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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?

The beginning of the end is also the end of the beginning.

October 20, 2009 1 comment

Lately I’ve been indulging in personal bouts of music nostalgia.

Since 2007, when Johnny’s made a permanent mark upon my listening spectrum, I’ve been wrapped up in boybands. If it isn’t catching up with the current releases of Johnny’s, or delving into their storied past, or trying – however grudgingly – to give other boybands a chance… well there hasn’t much of an alternative, actually. Sure, Inoue Joe has made his mark, Miura Daichi is always gold, and I made the perfunctory effort to keep up with other groups I’ve enjoyed in the past, such as AAA (oh, how low I’ve fallen), Micro, or Tamaki Nami. But other than Joe and Daichi, the one constant in my listening habits was a Johnny’s production. Whether this was Arashi, V6, or Domoto Koichi has fluctuated depending on who has had the latest release. This, of course, means it was usually Arashi.

All of this changed about three weeks back after I attended the AKB48 concert, though.

Caught up in the enthusiasm of the wota, I gave the 63 and then some girls more of a listen. Foolishly, I did not follow my own self-laid steps for joining a fandom with this endeavor… or perhaps not-so-foolishly when you consider that 63 girls is still more than all of the members of the currently active Johnny’s groups (that is, from SMAP on – Shonentai being disregarded for focusing on solo activities of late) combined, including former members such as Mori Katsuyuki, Moriuchi Takahiro, and Kusano Hironori. At any rate, I never got past step 1, because I’m still sort of in the denial stage. Perhaps at some point I’ll get around to watching Mendol so I’ll have fulfilled step 2, but that won’t be for a while.

Because being the easily-distracted person that I am, I was clearing out space on my poor abused laptop to make room for AKB48’s discography and came across concerts that I had downloaded, but never actually finished watching because, well, I’m easily distracted.

The first of these was SOUL’d OUT‘s Single Collection at Nihon Budokan. I started watching, trying to comprehend why I wasn’t so engaged by Diggy-MO’ and Bro.Hi performing the songs that I loved. It wasn’t until the fourth song, VOODOO KINGDOM, where the pyrotechnics began that I got starry-eyed, but more to the point, VOODOO KINGDOM was an instant reminder of why I enjoyed both SOUL’d OUT and Diggy-MO’s releases then and now. Now we’re in 2007, folks, with a slight nod to early 2009 for Diggy-MO’s solo album.

Next came I’ve in BUDOKAN 2009.  I never actually got past the first disc – Shimamiya Eiko (always my favorite of the I’ve pantheon of singers) singing Ginga no Ko shot me back to, well, 2006. The ethereality of that song has made it a solid favorite of mine. Which is a shame because since Johnny’s, I’ve kept up with I’ve Sound – pun unintended – but haven’t really listened to anything. To be honest, I’m still not really listening to anything new, since my I’ve love paused at 2006.

This year, besides being Arashi’s 10th anniversary, is also the 10th anniversary of a great many other artists. Let’s go over two of them first – Crystal Kay and Kuraki Mai. First was Crystal Kay, who was suddenly gaining immense popularity in KAT-TUN communities because she performed a duet with Akanishi Jin for her 10th anniversary collection album. She’s actually on here a bit unfairly, because I was drawn back to her music before AKB48 by her single featuring CHEMISTRY’s Kawabata Kaname and I’d been listening to the aforementioned album before the concert. Then Kuraki Mai, who had a 10th anniversary live, and everything I’d figured out about the need for shiny during SOUL’d OUT’s concert flew out the window because I was hooked even though Secret of my heart was just the woman singing on stage. A slow song, nonetheless. We’re now in 2005, for you guys keeping track.

Around this time, because of Crystal Kay’s collaboration song with CHEMISTRY, Two As One, I got a bit nostalgic over some of my favorites from them. These have been few, because CHEMISTRY mostly pulls the slow kind of R&B, but every so often something clicks. FLOATIN’ is one such song, harkening back to the startup days of Tofu Records releasing in the US, and the first several times I bought a Japanese pop album. Though the JPOP CD I heard FLOATIN’ on was released back in 2003, the actual song takes us to 2002, now.

Back on the concert track. Before JPOPSUKI switched trackers, some kind soul uploaded the ISO of dream‘s 2001 live. Though I didn’t get into dream until 2003, 3-nin dream is my favorite of the group’s many incarnations. The group just isn’t the same without Matsumuro Mai for me – odd, because when I was first trying to reconcile between 8/7-nin dream and 3-nin dream on the old AnimeLyrics.com forums, I identified Yu and Kana but mistook Mai for Erie, I think. Either way, 3-nin dream, whether because I have a fondness for trios or because the Japanese music of the early 2000s is essentially my starting point, awoke.

Then another 10th anniversary artist, Shimokawa Mikuni. Shimokawa, along with Okui Masami, Ishida Yoko, Takahashi Yoko, and Yonekura Chihiro, is really best known for her anime song – personally, I think she’s up there with the rest of the anison greats, but don’t hold me to that. She’d also released a 10th anniversary album, and while this was a while ago, I gave it a whirl. Big mistake, because she’d sung songs for a lot of shows I watched, and some of her songs are iconic for me. I also had a good amount of Hayashibara Megumi‘s discography sitting around somewhere, along with some Okui Masami albums, and Yonekura Chihiro‘s stuff was popping up on the new JPOPSUKI tracker. Now I was caught up in the dizzying spiral that is anime music.

And then the thing that clinched the deal – anime music ties in inevitably with Dance Dance Revolution for me. In fact, Dance Dance Revolution marks the beginning of the end of my interest in anime, harkening to my ditching meetings of an anime club I helped found in high school to attend the daily meetings of the Dance Dance Revolution club. Already having dj TAKA and Sota Fujimori’s solo efforts from Bemani on my laptop, and a bunch of BeForU as well, I now compounded it by hunting down a number of DDR soundtracks with the pieces that weren’t on the aforemention albums, and also hunting down SMiLE.dk albums for the full versions of such iconic tracks as Butterfly and Dancing All Alone.

So my music player (currently my poor DS Lite), once taken up completely by Johnny’s tracks, is now slowly returning to a state of… well, I was going to say normality, but that isn’t quite right. For the past two years, Johnny’s had become the norm. Perhaps it’s more accurate to call it a state of balance.

What does that mean for this blog? It found its greatest number of viewers when I was just entering the Johnny’s fandom. But the Johnny’s fandom is also horribly time and energy-consuming. There are endless variety shows, dramas, releases, photoshoots, all needing to be caught up with. It begins to feel like a full-time job in itself. So perhaps this the spark of hope that this blog can become more varied again, that maybe it can actually fulfill the functions of a blog, or just be active. Period. I wouldn’t be too sure, seeing as the 2009-2010 Countdown’s coming up, as is Katori Shingo’s Talk Like Singing, but here’s the hope.

Oh, but if you know anyone who’s willing to pay a person to keep up with Johnny’s, let me know.

Categories: Ramblings

Tell me something I don’t know

February 9, 2009 3 comments

I’ve listened to Japanese music for probably 9/10 years now. They didn’t get the brainwashing in too early, but it’s there all the same.

I’ve actively considered myself a fan of various artists for 6/7 years. It’s a bit of a scary thought.

But there are still some things I can’t wrap my head around.

Read more…

Because we know at some point it had to stop.

January 22, 2009 1 comment

Raid wanted a mention on this blog, more than just being a participant in an IM conversation, so we’ll give it to him. (He also wanted something he could bounce off for his own posts, but you can’t have your cake and eat too.) Here’s a glass to your “SHOCK GASP HORROR” or perhaps just a “WTF” reaction whenever you see this post. (Hurray for finally being 21 and being able to make alcoholic references!) It’s no secret that he’s none too fond of KAT-TUN, and other than a certain fondness for a currently unfortunately-goatee’d man, that’s one of the few tastes in Japanese Pop we’ve constantly shared. Even now, despite being won over by pretty much every other current Johnny’s, KAT-TUN and I have plenty of kinks to work out.

But I figured I’d steal three pretty boys with one van (kill three birds with one stone, snare three fishes with one net, attack three subjects in one post… whatever floats your boat) What are these topics? A ramble on my odd preferences in releases from artist groups, why I dislike them, and to tie it all in… a review of KAT-TUN’s single DON’T U EVER STOP. Yes, I know it’s been months since the release of this single and their third album has long been released already. Don’t get me started on the name of that one.

Read more…

The post that was supposed to go somewhere but didn’t.

July 18, 2008 7 comments

So SuuDesu/Sakura RABU…, trailing over to my tiny little blog somehow some way, left a not entirely unwarranted comment on my About page. For those of you too lazy to click, here it is:

I’m a little curious, if you’re american/chinese, then how come you don’t write anything (seemingly) about C-music? Not that it’s required just ’cause you’re half chinese or anything, I just happen to like both japanese and chinese music. And there are some pretty chinese equivalents to the johnny boys as well! ^-^ Personally, I think 吳吉尊 is cute ^^

So, first a couple of nonsensical comments that you all could really do without. I’m seemingly full-blooded Chinese (the jury’s out on that one because I looked mixed, and to be honest I don’t know my Asian-looking father’s ethnicity.), though my friends have joked that I could be half-Japanese, half-Chinese. (Based on the half-J/C people I do know, I can say I’d much rather not.) I don’t deny that I do find some Chinese males attractive – generally my taste in males runs on the East Asian side of the spectrum anyways – but looks aren’t the only reason I have grown to adore Johnny’s. (Maybe a third of the time I still think Arashi looks pretty – that is, pretty ugly. Another third they look plain, and the final third is just pretty. And when I first started knowing of them, I thought they were all plain.) Lastly, I had to look up 吳吉尊 – or for your convenience, Wu Zun of the Chinese boyband Fahrenheit. The looks of any person depends on many details, and beauty is in the eye of the beholder – and Wu Zun tends to look on the plainer side in my opinion. Though his profile picture on their official Japanese site gets a pass from me, and that’s what we’ll head into now.

Read more…

Categories: Blog-related, Ramblings

In which the Japanese entertainment industry is a science experiment. …Not.

June 10, 2008 2 comments

Bear with me, I’m slowly getting back into the swing of blogging after being on that extended hiatus. It’s certainly not as though I have a shortage of topics (Oh, Arashi/AAA. You and your releases.), but more of a question of how to reallocate the time I once set for blogging again. Ah, but this post isn’t supposed to be about bloggging as a topic in itself, so that’s one hell of a tangent I’ve gone on right there.

Since I’ve had so much free time – what with not blogging and all – I’ve mostly been spending it watching variety shows. (Translation: I’ve been sucked nearly completely into Johnny’s fandom. I’ve even developed a slight appreciation for the pedophilia that is Hey!Say!JUMP. The only ones left are KAT-TUN… but that’s a whole different post.) Mostly of the Johnny’s sort, of course – whether it’s one of Arashi’s crazy stockpile, V6’s Gakkou e Ikou! (MAX), KinKi Kids’ Domoto Kyoudai (and Tsuyoshi’s Shoujiki Shindoi), SMAPxSMAP (no prizes for guessing who hosts that one), any Johnny’s appearance on a show like Utaban or HEY!x3, much older shows like Ya-ya-yah!, or even those two episodes of CARTOON KAT-TUN that somehow slipped into my viewing playlist. Perhaps someday I’ll slip in that Berryz show or Haromoni or something. A very distant someday.

But I’ve managed to come to a distinct realization. Obvious, really, but hindsight is 20/20 and the best hiding places are always in plain sight. (Trust me on this – I’m a champion at losing stuff in plain sight.)

We of the Western and/or overseas blogosphere have done this outcry far too often in response to Japanese celebrity scandals. “Punishing them for that is stupid.” Especially in the case of Hello! Project – in fact, I’m sick of H!P-scandals, and I’m not in the fandom to look it up as much as everyone else seems to. Miyabi of Berryz is dating someone? Great for her. STOP SHOVING IT IN MY FACE, PLEASE. Oh, and of course, Johnny’s – “OMG _______ and _______ went drinking in Harajuku with a whole bunch of girls.” “Aibu Saki’s got a new Johnny’s of the week?” That’s great for them. It’s a world away from me, and frankly I care more about the image they show in the variety shows and live performances than the candid camera view the paparazzi bring to us. That’s what I’m paying for, after all.

Unfortunately, it’s there. Japanese leap on scandals of their celebrities with as much ferocity as half the people in this nation leap on news of Britney Spears’ latest panty flash. Why? Because it’s unnecessary.

Part of the equation for an idol is to have some lacking characteristic. Whether you’re scared of something like fish, or a bit antisocial, or maybe your teeth is absolutely horrible… it doesn’t matter. As long as you’re not 100% perfect. The Japanese have ideals, and idols embody those ideals, but if they were too perfect you’d begin to hate them. That’s why perfection only (and rarely) exists in anime and manga.

Variety shows exist to show negative characteristics, or heighten positive ones in negative situations. For example, in Tunnels no Minasan Okage Deshita (probably most famous for the Human Tetris clip running wild on YouTube), there’s a segment where two geinou are to eat four dishes, and one of them will be one they hate (obviously, there is much lying and poker facing). The opponent has to figure out which dish is the badone based on reactions and body language. And every so often, Tunnels (or rather, Taka-san as Nori-san sits back amusedly) will assign punishment. When you succeed in a game that promotes lying and mind-trickery, it’s not the best image to add. Or, of course, you could look like a complete fool like Eiji Wentz did in that Human Tetris game. You also have Nakai, who becomes quite cartoon-ishly angry when it comes to his kouhai Ohno on Utaban; or all the various silliness that goes on in Shikatte, Blond-sensei!, where you have blond women (not always gaijin) waving mallets at the poor male guests and regulars as they get schooled in English after being pranked into a situation where they can only use English. When Sho, Jun, Jin, and the ilk show their temper in their respective shows, or Inohara starts bullying regulars and schoolgirls on Gakkou e Ikou!, it’s not as though that’s a good thing. What about that infamous clip of the Morning Musume girls freaking out at having their head stuck in a case with a rampaging lizard? Natural human actions and reactions in a given situation. (I’m fairly certain that for all that the Nakai-Ohno fights are scripted, Ohno’s really cowering in fear and reacting annoyedly when Nakai continues to provoke him.)

The bonus of this is that it’s all in a controlled environment. If anything too negative shows up, the TV crews can cut it. No one will be any wiser except for the studio audience (who are under a contract to not speak about the events of the show) and the geinou present – and celebrities are apparently gossipmongers anyways. With the paparazzi, all of that goes flying out the window.

In America, we don’t have anything of the sort. (It’s proven just by how marketers think the sheer novelty of a Japanese game show is worth starting a series about – I Survived A Japanese Game Show – and I swear I kid you not.) The closest we get is celebrity reality shows like Celebrity Mole* or Dancing with the Stars, but for the most part these are B-list people who we care much less about. Celebrity-centered shows like The Simple Life or whatever series was based on Jessica Simpson/Nick Lachey and the Carter brothers aren’t much better, usually crashing because of the stars’ stupidity. The reality shows have become a way to catapult people into the role of the ones we love to hate (case in point: The Hills), but that’s a far cry from the… well, sanitized sanity of a Japanese show meant to endear the celebrity to us.

Because of that, Americans leap on drug charges, DUIs, and the stupidest spats with glee. And as much as Japan’s everyday citizens (especially schoolgirls and housewives) might deny it, they’ll leap on dating idols, slips of the tongue, and the stupidest old news with glee. Underage drinking/smoking? Fine. Against the law. But dating? Honestly now. Humans are very jealous creatures. I don’t deny that I’m jealous of Koizumi Kyoko/Nagasawa Masami/Ohno Satoshi/whoever Nino’s bedtime companion is now, but because I don’t care about getting into that sort of thing with anyone, I care significantly less about his romantic rumors. In the same way, there’s many a blogger and amateur singer (which seems to be my main two internet communities of late) who would all but kill to get into the shoes and job of their same favorite idols.

But while American management could seemingly care less (Britney Spears seems to be the exception), the Japanese companies are far from happy when such a thing pops up. Little wonder, considering they’ve already gone to lengths to show off the worser qualities of their products (yes, products) in a manner that can only help boost sales. These additional scandals and candid images, out of their control, are as bad as summer mosquitos in Florida. And I don’t doubt that’s what gets drilled into Johnny’s juniors, especially with the somewhat infamous “no extraneous photographs” rule.

Of course, there’s absolutely nothing we can do about it. What, would you start an online petition asking them to ease up on the girls and boys in the spotlight? It’s just another factor of the Japanese entertainment industry that we find ourselves enthralled with, and basically I’d really like it if you’d all stop complaining about it now.

*By the way, I would kill to see The Mole starring Japanese music idols. Whether it’s H!P or Johnny’s or PONY CANYON or avex’s empire, I don’t care. It would just be one of the most amusing things ever.

Categories: Blog-related, Fandom, Ramblings

The post where I get to be a hypocrite.

May 24, 2008 3 comments

How long has it been since I logged into this poor blog of mine? A month? Over? Hmm. Oops.

But thank heavens! Testing period is over and I have survived! (Take that back, I’m signed up for summer classes and those start on Tuesday.) Actually, I wish I could say that was all, but it just so happens that when I came back from Canada, Arashi’s Dream “A”live was officially released. After being unable to find it (both limited and regular editions) in any store (only to, of course, have a friend pick it up in one of those stores last weekend not two days after I’d checked it again), I ended up purchasing Persona 3:FES. And that, my dear friends, is where my time has gone. (Four months into the game, not counting my accidental reset. Oh, I cry for those lost days.) Yes, I am a gamer. And I will gladly admit that game is too addictive for my own damn good. Not that it stops me from playing it – oh, hey, loading screen’s gone.

Before you reach out with your collective mental powers to shut off my PS2 for good… where was I? Oh, that’s right. I was hunting down Dream “A”live. I’m honestly beginning to think there’s some force up there trying to prevent me from ever putting hands on an LE Arashi album, never mind the forces nearby, but for the moment I shall be shut up because my ATTACK ALL AROUND set finally arrived. Oh, the distractions of fangirling.

There is, however, one thing you really can’t avoid when you’re buying Japanese CDs or DVDs – bootlegs. Fakes, copies, whatever negative term you want to refer to it by with a superior smirk on your mental face. Most of these tend to come from either mainland China or Taiwan, and they exist for media of non-Japanese origin too, but since this is a blog that doesn’t care about non-Japanese entertainment (perhaps with the sole exceptions of Monk and Psych), we’ll toss those to the side.

If you haven’t heard the news by now (Where’ve you been? It’s been on my About page since the first incarnation of this blog), I’m East Asian by ethnicity. Chinese, to be exact. (Presumably full-blooded, but when I understand Japanese better than Mandarin, it’s kind of embarassing to admit.) We’re reknowned for being cheap, and I don’t even know what to say when my mother remarks on my J-Pop buying habits “It’s expensive.”

For example, a few months back Raid suggested I pick up some version of Tackey & Tsubasa’s BEST album, and while in Toronto’s Pacific Mall last month, I came across the overseas versions of all three. Ready to indulge in the spirit of vacation spending, my mother followed along with me as my siblings ran amok in the bootleg DVD shops. I bounced back and forth between the Green and Blue versions, unable to remember which color he’d repeatedly followed with the words “GO. GET.” My dearest mother, alas, eventually decided she had to help and took a look at the albums as well.

The first thing she hunted for, of course, was the price tag.

And seeing it at a steady $40 each, while my siblings pounced on bootleg movie DVDs going 7 for $10 or some deal to that extent, she immediately made the above proclamation (“It’s expensive.”), and led me off to join the siblings in bootleg-hunting mayhem. Eventually my sister distracted me with a bootleg version of Heat Island, and so we have not spoken of the lost Takkitsu Best album since.

So, bootlegs. They were prevalent in the early days of spreading Japanese music (even more so since most of it was of the Hayashibara Megumi variety), and most especially in the case of anime soundtracks. I know I’ve got a bunch of Son May-produced Initial D discs lying about somewhere. We wanted our music, we wanted it cheaper than importing could get it for us, and my excuse is that they were birthday/Christmas gifts from high school friends.

But in the age of downloading, where does that leave us? The bootleg industry is still slamming out the copies, clearly. I’ve got a number of shots from my forays around Wan Chai in August last year and a few from this past trip to Canada to prove it. Fansubs have it all over their releases “This is a FREE FANSUB. If you paid for this, you’re a sucker you were scammed. Blah blah blah.” Society in general is cheap – if you can get something for free, go for it! And with so many JPop listeners taking this path (and thanking JPOPSUKI, apparently. I feel older and geekier for remembering ThePPN tracker and the early JPop sharing sites.), the question becomes “Who are their targets now?”

Is it the average gaijin JPop fan, knowing little, caring even less, and soothing their consciences by thinking “I’ve bought the album, I’ve supported the artist” – though the album apparently gained an extra disc with tracks from early on in the artist’s career? (In Bootleg Land, Amuro Namie’s WANT ME WANT ME became a full-fledged album. And then some. Hirai Ken’s FAKIN’ POP is, well, apparently also UtaBAKA) Is it just the really cheap Chinese and the younger crowd appeasing that stupid friend who wants the album but insists on having the actual thing? Perhaps it’s some poor sucker who mistook the bootleg for an overseas version. There’s a reason why there are still stores that stock these things, though unfortunately I’ll probably never find out. (From my own laziness. Of course.)

On that same subject, though, what is the appeal of buying the originals on CDs, rather than as digital singles? (Other than the obvious “digital singles have a pretty high chance of being lost”, that is.) I’d like to think I have a pretty decent collection of CDs. I also think I haven’t listened to any of them since junior year. Of high school. When I still had a CD player. That was 4 years ago and I still buy CDs, but rather than ripping MP3s from my own copies I download off that handy tool – the Internet. I look at the booklets maybe twice – once to look at the pictures, once to romanize lyrics – and I can’t deny it was nice to have actual stuff for AAA to sign (and Seki Tomokazu too… if I had gotten to his autograph session. DAMMIT.), but they really just sit there. Yes, those autographs, too.

It’s not hard to justify buying oneself a bootlegged copy of, well, anything. Whether your excuse is one of impatience or rarity or plain “I don’t care/I’ve already spent the money, oh well.” But it’s still an interesting subject to touch on – who wants to admit to buying a bootleg in a community where status seems to be granted by the amount you have, after all? Oh, wait, I’ve already done that.

As for the aforementioned Heat Island… Sadly, there is not a happy ending to my bootlegging story – it was purchased, the trip was a month ago, but I’ve yet to see cover or spine of the DVD case (and of course, DVD within) since. C’est la vie.

Categories: Blog-related, Fandom, Ramblings