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!

Now Playing: Final Fantasy VII

If you play video games at all, especially RPGs, you’ve probably heard of Final Fantasy VII.  It released in 1997 for the PlayStation and has come to be known as one of the greatest games of all time.

It is certainly one of my husband’s favorite games ever, and he is greatly anticipating the upcoming high-definition remake of the game.  He’s been wanting me to play the game for years; I’ve started it multiple times and never progressed very far (I didn’t even get to the open world map).

So we’re taking a staycation this week and playing FFVII.  Or more accurately, he’s watching me play it (the reverse of what usually happens).

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I’m playing on this actual PS1 and a tiny TV that B first used to play the game in the 90s.

The game follows soldier-turned-rebel Cloud Strife and his party on their quest to save their planet from the evil Shinra corporation and the godlike Sephiroth.  I already know the basic story, and “spoilers” for a 20-year-old game is kind of a silly concept.  I’ve also already seen Advent Children, a movie set after the game.  So I know all the characters, and I know who dies.

My goal for Monday was simply to get farther in the game than I had before (aka, leave the Shinra building), and I was successful!  B gave me a mod that started me with tons of XP and money, so combat is super easy and I don’t have to grind.  This is speeding up the game a lot, and I might actually be able to finish it this week.

As I said, B is watching me play so he can give me advice and help me when I get stuck.  He knows exactly what to do to get specific outcomes.  This is really helpful, because I’m used to relying on game journals in RPGs to remember what I’m supposed to be doing, but FFVII doesn’t have one, and I’d be wasting so much time just wandering around.

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B told me to get the one that shimmers so I get picked by the Don.  But then B fell asleep, and I couldn’t figure out how to get the tiara or makeup.  Aeris got picked.  Oh well.

My biggest challenge starting out was figuring out how to walk in a straight line, and where the paths go.  In my defense, the graphics are not what I’m used to haha.  But I’m getting better.

I’m about 14 hours into the game now, and I’ve gotten out to Midgar onto the world map, crossed an ocean, and learned more about Cloud, Barret, and Red XIII’s backstories.  Red XIII in particular is a favorite of mine; I call him “Red Shii” because of this video.

I’m really enjoying way the story is told, with lots of unfolding mystery and flashbacks.  I also already loved the music, which I’ve seen performed live, and I find myself humming along.

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Shiva, my first summon.  Aren’t the pixels great? >_<

My party is generally either Cloud/Tifa/Aeris or Cloud/RedXIII/Aeris.  Basically, a fighter, a thief, and a magic user.  The materia system is also really fun and I’m trying lots of combos with different characters.

I can already see a little why this game had such a big impact on so many young gamers, including my husband, in the 90s.  Maybe I’ll be playing the remake when it comes out, too!

Kaguya-hime got robbed

My quest to see all the 2014 Oscar-nominated animated movies concludes with:

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

Image result for tale of princess kaguya us poster

Studio Ghibli

Isao Takahata, director

Viewing Source: local public library Blu-ray

 Late one weeknight evening, I sat down to watch The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, thinking that as an animated film it was likely to be short (the others are all around 100 min) and I could still get to bed at a decent hour.  I popped in the disc, started the movie, and then checked the case for the running time: 2hrs 17 min.  Oops.

Yet when I finished the movie, I looked at the clock incredulously.  It certainly could not be that late, could it?  I was so engrossed in the movie, it seemed to pass too quickly.

I am a fan of Studio Ghibli, so I was expecting to like Kaguya.  My only hesitation was that this movie is not by Miyazaki, but by Isao Takahata, who’s best known for his traumatizing war movie Grave of the Fireflies (which I’ve never seen).  Still, Kaguya now ranks among my favorite Ghibli films, giving even My Neighbor Totoro a run for its money.  For me, it was a nearly perfect movie.

Kaguya (or Kaguya-hime no Monogatari as it’s titled in Japanese) is based on a Japanese folktale called “The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter” about an old man who discovers a tiny, beautiful girl in a stalk of bamboo.  I had not read the story until after I saw the movie, but the movie follows the original tale fairly well, with the beneficial addition/expansion of Kaguya’s childhood friend Sutemaru nii-chan.

Kaguya is a very complex, emotional movie, and I’m not too sure that most American kids would really love it. It’s imbued with Buddhist philosophy and imagery, which I found thought-provoking but others may find confusing. The gorgeous artwork and music are used very effectively to help convey emotion, but the story is not really a happy one.

Did I mention the animation is gorgeous?  You should see it for that alone.  Its sketchy watercolor style is very different from anything else on the nomination list, different even than other Ghibli films.

I can’t comment on the quality of the English dub; I only had time to watch one version, and I always prefer subtitles.  If you are able, I encourage you to watch it this way as well.  The movie is very Japanese, and hearing it in its native language may help you appreciate its tone.

I began this series of posts with the premise that animated movies are not just for kids, and I think this movie really underscores that point.  As you can infer from the title of this post, if it had been up to me, I would have given the 2014 Oscar for Animated Feature Film to Kaguya.  I hope you will all enjoy this beautiful movie as much as I did.

 

Valentine’s Day recap

I am generally not a fan of commercialized holidays; my husband knows better than to buy me anything for Sweetest Day, for example.

But I actually love Valentine’s Day.  I celebrate it in a rather Japanese fashion: in Japan, women give chocolates not only to their boyfriends/husbands/boys they like, but also to their girlfriends and coworkers (the ones given to coworkers are hilariously called “obligation chocolates“–it’s very Japanese).

I love to do things like bring in cookies to work, or hand out silly kids’ Valentines, and make my husband something tasty.  And for his part, B never gets me candy on Valentine’s Day, because it tastes exactly the same several days later, when it is 3x cheaper.

This year I made him a frozen peanut butter pie.  This is one of the famous desserts at Ray’s Place in Kent.  My husband went to Kent State, and still meets some of his college buddies at Ray’s frequently.

I used this recipe, but substituted a pre-made Oreo crust with a layer of chocolate sauce between the crust and filling.  This is a pretty quick and easy pie; it’s no-bake!  Unfortunately, I put in in the freezer on Valentine’s Day when we started to make dinner, and then we forgot about it until Monday.  Too much champagne, I guess.

The last time I made this for B, I presented him with a slice, and he informed me that at Ray’s Place, they put chocolate sauce and peanuts on top.  Well, then.

Did I get it right this time, dear?
Did I get it right this time, dear?

To continue our unique Valentine’s Day, we also went to see Kingsman: The Secret Service over the weekend and really enjoyed it.  If you’ve ever wanted to see graphic violence be described as “beautiful,” this movie is for you. I did give a bit of an eyeroll at the end, where I think they took a joke a bit too far.  But otherwise it was quite good, and I’d highly recommend it.

Surface Pro 3 Says 내가 제일 잘 나가 (I am the Best)

I love it when songs I like pop up in commercials; it happens most often in tech commercials, where there’s no dialogue, just pictures of pretty tech over a pumping beat or acoustic melodies.  Microsoft in particular has used Alex Clare’s “Too Close” in an IE9 commercial and Fall Out Boy’s “Young Volcanoes” in one for cross-platform Windows OS.

I heard this commercial on TV the other night, and, no surprise, started singing along.

 

Then I realized…those lyrics aren’t English.  It’s one of my favorite K-pop songs, “I Am The Best” by 2NE1.

 

 

I love that K-pop has gotten so popular here in the US.  I am actually more of a J-pop fan, so I often listen to the Japanese versions of K-pop songs; that way I can at least pronounce the words to sing along, and I can pick out some words I understand.  The Japanese version of “I Am The Best actually has a lot of the rap parts in English.  It’s worth listening to just to hear cute Korean girls say “ERRRBODY.”

 

 

I totally played this video about 15 times while writing this post.  So damn catchy.

Also, the Surface Pro 3 looks pretty cool, right?