Monday, January 30, 2012

Promo: ROACH

[from left to right] Daisuke (drums), Katsuya (bass), Taama (vocal), & Kubbochi (guitar)
|Official Site||Official Facebook|

From the land of Okinawa in the year 2003, these four talent individuals joined together to create amazing music. They released their first album, MIND OF THE SUN, in 2007 and their first PV for "Momoiro no Kaze". It was a mixture of hard rock with a hint of traditional Japanese elements, mostly spotted in the vocal arrangements. They became part of the Danger Crue/Maverick family for a few years, until 2010. The band cancelled their contract, released For you, I will and took a short venture in the U.S. On February 8th, they will be releasing a new album called No Reason in the Pit.

I've been following these guys for quite some time. I think it was around the time Girugamesh came into the scene as well. ROACH has a very unique sound that could translate well into America without it blending in too much. Sure, people will have to adjust to the language, but watching the PV for "For you, I will", it didn't seem like people cared. After seeing their latest PV for their upcoming album, I'm really looking forward to seeing an expanded view of their growth. If you're still unsure about these guys, Satoshi (Girugamesh) and Miya (MUCC) have a part in this project. Also, if you enjoy bands like Pay money To my Pain, coldrain, and SiM, then this isn't anything foreign to you.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Reader's Question: We Demand! Please Supply

If you read my rant about how PS Company is trying to gain more control, then congratulations, you'll know where this is going in some ways! If you didn't, shame on you! Go back and read it~ No, no, it's fine. I'll probably repeat some snippets of my irritation toward them in today's reader's question: "Merchandising: Do you feel fans spend less due to expenses of importing goods? Do labels/bands/distribution fail to take into account overseas fans when making such things?". Now this post is focusing on mainly Japanese rock music.

As mentioned before, if you read the previous post then you know that I feel that PS Company is trying to cut off overseas fans. I know there are plenty of devoted oversea fans that try and support by buying various CDs, DVDs, and such. Kudos to them! But it sucks that the company has been lagging behind the trend of joining up with YouTube to expose their bands more legitimately so fans don't have to infringe on their copyrights and risk their accounts. I'm sure these fans post these videos of PSC bands to show their support and admiration for them, perhaps get other potential fans to join the ranks of the PSC club.

Now we've all heard the ever popular debate of legal and illegal downloading and I mentioned that the whole situation falls into a grey area when in comes jrock. Let me remind you that I'm only focusing on jrock in this post. So, I guess I'll start with the first part concerning the fans support of these bands.

I've heard and experienced many of these fan stories on why/why not fans pay for CDs. When I first started this blog, I posted several places where jrock can be purchased and they're also listed on the sidebar. So, I've heard that CD prices are too high, which they are compared to here, or for those interested in kpop, South Korea. A single runs about $15 or so and an album is about $30 or more, then there's also DVDs which is usually double that as well. This is all without shipping. Every country's import prices vary as well and sometimes that could cause another hole in fans' wallets. Fortunately, companies that understand how difficult importing products have tried their hardest to make things more feasible and accessible by creating overseas online shops, physical CD shops in Asian oriented sections of certain cities, and providing merchandise at anime conventions. But America is pretty big and not everyone has access to those places. Sometimes even those companies jack up the prices. I've actually witnessed this at a convention too.

I suppose that isn't a straight answer, but from what I've seen on jrock communities, forums, and such, the fans try to support as much as they can despite the high prices of their favorite bands' products and their countries' extra taxes on imported goods. The spending might've decreased a little recently due to the poor economy and the earthquake, but still there is effort.

Onto the next point, the band, labels, distribution, etc. I believe I mentioned this in a post concerning how the jpop industry should be more global like kpop, but it was something around the lines that Japan doesn't seem so openly "needy" for overseas fans when it comes to purchasing their products, but they don't discourage it. I think they have every right to feel this way since their music industry is a lot stronger than South Korea's. Even though I feel this way, I also feel that they know that international buyers exist, but don't bother to make any moves to make products more accessible aside from online places like CDJapan, YesAsia, etc. Like it would be nice to walk into a CD store that isn't in an Asian related area (ex. China, Japan, Korea Town whatever), but it's just not going to happen. I can understand why the companies fear that there isn't enough support outside of Japan and they don't want to risk the expense on exporting goods for the sells to flop.

Fans need to remember that jrock (or any type of non-traditional Asian music) is a very niche market overseas, so they need to understand how exporting these things could be costly and risky. On the other hand, companies need to also understand that we really want to contribute to supporting the bands and artists we love without the middle man or whatever is kicking up prices with shipping and whatnot. I commend bands that realize this after venturing outside of Japan and seeing the amount of support there is. It makes me happy that these labels continue to trust the organizations that help bring them over like Babel Entertainment, JPop House and (even though I strongly dislike them) Tainted Reality. Even HearJapan has made some deals to increase legal downloads for fans.

Label owners Kiwamu (Darkest Labyrinth & Starwave Records), Miyavi (J-Glam), and Kisaki (UnderCode) even cater to international fans by providing various goodies that can be accessed outside of Japan. There are various tour goods, CDs, DVDs, photo sets and such that you can purchase from the Darkest Labyrinth and Starwave Records official site easily. Miyavi created a global fanclub that is actually effective outside of Japan, like his latest tour in 2011 where fans gained some special privileges. Also, recently Kisaki gave access to some exclusive UnderCode goodies via CDJapan, which is pretty awesome. Even though this union wasn't perfect, Dir en grey joined forces with The End Records/The Omega Order when they were releasing Uroboros. They offered decent deals, offered international special items, and made things easier for American fans. So, there is some progress in some areas when bands and their team get a taste of the outside world.

Hopefully, one day, the jrock industry will hear our cries for more accessibility with a decent price tag, but there's still so many factors to work out to make this successful for the bands, labels, and fans.

If there's something you want me to answer, check out this post on how you can submit questions.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Rant: PS Company Wants More Control

Last week has been a busy week for the internet. Sites were blacking out in protest of SOPA/PIPA and the FBI brought down the almighty powers of MegaUpload causing a war with Anonymous. Meanwhile in Japan, PS Company posted this message on various social networks and official band sites:

Please refrain from using copyrighted pictures, movies or any other material that depicts our artists.

We have seen an increase of this recently, images from our site have also been used as twitter icons or similar. (In other words no using their bands as avatars or uploading any of their pictures)

In addition, we would also like to prohibit uploading, reuploading our videos on YouTube and similar services. For the artists sake, and our future coverage, we hope for your understanding and cooperation.

- the GazettE
- Alice Nine
- Kra
- SuG
- ViViD

In short, everyone pretty much has the same opinion about this message. Since this is a rant, I suppose I could elaborate my thoughts on the issue.

As you know, I've had a few qualms with PSC on how they've been representing their bands and making them work excessively leading to mediocre music. This message just adds to my annoyance with this company. I used to kinda like them and was oblivious to their dysfunctions, but they just keep digging a grave for themselves for overseas fans.

First, let's start with the uploading of their videos. I think this issue could be greatly reduced by the fans if the company just made a YouTube account or whatever to advertise their PVs and other videos, then they don't have to complain about fans uploading their products. I'm sure they are capable of doing that as I'm subscribed to various other Japanese labels and bands' accounts. Otherwise, they need to stop being so selfish with their content and let people advertise, because most fans discovered these PSC bands via YouTube. But I do understand that they could be losing a little money with these visual uploads, since, unlike most countries, they include these things with their audio releases. Hopefully, they get on that.

Next are the picture uploads, which I will agree is kinda b.s. Alright, I can understand losing profit from photobooks or something special like that, but people enjoy visuals of who they're listening to. Most entertainment industries is based on visual appeal and fans and potentials want to see what these musicians look like. Sorry, PSC, you're part of a shallow industry. Anyway, I'm sure magazines are losing a little money too by fans scanning their issues and sharing them, but when you don't want fans to show their love through graphics and avatars, that's crossing the line on creative expression. What's the next message going to say? Please don't write fanfiction stories about the bands under PSC? Might as well.

Now I can see both sides of how this could be helpful and harmful. The label wants to make money and the fans want to help them make money by spreading the word on how great the band is worldwide. Both parties want to use the same content to reach these goals, but they really need to compromise and it really starts with PSC, not the fans.

Aside from thinking most of this is total utter crap, until PSC takes action with the video uploading issue, I'm starting to think that maybe the label doesn't want to venture outside of Japan. It feels like that want to cut off the overseas fans, even though they have this global fan club thing going on. I've always felt this disinterest to connect with international fans through the GazettE, but now I really feel this through the company's behavior toward the fans. I understand that piracy is a problem when it comes to jrock due to many financial factors, but there are fans who do actually buy the products these bands create every year no matter what the price is. But if PSC is going to be like this and slowly cut international fans off little by little, then piracy is just going to increase and perhaps they'll lose fans by trying to control their actions.

I hope PSC gets their stuff together and that fans also understand both sides of the situation. Honestly, I can see the fans compromising with uploading materials on YouTube and other streaming sites if PSC provides a channel for themselves and/or the bands under them. As for making graphics, avatars, and the like, I don't think there's really anything they can do. That part actually sounds really silly. Fortunately, this issue has broken my writing block for the following reader's question! By the way, PSC, that's D&L not BORN and that D=OUT pic is Speeddisk era.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Quick Music Review

highball - highball (2011, Japan) Rating: 2.5/5
Favorite Tracks: Tettsui, Ishitsubutsutodoke, Be the seeker

When I heard former leader and guitarist of 12012 Yuusuke was making a solo album, I was really curious how this would pan out. "Tettsui" opens up the album very loudly with near screaming vocals and intense musical presentation. There's minimal lyrics, but the music makes up for it. "Ignorance" is a little more aggressive than the first track, but it has some great guitar lines in it. "Six/Nine" presents some better vocal talent and strong guitar and bass ties throughout the song. Although, the chorus/bridge area is a bit weak compared to the rest of the song. "COUNTER" keeps about the same vibe as the previous. I guess a somewhat L'Arc~en~Ciel fun rock sound. "Yesterday" is a nice little ballad piece with a lovely piano and violin arrangement. "Hirai" takes a step back and gives off that j-indies sound, especially in the vocals. It's very generic and forgettable. "Ishitsubutsutodoke" steps it up a notch and brings more powerful instrumentation, but the vocals are so-so. "Drug Queen" has a bit of an American grunge feel with muffled vocals, estranged guitars, and a strong bassline. "Kurofune" takes a different direction by adding some rapping and experimenting with some different sounds and synth-ish guitars. "THINNER" has a reminiscent hide rush vibe with the vocal and music arrangement. It's not a terrible thing, but it's interesting. "Be the seeker" almost goes back to Laraku sound, but Loki's vocals, I'm guessing it's Sugar's former vocalist, changes that feeling with the prominent bass throughout the song. The music that really compliments his voice. "Desire" mixes up things with a strong rock tone, bits of piano, and some dual vocals. Not particularly fond of the dual vocals though. "Acoustic avenue" closes out the album with a mellow tone. I think the bass overpowered the acoustic guitar too much which was a bit saddening and the vocals were too soft as well. Overall, I wasn't super impressed or disappointed with this album. Everything seem pretty neutral or just reminded me of Laraku. I honestly didn't know what to expect in the first place, but I'm looking for to Yuusuke's new band, the rhedoric.

Para:noir - Amaryllis/Cosmos (2011, Japan) Rating: 4/5
Favorite Tracks: Prominence Inc., Amaryllis, The Code Number [13.]

Let's just jump right into it. "Cosmos" starts off with some heartfelt vocals and decent acoustic work, then bounces right up with an upbeat melody and very strong basslines. It definitely shows a different side to this band other than the fast, hard stuff. "Amaryllis" was used for promotion of this single and if you saw in the previous post I really enjoyed it. It reminds me of everything I love about this band. It has some great music moments and vocals are truly them. No j-indies band can touch Akane's vocals. "Prominence Inc." was re-released for this single and it has some great high energy that the band is known for, some growls, and fast paced drumming. Sure, the vocals are autotuned, but Para:noir makes it seem so effortless and it blends in to a point you don't really care. I think this perhaps better than the original. "The Code Number [13.]" has been one of my favorite Para:noir songs for quite some time and now they have remade it for this single. Luring us in with counting drums, strong bass, impressive guitars, and wailing screams, this song remains awesome. Although, I don't really like the vocal changes with the verse layering and extra screams. Fortunately, those changes didn't completely take away too much of the awesomeness of this song. I'm really pleased with this band and I hope they keep doing what they're doing.

Aural Vampire - Kerguelen Vortex (2011, Japan) Rating: 3.5/5
Favorite Tracks: Kerguelen Vortex, Makki no Body Checkmate

"Kerguelen Vortex" opens with a dark, electronic vibe that Aural Vampire is very good at producing. The melody is really catchy and makes you want to move around to the music. I really love how it lightens up around the chorus and Exo-Chika's voice is just so sweet. "Antenna Phenomenon" takes a different direction with a stop/start retro sound. It's interesting how the vocals slow down, then proceeds to its normal speed. "Human Noise" goes back to the dark, gritty club sound with some fun electronic elements and equally fun vocal melody. "Makki no Body Checkmate" incorporates signature Aural sounds and some new developments that keep this track interesting. "Repoman (album version)" has revived itself for this mini. It's very upbeat and kinda sounds a bit retro musically, like 80s workout video meets 90s dance mix. "Raising City" opens with some cheesy laughter and some equally cheesy 80s retro synth sound. I feel like Eddie Murphy might pop out of no where in his leather red jacket or something and a police badge. It's a purely instrumental track to keep you in those good old 80s days. "GENOM" keeps the retro vibe with a somewhat simple melody until you reach the fast pace chorus. Exo-Chika is back, of course, and I must admit her highest note seems a bit strained, but the song isn't that bad. I continue to enjoy the risks this duo takes and I hope they continue experimenting with different sounds and arrangements in the future.

Daichi Miura - D.M. (2011, Japan) Rating: 4.5/5
Favorite Tracks: Black Hole, The Answer, 4am, Turn Off the Light

One of my most anticipated albums toward the end of the year and, I'm sorry, I spazzed out when I got my hard copy in the mail. I was going to give this album it's own post, but I'll just cross my fingers and hope that my descriptions are short. "Black Hole" sounds like your typical Daichi track that incorporates some pretty impressive vocal and choreography, but when the break down hits with the chorus we get some dubstep. Surprisingly, it's not that cheesy, it's quite impressive when you watch the music video. "Touch Me" was a nice little taste to this album, excluding the singles leading up to it. It has a basic beat, nice bass, and, of course, great vocals with a simple chorus. It took me a little while to get into this song, but it's pretty good. "Illusion Show" also took me some time to adjust to this almost loungey piano sound, but it has a fun melody and the vocals are pretty strong. "Love is like a bassline" has that Jackson5 vibe, but a nice Daichi modern twist to it that makes it even more enjoyable. "The Answer" has been so abused by the replay button when the single was released. It still remains to be a beautiful song with a solid track that truly settles in your mind. "Only You" begins with some strong drums and keyboarding. A new direction to most of Daichi's tracks, but it's an interesting one. Very simplistic and I like that they emphasized on his voice throughout the track. So, when I first listened to this album, I listened to it out of order and "4am" was the last track. I must admit...I nearly cried at how beautiful and powerful this song is. It has simplistic sprinkles of classic R&B piano with a strong melody that empowers Daichi's flawless vocal presentation. I recommend you save this song for last, if this is your first listen of D.M. because it will surprise you. "RUN WAY" tries something new musically by adding some rock to it. It's an okay track, but a few steps down from the previous track. "Turn Off the Light" was the last single released before the album dropped and I still really enjoy this song. It falls into Daichi's usual material, but it's still fresh and fun. "SHOUT IT" is another attempt at incorporate some rock elements to it, but I like this better than "RUN WAY". It has a lot of energy and really pumps you up. "Lullaby" was another previously released single. It sounds just like the title suggests, a sweet R&B lullaby that is quite impressive. "Magic Word" closes out the album with some strong R&B sounds that incorporates some guitar work and such. It's pretty basic overall, but it's a decent track. Honestly, I think this might be Daichi's best album to date. I was really impressed with it, although...I think it would've been even better if he added "Drama" to the tracklist. I've listened to that song more than "Lullaby", but I'm looking forward to more for sure.

Suicide Ali - The Cold Body (2012, Japan) Rating: 3.5/5
Favorite Tracks: The Cold Body, Sequential Soda

So, I think this band was my second choice of inspiration to name this lovely blog, but obviously Nega won out. Suicide Ali is probably my favorite Kiwamu creation or whatever. Anyway, "The Cold Body" opens up in the band's usual peculiar music arrangement, but still keeps a hold of what makes them great with ties of synth elements, piano, violin, and strong guitar riffs. "Sequential Soda" takes a different rock approach in the beginning, then steers you back on track to their crazy, warped sound that the band is known for. It has an interesting arrangement that shows off their roots and growth. "Ningen no kaname (Retake)" brings back one of my favorite tracks and changes it up. It's still a great song, but I like the intensity in the original a lot more. I think the band started the new year with a great start and I hope an album is in the near future.

If there's something you want me to review, check out this post on how you can submit requests.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Top 5 Recommended Music Videos

"Super Lover" by MissTER
One of my friends posted this on Facebook and called them the female Big Bang of Taiwan. Yes, they're actually girls...all of them. It's quite an interesting concept, especially for Taiwan. They really have talent too. I listened to their debut album, Boom Boom Boom, and looked at some of their other music videos and a few lives. I can see how fangirls can easily fall for these handsome ladies.

"Kill My Boyfriend" by Natalia Kills
An unofficial version of this video was released earlier and I'm so happy that it's officially released by the label. It's such a contradicting song, meaning the music is so cheerful and sunshine, but the lyrics are not that happy at all. It's kinda comical and the visuals are quite impressive. Natalia looks absolutely flawless and the song is slowly growing on me. I'm really pleased with the changes as well. I hope this'll be her year to shine a little more.

"Domino" by Jessie J
I know some people had some complaints about this video, but I like it. Sure, it sounds a little Katy Perry-ish, but Jessie still has better pipes than most pop talents these days. I enjoy her funky style and goofy dancing. The editing is quite eye catching too and it looks like she had some fun filming it. I hope we get to see her break out of her box more this year.

"DOOM" by Black Gene For the Next Scene
You all know I've been waiting for the full version of this song and PV and I must say I'm truly impressed and excited. I love the talent these guys have, the vocal and musical arrangements were amazing, and the PV is very simplistic yet eye catching. Lastly, I'd have to add the bass solo was badass. I'm really rooting on Rame on this group. I'm loving them a lot right now.

"The Grasshopper Song" by Sunny Hill
I'm pretty sure you kpop lovers are aware of the release of this flawless Sunny Hill video. They've grown up so much and I'm really loving the direction they're going. I hope they never follow the same path as those mainstream kpop groups either. I've probably abused this song and music video so much, since the release, but it's worth it. Unfortunately, Janghyun will be heading off to the army soon. I'm looking forward to his return with the group and maybe he'll have more lines too.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Quick Music Review

Meisa Kuroki - Wired Life (2011, Japan) Rating: 3/5
Favorite Tracks: Wired Life, Wired Life (No Escape Remix)

Lately, I've been stuck on how to feel about the latest releases from Meisa. Like the title track will be great, but the b-sides are so-so. Anyway, "Wired Life" is has a nice balance of dance and chill vibes from the verses to the chorus. Another great electro-pop track with wonderful vocals and a catchy chorus to go with it. "UPGRADE U!", like the previous single's b-side, is not as impressive. It sounds like a generic electro-pop song that any American pop singer or less popular, new jpop artist could come up with and she's better than this. "One More Drama -PING PONG REMIX remixed by dee.c-" almost reminds me of those 90s pop songs with a modern twist. It's not better than the original, but it's a pretty decent remix. Then there's an instrumental version of "Wired Life". If you purchased the Ao no Exorcist version of the single, the tracks are a little different. The second track is "Wired Life (No Escape Remix)" featuring Okumura Rin. It's a very dramatic musical piece with some dialogue by, I'm assuming, Okumura Rin, and Meisa's voice lurking beneath the darkness and thunderous booms. "Wired Life (Ao no Exorcist ver.)" opens with a piano intro. The song is basically the same as the original, except for that and it's shorter. The instrumental version is part of this version of the single as well.

MUCC - ARCADIA (2011, Japan) Rating: 4/5
Favorite Tracks: ARCADIA, FUZZ -Thunderbeat Ver.-

Look at MUCC experimenting again. Aww~ I'm sure there are some fans who didn't like this experimental piece, but I did. "ARCADIA" has easily become a drug since its release. With its piano intro, electronic elements, and fun rock sound, it was an easy winner. Honestly, it reminded me of "FUZZ". It gives the same great, addicting vibes that make me like MUCC a little more. Way to go guys! "NAME" is a slower song to show off more of Tatsurou's emotional vocals and the rest of the member's musical skills. I guess it's nice and necessary for MUCC fans to hear that they haven't lost their music foundation. I don't hate this track, but it's nothing I'd listen to repeatedly like "ARCADIA". "FUZZ -Thunderbeat Ver.-" sounds like the introduction to some grand wrestler or something. More rock, more synths, and more energy. How could you go wrong there? It's pretty badass actually, even though Tatsurou's English isn't the best, but I can understand it for the more part.

BORN - Psycho Diva (2011, Japan) Rating: 4.5/5
Favorite Tracks: Psycho Diva, DAMNED, DIRTY STACKER

BORN has been on a bit of rocky road for me since they joined PSC, but what they've made isn't terrible just...different. "Psycho Diva" has pieces of their old musical arrangement, but it's sadly buried by this new PSC vocal structure that has been embedded in nearly every BORN song with a fast pace rock sound. You know, that whole yelling thing that's getting boring lately. The song's still good, the bass is killer, and the PV is pretty entertaining. "DAMNED" takes a slightly different direction by opening with some acoustic guitar work and incorporating it with the verses. I really like the experimentation in this song and Ryouga's voice is quite lovely. I just wish they didn't have that stupid group yelling nonsense in it. Enough is enough! Before I started reviewing this, I totally forgot the track on the regular edition, "DIRTY STACKER". OMG! This track is amazing and probably the best thing on this single. It is filled with so much energy and it just brings up great memories from lives. Sure, it still has that stupid group yelling thing in it, but it's less annoying in a way. I just hope that the vocal arrangement took a turn for the better. Totally looking forward to the album, guys (and maybe a U.S. comeback?)!

Verbal Jint - Go Easy (2011, South Korea) Rating: 4.5/5
Favorite Tracks: 원숭이띠 미혼남, 좋아보여, 우아한년 2012, 깨알같아

I wasn't sure whether to review this album or not, but you see it's here. Guess I caved into reviewing this underrated genius. Forgive me for the lack of translations for the tracks, by the way. "원숭이띠 미혼남" opens up the album with beautiful acoustic set, a smooth flow, and Block B's ZICO. Perfect combination. It's very calming and easy to listen to without being tempted to fall into dreamland. "좋아보여" is the reason I was looking forward to this album. It features the Black Skirt and fuses some catchy piano melody and borderline R&B/hip-hop elements. Honestly, I can't get enough of this song. The vocals just work together so well, it's ridiculous! "넌 내게 모욕감을 줬어" opens with a dramatic rock sound and vocals from Koonta. It has a hint of a reggae sound to it with a lot of great tropical musical sounds to make it playfully dramatic and funky. "우아한년 2012" slows the pace down with a deep R&B outline and an equally deep rap flow and attitude. It has some recognizable profanity in it if you really pay attention and don't know any Korean whatsoever. Anyway, it features San-E and Okasian which bring some really great vocal talent to this chilled out track. "긍정의 힘" has an ol' skool sound that your parents could appreciate. It's an easy going, positive track with a vintage musical backing which simply makes you feel good in the end. "Want You Back" starts off with some radio static and an ol' skool "Love Jones" R&B sound. It's quite interesting hearing such a sound from South Korea, but it's great that the genius Verbal Jint and his guest NODO could dig up these gems for your listening pleasure. "Luv Songz" keeps that throwback R&B sound (did you catch that Wonder Girls line? XD). C-LUV's Tae-Wan makes a good vocal contribution to this slow love song and makes even more enjoyable, even though he uses those throwback cheesy R&B notes in there. "약속해 약속해 2012" brings back that acoustic set sound and Urban Character Kappa's Cho Hyun-Ah into the mix. There's a couple song references in there too. (Can you find them? 8D) "어베일러블" keeps the easy feeling the last few tracks have been giving us. It mixes modern and throwback beats together with some great vocal work by the Jint himself and Lady Jane. When you think you know what's going on in this mellow hip-hop song, it switches up on you toward the end. "깨알같아" continues this chilled out mood for the listener, but the music steps into the 90s R&B sound which is very lovely for me. "My Audi" ups the beat, attitude, and takes a step back into the 80s with another one of my favorite rappers the Quiett. It has a great bass track and kinda makes me want to bust out the Adidas track suit and a Kangol. "우리존재 화이팅" closes out with a more playful sound that keeps that retro light guitar and a nice rap flow from the Jint. Very vintage~ This album is quite amazing and the title fits the feeling of the songs very well. Love you, Jint!

Trouble Maker - Trouble Maker (2011, South Korea) Rating: 3.5/5
Favorite Tracks: Trouble Maker, 듣기 싫은 말, 아무렇지 않니

I'm sure some of you are groaning and rolling your eyes as you see this on the list. Are you expecting me to rip this debut mini-album apart like I did HyunA's? Guess we'll see~ Their debut CD starts off with an uncreative titled song by the name of "Trouble Maker". Honestly, this is the main reason I wanted to listen to this mini or whatever. I thought the song sounded pretty cool, even though it sounded like something Infinite should be using. Now, you know my feelings toward HyunA and I've said this before when I posted the music video, but I'm glad that Hyun Seung's voice masks hers for the most part. "듣기 싫은 말" starts with a promising 90ish sound to it and some powerful vocals from, surprisingly, both of them. Next is "Time", which I'm really confused if it's the same duo or a different one, because the vocals sound different from the previous track. Nonetheless, this slow track isn't that bad. Nothing I'd listen to constantly, but it's alright. "아무렇지 않니" slows it down even more to a bass driven R&B track that has questionable vocals too. Oddly enough, I really like this song. It's like a pre-Rihanna era Chris Brown, very smooth and mesmerizing. There's vocal potential, but still a good track. Surprise, surprise, I didn't rip this duo apart. I'm curious if there's going to be a continuation somewhere. Guess we'll see.

If there's something you want me to review, check out this post on how you can submit requests.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Review: V-Rock Disney

Various Artists - V-Rock Disney (2011, Japan) Rating: 2.5/5
Favorite Tracks: Chim Chim Cher-ee, This is Halloween, Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious

When I heard that jrock was going to try its hands at Disney songs, I was partially curious yet skeptical to the idea. Nonetheless, I wanted to find out how this album was going to turn out.

Nightmare's cover of Fantasia's "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" opens up the album. They essentially kept the original arrangement, but added a more rocking flare to it. I love the small bits of dueling guitar moments. Definitely shows a harder side to the band. Next is their cover of Aladdin's "Friend Like Me". It has a nice bass driven sound that's very lounge-esque, think of "Dasei Boogie" sound. I'm not completely sure if the lyrics are a mixture of Japanese and Engrish or what, but Yomi tried. Next track is the theme to Beauty and the Beast sung by LUNA SEA's Ryuichi Kawamura. The song is very calming with soft drums and stray guitar sounds. Rest assure, it still maintains its beauty in Japanese. Although, there are a few places in the song I get a bit annoyed with his voice, but overall the cover is good. Here's a song I really raised eyebrow to when I saw it. This is "Hawaiian Roller Coaster Ride" covered by PENICILLIN from Lilo & Stitch. I honestly had to re-listen to the original to remember what it sounded like. I'm not completely sure what to think of this cover. It's really...odd. So, I'll just move onto the next song which is "Chim Chim Cher-ee" from the classical Mary Poppins performed by Plastic Tree. This was another eyebrow raiser. This definitely sounds like a grey cloud mellow Plastic Tree song. I kinda like it, but those who expected to have some sunshiny feeling like the original won't get that from this slowed down version. Surprisingly, this took me some to adjust to listening to Nightmare Before Christmas's "This is Halloween" by Sadie, but I really like it. Considering I've listened to the original and the Marilyn Mason version more often, but I like the arrangement choices. From Mao's growls, distorted yells, and whispers, it makes the song super eerie and the music sounds a little different then their norm. Lots of guitar highlights and musical risks. You probably never would've guessed, but "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" was one of my favorite Lion King songs as a kid and seeing that Ayabie's Aoi was covering made both excited and nervous. It's definitely more upbeat, which is a little odd, but it works with Aoi's voice. Good job, kid. We have another Mary Poppins tune by the name of "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" covered by none other than THE KIDDIE. This definitely was a good match. It has great energy and the Engrish is so cute. >//> I have never heard of Ninjaman Japan, but next is their cover of Pinocchio's "When You Wish Upon a Star". It starts off slow and promising, then it picks up very rock like. Not a particular fan of the vocals. Next is Snow White's "Heigh-Ho" by CASCADE which is quite...obnoxious. I've never heard of DASEIN either, but they close out this album with Tarzan's "You'll Be In My Heart". Of course, nothing compares to the great Phil Collins, but this was actually pretty good. The music is still pretty calming and the vocals match as well. Good way to end this cover album.

In the end, I'm not overly impressed with the whole collection. Not many tracks blew me away, but I commend the artists and bands for contributing in such a bold cover album of Disney classics. I'm curious if they're going to try for a second volume like they did with the 90's visual kei songs. Please look out for that review!

If there's something you want me to review, check out this post on how you can submit requests.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Review: Baby & Me

Starring: Jang Keun-Suk, Kim Byul, Mason Mun
Directed by: Kim Jin-Young
Language: Korean
Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 96 minutes

I don't think this movie was based off the manga, just by skimming over the summary on Wikipedia. A really good online friend recommended this movie to me and I think I bought it without viewing beforehand at an anime convention.

The handsome Han Junsu is a trouble making, high school student that often involves himself in gang fights, usually with multiple guys at a time and wins every match. Unfortunately, Junsu is suspended from school due to his last fight. When he returns home, he finds a video message from his parents stating that they're tired of his rebellious antics and decided to leave him alone with a set amount of money and his credit card disabled. Junsu turns the situation to a positive one and goes to the grocery store to prepare for a house party with his friends. In the middle of deciding on what alcohol to purchase, he turns around to find Baby Woo-rahm in his shopping cart. Baffled by this discovery, he goes to customer service to see if the parent(s) are in the store and the customer service employees find a note with Junsu's name on it while he writes down his information. So, with the help of his friend and a strange girl he nearly ran into, he learns the ways of fatherhood.

This comedic movie is very entertainment and is loaded with great twists and moments that will keep you smiling, laughing, and crying. The characters are very likable and easy to relate to. There's hardly a boring moment during Junsu's misadventures, from his quest to find Baby Woo-rahm breast milk to his interactions with his friends, especially Kim Byeol.

I like how they kept everything balanced. The movie didn't just focus on Junsu's struggles to fatherhood, but the viewer gets to see what his parents are up to while they're away. There's also a nice, brief background on Kim Byeol to make us understand why she functions the way she does and she makes the viewer become a little more attached to her. We also get a chance to feel a little something for Junsu's other two friends even though one of them doesn't have a huge part in the movie. I also enjoyed that they gave Woo-rahm a voice as well, like those Look Who's Talking movies. It made the movie even more entertaining and comical.

Lastly, I really enjoyed Junsu. He reacted in a very realistic way in such an odd situation. He wants to be a teenage boy and just live his life parent free with his friends. His lack of knowledge is amusing and makes his connection with Byeol necessary to moving the story along and interesting. He also thinks of ways of getting out of this sudden responsibility and little by little he grows with the experience, even though he has to use his charm and acting skills to get his way. Sometimes his teacher happens to appear when a sticky situation occurs. He also meets a couple fathers raising babies along his journey.

Overall, this movie is really great! It has entertaining characters and a simple, but interesting storyline. It keeps the viewer involved by triggering different emotions throughout the movie. It's also pretty funny. If you like light, comical misadventures with a handsome teenage character, then you should check this one out.

Rating: 4/5

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Quick Music Review

HYNA - TARATIKA (2011, Japan) Rating: 4/5
Favorite Tracks: TARATIKA, Kidzuite

Don't you love YouTube discoveries? Well, I stumbled upon this diva's music video for "TARATIKA" and was immediately intrigued, especially because I thought she was a...nevermind, not important. Anyway, the title track is clearly a rip from Lady Gaga's "Telephone", but it's still an enjoyable song. The vocal melody is different from Gaga's, so it can stand on its on. "Burnin' Up" is a slightly more aggressive electro-pop track that'll keep you moving. "Kidzuite" shows off HYNA's vocal talents (and imperfections) a little better than the previous tracks. It features a great instrumentation of violin, piano, and acoustic guitar that leaves a refreshing afterthought in your mind. I hope she reappears this year, because she has a lot of potential.

L'Arc~en~Ciel - XXX (2011, Japan) Rating: 2.5/5
Favorite Tracks: XXX

These old boys are still going and it's refreshing that guys like them can keep making new material every year, no matter if they're together or apart. "XXX" is a sensual, rock tune featuring alluring acoustics, powerful horns, strong basslines, and, the icing on the cake, Hyde's mature vocals. I really like this song more than the PV. "I'm so happy -L'Acoustic version-" is a softer song that reminds me of a retro smoky, jazz lounge. It's nice and mellow and shows off Hyde's vocal versatile to set the mood no matter the melody. The last two tracks of the single are voiceless version of the previous tracks.

DecoLa Hopping - 海賊たちの Wonder Adventure (2011, Japan) Rating: 3/5
Favorite Tracks: Toward the Shine

I feel terrible I haven't gotten around to promoting this awesome j-indies, female fronted band, but I suppose it's not too late to do so. "Toward the Shine" is a great example of what j-indies rock should sound like, raw and passionate. It's great hearing how much this band has grown from broadening their vocal range to prove they're not just a bunch of growls and cuteness and their musical abilities have grown as well. "Sweet Paradise (New Version Remix)" is a speedy track with slightly distorted, megaphone-like vocals. It has a catchy, fun melody that SuG wishes their "positive rock" had, minus the growls. "Wonder Adventure" goes back to their roots, but it also shows how much the band has grown with their happy rock. It's very basic, but still enjoyable.

DEV - The Night the Sun Came Up (2011, USA) Rating: 4.5/5
Favorite Tracks: Getaway, In My Trunk, Breathe, Bass Down Low

Everyone knows I've been looking forward to this album and now I can't wait until it is released in the U.S. "Getaway" is a simple track featuring great piano and violin work that entangles with DEV's lovely voice, then it breaks down to a dramatic musical point and she breaks it down into a low hip-hop beat. Perfect way to open a debut album. "In My Trunk" has easily become one of my favorite tracks with it's distorted vocals, hard hitting flow, and club driven bass with the smoothest bridge ever. "Me" is an airy, hip-hop piece featuring great vocal arrangement, strong drum lines, and keyboard effects to make the listener feel light. "Breathe" brings back that club feeling with a hint of Shakira Latin flavor. A nice little experimentation there, DEV. "Take Her From You" has a minimalistic sound with guitar and emphasized drums to drive the lyrics point across with extra attitude. The whistling is a nice little twist to this song as well. "Lightspeed" took me sometime to get used to, but I ended up liking it the more I listened to it with its near a Capella sound. I like DEV's vocal changes between singing and rapping and, of course, when she says the magic words, then the party's on! "Dancing Shoes" brings the album down on a softer, symphonic tone mixed with electro-pop and various keyboard vocal effects to make the song more interesting. "Perfect Match" smoothly transitions with an acoustic, near generic 90s pop love sound. "Bass Down Low" is the reason I fell in love with DEV. It's an addicting party track and the lyrics are very amusing. "Kiss My Lips" features a familiar sound that the genius producer Timbaland would create. It's sassy, sensual, and very well constructed from the beat to the lyrics. Very refreshing! "In the Dark" was a great choice to promote this album. It was different from her previous releases. It features a nice dance track, memorable Latin horns, and very confident, sensual lyrics that seduce you throughout the whole song as well as make you dance. "Shadows" is a dual vocal, acoustic, earthy piece that's suppose to cool you down some. The album closes out with a couple unnecessary repeats. First up is Tinie Tempah's remix of "Bass Down Low" which essentially sounds exactly the same as the original, except Tinie has a vocal part in it. Lastly, there is another version of "In the Dark" featuring Flo Rida, which is very unimpressive. I'm hoping when they release it in the U.S, they replace those two tracks with the Enrique Iglesias version of "Naked" (T-Pain version sounds awkward).

Wonder Girls - Wonder World (2011, South Korea) Rating: 3.5/5
Favorite Tracks: G.N.O, Me,in, Super.B, Stop!

Another anticipated comeback in South Korea and now we're free from the excessive "Nobody". >> I must admit I was quite excited about this album, mostly because of the previews posted on YouTube for "Be My Baby" and "Me, In"...actually...just the second song. "G.N.O" is the opener for the album with a female driven club sound with a hint of Latin sounds. Definitely an addicting track! "Be My Baby" was the main promo song, which I was very disappointed. Everyone raved and praised this song, but I honestly dislike this song. Music video didn't help with its influential "Single Ladies" visuals, but at least they're being consistent with their retro "dream girls" sound...I guess. "Girls Girls" smoothly transitions in with easy going, but empowering instrumentals and vocals. I was really looking forward to a music video for this electro-rock track "Me,in", but it doesn't look like my request will be answered anytime soon. Nonetheless, I'm surprised they experimented with rock elements in the first place. I guess we can't get away from the 70s, can we JYP? Anyway, "Sweet Dreams" is a modern take on disco with some autotune in the background. "Stop!" fuses retro synth with present day electro-pop dance elements. I must admit the chorus is unforgettable. "Dear. Boy" is a hollowed out electro-pop mixed with a R&B beat. For some reason, it reminds me of a better Beyonce song. "두고두고" really slows down to a pure R&B track, but it's good to have some songs for fans to recognize these girls' vocal talents. "Super.B" picks up some Euro-pop and brings the dance vibe back into the album. This is a track that always surprises me on how great it is every time I listen to it. "Act Cool" let's Lim show off her confidence in her skills as well as bring in San E for extra entertainment. "Be My Baby (Ra.D Mix)" tries to class it up with jazz pianos and horns, but I'm sorry, girls, I still don't like this song no matter what way you play it. "Nu Shoes" closes out this comeback album with trip electro-pop beat that seems awkward but works somehow, then turns completely pop around the chorus. Overall, I'm content with this comeback, but next time, don't tease me with awesome tracks you advertise and never make a video for it.

If there's something you want me to review, check out this post on how you can submit requests.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Rant: Is KPop All About Quality or Quantity?

There was a time in j-indies rock that I thought people just picked up random guys off the street, threw some make-up and fancy costumes on them, and told them to perform like rockers. Usually, this leads to a bunch of failure and blind fans supporting visually appealing bands with no talent. Now, I can say the same thing with American music as well. I'm sure you all know my beef with hip-hop and rap music these days. But as a listener of kpop, I've noticed there's been an increase of groups popping up since last year. Some are pretty awesome rookies like Infinite and Piggy Dolls and others I think are complete busts like Girl's Day and Boyfriend. Since 2011 ended, companies have been announcing that new groups have been formed and trained to debut this year. That's all well and good, but, excuse me, you just released a new group last year or even a few months ago. I'm really thinking that the kpop industry is really focusing on quantity of groups as opposed to quality or longevity like jpop (or jrock, in my case) groups.

Being a fan of jrock, bands aim for longevity in the industry. Most don't want you to solely focus on their visual appearance, but the talent they bring to the table. Or in Girugamesh's case, they went for a minimal appearance so fans could focus on their musical abilities. Let me use a band I really love by the name of BORN. They started as Renny Amy, changed their name, sound, appearance when they became D&L, and did it once more when they became born. They've had their rough patches and contemplated splitting from each, but here they are bigger, better, and growing in the well known jrock label PS Company. Dir en grey have been around for a long time and have you noticed the growth in Kyo's vocals? What about the composition skills and musical abilities the other members displayed from album to album? From the handful of j-indies bands I read into, they all share a passion for music and need to spread that passion for years and years.

Now I'm not saying that kpop groups are not aiming for longevity, because it seems like they pride themselves on training these young talents. But their companies need to focus on one project at a time before building and promoting a new group so soon. Seeing my favorite rookies still needing that guidance with their vocals in music videos or even their choreography and charisma on live performances is quite saddening. They have all this potential, but they are being pushed back because the label is working on a brand new group. This is a major reason I don't avidly watch kpop lives online or have an urgent desire to see the groups I enjoy live, because their performances are quite weak.

In 2010, a male rookie group by the name of TOUCH started promotions in South Korea and a little bit overseas. I must admit watching their first music video for "I/Me" wasn't the greatest thing in the world, but I could see and hear potential from it. So, I checked out their first release and "Killin' Me" became one of my favorite and most played tracks of the year in kpop music. Unfortunately, watching them live was quite painful. The vocals were too soft and timid and their dancing lacked confidence. As they kept appearing more and more, their dancing became a little sharper and the boys were gradually becoming more comfortable on stage. Unfortunately, they had a departure in the group. The label (or group) tried to make up for it with a new direction in their style and once again, their live performances were a bit sloppy. I obviously haven't given up on these boys, so hopefully this'll be their year.

Last year, Block B made their debut with the guidance of Cho PD. They had great personalities that made each member different from each other, which is a big deal for me because I often don't bother with names and mix up members quite easily. They had great vocal potential and openly admitted that choreography is one of their weakness, but that didn't stop these boys from making appearances and pushing themselves to make a name for themselves among all the rookies. Honestly, I think the weakness in live performances were vocals, but I believe ZICO will work out all the kinks when they start promoting their new album for this year. My reason for bringing these boys up is because toward the end of the year, the same company began pushing their new project up front while Block B's activities seemed like a whisper among the promotion of EXO. Can we polish these boys up for a couple more years before bringing someone new?

Semi-controversial, powerhouse trio Piggy Dolls debuted about a year ago and were the topic in kpop industry, mostly due to their weight and not their astounding vocal talents. Upon the release of their first album, fans brought them back into light as the girls revealed their weight loss and their growth as a strong group and not just a gimmick. I think I've seen less news about them then Block B, which is quite unfortunate, but even more saddening is that the company will further push them in the back as they promote EXO's rookie rivals CHAOS. Clearly, I want the girls to get more exposure for their talent and not their weight, but they have some tough competition when it comes to female talent in the kpop industry and I'm afraid their company will simply forget about them completely.

Recently, I have taken the time to check out the boys of CHAOS and my overall opinion of them is quite unfortunate. They already left a semi-bad first impression on potential fans with one of the members being named Taeyang and everyone knows there can only be one Taeyang. Anyway, that isn't really one of my complaints. While watching their debut music video for "She's Coming", I felt a tiny bit conflicted. I was really blown away and surprised by the high caliber vocal talent a couple of the members possessed, which proved the label has a good ear for talent as reflected by those individuals and Piggy Dolls. Among further observation of the video, I was put off by the bad styling choices, the basic song and choreography, and the bland cinematography. Overall, I wasn't convinced that I should give these guys the time of day as far as checking out their first release. On top of that, their live performances aren't that impressive either, especially compared to Piggy Dolls when they debuted.

Aside from being annoyed by companies being too eager to make new groups and put their current rookies on the back burner, it's also quite irritating seeing all these carbon copies of already very well established groups. I know you ladies want to try to kick SNSD off their "sexy" throne, but labels are trying too hard to follow the near exact same path with groups like Rainbow, Nine Muses, and RaNia. I guess Teen Top, MYNAME, and Boyfriend are trying to push SHINee out of their "aegyo" throne with their innocent smiles and winks, but they're too busy trying to work the leftover noonas and charm their way with nauseatingly cute twins. I just saw some group called Twilight trying to be 2PM. I swear if I see one more fail wannabe G-Dragon or T.O.P, I don't know what I'll do. And don't get me started on this sub-group nonsense either.

So, what do you guys think? Do you believe the kpop industry is too focused on quantity more than quality?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Quick Anime Review

Gakuen Heaven (2006) | Rating: 2.5/5

I think I only watched this because I like shounen ai and I read one of the manga. The story was pretty generic and after a while, I got a little annoyed with Keita and Kazuki's relationship. I did force myself to finish and it was alright. It's hard finding an impressive shounen ai series, but if you want to pass the time with fluff, then this is a decent series to do so.

Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995) | Rating: 2.5/5

I started this series long time ago, since I won the first volume at a con. I decided to pick the series up again and complete it last year. I know it's a classic, popular series, but I wasn't overly impressed with it. The story is unclear and purposely mysterious with ambiguous meanings for fans to discuss like Clockwork Orange. The visuals were impressive and the relationships were entertaining, but I'm glad I don't have to hear Shinji's voice anymore.

Trigun: Badlands Rumble (2008) | Rating: 3/5

One of my best friends told me about this movie, so I looked it up and watched it. As a Trigun fan, it was great to reminiscent over the lovable characters: Vash, Meryl, Milly, and Wolfwood. I'm guessing this is a stand alone movie and isn't connected to the series' storyline. It has great animation, the storyline was decent, and was fun adventure ride, even with the new character. It's nothing mindblowing, but I think Trigun fans should still check it out.

Ghost Stories (2000) | Rating: 4/5

Same best friend introduced to me to this series a couple summers ago and it was amusing, so I decided to pick it back up this past Halloween. I've read comments about this series and apparently this is elitist anime fan kryptonite and they want to pretend that this series doesn't even exist. From what I got from reading reviews, the show did poorly in Japan and when it went stateside, the voice actors ad libbed the script mostly which made it very comical. The original story is still in tact, but it has tons of comedic moments. So, I highly recommend the dubbed version.

Higurashi no Naku Koro ni (2006) | Rating: 4/5

An online friend was watching this series some time ago and it wasn't until last year that it really caught my interest. I knew that it was going to be split into arcs so you have to piece everything together to understand and that it was going to gruesome, but I didn't know that I was going to be so engrossed in it. I guess I'm a sucker for solving things, but the storyline helps keep you interested as well as the mysterious acts of violence. This isn't for the faint of heart.

If there's something you want me to review, check out this post on how you can submit requests.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Top 5 Recommended Music Videos

"SUNRIZE SMILE" by DOG inThe Parallel World Orchestra
It's always refreshing seeing a j-indies band enjoying each other's company in a PV, even more amusing when they all sing in the song. Think of SuG's "Five Starz ~五枚目俳優~". Something like that. At first, I was surprised how cute it was and that Haru actually looked normal. The PV looks fun and the song is really cute.

"Good to Be Bad" by G.E.M
Around the same time I came across EMI MARIA's music video, I bumped into this sexy Chinese jewel. I didn't know China had this sort of talent. G.E.M is sexy, confident, and has a great voice. The song is a nice mixture of pop and R&B and the choreography is simple and sensual. Perhaps kpop should take some notes.

"Daybreak" by Wei Chen
Thanks to MAMA 2011, I decided to check out more of this guy's music and...I actually liked it. Annoying thing about YouTube are people's silly comments. Kpop fans, stop comparing this song to G-Dragon's "Heartbreaker". The song and video are great on it's own. It has a catchy chorus and clean choreography to keep your mind dazzled for days.

"DANCE" by Lollipop F
I guess electro-pop is a global trend these days. Sure, you might think of all those kpop party songs of 2011, but this song holds its own place with being a great track and an addicting video. The boys have great voices, the choreography is tight, and it's visually appeal all around, despite those horrible highlighter green Hammer pants. Ick! Everyone should keep an eye out on these guys, I think they're up to something great.

"Hurt Again" by HKT
I came across this trio by complete accident. I was watching Koda Kumi's "Ko-so Ko-so" on Tudou and the autoplay went to this intriguing music video. I was impressed and the storyline was so different from most Asian music video concepts. So, I frantically searched the interwebz for the name of the group or some sort of information, especially what language they were singing. Somehow it all boiled down to me finding more music videos on YouTube. Unfortunately, upon further viewing, I was less impressed by their talents. Allow me to ramble a little further, recently, I did a little research on this group and I learned they have a lot of antis. Maybe because they did a "cover" B2ST's "Shock", used HyunA's "Change" music as an intro to one of their songs, and they have a similar group formula as Super Junior, like a HKT-M exists. Think of them as the Tokio Hotel of Vietnam. Pretty much sums up how people view them. So, back to the video, I mentioned that I was impressed by it. The sound of their voices reminded me of those annoying, generic drama ballads they play in the background of episodes, but I was intrigued as opposed to put off. The music video is actually the continuation to "Other Side of Truth", which you should probably watch first. Perhaps these boys will turn their talents around for the better. Oh, I almost forgot to mention the guys, especially the blonde, are easy on the eyes.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Reader's Question: The Art of FanFiction

Forgive me for not doing any Reader's Questions in a while. I've been kinda waiting for more question entries and trying to catch up on music reviews, which I'm still working on. Anyway, today's question is: "FanFiction: tribute, dying art, or delusional works of crazy fangirls?"

Like conventions, the science fiction community is acknowledged as the starters of fanfiction with their love for Star Trek, Star Wars, and the like. For those not familiar with what fanfiction is, I'll fill you in. Fanfiction is a type of fictional writing created by a person from a specific fandom. They take characters from something they enjoy like movies, books, comics, anime, video games, etc. and place them in fictional situations. These fictional writings can range from funny and innocent to fluffy romances to dark and kinky. Some fans, probably ones interested in Asian pop culture or simply younger fans, probably think that fanfics are made for smut or slash pairings, but you can do whatever you want in fanfics, even nonsexual situations. They do exist!

Although fanfics started as an innocent hobby, sometimes lines are crossed and completely turn off other fans of that same fandom. Some fans believe there should be a line drawn for what is appropriate and what isn't, mostly when it involves Asian musicians/idols. I believe I saw the saying that "fanfics are for fictional characters, not real people". But make sure you don't send any Star Wars fanfics to George Lucas, he doesn't approve of that, but Stephanie Meyers is a bit "flattered" by them.

So, how do I feel about fanfiction? Honestly, it really all depends on the intent of the author and the content. I don't think I've seen many tributes in fanfiction, but I'm sure they exist somewhere like they do in fanart or poetry. Let's see what I can dig out of my brain through my experiences with fanfics in the anime and jrock world.

I admit that I read fanfics from time to time, not very often really. I'm quite picky, but it seems like it's easy to tell what seems like works of a delusional fan and an artistic one, if that makes sense. It's all in the style and content of the fanfic, which is why some fans in the scene could be against it. The dangerous territory lies when romance is involved and the writer changes the character's personalities completely. Perhaps they pair two characters together they like and leave out details, in short, living out their weird little fan fantasies with this pair. It's weirder when they're Mary Sues (fanfics that include the author as a character in the story). I'm sorry, dear, but no one wants to read about your character making out with the GazettE's Ruki, please keep that to yourself.

On the other hand, I've read some pretty good fanfics that have character pairings in them, with and without the graphic progression. Although, I've mostly been reading jrock fanfics which kinda lies in a grey area if you're unsure how you feel about real people in fanfictional situations. I see it as TV series or movie characters, since majority of jrockers go by their stage names and have a totally different persona than reality. For me, I'm not that bothered by it. There are, indeed, pairings I disapprove of and fanfics I dislike because I enjoy substance like a regular fictional story. Also, a pairing doesn't have to be prominent either. Anything outside of jrock/jpop in the yaoi nature, like kpop...I cannot read at all. It just weirds me out. Even seeing kpop boys displaying fanservice is very awkward to me. Perhaps it's the fact that I just associate such things with Japan.

As for whether the art of fanfiction is dying or not, I don't think it's going anywhere just yet. If you're in the jrock fandom, it might be a little overcrowded with Gazette fanfics, depending where you're reading, but there are still writers out there trying new stuff (like my friends and myself ^~). I just think the lack of jrock fanfics is just following the hallyu wave and fans have switched to do their kpop idols instead. *shudders*

For those who follow my writings, I'm gradually working on getting back into the groove. I just need to strategize how to put my plan into motion again. And for those who enjoy fanfics, whether it be reading, writing, or both, don't feel ashame about it. Keep doing what you're doing, but remember it's just fiction. Don't lose yourself too much!

If there's something you want me to answer, check out this post on how you can submit questions.

Movies Watched in 2012

Let's hear it for Round 4!

Starting date: January 5, 2012
Finishing date: December 29, 2012

1. Baby & Me [Ahgiwa na] (2008, South Korean)
2. Persepolis (2007, France)
3. The Warrior's Way (2010, USA)
4. After.Life (2009, USA)
5. Maria Full of Grace (2004, Colombia)
6. Pan's Labyrinth [El laberinto del fauno] (2006, Spain)
7. Hunger Games (2012, USA)
8. Hard Candy (2005, USA)
9. Alone [Solas] (1999, Spain)
10. The Exterminating Angel [El ángel exterminador] (1962, Mexico)
11. Sleeping Beauty (2011, Australia)
12. The Avengers (2012, USA)
13. Do The Right Thing (1989, USA)
14. Final Destination 5 (2011, USA)
15. The Haunting in Connecticut (2009, USA)
16. The Devil Inside (2012, USA)
17. Men in Black 3 (2012, USA)
18. Girl, Interrupted (1999, USA)
19. Red Riding Hood (2011, USA)
20. But I'm a Cheerleader (1999, USA)
21. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011, USA)
22. Winnie the Pooh (2011, USA)
23. The Craft (1996, USA)
24. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968, USA)
25. Gone (2012, USA)
26. Brave (2012, USA)
27. Thor (2011, USA)
28. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011, USA)
29. The Secret World of Arrietty [Kari-gurashi no Arietti] (2010, Japan)
30. 9 (2009, USA)
31. We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011, USA)
32. Madea's Witness Protection (2012, USA)
33. Mirror, Mirror (2012, USA)
34. 21 Jump Street (2012, USA)
35. The Amazing Spiderman (2012, USA)
36. The Little Shop of Horrors (1960, USA)
37. Let the Right One In [Låt den rätte komma in] (2008, Sweden)
38. Chronicle (2012, USA)
39. The Dark Knight Rises (2012, USA)
40. The Woman in Black (2012, USA)
41. Pulp Fiction (1994, USA)
42. The Divide (2011, Germany)
43. Silent House (2011, USA)
44. Paranormal Activity (2007, USA)
45. V for Vendetta (2005, USA)
46. Snow White: A Deadly Summer (2012, USA)
47. Palindromes (2004, USA)
48. Vincent (1982, USA)
49. Frankenweenie (1984, USA)
50. Audition (1999, Japan)
51. The Machinist (2004, USA)
52. The Dreamers (2003, France)
53. Excision (2012, UK)
54. The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio (2005, USA)
55. Silent Hill 2: Revelation (2012, USA)
56. Strange Circus (2005, Japan)
57. Samurai School: Be a Man! [Sakigake!! Otokojuku] (2008, Japan)
58. Shaun of the Dead (2004, USA)
59. Good Hair (2009, USA)
60. Paris is Burning (1990, USA)
61. Sucker Punch (2011, USA)
62. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012, USA)
63. Silent Hill (2006, USA)
64. Django Unchained (2012, USA)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


[2011.12.04] House of Blues in Houston, TX
featuring: The Birthday Massacre & Dir en grey

The Birthday Massacre

Aside from Diru, I was really excited to see The Birthday Massacre again. They had a great, positive energy between themselves and their fans and their music is pretty awesome as well. I remember when they were starting their second song, "Sleepwalking", they had some technical difficulties, but Chibi played it off cutely and entertained us while they figured out the problem.

They've played a good mixture of songs from the past and even brought in their two newest songs from their last single, which made me happy. The performance was flawless as usual. It felt like they had even more energy than the first time I saw them. Chibi danced, bounced, and interacted with her bandmates and the audience constantly. She truly loves her fans and you can tell the other members do as well. They interacted with the audience occasionally as well and I'm looking forward to seeing them again. Way to go, Canada! Here's my attempt at a setlist:

[no particular order]

Red Star
Burn Away
Pins and Needles
In the Dark
Shallow Grave

"Forever" by The Birthday Massacre

Dir en grey

Once TBM's set was over, I was a little sad, because I was really getting into it and they're amazing performers, but on the other hand, I was really excited what Diru was gonna bring to the table. I had very high hopes for the boys, since that tragic night in 2009. DUM SPIRO SPERO was released this year and I thought it was a masterpiece like UROBOROS.

The guys made a dramatic entrance and everyone was feeling it. There was so much great energy flowing between us and the band, it was very refreshing. They mixed a little bit old and new and I really mean a good mix too!

Everything that was lacking from 2009 reappeared this year and I was really grateful I came back to the comforts of Houston. I thought the crowd was great and respectful and energetic. Anyway, the guys moved around a lot on the stage. Kaoru and Toshiya even switched sides with Die a couple times, which was a nice contrast. I wish I could've gotten better pics of them then, but I was too busy enjoying the show to squeeze my hand in my pocket to pull my camera out. There was also a lot of emotion and drama displayed through Kyo. He really put everything into each song, which was fascinating. He twisted, contorted, squealed, and morphed into some tortured creature that you had to keep your eye on at all times. He even put the mic aside to connect with audience and the other members interacted as well with us. It was great to see them let go of everything again like 2008. Most surprising thing for the evening, the dramatic, emotion filled performance of "Mazohyst of Decadence". It had it's original musical arrangement and everything and was performed like it was a brand new song. Apparently, they've been performing "Kasumi" other places which would've been nice to hear again, but I'm happy I got to hear that at least once. I hope they continue incorporating their older material with their newer stuff with minimal changes or at least if they do change it, go in the route they did with "-mushi-". *__* So, here's my crappy setlist, which feels like I might be missing things:

[no particular order]

Mazohyst of Decadence
Tsumi to Batsu -2011-
Obscure -2011-

"Mazohyst of Decadence" by Dir en grey

For some reason, I watched Tainted Reality's head douche man Roger's reaction to the show. He hadn't been to a Diru show since 2007, but he found the performance and the fans boring. I'm pretty sure he's what one of my friends would call a jaded jrock fan and he should just not attend such things, because what I experienced was a double shot of mindfucked! From the opening act to the main event, it was an amazing performance. The energy was good between the crowd and the band and the selections were a perfect mixture of everything that makes up both bands. I'm looking forward to more great things from both bands.