A sour/sweet take on life in Tokyo

Starbucks Sakura Latte with Strawberry

Last year I reviewed Starbucks’ Chocolate Sakura Latte . This year Starbucks has a new line of sakura (cherry blossom) themed drinks, the featured drink being the . But, I haven’t tried that one!

Allow me to introduce the Starbucks Sakura Latte with Strawberry!

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While this is a Starbucks drink, it’s not one you can buy at an actual Starbucks cafe. Instead, this is a limited time addition to their line of cold drinks sold across conbinis (convenience stores) in Japan.

The Verdict: Like the latte I drank last year, this one packs a major sugar punch. Even though it does contain espresso, the sweetness of the cherry and strawberry flavors overpowered it, which is a shame for people like me who like the taste of coffee. Want to try this, but live outside of Japan? I’d recommend mixing some coffee into a glass of Strawberry Quick (note: It’s actually called ‘Nesquick’ now? Google is telling me that ‘Strawberry Quick’ is a fictional kind of meth-for kawaii drug addicts?). Maybe that’s a little harsh. I don’t know, these Starbucks-made sakura drinks everyone goes nuts for every year make me feel like I’m going to go in a sugar shock, but it depends on your taste. If you’re in Japan and love sweet drinks, give it a taste for yourself!

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‘Heartful’ Valentine’s Pocky

Hope you all had a happy Valentine’s Day! I bought my honey some chocolates and made a romantic dinner. Like I’ve mentioned before, in Japan the tradition is for women to give men chocolate!

Besides the official V-Day goodies I prepared, I bought a package of strawberry heart-shaped Pocky! While the shape didn’t quite live up to the image on the box, it had the usual yummy strawberry flavor.

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So my readers from across the globe, how did you spend Valentine’s Day in your country? Please share in the comments!

Sailor Who? It’s been awhile….

Confession and rant post!

I’ve fallen ridiculously far behind on SMC. I was so excited for it in the beginning and then…honestly it’s been feeling a little stale. I keep trying to find the good in each episode, but I can’t help getting bored. Am I in a crappy relationship with an anime? Am I simply too old for anime? Does SMC just suck?

I’m a sucker for the Usagi/Mamoru relationship (I liked Act 6 quite a bit), but I feel like the rest of the characters have been cursed with personalities of stale, frostingless-less Pocky. So far, this is more or less keeping in line with the manga, which focuses mainly on Usagi, from what I’ve read in the early chapters (keep in mind I’m reading the Japanese language version, as I’m not totally fluent there’s bound to be things I don’t pick up on), but I’m starting to miss the old anime’s ‘monster of the week’ episodes which allowed us to see the personalities of the other girls more. I’m up to “Act 10” in the manga, (one of the best chapters so far, by the way), so I’m interested in seeing if and how the other characters develop.

And those eyes. Those soul-less alien eyes are the cherry on the expressionless-face cake.  Can we see facial expression besides ‘default Real Doll,’ please?

I finally watched the eighth episode (I forgot the seventh apparently!).  I’m so far behind that I think I might as well have a chu-hai infused marathon of all the episodes I’ve missed up until this point, and see what my impressions are after that.

Anyone else? Does Sailor Moon Crystal get better, or am I expecting too much as an older fan outside of the teen demographic? What have you thought of the series so far?

Sailor Moon Crystal Review: Act 6 タキシード仮面 Tuxedo Mask

A late mini-review of the anime.

Plot, action, romance: the sixth episode was not playing around!

As you can expect from the title, this one centers around the main man of the series: Tuxedo Mask. Finally!  The episode begins with Mamoru sexily awakening from a mysterious dream.

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‘Fine. You all want smoldering beefcake. Might as well get it over with in the beginning. You happy?’

Later he and Usagi share another coincidental bumping into each other. They banter, she blushes, her friends tease her. Ok, we get it. I think this is going to to be the final one of these scenes, so I’m not going to complain too much about it. He makes an appeal on TV in order to find the Silver Crystal and he becomes the talk of the town.  Zoisite hatches a plan in which he disguises himself as a hot newscaster lady (of course he does) and brainwashes the masses to search for the Silver Crystal for his own sake. What would Zoisite’s drag name be anyway? Zooey Crystals?

Meanwhile, Luna finally let’s the kiddos into her secret Tron-esque base underground the game center.

キャプチャ2It’s pretty freaking sweet, but why was it a secret until now?  Trying to keep Usagi from spilling ice cream all over the super computer? Off topic, it reminds me of Watchtower from Smallville, so would that make Luna Chloe? I feel like Ami should be Chloe. Now I’m wanting to watch a Smallville/Sailor Moon mashup…Ahem. Where where we?

It’s suggested that perhaps Tuxedo Mask is involved and Usagi doesn’t believe it. Sailor Says: always trust  the hot stranger you know nothing about over the concerns of your friends! I’m just being a cynical bitch. She knows in her heart that he’s good. Let’s just go with that. *sigh* She storms out.

Later her three friends that she ditched have a showdown with Zoisite. Usagi suddenly feels weak and faints? To tell you the truth I ended up watching a Spanish sub and with my rusty Espanol and not-quite-there Japanese, I didn’t quite understand that part? Did she suddenly feel faint for no reason? I don’t know, but perhaps it was just excuse for another one of these scenes:
キャプチャ3I suspect Tuxedo Mask has a special glove with grips because this is becoming his main function.  You know, I trip and fall like a clumsy dumb-ass all the time, but my special dude doesn’t magically appear-what gives? Anyway they have a heart-to-heart and he gives her a pep-talk….while the other senshi are trying not to get their asses kicked by Miss Zooey. Sailor Moon transforms in the nick of time and (nearly?) murders Zoisite with….the MAGIC STICK! I mean, the MOON STICK! Queen Beryl takes the fallen Zozo in her arms and escapes.

Then, at the end in a very tacked-on way, Usagi realizes that Mamoru Chiba and Tuxedo mask are *GASP* the same person?!

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Nope. Not buying it. One guy is wearing a mask. Obviously not the same dude.

To be continued!

ETA
Best Line of the Episode:
Zoisite: WaaaaaAAAAAAAAAAH!
(http://youtu.be/KLpK8ImSAqY?t=3m49s)

Hello and NHK Easy News

やほー!(^o^)/
Hiya everyone and a special ‘arigatou’ to my subscribers. I noticed there are a few more of you recently! As you may have noticed, I have severely neglected my reviewing duties! I hope to catch up in the coming weeks. In the meantime, here’s my recommendation of the day for any Japanese language-learners out there:

NHK’s The News in Easy Japanese:http://www3.nhk.or.jp/news/easy/

Enjoy!

Sailor Moon Crystal Review: Act 5 まこと Makoto Sailor Jupiter

Apologies for the late review! Moving right along…
Usagi stupidly walks into traffic but is saved by….you guessed it, Makoto! The husky-voiced soon-to-be Sailor Jupiter reminds her to watch out for cars (duh) and leaves. Now, I know it was Usagi’s fault, but it disturbed me that the car didn’t even slow down, let alone stop. In fact, I think they laid on the horn and slammed on the gas.
“That girl….she smells so nice,” Sailor Moon cooed dreamily. Ok,Serena, you’re bicurious, but do you get the hots for every schoolgirl, or tuxedo-wearing stranger you meet?

Makoto is a new transfer student. She puts up a tough front, but Usagi finds that she’s actually quite feminine. Of course they become friends. Meanwhile, Naru mentions her cousin is getting married (in the original anime it was their somewhat frumpy teacher marrying an even frumpier guy and was pretty funny) and the girls talk about how great it would be to be a bride. Usagi takes Makoto to the game center and introduces them to Ami and Motoki, who gets Makoto all flustered.

They visit the bridal shop rumoured to be haunted by a man-stealing skank of a ghost, targeting grooms, and then ask Rei about it, because she knows all about that spooky ghost stuff. Which brings me to this episode’s

Best Quote: Rei: “There is no scientific basis for this ghost’s existence”. Ok, well then. Because everything else that has happened in this series so far has been rooted firmly in scientific fact.

Rei mentions that she doesn’t trust men. Damn, this girl is already pretty bitter for a 14 year old; I like it!

Later that night Makoto thinks about her (ex?) boyfriend who we learn Motoki reminded her of. Then a ghost like figure of her boyfriend appears. He’s kind of hot. Mamoru happens to be strolling by (FYI, he’s reading a math (数学)  book in case you were wondering what the Japanese was). He’s not wearing a tuxedo, but normal clothes and glasses. He changes into his Tuxedo Mask costume and brings Usagi, who is still in her pajamas, to the scene of the spooky ghost putting the moves on Makoto. They finally meet ghost Bridezilla. What a bitch. Brides are so selfish: ‘I want my flower arrangements perfect! I said up-dos for the bridesmaids! Give me all your energy!’ Me, me, me.

Well, you know the drill. They confront the MOTW (Monster of the week) and the new friend changes into Sailor Senshi! Sailor Jupiter has a lightning connection, but her first attack was “Flower Hurricane,” folllowed by a “Thunderbolt,” so maybe her power is storm-related things in general? The grooms woke up awkwardly groping mannequins, not quite remembering what happened the night before, like a bachelor party gone wrong (or right?). Luna wonders if perhaps Tuxedo Mask brought Usagi here. Uh, why don’t you just ask her? Makoto confesses that a senior boy in her old school broke her heart, which was the reason why she changed schools. Pretty drastic, no? Makes you wonder just what exactly happened.(>_>) Rei’s like, ‘yeah guys suck!’. Then out of nowhere, Luna announces “We have four girls…Usagi you are the leader!” TBC……

Some thoughts: Makoto didn’t have any flashback to the past kingdom after the others did.
Isn’t Luna supposed to be a wise sage? She’s always like ‘I have a feeling about this girl’ but she never puts two and two together until the last second. ‘Could Tuxedo Mask have a connection to Sailor Moon? I’m just not sure…Is he our enemy or friend? He is always helping us out, so I’m just not sure.’ She’s great at handing out accessories, but she doesn’t figure out very much.

Once more,
Best Quote:
Rei: “There is no scientific basis for this ghost’s existence”. Ok, well then. Because everything else that has happened in this series so far has been rooted firmly in scientific fact.

Best Quote Runner-up: Sailor Jupiter, after transforming: “I’ll make you feel so much regret, it’ll leave you numb!” Hey, that’s what I say to the men in my life!

Later Luna-tics!


Next Episode: Tuxedo Kamen!

Sailor Moon Crystal・Sailor Moon Manga Review: Act 4 Masquerade 仮面舞踏会

While the first three episodes really got the new series rolling by introducing a new senshi each week, Act 4 took the week off from any new introductions, and instead focused a little on the characters we’ve already met.

The beginning of the anime shows Luna pondering the true nature of Tuxedo Kamen: friend or foe? (Note: this scene is not in the manga.)  As usual, Usagi is late to school. When she arrives, she hears rumors of a of a visit by Princess D, foreign royalty bearing an uncanny resemblance to Usagi’s nerdy classmate Umino. Luna informs the girls that this princess just may be in possession of the “Legendary Silver Crystal”.

The princess is holding a masquerade ball. By the way, “Masquerade 仮面舞踏会” is the official title of Act 4, but the English episode name is translated to “Masquerade Dance Party”. Sigh. There are thousands of native English speakers in the Tokyo area, could they not hire one of them (me!) to tell them things like, “It’s a masquerade ball! Not a ‘dance party’.” The translations have seemed pretty faithful as far as I can tell up until now, but this seemed like kind of a weird choice.

Anyway, the girls crash the party to investigate the crystal being unveiled and see what’s going on. Of course, Tuxedo Kamen is there. He and Usagi share a romantic dance. (I wouldn’t have minded better music for that memorable scene. Same generic anime music.) Princess D becomes possessed by Yoma. Major shocker here: The girls save the day! The crystal ends up being a statue of the princess herself.

Best Scene: The Yoma-infected Princess D pushes Usagi off the balcony. Tuxedo Kamen is apparently too weak to pull the extremely tiny Usagi up (In fact, he ends up hanging and can’t even hold on the balcony for more than a few seconds), so she uses her magical pen and turns the pen itself into an umbrella and they float down!  And then Tuxedo runs away as usual. ( I understand why he does, but it doesn’t stop it from being funny every time it happens!)

Best ‘not sure if romantic or creepy’ scene: At the end of the episode Mamoru reappears and kisses a seemingly-sleeping Usagi. Her thought voice-over makes it seem like she’s somewhat aware of what is happening, so the viewer /reader can see it as romantic. However, I can understand how creepy and possibly rapey it looks to Luna, who tells him to back off and demands to know whether or not he’s an enemy. Tuxedo Mask makes himself look even creepier by telling her ‘Who knows. Maybe I am your enemy’ #capeswish #screwyouguysimgoinhome

Next time we’re meeting another Senshi! I’m sure it will be similar to Act 2 and Act 3. I’m hoping future episodes delve a little bit more into the other girls’ personalities. We’ve had a lot of Usagi and Tuxedo Mask time, which is great, but I am not really feeling Ami or Rei’s personalities yet. Rei could be kind of a bitch in the old anime, and while I don’t really want to see her go as far as trying to steal Mamoru, a little bitchiness made for some really funny moments between her and Usagi!

Until next time! #capeswish #screwyouguysimgoinhome

*Disclaimer: The lovely illustrations are by Naoko Takeuchi, found in the 20th anniversary edition manga!