A Look Back : The Shinkan / Urusai Wonderyears

It’s been a long time since I last played a gig with any of the bands I used to play with. My last gig was with Urusai at Sky High’s “Tales from the Unfriendzone” back in February. Since then, I’d been pretty much out of action, thus ending an almost 5 year playing streak with Shinkan, and then Urusai.

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credits to Mr. Carlo De Lacy for this wonderful photo of us

I really miss playing out with my guys and girls, but real life had caught up with us all at this point and I guess it’s time to put down our guitars in order to put down our roots. I got married this year, so did Icel and Marlo and it probably won’t be long before Ivory and Kajo decide to go at it as well.

We’d gone ways down the road from when we first started jamming together. We’d played good shows and while Shinkan never got to play at the event we formed up for (Ongaku) we did get good gigs which as a whole are quite memorable.

 

An exception to my current band-less streak would be the band that our department had put together to play for our company’s Thanksgiving Party. Perhaps I will dedicate a future post to this quirky bunch of guys who came together to answer the call for rock n’ roll – or reggae as I suspect.

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Yes, I came up with the name as joke. I didn’t know people would take it seriously.

 

 


 

 

That being said though, as with any band, there would be high and low points. There would be gigs worth remembering and those we don’t want to even mention. I picked out some of the more noteworthy gigs and songs we’d played for your viewing and listening pleasure. Also, take note that the videos you’ll encounter below may be chronological in terms of order but not of importance.

 

Without further ado…

 

2011 Asian Pop Expo

This is the very first show we’d played in, and was also the first time we met asterysk* in the flesh. It was also the first time they handed us our asses. This was me coming out of my classic rock / prog closet, hence the Michael Schenker-esque leather jacket while the girls wore more J-pop inspired outfits.

 

2012 Revotaku Jam Pack

This show found us playing our first outdoor gig in the cold January air. This was also the first time we came out with the red “Shinkan” band which was Marlo’s wonderful idea because we didn’t have any sort of stuff with us that show us to be a band. The kanji on the band spells the band name, and we have used the same characters ever since. This was also the first show that we experienced major hassles in almost every aspect except when we played our set.

 

2012 Asian Kung Fu Generation Tribute Night

I think this is the first of the many appearances we made at the then already tore-up af Freedom Bar. This also marks the first time that we joined a gig that had a theme going on since all bands had to play one song from Asian Kung Fu Generation, a band that none of us really pays close attention to. It was a lot of fun, and also began the tradition of Marlo, Kajo and myself drinking before a set, often to hilarious results.

 

2012 Otomonogatari

Now this one is really memorable especially for me, for a lot of reasons. This was the first band competition that we joined on and won a respectable 2nd place, and was also the first competition I ever joined that I was picked as Best Guitarist, an award that I still can’t believe I won. It was also around this time that I began my long period of fanboying over the popular anison singer, LiSA. We selected her version of “Brave Song” for one of our pieces, which incidentally was also one of the songs of yet another group, Yui for President.

Beyond that, this was also the day that my wife and I had seen and heard of each other. The memories of this gig is so important to me and my wife that this was where we had our pre-nuptial shoot.

 

2013 One Rock Tribute Night

This show found us back at Freedom Bar, this time playing to the Philippine One Ok Rockers (P.O.O.R) to the music of One Ok Rock, a band which we have absolutely no sense of similarity whatsoever. Although my sister and I listened to the band quite a bit at the time, my bandmates didn’t but we agreed to play the show anyway. This was the first time that I first began my now current practice of bringing two guitars to a show, and possibly changing them out when there is a need for a differently tuned guitar. Marlo took on the bass on this night since we needed his awesome slap and pop techniques, so in order to have Icel play guitar, we decided to teach her our setlist entirely in drop D tuning, which she did quite well considering a six string isn’t her native instrument. I played part of the show on standard (Yuri) then changed out to a drop D guitar (Maya), and this was the first show I started using my Vox wah. Actually, I bought the wah specifically for this gig only, but found that I liked it so much that it remained on my set-up since then.

This was also the night that us guys got so hammered drinking before the show that when the time came for my sister to hand me my other guitar for a swap, I totally forgot about it. LOL

 

2013 Best of Anime 

This was my first BoA appearance with the band – they’d appeared a few times prior to me joining up. The twist on this particular gig was that we needed to play an original song that the band had written and composed. I wanted to come forward with some ideas, but it turned out that Ivory had written one such song (“Rockstar”) years prior and they had already worked on it before I came aboard. That made the job so much easier for us, and all I had to do was provide some fancy guitar parts. At the time, I was learning how to play string skipped arpeggios in the style popularized by Paul Gilbert. Due to my noobness, I was only able to use one pattern in D major that I played up and down all over the intro chords. We had a good showing for our efforts in that while we didn’t win on this one, we did garner a lot of supporters.

 

2013 Ozine Fest 

This was the day we finally won first place in a band competition! Although it wasn’t without due sacrifice – I was supposed to be attending my car club’s Christmas party after we confirmed our set to be at 3pm, but we ended up playing at 6pm much to my dismay. There were a lot of people on that day, and admittedly I played my solo quite half heartedly because my amp suddenly sounded strange after we started playing. All’s well that ends well I suppose.

 

2014 Toycon

This was our first Toycon appearance, and my second time to appear in the said event in about eight years. We were still rocking it out with our usual set list but what made this particular gig stand out was that we played this particular Macross classic, a song that many dub as the song that stopped an interstellar war. I was supposed to be using my then newly acquired Peavey Telecaster (Phoebe), but I ended up switching back to Yuri after I felt uncomfortable with the single coil sounds I was getting.

 

2014 UP AME-X

 

This marked the first time we played at this famed convention series, and also our first time to play at the Word Trade Center Pavillion. Personally, this is one of my favorite gigs because we got to play a good long set with people actually singing along to us. We chose to play this Love Live! classic because at the time, the series and the mobile game was very, very popular. This also marked the first time that I was able to utilize a fully analog effects rig, along with my by then better developed string skipping arpeggios which no longer kept me in one box up and down, that I used on “Yuzurenai Negai”, a song that our community friends seem to tout as our signature song.

 

2015 Otaku Expo 

By this time, we had already become regular guests and performers at a lot of the more popular conventions in Manila. Having won a previous Ozine event, we secured a slot on this one, playing to what I think is the most densely packed audience we’d played to. This also marks the very first time someone outside of our band (Jake) took on vocalist duties along with our girl Ivory. I liked our sound here, and we seem to have become tighter as a band, and a lot of people had responded that Kajo was growing really well as a drummer, and that Icel was doing great on the bass because she was playing “H.T.” quite well – this is mostly due to the fact that the bass and guitar parts all go through the same notes and patterns.

 

2015 Influence @ Biz-Ahr

This is my personal favorite actually for the top Shinkan gig to date. We played a posh and great sounding venue, with ample space to not have everyone knocking into each other due while moving around. We were really in the groove on this particular night, my rig sounded amazing and needless to say, I think we really did well. We were furnished with a new set of “Girls Dead Monster” band shirts courtesy of RV Urban Style, the previous design being the all black Shinkan shirt with the crescent moon logo that we gave out to some audience members before. We also gave away the last of our remaining shirts on this gig, with one ending up in the possession of Sol of Solguilty Project, a famed cosplay and events photographer. This also happened to be Phoebe’s first real gig, and I think she sounded like balls that night.

 

2015 Toycon

This marked our second Toycon appearance as a band, and while we didn’t secure a prime time slot, we still played our hearts out and did well in general. Again, RV Urban Style designed a new shirt for the band and I think Ivory took the time to advertise our generous sponsor. I was still going with my analog gig, and this marked the first time I used my Flying V (Hana) onstage and also the first time I played some slide guitar in a live gig.

 

The Toycon gig is the last time Shinkan played together as a band. Although we’d put down our gear for now, I still look forward to a time that we can all come back together and play out under the lights.

 


 

Now while Shinkan is mostly the band we are best known for, the girls also had a little thing on the side going on. With the addition of Jazz from asterysk*, they called themselves “Dreamsicle”, they sang (occassionally danced) as a group ala Kalafina. The boys of the band then decided to go with an often talked about but never executed plan – form our own sub-unit that played more different styles of music than what Shinkan usually does. After some practice with just the three of us, we decided to see if we’ve got the mettle to do things our way and “Urusai” was born. With just the three of us, we usually played instrumentals but we eventually got around to singing the songs ourselves.

 

2014 Grand Theft Maco

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This was our first gig as Urusai, but before we actually got to play the date, it was supposed to have been a Shinkan gig. People expected the band to be there, only to be taken by surprise that only the three of us boys showed up. Things didn’t quite work out to how we wanted it because I developed a cold then a cough prior to the gig, severely hampering my already limited singing voice (ugh) but I tried as best as I could seeing as how the guys could still belt it out. “Highway Star” is a personal favorite of mine, and I suggested we play this to see if a three piece band can pull it off. The idea for the arrangement we did was an old bootleg recording from a band I used to do roadie duties for, Leaf. Marlo’s suggestion was that we actually play Siam Shade’s “Triptych” for real because up until that point, we only played the last parts of the song as a soundcheck.

The idea was to combine the opening bars of Daita’s “TGE4” version as per Kajo, and spliced it to Siam Shade’s V7 live version – complete with the thrash metal inspired bridge and *gasp* headbanging. Honestly, I didn’t like how I performed the song on this because I was feeling cold and I was struggling to keep my hands going. But did pull it off somehow and we even had the audience going “Oi!” during the bridge. This also marked my return to using my trusty Korg AX1500G and since to get a “beefier” guitar sound, I did a stereo set-up with both amps but to make things interesting, I dialed in the amps different from each other, with one having a more bass / mid setting and the other having more of the harsh treble coming out.

 

2015 Summer Over The Rainbow

This one is my favorite Urusai gig because I think we simply rocked that night. We did all vocal songs, and we wanted to showcase Kajo’s singing. Thing was, he wanted to sing the whole night so what we did was we picked a friend of his as our drummer for that night. So we had Simon on drums, Marlo on bass, me on lead guitar, Kajo on rhythms and we also had Ivory sing one number, and yet another friend, Rainier,  on our last song. Since we were supposed to play a tribute set to Parokya ni Edgar, Kajo took the lead vocals and we sang behind him. This was the first gig that I fully appreciated the sound I was getting with a Marshall compressor pedal, and Phoebe was a screaming mass of wood and steel strings that night. Considering the fact that our drummer isn’t exactly a gigging drummer, our set sounded tight and people sang with us.

I don’t really dig PnE songs per se, so instead of copying the leads note for note, I took the main themes and added my own flourishes to it.

 

2016 Tales from the Unfriendzone

This gig was mostly my idea because I’m a closet Hale fan. My friend Jei was asking around if he can get a band to play a Hale set for his gig which was supposed to be for people without a date on Valentine’s Day. I asked the guys if they wanted in on the action, they agreed and since this was my idea, I have to do lead vocals. This was a pretty amazing set for us and to keep the song order coherent, I tied it up to stories about my then recently ended long term relationship, which elicited laughs from some people and scorn (towards me) from others.

The audience did a lot of the singing that night because as luck would have it, I was coming down with a fever than night and I was losing my voice on some parts. For that particular night, we had Kurt (Riku) from Kamaimasen playing additional guitar parts. The house was packed and we had a really good time playing what people thought was a strange choice for us – people thought we were going to shred that night.

 

 

 

It had been a really long and fruitful journey with the guys and girls of both bands, and I am really grateful that we were able to bind our common love for music, and share it with the people around us. The good thing about it all is that while we’re no longer actively playing together, we started out as a group of friends and we still stick together.

I think that’s a really beautiful thing and maybe, just maybe, we’d be able to get back at it in the future.

 

 

 

 

 

Until the next time the lights find us again.

 

~fin~

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Sora

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“I’m going on a journey. Please don’t look for me. ” 

Cat Eyes

I wrote this maybe a decade ago. It started out as a rant about my perceived failure to confess to a girl I had liked then, and about my frustration about not being able to find a copy of Starship Girl Yamamoto Yohko, which is one of the most underrated anime ever.

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Now, why Cat Eyes? The girl I was eyeing (that was all I ever did anyway) had chinky, chinita eyes which was very trendy in the early 2000’s. We were close – very close since high school. We were not just friends, but also not quite lovers and we had soon drifted apart due to the chaos that was college getting in our way. I held on to my unrequited feelings for the good part of the next five years after I last saw her in person, and this was kind of like my parting shot to her, and my attempts to find someone else.

I am really a long term kinda guy, and I seem to be very hopeless in that aspect.

Coincidentally, Yamamoto Yohko is one of my favorite female anime protagonists, and she was always referred to in-show as a “cat woman” since she was drawn to resemble a cat. Needless to say, I have always been a huge fan of her series.

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The first draft I made was considerably longer than this, and I had since lost that. The one you’ll read below is the final form that I wrote to fit a very simple song structure in the key of A, and made with the most basic tools. I recorded this three times, twice with a different solo each time, and a third one recorded years later with a more structured form, cleaner recording and two guitar solos.

I have only performed this once as a song ,and that was back in 2006 during Toycon VI. I was the leader and frontman of my own band called KITE. We were supposed to play an original song as a tribute to someone, something or anything. I only have a few photos of us left, and lost the video when Multiply shut down a few years back. We had since disbanded and never played together as KITE again.

The only other time this fell on people’s ears (unwillingly lol) was in 2010 during our English class’ culminating activity – I read it out, banged the now familiar guitar solo and finished the whole thing with a toast of red wine (yes our class allowed it) for an added touch of class. I very easily took home a 4.0 simply because my professor thought I was some kind of poet / shredder / performance artist, which in hindsight I probably was. I very nearly performed this last April when Urusai wanted to put in some original material for a gig, but I backed out at the last minute owing to my perceived lack of singing skill. Instead, we opted to perform one of my written instrumental pieces but was eventually axed by the guys because it sounded too boring.

 


 

I am writing this all from memory, and I may update this as I remember the words. And if I work up the balls to upload the final draft of this song, I will post it here as a link.  And that’s a big if.


 

Cat Eyes

I never really had the time to say,
Just what goes on inside my head.
I guess I was caught up in my own play,
Writing a song that you’ll never hear.

And so I say to you my fate,
To see you again someday.

I know you’re never far away,
A song that keeps playing in my head.
Cool cat eyes keep haunting me,
To see you again someday, someday.

All I ever did was look at you,
I guess you’d say that I was some sort of fool,
I never did find the words to say,
Just how much you really meant to me.

And so I will to you my fate,
To see you again someday.

I know you’re never far away,
A song that keeps playing in my head.
Cool cat eyes keep haunting me,
To see you again someday, someday.

(insert my best goddamn guitar solo ever, inspired by the solo on Siam Shade’s “Dreams”)

Looking at the infinite night,
The stars and you pass before my eyes.
And as the world goes on its own,
You’re a thousand years away from me.

And so I will to you my fate,
To see you again someday.

I know you’re never far away,
A song that keeps playing in my head.
Cool cat eyes keep haunting me,
To see you again someday, someday.

I know you never went away,
A song that keeps playing in my night sky.
Cool cat eyes keep calling me,
To see you again someday, someday.

(insert my melodic solo here that i just played down then up an A major scale)

 

 


Chinita/o : An adjective used for a person with small, chinky eyes. It was very trendy during the late 90’s til the early 00’s.

Reference : http://www.toyconph.com/2006/06/battle-of-tribute-band-finalist-1.html

Gunpla Thoughts : HGUC Z Ghetto Snap Build

Finally!

I finished building err snap building* my HGUC Z Gundam.

The almost finished thing before I put everything together

The almost finished thing before I put everything together

I built this over period of a few weeks, and maybe put about 2 hours or so of labor into the build. Just for a brief background, I bought this back in June during the Toycon from Wasabi Toys’ booth. I also have an RG Z Gundam that’s still stocked away because I’m still waiting to get paints to have it done with. I’ve been told that the RG Z is one of the more, if not the most challenging builds from the RG line due to it being able to transform by itself. My current plan for it involves building it by section, sand and paint it then put everything together.

My HGUC Z (1/144) stood against my sister's (yeah) MG Qubeley (1/100) You can see the difference in quality, even though the Qubeley kit is a NOS, and mine is more up to date

My HGUC Z (1/144) stood against my sister’s (yeah) MG Qubeley (1/100)
You can see the difference in quality, even though the Qubeley kit is a NOS**, and mine is more up to date

The HGUC Z on the other hand is a partsformer, meaning you take apart some pieces of the body and move them around to transform the Z from mobile suit to waverider mode and back. I bought the HGUC one mainly for use as a waverider only, and the RG will be the actual suit. The other reason I bought the HG kit is because it had the Hyper Mega Launcher rifle stock with the kit – normally, the said weapon is sold via a separate weapons pack.

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I just had some very basic stuff done on the accents on this kit, and I’m still waiting to get panel line markers, paint and some more colored pen markers to finish it up. I’m currently using Sharpies (as per a good friend’s advice) for the panel / black lines, and the gold / silver accents on the beam rifles. I’ve still yet to get Tamiya paints like *ugh* what my sister used on her Dark Matter Exia build.

But for now, enjoy my very rough snap build. I will put up a new entry once I’m able to get it done to my complete satisfaction, with paint and details and other shit.

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Believe in a sign of Z, beyond the hard times from now!

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…and more Waverider pics. This is certainly my favorite transforming titular mobile suit, totally blows Wing out of the water. Btw, for those not in the know, the Hyper Mega Launcher is the big ass gun that the whole Waverider sits on.

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  • – snap build : a kit that’s built without any kind of paint or alteration to the color, literally snapping the parts together.
  • ** – NOS : New Old Stock

Toy Story : A Newbie’s Take On Why Some Grown Ups Still Collect Toys

Kids are easily bored creatures.

They have the attention span equal (maybe shorter) to those of goldfish.

What the fuck do I have to do with this? Oh what?

They are fidgety, and throw a fit at the smallest of issues. I kinda empathize with Gyoten from Tada’s Do-It-All House, a Japanese movie that I’d recently seen. I am not adept with handling children, except maybe manhandling them and no, I have not had a rough childhood.

Gyoten is the dude with the cigarette

Children may – wait, let me rephrase that – are actually little packages of intense energy that never settle down in place long enough to accumulate dust. But hand them a toy, and they will begin to focus their attention on that particular object, becoming a portal of sorts that channels their boundless energy into a single focal point. A toy instantly transforms a child into anything they want to be, or takes them places via their very active imagination. As a child, I have spent countless hours during the night time as Ray Stantz via a Ghostbusters proton gun err projector toy, busting out ghosts in our then house in Cubao somewhere during the late 80’s.

Ray Stantz Ph D., from the original Ghostbusters movie. My house pet name comes from this guy.

This is the actual toy as it appeared. I still have this along with both projector discs, kept somewhere in the house.

In this regard, toys are most associated with children because they distract kids long enough for the adults to start making the dinner table. Children are often attached to a favorite toy, and you may as well start WWIII before you take his favorite Iron Man figure away from his hands.

However, it is certainly not just kids who fiddle with toys, and in recent years, grown ups have become more known to exhibit their love for toys. Grown-ups, with their purchasing power, have amassed large toy collections that will make kids green and cry. A lot of negative commentary from fellow grown-ups have been thrown, ranging from questions about maturity, to having special needs to it being a special fetish. Today I’ll be throwing down my opinion on the matter since I still collect toys, albeit on a small scale basis.

I’d always loved toys, and at varying times of my life, I’d pretty much owned quite a bit of them, but adult life got in the way. I’m just beginning to rekindle my interest with collecting toys, and had only started quite seriously collecting over the past year or so.

Right now, I’m more pre occupied with collecting anime figures, and if you haven’t known, I’m a huge fan of Neon Genesis Evangelion, and currently own (and expanding) a humble collection of 1/6 PVC figures of Soryu Asuka Langley (NGE) and Mari Illustrious Makinami (RoE). There is also a smattering of the other characters in the series in my stead, but my collection focuses on those two because they are the “Best Girls” of the series, which quite literally mean that way. Some people may prefer to call them “waifu” (wife) but I kinda don’t want to slip into that kind of terminology.

I was also quite a Gunpla fan back in high school, and have personally collected (by going hungry) the Endless Waltz series and built them, along with random other models from the Gundam fandom. I’ve begun going back to collecting Gunpla, and started by building an SD Gundam ZZ, an HGUC Z (half-built) and an RG Z. I’m a huge UC fan in general and I count the first three (MSG, Z, ZZ) as must sees should one delve into this fandom. I also have a small PVC figure collection of some select characters, and core fighters from my favorite series.

Moe-fuckin-agare!

Jojo’s Reminder : I’m not a hardcore builder, but I believe that if you truly support the hobby of building Gunpla, you’d buy the original Bandai kits, and not support bootleg brands. I will have nothing against you if you do collect bootlegs, but I can only consider legit Bandai kits to be real Gunpla models.

Being a car guy myself (whew I’m like a bit of so many things) I also have a small Hot Wheels collection. I was inspired to start a collection as a good car friend of mine, fellow Sushi runner and owner of Scaled Ricers, Hanzel, turned me on to those. My collection focuses on old school Japanese cars, but I also have quite a bit of good old American muscle, along with some Euro sports cars.

Not my pic but I do own one of these too.

Lastly, I was into aircraft scale models that had a focus on vintage jet fighters between the 50’s and 70’s. I’m also a MiG guy so I had quite a bit of MiGs there but my previous collection got trashed by our then housekeeper’s daughter. I’m looking to get back into building those again as well. I used to be an Italeri collector, but I’d also developed a liking for Academy kits.

I’m currently 29 years old, going 30 in a little while, but a lot of people like my workmates often ask me why I collect these toys (especially) the figures, and why I spend so much (their opinion) to go for my collectible items. I’m unable to speak for the general populace of toy collectors, but here is my take on things.

The first thing that makes me collect toys is very obvious – me being a fan of the thing that I collect, be it a series or interest. As I’d said previously, I’m a huge Evangelion and Gundam fan, along with anime, particularly mecha, in general. I love cars, and I also like the idea of building things, hence my interest in building model kits.

The second is the sense of nostalgia that I feel whenever I look at my collection. Sure, we’re able to keep gigabyte upon gigabyte of our favorite shows and it’s easier to go and rewatch them nowadays than ever before. However, nothing beats having a physical object that you can touch, see, feel, even smell at times that connects you to your particular fandom.

I do not play with my collections, nor really touch them. I do take photos of them on occasion that I share over the internet – you might want to check the bottom of this post.

Thirdly, collectors have their own small communities that cater to their needs – from trading stuff, to providing hours of geek talking, to going to events together. It’s the sense of community that keeps you from losing your fix, reinforces the interest, and provides a common source of enjoyment that could be shared with others of the same interest. I currently belong to a few Facebook groups, primarily the Anime Figures and Toys Only group, from which I currently get the bulk of my collection. I also have limited ties with DCPH (Die Cast Collectors of the Philippines) though my participation is mostly online as I have yet to attend a meet. At some point, even the act of “hunting” for certain figures or items is a source of joy for collectors. Some do their hunting at cons, others go to surplus stores in hopes of finding what they’re looking for, and some others have built an extensive network of connections that allow them to know if the item they want will become available.

Some have asked me why I collect things that I do not really use nor even play with. Most of my figures are displayed permanently in my room, on their respective stands, except my Hot Wheels collection which are stored in their card cases. A lot of figure collectors keep theirs boxed up, but the reason I unbox and display them openly is because the act of just looking at it – admiring the color and details, provides me with gratification. However, I still collect the boxes as part of the collection as I have hoarding tendencies, and the boxes themselves do form part of the collection, and ensures good resale price in the even that I would re-sell some of them.

Part of the thrill that comes with collecting is when people get to see, and admire your collection. And just this past June, I was able to join this year’s Toycon as an exhibitor…well at least partly. Our group’s leader asked me if I can send over one of my C.C. figures over to be included in our group’s exhibit at the figures gallery. She’s a big Code Geass fan, and all of my figures from that particular series comes from her. I told her I’d be happy to do so, and she asked specifically for my C.C. figure dressed in a yukata.

Shot entirely by phone lol

Shot entirely by phone lol

I’d given her a prop parasol courtesy of my father, and my sister rushed to make a display pillow that she’d sit on. On the morning of the second day, I asked my sister to meet our leader to hand over the figure. I visited the gallery that afternoon, and I must say that I felt really good that I was able to display one of my prized figures. Some people stopped by to admire our display, and took photos. That was also where our group had its meet-up since some other members sent in their figures for inclusion on the display.

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Here’s my C.C. with her parasol. This isn’t her original one, but rather a replacement one after my sister’s cat destroyed the original the night before.

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The Code Geass display on top was mostly from Jai, then me. The Rayearth display was from one of my new friends, Mina.

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Grown up toy collectors aren’t limited to men, but also women. In fact the leader of our anime figure collectors’ group is a woman. As it is, anime figure collecting is just a very small part of what collectors go for – during the Toycon, there was a display of various Coca Cola memorabilia, dolls of all sorts (yes, men can own and collect dolls), vintage toys and a bunch of others. The Star Wars universe has is also a very popular fandom to collect, along with other Western movies and tv shows.

Everyone may have different reasons for starting a collection, but there is one thing common to all who keep one – passion. The passion for their particular fandom is probably the biggest common denominator for all collectors, and is certainly one of the centerpieces of conversation between collectors. As long as our love for our fandom exists, along with our shared geekiness, our collections will continue to grow.

If you’re a fellow collector, hit me up! If you’re the partner of a collector, worry not – he / she is not going to trade you in nor put your relationship in jeopardy over his hobby. Also ladies, anime figures are exactly what they are – ANIME FIGURES. They’re not real women, made of PVC, static…we (well me at least) do not drool nor have fantasies with them. YMMV on how otaku-ish your partner is.
And before I end this post, let me share some of the figures in my collection.

The women of Z Gundam, from left to right.  (sitting) Rosamia, Beltorchika, Four, Sara, Fa.

The women of Z Gundam, from left to right.
(sitting) Rosamia, Beltorchika, Four, Sara, Fa.

Soryu Asuka Langley in Maid outfit, made by Sega

Soryu Asuka Langley in Maid outfit, made by Sega

1/6 Marie Illustrious Makinami, made by Wave

1/6 Marie Illustrious Makinami, made by Wave

Gundam Mk II vs Psycho Gundam. These are actually Gashapon sized.

Gundam Mk II vs Psycho Gundam. These are actually Gashapon sized.

Sara Zabiarov from Z Gundam

Sara Zabiarov from Z Gundam

Ultraman Tiga. Looks big and osam, except it's keychain sized

Ultraman Tiga. Looks big and osam, except it’s keychain sized

Ah c’est la vie.

Anime Thoughts : KITE

Today I’m gonna try my hand at doing something that I have never done before in any of my blogs – write an anime review.

Most of you know me would know about my penchant for watching anime. A lot of people my age may frown at the fact that I watch anime, and quite a bit of it at that. While it is of course generally agreed upon that anime is a cartoon, not all anime is for children. Most Western cartoons are geared toward children, whereas anime often has content reserved in the realm of adults. I may or may not be doing much of a review, rather than just totally talking about it. I’ll do my best to avoid spoilers for my “Thoughts” entries, it’d be best if you see the show yourself.

The first anime I’ll make a review on would be one that I’d first watched a very long time ago. I’m a big fan of action oriented anime, and quite frankly girls with guns are high on my list. Show me a chic with a gun, I will most likely watch it. The photo below is one of my favorite chics with a gun, a very special one at that (more on it later) which will certainly blow you away.

Her name is Sawa, protagonist of a notoriously infamous anime OVA, Kite. The show was made in 1998, but I didn’t actually get to watch it until around 2004-05ish. It was made by Green Bunny Studios, under the direction of one Yasuomi Umetsu, who had worked on Megazone 23, Sol Bianca : The Legacy, Cool Devices and many others. Remember when I wrote about a band I formed for one of the Toycons back in the mid-00’s? This was the show that I took the name of the band from. Although the show isn’t quite as popular as more mainstream chics-with-guns shows like Gunslinger Girl or Ghost in the Shell, many enthusiasts have watched it. Quite a bit so that when we were introduced to the crowd, there were immediate shouts of “manyak!” directed at us, but probably me in particular.

The show is a 60 minute roller coaster of somber scenes, interspersed with edge-of-seat action, nudity and sex. You got that right – SEX, lots.

So this girl Sawa is some orphan girl who goes to school by day, and works as an assassin on the side. She lives alone, but receives her orders from her “guardian” Akai, and his best bruh Kanie.

Akai is the hippy looking one, Kanie is more idiotic looking.

Apparently, Sawa was orphaned due to the double murder of her parents seven years prior to the start of the story. It was Kanie who took her under his wing, and it didn’t take long before she was taking down target after target. Armed with a special gun loaded with double action bullets, she was also very thorough in her work, leaving close to no traces to her identity and leaving police baffled. This was of course aside from the fact that Akai worked as a detective, and helped cover up or remove what little traces may be found that can be used to find her. It isn’t all fun and games for Sawa, as she was almost stopped by the bodyguards of one of her targets. The pace is frantic, until Sawa arrives at the conclusion of who killed her parents, and her quest moved to that of vengeance, and ultimately, freedom from her violent lifestyle.

Game over

The series is notable among enthusiasts for the amount of violence in the show. The fights and killing scenes are very graphic, along with the amount of blood shown on screen. The action is also very intense, and the fight between Oburi and one of his targets destroys the train they were in, along with almost demolishing the station that they stopped at.

The show also made use of a lot of jazzy, almost cabaret style saxophone music. One would think that such an action packed show would have a rocking soundtrack, but the themes used served the series well, so well in fact that it’s hard to imagine, or re-imagine KITE set to a different style of music. It also highlights the often dark, and dystopian backgrounds.

But it wasn’t just the sheer amount of violence, and dark comedy that’s made it famous. There’s a lot of nudity, and even more sex scenes within the show, 95% of which is between Sawa and Akai.

Sorry, no juicy stuff here. But you get the picture.

If you’ve issues watching forced sex or rape scenes, this show may not be for you. It’s a very powerful plot device though, showing how much Sawa had been oppressed, how much she’d suffered at the hands of her “guardians”, and justifies her revenge in the end.

The show is a cult classic among anime fans, and it was popular enough to spawn a Western movie adaptation of the same title. I haven’t seen it yet, and I have yet to track down a DVD of it, which is pretty much a hard job to accomplish since I haven’t seen one for sale in Manila yet. There are officially licensed products (which is what I prefer) for sale in the US but Amazon nor eBay do not ship to the Philippines (fuck you hackers and internet thieves) due to security concerns.

The KITE movie poster

There are different versions of the anime – the one I have is the uncut Japanese edition, there are ones that are cut to show the nudity only and not the sex scenes, and there are others that have nudity but censored, and no sex. I suggest you find a copy of the original since all the plot devices work together to bring the best out of the show.

Overall, it’s a very good show that action anime fans should give see to appreciate. The amount of violence and nudity squeezed into a 60 minute feature is quire insane, and can easily give Elfenlied a run for its money on the violence alone. Some people may prefer it to be re-made into a series, but if you ask me, it’s cool as it is. Turning it into a series will only dilute the awesomeness of the show, but if any, you may also be interested in watching the sequel to the original KITE, 2008’s KITE LIBERATOR.

Sawa? You’ll have to watch to find out.

This one has a less dark setting, and has no sex scenes, and features a different set of characters altogether, only making references to the original show through some similar plot devices, and Sawa’s (or at least something like it) gun. I’ll see about reviewing the sequel at a later time.

~

Ja ne!

Kacho Oji : Hard Rock Save The High School

The years leading up to the year 2000 could be summed up in a few words : Tamiya, Shadow Warrior, Y2K virus, Jig (too bad DBTC doesn’t have this anymore), Gundam, Playstation and AXN.

We were still subscribed to Destiny Cable back then, and at the time, well at least since 1995, it pretty much kicked Sky Cable’s ass. Now, many years later, Destiny had pretty much gone the way of the dodo, and went from awesome to being a million miles from awesome, something that happens when something has the word “destiny” on it.

As with most teens around that time period (I was in high school then) you watch TV – a lot of it. I watched about 4 – 5 hours per day, mostly after school. Cable TV was filled with many awesome things then. At the time, AXN was the biggest thing on our cable tv subscription, beating out my love for the Discovery Channel. Sure, I wanted educational TV, and while I did learn lots and totally enjoyed Discovery’s shows then (Beyond 2000, Wings, Lonely Planet, Travelers…) you can only see, and take in so much information. Educational shows required you to think, to process those thoughts, then eventually go do some McGyvering something afterwards to realize those thoughts.

Enter AXN’s line-up.

The hosts of Who Dares Wins

There were no educational shows – it’s most action packed stuff, like their coverage of the WRC, the still amazingly awesome Who Dares Wins (I still want in on it), various action shows and movies, and anime. They started out offering English dubs of popular anime titles, in a one hour segment during the late afternoons. Due to it’s popularity, it grew in length, eventually spanning a 2 hour time slot, and then went even more awesome when they ditched the dubs, and aired shows in Japanese audio with English subs.

Rurouni Kenshin, You’re Under Arrest, Ninku, Flame of Recca, Van Dread 1-2, Blue Submarine 6, Steam Detectives, Ghost in the Shell, Fushigi Yuugi, Grander Musashi, my personal favorite Starship Girl Yamamoto Yohko, Clamp School and loads of other shows. I was finally able to satiate my inner otaku by being able to watch all these amazing shows, made even more amazing by the fact that stuff was only available on VHS then, and there was no way in hell that a high schooler like me can afford to buy a VHS tape.

A relic from a glorious era long gone.

A lot of these became gateway anime for many people.  One of the more amazing and popular, at least of kids of my age, was Kacho Oji, fully titled as “The Legend of Black Heaven”.

The series deals with a man named Oji, a bad ass heavy metal guitar god in the past, who’d gone away from music to work as a salaryman in Tokyo. Nearing middle age, he struggles with many things in life – bills, his family, his work and misses his old rock n roll life. One day, he is recruited by an alien chic to play music for her. The said alien chic is from the future, and during her time, the army she belongs to is engaged in giant space battles. Part of their weaponry, which thankfully did not include Gundams, is a powerful laser cannon, that they discovered to respond to music from Oji’s old band, Black Heaven. Thinking they can epically power up the weapon, and hasten the war, they get him to play his music live. It’s all cool, and the first try worked out. The only problem was as the series progressed, the enemy is becoming more powerful, and a single laser shot was not really working all that well. Oji is caught between an interstellar war, the ghosts of past, his crumbling marriage and trying to get his old band members back to help him out.

Morning. Yes, we all abhor it.

The plot is pretty thin, even predictable in some cases. But looking back on it, while it didn’t exactly feature plenty of action, there was a lot of slice of life stuff going on. But the most important, and probably main attraction of the show, is how it posits music as a weapon. The anime has an amazing soundtrack, ranging from bluesy, to headbanging rock. The opening theme, “Cautionary Warning”, remains popular to this day, enduring in the hearts and minds of a lot of people who’d seen the show. The song, written entirely in English, was culled from an album called “20th Century” (1997) by famed 80’s metal god John Sykes. Instantly recognizable even in the opening notes, it’s a heavy metal song featuring Sykes’ amazing voice, and trademark guitar work.

Hair – Check Loud Guitar – Check Shredding – Check

I was beginning to get into music at this point in time, but I didn’t exactly play anything yet. I went to piano school, which I eventually quit because it was boring and repetitive. I wanted to learn guitar, but couldn’t get beyond the D chord because it hurts my fingers. My deepest leanings was Savage Garden, and I was under the opinion that Limp Bizkit is the best rock band ever.

Best Bizkit Album until…

But every time the show airs, I am treated to amazing music and action. While I didn’t quite understand the intricacies of the music being featured on the show, nor ever heard the songs being passed off as episode titles, I totally dug those. Looking back on it, the animation and art wasn’t exactly up to par as most modern anime, and even to a guitar ignoramus like my 14 year old self, I can tell Oji’s animated hands aren’t really going anywhere.

That’s an…umm…. that guitar face doe!

We have to remember though that this show was made many years before Haruhi Suzumiya, where Nagato’s memorable lead playing is pretty spot on, even in animated form.

Look at them fingers go.

Because the show was mostly about music, with flashbacks showing the band’s rock n roll life, John Sykes was brought on board as an adviser to the production outfit, Pioneer AIC. The episode titles are actually famous rock titles from various artists that the show paid homage to, with the most numerous ones coming from UFO / MSG.

You are now looking at the face of God.

While “Cautionary Warning” is indeed the single piece of music associated with the show, most of the soundtrack was actually made by one of my favorite guitarists from Japan, Korenaga Koichi, a songwriter whose main gig is now with the famed female group, Kalafina.

The show also paid homage to many things and persons about rock music – for example, it used a rotoscoped video of a live UFO gig, the band’s name seems to be a pun of “Black Sabbath”, Oji owns a whole bunch of UFO / MSG materials, and even the newspaper that he was reading on the first episode had an article about Michael Schenker, being touted in Japan the “God of Guitar”.Also, Oji played a Gibson Flying V, colored white – this was the exact kind of guitar that Michael Schenker played in the entirety of his career.

One of Schenk’s last photos with UFO before he left in 1978. Check out that V.

The show spanned only 13 episodes, and so can be finished within a 2 week run. However, at this time, AXN didn’t have lots of shows on hand, and the series ended up being repeated an nth number of times. This totally ingrained the show to my memory, and for a lot of other people as well. I cannot remember the whole show clearly now, the only images that remain with me is Oji’s Flying V, (which partly is the reason I recently purchased a used, custom made Flying V) and the music from the show, which I have recently begun collecting. I have yet to find this on DVD, and most streaming sites don’t have this show, not exactly surprising seeing as how it’s been 16 years since was first released. Kids at cons nowadays do not know of this gem of a show, and that’s quite sad, since most kids who know of an anime based around music mostly know about Beck, or DMC or something.

Thanks to this show and many others, I had a relatively normal high school that’s not beset by learning to drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, joining a street gang or knocking up some random girl. Hard rock saved my high school indeed, and even now it saves me from the craziness of daily living.

**the blog title is a pun on the title of the abovementioned anime**

**pardon me for sticking in a lot of Michael Schenker mentions, I’m just a huge fan**