Saturday, February 19, 2011

Dire Cup

I'm currently putting together a big article on sake for the Japan-i magazine and website, expanding upon and updating the merry one that used to be stored within this blog.

That baby should be tarted up and online at the end of next month.

In the meantime, here's something I won't be talking up in the article since their publishers and advertisers would likely object.

It comes in the form of a warning.

There is one sake that you should avoid at all costs – even if those costs are one of the most meagre in Japan.

Its name kind of gives the game away if you say it out loud in English: DIA CUP, a ¥100 vending machine special I’ve stumbled across only once, in Kawasaki. While the taste is forgettable, it left me feeling rather ill after only half the contents.

Sadly I tossed the rest in the bin.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Unchain My Heart (Catch)

This past week something special ended for me, and while I wouldn’t quite put it in the same league as the final episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Xena: Warrior Princess or Battlestar Galactica, it still feels like a kick in the gut and has left me feeling strangely down in the dumps.

I’m talking about the 49th episode of anime series HeartCatch PreCure!, which was broadcast on Sunday morning here in Japan. HeartCatch is the seventh version of the long-running girls' concept created by the “mysterious” Izumi Todo – actually none other than an alias for the creative types at Toei Animation.

I've known all along that production house Toei reinvent their Pretty Cure anime series every February, and that they'd done so seven times already since 2004, so I could see the writing on the wall for this particular incarnation from the moment it started in February, 2010.

Each year there’s a new super-team of Pretty Cure girls to battle baddies and dress in glitzy new ways, taking the baton from Sailor Moon but at the same time making that predecessor seem underplayed.

You can read more of this rambling yarn and about the end of HeartCatch @ the Forces Of Geek site.

Now for new incarnation Suite PreCure ♪ tomorrow.

© ABC 東映アニメーション

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Cut Bit Motorz Takes the Wheel

One of my preferred emerging Japanese artists at play here in Tokyo over the past couple of years has been the somewhat enigmatic Tsuyoshi K.

He doesn’t tell anyone what the ‘K’ stands for.

Tsuyoshi started out making fringe, left-of-centre electro-pop stuff as Gadget Cassette but last year scrapped that and changed name to Cut Bit Motorz – at the same time as he began pushing through more tech-house related sounds.

Funnily enough, even though we lived in the same city and customarily did the email thing as well as having remixed each other’s tunes, we didn’t actually meet up until last month – when yours truly was quite tanked (that’s the Christmas/bonenkai season for you in Japan) and... er... embarrassingly played a hack set at his party.

The lack of personal acquaintance before that jaunt didn’t stop me from releasing last year in August a digital slab of remixes of Tsuyoshi’s tune ‘Dry Fruit‘, albeit in a limited manner, through IF? Records. We got on board some of the man’s more experienced Japanese peers – DJ Wada (Co-Fusion), Toshiyuki Yasuda (Robo*Brazileira), Takashi Watanabe (DJ Warp) and Tomi Chair – to do the rejigs, making it an entirely Japanese putsch that crisscrosses eclectic, tech, electro, house and (dare I twist it) a marginally more progressive stance.

Even after putting a face to a name – and in spite of my sadly wayward set at that gig in December – Tsuyoshi seems to have forgiven me for the musical mayhem and is keen to do more together. This guy is an absolute gem to work with.

If your stunted attention span is still somehow focused, you can read more about Tsuyoshi - plus the interview questionnaire itself - at the new Techno How? site here.