Tuesday, April 28, 2009

SMAP: An end of an era?

28th April 2009, Tuesday

The news that surely hogged the Japanese entertainment scene these days surely has to be Kusanagi Tsuyoshi's (草彅 剛 of SMAP) arrest for indecency exposure after a rampant drinking session.

Despite his earnest apology in a press conference, the damage has been done on his clean boy-next-door image the Japanese public has been so accustomed to seeing.
Japan Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications, Hatoyama Kunio was especially crass in reprimanding Tsuyoshi's absurd behavior as he is the ongoing spokesperson for the transition of Japan's terrestrial TV to the digital format.

The whole affair see him losing plenty of endorsement and ad money which at such times will really be hard.
At his prime (around 2004-2006), Tsuyoshi is surely the A-list actor with popularity even upstaging fellow SMAP member, Kimura Takuya.
While his acting has been pretty one-dimensional, usually the Mr Nice Guy (even dark comedy like "Food Fight" cannot see him breaking through the mold), the uber-popular "Boku no Ikiru Michi (
僕の生きる道)" was the pinnacle of his dorama career which spawns 2 sequels, non coming as close in terms of viewership.
He also had appearance on the big screen with success in "Yomigaeri (
黃泉がえり)" and perhaps "Nihon Chinbotsu (日本沈没 )"
He even took the accolade of "Best Jean-Wearing Male Artist", once again upstaging Kimu-Taku (which resulted in the friction between the pair as speculated).
Tusyoshi has a strong fanbase in South Korea as well due to his fluent Korean, even released a single as his Korean alter ego Cho Nan Kan despite he possess the 2nd worst singing voice in SMAP.

While the elder statesmen like Kimura and Nakai Masahiro are noticeably crossed by Tsuyoshi's folly, he was backed by perhaps his best bud in the group, Shingo Katori.
The pair hosted in the famous 24 hour charity show (think in 2005) and made cameos in each other's dorama.
Little surprise when Shingo made an emotional apology on a live telecast SmaSTATION on Tsuyoshi's behalf:

Popularity of SMAP is waning despite they can still warrant massive crowd in various Domes for their annual concert tour.
"SMAPXSMAP", their Fuji TV prime time variety show which enjoyed such longevity of 14 years are facing the axe when viewership plunged in uncanny fashion.
They hadn't had a hit single for a while to rival that of "Sekai hitotsu dake no hana (
世界に一つだけの花)", the last 2 singles released in 2008 enjoyed lukewarm success.
While the various members are still oozing X Factor which see them immensely popular as individual or as an unit in the scene for 15 years or so now, the likes of Kimura and Tsuyoshi hadn't manage to recover that kind of popularity now that so many up and coming artistes are putting their positions in jeopardy.
Having uneasy relationship with their representative company, Johnny's Jimusho was further strained when they thought they are huge enough to break it out on their own.

A disband looks to be on the horizon for SMAP with Tsuyohi's arrest a strong catalyst.
The poor chap with bad drinking manners might not be able to recover from this fall from grace while the others might still be able to sprawl in this business.
Kimura with a new dorama in May still possess a star appeal which span the entire Asia though it's hard to break into Hollywood despite his appearance in "I come with the Rain".
Nakai is still a renowed variety show host and safely cement his position with constant hosting of kohaku of course.
Shingo who still possess that sunny boyish appeal took on more serious roles in acting these days such as in "Bara no nai Hanaya (
薔薇のない花屋)" and "Kurobe no Taiyo (黒部の太陽)", worlds' apart from his Shingo mama or Goku in "Saiyuki" days.
As for Inagaki Goro himself was caught up with law in a traffic altercation in 2001 was never the most outstanding one.
He does possess good looks but stagnant in image for the longest time we have seen him. He can sing well but not good enough. His acting also reach a threshold and no dorama series for a while indicates that.
The variety show "Goro's Bar" which he hosted is still quite popular, and of course he can look forward to his upcoming marriage with fellow actor, Kanno Miho.

Well Johnny's & associates has always been looking for predecessors for SMAP if ever they lose their prized assets.
SMAP, in fact, started off as back-up for Hikaru Genji (
光GENJI), their star boy band of the 1980s but went on to build on bigger things to a proportion that left their company in awe for sure.
Many groups were formed to build on SMAP's success with the likes of V6, Kinki Kids, Tokyo, Tackey & Tsubasa, NEWS, Kanjani 8, KAT-TUN, Hey Say Jump etc.
But the one group that might be the heir apparent in terms of their ability to transcend between music, tv drama, movies and commercials has to be Arashi.

Arashi, which made up of 5 members as well had a great 2008 in terms of acting and singles sale (finish top 2 in Oricon Top 100 chart of 2008).
For the past few seasons, you can see that their members are passing on baton to one another to be feature in at least one prime time tv series.
While singing might still be their forte (they do sound better than SMAP for sure), they can build on their popularity in all spectrum despite they are arguably not the best looking group around.
But like SMAP, they possess the X Factor...whether they can make it cut, we shall see...

Japanese word of the day: スキャンダル (Scandal) Don't forsee the lads in Arashi doing something as foolish as Tsuyoshi, well then Ohno sure is one little devil as well

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Monday, April 27, 2009

$100 spent at Cold Storage!?

27th April 2009, Monday

With my sister off to her 3 weeks travel down under and my folks off for another Genting escapade for the weekend, the missus and myself had the entire house for ourselves and ultimately fend for our gastronomical requirements for the past 3 days.

Well as you know, I ain't earning big bucks and at such arid time of economic uncertainties, never would we have the audacity to grace the Cold Storage at Takashimaya and spending a cool $100 just on mere groceries...
It was what exactly happened on Saturday in a scheduled trip between us...

Of course beside the extravagant spending, we also faced the prospect of decimating the value on our cash card with at least 2 ERP gantries to cross and that obscene amount for parking in Ngee Ann City itself...Then there was the mad traffic both automobile on the expectedly cramped Orchard Boulevard and the human congestion in Takashimaya which really didn't give the missus a pleasant time.
One really ponders why I insist to hit the joint, well days before I recieved some Takashimaya vouchers from my workplace in appreciation for the time (what time?) I put in for some committee.
It was a welcome surprise but I accepted it without a trace of remorse like I damn deserved it maybe I do.

So I better spend the vouchers as fast as I can find the opportunity.
The idea was to get some ingredients to whip up a fast but nice dinner, some for breakfast for the next 2 days as well as my weekly yogurt and juice needs.
So we went around the aisles to pick up the foodstuff which quite a portion was imported from our beloved holiday destination.
Cold Soba would be the main carbohydrate source with unagi (eel) and some sushi platter to whet more appetite.
I even went to get some items which I rarely would pick up even to appease myself due to the high cost of it.
Despite our trolley being half failed by the time I went to foot the bill, I could still hardly believe my eyes when the cash register went beyond the $100 mark..
I didn' use up all the vouchers and paid quite a fraction by cash; I still felt the pinch and we might had overspent this time.

But it was a nice dinner for us which matters most...

Sunday was pretty quiet all by myself for most it before the storm which had been brewing due to the unbearable heat swept the island.
Met up with the La Tendo clique for badminton on Saturday and a good time to catch up especially Chan who had been a no-show for a while now.
Heard that YH was selected for a lucky draw for some spending at Suntec City and had a 1 in 5000 chance to walk home with a car; well she couldn't be more lucky, firstly to be one of the 20 contestants picked up for the key selection and then picking the right key to unlock the Mazda 6 sedan.
Perhaps our birthday boy Vincent (on Saturday) might have brush off some luck to her...
Japanese word of the day: 運命 ~un-me-i~(Fate) Some people get shopping vouchers, others win a car...

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Monday, April 20, 2009

Super Robots Fetish

20th April 2009, Monday

While my Playstation 3 had remained dormant since the turn of the year as Chan mentioned my account was offline for like 100 over days now.

From the beginning I had mentioned I ain't a big gaming person, and now with the console now gathering dust at alarming state; it further emphasized that I shouldn't had spent on that luxury item.
Fortunately it was before the economic crunch as this year performance bonus looks bleak.

One stumbling factor for my less than enthusiastic interest to hook up my PS3 again is that when I'm at home, I tend to be more attracted to my PC (something which the missus frowns upon for course); my tolerance while playing a long-winded game on PS3 is truncating as time goes which is bad since most games have to be decently length to make any penny worth.
Once you lost the zest for a particular game, it's hard to pick them up again (i.e. Metal Gear Solid 4 and Disgaea 3 which I don't fancy picking up from where I have left them).

Meanwhile portable gaming console is so popular due to the fact that during the mundane traveling hours, it can be a great companion.
My 2 years old NDS Lite has always managed to deliver and with that wide array of games, I am always spoiled for choice.
Recently I am hooked to the latest offer from a game series which always made me go ga-ga over, "Super Robot Wars".

My first contact with this Banpresto series which feature an orgy of who's who in the animated robot series world was the Alpha and Alpha Gaiden on Playstation back in 2002.
That was a time when my knowledge of the robots featured were very much limited to Gundam W, Evangelion and Macross but I soon my interest grew to those Go Nagai's classic Super Robots like Mazinger Z and Getter Robo as well as Combattler V and Voltes V from the Robot Romance Trilogy. Not forgetting my all time favorite Reideen, the bow and arrow carrying, falcon-changing robot with a highly addictive theme song.

While I have been a sucker for turn-based strategy role playing game, Super Robot Wars just bring a notch further with beautifully animated battling sequence (which can get bored after repetitive viewing and thank god for the option to de-select it) and the respective theme songs of the various series which one can never get sick of.

The only down part of those 2 games and all the other games in the series spawned prior and after, it is strictly Japanese based due to licensing issue which restruct it to be port over to the North American scene.
It would be more fun if you actually can understand their dialogue especially since the creators ingeniously tied the famous storylines of various series up (such as Kamiyu going crazy in Gundam Z).

The nice battle map with fully colored 3D pawns of the robots in Alpha really got me hook as well and when I see that the processing power for the PS2 engine for the next incarnation "SRW Impact" I was tempted to just get PS2 to play that, maybe it was a blessing in disguise I didn't.

One reason for me to get my NDS was also to play a newly released "Super Robot Taisen W" back in 2007 as well.

Sadly I didn't had the endurance to keep my interest in it and halted midway through the mundane battles despite having familiar mechas from Full Metal Panic which I was watching back then.
The lack of voice acting and the dull blue-red icons on a flat battle map was a big turn off from the Alpha days (look more like the classic SD Gundam Generation series).
Then again the size of the game was very much dwarf as compared to what the Playstation counterparts can produce (even as compared to those ported to PSP for sure).

Therefore when Super Robot Taisen K was released just a few weeks back I was skeptical I would kept up my interest for it for long but was pleasantly surprised I was still hyped about especially when a walkthrough is easily acessible online when any fellow gamer has bothered to upload the information.

This incarnation caught everyone's surprise by excluding many usual big names like Great Maziner, Mazinkaiser, Getter Robo (and it's kinship) as well as none of the Robot Romance Trilogy.
There was also no UC Gundam series with the uber popular SEED trilogy holding its flagship (thank goodness for no Turn A or G Gundam).
In replacement are some young upstarts which inclusion might have some mix reviews such as "Sokyu no Fafner: Dead Agressor", "Gun X Sword" and even "ZOIDS Genesis" which belong to rival company Takara-Tomy.
Some Super Robots to beef up the line up with Mazinger Z includes modern sequels of classic series, Kotetsushin Jeeg and Gaiking: The Legend of Daiku-Maryu.

Rumours are sprouting about the development of a "Super Robot Taisen PS3" which surely will perk my interest considering the kind of engine PS3 boasts which also allows Namco Bandai (who took over development from subsidary Banpresto) to take advantage of.
Mahy recent mecha anime series may fancy a chance to add their names in the long list of series featured in the SRW such as Gundam 00, Macross Frontier, Code Geass and of course Gainax's Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagaan.
Would be good to have some returning series like Gundam W Endless Waltz, Reideen, Gravion which have some of coolest themes.
Well we shall see...perhaps it will make me wipe off the thick layer of dust off my PS3...

Japanese words of the day: スーパーロボット(Super Robots) Think the fetish began when I have some classic Popy diecast Super Robots when I was a kid


Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Patriotism or Just mere gathering

8th April 2009, Wednesday

Not every day you have a J League 1 top side like Kashima Antlers to hit town for a competitive game...
When SAFFC made it into the AFC Champions League group stage, many local fans truly salivate at the prospect of catching top East Asian sides like Suwon Samsung Bluewings as well as the Antlers in our local arena.
While we toyed with the idea of flying to Japan to immerse in the electrifying live match experience of the J League (perhaps one of the best in Asia), it was more economical to just head to Jalan Besar as we did last evening.

As expected the stadium was flooded and dominated by a strong local Japanese fraternity who came to cheer on their country-men.
As for the local support, there were fervent Warriors supporters at the North Gate-orientated grandstand, drumming vociferously, perhaps intimidated by the 50 odd Kashima Antlers Ultras at the opposite Gallery stands with their synchronized and ruly chanting, drumming and flag waving to cheer on their team in gold.

Kudos for the J1 side to bring their full squad except for some injured personnel such as ex international and FC Basel man Koji Nakata and Brazilian midfielder Danilo; surely shown us more respect than the Koreans the last time.
Situated in the midst of the local Japanese expat, we provided abit of SAF-cheering at the South end of the grandstand.
However the patriotic crowd had more to cheer upon with the vastly superior Antlers crushed our champions.
Patriotism, perhaps? But Japanese live with pride and themselves are testament of their pride.
Expats in Singapore should have a life of comfort though things can be mundane in this metropolitan city; therefore even in a hot and humid April evening which decimated poor Park Joo-Ho, Kashima's South Korean fullback was well parched for the 1st half, the Japanese came in on rampage to render their support.

In Japan now, sakura (cherry blossoms) are blooming to everyone's delight in spring and the locales gathered for their usual hanami sessions; perhaps they might have treated the match to just meet up and have a good time chatting and dining.
Almost all the Japanese players plying in our league came with their entourage as well...

Overall despite the hiding dished by the Japanese side, it was an electrifying live soccer experience which our local professional league lacks and perhaps it is an excerpt of what one would experience in the Japanese scene which is something I would aim for in the future...

Japanese word of the day: 愛国心が強い (Patriotic) Many punters were gleefully throwing away their patriotism when Bennett scored that final goal to give them the odds for a handsome win at the betting station.

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Monday, April 06, 2009

Unfathomable Human Nature

6th April 2009, Monday

Went to La Tendo on Saturday evening and caught up with Vincent and Miyano; which was when we heard the news about Ferris had bought a car with an off-peak season (weekend) license plate.
All these while, we had only know that Vincent is getting his own automobile (though he used to commute happily in a van or a motorbike, both belonged to his brother apparently), behind the smoke-screen, the elder Chong has secretively fulfilling his own desire to own a 4-wheeler (he too had been a motorcyclist all these while).

This led to a shock awakening on why he piqued out that day on MSN when I made crass comment about the Korean car model he had been waxing lyricals about (for info both his and Vincent's car are of the same model, just different color).

It sure is bewildering why he want to be so secretive about it but then again it's sometime good to keep things to yourself, and not broadcast to the rest of the world, you never know how people percieved it.

Speaking of broadcasting, Foo and my recent blog adventure on our favorite local football club which had blown very much out of what we had intended it to be when we started, got caught in a sticky situation of late.

With a draw at home against a team we felt with the talent we had in the playing squad, we should had easily truimphed over at the comfort of the home ground, we went on to lash out undiscerningly on how disappointed we were, without thinking twice about mincing our words.
This brought an uproar in the hierachy in the club management who felt we are just some negative media trying to unsettle the team morale or something.
The bigot German coach even blew his top and sent me mails, stating his indignation upon reading our gratuitous criticism and groundless deduction of his tactics and game play etc.

While I defended my point with Foo's backing, it was pretty much an ugly fall out between us and that arrogant head coach, so don't expect us sending each other Chirstmas cards anytime soon.

Despite having the support of the understanding chairman who oversaw the whole situation on an unbiased ground, it didn't really turn out the way we had intended but we had to state our stand as a fan who coldn't just standby and watch the team getting into a rut (we are bottom of the table by the way) and still unbashfully plaudits the team for their lackluster performance.

While I might have come off a bit too defensive and strong with my words, I didn't expect my partner in crime felt I was rather uncalled for in terms of self-imploding with the whole situation.
I knew he shared my passion if not more, but he tends to keep things subtle which was antagonistic to my style.
There was no wrong or right on how one decided to express themselves; you never know his calming nature could be the remedy to my rash, indiscreet style.

The truth is I might felt jaded with the fallout but I was not that bothered but he seemed to try to think I might have got too involved in it, now trying to distance from it for a while.
I agreed to his stance to sooth the situation by not going against it heads on which might implicate other people, but somehow I wish there was some sign of support throughout the whole fracas.

I know I am a rather self-centered and perhaps egoistic guy, but I would treat my real friends with sincerity and support whenever I could though it seems it was not reciprocated at times.
This incident together to another incident many X'mas back brings me back to square one about truly understanding my buddy.
Japanese word of the day: 人間性 ~nin-gen-sei~ (Human Nature) Still unfathomable even when you thought you know one person long enough

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Wednesday, April 01, 2009

The Joke that Played on me

1st April 2009, Wednesday

April's Fool and the biggest joke seemed to be played on me.
The recent spate of miserable weather, extreme heat and humidity concoction with showers making things worse see a hike in people down with the flu.
The missus and myself jumped on the bandwagon and after struggling to contain the flu and grogginess yesterday, I felt I just need a a good sleep at home today...so MC it is.

Today also marked the first day we had to utilise the gym up the hill... Pretty sad about the previous one since I had been hitting it for 4 years now and then it was gone..bummer
Thought it was an April Fool joke but obviously it isn't.

Karen flew off to Seoul for her usual April spring break and she must have hoped the whole court fracas with her beloved Korean megastar, Rain was a joke as well.

The biggest joke for me today was sitting uncomfortably in Hougang stadium, slightly feverish as my imuune system tries to win the battle against the virus and witnessed a torrid display for my home team....just kill my day

Japanese word of the day: 冗談 (Joke) Any joke played on you today?