Posts categorized “Japan”

Friday, 19 September 2014

New Movie Review: The Wind Rises (2013)

The Wind Rises (2013) ★★★

The Wind Rises

Le vent, se lève!… Il faut tenter de vivre!

Directed by Hayao Miyazaki

I have such conflicted feelings about this movie! Much of it is a disappointment of expectations, though. The Wind Rises is a highly-fictionalized film about real-life person Jiro Horikoshi, who is most famous for being the designer of the infamous Japanese A6M “Zero” fighter plane for WWII. In movies about famous artists, designer, architects, or what-have-yous, I have a certain minimum expectation: I expect to learn about the hows and whys of the creative process that led them to their most famous work(s). How shocked and frustrated I was, then, when this film ends (spoiler alert) with the test flight of the prototype of the A5M—the fighter that came before the A6M Zero!

In fact, much of the movie hinges on Horikoshi’s thoughts on an inverted gull-wing shape that is used in the prototype of the A5M—but which is not actually used in the final version of the A5M, let alone the Zero!

The scenes that interested me most were the ones where Horikoshi makes a breakthrough of some sort in the design of his planes. The introduction of flush rivets, for example. The design of wing strut supports. Laughing with his team about how to reduce weight when the military demands two gigantic machine guns be mounted to the plane. In other words, the creative side of things.

Less interesting to me was the dying-girl romance between Horikoshi and his wife. Especially because it was completely fictional, and too perfect to find interesting. Horikoshi’s wife is the absolute perfect 1930s Japanese woman. There is no conflict in their relationship, only the specter of chronic illness. Guess what my least-favorite genre of movie is? The dying-girl romance. Horikoshi himself is portrayed as such a meek milquetoast that if it weren’t for his unending creative drive there would be little of interest at all in this relationship.

Other relationships in the film are great though. Horikoshi and his tiny but bombastic boss at Mitsubishi, Horikoshi and his lackadaisical best friend, and strangely enough the friendship that is formed with an enormous, exiled, big gay German. Wow, now there is a character who chews up the scenery! Also nice are dream sequences where Hirokoshi converses with a European plane designer (a somewhat hero of Hirokoshi)

The main theme of the film is handled exceptionally, though, that of creativity versus the exploitation of creativity. Hirokoshi is designing essentially war machines, but he has no love for war at all; it is the sheer creative and artistic process that drives him to design these planes, not any patriotism or idealism. He expresses great ambivalence about the way his designs are being used to essentially kill people. He believes he is creating something beautiful; but his beautiful creations are being used in less-than-benign ways. Does that negate the beauty of their design? Is the end-use usage of a creation inextricably entwined with its design? Or can the beauty of the design be held separately from the horror of its usage? Wisely, I think, the film never takes a stance either way, and the whole complexity of the situation is simply presented for the viewer to think about. In a wonderful ending dream sequence that takes place after the war, Hirokoshi sighs as a fleet of Zeros (the ony time they’re ever presented on screen) flies away. They are beautiful planes.

So the film is visually spectacular, of course. Especially wonderful are dream sequences of fanciful, old-fashioned airplanes. And dynamic scenes of harrowing test flights are great. But much of this is visually similar to the fantastic Porco Rosso, so I didn’t feel like I was seeing much new there. Scenes of 1920s & 1930s Japan and Germany are extremely detailed and specific.

So is this a good movie or not? It is enjoyable in many parts, and fascinating in many parts, and certainly gorgeous. The ambiguities of creativity and war and the corruption of beauty are handled very well. It also has an hilarious and bizarre Big Gay German in it. But it also feels somehow insubstantial and frustrating, focusing too long on the things that interested me the least and too little on the things that interested me the most. So, three stars sound good? Yeah, I suppose.

Categories: Japan, Movie Reviews.

Friday, 11 July 2014

For Your Weekend Viewing Pleasure: Japanese Dr. Who vs Dalekor!

Doctor... who? No, for reals, who?

Doctor… who? No, for reals, who?

A funny little something I found and thought all y’all would enjoy. It’s a parody of a particular brand of low-budget Japanese superhero Tokusatsu-style action show, crossed with Dr. Who. Go on, try it; you’ll like it:

There are many great things about this, such as the fact that Dr. Who has a transformation sequence, all the horrible jump-to-teleport special effects, and the Cyber Men as the putty-style minions of Dalekor. I particularly enjoy the “found footage” aspect of it, as if someone just randomly found this on VHS and decided to put it on Youtube.

The people who made it are obviously skilled, and seem like they have great fondness for both sources of their inspiration. Bravo!

Dalekor is fiendish indeed.

Dalekor is fiendish indeed.

Via io9.

Categories: Japan, Videos.

Friday, 29 November 2013

Great Ideas From the Internet: Japanese Butter Grater!

Easy Butter: A Better Butter Grater from Japan

Finally: the Solution to All Life’s Problems!

Y’know how if you have refrigerator-cold butter and you wanna spread it on a piece of bread, that just ain’t gonna happen? It’s too durned stiff!

Well, now Japanese company Metex has created the perfect solution: The “Easy Butter” butter grater!

You just toss in a stick of butter and twist the contraption, and out comes vermicelli-style butter noodles! You can then spread these to your heart’s content on account o’ their softness.

It actually is a pretty ingenious little device, a variation of a cheese grater but designed specifically for butter (though according to their website you can use it on cheese).

The thing is, it’s just so huge. Lookit that thing! And also, who puts this much butter on their bread:

Easy Butter on Toast

Slow down there! Heart-attack alert!

It is available to purchase online for all the occasions where you might wanna transform your stick of butter into noodly goodness.

Via Laughing Squid

Categories: Great Ideas on the Internet, Japan.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

A Babysitting Pickle: Kitten & Nukazuke

Over the weekend we babysat for a couple of friends who were out of town (on a sailing adventure). For one friend we babysat a kitten.

For the other friend, Marvel’s X-men’s “X-23” (the female clone of Wolverine), we babysat a crock full of pickling stuff.

To be more precise, we babysat a ceramic container full of what the Japanese call a “nukadoko.” Well, technically that’s not quite right, because “nuka” is rice bran, and this was made with wheat bran (X-23 couldn’t easily find any rice bran). I don’t know the Japanese word for wheat bran. @Tangentbot? @KowaiHitsuji? Is it “fusuma (麩)?”

Anyway, It’s this fun mix of salt and water, bran, and seaweed, and you can put garlic or ginger or beer in it. And you stir it every day. And then it starts to ferment. And then you put vegetables in it! You leave them in for however long you want, and you end up with these fascinating, salty vegetable pickles called “nukazuke.” I put in some sliced-up carrot overnight. It was really tasty!

Here are some nukazuke resources:

I am a great big stupid-head, though: I forgot to take any photos of either the nukazuke. I did take a photo or two of the kitten (who, by the way, had no interest in the nukazuke), though, so this’ll have to do:

Kittons is Cyoot

Kittons is Cyoot

I also took a video of it being cute:

Yup, kittons is cyoot. And nukazuke is goot.

Categories: Cooking, Japan, Life, Pictures, Videos.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Best Wrestling Match

Kota Ibushi vs YOSHIHIKO

Yes, Yoshihiko is a blow-up doll of Hulk Hogan. The match lasted over 20 minutes. And it is A-MAZ-ING. Ibushi somehow manages to give himself a piledriver!

Yoshihiko’s gimmick is that he appears as blow-up doll versions of various professional wrestling personalities. Here is another funny match with him.

Categories: Japan, Videos.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Another Evening of Culture

So on Thursday I went with my museum buddy, Marvel’s X-Men’s female clone of Wolverine (X-23), to the Tacoma Art Museum to see their “Edo to Tacoma” exhibit of Japanese woodblock prints. I thoroughly enjoyed that experience. It’s one thing to see reproductions of prints, but its another to see the original paper from the 1600s with the original ink on it.

In case you didn’t know: woodblock prints involve carving a block of wood for EACH color. So a ten-color print (including black but excluding white) takes ten separate woodblocks to print. And these prints are generally no larger than an 8.5″ × 11″ piece of paper. So the carving work is incredibly intricate. It’s also a fascinating process in that practically off of the prints are commissioned by a publisher who hires the artist to draw something. Once the publisher approves the drawing (and the colors), it’s handed over to the carvers who do the actual carving work. Then the prints are mass-produced and sold, sometimes bound in a volume, especially the “series” works (like the 100 Famous Views of Edo and Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji series (which contains “The Great Wave off Kanagawa“) of prints). So it was really a commerce-driven industry, not artist-driven.

I got this swell postcard!

After leaving the museum, we swung by the Fulcrum Gallery in Hilltop to see their latest exhibition, “Seasonal Affective” by Sean Alexander. Mr. Alexander (who has a very sparse website) suffers from seasonal affective disorder (which is pretty common here in the Northwest), and allows it to inform his art. His artwork is intensively, minutely detailed with excruciating and teeny-tiny linework. Like this postcard I picked up at the gallery:

So if for some reason you find yourself in the area during Fulcrum’s business hours, you should definitely pop in and look at them up close. And then after that I came back home.

Categories: Art & Artists, Japan, Life, Links, Pictures, Tacoma.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

What I Made For Din-Dins, or, I ATE JAPAN!

I wanted to make something goooood for din-dins, so here’s what I made:


That’s (counter-clockwise from left) teriyaki salmon, sauteéd spinach with salami and onions, and cucumber sunomono. What’s sunomono, you ask, and how do I know how to make it? EXCELLENT QUESTION! I learned all about it from my good pal’s new Japanese food blog, Cooking Japan.

Here’s the recipe! It’s absurdly simple to make, and it tastes frikkin’ fantastic. It’s light and cool and crisp, perfect for a hot summer day, and it goes great with teriyaki.

I really wanna make the salmon miso-yaki and the salt-broiled salmon.

Categories: Cooking, Japan.