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So a little while back, the cool people at Centigrade-J were offering free first issues of jrock ink Magazine. I applied because it was free, and also because I really liked what the guys at Centigrade-J have written about over the years. I'm sure the copy I got was lovingly tucked into its envelope in Boo's blood, even. (Hey, go watch their dubious video ad if you haven't done that yet.)

Good points:

the pillows
Siam Shade
Learning Japanese the Boo Method

Bad points:

A slight over-seasoning of visual kei.

As for the contents of the magazine proper, jrock ink is actually a well put together fanzine. The writing is at first glance erratic but obviously fond of its subject. The layout is a bit sparse, and there's this crazy amount of white space everywhere. Some of it is classy. Some of it is just sparse. I personally wouldn't have minded a thinner magazine with even slightly larger print and less stylistic elements over the white space. Being dead myopic has its downsides. The main articles, as they have defined it, are Growth Potential (introductory editorial), Hot Commodity (interview), Behind Closed Doors (editorial article -- I'm guessing this space will be for inside looks?), International Business (following bands on lives?), Conference Call (interview), Product Overview (reviews), Reevaluation (reviews of older things) and The Break Room (Japanese lessons with Boo).

For a first issue, I think they did good by interviewing Yamanaka Sawao (the pillows). Apart from banking on the appeal to anime-types, I felt the interview was also very nicely done, and felt clearly like everyone was having fun (more on this subject later too). In fact, I think the interview (and Boo's corner) were the things that actually made this magazine work for me. And, because I like the pillows, it was nice to be able to pick up an interview in English and learn about Yamanaka-san's run-ins with Iranian Chinese Mafia vs. the Yakuza in Shibuya. That was cool. I learnt a lot about the music and its influence. And I think that's the point. The interview was done by Go Wells (same guy from jrocknyc -- if you look at his blog, it seems he's got interviews with Ellegarden and such also lined up.)

The next article was about the closing down of the Hide Museum (Rita Chen). Again, interesting choice, because it has an obvious appeal to the the VK audience. The article was clear, almost too concise. I'd have liked to have heard more about what the author thought about Hide, what his music meant to the person looking directly at the exhibits and what those exhibits meant to the person beholding them. The history of Hide, the protests of foreign fans and the reasons behind the closing were interesting trivia, but I think that seeing as how this might be one of the last times anyone sees the museum, it would've been nice to have a personal touch.

International Business - Tripping with Blood (Roger Shackelford) - I'll say upfront, vk isn't my cup of tea, so I think this and the next interview were lost on me in terms of subject matter. I'm also a firm believer in if the writer is good, it doesn't matter what they throw at you. That said, this was a pretty interesting journal-style article on BLOOD's concerts in Mexico City last year. I also don't think it's every day anyone gets to read about Mexican visual kei, so props to jrock ink for this.

The final interview in this issue was a phone interview with the vocalist and drummer of D'espairsRay (please excuse my inability to replicate fonts) by Josephine Yun. It's a pretty standard interview, which I felt was also quite bland as a result. In the other two articles where actual interaction with the musicians involved was had, there was a clear feeling of getting to know everyone. In this, I just felt the distance. The questions revolved around coll:set, the band's new album, the processes behind the album and what they felt about the future. Maybe it'll be of help to a fan. Oddly, there was also a question about what the band felt would be English-speaking fans' reactions to their lyrics. A small sample of lyrics was helpfully attached. I don't get it. It's not child-safe. But it's not really what I think many 13-year-olds aren't exposed to these days. I appreciated the questions about how the band perceived fans from different nationalities though.

One of the best parts about Centigrade-J was its stock of reviews. Especially with Boo or Da Crank running the keyboard, I was always able to expect a knowledgeable and thoughtful review about...nearly everything. The opening (detailed) review was about Gackt's Diabolos. Y'know, the one with the cover of him as a Diablo level boss? I haven't heard anything from this album yet, or its singles. But even for a review of Gackt, I'm going to say the descriptions appeared almost too rich. It's certainly very detailed, which is helpful, but either this album was perfect (which makes me dubious), or someone skipped their chance to critique this by track. I would have appreciated a thorough critique (or even hints of criticism), if only to balance out the gushing. FYI, there is also a neat box of Gackt and his vampire fetishing included with the article. (Review of Diabolos by Gerald Tarrant.)

This was followed by two short reviews of Hameln (Kirito) and Goover (HIGH and MIGHTY COLOR -- again, excuse my handicap with replicating symbols) by Boo. The difference in economy and style was refreshing. The reviews were fun, they made me feel what the music of the album might've been about, and I learn all kinds of horrible band recombinations that make me wish never to hear them. But that's what a good review should do.

Da Crank retells his attending the last Siam Shade concert there ever was (cut short as it was). His review of Siam Shade II is probably more of a comparison between II, IV and V, and probably not enough on II. Interesting trivia, but could assume too much that people know who Siam Shade are before reading. Are? Were? They are good.

And then there is that Japanese lesson. It's like Japanese for Busy Otaku, absolutely educational stuff. Read this, and you will know the secrets of talking to normal Japanese people exactly like they do in romantic manga, with special touches like all those heartbreaking phrases from those Japanese lyrics we know are just thinly disguised bits of moon poetry. (There should be more of this stuff. It's adorable.)

Now, would I put down money for the issue? I would. If nothing else, to see where this is going. I'm still not exactly sure if the focus will primarily be on visual kei (or its derivatives) rather than a more diverse view of Japanese rock, and this probably is going to lead to a rather misleading masthead. The writing can gel on its own, I'm sure. The promise of more interviews with bands I might be interested in, Ellegarden is one, certainly holds promise. So I'd put down money for the next issue, rather than a subscription.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 2nd, 2006 08:36 pm (UTC)
ohhh nice review ^^
Apr. 2nd, 2006 08:44 pm (UTC)
Thanks. :)
Apr. 2nd, 2006 09:16 pm (UTC)
Thanks for this review! A lot of people seem to have gotten this magazine, but no one has really written about their opinion of it. :\
I think I'm going to look into future issues of this magazine. I want to see what Ellegarden has to say :)
Apr. 3rd, 2006 04:37 pm (UTC)
Yeah, me too. I'm going to give it another issue to sort of see what direction they're taking. I'm still bugged by the veering towards visual kei part. It can be argued that most of the bands we collectively like were somehow mislabeled/attached to/evolved from visual kei if they're from the 90s, but. Well, if it follows the book jrock ink, then, that probably is where it's headed. :/
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )