Posts Tagged ‘japanese’

After Dark Ukecast #1

After Dark Ukecast #1

After Dark Ukecast #1

Come chat to me and my co-star on twitter @lonedreameryaoi @MXHarryBentley
I can also be found on tumblr at Letzoespoilyou

Also check out my Anime Yaoi/bl/slash list here: http://www.lzsy.co.uk/2013/02/my-yaoi-shonen-ai-boys-love-slashable-anime-list-2/

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Anime screening Day – Ben-To

On the 21st of December the entire series of Anime Ben-To will be screening in Bath Spa

One day anime screening of the entire series of Ben-to.
Doors open at 10am but the screening will start at 11am.
It will be £10 on the door which will include food and drink.

Every day an epic struggle rages in grocery stores across Japan – the battle for half-priced bento boxes! Once the discount stickers go on, ravenous brawlers start throwing punches in a knockdown, drag-out war over who gets to take home the cheap eats. When a young, broke high school student named Sato joins the Half-Priced Food Lovers Club, he proves to be a rising talent in the world of insane food fights. But does he have what it takes to become the king of clearance cuisine? Welcome to the world of Ben-To, where chopsticks are lethal weapons, the supermarket is a battleground, and there’s nothing more delicious than a deep-fried win.

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More details at the Bath Manga Society FaceBook page

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Arad Senki Slap Up Party – a harmless and fun anime that isn’t Slayers but wishes it was!!!

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Arad Senki isn’t the most inspirational anime out there but for a bit of light hearted fun it’s worth a watch. It follows many anime that is RPG based and has a group of adventurers thrown together in a fantasy world that set off on a quest and have to battle an ancient evil at the end. We’ve seen the formula many a time in anime’s such as Ragnarok, Lodoss War and Star Ocean to name a few. And it’s a formula that always entertains because you know what you’re expecting therefore can’t really be disappointed. With Arad Senki there is defiantly more a focus on comedy than the more gritty tales like Lodoss War and Crystannia so it makes it just a very amusing and fun romp, imagine more Bakuretsu hunters where characters end up in stupid situations for a vast majority of the show before any real threat develops.

It’s not until the last part of the series that we really get a real sense of danger and a darker plot line that leads to our finale battle with the villain of the piece. While Arad Senki doesn’t have the heart or perfect balance of comedy, action, magic and dark villainy of the greats like Slayers it’s still has good points in the fact that its light fun and doesn’t take itself too seriously and it’s an interesting idea. The idea of a disease spreading demon possession through the inhabitants was interesting; the idea that part of your body is possessed by demon blood making you a stronger warrior but also the risk of turning fully into a demon was a good angle. In fact it’s a shame they didn’t explore this angle more but the series wanted to stay a little more light and fluffy than fully going with the demonic versus your humanity angle and therefore played it down a lot.

The series itself is based on a Korean game called Dungeon Fighter (which explains why so much of the cast and crew for this anime are Korean) that was renamed Arad Senki in Japan. The series based on an original web comic and has a very basic plot of Swordsman Baron travels the world of Arad to find a way to heal his demonic left arm. Accompanying him is Roxy, the ghost of a woman who unwillingly unleashed the evil that also caused Barons transformation. On their travel they get to know other fighters who accompany them and soon they call their group the “Party”.
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The frustrating thing about this series for me is I like the darkness and a harsher storyline that really brings out the angst in the protagonists and this series just isn’t like that. I found I could skip scenes and not really pay attention because it just wouldn’t get dark enough for me. I don’t like too much comedy in anime unless it really is the surreal crazy of a series like Kemeko DX or a more situational comedy like Maria Holic. I love Slayers but they have a better balance of amusing situations and bizarre characters Arad is a bit of a poor copy really. Arad does rely a lot more on prate falls and slap stick, which I should have guessed from the “Slap up Party” part of the title.

There was one really good character that I really liked, Carpenshisu (many different places spell his name differently including various subbing groups) he looked cool and was the genius gunman of the series from another outer world of Arad. Unfortunately he was also the character that lost his entire cool in front of women and was reduced to an embarrassing failure of a Casanova and he was always falling over, rolling down hills and getting squashed, beat up and overlooked. He would do something amazing and cool and he really was awesome with his guns but they just kept ruining this cool façade and turning him into a pathetic idiot. That was very annoying to watch because I kept hoping they would make him less stupid and also expand on his storyline, he originally came to Arad from an outer world and when they returned to this amazing place he explained its history but not his own. We never found out why he left or what he left behind making him rather bland when he could have been so much more.
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The other characters were not as well fleshed out, our main demon knight Baron was very laid back and didn’t seem to mind having a demon arm and it didn’t really cause him much trouble or lend him any really awesome powers, plus it never explained why only he could see Roxy’s ghost (who lived in his sword) and why none of the characters noticed him talking to the invisible friend. The girl fighter Ryunmei was cool but we never really got to see her have a proper brutal fight where she could go all out, the bad magician girl Ixia was just that, cute and mouthy but rather pants and then there was the warrior priest Jeda that may have been bisexual but we never really got to know his story he just turned up healed people, glowed, flexed muscles and then skipped off again. The villains were more interesting but then they always were with the usual handsome, talented and conflicted bishonen knight Irbek. He had some good angst and trying to do good but in the wrong way, clearly being manipulated while feeling guilty until he realised his mistakes and joined the good guys against the real enemy. He was one of the many clichés I feel were going on, I mean the angst bishie trying to protect his little sister from a demon virus is always going to go all self sacraficy and atone for his mistakes plus get the girl in the form of the trouble misunderstood daughter of a corrupted king, along with cherished side kick with blind loyalty because bishie knight is the only person not to overlook him and to understand that he is worth more than his appearance dictates.

In all the more I think about it the more clichéd I realise this series is, it doesn’t really hold any real emotional weight, the characters aren’t really that developed, the comedy is too slap stick for my liking and fights uninspiring and un-dramatic. The last few episodes at least pick up the pace and give us a creepy and evil villain bent on destroying the world but they don’t use all the characters well and some get left by the wayside in the final battle. In the end it’s a bit anti climatic and just goes back to the beginning as if nothing that traumatic happened and everyone is together, happy and on their little adventures again.

I liked the character designs for a bit but after a while they were just a mash up of costumes and character types I’d seen many a time and normally destroyed by all the stupid faces they pulled. I can’t say anything inspiring about the music apart from every now and again when something dramatic of scary was happening some of the scoring sounded like a tune I liked from the Casshern film. I can’t remember the opening themes they did nothing for me and the only song I really remember was the first ending theme because I like the old school computer game graphics they had on, little pixel people like in Final Fantasy 1 and 2 wandering around dungeons. The animation style was crisp and clear but nothing amazing, pretty run of the mill which I don’t mind unless there is nothing else to inspire me so by the fact that I was being uninspired by most of it means there wasn’t much I did like about the look and sound of the series.
Really if you just want a simple no brain watch of a series with a little plot to keep you entertained than this is good background viewing. If slap stick is your thing or you like RPG anime’s and just enjoying watching some adventurers travel about than it’s worth a little look but there is much better stuff out there like Bakuretsu Hunters (for comedy) and Crystannia (for excellent fantasy adventure fair). But alas sometimes the brain wants a simple show so it’s good to have some on back up.

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Himitsu – The Revelation or Top Secret – A beautiful and disturbing little gem of an anime.

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I seem to be quite good at finding little anime’s that not many people have watched but really should. This series I found happens to be excellent though very little info is on the web about it. The story takes place five decades from now, when brain scanners have been perfected to the point that the government can retrieve up to five years’ worth of memories from people’s minds — even if they are dead. The investigators of the National Research Institute of Police Science’s 9th Forensics Laboratory must weigh the ethical choices in the ultimate invasion of privacy as they delve into people’s minds to solve crimes. The show is a psychological version of something like CSI but with more weight and a far more disturbing turn. We have an elite police unit that focuses on trying to solve the crimes that would remain a mystery if it wasn’t for this fantastic new technology that is able to look into the memoires of the victims. The catch is the brain must be removed from the dead victim before a 48hr period to ensure that the memories are intact. With storylines such as political assassinations, brutal killings and deranged serial murderers there is much for fans of hard core police and crime dramas to enjoy. For me personally I prefer a little more dark side crime series so this was perfect. I have always loved mystery amine’s such as Detective Academy Q but this is a nice step away from series aimed at a younger audience into a far more adult show. The show itself is pictured more realistically, with character designs and settings looking much how you would find them in the real world. This immediately gives you a more realistic setting rather than the usual fantasy and escapist image of many anime’s. Also it gives you a little insight to the problems of the modern world the nature of escalating crime, humanities passion for more perverse violence and the changes in our culture and society that brings about new waves of crime. For example one story involves the nature of body modification and the new youth culture that has gone beyond tattoo’s and piecing as a way to express themselves and are finding more extreme ways to change their bodies and express their individuality.
By setting itself in the future it allows for the creation of this technology without having to explain too much about how it works. You don’t get bogged down in the science and therefore can enjoy the story without wondering exactly how they extract the memories. But it being the near future there are no flying cars and stereotypical science fiction elements, their world looks much like ours but with a few more technological breakthroughs and disturbing new forms of crime. This is definitely not a series for the faint of hearted not only are some of the cases particularly grotesque and alarming they do not shy away from showing you images that are disturbing. You see the inner working of serial killers minds as well as the horrific crimes they have committed. Scenes of mutilation and decay plus the effect these scenes have on the characters themselves. We are introduced to this story through the character of Ikkou Aoki who having successfully graduated police training is placed in the department. As the new guy it takes him a while to settle in and is frequently distressed and unsettled by the images he sees. It’s his caring and compassionate nature that allows him to make such an important member of the team. His innocence and kindness allows for him to not grow cold and distant from the crimes but to honestly want to solve them and protect the people from the harm these criminals are committing. It is also his own secrets that help him with unique views on the cases.
The series offers that everyone has secrets and where do our morals lie in looking into someone else’s memories even if it is to solve a crime. After all it’s not only the memories before death that are seen but other secrets that these victims may have wanted to keep. The people watching these images have a duty to solve the crime but not to judge the victims on anything else they may see. Aoki knows it’s a thin line they walk and that it’s dangerous to get too involved with what you must personally be thinking when trying to solve a case. The real heart and soul of this team however is Tsuyoshi Maki. A very effeminate and fragile looking young man who is in fact a very strong and determined person. He has his own tragedy and secrets but is focused and dedicated to using this technology to solve crimes and help as many people as possible. Aoki himself says that one day he will discover Maki’s secret but until then he wishes to stay close and protect Maki hopefully one day being as strong as him so they can stand as equals. Maki is incredible haunted young man and the burdens he carries is far more terrifying than most people would cope with not. Not only does he have to live with killing his best friend and Aoki’s resemblance (particularly) in personality to him, but the whole case surrounding his friends death and the serial killer of 37 boys and young men that left to severe mental destruction. The mental scars are enormous and the series slowly starts to piece together this horrific murder, torture and mutilation on boys and how Maki is at the centre of it. Maki has caught the attention of a truly disturbing serial killer who plagues Maki’s memories throughout the series.
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I personally think Maki may also be dealing with more than just having his psyche, will power and memories bombarded with gruesome images by a love sick killer. He is also dealing with his own feelings toward the best friend who died and Aoki. I know being a slash fan gives me queer goggles and it’s not just Maki’s feminine features that make me think he is hiding his own homosexuality it’s a couple of scenes that clearly allude to the fact that Maki is also punishing himself for having feelings for his friend in the past and now Aoki. I personally think Maki can do better than Aoki but that’s not the point of the series. It’s a psychological thriller, a crime drama and a look at the horrors of the human mind. A place where only the strongest can stand to look and where only by having your own secrets and demons can you bear to look at and understand other peoples.

Check out the My Yaoi, Shonen ai, Boys love Slashable anime list!!
http://www.lzsy.co.uk/2012/12/my-yaoi-shonen-ai-boys-love-slashable-anime-list/

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Koshonin (The Negotiator) – One strong woman making her name in the male dominated world of the police’s Special Investigation Team.

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Koshonin is an absolutely brilliant drama that is quite different from what I normally watch. I was drawn to it because I knew the very attractive and wonderful Shirota Yu was in it but I didn’t expect to enjoy this series so much. I’m not really into police dramas and I shy away from female lead drama’s because I never feel I can relate to the female characters or that they are too stereotyped for me. But Koshonin is different our female lead played wonderfully by Yonekura Ryoko as the female negotiator Usagi Reiko. Usagi is cold and determined not asking to be treated as a woman she wants to be treated equally and seen for how good an officer she is rather than her gender. The team don’t treat her with respect, she’s left out of decisions and missions, made a scapegoat and ignored and yet she soldiers on proving she has both the intelligence and durability for the job. Usagi also carry’s a secret past, her father (who was also a police officer) was killed and while the killer was jailed there are some facts that don’t math up and Usagi is determined to find the truth behind that fateful day. The killer himself was only 19 when the crime was committed and was part of a violent gang that went too far, called a child monster he was labelled a serial killer and placed in jail. Our killer is called Mariya Kyosuke and is played wonderfully by Shirota Yu. This shows us just how great an actor Shirota Yu is, his character is obviously suffering for some amount of mental instability, he is intelligent and calculating but at the same time unable to comprehend what he has done. Usagi visits him regularly trying to find what his motive for killing her father was but also they seem to have a bizarre relationship occurring. He offers insight into the mind of the criminals Usagi is trying to catch, he threatens to kill himself if she doesn’t visit and she says suicide would be too kind for him but at the same time seems to care about his safety. By the end of the series we learn so much about these two characters and their strange relationship, Mariya is a far more tragic character, he respects Usagi and Usagi understand this even sympathising with him.

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Usagi herself is an excellent negotiator, she was top of her class and aced all the tests and challenges placed in front of her to get to this position and she proves herself in the field. She uses her words and confidence to negotiate and understand the hidden tragedy behind why the criminals kidnap or hold hostages. She begins to cement herself better with the team as they begin to understand that she is as good on paper as well as in real life, she knows how to talk to criminals and she has a clever and calculating mind. In fact she understands the criminals more than she does her workmates and seems to have a much better relationship with a deranged imprisoned murderer than any other human. She doesn’t form bonds as easily and she too has to learn how to relate and get along with regular people. This makes for an interesting drama, she may be female but she lacks feminine charms, she is beautiful but in a stern and imposing way. She doesn’t connect emotionally, she is driven with the desire to understand and to reveal the truth and overcome her personal demons.

The show has some great set pieces, kidnapping, hostage situations and bombs, it also has its conspiracies and the fact there is something wrong going on in this police system. Something isn’t right; there is corruption, the police like to make an example out of Usagi rather than allow for their underhanded tactics to be exposed. Episodes end on cliff hangers making you desperate to know what’s going to happen next. You respect Usagi’s determination and fear for her and the situations she places herself in. You want to fully understand the relationship between her and Mariya, the connection and understanding that runs between them. The music is also very good building the tension of the scenes and the genuine sense of dread. It is not a flashy series again like many of the things I love it’s about the characters their drama and struggles amplified by the danger of their jobs. Most of the characters are not in complete control of their own lives, they have their own issues and problems unable to help them selves and yet some how being responsible for the lives of others. It seems easier to save a strangers life than it does to face your own life. Many characters are excellent at their jobs but their personal lives are far messier. I like the dualities in this drama, having a strong empowered women being the central character while you have other characters like the emotional and less empowered new male recruit. This drama plays not only with gender roles but roles within society and also who is more dangerous the criminal or the people that forced him into his crime. Do we trust a corrupted police system or a mad and abused boy? I love this series and am very much looking forward to seeing the second series and watching the mysteries, dualities and conspiracies play out.

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Rookies – delinquent japanese youth, friendship, hope and the love of Baseball

ROOKIES1Rookies has to be one of my all time favourite J-Doramas. It is a classic story line for a Japanese drama, new confident teacher with goals of making his students realize their dreams comes to a school that has a problem class (think Gokusen). The problems in the class are the dissatisfied and delinquent youths that make up the remaining members of the schools Baseball team. 6 months ago the team got into a fight with another team over the result of their game and the whole team has been given a 1 year ban from competing in the baseball championships, bringing a end to their dream of going to the Koshien high school baseball tournament. The seniors (sempais) have moved on, the underclassman don’t want to join the team because of their violent reputation so the remaining members have become more of a gang of thugs. No longer able to play the sport they love and the only reason they came to school taken from them they now skip class to hang out in their club room. When their not smoking, gambling and brining girls over, they are getting into fights and disrespecting everyone. Enters Koichi Kawato our new teacher with a past who also happens to be exceptionally strong both mentally and physically. He believes in passion and achieving your dreams and likes to shout out his highly motivational speeches, I have no idea how he has a voice left, trying to bring morals and ambitions back to the Futakotamagawa high school baseball team.

As with this type of drama his passion and optimism starts to get through to some of the students who begin to think maybe it’s not too late to give up on their dreams as their ban is coming to an end. The baseball team is made up of some exceptional players with real talent going to waste as they use it to bully and fight. We all know where this drama is heading, Kawato brings the teams together, realizing and releasing their potential. Each member struggles with the idea of moving on from the past and turning to a new life and working towards their dreams. They play baseball, they fight they win, they lose, they fight, they cry, they fight; they face obstacles, media attention, prejudices and learn that violence isn’t the way. They grow as people and realize how much Kawato has done for them and how much they owe him. They become reformed delinquents with respect and passion but not before facing each challenge.

Its great viewing you laugh and cry with them, I have a great soft spot for ‘triumph over adversity’ stories and a real interest in dissatisfied youth culture in Japan and this series ticks all the boxes. It really builds up the tension and the drama, putting this team through every hurdle and unfairity life throws at them. It also has many light hearted and funny moments to keep you smiling and a fun score. The best thing about the scoring is the ‘here comes some bad guys’ type music that accompanies our boys walking slow motion towards a camera looking angry and unapproachable, its great. But the determination feels real you are right their with them hoping they succeed and grabbing the side of the sofa hoping they make it, equally as frustrated by all the people who underestimate them and try and get in their way.
This was a very popular drama and has to be said has some attractive stars, Sato Takeru is good eye candy but the winning vote has to be the fact that my all time favourite J-Idol Shirota Yu is a lead characters. He plays the most violent and quick to fight member of the team, terrified of the team changing and growing and no longer staying together he rather beat his mates and Kawato to a bloody pulp than move on. He has the longest and toughest journey but also is desperate to protect his friends even if they don’t understand his feelings. Shirota yu plays his character wonderfully and well is just plan gorgeous. I did love this drama and originally was drawn to it because of Shirota Yu but it completely won me over and I felt for all the characters. Even if my favourite idol had not been in it I would have loved this drama it had so much passion and kept me entertained desperate to know how it was all going to turn out. All I can say is can’t wait for the movie, hopefully can import my copy when it comes out in Japan at Christmas!

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