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

How cute does a girl have to be before she’s forgiven for using a stolen iPhone? This cute

Not so long ago, if you were travelling overseas and someone swiped your bag or camera, you pretty much had until you left the country to crack the caper. Unless you happened to be carrying a cargo of priceless gems in your tote bag, the local authorities weren’t going to coordinate an international search and recovery operation with you once you’re back in your home country.

Things are different now, when so many of the gadgets we take with us on vacation are linked to cloud storage services and social media accounts. Such was the case of one Japanese traveler who goes by the Twitter screen name Matsumoto Hiroki. Matsumoto, who lost his iPhone on a trip to Bangkok, was able to track down the person using it through iCloud, which is when his story got really interesting.

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Apparently short on cash, Gundam takes a part-time job at 7-Eleven

With 35 years as Japan’s favorite mecha anime, the Gundam franchise has grown to include dozens of TV and direct-to-video animated series, manga comics, and video game adaptations. With such a long history, some of them are, of course, less successful than others. Certain fans shook their heads at V Gundam’s cast of middle schoolers. Others were baffled by G Gundam’s schoolgirl uniform-inspired robot designs. Even the TV series that started it all, 1979’s Mobile Suit Gundam, has more than its fair share of goofy villains of the week who come and go like so many Scooby Doo criminals.

But despite the franchise’s occasional detours into outright silliness, the 1988 theatrical release Char’s Counterattack enjoys almost universal acclaim, both for the gravitas of its story and the commensurate visuals. Which makes it all the more disheartening to see the robot piloted by the film’s hero apparently reduced to having to take a job at convenience store 7-Eleven.

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Is the fried chicken at Myanmar’s “AFC” finger-licking good?

Recent relaxations of regulations by the government of Myanmar have gone a long way in opening up the country to foreign tourism and investment. While we’re sure this is big news in the worlds of finance and manufacturing, we couldn’t help but wonder what this would mean for RocketNews24’s journalistic foundation: fast food. We’d heard that Japanese/Korean hamburger/craziness emporium Lotteria had entered the market, but where do the people of Myanmar get their fried poultry fix? Do they have KFC?

We suppose we could have used Google to see if the chain operates in the country (turns out it does), but we saw no reason to do so when we could get paid to take an overseas business trip instead. And so we travelled to Myanmar’s metropolis of Yangon in search of KFC.

We found two thirds of what we were looking for.

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Sailor Moon fan art: Often baffling, sometimes terrifying, and occasionally both

Like many people, we’re happy about the recent announcement that the new Sailor Moon series will finally debut this July, and are keeping our fingers crossed that the third time is indeed the charm for the release date of the twice-delayed project. All the same, we’re getting a little impatient, not the least because the upcoming anime’s producers have yet to release so much as a single promotional sketch for it.

It’s gotten to the point that in order to sate our desire for Sailor Moon imagery, we’ve had to turn our attention to non-official creations. But while a few months ago we stumbled across some amateur drawings that looked so professional we mistook them for the real deal, we found out that the quality of Sailor Moon fan-art isn’t always as high as the enthusiasm of the fans behind it.

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Hollywood blacksmith forges Sephiroth’s massive sword from Final Fantasy VII【Video】

When Final Fantasy VII hit PlayStations around the globe in 1997, featuring some of the most gorgeous graphics and CG cut-scenes gamers had ever seen, it single-handedly opened up the Western market to Japanese console RPGs. In years since, though, there’s been some contention over just how deserving developer Square’s biggest hit ever is of its exalted place in video game lore. Does it have a gripping story, or does the narrative become a confused mess after its midgame plot twist? Do the title’s numerous mini games flesh out its world, or is spending hours breeding giant flightless birds to race for sport both silly and boring?

But no matter which side of the debate you fall on, there’s one thing gamers everywhere can agree on: Final Fantasy VII’s antagonist, Sephiroth, is a stone-cold badass. Now, Hollywood blacksmith Tony Swatton has brought the villain’s iconic weapon, the gigantic blade named Masamune, to life.

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Like all things Evangelion, whether this hoodie is creepy or cool depends on the viewer’s interpretation

Over the past several months, we’ve seen wave after wave of wearable Sailor Moon merchandise, from accessories to lingerie to even bibs. But what about the other colossal ‘90s anime hit featuring combat-ready adolescents, Evangleion? Is there no new way to dress yourself in a way that shows your love for the franchise that ping pongs back and forth between scenes of its 14-year-old protagonists battling horrific aliens and coming to grips with the sexual confusion and frustration of puberty?

Why yes there is, and you can keep yourself warm at the same time with this crazy zip-up Evangelion hoodie.

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Things Japanese women love (and hate) about foreign guys

With the majority of the foreigners on extended stays in Japan being male, and more Japanese women than men having a strong interest in languages and cultures other than their own, it’s natural that the most common international pairing for Japanese nationals is a Japanese woman and foreign man.

Of course, every society has its attractive and unattractive aspects, which Japanese women revealed by sharing both the things about their foreign boyfriends and husbands that thrilled them, as well as the less pleasant parts of the package deal of a romantic partner.

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We get ready for romance by eating Krispy Kreme’s limited edition Valentine’s Day donuts

With less than a month to go until Valentine’s Day, Japan has got sweets on the brain. Japanese tradition dictates that, on the special day, women give gifts to men, including at least one form of chocolate.

But while common opinion holds that homemade chocolate is best, not everyone has the culinary skills or free time to whip up a batch. So for those of you looking for the next best thing, we bring you our taste test of Krispy Kreme Japan’s three limited edition Valentine’s Day flavors.

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We eat tasty, steaming Korean poo cakes

It’s been a little more than a year since we reported on ttongsul, or Korean feces wine. And while many of our readers enjoyed sampling the beverage vicariously through the five victims brave young ladies we recruited for the taste test, others took us to task for not having our regular staff knock back a glass of dookie-liqueur.

In an attempt at penance, we traveled to Korea to snack on poo-shaped cakes.

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Foreign men sound off on the difficulties of having a Japanese wife

As its society becomes more and more internationalized, a growing number of Japan’s citizens are choosing a spouse from another country. It’s not hard to see why, as an interracial relationship can be the deepest and most rewarding form of cultural exchange.

That said, there’s no such thing as a perfect spouse, with of course the notable exception of my lovely wife, who I’m sure will be reading this article (Hi baby….um, I’ll get started on that load of laundry right away!). Following are a list of difficulties foreign men have had in blending their own customs and traditions with those of their Japanese brides.

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Something for soy milk skeptics: cola and pear flavors

Living in Japan has done a lot to broaden my palate. For example, over the last 10 years my take on tofu has gone from “jello’s boring cousin” to “actually pretty good, especially with a little bit of sesame or spicy sauce.”

That said, I’m still not sold on soy milk. While the idea of popping open a soybean pod and finding delicious morsels of beef sounds like some sort of wonderful dreamland, the potential magic of bovine/bean cross-over doesn’t do much for me in reverse, and in general I’ll happily pass on drinkable soy.

Hoping to change my mind are two upcoming additions to soy giant Kikkoman’s line of flavored soy beverages: pear and cola.

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Justice served with a side of mayo as police arrest man for series of condiment attacks

In a strange story out of Hyogo Prefecture, a man has been arrested for squirting an unwanted, creamy white liquid onto an unsuspecting high school girl. And while the substance in question isn’t as disgusting as it could have been, it’s still pretty gross.

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Turn any anime character into a glasses gal with this awesome photo frame

In our modern world of contact lenses and laser eye surgery, no one really needs to wear glasses. Nevertheless, there are some people who choose to do so, as well as another set of not entirely overlapping glasses fans who simply feel the object of their affection looks all the cuter with a set of corrective lenses.

Now, a new glasses stand from anime merchandise producer Funny Trick lets you instantly transform your favorite characters, even those with 20-20 vision, into bespectacled beauties.

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KFC has its own potato chips in Japan, and we’ve got them in our bellies

For all of the attention Japan gets for its culinary contributions such as sushi and tempura, precious little credit is given to the way the country is always willing to push the envelope of salty snacks. Walk into any convenience store in the country, and you’ll find shelf after shelf stuffed with rice crackers, assorted nuts, and most of all, potato chips.

Recently, snack maker Calbee unleashed its newest flavor: KFC Colonel’s Crispy Potato Chips, and despite having never been to Kentucky, I knew it was my solemn duty to eat them.

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A collection of 30 cats, a collective 60 seconds before sneezing

Cats, the conventional logic goes, are the refined pet choice. Unlike dogs, whose motivations are so shallow that their loyalty can be won with a handful of sausages, cats are discerning creatures. They give their love to those who earn it, and only on their own terms, putting up the sort of uncaring exterior that would make them archetypical romantic leads in a dating simulator.

For many cat lovers, the hard-fought affection from a feline is all the more valuable than similar sentiments from other members of the animal kingdom. The back and forth of developing trust with a new acquaintance, the eventual thawing of an initially frosty reception, are these not like the social dances engaged in by humans?

However, cats also share another, less graceful aspect with we humans: they look really, really weird just before they sneeze.

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Korean idol group’s Sailor Moon cosplay sets fans of anime and K-pop against each other 【Video】

As fans continue to wait for the now twice-delayed debut of the new Sailor Moon TV series, numerous companies have been taking advantage of their anxious anticipation by featuring the beloved magical girls of the hit ‘90s anime in their offerings and advertisements. We recently saw Japanese intimate apparel manufacturer Peach John release a line of Sailor Moon-themed bras and panties which sold out almost immediately, but the power of Moon marketing is too great to be contained in its native Japan.

A troupe of Korean idols recently appeared as the Sailor Moon cast in a music video and accompanying TV commercial, causing a schism on the Internet in the process.

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Create 8-bit melodies by turning your old Nintendo cartridges into harmonicas 【Video】

Like many people who started playing video games in the 1980s, when titles were still put on cartridges, I often had to deal with faulty connections when playing with my Nintendo Entertainment System. And while every video game shop would sell you a fancy cleaning kit with solvents and swabs for 15 bucks and Nintendo would advise against doing so, any kid knew the best way to clean out dusty connection ports was to simply blow into the cartridge.

Recently, I heard the sobering theory that blowing into the cartridge didn’t really accomplish anything, and that simply reinserting it into the system is what dislodged the connection-blocking dirt. But with so many hours of my youth spent forcing air into 8-bit game packs, I can’t bring myself to accept that it was all meaningless. Surely, there must be something that can be accomplished by caressing Nintendo classics with a puff of breath?

It turns out there is, as with a little bit of engineering you can turn a classic game cartridge into a harmonica, complete with old school video game sounds.

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Five tips to be the perfect boyfriend (as taught by Japanese dating simulators)

Among Japan’s bigger pop cultural head scratchers is the dating simulation. Whereas people around the globe can agree on the entertainment potential of video games that let you drive high performance cars (Gran Turismo), shoot people (Call of Duty) or some combination of the two (Grand Theft Auto), having a digital dating partner remains primarily a feature of the Japanese gaming landscape.

And while it’s tempting to write the genre off as appealing to only the sweatiest and smelliest of nerdy males, dating simulators have a whole sub-genre known as otome (maiden) games that let female players pick from among a stable of hunky love interests.

The creative team at Cybird, developers of the popular Ikemen series of dating simulators, recently shared the five characteristics of an ideal virtual beau.

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Japanese idol fan prepares to meet his favorite singer by filling out a marriage application

While the 48-member, Tokyo-based AKB 48 still holds the spot as Japan’s top idol singer unit, its sister troupes around the country are no slouches either. NMB 48, which operates out of Osaka’s Namba neighborhood, joined the sorority of tri-letter mega-groups produced by the prolific Yasushi Akimoto in 2011.

NMB 48 has followed its predecessor’s lead in providing fans with a high level of personal access to its members. Aside from regularly holding concerts in their proprietary theatre, the performers of NMB 48 occasionally hold events where they greet and shake hands with their adoring supporters.

It’s an exciting opportunity for any fan to press palms with their idol, and it’s understandable that some hope to make an impression on their favorite, either with a heartfelt smile, a kind word of encouragement, or a legally binding marriage proposal.

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Japan’s rarest cars, from exotic sports coupes to Toyota’s answer to the Hummer

For decades, the automobile industry has been one of the driving forces behind the Japanese economy. But for every Camry, Civic, or Miata that went on to international success, Japan’s carmakers have produced a model that came and went so quickly that you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who’s even seen one on the street, let alone actually driven one.

Today, we present a field guide to Japan’s rarest, most frequently forgotten rides.

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