Sunday, October 2, 2016

Elfen Lied - Anime Review

Anime has been one of my pastimes during the last few months. I've been watching some famous ones that anime fans would consider classic - Steins;Gate, Puella Madoka Magica, etc. Hours ago I just finished Elfen Lied. When you look for "greatest anime of all time" in YouTube, you almost always get Elfen Lied in the list. I'm not gonna lie - it got my attention due to its gory content.

I would have to say, it didn't live up to my expectations at all.

Well, here is my SPOILER review.

The Characters

The first thing I have to say is the characters are freaking flat. None of them is likable. None of them makes me feel emotionally attached to. None of them is really fully developed. 

We have Kouta, who had a dark childhood from watching his little sister and father being killed by Lucy / Nyu whom he considered as a friend. We have Lucy / Nyu, who as a child was bullied and betrayed by normal humans. We have Mayu, who was sexually abused by her stepfather. We have Kurama, who lost his newborn and wife, because his newborn was a Diclonius. I'm supposed to sympathize with these characters I guess. But they are so poorly-developed and so lacked of vibe. And the flashbacks didn't help either. At times I felt myself waiting for the emotional touch and it felt like it almost reach me, but then disappeared quickly.

What disturbs me most is, they didn't even try to explain why Lucy / Nyu was having split personality. I mean, she had been living her past few years in a lab facility and then suddenly when she escaped, she had split personality??? That's just too convenient for the plot, which brings me to the next point.

The Plot

The anime opened with intriguing gory scenes of a Diclonius escaping from a experimental lab facility. Then it built up to pre-climax with explanations on events in the past, including the childhood of Lucy / Nyu and how she befriended Kouta. There were little hints at the first few episodes signalling something happened in the past, and then flashbacks towards the ending which supposed to disclose the "twist". Well in short, the big twist was - *drumroll* - that Lucy / Nyu as a child was the killer of Kouta's family. I think this is the most interesting part in the whole of the series.

The gory scenes were, well gory, and that's it. They didn't leave a strong impression on me and neither were they disturbing, particularly #35 (Mariko) who was Kurama's daughter. I felt that more could be done to this character. She was supposedly raised in a lab since she was born and isolated from all other human beings. Her becoming of a blood thirsty killer and her attachment to the idea of Kurama being a father were not well-explained and simply unconvincing.

And what was the experiments conducted in the lab facility anyway? What exactly were they trying to achieve? It didn't seem to be solely for academical purposes. Towards the ending it was shown the director of the lab, Kakuzawa took off his wig and revealed that he, too was a Diclonius. Quite a reveal but I needed to ask - and then what? And in the same scene we saw that Arakawa decided to hide the identity of Kouta, being related to Lucy / Nyu - again, for convenience of the plot.

The character of Bando seemed very redundant as well. He didn't make any significant contributions or advancements to the plot. And the part where Kurama fixed his artificial hand in exchange for him to kill Mariko - first of all, why did he think Bando can kill her when she is so-all-powerful? Second of all, how did he even know Bando would be at the beach? 

The Ending

I found myself asking "that's it?" towards the last scene - surprised to find that it concluded with a mere 13 episodes. I've always liked short anime but, this one just left you hanging. Its open ending is the worst in the history of open endings.

The last scene led us to believe that Lucy / Nyu survived and came back to Kouta. If so, how? The organization behind the experimental lab facility appeared to be having quite the influence with the government, the police and the special forces. It couldn't be this simple that they left her alone after all these hard work of capturing her alive. 

All in all, Elfen Lied was a total disappointment and certainly overrated in my opinion.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Me Before You - A Book Review

I had just finished The Witcher 3 (minus the expansions) on PS4 and there was no good free games available for a few months now - damn you Sony. Hence recently I've gone back to reading. It felt like high school again. I used to drive to my friend ST's house to borrow some books during the school holidays. Normally I came back with 5 or 6 and I would stack them neatly on my study table and evaluate which one to start.

I have no idea why this book in particular could squeeze a review out of me. But here I am, back with a new post on my blog that I have abandoned since... let me check... January 2015! That was more than a year ago! And I should be ashamed that I didn't get to finish what I started. Well, in my own defense I would like to clarify that my blog is not exactly intended for popularity purposes. It's actually like a personal journal which I don't mind letting anyone read. So that means I could just come back and write something whenever I feel like it, and not write anything whenever I don't feel like it, right? Right?

Okay, back to the review. Before you proceed, I should just warn you (if anyone is reading at all), that this is a SPOILER review of Jojo Moyes' Me Before You. Proceed at your own risk!

First of all, I think it is quite well-written for a romantic novel and it's so refreshing to the eye. Well maybe it's because I have never been exposed to too many novels of this genre. I distinctly remember reading some during my teens. I remember A Greek God At The Ladies' Club by Jenna McKnight, Message In A Bottle by Nicholas Sparks, and some book which I can't remember by Nora Roberts. That was pretty much it, and they were so bad I needed to drag myself forcefully towards the last page, in between countless eye-rollings and frustrated outbursts. Oh, not forgetting to mention the ever so popular Fifty Shades Of Grey that everyone made a big fuss about. E.L.James had so limited vocabulary that the whole book had repetitive sentence structures and repetitive words. What I'm saying is, I'm pretty happy with Me Before You, given my experience with books of this genre.

The story was told with Louisa Clark's narration, with a few chapters from different characters point of view. There was one from Camilla Traynor, one from Steven Traynor, then Nathan, and one from Katrina Clark. These chapters, I felt, were entirely unnecessary and pointless. They didn't contribute anything to the whole story. It was as if the author worried that it would be too bland and so she tried adding some salt and pepper. But totally unnecessary.

I felt a little depressed upon finishing the book. I guess it's because prior to reading Me Before You, I was on Khaled Hosseini's A Thousand Splendid Suns, which is super depressing! That might have affect my mood a little. Well you could probably guess that Me Before You is a sad ending. But as much as I hate it, it actually makes perfect sense to me. I can totally understand why Will Traynor had to do what he did. It's a little selfish, yes. But let's face it, you gotta live (or not live) for yourself. It is an interesting issue to explore - whether it is right to take your own life.

Finally, here's a trailer to the movie that's coming out in June this year. I don't think I would be able to watch it alone so I guess I would have to drag Feeder into this. Sorry!

P.S. This is the first time I'm blogging since I bought my Surface Pro 3. And I just gotta say, the keyboard is amazing!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Annapurna Base Camp (ABC) Trek - Day 3

The best thing about trekking, is that you get to meet strangers. Along the trek you'd give way to a group of Koreans. Upon saying anyo haseyo you'd get a reply that they were on their way to ABC as well. While waiting for dinner at the dining hall, you'd be placed next to a couple from Germany or Canada. And it always seem natural to start an introduction and get the conversation flowing. Or you'd meet two friendly Chinese-Australian ladies. And the next thing you know, you'd be studying Lonely Planet together and recommending good restaurants in Pokhara.

I mean, for me that would seldom happen when I travel in the cities or towns. Hence that was like something different.

Day 3: Dovan - Deurali

On day 3 the hardship continued. Though the trek was easier compared to the previous two days - less steps / rocks to climb and shorter walking time.

And something motivating happened. Living in Malaysia my whole life, I hardly have the chance to experience autumn, let alone winter. So you could imagine our excitement at the first sight of snow.

First sight of snow.

At about 3pm we had already reached Deurali, the place we would be spending the night in. Perhaps it was not peak season in December, most of Deurali guest houses were closed.

Reaching Deurali.

From our guest house overlooking the rest of Deurali. Most of which were closed.

We would be staying in Shangri-la Guest House. What luxury!

That day was an easy day. I remember I still had the energy to laugh along the way and upon reaching. And we had plenty of free time to roam around taking pictures and having snow fights.

One of the many silly pictures we took.

God knows what shit I'd been through for this profile picture.

The trio who made it!

At night, again, the two were getting ready for star-shooting. Come on guys! It became a routine or something?

Ninjas at night.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Annapurna Base Camp (ABC) Trek - Day 2

Day 2: Chommrong - Dovan

The trek was shorter than Day 1, but it was more difficult. We needed to pass by Bamboo to get to Dovan. Bamboo was a valley thus it meant downhill trek and then uphill climb.

According to the itinerary, we were supposed to trek downhill for 30 minutes, and then uphill for 1 hour to Lower Sinuwa. And continue uphill to Upper Sinuwa for 1 hour, and another 1 hour downhill to Bamboo. Then 2 hours of uphill climb to Dovan. I didn't have the energy to keep track on the time. But overall, I kind of made it with 30 minutes (I think) behind schedule.

Just only left Chommrong. Downhill trek.

When crossing the steel bridge, a herd of donkeys were coming from the other side. I was actually brushing past the donkeys and they were like recklessly hitting me with their heads or bodies. It was a cute experience. ;)

Crossing a steel bridge.

This was the distance between Chommrong and Sinuwa. Basically these two places were located at different mountains!

Passing by Sinuwa.

Stopping to catch breath.

Couldn't... go... on...

We stopped for lunch in Bamboo and there was a weighing spring that we excitedly tried out. Feeder's bag was 13 kg, including the camera. Mine was only 4 kg. Due to my incapability Feeder had to put more load in his bag than expected. KC's was 7 kg and the porter's was 20 kg including his own belongings.

The load of Feeder's bag. Plus the camera would be approximately 13 kg.

Eating fried rice in Bamboo.

Upon reaching Dovan. Me - half dead. KC and Feeder - chilling.

There was still sunlight when we reached Dovan so I decided I could still afford to "wash up", while KC warmed my jacket.

KC was warming my jacket as instructed by Feeder. ;)
That night Feeder had an idea. We bought 2 bottles of hot water to put near to our feet, inside the sleeping bags. I slept soundly that night, while Feeder and KC went star-gazing, dressed like ninjas.

Turning into a cocoon every night in order to survive.

Star-gazing in Dovan.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Annapurna Base Camp (ABC) Trek - Day 1

God knows why and how did I agree to go trekking with Feeder. I mean, seriously what was I thinking? Trekking, of all activities, is something I would never, in a million years, do. When I think back on the hardship, it still gives me the shivers. Everyday we walked 5 to 7 hours, depending on the schedule and our speed. Every night we slept in heater-less rooms with temperature as cold as -13°C on the outside of the concrete walls. It required courage to perform simple tasks like showering, brushing our teeth or going to the toilet. The mere thought of having to touch the icy cold water or taking off our clothes scared us. So I didn't shower for 7 days, wore the same clothes and only changed my socks once.

Day 1: Kyume - Chommrong

We started the trek at about 11am from Kyume, as far as the 4-wheel-drive could take us - basically to the end of the road. It was pretty easy at the beginning with mostly flat treks, through some greenery, wooden and steel bridges. But after few hours of non-stop walking, I felt exhausted already. The guide, who looked at me worriedly, said that this part was the easiest of the trek and the real hard work had yet to start.

Passing by residential area on the way.

Crossing a river.

Towards the end I was breathless from the uphill climb and the long hours of walk. I only allowed myself to look at the ground 30 cm in front of my feet. I was afraid that if I looked further, I would lose all will to go on. Feeder and the guide walked behind me, KC and the porter were already 15 or 30 minutes in front of us.

"If she can't continue, she can wait for us in Dovan or Deurali. We can go to ABC and come down and go back together," I heard the guide telling Feeder.

I am not going to make it, I thought.

We reached Chommrong at 6:30pm, half-dead.

The view of Annapurna and Fish Tail from Chommrong. The snowy mountains still seemed far from our reach.

On the mountains we needed to pay to get hot shower, hot water and to be able to sit by the heater. There was no heater in the room. Hence the only source of warmth was from dinner, and my own body heat. I wrapped myself with a Uniqlo heat tech, a long sleeve cotton shirt, a fleece jacket, a Uniqlo ultra light sleeveless down jacket, Nike winter jacket, and a red brand-less down jacket I bought from Kathmandu. Not mentioning a pair of fleece pants and trekking pants from Uniqlo, a knitted cap and a pair of wind / water proof gloves. (I can't believe I need a whole paragraph to list down my clothing.) Well, the result was my transformation into a ball.

A big red ball.

The first night was quite depressing for me. I woke up in the middle of my sleep from the cold. Feeder had just gone back from star-gazing. I cried and told him I was cold despite being in the sleeping bag and the blanket. My feet felt as if they were stored in the refrigerator. But there was nothing we could do and I dozed off.

Feeder's star-gazing.

The next day, we continued to walk...

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Open Water Diving Course - How to Assemble the Equipment

Like I said, Feeder and I went for our PADI license in Lang Tengah few weeks ago. It was a four-day theory and practical lessons. Since we do not dive like once a month - in fact, hardly once a year - I thought I'd prepare some notes (before I forget) about things that I've learnt during the four-day-course. So that I can revisit those skills before my next dive. *wink*

Refer to above video from YouTube.

Step 1: Slide the BCD (buoyancy control device) into the oxygen tank from the top. Make sure the O-ring on the tank is facing the BCD.

Step 2: Use one hand to hold the BCD in place, the other tighten the belt. Make sure the O-ring is just above the level of the BCD neck area. If the position of the tank is too high, it may knock the back of your head. Try lifting and shaking the BCD to check if the tank is properly secured.

Step 3: Align the O-ring with the first stage opening. When properly positioned, tighten the yoke screw with three fingers. This is to keep you from over-tightening the screw. Check that the BCD hose and the pressure gauge is positioned on your left, the second stage and the alternate air source on your right.

Step 4: Attach the BCD hose to the BCD inflator. You should be able to hear a click when it's properly connected.

Step 5: While turning on the air valve, place the pressure gauge face down or away from you. This is to avoid injury in case the glass burst due to leakage (highly unlikely). Turn the valve slowly at first. When it is pressurized, turn it fully open, and then close it by turning it one time, using three fingers.

Step 6: Check the pressure gauge. It should read about 200 barg. Test the regulator by pressing the purge button. Inflate the BCD by pressing the red button on the low pressure inflator and then release the air.
Note: During diving, low on air is considered at 50 barg or lower.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

the geographically blind - living up to my standards

So Feeder and I were at the Subang Airport, checking in our luggage for a flight to the east coast (for open water diving course).

Me : I would like to check in our luggage.

Firefly ground staff : Flying to?

Me : (mind went blank for two seconds) ...
        (looked for the destination on the printed flight itinerary) ...
        (and failed to locate it) Kelantan...

Feeder : What? No, we're flying to Kuala Terengganu.

Me : (still reading the flight itinerary) ...
        (and found it) Oh yes!

Staff : ... (proceeded with check in procedure)

Me : (to Feeder) Are you sure we are flying to Kuala Terengganu?
        What if the hotel staff pick us up in Kota Bharu airport?

Feeder : I am sure.

Me : But last time we went to Lang Tengah, we took the boat from Kelantan.

Feeder : No, we didn't! We went to Terengganu!

In the end the hotel staff picked us up in the Kuala Terengganu airport. And we got our diving license.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

How did I survive Paris - the people and their language

All my life I have been fascinated by the idea of staying in a foreign country and experience their culture. I guess I was granted this opportunity last August. I had been sent to Paris, France for a 3-month-assignment.

The biggest challenge I found was understanding the people, and making them understand me - obviously not all of them could speak English.

The most important phrase, to me, is not "bonjour" or "merci". Nor it is "bonne soirée", that is my favourite word instead - something I muttered everyday when it is time to be released from the office. The most important phrase - so important that it involves the matter of life and death - is, "beaucoup sauce s'il vous plaît". That was something I had to say everyday during lunch in the office canteen.

My colleagues who worked in the same project are very nice and friendly people. Some are Venezuelan. One of them told me she had been working in Paris for 6 - 7 years and married to a Parisian. Like me, she was really excited when she first started working in Paris. And traveled almost every weekend. So she could totally understand how I felt - wanting to see and experience as much as possible.

However some Parisian can be really "unbelievable". My first culture shock was on the first day that I arrived to the office. At the lobby we were registered as visitors with a temporary access card, and were told to obtain a permanent one from the administration department. So we took the elevator to the administration floor and apparently we were not able to access the secured gate with our temporary card. We knocked on the glass door to attract the attention of a lady (obviously French) sitting near the entrance. With sign language we tried to tell her we couldn't enter and would she please open the door for us. Perhaps it wasn't obvious to her that three foreign, yellow-skin noobs were seeking help - she took one look at us and continued to her business. I watched in disbelief as she went on typing on her keyboard. My two other colleagues gave me the get-used-to-it-if-you-want-to-survive look (it wasn't their first time in Paris), and turned to the other entrance.

At the other entrance, we did the same trick and this time it worked. The plump lady (also obviously French) let us in. I gratefully thought the world is still beautiful after all. We said thank you and this was what she replied us:

"No English, please!"

When I told my friends this story, CA suggested that I speak Bahasa Melayu to her. And she'd be too frustrated and switched to English herself. But Feeder said given his experience in France, she'd just ignore me. I couldn't agree more.

Had I been treated like this the whole time in Paris? Of course not. Like any other places, there were both good and bad people. The universe always had to keep its balance, didn't it? 

So Feeder and I were near to the Palais Garnier, trying to find our way to Galeries Lafayette. We knew Paris was not a safe place. Hence even when studying the map we were keeping a lookout. Two ladies approached us, told us in English that a few pickpockets were right behind them, about to reach. They only target tourists and obviously we looked like one. They would come ask for donation with a piece of paper appearing to be list of donors as distractions. Do not talk to them - just wave our hands and get them going. We thanked the kind ladies for their warning and was being even more cautious. A minute later a cute guy nice gentleman in suit and tie approached us with the same warning. Wow! Two good deeds in a row! I was rather surprised.

Inside of Palais Garnier.

Another time we were in Dinan, an outskirt town 400 km away from Paris. Again I was studying the map (that's what tourists do). A lady came pointed at the map and said "Vous êtes ici", to which I replied "Merci".

The old medieval town of Dinan.

A similar experience when Nicole and I were looking for the China Town near Place d'Italie (we were craving for char siew and roasted pork). A guy who looked like a gangster gentleman came throwing us sentences in French, which I could catch only one word - "adresse". Obviously he was asking us if we had the address so he could point us the right direction. He performed sign language when I said "China town". Another good deed gratefully accepted.

So, did I enjoy Paris? Yes.
Am I willing to stay there again given the chance? Yes.
Am I willing to stay there for long term (more than a year)? No.

I guess Paris did not live up to my expectations. It was not a city of romance, no! There were always people kissing and making out on the street but city of romance? Definitely not what I had in mind. At least I didn't feel anything when I was travelling with Feeder.
Paris. Is. Overrated.

It's not very convenient when you can't speak French. And the people, no offence but they're not very... patient and considerate. And the weather, towards the end and beginning of the year, was getting freezing cold.

I guess I can give a lot of excuses for not wanting a long stay in Paris. But then it all comes down to one reason.
Do I love Paris? No.

Monday, June 9, 2014


Last August, I was sent to Paris for a 3 months short-term assignment, together with a few of my colleagues. Seizing this opportunity, I asked my colleague, a semi-pro photographer, to help with my pre-wedding photo shoots.

Feeder was going to travel to Paris, bringing the wedding gown which I have booked from Malaysia. I would need to hire a make-up artist and a hair stylist in Paris. With the help of Google I settled with Charles Gillman. He had good testimonials, experienced with Asian facial features, responsive in emails, reasonably priced (85 euro for photoshoot), and most importantly, he could speak English.

In our email correspondence I asked for reference of a hair stylist and he introduced me to one whom he always worked with. Her name was Danielle Carson, charging at 80 euro. I paid Charles the deposit, confirmed the appointment, and scheduled for them to arrive at my hotel at 6:30 am.

Therefore I had all the items on my list checked, or so I thought.

On the day of the photoshoot, at 6:30 am I checked my email, and saw this:

From: Danielle Carson <>
To: shinloo <>
Sent: Sep 28, 2013 1:08:21 AM

Dear Shinloo,

How are you? I hope you read this e mail in time, I am right in the middle of fashion week and I had a show booked on the day of your shoot at 10 am. Unfortunately they changed the call time to 6 am just today. I am just e mailing you now because I just got in from doing three shows and haven't had a second to stop all day and they just informed us a couple hours ago.

What I can propose is I can do your hair for you at 5 am today, if you read this in time, but unfortunately it's impossible to cancel the show.

I'm really really sorry this has never happened before I will happily try and accommodate you at 5AM and I tried calling other hairdressers I know but unfortunately it's too last minute.

I hope we can figure something out in time,

Again I am so sorry,

Danielle Carson

I stared at it for 2 minutes. Re-read and re-read. The email was sent 5 hours before our appointment. I almost cried. What could I do without a hair stylist?

Then I started calling Charles, who told me he went to the wrong hotel branch. He was supposed to come to Residhome Hotel in La Defense, but instead he went to another branch in God-knows-where. But fear not, as he was on his way. He said he couldn't get in touch with Danielle and then I told him about Danielle's email.

At about 7:30 am he arrived. We wasted some time to discuss whether or not to go on with the photoshoot. And then we decided to get the make-up done first and think of the hair later. Charles was nice and helpful. He tried to search for a salon nearby that I could go to. And he kept apologizing on Danielle's behalf.

Charles working his magic hands on me.

After Charles left, my colleagues and I spent some time having brain storming session on what to do with my hair. Couldn't have done it without them. =)

From left - Nicole, Chloe and SeeYee. Me sitting in the middle.

In the end I still decided to leave it to the professional since the salon nearby was already open for business, which, as far as I know, was very unusual in France. After some hand-waving and picture-showing we finally got the salon to understand what we wanted.

Me and Feeder, in front of my office building in La Defense.

This was how I began a long day of pre-wedding photoshoot in Paris. 

Hence fellow brides out there, heed my warning! DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT hire Danielle Carson the hair stylist in Paris. I pray that the same fate will fall upon her on her wedding, and her birthday, and her prom night (I guess she's too old for that), and any important event in her life!

Don't get me wrong - Charles Gillman did a fabulous job! But this Danielle, she's irresponsible, unprofessional and useless! Below was an email I sent after the photoshoot:

From: shinloo
To: Danielle Carson <>
Sent: Oct 4, 2013 6:18:34 PM


Sending your email 5 hours before our appointment, I am sure you already knew I will not be able to read your email in time. This is equivalent to not showing up at the last minute and totally unprofessional. 


I am grateful for your effort to try to help. I believe it was a bad day for both of us. I hope you will be wise in selecting your partners in the future. 


Below was Charles' reply:

To: shinloo
Sent: Oct 7, 2013 1:44:50 PM

Hello Shinloo,

Sorry for the delayed reply, this weekend’s been rather busy. I just wanted to thank you for your email and I really hope that your shoot was enjoyable despite the actions of Danielle that morning. I wanted to let you know that we had a firm two hour discussion on Tuesday morning to follow up on her bad client service with yourself. Following on from this, we’ve made a decision that she will no longer be working with Charles Gillman Cosmetics – Paris, as she doesn’t fit our philosophy of superior customer service. 

Once again I apologise profusely, it was lovely to meet you and I hope that you enjoy the rest of your stay in Paris.

Kindest regards.


Great! Serves her right! I hope this ruins her career!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Wind Rises - The Review

Le vent se lève! ... il faut tenter de vivre!
~ Paul Valéry ~


It's a story of a man who put his aviation dream in the first place, and the love of his life the second. At least, that's how I interpret it.

Jiro Horikoshi was a aircraft designer who created the Mitsubishi A5M, to be used in the war - a war which he strongly opposed to. None of the aircraft survived. 

Knowing that his dream and career were always more important, his wife still support him nonetheless. She chose to leave him so she could die alone from tuberculosis, which was incurable.

I guess it's supposed to be inspiring. But to me, it is just damn sad. It may looks like he had accomplished a lot, and that he succeed in his dream. But I feel otherwise.

Below is a trailer of the movie, with the soundtrack that I really like.