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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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