Sporadic Happiness (in Japan!)

(formerly) updated every Wednesday

#36 Neko Ramen!

NEKO RAMEN  猫ラーメン by Sonishi Kenji.

This is the most adorable manga EVER.  I exaggerate (maybe?) but for me it was an amazing find (that I stumbled upon in an internet cafe!  See last week’s post).  Especially since I’m not normally a fan of manga in the first place; this one really roped me in.

It is, at it’s heart, a 4-koma manga, sometimes called yonkoma or 4-cell manga, which is a traditional form of Japanese comics.  The panels read top to bottom, right to left, and has a certain flow in terms of the story, such that there is set up, further progression, and the main gag comes at the last panel.  Neko Ramen also deviates from this style from time to time to tell slightly longer stories.

The basic premise of Neko Ramen is a cat running a Ramen shop all by himself.  He does a somewhat a poor job of it, but is an incredibly enthusiastic go-getter who is always thinking up crazy schemes to be more unique or to gain more popularity.  He only has one main customer, Mr. Tanaka (the most generic last name in Japan – like having a Mr. Smith).  The majority of the manga is dialogues between the cat owner (affectionately known as Taisho 大将, or General) and his sole customer.  Other characters are brought in too though, like the people or animals Taisho hires, or his family members, especially his father who is a cat model.  You get to learn more about Taisho and his past, and how he got to where he is today, as well as of course witnessing lots of antics that happen in his ramen shop.  Many of the gags, unsurprisingly, play up the fact that Taisho is a cat, and an adorable if somewhat prideful cat at that, and it makes for a very compelling character.  I adore him ^.^

The manga consists of 6 volumes in Japanese.  I bought volumes 1 and 2 while in Japan.  I wanted more but…things.  Must be responsible with things (and not having too much of them).

My mouth dropped open just now, as I just searched on amazon.com to see if they’d have it as an import, to find that the first 4 volumes have been translated into English!!!  And for incredibly reasonable prices; there’s used versions available as well, even cheaper.  Check ’em out!

Neko Ramen Volume 1: Hey! Order Up!

Neko Ramen, Vol. 2

Neko Ramen, Vol. 3

Neko Ramen, Vol. 4

And, for those not interested in spending money (or acquiring more things) or in reading manga, there’s also been an anime made!  It consists of 12 very short (2 and 1/2 minutes each) episodes, and they can all pretty easily be found online, with English subtitles and all.  The anime uses the exact jokes from the manga and presents them in pretty rapid-fire form, adding voice overs obviously for Taisho and Mr. Tanaka and adding in sound effects.  I rather like the way the anime is presented; it seems very faithful to the manga and sticks closely to its style.

Here’s a link to the first episode:

The person who uploaded that one has all 12 episodes, so check them out!

My life has been made better having Neko Ramen in it; I hope you get some enjoyment out of it as well!  They do say that laughter is one of the best ways to release stress and feel good.  I am indebted to Taisho and his antics for helping me through my last few weeks in Japan.  Thank you Taisho!!!

Or perhaps I should be saying, Thank you Kenji Sonishi!  (the Author).

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#11 Anime: Kino’s Journey

Hello everyone.

Sorry this post is happening a day late.  I stayed home from work both yesterday and today because I caught a bad cold.  Yesterday I slept in until 12:30 in the afternoon, and forgot to write this post.  Today I slept in till a whopping 3:30pm.  So now, in my hazy sick state I will write this post.  It’ll be short, and sweet.

One of my favorite anime of all time is Kino’s Journey (or キノの旅 in Japanese)

Anime News Network gives the summary as follows:

“The story follows the travels of Kino, a young adventurer who rides a talking motorcycle named Hermes. They explore the people and cultures of different places throughout their adventures, spending only three days at each location.”

There are many things that appeal to me about this anime.

1) It’s about travel.  Kino (the main character) is constantly going new places, seeing new things, meeting new people.  It’s a very interesting life she lives.

2) It’s about society.  Each of the places she visits has some commentary on society – tendencies within us human beings, ways we live or want to live that may be healthy or unhealthy.  It really makes you think and gain a fresh perspective on a lot of things.

3) It has the feel of a dystopia novel, (ie: Fahrenheit 451, Brave New World, The Giver, 1984, etc).  In high school I was a huge fan of dystopian novels and this anime is like a novella of them, since she goes to a new society in each episode.

4)  I really admire Kino.  She’s strong and brave and self-sufficient.  She refers to herself with a male pronoun for “I” indicating that she’s tough and independent.  She’s also of the personality type to let water roll off her back; no matter what she sees or is involved in, she’s always able to keep moving on and not worry about what has been.  Each day she makes a fresh start and is always looking forward to new travels.

There are also 2 short 30-minute movies that have been made, in addition to the 13 episode single-season series.  One of the movies explores Kino’s past and how she started her journeys, and the other is sort of a “climax” to the series.

If you get a chance, check it out!

Amazon has the complete collection (all 13 episodes) available for just $25.57!

Kino’s Journey Complete Collection

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#5 Suite PreCure (anime series)

So, the first anime that got me into anime was Sailor Moon.

I’ve heard that Sailor Moon basically started the magical girl anime genre.  That was back in the early 90’s.

In the early 2000’s, a new series of magical girl shows began the Pretty Cure series.  The first one was called “Futari wa puri kyua” or “We (two) are Pretty Cure”

I believe those two were named Cure Black and Cure White.

Ever since then, there’s been plenty of other Pretty Cure shows that come about about once a year (sometimes skipping a year maybe).

There’s also been crossover movies with all the precure characters in them:

Now, the precure series (precure is short for Pretty Cure) have a couple things going for them.
1) The girls are cute, earnest, and likeable
2) The girls have magical powers to fight evil in the world
3) The girls have adorable little animal helpers that are their friends and allies.

In some of the pictures above, you can see those cute little pet-like animal friends of theirs.  Even the original series had them:

The animals are always adorable.  They often have cutsey voices and a cute way of talking that denotes that they’re cute animal things and not actual people.  Though of note, some of these pet things become precure themselves in certain series, I believe.

Anyway, I haven’t actually watched any of the previous series so I can’t vouch for them.  But I have been watching the current series that is still ongoing in Japan.

It’s called Suite PreCure.

I love it for 3 really important reasons.

1) It’s music themed, which I think is awesome.

The precures use musical instruments as their weapons.  The enemies are modeled after famous composers – they’re named Trio the Minor and their names are Bass Drum, Falsetto, and Baritone, and yes, they talk/sing like their names imply.

The main two precure girls are named Hibiki and Kanade.  Hibiki comes from the verb hibiku which means to reverberate, and Kanade comes from the verb kanaderu, which means to play an instrument.

Their town is named Kannon Town, which means something like “lots of music.”  The examples go on and on

2) Their little pet-helper is a most adorable white cat named Hummy, played by the voice actress who did Sailor Moon!

Sailor Moon’s voice actress is super famous.  And super talented.  And plays Hummy super well.

Plus Hummy is meant to be a very cute and loveable character.  She’s earnest and somewhat naive in an endearing way, played in such a way that you come to respect Hummy instead of feeling sorry for her.  She’s the backbone of the team.

3) They have extra little helpers in this series – the Fairy Tones!

What’s a fairy tone?  Basically it’s a little jewel sprite.  Hummy is actually holding them in the above picture.

There’s one for each music notes – do ray me fa so la ti do.   In Japanese, the notes are do re mi fa so ra shi do, and by attaching -ri to the end of each, the fairy tones get their names: dori, reri, miri, fari, sori, rari, shiri, and dodori (to demarcate it from the lower dori).

Note: dodori is purple, and does not appear in this picture.

Those names sounds absolutely adorable in Japanese.  And the fairy tones talk adorably and often say the first syllable in their name twice at the end of each sentence (a cutesy thing that talking creatures/animals sometimes do – not always saying their names, but maybe saying a certain syllable or reduplicated syllable after each sentence).

These fairy tones each have a bit of personality (some more than others), and often help the precure team in adorable ways.  Dodori is by far the most awesome one – she’s not with the group at first, and comes in later in the series.  Here she is:

The tones help the team to transform and power up – each girl gets two fairy tones to use.  Since there’s 8 Fairy Tones, that means 4 main Precure characters.  The series starts out with just 2, and slowly adds the remaining two over time.  I don’t wanna give it away, so if you’re interested, try watching it yourself!  Episodes are easily available online with English subtitles.

I’ll probably do another post in the future on some other anime I like – I have, in particular, two more shows I want to introduce.  If you have any anime you like, please share your recommendations with me in the comments section!