Pipe season opens

One day this week we had a nice storm during the day. I was at work and saw the rain pouring out my window, and started thinking this was the first non-summer looking day in a long time. Watching the rain made me want to smoke my pipe all of the sudden! My pipe smoking has always been an every now and then kind of thing, but I completely abandon it during the summer - it just doesn't feel right. But I guess I'm ready for fall, since I started thinking about it! I didn't have any tobacco, so that night I ordered some Mac Baren Cube (that I enjoyed last year) from Cup O' Joe's. Less than 48 hours later I had it (I definitely recommend them if you're looking to buy pipe stuff), so I had my first smoke tonight while watching some episodes of Star Trek's third season (almost done!). It was really nice after going months without it, but my pipes need some maintenance I think. It was a great start to my four-day weekend! Since it's Labor Day on Monday, I decided that four days are better than three, so I'm taking tomorrow off. I'm really looking forward to aimlessly enjoying myself!


Kumi Koda / 4 Hot Wave : 3 of 5

The latest CD single from Kumi Koda is a really great idea - it's a quadruple single (which is pretty amazing considering all the new material she's released recently) that comes with a DVD of all four videos! The videos are loosely tied together, which makes watching all of them together pretty interesting. The CD has the songs in a different order, but I'll mention each in the order they appear on the DVD. Juicy is a pretty cool R&B track (although it reminds me too much of Candy from Best ~Second Session~) with some cool vocal harmonies on the chorus. The video has Kumi and her pals stealing a treasure map from some guys in a bar, after a totally crazy dance (featuring some nasty beer bottle moves). The map appears in the next video for With Your Smile, where Kumi tracks down pieces of an artifact while being chased. The song is really peppy with lots of horn lines, but it isn't very original (since it sounds a lot like Birthday Eve). After she puts the artifact together, she's kind of transported to a beach setting for the I'll Be There video. This is my favorite song of the bunch, since it's an upbeat ballad with a really live recording sound - the drums are especially good, and the acoustic guitar gives it a genuine feel. The video has lots of scenes of Kumi in a swimsuit against some beautiful scenery. The last transition is a little sketchy - Kumi finds a book floating in the water, which appears in the last video for Ningyo-hime. This song has tons of heavy rock guitar, but it's my least favorite - I like to rock, but it doesn't do much for me. The video has Kumi trying to escape from a weird horror-style doctor. Overall, I think the complete package is great - it's a lot of entertainment for a non-album release!


Morning Musume singles

I've been writing a lot about Jpop DVDs lately, but I've barely talked about all the CDs I've bought over the past few months, too (yikes!). So, it's time to start some quick comments on my growing collection, starting with Morning Musume's past two singles, of course (well, I bought both of these on DVD too, so I guess I'm still talking about DVDs). My recent interest in Morning Musume was just beginning when I first saw the video for Sexy Boy ~Soyokaze ni Yorisotte~, and I was pretty much hooked when Reina fires her finger gun at the camera and winks. As hyper-popish as the song is, I really like it - the minor key and descending melody line are really cool, and the lyrics are actually pretty cool (though for some reason this one is so hard to find a translation for, since even Project Hello doesn't have one!). The DVD is really fun, especially the behind the scenes segment. I pre-ordered the DVD for their 30th single, Ambitious! Yashinteki de Iijan, and I really enjoy it, too. The song took a little while to grow on me, but it definitely has an upbeat, positive feel that I like. The behind the scenes segment isn't very exciting - there's not nearly enough chatting and goofing around that make the Sexy Boy segment so fun. Both of these videos are really simple - pretty much a single set, a semi-complex dance, and plenty of individual close-up shots. But as low budget as they are, they still are well-edited, and I think they showcase the girls' talent really well. As silly as the Jpop industry can sometimes be, I really think it's great entertainment, and I appreciate all the energy (often inspiring to me) that goes into it!


ヂィズニーランド で ぼく の いちばん すき な のりもの は「Pirates of the Caribbean」だ。 この のりもの は さいこう! はじめ ちさい ふね に はいて いて、わっくり に うく。 とつぜん ドカーン! おおき な かいぞくせん が あって、たいほう を うって いる! たくさん の かいぞく が いて、うたったり、おさけ を のんだり、わらったい する。 ぼく は いつも のって たのしむ!


Final Fantasy VII / Advent Children : 3 of 5

I know almost nothing about the whole world of Final Fantasy VII, but this movie had so many articles about it in Newtype USA several months ago that I had to check it out. The entire movie is CG animation (I think some motion capture was used as well), and even though I really prefer more cartoon animation, I'm interested in seeing photo-realistic techniques (just to see how far they can fall into the uncanny valley!). Kidding aside, this is a beautiful movie, and aside from the usual stiff movements, the characters are really cool. I really enjoyed seeing lip-sync to Japanese, since CG mouths are quite a bit different from anime lip-flaps! The plot involves lots of characters that were fleshed out in the video game, so I didn't have much background to work with, but mostly follows Cloud, a hero who's carrying some guilt around for things he did in the past, but eventually is redeemed by facing the ultimate enemy, Sephiroth. There are lots of fighting scenes that definitely have a video game feel (lots of incredible jumping and crazy movements), and some amazing vehicles and weapons, too (Cloud's motorcycle has compartments that swing open to reveal all kinds of giant swords!). The DVD includes an interesting bonus feature that is basically a walk-through of the Final Fantasy game (complete with low-res graphics) that helps to understand the motivation of the characters, and it's also fun to see how the blocky versions evolved into the living people in the movie. I definitely enjoyed watching it, as long as I didn't try to hard to figure it out!


Musume Dokyu! Vol 2 : 3 of 5

I decided to check out the next volume of Musume Dokyu, since I had a great time watching the first volume, and this one was just as fun (even though Reina isn't featured)! This DVD seems to have a lot of cooking, but it's still interesting to see the girls' reactions to what they cook and how it tastes! The first segment has Asami baking bread (things like heart-shaped rolls with fillings) and rolling up cake with whipped cream and fruit. It's kind of funny seeing her knead dough with those manicured nails (which seem to be essential to being a Jpop idol), but the best part is seeing her taste the results - she enjoys it so much it makes you think she hasn't allowed herself to taste sweets in years! Next, Makoto meets with members of the Japanese Stomp group to make some music with kitchen utensils (funny how both recent graduates are featured on this DVD). Besides banging on pots and pans, there's a dance step to learn that doesn't look easy, but eventually she does a long routine with the guys. Next a couple of the Berryz Koubou girls milk a cow, then make some cookies outside in a beautiful shot with Mt. Fuji in the distance. After that, it's Risa's turn to cook, and after going shopping with her for some ingredients, she makes a couple of yummy looking dishes on-board a boat in Tokyo Bay (even going under the famous Rainbow Bridge). The last segment is about Rika's graduation (also included on their concert DVD), with several nice scenes of a super-young Rika learning her first dance routines with the group. Once again, the DVD wraps up with the "secrets" section, but most of the talking is way to fast for me to follow! Since these shows are a couple years old, I'm looking forward to checking out the more recent Dokyu DVDs that have been released!


As seen on TV

I really enjoyed playing this month's Greatest American Heroes gig at the Carousel Lounge! Just like last month, it was practically dead when we got there (the poor opening band played to almost no one!), but by the time we got set up and started the show, the place was getting packed. It's so nice to have fans! There's a nice girl named Emily who has been to almost every single show for years - she was celebrating her third birthday in a row with our band! We had her come up on stage for a drunken duet of Three's Company with Kirk, and she loved it. The rest of the crowd was a blast (plenty of dancing), and real TV enthusiasts, too (one guy even had a "As Seen on TV" T-shirt on for us!). We debuted some new material, too! I'm really happy with our bizarre new medley - A-Team blends into Eight is Enough which blends into Green Acres, a genius combination! We also did our new "Dr. Who Are You?" which is the classic Dr. Who theme with a sudden switch into Who Are You by the Who (which is the theme to CSI). Finally, we did the Flintstones as the third part of our Hanna Barbera 3-pack, which of course starts with our old favorites Scooby Doo and Hong Kong Phooey. It's amazing how playing these songs still remains fun after so many years!

View photos: Heroes in August


Gokusen / Season 1 : 4 of 5

I've finished watching another classic Japanese drama, the incredibly popular Gokusen (gangster teacher) that lots of drama fans call their favorite! I first heard about this show in a YesJapan video, and when I mentioned it to my pal Barron, he got the show and shared it with me. The plot is really simple - Yamaguchi Kumiko is the heir to a notorious yakuza (Japanese mafia) family, but decides to become a school teacher instead. Of course, she's assigned to Class 3-D, full of the most trouble-making delinquents at the school! Kumiko is a sweet, geeky girl with glasses, but when her students need her, the glasses come off and she kicks butt - one of the big jokes is that she starts speaking in "yakuza mode", and everyone around her is shocked at her language! Each episode is full of comedy and plenty of heart-warming moments, and the cast has so many great characters. The 3-D students are cool and likeable in their own way, and the other teachers are great, too (this was the first time I actually knew some of the actors, including 1st generation Morning Musume member Nakazawa Yuko). Even though this series has 12 episodes (one more than usual), I still felt like it ended too soon - I could have easily watched more! This show was so popular in Japan that it inspired a second season (which I will watch soon!), a manga, and even an anime (which I will rent!). I'm totally hooked on Japanese drama!


Minty fresh

When I'm trying not to stuff my face in front of the TV, one of the things that helps is munching on powerful mints! Mints generally are only a calorie or two a piece, they last a long time because you have to suck them, and the flavor is so strong that it helps my sweet tooth (even though most mints are sugar-free). Lately I've really been into trying different mints, and I've been cycling through three kinds. I think I like Eclipse Mints the best, because they have a great balance between super-mint and sweetness. They come in a cool metal case with a hinged lid, that strangely enough works as case for Nintendo DS games! Next, I like several flavors of Wrigley's Doublemint Twins. These have a kind of sweet coating around the minty inside - they are a little too sweet, but still great, and they come in a spiffy plastic case with a flip-top. Finally, I like to eat Altoids Smalls every now and then. These are just like regular Altoids, but they are so small (just a tiny little square) that I can handle them. They have an unusual half metal/half plastic case with a sliding lid. I think it's interesting that all of these have such creative packaging - I think that's part of the fun for me! If I could cure my munching addiction with mints 100% of the time, I would have nothing to worry about, so I hope these healthy candies keep me satisfied.


Maburaho Vol 6 : 3 of 5

I'm really ready to start some new anime series, but I've got to finish up the ones I'm watching! Maburaho started off really fun, but I haven't been totally interested since Kazuki used up all his magic and became a ghost. Finally in this volume, he starts to regain some of his body - it turns out that Yuna, Kuriko, Rin (plus another former girlfriend) all have some of his ashes, which they begin to learn how to restore to him. Of course, it can only be done through emotional moments, but thank goodness now Kazuki can touch things and eat (I was really getting tired of the ghost thing!). The first episode finishes up the Kyoto school trip (which is kind of fun since I got to see anime representations of many place I have actually been to!), and the next episode is the inevitable "flashback" clips episode (I don't know why anime series always have that episode, but I guess I just have to deal with it). The third episode involves Kuriko trying to restore her portion of the ashes, and it's kind of nice to see a tender side of her character. Her rich family throws a huge Cinderella party, so she has to try to make the restoration before midnight. I guess this was a pretty decent volume (definitely better than Vol 5), but unfortunately the preview of the next DVD looked pretty silly. Oh well, I'll be finished with the series soon!


So many games

As usual, I wish I had more time for everything, and one of those things is playing my Nintendo DS! There are lots of cool games that I've got my eye on (many are American releases of Japanese games that I've been waiting for), and I still have plenty I already own that I like to play. I really enjoy games that kind of have an ending to them, not only because it's a great goal that's fun to complete, but also because it seems to give me "permission" to leave that game behind and focus on others! This week I finally finished Pokemon Trozei, which I had been neglecting for a while, but I finally just kept pushing through the hard levels over and over until I did it - I still think it's a fun game. I really want to get involved in Trauma Center and Advance Wars again - I started both of those and then got distracted, so I need to start over. In other DS news, I recently found some incredible Japanese storybook games on sale at Play-Asia! The series is called Kodomo no Tame no Yomi Kikase: Ehon de Asobou, and each cartridge has three stories that I can watch and listen to in Japanese, which is another fun way to study for me. I like the traditional stories, such as Momotaro, since it's fun for me to learn things that every Japanese kid grows up with.



ぼく は りのちゃん と いっしょ に テレビ ゲーム の「DDR」を した。 かのじょ は ひたり の やじるし に ステップ を して、ぼく は ほか な やじるし に ステップ した。 それ あと、ぼくたち は きょうりょう の おもちゃ に あそんだ。 りのちゃん の そうぞう は りっぱ だった! おそい に なった とき、ぼく は ともだち の バーロン と いっしょ に ビール を のんだ。 たのしい ゆうべ を すごした。

Ren & Stimpy / The Lost Episodes : 4 of 5

With this final two DVD set, my Ren & Stimpy collection is complete! After Ren & Stimpy finished their seasons on Nickelodeon, they were later picked up by Spike TV, who practically dared the Spumco gang to go totally off the scale with what you can get away with in a cartoon (which was called the Ren & Stimpy Adult Party Cartoon). They took old story ideas that were rejected in the past, and made them into some of the raunchiest, nastiest, most disgusting, yet hilarious cartoons you've ever seen. These are definitely not for anyone easily offended, but they are amazing in terms of art design, animation quality, and sheer insanity! There are only six cartoons included, but each one is nearly a half-hour or more, and each one includes a long introduction by John Kricfalusi himself, sitting at ease in front of the camera and telling how the cartoon was made, often with long tangent anecdotes that are really interesting. Each episode also has a post-interview with some of the creators, too, so there is plenty of bonus material to fill these discs. The episodes themselves are totally crazy - Naked Beach Frenzy features a shower scene with a very naughty Ren, Stimpy's Pregnant includes a birth scene that makes the classic Son of Stimpy look like a bedtime story, Ren Seeks Help shows Ren's childhood frog torturing days, and Onward & Upward has our pals living in a spittoon (and dining on the various things that end up there). There's far more revolting, awesome stuff, so if you can take it, enjoy Ren & Stimpy without restraint!


Snakes on a Plane : 4 of 5

This is a movie that I definitely would have never seen, but my pal Chris talked me into going, and I was already curious about it because of all the internet hype. Mainly because of the silly title and fandom for the ultimate bad-ass Samuel L. Jackson, the web has been buzzing about this movie for almost a year, and all of the attention actually helped change this movie into something pretty amazing - a film actually made for fans! There are so many lines of dialogue and crazy scenes that appear to be lifted right out of someone's wish-list - how else can you explain all the crazy body parts that get bitten by the snakes (both genders get chomped in some tender spots!)? On the day we saw it, all shows for the day had been sold out, and the audience was full of energy, so there was plenty of cheering, even over the opening credits! I was amazed at how much I enjoyed it, and I only closed my eyes a couple of times when the camera lingered a little too long on a gross scene. The rest of the time I was taking turns rooting for the heroes or rooting for the snakes, who do a great job at taking care of jerk characters. The pacing of the movie is really well done, with a nice opening to introduce things, and then a quick jump to excitement when the snakes are released. The ending is hilarious and satisfying, and then the filmmakers were even cool enough to put the music video for the theme song on for the closing credits. Hurray for internet geeks who "created" such a fun movie!


New glasses, new print head

A couple weeks ago I had an eye exam, since it had been about three years since my last one, and it went just fine. I even survived the dreaded glaucoma test puff of air! One of my eyes had changed quite a bit, and I've been wanting new glasses anyway, so I was happy to pick out some new ones. I got new prescription sunglasses, too, and I like them so much more than my old ones (which were a little dorky). They made my sunglasses right away, but I had to wait for my regular lenses to be ordered, but they finally came in today. So far I really like my new glasses - they feel lighter, and I can really see better, too! They don't look dramatically different from my old glasses, but I think they're a little cooler.

On a completely unrelated topic, my Canon i850 printer stopped working recently. The status lights said the print head needed attention, which doesn't say much, so I looked around online and found some information about cleaning it. Unfortunately, cleaning didn't help. I almost bought a new printer, but I realized I could just buy a new print head for about $50. I got it this week and everything was working again in about two minutes. I didn't realize how much I depend on my printer until I was printerless! Almost everything I print is stuff from the web - mostly coupons and Google maps (where would I be without them?).


Morning Musume Concert Tour 2005 Haru / Dai 6 Kan Hit Mankai : 4 of 5

Since I enjoyed my first Morning Musume concert DVD so much, I decided to get their Spring 2005 concert video, which includes Rika's graduation. There's a lot of great stuff to say about this show, but the only bad thing is that the sound quality isn't that great. None of the voices are nearly as clear as in the other DVD - they tend to echo too much, which is a shame. Putting that aside, the concert hall is interesting since the audience goes all the way around the stage, and the camera crew is all over. Some of the shots make you feel like you're on-stage with Morning Musume, so the close-ups are fantastic! I counted eight costume changes this time, and that's not including the costumes warn by Country Musume and Biyuden, both of which make guest appearances in the middle of the show. The performances are really fun, leading up to a mega-medley near the end of the concert - they really look exhausted when it finally ends! Since this is Rika's big day, there are plenty of moments for her. Young Koharu shows up wearing Rika's (or Reina's) original outfit from the Ai Araba It's Alright video at the beginning, and at the end Rika reads her long good-bye letter to the fans. After a super emotional version of I Wish, all of the members say their personal sotsugyou omedetou to Rika, and the tears definitely fall. Poor Reina cries her eyes out, so I did, too! Even though the sound bugged me, this is a wonderful concert with plenty of tender moments.


Two weeks, seven volumes

Even though my last manga roundup was only a couple weeks ago, I've been reading so much lately that I need to write one again right away! I've read xxxHolic Vols 2 and 3, and it's really growing on me - I like the way the artwork flows, and the work that goes into it is amazing. The spooky storylines are fun, too, though I don't care too much about the crossover subplots (but I did like the cameo of Chi's "ears" from Chobits!). I really enjoyed Osamu Tezuka's Phoenix Vol 7, which is part one of the Civil War chapter - the Japanese history is fascinating and this is one of the thickest volumes yet! Kikaider 02 Vol 3 was pretty good - I really like the dramatic upgrade of the story (it's so different that the TV series), but this volume was almost all fighting scenes, which are interesting to look at, but manga without dialogue just goes by too fast. Midori Days Vol 7 was fun as always, but I'm guessing it has to wind down soon, and I finished Azumanga Daioh Vols 2 and 3, which is just about the most enjoyable light-hearted manga ever - I'm going to be so sad when I finish Vol 4, which is the last one!


Clicking and buying

Almost all of the items that I review here on WEBmikey have links to Amazon.com from the image of the item. I don't really make it obvious, because I'm not blogging to really sell anything, but it's always a nice surprise if someone actually buys something, since Amazon gives me a little credit when they do. Lately it seems like no one buys from Amazon anymore, though! Every month there are hundreds of clicks from WEBmikey to Amazon, but no purchases have been made in months! Maybe I'm the only one who buys stuff from them - I've always liked buying just about anything from one website, and the gift certificates I get using my Amazon Visa are awesome. Oh well, someone has to buy something eventually - thanks to anyone who clicks those images!

Speaking of buying, I've decided that I like to get packages from CDJapan more than YesAsia. I still order from both sites (and YesAsia has more items, such as Japanese video games), but CDJapan is the best when it comes to shipping packaging. They always use nice boxes, and everything is super bubble-wrapped and surrounded by cool green tissue paper. Recently I got a CD that came with a poster (I didn't even know there was a poster included), and they used an extra long box just so they could include the rolled poster in perfect condition. That had to cost them more to ship, but they did it anyway - really cool. It's just nice to get something that has obviously been hand-packed with care in Japan!

One more thing - today is Dad's birthday! No one would ever guess his age, so I'm not telling! I'm proud to have a dad that's so much fun to do things with, and even prouder to have such great parents who are very much in love. Otousan, otanjoubi omedetou gozaimasu!


Talladega Nights / The Ballad of Ricky Bobby : 2 of 5

I went to see this movie with my pals Ernesto and Jonathan at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, which always makes a movie a fun experience, even if the movie isn't so great. Talladega Nights was pretty good, but I can't help feeling that it could have been a lot funnier. There's no need to go into the plot, since I'm sure you've seen the trailer! Everyone in the cast does a great job, and Will Ferrell is one of the best comedic film actors in a long time, but I wanted to see a little more craziness. I guess I was hoping for something more off-the-wall (like Airplane), but I still had a lot of laughs. Based on the out-takes shown during the end credits, I think most of the best lines were ad-libbed! The most memorable line for me was about Highlander winning the Academy Award for "best movie ever made". I thought the interaction between Ricky and Cal seemed pretty genuine - John C. Reilly is just an amazing actor no matter what role he plays. There are a couple of cool camera movies during the races that impressed me - definitely CG-enhanced, but still creative. I guess I'm grasping for things to mention at this point! Talladega Nights was good for a few chuckles, but not near as funny as Anchorman, for example. I think Nascar was just so easy to spoof that they tried too hard, and ended up with lots of unnecessary tangents in the plot.


Vermillion Pleasure Night Vol 1 : 3 of 5

Vermillion Pleasure Night was a late-night variety show in Japan, featuring lots of bizarre sketches (the popular Oh! Mikey first appeared on this show, then later became a spin-off, I think). It's not too easy to describe this show, but I would say it's kind of like a hip Japanese In Living Color, but definitely more artsy (and adult). Even though it's basically a comedy, the segments are extremely stylish, and a few have some dark humor. This DVD contains two long episodes, and I really enjoyed the weird experience of watching them (and did a lot of laughing)! Some of the live action segments are Dr. Phero, which has scary, sexy nurses dancing around with syringes, Starship Residence, which has a teenage alien who is visited by a drug dealer and emotional counsellor (complete with laugh track), and Midnight Cooking, which has recipes sung in over-the-top Enka style. I really enjoyed the One Point English Lesson segments, teaching such useful phrases as "You are so good!" (with the proper innuendo). Besides Oh! Mikey, there are other segments that use mannequins, too, like Delinquent Student Takako - she's a "real" person who interacts with her mannequin teachers and parents by beating them up! There are also animation segments, both hand-drawn and stop-motion, all of them weird and funny. The whole show was pretty cool, since it's definitely something you wouldn't see on network TV here - I'm glad these are being released on DVD!


Six Flags Fiesta Texas

Yesterday I spent all day at Six Flags Fiesta Texas in San Antonio! My pal Melinda had a two-for-one coupon, so she invited me to go, and we had a great time. I had only been there once before, so it was great to see the park again and ride lots of stuff, including some new rides. The big event of the day was the Superman Krypton Coaster (which I chickened out on a few years ago) - I was scared, but I managed to stay brave and it was a blast! This coaster tops all of my previous records for height and speed (check out some stats and photos), has six inversions, and it's floorless! The floorless aspect isn't really scary, but it's kind of cool that your feet are dangling even though you're seated. I totally lost my voice screaming, but it was worth it! The new Scooby Doo ride is pretty cool too, since you get to shoot at ghosts and get a score. The day went buy really quickly, and we stayed for the fireworks and laser show, where they project all kinds of things on the wall of the quarry canon - pretty creative! It was a long fun day yesterday, so I've definitely been relaxing today.

View photos: Six Flags Fiesta Texas

A usual Sunday

Almost every Sunday night some of my pals will come over just to relax and eat. It's always a fun time, and we've been doing it for years now! Last weekend we took a few photos - nothing exciting, but I thought I would put some up anyway, so enjoy some tasty sausage with us.

View photos: Sausage Nite


Heartsdales / The Legend : 4 of 5

On my last trip to Japan I picked up a Heartsdales CD single (plus DVD) that I really enjoyed, so I've been planning on checking out some of their other material someday. Well, it turns out that the band is calling it quits, but to go out with a bang they released an awesome hits compilation CD that includes a DVD with videos for almost every song on the disc! Heartsdales play hip-hop or rap or whatever you want to call it - Rum does most of the complicated rapping and Jewels does the sweet singing on the choruses (gotta love those stage names!). I'm hypnotized by Japanese rapping, because the mixture of Japanese with English is incredible - they even rhyme words between languages! The videos are pretty cool, full of weird sets and high fashion, such as the opening number So Tell Me, which takes place on a submarine, and Rum has a full-size teddy bear hanging off her belt. Candy Poppin' is accented with amazing retro graphics (I really like that kind of stuff), and Angel Eyes has both motorcycles and cheerleaders, which are quite a combination. Foxy Lady has the most outfits - seeing the cool clothes they get away with wearing is half the fun! I'm definitely impressed with CD/DVD combos like this that are overflowing with songs and videos, so I'm really glad I ordered it (but too bad Heartsdales had to break up to get this CD made).


Girls Bravo Vol 4 : 2 of 5

Sometimes I wish I had the power to stop watching a series once I get started. It's not that I dislike Girls Bravo, but there are so many better series that I could be watching instead! This is by far the goofiest show I have kept watching, but at least it seems to go by quickly (and of course, I do laugh a lot!). I just wish there were those tender, emotional moments to balance out the silliness (and when that balance is correct, that's when anime rocks). Anyway, this disc is filled with so much fan service that it doesn't really have an impact - cartoon nudity is only funny when it's surprising, and in this show it just happens all the time! The first episode is about a girls' fighting match setup by Fukuyama (who is showing up way too much in the series for my taste) that ends up in a crazy mud wrestling match, and the next episode is about Yukinari and Miharu's date that goes wonky because Miharu gets some advice from the wrong source (yes, Fukuyama again). The best episode is about some minor characters - a crazy classmate who calls himself Mamo Ranger tries to clean up the school and gets tutored by Fukuyama's militant maid. The last episode features Tomoka, who is my least favorite main character, but it was still pretty good. Anyway, there are only two more volumes to go - I can make it to the end!


Random notices

Here's a few random things I've been meaning to mention lately:
  • I was catching up on back episodes of the Tiki Bar TV podcast, and I was amazed to see that they got the girl who plays Specialist Cally on Battlestar Galactica to be on the show! It was even a two-part episode! I loved the early Tiki Bar TV episodes, but then they seemed to have a little slump. Thankfully these latest ones were hilarious again! Cally is so cool (one of my many crushes), which reminds me, I'm getting really psyched that Battlestar Galactica will be back in October - I can't wait for new episodes!
  • I'm officially registered now for the JLPT! I'm really looking forward to the exam, and I know there will be no surprises since I'm studying so much. I'm already excited about going for the next level in 2007!
  • Now that I have a small Japanese page on WEBmikey, I've noticed that I've had a few hits from Japanese search engines, which is pretty cool. I've also started getting Japanese spam, which isn't so cool, but it's definitely more interesting than regular spam. Sometimes I even try to figure it out!
  • American Wota deserves a quick thanks again for mentioning me in the Sunday Blog Roundup! I've also noticed that WEBmikey is included in the blogs list on Feed of Pop. I guess I've made the Jpop otaku big time!


Densha Otoko : 5 of 5

I've finished watching my third Japanese TV drama! (I wonder if I'll be saying "I've finished my 137th drama" in a few years?) My pal Barron has been so nice getting shows for me, and recently he gave me all 11 episodes (plus an extra bonus episode) of Densha Otoko. Recently this has been a famous story in Japan - kind of a "true life" fairy tale. It's about an otaku (geek like me) who happens to stand up for a beautiful girl being bothered on a train, and he tells his story on the internet. Tons of "fans" start giving him advice (as well as the name Densha Otoko, or Train Man), and their message board exchange goes on for several months, as he gains courage and eventually gets the girl! The story was so popular that it was made into a TV show, a movie, and even several manga. The TV series was fantastic - definitely full of over-the-top acting and situations, but so heartwarming and full of emotion. Several episodes had me in happy tears! It's always fun to root for the underdog, and this is a great story that's really uplifting. I loved how they spent time not only on the main plot, but also on various lives of the other people posting messages, all of them finding courage to change their lives for the better because of the inspiration of Densha Otoko himself. The show is full of cool anime references and otaku culture, and I enjoyed every minute of it!


The Ant Bully : 3 of 5

When I first saw the preview of this film, the character design seemed to be so close to A Bug's Life that I couldn't believe it! But even though this is the 3rd computer animated movie about ants, I still had to go see it, and I really enjoyed it. Once I got into the style of the film, I realized that these ants are quite a bit more realistic than I thought, and their design is really unique. It's interesting how the "ant culture" is full of both realism and fantasy. For example, there are wizard ants with magical powers, as well as an ancient history expressed in cave paintings (just how long has that ant hill been there?). The plot is a genuinely good story, about a boy who is shrunk down to ant-size so he can live with them and see things from their perspective (and of course, fight off an exterminator!). There are some really exciting scenes, especially the wasp battle sequence, and the wasps themselves are totally cool and scary at the same time. I wasn't sure Nicholas Cage would be a good voice actor, but I was really entertained by his performance, and all of the other voices were fun, too (especially Bruce Campbell, although he's trying to hard to be Patrick Warburton). I also like how the movie definitely knows no bounds, including a scene inside a frog's stomach! Overall, even though this movie is nothing to go crazy over, it was a really well done animated film with a good story, so I'm not complaining!


Okonomiyaki party

This weekend my pals Barron & Mariko had an okonomiyaki party, and it was fantastic! They invited Chris & Eliza and Ryan & Jennifer, so it was nice for all of us to get together again. Barron & Mariko have several Japanese friends, too, so I was really excited to practice speaking Japanese! It was great to meet everyone, and the food was really delicious, and I had so much fun playing with all the kids! Along with Barron's sons Bay and Koa, there were lots of other kids running around (all with some Japanese ability), and it was cool to talk with them, toss balloons back and forth, and play with all of the toys around the house. The oldest girl was Rino, Barron's friend's 7-year-old niece, visiting from Hiroshima. She was kind of shy at first, but I kept asking her questions in Japanese ("What's your favorite color? Do you like cats?"), and she finally became my friend and starting talking a lot! Bay has DDR Mario Mix for GameCube, and Rino-chan and I played as a team - she was the right arrow, and I was the other three arrows. Later we were playing with toy dinosaurs and she made up some hilarious dialogue (I was laughing so hard!). The little dinosaur was giving the big dinosaur a rubber snake, and says "Mother, I would like to give you this snake for your birthday", and the big dinosaur says "Idiot! It's not my birthday! My birthday is in September!" (It was so cool to hear this in Japanese and be able to understand it!) It really made me appreciate how kids play and how amazing imagination is. I was playing too much to take very many photos, but here are a few anyway!

View photos: Okonomiyaki party



きのう の よろ ぼく は おこのみやき の パーチィー に いった。 たべもの は とても おいしかった。 たくさん こども が あって、ぼく と かれら は いっしょ に あそんた。 ちょう たのしかった! こども の うとり が あんなのこ の りのちゃん は いた。 りのちゃん は えいご を はなせない ので、ぼく は かのじょ に にほんご で はなした。 りのちゃん は ぼく の にほんご を わかれた。 すごかった! (つづく)

Sailor Moon Super S : 3 of 5

It's a major anime accomplishment to finish an entire season of Sailor Moon, so I'm glad to say I've completed watching all 39 episodes of Sailor Moon Super S (which is technically the fourth season)! You may remember that I was obsessed with trying to buy the DVD set, since I wanted the official US release, but I just broke down and bought a nice cheap import set (I don't know if it's officially licensed, but I don't care - the quality is great and the English subtitles are fine). This season always gets bad reviews because it's too "cute" (which is hard to do when you're talking about Sailor Moon), and I can understand what they mean, since most of the stories focus on Sailor Chibi Moon and her magical horse friend Pegasus. I still enjoyed the series, though, even though the traditional final exciting episodes where everything gets serious weren't really that dramatic - everything had a little too much fantasy for me. There are two main sets of villains, the Amazon Trio and the Amazoness Quartet, and they seek out people with "beautiful dreams", because Pegasus is hiding inside someone's dream. Every battle ends with Pegasus showing up, which gives the Sailor Soldiers the power to transform with new special powers (and the new attacks are pretty cool). The little kitty Diana is part of the show, too, and she's the future offspring of Luna and Artemis, much the way Chibiusa is the daughter of Usagi and Mamoru - doesn't that make perfect sense? It was fun to watch all the episodes, even though the first three seasons were much better. I just feel compelled to watch them all - on to the fifth season!


Rod Miller video

Since there has been such a revolution in video lately, I decided to test the waters with a little clip of my own. There are so many ways to host video for free, but it's still hard to choose which method to use! Of course, YouTube is the favorite of the world, but I don't really like their Flash video player (and there's no way I'm going to put one of those giant ugly embedded previews here!). I thought Blip.tv looked pretty cool, but for some reason they couldn't convert my QuickTime file into Flash. But none of that really matters - I just wanted to edit a quick video and get some stuff out there, so you can choose how to want to view it! The YouTube version loads fast, but their Flash conversion is a little low quality. Blip.tv offers the actual QuickTime file, but no Flash (and their servers seem slow at times).

Of course, I have tons of Disney park video, including a short clip of the great Rod Miller. Rod played piano at Disneyland for over 30 years, and he was totally amazing! He also had great Disney showmanship, and really did his best to give everyone around him that Disney feeling. So, I did some quick editing with some Main Street photos I took, so now I can present the first of many (possibly!) WEBmikey Clips! I have several ideas for short little videos like this, and it's nice to keep up my iMovie skills, too, so hopefully this first video won't be the last.

Watch video: Rod Miller on Main Street


Hello! Morning Theater Vol 9 : 4 of 5

Hello! Morning is a Japanese TV show that has been on since 2000 featuring the members of Morning Musume, as well as other Hello! Project gals. It's kind of amazing to think of a music group having a TV variety show, but I think it's a cool idea! Anyway, part of the show is comedy skits, just like you would see on an old American variety show, and they call these Hello! Morning Theater. I noticed that there were lots of DVDs of this series available, so I decided to get the most recent one just to try it out. Truthfully, I'm totally amazed at how funny these are! I didn't know what to expect, but I laughed my head off for this entire DVD. All of the parts are played by the girls, and they have great sets and funny costumes - the make-up can be especially hilarious, along with crazy wigs and beards. All of the acting is totally over the top, and their sense of comedy is actually really good! Hitomi is especially hilarious playing the crazy dad with a temper, knocking over tables and punching everyone. There are various regular sets and characters, like the town square and its cops or the Chinese restaurant and the silly family who owns it (including Reina as a panda!). Each episode is only a few minutes, but they all run together to continue a plot, such as the long story featuring Goto Maki as a penguin (yes, this all sounds ridiculous, but it's so funny!). Everyone plays multiple parts, too, but they still keep running gags. For example, Sayumi always has to introduce herself as the cutest whether she's a cop, a waitress, or a maid. I could go on and on, but the bottom line is that I've got to see more of this stuff!


Mikey's monkeys

The other day I read on Animated News that some studio is going to make an animated film featuring Sea Monkeys! This definitely stirred up some fun childhood memories for me. When I was in grade school and reading comic books all the time, it seems like every issue would have a full-page advertisement for Sea Monkeys. They always pictured them as little trident-headed people, with a mom, dad and kids living their lives in their happy undersea kingdom (just like this picture - I can't believe how cheap they were then!). I knew that these characters weren't the real thing, but I was always enamored by them. One day I finally bought a little Sea Monkeys kit! It had a little container with magnifying glasses built into it, and several packets of powder. One packet was the eggs, one packet was something to make the water green and "good for Sea Monkeys", and the last packet was food. I can remember how cool it was to plop these things together and suddenly see things swimming around! When you think about it, powdered life is kind of miraculous! I used to love to feed them and play games using a pen-light (they were drawn to it and would swim to wherever I held it), and watching them grow was cool, too. Eventually, I ran out of food. Of course, you could get more by mail order, but I guess I was too lazy, and soon I had a container of Sea Cannibals. One day there was just one big (about half a centimeter long, I guess) Sea Monkey left! I wonder if the cartoon will feature a Sea Monkey famine? Just kidding! I'm definitely feeling nostalgic now - I think it would be fun to hatch some monkeys again.


Dream on Silly Dreamer : 3 of 5

Since I often read various animation websites, I knew about this movie way back when it was first being screened, and I wish I could have seen it then. I ordered it soon after it came out on DVD, since it's an important piece of Disney history, but then I kept forgetting to watch it (in spite of my pal Jerry's great review). Well, I finally took the time to take it in, and it was really fascinating. This is a short 40-minute documentary that gives a brief history of how Disney treated their animation talent - moving them out of Walt's animation campus into warehouses, then treating them like heroes (with giant bonuses) after the wild successes of Beauty and the Beast and the Lion King (during the Disney Renaissance), and then finally making the crazy decision to switch to only computer animation, and firing around 1,300 talented animation professionals world-wide! It really was just about the stupidest thing Disney could have done, since most box office failures were due to over-management - definitely not solely the fault of the creative staff. The documentary itself is well done with animated interstitials, but I think the DVD actually has too much bonus material - it seemed like twice the footage of the film itself. It's nice seeing this movie now that things have changed at Disney with John Lasseter (including new 2D animation), so I can only hope that the sad story of this film will be totally reversed!



はじめて にほん に りょこう した とき、ちさい じしん が あった。 あさ に はやい だった。 ぼく と ともだち は ふとん の なか に ねて いた。 ちょっと うごく かんじ は はじまった。 ぼく は おきた けど、ともだち は おきなかった。 すこし びょう だけ ので、ぼく に こわなかった。

Ten Cool Tunes 08.2006

Hello August! Here's my iMix for this month, and it's a little bizarre. Several songs are here just because I happened to think about them recently and made impulse buys from the iTunes Music Store, and others I just picked from among the "hits" in my library. I used to be a huge Queen fan, and I heard Don't Stop Me Now playing at A-Kon (of all places), which made want to buy it right away. I had to include the latest Morning Musume single out of loyalty, and just when you thought you could forget it forever, here comes Rock Me Amadeus. My tutor and pal Kazki just released his original EP on iTunes - it's a lot different from his current style, but Your Love is Strange is a cool track! Counting Blue Cars is kind of ancient, but I used to really like that song, and it marks the point where this mix mellows out. The Step Into Liquid soundtrack is simply amazing, and Windshield Wipers is a thoughtful, relaxing tune. After a brief trip to the 80s with Duran Duran, Daft Punk ends the mix with my favorite song of theirs. I'm not sure why Something About Us is so great - there's just something about it.

08.2006 iMix (Song / Album / Artist)
  • Don't Stop Me Now / Greatest Hits / Queen
  • Ambitious! Yashinteki de Iijan / CD Single / Morning Musume
  • Rock Me Amadeus / Falco 3 / Falco
  • Seether / American Thighs / Veruca Salt
  • Your Love is Strange / People in America / Kazki
  • Counting Blue Cars / Pet Your Friends / Dishwalla
  • Windshield Wipers / Step Into Liquid Soundtrack / Jackpot
  • Telescope Eyes / Laughing City / Eisley
  • Save a Prayer / Greatest / Duran Duran
  • Something About Us / Discovery / Daft Punk