So I Gave in and Tried HelloTalk

Yes, even though I told myself I’d only try it once I’m actually able to converse in Japanese. I’m weak.

But after staring at the HelloTalk app icon on my phone for months on end, I could no longer quell my curiosity and signed up for an account. I mean, the worst thing that could happen is that I’d get ignored, right? Or encounter someone rude, but eh. I could always block those.

So minutes later, I had a shiny HelloTalk account of my own, and without delay, typed up my profile information. I made absolutely sure to state that while my Japanese is extremely limited, I’m more than happy to just teach English for the time being. Even though I’m also there to learn, I didn’t want to burden potential language partners with having to teach me everything from A-Z.

Now, due to the nature of my profile info, I didn’t think I’d get many if any at all, language partners. Much to my surprise, I got about 7 within hours and by the next day, the number doubled.

By the end of my first week of using HelloTalk, I’d spoken to 40+ native Japanese speakers.

Here’re my observations regarding this app thus far:

It’s fun and addictive

It’s crazy how easily accessible Japanese native speakers suddenly are. Once upon a time, the thought of communicating with one seemed almost impossible, thanks to this massive thing called the Language Barrier Reef.

But now, I’m able to reach out to a huge community of Japanese people, and since the majority of them are at least able to carry a simple conversation in English, the language barrier is no longer so daunting.

I’ve had a pleasant experience so far. Most of them are incredibly helpful and I can receive answers almost instantly should I ask a question in the Moments section. Which also happens to be one of my favourite pages to creep on; they’re always posting gorgeous pictures of their travels, both in and outside of Japan, facts about their culture and Japanese language tips.

It’s incredibly convenient

The beauty of HelloTalk is that you not only have easy access to native speakers of the language you’re learning, you can also communicate with them through methods beyond texting. There’s no need to give out your Facebook, Skype, Discord, LINE or Kakaotalk details, no.

All you really need is HelloTalk, because just about everything is there. You can text, send audio recordings, audio call and video call.

Pretty nifty, right?

It’s great for networking

This should’ve been blatantly obvious, but I didn’t realise it until more and more Japanese people who live, are visiting and are going to visit Malaysia approached me, eventually asking to meet up. At first, I thought it was odd for people to so casually ask for meet ups, some even going as far as to ask this in the Moments section. That was, until one of the people I text with mentioned wanting to attend an English Conversation School. I was like, whaaat? There’s such a thing?

I’d known beforehand that there are ALTs in Japan (these are teachers who essentially chat with students to help them practice using the language) and that you can hire someone to speak to you in English for a price, but I didn’t think there’re actual schools for it. English Conversation Cafes too even.

Suddenly, the requests to meet up don’t seem that strange anymore. Of course, I pretty much ignore those who obviously aren’t interested in studying and will only consider those I’ve spoken to for awhile/aren’t creepy. I’ve only met one so far, and that was an interesting experience.

That said, to anyone reading this post, please make sure to meet in public if you do decide to accept such an invitation. A coffee shop is a good option; casual, simple and you can make a quick getaway in case the person turns out to be weird. And remember, that ol’ “Don’t get in a stranger’s car” thing our parents used to tell us when we were kids still applies now.

There’s more to teaching via conversation than meets the eye

So this is something I learned when I was thrown into my first audio call. I manage well enough when it comes to text messages; after all, I have more time to formulate a proper answer/question.

But when it comes to audio calls, it’s a whole different ball game. At least with text messages, I can pretend I’m just texting any other person on the internet- at the end of the day, I only have a tiny avatar that may or may not be them to represent them.

With audio calls, though, it’s not quite the same. Suddenly, there is a stranger’s voice on the other end of the line and it all gets too real. This isn’t some avatar I’m speaking to, it’s a real person. In creeps that familiar first-meeting nervousness and I find myself blanking momentarily. What am I supposed to say?

This is the part where I fall back on fail-safe questions like “Hey! How are you?” and “What are you studying/sort of work do you do?”. Thankfully, I’ve been lucky enough to get rather chatty, if a bit shy (yeah, contradictory, I know, but it makes sense if you speak to them) language exchange partners, the vast majority of which being Japanese men. Once they feel welcome, they seem to enjoy talking- so much so that they often, and subtly, take the lead in the conversation.

Teaching English via conversation… Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? I mean, all you have to do is talk with them so they could practice using English, right? Alas, it’s not that easy. Just like any other lesson, there needs to be a plan.

In a way, I’m extremely grateful for this, because they weren’t the only ones who learned something, I did too. To further illustrate this, I’ve already started preparing a list of first call questions for my next audio call with whomever it may be.

Patience is a virtue

While most of my language exchange partners are able to hold a conversation via text, it’s a bit more tricky during audio calls, which I quickly found out. Due to the lack of English speakers around them, it is difficult for them to put what they’ve already learned in theory into practice.

So more often than not, I’ve had to slow down my speech in order for them to catch up.

This lack of practice also means they take quite awhile to finish their sentences. I have, on more than one occasion, accidentally interrupted them mid-sentence, because I actually thought they were done. Oops.

The Japanese actually have a lot to say

I don’t know if it’s just my luck, but nearly every single person I’ve conversed with has a lot to say, despite their low speaking and listening proficiency. They may not be able to express themselves well in English, but they leave me impressed all the same.

They’re very careful in their thought processes and when they do give answers, they are very well-constructed.

On the other hand, most of my language exchange partners tend to be quite shy as well, so I have to be careful not to accidentally do anything that might make them withdraw.

As proof for how talkative they can be, my longest call lasted for an hour and a half, with the second longest lasting for a solid hour.

They’re also very self-depreciating

Or modest, which is a better word for it. As it is part of their culture to downplay their strengths, this shouldn’t really come as a surprise. But still.

Despite listing themselves as Beginners in English, most are able to carry as well as understand an English conversation via text. A far cry from my meager Japanese knowledge and I list myself as a Beginner. Honestly, I don’t even know enough to hold a conversation.

So, yeah. Haha. Give yourselves some credit, okay? Okay.

There really are gaijin hunters out there

I’ve always known that they exist, but I didn’t think they’d blatantly state on their profiles that the reason they’re learning English is because they’d like to have a white boyfriend.

Okay then. To each their own.

These people are the minority, though. Most female users tend to state on their profiles that they are not looking for romance. After witnessing how they can get bombarded with messages, I can see why.

Like any other social media, there’re pervs out there

As expected. But what can you do about it, huh? All you can do is block/ignore them and move on.

Thankfully enough, I’ve not had to block anyone just yet. The guys on this app are a lot less sleazy than the ones found on any other social media out there. Another point for HelloTalk.

In conclusion…

Despite how often it crashes, I really cannot recommend HelloTalk enough. I never realised how easy it is to connect with a huge community of people who speak a completely different language until this came along. And through it, I’ve found so many who love nearly all of the same things I do than I have on any other social media site- and even, real life.

Really happy, and I already have a tiny personal list of people I’d love to eventually meet face-to-face. Like how often can you find someone who shares the exact same love for languages I do? Or those who have near identical taste in entertainment that I do? Not a lot.

Seriously cool. 100000000/10 do recommend. I can’t wait till I can try this out in Chinese!

1+

TV Series Review: Yamada and the Seven Witches

Starring: Yamamoto Yusuke, Nishiuchi Mariya, Triendl Reina, Ide Takuya, Ono Ito, Mamiya Shotaro, Kobayashi Ryoko, Miyama Karen, Kojima Fujiko, Matsui Airi, Takuyama Hidenori, Nagae Yuuki

Genre: Romantic comedy, supernatural

Episodes: 8

Rating: 4/10

Ever since I started attending Japanese language classes, I’ve taken the initiative to watch more Japanese shows that extend beyond anime. Despite having seen a few since then, this will be the first one I’ll be touching on- simply because I suck and had next to no opportunity to write during the time. Perhaps one of these days I’ll write about the rest, because there were quite a few gems in the lot.

Anyway.

After watching so many slice of life films and tv shows, I decided I wanted to try something different. I wanted to see the Japanese’ hand on the fantasy genre. Should be interesting, right?

So, compelled by the eye-catching DVD cover and 3 for RM30 offer, I picked up “Yamada and the Seven Witches”, the live-action version of a manga series by Yoshikawa Miki.

What is it about?

The story starts with the introduction of the two main characters, Yamada Ryū (Yamamoto Yusuke) and Shiraishi Urara (Nishiuchi Mariya).

Yamada is the school delinquent. Much like a good chunk of anime/manga protagonists, Yamada is naive, blunt and as dumb as a sack of bricks. Shiraishi, on the other hand, is a quiet, smart girl who is currently being bullied by her peers.

One day, Yamada and Shiraishi accidentally trip whilst they are walking up a flight up stairs. A rough fall in which they knock into each other and inadvertently have their lips connect is where the string of events that follow begins. This is because after Yamada awakens from his fall, he realises that he’s in Shiraishi’s body, and she his.

They had swapped bodies.

What in the holy Hell?! Panic grips him and he works with her to return to his own body. Unfortunately for Yamada, however, it doesn’t just end there. He soon finds himself in a mind numbing web that involves witches, dastardly schemes and magic.

Time for the nitty gritty

If you’re the sort of person who likes watching shows with actual depth and meaning, you should probably give this one a pass.

Although “Yamada and the Seven Witches” does have its highlights, it is largely a show that runs on a senseless plot that solely depends on fanservice, with the added trait of trying to emulate the immature side of anime/manga as much as possible. It is for the latter reason that “Yamada and the Seven Witches” is rife with over the top reactions, strange logic and bizarre interactions that cannot be found in real life. The characters are, in the simplest term possible, caricatures.

So those who are unfamiliar with the nature of anime/manga will likely find this incredibly off-putting and nonsensical- although to be fair,  older fans of the genre will probably share the sentiment. The main difference is that they would understand why the material is the way it is. It is crack and honestly isn’t meant to be taken seriously.

That is not to say that this eight episode series is a total loss; as mentioned earlier, it does have its strong points.

These strong points are the cast and the light-hearted humour it is injected with. For all of “Yamada and the Seven Witches” faults, the actors and actresses have done no wrong and have simply done their job in giving a good performance. Colourful and vibrant, it is through their work that the series retains some semblance of entertainment value, thank Heavens.

So would I recommend this to anyone who wants anything remotely serious? Definitely not.

But I would recommend this to someone who doesn’t mind spending a lazy Sunday afternoon watching senseless fun and a near endless stream of fanservice.

“Yamada and the Seven Witches”? More like “Yamada and Every Man and Woman on the Planet”.

You get the picture.

1+

Beauty Review: Innisfree’s Apple Seed Deep Cleansing Foam

Beauty Review: Innisfree’s Apple Seed Deep Cleansing Foam

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you would have noticed that Korean beauty products have pretty much taken the world by storm- and that among those in the forefront is Innisfree.

A popular eco-friendly company that is made all the more attractive thanks to its reasonable prices, Innisfree has easily wormed its way to my list of favourite beauty brands. Which isn’t very easy, mind, since I tend to only like one product from any single brand and call it a day. But here we are.

So of course, when I was gifted with a generous amount of samples by Innisfree, my fondness for them grew all the more. Which prompted me to type up this blog post.

Today, I’ll be reviewing the Apple Seed Deep Cleansing Foam (RM39.31) from the Apple Seed Cleansing Kit Series.

What is it?

Enriched with “the vitality of apple seeds”, this Innisfree foam cleanser is and looks like, despite its marketing jargon, a pretty standard cleanser. Which is expected, given the fact that cleansers aren’t products that are supposed to be on your face for a long period of time. It’s a cleanse-and-rinse sort of deal, as you should know.

That being said, that doesn’t mean you can just buy any old cleanser off the rack. Effectiveness differs from product to product, and everyone’s skin is different. There is just no one-size-fits-all solution here.

But I digress.

For more information regarding the Apple Seed Deep Cleansing Foam, the official website states it is supposed to do the following:

  • The dense and abundant lather helps completely and delicately cleanse any makeup residue and impurities in the pores
  • The formulation with apple extract and apple seed oil smoothens out flaky dead skin cells to keep your skin looking and feeling healthy
  • Fresh apple fragrance helps you enjoy a refreshing cleansing time

Pretty standard, right? Right.

What is it like?

The cleanser comes in a white, creamy texture that gives off a clean, artificial scent with a hint of apple. Now that I’m getting used to using scented products, I can’t say that I mind it all that much. Still not fond of them, but this one is not overwhelming, at the very least.

As for its performance, this cleanser foams up easily and is able to remove oil and dirt from my face without so much as a fuss. To place emphasis on how well it cleans, my cotton pad catches next to no yellow residue whenever I tone afterwards.

And best of all? This Apple Seed product doesn’t leave behind a tight sensation on my skin. It’s pretty much all a girl can ask for from a cleanser.

Packaging

The main colours incorporated into the design are smooth white and bright green, which grants a young, fresh impression at first glance.

It’s nothing extraordinary, but its aesthetic minimalist appeal does not matter as much as its functionality, which again, does the job. That creamy cleanser is just one squeeze away, and the cap need only be snapped close once you’re done with it.

End result

A pleasant experience; it’s nice to use a product that does exactly what it says it does. Despite having used it several times, I’ve not experienced any tightness or dryness whatsoever. I’d even go as far as to say it helped with keeping my face oil-free for the most part of the day- and I have very greasy skin.

Quite unlike the nightmare that was the Hado Labo cleanser I tried awhile ago.

However, I would like to add that because I have very oily skin, dry types should probably stay away from this.

Where can I find it?

Innisfree.

Verdict

  • Product rating: 4/5
  • Packaging rating: 5/5

I might actually purchase this in the future.

Ingredients

Water, Glycerin, Myristic Acid, Stearic Acid, Potassium Hydroxide, Peg-32, Glyceryl Stearate, Peg-100 Stearate, Pyrus Malus (Apple ) Seed Oil, Pyrus Malus (Apple) Fruit Extract, Citrus Unshiu Peel Extract, Orchid Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Camellia Japonica Leaf Extract, Opuntia Coccinellifera Fruit Extract, Butylene Glycol, Sodium Methyl Cocoyl Taurate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Polyquaternium-7, Peg-90m, Disodium Edta, Sodium Benzoate, Fragrance.

 

2+

Movie Review: Let Me Eat Your Pancreas

Title: Let Me Eat Your Pancreas (Yes, the title is correct. I checked)

Japanese Title: 君の膵臓をたべたい || Kimi no Suizou wo Tabetai

Starring: Kitamura Takumi, Hamabe Minami, Oguri Shun, Kitagawa Keiko, Otomo Karen, Yamoto Yuma, Sakurada Dori, Kamiji Yusuke, Morishita Daichi

Genre: Romance

Rating: 9/10

Holy crap what is that title

If you’ve been on a lookout for a zombie movie, you’re going to be sorely disappointed with this flick from Japan. Because as funky as the title is, Let Me Eat Your Pancreas is anything but a gore fest.

Which is something I would have pinned it down as if not for the fact that I regularly lurk on the Moments page of HelloTalk. I saw people raving about how romantic/beautiful/poignant it is, so really, the thought of it being a horror flick pretty much diminished from my mind.

That doesn’t mean the same applies for everyone else, though. There was a handful of people at the cinema last night who kept staring at the screen, then at their tickets, then at the screen again in utter confusion. Of course, the words “What the heck is this movie about?” and “What movie is this?” followed suit. Like they had expected blood and violence instead of what appeared to be a serene, cherry blossom-blessed scene with young high school leads leading completely normal lives. Where were the guts and gore?

Oh, the pain.

Unfortunately for them, the most morbid thing in Let Me Eat Your Pancreas is the female lead’s joking comments about cannibalism.

So there’s no horror. What is it about then?

Set in Japan, Haruki is a high school teacher at the same school he graduated from. Despite choosing to pursue teaching due to the encouragement of someone special to him, he is laden with doubts. He has always been a loner, so really, what makes him suited to be a teacher? He has to interact with people, and that has never been his thing…

These doubts slowly begin to change when he is requested to sort out the books at the school library, which has to be closed down- for it has reached a state where it has been deemed too run down for use.

It is at this point onwards that his memories of his high school years begin to return to him with burning clarity- and with far greater frequency. Of his days spent with an ex-classmate, whom he had found out was suffering from a terminal pancreatic disease after he picked up her Illness diary at the hospital. Her name was Sakura, and there’s not a day that passes him by where he does not miss her.

What’s your take on it?

If I have to be brutally honest, even though I greatly enjoyed the movie, I wasn’t surprised by the way it turned out. It carries a lot of themes that are commonly found in Japanese stories (novels, dramas, anime, manga, etc…) and most prominently, it bears a strong resemblance to the live-action film, Your Lie in April. You know, the one starring that ball of fluff, Yamazaki Kento? That very one.

This familiarity with Japanese works is probably one of the reasons why I didn’t tear up during the film even though my friend did hahaha.

Still, though. Let Me Eat Your Pancreas is a beautiful movie that is worth watching, and dare I say, it might be a bit better than Your Lie in April? It’s tough to say, because both are brilliant works with talented leads, so I’m going to say that this particular decision of mine is made out of pure taste. Because even though I adore Kento to bits, I prefer the more focused approach that Let Me Eat Your Pancreas has on the leads’ relationship.

So yes. I definitely recommend giving this a watch. Let Me Eat Your Pancreas is hands down the, if not one of the, best romance Asian films I’ve seen to date. In fact, I still have this warm, feel-good feeling that it left me with as soon as the credits rolled last night.

It’s a lovely story about first love and I can’t help but to smile just thinking about it.

Just for fun

The title was shortened to “LET ME EAT YOU” on our movie tickets. My friend and I had a good laugh out of that!

I swear the title is a stroke of brilliance.

1+

Beauty Review: Nature Republic’s Tomato Real Nature Mask Sheet

Beauty Review: Nature Republic’s Tomato Real Nature Mask Sheet

What is it?

Created by a Korean beauty company (don’t we all love Korean skincare?), this Nature Republic mask sheet claims to do the following for your skin:

  • Provide hydration whilst brightening your complexion

So does it do the job? Read on to find out.

What is it like?

My first thought when I first opened this package was that it smelled nice. The serum the mask was soaked in emitted a pleasant, refreshing if artificial scent that I’m not at all opposed to. It was just nice, plainly put. Nothing significant about it.

Now that that is covered, it’s time to get down to the nitty gritty.

The mask itself fit my face pretty well, and there was plenty of serum left in the packet even after I removed the mask from it. I was able to smooth some over my neck, because you know, waste not want not.

As for how the serum itself performed, well. It left a sticky, grimy sensation on my skin, and to be perfectly honest, its absorption rate was disappointing. It was bad enough that the uncomfortable film stayed on my face minutes after I took off the mask and rubbed the formula in, the film lasted well into the next day.

Certainly not something I liked waking up to.

Packaging

As far as packaging goes, Nature Republic’s eye-catching design for the Tomato Real Nature Mask Sheet is both refreshing and youthful. With its clever use of bright colours, lighting and seemingly dewy appearance, it gives one the impression that hidden within this packet is the secret to vitality.

Vibrant aesthetic aside, the packet comes in the standard  slim, plastic, rectangular design that mask sheets are commonly found in.

End result

Being cursed blessed with oily skin means that while it’s a damned pain that my face often ends up looking like an oil slick if not taken care of properly, it also means that I am spoiled for choice when it comes to the type of products I can use. Mask sheets? Awesome. Clay masks? Awesome. Liquid foundation? Heck yeah. Solid foundation? Yes. Powder foundation? Damned straight.

You get the picture.

I am often able to use products that other skin types can’t (namely dry and or sensitive skin), and usually receive either positive or no results. Rare it is for me to encounter anything that could make me react too badly to it, yet this is the case with this particular mask.

While it did do what it promises to do, which is to hydrate and lighten my skin, it also did something else.

It triggered an allergic reaction. Something that has never happened to me before. Thankfully enough, while the red rashes and the tiny raised bumps it created were hideous, they weren’t so bad that I wasn’t able to hide them with some BB cream. So while it did manage to make a noticeable difference in lightening the dark marks on my face, I’m not going to repurchase this. Ever.

Here it a quick list of the pros and cons of this product for easy reference:

Pros

  • Mask fits face well
  • Actually does what it promises: hydrate and lighten

Cons

  • Doesn’t absorb completely, even after being left on for hours
  • Leaves behind a thick, sticky, uncomfortable film
  • Caused a minor breakout
  • Caused an allergic reaction

The last point is more of an extremely personal con so it can be disregarded. After all, not everyone is allergic to the same thing.

Where can I find it?

Nature Republic.

Verdict

  • Product rating: 2/5
  • Packaging rating: 5/5

As mentioned before, despite it succeeding in doing what it promised, I will not repurchase. Adding on, people with dry skin will probably benefit from this mask sheet even more so than other skin types.

Ingredients

Water, Butylene Glycol, Glycerin, PEG/PPG-17/6 Copolymer, Niacinamide, Alcohol, PEG-75, Citrus Paradisi (Grapefruit) Fruit Extract, Ammonium Acryloyldimethyltaurate/VP Copolymer, PEG-60 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Solanum Lycopersicum (Tomato) Fruit Extract, Ethylhexylglycerin, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Fruit Extract, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Fruit Extract, Pyrus Malus (Apple) Fruit Extract, Citrus Limon (Lemon) Fruit Extract, Citrus Aurantifolia (Lime) Fruit Extract, Sodium Hyaluronate, Disodium EDTA, Phenoxyethanol, Fragrance.

1+