Protocol Snow

Archive for March, 2007

Dragon Zakura

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At first glance, Dragon Zakura seems to be the typical drama about a gangster-turned-teacher who brings an unconventional style of teaching into the classroom and changes the lives of his students. But starting from the very first episode, it’s quite evident that Dragon Zakura is anything but ordinary.

Abe Hiroshi, who starred in Kekkon Dekinai Otoko, plays a failing lawyer named Sakuragi Kenji who is hired to liquidate a bankrupt high school for creditors. The high school is called Ryuuzan and is home to left-behind students who are hopeless for the future. Upon walking onto the campus, Kenji spies an opportunity to make a name for himself by turning the school around. He brashly promises that in exchange for keeping the school open, he’ll create a special class that will successfully train 5 Ryuuzan students to pass Tokyo University’s entrance exam in one year. Tokyo University is essentially the equivalent of Harvard University in the U.S. so all the teachers are against this impossible plan, but they are forced to give in to keep the school (and their jobs).

Sure, Kenji has an unusual teaching method and makes an impact on his students, but what’s different about Dragon Zakura compared to other similar teacher dramas like Gokusen and Great Teacher Onizuka is that Kenji isn’t actually a teacher. He is a lawyer who has undertaken this project to advance his own personal career goals. Rather than being a protective teacher who looks after the best interests of his students and will go out of his way to protect them, Kenji won’t hesitate to kick students out of the class if they aren’t willing to turn their lives around. As a former hooligan who has experienced the bitter reality of the real world, he often is quite harsh with his students as he disciplines them.

Yamashita Tomohisa left, Aragaki Yui right

Dragon Zakura focuses on a small group of students who I won’t all name. The main student is Yajima Yuusuke (played by Yamashita Tomohisa). The cute Aragaki Yui, who starred in My Boss My Hero, has a supporting role as Yuusuke’s jealous girlfriend.

Aragaki Yui left, Koike Teppei center, Yamashita Tomohisa right.

There we go, now she doesn’t look as pissed off. These two guys are members of Jpop groups; Koike Teppei is from WaT, while Yamashita Tomohisa is from NEWS and actually sang the drama’s ending theme song called “Colorful”. I imagine these pretty boys were responsible for attracting a sizable female audience. Also of interest is that the opening theme song is “Realize” by melody., who I’m a fan of. This song selection was odd though since I don’t see how it’s applicable at all to the drama.

While I enjoyed Dragon Zakura from the 1st episode, it was merely in “pretty good” status until the 5th episode. That’s when it rocketed up into the “awesome” category. Once I was engrossed by the story, I couldn’t help but be inspired. And just like how this isn’t your typical gangster-turned-teacher drama, the ending might not be as predictable as you expect. Dragon Zakura is well worth watching.

11 episodes
Aired Summer 2005
Genre: School, Drama & Comedy

Official site
D-Addicts Bittorrent download page

Written by Protocol Snow

March 30th, 2007 at 4:20 pm

Posted in Asian drama

m-flo loves Crystal Kay – “Love Don’t Cry”

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I’m eagerly awaiting the newest album “COSMICOLOR” by Japanese hip-hop group m-flo, which I’ve preordered and is scheduled for release in several days. This is the final album in the “m-flo loves” project where they’ve done nothing but collaborations with other artists since 2003. It’s definitely the end of an era, but now the question is: where does m-flo go from here?

Preceding the album release is the music video of m-flo loves Crystal Kay – “Love Don’t Cry”. It’s very fitting that the final “m-flo loves” music video is with Crystal Kay, considering that the whole project started with her in the first place, back in 2003 with m-flo loves Crystal Kay – “REEEWIND!”. The beginning of this MV even pays homage to the original with all the dizzying star backgrounds.

I don’t like the song itself that much, but the music video is great. I’m not going to spoil its plot so you can enjoy it yourself (it’s up on youtube and hopefully won’t get pulled. Or get a better quality version from Jpopsuki). Quite a perfect farewell.

The rolling “credits” at the end with all the artists they’ve worked with is a nice touch as well. Impressions from the full album are forthcoming when I get it in the mail.

Written by Protocol Snow

March 25th, 2007 at 4:32 pm

Posted in Music

A subdued March Madness

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I was going to the gym today when I spotted some workers constructing this giant ESPN U(niversity) sign outside the athletic facility. Apparently there’s a lacrosse game tomorrow between Johns Hopkins and Virginia? Fair enough, but I didn’t think we had any lacrosse rivals other than Duke that would warrant this kind of festivity. I might stop by the gym tomorrow to see what’s going on, though it’ll probably be rainy.

This year’s NCAA Basketball Tournament, while providing a few wild games, has been disappointing in terms of big upsets. All the #1 and #2 ranked teams with the exception of Wisconsin are in the Elite Eight, and the odd team out is still a high #3 team (Oregon). I’ve picked UCLA and Ohio State to go to the championship game, with UCLA winning. Wishful thinking that if I show UCLA some love, they might return the favor?

Written by Protocol Snow

March 24th, 2007 at 12:07 am

Posted in School,Sports

My Boss My Hero post-mortem

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After writing my initial impressions of My Boss My Hero, I finished watching the rest of the series. And you know what? I’m glad I didn’t write off this drama and continued watching. My original complaint still stands in that the acting is overly dramatic and they over-do everything. The creators need to understand that a little subtlety goes a long way; I don’t need to be beat over the head with all the lessons being taught. But I suppose that supplements the absurdity of the whole premise behind the show in the first place.

My Boss My Hero is far from my favorite and I feel it’s a little over-rated by the D-Addicts community, but there’s genuinely hilarious moments and it was entertaining overall. I’m going to change my initial assessment from “not recommended” to “recommended if you’ve watched Great Teacher Onizuka and Gokusen and want more gangster/school dramas”. Stick that quote on the back of the box!

That reminds me, one of these days I need to put up a post ranking all the dramas I’ve seen. Maybe I’ll do that once I get a few more dramas under my belt since I haven’t even watched more than 10 yet. Next on my list is Dragon Zakura, which coincidentally also has the very cute Aragaki Yui, who was one of the main actresses in My Boss My Hero (and who you can see in the 3rd picture posted in my initial impressions). I swear, sometimes I think the reason why I watch these shows is for the cute girls…

Written by Protocol Snow

March 18th, 2007 at 10:14 pm

Posted in Asian drama

The definitive guide to dating

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Chances are you’ve seen the very popular video called The Japanese Tradition – Sushi, which is a satirical instructional video on the etiquette involved in ordering and eating sushi. The actors in that video, a comedy duo named the Rahmens, have another stellar film called Kijou No Kuron – Japanese Tradition. The subtitled short film has been posted on Youtube, and I found out that it’s actually part of a compilation DVD called Jam Films 2. The movie is so awesome that I’m thinking about ordering the DVD just so that I can watch this in good quality.

Kijou No Kuron – Japanese Tradition (alternative name: Armchair Theory) describes the quintessential guidelines that a man must follow to achieve success in the dating world. The Youtube poster split up the film into four volumes, and I highly recommend setting aside half an hour of your time and watching 1-4 in order. The first two volumes have a narrator introducing the rules in the style of an instructional video while the last two show the rules being carried out in the real world and have the production values of an actual movie. Absolutely give this a try, you won’t regret it.

Volume 1
Volume 2
Volume 3
Volume 4

Written by Protocol Snow

March 16th, 2007 at 6:27 pm

Posted in Movies

Halo 3: Three Editions

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Although it has been common knowledge that Microsoft and Bungie are planning on releasing three separate versions of their upcoming Xbox 360 blockbuster Halo 3, today Microsoft finally announced the details.

Legendary Edition

  • $129.99, individually serialized
  • Boxset containing Spartan MJOLNIR Mark VI helmet
  • 1st bonus disc (“Making of Halo 3” documentary, featurettes, concept art, audio/visual calibration tool)
  • 2nd bonus disc (remastered cutscenes from Halo & Halo 2 with developer commentary, “day in the life of Bungie” featurette, Red vs. Blue content)
  • Halo 3 storyboard art
  • Halo 3 game

Limited Edition

  • $69.99, metal collector’s case
  • 1st bonus disc (“Making of Halo 3” documentary, featurettes, concept art, audio/visual calibration tool)
  • Art/Fiction book, guide to Halo species and factions
  • Halo 3 game

Standard Edition

  • $59.99
  • Halo 3 game

Traditionally, the “limited edition” metal cases for these ultra popular games aren’t hard to find at all (look at Halo 2, Final Fantasy XII, etc.), and the trend will continue with the Halo 3 Limited Edition. But since the Legendary Edition will have unique serial numbers, I expect that one to be a true collector’s edition which will be sold out on Day 1 and subsequently only found on eBay for $200+. If you want the helmet, definitely get a preorder as soon as you can.

I have some concerns about this marketing strategy though. First, the Legendary Edition had formerly been believed to be $99.99, but now it’s almost double the price of the Limited Edition. Also, the mid-tier version has extras that can’t be found in the ultimate version, namely the art/fiction book and the metal collector’s case. That means for the Halo fan who wants all the bonuses, he would have to buy BOTH the Legendary and Limited Editions. Yikes, I’m hoping Microsoft gives some clarification on this soon because that would be a really bad decision on their part to distribute the content this way.

As for me, I was set on buying the Legendary Edition, but now with the $30 price hike and missing content, I’m reconsidering. For complete details on the different editions, GameDaily has the write-up. Halo 3 hasn’t been given a firm release date yet, but rumor has it that it will be launching in September 2007.

Written by Protocol Snow

March 16th, 2007 at 2:43 pm

Posted in Games


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I’m not very fond of the movie-going experience, thanks to annoying audiences and expensive tickets, but I went to see 300 the other day because of positive word of mouth. Luckily, even though I sat in front of a group of girls who were chattering away during the trailers, they stopped talking once the actual movie started.

I knew practically nothing about 300 going into the theater, but I found out afterwards that it’s an adaptation of a graphic novel by Frank Miller, which itself was based on the historic Battle of Thermopylae. It was amusing because when I heard the name Xerxes and King Leonidas mentioned, I was perplexed since I thought I had heard those names before and started searching the back of my mind to find out where. About twenty minutes into the movie, I abruptly found the answer: I had re-enacted this battle in high school for a Development of Western Civilization class! For the rest of the movie, I couldn’t help smirking as I drew parallels between our mock battle with rubber bands and paper swords and the amazingly beautiful representation of the battle onscreen.

300 isn’t very deep, and the attempts at political intrigue or character development fall flat. However, the action scenes are absolutely gorgeous with great visual style and fluid camera work. It is eyecandy at its finest. I estimated about 60% of the film was composed of slow motion effects, but that allowed the audience a crystal clear view of every blow to soak in every moment of the battle. And even though I found myself checking my watch a few times during the movie, those points were never during any of the battles, which are infused with pure energy.

This is a true man’s movie, with gratuitous violence, seductive women, and muscled Spartans bellowing out every single line in the movie with great intensity. After watching it, I had an irresistable desire to hit the gym and to growl every time I talk. 300 is lots of fun, and I especially can’t wait to see it at home in HD. The film was quite grainy; isn’t it about time theaters all started going digital?

God of War II for PS2 coincidentally released this week as well. This is a great time to experience life as a manly man, for those of you who don’t live the life of one already.

Written by Protocol Snow

March 15th, 2007 at 9:20 pm

Posted in Movies