Friday, November 05, 2010

'Standing Out' in Japan

I like to pick up on random bits of Japanese language and see what they can teach us, and one word that's culturally loaded is medatsu, which means to stand out or be conspicuous in a crowd. To you or me, the concept of standing out might mean no more than accidentally wearing clothes out of season or carrying your backpack over both arms in violation of local fashions which require you to choose just one, but to the Japanese it can be a much bigger deal. Many personal choices from fashion and hair styles to what computer OS or cell phone style you go with are influenced by how much an individual wants to avoid being seen as departing from perceived norms. I've known more than a few Japanese who got upset when I "complimented" them on being unique or different -- they preferred to be thought of as futsuu, meaning normal, the same as everyone else. I even knew a programmer at an eroge company who legally changed his name to Reiji Abe, which is abere-ji or "average" when read in Japanese name order, which he said was his favorite word of English.

That's not to say that Japanese people don't do things that stand out very much to us, something you know if you've ridden a train in Tokyo and watched a really awesome Goth-Loli girl get on, or visited Harajuku on a Sunday morning, when all the interesting cosplayers are out. It's been said that when Japanese "rebel" against the larger society around them by, say, joining a boso-zoku biker gang, they're essentially moving from one "normal" in-group to a smaller one. Of course, I've been known to stand out a little over the course of my life. When I lived in New Zealand as a boy, my mother failed to notice that schools there had school uniforms, which forced me to be the only boy in school without one all year long. (Gee thanks, Mom.) I also have to be at peace with standing out in Japan, like last weekend when I went to a high school culture festival at a school my son might attend. As is often the case, I was the only foreigner around, and it takes some courage to be the only gaijin in a sea of bobbing Japanese heads.
The idea of "standing out" in Japan is a little different.

Tokyo Sky Tree's Silly New Mascot

A new tree is growing in the middle of Japan's sprawling capital: Tokyo Sky Tree, the under-construction broadcast tower that will provide television and radio broadcasting to the area's 35 million residents. Already the tallest man-made structure in Japan, it will stand an amazing 634.0 meters (2080 ft) when completed in 2012, double the height of Tokyo Tower which it will replace. True to form, the Tobu Railway Line which owns the tower couldn't resist making an official "mascot character" to serve as the its official face and give tourists something to buy as omiyage (souvenir gifts) when visiting, and the new official character is "Sorakara-chan," a girl from space with a star-shaped head who happened to notice the tower while passing by the Earth, so she came down to take a closer look. Why everything from the Japanese armed forces to the 1250-year-old Great Buddha statue of Nara require cutesy characters to represent them is one of the great mysteries of Japan. I often wonder what would happen if cute characters like these became commonplace in the U.S. For example, what if the subdued San Diego County Office of Record-Keeping decided to spruce up its image with an official character called Document-kun, who made a little angry face whenever people failed to properly safeguard their personal information? Or maybe not.
Tokyo has a new tree, and a dorky new mascot character.

What Will You Get This Christmas?

The Holidays are just around the corner, and J-List is loaded with awesome and unique products from japan for you. From our epic lineup of 2011 anime, JPOP, art and other calendars to rare seasonal products like the plush yutanpo water water bottles for keeping your bed warm and cozy in winter, plus tons of Ghibli plush toys as well. We also humbly recommend our J-List Gift Certificates, which are sent via email in PDF format to you or your recipient and can be used on either J-List or JBOX. What awesome Christmas-related products can J-List send you today?

Cool Products Friday, November 5, 2010

Here are today's "really cool products" that I've picked out for you, out of the 30+ new items we've added to the J-List and JBOX.com sites today. Note that some products may be "not safe for work" but that all links will allow you to redirect yourself either to the J-List or JBOX.com websites. To see all the J-List products, check out J-List or the JBOX.com updated products link.
GeMaga  Game Magazine Dec. 2010
GeMaga ~ Game Magazine Dec. 2010 The best magazine for information and extras from all the newest console (Xbox, PS3, PSP, DS, etc.) bishoujo games in Japan. Great goodies too!
Afternoon Dec 2010
Great news on the manga front: Genshiken is back! Everyone's favorite story of the college otaku club returns in a sequel manga by Kio Shimoku, and it's here for the first time in this issue of Afternoon, Kodansha's premiere manga magazine.
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Gakken Otona no Kagaku vol. 26  Science Projects for Adult -- Mini Electric Guitar
New Otona no Kagaku Science Kits Rock out with Shonen Knife as you build your own guitar and other new projects with full kits included in these amazing science project magazines.
Gakken Otona no Kagaku Special  Science Projects for Adult -- The Karakuri Mechanical Doll of the Flourishing Edo Period
Otona no Kagaku ~ Karakuri Mechanical Doll In this special issue of Otona no Kagaku, create a mechanical "wind up robot" just like those that amused nobility in Tokyo's Edo period. Amazing!
Myojo Oct 2010
Myojo Oct 2010 The who's who of the Japanese entertainment industry, keep up with all the stars of TV, film and music with this hot culture magazine!
Inviting Fortune Lucky Cat Display
Inviting Fortune Lucky Cat Display  Bring a taste of Japanese good fortune into your life with this authentic ceramic Lucky Cat display, beckoning love and happiness to you.
Star Wars Light Saber Pen -- Darth Vader
Star Wars Light Saber Pens You can practically hear the Star Wars theme when you light up one of these epic pens. A Japanese Star Wars toy not easily available elsewhere!
KADO-KESHI Petit Set  Blue  Pink
Amazing Japanese Pens & Erasers The Kado-Keshi multi-corner eraser, plus Let's Make Eraser with Microwave as well as various awesome Japanese pens.
Hello Kitty Half Blanket 100cm x 140cm
Hello Kitty Half Blanket, Sleeper Vest The coziest gear for the winter, get snuggly warm in this long sleeper vest and plush blanket with the super cute genuine Kitty from Sanrio.
Hello Kitty Ear Muff
Hello Kitty Ear Muffs And even more warm and fuzzy Kitty goodness, this time for your ears, with the cutest earmuffs of the season that go great with any coat.
Bakemonogatari Anime Complete Guide Book
Bakemonogatari Anime Complete Guide Book We can't believe how awesome this five-part epic artbook is -- literally all of Bakemonogatari is here in a superb collector's set. Wow!
Queen's Gate -- Chairman Junko Hattori (Ichiban Ushiro no Daimaoh) **Preorder**
Gorgeous Queen's Blade & Queen's Gate The best fighting combat artbooks featuring gorgeous girls in full color and hardcover sexy poses are back in stock for you today!
2011 Calendar -- Angel Beats!
Or if you want to browse the other dozen or so new anime calendars we posted for 2011, click this link to see them all. Angel Beats! B Gata H Kei! Code Geass! Bakuman! Macross F!
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Totoro 2011 Calendar 'Sign Board'
Totoro & Jiji Calendars In Stock! Alright! The new Totoro and Kiki's Delivery Service calendars for 2011 are in, and we've got them. Images updated, too.
Totoro Fluffy Blanket Flying Totoro -- Half Size 100 x 140cm
Soft Totoro Blankets Restocked They're back! The fuzziest, most adorable blankets to keep you warm this winter, from the minds and hearts of Studio Ghibli straight to your bed.
Ponyo Plush Small Size  Ponyo on the Cliff on the Sea
Ponyo Plush Toys, Too Ghibli genuinely keeps on giving this season, with some of the cutest "Ponyo"-themed gifts and toys that we sell now back in stock.
Fruit Fly Dying House
Fruit Fly Dying House We all hate flies, and this is a useful device that will help rid them from your life.
Sora Bear Yutanpo   Hot Water Container  Cover 2.4L
Cute Plush Yutanpo Hot Water Bed Warmer Rather than use an electric blanket or heater to keep warm, consider using a yutanpo, or hot water bottle -- super warm and eco-friendly!
Meiji Porte Chocolate Snack
Awesome new Japanese Snacks Glico's new Winter Almond Chocolate dusted with cocoa powder, and "Pan de Chocolat," potato-chip shaped bread with green tea chocolate on top.
Meiji Pucca -- Banana Milk Flavor
Restocked J-Snack Goodness Pocky Almond Crush, Meiji Ume Candy, Macadamia Chocolates, Meiji Pucca Banana Milk Flavor (!), Meiji Dice Caramel, Rich Toppo and Lime Ginger Ale gum.
MOMOTARO 2 Tier Bento Box  Miso Soup Bowl
MOMOTARO 2 Tier Bento Box & Miso Soup Bowl  The plucky "peach boy" hero from Japanese legend comes to life in this adorable bento and soup bowl set, made to look like it's really him!
DX Bento Special Gift Box Set   YUZEN Lacquered Bento Box  Band  Chopsticks  Bag
Huge Restocking of Bento Boxes Our bento specialist Ai went to town today, bringing back a massive selection of our bento lineup in stock. Click to browse.
Jiji Thermal Bento Box Set -- Kiki's Delivery Service
Totoro & Kiki's Delivery Service Bento More Ghibli Bento love for you, with both the Jiji the Cat and Totoro deluxe thermal bento boxes restocked. They also make nice gifts.
Lovely DECO Bento Set  Baran  Furikake Stencil  Food Shaper
Restocked Bento Accessories Add some "deco" (decoration) to your bento life with the Deco Bento Sets we restocked today, plus egg shapers, soy sauce bottles and more.
Evangelion Overhead Headphone -- EVA001 *Preorder*
Evangelion Overhead Headphones Add some Evangelion style to your life with these awesome headphones, featuring Eva-00 coloring or the famous NERV design. Restocked today.
100 Recipes from Japanese Cooking  Eigo de Nihon Ryori
Restocked Bilingual Cookbooks, More The popular "bilingual" Japanese Cooking book is restocked along with the Manga Cookbook, a popular item. Also: enjoy Manga Tarot Cards.
Bath HIRAGANA Chart
Bath HIRAGANA Chart See our handy hiragana chart, which is specially coated to be waterproof for bath use. It comes with great pictures of words to help you learn.
RYOMA SAKAMOTO Kanji  Crest Strap with Lens Cleaner
Restocked Traditional Products From origami paper to cherry blossom decals, traditional straps to bath salts, bento to calendars, we've got the perfect taste of Japan for you!
Japanese Bamboo Ear Pick - Mimikaki
You haven't lived until you've had your ears cleaned by a Japanese mimikaki, a traditional ear cleaner that looks like a bamboo scoop and is used to gently remove ear wax from your ear. One of the great joys in life is to lay your head on the lap of your significant other and have them clean your ears for you -- oo! See fresh stock of this popular item today.
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Kazari Uiharu 1/8 Figure  To Aru Kagaku no Rail Gun  **Preorder**
Uiharu, Ryoko Okami Figures for Preorder A couple of sweet new preorder figures from Alter, one of Japan's highest quality figure makers. Railgun and Ookami-san love!
COMPOSITE ver. KA Commander Haruhi -- Personal All-Range -All-Purpose Humanoid Flight Exoskeleton **Preorder**
COMPOSITE Haruhi Exoskeleton *Preorder* Two great tastes that taste great together: Haruhi Suzumiya and giant robots, united at last in this awesome action figure combo. Preorder open!
Love Para -- Kirara Asuka
Love Para ~ Kirara Asuka You'll want to vacation in Guam too when you see the gorgeous reveals of the beautiful Asuka in this photobook that bares it all.
ToHeart 2  To Heart 2
Restocked H-Games from Japan Then on our Japan Import Game page, awesome games restocked ToHeart 2 (the naughty version), My Girlfriend is the President, and more.
Masaki Mizuhara Collection Reira 1/12 Cast off Figure **Preorder**
Masaki Mizuhara Collection Cast off Figure A super ecchi and sexy castoff figure, the scanty red top comes completely off to reveal the busty beauty beneath. Preorder open!
BAND GAL!! -- Anzu  K-On! Parody Toy
Stress relief in Japan is just as varied and diverse as the factors that cause it, so it was just a matter of time before the spunky girls of K-On were highlighted in their own line of products (parodies, of course, but we all know who these "BAND GALS" are). Enjoy the company of your favorite K-On! girl as you work out your stress today!
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Wednesday, November 03, 2010

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Speak English to Japanese People

When I first got to Japan, I was extremely motivated to learn Japanese, which was a good thing since the idea that you can learn a language through osmosis just by living in that country is flat wrong. I took advantage of every opportunity to advance my studies, listening to JPOP music and watching anime and Japanese dramas, which helped me get lots of vocabulary input. When I encountered a Japanese person, I'd engage in a brief "language battle" with them to determine which of us had the higher language skills, and thus which language I'd speak with that person -- and I hated to lose. Then one day I was in Tokyo, looking for a coin locker to put my bags in, and a middle-aged salaryman who was clearing his out said "Please use this one" to me in English. I thanked him in fluent Japanese, but after that I realized that I'd done him a real disservice. This man would probably have only have a few chances to use his English each year, and yet I had stubbornly refused to oblige him. Since that day, I've resolved to speak English to Japanese people more, which usually causes their face to brighten just a little. And if you really want to make a Japanese person's day? Compliment them on their English and ask how many years they've studied overseas. Even if it's B.S., you'll bring a smile to their face that will last all day.
The relationship with Japanese people at the English language is rather complex.

The Things You Will Learn in Japan (Chopsticks Edition)

Living in Japan teaches you many things. You learn to park your car in impossibly small spaces, and increase your ability to handle alcohol in social situations. You learn to apologize really well, since no language is fitted for expressing regret at screwing something up as Japanese is. You also learn how to use chopsticks, since most meals here require them, except for "Western" dishes like spaghetti or curry. Chopsticks are very easy to use: you just hold one stick between your middle finger and thumb, then hold the second with your forefinger and thumb so that you can create a "scissor" action that allows you to pick up food. With practice, it's very easy to pluck the last grain of rice from the bottom of your bowl when eating. The use of chopsticks is taught to children at around the age of three, and it's common for parents to want to make sure their kids learn to use them properly before they start preschool, making chopstick use one of the first forms of peer pressure children are subjected to in Japanese society. In Japan there's exactly "one" correct way to do things, a concept that extends to the holding of chopsticks as well, and it's common for conversations over beers at an izakaya to turn to how strangely someone is holding their chopsticks. To me, the ultimate test of how good you are at using chopsticks is being able to wring the juice from a slice of lemon without getting any on your hands. Just slide the chopsticks into either end of the lemon slice and twist in opposite directions, extracting the lemon juice. Incidentally, J-List stocks many kinds of chopsticks from Japan, including ones with rough patches at the ends (to make them easier to eat with), awesome Pocky chopsticks, and even "training chopsticks" for beginners.
Yui enjoys Mugi's eyebrows, which are pickled radishes (wat?).

Popular Meat in Japan: Shabu Shabu

When I first arrived in Japan 19 years ago, I brought a lot of preconceived notions with me. Like, the Japanese all lived in small houses (my house in Japan is larger than my San Diego home) and drove tiny cars (actually, you see quite a few large vehicles on the roads, including the occasional Cadillac Escalade and Hummer). I also was pretty sure the Japanese didn't eat much meat, since the impression we all had back in the 1980s was that Japan spent 25% of their income on a meager diet of fish and rice, or something like that. (This was before the Internet and bloggers like me came along, making it possible to know Japan as it really is.) Happily, this notion turned out to be mistaken, and the Japanese eat plenty of delicious foods, including lots of niku (meat). One of the most common ways to enjoy meat is to go to a steak house where you can choose from a regular steak or a cheaper "hamburg" (ground beef) steak, usually imported from Australia or the USA. Korean BBQ is another popular way to get your meat fix, especially in my home prefecture of Gunma, which has the highest population of Koreans (though most were born in Japan and only maintain their Korean identity for cultural reasons). Last Friday the J-List crew went out for shabu shabu, which is thinly sliced pieces of meat you cook in a pot of boiling water. Since the meat is so thin it cooks in seconds, and the water washes away most of the fat, so it's very healthy. (The name shabu shabu is the sound of the meat swishing around in the water.)
A popular way to eat meat is shabu shabu.

We Love Magazines with Free Stuff (Omake)

The Japanese have found a solution to the the crisis of the publishing industry: just include cool free stuff with the magazine! Called omake in Japanese, pronounced oh-mah-kay, many magazines are doing great by including delightful gifts to readers each month. Like NyanType or Megami Magazine, which both seem bent on bankrupting themselves with all the free posters they shower on fans. Or the awesome Otona no Kagaku series, with real science projects you can build (I've got my eye on that 4-bit micro computer kit, it looks like loads of fun). Fashion magazines as well as, ahem, certain periodicals men are known to taken an interest in, also include great freebees. So browse our selection of magazines now!

Cool Products Monday, October 25, 2010

Here are today's "really cool products" that I've picked out for you, out of the 30+ new items we've added to the J-List and JBOX.com sites today. Note that some products may be "not safe for work" but that all links will allow you to redirect yourself either to the J-List or JBOX.com websites. To see all the J-List products, check out J-List or the JBOX.com updated products link.
Megami Magazine Dec 2010
Megami Magazine Dec 2010 It's the time of the month when the best bishoujo magazines go on sale - and by that we mean Megami, packed with posters and extras for you!
NyanType vol. 13
NyanType vol. 13 And right next door we have Nyantype, giving Megami a run for its money. All different posters means that dedicated collectors like both!
Bomb Nov 2010
Next, a special treat for the fans of Japan's beautiful 3D women -- the rebirth of the classic magazine Bomb in a much larger format that fans will love. In addition to the most beautiful women Japan's idol culture has to offer (including a heavy serving of AKB48), you get awesome free posters!
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Japanese ONSEN Wooden Plate  Men  Woman
Japanese Wooden Kanji Signs Wooden signs showing "men's bath" and "woman's bath" and one for someone who has suffered a broken heart. Wacky much?
Blue Sakura Pattern Sake Cup
Sake Cups, Rice Bowls from Japan Need traditional Japanese style dishware that's quality and affordable? Look no further than our selection of ceramic cups and bowls.
Pantsu is Justice  Aika Complete Fanbook
Pantsu is Justice ~ Aika Complete Fanbook The definitive collection of art from ecchi fanservice anime Aika and its modern sequels. We can't even count the pantsu in here...
Railway Girls and Scenery Pictorial Book  Tetsudou Shojo Hyakkei
Restocked Artbooks, Moe Moe Encyclopedias The train-riding girls artbook is back, plus several Moe Moe Encyclopedia books combining fascinating information with moe girls!
Handmade Sweets Fragrant Eraser Kit  Candy
Handmade Sweets Fragrant Erasers ~ wow Enjoy creating unique, useful ornaments that you make your own with this craft eraser molding kit. Fun candy shapes are just the beginning!
Evangelion Dr. Grip Ball Pointed Pen -- Angels
Evangelion Dr. Grip Ballpoint Pens Japanese advanced writing technology and advanced Eva unit tech come together to bring this smooth-writing utensil that's super cool.
Renji de Bistro Heart Shape  Microwave Egg Cooker
Renji de Bistro ~ Microwave Egg Cooker Not only can you cook your eggs in the microwave, but in cute heart shapes you and your little ones will love! See it to believe it.
Exchange Head Brush for Pocket Doltz (2cps)  Black
Exchange Head Brush for Pocket Doltz If you've picked up the handy Doltz electric travel toothbrush from us, these are just what you need for when one of the heads wears out.
MERCURYDUO 2010 Autumn Winter Collection
MERCURYDUO 2010 Autumn Winter Collection Another amazing fashion magazine, this one from brand Mercury Duo. Complete with trendy tote bag extra so you'll know it's great value!
Simple Black Knee High Socks
Simple Black Knee High Socks You know them, you love them, the simple fashion statement and anime meme of zettai ryoiki rolled into one. The authentic original!
Re-ment Sushi Mascot Individual
Re-ment Sushi Miniatures Restocked Sushi visualized to perfection in these scale model food snacks from Re-ment, mouth-wateringly good with vibrant colors that look great on display.
Ritsu Tainaka Figma Action Figure Uniform ver.1 *Preorder*
K-On! Figma Toys Figma knows where our heart lies, and it's with their amazing K-On! action figures, complete with realistic detailed instrument props and more.
Okami Chronicles  Tiny Sun
Restocked DS Games Okami Chronicles, the story of the wolf and his boy who saved Japan, along with great DS rhythm games and more are back in stock for you today!
Mousse-chan Fuwa Fuwa Paper Clay  Roll Cake Kaleidoscope
More Mousse-Chan Paper Clay Toys Restocked Several fun Mousse-chan craft kits restocked today. A word of warning: these are starting to go out of production, so if you're a fan, get them soon.
Pocky - Gokuboso Chocolate
Pocky Day, the day of the year most resembling sticks of Pocky (11/11) is coming up soon, so we're increasing our stock to celebrate! We've got the ew Gokuboso (extremely thin) Pocky for you, plus awesome new Choco Ball flavors for 2011. Also, Puccho, with that awesome wavy packaging.
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Chinese Red Chili Oil (Ra-Yu)  Japanese Food Drops
Chinese Red Chili Oil ~ Japanese Food Drops A spicy new flavor of Food Drops from Japan -- yum! -- flavored with hot sesame oil. Also see Pudding and Soup Curry flavors restocked!
Pocari Sweat Powder
Pocari Sweat, Restocked Snacks Pocari Sweat Powder, Lotte Juice Gummy, awesome Tyrant Habanero, Meiji Apollo Chocolate, Felix the Cat Gum and Bontan Ame!
Totoro Thermal Bento Box Set
J-List [hearts] Totoro Bento That awesome Totoro Thermal bento box set is in stock again, pretty much the best Totoro bento we've ever carried. Enjoy.
Sakura  Rabbit Lacquered 2 Tier Eco Square Bento Box  Elastic Band  Chopsticks
Popular Traditional Bento Boxes We have a fairly huge restocking of awesome bento boxes, including Sakura & Rabbit and the Kira-Kira Sakura Shower Bento from Hakoya.
ONIGIRI /Rice Ball Maker  ---  Ball Shape
Fun Bento Accessories Awesome round onigiri rice ball maker! Cute animal picks for bento! Japanese sandwich makers that seal the insides for you!
eco green japan
KATAMETE-PON ~ ECO Powder to Dispose Oil "Eco powder" that you sprinkle over oil you've used, and it becomes hard instantly, so you can throw it away without harming the environment.
Japanese Systems - The 100% Complete Illustrated Guide  Nihon no Shikumi -- Society, Customs, Health Care, Recreation, and Sports
Restocked Bilingual Books See fresh stock of several outstanding bilingual books for studying Japanese, including the Illustrated Japanese Language Dictionary and more.
Rilakkuma Study Flash Card
We love Rilakkuma @ J-List The Rilakkuma message is that we should all take life a little more slowly. His awesome Japanese study flashcards are restocked today.
Japonica Kanji Japanese Practice Notebook(100 squares)
More Kanji Practice Books, Japanese Pens Also, see new stock of the useful kanji practice notebooks, great for writing kana and kanji characters. Cool erasers, too.
Lacquer-style Square Sake Cup with KANJI  FUKU / Fortune
Fun Traditional Items Restocked From lacquered wooden cups to multipurpose cases, Kyoto bath salts to ceramic sake cups, Lucky Cat bowls and 'sake skin milk,' and more!
Shining World-Strangers iPhone4 Cover Designed by Tony **Preorder**
Shining World Tony iPhone4 Cover *Preorder* Taka Tony's where it's at for this gorgeously designed and illustrated Shining World iPhone case that turns your phone into a work of art.
Sci-fi Revoltech No.20 Jason and the Argonauts Skelton Army **Preorder**
Jason and the Argonauts Skeleton Revoltech Let's all bow before the awesomeness of the Skeleton Army skeleton from Jason and the Argonauts! We love you, Revoltech!
Chamael 1/7 Figure  Lineage 2 **Preorder**
Chamael 1/7 Figure ~ Lineage 2 *Preorder* Lineage 2 the Korean MMORPG has produced some breathtaking figures, and this new one looks amazing as well. Preorder soon to get yours!
Airi 1/2.5 Cast off Figure  Queen's Blade **Preorder**
Airi 1/2.5 ~ Queen's Blade *Preorder* I love Queen's Blade, and I love this "cast off" figure of Airi, the sexy maid whose clothes disappear when she loses power. Nosebleed time.
Yuka Yoshino 1/6 Figure Tsundero **Preorder**
Yuka Yoshino 1/6 Figure Tsundero Wow, is all we can say to the new 3D "cast off" figure of Yuka from the hit ero manga Tsundero, We have one in stock!