Monday, February 26, 2018

Shimokita Die Hard

Shimokita Die Hard is a bunch of short stories told by Furuta Arata to Koike Eiko. Unfortunately, there are no voice overs so you only see them before the story is told and after the story. If Shinya Shokudo is about the weird and interesting people who inhabit Kabukicho, Shimokita Die Hard is about what makes Shimokita this weird, funky cultural centre of Tokyo.

I've been to Shimokitazawa quite a few times including twice for plays and its so fun to see landmarks like the Honda gekijou and familiar streets.

Unfortunately after an ok first episode, the next three were very boring and I was close to quitting. Luckily episode 5 about the girlfriend of a musician was really good as well as episode 6 which mixes Terminator with Village Vanguard in Shimokitazawa.

Episodes 7,8 and 9 were ok and I hated episode 10 about the stupid band although it had Kaho. Episode 11 was the final episode and luckily there was a pay off although I was hoping for a better pay off in terms of how Arata knew about the stories. The way they explained it was so lame.

Ultimately, I would describe Shimokita Die Hard as an inconsistent bunch of short stories. I would say just watch episode 5 and 6 as they are the best and skip everything else unless you enjoy going to Shimokitazawa. Meh but do watch episodes 5 and 6. Shimokita Die Hard is unsubbed but someone has retimed the Japanese subs at least to episode 2.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

R.I.P. Ohsugi Ren

I just woke up to a message from bframe that one of Japan's greatest actors has passed away. I am at a lost for words. At least he went out on top with the great Byplayers and Final Fantasy Daddy of Light. I doubt they will continue with Byplayers 2 since it can't work without him. I'm glad a lot of the non-Japanese watching people got to see him act in Daddy of Light besides the Beat Takeshi movies.

I'm trying to think of what other memorable roles he had and the one that comes to mind was his role in Boku no Aruku Michi as the kind boss of the zoo. It was probably the Ohsugi's first role where I really noticed him. 大杉連さんありがとうそしてお疲れ様です。

Monday, February 19, 2018

Yocho Sanpo Suru Shinryakusha

Edit: OK, after thinking about the show some more. I think I finally get what its about which isn't that difficult because the alien spells it out in the end. Its about love and what lengths people in love go for each other. I just didn't feel it until a few days after watching. So upgrading to a watchable rating.

Yocho Sanpo Suru Shinryakusha is a horror/monster movie about an alien is walks around stealing human notions (gainen) such as family and fear. Directed by the talented Kurosawa Kiyoshi (Shokuzai), Yocho Sanpo Suru Shinryakushua is based on a play, which is evident from watching it and I think would have been better if it were shot as a play. Not that it doesn't look beautiful but the story's DNA seems more suited for the stage rather than the screen.

I don't really know what to think of the story. Sometani Shota plays Kaho's husband is was selected by the alien as a guide to provide victims for the alien in exchange for not hurting Kaho and in the process does some very bad things. Kaho meanwhile turns out to be special as she can tell something is wrong and is immune from getting her gainen stolen.

The story is about how this couple would do anything to save each other, even betraying humanity even in the face of earth facing extinction. However, at the end of the movie I just hollow. I just don't get this series and the purpose of the movie. Meh from me. Must be one of those plays where everything is a metaphor . Only Kaho and Kurosawa Kiyoshi fans should check this out but please keep your expectations low.

Looks like Kurosawa Kiyoshi has released a movie version of this story with a different cast including Matsuda Ryuhei, Nagasawa Masami and Hasegawa Hiroki. Seems like the story is different although the setting is the same. Might give it a shot.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Byplayers Episodes 8-12

Really fun dorama with a great ending that is unfortunately very similar to another jdorama that I recently watched. My only criticism of Byplayers is episode 9 where they visit the village filled with lookalike supporting actors. 

In all the other episodes, Byplayers was seemingly set in the real world albeit and then jarringly we have a gag episode making it more anime-like. Completely out of left field weird episodes are not uncommon in Japanese entertainment, especially anime but it just left me cold to the point of considering dropping the series, which I am glad I didn't.

Besides episode 9 which saved itself with a nice cliffhanger, Byplayers is a wonderfully written and acted show about acting. There are plenty of memorable episodes including Terajima Susumu's promise to the kids, the musical episode, the Natsukawa Yui episode etc. Speaking of Natsukawa Yui, the list of guest stars is freaking awesome and you'll never guess who the final one is. :)

One of the best shows of 2017 and must watch. Even if you don't know Japanese, at least watch the first 7 episodes which was been subbed. I'm not really looking forward to season 2 because its going to be hard to top the writing for this one. I also can't wait to do the Hamsapsukebe 2017 awards so I can watch Anone but I've got a few other shows to finish including Yocho Sanpo Suru Shinryakusha.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Passed my JLPT N4!

JLPT is the Japanese Language Proficiency Test which goes from N5 (easiest) to N1 (hardest). Since I started learning to read Japanese after I first went to Japan a lifetime ago, taking the JLPT has been on my to-do list and after giving myself too many excuses to not do the exam, I got inspired last year to get off my ass and just do it.

I bought an N3 sample exam book and found the grammar questions way too hard. Even looking for answers online was difficult. I could get half of the grammar questions right based on 'this sounds right' but I chickened out and decided to go for the much easier N4. At least get a pass first before I get a possible fail.

That being said, there were a lot of N4 grammar things that I did not and still do not know. My grammar knowledge is practically zero being a self-taught student of the language. I learn Japanese from reading manga, playing games, and watching movies and jdoramas. I know lots of useless in real life words like 初陣 (first battle), 帰還 (return to base) or 召喚 (summon) which will never come up in exams.

There is a part of me that feels like just doing mock exams will not level up my Japanese as a whole or make me understand movies more but there is one thing I realised when taking the JLPT; that its not an exam of filed with trick questions (although there are plenty), its more an exam to confirm the general level of one's Japanese. Though in my case, my vocabulary is a lot better than my grammar.

We only get one JLPT exam a year in December so I got 8 months to start going through the JLPT N3 books I got in Japan during the last trip. I'm feeling very lazy because I have plenty of games to play and mangas to read. In the end, I'm going to be doing the N3 for the sense of achievement and a piece of paper that says my Japanese is at a certain level. In the end, the road to being fluent in Japanese is a never ending one. Will I ever get there, I don't know.

On a side note, anyone have anymore 2017 jdoramas to recommend? The only ones on my to watch list now are Shimokita Die Hard, ByPlayers and Ishitsubute.

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Meishi Game episodes 2-4 spoiler review

I really enjoyed Meishi Game. Its about a life or death game show but its more about people getting chewed out from the entertainment industry; the caterer, director, gravure idoru, manager and aspiring writer. They all tried very hard to succeed and they all got screwed by a power crazy producer which I think is something that is not uncommon in the industry.

The one hook that really got my reason was why the director covered up for Tsutsumi Shinichi. I was expecting a twist whereby Tsutsumi Shinichi wasn't as bad as expected or that the director had done something wrong with the gravure idoru.

Initially I was disappointed with the reveal of the reason why he covered for Tsutsumi Shinichi; that the director had begun to hate the industry that he had once loved. I think most people would have elected to take out the abusive producer in the process of quiting anyway.

However. the more I thought about it, the more I could see how the director was a defeated man. Rather than hating the producer for turning him into a scapegoat he was sad that he had lost the motivation to direct. I also did not figure that the director would turn out to be the person pulling the strings. I was so sure it was going to be the producer's ex-wife.

I was really sad when the idoru Ohara Maika finally decided to do AV. Being a talento is a cutthroat business where gravure idorus are dime a dozen. However, it is because of her hard work that in the end she could get as money as she did from AV. One of the sad realities of the Japanese entertainment industry.

So what was Meishi Game about? It's about how an industry as tough as the entertainment industry can create monsters of the best people. Its about how hard work may not be necessarily rewarded and how when the door to success is closed sometimes you have to climb through the back window.

Lastly I loved the hint that Tsutsumi Shinichi knew what was going on and played along to give himself an out. After all, he is a veteran television producer and would know the ins and outs of a gameshow and how to stage a good one.

Very enjoyable. Not must watch but very good.