Travel Update 3 – Japan

Wow, I feel like I’ve not sat still in days (that isn’t true given I had a couple of hours on the Shinkansen down to Kyoto and back again) and I am feeling super tired and yet still wanting to get out and go. There’s just so much to see and do while in Japan and even though I’ve been here before there’s so many places I’ve yet to see and places I’d love to get back to.

No where near enough hours for this place.

Okay, so since the last update I have hit Akihabara. I spent nearly six hours wandering around the area and even that wasn’t enough. I actually left not because I ran out of time but because I’d pretty much exhausted my designated budget for that part of the trip and staying any longer would have been hazardous to my ability to eat for the rest of the trip (and if you’ve been following me on Twitter you know that I am enjoying my food here).

So yes, I found treasure. And while I’ll take my time unboxing and taking some photos of it when I get home for now I’m keeping things firmly wrapped up so they survive the trip home. That said, the two main figures I got were both second hand and reboxed in the first place but it did make them infinitely more affordable. Ciel from Black Butler and Asuna from Sword Art Online will be making the trip home from Japan with me this time, and a third character who I am keeping under wraps because I plan on doing a give away for my blog anniversary so watch that space.

Can I keep them? Please?

Animate was also visited and I got myself a pencil case from Dakaichi, a Natsume acrylic stand, Banana Fish post cards, and a Platelet key chain. All and all, very happy with my wanderings except that one of the last shops I was visiting had an entire Natsume case filled with Nyanko and beautiful figures of almost all the main characters. Even the smallest ones however were just that little bit too pricey for their size and so I had to settle for the photo and the memory. Plus, I already grabbed figures of Natsume and Reiko last time I was in Japan. Fortunately, I did get some really cute Nyanko-Sensei stickers out of a vending machine later in Shibuya and I’m still looking out for an affordable plush Nyanko to join the one I got last year at Supernova.

Anyway, after the shopping was done I had to hop a Shinkansen to Kyoto which meant of course a bento dinner on the train. No photo unfortunately because I was starved and it was delicious so waiting for photography just wasn’t an option.

This is actually a really great way to spend a morning, well worth the visit.

With my one day in Kyoto, my friend and I hit the major tourist spots. I am going to firmly suggest that if you ever intend to go to the Fushimi Inari Shrine you go early. We arrived there at 7:30 in the morning and it was already difficult to get photos without other people in them. By the time we were finished (just after 12), it was mass chaos at the main shrine with tour groups, school groups and just people clustered everywhere. The only problem with going early is very few of the shops and food booths are open so stop at a convenience store on the way and grab some onigiri to eat on the go. By the time you come back everything will be open and you can grab some tasty skewers, corn, or pretty much anything to eat and then browse the souvenirs.

Also, where comfortable shoes and be ready for a hike. It isn’t a long distance by any means, but the time signs are misleading. When it says ten minutes to the summit what it means is approximately an hour if you stop for a moderate number of photos and if you have usual human stamina and need to take a couple of short stops because of the steps (keep in mind I go hiking for holidays semi-regularly and enjoy it so I’m not really that out of shape though my persistent cough probably was making the stairs a bit harder to take than normal). Then of course there’s the trip back. Also, other tourists are going to stop right in front of you without warning, or do random poses for their own photos and you just kind of have to deal with it. Fortunately the closer to the summit you get the less people there are.

I really loved walking around the shrine and exploring all the side paths and little shops along the way. It was great fun. The one thing that I would actually put as a negative is the persistent announcement over the loud speakers about not making eye-contact with wild boars or monkeys. It is really hard to enjoy a quiet and contemplative moment on a mountain when you have the same message blaring at you in multiple languages pretty much continuously.

I’d still recommend visiting.

After the shrine we hopped the train over to Arashiyama and checked out the bamboo path, a bunch of shrines, lots of tourist shops, the river, a scenic look out, and finally we headed over to the monkey park (oh my god more stairs – I was reminded well and truly that I was not over my cold when I had to stop the third time on this path to catch my breath). Totally worth it though. The monkeys are super cute.

Sakura flavoured ice-cream. Totally recommended. They also serve it blended with matcha ice-cream which was also pretty tasty.

Plus, and this is the real reason I’d recommend it, you get an absolutely brilliant view of Kyoto from the monkey park. Truly gorgeous.

I didn’t go into the cage and feed the monkeys but I did have fun standing above it and watching the other tourists in the cage reaching out with scraps of food and seeing the monkeys crawling over the outside swiping at them. There’s something amusing about the idea of putting the humans in the cage while the monkeys are freely roaming about the outside.

Seriously too cute.

Anyway, after all of that we hit a fairly quiet cafe for dinner. The next morning we decided to splurge a little on breakfast and hit up a buffet at one of the hotels that was on the top ten list of places to eat breakfast in Kyoto. So worth it serving both Japanese and Western food and a huge selection.

Sorry about the smudges, the window I was photographing through was dirty.

Another shinkansen ride back to Tokyo before hitting Shibuya for the afternoon and evening. Of course that means pictures of people scrambling on a crossing. By the way, the Animate in Shibuya actually had more Natsume items than the one in Akihabara. I also picked up some manga volumes in Japanese to do some translation practice with when I have free time (I know, free time isn’t something I come across very often).

Love the commitment to theme in this arcade. Random side-note, three floors are done in this style and then the fourth floor suddenly becomes like a roman bath scene. No idea why.

We finished the day with a visit to an arcade that is themed like it is from some post-apocalyptic novel in Kawasaki before going for train sushi.

Scallop sushi, my favourite.

Seriously need more hours in a day and I really need to get rid of this cold because after all of that running around I’m pretty run-down and needed to have a chill out day before I get going again tomorrow. Big plans ahead and plenty more to see.

Hopefully I’ll update in a couple more days and have some more fun moments to share.

Thanks for reading
Karandi James
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Blue Exorcist Episode 37

Review:

I can’t help but think this entire season was just filler. Other than Rin learning to control his flames (which took way too long) and the other students finally getting over Rin being the son of Satan (though for some reason they don’t apply that same reasoning to Yukio) we’ve watched this whole season and nothing of substance has changed in either characters or plot. The few developments we’ve had could have been covered in about five minutes if they’d decided to move things along and so we’ve just had padded dialogue after overly dragged out action sequence.

However, I’ll save further complaints for the show as a whole for my whole season review and for now I’ll focus entirely on this episode, which was nothing. Other than one discussion with Mephisto where we got the very obvious hint that he’s the master mind behind pretty much everything and has some plan for Rin (which we knew forever ago), nothing happens in this episode. Unless you count Shiemi’s unintentional absolute rejection of Rin as anything other than a friend.

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And no,  I don’t count this as a point. There was a discussion between Rin and Yukio but even they acknowledge they are just rehashing the same conversation at this point so why are they making the audience listen to it again. We get it. You two have different views. And Rin’s an idiot. Great. Move on already.

So yeah, as a final episode this one left me feeling pretty flat.

Blue Exorcist is available on AnimeLab.


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Karandi James.

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Blue Exorcist Episode 36

Review:

The fragmented nature of this show continued this week with Yukio and Todo kind of finishing their fight (though Todo seems pretty unkillable at this point so not really sure if they are really done or not) and then Rin finally did something with his sword. This show is always at its best when we have the characters mid-action so the episode this week was actually kind of satisfying though still lacked any of the spectacle from season 1. Rin gaining some control was nice but the believe-in-yourself message just feel at odds with the overall tone of this show (though there is nothing new given it has been a persistent theme throughout). But, having not read the manga, my real question is what is the next episode going to focus on. There’s at least a half-dozen loose ends that could be dealt with but it doesn’t really have time for all of them given next week is meant to be the last episode. So either we’re hitting wait for the sequel territory or worse, read the manga.

Blue Exorcist is available on AnimeLab.


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Karandi James.

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Blue Exorcist Episode 35

Review:

Blue Exorcist is a good example of why shows should just try to tell their story and wrap it up. Whether there is a bigger world or other stories that could be explored is neither here nor there because the whole point of stories is to entertain. Season 2 of Blue Exorcist has failed at almost every point to actually entertain. Once you get the initial happy that the show is back and you just look at this arc on its own merit you realise that very little good has come from the characters or the plot and in point of fact some of the characters have lost what little drive they had. Essentially, we have a cast carried over and a new problem dropped on them but no focus at all. But that’s not reviewing this episode so moving on.

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My favourite parts of this episode came from Yukio and Todo’s confrontation. I’m kind of glad that Yukio’s plan wasn’t successful in the end because it seemed too easy after Todo had been hanging around for that long. Still, that confrontation was getting close to entertaining even if Todo is now mocking the exorcists for having meetings mid-battle. Seriously, it doesn’t make the fact that you’ve made us sit through all those committee meetings better if you are self-aware of it. Fix your story telling.

My least favourite moments came watching Suguro and Rin. Mostly because everything going on up there is delay for the moment Rin draws his sword. An inevitable event from the start of this battle and really they did drag this out. A lot. And what makes it worse was that there was nothing that actually triggered the change in the end. Can’t draw it, can’t draw it, we’re talking, pep talk, can’t draw it, internal monologue, wow, it suddenly came out. It’s such a cheap plot device when used in this manner and there’s no tension in the scene because you know that either Rin’s going to draw the sword before Suguro actually gets hurt or the wonderful exorcist doctors will fix him up anyway.

Blue Exorcist is available on AnimeLab.


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Karandi James.

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Blue Exorcist Episode 28

Review:

I shouldn’t be surprised that very little is happening at the moment in this show. Season 1 did the exact same thing. Big opening with lots of supernatural menace and action and then highschool playtime and teens figuring out who they are only occasionally broken up by action sequences.

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Its a weird choice for a show that most people would call an action. The problem is, Blue Exorcist doesn’t really do characters that can pull off emotional nuances so mostly we’re left with lame jokes and obvious emotional fumbling, meanwhile we know there’s this whole conspiracy and demons and amazing things we could be watching and instead we see Shiemi get comforted by being called a weed.

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Not mocking Shiemi too much. She’s my favourite character in this show but as I said the characters aren’t exactly amazing. All and all this is watchable to those who watched season 1 but hasn’t improved at all so won’t be winning any new fans.

Blue Exorcist is available on AnimeLab.

Blue Exorcist Episode 27

Review:

For a show that likes its action the first two episodes of this season have been pretty slow. Episode 27 sees us meeting family members of Rin’s classmates who live in Kyoto and various other characters in Kyoto who I’m sure will actually become important at some point (or cannon fodder so either way). We do get some more back story on Bon but mostly learn that he’s just angry at his father. Rin on the other hand is still dealing with the fact that most of his classmates are avoiding him which does lead to a fairly entertaining scene that was probably fuelled by the underage consumption of alcohol (accidental, of course). That said, Kuro gets the award for most valuable player in this episode because he’s just plain adorable. So, a little bit slow but we’re still setting up all the pieces and the final few minutes of the episode kind of indicate that the plot is getting ready to move.

Blue Exorcist is available on AnimeLab.


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If you like this site and you like what I do, please consider becoming a patron.

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Karandi James.

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