38th MIBF: My Japanese book haul

20170918_031742My MIBF2017 book haul. Who wouldn’t be happy; five books, each for 20% less.

If only I can get paid reading books, then I’ll have all the joy in the world.

I don’t really buy this much. I only buy one or two the most but a good-natured person 🤗☺️loaned me some money so I got to buy this much so I’m not buying any until I get to pay these five books.

 More of my fascination on Japanese literature 

Discovering and exploring other Japanese authors — Yoko Ogawa and Hiromi Kawakami. These authors I think aren’t even available at National.

“Subtle, graceful, wise and threaded on a quirky humor, this exploration of the connections and disconnections between people kept me smiling long after the last page.” – Julia Rochester’s review of Hiromi Kawakami’s The Nakano Thrift Shop.

However, I think the plot summary ultimately got me. It says “Among the jumble of paperweights, plates, typewiters, and general bric-a-brac in Mr. Nakano’s thrift store, there are treasures to be found.”

Kawakami’s The Nakano Thrift Shop is somewhat familiar as I’ve seen it on Kinokuniya SG Webstore but I didn’t click on it, so I still don’t know up until today what it is about. I also haven’t read any of her works before so entirely, she’s new to me.

“Gorgeous, cinematic… This novel has all the charm and restraint of any by Ishiguro or Kenzaburo Oe, and the whimsy of Murakami.” – Los Angeles Times review of Yoko Ogawa’s The Housekeeper and the Professor.

After reading this review and the plot summary saying “An enchanting story about what it means to live in the present, and about the curious equations that can create a family” at the back of the cover, I knew it’s a shoo-in for me. I love the cover too.

Yoko Ogawa is also entirely new to me and I totally discovered her and this book at the Fully Booked booth, which means I haven’t seen this even at Kinokuniya Webstore before.

Despite being new, Haruki Murakami’s Men Without Women is also 20% off and I’ve been meaning to get it since it was released back on May 9th. And of course, After Dark — it’s been on my must-read Murakami books ever since, because of its story and the title itself speaks so much of the world where I exist.

And last but not the least, My Neighbor Totoro: The Novel. It’s released in 2012 for the 20th anniversary of the film.

I’m just so happy to be finding it at Fully Booked. It’s been on my Kinokuniya wishlist for quite some time now but haven’t really decided when I’ll buy it because I’m thinking of getting the others first, so it’s really nice I was able to buy it at a lower price than Kinokuniya’s.

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My heart was so happy when I found this – My Neighbor Totoro: The Novel. Released in 2012 in celebration of the film’s 20th anniversary.

 

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38th MIBF:Manga-sightings and adoring session of classics covers

Fully Booked has a wider selections of books (compared to National Book Store or Power Books), including a lot of manga, they even have Jojo’s Bizarre Adventures in hardcover. And I just love the covers of Sense and Sensibility and Les Miserables (Not that I ever read these two already or that I will ever read them.)

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Sherlock Holmes, Gothic Science Fiction Fantasy and Grimm’s Fairy Talesv

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The real Niccolo Machiavelli. I first heard of Machiavelli from Harry Potter and back then I thought he was fictional. Love the embossed words on the cover and back of this.

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I almost shrieked with joy (internally, of course) because I thought this was The Life Changing Manga of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo but it wasn’t. It’s a parody of Kondo’s book. I got fooled. But the title is humorous and I can so relate to its opening lines.

Tokyo Ghoul live action: My independent perspective

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This is the first instance I ever watched something on the first day, last screening though because I don’t wanna miss it like when I almost didn’t get to watch Your Lie in April back in December.

Not a fan of the anime as I haven’t seen it but I’m quite familiar and so far has watched some clips before seeing the film. But every time there’s a live action adaptation of manga-anime series, I always wanna check out the trailer to see if I should watch it. Then I saw the trailer of this coupled with a great ending song, I was floored and quickly decided I’ll see it.

As far as reviews go, it’s generally positive. As for me, it doesn’t disappoint from my stand-alone view of not comparing to the anime-manga of course, so I’m not saying anything about how faithful the film is from the manga, which is pointed out as one of the strong points of the film.

I enjoyed watching it and I really like it because it has a great cast that’s suitable for the characters they portray, has good balance of drama and action, the scenes and pace play out well meaning it doesn’t drag, it isn’t so gory or too violent for me, the cinematography — I love the cold dark color and atmosphere of the film, I love the effects of the kagune — it really gives me the creeps, love the fight scenes, it’s so well-done, particularly that climactic face-off between Kaneki and Amon (Masataka Kubota and Nobuyuki Suzuki really executed this part really good), and not to forget really strong performances from the cast, specifically Nobuyuki Suzuki as Amon, Yu Aoi as Rize, Yu Oizumi as CCG investigator Mado and Masataka Kubota as Ken Kaneki.

I’m so amazed right now with Masataka, that part when he gets all consumed and deranged by his ghoul instincts and about to kill and eat Amon is the highlight of his performance as Kaneki. He gets all the craziness of this character all in the right ways, even when he was still the nerd human Kaneki.

He gets my respect from this performance. I do know him from Death Note TV series but haven’t seen it but after researching him, I found out he earned a best actor award as Light. This reminds me of how Kenichi Matsuyama also earned awards from his performance as L from the Death Note movies, but this time the cards are on Light’s side for having the stronger and more talented actor between the two. #MasatakaKubota

With this, the film makes me wanna watch the anime now and I’m now considering seeing Death Note TV series despite being uninterested when I first heard about it — one reason is that I’m not exactly okay with YamaKen as L.

Kakeru, Kousei, Kou: A trio of profound suffering

 

First, I knew about Kou then Kousei and now Kakeru and then it hit me, that these three form a deep puzzle.

When I came to the realization that their names all start with the same letter — letter K, I’m like ‘what kind of enchantment is this?’ It feels like it’s meant to be, maybe intentional or perhaps pure coincidence.

Besides the first name initial, these three have issues that concern their mothers but of course not in the same exact manner — one’s mom passed away due to an illness and he can’t forgive himself because he feels responsible in taking care of his mom as he promised to his brother when their parents got divorced, thinking if only he paid more attention then he would have noticed it (Kou); the other whose mom is so ruthless that she beats him which ends up with the son finally blowing up and cursing that he hopes she dies and ultimately it does happen (Kousei); and finally, a boy’s mom who’s sickly, also divorced when he was little and who needed her son to be with her at the hospital, to which he initially agreed but changed his mind to hang out with his new friends and informing her in a not so pleasing manner, which was followed by the mother breaking down and committing suicide (Kakeru).

All three have high sense of guilt, self-hate, and extreme trauma — depression. They deal with it in different manners but similarly, their behaviors and perspectives have all changed.

Out of the three, I’d say Kakeru has the most difficult depression because he’s reached that suicidal tendency stage unlike Kou and Kousei. Then again, what Kousei said to his mom is more distressing than what Kakeru did but Kakeru ended up feeling more guilty than Kousei as people have different reactions to such situations. Kousei, I think, at the end of the series, might have subtle suicidal tendencies after suffering a double blow when Kaori passed on but I guess Tsubaki is the key so that he could avoid it.

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On a side note,  Kakeru and Kou could really pass as twin brothers, seriously. I instantly thought of Kou the first time Kakeru made an appearance except the hairstyle and the eyes. Even Futaba and Naho are so alike other than the hairstyle and color and their eyes.

Orange anime series and my Japanese inclination for such stories

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Orange has been on my list since late last year while I was occupied with Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso (Your Lie in April). I’ve been listening to its soundtrack from early this year without having even started the anime series and now it’s on repeat again as I’m finally watching it.

Stories such as (depression and suicide) Orange tend to have gravitational pull towards me. It’s been a strong predilection for me but my very first venture and exposure to such themes was when I read Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami back in college (Thanks to a college classmate’s recommendation). In this, three people committed suicide — Kizuki, who killed himself when he was 17, Reiko, and then eventually Naoko who had been struggling with the loss of Kizuki.

Then in Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki, which is now my favorite Murakami novel, there’s also suicide and depression with the character of Shiro.

With anime both series and films, such examples among my favorites are 5 Centimeters per Second’s Takaki, Ao Haru Ride’s Kou, Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso’s Kousei, Koe no Katachi’s Shoya and Shouko, and then this anime series — Orange with Kakeru, which is set to become among my favorite anime series.

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Apart from the same themes, these are all Japanese. Even Kizuki’s suicide and Kakeru’s suicide in the alternative timeline are similar — both are 17.

Depression and suicide are highly complex because both are psychological and even more difficult to explain than any kind of medical illness.

I’m starting to wonder why I have so much attachment to characters and stories with the said elements. On my take, it’s something I deeply contemplate about. A close friend said, it’s because it’s something I can understand but perhaps it’s more than that.

Manga Hokusai Manga at the Ateneo Art Gallery

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Manga Hokusai Manga: Approaching the Master’s Compendium from the Perspective of Contemporary Comics 

The exhibit runs until July 28 at the Ateneo Art Gallery.

An international traveling exhibition organized by the Japan Foundation is an exploration of the similarities and differences between Katsushika Hokusai’s manga and modern Japanese manga, with works from seven contemporary manga artists from the basis and influence of Hokusai’s manga.

Before I checked out the exhibit, I attended “Manga and the ‘Manga-esque’:
Shifting Definitions and Perspectives,” a lecture by Dr. Karl Ian Uy Cheng Chua, director of the Ateneo de Manila University – Japanese Studies Program. 

The talk centers on how “manga” and the perceptions of “manga” have changed, and how “manga” is consumed and produced in the Philippine context. The talk hopes to present the expansive reach and influence of manga, as well the problems it can encounter overseas.

Dr. Chua started by asking ‘what is manga?’ My answer to that — it’s a drawing with a story, it has Japanese characters, has Japanese context, it has panels and dialogue balloons, that it is read from right to left, and that it’s a source material for anime and film adaptations. I didn’t say it though, it was just in my head while talking to myself. 


To me, I think of manga as very Japanese because it’s highly culturally-rooted. It’s no longer manga to me when there’s no element of being Japanese in it — not the creator, not the story, nothing; even though the style is like a manga, I would only call it copying a manga but not a manga.

I was in a dilemma when Dr. Chua showed on the presentation some examples and I found myself at loss and confusion if it’s manga or not.

I realized that defining manga is complex as there’s no standard definition as compared to Hokusai’s manga. The definition and perceptions as to whether one is to be called a manga is now not only based on the cultural appropriateness of the content — the style, story, and characters. It’s expansive and ever-changing depending on one’s basis and analysis on why one would categorize it as manga whether it’s made by a Japanese mangaka or not. 

Film Festival Circuit III: The Tale of the Princess Kaguya in Cinemalaya Film Fest

When I heard about “The Tale of the Princess Kaguya” being screened for this year’s Cinemalaya Film Festival under the Independents: Asian Showcase section, I told myself I had to take the opportunity cause it’ll never have a regular screening in cinemas here so this is the only chance I got. I managed to tagged along my college friend Anna to watch it with me on August 9, one of the only two screenings for the Isao Takahata gem at the CCP Main Theater.

At first though, I was a little put off by the animation style of the film. It reminded me of the style of another Isao Takahata film, “My Neighbors The Yamadas,” although I haven’t really seen this one fully, partly because I wasn’t so interested. But fortunately, I went ahead to watching Princess Kaguya and I was definitely proven wrong on my apprehension regarding the animation. The film is Isao Takahata’s final film. The director is best known for “Grave of the Fireflies,” which I have seen and really brought me utter sadness and tears. I still find it hard to watch it again.

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The film is based on a 10th century folktale called “The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter” and is considered the very first Japanese prose narrative from the Tokugawa period. It centers around the bamboo cutter Okina (Takeo Chii) and his discovery of a little child inside a bamboo shoot. He brings her home to his wife Ona (Nobuko Miyamoto), but when she carries the child she suddenly grows into a normal looking baby.

The couple decided to raise the child and naming her Kaguya (Aki Asakura), which means “radiant night” in Japanese. There was a shining light coming out of the bamboo shoot to where Okina found her, thus the name that means radiant night. The little Kaguya becomes friends with the local children and they also noticed how she strangely grows too fast like a bamboo, so they started calling her “takenoko” or little bamboo and developing a special friendship with Sutemaru (Kengo Kora).

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But the mysteries didn’t end with her discovery, Okina found gold coins and elegant silk robes inside the very same bamboo, and he was convinced that Kaguya is a gift from heaven and is destined for nobility. With this Kaguya’s life is changed entirely, from the suburbs to the city to learn the ways and principles of a noble lady fit for the high society.

The news of her elegant beauty has quickly spread, eliciting attentions from noblemen to the emperor. But on the day she was solemnized as Kaguya-hime (Princess Kaguya), she realized how most people only cared about her physical looks and that she’s only being named a princess due to her father’s wealth.

Despite her bold disobedience at times to her father and mentor Lady Sagami (Atsuko Takahata), she still yearns to please her father in the best of her abilities but upon hearing how people deride even her father makes her start to realize that all the things about her nobility is unworthy.

One of my favorite scenes in the film. Just look at that. 

One of the strong themes tackled in the film is how women of nobility are stripped of their free will, thrown into situations other people have decided for them without consideration to their opinions and feelings. Another is how women are merely treated as possessions and status symbols and how they are lured by men with money, flamboyant words and promises.

And yes not to forget the animation itself that initially turned me off. I have to say it really is majestic. The hand-drawn or brush-stroke style makes every scene feel and look like its being sketch as it happens on screen. The whole film is a masterpiece painting that comes alive before the audience. It can also  be likened to traditional Japanese painting such as The Great Wave off Kanagawa.

And of course, a Ghibli film is not complete without its accompaniment of musical score from perennial genius and Ghibli collaborator Joe Hisaishi that complements each and every moment of the film, from the joyful discovery of Kaguya, her early experiences as a human, to saying goodbyes, to good memories of friendship, and new beginnings and challenges as a princess.

Infinitely beautiful, truly one of the very best animated films ever made.