Being a four-footed deity

I haven’t watched any new anime episodes lately since I’ve been tied up playing, “Okami”, a game that was such a huge hit in Japan. It rocks! I’m not even finished playing it.

Since I didn’t have $600 for the new Playstation 3, I bought a Playstation 2 instead. My old one was broken when a relative dropped it last summer. May he be hurled to one of the Buddhist hells where a demon will poke him in the ribs with sharp broken bits of PS2 or force him to play a game where he has to start all the way at the beginning if his character dies.

Anyway, back to “Okami.” You play Amaterasu, the sun goddess, except you are in the form of a wolf or okami. You can’t talk and a traveling artist the size of a bug tags along with you as a sidekick. You wield the Celestial Brush and learn different brush techniques that revive the cursed land, defeat foes plus solve the problems of man and beast in Nippon. In return, they give you praise, money and bottles of ink. Rack up the praise because you become a more powerful deity that way.

The game looks like an old Japanese painting. Animals, people and backgounds seem to be drawn by a brush. You gotta see it for yourself.

I’m midway through the game. Once I’m done with “Okami”, I’ll finish the first “Full Metal Alchemist” game where my character can transmute things into weapons. “Full Metal Alchemist” is one of the better animes out there by the way. But I’ll talk about that later. Have to be a four-footed deity right now and beat some nefarious imps.

How to take a one way trip to Hell

So you’re living a hellish existence thanks to a certain someone. Do you want that bully/blackmailer/cheater/evil person to vanish from your life? Then wait for midnight and maybe you’ll see Hell Girl’s Web site which takes such requests. You put in the name of the person you want taken straight to Hell and if she accepts it, Enma Ai, will soon appear before you with a straw doll tied with a red string.

Pulling the string means sealing the bargain with Ai who is Jigoku Shoujo or Hell Girl. But your request comes with a price. When you curse someone, Ai tells you two graves are dug. Then she explains her price – you will also go to Hell when you die. If you accept the deal, a mark will appear on you as a sign of the contract with Hell Girl.

The target is put through a harrowing experience and sometimes asked if they have realized what they did wrong. They never do. Ai gives a spiel and the flowers from her kimono leap from her outfit and take over your TV screen. The next scene shows the target being ferried to Hell by Ai. She’s sort of a Charon at this point. (In Greek mythology, Charon is the boatman who takes souls across the river Styx provided they have the fare.)

“Jigoku Shoujo” ended earlier this year. The series was very episodic in nature. And it’s not until midway through the show where it becomes interesting. Ai starts appearing to a little girl whose father is a reporter out to unravel the mystery of Hell Girl. There’s a reason why she does this though and it’s tied to her origin.

Ai is more than a teen who spends her days in an old house wearing a uniform waiting for requests to cart off people to Hell. There’s a granny who constantly spins and occasionally talks to her. We don’t see Granny though but we get to see a spider who hangs around the place. She also has three assistants who help her carry out the client’s request.

But not everyone who gets taken to Hell deserves such a fate. Ai sometimes hauls off a decent man or woman simply because the wrong person put in the request to the Web site.

The animation is sharp and well done, the opening song is catchy but I don’t much care for the closing song. I really liked “Jigoku Shoujo” the first time I saw it but subsequent viewings have dampened my enthusiasm. Some of the episodes dragged.

The second season started airing in Japan last month. I haven’t seen it though so I can’t say if the show has improved.

Bad blood

So I borrowed the first four episodes of a series called, “Black Blood Brothers” and wished I underwent root canal instead. It takes talent to turn out anime this lame. OK I’ll be nice and call it mediocre.
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We see a ruined city and vampires attacking people. Then a brooding guy in a red outfit and cape asks his young boss to lift the barrier around their building and he wipes off the attacking horde with his silver sword. Turns out he’s a vampire of the old blood and the undead he annihilated were a parasitic type of vampire called the Kowloon Children.

The bad guys were helped by a lady vampire who had some ties to Mochizuki Kojiro – the guy in the red outfit. And we get a hint that the lady vampire betrayed Kojiro and his yet unnamed blonde love interest. His lady love has gone the way of the Dodo bird too.

Years later, Kojiro and his younger brother, Kotaro, return to Japan to seek the safety of the Special Zone where certain vampires live under the auspices of humans. Kowloon Children aren’t allowed into the Special Zone unless invited by a human. The brothers are stow aways on a ship that becomes a battleground between armed human special forces and a group of vampires trying to sneak into the Special Zone.

Of course our hero and his brother get dragged into this mess. The brothers, who are from an old line of vampires, run into a human whose job is to be a liaison of sorts between the red bloods (humans) and black bloods (vampires). Oh yeah, there’s also a group of brothers who have aligned themselves with the vampire lady we met in the first episode. And it looks like they’re up to no good, turning people into crazed vampires.

Kotaro gets kidnapped by a group of Kowloon Children vampires so his big brother takes out his trusty sword and goes off to rescue him. I have no idea what happened afterward since I didn’t borrow the next episode. The show just didn’t interest me enough.

There are better vampire shows out there. Go watch “Hellsing” instead or “Vampire Princess Miyu” (OVAs only) or even “Lunar Legend Tsukihime.” Pass on this one.

Have Pocky will travel

Aaah Pocky. The requisite anime snack. Featured in many anime shows as well. Comes in different flavors and readily available at Asian markets. I even saw some at Walmart. Granted they only had the strawberry kind. The price for Pocky ranges with the fancier kinds going for as much as $3 a box. I had a caramel/chocolate version that looked like it was decorated by some fancy schmancy pastry chef.

I like the chocolate mousse Pocky the best. My mother has seen fit to swipe the chocolate almond Pocky from my fridge a lot. Grrrr. The coconut is disgusting though since the coconut is dessicated.

Personally I prefer Pretz, another cracker stick snack from the Land of the Rising Sun. Like Pocky it comes in a slew of flavors including the savory types. I’ve tried mustard, hotcake, Hokkaido Butter, cocoa, pizza, cheese and roast. My favorite is the hotcake version which sorta tastes like it was dipped in syrup and butter. My family and friends think I’m too far gone on the whackaloon scale to care and have resigned themselves to seeing me wave the latest flavor in their faces.

I saw the “roast” version two weeks ago and it was on sale so I bought it. I have no idea why they called it roast flavor because it didn’t taste like any roasted meat, fruit or vegetable I ever ate. It was like a cracker stick with some unknown flavoring. (shudder). I’m not too jazzed on trying the tomato version either.

Tomie: How to chop off an obsession

Blame it on anime withdrawal. At least that’s my excuse.

I wandered into the anime store but was told I would have to wait another week for new fansubs. So I borrowed some Japanese horror movies instead. I took a chance on something called “Tomie” and “Tomie Replay”.

Tomie (pronounced tow-mee-yeh) is a woman who every guy falls for. They love her so much they would do things for her and then also kill her out of jealous rage. For some reason, they feel the need to chop her up. But Tomie is a monster who doesn’t die. She regenerates from pieces of herself.

The sequel was a tad better than the 1999 original movie in terms of special effects, quality and acting but I was hardly scared. Midway through the movies, I realized why I had outgrown slash-and-gore pics. Everyone has to act stupid. In the sequel, the heroine breaks a leg and has to be confined to a wheelchair. Evil Tomie invites her to the hospital basement. What does our heroine do?

Like all horror heroines, she leaves logic and her brains behind. She can’t walk with her leg in a cast so she wheels herself to the creepy vacant hospital without any weapons or companions. Sure she later runs across an axe but she throws it at the glass case in front of Tomie thereby leaving herself defenseless. How smart.

I saw five Tomie movies on the store shelf. I’m not renting anymore of them.

I did buy a compilation of the manga that started this all. Issued by Dark Horse Comics under the Museum of Terror series, the first volume is all about Tomie. You get to see how the manga artist Junji Ito developed the character over the years and how his drawing style improved. I like the manga better since it reminded me of the 1970s horror comics I grew up on. Plus they’re more scary than the movie version of this femme fatale.

Seeing the good, the bad and the ugly in this world

Saw the first four episodes of a show called “Kino’s Journey” which has been out on DVD for awhile.

Kino is a girl who dresses like a boy and travels on a talking motorcycle from country to country, never staying more than three days. She and the motorrad called Hermes encounter the good, the bad and the ugly.

Most of the people are bad so far in the first DVD especially the episode where Kino helps some stranded men in the snow. It was a nasty episode and I don’t recommend it to anyone. Cannibalism. Eeew.

In fact, I’m not even tempted to finish this series since it seems to be about stupid and nasty people Kino runs across. Plus the show’s pacing is slow and the opening and ending songs are just so-so.

Sword-wielding teens with large appetites

Saya lives in Okinawa with her adopted father, the ex-soldier George, and her adopted siblings, Kai and Riku. This teen likes to pole vault, hang out with her friend and eat a lot. But Saya doesn’t remember her past and routinely gets blood transfusions. Then strange things start to happen around town. She sees a strange man playing cello in public who seems familiar to her. A monster kills a man at school and goes after her. The cellist appears to help her and tells her to fight.

Just who is Saya?

Saya’s true identity is one of the main story threads in “Blood+”, a 50-episode anime that ended its run not too long ago in Japan. Saya is familiar to anime fans from the movie, “Blood the Last Vampire”. “Blood +” further elaborates and expands on her story.

We learn what Saya is, the reason why she fights and why that mysterious cellist called Hagi acts like her bodyguard/assistant when we all know he’s the main love interest. Personally, I found him too dull and liked another of Saya’s suitors – the suave and charming Solomon. But alas, Solomon and Saya are not meant to be. (Pouts and slaps scriptwriter.)

Some folks pointed out that the show was bogged down by too many subplots. Let’s see. “Blood +” also deals with the questionable actions of the American military, the clash between two secret organizations, other love interests, a fatal sibling rivalry, a new species with unusual DNA, manmade creatures who bemoan their sad fate, semi-decent sword fights and a plot to populate the world with blood-sucking monsters. What else did I miss? You get the drift.

Other fans were disappointed with the ending and complained about the lackluster “boss fight” as if the show was some video game and the final episode was the last level. Puhleez. Sure, I would have wanted a better payoff for the time spent watching all 50 episodes and the headache I got tearing up at certain parts but the show wasn’t that bad.

It could have been great though.