Keiongaku bu (K-On!) First Impressions

I just started a new anime series. K-On! The story of a light music club in a Japanese high school (Keiongaku bu shortened to keionbu or K-On). The art style is very Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (which I LOVE) and the girls in the club are very typical anime moe girls. One sort of shy goth chick who plays bass, the outgoing tsundere-type that plays drums, the wealthy girl who plays the keyboard, and the clutzy Tsukino Usagi (Sailor Moon) type who starts off playing nothing (except castanets) and eventually learns to play the guitar.

The show, so far, has started out with a lingering light music club that is on the verge of being abolished since all of the former members have graduated. Ritsu, the outgoing tsundere girl, decides she wants to join the club, but has to get four members in order to keep the club around. She first recruits her best friend Mio (the goth type) who unwillingly joins the group but is pulled in by the craziness that is Ritsu (a la Mikuru in Haruhi). Then Tsumugi (the wealthy girl) joins even though she originally wanted to join the choir.

The story really bases itself around the final character, clutzy Yui, who has never been in any club before and she sees the poster for the club and wants to join even though she can’t play an instrument.

The story so far has Yui trying to quit the club and being bribed (through sweets brought by Tsumugi) to join them as a guitarist. The first arc involves the trials and tribulations of getting a guitar and is really well written. The voice-acting (in the Japanese version) was excellent.

Additionally, Bandai announced at Anime Expo this year that they have the rights to the DVD and BluRay releases so it looks like we will be getting another Bang Zoom Entertainment dub pretty soon (Ugh).

I really enjoyed the Japanese version so far and I will let everyone know when I have finished the series!

One thing I really need to point out is that the ending song is absolutely FANTASTIC!! I can’t get enough of it! And the ending credits are very visual kei and are perfectly synced with the words of the song which makes it that much more enjoyable!! I can’t wait until I start hearing the girls perform in the show!!

Also, I just found out that they have released a second season in Japan (K-On!! with two exclamation points) so I will definitely have to check that out when I get a chance!

I recommend this show to anyone who loves high school girl comedies! Enjoy!


Manga Review: Chi’s Sweet Home

In honor of the acquisition of the cutest kitten in the world, Kotatsu, I thought I would review another appropriate manga!

For people like me who are studying Japanese, it is extremely hard to find manga to read in Japanese so that we can practice.  Especially manga that we can enjoy. Then I found Chi’s Sweet Home by Konami Kanata.  It is an adorable story about a lost kitten that is adopted by a new family.  The premise is slightly sad since a kitten gets separated from its mom, then wanders around by itself until finally he is exhausted and a little kid finds it.

The story follows Chi through litter box training, vet visits, and baths, using simple words and phrases through the little boy and Chi’s baby talk. Any kanji in the series has furigana (the smaller hiragana translations) next to each character to make it even easier to understand. I know that I usually read any manga as “watashi wa ‘big fat kanji big fat kanji’ desu” when they don’t use furigana, but I promise, I am getting better lately!

With the help of a dictionary every now and then, it is easy for most Japanese students to get through as long as they have a command of the hiragana and katakana and basic to mid-range grammatical knowledge, such as conjugations and sentence structure.

The story is very cute and it was gratifying to read and understand, even with the kitten’s baby talk (it uses “ra” instead of “da” and other cutesy terms). Even veteran Japanese manga readers (including the Psychotaku) can enjoy this series since it is very comical in an innocent and adorable way (especially if you love cats, but what Japanese culture over doesn’t?!).

I recommend this to anyone who wants to work on their Japanese away from the formality of class and the manga helps to recognize more common slang words and other everyday life customs.

For those that aren’t taking Japanese (and why aren’t you?!) the manga is also available in English from Vertical, Inc. Oh wow…just realized that I am almost like a Vertical, Inc. spokewoman at this point since I already reviewed Black Jack! Ah well, I promise the next one won’t be from the same publisher, ok?!

This series has also come out as an anime as well, each three minute episode represents one chapter from the manga. The episodes are straight from the manga and are equally as funny and adorable as the manga.


Batman Beyond…Shway.

So I watched cartoons all the way through high school and college and I still do now.  I feel that as long as I am responsible when I need to be (ie. bills, work, school), then I can be a kid any other time.

Batman Beyond was one of the cartoons that I loved in the late 90s.  I loved the opening music sequence, the characters, the voice acting.  I also really loved the new phrases that they brought into the show (shway, dregs, twip, etc.).  All of it.  Now that the Psychotaku is working at Warner Bros. Animation, he can rent DVDs of any WB franchise. Of course, one of those is Batman Beyond.

I really love the first season.  Each episode really keeps you involved and the new villains that they used to try to keep away from the “typical” Batman villains are really interesting.  I mean, having Mr. Freeze come back was an interesting twist, but every other villain is brand new.

We are now into Season 2 and the episodes aren’t quite as good.  There are a few that are ok, but most of them are meh.  I really can’t wait to finish this season and get into Season 3.  I already know Terry’s “background” but I haven’t seen the Justice League season finale that had Terry McGinnis in it.  I have seen a glimpse, and it looked pretty awesome as well.  I am planning on watching that at the very end, just as it should be watched.

Ahhh, blasts from my past.  I love watching cartoons and I will never tire of animation in general.  Over the weekend, the Psychotaku took it upon himself to buy a number of WB/DC Comics animated movies on Blu-Ray…we have four now (not quite the complete collection).  Batman: Under the Red Hood (watched it a while ago and I liked it), Superman Batman: Public Enemies, Green Lantern: First Flight, and Wonder Woman.  Also, sitting in front of the TV, ready to watch are Justice League Season 1 and Teen Titans Season 1.  I can’t wait for the Teen Titans.  I love how Japanese they made it. That will have to wait for another time.

Quickie Update for Black Jack…

Today I went to Japan Town in San Francisco. Yesterday, I bought two of the Black Jack volumes put out by Vertical, Inc. from Dr. Comics and Mr. Games in Oakland. I read them without a breath between so when I saw the third volume at Kinokuniya today, I HAD to get it. I must say, the Vertical, Inc. volumes do NOT disappoint. Even though some of the stories were repeats from the original Viz volumes (they did a kind of “Best of”), I couldn’t put them down until I was done with all three. Now I need MORE!! I just wish they weren’t so expensive. The books are really nice quality volumes and have about 12 stories in each so they are about $16 a piece. Quite unfortunate. Another expensive habit, I guess.

PS. While I was there, I also got a “Lucky Star” Kogami Akira figure today to go with my Izumi Konata and Hiiragi Tsukasa figures! YAY!!! I LOVE AKIRA!!!

Manga Review: Blackjack

Black Jack was published between 1973 and 1983 by legendary mangaka Osamu Tezuka.  Tezuka wrote other great works like Kimba the White Lion and (of course) Astro Boy prior to this series and it is a great representation of his awesome storytelling powers! 

I found two volumes of this popular medical manga at Book Off in Gardena last week and it didn’t take me too long to figure out that it was a story of an unlicensed doctor, named Black Jack, that performs medical miracles for the rich and poor alike.  From the richest, most corrupt people, he charges outrageous sums in order to force a sense of justice on the corrupt and sometimes, the medical miracle he provides isn’t exactly what people are looking for from him.  The two volumes that I found were published by Viz Communications in 1999, but they are no longer in print so they were $15.99 new and I paid $11 for them used (which is a lot higher than the usual $5 for manga there).  Also, they are formatted backwards (ie. the English way, from left to right).  It should also be noted that the Viz versions are not in order and contain special stories from later on as well as some earlier stories. 

Vertical, Inc. began reproducing the manga in the normal Japanese format in 2008 and they are still continuing the series.  I haven’t seen any of the Vertical, Inc. versions, but I would assume that as long as the translations are pretty good, they are a good read as well.  You can also see “Black Jack” the anime which consisted of 62 episodes shown between 2004 and 2006 and a second anime of 17 episodes called “Black Jack 21” which was released in 2006.

The story is more episodic than serial, with each chapter being fairly self-contained, except for a few key points, like his child-like assistant Pinoko.  I really enjoyed the stories since they were fantastical, but believable.  Tezuka didn’t want to be too technical and so the medical jargon is sparse.  We are supposed to believe that Black Jack is superhuman, and he is definitely that. 

Sometimes, it looks like Black Jack shirks morals altogether, but you will have to read the series to see how that comes out.  I love that the stories are short, sweet and to the point.  The art is typical Tezuka so expect to see some Astro Boy look-alikes and the extreme medical closeups are pretty detailed (sometimes, it is kinda gross).  This is definitely an old manga so some of the art may seem outdated.  The writing, on the other hand, is excellent and edgy, I felt like I was on the edge of my seat wondering how things were going to wind up at the end of each chapter…How is he going to save the day this time?  I was pleasantly surprised each time since it seems like each ending is more of a twist that the last.

Altogether, this manga is great…unless you are squeamish.  But if you aren’t, I definitely recommend it!!  Good luck finding the original Viz translations, but I am sure the Vertical, Inc. ones are pretty easy to find at your local manga retailer.

Japanese 3 or Crazy Kanji Studying….Starting Tomorrow

I am SO nervous.  I start my third semester of Japanese tomorrow and I am so worried about all of the kanji I am going to have to learn.  If you don’t know what kanji is, it is all of those crazy Chinese characters that Japanese people use IN ADDITION TO their two alphabets of 42 characters (that’s right, 84 characters of sounds PLUS thousands of Chinese characters!)…I swear this is going to drive me crazy.  Supposedly, I am going to be able to read a newspaper by the end of this class.  It seems like such a tall order since I can barely get the meanings in easy manga (ie. Yotsuba and Chi’s Sweet Home) without asking the Psychotaku for help.  ARGH!!!

Well, I guess I can just try my best (ganbatte yo!).  I just hope that the first month isn’t too crazy since I have my Professional Geologist exam to study for this month as well.  WHY did I have to get accepted this year!!??  I mean, I am happy that I finally got accepted but why couldn’t it have been last year, when I was re-taking Japanese 1 (it had been three years since I had last taken it).  ARGH.  This is getting pretty scary.  I never thought I would get this far in Japanese.  I thought it would just be a fleeting hobby….but no.  I am going to Japan in March, DEFINITELY.

So I am saving up and I need as much knowledge of the language as humanly possible before I go.  I really don’t want to have the Psychotaku translating for me everywhere.  That would ruin my trip and make me feel like I wouldn’t be able to get by in one of my favorite cultures.  That would just be awful.  He is so lucky that I am from England and he only needs to understand accents when we go to visit my homeland. SO LUCKY!!!

Well, wish me luck in this crazy endeavor….full time work (including long days of field work) is not conducive for learning a language…I just need to get past October 2nd (my PG exam) and maybe I will have time to study all of the kanji that is sure to be thrown my way.  I already have my first two semesters of kanji flash cards ready, I just need to get a full command of most of them before tomorrow…think I can do it?!!!

Ganbatte ne!!!!

Dammit Jim, I’m a geologist, not an actor!!!

Well, we finally did it! I have my own show!! Well, at least all of the scenes are “in the can”, as the Psychotaku says. It still needs to be edited and have all of the other shots seamlessly sewn into it. I can’t wait to see what the show looks like when it is done…and I don’t even have a name for it yet!

It was a lot of fun and hard work on Saturday and we even had a voice-acting director helping us out!! If this show gets a second episode, I hope all of the shoots are as fun as this one! That being said, I really don’t know how the Psychotaku stays so energetic during his show!! I mean, he isn’t even speaking English. I know that I would have huge issues if I couldn’t work the script around to make it sound more natural during the shoot. Plus, I would never remember all of those lines!!! I know that the Psychotaku does get very frustrated at times when a line isn’t going the way he wants it too. That is why we have the director there. He knows when people need to just take a break and chill out for a minute to gather themselves for the next shot. He is very helpful and we need all of the help we can get!!

Anyway, I hope everyone is as excited about this show as I am!! It was a lot of fun and hard work and I hope that everyone likes it!! So keep checking for my show!!!

–Psykoneko NYU!!! =^..^=

PS Thanks to everyone who helped us out this weekend!! We couldn’t have done it without you!

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