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There's an AI Running for the Mayoral Role of Tama City, Tokyo

April 12, 2018 12:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

For residents of the painfully small West-Tokyo area of Tama City, there's been a recent storm of chatter surrounding the upcoming mayoral election. This isn't without good reason, of course. You see, if the current nominee Michihito Matsuda happens to earn the most votes during this election, that would make them the world's first AI (Artificial Intelligence) mayor, ushering in a new wave of possibilities for the district. Let's talk about this, as someone who actually lives in the Tama area.

If you ask any foreigner living in Japan what their least favorite time of the year is, chances are they'll tell you local election season. It's the time of the year where desperate candidates and potential mayors-to-be drive around in their obnoxious white vans with megaphones attached and scream in your vicinity why you should vote for them at the most inconvenient of times.

These are the times that I dread leaving my house the most, so imagine my surprise when passing the local electoral signboard when I noticed that one of the electives wasn't some smug person at least ten times my age, but rather, a robot. Not just any robot either, this was a fully fledged AI that was running to become mayor of my district. 

The Artificial Intelligence, which has been dubbed under the name Michihito Matsuda, seems to operate by a simple slogan; "Artificial Intelligence will change Tama City." In an effort to offer "fair and balanced opportunities for everyone," the potential AI mayor can be broken down into three main selling points. 
  1. AI Michito Matsuda offers the ability to discover and analyze relevent petitions pertaining to Tama City, as well as break down the positives and negatives and statistically dictate whether this would have a positive or negative effect. 
  2. Intake the dialogue and wishes of residents, carefully calculating what the best way to implement them would be if they match the people's desires.
  3. Find level-compromise in common interest conflicts amongst the people of Tama City. 
Analyzing the policies of the potential AI mayor, we're met with a number of changes that would see artificial intelligence greater implemented into the everyday lives of the people in Tama City. Whether that be the transit, elderly support, or broader topics, it'll be Michihito Matsuda's mission to see them implemented. 

If you assumed that artificial intelligence itself couldn't run for mayor, you're absolutely not wrong; that just happens to be where things get truly interesting. The two-person team pushing Michihito Matsuda consists of both Tetsuzo Matsumoto, the vice president of mobile provider Softbank ($74 billion revenue), and former Google Japan representative Norio Murakami. Standing at the forefront of this all, however, is Michihito Matsuda. 

For someone who is extremely interested in seeing further technological integration into human activity, it's quite disappointing to see the poor online management of the campaign. Take for example the official website of Michihito, where you'll see a mishmash of poorly placed together images and coding to create a barely passable layout. How about the fact that, with a simple moment of searching, I've managed to find the potential mayor's design files available for purchase

Well, regardless of what happens, it'll definitely be interesting to see the outcome of this upcoming election. I for one am ready to offer our new AI overlord my full support, that is, if its policies on foreigners in the area are the sort that'll allow me to continue happily living here. 


Latest Pokémon: Let's Go! Trailer Reveals Post-Game Master Trainers

October 19, 2018 2:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

It was just earlier this week that I was sharing some news about the release of a new trailer for Game Freak's upcoming Pokémon: Let's Go, Pikachu! and Pokémon: Let's Go, Eevee! titles on Nintendo Switch, but it doesn't look like The Pokémon Company is ready to stop dropping teasers just yet. Uploaded to The Pokémon Company's official YouTube channel, the latest trailer gives us a look at some of the post-game content we'll be able to enjoy, namely the "Master Trainers" system that's being implemented.

I'm not really sure how cool I am with post-game content just being shown like this, I actually like a bit of surprise, but none-the-less it's pretty neat to see in action. The new "Master Trainers" system effectively introduces a master for each of the original 151 different Pokémon, a trainer that specializes in that Pokémon exclusively, who you can battle with that same Pokémon to earn the title of "Master Trainer". It's a really interesting system, though I really hope that the game doesn't provide you with the particular Pokémon for the battle and leaves trainers catching and training their own. 

Set to release exclusively on Nintendo Switch on November 16, further information on both ​Pokémon: Let's Go, Pikachu! and Pokémon: Let's Go, Eevee! can be found via the games' official website. Those interested in getting their hands on the upcoming games, as well as a limited-edition Pokémon: Let's Go! Nintendo Switch, be sure to check out our ongoing giveaway, here.


NASA Announces Designated 'Godzilla' Constellation

October 19, 2018 1:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

One of the more interesting pieces of information to cap off the working week, NASA has officially announced an all-new constellation that you can spend your time looking for in the sky -- the King of Monsters itself, Godzilla. The pop cultural icon joins numerous other characters in the sky, bringing just a little more light to our night alongside Hulk, The Little Prince, Mt. Fuji, and mythological legends Hercules, Perseus, and more. I've never been too good with constellations, but a full visualization of the new Godzilla constellation can be seen below:

Made up of numerous likely blazar, a definite blazar, a starburst galaxy, a gamma-ray pulsar, and an unknown entity, the lining is much like other constellations in the fact that you'll definitely have much of your imagination do the work. NASA states on their official website to describe how the constellation came to be " Godzilla's trademark weapon is its "heat ray," a fiery jet. This bears at least a passing resemblance to gamma-ray jets associated with black holes and neutron stars."

Obviously there are a lot more technicalities to the Godzilla constellation that I'm not even going to bother trying to wrap my head around, but for those who are interested in checking it out, NASA has created a page to detail it all on their official website.


Funimation Annoucnes End of Licensing Agreement with Crunchyroll

October 19, 2018 12:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

In a somewhat shocking turn of events, it was announced today that Funimation will be ceasing operations with Crunchyroll beginning next month from November 9, 2018. The announcement comes just a year after the acquisition of the anime distributor by Sony Pictures Television, to which Funimation CEO Gen Fukunaga shared that the acquisition directly correlates with the decision to stop collaborative efforts between the two companies. Originally announced in 2016, the partnership brought together the catalogs of both anime giants and allowed customers to reap the rewards of both services in numerous ways.

While subscribers to both platforms are likely to feel a little bit of a hit, it was shared by Funimation's Gen Fukunaga that FunimationNow subscribers will have access to several hundred subbed series, but are going to be losing a handful of dubbed series. In addition to this, some content licensed during the partnership will remain on both platforms for now, with currently simulcasting series such as My Hero Academia and Attack on Titan remaining on both platforms. Both platforms have shared that they will disclose what content will be removed at a later date.

While this is quite a substantial loss for Crunchyroll, it's been reported that the breakup was executed on good terms between both companies. In addition to this, it's been detailed that Crunchyroll's sister company VRV will be replacing FunimationNow on their streaming platform with content from anime streaming service HIDIVE in the next few weeks. While the timing for this new HIDIVE partnership seems like far too much of a coincidence, Forbes reports that insiders have stated it was unrelated.

It'll be interesting to see over the next few months how Sony plans to proceed following their withdrawal of Funimation from the Crunchyroll/VRV partnership. It wouldn't surprise me if this withdrawal is Sony's way of showing that they mean serious business when it comes to taking Funimation to the top, and that is something that will certainly prove interesting from an industry standpoint. Until we find out, however, you'll be able to keep up with everything Funimation on Crunchyroll until ​November 9, 2018. We'll be sure to keep you updated as further information is revealed. 

Source: Forbes, Funimation


‘Kaiji’ VR Game Heads to Smartphones

October 18, 2018 2:00pm
by Jacob Parker-Dalton

While fearing for my life isn’t usually my idea of fun, when it comes to Nobuyuki Fukumoto’s gambling series Kaiji, I can just about stomach some immobilizing dread. Indeed, nothing allows you to do so more than the Kaiji VR game, which has been a constant staple in Japan’s many “VR attraction” venues in recent years. Now, that attraction is making it’s way to smartphones - giving even more people the chance to experience Kaiji’s dread first hand.

Titled Kaiji VR: The Nightmare Bridge, the game seeks to replicate Kaiji’s experience crossing a bridge suspended between two buildings, as was one of the ‘gambles’ featured in the second part of the series. Simply reading or watching the arc was nerve-wracking enough, and I can promise you that it’s even more terrifying in VR, having had the opportunity to test it out for myself last year.

It’s worth noting that the VR game has already seen two ports for PlayStation VR as well as Nintendo Switch last year, but the game’s port to smartphones means greater accessibility, especially for those who can’t simply go and experience it in the VR attraction venues. And what a perfect time to do so, with Kaiji spinoff Tonegawa currently airing, and the manga having just entered a new arc.

The difference between the various ports over the years are interesting, as although the PSVR version of the game was more or less exactly the same as the original version since the Switch doesn’t support VR, the version available on the console uses a third person camera in some instances as well as gyro controls. I sincerely doubt that the non-VR version on Switch can capture the same dread you’re able to feel when playing the game in VR, so it’s great to see that version available on smartphones is the VR version - for which you’ll, of course, need some sort of VR goggles/phone strap.

The recent activity in properties related to Kaiji is curious, with both spinoff manga Tonegawa and Hancho receiving an anime adaptation, and now with this surprise smartphone port of the VR game. I can only hope that this is to gauge interest for a third season, so if you haven’t checked out the VR game yet, then I’d recommend you do - if only to tell MADHOUSE that we want a third season already. Kaiji VR: The Nightmare Bridge is available now on the App Store and Google Play for 360 yen.


Akira Toriyama’s Original Character Designs for ‘Jump Force’ Revealed

October 18, 2018 1:00pm
by Jacob Parker-Dalton

Things seem to be proceeding well with Weekly Shonen Jump's upcoming brawler Jump Force, which is scheduled for release next year in 2019. OTAQUEST already had a chance to sit down with the game at this year’s Tokyo Games Show, and while our gameplay impressions were mixed, the recent news of legendary mangaka Akira Toriyama’s involvement in the game was enough to get us excited again. While Toriyama’s original character designs were already previewed during Bandai Namco’s press conference, this month’s V Jump gives a better look at them, as well as some new information.

First up are two good guys who will be helping on your journey through the tumultuous world of Jump Force. The bald gentleman is named Grabber and is the leader of Anbras Base, where the player character finds themselves upon awakening. The robot next to him is named Navigator and will provide you with support on your journey - presumably related to character backstories, gameplay controls, and much more.

Next to them are two evil characters, who you and the various characters of Jump will find themselves clashing against. On the left, we have Cain, who is a leading figure of the evil organization ‘Venoms.’ The text also states that he is incredibly powerful, which is probably why he thinks that wearing a gold suit of armor is cool. To his right, we find Garena, an associate and member of the same organization of Cain. Interestingly, it is noted that underneath her beauty she hides a secret - perhaps one that could win her over to the good side?

One of my main questions surrounding Jump Force was the story’s antagonist since villains from Jump are being featured as playable characters. It’s not surprising that the villain has turned out to be an original character, but getting a veritable legend such as Toriyama to pen the designs was a great move - we’ve already seen how great his designs are in action, and especially in 3D thanks to his continued work on the Dragon Quest as a character designer. 

With the game’s antagonists revealed, all that really remains now is to see what other Jump characters are confirmed as playable - most recently we’ve had Seiya and Ryu from Saint Seiya confirmed, along with Yu-Gi-Oh!’s Dark Yugi/Pharaoh. I’m still holding out for some characters from Nisio Isin and Akira Akatsuki's excellent Jump series Medaka Box to be confirmed, but we’ll just have to wait and see.


SIXTHSENSE RIOT is TORIENA's Greatest Work to Date

October 18, 2018 12:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

Earlier this week we saw the release of TORIENA's latest album, "SIXTHSENSE RIOT", which I had been giving a bit of coverage up until it finally hit stores across Japan and began streaming online. There were a lot of reasons to be giving it coverage, but more than anything I was just really, really excited to be able to listen to the finished album. Well, its finally here, and I spent most of my day listening to it yesterday to really affirm just how I felt about it. Simply put, "SIXTHSENSE RIOT" is TORIENA's most comprehensive and complete work to date and is not an album I'll be putting down any time soon.

From start to finish this album is an undeniable masterpiece the comes in loud and clear with the opening track "SIXTHSENSE". After immediately setting the mood there, we're rushed into the hard-hitting genius that is "BOKU WA FUTSUU NO KO", a performance-ready blend of both classic chiptune sounds and particularly unforgiving kicks. From there we're re-introduced to a number of already familiar tracks including the incredible "DOPING LIFE" before reaching the best-titled track of the year "GIRLS DO NOT DRESS FOR BOYS".

Across the total 12 songs on "SIXTHSENSE RIOT" we're met with a myriad of different genres, from TORIENA's more traditional chiptune to Eurobeat and club-ready ballads. Yet even with all these varying styles, the album feels coherent and doesn't leave me hand-picking a few songs that I want to play in a certain order. If I had to choose a favorite song from the album, it'd be a close throwdown between "HI-NRG MONSTER", "SIXTHSENSE", or "BOKU WA FUTSUU NO KO". Though, with that being said, I'd dare say every track on the album kinda slaps in its own way.

I'm not going to give this album a number out of ten, but rather, I'm going to really strongly encourage you to go check out the album either in-store if you're in Japan, or definitely online via Apple Music, iTunes, Spotify, or whatever it is you use. TORIENA did something with this piece that genuinely has me wowed, and I can't wait to see where she takes this direction next.

As always, you can get even more information on TORIENA's latest "SIXTHSENSE RIOT" album, as well as her launch party event in Shibuya, via her official website.


Kyary Pamyu Pamyu Releases 'Koi no Hana' Live Music Video

October 17, 2018 3:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

Kyary Pamyu Pamyu made her grand comeback just a few weeks ago following the release of her much-anticipated fourth album "Japamyu" and it's accompanying nationwide tour CHERRY MARTINI of Stardust. Contained within the tracklisting for the album were a handful of tracks we'd seen in the past, possibly the wildest of which being a cover of Capsule's 2001 "Koi no Hana" from their album "High Collar Girl"; well, that track earlier this week received a live music video from Kyary's concert, and it absolutely rules.

Filmed throughout Kyary Pamyu Pamyu's ongoing CHERRY MARTINI of Stardust tour in Japan, the footage comes courtesy of SPACE SHOWER TV ahead of their documentary on the queen of Harajuku's return to the musical spotlight. The music video alone is gorgeous, but most importantly it showcases Kyary's full return to form with elaborate and dazzling live shows and performances. While "Koi no Hana" is certainly not the hyper-pop sound you'd normally hear from Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, I think she totally nails it and I'd love to see it performed live.

Stemming from her latest ten-track album "Japamyu", you can check out even more of Kyary Pamyu Pamyu's latest activities via her official website.