Eating Tokyo: Genki Sushi

Eating Tokyo: Genki Sushi

It’s difficult to choose a restaurant in Tokyo to choose to review, since there are just so many of them. It has to be one that people will specifically make an attempt to visit, and Genki Sushi, in the Shibuya district, is just that.

genkiA take on kaiten sushi, where plates of sushi pass you by on a conveyor belt, and you simply pick the plates that you want to eat and are charged based on the number (and colour coded prices) of plates that you eat, Genki Sushi makes the kaiten experience even more…Japanese.

Might as well make the sushi eating experience a little more futuristic.

genki5At Genki Sushi, once you have found it, lined up with the other foreigners who want to try it out, and found a place at either the plentiful counters or few booths (for larger groups, there are about 3 booths that can seat 6 each), you start to scroll through the computer screen, where you can build up your own orders. You are able to order 3 items at a time, and once you have selected your food, you get to wait for the fun part.

It comes to you on a trolley on a conveyor belt. I have to admit, it is pretty fun to see your food making its way towards you, at a pretty quick speed, on a little table that is like a train that brings sushi. Taking your plates from the trolley, you push a button to send it back, and then dig in and enjoy. You are able to make as many orders as you like, but only 3 items at a time.

genki4The sushi menu itself is pretty expansive, and you will struggle to find a kind of fish that you want, and not see it on the menu. Many Westerners tend to enjoy the rolls quite a bit, as they are some of the most common elements on North American sushi restaurant menus, and there are a few choices here. But the main draw is the fish itself.

Typically, kaiten is your low end option for sushi. It is fast, and cheap, and gets the job done. Genki Sushi is simply better food, for the same price, along with fun put into the whole thing. The choices are strong, the sushi is good, and the entertainment value is second-to-none.

It is very possible to eat a large sushi meal here for under $15. Again, it all depends on how much you want to order. On my first visit, 4 friends and I created a pile of plates as tall as we were (seated), had some drinks, were full by the end of it, and it cost us each about $12. You can’t beat that.

There are some especially delicious choices on the menu that you won’t find at a regular kaiten restaurant: the trout is excellent, as is the mackarel. There are also some “grilled” salmon options (meaning they’ve spent a couple of seconds under a blow torch), that come with onions and mayo that are quite delicious.

genki3It makes sense why Genki Sushi has become such a popular place among Tokyoites and foreigners alike. It is good, cheap food, with a unique twist. This is something that we simply do not have back home (although apparently there will be a Genki Sushi opening in Seattle soon), therefore making it a destination place in the heart of Shibuya. Considering the hundreds of restaurants in the area, it is pretty easy to find, and well worth it in the end.

Genki Sushi was good enough that I took the time to make more than one stop there, and was satisfied with each trip. Delicious.

The Troop (Book Review)

The Troop (Book Review)

For some reason, I rarely venture into the horror genre when it comes to selecting novels. It isn’t because I don’t enjoy them, in fact, I find them quite entertaining reads, but it seems to me that there is too much average work, and either the gore overtakes the story, or the story overtakes the gore, and there isn’t a very good balance in the end.

An list of strong Canadian books for the year led me to pick up The Troop, by the pseudonym-ed author Nick Cutter (who is commonly assumed to be Giller Prize nominee Craig Davidson). The novel focuses on a Scout master who takes his small troop on its yearly camping trip to a small island off Prince Edward Island.

While the troop is going about its usual business in the woods, a mysterious man with an insatiable hunger staggers into town, trying to fill the void in his stomach that leaves him gaunt and eternally hungry. Eventually, this hungry man ends up on the island, revealing the horror for the story.

troop2He is infected with a parasite that feasts on its host, and will stop at nothing in order to get food so that it may reproduce, or find another host.

The rest of the story kind of goes as expected. The infection spreads among the troop, and there are battles of life and death.

But there are some things that make The Troop especially worth a read.

The violence is top notch. There is definitely some squirm-worthy scenes that have been written by Cutter, some of them actually disgusting. This drags us into the story, and makes us keep turning the pages. The descriptions of the man, and his parasite, and what has been done to some of the bodies of those infected, is deliciously disgusting to read. There are also some extremely haunting passages related to one of the characters and their past life, where they took to torturing animals as a child. This is gruesome because it is something that sadly happens, and it creates a truly disturbed character in one of the boys of the troop. Still, it is difficult to tear our eyes away from the pages.

It is also interesting the flipped order of things, where children expect adults to swoop in and save the day when something goes wrong. But there is no salvation for the boys of The Troop, as the parasite has been discovered and the tiny island they are on is isolated by the military. They are left to fend for themselves in a Lord of the Flies manner. Who will survive? And who will be best at battling the infection?

Cutter also provides us with alternate stories that are taking place. Interviews with the perpetrators of the parasite try their best to explain the reasons for their creation, and it is interesting to see the development of the military and societal functions that such a parasite could have had, had it been created properly. There is also a view into the pasts of the lives of each of the boys, versions of themselves in the outside world before they were forced to fight for their lives on a simple little camping trip.

The Troop is a good story, and an entertaining read. It is a page turner, even if the basis for the story is not entirely new. There is more than enough original material in here to keep us interested, and it has that old school kind of horror vibe that goes with it. Sure, we have seen disgusting parasites before, but what is special about this one? And how will the author take us to the place where we think we are going?

This solid story, along with the aforementioned gore and grime, make The Troop a valid horror novel that is a fun, disgusting, and quick read.

Horrible Bosses 2 (Film Review)

Horrible Bosses 2 (Film Review)

There is not much to say in a review for Horrible Bosses 2.

This film is terrible, continuing a long trend of very poor sequels to comedies.

The original film succeeded on having a fun interplay between the three main characters, played by Jason Bateman, Jason Sudekis, and Charlie Day. We felt bad for them in the first go-round, because the situations at their jobs really was bad, which caused some humour (none stronger than the very good performance by Jennifer Aniston as the sex-pot dentist).

boss2But that fun interplay is gone in the second version, instead replaced by general annoyance. The characters are no longer sympathetic, making them as unlikable as their bosses were. Sure, there is a return to some of the other characters from the original film, such as a reprised role by Aniston, which isn’t nearly as funny any more. Same goes for Jamie Foxx as Motherfu**er Jones, and Kevin Spacey as Bateman’s now jailed boss. Same characters, minus the laughs.

Horrible Bosses 2 really is just a waste of a really good cast.

If the three central guys wanted to make another film together, they should have, as they obviously have some chemistry. But why a sequel to a film that was kind of funny, and definitely not a comedy classic? Were they just being lazy and didn’t want to come up with a new idea for another script? It really seems that way.

boss3The jokes are tired and repeated, as they are with so many comedy sequels. Think of the dreadful Anchorman 2, or the same script, different location jokes of The Hangover Part IIHorrible Bosses 2 falls into many of the same traps as these comedy sequel duds before it.

The plot, this time around, is not to kill their bosses, but to kidnap the son of one of them, so that they can get ransom money in order to pay for their newly created shipment of their invention, the Shower Buddy.

Sounds like a pretty basic plot for a film that we’ve seen many times before, right?

Well, it is.

Honestly, there is no reason to watch this film. In fact, we’d be better off to skip it, and remember that there were some chuckles in the original. And then leave it at that.

Whiplash (Film Review)

Whiplash (Film Review)

This is a fun movie to watch.

Sure, it is based on a teacher at an elite musical school who is an absolute tyrant to his students, pushing them beyond their limits in hopes of achieving a jazz band that is absolutely seamless and perfect in every way. He abuses them, fires them, replaces them, makes them practice in military ways.

But…it works.

WHIPLASHWhiplash is the story of Andrew, an ambitious drummer who has met his match with Fletcher, the most feared and respected musical teacher at the institution. Making it in his session band means that you have achieved something rare, and are able to play among some of the best musicians in the world.

But your spot is precarious. Fletcher pushes Andrew to extreme limits, always wanting him to be able to play faster, and to be exactly on “his time.” It can be grueling, but it is entertaining to watch, that is for sure.

The premise for the film is so incredibly simple, that it needs to be carried, and it is. By actor J.K. Simmons, who won an Oscar for his role as the demeaning and cruel teacher. And rightfully so. He is brutal, but still enjoyable to watch on the screen. His insults are harsh, yet somehow pretty funny at points, and he does everything he is able to do in order to push his band to be the greatest. He claims that the worst words someone can here is that something is good enough, because then there is little drive left for them to achieve greatness. The true greats need to be pushed harder and harder, to see how they are going to react to the criticism. Are they going to crumble? Or will they continue to rise to the challenge in order to prove that they are great?

whip3Simmons excels in this role. He owns it, and is completely believable in it. He is foiled by Miles Teller, who plays Andrew. He is able to hold his own, and his desire for greatness seems to fit so well with Fletcher’s teaching methods, until he is unable to take the abuse any longer.

The final scene of Whiplash is also one to behold, certainly worth a couple of rewatches.

The focus is definitely on these central characters, as many of the secondary story lines are underdeveloped, and often just there to fill up the space, at times. Not a ton is really revealed about any character aside from Andrew as the film moves forward. The real meat of Whiplash is in the interplay between our two central characters.

The film explores interesting issues, such as how hard people should be pushed. If it really is okay to be just fine, or if that is creating a world where mediocrity is accepted, and seen as a limit to the potential of people. It is a valid point. Will new greats, in whichever discipline, emerge if they are not pushed to their absolute limits and beyond by someone?

whip4Whiplash was a small budget film that did big things around the awards season, gathering a ton of nominations, including one for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay, while winning 3 other Oscars, including the acting nod for the great Simmons. Really, Whiplash became the little movie that could, being made very quickly and on a shoestring budget, and then propelled to the forefront of American cinema, if only for a while.

It is a very watchable film, regardless of our opinions of the central themes. It is at times fun, at times brutal, but always filled with great jazz music throughout. For drummers, this is an absolute must-see, as some of the things that are done on the kit are exceptional and impressive to see.

After seeing Whiplash for the first time, I get what all the fuss is about. A very good movie.