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Sunday, October 24, 2010

Hana Yori Dango (TV Dorama)

GENRE: Shoujo Dorama (Romance, Comedy)
Directed by: Yasuharu Ishii
Actors: Mao Inoue, Jun Matsumoto, Shun Oguri, Shota Matsuda, Tsuyoshi Abe
2005 Katsuaki Setoguchi, Tokyo Broadcasting System Product Description:
Makino Tsukushi is the only poor student at Eitoku Gakuen, the school of the ridiculously rich and privileged that is ruled by Flower 4 or F4, a group of four boys who come from extremely powerful families: Domyoji Tsukasa, the leader and heir of the Domyoji World Finance Group; Hanazawa Rui, the introverted son of a large company; Nishikado Sojiro, a player who is the heir of a tea ceremony school; and Mimasaka Akira, a madam killer with ties to the underground. If a student gets on the F4's bad side, he/she gets a red notice and is bullied and driven out of school. Makino hopes to pass her days quietly -- without drawing any attention to herself -- but one day, she stands up to Domyoji in defense of her friend. The next day, Makino gets the dreaded red notice. Even though she is harassed, Makino decides to keep going to school because she is a "tough weed". She declares war right back on the F4. Her resolve gets the attention of her crush Hanazawa Rui and oddly enough, rouses romantic feelings in her worst enemy, Domyoji Tsukasa.

Season 1: 9 Episodes
Season 2: 11 Episodes

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Ok, this is the very first Dorama review in this entire site. It took me years to decide. I actually didn't want to put anything that isn't animé-ish in here but I believe the Japanese anime fandom has already -- long long ago -- reached a point that it embraced everything Japanese. I first almost faltered with Gokusen. But I'm giving in because...who can resist Hana Yori Dango??

I have actually reviewed the Taiwanese version's soundtrack back in 2003, and I remember making a few comments regarding the actual series. Taiwan's Hana Yori Dango, by the way, is Meteor Garden. (I'm not quite sure if the Chinese did an on-yomi reading of the title and ended up with that weird Taiwanese name.) There are many differences between the Taiwanese and the Japanese dorama that struck me. The most noticeable is that, despite the better looking actors of Meteor Garden, Hanadan's F4 are actually more accomplished as thespians.

I have my favorites in both series, so I was already thinking that if I were to form the best F4, they would be: Matsujun (Hallo? Is there any other choice for Domyouji??), Vic Zhou (the first time I saw him, I knew he was Rui), Ken Chu (I'm biased, I have been crushing on this dude since forever), and Tsuyoshi Abe (best-looking Akira, hands-down). Mao Inoue as Tsukushi Makino was a good decision. She captures the essence of the manga character with such precision that it really awed me. (I thought Barbie Hsu was too pretty and delicate for the role.)

Casting is Hana Yori Dango's strongest point. Though I did not feel butterflies in my stomach the way I did with the anime and Meteor Garden -- which I'm attributing to my overexposure to the story -- I observed that the characters were so well-portrayed.

Another powerful element of Hanadan was its story-telling. I quickly noted the differences from the anime and Meteor Garden. Apparently, the writers chose to concentrate on unexplored aspects of the manga, which I had never finished. This was a good move since it kept Hanadan from becoming Domyouji-centered, the way Meteor Garden had been.

The Rui-Makino-Domyouji love triangle had been developed so well that I found myself just as confused as Makino. In the anime, I had rooted for Tsukasa Domyouji. In this dorama, I couldn't believe that I actually wanted Rui to have a fighting chance, even if the actor isn't as hot as Vic Zhou. Shun Oguri is really good at being Rui, which is saying a lot, considering my fondness for Matsujun, who plays Domyouji.

What I like best is how relationships were fleshed out, and people get to see what happens to the other members of F4. They actually have lives! They don't revolve around Domyouji and Makino the way Meteor Garden's F4 did. It's really a shame because cutie Ken Chu as Soujiro could have had juicier scenes.

People might also be happy to know that the second season is actually powerful. The intensity stemming from complex relationships remained consistent all throughout, unlike in Meteor Garden where all Makino did was cry to "All By Myself" in every episode. (That was annoying.)

Both soundtracks for Season 1 and 2 are gripping. Season 1's Planetarium by Ai Otsuka is so adorable that I feared it would be hard to match. Good thing they brought in Hikaru Utada for Season 2's Flavor of Life. You definitely cannot go wrong with Hikki singing in the background. Hehe.

Ok, I will be a girl here and rave about the women's clothes. Anyone who has been immersed in the anime would probably agree that its fashion was so so so so bad. It seemed to have caught the tail-end of the most horrible styling phase of the 90s.

So you can probably imagine how delighted I was when I saw Makino's numerous boots. Of course, it doesn't make sense that she'd have a lot of totemo kawaii footwear since she's supposed to be dirt poor. But allow me to suspend my disbelief and just bask in their glory.

I also love how the older women (they're ALL so darned gorgeous!) assemble their outfits. Very tasteful and classy but very far from matronly. It's been five years since this series aired yet the ensembles seem to have stood the test of time.

Individual Rating: Casting 9; Story 10; Characters 10; Sounds 10

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Thursday, October 7, 2010

Cosmania X

Super late post! This event took place at the SMX Convention Center last weekend, Oct 2-3, 2010. Cosmania X is a celebration of cosplaying's 10th year anniversary in the Philippines. Looks like a lot of people had fun. The place, gargantuan as it is, was packed! Anyway, I'll just let the photos do the talking.

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A short girl like me would have difficulty weaving my way through the crowd while taking photos.

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 The UP Anime Manga Ethusiasts booth

Fellow OBer, whom we haven't seen in a long while, MarkPoa.

 Geeks playing against each other.

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Found this Korean trinket and took it home.
It costs PhP300, approximately $6.8.

What's a cosplay convention without the outfits?

Or the wigs?

This is how big this convention center is.

I swear, cosplayers have built-in camera detection systems.

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prepayment penalty matrix How could this girl have known I was about to take their group photo??

 And this dude? How could he have seen me when I was waaaaay below his floor?
My camera isn't a dSLR so it's not big enough to warrant attention.
Plus, I was very far. This was on almost maximum zoom.
Sorry for the blurred shot. I was taken aback when he turned around and waved at the last minute.

Just a souvenir shot, announcing that I was here. =^.^=

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Tea Society of a Witch

Parental Guidance Recommended
Hirameki's age recommendation: 17 and above
2004 Hirameki International Group Inc.

Tea Society of a Witch Game
All other anime DVD games

Cover Description:
Long, long ago, there was a world in which mages and humans existed in harmony. Deep contrasts in their two cultures, however, caused differences that could not be overcome between the two races. The humans feared the great power of the mages, and hunted them, trying to erase their kind from the earth. God felt pity for their plight and created a world of magic for them, which they could go to in peaceful exile. In this way the mages faded from the Earth, and all contact between the two peoples ceased. Each continued on their own paths, the humans that of civilization, and mages that of magic.

A few hundred years have passed since that time, and the mages are hopeful that, once again, the two races can live in harmony together. In the hope of finding a way to bridge their differences, the mages send out their young acolytes for training in the world of the humans. If the younger generations of the two peoples can find a way of connecting, perhaps the acolytes could gain important knowledge that will enable the two groups to live together again. This year three young wizards will cross over into the world of humans... Two of them are elite, and one a total drop out. Can they reunite the two peoples?

Could've been a great anime. >>> by skysenshi
The cover description is not deceiving you. Tea Society of a Witch really has a wonderful story and interesting set of characters that have been developed quite well...except for maybe a character or two. Like many AnimePlay games, this one has loads of beautiful sceneries that support such an intriguing plot.

I have a little bit of a problem, though. See, this has been sitting on my pile for YEARS. I think age has to do with an audience's attention span because I keep getting distracted by other things whenever I try to finish this. I thank VLC media player for the ability to use 16x playback speed because I certainly utilized that till the very end. I could make do with the chipmunk voices just as long as my exposure to Tea Society is fast-paced.

I actually wish for an English version of this so I can do other things while listening. I remember having the same wish for other bishoujo games. This would have been better off as an anime, but I understand budget constraints when I see it. Still illustrators are cheaper than hiring a bunch of key animators and in-betweeners. So if that's the case, this should have been published in print.

Seriously. People like me prefer either highly interactive digital games or paperback novels (even ones without illustrations or photos). With books, one can lie down and read while never wasting a dime on electricity. Tea Society of a Witch comes with a lovely art book -- complete with character descriptions and sketches -- so I can see more possibilities for it if it were a graphic novel instead.

There's one other thing that bothers me. Apparently, this has a version that's more adult-oriented. I already noticed the rather ecchi scenarios, which I find disturbing because of how the characters look like. The art style makes me feel better about my thunder thighs since everyone here has a small body and thighs that are twice the body's size. The entire game is in SD (super deformed) mode. Because some scenes tend to be provocative, I began to wonder if there are eccentric people out there who actually find SD characters sexy.

Player Status:
Difficulty: Easy
Completion Time: Approximately 1 hour
Highest Level Achieved: N/A
Ratings: Gameplay 5; Battle N.A.; Story 9; Visuals 9; Characters 9; Sounds 9; Replay Value 3

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Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time

GENRE: Adventure, Romance, Drama
Parental Guidance Recommended
2006 Yasutaka Tsutsui (author), Mamoru Hosoda (director), Satoko Okudera (screenplay), Kiyoshi Yoshida (scoring), Madhouse Studios, Fuji TV, Kadokawa Shoten

Girl Who Leapt Thru Time DVDs
Girl Who Leapt Thru Time Books
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All Other Related Items

Amazon.Com Description:
Something strange has happened to Makoto Konno. Time has suddenly stopped and moved her backwards. With her newly discovered ability to literally leap backwards in time Makoto finds that tests become a piece of cake, embarrassing situations are corrected and she can have her favorite food anytime she wants. Unfortunately her carefree time traveling has adverse effects on the people she cares for. With every successful leap Makoto somehow alters the fate of those around her. This was not supposed to happen and as she races back in time to fix everything, she notices that her abilities are not limitless but with every successful jump she is one step closer to discovering the most wonderful secret in her young adult life.

Time travel stories are tricky. >>> by skysenshi
For a high school thing, the pacing is really slow. I wonder if this would appeal to our information desensitized teenagers who are so used to getting everything instantly.

As the story progresses, Makoto's life gets interesting. Although I don't really want to be in her shoes. It's hella confusing, not to mention, she always ends up getting physically hurt since she just pops in the middle of things. It later becomes evident, however, how an impulsive teenage girl can abuse the ability to leap through time. There are a lot of situations to undo. But you cannot actually have a reset button without repercussions, neh?

I like the way the mystery unravels near the end of the anime despite my problems with plot holes. Like many time travel stories, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time opens so many paradoxes that plot holes can hardly be avoided. I appreciate the storytelling though. Despite having only three pivotal characters, these three are very effective in delivering highly inspiring scenarios. Furthermore, it weaves a good moral lesson without getting preachy.

I wish someone from my circle of friends had watched this. I so want to discuss the paradoxes herein. Truly, this is an interesting piece for long conversations.

Individual Rating: Art/Animation 9; Story 8; Characters 9; Sounds 9

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Sunday, August 22, 2010

Metro Comic Convention 2010

This popular arts convention used to be known as Manila Comic Con. This year, they brought in the Filipino comic artists that previously worked for Marvel and the veteran komikeros.

The Metro Comic Con also celebrates DC's 75th anniversary. Other features included Magnavision's character design contest, a cosplay competition and many other treats for attendees.

My COMM311 class (for my PhD studies) attended this event because we wanted to study the communication environment of cosplayers. Since this isn't centered on Japanese animation and games alone (many of the seminar topics are centered on Marvel, DC and Filipino komikeros), I wrote about this event at Visit the blog entry for more photos and the rest of our Metro Comic Con experience.

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