Isle of Dogs (2018)

Having watched The Grand Budapest Hotel at the behest of at least one fan of Wes Anderson, I decided I was not also a fan of Wes Anderson. Maybe a different movie (a stop-motion canine dystopia set in Japan) would change my opinion?

Nope. Still not a fan of Wes Anderson.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/isle-of-dogs/id1363298490

Articles about Isle of Dogs

Vulture: “What it’s like to watch Isle of Dogs as a Japanese speaker”
The writer shares some thoughts about language, setting, and the possibilities and pitfalls of cultural appropriation, adding thoughts from several Japanese speakers.

The New Yorker: “What Isle of Dogs gets right about Japan”
The writer considers the film’s use of Japanese language and culture to be thoughtful and nuanced, and says, yes, actually there are Japanese in-jokes as well as a lot of culturally accurate details. Personally, I agree that the American in the story is not a “white savior” because although she rebels, she’s ultimately ineffective.

The New Yorker: “Isle of Dogs is a stylish revolt against (American) political madness”
“Thrust into situations of utter degradation, places of utter ruin, and fates of utter despair, these [canine] victims unite in resisting the forces that would destroy them and, in the process, tap into a latent sensibility and forge a sublime style of their own….. The movie looks closely at deportation, internment in a prison camp, and the threat of extermination—all from the perspective of the victims.” Welp, now I feel silly taking the story at face value. Of course it’s all a political metaphor.

Vulture: “Isle of Dogs: Did you fall asleep?”
The writer explains some reasons why Wes Anderson, or at any rate, this film of his, is not for everyone: Anderson is deadpan, the visuals are precise, and there’s a lot of dialog in Japanese.

The Atlantic: “The beauty and sadness of Isle of Dogs
The writer says this fable about evil, told with “magnificently deadpan humor”, is “filthy and fetid, yet somehow utterly gorgeous”. Personally, I don’t see how something can be disgusting and beautiful at the same time. And that’s my biggest problem with the film: I kept wanting to look away.

Railroad Tigers (2016)

In Railroad Tigers, Jackie Chan’s character is a Chinese villager living under the yoke of the Japanese army during WWII. He is the leader of a secret rebel group, the Flying Tigers. He leads the small, patriotic group on raids to harass and steal from Japanese soldiers stationed on the trains that pass through his village. They aren’t soldiers, though, and although they constantly risk getting caught, they never really accomplish much. What can they do to truly help their country? When a wounded soldier tells them he has failed in his mission to blow up an important bridge nearby, they know what to do… but not how to do it. Will they succeed?

Almost the whole film happens on a train, though there are some scenes in the village as well. I laughed a lot and thoroughly enjoyed it. Those who have disparaging things to say may have found the pro-China and anti-Japanese themes distasteful; or they may dislike silly action movies, since many action movies these days are gritty, dark, or at least largely serious in tone; or perhaps it’s partly just that they’re English speakers who don’t like having to experience jokes via subtitles.

In fact I wish my Mandarin (and my Japanese) were stronger, because then I’d have been able to appreciate the dialog better. Nevertheless, even though I mostly had to rely on the English subtitles to understand the dialog, it was still hilarious. And you don’t need subtitles for the slapstick comedy, anyway; you could get a fair amount of enjoyment from the movie even with the subtitles off—assuming you like slapstick.

In fact, the main reasons I like Jackie Chan’s movies are: (a) they’re silly, and (b) each of his characters is charmingly and effectively protective. Moreover, as other reviewers unfailingly point out, it’s amazing that Jackie Chan is still not just alive but also kicking. Hats off to an amazing and very dedicated lifelong artist!

https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/railroad-tigers/id1225504120

I’m looking forward to the next Jackie Chan movie already, and I don’t have long to wait: Kung Fu Yoga is being released in Singapore this week.

RahXephon (2002)

The show has stunning visuals; long, meditative pauses; a sci-fi plot with humanoid aliens; giant mechas, good and bad; Mayan design motifs; a coming-of-age story; time distortion; love triangles; a chosen one; an immortality quest; military loyalty and in-fighting; and more hidden identities than you can shake a stick at. Weird as the show is, it all comes together in the end (unlike Lost). Highly recommended!

I bought this set in Singapore very cheaply—too cheaply, it turns out. The picture quality for a good third of the episodes is terrible. Though the box has the MDA approval sticker on it, I don’t think the discs are legit.

Furthermore, this version has English subtitles but no English audio, except for the random words that are in English in the original. Hearing the original audio is somewhat edifying because I still remember some Japanese words from a class I took back in… 2002, coincidentally. However, I watched the show in English years ago, and I remember the story as being thoroughly weird even without subtitles that come across as error-prone, awkward or downright mystifying.

I want to watch the show (and the movie) with English audio and better quality video, and I feel bad for buying some kind of knock-off—I really try not to do that, since I think the content owners should always get the requisite fees. Luckily, there’s a RahXephon DVD set on Amazon again.

Ruth Chew books from Japan

Below are photos of the three Ruth Chew books translated into Japanese and published in Japan in 2016, which I just ordered by mail from Amazon.jp.

The Amazon Japan website is easy to use (there’s a button to switch the site to English), and you can check out with USD, but now I keep getting emails (marketing emails, presumably) from Amazon in Japanese!

See below for more photos of these exotic books.

Continue reading Ruth Chew books from Japan

Please be understood.

at The Central
at The Central

I spotted this hilarious Engrish sign at Book Mart at The Central. It is (I assume) not a joke but rather the best translation they could manage.

Thank you for usually favoring it more. This time I will perform store remodeling construction in the following schedule. I am so sorry, but a store is closed until November 3. I really trouble it, but it, please be understood.

I think it means:

Dear customers, thank you for your continued support. The shop will be closed for remodeling until November 3. We apologize for any inconvenience caused.

If you are looking for a better translation for “please be understood,” consider:

Thank you for understanding.
Thank you for your understanding.
Thank you for your kind understanding.