Tickets on sale tomorrow! Final Fantasy: A New World


New World
A New World: intimate music from FINAL FANTASY returns to London for an up-close and personal Halloween performance, featuring the extraordinary music, characters, and settings of over 25 years of FINAL FANTASY, scored for a variety of chamber ensembles. Limited number VIP tickets for best seats and post-show meet and greet with Arnie Roth and Nobuo Uematsu available!

This most intimate experience of FINAL FANTASY music promises many of the favorites from last February’s London World Premiere concerts and recording as well as the World Premiere of FINAL FANTASY V: Home Sweet Home, plus so much more!

The concert is taking place on Friday 31 October at St. John’s Smith Square. Tickets for the concert only are priced at £25, 45, 50.

Tickets go on sale on Friday 29 August at 10am, so get in quick as they won’t be there long!

I’m posting this from a computer that won’t accept hyperlinks, so please make do with an unprofessional long link to the website for ticket sales: http://www.sjss.org.uk/events/new-world-intimate-music-final-fantasy

Double anime review: Accel World and Btooom!


Seeing as I have a few anime reviews to get through, I thought I’d try something different this week. I recently watched Accel World and Btoom! from MVM Entertainment, both series about video games and virtual worlds… so I thought I’d make them fight each other! We’ll go through a couple of key points about each series and give them ratings out of 10, then tally it up to pick a winning show.

Source: accel-world.net

Source: accel-world.net

Accel World is the brain child of Sunrise Studios (Cowboy Bebop, Code Geass) and Flying Dog (.hack, Sengoku Basara) set in the not-so-far future of 2046. Haruyuki Arita is a young boy who finds himself on the lowest social rungs of his school. Ashamed of his miserable life, he can only cope by indulging in virtual games. But that all changes when Kuroyukihime, the most popular girl in school, introduces him to a mysterious program called Brain Burst and a virtual reality called the Accel World.

btooom-anime

btooom-anime

Btooom! is also from is also the product of Flying Dog and Madhouse Studios (Cardcaptor Sakura, Metropolis movie) and based around a video game. Ryouta Sakamoto suddenly finds himself stranded on a mysterious island, equipped with a day’s worth of provisions, a bag of bombs, a strange crystal embedded in his left hand and a huge gaping hole in his memory. But it doesn’t take long to figure out what’s going on. Someone is attempting to recreate the ultra-violent Btoom! game in real life, and the island has been filled with an army of other unwilling players, each armed with one of the multiple variants of explosive weapons called BIM. There’s only one way off the island: kill seven other people before they can kill you! Can Ryouta repurpose his game based skills fast enough to survive?

Plot

In some ways, these two shows are quite similar in terms of plot as both revolve around teenagers’ obsession with video games and how it affects them in the real world.

Source: wegame

Source: wegame

In Accel World, teenagers wear special necklaces that hook them up to the internet and a virtual world where everyone has their own avatar. Some of them have a special programme called “Brain Burst” installed, which takes things to the next level with a virtual fighting game. The story starts by explaining the concept of the game, such as levelling up and clans, then moves on to virus and hackers. There’s a fair amount of plot and thematic progression, so each episode (26 in total) feels like part of a story and there’s very little filler, giving it a 7/10.

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blogspot

Btooom! has a slightly darker plot as the characters are uprooted from their normal lives and thrown onto an island where they have to kill each other in order to escape. There’s definitely a “Battle Royale”-esque element to it all and no shortage of insane people wanting to kill each other. You can’t escape and recuperate in the safety of the real world here, as you can in Accel World, which makes the whole scenario feel that much more hopeless and dangerous. All in all, a good action anime. For that reason, I’m giving Btooom! 8/10.

Characters

To be honest, I didn’t feel either series had exceptionally strong main characters. The main draw for me was the worlds in which they were set but everybody has different tastes.

Source: Gematsu

Source: Gematsu

Accel World has a more intriguing leading male character. Haruyuki is quite possibly the only fat main character I’ve come across in anime, which is quite refreshing. He starts off extremely whiny as you might expect but he does learn to stand up for himself eventually. Plus, his avatar in the online world is a pig, which is super cute.  The leading female character, Kuroyukihime, is your rather stereotypical ‘serious cool pretty girl’ – cut from the same cloth of a lot of other anime girls but certainly not a bad character in herself. The thing I struggled to accept the most about the whole series is actually her OTT confession of love for Haruyuki early on in the series. I appreciate anything can happen in anime but talk about an ‘odd couple’.

I actually preferred the secondary characters in Accel World, namely the other avatars such as Red Rider and Dusk Taker who I found a bit more three dimensional. If you’re not overly fussed about super developed characters but like seeing lots of different avatars fighting, Accel World is your kind of show. I’m going to give it a collective 7/10 for characterisation.

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Source:blogspot

Btooom! really let itself down in terms of characters for me. For a supposed NEET, Ryouta is very good-looking and pretty well built, which made his character itself a bit more unbelievable. That said, he isn’t completely two dimensional in that he’s only ever angry or mopey and goes through a lot of emotions during his time on the island – angry, distressed, terrified, resolute etcetc. Our heroine Himiko, however, is a complete pain in the backside. There has never been a more useless and dim female character in anime. It’s very hard to take her seriously when her breasts (bigger than her head) are bouncing about every two seconds and, better yet, reflecting bombs and defying gravity.

To be fair, Btooom! only has 13 episodes to develop its characters whereas Accel World has 26 but I still felt it was lacking for good leading characters. Again, I preferred the secondary characters like the bumbling businessman Taira and mysterious Nobutaka. The anime is based on a still-running manga and, to its credit, ends mid-series so there is a lot left to be explained about characters in the series. Still, I can’t give it more than a 5/10.

Animation

Both series have very lovely animation and great fight scenes – always a plus!

Source: mediacache

Source: mediacache

Accel World’s benefitted from some well-known art directors. Nobutaka Ike worked on the likes of Paprika and Takafumi Nishima on Monster and Steins Gate. I particularly enjoyed the fight scenes, which were very sharp. 8/10.

Source: blogspot

Source: blogspot

I really loved the animation for Btoom! The island looks beautiful, the characters sharp and deaths gory without being over the top. For this, it draws with Accel World and gets a nice 8/10.

Music

Accel World has a fantastic soundtrack, some of my favourite songs being ‘Silvery Wings’ and ‘Blood History’. There’s a big range of orchestral, jazz and guitar music thrown in there. It gets another 8/10 for this.

My favourite song from Btooom! is actually its opening theme, which really ‘gets you pumping’ as they say. I didn’t think the soundtrack was spectacular compared to Accel World, so will give it a 6/10.

And the winner is…

I’d heard good things about Accel World, so was keen to check it out when MVM released it. Overall, I enjoyed it and marathoned the whole series in three nights – a good sign. I’m one of those people who is drawn in by animation and music as much as plot, and for this reason the series wins with a collective 30/40!

Btooom! caught my eye from the beginning because of its plot and cool opening theme. The manga has very positive reviews but I feel the anime didn’t live entirely up to its potential because it only had 13 episodes to work with and had a girl with breasts that defied physics. If you like explosions and action anime, it’s still worth checking out with a healthy Sophie rating of 27/40.

6 Japanese restaurants for £60!


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That’s £10 for a meal per restaurant! Sound too good to be true? Well, it’s not!

This year’s London Restaurant Festival, a city wide celebration of eating out, presents “Japanese Journey”. For £60 (plus a £3.30 booking fee), you can visit six of London’s best ramen bars, sushi restaurants and Japanese izakayas in one day. You will enjoy a range of specialist Japanese dishes and Suntory whisky highball drinks (a refreshing blend of whisky, soda and ice – perfect with this food). There is no better nor authentic way to experience the variety of a wonderful nation’s cuisine.

Venues confirmed so far are Tonkotsu, Shoryu Soho, Kurobuta, Sticks ‘n’ Sushi, Kanada-Ya – one more still to be confirmed. The event is sponsored by Suntory Whiskey, which will also be offering special cocktails to accompany the Japanese Journey.

The Japanese journey is running on three different days: Saturday 11 October, Saturday 18 October and Saturday 25 October. So, why not persuade a friend to go with you and sample some of London’s best Japanese delights? £10 per restaurant works out to be a very good deal!

You can also explore the rest of the London Restaurant Festival website to see what other events take your fancy!

We’re going to Japan!


It’s true! The flights and (most of) the hotels are booked. I’ll be heading to Japan with my wonderful uni friend Oana at the end of March next year, so you can expect lots of blog content post-trip next year. In the meantime, I thought I’d turn to the internet for a bit of travel inspiration. We know where we’re going but not exactly what we’re doing, as there are a few places neither of us have been to before. So, here’s a list of the places we’re going to next year. Inspire us!

Tokyo

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You can’t go to Japan without going to Tokyo! I’m lucky enough to have been before, so have a good idea of the main places to visit and have also identified a few new things to do:

- The new Final Fantasy cafe

- A cat cafe!

- Odaiba and the giant Gundam!

Also on the list are the Ghibli Museum, Akihabara, Ikebukuro, Shinjuku, Shibuya, Asakusa and Ueno!

Sendai

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We’re having one day in Sendai, one of the cities I’ve been wanting to go to for years. Of course, that’s just because it’s the hometown of one of my favourite samurai – Date Masamune. On the list for this one is to try gyutan, the local ‘beef tongue’ speciality, Aoba Castle and catching the Date re-enactment troupe if we’re lucky. We don’t really know what to expect here, so pop your suggestions below!

Kyoto

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I’ve been told Kyoto doesn’t have much of a night life, so most of our activities will be done during the day here. Temples, restaurants and shopping are on the list here. We’re staying in a ryokan with a cat and a dog here right next to the Fushimi Inari shrine! We’ll also be having a day trip to Nara, home of the deer!

Osaka

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All we know about Osaka is that it’s amazing, exciting and massive. We’re staying near Osaka Castle here, so right in the tourist heartland, and will also be venturing out to the beautiful Minoo Park. Tips for night life much appreciated!

Takayama

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We hope we’ll be getting another taste of traditional Japanese culture here. We’ll be staying in another ryokan here near the Higashiyama Walk, a walking route through the temple town. There’s also a morning market to visit and side-trip to the beautiful Shirakawa-go, another place I’ve always wanted to go to.

So, we’re both saving up to go to Japan next year and are really looking forward to it! We’re both looking around for trip ideas but if you have any off-the-beaten track suggestions, post them below!

Image sources: Japan Guide

 

And the winner is…


hyperjapan2014

Who is the lucky winner of two tickets to HYPER JAPAN on Sunday 27th July?

*drum roll*

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Congratulations, Charlotte! Check your inbox for details of how to claim your prize. Thanks very much to everyone who entered – if I could have given you all tickets, I would have. Also, big thanks to the guys at HYPER JAPAN for providing tickets.

If you’re yet to organise your trip to HYPER JAPAN, here are a couple of very good reasons to persuade you:

I’ve just picked out a few things from the impressive schedule, so have a browse of the website and see what takes your fancy. I’ve always enjoyed HYPER JAPAN and there’s always something different to see/try/eat every time, so you should really get your skates on and book your tickets.

I’d love to go this year but academic duty calls. Come August, I’ll have handed in my diploma so will return properly to the world of blogging.

All that’s left to say is – have fun!

WIN! Two tickets to HYPER JAPAN!


hyperjapan2014

Great news, everyone! It’s competition time again – and this one’s pretty awesome.

This is your chance to win two (adult) tickets to the UK’s greatest celebration of all things Japanese – HYPER JAPAN – on Sunday 27 July.

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The rules are simple, just like HYPER JAPAN on Facebook and comment on this blog post below. The competition closes on Sunday 29 June and your tickets will be posted out to you. You’ll need to be living in the UK to enter. Remember that HYPER JAPAN runs from Friday 25 to Sunday 27 July and these tickets are for the Sunday only!

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The excitement continues to build for this summer’s HYPER JAPAN 2014! With new guests and exhibitors constantly being confirmed, the team are now starting to put together a provisional main stage timetable, which you can see hereMasked Ninja HIROKI will be flipping, twirling and spinning his way onstage, while traditional Japanese stage arts meet modern choreography and production values with the DEN Entertainment show “The Sake”.  HYPER JAPAN will have a very different meeting of cutting-edge tech and Japanese tradition in the form of Opera: AOI‘s debut, where synthesised singing gives voice to Bunraku puppetry. July’s HYPER JAPAN will also feature the return of crowd-favourite “KimoCos” duo YANAKIKU to London! There’s so much going on, and so much more to be added still, so as always, check out the website for the latest updates.ImageProxy

If you follow this blog, you’ll know I’m currently on hiatus while I focus on my work-related diploma. HYPER JAPAN falls on the final weekend I have to put on the finishing touches, so I sadly won’t be able to make it this year… but thanks to the wonderful people at HYPER JAPAN, one lucky person and their friend will (technically) be going in my place!

A quick announcement…


cat_statue_japanHi, everyone! If you’re particularly observant you might have noticed that I haven’t posted for a few weeks now. Unfortunately, I’m going to have to take a break for a slightly longer period of time than usual. Without boring you to death, I’ll be doing research for a diploma which will be keeping me busy right through until August.

Don’t worry, I’m not stopping blogging per se, but I will be posting on an ‘as and when’ basis rather than weekly. I do have a few films and DVDs to review, and will be making a trip to the famous Japan-inspired cat cafe in London next month, so don’t go away just yet!

Image source: obeythekitty

 

By SengokuSophie Posted in Other

Date for your diary: Tokaido Road at the Cheltenham Music Festival!


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Those of you who love your traditional Japanese music and performing arts might want to make a trip to the Cheltenham Music Festival this July. Tokaido Road, a new multi-media opera based on the Japanese artist Hiroshige’s iconic 53 Stations of the Tokaido, will premier at the festival on Sunday 6 July before touring seven other high profile venues in the UK.
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Okeanos, a UK Western-Japanese music ensemble, is behind this intriguing new performance. Visual art, mime, dance, music and poetry will be combined with traditional Japanese instruments, such as the koto and shamisen, with western ones.
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The premier event will open with a taste of traditional Japanese music, before composer Nicola LeFanu and librettist Nancy Gaffield discuss how this distinctive soundworld influenced the creation of this new multimedia opera, Tokaido Road.

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Taking its name from the series of vivid woodblock prints by Japanese artist Hiroshige, the opera brings Hiro – the figure present in every picture – to life. Journeying from Edo (Tokyo) to Kyoto against a backdrop of old and new images, Hiro tells of his encounters – humorous, amorous, tragic – through mime, dance, speech and song.

Tokaido Road looks like it will be a real treat, and as a regular to the Cheltenham festivals I really recommend you make a whole weekend out of it if you can! The tickets go on sale on 24 March, and you can buy them on the festival website.

Image credits: Greg Trezise, Cheltenham Festivals

WIN Hakuouki seasons 1, 2 and 3!


It’s my birthday this week and you know what that means – competition time! This one’s the best one yet and comes courtesy of the fantastic guys at MVM Entertainment, who’ve licensed one of my all-time favourite anime series, ‘Hakuoki’.

Up for grabs is not only the first season, but the second (‘Hakuoki Hekketsuroku’) and third (‘Hakuoki Reimeiroku’) as well! That’s almost the entire series, excluding the OVA, which you will also be able to buy in the near future. Read on for the review and details of how to enter…

Chizuru Yukimura has come to Kyoto looking for her father, a doctor who has gone missing. While there, she witnesses a fight between an Oni and the Shinsengumi. Taking her into custody, the Shinsengumi debates on what to do with Chizuru, when they discover that she is the daughter of the doctor for whom they are also looking. The Shinsengumi then take Chizuru along on their search after the missing doctor, from adventure to adventure.

The ‘Hakuoki’ anime series is loosely based on the history of the Shinsengumi, the ‘secret police’ of the late Tokugawa Shogunate and their struggle against the changing times as western culture permeates Japan. In terms of dates, characters and battles, its fairly accurate, which is good news for history fans. The whole demon thing obviously isn’t accurate but, compared to how ridiculous and over the top other ‘historical action’ series can be (*cough cough* Sengoku Basara) you can’t poke too many holes in it.

In case in wasn’t incredibly accurate by all the beautiful bishounen men on the DVD cover, ‘Hakuoki’ also sits comfortably in the romance category. The TV series is based on a Japanese dating sim video game, ‘Hakuoki ~ Shinsengumi Kitan ~ Demon of the Fleeting Blossom’. Samurai, romance, history? I’m sold!

The good news is this series isn’t just easy on the eye, although I’d definitely say this is one for the girls. It’s got action, great fight scenes, a decent historical backdrop, a fantastic soundtrack and beautiful art. The seasons develop well and each stand out on their own; where the first season sets the scene, the second gets a lot darker and ‘Game of Thrones’-esque, and the third is in fact a prequel to the first series. There are hours of viewing material in each of the DVDs and each episode brings you something new and different, so there’s no lull or time to get bored in between episodes. Out of the lot, season two is by far my personal favourite.

How to enter

Simply like MVM Entertainment on Facebook then leave a comment below this blog post telling us you’ve done so! Get your entries in by 7pm Friday 28 March. So, get liking, sharing and watching!

A massive thanks to MVM Entertainment for providing an amazing prize. You can check out their other fantastic titles here!

‘Another': anime review


another_animeSince I started studying for a Diploma last month, my anime-watching time has been somewhat reduced and I’ve been a lot more selective in my viewing habits. This was why I chose to watch ‘Another’, a recent release from MVM Entertainment, among all the other great shows available to buy at the moment.

‘Another’ is an unpredictable and, at times, heart-stopping paranormal horror story crammed into just 12 episodes. Right from the first episode, I was hooked and blitzed through the whole series in just two nights. The balance between concise story-telling and not throwing the entire plot in front of the audience in the first 20 minutes, a trap that a lot of short anime series fall into, is almost perfect.

When Kouichi Sasakibara transfers to his new school, he can sense something frightening in the atmosphere of his new class, a secret none of them will talk about. At the center is the beautiful girl Mei Misaki. Kouichi is immediately drawn to her mysterious aura, but then he begins to realize that no one else in the class is aware of her presence.

The less I elaborate on the plot, the better. This really isn’t just because I can’t be bothered to write a long review but because it takes a few episodes to fully comprehend what’s going on in the school and who all the characters are. All I will say is nothing is as it seems and the ending is impactful yet leaves the right amount of mystery, although I did see one or two of the plot twists coming. It is in fact based on a Japanese novel of the same name by Yukito Ayatsuji and, from what my internet research has told me, sticks very close to the plot, so that might also be a read too!

SceneI’m a big fan of the psychological horror anime series which have a good balance of gratuitious blood, hysterical school girls and comedy, like ‘Higurashi no Naku Koro ni’ and ‘Mirai Nikki’, so if you’ve enjoyed either of those shows ‘Another’ will be right up your alley. This show also wins extra points for some very creative deaths and, even if you can end up reading the comments in Youtube and spoil yourself (not recommended!), you’ll spend a lot of your time half-hiding behind a cushion.

The animation and soundtrack also add to the eerie ghost story effect, as does the mysterious character design for Mei herself. The only thing I didn’t like about the show was actually the way it was all wrapped up – I’m all for leaving some mystery but I was actually just confused, and a little bit annoyed. For this reason, ‘Another’ gets an impressive 9/10.