Saturday, October 31, 2015


28 October is a day of bitter celebration for me. That was the day in 2002 when I left my home for the first time to a foreign land. Until today, I don't know if it is a correct decision (not as if it was my decision) and if I left my home for the better and not for the worse. It is bitter celebration because usually I just give myself a treat to forget all the bad things that have been happening to me. This year, I was so tired and I did not actually eat out or treat myself.

13 years on, the same question always comes and I will always feel emo when I start to keep tabs of all the + and - of coming here and find justification that everything is worth it. Something different happened this year. I have a daily calendar with a daily quote from calendar or from Saints. I am not a holy person so I may not read 1 quote everyday. On the 28th, I happened to read the quote for the 27th October. It is from St Teresa of Avila:
"May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinte possibilities that are born of faith."

That quote struck me a like a lightning and it stopped me from feeling emo to compare about all the good and bad things that happened so far.

I was approached by strangers twice in the past 3 days. I am not a holy person and usually I hate to donate when strangers approach me because the reason of my donation is either to shoo the person away or just to help that person, instead of helping the actual people that the organisations are helping. Sometimes I wonder if there is a point of donating grudgingly.. Bleah.. It is completely different feeling when I donate voluntarily during the times when I am not in the dark side.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Saint Seiya: Soul of Gold

The first time I came across this was in April when I was celebrating my holiday at home. The first episode was released on the web (for free!) before I flew back. As usual, I am not a person who is patient enough to wait 1 episode per week so I prefer to be patient and wait to watch after all the episodes are released. I only remembered about this on Sunday and after much difficulty, I managed to find somewhere to stream and watch this online. Yay!!

Gold Saints play important roles in Saint Seiya but their importance always put a back seat for Seiya and friends to shine. Soul of Gold is special as finally the Gold Saints can play the central characters. The story takes place in between the fight versus Hades. After the Gold Saints sacrifice themselves and die in order to break past the Wailing Wall, they are mysteriously revived in Asgard. As Athena and Hades are busy in the Underworld, Loki grabs this opportunity to conquer the world beginning with Asgard.

I have a mixed feeling about Soul of Gold as it has a lot of both good and bad points. Let's start with the good. For a short series of 13 episodes, the story is pretty well-crafted and the plot twists are really unexpected and surprisingly good. Just a warning: spoilers ahead. At the beginning, the Gold Saints are all confused and want to know why they are revived. We are lead to believe that someone revive the Gold Saints to save Asgard from whatever threat it is facing. The Gold Saints are actually revived by Loki, through Polaris Hilda's maid called Lyfia, as reviving dead people is considered a taboo in Asgard. Loki's purpose is to get Gold Saints' cosmos to give birth to the Spear of Gungnir. Thus it is nothing about Gold Saints saving Asgard. But wait.. The plot takes another turn as Lyfia is revealed to be Odin's representative on Earth and the one who revived the Gold Saints was actually Odin. What the..

Having Gold Saints as central characters mean we also get to know their personalities better. I have to applaud what Masami Kurumada does with Cancer Deathmask and Pisces Aphrodite who are depicted in a terrible light in the main series. I mean they are like the antagonists and the evil unrepentant Gold Saints. Here, we actually see the heroic sides of them and we get to see them in a different like. I was actually cursing when Aphrodite is the first one to be "killed". I mean what's the point of reviving everyone and then eventually killing everyone again. Gosh... Aphrodite being the first one to be "killed" and swallowed by Yggdrasil is actually the key of everyone's survival. Pisces is immune to poison and thus survives inside Yggdrasil. Subsequently, when the other Gold Saints "dies" and gets swallowed by Yggdrasil, Aphrodite protects them so that they can survive inside Yggdrasil for the final comeback. So yeah, Aphrodite is damn awesome despite his short screen time.

Deathmask is another character that gets a massive personality makeover. Considering all the evil things that he did in the main series, to see him caring for a flower girl secretly is heartwarming. He even says thank you to Aphrodite for protecting the girl as Aphrodite "died" after rescuing the girl.

We also finally get to see how Gold Saints' relationship become post-Sanctuary arc with Aioros finally meeting Saga, who ordered his assassination, and Camus who actually killed him as well as Aiolia who bears hidden grudge against Camus who killed his brother and Camus who is hiding his guilt for killing Aioros.

Here come the bad parts. Firstly, the battles are boring as they follow the same old formula: they have to kill/destroy certain number of people/structure, with people sacrificing their lives before the main character is able to finally fight the final boss. The battles feel rather short although that is understandable considering the number of episodes. In comparison, 1 battle can usually run up to 3-4 episodes in the original Saint Seiya. It does not help that we are used to over dramatic battles between the Bronze saints against the stronger saints. God Warriors, the antagonists in Soul of Gold, are on par with the Gold Saints and the matches are over after trading 2 attacks from each person. No excessive bloody scenes and they just die. It is boring but I can still justify the matches to be that way because both parties are of similar strength and power.

There are so many plot holes which contradicts the main series. Considering Gold Saints' devotion to Athena and that this story happens in the midst of Athena vs Hades Holy War, it is really out of character for the Gold Saints who is revived to be spending time in Asgard instead of going back to the Sanctuary or back to the Underworld. Some even state that they want to enjoy this second chance of life and want to simply live in peace. The other out of character example is the unleashing of Athena Exclamation. When it is first introduced during Hades arc, the Gold Saints are extremely reluctant to use this forbidden technique. Here, they dish it out freely as the last resort against Loki.

Since this takes place in the midst of Holy War, how is it possible that Hades let the strongest of Athena Saints to actually get out of Hell, which is Hades' territory, to be revived by other God? Deathmask can also freely uses his Sekishiki Meikai Ha which brings his opponent to the borders of the afterlife and Hades is not doing anything about this.

The God Cloth thingy are rubbish for me! Obviously they are just some money making scheme to have new costumes for the same old characters. The modifications to the original Gold Cloths are lame as they are all about adding wings which practically serves no purpose. Those wings make the Cloths heavier and more difficult for the wearers to move and fight. Based on the explanation of that the God Cloth thingy can happen because the Cloth has come in contact with Athena's tears or blood, why don't they manifest it during the fight against Hades? And considering that it takes 12 Gold Saints in their God Cloths to defeat Loki, Loki is basically many many times more powerful than the other Gods who are defeated by Seiya who occasionally gets help from 1 Gold Cloth: Sagitarius.

Despite having great potential, it is not surprising that Saint Seiya is slowly but surely losing traction. Same theme keeps being repeated and with repeated deaths and resurrections of the same characters, it makes deaths no longer relevant. This is repeatedly echoed in the Soul of Gold: I am actually already dead, this is my second life and I am not afraid to die anymore. I consider myself an old fan of Saint Seiya and perhaps it is the nostalgia that makes me think that this series is not bad. It is not that fantastic but still bearable.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Disney Traditions (Jim Shore): "Magic Carpet Ride"

Disney Traditions is a Disney product line combining the magic of Disney with unique art style from the an award-winning artist/sculptor Jim Shore. Jim Shore's style of traditional woodcraft "feel" is unique and instantly recognisable, even when you see his non-Disney works. The traditional woodcraft "feel" can be polarising as you will either love it or totally hate it, especially when you look at the figurines from up close. At first, I do not really fancy Jim Shore's figurines as I thought they were made of wood which would not last. After realising that the figurines are made of stone resin, I definitely change my mind. I will not say that I am 100% love his style: the artistic treatment to his figurines is definitely special but I still don't like the edgy/pointy/woody feel on the surface of the figurines.

"Magic Carpet Ride" comes in a 25cm (L) x 16.7cm (W) x 23.7cm (H) box. The figurine is 20.5cm tall and the dimensions of Magic Carpet is 20.5cm x 12.5cm. This piece also comes with a light-up feature (requiring AAA batteries) and also serves as a music box playing A Whole New World. I have never come across to any Disney Traditions figurine which have the same features.
The box and the figurine
The front view of the box
The side views of the box
The top lid of the box
I love the compact packaging. But as you can see, something is broken :(

The romantic atmosphere is perfectly captured here
Close up of Aladdin's face
Close up of Jasmine's face
Details of the Magic Capet
Details of the Magic Carpet
The bottom side of the Magic Carpet
The cloud which can be better in my opinion
The LED lights are greatly incorporated into the figure which is genius.
The broken tassel :'(
The base of the figurine
Instruction sheet that comes with the figurine is rather unprofessionally done. I am not even sure if this sheet is official or provided by the seller. Lol.
Since the figurine comes with a light up feature, the next set of pictures will show the light effects. Under completely no light condition, the light is not good enough as it only allows Aladdin and Jasmine to be visible. Magic Carpet and the base is completely not visible.
The only angle that works when it is under complete darkness
With a little bit of room light
Under proper lighting (which is obviously not in this picture), this can look as if both of them are watching sunset.
In the animation, Prince Ali's attire is plain white and Jasmine's dress is plain turquoise. The patterns added to their clothes in this figurine give an appropriate cloudy and Arabian feel although I feel that the lines are too accented that the patterns don't look like pattern on the clothes but on TOP of the clothes. I am not a fan of the cloud which I think can be given more volume and the blue patterns on the cloud seem to be out of the place. The light blue shades on the cloud is too pale although I think it is quite nice of an attempt to resemble Prince Ali's and Jasmine's attire. Despite my reservations for the edgy/pointy/woody look, I think Jasmine's face is well done. Aladdin's face can be better but it is still on the good side and not as horrible as the face in WDCC Racing to the Rescue. Oh and although it plays music, Magic Carpet does not turn/spin on the clouds. How I wish it can be that way! Haha..

Having said all the above, I still think that this figurine still falls on the awesome side. I absolutely love the genius who hides the LED lights under the cloud. I absolutely love the overall romantic feeling of the figurine which is also conveyed correctly in the facial expression and body language of Aladdin and Jasmine.

In Singapore, Precious Thots is selling Disney Traditions figurines but I have never seen any Aladdin ones, except from the princess lines and that only features Jasmine. Thus I was pleasantly surprised when I saw this on eBay. Aladdin is not very popular although ironically Aladdin figurines always end up being rare. It is so difficult to get information about this piece like the year it was made (was it 2010 or 2011?? I don't know) or the original retail price. I actually bought this in May 2014 but only wrote about it now. I did not know how much the shipping cost me but I paid USD 75 for the figurine which is a steal considering nowadays I see this being listed for USD 250 and above. Of course because of the broken tassel, I had a full refund by insurance which means that I got this for free.

Let's compare with the other magic carpet ride from WDCC line which I wrote about many months ago.
WDCC piece depicts the sense of wonder at the beginning of Jasmine's flight: the outstretched hand, the windblown effect of Aladdin's cape and Jasmine's hair also gives a more grand and majestic atmosphere of the whole figurine as Aladdin is showing a whole new world to Jasmine. Disney Traditions piece depicts the romantic scene at the end of their journey, perhaps they are going to kiss soon as they are already holding each other's hands. No doubt in terms of the Magic Carpet and the cloud effects, I say WDCC piece is better. That also explains the difference in the price. Hahaha...

Since we are talking about this, I guess I should also share the following video. I am glad that they still sound as magical as 23 years ago and fame does not seem to get into their heads. Their voice sounds more mature now and perhaps this is how Aladdin and Jasmine will sing on Magic Carpet on their honeymoon trip. Haha.. But it is sad that Genie (Robin Williams) cannot join this reunion.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Hammer Session!

A con artist, Otowa no 4, escapes from the police after the car transporting them has an accident and falls into a lake. While escaping, he comes across Hikari Gakuen School and sees a teacher who is going to burn the school down. Not long after, police comes to the school to search for missing fugitive. The headmaster strikes a deal with this swindler: he will not surrender him to the police if he is going to be a teacher in this school. He takes over the identity of the teacher who was going to burn the down the school as Hachisuka-sensei and begins to change the lives of his students.

My opinion:
High school comedy drama is my favourite genre and I always have high expectations in terms of both educational value and entertainment/comedy value. The idea of Hammer Session! is to put these naughty students in harsh situations that makes them realise the gravity of their delinquencies and learn their lessons. The first episode hits a high note as the example of given is powerful.

Sadly, things start going downhill from then onwards and I will blame it to the weak character development. When we talk about juvenile delinquencies, we will not run far away from being rude with parents, shoplifting, underage smoking/drinking/clubbing, etc. Thus, there is nothing special with the theme. However, the students are like strangers towards one another at the beginning and the progression to become a united class towards the end totally does not make sense. Not to mention that Kaede -the main female student protagonist- is a kaypoh social butterfly who seems to be close enough to be with anybody who is the focus on each episode. It also does not make a good story telling when we are watching this class together from the beginning but only at the last few episodes we come to know that this student and that student are friends etc.

I was honestly expecting the ending to be something similar to Gokusen, especially since Hachisuka is a criminal. Spoiler alert: he does not get recaptured in the end as the policeman (who happens to be Kaede's father) sees him as a teacher after witnessing how his students look up to him as a teacher. Prior to the ending, it is revealed that Otowa no 4 stole money involved in bribery from a member of the police force. Thus after the accident in the first episode, the police simply considers him dead and close all investigation to prevent further opening cans of worms of the bribery. So is it right for Kaede's father to do what he did? I think the answer is morally debatable.

Otowa no 4 was hired as a teacher to change the school but until the end, I think he only manages to change a class. I guess that means mission failed? Lol..

Anyway the picture above is like totally giving wrong expectations. The movie is not as badass as how they cast appears in the picture. The only thing related to beach is just a few minutes in one episode. With so many school-themed series, I don't think this is something that I will recommend, not even for the comedy alone. Looks like I am running out of good shows as the recent ones I watched have been rather disappointing.

My afterthoughts:
I am passionate about teaching and watching this reignites my wish to seriously start thinking if I have to leave my current job and to do a career switch as a lecturer. I still have 10 more months until I am legitimately free and in the mean time, I really have to think if money and annual leave are more important than purpose of life.

Sunday, October 18, 2015


My parents were in town over the weekend and I have no idea if really they were here to offer thanksgiving at the temple or that was a smokescreen to accompany my sister's boyfriend who is moving here. They stayed at Swissotel again (yay!) and that makes it a total of 5 nights of stay so far. I will be able to get a physical member card and lifetime membership. Hurray! We received a surprise of 3 pieces of chocolates delivered to our room yesterday and I was wondering why. I already signed up as a circle member since the last time but we did not get that on the previous visit. After researching more in the evening, it seems that it is because I hit the 5 nights landmark.

My dad's choice of food really surprised me this time. Usually he always eats at food court but yesterday he suggested Buffet Town!! I just had buffet on last Saturday but I had not tried Buffet Town before so I did not mind. The seafood and the sashimi are great, the teppanyaki is disappointing (they put grilled and teppanyaki so big at the shop entrance and yet only vegetables and chicken for teppanyaki???!!), the pizza is shit, the cooks at Western section needs customer service training, and the fruits and desserts spread are pathetic. I still find it worth, though, because I really cannot eat a lot so I am not that pissed having to forgo so many of the uninteresting sections. Haha.. Don't even talk about second round as I never even try everything for first round. However, I never ate that much sashimi and seafood in a buffet before and the $41 (after all the ++) was worth it. My parents still continued for another half an hour after I gave up. Lol. My dad said that was his first buffet since his surgery.

I have finally overcome my inertia to take up Japanese language class. Lets see if I will succeed or I will give up like what happened to Mandarin when I was in university. I just had the first lesson today and I think I am really old as a lot of the others are still studying :( Gosh.. And I think my brain is too old to study. It is a challenge to remember new words but the ultimate 'killer' is the hiragana. How on earth I am supposed to remember those letters? Not to mention that hiragana characters are quite arty/pretty with their round-ish shape and I suck with such things. My characters end up being too pointy or too round like a circle. Bleah.. Long way to go... But I am still enthusiastic about learning this new language!! Hehe...

And in case you are wondering what the title of this post, it is the Japanese for my occupation. No idea why it contains a yakuza. Haha...

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Hero 2015

If not because of stress, I will give this movie a miss. I am not a fan of KimuTaku and I never follow the previous Hero TV series or movie. I saw the trailer during Attack of Titan: The End of the World and I thought the story is quite intriguing as it involves a police investigation and a foreign embassy. Of course there are funny moments and I need a good laugh to release my stress.

Despite having zero knowledge about the series, the movie does pretty well in 'showing but not directly telling' the background of the characters. I sort of guess that Prosecutor Amamiya used to be Prosecutor Kuryu's assistant and worked in the same office. She is now a prosecutor in a different city and ends up having a case related to the one Kuryu's is handling.

The case which becomes the focus is the death of a lady who was running away from an embassy of a fictional country, Neustria. Investigation of the embassy or involving the embassy staff is impossible as a foreign embassy is considered a foreign country which has immunity to local law. Things get pretty intense as the culprit attempts to kill Kuryu and stops him from investigating. Kuryu does not die and this spurs the rest of his colleagues to solve the case even more. In the end, justice prevails.

I will say the plot is rather shallow and borderline lame. Failing to enter the embassy, Kuryu and his assistant explores another way of getting Neustria and possibly some Neustrians. That is by looking for a Neustrian restaurant which happens to be the one and only one restaurant in the area. Obviously they will be able to find some Neustrians and embassy people. This does not go well as the embassy people get weary of them. Then comes the murder attempt and suddenly everything starts to fall into place. Amamiya's fiance apparently has some connection with Neustrian's independence day celebration which allows Kuryu and Amamiya to 'infiltrate' the embassy. Their saviour is the Neustrian ambassador who turns out to be the random old man that Kuryu meets previously in the Neustrian restaurant. Mr Ambassador used to teach law before becoming an ambassador and thus is at the side of the law: he sends the minister who is involved in drug trafficking back to Neustria to be trialed (since he has diplomatic immunity and is untouchable by local laws) while the person responsible with the murder of the lady at the start of the movie is just an embassy staff who has no diplomatic immunity and hence is handed over to local authority.

Character development is almost absent and until the end of the movie, Kuryu and Amamiya's relationship remains ambiguous.

Despite poor plot and character development, I still enjoyed the movie for all the comedy. It is quite amazing that most of the comedy comes from the sidekicks and not from the main characters. However, a part of me feels that the movie is not good enough as it does not make me interested in finding more about the TV series.

Aaah and age is really catching on Takuya Kimura. He no longer looks as young as he used to be when I was a teenager which also means that I am growing old. Lol.

Monday, October 12, 2015

WDCC Aladdin: Racing to the Rescue

WDCC Aladdin Racing to the Rescue was released in 2009 and is considered Time Limited as its production was limited only to the year 2009. Therefore, it bears a paw of Dalmatians. The figurine comes in a box measuring 34cm (L) x 31cm (W) x 35cm (H). The figurine itself is about 23cm tall and the widest dimension of the base is about 22cm.
The box, the figurine, and the Certificate of Authenticity
The box is still in excellent condition
No idea why the caption is "Aladdin Treasure Surfing" although the official name of the figurine is Racing to Rescue
If after seeing the first picture you are wondering why the box is almost twice as tall as the figurine, the following pictures will give you the answer.
The packaging seems solid up to this point
Okay the packaging is quite worrying now. Haha..
Front view
The vest and pants give a nice dynamic effect but Aladdin seems to be sliding, instead of running/racing
Back view
If only I can consistently get this kind of lighting
The face is rather off: so fierce and so un-Aladdin like
Head looks disproportionately too big from this angle
Hmm.. where can I find such big gold coins in real life?
The effect of flying coins is pretty good
The sword is mentioned as one of the highlights of the figure but I don't see anything special about it.
The small detail of the sown patch on Aladdin's pants is not left out
Under zoom, the piles of gold coins look more like piles of melting chocolate
Or looks like mud.. or shit..
Better paint job for this foot
Disproportionately big hand
The base and the Dalmatian's paw
Certificate of Authenticity and advertisement booklet
 Certificate of Authenticity

I am quite confused regarding the scene that this figurine is based on. Based on some description online, it is as if Aladdin is racing to rescue Jasmine from Jafar but I don't recall Aladdin going back to the Cave of Wonders when banished by Jafar near the end of the movie. For me, this figurine seems to depict the scene when Aladdin is escaping from the crumbling Cave of Wonders after Abu touches the ruby. But if that is the case, then the title does not really make sense. Anyway, let's not be confused thinking about this and just enjoy the figurine.

The original price for this is USD 199 and I paid for about USD 180 including shipping. I bought this in late May 2014 but I have been way too busy to write posts about my toys and hence I am only writing about this 1.5 years later. This is actually the first Aladdin WDCC that I am interested in. It broke my heart when shit happened in 2013 and after patiently waiting for one with reasonable price and can be shipped overseas, I am still disappointed in the end. Aladdin's face looks off for me, I don't like the disproportionate body parts, sloppy paint jobs turn the supposedly grandeur gold coins into chocolate cookies, and gemstones which look nothing like gemstones.

A side by side comparison with WDCC Aladdin A Whole New World shows a stark difference in quality. I know that both have different sculptors but since both come from the same line of products, I was expecting similar quality and scale. Of course in the end, money will explain everything since A Whole New World costs twice of Racing to the Rescue.
Just to show the difference with the hands of both figurines