May 30, 2020

dLibrary Japan update

When I first started streaming with Netflix, I hoped it would continue to build its library of live-action Japanese content. Alas, Netflix is the latest service to discover that there simply isn't a big audience for localized Jdrama in North America.

Or, for that matter, anywhere else, which is why anime makes up 80 percent of Japan's broadcast television overseas exports.

So while Netflix has been busily licensing anime movies and series, and producing anime content for its Netflix Originals catalog, it hasn't added any new live-action scripted Japanese programming. That means dLibrary Japan has the VOD market mostly to itself.

Over the past year, dLibrary Japan has taken that responsibility seriously, evolving from a usable but clunky beta site into a fully functioning streaming provider.

At the end of May, dLibrary Japan revamped the website, making much needed modifications to the Continue Watching list and significantly improving content discovery. The only critical thing left on the to-do list is to move the new features over to the app.

A few bugs remain. The "remember me" login checkbox doesn't remember me for very long. And to get picky, "details" is spelled wrong on the website.

There is still no way to search the website but they've added scads of genre categories and subcategories, making it easy to narrow down selections. You can always search the catalog using the app.

One of the new categories is subtitled content. Though it has less than two dozen titles, five of them are NHK Taiga dramas. At fifty or so episodes each, these historical epics alone might be worth a subscription if you haven't seen them before.

dLibrary Japan is mostly Japanese-only (you can navigate the site in English or Japanese), and is acquiring that Japanese-only content at a brisk clip, adding several new series or seasons a week. I'm looking forward to seeing how the site will grow in the future.

dLibrary Japan is supported on most browsers. There are apps for Android smartphones and tablets, Apple iPhone and iPad, Apple TV, and Roku.

Related posts

dLibrary Japan
Netflix in Japanese
TV Japan and NHK World

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May 23, 2020

Hills of Silver Ruins (1/4)

The same way the president of the United States is also commander in chief of the armed forces and the chief executive, the Taiho (台輔) or Saiho (宰輔) also serves as chief advisor to the emperor, province lord of the capital province, and commander of the Provincial Guard, which constitutes half of the Imperial Army.

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May 16, 2020

Hills of Silver Ruins (1/3)

The kanji compounds the author uses for throwing knives (飛刀) and concealed weapons (暗器) are derived from Chinese martial arts. Both words show up in Chinese dictionaries but not most Japanese dictionaries, though the latter one does have a Japanese Wikipedia entry. Even so, the meanings of the words are pretty apparent from the kanji alone.

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May 09, 2020

Rifle is Beautiful

Sports is the most enduring genre in manga and anime. With the conflict built into the narrative, athletic competition is an always reliable source of story material. Baseball has long been the king of this particular hill, but the genre has tackled everything from mahjong (Saki) to archery (Tsurune) to bicycle touring (Long Riders).

And just when you think maybe all of those permutations have been exhausted, competitive karuta makes a brilliant contribution with Chihayafuru. And shogi becomes the center of the masterful melodrama, March Comes in like a Lion.

With both mainstream team and individual sports, significant parts of the story are often fashioned out of the play-by-play. Even Yowamuchi Pedal (bicycle racing) and Chihayafuru spend multiple episodes on a single competition, at each step along the way diving into the winning strategies of the players.

But with archery, there's not a whole lot to make of an arrow striking a target. Either it does or it doesn't (though roster order apparently matters). So Tsurune focuses more on the mental than the muscle, starting out by giving the protagonist a bad case of target panic as a source of the conflict (along with a bunch of teenage angst and a family tragedy to boot).

Even archery is more action-oriented than firearm "bullseye" or "range" shooting, where the "objective is to score points by hitting a round shooting target as close to the center as possible with slow precision fire." When the shooter is doing everything right, the only thing that moves is the trigger finger, and imperceptively.

Rifle is Beautiful (distributed in North America as Chidori RSC) is about a high school shooting team, so it could go down the melodrama route (like Tsurune) or slice of life. It takes the latter approach, what I call the "cute girls doing interesting things" genre, though more competitive aspects do emerge in the concluding arc at the national high school championships.

Now, given that Japan has some of the most restrictive gun control laws in the universe, the obvious question is what kind of rifles they are shooting.

Two of the girls in the series participate in air gun competitions. Doing so, we are told, is expensive. In order to purchase an air rifle (as opposed to less regulated airsoft and paintball weapons), you have to present a certificate obtained by attending a gun safety lecture and pass a test at a local police station. Thereafter, the certificate has to be renewed every three years.

So the emphasis of Rifle is Beautiful is on "beam."

Not a laser beam. The light source used in a beam rifle is the same kind of xenon lamp used in electronic camera flash units. The result is a weapon that literally couldn't hurt a fly (unless you smacked the fly with the butt of the rifle). A well-hit line drive, by contrast, is seriously dangerous. Not to mention a bow and arrow.

The target of a beam rifle is a photoelectric grid that feeds the "hits" to an electronic display that generates the sound and calculates the score. From a gadget point of view, this is totally cool technology. As an extracurricular activity, it means a shooting range can be set up in a high school gym. Of course, it helps if the high school has already purchased the equipment.

Not many have, so the entire Tokyo regionals can be held in a high school gym.

Hikari Kokura chose to attend Chidori High School because it did have the equipment. According to the well-established formula, she has to scrape together enough members to form a club. That turns out not be much of a challenge either. There isn't a whole lot of drama in Rifle is Beautiful. It's more about the how, what, and why of the sport.

Hikari gets a bit of a character arc at the end, but as with series like Laid Back Camp and Long Riders, your entertainment value will depend on how much you enjoy the subject matter and the characters and the comic relief (supplied by the club's scatterbrained faculty advisor), and less the threadbare plot. As a low-stress entry in the slice of life genre, it worked for me.

Here's footage from the 2019 high school championships at the Tsutsuga Shooting Range in Hiroshima Prefecture. It's been held there ever year since 2006 so you will recognize the setting from the series. If you wonder why the girls are walking rather stiffly in their uniforms, the series explains that as well.

Treat Rifle is Beautiful as a promotional video and you should have a good time. It's been officially endorsed by the National Rifle Association of Japan (first and foremost a sports organization). All the power to them if the series can excite more interest in what is, at heart, a very Zen activity.

Related links

Chihayafuru (CR HD)
Laid Back Camp
Long Riders
March Comes in like a Lion (CR NF)
Rifle is Beautiful
Tsurune (CR HD)
Yowamuchi Pedal
A title by any other name

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May 02, 2020

Hills of Silver Ruins (1/2)

The ritual of petitioning the Riboku tree for a child resembles the custom of writing a wish on a paper strip (tanzaku) and tying it to a bamboo branch during the Tanabata festival.

Kijuu (騎獣) are domesticated youjuu ("magical animals") captured in the Yellow Sea (actually an island). Like a pegasus, kijuu can fly or leap great distances. Like horses, the best ones cost a small fortune.

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