Post-Event! Anime at Waku Waku +NYC

When people think Japanese pop culture, anime and manga immediately spring to mind. In this respect, Waku Waku +NYC sought to have anime and manga-related content for our event, but we also wanted to give our attendees some rare opportunities. Between our incredible guests, unique performances, and rare screenings, we hope you had a wonderful time.

Screenings

Waku Waku +NYC featured such popular anime as Kill la Kill, Sword Art Online, and Dragon Ball Z (with Dragon Ball screenwriters Takao and Makoto Koyama doing Q&A afterwards!), but there were a couple of very rare and special works in our lineup. The first was a screening of the 1000th episode of Chibi Maruko Chan, the long-running show featuring Japan’s favorite snarky little girl. Showing what happened the day Maruko Chan was born, the audience was full of people who had heard of Chibi Maruko Chan and its popularity, but had yet to see what the show was really like. During the event we gave out surveys asking what they thought of the anime, and the response was overwhelming: “We want more Chibi Maruko Chan!” We hope we can answer your requests for next year!

This crowd is PUMPED for Chibi Maruko Chan! #wakuwakunyc #chibimarukochan pic.twitter.com/597CHXCmlF

— Waku Waku +NYC (@wakuwakunyc) August 29, 2015

The second was a new remastering of Sanrio’s 1970s stop-motion film The Nutcracker, directed by artist and Waku Waku +NYC guest Sebastian Masuda. The only one of Sanrio’s 1970s major animated films to not be licensed for the US, Sanrio fans and fans of classic animation could see the film in exquisite quality. To call it “restored,” would not be doing it enough justice, because it looked even better than it did when it originally showed decades ago!

Voice Actors Justin Cook and Max Mittelman

We also brought two voice actors to Waku Waku +NYC, Justin Cook and Max Mittelman, though it might have been a little unfair to call them only voice actors. After all, both have experience and talent in other areas. Justin Cook began working as an ADR Engineer for FUNimation, helping to record the sound used for dubs, and eventually found himself behind the mic. Max Mittelman’s panel also involved teaching attendees how to beatbox, and if we see a generation of beatboxing voice actors, we’ll know how to thank. One thing that was really great was how willing they were to talk with their fans. I happened to catch Justin Cook waiting for the bus, just chatting it up with a few attendees, including Android 17 and 18 cosplayers!

Takao and Makoto Koyama

As mentioned above, Takao and Makoto Koyama were guests at Waku Waku +NYC, which was their very first event in the US. Takao Koyama is renowned throughout Japan as one of its most celebrated animation screenwriters, with credits on Dragon Ball Z, Saint Seiya, Might Gaine, and more. His son Makoto, who also works in anime and games as a writer, is building up quite the resume himself.

At their panel, Takao talked about some fascinating aspects of anime writing and production, but what perhaps surprised the entire audience was the fact that Takao Koyama explained how he got his first writing job at the famed Tatsunoko Pro anime studio: he lied. Straight from the horse’s mouth, a young Takao told the studio that he had experience writing scripts when the very opposite was true, and after getting hired took a crash course to learn. However, it soon became apparent that he was in way over his head, and it was only through continuous on-the-job training that he got to where he is today.

Another interesting bit of trivia from Takao was the fact that he had written many scripts for the anime Don Dracula, which was canceled after 4 episodes. Based on the work of “god of manga” Osamu Tezuka, the entire series was actually pretty much completed before the sponsors pulled out. However, Takao also had this to say: if Don Dracula hadn’t died, then he probably would have never written for Dragon Ball Z! After all, most of the staff that worked on Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z were alumni from the previous Akira Toriyama anime, Dr. Slump, and Takao only got that opportunity because Don Dracula got canceled. Talk about a twist of fate!

After the event, Makoto Koyama commented on Twitter that he was surprised how much New York anime fans love Android 16 from Dragon Ball Z! What do you think might explain the characters’ popularity? Anime News Network Panels Speaking of Osamu Tezuka, he was one of the many subjects covered by our educational programming track, courtesy of Anime News Network. Author, scholar, and journalist Roland Kelts gave a fantastic presentation about the life and work of Tezuka, about his historical context growing up before, during, and after World War II, and his connection to both classic Japanese art and modern anime and manga. It was a great panel for those who might have heard of Tezuka. Quite helpfully, someone’s uploaded the panel to YouTube for you to watch!

The other panels included one on journalism and anime, one that went through the anime production process from beginning to end (SHIROBAKO fans take note!), one about studying and writing about anime and manga in an academic setting, and a panel titled “Anime that Time Forgot” by popular writer and presenter Mike Toole. In this age where information is at our fingertips and records of anime are easy to find, it can be easy to forget how some things can simply get shelved away, never to return. Notable “forgotten anime” included Eagle Sam, based on the 1984 Olympics mascot, and Penguin Memories, a gritty, realistic war story where all of the soldiers are penguins. There weren’t any indications that anime based on birds tend to get forgotten more than others.

SHINKALION

If we’re talking about the biggest anime-related surprise at Waku Waku +NYC, however, it might very well be Shinkansen Robo SHINKALION from East Japan Marketing & Communications. Based upon the ubiquitous bullet trains of Japan that allow commuters and travels to get from one side of Japan to the other in mere hours, SHINKALION is an awesome media property with animations, toys, and more. Waku Waku +NYC attendees were given the opportunity to meet SHINKALION in person, and even though they might not have known who he was before Saturday, they jumped at the opportunity to pose with the mighty robot, including Anime News Network’s Mike Toole, and a certain flute-playing hero in green!

 

 

So what was your favorite anime event at Waku Waku +NYC? What screenings would you love to see, and what guests would make your day? This year was awesome, but we want to make things even better for next year!

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SHINKALION is One Awesome Bullet Train Robot

B0(+50)_0302_入稿_ol© East Japan Marketing and Communications, Inc.

Trains and giant robots are like chocolate and peanut butter, and Japanese popular media is filled with cool locomotive mecha (Might Gaine, Gaogaigar, ToQ-Oh from ToQGer), but also their transformations sequences.

In terms of not just train robot morphing but also combination and transformation scenes in general, East Japan Marketing & Communication, Inc.’s SHINKALION is top tier.

Obviously there’s no criteria set in stone for what makes a good or bad transformation sequence, but there are a couple of things in particular that I think really stand out.

First, is the fact that the primary combination point is the coupler, or the hook that connects two train cars together. This emphasizes the train-like qualities of SHINKALION and further emphasizes its association with railroads.

Second, is the fact that SHINKALION’s transformation creatively uses various bends in the cars to make the final form non-obvious when seeing its train form, but also keeps enough of the train aesthetic to make it identifiable as such. This is actually quite a tricky line to toe, as the history of giant robots is filled with designs that look unfortunately like objects with arms and legs. Though, even this is okay sometimes.

Will there ever be a full Shinkalion anime in the future? Would you like to see it happen? Who would Shinkalion fight?

SHINKALION will be at Waku Waku +NYC, the new Japanese Pop Culture Festival in Brooklyn, NY this August 29th and 30th! Combining anime, music, fashion, art, video games and more, tickets are on sale now!

Not Just Tokyo: Regional Diversity in Japanese Popular Culture

This is a guest article by Katriel Page. You can check out more of her writing at Study of Anime.

While we see the Kanto region and Tokyo represented in a lot of manga and anime, from the scramble crossing of Shibuya Ward to the name of the first region in the Pokémon series – Japan is more than just this region. In fact, the second most populous region, Kansai, incorporates not just the ancient capitals of Nara and Kyoto, but also the high commercial and culinary center of Osaka. “In a country where regionalism remains strong, the two [Kanto and Kansai] stand as shorthand for an internal east-west divide roughly translated as Tokyo and Osaka – the two main economic powerhouses of the nation and the most populous metropolises of Japan” [Christal Whelan, Kansai Coo

But where do we see these?

Kyoto, Osaka, and Kobe come up from series such as Azumanga Daioh and Kill la Kill; from school trip episodes to transfer students.

Let’s talk about the two most distinguishing features of any particular region: how people speak, and what people eat.

Each city in the Kansai area has their own slightly different dialect: some cities differ more, such as Kyoto, due to the centuries of heritage and culture there. Kyoto dialect comes up in the series of Bleach, for example: Gin Ichimaru, in the Japanese dialogue, speaks in Kyoto dialect which comes off sounding as a sort of polite, formal dialect. Osaka dialect, on the other hand, is known for being very abbreviated and commercial-based: “mokkari makka”, for example, derives from a phrase “are you making money”, and has come to mean “how are you” by extension. The phrase is not used much anymore due to a variety of reasons, but the expectation is that people from Osaka will at least know it: and people outside of the Kansai region expect these people to speak this way. This is part of the joke of calling Ayumu Kasuga in Azumanga Daioh “Osaka”, because she behaves and speaks counter to the stereotypical expectation of someone from Osaka to behave and speak. If you know a little Japanese and want to experience some Osaka-style dialect, Facebook now has the option to turn the language setting into Kansai Japanese, in addition to “standard” Tokyo-dialect Japanese. The version of Kansai dialect Facebook uses is based on Osaka dialect, so it will give you an idea of how the language changes when in a different area!

As for food, Osaka is known particularly for its food: octopus is a delight there, and so takoyaki is thought of as a stereotypically Osakan style food. Okonomiyaki is also considered an Osakan style food, even though you can get it readily in the Kansai region in general: it’s a sort of savory pancake made with eggs, batter, and sliced cabbage, and you can put all sorts of toppings on it (seafood is a popular choice, but sausage or pretty much whatever you like works too!) – in fact, the name “okonomiyaki” is from “whatever you like” and “frying”, so think of it as a way to use up all that cabbage you may have gotten after watching Persona 4 The Animation! There are more foods, such as kitsune-udon and hako-sushi, but takoyaki and okonomiyaki are seen in plenty of anime and manga and often used as a shorthand for Osakan style food. You also see these foods mentioned along with the mercantile focus of Osaka in the series of Kill la Kill.

Kyoto food is known for being a bit more traditional and delicate – for example, many traditional sweets shops started in Kyoto, and the seasonal kaiseki cuisine comes from the elaborate aesthetics of the old imperial and noble courts as well as whatever was in season. Speaking of aesthetics and art, Kyoto is historically more known for fashion and aesthetics more than food: this comes from the days of Kyoto as being the imperial city for at least a thousand years, and as such, traditional arts and crafts flourished for a long time. In Kyoto also, there are many shrines and temples, which lead to talk about spirits, folklore, and sacred culture that you can spot in series ranging from Yu Yu Hakusho (the sacred mountains of Mt. Kurama and Mt. Hiei are where the characters of Kurama and Hiei get their names), to the newer series Eccentric Family or even Inari Kon Kon.

This just touches a little bit on the subject of regional diversity in Japan – there are of course, other regions such as the Tohoku region with the beautiful “city of trees” of Sendai, and the historic Tono, located mainly in modern day Gifu Prefecture (which you can see echoes of in Pokémon X/Y and in Princess Mononoke) – so here are some more resources for you to find out more about the various cities and regions of Japan!

  • Kansai Cool, by Christal Whelan, available at Kinokuniya and other bookstores

Waku Waku +NYC is a new Japanese Pop Culture Festival in Brooklyn, NY that’s going to be bringing anime, fashion, music, games, and delectable delights from Japan, including takoyaki by master chefs from Osaka! Curious? Tickets are on sale now.

Japanese Culture in New York City is a Train Ride Away

This is a guest article by Linda, a Writer and Contributer at Anime Diet

Spring_Street_Mosaic-small

“Spring Street Mosaic” by HorsePunchKid – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Spring_Street_Mosaic.jpg#/media/File:Spring_Street_Mosaic.jpg

Similar to Japan’s vibrant array of trains and buses, one feature of New York City is its public transportation system. New York City’s subway has the distinction of being the second oldest running subway system in the world, and is one of the few that runs on a twenty four hour schedule.

Waku Waku +NYC is located near the G train, which is the only train line in New York currently connecting the borough of Brooklyn to Queens. With the exception of the G and the Staten Island train system, nearly every other train line has to run through Manhattan for travel between the five boroughs. There is a shuttle running between the convention locations (http://wakuwakunyc.com/locations.html), but for visitors who want to also see more of New York City before or after Waku Waku +NYC, the subway and bus are great options.

The base fare for the subway is $2.75 and there would be a $1 surcharge for a new Metro Card. While there is no unlimited day pass, there is a weekly pass for $31. Savvy riders should know that you can make one free transfer between bus and subway within a two hour period.

Have a subway map either in paper or electronically, and be aware that on the weekend, New York City has the weekender service (http://web.mta.info/weekender.html) in effect. The subway system is generally under repair overnight or during the weekend to repair an aging transportation system that sustains six million+ residents and visitors.

If you’re visiting beyond this weekend, and may not want to head to the regular tourist spots, consider these other Japanese/Asian interest spots that entertain the locals.

Lower East Side

Meow Parlour: This is New York City’s first cat café. This place very often does not allow walk-ins, but you can pass by and take a peek in at the cute kitties that reside here. Closest subway station is either F train, East Broadway or D train to Grand Street.

Baby, the Stars Shine Bright/Tokyo Rebel: This is the New York City Location for this sweet Lolita and gothic Lolita boutique. The closest subway to this location is either the F train to Delancey Street or the J, M, Z to Essex Street. If you’re okay to walking, the East Village is within the area. Don’t forget, Baby, the Stars Shine Bright will be holding a fashion show at Waku Waku +NYC!

Around St. Marks, there are plenty of Japanese eateries and ramen spots that include restaurants like Ippudo NY and Spot Dessert Bar.  The closest stop is Astor Place on the 6 train. This area is often referred to as Little Tokyo.

Midtown

Many places of interest can be accessed by either N, Q, R, 1, 2, 3, A, C, E, 7, and S (the S stands for Shuttle) lines to Time Square, the B, D, F, M, and 7 lines to 42nd Street Bryant Park, or the 4, 5, 6, 7, and S lines to 42nd street Grand Central station. In addition to Midtown Comics (http://www.midtowncomics.com/), there’s Muji (http://www.muji.com/us/) which is a Japanese lifestyle store.

Across the street from Bryant Park, there is Kinokuniya Bookstore, the world’s premiere Japanese bookstore, and within walking distance is Lady M, noted for their lovely Mille Crepes cakes. A couple of blocks away, there’s BookOff, Japan’s largest used bookstore, and walking further north there’s Nintendo World and Uniqlo around Rockefeller Center. Down south in Times Square, there’s a Sanrio Popup store (http://ny.racked.com/2015/8/5/9100287/hello-kitty-pop-up-times-square) around 47nd street as well as the Disney Store, where you are bound to find Tsum Tsum products.

While this list of places is focused more specifically on lovers of Japanese culture, this is only the tip of the iceberg to what New York City has to offer. So enjoy Waku Waku +NYC and travel a bit around New York City if you have the time!

Waku Waku +NYC is a brand-new Japanese pop culture festival in Brooklyn, NY this August 29th to 30th that celebrates video games, anime, manga, music, food, art, and more. Tickets are on sale now!

Collecting Kami: Pokémon and the Crossroads of Pop Culture and Folklore.

This is a guest blog from writer, presenter, and scholar of Japanese culture Charles Dunbar. You can find more of his work at Study of Anime.

I distinctly recall the first time I ever saw the Pokémon Golduck. My initial reaction was “what the hell is that, and how is it a duck?”, because to my teenage eyes, no duck that ever existed had a beak that long, feet that webbed, skin that blue (not to mention lack of feathers), arms instead of wings, and a tail that could trip a human up. Despite having the term “duck” in its name, Golduck was no duck I had ever seen, and I laughed about it with my friends as being another one of those “weird Japanese things” I knew nothing about.

It would be some years before I discovered how wrong I was. While researching a panel on Japanese folklore, I turned the page in one of my many yokai books to find Golduck, or at least something that resembled Golduck, staring me in the face. The same rubbery skin, same sharp beak, same tail and webbed digits. And I did a double take. This creature, the book called it a kappa, was obviously of the same ilk as the Pokémon I had once made fun of. And I did what any curious student of folklore would- I set aside my initial panel research, and began checking to see how many other Pokemon shared traits with these wonderful Japanese monsters.

Ichimoku-nyudo

By myself (Self-photographed) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) ], via Wikimedia Commons

One of the “side effects” of acculturation is that we tend to pepper our creations with nods to the culture we are raised in. For example, when we hear characters say “go to hell,” we have a connotative understanding of what that means, and thus it requires no further explanation. But when those terms and ideas appear outside of our home culture, suddenly they become not-so-subtle nods to the ways in which our own cultures differ from others. And this becomes doubly apparent when we start crafting stories using our own folklore. Suddenly those blood drinkers hiding in the shadows become something alien and terrifying to those who have never encountered them, and that receiving audience can either choose to pursue a better understanding of them, or just accept them as particular to the storyteller’s cultural understanding.

For me, this is one of the great joys found within anime. While I still watch the series and play the games for the joy of experiencing them, at the same time I’ve found anime to be an invaluable tool for discovering new paths into the exploration of Japanese culture. Signposts if you will, pointing me towards new ideas, legends, and beckoning me to dig a bit deeper when the series or game is over. And these inspirations are everywhere once one sits down to look for them. For example the game Okami, while being both beautiful and artistic, also shares its narrative with the story of Amaterasu emerging from the cave and driving off monsters through her light. So too does the series Sasami-san@ganbaranai, which takes that same classic legend of the kami in the cave, and dresses it up as an adorable hikikomori schoolgirl spending her days rejecting the outside world. Pokémon, as previously mentioned, shares a lot in common with the yokai indices that started appearing in the mid-Edo period, while still satisfying the historical urge to discover, collect, and catalogue that many Japanese youths practice to this day. And even more overt properties like Natsume Yujincho and Nurarihyon no Mago [Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan] bring those old legends into the present, challenging classical creatures with modern problems to overcome, or at least weather. They breathe new life into old stories, evolving tales once told by candlelight into mass media properties that astound and inspire new generations to look behind the curtain, and into the hidden world around them.

 Sasami-san@Ganbaranai

Pokémon is one of those series that rides this idea incredibly well. For those who play the game without any knowledge of either Japanese folklore or their obsession with cataloguing yokai, the series is a playful romp through catching/grinding pets until they can win fights, with a little plot thrown in to keep the story going. Sure, some of the Pokémon look a little out there, but when a fan discovers that some of those Pokémon share traits with fantastical creatures (as I did with the golduck all those years ago), suddenly the series comes alive with nods to regional legends (like Xerneas, inspired by the shishigami from Tohoku), mighty guardians (Arcanine, taking notes from the Koma-inu), ancient kami (Tornadus, with the same color and disposition as windy Fujin), and supernatural celebrities (Froslass and Mawile, derived from the Yuki- and Futakuchi-onna, respectively). And all the player needs to do at that point is follow the trails deep into the sacred forests of Japanese folklore to discover how far they might lead.

Waku Waku +NYC is a brand-new Japanese pop culture festival in Brooklyn, NY this August 29th to 30th that celebrates video games, anime, manga, music, food, art, and more. Tickets are on sale now!

Shining in the Storm: An Interview with Nick Minarik from Gundam Planet

Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nick Minarik, one of the minds behind Gundam Planet, an online and offline store in New Jersey dedicated to selling Gunpla, or Gundam plastic models that fans can build themselves. They even hold workshps at their store! Gundam Planet’s been serving New Jersey and New York anime fans for over 5 years now, and I wanted to highlight everything he and the company have been doing to promote a love of Japanese popular culture. You can find out more about Gundam Planet at their official site and their YouTube page.

Waku Waku +NYC: Hi, Nick! Could you tell us about yourself and Gundam Planet?

Nick: Well as for myself, I went to college in Vermont and was the first writing major at my school (Castleton State), and as part of the program I had to take part in an internship. I’ve been a big Gundam fan since the early 2000’s and I had recently been browsing the GP website and noticing a lot of errors in spelling and grammar, but it was otherwise a beautiful site. I approached them to set up an unpaid internship that would essentially have me edit the entire site’s contents, and they were very receptive to the idea, and that’s how I got my start.

As for GP itself, the website was started in 2010 by the owner (who’s a web design genius) with a focus on clean, well-presented contents. I started the internship in 2012, so they had already been pretty well established by the time I came around.

Waku Waku +NYC: Wow, three years now! Are you still an “intern” or has your title grown, seeing as you’ve done so much to improve the site overall.

Nick: Haha yeah, they’ve been nice enough not to kick me out by now! In 2013 the old manager had to go back to Japan, and since I’d become familiar with the systems and inventory, the owner asked me to step up and take over as manager.

Waku Waku +NYC: Good to see your passion’s paid off! So, how did Gundam Planet get started in the first place, and what inspired GP to provide workshops for customers?

Nick: Well the owner realized that Gundam was a growing niche in the US, so he decided to make that the focus of his own website. He develops websites for many clients as part of his IT consulting business, but this was his first that he directly controlled from concept to completion and beyond. Basically, he had a really good eye for what was becoming popular at the time.

Waku Waku +NYC: Based on what you’ve said, I assume the owner (shall he remain anonymous or can we talk about him by name?) is also a huge fan of Gundam.

Nick: I’m not actually next to him right now so I can’t get his opinion on that, but I kind of like keeping the mystery alive regardless. “The Owner” has a nice ring to it. And strangely, not really! He’s a big fan of classic super robot anime shows from the 60s, 70s and 80s like Mazinger Z and Grendizer, but the rest of us at the store are definitely the Gundam fanatics. We do all the freaking out over Gundam for him!

Waku Waku +NYC: I’ll have to ask him all about his favorite mecha series if I ever get the chance!

Something you mentioned sounds intriguing, specifically Gundam’s growing fanbase. Gundam has always had a devoted fanbase, but its success in the US has been…uneven to say the least. Around 2010 and maybe even before that, what do you think has been the key to bringing in new fans to Gundam and indeed Gunpla? And for that matter, what’s changed since the days of Mark Simmons’ Gundam.com, Toonami airings of Gundam Wing, and more?

Nick: All great questions, I’ll try to do them justice. What I’ve noticed is that the key to new Gundam fans is that they “rediscover” it. For so many people my age (mid 20s), we were introduced to it when Gundam Wing aired on Toonami in 2000. Back then, there was a Bandai America division that released North America specific Gundam toys and figures that you would see in Walmart and Toys R Us, and it was all very accessible and affordable. Of course 8-12 year old kids are going to love action figures of these amazing robots that we’d never seen before, so we all got really hyped on them.

Not too long after it all started though, Bandai America stopped making any Gundam anything, so they all stopped being available very suddenly. That’s when some of us “fell out” of the fan base, because even though we still loved it, we had no way to come by it.

Then in recent years, the internet has become so vast and filled with content, all of us who remembered liking Gundam found some way to go back and revisit it and get into it again. Gundam Planet is a great example of a store that capitalized on the returning interest, because it made available something that had been unavailable to us for a little while.

Waku Waku +NYC: Mecha in general has been somewhat neglected in geek fandom beyond general references such as Voltron.

Nick: You’re right, all of us here get so annoyed of hearing “Oh that looks like Transformers!”

Waku Waku +NYC: Do you think there are a lot of fans of giant robot and science fiction anime, a silent but powerful fan base that needs sites like Gundam Planet?

Nick: Well that comes back to the internet again, where these fan bases are no longer silent and are actually finding places to congregate and share their passion for the subject and kind of consult each other on the best places to find what they’re looking for.

Waku Waku +NYC: I remember the Gundam fandom used to be like that too! It seems like history repeats itself with new generations, just like in Turn A Gundam.

Nick: Ahhh, you did your research!

Waku Waku +NYC:  A lifetime’s worth!

Nick: (You could have also gone with the Endless Waltz of history ;))

Waku Waku +NYC: What would you say is the appeal of Gundam models and Gunpla?

Nick: Basically, Gunpla is Bandai’s line of incredibly high-quality model kits of mobile suits found throughout the Gundam universe. They’re all pre-colored and snap together without glue, so it’s very accessible and you really get a fully functional action figure when you’re done building!

Imagine you’re watching this show and you see this amazing robot, and that appeals to something inside all of us that makes us go, “Man, I want that thing” in some form. The fact that Bandai is making so many of these robots available in a physical form that’s enjoyable to build is a large part of its appeal.

The designs of the suits and the technology of the models themselves are also 100% unique. There’s really nothing else like it in terms of how much the hobby is determined by your own level of commitment!

Waku Waku +NYC: How much time have you devoted to building Gundam models?

Nick: Uh I’d be kind of scared to actually evaluate that number

Waku Waku +NYC: So you’d call yourself pretty hardcore then

Nick: Recently it’s been less, because surprisingly, working at GP gives you much less time to build models. But overall, definitely the high hundreds of hours

Waku Waku +NYC: As someone who’s built models but never really painted them or anything, the dedication of Gunpla builders is amazing to me. I still have a poor unfinished Master Grade Master Gundam somewhere!

Nick: I don’t paint anything either, and that’s what I mean by the hobby being determined by you. You and I don’t paint but so many people do. Some people barely put any time into cleaning up the plastic, some people remove seam lines, it’s really incredible.

Waku Waku +NYC: Do you find that there has been any significant changes in the Gundam fandom in the NY/NJ area, both from your perspective growing up in the area, and from seeing Gundam Planet grow?

Nick: Well strangely, no one close to me ever had any interest in Gundam growing up, so I never had any idea that anyone really cared about it. So that makes answering that particular question hard from my perspective

And to be honest, I feel like the fandom has always been there. They just never knew it was so readily available to them now. We get so many customers who come into the store and say either “I can’t believe you guys are right here!” or “Man I used to love all this stuff!”

To me that’s indicative of the fact that everyone who used to love it still does and just hasn’t been able to find a way to come by it. Of course having a place like GP to take your friends when you’re into something like this will have a better chance of hooking them into it also, though.

Waku Waku +NYC: Do most of your customers come from the Wing generation or are they into the newer series, the 00s and SEEDs?

Nick: You nailed our three most consistent sellers with those series. Wing always has sticking power because of the nostalgia factor. People will always, always lose their minds over how amazing Heavyarms is no matter how old it is.

Waku Waku +NYC: Years ago I mentioned to a Japanese classmate that the top Gundam series at the time in the US were Wing and G, and he was amazed. It goes to show that Gundam Planet knows its audience

Nick: G Gundam is also a big one. People love it for the cheese factor.

That was another struggle for the owner, that he knew the Japanese market very well but not the NA market. That’s where I came in, with the perspective of a consumer that was also part of the target audience.

Waku Waku +NYC: What do you think about the recent anime Gundam Build Fighters and Gundam Build Fighters TRY? Have they brought more fans to Gunpla, and do you think those series are good ambassadors for Gunpla in general?

Nick: I liked them both, but they’re definitely not anywhere near my favorite series in the universe; however, I can definitely acknowledge that the idea from Bandai’s point of view is actually genius.

Build Fighters has definitely not only brought more people in, but also widened the appeal of the show. A lot of Gundam series (08th MS Team, War in the Pocket, etc.) are really heavy, really serious affairs that don’t really give younger viewers a chance. The more fun-loving approach is something that parents can feel comfortable introducing to their kids, or older siblings can show younger siblings. Plus, it was streamed for free on YouTube with subs in all languages, so literally anyone could watch it.

Waku Waku +NYC: Have the recent Gundam Unicorn and Gundam: Reconguista in G [G-Reco] anime had any success bringing in new customers? And what are your thoughts on each?

Nick: Gundam Unicorn is very heavily interwoven with the plots of the other Universal Century* timelines, so newcomers to Gundam would probably find themselves really confused at times in that OVA. Also, the hour running time of each episode could be a little long for some, even though the animation is absolutely gorgeous.

However, the suit designs being so incredible probably does have a large part in that particular line of kits’ popularity, although it’s hard to say what percentage of buyers comprise “new” customers.

G-Reco… as the manager of GP it’s bad form to bash any Gundam properties, but if I had to pick the biggest flop I’ve seen, that’s the one.

*The original timeline of the first Gundam anime, which over the decades has spawned many sequels and spin-offs that take place within the same universe.

Waku Waku +NYC: Are you excited about all of the Gundam series coming out on Blu-ray?

Nick: Absolutely! Japanese Blu-ray releases are absolute insanity that can actually run upwards of $300 depending on the series. Having domestic releases is going to be so amazing.

Waku Waku +NYC: I’d like to return to Gunpla for the next question: What’s one tip you’d give to beginners and experts alike when it comes to Gunpla?

Nick: I LOVE THIS QUESTION. Everyone who’s going to even think about touching a model kit needs a sharp curved blade on their hobby knife

I know people who have been building for years, and when I make them try a curved blade, they’re always surprised how much easier it is and how much cleaner the nubs on the kits look compared to a straight blade

Waku Waku +NYC: That’s great advice! I should try it myself.

Nick: We have a tutorial on our Youtube channel about that too 🙂

Waku Waku +NYC: Okay, so I have to ask you these questions: favorite Gundam series, favorite Mobile Suit?

Nick: 08th MS Team and the GM Sniper II White Dingo Custom, respectively.

Waku Waku +NYC: You have excellent taste!

Nick: White Dingoes for life.

Waku Waku +NYC: What in particular appeals to you about such a specific and some might say obscure suit?

Nick: Part of it is the attachment to the source material with the Dreamcast game Gundam Side Stories 0079: Rise from the Ashes. It’s one of the best (if not the best) Gundam games ever made and it was a really great localization. Plus, the design is just killer from the color to that crazy medium shield.

Plus how cool is a game that focuses on an elite Federation special forces unit based in Australia after the colony drop? I could go on for days.

Waku Waku +NYC: Especially with your interest in 08th MS Team and a gruntish suit like GM Sniper II, it seems like you enjoy the realistic side of Gundam. What do you think of Super Robots?

Nick: You nailed exactly why I don’t like super robot shows (Except Gurren Lagann). I just can’t really get behind the designs, as shallow as that is. I can understand the appeal but it’s just not for me

Waku Waku +NYC: Ever get into any fights with the boss?

Nick: Usually I leave him alone and he leaves me alone, but sometimes we have words. But like why does everything need to transform? Gosh!

Waku Waku +NYC: Last question! Do you have any shout outs?

Nick: We talking personal or on a business level? I could plug an awesome pizza place by me, haha.

Waku Waku +NYC: Anything you’d like!

Nick: Well I mean for me, this was all because of the amazing people in my life always supporting my passion for what a lot of people would call silly. My parents always helped me find Gundam stuff in the area (Gundam Invasion Tour anyone?), and when I joined the GP Team, the owner was very patient in dealing with my lack of experience in the field–I still haven’t had an ounce of business schooling. He and everyone else at GP are so wonderful, and we’re always helping each other grow as people and as a business.

We also appreciate all the opportunities to express ourselves given by people like you who seek us out and ask us the real questions, and we can’t thank you enough for that!

Waku Waku +NYC: Thank you for the interview, and I wish for continued success for you and Gundam Planet!

Waku Waku +NYC is a new Japanese pop culture festival in New York City dedicated to bringing together the worlds of Japanese food, fashion, video games, anime, manga, and more. Check us out this August 29-30 at the brand new Brooklyn Expo Center!

The Meaning Behind Yusuke Urameshi!

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Yesterday we announced on Facebook that Justin Cook, voice of Yusuke Urameshi from Yu Yu Hakusho, Super Buu from Dragon Ball Z, and Hatsuharu Sohma from Fruits Basket, will be at Waku Waku +NYC this August 29-30! Evidently a lot of you New York anime fans love Yu Yu Hakusho (who doesn’t?), so I thought I’d give a fun bit of trivia.

Have you ever wondered about Yusuke Urameshi’s name? It’s actually a play on words meant to evoke an image of the occult!

The Yu in Yusuke means ghost or spirit, and is the same “Yu” in Yu Yu Hakusho!

Urameshi, though written with different Japanese characters, is a homonym of urameshii, which means “bitter” or “resentful,” and is said to be uttered by ghosts in Japanese folklore.

Altogether, it makes for quite a spooky name!

So what do you think? Actually, a lot of anime characters’ names are like this, and I encourage you to look at the other Yu Yu Hakusho characters as well.

And don’t forget to buy your ticket for Waku Waku +NYC, the best New York Japanese pop culture festival!

-Carl