Tuesday, 17 August 2010



Last stretch now, guys. Let's race through this so we can get to the grand finale.


Louise Ward, this is how much I love you:

That's right, I would risk my life fishing for plastic Magikarp to get you a birthday present! That's how much!

Anyway, now to establish a little context.

We set off Saturday morning, we being myself, Steph and the spirit of Mai (the real thing being unable to come due to illness). Shinkansen there, around 5000 yen. We'd originally planned to stay the night at Mai's, but being only in spirit her family didn't recognise her, so we were homeless. Instead we'd be travelling back that evening, once our day of fun had some to an end.

First things first, the Pokemon Center, and the video you saw above. Looks like Nintendo are really trying to get their unwanted 2009 merchandise off their hands. You won't see me complaining, though. After a quick lunch at a sushi place to get our plans sorted, we headed for the river and the Nagoya Tower, which is kinda impressive. More impressive was the Oasis 21 Shopping Center, with its garden on the roof.

Anyway, moving on, we went in search of a certain temple (name escapes me) as we were informed via seance with the spirit of Mai (incredible what mobile phones are capable of these days) that they did some nice traditional sweets. We didn't find any sweets there, but we sure did find something.

Could not believe my luck. Apparently by sheer coincidence we happened to turn up on the one Saturday of the month that these crazy people decided to run their cosplay meeting, coinciding with a traditional music exhibit (or something, didn't pay much attention to that bit). Sensational.

Getting hungry, and with the light fading, we made our way back towards the center of town and food. As was expected, Nagoya central was not the cheapest place to eat, but we did manage to find ourselves a great tofu place in a small shopping arcade near the station. Having had our fill, we went on home. Shinkansen back, 5000 yen.


Steph and I travelled considerably further from home this time. But worth it, oh yes was it worth it. I would have travelled to the center of the Earth in order to complete my tour of the Pokemon Centers. And now I have; all across Japan there is no Pokemon Center I have not seen. It's a little sad, I must admit, not having any new surprises left in store. All I can do now is wait for a new one to open (unlikely). ...

So yeah, Fukuoka. The last Center stood in a quirky shopping center called Canal City, opposite the Ultraman shop. Though I was not taken immediately by its bright colours and funny music, there was one thing that could sway my opinion, and that was patrolling killer robots.


Ice-cream in some American place and then it was out again to find ourselves a place to stay (the Shinkansen having taken a good portion of the day from us that morning). This time our Manga Cafe of choice was semi-famous 'space create', and was not bad at all. Great showers, for example. Watched Spiderman 2, half of Japanese-and-not-subtitled Watchmen, and then it was to bed.

Next day was hot. Too hot. Not in the best of moods we set forth for the coast, not wanting to leave Japan. Our destination was 'Noko-jima', a small island reachable by 10-minute ferry, which was also far too hot. Could well be, though, the closest I will ever get to a bone-fide tropical island. It was that sort of heat, that sort of landscape, and boy did it make for some good photos.

And the bugs! Those things were nasty! Still can't quite tell what that black butterfly thing was; it was massive! And those ants... Normally I quite like ants, but they sure can do some hideous things to other bugs.

It was worth nearly dying. I will take the memories of Noko-jima to my grave.

Dinner back in the center, amidst the pouring rain, and then off to catch the night bus home. Not the most unpleasant trip home ever, thanks to a giant Pikachu plushy, but not something I would happily repeat.

What came next? Preparations for leaving. And then actually leaving...

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

The Great Pokemon Movie Review Note -COMPLETE-

Facebook don't put edits on notes up at the top of the list like they should, so I'm just gonna re-submit it here on the blog. I actually spent a lot of time on this, because I am unbelievably sad, so want it in an prominant place.

You may note down that I did it with 1 month and 17 days to spare. Far too easy, I think. So, here we go:


It is no secret that I think Pokemon is fantastic.

With today's class cancelled due to a typhoon (I love to be able to say that), I find myself with a lot of free time on my hands. Having decided to see all 12 Pokemon movies before the year is out, I'm writing this note to mark my progress, and to share my opinions about the films.

So, here we go.

Pokemon 1: Mewtwo Strikes Back - first seen 18th April 1999 (ish) - English version - Seen four times
Funny title, eh? It's thanks to Star Wars that we'd expect Mewtwo to want revenge for something that happened before the film starts, rather than for something that occurs before the opening credits as actually happens.
So anyway, genetically-created Mewtwo gathers together the strongest trainers of the land for a big battle, with the fate of the world at stake. Fun fact, obsessees like Andy and I who went for an early viewing got an Ancient Mew trading card, all written in code. I still have it, don't you know.

+ Soft, nostalgic memories.
+ Mewtwo is really cool, and has a fantastic English voice actor.
+ Mew is diabolically, terrifyingly adorable.
+ Some nice uses of CGI.
+ Team Rocket as Vikings. Has me in stitches every time. "Hey, they weren't Vikings!! It's Team Rocket!!"
+ WILL draw tears if not prepared.

o The Pikachu short beforehand is quite nice, and I think manages to get nearly every non-Legendary 1st Generation Pokemon in it somehow, but the scene change animations are Hendrix-level surreal. I'm really not kidding.
o Actually addresses the whole 'we will never mention this again in the actual series' problem that a lot of similar shows have. It's a cop-out, though.

- When Pokemon are showing up on the screen in the big machine, Team Rocket get one name wrong. Intentional? I sure hope not.
- Cheesy like nothing else. But... it's a Pokemon movie, so can you really deduct points for that?

Overall Impression: I love this film, it's a great one to watch if feeling down for whatever reason. One time I scoured the internet looking for opinions of this film, it's almost frightening how much flak it gets. But I think it's more about Pokemon as a whole than this film. Regardless... No, this isn't the place to bring this up, I think. Next film!
Final Score of 4/5

Pokemon the Movie 2000: The Power of One - first seen 3rd October 2009 - English version - Seen once
One of the few good names that these movies use, though unfortunately it's meaningless in the actual movie. Actually, Pokemon's all about teamwork and friendship, right? So the name actually makes no sense at all...
There's a storm whilst team Ash traverse the Orange Islands and they happen to end up on an island populated by crazy people. The crazy people tell him to go on a mystic quest to fetch some magic crystal balls. Meanwhile, an evil collector man goes after the 3 Legendary bird Pokemon, which destabilises the climate. So Ash and co. have to deal with that too. Another fun fact; you remember that Mew card I was talking about? It's in this movie.

+ First and foremost, actually addresses the whole Ash and Misty thing, which is very brave considering the controversy surrounding the franchise as it is.
+ Tracy has a couple of great lines, which is good because to me he will never truly replace Brock. Oh, and for those who don't know, Tracy is a guy. Yeah...
+ The three birds fighting is really quite cool. I'm sure they're not that strong in the games... Actually, I don't think catching them ends the world either.
+ Team Rocket are funny. And I mean actually funny, not just stupid childish humour funny. Well, I laughed.
+ I actually like the fact that the talking Slowking is just never explained. It's a bit of an unexplainable mystery thing.

o There's no Pikachu movie, to my knowledge. Take that as you will.

- Lugia has a really annoying voice. I cannot believe how annoying it is.
- Why, oh why, are villains always English?
- INexcusable use of 'Flying Without Wings' as the ending credits song. Thank you VERY much UK Localisation Team.

Overall Impression: Pretty good, certainly worth watching if you're into Pokemon. A little bit of a drop from the first, though.
Final Score of 3/5

Pokemon 3: Spell of the Unown - first seen 18th July 2001 (ish) - English version - Seen twice
I can't actually remember the second movie being in cinemas. Was I in an accident or something? Because I don't think I would have wanted to miss that. Regardless, this is the second film I saw (to memory...).
A little girl's dad, an archeologist, is spirited away by letter-shaped Pokemon, and is reported dead. The little girl's sadness stirs the hearts of these Pokemon, who give her the power to shape reality as she sees fit. As anyone who has seen The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya will tell you, this is a bad thing. Ash and co. have to stop it, because the police are obviously incompetant.

+ I do like the plot here. It's a bit deeper than normal, which I very much appreciate.
+ Team Rocket, my favourite characters, are on top form here. Even though they don't do anything. Meowth has the best line in the whole series.
"Here's a question I don't think I should be asking: do you think we'll get a bigger part in the next movie?"
+ Oh, on the subject of great lines, Brock has some of his own. His self-introduction is fantastic: "Hi there! My name's Brock and I want to be your boyfriend!"
+ Entei is in it and Entei is cool.
+ Totodile is in it, see above.
+ The battles in this are great. Really well animated and directed. Even Misty and Brock get some battle time, which is a rarity. I mean, they're rubbish, but even so.

o Again, the Pikachu short is sweet enough, but not brilliant. I guess seeing the Gold and Silver Pokemon isn't nostalgic enough for me, though it was pretty cool now that I'm playing HeartGold.

- The little girl is a little unrealistic in this one scene during the end credits, and it really bugs me. Either that, or there's a big plot point the movie just never addresses. A character getting resurrected is a big deal, right?
- I would have quite liked a bit more on the Unown, they're one of the few Pokemon with massive Pokemon universe implications. I was waiting for the scene where someone tries to communicate with them, but it never comes. Hmm, ah well.

Overall Impression: Second best here. I loved this film the second time I watched it, it's very well-made.
Final Score of 4/5

Pokemon '4ever': Celebi: Voice of the Forest - first seen 8th October 2009 (yes, today) - Japanese version - Seen once
Pokemon addressing deforestation? Whatever next! Nah, this is all a bit predictable now. Didn't see this one, or any of the others that came after, in the cinema.
An evil Team Rocket fellow (as opposed to our comically misfortunate anti-heroes) tries to catch Celebi, who can travel through time, by turning him evil with his evil PokeBalls. And this guy is really evil! His name is Vicious the Mask! How much more evil can you get! Anyway, Ash and his merry men happen to be passing through and decide to lend a hand.

+ I do love time travel as a concept, though this film is easy on the head and doesn't really use it to the fullest. I demand paradoxes!
+ Celebi, much to my surprise, is Mew-level cute, a state I once thought unattainable.
+ Suicune is in it. Suicune is quite cool.
+ Another tear-jerk ending.
+ There's a giant wood figure that Celebi once rides around in, and it's almost a mecha.

o Speaking of which, points for effort on the CGI front but it does look a bit tacky.

- The plot isn't really that engaging. I thought the same when I saw the first Sgt. Frog movie: it's really just a long episode and nothing is really done at all.
- Okay, when Entei turns up everyone's like 'Oh wow, it's a Legendary Pokemon!' But when Suicune turns up (randomly, by the way) nobody bats an eyelid!* What is it, Ash, Legendary Dogs no longer good enough for you?! I mean, he has seen an awful lot of Legendaries by this point, but to even have the audacity to give the poor thing orders is just ridiculous!
- Environmentalism has been done a lot of times before. Actually, the second movie was also on saving the environment, so they should have known better!

Overall Impression: A bit of a disappointment, really. I mean, Celebi is great, but there's no real attachment to the events going on, and Team Rocket are just pathetic compared to their usual hilarious selves. A good waste of time, but nothing more.
Final Score of 2/5

*Oh, just to clarify, Entei and Suicune are both Legendary Dogs from Generation 2. In terms of rareness, though, Suicune is slightly rarer, as you can't catch him until way later and he has some plot relevance in-game. Raikou, the third and final Dog, doesn't get a movie, but does get a spin-off episode.

Pokemon 5: Heroes: Latias and Latios - first seen 10th October 2009 - English version - Seen once
I never did catch Latios. Sucks because I had a perfectly good chance, if only I hadn't used my only Master Ball on someone else. Forgot who. I even used a Master Ball on Dialga once, that wasn't clever. Got me a Latias, though, who's... okay I guess. Never really used her after I got her. Oh well, she's there if I need her.
Anyway. A pair of Giovanni's Angels go to Pokemon Venice to activate an apocolyptic super-weapon. I'm actually not kidding. City guardians Latias and Latios ask team Ash for help, and being such kind souls they cannot refuse.

+ The most important point, I feel, is that the film accomplishes its duty to make some Legendary Pokemon cool. Latias and Latios are really awesome in this, very deserving of the title roles, even if they are slightly smaller than I'd imagined.
+ Latias' shapeshifting ability is a great idea, and adds a brilliant element to the plot. The last scene in particular is a stroke of genius, see a certain point made about Film 2.
+ The opening credits are really quite cool. Totodile gets some much-loved screen time, and there's some nice CGI used. A good opening.
+ Small point here, but I liked seeing Misty accomplish something on her own for a change, even if it had no bearing on the rest of the plot. She and Brock have had more than their fair share of failures to put more emphasis on Ash's successes.

o Team Rocket aren't pulling themselves back to their position as lovable villains. This makes me a little sad, as there was a time when I smiled if they so much as appeared on the screen. Not to say they're dull, there's a nice running joke about them getting wet, and Wobuffet is still very funny. They're just... I dunno, they could be a lot better.
o Both Latias and Latios look a bit like fighter jets, right? And I think they can learn the move Extremespeed at some point. So I was hoping that they'd do some kind of supersonic speed sequence at some point, just once, just to show they can. But they don't. It's not a big problem, but it's an expectation I had that left me a little disappointed.

- Latias is cute, Latios is cool, but my word do they make a lot of irritating noises! Sure, a sort of whale-cry type noise fits them well, but do they really have to do it all the time? It really grates after not very long.
- And on the same note, Espeon is so annoying it almost physically hurts to watch it. I'd always seen Espeon as this stoic, almost sinister Pokemon that attacks without moving at all. There's a sort of tiger-thing in some of the Final Fantasies that's the same; it has flappy ears like ribbons if that helps. But Espeon here is just... it's just infuriating to watch! Just... just shut up!
- Am I watching the wrong movies, or have they actually stopped making Pikachu Movies? I was actually quite looking forward to them! Maybe I should actually make an effort to buy the DVDs, rather than this odd form of borrowing that I'm doing. And I would! Actually, feel free to add that to any Christmas list if you're struggling, gift-givers!

Overall Impressions: I did like this film. It started really, really well, and it's just not on par with some of the others because it didn't keep up the quality throughout. Good film, though, make no mistake.
Final Score of 3/5

Pokemon 6: Jirachi Wishmaker - First seen 11th October 2009 - English Version - Seen Once
People of Earth! Run! Hide! Fulfill any last wishes you may have! The end is nigh...
The English version of the 6th Pokemon Movie contains Japanese!!
Perhaps this isn't as big a deal to you if you haven't really watched much of the series, but the English Pokemon got a bit of a reputation for attempting to convert everything into a form that kids in the west may be able to understand, to a degree that is really quite laughable. A famous example is Brock's rice balls, which in translation changed magically into any number of things that western kids might understand. Every so often the characters of Pokemon end up taking part in traditional Japanese festivities, but clearly any link to the real world is forbidden in the 4kids office, so these are fobbed off as crazy Pokemon world antics. So for them to take a Japanese song used in the end credits and, rather than make a new one completely, get an American singer to sing the lyrics in Japanese seems quite unlike them. Very unlike them, I'd say.
Regardless, this movie sees Ash and his friends, including debuting Misty version 2, travelling to a fair out in the middle of nowhere to see a comet that only appears once every millennium, and get caught up in a plot to dig out ancient star Pokemon Jirachi so Team Magma can genetically engineer a Groudon. I can kinda see why, Groudon is a really cool Pokemon. He has the ability to initiate Sunny Day simply by being on the battlefield, which creates a really terrifying Pokemon if you give him Solarbeam. But why-oh-why do they pass up the chance to get much rarer Jirachi? Jirachi has a move called Doom Desire, which is nasty as anything. I'm starting to think there are more differences between game-world Pokemon and TV-world Pokemon than I had imagined.

+ Quite a good plot, all things considered, and May gets off to a good start with an interesting side-plot about a wish she wants to make. What do you think she wished for? I have a pretty good idea.
+ Jirachi is pretty cool, too. Not quite Mew or Celebi level, but certainly along the right sort of lines.
+ And so is giant CGI-ish Dark Groudon.
+ James disses Jessie's hair. I was in stitches.
+ Oh yeah, and to go back to a previous point, the ending song is really quite good, in a sort of sentimental kid's TV show song way.

o The Pokemon voices are really starting to get to me. I mean, Pikachu can only say 'Pikachu', right? That's never really bothered me before, I guess because he says it in such an adorable way it's hard to get angry with him. But when you have Pokemon with names like 'Absol', 'Kirlia' and 'Espeon' it makes it really hard to tolerate the stupid noises that come out of their mouthes as the voice actors try their darndest (bless their hearts) to link together an audable name and a noise that might actually, naturally be made by an animal. Those three are some serious examples, heaven forbid they ever end up in the same scene as each other. I might go mad. But this isn't a true minus point, because every once in a while they get it right. The vast majority of the time it's because they said 'Stuff it' and got the Pokemon to just roar or something. Tropius, a fond favourite of mine, gets a bit of screen time here, and the noise he makes is a very funny sort of slurping noise that made me smile. Salamence gets a Godzilla roar, and Jirachi talks properly. I like Breloom's voice, as well, but for a different reason.

- If you call your son 'Butler', he is not going to grow up emotionally stable. Especially if he has daft purple hair. It's actually unfortunate that he doesn't have a proper evil voice in the scenes where it matters, it would have completed the package. But as he is, he looks like a stupid normal person rather than a proper villain.
- Max, May's little brother, is also really annoying. Maybe it was on purpose, but I sure know Andy wasn't that annoying at that age. He also didn't have such a ridiculous voice as Max's.
- I know for a fact that all the voice actors in Pokemon can sing, I've heard the songs. So why is it that when they limit themselves to 'doo-doo-doo' it just sounds pathetic? Ruined an otherwise really heartwarming moment. I mean, you can tell from the sound of the song that it's supposed to have words. So what, May never bothered to learn them? Sounds weird to me.
- Team Rocket do nothing.
- And one more thing. In-game Jirachi is caught by going into space as part of some kind of space travel program for world champion Pokemon trainers (I never got that far, so I don't know the specifics). So Jirachi is in space. So why on Earth is he found underground in the film? That's, like, the opposite of 'in space'!

Overall Impression: I actually quite liked this one. It had a better plot that many that came before, and was really very watchable. There are a few niggling little details that let it down, though, and these keep it from reaching the high position of 'similar to the first one'.
Final Score of 3/5

Pokemon 7: Destiny Deoxis - first seen October 17th 2009 - English Version - Seen once
So what Pokemon would you use if you went to the Battle Tower? Me, I'd use Sakyo the Last Resort Raichu. Well, he's still the Last Resort Pikachu at the moment, but only because Thunderstones are rare as anything. He's the Pikachu I got from the Pikachu event, and he's really pretty cool. Being a little baby Pikachu gives him lower stats than most, so he's a tricky fellow to use, but I have a wonderful mental image of him running around the battlefield with a baseball cap and a big rucksack, and when he uses Present he grabs something at random from inside it and throws it at the enemy. Sometimes it's a firework, sometimes it's a bomb, and sometimes it's a cake. And then when he uses Last Resort it's a bazooka. Just a little thought I wanted to share.
Ash and his lackies are in... a city I forgot the name of, but the pulling factor for this one is that its very high-tech. There's a Battle Tower, which is why Ash is here, but before they can do any decent fighting space Pokemon Deoxis shows up and starts wrecking up the place.

+ Deoxis is quite cool... but not Mewtwo-level cool. Nor Rayquaza-cool, and Rayquaza was in it.
+ Plusle, Minun and Munchlax, however, are simply superb.
+ Even Team Rocket start to pull their weight with a few good lines.
+ I liked the idea of Tory being afraid of Pokemon; we don't see enough people in the Pokemon world who don't like the little fellows. It seems a bit odd, you know? Like, some people here like ecology and biology and stuff, but not everyone. Even if you take into consideration that it's a lot cooler in the Pokemon universe, that still leaves a lot of people who are apathetic or that actively dislike Pokemon. So it was nice to see one.
+ The security robots were funny. Cheap laughs out of a robot that pulls funny faces when it asks you for ID, but laughs none the less.
+ And speaking of cheap laughs about funny faces, May's passport photo.
+ Oh, and when Ash and Tory are off to fight in the Battle Tower, I liked that I could really understand the excitement you'd feel in the same situation.
+ Oh yeah, and I also liked that at one point the Pokeballs shut down so they can't use all their Pokemon. It's about time they did things themselves for a change.
+ One more thing that I forgot until now. I'm sure this guy must have been a character in the show or something, but as a random moment this had me in stitches. There's a scene where a lot of people are trying to get on this one train, and you can see this guy standing on the platform with a rign of flowers round his neck. When he gets swept up in the crowd he goes "Yay! It's party time!" I had to pause the video because I was laughing so hard. Just who was that guy, he sounds a hoot!

o Here's something I've noticed. If I remember correctly, Ash gets shocked by Pikachu in ever single film. I think that's a funny little running joke. Until now, there's also been another one where Ash always jumps at forcefields. It's like the first thing he does, and it's hilarious. And though there's a big forcefield in this one, he does not jump at it. More fun facts about Ash are that he has dressed as a woman three times in the course of the show, and also as a fruit twice. He also always catches the crab-type Pokemon of each generation before most others, which if worded correctly is a fact that can be interpreted in a number of different ways.

- No stellar music this time, and usually there's at least one.
- The plot starts off well, but quickly grows a bit convoluted. By the end it's difficult to remember who the title role is, or was.
- Brock is... not good.
- The human side characters are mostly just plain annoying. Wraith especially. That kid deserved a punch.

Overall Impression: Pretty decent, but nothing spectacular. Actually, all of the last few have been pretty much the same: quite interesting but not enough to stand them out. Waiting for the next one to really leave an impression...
Final Score of 3/5

Pokemon 8: Lucario and the Mystery of Mew - first seen October 24th 2009 - English Version - seen once
I caught Articuno at Mos Burger today. It was so much fun I nearly shouted out for joy in the middle of the restaurant. It's a bit of a pity that my current team kick so much arse I may never get around to training Kunio like I'd like to, but that's life I guess. There are so many Pokemon these days it's gonna be impossible to train them all. Gotta stick to my favourites.
It's medieval-day at some old-style city, and Ash and the gang go for a ye olde Pokemone competitione. However, they soon get wrapped up in a mystery concerning a giant rock that looks like a tree and he legendary Pokemon who dwells within it.

+ Bonsly gets added to the 'Pokemon with Good Voices' list for his hysterical cries of panic.
+ I think I speak for nearly everyone when I say that we need more medieval Pokemon stuff. It's great to see that the producers thought to much about the Pokemon Universe that they have a whole history up for it. I loved seeing the Lord of the Rings battle with people in armour fighting alongside big armoured Charizards and Blastoises, it was awesome. We should have a spinoff about that. Oh, and while they're out making spinoffs that random people suggest, they should do my idea for a series about a trainer who faces up against Missingno and loses his memory, and has to go find it again, as well as the life he left behind. I said it first! It's my idea! You can't have it!
+ Crying Pikachu gets me every time. I think Pokemon should deal with death more often. Does kinda narrow down the key demographic, though.
+ Meowth gets a bit of decent screentime, which is good 'cos he's one of my absolute favourites.
+ I like that Ash wins a competition but actually rather wishes he hadn't by the end.
+ Oh, and Mime Jr. was pretty funny in the few scenes he had.
+ I liked the little Jirachi cameo in the credits, oh and speaking of which I liked the creation of a character song ala all anime on earth for Aaron and Lucario. Not a great song, but it's the thought that counts.

o Okay, Time Flowers are cool. I also like how they seem to record the background music of some of the scenes as well, thought that was a nice touch. Goes back to the whole 'I like things that are like the video game Baroque' idea (the anime Armed Librarians is also on that list, by the way). But are they really supposed to be so flipping common? They were everywhere! And not in fields, valleys or hedgerows, no. They were in really awkward places where flowers shouldn't grow but where plot occurs. "Oh hey look, guys! It's a deus ex machina- I mean Time Flower!"

- That Kim woman really got on my nerves. She's like all those people that seem to be better than me at everything without a bad side to balance the whole thing out. The kind of people I love to watch fail. Being a bit too honest, I think...
- The fact that Lucario has a voice and personality like a human really brought to light a bit of a problem in the English translations, and something not restricted to this film alone. Everyone refers to Pokemon as 'it'. Even walking, talking Lucario. It's pretty ridiculous if you ask me, when Ash tries to say something kind and heroic that comes out as 'It's always with me'. I thought these guys were meant to be your friends and not property, right? Kinda flies in the face of that. Incidentally, Japanese has no male/female distinction in pronouns, so they did actually have a choice when they did the dub.
- Similar problem to Deoxis here; without a proper villain the pace of the show plummets. There's nobody to hate in this film (except that Kim woman) so I can't really identify with the plot at all. Can't project, you know? No?

Overall Impression: Not as good as Deoxis, but still a pretty sweet film, so worth watching. Still holding out in that quality tranch, Pokemon. Come on, put your back into it!
Final Score of 3/5

Pokemon 9: Pokemon Ranger and the Temple of the Sea - first seen 6th November 2009 - English version - Seen once
Okay, so it's still about Ash. My bad. I just thought, y'know, with a name like 'Pokemon Ranger'... Ah, nevermind. In other news, I caught a Mewtwo the other day, which is good, but I also caught the flu, which is bad.
The last Ruby and Sapphire film, and also the film that follows some of the events of the Pokemon Ranger spin-off series of games. Guess they were feeling a bit inadequate alongside their monstrous mother franchise, and heck, the Pokemon Company has enough money to eat money for three meals a day and still not run out. Anyway, Ash and his now vocally deformed friends get lost in a "wasteland" (which is nothing if you've ever played a Fallout game) and meet up some swimming gymnasts and a girly-haired Pokemon Ranger with a girl's name, and get caught up in a quest to find a giant underwater temple using a certain mythical Pokemon. All in a day's work, eh?

+ Manaphy only says its name, but only at first. It was my delight to see a Pokemon rise forth from the slum town that is only being able to say you own name, and even manage a few laterals and voiced fricatives to boot. It's a very welcome change, even if you have to wade through a good number of times where he, y'know, only says his own name.
+ For a big, fat pirate, 'Phantom the Pirate' (imaginative) is a pretty cool villain. He has an undersea doom fortress, for one thing, and he also has a 'mecha suit'. A mecha suit!! How awesome is that!
+ And speaking of awesome, Kyogre's in this one, Kyogre being one of my real favourites, partly because I've amassed so many of the 'unique' Pokemon over the years. Doesn't do much, but he does blow something up with a laser that comes out of his mouth, which is more than a certain yellow mouse did this time around.
+ A mecha suit!!! I wish I'd thought of that!
+ Team Rocket are funny again! Celebrate! Not only is there a simply hilarious scene where the three of them switch bodies, but Meowth actually breaks the fourth wall twice! Twice! And good on him, I say!
+ Ash's heroism is, for once, actually pretty stirring. I was actually moved by his selfless actions, but this is me we're talking about.
+ For that matter, the whole over-arching plot is pretty moving, the whole Manaphy thing. It did a good job of making me sad. However...

o It's a Pokemon! It is not your child!!

- As I mentioned before, there have been some nasty cutbacks in the vocal department. Ash, Brock and James have all now been replaced by fakes, and though May, Max and co. still remain true to their roots the side characters have some pretty shoddy attempts at being endearing. Here are a couple of examples.
- "The name's Jack Walker. Please, call me Jackie." And why would we want to do this terrible thing? You're too much of a girly girl as it is without giving yourself a girl's name you big girl. Oh, and your intonation's well off for one particular line. You do know what's going on in the film, right? Because if you didn't that'd be pretty unforgivable, right? Right? Jackie?!
- "Would you care for a saaaample?" Not if you ask like that, you creepy old man.
- Ending's a bit abrupt, if you ask me.
- This is a big one. It should be no secret by now that I hate Jack Walker's guts, and let me tell you why. Pokemon Rangers are supposed to be this big, heroic, ecowarrior types, right? Saving Pokemon from evil people and natural disasters and stuff, and there's really nothing wrong with that. However, why-oh-why do they have to brainwash the poor little things with their psychic Beyblades to fulfill their missions?! At least Pokemon Trainers give them a little bit of choice in the matter, as episode 1's Pikachu showed. Tch, Pokemon Rangers. Load of rubbish.

Overall Impression: Ooh, it comes so close to being a 4, so very close. But there are some stupid things about it that cannot be forgiven. If it had just been The Temple of the Sea I may have been a bit more generous.
Final Score of 3/5

Pokemon 10: The Rise of Darkrai - first seen 14th November 2008 (ish) - English version - Seen once
And here we go into the realms of Diamond and Pearl. You know, Ash is a lot like The Doctor in that he has a different girl with him every season, and this film is the cinema debut of Dawn and her Piplup. Diamond was the first Pokemon game I'd really actually gotten into in quite a while, hence the lack of Sapphire Legendaries.
In a funny city with old-ish architecture and a massive clocktower, time starts getting a bit iffy, due to a cosmic battle between Pokemon of time Dialga and Pokemon of space Palkia. Ash and his friends have to play Pokemon dinnerlady and break it up. This is the start of a slippery slope, I feel. Once you get Pokemon of Time and Space there's not really anywhere left to go. Film 12 is about Arceus who, according to the PokeDex, in legend "created the world with his 1,000 arms". Careful now, Nintendo.

+ Dialga and Palkia are epic. I was rooting for Dialga, personally, but they're both cool. And the fights are superb. It was great to see a pair of Pokemon that, rather than ask for the help of humans, simply ignore them as they are beneath notice. That's how I see Pokemon, not some of the glorified plushies you see in these films.
+ Brock gets some good lines.
+ I really liked the fact that side characters get decent plots in this one. I actually liked them as characters because of it, even though we'll never see them again. The sort-of villain is an uptight Baron with the Pokemon Licki-Licki, which leads to some hysterical lines, and makes him fun to watch as well.

- This is a big one. Okay, the star of the show in this movie is Darkrai, as the title says. Darkrai had been mentioned in Diamond just briefly in a little side-quest to catch Lunar Bird Pokemon Cresselia. There's a boy in a certain port-side town having nightmares, who mumbles something dileriously about being watched by an evil presence he called Darkrai. Run off to an island and fetch a feather that gives him safe dreams, and he claims to not know what you're talking about. Gripping stuff! So I was really looking forward to seeing a bonefide evil Pokemon wreak a bit of havoc, especially one that allegedly gets inside your head. So imagine my disappointment when I see this film and the writers decide, of all things, to make Darkrai the tragic hero, the misunderstood loner who can't help but be hated for the way he looks. Oh boo-hoo! We have enough heroes, I wanted to see some more villains!
- On the subject, Team Rocket are downright dull.
- Never have I seen a better case for Pokemon to say something that isn't just their own name than seeing Galade try and communicate. "Galade! Galade Galade!" Shut up!

Overall Impression: Did not like the real plot to this one bit. Darkrai was a disappointment. Having said that, Dialga and Palkia exceeded expectations and were great to watch, so maybe this counts as a good film. I'd watch it again, let me say that.
Final Score of 3/5

Pokemon 11: Giratina and the Sky's Bouqet - first seen 7th November 2009 - English version - Seen once
This may well be the last review for a little while. Movie 12 stopped being in cinemas literally the day after I arrived in Japan, so there's not much hope for a swift DVD release. Still, I'll be sure to rent it out when it does appear, with my lovely Tsutaya rental card. In the mean time I need to come up with some other stuff to do with my remaining days stuck at home. I already know one thing I'm going to do, and that's go stiiiir craaaaaazy!
Ash and his friends are doing idle, meaningless things, when they are pulled into a conflict between our world and 'Reverse World', which, would you believe it, is a reverse version of our own world. They also have to get little grassy hedgehog Pokemon Shaymin to a field of flowers to join up with friends, or else it will be doomed forever to be a social outcast, or something.

+ The thing that really struck me about this film is that the special effects are just phenomenal. Seriously, it's such a huge step up from the other films its almost like it was done by a whole different team. Even things like swarms of Magnemites, glaciers and trains (even trains!) looked spectacular.
+ And hey, speaking of Magnemites and things being awesome, Magnezone is superbly cool. Really brings the Pokemon to life, where before I didn't really care about it. Other cool Pokemon to turn up in this movie are Dialga, Giratina, Land Forme Shaymin (Sky Forme... not so much) and to a lesser extend Regigigas, who kind of let himself down by not talking in an awesome robot voice like his lesser siblings do.
+ Zero's a great villain, even if he was a little bit shallow. I liked his motives for being evil, and loved the ways he carried out his plans, like with Mecha-Giratina. That thing was crazy cool! He was unbelievably emo, but I think we can forgive him that. I mean, Reverse World is pretty awesome; who'd not want to protect it?
+ As I think I may have just said, Reverse World is pretty awesome. It's done in a really great surreal way that makes every shot look like it's been drawn on top of a work of art. It's doubly awesome with snake-like Sky Forme Giratina flying around in it.
+ To go back to a previous point, Land Forme Shaymin was a real breath of fresh air (oh, how I make myself laugh sometimes). Up until now all the Legendaries have either been nastily apathetic, cruel or cute and playful, and so it was really good seeing Shaymin, the so-called Gratitude Pokemon, being a real spoilt brat. Her fights with Ash were truly funny, and I always thought it a shame when it transformed.
+ The Professor's backpack that seemed to contain nothing but spindly robot limbs that could do stuff for him. That was cool.
+ I couldn't help but notice the quality of voice acting has jumped up a significant degree. Ash's voice actually suited him, and though Brock's still wasn't perfect it did the job okay. Good work, 4Kids! And that's probably the last time I'll say that.

o A couple of noteworthy Team Rocket lines, but nothing really stand-out.

- You may have read through all of the above positive points and thought 'Hey wow, sounds like he really liked this movie! Maybe he'll give it a 4 or higher!' Well, put that thought out of your mind, because I'm about to show you why this movie will not rise above a 3. The plot to this movie is great, but is executed poorly. At the very start, with Shaymin mucking about with Team Ash's pancakes, and after Giratina and Dialga have a bit of a scrap, I was ready to put the film into the same category as the 3rd: film's that come close to being as good as the first one. Unfortunately, somewhere in the middle of the team's first expedition into Reverse World the plot slows down and down, until by the end I was really begging it to end. After setting up climax after climax, only to try and outdo the last one with another, it made each seem cheap and meaningless, and so there wasn't really a proper climax at all. Pokemon 1 had a very clear climax to it, somewhere to which the road led, but 11 just didn't have that. And that is a bitter, bitter shame.
- Also, Sky Forme Shaymin was frankly annoying as anything. Like, so annoying I couldn't believe it. It had a stupid voice, and an irritating personality. And it was because of that that I truly didn't care when it left on its magical journey to wherever it was it was going. Really contrasted with the sad goodbye in 9, which was done well.
- Okay, so you've heard of Suicune. There's a guy in Crystal and the latest series of games that blabs on and on about him, so it's kind-of fair. Rayquaza's big and makes a lot of noise, so I can see why you may not be massively surprised to see it. But Shaymin?! Really?! It's the Mew of the DPP Generation, and even some dense tourist on a train has not only heard of it, but know exactly how it evolves and attacks?! Why should that be the case?! It's called a Legendary Pokemon for a reason, people aren't supposed to believe it actually exists! So why does everyone know about it?! Huh?!
- I see they've just done away with the Ash-gets-shocked-by-Pikach
u gag, as well as the Ash-ignores-logic-and-jumps-at-a-forcefield one, and this is a real shame. It was nice to have a bit of an inside joke that I got, made me feel special. Tch, nevermind then.

Overall Impression: So very close, Pokemon, I can see that you are learning. But you still need to try harder! If Ash is meant to save the Pokemon world, he can hurry it up!
Final Score of 3/5

Pokemon 12: Arceus and the Jewel of Life - seen 13th November 2009 - English Version - Seen once
Okay, whut? I arrived in Japan 3 months ago, and at that time the Arceus movie was just leaving the cinemas. So that means 4Kids had no more than 4 months to find and acquire the rights to translating it, then actually translate it, then release it in cinemas, then for Cartoon flipping Network to put it on TV. 4 months?! And yet it took how long for them to bring Super Smash Bros Brawl to the Wii? Darn sight longer than 4 months, I can tell you. So anyway, this'll be the last Pokemon film that I'll be reviewing for a little while, as the next one isn't out yet. I fully intend to watch that one in the cinema, too, and get myself a Pichu or two. Those little guys are hard to get in HeartGold! So I was hoping for something pretty epic to bring this quest of mine to a conclusion, and also to lift my spirits because I still have swinub flu. Yeah, that was on purpose.
The epic battle for space/time leadership comes to a head when Arceus decides he'd like a shot at it as well, and also quite fancies getting a bit of stone-cold revenge for some bad things done to him in Pokemon Ancient Greece. Ash and his friends have to go back in time to sort things out. Yeah, back in time! I was excited! Should I have been? No, is the answer.

+ But let's start with what was good, and there were a few things. As with movie 11, the quality of the special effects was superb, and it really helped make things good and epic. And that's really what it needed. I mean, this film has... hold on, let me start a new bullet point.
+ This film has time, space, some sort of Reverse reality and a whole new created universe fighting eachother for all kinds of reasons, so epic-ness is pretty much a necessity. And they do pull it off. Dialga is epic because he sends people back in time. Palkia is epic because he shoots massive lasers out of his mouth. Giratina transforms into stuff. Arceus is just... brilliant. Blowing stuff up with meteors has never been cooler. As a little point, Dialga and Palkia are acquired around level 40, Giratina at level 70, but Arceus comes at level 100. So it's perfectly understandable why he's able to just blow everything else out of the water, especially considering his little plate ability. He also looks epic as well, the design team outdid themselves when they were making a really alien-looking Pokemon, and his voice is pretty awesome as well. They even got his attitude right, to an extent. One of his best lines is "How pitiful." when he hears of what's-his-face-Grecian-dude's big plans for the land. Cold, just how we like our Legendary Pokemon.
+ And to top things off, the plot is right on the money for a change. There is one problem, and the climax comes when the heroes take direct measures to solve that problem. That's all that's needed, nothing more. So the films becomes easily watchable. And I was really pleased to see that, as the plot to this one is one that I would love to see done well.
+ And I also like that there were lots of Generation 2 Pokemon running about (especially my beloved Totodile) to commemorate the soon-to-be released HeartGold and SoulSilver.

o So then I must like this movie, yes?

- No. I don't like this movie. There are a number of reasons, which I will get to in a little while, but the most prevalent one comes first, and in lovely rant format.
Nobody, NOBODY, gets Arceus' name right! Nobody! Not ONCE! Say it to yourself, just now. How do you think it's supposed to be said?
If you said 'ar-kee-uss', then you are just as bad as 4Kids!! It is NOT Arkeeuss, there is no reason why it should be!! A 'c' there becomes /s/ when it's followed by a vowel. No room for discussion.
But no, not everybody is a linguist, it's not surprising that some people would mistake it, as some of you may have done. And that's fine... I guess. I mean, this is just a matter of opinion, isn't it? Maybe it's me that's wrong. I mean, Pokemon is originally American, right? So there's nothing that exists out there that tells you what the actual pronunciation is outside of these films, right?
Wrong!!! DEAD wrong!! All it would have taken would for 4Kids to dig down into their cavernous pockets and pay someone who can read Japanese (like, oh I dunno, ME!!) and look on the Japanese Wikipedia page for the pronunciation guide! Or even better, just play the game! Japanese uses a phonetic alphabet, so even a 3 year old could tel you that it is NOT Arkeeuss!
It's Ar-say-us, you muppets!!
Get is right next time!!

- So that was reason number one. Let's move on. Reason two is that they feel they just have to squeeze all the Legendary Pokemon they can into the film, so Heatran makes an appearance. Heatran turns up in Diamond and Pearl in the middle of a volcano at level 70, so he should be this massive brute about Giratina-strength. But instead they fob him off as this chump mook Pokemon that gets mind-controlled into doing evil. Don't get that. Well, there's one possible reason for it, and that's that you only ever see him some 4000 years in the past, so maybe after getting beaten up by a Pikachu of all things he runs off to his mountain and trains for the rest of human existance and ends up as the Legendary we see in Stark Mountain. Still, bit of a cop-out if you ask me.
- And what was up with that woman's eyebrows? They were massive! Great, furry Caterpies, they were. And her boyfriend's hair, what a joke! Someone with that hair and the name 'Kevin' does not deserve such a cool hero voice. Apologies to Kevins of the world. I'm just saying, is all... well watch the film and tell me what you think.
- All the characters, and I mean all of them that weren't Pokemon, were dull as the day is long. I didn't care for any of them, not one. Good thing this film had bits where Pokemon did stuff away from people, like had epic battles in the sky or Solid Snake-d through a temple to free their idiot trainers.
- Wow was the plot close to being interesting. They have to go back in time and change events so Arceus doesn't end the world, that's such a good plot! Pity it's not done properly. They were going to change the future, they really were, but then...
Ah, this next bit's a spoiler, so don't read on if you actually want to watch the film properly.
Let's take a look at this new timeline with regard to Arceus' memories, shall we? So back in Ancient Greece he gets thoroughly betrayed by some people, but then everything is put to rights by a little dude with a Pikachu, and all is well. But then, 4000 years in the future, he turns up in our world and, obviously because he's FORGOTTEN that the Jewel of Life has already been returned, starts throwing a hissy fit and blowing stuff up, and even beats the other time/space Pokemon within an inch of their lives, but then miraculously remembers everything just before dealing the killing blow, and puts everything back again. Yeah.... Not sure I like that much. Oh and while we're in spolier land, where there are no consequences to actions, you see that bit where Arceus remembers everything and it zooms into his eyes where the memories flash up? Well, yu may have noticed that the background was a sort of flowing static, not unlike a certain glitch Pokemon. That would have made this whole point defunct, if the reason Arceus was blowing up the place was because he was actually Missingno and was just acting crazy. That would have been PERfect. I would have forgiven them anything if they'd put Missingno in the film. Even getting the key Pokemon's name wrong.
- Ended too fast, too. It just sort of stopped. Like this paragraph.

Overall Impression: A very clear indication that a lot of the time 4Kids just don't do their research. This film had a lot of promise, and didn't meet expectations. They should make more of a thing about Ash having this big destiny, if you ask me. Do that, Pokemon, and then come back and try again.
Final Score of 2/5

Pokemon 13: 'Phantom Ruler Zoroak' - Seen 10th July 2010 - Japanese Version - Seen once
So much for originally published details, eh? In the place of my beloved notch-eared Pichu I got myself a shiny Legendary Dog, and mid-film Nintendo saw fit to give me a Celebi for my troubles. What does that have to do with Ho-oh and Lugia, you ask? Nothing. Not one thing. That's what. I am reminded by this film of the second in the series, where although it was clearly an original 150 film there was still a massive part played by Generation II Legendary Lugia. This is pretty much the same thing, nothing but a hype-fest for September-released Black and White (fill out my survey!!).
So, the plot. It's actually a very interesting one this time, with a multi-billionaire capturing the mysterious Pokemon Zoroak as well as it's friend, pre-evolved Zoroa. Turns out he wants Zoroak to act as a scapegoat in order to fulfil a vision of the future. Oh yeah, did I mention? He can do that. See into the future, I mean. Ash, Brock and Dawn, along with regular Pokemon allies, see fit to intervene, because, I kid you not when I say this, they want to watch Pokemon play football and the evil scheme meant the game got postponed. Real role-models, those guys.

+ A lot of good things to say here. Let's start with the big one: the new Pokemon. So in the very beginning we had Mew, who wasn't really comparable to other Pokemon. Then it was Celebi playing the Legendary Mascot role, and he was a little pathetic. As was Jirachi. As was Manaphy. Shaymin bounced back and forth between being pathetic and annoying. And now we have Zoroa, and Zoroa is, at long last, starting to turn the Legendary Mascot role around. He may not be the strongest Pokemon on the block, but boy does he have heart to spare! I don't mind sharing that I was deeply cynical about Zoroa's introduction into the cast: he was kinda cute, but not really, and I really didn't see the point of him. Surely we have other Dark-type Pokemon that can do the same job, and Dittos can transform just as well. But I was wrong, I hold up my hands and loudly proclaim that. Zoroa is great. It's the voice that does it. Zoroa's growl is one of the cutest things I've ever heard, but it's his voice (whoops, spoiler: he's telepathic) that really wins me over. It's cute and kiddy, but so very cool! He talks like a little gangster! 「おいら、強いぞ!」I love it! Steph also made the good point that he's pretty weak, and quite arrogant, but he makes friends very easily and once he does he protects them vehemently. Which is good, because Celebi is back and as pathetic as ever, despite being just as cute.
+ Zoroak too, though not being a favourite by a long stretch, was another cool Pokemon. The noise he made as he transformed was ace, and his Dark Pulse Plus, or whatever it was, was brilliant.
+ The time travel aspect returns and I must say they actually do a pretty good job of it this time. The villain, I'm afraid to say I've already forgotten his name, has a great psychotic streak, all thanks to his future sight powers, and they make the right decision to stick with the 'time is unchangeable', something that I so wish they'd done in that horrendous Arceus incident. Celebi jumps through time a little too, but it's not the focus of the film, though I do like the sort of 'just don't touch it' feeling behind the time ripple thing he uses. Makes it big and unseeable, kinda like the Dialga and Palkia fight that had been the focus of the films up until now.
+ Piplup still rocks hard. The poor little guy...
+ Skiplooms are cute too; how did I not notice?
+ Some great CGI here; that giant plane was awesome. Almost as awesome as it was when it got blown up by Entei. That was REALLY awesome.

o I'm not entirely sure how I feel about the inclusion of the shiny Dogs in as characters. Feels a little too much like some kind of marketing ploy. Y'know? Why else would they be given out as preorder gifts if they weren't in the film for some reason.
o Pokemon Football? Really? I mean, the World Cup was a big deal, but to bring it into Pokemon? If I want to see flashy, anime football I'll watch the new Inazuma Eleven movie (coming out in December). The one thing I did like, though, was that teams were only the different evolutions of different Pokemon, rather than a mix. Though surely that would mean Team Kangaskhan would need one heck of a handicap, and Team Eevee would destroy everyone.

- Team Rocket have officially fallen from grace. They did nothing in this film, not one thing. They didn't even say their stinking motto, which they were cheeky enough to change so now I can't say it with them. All they did was chase the main characters around and make helpful comments like 'Zoroak sure looks powerful'. Shame on you, guys. Shame on you.
- No theme tune. I'm surprised this bothered me as much as it did, but I'd have really liked to hear a Pokemon theme song whilst Ash fought someone, just like always. I guess it helps link the films to the show a little more, though we did get so see him give Soul a bit of a hiding in the intro. That was pretty cool: Soul came at him with a Donphan, which if you'll remember was the first Pokemon Ash had to battle in the first movie. It's no wonder Pikachu just one-shotted the poor guy, Donphan is old hat.
- Arrow-pattern suits.
- Why does every pretty woman working for an evil genius have to be an undercover reporter (hey, wow, the spoilers just keep on coming!), huh? I liked this one more than the others, but I'd still have liked to have seen something a little more original, like she was secretly in love with the villain or something. Or secretly in love with the goon, that would have really got me going!
- And that's another thing: if the villain saw in the future that she was gonna betray him, why didn't he stop her? I mean, she really didn't do squat to help, but he could have locked her away or anything! C'mon, dude, what's the use of Mystic Eyes of Future Perception if you're not gonna USE them! And hey, while we're on the topic of plot holes, why was the whole city evacuated but the elderly couple in the flower shop allowed to stay? What kind of police service is Jenny running?!
- That purple-haired magnet girl, just who was she? And why was she so annoying? Was she really needed at all??
- Abrupt ending is abrupt.

Overall Impression: I actually really liked this. It was full of heart, and honestly had me interested from start to finish; time most definitely not wasted. The new Pokemon far exceeded expectations, the characters were still fun and lively, and the whole thing came together as a worthy addition to the plot.
Final Score: 4/5

Pokemon 14: Title Unknown, 'Black and White' (2011)
All we know is what we saw from the teaser trailer at the end of 13: this film will include rocket foxes and tesla dinosaurs. That's all we need to know, right?

If there are any more announced, I may add them on. Hope you enjoyed reading my scandalous opinions about a series of movies for children. I enjoyed researching, and writing about them, and I do proudly proclaim how much I like Pokemon! Regardless of whether Pokemon are really 'psychic' and thus not suitable for kids, or whether it's just a big, commercial, moneymaking machine, the heart is in the right place and that's what I really admire about the show.
Thanks for reading.

Pete Day 2010

It's been over a month now since I last posted here, and boy has it been a boring one. There has been so little to write about it stings a little when I think about it, and I'm sure not one of you would have appreciated a long string of entries talking about how studying is rubbish and how I like sleep. But now, at last, I have something proper to talk to you about, and hopefully now that we've reached the final stretch (...) there'll be plenty more to talk about as I hurry to tick off the last of the Japan-bucket list.

So now on to Pete Day 2010, which in the true spirit of Pete-based holidays extended well beyond a single day. The following account takes in last Saturday and yesterday (Friday). I also contains no photos, because the places I will be talking about were not places that photos were generally allowed. Also, I am an idiot and left my camera in a station locker on one of the days.

So, here we go, time for Pete Day 2010.


Osaka is home to, I am told, about twenty cat cafes spread out across the city, and being the feline enthusiast that I am it would have been simply heresy for my to skip out on the opportunity. The cafe Steph and I went to was called 'Neko no Jikan', literally 'Cat Time', and sat in the middle of the American-themed district a little west of Shinseibashi, one of the big shopping areas. Leave station exit 7, we were told, head south until you hit the Apple Building, take a right and it's on your left.

No, Google; no it isn't.

We spend a good hour in the pouring rain looking for this one shop, which when we found it was actually pretty easy to spot, but it looks like the twisting side-streets of fake-America do not enter into Google Maps and as such it became a huge ordeal. By the time we found it at long last I was tired and angry, and in much need of a cat to hug.

Neko no Jikan is a really nice-looking place. Wood furnishing on every last inch of space, really nicely designed. And to top it off the whole thing is just a giant cat playground (that's a giant playground for cats, not a playground for giant cats) with scratching posts and things to sit on as far as the eye can see. The residents of this particular cafe numbered about twenty, though not all were present on the day. Most were a funny breed I'd never seen before, and angry-looking puffball breed of cat with thin tails that end in a pom-pom. Anyone got a name? There was this one that I swear looked exactly like Samuel L Jackson.

Anyway, it was 1,500 yen entry (it works like karaoke, so by time, and Steph and I were on free time) which also got us one drink. I never knew honey in tea made such a difference. But yeah, the focus was the cats themselves. Plenty of them were more than welcome to be petted and stroked, but a lot would just wander off if you tried to touch them. I must admit, it wasn't the nicest of feelings, getting rejected by these little guys after you spent so much money to play around with them. On leaving the place a while later, Steph and I agreed that if that had been a hostess bar and the women had acted like that, we'd have asked for our money back.

Not that we were going to a hostess bar any time soon, you understand.


What we WERE going to, however, was a maid cafe. The real deal, just like on the the news. Our destination was mel Cafe, a cafe just off Den-Den Town, Osaka's technology district. Again, a well-made place, with some nice decorations and apt, mansion-esque music playing in the background.

Now, it's clear to me that I had something of the wrong impression when I was looking up these places. It had been my understanding that a maid cafe was a place of minor-level debauchery, where you essentially pay to oggle young women in revealing clothing. This was far from the truth (of this cafe, at any rate) and it was clear from the start that the real maid-work that went on came from the maids being just very friendly with you. On entering the cafe we were greeted by one woman who, when we mentioned that we wanted non-smoking, enthusiastically proclaimed just how relieved it was that we spoke Japanese, as she spoke not a word of English. The outfits, as well, were not to my expectations, and looked just like something you might actually have worn to do housework at some time or another.

As expected, however, the prices were slightly steeper than your usual cafe. 700 yen got us a sizeable drink plus a cake, so I don't think we were ripped off at all. Really getting into this ice coffee lark, by the way. Over the course of our time there we were talked to about exchange student-dom, and got to read a magazine on maid cafes around Japan (thereby proving correct my hypothesis on at least some maid cafes being the aforementioned debaucherariums). It was actually a lot of fun, with the staff being super-nice the whole way through, and the whole atmosphere being incredibly relaxed and a lot of fun to be around. We got waved on our way and off we set.

Everything else...

Not much else to say here. Got a walk down Den-Den Town, which is always fun, BUT...

...Joshin Gundam's no longer exists. I was heartbroken. Now it's nothing but a run-of-the-mill Joshin Kid's Land, with a floor that happens to be Gundam-themed and have a Gundam hand coming through the wall. Sucks to be a Gundam fan, and so much for my hopes at finding a remote-control Haro... Did get myself a Master Grade Zaku II to celebrate my last trip to the Gundam shop, as well as one sweet as anything t-shirt.

Also missed TWO opportunities to head to the wonderland that is Sweet's Paradise, both times due to my slow window shopping.

There is just one last thing to add, and that's that today Steph and I went to see Pokemon the Movie 2010, today being its release day, and now I will return to my review post to fill you all in.

Other events worth looking forward to hearing about are trips to Nagoya to see Mai in a couple of weeks, a finale trip to Lake Biwa with the church group, a trip to Fukuoka to see monkeys and end my grand tour of the Pokemon Centers, and naturally a host of other farewell parties.

Now, if you'll excuse me, thinking about the end has me made a little sad.

Thanks for reading.



Sunday, 6 June 2010


So I look at the timestamp for the last post and realise that it's been a long time since last I wrote anything for the blog.

Sorry about that.

But I do have some good stuff for you today. For you see, although it is now about three weeks late, today I will tell you about Team Pete and Steph's trip to Kobe.

There it is, look.

Anyway, as you can probably see, the day was hysterically, abominably hot, and so upon meeting Connor at Sannomiya Stationwe decided to head north, to Shin Kobe, and the cool shade of a nearby mountain. Apparently there are supposed to be wild boar in those parts, though we didn't see any. We did, though, see three waterfalls. Here's one.

Next, not wishing to take the subway more than was necessary, we made our way south into the foreign district of Kobe. By foreign, I mean that it was where all the filthy gaijin such as yours truly used to hang out back in the day, and as such there as a definite sense of trying to replicate that age-old 'foreign flavour'. Not a Japanese thing in sight. Wishing to delve deep into the depths of Kobe life, we decided to sample some of this flavour, starting with a British House.

Really reminded us of home. It had been too long since last I set eyes on something as commonplace as a suit of armour... The house itself was supposed to be a copy of one Sherlock Holmes' own house, and as you can imagine film merchandise was flipping everywhere, but it was still an interesting place to visit. It had two bars! Two!

Next on our little tour was the mysteriously named Ben's House, which offered not a single mite of information about just who this 'Ben' person was. We can tell you this, though: Ben was the most horrible human being on the planet. Stuffed hunting trophies as far as the eye could see, I had no idea hollowed-out elephant's feet could be put to so many uses. And what was his bedroom like? It had only been stolen piece by piece from some poor fellow living out in the forests of Africa, bed and all! This guy was a real piece of work, let me tell you. The last stop on the tour was a Panama house, which offered nothing in the way of Panamanese language translations, which was simply outrageous. Apparently people from Panama like boats and tiny Japanese houses.

Grabbing lunch at a nearby bakery, we headed to the harbour. Some interesting stuff to see on the harbour, including a section of road from Kobe's last big earthquake...

And one incredibly camp boat...

Kobe sure does have everything. The harbour was also the location of Connor and Pete's Epic Pokemon Battle. Maybe that's why I've taken so long to get all this up, maybe I was stalling because if I ever talked about it I'd have to mention the fact that I lost.

Garchomp, next time you see me, you'll wish you hadn't.

Got a bit of minor revenge, though, with the level-capped double battle, but when it comes to a pure, one-on-one battle I still need a bit of training. Next time, the result will be different.

On our way back towards the center of Kobe, we passed 'Harbourland', a cheeky little plastic amusement park, and in true tourist fashion we paid it a visit. Pretty run-of-the-mill, all things considered, though there were a couple of sweet highlights:

As you may have guessed, the ordeals of rolling around in giant balls left us tired and hungry. So, after passing by the arcade so Connor could win himself a Chopper hat, we made tracks to Fisherman's Market (right? Not Fisherman's Wharf? I can't remember...) which did fish and chips. Not real fish and chips, mind you, but it was a pretty close approximation. It was also superb.

By the time we left it was dark, so we took a stroll along the waterside to take in the night-time sights. Fire-jugglers, the Kobe Tower or whatever it calls itself, oh and that camp boat turned up again. Honestly very pretty stuff. Next was karaoke in the entertainment district followed by bed. Well, I say bed...

Actually not the worst night's sleep I've ever had. The matting was pretty soft, and I found myself easily able to get a few hours of solid sleep. What I was disappointed with, however, was that I had clearly overestimated Japanese manga cafes as being veritable shrines of online gaming and comics, and Manboo only lived up to one of those things. The computer was honestly a pile of junk compared to the shiny obelisk that was the average Japanese computer in my mind. The internet was slow, barely fast enough to catch the latest episode of Angel Beats, and there was not a single internet game installed on the stupid thing, except some kind of stupid board-game thing. I have higher expectations of the big cheese of the manga cafe world, Popeye, when I go there for a critical few hours at some point.

Anyway, then it was Sunday, and Kobe Matsuri time. If anything, Sunday was even hotter than Saturday, and this did not do my energy levels any favours. Nor did all the loud noises and people in bright costumes for that matter.

I honestly had no idea Kobe was a big samba city. No idea at all... After getting some Taiwanese icecream followed by some Japanese pasta, we looked around the city for the best part of the day before setting off back home to Kyoto, tired like nothing else. And we had school on Monday, too. Not the best of moods that night...

And that's it, really. Sunday wasn't really all that eventful, it was just a long day of samba-watching and being tired. But still, all things considered, Kobe rocked hard. I'l look forward to going there again some other time.

Thanks for reading.


Oh, and if you're wondering about the weeks in between, nothing really happened. A few essays, some speeches, and the culmination of a soap opera. Nothing worth mentioning.



Thursday, 6 May 2010

Smorking Labbits - A Tale of Tokyo

And now your patience will be rewarded...

So yeah, back from Tokyo the other day, and finally found myself a spare breath with which to scratch out an account of what happened over those fateful four nights in Nishikawaguchi. The trip, for those of you who didn't know, was Team Korea's latest outing into the world of domestic travel, and saw us spending our Golden Weeks in Japan's capital, visiting touristy spots and fellow Edinburghers.

As you may have guessed, I didn't die.

So anyway, one of the big milestones the trip signified was my first outing on a Night Bus, that dreaded chariot of the devil, and I can tell you now that it's almost as bad as everyone makes it out to be. Almost, but not quite. I have never been a good sleeper on moving vehicles, the train ride between Maizuru (right?) and Otaru being the one exception. So no sleep for the wicked this time. It was fun, though, in a weird sort of way, and I enjoyed my hell as best I could.

You see the state we were in when we arrived? Nah, I'm kidding.

So we arrived at Shinjuku Station at around 5.45am, and set off in search of something to do before Tokyo opened. Breakfast (carton coffee is niiice) and subways lead us to the Imperial Gardens in the centre of town, where Steph and I slept on the grass and Mark did... something majime, can't remember what. Lunch at Freshness Burger, and then it was off to the Pokemon Center for a bit of giddy, gleeful nostalgia. That was where we picked up tickets for the movie (just a couple of months now) before setting sail for the hostel.

JGH Tokyo is a nice little hostel in a place called Nishikawaguchi, which we later found was a Red Light District. No kidding. It's small, and the rooms reflect this smallness, but cosy, and the beds are comfortable. One problem we faced was that there are often only limited walls between rooms, so noise travelled very easily. Why that Danish fellow was screaming "Gluttony! Gluttony!" at 8am the next morning is beyond all of us. It also seems that Australians do not appreciate deep, late-night discussions. Which is a joke, really considering how flipping loud they saw fit to flipping snore!!


Next day was, you guessed it, Saturday, and a trip to Kamakura. Present members were Team Korea, Caroline and Jan, Laura and Claire, as well as Laura's parents. Nice place, if you didn't know already, and the weather was spectacular.

And now, Live on the scene as it was on Saturday, here's a special news report from inside Buddha:

And it's back to the studio.

Following that was a trip to the beach, something I haven't done in years. Big sights included some little hawks grabbing food, Anpanman in the sand and a dead husk of a pufferfish. After that was some awesome tuna mayo crepes before heading back to Caroline's for a nabe party, which went exceptionally. Those on the receiving end of Claire's drunken messages to my friends via my phone, I am deeply sorry.

Getting tired...

Sunday was Yokohama with Claire and Laura, and let me tell you that is one superb place. More mayo crepes, Yellow Submarine, and quite possibly the greatest arcade game ever conceived.

Other things of note in Yokohama, excluding stellar stress relief games, were another Pokemon Center, a ferris wheel and moonlit waters. The weather, if you're interested, was simply spectacular, and only saw to invigorate the city with a further burst of life and energy. The place was packed to the rafters with kids out in the amusement park, or fellow tourists, or any of a huge number of people, all enjoying the sun. Yokohama was a spectacular place, and one I would love to return to some day.

Pity they weren't serving Fish and Chips that day, though...

Monday, our grand finale, saw Steph and I set off for Odaiba with Tokyoite Natasha. Best way to get to Odaiba is via a monorail, which is WAY cooler than any measly subway, and was the first of a plethora of things that, when all put together, make Odaiba a truly science fiction city.

Looking out at the cityscape from the flat pathways on the riverside it is difficult to see yourself in the present day at all, a thought that is further enhanced by the presence of Tokyo's Teleport Station.

I kid you not! That's exactly what it says! I hear, though, that rather than being a fantastical place of instant transportation it is just a train from Odaiba to Shinjuku and back again. And this was not the only disappointment Odaiba had in store for us...

I WISH it was the real Pallet Town! I WISH! Instead, this shopping complex held yet another ferris wheel (pretty much a must have for such a picturesque area) as well as an Italian buffet, a car exhibit and some hula dancers. After taking in the seven colours of Fake Pallet Town the three of us met up with Odaiba resident Haruka (whose parents, wouldn't you know it, live in Edinburgh) and off we went again. This time we stopped by a place called... uh... D- something. It was some kind of amusement complex, with Sega's theme park Joypolis (would have KILLED to go there about seven years ago), a fitness complex, a retro Showa village and a replica street of Hong Kong. It was quite something, each floor holding something a little bit weirder than the last. From there Steph and I bid our farewells and set off for where the rest of Team Tokyo awaited in Harajuku. Dinner was quirky DIY okonomiyaki in a little backstreet, gallery-esque restaurant, and was superb fun.

The bus back was more tolerable, we all being a little bit dead from the week's endeavours, and I think I may even have been able to sleep a little bit. Wasn't deep sleep, I should be so lucky, but it helped pass the time. Arrived home on Tuesday morning at around 6 o'clock, at which point we went our separate ways and slept.

And that's it. All done. Tokyo complete once again. And, until the return trip via Narita it'll be the last time I'm there. It's a stupendous place, Tokyo, though honestly exhausting. How Team Tokyo puts up with it week-in-week-out is beyond me.

Now I commence being annoyed at Blogger for not handling my videos with due care.

Thanks for reading.