retsuko: finn & jake's fist bump of awesome (fist bump!)
I am so pleased that I had to chance to see this movie in theaters, even with the annoying English dubbing and the insipid songs that Disney found it necessary to add. The artwork and storytelling were so beautiful and detailed that any inconsistencies in the plot didn't matter. I just wanted to see more, more of the gorgeous scenes and all of their wonderful, little touches, 90% of which I am certain that I missed. One nagging thing that I did find strange was the dub script's decision to whitewash as much of the script as possible. To me, this was an inherently Japanese movie, from the very opening shot of the city to the sound of the omnipresent cicada chorus. So, why rename almost all the characters with bland English names, except for the villain? It made little sense.

Fortunately, the good of this story far outweighed the annoying side problems. Arrietty and her family (mother, worrywart Homily and father, steadfast Pod) were lovingly drawn and animated characters. One of Miyazaki's recurring themes is the family that survives troubles together, stays together, and this was a strong element of the plot throughout. Their home beneath the floorboards of the house was beautifully decorated, far better than the dollhouse awaiting them in the child's room; one of the stamps on the wall that they used for decoration was a stamp that I sent while I lived in Japan, and the chess piece (a knight) as foyer artwork was a brilliant touch. The detail with water and how it would work for small people was also cleverly done--the Borrowers' water doesn't pour, but drips from faucets and teapots in tiny beads. I want to watch the whole thing again, just to see their little home in all of its collected glory.

I also liked the movie's willingness to play with a sense of scale. Kitchen table legs suddenly became mountain ranges that Pod needed double-stick tape to scale, and the refrigerator did double duty as a monolith of epic proportions. Really, though, scale is what this movie is all about: all the characters' senses of right and wrong were different from one another's, and it was from these differences that the major conflicts sprang. The human boy, for example, thinks he's doing the Borrowers a kindness by giving them the dollhouse's kitchen; however, he never stopped to consider the scale of his actions, which were on the apocalyptic side, from the Borrower's point of view (can you imagine the roof of your house being ripped off by a gigantic hand?). Arrietty senses that it's not right to just abandon her new friend, but talking to humans--being seen--is off the scale of wrong, according to her parents' experience and lore. And the afore-mentioned villain's sense of proportion is so out-of-kilter that she's willing to give up everything just to be proven right. This was a fairly serious movie, and I was a little surprised at how much was at stake, from the get-go. Arrietty escapes from the cat as if it's nothing, but the cat is monstrously huge, and it has a good memory. Her existence, and her parents', is touch and go. It's not surprising that they think themselves the last of the Borrowers in the whole world. All seriousness aside, though, this is a wonderful movie, one that I think families will all enjoy on different levels. And what a great achievement that is, especially given the trailers of supposedly kid-friendly movies we had to sit through first.
retsuko: (girl reading)
After swearing to myself that I wouldn't get into Naruto (because the manga is up to Vol. 51; it's hugely popular, and I'm a bit of a snob about that sometimes; because there are several feature films that have nothing to do with the main plot and everything to do with merchandising and making money, etc. etc.) I picked up the manga and read a few chapters and I was hooked. It's an odd experience, made slightly more surreal because I'm simultaneously watching the anime and switching between them when the plot in one gets dull or I run out of volumes from the library. (With the anime, I'm also at the mercy of what's on Netflix instant view, so I'll probably have to stop before Shippuden starts.) A very entertaining experience, of course, but an odd one nonetheless. I keep thinking to myself "I wish this were paced a whole hell of a lot differently!" Also: "Why don't the female characters get more time in the spotlight?!" Both these questions are easily and annoyingly answered: Because it's a shounen manga, and I am not the target audience. Still: when you're juggling *four* important battles occurring in as many separate locations, and decide to parcel each one out, piece by piece in each episode and chapter, it's a bit frustrating. And when you have the main female character decide she's going to start kicking ass and taking names instead of being a hanger-on, it would be nice if you were to continue to have that character development stay developed, instead of evaporating instantly after the need for it has vanished.

Still, for all my complaining, I really do like this manga/anime. It's exciting, and the random ninja powers are very compelling to try and guess before they come into combat. For the most part, the animation company didn't cheap out on the fight sequences (yay!) and the voice-acting is great.

Further fannish babblery, with spoilers up to Vol. 18 of the manga, ensues. )

Still, for all of my questions and grumblings about pacing, this is satisfying and fun. Despite knowing the resolution for one of the major plot points (thanks a lot, interblag), I'll stick around for the rest, as long as there aren't too many filler episodes along the way.

On the complete opposite side of the spectrum, I read the delightful The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie, which made me run to the library to borrow whatever volumes of the Little House books that they had on hand (I ended up with By the Shores of Silver Lake and The Long Winter.) Wendy McClure's book is an excellent introduction to Laura/Little House fandom, and although I loved the books as a child, I cannot see churning butter or making haysticks by hand as McClure ended up doing in an effort to connect further with the material. She chronicles all aspects of Laura-dom, from the fans who are obsessed with the TV show to the slightly creepy church groups who try to live "off the grid" because they think the End Times are upon us. She also traces the geographical locations of the books and pieces together the real chronology of the events in the books, which was slightly altered by Laura and her daughter, Rose, in order to make for a more interesting story. I don't want to give away all the wonderful and juicy details in this book, but if you ever had even a tangential relationship to this series, this book is something you should take a look at.

As I said, reading it made me think back to the ways I loved the books as a child. I could recite the events of some of the books almost perfectly ("And then, Ma slapped the cow to make it go into the barn, but it turned around and looked at her and she saw that it was a BEAR!") and I was privately ecstatic every time Laura was victorious over her rival, Nellie Olsen (whose character turns out to be a composite of three women/girls Laura knew and disliked. Ouch!) I also sympathized with Laura when she didn't want to sit still and sew, like her good older sister, Mary. Actually, what these books really gave me was a sense of perspective. I might get mad with my parents for not letting me buy jelly shoes or take horseback riding lessons, but they didn't expect me to be "seen and not heard" or be entirely quiet on Sundays. I also realized that I had it pretty good; my father was not in danger of freezing to death on the way home from work, and our food supply didn't depend on what he could shoot or harvest. It was sobering, and I was a serious little kid.

On the serious side, though, I was always pretty freaked out at the racist language/action in the books. (McClure, in her book, spends quite a lot of time trying to speak to this, too.) It was mortifying to read about Pa, who was otherwise a smart and dignified character, dressing up in blackface to entertain the townsfolk. It was also pretty sad to read Ma's talk about those "dirty Indian half-breeds." I remember skipping these parts when I was reading the books myself, thinking that I was smarter than that and didn't need to waste my time on such stupidity. (My mother, when she read these aloud to me, must have said something as well, but I cannot remember what it was.) I especially remember being disgusted with Laura as a character and a person when she said she didn't want women to have the right to vote. Now that I read the books again, it's sort of disillusioning. Pa and Ma are not the saintly characters they were when I was kid--they're real people, and their flaws are floating around near the surface and I'm annoyed that I didn't see that before. Laura was raised in an extremely conservative way, and my disappointment in her anti-suffrage talk was probably my proto-feminism rearing its head.

But this reading experience is like lying on your back in the ocean, letting the waves pick you up and carry you. Wilder's words are simple, but the pictures she paints (with the help of the lovely Garth Williams illustrations) are complete and encompassing. I feel like I'm standing next to Laura as the story unfolds, or riding with her on her cousin's wild ponies. And it's impossible to dislike her as a character: she's curious, bright, and honest. Being a pioneer girl was tremendously taxing and, at times, terrifying. Reading these books, whenever I read them, is a transporting experience, and whatever problems they have, I do like to be transported.
retsuko: (deep confusion)
Tonight, [ profile] yebisu9 and I watched The Wolfman, which had a plot that can be best described as "murky". Normally, when this sort of thing happens, I wonder just how many screenwriters were in on the creative process and where the ideas got too mixed up to work anymore. In this case, there were only two screenwriters, but they were basing the script off the Lon Chaney original, and on top of that, there were four producers. Too many cooks syndrome, most definitely. The results were... kind of mixed. The atmosphere that the production cooked up was top-notch: creepy moors with lingering fingers of fog; gorgeous costumes and score; cavernous country houses with dramatic-looking staircases; and a scene set in an "asylum" that sets a new low in the history of mental health care. But the story dragged on and on, and Anthony Hopkins seemed to be phoning his performance in. I swear, in every scene he was in, he was thinking about his laundry, or what he'd had for dinner the night before, or something else other than the action at hand. Done right, this would be scary and psychopathic-seeming, but it just felt distracted/distracting. As usual, with a boring main plot like this, I wanted to focus on the side characters instead, particularly in devising a sequel where the love interest (played with steely propriety by Emily Blunt) and the inspector from Scotland Yard (Hugo Weaving) forge an unlikely monster-fighting relationship after getting a handle on how best to deal with his impending lycanthropy problem. (He's the last bitten.) That would be a movie I'd happily pay to see, and not wait for the DVD from Netflix.

And, speaking of adaptations, there's a rumor afoot of a live-action version of the manga Rurouni Kenshin. I'm very fond of this manga, and its various anime adaptations, but I have my sincere doubts that it could be successfully turned into a satisfying live-action movie. For one thing, there are too many characters to include in a 90-minute movie; quite a few of them would have to be excised to create a workable script. And this is sad, because one of this story's strengths is its ensemble cast and their interactions with one another. (I think this would be yet another movie where the plot would be better served by being carved into a 12-episode mini-series.) Another point of contention would be which arc of the story to turn into the main movie plot. (This is a 28-volume manga epic.) I would like to see some part of the Kyoto arc, but that means we'd have to put up with the villain of that arc, who really, really gets on my nerves. On the plus side, there's the part of the rumor that Watsuki (the creator) held out on offers from Hollywood studios (YAY!) until he got an offer from a company that promised to devote enough $$$/yen to recreate the CGI effects necessary to bring to life the original style of martial arts he created for the manga. Anyway, over on the newsgroup, casting rumors and suggestions are flying back and forth, but I think I won't weigh in on this until there's some actual footage/confirmation from official PTB on this.

In other fannish news, the schedules for Comic Con Thursday and Friday are up. Specific Panel Babblery Follows. )
retsuko: (eels in the photobooth)
Dear Flashforward: There's so much here that I like, but it's bogged down with a lot of stupid and very poor pacing. More spoilers, more plot advancement, less treating the viewers like two-year-olds-with-no-long-term-memory, please! )

Dear Office: Aw, don't ever change. Well, maybe a little, but not much. We need more subtle scenes, like Tobey showing Pam how to throw a punch, as if he's been planning to punch Michael for years, but never quite worked up the guts to do so. We need more Andy singing and more thwarted Dwight. I would dial down the awkward a notch, but that's just me.

Dear Code Geass: WTF. I mean, sincerely, what the hell is going on here? You can either have a re-write of world history and a rebels-taking-down-the-empire show, OR you can have a harem-esque, high school romantic comedy drama anime. Mixing the two leads to some really, really weird moments. It's like Star Wars with a cast of far more cliched characters, reset in a Southern California high school; Darth Vader's the superintendent of schools, Luke Skywalker's a scrappy transfer student with a plan to cancel all pep rallies, and Princess Leia's the captain of the swim team. It works well, but only sometimes, and in that weird, fanfic-y way that doesn't necessarily equal quality. Oh, and did I mention that there were giant robots? It gets crazier, with spoilers! )

Constant Viewer
retsuko: (FTW!)
In Comics:

Empowered, Volume 5, by Adam Warren: Normally, I turn to this for superhero parody and the touching relationship between the title character and her lover. In this volume, I was surprised by the gravitas of the final story. Warren knows how to set up true character drama--it's everywhere in this book, from the dialogue between the heroine and her nemesis, to the little visual asides that simultaneously skewer and celebrate superhero comics. This volume handily picks up from the previous one and takes the plot in different and difficult directions. Warren is a fine artist/satirist, and fans of his work will not be disappointed.

Madame Xanadu: Exodus Noir, 1 of 5, Wager/Kaluta: Amy Reed appears to be taking a hiatus from the pencils. Kaluta's work is very Rackham-esque and the illustrative style lends a nice touch to the story, especially the parts set in 1940, where the pictures feel like old photographs and the pacing of the story is consistent with plot. The weak point appears to be in the second half of the story, which takes place in 1493 and introduces a revelation about the main character's sexuality that reads more like a plot device than honest-to-goodness identity. Hopefully, the remaining four issues of the story will pick up the scattered pieces of the first issue.

In Anime:

Gurren Lagen: "Let's reject common sense and make the impossible possible!" This is the most goofily macho anime series I've seen in ages. It's a RPG as imagined by a bunch of hyper-caffeinated 13-year-olds who seem to have no idea that the words "manly combining" function on more levels than just the one they imagine. And it's such tremendous fun! I don't usually give two figs about giant robots, but this is just entertaining enough that I just might switch over to the dark, macho side might.
retsuko: (bookmarks)
In books:

Trail of Crumbs: Hunger, Love, and the Search for Home , by Kim Sunee: I had fully intended to read this book while waiting to see if I got placed on jury duty or not, but then I started reading it one day last week, and then I couldn't put it down. Sunee is an accessible and relaxed writer whose prose slides by, punctuated by recipes for unbelievably delicious-sounding Provence-style/French cooking, with a few Korean recipes thrown in. (I cannot wait to make the "easy" kimchi.) However, the story of her search for her racial and feminine identity is ultimately a saddening one, as she is thwarted on both fronts by a series of people and expectations that she cannot free herself of. Read more, with spoilers. )

Watchmen, by Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons: ... Wow. What a mind-Read more, cut for spoilers and language. )

In anime:

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time: I enjoyed this, with only a few reservations. The animation was good quality, the story definitely got my attention (I'm a sucker for coming of age stories, and urban fantasy, and everyday settings, and this had all three at once), and although the pacing was a little slow at first, the overall tone and plot were solid. I was just disappointed in the ending, and there was one character who I would have liked to have had more screen time. However, well worth putting in my Netflix queue.


The Wire: I know we're late jumping on the bandwagon for this show, but what a riveting story, told with no punches pulled and compelling characters. It's the first time in a long while that I deliberately sought out spoilers for a show, just to make sure that my favorite character did NOT die during the course of the story. The best thing about this story is the lack of an absolute morality--all the characters are shades of grey, and even those whose side we're "on" are completely and totally human, sorting through their failings as adults and grasping at minor triumphs as they navigate the often stormy waters of the Baltimore police force and legal hierarchy. We're just finishing Season 1 and looking forward to Season 2.
retsuko: (bookshelf)
In books:

Then We Came to the End, by Joshua Ferris: From the blurbs on the back of the cover and the page or two I read in the bookstore, I thought this book would be literary kin to The Office, a scathing send-up of modern office/work life, one that I could read and think, Ha! While I may hate my job, at least others have it worse than me! A toast to schadenfreude! Imagine my dismay when the satire hit way too close to home, namely, my current work situation and the pervasive anxious malaise I was stewing in. Not to say that I didn't enjoy the book--in fact, while I didn't find it laugh-out-loud funny the way the blurbs had claimed, I still read it in about three days flat, desperate to know what was happening to the characters. Ferris nails his depiction of office politics and the spreading of gossip among co-workers, and his characters are vividly portrayed. However, coming across passages like the following were like eerie little paragraphs of deja vu:

"Some days felt longer than other days. Some days felt like two whole days. Unfortunately those days were never the weekend days. Our Saturdays and Sundays passed in half the time of a normal workday. In other words, some weeks it felt like we had worked ten straight days and only had one day off. We could hardly complain. Time was being added to our lives. But then it wasn't easy to rejoice, exactly, realizing that time just wasn't moving fast enough. We had any number of clocks surrounding us, and everyone one of them at one time or another exhibited a lively sense of humor. We found ourselves wanting to hurry time along, which was not in the long run good for our health. Everybody was trapped in this contradiction but nobody ever dared articulate it. They just said, 'Can you believe it's only three-fifteen?'"

In sum: I'll stick to The Office for my schadenfreude, but I am glad that I read this novel. Were I not in the work situation I am now, I would have likely found it much funnier.

Let the Right One In, by John Ajvide Lindqvist: Having seen the movie, I was excited to read the book, and very curious how the adaptation measured against the original work. I am happy to the report that the film's adaptation is very skillful and judicious, and often large chunks of dialogue are taken right off the page. However, what's been left out of the screenplay is, for the most part, left out for good reason. In a book, you're free to have as many (disturbing) subplots as you like--the number of pages is your only barrier. However, in a movie, you've only got x minutes to tell the entire story. I can tell that the screenwriter carefully picked the story apart and took only the most important plot arcs for the movie.

Writing-wise, the book flows along wonderfully, engaging and creepy all at once, and even with the knowledge of what's coming at the end, I'm still involved and invested in the characters. Subplot-wise, I could have done with a little less of the Lolita-esque scene at the beginning, but am intrigued with a minor character who didn't make it into the film and wondering how he will fit into the master plot.

The only thing the film managed to do better than the book was to show just how cold the setting is. I know where Sweden is, geographically, and what its climate is like, but my Southern California brain often has trouble processing winter and picturing it properly. The movie was perfect for this, huge swathes of white, and characters' shoes crunching through the newly fallen snow. Still highly recommending both, although those who are bothered by loli and shota should skip the book and head straight to the movie.

In manga:

Nightmare Inspector, Vol. 4: I'm glad I stuck with this series for this long--something about this fourth volume finally clicked with me. This volume has some of the most disturbing dreams yet, including my favorite about a woman who dreams about the letters she writes to lover, places in bottles, and throws into the sea. In her dream, the bottles all float back to her, but instead of letters, they're filled with body parts--the parts that make up her missing lover. Cryptic hints about the characters' pasts abound in this volume, but I'm less interested in them and more interested in the nightmare landscapes of the ordinary people who come to the Silver Star Cafe. Definitely looking forward to the next volume!


Torchwood, Season 2: Damn good fun to watch, with all sorts of bizarre plot twists and turns and one truly bizarre episode that was like... a spectacularly horrific Mary Sue fanfic. I would swear that the writers of this show have gone trolling on the internet when drunk, looking for scary self-insert fics, mocking them, and then turning them into this particular episode. Still, lots of fun to watch and yell at the TV about.

Mushi-shi: I DON'T WANT THIS SERIES TO END! I don't want to write up the entry where I recommend it to all and sundry because that will mean that is over and there is no more coming. It's just wonderful; every episode is a stand-alone story (although there are a few common characters besides the hero) that weaves Japanese folklore, superstition, and urban legends together. Sometimes the results are poignant and moving, sometimes they're truly frightening (the eye episode, early on... *shudders*), but every time, they're surprising and well-told. ARGH. WHY MUST IT END?! *ahem*

Wanted: At the beginning of this movie, I turned to [ profile] yebisu9 and said, "I bet you a Coke that the value of human life in this movie will be 50 cents." He said 45. We were both wrong; the answer was 1 penny. Make of that what you will. Not a total waste of time, but dangerously near to one.
retsuko: (reading is sexy!)

The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic Book Scare and How it Changed America, by David Hajdu: What a fascinating book this is, and made particularly so by a mixture of interviews, newspaper articles, and crisp, to-the-point prose. Comic books were burned in the streets of America in the 1950s, often in rallies organized by the kids who had been fervent readers just days before; ordinary citizens who worked in the comic book industry found themselves treated as though they were child molesters or drug dealers. (In one of the most funny/sad anecdotes, a comic artist relates how his neighbor, who supplied rebels in 3rd World countries with guns and explosives, snubbed him after learning that he was involved in the production of comic books.) The role of Mad Magazine in American culture suddenly became clear to me after reading this book, as did the significance of the reviled Comics Code. I couldn't help wondering as I read this, though, if another book will be written in 50 years or so, almost the same, except for the words "video games" being substituted for "comic books".

(Reading this book also made me more determined to hand out comic books to every kid I know.)

Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury:
Thank goodness no well-meaning but clueless adult ever showed me the movie version of this when I was kid. It's the kind of movie I can see as being billed as "kid friendly" when it's anything but. This is a story about kids for adults. And while it's a good book, and Bradbury's writing is like a warm mug of cocoa/metaphors on an October night, I have some quibbles with it. It seems very much of its time (1962), especially in its depiction of women (helpless, gullible, or clueless). The ending is somewhat disappointing and feels contrived. I have a suspicion that I will get in a huge argument with the book club people if I utter this opinion, though, so I'm saying it here. (Sci-fi blasphemy club, entry #2!)

Emiko Superstar, by Mariko Tamaki (words) and Steve Rolston (pictures):
The next installment from Minx is its strongest yet this year. Emiko Matsuko-McGregor, a shy Canadian teenager who simply wants a summer that "doesn't suck", ventures out one night to see the local performance art collective in her city (which I am suspecting is somewhere in or near Vancouver) and the experience changes her life and her ideas about art, beauty, truth, and her identity. The story is keenly observed, both in the writing and the art; Emiko's conflicts and desires are honestly portrayed. (At one point, I found myself wishing that I could meet Emiko and give her a real hug.) I also wish that I could have seen the performance art that she saw; it appeared to make a hell of a lot sense than the stuff I've seen before. This one's a real keeper.


Sunshine Sketch, Volume 1, by Ume Aoki:
Harmless. Cute, pointless, and harmless. Shy art high school student moves into a dorm with goofy roommates; her school teacher is goofily cute. Hell, everything in this story is goofily cute. I bought it mostly because I've been enjoying the four-panel comics lately, and this one is entirely four-panel comics.

Beauty Pop, Volume 9, by Kiyoko Arai:
The drama! The love triangle that's been simmering for the past 8 volumes finally elbows its way to the front of the story, much to my amusement and the detriment of the main plot. (Although I really don't see the main character falling in love with *either* of her two love interests, but that's beside the point.) The all-Japan Beauty Competition is even sillier in the story than I anticipated it would be (imagine a televised hair-cutting competition, with challenges involving bread hanging from strings) and that's pretty darned entertaining right there. And the mythical Golden Scissors have made another appearance. Oh, what will happen next!? The drama! :D


Ed Harris and Viggo Mortensen spend most of the film discussing miscellaneous issues of life in the Old West. Renee Zellweger appears in costumes that make her look more adorable than ever. Timothy Spall continues to affirm his awesome in a minor role. Jeremy Irons is wonderful as the villain. Some shoot-outs occur. There is gorgeous cinematography that makes the movie well worth seeing on the big screen. There are some thorny moral dilemmas. And I fall in love with the Western genre.


Netflixed on this on [ profile] cerusee's recommendation; have not been disappointed in the slightest. Each episode stands well on its own, but the overall effect of watching one short story after another is not to be dismissed, either. I don't want any spoilers, but I have to say: I am loving this (scary, scary images and all.)
retsuko: (bookshelf)
From the book club shelf:

Renfield Slave of Dracula: The title alone is worth the cost of the book; the expressions on people's faces when I tell them what I'm reading have been priceless. It's like a National Enquirer headline in novel form! Having said this, I enjoyed the book quite a bit, but found the horror somewhat lacking. Vampires just don't do it for me anymore in the scare department, and I've never had much patience for Bram Stoker's book--too much Victorian sillyness and illogical behavior ("Dracula is in her room! We must rescue her!" "But, wait! One never enters a lady's room without permission!" Come on, people, just bust down the damn door!) for my taste. This book retells the Dracula story from Renfield's point of view, and aims to fill in a lot of the gaps in the original narrative. And it's a serviceable read, not particularly profound or deep, but good enough to occupy my time. It would be a great plane book.

Not from the book club shelf:

Cakes and Ale: Why, oh why, did I never read W. Somerset Maugham until now? The man's prose is so deceptively simple that all of a sudden, I'm halfway through the book and thinking that I've known these characters all my life when I remember that I'm reading a book and not actually observing what's going on. He has such a knack for character, language, and description, and there have only been a few times when I thought, are you ever going to get on with it? I must read everything he has written, although not in a gobbling fashion--these are books to be savored, slowly. Up next is his book of short stories (or two).

Claymore, Volume 1: [ profile] meganbmoore was right: this is a great work of manga art and storytelling. The moment that clinched it for me was when a monster took a hostage and taunted her, "What are you going to do now? I'll kill him if you take another step closer!" and she replied, "I don't care," and meant it--the look on her face was all steely determination and absolutely none of the standard shounen manga girl who wavers and worries about her options, even though she's physically entirely capable of handling the situation. The art is very well done, the story violent and creepy. Not for younger readers, but good for mature readers who want something different than the standard shounen manga battle-battle-brief-interlude-battle-battle formula.

Not books:

[ profile] orichalcum sent me two Maison Ikkoku videos she rescued from the library book sale as a birthday present, and I have been having a wonderful time falling in love with the series all over again. Even with the sitcom-ish elements of the story, it's great to see such a tender love story/coming of age story unfold, with the knowledge that all will be well for our two main characters, after they sort their feelings out.

And, in a completely different train of thought, I finally realized why "The Dark Knight" left me so exhausted: it was a moral Choose-Your-Own Adventure story for adults. "If you agree that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, go to scene 13! If you want love to save the day, go to scene 21!" There's nothing wrong with that idea--in fact, I quite like moral choose-your-own-adventures. The problem was how often it occurred. In "The Dark Knight", every second scene was a thorny moral dilemma, which mounts up to about... oh, say 30 or so major moral dilemmas for the film. Which makes for thrilling--but exhausting--viewing.
retsuko: (bookshelf)
Lots of recs in this entry...

[ profile] yebisu9 and I just finished watching Satoshi Kon's anime "Paranoia Agent", which, despite one episode we skipped entirely, turned out to be one of the most engrossing anime series I've seen in a long time. Click for more. )

We also attended a screening of the breakdancing movie, "Planet B-Boy", at the Ken. Were we the unhippest people in the audience? Astoundingly, no! )

Reading-wise, I have just finished Douglas Rushkoff's phenomenonal book Coercion: Why We Listen to What They Say. I won't make a joke about coercing you to click here to read more. )

I'm also halfway through China Mieville's UnLunDun and loving every minute of it. This is a steampunk update of The Phantom Tollbooth and Alice in Wonderland with a soupcon of John Bellairs and a few pages of the old Alfred Hitchcock's Haunted Houseful collections as added spice to the main plot. I recommend this to anyone and everyone; although it's written for children, it is by no means childish. I may never think of giraffes as cute ever again.
retsuko: (bookshelf)
Book-wise, I've been meaning to blog about this one for quite a while:

Darkly Dreaming Dexter, by Jeff Lindsey )

And on the other hand of the spectrum, we have the anime Lucky Star. Lucky Star's premise is that an ordinary high school girl becomes friends with an otaku girl, and comedy ensues. And some comedy does ensue, although a lot of it is on an almost DaDa level: the girls spend the entire first episode discussing methods of eating various food items (chocolate-filled coronets, for example, should be eaten so that chocolate cream filling doesn't fall out from the end that's not being eaten; it really sucks when you want to buy a certain kind of ramen, but someone else before ordered extra noodles, and now there's none for you, so you're forced to eat curry, which you don't like because it stains your school uniform, etc. etc.). In fact, when describing the series to [ profile] aratana_miyuki, I said that it was like Seinfeld, in that it was a show about nothing, except that instead of the characters being neurotic New Yorkers, the characters are adorable Japanese high school girls who look completely unlike their respective ages and talk about manga, video games, and cell phones, instead of puffy shirts, really big salads, and the Soup Nazi.

However, I am somewhat embarrassed to say that I felt like I missed half of the jokes because I'm not enough of an otaku. And, thinking of the paragraph I am about to write about below this one, I am somewhat proud of not being one. Lucky Star is chockablock with references to previous animes, whether it's outright names (bleeped for copyright?!), poses, or animation conventions. (One of the best running gags is that Izumi Konata, the main character, shops at Animate (the largest chain of manga/anime and related goods), which is staffed by the commercial characters who advertise the store. Whenever she shops there, the animation quality switches to "Gundam"--very shounen and dramatic--style as the manager and shop keepers try to place goods where she will buy them and fail every time.) But a lot of the other jokes, about older animes and Gundam, in its infinite variations, completely escaped me. I did pick up on all the jokes about Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuutsu. The same group of people did LS, and the references and jokes pitch back and forth between the two series like two pubs right next door to each other with the same customer base. Konata works at a "Haruhi cafe", where she dresses up as Haruhi, bullies customers, and does the Hare Hare Yukai dance for their entertainment; Haruhi and Kyon's voice actors are characters on the show, in a segment called "Lucky Channel" (where they do nothing but bicker with one another.) One of the best jokes was Konata buying a dancho armband for Kagami (her friend), who has no idea what the joke is, but is bossy like Haruhi, and doesn't get the joke.

The characters themselves were pretty stereotypical, and as usual, I found the side characters more interesting than the main ones. I do want to give kudos to the voice actress who voiced the American exchange student, Patty, for performing her as fluent in Japanese, instead of the exaggerated fake "half fluent" that many voice actors employ for foreign characters.

But there was some recurring creepiness that I couldn't dismiss. )

I also couldn't help mentally comparing this series, which celebrated otaku culture, to the American series and/or movies which have attempted to do the same thing with fan culture here, and the major difference seems to be that whenever Western fandom looks inward, an element of self-loathing surfaces. (The highly reviled "Trekkies" comes to mind.) Nerds are nerds, and they're outcasts because they're weird and NOT LIKE OTHER PEOPLE. (Although "Chuck" and movies like "Knocked Up" seem to be on the verge of "cooling up" the male nerd; the female nerd remains largely stereotypically ugly and uncool.) Japanese series, OTOH, either ignore the otaku culture altogether or celebrate it, unabashedly (Genshiken, although it has its critical moments, is fairly positive about otakus being just another group of people who want to fit in with each other.) It's a weird trend, to watch two groups turn inward on themselves and come up with wildly differing results.

May 2016

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