Ao Haru Ride: Catching the Breeze of One’s Youth

AoHaruRide_01

Blue Spring Ride [Ao Haru Ride] revolves around Futaba, a girl who was in love with a boy named Tanaka Kou in middle school. However, before anything can begin, he suddenly transfers schools over summer vacation. In high school, her world is turned around once again when she meets Kou again, this time under the name of Mabuchi Kou.

One thing I find interesting about Blue Spring Ride is that, although quite a few people who read Sakisaka Io’s works like Strobe Edge better, it was her current series that got green lit for an anime and a movie (the Strobe Edge film seems to be a bonus, almost as if producers were gunning for flow on success). But if I think about the themes that are covered in both series, then I think that decision was the right one. Strobe Edge really was all about ‘falling in love’ — that’s what the entire story is centred around. On the other hand, Blue Spring Ride has as its foundation a story about relationships between friends and family. And the strength of this foundation is demonstrated by the anime, which is built almost entirely on it. Read more of this post

Psycho-Pass: care to try a different way of thinking about the world?

The empirical fact that certain themes seem to emerge in pairs, as has often occurred in Western film (Armageddon/Deep Impact, Saving Private Ryan/The Thin Red Line – to name a couple I actually remember), seems to happen in anime too. The last two seasons, viewers have been able to envelop themselves in two different dystopian societies. Having not seen Shin Seki Yori though, I can only focus on the other for the moment.

And yes, in Japanese, that’s also how we’d write “Psychopath”…

This is a world in which the mental state and personal tendencies of humans can be quantified. In this world, where all sorts of inclinations are recorded and policed, the measured number used to judge a person’s soul is commonly called “Psycho-Pass.

Forgive me for cutting to the chase, but whilst there is a mountain of things I could write about for this show, but to me, the most important issue to discuss is what viewers might be able to take from the way it ended. To do that, I shall begin by outlining some of the major criticisms of Psycho-Pass, and my own reactions. The common theme I find running through the critiques is that Western viewers in particular are bringing certain expectations to both the characters and the show itself. I contend that the these expectations and the foundations that they are built on need to be recognised, understood and critiqued, and the themes of Psycho-Pass analysed with that in mind.

Spoilers, as always, under the cut…

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Magi: I really didn’t need another reminder of just how superficial I can be…

In a medieval world where nations are still being forged, a young boy magician has grown up in a closed magical space. Eventually, he enters into the world at large to find out about himself and what role in the world he should play…

Magi - The Labyrinth of Magic
Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic…

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“Argo f*** yourself.” – popular media and politics

Ever since I shifted to my current field, I’ve found myself watching more and more shows and films inspired by its themes, the people heavily involved in it, and the events that dot its colourful historical trajectory. Argo, of course, belongs to the latter group, and is certainly a fascinating example of reality defying all expectations about how the secret services really work. However, this film is also interesting as a small indication of how the aims of popular media and the choices that their creators make can negatively affect relationships between countries.

Definitely the best promotional picture of the lot.

Definitely the best promotional picture of the lot.

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Looper: sometimes, it’s just better to suspend disbelief

looper-poster-quad1

Sometime far in the future, in a world where telekinesis has manifested itself amongst the population through a genetic mutation, technology has progressed to the point where all people are tracked, which makes it difficult for them to disappear. With the invention of time travel, the mob of that time solves this conundrum sending its targets backwards into the past. There, hooded and bound, they are killed by young hired guns whose reward is the silver strapped to their backs. These young men are known as loopers, for their own older selves are eventually sent back to be killed, for a final golden payday before they are free to live out the rest of their lives as they wish.

Joe is one such young man, though also one who dreams of a more cultured and meaningful life for himself after retirement. But then comes the day when his future returns to haunt his present life…

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Lawrence of Arabia: the importance of things past

Rather than the poster typically seen today, I decided to go for a slight more retro one...

Rather than the poster typically seen today, I decided to go for a slight more retro one…

When I joined the film group at my university this year, this classic was one of the films that I marked off immediately as one I had to see. I didn’t expect it to be as long as it was – I don’t really check such details anymore – and was stunned to be presented with a mid-film break! However, the challenge of sitting through more than four hours was worth it: despite some historical inaccuracies, the glimpses of politics was completely fascinating, for what happened and did not happen back in the early 1900s has huge implications for what’s happening in the Middle East today.

One thing that struck me as I was researching lightly for the purpose of writing this post is that photos of T.E. Lawrence show that the costume designer recreated what he wore with pretty darned good accuracy. Although history was indeed adapted for the needs of the theater, Lawrence’s level of empathy and integration into the groups of people he encountered was well captured. Considering how many Westerners are incredibly insular today, balking at the idea of cultural relativism and focusing on what’s in their interests without regard to the interests of others who share this planet, it’s fascinating to consider the experiences of someone who integrated himself so deeply into the Arab culture that he was deeply respected by many of them at the time.

It’s difficult to imagine such a tale today. Modern people so caught up in ‘getting results quickly’ that any seemingly impossible challenge would automatically be left by the wayside. Furthermore, the tendency today is for an ideal that is highly influenced by Western culture, which many justify by pointing to beliefs and practices that revolt us. Conversely, the practices and beliefs that make sense to us may be completely alien, even barbaric to them. This is not to say that I condone what is clearly problematic in terms of the rights of any person to life, food, shelter, education and so on, but I do have issues with the blatant condemnation of the so-called lack of rights that are not quite as ‘necessary’, so-to-speak. What I see instead is the great danger of losing all possibility of interacting with others if we do not even attempt to understand how they think. From what I have read since seeing this film, this is the argument that Lawrence tried to make for much of his life, and something that many people today would do well to learn.

Hyouka: it’s all in the details

It’s ostensibly a ‘mystery’ series, after all!

Sitting down to write this comment was one of the most difficult tasks I’ve had to do in a few months. Normally, something about a show – whether I liked it all that much or otherwise – will pop into my mind fairly quickly, and I’ll be on my way. That’s certainly what happened with at least two of Hyouka’s stories, the latter of which produced this particular post on episode 21. However, the all-encompassing theme that I simply have to write about is eluding me: as much as I try to think about it now, I’m not sure what exactly it was that compelled me to watch this series week after week. What I intoned after the end of the first major arc remains true for me: there is something quite profound about the stories that Hyouka tries to tell, but it’s almost impossible for me to put it into words. That said, pictures aren’t going to do it either, so I’m just going to have to try!

Anyone else still doing this…?

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King of Devil’s Island: Norway’s penal system, past and present

Or, in Norwegian, “Kongen av Bastøy”.

The year is 1915, the place the Bastøy prison, separated from the Norwegian mainland by a narrow fjord. It it to this prison that youths are sent to be moulded into respectable Christian citizens through schooling, hard work and discipline. However, when the hardened Erling is sent to the island, his defiance of the prison’s authorities and the moral foundation that grounds is a source of inspiration for others, and leads ultimately to a rebellion against the unfair system that confines them.

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UN-GO and the nature of truth

Episode 6:
From Sakaguchi Ango’s “UN-GO”
A Code Too Simple

What is ‘Truth’ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Truth)? Is it necessarily something that is in “agreement with fact and reality”? That is the same no matter how one looks at it? No matter who looks at it?

Or is ‘Truth’ something that is subjective? Something that tends to be interpreted in different ways depending on what one knows about the situation or item in question?

This debate is something that I’ve been turning over in my head for at least the past year and a half, especially after an incident in real life showed me just how easy it is for people to misconstrue something when they are not aware of all relevant information about it. Thus, when I first saw the sixth episode of UN-GO, where the apparent answer changes as each new clue is revealed. Most significantly, bereft of the certain key pieces of information, Yuuki Shinjurou automatically assumes the worst of Kaishou and just about accuses him of letting some children die…

By not doing anything, you effectively let them die.

Warning: major spoilers for UN-GO 6.

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Natsuyuki Rendezvous: ‘I want to make you happy’

The art noveau style ending was absolutely gorgeous. I know this is kinda irrelevant…but this will be my new wallpaper…once I manage to clear everything off the desktop!!

If I were to describe Natsuyuki Rendezvous in just one word, “unexpected” is the one I would choose. It surprised me in several ways, the most obvious one being the subject matter, which dealt with relationships between adults rather than between teenagers. However, skimming through the series again so as to get my thoughts about it in order, the thing that hits me most is the subtlety with which the feelings of each of the three leads are conveyed. I’m not sure if I can give justice to the depth I personally found in Natsuyuki Rendezvous, but I can only try.

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