(First impressions) A Silent Voice [Koe no Katachi]

a-silent-voice

A Silent Voice is my film of the year.

This is not a claim I make lightly. I saw your name. just two days prior to this masterpiece, and I’ll be seeing Godzilla Resurgence this coming week. I’m sure that I’ll also be catching some of next year’s Oscar favourites come Christmas. But even as my mind returns, time and time again, to the story that Yamada Naoko and her team at Kyoto Animation have brought to the screen, my conviction only grows. I simply cannot conceive of anything else giving me anything close to that experience at the theatre.

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(First impressions) your name. [Kimi no Na wa.]

your-name

Unlike Kizumonogatari, Shinkai Makoto’s your name. was one of the two films I’d planned to see on my trip late last month. Seeing the trailer all three times I’d been to the cinema in July was one significant factor…but I was also a bit ambivalent about the idea, for Shinkai has been a bit of a mixed bag for me. I enjoyed thinking about his favourite themes regarding human connection in his earlier works—Voices of a Different Star and The Placed Promised in Our Early Days. However, whilst everyone else seems to rave about it, 5 Centimetres Per Second left me a bit cold. Because of that, I’ve yet to see Children Who Chase Lost Voices or The Garden of Words, even now.

In the end however, I gave in to the hype and went off to the theatre. It was still packed even though the film had been doing the rounds for three weeks by then…and I have to admit that I found myself a little bemused seeing a few moist eyes as everyone walked out two hours later. However, whilst my underlying ambivalence about the director has kept me from raving about the film—unlike everyone else who’s seen it, so it appears—with your name., Shinkai has achieved something that none of his other films did: characters that I would actually like to meet again. Read more of this post

A third look at Usagi Drop

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Rush hour!

The Usagi Drop film, with Matsuyama Ken’ichi and Ashida Mana as the mismatched pair building a life together, was released in 2011 amidst the spotlight associated with the ending of the manga series. Even though it’s taken me a couple of years to finally sit down an watch this film, I’m taking it as a blessing in disguise, for it allows me to once again reflect on the themes that Unita Yumi seems to have been concerned with. Most viewers — myself included — celebrated the anime for its heartwarming story about how Kawachi Daikichi, a young man on the rise in his company, learned how to be a father even through the sacrifices he had to make, and the film can certainly be read in exactly the same way.

However, in the time that I’ve since had to think about the controversial ending of the manga, I’ve started seeing far more complex ideas and messages in this story. And these are also reflected in the film: even though the movie gives Daikichi male peers who dote on their young children, as errinundra observed, he isn’t learning how to be a father, but rather how to be a single, working mother. In fact, Daikichi isn’t just learning how to be a single mother, he’s learning about the constrained choices that confront women in Japanese society. Read more of this post

Looking back on 2014, appendix: the list

Although it feels like I’ve seen a lot more this year than in previous years, when I actually went and tallied it up, the total was about on par with what I covered in 2013. I’d like to proudly claim that I’ve added nothing to my backlog either, but that’s not strictly true, since I’m hoping to catch up on Ronia, the Robber’s Daughter [Sanzoku no Musume Ronja] and Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works as their second halves get underway… There are also a few others that I’m still considering, such as Knights of Sidonia, so they might just show up on the backlog next year, unless I’m able to get to them…

Nevertheless, I’d definitely seen enough to have some difficulty in selecting my list this year: 9 were lock-ins, and three spaces were up for grabs. In fact, I was still mulling over them as I finished three series that I hadn’t been so sure about, over my first real Christmas ‘break’ in four years (i.e. I wasn’t working in retail this year!). In the end, in terms of anime, I still settled for series that I’d watched at a more leisurely pace over the year, even without interacting that much with other viewers on them; obviously, something about the way that I pick what to watch is still working for me. There are shows that I somewhat regret not keeping/catching up with, but even though I can’t see myself remembering 2014 as a great year for this hobby of mine, ultimately, I’ll be quite happy to look back and see these 12 memories.

Finally, I’d like to thank everyone who’s dropped by, hung around a bit, perhaps even taken the time to comment this year. Whilst I would probably be writing about my hobbies anyway, it’s the people I interact with who will always challenge me to read more widely, with the goal of always improving the quality of my writing and analysis. So thank you for your support and encouragement, and for challenging me to keep re-examining my arguments. And I look forward to seeing you again sometime this year, if what I write about still happens to interest you too.

And without further ado, here’s the list. Read more of this post

Rurouni Kenshin: Meiji Kenkaku Romantan – well…that was better than I expected…

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This film is based on the manga of the same name, that was popular during the 1990s. I’m sure it doesn’t need an introduction either in Japan or amongst anime/manga fans, right? This first film is adapted from the first part of the manga, the Edo arc:

10 years after the end of the Bakumatsu, the Meiji government strives to bring its vision of a modern Japan to fruition, and everyday people struggle to go on with their lives in this new world. A wandering swordsman, Himura Kenshin, comes across the idealistic Kamiya Koaru, who is trying to protect the kendo dojo that her father passed down to her…

I never expected to like this film, I must admit. There are many manga that I find difficult to imagine as a live-action piece, and this was one of them. There was just something about the many techniques that I find a little incredulous, especially in the second and third arcs. But perhaps that’s why this first arc worked: it was arguably more grounded in reality than the others – yes, the hypnotism included. That said, Satou Takeru was pretty good as the titular character. Kenshin is hard to describe: in the manga, it can be really easy to forget that he hides so much pain, loneliness and guilt behind that cheery exterior, but here, you can sense that it’s all lurking underneath. This makes the movie less light-hearted than the manga, at least in relation to Kenshin himself (Sano remains Sano though), but I think that’s fitting given the medium. Even though they had to change quite a few details in order to fit it into a limited timeframe, I quite enjoyed it, and am sincerely looking forward to the next one.

And I do want to see Kenshin happy in the end!

And I do want to see Kenshin happy in the end!

O-tonari: the sounds from the other side of the wall

Satoshi is a photographer who would rather capture landscapes than the magazine models that he works with; Nanao a florist who dreams of going to France to learn from masters in her art. Although they’ve never met, each takes comfort from the sounds of daily living that come from the other side of the wall they share. However, that paper-thin wall also means that they inadvertently eavesdrop on somewhat more intimate details in each others’ lives. As a day of departure approaches, will their eyes ever meet…?

Knowing my interest in Japanese culture, a friend invited me to see this film when it was screened at my university last year. And as with many other Japanese stories, it left me with a warm, fuzzy feeling.

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Kimi ni Todoke (live-action film): hmm…

From wiki:

Sawako Kuronuma, called Sadako by her classmates for her resemblance to the character from The Ring, has always been feared and misunderstood because of her appearance. There are rumors that Sawako can see ghosts and curse people. However, despite her appearances, she is a sweet and timid girl who longs to be able to make friends with everyone and be liked by everyone else. When her idol, popular boy Kazehaya, begins talking with her, everything changes. She finds herself in a new world, trying to make friends and talking to different people and she can’t thank Kazehaya enough for giving her these opportunities. Slowly, but surely, a sweet love blossoms between the two as they overcome circumstances and obstacles that stand in their way.

I don't know about you...but I kinda prefer their anime incarnations...

After the disaster of Hanakami (the first J-drama) and the semi-disaster of Hachikuro (the film was terrible, and I didn’t try the TV drama – even though my current favourite Japanese TV actor was involved), I really wasn’t too keen on watching another live-action adaptation of a manga. Especially a manga that has a pretty damn good anime adaptation already going for it. But well, even I have to admit that Miura Haruma has a pretty sweet smile – even if I didn’t like the other film I saw him in…

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In memory of 2011 appendix: the list

That is to say, the stuff I watched in 2011. It’s much shorter than my 2010 list…which is reflective of how my free time just disappeared due to the course I’ve been doing…one more semester to go!

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Norwegian Wood (ノルウェイの森): my first taste of Murakami on film

“I once had a girl, or should I say, she once had me…
She showed me her room, isn’t it good, Norwegian wood?”

Norwegian Wood. Named after the Beatles song released in the 1960s. That’s also when the story is set, at the start of the Vietnam war, with the Japanese public up in arms over Okinawa being used as a base from which American forces were being launched. (It wasn’t subbed, but you could hear the protesters yelling something like “return Okinawa!” in the background.) But in the middle of all that upheaval, ‘ordinary’ people just kept trying to cope with life and love. And for Watanabe and Naoko, with heartbreak and death.

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Departures: dignity and the Japanese mask

Unemployed and broke when his orchestra is suddenly disbanded, a former cellist find himself taking up an unusual job that changes his life, teaching both him and the viewer about how life can be lived.

A surprise win in the Foreign Film category at last year’s Academy Awards, Departures (おくりびと) introduces us to a little known ceremony performed by encoffiners (納棺師), the people who are responsible for preparing the deceased for their final rest. Death is a subject that is typically avoided in most societies today, and Kobayashi Daigo finds himself unable to tell his wife or friends of his new job. However, as he follows his eccentric boss around, witnessing the grace and beauty of the ceremony and encountering the many people affected by death, Daigo grows to appreciate life and realises that he has found what he was meant to do.

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