LDP releases YouTube-only attack ad against DPJ

Leading up to Japan’s Lower House election on August 30, the ruling LDP has come out with an interesting animated attack ad against main rival DPJ:

The scene: a fancy restaurant overlooking the Diet building. A young Yukio Hatoyama lookalike is proposing to the girl of his dreams. He asks, “won’t you switch to me?” (僕に交代してみませんか?) and promises that if she chooses him, she can have everything she ever wanted – free childcare, free education, no more expressway tolls, the works.

Unimpressed, the woman asks, “Do you have the money for that?”

His reply: “I’ll consider the details once we’re married!”

The scene goes black, and we see the slogan:

“Can you entrust your life to confidence without any basis in reality?”
“The Liberal Democratic Party – We have a basis.”

Trust me, it sounds better in Japanese.

Frankly, this is a well-made and impressive ad, much like the American attack ads from the 2008 presidential elections. It casts the DPJ as irresponsible, frames the choice using a clear and apt analogy, and presents the LDP as the viable alternative.

I can easily see it becoming a viral hit as it’s already making the rounds of 2ch and at least one “alpha” blogger. As of this writing the video has merely 70,000 views, though that already makes it the most viewed LDP video ever in just three days since it was posted.

I am a little conflicted here – I want to say there’s not much potential for Youtube to be a decisive factor in the upcoming Lower House election given that the majority of the voters are elderly and thus not Youtube viewers. But these ads might not be so much about getting out the youth vote for the LDP as much as dampening any good feelings people might have about the DPJ. That way more of the youth vote might stay home, thus mitigating LDP losses.

The DPJ does not appear to have any similar attack ads. Their focus seems to be more on defining the DPJ as the party of responsibility that can solve Japan’s various problems.

Their attempts at “animation” could use some improvement if they want the otaku vote:

(videos via Hiroshi Yamaguchi)

FREE MONEY update: 471k screwed up applications

Amazing: 471,567 households applied for their FREE MONEY from the Japanese government, but failed to fill out their addresses correctly!

Friday, July 3, 2009
471,000 Applications For Cash Handouts Sent Back With Wrong Addresses

TOKYO (Kyodo)–A total of 471,567 applications for the government’s pump-priming cash handout program have been sent back to municipalities as they were incorrectly addressed as of last Friday, the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry said Friday.

The ministry said it will step up its publicity to call on households who have not received the cash benefits of up to 20,000 yen per person to file their applications as they are feared to fail to receive them.

Meanwhile, a survey showed 86.0 percent of households in 1,798 cities, towns and other municipalities across the country have received the cash handouts which have totaled 1,772.6 billion yen as of last Friday.

The municipalities began providing the cash benefits in March to cover about 54.8 million households under the government’s economic stimulus plan.

Of the applications sent back, 73,000 were sent to foreigners, who have often failed to provide moving notices to municipalities in urban and other areas.

The households will lose their right to receive the cash handouts unless they file applications in six months after the municipalities began to accept applications.

“The wrong addresses” apparently means that the addresses on the applications somehow did not match their residence registry (住民票). This could be anything from a kanji mistake to the head of the household neglecting to update his address with the local authorities.

Since Japanese nationals only had to fill out one form per household (foreigners had to fill them out individually since they’re not listed on residence registries for now), each mistaken application might be for multiple people. If we assume the “average household size” of 2.56 people, and roughly assume that all of them were only eligible for the basic 12,000 yen, that means we could be talking about 14.5 billion yen up for grabs.

I wonder what happens if the households “lose their right to receive the cash”? The towns better not get to keep it. It’s about 115 yen apiece for the other 125 million people in Japan, or more than enough to build another of the controversial proposed national anime museum.

Weekend J-Pop: Ayumi Nakamura, “Tsubasa no Oreta Angel” (Angels with Broken Wings)

【中村あゆみ】 翼の折れたエンジェル (Ayumi Nakajima Nakamura, “Tsubasa no Oreta Angel” (Angels with Broken Wings))

This song from the 80s has a definite “Japanese woman sings Bruce Springsteen” feel to it, right down to the E Street Band-style saxophone. For lack of anything better to do, I listened to this song about 20 times on the way back from the US recently. You might remember it was used in a recent beer commercial, though I forget which one.

Women flee Japan, as the men evolve into a different species

Of course, the female population could simply be falling more or less in line with the overall population, but let’s not let that get in the way of an anonymous ministry official’s speculation (thank you Kyodo and Nikkei):

Population Of Women In Japan Sees 1st Decline On Record
TOKYO (Kyodo)–The number of females in Japan fell for the first time on record as of October last year, the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry said Monday.

The female population was estimated to be 65.44 million as of Oct. 1, down 20,000 from a year earlier to mark the first decrease since 1950, when comparable data were first recorded.

”More Japanese women are going abroad for extended periods, and this is thought to be one of the reasons,” a ministry official said.

This might be a good time to tell you that I very much enjoyed attending Patrick Macias’ lecture on otaku culture held a couple weeks ago at Temple University Japan. You can listen to it in full on his website. The lecture is a broad overview of the development of Japan’s otaku culture and the American obsession with it. Within, he notes:

  • Densha Otoko, the dubiously true story of an 2-Channeler otaku who falls in love with a normal woman, follows the storyline of an “interracial romance,” and
  • The ubiquity of erotic elements in anime and gaming indicate that otaku are leaving normal female companionship behind, in a phenomenon he compares to the “post-humans” of sci-fi anime such as the Gundam series.

It’s an interesting listen!

Reverse alchemy in action

UPDATE: Nevermind, this is apparently something to do with the real World of Warcraft!

I thought this ad for a bottom-feeding gold buyer had an interesting Heavy Metal theme to it. I guess they want people to think of their “service” as medieval-style alchemy, only in reverse:


Or maybe the WOW is supposed to stand for “World of Warcraft.” Are they expecting unemployed lardasses to pawn their mom’s jewelry so they can keep playing?

But let’s be serious — NEVER sell your gold to a random site on the Internet — they won’t pay good prices!!! Here is a good debunking of the scam:

A little online sleuthing finds that I’m not the only one who figures that if Cash4Gold has this much money to spend on TV ads, someone’s getting the short end of the stick, and it’s probably the people sending in their family heirlooms to be melted into ingots. The folks at Cockeyed.com put Cash4Gold to the test, rounding up a bunch of old rings, necklaces, and earrings, and taking them to a regular pawn shop to be appraised. The offer: $198 for the lot. They then sent the items to Cash4Gold and waited for a check in the mail. It arrived within a few days as promised… in the amount of 60 bucks. (You don’t have to accept the check; the deal isn’t done until you cash it.)

That price alone is practically criminal, but that’s where the truly slimy part of the operation begins. First, if you call Cash4Gold and ask for your stuff back, you abruptly get a better offer: In the case of the above experiment, the offer was a whopping $178. That’s a better deal, but still not market rate, though the caller was told that Cash4Gold could “manipulate the numbers on their end” to make it appear that more product was sent than was in reality. Bizarre, but it’s really the only way Cash4Gold can cover its behind to convince you the original offer wasn’t a wholesale ripoff.

Oh hell yeah

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I don’t know who had the insane idea to make a Japanese live-action version of Spiderman, but I’m just glad that it exists. And glad that Marvel has, for some reason, decided to stream episodes for free on their web site. There’s also a very odd Spiderman manga I’ve read a bit of, which may or may not be based on the plot of this show.

Photo festival part 1: Osaku amateur photographers in Akihabara

I’ve been wanting to replace my aged and moderately decrepit EOS 300D for a couple of years now, and I have finally decided to take the plunge and upgrade to a brand-spanking new 50D next week. Problem is, I had made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t buy a new camera until I put some serious effort into going through my photo archive and actually selecting/posting a substantial number of galleries. This means that I’m going to try and blow through as much as I can in the next few days, starting here.

These photos were taken in the pedestrian area in front of Akihabara Station on June 1, 2008, exactly one week before the infamous massacre there. It had become a tradition for various cutesy female models to pose for Otaku photographers and do publicity in this area. There are many thousands upon thousands, if not millions of photographs of cosplay and moe models so when I happened to pass by the area, I decided to take some photos of the men who actually take those photographs. I don’t know if these events have made a comeback in the months since the grim events of the following week, but either way these photographs document the sort of people who were the victims of the tragedy.

See Flickr Flash slideshow, or individual photos below the jump.

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Continue reading Photo festival part 1: Osaku amateur photographers in Akihabara

Uchronie – great word

As often happens, I was chatting with my French friend Cerise when she tossed in a French word that she assumed we also use in English, but in fact do not. And as is often the case, the French have a fantastic and specific word where we have but a clunky phrase. The word in this case is “uchronie”, which in English means roughly “the setting of an alternate history story.” The word is based on the Greek roots “u” and “chronos”, as in “utopia” (or un-place) and time, and therefore means “a non-time”. The concept is of course familiar to any reader of speculative fiction (generally thought of as a classier term for science fiction, but really a broader term that includes science fiction as well as things like alternate history, that never fit comfortably in the SF category) but our language lacks such an elegant word for it.

Note that the English form of this word would be uchronia, as utopia is utopie in French.

“War and Japan: The Non-Fiction Manga of Mizuki Shigeru”

The web journal Japan Focus just published a translation of one of Mizuki Shigeru’s short manga pieces, entitled “War and Japan“, with a brief introduction to the man and his work written by Matthew Penney. One of the most famous and important manga authors in Japan, Mizuki Shigeru remains surprisingly obscure abroad, even among ardent manga fans. English translations of his most popular work may exist, but I have never even seen any. As Penney’s profile of Mizuki Shigeru (who, incidentally, is still alive at the age of 86-over 60 years since losing his arm to an explosion on a south Pacific island in WW2) makes a point of saying, “Mizuki, who unlike most prominent revisionists actually experienced the horrors of war firsthand, sees no contradiction between a love for Japan and its traditions, and a willingness to look honestly at the nation’s war history.”

Mizuki is in fact best known for his work involving Japanese folk spirits (or faeries or hobgoblins or monsters- the Japanese term youkai is a bit hard to translate directly), which despite having a generally comic tone do also occasionally deal with the horrors of war, and also received much acclaim for his truly excellent 8 volume Showa-shi (History of the Showa Period), in which he uses pages of pure historical explanation (all in manga form, of course) to frame the primary narative of his own life throughout the entire Showa period, which began around the time of his birth and ended as he was approaching pensioner age. Although covering the entire 62 years of the Showa period, Showa-shi focuses most heavily on his childhood, when he developed his lifelong fascination with youkai and folktales, and on the WW2 period, when he was the sole survivor of a bombing attack in the South Pacific island of Rabaul, lost his arm, and after the war’s end very nearly stayed behind in the native village that had nursed him back to health.

Showa-shi may be considered the capstone of Mizuki’s career. It is not his last work, but does form a synthesis of themes from throughout his entire career. Although it is his youkai manga that he is mainly known for, he had actually spent a chunk of his early career writing WW2 comics for the rental manga market, which at that time was a market publishing original material.

As it so happens, just last week I picked up one volume of a newly published series which reprints Mizuki Shigeru’s war stories for, I believe, the first time. Japanese books can have maddeningly scant publication history, however, so in fact the copyright page says only that this volume was first published in 2008, without specifying in detail the publication history, or even clearly labelling the original year of publication! Despite this annoying flaw, the book is great stuff. Labelled “comics for thinking about war and peace”, this particular volume is his stories of the air war. Much of the art bears little resemblance to Mizuki’s trademark style, instead opting for a sketchy grim style, particularly for the chaotic air combat scenes.

I haven’t yet had a chance to do more then flip through, although i did just read the first story -“Cockroach”, in which a Zero pilot named Yamamoto is shot down, captured by the Allies, kills a guard almost accidentally and then escapes only to discover upon his return that Japan had surrendered. He is arrested as a war criminal, without really understanding why, escapes from the jail in Japan, and then is finally executed-the last to be executed as a war criminal by the Allied military. In the final panel, as his weeping mother is handed a wooden box containing his ashes, she cries “my son’s entire life was just like that of a cockroach running about and hopelessly trying to escape.” Although the story is clearly anti-war, the ambivalence towards the war crime trials and criticism of winner’s justice presents a viewpoint difficult to sum up in the simplistic left/right paradigm that is all too often employed when discussing Japanese views of World War II.