Entertainment

Ping Pong

Ping Pong

ping_pong_dvd

Ping Pong
Ping Pong

Year: 2002
Director: Fumihiko Masuri
Writer: Kankuro Kudo
Cast: Yosuke Kubozuka, Arata, Sam Lee Chan-Sam, Koji Okura, Shido Nakamura, Naota Takenaka, Mari Natsuki
The Skinny: Manga-based sports flick is a little disjointed, but the sure direction and quirky tone make this a winner. And when it’s ping pong time, the film really soars.

Peco (Yosuke Kubozuka) and Smile (Arata) are two life-long friends who belong to their high-school ping pong team. Peco is the over-confident, borderline egotistical member of the pair, who desires openly to be the world’s greatest ping-pong player. However, despite his obvious talents, he’s lazy and doesn’t apply himself to the sport. Smile (who’s so named because he never does), is the opposite of Peco, and plays without passion or love. He says he does so simply to pass the time, and frequently submits to pal Peco during their friendly matches.

Things change between the pals when they find themselves challenged at the tables. Their coach (Naota Takenaka) pushes Smile hard, as he recognizes what Smile and even Peco do not: that Smile has surpassed his friend at ping pong. Meanwhile, Peco finds himself emotionally conflicted at Smile’s growing skill—and his newfound desire to excel. Also factoring in is the arrival of China (Sam Lee), a ringer from (duh) China who’s been enlisted by a rival high school to take them to the championship. However, standing in everyone’s way is Dragon (Shido Nakamura), the reigning champ, who’s so dedicated to the sport that he practices until he bleeds and preps before matches by isolating himself in the toilet. Eventually, Smile and Peco must come to terms with their reasons for playing ping pong, and with what it means to them personally. And, somebody must win.

Based on a manga by Taiyo Matsumoto, Ping Pong is a sports story, and as such features the usual sports themes that have been seen in many, many previous films. Tried-and-true issues of friendship, competition, individual desire, love of the game, and sportsmanship fill this flick from end-to-end. Characters openly wonder about their abilities, despair at their lack of talent, and question one another’s dedication. Some of the soul-searching seems forced; some characters discover new personal epiphanies at seemingly the drop of a hat. Also, there are your usual big matches and existential sports narration, which really provide nothing new. And, it’s all applied to the sport of ping pong, which may not excite every fan of sports films.

Still, Ping Pong manages to rise above the pitfalls of the sports genre thanks to sure, judicious direction (courtesy of first-time director Fumihiko Masuri), and a predominant tone that could only be described as quirky lyricism. The characters are so over-the-top that they’re obviously drawn from manga, but they manage to be winning and always interesting. Yosuke Kubozka brings some genuine emotion to Peco’s petulant behavior and fits of mugging, and older actors Naota Takenaka and Mari Natsuki lend fine support to the proceedings. Also, the references to Japanese superhero media, and the deadpan humor (which is typical of Japanese cinema) add charm and whimsy to the proceedings. This isn’t gut-busting stuff, but it’s funny nonetheless.

Then there’s the ping pong. While the first hour slyly eschews the ping pong for character and plot development, the second hour comes alive with entertainingly staged matches that play like a cross between Forrest Gump and Shaolin Soccer. Ping pong balls spin and change course in flight, characters leap to return serves, and slow motion abounds. The euphoric sight of the final ping pong duels should erase whatever nagging doubts you have about the film’s maddeningly slow pace, or deadpan existential wackiness. Whatever your take on the sometimes bizarre philosophy embedded in Ping Pong, you should find the table tennis action tops.

Not that the film is for everyone. That ping pong and its accompanying strategies/philosphies could be taken so seriously is a conceit that needs to win over the audience. If someone out there watched Shaolin Soccer and thought, “Man, this is silly,” then they should probably skip Ping Pong too. But those who enjoyed Shaolin Soccer, or found the anime sports melodrama of Initial D or Princess Nine enchanting, should find Ping Pong to be a winner. Sure, it’s not realistic, and it’s even more than a little strange, but this is great stuff. And quite possibly great cinema. (Kozo 2003)

masatoshimon

Masato Shimon 子門 真人

Masato Shimon (子門 真人,Shimon Masato, January 4, 1944–) is a Japanese vocalist from Meguro, Tokyo. He is most known for his contributions to the theme songs of various anime and tokusatsu series. In his career, he has sung under the names Kouichi Fuji (藤 浩一 ,Fuji Kōichi?), Akira Tani (谷 あきら ,Tani Akira?), and Ryū Kisami (希砂未 竜 ,Kisami Ryū?). “Masato Shimon” is also his recording name, as he was born with the name Masaharu Fujikawa (藤川 正治 ,Fujikawa Masaharu?). He recorded a song “Oyoge! Taiyaki-kun” (1975) with only 50,000 yen, but the single sold 4,547,620 copies and became the best-selling single in Japan. It is also listed in the Guinness World Records.

Masato Shimon on TV performing his hit single “Oyoge! Taiyaki-kun”

colonel_sq

Posed with the Colonel? – Japanese KFC Colonel Sanders

We want to see you pose with the Colonel! Send your pics or videos to colonelpic(monkeytail)bionicbong.com. We’ll post them as they come in!!!

Have you seen the Japanese version of KFC’s Colonel Sanders? When I first saw him in Tokyo, I expected to see the Western version — chicken tasted great for sure, but didn’t expect a localization for the Japanese market ^^; (Photo: jpellgen)

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Depending on the occasion, they also dress Mr. Sanders the way they want. Santa? No problem. Strange fat middle-aged men in yukata with a lace? No problem!

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Photos via Flickr using this search.

This Article is courtesy our friends over at Instant Ramen.

Posed With The Colonel

Deas Posed With The Colonel
Deas Posed With The Colonel
Stephanie Posed With The Colonel and Had a Smoke
Stephanie Posed With The Colonel and Had a Smoke
August 2008 in Kyoto - Colonel's ready for his trip to Hawaii
August 2008 in Kyoto - Colonel's ready for his trip to Hawaii
Leah and One Happy Colonel
Leah and One Happy Colonel
Katrina - Hands Off My Colonel!
Katrina - Hands Off My Colonel!
blue_karaoke

Karaoke Makes Me Homesick!

I don’t know if this is a sign I have been in Japan too long, or what. But, when going to the local karaoke box last week, I got a feeling of homesickness while singing the old familiar songs of my high school days. “Jack n’ Diane,” was almost a tear jerker by the time I got through it. My boyfriend was singing some stupid Van Halen songs and I was almost losing it to “Hot for Teacher.” Then he did the unforgivable and sung Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl,” which got the waterworks going.

So, I had to write this out as I didn’t know what it was about those old songs. I guess its just the memories of home. That place and that time might all be too far away. It seems too far away. Maybe, it’s the fact that I don’t hear these songs on the radio here, or hear the radio at all. I miss driving and blaring the radio. Maybe, its cause I missed going home for Christmas for the first time in my life this year. But, whatever it is…it was somewhat sad and yet comforting at the same time.

Music has just left my life here in Tokyo. I didn’t even know the Grammy’s were on last night. I happened to be out and caught a glimpse of it on the tube. I didn’t know half of the performers and well by the sound of things I didn’t really miss much this last year. From what I saw, if that is the best that they can do, I need to start crying into a microphone more. The Grammy’s were horrible. At least, the part I caught. I couldn’t watch much. It was truly horrific. I’ve never been to an awards show, but if anyone cared to be there they weren’t showing it.

Anyway, as for me, I’ll be going back to the karaoke box. I think I have some more memories to relive.

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ikura

Genki Japan has some hilarious and fun songs to help you learn Japanese

GenkiJapan.net has some hilarious and fun videos, games, and songs to help you learn Japanese. Warning: The songs do get stuck in your head! Ikura, Ikura, Ikura desu ka?

We put our favorite here but there are more and we want to put it up for a vote. So tell us…Which one is your favorite? Leave your vote in the comments below.

To see all the videos follow this link. The Learn Japanese Video List from GenkiJapan.net

skin_cell_sq

Otaku Fantasy is Getting Closer to Reality thanks to Science

Demonstrating a new method for fabricating three-dimensional living biological structures, researchers at University of Tokyo’s Institute of Industrial Science (IIS) created a 5-millimeter tall doll composed of living cells.

In an announcement made on January 22nd, the researchers said they created the tiny figure by cultivating 100,000 cell capsules — 0.1-millimeter balls of collagen, each coated with dozens of skin cells — together inside a doll-shaped mold for one day. After the cell capsules had coalesced to form the doll-shaped mass of tissue, it was placed in a culture solution, where it survived for more than a day according to the report.

The researchers, led by IIS professor Shoji Takeuchi, also successfully tested the bio-fabrication method with human liver cells. According to Takeuchi, the technique can be used to create bodily organs and tissues with complex cellular structures, which may prove useful in the fields of regenerative medicine and drug development.

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The overall shape can be controlled by changing the mold,” said Takeuchi, who expressed a desire to combine multiple types of cells to create a complex system that functions as a living organism.

More info can be in this pdf which can downloaded from the IIS site: more.

nakano_broadway

Nakano Broadway

When I first entered Nakano Broadway I didn’t know what to expect. As I entered under the large red sign into the long corridor that makes up the first floor I wasn’t at all impressed. I was expecting a grander welcome that wasn’t there, at least not on the first floor. I saw a regular cheap ¥100 shop, a suit shop, and a cute place with socks representing each of the prefectures of Japan, but I didn’t see anything right away that would have given me any sense of what this place was hiding. At least not until I saw the Japanese idol trading card shop. Then I knew I was getting warmer and just a bit closer to the Otaku heaven this place has a reputation for. I didn’t have the time to stare and gawk though. I was ushered by my escort upstairs by way of escalator just as quickly as could be done through the crowd. Once on the top floor my eyes began to open wide to the world of Japanese pop culture. It was a treasure trove of Japanese pop culture mania or should say it is the mother load. That is Nakano Broadway, a hobbyist dream come true.

I didn’t realize that half of this stuff ever existed, but a lot of it reminded me of going though my grandparents attic and seeing some of the old toys that were my dad’s when he was growing up, but these were way freakier and not as dusty. These were spotless toys and they were everywhere and some perfectly preserved with boxes and all. Some were out and some were secured behind glass, but each seemed to have its place. It was obvious by just walking around and seeing a few of the shelves that there was a great deal of care put into the display of these mighty little figures and toys. There was of course the familiar Robbi The Robot from Forbidden Planet, Speed Racer, and Astro Boy filling up the shelves in various forms from trading cards to life-sized replicas, but after that all familiarity was gone. The most strange and somewhat disturbing thing I saw was a crucified Ultraman that seemed to be all the rage as he was everywhere. There were creatures and characters here that I’m sure are most beloved by most Japanese, but that I had no idea of who or what they could be. And they were rampant and scattered about, ambiguous in their domain. It was awesome nostalgia meets today’s now! It was glorious and spectacular!

But it wasn’t all toys here. There were all sorts of hobbies on display. There were manga books and anime cels. There were cosplay costumes of every type and character. There were air gun shops full of military realistic weapons and even more realistic if not realistic suits, helmets, badges, and outfits. There were those key chain/phone doodads made to look like everything cute under the sun. There were maid cafes, movie posters, record, and DVD stores. There was even a yo-yo shop and I’m sure stuff that I’m not mentioning that I might still be blinded by if I try to recall. All together it was a reminder of being a kid, and if you looked not even so hard, you could see the wanting eyes of window shoppers as they studied the toys and figures of their yesterdays through the glass. And it was all marked and priced and ready to be loved. And then, there were the people that were living their childhood still. Dressed to the nines in outfits and splendor that a kid’s imagination can only fathom and few can fashion.

We kept popping in and out of shops all day meticulously doing our own gawking at the shelves. We spent most of the time mentioning our own memories that were sparked by the pop amalgam and bursting into laughs at the more than occasional site of the absurd. It was fun. When we made it back to the bottom again we were both starving, but that’s a different story.

Nenmatsu Jumbo Lottery Ticket

The Nenmatsu Jumbo

Nenmatsu Jumbo Lottery Ticket
Nenmatsu Jumbo Lottery Ticket

The Nenmatsu Jumbo or the end of the year Lottery was held today. It has to be the largest lottery in Japan. The grand prize is ¥200,000,000 ($2 million USD). Good luck to all that entered!

We just thought the tickets were cool and wanted to share. It beats any lottery ticket we’ve seen esthetically.

We did a little better than breaking even this year by getting a lucky $100 ticket ending in 254.

If you won something let us know! Add your winnings and numbers in the comments below.

Happy New Year!