Lindsay Powell amazes as Cake Bake Betty. Follow the link to better understand greatness.
That's not to say that I'm on vacation - in fact, I have so much stuff to do, especially in the evenings, that junk.log posts will be at the minimum for the next few weeks. Minimum means perhaps one per week, on the weekends, along with any other site business like contests.
Things should be back to normal in mid-May. Until then, why not catch up on the past 7 months of junk.log entries? Or, check out the Japanese Pop section, with 30 amazing artists covered so far. Hey, you can read some of my Antizine stories, which have brought a few folks to laughs and tears, really. Finally, why not blow your ears out with my Quicker MP3s, which are virtually listen proof, yet still have fans.
[Stellvia] is a pleasant SF anime series from 2003, geared to the slightly younger set, that I've been enjoying for the past few months.
Based on manga by Ryo Akizuki, it's a little bit like [Harry Potter] in space, what with an unassuming girl named Shima Katase who has technological skills that border on the magical. She's a student/cadet on space station Stellvia, set with the task of shielding the Earth from supernova remnants that have been coming for years. This Second Wave is the focus of the first 3rd of the series, as Shima makes her way with her new environment, friends and rivals. It turns out that she's a very talented pilot (most stars of space series are). Other space stations associated with each planet also come in to play, and by the end of the 3rd volume... let's just say that things go a bit awry.
DVD Volume 4 (of 8) just came out this month, and the last release is scheduled for December. Thus, now is a great time to hop on board and enjoy the teenaged drama, with flying ships, a super-huge robot, and attractive young girls for the guys, and ample romance and emotional turmoil for the girls. Yes, I dish out amazing stereotypes, and you could reverse the gender roles if you like. See, I like the whole lot, and find the technological bits sound enough to offer a good foundation for all the drama and appealing characters. Plus, the fan-service is truly minimal, so no breasts-a-popping, just longing and the occasional chaste kisses and hand-holding. OK.. the flight suits are quite tight, but that's about it.
You could argue that the whole affair is a bit simplistic, with some plot points apparent like a hole in your roof, but the character design is pleasant enough, with adequate backgrounds and above average CGI assists. Xebec did a good production job, and the Japanese voice work is excellent - as always, I can't speak for the English dub, which is by definition atrocious, yet may please some.
Perhaps you don't want to watch the series - you want to be the series. Well then, just go here to get a Stellvia uniform, for only 24,800 yen. If you have an extra 50,400 yen (about $500) you can even get this doll of Shima - what a steal! There are PlayStation 2 (Bandai) and Game Boy Advance (Capcom) games, too - just because.
Finally, it's directed by Tatsuo Sato [Nadesico] and has character designs by Makoto Uno [Love Hina], so quality is floating in their water glasses, if you know what I mean. I sure don't, but it's all tasty anyway.
I'm a moderate fan of [Ringu] and its American cousins, [The Ring] and the recent sequel. So, when [The Ring 2] was being publicized at WonderCon 2005 in San Francisco, I picked up some lenticular post cards and other goodies from DreamWorks. Then, on top of a garbage can about a hundred feet away, I found a bare VHS tape, wrapped with a rubber-banded note. I put it in my bag, and didn't think about it for two months - I assumed it was a demo reel from someone.
Tonight, I opened up my WonderCon bag again, and found some posters and stuff, along with this tape. This is what it says, in a photo-copied handwritten note:
Check Out This Tape! This is the tape you've been hearing about online, in chat rooms, etc. I got this copy from my brother. Just be sure to pass it on to someone else.
After actually reading the note, the punchline of which was to visit she-is-here.com, I quickly determined that this was a clever viral marketing ploy by DreamWorks. Obviously, the tape contains the contents of the tape in the movie - I can't confirm that, since I don't have a VHS deck.
So, I checked out the website and its message board, which felt very fake, and was obviously tied into the [Rings] DVD bundled with [The Ring] in preparation for its sequel. The story takes place between the two movies, as the curse hits a school, and the message board obviously followed this, complete with fictional characters.
Then I read a little further, and noticed talk of how the "tape" in the movies wasn't actually the real tape, and that the original Japanese novel was actually based upon a real Sadako, etc. Silly, yet compelling for those who want to believe in fiction, or just play along. This thread has been much expanded upon since 4.1.05 in a new message board at Rings Communities (www.ringscommunities.com). A whois proves that this site was just registered with Network Solutions at the end of March, and isn't even showing up in Google yet. The idea is that it's supposed to be discovered by Ring fans.
In any case, the rings.nensha.net forums are quite entertaining, or quite horrific if you're suggestive. It's hard to tell if everyone is fictional, since it's apparently moderated, but I like one avatar's reference to Battle Royale, not to mention paths to potential Ring sequels.
I suspect that it's actually just a few folks involved with DreamWorks, especially since they insist that they left the previous site since THAT was so obviously a marketing site the preyed on the fears of youth, and stamped on the memories of the real victims of the tape(s). Yes, there are real Japanese and American tapes, and Sadako (Japanese evil) and Samara (US evil) might be connected in some way, and people are being cursed and passing on DIVX files, since the "real" tapes are scarce.
You get the picture. It's marketing + real live people pretending + actual Ring fans + that whole Our Colony vibe. I'm not giving up my tape, because I'm sure some fan will want it some day, and either I'm reading this right as a nice hoax, or every single person on the earth is in danger! Either way, entertainment is to be had, so check it out. Consider this my copy to you.
Update on 4.23.2005:
I was contacted by the forum-mistress of Rings Communities, and it's not sponsored by DreamWorks at all. She wrote:
It *is*, however, *based* on the she-is-here.com site, which was/is a Dreamworks promo site. There were a lot of us that liked the roleplay on that site so much, that since we knew DW was going to end the site eventually, I teamed up with nensha.net to start RC.com. It's non-profit, and we all have a lot of fun with it! :)
So, there you have it. The fact that it's purely fan created and supported makes it all the more rad in my eyes, so if you're a Ring(s) fan, make sure to check it out.
Part 7 in a Series: SXSW 2005 Bands I Adore, From Afar
Rescue are Drive Like Jehu for Detroit's millennial set. Their last EP on Slowdance, [Flamingo Minutes], is a brilliant 8 song collection that first caught my attention due to [I Am The Queens Of Comparison], which was the track they chose to share with the world via SXSW 2005. It's almost 5 minutes but sounds like 10, in the best way possible, with all sorts of ups and downs, starts and stops, growls and whispers.
Alan Scheurman (Vocals, Guitar), Michael Majewski (Guitar, Vocals), Sean Clancy (Bass, Vocals) and Ryan Clancy (Drums) started playing together in 2000, and have had a few small and large releases since then. [Flamingo Minutes] is from 2004, and it's like a much less annoying Mars Volta meets the love child of Archers of Loaf and Pitchblende. I'll have to track down their out-of-print album [Volume Plus Volume] from 2002, or the 2004 re-release with more tracks.
I know you're terribly intrigued by my obscure band comparisons, so just listen to [I Am The Queens Of Comparison] by exercising your digits and (right)clicking here (mp3, SXSW).
"So many contests", you're saying. "I don't know if I can handle another one."
Well, that's just too bad. Close your eyes and hum or something, while everyone else enters the brand new PINE*am contest, in celebration of their upcoming album, [Pull The Rabbit Ears], which I find quite winning. They're a fine electronic trio from Japan, three talented women who know how to make pleasing pop music with keyboards and other cool instruments.
Travel to the ultra-amazing PINE*am contest page to find out how to win a signed T-shirt or CDs, not to mention posters, stickers, and other cool stuff. You have until 5.6.05 to enter.
Please also note their impending tour of the US, which starts next month. Travel to my brand new PINE*am page to see all of the dates, which cross the wide expanses of North America in May.
Additional, Special PINE*am Anime Contest
For all you artists out there - hit the link above to create a PINE*am poster, and win even greater prizes than what I'm giving away. You have until 4.30.05 to enter.
Puffy is the primary reason that I started this website over five years ago. My Puffy contests have always been huge, because I love them so. Therefore, I just gave away Puffy AmiYumi's US best-of album [Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi], and three tickets to their San Francisco show on 4.27.2005. See here for more information about that, along with tour dates.
The winners are as follows:
Puffy CD Contest:
[Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi] CD : Diane Lye
Puffy Tickets Contest:
One General Admission Ticket : David Hegge
Two General Admission Tickets : Su Ling Chan
Winners have already been contacted, and will be sent their prizes shortly.
[Shinkokyu No Hitsuyo] (The Necessity of Deep Breathing) is a film by Tetsuo Shinohara, covering young Japanese men and women who harvest sugar cane in Okinawa for a season.
If that sounds like a boring premise, be warned that it actually turns out to be quite compelling, with a fine cast and a slow yet steady pace. These seven young folk aren't just talking a little vacation of 5 weeks of labor, they're processing spoken and unspoken traumas, defeats and transitions they left on the main island.
Thus, each and every felled cane is punctuated by little and big struggles, as they learn how to work together, to look beyond the seemingly insurmountable, and to sit back and breathe before starting life's races. I didn't stand up applauding at the end of the DVD, but I did appreciate the skill with which all involved related this simple yet compelling story. Karina, who plays the lead female character, is an up and coming actress and model that strikes quite a presence, but all of the characters have something to pay attention to.
I can definitely recommend this as a viewing or rental if you ever come across it - the version I own is a Region 2 DVD by BANDAI released on 1.28.2005, with English Subtitles. A nice review in English that puts things into context is here, from the Japan Times.
Part 6 in a Series: SXSW 2005 Bands I Adore, From Afar
The Like Young are The White Stripes with far less blues and arguably more skill and texture. Amanda (Drums, Vocals) and Joe Ziemba (Guitar, Vocals) have been playing together in one form or another since 1997, and have been married for the past few years. This togetherness has obviously served to strengthen their latest musical unit, because [So Serious] and [Art Contest], their last two albums, are something magically catchy. You've got the lower-fi guitars, male/female vocals, and a certain higher octane grade of gas that's peppy to the point of explosion.
This duo from Chicago know how to serve up rock-pop with a punk aesthetic, kinda like The Apples In Stereo with all of the 60's sucked out of them, replaced by more appropriate up-tempo 90's ennui. Joe fronts the equation with atypical quiet-loud-medium guitars and words, balanced out by Amanda's forceful drums and ever-sweet voice. It's the real deal, the sort of sound I'm always looking for, so I'll be eagerly awaiting their latest 7" EP, [The Timid], out on Polyvinyl on 5.10.05.
There's absolutely no way in hell you can resist their promotional track from [So Serious], [Worry A Lot] so just give up already and download it here (mp3, SXSW).
Part 5 in a Series: SXSW 2005 Bands I Adore, From Afar
Wants some blues punk with roots rock tendencies? Well then, The Moaners are just what your headphones ordered. Melissa Swingle (Vocals, Guitar, Harmonica, Saw) and Laura King (Drums, Guitar, Vocals) have been performing together for a short while, and released [Dark Snack], their first album, on 1.25.2005 (Yep Rec, Yep 2088). They hail from Chapel Hill, North Carolina and sound just like it, that sort of southeast indie rock that comes in many unique yet related flavors.
The Moaners flavor is fuzzy-buzzy bent guitar sounds that resemble an organ at times, backed by Laura's strong beats and topped by Melissa's vocal swagger - a whine-moan elaboration of a Deep South twang. Lyrically they're fairly conservative, offering variants on love songs, but it's the persistent, rollicking sounds that bring me back for more.
If you want to get in on the party, then download the fun [Terrier] here (mp3, SXSW) and bring your smashed up conical hats that they will straighten right up for you.
Part 4 in a Series: SXSW 2005 Bands I Adore, From Afar
Denver is the new Portland. Well, at least when it comes to catchy new bands like the Hot IQs, who are one of my real finds out of the South By Southwest 2005 alumni. Their first album, [An Argument Between The Brain And Feet], is immensely catchy, reminding me of Spent meets Pavement, with some Cake thrown in for good measure. Meaning they're tuneful and melodic, with smart lyrics and danceable beats.
Eli Mishkin (Vocals, Guitar), Elaine Acosta (Drums), and Bryan Feuchtinger (Bass) are a tight trio that started in 2003, and list the Pixies and Archers of Loaf as influences, so I'm sure you can see where they're coming from - Indietown, albeit with a nice smooth production that's hard to resist. Take their soon-to-be hit single [Firecracker] as a case in point - it sounds quite Hot Hot Heat, only better, and can equally fit on Modern Rock and College radio.
Hey, don't take my word for it, download [Firecracker] here (mp3, SXSW) and join the fun.
Finally, all props go out to Elaine, who as the above picture demonstrates, is the finest drummer ever. Not that she isn't quite talented, but like with Mizue of Tsu Shi Ma Mi Re, beautiful drummers are always appreciated.
Part 3 in a Series: SXSW 2005 Artists I Adore, From Afar
Maya Arul is something special. She's Sri Lankan refugee girl who grew up to be a beat mistress from London named M.I.A., who's tearing up the dance floor with her first album, [Arular]. I really dug the single I heard a few months ago at the iTunes Music Store, particularly the video for [Galang], which was both body-moving and militaristic, a potent combination.
M.I.A definitely has a buzz as of late, but her album is largely worth it, with up-beat production that presents a mixture of South-Asian and European sounds, capped by her pleasing, accented vocals. It's dancy hip-hoppy stuff that doesn't quite sound like anything you've heard before. I'm fond of the last three songs,  (an infectious floor stomper), and [Sunshowers] and [Galang] (her two singles), which never cease to get me moving.
Unfortunately, I was too slow on the draw to get tickets to her upcoming sold-out show in San Francisco (5.13.05 at the Independent), but make sure to check her out live or recorded if you get the opportunity.
Known in Japan as Bakuretsu Tenshi, it's another Gonzo production, this one involving young, tough girls who fight their way though a futuristic Tokyo. It looks quite fun and well put-together, and I resisted the temptation to buy the Japanese DVD releases, or to download episodes from BitTorrent, just so I could savor the eventual US visit.
Of course, I'll have the original Japanese language track on, but I'm sure the dub will be passible (annoying) enough to satiate foreign audiences. You'll hear more about my thoughts on the series next month (no doubt that I'll buy the [Burst Angel] starter set with series box and charm strap, just because). Until then, click on this graphic to visit the US site, care of FUNimation.
I'm fairly experimental when it comes to my entertainment purchases. Often, I'll go to a place like CDJapan, browse their Japanese DVDs with English Subtitles section, and pick something that sounds interesting. That's what I did with [Survive Style 5+], which I pre-ordered (for a release on 3.02.05) and received a few weeks ago. Before viewing it last night, I literally knew nothing about it, and thus I was all the more satiated when I found it to be a funny and inventive farce.
Originally released in theaters on 9.25.04, [Survive Style 5+] is a series of seemingly disconnected vignettes, all tied to death or desperation. The core of the movie is the love/hate story between Ishigaki (Tadanobu Asano) and Mimi (Reika Hashimoto), which vividly revolves about his constant combat with and murdering of his wife, and her subsequent resurrections. It sounds horrid, but comes across beautifully, kind of like a miniaturized [Groundhog Day], as he learns to love her despite her inexplicable behavior.
The rest of the movie ties into this story in one way or another, mostly through a pair of unorthodox hitmen, featuring Vinnie Jones, know mostly for his British crime capers. It does you no good for me to give away the plot further, but sufficed to say that characters inhabit the realm between well-drawn and cartoon, becoming archetypes as they search for love and contentment despite a chaotic world.
That world is full of primary colors, strange costumes, amazing set design, and a general playful air that Taku Tada and Gen Sekiguchi construct through their story and direction. Tada is also known for his PV work, including [Lover Soul] by Judy and Mary, so expect the general superkinetic and hyperreal feel of most films by video directors.
Still, it's a fun and even heart warming time despite its heady content, reminding me of a cross between a Haruki Murakami novel and Takashi Miike film. If that sounds like your bottle of Natchan, then make sure to check it out, if for no other reason than the stellar Reika Hashimoto as Mimi, a model/actress who devours the film with her lovely, silent wife on attack. Her surreal performance alone is worth the price of admission.
I got the Premium Edition, which comes with a bonus making-of DVD, but there's also a limited Collector's Box that comes with all the storyboards and other neato stuff. Pick your poison and have a good time - both have excellent English subtitles.
Those interested can see a photo gallery from the film (thus saving me from making screen captures). Below are four shots suitable for Reika admirers:
Puffy is the primary reason that I started this website over five years ago. My Puffy contests have always been huge, because I love them so. Thus, now you can win Puffy AmiYumi's US best-of album [Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi], or one of three tickets to their San Francisco show on 4.26.2005. Enter here, and you have until 4.18.05 to try.
Yes, there's more... more... more contests to come. There should be at least two of them running concurrently for quite a while, so prepare yourself.
"Oh my god", you're saying. Titan Go King's have taken over Junk Magnet!
That's only partially true. The month of April is focused on this trio from Tokyo, and I have a great contest going on right now. Hit the big ass pictures on the right of most every page to find out more (hint: Win lots of CDs). Plus, I've just whipped up a Titan Go King's page for the Japanese Pop section, with other artists to come shortly. Thus, if you have ever needed a fix of high-energy girl punk-pop, now is the month to get it. You have until 4.30.05 to enter.
What's more, those big ass pictures will change over time, revealing many more contests that I'm sure you'll be interested in. Hints as to the prizes will be right out in the open for you, my regular junk.log readers.
(PS - Let me know if you find the new banners too annoying. I've been planning on filling all that white space for five years).
contests: [enter here]
po box 11501