Monday, 28 January 2013

[BOOK REVIEW] Goodbye Tsugumi, Hello Amateurish Book Review

All opinions are my own, end of

Having developed the desire to broaden my writing options a little, I decided upon reviewing various examples of Japanese literature, should I get to read some. Obviously, thanks to school, writing about literature is not at all something new to me but I've never casually reviewed a book like this, so, hopefully, I won't cock it up too much.
Goodbye Tsugumi, or TUGUMI (pronounced simply as 'Tsugumi') as it's called in Japan, is the fourth novel of writer of Yoshimoto Banana, originally written back in 1989 before recieving an English-language adaption in 2002.
Goodbye Tsugumi is a novel dealing with people learning to cope with possible loss and saying goodbye, as well as accepting the fact that each and every person sees the world in a different way. Written in a first-person-narrative style, the novel follows the life of said narrator, a young girl of about eighteen years or so, called Maria (this didn't strike me as a very Japanese-sounding name, until I remembered that it could be written as '聖 ', which literally means 'holy' and is normally read as 'sei'. could be written another way, what do I know? But it is stated that she is named after the Virgin Mary, anyway), the Summer of her first year of University. She spends the Summer at her hometown, which she had left for Tokyo just before she started Uni, at her Aunt and Uncle's inn. The second most important character in this book is, in fact, her cousin, the youngest of the inn's two daughters - the titular Tsugumi, a girl who has been weak and frail since birth but, even so, has an extremely powerful personality and, as a result of her extremely brash attitude, she gets close enough to anything she so desires.
As far as plot is concerned, the novel doesn't pick up until much later on, with the majority of the earlier chapters building up a long-winded backstory. The entire novel appears to be written in retrospect so these earlier chapters actually work really well and don't detract from the overall quality of the novel at all. In fact, these earlier chapters are nothing short of vital in that they provide us with a clear understanding of Tsugumi's development as a person, allowing us to understand her a little better. Even later on in the novel, there are certains steps back into the past, but each is relevant to whatever was already happening and do nothing but add to the appreciation of the novel. In all honesty, the plot isn't actually that appealing in itself but it has to be noted that this is not a plot-driven novel by any stretch of the imagination. The novel is almost entirely pulled along by the chharacters and their emotions. The plot isn't bad, but it's a far cry from being anything exciting, so to speak. Above all else, I suppose that it's a slice-of-life novel, so the relaxed nature of the plot actually makes the most sense.

Like I said earlier, this novel is very much character-driven and, as such, the character development in this novel is one of the most appealing features. The characters are all pretty individual and believable. They are human. Pretty much all of the characters are likeable, at least the leading ones. Even Tsugumi, for all her obvious personality flaws. Tsugumi is presented in such a positive light that it's actually slightly difficult to hate her. Despite her needlessly harsh mannerisms, something about Tsugumi makes her an attractive character on whom you can dote. For me, personally, Maria was the best character, though, in terms of technical character development, it may have been Tsugumi. That being said, Maria was still very well developed, especially seeing as she was the narrator, and, on top of that, she was a completely genuine character. She was a normal person and she was really easy to identify with and feel for. I really loved how Maria was presented, along with her views of the world. Tsugumi's older sister, Yoko, was also a really lovely character. She was very real yet still ridiculously pleasant. Speaking of which, it's actually quite impressive how believable Tsugumi is, even with her almost eccentric personality. Despite the walls she so clearly puts up, thanks to Maria's sharp observational skills and understanding nature, Tsugumi proves to be a deep and interesting character.

Something else on which this novel thrives is the presenation of emotions. This is mostly important where Maria's narrative is concerned, but she does seem to have an emotional connection to everything. For Maria, nearly everything seems to have a deeper value and, as a result of that, we are provided with bits of absolutely beautiful description and narrative. Everything is just written out in this sweetly sentimental manner. Of course, it seems that some of text, through translation, has ended up a little stilted but, honestly, if you're already used to fan translations and all that, on the grand scheme of things, the prose in this seems pretty natural. And, even so, the images are still really vivid. In some cases, description like this may seem a little excessive but all of it is so skillfully linked to the overall plot through Maria's emotional connection to the world around her. Instead of getting bored of all the description, I just found myself really appreciating the natural images brought to mind by it all.

All in all, it was a good book. It wasn't the best book I've ever read, nor did the book find a place in my list of favourites, but it was, nonetheless, a bloody good read. I heard the book got mixed reviews, so it might be a hit-or-miss kind of book. All I can say about that is that was certainly a hit for me. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book and I found it to be a relaxing read. It was moving but it was also pretty calm in its execution so it was really easy to just sit down and calmly read it. And, now, as much as I said the book isn't a favourite of mine, it's certainly gotten me interested in reading more of Yoshimoto's work, especially seeing as her other novels have gotten better reviews. This book's certainly worth a read, though, if this kind of thing appeals to you.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Top 5 Original Japanese K-Pop Songs

This ranking is based purely on my own opinion, so, please respect that
This is my current K-Pop love of the moment (Rainbow's JaeKyung).
But, I couldn't find a gif of her derping. Her hair tho
And, here it is, another ranking! Don't worry, I've started writing a rant, too. And I plan to start reviewing dramas eventually, too.
That title on its own probably doesn't make sense so I'll elaborate. Of course, many Korean artists debut in Japan with Japanese language remakes of pre-existing songs. However, there comes a point where the artist has to release a brand-new, all-original track for the Japanese audiences. I'll be counting down my personal favourites. Oh, and you should probably consider this as a kind of Part Two of this.

5. Rainbow - Gonna Gonna GO! / Shoujo Jidai - MR. TAXI


Yes, that's right, it's a draw! My rankings so far make it look like SNSD are one of my favourite K-Pop groups but they aren't. Don't get me wrong, I like them, and they're miles better than, say, T-ara or something. Thing is, some SNSD songs tick all my little personal boxes while others...well, they don't hit a single chord with me. And that's just how it is. However, MR. TAXI is one song that I loved from the moment I heard it. It sounded really cool and the Japanese was a ridiculous improvement on whatever it was that was supposed to be happening in their previous Japanese release, Gee. It was a pleasant surprise. I never go in expecting to be wowed by this lot, so, when they do come out with a song I love, I end up more impressed that I probably would have been otherwise. Half of SNSD's songs bore me, while the other half excite me...well, not quite but when I like them, I really do like them. 
Rainbow, however, are my favourite K-Pop girlgroup. Gonna Gonna GO! is extremely K-Poppy in terms of style but it's really catchy, too. Also, these girls have had excellent Japanese since their Japanese debut, which is more than I can say for some Korean groups who try their luck overseas. Their Japanese language skills do not disappoint in this track, either. The production of this song is extremely slick and, though it may not be Rainbow's best song nor the most original thing ever, there's some definite appeal in this song. Though, technically, it borders on the generic, this song has a certain charm to it which definitely draws the listener in. Also, this song has a cool rap thrown in there, as always, which just adds to it.
4. ROMEO (Park Jung Min) - Give Me Your Heart

This song didn't chart particularly well, only reaching the #26 spot in the chart and that was probably due to an immense lack of promotion on this single's part. I actually adore this single and that's why it made it onto this list. I think, had it been given the promotion it deserved, this single would have done a lot better. In terms of style, this song is very is very similar to Jung Min's first proper solo release, independent from SS501, 'Not Alone'. I absolutely adore the style in that song, so, when I heard this track, I was ecstatic. Give Me Your Heart is a very cool and dramatic song, with a really catchy melody. I love the violins in the backtrack, too. As a Japanese release, this is also a really strong track. Jung Min's Japanese sounds seamless and natural, his accent and pronunciation are really good. Obviously, he still sounds Korean, but less obviously than quite a lot of other Korean artists singing in Japanese. Jung Min always did have the best Japanese in SS501, proved not only by his singing but also his success in the language games of their Japan-based TV show, and his Japanese has only improved since the last time he released anything in Japan. I really do think he needs more promotion, he's a really good singer, his Japanese is great, I feel his musical style would appeal to a Japanese audience (somehow) and, really, look at him, he's a human bishi! He's a Horse Prince, but, still, Horse Princes can be bloody pretty, apparently. I know looks don't count for all, but, when promoting him to another market than his home market, looks always help.

3. 2NE1 - SCREAM


This single only hit #7 on the Oricon charts so, in terms of doing well in Japan, it's not the best but it's still good. However, this is one of my very favourite 2NE1 songs so on the list it goes! Dara's Japanese isn't the strongest which lets the track down just a little but it doesn't have any real bearing on the quality of the rest of the song. This song is really cool and powerful, with impressive vocals. Cool is the only word to describe this song, really. CL and Minzy are particularly mind-blowing, actually, in both their rap and vocal parts. But, honestly, CL has so much style and power that it's unbelievable. As painfully naff and cheesy as it may sound, she's not known as 'The Baddest Female' for nothing, of that I have no doubts.

2. BIGBANG - Gara Gara GO!

The kings of K-Pop, BIGBANG, moved onto original tracks as early as their second single, chancing it against Tegomass (and, clearly, not succeeding...I don't even know what they got). This is one of my favourite BIGBANG tracks and my second favourite of their Japanese A-Sides (can't argue with BEAUTIFUL HANGOVER, really, that shit's far too good). I know there's a Korean version of this song, too, but I'm pretty bloody sure it came after and, as such, is a remake of the Japanese song and not the other way around. This is a really catchy, fast-paced song - it's fun and, somehow, it's really quite Summery. I feel that this song was also one of the first in a K-Pop trend that spread like wildfire, in terms of song style and even music video visuals. With plenty of English chants and even some more simple Japanese, this song's easy to sing along to, granted you miss out the fast parts. Unless you do those know those bits, obviously (I do, I have to say). It's just...yeah, fun.
It's very upbeat yet cool at the same time. Like, really cool. Especially those rap parts. And the 'T.O.P' part. That can't be argued with. That shit is too good. So, yeah, there seem to be no specific reasons...I just love this song.
1. Kim Hyun Joong - HEAT

I already did a review of this song as part of this review but that was referring more to what I liked about the song than why I thought it was a good choice for the first non-remake song HyunJoong released in Japan. Proof that it deserves the #1 spot lies solely in the fact that this single sold well enough to stick Yamashita Tomohisa, one of Japan's ultimate pop aces since he was around sixteen years old, with the first (and only) Oricon #2 in his recording career, which started when he was about nineteen. He's twenty-eight this April. You also have to keep in mind that it's an extremely rare feat for a K-Pop artist to top the charts with their second Japanese release. So, there, we have the proof, but, what contributed to this? There are various factors that may have led to this success. First-off, HyunJoong is a huge star all over Asia, so, it would only make sense for him to hit Japan hard. He had already gained fans in Japan through his time as a member of SS501, a group who made their Japanese debut ahead of the current Halyuu boom in the Japanese music scene, and his roles in the dramas, Boys Over Flowers and Playful Kiss. Japan experienced a K-Drama boom a before K-Pop really hit it big there, and, furthermore, both of these dramas are remakes of popular manga, the first having had a hugely successful Japanese drama adaption and the second being somewhat of a classic. Both of these manga also have anime and T-Drama adaptions, too. And, really, Boys Over Flowers and Hana Yori Dango are among the most successful dramas ever in their respective countries of origing, so, it's not surprising that HyunJoong's role as the lovable Aspie, JiHoo (formerly known as Rui) drew him in some fans. Furthermore, the song was created by Japanese music legends, B'z. They're a truly powerful duo in the Japanese music scene so, really, having a song created by that pair puts HyunJoong at quite an advantage. I mean, aside from being HUGE in themselves, one half of B'z is responsible for the composition for the best selling debut single in Oricon chart history, the long-awaited first single of KAT-TUN, selling over 750 thousand copies in its first week. Actually, this song is more Japanese-sounding than it is Korean, and considerably so, too. This probably helped it sell so well. As much attention as certain Korean artists are getting in Japan right now, Japanese-style songs will always have more appeal, seeing as Japanese-style music been gradually tailored to...well, appeal to the Japanese public. Besides, with some groups coming out with the same generic style of song all the time, maybe this is a nice change, I don't know. I'm not Japanese, I'm just speculating.
So, yeah, there you have it, my personal ranking of K-Pop artists first original Japanese tracks. Though, technically, some of these may not be the best or the most interesting or even the most successful (though, #1 is certainly one of the more successful ones), but, y'know what, I really like them and think they deserve their spots.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

!December Top 4!

All opinions are my own, not your's, so, if you disagree...oops?
You better check this out, bisshes
I think I'll make this whole 'lovely gif of one of my biases' a trend for these monthly rankings
That's right, it's that time of month again - the COSMIC CHILD Monthly Top 5! -is met with total silence-
Well, anyway, though, as always, this is later than I would have liked, but, oh well. So, without any futher ado, let's get a move on!

By the way, I can't think of a 5th song so we're skipping that. I do know more song but not well enough.

4. SHINee - 1000nen, Zutto Soba ni Ite

Well, you lot in the back there, those sweaters are...ugly
 Since the MP3 seemed reluctant to get itself onto my MP3 player, I don't know this song very well, so I'm not going to say much. At all. It's a very sweet and emotional song and if I had room, it'd be on my MP3 Player. And I'll be fixing that shortly. Unfortunately, I can't remember the tune so yeah. It's nice, though.
3. Berryz Koubou - WANT!
Keep the hair, keep the hair! - an ode to Momoko
 This single's A-Side is, pretty much, everything I wanted from Berryz Koubou, no pun intended. Honestly, even if this is just a one-off, I've wanted to see the girls tackle this style for oh-so long, now. As much as I am a huge fan of their fun and upbeat tracks, and as much as their mature stage between Heroine ni Narou ka! (which was, yes, mature but it worked so it doesn't count) and Be Genki! didn't work for me at all, I love when they go for the more adult yet still upbeat and dancy style. However, what I really wanted to see the girls attempt was this exact style of autotune-ridden dance music - yes, it is extremely autotune heavy at parts but, and, oh, do I praise the powers that be!, the autotune in this is a lot less awful than some of UFP!'s recent attempts. In fact, this and MoMusu's Wakuteka give me reason to be less nervous about the application of autotune within Hello! Project, therefore making it easier for me to see past the mess that was CAT'S EYE. Anyway, this shade of maturity is a lot cooler than certain others the group has displayed. I have no desire to see the girls dabbling in  that sultry, coy genre of maturity any longer - it just looks odd, especially with Momo just looking completely out of place and Chii looking far too happy. However, this works perfectly with the girls' images. It's a bloody catchy song, too, I'm not kidding. It's actually ridiculously catchy! And the vocals sound great, even the autotune free ones. Risako and Miyabi lead so powerfully! My sole complaint about the song is that the chorus is awfully reminscent of Pink Lady's Nagisa no Sinbad's verses in terms of melody - I wonder if anyone else picked up on this?
The B-Side, Yuuki wo Kudasai!, is less impressive. It's still a nice song, definitely, but it certaintly doesn't bring anything new to the table. It's a very typical and sweet, happy-go-lucky Berryz B-side track, so, don't go in expect anything new and amazing. Of course, should you like such songs, it's actually very good. I do like the song, I like it a lot, let me make that clear, but, in comparison to the B-Side, which is something a little outside of Berryz's safety zone, the B-Side almost seems a little safe, or a little 'been there, done that'. Regardless, it's still a very nice and upbeat song~!
2. NEWS - WORLD QUEST / Pokopon Pekorya
Shige's pose doesn't quite match up with the rest, now, does it?
I also did a review of this entire single, if you'd care to give it a gander. And, as such, what else can I say about this single than it kicked Chankapana's arse (and it was bloody good). Honestly, I am so ridiculously happy that these guys are finally back.
1. GACKT - WHITE LOVERS ~Shiawase no Toki~
His hair made me so happy. Really.
Now, this really shouldn't be surprising, what, with my love for GACKT and all. I already did a review of this song's A-side, so there's not much to say about that, really. I mean, it was fairly in depth and there's nothing I could say here that hasn't already been said there.
The B-Side, however, was something I didn't get to talk about. ONE MORE KISS is a fast-pased and dramatic song that reminds me of Ai Senshi and (a better version of) YELLOW FRIED CHICKENz' YOU ARE THE REASON. In terms of melody, it's really quite reminiscent of older GACKT songs yet, in terms of musical arrangement, it's much closer to his newer stuff. This track really brings the new and the old together, and with fantastic results, too. It's far from being my favourite of GACKT's songs, but, with a full discography of about 200, give or take, tracks, I can't say that's really a problem. I do love this song a lot and, since I first heard it, I cannot get the bloody thing out of my head.

This was kind of half-arsed but I just wanted to get it up before it was too late. And I couldn't finish it. It's more of an obligation thing, ugh.

[ALBUM REVIEW] A K-Pop Superstar's Japanese Debut Album Shows Unlimited Potential

All opinions are my own and I have a right to them. Please try to respect that and I'll be glad to do the same for you~!
My favourite of all this album's covers - it's bloody gorgeous!
Kim Hyun Joong means serious business, he's made that clear already. Prior to his solo Japanese debut, he was only, what, one the biggest stars in the whole of East Asia? Honestly, this man is adored in many a country and, as such, it came as no surprise that his first Japanese single was met with great success, shooting straight to #2 on the Oricon Weekly chart, a feat rarely achieved by a freshly debuted K-Pop artist in Japan. Admittedly, he had already appeared on the Oricon Top 5 during his time as leader of the now comatose, for want of a better phrase, quintet, SS501. However, the last single they ever released in Japan was released in the Summer of 2008 which was a good while before the Halyuu Wave had its big boom, anyway, meaning that K-Pop groups were possibly more of a novelty anyway. His second single, however, had no trouble topping the Oricon Weekly chart, even with Johnny's Entertainment's [adult] ace, Yamashita Tomohisa. This was the first time in Yamapi's entire career as a recording artist (which started in 2005) that he failed to top the Oricon Weekly (though he did make it to #2). Now, really, for a K-Pop artist, that really is something, considering Yamapi's popularity. However, my mum did suggest, jokingly of course, that people just got the two of them muddled up, seeing as she's still learning to tell the two apart - You can't blame her too much, can you? Seeing as she's not that familiar with the two of them yet. Though, that being said, she's learned to identify Yamapi as the one who 'looks like he has a bad smell under his nose'.

HyunJoong (left) and Yamapi (right) - just for comparison's sake
Anyway, that aside, Hyun Joong eventually released his first Japanese album, which was also his first full-length album as a solo artist. The album went straight to #1 on the Oricon Daily and #3 on the Oricon Weekly, which, granted, is still impressive. Tohoshinki (or TVXQ, but we're talking about Oricon here), the king of Hanryuu Star Wave groups, only managed to get #4 for their debut album (though, that was back in 2006 which was a fair bit before the recent boom). So, really, it can't be denied that there's a lot to expect from HyunJoong in the future.
As such, I'll be reviewing the afore-mentioned album, titled 'UNLIMITED'. The album mainly features previously-released Japanese remakes of tracks from his two Korean mini-albums and one remade single track, but it also has the two tracks from his second single as well as a few original tracks made specifically for the album. So, without further ado, let's have a listen~

1. Save Today

This song is one of the two tracks chosen to promote the album and, as such, was given a video, which I didn't know when I first heard the album. At that point, I only knew that Your Story had a video, yet I did have a feeling that, if  any other song were to have a video, for whatever reason, it would surely be this one. The video, to be perfectly honest, confuses me, so, seeing as this is an album review and not a video review anyway, I'll set that train of thought aside for now and focus on the song isntead.
Anyway, aside from HEAT (which quickly became my favourite of all HyunJoong's songs), this is my favourite track of the album. The song has a sort of soft-rock feel with a bit of a pop essence, reaching closer to HyunJoong's musical roots, seeing as he started out with a school rock band (that went pretty much nowhere but that's beyond the point), as he seems to be doing a little more with his Japanese releases as opposed to his Korean ones. Fortunately, I do love it when my favourite artists go for this kind of style. Actually, this might sound odd, but I think this particular sound is very Japanese in its own way. It's quite similar, in a sense, to the style of some J-Rock bands (not the Visual Kei variety, the other end of the J-Rock spectrum), only, possibly, softer.
The song is pretty catchy and quite easy to get lost in, I find. It's a very good song for looking at the scenery zoom past when you're on a drive, actually. That may sound stupid but I can assure you that it's true. When I went down to London last month, this song got a lot of listens and it always had the best effect on me in such situations, particularly when I was on the Tube and it was travelling along the Overground parts. That image has been pretty much welded into my mind and it kind of lingers whenever I listen to this song, with the brown flats, green plants and silver pillars of metal kind of fading in and out of my mind's eye. I know that sounds really, really cheesy but it's true. And it's a nice image. Though, that has squat to do with the song itself.
It's a gorgeous song, though, and it seriously compliments Hyun Joong's voice. He suits this kind of song, really.

2. Let's Party

This track is the B-Side to HyunJoong's second Japanese single, HEAT and, to tell the truth, I'm not huge on it. It's listenable and, as such, I will listen to it but it's not a favourite song of mine. It's my least favourite track on the album. I don't mind the chorus at all, even if it is properly cheesy-sounding, but the verses aren't as much to my tastes somehow. I think it's the autotune that's at fault here - I'm not too fond on this kind of autotune, though, I can tolerate it quite easy. It's a catchy song, that I won't deny it. It's just an explosion of cheese - dancy cheese. It's very...well, to me, it seems awfully 90's-esque, as in 90's Brit-pop, in parts, and, well, 90's Britpop is extremely cheesy, almost to a fault. Though, that being said, it may just be me, considering I can still enjoy the song. It's a nice enough song, don't get me wrong, I don't dislike it, but, it's not necessarily my thing. I think it's probably an okay song but it doesn't match up with my personal tastes, if you know what I mean? However, the chants in the build-up to the choruses definitely have my approval.

3. U (Japanese version)

This track was originally a track on the Lucky min-album, and this version was a B-Side on he Kiss Kiss (Japanese version) single. The werid thing about this song is that the Korean version never caught my attention and I was never in the mood to listen to it, it just didn't work for me, yet, somehow, I really like the Japanese version. That being said, I did give the Korean version and other listen, and it is definitely a nice song regardless of the language. But, somehow, the Korean version never hit me in the right way, while the Japanese version did. I do like the sound of the Korean language but I feel that, maybe, the Japanese language lends itself more to this song.
It's a very pretty little song and it's very calming. The reverb in this track is quite heavy, adding a kind of almost angelic feel to the song, if you get what I mean. This song just glows in a strange way; it's quite fantastical in its own perculiar manner. It's the sort of song that drags you in to its own little world. I also like that it's such a soft and peaceful song but, even so, something about the chorus is powerful. On top of that, in terms of emotion, this is one of Hyun Joong's best songs. I actually think the emotion in the Japanese version is stronger than the original but, also, the Japanese is quite simple so I can understand a lot of it...and that always helps.
I do have a habit, though, of hearing the very start of the song and suddenly deciding it's actually SS501's Everything. Oops. Well, at least they're connected - it could be worse.

4. Kiss Kiss (Japanese version)

Originally one of the promo tracks of Hyun Joong's first solo mini-album, Break Down, this version was used as his first Japanese single. First off, before I get on to the song itself, I must say that I by far prefer the Japanese PV to the Korean MV. I'm sure if I were one of the fans who got to meet him (though, I don't live in anything like the right country for that), my stance on the matter might be different. However, I'm not, so I have little emotional attatchment to the MV - the PV's just a better and more interesting video.
This was always my least favourite track on Break Down, but that was a mini-album I absolutley adored in every aspect. As such, I've always, from the moment I heard it, loved this song. Honestly, I hoped that he would have debuted in Japan with Please but, seeing as it already had a proper MV and was the first song to be promoted, using Kiss Kiss made more sense than using it - same with Break Down. Kiss Kiss made sense. On on top of that, a lot of male K-Pop artists have debuted in Japan with tracks all of a similar genre (not all, obviously, I know that), so, I guess that using this song, which is slightly less typically K-Pop, allowed Hyun Joong to stand out a little.
The song itself has a really sweet sound and it's very upbeat. It's a song that works well with Hyun Joong's voice and I mean really well. The Japanese lyrics also sound really good and flow really well with the song. In fact, when choosing the tracks for this review on Korean-to-Japanese tracks, this track was very nearly 5th place. It just missed out and only made it to 6th place. They don't sound stilted at all and, in some parts, they have a similar sound to them to the original lyrics. The lyrics also match the beat in a certain way that makes them really catchy and memorable. And, of course, the song itself is really catchy - even when I listened to this whole album at once, the song that stuck in my head for the rest of the next was this!

5. I'm Yours

Putting aside the grammatical error in the title, this is a nice song. It's nice to hear Hyun Joong singing in a lower pitch, as a lot of his songs are higher. This song actually reminds me another one, in terms of style, but I can't remember for the life of me what it is. Or KAT-TUN, if it the backtrack were a little lower. It's not a Hyun Joong song, though. Something tells me the song is somehow related to KAT-TUN NEWS but I haven't got a clue. Though, that being said, I could imagine Yamapi singing it, almost. It's a song with a somewhat fast tempo despite its tone; it's not exactly an upbeat song. It's a dark song, figuratively speaking. If there was a PV, I'd expect it to have a darker colour scheme. In fact, it does seem like a song that could do with a PV, granted said PV had plenty of drama scenes and emotional stuff. That would be perfect for this song.
The melody is nice, though, the verses aren't the most memorable. It doesn't matter all that much, though, as they're still really nice to listen to. The chorus is a lot memorable, though, and has a nice, emotional feel to it. I'm not kidding, I really love the chorus, particularly the 'ano hi no you ni' line - the melody and the way his voice sounds at those parts is really nice. The bridge is also great. Probably just cause I love that kind of 'tune changes for a bit, everything stops, line that increases in emotion, pause for effect, everything starts again' thing - maybe because they show up in a lot of KAT-TUN tracks...

6. Your Story

This song is the other promo track for this album in that it got a PV and was used in the adverts for the album. The PV is really nice and...-cough- Hyun Joong looks fantastic.
That aside, I really like this song and it's one of my favourites on the album. I absolutely love how Hyun Joong's voice sounds - he really suits this genre, that kind of soft-rock with a poppy touch. Sometimes, I feel like his voice doesn't actually blend perfectly with the music, but that's probably just cause his voice is a little on the husky side, or, well, it's slightly raspy in a way. Sort of. But, it doesn't make a difference, really, and it's only like that in the verses. His voice fits perfectly with everything in the chorus! Honestly, I do think that Hyun Joong needs to keep doing more songs like this. The chorus is also really memorable  and a little infectious. The arrangement and melody are both absolutely brilliant, too.
My favourite part of this song, as much as I love every last part of it, is the final 'hanasanai yo' line - the way he holds that last note is absolutely gorgeous!

7. Boku wa Kimi no Mono (Japanese Version)

This song was originally a track on the Lucky mini-album be honest, I forgot that until now. I have heard it before and I do actually have it on my MP3 Player (though, it's name is in Korean), I'm just an idiot. I haven't heard the Korean version enough to make an educated comparison, though. However, the names of the two tracks are actually different; the Korean version is called Naneun ne Namja ya (trans; I'm Your Man, which is what most people know it as, for some reason, K-Pop songs get referred to by their translation) while the Japanese version's title translates as 'I'm Your's' - okay, it's really not that different but still. Though, it does mean that there are basically two tracks on this album with the same name.
Anyway, this track is a ballad, as most albums seem to have (at least, in Japan?). Well, anyway, I think a good ballad is always compulsory in an album. This isn't one of the most memorable ballads I've ever heard but it is still a very pretty track and HyunJoong sounds really great. This is also the only track on the album, aside from HEAT, not to have Steven Lee working on it, so, in a way, it's got a change in feel to it. What I also like is that this song is the halfway point of the album - it's like a peaceful little rest in the middle of the CD. It's a nice effect.

8. Marry Me (Japanese Version)

This song was originally part of a single which had two tracks; 'Marry Me' and 'Marry You'. There was some kind of special concept, like one was the man's song and one was the woman's, or something like that but I can't fully remember what it was.
I'll say it straight out - this is my second least favourite track on the album. Don't get me wrong, I love the song, I really do. I just don't like the double voice effect in the chorus, which is a shame because I love the melody in those parts, as well as the falsetto notes. With what little Japanese knowledge I possess, I can tell that the lyrics to this song are quite sweet, though, maybe a little cheesy. By my standards. I'm not big on all that stuff, generally. No dislike, mind you.
This song isn't necessarily the most memorable out there, though, proved by the fact that I forgot what the original sounded like until I heard this version. If you're more into this style of song than I am, though, it's actually really good and I would recommend it seconds. It's a good song!

9. Lucky Guy (Japanese Version)

This was originally the main track for the mini-album, Lucky, and was my favourite of Hyun Joong's songs until HEAT came along. This version was the other promo track of the Japanese debut single, KISS KISS. However, the Japanese version, though I do like it and it is one of my favourite tracks on the album, does not do the original justice. Where the Japanese version does win, though, is the PV, though, that's mainly because it doesn't have that random god awful scene with the woman fixing a car in a bikini. Ugh.
The added sound effects of this version don't really help the song in anyway whatsoever and, seeing as I'm so used to the original, just sound stuck on. I actually did a review of the original song back in 2011, but since I sound like an idiot there, I'll just some up how I feel about the song in general. Obviously, I love the rest of the song - the melody, the tone, the arrangement, it's all perfect. It's a really fun song and I was totally drawn in by that. Also, it's ridiculously infectious and super memorable.

10. Break Down (ft. Double K) (Japanese Version)

This was originally one of the promo tracks (and the titular track) for HyunJoong's first mini-album, with this version first appearing on the KISS KISS single. Personally, I don't like this version as much as the original, purely because I don't think the lyrics work as well, and a lot of it's to do with the fact that I don't think the Japanese language lends itself as well to this song. Well, actually, it seems like it might do if you were a native Japanese speaker since a lot of it's to do with the fact that lyrics of the original are quite clipped-sounding (I don't mean edited, though). Due to HyunJoong's strong accent, that kind of sharpness doesn't work as well with Japanese. It probably wouldn't work as well if a nativer speaker sung this song but it might have worked better, if you know what I mean. That being said, I don't think it's bad. No way. It's still good and HyunJoong has really good pronunciation, but, I think the song just sounds better in Korean. It sounds cooler like that.
As for the song itself, the original is probably my third favourite HyunJoong song. I really do love this song, I just think it sounds really cool. And, even in Korean, the lyrics are memorable and catchy, especially combined with the infectious melody of the chorus. It's quite a down-key song, but it's still up-tempo and it's a really nice combo. The arrangement of the song works really well, too, and I seriously love all the different layers of vocals, with all the adlibs in the background. And Double K's rap sounds really good. I don't actually know he is aside from this song, but his rap compliments the song boody well.

11. HEAT

Originally the A-side of HyunJoong's second Japanese single, the one that kicked Yamapi's poor little butt, this is my favourite of all HyunJoong's songs, hands-down. This song was created by B'z, with one member doing music and the other doing lyrics - actually, it was Tak who did the music. I only know one other song with music by Tak, seeing as I don't listen to B'z, and it was KAT-TUN's debut single Real Face, which is one of my all-time favourite songs. I feel like giving B'z a listen would make sense now...
But, yeah, I suppose, based on the rest of the review, that it's no secret that I'm a fool for rocky songs with a poppy feel to them and that's exactly what this song is. The tune is really infectious, it gets stuck in your head really quickly. Well, not quite, but it is an easy tune to learn after a few listens. The lyrics are pretty easy to remember, too. I seem to remember more of the words than I thought I did!
But, really, it is my favourite HyunJoong song by a flying long-shot, though, it seems that I can't fully explain why. It's was so drawn in by it from the moment I heard it! It's catchy, memorable and really cool. For me, it ticks a load of boxes! And, on top of that, it seems to be a perfect song for HyunJoong's voice and singing style. I really want to see him tackle more songs like this.
It might seem like an odd song, though, because it is not a typical K-Pop song. It's actually very Japanese-sounding, if that makes sense. But that can probably be attributed to the fact that it was produced by one of the most legendary bands in Japan. But, really, even if you don't like K-Pop, if you're a J-Music fan, this song could appeal to you. I don't know if it sat well with all the K-Pop fans out there, though, but I don't assume it did too much of the opposite. So, yeah, it's a song with a lot of appeal, I'd say.
All in all, I think it's pretty clear that I adore this album. Really, a lot of this review seemed to be a rant about how good the song was. But, really, I did expect this album to be good. I can't tell if it surpassed my expectations or not, though. I do love the album and I think it's really good but the fact that there was only a few new songs kind of let it down a little. Rather than including B-Sides in the album, it would have been nice to see some fresh stuff, but, this still sounds brilliant just like this!

Wednesday, 9 January 2013


As the title suggests, the blog got a bit of a make-over~  ( ̄∇ ̄)ノキラ☆;:*:;☆;:*:;☆

The banner's awful right now but it's the best I could make in less than 50 minutes on a shitty laptop on GIMP (I made the banner instead of doing real work during my Photography class).
I've used the same layout for about half a year now (probably longer), so I wanted to go for a change of style (changing colours doesn't count as a layout change, after all~). So, here it is, the new and really not improved to be honest, blog!
I'll try to up the activity here from now! ↑↑

And, to finish - d'aw, he's lovely

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

[SINGLE REVIEW] NEWS are back and they're on a quest to take over the world!

AKA: Would you like some Pekora with that good news?

All opinions are my own and I don't expect you to agree with them, necessarily. You have your opinion and I have mine, so, let's keep it at that.

NEWS, the quartet boyband extrordanaire in what kind of looks like pajama bottoms
So, WORLD QUEST/Pokopon Pekorya is NEWS’ next single after their explosive, and extremely successful, comeback (an actual comeback, too, none of this K-Pop shit where they wait a couple of months before releasing and, then, smack the phrase ‘COMEBACK’ over everything to make everything seem far more exciting than it is, ignoring fully the fact that bloody group didn’t go anywhere and took a perfectly normally waiting period before putting out anything new `(*coughbapcough*)),and first release as quartet (after the tragedy of 7th October 2011 – yes, it was a tragedy; I very nearly cried, that makes it tragic), Chankapana, which managed to chart for a good nineteen (or so I’ve read) weeks. It was also the first single since the group’s only 2009 release, Koi no ABO, to hit the 200, 000 sales mark in its first week. Pretty good going, I’d say. And, now, NEWS have continued to impress, topping the Oricon charts with their 15th single, WORLD QUEST/Pokopom Pekorya. Let’s take a look-see~

This is the main track of the single – I don’t care that the title of the single clearly implies there’s some double A-Side business going on, the other song doesn’t even have a bloody PV, so, yeah, this one’s the main one. It will also be used as the image song for ‘TOTOYA presents FIFA World Cup Japan 2012’, much in the same way that KAT-TUN’s DIAMOND was used as the image song for ‘Dramatic Game 1844’, only, obviously, this is football and not baseball. I don’t give a flying fuck about footie but, just so you know, this World Cup is ‘a soccer tournament to determine the top club team from more than 300,000 club teams in the six continents’. On top of this, NEWS’ own Tegoshi Yuya will be working as a caster on the games, much like KAT-TUN’s Kamenashi Kazuya does with Dramatic Game. Oh, and Tegoshi will also be working as a host on a new sports show called ‘Soccer Earth’, much in the same way as, hm, KAT-TUN’s Kamenashi does with baseball for Going! – what is this, are NEWS trying to become KAT-TUN’s football-loving brother or cousin or something?

Anyway, all that aside, it’s time to focus on the song itself. This song is NEWS. Really. It just sums up everything NEWS are. Every aspect of it. Except for parts of the lyrics, seeing as their songs aren’t normally full of football references. But, seriously, I should think that anyone very familiar with NEWS would agree with me when I say that this song practically just screams NEWS at whoever gives it a listen. That isn’t to say, though, that it sounds like any other NEWS song – it’s definitely a brand-new song but it just captures that NEWS feeling so brilliantly. This song reminds me of everything that makes me love NEWS (except for Yamapi, because he is, pretty much, a reason to like the group but he’s not in the group anymore so whatever).

The vocals in this song are absolutely gorgeous, too. This is possibly the best I’ve ever heard from Shige – note that I’m not saying Shige’s bad in anyway at all, he just sounds really nice in this. And, of course, Tego’s bridge line is to die for. It’s absolutely stunning, he sounds so amazing. I do honestly believe that Tego is JE’s very best vocalist; his voice is so clear and powerful. I don’t think I’ve ever actually heard a botch note or anything like that from Tego, even live, in his entire NEWS career, which has, I must point out, lasted since he was 15 or so (so, basically, 9 years this September). His vocals never fail to impress, I swear. Also, the falsetto parts in the chorus are brilliant, too.

I really love the arrangement of this song, too. The piano is a really beautiful touch and I do love the clap-like beat in the build-up to the first chorus. The echo/overlaps in the chorus add a really nice touch to it.

The mood of the song is absolutely fantastic, too. The song manages to be extremely upbeat whilst remaining really quite calm. I can’t actually tell if this song is perfect for Summer or Winter (as I tend to associate certain songs with these seasons) because it seems to be a perfect blend of the two. It’s truly a song perfect for the entire year! Also, for a football song, it’s bloody good, seeing as most football-themed tracks seem to feel the need to incorporate crowd-chanting. That doesn’t work for me that well, that’s all.

  1. Pokopon Pekorya
This is the second A-Side of this single, the PV-less one. This song is actually pretty adorable in its own way and sounds an awful lot like something you’d hear from some kind of teen girl idol group. However, NEWS have managed to be a boyband who can do cute songs without pissing me off somehow, but that’s probably to do with the fact that all those 12-year-olds currently taking over Johnny’s Jr don’t actually interest me at all, and the fact that, however open I am to listen to young girls sing, I don’t really see myself buying into the whole squealing over underage boys thing. But that’s just me. God, I barely pay boys under the age of 20 much attention (the youngest that I’ll take interest in is 17, and that’s probably just an excuse to claim that a younger Kame is pretty). Let’s just ignore that I do think that Tego was entirely adorable straight from his debut and I actually liked him. I do make exceptions, but I can’t help that most of the young boys in Johnny’s are a little sickly to me. Besides, they spend their whole time trying to be both sexy and cute at once and it really isn’t working for me, However, NEWS are all in their mid to late 20s and aren’t going overboard with the cutesy thing. It’s just a cute song, that’s all. A properly cute song.

The song starts off with this little tune that doesn’t actually crop up anywhere else in the song and it’s a nice touch. And, then, it breaks off into bagpipes! I love when they’re used in J-Pop cause they do actually sound so nice in certain songs (MilkyWay’s Anataboshi’s another example of a song like this. The melody of all the instrumental parts is just so catchy and upbeat, it really wins you over, even though the big one in the middle does suddenly have a bunch of dog noises for some strange reason.

The chorus is also extremely catching and easy to remember. The lyrics are simple and fun and the entire song seems to be about food. Songs about food are always fun~! The chorus does actually have a fantastic melody, though, in terms of catchiness. The song may not be your thing, necessarily, but you’d still have to admit that at the very least. The bridge, a big Massu solo, is also pretty nice. The way it breaks into gibberish at the end is cute, too. I could honestly see some girlgroup singing this yet NEWS do it so perfectly as well that I don’t even care.

It’s actually a dead shame this song doesn’t have a PV, because I’d love to see it, granted that they shoved Tego in pink tartan somehow (same goes for the other three, but in their respective member colours – platinum blonde and pink just seems like a nice combo). Though, I don’t actually know what kind of bagpipes they are. Coloured tartan’s just cute.

  1. Hello
This is the first of the single’s three B-Sides and it’s a calm, almost ballad-like song. This song is also very typically NEWS (though, I can’t say that it would impossible to see KAT-TUN singing something like this, or even Arashi). It’s a very peaceful and emotional track. I have to say, I’m a sucker for songs like these. They make me want to cry, just a little, and I don’t know why. I mean they’d be nice tears but still. It’s just such a pretty song. Honestly, this song, to me, is flawless. The vocals are absolutely fantastic in this song and feature the members at their peak of vocal prowess, especially at the bridge. Every single member just smashes their solo lines there and it sounds really, really nice.

The melody of the entire song is really sweet and pretty and, while not necessarily being the most memorable or catchy, it all definitely has an impact. The chorus is simply gorgeous, too. It all has such a dramatic calmness to it that I can’t help but feel completely drawn in by it all. This is a song I’d love to fall asleep to, it’s that calming. But, it’s important to remember that, as calm as it is, this song is also pretty powerful. It’s a really sweet little song and it’s in a style that NEWS are always brilliant at. They do have a bunch of songs in this same kind of style, after all, and they’re all wonderful as well.

  1. 36°C
The single’s next B-Side is another peaceful, ballad track, which opens with a really nice solo from Massu. He suits this kind of song very well. In fact, this song is very similar in style to Hello, only this songs a lot more NEWS-ish, to the extent that it’s harder for me to see KAT-TUN or anyone else singing this one. In fact, while Hello was a perfect example of an amazing album track (even though that’s not what it was), this is the kind of song that would do really well as an A-Side ballad. This song is a lot catchier than Hello and would do really well just as a single, I feel. It also sounds like it deserves a PV, in my opinion.

The melody and arrangement of this song are beautiful, I do have to say. It’s all very sweet and relaxing but it’s still rather upbeat, though not in the same way as WORLD QUEST. 

Speaking of PVs, the kind of PV I would see this song having (and, yes, that counts as an expression of how I feel about the song, shut up) is one that either features a lot of warm-toned flashback kind of scenes of nice romantic things with close-ups by windows or doorways or parks or something, or one with not very much plots but lots of close-ups and group lip parts against starlit backdrops with other shots involving the members being all friendly and being excited about falling stars or something. I don’t know, regardless of the lyrics, that’s the image with which this song provides me and it’s a total endearing set of images in mind head, so, no complaints there. Basically, it’s a gorgeous little song that doesn’t more than the life of a B-Side (even though I’m a person who actually thinks B-Sides and albums tracks are just as important as any other song).

  1. Quntastic
This song is completely different in style to the other two B-Sides but is still very NEWS-esque. It’s a much dancier song, akin to the likes of tracks like FREEDOM and Dancin’ in the secret, at least in the verses. The whole song is actually really catchy and I do mean it this time. Actually, when I first heard this song, it was stuck in my head for a while and I kept getting the urge to just listen to it (along with the single’s A-Sides). Tego’s first solo is brilliant too; I just thought I’d point that one out, even if his pronunciation of ‘MY WORLD’ is a little off. This song is very upbeat but much less calm than the other tracks on this single. Actually, it’s probably my 2nd favourite song on the single (with WORLD QUEST being 1st), regardless of how beautiful I may find the two ballads and how cute I think the other A-side is. This song really won me over from the very moment I heard it. Besides, it’s got a good name – it’s a play on words of some description! Kyun (meaning boom, in some cases, but is also a shortening of the phrase ‘kyunto’, which is something along the lines of the pure feeling of falling in love and is often associated with a very cute and sweet romance - it’s that instant feeling of attraction a young girl (typically) feels when they see someone they like) is changed to Qun, and obviously, whatever is being referred to is tastical in its kyunfulness and is, therefore, Quntastic. Ta-dah! The ‘boom’ aspect might be backed-up, though, in the line ‘blowing blowing blowing blowing up’. The vocals in this song are very good but they’re less crisp than in some of the other tracks – quite simply, this is not a song that could ever act as a vocal showcase for the members. However, the blending is fantastic and the emotion and energy in the members’ voices works extremely well with the backing, so, there’s really no issue with that. This is fun and catchy song and I seriously love it.
The Four Kings of Pout - excluding Kame and Pi, of course, but that's hardly a fair competition

This entire single is nothing short of a glorious, glorious success on NEWS (and the writers)’ part. I’d take this single over Chankapana any day, though, this is possibly less comeback-worthy. This whole single is, though, in my opinion, much better and I love every single track. Honestly, they’re all flawless. This is probably, to me, the best combination of tracks in a NEWS single in a long time. Actually, this is probably one of my favourite combination of tracks in one single ever. I can’t tell you how ecstatic I am that this group is back – really, they’re back and they’re still going seriously strong. Even if people immediately assumed otherwise upon Pi and Ryo’s departures, I knew that losing members wouldn’t hold NEWS back (it’s not like it’s a first for them, even if this time round it was the two most popular ones). They’re, quite simply, unstoppable.