The park is calling this special event Universal Cool Japan, which began in late January and will continue through May 10. The quartet of attractions has taken over some unused space (and, in one case, replaced a permanent attraction) in USJ’s Hollywood land, just to the left of the park’s main drag. The attractions are based on some of Japan’s most popular video games, anime series and manga franchises. While the ‘Monster Hunter’ video game series, the ‘Evangelion’ anime series and the ‘Attack on Titan’ manga books have cult followings in the U.S., only the ‘Resident Evil’ games are as well-known in the States as it is in Japan (where it is better-known as Biohazard).
Of course, any special event at a Japanese theme park comes with loads and loads of limited edition souvenirs that filled many of the larger stores in the theme park, outside of the Wizarding World, and seemed to be the hottest items at the end of the day. Speaking of hot items, Universal Cool Japan also delivered a bevy of snacks themed to the event, from steamed buns with paw prints on them (‘Monster Hunter’) to eyeball-spiked beverages (‘Resident Evil’).
Before I write any further, I should state for the record that I’ve never picked up a manga comic, I’m not much an anime connoisseur and I’m nothing close to a hardcore gamer. As such, my enthusiasm for this stuff may vary from yours (it certainly stood in stark contrast to the Japanese and Korean visitors who were waiting in long lines for some of these attractions). OK, here’s the rundown:
Evangelion: The Real 4D
According to USJ’s website, this 4D movie is a new story that adds to the ‘Neon Genesis Evangelion’ anime saga, in which teenagers control giant mechanical warriors called Evangelions in order to battle baddies called Angels. Evangelion: The Real 4D is currently taking Shrek 4D’s place, sharing the Universal Studios Cinema with Sesame Street 4D Movie Magic (what a match!).
I was curious to see what a 4D attraction that was created, ostensibly, to run for less than four months looked like, but the line was crazy long (partially because the giant robots have to share with Elmo) and my time was limited on a day when USJ was only open for eight hours. Besides, as I was studying the queue, I felt the presence of a giant figure over my shoulder…
Attack on Titan: The Real
Make that two giant figures in their freeze-frame fighting stances, lording over the Universal Cool Japan area while wearing, that’s right, no clothing. It’s not every day that you see a 15-meter-tall, impressively detailed naked guy duking it out with a 14-meter-tall naked woman.
Of course, these aren’t men and women at all, but Titans who – in the world of Attack on Titan – enjoy devouring the little humans they find underfoot. As Titans, they are lacking some of the anatomy that you might expect, which was probably how this made it into a theme park (well, one outside of Europe, at least). The female is covered in muscle tissue – making her look like one of those Body World exhibits – while the man was simply missing his, well, little titan. Perhaps he’s related to a Ken doll. There’s something incredibly amusing about seeing parents take pictures of their kids as they flash the peace sign in front of a couple of naked giants about to kick the crap out of one another.
There was no queue to take a picture with those Titans, but there was for another photo op, featuring a giant sculpted head and hand, to make it look like the subject is being gobbled up. I didn’t clamor for my own shot of this, although I enjoyed witnessing the excitement of those that were taking part. In addition to these imposing figures, there was an indoor component to Attack on Titan: The Real, but it was limited to timed ticket holders. Besides, by then I had already become distracted by a meowing character strolling down the street…
Monster Hunter: The Real
Yes, apparently this bipedal cat in the wizard sombrero is a Felyne, a species that aides the titular characters in the ‘Monster Hunter’ series. He (or she?) was making a pretty loud meowing sound while being led from the character greeting area, a parade of teenagers following behind.
After meeting this flamboyant character, it was time to check out the Monster Hunter: The Real indoor walkthrough attraction. There was no line for this one, and it was easy to see why. The stiff mannequins dressed up in ‘Monster Hunter’ garb were a fair deal less interesting than that walking cat creature. But the details were still impressive, especially when it came to the two giant monsters: the dragon-like Seregios and the fuzzy/scaly Zinogre. The latter monster was supposed to perform some sort of lightning effect, but his batteries must have been worn out on the day I was there.
Resident Evil: The Escape
Now here was my big disappointment of the Universal Cool Japan experience. I would have loved to try out this escape “game,” in which guests have to work together to solve riddles in order to break out of a television station themed to the universe of the ‘Resident Evil’ video games, fending off zombies along the way. Unfortunately, the game only appeared to work if you could speak and understand Japanese. You are collaborating with strangers, after all. Plus, it cost an additional 3,000 yen (about $25, but marginally cheaper if you bought in advance) and I’m never too thrilled with having to fork over money for an additional attraction when I’ve already paid a fair amount just to get into the park.
If it had been included with park admission, I probably would have gambled on Resident Evil: The Escape, partially because I enjoyed my time at Biohazard: The Real when I was at USJ last time. (I got to shoot zombies in a haunted house. What’s not to like?) I would have taken my chances on the language barrier, and my lack of understanding might have resulted in the entire group becoming zombie grub. So, other Japanese people who took part in The Escape, you’re probably better off that you didn’t have my “help.” It probably made your Universal Cool Japan experience a whole lot cooler.
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