Wednesday, 1 January 2014

The Liebster Awards 2013

Admittedly, 2014 has already reared his curious little head but whatever - that's really not the point.

From what I can tell, The Liebster Awards is basically a way of promoting lesser-known blogs. Or just making people answer questions. Or something. I don't entirely get it but it's a nice idea.

There are a bunch of rules but they involve nominating 11 other blogs and...I don't even know that many. And the ones I do know were already nominated by the blog who nominated me to begin with so...I'll have that to skip that part.
However, I will link back to the blog who nominated me and answer the questions. Basically, I'm a suck for questionnaires and nothing can ever change that. End of.

Anyway, let's get to the point.
The lovely person who nominated me is none other than Chiima of Okay! Musume Time!
Her blog is basically what inspired me to get back into blogging (though I wound up abandoning it due to my computer being made of hate and pain and evil and the tears of kittens), and she has supported me the most. I'd like to take this moment to thank her for everything she has done for me, in terms of blogging or otherwise.

Moving along, I shall now answer the questions she provided. Here we go~!

1. How did you find Idols, and what got you into them?
Well, aside from a very short-lived interest in PUFFY as a child, sparked of course by Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi and Teen Titans (I still rather love the latter), the first Japanese artists I got into were Hirano Aya and Chihara Minori and, to a lesser extent, Sugiyama Noriaki. In other words, I liked Seiyuu. Eventually, I moved onto J-Rock, specifically Nightmare (thanks to Death Note). I got really quite into Visual Kei and J-Rock as a whole, with my favourites being Miyavi and GACKT. GACKT, of course, has remained my favourite artist (pfft, favourite person) ever since - GACKT as a living, breathing organism and a unrealistically lovely entity is very important to me, and has had a huge influence on me for the past five and a half years.
So, I went on like this for a few months until, as per my elder sister's recommendation (as she had been listening to Japanese music a few years prior to me), I started listening to Morning Musume - I had already nicked her MP3 Player on a few occasions just to listen to the two W (Double You) songs she had on her MP3 Player (Ai no Imi wo Oshiete and Robokiss). I actually remember the very first time I properly listened to Morning Musume too. It was 2008 and I had been putting music onto my MP3 player (a measly thing, only held about 250 songs - my current MP3 Player is full at 1973 songs)- I wanted a few more songs to fill up the space that was left after having filled the thing up with J-Rock and Animusic. I asked my sister for suggestions and, of course, she said Morning Musume and W (Double You) - I downloaded Onna ni Sachi Are and Koi no Vacance. Unfortunately, it turned out that there was something wrong with the W song so that kind of fell flat. But, I still hadn't listened to Onna ni Sachi Are - I was going in blind. You see, though, the reason I was filling it up was so that I had music for the drive to France, as we were just about to go there for a family holiday. Waiting for the ferry in the dead of night, I finally reached the end of the playlist and came upon Onna ni Sachi Are. From that moment forth, I was sold. So, basically, Onna ni Sachi Are and the ever glorious vocal chords of the grand Takahashi Ai are what got me into Idols. Even so, it was until a year later that I finally realised that Ai was my favourite female Idol.

2. How long have you been blogging for now?
Ooooh, let's see. On and off, I have been blogging since 2008 - I started with meagre little excuse for a blog, to which I downright refuse to link, though I promptly realised that it was nothing short of a disaster. So, that's a good five years. Though, I have never successfully managed to keep blogging actively for a significant amount of time - unless Tumblr blogs count. So, yeah, I basically have nothing interesting to say here. Oh dear.

3. Think of a random Idol song. The first one that pops into your head, what is it, and what do you think of it?
GIMME LUV by KAT-TUN, because I watched a new performance of it earlier and it has been stuck in my head since. Though, given that I'm in the middle of listening to Placebo, the chances of something less typical of myself popping up were already slim. Anyway, I do rather love this song but it's far from my favourite KAT-TUN song, and it's certainly not in my Top 3 for the Kusabi mini-album - which doesn't say much because it is an all-round very strong mini-album anyway. Though, it's sort of sad because, well, there's no Koki. The wound is still fresh! It's definitely the kind of song you would expect from KAT-TUN but maybe to a fault? That is to say, it's good but it's nothing particularly exciting. It didn't really bring anything new to the table, which is why other songs like FANTASTIC PLANET, PHOENIX and FIRE & ICE are the ones that stood out to be on the mini-album (and let us not forget MONSTER NIGHT, which is a work of pure genius, thank you Ueda).

4. Now think of your favourite Idol song! What is it, and why is it your favourite?
BIRTH or FACE to Face by KAT-TUN. Or 1582 by Kamenashi Kazuya. I've already written a post on why I love 1582 so much, so we won't be going there again (at least, not until I finally get round to writing a post on why I think it's totally about Oda Nobunaga and Mori Ranmaru totally being a thing, written in the voice of Mori Ranmaru - because the Sengoku Jidai is 10/10 fab go you and, also, because, face it, to think that this idol might have actually written a song from an entirely homosexual point of view is pretty interesting). As for the first two, I don't know what to say. Like, they're my favourite just because they are. Okay, no, with FACE to Face, I know why I love it so much. I love how dramatic it is, how it builds up and how the chorus hits. I mean, the chorus is gorgeous - there's so much going on but it's not messy. There's this sort of harmony that is made of all these different layers. The emotion and melody, too. Oh god, it's beautiful. As for BIRTH, I don't know what it is. It might be because it's the ending song to Yokai Ningen Bem (though, Tatta Hitotsu no Koi is my favourite drama, yet I prefer BIRTH to Bokura no Machi de). It might be because BIRTH is the first KAT-TUN single I ever had pre-ordered (not personally, since it was a birthday present). It was the first single for which I had the PVs on DVD. BIRTH's Making-Of was also the first one I watched the entirety of without subtitles. There's a lot of nostalgia tied in with this song. It's also become the song I test new headphones on because, somehow, it's a good song for that sort of thing.
If this was supposed to be my favourite female idol song then...well, whoops. Though, I will say that it's probably Onna ni Sachi Are or Fantasy ga Hajimaru by Morning Musume, or MY BOY or MIRACLE HAPPY LOVE SONG by Buono!. But I'm leaving it at that for obvious reasons.

5. If you could go to any country right now, which country would it be?
I really don't have a clue? I could go to England, London to be precise, but it's also 2AM so nah. But, obviously, I'm going to be an unimaginative little shit and say Japan. Though, I'd genuinely like to go to Japan, for reasons other than my interests. I'd prefer to go to Tokyo or Yokohama, though. Yokohama is gorgeous, okay? I'd love to see Minato Mirai 21. Even if I saw it from a distance, I'd be happy, since it makes for such a lovely backdrop. The Yokohama nightscape is definitely something I want to see at least once in my life. I'd like to go to Japan for various reasons. For one, I'd love the chance to see GACKT or KAT-TUN live, but there are other things as well. I'd love to see the castles - I genuinely love castles, no doubt because of my mum's own interest meaning that we were taken to lots of castles growing up. I've seen lots of English, Scottish and French castles, and they've all been really cool, but I'd like to see castles from a entirely different part of the world. The Japanese castles are a lot newer and Japan seem to put more effort into restoration than France (Britain are pretty serious about it, mind you), so they'd be really cool to see. I really love Sengoku Jidai stuff, as I have already stated, so it'd be cool to see if I could visit any castles directly related to that (Nagano Castle, for example). Also, the shopping districts in Tokyo are, based on photos and blogposts I've seen, pretty interesting places. I am absolutely not a weird Japan-fetishising weaboo, I will say that much - it's just a place I'd really like to go. I don't think I have skewed idea of what the place is like. Besides, it'd be a nice chance to practice my Japanese, I guess?

6. What was your favourite childhood cartoon?
Growing up, I was entirely addicted to cartoons - I didn't watch any of the live action shows on Nickelodeon and Disney because I only wanted to watch cartoons (I mean, when I was about 5 or 6, before that Blue's Clues was totally my thing...even though that's mostly cartoon - as a side note, if you didn't have Kevin, sorry, but you were doing it wrong). I loved cartoons above all else and that definitely stuck, given that I'm studying animation at University (and am generally a bit of an animation nerd).
However, that being said, there is only one answer I can give to this question and that is...
The Powerpuff Girls!!
When I was a kid, I was obsessed with that show. Like, well and truly obsessed. I've talked to people about it and they've been like 'Oh, me too, it was great', but I can always tell, based on how excited they sound, that they don't get it. Okay, maybe that's unfair but, no joke, it was my life. The first 5 years of my Primary School life (which lasted seven years) were defined by Powerpuff Girls and Spyro. Everyone I knew knew that I loved The Powerpuff Girls. There was no way I was letting them get away with not knowing. I used to get the magazine and I was absolutely gutted when they turned it into yet another generic magazine for young girls that focused on all the stuff I didn't care about (make-up, fashion, boys, so on and so forth - hey, no harm to those who did like those magazines but I never cared even for a moment). I wanted a magazine about a trio of little girls that bloody well kicked ass, not this drivel! Apparently...I've never quite been able to let that one go.
Aside from that, my favourites were Xiaolin Showdown, Teen Titans (as expected, based on what I wrote earlier), Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends and Shaman King (does anime count?). And Naruto, when I was just getting into my teens. Again, I was obsessed. Irritatingly so. Naruto was, as it was for many others, the driving force behind all the embarrassing things I said and did when I was about 12. But, again, I was genuinely obsessed. I knew far too much about the series. This was obsession on a grand-scale.
My favourite character was Orochimaru, though, and, looking back on it, he's actually a really good character. Say what you want, make all the mindless Michael Jackson and paedophile jokes you want, I won't listen. Because, at the core, he's possibly the best character, in terms of writing, in the whole series. But that's just my take - I just find a lot of his psychology very interesting.
Also, if you think I'm being annoying and self-superior or whatever about the obsession thing...just search up special interests and that phrases connection to Asperger's Syndrome...that should probably explain enough.

7. Did you ever like Anime or Manga before you got into Idols?
I think there's already enough evidence in this post as it is to confirm that I did, in fact, like anime and managa before I got into idols. The anime I referred to in the previous answer were things I liked before I ever went anywhere near Idol music (after all, I listened to Sugiyama Noriaki because he voiced Sasuke). I know I'm not alone in this, but I've been watching anime ever since I was tiny. As is the norm, my first experiences with anime were Pokemon and Sailor Moon, though I remember occasionally watching Dragonball Z (my elder siblings were really into it, me not so much - I think I was too young to really get it). And, after that, there was Hamtaro and, eventually, Shaman King. And then there was Battle B-Daman, a lesser known series that my younger sister and I were addicted to. We watched it every Saturday morning at 10AM and were genuinely gutted when we went to France for the first time (not the time I mentioned earlier) and missed two episodes! No-one at school watched it so my sister was honestly the only person I knew that liked it. But we really loved it and we even got the toys for Christmas (she got Chrome Zephyr, her favourite character's B-Daman, and I got Cobalt Blade, the main character's Beyblade (I had asked for Lightning Khan, my favourite's one, but I don't think my mum (coughimeansantabecauseiwasthatage) could find it - I loved it dearly anyway). It was my Beyblade. My older sister loved Beyblade but I could never bring myself to care. For me, B-Daman was Beyblade but much better, because it was stupider and funnier and I liked the characters better. And, on top of that, I had a field day when I eventually realised (having liked it for a year or so) that most of the voice actors were in other things I had seen - I'm still not over Enjyu, the owner of the afore-mentioned Lightning Khan, being Kadaj from FFVII : Advent Children. Honestly, I watched Naruto and Neji having the same VA didn't bother me, but, even now, Enjyu just sounds odd because I keep expecting him to start crying about his 'mother' and Sephiroth any second.
Though, one of the greatest anime I ever watched prior to discovering J-Music was Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo. Don't ask any questions. Just watch it. You won't be disappointed.
And, it's worth mentioning the anime that got me into J-Music - The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. That series sort of represents a turning point in my life, I suppose.

8. What was your best subject in school?
That depends - primary or secondary?
Either way, the answer's are simple enough.
In Primary, my best subject was, without a doubt, story writing. We did it every Tuesday, except for when I had this one teacher who found it boring and would sometimes make us do PE instead. A lot of people loved this because they liked PE (since it was hardly PE in Primary) and weren't very good at story writing. However, I hated PE with a passion and loved story writing more than any part of school. Ever. And it was definitely my best subject. That, and reading. But, like, I got Star Writer (and you got this badge, it was great) quite a lot. I was one of the best spellers in my class and I was known for writing particularly long stories. Okay, they were never all that long, but they were normally longer than everyone else's. I know it's quality over quantity but I think that, at least when you're that age, it's impressive enough that you can get that many words down in a couple of hours. I mean, it was actually super rare for me to ever finish because I had (had? HAD? Let's try have) a terrible habit of going off on tangents. But I always really loved story writing. I actually remember the first story I ever got Star Writer for - it was a two-sentence long story about how I went to see The Emperor's New Groove. It was honestly something like 'I went to see The Emeperor's New Groove. I really loved it', with an awful little drawing of Kuzco as a llama. In Primary 1 you basically had to spell everything right in order to get a Star Writer and I think it's rather good for a four-year-old to spell Emperor, no?
As for Secondary, it's French. No doubt about it. I got an A in Higher despite only having studied the bloody thing for about five minutes. I'm not even exaggerating. I really like the French language so I just sort of picked it up and it stuck. And that's why I'm quite good at French and Japanese (I suppose, given that I'm entirely self-taught but know quite a fair bit of Japanese), but I could never quite get my head around Spanish. Spanish never interested me as a language in the same way. But, seriously, I'm really good at remembering French. One week, I didn't go into school because I needed to get these folios done for my Uni applications, while everyone had been told the date of the Higher French speaking exam (which is marked internally so it's separate from actual exams), which had been the following Monday. They all had a week to study while I, oblivious to this (I knew it was coming up sometime soon but not that soon), drew portraits of singers I liked and watched Tim Burton films. I came in on Monday and it turned out my exam was really early, as one of my classmates kindly informed me. I had to go there and explain that I hadn't studied it at all. The head of the department was really annoyed, saying things like 'I thought you wanted an A' and 'This isn't good enough'. Even so, they agreed to reschedule the exam for Wednesday - I only had a day and a half to memorise the entire passage, which was pretty lengthy (especially since I, queen of the tangents, had written it). So, how did that go? I'll just say that my individual grade for the Speaking Exam was an A, and, as I said before, my overall grade for the class was an A. I got, like, 90% on the speaking test, so, joke's on them really.

9. What is your favourite book? Have you re-read it?
It's a toss-up between The Book of Dead Days by Marcus Sedgwick and every book in the Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness. Though, I've never re-read either of them. I did attempt to re-read the former earlier this year, not having read it in about three years, but got distracted halfway. But I do flick through it every so often and I still feel the same way about every scene as I did before. As for the latter, I only finished the last book this August, and the books were far too emotional to pick up again so quickly.
Currently, though, I'm reading Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman and, even though I'm not far in, I'm in love with it. The Marquis de Carabas is bloody brilliant too. I have no idea but, in my head, he looks like a weird mix between Kefka from Final Fantasy VI and Zhang He (as he appears in Dynasty Warriors), only black (since the character is canonically black and I don't go for this whitewashing bullshit).

10. If you were in a Zombie Apocolypse, who would you ally with? It can be anyone, from fictional to real, to someone you do or do not know! Choose wisely!
Oh. Ooh. Uh. Zhang He (again, Dynasty Warriors version) because he could probably just hack half half of them to daft, spreading strangely optimistic anecdotes about beauty and grace as he went. Genesis Rhapsodos from Crisis Core : Final Fantasy VII because he's like GACKT but with the ability to set people on fire. Because I'm assuming he has his materia, obviously. Ichabod Crane (as he appears in the Tim Burton film), because you kind of need the archetypal nervous guy - but this one has survived the undead before, and seems to have read miraculous healing abilities. Major Motoko Kusanagi (Ghost in the Shell), because she's strong, a great shot with a gun and, given that she's a cyborg, isn't susceptible to infection. Caius Ballad (Final Fantasy XIII) because, come on, he can turn into Bahamut and he's super strong. Also, I'm pretty sure he, like, doesn't die so, you know, he sells himself. And, I think that's probably it. But that's a bloody good team, if you ask me. And, yes, I have decided that real people aren't good enough for this. I could maybe give GACKT a pass because he'd probably do okay. And a world without GACKT is a silly, silly world.

11. Would you ever volunteer for the Hunger Games?
No. Na-uh. No way. I'd be dead in a second.

So, that's that, right? Well, now, I'm just going to take the opportunity to say that I'm going to try and revive this blog. But this is all for now.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

5 Movies That Made Me Cry

These are my opinions and mine only. I'm not saying these are at all the saddest films ever, just the films that made me tear up. Furthermore, I haven't seen every film in the world so there are probably plenty of sadder films that aren't on the list. For example, I know for a fact my sister would top the list with Titanic and Romeo & Juliet but I haven't actually seen them (I've seen a bit of the former but still), so they can't be on my list.



So, lately, I've been watching a lot of films. I'm obsessed with watching films at the moment. I've been watching films at any chance I get. So far this year, I've watched about 35 or 36 films, and I'm halfway through watching two others. It probably didn't help that this obsession ended up colliding with a sudden fascination with Johnny Depp, but, hey, at least that means I know what films to actually watch.


 A lot of people don't like watching emotional films but, personally, I don't think there's anything at all wrong with having a bit of a cry for the sake of watching a good movie. I guess you have to be in the right mood but I don't know - a film's a film, so anything's game. Okay, that's a lie. Bad films aren't okay but that's beyond the point.


Anyway, based on what I've seen, I've decided to comile a list of 5 films that made me cry - I don't know if these films actually made me cry the most but these are the ones I particularly remember moving me to tears.


5 - The Lion King

Okay, to be fair, that one scene (and I assume you know what I mean) in The Lion King is one of the saddest things ever in the history of film ever and it's just not at all fun to watch and it's painful and I swear I actually just cry every bloody time and it's not okay. However, though I may cry at that one moment more than I do most other sad parts of films, the film overall isn't really that sad at all, so it only gets to be #5. I really don't like animals in distress, even if they're animated and I don't know why. A poor, sad lion cub affects me more than a sad child. But that one scene is just all kinds of painful. Luckily, the rest of the film is far cheerier so I'm never sad for long but it's probably one of the only films I've ever watched where I end up with tears actually running down my face, even if it's only for that one bit.


4 - Blow


Oh, finally, it's not a war film. Actually, this is a film about the real-life drug baron, George Jung (played by Johnny Depp). Basically, the film follows his entrance into the world of drug-dealing and the various up-and-downs he experience, with George all the while spiralling off into his own imminent downfall. What is weird about this film, though, is the fact you genuinely end up feeling sorry for George. Normally, you're not expected to sympathise with drug dealers but George is an honestly sympathetic character. Prior to actually watching the film, I had read that this film was strangely sad like that, making you a pity a normally hated kind of character. At first, I didn't get it because, while I didn't see anything immoral in the character, I didn't like him, not a bit. He just wasn't very likeable somehow. But, about half an hour in, and I was in tears. I think this film surprised me the most, in that respect. I actually teared up at several moments during the film. It was in no way an uplifting film and it was really quite depressing but it was really, really good. But not okay. Not at all okay. It messed with my feelings.


3 – The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

This is yet another wartime film, yet it differs in that it doesn’t focus on any kind of battle. In fact, this film, of British production, follows young German boy, Bruno (played by Asa Butterfield, the kid who can act real good with his nostrils) and his discovery of a Concentration Camp by his family’s new home in the countryside (I’m not sure but I think it’s implied that it is Auschwitz) - his dad is a Nazi commandant. There, he encounters a young Jewish boy and they quickly become friends. This film is, for the most part, pretty heartwarming but there are glaringly dark undertones throughout the whole thing (which only makes sense, it's about the Holocaust!!). It's a pretty interesting film, and it shows the horrors of the Holocaust through the naïve eyes of a child. This film has a really sad ending, though, and, while I won't say what happens, I'll just say that I cry every bloody time. And, thanks to it being relevant to my education, I have seen it quite a few times. If you've read the book but haven't seen the film, well...yeah, the film's ending is slightly different but it's also all the more depressing. Not fun.
2 – War Horse

Another war film, since that’s a generally tear-jerking genre, this is yet another Spielberg war epic (he does a lot of them, right?). Like I said before, one thing I cannot deal with is animals in distress. I end up feeling about 10 times sorrier for animal characters than human characters, just by default. War Horse is a film about a horse, Joey, who, as a result of the turmoil of war, gets separated from its beloved owner, Albert (played by Jeremy Irvine, who I’ve only seen in one other film). The horse travels across Europe, being passed from owner to owner in a touching documentation of the varying effects of war. There are a whole lot of reasons to shed some tears in this film and the whole thing is a truly moving piece of film. It was sort of an emotional rollercoaster all on its own. Okay, it might sound daft, but this film gives me more than enough reason to believe that animals can act. Furthermore, as Joey is a totally neutral character, we are given a totally unbiased view of each and every person he encounters; the only strong message is that war is a terrifying and monstrous thing. I was kind of on the edge of my seat for a lot of this movie, genuinely concerned about this fictional bloody horse.

1 – 71 : Into the Fire

This film is a thoroughly depressing war film, detailing the true story of seventy-one teenage boy soldiers and their attempts to defend P'ohang-dong girls’ middle school during the Battle of P'ohang-dong. Despite the lack of experience these boys, forced by the Korean War’s conscription laws to fight, they manage to hold off North Korean troupes for 11 hours. The films follows Oh Jang-beom (played by Choi Seunghyun, or, as he is far more commonly known, BIGBANG’s TOP), a nervous and genuinely likeable character. As is the case with the all war films, there is very, very little to cheer about. It also seems to help that there aren’t any forced attempts to praise America for all it’s worth (seeing as Americans play a minimal role in this film). With a cast of endearing and sympathetic characters, and powerful visuals, this film is really moving. I don’t actually think I’ll watch this film again for a long, long time but that only proves how good it is. It was too emotional.  I’d recommend it to anyone and everyone, granted they’re fine with a lot of depressing stuff.

And, so, there we have it - a collection of tearjerkers, each with rather different stories and entirely different protagonists.
Actually, Toy Story 3 was a very close contender for #5. That film tugged on the heartstrings. Violently. And, to be fair, Sweeney Todd, was pretty high on the list. The last time I watched that film, I just sobbed at the end. Blegh.
But, just so you know, I honestly think that each and every one of these films is really good, and, if you haven't seen them, you really, really should (though, I'm talking more about #1-#4 than I am The Lion King, cause, I mean, it's The Lion King and stuff).

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Putting It Into Perspective : The Dating Ban

These are just my opinions, I am not claiming everything I say is solid fact. This situation is about perspective and interpretation so please try to respect that.
By now, this is a bloody common topic, probably discussed to death and beyond. However, in this post, I'd like to take a look at the way many of us see the Dating Ban, and hopefully dismantle some of the accusations made on account of the Ban. A lot of people seem to make assumptions about things based on this ban and, to be fair, there seems to be this resonating kind of...hypocrisy in a lot of what's being said. I'd like to point out, however, that I don't agree with the Dating Ban and I don't think it's entirely ethical, but I'm not 100% ready to berate it entirely.
Firstly, I find it odd that people deem the Dating Ban to be so damaging. I mean, yes, it is damaging, as proven by idol upon idol upon poor, unfortunate idol, but the opposite's not all sparkles and rainbows, is it? Well, in Japan, it's not that much of a problem (though, the uproar from fans in response to that FRIDAY article about Ai-chan (which was a flaming load of bollocks and you'd probably need to have had a javelin lodged carelessly into your skull in order to miss that) possibly suggests otherwise). But, the thing is, you see a lot of Western fans making this accusation. And, in theory, there's no issue with that. However, a lot of them seem to be taking this almost self-riteous stance where they single Japan out for its unfairness and cruelty. Yeah, because Western media deals with dating so nicely. A lot of careers have been hindered by the breaking of the Dating Ban rules - this was a punishment for the breaking of rules. Of course, I don't think the rules really make sense nor do I think a punishment is deserved. However, in Western media, there's another issue.

When Ai-chan got FRIDAY'd - because sharing cars and shagging come hand-in-hand
The Western Tabloids have this undeniable obsession with dating - who's dating who, who's dumping who, who's sleeping with who, who's cheating on who, who's talking to other people the same gender as their lover but aren't their lover and therefore sleeping with said other people which would mean they are cheating on their lover. It's a farce. But it's lapped up by the masses. I mean, it's an invasion of privacy. You might argue that huge celebrities should have to sacrifice that, but, surely, there's a limit. Regardless, these people are just people. Personally, I find this weird obsession with their love lives plain creepy. Recently, I read a biography, a Johnny Depp biography and I found myself getting a little bored of reading about his relationship with Winona Ryder (who is also great so it's not that I just dislike Winona). I mean, the author was taking a suitable critical stance in regards to the media reports on the situation but, after a while, I felt like I didn't need to know anymore. It wasn't really teaching me anything about Johnny himself. In fact, it ended up being more about Winona than anything but it still didn't teach me anything about her.

Maybe it's just me. I've never had a huge interest in that kind of thing. While other people are obsessing over this stuff, shipping people together, lamenting the fact that they're single, I'm kind of just...focusing on other things. My interest in romance is pretty miniscule. However, I still maintain that the media obsession with this stuff is kind of strange. And it's not just that they're writing about this stuff, it's the way in which they're writing about it. I mean, sure, Taylor Swift's an idiot by any standards, but I only feel that's the case because her tendency to write songs about every single relationship, all of which have the same basic story to them, and get praised by the masses for her 'excellent' song-writing skills (people only say her lyrics are good because she wrote them herself because, you know, she's clearly the only person's who can do that). Rather than pointing out that's she's clearly daft and thinks the world's against her because all the boys she dates need to be dumped, the tabloids just ridicule the number of guys she's dated. And, in the case of Justin and Selena, a couple made in Disney Channel heaven, the tabloids seem to present it as this big, dramatic romance with enough ups, downs, twists and turns to be its own over-the-top soap opera.
It's all too far removed from reality and full of hideous exaggerations. And then there's the blatent lies and trickery. Let's jump back to the Johnny and Winona deal (the only celebrity relationship I actually know enough about to use as a decent example). There was one occasion on which one member of the paparazzi actually attempted to trip Winona up, thus, understandably, infuriating Johnny who, in turn, flipped them off. He possibly told them to fuck off as well but I'm not so sure about that one. The paparazzi got this photo of Johnny flipping them off and twisted the story, claiming that Johnny was just been unnecessarily rude to them all, thus embarrassing Winona - who apparently looked embarrassed but, y'know, you probably would be if some stranger had just tried to trip you up in front of crowds of cameras. The whole Hollywood treatment of couples and relationships is a little horrific and full of lies. People get these terrible images of what celebrities are like, just because some people want to make some money.
Johnny and Winona - but aren't they so beautiful tho sobs

And, now, with the topic of money being brought up, let's return to J-Pop. Of course, the Dating Ban is just a way of guaranteeing that the money comes in. Many idol fans thrive of strange fantasies in which they themselves end up dating or marrying their idol of choice. If these fantasies are destroyed, the fans seem to lose all interest in the idol and, therefore, stop buying their merchandise. For the companies, that's money lost, especially if the idol's popular. If your idol is so popular that you know they'll still bring in the cash without these fans, then the scandal is brushed over and your idol might just stick around. Obviously, this isn't actually all that great but the heads of these companies want money and that's just how it has to work. Don't assume I agree with this in anyway, though. That capitalist approach to entertainment isn't at all appealing to me. Though it probably sucks to be told you can't date anyone, I'd suggest it's probably safer. It's a known fact that a lot of these idols are pretty young - imagine how a teenager would react to the strict paparazzi attacks mentioned before. Okay, I know Bieber and whatsherface aren't that old, and Winona was only about 18, but that has to be pretty stressful. Besides, in a country where work ethic is extremely important, something like could be considered a distraction. It's a cultural thing, in some ways.

Another issue I have is the accusations that this ban makes Japan so misogynistic and sexist. First off, male idols do have this ban, though people seem to ignore both his and the fact that male idols even exists, but, thing is, the punishment just seems to be less extreme. So, yeah, in the end, it's not that great - but that also depends on how you look at it. The only truly relevant male idols right now are the boys of Johnny's Entertainment and most of them are so popular that no-one really bothers all that much. Or maybe they're just better at hiding stuff? I have a suspicion that some companies seem to milk these scandals out anyway. It's weird, though. Dating is the one area in which Johnny Kitagawa isn't a total psychopath.

But is it really about gender? Let us consider the case of KAT-TUN-lead-vocalist-turned-soloist-who-was-too-focused-on-working-in-America, Akanishi Jin. He and actress/singer, Kuroki Mesia, had a shotgun wedding at the beginning of last year, an occasion that send violent ripples throughout the J-Pop fandom. Meisa was suspended from work, but not on account of getting married but on account of being pregnant - I mean, it wasn't a punishment, it was maternity leave - and Jin? Well, he was punished. In fact, he had his whole concert tour cancelled - the main reason was, apparently, because he never told Johnny about the wedding in advance. The marriage also enraged many way-too-obsessive fans and Jin's career plummeted. And now the baby's born, Meisa's back in business while Jin? He's yet to return to showbiz. In this situation, the woman won out, right? The one who was never an idol (though Jin was no longer an idol at this point)?

Jin and Mesia, going for a stroll.

Though I do think the Dating Ban rule does generally border on misogynistic and cruel, my main issue lies again in the fact that most of the people making these accusations are Western fans acting as if Japan is just so backwards and old-fashioned unlike the advanced Western world. I laugh. I fucking laugh. The world of Western media is a mess of misogyny and it's not at all pretty. Need examples?

Let's start with the obvious example - Chris Brown. As we all know, he beat Rihanna up. Now, I don't know if he's a woman-beater or just a violent prick cause he does beat up quite a lot of men too, but, yeah, either way, violent prick. But, as I'm unsure, I'll use this as an opportunity to instead focus on the media representation of the issue. Sure, plenty of people hate Chris Brown for his actions but he's still as famous and as popular and as successful as ever. Furthemore, when Rihanna started going back out with him, what did we do? We lashed Rihanna with accusations of her being blind and stupid. Y'know, ignoring that's actually a thing, this need to return to your partner despite their violent actions towards you - I don't know the name but whatever. Rather than dealing with the issue in a sensible way and assuming that Rihanna might need some more support in getting over Chris Brown, she gets insulted instead. The decision to suddenly blame the girl despite her inflictions...yeah, way to go, Western media. So slick.

I mean, Chris Brown gets the most stick for his actions, even though, as far as anyone knows, he's only ever assaulted one partner. I actually read an article recently that made a pretty good point - Chris Brown is black. So many white male celebrities have done similar (and worse) things but they don't get ridiculed for it nearly as often. Well done, Western media, for playing on ugly racial stereotypes and being generally shitty.

One example of a white male celebrity who has gotten away with worse is the infamous Charlie Sheen. I mean, he's assaulted quite a lot of women, even threatening one with a knife and holding another at gunpoint. What does he get? The chance to play a sexist prick for years on Two and a Half Men. And what does he get after being kicked off of that? The lead role in Anger Management, a show that basically just passes off every awful thing he's done as charming and funny. No-one gives Charlie Sheen half the shit they give Chris Brown, even though what he's done is way worse.

But this all get worse when compared to the case of Kristen Stewart. These two bastards were allowed to continue on with their careers regardless of being violent shits (and doing drugs, in Sheen's case), yet she is branded as a liability because she had an affair. I mean, affairs aren't great but they're not as bad as domestic abuse. But, y'know, no-one has ever called those two a liability, certainly not Sheen who is still seen as a marketable comedy actor. I mean, the only reason for which Kristen Stewart should be seen as a liability is her lack of ability to pull different faces properly and the fact that casting her would do as much good as casting a piece of carboard that's in a pretty awkward situation. Yeah.

So, all in all, sure, the Dating Ban is shitty. But Japan's not the only country with issues in regards to celebrities. Generally, I'd say the world of Western celebrities is a lot worse and lot more vicious. But, us Westerners, we're so self-entitled - we want to see everything, regardless of how weird it is. We're self-riteous, putting down other countries as if we have no flaws of our own. Well done us. And, of course, in regards to the obsession with Celebrity Couples in general - since when was anyone given the right to complain about the life choices of a total stranger. You don't have any say in what some person you don't know decides to do, who they decide to date. Are you some kind of overbearing parent. Cut it out and get on with your own life. Or at least obsess over some less invasive aspect of your favourite celebrity.

Friday, 26 April 2013

Morning Musume and its Colourful Characters

All opinions are my own, so-on and so-forth. I don't think you should necessarily agree with them but I do, at least, hope you'll treat them with respect.
The group's most recent incarnation and the line-up responsible for this post's namesake - aside from Sakura, of course
So, over the years, many people have had their say on what led to the downfall of Morning Musume - if you could really call it that, considering the group only managed to slip out of the Top 5 singles during the entire Platinum Era - and the general concensus is that UFP's shoddy promotion skills are to blame. I'm not here to argue that point; in fact, though I do have faith that they're getting better at appealing to a broader market and I'm estatic that they finally realised the merit of alternate B-Sides (a bloody good sale pitch, if you ask me), I'd probably be one of the first to pin blame on the management.
 Though, in that sense, I'm one of the few who doesn't think it makes any sense to rant away, cursing Tsunku♂ despite his efforts. I'm sick of seeing people going on about how much they love Tsunku♂, only to turn and bite his head off in a fit of violent pique - it's a strange kind of hypocrisy. Tsunku♂ makes the songs, forms the groups and chooses the lineups, he doesn't control the promotion or the sales. Oh how I wish that people would finally understand that. Do you honestly think that one man could be in charge of all that. It's highly believable that he's an impressively prolific writer and composer - it's not like his songs are the cream of the crop anyway; I like them, a lot, but he's not some super talent who writes music of unrivaled power and meaning - because that can happen, people can do that. I just don't think the theory that Tsunku♂ is really in charge of everything makes sense. Because it doesn't.
Regardless, I don't think the promotion is the only issue. The promotion has gotten better, as have the sales, but there has been something else that the company have been making more effort to focus on that they haven't been doing in the same way for some time. This is something I've believed for quite a while now, actually, and I sort of feel like my point is being proven. What is this shining factor? Well, let's consult the title on that one.
That's right. 'Character'.
In the past, Morning Musume was a certainly a group known for their personality and emphasis on the one person. It really was a group of individuals fighting for the spotlight and there was something almost surreal but oh so very appealing in that. It was sort of like a Spice Girls thing, only less explicit in that you weren't expected to refer to the girls according to a bunch of assigned personalities rather than their actual names. And the girls of Morning Musume's characters were more influenced by the girls themselves - though it has been established that Yossie was never a tomboy to the extent she was marketed as one, they'd only given her that character once they realised it was far more fitting than the 'smart girl' character they had originally planned on sticking her with. There was a strange line between reality and fantasy but it became so blurred that no-one was really any the wiser. Whether or not the girls spent their lives acting (though I don't suspect they honestly did - at least not entirely), this was a fantastic gimmick for the group. It was sort of like a real-life cartoon, and you could pick out your favourite character. That was probably why they had such a widespread appeal in their time - that kind of marketing is ideal for younger children.
Minimoni played on this idea even further and saw great success with really little kids. The fact that they had formed this group for a very specific market and made the whole thing run according to these 'characters' worked extremely well. And, I mean, Minimoni certainly was like a cartoon come to life, a concept only aided by various Minimoni cartoons and guest appearances in multiple Hamtaro films. As far as Kiddy Groups go, Minimoni are also the least terrifying I have ever come across in my entire life. Normally these groups freak me out to no end, and are excrutiatingly cringe-worthy - The Wiggles, anyone? I mean, they were okay when I was really small but the octopus was never okay. I always thought it looked...just wrong. And, then, there was stuff like The Singing Kettle (which is a Scottish thing) - something about it always frightened me just a little, particularly the song about being eaten by a snake, or whatever it was. It kind of terrified me just a little.

Morning Musume kept this idea of each girl being their own character going for a while; the most obvious examples being Yuko (the woman from Osaka - which comes with its own stereotypical traits), Kaori (the spacey but caring one), Rika (the one who's cute and knows it), Yossy (the tomboy), Aibon & Nono (the 'double-trouble'-type pair), Ai (the girl next door), Konkon (the shy genius), Miki (the one with the sharp tongue), Sayu (the one who's cute, knows it and will never hesitate to tell you about it) and Reina (the yankii). In that sense, 4th Gen were pretty perfect in that they were the Generation with the most obvious characterisation. In the days of 6th Gen's youth as a Generation, they even had a song about it - the beloved Joshi Kashimashi Monogatari.

In fact, it wasn't until 8th Gen came and the last of 4th Gen left that this concept began to die away. This was mainly the result of the group's shift from a group of individuals singing cheery, energetic tracks into a seemingly united collection of girls singing tracks of a much more mature and demure nature - the character gimmick wasn't necessary. Of course, the way 8th Gen were presented was less than helpful. Mittsi was, pretty much, 'the boring one'. Now, I'm not saying she was in anyway boring. It was Tsunku♂ himself who said he chose her for her placidity. In terms of being a 'character', she was a lot calmer, a lot more refined, and that was supposed to work as a nice contrast to the personalities of the other girls (especially considering Kame, who had previously been yet another 'shy girl' type had evolved into this weird basketcase looney kind of person). And, of course, JunJun and LinLin, both brilliant girls in their own right - though, in terms of personality, I always found LinLin more appealing. In voice, too, actually. JunJun, yeah, I liked her. I liked her a lot. But she never really struck a permanent chord with me. Their problem was, however, the fact they were presented as 'the Chinese girls' - Chinese is not a character trait. And, really, after about half a year, the 'Chinese' novelty had worn off and the girls weren't given any thing else with which to market themselves, leaving LinLin's gorgeous powerhouse vocals shoved right into the back burner.

So, with the only girls in the group who had ever been in a lineup featuring any 1st or 2nd Gen members becoming mature adults for the sake of the group's new image, it was up to 7th and 8th Gen to mix things up and keep the group fresh. The group's character dynamic, of course, depends upon the constant changing of characters available. However, with 8th Gen's characters not working out as well as they could have, the onus was on 7th Gen only member to keep it going. Koharu was a perfect member in regards to having a specific character. She was this eccentric girl in a state of constant hyperactivity. Basically, she was the group's resident looney and rarely managed to blend in with the others when they were trying to appear sexy or mature. So many people who originally hated her grew to like her purely based on how genuinely nice she seemed to be - this hatred-hype hasn't existed for some time but, back in 2008-2009, it was a pretty big deal. She was the big Jedward-Marmite-type thing of the H!P fandom. Koharu always had this airhead thing going on and, to that extent, saying it how it is was just part of her charm. Unfortunately, this same trait, when removed from the 'character' has the potential to cause problems - as it did, when her honesty had the fandom burning up in rage (and while I do agree that she was out of place in terms of the whole Japanese culture of respect, I'd like to maintain that's she's no longer an idol and now has the right to say whatever the bloody fuck she wants - I might be alone in this but I sort of respect her honesty, but not her manners).

While Koharu seemed perfect for the group in this respect (I feel this is why she was the 'Miracle'), her Kirarin gig distracted from the character gimmick entirely. Because she had this solo career, she channeled the majority of her energy into that, and her character was promoted through it. Because there was no need to over-market her, Morning Musume wasn't gifted with the full extent of that. Koharu was a Miracle that was never really allowed to happen.

However, with the advent of the 9th, 10th and 11th Gens, and the release of an album seemingly in tribute of this character thing, the old glory seems to be returning somehow. Due to this, better promotion and, no doubt, a new musical direction, the group have risen up, getting two #1s on the Oricon Weekly in a row - a feat that hasn't be achieved since 2001 when the group managed to earn themselves 3 consecutive #1s. It probably helps that the group's current leader is also the most gimmicky of the lot. Sayu never once dropped the 'Ichiban Kawaii' act since the day it came to her and I honestly respect her for it. So, with Sayumi taking the reigns, it only makes sense to bring back that over-the-top characterisation the group was once famed for. Morning Musume's return to the spotlight comes now, just as I always thought it would (I mean, when they brought back the character thing, not when Sayu became leader).

((as far as character's go, I am again drawn to the tomboy character - Kuduu's my favourite in the group, if you take into account Reina's graduation))

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Kamenashi Kazuya - The Actor : Hosts, Characters & Depp

All opinions are my own, please try to respect that. Also, please note that I'm not taking this poll seriously nor do I honestly believe it will have any impact on Kame himself. This is mostly just speculation.
So, earlier this month, GOO Ranking released the result of a poll they had set up in light of Kamenashi Kazuya's upcoming film, Ore Ore (aka It's Me, It's Me), the poll's subject being 'Wanted Acting Roles for Kamenashi Kazuya'. When I saw that this poll had taken place, I believed, quite naïvely, that this poll would have some interesting results. Actually, I was certain that 'Villain' had to be on there somewhere. Instead, I found nothing but proof of what mindless drivel people expect of idols. This poll was a perfect example of the image people have of idols as actors, condemning them to play shallow roles with little room for development.
Sure, it sounds harsh but I think the fact that the #1 choice was Host says it all. A role like that really just requires the ability to be both charming, attractive and a little erotic, traits Kame has already made himself known for as an idol. That's his stage persona. By that, I, a physical stage. When's he's doing lives and stuff. It's not a hugely demanding role and, honestly, I think, having done bloody brilliant job playing a confused and quiet demon with a good heart (Yokai Ningen Bem's Bem, for those of you who don't know), it would be step down for him. He's already proven that he can handle roles that require any notable skill. Obviously, I haven't seen Ore Ore yet but you'd think, given that he's playing 33 different characters and earning favourable critical phrase thus far, this list would include some more interesting roles.
Idols are looked down upon as actors, that's just the way of things. Because they are idols, it's generally accepted that they appear in countless dramas for publicity. When they appear in films, granted the film isn't purely in need of some attractive lead, and the film is of a pretty substantial production, the idol's taken a little more seriously. But they're still an idol. Not everyone can pull of a KimuTaku (except for maybe the rest of SMAP, though KimuTaku still reigns on as JE's best actor). The results of this poll sort of prove that people don't want to see idols take on those riskier roles. They want them to be idols because they are idols. Ignoring that Kame's shocking choice to take on the role of Bem ended up to be pretty well accepted.
Kimura Takuya is generally accepted as the best actor in Johnny's - I'd probably have to agree with this opinion
Kame himself has stated that he'd like to take on more interesting roles, even saying that he'd be willing 'to grow a moustache, or to act as a villain' [Wink Up Jan 2013]. He has also, though I can't find a source, expressed interest in playing a character in some kind of detective/mystery drama (y'know, the kind that UK and Japan seem to do best because their main characters are always eccentric loonies (Sherlock, Jonathan Creek, Mr Brain, Monsters) while American ones are always so professional and clean-looking (except for that Perception one but I haven't watched it)). I honestly don't seem playing a Host any time soon. I actually believe, now that he's played a demon, a blue alien with blonde hair and a strange collection of 33 clones, he's going to continue down the road of playing more unusual characters. There's also another reason why I have come to this conclusion.
The most minor role Kame has possibly ever played in his life, aside from cameos, the choice to play the Galactic Empire Representative was just bizarre
This speculated reason of mine, I shall call it Depp.Yeah. I think it's obvious what I'm getting at here. Butbutbut, allow me to elaborate. Kame has said on enough occasions that he admires Johnny Depp - 'When I’m asked “Who is a man you like?”, it’s always Johnny Depp, without fail.' [Kame Camera, MAQUIA, March 2013], 'I don't have such an obsession. But, if I was forced, I'd have to say Johnny Depp' [Udine Far East Film Festival 2013, in response to being asked who his idol was] - and has stated that he reads his biography (I don't know which one, he has a lot - he doesn't have an autobiography, that's all I know) quite a lot, it's a book he really likes. He's also a big fan of Tim Burton, as proven by an interview the two of them did together, and, as everyone knows, Tim and Johnny are great friends and frequent collaborators. Futhermore, during this interview, Kame cited Burton's film, Edward Scissorhands, as a huge influence on his portrayal of Bem's character (personality-wise - I believe the look was based on David Bowie, though Depp's Willy Wonka had been on the cards as a potential inspiration), Edward being played by, oh, guess who, Johnny Depp. And, to top it off, Kame actually revealed that, were it not for Johnny, he probably wouldn't have taken on the role of Bem (even though I can't find the exact source, he did say it).
Kame and Burton's interview - it was a stange and awkward affair but it was amusing nonetheless
 In fact, Kame explained that the reason he decided to play Bem was a conversation he'd had with Johnny. It seems Johnny had spoken to him about a certain type of character - there was a word Kame used for it but, seeing as it was a Japanese word, Johnny probably never said it, so it's not really important that I can't remember for the life of me what it was. This type of character is one that goes against expectations and is somewhat of an oddity in the world of film and television. Basically, by general standards, these characters are kind of weird. They're the kind of characters who would normally be presented as unlikeable characters but are being played as the opposite. Simply put, the kind of character you'd normally see Johnny play. Apparently, this fascinated Kame and ended up inspiring him to play a demon - a character normally used as a villain- as this really innocent, harmless guy; the Edward Scissorhands influence is undeniable, really. Bem isn't the kind of character you'd regularly associate with an idol - I know I was quite surprised when the rumour of Kame appearing in this drama surfaced - but he did it anyway. I believe he actually had some worries about the reception but he still wanted to do it, to try something new and prove himself as more than your bog-standard idol actor. Thing is, though, Kame's actually pretty good at acting with his eyes and, because Bem barely talks, most of his acting in this drama was done like that. It was really nice to see.
Kame as Bem
However, I think there's even more of a Depp influence in regards to Kame's acting. Keeping that whole biography thing in mind, I think it's fair to say that Kame is aware of Johnny's whole entrance into the world of acting. And, well, this is when I start making speculations.
Johnny Depp was originally a musician, member of a band named The Kids. The band moved to LA but it didn't go well and it all kind of fell apart. However, at some point, the recently-divorced Johnny was prompted by his ex-wife's good friend, Nicholas Cage (the most boring man in the universe), to try it as an actor. He got a part in the original Nightmare in Elm Street and, from there, kind of delved further into the world of acting. In 1987, Johnny wound up taking, quite reluctantly, the part of Tom Hanson in high-school crime drama, 21 Jump Street, a series Johnny referred to as 'borderline fascist' [Foreword for Burton on Burton, 1994]. Insantly, thanks to the show, Johnny became known across America as this wonderful teen heart-throb; an image he thoroughly resented. Eventually, he found his way out of the series, at the end of the 4th season. The show continued on for only a season without him and Johnny, in 1990, found the show his true potential as an actor in Tim Burton's Edward Scissorhands (there are plenty of roles I have not pointed out here but they're not relevant). This film allowed him to toss aside the teen idol image and play a character that no-one expected him to - he didn't even expect it and was really quite surprised when Tim agreed to cast him.
Now, to compare this to Kame's situation - he's an idol. He is a teen heart-throb. That kind of comes with being the frontman of a boyband, to be fair, but that is what he is, in the eyes of the media. Idols aren't taken seriously in the world of acting and, well, idols aren't really seen as being normal people. I assume, from certain lines from a collection of interviews, that Kame doesn't really appreciate this. And based on how much he seems to like Johnny's biography, I think it's safe to say that Kame associates with that situation. Kame has grown pretty serious about his acting, I think he even said that if he were to stop being a singer it would be because he'd be focusing on acting. But getting 'idol roles' is probably pretty unrewarding - the fact that Kame named Yokai Ningen Bem was the first properly decent drama he'd done in a long time kind of says it all. I mean, you can spice Takano Kyohei up all you want but he's probably still not a challenging character. Kame decided to try and break away from this image, in terms of his acting (he says he is actually proud of being an idol, so I don't know if ditching that as a whole would make any sense), by playing a character like Bem. It's not a one-off, though, as proven by guy, and by Ore, Ore. He's taking risks with his acting. But he's taking the roles he wants, not the roles people want him to take. This also takes us back to the Johnny comparison, as he has made it clear that, after Jump Street, he decided to take on only the roles he found interesting. Fortunately, in Kame's case, this also means characters that are actually pretty intriguing. The fact that Kame's first attempt to break away from this image is based on Johnny's first attempt to do the very same is pretty interesting, though, probably, mostly coincidental. Both are also characters with very little dialogue and a lot going on in the eyes - though, as much as I love Kame, Johnny's better at this.
I actually think Kame's actually going to start moving in the direction of becoming more of a character actor, something that's pretty far removed from an idol actor. Actually, it'd be brilliant if he did that because I actually love actors who can take on all these different kinds of roles (i.e; I like Johnny Depp). It's just more interesting than become an 'insert-genre-here' actor or, well, an idol actor. I do think Kame has the talent to take on that kind of approach to acting and, if my speculations are correct, I'm really excited to see what roles he takes on next. Kame has also said that he'd like to do more movie roles, which kind of sucks because I have to wait longer to see them than I would with a drama. However, in the long run, this is a lot better, especially since I've developed a keen obsession with watching films. Also, films probably earn you more respect as an actor, internationally at least. I mean, they're already releasing Ore, Ore worldwide, I'm sure. So, really, I think film is a good direction for him.
Kame, taking a picture with a fan, at the Udine Far East Film Festival 2012, in Italy
All in all, I think Kame's characters are going to stop being the type anyone expects of an idol and we're probably going to see him gain a lot more interesting roles to put under his belt. Of course, this is all speculation, but I think it's really quite likely. In any case, I don't see him playing a Host anytime soon. I mean, he'd probably look pretty nice as a host but I wouldn't want him to play a character like that unless there was some darker undertones to the character that kind of messed with this perfect image Hosts seem to have - which is probably not what the poll was getting at. If what I'm hoping does happen, then, well, thank you, Mr Depp.

Monday, 22 April 2013

The Nightmare of Franchising

All opinions are my own, and I expect you to respect them - but, whatever you do is up to you. Just don't be an awful git.
Okay, sure, for a J-Pop-orientated blog that hasn't seen the light of the day for a month or so, this is a bloody weird post to come back with but it is a thought that has been eating away at the back of my head for a bit. I've been studying Tim Burton's films lately, for school, so this whole situation, though it has nothing to do with any of the three films I'm studying, kind of came to my attention.
Anyone who's seen Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas will know it as the tale of a conflicted skeleton who is simply bored to death (oh, the irony) of doing exactly what is expected of him - I don't know, maybe that was supposed to reflect Burton's own feelings towards his work at Disney at the time of writing the original poem. The film is generally branded with this image as being a darker kid's film, due to his Hallowe'en-y theme and, doubtless, the fact that the protagonist is a skeleton. It's not traditonal kid's film fair, I'll give you that. But, traditional doesn't really mean anything. In terms of content, theme and tone, it's a family-friendly film - I've loved the film dearly since I was very small and I never once found it even remotely frightening, as the higher-ups at Disney seemed to assume children would. Take out the skeleton and the Hallowe'en, and you've got a charming story about a man, sick of forced expectations, trying to find his own in a whole new field - but you have to add the removed elements back in straight away or you've got no real plot. The theme, however, is entirely universal and is purely another example of Burton portraying the outsider trying to come into his own. That is the entire point of the film.
For those who may not know so much about the sweet stop-motion film, it follows Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King and ruler of the quaint little establishment, Hallowe'en Town, and his newfound boredom in regards to being the man responsible for terrifying people year after year. Of course, being known for one thing and one thing only, and being expected to live only according to that image, is boring, that goes almost without saying. Curious to find out what the rest of the world has to offer, Jack comes across the dreamland that is Christmas Town, singing out in joy, 'Oh, I want it for my own'. He becomes immediately obsessed and devises an innocent-enough plan to 'kidnap Mr Sandy Claws', or Santa, as he is more commonly known, with the intention of taking his own stab at this whole Christmas thing. Naturally, this doesn't go entirely to plan and Jack is forced to overcome a number of obstacles, some pretty standard and some slightly bizarre, though what way round that works probably depends on your perception of things.
Jack's biggest obstacle - dealing with Oogie Boogie who is, admittedly, kinda creepy
The film has become somewhat of a goth cult classic, along with other Burton films (namely Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands, though the idea of the latter being that baffles me too), because of its rich, dark visuals and the inclusions of various typical Hallowe'en ghouls and goblins. Jack himself has become a popular emblem of gothic tastes with young teenagers, with far too many of them wearing big-ass hoodies with his image smashed on top. It's all rather tacky, actually, considering the source. To me, this strange merchandising tool betrays the film entirely. Maybe I'm just being pedantic, but I feel like there's something wrong there. Something really wrong.
I mean, the whole point of Jack was that he was sick of being this scary, ghoulish guy - 'Yet year after year, it's the same routine/ And I grow so weary of the sound of screams' he sings, distressed that he seems to be stuck in an eternal cycle of terrifying children. The whole thing about him finding Christmas Town and being so fascinated was pretty important. It was his way out of that cycle. I don't know, the idea that his image is sold off like that seems to contradict the film's whole message. It's, like, 'Sure, it's good to go out and find yourself but your opinion isn't the one that brings in the cash so we're just going to go against your whole point'.
I haven't got a cue it bothers me at all. Maybe it's because I've loved this film since I was very small, because Jack's story was actually pretty touching. I mean, my life thus far has been a mix of me not getting stuff and people not getting me so (and not in a whiny teenager kind of way - I mean, I'm Autistic, that's sort of how it works), maybe, I could kind of associate with the situation. There was also this kind of purity that I saw in the film and it stuck with me. In my eyes, most of the merchandise is kind like a big, fat shit in the face of what I believed the film to represent.
That being said, I don't hate the merchandising as a whole - just those few naff lines of stuff. Some of the merchandise is actually pretty nice, particular the stuff that involves either Burton drawings or film screenshots. These don't really argue with what the film's about, I find. I mean, most of Burton's drawings of Jack depict a more pleasant looking Jack but, even if they don't, the right kind of tone is there. It's just a lot less...soulless, I find. I actually had a lunchbox once - a tin one with screenshots of the film on it. I think I had it in Primary 6 or 7, maybe, and I really loved it. I don't know where it is now, my mum probably binned it but I just remember really liking it. I actually remember that part of the reason for me liking it was the fact it was a lunchbox of the film and not this character that didn't really seem to match the image I had in my head of Jack. My best friend had some stuff, like notebooks and things, that were more like the latter, cause she had a stage where she was pretty into the film, but I still preferred the other stuff. It seemed truer to the source, I guess.
The lunchbox in question...I found the picture on Google, though
I think it's just a personal thing because I had this very specific idea of what the film was about. I think it's also probably to do with the fact that it kind of shows that people aren't, maybe, taking in the actual meaning of the film. It's to do with people's perception of things, I suppose. It's just that there is a deeper context to the film, without reading too much into it, that people seem to ignore. I don't know. Maybe I'm reading too much into it. I mean, Jack has a pretty nice design - he's a pretty distinct character. But, hey, who said franchising had to be good? Franchising is just a giant money-making scheme, that's the point. I mean, it's Disney franchising too. Why am I surprised?
I do have to say, however, Kingdom Hearts portrays Jack qutie well. I haven't actually ever manged to play a Kingdom Hearts game long enough to get to that level (my sister took the PS2, my DS is dying of death and it's not in the PSP game) but, from what I've seen, their depiction of him's quite honorable. He seems to have the right amount of optimism and cheeriness - they make him out to be a nice guy and that's what's important. He's got the right kind of hopeless Ed Wood-y optimism about him (though, that probably only makes sense if you've seen Ed Wood - I mean the Tim Burton film, not the actual guy) in that regardless of how much he fails, he's still this really positive guy. Oh, Nomura games, can you do any wrong? (seriously, though, Nomura and Burton - what a combo)
Oh, Goofy is scarier than normal

Monday, 11 March 2013

[FILM REVIEW] Romance and Robots, it's Cyborg She!

All opinions are my own, I don't expect you to agree. After all, your opinions are your own, too~

This is my 2nd film review, so, please, just bear with me~

Plot : 10/10

Characters : 9/10

Cinematography: 9/10

Humour :  9.5/10

Soundtrack : 8/10

Overall : 9/10

I was actually with Ashita no Joe, but this is actually a harsh ranking. That says a lot about how much I loved it.
This film, 'Boku wa Kanojo wa Cyborg' (trans; My Girlfriend is a Cyborg), known internationally as 'Cyborg She' and, in some cases, 'Cyborg Girl', is a sci-fi romcom, written and directed by Kwak JaeYoung of 'My Sassy Girl' fame. It stars Koide Keisuke (Koizora, Gokusen 2) and Ayase Haruka (Tatta Hitotsu no Koi, Hotaru no Hikari, Ichi), with the latter being my favourite actress, by the way. It's a really nice film with a unique take on a somewhat clichéd concept and bucketload of surprises.
Don't worry, her tears aren't a spoiler. This happens right at the start of the film. Actually, this scene is on the back of the bloody DVD Box!

 So, here we have it, your 100% been-there, done-that, clichéd to death, nerd boy meets his dream girl, she's cooler than him, more stylish than him and seemingly out of his league yet she, without any hesitation makes it clear she likes him too. Appearing out of nowhere on Kitamura Jiro, a typical, dorky university student,'s 20th birthday, 'Girl' (for she is not given a name througout the entire film) is a lively and outgoing woman, verging on the eccentric. But, there's a twist. She reveals she's actually from the future and then buggers off for a whole year, only, upon return, it seems that she's a cyborg, entirely stoic and seemingly unable to express any emotion. In fact, this new woman, modeled on the mysterious girl he had met a year prior, also remaining nameless the whole film, was sent into the past by a future version of Jiro in order to save and protect him, as well as warn him of some nondescript disaster soon to come. Of course, with this being a romcom, sweet hilarity ensues as Jiro learns to cope with living alongside a cyborg from the future and she learns how to live normally alongside ordinary humans.
Basic summary aside, this film is actually a lot better and a lot more original than it sounds. Now, it doesn't sound bad at all, I don't think but it is worlds better than I had expected. I feel like a proper twat for taking nearly a year after buying to watch this. Honestly, the plot delivered - it did not disappoint. I can't say too much but this film twists and turns in an unimaginable fashion, keeping you properly hooked from the sweet exposition to the touching finale. The plot is very well structured and, despite how the film may sound at first, is very clever. It's one of those films where you really have to think over what you've just watched upon reaching the end - this is a positive point, of course. It's one of those stories that lingers in your mind as everything finally sinks in.

Haruka being adorable with a lizard


The characters were really good and very likeable but they weren't anything new. That was their let-down. Sure, they were original, they were well-developed, but they didn't exactly wow me in anyway. They weren't characters that I'd hold dear to me forever more, allowing them a special, warm place in my list of favourite fictional characters. I think they were just a little too 2-Dimensional for that. Just a little. Though, I'd suggest that this was their sole let-down.

Kitamura Jiro

As already established, Jiro, played be Koide Keisuke, is your average, slightly nerdy Uni student, fed-up with the monotonously mundane life of loneliness and Uni lectures (the subject is never revealed but his interest in science combined with blackboards full of lengthy formulas suggest that it's some branch of Physics). Before meeting Girl from the Future, Jiro would celebrate his birthday alone, buying himself a small present and eating spaghetti (as his grandma told him this would guarantee him a longer life) at the same restaurant every year. Girl from the Future and Cyborh Girl both manage to disrupt this sysmtematic lifestyle of his, thus freeing him somewhat from the crippling restrictions of a world ruled by routine. Jiro is, pretty much, a guy taken from the pages of some peverted manga and made less annoying and misogynistic. Of course, he's less of a pervet but he's still pretty curious about women, clearly having had very little physical contact with them, leading to him trying to feel Cyborg Girl up on a few occasions, only to have his ass handed to him. Jiro is far from a perfect person but that makes him more likeable. He's a nice guy with a decent heart but he's not 100% goody-goody - he's really believable, making the story easier to identify with. He isn't a stunning and flawless Adonis amongst men nor is he a drooling, babbling idiot with a fetish for all things anime girl. He's a bit of a loser, likes comics and cartoons, but he's a normal guy, and a likeable one at that.

Cyborg Girl

Played, quite brilliantly, by Ayase Haruka, the Cyborg Girl is strangely endearing character, who starts off as a seemingly emotionless cyborg (who does not appreciate being called a robot) but she, slowly but surely, learns to express her feelings and interact with other people in a semi-normal manner. She's extremely powerful and provides for the vast majority of the action scenes in the film, even beating up some potential yankii rapists in a brilliantly visualised fightscene that seemed almost like a hint of wishful thinking on the part of women (I don't know, something like that). What I like about the Cyborg Girl is that, though she's mostly uncapable of expressing normal human emotion, she's still a character that's easy to understand and sympathise with. Even though her expressions do improve, they never get to the level where she's quite like a normal human, but her feelings are clear. She's sort of sweet but also badass. I like that! And, besides, she basically saves Keisuke's arse on several occasions, so she serves as a nice reversal to that worn-out 'damsel in distress' trope.


The other important character, played again by Haruka, is actually a lot more of typical of Haruka's normal acting roles, and closer to Haruka herself in personality. She's ditzy, happy-go-lucky and quirky - nothing out of the norm for a romcom heroine. Y'know, aside from the fact that she's from the future and all. The Girl is actually a pretty interestinc character, though it may not seem so at first. I mean, from the outset, she's likeable and funny, but there's a lot of stuff about her that makes zero sense until the end of the film. That's what makes her interesting. She's a total enigma until the end - I'd go into detail but a spoiler like that would actually take away from the impact of the film's finale.
I'd have to say, in terms of visuals, this film was pretty good. The colour schemes were well-selected and fit to the appropriate moods perfectly, the timing and sequencing was very effective and the special effects weren't bad at all. Actually, aside from the written content, the visuals was one of the winning points for this film. Image-wise, this film was very catching. There were a lot of big, dramatic scenes and action shots in this film but they fit in seamlessly with the more emotional and touchfelt scene, and a lot of that was to do with the effectively changing visuals. However, that being said, the visuals weren't the best out there, not at all, and the CG wasn't perfect.  They work with the story, though, so, really, it's more than forgiveable in that respect.

Oh my Glob, dramabomb
Other than the plot, the humour was the best aspect of the film. This film was not a laugh-out-loud-funny but, for what it is, the humour is strong. The humour comes mainly in the form of sharp or peculiar dialogue, but also in more visual scenes. The humour in this film is rather subtle and, if you like subtle humour, it's a hit - I for one am a fan. Well, I mean, it's not extremely subtle, but on the grand scheme of things...really, as far as humour goes, I'm not all that sure how to place this film but it is funny. It's not the most hilarious thing I've ever seen but it really fits in with the mood of the film and doesn't even take away from any more serious scenes. The funny bits of this film are integrated cleverly with the deeper parts and it works really well.

'da fuck is this shit' - Jirou's default emotion, apparently


Don't get me wrong, it was a good soundtrack that worked really well with the film. The music played a pretty big role in developing the mood of the film and it was pretty bloody effective. The only issue was that it wasn't particularly memorable, nor was it surprising in any way. It was a bit generic as far as movie scores go and it didn't seem overly stylistic. It was nothing I haven't heard before.

Overall Review

When I bought this film, I bought it for Ayase Haruka's role in the film. Granted, I'd seen trailers and I'd read a little about it, but, the main selling point was Ayase Haruka - that was mainly because I was in Fopp and I wanted to buy a film so I went for one with an actor I knew and liked in it. Somehow, when I bought the film, though I thought it seemed interesting, I didn't actually expect too much from it. I was convinced it might end up being kind of trashy. I was either going to love it or hate but, either way, I had this feeling it was going to be, on a technical level, crap - like a kind of cinematic pulp fiction. However, I watched the film and, despite my preconceptions and worries, it was really good and pretty deep. If this had been a book, it would have been a pretty good read, actually, and not pulp fiction at all. The plot was brilliantly structured and the visuals were stunning. I was very pleasantly surprised. Very.