Animal World: Kaiji Film Adaptation Review

Animal World (2018) is a Chinese film based on the manga, Kaiji by Nobuyuki Fukumoto. It is on the rock-paper-scissors arc of the manga. As a huge Kaiji fan, I had to watch this film.

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Synopsis: Zheng Kaisi is tricked into shouldering on his friend’s debt. He enters a game that takes place on a ship. There, he sees players from all over the world with enormous debts. If he wins, he will be debt-free. However – if he loses, he will have to face a life worse than imaginable. The game is rock-paper-scissors but it has its own set of rules. Zheng Kaisi has to beat the other players in rock-paper-scissors. Sounds straight-forward, right?

Actually, it’s an extremely intense and interesting game. There are various psychological elements to consider, such as cheating, betrayal, working with comrades and greed. This psychological thriller/gambling film adapts the Kaiji manga very well. The gambling that happens in the film is identical to the manga, so you won’t be disappointed with the ending.

Something that was interesting was that the players were diverse and spoke different languages. Kaisi communicated with non-Chinese players by listening to an earpiece that translated the other player’s words into Chinese in real time. I thought this was realistic.

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Kaiji is a great manga that tackles themes such as human nature and I think that ‘Animal World’ is a suitable name for the film because in an environment where there are not a lot of regulations, humans may succumb to “animal-like behaviours.” Kaisi is a great protagonist that refuses to degrade himself like that. In this game, he fights the resistance to betray others. He is a flawed protagonist that does not have a 100% chance of winning. That is what makes him such a relatable character.

I don’t think that Kaiji is a simple manga to adapt. Animal World did it well, because of a number of reasons. One, the cinematography is really well done. Nobuyuki Fukumoto does a lot of panels with metaphors, and Animal World has amazing graphics that showcases those metaphors. Metaphors help the audience understand the depths of what the character is feeling. I liked that the film remained close to the source material in this way.

The actor who plays Kaiji/Kaisi, Li Yifeng, is a great actor. He is famous in China and played the role really well. Kaisi is different from Kaiji in terms of his personality, family background, life situation and relationships, which gives Animal World its own sense of originality. Like Kaiji, Kaisi is a likable and strong protagonist.

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The budget for this film and also the cinematography allowed the manga to come to life. Extra elements were added in the film but they were enjoyable to watch. Overall, I was really impressed with this adaptation and enjoyed it a lot. I recommend watching Animal World, even if you have never read or watched Kaiji. If you are a Kaiji fan, it doesn’t hurt to give this a try.

Animal World is available on Netflix.

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Korean Film Recommendation: Always (2011)

I’m writing this immediately after I finished watching Always, because that’s how good it was. My nose is still stuffy and my eyes are still sore from crying so much. It’s also almost 1 AM.

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Synopsis: During his shift at his job as a parking lot attendant, Cheol Min is visited by Jung Hwa, a woman who is blind. She was friends with the former parking lot attendant. Cheol Min and Jung Hwa develop a friendship, which turns into something more.

So much happens in this movie and I really cannot spoil too much. This is a romance movie and they do become a couple. That’s the focus of the first part of the film. They are in a serious relationship and they intend to have children together.

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In the second half of the film, Cheol Min and Jung Hwa’s happy life together is disrupted. Sad events ensue, and that’s when the ugly crying happens. The film has a happy ending, which I had to make sure before I even watched it. I can’t spoil what happens, so you’ll just have to watch it.

I loved this film because one, it evoked such a strong reaction out of me. Two, because I really enjoyed watching the daily life of the two together, and the simplicity of it. Three, because of how strong their love is. I think it’s inspiring to watch a story of a couple that have such an unbreakable bond. The film was really good at producing motifs and stories that only the two of them would know.

The only major thing I would have liked to be different is that I wish they gave us some more scenes in the end. I know, I’m greedy.

Peach Girl (2017) – Japanese Film Review

Peach Girl (2017) is a Japanese live-action film based on the manga with the same name.

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Synopsis: Momo Adachi is a high school student who is always mistaken as “easy” and “scandalous” due to her tan skin. She doesn’t care what others think about her, as long as Kazuya Toji believes in her. A rumor gets out that Momo kissed Kairi Okayasu, the most popular guy at school. This starts a spiral of complicated matters because Toji is the one Momo is in love with!

The antagonist of this story is Sae Kashiwagi, a girl who pretends to be Momo’s friend but she actually takes pleasure in ruining Momo’s life. I watched the Taiwanese drama of this story in my childhood and to this day Sae has always been my most hated character. Momo is so sweet though, because she still cares about Sae. Sae is played by Mei Nagano, the actress who played Rinko Yamato from Ore Monogatari!! She’s a great actress because she played Sae’s character well, who is the complete opposite of Yamato’s character.

What I Liked: I liked the cast and liked how things were peach themed, especially with Momo’s name (meaning peach). Everyone was very fashionable, which reminds me of shojo manga. I liked the imagery, such as the beach scenes, flower shop and restaurant scenes. Overall, it was a pretty movie and the ending was cute.

What I Disliked: This movie had pacing issues. Things happened too quickly. There were overly dramatic scenes as well and it didn’t feel natural. While this film had its good moments, I would not rewatch this film.

Rating: 7/10

Ore Monogatari!! (2015) – Japanese Film Review

Ore Monogatari!! (2015), also known as My Love Story!! is the Japanese live-action film adaptation of the anime with the same name.

Fun fact: I watched this film years ago. Yesung from Super Junior recently watched this film, which prompted me to write a review.

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Synopsis: Takeo Goda is a sweet and thoughtful guy who wants a girlfriend, but he is always unsuccessful because of his scary and huge appearance. His best friend, Suna Makoto, on the other hand, is extremely popular because of his good looks. One day, Takeo saves a young girl named Rinko Yamato from a man who is harassing her. Yamato thanks him for saving her, and wants to get to know him better!

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Thoughts: This was so cute! However, it was also frustrating because there were so many misunderstandings. It’s worth watching to the end though. Since it’s a movie, a lot of characters from the anime aren’t introduced. The focus is on Takeo, Suna and Yamato.

This is one of the better live-action anime adaptations. Shojo manga adaptations are generally better than shonen titles because they are realistic and don’t require a huge budget. I think it’s crucial to have a good cast. The cast for this film is great. The actress who plays Yamato is perfect for the role, and Suna is great too. Takeo in the anime is bigger than the actor who plays him, but I think it would be hard to find someone as big as him in real life.

I really enjoyed watching this, and recommend this film if you’re looking for a cute high school romance.

Japanese Drama Recs: Romance Manga Adaptions

1. Switch Girl!!

Synopsis: Nika Tamiya is the most beautiful girl at school. All the boys are in love with her and a lot of girls are envious at how she does everything so perfectly. However, she has a secret… She is a switch girl! When she arrives home, she “switches off” and transforms into her “true” self: a lazy and unfeminine girl. Arata Kamiyama, a geeky guy at school, finds out her secret. Arata is the opposite of her… He appears to be geeky at school but he’s actually super hot!?

The plot of this romantic comedy shojo series is similar to the popular manga, Horimiya. I like Switch Girl!! more though. I liked this drama because the cast is spot on. Many Seventeen models play the characters, including Mariya Nishiuchi, the main lead. Renn Kiriyama who plays Arata is good-looking too.

I watched this back when I was in high school and I was hooked from the beginning. I ended up procrastinating on whatever homework I had, so fair warning.

If you like this, you might like:

  • Horimiya (manga)
  • Hotaru no Hikari (Japanese drama)

2. Good Morning Call

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Synopsis: Nao Yoshikawa moved into a new place, but she finds that she was scammed because another person is living in the same place as her. The person she has to live with is Hisashi Uehara, one of the most popular guys at school. Uehara is aloof and hard to get along with. Good luck Nao and don’t fall in love.

Good Morning Call is a Netflix Original series, based on the romantic comedy shojo series. I don’t know a single person who did not like this! The “living with the most popular guy at school (or my boss) and he is also cold and distant” trope is done again and again. The ending is predictable, but it’s still enjoyable to watch.

If you like this, you might like:

  • It Started With A Kiss (Taiwanese drama)
  • Playful Kiss (Korean drama)
  • Just You (Taiwanese drama)
  • Hotaru no Hikari (Japanese drama)

3. Dame na Watashi ni Koishite Kudasai

Synopsis: Michiko Shibata is a woman in her thirties. She is jobless and just broke up with her money-swindling younger boyfriend. She encounters Ayumu Kurosawa, her former supervisor. Hearing her situation, he gives her a job and a place to stay at his cafe.

You may already be familiar with the actor who plays Ayumu. He is played by Dean Fujioka, the singer who sang History Maker, the opening song of Yuri on Ice. Ayumu is so sweet… Where can I find someone like that?

Personally, high school shows don’t interest me as much anymore. I’m into josei series like this one, because I can relate to their struggles more and we are closer in age.

If you like this, you might like:

  • Hotaru no Hikari (Japanese drama)
  • Wotaku ni Koi wa Muzukashii (anime)
  • Just You (Taiwanese drama)

Similar Series Recommendations

In this post I compare similar anime/manga/Asian dramas/games!

1. If you like Detective Conan, you might like Ace Attorney (and vise versa)

Both have showed me that people lie all the time and that people will commit murder for silly reasons. Everyone is a suspect!

Detective Conan (also known as Case Closed) is a manga and anime while Ace Attorney is a Nintendo DS game series. Obviously Ace Attorney involves more active participation because you are doing everything. Detective Conan is similar because I always try to figure out who the culprit is before the end of the episode. The culprit is always a character we’ve seen before. This applies to Ace Attorney as well.

2. If you like Liar Game, you might like Kakegurui (and vise versa)

Liar Game is a manga and Japanese drama series. Kakegurui is a manga, anime and Japanese drama. The live-action for Kakegurui is very good. There are very exaggerated moments, but it resembles the anime in that sense. You have to understand that the exaggerated moments are deliberate. This is my order for Kakegurui: manga > live-action drama > anime.

It is similar to Liar Game because the characters are placed into situations in which they have to play games against other players. The winner will win money and the loser will go into debt (we’re talking big amounts of money, like millions of dollars). These series have showed me that people cheat all the time.

3. If you like Your Lie in April, you might like Our Times (and vise versa)

Your Lie in April is an anime that will probably make you cry and Our Times is a Taiwanese movie that will make probably you cry. You might have heard of YLIA but Our Times is very popular as well. It was a highly successful movie in Asia and it’s my favourite movie of all time. I give it 10/10.

Both are similar because a main character tells the other character a lie that is crucial to the plot.

4. If you like Naruto SD: Rock Lee & His Ninja Pals, you might like Attack on Titan: Junior High (and vise versa)

Both are gag series and the characters are drawn in chibi-style. I enjoyed both, but I liked Attack on Titan: Junior High more. These are pretty funny and they are done by different creators (so not the original Naruto and Attack on Titan creators).

There is also the Naruto: Chibi Sasuke’s Sharigan Legend manga if you’re interested. I personally couldn’t get into it.

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5. If you like Fushigi Yugi, you might like Haruka: Beyond the Stream of Time. You might also like Scarlet Heart Ryeo

In all three, the female protagonists travel back in time into a feudal period. They are met with a lot of attractive boys.

Fushigi Yugi and Haruka (manga and anime, Haruka is also an otome game) are more similar because the girls are entrusted with a mission that involves travelling with the boys. Scarlet Heart Ryeo (Korean drama) is less similar because the female protagonist stays within the palace grounds.

Now for the ones you probably know already…

6. If you like Death Note, you might like Code Geass (and vise versa)

You probably know this already because both are very popular anime. Both involve intelligent protagonists with huge goals. Light in Death Note wants to become the god of the world and Lelouch in Code Geass wants to rule the world. Both gain supernatural powers that allow them to do things that normal people cannot do.

7. If you like Naruto, you might like My Hero Academia

This is an obvious one. When I watched The Battle Tournament in the U.A Sports Festival Arc in MHA, I was reminded of the Chunin Exams in Naruto. Naruto is the “weakling” who becomes strong, similar to Midoriya. Both are extremely popular shonen shows.

BL Review: HIStory 2: Boundary Crossing

The 2018 Taiwanese drama is also known as HIStory 2: Crossing the Line. I started the show this morning and was immediately hooked. There are 8 episodes and I just finished the show, haha.

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The show makes me so happy. In 2017, same-sex marriage became legal in Taiwan. I’ve been a BL (Boys Love) fan for many years but felt frustrated at Asian dramas because of the censorship. For example, in China same-sex marriage is not legal and in the BL series and films I’ve watched, the kiss scenes were deleted. Doing this made the shows confusing to watch because key scenes were removed, and sends out an unfortunate message to everyone. One of the series I enjoyed was discontinued.

The legalization of same-sex marriage in Taiwan was a great thing (and still is) for people in the lgbtq+ community and for the country. Now in 2018, we have great BL dramas and the kiss scenes are not deleted.

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Xia Yu Hao and Qiu Zi Xuan

Xia Yu Hao and two of his friends, Wang Zhen Wu and Wang Zhen Wen, enrol into a new high school. Yu Hao was kicked out of his old school because of a fight. Yu Hao reluctantly joins the school’s volleyball team after being coerced into joining. He becomes close with Qiu Zi Xuan, a senior student who is the team’s manager. Due to an injury in the past, Zi Xuan is unable to play volleyball.

Wang Zhen Wu and Wang Zhen Wen are step-brothers and later join the volleyball team as well. Zhen Wen starts to ignore Zen Wu and it frustrates Zen Wu a lot. Zen Wu and Zhen Wen are the secondary couple in the series and don’t get as much screen time as the main couple. I like that there is more than one couple in the series because it mirrors a lot of BL manga. Yu Hao actually reads BL manga (probably for research), hahaha.

Although this is a BL romance drama, volleyball was a huge component of the series. There was even a Haikyuu!! reference! We get to know some of the other volleyball players and I liked that the show was not just about the two couples. While the couples are certainly the main focus, there are other things going on with the plot. I also loved the other characters in the series, like the captain of the volleyball team. This was a problem I had with the shojo manga, Dengeki Daisy. I dropped the series because I didn’t like how there wasn’t much plot apart from the couple.

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Wang Zhen Wu and Wang Zhen Wen

This drama was a refreshing break from disturbing BL manga and webtoons. If you’re a reader of Korean BL webtoons, you will know that they have a lot of disturbing ones out there. Maybe that’s your thing, and I’m not going to judge! But for me, personally, I hate webtoons like Killing Stalking. The relationship is not healthy. For manga and webtoons in general, consent is important to me. If there is no consent, I will probably not like it.

In this series, both couples are so gentle with each other. When one person is sleeping, the other covers a blanket over him and does it in such a lovingly way. The way the characters look at each other is so cute. It’s hilarious when the characters get jealous.

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In comparison to other romance dramas (including straight couples), it is less dramatic because there aren’t really any threatening people trying to sabotage their relationship. I liked this about the show a lot because it feels more realistic this way. When a drama gets too intense because of an evil person getting in the way, it’s usually not as good. I like it when all the characters are fairly decent and understanding people.

None of the characters displayed discrimination against people in the lgbtq+ community. Unfortunately, it happens way too much in Korean webtoons and Chinese manhwa where a male character feels “disgusted” by the boys’ love. -.- Both couples talk about liking another boy and it’s clear that they do not see anything wrong with it because love is love. They also don’t like it when another person discriminates against lgbtq+.

One of my biggest pet peeves in BL series (manga, webtoons, anime, dramas, movies) is when a female character tries to break up a couple between two gay men. The female is aware that they are gay but “refuse to believe it.” -.- Rest assured, this does not happen in this show.

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Other notable aspects of the show:

I loved the character development in Xia Yu Hao because he goes from a delinquent student with a cocky attitude to a sensitive and caring person who is passionate about volleyball. Maybe he was always like this, but it is less obvious in the beginning.

Overall, I definitely recommend this series. It’s a great BL drama because of the reasons mentioned above, and the volleyball team side to it was enjoyable to watch!