May 2006

I heard my wife talking the other day about this Japanese Kleenex commercial back from the 80’s that supposedly is cursed. The whole thing sounds totally ripped off from the movie Ring or Poltergeist.

So the story is this commercial for Kleenex tissues was shown on Japanese TV back in 1986 or so. It features an actress in a white dress sitting next to a child made up to look like a baby ogre. There is a really creepy song in a foreign language that when researched, is actually an old German folk song with the words “Die, die, everyone is cursed and will be killed.” Soon after the debut of the commercial, alot of people complained that it was creepy, or 気持ち悪い, and it was quickly pulled off the air. Soon after though, accidents started to befall the actors and crew of the commercial, including the child playing the baby ogre dying of sudden organ failure, the actress being committed to a mental institution where she is either still there, or at some point hung herself (depending on the version of the story). You can see where this is going, it’s pretty much a standard urban legend. Just like the movie Ring, anyone who sees the commercial will have anything from bad luck to a violent death, etc. BTW, research on this got me to the Japanese word for urban legend: 都市伝説. It’s literally just ‘urban legend’, which is very boring. I was hoping for something like 現代怪談 (modern-day horror story) or something, oh well.

Pumping my wife Ryoko for further information was prettly useless, since she was totally buying the whole story and didn’t want to talk about it or she wouldn’t be able to sleep that night. So I was on my own. Unfortunately there is no easy equivalent of in Japanese. Fortunately though, a google search quickly gave me this site, which gives a long and methodical explanation of all the versions of the urban legend and then debunks them one by one. It didn’t have any links to the actual commercial though, which is what I was interested in if I was going to invoke the wrath of the little baby ogre ghost and all. While google video and YouTube came up empty, there is fortunately a similar type of site more prevalent in Japan called fileman. On there I found a video of the cursed commercial.

To say the least, I was not impressed by the lack of spookiness in this commercial. Not only was the little ogre-kid cute and the lady pretty, the song is in English, and is called “It’s a fine day” by Miss Jane. The ‘accursed’ lyrics are:

It’s a fine day
People open windows
They leave their houses
Just for a short while
They walk by the grass
And they look at the grass
They look at the sky
It’s going to be a fine night tonight
It’s going to be a fine day tomorrow

Not really the kind of lyrics that people associate with curses and fatal accidents. I’ll give the rumormongers that it is in a minor key and the song could sound a little strange if you didn’t understand the lyrics. Also, of course, there haven’t been any string of accidents or deaths among the people associated with the commercial. In fact, the actress in the commercial is a woman by the name of Keiko Matsuzaka 松坂慶子 and she is still working as an actress and is active in Japanese celebrity circles. Other interesting roles of hers are that of Princess Fuse in the 1983 movie production of the Hakkenden, and next year she will have a role in 犬神家の一族 The house of Inugami (dog spirit). This sounds like a horror/thriller to me, so those looking for her in a horror role will finally be rewarded, I suppose.

Also, there was a second Kleenex commercial called 天使編 (angel version) that viewed around the same time as the original 赤鬼編 (red demon version). I actually find the music in the angel version much creepier than the red demon version, reminding me of the bizarre music in Ghost in the Shell.

Update: I went ahead and uploaded the two commercials to YouTube. The links are here and here.

As truly awesome as Fist of the North Star may be though, it’s sheer awesomeness is not the point of these two posts. There is an interesting addition to the Hokuto no Ken family, something else that a Japanese friend mentioned to me, and then was later confirmed by a search on YouTube. Hokuto no Ken is a manga and anime that pretty much every Japanese knows and has seen at least a bit of, it being pretty much the most popular show on TV in Japan through a large chuck of the 80’s. Anyone that knows even a little bit about anime will have at least heard of it, if not seen it. So everything in the last post has been pretty redundant. (although translating that song was pretty fun…) What a lot of people don’t know though, is that Hokuto no Ken was imported into Korea, where it became a live-action drama. A really bad live-action drama. So now I give you the wonders and horrors of: Fist of the North Korean Star! (Actually it was made in South Korea, but blending Korea into Fist of the North Star was just irresistable.)
Intro Episode
The first link is the opening to the TV show, and the second is about 4 minutes from what appears to be the first (and hopefully only) episode. Also please note the character of Shin, Kenshiro’s arch-rival, doing his kung-fu with a bad blond wig and a pot-belly during the intro. Truly amazing.

My search also turned up this, which is equally hilarious, but not quite so easy to quantify. The explanation says it is the opening for the Taiwanese movie Fist of the North Star, but that doesn’t explain the Korean script here:
I can’t read Hangul, but it seems to me the third character is different from the Korean version of the show:
My guess is that since the chinese characters read 北斗新拳, that the Hangul reads the same. As for the genuinely Korean one, I’m guessing the third character is smaller because it’s the equivalent of の (of) in 北斗の拳. If anyone that can read Korean ever reads this blog (I guess that’s you Mitch, since this blog has a readership of about 3 people…), then please clear this up for me by leaving a comment. My only guess is that it could genuinely be a Taiwanese movie based on Hokuto no Ken, but that this recording I found was taken from a Korean dub or sub.

Unfortunately imdb is no help either, only listing the Japanese show and movie, and what the heck! There is an American version of this! It stars Gary Daniels, a regular in many low-budget martial arts flicks, including Knights, a true classic, an epic tale about a woman killing cyborg vampires in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. (Really!) It seems that this version of Fist of the North Star is readily available on DVD or VHS, but I couldn’t find any clips of it anywhere. Oh well. Maybe I’ll catch it on AMC, SpikeTV, or Turner Classic Movies? one of these days.

For some reason that I still don’t understand, my wife Ryoko really likes Hokuto no Ken (Fist of the North Star). It’s not really a girl-oriented anime, so I’ve wondered on occasion what she finds so interesting in it. When I ask her, she just says something like “Because Kenshiro is so cool!” which doesn’t answer the real question that I’m asking. I mean, if you like Hokuto no Ken, then there is a good chance you would like, say…. professional wrestling, which she certainly does not.

So if you don’t know or haven’t seen what Hokuto no Ken is, the basic story is Kenshiro, a kung fu master (with a Japanese name, of course) is wandering through a post-apocalyptic wasteland, searching for his lost love, Julia. So if you want to see what it’s like, YouTube is there to save the day again! With a bit of searching, here is the intro to Hokuto no Ken and Hokuto no Ken 2. I really like both of these songs, mostly because of the over-the-top 80’s rock style, and the hilarious lyrics. For example, here is my (albeit literal) tranlsation to the opening theme of Hokuto no Ken, Ai wo Torimodose (Bring Back the Love):

[falsetto]You are Shock!
The sky is falling from my love.
[falsetto]You are Shock!
It’s falling to my chest.
Even if you bind my burning heart with chains,
It’s impossible.
I’ll take down anyone who gets in my way with a single finger.
[falsetto]You are Shock!
My heart is beating faster from my love.
[falsetto]You are Shock!
My heart beats faster.
Looking for you, my wandering heart is now
burning fiercely.
I should just melt everything and send it flying without any remorse.
[falsetto refrain]
In order to protect our love,
You leave on a journey.
I’ve lost sight of tomorrow.
A face that’s forgotten how to smile,
I don’t want to see it.
Bring back the love!

Pretty amazing stuff, huh? Between those lyrics, the 80’s metal, and the awesome head-exploding kung-fu animation in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, what’s there not to love about this show?

I just saw a link to this at Matt’s No-sword, and I had to include my own link to it for nostalgia’s sake. I had no idea the song was sung by the Pointer Sisters, though.

If that’s not enough for your Pointer Sister’s fix, then the Neutron Dance from Beverly Hills Cop should get you burning. It stars none other than Bronson Pinchot (aka Balki from Perfect Strangers)!

A few months ago, I was feeling nostalgic and decided to download a copy of the old 1978 animated movie, Watership Down, based on the epic novel by the same name by Richard Adams. I had some mixed feelings about this movie, mostly because I can recall that after seeing it as a young boy, I had nightmares about the acid-trip scene where the half-dead survivor recounts the extermination of the burrow. I later read the book as a teenager and absolutely loved it though, so I decided to give the movie another shot.

Also another surprise: the song “Bright Eyes” in the movie is sung by none other than this person.

So after Karisa was in bed, we started the movie. Almost immediately though, we ran into a major problem: Ryoko couldn’t follow any of it. Usually Ryoko doesn’t have too difficult of a time with TV, movies, etc., but this was different. Maybe it was the heavy use of author-invented words for the rabbit language, such as silflay, hrududu, owsla, etc., or maybe it was just the british accents. Ryoko decided that without Japanese subtitles, she probably wouldn’t be able to watch this film.

Well, finding English subtitles usually isn’t too difficult, there are many websites that have subtitle files you can download for thousands of movies. After a short while of looking I found some English subtitles for Watership Down. I tried them with the movie and the timing was perfect. But what about Japanese subtitles? I hadn’t had much success finding Japanese subtitles in the past, and this was no exception.

So I decided: I can make a translation of these subtitles! I’m always complaining about how bad the subtitles are in the fan-subs I watch, aren’t I? I figured I couldn’t do any worse, at least. So after looking around for the necessary software, I decided on Subtitle Workshop, since it was fairly easy to use, had all the functions I needed, and is freeware.

So here’s a sample of my work. This is from the very beginning which is the fable/creation scene:
creation scene

Long ago, the great Frith made the world. He made all the stars… and the world lived among the stars. Frith made all the animals and birds… and, at first, made them all the same. Now, among the animals was El-ahrairah, the Prince of Rabbits.
He had many friends… and they all ate grass together. After a time, the rabbits wandered everywhere… multiplied, eating as they went. Then, Frith said to El-ahrairah: “Prince Rabbit, if you cannot control your people… I shall find ways to control them.”

And here is my translation:


That scene involves very specific phraseology in English that we generally associate with epic or biblical tales, something that I can’t do the equivalent of in Japanese very well. Ryoko gave me a bit of a helping hand on some of the phrasing, so perhaps its passable.

The other really hard scene so far is Cowslip’s exisistential poetry jam:

Where are you going, stream?
Far, far away.
Take me with you, stream.
Take me on your dark journey.
Lord Frith, take me far away, to the hearts of light.
The silence. I give you my breath.
My life. The silence.

I still don’t feel too good about my translation for that scene, since a good Japanese translation would require some familiarity with Japanese haiku and tanka poetry, which I most certainly lack. Still, the experience so far has been pretty fun, if a lot more time-consuming than I originally anticipated. I’m maybe only a third of the way through the movie so far. Maybe next time I’m in Japan I’ll take a look at it, so I can see how crappy my translation is compared to a professional.