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Saturday, June 13, 2009

WHEN EAST MARRIES WEST

Superheroes to the rescue


What I could use in Japan is a superhero.

You know, someone to help me escape my daily gaijin grind. A Spiderman, a Wonder Woman, a Harry Potter. Someone who could be my champion in life's never-ending struggles with truth, justice and cross-cultural screwups.

Like last week at the bakery when I bought that yummy-looking bun and bit it right in half. To find it pumped full of bean paste. Ugh.

If only Superman had been there with his X-ray vision. Alas, too late. That time, evil prevailed — at least as far as my taste buds were concerned.

Besides, my life is not that far from a comic book. It slides by panel by panel in a Japanese story line that often seems surreal.

So why not add some caped crusaders? Some razzmatazzy, bingo-bango, summer box-office-style superheroes. Only those tailor-made for life in Japan.

What kind of superheroes exactly? Well, here . . . I made a list:

The Flower Rangers — Rose, Cherry Blossom, Iris, Willow and Camellia — these girls fight gropers on the late-night trains. They wear steel-tipped high heels and can kick with pinpoint accuracy. After which they giggle with their hands cuffed over their smiles.

Inspector Budget — Inspector Budget is known for his zany laugh, which erupts out of control whenever confronted with exorbitant Japanese prices. He can also erase zeros from any string of numbers, reducing staggering mountains of costs to cool valleys of financial relief.

Inspector Budget is forever battling with his arch-nemesis Exchangling, who can manipulate monetary rates at will.

Conbiniman and Vending Boy — These two heroes travel together to rescue any resident who somehow cannot locate a convenience store or vending machine.

These two magically dispense emergency soft drinks, cigarettes, bento and so forth from their coat pockets. Sometimes they team up with yet another superhero — Coffee Shop Woman.

Captain Ring Tone — Captain Ring Tone can make anyone's cell phone ring whenever he wants, with whatever music he wants. Sometimes he likes to sit back and groove while the entire train cranks out, "Layla." But most often he prefers to drive cell phone owners nuts by having them desperately punch buttons to stop their phones from piping out favorites such as, "Achy Breaky Heart" or "Macarena." Yet, Captain Ring Tone is all-powerful and his victims can only escape by tossing their phones out the window.

Magnatto — With a wave of his sticky hand, Magnatto can make anyone's food taste like natto. Some people like Magnatto, but he and his curvaceous girlfriend — Wasabi (boy, is she hot!) — are banned from most eateries. Fortunately, these two use their talents for good not evil, and typically flavor the meals of junior high school bullies, politicians and telemarketers. Or perhaps over-zealous foreigners who blather on to excess about their love for Japanese cuisine.

Red Lantern — Need a drink? Red Lantern carries — what else? — a red lantern, which he will latch to the front of any dwelling he pleases, instantly transforming it into a Japanese-style pub, with the residents inside aproned up as his waiters/waitresses. Because he is bit of a rogue, the Japanese police are always on the lookout to keep Red Lantern away from the palace.

The Invisible Roach — You can feel him. You can hear him. You know he is there. You just can't see him. His victims will roll up newsprint and flail away for hours at all the wrong spots. Meanwhile, the Invisible Roach raids their pantries. Or gets in their shorts — just long enough to have them redirect their news roll.

The Kanji Kid — This superhero can grasp the end of any Chinese character and yank it straight into a single line of print. This he will then snap until it forms a similar expression in English. The Kanji Kid is madly in love with scholar Lyla Brarian, who forever tries to forge her own way through difficult Japanese texts, only to have the Kid save her in the end. The Kid is able to keep his identity secret by parting his hair on different sides, a disguise that myopic Lyla has never figured out.

Dr. Zoom — The savior of all weary travelers, Dr. Zoom can zap you to your favorite destination with but a blink of his kaleidoscopic eyes.

Want to pop in on grandma on her birthday? Or be there to welcome the sparrows back to Capistrano? Or — better yet — like to see that loudmouth in your first period class take a raft down the Amazon? Right now? Never fear! Dr. Zoom is here!

Many people would pay top dollar to see Dr. Zoom meet the Invisible Roach — and his visible buddies — in a Freddie vs. Jason style summer-bonanza faceoff.

Sounds like a surefire hit to me. Zoom me the popcorn right now.



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