We're ba-ack! We survived our trip, and now we are home and surprisingly not-sleepy. That's not to say that we are not sleepy, just that we are not struggling as hard to keep our eyes open as we've normally been on the day of a return from Japan. The difference, I'm sure, is that we actually managed to sleep on the flight home, but I'm still not sure how that happened. I wasn't sure it would even count, either, because, as Athena pointed out, it wasn't so much sleep as waking up every few minutes and struggling to find a reasonably comfortable position. But since my eyes are kindly staying open, I'm going to have to say that it did indeed count.
In sum, the trip was good. There were a lot of ups and downs, the latter of which mostly stemming from the fact that we were pretty far outside of our comfort zones and also that there are a LOT of stairs in Japan. We wore ourselves out pretty good.
But let's start from the beginning.
It all started back on the 12th, which we felt a little bad about because it was our sister's birthday. We've somehow managed a knack for doing cool things on people's birthdays, which would be fine if those people were ever there with us, but they aren't. For example, we went on Hyperspace Mountain for the first time on our Star Wars fan brother-in-law's birthday, and he wasn't there. But these people live four hours away, so what are you gonna do? We called her from the airport. It was kind of funny, because, since Athena and I usually call people on just one phone, I tend to have my phone on speaker, but I told Celeste, "Normally I'd put you on speaker, but we're kind of in a public place right now." "A public place? Are you at Disneyland?" "No, we're at the airport." "What are you doing at the airport?" We've been very bad about letting people know we were planning this trip.
The plane ride was uneventful, but I do want to point out how much we love Singapore Airlines. Everyone is so nice, and they take good care of you. And they have a pretty neat entertainment system. They have about a million movies and TV shows to watch, and it doesn't cost extra to do it (although it may raise the ticket prices...but we also like them because they're nonstop to Tokyo, and that flight is long enough without an added layover in Beijing). We took advantage and watched the "live action" Beauty and the Beast that everybody was raving about a few months ago. We were always curious, because it is
Beauty and the Beast, but we refused to go out of our way to spend money on it, and we weren't too keen on spending time on it, either. But now we were basically trapped in a tin can hurtling through space for eleven hours with the option of watching it for free, so we figured we might as well.
I'm sure you'll all be shocked to learn that we didn't care for it. I will admit that we were massively prejudiced against it from the get-go, but not because we necessarily assumed it would be bad (at least not any worse than any of the other movies we've seen lately...which, admittedly, we didn't care for), but because we hate the idea that the Disney Company is replacing all of the beautiful Disney animated classics with darker, edgier, "live action" versions. Sometimes we feel like they're so successful because now people our age have a version they can admit to liking because it's "not a kids' movie." So anyway, like I said, we already didn't like it before we saw it, so that probably did color our opinion of it, but there really did seem to be a whole lot of missing the point, as well as not really making sense. For example, the whole, "I promise I'll escape Papan!" business--when I saw it in the trailer I was annoyed, but since it went down differently than in the fully animated version, I shrugged it off. Then she makes a feeble attempt at escape that she doesn't follow through on because a teapot tells her she doesn't have enough rope (if she's such a great inventor, she can solve that problem, too, can't she?), which again isn't necessarily bad
...until she has that scare in the West Wing and just runs out the front door. Well hello, if you could have done that all along, why in the heck didn't you?
Our friend Gaston, who is generally very forgiving of Disney as long as they don't mess with his favoritest things, was not pleased that they messed with his favorite character. I have to say here, and it probably won't be very convincing in this context, but we don't mind if people want to change characters' personalities in new adaptations, just as long as the new personalities make sense for the story and are interesting. In this version, they didn't seem to know exactly what they wanted to do with Gaston. In the fully animated version, the very first scene between Belle and Gaston speaks volumes about who he is and why they are very much not compatible. In the "live action" version, basically all we get is, "Hey, Belle, I really like you." "Really? 'Cause I don't really like you." And apparently we're supposed to understand why because we just agree with everything Belle ever does...or, more likely, because we've already seen the fully animated version.
And then there's the parts where it looks like they're deliberately trying to be like the original animated version but not too much
like the original animated version, because they'll add a line here or there, as if the scriptwriter was playing MST3K with it. I don't have any examples off the top of my head, but it was most noticeable in the Lumiere and Cogsworth dialogue. Somehow everyone and everything was more boring. Even the music was boring, and I love the music from Beauty and the Beast. I think part of it has to do with the fact that they turned most of the ensemble numbers into a series of solos instead of having, like, an ensemble to sing as a chorus. (Watching the stage version of Frozen at California Adventure is where I realized that ensemble numbers tend to be big favorites of mine.) They sucked all the life out of the characters, and it was just a whole bland mishmash of something that used to be magical. And the visuals weren't even that stunning, so we can't go to our fallback "one good thing about it" thing.
So overall, I would say we basically just thought it was mediocre, but because it's trying to live up to a classic, we hate it more than we normally would. Especially because of the whole, "We're honoring Howard Ashman!" thing. Not that we've ever spoken with Howard Ashman, but I'm pretty sure he would much rather have his legacy honored by not having it replaced with such steadfast mediocrity. (We were wondering, since all of these remakes seem to be trying so very hard to make the villains into more sympathetic characters, how they were going to pull that off with Gaston, since he represents the patriarchy, which is not to be sympathized with. Well, first they made him less stereotypical partriarchal and more Nice Guy(tm), and then they stopped caring about him and made LeFou the sympathetic character.)
Anyway. We watched a couple of other things that we have much less to say about, and eventually our plane arrived in Tokyo! Tadah! But this is always the scary part, because I'm always worried that we won't be able to find our way to our hotel and we'll be stranded in a foreign country with nowhere to sleep. In addition, wandering around Tokyo hauling luggage is not fun. Fortunately, it was still daylight this time, so we felt like we had a little bit more yoyuu. Nevertheless, we did get a little bit lost after we got to our train station. (I am grateful that we made it to the right station without too much trouble. Oh! but I forgot the fun Narita Airport story. We went to baggage claim and for some reason it had taken us a while to get through immigration, so they'd already pulled must of the luggage off of the carousel. We got to where it was all standing and found...one
of our two bags. We asked the attendants who were there about the other one, and they looked around and saw it was gone, and I heard one of them say in Japanese, "Maybe somebody walked off with it." So for a few seconds we all looked around helplessly, and then a couple of guys pulled a new batch of luggage off the carousel and there it was. Whew.)
So we were wandering around Asakusabashi trying to find our hotel. I had checked Google maps ahead of time and noted how to get there from the station...but this is the trip where I learned that stations are good at confusing me. Fortunately, there was a map right outside the station. Un
fortunately, we wandered around for a while and came back (even more tired) before we realized that they're not sticklers about directions on maps in Japan, and sometimes, as in this case, north is at the bottom of the map. Why? (Athena says, "Brain exercise is the only reason I can think of.") So we figured out the problem and even found our hotel listed on the map. It was right as we were about to use this new information to triangulate directions that a kindly old man appeared from nowhere, saw us pointing at the name of our hotel and asked, "You want to go there?" We told him yes, and he started thinking about how to give us directions. I told him (in Japanese) that he could give us the directions in Japanese, but he decided it would be easier to just show us. So he walked us all the way to our hotel (which really wasn't very far, but felt like a marathon since we were tired and hauling luggage).
And so we managed to check in! Huzzah! And we had a lovely view of Tokyo Sky Tree from our room (except for on Sunday, when it vanished (because of cloud cover)). It was only a few stops away, so we thought about going to see it, but when we saw that the main attraction of it was to go 350 stories up, we were like, "Hmmm, yeah, I think I can live without that." We are just a teensy bit acrophobic. But it looked nice from our room. And it lit up in different colors every night!
By then we were pretty much wiped out, so we went and got some emergency rations from the Lawson downstairs and called it a night.
It had been a little over a year since our previous trip to Japan, so for our first day there, we wanted to do something with a relatively low difficulty level. And so! we went to our beloved Ikebukuro. Our first destination was the Sunshine City Aquarium, because, knowing us, we could spend hours there, and pretty much all the other things we'd do in Ikebukuro (shopping, mostly) could be done in a much shorter time frame. Also, they recently revamped their penguin exhibit, and we wanted to check it out. There were signs leading to Sunshine City that kept asking, "Have you seen the flying penguins?" We were definitely intrigued, and pretty sure the penguins didn't actually fly, but it didn't matter because we just like it there.
The aquarium is on the same floor (the ceiling) as the planetarium, and we weren't planning on going because the last time we went to the planetarium, we saw a weird new age-y movie that looked pretty cool but wasn't as educational about the stars as we'd hoped. It was fun, but trying to schedule around shows is tricky, so we figured why bother. Well, I'll tell you why bother. Because we happened to go there when they were doing a special Attack on Titan planetarium show. We couldn't very easily resist that! (Actually, since we're not huge
fans of the series, we probably could have resisted it, except that 1) our beloved favorite voice actor is in it, 2) it's a Kodansha series and we like to support Kodansha, and 3) hello, it's an anime-themed planetarium show.) So we bought tickets! And then realized we didn't have a whole heck of a lot of time to look around the aquarium before we had to get to the planetarium...but we also had too much time to just sit around waiting, so into the aquarium we went!
The aquarium was mostly the same as it was the last time we went, except for a major overhaul of the sky experience part (which is where the penguins are). They reorganized the penguins, the river otters, the pelicans... I think that's it. Sadly, they no longer have anteaters (or sea otters, but they were in a different part of the aquarium), but they do have a new sunfish! We need to tell Cecille about that, since she loves sunfish. It was kind of funny looking at it, because it's basically a giant, flat, metallic, round fish, so I imagined it got its name from sailors looking into the ocean and being blinded by the sun reflecting off of this fish.
But let me tell you about the penguins. They moved their tank so that it was on the edge of the roof, and they deliberately chose not to give the tank a background. So when the penguins dive down under the water, you look into the tank, and you see a cityscape on the other side, so it really does look like the penguins are flying over the city! I really love that kind of creativity. And, for those of you who want to see penguins flying overhead, the tank is curved so you can walk under part of it and look up at penguins. AND, just in case the penguins decide to be poring and hang out on land or at the surface all day, they do a demonstration where they lure the penguins into the appropriate "flying" area by tossing fish into the tank. It was really very cool, and whoever thought of it gets lots of gold stars.
And basically we got to watch that demonstration and it was time to go to the planetarium for the show. We probably could have looked around the aquarium a little bit more, since we ended up being the first ones in the waiting area, but it was nice to get off our feet. There was so much walking and standing on this trip, oh my goodness. But I have been typing long enough, so I will share the details of Attack on Titan: Inside the Dome next time.
Today I'm thankful for random kindly old men, getting to see the flying penguins, making it home safely, Page being relatively good about using the litter box while we were gone, and Singapore Airlines always supplying us with Haagen Dazs.