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State of the Fangirl 02

November 24, 2009 2 comments

I know, I know. I said in the first post that this would be a weekly thing. So it’s best to set an actual day for it to be weekly, no? Because it always annoys me at the end of the year when major releases in Japan are shunted from the usual Wednesday to January 1st, no matter what day it is. I’m odd like that.

o1/ Arashi’s MY GIRL single hits me on so many levels. One, the title song is bland. I’m sure as I watch the drama more, it’ll grow on me, but I don’t know how likely that is considering the source material (again, manga), is much cuter. I am considering continuing it past the first episode just for the little girl. She’s cute, she can act, and she gets Aiba teased. What’s not to like? On the other hand, I haven’t watched 0 Goushitsu no Kyaku, the drama in which Ohno stars in the first arc, but I’m rather enjoying Tokei Jikake no UMBRELLA, its theme song. Well, except for Sho’s rap. It honestly feels like they stuck it in there because Sho wouldn’t really have a rap on this single otherwise. I’m sure the fangirls are enjoying the orgasmic “Uh, mou dame” in the middle. Well, that and the recent news of Kobayashi Mao’s engagement to Ichikawa Ebizo. (Note to self: Avoid the topic of the engagement at the Johnny’s fanmeet on December 6th. Or tonzura koite out of the room if it gets brought up.) The rest of the song returns listeners to the dark dramatic atmosphere that made truth such a hit with fans, though the accordion calls to mind Professor Layton. It’s also a fun song to lip-sync too, since they’re so passionate in it.

But no, the best track is SUPER FRESH, by far. I’m almost sad to say that I love it best because it feels so Western, rather than by default. There’s the club-style beat, so easy to get addicted to. The monotone quick-paced singing, carrying you through the song to the chorus. There is one brass section at the end that throws me back to WISH, but overall Arashi songs are mostly known for their energy, so this is definitely a change of pace. But who’s to say it can’t be a good one?

o2/ Ohitorisama: I’m going to be honest. Like many w-inds. fangirls, I’m watching this for the novelty of seeing one Tachibana Keita act. I only just got through the first episode this past week with my sister (who is watching it for Koike Teppei – looking considerably aged from when we saw him in Shibatora – and Maya Miki). To my surprise, there’s a lot more musical artists in this show than I thought. Of course, heroine Mizuki Arisa is a singer, and Teppei and Keita are part of WaT and w-inds. respectively, along with having their own solo works. Matsushita Nao, another teacher who seems to have plans for Teppei’s character, put out an album earlier this year, but has been around since 2006. And Suzuki Ami – yes, that Suzuki Ami, Nakata Yasutaka fans – shows up as the school nurse. Unfortunately, this also means that some of the acting in this drama kind of sucks. I’m going to stick with it for my sister, though. (To you guys, I suggest you go watch JIN. Tied with MR. BRAIN for the best drama of the year in my opinion.) And because I want to know what the hell Keita’s character does that lets him do what seems to be sit at home and play games all day. Hook a sister up, will you?

o3/ Let’s get ugly. And by ugly I mean self-servicing. In case you don’t know and want to follow me, I have a Twitter. The Twitter, much like myself, is abundant with inanity. If you like my blog, you might like my Twitter, I don’t know. Follow me so I can call you a stalker. But onto the actual subject – having a Twitter means I am a victim of… Twitter operations! On November 17th (in Japan), the person behind the uwasako LiveJournal initiated an attempt to get Japanese pop as a trending topic, after seeing various KPop ones coast up the Twitter Trending Topic Top 10 list.

She chose the fun hastag of #deadfisheyes. It worked, sending them flying to just under New Moon, I think. Hey, I contributed one to the attempt myself. Though admittedly I didn’t actually know what it was for at the time. And now due to the success (or at least latching onto the originality of it in the latter case), two more operations are going on this coming week. On the 24th, Project #eggplant, for Akanishi Jin. (I don’t know why that date.) On the 26th, in honor of Ohno’s birthday, Operations #tsuribaka and #wemakestorm. (Girls, can I say that while I know there are a lot of Arashi fans on Twitter, I suggest PICK ONE AND STICK WITH IT. Or else you’ll end up like the Chinese elections here in New York and get nowhere. I prefer the latter for all Arashi tweets. Just sayin’.)

While I’m sick of seeing Wonder Girls on my Twitter feed – mostly thanks to one person, not saying it’s a bad thing to enjoy fandom, but not being a fan, I’ve had enough – I’m sort of ambivalent about Johnny’s Twitter spam too. Nonetheless, it won’t hurt too many, I think. I’ll get back to you about the murders I’ve committed in reaction to it after the event’s over.

o4/ avex, when will you stop with the underage kiddies? Not that certain people won’t enjoy it. So based off a show called Tensai Terebi MAX, apparently, a new group called Dream5 has been formed. If you’re like me, the first thing you thought of when you saw that name was Folder/5. (Speaking of which, I only recently discovered that it’s HIKARI playing Light’s little sister in the Death Note movie. Also, I’ve only recently watched the Death Note movie. It took an iPod for me to do it. Don’t judge me.) These kids are all younger than any underage group we’ve seen from avex in the past – Folder and SweetS being what come to mind. The youngest is a fourth grader, the eldest two are 7th graders. And the sole guy in the group is in the middle, being a 6th grader. He’s also adorable, but please ignore my pedophilia. They also follow in the path of main singers + backup dancers. I can’t see this one succeeding any longer than SweetS did, especially since their debut single I don’t obey ~Bokura no PRIDE~ is lacking in quality. (Has Togashi Akio lost his touch?) But hey, whatever gets me more cute little boys to fawn over.

In case you’re waiting for a report on Shingo’s Talk Like Singing musical – keep your eyes peeled… actually, don’t. That’s disgusting. But now that the musical has finished its run in NYC and I don’t have to worry about details being spoiler-ish, it’ll be along!

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State of the Fangirl

November 19, 2009 3 comments

Man, I suck horribly at this blogging thing. A great deal of it could be attributed to my inherent laziness, and another bunch to the fact that I’ve never actually been inclined to spill out my feelings or keep a diary, so having blogs to begin with goes against who I am.

But I guess a few things in my head insisted on kicking themselves out as I mentally prep myself to watch Shingo’s musical Talk Like Singing today.

1) Ninkyo HELPER: I never managed to do a drama post for the Summer season (nor the Fall), but it’s one of the ones that stuck out at me from the beginning as being a winner. Did I ever underestimate that – the final episodes just build up into a crescendo, and then a very satisfying ending. Things are tied up, Yuki Jutta does hand motions that he should never do again, and even if you don’t particularly like the elderly, you will definitely at least feel for the old people on the show. Also, I may have become a pedophile, but Kato Seishiro’s squishable cheeks are entirely worth it. How did that boy EVER get only third place for Best Supporting Actor? I cried while watching this show. I can’t believe I just admitted that on a public forum.

2) Watarirouka Hashiritai‘s 3rd single, also known as Kanpeki Gu~no Ne!, also known as the first (and current) ending to anime Fairy Tail. I have a friend who hates Fairy Tail with possibly every fiber of her being, mostly because – as she says – it’s an imitator of ONE PIECE, and not creator Mashima Hiro’s first try at it, either. Me, I don’t care about the similarities, so I’m still able to enjoy it. The opening theme song, by FUNKIST, is a light pop-rock number in the style of SID. Take that with a grain of salt, I’ve only really listened to two SID songs and one was a live version (Yuukan Collection, in case you’re wondering). But oh, the ending. It is upbeat and catchy and cute as hell, and I was totally fine with it being stuck in my head when I thought it was done by a seiyuu group with Hirano Aya in it. (I sort of imagined the others to include Kugimiya Rie, who also voices a character on the show.) Then I looked it up, and found out Watarirouka Hashiritai was an AKB48 subgroup, composed of mostly Team B girls. And it. Just. Won’t. Leave. My. Head. I’ve listened to it a grand total of four times, and I have the melody completely memorized.

…Susan was right. Fairy Tail is bad for me. LISTEN TO IT. IT WILL EAT YOUR SOUL.

3) Hold Up Down:  V6 fans have known about this gem for 4 years now, and if you’re not a V6 fan, there’s no guarantee you’ll enjoy this movie. But essentially, it’s a crack fest. The plot barely exists. The acting is about as much as you can expect from the individual members of V6. Bananaman makes cameo appearances – or one of them does. The other one is a running joke. And as is apparently expected of director Sabu, there are over the top car chases and a spectacularly over-the-top fight scene. But no, there is only one reason you should watch this. To join the Church of Frozen Jesus Homeless Guitar Player Okada Statue. Because as this movie will show you – he is truly awesome.

4) LIAR GAME Season 2: Longtime readers of the blog, if they exist, will remember my hearty approval of LIAR GAME when the show first aired. So season 2 and a movie was announced, and now the former has begun airing. It just isn’t as good. Matsuda Shota has always been prone to overacting for the role of Akiyama Shinichi, but this time his magnificently feminine hair isn’t a distraction. Toda Erika slipped comfortably back into her role as Kanzaki Nao, but the fame of being active these past two years has added a sort of maturity to her image that doesn’t fit the naive Nao. The new dealer, Solario, will haunt you in your nightmares with his bulgy-eyed mask. And now that the show has been lengthened to an hour, it seems like they had no idea how to fill up the time other than to replay “dramatic” moments in triplicate. Of course, there’s always Suzuki Kosuke’s excellent performance as Fukunaga Jun to keep viewers in. But maybe I shouldn’t have read the manga, because the magic’s sort of lost.

5) The DBSK vs. SME lawsuit grows tiresome. It’s also a prime example of why I don’t like stepping out into fandom – it’s a pretty ugly creature. For the people who’ve never cared, or the Tohorangers fans living under rocks on Pluto, basically a couple of months back The Girl, Ultra Mushroom, and Kamen Laser as I’ve identified them (Jaejoong, Yoochun, and Junsu to everyone else), sued SM Entertainment. Apparently they were investing in other ventures and SM wanted a cut of the profits from that, declaring that the ventures were making money from the name of DBSK being attached to it, and SM, being the creator of DBSK, had a right to it. This evolved into a dispute over the clasues in their contracts, and then into overall unfairness (their exclusive contracts are for 13 years). The remaining two, Bondage Ranger (Yunho) and Gi (Changmin), kind of stood off to the side until we were suddenly told they’d taken SM’s side – and what’s more, the three suers had a deadline to return to the group so activities would be continued. The deadline – November 12th, I think – passed, and the three didn’t return, leading SM to announce that the Shenzhen concert was canceled. Throughout all this, fans have mostly been “Pfft, SM, WE KNOW WHAT YOU’RE UP TO YOU BASTARDS.” and started a boycott of SM products to make SM lose more money show their support for DBSK.

Well, it’s probably just me, but though SM was kind of stupid for wanting profits out of the boys’ side investments, they do have a point in saying that DBSK wouldn’t exist without them. Jaechunsu can also make a point in not “returning” to the group, but let’s face it, even if the contract had only been 5 or 7 years, they totally would’ve renewed it to end up being 13 years (or more) anyways. SM is good at creating the image Korea wants, after all. (And JYPYG already has BIG BANG. JYP has 2AM/PM. Thanks to Catherine for enlightening me further on the confusing world of Korean boybands!) As for the fans, if SM’s not making any money off DBSK, what’s to say they’ll keep them? Never mind that the boycott could be costing them money from other artists. So who’s the biggest loser here? Me, for actually reading fans whining and bitching and moaning about this over and over. Can we be done with this already?

6) AAA‘s latest single, Hide-away/Find you/Hide & Seek. On one hand, reusing the composition for all three songs with a different sound each time is supposed to make them comparable to Hamasaki Ayumi (Sunrise/Sunset), I guess. On the other, it’s cheap and makes it really easy to get really tired of the songs really quickly. And mostly, I’m sick of the splits. AAA is 5 guys and 2 girls together, not 5 guys and 2 girls occasionally smashed up in a hot aural orgy that’s cooling by the second. At this rate, 6th Anniversary will be two separate concerts – one girls-only, one guys-only. And neither crowd will be pretty.

7) Johnny’s, Johnny’s, Johnny’s. Earlier this week/last week, a Fuji TV member named Miyakawa Naoki sent out a cry for help through LiveJournal, trying to contact SMAP fans in the US for a story that aired on Monday. Well, that wasn’t the problem – hey, look, they know about LJ. Fuuuun. Well, no, one of the questions was “7. What is your favorite song of Smap’s, and your favorite drama, in which any of Smap members act?” If you can’t see the problem here, here’s a reminder – downloading/torrenting dramas is technically a gray area, but still a no-no. And while for a lot of people it’s easy to say Long Vacation or Hero or any other drama that has been out for years, some people are like me, only recent fans, yeah? And their favorite is quite possibly the amazing amazing MR. BRAIN that aired earlier this summer. Too early for DVDs. Or perhaps there was a mention of SMAPxSMAP or Utaban, the latter which would of course never be on DVDs. People did answer, though, and in the Tokudane clip no mention was made (not that I was really paying attention) of it, so hopefully this doesn’t open up a can of worms. (But but but Johnny’s, if you were to decide the US is a lucrative market, I’d be all up for going into the watching-when-it-airs-concert-attending-shrieking-fangirl business.)

I’m half-considering switching this blog thing up. Rather than having every entry – whenever they appear – focus on a singular topic, a weekly post of everything remotely interesting and related to the main subject of this blog. Perhaps something much like this. A valiant attempt to get back into the spirit of regularly blogging. To my non-existent readers, any non-existent thoughts?

BECK: The Movie. Too bad it doesn’t sound as dramatic as it’ll be.

June 11, 2009 6 comments

I’ve been gone about a month and a half, through no one’s fault but my own. And in fact, this little tidbit is just about a week and a half old too. But what the heck, I adored the BECK anime series when it was still running, and so this warrants a post even as I’m working on the other ones I can’t seem to finish.

BECK: Monogolian Chop Squad ran in 2004, with the manga finishing just a year ago, and featured the packed-with-musical-influences-and-bad-Engrish (mis)adventures of an indies band trying to make it into the big leagues. (The band is originally called BECK, after a dog, but is named “Mongolian Chop Squad” for their American releases because of the trademark by the singer Beck.) Along the way, they obviously run into more than their fair share of troubles, including a rival band with a grudge that does get signed, band spats, and Koyuki running through the problems that plague the average teenager – or is falling in love with the younger sister of your tough band leader not quite an average problem?

You may be wondering what this has to do with Japanese pop – in fact, it has loads. BEAT CRUSADERS took charge of the musical direction, bringing along indies punk band Husking Bee‘s vocalist to provide the singing voice of main character Koyuki. A number of their songs (BEAT CRUSADERS’, that is) were also used in or covered in the series, as well as that of other indie bands. The ending theme, done in series by the supposed rock band-to-end-all-rock bands The Dying Breed, was actually provided by meister, the brainchild of Do As Infinity’s guitarist Owatari Ryo. (The B-side of the single, while never showing up in the series, features Bonnie Pink.) And pop vocalist Sowelu provided the singing voice of Minami Maho, the aforementioned younger sister. There are even two soundtracks – one of the songs as they are, supposedly performed by the bands and characters in the series; the other containing the original songs as done by their indie bands and more new songs. 5 years later, it’s still amongst my favorite anime, and still a source of some fun music.

5 years later, also, we get our tie in to the other half of this blog – actors and Japanese dramas. BECK is now getting turned into a live-action film (a considerably easier adaptation than, say, Yatterman, I’d think. With the exception of the patchwork dogs), starring Mizushima Hiro (Mei-chan no Shitsuji, Hanakimi, Zettai Kareshi) as band leader Minami Ryusuke “Ray”. They also dredged up an all-star cast – as far as manga adaptations go – for the rest of the band, including Sato Takeru (ROOKIES, Mei-chan no Shitsuji, Princess Princess D, BLOODY MONDAY) as vocalist/guitarist Tanaka Yukio “Koyuki”, Nakamura Aoi (Q.E.D., Shinigami no Ballad) as Koyuki’s eventual best friend and the band’s drummer Sakurai Yuji “Saku”, Kiritani Kenta (ROOKIES, Crows ZERO, but probably best known on this blog as the Post-It guy from Ryusei no Kizuna) as the ramen shop worker by day/tough-as-nails-with-an-afro rapper by night Chiba Tsunemi, and Mukai Osamu (Hachimitsu to CLOVER, Mei-chan no Shitsuji, also showed up in Nodame Cantabile, Osen, and Bambi~no!) as the smokingly attractive (look who casted correctly) bleached bassist Taira Yoshiyuki. It will be directed by Tsutsumi Yukihiko, also no stranger to manga/anime adaptations as he directed the Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo season starring Domoto Tsuyoshi and Tomosaka Rie, H2, Psychometer Eiji, and most recently 20th Century Boys. Oh, and for the Arashi fans, he directed PIKANCHI. Nope, no lack of star power here.

While the series focused on Koyuki’s story – there’s even a period where Ryusuke goes missing – the movie will focus on Ryusuke’s side. No word yet on who Minami Maho will be portrayed by, or if she’ll even be a part of the movie, as her role in the series does center on her part as Koyuki’s love interest.

Supposedly 30 original songs are being written for the actors to play after a month of intensive training – not unlike and perhaps even better than the movie adaptations of Nana, for which the vocalists (Nana starring Nakashima Mika and Reira starring Ito Yuna) were the key point.

Also, rather amusingly, this will be the third link between Mizushima Hiro and Sato Takeru, both of who were once Kamen Riders and worked together in Mei-chan no Shitsuji as siblings vying for the love of Eikura Nana’s Mei-chan role. And I suppose if you really wanted to push it, Sato will show up in the fourth episode of MR. BRAIN, Mizushima’s current drama. This aside, though, I’ve already got a movie to see in 2010. How about you?

Sources: Sports Hochi, Tokyograph, Anime News Network (but they all got it from Sports Hochi anyways)

Categories: Anime, J-Dramas

JPTV Spring 2009 Season

March 29, 2009 1 comment

It’s already that time of year again, when you all whip out your wallets and donate $5 to the cause of Kimi’s Early Christmas.

Okay, okay, I kid. But with April around the corner, it’s already time for a new season of Japanese TV, which also means it’s time for me to name-drop like Armageddon’s here. As always, all summaries from DramaWiki, because I’m a lazy, lazy blogger who can’t be bothered to translate unless absolutely necessary.

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JPTV Winter 2009 Season

January 14, 2009 2 comments

Amazingly, it has been a year since I last posted one of these. And of course, once again, it comes after the start of the season. That’s not to say I haven’t been keeping up with dramas from the rest of 2008, just that for one reason or another I didn’t post anything about it here. Of course, I’m certain you haven’t missed these either, since unlike most other posts on the subject, this only covers about-to-air dramas that personally interest me.

You may notice that only dramas are mentioned this time around – that’s because I haven’t seen a single anime series that interests me this season. Historical Fantasy, Sports, Harem, the requisite action that doesn’t have enough of a kick to appeal, and bringing back the yuri. Okay, I lie, there is one – Maria†Holic – but that has the enormous potential to go wrong, since I didn’t read the manga it was based on and as a medium, anime likes slapstick far more than drama, and slapstick is beginning to get worn out on me.

Either way, long blurb of text, coming your way! As always, all summaries from DramaWiki.

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JPTV Winter 2008 Season

January 23, 2008 2 comments

I don’t think I even have the right to be making this post, because there’s so much from 2007 that I have yet to finish watching (or start, even). But, whatever, forging on ahead because this post has been sitting on the back burner, but it’ll be overcooked if I leave it too long. (Yes, the lack of food dramas this season has gotten to me.) Here are the highlights of the current winter 2008 season of Japanese dramas and anime for me.

The Importance of Knowing English?

December 29, 2007 1 comment

My sister and I watch a bunch of Johnny’s dramas. (Rather, I watch, and she tags along.) By Johnny’s dramas, I refer to ones specifically intended to market the pretty boys, where the story’s got little drive (each episode is only linked by a common theme and the characters) and the selling point is undeniably the actors’ day jobs, their musical careers. Stuff I’ve watched that I would shuffle into this category: Yukan Club, Sushi Oji!, Yamada Taro Monogatari, Kuitan, Remote. Sure, you can argue that some of them had a decent story and better acting, but at the end of the day, what was supposed to sell the drama was the lead actors’ faces.

Lately I’ve come to the conclusion that a Johnny’s drama just wouldn’t be complete without the butchering of another language in some way. Luckily for the two of us and our American upbringing, that language is usually English. (We get bonus points if the language being mutilated is Chinese, though. Oh, Kuitan. I will never be able to thank you enough )

So we were watching Yukan Club‘s episode 7 and I was being amused at Mike He’s accent when speaking Japanese… and then the antagonists of the episode spoke. It was clear that for all their foreign looks, English was not the first language for all but one of them, or even one that they were used to. And then Akanishi Jin’s character slid in and had three lines of English roll off his tongue with more vocal fluency than the ones who were supposed to speak English, and my sister and I died.

Clearly that time in America wasn’t completely wasted partying his drunk ass off.

Not to sideline Kashii Yu, either, who had the perfect tone of a newscaster and only stumbled a bit during her “translation” part. I wanted to get in some giggles at Taguchi Junnosuke, who said “Friends” with too much of a Japanese accent in contrast to his son-of-the-Swedish-ambassador character, but just seeing him blond and blue-eyed makes me want to snort in ridicule so I think we’re even.

(And then hereon, we’ll be ignoring the fact that Yukan Club‘s ratings were pretty low because quite frankly – even Kaga Takeshi couldn’t save it from the ridiculous suckage that it became. Also it never comes up in this post again.)

English and other languages are sneaking in more and more into Japanese pop culture. At the same time, that whole expansion through East Asia thing is going on in the music industry as well – and the US has always been a fairly popular destination. There are a lot more artists who are fluent in English, or have a decent grasp of the language, and a lot more traveling overseas is occurring.

When Crystal Kay first broke the market, despite some powerful vocals and obviously good English, along with one of Japan’s better composers (Kanno Yoko) backing her, she didn’t get anywhere. Now there’s a lot more vocalists in the Japanese music industry like her (melody., Arashiro Beni, Ito Yuna, Rie fu, EMYLI, MONKEY MAJIK, etc.) – and actually, they’re scattered around the market. H!P’s Coconuts Musume got pretty much nowhere – but Ayaka and Mika managed to brighten their respective careers in the fold by exploiting their English capabilities because it was a novelty gimmick. BoA’s English versions of her single tracks died out after Every Heart – back in 2001. Sure, Utada Hikaru’s EXODUS album hit highs in Japan, but she had to start out attracting with her Japanese lyrics as well. Her speaking English only made her more accessible in the States, really. English hasn’t had a very good run in Japan in the past – and now it’s become the boom.

So are the leaders of Japan’s entertainment world attempting to ease out? (Which leads to – is the entire industry a giant conspiracy where they buy high-end champagne with overseas fans’ rapid ridiculous spending in our attempts to get notice?) Is this the influence of groups like m-flo, who’ve worked artists who do have more of a Western sound, and the general American music craze in Japan?

Should Kimi stop typing up posts at 1:52 AM after a fairly disappointing day? (I bought a duplicate issue of Myojo at full price WHY? D: Dammit, there must be someone up there working against the idea of my buying two Japanese pretty boy magazines in a week.) Tune in tomorrow to find out. (You all know that’s a lie.)

Also – I really ought to come up with better year-end (for me) posts. See you guys in 2008.