Category Archives: thoughts

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?

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…