Anime, Movies

Flavors of Youth

Flavors of Youth is an anthology movie, collecting together three short tales (The Rice Noodes, A Little Fashion Show and Love in Shangai) with a core theme of love and loss. Each of the three films is set in a different part of China, although the over riding themes surrounding love and loss encompass friends, families and unrequited love.

The Rice Noodles introduces us to Xiao Ming, who reminisces about his youth, eating noodles with his Grandma and the girl he dreamed of as he grew older. In The Rice Noodles we are looking back at a time where people valued time, passion and care and this is reflected in Xiao Mings narration surrounding the creation of his favourite San Xian Noodles and the relationship he developed with his Grandmother as they spent every morning together outside the noodle shop. We follow him into his adolescence and his devotion to visiting his new favourite noodle shop, partially for the noodles, but also so he could catch a glimpse of the girl he fancied who never noticed him. As we follow him into adulthood his noodle consumption is one of convenience which he finds unsatisfying and it isn’t until his Grandmother passes away that he begins to reminisce for the noodle bars of his youth. The one element that stood out in this for me is the love and care that the author and animators have put into the scenes detailing how the San Xian Noodles were created and the reasons for the methods that the cooks would use. It left me with a hankering for Ramen, although diving into the cupboard for some instant Ramen (bought from our excellent local Chinese store) wouldn’t have been as satisfying as the chicken and sweetcorn noodle soup my other half used to make.

A Little Fashion show deals with two sets of relationships. The core focus is that between model Yi Lin and her sister Lulu who is a fashion student. The relationship between the two begins to falter as Yi Lins modelling career and relationships within that industry are suddenly challenged by new girl Shui Jing. As Yi Lin begins to push herself harder she also begins to push those that care for her further away until she ultimately becomes unwell. Upon leaving hospital, her sister and closest friend (who also happens to be her manager) have created their own fashion show especially for her and its through this that the two sisters grow closer together allowing both girls to achieve their career dreams simultaneously. There were times that I felt A Little Fashion show could have been more interesting, even within its short run time (although it felt longer than the other two), the tensions seemed to be resolved far too easily and the competition between Yi Lin and Shui Jing never really amounted to anything controversial. I couldn’t help thinking that some of the ideas here were done better in Satoshi Kon’s Perfect Blue which ultimately led to A Little Fashion Show being the less entertaining of the three films offered here.

Lastly we had Love in Shangai, which deals with a more standard unrequited love tale. In Love in Shangai we follow Li Mo and Xiao Yu, whom both have strong feelings for each other although neither ever fully admits it. When Li Mo tells Xiao Yu and their mutual friend that she’s applying for one of the top schools Xiao Yu becomes determined to shake his slacker image and also pass the entrance exam to attend. This he manages, unforunately Li Mo doesnt and her father beats her ultimately putting her into hospital. The budding relationship between the two falls down due to the distance between them but we’re shown just how intense their feelings are for each other due to some cassette tapes the pair record of the conversations that they have. We leave the story on a bit of cliffhanger as Xiao Yu has returned to Shangai and its inferred that Li Mo visits him at his new place of work.

Flavors of Youth as a complete package then is rather soft and fluffy, at just over an hour long theres not really room for any of the three stories to breath properly, although the foundations are there for something more. Its undoubtedly very pretty, with some wonderful landscape shots and as already mentioned the scenes of noodles being made will leave you salivating. Unfortunately the relationships are just too basic and leave the viewer wanting a little more meat on the bone. Don’t get me wrong, Flavors of Youth isn’t a bad movie, but when theres other options out there, such as the wonderful Your Name or The Girl Who Leapt Through Time that will easily fulfill any romantic itch, this is one thats best enjoyed for its visuals.

 

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A bit of clearing up

I’ve made a major change around here, and that is renaming the entire blog. I’ve not been posting regularly for very long, and well, the previous name didn’t really fit. This place was originally intended to be a home for all my Monter Hunter World adventures and screenshots, but it never really became all of that and I begun to post other stuff that I was enjoying or wanted to share. So, yeah, new name, new url, unfortunately any links I’ve shared elsewhere prior to this change won’t work anymore but as I was getting a maximum of 3 visits per new post thats not really an issue, better to change it now rather than be stuck in the mud.

So yeah, I’m now using the name Bar Harukiya, and there are reasons for that. Firstly, the one thing that really got me into pretty much everything, was Akira. I discovered Akira when I was 16. I was at college in Nottingham and they had a Travelling Man store above the Gamestation that used to be near the old Odeon cinema. The first time I went up there (I was always in Gamestation, picking up second hand PlayStation, Saturn and Dreamcast titles, but I’d never ventured upstairs) I was greeted by a number of shelves of VHS tapes but these all had Pokemon style artwork on them (I didnt really know anything about anime at this point), biggest immediate difference was that many of them had the BBFC 15 Certificate logo on their spines. The one that stood out most was a big double VHS box of Akira. My Education Maintenance Allowance money was burning a hole in my pocket (I was supposed to use it for art supplies, ha!) and I needed to know what this video was all about so I stumped up something like £18 and took the afternoon off college to go home and watch it. Needless to say I was absolutely blown away, from that point on I really begun to develop my own tastes in pretty much everything. Prior to that my only obsession was videogames, from then I begun to develop my own taste in music, begun exploring the world of anime and developed a love of cinema that went beyond whatever was being shown on TV that weekend. I begun to buy the Manga (which at £25 a book I took my time buying) and the rest is history, I am who I am thanks to taking a chance on a weird looking film I knew nothing about shortly after I’d left school.

So, now that I have a name that I like and the page looks good with a nice header image (which is the sign outside the Harukiya Bar that Kaneda walks in to at the start of Akira) and I’ve got all my categories laid out ready to be added to I think I’m happy to keep this place ticking, now I just need to get some articles scheduled. I’d like to do two a week plus keep adding to the #NewMusicFriday community.

Music

#NewMusicFriday: Week 12 2019

I’ve been posting tracks I discover on Spotify on my Twitter account most Fridays but I figure I could compile them each time into a regular post on here starting from this week.

So, without further ado, here’s Week 12 2019:

I actually didn’t really get much of a chance to listen to any music last week, so there will be some overlap for last week and this week.

Australian punk outfit Clowns released “I Wanna Feel Again” from their upcoming “Nature/Nurture” album

 

Next up we have “CM2” by BILK

 

Perhaps my favourite track on this post is “I don’t do drugs, I just sweat alot” by Bicurious, which was actually released back in February but there you go

 

 

New Pagans have released “It’s Darker” which feels really appropriate to post shortly after International Womens Day

 

And lastly “Mother’s Sons” from Melodic Hardcore group Defeater

Movies

Triple Frontier

I’ll admit now that until reading a little bit about this movie just after watching it that I had no idea just how long they’ve been trying to make it, however I was a little worried when I saw it crop up on Netflix as with a cast of Ben Affleck, Oscar Isaac, Charlie Hunnam, Pedro Pascal and Garnett Hedlund it felt odd that it hadn’t received a much bigger release, and whilst I know Netflix has become a viable platform for movies with top catergory actors in them, I was worried that this would be almost like 2011’s Age of Heroes (although the cast in this is far, far better than the cast in that!)

Triple Frontier’s plot is fairly simple, our five guys are former US Special Forces who are all, in their own way, struggling to come to terms with their retirement from active duty. Oscar Isaac’s Santiago Garcia persuades them to help him recce a potential target that he has been “hired” to take out in a South American border area with a big payout at the end. The group ultimately decide to do the whole job themselves to get the large sums of money the target has stashed away. So far, so very “Hooah”. Hey, the opening moments even features cheesey, radio friendly soft rock from the likes of Credence Clearwater Revival and Fleetwood Mac (now I like The Chain as much as the next Formula 1 addict, but lets not pretend that certain moments of it aren’t used in rather cliche situations and Triple Frontier doesn’t buck that particular trend).

However, the heist and assassination is all done and dusted really early on in the film and what we’re left with is the groups attempt to get back home. This all goes predictably wrong with the team stumbling from one mistake to another. There’s lots of shouting, a few gunfights and one (unintentionally) funny moment featuring a mule and a mountain.

Now, Triple Frontier isn’t a bad movie, its just not an excellent one, its less than the sum of its parts as with that cast you’d expect more, factor in (which like I’ve already mentioned I found out afterwards) its production history and the people that have been involved with it at one time or another, and its difficult not to come away feeling a bit let down by it. This, for me, is because it doesn’t really know what it wants to be. It plays everything out seriously, with everything played straight. However, despite the situations that they find themselves in, you never feel like they’re struggling to get through, everything is dealt with in a composed almost muted manner. The initial raid on the targets complex sets this tone, but its the only time it really works, as they move from room to room in the fashion that they would have been trained to do. But later when shit hits the fan theres no panic. They’re too good at what they’re doing, which makes each and every situation utterly baffling.

With all of that though, Triple Frontier wasn’t a bad way to spend a couple of hours sat on the sofa, the cast all perform their roles well even if they were still “Poe” “Ben Affleck” “Pena from Narcos” etc, it just needed a little something extra, which considering how things pan out, I’d suggest a sense of humour.

Books

Malaterre (Part One) by Pierre-Henry Gomont

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Malaterre tells the tale of Gabriel Lasaffre, a man whom I’d label as a functioning alcoholic, who at the very beginning of the book dies of a heart attack. For the rest of the tale his story is told by a friend and business partner. We’re told how Gabriel dreams of buying back the jungle estate his ancestors once owned and the interactions he has with those around him before and during this time.

Part One focuses, predominantly, on the “before” part, covering his youth, the start of his own family and his destructive rather than nurturing behaviours when handling any and all relationships. Gabriel only really looks out for Gabriel and will, seemingly, undermine his relationships with his own children to get what he wants.

The story itself is told fairly simply but its the art work that really makes everything work. At times the character work really reminds me of Quentin Blake (he who illustrated Roald Dahls works), although said characters are far more detailed than Blake’s work. There’s a real hand drawn sketching element to the artwork that adds life and a European feel to what we’re reading. Even if Gomont hadn’t explicitly told us that (at times) we were in France it would have been easy to place the characters there from the way Malaterre has been drawn. Some of the location drawings, especially of the cities and the beach are beautiful to look at and are almost characters within themselves.

What adds to this feel is the muted blocky palette that Gomont has applied to his work really helps the reader feel the tone and mood of particular sections of the story whilst the inventive use of speech bubbles, wherein we occasionally have images such as a pan of water boiling over or a fire, really help the reader understand the emotional state of the characters rather than just reading the text or having the characters spelt their feelings out to us at all times which really works to show how controlling and manipulative Gabriel can be in his interactions with others and how that makes them feel.

So far, so good then, Malaterre has been split into two parts by the publisher for its English translation (it appears to be one book for its original French release) but at just shy of 100 pages, theres a good chunk of work here to read through. I for one am looking forward to seeing how things unravel for Gabriel, his children and his ex-wife, not to mention the estate of Malaterre itself.

My copy of Malaterre (Part 1) was provided via NetGalley

Books, Gaming

The Psychology of Zelda: Linking Our World to the Legend of Zelda Series

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Before we start, I’m never one for reading books of this sort, I have no background in the field of psychology either, but how can we grow if we dont try something new? besides, its about The Legend of Zelda so I thought I’d give this a try,

“The Psychology of Zelda…” is a collection of mini essays from a variety of psychologists that takes a look at the themes, tropes and lore of the The Legend of Zelda series from Nintendo, collected and edited by Dr Anthony M. Bean (or The Video Game Doctor) with a Foreword from the webmasters of Zelda Universe. All contributors are fully qualified in their fields and passionate fans of the Zelda series. As such they present a positive, if maybe biased, view of how The Legend of Zelda fits into our own world and culture.

It’s this passion for the subject matter that makes The Psychology of Zelda a compelling read as each individual gives their insights into Link (and Zelda’s) challenges in the world of Hyrule and how individual psychology and tropes that we use to understand the world around us fit within the adventures that Nintendo have taken us on over the years. What makes this all work so well is that the authors manage to provided balance between their own understanding of psychology whilst never leaving the reader feeling out of their depth nor like the author is patronising the reader.

Due to the way The Psychology of Zelda has been written, with each other attempting to challenge a different subject, theres quite a bit of overlap of themes being discussed, particularly when each brings other studies by psychiastrists such as Carl Jung, however there are chapters that really stand out such as the study of Kubler-Ross’ Five Stages of Grief within Majora’s Mask and how the series both uses and plays with feminine tropes within its story telling.

However, there is an over reliance on studying both of the N64 titles: Ocarina of Time & Majora’s Mask throughout all of the studies. Pretty much every home console release does receive attention, although the handheld titles barely get a mention, but every study falls back on discussing Ocarina of Time and its sequel, which is understandable in a way as its arguably the first time that the series really strived to develop its characters, not to mention Ocarina of Time is regarded as the finest entry in the series with Majora’s Mask being the only “true” sequel (Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons were Pokemon like entries from my understanding, whilst Wind Waker, Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks are all related but not direct sequels to each other). There’s also what feels like a bias towards the series, and whilst this is a study of The Legend of Zelda, the authors works give the impression that all of the games are faultless, with even the tropes chapter explaining away the Zelda characters origins as being of their time or even as progressive for their time.

These are only minor gripes however, and that last point really is to be expected from a book focusing on one series, its hard to escape the feeling that there could have been some interesting cross referencing to Zelda’s contemporaries but as it stands The Psychology of Zelda: Linking Our World to the Legend of Zelda Series provides an interesting study into one of gamings favourite and most historic series that would be an interesting starting point for discussion on how far the medium has come as a story telling device.

The MOBI used for this review was provided via Netgalley.

Gaming, review

RICO

Buddy Cop movies are great right? All that comedy and action thrown into one roller coaster of a movie! Who doesn’t love Lethal Weapon (well, apart from 3 and 4), 21 Jump Street, Rush Hour and The Other Guys? And now you can play a part in that too thanks to RICO. Because here is a game that takes half of what we love about those movies, the action, and encourages you and a buddy to take on the “Wunza” roles as you bust down doors and burst open some perps heads. Sounds great, right?

Well, it is. It works like this, there are three game modes, Quick, Case Mode and Daily which all sort of intertwine with each other. Case mode is where you will be spending most of your time, here RICO takes on a Rogue-like quality, you’re assigned missions from a mission tree that are progressively harder, you always start in the games Killhouse with only a handgun in your arsenal, as you progress you can purchase better guns, attachments, grenades or heal. However, once you die its game over and you’re back to the Killhouse to start a new case with only your starting handgun available. I’ll admit it took me a while to figure out that you do get to keep your equipment, but not for this mode, it’s all there, waiting to be selected in Quick mode. Which leaves you with the headache of “do I buy that gun again or do I spend money on health”. What does carry over however is the Traits that you unlock by earning experience and leveling up, these cover abilities like quicker reloads or damage multipliers and are assigned to your chosen character where you can pick up to three unlocked Traits depending on your play style. The latter mode is Daily, here the developers upload a handful of different scenario’s, one for each difficulty, with set equipment where the aim is to post a fast completion time to the online leaderboards. Once each scenario is completed your given credits to unlock skins for your guns.

Now like I said, the concept of the game is that you and a mate play this cooperatively, bursting into rooms and shooting the bad guys, There are other mission completion elements too, sometimes you’ll be tasked with collecting evidence, which is just discovering a randomised number of green brief cases, or diffusing bombs. These tasks can be assigned to you from the outset or appear as you work your way through a level and are much of a muchness. The fun ones are when the game asks you to complete a set amount of sliding kills, or clearing a number of rooms whilst still in slow motion, and here is where the co-op play really excels as you are often in a position where you can approach certain rooms from two different entry points, allowing you or your partner to provide a distraction whilst the other applies the skill. However here there’s also the risk that your partner could get in the way which was a situation my eldest daughter and I found ourselves in a few times when we were playing couch co-op.

Whilst all of this sounds great, and when it all works, RICO is genuinely great fun to play in co-op, it definitely doesn’t really work as a single player game as there’s very little meat on the bone here. There’s also a few minor niggles too, for a start it’s really weird playing a first-person shooter that doesn’t have any rumble feature, it makes you feel disconnected from the onscreen action and is a genuine shame when you get your hands on one of the games shotguns as they’re really satisfying to use within the games claustrophobic environments, adding a kick from the pad would have accentuated that further and made them great fun to play with. The sensitivity is also a little off, it feels too twitchy on its default setting, and whilst you can alter this, it initially put me off the game a little to begin with. However one thing that did spoil RICO more than I would normally like to admit was that due to its procedurally generated levels furniture can sometimes get in the way, I got stuck on more than a few chairs and on more than one occasion when tasked with finding piles of money or collecting evidence I was blocked from reaching the item I was searching for by an office desk or changing blind that had been placed in my way.

These are minor gripes though because like I’ve already said, when played the way RICO wants you to play it: sliding through doors, breaking them down and unleashing lead into the heads of bad guys, RICO is gloriously good fun.

Formats: PlayStation 4 (Version Tested), PC, Switch, XBox One
Release Date: 12th March 2019 on PS4, 13th March 2019 on XBox One and 14th March 2019 on PC and Switch
Publisher: Rising Star Games
Developer: Ground Shatter
Key provided via Keymailer

Books, Close Encounters Book Club

Day of the Triffids – John Wyndham

I recently joined a book club being run at my local comic books store (Close Encounters in Bedford) and our read for February (for our meeting on 6th March) was Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham. Before I continue, this is the first time I’ve read it and I’ve never seen either the recentish movie nor the BBC TV series adaptations

Written in 1951, Day of the Triffids is a War of the Worlds-esque tale of a mans survival in a post-apocalyptic world that has become over-run by the titular Triffids, an “unnatural” plant that thrives after the majority of Britains (and possibly the Worlds) population are blinded by what is believed to be a meteor shower.

The vast majority of Day of the Triffids follows Bill Masen as he learns to adapt to the world he wakes up to whilst in Hospital, unlike most of the people around him he wasn’t blinded when the meteor shower as his eyes had been bandaged after he had received a whipping poisonous sting from a Triffid whilst cultivating them and thus finds initial survival to be much easier. We meet other characters along the way, most of whom have key roles throughout but it is ultimately his search for Josella that drives much of the story until he eventually finds her and events become more diary like until the book ends in what I felt was rather abruptly.

Its due to this ending that I ultimately found Wyndhams tale to be rather frustrating, I wanted to know more about the Triffids and the meteor shower and whether the two were linked or not. I wanted to know more about the new community on the Isle of Wight that is briefly mentioned near the end of the book. I understand that thats not really what Wyndham was trying to do here, he was sticking a fairly ordinary guy into a situation that tests him but unfortunately I don’t think it really quite works, it never really feels like Masen is ever in any real danger and his functionality means any obstacle is easily solved, he takes to being a leader rather naturally and whilst his beliefs regarding the threat of the Triffids are called into question by one individual early on, his methods and opinions are never really challenged beyond that.

What is interesting though is seeing how heavily other creations have been influenced by Day of the Triffids. The one that kept coming to mind was the TV adaptation of Robert Kirkmans The Walking Dead. In both there’s the relentless threat of unthinking flesh eating masses, in both the protagonist wakes up in hospital unaware of how the world around him has changed, in both people rally around said protagonist and their leadership is faultless (well, mostly in The Walking Dead), in both a distant group has a helicopter and there are different factions that have different approaches to surviving in the modern world.

Lastly, and this for me is the most difficult point to put across, but I think Day of the Triffids is a commentary on post-war immigration in Britain. Whilst Wyndham never really points out the appearance of any of the characters (as far as I recall anyway) I always pictured them as white but that may be my own bias showing. I couldn’t help getting the impression that the Triffids were supposed to be the immigrants, especially once the theory that they were communicating with each other was established, their growing numbers would seem to fit with that constant fear that so many people unfortunately have that they’re being over run by people that aren’t their own.