Tales from Japan – Akihabara: Land of Video Games, Anime Shops, and Final Fantasy Cafés

Pilgrimage to the Electric Town

Welcome to the second round of pictures and stories from my trip to Japan! My wife and I had the opportunity to visit Japan, and it was the trip of a lifetime! We are both big video game and anime fans, so it was a no-brainer to visit Japan together. Last time, I shared about our stop at Ikebukuro, an area in the Western side of Tokyo with fun attractions like the Pokémon Center (which we visited when Pokemon Sun and Moon had just come out), the Shonen Jump amusement park J-World, and some huge anime stores. However, that was nothing compared to what we witnessed at the glorious mecca of geekdom, Akihabara.

Note: Click on images to enlarge or see captions.

Electric Town

Historically, Akihabara has been a major shopping center for electronic goods post-war. This helped the district earn its title of “Electric Town.” There are still many big electronic stores and computer goods scattered throughout the city including Yodobashi Camera. Nowadays, Akihabara is commonly referred to as a cultural center for otaku, who are typically hardcore fans of anime and video games. The area itself isn’t very large, but it’s densely packed with many dozens of stores filled to the brim with character goods. There are also arcades filled with “UFO Catcher” crane games and popular game cabinets. Even outside, gigantic banners showcasing the hottest anime line the buildings. It’s truly a sight to see, whether or not you’re familiar with any of the series. Cute characters, battle scenes, and other cultural icons are all over the place. Final Fantasy XV had just come out the day we were there, so there were huge displays in front of multiple stores advertising the hit road trip simulator.

As a kid, I had always imagined that Japan would be like this. Now that I’ve been twice, I know that the country consists of much more than anime. Truth be told, although anime is more commonplace and recognizable around Japan, there are only a few places where the hardcore fandom is in such full effect. Akihabara is probably the biggest and most well-known. And I absolutely love it! We were most excited to make the pilgrimage to the cultural home of our biggest hobbies. Unfortunately, we couldn’t make it to every store. As soon as we entered any shop, we ended up staying there much longer than intended. There was just that much for us to see, from figurine displays depicting our favorite anime scenes to hundreds of merchandise in one aisle alone. Multiply that aisle by 30 and you roughly have the size of one floor of a store. Now multiply that floor by eight to get a full shop. Finally, factor in dozens of these tall buildings and you’ll get an idea of how jam-packed Akihabara really is! Needless to say, we spent a lot of money here alone.

Video Game Stores

Being in the Electric Town, I simply had to check out the treasure troves of Akihabara’s video game stores. Although there are a good number of retro video game havens in the area, they’re pretty well hidden. Of course, if there was any semblance of 8-bit goodness on a storefront, we instantly went inside. Occasionally, I would hear overworld themes from Zelda or Mario and would be lured inside like a sailor drawn to a siren’s song.

One of my favorite stores is the renowned Super Potato. The pictures speak for themselves. There are tons of retro video games at pretty decent prices. I was surprised by the dearth of old-school Famicom and Super Famicom games up for the taking. I even saw an honest-to-goodness Virtual Boy! I didn’t pick up any of them, but I documented my journey inside the utopia of game goods.

Final Fantasy Café

Akihabara is also known for its maid cafés and other themed restaurants. Within the former, hostesses dressed up as maids serve you goodies. It’s apparently quite a unique experience, but we scoured for the latter. There are numerous cafés around Tokyo, based on hot trends and other longstanding popular series such as Kirby and Monster Hunter.

My wife and I love Final Fantasy, so imagine our surprise when we discovered a café themed around it. We later realized that there was also a new Square-Enix café that was actually serving up some FFXV goodness, but we’re still happy that we got a slice of fantasy in Akihabara! The Final Fantasy Eorzea café is named after the region in the online multiplayer Final Fantasy XIV. The interior itself is well-decorated with artifacts from the game, cute statues of popular FF mascots, and stations to play the game (PlayStations, if you will). The food and drinks were FF-themed as well. There were Titan crepes and Fat Cat cakes. My wife had a Tonberry omelet and I had Ifrit cheese tortilla, which came with a wonderful seaweed representation of the fiery summoned beast. We also enjoyed delicious Potion and Ex-Potion drinks! Each order came with a souvenir Eorzea coaster. We were so lucky to have such an amazing experience!

Gundam Café

That wasn’t even the only café we went to that day! We later visited the Gundam Café, themed around the popular giant robot anime. The café is conveniently near the Akihabara train station next to the other popular AKB48 café based on the popular all-girl group. While I’m not a huge fan of Gundam, I enjoyed my time there. Several human-sized model robots and other mechanical decorations filled the interior. A video played constant clips of Gundam theme songs and anime scenes. We even enjoyed some foods that were shaped like the iconic mecha, such as the Gundam curry rice!

Next Time… Shinjuku and Shibuya!

I hope you enjoyed our journey through one of our favorite hot spots in Japan, Akihabara! I have many hundreds more pictures from Akihabara alone so choosing about 50 was incredibly difficult. That said, if there is anything you want to see and I just happen to have it, I’d love to include it in my next update. I can’t guarantee I have such pictures (we only spent a day and a half here), but if I have something close to fulfilling a broad request, I’ll look for it! I’ll end here with a picture showcasing some of our goods from our fun-filled pilgrimage. My favorite goods were Phoenix Wright keychains, a Daigyakuten Saiban (Phoenix Wright prequel) shirt, a Yu-Gi-Oh! Millenium Puzzle glasses case, a mini-Garnet figurine from Final Fantasy IX, and goods from my beloved anime Detective Conan and My Hero Academia. My wife loves her Dragon Ball Super Goku-shaped water bottle and keychains of Yo-kai Watch’s Hovernyan, Danganronpa’s Monokuma, and an adorable Rayquaza-cosplay-Pikachu.

Thanks for indulging in our displays of fandom! Please let me know if you have any questions or comments! Next time, I’ll share about our day at the popular hangout districts of Shinjuku and Shibuya, including our stop at the Final Fantasy store!

Tales from Japan

Ikebukuro’s Pokémon Center, J-World, and More!

Tales from Japan – Ikebukuro’s Pokémon Center, J-World, and More!

The Dream Trip!

My wife and I had the opportunity to visit Japan. As big fans of video games and anime, it was no doubt a goal to see Japan together one day. I had studied abroad in Tokyo years back, but this was my wife’s first time. In fact, after returning from my first trip and before we had even started dating, she asked me to take her along next time. As it so happens, we got married, and so this really was the promised dream trip of a lifetime!

Note: Click on images to enlarge or see captions.

That was just a sample (and teaser) of photos from our entire trip. I have thousands of pictures that I could share. I couldn’t possibly post them all, so I will pick the biggest highlights and talk about them. Also, it’d be difficult to share them all in one post, so I plan to devote multiple posts to our Japan trip. I’ll post them in-between reviews so I sincerely hope you enjoy my pictures and tales!

Ikebukuro

We traveled around the Tokyo area, the populated capital and southeastern city of the main island Honshu, for most of our trip. On our first day, we visited the urban district of Ikebukuro. Ikebukuro has numerous attractions, mostly associated with shopping. We saw big department and electronic stores such as Seibu and Bic Camera immediately after exiting the bustling station. Sunshine City, a large building complex with stores and attractions within, is at the heart. Many people know Akihabara as the big district for geeky things, but Ikebukuro is quickly becoming a den for anime and game fans. As such, we definitely had to see what Ikebukuro had to offer for our fandoms. Our favorite places to visit were the Pokémon Center, J-World, and the Animate flagship store. We ate a simple meal of beef bowls at Yoshinoya, a Japanese fast food chain that has gained some international acclaim. Eating in Japan is just as a fun an experience as sightseeing, so I’ll be sure to post more about food whenever appropriate.

Pokémon Center Megatokyo

The Pokémon series is very important to me and is one of the biggest reasons I got into anime and Japanese culture in the first place. It’s no surprise that Japan has multiple stores entirely dedicated to Pokémon. Ikebukuro’s Sunshine City is home to the largest of them, Pokémon Center Megatokyo. Pokémon Sun and Moon had just come out, so there was a large focus on the brand new Alolan creatures, both in statue and plush form. There were lots of other merchandise that we shamelessly bought, from dozens of cosplaying Pikachu (including Luigi Pikachu!), adorable plushies, and Pokémon themed apparel and accessories. We enjoyed taking many photos with the life-size Pokémon statues and decorations!

J-World Amusement Park

Shonen Jump is a huge manga magazine that has serialized many of the most well-known series, including Dragon Ball Z, Naruto, One Piece, Bleach, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Death Note, and Rurouni Kenshin, just to name a few. J-World is an indoor theme park devoted to the magazine and its series. We love theme parks, and an anime-focused one was a must-see for us! One of our favorite attractions was this room where we could shoot Goku’s signature Kamehameha waves through the magic of 3D technology. We also enjoyed playing minigames to obtain the seven Dragon Balls and summon the dragon Shenron. Other fun attractions were a ninja mission to fight the Akatsuki from Naruto and a boat ride through the pirate world of One Piece. We even got to go in a fun flavor-of-the-season room with decorations based on Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable. We capped our time off eating at the J-World restaurant complete with Ichiraku Ramen and Vegeta’s chicken karaage, because the prince of all Saiyans should be associated with fried chicken.

Animate Store

We did more traditional sightseeing at other areas in Tokyo (and I’ll get to those in future posts), but Ikebukuro was clearly one of our huge shopping days if you couldn’t tell. One of our shopping stops was the new Animate flagship store, which houses seven floors of anime goods. We got lots of things from our favorite series including a Phoenix Wright towel, the Japan-only Monster Hunter Stories amiibo, Pokémon and Yo-kai Watch 3DS cases, and calendars from Boruto and Dragon Ball Super. Here are pictures of the store and some of our new merchandise.

Next Time… Akihabara!

Thanks for indulging me in my pictures and tales from Ikebukuro. I plan to talk about each major area we visited and have lots to share about each one. Please let me know if you have any questions or comments! For next time, I’ll share more about the area most relevant to this site, the anime and video game geek heaven, Akihabara!

Tales from Japan

Akihabara – Land of Video Games, Anime Shops, and Final Fantasy Cafés

August 2016 Update: Blogger Recognition Award

New Business

Thank you to everyone reading this. I am constantly moved by your encouragement and readership. It means a lot to me, especially as I pursue my dreams. I wanted to give a quick update before getting to the meat of this post. First of all, I wanted to extend my sincerest gratitude to Miketendo64 and Darkstation for allowing me to write for their sites. I love being able to write video game reviews and share them with others. Miketendo64 remains an excellent source of news, features, reviews, and interviews, and I recommend checking it out for great Nintendo content. I don’t always post the reviews I write for Darkstation here, but I wanted them and everyone to know that I love being an editor for their site. It has been a great opportunity to write professional reviews for a wide range of games. Anyone interested in seeing the reviews I’ve written for games like Downwell, Drawful 2, and God Eater Resurrection can find them here.

I am happy to announce that I’ve also been writing for an anime news site for some time now and will be for a while. I won’t say much more, but anime fans may be familiar with the site. Regardless, I am very excited about this special opportunity, especially with regards to my passions and dreams. Although this takes up quite a bit of the time I previously allotted to blogging, I will keep writing here. During the busier time, I will probably be writing with a little less frequency than my previous weekly schedule (most likely biweekly). This actually works out better since I prefer quality than quantity, and putting in the time to make great articles for you to read. That said, when I am less busy and can devote more time to gaming reviews, I will do my best to post them with more frequency. Also, I know that there are a number of you who have made specific review requests. I apologize but it will likely take more time than I originally intended because of these new developments. When I do return to requests, I will get to yours first!

The last few months have been nothing short of fantastic! I was able to cover the brand new The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild for E3, meet one of childhood heroes Charles Martinet (voice of Super Mario), and write about one of my most unique and special gaming experiences, Pokémon GO. I am far from done and am excited to share more video game reviews starting next week!

Thank you for reading my update! If you would like to further support me, please “like” my Facebook page at www.facebook.com/MrPanda2002/ and follow me on Twitter at @MrPanda2002. Any and all support is always appreciated!

Blogger Recognition Award

Blogger Recognition Award

I’d like to give a huge thank you to The Well-Red Mage, Retr0pia75, Luvva, and TheManCalledScott for nominating me for the Blogger Recognition Award. The Well-Red Mage (and the rest of the mage team) runs an excellent site full of quality gaming news and reviews. Most recently, the team took on the 31-Day Mage Challenge, in which the mages answered questions about video games, generating entertaining discussion. They’re great sources of knowledge, and The Well-Red Mage has been very supportive of me since I started, which means a lot and has gone a long way.

Retr0pia75 runs an excellent site featuring some of the best reviews of obscure games. It’s impressive to see so many forgotten games make a comeback through this site. Some great regular features include Retr0spectives, offering informative timelines of video game companies’ histories, and System Smack-Downs, in which Retr0pia75 compares a game or license among different console iterations. They’re quite entertaining reads!

Luvva of mrluvvaluvva has been an excellent support, promoting and helping me out when I was just starting. His video game-related musings are all honest and entertaining. He also supports those he believes, whether sharing videos of speedrunners or highlighting blog posts in his weekly MrLuvva’s Luv-In posts. Overall, he’s a great guy!

Finally, TheManCalledScott of The Wizard Dojo is an excellent reviewer, covering both the good and the bad of gaming history. It’s admirable how he seeks out some of these bad games, and the reviews always turn out great. Most recently, he has been covering Pixar movies for Pixar Month, including a review of Finding Dory!

Without further ado, here is how the Blogger Recognition Award works.

  • Thank the blogger that nominated you.
  • Attach the award to the post.
  • Give a brief story of how your blog started.
  • Give a piece of advice or two to new bloggers.
  • Select 5 other bloggers you want to give the award to.

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Blog Beginnings

I actually shared this in my June 2016 Update, but I’d love to share a brief version of it again here. As people who know me very well (and probably anyone who reads this) can attest, I am a huge fan of video games, especially Nintendo titles. The one thing I almost love more than video games is talking about them. I decided that I wanted to write about video games and set up a page to keep a collection of my writing that I could also share to others. Writing video game reviews has been a great way for me to compose my thoughts and inform others about the merits and demerits of games that I’ve been playing. Being able to share information about a game fills me with joy, and engaging in related discussion with you in the comments has been just as rewarding. I have dreams related to the games industry, and everyone’s support and encouragement have consistently made me feel like I am making meaningful steps towards achieving my dreams.

Advice for Bloggers

Remember that the blogosphere is a huge place. As you write up your own wonderful blog posts, don’t forget to check out others’, especially those who are writing about similar topics! You can make new acquaintances, find good gaming buddies, and gain more followers. Reach out to other bloggers, whether old or new. You’d be surprised how many people just want to know that someone has read their posts. Support, encourage, and promote each other because we all go through tough times. We’re all in this together!

Finally, love what you’re doing. Life gets stressful, but if you find that blogging doesn’t help or is actually something you dread, take a break. Use that time to unwind, focus on your life duties, and remember why you write. Hopefully, you will be refreshed upon returning and have the will to keep blogging. Don’t worry. We’ll be here when you return!

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Nominations

The following are people who have previously nominated me for the Liebster Award. I responded to their questions but never got a chance to properly thank them on my site. Here is my opportunity to finally do that!

Thank you five for your Liebster Award Nominations! I appreciate it, and I hope you enjoy your newest award nomination!

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The Entertaining Blogger Award

I also wanted to offer a huge thank you to The Shameful Narcissist for nominating me for The Entertaining Blogger Award (I know it’s called The Entertainer Blogger Award, but that confuses me!). She is a terrific writer who recently penned an extensive Final Fantasy VII story entitled Northern Lights. She’s a wonderful person, so check out her writing!

I’ll try to keep the rest of this short, but here are the rules of this award:

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The Rules of The Entertainer Blogger Award:

  • Write a post including the award picture.
  • Nominate 12 other bloggers who are funny, inspiring, and most importantly ENTERTAINING!
  • Add these rules to the post.
  • Thank the person who nominated you and leave a link to their blog!
  • Also, answer the questions down below.

1. Why did you start to blog in the first place?

I answered this earlier, but please feel free to check out my June 2016 Update for a longer explanation.

2. What is your favorite book?

I enjoy the Harry Potter series.

3. What do you dislike the most?

There are things I dislike, and trying to pick something I most dislike would be difficult. At the moment, it makes me sad to see when things are not accessible to people for whatever reason. I won’t go into much detail, but I think that we should be aware of others’ needs.

4. What’s your favorite food item from the mall?

I like cinnamon foods, like Cinnabon or cinnamon pretzels!

5. What is your favorite past time activity?

This one is easy for me: video games and anime! It’s not a coincidence that those are the two subjects I write about!

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Nominations

I’ve nominated a bunch of people in this post already, so I’ll try to keep it brief to some bloggers I follow who I don’t think have gotten this award yet. Please feel free to do what you wish with the award nomination and know that I think you’re doing a great job!

  • pokeninja90 of Nice Job Breaking It, Hero  – Representing more of my anime fan’s side, pokeninja90 does an excellent job covering visual novel/otome games, as well as providing quality anime-related posts, including tackling the 30-Day Anime Challenge!
  • Kuribo of NintendoFigures – It should be no surprise that I love amiibo. Kuribo does a fantastic job providing regular reviews of amiibo, World of Nintendo figurines, and other fun Nintendo collectibles!
  • Matt of Nintendobound –  An excellent video game reviewer with a great rating system! He also writes great pieces on his favorite music albums from each month!
  • Kris P and Rachel of Double Jump – These sisters are spectacular writers who also regularly update their site with video game features including favorites lists, gaming conversations, and interesting game stories! They’re very entertaining!
  • Yvonne/YvoCaro of A Lady and Gaming Plus – I enjoy reading her take on a variety of games, some of which go missed by many gamers. She has quality reviews, features, and a great outlook on life!
  • The Gaming Bear of The Gaming Bear – He is not an actual bear, but he plays and writes about video games. He articles are on a wide range of game-related topics, and they’re all entertaining and well-informed! Check out his weekly bites!

Thank You!

Congratulations again to everyone, and a big thanks to everyone who has ever supported me! It means a lot to me, and I’m grateful for people like you!

ThankYou

Mr. Panda Meets Mario – My Meeting with Charles Martinet

A Weekend with Charles Martinet

I had the honor of meeting Charles Martinet, the voice of Mario, Luigi, Wario, Waluigi, and so many other video game characters, at Indy PopCon 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana. The following is a brief testimony of my experience followed by a transcript of several panel interviews with Charles Martinet.

Charles Martinet Headshot

My Magical Experience with Charles Martinet

I felt nothing but excitement knowing that I was finally going to meet the man behind the voice of Super Mario, Charles Martinet. Ever since I had first heard him in Super Mario 64, I have been a huge fan of his work. That iconic voice saying “Here we go!” and “Wahoo!” has echoed in my ears throughout my many years of gaming. He was one of my childhood heroes, and the opportunity to meet him fulfilled one of my biggest dreams in life.

As soon as I walked up to Martinet, he greeted me with the most wonderful smile. I told him how much he and his work meant to me and he gave me such a sincere “Thank you.” He is a truly happy guy, with much more energy than you could imagine for a 60-year old man. He is very animated when he talks, raising his arms, making faces, and shouting with elation. He is also very kind to his fans, providing plenty of inspiration and hope.

My wife and I were able to interact with him all weekend, participating in a photoshoot with him (in which we donned our Mario Bros. hats!), conversing with him at his booth, and attending panels in which we could ask him questions. Charles Martinet was kind enough to record the following message below:

 

 

 

 

This means so much to me because it’s the voice of Mario acknowledging who I am. I have big aspirations in my life. This grand meeting with Martinet is an important stepping stone in the journey of my life. To hear Mario saying all of this fills me with confidence and gratitude. Everything that Martinet says in the video truly reflects how I feel about you all. You really are the best: to read my articles, comment with such kind words, and converse with me. Your support means everything to me, and I want you to know that Mario says, “You guys are number one!”

 

 

Panels and Interviews

The following are some stories that he told to start off his panel, followed by answers that he gave to the audience’s questions. Please enjoy learning about Charles Martinet!

On His Start in Acting

Charles Martinet was originally going to be a lawyer at UC Berkeley. He was inspired by whom he thought was the greatest political science teacher in the world. However, when he tried to take a class from him again next year, he couldn’t get a single class. Martinet wanted nothing but him, and was devastated. So he left.

A friend of Martinet later asked him to take an acting class from him. Martinet believed he would absolutely never, ever take an acting class because he was shy. Nevertheless, he was somehow convinced to take the class. Students were to give monologues from the Spoon River Anthology about different ways they had died. Martinet was extremely terrified, and his body was shaking nervously as he gave his monologue. He was convinced everyone would be laughing following his performance. Instead, they looked at him, applauded, and said, “The amazing thing about what you just did is, you’re the only one who wasn’t nervous.” Martinet laughed, and was able to shake less as he continued doing more monologues throughout the class.

 

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Martinet considered himself a shy guy.

One day, his college was performing A Midsummer’s Night Dream. Martinet believed he was perfect for the part of Oberon, and worked hard to audition for him. He was so excited, believing he had gotten that role for sure. To his surprise, he didn’t receive any parts at all. He attributed his desire to learn how to be an actor to this “wonderful failure.”

Martinet studied theater, speech, and everything else voraciously. One day, a Berkeley representative came to the school for apprenticeship auditions. He auditioned with his original monologue for Oberon, and got the apprenticeship! From there, he continued to pursue acting for many more years.

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Martinet worked hard to become an actor.

On His Start with Voicing Mario

Martinet began doing corporate videos on the suggestion of a friend. Satisfied with how much more it paid than theater, he pursued more, doing about 600 of them. One day at a session, he was asked if he knew how to do voice-over. Learning that he could make even more money doing those, he declared happily that he was a voice actor!

Sometime after, Martinet got a call from a friend suggesting that he crash a certain audition. He followed the suggestion, even though he had never crashed an audition before. Once he got there, he asked if he could do the audition even though the casting director was already heading out. They informed him that he would be auditioning for an Italian plumber from Brooklyn. He was then told to just make up a voice and start talking until he ran out of things to say, and that would be the audition. In his head, he thought, “I can talk without stopping.”

When thinking about what voice to do for the audition, he wanted to make a nice and fun voice especially since it was for children. He decided to use a voice similar to one he had previously done for Petruchio from The Taming of the Shrew and make it younger. He was still nervous about the video game aspect because he didn’t know much about video games aside from Pong and Pac-Man. Regardless, once he was asked to start, he immediately used what is now the iconic voice of Mario. He talked on and on about random topics using the voice. He dragged it out because he was never told to stop. He was finally told to stop talking when there was no more videotape left.  The casting director said that they’d “be in touch,” which Martinet implied to mean that he was likely never going to hear back again.

As it turns out, the casting director got on the phone with Nintendo and told them that he found their Mario. He sent only Martinet’s long audition tape to Nintendo. The rest is history.

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A voice is born.

Interview with Charles Martinet

Note: The following is a transcript comprised of two separate panels at Indy PopCon 2016. One panel starred Charles Martinet exclusively, and the other featured three other voice actors, Nolan North (Nathan Drake), Jennifer Hale (Samus Aran), and David Eddings (Klaptrap; Gearbox Software). For the purposes of this transcript, only Charles Martinet’s answers are included. Different people in the audience, including myself, asked the following questions. For the most part, the answers are Charles Martinet’s words. The questions and answers are only edited if a) It was a personal matter regarding the interviewer or Charles Martinet, b) He repeated his answers earlier in the panel, or c) It was irrelevant crosstalk between Charles and another panelist, interviewer, or himself.

With that said, please enjoy the transcript, and please share your thoughts in the comments below!

Q: Have you played the Nintendo games you’ve starred in, and which one was your favorite game?

Charles Martinet: First of all, yes, I play the games – not very well. I’m really fantastic at getting to that level where I find out that the princess is not in this castle. I’m not very good at getting past that. Once I get [to] the first one…. I can get to the second castle sometimes, [then] the third castle, but I’ve never once rescued Princess Peach. (frowns and droops head) But one day, I will watch somebody do that! (laughs)

If I play Smash Bros, I’m the guy in the bubble coming back 2 or 3 times. I don’t even know what’s happening in that game! I forget who I’m playing in that game! It’s funny, because when I play the games, I do all the sound effects. I go, (Mario voice) “OW OW OW OW OW OW OW!” And when I’m playing Galaxy, I’m going like this (pretends to hold Wiimote and Nunchuk and leans way over to the side). I can’t not do that!

Favorite game of all time? That moment with the dancing in Super Mario Bros. Wii. I also love (makes cat paws with hands) “MREOW” in Super Mario 3D World.

Q: How often do you play Mario games?

CM: I play not everyday, but every time a new game’s coming out, I play with that game. Like, I play with Zelda. I love to know what’s going on.

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Q: How did you come up with the other Mario characters’ voices?

CM: I did this Mario real-time thing for several years — 5 years before the game — and we were doing tours around the country. I’d go around, and all we had was Mario. I had these things glued to my face — surgical glue, surgical tape — and then we’d go through this [process]. I would move, and it would make these little rollerballs move. This mask was [attached] to my head. That would go through a supercomputer — we had dry ice and the supercomputer because it was crunching so many numbers. The character [on-screen would go], (Mario voice) “Hello, I’m-a-Mario!” So I’m talking to young kids (in Mario voice), “Hello, you have a blue shirt on today.”

This was at a Wal-Mart in Arkansas. The kid would ask, “Hello, Mario. Can I talk to your brother Luigi?” (blank stare) (Mario voice) “Ehhhh, hang on a sec. He’s a bit shy. He’s in the kitchen making spaghetti meatballs. Hang on a sec. I’ll let him know. Hey Luiiiiigi!” And so I couldn’t move my mouth [because the Mario on-screen would move his mouth too], so I go, (without moving mouth in Luigi voice), “Yeah, what do you waaaaant?”

(Mario voice) “My friend here, he wants you to come and say hello.”

(Luigi voice, mouth barely moving) “Tell him I’m too shy. Besides, I’m in the kitchen making spaghetti meatballs.”

(Mario voice) “Oh, he said he’s in the kitchen making spaghetti meatballs.”

The kid said, “Oh pleaaaaase?”

(Mario voice) “Oh pleaaaaase?”

(Luigi voice) “Sorry.”

So I would do this whole monologue….

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One man is behind all of these voices.

In that process, I’ve created this entire imaginary [family]…. Luigi’s in the bedroom. Dad’s in the den. (Italian Wario-like voice) “Don’t touch-a that remote controllo, I’m using it.” Mom’s in the kitchen making spaghetti meatballs. So when people ask [about them], I go, “Hold on a sec.”

(Mario voice) “Hey, momma. You wanna come out and say hello?”

(Italian mom Mario-like voice) “Oh yes, you little handsome-a plumber boy! I can’t! I’m in the kitchen!” So that’s how I did Luigi (and the imaginary family’s voice).

Then one day, I was at the Consumer Electronics Show, and there was Wario on the set. [They said], “Hey, we want you to do Wario.” I look at this character, and he’s angry all the time. So I’m like, (Wario voice), “Oh have a ROTTEN day!”

Then I did Mario Tennis, and there was this wonderful character, Waluigi. (flails arms around and says in Waluigi voice) “Waaaaaaah! Self-pity!” The emotions have to be real, and these nemeses have to be the opposite of the happy, joyful, fun-loving Mario, which is this angry sort of thing. [For Luigi), he’s a little bit shy, so the opposite is a little bit of self-pity.

Then… I had to do Mario and Luigi: Partners in Time, and there were the two little babies. It was so cute, aww… (Baby Mario voice) “Mamma mia.” So sweet. And then, (makes Italian-like gibberish noises from Mario and Luigi series). They just told me to keep playing with it and having fun. It was so great.

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Martinet reminisces about Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time, in which he voiced Mario, Luigi, Baby Mario, and Baby Luigi.

Q: How often do you record voices? How often is it reused from an older game?

CM: I never know how many games they’re going to do. This is a huge year. Zelda’s 30 years old. The Zelda stuff looks awesome. It’s just unbelievably magnificent. They have a library of a million sound effects of the things that I’ve done. But we often record new things because there’s a new aspect of the game, new action, new elements… So I’m recording all the time. It’s a wonderful variety of experiences. I can’t tell you what’s coming. But I can tell you you’re going to have so much fun. It keeps getting better! Like life!

Q: Out of all your voices, which one is your favorite voice?

CM: Absolutely no question, Mario! I love it. Because to do a character, you need to feel that emotion. Total elation, total joy, total love, total fun, total respect, total innocence. It all clicks inside of me. The ultimate joy is doing Mario. I dream as Mario. I’m often flying over lakes and rivers and outer space. The character’s like a real aspect of me.

Q: What has been your favorite role outside of the Mario universe?

CM: Honest to goodness, I love every single thing I ever get to do because, it’s all, “Come and play the new toy in the sandbox! So I love everything. I love doing Paarthurnax [from Elder Scrolls]. It was really so fun. I was reading the dragon speech, and you get to this thing on the TV, and I would absolutely have no idea [which dragon name it was]. And so, they would call the writers and say, “Was it [this name] or [that dragon name]?” and they would say, “No, it was [this dragon name].” It was so much fun. It was so cute to do that! It was a whole language, and I got to speak it and forget it!

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Paarthurnax from Elder Scrolls

Q: What was it like working on an indie game like Bit Trip Runner 2 [in which Charles played the narrator]?

CM: They were so nice. These are the nicest guys in the world. They said, “It’s so great to work with you,” and they brought me [a gift]. For the second game, I was in London, and I was staying in a friend’s house. It was a church converted into a house. And I was in the bedroom, and I put the covers over my head, put them on the telephone, and did the session underneath this bed in a church. You don’t get to do that everyday! That was so fun, and they are so nice! I sure hope another one comes out, because they’re great, terrific people. Every experience is great.

We’re the luckiest people in the world. That’s why I say, “If you want to drive trucks, drive trucks with joy and passion in your heart.”

Q: How do you feel when your character is going to die? Note: Directed towards other panelists, but Charles Martinet chose to answer as well.

CM: I do Mario in real-time, so that kids can talk to Mario at the Nintendo World Store. And this little child comes up to Mario and says, “Mario, when you die, do you see God?” You know, I’m willing to talk philosophy with anyone at certain times, but at that second, I said, (Mario voice) “No, I just go ‘WAAAAAAAH!’ And then I press start again!” (laughs)

Q: What’s the funniest thing that ever happened during your career?

CM: This is not really funny, but I was doing Luigi. I was getting excited as Luigi, and I literally hit my head onto the microphone. Then, I went, (Luigi voice) “I bumped my head.” (laughs)

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Q: Do you have a favorite story about Nintendo or about anything else?

CM: One of the things was when I got the phone call saying, “Mr. Miyamoto wants you to play Mario in a game. I was like (makes excited noises). I was so ecstatic. And then going in and doing that session. For 5 years, I had been doing a real-time animation system. So all of a sudden, there I am going into the studio, and they’re wanting me to do the things I’d been doing for 5 years and adding to them, (Mario voice) “Mamma Mia!” and “Here we go!” Seeing the animatics, seeing the video games for the first time, and seeing Mario moving the way the artists had created it was absolutely magic to me.

Everyday’s a different, wonderful experience. I was in Australia, and these 5 boys came into the GameStop that was there and said, “We want you to sign our foreheads.” I said, “What do you mean? All I have is pen and marker!” And they said, “Yeah!” So I did it. (laughs)

Life is such a great gift, and every experience is so wonderful. The great thing about humanity is that we all go through the same things together…. The common bond of humanity is our hearts. We all get there to experience the joys and sadness. So I appreciate so much when I have those one-on-one connections. — This little boy today, with a Mario balloon — and I said, (Mario voice) “Oh, you have a Mario balloon! I’m-a-Mario!” And he goes, “Yes, he’s on your t-shirt. And also, you have Yoshi on your t-shirt.” He’s like 3 years old, and I’m like, this is the most golden moment of my life! Everyday has moments like that! Just thinking about human connection, it’s so great.

Q: Are there any particular moments you’ve had working with other voice actors?

CM: In the old days, when I used to do more cartoons, television, corporate videos, there used to be rooms full of actors. The only time I get to see actors nowadays is when I come to cons like this. I did have a wonderful dinner last night with Nolan [North], Jennifer [Hale], Tara [Strong]… Oh, I love actors. I don’t get to see them because when I work, I work alone in the studio in a box. I have the producer and director. We have wonderful rapport and creativity. But you don’t get to bounce things off other actors like in the old days. It’s different.

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Amazing panel of people here! From left to right: Charles Martinet, David Eddings, Jennifer Hale, Nolan North, Moderator

Q: What do you think of some of the other portrayals of Mario like the Super Mario Bros. Super Show or the Super Mario Bros. movie?

CM: I love actors, and I love artists. I love everybody’s interpretation. I love Mario art. I love people that are inspired to do art because I think creativity inspires creativity. I don’ think the script in that Mario movie was great. But I thought Bob Hoskins did a wonderful job — not portraying him the way I would – but he’s him and I’m me! I thought John Leguizamo did a wonderful job. Now, how he ended up with the princess in the end… (raises arms in confusion and shakes head) I don’t know! But I love interpretation. If you asked Shakespeare, “What do you think of the way people perform your plays?”

He might go…. “Oh roller-skates… I like roller-skates.” It’s all wonderful.

Q: Would you ever be interested in doing a Mario Bros. movie, and do you think Mario would do well in the movie format?

Charles Martinet: My life is such a joy. I’m filled with happiness and joy. I get to travel the world. I get to meet wonderful people in places like this. If somebody calls me up and says, “We want you to come into the studio and put a cap on your head and say, ‘Whee!’” I’ll go “Whee!” And I’ll be so happy to go do that.

So would I be happy doing a Mario movie? It would make me ecstatic beyond belief. Because I love working with Nintendo. I work with the most wonderful people, and I’m sure that they would get the most wonderful people to work with. And it could be a project that I could do for many weeks. And so I’d be ecstatic doing that, but I’m also happy anytime they call and say, “Come on up and do a voice in a game.” I’m like, (Mario voice) “Woohoo!” So thank you, I would absolutely love it, and I love everything I do.

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I’d be fine with Martinet doing a movie, as long as it wasn’t this one.

Q: Would you be interested in doing a fully voiced Super Mario RPG?

CM: The great thing about my relationship with Nintendo is total trust. If Mr. Miyamoto said, “I’ve been talking with the creative teams, we want to do an RPG fully voiced,” then I would say, “Woohoo!” If he said, “We want to do an RPG with no voice,” I would go, “Whoo!” Of course, if I get to play in the sandbox, I’m happy. I’d say, yes, like I’d do a movie or anything else. Whatever they call me for, I’m ready.

Q: Besides Mario, are there any Nintendo games or franchises that you particularly enjoy?

CM: I love Zelda, and I love Kirby. There’s something about a big pink furball that gets to eat a lot. I love it. Wait until you play the new Zelda. It’s so amazing! It’s a fun and funny amazing adventure!

Q: What are your opinions on Sonic the Hedgehog?

CM: Sonic the Hedgehog. Who’s that? (laughs) I love Sonic. It’s a funny thing. I love that we got the Olympic Games now, and Sonic and Mario are playing the Olympic Games with all these other characters. There was a day when Sonic and Mario were fighting for first place. It’s like, “Oh my gosh. What if Sonic becomes number one?” At Nintendo, everybody there loves making video games. Everybody there plays video games. There’s a passion and joy for video games like nowhere else in the world. That joy, that passion, and that love for making great games is what helped the company endure for all these years since 1985, and before that when they made all the great games from before. I love that Sonic and Mario are playing now. It’s great. (laughs)

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Q: You have voices for Baby Mario and Baby Luigi. Do you have voices for Senior Citizen Mario and Senior Citizen Luigi?

CM: (Mario voice) “Wahoo!” (falls asleep and snores) I am convinced that when I’m 97, that that’s what I’ll be doing. (Mario voice) “It’s-a-me, Ma…” (falls asleep)

Q: What are some of your other hobbies?

CM: I travel. (repeats this phrase 5 more times). In the last year, I’ve been to: Bali, Indonesia, Borneo, Malaysia, Thailand several times, Myanmar, Lao, Cambodia, Vietnam North and South, China 7 times. I just got back from Peru, on a mini-trek to Machu Picchu, and I did a show there. I’m going to Ecuador this year, and also to Abu Dhabi. I love travel for work. When I’m not traveling for work, I travel for pure joy and pleasure.

Q: If you could create any character in a video game, what would it be?

CM: Mario. I love this character. I try to be more like him in my real life. Facing challenges with kindness, agility, and love. Everyone loves the people they’re close to. The true content of your character is how you are with people who really mean nothing to you and can’t give you anything. [I do all these characters], but I try to be Mario, and be nice [in real life]. It’s a good lesson in life.

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Wario is an antithesis to Mario, but he’s still likable!

Q: What is one thing you like about each of the characters you voice?

CM: I love their innocence and joy. I’m a big believer in life…. It’s amazing because everybody goes through hard times. Everyone can be cynical. It’s their option to choose innocence. I fully believe that adults can choose innocence. I don’t want to believe in the memory of pain or scars of the past. I want to live right now in the joy that I’m in. I want to be in the present.

I try to create all my characters out of joy. There seems to be a valid creativity theory that you create from the lack in your soul. It’s the loss in you….. that will never be fulfilled. Out of that, you create because your drive is there…

I love the purity of every character. And every character that I’ve tried to do, I try to do it with great clarity and purity, but from a position of innocence. So even [with] my “villains” like Wario… [He says,] (Wario voice) “Have a rotten day!” All the humor is going to come back at him.

It’s an interesting dynamic. I love creation from innocence. As an adult, I love choosing innocence, and connecting and realizing the beauty, joy, truth, and goodness of every person and every life. I try to instill my characters even if they’re like, “Bip!” I want that joy… that spark.

Q: Is there something you’ve always wanted to say to your fans that you haven’t gotten to say until now?

CM: (smiles) I love you.

Q: Thank you very much!

CM: Thank you so much! Live your dreams. Yahoo!

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I want to end on this very important and special message from Charles Martinet.

On Life and Dreams

CM: I could never say I [grew up thinking that I] wanted to be the voice of Mario. But I could always say that I want to be happy. And I want do what gives me joy, which is making other people have joy and have a sense of fun.  It’s what I wish for absolutely everybody here. My wish is that you live your dreams, and you live your life, and that you decide what it is that gives you joy and gives other people joy.

Life is very much like a video game. You choose who you’re going to be in the morning, — who your character is – and you go out into the world. As you’re traveling along in your world of your day, making choices and decisions – picking up these weapons and putting those ones down and deciding where you’re going to walk through instead of fight trough – Eventually, you’re doing this for a long time, and then you discover that’s [your] destiny. [You are] the hero of [your] game. Because life happens so fast! There’s no time to waste. You have to start having fun. You have to start living your life. You gotta start loving.

If you want to be loved, go out and love. If you want work, go out and work. You do those things that give you joy. If you wanna be a voice actor, yes you can be a voice actor. You can go and learn about voice acting and do that stuff.

Mainly, be happy. If you’re focused on being happy, then that’s where you’ll be. I knew that I didn’t want to just work for work’s sake because that’s what my dad did, and he hated it. I knew I didn’t want to make that choice. I wanted to be happy. And [now] suddenly, I’m an actor.

Live your dreams!

Thank you very much for reading!

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Mrs. Panda, Charles Martinet, and Mr. Panda wishing you the best!

For a list of works that Charles Martinet has done, you can visit his IMDb page. You can also follow him @CharlesMartinet on Twitter.

What are your thoughts on the legacy of Charles Martinet? What’s something you learned or found interesting from his interview? What is your favorite voice that he plays? Please share any thoughts in the comments section below!

June 2016 Update: Liebster Award and Gratitude

Appreciation and Thanks

In place of the usual review this week, I wanted to focus on giving some updates. The first big celebratory update is that my wife and I just celebrated our 2nd wedding anniversary! Hopefully, that satisfactorily explains why we took a vacation this past week!

The next update is that The Well-Red Mage and Retr0pia75 have nominated me for the Liebster Award! I’ll get to more of that later in my post, but I just wanted to make sure you all knew how incredibly grateful I am for your readership and support! I started this blog during a time when I needed a getaway. As people who know me very well (and probably anyone who reads this) can attest, I am a huge fan of video games, especially Nintendo titles. The one thing I almost love more than video games is talking about them. Writing video game reviews has been a great way for me to compose my thoughts and inform others about the merits and demerits of games that I’ve been playing. Being able to share what a game is about and whether it’s worth looking into fills me with joy, and being able to engage in related discussion with you in the comments has been just as rewarding.

I have dreams related to the games industry, and everyone’s support and encouragement have consistently made me feel like I am making meaningful steps towards achieving my dreams. Even though I just started a few months ago, I have been incredibly blessed to be working with Miketendo64, contributing my content to this excellent site. I have also been so grateful by everyone’s support through your likes, comments, responses, and encouragements. My first review, Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam, was simply something I put up in an effort to jumpstart my entry into games journalism. My latest review of Banjo-Kazooie was met with many likes and comments that made me feel like it was all worth it. My Pokemon Sun and Moon Analysis garnered in the most views I have ever had, and I absolutely loved working on it and talking about the next generation with you all! Because of all of you, I have managed to get over 1000 views, which is beyond my wildest dreams! Please know that I’m not saying any of this to brag, but rather to show how absolutely humbled I am that you would read and discuss video games with me. It means so much to me, and I just have to say a resounding, “Thank you!”

I am happy to announce that I have written my first review for Darkstation.com. It’s for a game called Paranautical Activity for the Wii U, and you can find it here. This step in my life is significant as I’ve always wanted to write professionally and have my reviews be a part of GameRankings and Metacritic. It’s thanks to the support you have shown me during these past few months. Don’t worry though, as I will still be updating this site and Miketendo64 following the same schedule of bringing you high-quality informed reviews on a weekly basis. In fact, with E3 happening just next week, I look forward to writing up previews and analysis of what Nintendo has to offer (which is now more than Zelda U!).

I also wanted to promote my brand new Facebook page, which you can find here and on the left sidebar. Please feel free to like, comment, and share anything on there. You can also follow me @MrPanda2002 on Twitter, which you may have seen on my sidebar. I like to update mostly with news and insights on video games, anime, and nerdy anime/comic conventions. Your help will always be appreciated! I want to continue building my network of supportive writers, gamers, and all-around awesome people like yourselves. Likewise, please let me know how I can support you!

Thank you again, everyone! Thank you to my wonderful wife for supporting me every step of the way. Thank you to Miketendo64 for taking a new writer like myself in. Thank you to Darkstation for believing in my skills. Please make sure you check out both of these sites for high-quality gaming news, features, and reviews! Finally, thank you all who have ever liked and commented on my posts and to those of you without WordPress accounts who have supported me with encouragement and affirmation!

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Thank you from Mr. Pancham and me!

Liebster Award

This brings me to the second half of my post. It means a lot to me that The Well-Red Mage and Retr0pia75 would even consider nominating me for the Liebster Award, and I wanted to give a shoutout to both of them. The Well-Red Mage (and the rest of the mage team) runs an excellent site full of quality gaming news and reviews. They’re great sources of knowledge, and The Well-Red Mage has been very supportive of me since I started, which means a lot and has gone a long way. Retr0pia75 runs an excellent site featuring some of the best reviews of obscure games. Seriously, it’s impressive to see so many forgotten games make a comeback through this site. Please check them out! If there was anyone else who had previously nominated me, and I didn’t acknowledge you, please let me know. I may have just missed you (I only found out about these awards because I was told).

That said, the Liebster Award is a special one that recognizes bloggers, bringing them together with the focus of helping others discover new blogs.

Here are the rules:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you and answer the 11 questions they’ve written for you.
  2. Nominate 11 people and give them 11 different questions to answer.

Since I have 2 different nominations, I’ll just answer both sets, for an even 22 questions.

  1. DC or Marvel? Marvel, mostly because of the excellent Marvel Cinematic Universe movies
  2. Favorite superhero? Somewhat of a cop-out answer, but Goku from Dragon Ball Z. Hey, I believe he’s a superhero of sorts.
  3. Favorite console? Nintendo 64
  4. Favorite video game? Super Mario World, which I reviewed for this site!
  5. Favorite video game character? Link
  6. Favorite film? Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
  7. Favorite book? Another cop-out, but the manga Death Note. Nothing beats the cat-and-mouse detective thriller coupled with its amazing artwork!
  8. Favorite non-gaming pasttime? Anime
  9. Favorite thing about blogging and your blogging goals? I have particular personal goals that I’d rather divulge to those I know, but as far as my favorite thing about blogging, see the entire first 5 paragraphs above!
  10. Favorite thing you find most inspirational in life? The support of my wife and friends
  11. Favorite thing about The Well-Red Mage? The Well-Red Mage is a great individual, willing to lift others up and promote them. Hats off to you, Well-Red Mage!
  12. Favorite plant? Bulbasaur
  13. Crash Bandicoot or Spyro the Dragon? Probably Crash Bandicoot, though I didn’t play these games when I was younger, to be honest.
  14. Most disappointing game in recent memory? Final Fantasy Explorers
  15. Favorite flavor? Lime
  16. Best E3 ever? 2005, in which Shigeru Miyamoto donned a sword and shield in front of a crowd to promote the brand new trailer of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
  17. Most overrated TV show? I’m not too big on non-anime TV, so I don’t know if I can accurately answer this one…
  18. Favorite Nintendo character? Link
  19. Worst movie you’ve ever seen? Tommy Wiseau’s The Room, in a hilarious way.
  20. Best video game soundtrack? I could cop-out and say Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, but I’ll be fair and say Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest.
  21. Most tragic downfall of a video game company/franchise? Sega
  22. Least awful Michael Bay film? The first Transformers

Here are my 11 nominations for the Liebster Award. Please feel free to do with it what you will. Even if you don’t want to participate, know that I respect your work and encourage others to check out your sites! I’m sorry if you were already previously nominated. For those not nominated, know that you’re still doing a great job, and that’s why I’m following you!

  1. Kuribo of NintendoFigures.com
  2. Matt of Nintendobound
  3. themancalledscott of Wizard Dojo
  4. mrluvvaluvva of mrluvvaluvva
  5. Kris P of Double Jump
  6. Rachel of Double Jump
  7. The Otaku Judge of The Otaku Judge
  8. pokeninja90 of Nice Job Breaking It, Hero
  9. Sam Lilly of Hub World HQ
  10. Mariko Roze of Gera-Gera Gaming
  11. Yvonne/YvoCaro of A Lady and Gaming Plus

Here are 11 questions for you:

  1. Nintendo or Sega?
  2. Favorite video game console?
  3. Favorite video game?
  4. Favorite video game soundtrack?
  5. Favorite song from a video game?
  6. Favorite genre of game?
  7. Favorite non-gaming-related hobby?
  8. Person you look most up to?
  9. Favorite quote?
  10. Favorite place to visit?
  11. Where you would most like to visit someday?

Thank you everyone!

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