3 Entertaining Films to Watch on St. Patrick’s Day

St. PatsAlthough Australians are half a world away from Ireland, that doesn’t stop them from celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with aplomb, wearing green and toasting to their Irish ancestors — whether they actually have any Irish ancestors or not. If drinking until you black out isn’t your thing, or even if it is, park down in front of the TV and spend the evening watching the perfect films for the occasion. Order DVDs or Blu-Rays of these and other films early to enjoy them in time for the holiday.

 “The Secret of Kells”

Based on an Irish legend and set in eighth century Ireland, “The Secret of the Kells” is an Academy Award–nominated 2009 animated film from an Irish, Belgian and French filmmaking team. Telling of a fantastical origin for a real-life Irish treasure, an illuminated manuscript called “The Book of Kells”, the film entertains children while delighting and wowing adults with its visual effects. A must for fans of Japan’s Studio Ghibli releases, this movie is spectacle with substance, an imaginative and harrowing tale of a young monk taught how to paint living pictures into a sacred book.

“The Wind That Shakes the Barley”

The WindA 2006 British-Irish film set during the Irish War of Independence in the early 20th century, “The Wind That Shakes the Barley” gets its name from a traditional Irish ballad. Starring Cillian Murphy and Padraic Delaney, this film is a harrowing look at what the Irish people endured in an era of persecution, underground resistance and acts of war. Focusing on two brothers pulled into opposite sides of a war because they disagree on how best to achieve peace, this film is a heady but compelling drama, ideal for fans of period dramas, war movies and history.

“Leprechaun”

If horror comedy is more what you’re in the mood for on a jovial St. Patrick’s Day evening, watch 1993’s “Leprechaun” for a laugh and a scare. The first in a series of horror comedy films that became progressively cheesier, the first “Leprechaun” is the scariest of the franchise.

Starring Warwick Davis as the eponymous leprechaun and Jennifer Aniston as the teenage lead, the film follows Tory Redding, who rents a farmhouse in rural America with her dad for the summer. She and her friends discover a trapped leprechaun in the basement, a murderous magical creature the farmhouse’s previous owner brought home from Ireland in the hopes of winning a pot of gold. Once they free him, there’s no escape from his vengeance, even if no one else believes he exists.

Irish ancestry is shared by 1.9 million Australians, the Australian Bureau of Statistics reports, making it the second largest foreign genealogy in the country, after English. Celebrate Irish culture by doing something a little special to recognize the holiday, even if it’s spending a couple of hours in an Irish film or a film with a St. Patrick’s Day theme.

 

“Leprechaun” image by jseattle from Flickr’s Creative Commons

“The Wind That Shakes the Barley” image by K from Flickr’s Creative Commons

3 Must-Do Valentine’s Activities to Share With Your Anime Fan Sweetheart


Japanese GirlWatching romantic anime with your anime fan sweetheart is a no-brainer. However, Valentine’s Day is about surprising your loved one with something beyond his expectations. If you want to go a little further, do what anime characters do for Valentine’s Day episodes, which appear frequently in anime set in modern Japan. Purchase DVDs or Blu-rays of your favourite anime series and plan an anime-style Valentine’s Day date this February.

“Make” Chocolate

Whenever there’s an anime set in winter, there’s sure to be scenes of the female characters running to confectionery and grocery stores to find the ingredients to make their own chocolate. There might also be a scene of girls helping other girls in the kitchen to create special chocolates for their boyfriends or crushes, especially if one character isn’t a good cook. See “Minami-ke”, “Hayate no Gotoku”, and “Kimi ni Todoke” for examples.

What these women are actually doing is melting pre-made chocolate and re-molding it. To do so:

  • Purchase a package of chocolate, either chocolate intended for molding or any chocolate bar
  •  Boil a large pot of water (only fill the bowl about halfway with water)
  • Break the chocolate into pieces into a smaller bowl that will fit in your large bowl
  • Place the bowl of chocolate on top of the boiling water and stir until the chocolate is liquid
  • Pour the liquid into a plastic or tin mold you purchase or make
  • Harden the chocolate molds in the fridge overnight
  • Decorate the chocolate with other candies and frosting

You can also make chocolate cakes, cupcakes or any other chocolate dessert of your choosing.

Give Chocolate to Friends

Valentine's DayJapanese women traditionally give chocolates to all of their male family members, friends and colleagues on Valentine’s Day, but most of these men get “giri” or “obligation” chocolates. The obligation ones are not homemade; the homemade chocolates are called “homei” and are for boyfriends, husbands and crushes only. Purchase a large bag of chocolate minis and invite friends over for your Valentine’s Day party, making sure everyone gets a “giri” chocolate. You can mold small homemade chocolates without excessive decorations to act as your “giri” chocolates if you prefer.

Confess Your Love

When a woman gives a “homei” chocolate to someone who’s not her boyfriend or husband in Japan, she’s confessing her love. Traditionally, she’s supposed to wait a full month to hear the man’s reply. However, even if you’ve already started dating, act out a confession Valentine’s Day scene from an anime like “Yuri Yuri” and “Fruits Basket!” with your sweetheart to bring a smile to her face.

In Japan, Valentine’s Day is almost entirely about women pampering men with chocolates or confessing their love; TIME reports 80 percent of Japanese women in their 20s and 30s participate. However, there is a holiday on March 14, called White Day, where men are supposed to respond in kind, only with candies and other gifts that are white. If your sweetheart is a lady, don’t skimp on the Valentine’s Day preparation just because it’s the women who give to the men in Japan; do what anime girl characters do and surprise your loved one with hand-molded chocolates and a memorable confession.

“Bleach” fanart image by ~Ahmed~ from Foter

 

4 Valentine’s Day Activities for the Budget-Conscious

Young CoupleValentine’s Day is around the corner, and if there are a few cobwebs in your pocketbook, you might think you’re in trouble. According to Smart Company, Australians spent an estimated $936 million combined on Valentine’s Day in 2013. If your budget is more like $20, $10 or less, there are ways to show your loved one you care — without wasting money on flowers that will decay, chocolates that get eaten and jewellery that’s out of your price range.

Buy a Movie

Taking your loved one to the cinema could easily cost more than your budget when you add up the cost of two evening admissions and a trip to the concession stand. Buy brand new DVD or Blu-ray releases ahead of time for a fraction of the cost and surprise your loved one with a movie she meant to check out a few months ago.

Head to the supermarket to pick up popcorn, candy and your sweetheart’s favourite drink to provide during the film. Snuggling together on the couch with no annoying fellow moviegoers to ruin the experience can be just as romantic, if not more, than the typical movie date.

Cook a Meal

Instead of the pricey tux-and-tie restaurant selection, amaze your loved one with a dinner you make yourself — an especially great surprise if you don’t often cook for him. Search out the recipe and practice beforehand with smaller servings. Decorate your dining room table with Valentine’s Day decorations you make yourself, like hearts cut out of construction paper. Pick a beautiful bouquet of wildflowers to use as a centrepiece.

Go for a Walk

Old CoupleChoose a scenic area, like a park or a hiking path that ends at the top of a hill. If the weather is nice, grab your loved one by the hand and take a long walk. Leave your mobiles behind. Enjoy the fresh air and the chance to reconnect. You might scout the area ahead of time and have something special waiting at the end of the path: a beautiful view, a handmade gift or a place to eat a picnic dinner. Don’t forget a camera to capture the special memory.

Give a Massage

Make a small investment in some massage oils, set up a massage table with cushions, dim the lights and play romantic music. Study up on some basic massage techniques and offer to rub your loved one’s aches and pains away. Even people who are shy about getting a massage from a stranger will appreciate a massage from someone they love.

If your loved one is a keeper, she just wants to know that you remember that Valentine’s Day is one of the most romantic nights of the year and that you would go out of your way to plan something special for her. She’ll understand about your budget woes — and if you make the night a memorable one, she won’t stop to wonder why you didn’t get her an expensive gift. Flowers, chocolates and jewellery are boring and expected. Planning a private night of fun and romance, on the other hand, will prove truly memorable.

3 Romantic Anime Perfect to Watch on Valentine’s Day

Not every couple does the stereotypical dinner-for-two at an expensive restaurant on the most romantic day of the year. A DVD or Blu-ray is a better gift than flowers and candy if you’re a geek and proud of it. If you and your loved one are a couple of anime fans, cuddle up with your significant other and watch romantic anime DVDs or Blu-rays this Valentine’s Day.

“Vampire Knight”

Vampire KnightGirl likes boy. Boy is a vampire. Girl attends an exclusive academy where most of the student population sucks blood and the humans kick butt to protect their vampire charges. “Vampire Knight” has the makings of human girl-vampire boy romance like “Twilight”, but human Yuki Cross is a much stronger and more compelling character than Bella Swan. She vows to guard Kaname Kuran, her vampire crush, while dealing with budding feelings for Zero Kiryu, fellow human student and guardian — who might actually be a vampire hunter. Secrets, adventure and twists abound in this desperately romantic anime.

“Howl’s Moving Castle”

HowlBased on a novel by British fantasy author Diana Wynne Jones, “Howl’s Moving Castle” is an anime film from “Japan’s Disney” Hayao Miyazaki.  Set in a medieval fantasy world where fairy tale stereotypes are commonplace, “Howl’s Moving Castle” follows Sophie Hatter, a young woman cursed to look like an old woman by a rude witch after Sophie refuses to help her family’s hat shop. As an old woman, Sophie meets Howl, a powerful sorcerer and egotistical playboy who lives in a castle that moves around the countryside.

The romance that blooms between the two drives the story, set amidst a magical war between Howl and Sophie’s witch, who turns out to be madly in love with the sorcerer playboy.

“Fruits Basket”

Orphan teenager Tohru Honda lives in a tent, not wanting to make trouble for the strict family that took her in. One day, she makes her way to the home of classmate Yuki Sohma, who lives with his distant relatives, Kyo and Shigure. Although the trio is initially wary of having the girl visit, they have no choice but to accept her into their home when she stumbles upon the Sohma family secret: 13 members of the family, including Yuki, Kyo and Shigure, change into the animals of the zodiac when hugged by someone of the opposite gender.

Tohru is charged with protecting the Sohma family secret, all while becoming embroiled in a love triangle with quiet and reserved Yuki and grumpy and stubborn Kyo. Tohru’s love might prove to be just what’s needed to break the curse that’s plagued the family for generations.

According to data reported on Anime News Network, many of the bestselling manga, Japanese comics that influence Anime, fall into the romance category. Anime, like most any medium, runs the gamut from action tales to sci-fi tales to romance, but when it comes to anime and manga, the romance genre is common and well-executed. Get your geek on this Valentine’s Day and watch anime instead of the typical romantic film.

 

“Vampire Knight” image by Rena-mit-Cappucino from Flickr’s Creative Commons

“Howl’s Moving Castle” image by Giovana Medeiros from Flickr’s Creative Commons

 

3 Advantages Foreign Anime Fans Have

CosplayWhether you grew up watching anime or it’s a recent interest, you’ve probably spent at least a little time daydreaming about how cool it would be to have grown up in Japan, the place where anime comes from. However, you’d be surprised how many advantages you have as an anime fan from outside of Japan that Japanese fans do not. Learn to embrace your love of anime from a foreign country because the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.

Anime Is Much Cheaper

Whenever you find an anime series you love, you buy it on video to own a high-definition version of the show forever. DVDs and Blu-ray of anime are cheaper in foreign markets than they are in Japan. As Danny Choo of Culture Japan explains, since anime is a niche market even in Japan, the animation companies rely on a set of devoted fans to shell out the equivalent of as much as $100 to $200 per series set, even $40 for just one episode. In other countries, fans pay less than $50, often as little as $20, for the same episodes. Your Australian dollar goes a lot further than the Japanese fan’s yen when it comes to buying anime.

Streams Are Fast and Free

In an English-speaking market, you can access free, legally streaming subtitled anime almost instantly, in less than an hour after it first airs in Japan. Because these sites are for foreign market licensees only, they’re blocked to Japanese viewers. That means Japanese fans have to catch their favourite series when they air on TV or remember to record them. If they miss their favourite shows, they have to wait for those atrociously expensive video releases before they can see what they’ve missed.

It’s More Convenient to Watch

Cosplay 2Going along with the fact you can stream anime on demand, it’s more convenient to watch anime in foreign markets, especially if you’re a fan who likes watching it right when it airs. A lot of anime airs in the middle of the night in Japan, so they have to stay up late if they insist on seeing the latest episode before heading off to work or school. You don’t have to remember to record anything, and you can watch it at any point after it’s aired in Japan. You can even watch an entire series in one sitting.

There are a number of cultural things to consider, too, you probably didn’t have to deal with growing up in Australia or another country. For example, the pressure for students to do extremely well in school keeps a lot of Japanese students from having the time to watch much anime. And don’t forget anime conventions; Japan does have “Comikets”, manga and anime festivals, but they’re mostly places to buy fan-made comics. At other countries’ conventions, you see anime industry professionals and buy licensed goods. It goes to show you can be an anime fan anywhere — and even have some advantages over Japanese fans.

Evangelion Otakon cosplay image by Anna Fischer from Foter

Anime Expo cosplay image by Doug Kline from Foter

4 Tips for Spotting Pirated Anime — So You Can Avoid It

Anime has many fans around the world, but it remains a niche market. If fans don’t support the industry by buying licensed DVDs and Blu-rays, less anime may make it to foreign markets and less anime may be produced in Japan altogether. Make sure the anime you buy is legitimate; look for licensed DVDs and Blu-rays. Otherwise, you’re wasting your money and supporting criminals instead of the anime production companies making the anime you love.

Study the Seller

Buy from repDVDutable places with great reviews and you won’t go wrong. A reputable DVD and Blu-ray seller with top-rated feedback will guarantee your discs work or allow you to exchange them; pirated videos often don’t work in your player. Plus, good luck trying to get the seller to take them back.

Avoid online auction sites; some reputable sellers have auction-site storefronts, but if you buy from individual sellers, you increase your risk of buying pirated anime. Plus, even if you’re buying a legitimate disc, you’re buying it second-hand and not supporting the industry.

Avoid What Seems Too Good To Be True

Avoid those DVD box sets, something like an entire 200-episode series for $20, for example. While DVDs and Blu-rays are less expensive in foreign markets than they are in Japan, they shouldn’t be ridiculously inexpensive, or Japanese licensors and animators wouldn’t make any money off of them. In a foreign market, you can find a complete series of between 13 and 26 episodes for anywhere between $20 and $50. A longer series should cost well over $100. About.com suggests comparing the price you find to what other sellers are selling the same set for; if it’s wildly different, it may be a bootleg.

DVD pileExamine the Box Art

Do your best to determine if the box art seems professionally done. Licensed DVDs and Blu-rays are in the plastic cases you see other movies and TV shows in, with high-quality images from the animation on the outside. Pirated copies tend to print off any screenshot the bootleggers find online — it may even be from the wrong series — and the images appear gritty and unprofessional. The discs may be in jewel cases, paper sleeves or some other odd case.

Check Their English

Bootleg anime video producers certainly don’t go all out on quality. In addition to the video quality itself being inferior, the English translation is, too. Bootleggers use non-native speakers or even inaccurate translating programs for their English subtitles. An easy way to spot pirated anime is to see if the product description or sample videos have poor English. Don’t buy DVDs and Blu-rays from another country to begin with, as even if they’re the legitimate Japanese releases — and if they are, they’re actually more expensive than the legitimate foreign releases — you may not be able to play them in your player.

As with anything, you get what you pay for. Pay for licensed, legitimate anime DVDs and Blu-rays and you’ll get high-quality, comprehensible English translations and the satisfaction of knowing you’re supporting the industry. Pirated discs are not only illegal, they’re terrible quality videos with often poor English translations — so poor, you can’t even understand them anyway and you’ve wasted your money.

The Best of Fall 2013 Anime

ImageRecent airing and streaming anime series are the next in line for DVD and Blu-ray release once all the episodes have aired. With so many series to choose from each season, you may be wondering how to tell which series are worth spending your money on. Luckily, there’s something for all anime fans during the fall 2013 anime season, so start with some of the best.

“Kill la Kill”

New anime studio Trigger’s first full-length anime series, “Kill la Kill” is part comedy, part action fare and part heady psychological exercise. “Kill la Kill” is turning heads across the globe. Set in a dystopian country ruled by the student council in charge of the local high school, “Kill la Kill” centres on Ryuko Matoi. Ryuko, a transfer student who wields half a giant scissors, searches for the reasons behind her father’s murder. She comes into contact with Senketsu, a living and breathing high school uniform that grants her special powers. Together, Ryuko and Senketsu battle the corrupt student council — who have their own magical clothing.

“Gingitsune”

Anime fans who enjoy slower-paced, slice-of-life series with fantastical elements will love “Gingitsune”. Starring Makoto Saeki, a teenage Shinto priestess who can see heralds of the Shinto gods, “Gingitsune” is a drama with comedic elements. Makoto and her shrine’s herald, the large fox spirit Gintaro, divine fortunes for visitors — sometimes with unintended consequences.

Makoto struggles with motivating the lazy Gintaro to help her out, but sometimes she has to learn to rely on her strengths instead of Gintaro’s powers. When Satoru Kamio, a transfer student and grandson of a different shrine’s priest, comes to live with Makoto and her father, they welcome Haru, a child-like fox herald. The series is great for fans who want to learn more about the Shinto religion while laughing, cheering on the main characters and sometimes being moved to tears.

Image“Samurai Flamenco”

From the makers of the hit 2004 series “Samurai Champloo”, “Samurai Flamenco” is a comedy-drama about a male model, Masayoshi Hazama, who trains to become a costumed superhero. A lifelong fan of sentai shows, live-action superhero shows like “Power Rangers”, Masayoshi decides to don a sentai battle suit he makes himself and fight like his fictional childhood heroes. When police detective Hidenori Goto stumbles upon Samurai Flamenco’s secret identity, the two agree to join forces to combat crime that the police can’t defeat.

The amount of anime airing in fall 2013 doesn’t stop at these series — and there’s hardly a dud in the bunch. Whatever genre you enjoy, there’s sure to be something that catches your eye. Check out a few episodes online, and when the series are released on DVD and Blu-ray, purchase your favourites. That way, you are supporting the creators and will continue to see the latest anime almost as soon as it airs in Japan.

 

“Kill la Kill” image by Danny Choo from Foter

“Samurai Flamenco” image by ccsx from Foter