Manga Review: Puella Magi Madoka Magica

Hey guys. I know I haven’t posted in ages, but here I am again. I won’t explain why I haven’t posted, and unfortunately, I can’t promise how much I’ll post after this. Though it would be nice if I could post every day. Would be really nice if, while I’m in India, I could drag myself to the keyboard every day. Sooo, stay tuned?

Well, lately I’ve been reading a lot of random anime and watching a lot of random manga. Oh wait…. Either way, I suppose all of them are worth writing about, but one of them really caught my interest. As in, after I was done, I was so impressed that I had to go and post about this immediately. Yes indeed, in the wasteland of high-adventure shounen and stupid school-romance shoujo series, one stands out as a gem of otaku culture.

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Alright, let’s do this.

    Puella Magi Madoka Magica. After I saw/read this series, my head was spinning, in a whirlpool of grimdark, emotion, awesome, and epic. Thus, I had to go and look this up online, searching for second opinions. A lot of people seem to relate this series to other anime series notable for being dark and deep. Namely, it deconstructs the magical girl genre like Bokurano does for the mecha genre, puts a dark spin on it like Revolutionary Girl Utena and Princess Tutu (the latter of which I am currently halfway through, and may write about later,) and ends like Serial Experiments Lain and Neon Genesis Evangelion (the latter of which I have watched a few episodes of, and thanks to mega online spoilers about the ending, am hesitant about picking up again.)

    But enough about other series, for this thing is in a class of its own. The story features a girl named Kaname Madoka. 14 years old and in the most emotional period of a girl’s life. The perfect time to become a mahou shoujo- a magical girl. These super-powered female beings are first revealed when she and her best friend Sayaka Miki encounter two, Tomoe Mami and Homura Akemi, both of whom risk their lives every day to fight witches- twisted arcane beings born from despair and existing to spread curses and suffering. Soon after they are rescued by Mami from one such witch, which like all of its kind, dwells in a labyrinth made up of surreal papercut images, she and Kyubey, the small, furry creature that gave her her powers, invite the two to form a contract. In this contract, Kyubey will grant each of them one wish. In return, however, they must take the path of the mahou shoujo, and fight evil by moonlight and daylight alike. A small price to pay, right? After all, getting one wish of any kind and becoming a magical girl? What japanese schoolgirl (racist moment) wouldn’t jump on that opportunity? At first glance, Madoka Magica truly seems like the most typical magical girl series out there. After all, a girl and her friends learning about an evil force in the world, meeting a cute furry animal who invites them to become superheroines to fight it… haven’t we seen this before, somewhere….? Yeah, I really hated Sailor Moon. Thankfully, this isn’t it. Not even close.

    As it turns out, there is are some big catches in becoming a mahou shoujo, ones great enough to bring Homura to attempt heavily discourage Madoka and Sayaka from making the contract throughout the series. First off, one must always be careful what one wishes for. In fact, one should probably refrain from messing with reality in the first place, since it may not always bring one happiness, but quite often the exact opposite. And being a mahou shoujo isn’t as glamorous of a job as one might expect. Each mahou shoujo is given a “soul gem,” a faberge egg-like object that represents the contract. As time passes, it constantly grows darker, and mahou shoujo must repeatedly purify it with “grief seeds,” the essences of witches, lest they meet a gruesome fate. This leads to much competition between mahou shoujo as they struggle to “harvest” witches for their seeds, overall living a self-admitted selfish life, rather than being the bringers of justice they appear to be. And are witches really the only sinister force out there?

    Puella Magi Madoka Magica is basically Sailor Moon or Tokyo Mew Mew with a generous touch of Faust. It takes the general tropes of these moe superhero anime and manga series and gives it a sinister edge. Granted, it’s not the first to do something like that, but fortunately, the series itself is pretty good too. The art and aesthetics are superb, using bright, flashy, surreal visuals to put off a tense, dramatic atmosphere, though this is obviously better in the anime, which also includes an excellent soundtrack to seal the deal. And the story… ohh, the story. The number of plot twists and turns, which increases quadratically as the story progresses, is maddening, and the ending was one that, ignoring the plot holes here and there, was very well crafted and encouraged viewers to think hard about it and interpret it themselves, not to mention may have been the epitome of all that is epic. Some, however, may be disappointed that it isn’t character driven enough, instead focusing on universal issues and the backstories of the characters instead of their actions. But what really makes Madoka Magica truly shine is how emotional it is. Feelings themselves are actually a key element of this series, since the level of them felt by teenage girls makes them perfect candidates to becoming these magical beings. But what I felt while viewing this… it started out with plenty of heroically defiant actions and sacrifices, fit for an anime of any demographic. But after episode/chapter 3, it seemed to descend into a vortex of intense despair and anguish, an emotional turn that also proves to be a key story element eventually. By the time I was done, I was completely shaken. Few animes are able to do this. Naruto most certainly failed repeatedly.

    Don’t let the cover fool you. You will almost never see Madoka in the displayed costume in the entire series. But more importantly, THIS IS NOT A SERIES FOR CHILDREN! Sailor Moon definitely had its dark, atmospheric moments, but at its heart, it was a children’s show/comic, with bad guys appearing one by one, and one by one getting vaporized by the good guys, with no room for thinking or interpretation. This one, however, should be avoided by children who are easily scared, and don’t have the mental capability to process the concepts. Nevertheless, Madoka Magica is a superb series that I would reccomend to any older anime or manga enthusiast, especially those who are already familiar with the magical girl genre. Of course, some may not enjoy the dark aspects of this series, and may instead prefer more upbeat Shonen Jump or Shojo Beat kinds of comics. Nevertheless, why not give it a try? And as I may have said before, watch the anime if you can, instead of reading the manga.

 

There you have it. My first post in countless months. Like I said, I can’t promise anything, but I’ll see what I can do tomorrow. The next anime I might seriously watch might be Clannad After Story. It’s a nice slice-of-life drama with plenty of emotional and surreal content. I’ve already watched several episodes, but thanks to the web have gotten access to a couple of major spoilers. Still, I think it’s worth watching just for the atmosphere. Then again, maybe I should try something a bit lighter, after this little emotional bombshell of a series. Either way, stay tuned!

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer

While I can appreciate a horror film that gives out good sudden scares, such flicks sadly can never compare to the ones that create an air of disturbance rather than employing the element of surprise. For such films, I’d typically turn to cinemas of the east, meaning K-horror and J-horror. But as I have recently found, such hidden gems can be found in the homeland as well.
Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is an American horror film, one that actually displayed little shock value during my viewing, yet still manages to make me shudder whenever I fish it out of my sea of memories, an effect that, in my opinion, is as successful as an intended in-cinema effect would be. Based on the true story of a convicted killer, Henry lives a simple life with his best friend, Otis, an old prison mate of his. In the daylight, the two support themselves through odd jobs for meager wages. But in the shadows, Henry is a violent psychopath, having gone on a rampage of bloody death and destruction in his town and beyond for an untold time. He has no fancy method of body disposal or assassination, simply picking his victims randomly, butchering them as he sees fit, and leaving the bodies to be found when fate decides. Yet he remains uncaught, never giving sign of a modus operandi and always keeping the authorities guessing the identity of the perpetrators of each victim individually, let alone in general. He believes the reason he hasn’t been caught is because he doesn’t have a specific modus operandi. It isn’t long before Otis is brought into the picture, proving to be as mentally unstable and murderous as he becomes Henry’s “apprentice” of sorts, learning the delicate skill of murdering without a trace. The partnership goes well at first, until Becky, Otis’ sister, begins to flirt with Henry, much to Otis’ displeasure.
One way this slasher story sets itself apart from others by describing not just the actions of a killer, but his mind- his heart of stone, too cold to be penetrated by any form of reason or tender affection, a twisted and lost soul that can only be sated by the taking of life. Henry’s friend is used by the film as a character foil for him. Otis is sadistic on many levels, taking intense pleasure from his boundless cruelty, while Henry holds a heart of cold sorrow, perhaps coming from a traumatic childhood, some of which may be mentally fabricated, and instead kills almost purely out of compulsion, his only reason being that in this world, “it’s either them or you.” As for the element of fear itself, this particular film disturbs people not through the sudden cheap scares most horror movies employ today, but instead making use of creative, lesser-known, atmospheric methods. For example, the film begins with Henry as he glances at a woman getting in her car nearby before starting up his own and following after. As he drives, the film cuts off to several scenes of mutilated, lifeless bodies, accompanied by ominous music mixed in with the dying screams of the victims. Indeed, the film instills fear not through scenes of the killings themselves, but by using the aftermath and the sounds of the events to encourage the viewers to imagine the horrifying deaths themselves, then tremble as Henry looks for another one with the same intentions.
In the end, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is one of those rare gems of America horror cinema that displays a complete mastery over atmospheric disturbance, as well as one of the rare serial killer films that portrays the killer as a human being, not just a monster, akin to movies such as “I Saw the Devil,’ and “The Devil’s Rejects,” both aspects that make up an excellent fright-flick. I would expect this film to appeal both horror enthusiasts and those new to the genre, but in the end would passionately recommend it to anyone looking for a fear-flick that can worm into his mind and stay with him indefinitely. 10/10.

Hazard!!

Well then, this is awkward. Once again, I promised another movie review in my last post to be posted the day after, and failed to keep that promise, just as usual. Even funnier, this isn’t it! I still haven’t gotten the file for the review- which, for that matter, is on a brilliant film I watched earlier called Tucker and Dale vs Evil, which all horror fans should watch for some good lulz- so i’ll be posting it later, when I can actually get my hands on it. Until then, here’s another Sion Sono film. This will be the third I have seen so far, the last two being Cold Fish and Noriko’s Dinner Table.

 

           We Americans these days have many stereotypes of other cultures. We can often get the wrong idea of what Japanese people are like from anime and crazy films like Suicide Circle. Now its time to see a look at what the Japanese think of us. The film Hazard takes place in New York City, a city of racist cops, merciless black thugs, and women waiting to run off and make out with the first gangsta that they come across. I’m not exactly sure how much of this image is true. Sono-san himself did not get his ideas from direct experience- meaning I doubt he spent any time living in New York- but this does take place in the 1990s, and I have heard about a high crime rate and a number of outlaws in cities such as this. Either way, I doubt the setting is the main point, or at least it is not the main theme that I saw. Rather, what I saw in this film is an exploration of a hidden desire that all humans have, one that is often suppressed, but sometimes is so great that it cannot be, and often should not be, contained.

Hazard features Shinichi, a Japanese student who from a very young age has gotten tired of the “sleepy yet restless” lifestyle of his country. It is clear that the life of quiet lectures and bookshelves and eventually sitting in an office all day is not the life for him. As soon as he runs across the campus, screaming incoherently, it is clear that he has an insatiable appetite for life. When he reads about the many dangers and high crime rate of New York City, he immediately boards a plane for America, not at all looking for opportunity, or the stereotypical American dream, but instead searching for a vague concept known as “hazard.”  Ironically, as soon as he arrives, he is robbed of everything he has by two black miscreants as all the pedestrians around him only cheer, everyone laughing at the clueless Jap that has just entered their helltown. This act of racist cruelty is one of the first steps in Shinichi’s search for “hazard.” Before long, the newly destitute youth is taken in by two young Japanese-Americans, Lee and Takeda, who teach Shinichi the language and ways of their country and indoctrinate him into their simple, exciting, and most importantly dangerous life of drugs, crime, and hooliganism.

            After finishing the film, having had my fill of wild laughing, swearing, debauchery, and crime, I spent some time wondering and debate what exactly this “hazard” Shinichi is looking for is. It’s obvious that it isn’t money or revenge, displayed perfectly with the metaphor of an “invisible coin worth more than all the money in the world. At first I thought it was simple excitement- a way to blow off excess energy and escape the monotonous repetition that is modern life. But my grandmother, who is dead against even thinking about crime, alcohol, sex, drugs, rock and roll, and everything else that seems to dominate youth culture and art, insists that you can simply do that by saving up and traveling abroad to faraway places or simply visiting old friends. I supposed that was true, so I continued to think. Exactly what does Shinichi want that he can’t find in civilized Japan?Then I realized, the thing that Shinichi is desperately searching for is the same thing that a large part of the male youth has a desire for deep within: anarchy! This is an idea that I have had for the longest of times, that everyone has a dark side to them, a combination of all the primal instincts that defined humanity before it became civilized. This dark side strives for danger, action, domination, frenzy, and everything that a civilized man would shun, but an animal would embrace. In other words, anarchy. Social doctrine and mores insist of ridding oneself of this part of him, calling it sin, or one’s inner demons, saying it has no place in society. And yes, it is true that one must not let it go out of control for the sake of individual safety as well as social stability. However, one must not deny oneself of it all together, lest he miss out on a wonderful, enriching social experience. A similar concept was developed by Sigmund Freud, who called this dark side the id, though, of course, I’m only trying to make some sort of an association here, not actually being well versed in psychology. How much it needs to be stimulated is different from person to person, and it can be suppressed to a degree by upbringing. For most people who need to feed it more, simple, legal outlets such as violent video games and films, rigorous martial arts, and heavy metal music will suffice. It is clear that Shinichi either has developed this part of him so that it cannot be satisfied by these legal means or has had none of them to begin with, leading to embark on a journey to look for something that can fill his need, which only turns out to be a life of crime with Lee and Takeda by pure luck. I do wish that the beginning of the film could have explained his starting predicament a bit further, but the lovely, childlike voice that narrates the film and the lead’s marvelous acting as a hapless Japanese tourist unsure of exactly what he is looking for almost makes up for it.

Speaking of acting, every character in the Hazard was played with the utmost emotion and depth, yelling angrily and rapidly spitting threats like ruthless thugs when holding up a store or confronting an enemy, bro-hugging and high-fiving their friends like the American hooligans they are, and playing countless other parts when needed with the skill and sense of feeling needed to tell the story of a changing young man. The cinematography should be noted as well, the entire film being shot with a shaky home video camera to contribute to the urban, austere, simple atmosphere, all without forcing the film to seem like a low-budget trash movie. But in the end, what really touched my heart was the design of the characters, those Japanese-American boys not looking for money, infamy, even material pleasure, but only the excitement, danger, and insanity that humanity craves deep at the back of their minds: “hazard.” A 9 out of 10.

The More Intelligent Film: Noriko’s Dinner Table

Evening everyone! I’m in India now, and since I’ve got plenty of time on my hands at my grandparents’ house, I’ve decided to bring you that review I promised you earlier. Without further ado, here’s an excellent film from my current favourite film-maker: Sion Sono!

 http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/b/b6/NorikosTable.jpg/200px-NorikosTable.jpg

Noriko’s Dinner Table is said to be a prequel to Sono’s cult hit Suicide Circle, but although I haven’t seen the latter, I could find little connection between the events in the prequel and the shadowy cult in the original. Right now, I simply see Suicide Circle as a backdrop for Noriko’s Dinner Table, though if I do end up seeing it, perhaps I will find out exactly what questions are said to be answered in the prequel. However, this art film does much more than stand on its own two feet, having a wide array of themes to illustrate through some of the most intense drama the film has to offer. It features the titular character, Noriko, as a rebellious, independence-craving teen, largely alienated from her parents. She leaves her tiny, peaceful town and her father, who has a disdain for anything outside their little paradise, to go to Tokyo and be with a friend she met on the mysterious website Haikyo.com, the website of the suicide club. In the city, she is enlisted by her friend named Kumiko in her “family rental” business, where they earn a living by pretending to be members of customers’ families, often to experience certain situations, such as the death of an elder, the coming together of a family rocked by abuse, and even the murder of a cheating wife, all of which are as realistic as they can be, even the last of them. In her new life Noriko takes on the name Mitsuko, her username on the website, and casts away her past, forgetting that she ever was Noriko. Eventually, her sister Yuka follows in her footsteps, joining the same business with her sister and taking up her own username, Yoko, as her real one. This leads to their parents finally breaking and the father embarking on a quest to be reunited with his daughters.

According to what reviewers and Wikipedia have told me, there are many ways to interpret the film and many themes to dig out. When I watched it, I found four. First, there is the concept of identity, that no matter how much you wish to change and run away from your life, you can never change who you are. Next, there is the human being’s innate longing for a sense of family. Then, possibly the most prominent of them all, is the strength of familial bonds, a concept that is harshly tested just by the idea of the family rental business, in which these ties are instantly created for a fee. But the theme that dazzled me the most was the question of people’s roles in the world, whether human beings have the right to pursue happiness as they see fit rather than play the roles they are assigned in society. All of these are deep concepts and questions that force viewers to think about family and life itself, enhanced by fantastic cinematography, heartfelt narration, and highly emotional drama, which, being orchestrated by Sion Sono, almost certainly means lots of crying and screaming. Although the film is long, encompassing a whopping 2.5 hours, every minute is worth it, and those willing to watch till the end will finish up moved, thrilled, and overall satisfied. That is, of course, if they understand that Noriko’s Dinner Table is not a hardcore horror film like most people think, although it does contain a decent amount of gruesome gore, and instead come for a groundbreaking art-film looking into the mysteries of the human family. I give it a well-deserved 10/10.

 

Thanks for reading! My next review is already finished, and hopefully I’ll be able to upload it tomorrow. I hope to soon get ahold of Suicide Circle itself, which I hope has not been too spoiled by my watching of the prequel and skimming through its (the prequel) Wikipedia entry, as well as Strange Circus, one of Sono’s more controversial and disturbing films.

Carved: The Slit Mouthed Woman: The Supernatural Slasher

Hey guys! I apologize for my long disappearance before, but I’m back, since I need something productive to do this summer, as many of my friends are in summer school. Now, in addition to whatever else pops into my head, I’ll be writing reviews for horror and thriller movies I’ve watched recently every day. The first one was Let the Right One In, which I sincerely believe every member of “Teams Edward and Jacob” should watch, for it’s the very story that Twilight should have been.

Anyways, this will be my second summer horror review. Today, I turned to one of my favorite countries to look for stories of all genres, especially horror: Japan. I picked a film that I had heard was quite popular among J-horror fans, though not as a perfect film of the genre: Carved: The Slit Mouthed Woman. When I began the film, I expected a typical Japanese ghost horror film, one that wouldn’t keep me up nights after like Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni or School Days (the latter is not a horror story, but still had a highly disturbing ending.) Aaaaand… it was. Still, it was fun.

Carved features the titular disfigured woman as an evil spirit that has been the subject of urban legend for years. As people believe (and find out,) she grabs and drags children away to her lair, where she cuts slits in their mouths just like hers with scissors, after which she… figures out something to do with them.

 

 

 

Spoiler Alert!

Actually, the fact that she actually does not kill some of her victims for a long time if at all detracts from the overall fear factor considerably.

 

 

 

 

 Nevertheless, the film has some very good scares, some coming out of unexpected places, others being quite obvious, which often is a bonus in horror, for it adds to the atmosphere. The overall atmosphere is nothing special for a horror film, however. For the most part, Carved is not more of a supernatural, psychological horror film like other famous Asian creepshows such as Ju-on, Ringu, A Tale of Two Sisters, or Shutter, than it is a gory slasher where the killer happens to be a supernatural force, grabbing small children when they’re alone in the neighborhood and absconding with them just like any other ordinary demented psychopath. That can be disturbing, of course, as it is in the many other slashers, but it wasn’t really what I came for, was it? As for the acting, I’d say it was quite realistic, even if the main character and the other woman in the story are weak willed, not being able to save any form of reason at all in a time of crisis. Speaking of the main character, I also wish that her backstory had played  a much larger part in her adventure to add some of that gothic despair that I love to go with the adrenaline rushes, just like in films such Shutter, Let the Right One In, and John Carpenter’s Cigarette Burns.

Overall, Carved: The Slit Mouthed Woman is an average supernatural slasher film. I will admit, it will scare the wits out of those new to the horror genre, for I myself am relatively new myself. However, when I look at it from an objective point of view, one that a horror pundit might have, I find it to be not very good- not bad, but not excellent. Once again, I recommend it to those new to horror and leave it with a 7 out of 10

Thanks for reading! Tomorrow I’ll bring you my thoughts on a more intelligent Japanese film, or so I hear.

Let the Right One in: Unfrightening, But Touching

I picked a Swedish movie to watch today. I’m a big fan of horror movies, and this is one I’ve wanted to see for a while, after I heard on bloodydisgusting.com I read that it was the best horror film of the last decade.

Based on a bestselling novel by John Ajvide Lindqvis, the story features a boy of twelve years named Oscar, who is a victim of bullying. Eventually he befriends a girl named Eli. Eli, as he later finds out, is a vampire. The movie focuses the relationship between the two. In addition, it also deals with the transformation of Oskar, as Eli teaches him to stand up for himself and fight back against the bullies, even if that leads to some violent events.

What’s the difference between this movie and that vampire film scorned by boys and men everywhere, Twilight? Eli is a standard vampire who is nocturnal. She cannot enter a person’s house without being invited in, which is where the title comes from. And most importantly, she is a murderer who brutally murders people to get their blood.

Did I enjoy the movie? I’m still processing it. Critics have been giving this film relatively high ratings, but in my opinion, the characters seemed a bit emotionless. For instance, Oskar asks Eli if she is a vampire to which she replies, “Yes I am,” a fact he seems to accept with quite a bit of equanimity.  In addition, for a horror film it was quite predictable, having no interesting twists and turns and easily predicted outcomes, such as at the ending scene. But nevertheless, the atmosphere is perfect, the music, and dark, cold and snowy scenes seeming very appropriate to the subject, making sure viewers do not forget that although there are not as many scares as expected, at its heart, it is a horror film.

There is a fair amount of gore, but nothing gratuitous. Throats get ripped, body parts get dismembered (the latter being slightly unnecessary.) It is the grim feeling and the expressions in the characters’ faces that give it a gothic sensibility you wouldn’t see in a standard American horror film.

I suppose I would have to say I liked this film. For one thing, I very much enjoyed the bittersweet relationship between the two desperate 12 year olds and the friendship that can’t be broken even by murder. I would say that fans of dark, sad, but strangely assuring romances may find this to their liking. However, this movie is not for hardcore horror fans. If you are looking for a scare or something that will give you nightmares, don’t let this one in. My score: 8/10

Movie Review: Tekken: Blood Vengeance

As we you all know, I am an enthusiast of modern Japanese pop culture, or in short, an otaku. Ask me anything about this field, and I’ll answer you with a 15 minute long monologue astounding you for the first few seconds and boring you to ashes after that.  This means anime, manga, horror movies, and video games, even those I haven’t played (god bless Wikipedia.) And when I say video games, I mean fighters. I love them all to bits- Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter, Dead or Alive, and Tekken. So I was thrilled when I found out Tekken: Blood Vengeance, a 3D animated film based on the series, was coming to theaters. I was dazzled by the teaser trailer, so I immediately bought tickets and rushed over. And contrary to others’ views of the film, what I saw did not disappoint.

This picture has been severely panned by several reviewers, saying that it was barely any better than the crappy 2010 live action film that this series spawned, but in my arrogant opinion, I beg to differ. Of course, this may be only because I am a die-hard Tekken fan and lover of anime, which nobody can say this film is not based on. But is there anything wrong with that? The creator of Tekken, who unlike the 2010 film oversaw this project, and the screenwriter, who also worked on the space noir anime Cowbow Bebop, wanted to make this a film appealing to an audience outside the following of the series, and in that they badly failed. However, that doesn’t matter, because just about everyone who came to see it was probably somewhat of a Tekken fan, and they loved it. I know because I was laughing and clapping alongside dozens of viewers.

The fight scenes and animation were amazing, and the story and artwork did well in staying true to the original game. And that’s all the fans really need. I’ll admit, there were plenty of flaws, but they were not large enough to kill our enjoyment. Sure, the dialogue was cheesy, but that’s what anime is like. Get over it. Some may have thought the story was not so good, but it succeeded on putting a spin on the original story that we would love. There were some shoujo anime elements despite the game being a fighter, but for us otakus, this simply means putting two good things together to make something even better. Sadly, there were some unforgiveable elements as well. For one thing, the voice acting was not in sync with the movement of the characters’ lips. Also, I disliked how the story was hard to follow for non-Tekken fans. The fact is, nobody else knows what the devil gene is or who Heihachi Mishima is, and when they are explained, it seems quite abrupt. Sure, fans liked it, but this is going too far. It’s as if the creators are begging for critical panning. But none of that matters, for overall Tekken: Blood Vengeance was successful in making us all burst with geeky happiness. Also, one critic said that although Western viewers cannot help but see it as cheesy, audiences in the east, where the game was created, may say something different. With this I completely agree. The Japanese are probably used to this kind of material, finding it very pleasant, so all American haters can eat their words once the film is released in Nipponese theaters this September.  Overall, as a movie, it failed somewhat, but as a member of the Tekken franchise, it rocked the house. On a scale of 10, I give it a 7.

After I saw this film, I was immediately reminded of Star Wars: The Clone Wars. It was a CG animated movie based on a multi-million dollar franchise that overall got poor critical reception, just like this one. However, it still managed to spawn a TV series on Cartoon Network that got significantly higher ratings. Now, a Tekken TV series. Wouldn’t that be interesting? The overseer of the film said on Eurogamer he may consider a TV series if the film was successful enough. It would be a great idea, as long as they managed to right all of the wrongs in the picture, meaning making it more understandable for non-Tekken fans in the west, putting in some more fight scenes, possibly making it a little bit more Shounen action oriented and not a Shoujo Drama, and maybe even adding some more characters in and giving them notable roles and action scenes. The clip at the end of the credits, when the two heroines were signing up for the next tournament, suggested a possible sequel, and if the creators do this, they’ve got it made. I know I for one would watch it. I have great expectations of this film in the future, and I hope that they once again do not disappoint.

Charitable Choices

Hey guys! I’m here to make a sincere apology. I promised you a piece on Pondicherry, but unfortunately, thanks to the hot weather and the fact that my little sister was too tired to walk a kilometer, I couldn’t see enough to write about. Therefore, what I can tell you about this state is that:

  • It used to be a French colony.
  • The Sri Aurobindo Ashram, one of the main attractions of the state, was founded by Sri Aurobindo, an Indian freedom fighter, and the Parisian Mirra Alfassa, also known as “the mother” both of whom were passionate spiritualists. Many medicinal plants are grown inside, among which people meditate in peace, making it a perfect place for any spiritualist. Here I bought a book on physical fitness, and my sister bought an herbal perfume for my mother.
  • Auroville is a township founded by the mother in Pondicherry, meant to be a place where people of all faiths, beliefs, and nationalities can live together in peace. Overall, the mother’s motive for founding Auroville was to promote human unity. This was a place I was particularly interested in seeing, but like I said earlier, it was quite hot, and my sister wasn’t willing to walk the entire 1 km stretch to see the entire town.

And that’s all I can tell you about Pondicherry. Sorry! However, I definitely will be writing on Mudumalai national park, where I will be leaving for tomorrow with my sister and grandparents.

As for today, I’ll be writing on something else. I was going to start it earlier today, but I was busy gaining valuable life experience by reading manga scans and watching music videos, anime clips, and the every episode of the laser collection for the umpteenth time. This series, by the way, is incredibly funny, and one that everybody who views comedy and randomness as synonymous. To summarize this series:

DOCTOR OCTAGONAPUS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

O o

/¯____________________________ ______________

| BLAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA AAAAAAARGH!!!

\_¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯ ¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯

You won’t regret it.

Where was I?

Oh yeah, my views on charity.

There is a common view of charity: an act of goodwill and selflessness in which you give less fortunate people something at your expense, an act that seems to… redeem you of your sin. However, few people truly understand that charity isn’t at all what it’s cracked up to be. In reality, your kind contribution may end up doing the subject of your charity nothing at all, maybe even hurt him further! In order to prevent this from happening, just like you must make smart choices when working and earning, you must make similar ones when giving as well. Four prime examples of this are beggars, peddlers, charity organizations, and street performers.

Beggars: How much you are exposed to beggars and hobos often depends on where you live. In a developed country such as Taiwan, you may not as often see people on the streets holding out cups and pans. However, in third and fourth world nations such as India and Ethiopia, these people are a part of everyday life, littering the streets. When one of these destitute human beings catches your eye, you most likely cannot help feeling sorry for him, wearing dirty, tattered clothing and living in a cardboard box. Immediately, he will probably meekly ask for spare change, often using religion as an incentive, holding boards saying “God bless you.”

But before you take out those quarters in your pocket, think for a while, what will this man do with his money? Will he wisely buy food and make it last, or will he spend it on alcohol, cigarettes, or heroin like a worthless addict? Although they may not seem like it at first, beggars all around the world are junkies as well, their lethal habits being funded by the contributions of poor saps like you. Of course, not all of them are like that, but do you really want to take the chance? It’s best to refrain from directly giving money to beggars and instead buy them some food, something that may actually do them well.

All this goes even more for begging children. If the child is an orphan, then he probably will not be mature enough spend their small amounts of money on the right things. If the child has parents, then if you give anything to him, money or food, it may encourage his guardians to have him beg even more, as it means more income for them. They may even maim him so that people may feel even more pity and give even more! Unfortunately, this is how life is for the poor.  In developing countries where poverty is abundant, begging is a business, one that goes hand in hand with exploitation. It is also one that is not easily given up, as it is so easy. For example, my grandmother, once went to a woman begging on the street and offered her a job as a maid in her house. In America, some people would kill for employment, but in India, this is clearly not the case, for when she heard this, the woman made like the lazy scoundrel she was and ran away from the work being offered. There are even begging rackets in nations like India, where gangsters take in stray children, maim them, and have them beg for money that will go into their pockets. Do you want to encourage this? Of course not.

Peddlers: Essentially, many peddlers are the same as beggars, for the goods they sell to you are most likely worthless. These people will do anything to make money, even sell defective, useless, maybe even illegal items. After all, where are these men, women, and children going to find the money to buy quality products in the first place? If you go to an area with high poverty such as the streets and shantytowns of India, China, and Thailand or even the slums and ghettos of the US, you’ll see people hoping to sell you used q-tips, broken toys, or even pirated DVDs and illegal drugs that you could get arrested for even holding! Of course, this is not always the case, as you can sometimes see beautiful baubles made from cheap materials being sold on the streets. However, you must always be careful, as many so-called “salesmen” found on the streets are in reality cheats. So the next time you are pondering over whether to make a trade with a shady peddler, take a moment to wonder what you are really buying.

 

 

Charity organizations: Where millions of dollars donated eventually find themselves. Whenever one decides to be a little charitable, the name of a notable nonprofit group such as UNICEF, American Red Cross, and Greenpeace immediately comes into his mind, which he ends up donating to without hesitation. And why not? These organizations use their millions for important causes such as helping children in poverty around the world, aiding victims of disasters, and promoting environmental conservation. Right?

Not everyone may be aware, but for years now many charities have shown great inefficiency and corruption, their scandals appearing in the paper countless times. For not all contributions go towards projects and programs related to the cause, instead being wasted away in unnecessary methods of fundraising and sometimes even going into the private bank accounts of officials! Indeed, stories have been heard of heads of charities staying in five-star hotels, consultants getting paid several hundred dollars a day, and fundraisers where over $0.50 is spent for every dollar made. Thus, if a contribution is made without careful consideration beforehand, you may be pouring your hard-earned cash down the drain or even into the pockets of greedy men and women, in the process encouraging further evils.

In order to prevent this, you must think carefully before deciding which bag to drop bills and coins into. Look in the news for stories of scandals in certain organizations and look up facts and statistics on sites like Charity Navigator. When researching, always make sure to use multiple sources and look for up-to-date information, for some stories and stats may be inaccurate or old. Only then should you decide whom to fund and whom to release the hounds on. If you like, instead of giving money, donate your time. Benefit the needy by volunteering at the soup kitchen or working with an organization offering opportunities for acts of goodwill, such as Habitat For Humanity, which builds homes for the homeless. Remember, money can be given just with the click of a mouse, and is not always donated with sincerity. However giving time and effort for another is a true sign of love for one’s fellowman, making it the greatest gift that can be given.

Street performers: You may think of giving to street performers as charity, since you’re deciding to contribute money when it is not necessary. But that’s not how I see it at all. Unlike irresponsible beggars, corrupt charity organization officials, and con-men masked as peddlers, the musicians, dancers, and jugglers on the streets are honest workers, for they make sure to entertain you in exchange for a possible small contribution. These are people going through tough times, rendering them unemployed, destitute and in need of cash. However, instead of sinking low and begging for it, they decide to continue working in their own way: through the simplest forms of art. Although you may not like their performances as much as those of professionals, you must understand that these men and women are doing us all great favors. They go out on the streets and strive to entertain us, knowing that they may go hungry tonight, yet still working hard. It is these people who fill our cities with an upbeat, joyful, and encouraging atmosphere, and by no means should their efforts go unappreciated.

So the next time you see a someone standing on the sidewalk and playing an instrument, singing, juggling, dancing, or miming, take a moment to observe, for they are happily giving you a free show. The best thing you can do for a performer is to stay throughout their show and show your approval afterwards, either with clapping, a handshake, compliments, or just a simple smile, for it is then the performer knows that she has succeeded in entertaining you and should continue to do so for others. And if you like her show enough, don’t hesitate at all in dropping some cash into her bag, since that is what she’s playing for in the first place, and giving her something will encourage her even further. Of course, this does not have to apply for children. Some people, like my grandmother, are saddened when they see a child performing on the streets instead of studying. It means that once again, they either don’t understand the value of the education that is offered free in some countries, or they are being exploited by their parents! In this case, giving to them will only encourage them further. However, no matter why they are performing, they are still artists, and should be appreciated for that. Even though I understand the consequences of donating to them, I still do it out of my great love for art. Of course, this is not something that you should do, but everyone should still show their appreciation for any performer, for it is people like them that make the modern world a bearable place to live in.

And there you have it. Remember to think before giving, and don’t forget to look out for my post on the Mudumalai national park. Once again, this is Naren Pradhan saying

 

 

IMMA FIRIN MAH LAZAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

http://memedepot.com/view/1298

Trapped in the Web

Naren here! Now I’m sure some of you are wondering why I’m not putting up any new posts. I’m now here to answer that question. I have absolutely no excuse. I can never seem to think of a good idea that would satisfy me enough, and if I do, I can never seem to get started. God, I’m useless. Of course, there are other limiting factors as well, such as homework and my other activities. The latter can be especially time consuming. Every day I would ideally do 1 1/2 hours of music, one hour for piano and 30 min for guitar, and even apart from that I try to devote some time every day to martial arts, specifically Muay Thai kickboxing, which I’ve just started in. Indeed, my schedule is jammed. Nevertheless, the fault is mostly mine, as I also like to play video games, read manga, watch anime, and do everything otaku instead of writing. Sorry!

 

Anyways, lately I have been doing some writing in India, but this time for my grandmother’s blog on Classof1, an educational website. Here’s essay of mine that will soon be on, this one on one of the most distracting factors in the world: the internet.

 

The internet clearly has no limits. When a computer user decides to double click their Firefox icon, he will have an infinite number of videos, blogs, articles, flash games, photos, and even comic scans at his disposal. Indeed, if one isn’t careful, his web surfing could consume whole hours! And all for free! Indeed, a whole world of entertainment and knowledge is simply a click away, waiting to suck you in no matter where you are.

This brings us to how dangerous this program and network can be, especially to those with work to do. The addiction that the internet causes makes that caused by ordinary video games pale in comparison. And why wouldn’t it? Video games can get repetitive, and they can eventually end. But on the internet there will always be something new. Once you get on, there is no escape. You may think at first that you’ll only be there for a little while, but once you’ve seen what you want to see, something else will catch you interest. This will continue to repeat itself, creating a deadly chain that turns potential talented, hardworking men and women into lazy, unproductive bums.

How can this not distract you?

Workers with computers all over the world are afflicted with the same problem. Any project occupying their time, no matter how important it is, can be interrupted by one thought: “Why not take a short break and surf the web?”  And so they do. But what not everyone realizes is that their break will not be so short. At first it might seem like they’re going to watch just one clip from Lucky Star on YouTube or read one chapter of Deadman Wonderland on Mangafox. But soon, one chapter becomes 7, and one video rises to infinity, most of them not even from Lucky Star!  The internet  is endless, and this is what people must realize. It must not impede work, because if it does, it will do it hard. Whenever the thought of surfing the web surfaces, one must either dismiss the thought or push it forward to when work is done, unless one has the willpower to stop at the right time, which most people do not. Indeed, it is not an easy task, but it is one that must be done, or else countless workers will lose the productivity that makes their life what it is.

 

Here’s the URL of the website. If you’re interested in the world of education, you should check it out.

http://blog.classof1.com/

Welcome to Adyar Poonga

Hey guys! I’m in India now, working with the tree foundation. However, apart from my usual work with the turtles, I also made a short visit to a very special place in the city of Chennai called the Adyar Poonga. Here I had a great learning experience where I was educated about the local ecosystem and got to help out a bit through my writings. Now I’d like to share this experience with you with an essay I wrote for the park.

It’s clear that after seeing the river Adyar in the city of Chennai in India, any foreign tourist would immediately get the impression that locals take their water body for granted. For years, citizens have used this former ecological haven as their dumping ground, happily depositing their trash, medical waste, and sewage in the waters. Originally a home for birds, aquatic plants, fish, turtles, and many more, the area has now been turned into a toxic wasteland by the bad habits and waste disposal methods of the inhabitants of the city. It was only a matter of time before this issue caught the eye of a devoted environmentalist, in particular an Australian man named Joss Brooks.

Joss had loved nature since childhood, his passion increasing further when he came to India and settled in the peaceful community of Auroville. Dazzled by the natural and cultural beauty of South India, he made it his mission to preserve it. Soon, he began cleanup and restoration projects all over the region, including one in Chennai, where he would at long last raise the river Adyar to its former ecological glory.  This project consists of clearing out the garbage, which will be reused and recycled, fishing out the sewage from the waters, which will be used as fertilizer, and planting species native to the region, brought from his home in Auroville. Although the entire river has not been restored, the part that has been completed has proved a huge success. What was once a putrid garbage dump has now been turned into a beautiful wetland known as the ecological park Adyar Poonga. Even now a rare painted crane has come to join the animals living in their new home, signifying the rejuvenation of the land as well as great hope for the remaining waters.

Everything that has been done to create this park has proved to be beyond wondrous, and I was lucky enough to have the privilege of experiencing it. On July 2, 2011, During my vacation in the city, I was invited to the park to help test water samples from the various water bodies. I was to scoop water out of the river so that its oxygen density, Ph, and temperature could be measured. This would determine how suitable the water would be for local organisms to exist. The data collected by the scientists I accompanied was near ideal. In one area, the water temperature was 33.6 degrees Celsius, a perfect temperature for organisms in this region, the oxygen concentration was 2.5 mg/liter, below the ideal of 4, although this is because the water was taken from a shallow area, and the ph was 7.5, just above the ideal of 7. In another area, the temperature was 32.1 degrees C, just below the ideal, and the ph was 8.53, also quite close to perfect. Unfortunately, the device used for these measurements broke down when we were about to measure the oxygen concentration. Nevertheless, the data we did obtain was quite promising, signifying a future in which the Adyar park will continue to flourish.

While my experience at Adyar Poonga was a simple one, it was nevertheless a rewarding one, since I got to learn much more about the local ecosystem. I found out that the local wetlands contain a mixture of groundwater, creek water, rainwater, runoff, and seawater, and that detritus dumped in consumes oxygen needed by animal organisms. Most of all, however, I was glad I was able to be a part of this great project, being able to help in the effort to turn a wasteland into a garden just a little. Without a doubt projects like this will change the world in these modern times of industrial development and ecological destruction, times when they will be needed the most.

Adyar Poonga really is an amazing place. I was immediately enthralled simply by the whole idea of turning a dump into such a beautiful garden. I’m even happier now that the rest of the Adyar will also someday be cleaned up. It truly is a miracle. Apart from touring the park, I also had the privilege of interviewing the man in charge of the project, Dr. Kalaiarasan, about his job as a wildlife biologist. Here are the questions I asked him, along with his answers.

1. What is the purpose of your job?
A. I’m a conservation biologist who restores and rejuvenates ecosystems in Tamil Nadu. I got a doctorate when I did a piece on community ecology of terrestrial snakes.

2.Who is your employer?
A. First I worked for a private nature park, then the snake park, a public trust. He also set up a biosphere nature park at western ghats nilgiri. Now I work for the govt as a project officer at Adyar Park.

3. How would you describe a typical day on the job?
A. After some stage, not much field work. I mainly formulate programmes and oversee research teams. The success of my job is determined by the richness of biodiversity.

4. What do you feel are the pros and cons of your job?
A. Unfortunately, a part of our job is interacting with politicians, bureaucrats, and local civic community people. However, we like the fact that we are capitalizing the attitude that a good environment is very important, economic-ecological development should be balanced.

5.What is the salary of a typical person in this job?
A. We get a very poor salary (only 35-40 thousand a month) However, the fact that we work with the government and hold much power makes up for it.

6.Why did you decide to go into this field?
A. I come from a family that has been in agriculture for generations. My father taught me how to love and live with nature, making this a perfect job for me.

7.What are the educational requirements for this job?
A. Definitely an education in life sciences. However, this means specifically environmental sciences and not biotechnology.

8. What skills are required for this job?
A. Lots of patience and a high tolerance for boredom.

9. What are the working conditions like?
A. I create my own working conditions. You develop your own skills here, create your own interest. There are different occupations in this field, such as educator or economist.

10. How secure is this job?
A. None of us have to worry about job security. If I do end up getting fired, I can just go somewhere else, working as a consultant or a teacher. There is always room for a biologist.

I found this to be a very rewarding interview, as it taught me about what a career in environmental science could be like. This is a field I hope to work in in the future, so I was very happy to learn more about it.

Soon, I will be visiting two more interesting areas in Southern India, the territory of Puducherry and the sanctuary of Muthumalai, places that I intend to write about as well. Be sure to check it out!