Tag Archives: Culture

Konbini Kareshi Episode 1 Review

This is the show I was the most eager to watch for the Summer 2017 season, so I am glad it is finally here! To give it a brief introduction, Konbini Kareshi (or Convenience Store Boys) is basically about the lives of the high school students who spend time at a particular convenience store for one reason or another, and the interactions between those people.

Now, the episode starts in a somewhat interesting fashion: at the end of the story. Or at least what I would imagine is somewhat near the end, with our main character Haruki Mishima running to the convenience store during the Winter. The actual exposition to the show takes place in the Spring, and more specifically April, so I’m thinking the opening scene takes place much later. This is definitely storytelling mechanic that I am particularly fond of, as it is reminiscent of movies like Memento or The Prestige, that actually start at the end of the story, and the proceed to show how we got to such a point. While I’m sure Konbini Kareshi may not reach those kinds of levels of deepness, I figured it was worth noting, since I don’t see this too often in anime.

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The dramatic opening scene, showing Haruki Mishima running sometime presumably in the Winter.

Another interesting thing that I noticed (which I suppose isn’t all that interesting now that I am actually typing it out) was how some of the scene’s dialogue was presented. There were a couple of instances where, instead of just presenting the dialogue by showing the characters talking to each other, a montage of stills or short animations of the characters (sometimes even characters not relevant to the conversation) doing unrelated activities would be shown instead. While this is definitely not a groundbreaking technique, it is again something that I haven’t seen all to often (or recently) in anime.

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I enjoyed the numerous day-to-day things that they showed the characters doing. For instance, here they are scanning their IC cards to ride the train to school.

As for the actual content of the episode, I enjoyed how they didn’t mess around with setting up the major themes. As I mentioned above, the opening scene clearly lays out the presumed romance between Haruki (the brown-haired guy in the featured image) and Miharu Mashiki. They also hint at a childhood relationship between the two, since each of them have a trinket from then to remember each other by. Aside from those two, another potential romance between Towa Honda (Haruki’s friend, and the blonde guy above) and his classmate Mami Mihashi. And this is all in just the first episode! So I would say that things are moving somewhat quickly, which is nice.

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Haruki trying not to stare at Miharu while reading at the konbini

I’m not really used to this kind of art style, but I liked it. So I’d say that is a plus. It made for some pretty silly pictures. Like the one below, where I just happened to pause at the perfect time.

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Miharu’s face was just too silly not to include here.

As someone who is always excited to hear the OPs and EDs of new anime, I was not disappointed with Konbini Kareshi‘s. The OP is “Stand Up Now” by Cellchrome, and the ED is “Milestone (マイルストーン)” by ORANGE POST REASON. They are pretty good, so look them up if you get the chance.

I was so excited to watch this show, that I was afraid it might not meet the high expectations I had set for it. While it is still too early to say for sure, I’d like to believe that it has met them! While maybe not a show for everyone, I would highly recommend if you are looking for a slice-of-life that accurately represents various aspects of life in Japan, or just looking for a nice and innocent romance drama for this season. I know I am definitely looking forward to what next week has to offer!

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My Japanese Speech Contest Experiences

As I mentioned in my post about returning to blogging, I entered and won my university’s Japanese speech contest this year, as well as last year’s. I also came in 3rd place at North Carolina’s speech contest at Duke University (a much more prestigious university than mine). So I figured it would be kind of fun to share my speeches from the past two years, as well as the overall experience of the contests. The picture above is also not from either of those speeches, but from my Freshmen year speech two years ago, when I came in 3rd place at my University. That was taken right after I tried to accept my award too early, while my teacher was still speaking. Oops!

My speech from this year is titled 「私の留学経験」or “My study abroad experience,” and my speech from last year is my attempt at comedic fictional story telling in Japanese, titled 「オバマ様の日常生活」or “The Daily Life of Barack Obama-sama” (I was attempting to make a Daily Life of High School Boys joke with that title).

Continue reading My Japanese Speech Contest Experiences

Summer 2017 Anime: What I am Planning on Watching

So this upcoming anime season I’ll have a bit more free time than usual, so I’d like to spend it watching the new releases and writing posts about the shows that interest me.

This list is only for the shows that I am 100% going to at least watch the first episode of. I have other shows that I am considering watching, as sort of a back-up, if one of my guaranteed to watch shows turns out to be a bust. But for right now, I figured it made the most sense for me to feature the shows I was most excited about. Also, the descriptions and any other info I give about the anime are coming from livechart.me’s list of Summer 2017 anime. So you can check out more details of shows there.

Anyways, here we go to start my list!

Continue reading Summer 2017 Anime: What I am Planning on Watching

Life Update: I am back to writing!

In case you missed it, I haven’t posted in a very long while! This has been for a multitude of reasons, so I am just going to jump right i and bring you all up to speed as to where the life of WeeaboOtaku has been over these many and long, post-less months.

For starters, my study abroad in Japan has unfortunately ended. So that was my initial excuse for not posting. I ended up getting seriously caught up in studying for final exams, writing a 5 page paper the day it was due, going on a last minute Tokyo trip with my girlfriend, saying tearful goodbyes to the friends I had made in Japan, packing my things to return to the US, and a lot of other time consuming activities.

After returning to North Carolina, in the US, I worked at my part-time job for a bit, just before school started. So I used the “I’m tired from work” excuse to not make blog posts then.

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The face of someone “tired of working.”

About two weeks or so after my return, I had to move back into my dormitory at my university, and resume school for the Spring semester of my junior year. Now, this would’ve been where I resumed writing blog posts (and I promise I was close to starting a post), but then I became unexpectedly busy with school. My semester was initially really light in work, with only a history class bogging me down. But then, my former Japanese professor’s TA quit, leaving the spot open. He is infamous for being hard on TAs, but I’m a favorite student of his. So I swooped in and took that TA position. However, since it was after the add/drop deadline for classes, and the Japanese department can’t afford to pay TAs, this work was all volunteer. So, I became extra busy. Thus granting me yet another excuse to not write blog posts.

But I survived the semester! And it just ended about two weeks ago. Now you’d think my excuses would end there. But oh ho ho clearly you don’t know WeeaboOtaku, the excuse master! Once the semester ended, I had to move back home. Then, Raleigh, North Carolina’s yearly anime convention “Animazement” came around, and of course I just had to go. I will also be writing a short post/review of the con itself, in case anyone was considering going. Following the con, my family and I had to move. In fact, I only just moved into the new place about 3 days ago. And I didn’t even have my computer set up until earlier today.

And now here we are!

So, to make a long story short, I am back to writing! I will try to be as consistent with posts as I was before. And here is a little preview of what is to come:

I am going to finish my episode reviews of http://www.Working!! and give a full series review after.

I will write a short post about Animazement, and my past experiences with it as well.

I have a few new anime reviews up my sleeve. So look forward to my reviews of Grimgar of Fantasy and AshChivalry of a Failed Knight, and many others. I also plan on writing a post about what I plan to watch for the upcoming Summer anime season.

I also found a DVD box set on Amazon of Nagisa Oshima films, so I can hopefully reboot my old film review series. Which I absolutely loved writing, so I am super stoked about that.

For anyone interested in the Japanese language, I won my universities Japanese speech contest for the second year in a row, and came in 3rd place in North Carolina’s speech contest. So I may post my speech on here, as well as last year’s speech. I think it might be fun to read for any of you learning Japanese, or wanting to learn.

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My certificate for winning the speech contest. 

And there is just so much more to come, now that I have a bit more free time! So please look forward to more posts from yours truly!

Nagoya Matsuri and other Fun Stuff!

Nagoya Matsuri was this past weekend, and let me tell you it was a blast! My girlfriend also came to Nagoya from her university in the Kansai area, so that is my excuse for being lazy with posts the past couple of days.

Nagoya Matsuri (名古屋まつり) is a festival once a year in various parts of what I would call “downtown” Nagoya. The main events consist of an hour long parade with various floats and performances ranging from, Tokyo Disney Sea, Nana-chan (ナナちゃん is Nagoya’s famous mannequin at Nagoya Station), and bands from local schools. The main event of the parade is “The Procession of the Three Feudal Lords” which celebrates the three heroes of Nagoya: Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa Ieyasu. The procession also had many people dressed in traditional garb, as well as incredibly well decorated floats, carrying people playing taiko drums. It was quite a sight.

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A Disney Sea Float

One of my favorite parts of the festival was all the food, arts and crafts, and game stalls set up around Nagoya’s equivalent to New York City’s Central Park. I would say there were easily over 100 set up, selling foods like たこやき (takoyaki fried octopus balls), lots of fried chicken, a taco-esque Nagoya delicacy whose name I forgot, crepes, and lots of “American-style” fried potatoes on a stick. There was also my all time favorite Matsuri game, and one you may know from anime, where you catch a fish on a small piece of rice paper. I had always seen that game, and wanted to play it when I went to Japan.

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A yummy crepe from a food stand

After the festival my friends and I all went to ride the Ferris Wheel in Sakae (the main shopping district of Nagoya) called the “Sky Boat.” It was actually way cheaper than I thought, being only 500 yen (about $5USD) per person. That might still sound like a lot, but it is cheaper than other ones I have been on. The ride also was doing a promotion with Nagoya’s version of AKB48 called SKE48, so you got a complimentary SKE48 bookmark, and could listen to there music on the Ferris Wheel. I highly recommend the Sky Boat, as it is pretty cheap, certainly a popular attraction in Nagoya, and the sights from the very top are quite breathtaking at any time of day.

This weekend was super fun. 10/10 would do again. To anyone who is currently in, or planning on going to Japan, I highly recommend the festivals. Also if you are in Nagoya, drop by Sakae for some shopping and to ride the Ferris Wheel. I promise it won’t disappoint.

You can also check out Vlogs of these adventures and more at my girlfriend’s YouTube channel CuppOfTea.

P.S. I just love the featured photo for this post, because of the cute little girl in the corner. I saw her while we were taking the picture, but I didn’t notice her adorable expression. She doesn’t know it, but she is the star of that picture!

A Town of Love and Hope (1959) Review

Plot: Middle school student Masao runs a scam by selling pigeons who return to him after three days to provide for his family. One day, he sells his pigeons to high school student and daughter of a successful electronics factory’s CEO, named Kyoko. Masao’s teacher Akiyama Sensei tries to help Masao get a job at the factory, to be able to better provide for his mother and sister.

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The film’s protagonists Masao (left) and Kyoko (right)

A Town of Love and Hope is Nagisa Oshima’s first of many feature length films. It is important to note that this film was made while he was still working with the film company Shochiku, which may have arguably restricted some creative liberties he took with the film, but did provide him with a large budget, and access to the A-list actors of the time.

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The Shochiku Film company

To fully understand A Town of Love and Hope, you need a little bit of background knowledge about what the social and economic climate of Japan was like during the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s. So, to give a brief background, Japan had experienced what many would call a “miracle growth” in that its economy grew by over 10% for many consecutive years. Which is absolutely huge, especially after having its economy devastated by the results of WWII. So basically, many major companies flourished during this time, and there were a lot of considerably wealthy people living in Japan.

A Town of Love and Hope, however, does a good job in showing that while many in Japan may have greatly benefited from this economic boom, many were still struggling to put food on the table. This is shown within the first minutes of the film, when it shows Masao taking his mother’s spot on the shoeshine line, selling pigeons. It is also important to note that this film, as well as many others of Nagisa Oshima’s films, have a lot of social and economical political commentary about them.

In this review I would like to address a few topics that are of particular literary interest in this film. First being the great metaphor the pigeons play in the film, as well as the Japanese double-standard for the word “pigeon.” Second, the ominous choice of music, that can be recognized the moment the movie starts playing. Also lastly, the reason as to why this film should even be watched and given any attention to it, if there is any such reason at all.

In Japanese, the word for pigeon is はと(hato). However, hato not only means pigeon, but it also means dove. To make matters worse, there is no way to truly distinguish which is the subject of conversation, aside from context. There is a good example of this in the film, that takes place in Masao’s classroom. Some of his classmates are talking about a hato(dove) that one of the boys has. The teacher (Akiyama Sensei) confiscates the dove and sends it home, stating “not everyone has a hato(dove), so let’s all be equals here.” She later confronts Masao who thanks her but says it is okay because he also has hato, except here he means pigeon. While this may be a stretch, I find this to be a sort of symbol used to represent the Japanese people’s thoughts on rich and poor at this time. For example, the word human can be used to describe both a rich and poor person. However, the rich are more of a dove. Clean and beautiful. While the poor are more of a pigeon, dirty and ugly. However, both are indistinguishable as “human.”

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I feel as though the pigeons also play a role that is meaningful to each character personally. For Masao, they represent his rise and fall in success. His rise is when he met Kyoko, selling the pigeons to her for the first time. The fall, however, was when he learned that he didn’t get the factory job with Kyoko’s father, due to a background check on him and his scam. To Kyoko, the pigeons represent betrayal. She was unaware at first of the true nature of the pigeon scam, and of how they would continue to return to Masao regardless of how many times they were sold. When she sees Masao selling them for the second time, it is clear that she feels betrayed. It is at this point she purchases the pigeons again, however with the intent to make sure they do not return home.

To Kyoko’s older brother Yuji, an executive in the family business and love interest to Masao’s teacher, the pigeons represent his failed relationship. Because of the pigeon scam, he had to refuse Masao’s hiring at the factory which in turn caused Akiyama Sensei to break up with him. This leads to the end, and what I would consider to be the climax of the film. Kyoko gives Yuji her gun, and asks him if he would be able to hit a bird from their roof. He says he could, an so Kyoko releases the pigeon she bought from Masao, and Yuji shoots it down, thus symbolically ending his and Kyoko’s relationship to Akiyama and Masao. An ending that I think is very powerful, and moving.

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The climax of A Town of Love and Hope

The next thing I felt was important is Nagisa Oshima’s choice in music for this film. In particular, the very ominous theme that plays during the intro credits to the film, and repeats a few times throughout. I felt it was important to include, since it seems to play during Masao’s may turning points in the film. It first plays in the intro, where he is shown selling the pigeons to Kyoko the first time. It again plays when he takes his entrance exam into the factory, and finally when he is selling the pigeons for the last time. I felt like the music was a great addition into making these turning points more obvious to the viewer.

Finally, why should this film be watched, and studied? I for one, studied it in a film class in college, but why? I think the answer is quite simple, and that it is because it is an important piece of Japanese literary history, like many of Oshima’s other works. As I said earlier, the film does well with highlighting the economic differences that existed amongst people in Japan, even during one of the worlds highest economic booms. I think the film can help you understand Japanese culture from that time period, which in turn can help better your understanding of contemporary Japanese culture as well. However if those things don’t interest you, you should watch it simply because it is an entertaining film.

It isn’t easy to give this film a numerical rating, so I think I will set a guideline as to how I rate Oshima films from now on. I will rate them from 1-5. 1 being the Oshima films that I like the least, and 5 being the films I like the most. It doesn’t necessarily represent how good the actual films are. I give A Town of Love and Hope a 3/5.

For next month’s Oshima film review, I will be reviewing Man Who left his Will on Film. You can watch these films on Hulu.

First Attempts at 習字(しゅうじ) Shuji

Today I met up with my friend ありさ (Arisa) to learn how to do Shuji, a form of Shodo, or Japanese Calligraphy. I have never been super interested in calligraphy, since I was always pretty bad at art. However, after meeting Arisa a few weeks ago, she offered to teach me how to do Shuji. I figured working with someone who has around 10 years of experience would make it much easier for me. But I am just so skilled at being unskilled, that I made writing even the easiest kanji look difficult, as you will see below. (Though I will spare you the pictures of my more unsuccessful attempts)

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My commemorative photo for the day, I chose 音楽(おんがく ongaku) which means music

So me preface these pictures off by saying I am no artist and my kanji repertoire is minimal, but I am actually pretty content with how some of my kanji turned out. Though they are nothing compared to Arisa’s, which she so gratefully let me keep.

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(Left) Arisa’s 金(金 Kin), which means gold/money. (Right) One of my favorites 笑(わら wara) which means laugh. I chose this because Arisa was laghing at my Kanji.

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(Left) My attempt at 一位(いちいichii) which means first place/number one. The irony here being that this was the worst kanji I made. (Right) One of the many attempts at 冬(ふゆfuyu) which means Winter.

 

Let me know what you think of my (not) beautiful calligraphy, and also any experiences you’ve had with it as well!