentioned earlier, you were a young lady working to manage on your own in the animation industry, which meant your first work was a turning point.

Yes, and even though I don’t like to place a whole lot of focus on my being a woman, of course being tasked with directing was a huge turning point.

-- Are there ever times that you look back on your previous works?

I don’t do that at all, actually. (laughs) When you start to look back on previous works, doesn’t it all become a bit scary? I start to think “Aren’t I going to die soon?” thinking about the years passed since. I feel like when I’m working on something, I’ve already checked it to death in the process. I always work to the absolute best of my ability on everything, so I really don’t need to look back on it anymore. (laughs) 

This became especially apparent when I became a director and began creating plots myself. When those plots became screenplays, I checked them. Even when someone else created the storyboards, I was always checking them. I’ve seen it all so much (laughs). So I always give priority to making new things. And now, even though I am working on the theatrical version of "Yuri!!!", my head is pretty occupied with the current figure skating season too. The Olympics only come once every 4 years!!!

An exemplatory talent well beyond her years, Sayo Yamamoto is without a doubt an individual who was born to make history. Through her progressive mindset, we're offered a peak into the innerworkings of the anime industry, that only she could offer. It was shared yesterday that her animated series "Michiko & Hatchin" is also now available on Crunchyrollwhich is excellent news. With the anticipation leading into the Yuri!!! on ICE film reaching it's peak, we couldn't be more excited to share the second and final part of our interview with Sayo Yamamoto with everyone. If you're interested in checking out the first part of our interview, you can find it here


Fate/Grand Order Mobile Game Launches in Australia

April 20, 2018 3:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

Announced today by both Madman Anime Group and Aniplex, the massively-popular mobile RPG Fate/Grand Order is finally making its way to Australia on both iOS and Android. Previously available in English only in the United States and Canada, the move is yet another win for the developing Japanese pop culture scene in Australia. Having been downloaded more than 30 million times around the globe, and frequently topping both the iOS and Android app charts, you've undoubtedly heard the name Fate/Grand Order thrown around more than once. 

For those not in the know, Fate/Grand Order creative producer Yosuke Shiokawa from DELiGHTWORKS Inc. had the following to say about the game:

"Fate/Grand Order is a tactical, turn based RPG which features several chapters that take the players to a different notable point in human history. Together with different seasonal events, players will be put to the test with challenging missions and quests," "One of the greatest appeals of Fate/Grand Order is that it is easy to learn, but hard to master. The game requires both in-depth strategy and skill to advance the player through ever changing obstacles."

Easily one of the most successful mobile role-playing games in Japan, Fate/Grand Order leans on the success and rich story of the original TYPE-MOON visual novel Fate/Stay Night to feed its ever-evolving story. Though I myself was never able to get super into the game, mostly due to a painfully short attention span, it's impossible to deny just how much my peers rave about the game. Just one word of advice, try not to overdo the in-game gacha system, okay?

Further information about the game can be found via the official website.


The Growth of Virtual Youtuber Group 'Game Club' Proves Trend Potential

April 20, 2018 2:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

Here in Japan, there's no trend more alive right now than that of Virtual YouTubers, with everybody seemingly giving it their all to create the best animated online persona to rack in the views and subscribers. I mean, just earlier this week we even shared a new book that teaches you how to become a Virtual YouTuber. There are over 1,000 Virtual YouTubers already, so it comes as no surprise that many believe the market to be stagnating. Virtual YouTuber Channel Game Club Project aims to prove that wrong, inching closer and closer to the 100,000 subscriber mark, with their first video uploaded just a month ago.

I've spent a bit of time now analyzing the charm of Game Club Project, and there are already a few things to take away from it differentiating them from the rest of the market. For one, unlike most channels, the Game Club Project actually consists of multiple members, with four members currently making up the club. Quickly browsing the channel info page, you'll find a small handful of information about each member, as seen below:

Nice to meet you! I'm Kaede Yumesaki, president of the "GAME CLUB PROJECT" (*''ω''*)

I'm active in our game club that we've established in a high school in Tokyo!
Together with the other members who love games, we're uploading videos as 'Virtual YouTubers' (∩´∀`)∩
If this made you think "sounds fun!" even just a little bit, please subscribe to our channel 

Members Introduction and favorite game
- Kaede Yumesaki : Pokemon US/UM, Shadowverse
- Ryo Kazami : Super Smash Bros. for WiiU
- Miria Sakuragi : Pokemon US/UM
- Haruto Domyoji : Splatoon2

Each member of the club is highlighted in their own video upload, allowing fans of the group to pick and choose their favorite personalities or games, additionally meaning there's a wider variety, allowing for a larger audience. As it stands right now, the majority of videos are currently only in Japanese-language, with English subtitles unavailable minus a few. That being said, it was easy enough to appreciate the characters interactions both on and off YouTube with each of them acting, well, like typical high schoolers.

The majority of the current uploads on the channel consist of a number of fan-favorite titles in Japan, but also ones often not focused on by Virtual YouTubers. With a heavy focus on Nintendo titles, you'll find Pokémon, Splatoon 2, Smash Bros. Wii U, and even Shadowverse. This is, of course, in contrast to the usual battle royale-style game choices of Virtual YouTubers that have become so popular in the past. Most videos on the channel already hover around the 100,000 view mark, with some going as high as 450,000 views. Again, not bad for a channel that started uploading just a month ago.

It's pretty easy to see why the channel is booming in popularity, and we definitely hope to see more creativity like this in the field. Here's hoping Game Club continues to grow in the future, and hey, maybe even throw in some English-language subtitles for the international fans, aye? You can find further information by visiting the club's YouTube channel.


My Hero Academia is Coming to Toonami on May 5

April 20, 2018 1:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

Adult Swim's Toonami announced that they'll be bringing all three seasons of My Hero Academia to their regular programming beginning May 5 via their official Facebook page earlier today. In addition to this, they also shared their new reworked line-up which moves FLCL season one programming to a new time. You can find the newly reworked line-up below:

10:30pm – Dragon Ball Super
11:00pm – Dragon Ball Z Kai
11:30pm – My Hero Academia
12:00am – FLCL 
12:30am – JoJo 
1:00am – Hunter X Hunter
1:30am – Black Clover
2:00am – Naruto: Shippuden
2:30am – Space Dandy
3:00am – Cowboy Bebop
3:30am – Ghost in the Shell 2nd GIG

Easily one of the biggest anime series in both Japan and the West right now, My Hero Academia has remained a fan-favorite since its original series aired in 2016. It's easy to see why Toonami would be wanting this in their programming, and it being even more accessible to yet another wave of to-be anime fans is extremely exciting. Not familiar with the My Hero Academia legacy? Well, why not start off with the series synopsis below:

The appearance of "quirks," newly discovered super powers, has been steadily increasing over the years, with 80 percent of humanity possessing various abilities from manipulation of elements to shapeshifting. This leaves the remainder of the world completely powerless, and Izuku Midoriya is one such individual.

Since he was a child, the ambitious middle schooler has wanted nothing more than to be a hero. Izuku's unfair fate leaves him admiring heroes and taking notes on them whenever he can. But it seems that his persistence has borne some fruit: Izuku meets the number one hero and his personal idol, All Might. All Might's quirk is a unique ability that can be inherited, and he has chosen Izuku to be his successor!

Enduring many months of grueling training, Izuku enrolls in UA High, a prestigious high school famous for its excellent hero training program, and this year's freshmen look especially promising. With his bizarre but talented classmates and the looming threat of a villainous organization, Izuku will soon learn what it really means to be a hero.

Set to begin airing May 5 on Toonami, you're not going to want to miss this one, especially if you're yet to check the series out. Further information can be found via Toonami's official Facebook page.


Platinum Games & DeNA Reveal New Game 'World of Demons'

April 20, 2018 12:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

Revealed earlier this week, both Platinum Games and DeNA are teaming up for their first and latest collaborative iOS and Android exclusive game, World of Demons. Set to release in English-speaking territories during Summer 2018 on iOS, it has been detailed that the game will come out on Android at a later date. World of Demons has been announced to be a free-to-play title, tasking players with defeating waves of yokai and oni that have begun plaguing the earth.

The hyper-stylized title pulls its distinct art style from traditional Japanese woodblock paintings, and honestly, it looks pretty damn good. The game will utilize touch-based controls to navigate the battles, tasking players with drawing symbols for their finishing moves. Much like many games in Japan, the title will also feature that distinctive gacha system, with players able to collect over 80 yokai in total to assist in the battle. 

Set to release on Apple iOS devices in Summer 2018, and on Android devices at a later date via the Play Store, we'll be sure to keep you updated as further information is revealed. Until then, those interested in diving deeper can check out the game's official website.

Source: Siliconera


Enjoy a Drink or Two at New iDOLM@STER-Themed Bar

April 19, 2018 5:00pm
by Jacob Parker-Dalton

If there are two things I love more than anything in this world, it's absolutely idols and alcohol. Now there's a new iDOLM@STER-themed bar that might allow me the perfect opportunity to combine the two.

Located in Osaka, Chuo Ward, ‘B@r 768Production’ (or ‘768Pro’ for short) recently celebrated its grand opening on April 16. Otaku bars are no new phenomenon in Japan, with an Ashita no Joe bar in Shinjuku; a kaiju and tokusatsu bar in Kawasaki; and a Gundam bar in Nagoya, to name but a few. Even with that being said, 768Pro is the first exclusively-iDOLM@STER themed bar in the country - no doubt iM@S merchandise features in other otaku bars, but you won’t find anything but iM@S in 768Pro. That sounds pretty damn good to me.

That should become obvious once you take a look at the shop. Covering the walls you'll find tapestries, towels and posters have been hung; countless figures adorn the shelves, and even the surface of the bar is covered with idols looking up at you as you have a drink. If that wasn’t enough for you, then even the glass you get your drink in will be iM@S-themed - they have an entire shelf full of them, and I didn’t even know such merchandise existed before this.

Speaking of drinks, to accompany a normal drinks menu, the bar also offers special idol-themed cocktails on a time-limited basis. Depending on the character or unit, the cocktail will have a wholly unique theme and flavor. Three cocktails have been revealed so far, with the first themed around Koume Shirasaka, with eyeballs suspended in a red cocktail to match her horror aesthetic. The second was a purple cocktail themed after the unit ‘individuals’ to celebrate the release of their debut single, ‘∀NSWER,’ on CD earlier this month. The latest was a refreshing, green beverage themed after Kaede Takagaki, queen of puns and alcohol herself. The bar also serves some food to go with those fantastic-sounding drinks, although it’s simple dishes.

With the widening of the iDOLM@STER franchise in recent years, it’s clear now that the franchise has many more fans from increasingly different backgrounds. SideM in particular, the franchise’s all-male series, has brought in many female fans, to accompany the injection of new fans when the Cinderella Girls anime aired a few years ago. But fans of all series can gather here, as the bar is making a special effort to celebrate characters from all of the series equally, including SideM content alongside Cinderella Girls, Million Live! and the original 765 Production. Furthermore, the three principal staff members all come from different sides of the franchise, meaning that no matter what particular series you’re into, you’re bound to find a kindred spirit.

I, for one, cannot wait to go check out this new bar, and I’m sure that it’ll be a huge success going forward given that it’s the only iM@S-themed bar in the country. I also hope that its success starts a trend of other iM@S-themed bars opening, preferably in Tokyo so I don’t have to travel. But, I’ll take what I can get.

You can check out the bar’s official Twitter here, which is the main source of news as well as contact with the bar. On weekdays and Sunday, they are open from 6 pm until 12 am, with the exception of Wednesday when they are closed. On Friday and Saturday, they are open a little later, until 2 am, starting from the same opening time of 6 pm. They are also available for reservations via telephone or Twitter direct messages.


Meet the Middle Aged Idols Challenging Age, Image, and the Industry Itself

April 19, 2018 4:00pm
by Jacob Parker-Dalton

“Age has nothing to do with it!” When I first heard the idol group Jyonetsu Dream’s tagline, I was immediately taken aback by the profound gravity of their message.

The Japanese idol scene is a vicious landscape. It's often characterized by harsh training, strict beauty standards, and toiling for a while before you’re even able to make your debut. Many idols are also discouraged from having romantic relationships by their agencies, or don’t even have the time to do so - Momoka Ariyasu from ultra-popular idol group Momoiro Clover Z famously retired this year, saying that she wanted more time to live a “normal life.” Although conditions have certainly improved in recent years, and as a whole pale in comparison to the harsh conditions of neighboring Korea’s idol industry. With that being said, it’s still a difficult road for any aspiring idol to choose to take.

All the more reason, then, that many up-and-coming idols have to be enthusiastic, fit, and young. Young men and women are much more likely to be able to keep up with harsh training regimens, maintain their enthusiasm, and spend a significant amount of time working to break into the mainstream. It’s also not uncommon for idols to be retired once they reach their thirties, or even late twenties because of this - the perceived wisdom is that only young people can make it in the idol industry.

But the emerging idol group Jyonetsu Dream is different. Comprised of women ‘around 40’ years old, many of whom are mothers, the group is refusing to adhere to the idol industry’s strict standards surrounding age. They are singing and dancing together, and they’re pretty good at it.

I happened upon the group by accident, having been invited by a friend to attend a variety show in Kawasaki which they were performing in. The acts before hadn’t exactly set a good precedent. The show was essentially showing off the talents of a particular dance studio, and a lot of kids are involved in that sort of thing - you can imagine the kind of acts I had to sit through. But, then again, I hadn’t exactly gone there to see an amazing show; I was more there to support my friend, and I had nothing better else to do anyway.

So when Jyonetsu Dream appeared on stage as the penultimate act, I was really surprised. My friend had hinted earlier that there was an “mom idol group,” but there were plenty of acts before that featured groups of middle-aged women, so I thought that I had already seen that. Compared to the idols I usually see, they certainly looked older, but they were still beautiful in their own way. Furthermore, the way they moved was certainly not like any middle-aged women I’ve ever seen - their rhythm and energy rivaled that of the younger idols I am a fan of.

Before I knew it, I was absolutely enthralled by their performance. Not only were their songs original, but also really catchy - I particularly found myself tapping my foot to “The Loving Doll (恋するキャストドール~球体関節人形~),” and immediately regretted not bringing my penlights. They followed that song with a heartfelt ballad, in the form of “The Same Old Evening (いつもと同じ夜),” which showed a more low-key side to the group, only making me appreciate their talents even more. By the time they finished the show with their theme song, “Jyonetsu
Dream,” I was completely won over to the group.

However, it wasn’t just the songs that I liked. As I said, the Japanese idol industry is incredibly strict, forcing harsh standards of beauty and youth on any aspiring idols. Agencies often simply don’t believe that older idols can shine as well as younger ones, but Jyonetsu Dream proves them very wrong. These older women are shining as brightly as many of the other idol groups out there, putting on great shows to entertain their fans. And, as their theme song proudly says, age has nothing to do with it.

Later, as I looked up information about the group, I also discovered that they are trying to spread this message to other aspiring idols put off by the perception surrounding age in the modern idol landscape. Anyone can join the project, called AIP, by applying on the website. Beyond Jyonetsu Dream, the project has three other groups - “Nijiiro Dream,” “Tokimeki Dream” and “Future Dream.” Together, the four groups perform in live venues around the country, entertaining audiences and fulfilling their dreams at the same time.

And who are we to deny these hopeful idols a chance, just because they are older than many of their peers? If they can entertain, if they can shine, if they can make you tap your feet and crack a smile, then I think it’s a project worth supporting. I may be a huge fan of the iDOLM@STER, but the example that the group is setting is one that might change the idol industry forever, for the better.

You can find more information about Jyonetsu Dream and the AIP project on their official website.


Queen of England's Appointed Tailors Craft Perfect Char Aznable Uniform

April 19, 2018 2:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

Chances are within your lifetime you've probably seen some pretty incredible cosplay costumes, but I can guarantee nothing will ever come close to this. In promotion of the upcoming Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin anime film, Shinjuku department store Isetan is holding a "WELCOME TO ZEON" exhibition in their stores, and this is where things get really crazy. Calling on the talents of The Queen of England's own appointed tailors, Dege & Skinner, we've now got not just one, but three of the highest quality Char Aznable costumes you'll likely ever see.

Using the same fabrics for both the jacket and trousers that can be found on the British guard uniforms, this is a very, very high-quality piece. Similarly so, it has the price tag and exclusivity to match it -- coming in at a little over $8,000 USD, with only three in existence. Talk about something else, right? Set to be on display during Golden Week here in Japan, you'll find these pieces on display at Shinjuku Isetan from April 25. 

Also set to be made available at the event is a number of other goods, including high-fashion dress shoes, briefcases, and even a 1/144 HG Zaku II Gunpla kit to put inside said briefcase if you will. Those interested in checking out further information can make their way over to the official website.