I don’t always wear gaming-themed clothing, but when I do, I like to do it in style! I kid, but when it comes to gaming threads, there’s a fine line between “wink nod” game references on trendy clothing and obnoxiously obvious tees that proclaim your love for all things nerdy for the world to see.
Category Archives: review
Apricotsushi Reviews: The Man of Tango
When I first saw the cover of Man of Tango, I was sure it had to be bara, or gei comi, a genre of manga distinct from boys’ love (hereafter BL) due to it usually targeting a gay male audience rather than women. The author, Tetuzoh Okadaya, however, is most definitely a woman, and more importantly, she was explicitly approached by an editor to write a BL story, which resulted in The Man of Tango. I’m always excited to see BL that shakes up the genre (that’s what I’m writing my thesis on, after all!), so her unique style combined with her comments about being inspired by bara visionary Gengoroh Tagame had me very excited to see what The Man of Tango had to offer.
The Man of Tango is a one-shot manga about the life of tango aficionado Angie, a man that despite his deep passion for dance has never been able to awaken his true spirit, nor find a life partner. But since this is BL, all that changes when he meets Hiro, a nondescript half-Latin, half-Japanese businessman who soon finds himself drawn in by Angie’s charms. Angie reminds Hiro of his home and youth, but not all of his memories are positive. Hiro soon finds himself opening up to Angie in more ways than one, simultaneously being drawn into the mystical world of tango and gay romance.
First, I have to point out that The Man of Tango does a lot of great things that you don’t see in BL very often. Aside from the love-it-or-hate-it art style, it’s one of the few BL stories I’ve read that prominently features a female character who isn’t being used as a catalyst for disaster between the male couple (usually in the form of a third love interest, jealous ex, etc.). Instead, Angie’s tango partner and roommate Bene is a warm, appealing female supporting character, which is most welcome as a breath of fresh air in the otherwise male-dominated BL genre.
Of course, the other major draw of The Man of Tango is in the subject matter. It’s clear that Tetuzoh Okadaya appreciates the art of tango, and I felt like even I learned something about the art, or at least had a greater appreciation for it, by the end of the story. I also loved the fact that both of the male protagonists are older, with Angie being in his late thirties and even sporting some facial hair (though I suppose you could say that’s a Latin stereotype). The story is also appropriately mature, though it borders on dark, especially when delving into Hiro’s childhood, so those looking for a happy-go-lucky romance may find it too heavy. Personally, however, I really enjoyed the more mature themes.
It’s the fact that The Man of Tango does so much well that makes the areas where it stumbles all the more frustrating. I am never a fan of the “but I’m not gay!” line appearing in BL, but The Man of Tango takes it to an extreme by also having Angie take advantage of Hiro when he is drunk (see above image), making Hiro’s subsequent revelation that he has feelings for Angie and has already engaged in X-rated activities with him not romantic in the least. Not only did Angie’s sexual advances on Hiro when he is inebriated make me dislike him, but Hiro’s constant “I’m not gay, but I like you!” admissions felt especially juvenile when compared to the other issues the story tackles, which made me dislike him, too. So, in the end, while I enjoyed a number of the overarching themes of the story, both male protagonists were obnoxious and the story did not convey the feeling of a great, timeless romance by having a relationship building out of a non-consentual first sexual encounter. I’m not saying that non-consentual sex has no place in a mature storyline, but in this case, it just wasn’t handled in a satisfactory manner (in fact, it wasn’t even regarded as non-consentual by any of the characters).
The Man of Tango may not be for everyone, but I still think it does a lot of interesting things and I hope to see more from Tetuzoh Okadaya in the future. Most importantly, let’s see more older protagonists, mature themes, female side-characters, and interesting art in BL! I just hope we can move past non-consentual sex and “only gay for you” shenanigans sooner rather than later.
Disclaimer: A copy of the manga was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review
Apricotsushi Reviews: Little Witch Academia Blu-ray
Way back in August of last year, I wrote about an anime short called Little Witch Academia and how it brought back memories of some of my favorite magical girl series from my youth. With its gorgeous animation, great cast of female characters, and charming story, I immediately knew it was something I wanted to see more of. I highly suggest reading the above article for more of my impressions of the episode, as today I’m not going to focus on the merits of Little Witch Academia itself (suffice it to say, I think it’s wonderful!), but rather the lovely Blu-ray release now available from Studio Trigger’s online store.
When my copy of the Blu-ray arrived courtesy of acttil, I was immediately impressed by the quality of the packaging. Not only does it come with the main event, the 26 minute episode of Little Witch Academia itself, but it also includes a documentary, soundtrack CD, and a separate book full of illustrations, storyboards, interviews, and more!
|Back cover of the book|
The official booklet’s cover has the title embossed in gold text, which is a lovely touch. Though it’s a paperback, the detail put into the cover on its own reveals that it is by no means a cheap extra. In fact, the book itself is 112 pages long! Let’s take a look inside:
|Two pages from the “story & commentary” section|
Approximately one third of the book is in full color, which includes the gorgeous two-page spread shown above, illustrations of the main characters, an “image board” that consists of some backgrounds and environmental items, an overview of the story with commentary, and a color storyboard. The full color pages look great, but I wish there were a few more of them. Luckily, the rest of the book is still chock-full of amazing sketches and information.
There are a number of color glossy pages dedicated to specific animators, but since the images are all sketches, it seems like a waste to put them on the “nicer” paper at the beginning when there are full color stills that do not get the benefit of similar nice paper later on in the book (see images below). This is a very nitpicky critique, though, as the animator-specific sections and associated interviews provide a lot of interesting insight and it’s nice that Studio Trigger decided to highlight them by putting them towards the front of the book.
It’s so pink! I love how psychedelic it is. The Blu-ray itself is self-explanatory, but the bonus production documentary “How the Magic was Created” is definitely worth mentioning. It includes English subtitles and clocks in at a whopping 66 minutes, and is an eye-opening glimpse at what work in a Japanese animation studio is like.
The soundtrack CD consists of 13 songs, making it 18 minutes of full orchestral music. It’s not often that I even notice the music in an anime, so the fact that I listen to this soundtrack when I’m not watching Little Witch Academia is pretty high praise. One of my favorite tracks is Shiny Chariot’s Theme – it has a great sense of grandeur and wonder that I feel encompasses my feelings for the show as a whole.
Honestly, I can’t believe this Little Witch Academia Blu-ray set is only ¥6,171 (approx. $60)! It’s an amazing package and it really does the episode justice. While the Kickstarter for Little Witch Academia episode two has already been funded, I’d definitely recommend supporting the series by purchasing the episode one Blu-ray. You won’t regret it!
Plush Felyne Slipper Review
|I guarantee by the end of this post those soulless eyes will start freaking
you out (if they don’t already)
I received these as a Christmas present from my mom, and I have to say, even though it’s the middle of the summer here in Australia, I can’t help but want to wear them around the apartment. They’re just so cute!
|How can you say no to that face|
Hopefully my Felnye slippers will keep me happy and my feet warm for years to come!
Wonderful World of Whipple: Crème Filled Creations Kit Review
Japan loves food. Not only does Japan love food, but it also has an unparalleled love for fake food, be it squishy keychains that look like loaves of bread or immaculately-designed plastic sushi featured in restaurant windows to entice in hungry passers-by. There’s something that’s always fascinated me by Japan’s obsession with creating so many different representations of food, but I’ve always been especially fond of the cute fake sweets often used in deco crafts.
Short for “decoration,” deco often refers to “decoden,” an over-the-top cute way of decorating cell phones and other electronics (usually portable game consoles), but from my understanding (which could very well be wrong), deco can really be used to described any sort of cute creation that is used to “decorate,” whether it be a person (i.e nail art) or a piece of electronic equipment, bag, etc.
Anyway, enough musing on terminology! The moral of the story is, I’ve been enamored by cute fake foods for quite some time, and have always wanted to try a deco craft kit and make some myself. Imagine my surprise when I was casually browsing in a toy store and found a Japanese deco craft kit being marketed at young girls!
Apparently Whipple has been selling a number of different deco kits internationally for a while now, but I haven’t ever been tuned into the deco “scene” as it were, so that news completely passed me by. After giving the kit go, I honestly have to say that I don’t think a 10-year-old me would have been able to manage it (25-year-old me barely did!).
While there were a number of kits available, I ultimately went with the Crème Filled Creations pack as it had the most variety in terms of sweets, and I liked the look of the macarons especially.
Here’s what the kit itself looks like – the box was rather large for the amount of things packed in! There are instructions for how to apply the cream in different patterns, as well as a practice sheet, which was great for a beginner like myself. In the future, though, I might buy a second bag of the cream, as the bag supplied with the kit is actually quite small. The instructions warn you to only do a couple rounds on the practice sheet so as not to run out, but even after doing only one practice round I found myself wishing I had a little extra cream at the end. Those who are worried that they might not get the hang of the technique right away would definitely want that extra leeway, plus the cream can come out a little runny at first, meaning you may waste some before you can get started (I just used the runny cream for my practice sheet; the consistency was fine by the time I got to application).
First of all, I have to apologize once again for the huge gap between posts! My husband and I flew down to Sydney for Chinese New Year and instead of catching up on things I needed to do, I completely zoned out and didn’t do anything but eat and play through Rayman Origins a second time with Shaun and his sister (I think I’ve had enough now).
This is a long time coming, but a couple of weeks ago Shaun and I made the 5 minute trek to the movie theater (one of the many perks of our new apartment) to see Studio Ghibli’s Arrietty (Japanese title: 借りぐらしのアリエッティ, also known as The Secret World of Arrietty in the US) over opening weekend. As always, the rest of the world is a bit behind Japan – Arrietty originally aired in its home country back in July 2010, and the most recent Studio Ghibli film, From Up on Poppy Hill, aired this past summer in Japan. For once, Australia was ahead of the game, with the film releasing here a whole month before it debuts in the US on February 17th.
Arrietty (I will refer to it by the Australian title since that’s the version I saw) is based on Mary Norton’s classic novel The Borrowers, about a family of extremely tiny people who live beneath a normal-sized family’s house. They survive by scavenging what they can from their surroundings and “borrowing” things from regular humans, only taking what they are sure will not be missed such as an extra tissue or a safety pin that has been lost and forgotten beneath a dresser. Interestingly, this film marks the directorial debut of Hiromasa Yonebashi, a key animator of a number of Studio Ghibli films and the youngest director of a Studio Ghibli production to date. He also was the key animator of Serial Experiments Lain, one of my favorite anime!
Since the subtitled version wasn’t shown anywhere in our area, we had to settle with the British dubbed version. The film has been licensed separately for the US and Europe/Australia, the so English voice actors are completely different for the two regions. Honestly, given the film’s beginnings as a British novel, I found it quite refreshing to hear the characters speak with non-American accents. There were a handful of times where the localization felt odd to me, but that could have been due to the British influence. I look forward to hearing the original Japanese language track when the film comes out on DVD.
|Can I have a room that looks like this?|
Unfortunately I haven’t read The Borrowers, so I can’t comment on how it compares to the book, but if it’s anything like Howl’s Moving Castle, you can expect a pretty liberal interpretation. Fans of My Neighbor Totoro will be right at home in the lush, green environments and relatively slow pacing, where those who prefer the unique locations and higher level of action in Spirited Away or Princess Mononoke may find this Studio Ghibli offering a little too “mundane.” I found myself highly appreciative of the attention to detail put in to making the world look believable from the eyes of a Borrower. From stamps serving as paintings in the tiny house to the variety of insects Arrietty interacts with over the course of the film, everything felt fresh and different and was a joy to see come to life with Ghibli’s signature flair.
One of my favorite scenes in the film had to be when Arrietty meets Sho, a sick boy sent to rest at the house about Arrietty’s home, up close for the first time. Arrietty is on her first borrowing excursion with her father, and one of her tasks is to grab a tissue out of a tissue box on Sho’s bedside table. The moment of confrontation – Arrietty looking up to see Sho’s wide, bright eyes staring directly at her, was startling for both her and me as a viewer. Watching Arrietty try in vain to hide behind the tissue (a background light illuminates her body quite clearly) was both endearing and heartbreaking – she knows she is never supposed to be seen by a human, and she is disappointed by her failure during her first trip out with her father.
The music in the film was not done by regular Ghibli composer Joe Hisaishi, but newcomer Cécile Corbel, a French musician who is reportedly a big fan of Studio Ghibli. Apparently, she sent them a CD of her songs as a fan, and the company was intrigued by her work and subsequently invited her to do the soundtrack for Arrietty. Sounds like a fairy tale story, eh? She did both the theme, titled simply “Arrietty’s Song,” as well as the rest of the background music. The Celtic themes really mesh well with the general feel of the film, and though I was a little miffed by the silly English lyrics of Arrietty’s Song (“I am fourteen years old, I am pretty”? Did a fourteen-year-old write it?), I still found it very enjoyable. The full English version is what accompanied the version of the film I saw, but the majority of the song was in Japanese for the original film.
All in all, I really enjoyed Arrietty. I’ve heard criticisms that it was too slow, or simply not as amazing as previous Studio Ghibli films, but frankly, if you are at all interested in Ghibli, you definitely need to see Arrietty on the big screen and decide for yourself. Some have compared it to My Neighbor Totoro, and while I don’t think it quite surpasses the caliber of some of my favorite Ghibli films, it is definitely now up there at the top of my list. The animation and music were both gorgeous, and I found the story bittersweet and touching. If the company can churn out films this good without Miyazaki at the helm, I’m confident that even when he’s gone they’ll continue to make some of the best animated features the world has ever seen.