May 25, 2024


Jane Austen's Persuasion has the reader rooting for the protagonists to rekindle their estranged affections. But what of the novel's nemeses? In the end, the wily and impious Mr. Elliot casts aside his carefully groomed reputation and persuades the infamous Mrs. Clay to become his mistress.

But every persuader needs a persuadable partner, and Mrs. Clay is no ingénue; she'd send a Willoughby or a Wickham packing. Though no less calculating than those romantic villains, Penelope Clay and William Elliot discover in each other the kind of kindred spirits they fail to find among the titled Elliots.

While highlighting and transfiguring classic scenes from the novel, this unconventional version provides a romantic pairing on a par with that of Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth. In the process, Persuadable illustrates an eternal Austen truth: love is wholly individual, no matter the age or time-period.

Who says a couple of shameless gold diggers can't find true love?

The Kindle and paperback editions can be purchased at Amazon worldwide. The ePub format is available at Apple Books, Google Play, Rakuten Kobo, B & N Nook, Smashwords and many other ebook retailers.

Read an excerpt

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May 22, 2024

Outsiders and insiders

Thinking about slice-of-life anime, I believe the genre often has an clear-cut narrative structure, what I call the outsider-to-insider learning curve.

In Super Cub, Koguma starts out as a novice. Learning the ropes first from her mechanic and then from Reiko, a Super Cub aficionado, Koguma goes from outsider to insider over the first half of the series. But neither of them have ridden their motorcycles in the winter, so a whole arc is devoted them learning how to adapt their Super Cubs (and themselves) to the cold, again going from outsiders to insiders.

In the last episode, their friend Shii buys a Super Cub and so she as well is on her journey from outsider to insider.

Non Non Biyori begins with Hotaru moving from Tokyo and attending her first day of school. The quintessential outsider. Laid-Back Camp has Nadeshiko biking to a scenic overlook for a view of Mt. Fuji. There she meets Rin and gets interested in camping. As in Super Cub, the first season follows Nadeshiko as she learns about camping from Rin and the school's camping club. As the POV character, what she learns, the audience learns.

In the food genre, Solitary Gourmet features Yutaka Matsushige eating at a different (real) restaurant every episode (being the proprietor of a one-man import-export business is the pretext for him traveling all over the place). Every episode begins with him as an outsider at that particular restaurant and ends with him an insider, having observed the cooks and clientele and eaten practically everything on the menu.

Samurai Gourmet and Wakako Zake follow a similar formula. The latter even includes details about the restaurants visited at the end of each episode.

What makes Akebi in Akebi's Sailor Uniform more of a Mary Sue (though an entertaining one) is that she goes from outsider to insider in one episode. By contrast, in Snow White with the Red Hair, earning her insider status takes Shirayuki most of the first cour.

As a general rule, the romance genre always benefits from a learning curve unrelated to the romantic relationship, such as Sawako in Kimi ni Todoke using her nickname as an impetus to study up on Japanese folklore, which pays off brilliantly at the end of the second season.

And in Insomniacs After School, given the task of revitalizing the astronomy club, Ganta takes up the hobby of astrophotography and finally learns how to use the expensive digital camera his father gave him.

In the last third of the season, Ganta and Isaki travel around the Noto Peninsula searching for shooting locations, a narrative arc now made all the more poignant in the aftermath of the 2024 Noto earthquake. A realistic learning curve can't help but touch upon the real world.

Related posts

Mary Sue to the rescue
Non Non Biyori

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May 18, 2024


Buried inside a cache of religious relics from Medieval England, the ghost of a young boy knows only that he must protect these holy treasures. But as his era recedes into history and the relics scatter hither and yon, all he can do is rage against the collectors of the last remaining object, a silver spoon.

Centuries later, he encounters Donna Howard, an antiquities appraiser who can speak with the spirits. Donna's research has convinced her that a sixteenth century skeleton recently discovered in England is the boy's remains. Now in order to free himself from the spoon, the boy must confront his own murder.

Even when the crime is five hundred years old, Donna Howard is determined to solve the case.

The Kindle and paperback editions can be purchased at Amazon worldwide. The ePub format is available at Apple Books, Google Play, Rakuten Kobo, B & N Nook, Smashwords and many other ebook retailers.

Read an excerpt

Donna Howard Mysteries

Silver Spoon

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May 15, 2024

Tubi in Japanese

Tubi has three anime channels and two Kdrama channels but nothing specific to Jdrama.

All the more confounding, Tubi doesn't have country or language filters. Combing through the Recently Added, Foreign Films, and Foreign TV categories can be an frustrating process.

It's often faster to do a global searches for "Japan" and "Japanese" or look up specific titles, actors, or directors.

The Tubi search engine is fuzzy so the results will also be all over the map. And be forewarned that Tubi licenses just about anything as long as it's cheap and available. That means everything from art house to grindhouse to documentaries and travelogues.

I've curated a list of Tubi titles I thought were worth a second glance. I hope to update this list on a semi-regular basis.

  • Blue Thermal (2022) follows Tamaki Tsuru as she learns to fly gliders in the college soaring club. This anime movie makes the common mistake of trying to cram in too many plot points from the manga, but the subject matter was compelling enough to keep me interested.
  • Cats of Japan (2020) is a cute travel documentary about cats lounging around and being cool. The kind of show to watch when you want to just kick back and relax.
  • Detective Dobu (1991) is an Edo period Columbo, whose slovenly and bumbling ways disguise his keen mind and relentless drive to catch the criminal (although Columbo never drank as much as Dobu does, if at all). The series covers the same material as the earlier made-for-television movies, also on Tubi.
  • Crisis: Special Security Squad (2017) Shun Oguri heads a secret team of specialists tackling threats the regular cops can't handle.
  • The Great War of Archimedes (2019) The first six minutes documents the sinking of the battleship Yamato. The rest of the movie is a political drama about how Admiral Yamamoto tried to scuttle the project in favor of building more carriers. Also see my longer review.
  • Kamen Rider Zero-One (2020) This comedy action series in the long-running Kamen Rider franchise could be a Terminator prequel. Enjoyable in small doses as practically every episode is the same and not all that different. It gets old fast if you don't pace yourself.
  • The Life of Bangaku (2002) is an Edo period action comedy starring acclaimed actor Koji Yakusho as an expert swordsman who is simply too honest and principled for his own good. Directed by Kon Ichikawa.
  • Shogun's Samurai (1978) was broadcast in Japan as The Yagyuu Conspiracy. Sonny Chiba stars as the historical figure Yagyuu Jubei. Together with their father, a high-ranking government official, Yagyuu and his brother carry out a palace coup in order to install Iemitsu as the third Tokugawa shogun.
  • Zankuro (2001) Ken Watanabe plays a retainer of the shogun during the Edo period. Despite his position in the low aristocracy, his expenses constantly outstrip his stipend, leaving him to moonlight as a bodyguard or executioner or private detective or anything else to make ends meet.

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May 11, 2024

Japanese language links

This list of Japanese language resources is not intended to be definitive. These are simply the sites I access the most.

My main online dictionary is Weblio. I also reference Eijirou and Word Bank.

Along with the Random House Dictionary from my WordPerfect days (it's an ancient TSR that runs in vDOS), my favorite English language dictionary is Word Hippo.

NHK World Japan is NHK's English language service. The live feed can be viewed online, along with an extensive VOD library and OTA in some areas (9.4 in Northern Utah). There are apps for most streaming platforms.

Good Morning Japan, News at Noon, News 7, and International Report, NHK's four domestic news programs, are available on the NHK World Premium website. The site also includes recent episodes of Today's Close-Up, A Small Journey, and A Hundred Views of Nature.

The previous 24 hours of NHK Radio newscasts can be streamed online.

YouTube hosts a large number of commercial network news feeds from Japan, including the always delightful Weather News (hosted coverage begins at 5:00 AM JST).

dLibrary Japan relaunched in January 2024 as Jme TV. For now, my primary sources for anime and Jdrama are Viki, Crunchyroll, Netflix, HIDIVE, and Tubi.

A Japanese tutoring YouTube channel I watch on a regular basis is Kaname Naito.

Related links

Word Bank
Word Hippo

NHK World (Japanese)
NHK World (English)
News from Japan
NHK Radio News


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May 08, 2024

Tokyo South

In this largely autobiographical account of the author's two-year proselyting mission to Japan during the late 1970s, a Mormon missionary is confronted by an overzealous religious bureaucracy and faces his own growing doubts as the work of preaching the gospel gets turned into a cynical and self-serving game of numbers and spiritual one-upmanship.

The first chapter of Tokyo South, "Lost in the Works," was the first real story I produced in my writing career. I'd signed up for a computer programming class at BYU and discovered that I enjoyed using the Pascal editor as a crude word processor (this was back during the Apple II era) more than the programming.

Then "Number Games" won second place in the 1984 Vera Hinckley Mayhew Awards, my first solid bit of external validation. (I seriously wonder whether such a story would be so well-received today; I like to call the first half of the 1980s BYU's "glasnost" era.)

Over the last two decades, a series of reorganizations and consolidations and force reductions finally resulted in the consolidation of the Tokyo North and South missions in 2007. This Ted Lyon interview makes it clear that the shenanigans I describe in Tokyo South were by no means unique to Japan.

If anything, time and nostalgia and the detached sense of sang-froid that comes with age and experience led me to pull my punches a bit.

The Kindle and paperback editions can be purchased at Amazon worldwide. The ePub format is available at Apple Books, Google Play, Rakuten Kobo, B & N Nook, Smashwords and many other ebook retailers.

Read an excerpt

Family names follow Western convention, the surname given last. Long vowels have been shortened to a single character with no diacritics.

Related posts

The evolution
Tokyo South is alive
Tokyo South is dead
The weirdest two years
The problem with projections

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May 04, 2024

Jme TV (a few suggestions)

NHK Cosmomedia has created a classic Hobson's Choice. Just as Henry Ford famously offered the Model T in any color as long as it was black, now you can legally livestream any live-action Japanese content as long as it's on Jme TV. (Crunchyroll simulcasts most of its new anime content every season.)

Dish briefly picked up Family Gekijyo after getting dumped by TV Japan. DirecTV offers Nippon TV as a replacement for TV Japan. NHK World Japan aside, there's no Japanese programming left on Xfinity or Dish. By contrast, Korean live-action content is available everywhere and on all platforms. Even Tubi has two dedicated Kdrama channels.

Live-action television comprises a paltry 5.5 percent of Japan's media exports. Fuyuhiko Takahori points to the cour system, with small budgets and short run-times holding down audience size, which limits budgets and run-times. But as anime has proven, I don't think the cour system is the impediment Takahori makes it out to be.

The cour-length season became standard practice in North America back during the premium cable days, long before streaming took off.

There's nothing wrong with the episode counts of the typical Jdrama series. The push, rather, should be to increase audience size. NHK Cosmomedia's overpriced and poorly designed streaming service is the wrong approach. If NHK cannot reduce costs to the consumer, it should let somebody else handle the business.

Another part of the problem may be a sibling rivalry. NHK World Japan is a worldwide service with an international audience, available for free online and streaming, on cable and satellite, and OTA in nineteen North American markets.

NHK World Japan is on YouTube and even shows up in screensaver ads on my Roku. Compared to NHK World Japan, NHK World Premium (née TV Japan) has taken over a vanishing niche. Jme TV is not a long-term solution. Granted, if you're looking for a one-stop shop, now you don't have a choice, unless one of the choices is "None of the above."

Here are a few possible solutions. I was also going to suggest creating a VOD sumo channel but Jme has already done that. So kudos for that. However, I would mirror the sumo channel on NHK World Japan as well.

  • Move Jme Select to the free NHK World Japan website and use the same templates for the program guide. Jme Select has the same format as NHK World Japan, meaning a six-hour block of programs repeated four times a day. NHK World Japan should also add the Asadora with subtitles. It'd be a great PR move.

    Like NHK World Japan, the Select programming would be primarily news and infotainment. The premium drama and variety content would remain behind the paywall. Even NHK World Japan content could be reused by removing the dubbing and ADR.
  • Do a deal with Rakuten Viki similar to the deal Viki has with Kocowa. Kocowa is South Korea's far more affordable equivalent of NHK World Premium. The $10/month Viki Pass Plus plan gives subscribers access to Kocowa and the entire Viki catalog, that includes VOD content from across Asia, including Japan.

    A hypothetical Viki Pass Japan Plus plan would provide subscribers with access to Viki's VOD catalog and all of the non-localized material that previously ended up on TV Japan. One big advantage here is that Rakuten Viki is a well-designed and well-known (in its niche) website with all of the streaming apps in place.
  • Okay, instead of doing a deal with Rakuten Viki, at least copy their website and app designs. Viki really does have one of the best streaming UIs in the business. And then only stream the newscasts live (simply copy the news section from NHK World Premium). Make the rest of the programming available as VOD.
  • If nothing else, the core VOD streaming service should cost considerably less. HIDIVE and Viki charge $6/month. Kocowa and Netflix start at $7/month. You can bundle Viki and Kocowa for $10/month. Crunchyroll's basic tier is $8/month. HIDIVE, Viki, and Crunchyroll offer discounted annual subscriptions.
And for a non-hypothetical option, simply go elsewhere. If you're willing to forgo the latest and greatest from prime time Japanese TV and do a bit of spelunking through sites like Viki, Tubi, and Netflix, there is plenty of (legal) live-action content available at far more affordable prices and even for free.

Related posts

Jme TV
NHK World Japan
Live-action Japanese TV
Jme TV (grumpy old man edition)

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May 01, 2024

Fox & Wolf

Yuki Yamakawa comes from an old yakuza family. She loves training dogs and beating up bullies for a more clandestine reason: she's a werewolf. But then after one fight too many, Yuki's uncle sends her to Osaka's most exclusive girl's school to straighten her out.

There she meets her exact opposite, Ami Tokudaiji.

Ami is as high in society as Yuki is low. But with the family facing a financial scandal, the fate of the Tokudaiji fortune depends on Ami's mother participating in a shady real estate deal. Just as Yuki's estranged father returns to Osaka to lead the criminal investigation.

As it turns out, on her father's side, Yuki's blood runs bluer than any of her aristocratic classmates. Even so, that long-hidden family connection pales in comparison to the most fantastic fact of all—Ami is a kitsune, a Japanese werefox, and doesn't know it!

When they both end up in the same homeroom class at school, they'll have to stop fighting each other long enough to join forces against the mobsters menacing Ami's family.

The Kindle and paperback editions can be purchased at Amazon worldwide. The ePub format is available at Apple Books, Google Play, Rakuten Kobo, B & N Nook, Smashwords and many other ebook retailers.

Read an excerpt

Family names follow Western convention, the surname given last. Long vowels have been shortened to a single character with no diacritics.

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