This contains spoilers… So if you’re interested in watching this anime then DON’T read this!
My wife’s cousin is a bit of a nerd and he’s the awesome kind of nerdy older relative that buys me game consoles and new video games, stops by once a week to drop off fresh issues of JUMP, burns me DVD’s of DBZ, and he’s always awake at late hours of the night so you can call him drunk and incoherent and he’ll cruise over in his Skyliner GT and pick you up.
He also tells me what animes he thinks I should be watching and what mangas he things I should read. Now our taste for such things differs ever so slightly. As a lit major in college I have trouble just appreciating stuff without over analyzing it in a pretentious condescending way. But that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy anime and manga.
I bring up my wife’s awesome older cousin because he made me watch an anime called Code Geass. This was way back in 2008… but I was reminded of it last week because of the KONY2012 movement that has taken the world by storm.
Code Geass is a depressing fucking story and the ending is kind of terrible (more on that later). But if you’re a fan of mecha and emo-level depression, then this might be for you. (Think Machiavelli meets Gundam meets Evangelion)
This is an anime set in a sort of parallel universe where the evil empire, Britannia, has rolled over Japan in the year 2010 and stripped the Japanese of pretty much all rights and freedoms. To top it off they’ve renamed Japan “Area 11” and the people are called “elevens.” (How that’s worse from being called Japan and Japanese, which are also not in the Nihongo lexicon, I don’t know)
The protagonist of this story is an anorexic exiled prince of Britannia with a tongue twister name: Lelouch Lamperouge (it’s even worse in Japanese, レレーシュ Lehlehhhshu). His father, Charles zi Britannia, is the evil douchebag running the show, and his mother was “murdered” some time ago. As a character he’s pretty well constructed, not an idiot, and a bit of a tragic hero, which I dug. He’s motivated by his desire to protect his sister Nunnally, who for most of the show is confined to a wheelchair and blind; trying to figure out what happened to his mother; and his intense desire to personally destroy his father and the empire of Britannia.
Lelouch and his sister live in Japan at a sort of boarding school for social elites and royal leftovers. On his way home in the first episode, Lelouche happens to meet up with a green haired witch girl who enters into some sort of “contract” with him which grants him the power of “geass.” There are several characters with geass and like snowflakes, no two geass are alike. I think they’re determined based off of the owners personal disposition or something like that.
Lelouch’s geass grants him the ability to command people to do whatever the hell he wants as long as he can come into direct eye contact with them. His first use of this power is ordering some Britannia soldiers that are trying to kill him to shoot themselves in the face while he watches.
Then, Lelouch hooks up with some resistant fighters called the Black Knights. He becomes the leader pretty much right away and adopts an alter ego named “ZERO” that is a mix of Darkwing Duck and Voldo’s mask when he’s wearing his really gay outfit.
There’s a lot of cool battles and one-on-one fights. The nightmare frames are updated more times than an Apple product so the action sequences manage to keep an edge without getting repetitive, plus the introduction of different and unique geass keeps things fresh. The geass are also not without weakness, which is a nice touch.
I’m sure that any educated reader of my blog knows that every seven years the human body completely regenerates. From your eyes to your bones, every seven years a completely new you is created from within.
As individuals, we humans are little different from our cells. We group together to build families, societies, and countries. None last forever, but most are not so weak than any little thing will end the line indefinitely.
I’ve seen some tragedy, more than some, much less that so many others. I’ve buried a brother, tagged along to AA meetings with my father, watched the Twin Towers collapse while praying none of my family was in that vicinity, and cleaned away the wreckage of modern civilization left by more than one hurricane.
But last year I saw my first tsunami as it raked the north-eastern shores of Japan. People, cars, homes, schools, and entire towns were leveled, crushed, and swept away in mere moments. The survivors watched powerlessly as their homes and neighbors were swallowed whole by the rising black water.
Humanity, like humans, is perhaps more resilient than it should be. Our lives are not calm predictable things. Lots of things change the current of our personal evolution. Loss of a job, substance abuse, crime, accidents, stock markets, tsunamis… catastrophic events might always be just around the corner. And when they come sometimes we survive. Sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we don’t even have an option. Yet for those that do we have that magical and almost spiritually pure thing that repentant villains in family films covet… a second chance.
The human body regenerates after seven years they say. I say, that’s nothing compared with the human spirit.
Valentine’s day in Japan is a day where women give men chocolate and men eat chocolate.
It’s not all fun and games, as you must remember who gave you chocolate and then a month later return the gesture on March 14th, which is called White Day. Your return present should be worth about 3x the gift you received on Valentine’s Day.
Women will give chocolate to, not just lovers, crushes, and spouses, but also co-workers, bosses, friends, and family members.
So what seems like a giant ego boost is really becomes an obligation to empty your wallet later on.
It’s truly a time of year where dashing good looks are a curse…
The best Valentine’s Day gifts I’ve received has been bottles of sake. On White Day I simply bought more bottles of sake as a return gift and we all drank them together!
Younger girls will usually make chocolate by hand, as they don’t have the money to spend on expensive candy. They’ll buy wrapping paper and decorations to make their gifts cute. It’s called 「手作りチョコ」(tezukurichoko), and I think it almost means more than fancy expensive chocolate. (though I still prefer sake)
When I was a child it was forbidden for me to watch children’s shows with a lot of violence. This meant, no Power Rangers, no Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, no Thunder Cats, and no Marvel or DC comic based shows…
Somehow Darkwing Duck made the cut, along with Tail Spin, Rescue Rangers, and nature shows with lions ripping zebras apart.
I was actually home schooled for the better part of my elementary school years which means I learned enough before 7th grade to make me the smartest kid in the school until I graduated high school. When I was reintroduced to America’s public school system all the kids were using cool curse words, sagging their shorts like prison inmates who needed belts, and playing Pokémon on their cool Game Boy Advances.
So to fit in, I unbuttoned the top button of my denim shorts so my pants could be in a perpetual kinetic state with my actual waist, learned how to cuss like sailor with Tourettes, and bought a used GB Pocket and a new copy of Pokémon (Red).
Pokémon was my first taste of Japanese culture outside of that one time my family went to a sushi restaurant in Kentucky and the origami I learned from watching Reading Rainbow. It was a little like a gateway drug. While I never watched the anime to go with the game I did wind up discovering afterschool anime on the Cartoon Network.
When you got home from school you could watch Dragon Ball Z, Ruroni Kenshin, Yuyu Hakusho, and one or more of the Gundum spinoffs. This was the little secret my brother and I kept from our conservative mother, who would likely have frowned upon us watching aliens beating the crap out of each other, a high school delinquent hunting demons, and a man slayer trying to atone for his murderous past by wandering aimlessly like a lost good Samaritan.
In Japan, these sorts of shows are the norm. They almost all originated as a manga (mahn gah), a Japanese comic. These shows are insanely popular overseas in N. America, S. America, Europe, and other Asian countries. I’ve read dozens of them since moving to Japan in 2008 and watched a fair share of the animated versions as well. If you’re reading this chances are you stumbled upon it because like me you are a huge huge nerd, and even though it’s 2012, no, nerds are not cool or sexy, they’re still square…
But part of growing up is over analyzing stuff, because just pure enjoyment seems too juvenile. And looking now at some of the anime/manga that I love, or loved, or is popular today I noticed cracks of insanity start to appear…
5. Pokémon – a PETA field day
This is the only one on this list that the only knowledge I have of it is from playing the game version. I have not seen any of the anime or read any of the manga.
So, let me get this straight. There are dangerous animals in the world. So in order to venture out into any place with grass, water, or caves you need your own collection of dangerous animals who are loyal to you seemingly only because a.) you own their ass, b.) they respect the merit badges c.) if you’re not pleased you can stick them in a tiny little red and white ball.
There are three points to the game, a story line that with each version of the game differs ever so slightly, like Pocahontas > Dances with Wolves > Avatar; an RPG element that revolves on you hand picking a few of your very best Pokémon to train from cute little throw pillows to marauding battle creatures the size of gorillas, and the last is as some insane sort of collector as you scour the world to fill out your pokédex.
The really insane thing is those pokéballs fail all the fucking time when you’re trying to catch wild Pokémon. (The exception of course being the master ball, that without using the surfing cheat you’ll only have one of the entire game.)
Somehow once caught it is just assumed that your Pokémon will swear allegiance to you despite the fact that 90% of the time it’s either riding around in it’s tiny unstable pokéball or uploaded as data to your computer which I imagine is either like purgatory or TRON…
So as you wander the world you encounter numerous different Pokémon. Some are as threatening as a goldfish, others are massive ferocious beasts with bodies ranging from, poison, ice, rock, magma, and dragon… I’m pretty sure every time you toss your Pokémon out as a Pokémon shield, it’s seriously contemplating turning on you and tearing you to shreds with all the nasty things you’ve taught it…
4. Anpanman – When Bread Flies
Batman is a billionaire psychopath who uses a bat motif to strike terror in he hearts of villains who are afraid of small flying rodents. Spiderman is a man who has mutant spider powers and a dry wit. Anpanman is a man made out of bean-filled bread.
Anpan is bread filled with the Japanese sweet bean paste called anko, it’s like mixing sugar into refried beans. Kids love the stuff apparently, though knowing children even celery dipped in chocolate would appeal to them.
Anpanman came into being when Jamu Ojisan (Uncle Jam) was baking and a shooting star landed in his oven… Right…
Naturally, Anpanman can fly. He has super strength. He doesn’t need to eat as he’s made of bread filled with sweet protein. He is weak against water, (what bread isn’t?) and also when he gets dirty he loses his power much like the sexually ambiguous Captain Planet. When he stumbles on a hungry person or creature he let’s them eat his head.
That’s right one of his super-duper abilities is breaking off pieces of his face to feed hungry people. Don’t worry! Because he can regenerate his visage after it’s been consumed. Wait… did I say regenerate? No, that’s not right. What happens is that old baker that baked him can bake him a new head, which can be taken to Anpanman’s headless, dirty, or water logged body to revive him.
So in the land of Anpanman there are discarded half-eaten heads of our hero just kind of scattered about like… like nothing… I can’t think of a similar analogy to a world filled with a hero’s half-eaten heads… I mean those things will rot right? They’ll mold over and animals will shred them and ants will be crawling all over the place… gross.
3. Rurouni Kenshin – Personality Disorder Hero
I love this anime, even when it deviated horribly from the original manga and featured what was possibly the silliest mixing of media ever to close out an animated series it’s still one of my top ten animes.
It follows the story of Kenshin Himura, who before he became a “rurouni” (wandering swordsman) he was a key architect of the new era in Japan. His former job was as the most feared assassin in the revolution where he earned the nickname of Battosai the Man Slayer by racking up a body count like Leonides mopping up Persians.
After the revolution, to atone for all the murdering he’d done in his past life he decided to wander around a while helping people with his sword when he could. Apparently he did pretty much all of his wandering before the first episode/chapter because, aside from day trips to the market, a quick trip to Kyoto to kill a mummy, and a pirate incident, Kenshin pretty much bases all of his operations out of Kaoru’s dojo.
Now the Japanese government doesn’t think that Kenshin hanging out as a cook for Kaoru’s dojo is a proper allocation of resources for their deadliest weapon and they spend a lot of time trying to get Kenshin to revert to his former murderous self. They’re not alone either. Other retired Samurai, a group of ninjas, and some European knights all try to convince Kenshin that he was really better the way he was back in the revolution–all for various nefarious purposes.
The thing is they succeed on more than one occasion and Kenshin goes bat-shit insane and only the fact that he uses a reverse blade sword keeps him from hacking people apart.
So this is obviously a story of a split personality serial killer. Through most of the series he’s mild mannered goofy and calm as a Zen statue. Other times he looks like a deranged maniac that’s hungry for murder.
He’s infinitely more useful in his deranged state, as initially he never really finished mastering his sword style, and instead just relied on his god-like speed combined with bloodlust. So when he’s peaceful-Kenshin he’s a sword master, but when he’s murderous Kenshin the difference between him and other samurai is like asking toddler to take down Jason Bourne.
Moral of the story, it’s good to try to pay for the wrongs you committed in life. But when it’s really necessary it’s fine to go bat shit crazy and cut up some mo fo’s…
2. Naruto – Like Mexican Cartels
Naruto started out well as a manga about ninjas. What’s more Japanese than a manga about ninjas? This story starts with the lead character failing to graduate from ninja academy, but then by foiling a traitor and saving his sensei’s life he earns the respect of the village leaders enough for them to rubber stamp his diploma.
Let’s get some gaping flaws in the whole story out of the way.
First, for a story about ninja’s, not many of the characters spend much time trying to be ninjaish… they spend lots of time yelling out the names of their attacks while running straight for their opponents, creating large explosions, floods, fires, tempests, and littering the ground with hundreds of shurikin. For christsake the main character wears bright orange which only trails the suit full of question marks in the ridiculous ninja garb department.
Second, one of the characters uses a 7-sword sword-style, which is just fucking stupid.
Third, half the time they rely on massive animals to fight their battles either with or for them, which brings us back to #5 on this list.
Fourth, the entire ninja world is at most only 100 years old… the 5th Hokage (village leader) is about 50 years old, and is the granddaughter of the 1st Hokage. She replaced the 3rd Hokage who is about the age her parents should have been and the 3rd Hokage was friends with the 1st and 2nd Hokages who it seems were about the same ages. They talk about the history of the ninja world and lost techniques and bloodline abilities, yet these things couldn’t have been missing for very long at all. Ninjas must count in dog years.
The single most disturbing fact about Naruto is the simple fact that it’s a show about children taught how to kill people. The better the child is at killing, the more highly he’s revered in the ninja world.
The title character often feels inferior to other characters who are more advanced than him, but that means he feels remorse that it’s taking him into his teens to become a feared ninja.
Naruto graduates from the ninja academy at the ripe age of 12 and starts to undertake ninja missions. We’re under the assumption that Naruto’s village is the ninja village that takes the moral high ground, though we later learn that’s all bullcrap, and most of Naruto’s early work is mundane stuff that you’d expect a child to do, like yard work, tending fields, and catching escaped pets.
In his first hazardous mission, the client lies to the town to get a cheaper rent-a-ninja-rate and Naruto and his team that consists of two other tweens, Sasuke and Sakura, and a 28 year old sensei, Kakashi, have to ward off attacks from a blood thirsty killer, Zabuza, who is accompanied by a sidekick suffering from a serious case of Stockholm Syndrome, Haku.
Haku is a boy. Yes, he cross dresses and says that his life’s purpose is to only serve the much older and emotionally empty Zabuza who treats Haku like an object to be used and discarded (his words, and Haku’s)… but let’s ignore how utterly disturbing that is and focus on how Haku is used in the story for Naruto’s development. Naruto feels competitive and chagrined that Haku is so much stronger than him and Sasuke, the same way I used to get pissed at Craig Wilson because he could hit a baseball further than me in Little League. Haku is a better assassin and 12 year old Naruto is jealous.
Haku’s part in the story ends when he intercepts Kakashi’s attempt to execute Zabuza and dies by way of fist through the heart-area of his body… he uses his dying words tell everyone how happy it makes him that he could be of some use to Zabuza…
Where else do we see this sort of child violence encouraged? Mostly in the Middle East by terrorists, African warlords, gangsters in Breaking Bad and Mexican cartels…
The villages also profit from the ninja children fighting and dying in the Chunin exams where ninja children from around the ninja world come to compete and show off their ninja abilities. If you do well you earn a promotion in ninja rank, if you don’t do well then you have to take the test over, provided you weren’t killed in any of the rounds, which does happen fairly frequently.
The final section of the exam is a set of colosseum style matches that really rake in the cash for the hosting town as hordes of violence loving fans pay for seats to watch… to watch children beating the crap out of each other.
The adults of the series are often saying how they have to trust the future to the younger generation… Screw that… if you teach a bunch of kids how to blow shit up and call on giant animals to appear out of nowhere, you better have some goddamn parental supervision! I was a teenager once, and considered very responsible by most adults, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t have bottle rocket wars on the highway, or play flaming tennis, or hit golf balls off the tops of parking buildings into downtown Kansas City. And these “adult ninjas” who are so eager and ready to let Naruto and his friends take the reins of responsibility are barely into their 30’s, with the oldest main character the 50 year old 5th Hokage. Actually most of the few truly old characters in Naruto’s village are portrayed as scheming douche bags when they’re at times the only voices of reason…
Point is kids are stupid. Even smart kids are stupid, especially when faced with the crisis that is puberty. Sure you’ll get that one kid who was born an old soul and is pretty much a better human being than the rest of us, but by far and large the majority of us shouldn’t be trusted with a fruit knife much less ninja techniques that can destroy entire city blocks… middle school is hard enough…
*edit It should be noted that in Japanese cultures, like many cultures around the world, warrior training began in early childhood, from knights and squires, to Native American Indians, to Spartans, and Roman legionaires.
Naruto is at this moment the most popular anime that romanticizes this historical fact in Japanese history, which is why it earned its place on this list. Thanks to rhaphazardfor pointing that out. Who knows… maybe in a few decades or centuries Neo-Mexico will have 3D or 4D cartoons about the brave teenage cartel executioners and the strength of friendship, teamwork, and spirit!
1. DBZ – Gohan will spend a fortune in therapy
I love Dragon Ball. When Goku transformed into a Super Saiyan I think my other testicle finally descended and my voice stopped cracking. Before there was Tebowing there was definitely the raising-your-power-level pose which incidentally is also my taking an explosive #2 pose.
Dragon Ball’s central character, Son Goku is an idiot. Strongest being dead or alive, yes, but like so many central characters in Japanese stories he’s a character with extraordinary abilities often overlooked by his extraordinary stupidity. It’s like if you crossed Superman with Kung Fu Panda plus brain damage.
If there was an award for shitty parenting you might as well name that award The Goku. To be fair Goku wasn’t really sold on the whole family thing in the first place and he got married because he was too good natured and too stupid to think of a reason not to when Chichi proposed it.
His wife becomes the stereotypical house wife, who is a severe disciplinarian and task master when it comes to her child’s studies. However, for some reason Chichi can never seem to confront Goku on his unemployment status and absentee parenting style. She’s forever enamored by the spikey haired simpleton.
Goku really drops the ball with all of his children. After escaping from the exploding planet Namek, Goku does a little tour of the galaxy while his wife, son, and friends believe that he perished in the blast. Despite showing that he can use King Kai as a telepathic collect call, he doesn’t even bother to phone home to let everyone who loves and cares for him that he’s still alive. Instead, they all frantically collect the dragon balls and try to wish him back to life. The dragon tells them they’re silly and he can’t bring someone to life who’s ain’t dead yet. Surprised but overjoyed by the news they ask the dragon to bring Goku back to Earth. Apparently Goku is having too much fun on his one-man road trip and refuses to allow the dragon to instantly bring him home. Sounds pretty suspicious to me…
In his travels Goku stops off on the planet Yardrat where he picks up a teleportation technique that allows him to immediately travel to any location he wants in the galaxy as long as he can sense the energy of someone he knows at his destination. Let me repeat that, he can travel anywhere he wants instantly… this includes not only interplanetary travel, but he can also travel between the living world and “Other World” in an instant. So he could have say, popped in at home for a few days or just to say hi, and then immediately return to where he was and resume his gallivanting across the universe.
Meanwhile the rebuilt Frieza and his equally ugly father come to Earth to kill Goku and blow up the planet by way of Frieza’s little finger bomb. Goku is aware of this, but sensing Trunks’s presence he decides to just keep rocking out in his conventional space ship for another three hours. When he lands he’s wearing some clothes that look like he just got home from a gay cruise… suspicious… He tells Trunks that he could have come home at any time, but sensing that the world wasn’t really in danger he didn’t.
The next crisis for Goku is when the Earth is attacked by a robotic praying mantis crossed with a scorpion. Reciving prior warning of this by time traveling Trunks, Goku has spent the time training with Gohan. Gohan I’m sure couldn’t be happier during this period. But the magic wears off as things get serious and Goku puts Gohan into the ring against Cell in his completed form.
With the fate of the world on Gohan’s 10 year old shoulders Piccolo, who’s a much better father figure, tells Goku that matching his son against the strongest fighter in the universe was a mistake as Gohan, unlike Goku, doesn’t really like fighting, plus Gohan is a 10 year old child…
Cell, intrigued that Gohan might have hidden powers and aided by the hint from Goku that if Gohan gets mad he gets stronger, kills off the peaceful Android 17 16. This sends Gohan into a blind rage, which overpowers Cell, but instead of ending the fight and killing Cell, Gohan begins to sadistically torment the former villain, like a child bully would do. Cell, backed into a corner, blows himself up and Goku has to sacrifice himself and die (for the 2nd time) to save the Earth… Oh, and he kills King Kai, a monkey , and an oversized hornet in the process… Well live and learn right?
Six or seven years later Goku returns to Earth for a day to compete in the World Martial Arts Tournament. Apparently he knocked up Chichi right before he died, because he now has a seven-year old son named Goten.
Of course Goku’s arrival brings new disaster to the Earth with the last super villain of the Dragon Ball Z series: Majin Buu.
Goku starts to train his youngest son and Trunks who is a year older than Goten, to fuse their bodies together to increase their power. Taking a break from practice Goku sends Trunks to fetch the dragon radar while he confronts Buu and reveals that he has a new badass transformation that makes his body suck in his eyebrows and grow his hair long, which in Japanese animation, like Sampson, means a big boost in strength. He fights with Buu for a while, then decides to quit.
Upon returning Piccolo accuses Goku of not fighting seriously. Goku confirms that he didn’t go all out, but only because he is willing to bet the future of the Earth on the two children. His reasoning is that danger is always out there and while he’s around at this moment, what about the next time when he’s back to being dead? Goten is 7 and Trunks is 8 so they’re plenty old enough to learn how to be protectors of the planet, right?
Of course the kids don’t come through… Buu ends up of absorbing them and and killing nearly everyone on the planet including Chichi. In the end Goku has to borrow energy from all the creatures in the universe to incinerate the Pepto-Bismo colored monster.
After Buu, we’re left to assume, that for the next 10 years Goku lives with his family in peace, though I’m willing to bet he spent the majority of the time training by himself and wandering around killing and eating sentient dinosaurs.
Goku and company enter the World Martial Arts Tournament again because there’s a special fighter that Goku wants to spar with. Turns out Goku asked that the crazy evil Buu be reincarnated as a good soul so he could fight with him again. Apparently this asinine request was fulfilled and Buu is reincarnated as a dark-skinned human named Uub, which is the 2nd laziest thing a writer has ever done in the history of any and all written language.
So facing off against the seven year old Uub who is as timid as a virgin on prom night, Goku tries to get Uub fired-up by going to his primary teaching MO, getting the student as angry as possible. He insults Uub first, and then insults Uub’s family. Uub finally loses his temper and attacks well enough to impress Goku with his potential. Goku announces to his family that he’s going to go live with Uub to train the kid to be the Earth’s new protector, because apparently his sons just don’t impress him enough. Gohan asks his father, why he’s doing this, but Goku ignores the question entirely and says he’ll come home now and then, which if history is any indicator means never…
I love all of these (except for Anpanman) and they hold a special place in my childhood with fond memories and cool memes. For some of these it has been a long time since I read, watched, or played them, so if you notice any inaccuracies please feel free to point them out.
The Taipei airport was under construction and dirty. While we waited in haggard lines at immigration a tall uniformed man barked at us to form straight lines in Chinese while demonstrating with his arms and then eventually herding those who didn’t understand. A short girl in a matching uniform with a black Labrador paced up and down the now rigid lines. The dog kept his nose to the ground, running over our feet and occasionally lifting his head when an interesting scent caught his interest. I don’t know if they were looking for bombs, or guns, or drugs. For all I know it could have just been one big farce. The lab seemed more inclined to gravitate to people with food in their bags and he licked a baby in a stroller for a good five seconds before his handler pulled him along.
Gotta stop trying to smuggle Snausages into Taipei…
Taipei is in a state of growth. Driving into the city the skeletal structures of new highways towered above our bus like dinosaur remains.
The little things about foreign countries amuse me. In our taxi was one of those red circle with a red slash signs, but inside of it was a picture of a car, a scooter, and a wine glass. What does that even mean? On a bus there was a “no birds” sign. That’s an interesting problem to have… birds on a bus…
We should have flipped the bird while taking this picture… but the bus was too crowded to move.
Taipei’s transit system was what impressed me the most. Clean, reliable, and most of all affordable, the prices were mere fractions of Japan’s. I spent less than $10 (usd) on trains and subways which we used generously. Some trips didn’t even cost 50cents.
The people were friendly and funny. I had to make a conscious effort to use English rather than Japanese at restaurants and stores. Which seems strange, but now when start talking to someone who doesn’t speak English Japanese just kicks in automatically, much like I had to fight the urge to use French when I first moved to Japan.
The night markets reminded me a lot of Korea. Lots of dirty little places with suspicious looking merchandise, shop owners willing to haggle over a few pennies, food that looked and smelled delicious, food that looked terrifying, food the smelled like month old dead rat, speaking of rats I saw some of those too.
There’s a lot of coastal towns, which shouldn’t surprise anyone seeing that Taiwan is a tiny island country in the middle of no where really. The views are pretty incredible, but not unlike Japan.
One of these is a picture of Japan, the other of Taiwan. Which is which?
Overall the general English ability was much more capable than my home city of Fukuoka. But then that shouldn’t be strange. Taipei is the capital city of Taiwan so I have to wonder how it’d stack up to Tokyo’s English level, but I don’t live in Tokyo, and the times that I’ve been there I’ve been with Japanese people or I’ve used Japanese myself to get around.
The food is good for the most part. Satomi had some soup that tasted like earth and not in a good way.
We ate some spicy food, pizza, frog, shrimp, dumplings, hot pot, French toast sticks, orange chicken, and lots of other stuff.
Frog wasn’t so bad…
I got diarrhea on the 2nd day. That sucked. They don’t flush their toilet paper and in many restrooms they don’t supply you with toilet paper… I had to make some tough decisions that I don’t want to recollect…
I’ve never really been big on traveling. Back when I was still a kid we used to take a lot of family trips. We lived right next to the ocean down in Florida, but my parents had some strange affinity for the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Shenandoah area. I never really got the allure when I was little. Mountains were a lot less fun than the beach. Mosquitoes thrive in moist forests, there are bears, and poison ivy. There’s less girls in bikinis and more people with guns. It’s not like my parents liked hiking either. We went into some caves, which was pretty interesting until the lights went out. Of course it’s pitch black… I don’t need to be shown what darkness is…
There’s actually two pictures here. One is a photo taken in a cave with no lights on. The other is just solid black from photoshop. Which is which?
So even now the idea of anything more than a day trip makes me drag my feet, but my wife is the complete opposite. She loves traveling on planes to foreign countries with strange languages and food that shoots straight through you. Which is good because it forces me to move around. I know I live in Japan now, but I don’t really count it as very foreign anymore. And mostly, I’m fine just drinking at home, harvesting potatoes in the fall, fishing in the river next to my apartment, and going to the city for a nice dinner now and then.
Good thing I’m not on my own, eh?
A cool thing about Taiwan is the girls uniforms use skirts barely longer than the original Star Trek uniforms…
The puffer fish is the second most “poisonous” vertebrate in the world. I say poisonous rather emphatically because the terms poisonous and venomous are often mistaken. A snake is not poisonous. I can’t count the number of times people came up to me to ask me if a snake I had or was selling was poisonous. I’d tell them, “No, there are no known poisonous snakes in the world.” They look at me like I was stupid, I’d continue, “Now there are lots of venomous snakes, but selling and keeping them is illegal without a special license which I don’t possess. So to answer your stupid question, no, the snake is not poisonous; to answer the question that you were trying to ask, no, the snake is not venomous.” Then I’d watch them walk away still confused.
The most poisonous vertebrate in the world is a species of poison dart frog from South America, an animal that I owned actually back in college. Interestingly enough they lose all of their toxins in captive care and individuals born and raised exclusively in captivity never show any signs of a toxic excrement. Originally it was postulated that this was environmentally influenced, later studies suggested it was dietary. The folic acid in ants was thought to be what the frogs converted into their paralytic poison. The most recent study I saw suggested that it was mites that the frogs ate were behind it all. I digress, in the wild, these frogs are king when it comes to all natural poison.
This picture is just something I stumbled upon while looking at pictures of frogs to put in this blog post… I haven’t been this disturbed since the first time I saw a vagina…
The puffer fish is considered a delicacy here in Japan. It’s not uncommon to meet Japanese person who has never eaten it. It’s very expensive and considered a luxury dish. The preparation is specialized and requires a license to prepare commercially. Eaten raw as sashimi, puffer fish, or fugu in Japanese, is not that dangerous even if you eat some of the toxins. It acts almost like a drug causing intoxication and numbness. However, when eaten in soup, ill-prepared fugu can be deadly.
Yeah… I wouldn’t if I were you…
Personally, if you haven’t eaten fugu then you aren’t missing out on a lot. My wife’s family swears by the stuff, and I admit it’s not too shabby. The meat as shashimi isn’t spectacular, it’s a little tough, almost crunchy, and pretty relatively flavorless, which in some regards is good, (I don’t like fishy smelling/tasting sashimi). In soup and fried it’s delicious. The meat turns tender, white, and flakes off in your mouth. Good stuff, but worth the risk?
A student came up to me the other day and told me that he fears death. The kid is kind and awkward and the butt of harassment by some of the more popular school cliques. The students get almost indignant when I force them to be civil to their social pariahs. I’m force to remember my own awkward school years.
Okay… so this is 2005, not high school… but it’s the oldest picture I could find…
I was home schooled until I was in seventh grade. Learning at home is great for academic achievement. I learned enough by the time I fished sixth grade to last me until I left for college. My classmates never could seem to understand how I never did any work in school, took all the honors classes with them, and still finished with a 4.5 GPA. I brought a text book home on rare occasion. The last time I remember bringing one back with me was in 11th grade, my world history book. I used it to kill and abnormally large house spider. The fact of the matter was that it was all just one big review for me. I took geometry in 8th grade, moved to Kentucky and had to take pre-algebra again with the rest of the freshman kids.
Home schooling is great for schooling but poor for social development. I was an awkward minority student when I went back to school. Middle school is a time when boys are bursting with the fire of youth. We’ve grown brand new bodies that feel invincible and we want to test them to prove ourselves to the world. Nothing makes you feel stronger than pushing someone weak down. I wonder why that is.
This insults you, for being a pig, but everyone around for being guinea pigs…
Bob was a tea cup of a child that I went to junior high school with. Freckles, baby fat, odd mannerisms, he was hopelessly lost when it came to life as a middle school student. So the kid was bullied and bashed and taunted. I never lifted a finger to help him. I really had no standing at school outside of the fact that I was the Asian kid that all of the really popular kids wanted to cheat off of. They could have been waterboarding Bob and I wouldn’t have lifted a finger.
Daniel was a smelly backwoods mountain boy I went to high school with. The real America that Palin spoke about during her campaign is populated by lots of children like Daniel and adults like Daniel, probably. Daniel was the first friend I made at my new school in Kentucky. He was friendly; he had an N64 and NFL Blitz so the friendship was sealed.
My friendship was cheap…
To say Daniel was a social outcast at school would be like saying it occasionally rains in the rainforest. The kid was so despised it could have been the setting for a Disney movie. People were always so surprised when I talked with him or spent time with him or invited him to do things with me. It pissed me off. Like really pissed me off; to the point where I made sure that people knew I thought the kid was alright. Who was the judge and jury that blacklisted him? Where were his accusers? I don’t know why I was so popular at that school, but for some reason I was vogue.
Actually I do know why… I’m awesome…
It’s a little intoxicating to feel liked by everyone. I felt a little bit of a struggle at times keeping up the fact that I liked Daniel. As soon as I started that struggle I wronged him badly and I still kick myself about that.
To my student that told me he fears death, I think he was trying to say that he was afraid that the other students were going to pick on him. I told him, “Life is too short to worry about dying, if you have a problem just come see me.”
Life is all about distracting yourself from the fact that you are in fact going to die. We spend hours and millions of dollars trying to reverse the effects of aging, but it’s just sweeping the fact that we’re decaying under the rug.
As I sit cross-legged at a low table eating an expensive poisonous fish, I think about death again. It seems to me that life gives us so few chances to prove ourselves. I don’t think eating something that could potentially kill you says much about your character in the face of death. I think standing against the crowd to help someone they’ve pushed down says much much more, but then… what would Japan know about that?