Posts Tagged ‘Japan’

Media Update 5/5/2016

May 5, 2016


Battle Royale (Japan 2000)

I had heard about this franchise a long while ago. I knew that it was a novel first (published in 1999), then a manga series and I had first heard of a tabletop RPG game based on the franchise. I never read or played any of that but I was aware of the franchise and I was vaguely interested. The basic premise is that 42 Japanese school children (our Grade 7, I think) are hauled off to an uninhabited island. They are each given a weapon and told that all but one must die or all will die in three days. This is fully supported by the Japanese government. What ensues is a very gory and very dark story of children in combat against children. The movie mostly follows a student named Nanahara and his friend Noriko. However, it also shows the audience the fates and movements of the other students through short vignettes. The movie was violent but very exciting, chilling and moving. I have heard the comparisons with Hunger Games but not only did Battle Royale come first, it is way more compelling. That is not to say that Hunger Games is bad, it is just a statement about how good Battle Royale is. The child actors are perhaps some of the best I have ever seen especially considering some of them were not given much to go on. This movie really surprised me and I definitely recommend it.


Journey to the West (China 2011)

I previously mentioned how much I loved Kung Fu Hustle. That movie was a Stephen Chow creation and, despite spelling his first name wrong, he put together a masterpiece of a martial arts film. Journey to the West is another Stephen Chow movie and his take on a Chinese novel published back in the Ming Dynasty. The original book followed the adventures and trials of a Buddhist monk journeying to obtain sacred texts. The novel added folk tale elements to the monk’s true account. I love folk tales and mythology. The movie takes that framework and makes a story about a demon hunter who fights demons through peaceful, empathetic means. The movie follows this man’s literal journey into the west to reach enlightenment and to fully accept his non-violent path given to him by his mentor. On the way, he encounters three powerful demons including the legendary Monkey King (a key figure in Chinese folktales). The movie has Chow’s great mix of comedy, strangeness and touching drama along with amazing digital and practical effects. This one does not have as much fighting but there is plenty of action and adventure to keep you satisfied. There is a very smooth merging of Buddhist philosophy with the playful brutality of the folk tales. Like most films that are similar to this one (Kung Fu Hustle, City Under Siege are two examples) there are a lot of different genres represented. I don’t want to spoil anymore so I will just say that I strongly urge you to watch this movie.


Wing Chun (Hong Kong 1994)

This was an interesting find. The movie seems to be designed mostly be a vehicle for Michelle Yeoh who would later go on to great fame in the United States due to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and one of the worst Bond films. Yeoh is a great martial artist but the choreography looked a little sloppy here in places. The acting is all in hyper-melodramatic style which makes some sense considering the plot. The movie is both a martial arts film and a romantic comedy of sorts. It shares a lot of classic Shakespearean (and older) comedy tropes such as mistaken identity and the effect of gender roles on dating. The movie is very, very silly but not in the way a Stephen Chow movie is silly. It was more Jackie Chan silly as there was a lot of mugging along with the martial arts. While it was not really a bad movie, it was not really my cup of tea. Maybe it was the mood, I was in but the exaggerated acting and the way the characters shouted almost every line was a little unnerving. It also felt like the movie could have used better ADR work in places. If I am listening to the original language track (Chinese) then it should not sound badly dubbed. This is a rare movie I would say don’t bother with.

Links of the Week:
Beach Slang – Noisy Heaven
Heaven & Hell – Bible Black
Method Man – Even If
Hank Williams – Jambalaya (on the Bayou)
Puffy Amiyumi – K2G

Weekly Updates
– Lost Girl Season 5 is really good.
– Daredevil Season 2 is awesome
– Gonna go see Keanu and Captain America: Civil War
– Started watching Kimmy Schmidt season 2 and it is hilarious
– Free Comic Book Day is this Saturday. Support your brick and mortar shop!
– This week’s theme is “Asian Action”
– Did everyone enjoy the A to Z Challenge last month?

Felix Graham: Osaka Adventure 6

April 7, 2016

Felix Osaka

May and Makoto were on their fifth house by now and had moved pretty far down the street. This was good because it meant they were being pretty efficient. Unfortunately, it also meant that there was probably no success on find a lead yet. Felix did not know Makoto’s capabilities but her confidence and wisdom beyond her age bespoke of something Legendary. Besides, May and Ren not only vouched for her but also deferred to her even though she was half their age. That was impressive.

Even after their discussion, Jun was still tense and pensive as she stared out the window. Felix was relaxed. Back at Sub-Hopkins, he had found his best success when he was relaxed but ready to act. You had to take moments of calm and pleasure when they came. A crossword puzzle, a drink at the bar or just sitting in the back of a car on a warm, Osaka afternoon. If you dwelled on what was coming you would go insane.

Of course, moments of calm never last forever. As Felix looked over to check on May and Makoto, a bear of a man leaped from a tree branch above them. He swung a giant sword as he fell but his swing was opposed and blocked by May’s upward swing of her own sword. Even as the sound rang through the neighborhood, Makoto drove her staff into the man’s ribs. This is when that calm moment truly exploded into chaos.

Felix watched as Jun unlatched her door and then kicked it hard with both feet. The force swung the door out into the path of a man who had been running down the street with several other black-armored people. Jun slid out of the car and dropped the now-winded man with one punch. Felix could see that she had brass knuckles on each hand. She started to fight as best she could but there were a lot of tough-looking people surrounding her.

Of course, Makoto showed up pretty quickly to help even the odds. She swung her staff, punishing her targets with hard impacts. May was back where she had been, fighting the big guy and a few normal-sized thugs. Felix noticed that May had added a sheath to her sword which blunted her sword. He was kind of glad that this probably would not be a blood bath. These guys did not look like Legends even if they outnumbered Makoto’s little circle.

Felix watched as May swung her sword like a baseball bat as hard as she could. The sword slammed into three chests and three thugs went flying through a wooden fence. Makoto’s staff whirled around her and struck sensitive spots. Jun planted fists and feet into anyone within reach and ran to reach those who were not. Arrows whizzed from somewhere and pinned people down by their clothes. This made them easy pickings for the three fighting ladies.

In the end, the neighborhood was covered in still and hopefully unconscious bodies. As soon as the danger had passed, Felix immediately slipped out of the car and started to check vital signs. Ren came down from wherever he had secreted himself carrying his bow and everyone started to search the perimeter and watch everybody on the ground. All the men and women who had just attacked them were all armored in black, built like MMA fighters and there was some kind of logo on their armor. Nobody recognized it immediately.

“Well, Officer Jun, it looks like you will be useful after all,” Makoto said, nudging a woman with her foot.

“My father trained me well but thank you for the compliment,” Jun said. Her brass knuckles glowed for a moment and shrank to single rings on her ring fingers.

“Don’t be modest, Jun,” May said. “You really were amazing. Sentinel training must be hard but it sure is effective.” She slid her sword and sheath impossibly into a slot at her hip and it was just completely gone.

“Arigato, May-san. You and Ren are very skilled at fighting as well.” Jun answered.

“Eh. I mostly learned from anime and video games but thank you.” May said. Jun laughed with disbelief but Felix knew it was probably somewhat true. May grinned over at Felix as if she was telepathic and Felix laughed too. She then turned and hugged her husband briefly.

“Lion cub,” Makoto said abruptly although this time the nickname was a little more light-hearted. “Call in these hooligans to your father. We will be taking three of them with us.” There was no room for argument in her orders.

“Hai!” Jun said in agreement. “If we are taking prisoners, you will probably need these.” She tossed Makoto a bag of cable ties and then pulled out a walkie-talkie to contact her father’s office.

“Doctor Graham,” Makoto yelled,”How are the patients?”

“I’m impressed. Not a single one of them is deceased. There’s really nothing they can’t sleep off. I even healed the worst of it.” Felix said.

“May the universe save us from good samaritans,” Makoto said with a sardonic smirk.

Felix Graham: Osaka Adventure

July 29, 2015

Felix Osaka

When the plane touched down at the Osaka International Airport, I eagerly got off and headed through a terminal in a foreign land. I hate flying and the ogre in the seat next to me didn’t make the flight any easier. As soon as he realized I was Aware he talked my ear off about everything under the sun and somethings that weren’t. He was nice enough but I’m anxious enough during a flight. I didn’t need the additional stress.

After a quick trip to baggage claim, I stepped into the sun and got my first lungful of real Japanese air. It was not shockingly different from Baltimore but it was different from Sub Hopkins in all the best ways. I started to look around and I eventually laid eyes on Ren Akiyoshi which was not a good sign. I don’t have anything against Ren but I was expecting his wife and my cousin, May. Her absence meant something was happening because she had talked up and down about how excited she was that I was coming.

This was supposed to be a short vacation before I settled down to establish a practice in Columbia. I had found office space and Grace Testa had agreed to be my assistant. Even now she was setting up the office and getting everything in place for our grand opening. Ever since my Legendary epiphany in Sub Hopkins I was eager to get things started but May and her husband were legends too and wanted to see me. They had paid for the ticket so there was no way I could say no. Besides, I like visiting family.

“Greetings, Felix. How was your flight?” Ren asked, a sly little smile on his face. Ren was hard to read sometimes but May always said he was a good guy.

“It was a flight. It’s common knowledge I don’t like flying. Why do you always talk like that, Ren?” He had intentionally pushed a few buttons but I couldn’t help but smile.

“In an exagerrated manner? It amuses me. Shall we go to the car?”

“Good idea. So what’s going on? What’s the crisis?” I asked. To his credit, Ren didn’t break stride. He did wait until we had slipped into his car to respond.

“The Tengu have taken three people hostage. They also ignited a warehouse and injured a lot of people.”

“Wow. Where do we start?”

“We will meet up with May. She has arrived on the scene and is trying to communicate with the local Sentinel at the warehouse. Also, she was looking forward to seeing you.”

* * *

When we pulled up in front of the smoldering remains of the warehouse, May was standing on the hood of a car and staring off into the distance. Even when we were little, we always called her Wonder Woman. During family vacations, she was almost always the leader of the kids. There she was, looking like the cover of comic book with a four foot broad sword hanging on her back. She grinned and deactivated her armor as she jumped down and gave me a hug.

“Felix! You’re finally here! Ready to help us kick some ass?” She said with a smile.

“Well, it’s kind of my first time with field work but I go where I’m needed.”

She smiled a thousand watt smile. “I’m glad you were needed here.”

“So, is the sentinel going to let us see the crime scene?”

“Yes, actually, but Ren is already inside doing that.”

I looked around and truly Ren had disappeared. “It must be nice being a ninja.”

“I think you’ll find it’s even nicer having one on your team. Come on, let’s grab a cup of coffee and we’ll check out the victims, Doctor.”


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