The Beginner’s Guide to Anime, Extra V – Going to Japanese Cultural Events

July 16, 2015 by  
Filed under Features

Sometimes in this column I cover aspect of anime outside of the shows. For example I’ve written about conventions (Extra I) and the larger expos (Extra II). However, there is a third kind of event: those designed specifically for Japanese culture – J-culture for short – which includes anime but also other related aspects of the country. Not just J-culture, but J-fashion, J-music, J-everything.

The biggest of these events is Hyper Japan, which just held its latest event a few days ago. For the first time it was held at the O2 Arena, when in previously years it had been held at Earl’s Court. This was my first such event, but a very enjoyable one for many reasons. Admittedly one of those was the fact it happened to be my birthday over the weekend, but there are many more reasons too.

These cultural events feature many of the things that occur in the western expos and conventions. As it is a large event, many large companies turn up. Nintendo for example had a huge area almost to itself, but it was shared by other firms such as Kodansha, a company which publishes manga include the very popular Attack on Titan (No. 11). So popular this series is that there was a gigantic “Colossal Titan” bust that you could have your photo taken nearby. However, you also have lots of smaller companies too, from Japan, Britain and elsewhere. These companies range from artists, to travel companies, to people selling language courses. There was even a company selling kimonos made in France.

Speaking of which, one of the cultural aspects concerning this event was fashion. Traditional clothing such as kimonos is one aspect, and cosplaying that you find at all such conventions is also something that appears. Another J-fashion popular at this event is the Victorian-inspired Lolita fashion. It is one of the few events where you could find and buy such clothes and accessories. Even I commissioned an outfit, based on the more mature “Aristocrat” style.

From clothes, we move onto food and drink. There was a “Maid Café” and stalls selling all kinds of Japanese food including onigiri rice balls, veg-fried noodles, and tempura-fried prawns. They also served tempura-fried chicken, served on skewers, which was the best chicken I have ever tasted. On the drinks front, there was the a “sake experience”, which you had to pay extra for, but you got to sample and buy around 30 different sakes to choose from.

There was also a beer on offer called Kirin, but I must confess this was one of the less enjoyable experiences for two reasons: a), a 330ml bottle cost £5 which was way too expensive, and b), some of the bar staff were so annoying I just walked away from them in anger. Way too laddish for my liking. It felt like being served by the lovechild of Dapper Laughs and Quagmire from Family Guy. Indeed, looking at some of the comments attendees have posted on Facebook, there were several complaints about many of the O2 staff and poor customer service. Some have even accused Hyper Japan of possibly selling out.

The best thing for me however during the event was J-music. This relates to one of the most impressive things about Hyper Japan, which is that this is one of few times that big name singers and performers come over to Britain. For example there was a singer there named Eir Aoi who performed twice over the three days. Aoi has over the years become a very popular singer, whose songs have been used in several popular anime. One song, “Sirius”, was used as a theme for Kill la Kill (No. 80), and two songs, “Innocence” and “Ignite” were used as themes for Sword Art Online (No. 34).

But she was just one of the many stars there. There were even bigger names at Hyper Japan. Because of this, I can say that on my birthday the best experience I had was high- two members from arguably the biggest rock band in all of Japan, X (aka X Japan). The members, Yoshiki (the bandleader, drummer and pianist) and Toshi (the lead singer), where there mainly to promote their forthcoming gig at Wembley in March 2016, which will also mark the release of their first album in 20 years. X are probably most notable for being one of the earliest bands to pioneer the “visual kei”, a look that in the west is comparable to glam rock. However, X are more of a heavy metal band.

If you like anime, events such as this are good places to learn more about Japan itself, and therefore give you a greater context of understanding more of the background of many series. It is just a shame that there are not more such events like Hyper Japan around.

The next Hyper Japan event will be held between 27th-29th November at Tobacco Dock, London.

Jeremy Clarkson Vs. The BBC

March 31, 2015 by  
Filed under News

By now almost everyone has heard the news that the BBC has fired Jeremy Clarkson as a host of the highly rated show, Top Gear. For those that don’t know the show, it is about the three hosts traveling around the world, testing out cars and experimenting with extreme stunts and challenges in said cars. It’s every thrill seeker’s dream show.

However, things have gone off course as BBC kicked Clarkson off the show after allegedly reporting a producer of the show. This is apparently not his first account of being violent towards other staff members.

What’s interesting about this move is that the affects seem to be worse off for the BBC than for Clarkson. Some fans have vowed to stop watching the show, while others have criticised BBC for firing the most right-winged host of the three. It looks like their motto for a balanced network is tipping more left than ever.

This prompts the question, will Top Gear survive without Clarkson?

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

March 26, 2015 by  
Filed under News

Netflix has done it again with a new original series filled with humour, wit and some unforgettable characters. The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt premiered on March 6th and is written and produced by the hilarious Tina Fey.

Kimmy (Ellie Kemper) finally emerges from an underground bunker where she’s been living for the past 15 years thanks to a doomsday cult that kidnapped her. For the first time in her whole life, she’s on her own and trying to survive New York City. Viewers watch as Kimmy tackles subjects such as dating, getting her GED and learning how to use the internet with her roommate Tituss (Titus Andromedon) and employer Jacqueline Voorhees (Jane Krakowski).

This show is brings the laughs, an original story idea and most importantly, some diversity to the television business. With a woman as the main character and minorities in supporting roles, it shows how Netflix is behind the times and changing the face of television.

The Best of Mike Judge

March 26, 2015 by  
Filed under Reviews


The socially challenged underdogs of the lucrative world of tech start-ups are finally uncovered in the painfully funny Silicon Valley. So  here’s a look at the best of Silicon Valley alumni Mike Judge, and the projects he’s created with his own unique, brilliantly sharp and wonderfully offbeat humour…

Silicon Valley (2014-2015)

This critically-acclaimed HBO comedy takes viewers inside the high-tech gold rush of modern Silicon Valley.  Inspired by Judge’s own experiences as a Silicon Valley engineer in the 80’s, the show follows the trials and tribulations of awkward computer programmer Richard (Thomas Middleditch), who lives in a “Hacker Hostel” along with his friends Big Head (Josh Brener), Gilfoyle (Martin Starr), and Dinesh (Kumail Nanjiani).  Combining brilliant observational comedy with a fantastic cast and razor-sharp dialogue, Silicon Valley taps into the zeitgeist in a completely unique way. It shows, in the funniest way possible, how often the people most qualified to succeed are really the least capable of handling success.

Beavis and Butt-head (1993-1997)

Mike Judge first became famous for creating this animated MTV series turned phenomenon about two heavy-metal music loving high school burnouts living in a fictional Texas town that hate attending school, and love watching TV while “reviewing” music videos they watch.  The show aired for five years and was a massive cult hit, with Judge voicing both title characters and other supporting characters.  He brought back the comical hit in 2011 for another successful season.


King of the Hill (1997-2010)

Judge took another whack at animated comedy and successfully co-created an American adult sitcom with Greg Daniels.  King of the Hill centres on the life of propane salesman Hank Hill and his middle-class family, who also live in a modern fictional Texas small town much like Beavis and Butt-head.  His substitute-teaching wife is opinionated, his son is a disappointment, and his friends are losers.  Despite his problems, Hank is hard-working and keeps a level head, maintaining the status of “King of the Hill.”  Judge provides the voice for Hank Hill and delivers his character effortlessly.

Office Space (1999)

This amusing comedy film written and directed by Mike Judge is a take on the satirizing life and vapidity of American corporate culture.  A computer programmer at a software company named Peter suffers numerous humiliations in his bleak workspace, along with his other colleagues.  Peter, played by Ron Livingston, changes his mind set on his job and suddenly becomes lazy and carefree.  This plays out with the utmost hilarity as the results of his behaviour are not what he expected.  The supporting cast is strong, starring Jennifer Aniston and Gary Cole, and the film received positive reviews, with a 79% “Certified Fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Idiocracy (2006)

Luke Wilson stars in this adventurous comedy film mainly set in the future year 2505 – where the ordinary is considered extraordinary.  In 2006, an average American named Joe Bauers (Wilson) is selected for an experiment in which he hibernates for a year, but he is forgotten and ends up sleeping for five centuries.  When he wakes up in 2505, the human race has become idiotic and Bauers is the smartest person on Earth.  Hilarity ensues as he attempts to take on the position of ultimate ruler of the human race.  Judge wrote and directed the film, with the cast including other well-known comedy actors such as Dax Shepard, Maya Rudolph and Terry Crews.

Extract (2009)

Judge wrote and directed this hysterical film about a flavour-extract factory owner who is about to sell his company and retire when a freak workplace incident occurs and his entire professional and personal life gets turned upside down.  The film was said to be Judge’s companion piece to his classic Office Space.  With a stellar cast, including Jason Bateman, Mila Kunis, Kristen Wiig, Ben Affleck, and J.K. Simmons, Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune called it “the funniest American comedy of the summer.”

Silicon Valley: The Complete First Season is released on Blu-ray and DVD from the 23rd March 2015, courtesy of HBO. 


Silicon Valley

March 26, 2015 by  
Filed under Reviews


In late 2011 I borrowed a copy of The Social Network for an evening’s entertainment. My date, blaming an 80 hour week, survived only long enough to see Mark Zuckerberg compare Harvard’s female students to the Old MacDonald cast. Although her snoring wasn’t the greatest addition to Aaron Sorkin’s dialogue, it did allow me to second screen my own history with Facebook. Interrailing through eastern Europe with a couple of friends during our gap year’s second summer, we met a couple of enjoyable Americans who encouraged us to keep in touch via Facebook. It was four years after the social network’s launch and we’d never heard of the site.

Since most of the marketing emanating from southern California can be summarised as the promise to deliver your lifestyle a (first world-adjusted) Great Leap Forward, it is fair to wonder quite how far behind curve HBO’s Silicon Valley is. A new sitcom from Beavis and Butt-head creator Mike Judge and dubbed “Entourage for geeks”, the show follows six twentysomething members of California’s tech working class. Comedian Thomas Middleditch has the lead role of Richard Hendriks, who during his time away from his job at Hooli (a Google parody), has developed an app containing a potentially revolutionary data compression algorithm which might be worth billions. Completing the socially maladroit cast are Kumail Nanjiani, Josh Brener and Martin Starr as his fellow programmers and T.J. Miller as their ambitiously indolent landlord.

Judge skewered corporate culture in 1999′s Office Space and in his return to TV has shown himself to be equally adept at deconstructing the absurdities of anti-corporate companies. Much of the comedy comes from the shibboleths which are repeated as dogma from the show’s titans to its coders, and underpinning the entire first series is their sincere belief that reduced file sizes could change their, and your lives. Glorious exaggeration to anyone outside the bubble but still utterly dead-on. There might be the occasional missed gag about dynamic tesselation, but for the most part Silicon Valley is a bitingly funny character-driven satire that you won’t need to speak Python to understand.

Silicon Valley: Season 1 is available to own now

Best Guest Cameos in Girls Season 4

March 26, 2015 by  
Filed under Features


HBO Home Entertainment UK announces the digital release of Girls: The Complete Fourth Season, available to own and watch instantly on March 24 2015 via Amazon Instant Video, blinkbox, Google PlayTM, iTunes, and Xbox Video. Fans now have the chance to download on this smart, funny, and brilliantly original show ahead of its release on Blu-ray and DVD. With four seasons under their belt, Girls has brought some great guest stars in and this season was no exception to that standard…

Natasha Lyonne

Lyonne is an American stage, film, and television actress, best known for her roles in the American Pie films as the wisecracking Jessica, and the Netflix series Orange Is the New Black as Nicky. Recently nominated for a 2014 Primetime Emmy® Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series, Lyonne has appeared in over 30 films since being cast by Woody Allen in Everyone Says I Love You at the age of 16. In the fourth season of GIRLS, Lyonne guest stars as Rickey, Beadie’s daughter, coming to steal her mother back from Jessa.


Rita Wilson

This brilliantly talented American actress, singer and producer is known mainly for the films Sleepless in Seattle, Jingle All the Way, and Runaway Bride. Wilson was famously responsible for bringing My Big Fat Greek Wedding to the big screen as a producer. In the fourth season of GIRLS, Wilson continues to play the role of Marnie’s uninhibited ‘stage’ mother Evie Michaels. Hilariously, when she goes to see Marnie’s first public gig at the Jazz Brunch, Evie effortlessly mouths along to every single lyric that pours forth from her beloved offspring’s lips.

Zachary Quinto

Quinto is an American actor who has evolved into a very well-known, extremely successful actor. He is best known for his portrayal of Sylar in the sci-fi series Heroes, as well as his role as Spock in the hugely successful franchise re-boot of Star Trek. He also had roles in multiple seasons of horror television series, American Horror Story, which gained him tremendous popularity and a Primetime Emmy® nomination in 2013 for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Movie. Quinto guest stars as Ace, Mimi-Rose’s ex-boyfriend, in the fourth season of GIRLS alongside Lena Dunham. He portrays himself as a laid back but likable douche who plays the part of a crazy ex-boyfriend quite well.


Ana Gasteyer

This actress is best known for her outstanding and hilarious work on Saturday Night Live. She created some of the most famous SNL characters. Gasteyer has proved, however, that her acting can go far beyond a comedy skit. She has starred in numerous hit films and has earned rave reviews on Broadway as Elphaba in Wicked, as well as Columbia in The Rocky Horror Show. Gasteyer plays the role of Shoshanna’s mom, Melanie Shapiro, in Season Four of GIRLS, opposite Anthony Edwards who plays Shoshanna’s dad. She brings the right level of intensity and humour, giving audiences a glimpse of how Shoshanna’s childhood must have played out.

Gillian Jacobs

This American actress/director is extremely talented both on the screen and behind-the-
scenes. She has appeared in theatrical productions, TV series, and films, mainly known for her performances in Community, The Box, and Walk of Shame. Season Four of GIRLS sees Jacobs portraying a recurring character named Mimi-Rose Howard, as a whimsical multimedia artist who catches Adam’s interest and presents a problem for Hannah.

Girls: The Complete Fourth Season is now available to digitally download via Amazon Instant Video, blinkbox, Google PlayTM, iTunes, Wuaki and Xbox from HBO Home Entertainment.

Arthur & George

February 24, 2015 by  
Filed under Reviews


Arthur & George is not your typical Sherlock Holmes story with a dashing detective and clear sense of the villain by the end of the first 60 minutes. This three part ITV series is yet another twist on the many adventures of the famous detective. Adapted from Julian Barnes’s novel, Arthur & George, it focuses on the only case that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle ever solved himself.

Barnes is an award-winning English author whose book has become the basis for the show. The adaptation is mostly faithful, but lacks the detailed stories of the two main men, Arthur and George. The show seems to give you the sense of who Arthur is, while George takes a backseat.

Martin Clunes (as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) and Arsher Ali (as George Edalji) are the new faces of the Sherlock franchise. Besides the main actors, the show itself differs dramatically from the most recent popular adaptation of Sherlock produced by the BBC.

Instead of the modern day twist, the show refocuses on the author of the famous detective. In his lifetime, Conan Doyle was approached on numerous occasions to solve real life crimes, but the case of George Edalji was the first and last time he became a real life Sherlock Holmes.

Viewers are transported back in time to 1903 to solve the case of George Edalji and the Great Wyrley Rippings. The first episode explains how George was accused and later convicted of violently mutilating animals and threatening to attack a school, and after serving seven years in jail he’s out to prove his innocence. George isn’t out to seek revenge, only to clear his name and make sense of the judicial system that has convicted him. Arthur’s job, along with his servant Woody, is to clear George’s name or have theirs tarnished as well.

Viewers are left to decipher much on their own since there are no dramatic murders or quick calculating problem solving that unfolds on screen. They truly get to follow Arthur as he finds his way to the answers. In a sense, there is more of a connection with Arthur because though he is a clever man, one may see him as an equal rather than a superior. Often in other versions of Sherlock Holmes adaptations, Sherlock is built to solve mysteries like a superhuman. One can most often see this in the BBC version, with Sherlock being played by Benedict Cumberbatch.

It isn’t interesting in the beginning because the characters aren’t flashy and the crime committed isn’t outrageously horrifying. However, curiosity grows as the show unfolds. You find yourself starting to care about the characters and debating the innocence of George. Did he do it? Is Arthur clever enough or even capable enough to solve the crime? Or should he just stick to writing about his fake detective Sherlock Holmes?

For those who want to ease into the stories of Sherlock Holmes, this is a great way to begin. It is slowly paced enough to follow and Arthur & George will give you context to the world of Sherlock. Even for an avid Sherlock fan like myself, this show is of interest because I get to see real life events unfold on screen. Fiction has become reality. Viewers will be able to explore a side of Sherlock they have never seen and understand the man behind the detective.

Arthur & George will première on ITV Monday, March 2nd at 9 pm.

Beowulf: The return of Britain’s mythic past

February 3, 2015 by  
Filed under News


ITV has commissioned thirteen-part drama Beowulf, an epic re-imagining of one of literature’s greatest and most enduring heroes.

Created by James Dormer, Tim Haines and Katie Newman, this action-packed series is set in the mythical Shieldlands, a place of spectacle and danger populated by both humans and fantastical creatures.

Essentially, a western set in the Dark Ages of Britain’s mythic past, the story unfolds on a huge canvas, filmed amongst the breathtaking beauty of England’s North East.

The first episode sees Beowulf who, after spending many years wandering as a mercenary warrior, returns to Herot to pay his respects to the recently deceased Thane, Hrothgar – the man who raised him. But when Herot is attacked by the terrifying monster Grendl, Beowulf has no choice but to hunt it down, winning favour with Herot’s new female Thane, and the wider community, in the process.

And so begins a personal journey that sees this mighty and capable man slowly reconnect with the notion of family and home.

Beowulf is a series about courage, greed, betrayal, revenge, loyalty, power, man versus wilderness and, of course love. It is a series that explores the notion of good and evil, heroes and villians. However, beyond these wider political undercurrents and inner personal turmoils are the excitement, danger and sense of adventure that any great Western has. Epic fights, thrilling chases, raids, celebrations and battles are an essential part of the promise.

James Dormer (Strike Back, Wallander, Outcast) who will write and executive produce said:

“Hundreds of years ago our ancestors listened to the story of Beowulf because it was a great adventure story – it scared them, thrilled them, made them laugh and cry. But they also listened because they recognised themselves and their fears in it. By holding a mirror up to them this story helped define them and thus – us. So it’s incredibly exciting to have the opportunity to make it relevant again for a wide audience – to let them own it again. To let them see themselves in it.”

Stephen Mulhern to host Britain’s Got More Talent again

January 29, 2015 by  
Filed under News


Stephen Mulhern is back as host for another series of ITV2’s hit show Britain’s Got More Talent, ready to unleash more acts, more mayhem and more backstage antics.

The sister show to ITV’s Britain’s Got Talent, More Talent is like your annoying younger sibling, creating general mischief, asking questions which no-one else would dare and making everyone laugh.

Stephen will once more be bringing a playful, cheeky charm to proceedings as only he can. Getting close to the action with exclusive unseen acts and backstage interviews, Stephen will be meeting the weird, the wonderful and the funny!

Stephen will also be getting up close and personal with the judges – Simon Cowell, Amanda Holden, Alesha Dixon and David Walliams – asking them what they really think of the acts and each other. He’ll also be pitting Ant & Dec against one another with a series of ridiculous games to see who is the best.

Speaking ahead of the series, Stephen said: “I’m back again and I couldn’t be happier. Britain’s Got Talent is one of the best jobs there is; where else could you spend your day interviewing roller-skating twins, a man who plays a pork chop or listen to a rap song about chicken. Unbelievable!”

Britain’s Got More Talent returns to ITV 2 in Spring

Foyle’s War: Final Episode

January 27, 2015 by  
Filed under News


The award-winning drama series Foyle’s War, starring Michael Kitchen, will air its final episode on Sunday 18 January 2015 at 8pm on ITV.

Writer and creater, Anthony Horowitz OBE, has penned the iconic Foyle’s last ever case, Elise, which sees award-winning actor, Michael Kitchen star as one of television’s favourite detectives, Christopher Foyle, Senior Intelligence Officer for the secret service, MI5, for the final time in this two-hour drama.

In the dramatic finale to the much loved series, Foyle must re-examine Hilda Pierce’s top secret role during the war within SOE (Special Operations Executive) following an assassination attempt on her life outside MI5. SOE French section sent many agents behind enemy lines and Foyle suspects the shooting may be connected to the hunt for a traitor within SOE called Plato who could have been behind the deaths of nine agents in France.

Anthony Horowitz first thought up the idea of Foyle’s War in 2000 and has scripted twenty-four two-hour films. Foyle’s War has travelled from the start of the war to Dunkirk, the Blitz, VE Day and the Cold War with secret intelligence, Soviet spies and the atomic bomb. Along with the murders and mysteries, Foyle’s War has explored many remarkable stories including the quiet heroism of the SOE, the genius and original thinking of the men and women behind the bouncing bomb, the development of plastic surgery and the invention of radar.

Anthony Horowitz said: “It feels a terrible wrench to say goodbye to characters I’ve lived with for more than fifteen years. But the truth is that I’m not sure there are any more stories to tell and anyway it was always my intention to end on a high note and I think this year’s episodes are the very best we’ve done.

“I’m proud of what we’ve achieved with Foyle’s War and I’m very grateful to the audience that has stayed with us for so long. I’ve had a good war.”

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