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!  

 





     

Thursday, October 20, 2011

go go go!

Hey guys and gals!

Today is a monumental occasion! It will go down in history as one of awesomest things ever! Today is the day I have won my first go game using intentional strategy! WOOO! Alright so that's kind of nerdy but I'm someone who lacks any semblance of strategy. I suck at chess; I suck at RTS games; and I suck at planning in general. BUT I WON AT GO by 15 points!

A screen shot of my win! I'm black!
   
It's on a 9x9 board and it's on the easiest setting, but still! I'm a beginner and I just started learning how to play this game a few days ago and I can tell you, is pretty damn complicated. For those of you who don't know what go is I shall tell you! It's a strategy board game which was invented in China a really long time ago. There is mention of it in the Confucian Analects (you know who Confucius is right?) and Confucius lived in the 3rd century B.C. so we're talking about a few thousand years here. The name "go" is actually a short form for "i-go" (ee-goe) which is the Japanese name for the game. I suppose westerners probably discovered this game in Japan, hence the English name. In China its called "weiqi" (weichi) and in Korea it's called "paduk". I imagine it probably made its way to Japan (where it is most internationally well known) via Korea. We know it was popular in Japan at least around the 10th century A.D because it's mentioned in the first Japanese novel (which is also believed to be the world's first novel) Tale of the Genji

For those of you who are interested in this game but have no direction, the program that you see above you is a good place to start as it lets you adjust the bored size and difficulty setting for noobs like me. As well it features an online option which enables you to play against other human players when you get good. Its PanadaNet's open-gl go client available for free at:

http://www.pandanet.co.jp/English/glgo/

and yes, it works on Windows 7.

If you want to learn how to play the game, the guide I'm using is called "How to Master Go in Ten Days" and is a good gradual introduction available at:

http://www.pandanet.co.jp/English/introduction_of_go/

If your interested in Go in general but have no outlet, you can check out PandaNet's main English site at:

http://www.pandanet-igs.com

Happy going! hehehe

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Good ol' Saku...

Look at that smiling face and that laughter t-shirt! What's not to love?
 Who is this man? Why it's Kazushi Sakuraba of course! Now if you know me, you know I don't like street fighting. It's dangerous, it's horrible, and just sucks. However, I do like me some MMA or mixed martial arts. Though I've only recently go into it (in the last 2 years or so) I've trained in martial arts for a number of years and I just love to see it applied in a controlled setting. Though I don't think the name MMA is a very good representation of the sport, we don't really have any better name for it at the moment so there. But that's another post entirely. Anyway, I also love me some Sakuraba! This guy is a legend of Japanese MMA who has done a lot for the popularity of the sport in Japan and once upon a time he was a totally awesome, dynamic and versatile fighter and a great showman who was fun to watch both in and out of the ring.

Saku getting ready to pummel Royce Gracie
 Sadly years of fighting are not easy on the body. Taking hits, throwing kicks and punches, and performing complicated ground maneuvers tends to chip away at your constitution and Sakuraba has been in the game for a long time. This guy is a legend no doubt. He has been in over 40 MMA fights and has won the majority of them. But seriously, this man needs to retire. His last 4 fights have been extremely lack luster. I have just finished watching a recording of Dream 17 (currently the definitive Japanese MMA venue) on HDnet which featured his most recent fight, and it was pretty depressing. Hans Thompson, one of the announcers described him as looking like "an old man in pain" and both Mike Civello and Frank Trigg (the other two HDnet Dream announcers) both agreed that it's time for Saku to hang up his gloves. It's sad cause I love this guy and I'm not alone. I think he really brings an element of fun to the sport and back in his prime he was awesome to watch. But as much as I loved watching him then, I hate watching him get beat up now. Most of the recent fights I've seen are often severely one sided with Saku on the receiving end. Saku my man... it's time to pass the torch and start training some new guys, or use all that charisma and become an announcer! But please! Stop fighting! 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Confucius is rolling in his grave...

This week has not been pleasant for me for reasons not related to this post, let's just say "school sucks" and leave it at that (I don't actually believe that). So what happens to make me feel even shittier? I read an article in the news about a toddler getting run over twice by the same van in China in an open air market who spends hours writhing in pain in plain view while person after person walks by and ignores her. The child later dies in a hospital after finally being rescued by a garbage man. WHAT DO YOU EVEN CALL THAT???

Notice just how close the passers by come to the child, you would think from that distance they would have figured something was horribly wrong with her.

Alright so it is impossible to argue that this is seriously wrong. You can see from the pictures that the poor child is plainly suffering right in the middle of the road there, yet no one does anything. The moral implications, or lack there of, are horribly astounding. This article will also have nasty implications toward Chinese society at large. The problem with this story though is that a lot of people will likely take it at face value, i.e. they will say something along the lines of "Oh my goodness, those Chinese certainly have no compassion! That would never happen in here in ________ (insert country name here)". But in my opinion the problem is this. This sort of thing happens EVERYWHERE. It's just that in this case it's extreme, in plain sight and has piles of evidence to back in up. Think about it? How many times have you witnessed someone falling in the street and no one stopped to ask them if they were okay? How many times have you seen someone drop a pile of change or papers or what have you and no one stopped to help them? These are much less dire situations to be sure, but it is the same moral dilemma. From an ethical standpoint most people would say they would help the child, but think about this. If you were walking down the street intent on completing some important objective, would you have stopped to help the child? If you were the man on the motorcycle possibly speeding to make his next delivery would you have stopped for the child? Maybe you convince yourself the kid is just being a kid and rolling around on the street for fun (I've actually seen kids do this) who can say? My point is when we accuse people of lacking compassion we must have introspection, we need to ask ourselves if we would do the same, and we need to look at the bigger picture. Maybe some Chinese do lack compassion, but that is just evidence of a larger human problem. Some Chinese surely lack compassion, but that's only because many people in the world lack compassion. So next time you see someone in a pinch, see if they need anything. The worst thing they will say is "no".            



Friday, October 14, 2011

Virtual Gangstah!

Well well, I certainly do love me some video games. I especially love video games that enable me to be the toughest Yakuza EVER! And so I finally got around to picking up Yakuza 3 for PS3!

The box art for the North American release of Yakuza 3
Alright so this game isn't all that new (Yakuza 4 has been out for a while now) but back when it came out I didn't own a PS3 and I was totally stoked because I was afraid that this series would be discontinued in North America as it never really achieved the same popularity here as it did in Japan. Also I'm only now playing through Yakuza 2 for PS2 which was a pretty damn hard game to find, ended up paying 40 bucks on ebay and it didn't even come with the instructions. ANYWAY...

What is the Yakuza Series of video-games? Basically your a Yakuza named Kazuma Kiriyu (the guy on the cover) who is ridiculously strong and good at fighting (although the later installments have multiple protagonists). For those of you who don't know; Yakuza is essentially a term used to describe Japanese organized crime groups and their members. It is uncountable and can be used to describe a single member (a Yakuza) or a collective (of Yakuza). The games all have very complicated and in-depth story-lines featuring a plethora of characters many of whom are voiced and modeled after real A-list Japanese actors! Talk about production value. At its core, a Yakuza game will have you running from plot point A to B fighting all manner of people with a combat system that is ridiculously fun as it is violent as all manner of objects can be used as weapons. In the fights you have a "spirit meter" which once filled up allow you to use a brutal object specific special attack which is often very cinematic and violent but also TOTALLY COOL AND OVER-THE-TOP!

Kazuma Kiriyu utilizing what appears to be tank of some-sort in a brawl against some nasty characters. 
For me what really sets these games apart is the amount of detail in their story lines and characters and the amount of exploring you can do in the locales. There is ALOT of game here already as the stories for these games usually run from about 15-25 hours but for those who want to do all the extra stuff  you're in for a lot of content. I've been playing Yakuza 2 for 41 hours so far and I've still got 5 chapters to go! Talk about getting your money's worth.There are tonnes of side missions and activities you can do such as playing sports and dating girls in the worlds which are modeled after real Japanese cities. 

Tokyo as depicted in Yakuza 3

To sum it up, I would say that the Yakuza series represents the evolution of the beat-em-up games done right. It seems that in the past decade a few game developers have tried to capture the essence of the old arcade beat-em-up games from the 80's and 90's (Remember those? There's a screen shot below if you don't know what I mean) and bring it into the 21st century. But until Yakuza came along no one really got it right (except for Shenmue; more on that later...). Yakuza mixes all kinds detailed story elements hand picked from the best crime dramas and Japanese manga with addictive brawler game-play! It's awesome to live the life of a badass, Yakuza who fights like a beast, drinks, smokes, get's all the ladies, and is still a chivalrous admirable dude, in the comfort and safety of your own home! GOOD TIMES! Now all they gotta do is make a version called Bancho where you play as a Japanese bike gangster with a heart of gold. Common Sega! You know you want to! 

A screen shot from the NeoGeo classic Burning Fight, probably what Yakuza would have looked like 20 years ago.
  PS: For the most part the Yakuza games take place in modern Japan, however, there is a Japanese only release of the series that takes place in feudal Japan. In this one you play as the famous wondering swordsman Miyamoto Musashi and there is not much in the way of yakuza-ing going on there. The reason of that is the Japanese title of the series is actually Ryu Ga Gotaku which translates to something like Heart of the Dragon, a title that is not inherently yakuza related, so really the games could be about any badass person. I think a non-stereotypical-non-overly-sexualized-and-therefore-believable female protagonist might be pretty wicked! Can you do it SEGA? CAN YOU?! MAKE HER A BANCHO!
SOMETHING LIKE THIS! BAD ASS!!!!!! (That's Akira from Rival schools.) 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Goody bookness

Hey! Before I went to Korea last summer I took it upon myself to read Simon Winchester's book Korea: a Walk Through the Land of Miracles and it was pretty damn good! Sadly I didn't get a chance to blog about it so here it is! If your looking for a complex and dynamic portrait of 1980's Korea through the eyes of an Englishman than check it out. It's not a hard read and its all told from the prospective of the author, the well-known English journalist Simon Winchester. In the early 1980's, he literally walked from the most Southern point of South Korea to the most Northern point in a period of two months and documented the whole trip including all the interesting people he met.


Here's what it looks like!
     
I do have to stress though that as South Korea is quite a fast and vibrant country, it was very different in the 1980's than it is now and because of that this is a portrait of a Korea that is forever in the past. But still, it's very interesting and if your interested in Korea and are looking for an introduction you couldn't do much better. Also if your already studied up on Korea it might give you a neat perspective! It's also available in pretty much any bookstore in the travel section making it real easy to find. Check it!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

J-rocking out!

Hey hey!

So I've recently returned to the wonderful world of J-rock and what gems I have found! It was one stormy night when I was looking for some new Polysics tracks (a Japanese band that is probably my favourite group ever!) and a stumbled across this other bizarre group called モーモールルギャバン.
For those of you who can't read Kana (myself included) that spells MowMow LuLu Gyaban and they're pretty wild. I would describe them as a Japanese indie alternative group with a wide range of sounds, none of which are conventional. I just got a hold of their latest album BeVeci Calopueno (try saying that ten times fast) and it's just such a unique sound! If you know who Polysics are then I would describe this as a sort of Polysics lite, only that wouldn't really do it justice. 

Album cover for MowMow LuLu Gyaban's latest album BeVeci Calopueno check out their single: Hello!! Mr. Coke-High below.  
  

In other news I've also finally got around to getting into The Pillows. They have actually been around for quite sometime and you anime fans out there might know them as being the soundtrack of the Ginex anime and cult classic FLCL. But I just started seriously listening to them and they are go0o0o0o0o0d. Check out one of their more popular tunes, Ride on Shooting star below.

 
 

Monday, October 10, 2011

G is for Green! (not really)

Greetings!

Well I got some interesting news for you K-pop fans! This is likely old news by now but my girl in Korea informs me that the famous Singer/Songwriter/Producer/Member of Big Bang, G-Dragon has been busted for smoking some weed in Japan. GOOD GRAVY! As a result the good ol' publicists at YG entertainment (his company) were debating whether or not he should be allowed to carry on as a member of Big Bang (his pop group) or even if he should be punished further. Well naturally he was let off the hook as it was a nominal amount of weed that he was caught with. Which is good! G-Dragon is a pretty talented and creative dude. I sort of liken him to a Korean male Lady Gaga (that's meant to be a compliment as I firmly believe that Lady Gaga is the best thing to happen to popular music in the last decade). Anyway as a result of his transgression he is apparently no longer allowed to perform in Japan which, if this is true, really sucks for all those Japanese fans of Big Bang (of which there are many).      

Sorry.. I couldn't resist... that's G-Dragon by the way...
So some of you might be wondering "what's the big deal brah? Sometimes ya just gotta puff on some green homie!" Well, yes, admittedly here in Canada and apparently some parts of the States weed is not that big of a deal. But in Korea and Japan, you best not get caught with a spliff cause otherwise you're probably going to jail. Seriously. And this brings about an interesting question; why is weed so damned illegal over there? It's interesting because both Korea and Japan have very developed drinking and smoking cultures to the point where it's not uncommon to see people sleeping in the streets on weekend evenings! (Seriously! I've seen it with my own eyes!). As well, many of the people I have met from East Asia who have recently arrived in Canada for school or working holidays share this view of weed being right up there with cocaine and heroin. Admittedly, in my experience, many of these people's views tend to change after staying here for a while but I find this comparison to be pretty wild. You hear tonnes of stories of peoples dying from cocaine and heroin overdoses but, at least to my knowledge, no one has ever died from weed alone.

 
Here's G-Dragon and TOP's video for the song "High High" it's catchy! (it's NOT about smoking weed)

Overall I don't think this will lose him too many fans as I'm pretty sure the g-dragonites have already made up their minds about him ages ago. Perhaps the most interesting thing about this whole situation is that G-Dragon didn't even deny it. He just flat out admitted to toking up, which honestly takes a lot of balls especially in South Korea's music industry where having a squeaky clean image is extremely important. So I have to say this kind of makes me admire G-Dragon even more as this whole thing makes him seem a bit more real and down-to-earth somehow. Anyway, you go G!

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving by the way!   

Sunday, October 9, 2011

News!

Hello! Goodness gracious me, I have certainly been bad at updating this thing as of late. I've just started full time university and well I'm sure most of you know what that's like and for those who don't, it's pretty busy. This is also my first blog, so getting used to frequent updates and my new schedule is pretty tough. Now I present some news!

I made a new West of Hollywood video review for the Japanese film The Red Spectacles, that can be found below! I had to make it in two parts cause of youtube's posting limit. So feel free to check those out. I know I've made a lot of promises about trying to keep this blog updated so I'll just shut up and try to do that. Alright! Next post tomorrow (hopefully). I've also been behind on making these videos, that last one was supposed to come out a week ago but I just haven't had time to do it. But now I'm buckling down and hopefully will crank one out before the week is up. Hurray!