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Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon ~Amour Eternal~

On October 24, 2016, in English, Life in Japan, by 01. Hannah
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Manga is often adapted to and from many other mediums, such as anime, light novels, visual novels, video games and, in this case, musicals. Many famous works in these mediums have been adapted to musicals, most notably, Sailor Moon. The Sailor Moon musical franchise consists of 31 installments that have been running since 1993. Last Thursday a friend I went to see the latest release, Amour Eternal, at the AiiA Theatre Tokyo. I am no theatre critic but I shall do my best to comment on the show both subjectively and objectively.

The first thing we did before entering the theatre was hire subtitle glasses. I feel the need to talk about this because the idea of subtitle glasses is just awesome! Although I have seen shows here in Japan without subtitles and mostly understood, the option of 100% comprehension is very appealing. In theory these are perfect but in practice they need some tweaking. Inside each lens is a clear computer screen with the subtitles projected onto them. You could adjust the position and size and language (between Chinese and English) of the subtitles with a small handset. The problem with these lenses is that if the subtitles weren’t placed over a dark area they were very difficult to read, which sometimes made it hard to focus on the acting. Also very occasionally the subtitles weren’t aligned well between the two screens which led to seeing two overlapping images instead of one. I couldn’t tell if this was a calibration issue or if it was because I repositioned the glasses. The weren’t exactly very comfortable either. Overall these are mild complaints and the benefit outweighed the problems I had (and they made me look fabulous). I think it’s a service that should be offered at more shows.

The musical itself was about 3 hours long with a 15 minute interval. The entire cast was played by female actors, including the male and gender ambiguous characters. The story is based off the Dream Arc, the fourth arc in the original manga. It was fairly cliché at a lot of points but enjoyable regardless. The costumes were very bright and colourful and the acting was dramatic and captivating. The special effects weren’t groundbreaking and often didn’t have the desired effect if you weren’t viewing the stage from straight ahead (like my friend and I) but they definitely added to the show. The music was a catchy cross between anime music and stage music. The dancing was energetic and incorporated elements from the anime and manga such as the battle stances and special attacks or each of the Sailor Senshi. The show was by no means a theatrical masterpiece but it was certainly a unique experience and I loved every minute of it! It had a different atmosphere from western musicals and was definitely an enjoyable experience, particularly if you are a big fan of the Sailor Moon franchise. I would highly recommend going to see a Sailor Moon musical if you have any interest at all and the opportunity to do so.

Before the curtains dropped for the final time there was an encore performance of the show’s main number and of ‘Moonlight Densetsu’ for a dose of nostalgia. When the lights came on again after the show I took a moment to look around. The audience was almost entirely comprised of adults (the gender ration was quite even as well). Whilst most people consider Sailor Moon to be for little girls it was nice to see the adults who grew up with Sailor Moon there to appreciate the show. On the way out we passed the actresses who played the Inner Planet Senshi waving, smiling and thanking the audience for coming. After vacating the premises we stopped at the merchandise stall and probably spent way too much money before heading home. I couldn’t have asked for a better night.

Now to quickly summarise by answering all the important questions. Was it overpriced? Probably. Was it cliché? Definitely. Were the subtitle glasses a cool idea? No doubt. We’re they practical? Not quite. Was it the show the best thing I’ve ever seen? By no means. Did I have way too much fun? Yes. Did I lose it when Tuxedo Mask winked at the audience? God yes! Did I spend way too much money on merchandise? Maybe…

And most importantly, despite its flaws would I do it all again next year? Absolutely!

 

It was a cold and windy night; the streets were lined with tourists and people looking for a good time. Suddenly we see it the bright lights, the vivid colours and loud music. There we were, dumbfounded and excited. The sheer look of this place was enough to make you go into a trance. It was the Robot Restaurant, that crazy looking place in Kabukicho, Shinjuku and it was as crazy inside as it was outside.

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A ticket to experience this show and meals runs around ¥10000 per person but can be found online for less in some travel sites. We got our tickets for around ¥8500, including food, online. Upon entering you will be given a ticket for one free drink and sent to a waiting room until your show’s seating is started. In the waiting room there is a musician playing, seats and a bar, perfect for relaxing before the show. About 10-15 min before the show, the staff will allow people to enter the show room. Inside the room they will ask for your ticket and show you to your seat. Right before the show starts your, dinner will be brought to you. Our meal was nigiri sushi and it was delicious.

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The show itself is around 2 and a half hours with around 3, 10 minute intervals to separate the different stories and events. The show starts with a dance and band performance in which they perform on moving platforms and even dangling from wires. The performers are amazing, the amount of focus is amazing and the introductory show is very lively and fun. During the intermission a food cart appears and you are able to purchase popcorn and other treats for the rest of the show. The second act consists of an interesting storyline resembling something like a cross between the Power Rangers and an amazon warrior show. Following the second intermission is a dance show with lasers and smoke. After this is a parade and the end credits in which all the cast is introduced one by one.

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Overall the Robot Restaurant is an amazing experience but like all things it does have some issues. The price is kind of high and the English version of the show does have some bad translations. In the end the price is justified by the quality of the performers (who must demand a hefty wage) and the charm of these strange English translations add to the story. So if you are in Shinjuku and would like a memorable experience and dinner, the Robot Restaurant is definitely the place to go!

 

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This summer I went on an adventure to the lovely town of Nara with a friend. Nara is most famous for the deer that roam around in the town and interact with the people there. while there are many beautiful attractions the deer seem to be the most interesting too many of the tourist. Because of this this post is mainly on those deer.

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The deer Nara are considered a National Treasure along with Todai-Ji’s giant bronze Buddha statue which is considered the largest in the world. Unknown to many people is there prior to World War II Nara’s deer were classified as sacred and up until 1637 the murder of one of these deer with a capital offense punishable by Death, this date is the last known offense of said law.

 

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The highest concentration of deer happens to be around Nara Park and Todai-ji which is locatedin the park. Thanks to said deer the city of Nara has a calm and relaxing  atmosphere surrounding it as they seem to be completely unaffected by the amount of people around them. This along with the amount of restaurants and food stands along the road make Nara park an ideal lunch destination. We opted for lunch at a small restaurant and enjoyed traditional soba while watching the deer roam freely out of the windows. If you   prefer something quick or wants to eat on the go there are many affordable & delicious Festival style food stands surrounding the road leading up to Todai temple. But beware As the deer will follow anyone carrying anything resembling food.

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The deer are very friendly and kind to the people all over town. They are very inteligent and can act just like another member of town, waiting for crosswalks and only crossing the street when the sign is lit green. While it is very peaceful and relaxing to watch, sit, and even just rest with the deer there is a level of danger that most ignore and this is apparent when you try to feed them. though out the town many places sell crackers that are made for the deer. these crackers are made exclusively by the WNOW for them. when these amazing creatures see or smell these crackers they go crazy, i mean crazy, the deer love these crackers and will go after anyone that has them restlessly. The deer begin to fight one many people are bitten pushed and hit by the deer trying to get a snack ahead of one another. Aside from those incidents Nara and it’s deer are truely a site and experince worth the trip all on its own.

 
HELLO in eight different languages

Re-learning to Communicate

On October 16, 2016, in English, Life in Japan, by 01. Hannah
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Living in a country where you don’t really know the language well can be hard. It’s something many people can probably relate to. In my case I know enough Japanese to get by but little more than that. I can communicate somewhat effectively but not at all efficiently which leaves me giving explain actions like ‘I’m going to put some things in some bags’ instead of ‘I’m packing’. The majority of what I say becomes over-simplified or over-complicated.

I’m not a complete beginner but I am also far from proficient. In fact, I would say I’m average at best. It’s not being hard on myself, it’s merely the truth. I can say more than ‘hello, my name is…’ and less than being able to express my opinion on Donald Trump as the potential future president of America. As such, I’m stuck in a weird state of constantly only understanding 50% of what’s going on (though some would argue I was already like that). I feel like a child again. I can’t express myself properly and people look at me strangely while I try to explain myself with my limited vocabulary of random words and some strange hand motions. I feel the same frustrations as a child trying to express themselves except, unlike a child, when all other forms of communication fail I cannot resort to breaking down into a sobbing mess. Instead I must pretend I know how to be an adult, be patient, and try again.

All cynicism aside, despite the daily confusion I know I am learning more every day and I just have to do my best. I am here to immerse myself and to study the language as best I can. I know that people are understanding and most the time these issues doesn’t bother me too much. I love living here despite the language barrier and I am constantly learning and growing. Learning a new language is challenging but also extremely rewarding. For me at least, it’s the challenge itself that makes it fun and I welcome it. I know that in the end, being here is definitely worth any struggles I may face.

 

Previously, from July 7th to September 11th, there was a massive showing of artwork and other exhibits by Studio Ghibli at the Mori Art Museum in Roppongi Hills. My girlfriend and I were lucky enough to catch the showing before it ended, and I’d like to share my experience. I should probably note that I haven’t yet been to the Ghibli Museum itself yet, and this was the first time I saw any sort of Ghibli exhibit. Also, most of the exhibition banned photography unfortunately, but I will do my best to summarize.

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I didn’t grow up with Studio Ghibli like my girlfriend did. Whereas she’s seen nearly all of the their films, and has even met with the actress who portrayed a main character in Laputa (her favorite), I saw my very first Ghibli movie only a few years ago. After moving to Tokyo, we set upon a Ghibli marathon to watch all of the most classic Ghibli movies. I have become quite the fan, and when this exhibit opened, I really wanted to see it all for myself.

img_5991-1-13Heading to the Mori Art Museum, the streets were filled with Doraemon. When we finally arrived at Mori, we were met with a long line of people all ages waiting patiently in crammed lines. Pokemon Go was still very recent, and everyone from children to their grandparents were swiping their phone screens and discussing what they might see within the exhibits. We paid about ¥2,300 (a bit over $22.00), got our tickets, and headed up to the display area on the 52nd floor.

img_6009-10-18After being ushered into the correct entrance of the showing, we entered a small bar area with Tottoro himself managing the register, and then into a viewing area featuring many Ghibli movie posters. The walls were completely covered with international editions, recreations, and alternate versions. Further in, the high walls revealed concept sketches, fliers, mini-posters, and other promotional materials related to the films. My degree is in graphic design, and I’ve always been a great fan of movie posters, so this was quite the time for me.

Next, we spotted something a bit unexpected–a perfect to-scale recreation of the director’s office. Down to the books on the shelf, it was an exact replica of the real office at Studio Ghibli, complete with a reference photo as proof. We weren’t allowed to go inside (or take photos) but it was a very interesting sight indeed. Beyond that exhibit, we entered a display room that, from floor to ceiling, displayed nearly every single piece of merchandise ever made featuring Ghibli characters. We weren’t allowed to take photos or touch anything, but it was a sight not unlike anime shops in Akihabara near the Electric Town exit, but it was all Studio Ghibli fare.
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Finally, the signs warning us to not take photographs disappeared, and we were ushered into a darkened room. Breaching the exit, our eyes adjusted to something fantastic–the iconic Cat-But from My Neighbor Totoro, complete with lights, and filled to the brim with happy fans. After waiting our turn in line, we were given approximately 2 minutes to set-up and take our own photographs, as well as explore the inside of the big cat himself. The attention to detail in this exhibit is absolutely stunning, and it was the highlight of our trip. In my attempt to hurry to get my own photograph of myself inside the cat-bus, I was flanked by an granny and her family before I was able to get my photo. She looks like she’s enjoying herself, at least.

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img_6300-29-3After that exhibit, we entered the Laputa: Castle in the Sky area, which was the main area of the exhibit. The Laputa exhibit was extra amazing, most likely because of the film’s 30th anniversary, and was what excited both of us the most about coming to the exhibition. This area featured a glowing scale model of the sky ship from Laputa, as well as the terrain below. Characters were hung from the walls in all directions, and in the center, the giant sky ship glowed and elegantly raised and lowered itself as if paddling it’s way through the clouds. It was a quiet, dimly lit room with a very high ceiling with an amazing view of the city below. The combination of this exhibit and the room it was presented in made you feel as though you may be in Laputa yourself, overlooking all of Tokyo.

img_6343-35-6 img_6341-34-5 img_6030-18-22 img_6022-15-21 img_6018-13-20Sadly, from there we exited the exhibit. The Ghibli gift shop was on a lower floor, and once we made our way down, we found it to be even more crowded than the exhibition itself. For sale was a massive variety of figurines, notebooks, bags, clothes, movies, books…anything Ghibli you could ever want. It was all very expensive, but that didn’t stop many fans from filling their large shopping bags and fighting back through the crowd to exit.

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img_6424-46-12After leafing through some very expensive Blu-Ray releases of the films and looking at all the adorable plush toys, we decided to save our money. Before we left however, we both decided to pay the ¥500 fee to see the Mori rooftop. You walk through what looks like the set of a horror movie to the uppermost deck, which featured walking platforms, speakers, seats, and tons of young couples. We were on the roof of a 52 or 53 floor building, so the view was worth the money alone. We took lots of pictures, danced to their playlist of early 90s rock, and dodged a few rude tourists running around on the platform before returning home.

img_6044-20-1Overall, our experience was very positive. It was a great place to take a date, and the other visitors appeared to have a great time as well. As an English speaker, it really helped to have an interpreter, but I can’t exactly fault the exhibition for being almost entirely Japanese. The only complaint I had was the ban on all photography for over half of the exhibit. I understand why it was put in place, but because of it being a limited engagement, it’s difficult to find photos of everything that I saw in the exhibit, and my memory isn’t so great. That said, if there is a similar exhibition in the future, you can count on my reservation.

img_6067-24-24All photos credit to Kris Leisman and Midori Oyama

http://www.roppongihills.com.e.nt.hp.transer.com/museum/