Tokyo Memories, Day 17: Last-chance Shopping in Akiba, and Sailor Moon Shining Dinner Theater! Plus Day 17.5 (departure day)

A month ago Dustin and I began our trip in Tokyo! So, as with our last trip, I’ve decided to copy out each day of my travel journal into my blog. Each day for the next 18 days I will share a post of what we did in Tokyo a month prior.

So, let’s get into it! (Or, start with day 1 here!)

From Shauna’s Journal

Day 17, December 30th, 2019

Our last full day, and what a day! Early in the morning I set out for Akihabara which was PACKED with muggles people- maybe because there was a big Comiket this past weekend? Anyone who travelled to go to Comiket would surely want to visit Akiba, too, so it would make sense. I went to Radio Kaikan to check out the dolls and doll supplies on the 7th floor. I bought the parts to make a partner for the gothic doll I created from my last trip in 2017!

After braving the full-to-bursting Radio Kaikan, I got conveyor sushi at Aburi again and also checked out the Aki-Oka Artisan area, which was fancy and had a cool vibe.

Then, I headed to AzabuJuuban to meet up with Dustin and go to the Sailor Moon Shining Princess dinner theatre show! We walked around a bit until our reservation at 6:30. We got seats right in front! The resturaunt is very cute, with costumes on display and an upstairs room with ADORABLE merch (totally overpriced, but adorable…). The Sailor Moon jewelry is stunning, but $$$$$! We did get to keep our Sailor Moon dinner plates and drink coasters, though!

Anyhoo, we got our drinks (Dustin: Sailor Mercury blue alcopop. Me: luna latte) and our food (Dustin: Usagi’s Omelette. Me: Sailor Jupiter’s Pasta).

Our food and drinks were pretty good… however, like the Robot Resturaunt, nobody is really going for the food… it’s the show!

***Spoilers of the Dinner Show- Scroll to the video to skip!***

The show started with Luna on screen telling us that the Negaverse is up to no good >.< Each Sailor Scout got their own battle sequence, and lots of effects were used, like lazers, shadow screens, smoke, and so on.

At one point (During Rei’s fire sequence) I suddenly started crying!? I guess the Moon Prism Power of nostalgia washed over me. Today being our last day also probably had something to do with it… lots of pent up emotion.

The plot continued- the Sailor Scouts defeated the evil, except for Usagi, who slept through the entire thing! So, now that Tokyo is safe, the scouts show us the sights of Tokyo, and they basically visited all of the places we visited on this trip, so of course my tears kept flowing… for Harajuku there were jfashion dancers, and Asakusa was “festival time” so the Scouts got drums and other percussion instruments and played them on stage.

Then, Luna comes back and says “Oh no! A dark force is here and *gasp* it’s even stronger than before! Strong enough to destroy Tokyo– or even the entire WORLD! And so of course the Scouts come together to banish it.

One of the best parts was when Tuxedo Mask was overtaken by the baddies- they encapsulated him in a green lazer cage and he fell to the ground. When he rose he was under their spell and tried to attack Sailor Moon, slapping and choking her, slashing her down. She collapsed, and all of the other Scouts were down around her too, just like the end of the first arc of the series, she heard their voices and it inspired her to come back, and it was a happily ever after.

Then Luna announced a mini-show would start and that we could now take pictures and video- I got some great shots, and the entire theme song dance routine!

Then the Scouts and Tuxedo Mask walked around each table, waving and posing for pics.

I really enjoyed it, and Dustin said he liked it too! ❤

Day 17.5, December 31st, 2019

Today I write in black like my deep, dark soul! Oh, tormented with dismay at this tragic day.

Jk. We had a wonderful trip. ❤ Today we packed and checked out, and loaded our luggage onto the Airport Limo Bus. We are now crammed onto our first plane and wishing we could just conk out and wake up at home… or back in Tokyo! Seriously excited to see the doggos, and Dad.

Today before we left I did manage to visit a cool store called Stellaworth- somehow I hadn’t ever gone there before, but it was mentioned in the Otome Guide pamphlet I found at Sunshine City.

Japan, I love you. Rest assured, I will be back some day. Count on me. ❤

-Shauna

Your Friendly Neighborhood Comic Shop

Do you have a comic shop in your life?

When I was a kid, we didn’t get out for spur-of-the-moment shopping trips much since my Dad did shift work and my Mom, who also worked, was a homebody who would plan driving routes and trips carefully in advance with some anxiety. She would stress the need to be home within a couple of hours lest the dogs spontaneously combust in her absence. My parents are totally wonderful and I had a happy childhood filled with books and comics, but it didn’t really include comic shops.

In my teen years, I would sometimes visit the Chow’s Variety shop that was a 20 minute walk from my house, but it was more of a specialty magazine shop that just so happened to have some comics (alongside plastic-wrapped nudie mags, fish bait, and baseball cards), so the pickings were slim.

Today I’ve finally become familiar with my local comic shop, Nerdvana- it’s a little gem in Fort McMurray with comics, manga, graphic novels, figurines, and kind, attentive staff.

Nerdvana staff teamed up with some local filmmakers and friends in the last couple years to create a really cool web series that recently won an award for Best Ensemble Cast at the Miami Web Fest! The first season has been completed and hopefully a second season is forthcoming…

I even helped out as an extra a couple times (you can see my 0.5 second of fame at 7:35 during the flashback scene on the pilot episode and at 1:13 on the series finale...)

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I’ve got a couple of ongoing comic subscriptions at Nerdvana right now (Snotgirl, The Crow, Isola, Lady Mechanika) and it’s fun to pick them up and chat with the staff about nerdy things. I also enjoy the serendipity of browsing a physical store, and I’m happy to support a small local shop run by friendly people who do cool stuff in our community!

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Long live our comic shops!

New Fruits Basket- First Impressions!

Takaya Natsuki’s Fruits Basket was one of the first manga series I began collecting in my teen years, and I also loved the original anime.

When I moved out from my parents’ house, I left behind my Fruits Basket manga in their attic (there were too many for me to fit in my suitcase!) and eventually ended up donating them to a library a few years later (still couldn’t fit in my suitcase!)

I haven’t read Fruits Basket, or watched the original anime, since those years long ago, so I was excited to see that the manga was being remade and accompanied by an anime reboot! I have a Crunchyroll subscription, so I watched the first new episode today and found myself getting sucked back into the story.

This new Fruits Basket keeps the humour, optimism, and sentimentality of the original while presenting a fresh, detailed new art style that I really love. The shading is lovely and the highlights really pop!

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For me, the casting and animation of Tohru is most important for this story- she is the main protagonist of course, but more importantly she’s also someone who was really inspiring to me when I was younger, so for me to enjoy this new reboot Tohru has to feel right. Happily, I wasn’t disappointed! The voice acting by Iwami Manaka captures Tohru’s bright personality perfectly.

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When I worked my first job in high school, as a grocery store cashier, I was thrown onto the till with very little training, and customers would get mad at how slow I was ringing through their purchases and looking up their product codes for produce. The store I worked at was very busy, lines were long, and I struggled a lot at first. I would sometimes be driven to tears.

During this time I specifically remember looking up to Tohru as a role model- from the very beginning of the story we come to know that she has a hard life, but she works hard through every circumstance to try to make things better, not just for herself, but especially for others. Her work ethic made me want to be strong too- and I did get better at my job eventually!

The story of Fruits Basket involves the animals of the Chinese zodiac- each member of the Soma family is cursed with an animal form, so it’s fun to see each one revealed as the story progresses. In the first episode we see three such transformations happen in quick succession- I love the powdery & otherworldly mist that is unleashed in the new anime!

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Most die-hard fans of Fruits Basket (that I knew of, anyway) were either Team Kyo or Team Yuki- these two boys are the major contenders for Tohru’s heart, but I found it hard to pick sides, myself!

I always did have a little thing for Shigure, though…

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There are also lots of other interesting characters who will be revealed as the show goes on, each with very distinct personalities, so it will surely be increasingly entertaining!

Overall, I’m impressed with this first new episode, and I’m sure that this new Fruits Basket will capture the hearts of fans both new and old!

tohruuuu

 

Daily Inkling: THE MONSTER

Normal Happenings has tagged me in another of their awesome Daily Inkling challenges, and this one is really fun:

Write a terrifying fictional monster… and then tell us its greatest weakness.

I will admit, I spent over an hour exploring some creepy subreddits and creepypasta looking for inspiration to get me in the mood, and I drew a few ill-fated attempts at creepyness, but it just wasn’t working. I wasn’t feeling anything, and my drawings were junk.

Then I remembered a terrifying memory from my childhood that had been dormant and forgotten for some time… I didn’t need to come up with something, because it had already haunted my childhood nightmares…


 

Did you ever watch Goosebumps? I was a huge fan when I was a kid, of both the books and the show. I begged my Mom to sign me up for some sort of fan club that sent Goosebumps packages with jokes and stickers and stuff in the mail (she eventually relented.) I forced my entire family to save up the tabs of their Kraft Dinner boxes for weeks so I could mail them in to get one of the special limited-edition prizes – a rubber Slappy hand puppet. I had an audio cassette of Deep Trouble that I listened to over and over again as I lay on my waterbed gleefully imagining the watery depths swallowing me up.

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I considered myself to be a pretty tough kid when it came to scary stories, and none of the Goosebumps books or episodes really phased me… until…

I can’t remember the specifics of the episode. I don’t recall the context or background of the story that unfolded, or the intents of the characters. All I remember is the THING.

The THING changed my eating habits for weeks. My parents and grandparents were worried about me and the obvious effect that the episode had had on my impressionable mind.

A quick bit of internet sleuthing tells me that the episode was called It Came from Under the Sink, and that the creature of my nightmares was called a “Lanx”.

I, however, referred to it simply as…

THE POTATO!

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Yup, this thing majorly freaked me out. I was a kid who loved to eat, and I guess the idea that something as sacred as a common potato could be tainted so utterly blew my little mind. At the very end of the episode it was revealed, teeth gnashing, and I wouldn’t eat my mashed potatoes (a regular staple) for weeks.

So, what is the weakness of THE POTATO?

Time, I suppose. After a while I got over my fear of THE POTATO- hunger trumped fear, in the end.

Another thing that helps?

Drawing a cute potato.

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Ok, actually he is kinda creepy too, in his own way. Ah, well.

Smuggling Rats Across Canada: A Charming Family Memory

Did you know that rats, particularly domesticated “fancy rats” are available in many parts of Canada as pets? Much like a hamster, these little guys are cute and charming companions. My family has a history of having pet rats, starting with my Father.

Before I was born, my Dad had a rat named Studley. He would tell me about how Studly would accompany him on walks, and even swims, and that he was just The Best Rat Ever. Seriously, if you don’t believe me, rats are cute. Look at this ‘lil guy!

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So, one Easter morning in the mid to late 90’s, when we were living in New Brunswick, my little sister and I awoke and ran into the den, where we found the usual candy, chocolate, and little toys awaiting us. After surveying our treasures, our parents peeked into the room and asked if we’d observed the cage yet. We had a large cage on one side of the room which, until recently, had been home to our rather grumpy rabbit, Peter. While Peter was quite old and sadly didn’t make it till Easter, I gazed inside and saw that two new friends were quietly exploring the cage.

My sister and I were delighted and each named one of the rats- we decided to name them after the Rugrats, Tommy and Chuckie. Tommy was my rat, and he was white with grayish markings on his back. Chuckie, my sister’s rat, had a more reddish tinge to his spots (like Chuckie’s hair!)

The rats were so adorable- while many of our family and friends who visited were squeamish of them (particularly of their tails), others would remark at how cutely they munched on their food, how diligently they cleaned themselves, and how curious and smart they were. We would let them crawl over and around us, and they loved perching on our shoulders as we watched TV or did our homework. The two were brothers, and would sleep nestled up curled around each other.

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We loved our rats very much. Domesticated rats live longer than their wild counterparts- about 3 years. Tommy and Chuckie both passed away of “old age” within short time of each-other, and it was one of my first real-life experiences with the end of the natural cycle of life and death.

A short while after Tommy and Chuckie died, my parents got us two new companions to fill the rat-shaped holes in our hearts. I asserted my tween power and declared their names would forever be known as Frodo and Sam, as I was in the middle of reading The Lord of the Rings and enjoying it immensely.

Our new rats were again white with some grayish colorations. Frodo was my little guy, and he was very active, always climbing things and wanting to have a look around. Sam was a bit lazier, but again they were best buddies as well as brothers. Sometimes we would give them pieces of French Toast Crunch cereal, and laugh at how cute they looked crunching on their little rat-sized toasts.

After we’d had Frodo and Sam for a little while, our parents informed us that we were moving to Northern Alberta, to a province far away in the middle of the Boreal Forest. I pictured us living in a quaint little wooden cottage in the middle of nowhere. Great! Sounds fun! But, although my parents didn’t want to alarm us, they mentioned that rats are banned in Alberta. While this policy is meant to keep Alberta free of wild rats, it affects pet rats too.

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This poster is so dramatic. “White rats can only be kept by zoos, universities and colleges as well as recognized research institutions in Alberta. Private citizens may not keep white rats, hooded rats or any of the strains of domesticated Norway rats.” – Alberta.ca

My family is united and defined, perhaps more than anything else, by our love of animals. My Mom has worked at vet clinics and at the SPCA, and we’ve had all sorts of creatures in our home over the years. Our pets are our family, and it was inconceivable to us that we wouldn’t bring the rats to our new home in Alberta. So, we prepared ourselves for Frodo and Sam’s potentially perilous journey.

My Mom actually had both of the rats anesthetized and neutered at her vet clinic (I’m thinking this procedure, for pet rats, is a medical rarity?)- they were both boys, but now there was no possible way they could breed even if they somehow escaped into the wild. I suppose she did this partly so that if we DID get into any trouble at the airport, we’d have at least a chance of keeping them.

So, we finally set out to move, with a large number of critters. Each of us was responsible for at least one pet-carrier, and we took our babies to the airport- a cockatiel (Jerrie), 2 cats (Jill and Smudge), an aging Labrador Retriever (Stinker), and the two rats.

The rats’ carrier was made of thick plastic with thin slots on the sides. Panic gripped me as we approached the security gate to get cleared for our first flight. I watched in terror as the airport staff inspected the carrier, peering inside and craning his head.

“These are…?”

He looked at me quizzically. I steeled myself.

“My hamsters.” I squeaked.

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Whether it was an act of mercy on his part, ignorance of rodent species diversity (or the regulations of our destination province), apathy, or simply not wanting to initiate a dramatic scene, he let us through without any difficulties. I can only imagine the absolute chaos that would have ensued if they had tried to take away our Frodo and Sam. It would have been devastating and traumatic for our whole family, and probably the entire room…

And so, we made it to our new home, safe and sound with our entire family, including the rats. We settled into life in Alberta. You might think that Frodo and Sam, once they lived out their few years on this earth with us, were the last rats my family would know in our new home province. However, this was not the case…

My mom continued to work in SPCA and vet roles in our new town, and as had always happened before, we often ended up fostering or adopting animals that didn’t have homes. And wouldn’t you know it, it turned out that other people in Alberta had pet rats, and in some cases (such as moving into an apartment with an inquisitive landlord) they needed to re-home their rats.

In steps my Mom, of course- she can’t bear to see an animal in need- and so over the years we acquired three more rat companions. One was a lone rat who we named Sir William after the character in A Knight’s Tale. Bill, or Billiam, as I often called him, was white with black spots, and had the softest and sweetest temperament of any rat I’ve yet met. Later we also became the guardians of two sister rats named Sugar and Spice for their respective fur markings.

I’m still living in Alberta, but my family has since gotten a home back in New Brunswick- they’ve had more rats since moving back. I haven’t myself, but I’d be willing to bet that there are more pet rats in Alberta living out their quiet lives in secrecy today.

 

Shocking Anime Memories & Rare Ghibli Musings- Anime is a format, not a genre!

One of the main goals of my ALC conference presentation There’s a Graphic Novel for Everyone (Yes, Even You)   was to reinforce the importance of recognizing comics, including manga, as a format and not a genre.

Similarly, anime is a format capable of telling any kind of story.

I’m heading out to Animethon tomorrow, and as such I’ve had several conversations with friends and coworkers recently about anime. One such friend was reminiscing with me today about favorites from childhood, and we discussed how sometimes anime surprised us with its content.

Anime: Building Solid Foundations For Childhood

And Beyond

When I was very young, before I even got into Sailor Moon or Pokemon, I was prone to watching and re-watching my favorite VHS tapes over and over and over again. I’d watch them so fervently that I could speak every word of dialogue along with the tape. One of my favorites was a particular version of Heidi which had  beautiful music and charming style. Another was a lively and unique version of Snow White. Yet another was a tape of the first 3 episodes of the action-packed extra-terrestrial fantasy cartoon, Thundercats.

Little did I know that in the might of these three VHS tapes, probably plucked from the bargain bins of convenience stores by my family, anime would begin to sink its hooks into my impressionable young mind!

By scouring the internet some years later on a hunch, I confirmed that my Heidi movie (which was dubbed in English) had ties to one of the most well known and celebrated anime studios both in Japan and internationally, Studio Ghibli. My Heidi was a condensed version of a full Japanese anime series created by Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata, the two founding directors of Studio Ghibli.

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This was back when Studio Ghibli was not yet established- Alps No Shoujo Heidi was released under Zuiyo Eizo which later became Nippon Animation. Nippon, I also learned with some digging, created the Grimms Fairy Tale Classics series, including my aforementioned favorite version of Snow White!

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Oh, and Thundercats? It was animated by a Japanese studio called Pacific Animation Corporation.

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Snyarf, Lion-O!

I Didn’t See That Coming (and Neither Did He)

I have a vivid memory from when I was quite young of sitting in the living-room with my Dad watching an anime that he randomly found while browsing tv channels. Two people are battling in some sort of combat ring, the sort of setting where a competition like martial arts would take place. The fighting is bloody and intense, and keeps amping up in its recklessness.

Suddenly one of the fighters takes the pointer and middle fingers of both of his hands and thrusts them into the temples of the competitor, making a calculated strike-and-pull. A close up is shown of the victim’s retinal arteries (?) being ripped open, and blood gushes out of both sides of his head.

Everything goes black. Now he can’t see and must continue the fight completely blind.

My Mom’s spidey sense must have tingled in worry about her pre-pubescent daughter because she walked into the room at the peak of the action, raised her eyebrows to the roof with a sidelong glance, and said something like:

“Doug, what in the hell are you two watching?!”

Dad was just as shocked as I was –

“Well, it’s a cartoon! I didn’t…”

We sat transfixed and watched the rest of the show. I have no idea what the name of it was, and to this day I can’t remember anything about it besides that scene, but this experience was my first big glimpse of anime’s capabilities beyond friendly magical girls and elemental monster battles, and certainly far beyond any western animation I’d ever laid eyes on.

Please Sir, I want Some More (Ghibli)

Outside of my heavily edited VHS version of Heidi, the first Ghibli movie I remember watching was Princess Mononoke. I was still quite young, and, once again, this was something my Dad stumbled upon while browsing channels. We both realized it was a bit more bloody than we were expecting (which is funny, because it’s to my knowledge the only Ghibli movie with that level of gory imagery- not that there’s anything wrong with that!) and I enjoyed it thoroughly.

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Dad… what is wrong with the boar, dad…?

Years later, Dad finally decided it was time to invest in a BluRay player and brought home a PS3, along with our first ever BluRay: a copy of Ghibli’s award winning Spirited Away. 

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While he seemed to have bought it mainly as a means of testing out the assuredly Beautifully Clear HD Quality Image and Unsurpassed Sound of a BluRay on his TV, I was immediately smitten with the intricate backdrops, the strange characters, and otherworldly happenings in the movie.

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I waited until the newness of the BluRay fever had died off a bit and asked if I could keep the film and add it to my small but growing anime collection. Dad acquiesced with a fake sigh and a “should have known you’d like this one, kiddo”.

Ghibli movies have continued to blow me away with their devotion to truly understanding and amusing children and childlike minds, their attention to even the minutest and most seemingly insignificant details, and insightful depictions of the true good and bad faces of humanity. Their works are often fantastical, sometimes sentimental, occasionally tragic (don’t watch Grave of the Fireflies without some tissues handy) but always beautiful.

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Kiki’s Delivery Service

Last year I had the opportunity to fulfill a long-held dream of visiting the Studio Ghibli museum in Mitaka with my husband while on our trip to Japan. It was an experience I’ll never forget and will hold in my heart forever.

 

Again for the People in the Back: Anime is a Format,

Not A Genre

In my early teens, when I first began working part-time, I began to purchase anime of my own accord. There was no rhyme or reason to what I bought- usually it was whatever overpriced “Volume 2, Part 1” randomness my local CD Plus had in stock. Some were wonderful, and some were underwhelming, but as I learned more and more about anime and manga, I fell more and more in love with both.

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Chibi Vampire Karin, one of the first anime I purchased with my meager grocery store earnings…

In time I began to understand the vastness of the possibilities of this uniquely Japanese format. To anyone who looks at an anime and immediately thinks “I’m not into that stuff”, I challenge you to do a little investigating online or talk to staff at your local library and see what’s out there that might be relevant to your interests.

Curiously, it seems that there aren’t many non-fiction anime produced from what I can tell- I’ve come across a few, but biographical and NF anime (and manga) seem to be rare. I’m not sure why that is, as it’s just as valid a format as any. If anyone has any insight on this I’d love a comment or DM!

Aside from an apparent dearth of non-fiction anime, here are just a few anime that pop into my head as some examples of the versatility of the format, but they are only a few drops in an ocean of worthwhile anime.