Your Lie in April – 四月は君の嘘 Review

こんばんは。Tonight Your Lie in April (四月は君の嘘) was on TV Japan so Koa and I watched it together. Surprisingly, Koa said he had already seen it on the plane when we traveled over Christmas break. I guess he enjoyed it enough to want to watch it again. I’m not sure if it is because there is a lot of musical performance in it, or if he’s now interested in girls/romantic stories, but whatever! I was happy to have his company while I watched it.

******* SPOILERS FOLLOW – YOU MAY WANT TO SKIP DIRECTLY DOWN TO THE TRAILER *********

I’m a fan of Hirose Suzu 広瀬 すず (Anone, Umimachi Diary) and will watch anything that she stars in, so it was great to find a movie of hers on TV Japan, and in HD with English subtitles! w00t! I didn’t know much about the story beforehand except that it’s an adaptation from a manga and I was expecting it to be a very light teen romantic comedy, but it turned out to have a deeper story, and was actually kind of a tear-jerker! I’d categorize it as a “teen romantic musical tragedy”. 😆

Your Lie in April follows the main characters, Kaori (Hirose) and Kōsei (Yamazaki Kento 山﨑 賢人), two musically talented high school students who team up to perform in a musical recital. Actually, Kaori convinces Kōsei, who has quit piano years earlier, to be her accompaniment. Her carefree yet determined attitude helps him overcome his fear of performing, and it seemed like the story will follow the formula of boy meets girl, boy loses girl, both confess their love for each other and they reunite with a triumphant concert performance.

Well, things take a big turn when Kaori falls seriously ill and Kōsei, Kaori, and their two close friends Tsubaki and Watari confront their feelings and confess to their love interests. However, things get complicated and the confessions didn’t make complete sense to me so I was wondering if there was some kind of hole in the plot.

Anyways, the story continues on, with Kōsei telling Kaori in the hospital that he has decided to enter a regional piano competition and that he wants to perform together with her in the future. With this in mind, Kaori decides to undergo a risky operation to cure her terminal illness.

Soon after, she goes into surgery while at the same time Kōsei is performing in the concert. This musical performance was probably the most touching scene in the movie because while he plays, Kaori’s image appears and accompanies him on violin. However, towards the end of the song, she stops playing, lowers her violin, and, shedding tears, fades away, signifying the fact that she did not survive the operation. 😭

"Your Lie in April" Cedar Park, 2018
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/2.2, 1/100 sec, ISO250
“Your Lie in April” Cedar Park, 2018

The story picks up a few months later, with Kōsei reading a letter that Kaori had written to him before she had her operation. In it, she reveals how she had known of Kōsei since they were small kids when she saw him at a piano recital. It was then that she decided to play violin in hopes that she could play with him one day. Years later in high school, as her illness became more serious, she decided to live the rest of her life to the fullest and made an effort to become closer to Kosei and his friends in order to make her dream come true. The lie she told (to which the film’s title refers) was that she said she loved Watari (in order to go on a double-date with Kōsei and Tsubaki). The truth was that she was actually in love with Kosei. 😭

I enjoyed the movie a lot more than I thought I would, mainly because the plot made complete sense after Kaori’s letter was read by Kōsei. And Hirose Suzu’s acting is always charming and she can seemingly let the tears flow on command. Yamazaki Kento probably had the most challenging role and did a good job expressing his inner struggles, especially during his piano pieces. Speaking of the musical performances, I read that both Hirose and Yamazaki spent 6 months practicing their instruments before filming. It really shows because they certainly seemed convincing (at least to me).

I really loved the setting of Your Lie in April (movie version) – the Shonan coast. Their high school sat on a hill, with a view of the ocean and Enoshima island. There was even a cool river heading to the ocean that they jumped into from a high bridge. It looked like a great area to live in. I’ve actually taken a couple of day trips down there when I lived in Japan, and it has a really cool, laid-back beach vibe. I loved it.

Although not a truly amazing film, Your Lie in April is a solidly entertaining story with good acting and some touching scenes. And the musical performances are great as well. I recommend it! My rating is 7.5/10.

Oregon Scientific Robot Vac

"Vroom" Cedar Park, 2018
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/3.6, 1/30 sec, ISO6400
“Vroom” Cedar Park, 2018

こんばんは。How’s it going?

We recently bought an Oregon Scientific robotic vacuum and it’s been cleaning the first floor of our house for the past week (not continuously of course). So far, we love it! I’m pleasantly surprised that it can run so long on a charge. It can go at least two hours but probably lasts much longer. We haven’t seen how long it can go because either I turn it off or our cat Yuzu jumps on it to catch a free ride and it causes an error, so it never runs til the battery is fully drained. When the battery does get low it’s supposed to automatically return to its charging dock.

That docking procedure is actually a lot of fun to watch. When it gets close to the dock, it picks up some signal (infrared?) from it, then slows down, lines up with a few turns, approaches straight on, and gently docks. It’s like watching a spaceship dock with a space station.

Watching the vacuum actually go around the house cleaning is mesmerizing. The first few times we used it, I would just follow it around to see it do its thing. It’s fascinating! I keep thinking that this is an example where concept and execution have come together nicely.

The design is really nice because it has two rotating brushes that extend out from the front and whisk dirt toward the vacuum opening in the center of the device. Those whiskers also are able to get into the hard-to-reach cracks and crevices where table and chair legs contact the floor. It’s really efficient and thorough.

I’m also pleased that it can effectively clean our new carpet, which is relatively plush. It’s amazing to see how much dust, cat hair, and general yuckiness accumulates on the carpets (and floors). We don’t wear shoes inside the house so it stays pretty dirt-free, but wow, there’s still plenty of stuff to clean out of the vacuum’s dustbin.

Anyways, we’re really happy with the little Oregon Scientific robotic vacuum cleaner. It’s really convenient and effective! I just wish our cat Yuzu didn’t mess with it as much as she does. 😺 I’m looking forward to even smarter robot vacs. For instance, sensors that can detect power cords, and auto-emptying dustbins. Fun stuff, huh! 😄

"Robot" Cedar Park, 2018
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/3.2, 1/45 sec, ISO6400
“Robot” Cedar Park, 2018

またね~

Paddington 2, Burgers, and a Broken Filter

"Ticket Stub" Cedar Park, 2018
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/2.8, 1/125 sec, ISO1250
“Ticket Stub” Cedar Park, 2018

こんばんは。How’s it going?

This morning I was planning on seeing the 8:50 am showing of Paddington 2, but I woke up at 8:30 and had to rush rush rush! Luckily the theater is only 10 minutes away, so after brushing my teeth, throwing on some clothes, and tidying up a bit, it was off to the movies! And when I arrived, I noticed that the movie time had changed to 9 am. Whew!

The movie itself was fantastic. I heard it was good, but I wasn’t expecting to be so impressed. The entire cast is wonderful, but Hugh Grant really stole the show. So funny, especially the dog food commercial. And I loved the scene where the Browns were talking about how actors were despicable and that they lie for a living. It was a meta moment seeing actors talking about actors!

The special effects were amazing as well, with the pop-up book montage being truly breathtaking. On the other hand, the animation of Paddington himself was completely seamless and looked very natural. I never once had a “That looks so fake!” moment.

Lastly, the jokes were clever and refreshing and didn’t resort to cheap bathroom humor. The trailers before the movie, on the other hand, had a total of 3 fart jokes. I mean, come on!

I’d have to say that Paddington 2 is the best movie that I have seen this year (so far). I’m not surprised that it has a “100% Fresh” rating at Rotten Tomatoes.

******************

In other news, I fired up the grill this evening and made burgers for the family. What made these special was that we also had bacon, avocado, and egg! Actually, Mariko and Bay had egg burgers, which made for a messy affair. But it did look damned tasty. Anyways, all the burgers were yummy, although I overcooked the patties just a bit.

******************

"Shattered" Cedar Park, 2018
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/2.8, 1/125 sec, ISO4000
“Shattered” Cedar Park, 2018

Lastly, Mariko couldn’t get the lens cap off of one of her lenses and asked if I could do it, but when I looked at it, the cap was stuck on as if someone super-glued it. And I could hear a strange sound coming from it… It turns out that Mariko had dropped her bag (which had her camera in it) and it must have impacted the edge of the lens. I had to use pliers to remove the cap, which revealed a shattered filter. Using the pliers again, I was able to unscrew the filter, then used a soft paintbrush to clear out all of the shattered glass. Thankfully the lens is undamaged, but we’ll have to get another filter. I guess that’s one example of when using a protective filter showed its worth.

I hope you had a nice Sunday!

またね~

Back to the 90s (2015)

Back to the 90s is a movie about a teenager who accidentally travels back in time and tries to repair his mom and dad’s rocky relationship. It’s a fun story, with some touching moments and a couple good plot twists thrown in. Add some nostalgic 90’s references (Tamagotchi!) and you have a nice, entertaining movie. Nothing amazing, but the acting is strong, and the ending is both satisfying yet leaves you wanting more. (sequel please?)

I really enjoyed Som and Tam’s characters, and learning about their motivations brings a welcome level of complexity and interest to the story. It’s also the first time I’ve seen a Thai movie, so that made it fascinating to watch. Cool to get a glimpse into an unfamiliar culture, even if it is off by two decades and covered with a Hollywood-like polish. 😁

BTW, I came across Back to the 90s by reading Age’s blog, Write Them All. Lots of good things to read about there. Check it out if you have a chance!

I definitely recommend Back to the 90s if you like romcoms or are a fan of Baifern (the actress who plays Som), which I have now become. Enjoy!

Traveler’s Notebook

"Traveler's Notebook (Passport)" Cedar Park, 2017
Photo info: SONY SLT-A77V, 35mm, f/2.4, 1/1500 sec, ISO640
“Traveler’s Notebook (Passport)” Cedar Park, 2017

こんばんは。How’s it going?

Today my brand new Traveler’s Notebook (passport size) arrived on my doorstep. I’ve been looking at these notebooks (formerly named Midori) for a while now, and after watching numerous YouTube videos and reading reviews, I finally pulled the trigger and ordered mine.

I went with the “camel” color leather, which not only looks great but smells nice too. If you aren’t familiar with a Traveler’s Notebook, it’s basically a plain leather cover, with inserts that are held in place with elastic bands. There are two sizes: the regular size and the smaller passport-sized version, which is the one I went with.

The most common inserts are notepads (lined, graph, or blank), monthly planner, weekly planner, and daily planner. In addition, there are craft folder sleeves, plastic zipper pocket, and plastic sticker pockets.

My starter set came with a blank notebook and two extra elastic bands. I ordered a craft sleeve and zipper pocket separately, and these three inserts are a nice start. It’s not too bulky, so I think I can add one more notebook (probably a lined version) and it will be perfect. I also attached a couple of small binder clips to the craft sleeve which acts as a little loop for me to attach my pen.

What’s great about the Traveler’s Notebook system (and there are many cheaper clones available) is that when you fill up one insert, you can just pop in another one. It’s super versatile!

If you do a YouTube search for Traveler’s Notebooks or Midori Notebooks, you’ll see that many people love to use them for artistic journaling. Some of the examples are pretty amazing, especially the sketchbook notebooks. Just check out this Flickr group to see some awesome sketches.

I’m using mine to do some little sketches, practice writing hiragana/katakana, and take notes. I’m also using it to replace my wallet – to hold a couple credit cards, blank checks, and some cash. And of course a couple Instax prints of the family.

I’m really happy with my Traveler’s Notebook and can see myself using it for a long, long time. 😄

"Traveler's Notebook (Passport)" Cedar Park, 2017
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/2.5, 1/100 sec, ISO2000
“Traveler’s Notebook (Passport)” Cedar Park, 2017

Your Name – 君の名は

"Movie Night" Austin, 2017
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/3.2, 1/100 sec, ISO1250
“Movie Night” Austin, 2017

こんばんは。

This evening I went with my friend Mikey to watch the Japanese anime blockbuster “Your Name / 君の名は”. It’s the highest-grossing animated movie in Japan of all-time, surpassing even Spirited Away, which is my favorite Studio Ghibli film. I’ve heard so many great things about Your Name that I had high expectations for it, and I have to say that I wasn’t disappointed! I thought the story was amazing, the visuals stunning, and the soundtrack was great. There were several powerful moments, where I could forget that I am a 48-year old 伯父さん and just simply shed an emotional tear or two. Dark theaters you know! But to me, the movie was that good.

But, the only negative to me (pointed out by my more perceptive viewing companion, Mikey) was the placement of the Radwimps song at the beginning of the film. I do like the song a lot, but it “cheapened” the movie a little bit. Instead of a pure cinematic epic, the song brought it down to a tv-like quality since it looked like the opening of a tv anime. And they showed a lot snippets of upcoming scenes. It was weird.

Despite the opening, I thought Your Name was a brilliant movie. I plan on seeing it again soon, and of course owning it when it is released in stores. Recommended, but bring tissues!

Here’s the official trailer:

And another Radwimps tune from the movie, with plenty of great movie scenes:

I hope you had a nice Friday!

またね~

A Treat for My Wrist

"Keeper" Cedar Park, 2017
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/4, 1/20 sec, ISO3200
“Keeper” Cedar Park, 2017

こんばんは。How’s it going?

It’s the 2nd day of Spring Break for the kiddos, so I worked from home in the afternoon. I think they are old enough to take care of themselves, but I still worry! 😀

New Watch

Well, I kind of knew for a while now that I wanted to get a new watch, and I also had narrowed it down to a certain model. I just had to decide on the size and the color. The watch is a Seiko diver, the SKX. There are different variations: 007 – 42mm with black bezel and face; 009 – 42mm with blue and red “Pepsi” bezel and blue face; 013 – similar to the 007, but a 38mm size.

I went with the SKX007 because I thought the Pepsi blue/red of the 009 wouldn’t look as good with different watch straps, and didn’t go for the 013 because I already have a smaller-sized watch. Plus, I liked the classic black of the 007.

I bought the model with the black rubber strap instead of the metal bracelet to save a few bucks and I knew that I would take off whatever it came with to replace with a zulu strap. In fact, I ordered a black zulu strap with the watch so that I could change it immediately. I read that getting the old watch band off was difficult and by god, it was a pain! Even with a dedicated tool, it was a struggle and my fingers are sore. But in the end, I won and got the rubber strap replaced with the plain black zulu strap. I think it looks great. And so comfortable! This watch/strap combination feels a lot better than even my 37mm Seiko SNK809 with 18mm zulu strap.

One other thing I love is the raised design on the back of the watch. It features a flowing wave 🌊, which is on all the Seiko dive models.

"Wave" Cedar Park, 2017
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/4, 1/100 sec, ISO2500
“Wave” Cedar Park, 2017

Speaking of dive models, this SNK007 is ISO 6425 compliant, which means it has been tested to meet or exceed some pretty impressive specifications, including depth rating of at least 100 m (this watch is 200 m). So I guess I can be confident taking this watch anywhere. In other words, I don’t have to worry about it. Here’s to a bit more peace of mind!

The SKX007 is the most expensive watch I have ever bought, but that’s not saying much since I am such a cheapskate where watches are concerned. This watch is generally regarded in the watch community as one of the cheapest yet respectable diver watches, but for me, it’s a definite keeper and the highest quality timepiece I own. I am expecting it to be my daily watch for the rest of my life. We’ll see!

I hope you had a nice Tuesday!

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