Movie Review: Your Name (Kimi no Na wa)

Your Name (Kimi no Na wa) was the biggest movie in Japan last year—it is now the fourth-highest grossing film of all time in that country.  It was technically released for one week in LA last year, in order qualify for Oscar consideration…an then it wasn’t even nominated.  Luckily, it was brought back to US theaters this weekend, where I was able to see it.

A synopsis of the story from Google:

The day the stars fell, two lives changed forever. High schoolers Mitsuha and Taki are complete strangers living separate lives. But one night, they suddenly switch places. Mitsuha wakes up in Taki’s body, and he in hers. This bizarre occurrence continues to happen randomly, and the two must adjust their lives around each other. Yet, somehow, it works. They build a connection and communicate by leaving notes, messages, and more importantly, an imprint. When a dazzling comet lights up the night’s sky, something shifts, and they seek each other out wanting something more – a chance to finally meet.

And here’s the English trailer (you can find the Japanese one here):

It’s easy to see why this movie was so popular last year.  The animation is gorgeous, and the story is a great mix of genres, with a feeling I would call bittersweet, tinged with hope.  I think even people that don’t normally like “anime” would like this movie.

I’m not sure how long Your Name will be in theaters, but I’d definitely recommend seeing it while you can.  I was able to find a theater only 30 minutes away from me showing it in both dubbed English and Japanese with subtitles.  (I’m sure it will be out on DVD soon, too.)

I saw it with subtitles and loved it. As always, there are some things that just won’t translate well. There’s actually a really funny scene where Mitsuha has switched into Taki’s body and speaks to his friends using “watashi,” and when they give her a weird look for using such a feminine form, she starts cycling through pronouns until she arrives at “ore,” which they finally accept as normal.

There’s plenty of other humor, too, which is a nice balance for the pathos of the story. No spoilers, but it ends up being way more complex than a simple teenage body-switching story.

The last thing I want to mention is the music!  As you can hear from the trailer, the music is done by a J-rock group named RADWIMPS, and it is amazing.  You can stream the soundtrack several places, including Spotify.  There are even English versions of the songs from the movie.  Definitely check out the opening song “Yumetourou,” the ending song “Nandemonaiya,” and the theme heard in the trailer “Zenzenzense.”

You can also check out the MV for “Sparkle” here with clips from the movie.

Hope you all enjoy this one as much as I did!

5 Favorite K-pop MVs of 2016

Another wonderful year of K-pop music videos; here are some of my favorites.

  1. “Blood Sweat & Tears” by BTS

Just when I thought I couldn’t love BTS any more, they came out with their Wings album this year.  This video, aside from the catchy song, has great choreography and complex scenery, plus the classic BTS cryptic/philosophical story.  Normally I hate it when MVs put a break in the middle of the song, but I didn’t mind it so much here.  Rap Monster is reciting lines from Hesse’s Demian; sales of this book have apparently jumped haha.

2. “Sayonara Hitori” by Taemin

Who knew SHINee’s maknae Taemin was actually an anime character?  Between the special effects and Taemin’s dancing, this is probably the most visually amazing MV I saw all year.  I also loved that this is the Japanese version (which I can understand better–and I think his Japanese has improved).

3. “Whistle” by BLACKPINK

I’m not the only one who loves this video, because it just won best MV at the 2016 MAMAs.  This rookie group is helping to fill a part of the 2NE1-shaped hole in my heart.  These four girls have such great style and attitude.  They already have four great songs out (“Playing with Fire” is another favorite), and I have a feeling I’ll be a fan for years to come.

4. “Cheer Up” and “TT” by TWICE

TWICE is back again this year with two cute videos.  I embedded “Cheer Up” because I think it’s marginally more original.  Each of the girls is playing a character in a different genre of movie (horror, action, romantic drama, kawaii magical girl, etc.), which is a fun way to play up some different tropes and give each girl a distinct personality (kind of important when there’s nine of them).  “TT” also has a cute use of Halloween costumes to achieve the same effect.

5. “I Like That” by SISTAR

While SISTAR is a very talented group, I’ve never really been a fan because their videos tend to be gratuitously sexy, to the point that I’m uncomfortable.  But this video has a very classy style of sexy, with a Chinese theme and some interesting choreography using their drape skirts.  The use of silhouettes near the end is also very striking.

Other Honorable Mentions:

  1. “Hate” by 4Minute—Before they broke up, Hyuna’s former group 4Minute gave us a follow-up to last year’s “Crazy.”  This one was produced by Skrillex, so wait for the drop.
  2. “Liar Liar” by Oh My Girl—From another younger girl group, this video has some great transitions, and I liked the references to Pinocchio and Alice in Wonderland.  They also did a dance version wearing roller skate shoes!
  3. “Queen” by History—We needed some more guys on this list, and who can resist guys in suits? I don’t know what the part with the puzzle is about at all, but the rest is pure eye candy.
  4. “I’m Jelly BABY” by AOA Cream—I know I’ve said I don’t like cutesy concepts, but this one by the subgroup of AOA is so over-the-top with its magical girl theme, I just can’t resist.
  5. “Why Not” by Bulldok—Also known as “How’s This?”–this song is the debut of another tough girl group.  The first rapper looks straight out of Sucker Punch, and the second seems like she’s in a Final Fantasy game.

What do they (nearly) all have in common?

I was just reading this somewhere and it made me laugh; if you watch all these, you can see a trend appear: having all the members sit around a table.  Four or five of these videos have that trope (you can even see it in the thumbnail for “Blood Sweat & Tears), plus a few others I can think of (like Red Velvet’s “Russian Roulette”).  Too funny!

More Star Wars Bad Lip Reading

Since my post about the “Chicken-duck-woman-thing” has been so popular, let’s talk about “Star Wars: A Bad Lip Reading” some more!

In the Empire Strikes Back video, there are 3 fabulous songs.  We open to a rap from Luke during the battle of Hoth (Dak has a slight malfunction trying to turn up the bass).

I watched this dozens of times times before I realized it’s actually a diss track.  I don’t know who he’s actually directing this to, but just for fun let’s call him “Wedge.”  Luke makes multiple comparisons between himself and Wedge:

  • Wedge=soup can, while Luke=Superman
  • Wedge touches a pom pom, while Luke touches an A-bomb (atom bomb)

Yeah, that doesn’t exactly paint Wedge in a favorable light.  He also seems to be competing with Luke for a girl named Veronica; looking at the closed captions, the lyrics are “I know you want her, too.”  However, Wedge stands no chance because he so lame he doesn’t even have any shoes.

I think it’s pretty clear now who the baddest pilot in Rogue Squadron is.

Moving on to Yoda singing about seagulls around 1:49…I don’t have anything else to say about this except that it’s amazing and I know all the lyrics and I wish this were a real song.  Even if he’s “sorta pitchy,” haha. (EDIT: It is a real song! There’s now a full version called SEAGULLS! (Stop It Now)–enjoy!)

scary yoda

Last, at 5:57 we have C-3PO’s song to end the video; I don’t think it has a name yet, but it appears that we’ll be getting a full music video of this one, too!  (EDIT: It’s called “Not the Future” and it’s wonderful.) I was trying to figure out what genre of music this song is and the best I could come up with was a mix of 80s rock and EDM.

This song brings up a couple of points.  First, there are several funny lines where characters are simply narrating what they are doing, like C-3PO walking away/turning back, or Han just moving his hand around in Cloud City.  It kind of breaks the 4th wall a little, a different kind of humor.

Also, the Star Wars movies work pretty well for funny dubs because of all the droids and characters with helmets (like Vader, stormtroopers, etc.)—because they have no lips, the actors are just interpreting their body language.  This gives a lot more range to the conversations the characters can have.  It also allows for some good non sequiturs, like Vader’s “spinny chair” song.

Star Wars also has a lot of characters that don’t speak Basic (aka English), often because the alien physiology doesn’t allow it, which lets the writers have a lot of fun with interpreting these more limited lip movements into English words, like Chewie saying UH-HUH.  Or sometimes not even real words…check out Admiral Ackbar in ROTJ haha.

Last, I found C-3PO’s Indian accent to be hilarious and strangely fitting.  But then I started reading comments on the videos (famous last words…) and saw some variations of “Of course he’s Indian, he’s tech support.”  In that light, I kind of feel a little uncomfortable about it now.  But none of his dubbed lines actually have him play into the tech support stereotype, so it’s just a meta-joke, and possibly an unintended one at that.  I dunno.  Thoughts?

We all got a chicken-duck-woman-thing waiting for us: Star Wars Bad Lip Reading

If you like absurdist humor at all, check out “Star Wars: A Bad Lip Reading” to find out about the selfies that Vader’s sending Leia, Han’s pet giraffe, and what happens if you look at a dead spider.  It features guest voice actors Jack Black, Maya Rudolph, and Bill Hader.

Stick it out til the end to hear Ben Kenobi sing about what exactly happened to Luke’s father.

That song at the end is pretty much the best thing ever and I’ve been singing it for days.  There’s even an extended version, with lyrics!

I love how the song functions on two levels, both within the film as the way Ben Kenobi is making up BS about how Luke’s dad died (which I’m sure is all true, from a certain point of view…), and also on a more general level, talking about how there’s always difficulties in life, usually in places we least expect them, even from people and things we love.  SO DEEP.

They’ve also done Empire Strikes Back (which might be the best one), featuring Yoda singing about seagulls (with a full version of the song here).  My husband and I are now going around saying “I don’t like fruit” to each other.

The Return of the Jedi one is also good, in which you can find out about Mon Mothma’s emotional state and the loose screw in Luke’s lightsaber.

I think Ben Kenobi really has some of the best parts in all of these, mainly because Alec Guinness always played him as looking very thoughtful.  So it becomes really funny when he says these offbeat things with that facial expression.  Whether it’s telling Luke about cleaning his father’s blood out of the floor boards, or just humming to the beat (not to mention calmly threatening to choke Luke over his taste in music in ROTJ),

EDIT 1/16/16: This post got like a hundred hits in the past week, mostly from people searching for “chicken duck woman thing,” so I went back and added some more analysis about the video and song to this post, and also did a follow-up post with more thoughts on these videos: More Star Wars Bad Lip Reading.  Add your thoughts/questions/etc. in the comments!

5 Favorite K-pop MVs of 2015

There were so many great comebacks this year, but these are the videos I was watching on repeat.  And I definitely know some of the dances by now…

  1. “Crazy” by 4Minute

I swear half of this video’s 43,000,000 views are from me.  In general I like tough hip-hop concepts better than cutesy pop ones, and the girls of 4Minute (including Hyuna of “Gangnam Style” fame) pulled this one off perfectly.  The song is fierce, with great dance and rap parts.  I love the effect of the black and white with occasional pops of color.  And those hats!

2. “Dope” by BTS

BTS is a younger group but they’re already one of my favorites.  This song is a total earworm, and the video’s choreography is probably my favorite this year.  I love the “profession” costumes the boys are in, both because it fits thematically also because it helps the viewer tell them apart.

BTS always has very personal lyrics (rappers Suga and Rap Monster in particular always write their own parts); at first I liked how they’re proclaiming their hard work, but after watching so many times, Suga’s line about “Even if our youth rots in the studio” started to make me sad.  That’s kind of the double edge of K-pop.  I like the product, but it’s important to remember that there are real people underneath.

3. “Like Ooh-Ahh” by Twice

Can you believe this is their debut?  Although this is more on the cutesy side, it’s also energetic, funny, a little sexy, and shows the girls’ personalities.  Plus zombies are always cool.  The first time I heard this song I was already singing along to it.  I also love the fact that this group includes three Japanese members and one from Taiwan; it’s a big group but they are all so talented.  I can’t wait to see what’s next for them.

4. “Lion Heart” by Girls’ Generation

Despite losing a member, Girls’ Generation had a big year with a great Japanese single and three Korean hits.  I kind of liked the tough concept for “You Think” better, but “Lion Heart”‘s video is just so original.  It has a cute story in addition to fun choreography, and the girls all look so beautiful.  I love the different period costumes and styling, and I love how colorful it is—that’s something that just screams GG to me.

5. “Just Right” by GOT7

You have got to turn on the closed captions and read the lyrics of this song while you watch.  This concept of the doll-sized guys running around a little girl’s room could totally have ended up creepy, but instead it is just so sweet.  I think this is the most touching, uplifting music video I saw all year.

Other Honorable Mentions:

  • “Shake That Brass” by Amber feat. Taeyeon—f(x)’s rapper gets a solo with fun attitude and cameos by all her K-pop friends.  Plus you can watch her whip and nae nae.
  • “Only You” by miss A—The everyday scenes in this veteran girl group’s video make it feel very relate-able.
  • “Ice Cream Cake” and “Dumb Dumb” by Red Velvet—These girls were rookies last year but have managed to have two of the biggest hits this year, both with creative concepts and fun choreography.
  • “Zutter” by GD&T.O.P—BIGBANG released a slew of new videos this year, each weirder than the last.  This rap video is hilarious, disturbing, confusing, and artsy, with a lot of references to other media (and apparently some wordplay in the lyrics).  It’s kind of on another level.
  • “Hold On” by Axodus feat. Key—An EDM song with vocals by SHINee member Key; the video is composed of a series of clips that transcend their mundane nature to become beautiful and expressive.
  • “Twenty-three” by IU—The solo artist has a winning combination of meaningful lyrics, a catchy tune, and a whimsical Alice in Wonderland concept.