Saturday, October 20, 2012

Anna-san no Omame

Breathing life into what could probably be the most annoying and dense character ever to be landed by a hafu celebrity, variety show-favorite Becky plays a rich, spoiled, delusional girl who wreaks havoc on the lives of men to head-splitting-throw-a-brick-at-your-television-screen-wanna-grab-her-by-the-neck perfection in a drama that can only be described as bonkers. Absolutely bonkers.

Mentally taxing for being ridiculously shallow, not to mention utterly pointless to the very end, Anna-san no Omame has a premise that would no doubt be funny or acceptable had it been a 20-minute anime feature but seeing it unfold onscreen with real live people is a whole different matter... Mitai na~

If there's any doubt that this series has the ability to firmly divide viewers on opposite ends of the love it or hate it spectrum, the fact that this came highly recommended by a trading buddy of mine (who also happened to tune me into Kekkon Dekinai Otoko) should be sufficient proof of its polarizing power. It's taken me four years to resume watching it after the shocking onslaught of silly that was episode one, and another year or so to decide to blog about it. And now in an effort to get it off my draft list, I present you with an antedated post that took another year to complete.
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When a regular, nondescript man named Kyoutaro (Kashiwabara Shuji) gets to exclusively date the epitome of Japanese beauty in Anna (Anzu Sayuri), he's beside himself with joy. But dating the most-sought-after woman in town includes establishing ties and getting along with the person whom she considers to be an invaluable person---her friend and roommate, Lily (Becky). Under normal circumstances acceding to this request would not be such an imposition but as it turn's out Anna's friend has it in her head that she's irresistible to all men, including  Kyoutaro, when nothing could be further from the truth.

This misunderstanding of sorts would lead to countless awkward, and at times dangerous situations, which merely serve to cement Lily's belief that her exceptional charm and beauty is to blame for all the trouble that people close to her encounter. Of course, Kyoutaro would want nothing more than to distance himself from this loud, crazy-eyed girl who can't seem to utter a sentence without puffed cheeks and a twitchy gesture, but Anna is adamant to have him shadow her best friend in order to protect her from a host of unsavory characters. Forced to do her girlfriend's bidding, Kyoutaro manages to save Lily from sexual predators, ruthless hostesses and even gangsters; the unintended result, however, is that Lily is now convinced that he harbors deep feelings for her.

Over the top and repetitive with a humor that can be a tad offensive, Anna-san Omame offers a brand of comedy that is highly dependent on one shtick; it draws all its laughs on the supposition that a character as exasperating and naive as Lily exists, and that a person such as Kyoutaro would endure all sorts of mayhem just to be with a dream girl who's best friends with a lunatic.

This plot device is actually made more outrageous once the viewer gets to meet Lily's affluent family which apparently had a hand in perpetuating Lily's delusions. There's the overprotective brother (Ikeda Tsutomu) whose concern for Lily can be quite touching if one were not inclined to wonder where he gets the free time to stalk watch over his sister and the parents (Kusakari Masao and Takahashi Hitomi) who consistently lavish their child with praise, raising her to believe that the world is her oyster.

Utilizing whacky visual effects that can be surmised to have been inspired by the thought of what it might have been had the Care Bears and My Little Pony & Friends embarked on an acid trip, Anna-san Omame saturates the show with bright colors, fantasy sequences, and dizzying camera shots that spin and zoom in more than necessary. This is one of those series that is zippy and zany, making use of in-your-face physical comedy that might not sit well with viewers in search of intellectual stimulation. 

Subtlety is not its strongest point, in fact, everything about the production matches the potent energy of its protagonist. Lily's outfits are a cosplayer's dream and the set pieces that represent each of the three main characters reflect their different personalities, following a specific color scheme. Scenes are shot at unexpected angles, some as a testament to the giddy and unsteady tone of the series and even some turning out to be surprisingly creative and beautiful in their own right.

The series hits its stride when it decides to parody drama tropes and iconic movies. There's really not much to say about character development but some unexplained personality quirks and the occasional plot point tend to fool the viewer into thinking that there's more to it than previously expected. It's just unfortunate that the opportunity for exposition all turn out to be a joke and whatever glimmer of hope for an actual story is nothing but a hoax. For example, the reason for Anna's unwavering loyalty and penchant to brush off Lily's crazy antics is given a flimsy back story, while the opportunity to give Lily some depth and a possible happy ending is squashed when the series arbitrarily reverts back to its merry, non-committal tone. Whether or not one chooses to go for the ride is a matter of preference, but to its credit Anna-san no Omame does not aspire to be something that it's not, nor does it give the impression that it has a solution to this unusual love triangle.

Fledgling celebrity Rebecca Eri Ray Vaughan, popularly known as Becky, bulldozes her way through the series, showing unwavering commitment in playing Lily and all her insufferable inanities. This break out role seems to be the first of a series of obnoxious, grating characters given to Becky as a hafu artist, followed by her role as Tanya in the Nodame Cantabile series and her stint as the tempestuous Kaiko in the Kaibutsu-kun SP. Not counting her sweet and dainty singing career as Becky♪♯, this girl has unluckily been pigeonholed to flutter those lashes and use those green eyes to the annoyance of many, when she's obviously capable of so much more. She actually excels when allowed to do something else---of note is how she single-handedly carried the body-switch scenario in episode 6 and how she demonstrated her untapped potential as a romantic interest in the penultimate episode of this series. Her appearance as the outgoing Saki to Ito Atsushi's stiff and button-downed Kazuo in the fourth segment of Propose Kyoudai was a step in the right direction, however the noxious imprint left by this series will most likely linger on.
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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

James Morrison : The Awakening Tour in Manila

Took some time off to catch the James Morrison concert last night.

Although admittedly not as familiar with his discography as my concert buddies, I did manage to listen to his latest album long enough to get the impression that it was a form of affirmation, if not a total celebration of sorts. Certain tracks sounded like a tribute, a veritable list of people and things that made this particular artist who he is today. The Awakening is arguably more upbeat than Morrison's previous offerings---I, for one, am amazed by the uncanny marriage of this singer's signature rasp and the Motown influence in his third album.

With a setlist of funky tunes intermingled with soulful ballads, this British singer-songwriter performed with a whole lot of swag, jumping and strutting on stage, infecting the crowd with his euphoric energy. The whole concert experience felt like a laid-back party with a take em' to church vibe and Morrison, the anointed preacher. With a unique gravelly voice (which I can only describe as one in dire need of a lozenge, but in a good way), this guy was a sight to behold as he unleashed his inner dance monkey before a crowd of onlookers who had no choice but to reciprocate his verve.

People probably came in droves wanting to hear sentimental hits like You Give Me Something and Broken Strings and let me just say that he didn't disappoint. He likewise sold his new material, singing up tempo songs like Beautiful Life and Slave to the Music whilst dialing things down a notch with heartfelt compositions like In My Dreams, I Won't Let You Go and  Say Something Now, all done with apparent ease and pride. 

There are performers who would often draw energy from the crowd but this one generated his own; he channeled it to everyone inside the Big Dome. This one had a light in him that made you stop wondering whether or not he took more than a swig of spiked Kool-aid, he had an energy and a force that can make you throw your hands in the air and say, "I'll have whatever he's having."

He was obviously having a good time that night and so were we. 

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Concert picture courtesy of Inquirer Entertainment
I initially planned to use a different picture for this blog post, but the picture that came with the Inquirer article pretty much captured the feeling of seeing Morrison work his groove.
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