Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Ding dong, the Great Leader's dead...

Well well... the day has finally come, Kim Jong Il, the leader of the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea has passed away (that's North Korea by the way).

Young Kim Jong Il
I've read countless articles and have watched many videos of the events surrounding the "great leader's" passing. I've seen the throngs of North Koreans crying in the streets, thumping their chests, wailing. "Oh whatever shall we do now that our great leader is gone!?" What a spectacle! But honestly, I expected as much. The same thing happened back in 1994 when Kim Il Sung (Kim Jong Il's father) took leave of this world. One interesting thing though, is a few of my friends have been asking me some interesting questions as for some time I was quite the North Korean enthusiast and have done extensive independent research on the subject. I like to think know a bit about how things work over there. I used to be a member of the KFA (Korean Friendship Association), an online group endorsed by representatives of the DPRK in an effort to bolster international relations. Suffice it to say it was fairly interesting getting the North Korean side of things. But more on that later... perhaps.  

North Korean citizens weeping for their great leader. I could believe a lot of the older people are probably crying for real.

 The first question I hear a lot of people asking is, "are those North Korean people really crying or is it all a show?" Well, good question...

In my opinion, I would have to say that its likely a mish-mash. What you have is a group of people who:

A. Are actually bawling, because they actually give a shit about Kim Jong Il and have been brain-washed into thinking he really was the only thing standing between North Korea and the swarms of evil American "imperialists" waiting to invade the North Korea at a moment's notice.

B. Actors who are likely party-loyalists who have been inserted by the party into these groups of people to quite literally "give a show", and show all the international news broadcasters just how much everyone loves the "great leader" and are devistated by his passing.

C. People who are forcing out tears or even flat out faking it cause they don't want to show that they really don't give two shits about the "great leader" because they are fearful that the people who do may notice and report them (or something like that).


 I'm not sure about the ratio, and I don't even know for sure if this is the case of course, but if you watch the videos of the sobbing masses it feels like its fairly easy to tell who's genuinely distraught and who's faking. I do believe that some North Koreans are genuinely devastated about his passing. The national psyche over there is really something else, with the "Kim dynasty" enjoying a status that lies somewhere between "war heroes" and "gods on earth" with their own mythology to boot. Its pretty hard to wrap one's head around. However, it has been discovered in the past that there are those in North Korea who oppose the regime, or are at the very least indifferent towards it.  It would be these people that would likely fit in category "C". Just like any country, North Korea and its people are complicated. It's never a good idea to generalize too much.


 The other question I've heard people asking is "What happens now?"

Old propaganda poster depicting a North Korean soldier smashing the White House.
 Well, its hard to say. Kim Jong Il's health had been declining for some time now and its safe to say that the DPRK has likely had a contingency plan for the great leader's potential demise since before he assumed the position. So the answer to that question is "probably not a whole lot." For those of you who think that North Korea is going to undergo some massive transformation as a result of Kim Jong Il's death... well.... get ready to be disappointed. How can I make such an absolute assumption? Well I can't really, after-all what do I know? I'm just a Canadian University student. But consider this; how much power do you think Kim Jong Il actually had? How much of North Korea's governance fell to the party and its members? Was Kim Jong Il just a figurehead? and for that matter, how long has Kim actually been dead? I don't really know the answers to these questions but these are all things to think about when addressing this question.

The "crown-prince" Kim Jong Un, successor to the Kim throne. (Ahem... Kim Jong Il's Son)
I think it could be possible that, assuming Kim Jong Il really did have most of the power, if his son is not up to snuff, then we may see some pretty interesting developments in North Korea. After-all, a regime such as North Korea's that relies largely on the ignorance of its people can't really be expected last forever in this mass information age we live in. That's my opinion anyway. I'd just like to get to visit North Korea before any of that happens, just to take some "before shots" and to say I was there.

Last question I'll answer is "What did you think of Kim Jong Il?"

I dunno if that's supposed to be Kim Jong Il or Kim Il Sung, but I could not imagine either of them riding a horse like this... especially not the former.
 Well personally I think that anyone who rules over people, who lives in the lap of luxury while keeping their people poor and ignorant, has failed in their purpose, is the scum of the earth, will be judged harshly by history and hopefully will get whats coming to them. In other words, Kim Jong Il was a despot of the worst kind and enjoyed a ridiculously decadent lifestyle at the expense of his people. However, he died prematurely, probably as a result of that lifestyle. So perhaps there is some justice. I can't imagine what his son is going to be like. 

Regardless, it will be interesting to see what happens with North Korea over the next while and I sincerely hope for the safety of South Korea and all the loved ones I have over there.




       

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Korean Zombie bom-ba-ye!

If you know me, you know I like me some MMA action, and where better to go for that then the leading promotion of the sport, the UFC? This weekend was UFC 140 in Toronto (my base of operations) featuring a STACKED card with big names like, the half Brazilian, half Japanese, karate master Lyoto Machida, the young and lighting fast, Champion John Jones, UFC veteran and former champ Tito Ortiz, both Brazillian Jujutsu savvy Nogueira brothers, former champ Frank Mir, goodness gracious what a night! And man did it deliver! Every fight was explosive and exciting, few left the first round, the final fight of the evening was intense and culminated in Machida passing out from a choke, or guillotine, I couldn't really see what Jones was doing. But anyway, it was pretty darn exciting!

Hominick and Chan at the weigh-ins.
 But one of the fights I was waiting for with great interest was a fight that wasn't on too many peoples radar, which was the Korean Zombie, Chan Sung Jun vs Mark Hominick, a Canadian boy from London, Ontario, just an hour or so drive from Toronto. Well needless to say, I have an affinity for both these fighters. I think Koreans are totally under represented in MMA as few Koreans are competing and those who do, usually have little success internationally for whatever reason. Chan Sung Jun has so far achieved some success, winning his first two fights in UFC against decent fighters and being really exciting in WEC (his former league). so go zombie! However, Mark Hominick is a homeboy, a really nice guy, and a good, well rounded fighter. Basically I was on the fence with this one.

Chan showing off his national colours.
Though I was rooting for Chan as the underdog I, like most people, expected Hominick to take it, as he is a top contender in the lightweight division, and Chan has yet to prove himself. I was very interested to see this fight because, I had watched Chan in his WEC debut in what essentially was a non-stop brawl against another brawler Leonerd Garcia which ended in a loss for Chan by split judge decision. His second fight saw him knocked out with a nasty head kick. Upon going into UFC Chan seemed to step up his game, winning against Leonerd Garcia in a rematch via "twister", a nasty sumbission move which had never been used in the UFC until Chan's use. He said he had trained his defense for his match against Hominick and I was really curious to see how he was going to try to deal with Hominick's well-roundedness. Their match was the first of the evening and, well suffice it to say, imagine my surprise when I, sitting in a pub with my chums last night, looked down at my beer to take a swig as soon as the fight started, only to look back up at the screen and see this...

Chan's the one on top if you couldn't tell.
Chan won the fight in under 7 seconds with a hard shot to Hominick's chin, knocking out the Canadian. I nearly spat out my beer! I thought they were playing a reply video or something! But no, Chan won immediately. The whole pub was pretty damned surprised. Though I was happy with Chan's win, I was kind of dissapointed, because I never got to see how Chan changed his game, or how Hominick was going to deal with Chan's aggressive style. It also kind of sucked for Hominick because this was his second fight in Toronto and his second loss in Toronto, which puts him at a 2 loss streak on home ground. Also as a Canadian I feel sad for my fellow country and province-man (is that a word?) cause I know Hominick is a capable, top-tier fighter. Basically I wanted to see an awesome fight that both fighters could be proud of, win or lose. Nonetheless, congrats to Chan and I'm really curious to see both of these guys next fights! Keep up the good work Chan! and don't sweat it Hominick!


Oddly enough Chan is not very famous in Korea and seems to be overshadowed by UFC welterweight fighter and fellow countryman Kim Dong Hyun, currently 1-1 in the UFC and though showing that he is a capable fighter, has frankly given a rather underwhelming performance so far. Hopefully Chans's current success in the UFC will inspire Kim to step up his game! One can only hope!

Kim Dong Hyun, quite a bit more popular than Chan within Korea.
                       

Saturday, December 10, 2011

This Game Looks Awesome!

Have you been looking for a game where you play as a Hindu/Buddhist deity and are forced to battle other deities in a crazy science fiction/cosmological world? Yeah... me neither... UNTIL NOW.
Allow me to introduce, Asura's Wrath, a game by Capcom coming next year to PS3s and 360s everywhere. Though not much in the way of gameplay has been released, numerous trailers feature a world unlike anything I've seen in games, with the possible exception of the Shin Megami Tensai series. (it's okay if you don't know what that is). So yeah, here's what the game's protagonist looks like during a battle!

Pretty damn cool eh!?
In the game, the main character doesn't always have six arms, I think its just a technique or something, but I think the six arm thing here is pretty awesome, because Asuras come from Hinduism, a religion known for its many-armed deities. In Hinduism, Asuras are apparently deities that control the social phenomena of the world, such as love, and marriage, and anger and all that. They are apparently thought of as sinful and materialistic beings and are opposed to the Devas, the deities responsible for natural phenomena. Asuras also have a presence in the more cosmological elements of Buddhism and mystic Daoism as well, though I'm not sure exactly what their function is in these practices. I think it will be pretty interesting to see how the game incorporates these elements into its world.

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Here's some game play footage, I love how the enemy looks like an idol.
So based on the trailers it seems that you play as an Asura, a god of sorts, whose wife has been killed and whose child has been kidnapped by other Asura or deities whom you must battle! Though the story doesn't sound like anything new, the games aesthetic looks really unique, using the same sort of textures and colours from Street Fighter IV , which is AWESOME! The game seems to take place in a fantastical sci-fi world of the Asuras and Earth. My guess is that the Asuras are sort of these galactic beings that humans heed as gods or something like that. Anyway it looks really cool, especially with the Hindu/Buddhist deity character designs.

This is apparently what an Asura looks like. 
The game is also made by Capcom, probably my favorite video game company of all time. Though some say they are not as good as they used to be, with a number of their creative talent leaving recently and forming Platinum Studios (also an awesome company), I hope this game can show that Capcom's still got it. Check out one of the many trailers below! Hope it's good!

                         

Thursday, December 8, 2011

More Than Words

I was supposed to blog about this ages ago... Alright, so a while ago I watched  some friends of mine play in their band on the mean streets of Toronto, and they were pretty awesome! They are a group of musical Japanese working-holidayers who go by the name of "More Than Words", which is fitting because they're an instrumental group. Their style is Jazzy with a soprano sax playing gal on the lead and two young lads playing base and rhythm guitar. The guy who put it all together is my buddy Kenzo, the drummer.

Here They Are! More Than Words!
So a few weeks ago I hung out with them for a couple of hours to snap some shots and take a few low-res videos just for fun, and they received quite a lot of attention and money! People seem to really love that soprano sax! Here's a video of their cover of isn't she lovely! Woo!

 
So they're pretty good eh? Well here's a bit of music magic.... while they were playing one of their songs this RV rolled up right behind them, stopping at a red light, and then suddenly this dude opened the door and started playing one of those piano-mouth organ things, which matched perfectly with my friends music! And then when the light changed, he drove off! What a magical moment! I got a video of it too, but sadly I missed the part when he arrives, check it below!


And that was a TOTAL coincidence! Ah... the magic of the everyday. More Than Words play around Toronto on random dates so you might end up seeing them if you walk the streets of downtown Toronto. However, if you'd like to see some listings, check em out below. With a Jazzy sound and an ever-expanding roster of music, they sure are a blast!

Check them out at http://www.myspace.com/morethantoronto

 

Saturday, December 3, 2011

How Not to Make an Asian American Sitcom

Holy pooptown! Someone finally did it! Someone in TV land finally realized that Asian-Americans represent a considerable American TV watching demographic and decided to make a good ol' American sitcom just for them! Wow, what a swell age we live in! ...Can you detect the sarcasm yet? Meet The Chin Chens!

I know what your thinking, that title looks pretty ominous.
 Though it has not aired yet (and might not as the production company apparently is involved in an unrelated financial scandal) this is a real project. I found out about it from angryasianman.com (check it out, great blog) where it was mentioned with grave sentiments. Alright so what is this? Well its one of those laugh track, family sitcoms, like Fresh Prince of Bellair, or Two and a Half Men or Friends or... well you get the idea. Only the big twist is its about an Asian-American family. Alright so nothing wrong so far right? Figure its about time Asian-American family life was represented in a funny and lighthearted television sitcom right? Why not? And then I saw the demo reel... (watch it now)


Alright so I'll be fair. Most of the scenes in this reel are just really corney and badly written, or dumb or silly or whatever, but that sort of stuff is kind of expected in this genre so I can let it slide (YEAH I SAID IT!). But HOLY SHIT, that theme song is F**KIN RIDICULOUS! Is that how the producers really think Asian Americans feel? "Americans at heart, Asians by blood"??? "...red, white and blue mixed with Yellow coloured "something or rather?" (I think they said love... or mud) WHAAAAAAAAAAAAT? R to the A to C-I-S-T! What does that spell? I don't use this word lightly friends, but goddam! That's racist, no two ways about it. Also, why is it called the Chin Chens? Chin, and Chen are two family names respectively, so you'd only need one of them... like "The Chens" or "The Chins" but using both of them makes it seem more incorrect and MORE RACIST! Though I don't know for sure, it seems that this show was produced by white folks. Yeah... NO EXCUSE!


Ethnocentric sitcom done right! (that's arguable, I suppose, but it has been running for 6 seasons free of racially charged scandals!)
White people wrote "Memoirs of a Geisha" and "Shogun", which were both well written and accurate portrayals of traditional East Asian settings and characters. Neil Gaiman, an acclaimed author and white Englishman, wrote "Anansi Boys", an excellent bit of fantasy in which nearly all the characters are west-Indian. Point is, you don't have to be a certain ethnicity to write accurately about ethnic characters, you just gotta check your facts or, alternatively, not be an IDIOT.

It just seems to me that a total lack of effort and sensitivity went into "The Chin Chens" which SUCKS ASS! Because I truly and deeply believe that a sitcom portraying the daily lives, triumphs and hardships of the "average Asian American family" even from a comedic angel, is due and might be pretty damn interesting. I'm also all for making that huge unemployment line of Asian-American actors that I'm sure MUST exist, shorter. I mean there is a lot there to work with! They could explore the "am I Asian or American?" identity crisis that some people seem to go through, the 1st gen vs. 2nd gen culture gap, immigration, stereotypes, ALL KINDS OF INTERESTING SOCIAL ISSUES COULD BE EXPLORED! But as far as I can tell from this reel... no dice. Which is sad considering what could have been done here. It could have been like Little Mosque on the Prairie... which is GOOD... and CANADIAN! Oh Canada... sometimes I just love you so with your little CBC *hugs ground*

P.S. I'm aware that because this show hasn't aired yet and I haven't seen a full episode yet, my criticism may be premature, but seriously... that theme song is not a good sign of things to come.   

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Eat Your Kimchi!

Hello Hello!

Alrighty, so some of you may know of the fabulous Korean culture themed Youtube channel "Eat Your Kimchi". The story of this channel is pretty cool. Basically, two young Canadians, Simon and Martina, went over to South Korea to teach English and, while over there, decided to make videos of the random Korean things they encountered (e.g. music, food, clothes etc.). Originally the videos were meant for friends and relatives so they could show their loved ones their Korean experience, but after sometime, their channel built up quite a large following and now they're weblebrities! But even more amazing is that Non-Koreans and Koreans alike, dig this channel and it is even viewed by Korean celebrities! Cool!!! So they got pretty famous in Korea too, and as a result they've been on all manner of popular TV shows and have rubbed elbows and interviewed all manner of Korean celebs! Man... I hope that happens to me!

Simon and Martina starting the Q&A (taken on my cellphone)
 But I digress... Why am I mentioning these folks? Well they are alumni of my university and recently they came to campus and did a Q&A! It was pretty interesting! As someone who is particularly interested in Korea and who has traveled there twice, it was really interesting get another Canadian perspective. But what surprised me was just how huge these guys are! SO MANY PEOPLE SHOWED UP FOR THE Q&A!

This is the lineup for their autographs! Unreal!
 Having my own video show that I am trying to popularize (West of Hollywood! YAY!) I asked them how they got so popular. They told me that they just stayed consistent and made the videos not to please anyone in particular, but because they enjoyed it! So I'm gonna be putting a bit more time into my own series as a result.

Signing autographs!
 Also check their site out if you like Korean stuff! It's good and they're quite entertaining and informative!

Even the English language South Korean TV station "Arirang Korea" was there! I dream of working for these guys!

 So if  you think you might be into this head on over to: http://www.eatyourkimchi.com/ and EAT YOUR KIMCHI!!!!!     

They actually made a video and I'm in it, somewhere... hehehe (I look really dorky though)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

WOH: Fighter in the Wind

Yo!

So now that I'm done hating on anime I can talk about some other stuff, like my new West of Hollywood! This time its the not-so-well known Korean film Fighter in the Wind, check it out below!


Next one will be Project A featuring Jackie Chan, look forward to it! See ya'll soon!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

5 More Things I Hate About Anime

Okay! So, I wanna get off the topic of anime here so I'm gonna do all the rest of them in one shot so I can talk about some other stuff for a change! Cause this is supposed to be a frikin' East Asian stuff blog and anime is a pretty limited aspect of all that stuff so! Without further ado, the last 5 in express format!


 Silly English Names

This is Lelouch, he's mad cause his name sounds CRAZY!
 Alright! This one is fairly straight forward. In a lot of anime you have characters that are supposed to be "western" characters, i.e. not Japanese. Normally western people have names like, Bill or Robert or Alice or George or.. well you get the idea. But in anime western people often have ridiculous names that seem to have been invented by someone who has never seen a Western person in real life but heard a European dialect spoken once and imagined what western names must sound like based on that.

Some animes do use proper English names, but a lot of the time we get things like -
Hernz Higgins or Leon Scorps or Lelouch Lamperouge or Nunally vi Britannia or Silvee Shicklestein or WHATEVER. Point being, I never met anyone with the last name Scorps, or the first name Lelouch or Nunally and what does "vi" mean anyway!?

I think you get the picture, on with the next one!     
 

Women Who Act Like Little Girls

This one I've always found pretty weird and creepy. This usually happens in romantic animes in which the main character is usually a dude and socially incompetent. So this dude happens to meet some girl who looks like something like THIS!


So the main character hooks up with this chick, yet for some bizarre reason she seems to be confused by everything, as if she had been living underground for her whole life and only recently surfaced. She can't seem to do anything by herself and thus empowers her nerdy boyfriend when he is forced to perform even the most mundane tasks for her like tying her shoes. If you have watched anime regularly at any point in your life YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN! And maybe she's 15 or maybe she's 25 but you wouldn't know cause she acts like she's 6! The annoying thing is that in many animes they try to play this sort of uber dependent relationship off as being cute or desirable. Well its not! It's creepy! Also, if you had a girlfriend like this for more than a week you would LOSE YOUR SHIT! GUARANTEED! So maybe your thinking, "but Alex maybe Japanese girls act like that." If this is what you think, go visit your nearest Japanese girl to become disillusioned. NEXT!


Useless Characters

Sakura from Naruto, she may look cool, but she was useless for much of the series.


 Many action animes have these. Basically you have the main character, whose a hero, or anti hero but is generally bad-ass. Then you have the hero's buddies who are also badass but not as badass as the hero. They all have their skills and powers which come in handy in battles and various other situations. Then you have the useless character or characters. These people serve no real purpose other than getting in the way of the badass characters or getting captured or killed. And the worst
thing is that their almost always a jerk about it, complaining about how much they suck or whatever, It's annoying!   




Badly Animated Action Scenes
Imagine if your fight scene was just this frame with sounds and camera movement... this actually happens in some lower quality animes. Kind of destroys the illusion doesn't it?

 This is strictly for action animes. You know when you have one of those animes where the characters look really cool and have crazy powers or abilities and you can't wait for them to scrap!? And then they do... and it sucks because there's no goddamn movement!? Well... yeah that sucks. When Japanese animation studios cut corners by literally reducing fight scenes to a bunch of still frames... it sucks! I think this the reason why my parents and other non-initiated tend to think Japanese animation is low-quality with the exception of Miazaki.


Extremely Slow Pacing

I've been powering up for 7 weeks! When can I shoot this F**king Kameamea already!!!

Watch Dragonball Z if you want to see a series in which a fight scene that would take something like 3 to10 minutes in real-time is stretched out to span 5 to 10 episodes... Oh wait, what's that? You don't want to? That's funny... NEITHER DO I! SNOOOOOOOOOORE... 

 Gratuitous Fan Service
  
This is something that I think really alienates anime from the uninitiated and makes anime fans look like a bunch of creepy pervs. Here's an example - lets say we have an action anime in which a female character is gonna be doing a lot of ass kicking. Well naturally she would be wearing a school uniform or some other outfit with a mini-skirt which ensures that every time she throws a kick her panty's are exposed for all to see right? riiiiiiight... 

An old-school example of the not-so-illusive panty shot.
 That's just one example but this sort of thing happens to female characters and ranges from panty shots to girls getting their clothes blown off for various reasons to all manner of stuff. Now I'm not part of any temperance union or anything, I don't wanna be a tight ass, but this stuff just happens so much in anime and half the time its pointless. I could understand the odd panty shot here and there as even in real life such things happen. But seriously, sometimes its so damn obvious and creepy. It doesn't help that it is often the result of a girl wearing a school uniform with a skirt which is way too short. The fact that she's wearing a school uniform in the first place probably means she's under-aged, which is pretty creepy if you think about the average age demographic for anime fans. I dunno, I just find it unnecessary and the fact that its sort of sneaky and not really overt just adds to the creepiness factor.               


Friday, November 11, 2011

10 Things I Hate About Anime: Chinese Bun Hair

Alright so I really gotta make these shorter or I will never get through them and there are a lot of other things I would like to talk about on here besides anime...

Strange title no?

What is Chinese bun hair you ask? For those of you who watch anime, you should know EXACTLY what I'm talking about. In anime it is extremely easy to pick out Chinese female characters because the all look like Chun Li from Street Fighter!

 Chun Li (Street Fighter Alpha) - she's got another bun on the other side too.



 
So yes ALOT of Chinese female characters in anime sport the "double bun", but I honestly have no idea where this stereotype came from! How many Chinese people have you seen wearing their hair like this? Think back... OH! of course! Kung Fu period dramas! But wait a second... those take place in the PAST! Alright, so though I may be an East Asian studies major, I'm not really an expert on Chinese hairstyles. However, I would venture a guess that its been at least over a hundred years since this hair style was popular in China, and it seems that it was predominantly a children's hairstyle. Alright so, how come a good majority of the fully grown, modern, female Chinese characters in anime rock this hair style? Stereotyping! Yes I've said it! Anime has MAD stereotyping, but I think we tend to let it slide cause its made largely by Japanese people. Now I know Japan is mostly a mono-culture so this sort of ignorance is somewhat understandable. It's not so much that stereotyping in anime is especially evil, I mean, American and European animation feature tonnes of stereotyping as well. 

The problem with stereotypes is that they often have their roots in reality to some degree. For example let's take the statement "Indian people like curry". Well its fairly obvious that a lot of Indian people eat curry. When I go to India town in my city, it's the first thing I can smell. So by deductive reasoning, this place smells like curry -> Indian people live here -> Indian people must cook with curry -> Indian people must like curry! Thus we can see how some stereotypes are rooted in reality. However, anime is full of stereotypes that don't make any sense! 

Scene from Code Geass featuring "The Chinese Federation"

Let's look at this example from one of my favorite animes, Code Geass (this anime deals with the future fictional colonization of Japan by Great Britain, which is REEEAALLY interesting because Japan once tried to colonize Asia after the Japan-Russo war). On the right we have a rag-tag group of Japanese freedom fighters. They look pretty modern eh? On the left he have "The Chinese Federation", these people are supposed to represent China's governing body, in the future... BUH?! ARE THOSE EUNUCHS? ARE THOSE SOLDIERS CARRYING STAFFS? WHA? 

Yeah so, as we can see, in the future, China has stopped messing around with all that quazi-communist nonsense and has reverted back to a monarchy. China hasn't been a monarchy for over 80 years. It doesn't make sense! Now you might be saying "Big deal, its ONE anime!" But it's not, there are tonnes of animes that depict China as being this old, backward, monarchical society, run by scheming eunuchs and child emperors, even in modern times... It's DUMB! Remember that whole cultural revolution thing? Yeah, that happened! ...and it sucked! So anime, let's have some realistic representation!

There are tonnes of these bizarre stereotypes in anime. Some appear to be relatively harmless, but some are just ridiculous. If your making a fantasy anime I suppose it doesn't matter so much, but if your anime takes place in a real-world setting, your kind of sending a strange message to the viewer. There are some pretty gullible people out there who will believe that China really this traditional, feudal society, if you tell them.  And don't even get me started on the crazy Korean, South East Asian, American, and European stereotypes prevalent in anime. Cause if I did, this post would be 5 times as long! Anyway, its something to think about as you watch your favourite animes! 

Friday, November 4, 2011

10 Things I Hate About Anime: Sports Physics in Anime


 Hey guys! I’m back! This time we’re looking at anime sports physics, which, by and large, are RIDICULOUS! Again! If you are joining us for the first time… I really don’t hate all anime, I’m just venting about certain conventions that annoy me. So let’s dive right in!

A member of the Harlem Globetrotters working some real-life craziness on the net. 

 Okay… so generally I don’t watch sports anime all that much, and there is a good reason for that. See the reason I find sports interesting is because, within a sport, athletes are limited by rules and conventions which they MUST follow, lest they be disqualified from whichever game they are playing. Now, you have your athletes that don’t really stand out too much, they are probably pretty good, but they just follow the rules and play accordingly. Then you have STAR athletes who make the rules work for them!

What I mean is that, really famous athletes often have a specific playing style that peoples either fiend really impressive or really entertaining. Take the Harlem Globetrotters for example. If you have never heard of them (look them up on youtube for a good time!), they are basically a novelty basketball team from Harlem (New York City) who make a point of doing all manner of tricks while they play the game (such as spinning the ball on their fingers or shooting backwards). Win or lose, people love em, but the thing is they always play within the rules, and that’s what makes them so interesting (in my opinion). Regardless of the crazy passes or shots they do, they are still playing basketball. What does this have to do with anime?

Baseball time!
 Well as I’m sure you know, sports anime is about, well, sports! They often start out relatively realistically with the protagonist, an athlete and player of some sport, usually in high school, who is competing in some league to be the best! He or she competes against other high school students in his or her school and then moves on to regionals, and then provincials (if that isn’t the same thing…) and then nationals and then internationals and becomes more and more famous.

Let’s use Hockey (woo Canada!) as an example of a general breakdown of how sports anime works. The teen protagonist wants to be a badass hockey player, so he joins his or her’s high school hockey team. We see fun training segments, which are actually my favourite parts of sports anime, where the protagonist learns the fundamentals of how to be the best! Once they are ready, they play their first game, lose, feel bad, mope, train harder, win, and then play against a stronger team. This is generally how sports works in real life (in my experience), and how it works around the beginning of most sports animes. To me, these are often the most captivating parts of sports animes because their plausible.

Sam Dunk! Widely considered one of the best sports animes/manga.
 Later on however, as the teams they play get more and more skilled, the protagonist is getting better and better, winning excitingly close games that are realistic and full of tension, ya know, like real sports games. Then, just as things are getting really exciting, the crazy stuff starts happening.

At some point the protagonist will inevitably encounter a rival player who has some ridiculous skill - lets say, the power to hit the puck in such a way that is spins super fast, generating a whirlwind that pushes the gaolie aside and always secures a goal. Aright so already this is pretty unbelievable but maybe your like, “I guess this dude is an oddity and it will be interesting to see how the protagonist deals with this situation, within the conventions of hockey”. Yeah… well that WOULD be pretty frickin interesting WOULDN’T IT? But no, in anime the protagonist often has to learn some equally ridiculous counter measure to combat this mysterious skill. Here is where most sports anime loses me.

From this point on, the story deviates from a plausible story about some dude who wants to be a good hockey player to some sort of hockey-themed martial arts fantasy epic (I love martial arts by the way, but there’s a time and place!). Basically the protagonist encounters opponents with more and more implausible skills - let’s say something along the lines of shooting the puck in such a way that it spins so fast that the density of the puck actually increases to the point that the evaporating water droplets from the ice rink condense around the puck and turn it into a giant ice ball which collides with the goalie and nearly kills him! ...I kid you not, that kind of stuff happens ALL THE TIME in sports anime, especially as you get further along in a given series.

Hajime no Ippo! Though featuring ridiculous characters and situations, is exaggerated though actually fairly plausible in it's portrayal of boxing for the most part, as far as sports anime goes anyway. 
Here’s the problem for me. Sports have rules and conventions. I’m sure there is nothing in the hockey rulebook about giant ice balls, but its pretty damned safe to assume that if that ever occurred, they would probably stop the game and Interpol would probably arrest the dude who made the ice ball and run all manner of experiments on him to see if he was some sort of super human. In anime, however, everyone is just pretty surprised and the game keeps rolling.

At this point, the game ceases to resemble hockey. The rules and convention have been broken and continue to be as the techniques get more and more implausible. Rules and conventions make sports what they are, with these crazy techniques the original rules of the game are rendered obsolete! So I ask you, "what is the point in making an anime sport centered, if the sport your series is centered around turns into something that no longer resembles that sport?" It dosen’t really make any sense!

Why not just create a new sport and have the anime revolve around that?! You can have a compelling story that takes place within the rules of the game, you can even have special techniques, so long as they coincide with the rules of the sport. Sports movies and T.V. dramas do this ALL THE TIME. See, animes portray melodrama really well, so they could make it a million times more interesting with emotional investment and character development, while having the player lose sometimes, or learning some new skill that helps them out a bit, but instead they just make it crazy! But, we must not forget the most ridiculous aspect. 

The dudes from Prince of Tennis, a group of highschoolers who could beat the pants of any living pro.

These are HIGHSCHOOLERS! These people are performing techniques which the GREATEST ATHLETES IN THE WORLD will never be able to do. It’s crazy! They didn’t call Wayne Gretzky the “great one” because he could hit the puck so hard that it broke into fragments that flew in impossible trajectories around the goalie to reform in the net to make a goal! NO! They called him that cause he was REALLY FRIGGIN GOOD AT HOCKEY!!!!!!

Have you watched high school sports? I mean its not bad, but it will never be as exciting as the pros! That’s why they don’t BROADCAST IT!!!! Now you might be asking “Oh Alex, why does everything need to be realistic with you? Don’t you have any imagination?!” Yes. Sure I do, but nearly every sports anime I’ve ever heard of works in this way. I'm asking for a bit of variety! You could make a really compelling anime about a normal sport, and just make the story and characters really good while focusing more on the real-world mechanics of the game, which are full of little tricks and hidden skills anyway! You might like it! But I think it's NUTS! So YEAH! Rant over.

By the way I would like to thank my buddy Chris Evensen for helping me with this list, he’s a Manga Guru of sorts, who has read like every manga EVER. Or something like that.       

Thursday, November 3, 2011

10 Things I Hate About Anime: Emo Protagonists

 A person characterized as being “emo” is often constantly depressed, has an inferiority complex, is anti-social and is constantly “hurting inside”. Now there are people in this world who are allowed to feel this way. For example, if your Dog has died, if you lost your job and your wife or husband left you, if you have survived a traumatizing experience, if you went off to successfully siege a castle and came back only to find that someone has set your lovely farming community on fire and skewered all your family members. However, we don’t usually use “emo” to describe someone with these problems. “Emo” people, are usually people who aren’t all that bad off, or just SERIOUSLY over reacting to some shitty situations in their lives. They’re the kind of people who, stereotypically ware dark clothes and say things like “NO ONE UNDERSTANDS ME!” and shun the world. You know, the kind of person you want to slap in the face and say “NUT UP OR SHUT UP!”. Does this sound like the kind of person you want to have at your party? That, my friends, leads me to the second thing I “hate” about anime… EMO PROTAGONISTS!

"I saved the world twice, but I still don't give a shit about it." ("Cloud Strife" From Final Fantasy VII:Advent Children)

Anyone who watches anime knows that emo protagonists populate a lot of anime. The thing is its actually not too bad to have a few of these guys around, especially in contrast to more lively and laid back characters. I would even say that having emo supporting protagonists is not too bad. But oh boy, the worst is when their centre stage. When emos are the main characters they are often whiney, shunned by others, wimpy or, in the worse case, unconditionally loved by all! This is often dependent on which genre the anime is a part of. Emo main characters in action animes are pretty annoying. Basically the emo action convention works like this: some dude or dudette (usually a dude) who is probably in high school and not popular (usually because they SUCK at everything) are thrust into some sort of situation in which they are forced to save the world or something along those lines, against their will. The characters “normal lives” (i.e. before they became a reluctant hero) are often pitiful. They have zero self-esteem, are physically weak, constantly get picked on and lack any semblance of social skills (and lack any semblance of any skill really). So yes… they just suck. The story often has them in control of some newfound power, or giant robot, or some sort of thing that gives them some sort of ability of which they previously lacked (pretty easy when you HAVE NO ABILITIES!).This power is usually the only thing that can face some sort of horrible threat to the livelihood of the world and its inhabitants. The character uses his or her newfound powers to fight bad guys often channelling their pent up frustration or sadness or insecurity to release DESTRUCTIVE EMO BLASTS OF POWER, decimating their foes!  

"I am the only one who can save the world...  I'm just so useless!" ("Shinji" from Evangelion)

 So you might be saying “But Alex! This is a convention that exists in all underdog stories! Why are you only ragging on anime?” This is a fair question my friends! The thing with most underdog stories is that the experience of wielding power and saving lives often changes the protagonist for the better. It gives them the confidence to join in with the world and become something truly great and admired. Well in anime, more often than not, the character just remains a frickin wimp forever! It’s like having powers just made him more acceptable somehow. He’s still an imbecile with an inferiority complex who is by and large useless and everyone just puts up with it cause they need him to “save the world”. Looking for an example? Evan-fricken-gelion! Yeah that’s right! I’m calling it out! This series is actually pretty good I have to say. But the main character is so FRIGGIN PATHETIC and emo, it pissed me off watching it. The worst thing? HE JUST STAYS THAT WAY! What sort of message is this sending? “Hey people! It’s okay if you suck at life; just remember, you’ll be the one with powers when SHIT GOES DOWN!” The worst thing for me though is, if the character is male, which is often the case, he has these women inexplicably falling in love with him. This happens in quite a few action animes in which, if you know anything about women, DOSEN’T MAKE ANY FRIGGIN SENSE! In these shows that meet the conditions I just stated, there is often a female character that is for some reason smitten by the main characters, brooding or anti-social or useless nature and seeks to “heal” his wounded heart or ego or whatever. Suffice it to say it often doesn’t work but they fall in love anyway. See, this is annoying to me cause in real life, if you are constantly, brooding, or anti-social or useless, people, especially members of the opposite sex, tend to either not notice you, or just AVOID YOU OUTRIGHT cause they think you weird or something. This brings us to the most implausible emo protagonist, the one that exists in the romance genre.

"All these girls love me cause I'm socially stunted!" (The cast from Love Hina)

 In the romance genre of anime this happens WAY more often and its implausible in romance animes that feature protagonists of either gender. First let’s look at dudes. Romance animes with dudes usually belong to the “harem” genre. “OH GEE! WHAT A FUNNY NAME? I WONDER WHAT THAT MEANS?!” These animes feature a male protagonist that often has a personality containing any combination of the following: insecurity, self consciousness, ugliness, stupidity, laziness, social ineptitude, blandness etc. Yeah seems like a real hunk eh? So its obviously no surprise when EVERY FEMALE CHARACTER (of all ages and “hotnesses”) IN THE FRICKIN SHOW FALLS IN LOVE WITH HIM (like a personal harem)! Yeah… cause, ya know… most women like their men unable to function in society! Only, by and large, they don’t… they really, really don’t. This convention makes equally little sense in the female context as well. In romance animes where females are the main characters its the same sort of idea, minus the harem. The girl is usually emo, unconfident, stupid, clumsy, ugly, useless, socially inept, all that other stuff, etc., etc. and yet, the most handsome, proactive, talented, perfect, yadda, yadda, dude in school, or work, or whatever happens to spy her one day and think to himself “Gee! I’ve always wanted a girlfriend who is incapable of performing even the most rudimentary tasks! (such as walking on level ground while carrying something)” and asks her out. During the relationship of course the girl, being a self-conscious wreck, ends up being extremely clingy to her new handsome boyfriend and suspects him of infidelity at every turn (while continuing to be absolutely useless). But the boyfriend, being this benevolent guy, forgives her every time and just puts up with it. Ya know! Cause he’s nice and stuff! BULLSHIT!

Gatsu here was teleported to hell where all his friends were killed and/or raped in front of him, so he is certainly allowed to be emo. BUT HE'S NOT! (Gatsu, from Bersek) 

 So basically, my point is that emo protagonists in anime are annoying because their often portrayed as being desirable as mysterious hunks or romantic/intimate partners, or heroes much to the contrary of real life. By and large, people are generally attracted to proactive, positive, skilled and/or charismatic people, because (surprise, surprise) they’re good at stuff and people admire them and feel good around them! Nobody likes a whiner! In real life, most of these emo people are ignored or at worst shunned. Hey! I'm not saying I like it, I'm just stating the facts! It certainly sucks, but if you wanna be a cool hero who inspires others, or suave gentleman, deemed attractive by all the ladies ya gotta actually have some confidence be capable of actually DOING something! And emo characters are straight up annoying. They're always going on about how horrible their lives are when most of their problems are results of their own USELESSNESS! GO GET SOME SKILLS ALREADY! Now I understand that you can't make such simple assumptions about real people, I'm just speaking in the context of anime here.                

Sunday, October 30, 2011

10 Things I Hate About Anime: Implausible Ninjas

Sorry for the wait guys! Now it is time to see what 10 things boil my blood about anime!
Before I start I have to say again that I generally like anime, and “hate” is a strong word, so I would say this list is more like “10 conventions that I find silly, unnecessary or annoying in anime”, but as you can see this title doesn’t have the same ring to it. I also originally intended to have this all be one post but the first one ended up being really long, so I decided to make them separate. So over the next ten days I will post one per day! YAY!

So… onward!    

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"Do these look like ninjas to you!?" (From Naruto)

I think that we can all agree that ninjas are pretty cool, hence their universal popularity and appeal. Ninjas come from Japan, and anime comes from Japan, so it stands to reason that there are many Anime series featuring ninjas. This is not inherently bad. My problem is how these ninjas are portrayed. Let’s look at what ninjas are at least based on what we actually know about “real” ninjas (which is not all that much actually; they are not often mentioned in historical texts). We know from… uh… books n’ stuff that Ninjas were used mostly in the Sengoku period (a large period of history that is broken down into smaller periods) which had all sorts of warlords fighting against each other, (it would make sense for fighting warlords to have used ninjas somewhere between the end of the 10th century to maybe sometime after 1600? although it’s hard to say if ninjas, as we know them now, existed in those early times prior to the 15th century) and that they were supposedly used for reconnaissance, information gathering, stealing, and assassination (kind of like how the CIA is portrayed in films!). So ninjas are already pretty interesting right? We don’t know too much about them so there’s lots of space for creativity if we wanted to a make a story about them right? Well manga and anime creators take this to an EXTREME!
               
  
This "ninja" seems to have been highly trained in the art of making spider webs? and controlling frog-lichen hybrids? Ya know! Ninja stuff! (from Ninja Scroll: The Series)


 In anime, ninjas have CRAZY powers. I’ve seen series where there are ninjas that use their hair to block bullets or shoot complex, bodily generated chemical compounds out of their mouths and all manner of malarkey. Yes, its true we don’t know much about ninjas, but one thing I think we can all safely assume is that THEY WERE HUMAN BEINGS! But whatever, this is an animated medium were dealing with, so this could be acceptable, except for ONE MAJOR DETAIL! Based on their functions, you would think ninjas were supposed to be stealthy right? I mean they would have to be to do their aforementioned jobs effectively RIGHT? Well in anime no one seems to think this is the case as in anime ninjas are often portrayed as fighting one another or other adversaries in fully confrontational FURIOUS POWER BATTLES!!! This would be fine and exciting, only that THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO BE FRICKIN NINJAS! Why make ninjas who don’t act like ninjas? Why not have them just be super powerful samurai or something? That would make so much more sense! IT’S STUPID! Its like if I made a pirate show that took place on land and the pirates ran a Starbucks and baked cookies! They wouldn’t be pirates would they?! Occupations are defined by actions and functions! But this isn’t even the worst anime ninja convention. That, my friends, is “the sentimental ninja”, the most hated and implausible of all anime ninja conventions (in my opinion).
                
Do the man and women in this romantic couple look like ninjas? NO!!! (From Basilisk)

 Alright, so ninjas are supposed to be taught from birth to be ruthless and efficient assassins and whatnot. So its really STUPID when you see an anime in which Ninjas are A. showing remorse after carrying out a job or B. Falling in love with each other. Think about it, if you are trained from birth to kill the people your lord tells you to, then why would you even care about why your doing it? You have been programmed since you were old enough to speak to obey and kill! Why would you even second guess that? It would be all you knew! The fact that a number of anime feature such ninjas and assassins suddenly growing consciences and choosing not to kill someone (and often later being condemned for it) is STUPID! And it happens in ninja anime SO OFTEN! Then there’s ninja love… Ninja love is a bit more plausible… I GUESS. Alright, so ninjas are supposed to be these hardened killers who live for their lords and not much else, they could die at anytime and were likely forced to perform tasks with a sort of objectivity, i.e. emotionally removed from the task at hand. This doesn’t seem like very fertile ground for romance does it?! Suffice it to say the sheer amount ninja romance in anime is ridiculous! When you take into account how most animes portray romance, i.e. cute and sweet and pink and butterflies and rainbows and stuff, that’s not what you wanna watch when you see ninjas! You wanna see badass, cold assassins killing evil! Not some bumbling, overly melodramatic teen romance! ARGH!!!!  
                 
Now THAT is a ninja. (Shinichi "Sonny" Chiba as Hatori Hanzo as seen in Kage no Gundan 3)
 So what is my point here? Well basically ninjas are already cool! I find realistic ninjas WAY more interesting than all this melodramatic mumbo jumbo. Though I am aware of some mangas (comics) that portray ninjas in relatively realistic light, I have yet to hear of an anime which features at least a plausible representation of what being a ninja might have actually been like. Seriously… don’t you think that might be really interesting? I'm not saying we can't have shows that have fantastic "what if" scenarios concerning ninjas. I mean, I am all for creativity. But the problem is, that's all there is! I want me some real ninjas! If you want to see a Japanese show that has ninjas doing good ol’ ninja stuff and features a much more plausible outlook, check out “Kage no Gundan” its not anime and its pretty old, but if you wanna see (sort of) REAL ninjas then look no further, the first season was released in North America under the name “Shadow Worriors”.     

DVD box for Basilisk - though not a terrible series, is to be avoided at all costs if you like realistic ninjas.
Worst offender: you might expect me to attack Naruto (an extremely popular series featuring “ninjas”) but Naruto takes place in an alternate world where ninjas are something different than what we are used to. No, I think Basilisk is a much worse offender in this regard. Though not a horrible series, it features a real-world historical setting with some real-world characters, but with ninjas so implausible I actually got pissed off watching it.
Okay! So that was way longer than I expected... the next post will probably be considerably shorter...                                   

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Prologue to "10 Things I Hate About Anime!"

What an intriguing title eh?

Alright so let me first clear the air here. I've been watching anime (Japanese animations) and reading manga (Japanese comics) for years and years. I first started watching anime back in elementary school back in the early to late 90's before anime had really become mainstream and established an identity over here in North America. Yeah, we had Dragonball and Sailor Moon, but people didn't really associate them with Japaneseness so much. At this point anime was generally regarded by most people as being just another kind of Saturday morning cartoon for the kiddies. And I, being a kiddy at the time would watch em! But what was interesting was that my best buddy had these older brothers who somehow managed to get their hands on VHS tapes of the more adult oriented stuff (yes, these were the days before file sharing, young’uns!), such as Akira, and Tank Police, and Ninja Scroll and uncensored Dragonball Z and all manner of obscure 90's anime. Well, suffice it to say, I had never seen anything like it!

I don't really know why I chose this pic... it's from GTO though! An anime that I really don't hate!

As a child it was my firm belief that cartoons were awesome, in English and for kids. But then suddenly I found myself watching these dark, gritty, subtitled, Japanese voiced cartoons with nudity and violence and all kinds of crazy stuff! At first I rejected it. As a young kid I didn’t really appreciate nudity or feminine wiles (and you didn’t either! ADMIT IT! No 6 year old boy really likes girls collectively!) but eventually I started getting into it. Fast forward to middle school and my appetite for anime was insatiable! I would watch anything I could get my hands on (even if it SUCKED). This insatiability lasted till about the end of high-school when my tastes became way more discriminating as my accessibility to anime increased manifold with the use of newsgroups and file sharing along with my access to live action East Asian TV and cinema. Why am I giving you all this exposition? Because I want to convey that, generally, I like anime and I have a lot of experience with it. I am not simply one of these outsiders who view the anime watching community with a sort of contempt or intense scrutiny. I have nothing wrong with anime itself or those who enjoy it, I even went through an “otaku” (look it up!) phase for much of middle and high school and I still watch anime to this very day. It’s just that as I've grown older I've come to find certain conventions in anime, extremely annoying! Hence this list... 

And so…

This is actually going be a two part post. Post 1 is 10 things I HATE about anime, post 2 is 10 things I LOVE about anime. For this first list I'm going to list anime conventions in no specific order, describe them and my reasons for hating them and give an example of a series that is largely guilty of the specific, despised convention.

 Unfortunately I don’t have time to do now so this shall be an intro and it shall be in the next post! Look forward to it! …Please.


Sunday, October 23, 2011

The World

Yesterday I watched an interesting Chinese film for my "Approaches to East Asia" course that I'm taking for my major. The course deals with methods of examining and thinking about East Asia whether your an "outsider" like myself, or a "heritage student", i.e. someone who is Canadian (or American) with an East Asian background. These days in the class we are dealing with the "problem of space" as my professor explains it. Its my perception that the problem of space, in the context of studying East Asia, begs the students to ask questions like "What do we consider to be East Asia?", "What do East Asians consider it to be?", "What is the significance of studying East Asia externally vs internally?", you know... that kind of stuff. So the film I had to watch that deals with some of those issues was The World, a film released in 2004, directed by Jia Zhangke who is quite well-known in the festival community.


  The film follows a number of different characters who work for "The World Park", an amusement park in a suburb of Beijing which contains a number of scaled-down reproductions of famous attractions from around the world such as those seen on the poster there. The two main characters are a couple, a woman named Tao (on the poster) who works as a performer at the park and man named Taisheng who is a security guard at the park. At first they look happy enough, but as the film progresses it seems evident that they are only together because both of them lack the opportunities to do what they truly desire. It seems that Tao desires nothing more than to see the world but lacks a passport (which apparently is difficult to get, I don't really know how Chinese administration works in this regard but I would assume its not easy as this seems to be a major obstacle for the character), while Taisheng is just trying to make his big break and become a successful business man. Unfortunately both of their dreams seem just out of reach. There are a number of subplots dealing with the other characters as well, all which deal with ideas of space in someway. 

Tao and Taisheng chilling in their company dorm.
The most interesting thing is the way the film deals with space and the significance of it, both in the context of the "World Park" that the characters work in and the significance of space and places in their everyday lives. The slogan of the park is "See the world without ever leaving Beijing!" and at certain points in the film  their are title cards which display such things as "the Eiffel tower in a Beijing suburb" and "an Ulan Bator night" in which the main character is looking over a highway overpass wearing one of those fuzzy Russian hats that was given to her a by a Russian worker at the park. (Ulan Bator is in Mongolia and is often spelled Ulaanbaatar). These titles seem to imply questions like "what does it mean if the Eiffel tower is in Beijing?, We associate the Eiffel tower with France so if the Eiffel tower is in Beijing does that mean Beijing is in France? Does that mean France is in China?" or something along those lines. Space is also dealt with in the context of the characters everyday lives both physically and mentally. The characters spend a lot of time together in close proximity making whatever space they are in their own. Sometimes they are apart in different spaces. Taisheng has a low-key affair with another woman and is thus let into her personal "space", he leaves one space for another and later returns to the previous space, does the space change?  Perhaps I'm just confusing you. Although I can't say may interpretation of the film is definitive if you actually watch it you'll likely at least see what I'm getting at. Anyway if you can find it, and want to see something a bit different, check it out!                            

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Video Gaming!

Hello hello!

Recently I just beat two games I was working on. Because of school it takes me forever to get through games now, which I guess is all for the best... *sigh*. These two games are of Japanese origin and both are fairly interesting which is why I'm blogging about them.

 
I mentioned in a previous post that I just recently got my hands on Yakuza 3. Well earlier this week I finally beat Yakuza 2 on Playstation 2! The final game clock was at 50 minutes! I spent 50 hours of my life on that game! (cause I was trying to complete all the extra missions) But I believe it to be time well spent because few games have such an engaging storyline and such likable characters, at least in my opinion. I explained in my "Virtual Gangstah" post what the Yakuza series is all about, so you can check there if you want some details.The sad thing about this game is that the English version its not easy to find.


Osaka as seen in Yakuza 2

 Its kind of strange cause Yakuza 1 can be easily found for about 20 bucks just about anywhere online but I had to snag my copy of Yakuza 2 from Ebay and even then there weren't many sellers. I managed to get it for 40 bucks which was the cheapest price I could find. It's a shame cause Yakuza 1, 3 and 4 are readily available in North America but this one is rather illusive. Considering how detailed and complex the storylines are of each respective game with characters and events carrying over into subsequent episodes, Yakuza 2 being hard to find might be annoying for latecomers to the series. Yakuza 2 has you traveling back and fourth between Tokyo and Osaka and the areas are fairly detailed to the point where you can actually learn a thing or two about the actual cities that their modeled after. The story involves a Japanese mob war between Kanto and Kansai gangsters (those are regions in Japan, Tokyo is in the Kanto region and Osaka is in the Kansai region and has it's own dialect of Japanese called Kansai-ban). The story also features a complicated subplot dealing with a ruthless Korean Mafia group, the members of which actually speak Korean in the game (although I'm pretty sure its spoken phonetically by Japanese actors, still its cool). If you can find it I recommend checking it out, might just give you PS2 some new life!



The Second game that I managed to get through was Vanquish. It's a third person shooter that is similar in play-style to Gears of War, a much more popular 3rd person shooter franchise. In fact, some people have dubbed it "The Japanese Gears of War". How is it Japanese you ask? Well, in Gears of War you play as hulking space marines who look like they chew iron and spit bullets. The enemies throughout the game are these sort of alien underground creatures who are equally hulking, ugly humanoids who wanna kill you. The colour palette of the game is famous for being stark with a lot of gray and brown highlighting dilapidated war-torn landscapes.

Vanquish

Gears of War 3
 
 As you may be able to tell from the screens both of these are great games, but how is Vanquish more "Japanese"? Instead of playing as space hulks who are fighting muscular, grotesque, alien mole-people who are trying to overrun humanity, you are a DARPA operative in a power suit that has a rocket sliding ability! Yay! And the best part? You fight... get ready for it.... evil, Russian, space robots who are trying destroy the United States with a giant, evil, heat wave emitter that is located on a space colony! Yattaaaaaa!!! The game also takes place on a lush and futuristic space colony so instead of grays and browns you get a lot more blues and reds. It's a nice contrast. Although Vanquish wasn't all that popular on release it is well worth playing. It was dubbed on gamespot.com as being the "best game of 2010 that no one played."Presently it has been out for a while and I imagine most people who were going to play it already have. However, for the uninitiated, it is available new for around 20-30$ so if you haven't given it a chance and are looking for a fun and creative shooter with a decent storyline (believe it or not) and crazy action then you couldn't do much better than Vanquish.

P.S. Its made by Platinum, the same guys who made Bayonetta! That's a good thing! Also its available on PS3 and Xbox 360!