Japanese Addiction

 I am new to Japanese pop culture, being a Filipino. Most dubbed and locally shown doramas are Korean and I appreciate most of them.
But I watched a lot of anime, dubbed though, in Filipino or English. I mean, who hasn’t seen Voltez V? The controversy that the late Ferdinand Marcos declared it banned during the martial law era only made every Pinoy want to see it. And it was animation and as a kid, I loved it.
Fast forward some five or six years later, our family finally subscribed to cable. As a teenager, I watched Samurai X on AXN, and it became an instant favorite of ours, me and my two sisters. The theme songs weren’t dubbed, only subbed, so we fell in with the music. I got to know my favorite Japanese rock band L’arc en Ciel through this anime.
Much, much later – after getting married and finally having a kid – I came across an article about Rurouni Kenshin live-action. My late husband and were both big fans And when the live-action adaptation came out in 2012, with Takeru Satoh as Himura Battosai, we waited excitedly for it to reach our shores.
We didn’t get a chance to see the movie, for some personal reasons, but it was a hit in our country. So I waited for sites to stream it. I got distressed that the subtitles were for a different movie after waiting for months. So I looked up subtitles online.
My husband died without seeing the second installment of the three-part saga. But I watched it all, repeatedly and even bought DVD copies of it. So worth the wait. I read up on who Takeru Satoh, Yu Aoi and who the other cast were. I got hooked watching behind the scenes footages that had no subtitles.
But my husband’s death and my scramble to make a living as a single mom didn’t help my Japanese pop culture enthusiasm. I forgot about a lot of things and focused on survival.
Present time or 2016, access to WiFi allowed me to stream and download movies from Korean and Japanese drama sites. I was working as a writer for the Philippine Government then. It was all good and I had the time to go back to my fantasies. I watched a lot of Korean movies and dramas because the actors are SO HOT.  Lee Joon Ki, Cha Seung Won and so on.
After a while, I started looking for other stuff and went back to Satoh’s filmography. I checked out the movie “Beck” and it all just came back. I love how different Japan is compared to my country and Filipinos in general. I also love how they handle side stories properly. Romance is often light and fun, but when it gets serious it goes downright dirty and depressing.
Often though, I get frustrated that conflicts arise in the stories because one character refuses to say the truth. ‘Suki desu’ was all s/he had to say in the story’s resolution. But hell, it’s something new for me.

 

In the Philippines, we say what we want and often go overboard with it.  It is so refreshing for me to see the opposite. And the way they deal with romance, it’s just amazing. It’ll either make you desperate to be in love or get disgusted at the idea. Yes, there are gender inequality undertones and attempts to make a story feministic sometimes end up awry – but when characters come together even in the bl (boys’ love) genre, it’s still captivating.

I would like to share titles of dramas and movies that left an impression on me. I’m only listing what I’ve watched and liked and I have seen a lot. I still have a long way to go though.

Without further adieu, here are my top picks in no particular order:
Japanese Drama Suggestions:
  • Hana Yori Dango – you must have seen the Taiwanese F4 versions or other remakes, but the Japanese Hana Yori Dango with Jun Matsumoto and Oguri Shun is my personal best.
  • Hana Kimi or Hanazakari no Kimitachi e with Maki Horikita pretending to be a boy to get close to the character played by Oguri Shun (again) is my all time fave. Ikuta Toma, Masaki Okada and Hiro Mizushima also star in this high school comedy. It was remade in other countries as well.
  • Tenno no Ryoriban or the Emperor’s Cook isn’t an HS drama. It’s historical drama about the life of the Tokuzo Akiyama. It’s funny, sad, feel good, tragic all rolled into one.
  • Tokyo Dogs (Hiro Mizushima and Oguri Shun in a detective drama)
  • Zettai Kareshi or Absolute Boyfriend
  • Gokusen 1-3 plus specials
  • Rich Man Poor Woman
  • Nobunaga Concerto
  • Nobuta wa Produce
  • S the Last Policeman
  • Hungry!

Japanese Movie Suggestions

  • In the Realm of the Senses (X-rated story of Sada Abe)
  • The Light Only Shines There (Rated R movie about poverty, prostitution, depression, sex, and more taboo topics)
  • Beck (a comedy about an up and coming rock band. Love the songs, btw.)
  • Bandage (a twisted love story about another rock band and an up and coming band manager.)
  • Ore Monogatari (HS romantic comedy)
  • The Liar and his Lover (another rock band love story with some characters still in HS and also has an awesome OST)
  • Wolf Girl and Black Prince (Dom-sub type relationship in HS.)
  • The Bride of Rip Van Winkle – it’s a weird story that has quite the redeeming quality – understanding your own self and what you truly want, after being conned that is.
  • Gokusen The Movie
  • Evergreen Love
  • 13 Assasins
  • Bakuman
  • Crows Zero 1-2
Japanese Animation suggestions:
  • Rurouni Kenshin or Samurai X
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion
  • Gintama
  • Hunter x Hunter
  • Full Metal Alchemist
  • Attack on Titans
  • and many more…
I’m a Filipina OTAKU
According to the Urban Dictionary,
The term “otaku” seems to have been introduced to anime fans in the US and other countries via Studio Gainax’s “Otaku no Video 1985,” a self-parody film.
Otaku, meaning probably “venerable house,” refers to someone who has a devotion to a subject or hobby (not necessarily anime) to the point of not leaving home. For instance, an otaku fan of a particular movie star could quite possibly know all of the films s/he has been in, their birth date, time of birth, shoe size, favorite toothpaste, etc. Generally speaking, calling someone an otaku in Japan is an insult, implying that their social skills have atrophied or never even developed, due to their manic involvement in their chosen fandom.In America, the term is used to denote a zealous fan, usually of anime and/or manga. Due to its introduction to most people’s vocabulary through its tongue-in-cheek use in Gainax’s film, “otaku” tends to have a much less dire definition overseas.
I’ve seen a lot of good shows and movies. Some so-so, or a bit mediocre and some were just downright terrible. One was actually another Oguri Shun movie. I won’t mention the title but it involves alien cockroaches.
The good I got from being an otaku is learning the language. I can compose sentences and say them (not write) in the Japanese structure subject-object-verb.  I can’t write in Hiragana or Katakana, only in Romanized characters. But at least I learned how to speak in Nihongo.
Second, I am entertained with the unique storylines, the way the stories are told, the often timeless love stories, the interesting way of the samurai or Bushido and I just cannot get enough of it.
Last, being a writer, the exposure to Japanese entertainment widened my way of thinking. I think I am ready to write some stories of my own.
But more than just gawking at ikemen, I fall in love with the characters and the beautiful backdrop. Can hardly wait for the live action adaptations this 2017.