A Crime Drama with STRONG Female Leads | LIVE | Kdrama Review

For the Hongil Division in Seoul, maintaining work-life balance isn’t easy. Thankfully, this Korean drama on Netflix seamlessly juggles an ensemble of characters problems in a way that doesn’t burn you out. This is a review of one of the best crime kdrama of 2018, LIVE!

I caught this one a few months back when it was trending on Netflix. Live, Laibeu or 라이브 is a 2018 South Korean Drama. It follows a squad of police officers who defend the crime-laden Hongil district while also maintaining personal lives.

I didn’t know what to expect when coming into this drama.  I wasn’t even sure if it was pronounced like “Saturday Night Live” or “We all live” live. Either way, it turned out to be a solid story in the vein of a recent office drama I watched.

Our main leads starting out are Han Jung Oh and Yeom Sang Soo. Jung Oh is a college graduate who is trying to break into the sexist Korean corporate culture. It was a bit of a laugh coming from Misaeng and seeing Jun Suk Ho playing another jerk role. While on a commute home with a friend after a disastrous job fair, she comes across a listing to join the police academy.  Jung Oh seems to have a complicated relationship with her father, but nonetheless, she borrows money from him to take a year off and study for the exam.

Yeom Sang Soo is actually introduced in the train station the same time Jung Oh is leaving. I love when tv shows place characters in the same spaces before their formal meeting of one another. It just makes you think about how many times you may have unknowingly crossed paths with someone who later in life became a good friend or even a lover.

Sang Soo runs himself ragged all day porting water and making phone calls as a company intern. Similar to our other lead, he comes from a single parent home. Believing upper management’s urgings to invest in the company and get rich, Sang Soo borrows money from his mother and brother. He pours his life savings into the company as well, only for it to turn out to be a Ponzi scheme. He later sees an advert for the police academy and decides to join.

The show introduces and explores different characters from here.

It details the pair’s lives at the academy, and the bond they form with another recruit – Song Hye Ri. The trio decide to transfer into the same dodgy district after graduation, believing they will be promoted quickly. At the academy, Sang Soo butts heads with over the top training officer Oh Yang Chon – who comically leaves shortly before graduation. Yang Chon’s life and marriage seem to come spiraling down, and he ends up transferring into the same district as the rookie recruits.

The show deals with themes of duty and what it means to be a police officer. I keep dwelling on this one quote from Superior Ki Han Sol. It was something to the effect of “There are two types of cops you should watch out for: Officers with a strong sense of justice are dangerous, but cops with nothing to lose are even more dangerous.”

Given the situations the squad seems to find themselves in, this dynamic is explored as some are pushed to their limit and react accordingly, given their life philosophy. I don’t want to spoil the core plot too much, but I will say that a strong sense of camaraderie proves more powerful than any sense of duty to the institution.

LIVE also focused a great deal on the politics of South Korean police officers. One thing I took note of was that an officer’s gun had to be returned after each patrol, and only senior or responsible officers were given one in the first place. Taser guns were given freely and cops could be penalized if they shot dangerous areas such as the chest, stomach or thighs. One of countless incidents involving the precinct happens on Jung Oh’s patrol. She later expresses a wish to transfer to America due to their perceived reverence and protection of law enforcement. Given how reckless she becomes, sadly (I think) she would be fine overseas.

It was an interesting take on two newbie recruits: one who had no sense of duty but needed a job and one with so much duty he would continually risk his life. It also made me reflect on the state of law enforcement in America. I will not suddenly become a bluelivesmatter fan, nor do I personally care for cops or the American justice system. But it was an interesting take on another country and how social degradation was fought.

These opinions expressed on law enforcement are my own and do not necessarily reflect the core beliefs of this blog.

I watched this Korean drama on Netflix, if you know of any other legal subscription sites offering it please let me know and I will update this post with that information.

I usually wind up watching cop kdramas like Signal, so LIVE was a real treat to watch. I hope fans of crime investigation and cop thrillers will enjoy this one!

Do you enjoy crime dramas with a bit of romance? What was your favorite kdrama to watch in 2018? Do you have any recommendations for Korean tv shows premiering in 2019? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below, we would love to hear from you! Also be sure to check out our other articles on Korean Culture while you’re here!

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Not Sure About My Reaction to the Detective Pikachu Trailer

Is this the personification of Ruined Childhood?

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Growing up, I liked Pokemon as much as the next person. I have this vivid memory of trading cards with cousins at my grandma’s house. I accidentally traded a holographic vaporeon for a lesser pocket monster and immediately regretted it. My older male cousin would not trade back, prompting me to cry until one of the adults made him give it back.

They all called me a crybaby and we never played cards together again.

But even today, I can go into one of my old grade school binders and flip through lamented plastic sleeves protecting treasures from the 90s. I don’t think they can say the same – so who’s laughing now?

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On a serious note, today I discovered this film called Detective Pikachu. Premiering May 10th, 2019 it marks the first ever live-action Pokémon movie. I logged onto twitter to talk about Marvel Comics Legend Stan Lee passing and came across the film and actor Ryan Reynolds trending. Deadpool was a smash success at the box office and I have nothing against the actor but in all honesty – I rolled my eyes when I saw his involvement.  Especially since I distinctly remember the yellow mouse being a girl, along with revelations concerning Blue from Blue’s Clues.

I likened the film to a Ted sort of deal – you all remember that raunchy teddy bear film, right? I then associated it with Family Guy; which I like, but I’ve had enough of that series over the years.

After seeing people compare jigglypuff to a washed up mobster moonlighting as a deranged lounge singer, I took myself over to YouTube and watched the trailer. As others had suggested, it would be wonderful if he were played by Danny DeVito.

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And boy, did I have some feelings.

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Charzard is terrifying. Charmander is still adorable.

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Psyduck looks like the tormented soul I always knew he was and Mr. Mine really is just that creepy.

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It gave me the same feelings of nostalgia growing up watching the Harry Potter movies after reading the books.

Only this world, everything is gritty and very much not the Solarpunk paradise the games seem to paint. Nothing is green, people aren’t walking around with flowers in their hair and goodwill in their hearts.

Ryme City looks like any major urban area with a seedy underbelly. What’s more – Pikachu is a damn detective! I know this theme has probably been explored in anime, manga, and Nintendo 3DS spin-off games but gosh it is so different seeing realistically rendered Pokémon in our world settings.

The trailer also makes subtle references to the universe, such as the Squirtle Squad being wanted criminals in the police station, or having cartoony depictions of Pokes as city parade floats. There is even one scene where the main character (didn’t catch if his name was Ash or not) is walking through a night market and the signs have the weird off-shoots of Japanese characters that were adapted into the American Gameboy versions to seem like some sort of made up language. Trainer Mistry even seems to show up later in the film!

It just feels real, and I am super excited for it all. I didn’t know I needed this in my life until now.

Have you watched the Detective Pikachu trailer yet? Can you believe The Pokemon Company and Nintendo signed onto something that seems geared towards millennial adults? What monster do you hope is in the film? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below, we’d love to hear from you! Also be sure to follow us for more impromptu (borderline fangirl) posts like this!

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Hishigaki, the Hitotsume-Nyūdō | Natsume Yuujinchou | The Youkai of Anime

A new installment in the Sunday series – this week focusing on Hishigaki from Natsume’s Book of Friends.

This series will explore yokai, their history, and prevalence in a series. Japan is a land where spirituality is prized over religion, and Shintoism is viewed more like tradition than a bind. The tradition of visiting temples on the New Year, adding yuzu fruit to baths during the Winter Solstice, Jizo statues and local shrines are so old that no one remembers its origin story.

See our previous posts on Nyanko Sensei, the Maneki-Neko, Madara, the Okuri-Inu

Series Name: Natsume Yuujincho [夏目友人帳]

Number of Seasons: Six

Original Air Date: July – September 2008

Manga: Yes (ongoing)

OVA/Movies: Yes

Character Name: Hishigaki

Yokai Name: Hitotsume-nyūdō [一つ目入道]

Association: Manipulation of appearance, one eye, sacred regalia.

Episode of Appearance: Episode 1, Natsume Yuujinchou (Season 1)

Description:

A rather large youkai with one central eye, long grey-white hair, wearing white kimono with brownish-gold trim. Hishigaki is first introduced to Natsume Reiko standing near an ojizosan statue of a Buddhist priest holding shakujo.

O-jizo-san (地蔵菩薩) can range in size and are patrons who look over children, the underworld and weary travelers.  If I remember correctly, in Spirited Away – it’s been a while since I last saw the film – Chihiro and her family pass small forest jizo before crossing the river and entering the spirit world.

jordy-meow-418063-unsplash (1)A 錫杖, or Shakujo are staffs adorned with six golden rings and can also be referred to as “the pilgrim’s staff”. It is believed that the six rings represent the realms of karmic rebirth aided by the guidance of Jizō; a Bodhisattva that has attained enlightenment and wishes to help humanity essentially transcend suffering.

You may have seen this staff before.

It’s usually one of the divine instruments carried by a wandering Buddhist priest or monks who happen upon ungodly creatures in legends and decide to seal them with prayer. A contemporary depiction that comes to mind is the pervy priest, Miroku, from the anime Inuyasha.

The Episode

Seemingly one of the first yokai Natsume Reiko adds to The Book of Friends, Hishigaki chases the school girl’s grandson through a forest decades later- mistaking him for Reiko.

A woman is seen praying before leaving a manju bun. Given Hishigaki’s attire, it can be safe to guess she may be a sort of shrine guardian living on the outskirts of the forest.

Alone and hungry, Reiko seemed to provide a temporary salvation from her stationary existence. The youkai watched the seasons change while remaining in the same place, waiting for the girl’s return. When she never did, the spirit felt betrayed and wanted her name back.

It has been said that sometimes loneliness is not that bad. However, once companionship is found and taken away once more – it can become too much to bear. This seems to be the case with Hishigaki, who began the route of turning into a vengeful spirit.

Beliefs of Shintoism and the Influence of Buddhism

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I labeled this entry as Hitsotsume-nyudo due to her features, but I also wonder whether or not she could have been a Miko (shrine maiden) who went through a death ritual – giving her the white kimono garb.

Miko (巫女) are commonly known and identified by their bright crimson and white attire. Today in Japan the young women mainly sell omikuji (御神籤) or fortune slips at temples, assist priests in low-level rituals, and sweep the sacred grounds with brooms. Shrine maidens of the past had more pressing duties that carried weight far greater than today’s incarnate.

“…At the shrines of Ise, Kasuga, Kompira, and several others which I visited, the ordinary priestesses are children; and when they have reached the nubile age, they retire from the service. At Kitzuki the priestesses are grown-up women: their office is hereditary; and they are permitted to retain it even after marriage.”

Depending on prefecture, girls or women were thought to be property and wives to the gods, who in turn spoke through them and endowed with ritual dances and incantations for exorcism.

It can sometimes be hard to draw the line that intersects Shinto and Buddhist influences in Japan as they seem intertwined. Shinto beliefs are practiced in the course of daily life, while Buddhism dominates death and funeral rites.

The deceased are sometimes dressed in shinishozoku (死装束); which can translate to burial clothes or clothing worn when committing ritual suicide such as seppuku or harakiri. It is an all-white kimono with an off brown almost gold-ish obiage, or what resembles a thick sash in the middle. Occasionally, a triangular hat could be placed on the body. There are few prevailing theories regarding the hat that spirits are depicted wearing in paintings or historical records.  A 天冠, or Tenkan could either be defined as a coronation crown used during the Imperial period (1890 – 1945) or it could be related to the ‘celestial crown’ adorning Buddha and other divine beings.

I read somewhere that the Tenkan was an invention of Kabuki Theater to differentiate human actors from those portraying yurei, or spirits. Japan seems to have a history of associating certain articles of clothing or manners of speech with the ayakashi – however until I can relocate the work and source it I won’t elaborate further on that particular theory.

Could Hishigaki been a human in a past life who worked at a local temple or shrine?

But then, where would the one eye factor in?

I came across this Wikipedia page that suggested “cyclotropia” was a thing in ancient Japan due to a diet historically low in animal protein and fats. So in other words, some fetuses developed only one working eye due to poor nutrients on the mother’s part. At first glance, it could be slightly believable, as the Japanese diet consists of healthy seasonal vegetables and rich aquatic lifeforms.

However, upon further searches, nothing else can be found except vague allusions to conditions followed by heavy medical jargon. I sifted through the medical journals hoping I could probably find answers quickly, but unfortunately I just didn’t have the patience and fortitude to give it much credence.

That is not to say something like this could not have existed in many ancient cultures. It just seems like a very Western perception to suggest another culture had deformed children based on a diet that did not heavily favor meat and other livestock that is popular, but extremely unhealthy today.

Another definition I found attributes it to severe cases of cross-eyes. But also cites the Wikipedia post so for now, it’s a mystery.

The Legends      

Hishigaki has the appearance of the ōnyūdō (大入道), or “giant priest” due to her size. However, these yokai tend to be depicted as ‘normal’ humans in appearance aside from their grandiose size. They are also bald, which she is obviously not.

Thus, bringing us back to the Hitotsume-nyudo for classification purposes. Although typically depicted as males, these youkai ambush travelers on the outskirts of cities and towns and are adorned as wealthy priests or monks. They are also able to control the perception of their size at will, an ability Hishigaki seems to possess – despite not having the fancy clothing.

This yokai was particularly difficult to identify as it seems to be a mix of different archetypes and could even be an original character Midorikawa made for the episode. If I come across differing information later on in this series, I will be sure to update this post and clarify its renaming.

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And with that, we are at the end of the first episode! Next week, I’d like to cover a film by one of my favorite animation directors so the theme will be a bit different but the format will remain the same. The following week we will either resume covering yokai from Natsume’s Book of Friends episode two, or cover an episode of another series I have in mind to slowly alternate back and forth.

If this post got you interested in the series, feel free to check out Natsume’s Book of Friends, Vol. 1 and  Natsume’s Book of Friends Seasons 1 & 2 Standard Edition by using these links. It supports the series and also helps out the site at no additional cost to yourself!

I’m really glad more of you out there have stumbled upon this series thanks to #FolkloreThursday on Twitter! Do you have a favorite yokai anime character?  Are you enjoying the glimpse into the massive Natsume’s Book of Friends fandom? Do you believe Japanese folktales and legends have moral lessons to learn, or are they solely accounts of exaggerated creatures and monsters? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below, we would love to hear from you! Also be sure to follow us to be notified when the next article is posted!

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*Quote taken from (Hearn, Lafcadio “Japan: An Attempt at Interpretation” pg. 77)

More Than Just An Office Drama| Misaeng: Incomplete Life|Kdrama Review

This review contains slight plot spoilers. Enough to understand the context, but too few to ruin the entire series. Read on without fear, because I am determined to talk about this wonderful series with you.

A chase scene in Jordan. A young fashionable man wearing a suit. Two men in suits inquiring the whereabouts of a fugitive. A parkour sequence over the rooftops of a foreign land.

You would think that this was some sort of cop drama, no?

No, no no my friends. This is actually an office drama that starts at its end and takes you through a flashback for the entire series. Here, Jang Geu Rae was living his best life. But in order to understand the magnitude of his confidence and how we got here, we have to delve through his pain…sift through office politics, abuses of power, human rights violations and ever rampant misogyny. In the end, however – a strong message of hope.

Perseverance and hard work do pay off, despite the cold and calculated reality we live in. Yes, there is a future for everyone and it is something special that we create. We never know what our paths will cross or where they will lead, but these roads should be followed diligently until the very end.

This is Misaeng. This is the story I will write about. A tale that upon waking up a day later, it still brings a smile to my face.

Misaeng (미생 – 아직 살아 있지 못한 자), or Incomplete Life is a 2014 South Korean television drama. It was adapted from the webtoon Misaeng: Incomplete Life by Yoon Tae-Ho. The kdrama follows four interns who earn contracts and become newbies at one of South Korea’s top trading companies. Each character has their own motives, dreams, and aspirations for joining the company.

For blue-collar raised Han Seok Yul, it’s a fortunate opportunity to change work conditions for field employees. For Jang Baek Ki, it means embracing his birthright – a culmination of selfish entitlement and social standing. For An Young Yi, it is a start over from a promising future that was previously snatched away too soon. And for Jang Geu Rae…it is a chance to move forward in the game of life that he views as Baduk, or Go.

College Vs Merit

This series, in short, focused on coming of age in a world that tries to dictate your worth by upbringing. Now I know what you are thinking – In Asian Spaces, that is essentially the case everywhere. And frankly, you’re right.  But there is a certain nuance between things we perceive and things that actually are.

Such as the persisting question of a college education and the “right” upbringing versus actual merit and grit to accomplish anything.

In the drama, Geu Rae is allowed an internship at one of the top trading companies in the country. However, things go awry when his peers and the permeant staff find out he received this red herring through a connection. In addition to this perceived favor, he only had a GED from high school. I am referring to this as a ‘red herring’ because ultimately this allowance amounts to nothing. The connection is revealed later on in the series, and it was seemingly just a placid favor with no expectation of the boy’s success. Something intended to hold him over until he essentially becomes another’s problem.

Baek Ki has an insane superiority complex but felt threatened and inferior to Geu Rae and his skills. He was also extremely jealous of his relationship with Young Yi, whom he desired. Baek Ki later admits embarrassment over his qualifications upon realization someone “beneath him” had grown faster in Korean corporate society through hard work and determination.

Baek Ki frequently does things wrong despite instruction, makes careless mistakes and is not for the team but himself – which isn’t bad in a corporate setting but the dynamic isn’t cohesive like within Geu Rae’s group – Sales Team Three. The relationship between these two is the core of the show and explores the dynamic between college-educated employees who know nothing, and ‘less than’ undesirables who put in the work and truly fight for recognition. Once Baek Ki understands Geu Rae’s background and why he did not attend college, he respects him more as he can finally understand things in the context of his own narrow worldview.

Before this revelation, Geu Rae’s character is simply thought of as lazy, too stupid to attend higher education or too poor. These assumptions also carry over into American society. It seems nowadays even the “simplest jobs” (although the most emotionally taxing and stressful) such as retail work require college degrees. A degree from a good university seems to have replaced the high school diploma requirement in most establishments, despite the quality of worker not visibly improving.

Geu Rae is placed with the team that the company has the least faith in. Throughout the series, we learn that the sales team is not ‘traditionally successful’ because they have a heart and are conscious of their actions. They will not lie, cheat, bribe or indulge in illegal activities to secure a contract. It is very admirable morally, but socially due to the nature of the work they are considered a troublesome and outspoken group.

Due to an internal scandal, the section chief and now mentor to our main character, Mr. Oh, leaves the company. Before his departure, he overhears former colleagues gossiping about a recently hired college grad that didn’t know how to use a printer and called his mom for help.  This gives Mr. Oh a flashback of how his team had bullied Geu Rae when he first arrived and his response to the treatment by simply saying “teach me”.

I won’t go any further into the plot, because I’d really like you to watch this drama yourself. All I will say is that because of his connection with Mr. Oh, Geu Rae is given a chance. Which still somewhat brings in the underlying factor of the drama into question: do connections matter when merit is involved, or do they only enhance one’s merit?

Also be sure to note Mr. Oh and Geu Rae’s connection at their first true meeting. It will be explained towards the end of the series and I would like to think of it as a “rebirth” for both characters.

We should be receiving a season two of the series, which will explore the aftermath of decisions made.

Which brings us to the land of plenty, which I actually hope to visit one day.

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Petra, Jordan.

The crossroads of the old world. In this place, the duo is reborn.

Mr. Oh remembers things that he had long forgotten. The yearning to travel, the importance of family, daily life outside of a job that later consumed his being.

The fact that those higher-ups who do wrong never seem to be reprimanded is also hammered home, and perceptions are not as they seem. This is in relation to Mr. Choi, the company head honcho, who is shady and thinks that he ultimately won with his questionable business tactics. (Again, watch the show and you’ll understand exactly where I’m getting at – it’s a great moment I don’t want to spoil for anyone.)

The series ends with a truck driving into the sunset, on the road less traveled. Freedom, endless vast spaces. The sands of time. A complete break from the traditional and opportunity to do whatever one wishes.

A great takeaway from this series is that anyone can ignite their entrepreneurial spirit. That sometimes, office work is not for everyone. People are fake and co-workers who seemed to care really don’t. Or in turn, people who you thought were complacent are actually secretly batting for your wellbeing and supporting you in their own ways. It is also a PSA to not let your corporate office life become your work. Do not lose your sparkle, do not change, do not forget who you were before you began your adult work life. Don’t forget the dreams you had, the places you wanted to see, or the friends you wanted to make.

I have had so many terrible jobs for the sake of a paycheck. I’m at a point where I am not making much money but I’m happy each and every day. I feel free and remember what I wanted to do and what I enjoyed doing before waking up each morning to please people who didn’t give a damn about me outside of what I could do for them. It is pure bliss, and I hope anyone out there reading this is truly happy in their job and lives. I am taking a huge gamble but I want to see it through until the end. I know everyone cannot just up and move things around in their life, but if you can change even just one thing to make life more pleasant – that’s something special.

There is so much more to this…thing called life. And I am so happy that I realized it.

If you enjoyed this review and wish to support the series legally, it can be watched on Netflix  VIKI or if you enjoy owning DVD’s, Misaeng : Incomplete Life (Complete Series Episode 1-20, 7-DVD Set, All Region DVD w. English Sub)

Please watch Misaeng, it is so good and is shot in both South Korea and Jordan. I am still looking for similar shows like it, but until then I’ll leave this review here.

Are you happy in your work life? What types of Korean Drama do you enjoy? Do you know someone who has been shut out of society because they don’t have a college degree? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below, we’d love to hear from you! Also be sure to follow us by email to see more reviews like this!

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 [Also, if anyone is interested, apparently Misaeng means incomplete life in Baduk terminology.]

About Halloween

A quick update on what is going on with In Asian Spaces as we near 2019.

Hey Everyone!

So just a few things I wanted to talk about concerning the blog.

I wanted to post something for Halloween yesterday, particularly my own Japanese ghost story. While I was still at the cultural center, I encountered a lot of strange things – especially since I was frequently working early mornings or nights. The security guard and I used to trade our own stories.

One day, however, some really creepy things happened in the break room and the bathroom. It made me think back to all of those Japanese “bathroom” ghost stories I’d watched videos about on YouTube years ago. 赤マント, or Aka Mento levels of creepy.

It was very slow sometimes working there, so I had a habit of bringing notebooks and either studying Japanese or writing short stories. I thought I wrote down in detail what happened that day, because I remember texting my mom about the incident when it happened. Especially since besides myself, only maintenance was in the building and they were in the basement and I was alone on an upper floor of the building.

I hunted for two days looking for a particular notebook with the story. I have a really bad habit of buying a bunch of notebooks and using them for certain topics, or to just have one laying around in a random place whenever a spark of inspiration comes.

I did find one late yesterday evening, however, it was only half of the story. I really remember writing it down, so maybe next year I’ll post it in full.

Then I thought about doing a sort of countdown with past scary shows I’d watched. Psychological-thrillers and psychological-horror are particularly terrifying themes to me so I wanted to focus on being trapped in your own mind. I went back and forth with the idea, writing short reviews of some of my favorite series before deciding it didn’t sound good or felt half-assed, and abandoned it.

I am extremely picky about my writing and way too hard on myself. Actively trying to change that.

So I have a few little reviews that I most likely will push myself to sprinkle through the blog in due time.

I was working on the #YokaiSpiritSunday series, and one of the resources I was using (a medium blog post about Shinto regalia to cover the next yokai I had in mind) up and got deleted. I dabble in academic journals mainly for the series, but couldn’t find anything like that in English until that article. And they deleted it. As I gave them a clap for it.

I don’t know why, but I feel like I jinxed myself by showing appreciation before completing the article, which is usually what I have been doing. So I am still working on that, hoping to get one out this Sunday. I’m still also trying to figure out if I want to do it bi-monthly or at least three times a month. The research for the article is easy, I just seem to slog when it comes to editing. Also something I’m working on. But in general if I’m not completely happy with something, even with a self-imposed deadline, I really just will not do it/complete it/publish it until I’m happy with it. I had a really bad habit of doing that in film school by missing term paper deadlines and emailing the professor to literally type “I was not happy with my work and self-sabotaged. Can I have an extended deadline” and they usually obliged.

I’ve also been working on a book series, which I think I eluded to in earlier posts on this website. I’ve been writing content for when I launch the site, working on graphic novels and shorts trying to flesh things out more. There are two main stories in the series, and the rest is an offshoot. Similar to George R.R. Martin’s “1000 Worlds”, each story (for the most part) takes place in the universe on a different timeline. It’s a project I am super excited about, but I have (another) bad habit of doing all or nothing.

So I will either write a ton of content for In Asian Spaces, or spend a week or two writing and world building for the series and neglect this website. On Twitter today, I came across the #NaNoWriMo hashtag and decided “hell, why not” and threw my hat in. For those of you unfamiliar, basically it is a writing challenge to finish the first draft of a short novel (50,000 words) in the month of November. There is a huge community surrounding it and it feels good to be writing with everyone else, telling stories and sharing tips. It’s so much support and good creative energy.

I also feel like by entering, I’m one step closer to the goal of attending WorldCon 2019 in Ireland.

It will also help me kick start this backlog of short film screenplays, web-series ideas, graphic novel scripts, short story ideas and novel ideas I’ve been hoarding and inconsistently growing since college. In Asian Spaces was one of these ideas – a blog dedicated to anime, the culture surrounding it and its influences. So I am slowly, but surely getting to this mental list I’ve had for years now.

Luckily, I’ve been prepping content for this month and December to try to get ahead to work on my backburner projects, so this is where that comes in. I won’t be posting as much this November because of the reasons above, but I also don’t want to completely be a ghost. I have a few Kdrama reviews to upload this month from a backlog of binges in times prior. The Korean Culture tab has been kind of dry as well, so I feel the need to add in some reviews along with other one-off article ideas.

I also have a few manga reviews and then in December I’ll be reviewing all of the shows I mentioned on the blog (and a few I haven’t) that I vaguely promised reviews for “at a later time”.

So that’s the game plan for the remainder of 2018, along with guest posts and contributions to other websites. If anyone would like to collaborate on anything, please don’t hesitate to shoot me a message on the contact page or email me at InAsianSpaces@gmail.com .

It’s been wonderful getting to know those in the aniblogger/jblogger community here on WordPress. Everyone is so talented and has such unique voices, I truly feel lucky to be a part of it. Thank you, Everyone, for being so kind and encouraging! It really does mean a lot to me (=

I’ll most likely be posting something later on today and was going to add this onto the post, but judging by the length I’m glad I decided to leave it separate. Here’s to a creative November, Everyone! (=

-In Asian Spaces

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A Fresh Start for the Series? | Sword Art Online Alicization Review

A promising fresh start for a series that has become synonymous with goofy tropes and character flaws.

I love VR. Or Cyberpunk. Post-Apocalyptic Shenanigans…

Anything to do with encapsulating oneself in a virtual world is something I’d like to see refined in my lifetime. I’ve always been drawn to virtual reality inspired anime, watching the likes of No Game No Life, Log Horizon, Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon, and Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash with extreme vigor. Hai to Genso no Gurimugaru [灰と幻想のグリムガル], or Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash seemed to take a similar route as Log Horizon by showing the actual struggles of finding yourself stuck in a virtual world. It should also be applauded for its humanistic approach on taking a life, the stages of grief and how to recover from a severe trauma. If you are into highly realistic plots in your anime, this is one you should not miss.

I could write all day about how great Grimgar was, but this article will be about Sword Art Online [ソードアート・オンライン].

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this on the blog, but I am a huge high-fantasy and science fiction fan. I love series like George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, H.P. Lovecraft’s work (despite his extreme personal flaws as a human being), Grimm’s Fairytales and anything by good old Edgar Allen Poe.  The SAO season one Aincrad Arc was like Christmas to someone like me. The medieval feel of the in-game town mixed with the real world Sci-Fi drama of having your mind trapped in a rouge technology with the risk of death was such a hook.

After that arc, however, things quickly took a turn for the worst. Between the whole incest thing, the almost-rape scene with Asuna Yuuki, and main character Kirigaya “Kirito” Kazuto’s harem I’d had enough.

Back in 2014, I made the mistake of watching a harem cleverly disguised as a sci-fi anime called Brynhildr in the Darkness [極黒のブリュンヒルデ] and have never made that poor choice since. I wanted to gauge my eyes out after completing that series. The sheer fact that a gaggle of women were borderline obsessed with a boring main character to the levels that it affected the storyline’s plot in ridiculous ways irked me to the core. So coming into SAO without the knowledge of Kirito’s harem gave me something akin to war flashbacks.

However, the core story was intriguing and I was very pleased to find out it took place in the same universe as Accel World. There is even a prevalent fan theory that Kirito and Asuna are Kuroyukihime’s parents.  This theory has been shot down regarding all the characters in question because of respective ages, but one can still dream of a connection between the three besides Nerve Gear.

I tuned in for Alfheim Online, Gun Gale Online, (or Phantom Bullet) and watched Mother’s Rosario. I skipped Ordinal Scale and now have returned for Alicization on the currents of good buzz. Other weary watchers expressed skepticism that was met with assurances that there would be none of the nonsense that plagued the past seasons.

The premiere was forty-five minutes long and had a bit of a cold opening. It set up the premise of this season’s story, which will revolve around Kirito testing a new form of VR that uses the soul. He explains to Asuna and Sinon the Soul Translator’s methods and expresses concern over the somewhat shady practices of its creation entity, Rath.

The sequence was fine, but it slightly bothered me that no one said hi to Agil while in his cafe. I’d imagine there was a quick hello while ordering drinks, but for the most part he was stoically shinning glass cups.

Either way, that’s not totally important.

Towards the end of the episode while walking girlfriend Asuna home, Kirito is accosted by the last known member of The Laughing Coffin. If you remember from the first season, they were a guild who enjoyed ‘player killing’ for sport. Johnny Black seemingly comes out of the woodwork to stab our hero with a lethal dose of a drug called succinylcholine, which causes paralysis. The episode ends with Kirito on the ground unconscious from his wounds; the targeted attack area being the implant he conveniently spoke about earlier at the Dicey Café.

Episode two has already premiered, and I’m sure Kirito is fine. He’ll most likely fall into a coma and be transported back into Underworld, the Soul Translator game he was testing. The game seems to have an “Alice in Wonderland” vibe and explores his budding friendship with a resident named Eugeo. It is unclear (as of the season premiere) if Eugeo is an AI aware of their world or remains in ignorance as a player. An interesting aspect of his character was his notice of Alice’s game code while she was being taken away after committing a taboo in their world.

It should be interesting to see how Kirito and Eugeo’s friendship develops, and the exploration of “fluctlight acceleration”. I will definitely be watching and will most likely have a season review at a later time once it concludes.

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If this post got you interested in the series, feel free to check out Sword Art Online 1: Aincrad and Sword Art Online 9 – light novel by using these links. It supports the series and also helps out the site at no additional cost to yourself!

Did you enjoy past seasons of SAO? Do you miss Kirito’s harem? What has been your favorite VMMORPG anime to watch? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below, we would love to hear from you! Also be sure to follow us on Twitter, Reddit and Instagram for more updates and reviews!

 

What is Going On with The Tokyo Ghoul: Re Anime?

I at least take comfort in the fact that I am not the only one confused.

Tokyo Ghoul, or Tokyo Kushu:re [東京喰種トーキョーグール:re] is an ongoing anime series that originally began airing in the summer of 2014. It is based on the popular manga by Sui Ishida that produced both TG and it’s continuation, :re.  I initially read a few chapters of the original story, but have yet to finish due to the personal preference of waiting until the anime ends to read and compare the key differences in an adaptation.

The first season adaption of the series remained consistent according to a general fandom consensus. Season two, however, veered off from this severely. The most memorable scene for me will always be Kaneki serving Jason (Yamori) some overdue justice while “Unravel” by TK from Ling Toshite Sigure played in the background.

Tokyo Ghoul √A [東京喰種√A] seemed to have Kaneki Ken join Aogiri Tree, the organization that had kidnapped and tortured him. In the manga, he sided with the Anti-Aogiri group that was set on escaping their imprisonment by the shady group. The underlying basis in this is that Kaneki wanted to protect his friends, while in the anime he did not.

As a non-manga reader, I fully understood this season and even though finding it a bit dull, overall thought it was okay. “Glassy Sky” by Yamada Yutaka (やまだ豊) was an amazing song to listen to during certain scenes. I also really enjoyed the OP, or opening song for that season, even if I am seemingly alone in this. Say what you will about the series, but at least the OST, or official soundtrack is solid.

I caught the first cour of Tokyo Ghoul:re over the spring when it aired. I enjoyed it but was utterly confused with what I was seeing on screen. I had heard from manga readers that season two had pretty much veered off story wise and :re was supposed to essentially retcon it.

As with many things, I am very liberal with spoilers. You could “spoil” a show completely for me down to the last detail, and I would still be able to enjoy it. Sometimes with stories that have been ongoing for a considerable amount of time (ex: Naruto series, Shingeki no Kyojin, etc.) I’ll just look up certain things. Or if an extremely good episode was left on a cliffhanger, I will immediately resort to the manga before the next. I like to think of this practice in my head as ‘situational spoilers’. Plot details I normally would wait for, but just can’t seem to actually want to delay that knowledge.

After patiently sitting through the first cour of :re anticipating Sasaki Haise’s revert back to Kaneki Ken, it all paid off in the final episode. As an anime only watcher, the entire season had consisted of pointless slice of life-esque arcs with members of the CCG. Coming from past seasons, I did not care for any of these people and the anime did nothing to really humanize the bunch. The aura of cold sociopathy still exuded from these people who worked in this sterile desolate white building. The constant hidden and blatant ambitions of social climbing and backstabbing was such a turn off, especially when Kaneki or rather – Haise – would go home to more disrespect and antagonism from his team.

It really pissed me off watching Kaneki’s amnesia and how he was unknowingly interacting and working for those he considered enemies. It could be argued that was the point, but constantly shoving the organization in my face each episode did not allow me to soften to them as one would have hoped to while trying to enjoy the anime.

I especially hated all of the time spent with Quinx Squad. Yonebayashi Saiko and Shirazu Ginshi seemed like decent people, but I absolutely could not stand Urie Kuki. I also could not care much for Mutsuki Tooru, given the spoilers I read about their character.

But I powered through it, because moments with the ghouls of Anteiku made it worthwhile. The moment Haise unwittingly was drawn to the café with his old friends who silently just watched him was truly heartbreaking.

I was even excited to see Tsukiyama Shuu, despite him being a creep in previous seasons.

Then the first episode of the season’s second cour premiered, and it all went out the window once more.

Who is this guy in all black wearing glasses? Is this the Black Reaper character personality people were hype about? Why is he obsessed with arresting Takatsuki Sensei? Okay, why did Yoshimura Eto reveal her secret at the book release? Why can’t most ghouls read books without hiragana? I remember Hinami was really smart, and Touka disguised her true nature to attend high school normally. Why is Kaneki still working for the CCG, didn’t he want to die? Okay, Eto called him Kaneki so that really is Kaneki. Oh, Kaneki is going to free Hinami? Wait, where did his glasses go? Were the glasses just an act?

All jokes aside, episode one was extremely confusing. At least the op was good. TK from Ling Tosite Sigure was singing it again, and given my affection for post-hardcore I couldn’t help but bop my head to it.

Reddit user Gary4067 made a bullet point list of all things skipped in the episode, and it’s pretty tragic. Apparently, it adapted at least nine chapters from the source material.

Coming off the first cour and referencing the wiki, we left off at the Tsukiyama Family Extermination Operation arc. We then are just thrown into the Third Cochlea Raid without (from a manga standpoint) understanding why Kaneki is randomly going rouge. Yes, he did want to die – but the anime showed us him still faithfully working for the CCG even if he did get a little saucy by throwing things during an interrogation. I have no clue what happened to Tsukiyama or the ghouls who came to rescue him during the last cour’s end. No clue why Ayato is also coincidentally trying to raid the Cochlea. Rize is supposedly dead in the series and a figment of Kaneki’s imagination but apparently, she’s alive being held somewhere against her will.  No clue why Eto revealed her true identity to the world. Don’t know why I should care about the causal connections between the Washu clan, Organization V or the CCG but I’m sure it’s something important.

Manga wise, apparently: Eto revealed her identity as the popular author and the One-Eyed Owl at an Aogori Tree meeting or something but was overheard, so decided to reveal it to the public.  Rushima Island was being raided by the CCG, so Ayato (kinda?) decided to ambush the Cochlea along with AT members. Kaneki’s memories of being held prisoner in the facility after his defeat by Arima were not touched upon. Some background on Rize’s childhood was also missing.

If this was confusing to read, it is because even with explanations and spoilers I am still a bit jumbled as to what is going on in the series.

Animators in Japan are notoriously overworked, and Studio Pierrot has a history of questionable quality when it comes to their shows. Certain episodes of Naruto Shippuden and The Legend of Korra come to mind.  There seems to be a new director in charge of this season who lots of fans don’t seem to have a lot of faith in.

I am not sure if the production team is channeling the mangaka’s urge to be finished with the series, but for whatever reason, they are rushing it to the point of complete incoherence. Maybe it is budgeting issues, maybe there is a lack of leadership – we as watchers will never really know the true issue unless an insider spills the beans. But whatever the problems are, I wish the pacing would slow down just a bit in order to make sense and properly introduce characters. When a key character to the manga plot is introduced but on screen watchers are not given nor shown context as to why they should care, they tend to lose interest. I did not give a single damn about the man who was possibly killed while trying to defend Rize. I say possibly because the fight’s conclusion was too vague to show us his fate. Almost as vague as to why he was introduced randomly in the first place.

Either the studio needed to order more episodes to explain certain plot points, or it should have been adapted and condensed more fairly. I just wish I knew why Tokyo Ghoul Re is really this bad. Actually, Re and Root A both seemed to be a complete mess in retrospect.

I will continue to watch because frankly, I seem to enjoy scraps at this point, but I will be sure to read the manga once this season ends. For those of you also interested in reading it, Tokyo Ghoul, Vol. 1 can be purchased legally using the link at no additional cost to yourself.

How do you feel about the series adaptation as a whole? Are you a manga reader, anime watcher only, or a mixture of both? Do you think the Tokyo Ghoul:re “Call to Exist” video game will be better than the entire tv show?

Leave your thoughts in the comment section below, we’d love to hear from you! Also be sure to follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Reddit for more anime reviews and updates!