Minneapolis Asian Arts Club?

I am contemplating creating a Asian Arts Club in the Minneapolis area – I wonder if there is anyone who would be interested in joining.  I would like to meet once or twice a month, to enjoy various movies/television shows and music or just about anything to do with South Asian culture (As discussed here on Daydreaming Lotus. ie: Korea, Japan, China, India) I’d be open to other cultures too.  I think it would be interesting.  I wonder if I can drum up some interest?

Bizzare things are happening in Japan…

It seems to be raining tadpoles in Japan this month. Meteorologists and scientists are stumped as to the reason why and it keeps happening in different cities and different prefectures too.  I’m not too sure what’s really going on, but I have a picture of some random guy running around throwing the tiny fish in the air then running away to watch what happens from the sidelines.  One of lifes many mysteries I guess!

Creepy!

Creepy!

They’re coming.

One of the most exciting things for me is when Asian artists get exposure in the United States.  This year is looking to be very big for lots of people.  First of all, one of my first Asian musicians I ever listened to is finally getting her “US debut.”  BoA is releasing an English-language album in March.  The album is supposed to be called Look Who’s Talking and will contain 11 tracks.  The best part is that they are all new songs, not just translated versions of her old songs.  If pre-release track listings are to be believed there will be only one of those and it’s Girls On Top.  I find that simply translating a song into English is nice, but doesn’t always work well and they have problems sounding well blended.  One example is the recent release of Rain’s single Rainism into several languages.  It sounds like he is struggling instead of singing effortlessly like he does in Korean.  Even his Japanese version’s of Rainism and Love Story sound forced where his full-length Japanese album sounds great.  The first single to be released off of BoA’s album is Eat You Up, which takes BoA away from her previous “sweet” image.  In the Korean version of the video (which marketed better than the one produced for US release) she is seen wearing hip-hop style clothing and dancing with a lot of force in a harder hip-hop style than a lot of her pop routines.  The lyrics are more suggesttive than a most of her other songs too, “I’ll eat you up boy, so yum, yu-uum..” I like it, and I think that the majority of people that are in the demographic she will be trying to reach will like it too.  I look forward to the release and it’s going to the first actual CD I will buy in the store this year.  (I don’t know how many I actually purchased in a store last year, maybe a few?) The album releases in several versions in Japan (Best&USA is the Japanese title) on March 18, with an expected United States release of the 17th.

BoA - Best&USA (Japanese release)

BoA - Best&USA (Japanese release)

Second on the block, (or actually first if you consider the expected Japanese release date of this one is March 14th) is Utada.  One of the other pop princesses of Japan, is trying her hand in the US market again.  After her second US release of Exodus (which had mediocre results in the US, but was a hit in Japan) she’s coming back with a new album titled This Is The One.  I’m hoping it’s better than Exodus. (I hope no die-hard Utada fans throw things at me for saying this.)  I think Exodus was a bad album.  There were a few songs on it that I thought were catchy, but the lyrics and style were so different from her normal songs that it was hard for me to get into the album.  I didn’t listen to it nearly as often as her other albums.  The lyrics from Easy Breezy always make me giggle, and I’m never sure why. “You’re easy breezy, and I’m Japan-ezy” was kind of ridiculous to me.  I guess the album and I just never clicked.  I think that Utada takes chances and puts herself into her music, which I respect tremendously, (especially considering the mass over-production of most Asian acts.) so I try not to judge too much.  In fact, I’ll have to take another listen to refresh my memory.  I’m excited to hear what she comes up with on This Is The One.

Single #1 - Come Back To Me

Single #1 - Come Back To Me

Third on my list of exciting people to see this year is Daniel Henny.  Daniel is a US citizen of Korean decent who was born in Michigin and is working in Korea. (we were practically neighbors! j/k – I lived in Minnesota.) He has his first United States movie releasing (again, it’s an expected release date, lots of things change!) on May 1st.  He is playing David North aka: Agent Zero in the movie X-Men Origins: Wolverine.  I’m excited to see him on the big screen and look forward to seeing him play opposite of Hugh Jackman.  If you haven’t seen him in anything check him out in My Father, Seducing Mr. Perfect, and My Name is Kim Sam-Soon. While he doesn’t have the greatest command over the Korean language, the populous loves him anyway and they have been writing most of his dialogue in English.  His official website is easy to navigate and has regular updates in English too!

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Daniel! Yay, sexy cop-man. 🙂

Last, but most absolutely not least (he’s my favorite celebrity!) is Rain.  He has been busy with his most recent album release Rainism. With concerts, fan meetings, tv performances and video shootings it’s always a surprise to me that he doesn’t collapse from exaustion.  Coming up sometime this spring is the release of Ninja Assassin. His second Hollywood movie with the Wachowski brothers (the other was Speed Racer in case you were living under a rock.)  is slated for a release the first quarter of 2009.  It’s been pushed around – probably in part of Rain’s busy schedule – originally slated for a January release and then last I heard, a release due sometime in March.  No new news on the date of the movie, but from production stills it looks to be pretty action packed.  I’m also assuming that it’s pretty graphic heavy (it can’t be nearly as much as Speed Racer!)since it wrapped up filming earlier last year and still doesn’t have a preview.  There hasn’t been much mention of his English language album releasing in the US lately.  I’ll bet he has his plate full for now and is probably strengthening his English before he makes the big leap.

Training for the film in Berlin.

Training for the film in Berlin.

Don’t think I forgot to mention Se7en debuting in the US, but his album has no tentative date despite the leak of several songs onto the internet already. There was a lot of hype and promotion done last year, but there has been a lack of news on his release.

Japanese CD Review: Gackt – Ghost (Single 2009)

After almost a year “off”, Gackt has been launching himself back into his music with two consecutive releases.   The release of Jesus in November (2008) sparked controversy and caused a ripple among fans.  I, for one, have no issues with the song.  If they would bother to listen to or find translations of the lyrics, they would understand the true meaning of the song.  In it, Gackt plays the inner voice begging for help from Jesus to give him salvation and save him from himself.  The video is dark and graphic depicting a man attempting to commit suicide and follows the deeper meaning of the song.

We are given another treat this month, with the follow-up single Ghost. It has returned Gackt to his hard rock roots and reminds me of some of his songs of the album Crescent. The song opens with the sounds of machinery and pulls the listener into the song with a hypnotic rhythm that entices them to listen further.  The song strengthens with the addition of guitars and a strong bass beat.  The lyrics are similar in theme to Jesus and in them “Gackt” pleads to be destroyed, claiming to be a imbomination of God.

It may sound dark and sinister, and may be, unless you find out that both songs were inspired by Terminator: The Sarah Connor Cronicles.  So, in truth, it is a monster that should be destroyed.  You can check out the video to see his tie-in for yourself.  I was actually pretty shocked to see Gackt DANCING!

I enjoy Ghost a lot and am reminded of older Gackt songs that I love to listen to even today.  Don’t get me wrong, Love Letter and No ni saku hana no Youni have their place in the world (and in my playlist/heart) but I prefer the darker and deeper side of Gackt’s music.

So, I give this the big 5 out of 5.

Gackt - GhostOh, and if you want to read a perfect review of it follow this link.

Japanese Movie Review: Dororo (2007)

Last night I watched this:

A stylized dance number!

A stylized dance number!

Surpise! It’s not a Bollywood flick!  This is actually one of the first scene’s to Dororo, a fantasy movie based on the work of classic Japanese manga-ka Osamu Tezuka.  I usually balk at his stuff, because it’s usually a little to different for me.  I admit that he was a genious and very prolific.  I think that some of his work are just too over my head.  I read Phoenix, but I ended up confused most of the time, and never read it again.  I watched Metropolis, and wanted enchanted by it, but I didn’t love it.  So, it was a delightful surprise that Dororo has shoved it’s way into my top…well, it’s one of my favorites of the year.  On to the what and why.  There may or may not be spoilers ahead, so read on if you have seen it already.  I promise not to give away the ending!

Hyakkimaru (Satoshi Tsumabuki) is a man with a mission.  He is out to reclaim the 48 parts of his body that he was born without.  Read:

Aww! It's such a CUTE blob.

Aww! It's such a CUTE blob.

In order to accomplish this task he must kill all of the demons that were given a piece when he was born.  Hyakkimaru does not know why he was born this way, or who is responsible, and along the way begins to unravel the mystery.  As a child he is taken care of an elderly oji-san who claims Hyakkimaru as his own child and through his awesome shaman-y powers manages to create body parts for him using the (ew!) remains of children who died in war (always recycle!) One day, while battling a demon in a bar:

Smile! You're on Yokai Camera!

Smile! You're on Yokai Camera!

Hyakkimaru runs into a theif that decides she is going to follow him, and tags along.  Relcutantly he tells his new friend that he has not one true name but that he has been called Hyakkimaru, Dororo, bakemono and a number of others.  She decides that Dororo (an actually mis-pronuciacion of dorobo=theif) suits her better and picks it for herself, leaving him to be Hyakkimaru.  She convinces him to treat her as a boy and routinely refers to him as Aniki (traditional term for a respected (slightly) older man, not generally used by women.)  So, Dororo (Kou Shibasaki) joins him in the fight against the majin (demon gods) that he must kill.

I'll get this tail for you...

I'll get this tail for you...

While there is a LOT more that happens in this film, I hate reading reviews or synopses that ruin the entire film and leave you with nothing new to learn when you actually do see it for yourself; so I’m starting the review.

I LOVED this movie.  It was fun, depressing and thought-provoking too. The beginning of the film was the most fun.  There is good comic relief throughout the movie, mostly provided by Dororo (oy0i-iiyoi!)

Eeh?

Eeh?

I give this movie credit for having the best yokai/demon/bakemono/majin I’ve ever seen too.  In most of the movies that I have seen, they seem comical or ridiculous.  Some of them in this one were a bit silly like the giant sakura tree, but I think they at least looked menacing versus just laughable.

Impressive Wing Span.

Impressive Wing Span.

This Godzilla-esque lizard was the most ridiculous one, and even then I still liked it because it was such a fun and entertaining fight.

Rawr!

Rawr!

The sakura monster was probably the one I was most surprised by and intrigued with.  I usually think that the sakura tree is a positive symbol of Japan and the fact that it was used as a monster came unexpected.  I’ve come across versions of the different demon’s in other movies and shows before so I wasn’t really super stunned by any of the others.

Too close for comfort.

Too close for comfort.

Run! The blossoms smell too good!

Run! The blossoms smell too good!

No, not even the weird conglomerate-baby spirit surpised me.  No, really…

What She Said!

Me: What She Said!

I was surprised by it at first, but it grew on me like it did with Dororo.  In a battle with a different majin I was reminded of The Matrix and Shaolin Soccer. I think I liked this movie better than those two.  I’m thinking of actually researching yokai/majin in a more serious form after this movie.  I also love GeGeGe no Kitarou and other movies with traditional Japanese monsters, so it would be a fun and interesting research topic.

Flying GONGFU!!!!!!

Flying GONGFU!!!!!!


I had a few kokoro♥ squishing moments too.  Like this one:


Squish!

Squish!

Dororo and Hyakkimaru help to free the spirits of these children and release them into the after life.  Immediately after-wards however, their families stone our heroes out of town because Hyakkimaru is a bakemono.  😦  Another example of people being ignorant and scared of what they don’t take the time to understand.

You can come to my village Hyakkimaru!

You can come to my village Hyakkimaru!

I really liked a few of his acquisitions too.  When he got back his voice the scene in the rain was very touching.  I bet they were tired of yelling and laying around in the rain though when filming ended that day.  In fact, I bet Satoshi-kun was REALLY tired of screaming in this movie, period.  I mean, he regained a lot of body parts and howled in agony after recieving each one.

I'm a real boy!

I'm a real boy!

After another battle, wherein he battles two demon dogs that strangely resembled the zombie-dogs from Resident Evil he gets two body parts back for the price of one (battle that is.)

What does Hyakkimaru see for the first time?

What does Hyakkimaru see for the first time?

Dororo, of course!

Dororo, of course!

It’s at about this time that the fun ends and they start to really get into the serious side of their reality. Dororo tells Hyakkimaru of her past, and why she instists on being treated as a man instead of a woman.  Dororo’s fate is a direct result of an evil shogun and the tyranny he pours onto his people.  Most of the real drama begins with the (surprise!) entrance of THIS GUY:

It's Eita!

It's Eita!

Eita Tahomaru is a bit of a key player to the rest of the movie, and I won’t spoil it any more than I may already have.  In short, I give this movie a high recommendation.  If, for no other reason than it was just plain fun. I can’t be the only one who thought it was good, considering that it has two sequels/continuations coming up.  The second one is due out this year.  Dororo might be a little over the heads of people not familiar with Japanese history or older fables.  Don’t let that stop you however, because you can catch on pretty quick and it explains itself really well.  The only thing that would have scared me off would be this:

Geh!

Geh!

I knew something fishy was up the moment Anna Tsuchiya these girls showed up.  Creepy.