Sunday, October 21, 2012

Another (anime TV series), via Crunchyroll

Another mixes horror and mystery. It's 12 episodes long.


When Kouichi transfers to Class 3 in his new school, he can tell something strange is going on. Everyone seems to know something really important, but no one will tell him anything. Misaki Mei, a strange girl with a eye patch, keeps making vague, creepy comments, telling Kouichi that he should probably stay away from her.

The school has a mysterious story centered around Class 3. Twenty-six years ago, a popular student in Class 3, Misaki, died in an accident. Everyone in the class was deeply upset by Misaki's death, until, one day, a student pointed to Misaki's desk and said "Misaki's not dead!" It was just pretend, but everyone, including the teachers, decided to go along with it. Misaki was even given a chair at graduation. No one thought any of this would be a problem, until the class photo was taken and Misaki's ghost showed up in it. From that point on, Class 3 found itself closer to death. Some years, it would mysteriously end up with one student too many. One of those extra students was a person connected to Class 3 who had died in a previous year, but, since records and even people's memories were mysteriously altered, no one realized that person was dead. Anyway, once the current Class 3 ended up with one student too many, unless the proper countermeasures were followed, at least one person in Class 3 or connected to Class 3 would die each month.

When Kouichi joined Class 3, it suddenly had one more student than it should have had. Could Misaki Mei be this Class 3's dead student? And, once the "calamity" has begun, how can Kouichi and the other students stop each other and those around them from dying?


I bumped this up in my queue because I knew it was a horror show, and October seemed like the perfect month for that. I rarely watch simulcasts, preferring to watch series after all the episodes have already been released, so I can marathon the whole thing if the pacing and/or my level of enjoyment merits it. In this case, I'm glad I didn't watch the original simulcasts, because the wait between episodes would have killed me. I watched the entire series over the course of three days.

200 Pounds Beauty (live action movie), via Crunchyroll

200 Pounds Beauty (or 200 Pound Beauty, how it's written on Crunchyroll) is a Korean movie that's a little hard for me to classify. I suppose comedy, or maybe even romantic comedy, would be appropriate. The problem with "romantic comedy," though, is that it sets up viewers to expect something they're not going to get, namely an ending in which Hanna ends up with someone. This is a spoiler, but an important one, so I'm going to say this right now: no, Hanna does not end up with Sang-jun, nor anyone else. That's not necessarily a bad thing, and the ending was still a happy one, with the potential for a romance HEA (Happily Ever After) on the horizon. Still, this movie may disappoint those looking for a traditional romance movie ending.


Hanna is an overweight young lady with a sweet voice and two jobs. One job involves providing phone sex to various clients. The other job, which Hanna sees as her primary job, involves providing Ammy, a famous pop star, with her voice. Ammy dances on stage and mouths the words, while Hanna sings in the back. Every one of Ammy's albums is actually sung by Hanna.

Hanna doesn't mind doing this, is even happy doing this, because it allows her to sing and because she has a huge crush on Sang-jun (Ammy's manager? producer? I'm not sure, but he seems to handle more of the business and talent-finding side of things). Sang-jun is so kind and supportive that Hanna can't help but think maybe he actually likes her back...until she overhears Sang-jun tell Ammy that they're only using her for her voice and must be kind to her so she doesn't leave.

A distraught Hanna first tries to kill herself and then heads off to one of her phone sex clients, a plastic surgeon, and demands that he perform full-body plastic surgery on her in order to make her beautiful. The doctor reluctantly agrees and, one year later, a much thinner Hanna heads out into the world. With the help of her friend, Jung-min, she gets her old job back by pretending to be a Korean American named Jenny. Sang-jun pretty much abandons Ammy in favor of Jenny, promoting her as an all-natural, fresh-faced beauty. Jenny becomes a huge star, but the lies she has to tell and the people in her life she feels she has to reject in order to achieve that fame all weigh heavily on her. With a jealous Ammy in the sidelines, doing her best to collect evidence than Jenny is really Hanna, and Sang-jun slowly connecting the dots, will Hanna's glamorous new life unravel?


I knew watching this would probably make me angry, but I added it to my queue anyway. Most of the movie did make me grind my teeth, although I have to admit that there were parts near the end that actually made me cry. I'm not sure, though, whether those parts near the end were worth the time it took to watch the whole movie.

Recorder and Randsell (anime TV series), via Crunchyroll

Recorder and Randsell is a comedy composed of two seasons, 26 episodes total. Each episode runs approximately 3 minutes long.

This series is based on a 4-koma manga (comic strips with four panels), so there isn't much of a plot. The basic setup is this: Atsumi is a high school-aged girl who looks like a grade schooler. Her younger brother, Atsushi, is a grade school-aged boy who looks like a handsome young man. No attempt is made to explain why they are the way they are. Most of the series' gags rely on Atsumi or Atsushi (usually Atsushi) being mistaken for the age they appear to be. In Atsushi's case, this usually means being arrested by the police, as people mistake him for a potential pedophile whenever he's around his friends and classmates.

Other recurring characters include: Atsushi's teacher, a shy woman with ludicrously bouncy boobs and a tendency to blush whenever Atsushi does things that makes it difficult to remember he's actually a little kid; Take, Atsumi and Atsushi's neighbor, an unemployed guy in his early thirties who's a bit of a bad influence on Atsushi; and Sayo, Atsumi's friend.

There isn't much in this series that changes. The police never manage to remember who Atsushi is and keep arresting him, and Take never finds a real job. The second season is the start of a new school year for Atsumi and Atsushi, so there's a slight change in the jokes, as the newest students have to adjust to Atsumi and Atsushi's strange situation - students at Atsumi's school mistake her for a child genius, while students at Atsushi's school mistake him for a teacher. There's really only one thing that could be considered an ongoing, gradually changing storyline, and that's Sayo's crush on Atsushi. For a while, Sayo has no idea that Atsushi is Atsumi's grade school-aged brother, so she develops a huge crush on him. To my surprise, she did eventually learn the truth.


I was a little surprised that this series ran for as long as it did – I didn't expect it to last more than one season, considering how repetitive some of the jokes got. Atsushi was constantly being arrested, Sayo was googly-eyed over Atsushi, Atsumi's small size made her maturity overly adorable, and Take had a habit of giving Atsushi too-adult advice and clothing. It wasn't exactly a bad show, but I was glad each episode was only 3 minutes long, because there wasn't enough material being played with to support longer episodes.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

While You Were Sleeping (live action movie)

While You Were Sleeping is a romantic comedy. I own it on DVD.

My review includes a few spoilers, but I don't think they matter much for this type of movie. It's a romance, so it's pretty easy to tell who Lucy is going to end up with. What matters is how much viewers enjoy the experience of getting to that ending.


Because she has no family, Lucy (Sandra Bullock) always gets stuck with working during the holidays, collecting Chicago "L" fares. This Christmas, her one bright spot is collecting the fare of the handsome man (Peter Gallagher) she fell in love with a while back. She has never actually spoken to him before and feels like kicking herself when he says something to her and she is unable to come up with a decent response fast enough. Then she spots a few guys attempting to mug him. She rushes over to him after he is pushed onto the train tracks, and narrowly saves him from being hit by the oncoming train.

At the hospital, Lucy desperately tries to get in to see the guy but is turned away, because she isn't a relative. One of the nurses misunderstands her and assumes Lucy is his fiancee. Lucy figures out the misunderstanding too late, after his enormous family arrives. Suddenly, everyone thinks Lucy is Peter's wonderful, life-saving fiancee. After learning that Peter's grandmother has a heart problem, Lucy is reluctant to reveal the truth. The more she gets to know Peter's family, the more she falls in love with them, and the more reluctant she is to reveal the truth and potentially lose them.

One of the people Lucy gets to know better while Peter is in a coma is Peter's brother, Jack (Bill Pullman). Jack is suspicious of Lucy at first, but he eventually warms up to her. At just about the same time, Lucy and Jack realize they're in love with each other, but the whole issue of Lucy being Peter's fiancee still stands between them. Then Peter wakes up, and things get more complicated. Somehow, Lucy has to make things right, but will she lose Jack and his family in the process?


This is one of my favorite romantic comedies. No, it's not one of those stellar, life-changing, rave-about-it-to-all-your-friends movies, but it does leave me with a nice warm feeling each time I watch it. Back when I had cable, it tended to pop up on TV each year around Christmas and New Year's, and I always watched it. Now I own it on DVD, for those times when I need a nice little pick-me-up.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Crystal Stopper (e-book) by Maurice Leblanc

The Crystal Stopper is available for free at several sites - I downloaded it from Project Gutenberg. It's part of Leblanc's Arsene Lupin series and, according to this timeline, takes place several years prior to the last Arsene Lupin book I read, Arsene Lupin.


During an attempted burglary of Deputy Daubrecq's home, two of Arsene Lupin's accomplices are arrested and blamed for a murder. One of the men, Vaucheray, committed the murder, while the other, Gilbert, did not, but both men will go to the guillotine if Lupin doesn't do something.

Lupin's path crosses with that of Clarisse Mergy, Gilbert's estranged mother, and information she gives him allows him to put together the pieces that might allow him to save Gilbert. For some time now, Daubrecq has been blackmailing several people using a list of 27 names implicated in a financial scandal. If the list ever gets out, it would mean the ruin of many, but no one knows where Daubrecq keeps it. Lupin is determined to find it and use it to get Gilbert's death sentence changed to life in prison (which Lupin can easily free him from).

Getting the list is more difficult than Lupin anticipates, however. Daubrecq is a wily opponent, always one step ahead of him, always just a bit sharper and more observant. The list is cleverly concealed inside a hollowed out crystal stopper, but finding and taking that stopper isn't easy, and Lupin isn't the only person looking for it. As the date of the execution nears, even Lupin begins to wonder if he can free Gilbert in time.


In The Crystal Stopper, Leblanc tried to up the suspense by knocking Lupin down a few notches and raising his opponent up a few notches. Sadly, the result did not work as well for me as The Extraordinary Adventures of Arsene Lupin, Gentleman-Burglar, or even Arsene Lupin.

Downton Abbey, Season 1 (live action TV series)

Downton Abbey is a British historical drama. The first season, which I own on DVD, starts with the sinking of the Titanic and ends with the beginning of World War I.

I'm going to assume that there are still people out there who'd like to see this and haven't yet, which puts lots of limits on what I can write in my synopsis without spoiling things.


After the heir to the title of Earl of Grantham dies on board the Titanic, the residents of Downton Abbey find themselves in a flurry of activity. Robert, the current earl, and Cora, his wife, have three daughters. The only way they could hope to have an heir is by marrying off Mary, the eldest daughter. When the first attempt to do that doesn't work out, the family gets into contact with Matthew Crawley, a distant relative who doesn't react well to the idea of inheriting Downton.

The series is filled with a variety of characters from both upstairs and downstairs, just about all of whom get a bit of attention throughout the season. Here's just a few of them:
  • Mr. Carson - The loyal, dignified butler of Downton Abbey.
  • Thomas - The footman everyone loves to hate.
  • Miss O'Brien - Cora's bitter lady's maid. Practically guaranteed to inspire viewer rage at least a couple times throughout the season.
  • Mary - Robert and Cora's eldest daughter, who both flirts with potential marriage prospects and spurns them. By the time she figures out what, and who, she wants, it may be too late.
  • Edith - Another one of Robert and Cora's daughters. They have no expectations for her, and she knows it. She's wildly jealous of Mary's easy popularity.
  • Sybil - Another one of Robert and Cora's daughters. She's a naive champion for women's rights.
  • Mr. Bates - Robert's new valet. He has a pronounced limp, which results in the rest of the staff treating him poorly at first.
  • Anna - The head housemaid. She's very kind.
  • Daisy - A somewhat simple-minded kitchen maid with a huge crush on Thomas.
  • William - A footman with a huge crush on Daisy.
  • Mrs. Hughes - The head housekeeper.
  • Mrs. Patmore - The cook. Although she often harshly berates Daisy, she also tries to look out for her and give her a nudge in the right direction (i.e., away from Thomas).
I've missed listing at least a handful of other characters, but you get the point. There are lots and lots of them.


The only reason I didn't sit down and watch this entire season over the course of a few days was because I wasn't physically capable of it. The addictiveness of its character dramas and the level of emotional investment it invites reminds me of soap operas, and the period visuals are a treat for the eyes.

Shaun of the Dead (live action movie)

Shaun of the Dead is a British film that mixes horror and comedy. I own it on DVD.


Shaun (Simon Pegg) has a dead-end job, a girlfriend named Liz (Kate Ashfield) who wants more out of life, and a man-child best friend named Ed (Nick Frost). After Liz breaks up with Shaun, he becomes determined to somehow win her back. He is undeterred by the onset of the zombie apocalypse. Along with Ed, Shaun goes on a journey to find his mom and Liz, kill his stepdad (who's been bitten by a zombie), and hole up in what he assumes is the safest place he could possibly find, his favorite pub, the Winchester.


I can't remember if I saw this when it was showing in theaters, but I do know that my most recent viewing wasn't my first. My primary memory of the movie was that it was funny but had a slow start. I was curious to see how it held up for me on a rewatch.