6.30.2006

Easy DVDs

My favorite tool for converting video to watch on my iPod has always been iSquint, since it's super easy and everything is already pre-configured for great quality conversion. But sometimes I want to take a collection of videos and burn them to DVD, which has been kind of pain. Sometimes I would use iDVD, but it takes forever to create the DVD project, set up menus, and so on. Now I have a much better way - the same guy who wrote iSquint has turned it into a real "do everything" video converter tool called VisualHub! Not only is it an easy video converter for iPod (or PSP or Palm or whatever), but it has a fantastic feature that automatically burns DVDs. So, I can drag a bunch of files into the conversion list, tell it I want a DVD, and let it go to work - it even checks the total size so it can adjust the conversion quality to fit on a DVD! I have been borrowing Japanese dramas from Mikie-san, and using VisualHub, I can create an 11-hour DVD with an entire season of a show in an easy one-step process. I haven't even explored all the things VisualHub will do, but it's definitely worth the inexpensive price!

6.29.2006

Daigasso! Band Brothers / Nintendo DS : 5 of 5

My DS Lite has really been getting a workout lately, and most of it has been from this incredible Japanese import game! As you know, I'm a huge fan of any music-based game, so I ordered Daigasso! Band Brothers from YesAsia based on solely on great reviews, and they were correct - this is one of the best music games ever. An easy way to describe the game is like DDR for your fingers - as songs play, lines move across the screen that tell you which buttons to press (this DS game rarely uses the touch screen), and as you press these you are actually playing an instrument in the song. For every song in the game, there are tons of parts - everything from keyboard to guitar, and even bass and drums! If you make a mistake, you definitely hear it, since you are really playing the part, which is so cool. It can definitely get challenging, not only rhythmically, but because you are dealing with 10 buttons at a time (four arrows, A/B/X/Y, plus the L and R buttons)! The song list is pretty incredible - it includes some great Jpop like Morning Musume's Renai Revolution 21 and some really clever medleys of classical music, Christmas songs, and some great Nintendo hits! It even has the Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon theme! There are challenges you can take to unlock more difficult game levels, and a "bat girl" character to keep the game cute, but the real fun is just enjoying playing the music. I just ordered the expansion pack which has even more songs, so I'm going to be playing this game for a long, long time!

6.28.2006

Genshiken Vol 3 : 4 of 5

Since I couldn't find Volume 3 available to rent, I just decided to buy the box set of Genshiken, since I liked the series so much - I'm sure I will watch it all again sometime! It was good to see the final four episodes, but it's really disappointing that they didn't make more - it even seems like the anime staff was a little surprised, since the final episode really struggles to wrap it up somehow (but at least I still have the continuing manga to keep me going). The first episode on this DVD is really great - nothing much happens except for Madarame being uncomfortably left alone with Kasukabe, and just watching how inept he is with other people is hilarious! There's a great flashback to his high school days, and it's really funny when they show how he tries to handle a situation through the "interface" of a dating sim game. The character insight is perfect, and that's what makes this anime so cool (especially for those of us who can relate!). There's a funny episode where we get to see Sasahara's sister again, who tries to become otaku just to get the attention of Kousaka, but she doesn't have the stamina for Comic Fest. The last two episodes involve the accidental fire and the near break-up of the group, but things finally work out and Sasahara, who is kind of the hero of the show, becomes the new chairman. The bonus Kujibiki Unbalance episode isn't too eventful, but it's pretty clever how they constructed a "next-to-last" plot for this pretend show!

6.27.2006

Rodan and the other Rodan

Thanks to TiVo and a keyword search on "Japan", I found a late night showing of the original Rodan, which I recorded and watched in pieces for a few nights. I love these old movies, and this was definitely no exception, but there were a few surprises, since I didn't remember much about it all! First, here's a huge build up before we finally get to see Rodan hatch from the egg, where a bunch of mine workers have to fight giant caterpillar creatures (which baby Rodan eats right after hatching). The next big shock is that there are two Rodan monsters! Everyone is confused because airplanes keep getting attacked, and no one knows how since both creatures fly at super-sonic speeds. Eventually they figure out they are nesting in a volcano, and they simply just bomb the heck out of them. We get to see both of them flopping around on fire (while the narrator wonders if he could ever "die so well"). It was fun to watch - I really need to rent more kaiju films and build up my monster knowledge!

れんしゅう

15 ねんかん いしゃ に いって いない。 いしゃ が こわい! こども の とき から ぼく は けつえきけんさ が たいきらい だ。 ち を みる と、よく き を うしなう。
あした ついに ぼく は いしゃ に いく。 ぼく も もう そろそろ とし だ から、いかないと だめ だ。 ちょっと きんちょう して いる が、がんばる!

6.26.2006

Pom Poko : 3 of 5

I'm still working my way through my Studio Ghibli DVDs, and now I've finally seen Pom Poko, the story of tanuki versus the humans. The tanuki is a "raccoon dog" that lives in Japan, and is the subject of lots of folklore regarding shape-shifting and, um, their huge testicles. Yes, it's true, and that's what makes it amazing that Disney released this DVD (of course, they changed "scrotum" to "pouch" in the dub, which is even sillier), but there are really only a few scenes where this special power is featured. The plot is about an urban development site outside of Tokyo that starts to threaten the tanuki and where they live, so they train to improve their shape-shifting powers (even enlisting the help of shape-shifting masters from Shikoku) to scare the humans away. They stage a huge parade they call "Operation Goblin", but unfortunately they mostly entertain people rather then scare them (and a theme park developer takes credit for the show!). The animation is spectacular as expected, and I love the way the tanuki are presented in three styles (realistic, anthropomorphic, and cartoon). All of the various shape-shifting stunts are really magical and amazing, and it's fun to see them disguised as humans walking around town (but always sipping energy drinks to keep up their concentration)! This film is filled with Japanese culture, too, not only in the various songs and legends, but all of their various transformations have a story behind them. Unfortunately, none of the individual characters were strong enough to get me emotionally involved, but I still loved this beautiful movie!

6.25.2006

れんしゅう

ダンスダンスレボルーション「DDR」を よく する。 たいてい まいにち 15 きょく の うた で おどる。 いい うんど だ と おもう。 ぼく は 「DDR」の おんがく が すき だ が、ときどき おなじ うた に あきる。
にほん で はじめて 「DDR」を みた とき の こと を おぼえて いる。 にぎやか な みち で 「DDR」は ゲームセンター の そと に あった。 だれか が おどって いて、そいつ の おどり が かっこよかった。 そして、ぼく も おどれる よう に なるぞ、と おもった。

Fighting DS addiction

Each weekend I always have a ton of things I want to do, and it's always tough to get them all done, mainly because I tend to put off the more difficult items (which are usually the things that are most important!), and I let myself get distracted so easily. One major weekend activity (of course) is studying Japanese, since there are lots of study methods that I don't have time for during the week (such as doing lessons in Rosetta Stone and YesJapan, watching a few YesJapan videos, and taking some JLPT quizzes). This weekend has been kind of a mix - I accomplished all of my studying, but I didn't get to much else since I've been obsessed with Daigasso! Band Brothers, a new import game (that I will review soon) that I'm playing on my DS Lite. Once I start playing it, I can easily keep going for an hour or maybe two, which is definitely rare for me - it's so addicting! Last night I had a fun time at my pal Melinda's birthday party, and today I played a bunch of DDR (to work off the birthday ice cream!) - by the way, I'm so sick of Get Busy on DDR that I could scream. I've also been enjoying the hot sun with manga and beer, which always makes Sunday feel like Sunday!

6.24.2006

Morning Musume Concert Tour 2005 / Natsuaki Baribari Kyoushitsu Koharu Chan Irasshai : 5 of 5

Besides being probably the longest DVD title in my collection, this is also my first Morning Musume concert video! After seeing so many of their music videos I wanted to see how they were live, and I enjoyed it even more than I thought I would. There's just something cool about seeing their performance, since it tends to make them more "real" (part of this has to do with the incredible workout they're getting from all that dancing, which really makes the sweat pour towards the end of the show)! It's fun to see all their different costumes (I counted at least seven complete changes for the whole group, plus a few other variations) and hairstyles, too (I like the sparkles in Reina's hair), and watching them really doing their best to put their individuality into their moves. The show is wall-to-wall songs, including all of their classics (plus a few I didn't know yet, being a somewhat new fan), but also stops for some skits and introductions - it's really fun to see how each of them introduce themselves, and it's good Japanese practice, too! I have a new appreciation for Hitomi, since she does a fantastic job as "leader" and she's really cool. It's also immediately obvious who the really strong singers are, and it's great to see them really sing well in a live setting (to prove it's not all studio tricks!). Part of that long title means that this is Koharu's first concert tour, and it's interesting to see which parts she's been given in the various songs. I completely enjoyed this first concert experience, and I'm definitely going to check out some other live DVDs now!

6.23.2006

Magic shoes

I'm glad it's the weekend, and I'm drinking a giant Sapporo Reserve to celebrate! I came home for lunch today to play some DDR - I've been playing a little more often recently, even though I'm totally dying for a new dance game (oh please, oh please, I hope Dance Factory isn't a dud!). Anyway, I've realized that I have a certain pair of sneakers that is perfect for DDR. A while back I started buying Sketchers all the time, since they are fairly cheap but still cool. The very first pair I bought is definitely worn out, but somehow they are constructed perfectly. I think my other Sketchers are possiblly a little too big, or too heavy, because they feel kind of clunky when I'm stomping out a fast beat. My old Sketchers are just perfect, so I'm going to keep wearing them until they fall apart, I guess! I was able to get a 1,700 step combo today, and I can't come close to that in my other shoes. Maybe my old Sketchers have magical powers?

6.22.2006

Girls Bravo Vol 3 : 3 of 5

Maybe A-Kon got me a little more anime-crazed, but I've been stepping up my anime viewing recently - I think I just want to finish the series I'm currently watching since there are so many more I want to try! So, even though Girls Bravo isn't really a fantastic show, it's still good enough to finish and pretty fun to watch, so I want to keep renting it. The third volume starts off nicely with an uncharacteristic episode focusing on Risa. Tomoka (a character I don't really like) transforms her weird little blob pet Ebi into a little girl, which reminds Risa of her childhood when she first learned magic to bring a doll to life since she was lonely. Definitely crazy, but still pretty touching in the flashback moments! After that is the inevitable hot springs adventure, with the kind of fan service this show is semi-famous for - it's all done with a "fun" attitude, but I don't think I've seen so many cartoon boobs in a single episode before! Of course, the Fukuyamas own the hot springs, so there's a crazy ping-pong challenge to contend with. Finally there's a pretty funny body-switch story (thanks to Risa's magic, once again) - there are some great gags that really made me laugh in this episode. Unfortunately, Miharu really doesn't do much on this entire DVD, and she's supposed to be the heroine! I have no idea how this story will end up, but at least Girls Bravo is a quick-watching series that's good for a few moments of mindless fun.

6.21.2006

Child's play

My tutor Kazki has been preparing some great lessons lately, focusing on different language concepts such as "must" and "should", and it's interesting to see all the ways these structures really work. Kazki has been getting more and more students lately, which is wonderful for him! One of his jobs is to spend a couple hours just playing with a six-year old girl who already speaks Japanese. So far it seems a little tough since she's shy, but it sounds like fun to me! It made me think of Nozomi-chan in Tokushima, which is one of my favorite memories from my trips to Japan. The magic of small children is so amazing all by itself, and combining that with the thrill of actually speaking Japanese to someone and being understood (since she was only four!) made it such a special experience. I'm so happy I have that memory!

6.20.2006

Homework for lunch

Today I had to catch-up a little on my Japanese homework, so I went to Barnes & Noble for lunch. I had a plain bagel and a green tea latte (this was my first time to try it, and it was pretty good), and I wrote a couple entries in my Japanese journal. It was kind of fun writing about being a Kikaida fan, trying to describe things from the show, like how he always shows up playing his guitar! I had my small pocket Japanese dictionary with me, which is a nice little dictionary, but it really made me miss the big dictionary I got for Christmas from my parents. My big dictionary has tons of example sentences for every word, which really helps when you're always struggling with sentence structure like me! After work, I went over to Ernesto's place to help him get his new DSL wireless router going - it was amazingly easy on his Mac, but kind of weird on his second-hand PC laptop (since there were lots of previous conflicting configurations). I think I got it all working OK!

6.19.2006

れんしゅう

かずき から もらった しゅくだい を しなければ いけない ので、きょう は ほんや  に いる。 こんしゅう は ちょっと いそがしかった ので、ひるやすみ に かいて いる。 ぼく の ちいさい じしょ を つかって いる。 でも、この じしょ より ぼく の おおきい じしょ の ほう が いい。 でも、ちいさい じしょ は とても べんり だ。
ぼく は かきながら、おちゃ を のんで、ベーグル を たべて いる。 ちょっと ちいさい ひるごはん だ な。

Video The Morning Musume Best 10 : 4 of 5

Since I've been watching so many J-pop videos lately, I thought I should get this earliest collection of Morning Musume clips while the DVD is still available. The videos included here are pretty much the same songs as their Best Vol 1 CD, since I knew all of them even though these are their oldest hits. It's really interesting to see the original Morning Musume, watching all the graduated members when they were so young. Natsumi Abe was definitely the star, and she gets so much more attention from the camera (which is fine with me - she looks angelic in Morning Coffee!). As new members start to appear, it's amazing how they are just barely in the videos - the girls definitely were not equals back then! I was also struck at how the older Morning Musume sound was much more about vocals and harmony, but then evolves into a focus on rhythm and humor (in a delightful way). The old video styles are almost funny in their simplicity - the dance moves in Summer Night Town are about a tenth as difficult as the stuff they do now! The first video that really signals a big change is Love Machine, where all of the members get to share the spotlight, enjoy tons of goofy costumes, and generally have a fun time performing a great song. After that Koi no Dance Site and Happy Summer Wedding really feel like the "modern" group, and make a nice transition to Picture of the Morning Musume 2. These compilation DVDs are fantastic - I just wish they sold sets of all the other videos I missed!

Link thanks

It's time for a quick overdue thank you to Cult of Pop for linking to WEBmikey! I've been mentioned a few times recently in the Sunday Blog Roundup, and it's fun to see some hits from those links. Cult of Pop is a fantastic J-pop site with tons of photos, news, and really great writing - I read it all the time, and if you love J-pop, you should too!

6.18.2006

れんしゅう

ぼく は 「じんぞう にんげん きかいだ」の ファン だ。 1972 の テレビ の シリース だ。 DVD で 9まい ぜんぶ を みた。 さいしょ と さいご の テーマ を どっち も うたえる。
きかいだ は ロボット だ。 たくさん の かいじゅう と たたかって いる。 たたかい の まえ、きかいだ は いつも ギター を ひいて いる。 いつも おなじ かなしい うた だ。 きかいだ は かっこいい!

De-hermiting

Yesterday I was a total hermit - an unshaven, couch-warming, chip munching, Nintendo playing, anime watching, manga reading dude. It was pretty glorious, actually, and I still managed to study a few Japanese flash cards and get my laundry done. After a day like that I always feel like I want to change my life for the better - I'm a vicious procrastinator, so it's always good to stop and realize that if I just put my mind to it, I can get stuff done. Today has been the exact opposite of yesterday - I went to church, called Dad for Fathers Day, went to The Container Store for DVD and manga shelves, did my grocery shopping, swept dead leaves out of the garage, and I even downloaded over 100 podcasts from JapanesePod101 so I can start listening to them on CD in my car. It feels great to do stuff like that!

I should mention one other thing related to procrastinating. I'm terrified of going to the doctor, so I haven't had a check-up in at least 15 years or so! Unfortunately, I keep getting older, so I really should go, but I've been putting it off forever. So, this is a public declaration that I'm going to pick a doctor and call for an appointment. Wish me luck!

6.17.2006

Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan! / Nintendo DS : 5 of 5

I'm a total fan of music-based games - not only DDR, but just about anything that's based on rhythm is super fun for me. There was so much buzz about this Japansese game on the web, so I had to order it and check it out, and now it's become one of my favorite games! Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan! is definitely unique because of its gameplay and story. Each chapter begins with manga-esque comic panels telling about someone who needs encouragement (a student studying for a test, a secretary trying to impress her boss, and really funny things like a guy stuck on a train who needs to use the bathroom!). When they are at the end of their rope, they scream "Ouendan!" (which basically means "cheering squad"), and three guys burst in and perform a cheering routine! That's where the game comes in - you have to tap on numbered circles and trace along lines to the rhythm of popular J-Pop songs (there's even a classic Morning Musume song level). The tapping and tracing get extremely complex at times - I was stuck on one level for days! Being an import game, all of the comics and things are in Japanese, but you can generally tell what's going on visually (but I love trying to read the text anyway). This game is coming out in the US sometime soon as Elite Beat Agents, but I'm so glad I bought the Japanese version, since the US game will have different characters and songs (but I will probably buy it also!). Combining a music game with Japanese humor and culture definitely makes this game a WEBmikey hit!

6.16.2006

Nanisama! : 3 of 5

I've finished watching my first official Japanese TV drama, and it was so much fun! The show was Nanisama, which is an older show from 1998 - Mikie-san loaned me the DVDs, and she definitely picked out a great story for me. If you don't know, Japanese dramas have a limited number of episodes, so the plot definitely has a beginning, middle, and end, rather than just continuing on and on until cancellation like shows in America. I guess they're like soap operas with higher production values! Nanisama is about a likeable office worker and his troubles with his new female boss, a high-strung consultant, who secretly has another life (with her young son). I was surprised to see there were so many characters, and each of them is given enough scenes to develop. There are lots of hilarious scenes, and many, many touching moments as well (definitely good material to work up some tears). I really enjoyed watching the whole thing - it's just like a 10-hour movie! I'll definitely have to suppliment my anime consumption with more live-action dramas, I think.

6.15.2006

Cars : 4 of 5

Since I was out of town last weekend, I had to break my usual tradition of seeing Disney movies on opening day, but Cars was worth the wait! My expectations were a little low, since the reviews have been mixed - it's always easy for people to say "Pixar breaks their stream of hits". I will say that when you compare all the Pixar masterpieces, Cars comes out a little short in the story department, but the plot is still far better than many recent animated films by other studios! I love the creativity that goes into the Pixar "worlds", and in this case, it's a world where cars are alive, with no humans to be found. It's hilarious to see an auto race where the stadium is completely full of spectators - who are also cars! The main character, Lighting McQueen, gets stranded in a small town just off Route 66, where he meets a large cast of supporting cars (kind of like the other toys in Andy's room in Toy Story) who teach him what life is all about. Mater the tow truck steals the show in every scene he's in, but I enjoyed all of the characters, especially Sally the Porsche. The animation has taken another leap in quality, and the way the cars move is pretty ingenious (and the landscapes are simply beautiful). I'm not really a fan of Owen Wilson, and I think he contributes to the "unlikeability" of Lighting that has been criticized, but the character does eventually turn around in the end. Speaking of the end, don't miss Pixar's parodies of their own films acted out by cars over the closing credits!

6.14.2006

Must order stuff!

I just ordered a couple DVDs from Japan this morning, and it made me realize that I'm an online shopping addict (as if you didn't already know)! I freely confess my addiction, but I'm not really doing anything to stop my little shopping sprees. Even when I was little I always loved waiting for the mail. It was such a thrill getting a magazine or a special toy that I had ordered, and I feel the same way today. I just don't feel "right" if some kind of package isn't on its way to me! I always keep a long list of stuff that I want to buy (as well as my Amazon wish list), and when I feel the need, I pick something from the list, shop around, and buy it. I have another list of orders that I'm waiting to receive, so I know what's in route to me. Right now there are seven things on that list! I like to pre-order some things for convenience, so it's not like all those items will be showing up at once. I don't think I'm too crazy - I like to spend money, but I don't go nuts and spend hundreds at a time or anything. I guess if online shopping never existed I would still be ordering things from the back of a comic book!

6.13.2006

Genshiken Vol 2 : 4 of 5

There are some anime series that I like to watch in small doses, one episode at a time, and then there are others that I want to take in completely all at once. Genshiken is definitely an all-at-once show - it has the right balance of hilarity and characterization to keep me totally interested for several episodes straight! This second volume was probably even better than the first, and I really liked how it had several "expanded" scenes that weren't as detailed in the manga (which really makes me want to start taking in both the anime and manga for other shows). There's an amazing drinking party to welcome new members to the club (Ohno is such a funny drunk), plus a long sequence about model building that really adds to the drama when Saki accidently breaks one of the completed projects! I also loved Saki's idea to get Kohsaka's attention through video games, and the wall scroll scene at the station with Sasahara's sister is priceless. Once again, the little "bonus" scenes after the end credits of each episode are fantastic (and such a great way to keep the flavor of the manga). The Kujibiki Unbalance "fake" episode is really cool - I laughed so hard during the karaoke scene (you have to see it to believe it). For some reason, Netflix doesn't have Volume 3 of this series, so I may buy the whole set so I can finish it!

れんしゅう

ときどき ぼく は あまり たべない ひ が ある。 たとえば きのう あさごはん は コーヒー だけ だった。 ひるごはん は ジャンバ ジュース だった。 ジュース の なか に いちご とか バナナ が はいって いた。 ばんごはん は インスタント の ごはん だけ だった。
けれども、もんだい が ある。 あまり たべない とき は よる おそく とても おなか が すく! ときどき ぼく は アイスクリーム を たべる。 からだ に よくない ね!

6.12.2006

A new DS

Since I love Nintendo DS games so much, I had to get the new DS Lite immediately! After all, I play at least a little bit everyday, so I might as well have the latest, right? I pre-ordered one as soon as I could, and I got it today, just after the release date, and I'm totally amazed! I already knew it was going to be great after seeing lots of photos and comparison videos, but I'm really impressed by the new screen brightness. Colors look so vivid now that it makes me want to play some older games to see what I missed! The smaller size is really nice, and they way they repositioned things like the power switch and the microphone make so much sense. The white finish is great, too - I like the layer of "gloss" that makes it seem so space-age! (I'm sure Nintendo will release other colors soon, but I probably would have gone with white anyway.) The DS Lite makes gaming even better than before, so now I want to buy more games!

6.11.2006

Thousands strong at A-Kon

I'm home from my weekend at A-Kon 17 in Dallas, and it was fun and crazy! There were around 12,000 attendees this year, which seems to be reaching the limit of the hotel/convention space, and definitely has an effect on the efficiency of things. The major events like concerts were always around an hour late, since it took so long to cram everyone in the main auditorium! But I don't want to be a complainer - I still had a great time! Here are my highlights:
  • The opening night concert was cool! Kristine Sa was cute and fun, and I liked her cover of Boa's Every Heart and especially the Ranma 1/2 theme. The main act was Kotoko, performing her only US concert this year - she's written and sang tons of anime theme songs, and does many styles of music. She had a full band (plus awesome dancers) and I was really close to the stage! I went to her Q&A panel the next day and enjoyed hearing her and her interpreter. There was one guy there who came to A-Kon from France just to see her show - what a fan!
  • I really enjoyed meeting Peter Mayhew, the only and only Chewbacca. His handshake felt like his fingers could reach my elbow because his hands are so big! I got an autographed photo, and he told me a little story about how the photo was used in the Holiday Special. There were some cool Star Wars costumes around, too!
  • Speaking of costumes, there were some great ones! I think there were more video game and sci-fi ones this year, including an incredible Borg costume with lots of working electronics. There seemed to be more guys dressed as cat girls and maids than before, and more pink hair than you ever thought you would see. There were also some twins carrying around dolls that looked like themselves - kind of creepy!
  • Random enjoyment: I ate tons of Pocky, including my first time to try pineapple flavor! I ate my lunch in the J-Pop room and watched lots of videos, and watched a few episodes of My HiME in one of the screening rooms. I saw some truly amazing Beatmania players, and a couple who were constantly playing Nintendo DS together (true love). It was a fun convention and time really flew!
View photos: A-Kon 17

6.09.2006

A-Kon e iku

This morning I'm off to Dallas for A-Kon 17, my second anime convention! After having such a fun time last year, now I know what to expect and I'm really looking forward to it. The musical guests seem pretty cool this year, and I'm going to spend a ton of time shopping and hanging out in the J-Pop room, too! For some reason, Peter Mayhew, the giant guy who played Chewbacca, is going to be there - he has no connection to anime, but I definitely don't care, so I'll wait in line for his autograph like any Star Wars kid would. Sometime after Sunday I'll have some crazy costume photos for you to enjoy! (By the way, there are a couple more posts in my Japanese nikki - just a reminder that I should have new things on that page weekly, if you're interested!)

6.08.2006

Growing manga collection

It's been a while since my last manga update, so I'm sure you're wondering if I've been keeping up on my favorite series. (Of course, you know I have!) My manga collection has been growing so fast that I need to buy another bookshelf for them! Even though I'm reading lots of series, there's always a lull when I've read all of the latest volumes, and during those times I can't help shopping for something new to try. I like reading the reviews in Newtype USA (they're always too positive, but at least they give me a clue!) so I know what to try, and that's how I found Monster. This is an incredibly dramatic story about a Japanese surgeon living in Germany who saves the life of someone that ends up being a serial killer! It's suspenseful stuff, and I've read the first two volumes, each in one sitting! Death Note (up to Volume 5) has been exciting as usual, taking really dramatic plot turns that totally change the feel of the story, but I still love it - I think Monster and Death Note have both surpased Hikaru no Go for my favorite manga! On the fun side, Midori Days and Gacha Gacha are still funny, and I always look forward to Dr. Slump, too (especially because it feels like nostalgic Japanese pop culture, and I can't help rooting for poor Senbei). Reading manga is so much fun!

6.07.2006

My Neighbor Totoro : 5 of 5

I'm still catching up with my last round of Miyazaki DVD purchases (though there are still more I haven't bought yet!), so I had the pleasure of watching My Neighbor Totoro again! This is one of the first anime films I remember watching, and I even bought it on VHS (wow, I can barely remember those big black boxes). Of course, I wanted to get it on DVD, but it was only available in a full-screen edition for so long, so it was wonderful news that Disney finally released it in wide-screen as part of their agreement with Studio Ghibli. It was fantastic watching it again and reliving the magic of childhood that the story portrays so well! The plot is so simple, yet watching these girls play together and live their simple country life is so wonderful (it reminded me a little of Tokushima from my last trip to Japan). I think it's cool that my level of Japanese is about the same as Mei (a 4-year old), so I think I had her dialogue down. I really appreciated the Cat Bus ride this time - it's such a bizarre concept, yet thinking about actually experiencing it is pretty exciting! It's really interesting to see such a perfect movie animated completely old-school (in the late 80s) with no CGI - the level of detail is incredible. The bonus features are pretty dismal (and there's no way I would watch the new dub - I couldn't deal with how Dakota Fanning says "Totoro"), but I'm just thankful to be able to watch this movie again on DVD!

6.06.2006

One banana, two banana, three banana, four!

My cable company started carrying the Boomerang channel recently, which I used to think would be so cool, but now I see that you have to be really desperate to watch most of these cartoons! Besides being a source of Kids' WB reruns (like Batman and Justice League), there's one other show that I'm embarrassed to enjoy, and that's The Banana Splits! I know I loved this show as a kid, but now I love it because it's so deliciously bad. Fleegle (who has Tigger's exact voice, even down to the laugh), Bingo, Dropper, and Snorky put on the worst skits you can imagine, overflowing with cliched sound effects, but that's not all - there's a wide variety of crappy Hanna-Barbera cartoons! Who can forget hits like the Arabian Nights and the Three Musketeers? Actually, I had completely forgotten there's a live action segment called Danger Island - it's fun just for the over-the-top background music. Speaking of music, I love watching the Banana Splits pretend to be a band! Don't worry, I won't get too hooked on this yummy trash, but it's great to watch when you're too groggy to focus on anything else!

6.05.2006

れんしゅう

きょう しごと は ちょう ひどかった! ひるやすみ が なかった。いそがしすぎる! こんしゅう の きんようび は、しごと に いかなくても いい ので よかった。 ダラス で アニメ の しゅうかい に いく よてい だ。 きんようび の あさ ひこうき で いく。
たぶん いろいろ な もの を かう。 ぜったい に ポッキー を たべて、ラムネ を のむぞ! もちろん、アニメ も みるぞ! たのしみ だ!

Sakura Diaries Vols 1 & 2 : 4 of 5

I rented this series years ago from Netflix, but since I enjoyed it so much and found it for such a cheap price on Overstock.com, I decided to buy it and enjoy it again (I've been curious about the famous uncensored version). It was wonderful to watch this show a second time, and I think I enjoyed it even more, and I was even able to appreciate the unsatisfying ending a little more. The story is a nice love triangle between Touma, a cram school student living in Tokyo, Urara, his high-school student cousin who is desperately in love with him, and Mieko, a beautiful college student that Touma falls for. There are several other roles as well, but not too many that things get too complicated, and one of the great things about the plot is that every character gets a chance to show something about their personality and even change it for the better. There's a lot of wisdom and interesting life commentary wrapped up in this story, but you have to look past (or simply enjoy) a lot of fan service to get to it. I love it when the characters who seem to have their lives together realize that Touma, with all his faults, is actually living life to the fullest! My favorite scene is when Touma kisses Urara in the rain - the words she says to him are simply magical (and tear producing!). This is an older anime, with simple animation and cheesy music, but I can't help being a fan of the story - I watched all twelve episodes almost completely back to back!

6.04.2006

れんしゅう

ぼく の しゅみ は「PEZ」を あつめる こと だ。「PEZ」は ちいさい おもちゃ で キャンディー が なか に かいって いる。さいしょ に もらった の は サンタ クローズ の「PEZ」だ。おかあさん は ぼく に くれた。
「PEZ」を 300 いじょう もって いる。ぼく の へや の かべ ぜんぶ を「PEZ」で かざって いる。ぼく の いちばん すき な「PEZ」は ケープ を きた「Batman」だ。

Benkyou update

Lots of big Nihongo news for WEBmikey! I decided to enhance my studies even more by trying out a second tutor, since my pals Barron & Mariko told me about the wonderful person who teaches their son Bay. Her name is Mikie, and she was a school teacher for several years, so she was amazingly organized at my first lesson. I had a great time talking with her as she assessed my language level with mini-quizzes and things, so I'm looking forward to continuing studying with her! It will be nice to experience two different styles of teaching and conversation - I will still be seeing Kazki once a week, and Mikie every other week (and my tutoring budget is now more than my cable bill).

My studies with Kazki have been going well, too, and lately I have been writing a short journal in Japanese, which he checks for me and suggests different ways to phrase what I'm trying to say (since I want to learn more natural, colloquial conversation). Today I started posting this nikki (journal) here on WEBmikey! If anyone tries to read it, I apologize for the inevitable mistakes, and it will probably read like a baby book since I'm using all hiragana and spaces, but it's great practice for me to type what I've written. There's a new Japanese link in the sidebar, so click it to take a look!

6.03.2006

Phoenix: Nostalgia / Osamu Tezuka : 5 of 5

Since I'm a huge fan of Osamu Tezuka's majestic Phoenix (Hi no Tori) series, I was definitely sad to read what I thought was the last volume to be published in English, over a year ago. But recently I was super-surprised to find this new volume at my comic book store, and now I've discovered that there are two more volumes on the way this year! I can't express how happy I am, since this series is so amazing, and this latest volume is simply fantastic. It's hard to imagine the work that Tezuka put into this saga, since this story alone is over 400 pages - that's a mighty manga! The plot tells of a couple who have left Earth to live alone on their own planet, and quickly have to take drastic measures to stay alive, even to the point of incest and cannibalism just to keep going. When Romy and her sons are at the end of their rope, the Phoenix takes over and brings a moopie (an alien race we meet in other volumes) to the planet so they can mate and start a new hybrid species. From there the story takes a huge turn as Romy decides she wants to return to Earth, and their incredible journey eventually involves a few cameos from other characters in the series. It's definitely hard to summarize such a long story in a short review, but it's a dramatic tale of survival, loyalty, and exploring the meaning of life. The artwork is wonderful, with beautiful space vistas, barren worlds, and interesting characters. This story captured me for several hours of non-stop reading, so I'm eagerly looking forward to the next volume!

6.02.2006

TiVo Series 2

Yesterday I finally joined the current TiVo revolution with an 80-hour Series 2 DVR! I've been a TiVo fan for years, chugging along with my giant Sony Series 1 model, but I've had my eye on the Series 2 for months and months, since the price kept coming down. Well, they recently kind of gave up on selling the boxes altogether, since now the TiVo box is free if you agree to the monthly service for at least a year. I was paying for that anyway, so why not get a super-cool new TiVo box for nothing? (Of course, the Series 3 HD box is just around the corner, but I don't plan on switching to HD until next year, I think.) I just hooked the new TiVo up yesterday, and I'm totally loving it. The setup process was amazingly smooth (much easier than several years ago with my original model), especially since I'm using my wireless network to connect, rather than the phone line! So, now my TiVo is a full-fledged net device, with all kinds of cool possibilities, such as listening to podcasts, viewing photo libraries, and online scheduling, which I just tried out today! I'm also enjoying new tweaks in the TiVo user interface, such as folder groupings of recorded shows and sleeker menu backgrounds. I'm totally re-impressed with TiVo all over again!

6.01.2006

Ten Cool Tunes 06.2006

Welcome to this month's Ten Cool Tunes! Truthfully, I've been listening to almost nothing but Morning Musume all month, but since none of their music is available on iTunes, I'm only including one of their songs in the mix (which I love to sing!). As it is, only six of these tunes are in the iTunes Music Store, but at least you can see more of WEBmikey's favorite stuff. This month I have instrumental bookends (closing with the awesome 5/4 spy music of The Incredibles), with plenty of groovy and moody tracks in the middle. Out Here All Night was a free track from iTunes (I may have to buy the whole album!), All for Leyna is my favorite non-hit Billy Joel song, and Toxic is an undeniably great tune even if you hate Britney. I think the flow of this month's mix is much better than last month!

06.2006 iMix (Song / Album / Artist)
  • Tank! / Cowboy Bebop Soundtrack / Seatbelts
  • Spoon / Stereo Type A / Cibo Matto
  • Sometimes / Loveless / My Bloody Valentine
  • Out Here All Night / Out Here All Night / Damone
  • Toxic / Greatest Hits / Britney Spears
  • All for Leyna / Glass Houses / Billy Joel
  • Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Pt. 1 / Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots / The Flaming Lips
  • Honolulu, I Am Coming Back Again / Flight of the Blue Manu / Combo Mahalo
  • Namida ga Tomaranai Houkago / Ai no Dai 6kan / Morning Musume
  • The Incredits / The Incredibles Soundtrack / Michael Giacchino