Shingeki No Kyojin


The weekend was spent watching new anime – Shingeki No Kyojin (aka Attack on Titan) and Arata Kangatari. Both are very good. Very, very good.

Let me start with Shingeki No Kyojin. Based on the manga of the same title, the premise of the story is that humankind has to live within 50-meter walls due to the Titans – large humanoids who like eating humans even though they don’t need to for sustenance. Humans no longer venture outside the walls except for a group of soldiers called Recon Corp, whose mission is to find a way to finally defeat the Titans. After a hundred years most people no longer wanted to be part of the Corp, and thinking of a life outside the walls is considered an act of heresy.

Eren is, however, not one of most people. He dreams of joining the Recon Corp, but only his half-sister, Mikasa, knows of this dream. When she told his mother, his mother vehemently objected, but his father was ambivalent.

Then the walls got breached by the Titans. Specifically, by a Titan so tall it can reach the top of the wall.

I have only seen one episode so far (there are five currently), and I must say I am intrigued by the premise. I can’t say more since it’s just one episode, but I am sure I am going to see the next episodes.

I find the Titans creepy (I am having goosebumps right now). They look like zombies, only that the “exposed” muscles are not as random (for lack of a better term) as that of zombies. They have this nasty, creepy, malicious smile in their faces, teeth exposed, ready to have a meal of human meat. The fact that they are huge and nude adds to the creepiness.

Eren is the typical young male lead character – bratty, opinionated, annoying, idealistic. He argued with a drunk gate guard, hit an old man who doesn’t believe in the Recon Corps, had a shouting match with his mom – all on the same episode. This kid has serious life issues.

Normally, characters like this annoy me (if I am annoyed by the lead character at episode 1, I stop watching and never bother with the next episodes), but I am willing to give this some more time before making any judgment.

Speaking of life issues, wait for my post about Arata Kangatari.


The Ballad of Narayama (1958)

The Ballad of Narayama

The Ballad of Narayama is the story of Orin (Kinuyo Tanaka), an old Japanese woman who willingly chose to go to Narayama to die, as expected of her due to her old age (this custom is known as ubasute or obasute). Her son, Tatsuhei (Teiji Takahashi), loved his mother so much that he wanted her to stay and defy the custom, but his own son had taken in a wife and was expecting a child. Living in poverty, they could not afford another mouth to feed, hence Orin’s decision to go to Narayama.

For a modern cinema viewer, this movie would seem quaint. The first thing the viewer would notice is the artificial look of the scenery, as the director Keisuke Kinoshita chose to film in a studio. The effect is beautiful but haunting scenes of rural life in feudal Japan, highlighting how poverty drove the cultural norms at that time.

The movie was filmed like as if it was shot as a play; in fact, some elements of Kabuki are present. The movie narrator is a kuroko, who chanted the story in the strains of Japanese musical instruments. There was a scene where each of the characters were lit in soft, green light, and as a character leaves the scene, the light turns off until the old woman was left.

The movie could use some cutting. Though not very long (only an hour and a half), there are scenes that seemed too slow for me; I think this was in compensation for the cramped space brought about by being shot in soundstages. The journey to Narayama, for example, was just scenes upon scenes of Tatsuhei carrying his mother, with some dialog added to break the monotony.

It is a bleak and depressing movie, a movie that not everyone would want to see for recreational purpose. But this is expected from a movie that dares to show the problems facing the elderly – after all, we will all get old, and we will have to face what Orin had faced, and I assure you that it will be depressing.


Usagi Drop


(image from here)
Manly tears were shed after watching this movie.

This movie has been sitting in my hard drive for half a year now, and mainly I was bored tonight, so I decided to watch something. I had nothing particular in mind, so I just browsed the folder where Japanese TV shows and movies are stored, and on a whim decided to watch this.

It was a mistake of sorts.

This movie is based on the manga of the same title. I won’t give a synopsis, I’ll just link the Wikipedia entry.

I just want to write about thoughts that came into my mind during and after watching the movie.

I don’t see myself having children in the near future. That might change, but right now I don’t think I will have children of my own. I see them as kawaii when they are not throwing fits or crying like it’s their nature. I had seen a lot of parents whose patience ran out when dealing with the terrible twos.

I still remember my youngest brother when he was born. We woke up in a stormy night, only to find my parents gone. My cousin acted as our guardian; she told us that my mom’s about to give birth.

The night after, a bundle of joy that was a baby arrived home. He was so cute and fat and adorable, we forgot the anxieties of our mom not coming home with the baby. I was happy he arrived safely, but later on I thought he was a pest because from time to time I had to keep watch, feed him, or change the diapers.

I saw how hard it was to be a parent and to take care of children. As I grew up and became a cantankerous and snobby adult, I thought about children and having to take care of them and their future, and I decided that it is not for me. I don’t think I can take the responsibility of caring for a child.

It is a source of anxiety from relatives. They keep on telling me who would take care of me when I get old. I always joke that I have to be super rich by then.

I wanted to argue that it is not the right reason to have children. I’d like to quote Gibran but they won’t understand (I keep on kidding my mom that children have no obligation of taking care of their parents, but filial piety always takes hold).

This movie made me rethink of this. It made me ask a lot of questions. Am I capable of love? Am I capable of having a child, taking care of it, preparing for its future? Am I being selfish in my decision not to have a child? Is not having a child a sign of my own weakness? Is adoption an option?

I said earlier that watching this movie was a mistake of sorts. Mistake because it made me think of things that I’d rather not think of. It made me rethink my decision and position. It made me think of my future and what I would miss with this decision. It made me think whether I am being selfish or I made a decision out of love by not bringing forth a life that might be a disaster because of my shortcomings and fault. I’d rather not have a child than have a child then ruin its future because I might not be a good parent.

Manly tears were shed (manly tears being imaginary tears) because this movie has shown me what will I miss if I stick with this decision. But mostly tears were shed because I am too much a coward to even contemplate a life of a father taking care of his child.


Battle of proxies

I was fortunately unfortunate to have seen Clash of the Titans twice in a day. Unfortunate, because the first one was enjoyable; seeing it the second time was blah.

Let me start with a warning: if you have to see this film, don’t bother with the 3D version. Let me share a joke. When the end credits were showing (the first time I saw the movie), I told a friend that the credits were designed for 3D. After the second screening, another friend joked that the end credits were the only real 3D scenes in the movie. Yes, you can actually watch the 3D movie without the goggles.

Anyway, on with the movie. The title was a misnomer, as no Titan was harmed in the movie (since by the time of the story, the Titans were long gone). It should have been titled “Battle of the Proxies” since it was Hades vs. Zeus fought by proxies Kraken and Perseus. If they are pertaining to the battle scenes, well, there’s nothing titanic about them. In fact, I found some of the scenes annoying, specially when the Hades critters snatched the Medusa head from Perseus. I felt that the scenes that followed were unnecessary; it did not contribute anything to heighten the tension.

There was no sense of urgency nor distress in the movie. I felt detached from the problems confronting Argos, Andromeda, and Perseus. In fact, I was tempted to shout “Buti nga!” when Argos was about to be destroyed by the Kraken. There was no emotional attachment at all. The story was presented that blandly.

Maybe it was the way the actors presented their characters. For example, that religious lunatic. His character was so annoying, and does not add anything to the story. The one who played Io (Gemma Arterton) was a distraction – she looks so much like Anne Curtis, I was expecting a wardrobe malfunction. (Speaking of wardrobe, a friend said the Io character looked like a labandera.) Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes were disappointing in the movie – bland, blank, emotionless. And the ladies were doubly disappointed by Sam Worthington’s acting and lack of topless scenes.

The effects were inconsistently amazing and lackluster. I am sure a lot were distracted by Zeus’ sparkling armor. And comparing to Hades, Zeus looks like a wimp. As I have said, the Kraken was not scary; it was neither awe-inspiring. And the most disappointing aspect of the movie is in the non-3Dness of its 3D version. I find that some scenes were darker as compared to the non-3D version. It might be the glasses, but those shouldn’t be a factor. I got the feeling that the 3D was an afterthought, to earn more monies.

Overall, it’s a good distraction, but don’t bother watching it the second time around. And don’t waste your money on watching the 3D version.


Krispy Kreme launches Baked Creations

What is interesting about food is that, like an artwork, there is a story behind it.

Take, for example, Krispy Kreme’s Baked Creations. In a jaunt with bloggers, Rick Cavanaugh, Director of Research and Development for Krispy Kreme, shared the impetus behind Baked Creations. Rick said that in the US, donuts are basically breakfast food, and here in the Philippines, donuts are rather treated as desserts or merienda. Krispy Kreme wants to improve on that impression and add the idea that Krispy Kreme is good for breakfast, too.

So Krispy Kreme went to work, experimented with everything, and then came up with two lines of Baked Creations. The Pull Aparts are based on North Carolina’s handrolled balls of dough, also called as monkey bread (because people just pull some piece from the bread, like monkeys LOL). The Pull Aparts come in several variants – Cheese, Bacon & Cheese, Sausage & Cheese and Cinnamon.

Apparently, on its second day of stealth launch, Bacon and Cheese is a hit, and so does Sausage and Cheese. In fact, in yesterday’s launch, all the Bacon and Cheese and Sausage and Cheese Pull Aparts were goners! So I got stuck with the Original Kruffin, which is basically a muffin with a hole in the middle, with cream in the hole. The muffin was soft, slightly sweet, typically Krispy Kreme.

According to Rick, these creations are baked per day, and only enough amount are baked per day, because these only have a shelf life of one day. No wonder those Bacon and Sausage Pull Aparts ran out quickly.

Kruffins are priced Php 65.00 and comes in Double Chocolate, Apple Streussel, Blueberry, and Classic Kruffin. Pull Aparts are priced Php 75.00. These are available are Krispy Kreme Ayala Avenue and Greenhills branches at the moment. Right now, only the Philippines and Australia have these Baked Creations. Press release follows.

Newest Sweet & Savory Creations from Krispy Kreme

Before, Filipinos have only known the doughnut as the sweet, round-shaped dough – and nothing more. However, global doughnut brand Krispy Kreme changed this with the introduction of its infamous confectionary inventions in partnership with popular brands such as Hershey’s, Reese’s, Snickers and Oreos (to name a few). Suddenly, Manila was abuzz with excitement – the welcome arrival of Krispy Kreme has signaled a bright doughy future.

This 2010, Krispy Kreme is back to offer something deliciously different as it launches its Baked Creations. This newest addition to the line of Krispy Kreme offerings comes in two new options: the Kruffins, an American style hand made muffin-with-a-hole filled with rich and delicious fruits, nuts or chocolate with varieties which include Double Chocolate, Apple Streussel, Blueberry and Classic Kruffin; and the Pull Aparts – the North Carolina original hand-rolled balls of dough, pulled apart and laid to form a doughnut like sweet bread, filled with sweet or savory varieties such as Cheese, Bacon & Cheese, Sausage & Cheese and Cinnamon. Like the doughnuts everyone has grown to love, these new Krispy Kreme sensations are the perfect companions to Krispy Kreme’s freshly brewed Signature Coffee.

“Krispy Kreme is a brand for sharing – which makes it a well-loved doughnut chain in the Philippines and the rest of the world,” says Mark Gamboa, Marketing Manager of Krispy Kreme. “The introduction of the Baked Creations of Krispy Kreme here in the country is our way of showing our eagerness to give Filipinos something delightfully new to share and enjoy everyday.”

Since the 1930s until now, Krispy Kreme has continually responded to the growing clamor of the doughnut brand’s loyal fans for their globally-famous delights which include the Original Glazed – made from a secret recipe that has been passed on from generations since the store was first established at Winston-Salem, North Carolina, USA. From then on, it has already built a fan base of well-known personalities, which include NBA star Shaquille O’Neal, pop star Beyonce, and even hot Hollywood celebrities like Julia Roberts, Tom Cruise, and Nicole Kidman.

In the Philippines, the popularity of the doughnut chain grew the moment it came in 2006 at its very first branch at Bonifacio High Street in Taguig. And with the fresh, mouthwatering pastries that come out of Krispy Kreme’s conveyor belt, its fame is destined to glaze everyone soon.

Grab the new Krispy Kreme baked creations soon to come in the dougnut chain’s Greenhills and Ayala stores. You may also visit any of the following Krispy Kreme Branches: Bonifacio High Street, Greenhills Shopping Center Drive-Thru, SM Mall of Asia, Trinoma Cinema Level, SM Megamall, SM Mall of Asia Drive-Thru, Ayala Avenue, Robinsons Galleria, Gateway Mall, Glorietta 4, SM City Annex (North EDSA), Annex 2 SM Fairvew, Eastwood, Marquee Mall Pampanga, SM San Lazaro & SM Manila (coming soon) or call 0917-8053000 & (02) 633-2313. Also, be sure to log on to www.krispykreme.com.ph and be a Friend of Krispy Kreme to get updates.


The Gokusen formula

I spent the Christmas/New Year holidays watching Japanese dramas, among other things. I completed seasons 1 and 2 of Gokusen, which formed the bulk of what I has watched. Looking back, I had no idea why I chose Gokusen. Maybe I was tired of WWE (haven’t downloaded any WWE PPV since…. heck, I can’t even remember). Maybe it was a random click on a bookmarked page.

Anyway, I do not regret watching Gokusen. Sure, the show was formulaic and corny, but it was a funny corny show. Every episode made me laugh, though there were awkward moments. But I do have some beef with the show.

I know it paid handsomely to stick to the formula, but they could have deviated a bit from it. The formula consists of:
* Yankumi being hired to handle a difficult class. That is a given, and the root of all the plot points. Also, is she handling other classes?
* The students hate her. At first, of course. Would it be wacky if at least one student liked her immediately?
* A student (or group of students) will get into a fight and lose spectacularly. And from time to time, it’s the same set of students who got beaten to a pulp. I wonder if insurance companies would cover the expenses.
* Yankumi runs to the rescue. She was always running. That’s why she was always late: her kawaii students were already pulpy bits when she got to the scene. She should have invested in a motorbike. Poor handsome faces.
* No warm feeling after each rescue. The poor students have to have some shred of dignity left, you know. Besides, she came in late, when they were already vegetables.
* Yankumi gets into trouble at the end of the season. She is always forced to leave the school. Sometimes you have to admire her patience.
* The difficult class manages to graduate. The school closes down soon thereafter.
* She doesn’t get the boy of his fancy. Maybe the fighting’s her outlet for love frustrations.

If you are a nitpicker, there are loads to nitpick at this series, but hey, the series is fun. As a former teacher, the show validates some of my thoughts about teaching. And on watching the show, I was glad I left the academe – if I stayed on, I would have turned into an apathetic teacher.

Acting by Yukie Nakama and Katsuhisa Namase were excellent. Namase was wicked, and Nakama pulled it off playing Yankumi – dreamy and determined at necessary scenes. I don’t dig most of the student characters, like Kazuya Kamenashi. They just frown and shout and lie beaten down. Maybe that’s why out of all those actors playing students, only Tomohiro Waki managed to stay on throughout the series.

I love the music. You should go buy it, seriously.

Gokusen the Movie is available at Yes Asia.

Gokusen the Movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD at CD Japan.

Get the Gokusen 2002 DVD Box at CD Japan.

Get the Gokusen 2005 DVD Box at CD Japan.

Get the Gokusen 2008 DVD Box at CD Japan.

Get the Gokusen 2008 DVD Box at Play-Asia.com.

Get the magnificent Gokusen Original Soundtrack at CD Japan.

Get the magnificent Gokusen Original Soundtrack at Play-Asia.com.


The end of the world in two hours

This is just a short review of the movie. If you like movies that make you sit on the edge of the seat; if you like movies so intense you cannot help but go to the toilet and pee, 2012 is a movie to your liking. It is like a nightmare lasting for more than 2 hours, most of it harrowing bordering on the impossible.

Leave the thinking at the lobby. There are points in the movie that will astound your intelligence. The telecommunications infrastructure is so robust and indestructible that characters in the movie were able to communicate with each other, even if the place was falling apart. Some characters talk too much despite the fact that time was at a premium. And some of the scenes were predictable; I am afraid my seatmate last night was annoyed by the fact that I kept on saying what would happen in a scene.

I like Oliver Platt. He is a character actor that can play any role. John Cusack was blah. Woody Harrelson was wacky and at his element. Danny Glover was subdued. The kids performed admirably.

The idea of putting a human element in the story fails. This is offset by the special effects. The CGI was wonderful. The disaster scenes – specially California crumbling down, the humongous explosion at Yellowstone, the destruction of the Vatican – give me goosebumps whenever I remember them. And there’s a nightmarish feel to it. I can imagine myself being in those horrific scenes.

The only conclusion that I can derive from the movie: Sony Vaio and Sony Ericsson phones will survive the end of the world. The Air Force One will not. I cannot say the same about submarines.

2012 is an enjoyable movie, and I had never seen such an intense movie since Saving Private Ryan. It is worth your two hours.


Orthros no Inu

Orthros no Inu has an interesting premise, eye candies for the fan girls, and a slow start guaranteed to pique your interest regarding the characters.

The premise of the show was established on the first episode: basically, you have an “evil” person having the power to heal, and a good young man having the power to kill, basically reversing the roles of common archetypes. Aoi Ryosuke (played by Ryo Nishikido) was a teacher who, due to several events (an incident involving one of his students and a gang of drug pushers, and the same gang threatening to kill a detective) was forced to kill. Ryozaki Shinji (Takizawa Hideaki), a death row inmate convicted for murder, healed the wounds of the prison warden.

The seeming contradictions in the characters and their powers, and the inevitable conflict being brought about by their powers and circumstances, drive the story. It is an interesting study of human character and morality, of being forced by circumstances to do something against one’s convictions, and acceptance of what one has and what one can do. I am sure all of us have experienced doing something against our will by force of events not of our doing.

The character of Aoi is established in the first episode, but the same cannot be said of Ryuzaki. He is a convict, he is on death row, and he’s handsome as hell. So is he a bad guy? Takizawa is perfect for the role: he is handsome enough to give the character the benefit of the doubt. At first glance, there is no hint of evil in the man. Yet he has the power to heal. The contradictions in the character will confuse you enough to make you doubt your own prejudices.

As for the character of Aoi, Nishikido plays it simple – charming, conscientious – making his character likeable at once. You could feel the clashing thoughts in his brain as he was being needled by Ryuzaki to kill. In two episodes, Aoi has already killed three people. You’d wonder if there was even a conflict at all! Still, I so can relate by that internal conflict. Let’s face it – if it is not illegal nor immoral, we could have murdered a person or two.

What did I like about the drama? Yes, there’s the characters. There’s the story. The opening music and billboard’s blah, the acting’s mixed. And I am sure fan girls go for the eye candies. There’s Takizawa, there’s Nishikido, and there’s Yaotome Hikaru. Yaotome’s character development was kinda slow, and the fact that he gets billing for such a limited screen time, I wonder if he’s there for the acting, or he’s additional eye candy. This is unfair for Hikaru; maybe he’s role going to be expanded in future episodes (I had seen two, and there are 5 episodes filmed). But it was a surprising role, and he chews on it as if he’s been a bad guy since birth. His brawling is unconvincing – he does not have the build for brawling. Maybe they could have him do martial arts, instead?

And I am sure fan girls are waiting for Takizawa and Nishikido to go topless. Heck, both of them have rain scenes on the first episode, and they could have gone topless. They were waiting to see the two like these:

You are most welcome, ladies.

And to be fair to Hika fans:

You are most welcome, ladies.

Anyway, I have enjoyed watching this drama, and looking forward to new episodes. There are English-subbed copies somewhere, care of your friendly subbers. I am sure you know how and where to look. *wink, wink* For those in Japan or have access for Japanese channels, it’s on TBS every Friday, 2200 Japan time.

Buy the Orthros no Inu DVD Box Set at CD Japan.


Harry Potter 6 at SM City North EDSA IMAX Theater

I saw Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince last night at SM’s new IMAX Theater at SM City North EDSA, curious about the new cinema and how the movie translated one of the longest novels in the Harry Potter series. My belief is that when watching a movie, enter the cinema without any expectations; if the movie bombed, at least your disappointment will not be that great.

I report with joy that I am not disappointed with the movie. The movie was faithful with the novel without presenting all the details found in the book. Sure, there were scenes in the book that were not in the movie (as expected), and I am sure some of the fans were disappointed with the non-inclusion, like the ending scenes. However, taken on its own, the movie presented the basic plot of the novel.

The movie concentrated on character development. This movie is Michael Gambon’s and Tom Felton’s. Their characters – Albus Dumbledore and Draco Malfoy, respectively – were given the spotlight on this movie, though without taking much limelight from the lead. While they were given emphasis, I think the development was rather short – sure, you could see Draco’s torment, and much question was left in our minds. Is he intrinsically evil, or his hesitation a sign that he is somehow moral? Felton must have relished all those scenes; I know I would, if I were on his shoes.

Rupert Grint’s character Ron Weasley was a scene stealer on several occassions, the most memorable one was the scene when he took a love potion. That scene was hilarious; Grint’s goofy face is enough to make you laugh, the actions of the character more so. Unfortunately, for this movie, that’s all the character was for, comic relief. Grint’s performance here is superb, and has shown great improvement.

Emma Watson is stunningly beautiful, and like Grint’s character, Hermione has some moments in the film, though not that much. She remained in the periphery of the lead, like Ronron, but beside from that, not much. And have I told you that Watson is stunningly beautiful?

I dunno. Tom Riddle is so gay in this movie. What gives?

Daniel Radcliffe. What can I say? Harry Potter has gain confidence, but the scenes where he tried extracting that memory from Professor Horace Slughorn were unconvincing. But Radcliffe did justice to the Felix Felici scenes. It was a riot, but not as riotous as that of Weasley’s love potion scenes. What’s with potions in this movie? Oh, that Potions book, LOL.

The cinematography is mixed. The scenes at the Great Hall could have been shot better, but most are shot well. There were none of those dizzying, zooming-into-giant-watch-tower scenes. And the quidditch game in this movie (plus the Gryffindor practice scenes) is the best in the series. Too bad the scenes were not 3D. And that cowboy scene (where Dumbledore was firewhipping the Smeagols) was awesome.

Speaking of which, I couldn’t help but point out that the Vanishing Cabinet reminded me of Narnia, and the ring-horcrux reminded me of Lord of the Rings. I am sure my seatmate was annoyed when I pointed them out. Sorry, couldn’t help it.

Overall, the movie is enjoyable 2.5 hour (estimated) spectacle. I suggest you watch it.

Should you watch it on IMAX? I think the movie’s worth the Php 400 price of admission, but take note that the 3D scenes are just around 12 minutes, all of them at the beginning (including the trailer). It was my first time, and I was awed by the effects. My seatmates were annoyed because I kept on saying “Whoah!” the entire 12 minutes.

SM City North EDSA’s IMAX Theater is probably the smallest IMAX theater in the world. When news broke out that SM was putting up an IMAX on SM North, I was excited because finally, I don’t have to go to the south just to watch movies in IMAX format. But when they announced the opening last month, I was incredulous because I pass by that mall everyday and I did see any tall building being built. Basically what SM did was convert one of their cinemas into IMAX. Hence the smallest IMAX theater in the world.

At least it does not smell like San Miguel-Coca Cola IMAX Theater in SM Mall of Asia. =P