Men Can Be Flowers Too: Asian Masculinities in Popular Culture

NIcholas Tse as Hua Wuque, The Proud Twins
Nicholas Tse as Hua Wuque, The Proud Twins

Every time I see articles about young Asian actors leaving behind their “flower boy” roles for more “manly” characters, I feel some kind of way. Such articles act like attractiveness and masculinity cannot go hand it hand. They might if their authors were watching what I watch.

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Redefining Heroism in World Trigger and Kuroko’s Basketball

We often think of heroes as being physically strong, but anime series like World Trigger and Kuroko’s Bastketball make us rethink what it means to be hero. While both lead characters are characterized as physically weak, they remain central to the action and make selflessness the new heroic standard.

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My Favoritest Favorite. . . Songs By Bias K-pop Groups!

I like a lot of K-pop groups (a LOT…of K-pop groups), but I have four bias groups (SS501, Shinhwa, SHINee and Super Junior), my favoritest favorites. I looked at my iTunes to see which songs by my bias groups I played the most. I was surprised!

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In Wuxia, Princess is Not a Bad Word: Nirvana in Fire

Nihuang, Nirvana in Fire
Nihuang, Nirvana in Fire

Many people equate princess culture with Disney, but the princesses in wuxia popular culture defy those expectations. The Chinese drama Nirvana in Fire counters mainstream princess culture by drawing from the tradition of strong women in wuxia.

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2015 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 23,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 9 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Half the Characters of Nirvana in Fire. . . Are On My Mind!

Nirvana on Fire

I decided to take it back to my Chinese drama roots and start watching Nirvana in Fire. I knew that Hu Ge would be in the lead role as Mei Changsu / Su Zhe / Lin Shu, but quickly became excited about the other characters. First, there is Lin Chen (Jin Dong), master martial artist/archivist of Langya Hall. I do love a man in white robes and a fan!  Then, there is the ever-petulant Liu Fei (Wu Lei), but honestly, dude does a good job as a bodyguard. NOBODY is going to touch Mei Changsu while Liu Fei’s on watch! Imagine my surprise when I discovered Meng Zhi, who is played by Chen Long and was also the lead in one of my favorite Chinese dramas, Patriotic Knights.  There is no shortage of strong women. I’ve always liked how nobody bats an eye at women generals like Nihuang (Liu Tao) or heads of investigative bureaus like Xia Dong (Zhang Lin Xin). Palace intrigue, politics and vengeance are the order of the day in Nirvana in Fire!

Yi Bang Won. . . Is On My Mind!

Yoo Ah In as Yi Bang Won, Six Flying Dragons
Yoo Ah In as Yi Bang Won, Six Flying Dragons

Every king has to start somewhere, and while Yi Bang Won (Yoo Ah In) is knee-deep in the foundations of the revolution in Six Flying Dragons, he makes time to give attention to his love life. I have to say I’m liking his criteria for women. Basically, it’s. . . “You see that girl over there? Yes, the one who burned down the Magistrate’s office. YES, the one who just stole my shirt. Yes, that one who keeps biting me. THAT’s my girl!” Completely oblivious to the fact that they are separated by class, Bang Won likes Boon Yi because she is strong and not down for the status quo.  She’s clever and cute, and clearly Bang Won appreciates her, even when she’s rejecting him!

Masaharu Fukuyama. . . . Is On My Mind!

Masaharu Fukuyama

That moment when you realize that the guy you liked in that J-drama you flew through is the guy you like in that K-drama you are nowhere near finishing. I really liked Masaharu Fukuyama in Galileo: his lack of a sense of humor, his crazy hobbies, his quirky way of solving crimes. I don’t know physics professors who roll like that, tho. I kinda thought I had seen him in something else, but couldn’t remember. Then, it hit me! He is in Ryomaden! I guess it’s time to dust off the samurai sword!

Caterpillars to Butterflies: The Progression of Veteran K-pop Artists

Despite the regular insistence that it is disposable and only for teenagers, K-pop has managed to have several groups and artists attain veteran status. Over time, these artists develop their image and sound in ways that also embrace their beginnings.

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Moody K-dramas and their Moody Leads

Dramatic music. Shadowy settings. Mysterious villains. This can only mean one thing: a moody K-drama! I love my romantic comedies, sageuks and melodramas, but I have a special place in my heart for the police story, especially the “special task force,” the detectives-not-detectives, the “we don’t exist” teams found in K-dramas. More importantly, I love their dramatic, moody male leads.

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The Karasuno Volleyball Team……..Is On My Mind!


There is no reason why anyone should get this worked up over an anime volleyball tournament!

While they may have been “Flightless Crows,” the Karasuno volleyball team are now owning that court. Who knew there could be so much trash talk in volleyball? It’s amazing that these guys can even be on a team, given their radically different personalities and their sketchy coach. Yet, they are steadily making progress through the tournament. Fly, Karasuno!

HQ Director Shinoda……Is On My Mind!

Border HQ Director Shinoda Masafumi, The Tiger of Border

It’s always the quiet ones you have to watch out for. In World Trigger, HQ Director Shinoda Masafumi is a Border executive who comes off as the voice of reason when Director Kido looks like he’s going off the deep end.  You barely remember he’s there. Sure, at the beginning, we hear whispers of Shinoda being the most powerful Agent with a normal trigger, but you’re not really paying attention to that. That is, until the Second Neighbor Invasion and it’s all hands on deck.  Then you remember that he trained Kei Tachikawa, the best swordsman in Border. Then you see why he earned the nickname “Tiger of Border.” Shinoda isn’t just a good warrior, he’s a smart one.  Battle on, Shinoda!

K-drama Characters to Love and Loathe

We all watch K-dramas to see the actors we like, but if you’ve watched enough K-dramas, you may have noticed that certain actors frequently show up in strong supporting roles. As a result, some actors gain a reputation for playing good guys, and others gain a reputation for portraying punks. Here are some of my favorite K-drama actors who play characters to love and loathe!

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Cha Gun Woo…….Is On My Mind!

Kim Bum as Cha Gun Woo
Kim Bum as Cha Gun Woo

And not in a good way. Dude, we GET IT! You are carrying a grudge because someone killed your girlfriend. I like how at the beginning we are reminded that this is a fictional work. Of course it is, because no one could be as angsty as Cha Gun Woo (Kim Bum) in real life! He’s more upset than the girlfriend’s brother. And this stunt in Episode 9? That would get you more than kicked off the team. And here I was just about to forgive you for that unflattering haircut and straggly facial hair!