Tokyo Godfathers [FB]
Aug 30th, 2011 by Dan

We three kings

I’m shocked at how much I liked Tokyo Godfathers. By all accounts I shouldn’t be surprised. I knew I liked Satoshi Kon and I knew the basic outline of the movie, but I wasn’t prepared for what I saw.

Tokyo Godfathers is a modern-day fairy tale. Like many fairy tales, it’s almost entirely predicated on coincidence and luck, but like the best of them it ends up not feeling like contrivance. It begins with the nativity story, the salvation story of God “giving away” his only child, and ends with a reunion between father and child. Kiyoko is implied to be under God’s protection and things get implausible quick, but without seeming improbable or like the viewer is being cheated.

At this point it’s hard for me to separate my love for Satoshi Kon and how well the movie does what it does, but I do believe that the characters he creates are charismatic enough that I found myself loving all three by the end of the movie despite not expecting to. Even the random supporting roles, the taxi driver, the older bum, and the Latina housewife are all fleshed out in great ways.

Speaking of the Latina woman, that was a nice little bonus there. My ability to understand Spanish allowed me to understand what was going on there. I don’t know if the subtitlers were following the implication that a Japanese viewer wouldn’t understand Spanish either, but they didn’t subtitle her lines and I was still able to understand the communication. It’s bold when a movie does this. Just flat out tells you that you don’t get to know what a person is saying. I liked it.

It’s weird how this, the tamest and least mindscrew-y of Satoshi Kon’s works might end up my favorite of the bunch. I found myself genuinely caught up in the films moments, getting emotional at the right times, freaking out during the action scenes, and just really rolling with it. In fact, the worst part about the movie was the realization at the end that I was done. I’ve now seen all of Satoshi Kon’s movies/tv series. I do really hope that funding is found to finish his last work posthumously, but, for now, I’m glad that he did what he did. My life has been enriched by all five of his productions.

What I’ve Been Doing 29 Aug 2011 [FB/IB/F/BT/GO]
Aug 29th, 2011 by Dan

Hurricane Isabel

Thankfully the damage was minimal in MD.


Paprika – When the week started I didn’t realize I’d be getting back into Satoshi Kon so hardcore. I actually put off watching it two weeks ago because I thought it would be scarier, but it turned out to not be so bad (and it was awesome). Made me put Perfect Blue at the top of the queue. More here.

Perfect Blue – Definitely the freakier of the two movies. Excellent to see the roots of Satoshi Kon’s work. More here.


Weeds – I was thinking that Nancy getting out of her problems would take a lot longer than one episode, wow. Still good, but wow. Silas and Nancy have always had an antagonistic relationship, but it’s weird to see them so at odds and it blowing up in Silas’ face when he trusts Harriet the Spy.

The Hour – Finished the episode. The spy elements are stupid and I don’t really understand why everyone thinks this is so great. Maybe another episode is required?

Retro Game Master – This week the Kacho tried to beat 53 Stations of the Tōkaidō. They added a nice touch where each time he entered a new area/prefecture they would give him a local delicacy. The episodes they’ve been choosing to localize have gotten funnier each week and I’m kind of bummed their “season” is about to end.


Alt Latino – Mala Rodriguez was the guest on this week’s show and her brand of hip hop was pretty neat. It’s weird to hear vulgarity in Spanish music since I grew up only listening to the tamer stuff.

Cartoon Medley – This was on my tumblr, but it’s awesome, so repost:

Only criticism is during the TMNT part. They’re not “turtles in a half-shell”, they’re “heroes in a half-shell”. The other lyric makes no sense.


No real reading this week, just comics.

The Ultimates – Great start to the book. They really set it up as “everything goes wrong at once!” and I’m digging it. It also helps that Hickman is a fantastic writer.

Chew – The Flambé arc comes to a close. It didn’t have as many “wow” moments as some of the earlier ones, but it’s definitely intriguing as the Avian Flu mystery deepens.

X-Men – The FF were in this book so I picked it up at Eric’s behest. Funny. Not great, but fun.

X-23 – Spidey was in this one so I grabbed it since Eric liked it. Pretty good book and I like supporting female comic talent too.

Captain America and Bucky – Chris Samnee’s art makes this book worth the cover price. The story’s just ok, but the art I love.

Incorruptible – Not the most exciting start to a new arc, but whatever just showed up seems to be really scary to everyone?

Secret Warriors – Can’t wait for the last volume. I want to see where this goes. The first parts of this series were better than the middle parts so hopefully the last book goes out with a bang.

FF – The action is back and this issue is really great. Doom pimp slapping one of the Reeds was awesome.

Video Games

Team Fortress 2 – I was worried about losing power this weekend so I tried to take advantage of as much power as possible. That resulted in too much TF2. I think I played over 20 hrs. Maybe even over 30. So much fun. I got a few new stranges that make things even better (stranges count kills).

Dragon Age 2 – Beat the game a first time this weekend. Really good stuff. I like how they narrowed down the narrative to keep things more focused. Really made me care about what happened in Kirkwall. On my second playthrough now.

The Civil Wars Tiny Desk Concert [F/ER]
Aug 29th, 2011 by Dan

This is kind of old, but it’s still pretty good. The Civil Wars in a Tiny Desk Concert, folks. Enjoy!

Assorted Youtube Vids [ER]
Aug 27th, 2011 by Dan

First a few of Laura Shigihara playing game music. A note about the Mario 2 one, she arranged it when she was eight. EIGHT!

This next one is a TF2 moment of mine that I’m particularly proud of:

The Films of Guy Ritchie [ER/FB]
Aug 26th, 2011 by Dan

Kees van Dijkhuizen has become my favorite person to follow on Youtube. His latest in the “Films of” series focuses on English director Guy Ritchie, whose films taught me that Englishmen can be scary gangsters too. Hope you enjoy the vid as much as I did.

Perfect Blue [FB]
Aug 26th, 2011 by Dan

Perfect Blue

It's as weird and creepy as it looks.

Idol culture is weird. I mean, bizarre. It only just hit me while I was watching the opening of Perfect Blue that the main fans of these idol groups are men! The shitty, poppy, stupid J-Pop that is peddled throughout Japan by gaggles of over-cute women doing choreographed dances have male audiences. It’s so weird. I mean, in the states we have guys who perv over girl groups and female artists, but none of them would admit to being “fans”.

Several Kotaku articles I’ve read reference the immense amount of pressure that pop idol fans have to remain “pure.” Rather like hiding John Lennon’s marriage back in the early days of The Beatles, these women aren’t allowed to express any emotional or sexual involvement with men in public and they’re quite serious about it. Fans will turn against impure idols very quickly.

Satoshi Kon, whose favorite topics seem to be obsession and dreams vs. reality, tackles this otaku culture right off the bat with Perfect Blue. It’s funny how much disdain he seems to have for the hardcore fan that seems to comprise anime fandom in Japan (at least from a western perspective). I’m not saying it’s without merit, since obsession of any kind is a little dangerous, but it’s always seemed risky to me. It also lends legitimacy to his message since he’s using their medium against them. Well, that’s not completely accurate, I mean, obsessive groups exist for every type of fandom, but the anime otaku is not exactly high on the obsessive social totem pole.

If I had to complain about one artistic decision in this movie, it’s choosing to make Me-Mania, the scary stalker-level fan of our main character, Mima, look like an absolute troll. His eyes are misshapen, his teeth are disgusting, and his hair greasily covers up half his face. It’s a cheat to make him seem so abnormal, in my eyes.

Here I am talking specifics when I haven’t even explained the plot! The aforementioned Mima was part of an idol trio, CHAM, and she’s “decided” to leave the group to go into acting. I put that in quotes because Mima seems to just do what she’s told. Her fans don’t seem to take this very well and a threatening fax and a letterbomb make their way to her.

The problem is that her new gig as an actress is in a seedy crime drama where she is immediately thrust out of the “good girl idol” light and into the “this girl is not pure” light by way of a rape scene in the drama. It’s disturbing and kind of gross to watch and Mima’s already fragile consciousness seems to snap right here. She wasn’t really raped, but the acting and scene are horrifically tough to deal with and she can’t quite cope, but her manager continues to push this darker bent.

All the while Mima has stumbled onto a webpage seemingly written by her describing her daily movements and actions to a scarily accurate degree. She knows she’s not writing it, but the psychological trauma of reinventing herself and her already fragile psyche starts to make reality and fiction start to blend. Scenes in her life seem to happen, but then are actually scenes from her drama. I won’t spoil much more past here, but this is where the movie starts to get that Satoshi Kon feel.

As a viewer, this movie was tremendously disturbing. The fake rape scene begins blending reality and the drama in scary ways and Mima’s stalker seems scarily determined to get her to return to her singing career. What I especially enjoyed was watching Satoshi Kon’s trademark shots and symbolism start to take shape here. Certain scenes and ideas are definitely explored and expanded upon in his later work and that was really cool. I also loved that this movie took things to a much scarier and weirder place than Paprika.

If you can’t handle psychological thrillers, stay away from Perfect Blue, but everyone else should check this flick out. Considering his later work, it’s an unsurprisingly solid freshman effort from Satoshi Kon, even if it’s rougher around the edges than his later work. Definitely worth watching.

AUSA Perfect Blue-13

Is cosplaying Perfect Blue missing the point? Doesn't matter, it's still pretty cool

Paprika [FB]
Aug 23rd, 2011 by Dan

Paprika 720p Trailer

The titular character

I take great joy in watching the arc of an auteur’s style and career. Take Satoshi Kon. He’s had a relatively sparse directorial career that was tragically cut short due to pancreatic cancer, but there is a clear thread running through his work that I can trace from Perfect Blue all the way to Paprika (I’ve still yet to see Perfect Blue or Tokyo Godfathers, but they’re high on my list). Like Paranoia Agent before it, Paprika deals heavily with the subconscious/unconscious mind while also tying in the cinema history/construction of Millennium Actress. Dreams, reality, and obsession were also major themes of Perfect Blue, but I can’t speak to that without having seen it.

So there’s this master arc that traces through of cinematic quirks and decisions that point to one man making all the decisions and I adore that. Movies can easily become mass market-appealing drivel with too many chefs in the kitchen, but not Kon’s work. There’s style here.

From the surreal dreamscape of the opening that transitions into my favorite opening credit sequence in an anime movie ever, this movie just never stops. Set in a world where technology allows therapists to share dreams with patients for treatment, our main character, Chiba, whose alter ego in dream therapy is Paprika, discovers that the dream hardware has been hacked, giving a malicious terrorist access to the fragile minds of any patient in therapy. The action begins after one of her coworkers minds is hijacked into the dream, causing a near-suicidal leap and plunge from a window.

I don’t want to spoil the arc this movie takes, but I will say that it’s reluctance to really get super disturbing was a shock to me. Don’t get me wrong, it still gets weird, uncomfortable, weird, and kind of scary, but it doesn’t go quite as deep as you’d expect, which was semi-disappointing to me after the way darker Paranoia Agent. I wanted to find myself unable to sleep last night, but the movie didn’t quite deliver there. Shonen Bat was a scarier villain, for sure, but I’m ok with trading him off for deep symbolism and subtle character revelation through dreams.

The rental I watched was the blu-ray release and it is absolutely gorgeous. I don’t usually fawn over the visual beauty of anime, so you know I’m being serious here. The lines are so sharp you could cut yourself while the color palette is especially varied and beautiful. If you can get your hands on a high definition cut of this film, pretend no other version exists.

Paprika is not a perfect movie. It can get a little confusing and it fails to deliver on the truly horrifying, settling for pretty damn horrifying and unsettling, but this is a movie that you should watch. Find it, watch it, and hope that Dreaming Machine finds enough financial backing to get released posthumously.

Paprika 720p Trailer

Gaby Moreno Tiny Desk Concert [F/ER]
Aug 23rd, 2011 by Dan

NPR’s Alt Latino has revolutionized my music space and I love it. I get all kinds of acts that aren’t even mainstream in the Latino community, like Gaby Moreno, who has a stellar voice (she really flaunts it in the third song). Enjoy.

What I’ve Been Doing 22 Aug 2011 [FB/IB/F/BT/GO]
Aug 22nd, 2011 by Dan

Music guitar

Music joins WIBD!

Well, “music” of a sort. I have a thing that is linked to my tumblr that you can use to see what I’ve been listening to, artist-wise. No, unless a new awesome album comes out, the point of this is to talk about audio programming I’ve been listening to.


Morning Glory – This one came off the girlfriend’s Netflix queue. I had some interest in seeing it myself, but I didn’t realize just how much of a chicklit movie it was. It’s not actually based on a chicklit book, but I still got that vibe. Really didn’t do it for me. Also: full bangs are terrible.


Weeds – My favorite part about this show is how it gets Nancy into these ridiculously complicated and difficult situations so I can watch her try to extricate herself from them. Hard to imagine something worse than what she just got involved in!

The Hour – I haven’t finished the first episode, but a few thoughts. 1. The BBC tends to have a house style that makes everything look kind of same-y. I don’t really appreciate that. All the comedies have the same “look” and all the dramas have a different, but similar “look”. 2. Idris Elba and Dominic West are so entwined with The Wire in my head that it blows my mind every time I hear their native English accents. 3. America has its share of class-based struggles with rich and poor, but I feel like England still has it a lot worse with where you went to school and nobility.

Retro Game Master – This week’s game was a golf RPG, Battle Golfer Yui. The best part of the show was how the computer kept losing by making bad shots and giving up. Definitely one of the funnier episodes to date.


All Songs Considered – As a response to the “Songs That Make You Cry” episode from not long ago, All Songs came back with “Songs That Make You Feel Good“. I’m not done yet, but the episode has had a great Stones song along with that catchy whistle tune by Peter Bjorn and John and Florence and the Machine’s “Dog Days Are Over”. They should rename the episode “Songs That Make You Speed” because all of these are so fun and happy that it made me worry about tickets.


One Hundred Years of Solitude – Read the beginning while waiting for my replacement car window. Seems cool. I like Melquiades and I can vaguely see some of the connections between this and Mother 3.

Collected Stories – Finished that other short story. It was an interesting look at an identical twin whose brother died. He felt like he was choking on the smell of formaldehyde and mused as to whether his dead brother was dragging him toward death too or he was dragging him toward life. Kind of interesting. We’ll see if the rest of Márquez’ stories are as obsessed with death.

Ultimate Fallout – (the rest of these are comics) The mini-series ended with this issue. Set up some neat plot points to go from in the future. I like how much Fallout is differentiating itself from the 616 continuity. Can’t wait for the new stuff to start this week.

Spider-Girl – Very action-y with not a lot of substance, but that’s cool with me. It was fun. Good to see female characters around.

Venom – Supposed to be really good, but it was just kind of meh to me.

Daredevil – My favorite book of the week. Good art, fantastic writing, and great attention to detail. You should check this book out.

Video Games

Dragon Age 2 – I think I’m somewhere in the 50-60 hour range with this game now. I was not expecting it to be this good. The decision to scale it down and focus it on a single family and city was pretty brilliant. It allows for a more character driven story. There’s also a nice benefit to making it about a different character in that I get to meet old guys from the past games and talk about my old char. Mass Effect is slightly different in that you play the same guy and they’re reacting to you. If they continue the series past 3 and Shepard isn’t the hero I hope they still keep some of the ME chars around.

Team Fortress 2 – I had one of my favorite rounds of TF2 yesterday when both my brothers and Lee were in a game with me. This game is just fantastic. Really great stuff.

Left 4 Dead 2 – Played a half hour with Dave until his net connection crapped out. Maybe we’ll finish the Dark Carnival tonight.

My Year Of Flops: “The Love Guru” [FB]
Aug 18th, 2011 by Dan

A smart, talented, accomplished writer-actor like Myers spending years meticulously creating, rehearsing, and refining an obnoxious one-note cartoon like Guru Pitka is a like a group of brilliant scientists working around the clock for a decade to build a malfunctioning fart machine: a surreal waste of time, energy and manpower.

-Nathan Rabin. “My Year Of Flops, Kicking A Man While He’s Down Case File #132: The Love Guru

I’ve heard over and over again that I should be reading Nathan Rabin’s entries in My Year Of Flops on The A.V. Club and I finally checked it out. Pretty neat to read measured, researched insights into terrible movies. If you like movies, check some of these out.

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