Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest: More than Just Competitive Eating

A brief look at the intertwined associations between Competitive Eating, Mukbang and THE King – Kobayashi Takeru.

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A hazy summer day, I set out for Coney Island in Brooklyn on the Fourth of July. I worried about making it to the women’s set on time but was pleasantly surprised when I walked out of the subway and found a great vantage point for the contest. It was on a slight angle, and at that time – around 10 am- the sun was still hiding behind thick knitted blankets of clouds. In the sky, planes flew overhead carrying aerial advertisements at their tail. There was one for Dunkin Donuts, which seemed to have worked because the people who assembled and stood next to me had hot cups of coffee on a humid, 95°F day.

For the entire subway ride over, I thought about how I got to this point. I kept smiling and then catching the eye of someone – which caused me to quickly turn away. I didn’t want to be that weird person who was so obviously in their own world, they became a target for something bad. So I stayed alert and thought about how for years – I’d waited for this moment. Finally, I had a chance and free time to do something I’d always wanted – See Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest live.

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Early 2000s, the heyday of MTV’s television programming. Do you remember those days? Where you actually watched music videos for hours and they were legitimately enjoyable? Without cringe?

Before the era of Spotify and YouTube streaming to inflate artists numbers and earn them an easy spot on the Billboard Top 100, TV show docs like Fat Camp, I Used to Be Fat, and (to an extent) Jersey Shore ruled the network’s ratings. Of course, Catfish: The TV Show came along -but MTV’s True Life laid the foundations for its success.

As I’ve mentioned in past posts, Japanese culture had a huge impact on me growing up. In middle school, I was bullied and rediscovered anime late at night on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim. Reruns of Fullmetal Alchemist and Inuyasha crept into the speakers of my tv during the wee hours of the morn. I loved Inuyasha’s OP, or opening song. I think the episodes were frequently shown out of order, but there was some semblance in that it was at least the same season – just jumbled.

There was a popular Hot Topic in my local mall. A lot of stores I grew up with closed at the same time due to rising rent prices for the locale. Before it did, I brought a FMA red hoodie that I wore to death – in fact, I still have it. I enjoyed shopping there since they often had anime-related items because they were as “edgy” as the ever popular Invader Zim merchandise; so the selection was always plentiful. Viva La Bam was also popular in this era, so there were a plethora of wristbands with his strange heart in what looked like a hanger symbol.

Soon after that purchase in high school, I started working at a store (my first job) that was a subsidiary of Hot Topic’s parent company.

One of the cashiers in my local store – I don’t know if it was racism, discrimination of youth, or a general dislike – always accused me of stealing things so I stopped going. I had ceased frequenting the location for a few months, but since I had an employee discount I went back in with some friends. I purchased a few things and when I arrived to work that day I was told that I had been fired. The cashier accused me of stealing and called corporate headquarters on me. They never checked the cameras, apparently her word was just that good.

My manager and the staff scheduled that day cried and kept apologizing that they had to let me go; we had become a family. I was supposed to go with them down south to watch them get new designs at a tattoo parlor edgy employees frequented. But it was corporate and I was a new employee – their hands were tied. I was fifteen.

I’m not going to talk about sad things, it was just a memory that surfaced while writing. I’d like to talk about something (arguably) happier. Mr. Takeru Kobayashi.

First, let’s look at our current cultural climate and relationship with food.  A few years back there was this huge controversy surrounding Travel Channel show Man vs Food and its host, Adam Richman.  Richman was an amateur competitive eater who took on local diner and college campus challenges across The States. Early retirement and Instagram rants aside, we shouldn’t ignore what his show did for pop culture and acceptance surrounding the sport of competitive eating in America – which arguably was inspired by mukbang.

Korean Mukbang channels and eating shows have gained a lot of popularity over the years. Mainly because people are lonely, although some speculate that it’s some sort of weird fetish (…that we’ll explore another day).

A mukbang is when an individual records or live streams themselves eating large quantities of food while interacting with viewers. Although we are all ‘plugged in’ and connected by technology, as people we pretend to have much better lives than we actually do.

The stunt culture is especially big in the digital nomad, travel blogger and wanderlust communities but only because they have to sell a dream. So taking photos one day and spacing them out for a week on an Instagram feed for the lonely office worker who is drinking coffee and eating fast food miserable on their undeservedly short mandated break becomes a beacon of hope for some. I can’t speak for anyone personally, but having been on both ends – the miserable worker dreaming of something different and now the traveler trying to seem more active than I really am – I can understand both sides. I can see the appeal of not wanting to eat alone. Of not wanting to be alone, even.

Many Korean women (like Japanese women) seem to be on infinite diets and would like to ‘share a meal’ with someone without actually eating.  I remember going to buy a bento for lunch during my shoujo girl life and chatting with the usual cashier about the ingredients due to my allergies. The cashier eagerly kept telling me that the translucent speckled gelatinous blobs in a corner of the box were ‘konnyaku’ and had no calories so I could eat lots of it. I asked a co-worker about the food later that day and she mentioned that it was a popular diet side dish – especially in the summer.

This, coupled with the ironic popularity of competitive eating in East Asia, brought about the rise of Mukbang on YouTube. Japan also has a huge market for the sport, dubbing competitors as Food Fighters or Oogui (大食い) “Big Eaters”. One of the most popular Oogui eaters happens to be Kinoshita Yuka.

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YouTube Personalities like Kinoshita Yuka, ロシアン佐藤 *, Furious Pete and Matt “Megatoad” Stonie rose to the occasion. But before this, existed the eternal king – the undisputed before the organization allegedly did everything in their power to dethrone him because he was not “American” – Kobayashi.

* (A quick tidbit on Russian Sato, or Russian Hat – she enjoyed wearing Russian hats in her earlier videos similar to how JackSepticEye wore a scally Irish flat cap in his earlier videos. This was before he dyed his hair green after Markiplier lost a bet and dyed his red and a plethora of mediocre YT ‘Gamers’ dyed their hair varying degrees and shades of the rainbow and told themselves it was because they were creative artists and not just unoriginal screamers.

*Jack realized he hated it and reverted back to his original brown color to fit back into society. He made a remark in one of his videos that mentioned how tired he was of the stares when out in public. It must have been a huge identifier for the private personality. Gosh, can you tell I’d been deep into YouTube for a long time?)

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I became a big fan of Matt Stonie on YouTube. I enjoyed the playful tone of his challenge videos and his family’s presence; the voice of his mom laughing at him, or his brother’s heavy California accent counting a challenge down. The balancing of a phone on a bunch of bananas to use the timer and it falling down midway. It seemed very authentic and uncommercial. Just a guy with a supportive family having fun enjoying a hobby that became his current profession.

In early 2006, MTV released a True Life Episode titled “I’m a Competitive Eater” which focused on profiling three eaters: Tim “Eater X” Janus, Ian “The Invader” Hickman, and Takeru “The Tsunami” Kobayashi. There was also an appearance by Eric “Badlands” Booker, who is still going strong at Nathan’s competitions each year and even has a rap career. Eater X received a shout out at this year’s festivities, but sadly he did not attend.

I started following the Nathan’s Famous Contest over the years, watching the highlights on the news after finishing the live stream. Each year Kobayashi completely dominated the competition and each year the league seemed wary about it. A foreigner continually dominating an All-American contest in the heart of Brooklyn? How could that be? It couldn’t go on.

And so it did not.

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Kobayashi is credited with raising the bar in regards to what the competition has become today. His method of dunking bread into cups to soften it and make it easier to digest is the determining factor of his success. In the documentary, he often spoke about Japanese markets not carrying American hot dogs so he made due with what was available – Japanese style sausages. Before his appearance on American circuits, he completed food challenges in his native country. The Tsunami ate a record 50 hot dogs during the allotted time – forever changing the perception of gastronomy limits.

So, where is Takeru Kobayashi now?

He was forced out for allegedly not signing an exclusive contract with Major League Eating. This meant that if he did sign, he could not make outside appearances and it would severely limit his income. So he left, and even held his own contest to stick it to the league.

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I wish I could say that the atmosphere associated with the annual competition has changed, but sadly it hasn’t. During the women’s set, World Champion Miki Sudo was assembling her set up before the contest began. MC George Shea kept making these out of place comments that made Sudo seem like a diva. Blaming their late start on her needing water, and during the competition commenting on her appearance while eating. Comments in the vein of “oh, her ponytail is swinging she’s getting angry now!” and things to that effect. There were no comments like this during the men’s set. Also, the late starts had been attributed to ESPN’s connection concerning the live stream. Shea later admitted after a plethora of time killing performances and dances that the network yelled at him last time he didn’t follow their orders.

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Maybe I was being too sensitive, but as things progressed…it just rubbed me the wrong way.

It’s been extremely hot here in New York. With little to no cloud cover, many of us in the crowd were sweating under the beat of the summer sun.  Many people didn’t show up to the women’s set, which I found to be a shame. The crowd for the women was amicable and no one was pushy. As the day went on, the police presence increased and the rowdy crowds assembled – drunk and tired and sunburnt red.

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A women with rainbow colored hair pushed her way to my side and repeatedly knocked into me until she got annoyed and decided to walk away. A woman with a forward facing backpack and a kind smile stood to my left. We frequently made gestures and talked about the unmannered people who engulfed us. A woman to my right kept trying to move my bag and place her oversized purse on the sliver of a corner available from a bench. On the bench, a women kept putting up a black umbrella, uncaring of who she hit. I pulled out my Canon camera – a past Christmas gift from my mother – and received a look from the oversized bag woman. You may know the look I’m talking about – the “how do you have that type of camera and you look like that?” type of look as she stared between my equipment and her iPhone.

Later as the men’s set came on, she decided to allow her son and daughter to push their way in front of the crowd who had been standing for hours towards the gates. Her son’s head was in 80% of my photos for the men’s set – something I saw her smile about. People can be petty, but it didn’t ruin my time. Especially since I’m sure she went home and suffered some intense sunburn.

I enjoy the spirit of competition but I don’t believe in the purposeful pitting against of one another in some sort of tribal sense of Americanism. Due to our current political climate in this country, I can’t help but point out the correlation between the police presence blocking the crowd’s view, rowdy young men booing every competitor that was not “American” in their eyes, and when Matt Stonie was introduced someone loudly shouting that he shouldn’t win because “he’s not even American”. He is a California native, but I assume they mean because he is haafu, or half Japanese half Western born and raised in America. An American competitor who is not, for some reason to these individuals, the same type of “All-American” poster boy Joey Chestnut seems to be for these fanboys. A young Japanese man was introduced as the “new Koybayashi” to the jeers of this crowd and cheers to myself and other well-wishers. I made it a habit of loudly applauding each and every competitor of color, despite the shoves and stares I received. I didn’t care, I didn’t think it was right to boo someone based on their ethnic descent or nationality.

(I’d also like to point out how hard it is to find a full name roster of the competitors online. Aside from the well-known pro eaters, I can hardly find anything else out.)

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Again, maybe I am being too sensitive.

At one point, there was a loud chant of “Free Kobi” to which the Emcee Shea – through his soliloquies, rap battles, and patriotism that felt like thinly veiled racism – paused after he caught wind of the cries. The police turned their attention to the crowd, and I was positive someone was going to be asked to leave. The presenter continued on speaking of how much he loved the atmosphere and his competitors. He played it off well, but I’m sure Nathan’s is still not able to live down the fact that Kobayashi was the best competitor they had ever seen and he was not a “Joey Chestnut”. And it truly burned them up inside.

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Behind schedule half an hour and baking in the sun due to technical difficulties regarding ESPN’s live stream, the men’s competition finally began. We all watched eagerly and shouted for our favorite competitor. When it was all said and done, there was a discrepancy regarding the final counts.

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Now if I remember correctly, Chestnut had around 50 hot dogs and the presenter kept taunting him that maybe the heat was too much, and the humidity had slowed the champ down. I had really detailed photos of the women’s set but because of crowds and other aforementioned factors – my photos of this particular set were lacking in visibility.

Suddenly, despite many referees who were made into a song and dance upon arrival, no one knew for certain how many hot dogs Chestnut and another competitor had eaten. Apparently, they had shared a plate without the barrage of ref’s noticing.  Stonie was out for the count, and there was heated deliberation until finally it was decided…Chestnut ate 74 hotdogs?

Joey Chestnut ate enough hot dogs for a new world record, but the contest was initially unsure if he really did set a new record?

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Needless to say, I left exhilarated that I knocked something off my bucket list – but I can’t help feeling that the games are a bit…biased and skewed for certain competitors.

Which isn’t really the spirit of Brooklyn nor Manhattan – cities full of transplants from the global community. I will most likely be attending next year if I don’t have other plans. I had a few other offers this year – some even romantic -but I decided instead to watch sweaty men and women shove hot dogs down their throats on a humid holiday.

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As I walked up to the subway platform and squeezed through an open door, I thought about the day and how happy I was that I went.

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My one hope is that the competition begins to realize that everyone enjoys the festivities and that you shouldn’t cater to just one type of person – especially when they seem to feel…entitled to see themselves represented and dominate anyone else who would like a shot at glory.

Did you attend the hot dog competition on Coney Island? Had you attended food competitions and events in the past? Do you have a favorite place in Brooklyn? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below, I’d love to hear from you! Also be sure to follow us for more updates on events around NYC.

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Anime NYC Responds to NYCC x Anime Expo Collab | Anime Fest@ NYCC 2018

If you haven’t already heard, New York Comic Con recently did something extremely messy. After a pre-sale event months ago and the literal night before the general sale of tickets, the con decided it was the best time to announce a new anime festival in collaboration with AX Con in LA. I wrote a short article that detailed why this was a problem and why it is most likely the last straw for many fans – myself included. To add insult to injury, in their newsletter today NYCC announced high profile Black Panther guest Danai Gurira. The actress will be doing photo ops and autograph sessions on Saturday and Sunday. Underneath the announcement in a bold highlighted white is a plea to purchase the remaining Sunday badges still available.

Naturally, I rolled my eyes at this.

I half-heartedly hope something interesting happens on the Friday I purchased a ticket for. I know Jason Momoa will be in attendance but I believe on another day. I’m a really big fan of his works, especially Sundance TV’s The Red Road and Netflix’s Frontier.

I did not specifically plan to go on his day because sometimes conflicts arise and celebrities and guests pull out last minute. Also, in past years’ experience there seemed to be a theme of having anime talent on this chosen day – for whatever reason.

I am subscribed to the Anime NYC newsletter and it’s always a treat to open it. The con has partnered with many local Japanese establishments and organizations around New York and the newsletter is always filled with fun events to attend. Today’s email in particular detailed some con news and a header link teasing “So What Does Anime NYC Think of Anime Fest @ NYCC?”

Clicking on the link brings you to a very thoughtful Facebook post written by Peter Tatara, the Event Director for the con. Paraphrasing – Tatara mentions his love for and experience within the anime community and how much the con meant to him. He continues to talk about the attention the convention received anticipating its inauguration last year stating:

“We got a lot of attention around NYC, across the US, and as far away as Tokyo. It seems we got New York Comic Con and Anime Expo’s attention, too, and I’m pretty shocked about Anime Fest @ NYCC x Anime Expo. But I’m not going to comment on their motives. They’re plain to see.”

Tatara ends by thanking the community for their support and states that “Anime NYC’s goal remains the same…to support the anime industry, and build a festival focused on its fans.”

You can read the entire post on FB here and purchase tickets to Anime NYC from their official website here.

Which reminds me, speaking of tickets…

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I tweeted about the glitch I encountered buying AFNYCC 2018 Saturday tickets. I received an error message from what I assume to be New York Comic Con’s servers. I then received a full denial and decided to re-submit the email and I am now experiencing the same dilemma once more. Either someone has DDoS’d their servers – or they really have sunken deeper unto another circle of hell.

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The official website shows that the availability for the anime fest event is wide open, but simply the pre-sale tickets are sold out. Which again, begs the question of why there was no option to pick general priced tickets in the first place instead of having to repeat the virtual queue process once more. I refuse to purchase another ticket, especially since I should receive the advertised discount I believed to be guaranteed for supporting the con – but honestly, it’s a moot point. I’m completely over it.

As I mentioned in my last post, I hope NYCC 2018 and AFNYCC 18 will be worth all of the trouble they have caused the dedicated fans. I think this topic has now run its course, and unless something ridiculous happens – like legitimately ridiculous and not just eye-roll worthy ridiculous – I will not update on this topic until the conventions roll around simultaneously in October.

Which cons do you plan on attending in the fall? Do you enjoy attending anime-related events around New York City? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below, I’d love to hear from you! Also be sure to follow us for more updates on con news!

 

Everything You Need To Know About AFNYCC 2018 | Anime Expo x NYCC Collab

Increasing each year it has felt more like a chore than tradition to attend NYCC. It’s something I attend with a family member and I occasionally cosplay at the tiny events that anticipated the con’s arrival.

As I have gone on a small tangent – which I completely scrapped from this blog post – I was stationed eagerly in the virtual queue for an hour and a half this morning. I used my presale link intended to purchase tickets.

I already have one Friday NYCC ticket and thought to buy a Saturday NYCC ticket during the general sale. Then late last night, “Anime Fest” was announced. I read the email, sighed, and went to bed.

This morning I decided to give it a go – scraping my idea for a Saturday ticket and deciding to try out the Anime Festival; hence my current situation as I typed a three-page rant.

Why didn’t they advertise this sooner? Why couldn’t I have purchased the tickets along with my original NYCC tickets back in practically May?

Here are the facts we know so far:

  • NYCC Literally forgot that they had New York Anime Festival – which ran from 2007 – 2011.

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After it ended, the anime merchandise was regaled to the upper right corner of the convention center – the polar opposite direction of Artist Alley. You had to weed through Chinese vendors with bootleg merchandise (I remember a lady selling a knock-off Nyanko Sensei plushie for $40) and cycle between the cosplay booths, cutesy Japanese character inspired plushies, and the same three booths that sold T-shirts and wall scrolls of the same characters for varying prices.

  • Want to plan out who you will see during Anime Fest? Too bad, regular con rules apply. Meaning, you won’t know jack until closer to the con. You are expected to pay upfront and just cross your fingers something cool happens on the day of your choosing.
  • Did I mention these events are concurrent? Either choose to attend comic con (like some of us who already purchased tickets) or choose AF. Will there still be events and vendors related to Japanese Culture in the regular convention? Who knows, it’s a mystery.
  • Can you purchase a 3-day or 4-day ticket to both events? No. Can you purchase a 3-day or 4-day ticket for NYCC? No. Since the renovations that one year in the Jacob K. Javits Center during the con, NYCC has decided to do away with those money saving options. Then last year, as many of you may remember, the prices were upped for funsies. Still no scheduled guest announcements sooner, however, just pay and wait.
  • Wait, so In Asian Spaces, you say that the Anime Festival event is away from the Javits Center? Well, where is that event being held? NYCC has events spaced out to different ventures, it couldn’t be that far – right?

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Oh, you sweet summer child.
  • But…there will at least be a free shuttle bus for the ticket holders’ right?? Right?? Pier 94 is at least a twenty-minute walk. What if you cosplay a difficult character? You’d have to walk back and forth between both events on the same day!? Clearly, they wouldn’t do that – right?? Oh, you sweet summer child.
  • Wait a minute…you said NYAF was unceremoniously bumped off back in 2011 and has almost but dissolved since 2012 – aside from fandom remnants and bones thrown by high profile anime culture guests such as Danny Choo and Naruto Creator Masashi Kishimoto. Anime NYC premiered last year and was a smash hit. Do you think Anime Expo teamed up with New York Comic Con to try to dwindle their sales and carve back out a market they never really catered to in the first place? Hmmmm….

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  • Well, at least there’s fan verification – right? Surely we’ll all get our tickets in a timely fashion? Wait, what? In Asian Spaces – you say you waited an hour and a half in the virtual queue and had a fabled 75% sold out Saturday Anime Fest ticket only to add it to your cart and have the website tell you it was sold out? And you have receipts?

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Amazing!

  • Then you found out it was a possible glitch?

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  • So if I have a NYCC ticket and want to refund it for simply AFNYCC – can I do that? –Good question

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So at least as of right now…yes. Subject to change. High probability this information is subject to change.

  • Should I attend other smaller anime conventions around NYC such as Liberty City Anime Con, Anime NYC or even AnimeNEXT in Atlantic City, NJ? – Sure, why not? Be liberal with your hard earned spending money and shop around, since con loyalty gets you nowhere once a con gets too big for itself and decides you are expendable – even if you’ve been attending for seven years faithfully. #noanimedlc – too much?

Regardless, this was a disappointing experience that is all too often now becoming synonymous with New York Comic Con. I hope that when fall rolls around, the convention will have been worth all of this trouble. I also hope the con realizes that its competitors will win out because they have heart – something they haven’t had in years.

Are you attending any conventions this year? Let us know in the comment section below, we’d love to hear from you! Also be sure to follow us on WordPress, Twitter, Reddit and Instagram for more news and updates revolving around Japanese Culture and conventions!

Catch a Screening of Kiki’s Delivery Service in NYC FOR FREE!

If you were wondering where to watch Kiki’s Delivery Service this summer, look no further!

Hello Friends!

It’s been a while since I’ve written about anime, but I just found out about a free event and would love to share the details with you. The Paley Center for Media (in conjunction with Anime NYC and GKIDS) is holding “An Anime Afternoon” on Saturday, August 4th. The center will have a screening of Miyazaki’s Kiki’s Delivery Service with the option of watching the film dubbed or subbed in the original Japanese language. There is a limit of four tickets per person and they are ABSOLUTELY FREE!

For those of you who may not know, Kiki’s Delivery Service (Majo no Takkyubin, 魔女の宅急便 ) is a 1989 Studio Ghibli film that follows a young witch who leaves home and settles in a seaside town for a year as part of her magical training. Kiki, along with her black cat Jiji, initially have a rough time being alone but they gradually make friends and gain confidence within themselves. It’s a great film and may actually be my favorite.

When I was younger, I’d often watch the film along with Spirited Away each time it rained outside.  There was no particular reason why, I just thought it was comforting to sit in front of the TV and daydream about far off places and adventures.

I’ve signed up for a pair of tickets, as I feel the need to be reminded that venturing off alone isn’t so scary. It’s something exciting and can lead to change.

The Paley Center’s website seems to detail a day of events centered around arts, crafts, and contests surrounding its sponsors.

The tickets are currently available, so if you plan to be in New York in early August and would like to catch a film and have a good time: here’s your chance.

I’m a very big fan of Shinkai Makoto, who happens to draw inspiration from Miyazaki. His ode to the director, Children Who Chase Lost Voices From Deep Below, is one of my personal favorites. (Kimi no Na Wa was also amazing! One of his new top films!) I may also be drawn to Shinkai’s work because he seems to be a fellow tetsudo fan, or lover of trains. Although, ‘railfan’ may be a more common usage…

Have you been attending Studio Ghibli Fest 2018 these past few months? Princess Mononoke is the next upcoming film that will be shown July 22-25th in select theatres. I’ve never actually seen the film, but I think I should watch it. I’ve heard it’s an anime movie with themes similar to the aforementioned.

Has anyone seen that film? What is your favorite animated film in general? Leave your thoughts in the comment section, I’d love to hear from you! Also be sure to follow us for more anime related news!

How Our Environment Influences Us | Self Reflection Journal Entry

“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”

No, I have not become one of those hipsters that quote Rumi. But this is fitting to describe this passage of time I’m currently in. The ethos between self-reflection and meditation and the death of ego.

I’ve been in my head a lot lately.

There have been two reasons for this: a new diet, and an old home influencing me. I’ll explain – last summer I had access to farmers markets the entire season. Fresh, vibrant fruits and veggies I’d never seen before. I delighted in looking at the assorted goods each time the dully colored tents that attracted eclectic crowds of individuals came to the area. It lit up the grey and drab surroundings that sometimes the city can convey. I went vegan that summer. It was a struggle, then it was effortless. Now I know what you’re probably thinking – please stop rolling your eyes and don’t click that red x in the upper right corner. This is not a commercial supporting an eating ideology, I’m simply trying to make a point. This year without the privileges of the last, I’ve settled on a vegetarian diet that consists of intermittent fasting. It’s particularly difficult some days, but others I’ve never had so much energy. So much so that I actually stopped sleeping for a while. Like I’d literally be up all morning just reading and lost in my unconscious thoughts. Thinking and reflecting on things I hadn’t in years. It didn’t help that I started working out more and dabbling into meditative practices.  Which brings us to ye olde home.

I live in a very old home that thankfully has a beautiful yard that used to be all forest before I was born. Sometimes strange flowers pop up from time to time, sometimes wild roses and these past two years it’s been honeysuckles. Beautiful white flowers adorning yellow blossoms and great green vines. Each morning opening my window the scent mingles with pine trees and it’s been an absolutely stunning end of spring. The electrical wiring in my particular room is faulty – I live in the upstairs portion of the house.

Years ago one of the outlets in my room randomly stopped working and I thought nothing of it since I hardly used it. For weeks I’d heard sizzling and gingerly re-adjusted the power strip cord in the socket. Brought a new surge protector, a new adaptor, but alas it was finished. Then my antiquated console went as well. My modes of enjoying Netflix and YouTube were gone. Sure, I could come downstairs and hook my laptop up to an HDMI cord to the back of the TV but…it just seemed like a lot of effort for no reason.

So when it was time for Netflix to expire, I canceled the renewal for the next month.

I decided maybe the universe was telling me to take a step back, and I willingly unplugged and delve into this self-imposed isolation. So I thought, and I slept, and I wrote, and I started sleeping in silence.

Silence has always bothered me. I usually needed something, anything in the background. I’ve even awoken in the middle of the night once my TV turned itself off on a timer just to turn it back on to listen to anything. I started listening to music, lots of music. Dream Koala had always been one of my favorite artists, Biosphere, Nujabes…and lo-fi and jazzhop had captured my imagination. Then that became too much and I just slept in silence. Since then I’ve had this strange sense of clarity between the diet and hearing the birds outside my window each morning. Smelling the earth’s gifts beyond my doorstep. It did something to me and I finally made a lot of progress on other projects I work on that require mental juggling and the correct mood.  Graphic novels, short stories I’d like to compile into a book, the Solarpunk Afrofuturistic book series I’ve written mentally in my head but for some reason when I open up Word nothing comes out.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about older anime series I watched. Series I absolutely loved that are a bit taboo or far too…Blasé to speak on now that so much time has passed. But do you know what? I don’t give a damn and I’m going to re-watch them and talk about some of the ideas that have been setting up unauthorized office spaces in my head. I’m going way back, such as Yakitate!! Japan, Ghost Hunt, Samurai Champloo, Michiko e Hatchin

There are a few cultural topics relating to Japanese society that I’d like to cover as well, especially since summer is upon us. I’d also like to release some of the series that I’d worked on before I decided to mentally check out a few weeks ago. I seem to be coming back down to earth, and my collective consciousness is returning. A consciousness that allows me to actually focus on things I’ve written, proofread effectively and not absolutely hate every single thing I’ve written for no reason at all. Like writer’s block had a more aggressive, angry cousin coming in and telling you to just delete pages of content you’d prepared if you did decide to take a bit of a mental break. Anywho, it’s time for me to get back to work and get back to In Asian Spaces. Because it seems passions don’t go away, but rather enjoy to haunt you once you decide to turn your back on them.

Why would you turn your back on something you love? I don’t know. Fear and uncharted territory seem to make one do strange things. But we shouldn’t fear what we can accomplish in this lifetime, especially when we only have such a short window here in this moment. The seasons are changing and I will change right along with them. Until then…Check out our Instagram! I plan on posting more frequently, but don’t feel strange to drop by and share the love. I check out everyone who comes by, regardless of follower count or content.

Have you had any recent moments of clarity? What are your plans this summer? What do you long for? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below, I’d love to hear from you! Also be sure to follow us for more juicy content this upcoming season!

 (Also a Tokyo Ghoul:re review is coming soon…since the show should be ending this Tuesday and it’s been nothing short of a disjointed disappointment story wise for non-manga readers.)

Goodbye, Mr. Anthony Bourdain

I think it’s really something when one of your idols falls…How a complete stranger, can have such a curious impact on your actual being.

When I was younger, my dad used to drive trucks. My parents divorced early in my life and I ended up staying with him for about two or three years. He didn’t know how to take care of me well, and he was gone a lot on the road. Instead of staying in unwelcome places…I frequently went along with him. The end of third grade, fourth grade and fifth grade I traveled around the country in a tractor trailer – missing a ton of school. I met so many kind people and immersed myself in so many different cultures. It was a very unhappy period in my life, but that is the one experience I treasure out of that time in my life.

I watched the Travel Channel a lot growing up. I felt nostalgic about my experiences and in 2005 I stumbled upon a TV show called Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations. And I think the sun came out for the first time. Here on TV was this brash, funny, absolutely authentic man talking about food, its relation to culture and traveling. I started thinking…maybe, just maybe I could actually achieve my goals. Maybe I would someday travel the world.

I had an old world map that I stuck thumbtacks in. I used to just sit and stare at it for hours, imagining what my life could be like once I was able to explore.

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After High School I didn’t magically have the opportunities to just take off, but in college I started small. I started roaming the streets of New York City – every back alley, little coffee spot, off the cuff specialty store – and started seeing the city for the first time.

Graduating College, at the ceremony in our gowns, I joked with a friend about wanting to travel and maybe create a show later in life. She remarked that I could be like the next Anthony Bourdain.  I laughed and shrugged it off, but how do you tell someone that you had a picture of a middle-aged chef on your wall for inspiration?

You don’t. With these things, I think it’s deeply personal. I eventually stopped watching the Travel Channel because it had gone to hell, and was delighted to see Tony back in action on CNN’s Parts Unknown. Years later, the same authentic voice that I trusted was back. I thought about all of the experiences that really stuck out to me – Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Missing the talking statues in Caesar’s Palace, Tall rides at Jazzland (is that still a thing?), Seeing rams butt heads going across the Hoover Dam, searching for black bears in the countryside, deciding not to stay at a hotel in a bad storm and on the way back seeing it was destroyed by a tornado…and I felt reaffirmed to make my dreams come true.

Two days ago I took a very long walk to a place I often go to clear my head. I sat down and stared at the ocean for hours; taking stock of my life and reaffirming what I would like to accomplish. Now, this morning I’m awoken to my mom’s voice telling me a stranger – someone I would never meet but knowingly (dare I say) loved – was gone from this world. It may sound cruel, but ‘celebrity’ deaths usually do not impact me. I think it’s sad for a moment and then go about my day as usual. However this time, I jumped out of bed and stayed where I currently am now – in front of the TV waiting to see a tribute assembled. It feels like a small part of me, something that has become a part of my collective, has died. One of the few determining factors of inspiration that I keep buried deep in my heart.

May Mr. Tony Bourdain find whatever he was searching for in this life, in the next one. I hope he knew how many people his work truly touched. I hope to see the Vietnam he loved. I hope we realize just how important it is to live and accomplish our goals. Our dreams. Our aspirations. I hope we never feel the fear of jumping out of our comfort zone to try something new. And I hope we all continue to travel. Best wishes, and stay safe everyone.

Character Log: Yoshizaki, Mari | NEET in Manga

A new installment in the NEET in Manga series! This time we’ll take a look at Boku wa Mari no Naka character Mari Yoshizaki.

A NEET could be defined as a young person between the ages of 15-29 who is Not in Education, Employment or Training. The age range can go as high as the mid-thirties in some studies. Social anxiety, lack of ambition, depression, and exhaustion are all conditions which could factor into one’s decision to choose the ‘NEET lifestyle’. Sometimes these individuals hold a part-time employment status for income (with the intention to save up before quitting), but often times they are supported by relatives or immediate family members.

Family members support the individual in question out of shame and/or guilt perceived as a failure on their own part. Due to negative connotations and stigma surrounding mental health in Japan, many families would rather “enable” the situation than seek help – which could translate to judgment from outside society. Women are more likely to become NEETS than men, as men are more likely to become hikikomori, or shut-ins.

In recent years, the Japanese government has made strides toward combating this epidemic. Regional Youth Support Stations, New Start’s Rental Sisters and Brothers, as well as Agricultural Initiatives targeting NEETs seem to be trying to change the tide. The inclusion of many individuals suffering this disorder in manga and anime is something I would like to catalog here at In Asian Spaces. If you can think of any characters that may fit these profiles, please leave their names or the series in the comment section below.

Be sure to check out our previous character profile log on Tokyo Ghoul’s Saiko Yonebayashi.

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Name: Yoshizaki, Mari [吉崎 麻理]

Age: 16

Manga: Boku wa Mari no Naka, Inside Mari, I’m in Mari [ぼくは麻理のなか]

First Appearance: Chapter 1

Published: March 2012 – September 2016

Length: 80 Chapters, 9 Volumes

Employment Status: Education, Employment or Training

Description: An “angel-like” beauty with long dark brown hair, wide eyes and a slim figure. She is very popular in high school and has reputedly turned down every male who has asked her out.

Semi-Complete Plot Spoilers Ahead.

Details of Note: Some of you may be confused as to why I’ve listed Mari as NEET rather than hikikomori. Mari chooses to escape her life by believing she has switched bodies with an actual shut-in, Isao Komori.

She stalks the college dropout and tries to emulate his behaviors. However, in reality, she misses school, is given prescription pills by her mother, and frequently goes out on ‘missions’ with friend and somewhat lover Yori. The two girls seem to have an intimate relationship implied in flashbacks to be initiated by Mari one day in the nurse’s office at school. Other indicators of Mari’s sexuality may reside in her hobby of buying female erotica during her nightly walks away from home (evidenced in Isao’s true memories).

Since she is a minor, she is supported by her family monetarily. The character also chooses not to attend school (although mainly it is due to incapacitation) and still socializes a bit. We can contrast this to Isao, who has absolutely no contact with other human beings throughout his day except late at night when he goes for snack runs at the local convenience store.

When offered video games by her younger brother, Mari declines and would rather avoid family members. Despite this, her brother remains a solid support system as her parents seem to ignore and trivialize her illness. They want to make it “go away” with pills so that it does not inconvenience their daily lives or ruin her ‘perfect’ image at school. There is also the whole “Fumiko” thing and some sort of memory-induced dissociation….

Mangaka Oshimi Shuuzo often writes about mental illness, these being heavy themes in prior works such as Aku no Hana and the ongoing Happiness. There are also strong themes of societal deviance and isolation in the central core characters, which we will cover in later posts…