The Imminent Future: 2016 Fall Doramas

Okay, that’s a lie by probably 25% since five or six of these are already airing, but don’t quote me on that; I’m no good at math. What I am good at is hiding from the Internet for a year and a half and drowning in dramas, so that’s what I’m going to talk about: more dramas to get lost in.

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misadventures in cooking

Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Graham Cracker Cookies

Why must addictive treats be so bad but taste so good? Sweets bum me out. One minute I’m content with avocado-thoughts, minding my business drinking lemon-cucumber water, and then: lemon meringue pie. Blackberry muffins. Scones. Fudge brownies. Rice pudding. Chocolate chip cookies. Chocolate! I want them all—and consecutively, because why not? Because you know why. No. Shut up, me.

I’m guilty of eating multiple packages of just chocolate chips or canisters of frosting, but the fantasy-attacks feel extra excruciating for the health-conscious who harbor a major sweet fondness. Like, sweet tooths (teeth?!) are jerks. Okay? I hate mine. But I love sweets and I like (to try) baking them. cookies 2 Except that baking is not my speciality, and for good reason. Things happen. Things go wrong. And sometimes I don’t know if my skills are on par with a five year old or if my oven is to blame. (No, it’s the oven. I swear.) Lucky enough, my cookies… seemed… to have come out, uh, all right?

Unburnt? Check. Any mutants? No… (There was one, but we don’t need to talk about that.) Maybe I can chalk this incident up to good karma, but either way I let out a hell yeah relief-sigh. These 6am cookies, which sent a bloody delicious aroma around the house, were meant for my friend’s birthday. (And a very merry birthday to Anna. I know she had so much fun killing her feet wandering around UW and Seattle allllll day before waiting on a super-late, super-long flight and suffered (virtually) no sleep.) cookies 1 Specifically, these cookies were meant to travel their way over to Mississippi for the day after said friend’s birthday. While she was a measly two-ish hours away (curses!), visiting (double curses!), I sent these to-be-determined yummies off to arrive just as she returned home (curses x3!). Shipping food is a first for me, and there’s a lot to consider that goes beyond the simple “fragile” package. Bumps’nBruises are a given, so I needed something that could not only withstand impact, but would hold up (both in taste and shape) through delivery. Enter Pinterest: I hit up the search bar where I found Bakergirl’s list of shippable cookies & rolled with her peanut butter oatmeal chocolate chip graham recipe—a slight adaptation from the Brown Eyed Baker.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda OR 2 tsp of baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup unstalted butter (room temperature)
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar (I used dark)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup crushed graham crackers

*Please see the above links for directions!*

Compared to Bakergirl’s and Brown Eyed Baker’s versions, I admit to inserting a few adjustments of my own. For one, I skipped on oats altogether. (Is it me, OR IS IT THE OVEN? It’s the oven. Why do my oats in my oatmeal cookies always turn out rough with hardened texture? That’s not how my grandma’s cookies taste.) Adding oats, unless it’s oatmeal, is a formula for tragedy in my world, and I would only stick that on my worst enemy. Oats aside, I also added crushed honey-flavored graham crackers (the recipe calls for chocolate-covered or plain), and lightly topped each cookie in white sugar before chucking them into bake.

cookies 4 In retrospect, mailing chocolate chip cookies may not be the best choice. Although the Pacific Northwest’s heatwave has barely left, I’m afraid high temperatures are not in favor of anything meltable. Maybe I’ll stick to snickerdoodles or sugar cookies next time…

And for anyone who wishes to make their own attempt, I recommend you opt for graham crackers that offer complementary pow. Remember the mutant? Yeah, I taste-tested that one. The peanut butter and chocolate chip naturally blend well, but the graham crackers unfortunately appeared not to add too much to the package. Overall, they were like crunchy, benign growths, and the flavor was lost. But, on the bright side: they did withstand all the bumps and tumbles, and—reportedly—held their integrity.

Note to self: one can never add too much bubble wrap! cookies 5

packing things up…

[Slithers out from under your bed]

I’m baaaaaack. Just kidding.

Months have gone by since the last update, but I promise the neglect is unwillingly intentional. To say I’ve been busy is an understatement. It’s been a tornado storm of various Stuff ‘n Things—not all necessarily bad, however!—but not a moment’s pause inbetween. To start, I’m in the early stages of moving. Continue reading

death parade eo06

Discussion: Death Parade, Episode Six

I admit: March left me satisfied—though not without puzzlement—because it was the episode I’d been waiting for. Information dumps put me in a week-long mindspin, and yet I relish them all the same. It’s because Death Parade’s various parts all pose questions—from plot and character development to a greater scale of theme and symbolism. Rolling Ballade and Arcade, although worthwhile, offer little insight into the show’s larger concepts—and the newest episode seems to follow suit. Even so, Cross Heart Attack is everything I expected it to be. It’s not the info drop episodes two and five are—but that much I predicted, considering the show’s pattern thus far. It doesn’t look like much at a glance, and in contrast to an episode like Reverse, it really isn’t. But does that mean it’s empty? Surely not.

CHA wrenches away from Quindecim’s soothing atmosphere and replaces it with Viginti’s stiff setting. The switch feels jarring, which speaks for my comfort level and familiarity with Quindecim more than anything else. (Read: strong preference.) Juxtapose to Decim’s bar, Viginti is brighter, less ‘open’ or spacious, and emanates what I can only describe as feeling hollow. It’s too quiet for comfort, and radiates a lonesome quality. But Quindecim, too, can be described as such. Its expansive arrangement—bathed in those deep, dark hues—calls for a hushed but lively mood, yet it must be eerily quiet. (This goes to show the importance of music tracks, because I’ve sure been fooled into thinking otherwise.) Then again, it’s that ambiance of Quindecim that I find mollifying, but Viginti  feels uncomfortably rigid—no doubt due to its wooden composition, which seems well-suited for Ginti’s kokeshi collection.

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death parade: episode 5

Discussion: Death Parade, Episode Five

(Hey, I know this is way-late. If only my weekends weren’t busier than my weekdays this could have posted on time, but later beats never, right?)

After two weeks of falling into certain rhythm, I almost worried that Death Parade would snub opportunities for more information bombs. As much as I live to see the dead in psychological disarray, I’d hate to leave this show knowing little more than what I entered with. I’m not without criticism, and Rolling Ballade—a surprisingly sweet episode, though melancholic—doesn’t provide much to analyze in comparison to previously aired material (episodes and OVA alike). Arcade, too, gives less to celebrate than the episode it follows—at least in terms of Rolling Ballade’s preferable outcome—but it dishes up a larger serving. I’m content at a basic standard with what these last two weeks have fed me, but I’m a little deprived and a lot hungry. I appreciate that episode four establishes two players who, like in Death Billiards, bear no connection other than their time of death, but I’ve learned little else since episode two. Give me Onna’s backstory! Give me new side characters! Give me the Death Parade universe! Give me everything.

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weekend pick feature

Weekend Pick: Border (2014)

border poster Genre: Detective, Thriller, Psychological
Episode count: 9
Duration: 54 minutes

Synopsis: It’s another night of homicide investigation for ambitious detective Ishikawa Ango (Oguri Shun), but events soon take a deadly turn. As he wanders off to check the perimeter, he is shot in the head by an unknown perpetrator. “Where do people go when they die?” It’s a question meant to be answered for a different day, however. Ishikawa survives, but with the bullet lodged inside his brain. Although it may pose later health crises, to remove it requires a risky operation—not only would Ishikawa’s life once more be at stake, so would his newfound ability: to see the dead. Whether his sixth sense is a result of coming into contact with death—or is a side effect of the bullet’s location—remains a mystery. But for someone like Ishikawa, immersed in his work so completely that he has no life beyond it, this ability is a gift that he cannot risk losing.

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Why you should watch it: Border is aptly titled for obvious reasons upon first glance, but it holds double meaning. For as much as Ishikawa steps on that threshold between life and death, he treads a fine line between law-abiding and corrupt. The deceased victims often point him in the direction of the culprit, and if not, they at least supply Ishikawa with ample clues—and this is what I love about the show. It’s quick to engage its audience, so rather than dwelling on a stuck point, it starts off with a bang (sometimes literally) and runs upholding its pace. But what’s a plus for viewers is a double-edged sword for Ishikawa. The dead can directly point out the murderer, and yet there’s no use without evidence—not unless you have the city’s underground backing you up, and Ishikawa does.

One of Ishikawa’s selling points lies in his ability to preserve this clean-cop, morally righteous mentality all the while using illegal methods as a basis to find legal means that pin culprits down. Early on, Ishikawa holds clear ideas on right and wrong, or Good versus Evil—and to pull a quote directly, he states in episode three, “Real heroes don’t need to take lives.” What a statement! Much can be discussed and debated on philosophical grounds, but I find it refreshing to see a character whose well-defined principles don’t allow him to stray too far off. There is a nice, kept balance between how “dirtied” Ishikawa becomes and maintaining his sense of justice. But even Ishikawa’s ‘criminal’ acquaintances can’t always ensure a culprit’s downfall, and it becomes that much more painful for him to accept facts: “justice” cannot always trump evil deeds, and it becomes his undoing. His comment from episode three is wholly forgotten, and it’s equally distressing as it is worrisome to watch his descent. It’s only a matter of how far Ishikawa falls, and will he be able to bounce back?

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In its finale, Border shows how far Ishikawa will go in the name of justice—but it’s a decision that permanently alters his fundamental person, and the ethics of his actions are left open for discussion. (Do I see a season two in the near future? No? Ah, I can dream.) This complete transformation owes much credit not only to the script, but to the actor. J-dramas are not my territory, but Oguri Shun impressed me enough that I’m now tempted to stalk his filmography. He took on a character who could have been undoubtedly bland—especially in the drama’s first half—and colored him with an emotionally-nuanced performance.

The catch: One of my bigger disappointments lies with the show’s failure to utilize side characters. With the exception of a few, the cast is largely forgettable—and if not for the acting, characters like Ishikawa’s partner (yeah, okay, but his name is what again? It’s Tachibana, not that I’ll remember later on), a pair of computer geeks, and Higa Mika—the coroner, played by Haru—would be lost to me. Ishikawa aside, Higa is the one other consistent character to stand out, but her personal development is shafted. Instead, all we see is the potential of what could have been. Likewise, Tachibana never expands outside of comic relief, and Border only hints at a different side to Ishikawa’s boss. The way these characters play off each other is lovely to watch, but it’s a downright shame when the script hands all but one such little range to work with.

And then, of course, there is the final episode. Everything about it cries for a season two, but the existence of one seems unlikely. Depending on the person, this can be considered as either good or bad, but I’m a viewer on the fence. Ishikawa’s transformation wins me over—it’s not just watching the process of his unraveling, but seeing the result in action, and I find something appealing in the way Border leaves us to ponder. But then it feels extremely lacking, and—ultimately—incomplete. What of the aftermath? We’ll never know…


Weekend Pick features binge-worthy entertainment that can be marathoned during your work-week break. Think you have a good suggestion? Drop a comment below or send a message

dp discussion post ep 2

Discussion: Death Parade, Episode Two

Death Parade took me on a surprise trip last week. Rather than plunge forward in its obscurity it took a step back. Perhaps I should apologize: I underestimated Death Parade’s willingness to share. I thoroughly thought this show would leave viewers to grapple with its ambiguity. Keeping to its pattern of straight-forward headings, last week’s episode embodied its title, Death: Reverse. The show revisits Takashi’s and Machiko’s dart match, but from the new perspective of Onna. Her job is not to judge—for she is merely an assistant—but to guide the inexperienced Decim with intuitive perception. Of course, none of this explains who Onna is or how she ended up in this mysterious place caught between life and—as Death Parade calls it—the void.

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The episode opens to Onna asleep on a bed of plants supported by a tree trunk. Nona enters the scene, providing her name, and prompts Onna to respond in kind. But Onna can’t answer, to which Nona replies, “It’s all right. You don’t have a name.” My suspicions are now confirmed: Onna holds no memories of who she is, or that she was ever alive. Some have hypothesized that Nona created Onna specifically to assist Decim, but I don’t feel this is the case—although I’ll get into why later on. For now, I think it’s worth mentioning that humans, or as human as one can get in Death Parade—like Onna—exist. (But they all sport similar Decim get-up… Huh.) This is proven during the train ride. We only see one person’s eyes, but they bear human origin as opposed to an arbiter’s strange yet decorative iris. More than anything, this makes me wonder if they, too, possess blank memories.

And further yet: If a newly deceased refuses to play their “randomly” assigned game, is their memory swiped clean before they begin work on an appointed floor? Because now that Quindecim’s mannequin display is clarified not only to be an empty threat, but Decim’s ‘grotesque’ hobby (which I find darkly humorous), my ideas regarding what happens to a soul if they refuse have adjusted. Rather than anything sinister, I believe that refusal simply means that the soul cannot be judged. Hence, the person cannot move on, and—for the time being, at least—remains stuck in a stagnant in-between hereafter. Continue reading