OK this is my shit. Sometimes I find it troubling how often products designed for the elderly appeal to me. Shouwa Monogatari has been billed as an “anime for seniors”, set in the year Shouwa 39 (that’s 1964), full of nostalgia for days gone by. It’s really just a slice-of-life period drama about the year Tokyo hosted the Summer Olympics - barely 20 years after WWII.
The plot is standard fare, revolving around a working class Tokyo family with 3 kids of varying ages. The interesting part is how the era informs the drama, creating tension between generations in the context of technological progress like the newly built Shinkansen, electronics and commercial air travel. The production quality is just beautiful too, complete with lovingly animated rendering of real structures and locations. Deep nostalgia is evident in the opening credits, which contrast past and present photographs of parts of Tokyo and their 1960s animated versions. It’s so moving, you guys.
If that wasn’t enough to convince you of how much this show CARES, after the ending credits (and their awesome 60s soundtrack) each week is a special segment full of information about an area featured in that episode and what it looks like today. These “Burari Sanpo” or “Casual Stroll” segments are a real highlight, giving you tiny snapshots of Tokyo’s history. Which is perfect, because the whole show is just a very sweet window to the past.
Oh and good news if you don’t watch raws: I noticed today that a fansubber has picked up episodes 1 and 2 already, so if you’re also digging on that senior citizen vibe you now have no excuse not to watch this.
“What if a Female Student Manager of a High School Baseball Team Read Drucker’s ‘Management’” is a pretty fantastic name for a business novel. The book can’t have been that bad either since it became a massive best-seller in Japan and now has a 10 episode anime and a live-action film (June 2011) based on it.
The first few episodes of MoshiDora were a little slow on the pacing, but honestly I’m just happy to have another baseball anime to watch this spring. Sometimes I forget to watch anime otherwise. Most baseball animes are only peripherally about the sport anyway and this one is obviously no different. Manager Kawashima Minami (whose name must be homage to the most famous of fictional joshi managers, Asakura Minami) attempts to determine who the stakeholders are in high school baseball, how to market to them, methods of translating technical language to the consumer (coach-to-team and vice versa) and motivating through responsibility.
It looks like she’ll be dealing with the issues of a different team member in each episode (le sigh, problem-of-the-week) with some underlying problem to eventually resolve surrounding her own relationship to baseball (childhood trauma?!) and a few earnest hand-grasping “sports-yuri” pairings (Minami and her sick childhood friend Yuki, star pitcher Asano and his freckled kohai) a la Oofuri thrown in the mix. I’m into it.
I was so disheartened by the untimely demise of my comment system that I couldn’t bear to update this tumblr for almost a year. OK maybe my embarrassment and waning interest in anime over the past few lame seasons had something to do with it too.
But I realized I do still have things I’d like to write about Japanese pop culture/nerd shit, so here I am again.
This afternoon I bought the Ai no Uta ~Higashi Nihon Daishinsai Special Charity Album on iTunes. It is a ridiculous 79 songs and all proceeds go to the Japanese Red Cross to aid the relief efforts.
Disclaimer - my friend Ayako actually gave me a copy of Ai no Uta 3 a couple of years ago and I listen to it on the regular so I was kind of excited about this. You see, whenever anyone hears me playing that album in my car they tend to respond with awkward silence, eye-rolling or “what is this Japanese adult-contemporary shit?” (FYI, this Japanese adult-contemporary shit.) Now at least I can say it’s for charity.
I saw Howl’s Moving Castle for the first time last night. Confession: I know it’s blasphemy for a long-term anime fanatic of my disposition/history/snobbery, but I actually hadn’t seen any Ghibli films before this year. I’ve been trying to watch as many as possible recently! Nausicaa is probably my favourite, but Howl’s came close to stealing my heart. Especially Calcifer. And especially any scene with Calcifer eating things. And extra-specially any scene with Calcifer eating firewood that he feeds himself with his little fire-arms. <3
I didn’t start watching this until a couple of weeks ago, but now I’m glad I picked it up! Having followed the manga for a year or two I was worried the anime wouldn’t do it justice. The character designs have all lost their sharp and pretty edge, and I heard rumours that Misaki wasn’t the ball-busting tough chick she is in the manga. It’s true anime Misaki is a tad more deredere earlier on but she’s still a strong female protagonist. What I’m enjoying most about the anime actually, is Usui.
Of course I like him in the manga. He’s an ideal shoujo hero - silent and manly, has perfect hair, always napping on rooftops, prone to making extravagant moves (jumping off of buildings, kicking down doors) to protect the girl he loves. But I have to admit I’ve got a soft-spot for his hapless rival Shintani, simply because Usui is so damn perfect and Shintani is an adorable, junk-food eating, tree-climbing, gas-station part-timing goof… plus he’s got a scar on his cheek/major moe point. (Shintani hasn’t shown up yet in the anime by the way, tanoshimi~)
But Nobuhiko Okamoto’s voice acting really takes Usui to the next level! He swings so well between the cool shoujo hero voice and a petulant monotone that can be teasing, perverted or apathetic (above) but is always hilarious. Manga Usui has plenty of perverted and quirky moments, but maybe because the manga is currently entering a more emo arc to do with his past or maybe because they are usually little single-frame asides, I don’t notice them as much as I do here. And it’s making me dig Usui more and more. Dare I say, I’ve caught the Usui-fascination. orz
Themesong to Yamato Nadeshiko Shichi Henge (2010), which I bought Linda for Mother’s Day earlier this month. (She’s a “horror onna” kind of like the main character Sunako, who is obsessed with skulls, blood and zombies etc.)
I was never particularly interested in the premise of the manga or anime this is based on, because it seemed like just another F4/Host Club/excuse to have a bunch of hot guys living together in a house. The whole “trying to turn a weird girl into a lady” set-up is so overdone. If I really wanted to watch some tomboy and/or hikikomori makeover porn I’d just rent She’s All That. In case this particular group of ikemen wasn’t cliche enough already, there’s even a cute baby-type boy, a playboy who constantly brings home married women, and the heir to some traditional Japanese family (this time it’s ikebana) in the bunch.
That all being said, the drama stars Kamenashi Kazuya as the Domyouji of this F4, Kyohei. I like Kame better with every drama I see him in and the more KAT-TUN songs I hear. It helps that he’s actually a pretty amazing actor (and that I may have read on his wikipedia page that he played baseball at a professional level before he because a boy-band star, WTF). He’s great as the gruff, plaid-shirted main love interest of Sunako. There’s an adorable kid that lives at the boarding house and narrates the entire show who was really believable too. And each character gets considerable character devlopment - unlike Nishikaido (tea-ceremony bocchan) and Mimasaka (incorrigible playboy) from HanaDan’s F4, Yamato Nadeshiko’s Takenaga (flower-arranging bocchan) and Ranmaru (incorrigable playboy) have interesting complexes and love interests. (As if you had to ask I was ALL over Takenaga x Noi-chan)
Sunako’s obsession with the occult gives this drama a bit of quirkiness, complete with a couple of fantastical plot elements like characters getting possessed by spirits. There’s also some laughable “only in a shoujo manga” bullshit about Kyohei’s beautiful face causing riots and the breakup of his family. But at the heart there’s some serious stuff going on. The major themes concern people hating themselves for how they look and being too scared to accept others or face their problems honestly.
It sounds like this drama is quite different from the original manga - mixing up the order of a lot of events, adding some serious tear-jerking drama to do with Kyohei’s family and turning the crazy landlady into a wise (but still crazy) widow with a son and a tragic backstory. I would have liked to see Sunako repeatedly plotting to kill Kyohei at the beginning because he is too dazzling (rather than just nutting him in the skull whenever she sees him) but the drama is pretty great in its own right, so no complaints.
My reaction to the news, from Ojisan, that I am being pitted against some other proper anime blog in the AniBlog Tourney has left me with the above expression. WTF? This isn’t even a blog, and it’s hardly about anime anymore. A year and a half ago I guess I used to write episodic reviews, but now it’s a busy month for me on here if I post a SeraMyuu video or a screenshot for the lulz and rant about some drama only my Mum and I have seen. Hell, it’s not even good for a tumblrrrog.
But in the honour of the 20(!?!)-odd people who voted for this piece of rubbish personal website of mine, I thought I’d write something about the anime I’m currently neck-deep obsessed with. Gokinjo Monogatari is one of Ai Yazawa’s (the creator of Nana and Paradise Kiss) earlier works, and is in fact the lesser known prequel to Paradise Kiss. I wanted so badly to watch the 50 episode anime quite a few years ago when I first saw ParaKiss, but my Japanese wasn’t good enough back then and there were no fansubs. I decided to return to it recently - and luckily for anybody in the same boat nowadays, a fully subbed version is now available.
Let me call out my bias from the get-go - everything about this series is like CRACK to me. I may seem like a shounen sports junkie to those reading this not-a-blog, but my true passion has always been pure mid-90s shoujo manga adaptations. The flat cel-shaded, poor quality animation gets my heart pumping with nostalgia for my first love. Anything in the vein of Hana Yori Dango and Sailor Moon, from the era when even the romance animes had to come with Bandai merchandising affiliations, really just DOES it for me, y’know?
Gokinjo takes that 90s aesthetic I love, and kicks it into the next level with my next favourite deal-maker - mature, slice-of-life themes. Yazawa Ai has this underlying current of realism in all her works that injects a sour note into every almost-happy ending. Gokinjo Monogatari is by no means dark, or even half as tragic as Nana, but its focus on small personal tragedies (Mikako’s parents’ divorce, the troubled love-triangle between Yuusuke, Body-ko and Ayumi) is something I really appreciate. As is Yazawa’s beautiful rendering of a flawed, multi-dimensional female lead in Mikako, as always.
This is a story about a bunch of cool teenagers at a hip art school in 1995, being creative, dating each other and finding themselves. Mikako, an aspiring fashion designer, organizes a group of her friends (and enemies) into a DIY collective that makes and sells their respective crafts at local flea markets. It’s the the struggles of this collective that form the centre of the show, along with Mikako’s relationship with her childhood friend and next-door neighbour turned romantic interest, Tsutomu (above).
The fact that the clothing is absolutely dated might pose a problem to some - but I LOVE it. That plastic, neon, fuzzy, rave fashion and the feel of Gokinjo reminds me of all of those mid-90s teen dramas I adored - like Hackers, Kids, the Finnish film Freakin’ Beautiful World, the game Jet Grind Radio for Sega Dreamcast… It’s like this show was made for me - one of the members of the flea-market collective is even a video game programmer who routinely pulls all-nighters debugging on his crappy 90s PC.
But although I may be blinded by how absurdly “up my alley” this series is, I can still recommend Gokinjo on the basis of writing alone. I’m jaded as hell, and this show made me laugh OUT LOUD (something I never do watching anime, even when I say I did) and actually bawl my eyes out multiple times in just the first dozen episodes. The plot is well-wrought, the pacing is perfectly dramatic and comedic when it needs to be, the characters are fascinatingly human for the most part - and while Mikako’s seiyuu may be an awful singer, the soundtrack KILLS.
Anyway, I’m sorry to anyone who reads this as a serious anime blog - for my lack of interest, my lack of interesting content, and the fact my layout sucks and you can’t see any of my tags and shit if you don’t use Tumblr. But in exchange, I can whole-heartedly recommend you go watch Gokinjo Monogatari because it is fucking awesome.
I feel kind of bad about linking you to that incredible video of Shirota Yuu as Tuxedo Mask without posting this for a bit of balance. I can’t have you guys going on thinking he’s just “THE PRINCE OF THE ASS~~”. Here he is looking much more respectable (depending on your point of view) and doing a nice cover of my favourite GReeeeN song. ちょっとカッコイイと思うよね ＾＾
When Noogz told me Miura Haruma had been cast as Kazehaya in the upcoming Kimi ni Todoke film, I KNEW I had heard that name somewhere before. Turns out he was the “pretty boy” neighbour of Oguri Shun in Bimbo Danshi who I was “looking forward to seeing in more stuff” according to this post I made a year and a half ago. He also stars in Samurai High School, which we watched over the past couple of weekends.
This is another DVD boxset we’ve had for ages that I never wanted to watch because the premise sounded retarded - goofy high school boy Koutaro (Miura) gets haunted by the spirit of his samurai ancestor, causing him to switch personalities and save the day/get into awkward situations and just generally wave a broomstick around while taking his hair in and out of a ponytail. Turns out it was awesome. There are lots of great “stand-in-a-field-and-shout” scenes where the samurai sense of right and wrong inspires bad guys and teaches lessons a la GTO, if you’re into that sort of thing. And it’s also a legitimately funny drama, thanks largely to the dynamic between Koutaro our alternatingly nerdy/gar samurai, and his tight-knit, hilarious but loving family. Koutaro’s dad was a real stand-out, stealing scenes every time he popped into his son’s room bearing popsicles or juice, but the rest of the side character actors were surprisingly good too! Koutaro’s childhood friend/love-interest is played by Ken Watanabe’s daughter Anne (who is actually a really good singer) and his super tall, super huge wimp of a best friend is played by Shirota Yuu who I’ve had a crush on since Hana Kimi (and who is also actually a good singer… lol. Seriously. CLICK THAT LINK AND THANK ME LATER)
…did you click it? Gah… I know. I knowwwwwww~~~ d(*⌒▽⌒*)b All I can think of right now is that moment from Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon when Usagi and Mamoru are in the rowboat and she asks him “sooo, do u liek Tuxedo?”…
Ahem, but back to Samurai High School, it’s lolz with good acting, I shipped the police officer and the teacher from the get-go, and Haruma Miura is going to make one HELL of a refreshing Kazehaya let me tell you for certain. <3