Saturday, March 13, 2010

Movie Reviews: Alice in Wonderland

I really wasn't expecting all that much from this movie. Remakes are rarely good, and so far Tim Burton hasn't had a great track record with remakes.

I really, really hated the Disney cartoon as a kid. And I know that isn't the original, and some people really like the books, but my only exposure was through the animated movie. And it was weird, weird, weird! I especially hated those freaks Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum. And that freaking Walrus!

*Spoiler Warning*

The movie starts in the unspecified past, if a specific time period is mentioned, I must have missed it, with an unspecified gentleman talking about an unspecified plan that is being hailed as madness.


They're interrupted by a little girl, the titular Alice, who has been having nightmares. Completely out of character of a patriarch of the time (whenever that is), Alice's father, instead of scolding the girl for being seen by his guests, and calling for either his wife or nanny to take the girl away, he tucks her into bed.

We get a little bit of foreshadowing, in the form of Alice telling her father about the strange dreams she's been having. Surprisingly enough, they sound a lot like the nightmares I had after watching the original movie as a kid.

Alice, out of character for a little girl, asks if she's gone mad. Because all little girls start worrying about going insane. Her father then proceeds to comfort her, telling her she's perfectly sane and...

Oh wait, no he tells her she's insane, in what I assume is meant to be a touching moment.

You're absolutely mad dear.

Skip forward to fifteen years later, Alice's father is now dead, because as we all know Disney has something against parents.

Curse you Disney!

Alice is now almost twenty years old, and a free spirit. Because all it takes is main character status in a Disney movie to break free from the shackles of an oppressive society.

Of course she hasn't quite broken free from those shackles quite yet, and we're treated to her forced engagement party, with her straw-man almost fiance, who apparently is a Lord of some kind, and exhibit a of inbreeding among the nobility.

Long story short, a lot of problems are set up, her life sucks, because life frankly sucked for all women back then. Then she chases a white Rabbit and the madness begins.

You knew this was coming.

As Alice discovers, she's not the right Alice. And Wonderland is actually Underland, because step A of remakes these days seems to be to spit on the original in every way possible.

Long story short, the Red Queen has taken over, because she isn't loved. Alice has to kill the Jabberwocky with the Vorpal Sword. Anne Hathaway, the White Queen, will take back over when this happens. Why she hasn't done anything about her sister yet, seeing as she apparently is living quite happily in her own palace, is a mystery to me.

For the record, the Tweedles still freak me out.

Johny Depp plays the Mad Hatter, and I can honestly believe he is insane. Though, to be fair, his performance was one of the more enjoyable parts of the movie.

After the plot line of "choose your own destiny" or whatever, is resolved, or at least they stop shoving it down our throats for five seconds, Alice faces the Jabberwoky.

Who's voice by Christopher Lee. Hey, this movie is looking up!

"Enough chatter," said Alice, and sliced through the Jabberwoky's tongue.

"NO!" The viewer yelled. "He was the best part of the movie! Bad Alice, Bad!"

Alice beats the Jabberwoky, earning my eternal ire, and returns home to her world, despite the fact that it sucks.

We are then treated to a painful scene where she tells everyone in her life off for being such pricks, and then she's hired as an apprentice in her would-have-been-father-in-law's company. Because hiring your old friend's obviously insane daughter was common practice back then, whenever then was.

The movie ends with Alice leaving to...China?...on a ship. Because sailors back then were perfectly fine with women on their ships.

To be honest, the idea was interesting, Alice coming back to Wonder...Underland (-_-) after she's older. But really, the plot wasn't anything original, and the Villain made no sense.

Other than Alice and the Mad Hatter, I can't really endorse any other aspect of the movie. Except maybe the music.

We watched the movie in 3-D and it really felt like a waste. I really didn't feel like the 3-D added anything to the movie.

I went to see the movie with my family, and they enjoyed it, but I really can't say it was anything special, mainly because the script was weak. Very weak.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Manga Reviews: Azumanga Daioh Followup

Well, I'm sure you can tell that there are some issues with this latest review. I've been trying to figure out how to copy and paste from word, without having to mess around with the formatting. As you can see, it doesn't work too well.

Oh well, I hope to be able to figure this out sooner or later.

While I'm at it, does anyone know how to get Chitika ads working? I can't figure out how to get the code embedded in my site properly.

Also, for those of you who prefer individual volumes over the omnibus edition, here are some links to those as well.

Manga Reviews: Azumanga Daioh

Series Background

Where do I even begin?

This has got to be one of the goofiest manga that I’ve ever read. It’s also incredibly satisfying, if somewhat disappointing in that it’s already ended. I’ll be reviewing the manga, I’ll do a separate review of the anime later on.

For those of you that don’t know, Azumanga Daioh does not follow graphic novel format, but instead is drawn in the Japanese newspaper strip format. Which is four vertical panels. As such the story is individual strip focused, with gags and punchlines. So those of you that don’t like newspaper comics, you’ll probably still like this one. If there were a comic as good as this in American newspapers I’d buy up every copy of ever newspaper that runs it.

It’s that good

The series was named after creator Kiyohiko Azuma, by combining his name “Azuma” and “Manga,” to create “Azumanga Daioh.” Not sure what the “Daioh” means.



Umm… Well, you see… It’s about girls in Highschool… And they… Umm…

Okay, so there isn’t any kind of plot. At all. It’s one shot gags, and minor storylines interconnected together into a tribute to life. If life was filled with minor lunatics. I’m looking at you Osaka!

Like I mentioned before, the focus is on the individual strips, and the joke. But that doesn’t mean that it’s always random jokes—which it often is—but it does have a very vague kind of storyline. Basically the structure doesn’t go beyond being a basic framework around which the jokes are woven. The manga starts in highschool, and continues on to their graduation and, spoilers, to taking college entrance exams.

But seriously, I could transcribe the entire plot here and you’d loose nothing from your reading experience. The strength is definitely in the jokes, which fortunately more often than not are character related and hence easily understood by non-japanese readers. Keep in mind though, there are several examples of jokes that don’t make sense if you don’t know anything about Japanese culture or the language.


Chiyo Mihama – The child prodigy, she skipped to the beginning of highschool, and is five years younger than the other girls. She skipped from grade 5 to 10.

Tomo Takino – I’m convinced this girl is insane.

Koyomi “Yomi” Mizuhara – She’s the stereotypical smart girl, which would work for her if she were actually the smartest in the class. That position is held by Chiyo-chan. Yomi is obsessed with both food and dating, and often has luxury vacations with her parents where she eats lots of good food. Much to the annoyance of Yukari.

Sakaki – Tall, silent, athletic. The ultimate tough girl, according to her class mates. According to herself she just loves cute things, especially cats.

Ayumu “Osaka” Kasuga – Forget Tomo, Osaka is the real nutter. Please refer to the previous picture of her.

Kagura – The real tough girl, athletic (not as much as Sakaki), and Sakaki’s eternal rival. She’s basically a tomboy, and along with Osaka and Tomo, one of the class’ trio of underachievers and numbnutts.

Kaori – Kinda underplayed, she’s the butt of several jokes. Especially when Kimura is involved.

Yukari Tanizaki – How does this woman still have her job? She’s incredibly immature, and torments Chiyo-chan just because she feels like it. Keep in mind that this is a comedy, and it’s played for comedic effect. If this were realistic she’d be out on the street. It helps that seeing Chiyo-chan’s dreams crushed is



Minamo Kurosawa – She’s the mature one. Cool, collected, in charge. She’s also the gym teacher, and apparently less skilled at academics than Yukari, which provides an odd contrast to the rest of her capable personality. Seeing as she’s the only female in the series that is neither underage nor insane, male readers should feel free to fall in love with her. Keep in mind, she’s just drawings on paper, and this makes you a looser.

(Next week: Top 10 sexiest comic book women.)

Kimura - He’s probably the only downside of this series. If anything this perverted teacher who loves his job because he’s surrounded by highschool girls will be a touchy subject for our western audience. But really the jokes never get too tasteless, and he comes across more as an eccentric than an actual threat. Not only that, but his characterization is incredibly contrary to one’s expectations of such a character.

Art Quality

Quite low for the majority of the series. But the layout is in newspaper strip format, where the focus is on the joke, not so much the art quality. It’s still better than a lot of American comic strips, but can’t really match up to the art work of Tite Kubo and Hiroyuki Takei (his later art work, ie/ especially in Ultimo). Really it looses most points in art because of the format, that by n

ecessity limits the space in which to draw. If you compare the art in Azumanga to Yotsuba, you’ll notice a big difference. In fact, the main factor is that Azumanga was relatively much earlier in Azuma’s career than Yotsuba.

Overall the art isn’t anything spectacular, but pleasing enough to look at.

Azuma also published three additional chapters back in May 2009.

It’s quite obvious how his art has improved since he finished his run of Azumanga Daioh. It is quite satisfying to see old characters in a crisp new style.


The humor. And the characters, loony as some of them may be. Again, Kiyohiko Azuma proves that young girls taking abuse is the height of physical comedy.



Azumanga Daioh is completely family friendly. Except for the creepy teacher. There are two storylines that take the characters to the beach, so there are some swimsuit scenes. However, given the art style that tends towards realistic proportions, these do not serve as eye candy in any way. And if you’re too prude to even handle swimsuits, then how the heck did you get internet in the Amish community, and why are you reading my blog? Sure, I’m flattered, but it still seems kind of odd.

My Final Decision

I love this manga. Seriously. It supports itself through characters and a good sense of humor. There are a few times where the humor doesn’t make sense, lost in translation you could say. But since most of the humor is character driven, not pun driven (there are a few of those though), it crosses language barriers quite easily.

Buy it/Don’t buy it

Buy it. It’s only four volumes long, and well worth the money you’ll spend. There are the individual volumes you can buy, or you can buy the entire series in one large volume. Personally I’m a little skeptical of the omnibus edition, and would rather have the individual volumes. However, if you’re on a budget (why are you buying manga?) then overall the omnibus might just be the one for you. The Omnibus edition includes all four volumes for about 20 dollars. It also includes color pages, and while I’m not a fan of such large comic volumes, for this series it works.

I do not know if there are any editions in English with the supplement chapters included.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Karate Master: Part 8

This last training session was particularly interesting. I arrived a few minutes early, while the advanced training was still going on. The instructor called me over, and let me participate in the last few minutes while the other club members were arriving. It consisted of shuto practice, in particular it's application in real combat. Until then I'd only considered the stance a fancy way to face your opponent, not something you'd really want to use against an opponent. In fact, it is quite an interesting block, that can easily be used to throw your opponent off balance.

The bulk of the practice consisted of training kicks. We introduced a new kick, the side kick (seriously, why can't I remember these names?). Surprisingly I still had the proper muscle memory from four years ago, and picked it up again fairly quickly, while allowing for a few modifications dictated by the new style I'm practicing.

I think the most important thing that I learned was that you don't block kicks. In Shotokan, at least in the school I learned it in, we were taught to block kicks, doing so with a low sweeping block. In Shotokai we're taught that's a good way of breaking your arms. There may be a few exceptions, but it'd involve us having to do some experimentation. Something that I'm not at the proper level to do yet.

All in all, a good training session, I enjoyed myself quite a bit. There was one incident during sparring, which involved a white belt getting kicked in the face by a green belt. Fortunately, the martial arts, especially this style it appears, attract a certain type of person, and the incident didn't escalate beyond the white belt asking if he could keep the bloodstain on his Gi as a souvenir.

I've always thought to myself, you can't do martial arts and expect not to get hurt. The training is made as safe as possible, most of the times, but you won't get far expecting to be uninjured during training. Best to start considering each injury as a badge of honor or something of the like. If you're bleeding, all the better.