[lifestyle] how to hunt Kuroshitsuji and other manga in Shanghai

As a huge Kuroshitsuji fan and spending the summer in one of the most international cities in the world, a three-hour plane ride away from Tokyo, there is absolutely no doubt that I would go manga hunting. Though it is all very nice to read the quickly translated scans online, there is nothing quite like owning the physical books themselves. Moreover, these official translations provide professional translators’ insights into the manga; though I must say, there are many amateur translators that are amazing, in terms of depth and linguistics. BlackButler.net translators are definitely along these lines.

This post will address three things: where to physically buy manga in Shanghai, what phrases to use when looking for manga, and how to tell apart fake and genuine copies (this is more specific to Kuroshitsuji, but you can probably apply the criterion to other manga).

Maomao Bookstore

Address580号 Guoquan Road, Yangpu, Shanghai, China
Pro(s): most extensive selection, cheap, sells Japanese manga magazines and photobooks, may have doujinshi
Con(s): kind of shady, likely to get a fake copy
As I scoured the entire internets and asked my Shanghai manga-crazy friend where there was a bookstore entirely devoted to manga, I turned up only one store– 毛毛书店 (Maomao Bookstore). This is just off the Fudan University campus, Handan Rd. entrance. It is a small and cramped bookstore, consisting of only one room, which also sells international magazines and newspapers. Their collection of manga and manga magazines spreads across four to five bookshelves, from floor to ceiling. Manga sells from around 10-30RMB; the copy of KuroshitsujiI purchased was around 10RMB, dirt cheap. Continue reading


[kpop] Jedward v. Toho. Honestly, which “Superstar” is better?

So, late as usual, I stumbled onto Tohoshinki’s TONE album and I have been happily listening to this album for about three weeks while getting sick already of SHINee’s The First within the first week. Naturally, I really like the track “Superstar” because of its heavy dance-beat. Just as naturally, I start Googling and then find out:

Clear condescension. Tohoshinki made a cover? Of a song that Jedward only released after Tohoshinki released their song? I was a little suspicious. Before I started to bristle my Tohoshinki bias, I listened to both of them.

[listen to Tohoshinki’s “Superstar”] / [listen to Jedward’s “Everyday Super Star”]

Differences between tracks:

  1. Tohoshinki has way more autotune. Do not misinterpret, I do not have anything against autotune unless it obscures the voice of the singer and does not add or fit in with the song. It fits perfectly in with the rough synths, and is genius. Genius. Tohoshinki sings this heartbreakingly well live without autotune, but the song is simply just not the same.
  2. Yet, Tohoshinki has more electronic polish, while Jedward feels like a demo. A demo is like a preview, before the finished product that will be actually recorded by the actual, ahem, superstar (sorry, could not resist making pun).
  3. Jedward clearly for a younger audience, because it feels like a sugar high, rushing headlong with no solid backing synths. It leaves me slightly insecure and shaky, like it could fall apart and crash at any second.
  4. Jedward’s lyrics are a bit unwieldy, “boom boom like Britney” is a bit awkward, though to be fair, so is Tohoshinki’s Japanese in that part, where they also kept the “b” sound.
  5. “You know what? She’s not your average everyday girl, listen up” is Jedward’s beginning; Yunho says in the beginning, “I wanna be your superstar, oh my girl.” Clearly, from English speaker’s perspective, Jedward is less awkward, but then Yunho’s deep voice saying it, sort of makes up for it (Michelle hormones, back down!).

Tohoshinki takes the cake this time, simply because they are mature and have better sound engineering, to be expected from a pop group that has dominated for far longer than Jedward. Jedward has potential, but not to the point of taking credit for Tohoshinki success.

I tried, in vain, to search for Jedward’s original tweets, but they have since been deleted, owing to the controversy they created when they claimed Tohoshinki had ‘covered’ their songs. This is not true; just like Tohoshinki’s “Mirotic“, each company bought regional rights, one for Europe (Sarah Connor), and the other for Asia. In the case of “Superstar,” the entertainment agencies both bought regional rights from Lars Halvor Jensen, and so both recordings are originals.

[kpop] why SHINee’s “Hello” music video scares me. A LOT.

edit: I know a lot of you guys are visiting from Twitter, via @TaeminMoments, and this is what I wrote back to her tweet which said that “THIS ARTICLE CRITICIZES HELLO,RIGHT?”– my reply from @mmichlle:

it might seem to you that it is a critique of Hello, but just because I’m a SHINee fangirl doesn’t mean I have to like everything that SHINee does. Moreover, the article deals with more of the kpop industry’s practices about fantasizing men rather than specifically targeted at SHINee. sadly, SHINee is one of the boy groups that is affected by this practice :( personally, I believe if they shed their idol image, they would be much stronger artists instead of a forgettable boy band, and I want them to do the best they can.

So. Suck it. Jonghyun is already taken, so stop being pathetic and eat an eggroll.


I rushed back from Italian so I could change into interview clothes (I got the job!) and then I saw that SHINee’s Hello full music video, so I downloaded it and watched it as I walked downstairs to lunch.

Several things immediately struck me:

  1. Key and Taemin being blowfish in the opening
  2. Jonghyun’s random scene with girl blowing bubbles
  3. The superfluity of peace signs
  4. Minho wearing an Abercrombie sweater while rapping
  5. All of the ‘characters’ being bashful and sweet and shy when finally approaching the girl in the end

Let’s face it. SHINee is starting to get old, and cute doesn’t quite work for them anymore, no matter how many girls with bubbles you bring in.  Or peace signs you flash.  Or how many times you imitate blowfish.  Which brings me to another point, why was only Jonghyun graced with such a scene? Maybe it’s because Jonghyun is in need of an image softening, because he’s often seen as the ‘player.’

The reason why I say ‘characters’ is because none of SHINee are like this in real life (Taemin is definitely a player, isn’t it obvious?), they’re figments of imaginations created to sate the fangirl.  This is why this music video scares me.

Hello was created for the fangirls who dream about these men approaching them, completely struck with love, bashful.  With a ring.  A gigantic bear.  Sensitive and thoughtful and sweet and shy.  Best of all, metrosexual and handsome.  The ideal.

At times, I only hesitantly call myself a fangirl because I do not fantasize about them. I just really like their music and their personalities portrayed in the media– I never will be this way:

I will never wish Onew is my boyfriend or Key will propose to me.  However, this music video allows for me to easily do that.  Because there is no clear girl protagonist in this music video, any fangirl (or fanboy!) can insert themselves into the situation, and continue to elaborate and intensify their fantasies.

This I have a problem with.  This is what I’m scared of.  The fan culture is already intense, and the Korean entertainment industry chooses to exploit this rather than innovating the music.  Though Hello was not a cover, it was not original to SHINee.  For every few steps forward that SHINee took for Lucifer— developing their manly image, and staying on the cutting edge of music and fashion– Hello moves them back one, hearkening back to the cute, but novice, Replay days.

Lastly, leopard print and Abercrombie? The stylists really must be stuck in a rut.