Wednesday, December 28, 2011

2012: What Is Really Going to Happen?

On December 21, 2012, the ancient Mayan "Long Count" Calendar comes to an abrupt end. There are many scientific theories and historic prophecies that claim this will be the end of times (apocalypse), galactic alignment of the planets and stars (cosmic shifting), or the beginning of a new cycle for humanity (genesis). According to USA Today:
But scholars are bristling at attempts to link the ancient Maya with trends in contemporary spirituality. Maya civilization, known for advanced writing, mathematics and astronomy, flourished for centuries in Mesoamerica, especially between A.D. 300 and 900. Its Long Count calendar, which was discontinued under Spanish colonization, tracks more than 5,000 years, then resets at year zero.

Part of the 2012 mystique stems from the stars. On the winter solstice in 2012, the sun will be aligned with the center of the Milky Way for the first time in about 26,000 years. This means that "whatever energy typically streams to Earth from the center of the Milky Way will indeed be disrupted on 12/21/12 at 11:11 p.m. Universal Time."

What is really going to happen at the end of the calendar 2012? Only time will tell.

The buildup to 2012 echoes both excitement and fear. I compiled a short list of websites that discuss the 2012 phenomenon in greater detail below:

Besides the U.S. presidential election, I believe 2012 will be a fascinating year filled with suspense and drama. This is the final post of 2011. Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Family captures 'Ghost of Christmas Past' on cell phone video

A friend found this video in a town outside South Bend, Indiana. Some people are calling it the Ghost of Christmas Past!

This video demonstrates that our loved ones always visit their families during this special holiday season. I wish everyone a Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Review: Blue Exorcist (2011)

Blue Exorcist (2011) is a Japanese fantasy anime about two twin brothers who are the sons of Satan. Unaware of their birth origin, Father Shiro Fujimoto raises the boys as their guardian. The series contains 25 episodes plus an upcoming movie (December 2011 release).

Humans and demons live in two dimensions that are not meant to interfere with each other. Despite this rule, demons from Gehenna (hell) still enter and possess creatures and objects in Assiah (earth). Humans who fight these demons are known as exorcists, professionals trained in the art of combat and holy scripture.

The story revolves around Rin Okumura, the older teen brother who possess abnormal strength. Despite his aggressive behavior and clumsiness, he is a good kid with a strong sense of justice. When his younger brother, Yukio Okumura, leaves the monastery to study at the prestigious True Cross Academy, the monastery is attacked and Rin discovers he bears the curse of Satan (blue flames). Father Fujimoto sacrifices himself to save him from demons. To avenge his guardian's death, Rin ends up doing what his guardian asked him never to do: he draw the demon-slaying blade Kurikara, which restrains his demonic powers, from its scabbard. He not only gains demonic physical features (fangs, pointed ears and a tail), but also the power to ignite himself into blue flames that can destroy anything they touch.

From this moment forward, Rin decides to follow the path of an exorcist in order to defeat his father, Satan. He meets Mephisto Pheles, the preceptor of True Cross Academy, to enroll in the school. Much to his surprise, he finds that Yukio is already a veteran exorcist and will be one of his instructors. Rin will face many trials to control his blue flames and protect those he cherishes.

Initially, I had low expectations about this show because I am generally not a fan of demon shows. However, I became instantly hooked with the plot. Each episode made me more curious; I had to know what would happen next. Rin Okumura is a male protagonist that makes you want to like him for his courage, tenacity, and will-power. He cares deeply for his younger brother (although Yukio does not realize this until the end) and the well-being of his friends. Although he is the son of Satan, he manages to persuade others that he still has a human soul. Other common themes throughout the show were the importance of teamwork and trust.

The plot was invigorating and fun to watch. The action was solid, and the pacing kept me interested for more episodes. In my opinion, Blue Exorcist was one of the best supernatural anime shows in 2011. If you have not watched it, I highly recommend this show. For serious fans, the manga is still ongoing if you desire more stories about the twin brothers.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Review: A.D. Police (1999)

A.D. Police ~To Protect and Serve~ (1999) is a Japanese science fiction anime about a police squadron who must battle boomers (i.e., robots in rogue) before the entire Genom City (formerly Tokyo) falls to these devastating machines. There are twelve episodes in the two-CD disc case.

Based upon earlier popular police-crime drama shows, such as NYPD Blue and Hill Street Blues, this police squadron use futuristic high-tech weapons to destroy these machines. Genom City, after a major earthquake that shattered almost the entire city, used robots to rebuild its city infrastructure and public works. However, if these robots go in rogue (lose their internal capabilities to function properly), they become psychopathic boomers and destroy/kill anyone or anything in their paths. This is where the A.D. Police come where the traditional police cannot handle these situations.

Genom Corporation, which has a major influence in Genom City, develops military and construction robots, who eerily resemble the Terminator film series. The A.D. police monitors illegal sales of Genom robots and rush to the scenes. Two major characters in this story are Kenji Sasaki, an aloof, quick and ambitious bad-boy cop who always does things his way and his new partner, Hans Kleif, a light-hearted but serious German pretty-boy transfer to help the squadron after Kenji loses his former partner in a boomer accident. Hans has no recollection of his childhood memory and has a bomb fragment in his head. The audience will see the events in this series mostly through Kenji's eyes although the director does consider Hans' perspective as well.

Boomers (rogue robots) were a popular story device back in the 1990s. Many animation producers were creating Bubblegum Crisis investigative spin-offs to ride the hype. The last few episodes reveal a detrimental climax not only for Kenji but also for people close to Hans. This is where viewers would find this series the most interesting. However, It leaves little behind to appreciate once it ends. If you are a Bubblegum Crisis fan, you may want to keep this in your video library. Is it original and innovative? Not really, this is its weakness. However, the soundtrack is very nice to listen. Overall, it is a good show to watch if you have nothing to do. The Bubblegum Crisis series is much better for serious watchers. This show is also available on DVD.

A.D. Police Trailer

Friday, December 16, 2011

Paranormal News Central: Top 10 Signs Your House Is Haunted

Have you ever wondered if your home was haunted by ghosts? Paranormal News Central lists ten signs everyone should know so that they can take the proper next steps. Sometimes, you may have friendly spirits who are harmless and eventually move on. It is the angry and evil spirits that trouble most people and can cause emotional and physical harm.

10. Strange smells

9. Odd dreams of people or places you don't know

8. Feeling of being watched

7. Heaviness in the Air

6. Noises

5. Changes in air temperature

4. Things moving around

3. Being touched

2. Sudden changes in mood or behavior

1. Seeing is believing

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Review: Les Miserables - Shoujo Cosette (2007)

Les Miserables - Shoujo Cosette (2007) is a Japanese World Masterpiece Theater anime based on the 1862 novel by Victor Hugo. The plot is set in nineteenth century France, and the show contains 52 episodes. Unlike the novel, Cosette is the protagonist in the anime. Through her eyes, the adptation has a more vivid, thrilling and heart-warming take on the nature of good, evil, and law around familial and romantic love.

A young Cosette is traveling with her mother, Fantine, through France as she tries to find stable employment. However, few employers would hire a single mother. When Fantine is promised with the prosperity of working the big city, she hires a caretaker, the Thernadiers, to watch over Cosette while she earns some money. Unfortunately, this arrangement was a trick: the Thernadiers were a couple family who turned Cosette into their own indentured servant. Here, Cosette is exposed to the worst kinds of child labor (see Little Princess Sara). Nevertheless, Cosette has close friends who keep her spirit strong so that one day she can reunite with her mother.

Meanwhile, Fantine’s health and her own lodging debts worsen while the Thénardiers’ letters continue to grow and their financial demands become more costly. Her overworking causes her to become sick with a cough and fever (later diagnosed as tuberculosis). She is fired from her job when news spread that she is an unwed mother. The kind and just mayor of Montreuil-sur-Mer discovers her body in the streets, and takes her to the hospital. There, she hears her last wish to reunite with her daughter, Cosette.

As a former ex-convict who lives in secrecy from the law, the mayor of Montreuil-sur-Mer, also known as M. Madeleine, feels determined to find and update her daughter. He also realizes that French social norms failed Fantine. He sees how winds of change are so detrimental for disadvantaged children and families, and decides to do something about it. When he discovers Cosette with the Therandiers, he is surprised how badly they have mistreated her. He decides to adopt and raise Cosette as his own daughter so that Cosette can become the educated and beautiful lady that Fantine always desired.

I really enjoyed this adaptation of Les Miserables. The novel is actually written from Jean Valjean's perspective and his struggles with redemption. As a historical fiction, it takes place during the June Rebellion, an unsuccessful, anti-monarchist insurrection of Parisian Republicans—-largely students—-from June 5 to June 6, 1832. It is also a social protest novel because it focuses on major themes, such as justice, morality, self-sacrifice, social transformation, and even the plight of orphans within French society. Nevertheless, many readers will find this anime delightful and thrilling.

The two-disc OST soundtrack is also excellent. The songs sound jovial, mysterious, and revolutionary. For instance, I could sense the students' courage and spirit as they protest the French government in the songs. Overall, I highly recommend this anime to all audiences. The World Masterpiece Theater did a great job with this adaptation, and will always remain one of the most popular novels of all time.

Opening Theme:
"Kaze no Mukou" by Yuki Saito

Ending Theme:
"Ma maman (Watashi no Okasan)" by Yuki Saito

Friday, December 9, 2011

Review: Daddy-Long-Legs (1990)

Daddy-Long-Legs (1990) is a World Masterpiece Theater Japanese anime based on the 1912 novel by Jean Webster. It follows the young female protagonist, Jerusha "Judy" Abbott, through her high school years. She writes letters to her benefactor, a rich man whom she has never met, and thereafter addresses him as "Dear Daddy-Long-Legs" in the series. It contains 40 episodes.

Judy Abbott is a cheerful and intelligent orphan at the John Grier Home. Her parents died when when she was an infant. The children are wholly dependent on charity and must wear other people's cast-off clothes. She has been given the opportunity to study at the prestigious Lincoln Memorial High School by a mysterious benefactor whom she only knows as "John Smith". She has only seen his shadow once, and because of his long legs, she calls him "Daddy Long Legs". He will pay her tuition and also give her a generous monthly allowance. Judy must write him a monthly letter, because he believes that letter-writing is important to the development of a writer. However, she will never know his identity. The only payment she is to give her benefactor is that she write him letters every month but he will never reply.

In high school, Judy thrives as an imaginative student. Her roommates, Sally McBride and Julia Pendleton, also enjoy her whimsical and sincere nature. She also learns etiquette and social norms among New York high society. However, she never confides with anyone that she is an orphan. Since Daddy Long Legs is the only family she has, she gradually becomes attached to him through her letters.

Daddy-Long-Legs was an entertaining show that delighted me. Set in the early 20th century, young women from elite and well-established backgrounds attended private schools and eventually enrolled in private women's colleges like the Northeast's Seven Sisters (e.g., Wellesley, Smith, Radcliffe, Mount Holyoke, Bryn Mawr, Simmons, Vassar, Barnard). Many young women were exploring their options, and the anime (and novel) discuss typical young adult issues. As a coming-of-age story, Judy knows her orphan status makes her different and isolated from her rich classmates. Nevertheless, she enjoys school and gradually gains self-confidence.

It is also a surprising love story. Judy is intrigued and desperate to know more about this mysterious benefactor who suddenly shows interest in her education and well-being. Over the years, Judy grows up to be a lively and attractive young woman with a vivid imagination who takes delight in the pleasures of ordinary life. It is no wonder that her friends and benefactor (none other than Jervis Pendleton) find her company enjoyable. Jervis, who finds high-society life mundane and unbearable, likes her free-spirited nature and eventually falls in love with her.

Of course, over the years of her study at college Judy grows into a lively and attractive young woman who takes enormous delight in the little pleasures of ordinary life. It's easy to see why Jervis Pendleton, her rich room-mate's uncle, finds her company so enjoyable.

The themes of the book also reflect upon Webster's Progressive-Era interests in social work and women's suffrage. Webster insists that American society pay attention to child welfare issues (in this case, orphans), and access to a quality education should not be reserved to the privileged few. As an early feminist piece, it is also promotes that women can become independent thinkers and their voices should be heard in public. In the anime, Judy Abbott loosely resembles Pippi Longstocking (who, in other children's tales, is also very intelligent and imaginative with a strong sense of justice) as a tease, revealing how both share similar personalities.

Young adults will easily relate to Judy Abbott. I highly recommend this story.

Opening Theme: "Growing Up" by Mitsuko Horie

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Review: Little Princess Sara (1985)

A Little Princess Sara (1985) is a World Masterpiece Theater Japanese anime based on the popular English classic children's novel, A Little Princess (1904), by Frances Hodgson Burnett. It contains 52 episodes.

Sara Crewe, the daughter of a rich miner from India, is an intelligent, polite, and creative young girl. She is brought all the way to London in Victorian-era England for a formal education. The teachers and students learn she is quite advanced for her age. For instance, she speaks French perfectly and immediately becomes the top student. She helps everybody and loves everybody, from little Lottie who is too young for school and desperately needs a mother, to the child servants, Becky and Peter, who are often ignored and mistreated. But the most important thing is Sara's wealth, which make her Miss Minchin's student representative, evoking the mortal jealousy of Lavinia, the ex-favorite.

When word spreads about her father's death and bankruptcy on her birthday, Sara becomes a penniless orphan. Miss Minchin, scared that throwing the girl out will ruin her school's reputation, lets Sara stay, but makes her life impossible. Sara humbly accepts her new fate and is subjected to servitude of the worst kind. At the upscale boarding school, Sara is forced to tolerate the haughty, disdainful headmistress, Miss Minchin. She has to do the hardest work in the kitchen, sleep in a dilapidated attic, and goes to bed mostly hungry, with all of Lavinia's hatred and Miss Minchin's despisal now released at her. Despite her misfortune, Sara's spirit is not broken and proves that anyone can be a "little princess." She remains proud and imaginative as ever as she masters her new life, and her true friends never let her down.

This is one time I will say that the Victorian era (both American and British) produced many classic novels that are still enjoyed by readers a century later. A Little Princess is one of them. Originally a novella, Burnett was inspired by Charlotte Bronte's unfinished novella, Emma, which features a rich heiress with a mysterious past who is apparently abandoned at a boarding school. Fortunately, Burnett expanded the novella to a full-length novel after much success as a Broadway play. When I first heard of this story, I saw the abridged film version, A Little Princess (1995), which takes place in late nineteenth-century New York City. Although I enjoyed it, I felt the story had to cut many memorable parts of the novel to fit a small two-hour window. Thus, I was so delighted to see how the Japanese brought this story to life which no other film company has been able to accomplish.

Since this novel was written during the Progressive Era, Burnett inserted many social protest moments that would make viewers question societal norms, particularly child labor (servitude). Although we have rules and regulations for minors in the workforce, such laws did not exist in the 19th Century. It is hard to fathom that it was once legal for poor children as young as eight years old to work 12-hour shifts. Poor families were dependent on their children for income, and the working conditions were often unbearable. It would take years of progressive social reforms, both direct and indirect like this novel, to expose the magnitude of the social problems to governments. By the 1930s, most Western nations passed labor protection laws for children.

I love this anime because Nippon Animation did an excellent job highlighting both Sara's tenacity and the child labor practices of the time. Although it is underrated, I recommend anime fans with a taste for historical fiction to watch this show. I will hint that good fortune does come her way in the end. It is definitely worth the entire 52 episodes.

Opening Theme: "Hana no Sasayaki" by Satoko Shimonari

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Review: Twice Bitten (Chicagoland Vampires #3)

Merit, Chicago's newest vampire, is learning how to play well with others. Other supernaturals, that is.

Twice Bitten, by Chloe Neill, is the third novel in the Chicagoland Vampire series. Shapeshifters from across the nation are convening in Chicago to decide whether they should remain or move back to their ancestral land in Alaska. Cadogan Master vampire, Ethan Sullivan, has offered Gabriel Kenne, the Apex (alpha leader) of the North American Pack, his very special bodyguard, Merit, to protect him during this significant event. Although tensions are high between the shapeshifters and vampires, the two groups ultimately desire peace and alliances.

Merit accepts this important missions even if she lives to regret it. Someone is trying to assassinate the Apex. It is her duty to investigate and track down the culprit -- even if guns are flying. Meanwhile, another Master vampire, an old love whom Ethan created prior to turning Merit, makes a surprise visit to Cadogan House. Moments of jealousy and shame frustrate Merit. Can Ethan and Merit settle their romantic feelings for each other even when their positions come first?

This series continues to become more thrilling. The last half of the novel was excellent. Niell knows how to merge different subplots smoothly into one impeccable ending. I am starting to like Merit (hint: her real name is revealed!) as a protagonist because she is smart, funny, loyal, sexy and, more importantly, badass. This novel officially proves why she is the Sentinel of Cadogan House. I cannot wait to read more adventures about katana-swinging Merit and Chicago's supernatural world.

Stay tuned for the next novel in the Chicagoland Vampires series, Hard Bitten

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Review: Blood-C (2011)

Blood-C (2011) is a Japanese supernatural anime based on the popular Blood/Saya series in Japan. It takes place in contemporary Japan. and contains 13 episodes. In the plot, Saya seems like a normal girl living with her father in a shrine. During the day, she is a typical high school student who spends time with her friends. At night, however, she is a hunter who is called upon the sword to protect the village from strange human-eating monsters. Despite her promise to protect people, her kindness leads to misfortune as more innocent people continue to die. As a result, she suffers psychological distress and repetitive flashbacks that she cannot remember. As the story continues to unfold, Saya faces her greatest test. Furthermore, she may finally remember what she promised.

Wow, this show really surprised me. The plot was well calculated and the details of Saya's past came forth in a smooth and mind-boggling way. I loved how everything unraveled at the end of the show. The creators (CLAMP also were the art directors for Tsubasa Chronicle and Code Geass) showed clips of the last episode throughout the plot but you don't know what it means until you watch the entire show. This version is closely related to Blood: The Last Vampire. In some ways, it begins after the army base attack and describes Saya's origins. Ironically, everything about her life is part of a sick and twisted game. In the end, Saya demands vengeance for being used and discarded.

This show is NOT for the faint of heart (especially children). It is very graphic and intense action, especially the second half of the show. Although I am used to horror shows, there were moments where the senseless violence, death and blood (scenes were censored) still rattled my nerves. This show is for serious Saya / Blood fans who do not mind gore and the element of surprise. Otherwise, I recommend Blood: The Last Vampire and Blood+ (both of which I have reviews on this blogs). Both shows contain less violence and are more suitable to most PG-rated audiences.

The good news is there will be a movie that continues this storyline called Blood-C: The Last Dark. It will premiere in Japan in June 2012. The film may finally provide fans solutions to the origins of Saya. I hope it is less graphic than the TV series because the imagery can be horrific in a gore sense.

Opening Song: "Spiral" by DUSTZ

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

"The Woman In Black" Film Trailer

I saw this film trailer for The Woman in Black in the movie theater, and thought this would intrigue many paranormal fans. Finally, a historical, haunted ghost film that seems worth watching. It will premiere in February 2012. Harry Potter fans will enjoy watching Daniel Radcliffe in an investigative role. Here is a short synopsis from IMDB: "Young lawyer Arthur Kipps travels to a remote village to organize a recently deceased client's papers, where he encounters the ghost of a scorned woman set on vengeance."

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Review: Blade the Animation (2011)

Blade the Animation (2011) is a Japanese supernatural anime based on the Marvel Comics. It contains 12 episodes. Erik Brooks a.k.a. Blade is a "Daywalker" vampire hunter who was born with human and vampire genes after a vampire attacked his mother, Carol, in London, England. He sought assistance from Noah Van Helsing. After years of martial arts training and medical breakthroughs to curb his thirst for blood, vampires worldwide fear him. In the beginning, he is visiting Japan on a mission: confront Deacon Frost, the vampire who killed his mother, and uncover the truth about "Existence", a mysterious organization of rogue vampires and creatures in Japan and Southeast Asia. He also makes friends and allies along his journeys.

This is the fourth Marvel Comics series that has become a Japanese anime. I was impressed with Japanese version of the show, which takes place in Asia. The actors did a great job giving the main cast some personality and humor. Blade looks awesome in this version -- he can kick ass and protect others. I am now curious to watch the previous Marvel Comics animes (X-Men, Iron Man, and Wolverine). Blade concludes the four-part Marvel Anime project. In fact, Wolverine makes a cameo appearance in one of the episodes. With intense action and good storytelling, I highly recommend the show.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Snow White and the Huntsman Movie First Trailer

If you're looking for more fairy-tale action, a teaser trailer has been released for the upcoming film, Snow White and the Huntsman. It will premiere in movie theaters in Spring 2012. It is a darker abridged version of the famous children's story, where the Evil Queen (Charlize Theron) ironically looks more beautiful and amazing than Snow White (sorry Twilight fans, but Kristen Stewart is, at best, average).

Monday, November 14, 2011

Review: Micah's Magick (Elemental Witches Novella)'s Magick, by Anya Bast, is a novella based on the Elemental Witches series. Micah, a handsome research and development scientist for the Coven, lost his magick after the attack in Witch Fury. Since he can no longer use his own magick to conduct experiments. Emily Randolph, a gifted earth witch, volunteers to assist him with testing spells in the research lab. Although Micah still grieves for his loss, he continues with his work and gradually notices Emily's beauty.

Word spreads that Sefan escaped the palace in Eudae, another dimension where Coven witches have their origins. Although he lost his magick, Stefan is still a threat to all witches on Earth. Four witches -- Claire, Adam, Micah and Emily -- are chosen to capture Stefan alive in Eudae. They must find him before he starts another war with Coven Witches. In addition, Micah may discover another magick precious to him.

I was delighted to find this novella on the Internet because I always wondered when Bast would create another story. The Elemental Witches series is full of dark mystery, paranormal romance, and sexual fantasy. Each witch has a special elements (air, fire, water, and earth). Since this is free, please do not plagarize her work. I hope Bast continues to write more interesting tales about the Coven witches.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Review: Monster (2004-2005)

Monster (2004-2005) is a Japanese mystery animated series about a Japanese man who is determined to find the true identity of a young boy who later turned into a Monster (serial killer and psychopath) in Germany. Filled with intense mystery and lauded with praise, it contains a breath-taking 74 episodes.

Dr. Kenzou Tenma was a highly-acclaimed Japanese neurosurgeon in Germany that had it all in the 1980s: a rich and beautiful German fiancee and a promising career at Eisler Memorial Hospital in Dusseldorf. However, after becoming disenchanted by hospital politics for treating patients, he choose to save the life of a young boy who got shot in the head over the life of the mayor. His twin sister, Anna Liebert, keeps muttering about killing, and Tenma decides to operate on Johan instead of the mayor of Düsseldorf who arrived afterwards. Johan is saved, but Mayor Roedecker dies. This decision would change his life forever: he lost the support of the hospital director as well as his position in the hospital and his fiance. After his dismissal, the hospital director and the doctors that replaced him were mysteriously murdered. Both children disappear from the hospital soon after. The police suspect Tenma, as he benefits greatly from this turn of events, but they have no evidence and do not further question him.

These events placed Tenma back onto the top of his career. Nine years later, Dr. Tenma is now the Chief of Surgery at Eisler Memorial Hospital. After saving a known criminal named Adolf Junkers after being hit by a car, he hears him muttering about a "monster". Tenma extends kindness to Junkers. But Tenma did not get a easy life. Then one evening, when Dr. Tenma comes back with a clock as a gift for Junkers, he finds the guard in front of Junkers's room dead, and Junkers himself gone. Following the trail to the construction site of a half-finished building near the hospital, Tenma finds Junkers being held at gunpoint. An unknown man warns Tenma against coming closer, and pleads with him to run away. Tenma refuses, however, and the man holding the gun is revealed to be the boy whose life Tenma had saved nine years ago, Johan Liebert. Despite Dr. Tenma's attempt to reason with him, Johan shoots the criminal, tells Tenma that he could never kill the man who had saved his life, and then walks off into the night while Tenma is still too shocked to stop him.

After this incident, Tenma is again suspected by the police, particularly Inspector Runge, and he tries to find more information about this "Johan". He soon discovers that the boy's sister, now named Nina, is happily living the life of an adopted daughter to two caring parents. Tenma discovers her and manages to prevent her from meeting her brother, but comes too late to stop Johan from murdering her foster parents. As the story progresses, the origins of this monster emerge in the former East Germany, using a secret orphanage called 511 Kinderheim (where Johan came from) to create the "perfect soldiers" through "psychological reprogramming." It seems that the boy Tenma saved was much more than he had appeared to be. After learning the scope of the atrocities committed by the Monster, Tenma must clear his name and correct his past mistake: he must investigate the truth of the Monster and end it once and for all.

Monster is one of the few gems in Japanese anime history that is worthy of every praise and excellence. I didn't know what to expect when I watched the first episode, but the suspenseful and puzzling plot drew me closer to the characters. I sympathized with Tenma and Anna Liebert for wanting to end the Monster. I had to know how this series would end. Taking place in Germany and the Czech Republic, this superb investigative drama felt so real that it kept me curious each time. Although it took over a year to finish (74 episodes!), I am grateful that I took a chance on this series. I highly recommend it because it was very entertaining and well-done for the adult mystery genre. I also loved the symbolism in the opening and ending music.

There are discussions in remaking this anime into a live-action Hollywood film. Hopefully, it receives the green light for production.

Ending Song #1: "For The Love of Life" by David Sylvian (eps 1-32)

Ending Song #2: "Make It Home" by Fujiko Heming (eps 33-74)

Monday, November 7, 2011

Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part One Film Trailer

In less than two weeks, the latest Twilight Saga film, Breaking Dawn Part One, will premiere in movie theaters on Friday, November 18, 2011. Watch the trailer below:

Friday, November 4, 2011

Review: Friday Night Bites (Chicagoland Vampires #2)

Some things are best left in the dark.

So now my "master" -- centuries-old yet gorgeously well-preserved Ethan Sullivan -- wants me to reconnect with my own upper-class family and act as liaison between humans and vampires...and to keep the more unsavory aspects of our existence out of the media. But someone doesn't want people and vamps to play nicey-nice -- someone with an ancient grudge.

Friday Night Bites, by Chloe Neill, is the second novel in the Chicagoland Vampires series. Several months later, Merit is learning her new role role as Sentinel (guardian) of Cadogan House. She is strong and beautiful with a major appetite for all foods based in Chicago! Vampires are the latest celebrities in the Windy City -- paparazzi and news reporters want the latest buzz about their undead residents. Although the public isn't thrilled about their supernatural residents, anxious and disgruntled feelings have appeared to subside.

However, that will change when news spread about the Raves, mass feeding parties where vampires drink blood excessively from humans. A news reporter from an elite Chicago family has a serious grudge against vampires and wants to publish this information to the public. Meanwhile, Ethan Sullivan, Master of Cadogan House, wants to use Merit to re-connect with the Chicago upper-class to gather intelligence and alliances. To make matters worse, the shifters are convening in Chicago to settle their futures among humans.

Magic is rising, and war may loom on the horizon. Her relationship with Morgan, recently promoted Master of Navvare House, is not working and her friendship with Mallory is on the brink of disaster. Can Merit discover the assailant behind the threats against the supernatural? Can Merit come to terms with her own vampire identity? How will she handle betrayal and loss? Only you can find out in Friday Night Bites.

Finally, another book about Merit! Neill introduces readers with more supernatural characters. The plot was enjoyable with some sneak peaks on Merit's family, childhood friends and new identity as Sullivan's partner a.k.a. vampire investigator and guardian. I believe there is some chemistry between the two, but their relationship will slowly progressed until Ethan recognizes what he desires most. The ending includes a major surprise by an enemy character in the previous novel that Neill may not address until later in the series. Let's just say that Merit finally understands why she must become stronger in mind and body. The next novel will focus on the shape-shifters in Chicago.

A major pet peeve about this novel is that the author criticizes Michigan with references like "No one wants to visit Detroit!". As a Michigan native, that hurt because it came across as if the state is some backwater region (when it has a better quality of life than some states below the Mason-Dixon line). I will let it slide, but sometimes I do wonder where does Neill's loyalties lie (the Midwest or New York).

Stay tuned for the next novel in the Chicagoland Vampires series, Twice Bitten.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Michigan's Dogman Coming to Silver Screen in 2012

The Detroit Free Press describes the Dogman below:
Strong, lean muscles strain under dark fur. Teeth and fangs flash beneath demonic eyes. A growl emerges as he rises to stand on his hind legs, stretching to more than 7 feet tall.

He is the Dogman, a legend of the vast Michigan woods, described with remarkable consistency by hunters, farmers and even the occasional motorist in reported encounters that date back centuries.

You can read more about the legends behind the Michigan Dogman on Absolute Michigan. The upcoming film will hit theatres nationwide in 2012. Stay tuned for more updates.

What do you know about the Michigan Dogman?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Happy Halloween plus Thriller animated video

A friend found this 3-D animation of the late Michael Jackson's hit music video, "Thriller," on YouTube. All the cast members are animals (Michael Jackson's character resembles a monkey). I thought it was funny and excellent. It also followed the original music video very well. For those of you who are too old to trick-and-treat, make sure you visit your local haunted houses and hit the dance clubs/costume parties! Have a safe and happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

'Grimm' (NBC) Season Premiere

The second new fairy tale series is Grimm. It is about a Portland, OR police detective, who discovers he is a descendant of the famous Grimm family, special crime fighters responsible for keeping mythological shape-shifting wolves and other creatures from the door of civilized society. With the ability to see their true forms, it is his destiny as a hunter to destroy the creatures before they wreak havoc on society. The first episode will premiere on Friday, October 28, 2011 on NBC. You may watch the preview trailer below.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Huffington Post: Ghost Towns of the World

The Huffington Post has a photo slideshow about ghost towns around the world. More eerily, two of the towns happen to be in my native state, Michigan.

Click here for more information about the book by National Geographic.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

'Once Upon a Time' Season Premiere

ABC will launch a new TV series, Once Upon a Time, that combines fairy tale magic with contemporary suspense. Personally, I am intrigued by the twist in the plot: In a magical land, Prince Charming saves Snow White. Just before they officially wed, the evil witch appears in the court and curses the kingdom to another time and place where the main characters are ignorant of their past lives. It premiers Sunday, October 23, 2011 at 8:00pm Eastern Time.


Pilot Sneak Peak

And here is the rest of it.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Review: Majin Tantei Nougami Neuro (2007-2008)

Majin Tantei Nougami Neuro ~Neuro: Supernatural Detective~ (2007-2008) is a Japanese supernatural detective anime about a demon searching for the ultimate mystery. In English, the title translates to "Demonic Detective Nougami Neuro." This series contain 25 episodes.

Yako Katsuragi's father was murdered in a locked room. Then, she meets Neuro Nougami, who is a demon from Hell who feasts on puzzles and riddles. He forces Yako to act as a detective so that he can solve mysteries. He comes to the human world because he has eaten every mystery in the demon world. He featss on mysteries offered by humans who release negative energy from their planned crimes. Yako teams up with Neuro to solve crimes for his appetite and investigate her father's mysterious murder.

After solving many crimes, a new case causes a criminal named X to take an interest in Neuro as a demon. Nonetheless, Neuro accepts his challenges and defeats him easily. Later on, an evil organization of super humans initiate their plans to destroy the human race. Will Neuro and Yako be able to defeat the organization before it is too late?

The anime is awesome to describe it in one word. It is entertaining, and it will keep you at the edge of your seat. Although the weekly villains was a nuisance at first, the Arcs shown at each episode will keep you coming back for more. This anime is sure to add a little more flavor to your anime collection. The show will make you shake, scream, laugh and you will get creep out so much that you will just want to re-watch it! I highly recommend this detective series.

Opening Song: "DIRTY" by Nightmare

Ending Song: Kodoku no Hikari" by Kagami Seira

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Review: Bloodlines (Spin-off from Vampire Academy)

I wasn't free of my past, not yet.

Sydney's blood is special. That's because she's an alchemist--one of a group of humans who dabble in magic and serve to bridge the worlds of humans and vampires. They protect vampire secrets--and human lives. But the last encounter Sydney had with vampires got her in deep trouble with the other alchemists. And now with her allegiances in question, her future is on the line."

Bloodlines, by Richelle Mead, is the seventh novel in the Vampire Academy series. This is the first book where Rose Hathaway is not the protagonist; it focuses on the other main cast characters (in this case, Sydney ). The story picks up from the previous novel, Last Sacrifice, where Sydney is ordered out of bed in the middle of the night to face Alchemist leaders. At first, she thinks she's still being punished for her complicated alliance and friendship with dhampir, Rose Hathaway. The unexpected occurs instead. Jill Dragomir, the sister of Moroi Queen Vasilisa (Lissa) Dragomir, is in mortal danger and must be sent into hiding far from the Moroi palace compound.

To avoid a civil war, the Alchemists summon Sydney to act as Jill's guardian and sister, posing as a roommate at Amberwood Prep Academy, in Southern California. There, she discovers students wearing strange metallic tattoos similar to the Alchemists. Sydney investigates to find the culprit behind the illegal business when someone nearly loses their life. Meanwhile, the last thing Sydney wants to be accused of is sympathizing with Moroi and dhampirs. Someone is desperate enough to blame and institutionalize her in the dreadful re-education centers if she doesn't watch her back. Before she can balance her loyalties, a sign of threats, distractions and forbidden romance lurk both outside--and within--the school grounds.

First, I was very reluctant to read this novel because I didn't think this series could continue without Rose Hathaway. I read the first six books because I loved her personality and fighting spirit (i.e., she stood for justice and never gave up on her true love and freedom). But Mead amazes me again with the character of Sydney. Although she is naive in social rel and has a tendency to over-think situations, Sydney is highly intelligent in her studies and very conscious of other people's feelings. Her friendship with Adrian Ivashkov also deepens as he tries to move on with his life beyond Rose. Readers also learn another secret about Sydney's abilities as an Alchemist.

I cannot wait to read more about this fascinating group of supernatural teens. The novel covers typical teenage issues (i.e., crushes, peer pressure, self-confidence). Rose also makes a brief cameo appearance, but Sydney is the star of the novel (and she truly shines!). I am speculating that the next novel will continue to focus on Sydney and Adrian, but a new main character will certainly excite many female fans. Check out the recent interviews with Richelle Mead at Goodreads and MTV (warning: may contain spoilers).

UPDATE (11/18/2011): Richelle Mead will write a six-novel Bloodlines series that takes place in the same universe as the Vampire Academy novels. In future references, I will refer to the next five novels as part of the Bloodlines series.

Stay tuned for the next book in the Bloodlines Series, The Golden Lily

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Music Video: Things That Go Bump in the Night

A friend discovered and shared this song to me. I thought it was very fitting to share on this blog. Unfortunately, I am not sure who are the artists. If you know their name, I will be very happy to include their biographical information. I figured it's a perfect melody for Halloween. Enjoy!

[Updated January 2019]: The band who performed this song is Tommy SpaSe and the Alchemists.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Hong Kong girls taken to hospital after seeing ghosts

This sounds like a haunting. The abandoned school where the two girls fled in terror was once used by WWII-era Japanese soldiers.
Hong Kong - Two Hong Kong schoolgirls were taken to hospital after collapsing in terror claiming they had seen the ghosts of Japanese soldiers from World War II, a news report said Tuesday.

The girls were among a party of 12 exploring the site of an abandoned school in the New Territories, which is rumoured to be haunted, when they claim they saw an apparition of a marching army.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Review: The Devil You Know (Vampire Files Novelette)

The Devil You Know, by P.N. Elrod, is a special edition novelette that is the sequel to Bloodcircle, the third novel in the Vampire Files series. In post-Prohibition New York, Jack Fleming returns to Long Island to attend a funeral at the request of Jonathan Barrett, a Revolutionary-era vampire with genteel manners. What they did not expect to found was a body of an unknown decomposed man on the property estate. Barrett seeks Jack's help to solve the murder mystery without arousing police attention and public suspicion. When the two find themselves buried alive by intruders who don't like troublemakers, they travel to New York City to investigate the people involved.

Clues lead Jack back to his old stomping grounds in the newspaper world. There, the novel covers his old memories before he migrated to Chicago and became a vampire. Before the investigation hits the ground, Jonathan and Jack find themselves in a dark world of mobsters, guns, and greed. The plot thickens by switching from who is responsible for the decomposed body to who can survive the long, cold night without a bullet in the forehead. There's not much the two vampires can do but discover the prime culprit behind the mayhem.

This limited, signed edition by P.N. Elrod is a like a breath of fresh air. I enjoy the fact she tries to continue the series. I am definitely keeping it as one of my collectibles. I had to re-read my review for Bloodcircle to figure out the exact timeline of the storyline since so many years have passed. Jonathan Barrett, another vampire, makes a cameo appearance as he tries to solve the murder mystery with Jack Fleming. The plot was an enjoyable and suspenseful novelette that I recommend to all Vampire Files and Jonathan Barrett fans.

Stay tuned for the next book of Elrod's favorite short stories, Lunchtime Reading Omnibus.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Strange Roaring Sound in Kiev, Ukraine

A friend alerted me that a strange and intense roaring sound has been occurring frequently in Kiev, Ukraine. No one knows where the vibration is coming from. Some have mentioned UFOs, angry ghosts, sea monsters, and other paranormal conspiracies. Listen for yourself below:

Friday, September 23, 2011

Music: Cusco (New Age)

Cusco is a German New Age band named after the Peruvian city of Cusco. Their songs contain influences from music found around the world. Founded in 1979, the band comprises of two members, Michael Holm and Kristian Schultze. Both had long been fascinated with Cusco, once the ancient capital of the Inca empire (present-day Peru). Their music contains influences from music around the world, with a general emphasis on ancient South American flute sounds and melodies. Compared to the music of other new age artists, Cusco's music is quite melodic and usually energetic, and the band focuses on creating a fusion of modern and ethnic styles with classical music influences and solid rock music sensibilities. Most of the ethnic instruments are keyboard-generated, giving the sound a synthetic quality. In the late 1980s, their music received international popularity on the music charts, ultimately being nominated three times for a Grammy award.

The two songs below are "Andes/Inca Dance" (1987) and "Montezuma" (1993).

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Review: Dead Reckoning (Sookie Stackhouse #11)

It's spring time in Bon Temps, and for telepathic barmaid Sookie Stackhouse, the season will turn out to be one full of secrets--secrets that will bring major changes in her life...

Dead Reckoning, by Charlaine Haris, is the eleventh novel in the Southern Vampire files. Set in contemporary rural Louisiana, the two-natured have introduced themselves to the world like the vampires earlier in the series. News spread around the town of Bon Temps that Sam Merlotte is a shapeshifter. Sookie is working her shift in Merlotte's when the bar is firebombed, and it doesn't look like the bomber was human. To make matters worse, an old enemy from the past is out for her blood and revenge.

Meanwhile, tension between her vampire lover/husband Eric Northman and his progeny Pam rises when their boss, Victor, is taking over the state of Louisiana. Sookie's great-uncle, Dermot, a handsome fae who eerily resembles her brother Jason needs, temporary shelter, and Sookie uncovers a hidden secret left from her grandmother that holds clues to her telepathic abilities. Caught in complicated political matters of vampire society and fearing for her own survival, the peaceful life Sookie is wishing for seems like a distant dream.

When I first begn this series almost a decade ago, I thought the plot was original and the characters were interesting. However, as others have noticed in the past two years, the storyline of the Southern Vampire series is starting to drag. While I understand the supernatural world is very complicated, I think Harris is running out of innovative ideas. This has left her fan base very disappointed.

The good news is Sookie has uncovered a hidden family history, which means the end of this series is likely near. The next book should test Sookie's relationship with Eric. Will Eric follow orders and marry a vampire queen? Will Sookie return to Bill? How will Sookie find closure to her life? I think those answers will tie up this series nicely. Overall, I would rate this novel 3 stars out of five total.

Stay tuned for the next novel in the Southern Vampires series,