Thursday, October 18, 2012

Universal Studios Japan, Halloween/Resident Evil Special 2012

So.  Universal Studios Japan.  During Halloween season.  I totally went there.  It was a rather sudden decision on my part, which is part of the reason why I didn't mention it on this blog prior to leaving.  My friend H was planning to go to Osaka for the three-day weekend, although she didn’t have any plans in particular.  However, she realized a few weeks before the trip that going with friends would probably be more fun than going alone, so she invited MelJay and I to come with her.  I wasn’t really sure if I was gonna go, because we didn’t really have any plans, and traveling that far is kinda expensive.  But after awhile, I realized I haven’t really done any sort of traveling since coming to Japan for work, and I didn’t go to Osaka when I studied abroad either.  The only time I’d ever been to Osaka was when I was fifteen, for about four days, so that was a long time ago and I barely remember it.

But then H informed us that Universal Studios Japan is in Osaka (I honestly didn't know that), and that the park was already in the midst of its Halloween special and Resident Evil 6 promotion.  That was the deal breaker.  How could I possibly not go to that?!  I mean, I’d been to the Universal Studios in the states before (the one in Florida), and I don't really care for any of the “characters” owned by Universal (compared to the Disney ones, let’s say), but still… this is Halloween and Resident Evil we’re talking about here.  It had to be good.

So I’m gonna skip the traveling to Osaka stuff for now and put that in the next post.  The next update on this blog will be about things like Osaka Castle and food and travel stories and touristy Osaka things.  For now, let’s just talk about Universal Studios.

So we arrived pretty early at the park.  Universal Studios closes at 9 PM, and we wanted the full day’s worth, so we arrived around 10:30 AM and got started.  Outside Universal Studios is an area you don’t have to pay to enter called Universal City.  It’s a food and shopping area open to anyone.  Let’s start there!  Warning: I have about a million pictures (and even some videos!), so get ready!

So here's the entrance to Universal City, and you can see already that everything's decked out for Halloween.  This is only the first sign of what's to come.


The "city" itself.
This is an extraordinarily unflattering picture of me, but I don't care.  I was very happy to see a giant jack-o'-lantern, and I needed to show my love.


Throughout the city were tons of shops, and there were so many nerd stores I barely made it through without exploding!  I mean look at the size of this Batman and shit, holy crap!


We also decided to have an early lunch.  Osaka's famous for many different foods, including takoyaki.  For those of you who aren't familiar with takoyaki, it's like an octopus fritter (often referred to an "octopus ball," which just sounds dirty).  It's fried batter with a piece of octopus tentacle inside.  Then the whole thing is covered in a Worcestershire-like sauce and mayonnaise, as well as seaweed seasoning and fish flakes.  It's a really popular snack food in Japan, and Osaka supposedly has some of the best.  Here's some of the cooks making takoyaki.  One of them was festively wearing cat ears (bottom right, and it's a guy, by the way):


There was also a Spider-Man trash can.

Eat my trash, Peter Parker!  Eat it!
To be honest, neither MelJay nor I are huge fans of takoyaki.  It's not that I don't like octopus, because I totally fucking do, it's just that I don't like the sauces and mayo they put on it, and I'm not a fan of the dough's consistency.  But we decided to get some takoyaki anyways - since we were in Osaka - and we decided to experiment and get something unusual.  This is cheese-mochi takoyaki.  It's the same as normal takoyaki, but it has soft cheese on the inside, surrounding the octopus.  It was actually pretty good!


The food court area:

Get out of my shot, MelJay!
And the shops...

The nerdgasm I had, oh god!  You don't know how close I came to buying those Iron Man pajamas
Okay, let's get to Universal Studios!  Yaaaaay!  Here's the entrance:


It costs about 6500 yen to enter (somewhere around 70-75 U.S. dollars), which I think is pretty reasonable considering how much freaking stuff there was to do, and the fact that we spent all day doing it.  Here's the big, rotating Universal Studios logo:


Entering the park was like entering a real-life Halloween Town.  But that'll become more apparent as we go on.  But I should mention that the entire park was flooded with Halloween music.  So no matter where you went, they were blasting things like Thriller, or The Addams Family song, and even a song by Aqua, because why the fuck not, I guess.

Also, we passed some promotional posters that said something about a zombie walk happening at night.  What might that mean.....?

Here's some pictures of our Halloween town:


Near the entrance, Shrek and Fiona were posing for pictures:


Now it should be really obvious how serious USJ was about Halloween.  I mean, look at dat candy shop.  And all the sweets inside were Halloween-themed too.


It wasn't uncommon to see people in costumes for no particular reason.
USJ is supposed to look like Hollywood, so they import palm trees and everything.

A wild Cookie Monster appears!


And The Count!



This was an R&B performance group, and their main vocalist sounded just like Usher.

 
Let's make our first ride stop!

Universal Studios Japan has various sections dedicated to each of its famous movies or characters, and each section has a ride.  So the Jurassic Park section has a ride, and the Jaws section has a ride, etc. etc.  Linking it all together is the park's only roller-coaster, called the Hollywood Dream, or something like that.  Here's a crappy picture I took of a small section of the coaster:



See that big-ass drop?
The roller-coaster snakes through a fair bit of the park, and it's a pretty decently-sized ride with some pretty big drops and some 45 degree angle curves.  Not something you'd take a young child on, and not something a person with a fear of roller-coasters could deal with.  And then there's me.  I have a bit of an unusual problem with certain roller-coasters.  I'm not afraid of roller-coasters at all, to tell you the truth.  I love Six Flags as much as the next person.  However, for some reason, really steep drops on roller-coasters give me extreme motion sickness that doesn't pass for at least twenty minutes after the ride's over.  So I frequently ride roller-coasters that involve upside-down loops or twists or whatever, but I haven't attempted a drop in years because I'm afraid of the sickness.  But I just hate being that person who sits out over something stupid like a roller-coaster.  I hate being that person who ditches their friends in line.   So I finally relented and decided to give this ride a try, despite several drops that would probably make me lose my takoyaki in my lap.

The wait was about an hour, which isn't so bad considering it was a Saturday at USJ.  The people in line were a lot nicer and more patient than Americans waiting in line for a roller-coaster.  This was actually a pleasant and even amusing experience, as opposed to the torture you go through in the states.  The best part is, the closer you get to the front of the line, the better your view is of the people on the ride above you as they inch towards the first tunnel.  The tunnel leads into a vertical ascent, which preps the ride for its biggest drop.  For some reason, as the cars approach the tunnel, it's a ritual that the people in the cars wave excitedly down at the line, and the line waves back.  I have no idea why, but it was hilarious, so we did it too.  Plus, the people on the ride were pretty funny.  There was always at least one guy with a look of pure, pants-shitting terror on his face, or a group of high schoolers lifting their arms and kicking the seats in an attempt to look tough.  One group had a couple guys hip-hop dancing in their seats for some reason.  After the first drop (and the screams of mortal terror), the ride would pass over the line's heads again, and you could watch the previously laughing people deeply regretting their decision to ride.  This one guy had his hands out in a Shakespearean "DEAR GOD WHY?!" gesture.  That guy was my hero.

Eventually, we made it to the front of the line, and I realized why those guys in that one car were dancing.  The ride has an option where you can press a button to select a song that plays from the speakers of your seat.  There were five options: two rock songs, a hip-hop song, and two J-Pop songs.  The J-Pop songs included stuff like AKB48 and L'arc en Ciel, and the rock songs included things like Mick Jagger.  Meh, not roller-coaster material.  But the hip-hop song was freakin' Lose Yourself by Eminem.  Aaaaaaw yeeeeeaaaah.  Finally, a chance to throw up in my lap during a song about throwing up.  I was gonna "Lose Yourself" all over the line below us.  So while our car inched towards the tunnel over the crowd, my friends and I headbanged, sang, hip-hop danced in our seats, and generally looked like asses while everyone below us waved.  You just gotta lose yourself in the music, the moment, am I right?!  The people below us were laughing at our dancing.  Then we began the slow ascent through the Tunnel of Hell to begin our first drop.

But how would I combat the motion sickness?  I had a plan.  While riding a roller-coaster a few years ago, I discovered that screaming words instead of simply screaming makes my stomach less unhappy.  And if you have to scream words, you might as well scream something funny, right?  When I discovered the technique a few years ago, I wound up screaming, "FANCY MOSES!!!" as we dropped.  This confused the hell out of my friends and was also hilarious.  But "fancy Moses" was old news now, so what should I scream instead?  While waiting in line, we all agreed on a word.  As we made our way over the first hill and began to drop, I took in all the air I could and, as loud as humanly possible, screamed, "SHAWARMAAAAAAAA!!!"  I then proceeded to scream or even yodel "shawarma!" on every single drop.  At least ten times.

In other words, not a single fuck was given that day.  H later said my shawarma-screaming was the best part of the weekend.  The best part for me?  No motion sickness whatsoever.  I hopped out of the car ready to do it all over again.  I mean, this opportunity only comes once in a life time, right?  Okay, I'll stop.

There's so much more to the park than the Hollywood Dream coaster, though, so let's move on!  The next area we went to was the Terminator area.  We didn't know what kind of "ride" they would have in the Terminator section.  Oddly enough, The Terminator was one of the only things I remembered about Universal Studios in Florida.  I remembered being a very small child and being totally wow-ed by the in-your-face 3D movie they played (far more 3D than the 3D movies they play in theaters these days, even), and I remembered the theater seats moved a little as well.  But that was probably over ten years ago, and in a different country.  I didn't know what Japan had in mind for The Terminator, or what to expect from an attraction that's had a decade of technological updates.

Luckily, because it was lunch time and a lot of people were busy eating, the sign outside The Terminator attraction said the wait was only twenty minutes.  Frankly, that sounded too good to be true, but we joined the line anyways.  After about fifteen minutes, I was rather annoyed by how much of a lie that was.  The line hadn't moved a single inch.  Twenty minutes my ass.  Also, outside, some kind of Halloween parade was going by.  I didn't get a really good look at it... but there were clowns.  And I think Hello Kitty was involved.  I had a feeling there'd be a lot of parades like that before the day was over.

Anyways, The Terminator section wanted to keep us occupied despite the wait, so the line took place in the midst of a fake promotion for Skynet and their various society-enhancing technologies.  It was meant to be very retro-campy, and it really was.  All the TV monitors around the line showed old-school computer screens from the '80's and '90's, with the pixel mouse cursor, blocky fonts, and boxy windows.  As someone who vaguely remembers those kinds of computers from my early childhood, I found it very cute.  And the low-res videos they played were also campy in that they were reminiscent of the old "look what technology can do you for you" kinds of videos you'd see in old sci-fi movies.  We were also surrounded by '70's-era B-movie sci-fi posters, all of which were vaguely unsettling.  I remember one that said something like, "Do You Know Where Your Children Are...?" with a drawing of a little girl standing in front of an ominous portal in the wall.

Anyways, about twenty minutes into the line, they suddenly let everyone in.  I mean, literally everyone.  So that's what they meant by a 20 minute wait.  I was kinda surprised they just let the whole line inside, and now I was really unsure what to expect from this attraction.  A couple hundred of us were herded into a large, circular room with more TV monitors.  The crowd bristled for several minutes in the dark room until a spotlight came down on a balcony in front of us.  It revealed a woman in a very nice red dress-suit, with her hair in an immaculate bun, wearing perfect business make-up.  She greeted us in the cheesiest, most ass-kissing-est Japanese imaginable, and began to cheerfully introduce Skynet and all its wonders using the most intense Japanese honorifics I've ever heard.  I don't think even top businessmen speak like that anymore.  Anyways, it became clear pretty quickly that the woman's on-her-knees politeness was insincere and meant to be a joke.  She began asking people in the crowd where they graciously came from, saying she wanted to find the group who traveled from the farthest location possible.  My friends and I looked at each other like, "uh oh."  I mean, even if you disregard being from the U.S., just the fact that H and I came from Gunma and MelJay came from Chiba might make us some of the farthest travelers in the crowd.  Finally, someone raised their hand and said they came from Kyoto, a city right near Osaka.  The woman in the red suit made comments like, "Oh, Kyoto!  How wonderful!  Thank you so much for gracing us with your presence!  Did you ride your bike here?"  See what I mean?  Very insincere, but also really, really funny.  Unfortunately, this group of total asshole teenage boys next to us kept whispering about how they were gonna sacrifice the foreigners to the woman in red.  I did my best to glare at them, but they just grinned back and plotted raising their hands for us.  Fucking assholes.  One of them actually did raise his hand, but his suddenly-embarrassed friend pulled it down and was like, "no, don't do it!"  I was ready to roll with it if they did it, though.  I'm not that easy to troll, boys.  Luckily, the woman in red - despite the growing obviousness that she was a villain - didn't seem interested in picking on the foreigners.  Eventually, she settled on a group from Saitama as the farthest travelers, and gushed over how far they'd traveled to see the wonders of Skynet. 

Anyways, about ten minutes into the promotional videos and speeches about Skynet, one of the videos was suddenly "hijacked" by a woman (dubbed in Japanese, of course) and a boy in a bandana, who I believe was John Connor (fuck if I know, I haven't seen the movie in years).  They told us they were taking over the video, and switched the screens to grainy, apocalyptic footage.  They showed us the devastation caused by Skynet (which should be familiar to anyone who's seen the Terminator movies).  The woman in red was freaking out and making furious phone calls to someone.  Eventually, her people regained control of the videos, and the woman in red apologized profusely for that "silly joke."  Wanting to make it up to us, our crowd was ushered into another room to see the wonders of Skynet for ourselves.

This other room was like a large movie theater, and we were handed 3D glasses ("protective goggles," they were called) on the way in and told to put them on right away.  Ah, so this was going to be like the attraction I saw in Florida as a child.  My friends and I got lucky and got seats in the front row of the second section.  The woman in red was on stage, bitching at someone on the phone.  Eventually, she started screaming at them and slammed the phone down in a huff (it was a curly-corded phone, adding to the retro feel of the whole thing).  Then the woman noticed the crowd, laughed robotically, and apologized.  Then she said it was time to demonstrate Skynet's latest weapon: The Terminator!  I expected this to be the moment when the movie started, but it wasn't.  Instead, holes opened up in the floors on the sides of the stage (to the right and left of the audience), and eight actual Terminators rose up from the floor.  Like, perfect, metal replicas of the ones from the films.  Holy balls, that's awesome.  So I thought they were just cool, life-sized figurines that would just stand there, but on the woman's command, they started moving their arms and heads around with glowing eyes.  Sweeeeeeeet.  The woman in red wanted to show off the machines' abilities, so they brought down targets from the ceiling and had the Terminators start blasting them.  Obviously, no bullets were actually fired, but holes shot out of the targets anyways, and there was a lot of smoke.  Man, this kinda shit didn't happen at Universal Studios when I was a kid!  The future is awesome!

But after the demonstration was over, everything suddenly went crazy.  The woman and the boy in the bandana burst through a side door with guns and started hijacking the theater.  The whole thing turned into a crazy onstage performance, with gun-shooting and the woman in red screaming and running.  A dude actually busted on stage riding a fucking motorcycle and drove that thing around the stage and up some ramps, aiming a large machine-gun.  I realized that was our Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Pretty sure the actor really was a foreigner, and really did look like Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Anyways, the screens surrounding the audience turned on a 3D movie background while our Arnold grabbed onto the young boy and threw him onto the back of his bike.  Then they drove up a ramp and into the movie screen where they... they... appeared in the movie... like... they drove from the stage into the 3D film... which is... how...

What...?  How...?

I still can't figure out that stunt.  All I can assume is that they somehow had an opening in the screen that the motorcycle could slip through that was synced with exactly where the motorcycle first appears in the film.  I don't fucking know.  Mind blown.  I turn into a goddamn ten year old in these situations, so I was all like, "duuuuuuuude!"

So now we were surrounded on all sides by the 3D movie world, where the actual Arnold Schwarzenegger (dubbed hilariously in Japanese) and the actual John Connor rode around shooting robots and fighting shit.  It was awesome, and the dialogue was hilarious, even in Japanese.  Arnold shot a robot at one point and made some comment, so Connor was like, "did you know him?"  Then Arnold said, "we went to college together."  Hah.  Also, the 3D technology was crazy, and the bullets and broken pieces of stuff looked like they were flying right into our faces.  There was even a part where this silver monster-thing with an elongated neck pulled its head right out into the crowd, inches from our faces, and several people in the audience leaned back in fear.  I remembered that exact same 3D monster from ten years ago, and I recognized a lot of the footage from back then too (obviously, the footage was old, since Arnold was still young and in body-builder shape).  I think Universal Studios kept a lot of the old video intact, which is pretty cool.  But holy balls did they update the film.  Somehow, the characters in the movie would frequently run out of the screen onto the stage and continue the action in person, or even run around the crowd.  I still can't for the life of me figure out how the stunt is done.  There was a part where the screens around us opened up into a huge, futuristic, factory-like setting.  Then Arnold and Connor ran up the ramp, into the screen, up some steps, and got smaller and smaller as they went upwards.  HOW THE FUCK DID THEY DO IT?!!  Some of the effects included the audience, too.  There was a part where the screen around us made it seem like we were all in a giant elevator, and our seats actually rose up to simulate the feeling of the elevator moving down around us.  They also sprayed us with cold water when this ice thing shattered.  The whole thing culminated in a giant video-game-style boss fight with a big monster (that wasn't there ten years ago), and the monster prowled around all sides of the stage, lashing out at the crowd with its 3D appendages.  Eventually, our dubbed heroes defeated the monster, and they even kept in Arnold saying, "hasta la vista, baby."  Hah.

The whole thing ended with the lady in the red suit regaining control of the situation and trying to tell us it was all a silly simulation or something.  She laughed a lot, although she looked near tears.  Then we were all free to leave the theater, and the attraction was over.  But that shit was awesome.  It lasted about thirty minutes, and it was totally sweet.  Plus, outside, they had a model Terminator for us to look at.  I took a picture:

"Hasta la vista, baby," Arnold said to his abs.
After that totally awesome Terminator experience, it was time for a late lunch (it was already almost 3:00 by that point).  There were a lot of restaurants, but the lines were still pretty intense.  Eventually, we found a large pizzeria claiming to sell real, American pizza.  We were curious, and there wasn't much of a line, so we went there.  It really was like an American pizzeria, with wooden booths and American pizza ingredients.  I nearly exploded with excitement to discover they had real pepperoni.  In fact, they had an option where you could add a drink and an Italian salad, and the salad used real black olives!  That shit's rare in Japan!  They also had a Halloween pizza with mushrooms and pumpkin on top, with sauce in the shape of a spider web and ghost crackers.  I think H got that one, but I had to have pepperoni.  It was glorious:

In the states, people think this is crap.  But if you spend enough time in Japan, you become desperate for it.
After lunch, we explored the park for more stuff to do.  There was a weird Spider-Man display down one alley:

Do you think any ballsy girl has ever done the pose where Mary-Jane makes out with Spider-Man while he's upside-down?  I don't like Spider-Man, but I would totally do that for a laugh.
So what should our next ride be?  How about we go........ Back to the Future!  Dun dun duuuuun!

I'll let you in on a little secret: I've never actually seen Back to the Future, or any of its sequels.  Crazy, right?  It's such a famous film, especially in the U.S.  But I think it might've been a little before my time.  It was more of an '80's kid's movie, and I only grew up on '90's kid's films.  I guess I just missed out on Back to the Future, and never got around to it when I was older.  But because the movie's been referenced in other films and comedies for such a long time, and because people still make jokes about it on the internet, I know enough about it to appreciate a Back to the Future attraction.

I also know enough about it to know when I'm looking at a real-life model DeLorean from the film:

Cooooooooool!
Also, my apologies, I didn't snap a photo of the building until after it got dark.  But, as you can see, the ride takes place in a fake Institute of Future Technology:


So how about the ride itself?  Well, the line for it was pretty damn long, so we figured it was probably a good ride.  How long was the line?  Honestly, we were in line for almost two hours.  I mean, it's not like we had any significant plans other than rides, so it didn't matter, but damn that was a long wait.  The outdoor area where we were lined up had lots of TV monitors playing footage of that crazy old scientist guy from the movie raving about shit.  Of course it was all dubbed in Japanese, which somehow struck me as far stranger than dubbed Schwarzenegger was.  It just... didn't feel right for some reason.  My friends and I were bored, so we played some word games, although my friends quickly learned that playing word games with me is a fucking deathtrap from which there is no escape, and little chance of winning.  This shouldn't be all that surprising, though, given how much time I spend writing.  But seriously, if you ever want to humiliate someone to death, make them play Scrabble with me.

Finally, finally we made it onto the ride.  We were sectioned off into a group with a Japanese family and sent into a small room where another video played of the professor guy raving at us in Japanese.  He was basically saying we were gonna travel through the history of the universe.  Oh really?  Then the room opened up to reveal a fake DeLorean in front of us with its door open wide.  Aaaaaaaw yeeeeeeah.  We were gonna ride in a fuckin' time-travelin' DeLorean.  We got some 3D glasses, left behind our bags, and the Japanese family got into the front of the car while my friends and I got into the back.  Then a staff lady pulled a bar down over our laps, so I knew this was gonna be a moving ride of some sort.  Oh, I just want to give a shout-out to the awesome USJ staff.  They were so nice about the foreigner thing.  They always gave the instructions to all of us in Japanese, then quietly asked us off to the side if Japanese was okay, after the instructions were over.  They didn't assume we spoke English or Japanese, didn't embarrass us in front of anyone, and were very polite about the situation.  I think that's the best way to handle it.  Anyways, our car lifted upwards as a massive screen opened up before us.  Massive as in you couldn't see anything other than the screen if you looked straight ahead.  And, sure enough, we opened up into some kind of outer space world.  The way the car moved, it really did feel like we were moving forward, even though I suspected the car was stationary (although I honestly wasn't sure, because the effect was that good).  The whole car would tip forward or to the sides pretty violently, simulating a flying car with perfect, vomit-enducing precision.  A screen in the car's dashboard had the professor frantically narrating, but I wasn't really paying much attention to him.

And, sure enough, we took a journey through the beginnings of the universe.  We flew through asteroid belts, exploding volcanoes, and very angry dinosaurs.  The DeLorean shook us around with such force that I think it could've easily ejected one of us if we didn't have the bar holding us down.  I found myself clutching onto the bar for dear life, and I had a bruise on my left arm from having it hit the wall so hard so many times.  The family in front of us was being all like, "whoooa!  Waaaaah!" about everything.  I, on the other hand, couldn't stop laughing hysterically.  And me laughing was making H laugh.  I practically had tears running down my cheeks from laughter.  It was just so ridiculous.  We were being tossed around like cows in a tornado while our virtual car dodged a T-Rex's jaws and huge lava bursts (the T-Rex actually did eat us at one point, but we got spat back out).  It was pretty exhilarating, but also totally hilarious to me.  Even when the ride finally ended, I was still laughing hysterically, so then the Japanese family started laughing.  Sorry, guys, I just don't even...  It was really fun, though.  I would totally do it again.  The special effects were adorably '80's, but still 3D enough that it really felt like we were riding around in a crazy DeLorean.  I honestly wondered at times if our car was actually moving on a track, or if just made us feel like we were.  Plus the whole thing was funny as shit.  MelJay didn't find it so funny, however.  The ride just made her sick. The tables have turned! 

Outside the ride, it was starting to get dark on our false American town:


It was almost 6:00, and we still had several rides we were interested in.  We didn't want to go on the Jaws ride, because we would inevitably get wet (and it was too cool outside to be interested in getting wet), but we still wanted to ride the Spider-Man ride and the Jurassic Park ride.  When we went by the Spider-Man ride, however, the sign said the wait was over two hours.  Uuuuuuh, no.  Then we wouldn't have time for a single other thing (the park closes at 9:00).  We'll come back to Spider-Man later.  Instead, we wandered around, trying to decide what to do next.  Remember those posters that said something about a zombie walk at 6:00?  We were still wondering what that was all about.  It was starting to drizzle, and getting darker every moment.  Then, suddenly, there were staff people flooding the park, shouting at everyone to head towards the Jurassic Park zone.

But... but why?

I felt very confused.  Was there another parade going on?  Did this have something to do with the zombies?  But that wasn't for another fifteen minutes at least.  Part of me grew very concerned that some weather report about the rain was making them kick us out of the park early.  In fact, the Hollywood Dream roller-coaster was no longer running, from what I could tell.  But we still had three hours!  They couldn't kick us out over a little rain!  Feeling apprehensive, we followed the mass exodus of people in the direction of Jurassic Park.  It was dark as hell and super creepy by the time we got there:

This is the Gateway to Hades, puny mortal.
The creepiness factor wasn't improved by the decorations, either.  Apparently, some small dinosaurs had overturned a jeep in the darkness and feasted:


Nature's way of saying "fuck you."
They had an authentic Jurassic Park truck from the movie on display, which was pretty cool:


This is where the ride splashes down.  Yeah, splashes.  Fuck that.  No Jurassic Park ride for us.  Some time when it's warmer.  It looks pretty cool, though:


It was around the time we were admiring the waterfall that we started to notice some strange changes.  Some very strange changes.  Remember how I mentioned earlier that the park was constantly playing fun Halloween music, like the Nightmare Before Christmas soundtrack, or Thriller, or music from Betelgeuse?  That... had subtly stopped without us noticing.  Now the music had taken on a soft, ominous, creeping sound, like the music they play in a horror movie when something's sneaking up on you.  Uh... what's goin' on, guys?  We also noticed some food stands taking down their signs and putting up new ones.  What the hell...?

Then the screaming started.  I had no idea where it was coming from, but realized it was coming from the Jurassic Park entrance.  Many people were investigating, so we did too.  What did we find?

ZOMBIES, Y'ALL!


Those girls on the left are like, "AW HELL NAW."
Men and women dressed as zombies were flooding the park, lurching around and stumbling through the crowds.  That alone might make some girls scream, but that wasn't what was causing all the commotion.  These zombies, you see, were not just random staff members sprayed with fake blood.  These were professional actors who had spent half the day putting on movie-level make-up, and they knew exactly what they were doing.  They were chasing people.  They would stumble around, looking for a good victim, and then suddenly lunge at them, or hiss in their face.  Most of the zombies were wearing knee guards, allowing them to fall to the ground suddenly and slither after people.  So people weren't screaming because there were realistic zombies moaning around the park - they were screaming because the zombies were fuckin' trolling everyone.  I, however, was seriously excited, so I got out my camera and started exploring.  I wanted to see every zombie in the park.

Along the way, we could see some of the altered food signs.  For example, this churros stand (yes, despite this being Japan, USJ has churros, and they're amazing) now had a sign up for Zombie Guts, whatever that is:

The sign seems to imply that zombie guts are cream cheese pretzels.
And everywhere we went...... zombies.......


WATCH OUT, H!  YOUR CHURRO ISN'T SAFE!
Chuuuuuurrrrooooooos........

"Haha, I'll just take a picture of this - OH GOD."
As we continued to follow the zombies, we passed the Jaws zone of the park, where this lovely creature was hanging from a hook:

I swear I didn't mean for it to look like Jaws was eating that girl's head.
Yikes.  I mean, that thing's probably creepy during the day, but it's a pure terror at night.

Ooh, there were pirate zombies over here...

Pirate zombies near the Jaws zone.  Noticing a trend?
I nicknamed this zombie Napoleon.
Jack Sparrow's metal-head brother...?
Following the zombies took us into new areas of the park we hadn't yet explored, including an old-fashioned theater doing Halloween shows:


And an old-fashioned drive-in restaurant.


Near the drive-in were more food stands that changed their signs for "zombie night."  This doughnut shop was now selling Zombie Hearts:


We were curious, so H and I bought one to share.  Turned out it was a spicy curry bun.  The bread was black, and the curry inside was bright red, and pretty spicy for Japanese curry.  I approve of zombie hearts.  As we moved through the park, we began to encounter more amusing things.

Like this sign:


 Aaaaaw, isn't that cute how they have a ZOMBIE XING sign?  So cute.  It's not like there's really anything to be concerned...concerned...

About...


OH SHIT, YO.

Holy fucking balls, Universal Studios Japan put up a Raccoon City in the park.  For those of you who aren't familiar with Raccoon City, it's an evil, zombie-infested city from the Resident Evil video games (called "Biohazard" in Japan).  So you know how Silent Hill is an iconic, haunted video game town?  Raccoon City is sorta like the Resident Evil version of that.  And USJ brought Raccoon City to life for us!  How did they do it?  Well, USJ was very clever.  I realized, as we approached it, that we were returning to the area the staff drove everyone away from before.  Meaning they herded everyone towards Jurassic Park so they'd have time to set up Raccoon City without anyone seeing.  But it's not like you can just tear down a section of USJ and prop up Raccoon City, right?  Well, as we were approaching, I pointed at a clock-tower building that had been in the park all day and said, "doesn't that building look weird?"  MelJay was like, "yeah, it does..."  All I could think was, "what the hell is different about that building?!"  As we got closer, everything started to look weird, and we figured it out: Raccoon City was projected onto the USJ buildings using lights!  Check it out:



 

Isn't that fucking cool?!  In order to give Raccoon City a true survival-horror video-game feel, everything was created through moving projections.  So projected leaves blew across the buildings, shapes moved in the windows, eerie lights lit up the door-frames...  Plus the whole thing was in a semi-closed square, with creepy music playing... and also...


Not just zombies, but also monsters were stomping around Raccoon City, terrorizing people and making them scream.  At that point, I realized taking photos was futile.  I needed to do better than that, so I took some videos.

Granted, these videos aren't super good (and my idiotic commentary can be heard over most of it), but they should get the atmosphere across fairly well.  Plus, between the shaky-cam and the shitty lighting, it kinda looks like an independent horror film.  This first video is kinda interesting.  I was just filming the cool look of Raccoon City and catching a couple zombies along the way when a female zombie hunter came stomping by.  I didn't even know those were on the loose.  She got into a fight with a zombie and shot it to death, although I didn't manage to capture that so well.  Still, this is a good atmosphere video, and the zombie hunter walks right by the camera:


Sorry about the silly ending.  We're not good at keeping up the mood.  Also, once the zombie hunter was gone, the zombie got up again and continued to terrorize the area.  You gotta shoot it in the head, zombie hunter lady!

This next video's kinda fun.  It's one of my better vids, to be honest.  You can clearly see several zombies pass right in front of my camera while I'm filming, and one of them hisses at me.  Towards the end, it's kinda confusing, but here's what happened: I was standing by a bus shelter when a zombie came right up beside me.  That's when I say, "there's one right here."  Then there's a thud.  A female zombie snuck up behind me as I was filming the male zombie, and she slammed her body against the shelter.  Luckily, I turned around fast enough to catch her glaring at me on film.  Overall, this video's kinda sweet:


After that minor zombie attack, we continued to explore Raccoon City.  It was in the middle of the square, where the Universal Studios globe was.  There was a huge stage set up around it, where the "city" was showing off its monsters.  They had professional monster actors there to play the role of various creatures straight from the games.  You can see one of the large, nasty-looking monsters on the stage here (towards the right):


I also caught a shitty video of another monster and a zombie dog.  Yes, they actually had someone playing a live zombie dog.  This video's pretty dark and it's almost impossible to see anything, but the zombie dog gets illuminated pretty well for a second, so just watch it for him.  That thing was pretty damn cool:



At the end there, when I mention the "big guy" left the stage?  Yeah, the monster guy went running into the crowd.  Yikes.  

Continued exploration of Raccoon City turned up all kinds of fun things:


Damn Asian drivers!  Hah, kidding!!!
As we moved away from Raccoon City, I got a nice far-away shot:


BRIEF ZOMBIE BREAK TIME.

We'll come back to the zombies in a moment, so don't stop reading, but first, let's take a pit-stop!  We still really wanted to go on the Spider-Man ride, but the line was really bad, remember?  Well, the Spider-Man zone was right next to Raccoon City, and we had a theory that the zombies were distracting people from the ride.  When we went over there, sure enough, the sign said there was only a forty minute wait!  Oh fuck yeah!  Let's do the mother-fuckin' Spider-Man ride!

Luckily, I snapped some pictures of the Spider-Man building before darkness fell, so here's a bit of a time-warp for ya:


Once inside the building, we were treated to a really interesting line display: the interior of the building was made to look like The Daily Bugle offices:

Complete with old-fashioned computer monitors, corded phones, and vintage pin-up calendars!  How cute!
Deceased.......?
I thought the display was really cool.  I kinda wish I'd gotten more pictures of it, to be honest.  There were several cubicles, filing cabinet areas, and tons of hilarious "motivational" posters on the walls of the Daily Bugle's boss saying things like, "Take a moment to appreciate the little things in life.  Like the fact that I hired you."  There were also tons of Daily Bugle newspaper pages up on the walls reporting on various villains - all of them written in that corny, old-fashioned newspaper format (like "Hydro-Man Blasts City - Spider-Man All Wet" or something like that.  I dunno, I just made that headline up, but you get the idea).  There was even a small Spider-Man museum of Spider-Man paraphernalia and props from the movie.  Like, I love the spandex pants off of Marvel, but Spider-Man's always been one of my least favorite of their heroes (and you, Fantastic Four.  You're lame).  Nonetheless, I thought this was all pretty damn cool, and I was pretty excited to get on the ride by the time we got to the front of the line.

So how was the actual ride?  Well, we were all sectioned off into small groups and placed in a small, blue car.  Then we had a bar pulled down over our laps, meaning it was gonna be another shaky ride.  I thought we were gonna be in for another Back to the Future-type experience because they gave us 3D glasses again, but the cars moved along a small track into another part of the building.  So... this was gonna be a small roller-coaster that for some reason requires 3D glasses...?

The answer is "sort of yes."  The result was totally awesome.  Basically, the Spider-Man ride is a virtual romp through the city, following Spider-Man as he battles several crazy villains.  The ride does move on a track, but it's not a full roller-coaster.  The track is surrounded on all sides by 3D movie screens and an animated city, and the car moves and shakes around to simulate flying and swinging around and stuff, but it really does move on a roller-coaster track, so there are real tunnels and landscapes and physical dangers going on while you move through the 3D world.  So the ride is a 3D video moving through an actual set.  It's impossible to describe, and totally exhilarating.  Like, we were shrieking as we whipped through skyscrapers and dodged attacks from the likes of Venom, Green Goblin, and Doctor Octopus.  We were shaken around, thrown this way and that, and plunged through the 3D world as if it was a real, full-blown roller-coaster, all with Spider-Man swinging along beside us.  But the ride seriously went all out.  As we flew through real prop buildings and tipped forward through 3D skyscraper drops, we would get sprayed with water whenever there was a water attack, or blasted with steam when things exploded.  At one point, Doc-Ock used a flamethrower on us, and real flames actually exploded at us as we veered suddenly on the track.  Several people in the car screamed, and I was just like, "DUDE, SWEET!"  For me, the best part was the fact that Doc-Ock got the most screen time of all the villains.  Although I never much cared for Spider-Man or his villains, I've always loved Doc-Ock, and he was my favorite Spider-Man action figure to smash things with as a child (when I wasn't throwing Nightcrawler from X-Men at my friends and calling it "teleportation").  There's just something kinda awesome about a middle-aged man suddenly getting fucking robot tentacle arms to murder those darn kids with.  Makes me wish I had me some robot tentacle arms.  Oh, you want to cut in front of me at a concert?!  Well, we'll just see what my robot claws have to say about that!  Anyways, the ride was absolutely awesome, and one of the best parts of our day at USJ.  At the end, our animated Spider-Man managed to tie up all the villains in spiderweb and gave us a big, happy, upside-down thumb's up.  Then he snapped our picture with a cheerful, "cheese!"

Turned out the jackass really did snap our picture, which was revealed as we were leaving the ride.  Hah, we look like such jackasses:

You could buy this newspaper for 1600 yen at you left.  Bitch, you serious?!  I could buy several cakes with that much money.  I just snapped this picture of the newspaper instead.
Supremely satisfied with our ability to do the Spider-Man ride before the park closed, and totally pleased with how fucking awesome it was, we went back out into Zombieland to continue frolicking with the undead.  The zombies were wandering all over the park, not just Raccoon City, so we made sure to track them all down.  Here's one of the many zombie nurses walking around:



She liked to stumble drunkenly at people when they least expected it.  In fact, I have some fun video footage that includes her in it.  This is one of my best videos of the night.  Several nurses can be seen, a zombie with a zipper-face comes right near the camera, and I manage to capture this one zombie suddenly charging a crowd of people at the end.  Also, the thing MelJay's yelping about at the beginning of the video is the fact that the zombie (I believe it's the same one who charges the crowd) somehow managed to have this weird seizure that made his shoulders lift up above his head.  It was freaky as hell, but I missed getting it on film.  Still, I got some good shit in this one:



Unfortunately, my camera missed the best part at the end there, due to the damn thing running out of video space.  That's why the video cuts off so suddenly (as that one guy's running away in terror).  After the zombie charged the crowd, he fell to his knees and had this insane seizure, then scampered on all fours like an animal after some girls.  I had it on film, but my camera cut it off due to a lack of space.  SO LAME!  But at least I caught the zombie charging the crowd.  He was one of the most unpredictable zombies of the night, because he would do absolutely nothing for several minutes at a time, and then suddenly he'd break Hell on the crowd.

Oh, and my comment about how "dads just do that" was me referring to this jerk who pushed his terrified little child right out in front of the zombie.  The kid nearly shit herself.  Sigh.  Typical father.  Some things are the same no matter what country you go to.

Over by the dock, there was all kinds of fucked-up shit going on.  This next zombie was not really a stumbling zombie - he was a full-tilt running zombie.  MelJay wound up completely terrified of him, and with good reason.  He would flat-out chase people, lashing out at them with his hands, and he had some kind of rattle in his sleeves, so he would makes this horrible bone-clattering noise every time he gave chase.  This guy was not to be trifled with, and was responsible for the most screaming of any zombie that night:


And here's where shit truly gets fucked up.  A zombie mother with her zombie baby.........
 

And that baby (played by a little person with a good sense of humor) did not like to be gaped at for too long.  He would literally lunge out of the carriage snarling at people:


Then there's this guy, who was carrying around a severed head.  He also had a tendency to chase people, and was another zombie we avoided:


Of course, I managed to catch some of that stuff on film!  So here are some of our by-the-dock zombies:



As you can see, that one zombie moves awfully fast.  And if you watch carefully, you can see him full-blown running at somebody.  We avoided him like the plague.  That guy was a scary fucker.

Also, I met a funny zombie by the docks.  He looked like a foreigner (there were actually several Caucasian zombies wandering around the park) and he saw my camera and started creeping closer.  I just grinned up at him and took a picture when, to my surprise, the zombie said, "where you from?" in English.  I laughed and told him I was from the U.S.  Then he said, "cool, me too" and stumbled away.  Hahaha, awesome.

Also, remember that thing I mentioned about how there were pirate zombies over by the Jaws zone?  There were also scuba-diving zombies.  Somehow, I failed to realize what that meant until later, when we decided to check out the zombies walking down the main restaurant street.  Notice anything strange?








The zombies are the restaurant staff!  There were chef zombies, waitress zombies, etc.  That's when I realized the whole park was set up like that!  Each zone had its own zombies to go with that area, making it seem like the workers themselves had been contaminated!  Over by the fire station, we encountered this fire-fighter zombie:


OH GOD, I'M SORRY.  BACKING UP NOW.
The Chinese restaurant had its own zombies as well:




There were also very human-like zombies that were difficult to spot.  This one looked like a normal little girl from behind, but from the front...


Sometimes she had crazy-fits and whipped her hair around in a figure-eight:


See the cute little girl wearing a high school uniform and a backpack?  Trust me, you don't wanna know what she looked like from the front.  Most people didn't notice her until she whipped around at them, growling.


Now that we realized each area had its own zombies, we returned to Jurassic Park to see what their zombies were like.  Most of them looked like lost park victims, or contaminated rangers.








This one was some kinda contortionist and kept twisting into ridiculously creepy positions:


We literally spent hours following the zombies around, trying to see all the different kinds (there were well over a hundred zombies in the park.  At least a hundred and fifty).  I wish more of my pictures had come out alright, because I had at least twice as many as this.  But I constantly had people getting in the shot, or the lighting was bad, or the zombie suddenly ran off.  I had to make do with what I could.  We saw so many zombies, and some of it was so hilarious.  That one running zombie actually stumbled after us for such a long time, he left his zone.  We practically had to sprint away from him.  We saw one zombie scare a girl so badly, she went running down the street while her friends screamed after her.  This whole thing somehow wound up being the most satisfying Halloween experience I've ever had.  I mean, they brought a real horror-game right to the park for us, with a Raccoon City, a zombie outbreak, zombie hunters, monsters - the whole thing!  It was like the world's largest, open-air haunted house.  It was sooooo cool.  I would've spent even more time there, but the park closed at 9:00.  We wrapped up the last few things we wanted to do (like buying popcorn and checking out that huge confectionary store), and then we bid farewell to the zombie scourge and left the park.  It was one of the best days ever.  I mean, we got to do so many awesome things in the span of ten-and-a-half hours.  We got to eat cheesy takoyaki, ride a roller-coaster (while screaming "SHAWARMA"), watch a Japanese Schwarzenegger fight robots, take a ride through the birth of the universe, capture bad guys with Spider-Man, and chase zombies for three hours.  What more could we possibly ask for?  It was so much fun, I feel like nothing will top it again for a long time.  We even toyed around with the idea of going to Tokyo Disneyland during Halloween, but ultimately decided it would be too crowded, and the cuteness would be kind of a letdown after the awesome Halloween we got at USJ.  I don't care if it was three weeks early - USJ is my Halloween experience for the year.  Nothing's gonna top that!  If you ever get the chance to be in Osaka during Halloween season, I can't recommend Universal Studios enough!  It's totally worth the money!  And there are plenty of rides and attractions we didn't get to, and lots of interesting restaurants we didn't try.  Maybe some time I'll come back and do it all over again!

Well, I hope you enjoyed this extremely lengthy update!  I tried to bring the park to you guys through words, pictures, and videos.  Hopefully it worked, and hopefully it was a fun read!

The next update will be about Osaka in general.  It'll include pictures of Osaka-jo, some videos of a yosakoi dance competition, funny trains stories, food, etc.  The update after that will be the BORN/Moran two-man I went to over the weekend.  Stay tuned!