Real-Life Anime Locales That You Can Visit!

For many anime fans, visiting the real-life locations that serve as the setting of their favorite stories has become a new way to experience their most-loved animated films, graphic novels or television series, allowing fans to literally walk in their favorite characters’ footsteps.  These destinations are slowly becoming as popular as the series that placed them on the map, as fans pack their bags and travel to see these destinations first-hand.

The little town of Iwami cho in the Tottori prefecture of Southeastern Japan has been receiving much more attention lately with the airing of the Japanese anime series, Free!, a series focused on a revived swimming club.  However, we’re most amazed at how animators were able to accurately capture the water-front town’s charm, using virtually every aspect of the town, from the charming harbor to something as simple as an alleyway, as illustrative inspiration.

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Another town that has been placed in the spotlight, thanks to anime, is Oarai, in the eastern part of Ibaraki prefecture.  Oarai’s most famous and distinct landmarks, like it’s marine tower and dolphin statue, as well as less well-known sites, like local restaurants, are featured in the popular series, Girls und Panzer.  Locals have embraced their new found fame: pictures of the characters can be seen throughout the town and an event celebrating the anime was held earlier this year.

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Though not based on a real-life place, Studio Ghibli fans can visit the home of Mei and Satsuki from the beloved Miyazaki film, My Neighbor Totoro.  Located in Nagakute, Japan at the at the Expo 2005 Aichi Commemorative Park and designed by Goro Miyazaki, the house was constructed with such precision, detail and authenticity that visitors can feel as if the little girls could run in and out of the home at any moment.

In Japan, You Can Visit the Totoro House. For Real.

(Sources: 1, 2, 3)

Miss America Makes History with First Indian American Winner… But Not Without Racist Haters

On Sunday night, New York’s Nina Davuluri made pageant history by becoming the first woman of Indian descent to snag the prestigious title of Miss America.

But not long after the coveted crown was placed on her head, Davuluri, who performed a Bollywood fusion dance routine for the talent portion of the competition, quickly became the focus of discriminatory and racist comments on various social media platforms. The 24-year-old aspiring doctor was referred to, among other things, as “Miss 7-11,” “Miss Al-Qaeda,” and as a “terrorist.” Some expressed their disappointment that an “Arab” who had performed “Egypt dancing” won Miss America, just days after the 9/11 anniversary. Some even retorted that a Miss America winner “should have to be American.”

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In her first press conference as Miss America, Davuluri addressed the issue, quickly (and gracefully) putting aside the negativity.

“I’m so happy this organization has embraced diversity,” she said. “I’m thankful there are children watching at home who can finally relate to a new Miss America. … I have to rise above [the comments]. I always viewed myself as first and foremost American.”

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Going into the pageant, Davuluri’s platform issue was “Celebrating Diversity through Cultural Competency,” and sad instances such as these prove the platform’s continuing necessity and relevance in the U.S. Thankfully, in about an hour, the Twittersphere exploded with tweets in support of Davuluri, drowning out the small minority of ignoramuses.

 

Aila Wang: Fashion Week’s Youngest (and Most Adorable!) Style Star

Front-row at the latest Alexander Wang show was a who’s who of the fashion world’s biggest names and brightest young things, including Carine Roitfeld, photographer Terry Richardson, actress Kerry Washington, rapper Kanye West and actress Zoe Kravitz. However, only one person was lucky enough to don Wang’s latest collection even before it debuted down the runway. Dressed in a white “Parental Advisory” tee, black skirt, and Jordan slides, 4-year-old Aila Wang already had the show’s ’90s, logo-driven theme on lock.

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Just who is this young style starlet? The niece of designer Alexander Wang, Aila first caught our attention when a photo of her (below) backstage at her uncle’s eponymous show circulated across fashion blogs some seasons back. With her updo and round cheeks, she looked helplessly cute. But her all-black outfit, complete with a fur coat, baby Chanel and high-tops, gave us an unusual case of sartorial envy.

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She’s become a front-row staple at her uncle’s famed runway shows for a handful of seasons now, all while creating quite a name for herself in the street-style department. Successfully treading the fine line between cutting edge and adorable, this toddler manages to give even the most seasoned style vets a run for their money.

Scroll down for more of Aila’s enviable looks.

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Back to School 2013: Six Tips To Nailing Your First Day

With Labor Day behind us and summer “officially” coming to an end, it’s time for college students to head back to campus and start hitting the books. From fresh-eyed first-years to seasoned seniors, the first days of classes always prove to be a challenge: in one day, you have to go from weeks of rest and relaxation to a daily academic grind. To avoid a rocky start, follow these steps to a blunder-free first day!

1.  Know where your classes are. It may seem obvious, but check where your classes are going to be held. Too many times, students (myself included) walk in late to their first class, with embarrassed looks on their faces, as the rest of their classmates look on. If you’re unfamiliar with the campus, grab a map and some walking shoes and give yourself a mini tour, scoping out the buildings and classrooms you’ll be in for the next few months.

2.  Check the class website — there may be homework due! It’s a grim reality, but yes, some professors do assign work to be completed by the first lecture. Familiarize yourself with your class’ websites, take a peek at the syllabi, download class lectures and start filling in your iCal or planner with important academic dates, like midterms, paper due dates and finals.

3.  Don’t be afraid to talk to your neighbor. Your next-door (or next-desk) neighbors are in the same boat as you, attending the same lectures, completing the same assignments, readings and papers. Chat up the people sitting next to you; it’s a lot easier to survive in a class when you have study buddies!

 4.  Bring your laptop to class. Though you may expect a basic overview on your first day, many professors quickly breeze through the introductions and head straight into the course material. Have your fully-charged laptop or tablet (or, if you’re old-school, notebook and pen) at hand so you can take down notes.

5.  Schedule a visit to your college or departmental counselor. While it doesn’t have to be on the first day, definitely drop by the office of your academic counselors early on in the year! If you’re confused as to what classes you still need to take to complete your requirements and don’t want to be caught by surprise when graduation rolls around, it never hurts to ask the experts!

6.  Find your niche beyond academics! Though you may be in school to get a degree, don’t drown yourself in academics; it’s all about balance! Head over to the clubs and activities fairs during the first weeks of classes and go to any meetings or events that pique your interest. It’s a great way to meet new people and to get yourself engaged in something outside of the classroom! College is one of the most opportune times to discover more about yourself, don’t let it go to waste!

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G-Dragon Stages a “Coup D’Etat” With Lydia Paek, Sky Ferreira and Other Major Music Stars

Just days after his show-stopping, electrifying performance with Missy Elliott in Los Angeles, K-Pop heavyweight G-Dragon released five out of 14 slated tracks from his upcoming album, “COUP D’ETAT,” scheduled for full digital release on September 5th.  Besides Missy, “COUP D’ETAT PT. 1″ showcases a star-studded list of musical collaborations, including “Black” featuring indie sweetheart Sky Ferreira, “R.O.D.” with YG producer and former Quest Crew member Lydia Paek, and “Coup D’Etat,” the album’s first single, with producers Diplo and Baauer.   With this star-studded list of impressive team-ups and creative, diverse productions, GD is establishing himself as an international music force, and we can’t help but smile at this singer-songwriter-producer-rapper’s cross-continental success.

Immediately upon release, GD found himself in an interesting musical competition on the charts; two of his title tracks, the old-school “Who You?” (admittedly, one of my favorites) and the cool slow jam “Black” competed for the top spot on the Melon charts.  In addition, all of the released songs took up the first five spots on both the Mnet and Naver charts, a true display off the star’s immense popularity.

This little taste of GD’s new music has undoubtedly piqued our interest that much more in the hallyu megastar.  His releases, including 2009′s Heartbreaker and last year’s One of a Kind, are always an auditory adventure, definitely straying away from the majority of songs on both the K-Pop and American Top 40 scenes.  To say that we’re wanting more is definitely an understatement.

KCON 2013 | G-Dragon & EXO Exclusive Fanmeet Photos!

One of the highlights of this year’s KCON for many attendees were the artist engagement sessions held throughout the convention.  During these brief meetings, a select group of fans was able to see their favorite idols in the flesh, with the stars only standing only a few feet away from them.  For many, such an opportunity and experience was very surreal; their favorite stars were right in front of them, in the flesh and not just appearing through a glowing screen.

Audrey was fortunate enough to get into two of the most in-demand artist engagement sessions, Bigbang’s G-Dragon and EXO, and we have some exclusive photos just for you!

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Though he was flying solo, it was no question that G-Dragon was an artist that most KCON fans were excited to see.  Once he got on stage, the crowd electrified with numerous screams of joy and countless professions of love.  That energy remained throughout his Q&A session, especially when he expressed his anticipation and admiration for EXO and his cravings for the California culinary staple, In-N-Out.  Dressed in a simple tank, sunglasses and beanie, he was the charismatic, cool guy that fans have come to know and adore.

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With an innumerable amount of t-shirts with the group member’s names strewn on the front, “Wolf”-inspired outfits and impromptu dance covers of “Growl” being seen all around the convention, it became quickly clear that the guys of EXO were clearly a fan favorite.  Dressed in uniforms, the boys proved their prowess in pleasing fans, having impromptu performances and answering questions in the most adorable way possible (for instance, D.O.’s profession of his love for steak).

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With such a jam-packed, exciting weekend, what was your favorite part of this year’s KCON?

KCON 2013 | M Countdown What’s Up LA? Exclusive Red Carpet Photos

After two jam-packed days of anything and everything hallyu, it was finally time for the convention’s biggest and most anticipated event — the star-studded concert and recording of Mnet’s über-popular music show, M Countdown.  But just before the curtains (or more appropriately, LED screens) rose, Audrey was lucky enough to have red carpet access, and we’re bringing you some photos of some of K-pop’s top stars.

 

A finalist on Mnet’s talent competition program, Superstar K4, sixteen year-old Yu Seung Woo melted hearts with his adorable smile and sweet, acoustic tunes.

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Next up was the ever-charming ballad group, 2AMdressed to a tee in suspenders, bow-ties and perfectly pressed shirts.

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Despite the scorching LA heat, DJ Koo kept it cool in his all-leather outfit and later on, made sure to hype up the crowd with his K-Pop mix at the start of the show.

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The only female artists in the line-up, SM Entertainment’s f(x) looked stunning in their printed, Versace-inspired outfits.  During the red carpet, Amber was able to express their excitement for the big show, as well as their gratitude to their American fans for their continued support, even being halfway around the world.

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Undoubtedly one of the most anticipated acts of the night, if the ear-piercing screams proved to be any indication, the 12 boys of EXO showed no signs of jet lag (after arriving in L.A. just the day before), making jaws drop with their perfectly fitting uniforms, coiffed hair and handsome looks.

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The guys of Teen Top, caught our attention with their colorful hair and charming charisma, showing very little signs of nerves, despite their KCON stage being their first performance outside of Korea.

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Decked out in a clean, well-fitted suit (brownie points for him!), Super Junior-M’s Henry hit the red carpet, delighting fans with his lovable personality, showing off an endearing sense of confidence that you couldn’t help but get drawn to.

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For more exclusive KCON Red Carpet photos, check out our gallery below:

Proof That Chang Chen Looks Good Doing Pretty Much Anything

One of the stars of The Grandmaster, Taiwanese actor Chang Chen is definitely a movie star, in the best sense of the phrase. He’s been casted in a number of films, including Wong Kar-wai’s Happy Together, Three Times (for which he was nominated for the prestigious Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival), and the Ang Lee visual stunner, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

But besides being an incredible actor, we’ve come to notice that Chang Chen is one of those rare people that seems to be able look incredibly handsome pretty much all the time, during both the most exciting and banal of tasks.

What sorts of things, might you ask? Well, things like…

 

…taking a picture.
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…drinking water
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…riding a bike.
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…throwing a sweater over his shoulder.ChangC_4

…enjoying a cup of espresso.
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…sitting down in a room.
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…holding his face in his hands.
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…holding an umbrella.
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…and most impressively, getting ready to kick some butt in The Grandmaster.
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What’s your favorite Chang Chen look?

Countdown to KCON 2013 | Adorable Baby K-Pop Idols

Before they were the famous and beloved idols they are today, some of our favorite KCON 2013 attendees were once wee, adorable children.  Our favorite idols (and some very clever, stealthy netizens) have revealed their über-precious, squeal-worthy photos online.  Take a peek below!

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Changmin (2AM)
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Jinwoon (2AM)
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Jo Kwon (2AM)
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Tao (EXO)
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D.O. (EXO)
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Kris (EXO)
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Krystal (f(x))
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Luna (f(x))
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Sulli ((f(x))
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Victoria (f(x))
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Amber (f(x))
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L. Joe (Teen Top)
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Niel (Teen Top)
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Ricky (Teen Top)
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SO CUTE, RIGHT?  Who do you think has the most precious photo?

8 Things You Didn’t Know About Song Hye-kyo of ‘The Grandmaster’

Named one of Korea’s most beautiful women, Song Hye-kyo has certainly made a name for herself in her home country, starring in hit dramas and films like Full House, That Winter, the Wind Blows.

This month, she stars alongside Tony Leung and Zhang Ziyi in the Wong Kar-wai-directed martial arts drama flick, The Grandmaster.

But, there’s more to the actress than just her stunning looks and remarkably impressive resume.  For those of you who aren’t in love with her already, here’s some facts about the South Korean beauty that are sure to get you intrigued.

1.  She’s released two photo/photo-essay books: 2011’s Song Hye-Kyo’s Moment and 2012’s It’s Time for Hye-Kyo.

 

2.  Naturally, she’s an advertiser’s dream, starring in ads and CF’s (commercial films) for big-name brands like Laniege, Levi’s, Etude House, and McDonald’s.

 

3.  Like popular actress Han Ga-in, Song Hye-kyo is a VIP.  Not just a Very Important Person, but a fan of Big Bang, whose fans are called “VIP’s.”  In an interview, she mentions how their music gives her “positive energy” and how the group’s “sense of freedom” is something that she enjoys.

 

4.  Her and former boyfriend Hyun Bin (of Secret Garden fame) were voted by Koreans as the couple they’d most like to see get back together (and we’d have to agree!).

 

5.  She puts her fame to good use.  Over the years, her philanthropy and volunteer work has included: providing funds to help establish an elementary school in China, volunteering at a local animal shelter, advocating for animal rights, designing a bag with mega-brand Celine in which all proceeds went to charity, and funding the creation of Braille guidebooks for the Independence Hall of Korea in Cheonan.

 

6.  She gifted her mother with a home worth 6,000,000,000 KRW (~$5.3 million).  It is the most expensive single family home in Korea.

 

7.  She recently showed off her singing chops in a super sweet duet with Superstar K2’s John Park called “Switch”: it was made to be the background music for a makeup commercial!

8. She’s a fashion favorite: besides appearing in various editorials for top Korean magazines like Elle, Vogue and High Cut, she’s sat front row at one of Chanel’s fashion shows, being invited by Karl Lagerfeld himself!