Thursday, July 29, 2010

Book Review- Judith Mcnaught- Almost heaven




Judith Mcnuaght is a New York Times bestselling author. She has sold more than 30
million books and is a popular author among romance fiction readers.

Almost heaven was the first book I read by Judith Mcnaught. It was wondeful! Currently, it is the only one. But I will read more from her in the future.

Almost heaven falls under the historcial romance genre.

The female protagonist of this story is Elizabeth Cameron (lady) who is defamed and blacklisted by society when she is discovered in the arms of Ian Thornton, a gambler with a bad reputation. She meets him in her fiance's house and falls in love with him. He invites her to a secluded cottage and she meets him there. However, the next day she receives a note from him telling her to meet him the the greenhouse, when she meets him, her brother arrives and is infuriated at the sight of them. He challenges Ian Thornton to a duel and the news of the duel spreads throughout England. After the duel, Elizabeth's brother disappears and she spends two years in her her house paying off her brother's gambling debt.
However, she is unable to forget Ian Thornton.

Her uncle wants to marry her off so he gives her a list of three men to choose from. One of them is Ian Thornton! The other two are hopless. Elizabeth meets them one by one until the choices narrow down to Ian Thornton.
Her love for him is rekindled and she strives to improve her reputation as he strives to tell her the truth he is hiding from her.

The story is well plotted with very good humour and emotion. The book is five hundred pages long and therefore has a lot of story/plot. It begins from her present, moves into her past (flashback), somes to present and takes time to develop love. It progresses even after marriage.

The book immediately draws you in and is wonderfully paced. Over the considerably lomg length and enxtended stroyline, it maintains the reader's interest and never bores.

Judith Mcnaught's writing style is very good and she describes very detail well without boring the reader. Also, the emotion, gestures, love are depicted well. The book provides an accurate account of victorian society.

The heroine, unlike most romance novel heroines is strong. Some romance novelists make their heroine defiant and repulsive to make her seem strong but Judith Mcnaught doesn't do anything of that sort. The heroine is not unrealistically strong. She is intellectual and firm.

The hero is perfect as all heros are. Alluring, handsome, passionate, forgiving when it comes to love, persuasive, cold, ruthless, successful and faithful. He keeps up with the heroine and the story well. The charcterisation, especially the main characters, is good. Lucinda Throckmorton Jones, Elizabeth's chaperpon is a strong supporting character. Her vanity and fuss contribute to comedic relief.

The plot has lots of twists and turns but it is wasted on a romance novel where the reader knows that love will conquer all. There is no uncertainity or suspense just like any other romance novel. That is what this genre is famous for- happy endings.

The story develops well and does not appear forced, abrupt, rushed or unrealistic at any stage. The cover art is average. She could have made a better cover for such a wonderful book.

Overall-4.9/5

Pros-

Plot
Characters
Development
Emotion
Setting
Writing style (easy to understand)

Cons-

Length (500+ pages. It took me two days to read this novel. But it was worth it.)
Stererotype romance

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Meg Cabot- All American Girl




Meg Cabot (The Princess Diaries) presents another teen-pleasing novel and another likable heroine in this story set in Washington, D.C. Feisty, red-haired Samantha, a self-described "urban rebel" who has dyed all of her clothes black, is a 15-year-old middle child, uncomfortably wedged between her popular, cheerleader older sister, Lucy, and her brainy 11-year-old sister, Rebecca. And she has a major crush on Jack, Lucy's nonconformistartist boyfriend, whom she feels is far better suited to her than to her rather vacuous sister.

The entertainingly opinionated narrator's wry top-10 lists add considerably to the tale's charm and speedy pacing, among them, the "top ten reasons why I can't stand my sister Lucy" and the "top ten signs that Jack loves me and not my sister Lucy and just hasn't realized it yet." Sam's life suddenly changes dramatically when, while standing on the sidewalk one afternoon, she foils an attempt to assassinate the President. She becomes a national hero overnight, is named teen ambassador to the United Nations and eventually lands the president's son as her beau.

Despite these rather unlikely plot twists (in a comic coincidence, the president's son also happens to be a fellow student in her art class whom she finds attractive), Sam's spunky and intermittently affecting narrative, as well as the true-to-life voices of the supporting cast of characters, make this a convincing and diverting tale. As Sam learns important truths about herself, Cabot interjects a worthy message into her comedic caper. Ages 12-up.

I found All American girl a little boring at first. Only gradually does it become interesting. Even at the end, I felt that Meg Cabot's other books were much better. This book is very averagely written and when Samantha meets the president and his son and all, there is really no excitement. Rather, it seems like she is telling the story of a sad dog. Everything about the book was very average (including its cover art). Even though I have nothing against having an average girl as a heroine, this book focuses too much abbout her normal life which is not interesting to read about since every teenage girl has a similar kind of life.

Meg Cabot has not put her whole heart into writing the book like she usually does. I find it a disappointment coming from a writer who has authored many wonderful books. The characters (especially David) is very flat and two-dimensional. I could not grow to like him. Samantha is also not a very interesting heroine (like Jinx (Jean Honeycombs) or Steph from How to be popular). This book is a major letdown.

Pros
Meg Cabot's writing style

Cons
Everything about the book was average and reads like the diary of an average teenage girl. Even meeting the president and his son could not save this book. It lacked a 'wow' factor.

Meg Cabot- Avalon High



AVALON HIGH is a novel about Ellie- a girl who moves to Annapolis, MD because of her parents. There she goes to a new high school. In the park, she meets a guy named Will which starts off a series of bizzare events. It seems that Will is the reincarnation og king Arthur. He will have the same fate of king Arthur. Ellie starts liking him but her math teacher Mr. Morton who is part of a secret society which is dedicated to the return of Arthur tells her to stay away because she is not the one destined for him.

Soon, Ellie realizes that the legend is not just a stupid invention of her math teacher but it is actually happening! It looks like Will is the present day Arthur and he is in danger. Will Elllie be able to save him?

I will leave it up to you to read the book and find that out. As for me, I found the book very good. It had a creative twist by linking a story with the present. The characters are interesting and the story is very well told.

Pros
A good story
Solid plot

Cons
Cover art
I did not like Will

Meg Cabot- JINX





JINX is a novel by Meg Cabot about a teenage girl Jinx (what a name! Her real name is Jean) who is very unlucky. Here is the synopsis:

Jean Honeychurch is so unlucky that even her family calls her Jinx. To escape an unpleasant situation with a boy who refuses to let her end their relationship, Jinx moves from Iowa to Manhattan to live with her aunt and her family in their swanky Upper East Side townhouse. It's no surprise that the klutzy, small-town 16-year-old doesn't fit in with ├╝ber-chic cousin Tory and her friends, and she definitely doesn't share their fondness for drugs and alcohol.

Tory, who has been practicing witchcraft for some time, soon realizes that Jinx also has the gift and invites her cousin to join her coven. But Jinx knows the dangers of playing with magic and refuses. Tory sees Jinx's snub as a threat and plots against her. Though she wants to leave magic behind, Jinx must learn to harness the mysterious powers that are her birthright before Tory does too much damage.

Cabot creates believable conflict and avoids being too fantastical, as Tory's mental instability is more dangerous than her Wiccan powers. In the vein of Avalon High (2006) and "The Mediator" series (both HarperCollins), the author delivers her signature blend of romance and wit, successfully combining upper-crust chick-lit and a tad of the supernatural into an entertaining potion that is sure to please her fans and draw in new readers.—Emily Anne Valente, New York Public Library


The book was pretty good. It had romance, high school life and this time, also magic (there is real magic!). It is a pretty good read for casual lovers of books as well as Meg cabot fans.

The story unfolds slowly as Jean's past is relealed. Her cousin tries to take revenge on her by doing various things throughout the course of the book.

Pros
Suspense and supernatural give the novel a uniqueness
Interesting characterization of Jean
Good unfolding of story

Cons
Guys might not like the pink cover (The version I read had a pink cover)
The cover gives an impression that it is very girly so girls who don't like girly stuff might not even give it a try

Book review- Nora Roberts Midnight Bayou




Midnight Bayou is a romantic suspense novel by Nora Roberts. Though I don't really like Nora Roberts's stories, I still end up buying all her books because a book I read (it was a two in one book called Cordina's royal family) was pretty good. I keep on hoping she will come up with something that good again.

In Midnight Bayou, Declan Fitzgerald is a lawyer who moves into a new house far away from the city. However, the house is inhabited by the ghost of a woman (Abigail) who was tragically killed in the house many years ago. The first chapter shows the night when she comes to tend to her infant daughter and is murdered by her brother-in-law. Her mother-in-law hates her because she is of a lower social standing and yet managed to marry her son so she hushes up the whole matter and tells her son that she ran away with another man. Her husband is not able to believe this and tries to look for her. He isn't able to find her and commits suicide, leaving his daughter alone. The mood is very well created in the first chapter and I could feel like I was almost there.

When he moves into Manet Hall (the house)he starts hearing the voice of Abigail who was killed here. He starts having visions later, in which he sees the past and the injustice that was done to her. His best friend is getting married to a librarian. He also meets and starts a relationship with Lena Simone- the owner of the local bar. She is the descendant of the Cajun woman who was killed in Manet Hall.

As their relationship, progresses, so does the mystery. Here is the synopsis given on the back of the book:

Declan Fitzgerald, a Harvard-educated Boston lawyer, has longed to possess Manet Hall ever since he and his friend, Remy Payne, broke into the old place as drunken students on a lark. Now, on the eve of his wedding, Declan leaves Boston, the law and his fianc‚e, buys the decrepit hall and embarks on a mission to restore it with his own sweat, blood and money. But Manet Hall comes with a dark history, and restoring it means uncovering its past, which includes rape, murder and betrayal. Declan encounters an additional challenge in the person of Cajun beauty and bar owner Lena Simone, who has her own dark history and a surprising connection to Manet Hall. As Declan digs deeper at the Hall, he often hears a baby crying. The cries are followed by voices, particularly that of Abigail Manet, the baby's mother. Abigail's story, which unfolds in 1900, is woven so tightly with Declan's that he finds it difficult to escape her grasp. In the end, only Lena can bring him back from the tragic past that threatens to engulf him. Roberts's role reversal here it is the male character who hears voices and even swoons gives her faithful readers a little extra thrill, and the lush setting and the satisfying if predictable romance round out the package.


Although it started out in a creative way, as soon as Duncan and Lena meet, it goes back to being a generic romance novel. Even the exotic elements could not save this novel from becoming a disaster once it became so predictable. And the worst part was the ending which was a total letdown.

Pros
Good setting and atmosphere
Suspense and mysterious past
The cover art was good
Nora Roberts's writing style, which is the only reason this book sold

Cons
Weak male lead
Weak female lead
Predictable romance
Ending was a letdown
Romance had no obstacles

Friday, July 23, 2010

CD Review- KAT TUN- White X'Mas




KAT TUN is one of the popular Johnny acts in Japan. All their singles up till now have reached #1 on the Oricon charts.

They released their winter single 'White x,mas'

White X'Mas starts with a gentle piano instrumental followed by strings. At first, only Kamenashi Kazuya sings. He is followed by Akanishi Jin. The verse is pleasant with a christmassy feeling.
The chorus follows the chorus. The chorus is strong. Everyone sounds good together. The instrumental is joined by intense drumming with the piano chimming in the background.
The verse and chorus repeat again. This time, there is a bell before the chorus (wedding bell).

4.8/5

The next track is the instrumental.

Overall- 4.5/5

There is only one song on this single with its instrumental. Still, the song is very strong and one of KAT TUN's best ballads. This is the first song I heard from KAT TUN that encouraged me to hear more of their songs.

Ayaka- Mikazuki





"Mikazuki" (Crescent Moon) is the fourth single from Ayaka, released on September 27,2006. Prior to Mikazuki, Ayaka has become famous with the release of her single I believe. The single reached #1 on oricon (Ayaka's first single to do so) and sold 240,453 copies

1. Mikazuki- The first thing that drew me to Ayaka was her powerful voice. She belts out every note in a song. Her sons are either pop with a jazzy feel or mainstream ballads. As for Mikazuki, it was an average piano ballad with an occassional hint of strings. Had anyone else sung it, it would not have become so famous. Ayaka's voice carried out the song to its utmost potential. Ayaka is gentle in the beginning but her voice grows powerful as the song progresses.
Rating-4

2.Kimi is Kiss de...- A blusey pop track. It sounds exactly like the kind of track to be played in a pub. Her vocals are powerful throughout unlike Mikazuki.
Rating-4

3.Yume no Kakera- It is like Kimi ni kiss de... but has a much darker atmosphere.
Rating-3.5

Overall, a decent single.

Pros
Ayaka's voice
Cover

Cons
The b-sides sound like typical Ayaka songs
Mikazuki could have been more powerful

Game review- Dr. Kawashima's brain traiining for DS




Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day!, also known as Dr. Kawashima's Brain Training: How Old Is Your Brain? in PAL regions, is an entertainment video game that employs puzzles. It was developed and published by the video gaming company Nintendo for the Nintendo DS handheld video game console.

It is not exactly a game but a daily training for your brain. It has math calculations, sudoku and various other fun and interactive games to help train your brain. Dr. Kawashima explains that the brain is like the body- if you don't exercise it, it will become weak and prone to diseases like Parkinsons, alzheimers etc. This game is based to a degree on his findings, but it is not scientifically proven to enhance brain power or something.

The game measures your brain age (it depends on how active and agile your brain is. The best possible age is 20. Anything older than that is old.) by giving a series of three random tests everyday. It also has many other games like calculating the difference between time on two clocks, counting syllables, keeping track of how many people enter or leave the house, memorizing the positions of random numbers shown on the screen and writing them down etc.

I feel very energized doing these exercises but sometimes when I am very sleepy or tired, I get bad scores because my brain is not concentrating. The game really improves concentration and forces you to focus and beat your own high scores. Multiple players can play and compare their performances (there are four save slots)

Pros
Helps keep your brain active
You might actually get better at mental math and sudoku!

Cons
Not for very young kids who can't do math
Not everyone might like the academic approach
It is not very colorful
There is no fighting or action

But still, it is a pretty enjoyable game.

Ai Otsuka- DaiSuki Da yo.




DaiSuki Da yo. is Ai Otsuka's 6th single which reached #3 on oricon and sold 1,56,000 copies.

1. Daisuki Da yo.- A totally awesome ballad with a very good melody. The arrrangement could have been better, but it isn't bad. The best thing about this track is Ai's vocals which are filled with so much feeling that I could feel her pain and longing. A masterpiece.
Rating-4.8

2.Friends ~Sakaban version~- When I hadn't even recovered from the beauty of her previous ballad Ai Otsuka produces another outstanding midtempo song. The song has electric guitars and all, but it is still midtempo and a bit laid-back. This was used for a drama in which Ai starred. It is a song about friendship (which you might have guessed). It was very intelligent of Ai to write about something like friendship right after a love song.
Rating- 4.6

A quality single for lovers of slower songs. The songs have beautiful melodies and Ai's voice delivers them with their full impact.

Pros
Excellent melodies
Ai's voice is very emotional and she can make the listener feel what she is singing

Cons
The arrangement of Daisuki Da yo. could have been better.

Ai Otsuka- Yumekui




Ai Otsuka is a popular singer in the japanese music scene. She has a cute, high-pitched voice which is suitable for singing optimistic upbeat songs as well as heartwarming ballads.

Yumekui (Dream Eater) is her 12th single. It reached #5 on the oricon and has sold 1,46,000 copies. It has been downloaded a million times.



1. Yumekui- It is an upbeat and slightly nostalgic sounding track like a song a person sings when he/she has has left home and is remembering home. However, the lyrics are very optimistic and about making your dreams come true.
Rating- 4.1




2. Tears- This is a very simple yet deep ballad. Her voice sounds very tender and gentle and the piano is also very soft. A great combination and the result is a unforgettable ballad.
Rating-4.7

Both the songs were very good in their own way. A single definitely worth buying.

Utada Hikaru- Ultra Blue



ULTRA BLUE is Utada Hikaru's fourth original studio album. It reached #1 on the oricon. To date it is her lowest selling album though it has sold over 9,00,000 copies.



1. This is Love- A very energetic track which starts with synthetic sounding instruments and piano intro. Utada sounds strained in the high notes. Her voice sounds tired and airy throughout. Though the track was good, Utada's voice lacks the energy and power to carry it off perfectly.
Rating-4



2.Keep Tryin- The song is very nice and optimistic like the previous track. But a wintry feel has been added to it. Like the previous track, Utada's voice is too airy and unclear.
Rating-4



3.BLUE- For the title track, this track is very weak. It is very electronic and lacks any direction in respect to flow. Utada's voice sounds very airy and the high notes he hits in the beginning sound as if she just managed to somehow force them.
Rating-3.7



4.Nichiyou no asa- At last! A good track. It is a very mysterious track with lots of piano and synth. Utada's airy voice actually adds to the mysterious effect and makes the song shine.
Ratting-4.3



5. Making love- A mediocre track.
Rating- 3



6.Dareka no negai ga kanau koro- A very powerful ballad with beautiful lyrics and powerful emotion. The arrangement could have been more interesting but....well.
Rating-4.3



7.COLORS- Clearly the best track on this album. It is a japanese sounding electronic track. Very good arrangement and Utada's sings it pretty well.
Rating-4.5



8.One night magic- This song is TERRIBLE! They have no coordination, the melody is below average and the arrangement is just unbeareable. I expected more from Utada's first duet.
Rating-2

9.Kairo- A fairly good track with good use of strings. Calming.
Rating-3



10. Wings- The b-side of keep tryin'. I didn't like it at all. It was too simple.
Rating-2



11.Be my last- Utada tries to hit ambitious notes in this song but it sounds pretty good. Utada's voice is not as airy as in the other songs.
Rating-4

12.Eclipse- I still don't understand why Utada places interludes at the end. They have no meaning now.
Rating-1



13.Passion- A very unique track with grand instrumentals which sound like they are from an ancient magical kingdom. Very good.
Rating-4.5

Overall, this album was a huge step down from Deep River. Utada's vocals have become airier and unclear. Even the good tracks in this album fail to stand out due to average vocals. What happened to her voice?

The songs were also pretty average, with only a few good tracks.No ownder this her lowest selling album. It is nowhere as compared to her earlier albums.

Pros
Good cover art
Ballads are good

Cons
Vocals are not whole-hearted
Many album tracks are not good
Arrangements are similar sounding

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Drama Review- Densha Otoko




This is another drama adapted from a manga. It is a true story about an otaku who falls in love with a perfect lady working for an MNC. Yamada Tsuyoshi is an otaku who spends his time in anime conventions and seiyuu interviews with his friends. One day, while coming back from an anime convention, he sees a beautiful lady reading a book on the metro. He is smitten by her but realizes that she is out of reach.
However, as luck has it, she is harassed by an old man. Tsuyoshi stands up to fight but by the time he finishes talking, the police arrives on scene and takes care of the case. Saori, who is inspired by his courage asks him for his address. She also thanks him for helping her.
The next day, Tuyoshi finds hermes cups in his room. They are sent by Saori. He decides to date her but has no experience. He turns to members of a social networking site for help.

Ito Atsushi acts extremely well. He looks like a nerd, fumbles like he should, looks clumsy and scared. He perfectly fits the role of Tsuyoshi. Misaki Ito too fits well into the character. She is graceful, good looking, well bred etc. but she leaves everything to her appearance. She doesn't seem to act too well. She is unusually quiet.
The members of the internet community are also very enthusiastic about acting. However, they only get minor roles.

The backdrops are good.
The story is an inverted shoujo manga. Shoujo mangas have perfect heros and clumsy/weak heroines. This josei manga has a clumsy hero and a perfect heroine.

Story- 4.2/5
Cast- 4.2/5
Script- 3.6/5
Overall- 4.1/5

As the story progresses, Tsuyoshi tries to get closer to Saori, look more like a normal person and frequently visits the internet coommunity. The members of the social netowrking community are thrilled to help him out and keep rooting for him throughout the drama. They keep thinking about him during work and he helps inspire a basketball player to play again.

However, he is caught red handed one day when he lies to Saori about and important meeting and goes to an anime convention instead. When he finds him out, she is very disappointed. She tells him that she can't stand lies and she would have not minded his personality if he had told her the truth. She breaks up with him.

Back home, her mother is plotting for her arranged marriage but she knows that no man can every be as good as Tsuyoshi.
He calls her up, apologises and gifts her one of his anime figurines for her birthday (22 August).

In the end, he proposes and they get married. All the members of the internet community are elated and congratulate him.

Pros

Storyline
Ito Atsushi's acting
Characterisation

Cons

Might seem like any other love story
Misaki ito doesn't act well

Drama Review- Beautiful life




Beautiful Life is one of the very popular tragic dramas in Japan. It stars Takuuya Kimura and Tokiwa Takako who are very famous in the japanese entertainment industries. Both have produced super hit dramas and won numerous awards.

Beautiful life is a tragic love story of Shuji, an upcoming hairstylist and handicapped librarian Kyoko. The drama had 31.86% viewership ratings which is extremely high.

One day while Kyoko is driving to the library, she puts her hand out of the car window to check whether there is rain. Shuji, who is driving, is disturbed by this and yells at her for putting her hand out in the middle of the road. They both are appparently going to the same library. After Kyoko parks her car, Shuji parks his two wheeler next to hers. She tells him to park it away from her because she needs more space. He thinks that she is an arrogant woman who needs space and parks his vehicle a little away from her car. When she gets out, he notices that she gets out on a wheelchair. He immediately feels bad for being rude to her.
In the beginning of the drama, she has curly hair. Shuji borrows a book on KoH from the library. Kyoko thinks that he's going to make bombs but later gives up the notion when her friend Sachie tells her that it can't be used to make bombs.

Shuji starts visiting the library regularly. Kyoko begins to await his arrival. She keeps looking at the door and Sachie thinks that she's smitten by Shuji. One day, Shuji's boss tells him that magazine reporters are coming for an interview. He has to style a woman's hair and the best hairstyle will get a full page in the magazine.

Shuji asks Kyoko to help out. She agrees. He straightens her hair (which makes her look worse) and does a razor cut (I think). She is pleased and the magazine reporters interview Kyoko.

However, they publish her full photo (with the wheelchair) in the magazine that pisses her off. Shuji too feels bad. He thinks he got the page just because Kyoko was handicapped. He apologises to her and takes her to a ramen shop.

Beautiful life is a very simple love story. The atmosphere is very calm. Takuya Kimura doesn't over act like many actors do. He fits the average person role well. Tokiwa Takako acts really well but I must admit Takuya Kimura and Tokiwa Takako don't make a god couple. He looks very fat in that jacket and she looks too thin and small in the sweater. His face too looks like a dinosaur egg in comparison to hers which looks like a hen's egg.

Their love slowly develops. But it has its own share of hurdles. Kyoko's brother disapproves of Shuji and tells him that looking after a disabled person is not as easy as he thinks. Shuji's old girlfriend also appears and while trying to spy on her, Kyoko falls down and hurts herself. Hot Lip's manager also has eyes for Shuji.
Shuji becomes popular in the hairstyling world and cannot spare a lot of time for Kyoko. However, he apologises later and says that she's more important than his career. He promises to marry her even if it means sacrificing his sleep, children and career.

Kyoko's health condition worsens and the doctor says that she won't live long. Kyoko spends the last days of her life with Shuji. He shifts into her house. Sachie also starts dating Kyoko's brother who tells her he'll marry her one day.

While seeing a fashion show Shuji helped with, Kyoko hurts herself and an ambulance is called. Shuji rushes into the ambulance and the others are left behind. She dies after telling him that she liked his show.

Story- 3/5
Cast- 4.5/5
Acting-4.2/5
Music-2/5
Overall- 4.1/5

Takuya Kimura is suited for romance roles. When he hugs, it gives such a warm feeling. In this drama especially, Takys Kimura looks very warm with those layers of winter clothes.

Kitagawa Eriko's scriptwriting is wonderful. There are some really touching lines in the drama. The story unfolds gradually.

Acting, no doubt is very good. With all he top actors in one drama, there's no way the acting could have been bad.
The atmosphere of the drama is very refreshing. It is always calm and serene. I felt very warm and happy while watching the drama.

The ending however, is not very good. It suited one litre of tears but it doesn't suit this drama. The viewers were never prepared for this ending. It was too abrupt. Kyoko never showed any signs of serious health problems. All through the drama, there's no mention of a chance of her dying and she unexpectedly passess away in the end.

After Kyoko passes away, Shuji moves into a house near the beach where he has a private hair styling salon in his house.
In the end of the drama, a high schooler comes to get her hair cut because she had a break up. She looks at all the photos of Shuji and Kyoko and asks where Kyoko is. Takuya Kimura points to his heart and tells the girl that she lives there.

Pros

Script
Atmosphere
Cast
Romance

Cons

Ending
It could have been longer
No conclusion to Sachie's story

Anime review- Emma a victorian Romance



Emma is a shojo manga written by Kaoru Mori which was adapted into an anime. I personally would suggest the anime over the manga because its end is more coherent.


Set in Victorian London at the end of the 19th century, Emma is the story of a maid who falls in love with a member of the gentry. However, the young man's family disapproves of him associating with people of the lower classes.

They meet each other in windowed governess Kelly Stowner's house where Emma works as a maid. William was a former pupil of Kelly and visits her after a long time. In her house, he meets Emma and feels that she is special. But he is the eldest son of the "House of Jones", a very wealthy merchant middle class family that is attempting to rise into the gentry. As his father's heir, he is under tremendous stress to not only take over the family business but also marry a girl from another wealthy family, preferably into the peerage.

Through a series of encounters that follow, he falls in love with Emma. Their romance develops very well but William's father wants him to marry Eleanor- a girl from a noble class. In the end (last episode) William protests against his father's decision, but Emma leaves the city to go to her Uncle's village, not wanting to cause any problems to William. William bids her goodbye at the railway station. The first season ends here.

I will also review the second season in the same post. The second season continues where the first season left off. When Emma reaches her Uncle's village, she finds it deserted. From there, she is found by another employer and moves into a new household. This place is in another city. However, one day, William's mother, who is also a friend of Emma's employer arrives and asks Emma to escort her to her son's engagement announcement party (at this point, Emma doesn't know she is William's mother).

William, on the other hand, tried to look for Emma after she left, but couldn't find her. He agrees to marry Eleanor and they are about to be engaged.

At the party, Emma meets and recognized William and old flames are rekindled. William tries to convince her to marry him but she keeps on refusing. He cancels his engagement to Eleanor. When this news spreads, all the nobility and gentry looks down on him and withdraw their investment from his father's business. But William takes it in his hand to seek a solution. A new railway track (or station. I don't exactly remember what it is) seems very profitable but he needs funds and partners. No one agrees to be his partner because of his love affair with a maid. He also gives Emma an ultimatum that of she doesn't meet him in the glass palace by .....(I don't remember the time and day) then he will acccept her refusal to marry him.

In the end, everything turns out well however. A mysterious man agrees to give William the money and become his partner and Emma arrives at the glass palace. They are happily married.

The prologue shows Emma with her kids and William as she writes a letter to William's mother.

Now my views. Emma was a very touching and pure love story. You are sure to cry at the tender moments of this story. The emotion that is evoked while watching this anime is great. The characters are very realistically potrayed and the setting is drawn with careful detail. The graphic aspect of the anime is very well handled.

An anime surely worth watching. It is an awesome love story that will move your heart and bring tears to your eyes (Romeo X Juilet is tear-jerking too. But I will review it some other day)

Pros
Excellent graphics
Moving story
Realistic characters
Character development happens

Cons
There are just too many obstacles on their way!!
The romance seems superficial at first. Only with times does it grow to be deep.

Drama Review- Hana Kimi



Hana Kimi is a popular shoujo manga by Hisaya Nakajo. It sold more than eleven million copies. It was adapted into a popular j dorama starring Maki Horikita and Oghuri Shun.

The drama lacked the romance element that the manga had. The romance scenes were there just for namesake. There was no focus on romance. Maki Horikita and Oghuri Shun also, don't make a very good couple. Oghuri Shun looks blank all the time.

The cast overall was very good. Maki Horikita looks very cute and acts well. Nakatsu fits the role well. His psychic friend, Masaharu also does hit part well. Hiro Mizushima acts well too. Seiko Matsuda's appearance surprised me.

The backdrops were very beautiful. The school bulding and all the other sceneries were very well planned and looked gorgeous. The overall atmosphere of the drama was very cheerful. All days were sunny.

While the manga emphasized on the romance element, the drama emphasizes completely on school life. While these school scenes are very peppy and exciting, the drama seems incomplete because of the half hearted romance. It shouldn't have been categorized as romance in the first place. The viewers will be expecting romance from a romance drama (obviously).

The high school life was depicted very well. While it lacks some rationality, the school scenes are fun and comical.
Comedy is the best part of this drama. It is fun and funny.

Cast- 4.6/5
story- 4.5/5
overall- 4.5/5

Manga Review- Yamato Nadeshiko Shichihenge






Yamato Nadeshiko Shichihenge (Perfect Girl Evolution) or The Wallflower is a shojo manga written by Tomoko Hayakawa. It is ongoing.

The Wallflower is the story of four handsome, popular guys, who are looking for accomodation while attending school. They find a huge mansion where they live for a while. The houseowner is also very kind. But one day she decides to go abroad and leaves them with her niece who has just arrived from Hokkaido- Sunako Nakahara.

She tells the four guys that if they turn Sunako into a lady, they will be allowed to live in the apartment for free. The boys agree. After all, how difficult can it be?

But enter Sunako. She is ugly, her face is covered by her hair which she hasn't cut. She never looks at the mirror. She is aggoraphobic and she has no desire to change or beautify herself. If that's not enough, she stays locked up in her dark room decorated with skulls all day and watches horror movies.

But soon she opens up a little to Kyouhei- a hot-headed and handsome student. She tells him about her past when she was rejected in the past by a guy who called her 'ugly'. After that, she stopped bothering about beauty.

The series shows the four boys' struggle to change Sunako into a lady. In a few chapters, she actually dresses up and all, but soon after, reverts back to her old, reclusive self.

She also starts developing feelings for Kyohei. But these feelings are there in one chapter- and completely disappear in the next.

This series has many cons. Firstly, the art was very cluttered and difficult to read or interpret. Secondly, it became very annoying after a while how Sunako never completely changed. After every chapter, she goes back to being the way she was in the first chapter and it is like hitting the reset button every time you read a new chapter.

Even in the 98th chapter, I had no idea where the story was going. Everything was exactly like it had been in the first chapter. There is zero character development and this was one of the most disappointing thing about the manga.

This manga had a good story, interesting characters and everything but after a while it becomes very frustrating. I felt like I was starting from game over after every chapter.

Pros
Interesting characters
Humour
Story had potential

Cons'
Artwork is very cluttered
No character development
Becomes annoying after a while

Though I will be looking foward to reading the further chapters because I would like to know the end, this manga didn;t impress me at all.

J-pop single review Akikawa Masafumi Sen no Kaze no natte




Akikawa Masafumi is a classical singer (not enka). Sen no kaze ni natte is his megahit single which sold more than 1 million copies.

1. Sen no Kaze ni Natte- The title means I am in the thousand winds that blow. It is a wonderful, soul-stirring and heartwaerming ballad which emphasizes the immortality of human emotions. Akikawa Masafumi belts out this song and every word is filled with a lot of emotion. The song begins with a simple piano instrumental until the powerhouse vocals enter. This ballad is so pure that no other ballad released in recent times can compare to it. If you listen to it, you will know what I mean. It is like Utada's First Love- a one in the world ballad. Because I found the lyrics so beautiful, I would love to share them with you. This song is actually based on an English poem. I am writing down the poem here. The translation of the song is more or less similar but there are slight differences. Here it is-

Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there; I did not sleep

I am in the thousand winds that blow
I am the diamond glints on snow
I am the sunlight that ripens grain
I am the gentle autumn's rain

I am in the morning hush
I am in the graceful rush
Of birds circling in flight
I am the starshine of the night

I am in every flower that blooms
I am in a quiet room

Do not stand at my grave and cry
I am not there; I did not die.

Truly beautiful!!
Rating-5 (full!!)

2.Ringo Oiwake- is the b-side of this single. It sounds a lot like enka with a sad atmosphere and tinkling instruments. The vocals are very strong in this track too. It is as good as any a-side or even better. It is actually a cover song. Hibari Misora is the original artist (no wonder the song is so good!)
Rating-4.5

This single is worth purchasing. Akikawa-san's vocals simply mermerized me and when my mother heard it, though she doesn't know anything about Japanese, she loved this song. She keeps requesting me to play this song again and again.

Pros
Outstanding melodies
Deep and meaningful lyrics
Akikawa san's voice is very powerful
Beautiful cover

Cons
Does this have any??
Well, I guess some of you might find Akikawa-san's voice a bit old-fashioned though the single was released in 2006.

50th post!

Finally, it is the 50th post on Review Carnival. I have been working myself to exhaustion writing so many reviews a day. I would be glad if they helped you in making a decision. Also, please express your views and arguments in the comments. I am always waiting to hear about your opinions. Also, if you want us to review a book, manga, anime, drama or CD contact windoshi@hotmail.com

To commemorate the 50th post, I will now review a manga, anime, CD, book and game.

Thank you for visting the blog. If you want to exchange links, please contact windoshi@yahoo.co.n

Monday, July 19, 2010

jpop Review- Momoe Yamaguchi- Akai Desetsu




Momoe Yamaguchi is the legendary godess of jpop. She was one of the earliest idols. She released a string of hit singles and albums and retired gracefully at the peak of her popularity to be impressed as the godess of jpop in the mind of the japanese. She married Tomokazu Miura, her frequent costar. She is one of the most covered artists in japanese history.

Before purchasing this album, I had heard many of her songs like Sayonara no mukogawa, Imitation Gold, Cosmos, Rock and roll widow, Playback part2. etc. This album contained all those songs and was available at seventeen dollars at yesasia. So, I decided to buy it. It has eighteen tracks.

The first track is written in japanese so, I can't read it. It is an average enka song and I guess one of Momoe's earlt songs since her voice is childish.
4.5/5

Cosmos- Her favourite ballad. One of her emotional songs. I love it. The autumn atmosphere is also remarkable.
4.7/5

I skip tracks 3-7 because the album is too long and I don't have the time to listen to all the tracks. However, some of these tracks are very good.

Playback- This is the eighth track. I love her uptempo songs. This has more speaking parts than singing parts. This is a great song!
4.8/5

Sayonara no mukougawa- This was the last track she sung at her last concert. Momoe was looking cute crying with those white flowers on her head. It is again, a very good song. I like it very much.
4.8/5

This is my trial- This song has only one verse that is repeated indefinitely.
4.2/5

Iihi Tabidachi- This song is one of her songs that are covered frequently. It is slow and the instrumental is not very good.
4.2/5

Yumesaki annanin- A pleasant sounding song. Nothing special.
4/5

Imitation Gold- One of my favourite songs by her. The chorus is strong.
4.8/5

Rock n' roll widow- Her experiment at singing rock. She does the scream singing pretty well. I like this one too.
4.7/5

Manjushaka- It is my favourite song. The chorus is conveyed powerfully.
4.8/5

Ichi e- Her last single. Sounds very much like Sayonara no mukougawa.
4.6/5

I can't read this japanese title- This is really nostalgic. The 'hiru hiru' at the beginning is pleasant. Sounds like a spring song. Mostly japanese instruments are used it this track that give it a unique feel. If anyone knows the name of this track please tell me. I love it!
4.7/5

Fuyu no iro- I'm not sure that is the title. Maybe it is Izu no odoriko. One of those. It is another of her old songs. Her voice sounds childish. The song is not very long.
4.5/5

Overall, I would strongly recommend this album. Momoe is one of the best japanese artists and everyone ought to give her a try. This album has great replay value and Momoe's voice sounds fresh after thousands of listens.

Overall- 4.8/5

jpop Review- Ayumi Hamasaki- Best2Black



Ayumi Hamasaki is immensely popular as the Empress of Jpop. She is the highest selling female artist in japanese history. She is a popular icon and trendsetter. Her trademark blonde hair and constantly chaging image set her apart from the others. Her prominent vibrato and heartfelt lyrics have contributed to her artistry.

I wanted to try out Ayumi Hamasaki because she is so popular so, I bought this album. I was not all that happy. Considering this album is by Ayumi Hamasaki- THE empress of jpop, it could've been better.

Dearest- The ending of Inuyasha and the best track on this album. Ayumi sings it with emotion (and vibrato). This track made me buy the album. The lyrics are very touching too.
4.5/5

Carols- A standard ballad. Coming straight after Dearest, it does not manage to stand out. However, its wintry atmosphere adds a new dimension to the ballads on this album.
4.2/5

No way to say- The ballads just keep deteriorating.
3.4/5

HANABI- Starts off well but chorus doesn't stand out. Hanabi is one of her more popular tracks. The arrangement is good but the chorus could've been better.
4/5

walking proud- Another stereotypical ayu ballad. Ayumi's ballads start sounding similar at this stage.
3/5

Free&easy- This is okay but inaudible in the beginning. Too many ballads are boring me (they sound identical).
3.8/5

Endless sorrow- One of the better tracks. I must admit Ayumi composes better than any of her composers. Her composers just give her substandard stuff to sing. Ayumi has great composing talent and she should continue to compose.
4.6/5

Because of you- mediocre.
3/5

About you- Again, doesn't stand out.
3/5

GAME- Starts slow and gets louder. I don't understand what this track is doing on this album. Wasn't Best2Black supposed to showcase her 'soft' side (ballads)? But I am glad he broke the monotony with a trance track.
4.1/5

is this LOVE?- Better than Game but doesn't stand out coming after it.
4.2/5

HANABI~EP2~- The chorus is good but the verse doesn't connect. DAI and Ayumi composed it in collaboration.
4.2/5

NEVER EVER- Another song that proves my observation. Ayumi DOES compose better than her composers. Her career is declining because she has stopped composing. Her career will completely collapse the day she stops writing lyrics.
4.5/5

HEAVEN- A peaceful ballad. One of the better ones. It was the theme song for Shinobi- Heart under blade.
4.4/5

part of Me- Above average ballad.
4.1/5

Ayumi's uptempo songs are much better than her ballads. Also, the songs she has composed herself or in collabration with DAI are better than those composed by other composers. Ayu please go back to composing. MOON/Blossom was a mess.
Ayumi's voice shows certain amount of emotion and technique but she completely lacks replay value. Her voice sounds repetitive after a few listens.

Overall-3.9-4/5 (could've been better)

L'arc~en~Ciel Ark



L'arc~en~ciel is the most popular rock band in Japan with millions of singles, albums and DVDs sold. It consists of HYDE (on vocals), tetsu (on bass), ken (on guitar) and yukihiro (on drums). Before yukihiro, sakura used to play the drums but he was arrested for heroin possesion.

Ark is their highest selling album which debuted at #1 on the oricon and sold more than 2.5 million copies.

L'arc~en~ciel's songs have a mysterious and somehow nostalgic feel which I seem to like a lot. hyde's vocals are emotionally charged and full of power. He is a wonderful vocalist who brings the sound of this band together.

1.Forbidden Lover- It opens with a few drum beats and them hyde starts singing accompanied by strings. The whole song has a nostalgic atmosphere and I always think of the color pink when listening to this song. hyde's voice is gentle and expressive in the verses and extremely powerful in the chorus. It is a track that created a vivid feeling in the listener's mind which cannot be described in words.
Rating-4.8

2.HEAVEN'S DRIVE- This is probably my least favorite song on the album. It starts off very fast and slows down in the chorus which didn't go well with me. The instruments sound completely out of sync and very loud in this track.
Rating-2

3.Driver's High- Seeing the word drive, I was half-afraid that Driver's High would turn out like Heaven's Drive. But it was far better. In the beginning of the song, there are some car sounds. Other than that, it is a pure rock track.
Rating-3.9

4.Cradle- A very slow and beautiful midtempo song which really makes hyde's vocals shine. I couldn't believe that this was an album track. It is as good as any single track.
Rating-4.3

5.DIVE TO BLUE- Not my favorite but not bad. Like most of their other rock songs.
Rating-3

6.Larva- It is not good, even for an interlude. Looks like Hamasaki will remain the queen of interludes.

7.Butterfly's Sleep- The organ instrumental in the beginning before the rock instruments burst in gives this song an original feel. The song itself is very low, especially the verse, where hyde's voice sounds a bit strained.
Rating-4.3

8.Perfect Blue- A better-than-average pop/rock track. Good composition by tetsu.
Rating-4.1

9.Yume to Genjitsu- The most beautiful track on this album after forbidden lover. It starts with an exquisite piano intro and much of the song is very mellow.
Rating-4.6

10.What is love- This track is much like both its predecessor and it's successor so it blends into them flawlessly and all three tracks end up sounding like one.
Rating-4

11.Pieces (ark mix)- A very soothing midtempo track. I was hardly expecting to find something like this on a rock album!
Rating-4.3

This was the first L'arc~en~ciel album I heard and it has made me a L'arc~en~ciel fan. This album truly deserves its sales. All the tracks are good and even though they sound alike, it works more in favor of the album than against it. hyde's vocals are spot on everywhere. I liked ken's compositions a lot but the other members also have good musical skills. I will definately try more from them in the future.

Pros
A very nostalgic and calm atmosphere throughout the album
Most tracks are good

Cons
Terrible cover art
Some songs sound exactly like each other

jpop Review- Yuna Ito- Heart




Heart is Yuna Ito's debut album that sold over 500,000 copies. It charted #1 on Oricon as well as United world charts. It contains her hit debut single 'Endless Story'

Workaholic- It starts with the chorus and is uptempo. A good way to start the album.
4/5

Endless Story- It hit #2 and sold more than 400,000 copies in Japan. It was sung for the movie 'NANA' based on a superhit manga of the same name by Ai Yazawa. Yuna Ito starred as REIRA in the movie. It is a ballad with lots of strings and is a peaceful song. The chorus stands out well.
4.6/5

losin'- starts with solo guitar strings/leads. It is more or less and average or below average song.
3/5

know-how- The 'aahhh' at the beginning is very pleasant. The song is also better than most songs on this album.
4.5/5

Precious- This was sung for Umizaru ~limit of love~ movie. It was also a hit single. It is very peaceful again. It is a ballad.
4.7/5

Tender is the night- The instrumental support is strong and chorus mangaes to stand out.
4.4/5

Fragile- Okay.
3.8/5

Nobody knows- bad.
3/5

Faith- It starts high pitched and therefore manages to capture the listener. Yuna's vocals are very pleasant. One of the better songs on this album.
4.5/5

Stay for love-
3/5

Truth- This was also sung for NANA. It aired in movie 2. It is a good track.
3.9/5

Perfume- There are some butterfly and insect sounds. It has a depressing atmosphere. Good way to end the album.
4.2/5

Bonus track
Precious~wedding extended version~
It has less instruments and more choir/backing vocals. It is ookay but not as good as the original.
4.5/5

It is very obvious from this album that Yuna Ito has not put in her best or rather, her composers and producer have not given her their everything. Considering Yuna Ito's talent and the strong single tracks, this album could have been better. All album tracks sound similar and fail to stand out. Yuna's career is rapidly declining because of lack of good composers. She also needs to change her image and style. She needs to work harder on her artistry. Her vocals are good but that's about all that's good about her. Her style needs more definition.

Overall- 4.1/5

Matsu Takako Cherish You



Matsu Takako is a very famous actress in Japan. She is also a singer (like Kou Shibasaki). Her style of music usually is generic midtempo pop tracks or mellower pop tracks. As of 2010, Cherish You is her second-last album.

Her voice sounds sweet and childish and is a bit high pitched. It is crystal clear and that is the most unique thing about her voice.

1.Ashita Haru ga Kitara- It is her highest-selling single with over 4,00,000 copies sold. It is a generic pop song with some strings.
Rating-4

2.MINNA HITORI- It starts with a beautiful instrumental intro. The song is very down-tempo. There are soft beats which sometimes become prominent, but is sounds like a ballad more or less.
Rating-4.5

3.Wakusei- A very average pop song.
Rating-2

4.Harukaze Scramble- A downtempo pop song with guitars.
Rating-2.3

5.Intertia- This song is very boring and very long!
Raing-1.2

6.Cherish You- Lovely strings give this song an ethreal feeling. Excellent track but, alas! too short. Only 2:00.
Rating-4.2

7.Kimi no egao, Kimi no Namida- Why is this album so full of average, generic pop tracks?
Rating-2

8.Reunion- Not another boring folk-pop track.
Rating-1

9.Yume no mama de- Better than it's predecessors but still not good enough.
Rating-2.3

9.now and then- It is a bit more upbeat and interesting than most tracks on this album.
Rating-2.5

10. Oyasumi- This is the best track on this album! Like the name suggests, it is a hardcore lullaby. It is very soothing and has great melody, though.
Rating-4.1

Overall, this album was a sheer waste of money. Only four tracks are worth listening to. The others are so similar to each other that they might pass off as the continuation of the same track. Don't buy this album unless you want to buy Minna Hitori single. That's the reason I bought this. The single cost me $13 and the album $15 on yesasia.com. There are still four good tracks, though.

Pros
Four good tracks

Cons
Rest of the tracks are garbage

Namie Amuro Play



PLAY is Namie Amuro's seventh original studio album. It was her first oricon #1 in seven years and has managed to sell 5,40,952 copies to date.

1.Hide & Seek- A very fun and addictive track with Namie's vocals at their best. I never had any problem with Namie Amuro's voice. It does grow repetitive after a few listens, but it is very pleasant and powerful at the same time. Hide & Seek maintains a high-energy atmosphere throughout the track.
Rating-4.5

2.Full Moon- This is the track that made me buy play. It starts with a bell and mysterious sounding intro with organs and everything. While listening to the song, I can actually imagine night. A very well done track. My only problem was that the lyrics do not make any sense at all.
Rating-4.7

3.Can't sleep, Can't eat, I'm sick- The trumpet and brass intro was very innovative and catchy. Most of Namie' songs sound alike on PLAY but their arrangement clearly distinguishes them. So, they don't sound repetitive. This was a single track.
Rating-4.3

4.It's all about you- A very average track and I found the pap-pap-pap-pa or whatever very annoying. A track worth skipping.
Rating-2

5.Funky Town- The chorus is good and the rest of the song is alright too. But there is nothing special about this track. It is easily outshone by most tracks on this album.
Rating-2

6.Step with it- A pretty good track.
Rating-4

7.Hello- The telephone ring sound and the fun and light way in which Namie sings this song make it stand out even though it is much like the previous two tracks.
Rating-4

8.Should I love him- Though it is not a ballad, it is the song on this album which is closest to being called a ballad. Very soothing atmosphere and Namie's voice is very gentle and expressive. Very good vocal work.
Rating-4.5

9.Top Secret- A very catchy track and Namie sings the fast section with great ease. She is truly the queen of j-pop.
Rating-4.3

10.Violet Sauce- I loved this song as a single and I love it now too. But the placement is totally bad. Top Secret and Violet Sauce are similar sounding and placing them after one another doesn't help to bring out their true potential.
Rating-4.6

11.Baby Don't cry-Many fans like this song but it is too mellow for me. The songwriting is not very good, either.
Rating-2

12.Pink Key- A reasonably good track with a happy atmosphere.
Rating-4

Overall, I was impressed by PLAY. This is my first album by Namie and I never expected it to be so good. Every track is very well sung. Namie has given her all in this album and it is evident. I wonder why it sold less than Sweet 19 blues (That album was not even half as good as this one).

Pros
Unique and interesting arrangements
Good vocal work
Cover art is nice

Cons
A few tracks are filler material
This album has no replay value at all. Though I was addicted to it at first, in just a few months I stopped playing it altogether.

Jpop Review- Mai Kuraki- Wish You the Best




Mai Kuraki is dubbed the princess of Jpop. Her debut album Delicious Way was a big hit in Japan and is the tenth highest selling album in japanese history.
Wish You the Best was Mai Kuraki's first compliation and the first Japanese album to hit #1 on the united world charts. Mai Kuraki has the most number of top ten singles for a female artist and she still holds this record

This album contains all her singles from her debut to her fourth album.

Love , day after tomorrow- A rather odd title. It is a catchy R&B song. Aika Ohno is a very talented composer and a new singer like Mai Kuraki managed to make a stong debut in the jpop world due to her. The chorus is the strong part in this song.
4.9/5

Stay by my side- It is an R&B ballad. IIt is slower comapred to Love, day after tomorrow and I would stay inferior. I consider it an above average songs though Mai Kuraki fans love this song a lot. It was her first #1 single.
4/5

Secret of my heart- It was used as a detective conan opening. It sounds like a summer song with optimistic instrumentals. Overall, a good song. It debuted at #2 behind Fukuyama Masaharu's Sakurazaka.
4.5/5

NEVER GONNA GIVE YOU UP- I consider this one of Mai Kuraki's funniest songs. Her engrish is prominent in this song and she sounds strange trying to ape westerners. 'You know there's nusing I won do' the chorus especially lacks clarity. The rap is cool though.
4/5

Delicious way- Another average track. Sounds too optimistic but lacks the 'wow' factor of Secret of my heart. I don't like this one.
3.4/5

Simply Wonderful ~radio edit~- Another so-so song. Better than the previous one though. The guitar is too strong- it is catchy but doesn't fit into the song.
3.6/5

Reach for the sky- This song is laid back and midtempo. It provides a break from a string of R&B songs. Nothing special though.
4.1/5

Tsumetai Umi- It is one of her popular singles. An above average R&B track. Mai Kuraki tries to hit some really ambitious notes here. I liked Start in my life more than Tsumetai Umi but Tsumetai Umi will definitely be prefered by R&B fans.
4.2/5

Stand Up- Her voice sounds constricted in this one. She tried to sound cool but the power she conveys is not enough to pull off the song. I found it pretty average (nothing special) with standard acoustic guitars.
3.8/5

always- It is a very strong single but it does not manage to surface in this album since there are better tracks.
4.1/5

Winter Bells- It is her best selling winter single. It gives a joyful and pleasant feeling. A very good and balanced song overall.
4.7/10

Feel Fine!- After a long string of not-so-well-selling singles, this one managed to sell above 400,000 copies. It is a good summer song although Mai Kuraki does not sing it to its full potential. Her voice lacks power. It has an optimistic summer feel but is quite agressive.
4.3/5

Like a star in the night- This ballad has a wonderful piano prelude. It is one of her soothing and well composed ballads. Mai Kuraki does not sing this one well either. The piano prelude is good but the song is only average.
4.2/10

Time after time ~hanamau machi de~- It has some oriental instruments in the background and gives a japanese vibe. But it sonds boring after a few listens.
4.2/5

Kaze no lalala- A refreshing spring song. The chorus is especially well composed. It has a relaxing effect. One of the songs Mai Kuraki actually manages to sing to its full potential.
4.7/5

Tonight, I feel close to you- The only BAD song on this album. Mai Kuraki doesn't sing english well. The melody is plain and boring and the arrangement is typical.
3/5

Overall, the album has wonderful songs which Mai Kuraki could've sung better. Mai Kuraki's voice essentially lacks power and her songs require power so, this fault is flaunted and not concealed in songs like Feel Fine. But Mai Kuraki is one of the good artists in the jpop scene because her songs are well composed and arranged and her songs are not a waste of money.

This album is worth a try since it has some really good songs and overall is a great buy. I bought the Korean version of this album and received a photobook and photo with lyrics. The photobook was so-so. Mai Kuraki doesn't make great photobooks like Ayumi Hamasaki. I also got a mini CD of 'Chance for you', an album track in Fuse of love. It was nice.

Overall- 4.7/5

Pros

Composition (Aika Ohno is great)
Arrangement
variety
The extra CD and photobook (if you ordered the korean version)

Cons

Mai Kuraki's voice faulters in some tracks
Her english is terrible
Initial songs are repititive

Namie Amuro- Violet Sauce/White Light



Namie Amuro is one of Japan's most popular singers and has been dubbed as 'The Queen of j-pop' due to her popularity.

Personally, I think Namie has a great voice. I have a few of her albums which I will review later. Namie's dance is not bad either. And in the present, when many top singers are producing sub-standard songs, Namie is still producing quality stuff. Maybe that's the reason her recent Best Fiction and Past
1.WHITE LIGHT- Is a pop ballad with a christmassy feel. I have always thought that Namie has a special flair for ballads. Her ballads are usually outstanding and White Light is no exception. But it is a little too soft.
Rating-4

2.Violet Sauce- This is one track that is totally addictive from start to finish. The mysterious and dark feel is new for Namie and she does it very well. A quality song.
Rating-4.6

3.Violet Sauce (anotha recipe)- Is a REMIX as you might have guessed. It's not bad but there are no significant changes from the original.
Rating-4.2

A single worth buying, especially since White Light is not included in her PLAY album and you don't want to miss this track.

Pros
Catchy songs


Cons
White Light could have been stronger

J-pop single review- Aiuchi Rina Navy Blue




Aiuchi Rina is a relatively popular singer and one of Giza Studio's most popular acts. Her voice is high pitched and powerful, much like Keiko from Globe. Her style is usually pop-rock but she has been known to perform occassional ballads.

Navy Blue reached #7 on the oricon charts. It is a pop ballad.

1.NAVY BLUE- It starts with a guitar intro which is somehow nostalgic. Rina starts singing and the songs sounds even more nostalgic. Though it is a generic pop ballad, there was something in this song which set it apart. After the first listen, I rewinded this song again and again. Something about it makes you listen to it again and again. Good replay value. Rina sounds shrill in the chorus though.
Rating-4.3

2.Broken Heart- It is an average pop song. I guess not much is to be expected from a b-side.
Rating-2.5

3.NAVY BLUE ~MAX MAZIK MIX~- This remix is terrible and too long. The original was much better and I don't see any point of doing a remix unless it is much better than the original.
Rating-1.2

4.NAVY BLUE ~d'une mix~ Better than the previous remix but still bad.
Rating-1.4

Overall single rating-3

Even thought all the other tracks except Navy Blue were bad, Navy Blue is a lovely song. Maybe you should buy her album and skip this single.

Pros
Strong A--side
Cover art was okay

Cons
Terrible remixes
Generic b-side
Too many remixes

Angela Aki- Today



Angela Aki is a new face is the j-pop scene and has gained fame by singing the theme for Final Fantasy. Her style is mainly piano ballads but sometimes, she does upbeat songs too.

Today is her second album. It debuted at #1 on the oricon and has so far sold close to 2.00.000 copies. This is my first Angela Aki album and so far-my only.

1. SAKURAIRO- The reason I bought this album was this track. It grew on me when I heard it for the first time. It starts with a calming piano intro like all other Aki's songs. The whole song gives a soft and 'pink' atmosphere as if one is sitting under a cherry blossom tree and its petals are blowing in the wind. Aki's vocals are strong throughout the song and reach a crescendo in the chorus.
Rating-4.7

2.Again- It is an upbeat pop song with a carefree atmosphere. It sounds pretty generic, though.
Rating-4

3.TODAY- Another generic pop song. Not good enough to be the title song.
Rating-3.4

4.Ai no Uta- A long and classic piano ballad with an overused name. Sounds very calming. I could go to sleep listening to this.
Rating-4.3

5.Tashika Ni- Sounds like a breezy summer pop tune. A new type of song for Aki and she handles it very well.
Rating-4.1

6.Silent Girl-- Starts well but becomes boring and repetitive. Classic Aki ballad.
Rating-2.4

7.Moral no Soushiki- I have read rave reviews of this song on other blogs. It starts out sounding like one of those songs which play behind Dracula movies. From there, it progresses to lighter and more carefree sound and then sounds completely like a normal pop song. I felt that its spooky and mysterious atmosphere was a perfect start but it gradually grew to sound too generic.
Rating-3.2

8. otomogokoro- This is the most boring song on this album. The arrangement is standard, the melody is average and Angela's vocals are not as powerful as they are in the other tracks.
Rating-2

9.One Melody- One of the best album tracks apart from Tomo no Shirushi. It is a powerful and moving piano ballad.
Rating-4.2

10.Tomo no shirushi- A guitar driven down-tempo song which sounds happy and cheerful (it is about friendship, after all!).
rating-4

11.Kodoku no Kakera- is the most moving and powerful ballad Aki has produced in her whole career. It has a dark atmosphere but everything goes together very well. However, my favorite ballads by her are still Tegami and This Love.
Rating-4.5

12.On & on- This songs sounds like an anime song. That's not a bad thing. It is a pop song with a slight rock mixed into it.
Rating-4

13.Surrender- When you start listening to this song, you'll feel like you are not in this world anymore. Close your eyes and you will know what I mean. Angela's English is perfect unlike most Japanese singers. This is the best song on this album and the best way to end it too. I guess Angie saved the best for last!
Rating-4.8

I truly enjoyed this album. If you skip the right tracks, you will have an unforgettable album. I have not heard any other album by Angie yet, but I have listened to her singles. I might decide to try HOME. ANSWER sounds too boring. As for TODAY, I am sure it will still be her best.

Pros
Wonderful ballads
Powerful voice
Good arrangements

Cons
Generic pop tracks
Some filler tracks
Cover art was not good

Utada Hikaru Deep River




Deep River is Utada Hikaru's Third album. It sold close to 3 million copies and is the eighth best-selling album in Japanese music History.

The first thing I want to say about Deep River is......what's with the cover? Utada doesn't look too good and it has no relation to a River whatsoever. The second thing is that when I listened to this album the first times and the first few times, I just hated it. I thought "Is this an Utada album?" The album sounded too dark and all the tracks sounded alike. But gradually, as I listened to it, it grew more and more on me. Now, it is my second favorite Utada Album (after First Love). So please give this album time and it is sure too become your favorite. That aside, let's look at the tracks.

1.SAKURA DROPS- A original track which mixes the sounds of the music box. The verses are mellow and sound like a ballad and the chorus picks up.Highly recommended and a great way to start this album.
Rating-4.7

2.travelling- It was not a good idea to place travelling after Sakura drops. travelling is a reasonably good uptempo track is overshadowed by most of the album tracks in this album.
Rating-4

3.Shiawase ni Narou- It started off like a ballad and then became a r&b track. I liked the ballad part more. There is nothing spectacular about this track. It is very average. Not bad for an album track.
Rating-3.9

4.Deep River- When I close my eyes and listen to the instrumental intro, I feel like I am in the middle of the lake. Maybe that is the reason she named this track Deep River. It is a track with an east-asian feel to it. The song flows like a water body- in one direction and slowly. The tempo never changes and the chorus is not very high or shrieky. A very original song. Utada outdid herself on this.
Rating-4.8

5.Letters- This track sounds too.....I don't know. I feel something is wrong, that's why I am not able to like it even after many listens.
Rating-3.4

6.Playball- I didn't like this track at first and used to skip it everytime. But one day I heard it and it stuck in my head. It's atmosphere is like that of Never Lett Go in first love. I feel like I am in a cold place when I head this.
Rating-4.6

7.Tokyo Nights- This is the only track I liked on my first listen. Many Utada fans site it as their second favorite album track after First Love. It has a mysterious and very urban feel as if standing on a skyscraper in the middle of a city with lights. I am suure you will like this one.
Rating-4.6

8.ASAP- I call this and the previous three tracks the 'Single Trine' because they arre all awesome tracks and I think they should have all been single tracks. ASAP starts with an intro which includes church bells. The atmosphere is very mysterious and liek the atmosphere during a blizzard when you can feel something is wrong. This song captures feeling very beautifully.
Rating-4.7

9. Uso Mitai na I love you- I didn't like the instrumental intro AT ALL. The rest of the song is pretty good and everything seems to be going well......until that intro is played again. Seriously, this song should have been arranged better.
Rating-4

10.FINAL DISTANCE- It is a ballad and one of Utada's best. It only has a simple piano instrumental with occassional strings and back-singers but it is very good.
Rating-4.5

11.Bridge- I have never gotten the point of placing an interlude as the second last track. Isn't it supposed to be an interlude? Bridge is not bad, but it would have been more helpful if it had been somewhere in the middle of the album. Here, it sounds uneeded and I skip it in order to proceed to the last track- Hikari.

12.HIKARI- Is an upbeat pop track and a relatively new genre for Utada. It was used in the Kingdom Hearts game and she even sang an English version of it. The Japanese version is better. Hikari is not an outstanding track. It should not have been a single track.
Rating-4

DEEP RIVER contains Utada's best album tracks to date. Some are better than those on First Love. The single tracks were not as outstanding (with the exception of Sakura Drops). This album is a relief after DISTANCE. After listening to DISTANCE, I was afriad Utada might become another so-so, generic artist. Utada has proved me wrong. She is truly an artist who values quality and deserves her fame.

Pros
Excellent album tracks
Smooth flow

Cons
Mediocre single tracks
Most songs sound alike

Utada Hikaru Distance



Distance is Utada Hikaru's second album. It debuted on #1 in the oricon charts even when it was released in the same week as Ayumi Hamsaki's A Best. It has sold close to 4 million copies and is the fourth best-selling album in Japanese History.

1.Wait & See ~Risk~- It is a single track and as expected of Utada's single tracks, delivers high quality. A r&b track with intricate songwriting and reasonably-good arrangement, it is a quality track.
Rating-4.5

2. CAN YOU KEEP A SECRET- This is Utada's highest selling single to date. It sounds like a mix of club jazz and soft beats in the beginning but changes to Utada's signature r&b style as it progresses. It was used in the drama Hero in which Takuya Kimura acted. I didn't like the drama much even if it is the drama with the highest viewership rating in Japanese TV history. Had Takuya Kimura not been there, the drama would have been a sure-shot flop.
Rating-4.6

3.DISTANCE- This song has a happy atmosphere and good arrangement. Even thought it was released before Final Distance, I like final Distance better.
Rating-4

4.Sunglasses- A very mysterious and nostalgic sounding album track. My favorite album track on this album (There are not many, though).
Rating-4.7

5.Dorama- I HATE this song. It is pure noise and the melody whatever it is, does nothing to save the terrible arrangement. Skip this.
Rating-2.1

6.Eternally- Finally, a ballad, and like all other Utada ballads, a masterpiece in its own right. It combines the soft sounds of piano and orchestra with Utada's emotional voice.
Rating-4.3

7.Addicted to You (Up in Heaven Miz)- This is a quite catchy R&B track. And hearing it, it does make me feel like I am in heaven (what a coincidence!)
Rating-4.5

8.For You- My favorite single track from this album. It is supposed to be a R&B ballad. It does sound like one with added elements which make it sound like the sky is dark when she is singing this.
Rating-4.7

9.Kettobase- The last track on this album which is any good. After the all the tracks (except the bonus track) are complete disasters.
Rating-4

10. Parody- I can't listen to this! Please skip it. Utada! What are you doing?
Rating-2

11.Time Limit- Not a good track. Sounds like filler.
Rating-3

12.Kotoba ni Naranai Kimochi- This song's tempo is pretty awkward. It should have been slower and the arrangement and the music do not match at all. A below-average track.
Rating-3.1

13. Hayatochiri REMIX- Finally, after that string of terrible tracks, one track that is beareable. Good she ended the ablbum with this.
Rating-4

DISTANCE was a huge step down from her almost-perfect First Love. At least Deep River is better.....

Pros
First few tarcks are strong
Good single tracks
Nice cover (compared to First Love)

Cons
Later tracks are rubbish
Some tracks have arrangements that do not suit the music.
Utada sounds airier and more tired in this album than in First Love