Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Drama Review: Tokyo Dogs

I watched this one on a whim almost right after it started airing in Japan, and I was immediately hooked. (Hate it when I do that, then I have to actually wait for the next episode :p) This drama primarily revolves around a great combination of both action and comedy, and just a small bit of romance. This isn’t a cutesy, sappy romantic show, but it’s not a serious and epic one either. It’s a fun, laid-back, yet exciting show that I can only describe as entertaining.

The plot is fairly unique and intriguing. It begins in New York, following Kudo Maruo, a small-time police officer on a dangerous mission of capturing a criminal mastermind, Jinno. The leader of the Japanese division is the haughty Takakura Sou, who takes himself and the mission extremely seriously since Jinno is his arch nemesis and had killed his father. The mission in New York fails, with the only clue being a young girl with amnesia named Matsunaga Yuki that mysteriously appears on the site. The police division is sent back to Japan after the failure, to Sou’s frustration. The mission to find Jinno thus continues in Japan, and a chaotic situation arises: Maruo and Sou are assigned as partners to watch over Yuki. The clash of personalities is the main comedic aspect of this show. Maruo is loud and rambunctious, has a very short temper, and is generally fairly unprofessional; Sou is cool and collected, always remaining professional even in the most ridiculous situations, although he can also be very abrasive and harsh.

I generally really enjoy Oguri Shun and Mizushima Hiro, the two main actors in this drama, and while their characters this time around may have been over-the-top, I still loved watching them. I just thought the interaction between them was so damn funny. Once they start arguing, they somehow quickly yet progressively go from fighting about something like a mistake Maruo made with a gun, to whether fish tastes good with bread. It’s ridiculous and – I think – hilarious. All the scenes where Sou’s mother calls in the middle of a tense situation also made me laugh. Thus the writing was very good, but the execution was great as well. The fighting/action scenes were decent, and the acting styles, while maybe a bit too much, worked well with the overall feel of the show. The overarching plot intrigued me – while originally I was just watching it for the comedic aspect, I ended up getting really sucked into the story. The side plots weren’t annoyingly unnecessary but actually worked well together and always helped in character development and advancement of the main plot. I also like that the romance parts, while present, don’t take over the show. Yuki is a very important character, but the focus still remains on the progression of Sou and Maruo. In the end, though, I don’t really come back to this show for the story, but for the comedy and action; the decent plot is just a plus.

That being said, this show isn’t perfect, and it’s not for everyone. While I found Sou and Maruo’s arguments to be hilarious, others might find them annoying. Despite all of the action in this show, it’s not one that you can really take very seriously. Also, many of the characters are sooo over-the-top, especially Maruo. I don’t know if they’re over-acting, or if the script just really calls for them to do that, but it can be too much at times (and I generally have a pretty high tolerance for that kind of thing…). The pacing of the show is also not the best. At the beginning, everything happens so quickly. Not only are story elements flying by, but the conversations between many of the characters tend to be quick and choppy, so you have to keep up if you want to understand everything. The story can get a little convoluted and confusing at times, although I didn’t really find that to be too much of an issue. Because the show relied so much on humor and action scenes rather than a particularly amazing story, I also found it to be a little bit forgettable. It’s been a little while since I’ve seen it, and I honestly don’t remember all the details of the ending. The ending itself was alright, but nothing really spectacular. (And by the way, as a side note, Hiro's look, with the goatee and everything, was not my favorite XD)

Ultimately, everything about this show depends on your tastes. Most people I’ve talked to find this drama really entertaining, though, and I personally really enjoyed it. I would encourage you to at least try watching the first episode, as you can really get a good feel for it (it’s not one of those shows that you have to be patient and stick through until the end – you’ll know right away whether you like it or not). This is basically a comical, yet action-packed, really fun show that I definitely think is worth a try!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Tweet Log 11 (July)

Continuing my story through tweets... start at the beginning here.

Go back to part 10.
Go forward to part 12.


Came back home to this! My mom got me a ton of authentic Japanese manga that her friend was giving away!!! ^0^ http://twitpic.com/21nii2

A natural hotspring! Not very big, but still very warm and was a fun site :D http://twitpic.com/227c2m

Things have been slow since I'm pretty busy - nearing the end of my summer school session and moving out of my apartment this weekend!

I do plan to get a blog out in the next few days though ;D

An artsy glass house in the middle of the mountains. Not many tourists get to see this kind of stuff O.o http://twitpic.com/23h123

Blog Post: Cooking Adventures - Okonomiyaki http://bit.ly/9RK45L

Added a "Tweets" section to my blog - not sure whether to show tweets like that or just put up a "follow me!" button.. http://bit.ly/b65j6u

Another shot of the glass house in the mountains. So mysterious... http://twitpic.com/253e57

I'll be leaving for Belgium on Monday! Busy busy, but I plan to get in a couple of blog entries before then! One of them in a few minutes...

Blog Post: Lang-8 Part 2 http://bit.ly/9KrNpB

So determined to get through RTK by the end of the summer! *SRSing away*

A structure inside some train station that I found kinda interesting XD http://twitpic.com/25zcx2

I've been watching so many Disney movies in Japanese on Youtube lately! :D http://bit.ly/cn590s

At the airport! Heading out to Belgium. Not sure how much I'll be able to tweet but hopefully I will have Internet. Shuppaaaatsu!

Made it to Belgium safely and I sorta have internet! I'll have to see whether I'm able to update the blog...

French keyboards are pretty different from Americans one - I have to get used to them again!

Blog Post: Epic Journey of Summer 2010! Part 1 (Belgium) http://bit.ly/bbZqci

Today, July 21st, is the Belgian Independence Day! Woo~

Finished the entire series of よつばと!I'll definitely be going through it again in the future, such a fun and cute series ^^

ベルギー | Lang-8 http://lang-8.com/21498/journals/563700 #lang8

Finding it a lot harder than I thought it would be to do any kind of work over here :/ Having fun with the family, but little time to myself

Also, have a depressing amount of homework to do. Meeting my kanji goal might not happen. I'll do my best though >.<

Working on a new blog, but having an issue with the pictures (curse you bad internet!) This may take a while.. I might post it w/o pics..

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Smart.fm: Japanese Core 2000

So I know I've briefly discussed Smart.fm before in my Japanese Learning Methods post a while back. I still think it's an awesome tool, but in the past few months I had been focusing on other methods of learning. Now I'm coming back and wanted to have more of a discussion of my current Japanese learning methods.

So here's some background on my personal learning situation. A year ago, I was taking a Japanese class in college (my fifth semester) and was still in the earlier stages of the first volume of Remember the Kanji (which I talk about in my discussion of kanji). At that point, while I still felt like I had so much to learn, I also felt pretty "well-rounded." My listening and speaking skills, as well as my reading and writing skills, were all at around the same level, with maybe my listening skills being just above the rest of my other skills since I was already watching a lot of doramas and variety shows.

Then, last semester, I took a semester off from my Japanese course, since my other classes didn't really permit it. It didn't really bother me, and thankfully my skills didn't really drop or anything. I had managed to keep up with my Japanese decently enough, but my focus definitely changed during that semester. I wasn't practicing speaking too much and was focusing on kanji. I started reading Japanese manga, so I was getting much better at reading, but I never took any time to learn new grammar points or vocab, only naturally picking up a couple of things every once in a while. It was all about Remember the Kanji at that point. Well, by the end of the summer, I had finally finished the book! And then the fall semester had started, and I'm taking a Japanese class again.

Finishing RTK has definitely made a difference in the learning process. I'm not an expert on the kanji yet by any means - I'm still reviewing them everyday, and the backlog's pretty hefty. But whenever I see a new word, I'll have an idea as to what it means, or at least feel like I've seen it before, which does wonders for remembering it. So I'd just like to take this moment to reiterate how ingenious Heisig's concepts are and urge you to check it out if you haven't yet!

Anyway, while I am still doing my kanji reps now, my focus for the past couple of months has shifted once more. I'm learning new grammar and vocab through my class now, but the biggest difference has to be in my speaking practice. I realized during my semester off that, even if I don't always feel like I learn enough from my class alone, it still forces me to listen and speak Japanese for a solid fifty minutes, three times a week. I am thankful for that class for giving me that small opportunity to practice speaking. Something else that's made a difference is the fact that I've joined an organization that matches you up with a language partner, and now I'm meeting up with two Japanese friends once a week and can practice speaking with them.

I've already felt a difference from the past couple of months. It's not that I've necessarily learned all that much that allows me to speak more, but I'm really starting to just feel comfortable and less afraid to make mistakes when I speak. I'm often told that my Japanese sounds "natural," even if it's not perfect. I really feel like I'm overcoming a hurdle with my speaking skills here, and that feels great - I'm so much less shy, which really does wonders.

So now I feel like I have a good base - a couple of thousand kanji to help with my writing, the necessary confidence and naturalness to help with my speaking, not to mention a basic understanding of grammar to help me with both. And now I'm really wanting to take the next step, which is: vocab.

I honestly just feel so limited when it comes to vocabulary. I can hold a basic conversation now, which makes me happy, but I want to take it to that next level, and now I have the tools to do so. I don't think it will be as dramatic change of focus as my last two stages (in fact, I feel like I'm still in the midst of the stage where I'm improving my speaking skills). But it's something I want to slowly edge into and add to the rest of my Japanese learning.

So the point of this long-winded post? (If you've stuck around this long, I do appreciate it!) I'm getting back into smart.fm and am resuming my progress on Japanese Core 2000. Now, it's true that my original plans a long time ago would be to follow the AJATT way of doing sentence practice once I'm done with kanji. I'm not abandoning that, and I do plan to write my own sentences later on. But I'm still reviewing my kanji cards on Anki, and I think that creating another deck right now from scratch may not be the best choice. I had already been studying Japanese by the time I stumbled onto AJATT, so I haven't really been able to follow the "standard" order of things. I don't feel like I necessarily *need* sentences right now, since I have a decent understanding of basic grammar, and what I'm really craving right now is more vocabulary.

I've actually already started the core 2000 a long time ago, and I realize that there are a lot of words I already know, but I'm not too worried about it. The fact that all of the flashcards are already made for me helps so much. Besides, each word comes with their own example sentence, and I know that the goal is to aim for 10,000 sentences, but 2000 is okay for a first step, right? Also, I think having something outside of Anki will be nice. It's a change of setting (I find smart.fm to be much prettier than Anki is heh), and because I haven't bought the iphone app for Anki (yet?) but I have the free smart.fm one, I can focus on my kanji reps when I'm at the computer, and do my vocab reps when I'm out and about.

I'll see how things work out! Has anyone else done the core 2000 set? What methods do *you* use to learn Japanese in general? I'd love to hear from you guys :)