Cake Bake Betty

Lindsay Powell amazes as Cake Bake Betty. Follow the link to better understand greatness.

 


 

7.26.2005 - [Kaneko Atsushi Update - "SOIL" Continues] Hide
Comic Beam 6.2005

Frequent junk.log readers know that I'm a big fan of manga artist Kaneko Atsushi, author of [BAMBi], soon to be released in the US. He finished that series a few years ago, and recently he has been working on [SOIL], a great mystery story, with SF elements. I bought the first two Japanese volumes of [SOIL] and enjoyed them immensely.

Recently I wondered if [SOIL] was still being serialized in [Comic Beam], a monthly magazine in Japan. Its website wasn't that clear, so I directly contacted Enterbrain, the publisher of Kaneko Atsushi's works. It turns out that he took a few months off from [SOIL], to direct a movie. I'm not sure what that new project is called, but I'll find out. I know he worked on [Space Police] last year, providing the visual design.

Sketch for [SOIL] 2

The serialization of [SOIL] will now continue, and 3-4 more collected volumes are planned, depending on the ultimate length of the series.

[SOIL] Volume 3 is due out in Japan in 9.2005, and you know I'll preorder it as soon as it is solicited. It should be published in [Comic Beam] for the next few years, at least, and hopefully I'll find a supplier of that monthly magazine soon, so I won't have to wait for the collections.

As for the publication of his works in the US, [BAMBi And Her Pink Gun] is overdue, but should be out in a month or so from Digital Manga Publishing. You owe it to yourself to check it out, but realize that the series doesn't really shine until the second half.

 

 

7.25.2005 - [A Site That Might Excite, Delight] Hide
Go Morning (ex Morning Mayonnaise)

With a rhyming title like that, you know this entry has to be important. Well, just be aware that the Morning Mayonnaise website is no more, and in its place is www.gomorning.com. Why is this newsworthy? Well, I've been virtually acquainted with one of the forces behind the Mayonnaise Project since it began, and it's always been a fine resources for many things related to Japanese pop culture, especially music. Go Morning is only carrying on this tradition, and has lots of content worth noting.

Specifically, I really dig Morning Scene, which usually breaks the latest news about Japanese artists scheduled to play in North America. If you've been visiting there, you'd already know that PINE*am is about to tour the US yet again, or that Titan Go King's and Tsu Shi Ma Mi Re now have their albums at the iTunes Music Store.

In short, Go Morning is a great place to hang out, with much more detailed information about certain topics than I'll ever be able to provide. I assume you're not even reading this sentence, since you're already checking it out.

JGalaxy

Back already? Well, you should also be aware of JGalaxy, one of the best kept blog-aggregating secrets. Carrying info from select sites that deal with things Asian - including junk.log and Morning Scene - it's a great way to check up on the latest RSS feeds from contributing sites you may not have encountered before. Great writing, timely news and tightly-bound links abound, so you know what to do.

 

7.19.2005 - [Where Everyone Knows Your Favorite Comic] Hide
Comic Book Resources

I've been seriously following comic books for about 20 years, and yet up until a few months ago, I never used the resources available to me online. Of course, a few years ago they didn't exist, but now there are a wide variety of places to read news and discuss topics related to the comics industry. Sounds geeky perhaps, but it's the sort of thing I enjoy.

Lately, I've been using the following websites to get my daily comic news fix, above and beyond [Comics Buyer's Guide] and [Wizard], which I read in print each month. Both print and electronic sources have their strong points - tonight I'll go over the online sites, with print publications another time.

Comic Book Resources - My first comic related stop when I get home from work, it's a fine news and analysis site, with lots of perspective and humor. The columnists are readable, and if you want the latest news about comics being filmed, then this is the place to go.

Millarworld - Mark Millar is one of the best comic writers out there, and this is the spirited forum connected to his site. It's a great place to find out what others think about this week's comics, and to hear fact and speculation about what will happen in the future. Industry folk tend to stop by here and post a bit.

Newsarama - Connected to Kevin Smith, of [Clerks], [Dogma], and all of those other movies. He's also done a relatively good job writing comics over the past few years, and even owns a comic book store. Thus, he's involved with this website, which does a great job covering the news, and allowing people to discuss it.

Byrne Robotics Forum - Follows one of my favorite writer/artists, John Byrne, most famous for his extraordinary work on [Uncanny X-Men] and [Fantastic Four]. The forums are inhabited by intelligent and knowledgeable folk, and a wide range of comic topics are covered. I've only recently discovered this hang-out.

CBG Xtra - I've been reading [Comic Buyer's Guide] on and off for the past 15 years - they're one of the longest running comic magazines/newspapers anywhere. Recently I subscribed again, and while I enjoy their thick monthly publication, I also want more timely news. Thus, this is their new online community, which I haven't even used yet (new being the important word). Skewed to older collectors, but still grand.

Comics.ign.com - A number of years ago, I thought the IGN network of websites was alright. Then, like many other people, I didn't care for them anymore, yet they still thrive. Recently I noted that they have a comic section, so here it is. Slick and slightly above average.

Last week, the largest US comics and popular media convention, Comic Con, was held in San Diego. Like always, I wasn't able to go, but I found out all about what happened there using the above resources. If you also want to know what's down the road for the next 6 months or so, make sure to check them out.

I know I have to be missing out on the best sites and message boards, so if there are any other fans out there, please let me know where I should go.

Yes, there will be much more comic discussion here in junk.log, both of the Western and Eastern variety, but perhaps not every single week.

 

7.18.2005 - [Remembering Number Girl, In My Head] Hide
Number Girl

Imagine this: 123 live tracks over 8 CDs, plus two live DVDs. With a normal band, this might be tedious to say the least, but with Number Girl, a loud rock-punk band that I simply adore, this is something to shout from the rooftops about.

I've been into them since 2000 or so, but haven't updated my shrine to them for almost 4 years. A shame, since they've had many great releases I've enjoyed, but not talked about.

No matter. As of tonight, you can visit my Number Girl page and find out all about their latest live omnibus, [Omoide In My Head 2 - Kioku Series], not to mention all of their other singles and albums, with more information to come. Celebrate this group with me, and let me know if there any experts on the band out there, that can help me improve my meager presentation.

 

7.14.2005 - [All Hail All Star Batman & Robin] Hide
All Star Batman & Robin

Comic books as we know them have been around since the 1930's, a time called the Golden Age by fans. Since then the world has changed, and comics have changed with them, yet some characters are still firmly rooted in the past. DC Comics has big name guns like Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman, all of which were created decades before many of our parents were born. Thus, there's always room to revise them, keeping their core essence while updating the details for new, younger audiences.

Marvel Comics, which gained fame in the 1960's due to more modern creations like The Fantastic Four, Spider-Man and The Hulk, realized a few years ago that it was essential for them to slowly but surely revitalize their characters. In the early 1990s, there was a comics bubble, when new issues with elaborate variant covers were selling (or at least being printed) in the low millions. Now, a new monster hit only manages to move about 200,000 copies, if they're lucky. This needed to be turned around, with works more suited to those who haven't been reading comics for decades, and one way of doing this was a "reboot", starting elaborate story lines from scratch.

Thus, a few years ago, Marvel introduce the Ultimate line, starting with Spider-Man. So, instead of being a teen in the 1960s, he's a teen "today", with more modern concerns, yet still the same basic mythology. This is a tried-and-true method of getting comics to the movie screen - rewrite the stories for the modern day - and this Ultimization of Marvel's core characters was a bit hit. Currently, the handful of Ultimate titles are always Marvel's biggest sellers, and have helped them cement their position at the top of the industry. They're also very well done - check out [The Ultimates] or [Ultimate Fantastic Four] for a good time.

Of course, DC wanted a piece of that action, and so they've started their new All Star line with [All Star Batman & Robin The Boy Wonder]. Not wanting to take any chances, they've arranged for Frank Miller, one of the industry's biggest stars (and the creator of the recent movie hit [Sin City], which was an adaptation of his comics) to write the series, and fan favorite Jim Lee to provide the art. This is a definite all-star line up, soon to be followed by [All Star Superman], created by the immense talents of Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely (out later this year).

All Star Batman & Robin

All of that said, is [All Star Batman & Robin] any good? Well, Frank Miller was responsible for some of the modern-era's most beloved Batman stories, including a [Batman: Year One] origin story that has been partially adapted in the current [Batman Begins] movie. Miller is a fan of more "hard boiled", realistic stories (most of the time), and his All Star Batman is extremely archetypal (tough crimefighter yearning to transcend his pain), but not weighted down by excessive baggage. He's a relatively young hero, not quite set in his ways, but still thinking ahead to his future. Which is where Robin comes in; in the first issue forces are set in motion which will soon lead to him fighting at Batman's side, as his ward.

The first issue isn't a masterpiece, but it does setup potentially great future stories. Unfortunately, it seems they're going for a late teen audience, rather than all ages, which the violence and cheesecake attest to. These are definite Millerisms, but not really necessary for this outreach project.

Honestly, I don't care for Jim Lee's art all that much. It's always seemed to me that he learned to draw from comic books, instead of an art teacher, and so his figures are flat, not quite anatomically there, and he has an excessive like for stray line work that adds little to the narrative flow. Basically, he's more flash than substance, but the fans have always adored him, and his talents are pushed about as far as they can go in this series. Not amazing by any means, but at least the covers are striking.

So, if you recently saw the Batman movie, and don't read comics, you might actually enjoy this new version of Batman, which is partially designed for you. Easy to jump into, not that expensive ($2.99), and designed to fit nicely in collected "graphic novels". If you do decide to check them out, note that there are two covers with the exact same content, and that the one featuring Batman is by far the most popular. Printed in equal numbers and released yesterday, everywhere I go is sold out of the Batman version, with huge stacks of the Robin one left over. No matter, unless you're a collector like myself, just pick up what you can find, and enjoy the ride.

 

7.13.2005 - [Are You Part Of The Scene?] Hide
The Scene

Perhaps it's news to you, but by now most people know that there's a large Darknet out there, a subset of the internet obsessed with file production and trading, specifically that of copyrighted works. Through IRC (Internet Relay Chat) and FTP, they rip CDs and DVDs, creating a chain of trading that filters down from "top sites" to your typical BitTorrent tracker page.

[The Scene] is an ambitious and somewhat unique project, distributed in much the same way, that provides a fictionalized and dramatized account of one small group of individuals, located around the world, and committed on acquiring and releasing Hollywood's hits before they officially hit DVD, and perhaps before they even leave the theater.

Freely distributed though channels like BitTorrent, there have been 10 monthly episodes so far, detailing the rise and fall of Brian Sandro, a college student who runs a "piracy" group called CPX in his free time. Over the course of these real-time segments (like [24]), you follow a video feed of him or other characters, along with their IM and IRC chats, and the occasional email. Basically, you have a window into their Windows desktops, and peek over their shoulders at the most opportune times to advance the plot.

It takes some time to get use to - you really have to enjoy reading chat windows - but after the first dozen minutes or so, you quickly get caught up not only in the drama of the group's attempt to beat their rivals in the scene with timely releases, but in Brian/Drosan's massive lies to his friends, girlfriends, scenesters, and even himself, as trouble always looms ahead.

The Scene

Will they get caught for "illegal" file trading? Will Brian's greed cause him no end of problems? There's lots to discover in this elaborate construct, and with 10 episodes now available (with more to come), you have a good chunk of the story to discover. It's not perfect (and not that realistic), but I can't think of many other people (in this case, the members of Jun Group Entertainment) that are even attempting to create new multimedia narrative forms like this.

Entertaining as well as instructional, [The Scene] gives a peek into parts of the net that not everyone knows about. Thus, I recommend that you check it out - heck, it's free, so delete it if you don't like it.

 

7.12.2005 - [Koda Kumi Can't Fool Me With Her Charms] Hide
Koda Kumi

Usually, I go on and on about all of the junk that I like, but tonight, I'll take the road less travelled by, just to be different. For the past few months, I'd been hearing all about Koda Kumi, which culminated with my purchase of the [Cutie Honey] live-action DVD, that she provided the title track to. It seemed catchy enough, so when she released her latest album, [Secret] on 2.9.05, I decided to check it out.

Upon first listen, I was violently in un-like. Not that it was awful, but her music sounded a lot like other Avex Trax releases, most of which are poor Ayumi Hamasaki clones. However, she seemed to be very popular, so perhaps I was missing something?

Turns out that I was missing her visual persona, which I experienced last night after finally watching the DVD of 8 promotional videos that was bundled with her last album. The secret to Koda Kumi is quite simple - sex. Sex sells, and she's vending it on all corners. Pretty much every video has her breasts, booty and thighs a poppin', and she's always trying to seduce male models, which I supposed are listener stand ins. In any case, it seems her handlers are trying to overcompensate for her average skills by making her out X-Tina your favorite female "singer".

I don't know if this is a recent trend, or if that's always been her thing, to strip almost naked, attach feathers, jewels and bells to her fingernails, and do jerky dances with similarly attired women as backup. There is artistry in this, but it's of the more prurient kind. I can appreciate in-your-face sexuality, but that's usually a positive attribute of porn stars, not of the musicians I adore.

The sad thing is that if her music was actually great, then she would be fairly unstoppable, due to her hormonal puppeteering. Fortunately, there is little to no chance of that happening, and if I'm wrong, then please let me know which of her releases is more impressive. Speaking of which, she does have a new album coming out on 9.21.2005 (no title yet), with two singles to be released in the month before it. Perhaps these will win me over, but there's not much chance of me finding out, since I don't intend on buying them.

Anyway, I know you want proof for my thesis, so here are some screenshots to accentuate my point. I really tried hard not to enjoy preparing this:

Koda Kumi
On a bed, being secretly peeped at by a FBI agent.

Koda Kumi
Apparently ready to take a swim in furs.

Koda Kumi
I can't even share most of the scenes after this.

Koda Kumi
Dry humping in the harem is never family friendly, sorry.

 

7.11.2005 - [More About Some New Things From Japan] Hide
[Electric Rainbow] by Jude

After almost a year of anticipation, Jude finally released their 5th album, [Electric Rainbow], on 6.22.2005. It goes without saying that it's a great album, because simply everything that Kenichi Asai has been involved with for the past two decades has rocked completely. However, it is an evolution for Jude, with more Sherbets influence than usual. Of course, that's another one of his projects, so he's basically copying himself, to nothing but good effect. I have to hear it a few more times, but I'm close to declaring this the best Jude album yet. More about it soon in the appropriate place.

[Landmark] by Salyu

Last month I reminded you that [Landmark], the first truly solo release by Salyu, was scheduled for 6.15.05. I got it last week, and it's without question one of my top three albums this year. Every song is strong, and her previous stellar singles like [Peaty] have to compete with new amazingness like [Landmark], [Uee], and [Pop]. Really - if you like female vocalists, you'll love Salyu, even if you don't understand Japanese.

As always, I have a large amount of preorders, and here are some upcoming releases that might interest you:

1) [fairyland], Ayumi Hamasaki, 8.3.05, AVCD-30808, 1,800yen (Special Edition, with DVD)

2) [Tommy heavenly6], Tommy heavenly6, 8.24.05, DFCL-1194, 3800yen (Special Edition, with DVD)

3) [Yorokobi no Tane], Yuki, 9.7.05, ESCL-2706, 1165yen

4) [Untitled], Thmlues, 9.14.2005, KICS-1192, 2667yen

5) [DELICIOUS BUMP TOUR IN USA], Pillows, 9.14.2005, KIBM-92, 3714yen (DVD)

6) [Be My Last], Hikaru Utada, 9.28.05, TOCT-5002, 1,257yen, (Special Edition, with DVD)

As I hinted at last time, please note the Tommy heavenly6 album! Don't be confused - this is not the synth-poppy side-project, this is the superior guitar-and-drums outfit. I'm so very excited about this, and if you act fast, you can get the special edition that comes with a DVD of a few promotional videos. If Tommy february6 history repeats itself, the limited edition will be available at retail for a few weeks before it sells out, but why take a risk when it comes to Tommy (Tomoko Kawase of The Brilliant Green)?

Also note that Hikki has a new single due, and you can get a limited DVD with that as well. The Pillows have documented their recent tour of the US on video, so that's a must have for fans. Ayu has a new single practically every over month, this one with a DVD for those who want it. Finally, don't forget the Thmlues next album, or Yuki's single (main theme to the movie [Touch]). Yuki also had another single that came out on 6.29.2005, named [Dramatic], which is the theme to [Honey and Clover], so there.

Finally, since I mentioned Ayumi Hamasaki...

[Pop pundits see mutiny on Hamasaki's horizon] (Wai Wai)

A fun read for those who (dis)like Ayu, who apparently has the "power of an Empress" at Avex.

 

7.6.2005 - [The Best Japanese Dictionary For Gamers] Hide
Rakubiki Jiten DS

I love Rakubiki Jiten DS so much that once I marry and have kids, I will construct a time machine just so that my daughter can go back to 2004 or so, and insure that the master programmers at Nintendo and Sanseido Co put this package together. What the hell am I talking about? Well, Rakubiki Jiten is a card for the Nintendo DS portable game system, that turns it into a fine Japanese/English and English/Japanese dictionary with ABC and kana input, using a touch screen interface.

Rakubiki Jiten DS

Think about that for a second. You have a game system, and instead of playing Mr. Driller Drill Spirits, you flip open a electronic dictionary with which you can use scribbles to find all sorts of words. It's very complete, with lots of cool little toggles, a word bookmarking feature, and a general swell interface, that's even cute in places.

Sure, there have been electronic dictionaries in Japan for years, but this is notable because it fits in a postage stamp card, is inexpensive and somewhat complete (3 types of dictionaries) and because it lets you go all scribble-scrabble. Plus, it's wirelessly connected, if your friends have DS units and want to look up words, or chat.

Rakubiki Jiten DS

All of this said, I can only rate this 5 out of 10, because what the world (that is, me) really needs is the same sort of dictionary that can also take written kanji input. Kanji are the sometimes complicated characters largely borrowed from Chinese, that usually take huge and heavy character dictionaries to find their verbal readings. What I wanted and hoped for, was the ability to enter a radical (part of a kanji character) and have all of the possible matches come up. Or, I wanted to draw a whole character, perhaps one in a magazine right in front of me, and quickly get a reading and meaning. Perhaps the Japanese market is saturated with such products - if so I need links! It would take lots more work, but for that feature alone, I'd send my kids back in time to program it themselves.

All in all, if you are a Nintendo DS owner that can read basic Japanese, but has a poor vocabulary, then Rakubiki Jiten is pretty cool. It's not the best electronic dictionary in the world, but it lets you write, scroll, flip pages, all with your little plastic penlet. Yes, it does work on US consoles (as all Japanese DS software does), so don't be afraid to acquire it for 4800 yen.

 

7.5.2005 - [Ten Eyes Are Better Than "The Eye 10"] Hide
The Eye 10

Recently in junk.log I discussed how [The Eye 2] was an entertaining exercise in Hong Kong Horror from the Pang Brothers. It appears that on 3.24.2005 they released another film in the series, this time called [The Eye 10], in an attempt to cut to the chase, skipping seven theoretical sequels. It was released on DVD in May (Cantonese or Mandarin with English subtitles, from Media Asia Hong Kong), and I picked it up last weekend.

Simply put, [The Eye 10] isn't as good as the two films before it. It's a Chinese Ghost Story, and the conceit is that the first two movies only covered two out of ten methods of communing with ghosts. The five lead "teenage" characters come across a Thai manual delineating the full ten ways to see ghosts. Being curious as well as stupid, one night they try it out for the sake of thrills, to way too much success. In this case, of course, success is actually a failure, because most of these ghosts are mean spirited, so to speak, and cause no end of terror, pain and death.

However, this torment is cheapened by inexplicable moments of slapstick humor and attempts at levity, like a breakdancing contest with a possessed person. Most of the movie is about things jumping out, chasing, or disappearing when they're not supposed to, but this humor serves to alienate rather than accentuate.

Kate Yeung Kei

Yes, the film has ghostly special effects, but I was more impressed by the "less is more" attitude of the earlier episodes. The only real highlight of the film for me was Kate Yeung Kei, who played the lead character, tormented yet always cute and almost over the top. Her scenes are the ones that stuck with me, which speaks to her charm more so than the merits of the film.

No, it's not an awful film, but it's all over the place, trying to be 8 films in one (one for each ghostly method) to make up for lost time. At this point, I would deem the series over, but who knows what the Bros. Pang will want to do next.

Just because I adore her, here's some more Kate Yeung Kei shots I personally captured.

Kate Yeung Kei
Hide and seek at midnight, black cat in hand - not smart.

Kate Yeung Kei
Sneaking up on a haunted umbrella.

Kate Yeung Kei
The battle against evil spirits is a lot like badminton.

Kate Yeung Kei
The land of the dead is all wind and tears.

 

7.1.2005 - [BAMBi Contest Winners: Selected!] Hide
BAMBi And Her Pink Gun

[BAMBi] by Kaneko Atsushi. I've been enjoying that manga for years, and eagerly awaiting its translation into English. Well, the wait is almost over, since [BAMBi And Her Pink Gun] is due to hit the US this month, thanks to Digital Manga Publishing.

To celebrate, I decided to give away two copies of that US release, out of the kindness of my pocketbook. The lucky winners are:

Kendra K. and Sherlan A.

Even if you didn't win, you should check out my thorough Kaneko Atsushi shrine right this instant.

 

7.1.2005 - [Triceratops Contest Winner: Announced!] Hide
Triceratops

One of the first bands covered by this site was Triceratops, oh so many years ago (umm...5?). I had an extra copy of [The 7th Voyage Of Triceratops], their latest album, which sounds quite swell. Out off a massively small drawing, a lucky junk.log reader named Inuki has won it.

More Japanese Music contests will be forthcoming.

 

 

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