Rakuten Viki and Crunchyroll Renewed for another year; Reviews for Recently Completed Anime

Korean Drama, Taiwanese Drama, Bollywood, Anime and Telenovelas free online with subtitles - Rakuten Viki

 

Despite the Pandemic turning most of the world into shut-ins, I haven’t been able to spend most of this year consistently binging Asian Dramas on Viki. Such is my life sadly. Even so, I did manage to watch almost 30 shows in their entirety over the last year. With a lot of the stuff I have cued and am watching now, it makes the most sense for me to renew my Viki subscription for another year. With the things I am working on in life right now, I know I will be able to make the time for Viki in the coming year. Same with Crunchyroll, which I also plan to renew in a few months.

The majority of Viki’s offerings are from China and South Korea. There is a modest selection from Japan and Taiwan however. Like other streaming services, a lot of it has to do with licensing. If you get either of the premium subscriptions, you get immediate access to shows still airing. The more expensive subscription (Premium+) gives you access to everything the platform has to offer barring regional restrictions. When I start working, I will upgrade to Premium+ for both Viki and Crunchyroll.

Funimation and Crunchyroll partnership to help North American anime industry - Nerd Reactor

Nearly a year after Funimation abruptly ended their partnership with Crunchyroll, Sony (which owns Funimation) has announced they have bought Crunchyroll (owned by WarnerMedia) for almost $2 Billion. The sale has to clear some regulatory hurtles which is expected to so the purchase is effectively a done deal.

The reactions from fans and users of Crunchyroll online has been overwhelmingly negative since the news broke on December 9. As of this writing, Crunchyroll has announced the buyout/merger on their website but no further information is available. Most likely, they don’t know themselves yet. We don’t know if Crunchyroll and Funimation’s streaming services will continue to operate separately or will be merged. We might not know until maybe next month most likely.

The funny thing is the same day as this announcement, I renewed my Crunchyroll Premium for another year. I don’t think those who are currently subscribed will be impacted without at least be offered compensation personally. I remember when Neon Alley being folded into Hulu was first announced, they offered a full or partial refund to premium subscribers if they didn’t want to switch over. I expect something like that to be offered if Crunchyroll is folded into Funimation. Of course, it’s certainly possible they will be allowed to perate separately but all we can really do is wait and see.

 

Disney Mulan 2020 film premiers on Disney+ for $30 - Geeky Gadgets

I would be remiss if I didn’t take a minute to comment on the political controversy surrounding the Live Action Mulan movie. Originally planned for a March theatrical release, the movie was released in July on Disney+ due to the ongoing Pandemic in progress. The movie has become a lightning rod of criticism because Disney thanked government officials in Xinjiang Province where the movie was filmed in the movie’s credits.

Why is that a problem?

It turns out a detention center imfamous for being used to house Muslims for “Re-Education” is located not far from where most of the movie was filmed. Disney explained they chose that region for the movie “after consulting scholars and historians”. The movie used an all-Chinese cast and crew. This can easily be handwaved away as just appeasing the Chinese government and public but some now believe the filming location being so close to the Detention Center may have been why they wanted to keep a lot of details under wraps even from Disney.

It’s not hard to believe Chinese government officials worked with the film crew to help keep Disney from knowing about the Detention Center during filming. I get Disney’s hands were tied mostly due to soured relations between the U.S. and China in recent years but that’s still no excuse. They should’ve realized something was up when they were basically told certain areas were off-limits.

Disney dropped the ball big time and not just over this. Liu Yufei, who plays Mulan in the movie expressed her support for Hong Kong Police last year. Anyone following the news involving China and Hong Kong in recent years knows how volatile things are now. Yufei, who is a Chinese-born American made the remarks on her Weibo Account (Weibo is China’s version of Twitter for those who don’t know). Many perceived her support of the authorities in Hong Kong as support of the sometimes violent crackdowns in Hong Kong by the Chinese government.

Yufei’s comments on Weibo and the Xinjiang Detention Center controversy has led to many wordwide to call for Mulan to be boycotted. Thailand and Taiwan have both banned the movie. Many in China criticized the original 1998 animated version, feeling it was too Westernized and seemed to mock Chinese history in some regards. A lot of the criticsm from within China towards the live version has to do with hand signals and gestures used during the movie’s action scenes lookng too “Ninja-like”. I would point the blame toward whoever from the Chinese government was supposed to oversee the Chinese version of the movie.

For those who don’t know, two versions of the movie were made: The International version and a second version just for Chinese-speaking audiences. Every scene was shot twice, once in English and once in Chinese. This is why the entire cast is Chinese. I do think Disney will be forced to reshoot the International version a third time because of the controversy with the lead role recast. Disney should have redid the whole movie after Yufei’s comments went public last year but I won’t digress further.

I am on the fence about watching the movie myself but I’m leaning toward not seeing it. Mostly because of how poorly recieved it’s been in China more than anything else. I just hope Disney learned from all this or they will be in trouble down the road.

Both versions of the movie is based on a Chinese folk tale called Hua Mulan, which tells the story of a young heroine who disguises herself as a man to take the place of her ailing father to fight in the Imperial Army. The first movie renewed debate in China as to weather or not this really happened. At first it was dismissed as fiction but historical records from the period the folk tale was believed to have come from seems to indicate it’s likely true.

At the time drafts only applied to sons, not daughters as the army was all Male. If the family had no sons, the father or grandfather would be drafted. The consript was given to the family which required one Male from the family to serve in the military. Anyone who tried to defy the draft risked their entire family being punished or killed. Only families that had no Males capable of fighting were excused from the draft. In the case of Mulan’s family, her father was a decorated soldier in his younger days. It’s not clear weather he was in poor health or had an injury but regardles, he accepted the conscript on behalf of the family. Mulan took matters into her own hands when she took off with the conscript and her father’s armor.

While women disguising themselves as men to get military training or fight in the miliary was not uncommon, most who were found out were sent home, executed or raped. Some like Mulan who proved themselves capable and earned the respect of her fellow soldiers were allowed to return home after serving in the military.

 

Watch Food Wars! Streaming Online | Hulu (Free Trial)

 

The last two episodes were clearly rushed but the ending was still very satisfying. It ended the same way it began prettymuch: Yukihira trying to get Erina to be honest about her feelings to him. There was so much going on in the last two episodes, they should have been split into 2 or 3 episodes each. You have Yukihira beating Saiba to go on and face Erina. We all knew that was the showdown being built towards.

Joichiro being revealed to have mentored Saiba when he was a kid explains a lot of his personal animosity towards Yukihira. Joichiro telling Saiba after the match “I will always be your father as a chef.” was pretty boss. Finding out during the credits Saiba and Erina were actually half-siblings though…that makes certain thoughts go through your head until you realize neither of them knew they were blood related until after the fact and almost off-screen. Their dad basically says “Oh by the way Erina you know that guy who wanted to marry you if he won? He’s actually your older half-brother.” That right there is a whole episode. So was Yukihira traveling abroad for 6 months after losing to Nakiri in the final match. Instead that was skipped entirely to his return for the final moments of the series.

Make no mistake Food Wars was an amazing anime from start to finish. Delays between seasons 4/5, 4/3 and 3/2 did slow momentum but not to the extent the months-long delay two episodes into the final season due to COVID-19 caused. It didn’t take away from the rest of the season though. My only real complaint is how rushed the last two episodes were. They tried to do too much in them and it came out looking sloppy to me.

 

 

The Misfit of Demon King Academy || First Episode Impressions | Anime Amino

 

This Anime’s lead character is a legit Mary Sue yet somehow this Anime makes it work by not making him the focus from start to finish. Instead, the focus is put world building. Somehow, it just works. The ending kinda leaves the door open for a second season but I felt like this was it.

 

 

Ahiru no Sora Episode 14 Release Date, Watch Online - Spoiler Guy

 

Ahiru no Sora was quite the amazing coming of age anime with a bit of everything. Sure, the ending is unresolved but I think it was the safe way to close things out.

If they decide to make a Season 2, there’s plenty of material to work with now.

 

REVIEW: 'Fire Force,' Season 2 Episode 15 - “A Three Way Melee”

Fire Force Season 2 just wrapped up and now the wait is on for Season 3.

 

Most of Season 2 focused on character development as well as world building. The Season ended with the news all eight Special Fire Force companies as well as the Hajima Company and the Military will coming together to take on a common enemy in the mysterious White Clad and their benefactor, the malevolent Evangelist. Season 3 will presumably delve into their backstory as the stage is set for war between them and the Fire Force.

Season 3 hasn’t been announced yet and likely due to the ongoing Pandemic. All we know is there WILL be one eventually.

 

…Whew.

Folks should expect the next season for most Anime to be delayed due to COVID-19. Attack of Titan and Dr. Stone’s season premeires were originally supposed to be over the summer but they were pushed back due to the ongoing pandemic. The next season for Rising of The Shield Hero was also supposed to be around this time but it’s been pushed to sometime next year for the same reason.

Attack on Titan’s final season just premiered. I’ll do a recap of the story up to now for the benefit of those who may not have been following Attack on Titan’s story since the first season AND haven’t read the Manga. From how the final season opened, we’re going to be getting a lot of backstory that should tie up a lot of loose ends and explain where the Titans came from.

 

 

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Review: Melting Me Softly (Korea, 2019)

 

 

 

Image result for Melting Me Softly

Ah, Human Cryogenics.

The summary on Viki felt underwhelming to me at a glance but I decided to give it a try anyway. This show got me hooked within the first 5 minutes of the opening episode to say the least. Ji Chang Wook is Ma Dong Chan, a TV Producer who volunteers to participate in a Frozen Human Experiment for 24 hours. Won Jin Ah is Go Mi Ran, a volunteer who agrees to participate in the same experiment for 24 hours in exchange for monetary compensation. The experiment, which was only meant to last for 24 hours ended up lasting 20 years.

I’m gonna explain an outline of the sequence of events in the next several paragraphs with some plot spoilers so if you haven’t seen it yet or started watching and do not want to be spoiled, skip to the next picture.

The experiment begins in 1999.

Ma Dong Chan (Age 32) approaches the eccentric, mysterious but brilliant Professor Hwang to volunteer to participate in the Frozen Human Project for 24 hours. Go Mi Ran (Age 24), who is jobless and looking for opportunity also volunteers after being offer monetary compensation. 22 hours after Professor Hwang puts Ma Dong Chan and Go Mi Ran in the Refrigeration Capsules, he gets a mysterious phone call and leaves the laboratory. While he’s away, the professor is nearly killed and ends up in a coma. Since he is the only person who can safely revive Ma Dong Chan and Go Mi Ran, the two end up being Cryogenically Frozen for 20 years instead of 24 hours…in 2019.

Aside from history as we know it, much has happened during the 20 years Ma Dong Chan and Go Mi Ran were frozen. Those they knew before they were frozen have aged but they themselves are physically the same as they were 20 years earlier. Ma Dong Chan, who feels personally responsible for Go Mi Ran’s lost years as well as their shared physical state commits himself to investigating what happened in the past. The Broadcast Station where he worked covered up its involvement in the Human Freezing Project after his disappearance and his father died while he was frozen. Go Mi Ran’s family learned about what happened to her from the professor’s assistant only because she requested the money promised to her be given to her family if something happened.

The world is shocked and mesmerized when Ma Dong Chan announces to the world that he is the world’s first frozen human. Go Mi Ran’s status as the other Refrigeration Capsule volunteer is later publicly revealed as well. One of the interesting things in an early episode is a talk show-style debate on which age someone who was cryogenically frozen and then revived years later would go by. Should they go by their legal age or the age they were when they were frozen? Ma Dong went from 32 to 52 while Go Mi Ran went from 24 to 44. Physically and biologically, they were still their former ages but legally and chronologically, they were their latter ages. Fortunately, they didn’t complicate it further by having either of them have kids though the third person did have a son who is now a grown man 21 years later.

Moving on. Professor Hwang suddenly awoke from his coma 20 years after they were frozen long enough to revive them before passing out again. The revival was successful but not without a major side effect the professor was aware of: Ma Dong Chang and Go Mi Ran’s body temperature have to mantain a body temperature of 31.5 Celsius (88.7 Fahrenheit), which is WELL below Hypothermia levels. A normal human body temperature is around 37 Celsus (98.6 Fahrenheit) so…yeah. I’ll get to the medical science aspects in a bit but in short, their heat tolerance is very low to say the least. The only way to have their body temperature restored to normal rests in Professor Hwang, whose past is tied to their current situation.

The problem is he suffered temporary but severe memory loss due to being in a coma for 20 years. While he was an amnesiac, he got to know Go Mi Ran’s family and bonded with her brother, who has a low IQ. Professor Hwang laments as he begins to understand the psychological and emotional pain of the families of those who are frozen for the first time. When he finally regains his memories, he sets to work developing a thermal formula to restore Ma Dong Chan and Go Mi Ran to normal. Ma Dong Chan volunteers to test the formula first and after 7 days, it is successful (WOOT!). As for Go Mi Ran, tragedy strikes the day before she would begin treatment. She is severely injured but because of her low body temperature, doctors cannot operate on her. A decision needs to be made so Professor Hwang puts her back in a Refrigeration Capsule for 3 years while he makes a new, stronger formula from scratch to thaw her quickly so that the surgery can be done. It’s decided the third person, who was severely injured before being frozen will have their body temperature returned to normal at a later time.

Ma Dong Chan and Go Mi Ran were two of six people we know of who were put in refrigeration capsules by the professor but we find out who a third is since it’s tied to a major plot point. The identities of the other three or why they were frozen is never mentioned at any point. All we’re told is only Professor Hwang knows who they are and their identities are a closely guarded secret. The one whose identity is revealed is a major plot spoiler I won’t divulge here though so go watch to find out. I will say this person who was frozen in 1998 played an indirect role in Ma Dong Chan and Go Mi Ran being frozen for 20 years.

 

Image result for melting me softly

 

…Whew. Obviously, I was sucked in by all the science aspects of this series!

I want to get back to the Lower Body Temperature the two leads are afflicted with for most of the series. Clearly they did their homework and what I loved about this is they did not shy away from the science around this. The Thawing Process was not perfected at the time–and as far as we know the two leads plus the identified third person were the first known people to have been revived from the Refrigeration Capsules. I mentioned Professor Hwang had discovered the problem when he did clinical trials on a Dolphin that died. He could not pinpoint the exact cause of death but it became more clear thanks to the two leads. If their body temperature rose above 32.5 C (92 F), they could die.

Since their core body temperature is lower than normal, they have little to no tolerance to heat but an abnormally high tolerence to cold. This is displayed a few times when the two are thrown in the back of a refrigerator truck as well as when they visit a Cold Room (a room with near or at freezing temperatures some spas offer). They also drink ice water a lot to help maintain their lower body temperature. A life-threatening mutation was discovered but fortunately, the professor’s assistant was able to quickly develop an antidote. When the professor finally develops a proper medicine to raise their body temperature to normal,

There is plenty of material for a season two with new characters. One of the opening dialogues for the first episode notes that it’s believed that there are at least 600 people who are in Refrigeration Capsules in Korea, the U.S. and Russia. Sadly, it looks like the show didn’t do very well when it first aired last Fall in Korea. It’s easy to see why despite the Korean celebrity cameos in some episodes. The show clearly tried too hard to be a Rom Com, Mystery and a Sci-Fi Medical Drama all at once when it should have picked one of them and stuck with it.

I must also agree with the overall consensus that although they tried hard, they came up short with the storytelling. The Science aspects wasn’t the problem but rather it was pretty obvious the producers didn’t have a clue about what kind of story they wanted to tell. Most of the supporting cast also got too much development given it was a 16-episode series, which is too much for one that short. It also shows where things are rushed or just not really given ample time to move things along.

A few things that come to mind–and there are some minor spoilers–include:

  • Ma Dong Chan’s ex girlfriend and Go Mi Ran’s ex boyfriend don’t really seem to get happy endings or satisfying endings. Both wanted to pick up where they left off despite one having since married. I do think the dissatisfied endings were intended but the problem is they both got so much screentime and development.
  • The third person who gets thawed was at the center of most of the story…but he doesn’t get an ending. The last we hear before Go Mi Ran gets hurt is the plan is to raise his body temperature once he’s recovered more. He’s never seen or heard from after that. You’re left to presume he recovers offscreen.
  • The man who stabbed Go Mi Ran has absolutely no background story and “The boss wants one of them dead for you to be paid”. This point is highlighted by the fact he’s not seen again after he stabs her but is apparently tracked down offscreen.
  • Yes, the same actor who plays Ma Dong Chan’s father in the first episode plays his brother for the rest of the series. That was actually pretty clever and the same was done with one of his colleagues. One actor playing two roles. The 20-year gap makes this discrepency easier to explain but it makes a lot more sense with his brother and father. His father died a few years earlier from a stroke.
  • It’s very surprising that there are only two instances in which Go Mi Ran and Ma Dong Chan meet people who are interested in being put in Refrigeration Capsules. This makes even less sense after Professor Hwang perfects the thawing formula for there to not be a lot more folks interested in being frozen.
  • Speaking the professor. Until Go Mi Ran got put back in a capsule, he states several times that other than himself, his assistant and participants, no one is allowed to enter his laboratory. This is presumably to keep certain information from being made public or falling into the hands of those who would misuse the tech. After Go Mi Ran is put back in a capsule, it’s explained many of the world’s leading scientists are working with him to develop a new thawing formula for her and his lab is like a beehive. I doubt those other scientists would have been able to help him without knowing the specifics of how the Refrigeration Capsules work as well as about Ma Dong Chan, who is restored. I also doubt they would have agreed to leave what they learned in that lab. What’s to say someone doesn’t take that knowledge with them back to their own country?
  • Going with that last point. It’s stated in the first episode that about 600 people are believed to be frozen in the U.S., Russia and Korea. The actor playing Kim Jong Un in one scene remarks had North Korean known about the Refrigeration Capsules, they could have used it to freeze his late father Kim Jong Il. This was a one-off scene but it does raise the question never touched during the course of the series: Do world governments try to develop their own Refrigeration Capsules?

Those are just some things that came to mind for me. By the way there IS cryogenic freezing IRL but as of right now, only those who have already died can be frozen. As far as I know, no one has figured out a way to safely cryogenically freeze a living person. Sure, you can freeze someone in ice but they’ll die. The thing that needs to be figured out is freezing someone without killing them, causing permanent nerve damage or causing permanent tissue and organ damage. Once that can be figure out…well, who knows.

 

Overall, I give Melting Me Softly an 8/10. It’s definitely worth watching at least once. In addition to being on Viki, it was released on Blu Ray internationally (Korean Audio with English subtitles). If there is a Season 2, it would need to fix a lot of the storytelling-related problems from the first season even if it uses an entirely different cast and production team.

 

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Here’s some of the Anime and Live Asian Programming I watched this year

Image result for Crunchyroll

Related image

 

…Whew.

Cululatively, I watched more Live Asian Programming than I ever have in my life since I got Viki Premium a few months ago. It’s not hard when most series they carry are 24 to 70 episodes long on average. As of December 9, I have also renewed my Crunchyroll subscription for another year and that means I can continue to watch new anime episodes as they air in Japan.

I don’t want to make this super long so I’ll just make two lists. One for Anime and the other for live Asian Programming. I’ll provide a bit of commentary after each list.

 

First, here’s the list of Anime I watched this year. If it’s Bolded, it’s currently ongoing and likely will be going into 2020. If it’s Italics, I know for sure it will get another season in 2020 or later. Bold Italics is both:

  • Boruto: Naruto Next Generations
  • Attack on Titan
  • Persona 5
  • My Hero Academia
  • Dr. Stone
  • Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma
  • The Rising of the Shield Hero
  • Goblin Slayer
  • Black Clover
  • Fire Force
  • Sword Art Online
  • Fruits Basket
  • High School Prodigies Have It Easy Even In Another World
  • Didn’t I say to make my abilities average in the next life?!
  • We Never Learn: BOKUBEN
  • Isekai Cheat Magician
  • Do you love your mom and her 2-hit multi-target attacks?
  • Wise Man’s Grandchild
  • The Quintessential Quintuplets
  • Cinderella Nine
  • If It’s for my daughter, I’d even defeat a Demon Lord
  • Is It Wrong to try to pick up girls in a dungeon?
  • Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba
  • The Promised Neverland
  • The Helpful Fox Senko-san
  • Isekai Quartet
  • Are You Lost?
  • That Time I got Reincarnated as a Slime
  • The Royal Tutor

…I had to look at my Que to get the finish dates for some of these. Most of these I either watched in their entirety, I started them last year or I started them this year. Next year is sure to be a year of new seasons with the sheer number of anime already greenlit for a new season. So many season premieres I know a lot of folks will be looking forward to. Hopefully they don’t take too much away from new anime that will also premeire next year either. We will find out when the Spring 2020 lineup in announced in a few months!

I mentioned at the top I wouldn’t discuss anything in depth here. That’s because I plan to cover stuff separately in a series of posts, probably early next month. I may cover a few things before the end of the year though, we’ll see. I do have other stuff I plan to comment on in addition to Aninme and Live Asian Programming on a more serious note.

 

Here are the Live Asian Programming I’ve watched on Viki so far, the country of origin in Parentheses:

 

  • Sweet Combat (China)
  • Doctor Stranger (Korea)
  • I am Reiko Shiratori (Japan)
  • Legend of Fuyao (China)
  • Frankenstein’s Love (Japan)
  • The One That Got Away (Philippines)
  • Age Harassment (Japan)
  • The Legend of the White Snake (China)
  • Adult High School (Japan)
  • Legend of Yun Xi (China)
  • Sumika Sumire (Japan)
  • Legend of the Phoenix (China)
  • Romantic Doctor Kim (Korea)

 

Sweet Combat, Romantic Doctor Kim and Frankenstein’s Love are my top three faves. Given the platform encourages binge watching even more than Disney+ or Netflix–yeah, I went THERE–there have been times I wanted to pull all-nighters with what I was watching on Viki. Most episodes are 45 to 60 minutes long so you could literally watch an entire series in 24 straight hours if you really wanted to. Given I expect my living situation to change in 2020, I will feel more comfortable about taking a shot at doing this ^_^

 

One thing I plan to do a bit more is expanding the topics I cover on this blog. I do have the NHK Japan App on my Roku. I covered Emperor Emeritus Akihito’s Abdication earlier this year. I also covered Hikkikomori. Before this month is over, I’m probably gonna crush some dreams since I plan to comment on Japan having the strictest Immigration and Refugee policies in the world. I’ve known about it for some time but a recent story I watched on NHK Japan pushed me to write about it.

 

 

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Not gonna lie, I’ve been watching a LOT of Viki since mid-June

Image result for Rakuten Viki

 

…It’s also why my Anime-related posts have significantly slowed since mid-summer. It’s now been almost a year since Drama Fever suddenly shut down with no warning or notice. I’d been watching Crunchyroll and WWE Network through Winter when I suddenly got my Roku for my birthday in March. I got the English Language version of NHK Japan Channel on my Roku–really good for anyone planning to visit Japan on that note–but I knew I wanted to get something to watch live Asian Programming.

…Then I remembered Viki.

I actually had a repeat of a situation that happened with Drama Fever where I started a show on one Streaming Service but couldn’t finish for reasons beyond my control. Last year, it was the Chinese historical drama The King’s Woman. I watched half of it on Drama Fever before it suddenly closed but was able to watch the rest on Viki, which also carried it. Two weeks ago, it was The Legend of The White Snake. I started it on Netflix but then my 30-day free trial expired. I watched the first 20 episodes on Netflix but I was able to watch the rest of the series on Viki.

Earlier this month, I got the 7-Day trial for Viki Pass Standard. It removes the Ads, gives HD Quality Viewing and certain other perks. The Premium Pass is like Crunchyroll’s Premium and Premium+ in which is does those things but also allows you to watch new episodes as they become available in their native countries. It also allows you to watch all available programming that isn’t Region Locked. Like Crunchyroll’s Premium+ you do pay more for Viki’s Premium Pass if you go the 1 year route which I do. Standard is $50 annual while Premium is $100 anual (both are $10 monthly).

As of 4:03PM on September 23, 2019 I now have the annual Standard Pass($50). I now watch Viki enough to justify getting the annual pass and went with the lower priced one. The ads actually aren’t annoyingly invasive and it’s mostly because the programming is 35 minutes or more per episode unlike Anime, which is 25 minutes per episode on average. I haven’t seen that much bad timing with the ads in the Free version so far –and I assume it’s like that thanks to user feedback–so the emotional buildup some scenes might be going for isn’t terribly destroyed. About 90% of the time, a 30-second ad or 3 pops during dialogue–usually one ad on average–with a black loading screen before and after the ad plays. The other 10% is before an episode starts and after it ends. I barely notice between episodes personally.

All that said. I got the Standard Pass to remove the ads and for HD Quality Viewing. That way, I can binge watch the 30+ episode series I have qued much faster. With winter not far off, it’s sure to come in handy!

…I’d be remiss if I didn’t give some Dramas I recently watched a mention:

 

Image result for Sweet Combat

This 2018 Chinese Drama‘s two leads are real life boyfriend and girlfriend. Lu Han plays Ming Tian, a young man trained as a martial artist living in the shadows of his late father’s dark legacy. Guan Xio Tong plays Fang Yu, an corporate heiress by day who is the most decorated MMA fighter in the nation with a troubled past of her own. From what I read online, the Sweet Combat co-stars became an item during the course of the show’s filming bu waited until after filming was done to announce their relationship last year. We’ll have to wait and see if the two team up for a project again in the future but their fans in China would love to see it.

This drama is a must-watch because of the attention to detail with the training scenes and the fight scenes. If you’re remotely interested in MMA, you’ll like this series overall as it gives you a behind the scenes peek at young MMA fighters, what drives them and so on.

 

Image result for Sumika Sumire

 

Sumika Sumire is a 2016 Japanese Drama based on the Manga of the same name. Keiko Matsuzaka (67 years old) and Mirei Kiratani (29 years old) both play Sumi Kisaragi, a 64 year old woman who is magically aged down to 24 years of age. Sumi was unable to enjoy her youth because she had to take care of her mother after she finished high school. When her mother passed away, the now senior Sumi despairs as she realizes the time she lost is time she can never have back…or so it seems. A Cat Demon she accidently unseals takes pity on her and decides to give her a second chance at life by magically aging her back to her 20 year old self. What choices will she make differently now? Will she find love? Will she stay young forever? You’ll have to watch to find out!

I’m pretty sure it must have been cool for Kiratani and Matsuzaka to learn the script for two versions of the same character. Both had to learn to play characters a bit younger than they actually are though Matsuzaka was 64 at the time the filming was done. Hard to tell she’s that old though–I can tell makeup was used to make her “look” old though she could probably pass for half her age.

 

Image result for Frankenstein's Love

 

Frankenstein’s Love is a new take on a legendary character. This 2017 Japanese Drama follows a 120 year old love story with a very pure and beautiful message to all. Go Ayano does an amazing job as Frankenstein, a 120 year old man whose body hides a dark secret. It’s pretty impressive the 37 year old played a 120 year old character with the body permanently of a 25 year old. There are a few shirtless scenes as well as a flashback episode that really shows off Ayano’s impressive range as an actor. It goes without saying I highly reccommend watching this one!

…It’s been quite a while since I last reviewed Live Asian Programming.

Now that I have a 1-year subscription to Viki, I will try to post reviews so folks can see what I’ve been watching. I’ll talk about this more on my main blog, this one AND my Political blog but all the mass media distributors based in the U.S. have been playing catch up in recent years with bringing Asian Programming to the West. They greatly underestimated the demand for it early on and it’s exactly why they’ve been buying the rights to companies like Crunchyroll, Viki and Asian Crush in recent years. They’ve seen there’s a lot of money to be made in streaming services so…yeah.

 

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…To date, no donations have come in since I started including this in my posts across all of my blogs. I am now asking those who have especially come to enjoy my postings no matter how long it’s been to please donate. Without going into all the details here, I need your fiancial support. If you’re able donate but want to talk to me first, you can email me at btboston1@gmail.com.

Attack on Titan set to end in 2019; The story so far

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…It’s hard to believe it’s only been 5 years since Attack on Titan/Shingeki no Kyojin burst onto the scene and became a GLOBAL Phenomenon out the gate. Five years after it began, series creator Hajime Isayama (Also had a part in Death Note) announced over the summer during an interview the iconic series will end next year.

 

He allowed cameras to capture him drawing what will be the final panel of the series:

Image result for Attack on Titan final panel

The dialogue bubble says “You are free.” No context was given, presumably on purpose. The two leading theories from fans are it’s either Eren and his daughter or an unknown pair many years later.

As I mentioned in my previous post, Season 3 of the Anime is taking a 6-month hiatus and will resume in April 2019. The reason given is so that action scenes in the second half of the season can be properly done right but this may be the other reason: To give time for the Manga to wrap up. I have the Manga volumes up to 20 but plan to get the rest up to present once I have income again.

It is worth noting the Live Action movies did use plot elements from the Manga that hadn’t been approached yet. I’m specifically talking about the origins of the Titans and how the world was before the walled kingdom. The timeline including the events of the prequel Before the Fall series seems to be a few hundred years from the present. Researchers develop what we know as the Titan Serum, a special cocktail that will cause the person injected with it into a Titan. The first Titans unleashed on the world wiped out whole nations single-handedly and in fact, 80% of the world’s knowledge was lost shortly afterward.

Most of the world’s survivor erected the walled city and hid from the Titans inside. As we know, there WERE other humans who lived outside but due to the country’s strict control of information and knowledge, those who lived within were ignorant of the world beyond the walls. If anyone knew how to kill a Titan before, that knowledge was lost by the time the Before the Fall series begins. The series takes place 100 years before the start of AoT and the Omni-Directional Movement Gear (ODM Gear for short) is introduced for the first time. The first known successful Titan kill is recorded during that time as well.

Anyone who knows the series knows a Titan’s one weak point is the nape of the neck. Using paring blades with the ODM Gear, humans could now kill Titans by attacking thir weak point. The main series seems pretty straightforward but then a curveball is thrown when it is revealed Eren and other humans have the power to turn into Titans at will. Even worse, there are traitors among them. In ousting the traitors, the Survey Corps becomes aware of a closely guarded conspiracy going back many generations within the government and both Erin and Krista are key.

It’s revealed Krista is really Historia, the illegitimate daughter of the last remaining member of the royal bloodline. To protect her life, her father arranged for her to live under an assumed name but times have changed. In the end, Historia decides to turn on her father and decide her own life on her own terms. She backs the military-led coup de tat and inadvertently ends up cutting down her father after he turns into a gian Titan. This allows the military to present their new Queen to the people as a Hero.

It’s revealed along the way that Mikasa, Levi and he man who raised him named Kenny are all from the Ackerman Clan. Their clan is one of two who are immune to the power of the royal family’s bloodline. By the time AOT begins, the three named people are the only known members of the Ackerman Clan still alive. Mikasa’s mother was a member of the clan but she along with Mikasa’s father were both killed by bandits. She was taken in by the Jaeger family after the incident. Levi was raised and trained by Kenny, who kept their shared heritage a secret out of convenience. Yes, his full name is Levi Ackerman. He had no clue until Kenny told him in the end. With Kenny dead (cue South Park reference lol) that leaves Mikasa and Levi as the sole known members of the Ackerman Clan left alive. The rest were killed off or went into hiding (which Mikasa’s mother did).

I am not up to date on where the story currently is–not yet anyway–but I do plan to own all the volumes of the Manga. I have plenty of space on my bookshelves. I do feel that AOT will be remembered as one of the most engaging anime ever. Its global reach goes without saying. I do remember hearing a few years back that Marvel approached Isayama about doing an AOT crossover. On that note, the spinoff series Attack on Titan Junior High was done with his blessing (Unlike in the US, Fan Fiction is protected in Japan and more so when you have the original author’s permission).

I can say for sure Attack on Titan is on my top 10-all time Anime list. I’m sure it is for alot of folks. It’s certainly one to remember!

 

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DramaFever suddenly shut down sometime last night

Going to DramaFever, you will see this message:

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My reaction was the same as when Neon Alley was bought by Hulu: Disappointment, disgust and anger.

My feelings were justified when I checked a few websites to find out the reason behind the shutdown. I wasn’t aware of this but Warner Brothers (now Warner Media) bought DramaFever two years ago. One of the site’s cofounders left after the buyout was finalized last year. There is speculation spreading that Warner Media bought DramaFever never planning to allow the service to continue because of the licensing costs alone. Apparently, the U.S. licensing costs jumped from $800,000 to $1 Million per season after the buyout was completed. DramaFever’s library of mostly Asian Dramas was likely another factor in the shutdown. It is fair to say DF’s model was not sustainable so…yeah. Still, the immediate shutdown with no notice was a bad move.

It is no secret the Media Giants based in the U.S. have been buying into streaming services that carry programming outside the U.S. Yes, the same content providers who LOL’d at Netflix 15 years ago are have been desparately trying to buy into the industry in recent years. Sweet irony. The networks are late to the party and have learned that these days, most Americans just don’t want to be bothered having to tune in every week to watch new TV episodes. Likewise, most also do not want to have to keep buying movies they’ll only watch once or twice. Why do either when you can just watch them on demand via streaming services?

So, no the networks are desperately trying to get in on the action just to survive. Many networks have already launched their own streaming service in recent years as they move to adapt to the new trends. Services like Netflix and WWE Network do not have free streaming but the tradeoff is there are no ads. Crunchyroll, DF, Viki and Funimation have free streaming but the tradeoff is there are ads and you have limited viewing options. As for why the media giants are buying into streaming services, their bottom line is threatened by the very services they are now turning to just to survive more or less. What’s in it for them? Licensing deals. Remember: Netflix got a long-term exclusive deal with Disney several years back. Not just Disney movies and Disney Channel content but ABC, Marvel and LucasFilms, which are also owned by Disney. That deal set the industry on notice and sent the message on demand services are the future of distribution content. Now they’re looking to get in on it like I said before.

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Neon Alley and DF are two of the many casualties of corporate greed and more notable streaming services are sure to follow sadly. I feel for longtime users of the site. The site was indie until two years ago when it was bought by Time Warner, which then completed its merger with AT&T last year to become Warner Media. The shutdown effective immediately was done without any warning or notice to users though the message has promised more info to come “soon” and promises of refunds to subscription holders. I was considering getting a DF subscription down the road but clearly that’s not happening anymore. There were some shows DF held exclusive streaming rights to and the new content they added in recent months is why the sudden shutdown is so baffling. This leaves Rakuten Viki and Asian Crush as the two remaining streaming providers for Live Asian programming in North America.

The silver lining, of course is Asian programming is definitely here to stay. Kocowa, which had originally been a part of DF had been bought by Viki a few years back and took the licenses they had with them to Viki. Viki is the largest provider for live Asian programming and has been for some time. It is regarded to some as the Netflix of Asian programming. I was watching The King’s Woman on DF and fortunately Viki carries it also. I had watched two K-Dramas on DF but fortunately I finished them before the shutdown. Unlike DF, there’s no getting around the Ads on Viki even with an Ad Blocker but I’ve decided to put up with the 5-minute interruption per episode until I can get a paid subscription.

Unlike some folks I know, I refuse to use less legal means for Live Programming or Anime. If I don’t have the money, I’ll use the Free Version. I haven’t watched Crunchyroll since my subscription ended because I know when I do get a new subscription, I can just catch up on the 6 to 9 shows either still in progress or since ended. I don’t want to sit through the ads because unlike Dramas, Anime episodes are 25 minutes long on average. The Ad breaks are harder to not notice compared to live programming, which is 45 minutes on average. At the end of the day most viewers hate ads so…yeah.

Anyways in closing. I do worry the buyouts, takeovers and mergers will drive folks to use less legal means like many do for anime. DF (along with Viki and AsianCrush) provided a legal option for folks to get their fix on Asian programming. Big picture, DF was a drop in the bucket. Its loss will be felt for a while but as far as I can tell, Viki is not going anywhere anytime soon. I’m feeling pretty good about getting an anual subscription–hopefully sooner than later.

Viki and AsianCrush: A Pair of Free Streaming Services for Live Asian Programming

Image result for Viki DramaFever AsianCrushImage result for Viki DramaFever AsianCrush

 

I remember the first time I saw a live Asian program. I was 10 years old and it was on Cable TV back in 1994. I remember the period being the same year I had open heart surgery and I was channel surfing cable networks. I found a  kids drama that was set in modern-day China. I watched 4 episodes before I fell asleep. When I think about it, it was my first experience with Subs ever. And I liked it. 24 years later, I can now watch all the Live Action programs I want for free using one of the above streaming services.

Crunchyroll used to carry alot of Live Dramas but in recent years, they no longer carry new live-action programming. Crunchyroll still maintains their existing but small library of live programming and there are some must-watch shows including GTO: Great Teacher Onizuka, Dr. Coto’s Clinic, I’m Mita, Your Housekeeper, No Dropping Out: Dropping in at age 35 and Time Taxi.

…If you want alot more Live Asian programming then you can’t go wrong with these three services. Like Crunchyroll, Free accounts have similar restrictions you’ll need to get a premium subscription to remove:

  • Intermittent 60-second ads that can’t be skipped
  • No HD Options
  • Have to wait longer for new episodes of shows currently in progress
  • Some shows region locked
  • No Multistreaming (Can’t stream for 2 or more devices at the same time)

I plan to start with series and movies that have already aired all of their episodes personally so that’s a non-issue for me. I have also noticed when you stream AsianCrush from a browser, there are no ads. I have the App for both on my iPad but will stream from a browser on my iPad to bypass the ads until I get a paid subscription. The ads can’t be skipped from the App and when watching a movie they’re pretty disruptive to say the least.

Don’t worry, I do plan to post reviews for Live Asian programming I’m watching too. There is more I’d like to say about the explosion of interest in Anime and Live Asian Programming in North America but I’ll save it for a separate post that will also be posted in my new Politics blog.

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