Archive for August, 2012

A new caffeine delivery system

August 18, 2012

If you’re an office drone in need of a mid-afternoon pick-me-up, you might decide to sip some espresso. Or you might decide to guzzle some soda. Now, thanks to the Suntory company, you don’t need to decide at all. Its new “Espressoda” product appears to combine both experiences in one handy bottle.

The concept is clever, the name is clever, and the marketing is clever, too. Its website includes a video game in which a tiny stick figure carrying a briefcase runs across a gigantic spreadsheet, leaping from pie chart to bar graph as you control him with your mouse. (Click on the “game” tab at the bottom of the screen here to play.)

Caffeine junkie that I am, I was quite excited when I saw this beverage in a vending machine in the building where I work.

When the bottle came out of the machine and I was able to read the ingredient list on the back label, I was disappointed to see that sugar was the first ingredient. (Coffee was second.) I’ve been trying to cut needless sugar out of my diet, so I knew I probably wouldn’t be buying this product again.

On the other hand, I have enjoyed coffee ice cream and coffee-flavored candies in the past, so I still expected to enjoy drinking Espressoda.

Alas, the beverage didn’t strike my palate as sweet at all, but harsh and stale, like coffee that had been left out overnight. I wound up pouring most of it out in the sink. I love coffee, but this was not my cup of tea.

(P.S. You know what Japanese vending machine concoction I do love? Pancake milkshake in a can.)

Tatsunoko’s anime shows

August 17, 2012

Tatsunoko Productions is a major producer of Japanese anime. If you ever enjoyed watching “Gatchaman” (“Battle of the Planets”) or “Mach Go Go Go” (“Speed Racer”), you have Tatsunoko to thank.

Right now in Tokyo, and coming soon to Osaka, there is an exhibit filled with cels, videos and original drawings from dozens of Tatsunoko TV series.

I recently paid a quick visit to the Tokyo show on my lunch break, and realized there was more material there than I could absorb in my limited time. However, I did enjoy playing a short game of “spot the reference,” beginning when I noticed that the company’s earliest character – the hero of a 1965 black-and-white show called “Uchu Ace” (Space ace) – had an asymmetrical crescent crest on his space helmet just like the one Date Masamune (1567-1635) had worn on his battle helmet four centuries earlier. Looking through time in the other direction, a rocket launch facility in “Space Ace” strongly resembled Syndrome’s lair in “The Incredibles” (2004).

Despite his costume, Ace didn’t have a buff superhero physique. He looked more like one of the original Campbell’s Soup Kids, probably because he was created by people who grew up in straitened times when chubbiness was something to aspire to.

That changed pretty fast, however, with the full-color characters of “Gatchaman” in the early 1970s looking like slim disco denizens – especially when they hung up their superhero capes and got into their civvies, which included thick-soled boots, bell-bottom pants, superwide belts and cataracts of shaggy hair.

Each of the “Gatchaman” characters’ superhero identities is based on a bird. One of them, Ryu Nakanishi, dresses up in an owl costume uncannily resembling that of the Nite Owl character who would appear in the English-language graphic novel “Watchmen” in the 1980s. And in a possible case of influence going the other way, the colorful characters and kooky vehicles of Tatsunoko’s late 1970s “Yatterman” series had a look that reminded me of Hanna Barbera’s earlier “Wacky Races.”

Admission to the Tokyo show, which runs through Aug. 20 at the Matsuya department store in Ginza, is 1,000 yen. Admission to the Aug. 22-28 Osaka show, at the Hanshin department store in Umeda, is only 500 yen. For details, see the promotional posters at the top and bottom of this post.