The animal celebs of Japan: Maru, Otousan, Shironeko and more
Shironeko has his own calendar.
March 9th, 2012
11:28 AM ET

The animal celebs of Japan: Maru, Otousan, Shironeko and more

America is no stranger to cute animal culture. Memes featuring lolcats have been popular since 2006, Cute Overload spearheaded the cute animal blog movement in a huge way years back, and a cleverly shaved Pomeranian named Boo has more than 3 million fans on Facebook.

Clearly, people really enjoy animals, and the way they have been idolized as a part of Internet culture comes across loud and clear. Simply put, an animal brings a smile to the face of most, and it's hard to wear a frown when you're watching a baby lemur happily hold up his arms for a massage.

Leave it to Japan to take something like cute animal culture and put a new spin on it. And the animal celebrities of Japan are quite distinctive.

Shironeko and his cat family are not new to the Internet (English websites have called him "basket cat" because of his propensity for sleeping in baskets), but they are something of a phenomenon. With 540 YouTube videos, a blog and even a Twitter account, it's apparent that Shironeko and his family members have major presence when it comes to Japanese fans.

Each day, a new video is uploaded of one or several of the cats, although Shiro is featured predominantly. The most popular videos in the series show the cats sitting calmly as their owner stacks fruit on them, dresses them in empty ramen bowls and more. It's kind of like the Japanese version of Stuff on My Cat, but more bizarre. FULL POST

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Anime fans debate most overrated titles
Madoka Kaname, right, and Homura Akemi, left, are two of the central characters of the anime "Madoka Magica."
March 2nd, 2012
12:37 PM ET

Anime fans debate most overrated titles

If there's anything that anime fans love to do, it's to argue about anime.

Merely proving the point, Japanese website biglobe recently published a top 50 list of the most overrated anime series of all time. The results were culled from a poll of 33,000 votes. While beloved titles like "Neon Genesis Evangelion," "Bleach" and "Naruto" made the list, as expected, they did not rank in the top 10.

The No. 1  slot was held by "Madoka Magica," a 2011 series about a "magical girl" named Madoka Kaname who makes a trade with a spirit to become a magic user in exchange for the granting of a single wish. The show spawned multiple spinoffs, including several mangas, two video games and a novel, and was licensed for the U.S. market by anime distributors Aniplex USA.

Other titles in the top 10 included "K-On," "Bakemonogatari," "Fate/Zero," and "Angel Beats."

American sites such as Crunchyroll posting about the top 50 list saw commenters arguing the selections fervently. It brings up the question: What qualifies an anime as overrated, anyway? FULL POST

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Fall in love with J-drama's best couples
"Hermes" and "Yamada" as portrayed in the movie "Train Man."
February 22nd, 2012
04:22 PM ET

Fall in love with J-drama's best couples

When it comes to love stories, the Japanese enjoy telling them just as much as we do. But this fangirl thinks that when it comes to great romance and unforgettable couples, Japanese drama wins.

While most Japanese romance dramas feature different types of characters such as the determined tomboy, the goofy nerd and the snow queen, the underlying combination of romance fantasy fulfillment and comedic elements seem to create winning relationships.

As fans, we fall in love with these characters because of their relatable quirks (such as being a genius pianist who can't manage to clean her house), then stay to watch the way those quirks interact with the quirks of other characters. The more unlikely the romance, the more it seems to appeal -  a continuous theme in all forms of love stories.

"People usually start their descent into the rabbit hole of Japanese pop culture with anime," said Eric Allerton, J-drama fan and founder of the Japanese pop culture network Gaijin Kanpai. "Anime can be very over-the-top, but at the same time it can appeal to a lot of different people. "

"The characters have a lot to do with it," he said. "You see a lot of the same archetype, but they have their own distinct personalities."  Both anime and J-drama feature common and beloved character types like the "tough weed" girl who can survive anything life throws at her. FULL POST

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Video game cosplayer
January 13th, 2012
05:11 PM ET

MAGFest runs on video game music

A few weeks ago, we told you why MAGFest was the festival that gamers were least likely to know about, but also the one that they absolutely could not miss. A four-day event featuring live concerts, panels, cosplay and more - all centered on video games and the love of the culture surrounding them - the con just celebrated its 10th year and scored 6,200 attendees, doubling the record of the previous year.

This was my second year at MAGFest, and I was determined to find out why attendees both raved about it to their friends and planned to attend next year's event before this one ended. And after a few days, it was clear that despite a lot of other powerful factors, one theme was its underlying thread.

That theme was video game music: how fans interpreted it, reacted to it and created because of it. FULL POST

Anime for the apocalypse
January 6th, 2012
05:12 PM ET

Anime for the apocalypse

An anime fan's tastes pop up pretty early in the initial addiction phase. Whether it's shojo, harem, mecha or horror, it won't take long to become an expert on your topic of choice. When it comes to mine, I'm always drawn to chaos. What does the end of the world look like? How would I survive?

If something happens on December 21, 2012, my fandom has prepared me for the worst. For example, I've learned by watching anime that you're probably safer if you climb in a giant mech during the apocalypse. And that you may end up having to kill friends or loved ones. It's probably also highly likely that most of your battles will be fought flying through the sky. FULL POST

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