Wednesday, December 07, 2016

The Last Guardian review

Once upon a time, this dude named Ueda Fumito made this not famous PS2 game called Ico, a puzzle game about a boy rescuing a girl and it is one of the greatest games ever. I replayed two years ago and it still stood the test of time. He followed it up with another critically acclaimed game, Shadow of the Colossus. Unfortunately, Shadow of the Colossus was marred with a camera that caused me a lot headaches and I could not finish it.

The Last Guardian was announced at the beginning of PS3's lifespan 7 years ago and finally the Japanese version was released yesterday and I managed to complete it in one day.

The Last Guardian otherwise known as 'The Man eating giant eagle Toriko' in Japan is a game about a boy and his oversized dog eagle thing. You control the boy and have no control over Trico. All you can do is point, yell, stamp your feet, praise Trico but Trico has a mind of his own.

Sometimes Trico is so damn smart and will point you to obvious clues and sometimes he won't jump towards the hole in the wall you are pointing at no matter how many times you gesticulate. Trying to get Trico to do things can be maddening but it is part of the magic of feeling like you are adventuring with a real animal.

And real magic happens when the boy or try work to save each other. The bond that these two characters form is just so real and you'll laugh and cheer and maybe shed a tear when these two characters risk their lives for each other. After having my life saved by Trico plenty of times, I could not get angry at him for not listening to my commands and running to the otherside to wade in some water.

Now, there are two negatives. First is the camera. Luckily its bad like Shadow of the Colossus's snapback camera with a mind of its own but I do appreciate how hard it is to have a camera system work for two characters, one of which is huge and plenty of small spaces. Its not gamebreaking but it can get irritating.

The second is frame rate. There are some scenes where the frame rate dips below 20, especially outdoors. I don't know why they couldn't get it optimised but I blame Trico's beautiful feathers. Many times I found myself just watching Trico doing whatever because he's just a magnificent creature.

Other than that, The Last Guardian is basically Ico 2 with a big pet. No one makes big budget games like this anymore. I hope The Last Guardian will sell a bazillion units so Ueda Fumito can create more works of art.

I preordered the Australian special edition which cames with the statue (yes I double dipped so I could play the game one day early) and the game comes out tomorrow so I will update this post with pictures of it tomorrow.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

After the Storm / Umi Yori mo, mada Fukaku

I actually got a ticket to go watch it at the Melbourne International Film Festival but couldn't go cause I had a horrible cough so I'm happy After the Storm is finally out on the internet. Anyone who has seen a Koreeda knows what to expect; an intimate family story where the pacing is slow and nothing really happens and there is a lot of reading between the lines.

Abe Hiroshi is a divorced dad who once won a prize for his novel but is now working at a detective agency doing research for his next novel and doing dodgy things. He is a gambling addict who is constantly borrowing money from family and colleagues is behind in his child support payments to his wife played by Maki Yoko. Abe spends his weekends spying on his ex wife and son and is concerned that she is seeing another man.

After Like Father Like Son and Our Little Sister which had a lot more story and pacing compared to your usual Koreeda fare, After the Storm is a slow look at Abe's character and his relationships with his family.

To be honest, After the Storm has not as engrossing as Still Walking and I really do get in my head what he is going for; its about this divorced family coming to terms with their situation and exploring the father and son theme up but I'm not feeling it in my heart. Meh and only for the Koreeda diehards.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Kiseki no Hito theme song Hone by Ging Nang Boyz

Speaking of Kiseki no Hito, I just realised the theme song, Hone (Bones) is available on the net for download! Just google for 銀杏BOYZ骨mp3 and its the first link!! Too bad the song is not available on DAM or Joysound. :( That was a fun show to watch.

Mamagoto Episode 1-4

What is it with NHK and foster parent doramas. First we had the charming Kiseki no Hito, about a useless guy who falls in love with Aso Kumiko and her deaf and dumb daughter and now we have Mamagoto with Ando Sakura as a Sunaku worker who finds meaning in life when Usuda Asami abandons her son with Ando Sakura.

What's next? A jdorama about an ex-yakuza who runs into the daughter of his childhood friend and he must protect her from the bad people? One can hope.

Mamagoto is a big deal not just because its got Ando Sakura who is one of Japan's best actresses along with Matsushima Hikari but because the director is Nakata Hideo, director of Ringu and Dark Water.

Visually so far, Mamagoto has not been special. Its got a raw sort of quality to the visuals but nothing impressive but you can tell it doesn't have the budget.

I like that the kid is not your usual trying to be cute and actually acting like an adult kid. However, there is something about the kid's acting that bugs me. I'm no expert about 5 year old kids but sometimes his acting seems very fake. Ando Sakura is good as the demon old lady with a sad past whose heart gets melted by the kid.   

So far its been feel good fun but not as impressive as the talent would suggest. Watchable so far but don't expect greatness. The first two episodes have been subbed. Watchable.

Monday, November 28, 2016

IQ246 Eps 1-3

IQ246 feels like a more modern version of Furuhata Ninzaburo but does that necessarily mean its better? Oda Yuji who spends a lot of time tanning is this eccentric aristocrat Homonji Sharaku who is so freaking smart he is spends his time telling everyone about how bored he is.

Homonji has a army of supporting characters:

1) Kung fu butler Kensei
2) Yet another actress who is too young to play a police officer in Tsuchiya Tao doing the Imaizumi role.
3) A pair of police detectives who don't do any investigating including one the irritating one who says random English words all the time,
4) Aristocratic sister
5) Nakatani Miki as the criminally underutilised coroner who is smitten with Homonji's IQ.

Nothing wrong with a huge supporting cast except they all get a lot of screen time and IQ246 feels very crowded to the point that the mystery feels like an afterthought.

Oh yes, the mysteries. Like Furuhata Ninzaburo, we get to see how the crimes are committed and its about how Homonji solves the case. The list of high profile guest stars is certainly impressive and I'm tempted to watch episode 4 for Kuninaka Ryoko but the first three episodes seem to be about the mystery serving the various supporting characters rather than the other way around and it made for a tiring viewing.

I just realised that ersby has already completed the subbing of Furuhata Ninzabura season 3 and I shall be watching that instead of IQ246. Meh.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Mano Erina 2017 Calender

Its time for the annual Hamsapsukebe tradition of another Mano Erina calender!

Mano-chan during her baby fat days but they should have blown up the bottom left picture since the other two are not worth looking at.

I like the colour composition for this one except the bottom left picture is boring.

The lighting just looks very fake compared with the background.

Mano-chan at the height of her kawaii powers. OMFG, so cute. More kawaii than Michishige Sayumi!

Not so cute with short hair. In the picture on the bottom right, she looks like this retired JAV actress called Arimoto Sayo.

The bottom right picture is a leftover picture from an old calendar. I guess all the pictures are leftovers.


Waking up with Mano-chan theme.

Ugh, anorexic Mano. I don't get turned on by skin and bones.

Not too bad except for the anorexia.

From her new photobook coming out next month which I will not get.

Pretty much a fail calender filled with many unwanted leftovers. Do not get. Her calenders have historically been good (and I used to buy heaps of calenders) but this is so disappointing.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

9 reasons to watch Unmei ni, Nita Koi

I haven't enjoyed a Kitagawa Eriko dorama since One Million Stars. For those who don't know, she's the writer responsible for many of the shows during the so called golden era of jdoramas such as Long Vacation and Beautiful Life. Then she did crap like Tatta Hitotsu no Koi and the overrated Orange Days I thought she was a one trick pony.

Recently she did Tsuki ni Inoru Pierrot which I liked and we have Unmei ni Nita Koi, which is definitely one of her best works in terms of writing. I can now say, Kitagawa Eriko is not a one trick pony and she can do good shit when not burderned with idorus and talentos.

Unimei ni, Nita Koi starts off like your typical middle age woman wish fulfillment dorama, especially the first episode and gets more interesting in the second episode when Kasumi starts to talk about her past. There are so many things I like about Unmei ni , Nita Koi that its easier to do it in point form so I present to you 10 reasons you should watch it:

1) It is very pretty.

NHK and WOWOW shows usually look prettier than the rest but Unmei ni, Nita Koi also uses some nice camera movements cause most of the time, jdoramas are limited to static shots. There's a scene where the main guy, Yuri is walking out the door. The camera follows him and he says something at the doorway and then it moves back to the main girl, Kasumi's face to show her reaction.

There's also a scene when Kasumi is running up some stairs and the camera tracks her movement from outside to building up to up the stairs from a side viewpoint. Its small things like this where the director is more about shooting talking heads that I appreciate.

2) Kasumi is not a woe is me heroine and doesn't feel like your typical generic character for women to project themselves onto. 

This ties into point 3 which is:

3) Yamaguchi Sakura's Maho is a great villain.

Firstly its because she's not a 'how can you know what I feel?' villain. Secondly its that her hate towards Kasumi feels like a commentary on so many woe is me heroines of this genre and Kasumi gives her a great answer.

I just enjoy watching Yamaguchi Sakura chewing the scenary.

4) The humour is very effective.

There's not a lot of humour but when its there is funny including some puns. I thought the stalker girl subplot would be annoying but it was a good comedy respite from the serious story.

5) Ohgo Suzuka as Riri.

6) You can see the twists coming a mile away but what makes them work is that the reasons are interesting.

7) Dialogue does not feel cliched.

This is hard to explain but one of my most hated phrases is 'to face yourself or the problem'. (Jibun wo mukiau) Its been used in way too many things and there are plenty of cliched phrases when that just get used all the time. Those Dr Phil moments when a character somehow has to spell out the obvious thing.

There are quite a few Dr Phil moments when I think to myself, 'I've never heard it delivered that way before' or that it felt like the character talking. There are so many lines that I liked like the one above about artists and bosoms. :)

8) 8 episodes means that the pacing is perfect. 

None of that 10-12 episode trendy dorama format. 

9) Acting is good.

There is scene from the above screencap when Yamaguchi Sakura realises something and her face goes from sneering smile to horror.

While Unmei ni, Nita Koi does everything right, I just can't give it a must watch because the chemistry just isn't at that level. I am not saying there is none but it just needed a bit more magic in the casting.

I enjoyed the hell out of Unmei ni, Nita Koi and watched the 8 episode in one shot. Unmei ni , nita Koi is almost a must watch and its rare to find such a well done older woman romance jdorama.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Cold Case : Shinjitsu no Tobira Eps 3+4

I liked episode 3 but the pacing was just a tad too fast with so many revelations. An extra 5 to 10 minutes would have have helped settled things down and perhaps a bit more world building with Amagasaki which I wanted to see more of. Amagasaki sounds like an interesting blue collar town.

That said, the English music selection is just wrong. I love Bon Jovi's Always but it did not fit the ending of the episode. I know they are playing hit music from the year that the crimes were committed but at least choose a Japanese song.

Episode 4 is the first episode of the series that I liked. Luckily Kawaguchi Kyougo's Sakura become the important song of the episode and not some English song. Fukuda Mayuko even in a bit part is a good thing. :)

The star of the episode is Santamaria Yusuke who played a great foil for our heroes. Someone needs to reedit the episodes and replace the ending English songs with Japanese ones. I vote that Always be swapped with Mr Children's Tomorrow Never Knows or Spitz's Robinson.

Cold Case is still finding its feet for me. I'll watch until the end but it seems doing a direct adaptation might not be such a good idea.