Casey Baseel

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Casey Baseel spent his formative years staring in frustration at un-subtitled Japanese TV programming shown on Southern California’s international channel. Taking matters into his own hands, he moved to Tokyo to study the language, then found work in Yokohama a decade ago teaching, translating, and marketing hotels he can’t afford to stay in. When not participating in the eternal cycle of exercising to burn the calories form his love of Japanese food, Casey scours used comic and game shops for forgotten classics, drags his wife around the country in a quest to visit all its castles, sings karaoke not nearly as well as he thinks he does, and counts the days until the summertime bars open on Enoshima Beach.

All Stories by Casey Baseel

No digital ink here – Yokohama tattoo parlor churning out amazing anime art

At the very first anime convention I ever went to, one of the guests was Go Nagai, creator of numerous manga, including Devilman, Mazinger, and Cutey Honey. During his autograph signing session, while most fans came up to Nagai’s table with comic books or posters for him to sign, one attendee rolled up his sleve and asked him to sign his Cutey Honey tattoo, which the artist good-naturedly did.

But while many dedicated overseas anime fans have offered their bodies as canvases for their favorite art form, the practice hasn’t completely caught on in Japan. Recently, though, there’s been an upswing in anime tattoos, which some have taken to calling ita-tattoos.

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1,500 yen will get you all the plum wine you can drink, may or may not make you cuter

Japan is a great place to be a drinker, and not just because of the excellent public transportation and lack of social stigma about enjoying a beer in the park. The selection is also fantastic, as the country produces dozens of brands of tasty beer, sake, and shochu.

If you’re still looking for more variety, Japan also makes a plum wine called umeshu, which has a uniquely rich sweetness. Umeshu isn’t as quite as prevalent as other kinds of alcohol, though, so if you’re in need of a primer, we found a restaurant in Tokyo that’ll let you sample as many varieties of the drink as you like during a two-hour stay for just 1,500 yen (US$14.70).

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Chick-shaped pudding from Nagoya is so cute we’re tempted to keep it as a pet

Even though it doesn’t have anything close to the number of sightseeing options in Tokyo or Kyoto, should you find yourself in Nagoya, consider yourself lucky. The city is one of Japan’s underappreciated gastronomic gems, and if you have the chance, you owe it to yourself to try the chicken wings made from the regional fowl, called kochin.

This being Japan, though, if there’s the opportunity to make food cute, someone’s going to do it, which is where this adorable chick-shaped custard pudding, made with kochin eggs, comes in.

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Japanese Twitter users weigh in on the high-waist bikini debate

Japanese fashion magazines seem to be serious in declaring the high-waist bikini the hot look for the upcoming swimsuit season. Of course, we’ve had unique fashionistas try to sell us on keyboard hats and sausage gloves, neither of which turned out to be the next big thing.

So, with just a little over a month before it’s time to hit the beach, how does the Japanese online community feel about the high-waist bikini?

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Preorders begin for Attack on Titan iPhones cases

We can’t imagine a more dedicated way to show off your love of hit anime Attack on Titan than by strapping on a pair of replicas of the heroes’ giant-killing swords whenever you step out of the house. What we can imagine, though, is the blades clashing with the rest of many peoples’ wardrobes, not to mention earning them the unwanted attention of their local police department should they happen to live in a municipality where defending yourself from 60-meter tall monsters isn’t a daily concern.

Thankfully, if you’re looking for anime accessories that are less bulky/deadly, the makers of the Attack on Titan iPhone case have announced they’ve started taking orders.

Price, details, and lots of delicious photos after the jump!

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Hey! Somebody parked their Gundam car in the middle of this Tokyo theater!

Believe it or not, the anime with a character named Full Frontal isn’t an animated porno, as Mr. Frontal is actually the villain in Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn

As with most installments of the Gundam saga, Unicorn isn’t really a direct sequel to any of the more than two dozen pre-existing anime to bear the Gundam name. Still, there’re plenty of winks and nods to fans who’ve been around since the franchise’s start. Full Frontal’s blond hair, penchant for masks, and complex psychology closely mirror that of the original 1979 Mobile Suit Gundam’s antagonist, Char.

So it’s only fitting that since last year Char got his own car, now Full Frontal has a customized ride too.

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Welsh onion umbrella is perfect for vegetarians and Hatsune Miku fans alike

A couple of years ago, a friend of mine gave me an umbrella with a handle that looks like the hilt of a katana. It’s actually really well-made, while I’ve never had to use the crosspiece to protect my hand from rival swordsmen’s strikes, it does provide a nice bit of extra grip during typhoons and lesser storms with gale-force winds.

There is one problem, though. When it’s closed up, and all you can see is the handle, it looks a little too much like a samurai blade, and I feel a little self-conscious carrying it in public. So maybe it’s time I switched to something a no less unique but a whole lot more innocuous: like an umbrella shaped like a giant Welsh onion.

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Canadian fans’ live-action Akira is better than many expect Hollywood’s to be

Although Warner Bros. acquired the rights for a live-action version of legendary anime and manga Akira more than a decade ago, the studio has yet to produce even a minute of its promised version of the psychic cyberpunk epic.

Recently, the project has been hit hard by a fan backlash to alleged deviations from the source material, such as moving the setting to New York. The reaction has also been less than positive to rumors of changing the ethnicities (but not the names, curiously) of Akira’s originally entirely Japanese cast. With Zac Efron, James Franco, Justin Timberlake, Joaquin Phoenix, Keanu Reeves, and Gary Oldman all at some point rumored to be attached to the film, I was starting to feel a little left out, as I suspected I might be the last non-Japanese guy not being offered a chance to portray motorcycle gang leader Kaneda or his mentally unstable pal Tetsuo.

But while Warner Bros.’ Akira looks to be stalled for the foreseeable future, a group of Canadian fans has out together a trailer showing what they’d like a live-action version of the anime to look like.

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Man arrested for hunting the nerdiest game: Akihabara otaku

The 1993 action film Hard Target is notable for three reasons. First, it was Hong Kong action director John Woo’s American debut. Second, it starred Jean-Claude Van Damme as perhaps cinema’s most physically fit and combat-ready homeless man. And third, its story was one of the finest examples of the rich film genre known as “jaded and wealthy individuals hunting men for sport.”

One man from Saitama Prefecture apparently wasn’t quite up to the task of stalking the kickboxing Muscles from Brussels, though, and aimed his sights a little lower: hunting the otaku nerds of Akihabara.

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Nonsensical message full of dirty words discovered in latest Attack on Titan manga

Attack on Titan may be best known for its iconic giant monsters and cool weaponry, but among the many secrets to the hit anime and manga’s success is its extremely compelling setting. With its cast of human characters forced to live within the confines of their walled city, fans have only been provided with fleeting glimpses of the outside world. Does the story take place on Earth? Is it set in the distant past, or maybe the far-flung future?

As part of walking that fine line, when signs, books, and other writings pop up in Attack on Titan, they’re not rendered in anything that looks like a real-world language. Although actually, some eagle-eyed fans found a way to decipher a portion of the series’ text, and what they found was rather like the Titans themselves: one part shocking, one part baffling, and just a little bit comical.

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Report says Chinese authorities are banning bikinis in video games

As a sign of China’s continuing integration into the global community, the country’s long-standing ban on video game consoles was lifted last year. This doesn’t mean Chinese gamers are free to enjoy all that modern gaming has to offer, as censorship regulations mean certain types of content aren’t allowed.

Some of the problem areas are nebulously defined, such as restrictions on games that “besmirch the image of China” or “intentionally blacken the image of the Chinese army.” A possible upcoming addition to the list of punishable offenses is a little easier to understand: no more video game characters wearing bikinis.

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Awesome castle-like café in Shikoku lacks dragons, does have crepes and coffee

Despite its well-deserved reputation as an extremely hard-working nation, Japan is also a country that knows how to relax. Every city has a number of cafes where you can stop, sip a drink, and soak in the soothing ambiance.

Some of these establishments style themselves after a comfy living room, while others feel more like a stylish library or lounge. Or, if you happen to be in Tokushima Prefecture, there’s the café built into what appears to be a crumbling castle.

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Kawasaki donut shop goes beyond cat sweets with cute alpacas, penguins, and killer whales

If we’re speaking honestly, we don’t really need much of an added incentive to eat a donut. Really, a sweet, inexpensive indulgence that we can eat with our hands is pretty much a laser-guided strike on our willpower.

Still, we can usually muster enough self-control that we don’t plow through a half-dozen in one sitting. But when you take donuts’ numerous preexisting merits and add the visual appeal of shaping them like cats, penguins, alpacas, and even killer whales, that’s when we stop even trying to resist them.

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Make your boyfriend hate you with these Line stickers designed for pushy, clingy girlfriends

The social messaging service Line is a huge hit in Japan. It’s easy to use, free, and even lets you decorate your messages with stickers to add a personal touch.

All of this makes Line great for keeping in touch with your friends or dating partner. As a matter of fact, it might have just become a little too good at keeping you connected to your significant other, with a new set of stickers specially designed for clingy girlfriends.

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It may look like a tool shed, but one of Japan’s fastest trains passes through this station

Two phrases sum up a distinct dichotomy of life in Japan. The first is gambaru, to do one’s best, and it lies at the root of so many of the country’s academic, economic, and scientific achievements.

On the other hand, you’ve also got gaman suru, to put up with things, which is why the same country which produces so many handy gadgets still seems largely fine making do without things such as garbage disposals and clothes dryers.

These two equal but opposite attitudes seem to have collided at Toge Station in Yamagata Prefecture, a distinctly low-tech structure with a connection to one of Japan’s most impressive engineering feats.

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These beautiful temple gardens are…15 minutes from Narita Airport?!

For many visitors to Japan, their image of the city of Narita begins and ends with Narita International Airport. As such, most people plan their itineraries with the goal of spending as little time in the town as possible, unless they’re the type of odd sorts who just can’t get enough of waiting in airline check-in or customs lines.

In their rush to get into Tokyo or back home as soon as possible, though, they’re missing out on one of eastern Japan’s most visually impressive temples, Naritasan Shinshoji and its attached gardens.

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In a shocking twist, some idol singers really will go out with you if you buy their albums

When you really stop and think about it, the concept of idol singers is a little strange. At its core, the idea is to leverage the performers’ good looks into higher sales than they could achieve through their musical talents alone.

We realize that in face-to-face dealings, there’s very little a guy won’t do for a pretty girl, if for no reason other than to raise his chances of getting a date with her by even the tiniest fraction of a percentage. But does it really make sense for hard-core fans to try to impress their idol of choice? Regardless of how many copies of your favorite singer’s albums you buy, it’s not like she’s going to go out with you or anything.

Unless, of course, you’re talking about the idol group AeLL.

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BuzzFeed’s image of post-beer ramen in Japan is soberingly off base【Video】

A few months ago, BuzzFeed posted a video titled What Does the World Eat for Breakfast? The video’s representative morning meal for the United States – pancakes, eggs, and bacon – was an old-fashioned if not inaccurate choice, but we couldn’t say the same thing about the funky menu selected for Japan, which was unlike anything anyone on our team, Japanese natives included, had ever started their day with.

So when we heard the same crew was back with a new video about post-drinking foods from around the world, and that once again Japan was featured, we were both a little honored to be included, and a little worried about what would end up on the plate this time.

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Trailer released for live-action version of street gang anime Tokyo Tribe 【Video】

This year is shaping up to be the year of live-action anime adaptations. First up is the second installment of samurai action series Rurouni Kenshin, which opens August 1 and is followed in rapid succession by the trilogy’s finale on September 13. August 30 sees the long-awaited return of the band of thieves from Lupin III, which hasn’t been attempted with live actors for three decades.

And now there’s one more group of manga-originating criminals coming to the big screen — the live-action version of ultra-violent gang story Tokyo Tribe.

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A tale of two tonkatsu burgers – We pit McDonald’s pork cutlet sandwich against Mos Burger’s

Here at RocketNews24, we’re all about forming stronger connections between Japan and the rest of the world. Incidentally, we’re also all about burgers and fried foods.

Sometimes, the planets align just right, and we get to check all three boxes at once, like we did today with our taste-test of McDonald’s new pork cutlet burger, a Westernized version of Japanese dish inspired by Western cuisine. And since the only thing better than a fried pork sandwich is two fried pork sandwiches, we’ll be comparing it to the nearly identical menu item from hometown hero Mos Burger.

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