Science Fiction Bento Buffet

We go beyond the fiction

In this bento we go beyond Science-fiction, even beyond fiction as we look at robots in Japan, Japanese food that is quite alien, listen to some jammin’ AMVs, anime and Japanese news, and discuss our anime challenge for this month and even more fictional goodies in this bento. Whether you are a ‘mecha-head’ or alien enthusiast we got you covered. We are YOUR monthly guide to anime news and Japanese culture. Itadakimasu!!

News Recap

Possible good news for Hunter x Hunter manga Fanatiks

In 1998 Yoshihiro Togashi started the manga Hunter x Hunter. It was picked up as an anime series and later rebooted in a second series. It plays off in a world where licenced professionals called hunters go on fantastical journeys and adventures like hunting dangerous monsters, criminals or treasures. In Hunter x Hunter, Gon’s father is a Hunter and he never met his father so Gon leaves his island life to become a Hunter in search of his father. He is joined by three great characters Killua, the runaway heir of an assassin family; Kurapika, the last member of a murdered clan; and Leorio, a medical student.

The news is that more chapters of the Hunter x Hunter manga might be coming in the (hopefully) nearby future ending the years-long hiatus of the series. The most recent volume of the manga came out in 2018 but due to severe health issues Togashi was forced to take hiatuses from his work and that 2018 break has been his longest so far. A Twitter account believed to be Togashi’s posted a small update in May promising more episodes to come. Problem is that the Twitter account is brand new and thus it is not verified if it really is his account, however, One Punch Man artist Yusuke Murata stated that the account is Togashis, and Polygon has reached out to Viz Media, the U.S. publisher of Hunter x Hunter, for confirmation. We wait with bated breath, hopefully, it is true, only time will tell.

Made in Abyss reveals a new trailer

Remember the 2017 anime series Made in Abyss? It is the brainchild of Japanese mangaka Akihito Tsukushi and now there is a second season slated to be released in late July. The first season introduced us to a world where human life is not highly valued, a world where children are sent into a massive bottomless chasm called The Abyss, they rarely make it back… Our hero is Rico, a 12-year-old orphan who dreams of becoming as famous an explorer as her late mother. The Abyss hides artefacts and remnants of a civilization long gone, making it a popular hunting spot for so-called Cave Raiders, who undertake dangerous adventures into the mist-filled depths to recover whatever relics they can find. Returning from the Abyss can be dangerous as “the Curse of the Abyss,” a mysterious and potentially fatal malady, manifests upon ascension. One fateful day she meets Regu, a strange robot boy who may just be the one who helps her reach her dream … if they can survive, that is…

This series was followed by a movie and it seems the upcoming season will pick up right where the movie left off at the entrance to the sixth layer. The second season welcomes new cast members Hiroki Goto as Majikaja, Kana Ichinose as Maaa, Kimiko Saito as Moogie, and Ryota Takeuchi as Gaburoon. The new season is officially titled Made in Abyss: Retsujitsu no Ogonkyo.

New Pokémon series may steal your heart

The Pokémon Company International’s YouTube channel has once again released a new Pokémon series, Pokémon: Hisuian Snow, which is the latest Pokémon anime web series from Wit Studio, the same studio responsible for the anime hit series Attack on Titan. Drawing from lore from the Pokémon Legends: Arceus video game the series is set in the Hisui region, where kids are taught that Pokémon and humans cannot coexist. Despite that a young lad, Alec meets and forms a deep bond with a Hisuian Zoroa, which will debunk the belief that makes humans so wary of Pokémon in the Hisuian region.

The series is set to span only three episodes of which the first episode has been released on The Pokémon Company International’s YouTube channel. The series is directed by Ken Yamamoto (Princess Connect! Re:Dive), while Taku Kishimoto (Fruits Basket, Haikyu!!) is lead screenwriter.

As you will see the first episode is beautifully animated, and colourful and the music of composer Conisch sets a nice ambience to the story. You may feel your heart melt as you watch the episode. Though it is not clear when episode 2 or 3 will drop we anticipate that it will be soon, we gotta catch ’em all.

The AI storyteller with mom's voice

One of the deepest most impactful memories of our childhood is falling to sleep as a child while listening to our moms telling us fairytales. Jack and the beanstalk and Red Riding Hood became adventurous journies we travelled upon listening to mom, feeling safe from the monsters in the stories because her voice anchored us. These are the thoughts floating in Japanese toymaker Takara Tomy’s brilliant minds when giving birth to its newest creation Coemo. Coemo’s name is a play on the Japanese word ‘koe’, which means ‘voice’ and it is an eggshaped device that tells stories to kids using the parents’ voice, even if the parent has never read the story out loud themselves.

This is done through an AI system that synthesizes mom or dad’s voice, even matching the inflexion and intonations to provide the proper emotions to the stories it tells. All the parent has to do is use the Koe Station smartphone app to register his or her voice by reading a sample text, then supplied by that voice sample Koe Station then creates a vocal profile, which is then exported to the Coemo app and sn to the Coemo device.

Coemo is pre-loaded with 45 stories which include stories from Japan and over the world such as Momotaro/Peach Boy, Little Red Riding Hood, and The Three Little Pigs which are played over the speakers an added bonus, multiple voices can be registered so even grandma or other relatives can be ‘assigned’ to read the chid a bedtime story. Preorders for Coemo start on June 1 and it will cost about 12,980 yen. Takara Tomy is also known for other technological wonders such as Takara Tomy’s robo grand children. 

Only in Japan

Yokohama’s Giant Gundam gets another year

We have covered giant Gundam mechas in our Only In Japan segment before, one of them is the giant Gundam in Yokohama. This 18-metre-tall mecha looks and feels like it stepped right out of a Gundam anime. The Flashing LED lights, moving limbs and the ability to step out of its docking station showcases that it is a modern engineering and robotics marvel and a sliver of hope for what wonders technology hold for the future of mankind. It is also every mecha-heads dream come true.

This mecha’s origins started back in 2014, with designers spending several years perfecting its mechanics until the Gundam was unveiled in December 2020. It is sad that this attraction is only temporary and the plan was to close it at the end of March 2022 but the operation of Gundam Factory Yokohama has just been extended until March 2023, great news for those of us who wish to travel to Japan to see this colossal mecha beauty. Only in Japan, we can find this live-action marvel so if you can visit it before the attraction ends next year.

Link of the Month

When one thinks of science fiction’s most epic movies great titles come to mind like Dune, Logan’s Run and Star Wars. Speaking of Star Wars, the franchise drew a lot of inspiration from Japan, so our link this month is:

5 ways Japan influenced ‘Star Wars’

Kakkoi Kulture - Rise of the Robots

Robots. When we think of robots in anime many series and movies pop into our heads, movies like Ghost in the Shell, or Appleseed, or series like Neon Genesis Evangeleon, Robotech, Vandread or Macross to name a few. In the West, there are robots in movies and series as well, like the Star Wars movies, the Mandalorian Series, Raised by Wolves, Netflix’s Love, Death and Robots, or the Alien movie franchise. And those names are just the tip of the huge iceberg named Science Fiction.

In actual fact, we live in a world now, where robots are real. In 2011 the global market for industrial robots was 8.97 billion dollars, Japan’s cut in that was at 50.2% and in the global market electronic packaging robots was 13.369 billion dollars, and Japan’s finger in the robot industry pie stood at 57.3% in other words robotics are big in Japan. Japan employs over a quarter of a million industrial robot workers and it is estimated that revenue for robotics in Japan to be near 70 billion dollars in Japan by 2025.

Let’s dive into the world of robotics and explore Sony’s journey in making their best robotic beings. In 1999 the ERS-110 became the first-generation model of the ‘AIBO’ 4-legged entertainment robot, capable of a range of performances and able to ‘learn’ as well as express emotions. 2000 introduced the world to SDR-3X a 50cm tall compact robot capable of bipedal movement. It had 24 joints within its body giving it not only the ability to carry out basic movements but also the ability to balance on one foot and to even kick a ball. Also in 2000 the second generation Aibo appeared named ERS-210 with additional sensors and LEDs which enabled it to express a lot more emotions than before. What is more, is that speech-recognition and image-capturing functions were also added to the robot.

In 2001 and 2002 more AIBO such as ERS-311, ERS-312 and ERS-220 followed each improving their interactions, movement and personality. In 2003 QRIO appeared, a robot designed for use within the home, a compact bipedal robot which featured enhanced safety as well as enhanced durability and an increased capacity for communication. It sang original songs (written by Ryuichi Sakamoto) and could perform dance demonstrations. It stood 0.6 metres tall and weighed 7.3 kilograms. It was credited in the Guinness Book of Records as the first bipedal robot capable of running. QRIO was a prototype and was never sold.

Sony made many more robots and they are not the only organization that dabbled in robotics, Toyota, Honda, the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST), JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) and various universities also became fellow pioneers in the field of robotics. We live in an era where robots are fact not just science-fiction. We have covered many robots in these pages over the years and we are sure there is more to come. It is the rise of the robots, the birth of technological wonders.

Recipe of the month: Alien food...

Aliens are, like robots, a science fiction staple. The term ‘alien’ might conjure up images of little grey men that love to abduct and do experiments on their subjects before they return them to their beds or images of some abysmal xenomorphic crablike creature that will hug your face and lay their parasite offspring into your body.

Aliens can be scary, but there are also the aliens that turn from brunette to blonde when they power up and fight bad guys. Some of these aliens you may recognise from Hollywood movies and anime. Food can have the feel of alienness too. Especially dishes that is not traditional to the environment you grew up in. Like Alien eggs…

The alien eggs are actually Tako Tamago (Tako – octopus, tamago -egg), octopus eggs which can be eaten raw or cooked, a delicacy from Northern Japan and many Japanese do not know about this dish themselves, so, to them finding this dish will be an alien encounter.

Freaked out? Don’t worry, our next food encounter is sweet and cute. At Tokyo Disney Resort there is green alien mochi that is more reasonable to the palette of those who would not dare to try Tako Tamago

AnimeFanatika's Top Sci-Fi Recommendations:

This month our staff brings you our picks of our favourite science fiction anime. Some of these series we grew up with, and others became our favourites throughout the years. Many of these titles are cult classics, in these series you can find anything from mecha to aliens to ‘angels’. These recommendations are in no peculiar order, and if you have not tried any of these series, we highly recommend that you do

Neon Genesis Evangelion
Eureka Seven
Robotech
Trigun
Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040
Gantz

AMV of the month: Science-Fiction Double Feature

We celebrate Sci-Fi anime with two great songs featuring two great anime franchises, yes it is a Science-Fiction Double Feature. First up we have the classic song Dangerzone by Artist Kenny Loggings featuring scenes from Macross: Delta followed by the song Satellite by Rise Against with scenes from the anime Eureka Seven. Please also show both Kenny Loggins and Rise Against some love by looking up their music on YouTube.

Macross: Delta
Eureka Seven

Anime Challenge: BubbleGum Crisis Tokyo 2040

Our anime challenge this month is the classic remake of the 1987 Bubblegum Crisis anime, Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040 chosen because it is so much more than its original incarnation. Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040, produced by Anime International Company,  premiered on TV Tokyo on October 8, 1998 and ran for 26 episodes.

Imagine a world where most of the manual labour is done by Boomers (a type of robot), which are run by Genom, a mega-corporation. Our story starts where Linna Yamazaki, a new office worker sees one such Boomer that has gone rogue, attacking people and leaving scenes of destruction in its wake. Even if the AD Police were called in to stop this rampaging robot, a group of cybernetic-clad renegades, the Knight Sabers, appear on the scene and save the day. As the story progresses Yamazki joins the Knight Sabers which consists of Priss, a rock star; Sylia, a boutique store owner and the group’s leader; and Nene, a computer whiz who works within the AD Police as a dispatch operator.

It is a science fiction series filled to the brim with action, romance and great music and if you love anime such as Ghost in The Shell or Appleseed and love strong female action heroines, this anime might be just for you.

Birthday of the Month: Spike Spiegel from Cowboy Bebop

This month’s anime birthday boy is a giant. Spike Siegel is the main protagonist of the anime Cowboy Bebop, an anime globally revered as a timeless classic. In the anime Spike is a bounty hunter, hunting kidnappers, hackers, space pirates and other dodgy individuals on the spaceship, Bebop with a colourful ensemble of crew members Jet Black, Faye Valentine, Edward Wong Hau Pepelu Tivrusky IV, and Ein.

Spike, born on Mars on June 26, 2044 is rumoured to be an orphan, we do know that his grandmother died before he was born, but some speculate his parents died when he was very young. Various theories are on the net that his racial origins could be Jewish, American, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Latino, or a light-skinned African but Spike is the sort of hero that belongs to every race, creed and colour.

Our hero Spike has similarities with Eric Draven in The Crow (portrayed by Brandon Lee in the 1994 film): (a) both were thought to be dead, (b) both were in love with a beautiful woman with whom they were destined to be together, (c) both went on a quest to avenge loved ones, (d) they both fought their rivals in an abandoned church, killing said rival in a poetic and violent manner and (e) both are exceptionally versed in wielding weapons and martial arts.

If you have not seen Cowboy Bebop we highly recommend that you give it a watch. It is filled with action, romance, adventure, comedy, science fiction, and beautiful chaos. You will weep from the bottom of your soul and laugh from the pits of your heart.