OMG, John Oliver did an AAPI Segment!!!!

After a shitty AAPI Heritage Month, I can at least say that someone out there knew and decided “Hey, let’s devote an episode to the AAPI community”. This is a must watch peeps! This is definitely a good way to learn about us and unlearn the damaging stereotypes that are killing us today.

Plastic Love & City Hunter

Not gonna lie. I think this might be one of the best Anime Music Videos I’ve ever made. Hope you all enjoy!

NAIKA VIDEO has launched! I’m finally back on YouTube!!!!

I am back folks. After a long hiatus, my Wife pushed and pushed and I’m finally back. Goddamn it feels good. It’s bare bones right now, but I’ll work on more stuff in the coming weeks and months ahead. Stay safe everyone and I hope you’ll unwind thoroughly with my vintage offerings here on YouTube. Cheers! Click here to check the channel out.

YouTube Halloween Mashup 2020

Boy oh boy do I love it when YouTubers make Halloween related stuff. I even dig it when folks post up snippets from scary movies so here ya go guys. Hope this’ll get the Halloween juices flowing. Also, I have my yearly Horror movie review all set so please expect that in the coming days. Happy Viewing!!!

C++ for the Damned: Naika Reviews “Digital Devil Story – Megami Tensei” (1987)

Before it became a game franchise and the source of the successful Persona series, the Megami Tensei universe started off as a trilogy of novels released in 1986. I assume the books did well ‘cuz we didn’t just get game adaptations in both the Famicom and the PC, but we got them after the release of an OVA in 1987. If you google the initial game art for Megami Tensei, it’s all art based off of what we’re about to review today. As I mentioned in other reviews, the 80s was a time of endless cash and ideas in the anime industry, and Japan was treated to an OVA about love, youth, and devil-summoning source code that brings about the end of the goddamned world. Ain’t that grand? This, my friends, is the Megami Tensei OVA, and I’m ready to destroy your mind in 1200 words or less.

Like any other program, you’re gonna have to start with some sort of structure, so I’ll give y’all the skinny as best as I can. Akemi Nakajima is our main character here, who starts the OVA with nightmares about the Izanagi mythos. He seems like your typical teen in 80s Japan, but in reality, he’s an asshole. Whenever he’s not waking up in cold sweats to a Project A-ko film, he’s on his neat little laptop brainwashing his classmates by hypnosis via the computer lab’s monitors. Y’see, Akemi is another geek hacker in a long of line of geeks who’s gotten bullied, harassed and beaten to a bloody pulp. But since the bullying scene in 80s Japan looks a lot like the bullying scene in 2020 Japan, Akemi does the one thing he does best…

He goes all incel and makes a program to summon demons for revenge.

That’s right folks. Instead of the usual outlets afforded to us when our adolescence is plagued by bullying (which tend to be shit anyways), he decides to just fuck it all and study pagan rituals to summon demons via the computer lab. At first, his targets are merely the assholes that stomped his balls, but he soon becomes knee deep in craziness as he goes further and further down the rabbit hole. As his hacking and computer wizardry grows, Akemi basically creates a shadow army that answers to his beck and call. This all circles back to the beginning of the OVA, where we’re introduced to the video’s lone heroine and saving grace: Yumiko Shirasagi.

Yumiko’s the new kid in town with a gentle yet curious demeaner. During her homeroom introduction, Akemi of all people catches her eye, but he brushes her off like a butthurt sociopath. Little do we know that, as Yumiko begins her new life here in school, Akemi’s road to hell stretches down so deep that it’ll soon drag her with.

Yumiko is, for lack of a better word, intrigued by Akemi, but not in the way you think. In a lot of ways, Yumiko’s hunch is that she knows him somehow, but doesn’t why. Right when she realizes this however, Yumiko and a new friend see their teacher off in the distance, making her way across campus towards the Computer Lab.

I hope this incel burns in hell.

What follows is some fucked up shit that becomes a far cry from the pop visuals of Persona 4. The teacher, the bodacious Miss Ohara, is in fact another one of Akemi’s acolytes and we find her in the darkened computer lab, seated inside a hexagram. Surrounded by brainwashed classmates, Akemi emerges and connects Ohara to a PC with headphones. The students watch in silence as Akemi soon summons the demon Loki into his PC. With an eerie light hovering across the blackened room, Loki soon sees Ohara connected to him and initiates contact in the worst way possible. From here on out, it’s no turning back as Akemi takes his last dive down insanity. However, things get complicated once we discover that Yumiko witnesses the entire ritual. Akemi assures her that there’s no way Loki can materialize in our reality, but hindsight’s 20/20, and our incel’s about to get smoked.

As things go haywire, Akemi finds himself at the mercy of Loki and has to choose between vengeance and redemption, though it’s hard to find anything redeemable in an asshat who prostitutes his teacher to a demon. Like all things, it takes a whole lotta death to realize the error of one’s ways, and Akemi soon teams up with Yumiko to save the day. Akemi screws the pooch pretty hard here, and by the end of the OVA it becomes high-fucking-time for this incel to grow up.

As an OVA, Megami Tensei shines. Its horror is chilling and it ain’t afraid to splurge on the gore either. It’s also heightened by fast-paced direction, great animation and the kind of lighting you’d find in 80s horror films. Hiroyuki Kitazume’s character designs are also a big plus for me, and the OVA’s fine use of colors, ranging from sky blues to reds, makes it an anime answer to an Argento film. Simply put, it’s a good OVA effort filled with occult scares.

However, we gotta talk about the elephant in the room, and that’s Akemi. Never have I seen a more reprehensible main character since Sonny Chiba in the Street Fighter, and that’s saying something. Akemi’s bullying may elicit some sympathy with us at first, but that all vanishes once the bodies start piling-up. This is amped up even further when we soon see how much of a cowering fuckbag he is once said bodies hit the floor. I sometimes think this is the reason why Yumiko is so vital to the franchise, where she literally becomes a Megami to change Akemi’s stoopid worldview in order to salvage what’s left from the carnage. Hell, if you want a case to prove why women should run the world, maybe you should watch this…while you’re drunk.

Long story short, Megami Tensei is a brief ride in 80s anime horror, and a peak into the origins of what would become a hit gaming franchise. With great visuals, good directing and a touch of sleaze, it’s an OVA that’ll appeal to a wide range of otaku assholes, including incel fuckwits who equate sexual violence with justice. Though I enjoyed my time with this, I also felt sick inside and had a strong urge to go eat a gun. It’s got that 80s charm that’s so “OVA”, but that charm comes with caveats that aren’t only dated, but can in fact be cringeworthy. If anything, I’d recommend it for a Halloween watch but despite its appeal to retro sensibilities, don’t expect it to be a work of art.

Well, given Akemi’s misanthropy, don’t expect anything, especially from a fucking incel from the 80s.

Finally, All of Midnight Diner is on Netflix!!

Yes yes and yes. You all know how much I love Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories Seasons 1 & 2 but we now have ALL the original seasons prior to the show’s move to Netflix. That’s three seasons worth of joy, drama and good eating with a proper introduction to the many patrons that frequent the Master’s storied meshiya. No more rewatches on crappy streams for me folks ‘cuz it’s all here in HD glory, ad-free! That’s a triple win if you ask me.

For those of you that are still new to Midnight Diner or are mildly curious, I’d highly recommend you start with these three seasons first before going into Tokyo Stories 1 and 2 since it provides more backstory on the many ‘regulars’ that you’ll find on the latter. For instance, have you ever wanted to know more about Marilyn, the show’s finger-lovin’ dancer who eats the same damn thing every time? Still hung up on the Master’s history with the mysterious lady who loves Nikujaga from the last episode of Tokyo Stories: Season 2? How are the Ochazuke Sisters like when they’re not eating Ochazuke? And who the hell is Erect Oki, and what’s his deal with potato salad? If you watched Tokyo Stories first like I did, then I’m sure you wondered why everyone’s so chummy with each other and now, you’ll see why. Furthermore, by watching it all in this order, you’ll be viewing it in the order of its original run when it first aired in 2009. Trust me on this folks. If you still haven’t seen Midnight Diner, there’s no better time than now to watch it here on Netflix.

Lastly, without spoiling too much, I wanna mention how much of a joy it is to see it all here during a time of duress. If you ever wanted something cozy yet engaging to watch while the rest of America is still arguing over face masks, then look no further. Not only does Midnight Diner’s first three seasons lay the groundwork for its eventual rise to greatness in Tokyo Stories, but you’ll get a glimpse as to how much the show had to fudge around to get its formula right. I find Tokyo Stories to be a much more smoother affair that eases you into things, whereas the previous seasons are rougher, edgier, and will plop you in the middle of a crisis. Moreover, while Tokyo Stories has more optimism in its proceedings , these three seasons focus more on the nocturnal pains of overwork, failure, and the drudgery of a broken heart. These themes reach their peak with the third season, which is filled with stories that give our cast no recourse, solace or closure. Overall I find that Tokyo Stories is a bit more warmer in sentiment than the first three seasons, yet they still provide good viewing for anyone seeking a glimpse into the hard luck lifestyle of Tokyo. And for a guy like me who’s itching to look away from the world of Covid-19, Shinya Shokudo’s a godsend.

Midnight Diner’s first three seasons aren’t without its flaws however. In addition to that aforementioned search for the perfect formula, the show has issues dealing with the seedier elements of its nightlife themes. We’ve got some real bastards here on Shinya Shokudo, with a few that are horribly misogynistic (a real issue that’s endemic in both Japan and Asia at large). Infidelity, exploitation and solicitation also rears its ugly head every so often, especially when it comes to an episode that focuses on Ikumi, a woman who’s secretly paying out her parents’ debts as a sex worker. It’s a great episode that shows how she needs no saving whatsoever, but it’s still punctuated by the fact that she had to make some hard choices for the sake of her family’s survival. Despite the excellent themes present in this particular episode, I do wish Shinya Shokudo could be a bit more forthcoming and critical about how patriarchy, destitution, sexism and abuse tear into the lives of its female characters instead of just showing us how they rise above it. That’s easy catharsis for sure, but a more critical lens can make that catharsis resonate even more, and would make for better character growth for all those involved.

In summary, Midnight Diner is a portrait of the downtrodden scouring the night for solace in a cold and unforgiving city. But for all the time spent mired in their friendships, failures and food-filled nostalgia, there are no solutions to be found here. For better or worse, Midnight Diner’s first three seasons are still slice-of-life dramas, and the exploitation, despair and heartache that each character faces is only mildly abated thanks to the skill of the Master. I sometimes wonder why I continue to watch this show, knowing that Shinya Shokudo refuses to tackle the ills of the world head-on, but maybe that’s the point. Life is shit sometimes, but maybe, just maybe, somebody will finally have their day and not look back. Maybe one of them will find a way out. Maybe that girl will finally leave that asshole for good. Maybe that old guy will stop cheating on his wife. Maybe those old folks will make up. Maybe those two young people will finally fall in love, and maybe she and him will get together despite their circumstances. Maybe we’ll all make it somehow and can leave the deeper examinations for another day.

Because in the end, that’s all any of us would want.

Naika Reviews “Saint Seiya” (Seasons 1 – 4) on Netflix

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Seeing Saint Seiya on Netflix was unreal for me because I NEVER thought I’d be able to watch it legally here in the States.  Forget the Knights of the Zodiac dub or whatever shitty torrent you had in the past.  Netflix now has it streaming with crystal clear visuals, decent subs and the original Japanese audio.  That means no Flock of Seagulls here folks.  Instead, we get Make-Up on the intro, singing PEGASUS FANTASY without interruption!  As an 80s anime geek who only saw the show in Thailand back in the day, my dream of seeing the Sanctuary Arc in its entirety has come true, and I can safely say that I’m now part of the Saint Seiya faithful.  Now, without further ado, let’s dive into why, I think, Saint Seiya deserves your time.

Masami Kurumada’s original manga was a feature on Shonen Jump back in the 80s, and it epitomized the formula of hot-blooded youths fighting to save the world with special powers.  The anime carries that theme forward with fantastic world-building as we’re introduced to the ancient Greek order called Sanctuary and its role in maintaining world peace by training youths to become ‘Saints’, warriors of immense power who fight for the Greek goddess Athena.  This world-building is expanded even further with the concept of ‘Cosmo’, a retrofitted form of Chi used by the Saints.  Likening one’s Cosmo to a galaxy, a Saint’s mastery is correlated by his or her ability to burn and explode it like a big bang, which unleashes a devastating attack.  Seeing these techniques is a big reason why this show enjoys such a huge following because each Saint possesses a signature move that does epic damage in the most epic way possible.

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However, Saint Seiya’s most notable feature involves the 88 cloths.  With varying degrees of rank (with Bronze being the most common, followed by Silver and then Gold), cloths are mystical armors based on constellations that give a seasoned Saint immense power and defense.  The great joy I get from this show is that in every episode, we’re treated to seeing how our heroes find new ways to defeat enemy Saints with interesting new cloths and powers.  Also, the designs for these cloths are fantastic, and it really shows you how driven 80s cartoons were at shelling out new concepts to grab viewers.  This is especially the case when you consider constellations that feature no distinct animal motifs.  For example, there’s a cloth for the scales of Libra.  Really.  How the hell can you make something amazing out of something as innocuous as that, right?  Featuring amazing designs and powers, the cloths themselves are, without a doubt, the biggest attraction I have to this franchise.

However, I think the thing that makes Saint Seiya such a fun watch is just how conceptually wild the show is.  We basically have 5 orphaned, Japanese youths trying to prove themselves in a bloody, mystical world that’s so western (in the Ray Harryhausen sort of way) that it’s mind-blowing.  Remember, they’re Asian kids, fighting with the powers of Greek Mythology.  For the 80s, that’s fucking wild!  The show even alludes to this ‘disconnect’ a few times (Cassios’ arrogance to Seiya for starters), which corresponds to Japan’s economic rise.  Furthermore, Saint Seiya’s main characters are teens that act like adults in the coolest way possible.  They’re ripped as fuck, bleed in gallons, fold their arms like gumshoes and look at sunsets like they’ve survived 4 tours of armed conflict.  They sacrifice themselves for each other, stare down Saints who are older and stronger than them, and they show more vulnerability and introspection than a populist during a pandemic.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve chuckled under my breath when I see Ikki, Shiryu or Shun do something bat-shit / selfless / adult-like and then get reminded that they’re all under 16.  That’s hilariously fucked up!

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But it’s that kind of bat-shit storytelling that makes us all fans of Saint Seiya, and this show is paced so well that you hardly get tired during a 4 season speed-run.  And might I add that the majority of the show features great animation for an 80s Toei production, and it improves immensely as the seasons progress.  This onslaught of color, fighting, blood and special effects culminates into the most well animated season of the Sanctuary Arc, and that’s during the Golden Saints saga (Season 4, which is 35 episodes!).  It’s here that each of the 5 main characters make a name for themselves as they do the impossible by fighting Saints that outrank them in every way.  Nothing is smooth sailing for our heroes, but that’s why we watch anime like this, right?

With Seasons 5 and 6 now available, there’s no better time to binge on some classic anime than now.  With so much happening here in North America due to COVID-19, the kid in you now has the best excuse to stay indoors (if you’re able to).  But don’t skip these first 4 seasons folks.  Saint Seiya is what it is because of them, and if you give it a chance, you’ll see why this show is so beloved in Latin America, Europe and the rest of Asia.  You’ll see Andromeda Shun’s gentle heroism, Cygnus Hyoga’s cold valor, Phoenix Ikki’s loner attitude, the insufferable Pegasus Seiya and the kung-fu might of the show’s best character, Dragon Shiryu.  This is no Power Ranger rip-off or a Sailor Moon retread peeps, this is Saint Seiya, one of the many giants that put anime on the map for millennials the world over.  As an American, this is your chance to watch anime history, retold in all its streaming glory.

2019: A Year on Fire

CHOPPING MALL EXPLOOOOOOOOOOOOOOODE

If you thought the Year of the Pig was gonna be pie in the sky, then you thought wrong.  Y’know, I feel like every time I write these retrospectives, the world just gets crazier and crazier, but goddammit all, 2019 really porked us.  I mean, it took the shittiest of things: totalitarianism, mass death, social inequality, climate change, apocalyptic weather events and IMPEACHMENT, rolled it ALL into a ball and slammed it over our heads.  Yeah.  That’s 2019 for ya.  After last year, I thought, “Hey, a Vox video would be fine,” but NOThis year was bad.  This year was terrible, and I have to at least write SOMETHING, ANYTHING that’ll at least say that, “Hey, I saw it, and it sucked.”  Here’s my spiel about 2019….good, bad and, most of all, ugly.

Impeachment & The Road to 2020:  Thought I was fucking around, did ya?  No no no mutherfucker.  I’m going right to what’s coming head-first to the U-S-of friggin’ A, and the most batshit thing right now is something called QUID-PRO-QUO!  Mueller Time didn’t amount to much in the realm of collusion, but this new development of the Ukranian kind is, in my opinion, so much more damning.  The phone call transcripts, the testimonies and even the shameful pushback from Rethuglicans (like Nunes) all point to a White House on fire, and our duly-elected Idiot-in-Chief yelling out “It’s ALL FINE”.  Trump totally withheld aid to the Ukraine in exchange for dirt on the Bidens.  Think about that.  Even if it ‘weren’t true’, the fact that its even implicated (from a whistle blower mind you) is already a terrible thought.  It’s a self-serving, petty, and undemocratic action, and despite Donald’s bickering, he is now the third U.S. president to have ever been impeached.  And he did this all for 2020.  A 2020 littered with Democratic candidates, both good and so-so.  And if you’ve been watching the debates like I have, you’ll know that the agenda is all about beating the Donald (whether we admit this or not).  I”m all for revolution and upending the status quo, but we’ll need to keep watching to see who’ll be the one to symbolize this with the intended goal of defeating Trump.

Wildfires & The Outrage over Climate Inaction: Wildfires have continued to rage across the state of California while rainforests in both the Amazon and in Indonesia are devastated thanks to the evils of deforestation.  Moreover, episodes of drought have hit Australia’s bushland so hard that even koalas aren’t safe.  And at the other end of the spectrum, typhoons and hurricanes were at their deadliest in places like the Bahamas and the Pacific.  Despite these chaotic events, it’s heartening to see children from all over the world skip school to protest against climate inaction.  From the UK to South Africa, kids were leading the lines as we saw wave after wave of young girls and boys giving no fucks about the grown-ups in charge and their handling of our climate crisis.  Prior to this, Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, who came for the U.N. Climate Action Summit in New York by sailboat, gave a searing speech that denounced world leaders who thirsted for wealth at the expense of our ecosystem.  With so much of our planet’s health facing a fraught future, it’s high time for us all to turn the tide…before it’s too late.

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OK BOOMER – Protesting against the Status Quo:  I admit it – I LOVE OK BOOMER.  It’s the kind of take-down that’s easy to say, hard to miss and it makes our elders rage.  The focus so far about the meme has always been about the boomers’ anger over it instead of the reasons why we’re resorting to it: because well-to-do boomers worldwide are eating their young.  That’s not hyperbole, folks.  That’s facts.  They are living with half the education we’ve achieved and double the wealth that you, a young person approaching middle-age, may never get.  And when the majority of these older, white and out-of-touch boomers vote, they’ll vote for shit that will ream you clean of what’s been owed to you.  This kinda leads me to what we’ve been seeing throughout the world this past year, which is a ferocious eruption of protests aimed at giving the status quo a middle finger.  Despite their individual differences, these Movements in Chile, Sudan, Ecuador, the Amazon, Bolivia, India, Lebanon, Indonesia, Iraq and, yes, Hong Kong, are all aimed at political establishments that have turned a blind eye to the realities that youths are encountering worldwide.  Whether it’s related to inequality, corruption, the environment, costs of living, discrimination, social justice or universal suffrage, these universal issues all stem from entrenched elites who haven’t the brains, heart or foresight to see out the problems that they’ve created.  That sounds pretty ‘boomer’ to me, doesn’t it?

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The Violence of Nationalism:  Since we’re talking about unrest, it’s about time we discuss the rise of nationalist violence raging across the West.  The most egregious of these incidents is, unfortunately, the tragedy at Christchurch, New Zealand.  March, to me, was the indicator that Islamophobia is reaching critical mass out here in the western world, and it needs all of our attention if we’re intent on curbing it.  And if that wasn’t enough, August’s shooting in El Paso, Texas had all the hallmarks of violent white nationalism, which was widely seen as the largest anti-latino attack in recent U.S. history.  I remember coming back from my vacation where I found myself reeling about how a racist was able to hurt people at a Walmart.  A Walmart- of all places!  Who the hell goes out for groceries and expects death!?  All because you’re Brown!?  Whether you’re a Latina woman hanging out with friends, a Muslim in the middle of prayers or a Jewish American disturbed by rising acts of anti-semitism, please look out for one another, and let’s hope we can find some commonality in a world that’s swept up in right wing hysteria.  This is especially so here in the States, where our own government is conducting its own campaign of nationalist violence at our southern border.

1619:  One of the biggest pieces of writing that I’ve yet to read fully is the New York Times’ 1619 Project.  2019 marked 400 years since the first slave ship carrying 20 to 30 enslaved Africans arrived on the shores of Jamestown, Virginia, and the New York Times created an amazing set of articles that aim to dispel the many myths that surround America’s greatest sin.  I’ve seen lots of love on Twitter for this entire project, and yet I’m dumbfounded by the critics who refuse to see how deep the scars run when it comes to racism, and how tightly this wound is weaved into the very fabric of American life.  The nation needs a wake-up call from the white lies of our nation’s founding, and the 1619 Project is a good place to start.

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Arsenal in Decline:  It’s sad that I’m even writing this, but, frankly, the writing’s on the wall.  Arsenal have been terrible for the last 3 years.  It’s so bad that I’ve stopped writing about them all together!  Yes, we have Auba and Laca, who I profess are astounding, but only when the team actually plays football.  I still miss Le Prof obviously, but there’s something going on with the way this club is run, and its appointment of Unai Emery was only the beginning.  Player meltdowns, terrible build-up play, shambolic defending and Emery’s preference for faces when he clearly had no strategy were all painful to witness, and with a fanbase as bipolar as ours, who the fuck would want to come play for us now?  I’m relieved that Mikel Arteta’s arrived, and, despite our recent loss to Chelsea, I’m a bit buoyed by our newfound sense of urgency.  Yet old problems, especially in defense, remain, and if we’re to survive this season, then we better man-up fast.

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Franchise Finale:  2019 will probably go down as the year that all the big boys on TV and Film said goodbye.  From Games of Thrones to the Avengers, notable IPs that have garnered millions of viewers took a bow, some better than others.  For me, Endgame was the cream of the crop when it comes to this, capping off the hit-or-miss Avengers franchise with an ending that sends off Cap and Stark in the best possible way.  The biggest disappointment for me is reserved for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, which took all the narrative jewels that The Last Jedi dug up and threw them out the window.  Frantic, wasteful and hollow, Rise is the kind of finale you do NOT want to witness, the kind that forgets its roots by making shallow references to its byproducts.  I’ll not hide my disappointment with Rise, but let me at least say that the one thing saving this franchise may be in the hands of a tiny Yoda.  So yeah, lots of media properties that defined the decade have come to end (while others, like Supernatural, are on their way to a close), and it’ll be exciting to see what we’ll have in store for 2020.

The FIFA Women’s World Cup:  Do I even need to write about this?  Do I?  Were you even watching?  Thailand’s mauling by the U.S., an excellent Japan, a thrilling Italian team and VAR?  And Megan Rapinoe snubbing the Trump AND getting the Ballon D’or?  Where the hell have you been?  Go rewatch that shit NOW!

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The First in Asia:  If there was a feel good story that I think captures the faint glimmer of hope that resides in us all, I look no further than to Taiwan’s victory for marriage equality.  20 years of campaigning, votes and referendums later, Taiwan achieved something that Asia still has trouble grasping, and did so with tears, cheers, and wedding bells.  If you couple this with South Korea’s recent court ruling stating that its current abortion ban is unconstitutional, we can see that some areas of Asia, despite deep-seated issues with regionalism, patriarchy and inequality, are trying their hardest to push for progress.  It takes brave people to fight for their rights, and I’m hoping that this victory for Taiwan’s LGBTQ+ community will have reverberations throughout the rest of the region.  Maybe one day, we’ll finally see this in Southeast Asia too.

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Saint Seiya’s on NETFLIX!!!:  No, I’m not talking about the CGI Knights of the Zodiac, I’m talking about the 1986 anime from Toei that graced the world long before it came to the U.S. as a butchered offering in the 2000s.  It’s definitely remastered, with crystal clear color and sound, but we got SUBS peeps.  DECENT SUBS!  The final chapter of the Sanctuary arc is now on Netflix as of January 1st and I AM STOKED.  I’ve never been able to see a pristine version of Saint Seiya, but now that it’s on Netflix, I think I’m all good!

So there you have it folks.  My roundup of 2019.  Please check out Vox’s video below to glimpse the other things that I may have missed.  Obituaries and so forth can be found here, while other events that defined 2019 for me personally will probably left up for reviews for another time in 2020 (I just finished watching Watchmen…which has blown me away).  All in all, I’m left saddened by 2019.  It happened.  It flattened us.  And now, it’s 2020.  I want to hope guys, I want to hope bad.  There’s so much that happened last year, so let’s ‘hope’ that we can do better in a brand new decade.

Naika Reviews “Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories – Season 2” from Netflix

It’s been a few years since I wrote about Netflix’s first season of Midnight Diner, and I’m thrilled that we finally have a new one in our hands!  Even though it’s technically Midnight Diner’s fifth season overall, it IS the second on Netflix and it’s fantastic.  It’s more or less everything that you remember about the Master and his restaurant, but with more returning patrons and even more somber stories to get us through the year.  I daresay that it might even be better than the previous season, so let’s grab our chopsticks and dig in.

Right away, you’ll probably notice that the Intro has been revamped, with a lot more tourists peppered throughout the sequence.  Master’s voice cuts in, and we see his signature tonjiru simmering above the fire as he scrubs down his counters.  From there, he puts up his noren, and, like clockwork, he plugs in his lantern sign to signal that he’s open for business.  Frankly, watching all this is how I get my gears going for the show, and I never EVER skip it.  Believe me folks, it’s the best way to get you ready for what will be a tearjerker of a season.

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Like last time, there are 10 episodes, each featuring a dish that’s near and dear to the focus character’s heart, and, little by little, each segment would reveal why.  This is especially so for our first episode, which concerns a Hideki Kamiya / Hideo Kojima-esque game developer who rediscovers chicken fried rice.  The particular kind that our gaming guru enjoys is made with ketchup, and, as we learn later, it was a dish he cherished long ago before he was orphaned as a child.  Without giving it all away, the Master soon helps our game boss reconnect with someone he thought he lost, and, who I might add, makes chicken fried rice too.

Other great episodes feature subjects like elderly care, horoscopes, baseball, and a friendship between two aspiring voice actors who bond over Kitsune Udon, but there are two that really stand out for me.  The first concerns a 30-something gravure model who adores fried chicken wings.  Despite her past fame, she’s now getting less and less work due to an ageist industry, where the only gigs left for her require nudity.  However, a chance encounter with a young IT mogul, who, as it turns out, was a fan of hers in his youth, seems destined to change her fortunes.  It’s a great episode that doesn’t just showcase a mouth-watering recipe for wings, but it gives us a rare peek into the pressures that Japanese women face beyond the workplace.  This is especially poignant since, while she’s with her IT boyfriend, our heroine refuses to eat wings in front of him.

Another stand out for me is one featuring Taiwanese actor Joseph Chang.  It’d be a crime if I spoiled it for you, but overall, it’s a fun and laugh-out-loud segment that’s all about eggs, movies, and lots of language barriers.  Furthermore, it’s a fun episode where some of our regular cast members goof off while learning new things from another culture.  It’s a bit like last season’s omurice episode that featured a cross-cultural love story between a Japanese professor and a South Korean hostess, but with less romance and more confusion.  It’s my favorite episode, so you gotta see it on my rec alone, peeps!

shinyashokudou jospeh chang

Lastly, it wouldn’t be Shinya Shokudo without a New Year’s episode to round things out, and, you guessed it, it’s all about soba!  This season’s year-ender has all the right bells and whistles you’d come to expect, including a big ol’ happy round-up of our cast.  However, the real steal comes from a cameo by a long lost patron that illustrates the hardships that come with life after incarceration.  With snowfall, hot tempura, fresh soba and grilled crabs, Midnight Diner’s last episode of the season becomes a heart-warming coda to an amazing, year-long night in Tokyo.

All in all, Midnight Diner’s second season on Netflix couldn’t have come at a better time.  With so many big-name franchises coming to an end this year, it’s nice to know that Japan’s favorite TV eatery’s still running strong.  It was a long wait, but that’s par for the course at Midnight Diner, and, in my opinion, it was well worth it.  Some things in life are best left to stew slowly, and after countless nights of work in the real world, it can be nice to retreat to a slow-boiling fantasy, where our avatars are just as overworked as we are.  Shinya Shokudo’s newest season rewards our patience with better drama, humor and relevance that not only provides warmth and company to our fast-paced lives, but another chance to catch the Man, the Myth, the Master, at his very best.  御馳走様でした!