Sophie Arlett cosplays, well, cross-plays as Ryuk, the goggle-eyed god of death from the smash hit anime series Death Note. The costume was one of the creepier highlights of the spring Expo for us, we just hope she didn't go home on the Tube in costume.
Death Note is available on UK DVD from Manga Entertainment.
Daikaiju Salon, in Tokyo hotspot Nakano, is the barmy brainchild of director and screenwriter Takao Nakano, the guy behind such sexploitation movies as Big Tits Zombie and Killer Pussy. His bar is a paean to all things 50-feet tall and rubbery, the sort of B-movie monsters that would scrap with Godzilla and eat King Kong for brunch. Open only on Wednesdays, it’s a haven for monster-movie fans and a place for Nakano to show off his impressive collection of toys, outfits and autographs.
But first things first: Let’s order a drink. Nakano himself hands over the menu, which includes special “kaijuice” cocktails (“kaiju” means “monster”) made from melon soda, yuzu juice, pink ginger ale and so on with a dash of rum or some other spirit and featuring a muddler topped with a goofy toy monster stuck on the end; a beer float designed to look like some sort of wretched swamp; or, you know, just a coffee.
There’s food, too. The kaiju ramen is served with “magma sauce” (a delicious Thai-style spicy meat relish), topped with broccoli florets, potato chunks, a hard-boiled egg and wieners cut into the shape of tiny giant octopi. The ice cream, meanwhile, comes topped with specially made chocolate monster cookies. Food and drink items start at just 500 yen (£4).
Lining the shelves and perched on every surface are Japanese toy monsters and superheroes of all shapes and sizes – some old or new classics (from Ultraman to Sea Blob) and others handmade by Daikaiju Salon’s regular customers. Nakano’s wingman, Pico Pico, makes professional-looking B-movie monster heads, which are dotted around the bar and available to try on.
Before you know it, Nakano is squishing your head into a sweaty sponge-rubber mask and fitting your arm with a giant blue claw before leading you outside for a monster battle with Mucho, the bar’s mascot; this leviathan-lady costume is propped outside the entrance, but occasionally comes to life to harass the customers and pose for photos.
Nakano’s other pastime is organising regular live “catfight” events such as Department H, where women dress as heroine hussies or tentacle tarts and wrestle for an audience of fetishists, usually exposing some beastly breast in the process. Well, what else would you expect from the director of ExorSister? Photos from these events are displayed in photo books that Nakano will thrust proudly into your hands.
Despite Daikaiju Salon’s hentai heritage, it’s actually good clean fun, and in the daytime local children head over to make their own monsters from Plasticine. This is in keeping with Nakano’s original aim: “These days, kids prefer superheroes to monsters,” he tells me, “so I started this bar as a way to make monsters popular again.
With its intimate atmosphere – stoked by a YouTube wall bursting with French pop, classic J-pop and homemade creature flicks – this tiny bar is a great place to meet like-minded monster maniacs and indeed Nakano himself. Just don’t be tempted to go on a rampage around Tokyo after you leave: You’re not really taller than a skyscraper, you know.
Japan’s idyllic Inland Sea is the setting for several crucial events in the life of James Bond, who, you will remember, read Oriental Studies at university, and revealed in You Only Live Twice (or in Japanese, just to be difficult, Die Twice) that he spoke fluent Japanese. In the original book, he ended up living for several months as a fisherman on the coast of the Inland Sea, shacked up with Kissy Suzuki and waiting for his memory to return after some sort of SMERSHy trauma. Unknown to him at the time, when he left, Kissy Suzuki was pregnant with his son, James Suzuki, who turns up in a later James Bond story.
In 2002, author Raymond Benson wrote a follow-up called The Man With the Red Tattoo. Officially approved by the Ian Fleming estate, it featured an older James Bond returning to Japan to hunt down the origins of a deadly poison. He ends up back on the Inland Sea, on a tiny little island called Naoshima, which has now gained its own James Bond Museum. It is a single large room containing Japanese language histories and paraphernalia about James Bond, as well as a section dedicated to The Man with a Red Tattoo. This includes Raymond Benson’s first-draft outline for his magnum opus, as well as the inadvisably legible manuscript of his booze-soaked “research trip” to Japan. Here’s a man who knows his way around junkets, who managed to get a chunk of his holiday paid for by the Japanese National Tourist Board, on the understanding that he would write something about Naoshima.
Considering that one of the non-Fleming James Bond novels (Icebreaker) is literally the worst book I have ever read, I doubt that Benson’s effort will set the world on fire. However, it has obviously charmed the locals on Naoshima, who were ecstatic that someone mentioned their pokey little island in a book, and have clearly been praying for the last decade that someone will be mad enough to turn Benson’s novel into the next Bond film, and thereby put it firmly on the international tourist map.
Pride of place in the museum is given to a TV running a constant loop of From Naoshima With Love, a clumsily written, leadenly-paced, “thriller” about a British secret agent who is sent to Naoshima on a quest for a vaguely defined MacGuffin. On the way, he discusses artwork installations with various stuffed shirts. Clearly, at a long and boozy lunch, the local bigwigs of Naoshima had voted to spend their 2007 tourism budget on making a film about their island, in which they themselves starred as the local equivalents of Q and Tiger Tanaka.
Hence, we have a handsome but wooden British “actor” (played by the local JET coordinator, Andrew Cockburn), stumbling around Naoshima, for a series of scenes with even woodener middle-aged Japanese civil servants, who robotically recite dull details about the island. Cockburn’s character refers to himself as “JB”, and the inattentive visitor who only stays for five minutes is presumably expected to believe that this is a bona fide, Fleming-approved James Bond story. The sign next to the screen optimistically calls this a “television show” although it is difficult to imagine any other television that is likely to be showing it apart from the one in the museum itself.
At the end, “JB” ends up shagging his Japanese assistant in a boat on the beach, while a Moneypenny substitute tells him that the mission was a diversion merely to give him a day’s vacation in Naoshima. I pondered the implication that Naoshima tour guides are actually pimped out by the town council to visiting Englishmen – hopefully that wasn’t on Raymond Benson’s itinerary, but who knows? The final title pops up with “James Bond will return to Naoshima again… hopefully”.
I found the whole thing rather sweet. Where else would a town devote so much time and effort to celebrating a mere media tie-in novel (the prison-shower bitch of the writing world)? And no matter how doomed to failure, imagine the money it would have made for Naoshima if it had somehow worked – well worth the effort, and hopefully a creative leap that other small towns should embrace. And just think of the fun they must have had – a JET coordinator is responsible, among other things, for improving their district’s cultural relations. This usually means making sure that nothing obscenely inappropriate is written on the municipal website in English, but can also mean they get to play at being producers and event organisers. Mr Cockburn, who graduated in Japanese and Management from the University of Leeds, clearly had a whale of a time spending Kagawa Prefecture’s tourism budget on making a silly movie. The local girl he gets to mount in the final scene apparently won her role in a talent contest. Make your own jokes.
The Naoshima James Bond Museum is one of those bizarre curios that makes travel on Japan's backroads such a joy, and should surely be on the itinerary of any Bond fan. You can even have your photo taken dressed as Bond, and inexplicably punching a sock monkey. So, something for everyone.
The Naoshima James Bond Museum is a short walk from the ferry terminal at Miyanoura. Open 9-5 364 days a year except New Year’s day. Admission free.
Japan, the place where the streets are lined with cute. At least that’s the impression the country all too often gives out to western eyes, and it’s very little wonder why. Take RSP, the unit behind the ending theme to episodes 155-167 of Bleach: Series 8, for example. They were originally formed as a result of a talent competition thrown together by Sony Music Entertainment. The music giants were seeking a new dance group that could capture the energy and vibrancy of the Kansai area of Japan’s street culture. Out of the 5,000 hopefuls that entered, only six were ‘street’ enough to make the final cut. Now, six years on from inception, RSP has dropped four of its members and kept their lead vocalists Ai and Saki (the latter’s not even from Kansai!). Check out their picture below – apparently this is what street culture looks like in Japan, like a page of a glossy fashion magazine. Chavs of Great Britain, you’re doing it wrong.
Sony already had a no nonsense name arranged for the unit at the start of the competition; RSP, standing for Real Street Performance. They also had a whole host of promotional activity planned to kick start the street dance unit, and make the scene became the new hot thing in Japan. This was a whole year before the likes of X Factor was destroying dreams on our telly-sets, yet the process behind RSP’s creation is very much the cookie-cutter formula now the norm in talent shows. Upon the release of their predictably named debut single, ‘A Street Story’, Japanese TV become flooded with documentaries charting the original six members’ fight through the auditioning process – they were even appearing in new TV dramas based around dance. Mission accomplished Sony, street dance became big business in Japan during 2006, just in time for America’s Step Up to hit cinemas. Coincidence?
By the time of their third single, ‘Kansha’ (‘Gratitude’), it was time for unit to be part of another pop-culture phenomenon: Bleach! The song was used as the 14th ending of the long-running, soul smashing series, and it struck a chord with anime fans. Two years later the girls returned to the franchise with a second song, ‘Tabidatsu Kimi e’ (‘Leaving You’), this time making the 22nd ending.
It was from Bleach that the majority of American anime fans first got a dose of Japan’ss ‘real street performance’. And by the summer of 2010, they were inviting the girls over as guests of honour at California’s Anime Expo. The Los Angeles’ based convention also lead to RSP’s first live show outside of Japan, taking place at L.A. Live. Footage from their trip can be found on a bonus DVD bundled with their second album ‘ii’, however, at present none of their material is available within the UK – and before any keen iTunes users get excited, the RSP on there is a very different electronic-based outfit.
ROOKiEZ is PUNK’D met during a welcoming party for new students at their Chiba-based high school back in 2006. The group’s now bass-player, 2RASH, brought up in conversation that he used to play in a cover band of one of Japan’s best loved melodic hardcore bands; HI-STANDARD (note to any punk fans out there; HI-STANDARD used to be signed to California’s Fat Wreck Chords alongside NOFX, Less Than Jake and a whole host of other American bands of a similar ilk). Schoolboy-and-soon-to-be-frontman SHINNOSUKE and his buddy TSUYOSHI were massive fans of the band, so 2RASH had their full attention. And soon, out of a shared love for punk, ROOKiEZ is PUNK’D was formed between the threesome, with SHiNNOSUKE on guitar and vocals, TSUYOSHI on drums, and 2RASH behind the bass guitar.
Classing themselves as a ‘mixture rock’ band, the trio soon started causing a stir in the indie music scene of Shibuya and Shinjuku. After playing a number of regular club nights and events for new rock music in the areas, DefSTAR Records soon took notice and snapped them up, assigning them to work on the soundtrack to the Durarara!! – by 2010 their debut single ‘Complication’ was used as the second ending to the anime series, and the band had their first collaboration album in the works, fittingly titled DRRROOKiEZ!! ~ ROOKiEZ is PUNK'D respect for DRRR!! (that’s DRRR with three-Rs, in case you missed the reference in the title the first and second time).
Soon after their successful debut, TSUYOSHI withdrew from the band and was replaced with the band’s latest member U. At the time ‘Complication’ had made the Oricon singles chart top 20, debuting impressively at number 11. Unfortunately, the band’s follow up single didn’t go down quite as well. Bizarrely named ‘eggmate of the year’, it was released two months after ‘Complication’ but struggled to make the top 150, despite its bikini-packing promotional video, which this writer would gladly watch for eternity.
DefSTAR decided to get the boys back into the realm of anime with their next single ‘Song for…’. Featuring as the 26th ending theme to Bleach, the label and band alike hoped they could emulate the same level of success as their first anime-outing from Durarara!!. Sadly they couldn’t, and ‘Song for…’ peaked in the charts at 91.
But! Blue Exorcist was their key back to the mainstream. Their next single ‘IN YOUR WORLD’ become the second opening to the series, and according to Last.fm, it’s the band’s most listened to song amongst users by far. It peaked in the Japanese single charts at number 13 and proved PUNK’D was not dead. A new version of the track was also recorded featuring the voice actor behind Blue Exorcist’s protagonist Yukio Okumura, the multi-award winning seiyu Jun Fukuyama.
Blue Exorcist Part 2, featuring ROOKiEZ is PUNK’D’s ‘IN YOUR WORLD’ is out on UK DVD from Manga Entertainment from 29 October.
He’s blue and has no ears, but enough about Andrew Osmond
In Japan, Doraemon is a cartoon colossus on a level with Totoro, Hello Kitty, Snoopy or Mickey Mouse. He’s the manga that pretty much everyone in Japan under forty grew up reading, and the anime they grew up watching in TV and cinemas. Over in Britain, most anime fans know what Doraemon looks like and the basics of who he is; a friendly blue robot cat from the future, who comes back in time to help a lazy grade-school boy, Nobita, develop a stronger backbone.
But Doraemon’s no stuffy teacher. Rather, he’s a child’s ideal playmate/best friend/ally versus the bullies, with a stream of wondrous gadgets that’d make Batman hang up his utility belt in shame. When you can fly in the sky or time-travel at the tip of a hat, the potential for mischief and chaos is endless. Small wonder that Doraemon, Nobita and their friends haven’t run out of stories in the 43 years since their first manga appearance in 1969. Doraemon has starred in over two thousand anime TV episodes (still going strong) and over thirty cinema feature films (probably more than any other cartoon character).
The Doraemon gang change little in cartoon form, although one of the most bizarre new spinoffs from the franchise has taken them into live-action. This is a series of TV commercials for Toyota, in which the Doraemon characters are played by adults. Doraemon himself is drolly portrayed by the blue-suited French star Jean Reno, best-known for his hardboiled roles in Leon: The Professional and Ronin, though he also voiced Miyazaki’s nonchalant pig pilot Porco Rosso in the French dub of the film. The latest commercial is especially ingenious. The characters are watching the London Olympics, only for Doraemon to take them back to 1964 when Tokyo hosted the games (the city has a bid in for 2020). World champion gymnast Kohei Uchimura cameos at the end, with the characters recognising him as Nobita’s overachieving pal, Dekisugi.
Doraemon has been translated and screened in many countries, and the cartoon cat was even appointed “anime ambassador” by Japan’s foreign ministry in 2008. However, he’s never really crossed over to Britain or America, which is sad but understandable. Doraemon may be one of Japan’s biggest cartoon icons, but for foreign marketers, there’s no obvious way to market the antics of a grade-school boy and a cheery robot cat to Anglophone fans of Pokemon, Naruto or Akira. Like other Japanese children’s heroes (Anpanman, Crayon Shin-Chan), Doraemon may be a foundation stone of Japan’s cartoon pop-culture that’s forever unturned in Britain.
However, if you visit Tokyo and want to learn more about the feline wonder, a museum opened last year, making an admirable effort to reach out to English-speaking fans. The building is dedicated to Doraemon’s creator, the late Hiroshi Fujimoto, who died in 1996. Fujimoto had the pen name of “Fujiko F. Fujio,” although he created other works under the shared pen name of “Fujiko Fujio” (no initial) with his schoolmate Motoo Akibo. As the Anime Encyclopedianotes, Doraemon is often seen as a joint effort between the two artists, but it was actually Fujimoto’s sole creation.
The museum won’t give you a rounded history of the Doraemon phenomenon, but it will give a sense of how fondly it’s seen by the Japanese public. Doraemon-coloured blue buses ferry you from the local train station to the museum, much like the Totoro-themed buses servicing Tokyo’s Ghibli museum. The museum itself is an unremarkable brick building, until you see dozens of pairs of cartoony Doraemon eyes embedded in the brickwork. In the first room on the tour, the most delightful exhibit is a series of glass cases, each of which holds a blank page, where an animated-on-glass Doraemon and Nobita try making their own manga from scratch. (Mind that inkpot, Nobita!).
The lovely surprise for Anglophone visitors is that the audio-guide you’re given has an English-language option. The guide helps you through the designated route, which starts with Fujimoto’s soft watercolours of Doraemon and other characters, then continues through artefacts from his career. These include an early Fujimoto passport (“OCCUPATION – Caricaturist”); a snazzy postcard from the manga god Osamu Tezuka (the spiralling message starts in English, “I look sometimes your name in Manga Shyonen” (sic)); and even pics from an amateur live-action film that Fujimoto made, which was apparently a spoof western.
One of the most dramatic parts of the exhibition is a mock-up of Fujimoto’s study, with books and miscellaneous possessions piled up high on steep shelving, so that it’s like looking up a chimney. The possessions include dinosaur models and fossils, a cel from Disney’s Pinocchio (the “I got no strings” scene), alaserdisc of the Western classic High Noon, a replica John Wayne gun,and Star Wars construction kits. All in all, it’s a good range of references for the adventures of a robot cat who goes anywhere and anywhen. A later exhibit on Nobita’s Dinosaur, one of Doraemon’s best-known adventures in manga and anime (it was filmed twice), informs us that the story wasn’t just inspired by Fujimoto’s interest in paleontology, but also by the Hollywood film, Born Free.
As well as Doraemon, the museum also represents other “Fujio” characters, such as the friendly ghost Obake no Q-Taro (who only wears a sheet, the audio commentary tells us – no-one knows what he looks like);the team superhero strip Perman (aka Pa-man);and the paranormally-powered heroine Esper Mami. All of these characters were also adapted in anime form. Inevitably, foreigners who have no previous acquaintance with either the anime or the manga are at a big disadvantage, though there’s an interesting side-by-side section that highlights Doraemon’s special debt to an early Fujio strip, Tebukuro tet-chan. That was about children with the luck to possess magic gloves; the gloves got the moppets into much the same crazy scrapes as Doraemon’s gadgets did for Nobita.
There’s also a glimpse of a manga version of Ben Hur (drawn in the ‘50s before the Heston movie blockbuster). It was good enough to disconcert the manga god Osamu Tezuka himself on the day when Fujimoto and Akibo – who were Tezuka fans, naturally - dropped in on his house for a visit. One of several video screens dotted through the museum tour shows Tezuka paying gracious tribute to the two artists, acknowledging how these upstarts threatened to surpass him. Indeed, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that Fujio’s characters loom larger over Japan now than Tezuka’s. Walk around everyday Tokyo and you’ll spot many more Doraemons than you will Astro Boys or Black Jacks.
Towards the end of the museum, there are touching tributes and fond memories from Fujimoto’s daughters and widow, including a letter from her to him after his death. The home movie footage is more touching than a minimally-animated mini-movie at the conclusion, in which Fujiko Fujio’s characters caper through the museum together. But despite this rather lame ending, the Doraemon museum makes for a thoroughly charming visit, enlightening even to the uninitiated, and leaving you in no doubt as to the lasting legacy of a dreaming artist and his blue robot cat.
The Fujiko F. Fujio Museum can be accessed via Doraemon shuttle bus from Noborito station in Tokyo, on the Odakyu Odawara line from Shinjuku station. Admission is 1,000 yen for adults; 700 yen for high school students; 500 yen for children; and free for 3 year-olds and under. Tickets must be reserved through the Lawson store, with entrance at the following time-slots: 10 a.m., 12 noon, 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.
Please note that the museum is closed on Tuesdays and that there are no parking facilities.
Matt Kamen on the “Evangelion of magical girl shows”
Magical Girls can be traced as far back as the 1960s, with the likes of Fujio Akatsuka’s Secret Akko-chan or Mitsuteru Yokoyama’s Sally the Witch – the first manga and anime, respectively, to dabble in the genre of girls gaining powers from a piece of jewellery or trinket of some kind. Hundreds more would join their ranks over the years, some merely using their powers for twee but ultimately everyday adventures, others transforming into battle-ready warrior women fighting for the safety of the entire planet. Ever since Naoko Takeuchi’s Sailor Moon exploded in popularity in 1992, the more superheroic approach has dominated the field.
The Seiun-award winningPuella Magi Madoka Magica is definitely not part of that field. Directed by Akiyuki Shinbo, a man whose directorial career is based around colourful, powerful women, and written by Gen Urobuchi, author of fate/Zero and Black Lagoon, Madoka Magica is a subversion of the themes, expectations and even visuals of its predecessors.
The series starts predictably enough – Madoka Kaname is a quiet, polite, thoroughly nice young girl who gets swept up into far from ordinary circumstances. Homura, a new girl in school, seems to know Madoka and delivers a cryptic warning to “stay the way she is”. Later, a strange cat-like animal beckons to Madoka, introducing itself as Kyubey and offering to grant her any wish. The catch? She must agree to become a ‘Puella Magi’ and fight Witches. Homura appears as a Magical Girl and attacks; Homura’s friend Sayaka helps her escape; the pair becomes trapped in an abstract dimension and attacked by monsters; another Magical Girl, Mami, appears to rescue them – and then things get really weird.
Unlike so many of her peers across anime and manga, Madoka doesn’t immediately jump at the offer of unspecified mystic might. Her slow consideration of the proposition is just the first of many ways that Madoka Magica injects some originality into the premise. Instead, it descends into much darker territory, and Kyubey’s persistence leads to the slow disintegration of the heroine’s life. Attacks from the monstrous Witches grow in frequency and intensity, and as Madoka’s friends find themselves seduced by the allure of power, they find tragedy is not far behind.
Make no mistake – irrespective of its sugary appearance, Madoka Magica is not for kids. It replaces the typical ‘monster of the week’ that the likes of Tokyo Mew Mew would be fighting with chilling creatures rendered in a deliberately abstract manner; about as far from the comforting anime melange as possible. Kyubey, a being that would normally fill the role of a cute mascot is similarly perverted, being an emotionless and almost sociopathic creature. Even the powers it offers out have a tragic, soul-destroying caveat to them – a far cry from just about any Magical Girl series that came before.
The series was an almost unprecedented success when it aired in Japan last year, and its popularity has already seen an entire movie trilogy enter development – the first two films retelling the series, the third with new events – along with a plethora of spinoff goods. Find out just why Japanese audiences can’t get enough of Puella Magi Madoka Magica in the darkly spellbinding first volume.
I got quite excited when I found the clip online. "James Bond, aka Bondo (agent 007), the suave superspy who…" Alas, my delight was premature. It was a fan animation starring a green-eyed, spiky-haired pretty boy who looked as likely to bed the villain as shoot him - a quantum of solace, undoubtedly, but no help on my mission: find anime's answer to Bond.
To get the right answer, ask the right question: what is the essence of Bond? Ian Fleming's novels and the movie mega-franchise have a common core. Style and elegance are important, but can be updated. More important even than the traditionalist take on class, intellect and sexuality is ruthlessness, the sheer brutal focus of Bond. Scruples are for priests and schoolgirls. Whatever happens, however hurt he may be inside or out, Bond gets the job done. He's the ultimate survivor. You can always die another day.
The most overtly Bond-inspired anime, Lupin III, inverts the Bond tropes, yet stays true to their essence. Monkey Punch's gentleman-thief, silly and soft-hearted, hides razor-sharp intelligence, focus and determination under that goofy grin and loud jacket. He looks like a spiv not a gentleman, he charms girls with humour not overt masculinity, he may hand back the loot or let the target go, but the villains won't outwit him. He gets the job done. And he's a survivor: witness, among many, the fabulous mummy sequence in Castle of Cagliostro, proof you don't only live twice.
Thanks to voluptuous bad-girl Fujiko Mine, Lupin III keeps one of Bond's unbreakable rules: a grown-up hero isn't interested in little girls. Forget Gunslinger Girls, Noir and Madlax. Bond, or Lupin, would beat the living daylights out of the villains and pack the child victims off to a proper girls' school for rehabilitation through midnight feasts and hockey.
Golgo 13 may seem to share many Bond characteristics, including the protagonist's rigidly macho personal code, but he misses one key characteristic. Bond isn't working for his bank account or personal survival. His licence to kill is given for a higher purpose. On Her Majesty's secret service, he's more than just a hired thug with superior firearms skills.
But good intentions alone don't earn a double-0 prefix. Spike Spiegel of Cowboy Bebop, sometimes touted as a postmodern Bond, falls short. His live-and-let-live attitude contrasts too strongly with Bond's live-and-let-die views. His tailoring and haircut would never get past the doorman at Casino Royale, even with Bond girl manqué Faye Valentine on his arm.
If Queen and country are Bond's driving force, are Jack and Rowe of L/R: Licensed by Royalty his anime avatars? They have many of the required qualifications: charm, daring, insouciant wit, stylish clothes, fighting skills. What's missing? Decent opposition. Bond takes down evil masterminds in impossible circumstances. Without a Dr. No, even a Man with the Golden Gun, Hofner and Rickenbacker can't claim 00 status.
Let's admit it: no leading man in the world of anime can out-Bond Bond. They're good, but nobody does it better.
The third instalment in our character guide for Dragon Ball Z
And so we continue filling you in on the heroes and villains to keep an eye on in the latest super-charged volume of the famous action epic!
Shenron and Porunga. Literally putting the ‘dragon’ in Dragon Ball, these legendary serpents will grant the wishes of anyone who gathers all seven of their associated mythic spheres. There are a couple of key differences though – Shenron is the Eternal Dragon of Earth, a fearsome beast resembling the traditional elongated dragons of Chinese and Japanese classical art. However, despite his imposing presence, Shenron is normally only capable of granting one wish at a time, once per year. Porunga is the Namekian counterpart, a continent-sized behemoth known as the Dragon of Dreams. His summoned form is more like a genie of Arabian myth, a hulking upper body with a tail trailing down to a point and, like his inspiration, capable of granting three wishes.
Super Saiyan Goku. Not so much a new character as a new attitude, new focus and new level of power! Goku is the first modern Saiyan to master this terrifying transformation. Surrounded by a golden aura and his signature spikey hair altered to match, Super Saiyan Goku is almost immeasurably stronger than normal. The prospect of an entire population with the genetic potential to reach the same level scared Frieza – so much so, he destroyed their homeworld rather than risk them rising to challenge him. Even with the Super Saiyan upgrade, Goku will need every move he’s ever learned to face up to the intergalactic criminal!
Kami. The Guardian of Earth, which makes him as close as anyone will come to being God – lucky really, since that’s what his name means. Originally born on Namek, he became a being of pure goodness after purging his darker urges, which in turn coalesced into the original King Piccolo. Kami is the original creator of Earth’s Dragon Balls, and oversees their use from his Lookout, floating high above the world. Since meeting Goku as a child, Kami has served as a mentor for the youthful hero.
Mr Popo. Kami’s servant, and that of the Guardian of Earth before him. Popo is an ‘assistant deity’, a seemingly immortal genie with the ability to materialise items out of nowhere, teleport anywhere on Earth, and consume energy – his first confrontation with Goku saw him swallowing his famous Kamehameha attack and only suffer the ignominy of a smokey belch! He rarely fights directly, mainly functioning as caretaker and gardener for Kami’s Lookout, though often serves as advisor to the Z-Fighters in dire times.
Oolong. A major figure in the original Dragon Ball, this shape shifting communist pig-man joined Goku and Bulma in their early quests for the wish-granting orbs. Cast early on with a sneering and almost mean personality, he became better known for being a complete pervert. By the time Dragon Ball Z rolls around, Oolong is essentially Master Roshi’s sidekick, the pair both sharing an unhealthy love for girls’ panties.
Dragon Ball Z Box Three is out on UK DVD from Manga Entertainment.
Matt Kamen takes to the therapist’s couch to talk about the insane world of Chaos;Head.
Meet Takumi Nishijou – though he’d rather you didn’t. A compulsive shut-in, Takumi shuns as much contact with the outside world as possible, preferring to turn his attentions to the likes of anime, online role-playing games and eroge, erotic dating sim games. A second year student in high school, his approach to education is to turn up for the bare minimum of classes to ensure graduation. He lives in a locked cargo crate that he’s kitted out as his personal otaku den, filled with vinyl figures and manga, and resists efforts from his younger sister Nanami to force him to reintegrate with the world. His obsessions even push him to reject the 3D world, swearing he’ll never fall for a real girl. He could be the lead character in any ‘loser gets girl’ series to come out of Japan in the last decade, but for one tiny difference – Takumi might be losing his mind.
Prone to bizarre visions that range from picturing real people as his favourite anime characters to horrific visions of murder and defiled bodies, Takumi’s grip on reality is tenuous at best. When he begins receiving emails from an unknown sender linking to images of gruesome crimes plaguing Shibuya – a phenomenon dubbed ‘New Generation Madness’ by the media – the conflicted teen starts to question his own perceptions. Already on edge, his final descent into madness begins as he stumbles across a pink-haired girl pinning a corpse to a wall with crucifix-styled daggers – a scene exactly the same as the image he received the day before. Is he just going insane, or is there really some malevolent game at play in the streets of Tokyo’s most fashionable district? And why is the same murderous girl, Rimi Sakihata, in Takumi’s school the next day, acting like his best friend?
Chaos;Head premiered in the form of a visual novel for Japanese PCs in 2008. Developed by Tokyo-based software companies Nitroplus and 5pb. (that full stop is officially part of the name, an abbreviation of ‘Five powered and basics.’), the creators describe it as a ‘Delusional Science novel’, and the precise formatting of the title, ChäoS;HEAd, represents Takumi’s possible schizophrenia – the literal chaos inside his head. While the game had dating sim elements, presenting the player with numerous cute girls to interact with, the focus was much more on managing Takumi’s precarious mental state through his responses to conversations and situations. The game was a huge success, seeing enhanced ports released on practically every format available, and set the foundation for a shared universe of high-concept sci-fi storytelling that most recently continued in companion series Steins;Gate.
Chaos;Head in turn spawned a trio of manga adaptations, each focusing on different characters and scenarios, and a 12-episode anime run from Madhouse, the studio behind Highschool of the Dead and Princess Resurrection. Directed by Takaaki Ishiyama and written by Toshiki Inoue, the series weaves together numerous plot threads, conspiracies and timelines to present an unapologetically complex exploration of Takumi’s shocking experiences.
Chaos;Head is out on UK DVD from Manga Entertainment.