u nick's blog

6:57 PM on 08.02.2010

Geek Worlds Collide: Drama + Blu!

I dont usually mention 'hauls' here, but this one is a first, and I'm excited, so I'm posting.

Ok, technically a movie, and not a drama drama. But a movie based off a drama, so it counts!

Nodame Cantabile: The Final Score - Part 1, imported from Taiwan. One of the growing number of Asian releases that are including English subtitles these days. I went looking for something else (Goemon), and found this. I was so excited to see it up there, I immediately confirmed the English subtitles, and put in my order right away. Thanks YesAsia!

Off to watch!   read

9:51 AM on 12.07.2009

My Favorite Tsudere: Itsukushima Takako

Now, I'm not 100% comfortable calling Takako here my favorite, per se, but she was one of the first to introduce me to my love for all things Tsundere. She showed me it was ok to love the Tsundere.

Spoiler warning, I suppose.

But most importantly, she showed me that the Tsundere can win. 'Win' in the sense that she 'won' the harem. Disregarding the Tsundere main characters, (such as Taiga or Shana), in most harem anime, the Tsundere is usually relegated to a side role. Always there as an option, but never a valid contender.

In Love Hina, for example. Fancy and wonderment aside, you pretty much know from the very first episode that Keitaro will end up with Naru. Motoko is there, and cute and adorable in her own Tsundere way, but in the overall picture you know deep down that there is really no chance of Keitaro and Motoko ending up together. And this is the same for, I'd say 90% of the harem anime out there. Not that it's a bad thing, it's about the journey. Along the path to fated love, we build a story around the destined two. And those stories create the world these characters live in. And the Tsundere's are usually a part of that world.

So when a harem anime decides to do something different, it plucks at my heartstrings. And Otoboku did a fine job of it. For the uninitiated, Otoboku (Otome wa Boku ni Koishiteru) follows the story of a boy who needs to crossdress and enroll at an all-girls school at the request of his grandfather's will. Plenty of the regular harem types are introduced, and the show starts seemingly generic and normal. No clues right away that the Tsundere would come out on top. Heck, I think Takako wasn't even introduced until the final minutes of the first episode, or if I'm remembering right, might not have even shown up until the second episode. Introducing a main character in the 2nd episode? Unheard of!

Early in the story, the character that one would expect to be the 'winner' by harem standards is pretty much revealed to not be the 'endgame' winner. So one's harem-studied mind drifted to two conclusions: One, they would somehow turn this around by the end, or two, they'd go the 'childhood friend' route, which seemed plausible at the end. But throughout the mid course of the show, it didn't seem to be pulling in any specific direction. A short (I believe 13 episodes?) story, I assumed maybe it was going to be a longer (24 episodes?) show. But suddenly, out of nowhere, they started to lean to the Tsundere.

Frightened and confused I was... Is this happening? Do you think they would... No, it's not possible... or is it? And then it happened. It was sweet, and more importantly, it fit with the story and felt more natural than I thought it would.

So here's to Takako, who gave me a new outlook on the Tsundere world. Quickly becoming one of my favorite character types, and no looking back. I'm here to stay!


9:10 PM on 10.11.2009

Bakemonogatari: On my list

It's easy to make a list of favorite shows. Whether you enjoy every single moment of it, or you enjoy most of it so much you can ignore the mediocre. Or maybe just 'as a whole' you decide this is something you like/love.

What's hard is finding a favorite episode. Just one episode of one show, that hits you so hard you consider it one of your favorite things ever. It not only eclipses all the other episode of that show, but rather it eclipses all other episodes of the genre/media you are watching. You don't even have to count the show itself among you favorites. But this episode will stand out among the hundreds (thousands) we've seen.

A couple years ago, I started my list with the 2-parter towards the end of Samurai Champloo. I don't even remember the details, because I haven't seen it in a while. When the Blu-ray comes out this December, it will be the very first thing I watch once I have the discs in hand. But what I do remember is that it told me a story that I didn't think anime could tell. And it blew me away.

And if I think hard, I think I'd want to add to this list an episode towards the beginning of Kare Kano. In the middle of class, one character simply reaches out to hold the hand of another. It was the culmination of an intense setup that was building the story of the anime at the top of the list of my favorite shows ever. It's the episode/scene that makes me think "This is why I watch anime."

And so today, I am ecstatic to add a 3rd episode to this list.

Bakemonogatari episode 12

Each episode of this show had me guessing. Never knowing what to expect. And it always played out wonderfully. The 'end' started out like another of these episodes. Beautiful all the way through. One would instinctively think it will be just another episode, but before I even noticed, it was slowly and gracefully building into something even more beautiful. Sound, visuals, and heart. It had it all. I don't even want to bother describing the story. I'm just going to let it sit on my brain, and I'll fall asleep to it tonight.

But the best part? The thing that's making me even more excited? The fact that this is apparently not the last episode. 15 were (are being made), the final three to be released (I believe) direct to video. This 'final' episode felt like an amazing finale. It was a perfect 'ending'. But I couldn't be happier that they are delivering even more. I won't expect it to top this episode, but if they can deliver anything even close to what Iu got to watch tonight, I'll be an incredibly happy fan.   read

9:29 AM on 09.21.2009

J-Drama: I'm in!

And I blame YOU, Japanator!

A couple weeks ago, I dipped my toes into the world of J-Drama. The Show was Nodame Cantabile, a show which many of you know. What got me to watch was simply the associated anime and manga. I'm a big fan of both, and lucky enough to find a link to the entire series one day, making it easily downloadable. It sat on my hard drive for about a week, and once I started watching, I was hooked. By the end I was in love with the entire cast.

But I didn't consider myself a fan of the J-Drama... Although I was definitely intrigued...

So poking around on Japanator, both recommendations and comments, I was directed towards DramaCrazy. The site seemed simple enough to browse through, so I bookmarked it. Planned to 'check it out sometime.'

That 'sometime' came Saturday night. Again on recommendation of you guys, I went with Mei-Chan No Shitsuji. I sat down telling myself I'd watch one episode, then either do something else, or head to bed. I ended up watching the first FIVE episodes. I was immediately hooked. The next morning, I watched the final 5 episodes. And I needed more...

But before I go into what I started watching next, I'll tackle Mei-Chan. One of my primary thoughts on anime in general is that sometimes the best shows have the most silly 'sounding' titles. When you try to explain them at their most basic to people not 'in the hobby', they'd come off sounding weird. When I got in, and I wanted to tell my parents about these amazing stories, I thought "bounty hunters in space set to jazz and blues music..." or "kids with psychological problems piloting giant robots fighting big monsters called 'angels...'"... I couldn't actually tell them these short plot descriptions... they sound too wacky. They wouldn't 'get it'.

So I wasn't shocked when these same strange story ideas were also apparent in j-drama. They just seemed a little jarring at first, because they were 'live'. When you watch a cartoon, a certain 'suspension of disbelief' takes control and you accept things easier. But when I actually see an all girls school where each girl has a personal butler... When I see it 'live'; in my world, it hits a spot most media doesn't hit.

But it doesn't stop you from watching. You go with it, and you want to see where it takes you. And where it took me was to an interesting place.

Everything I know about TV production, acting, editing, etc., all screamed out 'bad' and 'wrong'. Nothing seemed as it should. I didn't want to outright call it 'bad'. I assumed it was just a product of the environment. "This is how they do things over there" I thought. Maybe it was just a different way of doing things. Scenes would end and cut away to others when I least expected. In the midst of good acting, i found lines to be laughable. Moments of tension and drama I actually laughed out loud in a few spots. I felt bad, but I was just unfamiliar. And in other media I can put up with a lot of so called 'bad', as long as other elements are good. So it was no different here. I kept watching, and was immediately hooked.

I can't explain what exactly I loved about the show. All the little details broken down, some fun, some bad, so good, some decent, some awkward... But as a whole is where it shines. When it all comes together, the resulting package touches a warm, fun place in your heart. It's not in the details, but rather the experience.

At least those were my first thoughts. And then last night, I started my next show: Hana Kimi. There was so much that was similar, and at the same time, different. The 'silly' plot line. The girl (who is obviously a girl) dressing up as a boy to enter an all boys school. The acting which felt strange to me. Not as awkward as Mei-chan, but still something off. The sets seemed more 'real', and while I realize this could simply be something like production budget, it was different enough to be noticed, but at the same time not different enough to take it out of the 'category' Mei-chan fell into.

Now none of this is even making sense in my head, but my point is this: overall, something seemed off about these shows, and I couldn't figure out what. I couldn't call them 'bad', simply because I loved them so much. And then I got confirmation of my theory. One of the guy's from Hana Kimi looked familiar. "But I've only watched one of these shows; I can't recognize someone. And I've only just watched the one show, so who could it be?"

And then I caught the 'dorm-head's face from a different angle. It looked JUST like the main character from Mei-chan. But then the angle changed again, and I was sure it wasn't him. Afterall, what I saw earlier as awkward and 'bad' acting would be negated. A calm, serious butler with a soothing voice, was completely different from this loud, wacky, womanizer only looking for fun at school. But the resemblance was uncanny.

And that's when it hit me. My theory on their acting style just being different, was true. These people are good at what they do, and this guy was a good one. To transition between two completely different personalities like that, to the point where I found him near-unrecognizable, is no easy task.

So my level of appreciation on these shows was kicked up a notch. Even as i watched through the 3rd or 4th episode, I still wasn't entirely convinced it was the same guy. But later last night, I did some Google searching and confirmed my suspicions. And this made me incredibly happy.

And with that, I have a new hobby. I need to watch more of these shows. NEED. And I have Japanator to thank for it. :D   read

2:02 PM on 09.09.2009

My First Time: Anime (Love Hina)

Over the years I heard the name 'anime' but never thought much of it. Back in the days of VHS where it wasn't really prominent on store shelves, I really didn't have access. What did they show on TV? Sailor Moon, which was in my head as a 'girls show', much like She-ra or Strawberry Shortcake. Didnt give it a second thought. In high school there was DBZ on Cartoon Network. I'd watch bits and pieces, even full episodes every now and then. But was never 'hooked'. Little did I know, the 'dub hater' in me was keeping me from years of addiction.

So what finally changed? I needed to grow up. But even more so, a lousy job market!

During the summer after college graduation, days spent filling out job applications and interviewing, I took a much needed break. One night before bed, i thought 'Hey, maybe I should check out this 'anime' thing. I don't even know what prompted the thought. (late night Toonami perhaps?) In any case, I hoped on to DC++, or Kazaa, or whatever was the popular sharing tool at the time, and simply typed in 'anime full episode'.

Of course, a ton of results came back. But one caught my eye: Love Hina. I've always been a sucker for a chick-flick and/or a love story. So just the word in the title alone was enough to catch my eye. But it wasn't just the title, but also the fact that this link was for the full '26' episodes. My first thought was 'Hey, I can check out one of these things all at once.' I didn't look up any information on the show, it's plot characters, or anything. I just went with it.

The next day I started, and by the end of the night, I had finished the whole show, and was HOOKED. At the young, young age of 22 (*sarcasm*), I found something I felt like I was subconsciously looking for for years. These shows were perfect.

And yet, in my everyday life, I had NO outlet. No one to talk to about these new 'japanese cartoons'. Which brings me to my next first: The internet forum! I did a simple Yahoo search (Google who?) for 'Love Hina Message board', and found a nice little community calling themselves 'HinaLove'. I didnt do much wider searching, because it seemed to be all I need.

Then I needed a name. I thought this new 'last name first' idea from this newly discovered world was slightly interesting, so I combined the main character of my new favorite show with my own name, and UrashimaNick was born. Soon, I traveled to other online communities. People who weren't into anime at those places were obviously confused by my name, and eventually took to calling me 'U_Nick'. And A name that has stuck with me for the past 8 years was born. I use it just about everywhere. And I'll never forget how I got it.

I've even used this one picture all this time for a quick answer to 'WTF does your screenname mean?!?':

I'm not even sure the HinaLove site is around anymore, but the fond memories I have of my first community really are good ones. And as for the anime itself, it retains a spot in my all time top 10 list, and I have a feeling it always will.   read

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