Extensive listening thread 👂 (2023)

Inspired by the extensive reading challenge, here is the extensive listening challenge thread!

This is a place to make goals and/or talk about anything related to listening comprehension. If we practice listening more now, we’ll be able to understand more later, right? You decide what the medium is (anime, dramas, podcasts, etc) and what your subtitle method is (native language, Japanese, none at all).

Feel free to use this thread to introduce yourself and your goals, to discuss what you’re watching and listening to, and/or to describe any particular difficulties or triumphs when it comes to Japanese listening comprehension. Giving or requesting recommendations for material is also encouraged. There are also other threads about listening material on the forums, with a recent one being here.

Spoilers welcome so long as you tag them.

Super long discussions could go in one of these

like this.

Previous threads: 2021, 2022

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Previous year’s versions of this thread have used the “challenge” framing, and had a wiki post for tracking stuff you watched or listened to…

… But this year’s doesn’t!
Just relax and listen to stuff! And post here about what it was you listened to or how it went if you would like to!
(but you can feel free to make a post to track things yourself, and I’m posting this as a second post in case there’s a clamor to wikify it and make it into a tracker again)

If it’s got spoken word (or I suppose sung word or text-to-speechified word, etc.) involved in it somehow, I feel like it counts as “listening.”

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My music player has several tracks of "free talk"s from various Drama CDs. So, on my daily commute to work, interspersed with what is mostly Japanese sung music, I get to listen to seiyuus chatting about various stuff. ^>^

It could be reflections about their role in the drama CD, but often it turns much more personal. They’re often given questions to read and answer, which vaguely connect to the story somehow. It could be about if they feel any kind of kinship with their character, about various life experiences they’ve had or just something as simple as their favorite food.

What I love about it, is being shown a glimpse of seiyuus real personalities and hear their real voices, with no tweaking to push it higher or lower, making it more gruff or smooth etc. Just being themselves. :slight_smile: it often helps you better understand how they’re attacking a role and giving it life I feel. ^^

And, you also get a much better understanding of the different dynamics between actors. :eyes: Some are clearly quite tense and having a hard time with this sort of thing, others are relaxed and constantly joking among themselves. It never fails to put a smile on my face though. XD

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Listening and speaking are my two weakest areas. But I’m partially deaf, so I try to extend myself some grace.

My two go-to things for practice are Japanese With Noriko and YouTube’s trending page. I used to listen to NHK during my commute, but then they disabled international access. I still miss it.

I also do italki lessons. It took ages to talk myself into it, but I’m really fond of my tutor as a teacher and person. I only meet with her once every two-ish weeks, but even that’s been great. I’m thinking about getting several more, just to diversify my practice.

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It’s hard to plan that far into the future when I am learning. Also, I don’t think I would track everything.

Medium Goal Subtitles
Drama / anime series
12-13 EP = 1 series
0 / 5 Japanese
Movies 0 / 5 Japanese
Audiobooks 0 / 3 with text
Youtube > 20 min 0 / 30 perhaps no sub
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Happy new year, all! I was lurking a little bit in the last thread, and listening’s been on my to-do list for what feels like forever, so I’m going to try to make an effort to post here this year!

I probably (?) won’t be formally tracking anything, but I do have a few goals I’m aiming for this year:

  • Listen through Teppei’s archive of the first 700 intermediate podcast episodes he did. This one is the one I’m hoping to make a habit; something to dig into my brain until I can eventually drop it/finish it and still have my brain ping me with, “shouldn’t you go seek out some Japanese?”
  • Listening to the Flesh&Blood drama CDs with @ekg and friends! I’m a big fan of the book series, so I’m extremely excited to try the drama CDs out. My big goal with those is to get to the point where I can listen to and understand the free talk CDs ekg mentioned above, as well as the CDs with 外伝 story content. :eyes:

I’m hoping to intersperse my listening with more variety as the year rolls onward, but these are my two definite activities I want to focus on, if nothing else.

And so in that vein, I’m happy to report I started with Teppei yesterday and listened to episodes 1 & 2! My thoughts are to listen to two episodes per day; enough to build a habit, but not something that’s going to necessarily eat up all my time. I’m not incredibly sure how I want to handle sections/episodes that completely go over my head: try to transcribe them? Listen again several more times? Do nothing and go with the flow? All three options have their place and time; might just be a matter of where I’m at and what I’m doing at the time.

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I finished watching both seasons.
I had a ton of fun with it, though the quality is not consistent throughout the series. With 16 episodes over 2 seasons, I feel it was exactly the right length.
For those who don’t know what it is, think roughly along the lines of squid game to get a feel for it. I watched it in Japanese with Japanese subtitles.

Points I liked about 今際:

  • Starts off strong. Hooks you right with episode 1.
  • Games can be pretty creative, I would say I liked 80% of them. The queen of spades was stupid though and all games after weren’t as great.
  • Production value is top-notch. Especially enjoyable for people who have visited Tokyo at least once.
  • Finished story.
  • Can be enjoyed even if one doesn’t catch all the language. Though, enjoyment is enhanced the more one understands what’s happening in the games.

Points I wasn’t so fond off:

  • Some characters surviving all the time became a running gag for me. Seriously… (アグニ???)
  • Some characters were sometimes doing stupid stuff for the stories’ sake -.-.
  • Pacing wasn’t perfect. Mid season 1 and first episode season 2 as well as 6/7 felt a little off.
  • Needed a dictionary pretty regularly to understand everything that was going on ^^. This is more of a problem in season 2.

Favorite Characters:
チシヤ, ミラ I liked it whenever they were on screen ^^.

Would love to talk smack with spoilers about the series if somebody else watched it and has opinions. So feel free to write down your own thoughts about the series please!

Overall, I would recommend everybody to watch it. If you can stomach a little gore (has 16 age rating) and darker stories, it can be quite the enjoyable watch.

Now I need something more mellow, though. Me thinks I should get on the Bochi the Rock hype train :smiley:

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I saw netflix added a mix of episodes of はじめておつかい!under season 2. So I’ll be watching those here and there.

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I watched a bunch of movies!

続・座頭市物語

This is the second Zatoichi movie (2 Zato 2 1?). Released less than a year after the first, and barely over an hour long, with 20+ sequels to follow it, I didn’t really have incredibly high expectations for this being more than a quick retread. But overall I was pleasantly surprised! In particular, I fully expected the story to just be an additional self-contained episode in the wandering life of Zatoichi, but other characters turn up to, like he goes back and meets the love interest he dodged at the end of the first movie, and I particularly like that if I remember right there’s a scene at a lake where he pines for the guy he met and bonded with and killed in a duel in the first movie.

It’s a fine samurai movie in its own right too, with this whole thing involving a brother who’s both Zatoichi’s older brother, and played by Tomisaburo Wakayama of the Lone Wolf and Cub movies, who is the older brother of Shintaro Katsu, Zatoichi’s brother. That’s pretty neat! And I remember some good scenes with both of them.

I do feel though like it feels a notch or two less special than the first movie, which I suppose is to be expected. In particular, I feel like Zatoichi is much more of a standard samurai action hero in terms of his swordsmanship, where I remember the first movie getting a lot of especially cool mileage out of him being specifically like, an unsheathing artist, so duels would end in one slash. Here he’s fighting hordes of dudes all over the place with plenty of slashes.

I watched the movie without subtitles, and while there were definitely a handful of plot details I didn’t really pick up on (I wasn’t sure if the two characters were literally brothers or not, and I didn’t pick up on exactly the reason people were trying to kill Zatoichi), when I read a synopsis afterward I at least could clearly remember which scenes conveyed that information and could slot in the new information perfectly well (sort of like the listening equivalent of like, unknown words in a text being clearly identifiable as such instead of just not understanding the whole thing perhaps?) so I suppose that’s a victory of sorts anyhow.


ゴジラ・モスラ・キングギドラ 大怪獣総攻撃

As 2000s Godzilla movies go so far, I thought this one was especially interesting! It’s the most outright malicious Godzilla has been portrayed in a very long time, and it’s a very solid kaiju disaster movie in those terms, with the human characters and plenty of other monsters trying to stop the extremely intimidating threat of Godzilla.

It’s also interesting that it uses a lot more like, Shinto / Japan folklore type elements than I’ve seen a Godzilla movie do before, with the birth of a handful of other guardian monsters triggered by like, various cliches of disruptive people in modern Japanese society (暴走族 etc.) knocking over statues at shrines and stuff, and also I didn’t fully catch it while watching originally, but at one point Godzilla is said to be like, embodying the vengeful souls of everybody on all sides who died in WW2. It came across by the end as a bit jingoistic to me, but I guess that’s in line with how disaster movies around this time were in general.

The reconfiguration of the monsters to put them all in opposition to an actively malicious Godzilla rankles with me a little bit… King Ghidorah’s not a good three-headed dragon from Earth! He’s an evil three-headed dragon from space, dammit! But I mean, it’s not really a big deal (and a movie with a three-headed dragon of any kind in it is surely better for it I think we can all agree on that). I do also think it’s very funny that Baragon is just dropped from the over-descriptive title (but also agree that Baragon is notably less cool than Godzilla, Mothra, or King Ghidorah).

Anyway, the stuff with the human protagonists works particularly well here, with a plucky reporter and her military general dad being a good throughline through the monster goings on. It ends up a very fun monster movie!


女番長 野良猫ロック

I’ve already seen Meiko Kaji in the later Female Prisoner Scorpion and Lady Snowblood series, and liked them a lot, so now it’s Stray Cat Rock!

I enjoyed it a lot! It’s got a super fun 1970 girl gang aesthetic, with Akiko Wada being extremely cool as this very tall, androgynously dressed biker, and I also really appreciate that like… Meiko Kaji gets to play, like, an actual human with relatable emotions for once? Like Female Prisoner Scorpion and Lady Snowblood are both very cool and all – but they’re definitely much more like, grim specters of revenge than they are people you would ever meet in real life (Lady Snowblood’s backstory in particular makes her entire life from birth 100% devoted to revenge), whereas here she’s a girl in this small time gang whose boyfriend screws up real bad. She definitely still does lots of piercing stares though, it is Meiko Kaji after all. Other performances I enjoyed: Ken Sanders has one of the more fully fleshed out roles I’ve seen for a non-Japanese actor in a movie like this. And I half convinced myself that Goro Mutsumi playing the villain might be a young Takeshi Kitano because of how much threatening, expressionless glowering he does.

The movie has some fun stylistic flourishes, with things like emotional moments highlighted by a solid color cutout surrounding the actor’s face. They aren’t nearly as over the top as what would be in a later movie, but they’re still pretty fun! One particularly odd one is whenever a date is given in an establishing shot, it’s like – flashes rapidly on the screen, cutting between the establishing shot and the date in a disorienting way.

I also appreciate that there’s relatively little exploitation movie type content (at least in this first movie), bar an unpleasant torture scene or two.

The movie’s climax involves a chase between a motorcycle and a very small car weaving through the city streets which I enjoyed very much.

I watched this one without subtitles and I feel like I understood what was going on fine even if I didn’t pick up on every word of dialogue.


姿三四郎

This is Akira Kurosawa’s directorial debut, and I wasn’t sure what to expect going in, but I enjoyed it a whole lot!! Like Castle of Cagliostro with Miyazaki which I watched recently – it feels a bit like definitely a fully fledged movie of the director, even if the subject material isn’t fully what you would expect from their later work.

Sanshiro Sugata is about the rise of judo and its clashes with the established jujutsu, which I don’t know much about but provides a fine martial arts story with a Meiji era background that I LOVE. There’s something a little magical about watching a movie from 80 years ago, that itself is portraying a time 60 years before that. Like, the movie being temporally closer to the time portrayed despite both gaps being so large makes it somehow feel like you’re getting an even closer view of that farther back time than you really are. And period piece elements like Sugata’s mustachioed, extremely Meiji-era-looking rival are just very fun.

There’s a ton of cool touches in the movie as well. I love for example, there’s a series of shots conveying time is passing after the first main brawl where like, a discarded geta is shown as it lingers on the side of the road, exposed to the elements, eventually falling in the river and drifting away. Or there’s the extremely windswept hillside setting of the main final fight, which looks extremely cool (reminding me a bit of a later, similarly cool hillside fight, the snowy one in The Chinese Boxer). And there’s emotionally rich scenes like Sugata demonstrating his commitment to learning by hanging on to a stick submerged in a pond, until a lotus blooms in front of him, or a good scene where he and a possible love interest converse on some stairs in town.

I was surprised how much I enjoyed it despite its intimidating age (and trimmed runtime due to war-time censors). And Takashi Shimura is even there! I guess it really is a Kurosawa movie.

I watched this with English subtitles I couldn’t turn off, and I think I might have been able to understand what was going on without them?


プロメア

I recall this making quite a stir when it was out in theaters, and so this is my finally getting around to watch it after that.

I can certainly see why it made an impact! The action is often dazzling, and the characters and a particular duo in particular seem very geared towards fandom tastes. It’s a neat and tidy package and I enjoyed it.

… I felt quite unengaged with the story though. I feel like they hit the (pretty familiar) beats they needed to perfectly fine, but they left no room at all for world or character building outside of those beats. So like the protagonist gets to go from naively trusting the authority figure → to questioning him → to having conflicted feelings about him → to the authority figure definitely 100% discarding him and being flagged as the outright villain for sure in just like, A to B to C steps. The settings and setpieces in the path of the main plot are well-designed to be cool, but they don’t feel like they exist in any meaningful way outside of that path. There’s also a crucial plot beat that occurs entirely be happenstance and the characters admit. None of that’s necessarily wrong! And it suits the flash of the movie in some ways. But it does remind me of, for example, a stylistically great graphic novel I would check out from the library on a whim, read it and enjoy it and turn it in, and then never think about it again. Not a bad outcome by any means but certainly not as fun as discovering something that grabs me completely.

I watched this with English subtitles I couldn’t turn off, and the freneticism and frequency of in-universe lingo meant that I didn’t try all that hard to avoid looking at them, and mostly did that “half paying attention to the subtitles, half to the audio” scheme.

This completes a queue of five in my backlog system, of Perfect Blue, Mirai, Your Name, A Letter to Momo, and Promare. All fine and well made, but it’s A Letter to Momo all the way for me out of those five! I should probably replace it with another queue of modern anime movies, but I’m not sure if I have enough I’ve been meaning to get around to to fill one at the moment.


…And a couple of tv shows!

ウルトラマンレオ

This is the 7th “Ultra” show and the last one in the second generation of Ultraman shows in the early 70s.

After Ultraman Taro, I remember feeling that Ultraman had probably settled into a formula, but right out of the gate this show felt the most distinct in terms of tone out of any of them so far, with a much grimmer tone, action clearly heavily inspired by kung fu movies, and a grizzled Ultraseven (or rather, Moroboshi Dan) returning to fill the role of mentor figure for the new protagonist (where previously, characters from previous shows generally only ever returned in a fantasy, “Ultra Brothers” type of context). A lot of those first handful of episodes are tense fighting against overcast skies and rain, karate training montages, or aliens murdering people. I was especially scandalized by one of the first episodes showing onscreen the bisected corpse of a kindly old man, guardian to a couple of kids who watched him die.

That first run of episodes really really hit that “aliens are a threat to everyone you love and will show up to kill people and only you can stop them, Leo” angle, to kind of a ridiculous degree. I remember one episode in particular where the lesson for Leo was essentially that he needs to be EVER VIGILANT against threats to the women in his life, and the episode ends with him trying to do karate on a bee that was buzzing around them. Moroboshi Dan’s lessons that he instills in Leo are very harsh and usually accompanied with attacking him with his crutch in some way.

Still though, I found myself really appreciating the coherence of this tone and the strength of the supporting cast around the protagonist. All Ultraman shows I’ve seen involve a protagonist who’s Ultraman’s secret identity, and he’s a part of this like, kaiju fighting force that for whatever reason always has a different name in every show, usually an acronym (in this case it’s MAT), and those fellow squadmembers are usually the main supporting cast for the show. Here though, Except for Dan as the leader, none of the MAT members are consequential at all, and they even end up as redshirts a handful of times. And I think that’s honestly a good thing, as it lets the protagonist, Ootori Gen, have an actual human personal life with a more full cast than in any of these shows I’ve seen before (not saying that much) – he spends a lot of time at an athletic club, and he and his sorta girlfriend are like, surrogate mothers basically for these two kids who got orphaned, tying into Gen’s own backstory where he’s really an alien from a planet that got destroyed by an alien force. And so anyway, I think the storylines dealing with those two kids, and the relatively complex depictions of like, emotionally processing that bleack backstory, are some of the strengths of the show and work well alongside all the karate and alien murderers and stuff.

… But I did find myself worrying that EVERY episode was going to a bleak miniature action movie with alien murder and a karate training sequence. After all, one of the things I love about Ultraman (in contrast to the Toei Sentai/Kamen Rider shows from what I’ve seen), is that there’s really no set structure or topic for an episode other than Ultraman will presumably show up and fight something at the end. Other than that, episodes can be about anything, and can very wildly in town, and that grab bag aspect makes it super fun to go into a new episode not knowing at all what to expect. And it worried me a bit that it seemed like I could expect a Leo episode to be a harrowing ordeal put on Gen that he has to train to overcome with karate, every time.

The second generation of Ultraman shows have trained me to suspect that the end of a show was probably going to end with a very different tone and setup compared to the beginning, though. And yep! The show starts heavily lightening up, with a goofy episode involving a slapstick character inflating like a balloon, and a bit later with a long line of folktale-inspired stories that are definitely some of my favorite episodes in the show. From that point on, the bleak action content is a lot more in the background, with the grab bag appeal of Ultraman fully in force.

And then there’s the sudden, wild mid season pivot, which again – I’ve kind of come to expect at this point, otherwise I would have been more shocked and upset about it. The whole supporting cast except Gen and the boy he was taking care of (including the sports center friends, apparently all of MAT and Ultraseven, the sorta girlfriend, and the little girl) are all killed off by a flying saucer alien, and then for the rest of the show (~10 episodes or so? Maybe like the last fifth) Gen and the boy are adopted by a nurse and her family of two other girls, and so the supporting cast is completely rearranged and every episode is about Leo fighting additional flying saucer enemies.
I don’t know anything at all about the production of these shows (someday I will have to find books to read about it), and I’m so so curious what goes into a choice like this. I assumed with previous second-generation Ultraman shows that it was probably like, the studio deciding between production schedules to pivot in a different direction or something, and that probably is the likeliest scenario still? But so much went into the tone of the start of the show being coherent this time around, and the way the cast is killed off deliberately and effectively evokes families looking over the list of confirmed dead following air raids, that it does make me wonder if there’s an intentional arc behind it. Since if there is – it does seem like there’s something potentially interesting to explore about how ultimately all the tough love lessons drilled into Gen weren’t enough to ensure that his loved ones wouldn’t randomly be killed, and at the end of the show he does seem a lot happier with a mother figure who shows actual warmth, than he was with the always cold and demanding father figure of Dan. Still seems like an intense and unhappy (especially about the little girl) way of showing that arc if it is coherent like that – but in this particular time period I have to imagine the war factors a lot into how the creators of the show are portraying masculinity and childrens’ development in a show like this, so it’s hard to be like “seems a bit intense and sad huh” about it when like… well yeah, clearly unimaginably intense and sad things happen while people are growing up, huh.

So anyway, it’s an interesting show! I think of the second-generation Ultraman shows, it’s probably my favorite? But that could 100% just be because of the nicer setup I have now with the wireless earbuds and new tv and stuff. I watched the whole show while exercising and got through it pretty much as fast as possible that way (roughly a month), which shows I was engaged enough to consistently exercise to it.

I watched the show without subtitles and did not have major problems.

In general the first three Ultra shows: Ultra Q, Ultraman, and Ultraseven, are total classics that I’d recommend to absolutely anybody to at least give a shot and see if you like it.
And the second-generation of Return of Ultraman, Ultraman Ace, Ultraman Taro, and Ultraman Leo, are all still very good, very fun shows with a ton of varied things on offer, but they’ve definitely each got less of a cohesive classic feel and feel more like slightly flawed additional fun things to definitely check out if you’ve established you like Ultraman. (It’s extremely cool that all are readily available to English language markets).

Some especially memorable episodes:

I loved the 一寸法師 inspired episode ウルトラマンキング対魔法使い which introduces Ultraman King and involves fun tiny Ultraman Leo effects and a villainous wizard!

There’s a couple of fun throwback episodes right after that, where Dan gets closure with his love interest from Ultraseven, and then actors from the original Ultraman play different characters.

I really liked the spooky one where the little girl gets lured by a mirror-themed alien.

And I LOVE the blood red parasiticてるてる坊主 in an episode near the end.
image


美少女戦士セーラームーンR

Parallel to Ultraman Leo, I got in the habit of using a time slot for watching a tv show while not exercising (which isn’t something I’ve done very often in the past, but I wanna since I mean, there are shows I want to watch that aren’t gonna get watched otherwise), and watched Sailor Moon R! The second series/season/whatever of Sailor Moon (the first of which I watched a few years ago or so while exercising, before I was turning off subtitles in a show like this). I was in the mood one night for something light and fun to watch where I wouldn’t have problems understanding it, and watched a couple of episodes of this and enjoyed it a lot and ended up watching the whole series at about the same pace as Ultraman Leo.

Sailor Moon’s a lot of fun! And this is definitely more Sailor Moon. Neon, transformations, sinister forces absorbing girls’ life force, goofy comedy, etc. The first show ended with plenty of closure, and that is hastily done away with here within an episode or two. I haven’t read more than a volume of Sailor Moon the manga (yet) so I’m not sure if any of this follows the manga or not.

R covers two arcs: the first is short and is pretty much exactly what I was in the mood for at the time – a pretty simple and light-hearted storyline where two aliens turn up and cause trouble, but their secret identities attend school and provide enough fish out of water comedy that it’s telegraphed very directly that they’re going to get redeemed. The second arc involves a small child who looks suspiciously similar to Usagi and has a robot Luna helper thingy so everyone calls her Chibiusa and she gets injected into Usagi’s life like Dawn in that one season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (huh, come to think of it, that show was probably just cribbing off of Sailor Moon a lot of the time…). And anyway it’s presented kind of strangely because it’s a very very weird circumstance but no one really has any good guesses for why it’s happening so the only obvious possible explanation – that she’s Usagi and Mamoru’s kid from the future – is, well, yeah, that one is the one that turns out to be explanation. Genuinely what else would explain any of that? and anyway that’s the emotional core of that second chunk, which builds as you would expect to various battles against evil. Chibiusa took a while to grow on me, but I guess she’s okay.

Overall, I’m personally very neutral on like, Sailor Moon cosmology, so when things start getting intense and involve magic backstories and explanations of who exactly the different invading aliens are, I’m a little not interested. But I really enjoy the sillier episodes, especially the ones that focus on one or two of the girls interacting with the others, like the one where Venus is trying to take care of the others while they’re sick but she’s very bad at it, or any episode focusing on Sailor Mercury. I’m also a sucker for the protagonists repeatedly converting secondary bad guys over to their side.

I’d like to watch the next series, Sailor Moon S, but it will probably be a similarly long gap before I get to it. I do definitely hope to keep the non-exercising tv-watching timeslot open though for other things…
I watched Sailor Moon R without subtitles and had no major problems. (I feel like occasionally zoning out was a bigger threat to understanding than language knowledge)

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Just finished the first episode of My Beautiful Man 美しい彼 and I am not a fan of him as yet. I will continue with the show to see both of their character development and it is an interesting show. Watched with Language Reactor and Japanese subs and understood maybe 80% because of course there’s grammar I don’t know and LR sometimes highlights wrong bits so you miss some vocab too.

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Wrote this over on Natively but sharing here as well:

JFF released new independant films streaming from today on their website here: https://jff.jpf.go.jp/watch/independent-cinema/film-lineup/

From past experience I know it won’t work in some places (notably Japan as its meant as a tourism initiative I think?) but in unrelated news, VPNs can make it appear you’re browsing the web from a different location than you are.

In the Distance and Drive into Night are the ones that appeal to me - any that you all are thinking of watching? :popcorn:

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I watched some movies!

マルサの女 (A Taxing Woman)

I was so thoroughly charmed by The Funeral and Tampopo, that pretty much any movie with Juzo Itami’s peculiarly charming writing and direction, and leads Nobuko Miyamoto and Tsutomu Yamazaki was just kind of inherently going to be a hit, and so A Taxing Woman (appropriately about another famously inextricably ordinary life experience after movies about death and food: taxes) was thoroughly enjoyable to me even though I have a hard time pointing to exactly why. It’s fun to follow this tax cop as she attempts to catch out this tax fraudster, in a way sort of reminiscent of Fargo in that like – using the form of a movie that’s usually about more serious or grandiose things, to show a more ordinary and goofy kind of cat and mouse game – sort of way. I didn’t necessarily feel intensely drawn into how it all plays out though. The relationship it sketches between the two leads is interesting, although I’m not sure exactly what to make of it – I suppose that it speaks to Yamazaki’s character using romance as a way to control women and stay ahead of the law, while Miyamoto’s character’s disinterest in responding to that, and sober motherliness with respect to his kid speaks to the seriousness that lets her be his undoing? Or something like that? (it has been a bit since I saw the movie). And the movie plays with the like, sense of justice vs. needless irritation that this tax enforcement means for people, in interesting and strange ways like the odd scene where the lady is made to strip as the male tax agents are sure she’s hidden secret profits away somewhere on her person. But overall it’s just a really enjoyable time anyway I thought. Beginning with a strange mirror of Tampopo, in a way.

One mistake I made: I made sure to do my taxes before watching the movie, because I thought vaguely I’d feel guilty if I didn’t… but the main musical theme used throughout the movie comes across as “doing tax fraud” montage music, and it would have been a lot more fun doing my taxes with that in the background! Oh well!

I watched this with Japanese subtitles and still didn’t do amazingly great at following the exact intricacies of the various tax machinations involved.


プロジェクトA子 (Project A-Ko)

I didn’t really know anything concrete about this going in – I get the impression that it was a major touchstone for a particular generation of anime fans well before my time in any adjacent scene.

It’s pretty fun! I enjoyed it. It’s light and kinda dumb and 100% not trying to be anything it isn’t, and it’s a pretty good time! About a sort of gay love triangle between the super-strong-for-no-reason A-ko, the sweet but always out of it C-ko who’s her best friend, and the jealous B-ko trying to split them apart and have C-ko to herself via mech warfare. And there’s… aliens? I think? If I’m remembering right?

The best part is definitely the good nature, where possible villains tend to end up pals, or at least not serious enough to be actual villains, and even the A-ko/B-ko rivalry seems more like part of a weird triangular relationship than exactly a negative thing.

Not all of it ages great – there’s one of those “female character with the build and voice acting of a muscular male character” designs I never ever like – and it takes a certain level of endurance for… stereotypically anime things and (nearly) all that implies, since in a lot of ways it feels a bit like The General Idea of What Anime Is: The Movie.

I’m seen comparisons specifically to Kill La Kill as something directly inspired by this, which makes sense.

There’s a number of sequels I will also likely check out at some point.

I watched this without subtitles and I think it went just fine.


晩春 (Late Spring)

This is my second Ozu, after Tokyo Story. This one comes before that, but they’re definitely very linked, in both starring Setsuko Hara and Chishu Ryu (and others) and depicting a normal, bittersweet part of life and the changing relationship between parent and child.

Just like that movie, I thought it was great! I watched this one with no subtitles at all, and while I don’t think I tracked all of the dialogue at all, I think mainly what I was missing out on are the small warm details and little jokes and humanity and stuff that fill these movies, rather than intricate plot details or anything like that, since it’s one that can be summed up quite succinctly: Hara’s character is a single woman who lives with her somewhat sickly father, and the movie is about him encouraging her to get married and leave for her own household.

There were times while watching, that my distance from that central dynamic - in temporal terms in the way that expectations put on women around marriage are much different now than they were then, as well as in personal terms in the way that I would not necessarily be inclined to view going for the marriage in this scenario as the right outcome - did produce distance to the work, moreso than with Tokyo Story (which deals with dynamics that I would say have certainly changed less over the years), but I think that what makes the movie work very well by the end is I don’t think it comes across as a conservative “this is the way we should live” sort of movie, so much as it is very focused depicting the mundane emotion in the ways that we do, in general, tend to live, and the strange mix of excitement and pain, encouragement and regret involved with that kind of nest-leaving (whether because of marriage or whatever else) is certainly I think a very relatable dynamic for many even today. An example of how it focuses in on that is the way that the potential husband is described but never actually shown – the future that Hara’s character is facing remains in all respects a complete unknown to the standpoint of the film.

I found myself a little jealous of the daughter and father’s relationship in the movie. Not that my relationship with my own father is bad at all – but some of the best scenes in the movie are emotional heart-to-heart talks. And the two characters clearly value their time with each other, and it’s not difficult to believe, even for the daughter’s perspective, because Chishu Ryu gives off such a warm feeling.

Without subtitles, I mentioned my listening comprehension wasn’t too great, but it was good enough to cry quite a lot at the ending so it can’t have been that bad. The very last shot with the father back home alone is a real heartbreaker - not because anything particularly bad is going to happen, not because anyone’s arguments earlier in the movie were invalid… just because of the inevitable passage of time, I suppose.

Looking online, it seems like I maybe accidentally two of Ozu’s most lauded to watch of his filmography first, which wasn’t necessarily my intention, but I’m pretty much on board for any of his work now.


狂猿 (KYO-EN: The Documentary of a man who SHINES IN BLOOD)

this is the Jun Kasai documentary! Kasai is a famous deathmatch pro wrestler, who I’m not the most familiar with in the world, but I’ve certainly loved at least one of his matches recently, and he seems like a cool dude.

The blu-ray actually comes with English subtitles (but no Japanese ones - which is odd for a Japanese movie, but I suppose come to think of it completely normal for Japanese pro wrestling videography), but I went without. Since it’s a documentary it’s all people talking normally, so I wouldn’t say that I understood all of it very well at all, but it held my attention at least.

It’s pretty all right! I wouldn’t say that the documentary has a huge like, story to it? In the sense that it’s mainly just following Kasai in his path in-ring and out, and outside of the ring Kasai seems like a pretty normal down to earth dude, even while in-ring he’s the crazy monkey everyone knows and loves.
What almost ends up the main story is it turns out it’s a COVID-era documentary, so we see the full arc from “looking forward to this tournament in America” to “travel plans are canceled…” to everything in wrestling being shutdown for a while, to slightly awkward bittersweet return matches with limited crowds. That makes it a definitely interesting artifact, although one that’s maybe a bit early to revisit…

One aspect of the movie that I found actually really strong, is the deathmatch footage itself. If you aren’t familiar with deathmatch wrestling (or maybe even if you are) this might be a ROUGH movie to watch in terms of violence, albeit via a weirdly different calculus than violence in both either fictional movies, or where the violence isn’t a consensual performance. There’s a lot of slow motion footage of a few matches, which definitely produces a lingering effect moreso than watching them live. There’s a bit in one where they both stick a sharp wire straight through both of their cheeks (I feel like I should blur that) and I still don’t really understand how the body will mainly just like, heal after that kind of thing. The wonders of nature!

There’s a bit of material about Kasai going to the doctor and his injuries, and some material about the psychology of what makes someone go be a deathmatch wrestler, but I wouldn’t necessarily say either is the focal point. I would say my takeaway from the movie is that Jun Kasai is… Jun Kasai, and all that implies, and there’s something of a triumph just to that fact that someone so peculiar and peculiarly inspiring can exist and be in a spotlight. The man really does shine in blood.

Since my listening comprehension was poor, (and I’m usually very bad at discerning this anyway) I wasn’t sure exactly where we’re at on the kayfabe-o-meter. In the talking heads portions where folks from Kasai’s past like Tomoaki Honma talked about his rise and stuff like that, I caught some ヤラセ type keywords, particularly in reference to non-deathmatch wrestling. And there’s plenty of stuff about Kasai getting booked for shows, and like, planning out what to bring and stuff. But on the other hand the footage for the climactic match feels somehow a bit like the climax in a regular sports movie, where the contender goes out and does his best win or lose. And I do feel like at least from what I’ve seen – I suppose because of the inherent violence of deathmatch wrestling, I feel like in the scene in some ways the cooperative spectacle is more overt. Like you might say you’re gonna kill the guy before the match, but if anyone actually thought you were trying to permanently, actively harm the other person with any of the many many weapons in the ring… like, the police would show up, right? The “we bleed in the ring together” element seems strong I guess is what I mean, and I’m not well-versed or good at listening enough to pick apart that from full-on breaking character.

Some of my favorite moments in the documentary were the smaller domestic scenes, like meeting Kasai’s mom, who has a whole bunch of his pictures up on the wall, or Kasai buying razor blades and then meticulously glueing them into a styrofoam board to use in the match later, sitting on the floor in his own home.

All in all, pretty neat, although I wouldn’t call it revelatory or necessary for watching if you don’t already know who Jun Kasai is.


激突! 殺人拳 (The Streetfighter)

This is an action movie starring Sonny Chiba, and it definitely leans very heavily on the “antihero” side of the equation for my taste (Chiba’s character is a giant piece of shit), but it’s definitely got cool elements and it pretty well won me over by the end.

I’ve seen a lot of Hong Kong kung fu movies recently, and so something I appreciated a lot is Chiba’s character is an expert in karate, and (although I’m absolutely no expert of any kind in martial arts) that different style feels like it makes its influence very much known in the fights, which are a lot less about fluid, stylized movements, and more about getting a good solid thwack in. The fight with the teacher in the middle of the movie showcases that well I think. Not necessarily related to karate as far as I know, but he’s also got these bracer things he uses in fights, and makes a lot of kinda odd poses and expressions (different from the ones say, Bruce Lee does) that are one of those things that I felt like weren’t cool at first but kinda warmed to.

It’s very much the particular kind of action movie that makes you go “oooooooo!!! that had to hurt!” a lot. One choice example (among a lot) is when Chiba hits a guy in the head and it full-on does a Mortal Kombat x-ray, with an effects shot showing the guy’s skull inside his head shattering. That may or may not sound fun based on that description, but it’s awfully fun.

Honestly… It’s pretty much just the violence of the movie that makes an impact, but it does make a hell of an impact. So there’s that.

This is one where I hadn’t heard of it until recently, but I get the impression it is or was a pretty big touchstone, and might be what Sonny Chiba’s most famous for.

I watched this without subtitles and I think it went fine.


東京フィスト (Tokyo Fist)

It’s a Shinya Tsukamoto movie! This is my first non-Tetsuo one of his (unless you count Utility Pole Boy), and I was a little bit unsure what to expect - would it just be a straightforward, maybe stylish drama?

I needn’t really have worried - it is 100% clear that the same person who directed Tetsuo directed this. The music… the body horror… the occasional bits of stop-motion… the general sense of modern malaise… Stylistically I was 100% on board and had a great time.

I’m a little bit unclear in retrospect story-wise though - part of that might definitely be that I watched it without subtitles and my listening comprehension isn’t great (although at least reading a summary on wikipedia didn’t reveal new broad insights that I missed), part of it might just be that it’s a bit of a strange movie.
I feel like I had a reading of it forming right after I watched it… I’m not sure I can call it back now, though. The trio at the heart of the movie, and some of the things they do to each other and how they end up, are certainly memorable, in any case.

Regardless, I enjoyed it quite a bit! And I look forward to watching more of Shinya Tsukamoto’s movies.


And a tv show!

ジャイアントロボ (Giant Robo)

This is the 1967 live action tokusatsu show, NOT the OVA series that I haven’t see but have heard extremely good things about.

I bought this as a Japanese DVD edition off of CD Japan, partly because talk of the OVA made me curious about Giant Robo in general (and I like tokusatsu enough to be down to watch pretty much anything of it), and also partly just because I wanted to see the giant eyeball on the DVD cover move around and stuff. The suit looks so good! Love that thing. And I’ve seen it referenced sometimes in anime, etc. as a famous tokusatsu monster too.

The show’s fun! It’s pretty much a kid’s spy show, with the centerpiece being the titular Giant Robo, who happens to only be controllable by our protagonist little boy, Daisaku, surrounded by various not-too-serious but action-packed espionage plots between the good guys, BF団, and the bad guys, led by ギロチン帝王. That spy tone gives it a fun, adventurous feel that’s a bit more playful than say, the slightly older / more action movie-ish tone of Kamen Rider. And I think the series really excels at having the kids in the show be along with the adventure. The little boy gets to be a full fledged agent, U7, and he’s joined by a little girl, U6, and while they tease each other a little bit, they’re both treated 100% like teammembers, to the point that there’s multiple cases where U6 grabs a gun from adults standing nearby and shoots the bad guy herself. Frankly - she gets more to do than most of the adult women on kaiju-fighting teams in UItraman! I think all that does a great job at presenting the adventure on the kids’ one terms - it feels a little bit like watching a make-believe session, where everyone is playing along with the kids on their grand adventure. It’s sweet!
A lot of credit should also go to the child actors as well, and the adult actors interacting with them. They all help build that tone.

And that giant eyeball is awfully good, although it doesn’t show up until the very end of the first DVD set and I was getting impatient… a weakness of the show is definitely that the monster designs can be a bit bland and primitive compared to later shows. You can see why ガンモンス is the poster child. But there’s some charm to them anyhow.

I watched the show while exercising, and because it’s a DVD outside my region, the logistics to watch it were a little more complicated, since I had to plug in the hdmi from my computer to the tv each time and couldn’t use a remote. So while initially I was very charmed with the show, and I ended up very charmed with the show, in the middle at times the logistics + the slight stuffiness and childishness of the show (versus later tokusatsu alternatives) did take their toll and I lost some momentum. But overall I really do think it’s a fun thing, and I’m happy to be able to access this kind of corner of the genre.

I did not have subtitles and I don’t think I had trouble understanding anything.


It seems cool, but my backlog system is pretty terrible at even months-long time limits :sweat_smile:

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