Friday, May 18, 2007

Unfair na no wa dareka? The Special!

So, I watched Unfair: The Special: Code Breaking. It was just as good as the series. Andou even popped up because Yukihira was so distraught she had "visions" of him talking to her about the case. The only bad part is that they ended it in a cliff-hanger that continues in the movie. And, seeing as how it only released in theaters in March I am going to have to wait and wait for it to come out with sub-titles. ((I'm STILL waiting for a version of Trick: The Movie 2 to have sub's)) But, if you want to make sure that you catch it all in one go, you should wait. But don't forget about it because it's a really excellent series. It's a nice change from the bubblegum sweet stories that I usually catch.
For an actual "summary" of the special: The special takes place nine months after Andou's death and starts out focusing on a series of deaths of older Japanese men, dying of apparent natural causes. Yukihira believes that they are murders based purely on instinct. After a lot of digging it turns out that they are in face, murders and they are somehow connected to Yukihira, the batsu-site and Yukihira's father. She must find the murderer before they get away with killing the last member of the group - only she has to figure out who it is first! Oh - did I mention that Mio-chan is talking now? SO KAWAI! Lot's of movies portray Japanese children as being UBER-creepy (The Ring, Ju-On, etc) so it's amazing I find her so cute. Except when she whispers. Whispering kids are super sKary.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Book Review: The Bridegroom

The Bridegroom is a collection of short stories by Chinese-American author Ha Jin.
"...Reversals, transformations, and surprises abound in these assured stories, as Ha Jin seizes on the possibility that things might not be as they seem. Parables for our times - with a hint of the reckless and absurd that we have come to expect from Ha Jin - The Bridegroom offers tales of both mischievous and wise." - Cover Insert

I find that the voices of China in books tend to have a same flavor to them. I have yet to find a word to describe it. China has gone through so many changes and is still re-shaping and shifting before it takes it's permanent form. I think that this is evident in all the writings from China that I have read. Each city and populace seems to have a different view of etiquete, local affairs, foreign countries and every thing in general. The various voices from The Bridegroom had a general sense of confusion about what to make of the new surroundings and certain freedoms that have opened up to the country. The Cultural Revolution has ended and the Chinese have found themselves in a constantly changing state of affairs. They are now allowed to go to Colleges and Universities, but still not speak freely. The constant push and pull is very demanding on the common Chinese person and I think that they are well on their way. This book offers the views of 12 different Chinese, man, woman and child all trying to find there place in the new China and the world.

Three and a half stars: ***.5

Miniature MP3 Player

Strapya has another little winner on their hands in the form of a tiny MP3 player. This little guy has no internal storage, but if you use SD Cards then you can play up to 4gb. (I think that's the biggest Mini SD card size at the moment.) It's really reasonably priced too, at 14.99. That doesn't include and cards though. However, it is USB chargeable so you don't have to lug around batteries and worry about changing them anymore. It comes in pink, grey and white. Currently out of stock, you can have them e-mail you when it comes back into stock.

Did I mention you can attach a strap to it and hook it to your keitai? Kawaii!

Wire-tap blocker?

Are you constantly being harassed by bugs and wire-taps? Well worry no more! Strapya has a new device just for you. This little battery powered device is designed to block radio waves that transmit your cell phone conversation to their spy-erific destination. The actual technology behind it isn't revealed, so it must be *magic*. And some hefy magic at that, since the device cost $72.99. Better work darnit.

アンフェア na no wa dareka? (Drama Review: Unfair)

Ryoko Shinohara as Natsumi Yukihira

Eita Nagayama as Kazuyuki Andou

Mion Mukaichi as Mio Satou

Teruyuki Kagawa as Kazuo Sato

What is unfair? (Unfair na no wa dareka?) is the question of the entire series. Ryoko Shinohara plays tough cop Natsumi Yukihira, the top murder detective in Tokyo's Metropolitan Police Department. A series of murders begin to surround her, and as suspiscion begins to creep around every corner of her life, she begins to fight for her family and her life.
I really enjoyed this series. I am excited to watch the special tonight, as I own it already. The movie looks amazing too, but I have to wait for that to be released on DVD. I was pretty impressed with the level of acting in this series too. Usually with series that are a little quieter in mass appeal, the acting is lack-luster. I was blown away with each plot twist and the acting ability of some of the more minor characters. Mion Mukaichi was adorable. Her roll as Mio-chan was great. She plays as an eight year old, but I think in looks she is about four! It must have been tough for her to act without speaking at all. (Don't worry, it's not really a spoiler since you know right off the bat why Mio-chan doesn't speak.) I'm glad that in the snipets I've caught of the Unfair - The Movie she is back in the action. Eita did a good job too. I think that he's been growing as an actor, after Waterboys, this is a good grown-up roll for him to take on. Watch this series if you have time and like mystery and good acting. As a bonus - Yuna Ito sings the theme - Truth.
Five Stars - *****

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Book Review: Shadow Family

Shadow Family written by Miyuki Miyabe with English-language translation by Juliet Winters Carpenter was an interesting novel. ((Published by Kodansha International!))

"...Police investigating the double murder of a middle-aged company employee and his college-age girlfriend discover e-mail correspondence linking the victim with members of an online fantasy family, in which he plays the part of "Dad." Meanwhile, his real-life teenage daughter is assigned police protection after complaining of being stalked. The investigation focuses increasingly on the shadow family, as there is evidence that the members had emerged from the chat room and started meeting up off-line.
Veteran Desk Sergeant Takegami finds himself unexpectedly in center state of the investigation after his colleague is hospitalized. Adding to his surprise, he is partnered with his old friend Detective Chikako Ishizu after a break of fifteen years. Working on a hunch, they collaborate to unravel the fine line between fantasy and the harsh reality of murder..." (Book Jacket)

This is a pretty quick read, and despite that fact I was pretty entranced in it. The writing style is significantly different than most books I read, and I read a lot. Miyabe weaves a web of shadows and intrigue through-out the book, egging the reader on with tid-bits of information to try and guess the out come. Which, is in my opinion, what a good detective novel should do. If you're up for a little mystery, Japanese-style you may want to check this title out.
Three and a half stars ***.5

Mini-rant: Edison Chen

If you know me, or have read my blog before, you should know that I am an Edison Chen fan. It started out with me seeing "Twins Effect/Vampire Effect" though the movie was goofy, and I don't particularly think that Charlene Choi is a wonderful actress, I liked it. It had entertaining points and yes, was VERY VERY cheesy. But a lot of times I just want to get out of my stressed out world and laugh and have a good time. Movies tend to get too serious these days, so something that was made for pure enjoyment is refreshing. I have found that, in various blogs, forums, news articles and other forms of communication that Edison Chen has a pretty haunted life style. I mean that he is either loved or hated by people vehemently. I think that if you don't like someone or something, it's ok, but to rip into them like they've done something wrong to you personally is inexcusable. Edison Chen is a very successful person. He is CEO of Clot Media, a successful actor, a talented (YES) singer and a pretty funny guy. (Have you read his blog? It cracks me up) Some have criticized him for being "gangster" when in fact, it's just the way he speaks. If you were brought up in New York, as a minority member of society, perhaps you would have the same speech-type. Sure, there aren't really many hip-hop and rap artists in Asia, and the style of music was created by and is mostly dominated by African Americans, but it shouldn't be strictly THEIRS. I mean, the U.S. takes Asian technology and passes it as there own, they re-make movies and don't give adequate credit, why shouldn't the Asians be allowed to make the type of music they want? I suppose I'm thinking out loud, and this post might garner a lot of comments - but remember if your are here to insult, ridicule or other wise bad-mouth China, Edison Chen or me, I'll most likely delete the comment, so don't even bother. I don't mind CONSTRUCTIVE criticism, but blatantly ripping into someone is a rotten thing to do. So, if you have opinions, be grown up about it, will you? Just remember, the old saying "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all."

Also, I find it interesting that Edison was charged and placed under bond for kicking a taxi. I wonder if he had not been a celebrity if he would have had the same result in court, or if it would even have gone to court at all? I also read that Gillian Chung denied that they are, or ever were friends. I'm sorry? Did I read that correctly? ::wipes at her glasses and tries reading again:: Yep, Gillian Chung DENIED ever being more than colleagues with Edison. Some people are so stuck on themselves and their personal image that they forget how it will affect others. Sure, if she wanted to avoid scandal and the media, she should have done what the rest of the world did: stayed non-celebrities. But when someone who obviously had a personal (maybe romantic or maybe not) relationship with someone decides to deny that fact when the other person is in trouble, that just seems a bit juvenile to me. I have a love/hate relationship with the Twins. I think that they are adorable and there singing is ok. The acting I am still waiting for a great performance. Gillian is better than Charlene, but that doesn't mean a lot. I never label someone as being a "bad actor" (or actress) because Lord knows, I couldn't do it. And if they were THAT bad, they wouldn't be in show business at all. ::sigh:: Ok, enough of my rambling on. Go ahead and enjoy some Asian culture, whether it be music, movie or tv show. I love them all.

Oh - did you know that Vincy goes to school in the States? And Edison hinted at concerts in the U.S. this year? Wheeee.

::sigh:: I think my "journalist" voice died in this article. . .

Crazy Andy Lau Fan - Part Two

It seems that the saga isn't quite over in this bizarre tale. Young Yang Lijuan has decided that her obsession can only be cured by faith and has announced her decission to become a nun. Her mother believes that it is unfair to her child that she be reduced to becoming a nun. But I say, it's her own fault for letting her obsession take over her life and for not seeking some sort of professional help before it got this bad. I guess crazy fandom isn't just for American's.

For a complete story check it out here.

Book Review: Shanghai Baby

Shanghai Baby by Chinese author Wei Hui was translated into English when it reached great popularity in China. The story is about a modern woman in Communist China. Coco, is what many people would say, a very forward thinking woman. She moves out of her parents house to live with her boyfriend, dresses in sexy clothing, goes to parties, drinks, smokes and does many other things that some people might find surprising for a young Chinese woman to do. During the year or so that we follow Coco she falls in love and moves in with a young Chinese man, has an affair with a German foreigner and deals with the knowledge that the affair might destroy her relationship with the man that she loves. Drugs and sex make this novel very real and very shocking. If you are interested in how Shanghai women live and think, this would be a great entrance into the lives of modern China.
Four Stars ****

Book Review: Wuhu Diary

The book Wuhu Diary by Emily Prager was a wonderful story about a mother who takes her daughter back to China to see where her roots are. Lulu was abandoned near a police station in Wuhu, China. One of the lucky children who end up adopted by American families unable to have children of their own, or just wanting a new special member to their family. Emily adopted Lulu in 1994, right after the Chinese government opened the adoption road for thousands of American families. In 1999, Emily decided that four and a half year old Lulu was ready for a trip to see where she came from and to see why she didn't really look like her mommy. So, thousands of miles from "home", Emily and Lulu take on an adventure that is amazing and surreal.

This book was written with such rich description and warmth that it solidified my determination to visit China. I have also always thought of adopting, even when I was too young to even have a boyfriend. So the inside story of how the young daughter adapted to her American family was inspirational and touching for me. I think that anybody with an interest in China, adoption or adopting a young girl from China should read this book. Emily Prager should be commended for her efforts of helping her daughter understand that even though her family abandoned her, she had perfectly wonderful new family and that her history was both in China and her new home, America.

On a rather strange side note, I read this just days before I read Shanghai Baby by Wei Hui. The strange part is that they take place at the exact same time frame as one another. While Emily and Lulu had to deal with prejudices brought on the bombing of the Chinese embassy, Wei Hui's character Coco found it just slightly interesting and talked about it for only a few pages. The bombing affected a foreign visitor much more than it did a native of China. This odd sort of juxtaposition was very interesting to me.
Five Stars *****

Japanese Drama Review: Hana Yori Dango 2

Mao Inoue stars as Tsukushi Makino
Jun Matsumoto stars as Tsukasa Domyoji
Shun Oguri stars as Rui Hanazawa
Shota Matsuda stars as Sojiro Nishikado
Tsuyoshi Abe stars as Akira Mimasaka

This continuation of Hana Yori Dango is a wonderful conclusion of the Japanese version of this drama. If you don't know the basic story it's about a young Japanese girl who by her own stroke of (mis?)fortune manages to get into one of the most exclusive High Schools in Japan. There, she encounters the F4. A group of well-to-do rich boys that have nothing better to do with there time than mess with the "common folk." Tsukushi Makino won't stand for this and fights back when her friend is targeted. She then becomes the main target for the rage of F4 leader; Tsukasa Domyoji. After months of struggling against him, they start to realize their feelings for one another. The second season finds them struggling against all new odds, with Domyoji in New York, and Tsukushi trying to find her way in her senior year of High School.

I found that this season was just as enjoyable as the first one. I have watched the anime and read the manga, and I found this series to be fairly true to the original story. Of course, the story had to have some cutting and pasting, as the live-action couldn't run as long as the anime or manga. I found that I cried a lot during this season. I think that the battles Tsukushi had to endure for this season where even tougher than last year and the final result was satisfying. If you watched the first season - be sure not to miss the second!

Note*-I know the image is from Season 1, but I couldn't find decent Season 2 pictures...

Five Stars *****