[manga/musings] Skip Beat is frustrating. So is Kuroshitsuji. So is The Wallflower. Why?

I am no stranger to bad choices. Yet here I was, at almost two in the morning, reading the latest chapter of Skip Beat. I hope no one in my dorm heard the scream of anguish I let out upon reading the cliffhanger ending.

Upon reflection later this morning, I realized some things about the three currently-updating manga that I devotedly follow: KuroshitsujiSkip Beat, and The Wallflower (I like to call it Perfect Girl Evolution).

  1. These manga are very popular. 
  2. Their plots are not moving along at all.
    Kuroshitsuji: what happened to the fantastic backstory of Ciel we had in the zombie arc? Did it all just disappear? Why is the story so much more lighthearted? Is not the story of Ciel the story of very perverse despair? Yet, we seem to be stuck in a lighthearted seinen with a complimentary demon sidekick.
    Skip Beat: Tsuruga is finally getting out of control! After, like, maybe, um, 30 chapters (and add 30 separate cliffhangers!).
    Perfect Girl Evolution: Kyohei and Sunako neither like or dislike each other. Sunako is not any closer to a lady than she was 40 chapters ago, nor are the boys or her aunts any closer to accepting Sunako for who she is (not a lady).
  3. All authors seem to devolving into cliche.
    Kuroshitsuji: Mangaka Yana Toboso finally jumped on the Hogwarts train.
    Skip Beat: Totally milking the whole brother-sister-forbidden-eroticism relationship. After reading the last chapter, I felt really wronged.
    Perfect Girl Evolution: Mangaka is breaking out in chibi like she is breaking out in hives or something. Though chibi is great for comedic effect, it sometimes just feels too slapstick. Plus, two chapters of fantasy-roleplay? I have the feeling that the mangaka is just sweating for ideas how to make Kyohei-Sunako interesting again. (Hint, it involves development of a romantic relationship! Or at least, a seriously funny incident that could be construed as romance).

Why are these mangakas doing this to their readers? Why do they have such phenomenal and funny and smart beginnings but as their manga become so much more popular, the quality of their manga noticeably drops?

Personal theory– they know idiots like me will stay up until two in the morning to read what happens anyway. Kuroshitsuji is the prettiest manga I’ve ever read, Skip Beat ends with cliffhangers all the time, Perfect Girl Evolution is just so hilarious. Though the quality has degraded, they still retain some of their characteristics that I came to love these manga. Simply put, the mangaka have no incentive to keep the pace of storytelling up, because they know rabid fans like me are at their beck and call no matter what.

from Kuroshitsuji. So I just about died when I saw how adorable Ciel’s Napoleon outfit was. Died.

Yet, this comes at a cost– because of the diluted quality of these manga, I am much less likely to buy the physical volume. The last time I went to NYC, I spent the greater part of the day running around trying to locate places where I could buy manga, and I hemmed and I hawed a ridiculous amount but eventually decided against going crazy and buying all of the manga in reach because they are not worth it; if I forgot about those volumes tomorrow, I would have not lost much of anything.

I guess I cannot blame the mangaka totally– for anyone, it is nice to bask in your success and lay back a bit but at the same time you are alienating and frustrating fans, and in the extreme scenario, these fans will leave you– like I have left the physical volumes for websites hosting scanlations.

For mangaka, there is a large controversy surround online scanlations, because none of the money that the websites make from hosting these scanlations actually go to the mangaka. Yet, I would argue that having unauthorized scanlations is a great thing, especially for not-as-successful mangaka. Most manga fans overseas do not have regular access to a manga bookstore, so it is inevitable much of these fans’ exposure comes from the internet. Therefore, for an overseas audience who may or may not be able to read Japanese, it is more beneficial to have pirated scanlations on the internet than not. We are introduced to the mangaka and subsequently introduced to the idea of possibly acquiring a physical volume of the manga we enjoyed. The only problem is, how do you get these manga fans to make the jump and to buy the physical volumes?

Make impossibly good manga, so impossibly good that it is impossible to resist buying the physical volumes. It is just that easy. It is just that hard.


classical music is stuffy? pshaw! classical recs for fans of pop/rock/electro/…

In my experience, people tend to think of classical music as one huge, static genre. Far from it– there is some classical music I love to death, others, meh, not so much. In a lot of ways, classical music can be very similar to the popular music that most people listen to nowadays, but it can be hard to find that particular classical music you click with.

Thus, in alphabetical order, I have listed popular genres and based on the genre, underneath I wrote some suggestions of classical music for you to listen to. Of course, being a pianist, this will be a little heavy on the piano side. If you have any suggestions for me or would like me to add a category, please let me know!

In popular music, country is a genre which can encompass many idomatic sounds of the American region– but true country has a deep soul; nonetheless, it also has levity and is loose and free. Personally, I am in a mature stage of loving American composers, so this corresponding genre of classical music is very dear to my heart. Though to European ears, the American sound may be uncouth and very loud and brassy, but it is so adorable and kitschy it is hard to fight back a smile.
(1) An American in Paris, George Gershwin. A perfect summer piece to dip your toes in.
(2) Rodeo: Hoe Down, Aaron Copland. This. This piece is amazing live. If you ever get a chance to see the Philadelphia Orchestra play this, you must go. In fact, if the Philadelphia Orchestra is playing anything remotely American, just go. They are the best orchestra in the US where American music is concerned.
(3) Piano Concerto in G major, Maurice Ravel. An impressionistic composer, Michelle? Really? Yes. This piece was heavily influenced by jazz, and its presence in this concerto is whimsical and floating and altogether very beautiful.
(4) ‘American’ String Quartet, Antonin Dvorak. Dvorak composing in a field in Iowa. Best idea ever. Also one of the pieces the Emerson String Quartet played when I saw them.
(5) Excursions Suite: no 1, Samuel Barber. Every piece in the suite hearkens to some American idiom. When I listen to the first piece, I think of trains. What do you think?

Dance / Electronic
Unless you get into the really hairy avant-garde in classical music, classical music does not use much electronic elements. However, I am interpreting this genre as ‘upbeat’. Some upbeat pieces you could (theoretically) dance to.
(1) Caprice no. 24 in A minor, op. 1/24, Niccolo Paganini. Probably the most well-known piece in virtuoso violin repertoire.
(2) Concerto for Two Cellos in G minor, RV 531, Vivaldi. Love at first listen.
(3) Moonlight Sonata, Ludwig Beethoven. The third movement is definitely a head-bopping moment.

Easy Listening / New Age
A great genre for some relaxation and contemplation.
(1) Adagio for Strings (choral version), Samuel Barber. One of the seminal pieces of the twentieth century; even DJ Tiesto made a remix.
(2) Well-Tempered Clavier, Book I and II, Johann Sebastian BachGlenn Gould is the go-to pianist for Bach. His interpretations are fantastic to listen to (however, once you start playing Bach, you realize sometimes Gould is a bit crazy at times). Bach is amongst the most cerebral composers I know, and it is a pleasure to play his works, if only to get a mental workout. I also like Maurizio Pollini‘s interpretations.
(3) Dolly Suite, Gabriel Faure. A cute and light set of piano duets (four hands, one piano).

Constantly listening to sad ballads? Want to cry your tears out?
(1) any Frederic Chopin– some choices: Nocturne op. 9 no. 2, Piano Sonata no. 2, Fantasie-Impromptu op. Posthumous, Piano Concerto No. 1 in E minor. Chopin is mindbogglingly beautiful, but many times, I cannot handle the level of emo and would rather hack away at something aggressive. However, if you are super emo, do some soul-searching in Chopin.
(2) Pour le piano: Prelude, Claude Debussy. I’ve played this before in eighth grade. Why? Because it was emo.
(3) String Quartet in G minor, op. 27, Edvard Grieg. The first movement, Un Poco Andante, Allegro Molto Ed Agitatomight be a little more hardcore emo than you bargained for, but you cannot deny the entrance as one of emo anguish. If you like heavy metal, definitely grab onto this.

Epic / Soundtrack
I love listening to the Transformers OST and the Bourne trilogy OST, and sometimes having epic music on hand while racing through bus terminals is quite fun (I have no life).
(1) Piano Concerto no. 2 in C minor, op. 18, Sergei Rachmaninoff. Certainly one of the most recognized openings of all piano concertos.
(2) Piano Concerto in A minor, op. 16, Edvard Grieg. Play me that beginning chord anywhere and I can recognize it immediately. This piece is iconic– it was even featured in a Li Yundi Nike commercial!
(3) Transcendental Etude, no. 4, Franz Liszt. Not ashamed to say, I first heard this in Nodame Cantabile. I also discovered that Boris Berezovsky sweats a lot (watch the video).. unsavory..
(4) Cello Concerto, op. 22, Samuel Barber. The beginning, gargle. The cello cadenza, gargle. For this concerto, my bias is Paul Tobias.

Hip Hop / R&B
This is a genre that I listen to infrequently, but nonetheless, a genre with lots of soul. And lots of bass.
(1) Julie-O (special beatbox arrangement), Mark Summers. The original is amazing, as well– as it is played by the composer himself.
(2) Libertango, Astor Piazzolla. If Yo-Yo Ma is playing it, it is automatically gold. No questions asked.
(3) Romeo and Juliet: Dance of the Knights, Sergei Prokofiev. Yes, this definitely has a lot of bass; could fit in the emo section as well.

Basically, the genre for us snobs who like saying, “I listened to them before they became popular.”
(1) Paganini Variations for two pianos, Witold Lutoslawski. Yes, I blather a lot about this piece. But still– people still do not appreciate it enough. It is also rather avant-garde, so you can brag about that too, hipsters.
(2) Tzigane, Maurice Ravel. Everyone who plays an instrument classically has a phase of liking impressionistic composers like Ravel and Debussy. I was in the phase in high school, but now I have thankfully gotten over that. Even those who profess to love Ravel oftentimes have neglected this amazing virtuoso violin piece.
(3) Simple Symphony, op. 4, Benjamin Britten. A twentieth-century composer who does not get enough love at all, even in the classical music lovers’ circles. I would have a listen to his cello concerto as well.

Catchy, catchy, catchy. Hook, hook, hook. Infectious and fun.
(1) ‘Trout’ Piano Quintet in A major, Franz Schubert. Another piece I heard at the Emerson String Quartet concert— the most well-known chamber piece. In China, one of my roommates’ ringtone was this annoying MIDI version of Trout, so boy, was I glad to stop listening to it after I moved out.
(2) Bolero, Maurice Ravel. Yes, this is used in the opening of SNSD’s Paparazzi music video (you can guess a certain someone was frowning). However, Ravel’s Bolero on its own is indescribably beautiful, though it is the same thing over and over again. Pity, Super Junior’s artistic directors should try learning from this piece.
(3) The New World Symphony, Antonin Dvorak. The last movement could go under “Epic / Soundtrack” very well, but overall, it is an amazing piece of music, filled with memorable melodies. If you have a chance, listen to the four-hands one-piano version arranged and played by Duo Crommelynck.

Rock / Heavy Metal
For those of who love a good head-banging with strong rhythms. Bitches love Shostakovich! Heh.
(1) String Quartet no. 8 in C minor, op. 110, Dmitri Shostakovich. The allegro molto (second movement) is an absolute thriller. You can never go wrong with the Emerson String Quartet.
(2) Piano Trio no. 2 in E minor, op. 67, Dmitri Shostakovich. This trio’s melody was actually based on the previous string quartet’s melody. However, this arrangement is so amazing that it deserves to be mentioned. The allegretto (fourth movement) starts off ‘slow’, but once you reach the climax, grip the seat because you probably will not survive.
(3) Cello Sonata, op. 8, Zoltan Kodaly. I recently got into cello, but I really must listen to more Kodaly. His name is so fun not to.
(4) Firebird Suite, Sergei Prokofiev. The first time I heard this was in sixth grade– our teacher had chosen a snippet of it to be played in our band concert– and I fell in love immediately. Plus, there is this awesome Disney Fantasia movie to go along with it. Fetch me some tissues.


[nerd] math major memes!

To celebrate my return from hiatus, I was busy (wasting time and) looking up math memes. Set theory, I will conquer you this fall, just so I finally understand 90% of the math memes out there. That’s actually the only reason I’m considering a mathematics major. Right.  Continue reading

[lifestyle] so what have you been doing lately? I’ve been reading Homin fanfics (and studying.. right..)

Spring break is nigh upon me, but of course, before all good things, there must be 期中考 (midterms!) and problem sets due. In this stressful time, how am I staying amused? Reading Homin fanfics.

Changmin on the right, Yunho on the left. Since it's just the two of them, all of their photoshoots are very bromance, so I can understand why there are so many Homin shippers. >u<;;

Homin is the pairing of Changmin and Yunho from TVXQ. Defined by UrbanDictionary, fanfiction is:

A piece of fiction within a fandom utilizing characters and situations from a pre-existing work including (but not limited to) books, television programs, films, and comic strips.

Wait, why am I reading Homin fanfics? Didn’t I swear to myself at the presumptuous age of 14 to stay away from fanfiction? That they were a waste of creative productivity?

Okay, well, I renege on my 14-year-old self. First, I find Homin TVXQ completely adorable– so much bromance, so much good music. Despite all the bromance, I don’t think they’re gay or will ever have more than a brotherly relationship with each other. I support Homin in the sense that if I could pick two people to be a couple, I would pick them, but I do not necessarily believe that they are homosexuals or attracted to each other. So, let’s read some fanfiction to assauge my distress because Changmin and Yunho will never get together.. (please insert theatrical sob here).

just too precious.

The second thing is, Homin fanfics are so funny that I can’t stop reading them. The situations that authors imagine them in! The Harry Potter crossovers, the strange outfits of lace, Yunho as cat, Changmin as Yunho’s teacher.. no matter how serious the story is, no matter how beautifully written the story is, I will laugh myself silly. Fans’ imaginations are really the best. Some of the plots are so intricate that the characters don’t even seem like Yunho or Changmin anymore; these characters may have their likenesses, but that’s about it. I mean, really, Changmin as a homeless boy? I think I cried tears while laughing. However, somehow I feel like my reaction while reading fanfics is not the general one; judging from the comments, most people leave starry-eyed and cling onto their OTP even more.

I’m curious, do you read fanfiction? What is your motivation behind reading it? What are your reactions? 

As I read Homin fanfics, I will compile a list of good ones that are not R-rated, so everyone who visits this blog can feel comfortable reading them. (But sometimes the R-rated ones are the most hilarious.. Yunho and lace.. how could I not die of laughter on the spot? And also, this summary, “Yunho meets Changmin, a young man that could be more than just friends with him…if only he could forget Jaejoong.” That is just so LOL. Who can resist reading some of that?)

[kpop] who’s gay in kpop?! hilarious summary of 6theory thread & Michelle’s thoughts

I like working the night shift at the library because it’s quiet, but the thing is, I always do my homework beforehand, because I know I am terrible at concentrating at night. So oftentimes, I’m bored, and that one day–yes, that day was April 7th–I stumbled across a huge thread on 6theory, the companion forum to Allkpop. This thread was dedicated to surmising who may or may not be gay in the kpop industry, and it had me laughing in tears. Fangirl logic really is the best.

I will list the people most named by the forum members, and what people have said about them: various well-said logics and/or so-funny-I-could-die comments, peppered in with some of my own comments in grey italics. At the very, very end, I will tell you what I think in general. As for specifics on Key of SHINee, read the previous post.

warnings: (1) Unless the grammar / spelling was egregious, I preserved the original form of the comments. (2) This post is rather image-heavy, so be patient while the page is loading if you have a slow computer/connection.

Continue reading

[kpop] random other cheer!

Image spring-cleaning finished.

Continue reading

[kpop] SHINee cheer no. 4!

[Shame upon shame.]

Continue reading