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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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.]

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!

Was AFNYCC Worth It?| Anime Fest @ NYCC | Convention Review

Covering the controversial convention one photo at a time.

So to start this review off, let me just say that I was not enthused to attend on Sunday. I made one two three separate posts about this con’s inception in anticipation for what might be experienced. I was still hopeful that it would be an enjoyable experience.

And then I looked at Social Media.

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I’ll be damned. There were sad and disappointed threads detailing the lack of programming, events, exhibitors or even attendees for that matter.

This morning upon waking, I was struggling to find a reason to go. The weather had turned and it was now overcast and drizzling. People were saying the shuttle bus wasn’t exactly on time or picking up many people.

I googled AFNYCC to try and pull up the convention twitter handle to view the shuttle bus pick up locations again.

My blog came up.

I googled the entire festival’s name, my blog came up again…before the con’s actual info or media links.

Since I wrote about it so much prior to its debut, I thought it was my civic duty to attend and document what I saw and experienced there. This is my sole reason for not just letting the con keep my $20.

Good SEO practices on my part aside, this convention needs to be documented. Someone on Twitter likened it to Dashcon. I associate it in my head with The Last Airbender film. Did the fandom wipe it from their collective memory? Yes. But it also served as a basis for not forgetting what happened the first time a remake was carelessly done, and spread awareness for the new live-action ATLA Netflix series coming soon.

I feel the same way about this. I will bite the bullet along with other con goers, and will immortalize it here on the internet.

Will they shape up next year? Who knows. But this will be here for anyone who wanted a detailed peek at what actually went down during Anime Fest @ NYCC x Anime Expo.

(Also some of these photos were edited on a potatoe, so excuse the quality of some shots.)

On an unrelated note, I’ll be purchasing my weekend pass for Anime NYC this coming week.

If you enjoy this convention review and would like to help me get to other cons, visit the support page to donate. Thanks and let’s begin!

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I arrived to the Jacob Javits Center around 9:30 am. I looked around for the shuttle buses, but seen none in sight. A man on a bullhorn was shouting directions to the comic con crowds on where to line up if they already had tickets. Once he paused for breath, I asked where the shuttle bus pick up was. I was directed to an area behind where we both stood. I waited five minutes and got antsy, as the day was overcast and there was a humid drizzle falling.  I walked over to the front entrance of the convention and asked a woman donning an earpiece connected to a walkie-talkie if she knew when the shuttle bus would be coming. She had no clue what I was talking about so I explained it was for the Anime Festival. She pointed me in the direction the man had and told me it should be coming eventually, as the 9:30 am pick up had just passed.

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Fifteen minutes later I was tired of standing in the elements and began walking. Around 9:53 I saw a bus for the Javits Center pass me by, but I was already ten blocks away. So the bus was a thing at least on Sunday, despite what I saw on Twitter for days earlier. Even with Midtown traffic, might I make a suggestion for if this convention continues next year?

Maybe it would be best to have a staff person sit on the bus to check passes and they could update the app on when they are in transit, and close to certain pickup points. It would take away a lot of the mystery of when the bus would come.

Before I left, I asked those surrounding me if they knew when the bus would come and everyone had unsure or confused answers. I also took photos of the incoming crowds.

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I planned to mention in the NYCC post my troubles finding a show program that Friday. I spoke to security/ReedPop staff and asked if there were program booklets for that day. They directed me to a place inside. I explained that I did not have a ticket for that day and that I went Friday and got no definitive answers on where to find one. In my head, I came to the conclusion that they were a myth and simply did not exist. Aside from one or two people, the entire convention nobody had one out.

A staff man was kind enough to reach into his own backpack and give me a booklet. I am extremely grateful for that act of kindness.

I can proudly say I now have eight years’ worth of NYCC program booklets to remember my experiences. I know that is not what is most important, but it’s been something fun for me to do over my years of attendance.

The walk to Pier 94 wasn’t completely terrible. It was just desolate and it reminded me of my walk there for Tech Day over the summer. Although I must admit, it was a bit depressing walking one way with a red colored Anime Fest pass and watching all of the green colored New York Comic Con passes continue on in the opposite direction.

As I got closer to the pier, I saw about five people going to the same place as me.

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Security was simple to get through, and I’m not even going to lie I snagged an extra lanyard from comic con on Friday because I didn’t expect there to be any at Anime Fest. The lanyards were red promoting Dark Horse Comics. So I guess there was a bit of color coordination with each events badges – red lanyard and ticket for AFNYCC, green badge and Line Webtoon lanyard for NYCC. One of the security staff from earlier had mentioned my badge looked totally different from everyone else’s, and I didn’t understand what he meant until now.

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Walking into the event space, you are greeted by the smiles of the staff. Unlike comic con, it was very easy to find someone working. I had a lot of casual conversations with them along with a lot of the vendors and exhibitors.

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Aside from Good Smile Company, however, it doesn’t seem like any of the other power players bothered to set up additional shops at Pier 94.IMG_5161

The Official Merchandise Shop and several vendors looked bored and were trying to commune with anyone passing by. I don’t think they did well on business due to the low foot traffic. It was a huge contrast from the main convention’s crowds.IMG_5096IMG_5041IMG_5087IMG_5122IMG_5134There was a well-sized gathering when I attended on Sunday, and the Autograph Signing for Cowboy Bebop even had a looping line. One of the two English translators with the production staff was Dr. Mari Morimoto, a veterinarian and real power player in the Japanese translation game. I’ve crossed paths with her at past con events (Kishimoto at NYCC) and at my old place of work. She recently had a lecture at The Japan Foundation’s The Nippon Club earlier this October that I tried RSVP’ing for but never heard back.

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As for the convention floor, I took a few photos of the infamous “Aladdin Rug”, bamboo tatami mats, parachute game, and a few other things.IMG_4944IMG_4995IMG_5016IMG_5135

 

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I think this is where the problem lies with many con-goers who went to this event.

Eavesdropping on conversations, some people were really excited about it. They had never been to Comic Con or an actual dedicated anime convention.  Many had brought small children or tweens who seemed to really enjoy the activities there.

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However, they are unaware of how anime conventions are ‘supposed’ to go. Given the names attached to this poorly and hastily thrown together convention (New York Comic Con, Anime Expo, a good handful of the major Exhibitors like Funimation, Viz Media, Crunchyroll, Vertical/Kodansha, etc. attending the main con) it was a complete fail.

It seemed like a small town non-profit convention that had no access to any Japanese culture or talent nearby. Only thing is, this is Manhattan. I worked in Midtown East for a while where all of the Japanese businesses and companies reside. I know firsthand just how strong and alive the Japanese and Japanese-American community is in this city. That’s not even factoring in other boroughs.

In its haste, the convention didn’t seem to partner with any of the smaller or local facets like Anime NYC has successfully done.

This is why we saw Chinese animation vendors, random tiered merchandise, and other things you would not normally expect at a for-profit convention with status associated with it.

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Then again, NYCC has never done anime well. A fact I’m glad no one has forgotten, again consoling me when I overheard conversations about this as I perused the convention.

But it was not all bad. A lot of talented Artist Alley residents were gypped, and deserve a bit of spotlight.

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The Elven Caravan was selling really cool custom painted elf ears.

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Jenovasilver has something saucy for you all with her “good wholesome cute things and sin!” (also lots of Voltron)

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YUKIPRI is a digital illustrator and webcomic artist who has some really great Yuri!!! on Ice art.

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A lot of the normal vendors were really nice people just trying to manage a badly dealt hand. No one seemed outwardly bitter.

The Taiwanese Cultural Center in New York was in attendance promoting some cool animated content they had coming up. I spoke about one event they were associated with earlier this year.

All in all, it wasn’t a completely bad experience. Would I pay to attend again next year? Absolutely not. Is it worth the $20 price tag as-is right now? No.

But don’t take my opinions to heart, as everyone will have their own interpretations of things and events. What sells me on any event is quality, effort, and people.

The people were really nice, however, there was no effort put into this “con” and because of that, the quality of what could have been a blast off the first year ultimately failed. This is especially true since the fanbase is literally there, but for some reason, the convention couldn’t cater to them even with all of those feedback surveys Comic-Con regularly does. It’s amazing.

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Let’s hope ReedPop takes the general consensus’ feedback and shapes it into something malleable that everyone can one day enjoy.

Did you attend Anime Fest @ NYCC? How did you feel about the buzz online surrounding this event? Can they do better next year? How?

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

 

 

I Don’t Think I’ll Attend New York Comic Con Next Year | NYCC 2018 Review

After attending each year since 2011 religiously, it seems the East Coast convention’s magic has worn off on me.

It was a clear, cool day arriving to the Jacob Javits Center for Comic Con. I had a Friday badge, and had arrived later than previous years. Timing the trains correctly, I could leave home around 8 am and arrive an hour later in line with one of the doors in clear view. Despite not coming super early, I always had good luck with getting to the show floor first.

I remember in 2012, I left super early from home and missed tickets for the private signing with Danny Choo. I was heartbroken. So heartbroken, that despite fighting a con cold with a 3-Day badge I called out to him after his panel. I boldly asked for his autograph and despite the packed room, he came over and spoke to me. I didn’t want to go to College and before transferring to my dream university, I spent my downtime on campus viewing his website and watching anime using the school library’s crappy wifi.

It’s was the only thing that got me through those days.

That year I also received a map of Japan, which along with my signed badge and other mementos collected over the years hang on the walls of my computer room. I remember was so sick that I couldn’t finish out the remaining days of the convention that year, and on the way home I cried in happiness that I’d met him. It was something I never fathomed possible at that point in my life. Things were terrible all around, and I retreated to anime in the worst times as a crutch to cope with things. Danny Choo had always attended Anime Expo in Los Angeles and I never thought I’d attend that con, until 2015 when I did – but that is a story for another time.

Each year I was dazzled by the people, the costumes – the energy of the big city. Coming from the suburbs, it was a chance to see things that were not a part of my environment. My surroundings. Parts and facets of my life I desperately wanted to become main staples danced and mingled at this yearly con. I would later attend college in Manhattan, work in the city and have my dream job years later at a Japanese Cultural Center – but the me back then could not even realize that those were viable options.

My world was so small. Everything felt so hopeless. I was just so incredibly sad each day.

In 2014 The Legend of Korra came to New York Comic Con. I remember doing live updates on Tumblr for the fandom along with a core group of other users, sitting on the floor waiting for the panel, fans handing out “Thank You Bryke” pins. Just being in the same room as fans of the original show, Avatar: The Last Airbender and the precarious sequel series made me immensely happy. My fandom had come to life and was here, something tangible my senses could understand and soak in. We were no longer hidden behind our screens or gifs or lengthy discourses of the show – we were all here in one room together; and it was magical.

I attended an off-site event to promote an upcoming video game for the LOK series and made so many new friends. We ate pizza, drank beer and talked shit about the Asami – Mako – Korra love triangle. This was before Korrasami became endgame. It was a great time.

I also went to the Brooklyn Brewery Defend Beer parties in costume. Getting a lot of stares on the subway, I powered through it and met wonderful people at the party. It was my first time back then traveling to different boroughs alone and although I was scared, it was a new experience. The con also had these off-site cosplay parties where you could meet other fans and win the coveted 3-day and 4-day badges in a raffle. I never won, but I always met great people and the free food was delicious.  The parties were in random places (a gay bar downtown by the “gay” pier, the weird side of midtown no one goes to) but it was always a good time.

Sometime after that, I had my first internship in that area of town. After my day was done, I’d often pass that bar and smile to myself remembering the good times before sitting down to stare at the bay. Because of that experience, I learned the area and had a better time getting around when I needed to navigate the area during my time as an intern.

The following convention year, it all changed and really clicked into place. Kishimoto Masashi was coming to NYCC, his first time overseas at an event. The internet went wild. I was still on YouTube during that time, and I remember the power players like Sawyer7mage, Double4anime and Forneverworld to name a few flying to New York for a chance to meet him.

Viz Media was giving wristbands out for a private signing and held a raffle at three different times that day. I already snagged a wristband to his panel after literally running to the line and being counted in. A few minutes later, the line was capped as many other fans also did the same and ran for their lives to get a chance. I ended up entering the convention center that morning right by the place I had to go to, and asked Lance Fensterman if it was the correct place. I had seen him on TV just the hour before being interviewed by the news and thought it pretty neat to just run into him like that.

I silently thought maybe it was kismet, I would be able to meet Kishimoto.

In the raffle crowds, I made many line friends. My name was not called during the first round, and I wanted to stay close so I set up shop on the floor in an area where weary con goers were eating and looking at their merch. Around the time of the second round, I left, realized my name was not called and went back to the same spot. This took hours. The final round was being called, and only about two or three spots remained. The woman calling names would simply skip over your chance if you were not there and making noise that showed you were present. My name was called, and as I was in the back of the crowd – I hadn’t heard it. Suddenly, I heard a bunch of people shouting “wait, she’s here – she’s in the sheep costume back there, don’t continue!” My line friends from earlier were calling my name and rushing me up front for my wristband.

They were genuinely happy for me. It was the nicest thing that had ever happened to me. These complete strangers who shared the same passions helped me on my mission to meet Kishimoto, when they could have ignored my name to better their chances. Suddenly, sitting in the same spot alone and hungry for hours and wasting the rest of my convention time had been worth it. Even now, it makes me tear up a bit just thinking about it.

I wondered what the difference was between me and someone like Sawyer7mage, who was not chosen for the raffle or Kinokuniya signing. Someone who had reviewed the series for years consistently and was the most genuine of the reviewers in my opinion. He made a video saying that although he did not get a signature, he randomly met the mangaka in the restroom and Kishimoto told him he recognized him from watching his YouTube videos. He was happy with just that, and it was such a heartwarming story to watch him explain and describe.

I wondered why I got the ticket, and why he didn’t when I felt he deserved it more.

I stopped thinking so selfishly at conventions. No longer the first one to grab a poster, or shove someone out of the way for a freebie. I started going out of my way to help other con-goers in the way I had been helped. And of course, when I had that signed shikishi at home I looked at it and cried. That seems to be a common theme, me crying over silly things.

I know that when I do get to Japan, I may just bawl my eyes out the minute that plane lands on the tarmac.

After that amazing experience, nothing could ever top it for me. The following convention years had been quite…dull from my perspective. I went, walked the convention floor, seen a few panels, snuck some food in to eat and went home while catching a gyro on the way.

The Gyro place has since closed. New York Comic Con stopped offering the free cosplay event parties. They stopped offering 3-Day and 4-Day badges. They stopped finalizing the talent list and putting it online before the purchase of tickets. They implemented fan verification. They implemented the virtual queue from hell. They got stricter on cosplayers and props. Security was beefed up. The generous freebies stopped. The lines were now long and convoluted.

The things I fell in love with at the con were gone and had changed.I’ve changed along the way, as well.

I have had so many wonderful memories at this convention over the years and I wish many other con goers the same camaraderie and happiness I experienced for generations to come.

For me, however, I think it’s time I branch out to see what else is out there. This convention used to be something I looked forward to all year. I planned costumes, saved money, and felt eternal happiness in everything I did.

I’ve since retired the costume I religiously wore. I now know Manhattan and a few other boroughs like the back of my hand. I know where to go for authentic anime merchandise and traditional Japanese cultural experiences in the city. I know where to find the best curry, the best ramen, and where to catch subtitled films in theatres. I’ve learned so much since the time I first attended New York Comic Con in 2011, that I feel like I’ve outgrown it in a way. I’ve graduated, and want to experience what else the world has to offer. I did attend Anime Expo in 2015 as a college graduation gift to myself, but as a now self-identified thoroughbred New Yorker I felt like I was in a different country while there. It was an atrocious time, but luckily there was a group of people next door to my hotel room that were from New Jersey. We hung out a bit and talked about how much we collectively hated California.

Next year I’d like to go back, as I made some new friends who stay in LA and attend that con. I should have a different experience with an open mind.

I’ve also learned how to read and write in Japanese since 2011 (although my spoken conversation skills are still a bit shaky and lacking confidence) I’d like to go to Comiket one year. Or the Tokyo Game Show. Or even AnimeJapan. Along with Sacred Anime Pilgrimages, there are so many things I’d like to do that I could not envision until now.

I’m no longer afraid to try. I’m no longer afraid that my dreams won’t come true.

I realized while writing this that the missing factor in my enjoyment of the con the last few years has been a tie to anime or a life-long fandom. That was also why I was so visibly angry when Anime Fest was announced and presented as some new convention when I remembered its previous incarnate. Especially on the heels of attending Anime NYC last year and receiving a special pin for its inauguration. It felt like such a slap in the face to my patronage of NYCC.

Which is why, along with other reasons stated and unstated, I most likely will not attend New York Comic Con next year.

That is, unless an earth-shattering guest is in attendance. Then I will buy a single day badge.

Otherwise, I’ll be home saving my money for new adventures.

I meant for this to be a review of the current con that indulged us all this weekend, but it seems that this somehow ended up being a review of all my past con at the Javits Center.

I’ve had fun, and that’s all I ever wanted. I hope in years to come they improve on some things, and continue to bring fans happiness with as little hassle as possible.

What is New York Comic Con like?

I don’t know how to end this, so I’ll leave it here.

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In Asian Spaces

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A New Breed of Tokyo Vampire | Devils Line Anime Review

You know how sometimes you’ll watch an anime, and the beginning is kinda crap? Like you don’t understand what is going on, the pacing is weird and the animation seems wonky? But you don’t want to judge an anime by its OP, so you continue on and actually enjoy the episode and then at the very last moment – boom – the show decides to tell you to go screw yourself? That was my experience watching Devils Line. Read on.

A lot happened as I watched this anime. A churning, erratic cycle of thoughts flooded my mind within the first ten minutes. I had no clue what was going on; I could not find a cohesive link between the two seemingly different stories I viewed on screen. My mind drifted to snarky remarks of how this may be the ‘poor man’s Tokyo Ghoul’. The mental trek continued toward associations with the Twilight franchise and Oshimi Shuuzo’s Happiness. I wondered if my interest in the episode would pick up.

Devils Line [デビルズライン] is a spring 2018 anime. It is one of several shows taking on the ‘a terrible creature is terrorizing the residents of Tokyo’ theme. Does that make it bad? No, not at all. What makes it curious, is its set up.

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So the episode begins with this strange red tinged sequence of a vampire slaughtering innocent people under a full moon. I’m sure the red overlay was meant to convey the feelings of panic, fear, and anxiety in all of those being shown on screen. There were screams of agony with this sound of wind blowing through a funnel. Rewatching the scene as I write, I still can’t really tell if this is supposed to show Anzai (who we meet later) or some random vampire who is later caught in the episode. I’m sure it truly is clear, but it’s just not registering to me.

I heard that in the manga it is immediately clarified, but alas…

We are then introduced to Taira Tsukasa, a university student who realizes that she is being stalked by a man with terrible bags under his eyes. There have been ‘vampiric killings’ around their prefecture that are only covered by conspiracy websites. One person who seems overly dismissive of the killings is Akimura, a close friend to Tsukasa who also happens to be in love with her.

(In a very, very creepy obsessive Lifetime Movie way)

The two subplots of the vampire killings intertwine and culminate when Akimura is walking Taira home. They discuss his apparent off-screen confession shortly before the start of the series, and he seems to get adamant about her possibly considering him as a potential lover. No matter how long it may take. Red flags doing the hula in front of Pride Rock a la Timon and Pumbaa style aside, I felt more uneasy with their interactions than Anzai’s apparent hero-stalking.

Akimura gets a bad feeling and Tsukasa tells him about her stalker. The two decide to run away from the brightly lit, high foot traffic area with tons of witnesses to a dark, secluded back street. The gloomy background animation style seems to have taken combined pages out of Another, Dusk Maiden of Amnesia and Aku no Hana’s manual on how-to-creep-out-your-audience with a foreboding atmosphere in otherwise pleasant places.

At some point the two embrace, and Akimura decides now is the perfect time to let his freak flag fly. He seems to get overly excited and begins to sniff Tsukasa’s hair. Rightfully so, she pushes him away. Then Anzai, her other stalker, decides to show up. But since he stalks for good, it’s perfectly fine.

Anzai confronts the source of the unsolved murders. Akimura decides to say that he assaulted and murdered those three innocent women out of love for Tsukasa; she gets misty-eyed. Tsukasa tells him that he should have just told her he was an inhuman monster who may have secretly lusted for her blood. I believe she would have accepted him. I guess this is a nice gesture seeing as how they were very good friends, but the logical part of my brain can’t seem to not be creeped out by his actions.

Maybe my own past experiences are coloring my interpretation of this episode, but I just thought he was a really deplorable character.

This is coming from someone who enjoys psychological thrillers with a perverse passion. I am an avid fan of the Killing Stalking manhwa due to its exploration of mental illness and societal taboo. Mr. Robot, Death Parade, 13 Reasons Why, Pan’s Labyrinth, Alias Grace, The Red Road, Dark Mirror (somewhat – I find some episodes incredibly boring and I can’t get enough of others…It is a very mixed bag for me). Anything that is film noir or neo-noir, I will adore it. This is the case with many other sources of media that examine outliers to the accepted norms that govern our world.

I do (on some level) understand that Akimura did what he did because in his mind, he was protecting the woman he loved. I also can understand Tsukasa’s reasoning for wanting to accept a man that has never harmed her and seemed to deeply care for her. But do I myself have to accept it? Absolutely not.

The series goes completely down the drain after that (for me) when Anzai takes Tsukasa home. Since he’d been hero-stalking her, he had a broad sense of where she lived and correctly guessed her apartment number. The two have a somewhat heartfelt conversation about the nature of ‘demons’ and how humans could never co-exist with them. Anzai then notices that the victim is bleeding after he shoved her onto the hard, concrete street earlier in an effort to…urge her to run away? Which then ended with her injuring her leg and thus bringing us to the current situation.

Anzai decides to vampire it up and instead of trying to bite her neck, starts full out tongue kissing her? After we just had the conversation about how violation and murder are bad, and demons and humans shouldn’t mix? MyAnimeList seems to list him as a half-vampire, so I guess he is exempt from his own cryptic advice. As he is forcing his tongue down her throat, a hip J-Poppy love song begins to play and the credits roll. I laugh uncontrollably between inhalation of oxygen wondering what I just watched.

It seems the two begin a forbidden relationship a la Bella and Edward style. There is also a character that is the spitting image of a young Victor Nikiforov. Apparently, his name is Johannes Kleemann, no doubt he is probably from the UK or Europe.

(After writing this, I tuned into episode two based on a dulled sense of curiosity. Moreso to try and find closure after the hodgepodge of a twenty-three-minute episode I sat through. I found no such closure. It’s a bit depraved for the sake of depravity, but I won’t knock the anime based on my own perceptions of its storyline thus far. Also our female lead might have the absolute worst luck in the history of any vampire anime I’ve ever seen.)

If this post got you interested in the series, feel free to check out Devils’ Line Vol. 1 by using that link. It supports the series and also helps out the site at no additional cost to yourself!

Have you watched this show yet? Or read the Devils’ Line manga by Hanada Ryou? What is your take on the ‘monster in Tokyo’ genre that seems to have re-emerged in recent years? (I mean, I know Godzilla was really the kaiju that made it popular, but anime has had a lot of creatures terrorizing big cities lately)

Leave your thoughts in the comments, I would love to hear from you! Also be sure to follow us on Twitter, Reddit and Instagram for more updates and reviews!