Top 5 Nintendo Franchises that Skipped the Wii and Should Be on Wii U

With the advent of E3, I’d thought I’d make a list of five franchises that I want to see on the Wii U. I am only considering franchises that didn’t make it on the Wii. I am not counting remakes/reboots. Pikmin would make this list, but I am leaving it off because we already know that it’s coming to the Wii U in the form of Pikmin 3. However, we don’t know about these other franchises yet. Here’s hoping that Nintendo, or the respective third-party publishers, will take the plunge and release these franchises on the Wii U.

To make it clear, this list is talking about new games from these franchises. Some of the ones on this list may have had versions on the Wii that were remade using the Wii controls. Those games wouldn’t disqualify the franchise for my list. If we didn’t get a new game from that franchise, that is what I am referring to.

5. Pokemon Stadium

This is the only game on my list that also skipped the Gamecube (GCN) generation. We had Pokemon Colosseum, which was sort of Nintendo’s attempt to make a Pokemon console RPG. It was average at best. I doubt we will ever see something like Pokemon Stadium again on the consoles, but then again, why not? I liked the ability to have separate missions, like the Gym Leader Tower and such to use my Pokemon from the portable versions. I think players can use Pokemon XD for the Wii to battle on the Wii, but the Pokemon Stadium series seemed to do it best. Plus, I still consider the mini-games to be quite outstanding. Well, maybe not the first one as much as the second one. Actually, the system that they set up for Stadium 2 was quite nice. Anyways…it was fun.

4. Mario Golf

We know now about a 3DS version coming out later this year. It’s being made by Camelot, which makes me happy because I think they have been doing the series very well. What they did for the N64 was this-they made a console version which was like a Nintendo version of Hot Shots Golf. Then they made an RPG version (IGN gave it a perfect 10 when they reviewed it) for the Game Boy Color. That game was in some ways better than the console version, and either way was likely one of the best portable golf games at the time. You could connect these games with the Transfer Pak and use your created characters on the N64 version. I think you could even earn experience that transfers back to your portable version. How cool is that? They did the same thing again with the GCN and Game Boy Advance versions of Mario Golf. It was once again a match made in heaven, in my opinion.

The bottom line is that Mario Golf seemed to do it right. It is looking like the 3DS version will not be an RPG, but will be closer to the prior console versions. This makes me think we may not see it on the Wii U. But if they had the willpower, I think they could definitely make it for the Wii U. Camelot actually made a non-Mario golf game for the Wii called, We Love Golf! It was published by Capcom; perhaps Nintendo didn’t want to take a risk on another console Mario Golf? This theory is supported by the fact that while Mario Tennis (same developers) saw a remake on the Wii with new controls, Mario Golf did not. So we’ll see.

3. F-Zero

F-Zero GX was one of the hardest games for the GCN, and considered by many to be one of the most difficult games of all time. It’s also one of the most fun games that GCN had to offer. Complete with great music and graphics, this iteration of the F-Zero franchise truly took the next step in making the series more current. Sadly, F-Zero took a complete vacation during the Wii days. I think with a new controller, F-Zero could see new light on Nintendo’s new console. GX was developed in tandem with Sega, so I think Nintendo could do well to have them work on the series again.

2. Pilotwings

When I was writing this post, I knew there would be one franchise that I completely forgot about. This was the one. But it makes #2 on the list because it’s one that seems to be a potentially very capable franchise on the Wii U. Like my #1 on the list (which presumably you haven’t seen yet because you haven’t read ahead…), Pilotwings would do so well with the new controller. The new controller could display all the radar and relevant mission information so that it would be easier to focus on the main TV screen with what you are trying to accomplish. I never played the 3DS version, so I don’t know what they did with the second screen on that game. The second screen here could definitely be utilized well, and I think this would be a great game. It’s kind of amazing there wasn’t a Pilotwings game at the launch of the Wii U. So, get on it, Nintendo.

1. Star Fox

If none of the other four franchises make it on the Wii U, I hope that this one does. It’s been over 8 years since a Star Fox console game, and I think we deserve a new one. The new Wii U controller seems to be the perfect fit for a new game. We don’t know what Retro Studios is working on in Austin, TX. I hope that they are secretly working on a new iteration of this beloved franchise. We’ll likely know next week what Retro Studios is working on, and if it’s not this, what else could it be? Here’s hoping that Star Fox comes back, regardless of who is working on it.

I made this list kind of quickly. Are there any that I missed? Let me know.

Credit Cards in Japan

I could probably do a post about how Japan is in some ways not as technologically advanced as many people think. In some ways it is, but if the lack of credit card usage has to do with being technologically advanced or not, then Japan is lacking. If you’re coming to Japan as a tourist, there’s something you should know about credit card usage. While you can expect your hotel and probably your taxi to accept credit cards in Japan, don’t have high hopes for too many other places.

It seems that all is not lost, however. But before I say too much about the hopeful side, I should say that as of last year, only 12% of purchases in Japan are made with a credit card. That is actually a higher percentage than I thought. I have only once seen a non-foreigner use a credit card for payment-not that that should be a measurement to make a huge point, but it’s just my experience.

Now, try using a credit card in Japan. I haven’t tried recently, but even Japan’s largest clothes retailer, Uniqlo, would not take any credit card as payment a few years back. It seems surprising, but I can see a few reasons for this. If the company takes even a 3% hit from the sale because of credit card fees, that is something that Uniqlo, which generally has low prices, doesn’t want to have to deal with. It either involves taking that 3% every time 12/100 people use a credit card there or adjusting prices ever so slightly to accommodate those people. It’s interesting that practically every business does it in America, but when you think about it, it makes sense-if a business has gone for decades without accepting credit cards, to now accept it and take a 3, 5 or maybe 10% hit is something of a bad business proposition.

As is the nature with the Internet, credit cards tend to be accepted on most websites. However, consumers can also usually choose to pay at a convenience store. Japan is not a check-based society, either, so any transaction seems to be with money. I wouldn’t carry more than a hundred bucks with me in the US, but I’ll gladly carry several credit/debit cards with me. In Japan, it’s not unusual for me to have $300 or even $500 with me at one time. It’s not that I think I’ll spend that much in one day, but then again, it’s easy enough to spend $100 in one day in Japan, so you never know.

As someone who lives in Japan now, I never swipe credit cards. Actually, I have never used a credit card in Japan. In America, however, this is completely different. I cannot remember the last time I paid in cash for something in America. Every single purchase I make is with a credit card in the US. This is in large part to all of the points or rewards that I accumulate on nearly all of my cards.

But let’s be honest-if I couldn’t use my credit cards, I wouldn’t. That is perhaps the problem in Japan, as I have outlined before with Uniqlo not taking cards. It seems that acceptance is getting better, though. It is said that 95% of convenience stores in Japan accept credit cards now, in 2013. However, two years ago, it was hardly any convenience store that did. It seems amazing to me that at the beginning of my time of living permanently in Japan that I couldn’t have used a credit card at a convenience store for payment.

It should be said that Japan has some alternate methods of payment. For example, while many places do not take credit cards, they do take cell phone payments. My understanding is that they put money on the account that it is tied to, or the credit card company just puts that charge on their bill. Additionally, the electronic passes that can be used to pay for train fares can also be used at many convenience stores and some restaurants. This feature is less accepted in less urban areas, however.

It’s not all bad. If you’re a foreigner, nowadays, you can almost always count on an ATM at a convenience store. And these ATMs tend to accept credit or debit card transactions. I will say of one credit card that I see so rarely accepted in Japan, and that is Discover. You can expect to be able to use your Visa card at a number of places in Japan. American Express and Mastercard are accepted at some places. I would say good luck with Discover; though, they do say that if a store accepts JCB (Japan’s main credit card company) that Discover should work, too.

All in all, we’re seeing a brighter day for Japan and credit cards. Just know that using a credit card in Japan for everyday life is not the norm just yet.

2013 Oscar Bowling

You can see my list of Oscars predictions with some explanation/commentary on each choice here. Now it’s time to go Oscar bowling. I’ll post my score after the Oscars here (though you could do the math yourself, as well).

Don’t know what Oscar bowling is? What happens is that for each prediction I get correct, there is a certain amount of points assigned to each category. I am assigning the points myself. As the original blog states, this is a confidence list. You put the ones you are most confident about at the top of the list, as the number beside each choice corresponds to the amount of points I get. What a quick example? Say I only guessed Best Foreign Film and Best Picture correct. Since Foreign Film is at the top, with a 24 beside it, I get 24 points for that and then 4 more points for Best Picture. My total score would be 28. It’s not too difficult to get 200 points, but obviously it’s getting the last few or so that will be tricky. Any upset on Oscar night, like the ones at the top of my list will severely hurt my score.

Anyways, I think you get the idea. See the original blog here. Let’s get going:

24. Best Foreign Language Film: “Amour”
23. Best Original Song: ‘Skyfall’ from “Skyfall”
22. Best Visual Effects: “The Life of Pi”
21. Best Leading Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis, for “Lincoln”
20. Best Supporting Actress: Anne Hathaway, for “Les Miserables”
19. Best Cinematography: “The Life of Pi”
18. Best Short Animated Film: “Paperman”
17. Best Animated Film: “Wreck-It Ralph”
16. Best Costume Design: “Anna Karenina”
15. Best Director: Steven Speilberg, for “Lincoln”
14. Best Makeup and Hairstyling: “The Hobbit”
13. Best Production Direction: “Anna Karenina”
12. Best Adapted Screenplay: “Argo”
11. Best Original Screenplay: “Amour”
10. Best Original Score (Music): “The Life of Pi”
9. Best Sound Mixing: “Les Miserables”
8. Best Short (Live Action) Film: “Curfew”
7. Best Editing: “Zero Dark Thirty”
6. Best Leading Actress: Jennifer Lawrence, for “Silver Linings Playbook”
5. Best Documentary : “Searching for Sugar Man”
4. Best Picture: “Lincoln”
3. Best Supporting Actor: Tommy Lee Jones, for “Lincoln”
2. Best Sound Editing: “The Life of Pi”
1. Best Short Documentary: “Mondays at Rancine”

I liked doing this list.

2013 Oscars Predictions

It’s that time of the year again, where I reveal my predictions for the Oscars. Here’s hoping for another good year. I didn’t guess last year’s Best Picture correctly, so I hope to at least get that one this year. I think I missed about 5 or 6 last year, and I was happy to get all of the short films correct for once. I tend to guess 2 out of those 3 correct. Well, anyways, I’ll provide some commentary on individual categories below.

1. Best Picture: “Lincoln”
2. Best Leading Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis, for “Lincoln”
3. Best Leading Actress: Jennifer Lawrence, for “Silver Linings Playbook”
4. Best Supporting Actor: Tommy Lee Jones, for “Lincoln”
5. Best Supporting Actress: Anne Hathaway, for “Les Miserables”
6. Best Director: Steven Speilberg, for “Lincoln”
7. Best Original Screenplay: “Amour”
8. Best Adapted Screenplay: “Argo”
9. Best Cinematography: “The Life of Pi”
10. Best Editing: “Zero Dark Thirty”
11. Best Production Direction: “Anna Karenina”
12. Best Costume Design: “Anna Karenina”
13. Best Makeup and Hairstyling: “The Hobbit”
14. Best Original Score (Music): “The Life of Pi”
15. Best Original Song: ‘Skyfall’ from “Skyfall”
16. Best Sound Mixing: “Les Miserables”
17. Best Sound Editing: “The Life of Pi”
18. Best Visual Effects: “The Life of Pi”
19. Best Animated Film: “Wreck-It Ralph”
20. Best Foreign Language Film: “Amour”
21. Best Documentary : “Searching for Sugar Man”
22. Best Short Documentary: “Mondays at Rancine”
23. Best Short Animated Film: “Paperman”
24. Best Short (Live Action) Film: “Curfew”

1. Why not “Argo”? Because it wasn’t nominated for Directing, and to vote for it without that is a problem. Why not “Zero Dark Thirty”? This film is too similar to “The Hurt Locker” in its structure (not content, obviously). “The Hurt Locker” just won Best Picture recently, so that doesn’t help “Zero Dark Thirty”

In the end, I just can’t bring myself to vote for “Argo”, even though it might win. I just can’t see this film winning since I think the only other award it will win is Adapted Screenplay, which some say will go to “Lincoln” anyways. “Lincoln” just has more going for it and is a safer bet. Don’t be too surprised if we see an upset, such as “Silver Linings Playbook”.

2. It’s hard to forget Lewis’ performance in “There Will Be Blood”. His performance was basically that entire movie. I presume the same will go for his performance in “Lincoln”, though it certainly wasn’t just that carrying the entire movie.

3. It’s always one of these four categories that seems difficult to predict. I will rule out Wallis for being too young, though I don’t doubt that she had a good performance. Amour has a lot going for it in the fact that it was nominated for not only Best Foreign Film (which it will win) but also for Directing and even Best Picture. So I don’t doubt that this actress could win here. However, I don’t see her as being a safe choice. So I’ll go with Jennifer Lawrence.

4. Perhaps tougher to predict than Leading Actress is this category. Everyone my age likes Christoph Waltz, which is probably why he won’t win. He won kind of recently with another Tarantino movie, so that doesn’t help him.

Narrowing it down from there gets tougher. I feel like I know the other four actors rather well, and it will really depend on which one gave a nuanced enough performance in their respective roles. It doesn’t help that I haven’t seen any of these movies yet. Honestly, unless Arkin did something breakthrough in “Argo”, I don’t see him winning. Tommy Lee Jones seems as good as any, so I will go with him for now. Don’t be too surprised if Hoffman walks with this one, though.

5. She’s such a good actress that is liked by so many people. I would be surprised if she didn’t win.

8. I don’t think Argo will win Best Picture, mainly because it wasn’t nominated for Directing. But the screenplay should be enough to win it. With “Pi” getting so many of the other categories, I am hoping Academy voters will recognize “Argo” here if they feel that this film deserves even one win.

10. This feels like the film that will win it, based on the director’s tightly-packed film of yesteryear, “The Hurt Locker”

20. It should be very obvious why Amour wins here-it’s the only one of these choices nominated for Best Picture.

23. A lot of people saw “Paperman” on YouTube, thanks to Disney. It also helps that it was shown before “Wreck-It Ralph”. I am saying that a lot of people saw it, and that helps.

This might be the quickest year I have done. Perhaps this was one of the easier years. It’s still a toss-up for many of these categories. Look forward to a post that takes new twist on Oscar predicting very soon.

Top 5 Sakanaction Music Videos

One problem with making Top 5 lists is that you never know when another potential candidate will become available. I wanted to add a little note to the title of this, being “Pre-2013”. I could limit this list to only Sakanaction music videos that were released before 2013. For now, I will just keep the list as titled. When I feel that five videos released this year or later deserve to be on this list, I’ll just make a new list of only videos released in 2013 or later. Or, I can just make a new list that compares all of their works. I do want this list to be one that compares all videos released by Sakanaction at any time.

This preface may make sense when you read the list below and see what didn’t make the list. I can’t say this list was terribly difficult, but I definitely had to leave a few out. They are worth mentioning before I say the official top 5. Also, this is not necessarily my list of my favorite Sakanaction songs. This also means that songs that didn’t make this list are not songs that I necessarily dislike. I just wanted to make that distinction.

-“Bach no Senritsu wo Yoru ni Kiita Sei Desu”

It’s a little strange; that is to be sure. But it also doesn’t ruin the song for me, which is a big factor for a music video. If anything, it set an interesting tone for the song. Certainly, if you had heard this song in some other context and then saw this video, it may give you a different image for the song. As for me, I was enthralled by the way the video helps transition to different parts of the song. Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite enough to get this video on the list.

-“Night Fishing is Good”

The song is pretty good, and the music video has a section in it towards the end that is so interesting and clever, that it’s almost amazing that this video didn’t make the final list. I can’t find this video online, so maybe you can search. Maybe they really are trying to keep the video secret? It’s on their DVD “Sakanarchive”, so it’s worth checking out there.

5. “Boku to Hana”

As I said before, this list isn’t necessarily of my favorite Sakanaction songs. This song probably wouldn’t be in my Top 5 list of favorite Sakanaction songs, if I was ever to do one. However, the video itself is quite impressive. You feel as if you’re watch a 4-minute musical that is being set to this song. The idea is brilliant, and the execution is quite good, as well. You kind of feel sad for this flower that the protagonist was adoring for a time. This video really carries the song well and is certainly impressionable.

4. “Endless”

The video isn’t in black and white, but the setting and feel of the video is so perfect to this song that even if it was completely in black and white, it would be fine. It also does a wonderful job of setting certain images with the ever-evolving music. When color does appear, the timing feels just right with the pacing of the song. But to even talk about the use of color in this video would be ignoring the actual art that was put into this video. There’s so much imagery and none of it feels terribly weird or out of place. It works quite well.

3. “Native Dancer”

Not that any of the videos on this list are not impressionable, but the impression this video leaves you with is worth noting upfront. It doesn’t feel like a dance video, and yet it sort of turns out to be, when the spotlight is down at only the neon-eqsue shoes that the lead singer wears. The focus in this video is also what gets it so high up on this list. You really feel like the song progresses well towards the awesome chorus. It even finishes smoothly, just like the song. This is a great video for a great song.

2. “Yoru no Odoriko”

It helps that this song is so well done, but this video is just too darn good. Honestly, the last minute of the video alone almost makes this video this high on this list. The video does a technique of slowly fading in by actually not fading in. Every so often, and with the rhythm of the song, the video does a cut. With every cut, we are getting closer to the band, and the lead singer. There’s one point where we can’t even imagine getting closer to the lead singer, but we do. During the main chorus, the “zoom cuts” are quick, just like the tone that the song sets.

Speaking of tone, the setting itself is incredible. At the base of Mt. Fuji, we see all of the band members in traditional Japanese garb performing this song. The random Japanese dancers in kimonos don’t hurt either. This is a wonderful video for a wonderful Japanese song.

1. “Aruku Around”

There was pretty much no way this video wasn’t going to take first place in my book. There are plenty of people who like the video for “Bach”, but this video takes top spot for me. I almost don’t want to reveal the major ‘secret’ of the video, but all you have to do is watch to the end and perhaps a second time to see if you understand what has occurred at the end. You don’t feel too tricked, as the song is basically called “walking around” in English.

Besides the ending which warrants the video another watch immediately, much of the lyrics appear on the screen as the lead singer walks near and around them. The idea for this video seems quite clever, and of course the execution is spot-on. The handheld camera used for this video is surprisingly appropriate, even given the context of not knowing the ‘secret’ behind this video. There’s something all the more raw by the handheld camera and it doesn’t seem too off-putting. Simply put, this is Sakanaction’s best music video. Let’s hope they can aspire to having great music videos in the future, too.

Song of the Week for Jan. 20th, 2013

This week is easy because this song is being released in just a few days as a single:

“Music” by Sakanaction

Not exactly the most original title (the B-side to this single has a name that can be translated as “movie”…), but the song itself feels original enough. It reminds me a lot of “Endless”, which was not released as a single, but became popular largely due to its greatness, and a nice music video to boot. I wouldn’t be surprised to see that end up on this list someday.

For now, Sakanaction’s 8th single brings together what has always made Sakanaction great. Namely, this is a superb combination of verses leading to a great chorus. As they did with Yoru no Odoriko, there is a sort of double chorus going on. Basically, the last 90 seconds or so of this song is fantastic. It’s worth waiting over 3 and a half minutes.

Those first 3.5 minutes are hardly just waiting, though, as they help to build into the final chorus. This final chorus takes a little bit from the ‘teaser’ chorus and combines lots of singing noises without ever becoming too noisy (in both volume and possible convolution). Simply, this is another hit from Sakanaction.

It’s natural that I would like this single, but I have to admit I was a little worried after Boku to Hana. Boku to Hana is nowhere near a bad song, but is perhaps a bit of a departure from the band’s usual fare. But I’ll save that and other ideas for a grander Sakanaction post down the road. For now, please enjoy their new single. And if you live in Japan, you might want to consider buying it new-at 500 yen, this is a quite a bargain. 500 yen is the listing price for this single; I thought maybe it was a sale price when I pre-ordered it on Amazon. Sure enough, they are being bold and listing it for 500 yen. Should be interesting to see the sales figures later…

Top 5 Wong Fu Productions Videos

Wong Fu Productions reminds me of why I love and support independent short films. So, I’d like to appreciate them more by making a Top 5 list of which videos are the best among the seemingly hundred or so they have in their repertoire nowadays.

I went through some more Wong Fu videos today just to make sure of my choices. I haven’t seen every single video or series, but I hope that I have seen enough to make a fair list. Perhaps I knew from the beginning how this list would unfold. Still, it’s always fun to put these in order and give credit to where it is due. Which means I have one “jury prize” to give:

-HK: The One Days

I couldn’t pick one of these that would make the Top 5. “Two True” is good, as well as the newer “Lost to Luck”. I wanted to highlight my appreciation for these videos by at least mentioning them, even though they won’t make the final cut.

#5: “Forever Endless Valentine of my Winter Heart”

It’s hard not to watch this and laugh. It’s not just the humor that makes this video work so well, as there are countless other funny Wong Fu videos. It’s the video’s ability to capture in less than four minutes the essence of what Korean dramas tend to do. I’m no expert on Korean (or even Japanese) dramas, but I was studying Korean and into K-dramas at the time this video was released, which helped make a lasting impression. The video could have ended with the only line in English, being, “You guys have to calm down.” But it goes on to seal the deal at this #5 spot with the theme song for this (fake) drama. The title itself is hilarious in its own right. I am not sure what overcame them to make this video, but I am glad they did. And while all of the other videos on this list have some humor elements in them, I’m glad that I can have a video on this list that is purely comedy.

#4: “Strangers, again”

This movie is a reminder of why I fell in love with Wong Fu in the first place. They have a very interesting take on how Americans look at relationships. You sometimes want to yell at these characters to stop them from saying stupid stuff that breaks down their relationship. That is a big part of it. It shows how relationships can go down, and sometimes very quickly. The movie highlights the supposed stages of relationships, and while it runs over 15 minutes, it doesn’t feel too long. There’s not much I can say about this movie except that it is certainly worthy of this list.

#3: “Shell”

It’s hard to get dialogue to work 100% of the time. However, this movie does such a great job of developing a very specific conversation and visual arc that you’ll forgive a few moments of corny dialogue to savor what this movie ends up delivering. The movie only takes us away once from these main characters to show a dream sequence, of sorts, that truly is breathtaking. This movie is short but makes its point rather well.

#2: “Just a Nice Guy”

This was the first Wong Fu video that I saw. With the fantastic opening that sets the stage perfectly for the rest of the video, the once three-part video highlights the attributes that makes Wong Fu such a great group. They label this video as a drama on their website, instead of comedy. I’d probably agree that it’s more of a drama than a comedy, but it still had a good sense of humor and a certain charm to its characters. There’s the girl that the main character “really didn’t like” who ends up providing some helpful advice when the two aren’t going at each other. There’s the main character’s best friend who gives some advice that proves to be not so helpful. And then there is the girl that this movie is about. A lot of this movie is told in first-person, where we hear a lot from our main character’s own development. While it may borderline on wordy to some, it seemed to work well for this movie, and I was loving every minute of this movie. Some of the set-ups are obvious, but the payoff is so sweet that you will forget some of those and enjoy what is here.

#1: “At Musing’s End”

Now, in 2013, this video may actually seem old. Perhaps it is a lot of newer content that pushes back the supposed older content such as this video. This is perhaps the most restrained film from Wong Fu, as there isn’t as much dialogue as in most Wong Fu films. The dialogue that is present helps to whimsically move this piece along in a very deliberate manner. There is much symbolism in this movie, such as a coin that the main character twirls, to the camera that Adam carries constantly. There are also some spectacularly interesting scenes, such as the first meeting between the girl and Adam, which takes place inside of a train that we never see. In fact, we never see any part of their first encounter. It is hardly necessary. As the next scenes unfold, we learn more about the beginnings of their relationship.

It is quite interesting to have most of this story told from the perspective of this girl (Robin) who we also get to know throughout the movie about as much as Adam. While there is little dialogue, the movie does well with much visual storytelling. Robin throws what appears to be flower petals at Adam in what seems to be a simple case of Adam being late and making her a little frustrated. The helmet that she tries on for a moment has no specific reason behind it being in the film, but it gives the movie (and the scene) a genuine feel. Some later scenes in the film remind us that storytelling doesn’t mean showing the audience everything as it happens. The scene at what might be a hospital demonstrates this idea that we can just hear from what ‘happened’ in a simple conversation.

I could go on about how this movie does so many things right in terms of good filmmaking. You simply have to experience this movie. I haven’t even gotten to the ending, which makes you want to watch the whole movie again. This movie is almost too deep, and yet all of it is finished in 20 minutes. This movie is definitely worth a watch. I will leave one final note, which is that this movie is so visually and musically oriented, it’s hard to remember that it was only uploaded in 360p. It felt like an HD movie five years ago-it is a testament to how beautifully shot the movie was. Here’s hoping that they will re-release this video in HD or on Blu-Ray (or at least DVD…).

So Much To Say

This post really is about a topic about having too much to say. When I read the title of this post to myself, it sounds like the kind of beginning to a super long diary-like entry. This is not intended to be so; I should probably follow through with not making this post too padded, in any case.

I don’t see myself living in Japan for my entire life. About the only thing that could keep me here for such a length would be if I got married to a Japanese person here. I think one of the major reasons is because I have too much to say, and Japanese society/culture here doesn’t really give me a medium to say all of that.

Japanese language in its practical use has much ambiguity. One thing that is often ambiguous is who or what is being talked about in any given situation. I grew up learning a language that basically requires a subject in every sentence. Even though in command sentences such as “Run!” no subject is present, there are few other circumstances that we would leave out a subject in a sentence in English.

The ambiguity doesn’t end with subjectless sentences, but it is a big factor. There are many unspoken things in everyday life. I like the importance the Japanese place on properly greeting people. Heck, they even have a system of bowing that is expected to be followed. These are very good things to have. But this doesn’t eliminate underlying ideas that are unspoken. This can also be good-I might not want to know how much some of my colleagues hate me, for example. On the other hand, it is very common for Japanese people to complain about coworkers (to friends, perhaps) who “just don’t get it”, but I wonder how hard they are making a point to bring up the problem with the person about whom they are complaining.

To be sure, my lack of fluency in Japanese contributes to my frustration. I am looking for more outlets to speak. Those outlets could come by natural conversation, but I don’t see that happening in many circumstances. It seems especially true for the Japanese learner that you have to be very intentional to find yourself speaking naturally and with correct grammar. It takes a lot of practice, but I think it can be achieved. Now if only there was someone to talk to…

Song of the Week for Nov. 25th, 2012

Flyelaf released a new album. There will certainly be some more songs from that album on this list in the future. For now:

“Fire Fire” by Flyleaf

I really hate to say it, but Flyleaf’s newest album might be their worst album. Now that the bad stuff is out of the way, I would say if you are a fan of Flyleaf, this album is a must-buy. Though there aren’t any bad songs on this album (New Horizons), Fire Fire is one good reason to buy this album. It is an excellent opening song for the album.

Flyleaf to me was always more a lyrical band than a vocal band, though their vocals have always been top-notch. It was natural to think that Flyleaf could get worse after the switch of their lead singer. I have very high hopes for the band, especially after hearing their new singer sing Fire Fire live. You can hear the song for yourself below. Take a listen:

Top 5 Movies of Modern Japanese Cinema

I am probably doing this post because I am not happy with the current state of Japanese cinema. It’s not that there aren’t good films, but I think that it is plagued by its own set of problems including way overused cliches. I’ll have a different post on this coming soon.

For now, it’s worth noting what actually are good Japanese films that I have seen. I trust that there are many more, but here are the top 5 that I have seen. To make this Top 5 list clear, I am only counting live-action films. I’ll have another list for Ghibli films down the road. Before I get to the real Top 5, I have to award the movies that almost made it. There are several on here, but they all deserve mentioning in this world (as in the world of modern Japanese cinema) where there are so few great movies.

 

Nobody Knows

Whereas Tony Takitani was a bit short, this film is just a bit long. It is still a heartbreaking story that I’ve found a surprising number of people connect with. As for the actress who plays the mother, this is one of her best roles.

Welcome Back, Mr. McDonald

This movie has nothing to do with McDonald’s, but has everything to do with radio broadcasts. It was quite entertaining to see these cast of characters go at each other for the movie. I liked how the movie maintained itself even given the limited setting.

-Bright Future

Like many Japanese movies in modern cinema, there is a very independent feel to this one. Actually, I am pretty sure this was independent. The special effects for the only violent scene were kind of shoddy. It doesn’t stop this film from being relatively interesting. There are two main characters, who I think were childhood friends (like #4 on this list, it has been a while since I’ve seen this movie…sorry!) I really liked how it went in the mind of the sort of ‘evil’ character while following the other character’s journey. The first act is all character development as the last two acts tell the story of these characters after the major ‘violent’ incident. The directing is where this movie wins, as I wouldn’t expect too many people to be won over by the acting. Why is this movie on my list? Like many of the other movies, it’s not trying to be mainstream-it’s just trying to be a good movie.

And now here are my top 5 movies:

 

5. Tony Takitani

Based on a novel by Haruki Murakami, Tony Takitani does an excellent job of telling a unique, albeit short tale. The movie might end a tad too abruptly for my liking, but it does a very good job of telling a specific kind of story that I suspect Murakami is good at. The cinematography is quite unique, with several slow pans that weave together this cautionary tale.

4. All About Lily Chou-Chou

This movie is a tad lengthy, but does a relatively good job maintaining a main idea of how one celebrity connects people across the Internet. Well…that is what you think the movie is about. It turns out to be a very good movie about bullying. While the movie released unrated in the US, it would definitely have been rated R, and is not at all for kids (scenes of nudity and implied rape are in this movie). You have to wonder sometimes where the adults are when we see all of these bad things occur to these kids. Then again, that may be one of the main questions the movie asks of its audience-are parents and adults doing the best job they can to prevent these kinds of situations from happening? There are probably many other things to extrapolate from this film. It’s a tough one to watch at times, but is well-crafted enough to recommend.

3. Life Back Then

This movie has yet to be released in America, but stands as one of the best Japanese movies I have seen. It also has not been released with official English subtitles, so I would likely enjoy this movie even more with proper understanding of some of the characters’ lines. You can read my full review here. It’s a rather lengthy review; I’ll point out a few things about this movie briefly here. First, is the directing and writing. There is one scene where a class of high school boys are talking with each other in a teacherless classroom. As they converse with each other, they start waving their arms up and down. They are liking imitating a movie or another person’s past actions; it was something that was obviously impressionable enough for them to do it. This kind of behavior is very typical of boys this age. However, the point of sharing all of that was to say this-the fact that it was in the movie is quite a plus for the movie. When you think about it, the scene where it occurs could have been rather by-the-book and bland; these students didn’t need to be doing that. It would have been easy in the screenplay to write this scene-the boys are sitting in the classroom discussing something before the protagonist makes an appearance. But it’s when movies add nice touches like this that make it even better.

This is to say nothing on the movie’s commentary on bullying. While “Lily Chou-Chou” was more of a full-on anti-bullying movie, this movie using the bullying scenes to shape the main character and create some drama. But the tension that this movie has, especially surrounding one kid who was bullied, is very good. The movie perhaps loses some points for not being a bit more personal and emotional with the topic of bullying, but it’s certainly enough to start conversations. All in all, this is a wonderful drama-read my review for more about it.

2. Tokyo Sonata

Here’s another movie that I have reviewed. It is the best movie of modern Japanese cinema, and really helps define what it should be aiming for. Life Back Then is a good example of a more mainstream well-made Japanese movie. This movie feels more independent, but still does an excellent job of providing an engaging story ranging from topics such as joining the military to parenting to unemployment. The movie finds a near perfect way to end itself before falling into potential chaos while leaving us with quite a few things to remember. You’ll likely remember the movie as being music-related though the movie itself has very little music playing throughout the movie. The movie doesn’t try to move the audience through its scenes with sweeping dramatic music, but instead finds itself well in its simplicity. The movie features excellent writing and directing that carries the audience through without the necessity of the typical orchestral movements were so accustomed to hearing in cinema. And it still does well as a movie with music. You’ll see why when you see it; watching the trailer will give you a good glimpse into the movie, as well.

1. The Kirishima Thing

This movie sort of came out of nowhere and exploded onto this list. I had to edit this list to get this movie on here, and despite its newness, I do think it deserves to be on the top of this list. I’ve reviewed this movie as well, so there’s already a lot that I’ve said about this movie.

The bottom line is that there may never be another movie that will say as much as this movie has said about not only Japanese high school life but about the aspirations, goals and dreams of Japanese youth than this movie. A big focus of the movie is about seeing things from a different perspective. The last 10 seconds of the movie play out like a dream, as we see one of the main characters stare off into what is happening in front of his eyes. Dare I say that this scene is reminiscent of the ending of Fight Club, where all that the main characters can do is stare at what is unfolding in front of them.

This movie isn’t trying to be a big movie. In all that occurs in these high-schoolers’ lives, we are always enthralled by the perspective that we are presented. We are simply presented that perspective. We see that not every character grows tremendously. That is their fate because that is the consequence of their actions. And perhaps not every character has to grow. The grander scale tells us that this is the way it is-not everyone in life will grow. Perhaps if people continue in their current trajectories, they will not be able to grow. That may be the greatest real tragedy of the modern Japanese high-schooler.

This movie gives the feeling that there should be a way to change all of this. And that way may be presented in the last 8 minutes, however subtle it may be. Maybe people simply need a fresh perspective to change. That’s probably what one of our main characters realizes. As he puts things together, so do we. We know everything isn’t okay. There’s much more going on. And that is the way it is in life, as well. There may never be another Japanese movie that truly portrays people whilst telling a greater story that is beyond what any of these characters could imagine. Kirishima quit his school’s volleyball team. This movie needed nothing more than to show the aftermath of that decision. And it does that ever so brilliantly.