Extensive listening challenge 👂 (2022)

This is more of a historical drama anyway, but yeah, as with all book-clubs as well, it’s all about which Drama CD you go for. There’s stuff in any genre out there so.

It’s also likely going to be a bit of a trial & error process for this listening club, learning what works and doesn’t compared to a book club. But, after that, I’d love to see many of these listening clubs pop up on the forums. ^>^ :headphones:

Pod-cast listening clubs sounds like it could work. But just having more alternatives is for the best. :slight_smile:


I guess I’ve been in a movie-watching mood recently!

SADA〜戯作・阿部定の生涯 (Sada)

I saw on the Criterion Channel that there was a Nobuhiko Obayashi directed movie about Sada Abe and thought immediately “well that will be… normal. Clearly I should watch that.”

I really didn’t know what to expect going in because it seems like there’s an inherent clash between the uh, way Obayashi’s movies are and the, uh, details of Sada Abe’s biography. All of his movies that I’ve seen have (to one degree or another) a very particular sort of campy/storybook style to them and I guess I thought maybe to do this story you would need to integrate more outright darkness into that… but no, right from the get-go it’s pretty much a very Obayashi-style movie that just happens to be about Sada Abe.

I don’t really know what to make of it! I’m no Sada Abe discourse buff, so I have no idea how it compares with other treatments of her life, and it’s one of those works where I feel like I would have to watch again and puzzle over for a while if I were going to say, write an essay about what I thought it was saying. My impression from memory is that it’s sort of saying like… “humans have rare and interesting lives, and this is one of them”, like, treating Abe as almost like a rare endangered animal operating on unusual and remarkable instinct, rather than like, a critical actor with motives herself. But perhaps I misread it.

An aspect of that I definitely enjoyed was the lovely, decadent and exaggerated period piece aesthetics. As it moves through Abe’s life, different sections are given different looks and packed full of signifiers for the time that are well familiar from other (e.g. I’m thinking of the scenes in Taisho-era Asakusa with of course a lush backdrop of 凌雲閣, that kind of thing). There’s a lot of fun playful elements along those lines and others that make it an enjoyable and interesting work regardless.
I’m just again - not entirely sure what to make it altogether.

I watched this with English subtitles and I think I used them pretty frequently.

天空の城ラピュタ (Castle in the Sky)

This was a total delight!
For whatever reason, The Studio Ghibli I tended to come into contact with early on were the later ones, like Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke, only more recently starting to dig into the early classics, but my impression is it certainly doesn’t get more “early classic Studio Ghibli” than this!

It’s a straightforward adventure story, but it’s bursting with life and fun, and I was especially impressed at how all the designs felt at once both extremely obviously influential (the whole movie and soundtrack had an “SNES vibe” to me and I can’t imagine that’s a coincidence) while also feeling unique and special to the movie (like for example, the bug ships! Super cool!). I also really loved the pirates in this. It would have been totally easy for them to just be another threat to the protagonists, but they end up much more complicated and interesting than that.
If I had a complaint, it’s that the main boy and girl are… a bit bland in the sense that their personality is essentially just “boy and girl protagonist” but hey, it works in the story! And contributes to that “classic adventure” vibe.

I was unable to turn off English subtitles for this, but I recall doing a good job avoiding looking at them.

GHOST IN THE SHELL / 攻殻機動隊 (Ghost in the Shell)

This is one of those movies where like, I know for a fact by watching it for the first time now without any real context, I’m missing out on like, decades of discourse and influence and whatnot, and so any thoughts I give like “it was pretty cool!” will be a drop in the ocean of more informed and thoughtful opinions and I might accidentally find myself on one side of some impenetrable fandom debate or something.
But anyway, it was pretty cool! The impression I described above can always be pretty distracting… and while I read the original manga in English at some point, I don’t remember anything about it (other than that it had more lighter toned moments?), so I don’t have prior attachment to Ghost in the Shell.
I liked the 90s CG and computer tech elements a lot, and bits like the fist fight in the… reflective pond place definitely look neat. But I didn’t click very much with the movie’s handling of Motoko. I’m 100% certain there’s scholarly papers out there about the exact dynamics at play here in how the film handles womens’ bodies in particular, but I think for me the main sticking point from an uninformed first viewing is it just felt very wrapped up in allegory and themes and whatnot but I’m not all that into the baseline action gunplay aesthetic and so wasn’t champing at the bit to engage with them. (To be fair I think I was quite tired at the time as well). Clearly there’s something there interesting to pick at though.

I watched this without any subtitles and made the conscious decision to just go with the flow and not worry about making sure I understood everything, avoiding rewinding and things like that. I think it was the right choice! I definitely was fuzzy on a lot of details, but I got the main things that were happening and any details I looked up after the fact were like “oh yeah, that tracks.”
It felt kind of like speedrunning directly to “having watched the movie a long time ago but forgotten most of the details except the main arc of the plot.”

ガメラ対大魔獣ジャイガー (Gamera vs. Jiger)

Initially this seemed like a fun but somewhat uninteresting Gamera movie, with the hook being that it’s set around the 1970 日本万国博覧会, and so they get to show some of the sights of the expo (but alas, not blow any of it up), which is pleasant enough but a bit of a step down in cheesy zaniness compared to the space adventures of the last couple of Gamera movies.

But they really bury the lede in this one! Because midway through they do “Fantastic Voyage, but with Gamera”! I truly admire the decision to make a movie where two kids travel in a submarine inside Gamera in order to fight a monster parasitizing him, and the restraint to not make that the main focus of the movie and its advertising. Noriaki Yuasa successfully keeping Gamera surprisingly fun.

I watched this without any subtitles and did not miss them. (it’s mainly characters yelling things at Gamera like “がんばれ!” and “死なないで!” as though they are contributing something)

呪いの館 血を吸う眼 (Lake of Dracula)

This is the second of the “Bloodthirsty trilogy” of 70s gothic Toho vampire movies and although I was a bit disappointed it did not feature a literal 眼 吸う’ing 血 somehow (the vampire just has striking eyes, I guess), I had a lot of fun watching it! It’s a vampire-ass vampire story, if that makes sense, and was a good delivery mechanism for capes and fangs and pale stares in October. And Shin Kishida, who I am always a fan of, plays the vampire!

I watched this with Japanese subtitles. I noticed I was less dependent on them than I used to be too, with my attention drifting away from them without my noticing.

怪猫トルコ風呂 (A Haunted Turkish Bathhouse)

This whole thing has made me a real sucker for cool limited edition blu-rays of obscure Japanese movies, and anyway - that’s how I watched this.
It’s an exploitation movie that crosses “pinky violence” with ghost cat movies to make an horror/sexploitation “ホラーとポルノをドッキングさせた奇怪作” (as Wikipedia describes it) made by Toei to compete with Nikkatsu.
I thought it was a hoot! I’m not that a huge exploitation movie buff, and this definitely has the kinds of things that I associate negatively with exploitation movies, but the novelty of the genre mix kept it overall feeling fun to me. I watched it right after 血を吸う眼 and it made a really solid halloweeny double feature of a straight-laced horror movie followed by a buck wild one.
The commentary alluded to this as well, but I think pink movies like this being like, real full-on studio movies is always a bit of a pleasant surprise to me. It’s the kind of subject material I would associate elsewhere with low-budget shlock, but this feels competently put together with ample resources.
It even comments a little satirically on history, depicting the shift from legal brothels to “トルコ” with the women and johns singing auld lang syne the day in 1958 before the 売春防止法 goes into effect.

Anyway, definitely one that won’t win any converts from anyone not intrigued to see what the hell it is from the concept, but from the perspective of deciding to watch it and half expecting it to be trashy and crap, I thought it delivered surprisingly well!

I watched this without any subtitles and did not miss them.

着信アリ (One Missed Call)

This is one where it seems like comparing it negatively to Ring is 100% unavoidable.
It’s fine, and competent, and Miike’s track record of directing movies that at least has interesting things in them is maintained, I think.
… But it’s no Ring. And very clearly came out after it.

I think the biggest problem to me from an effective horror standpoint is… So like, the fear you can empathize with in Ring is the dread that you’re doomed, that something bad is imminently going to happen because you watched a video tape (or in this case, got a phone call) and the uncertainty about what form it will take. And Ring lingers and luxuriates in that feeling effectively, leaving the mechanics of deaths that happen mysterious until the very end.
In this movie… The death scenes don’t work for me in that way, since they’re shown directly to be caused by supernatural influence, and said influence doesn’t look very impressive. So it’s neither a dread unknown, nor a cool fun ghost.
I guess it’s the difference between “if you watch this video tape… you’ll die” and “if you get this phone call… a ghost’ll kill ya.” The latter just seems sillier even if in the former you’re getting killed by a ghost anyway.

The other thing I think it does markedly worse than Ring is the dynamic between the two main characters who investigate the mystery. I just don’t think they have chemisty, and their characters don’t really have a strong connection at all (If I remember right he was just a cop involved in the case?) whereas the quiet, sad, stilted relationship between the divorced couple in Ring quietly anchors that movie.

Oh! I just remembered though as I was writing all that – the setpiece in the middle of this movie with the show that’s exploiting the girl who’s next to die to the phone ghost, and things go to total hell while they’re on the air? I love that! That’s a great scene! It doesn’t really… go anywhere? (what did people watching it on TV see? Wouldn’t it be being a big public deal change the rest of the movie’s plot more than it did?). But it’s a neat scene!

I watched this without any subtitles and did not miss them.

ももへの手紙 (A Letter to Momo)

I had neutral to mildly negative expectations going into this from having heard someone I didn’t actually know well at all say something negative about it once, and not hearing anyone else talk about it and so not having any reason to disbelieve said stranger… but I loved this movie!
The mundane elements here I think are really really strong, and the yokai elements are pretty enjoyable too! And although the circumstances are totally different, the story ultimately being about a teenager and a newly single mom moving together to a new place and having a lot of friction between each other because of the individual intense stresses they’re going through surrounding the situation resonates with me like a lot. I was tempted to be like “geez Momo! You couldn’t figure out your mom was sad? Be nicer to her!” but I mean… I 1000% made the same mistake when I was Momo’s age in a similar situation and still regret it even though it’s long forgotten and forgiven, so it’s not like I can begrudge her for it!

I watched this without any subtitles and did not miss them.

ある脅迫 (Intimidation)

This is another Criterion Channel noir. It’s very short at just 65 minutes, and not intensely bombastic or memorable, but it’s pretty cool! The best part is definitely the dynamic between the two main characters - one, a corrupt important bank manager now being blackmailed, the other his loser subordinate and ostensible childhood friend (but who he’s really always looked down on), with the best scene involving the former robbing his own bank while the latter is on duty…

The obvious thing to expect from that set-up is, of course, the subordinate isn’t as much of a toady as he seems, and is involved in some way with the blackmail plot. It doesn’t go exactly fully straightforward with that, but it does go in that direction, and I think just ends before they quite find the winning angle to play out from all this. Ah well, what’s there’s pretty cool anyhow.

I watched this with unavoidable English subtitles but I think I did a pretty good job not looking at them.

13号待避線より その護送車を狙え (Take Aim at the Police Van)

Another Criterion Channel noir, This one directed by Seijun Suzuki!
I remember this one being the most traditionally “noir” out of any of these I’ve watched under that umbrella. The hero is an off-duty cop/prison convoy guard played by who I would call a “Jimmy Stewart type” as he goes about unraveling a mystery of who uh, Took Aim at the Police Van. There’s a femme fatale and plenty of intrigue and I swear something about the locations they shot on even makes them look like California. It’s well put together and - if I’m remembering the right movie - has a kind of fun action climax involving some gasoline and a truck, but I feel like this one’s disappeared more quickly into noir fog in my memory moreso than others like Intimidation that might not be as good per se but have something more specific going on.

I watched this with unavoidable English subtitles but I think did a decent job not looking at them.

地獄の血みどろマッスルビルダー (Bloody Muscle Body Builder in Hell)

I watched Evil Dead for the first time since middle school recently, and appreciated it a whole lot more than back then. There’s definitely something to be said for low-budget horror ingenuity!

And anyway, this is billed as “the Japanese Evil Dead,” but it’s not because of having a similar success and legacy in Japan as the Evil Dead ended up having here, it’s just really really really obviously inspired by Evil Dead.
I still really liked it a lot though! It does enough differently to not be a total ripoff, and I like that that gives it a genuine feeling of like, J-horror X The Evil Dead, in the sense that instead of a group of teens going to a cabin in the woods, here we’ve got a group of paranormal investigators invluding an estranged couple and a psychic investigating a boarded up 和風 house in the middle of the city because of its presence in spirit photagraphy. Which feels just as quientessentially J-horror to me as Evil Dead’s setup feels American.

And I mean, all the low-budget gore and whatnot is a lot of fun too. I particularly liked dismembered zombie re-assembles itself incorrectly, so a head is running around on top of a hand. It’s definitely not the same quality of capital-M Movie as the Evil Dead, feeling even moreso like a hardscrabble project between friends. But it’s a good time! If I had a complaint is it goes to the “this is just the thing from Evil Dead” well a little too much (he says “Groovy” like, multiple times).
It seems like the guy who wrote directed and starred in it runs a horror movie blog, which absolutely tracks.

I watched this without any subtitles and did not miss them.


this is one I have just because it’s in the Kadokawa blu-ray line which are pretty easy to come by, and the cover looked interesting.
It doesn’t come with subtitles though, and with no prior expectations or buy-in (and in the middle of a Halloween weekend where honestly I got the movie-watching enthusiasm out of my system early-on), I had trouble maintaining attention or keeping up with the plot.
I’d say it’s a mystery/thriller of the “a family of unlikeable characters destroy each other in intricate ways” type, based on a book, with Buddhist mummies as a side element. The mummies and the snow in the movie definitely have a mystique, but I didn’t really get a grounding on other elements to care about, unfortunately.
So a little bit of a swing and a miss, but I don’t regret giving it a shot! Maybe I’ll read the book someday and revisit it…

透明人間と蝿男 (The Invisible Man Vs. The Human Fly)

This is the later follow-up to The Invisible Man Appears which I watched recently, and it’s neat! This one definitely has a lot more of its own thing going on than that movie, and what that thing is is… kinda like… a straightforward noir taken pretty seriously, but with detective side using invisibility and the criminal side using Pym particles, basically.
I think it’s a cool movie! I didn’t follow 100% the machinations of the plot (I think the bad guy was covering up war crimes but otherwise I’m a bit vague and going with the flow), but anytime there’s a little tiny guy running or flying around on screen it’s delightful. I’m very impressed that they managed to make the invisibility machine and such feel a little bit serious and ominous given the inherent silliness of invisibility special effects, and tiny guy buzzing around like a fly special effects.

I watched this without any subtitles and did not miss them.

I also watched an OVA series!

機動戦士ガンダム0080 ポケットの中の戦争 (Mobile Suit Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket)

My Gundam-watching drive kinda cooled off for a while after Char’s Counterattack felt like a bit of a regression ignoring Zeta and ZZ and I got into Ultraman instead. But recently I was feeling a bit unenthusiastic about my tokusatsu exercising time, and watched War in the Pocket while exercising instead, and I think it was a good choice since I enjoyed it a lot!

As much as the stories are always about how miserable and traumatizing it is to be in these wartorn locations, there really is a powerfully… evocative? Attractive? element to the sci-fi settings in Gundam. Like, I was playing a PS1 Gundam game recently and was shocked at how just moving around in a level made to look like the revolving Side colonies in the show impressed me and slightly tugged at my emotions. And anyway, War in the Pocket in being the first of these I’ve seen to turn away from an ongoing war adventure show format, captures that mixed awe/horror element of “being there” as this stuff is going on the best out of any of them so far. Seeing towering metal forms fight right in front of you would be both cool and scary, you know?

And the series very much digs directly into the traumatization and loss of innocence that have always been present in Gundam. Even just the credits sequences with shots of the different ways local kids interact with the war wreckage of mechas is haunting once the story does its thing.
I think it suffers slightly from like… feeling more memorable as a very good execution of The Thing Gundam is Generally All About, rather than as something specific or multi-faceted on its own. But it’s hard to complain about that.
I don’t know if that will have revived my Gundam verve but it definitely stands a shot!


Wow, rodan. So many movies. :open_mouth: If you’re at all on Natively, brandon over there is working on an audiovisual addition to the site, and is looking for help seeding initial difficulty levels for shows and movies.


I am interested in getting some drama CDs. Can you please tell me where you get yours? Thank you!

1 Like

Honestly I’ve never really been one to use difficulty level comparisons myself, so I don’t know that I can be much help, I’m afraid! My heart wouldn’t really be in it and I’d second-guess the comparisons far too much.
(I’ve been ending most of these with a line like "I watched this [with/without] [English/Japanese/any] subtitles and feel like it went [completely fine / more-or-less fine / not great oh well] " though and that seems like my best equivalent of a difficulty metric so any Natively person can feel free to mine that somehow if they’d really like :sweat_smile:)

@ekg 's the one to tag! Or check out this thread they made. (I don’t honestly know anything about drama CDs :sweat_smile:)


Theytend to be in a physical format and can be bought through places like Amazon but any place that carries CDs really. We’re going to attempt a listening club this spring if you wanna get on board that train! :slight_smile:

I know there are also places that sells downloadable stuff, but I’m not really all that familiar with that. I think it’s been discussed before on these forums, so try a forum search for downloadable Drama CDs. But, to my knowledge, that’s all newer stuff. Series that’s already been published in physical format doesn’t get migrated to these platforms. :C

Thanks! I will check out the thread.

Ummm so I’ve basically been totally absent from this Challenge thread (and the other ones I’m part of) :innocent: but I thought I’d just give a brief end-of-year update:

I have been doing two Japanese lessons per week that are 1-1 with a tutor, so at the very least I do 2 hours of active listening and speaking each week.

I just took the JLPT N5 this past weekend and the listening part was definitely the hardest, but I think I did well enough to pass? A lot of my listening practice has been related to the JLPT.

I’m taking this time before the new year as a refresh for my language studies to figure out how I want to better allot my time to listening/speaking/reading/writing practice.

At the very least, I play games and watch shows with Japanese dub almost every day. I’ll have to find shows to watch by myself without captions because my husband doesn’t know Japanese. But even when I have captions I like to try to listen first and read the captions right after (if I’m fast enough.)

I will be going through everyone’s suggested shows/movies/content in this thread for inspiration! Great job to everyone who was consistent with their listening this year.

kawaii japanese GIF


I watched some movies!

東京物語 (Tokyo Story)

This is an outright classic my any measure, and was my favorite movie I watched in 2015 (outside the theater anyway), long before I had an inkling I would ever learn any Japanese.
I watched it again now because I had come by both an English-subtitled Criterion Collection edition, and a Japanese-subtitled Japanese edition, and I had the idea to send a bundle of extra blu rays like that to my dad as a simple gift, and I wanted to give myself the chance to watch any of the English edition’s special features first before sending it on its way.

The movie’s just as great as I remember it! It was one of those cases where it wasn’t exactly a fresh new rewatch where I discovered something extra, but I rediscovered what I already knew was there and strengthened it my memory again, which is worthwhile as well.
I think what especially resonates with me about Tokyo Story is… to me the very realistic, like, warm honest kinda cruddiness about it’s portrayal of the family mechanics that make up the majority of the movie. Like nobody quite outright dislikes each other, nobody seems to truly judge the other characters, but plenty of the time they’re hurt or disappointed from each other’s actions while acknowledging at the same time everyone’s got their own lives, even while there is pleasantness and genuine feeling as well, including from unexpected places. The point I rankled against a bit in the audio commentary, was the commentator talking about the movie pointedly judging/villainizing the daughter who’s the stingiest and rudest for her lack of filial piety and such… but I dunno, I think to me my reading of it is more that we’re to see a bit of ourselves in all the characters, including her, and that a big part of the point is how we can all relate to reluctantly making room for parents to visit and the like, as much as we can also admire the warmth with which Noriko genuinely welcomes them.
But then I suppose warmly but distantly not going far out of my way to engage with family has been my default mode of family interaction so I suppose I would think that.

When I first watched Tokyo Story, I got one of those perfect movie moments where you experience a famous scene or line completely fresh and it sticks in your head of its own accord, and it’s only later you learn that it’s famous and plenty of other people have had it stick in their head too. The line in question being:
“Isn’t life disappointing?”
“Yes, it is”
delivered by Setsuko Hara with a heartbreakingly bittersweet smile after pretty much an entire movie of bittersweet smiles.
So anyway, I was interested to hear the line in Japanese for the first time, and it turns out it’s:
Which I don’t have anything particular to say about, but I do think is really really interesting!

The dialogue in the movie is so down-to-earth and lived-in and also now old, that if anyhthing I had trouble fully following even with Japanese subtitles. Glad to have them though! And to have the opportunity to rewatch this.
I haven’t yet watched any other Ozu movies, which I certainly plan to correct. It sounded like from the special features, this is actually Ozu’s most melodramatic movie and his others are even more focused on mundane life and characters. Which sounds good to me! (albeit a little intimidating)

タンポポ (Tampopo)

This is another one where I had 2 copies, an English one and a Japanese one, and watched the Japanese one to watch the English one’s special features before giving it away. This one was a first time watch though!
This one is one of those interesting cases where it both completely was and completely wasn’t what I expected, because from the vague (but very positive) things I had heard, oddball food ‘western’ with comedic/strange vignettes exploring food in different ways, was completely in line with expectations but I was still a bit bewildered through the first viewing.
I think expecially in retrospect though – it’s a delight! The day after I saw the movie, I got ramen (because I mean, duh, of course I did that. You will too if you see the movie and have the opportunity to. Anyone would.) to go on a blustery winter day, and it was a really really wonderful time, very much bolstered not by any of the like, specific idiosyncratic ramen ramen lore Itami espouses through the movie, but just because of the sheer delight and fun the movie has with food and the infectiousness of that. It’s strangely human and heart-warming, presenting this theme core to all of our being and just riffing on it in a variety of amusing and interesting ways. The vignettes studded throughout I’m sure would elicit “ah that one!” reactions on repeat viewings too.

Incidentally, I am glad I had the Criterion edition, because the making-of feature for television that’s narrated by Juzo Itami himself is one of the best special features I’ve seen – he gives it a similar like, gleam-in-the-eye, “here’s something interesting” sort of hard to describe vibe that the movie has about food, but about making the movie, with footage like the repeated attempts to get the thrown naruto to stick the actor’s face just right, or a passers-by confusion at the shooting scene. There was also an interesting interview with Nobuko Miyamoto (who comes across as extremely nice).
I had Japanese subtitles and I think I had very little problems with them.

ゴジラ×メガギラス G消滅作戦 (Godzilla vs. Megaguirus)

I don’t remember this one incredibly well to be honest.
I think my impression at the time was that – it’s a silly kid’s movie. Which is fine! honestly even maybe preferred in my book for Godzilla, since ultimately a lot of the Showa-era ones are that and they’re delightful. But I remember being surprised at how… flat and boring a lot of things in the movie are. The effects are an extremely mixed bag, with not bad looking suits, but a lot of scenes of Godzilla or army men aimless fighting swarms of awful, awful CGI bugs. Some of that’s endearing in its own way, and the climax being set on Odaiba gives some cool buildings to destroy, but I think ultimately the movie lacks gravitas and also isn’t goofy enough to standout on those terms either. But it’s fine! And I’d probably say I liked the approach more than the more cookie cutter disaster movie blockbuster approach of the last Godzilla movie I watched.
One specific gripe: it seemed like it gave both female leads a “a man who was important to me got killed by godzilla” backstory.

I watched this without subtitles and did okay I think.

ルパン三世 カリオストロの城 (The Castle of Cagliostro)

I had heard very good things about this, and… it completely lived up to it, this was extremely fun!
It’s impossible to imagine a more assured directorial debut for Miyazaki than this. I was just familiar enough with Lupin III (having seen some of the first tv show) to be familiar with the characters and their dynamic (and specifically this more gallant take – sounds like there’s a broad spectrum of Lupin III interpretations over the years), and I thought this movie handled them brilliantly. A touch I particularly like is that Zenigata isn’t the villain so much as he as like - a de facto part of Lupin III’s gang, a core part of the roil of adventure and comedy that keeps the engine of these characters moving together from adventure to adventure, while stock villain Cagliostro takes on the burden of being the actual antagonist (and can be shockingly crushed to death without anyone feeling particularly bad about it).
Also, Fujiko is just cool as hell in this movie.

The animation and comedy/slapstick of the movie are genuinely funny and entertaining - one gag I really liked is Lupin trying for a very long time to swim up a waterfall before succumbing to the current.

I watched the Discotek ~ Ultra HD ~ release and while I keep trying to not fall further and further into a pit full of physical media, it’s difficult when I watch something like this in a clearly lovingly put together package, with a huge variety of sound options and special features, and the whole thing looks spectacular and was a vehicle for my having an extremely pleasant evening.

I watched this without subtitles and had little to no problems.

P.S. - something I forgot to praise about this movie is how cool the setting is! The castle is so fun, super evocative of adventure visually and packed full of ridiculous electronic traps and such. I also loved the weird claw minions! In some ways it’s like if Resident Evil 4 was a Lupin III movie.

豚と軍艦 (Pigs and Battleships)

this is another one of those Criterion Channel noirs that I’ve been watching a handful of for a while (my backlog system’s random draw seems to like landing on that queue).
I really enjoyed this one! It’s a pretty standard low-life gangster movie, about a kid in post-war Japan who’s helping run an illicit pig farm for his yakuza family, wrapped up in the will he / won’t he question of whether he’ll get out of that life or come to an inevitable downfall.
But I think what strongly sets it apart is how specific all of the characters and situations feel. A great example is the low-level yakuza boss who stays in bed and has hiccups and believes he’s dying of stomach cancer. It’s the kind of specificity that works on a dramatic level (his perceived weakness contributes to the various power struggles side characters are trying to rope our main character into), a thematic level (his apparent inability to either die or believe he will live undercuts the successful underworld middle management life he’s ostensibly a role model for) and just a performance level (the bit where he contemplates throwing himself in front of a train but stops and clings to a life insurance billboard is certainly the most bitter bit of direct irony in the movie).
And I think all the performances are very good, including the various side characters, but especially the two leads: Hiroyuki Nagato and Jitsuko Yoshimura (hey! She also played the daughter in Onibaba. I’m surprised I didn’t put that together). I think it would be really easy for these two characters to just come across as generic stock low-life characters, but they’re both filled with enough life to be these specific low lifes giving them enough weight and pathos for the movie to go.
One specific thing I especially liked is how the ending makes it clear that it’s as much her story as it is his (if not more), as his colossal flareout that would end… pretty much any other gangster movie I’ve ever seen, is instead followed by triumphal shots of her finally getting the hell out of town. I think that being our last image goes a long way towards making up for the like ‘sex work as the bad ending to a life’ direction the movie strays into sometimes. I under-estimated the movie in expecting it to treat her like a prop for the male lead’s arc.
The movie as a whole paints a very bleak picture of the life of the poor in this post-war dock area, where the only viable sources of income and prestige are the castoff scraps from the American navy stationed there and the unglamorousness of the gangsters is hammered repeatedly home by their grift being of all things, an illicitly financed pig farm scheme that relies entirely on the trustworthiness of a corrupt navy official to provide discount feed.

I watched this movie with English subtitles I couldn’t turn off, and since post-war corrupt pig farm schemes isn’t my area of expertise I had trouble not looking at them.

And a show!

ネオ・ウルトラQ (Neo Ultra Q)

This is a 2013 sequel/revival to a show I love from 1966, Ultra Q, the predecessor to Ultraman. Think roughly Twilight Zone with kaiju, and that’s more or less Ultra Q.
I usually am too much of a sucker for chronological orderings to get around to watching something this far removed from where I’m at in my own timeline, but since it’s directly building off of a show I’ve seen, and seemed of particular interest, I’ve been meaning to give it a shot for a while. I remember initially trying it while exercising but having too much trouble listening to the dialogue at the time for that to work - it’s not really that kind of show.
In the end I’ve been making more time lately to watch shows other than the exercise fodder ones, and so I watched these 12 episodes over the last month or two.

I like it pretty well!
I think it’s a suitable revival, with a similar anthology format and a likeable new set of three actors. Sometimes I think it really hits the “goofy, but surprisingly thoughtful” feeling that I’m personally usually looking for with a show like this. Maybe equally often though it does hit that “thoughtful, but surprisingly goofy” feeling too, which I think I’m a bit less into, if that makes sense.
I think it’s definitely darker than the original show, both tonally and like… literally - in the sense that they’ve I guess tried to emulate black and white sort of with an extremely low saturation style that I don’t think hits the mark for me (the original show, while black and white, would surely have been colorful if it was in color). And there’s an episode or two that seem like they would be too intense for kids (including a hostage crisis and an allegorical… demon thing in a pit), so I assume the target audience is adults who enjoyed the show as a kid, and with that comes a higher need to like, actively be thoughtful and tell stories about society and the like, and I think some are successful and some struggle to say anything interesting in 30m of a monster show. But admittedly I also had plenty of that “I can tell they’re saying things like this, but it’s not like I could address their thesis point by point” language comprehension fog effect, so perhaps some of that is on me.
One other distinct downside, that I suppose is inevitable, is the digital logo is a lot less cool than the original show’s one where they reversed footage of a paint swirl (but I was surprised how tickled I was by the theme song and opening narrations returning).

Most of all though 12, 30-minute episodes is a little bit too short to fully get going with a series like this I think. Where with more it could certainly have accumulated enough especially good episodes to feel like a cool treasure box of various things, as-is I’d describe it probably more as like a neat diversion.
A couple episodes I particularly liked: the one where the lady gets stranded on an island with a kaiju with a giant nose that has healing snot, and she sells it as perfume, is silly and enjoyable. And I thought the best episode was likely the satirical one about pollution, where the politicians committed to climate goals they’re desperately failing to hit as the heat cranks up on them, are suddenly saved by mysterious alien kaiju blobs attaching themselves to the factory exhausts of japan eating up the extra greenhouse gases - cut to the politicians unquestioning and delighted with the air conditioning on full blast. The early episode with a Pigmon who does laundry would also probably be a favorite if I wasn’t still getting used to the show at the time.

I watched these without subtitles and it depended on the episode but I don’t think I had too many problems once I got used to it.


By the way – it’s about the end of the year.

I originally made this thread for 2022 based on @valkow 's 2021 thread, but I haven’t decided whether to make a new thread for 2023 or just convert this one (a la the extensive reading thread).
Does anyone have an opinion?

  • Make new 2023 thread
  • Convert this thread to 2023
  • I don’t care!

0 voters

Also, are there any other changes I should make?

One thing I thought I would do is remove ‘challenge’ from the name, since I realized I haven’t really been treating it or thinking of it as a ‘challenge’ – The goal angle has never super resonated with me, I just like having a place to talk about stuff watched/listened to, even if no one’s listening to quite the same things!
I suppose in some ways that might make the tracking entirely vestigial. I don’t think many people consistently updated them, after all. And the Listen Every Day thread might have captured any need for goal/tracking action in this space.

  • Keep the goal tracking post as-is
  • Modify the goal tracking post
  • Remove the goal tracking post
  • I don’t care!

0 voters

In any case, if worst case the thread just ends up me quietly posting big chunks of text about movies, I’ll still happily maintain it as that! :grin: so any outcome is good.


Unrelated to anything here and not sure if it qualifies as listening, but is anyone else here watching Silent by any chance?

I started it recently on Viki and somehow stuck with it. I think I saw it mentioned in some kind of YouTube news video recently. Pretty good balance between reading subtitles and listening practice for me ^^. The language is super simple, but the story is also a pretty run-of-the-mill slightly sad life drama story that I feel is pretty typical.
I still kept watching since I found the 手話 theme interesting somehow. 萌 is best character. Otherwise, pretty forgettable.

So I just wanted to check in and see if anyone else is watching and has an opinion on the series.

1 Like

I started watching it a bit back and haven’t finished it. I was enjoying it though. I recall some controversy with the screenwriter (?) being mad it was released internationally though.

1 Like

I hit my goal of 20 Japanese dramas finished!

Previously posted
  1. 最愛
    Quality: ★★★★½
    Enjoyment: ★★★★½
    Ease of understanding: ★★½

  2. 末っ子長男姉三人
    Quality: ★★★★
    Enjoyment: ★★★★
    Ease of understanding: ★★★★

  3. 金田一少年の事件簿N
    Quality: ★★½
    Enjoyment: ★★★
    Ease of understanding: ★★★★

  4. おしゃ家ソムリエおしゃ子
    Quality: ★★★
    Enjoyment: ★★★★
    Ease of understanding: ★★★★

  5. 消えた初恋
    Quality: ★★★½
    Enjoyment: ★★★
    Ease of understanding: ★★★★½

  6. 恋です
    Quality: ★★★★
    Enjoyment: ★★★½
    Ease of understanding: ★★★★

  7. ミステリと言う勿れ
    Quality: ★★★★
    Enjoyment: ★★★★
    Ease of understanding: ★★★

  8. おいハンサム
    Quality: ★★★★½
    Enjoyment: ★★★★½
    Ease of understanding: ★★★½

  9. 未満警察 ミッドナイトランナー
    Quality: ★★½
    Enjoyment: ★★
    Ease of understanding: ★★★½

  10. 初めて恋をした日に読む話
    Quality: ★★★½
    Enjoyment: ★★★★½
    Ease of understanding: ★★★★

  11. 俺の可愛いはもうすぐ消費期限
    Quality: ★★★
    Enjoyment: ★★★½
    Ease of understanding: ★★★★

  12. 大豆田とわ子と三人の元夫
    Quality: ★★★★
    Enjoyment: ★★★★
    Ease of understanding: ★★★½

  1. 絶対BLになる世界VS絶対BLになりたくない男
    Quality: ★★★
    Enjoyment: ★★½
    Ease of understanding: ★★★★

  2. アニマルズ
    Quality: ★★★½
    Enjoyment: ★★★★½
    Ease of understanding: ★★★★

  3. 着飾る恋には理由があって
    Quality: ★★★★
    Enjoyment: ★★★
    Ease of understanding: ★★★½

  4. 未来への10カウント
    Quality: ★★★½
    Enjoyment: ★★★★
    Ease of understanding: ★★★½

  5. 30までにとうるさくて
    Quality: ★★★
    Enjoyment: ★★★½
    Ease of understanding: ★★★★

  6. リバース
    Quality: ★★★½
    Enjoyment: ★★
    Ease of understanding: ★★½

  7. 30歳まで童貞だと魔法使いになれるらしい
    Quality: ★★★★
    Enjoyment: ★★★
    Ease of understanding: ★★★★

  8. -50kgのシンデレラ
    Quality: ★★
    Enjoyment: ★★
    Ease of understanding: ★★★★

I gave up on audiobooks early in the year, so that goal is kaput. For my variety show watching, I aimed for 250 and made it over 150, which I’ll take as a win. It’s been quite a year and every bit of Japanese enjoyed deserves celebration. :heart:

For 2023, I’ll probably aim for 20 dramas again. I’ve hit that for a couple of years and it feels about right. I might not make any other listening goals, but we’ll see.


I admire your ability to actually finish dramas. I’m very good at starting, very bad at finishing. This is perhaps why my listening goals are only hour based :joy:


Oh no, I am also very bad at finishing dramas, lol. That is why I have to make it a goal or else I’ll just leave everything in-progress for ages~


I started a rewatch of the first season of 今際の国のアリス since the second season dropped, and I want the first season fresh in my mind for it. Also pretty good Japanese practice, since I think last time I was still watching with English subs (was in the no Japanese learning phase).

Anyone else hyped for the second season?


Just looked this up - looks interesting! Hope the second season is good, too.

And good job on being able to watch without English subtitles! That’s awesome progress.


I watched a movie:

恐山の女 (An Innocent Witch)

At some point a while back I put a handful of queues together in my backlog system just looking for any Japanese movies on the Criterion Channel that looked at all interesting, and this happened to be at the top of one and get drawn.
It’s a 1965 movie that coincidentally has the same star as Pigs and Battleships which I watched recently: Jitsuko Yoshimura, who seems to get cast as young women enduring being born into extremely low class environments. In keeping with that, here she’s sold to a brothel in the city to support her poor disabled parents in the countryside, and the movie starts with her mother mourning her before it flashes back, so you know things aren’t going to work out great.
The plot ends up pretty contrived, with the central thing being that through no fault of her own, coincidentally and (initially) unwittingly, a father and two sons each separately fall in love with her before dying in unrelated circumstances, giving her the reputation of a cursed woman, and she’s ultimately killed by a priest in a purification ceremony (hence the English title). I think there’s something to that, especially the way that the movie has all of the actual violence done by institutional power structures (the army, religious authorities, etc.) with the protagonist getting 100% of the blame anyway. And Yoshimura’s performance I think is very good. But I feel like the movie is lacking… something, that keeps it from being great. It’s the kind of movie that rests entirely on portraying one single character’s arc, and that’s fine (recently I saw Cool Hand Luke and that’s a movie I would name as an example of something that works the same way that I mean here, but executes it very well), but it means that when important beats along that arc don’t really work, it’s a pretty big problem. Here the main thing I especially struggled with is the stated “hey everyone’s gossiping about you because my dad and my brother were both your patrons and then both suddenly died - let’s loudly pretend that I’m your patron too for a while, so that when I don’t suddenly die, everyone will have to stop gossiping” plan, which is a terrible plan that makes no sense and goes as well as you would expect (terribly), and I guess the idea is fate + people’s natural attractions paper over any logical gaps there, but it feels to me like the original author of the novel must just have had the specific configuration in mind before arranging how it came about, and then that wasn’t translated gracefully to movie form. It could have used something more natural to fill out the movie.

Yoshimura wasn’t the only actor with connections to stuff I watched recently - it seems like pretty much everyone was in some way (I guess that’s what happens with this many movies), but the most interesting cases to me are 菅井きん plays the mom here, and she’s been in tons of similar roles, but especially notable to me is she’s the grandmother in The Funeral! And 殿山泰司 must be a sleazy-typed character actor or something since I recognized him from a similar role in A Haunted Turkish Bathhouse (another brothel-based movie).

I watched this with English subtitles but thought I did a pretty good job at keeping up with both the audio and generally reading the subtitles too.

And finished a show!

仮面ライダー (Kamen Rider)

This stretched over a very long time, as this first Kamen Rider series has 98 episodes! Although, I imagine if it went with the American fixation on “seasons” it would span probably 4-5 production blocks, since there was quite a bit of shaking things up every so often.

The series starts out with the first Kamen Rider, Takeshi Hongo, then abruptly he leaves and is swapped out with a new Kamen Rider, Hayato Ichimonji, and he’s got the show for a while with a new FBI buddy, Taki, then Hongo’s back and they share the spotlight for a bit, then it’s the Hongo and Taki show for a while, etc. The one stalwart throughout is Akiji Kobayashi as Tachibana, the proprietor of the motorcycle the protagonists belong to and hang out in, which I was happy to see, since I recognized him from both Ultraman and Operation: Mystery!

Early on, I remember some initial lipservice being paid to like, “Kamen Rider has been made into a cyborg by the villains and now he must walk a lonely road protecting us all!!” - like I remember one scene I think where he was sad and frustrated as his bionic arms were too strong to pet a cat or something like that. But it’s the kind of pulp adventure story series where the hero quickly accumulates a gang of friendly helpers, from the ones I mentioned already, to a group of young women, and by the end of the show a whole squad of officially designated and uniformed child helpers with like carrier pigeon relays and stuff. So the loneliness aspect is quickly jettisoned and honestly a lot of the best parts of the show are just like, Hongo and Taki motoring around as 70s dudes being 70s bros together.

With this many episodes, and without the elaborate special moves and transformation sequences and bright colors of Himitsu Sentai Goranger (which came later) or the “an episode could be anything” feeling of Ultrman… the formula could get a little tiring. This feels the most like a pulp superhero adventure show out of any of the tokusatsu I’ve watched by far, and it’s got a whole lot of like, people getting turned into skeletons or getting dissolved via unconvincing but extremely charming special effects (which I am always in favor of), and while I think of this kind of show as “let’s all fight in a quarry” tokusatsu, one definite strength is I suppose since Kamen Rider doesn’t really have special moves based on explosions going off, they fight in a ton of interesting locations, like there’s a lot of fights on bridges or over waterfalls, or shrines in the woods, or industrial buildings etc.
But it’s tough for individual especially good episodes to stand out when they’re all ultimately “Kamen Rider uncovers a plot by ショッカー to do something sinister and tracks it down to fight their goons, this week’s animal-based boss bad guy, and blow up their HQ of the week.”

In the first half or so of the show, I got pretty worn down by that, and was struggling to muster the motivation to keep watching episodes - which is bad since I watch these while exercising, so it meant I was losing motivation to exercise at all.
But a few things completely ameliorated this and revived my enthusiasm: I got wireless earbuds to hear the dialogue better while exercising and not worry about constant explosions bleeding through the walls into the next apartment, I got a fancy tv upgrade that really highlighted how good the show looks, and most of all, I experimented with exercising first thing in the morning instead of in the afternoon after work like I had been doing (as a relic of when I had a commute + again out of self consciousness about the loud explosions) and… it was immediately way way better!
In the afternoon, Kamen Rider didn’t fit at all because after work I wanted to do something fun and interesting, and it made me want to watch something a bit less repetitive and (to put it harshly) vapid… but in the morning, those things were strengths! Because it tapped into the latent commuting part of my brain, and in the same way you don’t go “I’m gonna experiment and go a completely different route on my commute today!”, I was perfectly happy to just have a couple episodes of Kamen Rider be the routine until the end. It’s a really fun routine!

For particular standout elements, one thing I appreciated a lot was how a standard ショッカー minion’s uniform includes a luchador mask and wrestling championship belt, along with a custom patch for the main villain of the week (they must go through a lot of patches…)

I’m actually really curious if perhaps the Mexican luchador movies, like the ones starring El Santo, were a major influence maybe. I haven’t seen any of those (yet!) but the basic structure of a Kamen Rider story is pretty much exactly how I imagine those being.

My favorite ショッカー underboss was 死神博士, who I feel like should surely be localized as “Dr. Dracula”

An episode villain I remember standing out to me for some reason was the moss-themed カビビンガ

The ミミズ one being both a worm and apparently filled with worms as well, is something I found strangely upsetting

Best name prize goes to the starfish-themed ヒトデンジャー

Quite late in the series though, a great move is pulled where regular ショッカー is replaced with ゲルショッカー, and to tell how the new group is a bigger deal than the old group, instead of being themed around just ONE animal, all of their villain cyborgs are bizarre amalgamations of TWO animals, like Jellyfish Wolf

or イソギンジャガー (whose episode was my favorite and directed by Shotaro Ishinomori himself!)

A lot of these are confusing from a strategy perspective – like what qualities were you hoping to gain by combining a venus flytrap and a bee to make ハエトリバチ??

but that just increases the fun of the outlandish designs.

Also, again I can’t overemphasize enough how for people being turned into skeletons on shows like this I am.

Oh, also, when the big bad head honcho was finally revealed in the last episode, I thought the multistep reveal and final form was suitably fun and intimidating!

I watched all of these with no subtitles while exercising and don’t recall having any problems.


Been neglecting listening/watching lately, so not much progress. I’m hoping to focus more attention on that in 2023.

I watched Blue Period, Komi S2 and Cowboy Bebop. As well as the Cowboy Bebop movie. Was surprised how well I did with bebop considering there were no subs involved. I liked blue period the most. Also watched Old Enough! and the way of the househusband live action, these were short episodes and very good.


Thanks everyone! Per the poll, I made a new thread here! And did not include a wiki post for tracking stuff. :open_mouth:
Feel free to migrate over there in the new year if you got anything out of this thread, or if you didn’t!

And happy new year / congratulations on any and all progress! I know I feel like my listening comprehension got a lot more like, “casually pretty good,” if that makes sense, this year. Probably from all the movies and wrestling and whatnot! :smile: