All posts by Frederick Linsmeyer

A regular pop-drinking, hockey-watching, snow-shovelling Canadian, Frederick, aka Nephrus, loves his anime. Born and raised in Vancouver, British Columbia, Frederick runs amok between his hometown and the states of Washington and Texas, spending time with friends, at anime conventions and looking for some good burgers, brisket or sashimi.

A road trip across Texas isn’t complete without a stop at Buc-ee’s

Buc-ee’s in Temple, Texas.

Everything about Texas is big. The state. The food. The hearts of its residents. The drive. Driving across the Lone Star State isn’t complete with a stop at Buc-ee’s, a chain of gas stations with convenience stores, who’s mascot is a beaver wearing a red hat.

In true Texas fashion, Buc-ee’s is massive. The number of gas pumps offered ranges from as few as eight to 120 and above, with gasoline and diesel. There’s no waiting to fill up the tank at Buc-ee’s, but the real treat is inside. Open 24/7, these convenience stores put everyone else to shame in every category imaginable. Buc-ee’s shuns the stereotype of dirty gas station bathrooms; these are clean, comfortable and stocked. If caught between cleaning, stalls have foaming seat cleaner (not that you’ll ever need to use it).

A table overflowing with Buc-ee’s beaver merchandise.

One of Buc-ee’s claim to fame is their beaver nuggets, caramel-covered puffed corn, but they serve much more than just sugary snacks. From the standard jerky and candy bars, there’s also fresh fruit served in cups, drink fountains, and hot meals with grab-and-go tacos and burritos for breakfast to brisket and sausage sandwiches in the afternoon. Orders for fresh baked pastries and other items, including kolaches, are placed from kiosks near the kitchen. Doesn’t matter the time of day.

But there’s more than food and drink offered at Buc-ee’s, some of it necessary for a camping trip or a ride down the Guadalupe River in New Braunfels. There’s barbecues, folding chairs, coolers, hunting equipment, household goods, clothing and souvenirs, not limited to various sized beaver plushes.

Inside Buc-ee’s in Temple, Texas.

Buc-ee’s has locations mostly in the centre of Texas, around Dallas-Fort Worth and out east in the Houston-Gulf area. There are plans for expansion, and the beaver invasion has started, with a location in Robertsdale, Alabama of all places (and one I’ve stopped at).

So if you ever need to take a break and fuel up (both the car and yourself), look for the giant beaver sign. Buc-ee’s has you covered.

An American itasha: Toyota Deku

If you’re in the southeastern United States, you might pass a colourful 2011 Toyota Corolla. If you’re a fan of Kohei Horikoshi’s My Hero Academia, chances are you’ve seen this car – either in person or perhaps online. This is Toyota Deku, an itasha dedicated to the hero-in-training Izuku Midoriya from My Hero Academia.

Toyota Deku parked outside Funimation’s office in Flower Mound, Texas.

An itasha is a vehicle that is decorated with images from an anime, manga or video game, usually limited to a specific character (but not always). Many cars are wrapped with images of female characters (known as bishojo), and bright elements from their series or games. Originating in Japan, itasha (which translates into “painful car”) are starting to make appearances in North America, and surprisingly enough, there is a large group of itasha in the southern United States.

Tony Okumura, owner of Toyota Deku, is a huge fan of My Hero Academia, and it shows. The hood is decked out with an image of Shoto Todoroki, Izuku Midoriya, Katsuki Bakugo, and pro hero All Might. On the sides, there’s a huge graphic of Deku mid-punch shouting “Plus Ultra!”, the motto of UA High School. The details are numerous – the rain guards on the windows feature Deku’s mumbling – ブツ. The rails below the doors include Tony’s name and background – A US citizen of Mexican heritage. Right down to the wheels, which are adorned with decals of Deku’s iconic red boots, and the words “Midoriya” and “Plus Ultra” on the tires themselves.

Toyota Deku parked at the Mississippi Visitors’ Center in Vicksburg, Mississippi.

Owning an itasha isn’t cheap; many itasha drivers put a lot of work and care into their vehicles, not to mention designing the wrap and installing them cost a pretty penny. So far, Tony has spent approximately $2,500 USD on the wrap. Toyota Deku isn’t complete yet, as the roof still needs to be covered, along with additional physical improvements to the car itself. Sponsorship is rare, as most costs are paid out of pocket and any logos included in the design are to give credit back to the creators, publishers, and licensees of the series, rather than a form of endorsement or acknowledgement.

Editor’s Note: Nephrus is a financial sponsor of Toyota Deku.

The design itself was done 100% by Tony. The whole car was drawn in Adobe Illustrator using vector art; vector graphics scale much better than a raster image (there’s no pixelation if you look closely). Once the design was finalized, Tony worked with a local graphics shop, CGS Vinyl, to print and perform the installation. Wrapping began with the hood and progressing along the sides and rear as money became available. The roof design is done, but has yet to be printed and installed.

Justin Briner’s autograph adorns the hood.

Initial reactions to such a vibrant vehicle might sound incredulous or even disparaging, however, that’s not the case. Passing motorists will sometimes match the speed to snap a picture, roll down their windows and wave, or honk their horns. Even when parked at a gas station or other venue, small crowds gather for photos or give props; one fan actually stopped in the middle of an empty intersection in New Orleans to snap a few pictures with their cellphone. So the response to itasha isn’t always negative.

The interior in full display mode at San Japan, in San Antonio, Texas.

Toyota Deku has logged many a mile, travelling south to Matamoros, Mexico, and north to Washington, DC, with all places in between from his home base of Birmingham, Alabama. Recently, Tony made an appearance at San Japan, in San Antonio, Texas. So if you see Tony and Toyota Deku, be sure to give them a wave. Plus Ultra!

You can follow Toyota Deku on Instagram.

Three reasons why I don’t find air travel enjoyable

Thunderstorm at IAH
A massive thunderstorm halts ground operations at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, Texas.

I’ll be honest, I don’t like flying. Yes, I think airplanes are cool and such, but air travel for me is frustrating, stressful and expensive. I’ll break my reasoning into three pieces.

Stress – Flying, for me at least, is stressful. Having to wait in endless lines at the check-in counter, unprepared people fumbling with their documentation or not having a clue of what they’re doing. Security and customs are another favourite of mine. I won’t argue that we need security to prevent incidents at the airport and onboard aircraft, but the current model is designed to add frustration to an already taxing experience. Yes, I could pay an additional fee for expedited clearance (see below) to make this portion easier, but that’s besides the point. It’s even more frustrating when you grab a bin from the stack and the person ahead of you steals it from you because they forgot to remove their own belt. Come on. Then of course, there’s the waiting. Waiting to board, heaven forbid there’s an issue with the plane or missing crew members, or even weather. There’s often very little information being passed around and what we’re given isn’t always useful. The delay could be three minutes or three hours. And that’s super important if you have connecting flights (or if you want to run to a nearby restaurant for a last minute snack/meal). Want to deplane in a timely manner? Forget about it. Even before the seat belt sign is off and the door is open, others have already unbuckled and jumped into the aisle to grab their belongings. Finally, it’s the aircraft itself. I’m six feet tall, I don’t fit comfortably in those tiny seats, much less in any of those smaller planes, especially the ones made by Embraer. I have to hunch over when boarding or exiting, pull my knees up close and hope that my seatmate isn’t as large or larger than I am. It’s not enjoyable at all.

Expensive – The cost of flying is almost as high as the planes at cruising altitude. You have your base fare, then all the additional fees: airport improvement, fuel surcharges, immigration, security, agricultural, and so on. If booking online, there’s a few airlines that will charge you in Canadian dollars; other will charge you in American funds. Should the exchange rate be less than desirable (when isn’t it), that price of the flight is going to increase. But don’t forget, cheaper flights exist if you don’t mind hopping around the country. Then, there’s fees for checking baggage. Want to clear security faster and not spend five minutes pulling off your belt and removing your shoes? Have your wallet ready! Upgrade from economy to premium economy? That’s more money. You want to buy a snack box, not a meal, a small box that is more cardboard than snack? Better bring your credit card. Now you’re thinking, “Why don’t you just bring all your stuff in carry-on and save a few bucks?” I’m not turning into those passengers who insist on bringing full-size suitcases and claim them as “carry-on”, violently shoving them into a small overhead bin. Please stop doing that. I’ve had my backpack crushed far to often because someone is trying to save thirty dollars by cramming something that’s not portable into a small cabinet. Frugality is sometimes a bad thing.

United Airlines Window Seat
A window seat is my favourite place on the airplane – for the view and a place I can rest against.

People – Granted, many people I’ve flown with were amazing, they made small chitchat, they were quiet when I wanted to attempt some shuteye and sometimes even beyond helpful (such as pulling my backpack down from the bin upon landing so I would be ready to deplane). I love those people. However, there are some, who insist that upon purchasing a ticket, they’re entitled to anything and everything. You know who they are. These are the people who will line up and try and board in group one when they’re clearly group four. These are the people who will bring full-sized suitcases (sometimes more than one) as carry-on and then verbally berate gate agents and flight crew when challenged. These are the people who will bang on the toilet door when you’re in for more than thirty seconds. These are the parents of small children who let them kick seats and pull my hair because now it’s the flight attendants’ responsibility to look after their own offspring. These are the people who cut in line when trying to grab a last minute meal. These are the people take their shoes off and roam the plane barefoot or in socks. There’s more, plenty more, but I could write a small novel on their antics. These are the people that make my flight a few hours of hell.

I know I have made a pretty grim picture of flying, but my recent flights into and out of the United States got me on this topic. However, I must give thanks to the flight crew and attendants for putting up with this on a daily basis. I try to make myself a low maintenance passenger; I don’t get up during drink service, I avoid pressing the call button during the flight and most importantly, I greet the crew with a smile and a friendly “Good morning” or “Good afternoon” each and every time, no matter how bad things are going. I know it seems small, but if I can keep to myself and get a few minutes of rest with my eyes closed, then it certainly is a good flight.

Photos from San Japan XII

The heart of Texas was overflowing with fans of anime, manga and video games over the Labour Day long weekend for the twelfth annual San Japan. From cosplay to cars, it was a busy three days seeing old friends and meeting new ones. While it was a fun weekend overall, I did run into issues where my DSLR kicked the bucket so there is a noticeable shift in way the photos appear as the remainder of the convention was recorded with my Google Pixel 2 XL phone.


View the rest of the photos from San Japan XII on Gallery.

YURI!!! on ICE movie delayed

The much anticipated YURI!!! on ICE the movie : ICE ADOLESCENCE which was scheduled to screen in theatres in 2019 is delayed.

According to a post made on the official YURI!!! on ICE web site, the reason for this delay is to “scale up the content” of the film to provide a more robust final product.

A new release date for YURI!!! on ICE the movie : ICE ADOLESCENCE was not provided but will be shared once a date is settled on.

Source: YURI!!! on ICE web site

Viz Media to celebrate 20 years of Naruto

To celebrate 20 years of Masashi Kishimoto’s popular manga series Naruto, Viz Media revealed they are hosting a year-long celebration for the orange-clad ninja.

Announced on their official blog, Viz Media will begin the Year of Naruto with events at New York Comic Con (October 3rd-6th, 2019 in New York City) with limited merchandise, such as a skateboard deck, posters, and other artwork. The celebration will continue into 2020 that will feature video games, events, discussions, and collaborations with other brands and companies. Viz Media will release details regarding these events as they become available.

Naruto first appeared in Weekly Shonen Jump back in 1999.

Source: Viz Media

New promotional artwork for upcoming My Hero Academia season

My Hero Academia season 4 promo artwork
Promotional artwork for season four of My Hero Academia.

With the fourth season of My Hero Academia just over a month away, a new piece of artwork was released in Japan today. Funimation shared this visual on their Facebook this morning.

In the image, In the image, student heroes Katsuki Bakugo, Ochaco Uraraka, Shoto Todoroki, Momo Yaoyorozu, Izuku Midoriya, Tamaki Amajiki, Nejire Hado, Sir Nighteye, Eijiro Kirishima, and Mirio Togata pose on a massive “My Hero Academia” word art while a giant All Might stands behind destroyed buildings.

This fourth season is adapted from the Shie Hassaikai story arc from the manga series of the same name by Kohei Horikoshi.

Season four of My Hero Academia airs in Japan on October 12th, 2019.

Source: Facebook

Crunchyroll Games launches RWBY: Crystal Match

A screenshot of gameplay from RWBY: Crystal Match.

Crunchyroll Games in partnership with EGLS Technology released today RWBY: Crystal Match, a free to play jewel-style puzzle mobile game. This title is based on the RWBY Chibi series and includes characters Ruby, Weiss, Blake and Yang.

Note: A previous article referred to the game as “RWBY: Crystal Quest“.

An additional four characters are also available, and customizable with seven different outfits. There’s almost 1,000 levels to keep busy with, not to mention updates planned to introduce new characters, guilds and other features and modes.

RWBY Chibi is a series of shorts that revolves around the main characters of RWBY, an anime-styled fantasy series that is available on both Crunchyroll and Rooster Teeth.

RWBY: Crystal Match is available on both Android and iOS devices.

Crunchyroll Games also offers titles based on other franchises, including Bungo Stray Dogs: Tales of the Lost, Grand Summoners and Attack on Titan: TACTICS which launches in fall 2019.

Response to a Vancouver Sun letter about video games and violence

In light of recent events, video games have been thrust into the spotlight once again. As the parade of individuals in elected office, the media and elsewhere begin pointing fingers at digital entertainment as a quick and easy method to distract the concerned public, it becomes clear many of them pass misinformation along to feel better themselves or resolve some sort of internal conflict they have.

As I was reading the Vancouver Sun this morning before getting ready for work, I spotted a letter from Doris Reidweg in Langley that called out violent video games as the source for three murders that occurred in northern British Columbia in July 2019. I won’t go into details about the murders, but the this particular letter, it’s tone and subject really caught my eye.

Now, I know newspapers won’t let subscribers publish full length essays due to publishing constraints, space, and other limitations, so it’s hard to determine the complete picture Doris is trying to make with her brief statement. But, here was an opinion that blatantly called out video games as the root cause behind the reprehensible actions of two teenage males that put a huge part of Canada on edge. With the recent information that these two males did not survive their cross-country flight from the authorities, it will be difficult assess why two tourists and a university lecturer were murdered.

Because we don’t have that information, the media (and others) are forced to glean as many details as possible from family, friends, the community, social media profiles and other sources in order to assemble it in such away that makes a picture to provide better insight and reasoning. Of course, during this information gathering process, emotions can run high, people get concerned of what they find and jump to conclusions. And should someone have an online account for a game, it’s fairly certain someone is going to draw a line between the heinous act and a game itself as a definitive conclusion. When one person blames video games, most everyone turn into a flock of sheep and follow the “leader”, confirming their claim. It happens every time and will continue to happen.

Yes, there are some graphic games out there on the market. Yes, some of them do show gruesome scenes, and yes, some of them are excessive and over the top. But, there is something people quickly forget about video games: they are not real. They do not mimic the complex functions of handling a real gun. Anyone who has held a gun and played a video game knows that. But that’s lost on the general public; it’s just so much easier to say “he played Grand Theft Auto, so it’s the video game’s fault he did this!”. Have suspects in other events played video games? Quite probably. But there’s a bigger underlying picture, with video games (or any other media or propaganda) being one piece of the larger puzzle. There are so many questions that will go unanswered after this, and it’s important we don’t pervert the questions that are answered easily with knee-jerk reactions and emotions.

Everyone needs to take a step back, let the police and officials conduct their investigations fully and respect those affected by these tragic crimes by not jumping to conclusions or making assumptions. This is not to defend the actions taken by suspects (or anyone else for that matter), but rather to focus on the facts instead of feelings. If you don’t like video games, that’s fine, but to pass out misinformation because of your dislike for this medium is misguided and dangerous. There are many out there who play video games and continue to lead constructive, positive lives, much to the detriment of newspaper letter writers like Doris.