Japanese Fairy Tales Unrated: “The Hare of Inaba.”

The second to last story in this collection of Japanese Fairy Tales, “The Hare of Inaba” is more of what you expect, given the previous six fairy tales. Again, the narrator does a great job of capturing the spirit of these children’s stories with the slightest inflection in his voice and once more the tone is consistent throughout all stories.

However, for this story in particular, the voice of the hare (and the raise in pitch) amplifies the lighthearted tone of the story to the point of distortion for the listener. Another way to look at it: It’s overly cute and the length of the rabbit’s monologue doesn’t help. In fact it hurts it, because he basically tells the listener what they already know–as it just happened in the first half of the tale. Yes, this is a problem with the source material, but it became all too apparent with the excess use of a pitch shifter.

This isn’t the first time a filter was applied to the actresses voice. All the small furry animals sound the same across this audio anthology, but they don’t last nearly as long. This is all personal taste, but I imagine a lot of people might get turned off by this effect, especially if you’re paying money for it.

That’s where I have the biggest problem and something I’ve held off on until this final review. This is not worth the price. Even if you have a compelling reason to want to experience Japanese culture through their stories, there are much better ways to do so without spending seven to eight dollars.

After doing some research, I discovered a lot of the tales are in the public domain or at the very least are available to read online without paying. The only reason to buy this is for the audio version of some the tales, emphasis on the word “some.” These are only a fraction of the stories available.

Going back to the story at hand, “The Hare of Inaba,” along with the rest of the fairy tales in this collection, suffer from overused audio cliches like disguising someone’s voice with pitch shifting technology, but thankfully the narrator does a great job at keeping the spirit of the tales alive in a way I haven’t heard done since listening to the “Harry Potter” audiobooks.

The full collection is available for purchase on Amazon, iTunes, and CDbaby.com.

4/5 Stars (for the entire collection)

Japanese Fairy Tales Unrated: “The Enchanted Waterfall.”

The sixth story in this collection of Japanese fairy tales has a similar light-hearted tone found in the other stories, but with a more western structure. In some ways, this is the Japanese equivalent/retelling of the King Midas story. It’s not apparent when listening. In fact it doesn’t even follow the same beats. At least not in the order or way it’s presented in the classic western fairy tale.

The basic premise is about a young boy who wants to please his father by bringing something home to him. Each day, his father talks about the good old days, when he and his father would drink sake and be merry. This is all within the first minute or two of the story and told via expository narration.

Once the boy discovers the waterfall made of sake and returns to his father, who is thrilled to have a bottle of sake after so many years without it. News spreads through the village of the boy’s discovery.

The story ends well for the boy, but not without a bumpy middle. As far as subverting thematic tropes like greed vs. gratitude, this story follows a typical fairy tale arc. Overall this 5-6 minute tale is a fun listen, but don’t expect it to turn tropes on their heads.

The full collection is available for purchase on Amazon, iTunes, and CDbaby.com.

Japanese Fairy Tales Unrated: “The Battle of the Monkey and the Crab” and “Goblin Spider.”

The fifth track of Japanese Fairy Tales Unrated album is the story of a kerfuffle between a monkey and a crab. Seems pretty straight forward, but the ending is not what you’d expect from a fairy tale. At least not a western one. Even still, the outcome of the battle is brief, grim, and slightly gruesome. It’s essentially: “He was so ugly that everyone died. The end.” Brief climax and a even shorter denouement will make you go “what?” Not even a sentence passes between the two phases of a story.

The rest of the tale is more or less what you’d expect, if you’ve listened to the tracks before. The combination of narrative summary and dialogue make for a more engaging tale. Interesting is something else entirely.

Skipping to the last track, “Goblin Spider” is a tale of lone warrior on a quest to defeat a goblin. Like Game of Thrones, you think he’s the main character, but when he dies from a goblin spider masquerading as a religious man, you realize there’s more to the story. And then the tale ends with the warrior’s men taking the creature out the next morning, giving a surprising yet inevitable plot twist that feels rushed. This is the fault of the storyteller and not the narrator. At the same time, it’s a difference in cultures and what we expect from stories.

Both tales have similar themes of battle and war. Some are more obvious than others, but both are short, to the point, and perhaps a little too brief.

The full collection is available for purchase on Amazon, iTunes, and CDbaby.com.

Japanese Fairy Tales Unrated: “Shippeitaro.”

Shippeitaro is a confusing tale, not because of the plot, but because the promises it makes to the listener aren’t what western audiences expect. It’s not that it’s bad, but the cultural norms are different in Japan than they are in the the states, even back when the story was first told/written.

By the end I was left wanting more, but not in a good way, feeling like I missed a good chunk of the story. There was a lot of information in a little over eight minutes in length, and only the surface was scratched. The complexity of the story, however, did not merit a second listen-through. Shows like Edict Zero FIS which have layers upon layers of intrigue warrant a second play through, because you know you missed a lot. Shippeitaro is just plain confusing. Perhaps that says more about me and western culture than the story itself.

I will give the narrator credit for keeping my interest at least mildly engaged and the howling cats scene creeped me out due to the sound effects, audio filters applied to the cats, and narration.

Shippeitaro is supposedly a classic in Japanese fairy tales, with many renditions out there, but in terms of the listener’s ability follow–it will vary greatly. For me, it was meh.

The full collection is available on Amazon, iTunes, and CDbaby.com.

I Have a New Ebook Out. This One’s Different. It’s Fiction. Also, Brief Hiatus in Effect

Two weeks ago, I linked to my most recent ebook release. The review in question was for Across the Nightingale Floor. It was rather brief mention and not many people saw the post, according to my stats.

Being the unashamed, self-promoter that I am, I decided I’d write this blog post. Don’t worry, this will be the final mention on on the blog, but I will be pimping this book on the twitters and the book of faces. You can find those accounts here (Twitter) and here (Facebook).

If you like intrigue of the political nature and historical fiction, especially one set in Feudal Japan, you may want to check out Moon and Star. Oh, and it has a slight fantasy element.

Here’s the synopsis.

For Kaito, becoming Shogun was a sure thing. But when he learns the truth about his birth, he is forced into a world of conspiracy, politics, and a decades-old plan for the total domination of his home. He is the son of a rival clan lord. The same one who threatens his adopted family with war.

The opposing force’s armies are bigger and ready to attack, but something holds them at bay. Someone is pulling the strings and after the Shogun dies everyone becomes a suspect in both his murder and who, or what, is preventing the coming war.

A tale of magic, swords, and lies, Moon and Star asks the question: Does the right to rule come from within or without? Blood or sweat? Birth or chosen by the people?

It’s currently available for $2.99 on amazon kindle exclusively. You can also read it for free if you are an amazon prime member. Share it with your friends and I hope you enjoy it.

FULL DISCLOSURE: this book ends on a cliffhanger, but you’ll get the complete book once it’s edited and ready to go. Shouldn’t be too long, now. I’ll hopefully have it done before July 5, when something special is scheduled to happen with both my story and the site. Look forward to that announcement.

ABOUT THE HIATUS:

It’s getting harder to both listen and review audio stories on a weekly basis, which is why from now until July 5, 2015, AudioDramaReviews.com will not be posting any new reviews. I will be using this time to listen to as much content as I can. I appreciate everyone’s understanding and I’ll see you the day after the fourth of July.

–Michael Bergonzi

Tales of the Otori: Across the Nightingale Floor

A historical Japanese fantasy set in the feudal period of the nation. The setting isn’t so much important as the places may or may not be real. It walks that line between “secondary world” and our “world, but with magic” well in some areas, but not in others. Overall, it doesn’t affect the enjoyment of the story, so its not worth going into further.

This story was highly influential—both subconsciously and perhaps consciously—in the writing of my book: Moon and Star. Not going to go into depth, except to say it’s available on Amazon for $2.99.

Moving right along, the way the first Tales of the Otori book handles multiple POV’s is wonderful. There are only two, but each one is handled in such a simple, yet brilliant way. The male protagonist scenes used first=person, where the female lead utilized third-person. It wasn’t until halfway through the audiobook that I realized the author was doing this. That speaks volumes on the immersive-nature of the story. The narrators certainly helped too.

The story centers around a young boy who watched his entire village destroyed by Iida and the Tohan. By fate, the boy is saved by a man who then goes out of his way to adopt him. The boy develops an attachment to the man, who later on reveals his true motive for being in the right place at the right time.

The twists and turns this story makes are most of the time predictable, but the way the overall arc unfolds is entertaining to the say the least. Unfortunately the ending kind of fizzles out after a the antagonist is defeated—in a non-satsifying, yet unexpected way. Aside from the slow burn out after the lackluster climax, this story is worth the time you spend listening.

4/5 Stars