Mar 11, 2007

My Reviews of Japanese Stuff, Part Roman Numeral Four

The Word "Neko"
"Neko," meaning "cat," has become my favorite Japanese word for some reason. It really does sound catty and furry and adorable and such- say it a few times. Neko, neko, neko, neko. And look at that Kanji! Is that not the most adorable pictograph ever? Neko, neko, neko.

Death Note

I love comics- have since I was a wee young thing reading Calvin and Hobbes books. But I've never been into manga. Except for one title, Blade of the Immortal, manga has always struck me as sort of "meh." I have no clue how many X-Men trade paperbacks I've read, or how many random alternative comics I've gone through, but I was always sort of oblivious to manga.
I think one of the main reasons is that when I worked at a dysfunctional (but charming!) local bookstore, we had loads of the stuff, and it got bought in droves. The manga we had seemed to be mainly about high school girls who really, really wanted to get with superskinny guys. It's not that I disliked manga, I just didn't think that it would appeal to me. The one series that I did read was about an immortal samurai who killed shit-tons of people, and I thought that such amusing morbidity was not the norm for manga.
Anyway...
I think that "amusing morbidity" is a great way to sum up Death Note. The protagonist, Light, is a high schooler, and happens to be a superskinny guy, but the story is, happily, about him killing shit-tons of people. Basically, he has this magic notebook that used to belong to a death god. When he writes someone's name in the notebook while mentally visualizing their face, they die. The protagonist and the death god have a fun dynamic- Light is much more clever than his divine companion, but the god certainly comes off as more intelligent. Both of them manage to impress the reader with their wit on a regular basis.
The story goes from their, with the egotistical young Light being pursued by an anonymous supercop called L, and all the while Light is convinced that he can save the world by killing people. L, meanwhile, methodically tracks him down. Apparently, there's an anime of this, and I'm most interested.
(Speaking of comics, there are links to a bunch of good ones on the right side of this page. All of them contain awesome.)

Shonen Knife
Do you like happiness?
If you do, then, you'll probably like Shonen Knife, as their music is made out of pure happy; happy that is awesomely rendered into sonic form. Rainbows, kittens, and dancing bunnies emanate from their guitars in a superpositive rendering of pop/punk that's superlatively smile-inducing without ever being schlocky. Think of it this way: If the Ramones were to come back from the dead, get a sex change, do a bunch of Prozac, and watch cartoons for four days straight, then you might have something like Shonen Knife.
Also, they have lots of songs in English, which is nice, as their lyrics are about two thirds of the fun. Instead of doing stuff like rhyming "baby" with "crazy" over and over again, they have songs about flying saucers, superheroes, jackalopes, and spam.
Are they guitar virtuosoes? No. Are their songs all three-chord punk chugs? Yes. Do either of those factors matter? Not really. Hot punk women wailing on guitars and screaming about flying saucers is a force of good in the world, methinks. Rock.

Guilty Gear

Back in the land of Eugene, Joseph and I played hours and hours of Soul Calibur. I have no idea how much of our lives we invested into making pseudo-historical people beat the crap out of each other, but I still look back on nights of drinking and fighting fondly. Joseph is freakishly good at fighting games. He's the sort of guy who's good enough to take one move and just kick your ass with it because he thinks it's funny. Aggravating, really, but, I think I've reaped a fair amount of benefits from this kind of abuse.
Because damn, do I kick ass at Guilty Gear. True, I can't yet defeat the scary-hardcore Japanese gamers, but I've dispatched most challengers. And, Ghost Face is yet to beat me, much to his consternation.
I didn't even know this game existed before I came to Japan, but it's the ultimate 2D fighting game. It's a big, cartoony, over-the-top smorgasborg of ninjas, demons, zombies, samurai, and yo-yo weilding transvestite nuns. It's splashy, stupid, and awesome. And, I reliably kick ass at it. And why do I reliably kick ass at it? Probably because I was best friends with a freakish fighting-game savant who has since made everything else seem easy. Thanks, Joseph.

Okay, one more time- Neko, neko, neko, neko. I'm out.

3 comments:

Jen said...

Speaking of comics... Do you get to watch cool things like the new spiderman movie?

Eric said...

In Secret of Mana (the SNES game from a long time ago), the travelling merchant was Neko, and he was a cat. It now all makes sense.

Enjoy the web. Refresh! Refresh!

Joseph said...

I'm glad to hear that my sadistic pleasure at mercilessly crushing you was for your own best good in the long run. I'd hate to think that I was just making you suffer for no good reason. :-)

Seriously, though, you sell yourself short. There was a time where I was absolutely dominant and you couldn't touch me, but by and large we've been relatively evenly matched. It was your more than competent competition that made me into the soul-burning fiend I am today.