This Week in Tokyo Pop Culture | Sep 13: Deadly Chess & Kate Spade’s Supermarket Inspiration

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Tokyo is in a bit of a transitional period at the moment, caught between the sorrow caused by the recent, devastating landfall of Typhoon Faxai, and the excitement of the upcoming Rugby World Cup. But what does this Twilight Zone mean for Tokyo pop culture? Let’s take a look:

A Dangerous Game of Shogi

The new NHK show Banjo no Himawari (“The Sunflower on the Shogi Board”), which premiered on September 8, is essentially three stories in one. For one, it’s a nostalgia trip, taking place in 1994, and if your first thought was that “that wasn’t so long ago!” then, congratulations, you are officially old. The series definitely longs for the past, not just because it takes place 25 years ago, but because it centers around the world of shogi – Japanese chess. Thanks to that, it’s a quiet, contemplative story without the distractions of modern life, at least from the looks of the first episode, which itself almost flows like a game of shogi.

On the other hand, Banjo no Himawari is also a suspenseful murder mystery, as the series kicks off with the discovery of a body in the mountains, which was buried with a shogi piece. Now it’s up to the archetypal Veteran Detective and his Rookie Partner to solve the case. Could the murder be connected to Kamijo Keisuke, a young and somewhat mysterious shogi prodigy? Well of course it is somehow. Otherwise the show wouldn’t focus so much on Keisuke, who is the last of Banjo no Himawari’s triple-prong attack straight at our hearts. On the show, we learn that Keisuke grew up poor with an abusive father but was eventually saved when he discovered his love and talent for shogi. Although that kind of story is rife with clichés, there is a reason why people enjoy them so much, and it will be fascinating to see how the show brings all of its storylines together as it goes on.

Black Clover Celebrates 100

We all LOVE underdogs. One of the reasons why the Mighty Ducks, Harry Potter, Underdog etc. have become so popular is because we like seeing the little guy beat the odds and come out on top. That’s one of the reasons why the anime Black Clover became such a monstrous hit.

Although they weren’t the first, tenth, or even the hundredth show to go with the underdog protagonist formula, they were smart enough to mix it with a lot of action and a gallery of interesting characters. The hero of Black Clover is Asta, a young orphan born without magic powers in a world where everyone else has magic powers. Also, his puppy died. No, that’s not true, but suffice to say, Asta has been dealt a pretty lousy hand from birth, yet despite that he sets his mind towards becoming the next Wizard King. How will he do it without magic powers? Through sheer force of will, hard work, pigheadedness, and ultra violence. Although nothing totally new in terms of character development, it is a joy to see this geyser of optimism and justice bust his hump to achieve his dream in a creative, fantasy setting.

When you look at it like that, it’s no wonder fans have stuck around with the show for 100 episodes, a milestone that the anime achieved on September 10. May it have a 100 more.

https://twitter.com/jun086/status/1171047421213700096?s=20

Was Kate Spade Inspired by a Japanese Supermarket?

On September 9, Twitter user @jun086 noticed something interesting about the recently-announced 2020 collection from Kate Spade New York, an American luxury fashion brand. No, it wasn’t that high-fashion looks more and more like an elaborate prank with each passing year. Instead, in a tweet that currently has been liked more than 124,000 times, @jun086 brought Twitter’s attention to the fact that a flower motif on two Kate Spade knit-overall-dresses bears a striking resemblance to the logo of Life, the Japanese supermarket chain.

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