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Like Skwisgaar above, we love our MILFs and GMILFs. In a sense, Skwisgaar embodies everything that is mother’s day. And though they aren’t highlighted often, especially since stories about moms don’t really appeal a whole lot to the western anime market, there actually are quite a few anime and manga that center around moms. While I probably could have mentioned Full Metal Alchemist and shows and manga people actually know about, I chose instead to highlight some shows where the main character is either a mom or is otherwise heavily centered around moms.

Reiko Kamohara
 
Kaasan – Mom’s Life

Kaasan – Mom’s Life explores the everyday life of Reiko Kamohara, a woman balancing her job as a mangaka between caring for her two young children, Bunji and Fumi, and their dog, John. Bunji is a little slow, loud, brash and obsessed with a sentai superhero named Hopperman (hilariously mistranslated as Batman in the first couple of episodes of the Crunchyroll sub since Batta is Japanese for grasshopper). Fumi is normally well behaved, but the way she’s overly spoiled by her father makes her instantly jealous of anyone or anything that receives more attention than her. As for Reiko’s husband, his job as a war photojournalist means he spends long amounts of time out of the country, and when he is home is he’s usually getting plastered. The only real extra help Reiko gets is from her mother, who’s living with them. Reiko has an almost constantly exasperated expression on her face from the stress of her work and caring for two very active children.

The ongoing series is being released streaming on Crunchyroll and Anime News Network.

Sachiko Azuma
 
With the Light: Raising an Autistic Child

Sachiko is thrilled after the birth of her son, Hikaru, but by the time Hiakru is two years old she notices something doesn’t seem right. He doesn’t speak, still isn’t toilet trained and is easily upset by perplexing things, such as the sound of babies crying or Buddhist chanting . The worst is when they attend a funeral, where the family of Sachiko’s husband, Masato, compares Hikaru’s ill behavior to that of another similarly aged and well-behaved child in attendance and ostracize Sachiko for her bad parenting. Masato’s mother in particular believes that Sachiko is a bad mother, and after Hikaru is diagnosed is initially convinced it’s Sachiko’s fault Hikaru is autistic. The rest of the manga is about Hikaru’s development and how Sachiko must sometimes struggle to make sure he gets the proper education and treatment in a Japanese society that’s less-than-understanding when it comes to the disabled.

The manga is being released in English by Yen Press. The mangaka for this series, Keiko Tobe, unfortunately passed away recently, leaving the manga unfinished. There’s also a live action drama for the series.

Masane Amaha

Witchblade

Masane is a single mother moving to Tokyo with her young daughter, Rihoko. The two are on the run from child services, who believe they can provide a better home for Rihoko than an unemployed drifter like Masane can. Though Masane is ditzy and many times Rihoko acts more mature and more like the parent than she does, the two don’t want to be separated. The fact that Masane has the Witchblade is important in relation to Rihoko late in the series.
 
The anime is being carried in the US by FUNimation.

Mito

Space Pirate Mito

Mito is a three foot tall humanoid alien with the appearance of a 6-year-old. Mito owns multiple “mail suits” which allow her to take on the appearance of a human adult. She wears one such non-combat mail suit in front of her half-human, half-alien son, Aoi. It isn’t until Aoi is 15 years old that he learns that truth when he catches Mito removing her mail suit after coming back from a yearlong space mission. While she kept it a secret from him, she did so to protect him from her dangerous lifestyle.
 
Space Pirate Mito is available in the US from Media Blasters.

Yamada Tamaki

My Grandma is an Idol

And now a series that highlights grandmas! Tamaki is an elderly 65-year-old woman from a wealthy family who comes to visit her son’s family for the first time since her granddaughter’s birth. She never approved of her son’s decisions in life, but after losing her money in a real estate scam (of which her family is initially unaware), she has no choice but to move in with them. Tamaki drives her 16-year-old granddaughter, Momoka, insane with the extremely formal and antiquated lifestyle that she forces on her. But everything changes for the worst for Momoka after Tamaki demands she take her to the TV station where her father works. Tamaki gets electrocuted, which renews her cells and gives her the appearance of a 16-year-old girl. Not only does she start attending Momoka’s school, but because of her beauty everyone begins referring to Momoka as “Old Yamada” and Tamaki as “Young Yamada.” If that weren’t bad enough, the boy Momoka has a crush on starts developing feelings for her grandma!

Mutsuki Ichimonji, Kisaragi Ninomai, Yayoi Sanzenin, Uzuki Shitenno and Satsuki Gokajo

Happy Lesson

It’s a harem series where instead of multiple potential love interests, the protagonist has multiple mothers (but not in the “Heather has Two Mommies” kind of way). Chitose Hiotose (Susumu Arisaka in the manga or “Cheetos” if you’re watching the dub) is an orphan being cared for (somewhat against his will) by his five teachers. Mitsuki is the Japanese Classics teacher and Chitose’s homeroom teacher; Kisaragi is the emotionless science teacher with somewhat of a cruel streak; Yayoi is the attractive school nurse who’s also a Shinto priestess; Uzuki is the cosplay-obsessed art teacher; Satsuki is the loud and brash athletics coach.

Happy Lesson was released in the US under the (now defunct) A.D. Vision. ADV Manga also began releasing the manga version, but given that they folded long before many of their manga were completed I’m not sure if they completed the series.  
 
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(Anime News Network) 
(Anime News Network) 
(Anime News Network) 
(Anime News Network) 
Okay, so maybe Oishinbo isn’t the most GAR cooking manga out there. That’d probably be Iron Wok Jan or something. But it’s at least got some fierce father-son and newspaper-newspaper rivalries without the sugary sweetness of Yumeiro Pâtissière or the psychedelic breadgasms of Yakitate Japan. And it’s got staying power if nothing else for a manga that began in 1983 and is still ongoing. 
 
The story centers around Shiro Yamaoka and Yuko Kurita, reporters for the Tozai News who’ve been tasked with creating the “Ultimate Menu.” I don’t really know what that means, and I’m not totally sure they do either given that in the years they’ve apparently been on it they’ve yet to produce page one. Is it a restaurant guide? Recipes? A list of fancy foods? Regardless, having worked in journalism I can tell you this idea would have been farfetched even during Japan’s economic boom in the ’80s and downright laughable today. 
 
Though he’s generally indifferent, Shiro is their resident food expert thanks to his father, Yuzan Kaibura. Kaibura is a famous potter and founder of the Gourmet Club, an exclusive gathering of men of high social status chosen by Kaibura to eat food prepared by gourmet chefs under his hire. Kaibura is infamous for his prestigious palate, often forcing people who don’t cook a meal to his liking to keep redoing it until it’s perfect. Shiro attributes Kaibura’s demanding demeanor to his mother’s death, so in retaliation he destroyed many of Kaibura’s priceless pottery pieces. They’ve never forgiven each other. Kaibura’s constantly scouting for talent to add to his repertoire of Gourmet Club chefs, so he and Shiro’s paths often meet, and they’ll take any opportunity they can to one-up each other in their knowledge of food. Very occasionally, however, Kaibura’s attempts to scold and humiliate Shiro is just tough love in disguise, but most of the time he just wants to make an ass out of him. I can’t say I know what to make of it when a man whose high culinary standards supposedly drove his wife to an early grave says that a meal is nothing if it doesn’t have love in it. 
 
Shiro and Yuko’s other rivals are reporters from the Teito Times who are working on creating the “Supreme Menu.” Shiro couldn’t care less about them, and their own arrogance is the thing that does them in most of the time. The only arc thus far where they’ve served as a serious threat was when both papers were competing to win over a major client, and the  Tozai News deputy director, Tomio, risked losing his job by not getting him. I couldn’t help but audibly laugh in one arc where both papers are competing for the attention of  an American senator visiting Japan and, disgusted with the decadence the Teito Times presents him with in the form of expensive feasts, comments that he feels the Japanese have lost their way thanks to materialism and greed. Boy, if that isn’t the pot calling the kettle black, I don’t know what is. 
 
(Anime News Network) 
(Anime News Network) 
Yuko’s role isn’t as developed as Shiro’s, as is the case with many of the other women who work for the Tozai News. Her palate’s been developed thanks to her constant need to keep up with what’s gourmet, but most of the time she serves as the pretty face who tries to keep Shiro out of trouble when Kaibura’s around or when he bluntly criticizes a prideful chef. She’s still not as bad as one of the other female co-workers who accompanied them through most of the sake tasting arc. I know they weren’t swallowing it, but it still kind of disturbed me that no one objected to a pregnant woman taking part in a sake tasting. They even joked about her baby growing up to be a lush. I guess that’s one way to look at fetal alcohol syndrome. 
 
The seventh volume, Izakaya: Pub Food, was released by Viz last month and was also advertised as the last volume despite that the manga is still ongoing. My only guess is that this is just all that Viz licensed since the mangaka took a lengthy hiatus that just happened to last until one month after Viz had already licensed it. Woopsie. 
 
  (MadInkBeard) 
 (MadInkBeard) 
  (MadInkBeard) 
 (MadInkBeard) 
It’s $12.99 a volume, which seems steep, but each volume is HUGE so you’re really getting that value. Each volume has a different theme to it. For example, volume one is Japanese Food (quite the generalization considering the same could be said for every volume) and volume two is Sake. But the annoying part is that Viz didn’t number the volumes. It’s not really going to matter if you don’t start with the first volume since most of the stories are fairly self-contained, but I didn’t learn until later that the volume I began reading thinking it was the first was actually the fourth. It also kind of annoys me that for a manga that preaches so much about the stubbornness Japanese tend to have to try cuisine outside of their own culture there’s very little of anything else. We don’t really get into any other type of cuisine until volume two when Shiro uses champagne to help a coworker get over his fear of French cuisine before being transferred to Tozai’s France office. I have to say I learned quite a bit from it. I knew avocado in sushi was far from authentic, but I didn’t know the reason it’s often done in the west is because it supposedly imitates the taste of fatty tuna. Gave me flashbacks to Ouran High School Host Club . 
 
I also keep wanting to compare Shiro to Angelica Pickles because they both have their mouths perpetually to one side of their face. Nothing else in common, but that’s something that’s always bugged me. Just a weird way to design characters. 
So how is it overall? Pretty good actually. A bit repetitive here and there (Shiro and co. go out for some fancy pantsy eats where they either run into Kaibura and/or a chef who thinks he’s hot shit but totally isn’t and Shiro’s gotsta prove them wrong), but it’s enjoyable and you learn quite a bit despite some of the above mentioned hypocrisies. 
 
Overall, an A-   
 
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After watching it being done from scratch at Oshogatsu, we decided to give mochi making a shot. I can’t say we had the implements seen above handy to bash the rice into flour ourselves, so we cheated and started with mochiko (glutinous rice flour). Most recipes were surprisingly more complicated than what we saw being done at the Morikami, but luckily we found a fairly simple recipe on Nibbledish. The recipe is for strawberry mochi, but you can really use anything. We put red bean in ours.

We were determined to try and find ingredients at somewhere easily available to anyone, so rather than start with one of the local Asian supermarkets we decided to give Whole Foods a shot. I didn’t really expect them to have red bean paste, but I’m a little surprised we didn’t find rice flour. We ended up leaving with nothing more than a bag of brown sugar.

We headed to Oriental Square to buy the mochiko and red bean paste and thoroughly weirded out the people working there by taking pictures inside the store. If you don’t happen to live within the vicinity of an Asian supermarket, well, you’re kind of out of luck. If you don’t mind ordering this stuff from the interwebs, your best bet would probably be Asian Food Grocer, but Amazon might work in a pinch.

 A gathering of the ingredients: 
 
2 cups mochiko
2 cups water
1/2 cup sugar (doesn’t have to be brown – in retrospect, we probably should have used powdered sugar)
1 can of red bean paste (can replace with filling of your choice) 
 
 
 


“Combine water, mochiko and sugar and stir until smooth. Coat a microwave safe container with oil or pam spray and pour the batter in a relatively shallow layer. Cover with air-tight lid or plastic wrap and microwave ~7 minutes on high or until done.”

“Put on mochiko-covered surface and wait to cool.” (NOTE: It took ours about 30 minutes to be cool enough to handle.)

 
 
“To make the mochi, pull off a small piece of dough, roll it into a ball and flatten. Then take some [filling of choice], put them in the center of the round and pinch it closed so you have a nice [filling of choice] filled ball (hopefully). Voila.”

NOTE: If you’re like us and left your dough in the bowl to cool because you don’t know how to follow simple directions, it helps A LOT if you cover your hands and the surface you plan to roll and place your mochi on with extra mochiko to keep it from sticking to everything. It will stick to your hands at first no matter what, so just keep rolling it in the flour until you can pick it up without it sticking to add the filling. This is optional, but we also rolled ours in some of the excess brown sugar.

The recipe also says that it makes about 20 pieces, but we sure didn’t get 20 pieces. We got a lot more than the two pieces you see in my disgusting, glutinous rice dough-covered hands above, but apparently we forgot to take a picture of the finished plate.

It was a great success, and what we got tasted exactly like what we had at the museum, never mind that we cheated horribly. And if you don’t want to do all that work, there’s always the pre-made stuff.      
 
The Japan Girl
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Photos taken by The Japan Boy.

The Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens in Delray Beach, FL, holds four seasonal festivals a year: Oshogatsu (New Year’s), Hatsume (First Day of Spring), Kodomo no hi (Children’s Day) and Bon (Day of the Dead). Yesterday, the eighth largest Japanese garden outside of Japan played host to well over 1,000 guests who braved the unusually cold day to welcome the year of the tiger (Who ever heard of 35 degree weather in South Florida?).

 Mochitsuki
 Mochitsuki
 Matsuriza Jr.
 Matsuriza Jr.
Red bean mochi, a traditional New Year’s sweet, was made from scratch during a motchitsuki demonstration earlier in the day, where volunteers pounded rice with kine in an usu to create a pasty dough.

The demonstration finished in time for us to watch a children’s taiko drum group, Matsuriza Jr. from Orlando.

Later, we took a break from the cold to watch a musical presentation by Friends of Koto, which, among other things, featured an adorable cat-themed dance by two sweet little girls.

 Friends of Koto
 Friends of Koto
 Fushu Daiko
 Fushu Daiko
Finally, we ended the day with a performance from South Florida’s own Fushu Daiko as they performed a traditional Shishimai (Lion Dance).

There’s way more we did then the planned events. Take a look below for pictures of people in kimono and cosplay, the gardens and a museum exhibit set to show the world of Japan through a child’s eyes.

That’s it for Oshogatsu photos. For future events we’ll try to have video as soon as I can get my hands on a camera that doesn’t compress videos to hell and back. 
 
The Japan Girl
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Most people who know me know I’m as much a Broadway junkie as well as I am an anime junkie, as the reference to Billy Elliot in one of my initial posts may have suggested. I come from a family of Broadway fanatics who travel to New York City every other year to check out new shows. However, I’d like to point out that I am in no way an expert on Japan’s musical theater culture, so If I make any errors, I encourage people to please feel free to correct me.

  
  
 
  A bronze statue of Oscar and Andre on Hana no michi (Flower Avenue) in Takarazuka, Hyōgo. (Wikipedia)
 A bronze statue of Oscar and Andre on Hana no michi (Flower Avenue) in Takarazuka, Hyōgo. (Wikipedia)
While discussing the New Code Geass Project in the February 2010 issue of Newtype, Code Geass producer Yoshitaka Kawaguchi mentioned in passing that he and director Goro Taniguchi would be interested in adapting Code Geass as a stage musical. It’s far from a definite thing, but it wouldn’t be a new concept. Anime-themed musicals have been around as far back as 1974, when Takarazuka Revue, a group of all-female acting troupes, made a name for themselves with their adaption of Rose of Versailles.  The troupe has since done multiple different adaptations of Rose of Versailles and continues to perform it today. The actresses are split into five troupes depending on their style and skills: Flower Troupe performs big budget, operatic shows, Moon Troupe does modern musicals and dramas, Snow Troupe specializes in traditional Japanese dance and opera, Star Troupe is known for having actresses who play strong otokoyaku (male) roles, and Cosmos Troupe is more experimental. Each troupe has done at least two adaptations of Rose of Versailles. The video below is from a 1989 Snow Troupe performance focusing on the relationship between Oscar and Andre, with Andre as the lead.
  
  

Other manga adaptations by Takarazuka Revue have included Osamu Tezuka’s Black Jack and Phoenix. Last year, the troupe came out with an adapatdation of Phoenix Wright.
  
   
Osamu Tezuka, who grew up in Takarazuka, inspired Princess Knight off of elements from Takarazuka Revue plays he’d seen, and Princess Knight later went on to inspire other series with females in traditionally male roles, such as Rose of Versailles and Revolutionary Girl Utena. Sakura Wars was heavily inspired by Takarazuka Revue, and the Zuka club in Ouran High School Host Club is a loose parody of the troupe. A 1997 stage production of Revolutionary Girl Utena, “Comedie Musicale Utena la fillette révolutionnaire,” featured a Takarazuka-style cast.
  
   
   Flyer from the 2004 Musical (Wikipedia)
   Flyer from the 2004 Musical (Wikipedia)
Better known in the West is the Sailor Moon musicals, more popularly known as Sera Myu. The musicals spanned 12 years and three “stages” used to define the central casts and themes of the show at that time. You probably won’t ever see it on Broadway or the West End, but there are amateur productions floating around the West.


The performance below features second stage actress Miyuki Kanbe as Sailor Moon. Kanbe died of heart failure in 2008.
  
   
The number of anime-themed musicals have increased in the past decade, with three Hunter x Hunter musicals from 2000 to 2002, several Princes of Tennis musicals from 2003 to 2007, an ongoing series of Bleach musicals that began in 2005, and a one-shot Air Gear musical in January 2007.
  
    
    
    
   
So what’s the chance on any of these shows getting the Broadway treatment? Right now I’d say slim to none, but animation isn’t foreign to Broadway and comics aren’t far off. Shows like Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King and even Shrek have been phenomenal hits. An adaptation of The Addams Family based more on the original comics from The New Yorker than anything in the TV series, cartoon or movies will be making its Broadway premiere in March. Julie Taymor, the creative mind behind The Lion King musical, is currently working on getting Spider-Man to the stage. So, who knows?


Until that day comes, please enjoy this commercial for the short-lived Pokemon Live!
  
   
Takeshi Kaga, who played Soichiro Yagami in the Death Note live action movies, but is probably better known for playing Chairman Kaga on Iron Chef, got his start playing Jesus in the original Japanese production of Jesus Christ Superstar. Just thought I’d throw that out there.
 
True story. When I was little I totally believed Chairman Kaga and the backstory on Kitchen Stadium preceding every episode of Iron Chef was real. I can see more ludicrous things that a bazillionaire would spend his money on then a televised kitchen auditorium where competitors compete against professional chefs of varying areas of expertise to cook a mystery meal for a panel of judges in front of a live studio audience. Allez cuisine!
 
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