Monday, February 15, 2016

I Finally Watched Evangelion 3.33 and The Love Live! Movie as a Bonus

It has been a pretty good week for viewing anime movies.  I had to wait three years for Evangelion 3.33 to be released in North American on DVD, but I did see the last showing of the Love Live! movie in the theatre as a lucky bonus.
The DVD is nicely packaged with an illustration booklet and a sleeve.
Reception for the 3.33 movie was kind of mixed when it first came out and the movie takes Evangelion into mostly new and uncharted territory.  After watching it for the first time, I'd have to agree.  I would say that most of the movie is slow paced, with plenty of angst for Shinji, but there are some great action scenes.  I don't like how Shinji seems to have regressed in his psychological health as the movies showed him to be more resilient than in the TV series, but he is a kid trying to do good.  It doesn't help that everyone seems to hate him for starting the 3rd Impact in the second movie, but no one really explains this to him after he has been awakened over a decade later.  Some of this has got to be a Japanese world-view kind of issue (their government cover-ups seem to be better than ours in fiction). Still, the movie progresses along with some expected and unexpected plot twists.  I like that you get to see the main characters as much older people (other than the EVA pilots due to the EVA curse), but I would have liked to have seen them develop a little more.  The story still seems to be driven by NERV and their secret agenda, with Misato leading the resistance against them in her new flagship powered by EVA Unit 1.

Parts of the movie were really enjoyable, some parts were WTF and the movie does kind of leave you on a bit of a cliffhanger.  The story arc does wrap up, but not in a nicely packaged kind of way, as it definitely feels like part 1 of a two part movie.  I kind of suspect this move gets better with a few additional viewings as there are some subtleties that are missed or you get over the shock of things developing in a particular way.  I just hope it comes out sooner than later.  Another three year wait is a little too long.

The Love Live! movie on the other hand was a predictable and fun experience.  The movie was in limited distribution to the theatres, with only two showings in February.  I missed the news completely and saw the second showing only because a Google search showed that there was one showing a little later that day.  Absolute luck.  A few of us went at the last minute and there were less than 20 people in the theatre, but it was a nice last send off for μ's to wrap up the two seasons of the show.  We got to see our favourite characters again in New York, they sang some great songs, and their perky energy filled the theatre for us.  I'm definitely glad I managed to see it, especially after some 20 minutes of digital broadcasting problems that occured with the theatre's equipment.  Still, I received a free movie pass to compensate for it and we did see the whole movie and best of all, there were free posters being given away.  A pretty good event overall and made better with popcorn.

I also went to visit the Love Live Shrine and Akihabara in the spring of 2015 and you can see the post here.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Why I Like Japanese Konbini

There have been piles of articles about the greatness of Japanese convenience stores or konbini.  I'd have to agree that they are:
  1. Convenient by being ubiquitous in the big cities near train stations.  There could be one on every block or corner depending where you are.
  2. They stock good, fresh food that is replenished daily.  The prices are competitive for food.
  3. They are clean and well organized, even the bathrooms are nice.
  4. The staff are polite.
  5. There are plenty of products for snacks, drinks, and food.  They stock good instant noodles and will supply the hot water or microwave your food for you.
  6. They provide many services from photocopying, selling tickets, paying bills, picking up packages, or even ATMS (for 7-11) that take foreign bank cards.
Originally an American invention, they were brought to Japan in the 1970's for 7-11.  The Japanese massively improved on the concept (probably through kaizen or continuous improvement).  Decades later, the Japanese 7-11 company (Seven and I Holdings), bought out the parent chain back in the States, and competes in a fierce Japanese market with many other konbini companies like Lawson and Family Mart. I also really like the limited time products they stock to bring customers into  the store and even more so when they have anime tie-ins.  I'll list some of my favourite things about konbini below now.

Onigiri or rice balls.  These are hand-sized pucks or triangles or rice that are often filled with pickles, salmon, tuna, etc.  They are just so delicious and make for a great snack or lunch if you have a few.

The wonderful variety of drinks, from juices, soda, energy drinks, green tea, canned coffee, and alcohol like beer, saki, and whisky.

Canned coffee is pretty darn good too if you just want a fix, especially when it is hot.  Most stores also sell fresh brewed hot coffee now too due to the competitive nature of the business.

Some of the types of fresh food or bentos that can be bought and heated up in the store.  You have everything from Japanese food to Italian food to fresh salads.  When I visit, I rarely buy these as I'd rather eat at a quality Japanese fast food chain for rice bowls, tempura, sushi, or curry.  But these are good for on the go for sure.

A whole display of different kinds of rice balls.  There are many kinds to suit different tastes.  You can get everything from pork flavoured to salmon roe to rice balls with boiled eggs in them.

Many different kinds of instant ramen or cup noodles to help fill the tummy.  I particularly like Nissin myself.  There are plenty of different kinds of flavours to try.

Fried chicken or karaage.  This is another very competitive area for konbini.  Their fried chicken products are usually really tasty and I'm drooling just thinking about it.

There is a  wonderful variety of snacks from biscuits, gummies, gum, all kinds of chocolates, to hard candy.

There is no shortage of different kind sof potato chips or puffed corn snacks either.  Rice crackers and other kinds of crunchy goodness are also available.

Did I mention beer?  I probably did already, but it is something I definitely like to have in the hotel room after a long day of sightseeing.

They also have a nice variety of freshly baked goods like sponge cakes, and also very good sandwiches.  Try the egg ones too!

A limited edition instant ramen bowl from 7-11.  Even came with a piece of pork and a pickled umeboshi plum. It was very tasty.

A variety of candies and snacks picked up at konbini.  Buying treats at the konbini allows you to bring them home and enjoy your trip to Japan long after you have returned.  :)

I didn't show many fresh fruits and vegetables, but they do exist too.  In fact, there are specialty stores like Natural Lawson and such that stock more healthy snacks and food.  Don't forget they sell treats like ice cream, pudding, and other really tasty desserts too.  Anyhow, konbini are pretty cool and I'd never say no to have one near my home.