Indoor Intergalactic Journey

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The Shinagawa Prince Hotel, located just a stone’s throw through the labyrinth before Shinagawa Station in Tokyo, even with its tuxedo wearing top-hatted valets has more than just your standard regal affairs.  Indeed, it also houses the Epson Aqua Stadium, filled with overpriced and over-glorified pastimes.  That is, all except the Galaxy Express 999 indoor roller-coaster.

Bastu went after a visit to the immigration bureau on the other side of the station, and nothing gives bureaucracy a good kick in the face like traveling through a void of mysterious dark space, upside down at incredible speeds.

I was practically the only visitor in the whole park!  Not bad for a Thursday evening.  There were armies of staff ready and waiting to heed my every whim as I careened through the tape.  A pleasant attendant manning the automated machines (oxymoron?) was quick to do the entire processes of purchasing a ticket for me, sans actually paying.  She then escorted me mostly to the ride, where another bevy of enthusiastic employees lie in wait.

“Your train will be departing in 10 minutes,” one of them informed.  The other six scuttled away.

Looking up, a huge information board with scheduled departures hung over the entranceway.  How cool!  My train was coming in 10 minutes!  Not just any train, but an intergalactic train bound for Andromeda.  I felt so cool!  Looking down, there was a map of the various trade and train routes; however, it was obstructed with dividers – no good pics.  A few minutes later, the times flipped – Oh!  It was time to get on the platform!

A staff member quickly went through a check list of possible ailments (no heart problems, no blood pressure problems, no other illness… you’re OK going upside down, right?) and then led me into a holding area with replicas of Maetel and Tetsuro’s clothing.  There were other things to be seen, but I was quickly led to a futuristic platform with 3-D dioramas of Megalopolis embedded into the floor and intimidating robotic guards overlooking to the side.  After a few moments, the guards announced the arrival of a tram bound for the actual track and made various safety announcements.  Like, about space pirates and whatnot.  They seemed just like statues, but were really animatronic actors that really came to life.  It was just like being in Megalopolis, or at least, just as I had imagined it.

The tram arrived and the doors opened.  Another staff member led me in and explained the ride, such as the glories of how to take off your glasses and empty your pockets.  The tram would now be departing towards the 999.

Of course, the tram was just a room with a huge screen, but still had a nice facade.  The conductor began explaining about the train and the route, showing our position relative to the track when – all of a sudden we encountered trouble!  The whole car shook in suspense!!  We were up against some formidable foes, but Tetsuro and Maetel came through, along with the assistance of Harlock and Emeraldas.  Mr. Conductor apologized for the inconvenience, upon which the door opened, revealing the ride.

Just one look told me I did not want to ride that thing.  It was small – even compensating for the fact that many Japanese things seem small.  The seats were hard, with no shock absorption, or even modest fabric covering.  Could I just refuse and walk out?  I’d certainly had my 1,000 yens worth, but nonetheless quickly stepped in file putting all of my belongings and glasses into the cubbyholes like the nice man said.

Strapped in tightly, the train (coaster) took off with frightening speed.  But without my glasses it was hard to tell what was going on.  I could make out a glowing green ring which the train went through and then circled about, which left me wondering if I had actually been upside down or not as a barrage of weird colored lights appeared to be suspended in the darkness, here and there, in clusters.  The train swooped around them, jutting left and right, as I hoped it would quickly be over.  Though the ride itself gave a wicked headache, there was a cool futuristic lounge area full of character art just outside, which I made full use of.

However, had there been a gift shop full of swag, it would have all been coming home with me.  Despite the sour ending, this was one of the cooler interactive anime experiences I’ve had, and I didn’t even have to buy admission to a major theme park or wait in line.  I felt like a princess having so many staff members to pamper me, and the mock-ups were really good.  Aside from the train, this is as close to Megalopolis as it gets.

So indeed, after weathering my next pilgrimage to the immigration offices, I will be riding the 999 again.  Taking another look at the map, there is supposed to be a “souvenirs and novelties shop” – I was just too sick and spaced out to find it.  Or, shall we blame poor marketing and /or product placement?  I should have just asked, but by that point the place had more and more couples on dates, giving me weird looks.  Common sense says one wouldn’t usually take themselves to the amusement park – but it probably would have been alright had I dressed less fancy.

What: Galaxy Express 999 roller coaster

Where: Epson Shinagawa Aqua Stadium

When: Mon.-Fri. 1pm-10pm, Sat. 11am-10pm, Sun. and Holidays 11am-9pm

Broken Alice

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Batsu saw this figure back in December at the Volks shop in Akihabara – truly a beautiful sculpt.  She goes by the name “Alice in Neverland” – and as far as I can tell, she is an original character sculpt (no pre-existing anime, game, etc.).  Pre-orders opened in late January, but the figure won’t be released until late April.

Slender, broken body, part woman and part girl, dream and nightmare, innocence and corruption – simply captivating.  According to the Questioners, LLC website, each eyelash is painstakingly affixed one at a time.  Her crown doubles as a ring, and her little storage box is lined with luxuriant black velvet.  (Watch the video on the link above.)  The latch and detailing of the case is as almost as exquisite as the figure itself.

The artist, Sakarako Iwanaga is one of few recognized female shoujo sculptors.  Reading an interview with her was like reading excepts of a feminist manifesto – not that she seemed overtly militant, but perhaps a bit weathered by sexism in the industry.  This would seem to be coupled by the perception of a woman sculpting – let alone specializing in – female characters.

Of couse Iwanaga has done many other beautiful sculpts as well – apparently one I just missed of Kanako from Mouryou no Hako (click for more pics).  It’s a raw “garage kit” – meaning just parts, no paint, perhaps even independantly produced – made for Wonder Festival Summer 2009.  There may, perhaps, still be a way.

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Majolica Majorca

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Around 7 years ago, Shiseido came out with a unique style of make-up brand targeting more eccentric girls.  Covered in luscious Victorian-style frills and alluding at many quaintrelle pleasures, most of the products and images used in Majolica Majora campaigns have a distinct loli flavor; the current Ch. 26 – “She was a doll,” no exception.  I’m particularly captivated by the doll sculpt and stop animation, woven into an interactive story-book like presentation.

It’s fun to look at and play around even if you can’t read Japanese: http://www.shiseido.co.jp/mj/index.html

Cheap Alice

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A small cosmetic pouch purchased on clearance at HusHush.  They don’t usually have loli stuff, but came out with an Alice-style series of tote bags last fall.  Other prints included cards, hearts, whatnot in golds and pinks.  The zipper-pull is especially nice.

Bad Medicine

A few years ago, when Square-Enix decided to launch a “exlixer” style beverage to commemorate the release of the FF7 movie, it came in a magical, faceted blue plastic and glass container.  Of course, the container was held in a box, which concealed which type of bottle it contained (collect at 6!), but nonetheless it was magical.  A mere glance was sufficient to conclude that it infused with some ethereal mana of life, that would instantly give you full MP and HP for the coming boss battle.  Which totally made up for the way it tasted like absolute crap.

The newer version of said elixer looks anything but magical.  It looks like a cheap soda can.  Considering that Japan prevalently packages alcoholic beverages in aluminum cans, it contains even more disappointment and less magic than usual.  But somehow, looking at the white box, batsu fell into a time slip and impulsively purchased one of the newer FF13 potions. Upon opening the box, she realized this error.

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Blast and damnation!  Who cares what figure that is – what a rip!

It sat in the fridge for a week or so – remembering the vile serum contained within the aforementioned truly magical elixers.  But then one day, I realized that I needed a boost to finish a project for work.  Expecting the worst, it surprisingly had a pleasant lychee-like aloe taste.  Something definitely worth drinking again, if it only appeared to be magical.