I want my Totoro (but I was not fast enough)
December 23rd, 2011
12:22 PM ET

I want my Totoro (but I was not fast enough)

Last week, the Austin-based Mondo (The Alamo Drafthouse's collectible art boutique) shook up the Internet by announcing a brand new collaboration project between two very well known names - artist Olly Moss and Studio Ghibli. The first poster in this series was based on "My Neighbor Totoro", the beloved 1988 animated film about two young children who encounter a mythical creature.

A total of 590 of the posters were made, 420 of the regular version in English and 170 of the variant version in Japanese. Mondo announced them on sale on Twitter last Friday, and within three minutes, they were sold out.

It was impressive to see how voracious collectors were to own this piece of art, at $50 for the regular version and $90 for the variant.

Twenty-three years after the release of the film that inspired it, "My Neighbor Totoro" has firmly established itself as a part of the iconography of Studio Ghibli. Even in America, the furry grey beast with the pointy ears has become a memorable symbol of all the magic and joy associated with Ghibli productions. FULL POST

My girlfriend is virtual: An American's experience with 'LovePlus'
Manaka, pictured here, is one of the girlfriends in "LovePlus."
December 9th, 2011
05:22 PM ET

My girlfriend is virtual: An American's experience with 'LovePlus'

In 2009, a game was released in Japan that took the country's gamers by storm. Called "LovePlus," the game was made for the Nintendo DS and allowed the player to take on the role of a male protagonist in a high school setting. Your goal in the game is to interact with young women at your school, befriend them, and get to know them.

"LovePlus" got off to a slow start, but since games of this type (called "dating sims") are popular in Japan, it's not a surprise that it gained steam. However, the amount of steam it gained was pretty major, as it sold over 240,000 units the year of its release. Considering that the average dating sim normally would not break 100,000 units, "LovePlus" was already making waves .. but there was much more to come.

The game got more international recognition thanks to a young Japanese man who chose to marry one of the game's fictional characters. However, very little of the attention was positive. Some American reporters deemed it a "publicity stunt" - people who may not understand that in an otaku world, real love for a 2D character is a perfectly acceptable reality.

Fast forward a few years to 2011, in which a group of American fans worked tirelessly to translate the game's into English. Since I had always been curious about what dating sims were like ( I had played very few since they are rarely imported to the United States or released in English), I wanted to take the opportunity to play the game myself and understand what it was that made Japanese male gamers react with such passionate fervor. FULL POST

Miyazaki takes on darker topics with new film
Hayao Miyazaki is known for directing light-hearted and life-affirming animated films.
December 2nd, 2011
12:47 PM ET

Miyazaki takes on darker topics with new film

While Studio Ghibli –the Japanese animation studio known as the "Disney of Japan" - may be renowned for their ability to create magical worlds that captivate children and adults alike, it looks like studio co-founder Hayao Miyazaki may have something else in the works for their next project.

In a recent interview with Japanese entertainment website Hollywood Channel, Ghibli producer Toshio Suzuki said Miyazaki's vision for the studio's next film will be more "realistic" and less geared toward fantastical universes.

While Suzuki indicated Miyazaki's next outing was not inspired by the March 11th earthquake and tsunami, he did say the director "had already predicted the current state of Japan during the planning stages of his next work."

Suzuki described the film as "not the sort of work that everyone in the audience can relax and watch."

For hardcore fans of Ghibli's work, this may come as a surprise or even sound a bit troubling. Since the studio's inception in 1985, they have focused on joyful, uplifting animated films with themes of family, love, hope and the preservation of nature.

One of the few exceptions was  post-World War II film "Grave of the Fireflies," which Ghibli was hired to animate and produce. Based on Akiyuki Nosaka's semi-autobiographical novel of the same name, it's of interest to note that the author intended the book to act as an apology to his own sister, who died of malnutrition in Fukui. The novel was based loosely on Nosaka's own life events as a younger man. FULL POST

The store where cute addicts go to die: Japan LA
November 29th, 2011
05:12 PM ET

The store where cute addicts go to die: Japan LA

I only lived in Los Angeles for a few years, but as anyone who lives there can tell you, it has something for everyone.

The glitzy scenery of Hollywood, the movie studios of Burbank and the shopping paradise of Melrose were just a few of the places that I liked to walk at night, watching passersby and hoping to discover hidden secrets.

When it came to the holidays, shopping in L.A. was always fun but overwhelming. So many things to choose from! So many malls! So many options! It was on one of these late November days that I rushed down to Munky King, the premier designer vinyl collectible store on Melrose, in hopes of scoring a limited item for a friend.

Unfortunately, I missed out on what was a very limited supply, and so I wandered down the street back in the direction of my car trying not to let my feet drag with disappointment. And, lucky for me, instead of staying on Melrose, I decided to turn down a side street and take a shortcut.

Seeing Japan LA for the first time was the kind of thing that makes a Japanese culture addict stop in her tracks. Or at least, I stopped in mine. Cold. FULL POST

Why geek girls are the new hot commodity
"Geek Girls Unite" author (and cupcake fan) Leslie Simon examines the tribes of geek girls and the power they hold.
October 13th, 2011
11:19 AM ET

Why geek girls are the new hot commodity

Any woman with a geeky bone in her body knows the feeling: Watching the other girls in school be asked out on the dates or to prom, standing off to the side while people paired off in groups, waiting to be picked second-to-last in P.E. class.

Being a geek meant getting used to being shunned socially, being your own best friend. It didn't always feel good, but at least we got to read our favorite books and comics, play our favorite games, and find our own worlds to belong in.

Now, suddenly, there's a very different movement happening.

Geek girls are in demand. FULL POST

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