2014 World Cup – “Itai!”

Photo ©2014 Ryu Voelkel

This photo kind of says it all. Things were surprisingly promising at the half, knotted up at one goal apiece thanks to a stoppage time equalizer by Okazaki Shinji, but then Colombia brought out the steamroller.

The match was another story of Japan’s impressive technical proficiency being nullified by apparent indecision in the box and physical domination by a larger opponent. Still, Blue Samurai fought hard and with heart.

This concludes RABUJOI’s very brief coverage of Japan at the 2014 World Cup.

(Photo ©2014 Ryu Voelkel/Howler Magazine)

 

 

 

 

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2014 World Cup – KUSO!

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Well, Japan was aggressive, hogging the ball a whopping 75% of the time and out-passing something like 5-to-1, but none of their shots went in the goal. Even though Greece was a man down, they seemed to be playing for a hold, which would net them at least one point, and not trying to win for three, while depriving Japan of two more.

After their scoreless draw, Japan and Greece share the dank basement of Group C. All is technically not lost, but Japan missed a crucial opportunity to control their own destiny, and it doesn’t bode well that they weren’t able to deliver a decisive blow to the weakest team in the group.They play Colombia next Tuesday, and they’ll be playing for pride…and a very slight glimmer of hope.

2014 World Cup: “Jitaku iku katsu ka”

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“自宅行く勝つか” is as close as we (with the help of Google) could get to saying “Win or go home”, which constitutes Japan’s remaining choices.

Beat Greece, and they’re still in Group C contention. Lose, and they’ll be eliminated (and we’ll only have one more post here commiserating their quick exit from the tournament, for those of you who don’t care about soccer).

The match starts at 6PM Eastern, or 7AM in Tokyo. Blue Samurai will be looking to play more aggressively, having only managed one goal by Honda Keisuke against Ivory Coast, which just fell to Group C leader Colombia 2-1.

Photo by Javier Soriano / AFP Photo

2014 World Cup: 100 Seconds Short

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At the end of a football-packed day in which Greece fell to Colombia in the first Group C match, Japan got an early goal by Honda to take a 1-0 lead that they couldn’t quite hold, as Ivory Coast equalized and took over the lead in a second half offensive burst in which both goals were scored within 100 seconds, the fastest interval of the tournament so far.

Japanese players and fans alike wore their hearts on their sleeves, as one should at such an event: alternating between the rapt elation of the goal and the deflated dejection of ultimately falling short of a victory.

Now Japan looks to even their record and gain some points against Greece on 19 June. Greece looked physically and mentally up to the task but seemed to lack the creativity to overcome Colombia’s set pieces. We’ll see if Blue Samurai can keep their hopes of advancing alive in what is still an open Group.

Photos, clockwise from top left, by Jamie Squire, Mark Kolbe, Jamie Squire, and Keith Tsuji, Getty Images.

2014 World Cup: Our Team

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A non-anime note: at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, we’ll be rooting for Japan in Group C, because…er…why not? It’s arguably the most wide-open group in the cup. They’ll face their first test against Côte d’Ivoire in Recife tonight. Ganbatte, Samurai Blue!

Michiko to Hatchin – 04

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While drinking at the Night Club Rumba, Michiko encounters the exotic dancer Pepe Lima. The next morning, the kids Michiko chased away return and bring her to their boss and owner of the night club, Rico, also Pepe’s lover. Rico makes her pay for one of his kid’s medical bills, and she acquieses. Later, Pepe visits Hatchin’s restaurant and invites her to come to her birthday party at the club, where she’ll tell her about Hiroshi.

As Hatchin gets drunk on juice and Michiko listens skeptically, Pepe tells them about her riches to rags story, and how she’s the only one left to take care of her sister, Lulu, and how she has a plan to escape their plight. After drinking her under the table, Machiko goes home with Hatchin. Pepe and Lulu steal Rico’s money and go on the run, but Lulu goes back for a photo Pepe wants. When she doesn’t return, she begs Michiko for help; Michiko refuses. Pepe’s cab is blocked by Rico’s kids, who open fire on her.

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Brazil is massive: 200 million souls and more expansive than the lower 48 states, so there are many other duos like Michiko and Hatchin living within her ample borders, and it was only a matter of time before they ran into one. While they’ll both deny it outwardly, Michiko and Pepe really are alike, though the latter says she’ll trust people while Pepe is originally from money we’re guessing Michiko never saw in her youth. Notably, they also have younger girls to take care of. Pepe and Lulu are a mirror for our heroines, but Michiko ends up breaking that mirror, literally and figuratively.

We were as disappointed with Michiko’s decision as she seemed to be – but if when it comes to survival in the harsh, cruel world, staying out of it was the right choice. Hatchin gets drunk off orange juice, for crying out loud, and while she has a stout heart and will (trying to rescue Michiko was adorable, if foolhardy), a stiff breeze will blow her away. The kids Rico employs may not have great lives, but they have each other and his protection. Hatchin had her awful family, but it was still security, which Michiko took away. As she demonstrates when she pays Rico without a fuss, Michiko’s motto of “keeping things simple” has kept her alive so far; she can’t risk going against it for Pepe, lest Hatchin pay the price.

9_superiorRating: 9 (Superior)

Michiko to Hatchin – 03

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Michiko consults with a fortune teller who gives several prophecies to both her and Hatchin, she also sells a “miracle stone” that Michiko gives an unconvinced Hatchin. When Hatchin steps in dog doo, Michiko steals her a new pair of shoes. Hatchin convinces a Chinese restaurateur to give her a chance. As Michiko asks around for Hiroshi, Hatchin works for free to prove she’s serious. She runs after a dine-and-dasher to his favela (going against the fortune teller’s warnings) and is then chased by his friend with a gun. Cornered, she stuns him with her stone. Michiko arrives to pick her up and scare the others off. They go to the shanty where Michiko believes Hiroshi lives, but when a woman answers the door, Michiko storms off with Hatchin in tow, insisting it wasn’t her dad after all.

After shooting down helicopters riding motorbikes through windows and Rube Goldberg-like police chases through town, this episode is a lot quieter (there are some gunshots, but they’re poorly aimed). Now in a relatively safe place where they don’t have to be in survival mode, Michiko sets about her mission to find her man. It’s charming how much faith she puts in the old lady compared to Hatchin’s naked skepticism, and we knew when she started spouting off vague prophesies in her trance, that the episode would unfold much as she said, only with results different than Michiko and Hatchin interpreted them. We also see that Hatchin is still not ready to lead a life of crime, refusing to wear her shiny new shoes until she’s paid for them with a part-time job.

Hatchin’s oppressor-of-the-week is Ramu, but it’s different that she’s there by choice. Being a little kid with no ID, Ramu’s about as kind to you as you’d expect someone in his position to be (he also has a daughter). We also liked Hatchin shearing her pom-poms, a gesture symbolizing that the old put-upon Hana is gone (even if that’s not really true, at least not yet). Her enthusiasm in her quasi-job (she’s never actually paid) and her failure to heed the warning about “climbing the mountain” almost got her killed, but she finally gives in to the superstition, and her miracle stone flies true. As for Hiroshi, we’re guessing that really wasn’t him – just a white guy who resembled the sketch – we’ll know for sure if Michiko continues her search.

9_superiorRating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • This is a show that keeps track of its days and locations, so we know it’s been nearly two weeks since Michiko escaped and not even a week since she and Hatchin teamed up, which explains why Hana and Michiko aren’t quite best buds yet.
  • Hana’s cat-and-mouse chase with the boy who stole lunch (and her shoes) was excellent, especially when the tables were turned and Hana became the mouse in the favela.
  • Where is Michiko getting all these outfits? Never mind, we won’t ask…
  • Like the previous episodes, the built-up, lived-in environs are exquisitely detailed. It’s clear Brazil itself (at least an animated version of it) will be a major character in this series.

Michiko to Hatchin – 01

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Michiko Malandro stages a daring escape from prison during a storm, and later holds up a bank for cash. Hana Morenos is the ward of Father Pedro Belenbauza Yamada, and is perpetually abused mistreated by him, her adoptive mother Joanna, and her siblings Maria and Gabriel. She finally snaps and has had enough, beating up Maria and running away, but comes back before long. When Michiko calls Pedro saying she’s coming for her “daughter” Hana, Pedro arms himself with a shotgun, but Michiko drives her motorbike in through the window, snatching Hana up and taking her with her on the road.

Having aired way back in October 2008, this Manglobe series predates our blog by about three years. We were far less attuned to what was airing and when back then, but a friend who liked the look of it recommend we give it a belated look, so here we are. The first episode was one hell of a ride, wasting no time establishing two things: one, that Michiko is a consummate badass who won’t be caged or tamed, and that Hana is a downtrodden oppressed youth of Dickensian/Dahlian proportions, sniped at on all sides by her soul-crushingly sociopathic adoptive family. No trouble feeling empathy for Hana.

Michiko and Hana couldn’t be more different, except for one thing: they both want freedom. And don’t consider this a dig, but we couldn’t help but think of the first Harry Potter book/film when we watched Hana’s story unfold. This is a child whose “family” doesn’t give a shit about, except when it comes to government child support, most of which probably goes toward lining pockets than filling the stomach in her tiny frame. But those hellish times she never deserved to endure may be behind her. There will be other dangers on the road ahead, but there will also be hope.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • We really dug the Brazilian setting. It’s a rarity these days for an anime to take place somewhere other than Japan, or a Japanese high school, for that matter. Automatic bonus points for thinking outside the archipelago.
  • Among the indignities Hana must endure: Gabriel riding her like a dog with a rope around her neck, while Maria sprays cleaner in her face and tries to apply a hot iron to it. Good times!
  • This was Yamamoto Sayo’s directorial debut, and we love her style so far. Michiko and Hana are voiced by two seiyus who only ever voiced those two characters.
  • Scrolling down the cast and staff, we were expecting to see Champloo/Bebop helm Wantanabe Shinichiro in a key role, but interestingly, all he seems to be responsible for is the music
  • We’ll be watching and reviewing more episodes whenever we have the time.