Author Archives: AJ

About AJ

I like shoujo manga and ramen. I don't like them exclusively but that's all you really need to know about me right now.

Review: Baby Driver

 

So Initial D is kind of about a guy who doesn’t speak much but drives really fast and likes listening to music. Make it an action crime thriller set in America and I give you…a strange movie title? Now that I think about it, I still haven’t even read a single synopsis. Let’s check Rotten Tomatoes:

A talented, young getaway driver relies on the beat of his personal soundtrack to be the best in the game. But after being coerced into working for a crime boss, he must face the music when a doomed heist threatens his life, love and freedom.

Screen Shot 2017-06-30 at 21.50.15.png…Not sure about you, but ‘Initial D, but American crime-thriller’ like sounds much cooler description, if you can forgive the soundtrack not being eurobeat. But why did I go? Well I saw the trailer in the cinema and it looked kinda cool. But honestly, hearing that’s it’s an Edgar Wright film would have been more than enough.

If you’re worried about it not being thrilling enough, let me just say that I already felt like I needed a lie down after only the first scene. Even the noisy people sitting behind me felt the need to shut up by the time we were two minutes in. Despite that, they managed to include a pretty large amount of comedy throughout the film with just small witty exchanges but not enough to overpower the fact that this is an action thriller, not some random comedy. I would have actually been happy just watching a two hour long car chase just because they were so intense.

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Not to mention they were timed so well to the music, which is, by the way, used BRILLIANTLY. Pretty much all of the soundtrack used is playing from Baby’s iPod or his own music library and everything is matched up to it perfectly, from his movement as he comically mouths the words to every gunshot and footstep. There are even little touches like muting the left side if his left earphone is taken out and even adding that ringing noise when he hasn’t been listening to anything.

The story itself is genuinely good, interesting and well told. I mean, guessing the ‘plot twist’ in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 made the remaining duration of the film not quite entertaining enough for me to not start looking for ways the story could have been told better. Baby Driver, on the other hand, I had no idea where anything was going the entire way through. All I did know was that it would end in one big mess (but I guess you can tell that from the synopsis). Sure, you could guess that ‘X’ would happen next, but you wouldn’t know what would happen after that. I was so glued to the screen that I barely touched my Tango Ice Blast (a rarity for those who know me well).

Screen Shot 2017-06-30 at 21.49.40.pngThe characters are well fleshed out and are each given appropriate amounts of screen time and development for their roles in the plot. Let’s just say that they all face consequences for their actions, including Baby (for once our protagonist does not get away scot free).

If you like thrillers, crime dramas, action, or even just a decent film that isn’t a damned superhero movie : go no further than Baby Driver.

In a nutshell: awesome

But seriously, Baby should have considered late night tofu deliveries.

Sword Art Online is…good?

I’m not actually trying to beat around the bush here. Whether you love or hate SAO, fair enough, whatever, I don’t really care at this point. Besides, plenty of people have already torn it to shreds/prove its amazingness over thousands of times in more ways than I care to know by now.

Regardless of your actual opinion of the concept (which I personally love), there’s no debate that the story itself is a total mess (albeit not the worst).

Before I continue, allow me to first give a brief history on how the series came to be:

Reki Kawahara, a novice author at the time, originally wrote Sword Art Online as a one shot novel to enter ASCII Works’ Dengeki Game Novel Prize in 2002. In the end the novel was too long and he didn’t enter it, however, he did publish it online and even decided to continue it. Six years later, he entered and won the same prize with a different novel (Accel World). Seeing its success online (and also maybe Kawahara’s promise? I don’t know), ASCII Works asked to also publish Sword Art Online and you probably know the rest.

Going back to the title, I would like argue suggest that ‘Sword Art Online’, as in the very first volume of the series, minus the final chapter, (that’s more or less the contents of only episodes 1, 8, 9, 10 and 14 of season 1, for those of you who haven’t read the novels) would actually have been quite good as a standalone, 200-and-something page novel.

If you think I’m simply just picking and choosing the parts I liked the most (which isn’t actually true, by the way) think of it like this: apart from volume 2 (which is just a series of short stories that were added later on, so it doesn’t even count anyway), the rest of the series isn’t even really about Sword Art Online. It’s just about the same people messing around with various VR (and now AR?) games that happen to have an “oh so dark” secret behind them. A bit of a side note, but one of the biggest problems I have with the series is that it’s rather difficult to up the stakes if they’re already death in the very first arc.

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But all these problems disappear if Sword Art Online was only the one volume. Kirito isn’t even a crappy harem protagonist since Sachi, Silica, Lisbeth and Yui all no longer exist and the rest of the series never even happened. The shallow character development? Not a problem, since one shots don’t really need much anyway. It’s not like you’ll ever see the characters again at the end of the novel. It’s not like the author will decide to make the story drag out for 20+ volumes without adding the required development to prevent the protagonist from being a Marty-Stu and the centre of a completely pointless harem…

I don’t know what I was trying to achieve here, but maybe I’m just angry that (admittedly only partially) because of SAO’s success, a genuinely interesting concept has become overused to the point that multiple novel competitions ( including ones run by Kadokawa and Kodansha) have banned anything to do with a teenage protagonist and/or alternate video game type/ fantasy worlds. Despite this, we are left with only very few works that execute it well and are interesting to read and even fewer that I personally like. As overused as it is, an entire series of tropes has essentially been binned just because there is too much actual crap within the category for the genuinely good stuff to be found.

Oh well, at least we have the masterpiece that is SAO Abridged.


Now I finally have plenty of  free time, I want to catch up on the anime I’ve missed over the last year. What should I watch first?

Review: “FREE ANIME DVD” (GYO: Tokyo Fish Attack!)

Just a heads up that this is a 15 rated horror film and I included information that may or may not be classified as spoilers.

Over the years, I’ve developed a habit of picking up whatever freebies I’m offered, usually resulting in the accumulation of various leaflets with discount codes, extra carrier bags and energy tablets(?) every time I go to London Comic Con. This year was no exception, and so my attention was drawn to the “free anime DVDs” being handed out near the entrance.

At first glance, I thought it would most likely be a like an anime version of Sharknado, or something.

Discarding the parody aspect, I wasn’t entirely wrong…

 

Are you ready for the invasion? A devastation, disgusting “Death Stench” is spreading across Japan, creating deadly mutant fish as it covers the land!

The country is being invaded by ferocious fish with sharp metal legs, hell-bent on death and destruction! Amidst the carnage, Kaori embarks on a desperate quest to find her missing boyfriend before he is lost to the mayhem that is sweeping the land. Facing four-legged killer sharks, machine driven squid and the myriad dangers of Tokyo, now an urban war zone, Kaori must find the truth behind these mechanical monsters and face an evil greater than she could ever have imagined.

Based on the popular manga from the master of macabre, Junji Ito (Tomie, Uzumaki), Gyo: Tokyo Fish Attack! is a bizarre thrill-ride that has to be seen to be believed.

So, as the back of the DVD says, these killer fish with legs that smell of rotting human flesh take over Japan but our main character is trying to find out if her fiancé is ok, amongst all the chaos.

Sounds average.

 

 

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The animation isn’t terrible, but it appears to have been made at about 20 frames per second, or something stupid (most likely in an attempt to cut costs). Despite this, the 3D animation is surprisingly okay. Sure it’s obvious and it doesn’t mesh very well with 2D, it’s not obtrusive in the overall viewing experience. But really, Ufotable animated this? I would expected better from the studio behind the cutscenes for Tales of Xillia, Zestria and Berseria (as well as the anime for the latter two). The character design seems to make up for the animation, making everything and everyone seem more mature and realistic, despite the giant sharks flying around the streets.

The music is okay but it’s the generic kind of stuff you’d expect from a horror film.

However, I quite like the directing. There are just little things here and there that made me go “that’s cool”. For example, the choice to visually show the smell is especially effective when it appears for the first time, along side the appearance of the first walking fish. Not 10/10 but definitely, notable.

Unfortunately, this is where my praise for the film ends.

I don’t know what kind of story the manga had but I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t be able to get away with something this…meh for more than a couple chapters.

 

Our main character has two generic friends and a generic fiancé/boyfriend. They literally exist to be infected by the killer fish and eventually die…wait, does that count as a spoiler? Whatever, it’s too obvious anyone to actually care. The photojournalist guy seems like he could have been an interesting character if he had more time to be fleshed out, but I guess that’s asking took much from a 71 minute horror film. The rather boring characters paired with the most bizarre explanation of the disaster (blaming everything on World War 2 experiments got old a long time ago) just amounts to a very bland, cliché story. The only original part is probably the fish themselves. But the vague explanations form them really isn’t good enough. They should have just kept it a mystery.

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And then, there’s the writing. It’s not unbearably cheesy or anything, but there are quite a few scenes where responses feel poorly timed or out of place. I know there isn’t much time in this film but the photojournalist’s backstory is given less than 10 seconds of slightly out of place expository dialogue. If you’re going to do that, you may as well not bother including it, especially since it adds NOTHING to the near-nonexistent story. They probably only included it so that the audience would become emotionally invested in him, making his end more tragic? I don’t know, that’s the only reason I could think of. MC also overreacts a bit too much in a few scenes, but ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ it’s allowed, I guess.

Ultimately, everything about this film can only be described as average. If you want a random horror movie to waste 71 minutes of your life, go ahead, be my guest. Just don’t expect high quality entertainment.

But does it “have to be seen to be believed”, like the DVD blurb said?

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

In a nutshell: meh

GYO: Tokyo Fish Attack! can be bought on DVD wherever you tend to buy your anime DVDs.

I’m still alive, but…

As the title reads, I’m still alive and so is this blog. However, I probably won’t be posting for a while since my exams are starting in less than a week.

I did have a Ghost in the Shell review scheduled for a couple weeks ago, but, after 45 minutes in an empty screen and an angry chat with the cinema’s manager, I still haven’t  had the chance to see it. I was also going to talk about Persona 5 at some point, but only 2 hours into my play-through, I don’t think I’ve experienced enough of the game to say something worth anything.

I might get some time to post something short towards the end of exam season, but for now, don’t expect a post from this blog in the next six weeks or so…


I’ll still be on Twitter occasionally, though (when I’m not cramming equations and vocab).

WEBTOONS

f4efa0d6277f9e2f8d8b22a91730e924b999f3bdI recently started watching ‘W’, a Korean drama that aired in 2016. It’s a good show and I highly recommend you watch it (on Viki for free), even if you don’t normally watch Korean dramas, but I’m not talking about it today. The comic in the show is actually in a specific format known as a ‘webtoon’, which kind of made me want to talk about them a bit.

Webtoons originated in South Korea in the early 2000s simply as an easier method of reading web comics. Instead of clicking an arrow to go to the next page, you just continue scrolling down until the end of the chapter. Just like TV shows, webtoons are usually released in a series of weekly ‘episodes’ split into ‘seasons’, which is kind of nice, since it allows the author to actually have a bit of a break without just stopping the story entirely. Artists on some sites also have the option to have soundtrack playing as the readers scroll, which, in my opinion, can greatly enhance the reading experience.  Despite gaining more-or-less mainstream popularity in Asia, they only seem to have picked up in the west relatively recently with the advent of apps like Tapas (formerly Tapastic) and LINE Webtoon.

LINE Webtoon itself is the worldwide version of the webtoon service by Naver (like a Korean version of Yahoo and the owners of the LINE messaging app), which is currently the largest in Korea. The app and website were launched in 2014, offering webtoons by artists from around the world with translations into over 20 different languages, as well as a ‘Discover’ section for amateur artists hoping to be, well, discovered. Did I mention that it’s entirely free AND legal? (I just don’t understand why there are people uploading and reading webtoons on MangaFox and the like when they could have a much better experience AND support the artist FOR FREE)

Some Recommendations

If you’re interested but not sure where to start, here are a few of my personal favourites to get you started:

Annarasumanara by Ilkwon Ha

 

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A drama about a high school girl too poor to even afford new stockings who meets a magician.

My very first webtoon and probably the most beautiful comic I’ve ever seen. If you read this, you’ll understand what is truly possible with infinite scrolling.
It only has 27 episodes so you can read it in a day.

Wind Breaker by Yongseok Jo

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A high school sports drama about an unlikely group that form a bike racing crew.

It’s great for fans of sports anime. You’d be surprised how well the speed is conveyed in just a series of pictures.
It currently has about 120 episodes over 2 seasons with a new episode every Monday.

Miss Abbott and the Doctor by Maripaz Villar

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A series of shorts that make up a romantic comedy set in the 19th century.

I’ve been following this since it was in Discover last year and I can’t recommend it highly enough for any romance fans out there.

Right now, there are about 40 episodes and updates every Saturday, however, the first season just ended so it’s currently on hiatus.

Dr. Frost by JongBeom Lee

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A psychological drama about a psychology professor lacking emotions and the cases he deals with at the university’s counselling centre.

It covers more realistic and seemingly mundane stuff, but trust me, it gets pretty intense.

There is a Korean drama, however, it follows more of a crime drama type route and it sort of spoils the comic, since the English release is quite far behind the Korean (it might even be completed…)

There are about 120 episodes and a new episode comes out every Saturday.

Siren’s Lament by instantmiso

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A series of events and a curse drag a girl into the world of sirens (mermaids).

An unmistakably shoujo-type story for those romantics who like a bit of the supernatural thrown in. If you like it, you should also check out her other  (and first) comic ‘Where Tangents Meet’. Both comics make excellent use of soundtrack made by some guy called Kenny, who seems to do most of the soundtrack for comics on Webtoon.

It has about 60 chapters and updates every Saturday.

A Few More

There are so many others, so I hope you don’t mind if I drop a few more titles I like:

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Rockin’ All Night with Aishite Night

Some time around Christmas, while I was browsing TV Tropes, I remember stumbling upon Aishite Night (愛してナイト and it’s sometimes romanised as Aishite Knight, but I can write an entire essay as to why I don’t think it should be).

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I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve never heard of it but, if you happened to grow up in continental Europe during the late 80s and early 90s, you may have heard of it under a name like “Rock’n Roll Kids“, “Lucile, Amour et Rock’n Roll” and “Kiss Me Licia“, among many others. I’m told that it was even popular enough in Italy to get a 145 episode long live-action drama (I feel like I might have to check that out at some point).

The story itself more-or-less follows the story told in the manga of the same name by Kaoru Tada (same mangaka as Itazura no Kiss), although it does differ quite a bit (but not ridiculously).

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Juliano in action

The main character Yakko is a cheerful 18 year old girl in Osaka who helps out at her dad’s okonomiyaki restaurant, while attending evening school classes. A series of encounters with a child called Hashizou and his “woman hating” cat (I’m actually quoting from an episode title) named Julliano leads to Yakko becoming involved with Satomi (a regular at the restaurant) and Gou (Hashizou’s brother), two guys in a rock band called BEEHIVE.

 

Medium length story short, it ends up in a rather messy love triangle.

 

Before I continue, I just have a few things to get out of my system…

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The number of times I’ve seen a scene like this…

Maybe Yakko should actually listen to her dad occasionally whenever he shouts “WATCH OUT FOR CARS AND MEN!”. And while I’m at it, Gou and Satomi should seriously learn the concept of ‘bros before hoes’. You can’t jeopardise your band’s entire existence just because you think your friend is hitting on the girl you like, even though he’s already said he’s not interested. *sigh* I do admit that quite a lot of plot points are born from this, like one of my favourite scenes, when Hashizou apologises for his stomach growling at school because Gou (who at this point has hit rock bottom) was too hungover to wake up in time to cook breakfast. It’s still used way to much for the first half of the series.

 

But Hashizou, I know you’re cute and all but please stop trying to do something to get Gou and Yakko together. It always just ends in some kind of awkward misunderstanding or tension.

 

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Now look what you’ve gone and done!

Speaking of awkward tension, whenever there’s an awkward moment, Yakko just takes off into the sunset. I don’t really have a problem with it, but I just laugh every time it happens.

Screen Shot 2017-03-11 at 18.59.40.pngCliché plot and random thoughts aside, something they definitely have to be praised for is that they bothered to make original songs for the bands in the series. Aishite Night was actually the first anime to ever do such a thing, and it wasn’t just one song, but an entire album’s worth. You might get a bit tired of listening to them singing “FREEWAY! FREEWAY!” and “Burst into flames (FIRE!)” over and over again but, having listened to ‘Guilty Love’ almost on repeat while playing Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney, I can safely say that it’s nowhere near unbearable. In fact, I actually really like the songs, so much that I spent nearly three hours looking for the soundtrack ( who knew old anime OST is so damn hard to find).

 

 

Sure, the art and animation is nothing to write home about and the plot itself seems to be an early incarnation of an endless number of clichés and tropes  native to the shoujo genre but there is still a certain charm to it that I couldn’t help but smile at no matter how ridiculous it got (seriously).

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Despite its flaws, this show is severely lacking in the attention it deserves. It’s not surprising, considering it’s a shoujo anime from the ’80s but it’s still a shame that it doesn’t get more love.

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Fun for all the family!

Part of the reason may be something to do with the fact that no one ever bothered to make an English language release of the anime or manga. Even though the original author Kaoru Tada later became extremely well known for her later work, Itazura no Kiss (Mischievous Kiss), which received an anime and many drama adaptations in multiple countries, no one’s even tried to publish the manga in English in recent years. Heck, I tried buying the manga in French but I can’t even find the second volume for less than €90.

You should definitely check out Aishite Night (if you can find it). But enough about obscure retro anime. I’m really in the mood to attempt making some okonomiyaki…

Mystery Blogger Award

Thanks to Matthew from Matt-in-the-Hat for nominating me! Also thanks the creator (Enigma from Okoto Engima’s Blog).

Rules:

  1. Display the award logo on your blog.
  2. List the Rules.
  3. Thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
  4. Mention the creator of the award and provide a link as well.
  5. Tell your readers three things about yourself.
  6. Answer five questions from the nominee.
  7. Nominate anywhere from ten to twenty bloggers.
  8. Notify the bloggers by leaving a comment on their blog.
  9. Ask your nominees any five questions of your choice, including one weird or funny question.
  10. Share the link to your best post.

3 things about me:

  1.  Despite being a total sucker for shoujo/jousei manga and rom-coms, my friends seem to think that I only ever watch action movies.
  2.  Even though I’m technically grade 4 in piano and violin, I can’t read music score for the life of me.
  3. Even though I’m always seen in the morning with a cup of Costa in my hand, I actually don’t like hot drinks that much.

 Matthew’s 5 questions

1. If you were in a story, would you like to be a good guy or bad guy (or good girl or bad)

Probably the bad guy, since it’s much more fun to mess with someone that be the one being messed with.

2. Are you night owl or early bird?

Well I like to go to bed in the afternoon and wake up at around midnight. Does that count as both?

3. What is one movie you feel is a guilty pleasure?

Well, apparently, I’m not allowed to like High School Musical anymore…

4. What’s your favorite superhero?

I’m really tempted to say Aquaman purely because of this web series I saw a while back, but then again I’m not really a big enough fan of superheroes to have a favourite.

5. What would you rather have, wings and fly anywhere or the power to rewind time?

I feel like the power to rewind time would actually be much more useful. I mean, think of all that lottery money I could win and the number of time I could get full marks in exams…

My 5 Questions

  1. What’s the one trope/cliché you can’t stand?
  2.  Would you rather live the rest of your life without sweet food or meat products?
  3. What genre would your life be?
  4.  Do you prefer tea or coffee?
  5. What’s your favourite food that isn’t native to your country?

My Nominations (in no particular order)