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music: Wonder Girls August 18, 2009

Posted by chiisai_hana in : music , comments closed

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These days, it seems like everyone has become familiar with the South Korean girl band “Wonder Girls”. Their debut happened about the time I began listening to K-pop, so they’ve been a mainstay of my Korean musical selection since the beginning. There is just something fun and catchy about their songs, I can’t be ashamed to admit I listen to them a lot (they’re topping my last.fm charts).

What you might not know is that the Wonder Girls are currently touring North America, opening for the Jonas Brothers. Last month, they were featured on FOX’s Wendy William’s show singing their English version of “Nobody”. According to their website, they’ve been doing numerous promotions, even attending the Teen Choice Awards. It is certainly going to be interesting to watch them try and break into the American market. They’re not the first Asian artists to try, but their fans seem to be really behind them (on the official site is a link to a poll for “Artist of the Month – September” and they’re winning with 89% of the votes currently).

If you’re looking to try them out for the first time, I recommend the music video for their song “Nobody” (English or Korean version). It’s slightly comical, but also pulls in the “Mo-town” influence they were going for. My personal favourite song choices are “So Hot” and “Saying I Love You”.

-> Wonder Girls Official (English) Site
-> Wonder Girls Official Youtube Channel
-> Wonder Girls @ last.fm

introspective: outgrowing anime August 12, 2009

Posted by chiisai_hana in : introspective , comments closed

I’ve been grappling lately with the question of whether one can outgrow anime. There is always the matter of anime getting stale – too many rehashed plots, too many stereotypical characters – it would not be the first time anime has failed to grab my attention. Yet previously, during those times I always had a steady stream of series to follow even if they didn’t inspire my creative side or prompt me to spend money on merchandise.

There are many reasons why I think of this summer as “the final childhood summer”. For the first time, there is an idea in my mind of who I am. I am starting to think of my hobbies in concrete terms, better equipped now to answer the old “what do you do in your spare time” question. Increasingly, anime is shoved to the bottom of that list. And what I think surprised me most of all, was the realization last night that I didn’t even want to spend any more money buying doujinshi I would have jumped at four months ago. They’d be nice to own, sure. But maybe I could spend that $20 on a new pair of shoes …

Shoes?

I have never, ever been into fashion. Clothes shopping? Hate it. Makeup? Forget it. My figure? Is passing; my diet is healthier than almost anyone I know and I haven’t gained weight in years. So why suddenly the interest in getting in shape, cruising stores at the mall, styling my hair and smoothing out my skin tone? Last time I checked, I wasn’t brainwashed into buying our popular culture standards.

What it comes down to seems to be this sense that I have begun to run out of time. If I don’t do it now, I never will. My final year of undergrad is ahead; I need to, have to, absolutely must do well if I hope to even get considered for grad school. And suddenly this is where image pushes itself to the top of my interests. I need to talk to professors and ask them favours, make contacts, go to interviews, maybe even move to a whole new province next summer. Suddenly, life is gearing into transition and there’s this sense that I can’t put things off anymore. I need to do something for myself, and I need to build confidence before I can throw myself out into the world.

And more and more, anime doesn’t offer me any help with that. Instead I’ve rediscovered the library, have been teaching myself how to cook, slowly doing some personal training so I can tackle sports in the fall, researching post-undergrad options, looking into volunteer work and trying to figure out where I want to go in life. We often say anime offers an escape, and right now, I don’t need one. Next month, it’ll be exactly a year since I bought my last volume of manga – something I use to invest hundreds of dollars in – and I don’t feel any need to rectify it. Series sit half finished on my shelf. Anime I’ve downloaded sit mainly unwatched. I pass up on the fanfiction, read my doujinshi entirely through scans, and if I do get the urge to indulge, I pull out something I bought years ago and give it a new lease on life. I won’t ever kick the habit entirely; I’m still interested more in Asian culture than any other. Dramas are the recent discovery, and my motivational kick while I work out is a good, beat-driven Korean pop song. Undoubtedly, anime was the path by which I developed these interests.

In the end, I have no answer. There can’t be an answer, because I don’t know how anime might change in the future, or how it might come back into my life. There is something equally disconcerting and yet confirming about realizing I can live without it. And I’m grateful to have it as a lens to view my own growth through. In fact, in many ways I can see how anime helped to shape me into the person I am today, and it’s a relief to know the awkward teenage years can end so well. I won’t be dramatic and say I’ve parted with the genre for good because even as its impact on my life lessens, I appreciate where it has helped take me, and anticipate when it will catch my interest again.

art: Hoshitamago June 9, 2009

Posted by chiisai_hana in : doujinshi , comments closed

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When I first approached the world of Hetalia doujinshi, Hoshitamago was the circle, it seemed. At first I didn’t get the hype. The art isn’t the typical “moe” style, which is what usually attracts me, and proportionally I found some of the scenes to be off. A couple months and many books later, the artist seems much more at ease with the characters and I have been converted to the Hoshitamago fanclub.

Like many other Hetalia fans, Hoshitamago’s focus is on the America/England relationship. But what makes this particular circle’s books unique is the depth and feeling behind the characters and the stories. Many of the books seem longer than a standard doujinshi, and the artist has done her history homework. In the end, there’s something inexplicably fulfilling about Hoshi’s doujinshi that compensates for any other criticisms one might have.

If you’re interested, joining the hetalia community on livejournal will allow you to access English scanlations of Hoshi’s books. I really can’t recommend the 11th fanbook – Netsuzoushita Kiss Line – enough. It deals with the changing relationship between a younger America and Imperial England in the weeks leading up to the American Revolution. And if you don’t mind Japanese raws, the community also has many of those available. The books are generally readily available for purchase too, though I’ve noticed recently that many popular sites like jpqueen have sold out of the older titles.