Sunday, October 28, 2007


Finally, the stressful period of work is over. For the past 2 weeks or so, I've only been able to reach home around 10pm, and thus there hasn't been enough time to even surf the net, let alone update the blog. No new pictures to post, but what you see here is a picture taken last year at Sensoji Temple, Asakusa. The obasan in the picture was very friendly, and introduced us to the different products she was selling. It turned out that she was also featured in one of the guide books I bought, so I'm going to bring it along and get her to sign on it this time. Haha.... I can't get a Japanese celebrity so being the next best thing she'll have to make do. Perhaphs she'll give us another discount this year. :)

Met the other friends from Ultraman Lah last week, at Swisshotel for a sumptious buffet lunch. It's been a while since me and Mabel last linked up with them, mostly due to some clashes in timing previously due to work and other commitments. I've also collected my orders from Sze Huat, and I've chalked up over $100 worth of figures from him. All of them are from the hero series, and are from either the Kamen Rider Den-O series or from Jyuken Sentai: Gekirangers. It feels great to add more figures into my current collection, but also a little heart pain to lose so much money at one go over little plastic masked men. Well, it's a passion and one not to be given up so easily. However, a fellow Ultraman Lah member and one of the most enthusiastic collector in Singapore recently decided to let go of his collection. Adryan's reason: having woke up one morning and just decided that his collection was taking away too much time and space, and he had to let it go. His feelings after selling away 3/4 of his collection: "refreshing". Check out the before and after pics:
Hailed as one of the best collection of Ultraman and Kamen Rider figures in Singapore, Adryan's collection was an amazing one. Visitors would always be awe struck by the sheer amount of figures, and also many rare figures which he managed to get his hands on through trips to Japan or from Yahoo auctions. Thankfully I had the chance to visit his place a few years ago, and it was a very memorable and enjoyable visit.
Now that he's decided to sell away most of his collection and just focus on a few select collection lines, he's got more time and money to focus on his other passion: painting. Although this event barely concerns me, but as a fellow collector I feel some what saddened by his decision. I don't think I'll ever give up on my collection. Maybe I'll change my focus like what I did with my Gundam figures, but I bet no one would would to buy my figures anyway. :P
I'm still playing Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII. I've finished over 72% of the missions, which are getting so hard now it's pretty ridiculous. Even with my stats it's still difficult to clear the missions now. The game is still amazingly addictive, and I'll most probably buy the American version once it's out. In the mean time, I'll be aiming to get the Ultimania guide in Kinokuniya once I see it. Yes the guide's in Jap, but it'll help me in figuring out how to get the best stats to clear those darn remaining missions. Here's a clip of the ending sequence, with the song "Why" from Ayaka. Sad ending, but most people who've played FFVII would know how the game would end. Remember to check out the sequence after the ending credits, which lead up to the first scene from FFVII.

I've just bought the 2 disc collectors edition of the Transformers DVD. Having watched the movie again now, I've realised that as much as I can nitpick at the little details of the movie, Michael Bay has managed to retain most of the things a Transformers movie should have, and most of the fans should be happy. The second disc contains lotsa goodies, but I've yet to check them out yet. One thing I don't really like about the special edition is the cover. It shows Prime's face on one side and Megatron's on the other. Simple and nice, but some how I prefer the normal edition's cover, which is the same as the movie poster, with Prime, Megatron, and Bumble Bee's faces in the foreground set upon a background of Earth from space. I'm even thinking about getting the regular version just for the cover. Hmmm...... maybe it's a conspiracy. Anyway, the second movie is about to get a release date, so hopefully we'll get more details soon.

Alien Vs Predator: Requiem is less than 2 months away now. A new hybrid alien is set to appear in the film, and it has features from the Predator race. This should make way for some interesting fights, and will most probably mean that we get to see more predator deaths. Another must see movie this December, and hopefully Singaporeans don't lose out with a censored version, since the movie is supposed to be rated R.
A new Ultraman movie has been announced, titled: "Great decisive battle! Super Ultra 8 Brothers". Strangely enough, it features Ultraman Tiga as the main Ultraman. For those who don't know, Ultraman Tiga is the first of the new age Ultramen, and was first shown on TV nearly 10 years ago after over 2 decades since the last Ultraman show. Storywise, Tiga and the original Ultra brothers take place in a totally different universe, and should not even co-exist. It would be interesting to see which new Ultra they're going to bring back, and how the story is going to link these 2 different universes together. Will be talking more about this movie here as more details get revealed.
Kamen Rider Den-O gets yet another form upgrade this week. It's called Liner form, and may well be Den-O's last and final form. What's different about Climax form, is that while all 4 imagins control Ryoutaro in Climax form (resulting in some hillarious situations where all 4 fight to control him), Ryoutaro remains in control while in Liner form. And we all know what a wuss he is without the imagins. Heck he even finds his own sword heavy.... Let's hope he can get to hold his own in the future alone. :)
Just started to watch this anime called "Bokurano" (ぼくらの). It's a very thought provoking series, and although it centres around children it's nothing about happy endings and feeling good. Rather, the show centres around death and impending doom most of the time. I've only watched 4 episodes and already 2 of the children have died. Here's a short introduction about the show: 15 children find a grotto by the sea. Deep within they discover working computers and later the owner, a man called Kokopelli. Kokopelli claimed to be a programmer working on a brand new game, in which a large robot has to defend the Earth against fifteen alien invasions. He persuades the children to test the game and sign a contract. All but one of them signs, a moment later they mysteriously awaken on the shore believing what happened was just a dream. That night, two giant robots appear suddenly by the beach. A small creature calling itself 'Dung Beetle', appears and claims to be their guide. It then teleports the children into the black robot. They find Kokopelli inside and controlling the black robot in order to defeat the enemy robot. He tells the children that they are on their own now and sends them back to the beach. Bokurano's stories tend to focus exclusively on one character - the next pilot. It starts with some background story on the character and their underlying motivations while building up to their battle. Takeshi Waku is the first pilot of the robot, which is named "Zearth" by Maki Ano. Upon winning the fight, Waku is accidentally 'knocked' into the sea by Jun Ushiro. The second pilot, Masaru "Kodama" Kodaka, dies unceremoniously after defeating Cancer. Coemushi explains to the children that Zearth runs on life force, and the cost of every victory would be the life of its pilot. The plot gets more and more interesting, and I'll be trying to catch up with this anime as soon as I can.

Ok! Just 5 more days before we take off for Tokyo! We've just began packing, and I'm in the midst of confirming the details and reservations through email and phone. I have some time to also refresh my Japanese too, since I'm also in the midst of my JLPT preparations. Here's a brief insight into our planned itinerary.

Day 1: Sunshine City, Ikebukuro

We'll only arrive in the hotel in the early afternoon. We don't really want to rush, so we'll only hang out near our hotel in the Ikebukuro area, where some of the highlights would include the Sunshine International Aquarium, Sunshine 60 Observation Deck, and also the many shopping centres in the area. Most probably we'll have dinner (perhaps supper) in the area before resting to get ready for the next day.

Day 2: Harajuku, Shibuya

We'll be spending the first half of the day in Harajuka, and then make our way to Shibuya via the subway trains. Various places to visit here would include: Meiji Shrine, Daiso Harajuku, Omotesando, Oriental Bazaar, Snoopy Town in Harajuku, and then Shibuya Mark City, Center Gai, Hachiko statue in Shibuya.

Day 3: Odaiba, Asakusa
Odaiba's more or less a shopping district, and is great spot for people who want to get designer labels. It is also here that you can get to see the mini version of the statue of liberty, along with the famous rainbow bridge as the back drop. The ferris wheel here is also another attraction we'd want to visit again. This time, my mission here would be to find the Rakuten jersey I've been wanting to import for quite some time now. Hopefully I'll be able to find it....

Day 4: Tsukiji, Tokyo Disney Land

Tsukiji Central Wholesale Market is a large wholesale market for fish, fruit and vegetables in central Tokyo. Tsukiji Market is best known as one of the world's largest fish markets, handling over 2,000 tons of marine products per day. Hopefully we can get to sample some of the freshest fish Japan has to offer. The rest of the day will be spent in Disney Land. Mabel plans to get as many snap shots with cartoon characters as possible, so you'll get to see whether she succeed or not once we get back. The theme around the park now centers around Halloween, so maybe we can get to dress up for the occasion too.

Day 5: Tokyo Tower, Akihabara, Ameyoko

Yes! I'm going to visit a real maid cafe this time round, so hopefully they'll allow photography. If not, pray that I don't get caught. Heh. Tokyo tower is another place I've been wanting to visit. Other attractions there in the vicinity include Zojoji Temple among a couple of tourist attractions. Lunch onwards will be spent in Akihabara, so I'll be trying to navigate the area amidst the crowd of otakus and maids. Pictures to come, surely.

For the evening, we'll be heading towards Ameyoko in the Ueno area. It's typically a night market selling Japanese food products. Most of the edible stuff we'll be bringing back will be from this area. We found a few good bargains last year, but still most of the things such as scallops don't come cheap. Still, a very exciting place to hunt for good food for the parents and relatives.

Day 6: Packing up ready to go

The last time will mainly be spent back in the hotel area, with perhaps breakfast and lunch in the Ikebukuro area and also spending our last yen on some last minute shopping. Another year, another trip. Even before we set off, we're already planning for a Hokkaido trip next year. Anyway, expect TONs of pictures when we get back. Wish us good luck! Ja!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


Nothing too spectacular happening lately, hence the delayed entry (once again). Must be the storm coming. Work's brewing up a real tidal wave, and the sirens have been sound. I'm in the midst of preparing for the worst storm in quite a while, but hopefully I'll live and learn some new things from this experience. The storm won't really last long, about 2 weeks at max. At least the light at the end of the tunnel is shining. Dim, but visible. And of course, I'm referring to our Tokyo trip early next month. I'm in the midst of confirming the itinerary, though the damn hotel still won't confirm my extension. Guess I'll have to make a call to them soon. Wouldn't want to be wondering on the streets of Ikebukuro on our first night there, now would we?

The itinerary is pretty much simple, but we'll be aiming to cover quite a few new areas while selecting a few to revisit, such as the Asakusa temples again. Mabel's requested for me to write some Japanese for her, so that she can thank the Gods there for granting her wishes for the past few years. I guess the Gods don't really have time for Engrish over there :P Anyway, I'll be posting up the itenerary once it has been confirmed in a future update. Also expect a mega entry even bigger than the one last year when we get back.

I mentioned in the last post that I was hooked on the PSP game Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII. After some long nights by my bed with the PSP in my hands, I've completed the game and is currently in my secound run through, to level up even further and to go face to face with the real tough enemies in the mission mode. Currently on level 54, and have my max hp and max damage limit broken. Still searching for good items to fight my way to the best equipment the game has to offer. Luckily most of the kanji are pretty simple, and the items are mostly written in kata as well. I've went ahead and wrote a review for the game which was posted on gamefaqs. It's been a long 8 years since my last review on gamefaqs. You can check it out via the link, but I'm also posting the review here:

"Staying true to the FFVII universe, and possibly the best RPG on the PSP"

It's been ten whole years since we first laid our eyes on Final Fantasy VII on the Playstation. Fans of the game would remember memorable scenes and characters from the game, as well as a deep and revolving storyline which focus on Gaia theory and the lifestream. FFVII was widely considered to be the best RPG game ever, and since then we've seen many other FFVII related media in the form of games, anime, and even a movie.

Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII is a prequel to Final Fantasy VII. In the original FFVII game, Cloud Strife was the main protagonist, and the plot focused on his fight against Sephiroth, and in the process he was also seeking for the reason of his existence. In the game, Cloud was having an identity crisis, and he confused his memories with those of Zack's. Zack's part in the game was minimal, although his role in the plot was very crucial. It took Square Soft 10 years to finally complete Zack's story, although the anime "Final Fantasy: Last Order" did explain most of what happened. I strongly advise that the player, before starting FFVII:CC, to recap on the plot of FFVII (through the plot analysis on this site), watch Last Order, and perhaps Advent Children after you've finished the game. This way, you will get to enjoy the game fully without being lost in the many references. Bottom line, if you've never played FFVII, you will find yourself lost (plot wise), and many of the scenes will not mean anything to you, such as why Cloud didn't reveal himself to Tifa at Nibelheim, who was in the coffin at the mansion basement, etc.
Graphics and visuals: Visually, the game is stunning and possibly the best that the PSP has ever seen. The in game models are very detailed, and reminded me a lot of FFX on the PS2, particularly the 3D backgrounds and the details given to the surrounding areas. The frame rate for certain cut scenes look a little choppy at times, but the game plays at a very smooth rate during fights. Magic spells and limit breaks look great, and some of the enemies look so detailed you'd be surprised that they can pull this off on the PSP. In short, CC:FFVII has set a new graphical benchmark on the PSP.

The CG scenes in the game are amazing. From the starting scene where Zack faces off the Shinra soldiers on the Midgar train, to the final tear jerking sequence where our hero finally realises his dream. The 3 way fight between Genesis, Angeal and Sephiroth on the Junon cannon is possibly the best, and rivals Cloud's and Sephiroth's showdown in Advent Children. The summon sequences are also in full CG, and are absolutely breathtaking. There aren't too many of them though.

Music and sound: Taking over as music composer is Takeharu Ishimoto. Throughout the game, you will hear many familiar pieces from FFVII, composed by Nobuo Uematsu. The battle music, victory fanfare, Aeris's theme, are all still here, although slightly changed. Listening to the music definitely sets you in the mood, and if you're played the FFVII before, you can be sure that you'll recognize many of the themes. Like most of the other Square Soft games these days, voice acting has become an integral part of story telling. Cut scenes in real time features realistic voice acting, and features many returning voice actors from Advent Children.

Game play: As a RPG, you'll find that the game is as linear as can be. But that is to be expected, because we already know how the ending will be like before we even start the game. By itself, the game is also very short. You can complete the game in around 12 hours, if you skip the missions section entirely. Having said that, I must say that the game features a very extensive mission section. There are lots of missions to unlock, and although you'll be running through the same few areas, you get to fight newer and tougher enemies. It is also in the mission section that you unlock new shops, new items for materia fusing, new equipment, etc. Basically, you'll find that apart from plot progression, you'll be doing missions most of the time. It is also though the missions that you're gain the most satisfaction from, through getting valuable items to level up your character.Materia and summons return in the game, but in a totally new way. Gone are the materia linking chains, but a whole new aspect of materia fusing is introduced. After some time of game play, the player is given the ability to fuse 2 materia and 1 item together, either to create a new materia type, or to increase its statistics. Besides leveling up traditionally, materia fusing is the other option to strengthen your character, but you'll need to hunt for specific items to create the materia you want.

On the topic of leveling up, you'll find that Zack does not have any experience points, and that a slot machine determines whether you level up or not. Sounds dumb at first, and totally unlike Final Fantasy, right? Yes, I agree some what that the randomness can seem a little frustrating at first, especially when you cannot skip the limit breaks. But as you progress, you'll find that through the materia fusing, your character becomes very much customizable. There are tons of spells to master, and it's also possible to break your HP/MP/AP limits to reach 99999. This significantly increases the replay value, since you are able to port over your stats and items to your new game. It's a very addictive process, trying to figure out what materia you can create, and how best to raise your statistics without wasting valuable items.

Conclusion: FFVII: CC is a must get for all FFVII fans. Again, do watch Last Order first, which is easily accessible through youtube. Great graphics, fantastic music, a high replay value, and a chance to finally experience the entire Nibelhelm event through Zack's eyes. For those who don't read Japanese, the wait for the US release is a painfully long one, but it will definitely be worth the wait.

Morning Musme celebrates their 10th anniversary this year. Although none of the original 5 members are still active in MM (some of them are still in HP though), the current generation (8th) has 9 members, and none of them has any intention to quit yet. Paying a tribute to the original members, they have released a special commemorative 10th year anniversary album, which includes all previously released singles. The cover of the new album is a replica of previous albums, namely Morning Coffee (above right) and Love Machine (above left).
This is the new version, which of course includes all of the 9 current members, including the 2 Chinese girls. It seems they are mixing in well, and their spoken Japanese have also improved significantly. Hopefully we'll be seeing a new single from them soon.

In the meantime, another HP group, Viyuden (美勇伝) have released a new single called Jyajyauma Paradise(じゃじゃ馬パラダイス). I've not really heard it before posting about it here, but I've managed to find the PV on youtube, so here goes:

Episode one of the new Gundam series named Gundam 00 was shown in Japan this week. Having seen the episode, I didn't really feel the sense of awe which captured me like the 1st episode in Gundam Seed or even Destiny. Perhaps its the designs of the several new Gundams or characters which don't seem to be too interesting at first glance. Still, a Gundam series is still something to look forward to, and I'll by keeping my eyes on this one for some time.

Gundam 00 is the first Gundam series to be shown in HD, but for some reason I find the animation a little too "shiny" for my liking. But being in widescreen some how makes up for that little complaint of mine. Viewers in Japan remarked multiple parallels between Gundam 00 and an earlier installment of the metaseries, Mobile Suit Gundam Wing. By the start, both series feature an independent group of Gundam pilots, challenging the world's powers for the sake of obtaining peace for all mankind. However, at this points it seems that the series has departed from certain accepted Gundam archetypes. One example is the notable lack of space colonies and a unified earth government or international union, features common to many Gundam series.

Ultraseven X also made its premier this week, and thankfully tv-nihon provided the fans with a superbly subbed version. It is the 21st entry in the Tsuburaya Productions' long-running Ultra Series. It is a revival and 40th Anniversary series of the 1967 classic Ultra Seven, and is the first in Tsuburaya Productions' Ultra hero series to be produced for an older audience. I thought the first episode was pretty slow, though it set the setting required for a futuristic and dark city. The fight scene was different from previous Ultra series, but sadly it didn't appeal to me too much. Maybe it's because of the suit, which I think is too bulky, and he looks like the original Ultraseven on steroids to get a six-pack. Still, I'll also be keeping a close watch over this series and hopefully it won't disappoint. Here is a video, so check out Ultraseven X in action.

I'd be honest and say that I doubt I'll have time in the next 2 weeks to post much. But I'll definately have at least one post before we leave for Japan. This post will also explain our planned itinerary, and hopefully everything will work out according to plan. Actually, even if it doesn't it'll also make the trip fun and unpredictable. That's what makes free and easy trips so much better than organised tours. Well, until that post, keep your heads up!