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May. 28th, 2007

09:07 pm - We knew this was coming, but...

Just put this up on Journey to the REST:

5/28/2007: 'RELOAD' AND 'GAIDEN' TO GO ON HIATUS The July ZERO-SUM came out today in Japan, with the first half of a "Dragon Ball"-esque Saiyuki RELOAD two-part side story, an alternate dust jacket for about-to-be-released manga tankoubon Vol. 8 (its back-cover illustration is at right), and a full-page explanation from Minekura-sensei that she'll be taking a break from RELOAD and Saiyuki Gaiden to be hospitalized to have her health problems taken care of.

Saiyuki RELOAD will go on hiatus after next month's conclusion of the two-parter. Meanwhile, the Saiyuki Gaiden chapter that came out in the Spring WARD May 16 will be its last for a while, but Vol. 3 of the collected manga will be published July 25 in Japan, so Minekura-sensei hopes fans will enjoy that instead.

She hopes to have RELOAD return in the October ZERO-SUM, which will come out August 28, but cautions that she doesn't know yet if that will be possible. (The Autumn WARD, coming out November 16, is the target for Gaiden's return, according to the May 16 Spring issue).

In the meantime, fans will have a flurry of other releases. Saiyuki RELOAD manga tankoubon Vol. 8 comes out May 31 (delayed from May 25). The "Saiyuki RELOAD GUNLOCK Vocal Album Vol. 2" CD comes out June 22 (with Gojyo/Dokugakuji duet "Respectively," Hazel solo "Angel," Sanzo solo "Rain," Goku solo "Orange," the Sanzo/Goku/Gojyo song "Moon," and two mini-dramas). On June 24, the commercial DVD recording of Axle's "Saiyuki" stage production will be launched with a special live event in Osaka. And on July 25, both Saiyuki Gaiden manga tankoubon Vol. 3 and the Standard Edition of the first chapter of the "Saiyuki RELOAD - Burial-" OVA will come out.

May. 14th, 2007

03:55 pm - TV Champion, Day One: Part 1 of 2

Broadcast at last! Now that the TV Champion episode has aired, I can a) sleep soundly again, relieved that my worst screw-up was edited out, and b) share some experiences from the contest!

(If it might be of interest, a journal entry from April 10, about the week before filming started, is up now too. For some reason I made it Private instead of Public at the time. Very sorry, was pretty scrambled in the rush to get ready!)

With the competition starting on Monday, April 16, I spent most of that weekend in Akihabara continuing to cram, trying to nail down a mental map of its blocks and shops by day, and poring over books and print-outs on maid cafes and Akiba otaku lore once holed up in hotels at night (Taito-ku's Juyoh Hotel on Saturday and Capsule Inn Akihabara on Sunday).

Come Monday morning, we were to meet in the morning outside the Electric Town gate of the JR Akihabara Station. I seemed to be there first; T-san of the production company, carrying a "TV Champion" sign, led me a couple blocks away to a waiting unmarked bus, and then brought the other four contestants and company in a few trips.

Sebastien Jarry, who explained that he's known as "the number-one otaku in France," was accompanied by his Japanese wife. Jenya of Russia, an Akihabara celeb who has her own radio show (with Sebastien sometimes guesting) and has released three CDs to date, was there with her manager. Chang Gafai of Hong Kong, a voice-acting student at Yoyogi Animation Gakuin in Shibuya, and American Jonathan Underwood, a Sophia University exchange student from Arizona, were there by themselves.

We were introduced to field director H-san and host Masaya "Yama-chan" Yamazaki, and then it was back off the bus for the short walk down to bustling Manseibashi corner to film an introduction segment. The already-gray skies began to drizzle before we arrived, and T-san scrambled to get umbrellas in place over the cameras and over us as Yama-chan interviewed us one by one, asking about our interests, favorite anime, and what we usually do in Akihabara. Then we lined up for a final shot, rain coming down seriously now, and got the heck back on the bus, which had come to meet us...and away we went, away from Akihabara!

Stage 1 of the contest would be held at historic Shiba Daijingu in Hamamatsu-cho. The bus had an overhead TV screen, and during the half-hour-or-so drive we were shown part of an episode of "Shouten" ("Laughing Point"), a long-running classic in which a half-dozen clever storytellers at a time compete to tell the funniest tale or add the funniest remark. Each point awarded by the chairman nets a storyteller another zabuton cushion to sit on, with the zabuton delivered by a fellow called Yamada-san. Stage 1 would be a parody of "Shouten."

The bus trundled into the Shiba Daijingu parking lot, T-san armed us with umbrellas, and we hurried to a structure to the left of the main temple. There we were brought upstairs to a gorgeous tatami room, decorated with fabulously valuable ancient vases and art, and sat down at long tables to a superb bento lunch. As we ate and chatted in Japanese--the four other contestants in excellent Japanese, me not so great--Sebastien brought out a stack of French releases of various popular anime DVDs and games and told us about them. I was impressed that he came so well-prepared to share and promote anime's impact in his country.

Also coming up in conversation was the fact that in addition to her CDs, Jenya professionally translated the "Black Lagoon" manga into Russian. All four contestants could speak fluently, and not only were they articulate, they had interesting things to say, too.

But then there was me. My pro publications on anime and manga are more than 20 years ago now; they and website Anison Central were ultimately deemed unworthy of mention on the show. And my Japanese-speaking ability was painfully far below that of the other four contestants; hell, what I do is read Japanese, all day long, and rewrite the info in English, in a company where the mostly Japanese staff wants to practice speaking English. (I'd probably still be too self-conscious to try to speak beyond bare-bones basics if not for the group of anime song fans who've adopted me as a kindred soul; together we've sung, eaten, drunk, and travelled, and I've tried to improve between each get-together.)

Everyone was nice about it; no one seemed to look down on me for it. And I liked everyone; it just plain was not possible to think "Jeez, I wanna beat that jerk!" about any of the four. We were all fans, and we were all in this together. We'd all do our damndest, and in the end someone would be first, and someone would be last, and whoever was last would go home; only the top four would advance to Stage 2.

During our lunch hour, a huge nearby tatami room had been decorated as a mock-up of the "Shouten" set, with lighting rigged around the room and stocking-footed crew stationed at choreographed intervals on the tatami floor, testing microphones and handheld cameras. The floor director came to get us, and we followed him into the wood-and-tatami world of the anime song battlefield.

May. 12th, 2007

01:30 am - JTTR

Just a quick note: Journey To The REST is temporarily locked down. Back soon!

Apr. 10th, 2007

01:06 am - MIQuest Final, But TV Champion Continues...

Class began yesterday with the signing of paperwork. I was startled to see among the rules that the content of the classes is to be kept secret--but after this first lesson, I can understand why. Because this isn't book-learning; it's getting to be the beneficiary of knowledge that came from your teacher's lifetime of experience. Am sad that I won't be able to share what happens each week; had really been looking forward to writing about it. But this first class makes as happy an ending to the MIQuest as could be: it was unexpectedly fun, and I learned so much, and am still stunned that this is happening...!

The TV Champion competition begins a week from today, and last Wednesday a cameraman came up to do some filming for an introductory piece. When they called to arrange it, I'd thought they said they'd be starting at my job and then going on to my apartment (which is just a block away). Most of my favorite figures and art are in my office at work, so I left that as it was and concentrated on cleaning my messy-knee-deep apartment, carting crap into the front bedroom and closing it off so the rest of the place could look kinda-sorta presentable.

The cameraman arrived...and it turned out that starting at my job meant we would meet in its parking lot and then head right to my apartment. No interest in going inside and seeing my office. In retrospect, that must have been to avoid inadvertent "free advertising" through any TV exposure for the company I work for. That's understandable--but doggone it, when we got to my place and the cameraman saw my library room's corner rack of toys and asked, "Those are the figures?", I was sure wishing I'd brought everything home from my office and displayed it around the apartment! Fortunately, the closet in that room is crammed full of toys and figures, so I was able to open that for some more fanboy cred. The rest of the toys and figures were squirrelled away in that closed-off front room, though...oops!

Was interviewed in the library; a few questions were about my favorite anime song (hard choice, but went with Cyborg 009's "Ta Ga Tame Ni"), the most expensive item in the room (30,000-yen Baldios Triple Cross 'bot set by Nomura Toy, but there was a 36,000-yen Ashita No Joe cel in the next room, so that got filmed too), and the item in the room most recently purchased (the May issue of Monthly Comic Zero-Sum, March 28); the rest is pretty much a blur, other than thinking "oh-no-oh-no-oh-no-oh-noooo, this is being filmed and I'm screwing up, dunno know how to answer this in Japanese, oh-no-oh-no-oh-no-oh-noooo!"

After shooting each shelf in the library (including a couple thousand doujinshi...*blush*) and then going to the living room and shooting the CDs and DVDs and cels and douga and Tsunomaru "Makibaoh" drawing and each page I had anything to do with in the "Robotech Art I" book, it was time for the grand finale: an hour of anime song karaoke at nearby Manekineko! The cameraman let me warm up first ("Kaze No Mirai He" from Da Garn), and then he filmed for the rest of the hour as I stood in a corner and tried hard to pretend he wasn't there. Sang "Honoo No Kinnikuman" (Kinnikuman), "Ikari No Jushin" (Jushin Liger), "Ta Ga Tame Ni" (Cyborg 009), "Zankokuna Tenshi No Thesis" (Evangelion), "Ashita Yume Mite" (Gatchaman II), "Bara Wa Utsukushiku Chiru" (Rose Of Versailles), "Ai Senshi" (Gundam II), "Men Of Destiny" (Gundam 0083), "Shinobi No Theme" (Ninja Kamui Gaiden), and "Dunbine Tobu" (Dunbine). Then it was back by taxi to the parking lot at work, where I was dropped off, and the cameraman headed back to Tokyo with his multiple tapes of blackmail material. ;^)

I spent the weekend in Akihabara, walking each street both days, visiting a slew of shops, and even getting up the guts to check out a couple of maid cafes, before Sunday's late-afternoon MIQ lesson in Roppongi and then heading back up to Gunma. Will be doing the same next weekend. And then, one week from today, the contest starts. Trying hard to stay calm...otherwise, might wake up and find this was a dream all along...!

Mar. 29th, 2007

02:40 pm - Oh. My. God.

Am not sure where to start...the last couple of weeks have been a whirl, and now tonight...whoa.

Weekend before last, I went to Roppongi to interview for the vocal class to be taught by MIQ. The interview was at what will be the class site, a small live house/nightclub. Prospective students were being interviewed in groups of three, by MIQ herself and the owner of the live house. I'd imagined the interview would be a matter of answering questions...but nope, they had us get up on stage one by one and speak about ourselves and why we wanted to take the class. Mannn, it was not pretty when my turn came; was extra-incoherent, stammering and stumbling around. But they were both really kind, and patiently asked questions for clarification.

After that, we each had to sing a verse of something. The live house has a karaoke system, but my first two choices weren't on it. Fell back and punted to whatever was on there by Akira Kushida (the only MIQ song the system had was "Time For L-Gaim," and no way did I want to butcher that in front of her!); the system had "Taiyou Sentai Sunvulcan," so did that. The two consulted, and then told the three of us that a letter confirming the class times and fees would be mailed soon, and that the first class would be April 8, and that we should bring songs that we want to work on.

That sounded like we were all in, but I didn't dare believe it until the letter arrived two days later. Holy cats. I'm gonna get to study singing with MIQ!!

Then came last weekend, the Tokyo Anime Fair at Big Sight. Saturday night was Columbia's Tokyo Ani-Song Festival there, and attendance was limited to 1,000 people. Mighty M and I were both lucky enough to receive the magic postcard to get in, and we lined up just after noon, number 15 and 16 from the front (early enough to make the first row!). The line eventually stretched all the way down that big metal-and-glass corridor that leads from the central area to the East Hall, doubled back on itself, and drew a surprising amount of stares and snapshots from flocks of foreigners there for the Anime Fair (mannn, folks, if a big line is so surprising, c'mon back for Comiket or WonderFestival and see a line 3,000 times this size!).

On around 5pm, noticed a stir near the front of the line, and two Japanese guys with clipboards entered and headed for Mighty M and me. Did we live in Japan? Were we familiar with anime and its Akihabara subculture? Yes and yes... Would we be interested in participating in a competition with other foreigners on the [name withheld ;^) ] TV show?

I thought Mighty M would be a shoo-in. She said she'd do it if I would too. So I filled in the entry form...and then she didn't, chickening out! They took a photo of me, said they'd e-mail a questionnaire that they'd need to receive back by Monday, and headed on...and I stood there with knuckles up to my mouth and prob'ly a deer-in-the-headlights look, realizing just what this would involve if by some miracle I made it in.

Sure enough, the questionnaire was waiting when I got back to the apartment the next day: how did you come to be in Japan? What are some of your favorite anime? Who are some of your favorite seiyuu? What line of dialogue from an anime has special importance to you, and why? What is a phrase from an anime song that means something special to you, and why? How many figures and collectible toys do you have? How many CDs? DVDs? Do you have any unrelated interests? And what three famous people do you hope to meet someday? It took me most of Sunday night and a good chunk of Monday morning to fill it out. Gave it a last look-over at lunch, e-mailed it in...and a few hours later, they telephoned to ask further questions! What anime songs do I know? Have I ever cosplayed? They asked me to e-mail the answers, and asked if I could also send a photo of my room. I got all that off to them that night.

Tuesday they telephoned again, asking if I could send a full-body photo (my boss, who appears pretty frequently on Japanese TV, said that's a common part of the decision-making process).

Yesterday was quiet. Today was quiet.

But tonight, an e-mail came: the competition will be held over three days -- April 16, 18 and 20 (the resulting show will be broadcast in May) -- and if that schedule was all right, would I be interested in being one of the contestants? Contestants receive 20,000 yen for appearing, and the winner of the competition gets a prize of 500,000 yen!

Oh. My. God.

If I said yes, I might be mortified for the rest of my life about being the doofy-ass geeky gaijin who panicked and couldn't think straight and spoke crappinese on national TV.

But if I said yes, maybe, maybe the planets will be in alignment and it might all go okay.

A few minutes ago I wrote back and said yes.

And now I'm gonna go faint...!

Mar. 13th, 2007

02:53 pm - You only live once...

First, here's a photo from the "58 Karat" Gojyo/Hakkai event a couple weeks back in Asakusabashi: amazing customized Pinky's figures as Gojyo and Hakkai! The photo is unfortunately crappy, but you get the idea...

The rest of this isn't related to Saiyuki. But I've got to write it down...Collapse )

Current Mood: excitedexcited

Feb. 23rd, 2007

11:47 pm - Frightening Minekura news

Scary news from Minekura-sensei! Verbatim from Journey To The REST:


2/23/2007: FRIGHTENING MINEKURA NEWS -- Fans were alarmed when the double-long chapter of Saiyuki RELOAD in last month's March ZERO-SUM ended with the news that the next chapter would be in the May issue, not April. Minekura-sensei addressed them quickly, explaining in her diary on official site Nitro that this was an extremely busy time for her, between preparations for the "Saiyuki RELOAD - Burial-" OVA starting in April and a treasure trove of contributions to the May ZERO-SUM, its gala 5th anniversary issue coming out March 28.

But in her Nitro diary today, she at last mentioned some details of her ongoing physical problems--and they are truly scary. Her uterus has swollen to become "about the size of a child's head." The swelling prevents her from being able to close her legs, and it is tremendously painful for her to sit. She's now feeling pain at other times, too.

She plans to have surgery sometime this summer, and will share the details when she knows them.


What say we all go to Kanagawa (it may take all of us to hold off her editors and publishers!) and carry her to the hospital, to get taken care of now instead of later?!

Current Mood: scaredscared

Nov. 21st, 2006

01:34 pm - Almost there

Just a little further to go...My replacement has been hired at work, training is going well and I'm down to 9-hour days with us splitting the work, so maybe next week or so I'll be able to move on up full-time to my new position. (Just in time for the holiday crunch, yikes!)

The tooth abscess that's been a problem since March despite a root canal, weekly treatments, and multiple laserings of the remaining lump in my mouth (y'ever smelled yourself cooking? Oog.), has at last been diagnosed as a cyst at the tooth's root, up toward my cheekbone, and oral surgery will be this Friday. Pretty scared, but looking forward to having it over and out.

For the first time in nine years, will not be going to the winter Comiket. Will be going home instead, to spend the last week of December, first week of January and then some. Hate so much to miss it--but there'll be others. Right now I need to go home. It's that or drop, feels like.

So far nothing Saiyuuki-related...uhhh...the ShiSaiSa (Shiikuretto Saiyuuki Saakuru ;^) ) meets this Saturday; will share any relevant scoopage. (A bit on "Saiyuuki Gaiden" Vol. 3 [from Minekura-sensei on Nitro, not ShiSaiSa] went on Journey To The REST yesterday.) In the meantime, will be trying to get as much of Saiyuki Reload Gunstock done as possible before Zero-Sum comes out next week. Thanks for your patience...

Current Mood: pensivepensive
Current Music: "Boukensha On The Road" (Psychic Lover)

Oct. 29th, 2006

11:21 am - ZERO-SUMthing Saiyuki

Hey, all-

The new ZERO-SUM came out yesterday with an 18-page "Saiyuki RELOAD" chapter, and major staff and release details on the "Saiyuki RELOAD -burial-" OVA series starting in April (a write-up is in the news section of Journey To The REST), annndo a New Year's card giveaway that includes these two RELOAD designs:

The Sanzo-ikkou ring in the New Year (that's a TV remote in Gojyo's hand; the whole story [and a nice monochrome version of the image] is in Minekura-sensei's Nitro diary).

Can't help but wonder...does youkai Hakkai have some sort of gattai thing going on with Jeep here, making Jeep green? (The kanji is the "cho" of Cho Hakkai and means "wild boar"--just in time for the Year Of The Pig, natch!)

Back to the salt mines... Hope this finds all well!

Current Mood: tiredtired
Current Music: "It Is Not This! Korejanai Robo" (Ichirou Mizuki)

Oct. 5th, 2006

03:01 pm - 5 Years of JTTR...24 Hours of Live RFB!

Five-day blur of work and sleep...and then a weekend, run around and recharge!...and then a five-day blur of work and sleep...and then a weekend, run around more and recharge!...and then a five-day blur of work and sleep...That's been life from July 'til now. Things should improve next month, though--knock wood!--when the staff expands with new hirees. Just gotta get there.

But in the meantime, Journey To The REST has really suffered. Its 5th anniversary is coming up on October 14, but this past year, next to nothing has gotten done. I've been squirreling material and ideas for some additions that with luck will be fun or interesting for folks, but what little time there's been has gone mostly to projects with drop-dead deadlines (and it's a crappy feeling to find myself actually hoping for short RELOAD chapters). Prizes still need to go out for several months of the Zakuro mind-control contest. And then there's Saiyuki Reload Gunstock, full of so many great entries, lots of which haven't even gone up yet. Gunstock was supposed to be an annual event. This one should have finished long before now--but my guts are so gone by the end of the day, sleep has kept winning out.

So. It's drop-dead deadline time.

In the JTTR spirit of "If it's worth doing, it's worth doing nuts different": Coming up on October 14-15--just in time to celebrate the 5th anniversary of Journey To The REST (which happens to occur during a weekend--must be meant to be!)--don't miss the 24-HOUR LIVE BROADCAST of RADIO FREE BANRI, featuring the third day of SAIYUKI RELOAD GUNSTOCK...complete with announcement of the winners! Like to be in the audience, where you might be visited by one of RFB's roving reporters? More details to come!

Current Mood: determineddetermined
Current Music: "Hey You" (MIO)

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