Saturday, February 26, 2011

Rant: The Great Fan Divide

A month or two ago, I bought tickets to Linkin Park's latest tour with The Prodigy and I was really excited about it. I've been wanting to see LP since their break out takeover with Hybrid Theory, but I wasn't that big of a concert goer as I am now and when I started attending more, my only option was Projekt Revolution (which is equivalent to KoЯn's Family Values Tour, featuring several other bands with them as headliners). I wasn't interested and waited around for that very moment. Unfortunately, the date was postponed to March. I'm not bitter about it at all and this post has nothing to do with the cancellation either. This post has to deal with some comments I've been reading since I added the event on my account.

I already knew that since the long awaited release of Minutes to Midnight a fan division was formed due to the changes of LP's sound. I thought this would've faded, but the fan hate is still alive. All I saw were constant complaints about how Prodigy fans felt sorry or didn't understand why they would be opening for such a "shitty" band. I was appalled and a little bit ashamed as I am a fan of both bands. I couldn't believe that LP fans were still bickering over the band's experimental choices and jrock fans have stopped months or even years ago.

Now I don't want to strictly keep this centered around LP, I wanted to focus all my irritated energy towards all the bands that caused a fan division. Most of them have calmed down and people have moved on, at least from my point of view, and others, like the example above, have yet to let go. It's partially the reason I have the indies vs. major poll up for the month.

Back in 1997, a talented visual kei band by the name of Dir en grey was born. They brought controversy and thought provoking lyrics to music listeners around the country. They slowly evolved into a less visual creation to a more normal state. After branching outside of Japan, they set their sights on America and became inspired (or influenced moreso) by the bands they were touring with. Marrow of a Bone and it's singles leading up to it were released and caused an uproar within the fandom with their "Americanized" sound. There was an instant divide and people complained about their music, lack of self mutilation in live performances, and their less visual appearance, but soon all things calmed down and Uroboros opened some fans' minds that their roots were still there within their growth and experimentation. Sure, there's still a divide in the fandom, but it has become less rowdy compared to LP's fanbase.

In 2008, Girugamesh released their third album, MUSIC, which caused a divide in their fanbase. They took a different direction with their unique rock sound and added new dance, rap, and a few pop elements to some songs. A lot people wanted them to go back to the emotionally intense sounds of "VOLCANO" or even something that still captured the essence of "Owari to mirai".

In 2007, former An Cafe guitarist Bou left the band and two new members were added, Takuya (guitar) and Yuuki (keyboard). People bitched and moaned over how Yuuki looked like a freak and wouldn't give him a chance just by basing it on appearance. When Kakusei heroism ~THE HERO WITHOUT A 'NAME'~ and Ryuusei Rocket were released, some fans were constantly comparing Bou and Takuya's guitar skills to each other. They would strongly cling to their thoughts that Bou was a better guitarist than Takuya, but honestly, in my opinion, Takuya is better. At least, the above examples I can understand there being a division within the fandom, but an argument between Bou and Takuya is a waste of time.

Last year, Jaejung, Yuchun, and Junsu left DBSK due to contract issues and decided to form JYJ while Changmin and Yunho continued on with DBSK. Now this fan division ranks up there with LP and I'm so happy I'm not a fan of them, because I'd probably be equally annoyed with this division. Fans were torn and felt betrayed. They felt obligated to like both instead of just sticking with whatever they enjoyed without regrets or even just sticking with old DBSK.

Bands change. You can't stop that and deep down you wouldn't want them to. Think about it. If Dir en grey, Linkin Park, and any other band that has evolved into something else played the same type of music, you would be just as annoyed and bitchy about it. It's impossible to please everyone and I'm glad that these fan divisions haven't hindered bands from exploring their creativity. As fans, we need to accept that we're not going to like everything no matter how die hard of a fan you are. You don't have to feel guilty about it either. It won't kill you to admit to yourself or anyone else that you dislike something from your favorite band/artist. Most importantly, we need to stop yelling at each other, because originally we were brought together because we love the band or artist. We need to agree to disagree too.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Reader's Question: What makes it difficult for Asian musicians to crossover to America?

This is the second part of the previous question of who I think would be successful.

If you haven't noticed, Asian Americans aren't greatly represented in the media, so that already makes it difficult for Asians to make a mark in the entertainment industry, especially without doing any sort of martial arts. Even though the country has a small percentage of Asians, they still need to be represented in all walks of life like any other minority that makes up this vast melting pot.

It was mentioned in a previous post that most Americans aren't willing to open their ears to music that is not English and for those who listen to foreign music, in this case Asian music, majority of it is in the artists' native tongue. Some may throw in bits and pieces of English words or phrases and there are even some groups that sing completely in English. Unfortunately, even if the artist does perform in English, they may not know how to converse with it very well.

With communication, there is also the difference of how musicians carry themselves when interviewed. American musicians know what to give their listeners, because they are American and know what their fans expect, but for Asian musician to be interviewed here is quite difficult. Interviewers want to pry into personal details, joke with them a little (sometimes in a bit of a perverse way), and be casual and loose with them. It's a little more formal and PG when it comes to interviews in Asia. Sometimes it can be a little touchy like KinKi Kids' show and other variety shows that don't take things as seriously, but still maintain some sort of polite manner about themselves.

Now I think it's time to target specific genres to get this next point across, which is appearance. As much as I wanted to mention wonderful jrock/visual kei bands like Alice Nine., D, and born, I knew realistically they would have tons of problems crossing over with both language and appearance.

Unfortunately, parts of the world are built on superficial standards and, in this case, the U.S. and Japan have different physical criteria for our rockers. Sure, we're not a stranger to men wearing make up from the extreme like the legendary KISS to a little less like Black Veil Brides to the bare minimum with just eyeliner like Green Day, but these men with make up still maintain themselves as manly men. In the world of visual kei, it varies from artistic to androgynous. So, some of the musicians sacrifice their masculinity to an extent to portray a certain persona of themselves like Yuuki (Lycaon), Rame (Vidoll), and Kyo (Dir en grey). Sadly, some Americans associate this gender bending trend with homosexuality and drag, but it's far from it. This theory is hard to explain to those who don't understand Japanese culture and their assumptions are immediately made when someone sees a male musician rocking out in feminine or flashy attire, especially if fanservice is involved.

Androgyny is also an unfortunate factor for our pretty boys of pop from Japan and Korea. Fans enjoy cuteness, playful flirting between group members, and occasional dress up of jpop idols like the Johnny's boys and sometimes kpop idols. They are used to the ideas of yaoi and their fans welcome that sort of "fantasy" interaction like jrock. But, of course, in America, our male pop artists have to maintain a clean cut image, but still give us a strong masculine vibe that fans learn to crave. In Japan and Korea, they also have to primp themselves, but have more of boyish and somewhat manly quality about themselves. In some ways maybe a cute, young face and a manly built. Crazy thing is that these countries demand more talent from these pop idols compared to America. They must train rigorously with vocals and choreography, sometimes at a young age. A lot of them dabble in acting and/or modelling. As for America, dancing is a plus to the entertainment value, especially in live performances, and give an advantage to pop stars and groups. They mainly focus on selling their music and getting endorsement deals instead of a side acting career.

What this all boils down to is us, the listeners, being open minded to new ideas and sounds. If we can accept different sounds and appearances within ourselves (i.e. Madonna and Marilyn Manson), then we can do the same for other performers from around the world. Music is always evolving and being introduced to new sounds and sights from other countries can benefit us all.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Quick Music Review

DBSK - Keep Your Head Down (2011, South Korea) Rating: 3/5
Favorite Tracks: Maximum & Our Game

My expectations were pretty much set when I started this album, especially since 1. I'm not a DBSK fan and 2. I wasn't as "wowed" as everyone else with their debut music video as a duo. "Why (Keep Your Down)" was a bit off putting for me considering it featured some heavy rock elements in the beginning and still had that generic kpop sound lingering that they're known for. I still feel a bit iffy about the song, but it's alright (with an added shrug). Just kinda feels like they were trying too hard in places. My mind drifted upon the next track as I'm not a big fan of ballads, but I made it once through just to say I went through the whole album. "Maximum" gained my interest back with its hard hitting bass that they kinda recycled from the first track and some classic oriental intro and break I wasn't expecting. Progressing forward, my interest was waning from thoughts of "oh, this is okay" to "great...another boring ballad *sighs*", until it was gained back once more upon a track with some attitude and a little bit of darkness by the name of "Our Game". I had to seize my journey through this album to repeat it a couple more times, but once I moved forward to the final two tracks, I learned it was back to waning attention until the album ended and I was free to backtrack to "Our Game"...with added volume~

GD & T.O.P - Vol. 1 (2011, South Korea) Rating: 4/5
Favorite Tracks: HIGH HIGH, Oh Yeah, & Knock Out

I was pretty excited for what these two talented yet different rappers would bring to the table. The "Intro" gave me promise with a retro 80's beat and a smooth flow and attitude from both men. "HIGH HIGH" was their debut as a duo and it was easily catchy. A great dance tune with a hip-hop club attitude that you can't resist. Teaming up with label mate Park Bom to add some sweet flavor to this hip-hop, semi-R&B beat and flow. You can't help but say "Oh Yeah" to this track. "Don't Go Home" shared another great retro vibe with trumpets and other elements reminiscent of the 70s. "BABY GOOD NIGHT" is a mind melting R&B lullaby. The last track is "Knock Out" that serves attitude and some fun vibes to keep your head bobbing like a gangsta. This album also features a few solo tracks from G-Dragon and T.O.P. G-Dragon's "Nightmare" was instant love with it's dark underlinings and a somewhat haunting auto-tune vocal track, but "What Do You Want?" made me go "wtf?" with it's country/blues fusion that I wasn't digging at all. T.O.P's contribution made me realize how talented he is on his own. "Oh Mom" was a fusion of rock and a bit of hip-hop, although I think the song would've been better if it was less auto-tuned. "Of All Days" was by far my favorite out of his solo stuff on the album! The auto tune was a little annoying, but I like the drama of the music and how well every line fit with the slightly slow pace of the melody until it gets to the chorus. A good build up that sticks easily. I already was pleased with "Turn It Up" and it probably would've been my favorite solo song on the album, but sadly, I was guilty of overplay. The song is still great, has amazing bass, and very hypnotizing just as the lyrics imply.

Dir en grey - LOTUS (2011, Japan) Rating: 3/5
Favorite Tracks: LOTUS & OBSCURE -2011 ver.-

I was a little hesitant to listen to this single, but it ended up being not so bad. "LOTUS" had the perfect blend of the band's softer side that they introduced us to in Withering to death, but still had a bit of rage in the underbelly that was waiting to be released between the entrancing echos of Kyo's voice. I was pleased with the range that was shown in one song. The new version of "Obscure" had me the most nervous. It was a decent remake and I'm not completely sure why they've been redoing their older songs that are already amazing, especially this one. The music was a little more hollowed out in places, but kept it's original melody with a few changes in the guitar arrangements which made it interesting. Of course, there's more crazy, wild growling and vocal echos that were alright, but the chorus arrangement was a nice little twist. It was a close race, but I might just stick to the old version. "Reiketsu Nariseba (live)" was simply a wasted filler you can hear from the various [unnecessary] live DVDs Diru has been producing for the past couple years, so I don't have much to comment on that.

Seungri - VVIP (2011, South Korea) Rating: 3.5/5
Favorite Tracks: VVIP, What Can I Do, MAGIC

I was really expecting to not like this mini, but I do and I feel a little guilty for it. "VVIP" opens up with a grand introduction into a great dance beat that you can't deny is irresistible. I really enjoyed how the song progressed and changed, showing off the many great points of Seungri's voice that I honestly didn't know about. "What Can I Do" honestly reminded me of Usher's new work. Dance and R&B fusion that you kinda want to dislike, but you can't help but want to repeat it. It has great dramatic vocals and the music is very smooth. There are a few points in the song where his voice sounds a bit strained, but you really have to listen to hear it. Of course you have to slow it down a little and have G-Dragon join in for a moment. "Open Window" is a smooth R&B track that's calming and a bit alluring with heart fluttering vocals. I'm bad and didn't bother to look up a translation to "Magic", but I get this cocky, flirty, but playful vibe from it and it makes me smile a little. The last three remaining tracks were downhill for me and I became uninterested as it progressed.

Kalafina - Magia (2011, Japan) Rating: 3/5
Favorite Tracks: Magia

This Japanese female trio never disappoints me with amazing, dramatic orchestral music mixed with hits of rock elements and outstanding vocal talents. "Magia" definitely meets my standards and beyond of these girls and it feels like a dramatic journey through a sandstorm desert filmed in slow motion of a movie. The music perfectly matches the power of each girls' voice and it's a great track to just lose yourself and sway freely. "Snow Falling" is a beautiful ballad with overshadowed music and more amazing range of vocals. It's not particularly my type of song I normally enjoy, so I found it a bit boring.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Movies Watched in 2011

Let's hear it for Round 3!

Starting date: January 3, 2011
Finishing date: December 30, 2011

1. Last House on the Left (2009, USA)
2. Futurama: Bender's Game (2008, USA)
3. Salt (2010, USA)
4. SAW: The Final Chapter (2010, USA)
5. Case 39 (2010, USA)
6. Whisper of the Heart (1995, Japan)
7. Ringu 2 (1999, Japan)
8. Wise Guys Never Die [Tai fong lo chin] (2006, Hong Kong)
9. Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984, Japan)
10. Chloe (2009, USA)
11. The Cat Returns (2002, Japan)
12. Ninja's Creed (2009, USA)
13. Daybreakers (2009, USA)
14. My Neighbor Totoro (1988, Japan)
15. The Bad Seed (1956, USA)
16. Castle in the Sky (1986, Japan)
17. My Neighbors the Yamadas (2001, Japan)
18. Resident Evil (2002, USA)
19. Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004, USA)
20. Resident Evil: Extinction (2007, USA)
21. Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010, USA)
22. Due Date (2010, USA)
23. The Exorcist (1973, USA)
24. The Shining (1980, USA)
25. [Rec] (2007, Spain)
26. The Last Exorcism (2010, USA)
27. Carrie (1976, USA)
28. Children of the Corn (1984, USA)
29. The Good Son (1993, USA)
30. Sucker Punch (2011, USA)
31. Easy A (2010, USA)
32. Shutter (2004, Thailand)
33. Shutter (2008, USA)
34. Shutter Island (2010, USA)
35. Psycho (1960, USA)
36. Clockwork Orange (1971, USA)
37. Iron Man 2 (2010, USA)
38. Megamind (2010, USA)
39. The Fifth Element (1997, USA)
40. A League of Their Own (1992, USA)
41. Madea's Big Happy Family (2011, USA)
42. Little Fockers (2010, USA)
43. Black Swan (2010, USA)
44. The Hangover (2009, USA)
45. The Green Hornet (2011, USA)
46. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011, USA)
47. Ashes of Time Redux [Dung che sai duk] (1994, Hong Kong)
48. Lalapipo (2009, Japan)
49. Cruel Intentions (1999, USA)
50. X-Men: First Class (2011, USA)
51. Akunin (2010, Japan)
52. Zombieland (2009, USA)
53. Beastly (2011, USA)
54. Devil (2010, USA)
55. Ringu 0 (2000, Japan)
56. Ocean's Twelve (2004, USA)
57. Surrogates (2009, USA)
58. Mao's Last Dancer (2009, USA)
59. Summer Wars (2009, Japan)
60. Identity (2003, USA)
61. Rango (2011, USA)
62. Picture of Dorian Gray (1945, USA)
63. The Brave Little Toaster (1987, USA)
64. Kiki's Delivery Service (1989, Japan)
65. The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars (1998, USA)
66. The Rescuers (1977, USA)
67. The Rescuers Down Under (1990, USA)
68. The Great Mouse Detective (1986, USA)
69. Hercules (1997, USA)
70. The Pagemaster (1994, USA)
71. Pocahontas (1995, USA)
72. Beauty and the Beast (1991, USA)
73. Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011, USA)
74. Saw III (2006, USA)
75. Saw IV (2007, USA)
76. Saw V (2008, USA)
77. Saw (2004, USA)
78. La Jetée (1962, France)
79. The Virgin Suicides (1999, USA)
80. Curse of the Golden Flower [Man cheng jin dai huang jin jia] (2006, Hong Kong)
81. The Birds (1963, USA)
82. I Am Legend (2007, USA)
83. Suicide Club [Jisatsu sâkuru] (2001, Japan)
84. P2 (2007, USA)
85. Dawn of the Dead (2004, USA)
86. Jungle Fever (1991, USA)
87. The Family That Preys (2008, USA)
88. Meet the Browns (2008, USA)
89. Trigun: Badlands Rumble (2010, Japan)
90. Mississippi Masala (1991, USA)
91. Halloween (2007, USA)
92. The Love Guru (2008, USA)
93. The Devil Wears Prada (2006, USA)
94. Mrs. Doubtfire (1993, USA)
95. Daisies [Sedmikrásky] (1966, Czechoslovakia)
96. Trick (1999, USA)
97. Boys Love (2006, Japan)
98. Boys Love (Theatrical ver.) (2007, Japan)
99. The Watermelon Woman (1996, USA)
100. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953, USA)
101. Fight Club (1999, USA)
102. Sucker Punch (2011, USA)
103. Teeth (2007, USA)
104. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011, USA)
105. Hide and Seek (2005, USA)
106. Tekken (2010, USA)
107. The Roommate (2011, USA)
108. Little Shop of Horrors (1986, USA)
109. The Addams Family (1991, USA)
110. The Addams Family Values (1993, USA)

Reader's Question: What Asian musicians would be successful in America?

I changed this Reader's Question a little and separated it into parts. This is the original question: "Which artists in the Asian fandom do you think have a chance of making it in the United States? If you think none of them do, what would it take for one to?" So, this time around I will answer the first part and then I will answer the second in another post.

If you haven't noticed, I try to be non-bias when it comes to subjects like this. Most times, I can understand both sides of a situation, so I want to be as realistic as possible with my answer to the readers' questions.

The most important thing for Asian musicians to be successful in this country is for music lovers to be open-minded to the language differences. Yes, people like you and me can easily embrace Asian culture and their various creative structures, but it's difficult to get someone who thinks it's odd despite the sound being similar to American artists. This problem usually comes down to language as the main problem.

For those of you who are reading this and don't understand why we enjoy Asian (or any other country/language) music without understanding, here's a short answer. Music is the universal language of the world. It is used to portray emotion through sound that touches the heart and mind. It doesn't need to be understood by a person's native language or existence of words to be felt, like Apocalyptica or An Cafe.

Now that that's out the way, I can go back to the question at hand: who would be successful in this great country? Well, I decided to split it into four different genres and use a few examples that I personally listen to.

To represent Japanese pop, I have chosen Jasmine, Daichi Miura, MAA, and Foxxi misQ as my examples. Jasmine has a nice, soulful R&B style to her music. She also opened for American R&B singer Ne-yo and the sound blended very well with his. She has a very unique style that could inspire trends in the U.S. and her lyrics are very thoughtful and truthful. I believe R&B lovers would appreciate what she has to offer, although I also believe she needs a little work in her music video presentation to win over potential fans in the States to become successful. Daichi Miura also radiates the same wonderful aura Jasmine presents to fans. He has a great, alluring R&B sound to his music. He was deemed "Japan's Smallest Soulman" and the "Japanese Michael Jackson" with his powerful vocal range and smooth dance moves. In my eyes, both Jasmine and Daichi are diamonds in the rough ready to shine brightly to the world with their amazing talent. It also seems, basing off of a couple YouTube videos I found, that African Americans are accepting of Daichi's talent and that is a big advantage for him making it here. Foxxi misQ also falls along the lines of good R&B music. Unfortunately, the trio split last year and are now taking on solo careers, but if they were still together, I believe they would be accepted here as they have a similar quality as Destiny's Child. They are visually appealing, move very well in heels, are great role models to females representing strong, independent, fierce women, and have the vocal talent to back it up. Lastly, "goth" pop singer MAA would fit well into the trending dance music craze in the U.S.. Watching her music video for "Ballerina brain system" immediately triggers thoughts of Lady Gaga inspiration, but something a little different that makes her stand on her own. With the perfect rocker flair leftover from her MarBell days, I believe MAA would be a good candidate to get Americans wiggling their hips and changing up to whole new Japanese fashion trend.

Now for the tough genre: Japanese rock. I must admit I had a hard time picking out bands who would be successful here. I even had to cheat a little and scroll through my massive iTunes library of music to pick out a few to answer this, so I hope my choices seem reasonable [and not a cop out]. At the moment, I'm head over heels in love with Pay money To my Pain, especially since their new album dropped recently and I'm swooning over it, but I shall save the rest of my comments about that for later. PTP is no stranger to the U.S.. They occasionally fly back and forth for recording sessions and filming PVs. All of their lyrics are in English and their sound is very relevant to American rock, if not better. Their sound and lyrics ranges from anger to pure truth. I'm surprised they haven't decided to do a mini tour here yet. Nagoya's coldrain is my next choice. They're another jrock band that sings in English. They also have a relevant rock sound that would blend: a mixture of anguish and strategically placed screams. They also did a risky cover of a pop song, Stacie Orrico's "Stuck". Head Phones President would be a great representation of female vocals in the jrock genre. They appeal to fans who enjoy Flyleaf's style, but less whiny and they're another band that sing in English. 404NOTFOUND is a bit of an iffy choice for me. This band doesn't sing in English either and their sound is a little bit behind from ours, but could possibly be accepted by rock listeners and bring a little taste of Japan's rock flavor to make them stand out as well. In and out of Japan, they have a promising future in my eyes. Lastly, there were three other choices I wasn't completely confident in mentioning as thoroughly: Seikima-II, Dir en grey, and Fear From the Hate. Seikima-II reunited last year and kicked off their tour in Dallas, Texas. They re-recorded a lot of their tracks for compilation albums into English and it is definitely clear and understandable. Unfortunately, their sound is very dated and would probably only be appreciated by those who enjoy listening to the old metal hair bands. Dir en grey has been an in and out phase in America. At first, they're every where from MTV, Fuse, magazines, and even local newspapers, but once they're gone, the buzz quickly fades as fast as their appearance. They have a chance of making it, but there are many factors that need to be considered. Sadly, I don't listen to Fear From the Hate that much, but they're in a genre I don't particularly like...somehow they fell through the cracks. They are a mixture of club rave music sound bits and metal, but recently I viewed "PAINT A TRIP PARTY" and was turned off by the change. I think if they stuck to the sound I heard from Cursed Screamers For All The Frozen Tears, then they would gain American listeners fairly easily.

Now forgive me for lumping these two genres together, but as stated in a previous post, I'm not that hardcore into Korean music. So, this next choice is Korean pop and rap. Last year, there was a video from Black Eyed Pea's expressing his interest in taking 2NE1 under his wing. Now I'm not sure if it'll be beneficial to the girls or hurtful (like Kanye West and JYJ). Nonetheless, I do see that special something he sees in them being successful in the U.S.. They are multilingual and, in their latest album To Anyone, they featured an English version of one of their songs. They have a great fusion of dance, pop, R&B, and whatever else that comes to mind. Rain has made a small mark in the entertainment industry, but playing a small part in Speed Racer, starring in his first Hollywood film, and becoming Stephen Colbert's nemesis. His English is slowly improving and his musical talent could persuade R&B listeners to his suave sound. He has the right amount of charm and it seems as though he has picked up new fans with his "Badass" award too. If he doesn't make it with music, he has acting to fall back on a little. Even though she hasn't been in the music scene for a while, T (Tasha) would be a great singer to bridge the gap (or racial boundaries) of R&B and rap like Amerie [but less annoying]. She has deep, truthful lyrics and a sound that I'm sure some R&B and/or rap listeners miss from the 90's. Leessang also brings back the good old rap elements of the 90s. They have the right swagger and presence to revive what was great about rap music. Answer also share these same elements and it's no secret that their influences are southern rappers, which clearly show in their music video and song "Nak-Uhh".

Forgive me for making this answer so lengthy, but it's good to explain your thoughts so others can understand. I will be making another connecting post answering what makes it difficult for Asian musicians to crossover. I hope that it explains why I didn't pick certain artists and groups.

Remember, you can always ask me questions any time by sending them to zetsu_nightmare2.0.9[at]hotmail[dot]com and titling it "Cult Question(s)"!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Review: Goth

Starring: Kanata Hongô & Rin Takanashi
Directed by: Gen Takahashi
Language: Japanese
Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 96 minutes

When I first saw this movie on the shelf, I was very excited as I've read the manga and thoroughly enjoyed it. I knew the manga was actually based off a novel by Otsu-ichi with the same title and I wanted to get around to it after I've seen the movie I them all!

It was a typical day in the suburbs of Japan, until an elderly woman spots a woman sitting in the stream of water dividing the stairway. She realizes this woman is missing a hand and informs her of it, but notices that the woman isn't alive. People in the park begin to panic and an officer takes control of the situation. This artistic murder has caught the attention of two high school students: a seemingly happy, socially accepted boy Kamiyama and a quiet, outcast girl Morino. They soon learn that they both share an interest in death and take it upon themselves to investigate the serial murders. During their investigation, they become a little closer and walls are broken down revealing the true nature of both characters.

Some viewers expected more of a horror movie, but it was more on the lines of a mystery. Since I haven't gotten around to picking up the novel, I'm only going to stick with what I know based off the manga. In some ways, the movie followed the storyline of the manga, but left out a few things. The movie was very slow paced and a bit hard to watch at times due to the speed. Now, I know I've watched and reviewed movies with the same pace, but Goth barely held my interest and I had to force myself to focus until the end just say that I watched it. [Also doesn't help that I was laying in bed and it was nearly 3 am ^^;;]

The actors chosen for the main characters were good picks, but on the negative side they were very emotionless and disconnected to the viewer which added to my waning attention span. They also tried to cram a lot of information in there that made a bit confusing and not as entertaining as the manga. Honestly, I think it would've been better executed if it were more a drama instead of a movie as the stories were split into sections that don't influence each other aside from Morino's mysterious past.

Aside from the slow pace and the disconnection between the characters and the viewer, I did enjoy the colorization and the camera work they used. They did have a promising concept, but as I said before, it would've been better if was in a drama format. In the end, I was bored, disappointed, and curious how the novel turns out compared to both mediums I've viewed. For now, I would pass on this movie and go pick up the manga.

Rating: 2.5/5

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Reader's Question: Why are jrock fans converting to kpop?

Have you noticed your jrock loving friends' decreasing convo topics about the latest GazettE single or the latest visual kei trends? Have they been talking more about gorgeous Taemin is or the amazing moves of 2pm? Well, you're not alone! People left and right in the jrock fandom are straying to the other side to the kpop fandom.

Now before I start answering this question, I want to state that I'm not gonna bash on Korea, their music, or their fans. It would be off topic to do so and unnecessary. I also want to state that I am a solid jrock fan and a mere listener of Korean music.

Anyway, the question on some people's mind is "what's going on?" and "why is everyone oogling these pretty boy dancers?". Well, I have asked around and let it settle in my mind the reasons. So, now I'm ready to give you my opinion on the matter.

Everyone's different, we should all understand this. Not everyone thinks that Dir en grey is the most superior band in Japan and not everyone wants to get in Heechul's pants. Therefore there is no one answer to this and since I don't delve into the goings on of the kpop world religiously like jrock, excluding one bias, I'm basing some things on pure observation and some input from friends.

I can honestly say for the past couple years or so, jrock/visual kei as a genre has been waning. From the economy, major bands breaking up or separating, and visually appealing j-indies bands with no talent overshadowing those who do. This could be the reason that elitist and jrock lovers are switching to kpop. Although, with a few iconic comebacks like Luna Sea, X Japan, and Seikima II, jrock could be making a slow gain to make up for the losses we've experienced since 2009.

Another possibility that somewhat ties into the first is boredom. Many good bands have been disbanding or building up the energy for later while the latter distract fickle, superficial fans and dominate the genre. This may turn off potential jrock fans because of the terrible representation that's flooding communities and forums.

There is also the increase of kpop invading Japan. Sure, a few groups and artists have dabbled back and forth between countries like DBSK, Big Bang, and BoA, but now groups like SNSD and KARA are taking over the charts and pushing some jrock bands on the back burner. Unfortunately, this issue has formed a conflict between both fandoms despite the matter of it being a tad hypercritical. This matter could also lead to another factor for the switch which is that the genre is a trend or that crossingover is.

If you've seen the movie Suicide Circle (a.k.a. "Suicide Club"), the main biases of the story, I believe, is that once one set of people establish something popular, the rest of society follows. It is human nature for us to be fickle and wanting to be accepted, so we change parts of ourselves to fit what is trending. Some more than others.

There is also more acceptance of fangirling in the kpop fandom. No one will criticize you for making shallow comments about someone. Maybe because a big part of the genre is based on image. I know I've seen some very pretty boys dancing around and singing out of tune and yet girls still go insane over them. Lastly, there is less personal boundaries. You can find out more personal information about your favorite idol on the internet and see what they're up to on social networks. During interviews, they're a little more open on what types of girls they like, embarrassing moments, and items they keep in their bag. But I think that's a cultural thing.

So, what other reasons are left aside from the crippling jrock genre and fandom, boredom, misrepresentation, the Korean invasion, trends, the freedom to fangirl, and more openness with your favorite idol's personal life? Well, there's my reason for why I enjoy it. I like trying new things because I love music and some of the Korean music I enjoy has opened my eyes and ears to other elements I enjoy about music as a whole. It also sometimes resembles parts or influences of things I already like from other musicians. There's a new, refreshing, and different structure to kpop compared to jrock. I also get to learn what is appealing to a different culture. I'm sure some kpop fans feel the same way when discovering jrock.

No matter what the reasons may be for switching over to either side, I think we need to stop bashing each other for enjoying something completely opposite from your main musical taste. We should also stop with the verbal war of kpop staying out of Japan, because the statement is rather hypocritical and music is a great way to unite the world. Lastly, it's okay to enjoy both as well. I'm pretty sure there's no law against liking opposing genres. Be open-minded~

Feel free to ask me questions any time by sending them to zetsu_nightmare2.0.9[at]hotmail[dot]com and titling it "Cult Question(s)"!