Okko’s Inn (2018) – Movie Review

こんばんは。How’s it going?

My friend and I went to a special showing (only two nights here!) of Okko’s Inn, a Japanese anime directed by Kitaro Kosaka (formerly of Studio Ghibli). The film was awesome! Both my friend and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

********* SPOILER ALERT *********

I had a special interest in the animation and character style, but the story itself blew me away. It was funny, sad, smart, uplifting, and engaging. I especially loved when the character Matsuki would pull out quotes from historical figures. Hilarious! 😆

There were so many elements of the film that I found interesting: the onsen town setting, kaiseki food, the supernatural, and traditional rituals. And the animation was so well-done. The scene where Okko slips on the tatami was great! If you’ve ever felt how slick a tatami mat can be, you’ll know what I mean. It was captured perfectly.

I also liked the fact that there were no overt antagonists in the story. I was expecting Okko’s grandmother or Matsuki to play that role. Although Matsuki started as a rival, she had noble intentions and wasn’t inherently nasty. The lack of any enemies reminded me of Kiki’s Delivery Service or My Neighbor Totoro in that respect. I really appreciate stories like that, especially if they can keep you engaged.

I enjoyed Okko’s Inn even more than some Ghibli movies, like Ponyo, Kaguya, and Arrietty. When I left the theater after seeing those, I felt that I had watched good movies but wasn’t overly excited, but after Okko’s Inn ended, I was pretty stoked, and thought that I’ll definitely need to own the Blu-ray version!

If you didn’t see Okko’s Inn during the special engagement, look for it on video later. It’ll be well worth your time.

My rating: 9/10

We Tried a New, Nearby Ramen Restaurant

"Black Tonkotsu Ramen" Cedar Park, 2019
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/3.2, 1/35 sec, ISO800
“Black Tonkotsu Ramen” Cedar Park, 2019

こんばんは。How’s it going?

Tonight the boys and I went to a newly opened ramen restaurant that’s located near our house. EurAsia Ramen offers several different types of ramen, poké bowls, and sushi rolls. By looking at the website, I suspected that the restaurant wasn’t Japanese-owned so I wasn’t expecting a typical Japanese ramen experience, but I’m open-minded and willing to give a new restaurant a chance.

I decided on the Signature EurAsia Black Tonkotsu Ramen, while Koa got the Miso Ramen, and Bay tried the California Poké. The portions were a little on the small size for the price. I’d expect to pay about US $8.00 for the amount we received, but it wasn’t too unreasonable.

On to the important part, which is taste. I rate the ramen I had a 5 out of 10. It wasn’t bad, but not great. The flavor of the broth was a little bland, and the noodles were very thin. The noodles in Koa’s Miso ramen were thicker and eggier… not sure why. There was a good amount of charsiu pork in the bowl, which was nice, however, it had a generic “hammy” taste, almost like a spiral ham you might eat at Easter or Thanksgiving.

Meanwhile, Bay’s poké bowl was unimpressive, with the main ingredient “snow crab mix” being just a lot of surimi. Not great.

Of course, I want local restauranteurs to succeed, and I think EurAsia Ramen might do ok because the dishes are “good enough” for those who may not be as particular about ramen as I am, but I don’t think I’ll be back. There are simply better ramen offerings in Austin, such as Ramen Tatsu-Ya and Daruma Ramen.

またね~

"Poké Bowl" Cedar Park, 2019
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/3.2, 1/25 sec, ISO800
“Poké Bowl” Cedar Park, 2019

Captain Marvel (2019) – Movie Review

こんばんは。Tonight my two sons and I went to the theater to catch the 9:35 showing of Captain Marvel. I had heard good things about this superhero movie, so I was excited to see it (much like Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse), and I was not disappointed.

******** SPOILER ALERT *********

I absolutely loved the movie! It had a great story, interesting characters, and wonderful acting. Plot-wise, I liked the manner in which Captain Marvels’ past unfolds bit by bit and changes her relationship to the other characters. As she learns more about her past, we learn the true nature of those around her, and that drives the story. Funny how you can begin the movie despising the Skrulls, and then that turns around 180 degrees. Their story, of course, has relevance to today’s real-world situations, so that gave me a whole lot to think about.

I liked how the 1995 setting establishes Captain Marvel’s place in the MU before most of the present-day heroes. Since 1995 would put the main characters at about the same age as me, I have a special affinity for them. Plus the setting is Los Angeles, so there’s an extra connection!

It’s always interesting how the movies’ stories intersect with each other and seeing Nick Fury and Agent Coulson as young noobs was really fun. I read that the actors were digitally “de-aged” by 25 years for the movie. It looked great!

Speaking of actors, Brie Larson was excellent in the title role. She was relatable and strong, and once again, I can easily imagine her in the 1995 timeframe. But she also pulls off the transitions from Star Force soldier, to So-Cal native, and to superhero with ease. And what about that mohawk? At first, I thought it was kind of ridiculous, but then I was all, “Yeah”! I also liked the chemistry between Larson and Samuel L. Jackson, but then, Jackson seems to have good chemistry with everyone. 😀

On the flipside, I was surprisingly disappointed with Jude Law‘s acting which seemed formulaic and lacked depth. Maybe it was just the dialog he was given, but I felt like I could predict everything he was going to say and every expression on his face. After each of his scenes or lines, the thought “yeah, that was average” went through my mind. I expected the usually excellent Law to give more color to the character, but that was not the case here.

Although I don’t like the ensemble superhero movies as much as the standalone character films, I’m looking forward to seeing the next Avengers movie. Everyone has their favorite heroes, and Captain Marvel jumped to the top of my list. I’m hoping she kicks some butt in Avengers: End Game!

Here’s a ranking of my favorite superheroes (that I am familiar with). Looking at this list, any character below Black Panther I’d be fine with not making the Thanos cut.

  1. Captain Marvel
  2. Dr. Strange
  3. Thor
  4. Spiderman
  5. Hulk
  6. Gamora
  7. Black Panther
  8. Star-Lord
  9. Scarlet Witch
  10. Vision
  11. Black Widow
  12. Iron Man
  13. Captain America
  14. Hawkeye

Lastly, I thought it was cool that Brie Larson said one of her role models was Sailor Moon, and that prompted @Drachearannak to create this amazing illustration which got thumbs-up from Larson herself! So awesome.

My rating: 8.5/10

またね~

Seiko SNDA27 Chronograph – Watch Review

"On the Wrist" Cedar Park, 2019
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/3.6, 1/55 sec, ISO3200
“On the Wrist” Cedar Park, 2019

こんばんは。How’s it going?

Today’s photo is of my newest watch, a Seiko SNDA27 Chronograph. If you read my previous post about the Casio MTP4500D-AV watch, you know that it wasn’t quite the right watch for me. However, this Seiko SNDA is a model that I’ve been looking at and fits my requirements nicely. In fact, it’s close to the perfect chronograph for me.

The model that I purchased has a dark green face, with orange seconds hands. The watch also came in the SNDA57 version with black face and red dials, which I think is cooler, but since my other two Seikos have black faces, I think the green face is a good complement to my other watches. Plus the orange hands are really sweet! In all honesty, I searched for the black version for a while, but since it was discontinued a few years ago, it’s difficult to find except at extremely inflated prices. It was originally sold for about US $100, but now it is commonly available on eBay for maybe $400 or more. That’s crazy!

Anyway, the green model is more commonly available for about US $125, and I actually found it new for US $116 at Walmart.com (from a reseller on their site). Interestingly, I got the last watch from that seller, and I now see that the same watch is selling from another seller at Walmart.com for US $190. What a crazy market!

The Seiko SNDA27 comes with a green nylon band, which is not bad if you like the color, but I immediately switched it out for a black silicone band (in the photos).

"Three Seikos" Cedar Park, 2019
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/4, 1/120 sec, ISO6400
“Three Seikos” Cedar Park, 2019

Next, I tried a black zulu strap on it and it looks even better. The lugs of the watch stick out kind of far, so the 43 mm diameter SNDA27 wears larger than my 43 mm SKX007, which has shorter lugs. The zulu strap sticks out a bit more than the super-flexible, wrist-hugging silicone strap, so it actually makes the 43 mm watch wear/look better on my 6 3/4 inch wrist. Also, the zulu strap has matte brushed metal buckles which match the matte steel case of the watch perfectly.

"Seiko SNDA27" Cedar Park, 2019
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/2.8, 1/100 sec, ISO640
“Seiko SNDA27” Cedar Park, 2019

My complaints about the Casio’s difficult-to-read watch face do not apply to the Seiko, which has a smart and simple design. There’s nothing unnecessary on the watch face. It’s so easy to read, and even has a more precise time measurement of 1/20th of a second compared to the Casio’s 1-second measurement. In the photo below, I can quickly see the chronograph reading of 4 minutes, 41.1 seconds. What a difference between the Seiko and the Casio! The contrast between the hands and the face on the Seiko makes it easy to tell normal time at a glance, and the lume is typical Seiko – bright and long-lasting.

"Seiko SNDA27" Cedar Park, 2019
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/2.8, 1/100 sec, ISO800
“Seiko SNDA27” Cedar Park, 2019

I really love my Seiko SKX007 dive watch and Seiko SNK809 field watch, and my new Seiko SNDA27 chronograph fits in nicely as my third Seiko. Now if I can only find someone to buy my Casio chronograph… Is anyone interested? 😀

I hope you had a nice day!

またね~

Casio MTP4500D-1AV – Watch Review

Casio MTP4500D-1AV
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/8, 1/55 sec, ISO6400
Casio MTP4500D-1AV

For a while, I’ve wanted a chronograph watch, which is basically a watch with a stopwatch function used to measure elapsed time. I think using a smartphone for this is much easier, but to have the chronograph “complication” (a term for extra function) on a watch is pretty cool. After a bit of online shopping, I found the Casio MTP4500D-AV chronograph watch with slide rule bezel. It looked pretty cool in the photos and I like Casio as a brand. And the price was a bargain at US ~$35!

The watch is 42mm in size, with a 22mm lug width, a stainless steel case and a quartz movement. You can compare the watch size next to the Seiko SKX007 and SNK809 in the last photo. The stainless steel bracelet feels good, especially at this price. As far as value goes, the watch is a winner.

Casio MTP4500D-1AV
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/8, 1/15 sec, ISO6400
Casio MTP4500D-1AV

The main dial has the hours hand, the minutes hand, and the chronograph seconds hand. There are three smaller subdials, the one at the top is the chronograph minutes counter, the subdial at the left is the chronograph hours counter, and the subdial at the bottom is the watch seconds hand. FYI, on most chronograph watches, the large second hand is used for the chronograph function, not the normal watch seconds.

Operation of the chronograph is solid and simple. The top button starts and stops the chronograph with a nice solid click. The bottom button resets the hands. Then crown in the middle is used to adjust the time as you’d expect, and with it pulled out, you can use the chronograph button to set the chronograph’s start position in case it needs adjustment. All-in-all, it functions smoothly and the hands line up perfectly.

I had never used a slide-rule bezel before, so I thought it was kind of cool. I don’t really know how to use a slide rule, but I was able to convert miles to kilometers using it, so I know it’s at least functional. And the bi-directional bezel is smooth without any wiggle. Very nice! By the way, Long Island Watch has a great tutorial about how to use a slide rule bezel.

Now onto my subjective impressions and opinion of the Casio MTP4500D-1AV:

I was so excited when the watch arrived in the mail, but upon opening it, my first thought was that this might not be a keeper. The polished, mirror-like finish is not really my style. It’s really shiny, so if you like shiny finishes, you’ll love this watch. The metal band has rounded edges which I don’t particularly like the look of. I thought that maybe putting it on a nato or plain black band would make me like the watch more, so I decided to give it a chance. I have to say, that the plain black band (see the last photo) went a long way to improving the look of the Casio, but I just cannot get past the shininess.

Casio MTP4500D-1AV
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/8, 1/40 sec, ISO6400
Casio MTP4500D-1AV

One thing I didn’t really like was the subdial design. The minutes subdial has a large 60 at the top and 30 at the bottom, and because of this, it’s impossible to know what minute the hand is pointing at near these positions. Also, the hand (which is too wide) doesn’t point at the markers, but rather covers them so that makes it more difficult to see. Couple that with the fact that that hand has continuous (not stepped) movement, and you’ll never know with 100% accuracy if you are looking at the correct minute. In contrast, the stepped minutes hand on this Seiko below (click for larger view) points at the minute markers on the bottom subdial clearly:

Seiko SNDA27P1
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/4, 1/120 sec, ISO6400
Seiko SNDA27P1

One other flaw (in my eyes) of the Casio MTP4500D-1AV is that the main minutes hand and hours hand is very reflective. It might be a cool design (they look like polished swords), but if you want to quickly know the time, it’s a terrible choice. On the black watch face, the hands are extrememly difficult to see unless they are reflecting something light colored. In my experience wearing the watch for a month, the hands are usually almost invisible and I have to angle my wrist in order to get a good reflection off of the hands to see them. Not good.

Casio MTP4500D-1AV
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/4, 1/125 sec, ISO1600
Casio MTP4500D-1AV

The Casio MTP4500D-1AV is normally around US ~$50, but you can often find it on sale for US ~$35.

In conclusion, I think it’s a really nice chronograph watch for the price, but if you want an easier to read chronograph watch, I’d look elsewhere, such as at the Timex Expedition.

Casio MTP4500D-1AV
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/4, 1/125 sec, ISO640
Casio MTP4500D-1AV
"5 Watches" Cedar Park, 2019
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/4, 1/40 sec, ISO6400
“5 Watches” Cedar Park, 2019