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Thursday, March 21, 2019

Game Shows and Lost Cities at Two Bit Circus

By Jonathan Bilski
Angela our hostess
It still looks like you're entering a circus. As festive as ever when you first enter, Two Bit Circus delights upon entry. Like you've just come into a big top. On this outing to the carnival downtown we checked out Club01's Game Show and The Lost City escape room.

Take you seats and get ready to answer trivia. Almost every night Two Bit Circus has Game Show, its a trivia contest like no other in LA. Though the name might be generic, your experience is akin to being on a game show like you would be on television. There's some tech that helps too, you get to answer in real time with specialized tablets on your table.

Going with the name of the Cantankerous Matthews, you choose your group name from two lists of pre-selected words on screen, my friend Matthew and I played the hour long adventure.

We had the lovely Angela as host. She appears on stage with a big screen in the front of the room. Small tables with four seats each are spread out with two tablets per table. You and your date or you and a friend team up on one tablet. You're in fact seated against another team at the same table. The tablets are raised and fit in a console that lights up for when you do well, do badly or when you're running out of time to answer a question. This is all explained to you by the host before you start playing.

What followed for us on team Cantankerous Matthews was a bitter fight for supremacy on the real time scoreboard against team seating at the same table as us. On the night we played, we had only 6 teams playing, but when the weekend rolls in there's a lot more people free to play and Two Bit's web-site says up to 80-100 people can play in real time.

That night it was us against not as many as 110 people. We still had to fight hard though, tapping the screen as fast as we could. Did I mention that sometimes you have to play games on your tablet to get to go on stage? Yes, you've got to tap drums the fastest or pound stars based on their number in mini-games if you want a chance to get on stage.

Lucky players get to go on stage to choose the categories and get more points, while the rest of the audience pushes the answers out on their tablets per usual. Being on stage is like being on a TV game show. There's buttons in front of you in your stand and it feels like your the center of attention for a minute or two. I got to do it and so did my friend that evening. It's kind of special to get to go up there, our odds were easier with a not so big audience. Try your best to get on stage though, it's worth it to tap away in the mini-games.

Angela, the host for that evening, greets you and gets you in front of everyone. Multiple hosts do different nights, so you might get a different host if you play Game Show more than once. Our Angela, in a floral rose dress, kept us entertained throughout the show with her happy personality and good nature even with a technical hiccup of a question not loading.

Tablet questions aren't just multiple choices out of four. Some are wagers, some are fill-ins, some are you fast-paced sliding left or right and there may even be a round where your team expands and your scores are reflected in a horse race on the big screen. So things don't stay the same all the time. Game play changes up.

Now some of the trivia was just random trivia and a lot of it was nerd trivia like naming the books Game of Thrones HBO show is based on or when certain video game consoles have come out. So, it's not the same some stuff you might get at a bar trivia contest. Though, you can get bar drinks and eats while playing. You actually get a beer or wine with your ticket. Or you can get a soda instead.

Game Show goes by fast and it ended too quickly for me. It lasts an hour and I wanted to play more of it. If you want to spend a night answering trivia like you would on a game show you have to give this a try. I'd like to come back on a busier night to kick even more butts.

Check out all the different games played in Club01 here

Okay, so we attached the cables, but did we put the dynamite in correctly?

It wasn't easy to figure out what was happening in The Lost City. The Lost City is the only real escape room that Two Bit has. I wanted to try it out since I saw a sneak preview inside it months ago. This is one of the coolest looking escape rooms in the LA area you can try to get out of. Past a mine shaft, if you can get past that part, you'll unlock an ancient city area that looks so damn good you'll think you're on a re-creation of Legends of the Hidden Temple.

* Sorry, for lack of pictures inside the Lost City, Two Bit wants it to be a surprise for anyone who makes it in there.

*Now, things did not get off to an easy start as the room wasn't reset(?) and we had to wait 15 minutes before playing at our scheduled time. This made my group a little un-happy at the start. Another problem was the sound didn't work inside, so sound effects and outside help with hints was hindered. We were given a walkie-talkie, if we needed help, which we did.

You start out in a mine shaft and have to figure out a way to blow your way out of there with a series of puzzles. It didn't seem to complicated at first. I'm not sure if by purpose or by accident, but there's some lighting issues that make it hard for you to figure out a color coded puzzle. Maybe my group was just not good at the puzzle, partially it felt like there was a hindrance on us as we had to step into better lighted sections to see what pieces to put in.

After a long time, you only get 45 minutes, we blew are way into the lost city. And my group was impressed with the look of the place. I think we all sort of jumped around and got lost in the multiple puzzles around us. It's a sight to behold and it feels like you have earned your way into after being in a cramped tunnel. They've really made a lost civilization secret area to behold if you can make it in.

The Lost City, in all its wonder, has many puzzles to solve and not much time to figure them out in. You might want to separate into groups to decipher some puzzles inside separately.

Sadly, we did not make it out in time. They said we made it close, just not close enough. And for the most part you do feel like your in you own Indiana Jones adventures when inside The Lost City section. You've just go to be more like Indiana to make it out.

Check out all the different Story Rooms here

Two Bit Circus keeps on changing. I saw new VR equipment, games and arcade machines from the last time I visited. You'll be trying something you haven't before if you give it a look.

Two Bit Circus
634 Mateo St. Los Angeles, CA 9002
(213) 599-31881

Mondays: Closed for Reboot
Tuesday – Thursday: 5pm – 11pm
Friday: 5pm – 1am
Saturday: 1pm – 1am
Sunday: 1pm – 11pm

Butterfly Pavilion Open Now

Though, we kind of got our fill of those colorful creatures over the last couple days you can see a lot more variety at Butterfly Pavilion that's part of the Natural History Museum.

Butterfly Pavilion
Now-Sept 2
Natural History Museum
900 W Exposition Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90007
$18 includes admission to NHM

"The Butterfly Pavilion showcases hundreds of butterflies and the plants that surround them, an interaction that has been refined over the course of millions of years. See up close how butterflies use their tubular mouthparts to obtain nectar and witness caterpillars feed on leaves and go through the process of their transformation into adults. Various butterflies are present at different points during the season and the plants will grow and change. This means that each visit to the Butterfly Pavilion can be a different experience!

"Some butterflies in the exhibit mate and lay eggs, however we regularly fill the pavilion with butterflies from all across the United States.
  • 20 species of California natives such as the queen butterfly, mourning cloak, and buckeye
  • 10 species of subtropical varieties from south Florida and Texas, such as the malachite and the grey cracker."

Anime Expo 2019 Exhibitor List Up

Just a reminder to see what booths will be at AX this year. Check out the full list here. We still gotta wait until July, but it's not like we don't have any other anime conventions in town.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Royce's Arcade May Close

The owner of Royce's Arcade, Royce himself, is saying the city wants to shut down his arcade and is asking for go funding just for legal fees to fight it.

I think it's still early in the process for Royce, because as I write this  Royce hasn't fully written out the reason in a clear an concise way on the go fund me page or his social media channels.

Essentially, he runs an arcade on the weekend out of his business, which is in a warehouse. He has been doing it for about five years and it use to be free, but over time now costs about $5 for entry with all arcade machines set to free play. Now, the city is saying he can't run the arcade like that and is trying to shut him down. He says he needs some help for legals fees.

This also may be the last weekend his arcade is open for the foreseeable future. So, you might want to head over and try it out and maybe leave some tips for the legals fees.

Call ahead to make sure they're open this weekend
(818) 850-9256
Fri 6:00 pm - 11:00 pm
Sat 10:00 am - 3:00 pm
Sun 10:00 am - 3:00 pm
21817-A Plummer St
Chatsworth, California 91311

What's It's Like To Work at Retro Game Camp?

Patrick on left. Holding up Vincent is Bruce
By Jonathan Bilski

If your not a local or you don't know the area you might miss the otaku paradise hidden in the first floor of the Little Tokyo Mall. It's one of the ways into the Japanese Plaza Village. The mall's first floor contains Q Pop and Anime Jungle's multiple stores and then you have a video game store. A video game store where (for now) you can only get games from Japan. Its name is Retro Game Camp. As of writing this, it's been open for about a year. I sat down with one of the staff at the store itself, so he could tell me what it's like to work in a Japanese video game import shop in our own Little Tokyo. And it involves raining soy sauce.

I popped in after telling the Store Manager Shinnosuke Tomioka about my visit. His staff was helping a customer. Not with buying a game boy, but places to eat nearby. Shinnosuke welcomed me and with little introduction I started talking with the Assistant Manager Bruce McClurg, 23, currently going to UCLA, studying Japanese. He has been working at the store since the second week it opened, back in February 2018.

(In back of the store, behind a closed door)

"What's with the rags," I asked Bruce. He answered that they were just drying the rags they use to clean the consoles with. They were drying using a Japanese hang dryer, so kind of noticeable as there were many up on clips. "Actually, I do apologize, some of it is kind of messy. We had a ceiling leaking. It was soy sauce." Bruce told me. I immediately said, "Nani?" Nani, is Japanese for what. And I didn't really do that, I did ask what Bruce was talking about. The resataunt above had some sort of accident and soy sauce started raining from the ceiling at some point covering games and whatever was below in the storage area of the shop.

Bruce told me, Y'know I like ramen, but being surround by hot, dripping ramen broth is not a pleasant experience. I laughed and Bruce continued,

"It smelled completely awful back here for a while. The restaurant did provide us a plumber at a certain point, before that it was a daily struggle to keep it clean." This happened a while ago. I noticed no smell when I was back there talking to Bruce.

After laughing some more at soy sauce coming down. I ask Bruce what his average day is like at Retro Game Camp. He broke it down into simple categories that really don't go into the length of some of the stuff his crew and him half to do.

They are as follows:
1. Cleaning around the shop.
2. Testing out games and consoles.
3. And, mostly serving customers.

Now, Bruce mentioning testing out games intrigued me. If you didn't know, all games inside our Little Tokyo Game Camp are imported from Retro Game Camps in Japan. They need to be not only cleaned, which will get too. But all of them have to be tested.

"There's between 16,000 and 20,000 games in the store, " Bruce tell me.  That means Bruce and the rest of the staff have had to test every single game in the store after they've been cleaned. And then, yet again when they are to be sold. Think about that. That's a lot of testing. And there's only 6 people who work at Retro Game Camp.

"We receive about, maybe 4,000 items at a time [in a shipment]. We don't play through the entire game. But we do check if the cartridge can read and save. And if it can't save we replace the battery." Bruce tells of the start of dealing with each game the comes through the shop.

Older cartridge based games did have tiny batteries in them and won't work correctly if they've died, mostly Famicom games, if you were wondering why some of your older games don't work anymore.

"You get to a point...I can check about 20 Famicom games in under 5 minutes", Bruce says.

On cleaning, Bruce told me an example, "A gameboy pocket's battery casing was rusted shut. It seems the previous owner had left batteries in it." It took him two hours to file it down and clean it. And it still worked and he sold it to a customer.

And then a game or console is retested before the customer's purchase. Which, we're not aware of any other reseller game shops doing in the LA area.

So, that's a lot more extra work than a regular game shop. That's hours of cleaning and testing games.

On serving customers, I've seen it for myself. The staff tries to help you right away being friendly and courteous. If you have any questions, the staff at Retro Game Camp wants to know.

Nicholas Cage likes Godzilla games. "Do you guys have any PS4 Godzilla games? The last one I played was absolutely awful, " Bruce said as Nicholas Cage. Bruce told me that Cage has been a customer and he helped him find some Godzilla games that didn't suck. If a kaiju gamer, you might know that there isn't currently any new Godzilla game other than what Bandai released back in 2015 and I myself consider it a monster turd as a long time fan of the gorilla whale. Instead of anything new, because nothing new exists, they hooked up Cage with a boxed copy of a Godzilla Super Famicom game. Then Bruce and I talked Godzilla games, which he has an extensive knowledge on.

*For those wanting to sell anything, just a heads up. They don't have a buy back license at the store yet. Bruce was telling me they're trying to get one and it just hasn't gone through. So, you can always call or e-mail them to see if they finally have gotten one. I just wouldn't if this post is only a month or two old when reading this.

While walking though the shop and Bruce showing off the Super Famicom section, I ask whose buying these games, because they are all Japanese imports. Bruce tells me most of the time it's college kids as the consoles aren't that expensive at around $60, the same as a new game. And their stock of games being much cheaper than that.

Game Center CX is playing on a screen with random episodes. Another TV is playing old Japanese video game commercials. The floor space is filled with posters of games we never got here before. A demo area in front and wall-to-wall Retro is filled with brightly colored games.

It's not madness, it's game by section. If you look you"ll notice games for certain systems and their genres are kept together. So, you don't have to look everywhere if you're a collector.

See if you can spot the hot sauces from Billy Mitchell the villain from King of Kong.

I start flipping through a binder in the store, while Bruce and I browse the store together. The binder was created by Maude, the other Assistant Manager. "More than any of us she knows rare retro stuff. She is really great. And she created an entire guide detailing all of our products, which ones are import friendly, which ones aren't. How to region free certain consoles, if you wanted to do it at home." She gets some praise points from Bruce.

She's not the only one to be praised as Bruce introduces me to Vincent and Patrick, who are both also learning Japanese. Apparently, each staff member has an area of knowledge of games better than the others. Bruce tells me they work like a cohesive unit. I joke about seeing them in a local Power Rangers like commercial doing poses and transforming. Bruce says he wishes that would happen.

After someone called the other Tsundere they all started telling me about working at the store. I ask, "Where were you when the soy sauce fell?" "I woke up to it, 'Soy sauce in the back room,' " Vincent told me as he was at home. Poor Bruce had to come in and clean it up with a mop and bucket on his day off. I asked if they at least got a free meal from the restaurant above. They did not.

I bring up the Wish List pieces of paper I see around the store. "Because we have stores in Akihabara (famous Otaku city in Japan)...customers can requests an item, for free...and all you have to do is leave a name and an e-mail," Bruce explained to me. So, you have a chance of getting something you really want, whenever it comes in or someone working at the sister stores in Japan grabs it for you and sends it off to the USA. When the item comes in they"ll send a picture to the e-mail you wrote down with the price and can hold it for your for two weeks. No shipping costs to you, the customer.

"Easily, I'd say, it goes for all of us, probably the most enjoyable part-time job I've ever had, Vincent tells me. Bruce adds, "I cannot tell you how much the low stress environment has done for my well-being." You could really tell they meant it. And Shinnosuke wasn't even paying attention or looking at script he might have given them. It was genuine. Bruce ended it with "When you're surrounded by your favorite hobby and you actually care about what you do, it's easy to feel at home."

You can ask Bruce, Vincent, Patrick, Maude and Shinnosuke for help whenever you need help in
looking for a retro game.

Retro Game Camp
Inside Little Tokyo Mall
1st Floor

319 E 2nd St
Ste 120
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Little Tokyo, Downtown
(213) 265-7889 

Weekly What To Do: A Windy Rewind Sumo Sort-Of Weekend

Movie & Bites | The Chef of South Polar
Thu, March 21, 2019
6:00 PM – 9:00 PM
JAPAN HOUSE Los Angeles Salon, Level 5
6801 Hollywood Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90028

In this first installation of the “Movie & Bites” series, JAPAN HOUSE presents a combined screening/tasting event featuring acclaimed food stylist Nami Iijima and 2009 comedy film "The Chef of South Polar (Nankyoku Ryorinin)."

Hello Kitty x Japangeles Party
Fri, March 22 7pm-10pm
6801 Hollywood Blvd #277
Los Angeles, California 90028

Come hang out with us to mark this partnership and our exclusive Japangeles pop up at the newly opened Hello Kitty Hollywood store in Hollywood and Highland presented by Sanrio. First 50 people in line will receive a FREE Hello Kitty x Japangeles beanie (limit one per person) and a FREE collab sticker. Special appearance by Hello Kitty wearing a Japangeles hoodie, sounds by DJ Keroppi (that's right!), sweet treats, family friendly activities and much more.

19th Annual 2019 US SUMO OPEN 
Sat, Mar 23, 1pm
Walter Pyramid @ Cal State Long Beach
$25 and up

Don’t miss the 19th annual US Sumo Open! This is the largest, longest-running sumo tournament in the world (outside of Japan). You can cheer on 70+ international Sumo Champions from a dozen countries.Enjoy Japanese taiko drumming between matches, and savor fresh Japanese food, Japanese beer and sake, while you yell with excitement.

Sat, Mar 23, 10 AM – 7 PM

3330 Civic Center Dr, Torrance, California 90503
$15 and up
"AniFest is back! Come join us for a Saturday of South Bay's greatest Anime Festival! This year we have double the amount of indoor space, more vendors, and more guests, and two stages packed full of entertainment and programming! "
Sat, Mar 23, 7 PM
Q Pop
319 E 2nd St #121, Los Angeles, California 90012
Q Pop Gallery is proud to present a solo exhibition of new works from Emmy award winning art director Jasmin Lai. After Hours is a collection of work that illustrates the moments outside of your nine to five job, or whatever it is that you do for a living. In the ever-changing city of Los Angeles, there are so many moments during our busy lives that we wish we could encapsulate.

Spellbinders: Meyoco / Heikala / Sibylline Exhibition
March 23, 2019 - April 7, 2019
Mar 23, 6:00PM - 9:00PM
Gallery Nucleus
 210 East Main St, Alhambra CA 91801 

 An exhibition of new original works by three Spellbinding artists:

Sibylline Meynet
Saturday, March 23, 2019
Event starts at 2:30 pm
Grand Park (across from Los Angeles City Hall)
200 N Broadway Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90012


Meet Creator Mike Mignola on Hellboy Day
Saturday, March 23, 2 PM – 4 PM
Earth-2 Comics
15017 Ventura Blvd, Sherman Oaks, California 91403
"We are honored to be hosting Hellboy/BPRD Creator Mike Mignola for Hellboy Day, celebrating the 25th anniversary of Hellboy and heralding the upcoming movie! Mike will be available to sign comics and books and meet fans. There will also be Hellboy freebies as well as a full stock of Hellboy books for purchase."
Sat, Mar 23, 2019 8:00 PM
Long Beach Arena
Pacific Ballroom
300 E. Ocean Blvd.
Long Beach, CA 90802

Get ready for an explosion of mega-hits by Wham!, U2, The Cure, Kool & the Gang, Billy Joel, Journey, and more! Join Long Beach Symphony for this totally rad concert celebrating the music of the ‘80s! Guests of all ages are encouraged to come dressed in their best ‘80s attire!

Sat, Mar 23, 2019, 11:59 PM
Vista Theatre
4473 Sunset Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90027

"George Miller was absent from the Mad Max universe for thirty years. But when he was finally able to put his long gestating sequel together Mad Max Fury Road, it was as if thirty years of percolating ideas finally exploded onto the screen like the gaskets of an apocalyptic race car that has been waiting for the flag to drop."

The Wind
Tue, Mar 26, 7:30pm
Egyptian Theatre 6712 Hollywood Boulevard
Hollywood, CA 90028

Discussion following with director Emma Tammi and actress Caitlin Gerard. A haunting period piece that sets horror against the American frontier of the 1800s, THE WIND embraces its desolate landscape both visually and sonically. Elizabeth Macklin (Caitlin Gerard) has just settled with her husband on a Western homestead. As loneliness takes hold, an evil presence in the pastures manifests itself through a series of strange events.

Fruits Basket
Tuesday, March 26, 2019 (English dub)
Wednesday, March 27, 2019 (Japanese with English subtitles)
Select Theaters 

Tohru Honda thought her life was headed for misfortune when a family tragedy left her living in a tent. When her small home is discovered by the mysterious Soma clan, she suddenly finds herself living with Yuki, Kyo, and Shigure Soma. But she quickly learns their family has a bizarre secret of their own: when hugged by the opposite sex, they turn into the animals of the Zodiac!

Tuesday, March 26 9:30pm
UCBT Franklin
5919 Franklin Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90028 
Doug Benson hosts a live podcast about his favorite subject - movies! Join him and his special fancy guests for conversations and games about... movies! Come on down for what promises to be a truly happy hour and fifteen minutes!