Monday, December 21, 2015

App Review: SNOW - Selfie, Motion sticker, Fun camera

My Sailor Moon Drops phone game guide/review was more successful than I initially anticipated.  Because of that and my recent career change into technology work, I think it will be fun to discover and review all kinds of cellphone apps.  Today I'll be reviewing an app called SNOW - Selfie, Motion sticker, Fun camera which you can download here for iPhone and here for Android.

I discovered this app through Instagram user lawrawr.

When first opening this app it was incredibly clear to me that SNOW is more or less an exact replica of Snapchat but exclusively the strange animated filters or "motion stickers" as they choose to call them.


Modeling an application off a popular one that already exists is actually a wise decision because it makes it easier to use if people are already familiar with it.  There's no reason to reinvent the wheel.  The friends list, 24 hour stories, and majority of the application remains the same as Snapchat so it's easy to jump right in and feel comfortable using it.

It's more or less super easy to use but I have some critiques.  When taking a selfie, it allows you to create it in "gif mode" which gave me the impression that when saving the file, it would be saved as a gif.  However I realized that it actually just takes a video in the style of a gif so the file isn't actually a gif image file.  Then if you take a photo of yourself in the app, it acts as if when you save it, your face will be still but the stickers will remain animated.  False.  It's saved as a static image.  Two strikes against this app for being dishonest.

My other major critique is that you can't adjust the application to detect your face once it initially does when you first open it.  In Snapchat, you can easily hold down on your face to refocus it but this app doesn't allow that option.  This makes it difficult to get your filters to look realistic if you move...and you will move.  And then you'll get frustrated like I did when it took me a while to match myself up with the app's motion stickers to achieve the perfect Pocky in my nose look.

The nice thing about this app is that when you choose to save it, you have the option to upload the file to a variety of social media platforms including Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.


There are an almost infinite amount of motion stickers available for use and they're all free!  A lot of them are goofy and really creative.  Some of them are as simple as animals on your head but my favorite so far is this weird option to put Pocky sticks up your nose.  I wonder who pitched and approved that idea.  I think they deserve a round of applause because that's one animation we will never see on Snapchat.

There are a lot of options with hearts which are my personal favorite, but some of them, like the Pocky option above, are particularly strange.


There are a lot of color filters available to try.  Some of them are okay but others are just ridiculous and unnecessary.  The mosaic and sketch filters are two of the ones I think the app could do without because you can't even see what's going on in the frame.

Overall experience: 

It's mostly pretty simple to use with the exception of the two comments I made earlier.  The issue of facial recognition is a crucial one that makes using the app frustrating.  I really wish it would have an option to actually save as a gif.  I think I would use it more in that case.  This app is cute and pretty amusing but even if some features are improved, I have a hard time believing that it'll become a social media standard the way Snapchat has.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Waku Waku +NYC and Kawaii.i Fashion Show

I realized I never made a post about my experience at Waku Waku +NYC and what better time than now because the corresponding episode of Kawaii.i is available to watch on demand for the next 30 days right here.

Waku Waku +NYC was a bit of a different convention experience for me for a lot of reasons.  One reason is that I spent the whole first day of the event preparing for and walking in the Kawaii.i Tokyo Above Underground fashion show!  I applied to participate in the fashion show kind of last minute.  When I received my acceptance to the Kawaii.i show, I was invited to a fitting/audition.  After watching this video, I learned that only 15 of us were chosen out of 70 applicants!

Misha Janette, who styled the show, assigned us each to our designated brand.  My new friend Jenny and I were chosen to wear Nebaarando (Neverland), a brand that I think neither of us had heard of before so that was kind of exciting.  I think that although Misha said she chose brands that matched our styles from our applications, many of us were outside our comfort zones wearing brands that we we hadn't worn before.  I think that ended up making the experience more exciting because we had a chance to try something new.

Our call time on the day of the show was 10 am but the show wasn't until 4:30 so I was pretty confused about what we would be doing for so many hours.  It ended up being a much more serious operation than I anticipated.  We had hair and makeup artists working on all of us until we transformed pretty much entirely to fit our brand.  It was really nice to spend all day with a bunch of girls with mutual interests.  I think we all left having made some new friends.  We even had a chance to socialize with participants in the Putumayo fashion show.  Kurebayashi and I had a couple good laughs at my expense because I wasn't able to wear my wig until right before my show so I spent most of the day "bald" until they put that giant poodle afro on me.

We were only able to do one quick run through before the actual show.  Some of the girls had walked in lolita fashion shows before and although I've done a couple photoshoots, I had never done runway.  We were given instructions to pose 4 times and I'll admit, it was a bit difficult to come up with 4 poses especially given that I was assigned to carry a large umbrella that was unable to close.  Nevertheless, Team Nebaarando, Jenny and I, ended up doing a great job.

I had a lot of fun and would love to participate in something like this again.  It's a shame that most fashion shows have a ridiculous height and appearance requirement and that most shows at conventions seem to be limited to lolita brands.  I also haven't been attending many conventions for the past few years but since I went to Waku Waku and Otakon, I'm tempted to go more regularly in the future.

The rest of my time at the convention was pretty fun. I found the weekend as a whole to be rather relaxing and positive experience.  Saturday night I went to the VIP after party and DJ sets with my friend Utamaro.  I was able to talk to Yun*chi, Kurebayashi and Shunsuke Hasegawa, Putumayo's designer again there.  Both of them are so sweet!  Hasegawa-san also emailed me these photos of us a few days later which was really nice of him.  I spoke so much Japanese that weekend and it was rewarding but it reminded me how exhausting it is to not speak any English.

post-fashion show makeup with Hasegawa-san

On Sunday I spent a lot of time at my friend Saxon's booth for Moon Kitty Productions.  She sells the cutest tights and accessories!

I loved so many things about this convention.  I was able to see so many of my friends in the same place as well as meet many new friends.  I have a huge regret about not taking enough photos over the weekend though.

As someone who has been lucky to live in Japan, Japanese culture is both exciting and familiar to me.  I was so happy to see that other people who have not been able to travel to Japan were able to meet some of their idols.  Seeing how excited and overcome with emotion these young people were about interacting with Harajuku fashion icons made it clear that this convention made many people's dreams come true.  That was truly my favorite part of the whole weekend.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Sailor Moon Drops: Game Review

A new Sailor Moon game application was recently released for both iPhone and Android!  It's a must play for any Sailor Moon fan but unfortunately it's only available in the Japanese stores.  If you are interested in downloading this game, check out this article about how to create a Japanese iTunes account.  If you have an Android phone, I'm not sure how that works but I there must be a way you can access it too.  Here are the links to download for iPhone and Android.

Admittedly, I downloaded this game and wanted to play it a little before reviewing but I got so wrapped up in it that I'm 18 stages in before publishing this post.  Below is a brief game guide and my review of the application.  Check it out and let me know what you think!


This game style is similar to classic Bejeweled and recently popular Candy Crush.  Even if you don't know any Japanese, gameplay is very straightforward.  Just match up 3 or more jewels of the same color to complete a move and reach the goal listed at the top right of your screen.  The goals vary from meeting a minimum score, clearing blocks, dropping icons to the bottom of the screen or defeating an enemy.  Power-ups are introduced later in the game and you can choose to apply whichever you like to a level.  Just follow along where the arrow points for you to click during tutorial portions.  It's pretty simple.

The story that progresses as part of the game is really cute but understanding it isn't necessary to make the game enjoyable.  You can even read parts of the story again in the "collection" section which can be accessed by clicking the furthest right button on the bottom of the map page.

One of my friends told me his comics professor in college told him that if a comic is drawn well, you can follow it even if you don't understand the language it's written in.  I think the same thing can be applied to games.  I give this game a high score for gameplay because it's simple for non-Japanese speakers to play.  Additionally, all aspects of the game are designed with Sailor Moon in mind; it's very well branded.


The new animation style for Sailor Moon Crystal left many fans disappointed but I promise the artwork in this app won't!  The graphics and design are perfect!  It's not the original character design style, but these updated graphics are adorable and very polished.  The style is consistent and really matches the Sailor Moon brand well. I'm very picky about in application design but I can't stop looking at the artwork for this game.  Besides my unwavering love of Sailor Moon, the art was the other main reason that I chose to download this game.

Overall Experience: 

The overall experience of playing this game is low-stress and relaxing besides when your senshi of choice looks at you disapprovingly when you're about to fail a level.  Playing this game makes me really happy because the graphics are adorable, the music is upbeat and the game itself isn't too difficult to play.   I don't really like having to wait to accumulate enough hearts to play more but I understand it's how many applications make a profit.  It's okay because the game is still playable even if you choose not to spend money on it.  I rated this game a 4 out of 5 because the concept isn't entirely original but I think it was well executed.  I highly recommend this game to any Sailor Moon fan!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

What's New?

"What's new?" is the name of a reading comprehension activity one of my sannensei English teachers asked me to do every time I was at the school.  I had to write up a short paragraph about my life and read it to the students and then have them answer comprehension questions.  I'm not going to end this post with any comprehension questions, but I felt the title was appropriate.

As much as I hate to admit it, I am back in boring America.  Living here is a struggle compared to my effortlessly kawaii life in Japan.  Although I honestly can't say much else besides the kawaii part of Japan life falls into the category of "effortless."  Since returning, I've had a lot of time to reflect on my experiences in Japan but I will save that for another post because it deserves its own space.

Lately I've been trying to pursue a couple different hobbies that I hadn't spent any time on while in Japan.  I'm planning on attending both Otakon and Waku Waku +NYC this summer so I've been sewing a cosplay.  I'll be sure to post something about both of those conventions respectively.  It will be my first time at Otakon and a first for everyone at Waku.

On a similar note, I've watched through all of the spring new anime Ore Monogatari.  I highly recommend it!  The animation is beautiful and the characters are lovable.  It will make you feel so happy inside, I promise.

I also picked up Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, a book by Caitlin Doughty, alternative mortician and creator of the YouTube series "Ask A Mortician."  I haven't read a book from start to finish in a really long time but I'm super into this one and highly recommend it if you're into the death thing.  Caitlin is an advocate for alternative funeral practices and death acceptance.  I'm nearly halfway through the book and it's already inspired several interesting discussions on death with friends.  Maybe my morbid side catches some of you by surprise since I mostly only talk about kawaii but my original career goal was to be a medical examiner.  Anyway now that you're all aware of my dark side...

That's about it from me this time.  I have a couple other events I'm looking forward to attending besides Otakon and Waku so I hope to write about those.  If you have any questions for me or topics you're interested in reading about, let me know as always.  I hope you're all enjoying your summers!

♡ Carly ♡

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

AnimeJapan 2015

During the busy mess of preparing to complete the work year and pack up my apartment, I noticed an advertisement in 7-11 for AnimeJapan, an anime convention held at Tokyo Big Sight in Odaiba.  It wasn't until I saw this poster that I had considered attending a convention in Japan.   Although I was already stressed about finishing up my year, I thought it would be worth trying something fun and new.

I was surprised by the many differences between Japanese and American convention culture.  The first major difference between Japanese and American convention culture that I noticed was the ticket price.  A single day pass for AnimeJapan was only 1,600 JPY (~$13 USD) rather than the $30-$50 per day in America.  Similar to when you buy tickets for most events in Japan, you do so through a machine at a convenience store.  There were some options for AnimeJapan tickets besides konbini though.

I didn't expect or consider how industry-heavy a convention in Japan would be.  There didn't seem to be anything like the fan organized panels that are popular at foreign conventions or an artist alley.  It mostly felt like a huge dealer's room full of booths set up by animation studios and companies that make games and merchandise.  There were still performances and panels but it was missing the fan organized element that's so prevalent at conventions outside of Japan.

I was happy to see so much Love Live cosplay because it's one of my favorite recent anime series.  All of the cosplay was really good too.  There weren't any of those silly cosplays that were clearly thrown together last minute but in some ways I missed it.  I liked this one area where cosplayers were posing against backdrops and photographers could come take their photos.  

I just realized the other day that I had never posted these photos and written about AnimeJapan but thought it was appropriate to do anyway because of all the conventions this season.  I decided to go to Otakon for the first time this summer.  Will you go to any conventions this summer?

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Rabbit Cafe Experience at Ra.a.g.f Harajuku

As much as I hate to admit it, I have been home from Japan for the past 4 weeks.  I got consumed by a whirlwind of responsibilities, mostly pertaining to singlehandedly moving out of an apartment in the middle of nowhere Japan, so this blog post from February is hugely overdue but that doesn't mean it's any less important.

When most people think of Valentine's Day plans, they probably don't think about spending an hour at a place called Rabbit and Grow Fat but that's exactly what my friend Natalie and I did.  I think I speak for us both when I say we have no regrets about spending our Valentine's Day in the company of many rabbits.

Natalie and I had previously discussed our mutual interest in checking out a rabbit cafe and did some Googling to find Ra.a.g.f.  If you click on the "staff" button,  you can see which rabbits are at each cafe.  Here is an easy link for those of you who can't read Japanese: Ra.a.g.f. staff.  Ra.a.g.f. actually has a location in Harajuku and Jiyugaoka but we chose to check out the Harajuku one.

Ra.a.g.f. Harajuku is located in a building on a quiet street.  The sign outside made it quite easy to find.  Their logo is pretty silly, isn't it?

The rates were reasonable too: 700 JPY for 30 minutes, 1,100 JPY for an hour and 550 JPY for every additional 30 minutes.  This fee also includes a drink.  Also, you can and definitely should buy rabbit food for the extra 150 JPY because it was really fun to feed all the cute bunnies!

We didn't make an advance reservation so when we arrived, they gave us a ticket and told us to come back in 30 minutes.  When we returned, they allowed us to come in and explained some rules about how to interact with the rabbits.  The rabbits are kept in cages but you could choose which ones you wanted to play with.

Natalie made a friend.

Some of them were unable to come out and play because they need to rest for a while after interacting with customers.  Even if the rabbits weren't roaming about the room, you are still free to pet them in their cages.  I think that all the rabbits were available for adoption as well. I really wish I could have taken one home.

My favorite rabbit was this Giant French Lop which was so big!  I had never seen one in person so I was so excited to meet Mittsu.  All the rabbits were super cute and friendly though.

I definitely recommend making Ra.a.g.f. a part of your trip to Harajuku.  You don't have to be afraid to go if you can't read or speak Japanese because the some of the staff could speak English.  And if rabbits weren't enough, there's a cat cafe across the hall.

☆ Access ☆
Address: Maison Harajuku 3F, 6-14-14 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Telephone: 03-6805-0328