I just discovered this lovely little clip of a Spanish rendition of Arale-chan. It’s not the original and I have no idea what they’re saying, but I enjoy the fact that it features a pink jumping poop.
A couple of years ago in my MangoBot column on io9.com, I wrote this little explanation of Arale-chan and the wonderful things I learned about being human from this funny little robot girl:
Birth year: 1980
Who she is: A purple-haired, near-sighted girl robot built by a kooky professor named Norimaki Senbei (seaweed-wrapped rice cracker) to resemble a real 13 year old human girl. She was created by Akira Toriyama, the same genius manga artist who wrote the Dragon Ball series.
Lessons learned: 1. To be fun and spontaneous. 2. To be honest about your compulsions. 3. That you can be female + completely non-sexual + still be the most powerful humanoid in the entire world. 4. How to launch pumpkin cannons and split the earth in half with one punch. 5. The art of the Japanese poop joke. (Even today, my favorite way to pick up my dog’s poop is by poking it with a stick and then chucking it into the bushes or a trash can.)
This week on MangoBot, I wrote about Black Jack, the awesome sci-fi manga series about a ruthless mercenary doctor:
Mad scientists. Beautiful women who specialize in amputations.
Supercomputers that threaten to starve an entire hospital full of
patients. Tumors that take on human form. Sounds like a freakish B-list
horror movie, right? Actually, these are all seminal elements of a
classic cult favorite manga by Tezuka Osamu. Black Jack is one of his darkest yet most appreciated works, but it hasn’t had much exposure in the US market until now.
This week on MangoBot, my Asian futurism column on io9.com, I wrote about 5 Japanese monsters I encountered before I turned 20. An excerpt:
When I was in elementary school somebody told me the story of Kuchisake
Onna, a superhuman madwoman who lurks in dark alleys and asks you death
trap questions. The former beauty wears a surgical mask to hide an
Ichi-the-Killer-esque gash on both sides of her mouth inflicted by a
crazed relative when she was a kid. She spent her whole life in utter
misery and gradually developed a serious complex about her appearance.
Eventually, she turned into a monster. Legend has it that she asks
passersby if they think she’s pretty. It’s a trick question—if you say
YES, she takes off her mask and says "Even now?" and kills you. If you
say NO, she gets mad and kills you. If you run away, she’ll run after
you at lightning speed and kill you.
This week on MangoBot, I wrote a guide to figurine shopping in Tokyo with a bunch of photos I took last week on my trip to Akiba. I also did a quick phone interview with blogger Danny Choo to get the deets. Here’s an excerpt, and a link to the full article:
In Akiba, fans don’t just buy figurines in boxes. A subset of talented
geeks pick up kits and then fine tune the products into perfectly
painted, customized collectors items that they then resell in little
glass windows rented by the hour for about $500/week. Why buy figurines
that have been modded by other fans? With kits, you often don’t know
what you’re going to get inside, but this way you can pick and choose
what character you’re getting. The more skilled fans also add extra
super-intricate coloring and detail to the standard finish, enhancing
the aesthetic. It’s kind of like getting any product customized—cookie
cutter factory-made goods transform into one-of-a-kind collectors’
items. Radio Kaikan, a famous seven-story department store built in the
60s, used to exclusively sell music components, but as the demand for
music players dropped and the demand for figurines soared, the display
of stereos have been replaced by rows and rows of figurine-encasing
Today on io9’s MangoBot, I wrote about an awesome zombie comic book and movie called Tokyo Zombie, which is just making its way stateside:
What if zombies took over Tokyo? How would a slow zombie fare in a cage
fight against a martial arts expert? Has a zombie ever offered you a
blowjob? These questions and more are answered in a funny, slightly
X-rated Japanese comic book and movie called Tokyo Zombie.
Last week on MangoBot, I wrote about the history of yellow peril science fiction and the role of Asians in present-day science fiction.
Back in the 1920s and 30s, when Asian immigration to the US and Europe
was picking up steam, prominent science fiction writers like Philip
Nowlan and H.P. Lovecraft created speculative scenarios starring
massive hordes of horrible, slanty-eyed, intelligent Asians who were
either taking over or destroying the world.
On my io9 column, I talked to a couple of experts about the social, political, and economic future of China.
I’m a total sports nut. Olympic season makes my bones shiver with excitement. But this year, I took my mind off record-breaking swim relays and super-twisty gymnastics routines for a minute to consider the host country’s techno-socio-political future. The opening ceremony confirmed my theory that China is breeding robots. (We already know that the cute girl who performed the patriotic song was lip-syncing and that the fireworks shown on TV were fake. I’m pretty sure that the 2008 drummers who kicked off the five-hour technological spectacularity were androids, too.) But what else is up in the giant nation that many believe will be the next world superpower? I called some experts and came away with a list of five predictions for China’s next half-century.
is a tech geek, designer, and futurist who has created quite a lot of
buzz among design circles for his innovative gadgets from the future.
The 38-year old Tokyo native has always loved Apple, Google, and
Starbucks, but he always felt inconvenienced by the extra steps
involved in using them. (Why mouth off a complex multi-conditional
order of coffee when you could just customize your cup of joe online?
Why doesn’t Google Maps give you more than just a topographic image of
what you’re looking at?) At first, his ideas were just rough sketches
in his Moleskine. But then he started posting his neat, provocative
ideas online, and now developers are contacting him to try and make
some of them a reality.
This week on Mangobot, I profiled two of my favorite female futurist artists, Yayoi Kusama and Mariko Mori. Although they’re from two different generations, both are well-known in global contemporary art circles, especially in Tokyo and New York City. There are lots of awesome images and interesting details about each in the article.
On Mangobot, my biweekly futurism column, I write about four anime robots that influenced my childhood—Astro Boy, Arale-chan, Doraemon, and Gundam.
My childhood hero was a purple-haired robot who spends all her free
time poking poop with a stick. Like all good Japanese children, my
formative years were influenced by manga robot heroes—two-dimensional,
two-legged machines that first existed in simple black-and-white on
On Mangobot this week, I write about my trip to an alternate reality via the dentist chair:
While Dr. Wong was putting dental dam in my mouth, I was watching three hot women singing the penis song in a Chinese restaurant downtown. It happened last Thursday, when I discovered a gadget that can warp my brain to a blissful alternate reality.
I contemplate 5 viable reasons why aliens might make contact with the Japanese first. Reasons include our defense minister’s stubborn insistence that aliens exist, the presence of a real optical signal-seeking observatory in Hyogo Prefecture, and covert operations by Kim Jong Il.
My MangoBot column this week is about two movies featuring hot Asian women with machine guns: The Gene Generation and The Machine Girl:
Asian women with machine guns are sexy, scary, and fetishistic. If you’re in San Francisco in June, you’re in luck—you can get a double dose of ass-busting Asian women at the Another Hole in the Head horror movie fest, where two crazy, ruthless Oriental beauties battle evil in a cumulative three hours of gory revenge and fantastical sci-fi crime-fighting.
Way before Speed Racer became fodder for one of the season’s
most highly anticipated blockbusters, it was a simple 60s-style
Japanese cartoon. The original Speed Racer was a TV anime series called Mach GoGoGo,
aired on Fuji TV—one of Japan’s major television networks—in 1967 and
1968. Like many other sources of entertainment in Japan at the time,
Go’s determination and the superior technology of Mach 5 were symbolic
of the country’s rapid post-war recovery and the determination that
drove it. While you’re waiting to head to your multiplex to watch the
Hollywood version tonight, let me take you back in time and show you a
glimpse of the original.
I wrote about Fred Schodt, Tezuka’s long-time interpreter and predictor of Japan’s humanoid robot craze, on io9 last week:
In the spring of 1988, Japanese publisher Kodansha released a revealing English-language book titled Inside the Robot Kingdom: Japan, Mechatronics, and the Coming Robotopia.
The book predicted a new era when humanoid robots would dominate
Japanese society in the same way that industrial robots were then
dominating behind-the-scenes manufacturing in the country. It was a
topic that nobody in the Western world knew much about at all.
On this week’s Mangobot, I have a story about Japan’s national plan to become a robot nation by 2010:
If you’ve noticed an unusually large number of utilitarian humanoids
hailing from Japan in the last few years, then you probably won’t be
surprised to hear about the country’s official robot initiative. Right
now, Japan is in the midst of executing a grand plan to make robots an
integrated part of everyday life. To compensate for the shortage of
young workers willing to do menial tasks, the Japan Robot Association,
the government, and several technology institutions drafted a formal
plan to create a society in which robots live side by side with humans
by the year 2010. Since 2010 is just a couple years away, I called up a
roboticist at the forefront of this movement to find out how it’s going.
This week, I wrote about how I’m playing Brain Age 2 to stay young:
I’ve been trying to figure out ways that I can defy age. I’m turning 30
this year, which means I will have a harder time remembering things,
filtering information, and staying in shape. Since I’m not Ray Kurzweil
and I can’t afford plastic surgery, I’m banking on Brain Age 2,
Nintendo’s cognitive training software, to keep me away from wrinkles
One of the coolest things about being in Tokyo this time around was that I got to meet Cornelius. I think if I had to choose one musician to represent Japan in the summer Olympics or something, I’d pick him. Or the Southern All Stars.
We met at his studio in Nakameguro and hung out for a bit, and watched mash-up videos people made with his music.
Did I ever tell you guys how I was a total Tetris addict as a child? I wrote a feature about it for io9:
At a young age, my brain was hijacked by the game of Tetris. Now it
helps me navigate through life. When I was in the sixth grade, my
friend Chiyo and I used to play this addictive puzzle game–developed
in 1985 by a Russian engineer–for
hours on end with a single 100 yen coin at an arcade in Tokyo. We
probably should have been doing homework or at least pretending to, but
instead, there we were, every day after school, sitting side by side
executing crazy maneuvers with our joysticks. The mantras that I
repeated in my head while playing the game at max speed as a pre-teen
are totally in sync with some basic tenets of Asian philosophy.