Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year's 2011

I remember spending the eve of 2010 watching Part 1 of the 20th Century Boys movie with my family while waiting for the clock to strike 12. This year turned out to be slightly different, in a sense that we managed to avoid watching a sci-fi adventure movie; opting for a frilly romantic comedy that didn't leave you wondering what the hell happened to its protagonist. The best part of it was that it didn't have an apocalyptic spin to it, so we didn't find ourselves distraught over the ending of the movie. All in all, we were better off closing the year on a light, positive note, contrary to how we started it.
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Monday, December 27, 2010

Down the Rabbit Hole We Go - Part 1

"In the enfranchised mind of the scientific naturalist, the usual feelings of repugnance simply do not exist. Curiosity conquers prejudice."
- Bruce F. Cummings, Journal of a Disappointed Man (1919)
Let's face it, with the holidays in full swing, it's doggone impossible to sit down and write a decent blog entry, so I'll just throw in the towel and run with this little piece that came to mind after having another go at watching the Arashi 5x10 Concert with my sisters last night. I've had the opportunity to catch random clips of performances by idol groups in the past few years enough to know that I don't have the constitution of a fangirl to overlook pitch problems, disturbingly suggestive dance moves and atrocious clothing. But lest you say I judge too quickly, I'm all for giving these boys a fair shake.

It was in August of this year that mikautada generously supplied me with a selection of JE concerts  by SMAP, Tackey and Tsubasa, Arashi, KAT-TUN and NEWS, and so I attempted to go through them objectively, mindful of Ender's Girl's warning that I'm venturing on slippery slope; ever grateful to have my sister's commentary present in the background like an errant, unstable guide to a potentially dangerous  [could suck you into la~la~land and turn you into a mindless, spendthrift drone] excursion.

After eight or so grueling hours of [pressing the fastforward button on the remote,] watching my JE stash, scratching my head in disbelief and finding myself bursting in laughter at inopportune moments, I started jotting down notes,  making a list of things I've observed about this breed of "artists", in hopes of making my venture slightly legit.

The idea for this post was to provide a basic account of my 3-day adventure into JE territory, deriving inspiration from Charles Darwin's Beagle Diary and Marco Polo's travel diary. Problem is, I couldn't manage to watch any of the foregoing concerts/performances from start to finish, so this hardly counts as an in-depth review or study. It's actually turned out to be more of a compilation of the disgruntled ramblings of a person who couldn't wrap her head around what was going on half of the time and whose jaw kept hitting the floor after witnessing one weird spectacle after another; so what started out as a one-time "academic" quest, turned out to be more of a crazy adventure, or rather more like me, tumbling down a rabbit hole, (stumbling around in shock) discovering this strange new world of exotic (for lack of a better word), male creatures---the kind that hail from the land of Johnny's Jimusho.

After briefly going over the '92-'95 SMAP Concert disc compilation, it suddenly occurred to me that if Hikaru Genji was the Japanese equivalent of the band Menudo on roller skates in the 1980s, then SMAP would surely have to be  Japan's dorky, rainbow-clad answer to the NKOTB in the early 90s. Obviously, the idea to create multimedia stars was nothing new, in fact, it didn't stop there, because Johnny's Entertainment, as most people already know, would later come to manage six other bands that would take a bite on the country's music industry.

The music maker, the dreamer of dreams, the Pied Piper of little boys from that weird island country, Johnny's Entertainment is essentially a boy band factory---one that churns out sensational [bubblegum] talent this side of the world and for the most part, has been surprisingly successful at it. Off the bat I noticed how one need not be a good looking chap to become an idol; one need only have a distinct look and flavor, even normal would do, since they would eventually get made over anyway, once they debut.

Wearing anything from matching square suits, parachute pants, metallic vests, to psychedelic sweaters, fresh-faced youngsters would sing, dance and tumble on stage while hordes of screaming fans go ga-ga in a dark theater. Over time, they'll change hairstyles, wear [slightly] better clothes, support a distinctive image and get trimmed down to a more manageable number, but rest assured that (aside from the signature moves that recur in slight variations and the dodgy use of English words in concert promos) fans will continue to flock to stadiums and help sell out concerts.

Inside my head I'm breaking down,
Where am I now and why?
- Lyric Translation 1582 - 亀梨和也

It seems that things have not changed much in the last two decades, considering that the new crop of JE boys continue the age-old tradition of making girls squeal and making [most] boys uncomfortable enough to run towards the nearest exit. The only difference is now, they  not only entertain crowds through song and dance in colorful outfits, feathered boas, and sequined tops but they do it all  while staging a mind-boggling extravaganza that can only be compared to a three-ring circus. To date, I've seen artists from the Johnny's stable get hoisted up in the air like rag dolls swinging in the breeze; I've seen shirtless, young boys prance around on stage with nervous energy---a sight which could have been directly culled from a fujoshi's overactive imagination [or a pedo's technicolor dream]; I've seen androgynous young men swivel their hips and tease the crowd with their  [string bean] bodies and [criminal] sex appeal; but nothing could have prepared me for the grandiose and insane spectacle that was KAT-TUN's 2009 Break the Records concert.

Out of the recent batch of artists to come out of JE, KAT-TUN always struck me as the most flamboyant and stylized of the bunch. They don't break the mold so much as try to redefine it and therein lies a contradiction. I don't know if it's due to a conscious effort to distinguish themselves from the others or simply a marketing decision, but KAT-TUN for some reason, simultaneously appears to be the more experimental and edgier counterpoint to  the other boy bands of JE in terms of music and yet they're also the most theatrical, most  hyped up and idol-like come performance time. Oh, and they always come dressed with a costume-party in mind.

The actual singing or the live vocal performance is inconsequential---whether they hit the right note is no longer important---there's a thousand other attractions out there that will prevent you from getting hung up on auto-tune enhanced vocals. They're like rockstar wannabes, bubblegum pop advocates and ultimate stage entertainers all rolled in one. A KAT-TUN concert would not be complete without any fancy gimmicks,  showstopping performances and fanservice. This  one in particular had  its members zipping through the air and shamelessly flirting with their audience. In addition thereto, one member jumps off a hanging cage, plays an onnagata and believe it or not, gets drenched in public. Still, one member rides a motorcycle in a cage sphere while another flips the bird on an unsuspecting audience... all of these and more in Feles's 2-part Monster Review.

Observational Report #1: The Kamenashi Kazuya Solo 1582 a.k.a. Why Go to a Sentou?

Up, up and away
My sister, the KAT-TUN fan, was extra excited to watch this concert. Considering that I just spent an hour trying to appreciate Takizawa Enbujo, I wasn't really that keen on following it up with  KAT-TUN's  brand of pop [which, based on my limited exposure, has a punk-rock-hiphop flavor with a little sleaze thrown in for good measure],  so I only dropped in once in a while to verify if what was going on coincided with my shortlist of what to expect from a KAT-TUN concert and this is what I ended up with:

Moving stage, strobe lights and fountains  ✔
Flame throwers and fireballs ✔
Members sticking out tongue/licking lips ✔
Tanaka Koki scaring kids ✔
Kamenashi Kazuya exercising creative restraint x

By all accounts, it was a typical JE least until Kame turned up and performed his solo, playing the dual role of ill-fated lovers. I tell you, this  thing stopped me dead in my tracks. He just had to put all that theatrical experience from working on Dream Boy to good use, had to prove once again that he was under the tutelage of another JE boy who gyrates and thrusts his hips like there's no tomorrow....had to smear lipstick on his lips, had to brandish a sword like a frenzied fighter, had to take his audience on a magic wagasa ride; take flight and spin with sparklers. You see, he just had to. Without going into vocal stylings and strictly judging it by way of  production value, Kame's 1582 was nothing short of Fabulous. Outrageous. Stupendous. It was out of this world and sadly, simply insane.

There's an undeniable conceit to it that can only be attributed to crazy artistry but you got to hand it to the guy for performing it with such conviction. But what does it all mean? Having seen this concert a year later than most people made me privy to a host of conflicting opinions. Given the sheer extravagance of it all, it's no surprise that it's prone to be ridiculed but what's interesting is the number of interpretations and conjectures that came to light because of this solo. Some placed particular significance on the song title (see spaarklingwine & overduemuse), while others defended the performance out of love for Kame and came up with their own interpretation (see kvothe232).  As for me, I simply chalked it up to misguided and gratuitous showmanship.

The first section of this performance was rather easy to piece together---two lovers are separated at a time of war, the woman dies/is defiled and/or murdered;  man gets news of his lover's demise in the heat of battle and gets all fired up, enraged, and entangled up in scrolls (???)...okay, so I admit that I have not given it that much thought, but who would, after watching Kame get all wet and wild, eager to replicate Jennifer Beals's water dance on a live stage? Bet you didn't know that those water fountains could be used that way, huh. Bet you didn't expect Juniors to throw buckets and buckets of water (enough to drown a big rat) at their senpai either.

So what to make of this unique and exciting piece of performance art? Well, based on the video under examination, I think we can safely infer any or all of the following:

(a) The final act to the 1582 solo depicts man against the elements;
(b) The man called Kame is just way too hot to handle [which is why he was doused];
(c) Kame is possessed  by an exhibitionist demon and is undergoing a cleansing ritual;
(d) Kame is a very, very dirty boy, hence should bathe in public; 
(e) Juniors are dispensing payback against him for setting a weird precedent (the gold standard in staging an over the top JE concert piece).

*End of report on first and last attempt at watching KAT-TUN's BTR Concert dated 8/22/2010*

Experiment concluded.
Results inconclusive.
Further viewing is suspended indefinitely.

Photos courtesy of kattun_kame -- KAT-TUN concert コンサート live kamenashi 亀梨和也
Additional photos taken from Dazed and Confused feat. Kame
Lyric translation to 1582 courtesy of JPopAsia and

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Saturday, December 25, 2010

Holiday Buzz and Extra Clutter

Well, the holidays are here and I thought that I'd get more time to finish up all those draft blog posts I have had pending for a little over a month now but I could not have been more wrong in this assessment. As soon as December kicked in, life was abuzz with work, holiday preparations and Christmas shopping-- there simply wasn't enough time to mull over recent drama exploits especially when you're in the company of family and friends, let alone sleep as one should.  That being said, I do still plan to close the year with a few antedated posts which will be accompanied by some ill-conceived and sloppily constructed blurgs (provided I get some fansubbing assignments out of the way). For now, allow me to wish everyone the best this holiday season. And of course, for those who might be interested in expanding their drama collection or are simply planning on placing a few more shows on their viewing roster, here's an updated list of the stuff I have that's available for trade or "adoption".

Japanese Dramas
  • Atsuhime
  • Binbo Danshi
  • Bloody Monday 1 & 2
  • Byakkotai SP 2007
  • Byakuyakou
  • Cheap Love
  • Code Blue
  • Dr. Koto Shinryojo
  • Fuma no Kojiro
  • Galileo
  • Giragira
  • Gokusen 3
  • H2 Kimi to itahibi
  • Hanazakari no Kimitachi e
  • Hanbun no Tsuki ga Noboru Sora Live Action (Raw files)
  • Hagetaka
  • Jodan Janei
  • Jotei
  • Juui Dolittle
  • Jyoou no Kyoushitsu 
  • Keiji no Genba
  • Kiken na Aneki 
  • Koizora
  • Love Shuffle (Raw files)
  • Maou
  • Minami-kun no Koibito
  • Mioka
  • Mother
  • Muri na Renai
  • Nanase Futatabi
  • Pandora
  • Prisoner
  • Quiz Show 2
  • Regatta
  • Rescue
  • Ruri no Shima
  • Satomi Hakkenden
  • Shoni Kyumei (Raw files)
  • Sukeban Deka (Raw files)
  • Tantei Gakuen Q
  • Tokkyu Tanaka 3-Go
  • Ushi ni Negai wo
  • Uta no Oniisan
  • Yamada Taro Monogatari
  • Yoshitsune (Dvd format/avi)
  •  Zeni Geba

Korean Dramas
  • Bad Guy
  • Bad Couple
  • Cain and Abel
  • Chuno
  • Coma
  • Crazy for You 
  • East of Eden
  • Evasive Inquiry Agency (DVD format)
  • Goong S (a.k.a. Prince Hours)
  • Iron Empress (a.k.a. Empress Chun Chu)
  • Piano
  • Return of Iljimae
  • Robbers
  • Snow Queen
  • Star's Echo 
  • Strongest Chil Woo
  • Sungkyunkwan Scandal
  • Taereung's National Village
  • Thank You
  • The Devil
  • The Lobbyist
  • Time Between Dog and Wolf (DVD format)
  • Triple
  • You're Beautiful

Chinese/Taiwanese Dramas
  • Down with Love
  • Fated to Love You 1-19 (RandomFansubs has the rest up on youtube)
  • It Started with a Kiss 1-8 (incomplete)
  • Mischievous Princess (a.k.a Bratty Princess)
  • Romance in the Rain
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