Yuri on Ice – CAFE

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There comes a time in a blogger’s life where she can be productive and actually do a post about the show she’s watching…or she can talk about something far more profound. I had the pleasure of attending the Yuri on Ice … Continue reading

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Sakura Quest – 06

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Dun dun duuuuuuuuuuun.

The movie business has arrived in Manoyama, meaning one thing; Maki-centric episode! Our second-rate actress has taken a backseat for most of the show and it’s finally her time to shine. Considering the development Sanae got the past couple of episodes, I was especially excited to see what was in store for “Oden Tante-chan”.

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To sum it up, a small slice-of-life production (*cough*horror movie) was going to be shot on location in the town, providing an excellent opportunity for promotion. While the publicity is great, let me remind you once again that it was going to be small. Small production = small budget, meaning Yoshino and the gang have to step to provide a lot of volunteer hours, sans Maki (who got the short end of the stick in being a stage hand), who wanted no part in it.

We learn a whole lot about Maki’s past, far more than we’ve had the privilege of knowing. For starters, she’s a college dropout, and even more surprising, she quit her theatre group as well. Dang. Maki is struggling to deal with how doing what you love is painful sometimes. Even the third director makes a point of mentioning it. Goodness, this show truly resonates more with me with each passing episode.

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Doing what you love no matter what, huh?

Let’s be real, doing what you love freaking sucks sometimes, okay? There are many creative types in the world who aim to do what they love and be successful at it, but only a small margin get to live that dream. Only a few are so lucky. The fact of the matter is, no matter how good you are, sometimes luck factors in and gives us the winning edge we need, such as the case with Moe, who got discovered by eating a cicada on a game show. There are those bound to struggle, and those who just get lucky. Unfortunately Maki falls into the former category. She wasn’t getting any jobs as an actor and had to support herself through various other part-time jobs…and it was soul-crushing. I don’t blame her for quitting. I know what it’s like to be discouraged like that, don’t you?

This is where the third director plays an interesting role though, by showing us the harder path. He loves the film industry and someday wants to be a proper director, but is stuck being some pompous director’s gofer. Why bother doing it? Why? Because he loves it that much. He loves it to the point that being involved at all is good enough for him, albeit painful. He’s basically waiting for his own “cicada-moment” to pop up, but we all know that he runs the risk of never getting it.

The thing is though…he still has a chance because he carries on. Giving up entirely nixes that tiny chance. Now, I don’t fault Maki for her decision, that takes a whole lot of guts to know when to throw in the towel, but we’re certainly not done with her. Things may look grim for now, but I can definitely say that I’m excited to see the growth she gets from this experience.

To all you out there with creative passions, such as myself; don’t be discouraged. Keep chugging on.

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Guess who else is getting development!

 

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Sakura Quest – 05

We last left Sakura Quest in a position of Sanae giving up and Yoshino not truly understanding the lives of the town she’s attempting to revitalize as Queen; and boy does it parallel real-life struggles. Luckily though, we’re starting the episode on the right foot. Setting her presumptions aside, our pink-haired protagonist sets off to learn about Manoyama sculptures on her own (and luckily not down the fish-carving gimmick route).

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Focusing on ranma once more, Yoshino endeavors to learn as much as she can from different sources, going so far as to go to galleries, museums, and the lumberyards that supply the wood. With this break, all the ladies (minus Sanae) have the opportunity to do their own self-study regarding the matter. As such, they learned the history, not just of ranma, but of woodcarving in Manoyama as a whole. Interestingly enough, the discovered that the wood carvers originally began carving Buddhist statues, and as time went on, the demand for that waned, and so they began to do more commercial items, such as the ranma, leading us to the position to where the town is now. In Manoyama, no doubt including other places, woodcarving changed over specific eras. The current problem facing the town regarding that is that it’s all in a period of transition. What the next era of wood carving will be and the lack of young blood entering the field is what has left it stagnant and dying, the product of an aging generation adverse to change. But bringing around that change is easier said than done.

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Oh Yoshino, you sweet summer child.

And let me tell you…our girl, Yoshino, has some pretty out there ideas. Hate to break it to you, but a wooden Sagrada Familia-style structure seems like a horrible idea.

Meanwhile, Sanae is struggling with her own issues regarding her feelings of running away and inadequacies that Kazushi succeeded in stirring up last episode.  Why is she doing what she’s doing? Does she even like it? If she doesn’t, why continue? Enter Tatsuo, acting as the excellent foil to Kazushi, who continues to labor over a cancelled order that their master left uncompleted in his passing. The customer who ordered the piece died as well, so why bothering continuing? What Tatsuo said kind of shook me.

“Sculpting is just a job. There’s no point in it if you don’t get paid.”

Ouch.

But I have a feeling Sanae does not feel the same, at least not deep in her heart.

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I do believe the wheels in her head are starting to turn.

Who would have thought that the bard I’ve obsessed over for the last few episodes was a nomadic artist with a minute celebrity status!

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Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce to you, Alexander Cena Davis Celibidache!

The way to bring attention to a project is to have a name with influence attached to it, and the Bard is the ticket. Using his name and influence, Yoshino was able to procure some sponsors and get the poorly-planned Sakura Pond Familia off the ground. With a nice heartfelt conversation with Yoshino, Sanae gets back onto her feet ant working as the Minister of IT once again, solving a bunch of problems at once. If sponsors won’t cut it, turn to crowdfunding as well. Next, Yoshino’s original planned involved a huge renovation of the castle, but why do that when you have the train station? That is the central hub of activity in town and has the most people coming and going. The plan turns to displaying the woodcraft sculptures in the station for the highest amount of visibility. What sealed the deal for me with this episode, bringing Kazushi’s spectacular ranma into the fray. It’s not going to sit around forgotten, it’s going to be enjoyed in a public place for generations to come.

Good job team.

So!

Why do we do what we do if we are so easily replaceable?

What’s the point of it?

This is something that Sanae has also been grappling with, and believe it or not, Yoshino has the answer for her. She doesn’t disagree that people are replaceable, but that everyone does the same thing their own way. Even though someone can replace Sanae at her job in Tokyo, they’re different people and can’t do things the exact same way she did previously. And so what if no one praised her, the silent majority still appreciates it.

I can relate to that. Why do I continue to crank out posts for a blog that five people occasionally like? There are plenty of more popular blogs out there that are far more consistent out there than me, with more followers, more likes, more comments. But…there’s still the people who come to read mine. Even f it’s only just a little glance. And so, I will leave you with that, fair readers.

I do this for me, and I do this for the silent you.

 

 

 

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Sakura Quest – 04

This is a shout out to all those who still follow my coverage of Sakura Quest even though I’m clearly unreliable as fu——- Ladies and gentlemen, welcome back to Cute Girls doing Cute Things! We’re going down the realm of promotions again and exploring one of Manoyama’s traditional crafts; Ranma, and we ain’t talking about any gender bending here.

Ranma is the art of Japanese wood carving, and some of the works are utterly breathtaking.

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Believe it or not, this isn’t even the craziest thing someone’s made!

Yoshino discovering the elaborate ranma in Sanae’s home is the precursor to the quest for promoting Manoyama’s wood-carving. There have been numerous attempts in the past, but none have been particularly fruitful, despite the face that Manoyama’s ramna is considered tangible heritage by the government.

What I find myself particularly drawn into, yet again, is the gang’s failure. While their good intentions are felt by some of the Wood-carving district, others view it in a drastically different light. Yoshino’s probably is she immediately goes down the promotional route for anything, and as such neglects understanding why people oppose the idea. With each passing episode, I understand why the merchant’s association is at odds with the tourism board.

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Even the mysterious bard seems to think they’re fighting likes cats and dogs.

Pride.

That’s what is not being understood here. It’s all in a matter of pride, specifically pride in one’s work. I applaud Yoshino and her ministers for trying to breathe life into the town, but that can’t be done without a mutual level of respect and understanding. They did no research as to how difficult the ranma were to produce, the types of wood necessary, or anything like that. They just jumped on the wagon of “this is something we can promote” without much investment beyond that. Now, I can’t fault those in the Tourism board either. If no tourism comes into the town, the economy will eventually suffer for it. And why are they doing all this any way? For pride in the town that they love. Pride is a double-edge sword and it’s delicious. Because of the manner of such slice-of-life shows and how they function, I think there is ultimately going to be some sort of compromise between the two organizations, but for now, I’ll drink up the conflict.

Before wrapping this all up, I want to turn towards Sanae and her own internal conflicts that Kazushi was all too happy to stir up for her. Why was she here? She says she wanted to be surrounded by nature, and thus chose Manoyama, which of course, Kazushi grills her over. Unlike him, she didn’t have to pick the town to run away to. Let’s be real for a minute. He’s right. It didn’t have to be, it just was. And to play devil’s advocate, I understand Sanae’s need to run away from Tokyo. The crowded trains are stifling (and if you downplay them without living through the experience, you’re just full of shit), everyone is overworked, and by the end of the day, you’re so exhausted you don’t want to do anything. To want to do nothing on your days off because you’re so exhausted and have to go back and do the same thing for yet another week…it’s soul-crushing.

I feel like with each passing post, I’m becoming more analytical and less synopsis-writing…I hope you guys like it.

Till next time. Best wishes.

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Sakura Quest – 03

Welcome to yet another episode of Cute Girls doing Cute Things, I mean Sakura Quest. What I’m really liking about the show here…is the failure. What? Yeah, the failure. Specifically Yoshino’s multiple failures. Her being elected queen of Chupakabura has done little to stir any revitalization to Manoyama and let’s be real, her interview with the local TV station was a disaster. It’s one thing to resign yourself to a job, it’s another thing to be completely clueless about it. What does she like about Manoyama, what is her favorite product? These things are simple enough questions, but if you sit down and think about it, Yoshino was too busy trying to escape than to actually attempt doing her job right.

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Is it any surprise you have no love from your subjects?

It makes sense though, right? Why support someone so ignorant and only there by coercion? It makes sense why the head of the Merchants association is at odds with the  tourism association chief. Yoshino’s reputation in town isn’t exactly pristine to begin with, what with the last two episodes being exclusively about her trying to get out of the situation. I was actually waiting to see how the townspeople actually thought about her, and not our rpg party either. Hell, even that cop in town knows her as the girl whose constantly trying to leave Manoyama.

Luckily, Yoshino showed some conviction this time around in an attempt to learn a bit more about the town she is to be the mascot of, though much of the town is less than thrilled to help. Still, that did little to deter her. What people loved about Manoyama, what made the town great for those who lived there, that’s what she sought to discover.

That’s how Yoshino found out about Kabura-kun, a mascot as unpopular as Chupakabura. You see, Kabura-kun predated the latter and was inspired by Manoyama’s famous product; the kabura. Kabura-kun was cast aside due to that lack-luster popularity and the rising fascination with UMA in the 90s that the tourism head thought they could coast on. And that’s what brings us to where we are today; a town plagued with mascots it neither wants or cares for.

I could go into specifics regarding the mascot contest, but I honestly don’t really want to. How many blogs that you guys read go into dedicated synopses as opposed to talking about what the blogger feels.  So this is me, talking about my feelings. Just like Yoshino spoke up at the contest. Trying to save Manoyama’s declining tourism is an admirable goal, but the way things are going, it makes sense why it hasn’t worked so far. How do you save someone or something that doesn’t want to be saved? Yoshino has a year to figure it out, and quite frankly I can’t wait to see how her journey progresses.

Note: It’s Golden Week here in Japan, so here’s hoping I can catch up with the rest of Sakura Quest!

Best wishes!

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Seriously though…tell me your secrets, bard!

 

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ACCA Pop up store: Akihabara Atre

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Living in Japan has some major perks.

 

Alright, alright! This is going to be my first real life type post, so I hope you all sit back and enjoy yourself.

Last season, I became a huge, huge fan of ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka for numerous reasons that I can ramble about for days…but that’s not why I made this post (or is it?)

I want to say around every month or so, Atre (a japanese department store/mall-type thing) in Akihabara hosts exhibits featuring anime, games, and so on. You get the idea. About a month ago, they happened to be featuring line art from ACCA, as well as a stamp collection activity thing and I was super excited!

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Yesssssssssss~

At the time, I was a bit disappointed because of the lack of merchandise, but more likely than not, I was stupid and checking the wrong floor of the department store. Anyway, the bar/cafe where I go to practice Japanese isn’t too far off from Akihabara station, so with some time to kill, I decided to do some roaming and boy was I not disappointed. I easily dropped $80 on all this and I’m not even mad. Because the event started off earlier, I missed the opportunity to get more Jean and Nino-themed merch, but I was hardly disappointed.

I bought two Mugimaki bread bag/lunch bags (because freaking awesome gift for a friend that I just could not resist), a couple key chains (one shaped like Jean’s lighter, the other Nino-themed), a bread-shaped cellphone charm/screen-cleaner thing, a cellphone case, and an IC card case made to look like Nino’s camera. Yeah, I broke the bank because this is all licensed goods. I regret nothing. There were plenty of other character desplays, charms, clear file folders the first time I went, but unfortunately I missed out on those. There were actually really cool ACCA ID cards for a lot of the characters, but I unfortunately only noticed them after I was paying, and to be quite frank, my wallet was already sobbing, so I wasn’t going to buy more.

If stuff like this interests you, please like, comment and subscribe (otherwise I’ll forget to go see what’s going down in Electric Town).

Best wishes!

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Sakura Quest – 02

Welcome to another episode of cute girls doing cute things-I mean, Sakura Quest! We start right off from where we left off in the premier, and our lovely protagonists first task has been set. Sell one hundred, wait no, one thousand chupakabura manju in a week before the expiration date, and Yoshino can kiss the countryside goodbye! As if she’d pass up such a prospect. Unfortunately, selling the manju is easier said than done. Chugging along, the woman Yoshino met on the train and appeared to be squatting in her dorm was none other than Midorikawa Maki (Anzai Chika), an unsuccessful actress known fondly in Manoyama as “Maki, the oden detective.” With another member having joined the party, Yoshino continues on, attempting to complete this seemingly impossible venture.

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Do you want a box? Or like…ten?

There’s a whole host of ways to try and get rid of the manju such as, praying the 500 tourists that visit Manoyama a week will by two boxes, or praying that one in fifty residents will buy it, or praying that the sweets shop will help you-oh, right…the old woman that runs it and the head of the tourist board hate each other. Crap. Luckily for our struggling Yoshino, the addition of Shiori’s childhood friend, Oribe Ririko (Tanaka Chiemi), an occult-otaku provides some well-needed information about the chupakabura.

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I’m not going to lie…I really want that Big Foot doll.

With this new founded marketing-scheme, exploiting the occultness of the town’s mascot (which seriously would be the first thing I would have thought of), Yoshino and the gang embark on promoting the damn manju. Just remember, Yoshino…seven days. Seeing as we are currently living in the technological age, the obvious thing to do is revamp the town’s webpage and include a webstore to buy the manju from. But like most people, the current members in our party just don’t have the required skill set for the task. For this…they need a pro.

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Ladies and gentlemen, my spirit animal.

And so arrives our last main party member, Kouzuki Sanae (Komatsu Mikako). Working as an IT worker, Sanae moved to Manoyama six months prior to Yoshino’s arrival, having quit her job in Tokyo. Sanae is quick to lay down the realness, you can’t make an online shop overnight, but you can make people come to you. With her website design finesse, the “fancy occult” theme (fancyccult) for the website is born. The result’s are, quite frankly, less than anticipated. Not enough people viewed the site, so they decided to go down a different route; buying directly from the queen of Manoyama! By blaming it on Yoshino, surely someone would pity her plight and buy some boxes. The end result was Shiori’s family buying three boxes because they felt bad for her. Not even rare manju can bring out the crowds, it seems. But Maki has a brilliant idea that might save this fiasco and send Yoshino back towards Tokyo; a promotional video.

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It’s fancyccult!

Maybe this project is just doomed. Our mysterious bard character returned to buy a box of the chupakabura manju, only to pull out a most obvious of truth; the manju is scary. Cause seriously…whose going to buy scary manju?

With her first trial ending in failure, Yoshino didn’t come out empty-handed. Though it’s just blossoming, she’s got herself forming a good group of friends, which no doubt will bring her more smiles and laughs than she seemed to be getting in Tokyo. Maybe living in the sticks isn’t as bad as she thought it would be?

Thoughts: What makes Sakura Quest so damn relatable, is that I’ve gone through many of the struggles that our characters face. After graduation, I got a part-time job at a hipster bakery near my house while I was job-searching for something more permanent. Like Maki, you have to do what you have to do just to pay the bills, and my student loans weren’t going to go away. I applied to at least fifteen different jobs, but ended up getting nothing, despite the fact that I was living in a major city, just like Yoshino. It was the shitty prospects in my country that made me go to Japan, and while I like it far better here, it’s not perfect either.

I think Sakura Quest does an excellent job in showing that no matter where you are in the world, there are people going through the same struggles as you. That being young is hard, that trying to establish yourself is hard, that chasing your dream, whatever it is, is just freaking hard. I think the short conversation between Yoshino and Sanae put things in perspective. What’s so great about a city that you can’t get a job in?  Nothing, it just leaves you bitter and salty, if my experience has anything to say about it.

What I love about Sanae, and makes her my favorite character, is that she carefully crafted this bubbly nature-loving persona, talking about fresh vegetables and shit, when she’s clearly been living off of conbini food and instant ramen. At the end of the episode, she even confesses that the gang is the first time she’s talked to people in two weeks. Does that really make the countryside much better than the city?

I honestly think it’s all about perspective.

I’ll have episode three out soon!

Best wishes.

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Seriously…who are you?

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