[Review] Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead

An Australian Zombie movie classic in the making? Check out our review...

[Anime] Assassination Classroom

Dan gives his quick thoughts on the surprisingly funny new anime series, ASSASSINATION CLASSROOM.

[Opinion] The Uncertain Future of Studio Ghibli

What is the fate of Studio Ghibli? Dan chimes in his thoughts


Dan Gives His Take on Joon Ho-Bong's Snowpiercer

[Early Review] When Marnie Was There

Dan returns from Japan and chimes in his thoughts on Ghibli's latest film

Saturday, 9 December 2017

[Feature] Game of the Year 2017...and some other goodies

2017! What a year for gaming! What a year indeed! This year has been nothing short of incredible for games. So when faced with the task of narrowing down ten games for this list came about, I can honestly tell you I was not looking forward to it in the slightest. There are so many games that I played from this year that didn’t even make the list despite the fact that they’re all great games. We’re talking the likes of South Park: The Fractured But Whole; Gravity Rush 2; Uncharted: The Lost Legacy; Zelda The Breath of the Wild; The Evil Within 2; Nier: Automata; Sonic Mania; Nioh and so on.

All great games, but even they didn't make the cut. It’s been that type of year folks. It’s been a really good year for gaming! So narrowing this list down to just ten was damn near impossible this year. But somehow, someway, I did just that. So without further ado. Here are my ten favourite games from 2017.

(And as an added bonus, be sure to check out the post script for a couple of extra goodies.)

10.) Crash Bandicoot: Nsane Trilogy

Crash Bandicoot was my childhood! And now it’s been remade from the ground up for the PS4. Oh boy was it glorious! Call it nostalgia if you must, but I had a blast revisiting these relics from my past. But more than that, I was genuinely surprised by how well they held up. Especially the first two games which are blisteringly hard games, but damn rewarding to master. Welcome back, Crash. You’ve been sorely missed.
9.) Fire Pro Wrestling World

Spike Chunsoft has finally returned to save us from the mediocrity that has plagued us for far too long with the WWE 2K franchise (or in other terms; “the Madden of Wrestling games.”) It’s been far too long since we’ve seen a Japanese wrestling game and I for one miss Japanese wrestling games. I say bring on more Japanese wrestling games (especially now with the current explosion of New Japan)

Oh wrestling fans, let us all rejoice the glorious return of a classic. The WWE 2K games may have the flair of next gen graphics, official licenses, and a marketing budget. They’ve got all the superstar names, the plethora of match types, and the sales figures. And yet they still feel strangely cold as games.

Fire Pro, on the other hand, is a lot like the ECW of wrestling games. It has none of the budget, but in typical Paul Heyman fashion, it “hides the negatives and accentuates the positives” with a brilliant and simple timing based grappling engine, fantastic 2D sprite art, endless customization possibilities, a rabidly dedicated fan community, and — most importantly — an understanding about the nature of pro wrestling, and just what makes it (and its fans) tick. Forget WWE 2K18, the real wrestling game of 2017 is right here!
8.) Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus

Wolfenstein II is the closest you’re getting to an Inglorious Basterds video game. If that doesn’t sell you then I don’t know what else will. Starring a multicultural group of irreverent, colorful characters on a globetrotting quest to ruin Hitler’s day, week and life in a fantastic revenge fantasy setting. Brutal, absurd, clever, insightful and touching, The New Colossus is a rollicking adventure that has reset the bar for what first person shooters can, and should, be.

7.) Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds

Here I sit on a deserted island prone on my stomach in the abandoned remains of an airplane. My heart is racing. All I have equipped is a pistol. I’m wearing nothing but a tank top and a pair of cargo pants. In the distance I hear the sounds of gunfire. In two minutes the danger zone will close inwards forcing me to move position just to stay alive. One wrong move equals death. No respawns. No second chances. Welcome to the world of Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds. A massive multiplayer survival game in the vein of Kinji Fukasaku’s epic Battle Royale. In some sessions, I’ve lasted no more than 5 minutes. In other sessions, I’ve made it to the last ten remaining. PUBG is one of the most intense games of multiplayer death match that I’ve ever played. More importantly, it’s the Battle Royale game that I’ve always wanted but didn’t think was possible. Now it exists and I couldn’t be happier for it.
6.) Horizon: Zero Dawn

Best known for their work on the Killzone franchise, Guerilla games finally stepped out of the first person shooter genre to deliver something rather special. Even though it's not without its issues, Horizon is an excellent title and a must have for all PS4 owners. It offers a refreshing open world environment, a compelling and mysterious story, a fantastic main character, and innovative gameplay. Not only is it one of the best action RPGs I've played this generation, it's also one of the best games I've played in a while. Horizon is a truly special experience, and it's one that even non-RPG lovers need to have.
5.) Resident Evil VII

At long last, Resident Evil has finally returned to its survival horror roots! I’ll be honest, I hated the more action focused Resident Evil 6. I felt the series was in deep decline and needed to do something to get it back on track.

Thankfully, Capcom seemed to agree and delivered a game that took Resident Evil straight back to it roots. Adopting a first person view to further heighten that claustrophobic feel, the game removes itself from the convoluted story line of previous entries and takes a little bit more of a Silent Hill 2 approach casting you in the role of a man searching for his lost lover. He is led to a rundown mansion in the woods via a cryptic message sent to him by his missing lover. This mansion is inhabited by the Baker family. A family of deranged hicks that could easily give the Sawyer family a good run for their money. What follows is one night of unspeakable horror.

Welcome back Resident Evil, it’s good to have you back in the Survival Horror genre.
4.) Yakuza 0

The latest entry in the long running Yakuza franchise is perhaps it’s greatest entry of all. Yakuza 0 takes us back to Japan’s bubble economy in the Eighties and re-introduces us to the legendary Dragon of Dojima, the one and only Kiryu Kazuma. Much to his chagrin, Kiryu finds himself in the center of another warfare as the many families in the Yakuza hierarchy do battle over a valuable and vacant plot of land in the heart of Kamurocho.

The core mechanics of the franchise remain largely unchanged. This is still a Beat ‘Em Up with RPG elements thrown in for good measure. But what the Yakuza team have managed to achieve in this game is a well thought out cohesion of mechanics. The vast majority of the substories are well written and entertaining to seek out. The act of exploring every last inch of Kamurocho has never been more rewarding.

This is a game that I gladly put 120 hours into and by the time I had cleared every side quest and built my businesses into a mini empire I still found myself wanting more. It also helps that the main story is perhaps the best this franchise has seen since Yakuza 2. It’s a very well written and engaging tale that will grab you by your collar and keep you invested the entire way through.

If you’ve never played a Yakuza game then Yakuza 0 is the perfect place to start.
3.) Cuphead

Largely inspired by cartoons of the 1930’s, the game tells the tale of Cuphead and his pal Mugman who unwittingly find themselves at the mercy of the Devil. The Devil issues them a deal; hunt down 19 foes in exchange for their freedom. A simple deal...yeah, right and pigs might fly while at it. What follows is a “kick you in the nuts” hard as nails NES type run and gun platformer featuring some of the most exciting (and frustrating) boss fights you are likely to see in a game this year.

The art style is unlike any other I’ve ever seen in a game before. Every frame of animation has been painstakingly (and lovingly) drawn by hand. It’s a true love note to 1930’s animation and is just a pure pleasure on the eyes. For as difficult as the game can get, it is at least fair in its difficulty. Learn from your mistakes and endure through to the end. Also, keep an ear out for that soundtrack. Oh boy is that soundtrack catchy!

2.) Super Mario Odyssey
(clears throat) BUY THIS GAME! That is all.

Okay fine, I guess I should write more than that. Super Mario Odyssey is a celebration of all things Mario. It’s a pure joy to play from beginning to end. The controls are so damn fluid (as is always the case for 3D Mario games.)   Exploring each world looking for moons is a complete and utter joy. The introduction of the sentient hat “Cappy” and being able to possess just about anything living and breathing in each world never grows old. It’s the greatest new mechanic to be introduced in a Mario game in a LONG time. Oh and I dare you to listen to the theme song “One Up Girl” and NOT have it stuck in your head for days on end.

Look, just buy this bloody game already! It’s Mario. I really don’t need to sell it to you. It sells itself to you. And I really don’t want to spoil much more. Go in as blind as you can. Just go out and buy it already and thank me later!
1.) Persona 5

Oh Persona 5. You took my heart! You indeed took my heart and refused to give it back! Set in modern day Tokyo, Persona 5 tells the story of a nameless-silent protagonist wrongly accused of a crime he didn’t commit. He is then forced to move to Tokyo on probation where he eventually befriends a group of kids from his new school. Each of whom are just as big a misfit as he is. Together, this group of ragtag misfits are granted the power to enter another reality where they moonlight as a band of thieves. Their mission is simple. To steal the hearts of the corrupt individuals that have wronged them and bring about a change of conscience in the real world.

That premise may sound a little out there, but in typical Persona fashion, it works without question. The Persona series has always done a fantastic job of blending reality and the supernatural world. Persona 5 is no exception. It’s a game that isn’t afraid to deal with some pretty heavy social issues such as suicide, abandonment, bullying, sexual abuse and it even manages to comment on current day political issues under the Abe administration.

The art style of the game is nothing short of seductive. This game oozes coolness with its slick menu design and it’s “anime brought to life” feel. The Acid Jazz stylings of the soundtrack has been playing on a permanent loop in my brain all year. The turn based combat is fast and responsive with enough depth to keep you well challenged for the 100+ hours it will take to see the campaign through. And the characters are some of the most endearing oddballs that I’ve had the pleasure spending time with this year.

Truth be told, I haven’t been this taken by an RPG since Final Fantasy VIII back when I was a kid. Well, okay...maybe Persona 4. But the point remains. Persona 5 is a fantastic game and is well deserving of its number one spot in this list.

Favorite Film of the Year: “Mother!”

To be honest, I can count the number of films I saw from 2017 on two hands. I really haven’t been going out and seeing much lately (which explains why this blog of mine has become quite abandoned.) But I did see Darren Aronofsky’s “Mother!” and by default, I would say it's probably the most interesting film I saw all year. But even then, I still don’t know if it’s “genius” or Aronofsky simply throwing everything at the wall in hope of something sticking. But I can’t deny that it’s a hell of a ride and the one film that really stuck with me the most from 2017 (of the few I saw.) Go in blind. Don’t read a damn thing about this movie. Just go in blind and experience the madness.

Most Disappointing Film of the Year: “The Snowman”

What the hell happened Tomas Alfredson!? Oh boy, where do we begin with this one? Tomas Alredson, the director of perhaps my favourite film of all time Let the Right One In, is a director that has shown himself to be capable of great things. Which makes the utter mess that is The Snowman even more disappointing. It’s a mess! A true and utter mess in every way.

The whole time I was sitting in the cinema thinking "something had to have gone completely wrong here. I know the pedigree of this director, I know what he can do...something desperately went wrong here." I think Mark Kermode probably put it best; "the film got away from them." There's no other way to put it. It's a film that went completely off the rails somewhere along the line and they were just desperately trying to salvage it.
A real mess. Just a real complete mess. But still, much like a train wreck, I couldn't take my eyes away from it :) So I'll give it that much.
Favorite Book of the Year: “The Colorless Tsukuru and his Years of Pilgrimage”

Technically not a book from 2017, but one that I did read in 2017 and one that really got to me. I was just recently introduced to the works of Murakami and of the few I've read, this might be my favorite. The story of an emotionally wounded 30 something man named Tsukuru who is forced to confront his past and find out why his friends abandoned him many years before. What follows is a melancholic tale of a man searching for inner harmony by being forced to confront the sordid past in search for answers. It truly is a wonderful read and I can’t recommend it enough.

Favorite Album of the Year: Mastodon - Emperor of Sand

I honestly can’t write about music. I don’t really have the know how to write about music so I will not subject to you my attempt to sound knowledgeable, but I will say this. I know what I like, and I really liked this album!

New Years Resolution: To further my own pursuit of gaining self confidence and finding happiness. So far it’s been working….

Happy trails and see you the next time I choose to write something on this blog of mine. Whenever that should be...

Sunday, 14 August 2016

[Thoughts] A Bizarre Large Serving of Nikuko-chan...or How I Gained New Found Respect for Translators

As some of you may or may not know, I’ve been studying Japanese for the best part of two and a half years now. Within that two years I have learned a staggering amount of new vocab and grammar. Sometimes it hurts my head just thinking about it, other times it leaves me feeling accomplished that I can actually remember most of what I’ve learned. Every Saturday for the last two and a half years, I’ve made the hour long trip from my home in the suburbs into the sprawling maze of unorganized streets that is Sydney and have studied under the tutelage of my sensei, Fumiko. During our most recent lesson, I was told a Japanese joke by one of my fellow students and the joke goes as such:


Why do people from Hawaii never have to visit the Dentist?

Didn’t find it funny? Don’t worry, I don’t blame you nor do I feel offended that you didn’t find it funny. For those interested as to why the punchline is “Hawaii”, I’ll give you a quick break down of the sentence

歯 (ha) means “tooth”
は (wa) is the subject marker
いい (ii) means “good”

Put the whole thing together and say it in Shinkansen speeds of Japanese and you get something that sounds close to “Hawaii.” So if you couldn’t tell, it’s a play on words and that’s what make its funny. However, when translated directly to English the punchline loses its punch. Therefore, say a translator were to read this joke in a Manga and then interpret it into English, what would they do? Probably re-write the joke all together since it’s kind of a dud joke in English, or find something that approximates it. Kind of interesting, isn’t it?

But why am I talking about a somewhat corny Japanese joke, you ask? Where is this all going? For the past year, I’ve undertaken a project of sorts. I decided to test my knowledge of the language and do something that can only be described as somewhat insane. I decided to read and translate a Japanese written manga and what do you know? I actually finished reading it!

The manga in question is titled Kaiki Oomori!! Nikuko-chan, which roughly translates to A Bizarre Large Serving!! Nikuko-chan. Written and drawn by a friend of mine, Miyako Cojima, the book is a collection of five short stories centered around a plump naive but kindhearted pre-teen girl named Nikuko.

The first two stories play as moral tales in which our plump heroine Nikuko is bullied by two girls whom are hiding demons in their closets. The third story starts off in the same mold as the first two stories, but takes a surprising left turn and reveals itself as a rather touching love story. The fourth story is a Norman Bates/Psycho type tale of a mother’s overbearing methods of nurture towards her daughter. While the final story is an amusing little caper detailing Nikuko’s first love.
The book largely deals with the theme of obsession. Be it the obsession of attaining an ideal body image, the obsession of gaining fame, the obsession of fitting in with one's fellow peers, or even just Nikuko’s strange obsession to eat anything and everything in-sight. The book plays as a wonderful mix of absurd comedy, drama, social commentary and horror all mixed into one delicious serving of Niku (meaty) goodness.

Nikuko’s demeanor is that of a sweet and kindhearted girl who just happens to have a huge appetite. As a child, she was bullied without mercy and grew up never having a single friend. In a never ending spree of violence and hate, her goal remains the same. She’s simply looking for someone to call a friend. But unfortunately for her, she is ridiculed and subjected to some pretty cruel and unusual torment.

But no matter how low her tormentors stoop, she endures on with her relentless upbeat take on life. There is one line of dialog from the book that best sums up Nikuko and it goes as so: “It’s pointless to hate someone, even if I desperately want a friend.” She’ll never stoop down to their level in return. Granted, the tormentors in question do get their comeuppance in the most unusual (and hilarious) of ways, but Nikuko remains the sweetheart of a girl who just so desperately wants a friend. That’s not to say Nikuko gets off lightly. In fact, writer Miyako makes it a point to slyly criticize Nikuko’s unhealthy lifestyle choices just as much as she criticizes the actions of Nikuko’s thoughtless peers. Particularly in the fourth story where Nikuko’s supposed dieting method is to eat a four course banquet to herself. It goes without saying that such a lifestyle is far from great as well.

There is a running gag throughout the book. Every time Nikuko is introduced to a new group of people they instantly mistake her name by using the wrong kanji. Which has become something of a nightmare to translate for reasons mentioned above. It should be an easy joke, right? A common mixup of understanding. Well, not quite so when you’re trying to keep the original names in-tact.

Which I guess leads me back to the intro of this blog post. This little translation project has been one of the hardest projects that I’ve ever had both the joy and misery of working on. Oh don’t get wrong, when I say misery, I mean misery in a good way (if there is even such a thing.) I guess pain and joy go hand in hand.

I have written well over 30 pages of basic translations, which now I have to go back to and double read, double check my translations, re-write certain segments, make sure I actually did get some of the trickier sentences down pat, make sure I didn’t misinterpret jokes or puns as literal translations, do a final pass on the script and then, finally, doctor in those translations to the original panels in Photoshop and actually make the thing into a book as a gift for myself and my friend.

But in the end, I can say without hesitation that it’s been entirely worth it. I’ve had a blast doing this little project and I had a blast reading this book. It’s a wonderful little slice of absurd horror, comedy and drama. The artwork is clearly influenced by the likes of the great Kazuo Umezu of The Drifting Classroom fame, but with it’s own feminine sensibility. I was endeared by Nikuko and was very impressed with the broad range of topics discussed in each story. It’s a smart, well written, well drawn and thoughtful little book that deserves more attention.  

So what have I learned from this little project of mine? I’ve learned to respect translators a hell of a lot more. It’s quite the undertaking and you really only begin to appreciate exactly what goes into it once you do it for yourself. I guess in my younger years I was always a bit naive and thought it was just a matter of switching out Japanese words with English words, but that simply isn’t the case. It’s a difficult job that requires a lot of thought, a lot of patience and a fair bit of rewriting. So here’s to you translators, you have my utmost respect for the hard work you do in helping to bring foreign text to our door steps (salute; or is that kanpai in this case?)

I can’t say my current translations are perfect. After hearing that joke in class, I grew a little fearful that maybe I did translate some things a little too literal for their own good. I feel somewhat confident with the first draft that I have so far...but as we all know, first drafts don’t mean much. Maybe it will take even greater shape with the second draft? I hope that one day more people have the ability to read this manga and enjoy it as I did. Who knows if anything will come of this translation project of mine. Maybe it will get seen by a wider audience, or maybe it will remain on my shelf (and Miyako’s) as a simple kind gesture. Who knows in this crazy world of ours?

Anyways, that was something different, until next time we meet.
-Daniel M.

Thursday, 28 July 2016

[Review] The Handmaiden (2016)

After making his English-language debut with the critically divisive Southern gothic thriller Stoker, South Korean auteur Park Chan-Wook returns to his native language to bring us a slice of erotica with his new film, The Handmaiden.

Taking its cues from the novel Fingersmith by Welsh writer Sarah Waters, with the setting changed from the Victorian era to 1930's Korea under Japanese rule, The Handmaiden tells the intricately woven story of a Korean con man (Ha Jung-woo) who seeks to take advantage of the beautiful and wealthy Japanese heiress Lady Hideko (Kim min-hee).

The con man enlists the help of a lowly pickpocket by the name of Nam Sock-hee (Kim Tae-ri) to pose as a maid to the heiress. Sock-hee's task is simple enough; to gain the trust of the fair lady and help convince her to fall for the con man so he can inherit said fortune. However, complications arise as the Handmaiden finds herself falling for the fair lady. Thus begins a complicated tale of who's screwing who, both literally and figuratively speaking.

Director Park wisely splits this lurid tale into three separate chapters, each of which exemplifies a different perspective. The first chapter told from the perspective of Sock-hee as she infiltrates the lavish manor and gains the fair maiden's trust.  Initially, she is all about the task at hand, but as time progresses, she begins to feel a palpable sexual tension between herself and the fair lady. As such, a new found sense of guilt and jealousy arise as the handmaiden grows both resentful and remorseful towards the conman's end game.

Through the eyes of Sock-hee, we initially perceive Lady Hideko to be a naive child trapped in a woman's body. However, the second chapter switches perspectives to Hideko, where Director Park fills in the blanks of her traumatic upbringing under the tutelage of her perverted uncle. Having been exposed from a young age to her uncle's love of BDSM, she is frequently made to regale the written works of Marquis de Sade to seedy-looking men of wealth in the manor's library.

Meanwhile, the third chapter brings it all home through the perspective of the conman, which is ripe with revelations and plot turns best left unspoiled.

At its core, The Handmaiden is a rather simple tale of deceit, love, and vengeance. But perhaps most importantly, it is a tale of sexual liberation. Since I'm not the first to mention this, yes, the film does feature scenes of explicit lesbianism. And yes, Park definitely pulls no punches when it comes to showing. However, he doesn't just show just for the sake of showing, or for mere titillation.

Rather, the budding sexual tension shared between both women is the central key to their shared plight. At its core, The Handmaiden is a tale of two women who came from less than pleasant upbringings who long for a sense of freedom. Kim Tae-Ri and Kim Min-hee both give incredible performances and do very well to sell a palpable amount of friction.

The Handmaiden features all of Park Chan-Wook's usual flourishes. It is visually stunning in every inch of its design. From the sense of foreboding decadence that haunts every inch of the manor to the impeccable framing choices employed by cinematographer Chung Chung-hoon.

Although it's not without flaws. Unusually so, Director Park annoyingly feels the need to over-explain every last plot detail by spinning the plot wheel one too many times. However, there's no denying the denouement's cleverness, nor can one deny the overwhelming sense of satisfaction gained. In the end, The Handmaiden is both a well-crafted character study and a captivating erotic thriller that leaves its mark.

(out of five)

Monday, 3 August 2015

[Japanese Stuff] Common Daily Phrases

Hello everyone. So for the past year I have been studying Japanese. It's a passion that quite frankly has taken over a big chunk of my life and has left me with less time to write for this blog since I started. Seeing that I've neglected this blog, I've decided to start a little trial experiment and impart some of my new-found gained knowledge with anyone who might be interested. That's right, I'm going to teach those of you who are interested some basic Japanese.

Not only will it help me by keeping my mind sharp and agile, but maybe someone out there will (hopefully) learn something as well. So without further ado let's jump on in and start with a simple introduction. We're going to keep this really light and simple today by giving a few simple phrases. Yes, you may have seen postings like this elsewhere, but trust me, for now we want to keep it simple. So here's a few useful daily expressions to get you started.

おはようございます // Ohayou Gozaimasu // "Good Morning"

"Ohayou Gozaimasu" is a friendly greeting meaning "Good Morning," It's commonplace to hear it shortened down to "Ohayou" and it is something you might hear until about 11am or 12pm.

こんにちは // Konnichiwa // "Hello"

"Konnichiwa" is the most common greeting you will hear. Simply is "Hello."

いらっしゃいませ // Irrashaimase // "Welcome"

If you have ever had the pleasure of being in Japan and have walked into any place of commercial business then chances are you've heard "Irrashaimase." It's extremely common to hear this "welcome" greeting in Japan courtesy of cheerful company employees.

こんばんは // Konbanwa // "Good Evening"

"Konbanwa" is something one might say to greet friends or relatives in the evening.

おやすみなさい // Oyasuminasai // "Good Night"

"Oyasuminasai" is used when parting ways with friends in the evening or said before going to bed.

さようなら // Sayonara // "Good Bye"

"Sayonara" is one method to say "Good Bye" however, there is a subtle finality to "Sayonara." "Sayonara" is something you might say to someone who you're not going to see for a while. Otherwise, another more casual way of saying "farewell" would be to say....

じゃ また // Jaa, mata // "Well then..."

"Jaa, mata" is a far more casual (and common) way to bid farewell among friends and relatives. The subtle difference being that it implies that one will see the person again sooner rather than later.

おさきに  しつれいします // Osaki ni shitsureishimasu// "Excuse Me" (but I'm going to be rude)

Said when leaving the office or a business meeting before other people.  "Shitsureishimasu" literally translates to "I'm going to be rude" but don't fret, it's not considered rude to use when excusing oneself. It's one of those "best not to question it too much" moments that one will run into when learning this language.

いってらっしゃい // Itterasshai // "Have a Safe Trip" (lit. go and coming back)

Usually said to friends, family and cohorts as they leave for an extended period; be it a holiday, business trip or other variation. Think "Bon Voyage" and you get "Itterasshai."

行ってきます // Ittekimasu // "I'm going" (lit. go and coming back)

"Ittekimasu" is actually made up of two parts. It combines the ~te form of the verb "Ikimasu" (to go) and "kimasu" (to return) to make "Ittekimasu." As you can sort of probably already guess, it means that "I will go and return." It's something one might say when leaving the household to run errands." For example:


"Yuubinkyouku ni ittekimasu."
I'm going to the Post Office (and I will return shortly)

or maybe you're going to Japan on vacation

"Nihon ni ittekimasu."
I'm going to Japan (and will return)

ただいま // Tadaima // "I'm back"

Said by a person on returning home, which is paired with the response...

おかえりなさい // Okaerinasai // "Welcome Home"

いただきます // Ittadakimasu // Said Before Eating a Meal

Said before eating a meal. To keep "Ittadakimasu" in memory, I like to think that it sounds kind of like "Eat-a-ducky-masu", as corny as it is, it works. "Ittadakimasu" is, of course, paired with the follow-up response upon completion of a meal...

ごちそうさまでした // Gochisousama deshita // Said after Eating a Meal

おめでとうございます // Omedetou Gozaimasu // "Congratulations"

"Omedetou Gozaimasu" (Congratulations) or for short, "Omedetou."

どうも ありがとうございます // Doumo Arigatou Gozaimasu // "Thank You Very Much"

Or casually one can shorten it to "Doumo" by itself.

どういたしまして // Dou Itashimashite // "You're Welcome"

すみません // Sumimasen // "Excuse Me"

ちょっとまってください // Chotto Matte Kudasai // "Wait just a moment, please"

もういちどおねがいします // Mou ichido onegaishimasu // "Once more, please"

どうぞおさきに // Douzo Osakini // "Please, go ahead"

気をつけて // Ki o tsukete // "Be Careful"

Or alternatively

Ki o tsukete kudasai
"Please be careful"

おだいじに // Odaiji ni // "Take Care of Yourself"

Commonly used towards an ill or injured person.

Now, if you're like me and you're a bit of a social drinker then these next three phrases are absolutely mandatory to know for when you hit up a bar in Japan.

ビールをひとつください // Biru o hitotsu kudasai // "One Beer, please"

もう一つください // Mou hitotsu kudasai // "Another, please"

トイレはどこですか?// Toire wa doko desu ka? // "Where is the toilet?"

Hopefully you've learned something today. Happy trails and I'll see you shortly with another lesson.

-Daniel M 

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

[Review] Furious 7

What began as a shameless Point Break knockoff featuring souped up cars in place of surfboards has grown into a multi-million dollar freight train of a franchise. Way back when, The Fast and the Furious franchise began its life as a Roger Corman type B picture highlighting the tale of an undercover cop questioning his own code of conduct as he finds himself indoctrinated by the ragtag band of criminals he was supposed to be investigating. A mere seven films later and you would be hard pressed to see the roots of where this franchise once began.

Justin Lin's Fast Five did incredibly well to reinvent the franchise, moving it away from the sub-culture of underground street racing and morphing it into an Ocean's Eleven style heist film. Now with Justin Lin departing the directors chair, James Wan (Saw, Insidious) steps up to the directors chair and continues to reinvent the franchise into something that even less resembles the original film.

Furious 7 doesn't just jump the shark, it jumps three skyscrapers along the way. After the events of the last film, Dom (Vin Diesel) and his team of loveable misfits find themselves the targets of a revenge plot orchestrated by extremist militant Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham). However, Shaw proves to be more than Dom can handle leaving Dom and his team to partner up with a shady government official known only as Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell).

Mr. Nobody heads a special task force assigned the mission of hunting down the creator of a computer program called 'the God's Eye', a highly sophisticated program that can turn any mobile phone into a surveillance device. Mr. Nobody offers Dom and his team a deal they can't refuse, he will help them track down Shaw in return for their services aiding the task force.

If you couldn't tell, Furious 7 is as loud and dumb as you might have expected it to be and then some. The plot is entirely gonzo, the dialog ranges from so bad it's good to downright eye-roll worthy, and the action is so insanely removed from the laws of physics that it might as well be a Saturday morning cartoon. However, I would be lying if I said it wasn't ridiculously fun for all of those reasons.

The set pieces have been amped way up to eleven in need to top the last movie because jumping a car through the nose of a 747 airplane just wasn't enough. Whether it be skydiving cars out of a moving plane or jumping from skyscraper to skyscraper in Abu Dhabi to pitting Michelle Rodriguez against Rhonda Rousey in a one on one fist fight, Furious 7 does well to re-adjust the goal post of impossible standards set by the last film. Perhaps doing it a little too well.

In that constant need to top the previous film, one can't help but fear that it's all going a little too far into the realm of self-parody. What once started as a group of ragtag yet grounded criminals with hearts made of gold has turned into an ensemble of indestructible superheroes who look like they're ready to audition for a place in the Avengers.

Marred only by moments of tediously written and overacted soap opera worthy drama. Furious 7 is at its best when it is embracing its own stupidity for all its worth but, unfortunately, screenwriter Chris Morgan feels the need to inject a dose of unwanted drama by continuing the weakest plot thread of the previous film being Letty's (Michelle Rodriguez) all too convenient memory loss. Shared moments between Dom and Letty that were meant to be touching play with a layer of thick soap opera staccato. Diesel and Rodriguez are far from being accomplished thespians leaving these moments of stilted drama to remind us just how ridiculous the movie really is.

Still, when it plays to its strengths as an incredibly dumb but fun action movie then it delivers in spades. Kurt Russell is a welcomed breath of fresh air playing the Mr. Wolf (from Pulp Fiction) type role. Meanwhile, Jason Statham delivers his usual gravelly brand of intimidating badass, which is never a bad thing. James Wan, formerly known for his work on low-budget chillers such as Insidious does well to prove himself capable of handling big budget blockbuster affairs. Unfortunately, the film does lose some of its momentum as it lumbers into its final act composed of a destructive landscape-altering chase around the streets of Los Angeles. At two hours and twenty minutes, it is too self-serving for its own good.

Then there is the matter of Paul Walkers death, which is handled tastefully thanks to a moving finale that pays tribute to both the character and actor. In fact, it's the one moment where these actors deliver a true moment of emotion as it is so clearly raw. No amount of hammy on the nose dialog can match a simple visual moment of silent reflection as each of them realize that their friend (in real life) is gone. It serves as a poignant and touching send off to not only Brian O'Conner but to Paul Walker as well.

Furious 7 doesn't quite live up to the best of this franchise (that being Fast Five), but for what it's worth, James Wan and crew have delivered a fun over the top eighties action movie repackaged for the modern age. Just let it be said that the gas in the tank is running on near empty for this franchise. Perhaps it's time to leave it rest, but who are we kidding? The box office numbers alone will ensure the inevitable Furious 8, 9, and 10.

(out of five)

-Daniel M

Sunday, 15 March 2015

[Feature] Mei and the Kittenbus

Last year, I began studying Japanese. On my most recent trip to Japan, I visited the famous Ghibli Museum in Mitaka. Whilst there, I brought back with me a number of souvenirs. One of those souvenirs was a book. The book in question was a printed copy of Mei and the Kittenbus, a short film and spiritual sequel to My Neighbour Totoro shown only at the museum.

With research thanks to jisho.org and its incredibly useful “kanji by radicals” search option, I managed to translate this story well enough.

Once I had finished the rough translation, I began to notice just how many liberties could be taken in rewriting and making it flow a little better in English form. So I took it upon myself to take the rough translation and re-write it using both the images and words as found in the book. Here are the results.


Kaze no tsuyoi hi, mei ga kyarameru o tabete iru to, tsumujikaze ga araware, oikakete kimashita.

On a windy day, Mei was eating caramel, when a whirlwind appeared and chased her.


Tsumujikaze no shōtai wa konekobasu deshita. Mei wa konekobasu ni kyarameru o agete, tomodachi ni narimashita.

The identity of the whirlwind was a baby cat bus. Mei gave the baby cat bus some caramel and the two became friends.


Chiichai nei? Anata kodomo nano ne

Wee-tiny children, aren't they?


sono yoru, konekobasu ga yattekimashita. Mei wa konekobasu ni notte dekakemashita.

That night, the Baby Cat Bus came back. Mei boarded the Baby Cat Bus and set out on an adventure.

のせてくれるの ヒャーハハハ

nosete kureru no hyahahaha

Are you giving me a lift? Hahaha!


Mita koto mo nai takusan no nekobasu ga mori e atsumatte ikimasu.

There were many Catbus that Mei had never seen before gathering in the forest.


Mori no naka ni wa obake ga takusan imashita. Mei ga atari o mimawasu to, totoro ga imashita.

In the forest there were many forest spirits. Mei looked around the forest and found Totoro.




konbanwa konekobasu no otomodachi no Mei desu.

Good evening, Mei. Friend of baby cat bus.


Mei wa nekobā-chan ni kyarameru o agemashita. Nekobā-chan wa obake-tachi o nosete sora e, Mei wa konekobasu ni notte uchi ni kaerimashita.

Mei gave the elderly catbus a piece of her caramel. With the forest spirits aboard, the elderly catbus flew into the sky, meanwhile Mei boarded the baby cat bus and returned home.

-Daniel M