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 mean...like, 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 the...blue 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