Cloudstreet – classic description of Australian life, or not?

This was the novel selected for the last meeting of a bookclub that I attend. It’s also the favourite book of one of the members, meaning that she didn’t actually want it nominated and selected. And after the discussion we had at the meeting, I think I can understand. It doesn’t happen with all the books that we read, but sometimes, there is a sense that the discussion would improve immensely had someone raised questions for all of us to think about whilst reading. I typically go to wikipedia and then branch out if I think of something I want to check or research, but it seems like not all of us do (or have the time to do) that.

Anyways, on to the thoughts then…about why we Australians (or quasi-Aussies) connected with it much more than the others did.

The basic story – two families move into a rundown house in a big city and eek out an existence as different as night and day. Their children don’t want to stay, but in the end events, feelings etc change and they end up coming home, bringing new life into the place.

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Review: Kuroshitsuji (anime)

「執事とは、影の様に主人に付き従う者」

A butler is one who, like a shadow, follows his master faithfully.

In Victorian England, strange incidents occur in the hidden worlds of the capital. Investigating and solving these issues that may threaten the state is the responsibility of the Phantomhive family. And the faithful butler of this house will fulfill every last order given by his young master…though not necessarily out of faithfulness… Beneath the perfect exterior lies a Faustian contract made in order for Ciel Phantomhive to discover the truth behind the deaths of his parents and thus conduct his revenge.

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Review: Shinsengumi

Shinsengumi suffered the same problem as Eureka Seven, but even more so because each of the 49 episodes was 45 minutes long! Anyways, most probably know the basic story of the Shinsengumi. Scripted by playwright Mitani Kouki (cuts off tangent), NHK’s Taiga drama seems to have been based not only on truth but also on unconfirmed but popular accounts of the events, and covers the period from the first seeds of the group to the end of Kondo’s life (though there is an epilogue depicting the last day in the life of Hijikata, which I haven’t been able to find).

Previously, my only exposure to the Shinsengumi was probably through the anime/manga Rurouni Kenshin, which was obviously another fictional account of a part of their lives. But part of the fun of the legend is believing in these fictional accounts, if only for a brief period of time. And for the most part, I was immensely entertained.

I think this probably isn’t needed, but just in case…

Review: Bakumatsu Kikansetsu Irohanihoheto

Bakumatsu Kikansetsu Irohanihoheto (幕末機関説いろはにほへと) is yet another take on one of the most turbulent periods in Japanese history. This time, however, the focus is on Akidzuki Youjirou (秋月耀次郎), also known as The Eternal Assassin, whose sword with its intricate, dragon-headed ornament and strange obsession with finding and destroying an artifact known as 「覇者の頸」 (the Lord’s Head) mark him as different from other reticent traveling samurai. Ultimately, a series quite worth watching. 7.5/10

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Review: 300

There’s not really all that much to do in Singapore (unless one is of the clubbing type, which I’m quite decidedly not atm, due at least partially to just how tiring my job is…) – my brothers and I both enjoy going to the cinema more than most other activities, despite the irritating subtitles band.

So catching films at the cineplex has become a way we use to keep ourselves amused. I tend to be quite reserved about the films I pay $8 or more for – comedies and girly flicks just don’t cut it. This year, there haven’t been many that deserve the big screen treatment, but 300 certainly does…

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Review: Le Chevalier d’Eon

Since I just finished the series just then. Le Chevalier d’Eon started off very very slowly, and the main reason I kept watching was…you’ll know if you know…

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Reviews: various films

Now about some films I saw on my last few plane trips.

Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth really is something I feel that more people would watch. Not that I can say anything, I know that I have changed very little about the way I live.

I also caught the Pride and Prejudice movie, the one with Keira Knightley as Lizzy Bennett, and well, I regretted it. They cut out way too much from the story, removing most of the dialogue that made the book and the BBC series so enjoyable. Darcy may look dreamy in that proposal scene, but to me, he was reduced to someone whose developement seemed contrived and unbelievable. And let’s not talk about the costumes…when I go back to Perth for a break, I’ll gladly make myself a cup of hot chocolate, put my feet up, and go back to watching the BBC production… (There was a note of interest for me though…throughout the film, I wondered where I’d seen Caroline Bingley before…and well, I finally realised that she’s Wendy from L’ Auberge Espagnole and Les Poupées Russes…)

I saw Flags of Our Fathers because I wanted to watch Letters from Iwo Jima before it left the cinemas here. I failed in the latter…but FoOF was interesting enough. Some people criticise it for its sentimentality…but I felt that they had a point. I haven’t seen that many war movies…but I don’t know of a war movie with the same message – that many of the heroes of our wars don’t wish to be remembered as such. Rather, they were people who did what they had to do under the circumstances. Maybe it seems rather contrived since most people with sufficient education understand the point, but it is nice once in a while to have a film that doesn’t glorify what happens in war.

But on that note, guess what other movie I’m going to be talking about soon…

Reviews: Shinobi and Honey and Clover (movie)

Shinobi: Heart Under Blade

Review: Band of Brothers

I’m sure everyone has heard of Band of Brothers, the 10-episode HBO series based on Steven Ambrose’s book of the same name. Another thing that would have been noted is that Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, director and star respectively of Saving Private Ryan, were involved as executive producers, and in the latter case, also as a director and writer.

Band of Brothers follows the soldiers of Easy Company from the day they dropped behind enemy lines to their fates upon the end of the war in Europe. The series focusses on a handful of the men, from those that remained with the company throughout, to those that missed part of the action some way or another. In doing so, it addresses many facets of the war – the losses and incompetences that unexpectedly forced command onto junoir officers and even NCOs; the effects of fear and shellshock; the tension between eager new recruits and battle-weary veterans; the insanity of commanders who’d been too long from the battlefield; the birth of legends, some balanced by human emotions and regrets…the list goes on.  

Comparisons with Saving Private Ryan seem inevitable…and I found this series more enjoyable. Being a miniseries, it could cover much more than the film did, and the characters do not come across as cliched, even though several seem impossible (Lt. Spiers sprinting across a battlefield between Item and Easy Companies in episode 7 ‘The Breaking Point’ comes to mind: “At first the Germans didn’t shoot at him. I think they couldn’t quite believe what they were seeing. But that wasn’t the really astounding thing. The astounding thing was that after he hooked up with I Company, he came back.” But that’s where legends come from).

Nevertheless, there are some negatives to my experience as a viewer. The different directors (there were nine in total, if I’m not mistaken) tried various techniques, and the discrepancies between episodes were sometimes jarring. Perhaps this was largely dictated by the screenplays, but since the director of one episode in question was also involved as a writer in the series, I am unwilling to discount the importance of their influence. Also, some of the episodes became somewhat tedious once in a while, though this could have had more to do with me virtually marathoning the series (I watched it in two shifts).

Wikipedia notes that the identities of the interviewed veterans are revealed only at the end of the series…I seem to remember names popping up here in there during the course of my viewing of it, but it’s impossible for me to check atm. There’s a high chance that I’ll be adding this to my DVD collection someday though ^^.

2006 reflections

Reflections on 2006 – what I’ve seen anyway – based on series that ENDED in 2006 except where openings and endings are concerned. Sadly for me, I decided to try and lessen my anime addiction at the start of what has turned out to be a stellar year after disappointment of 2005, and regretted it, of course. (I refrained from adding the adjective ‘huge’, as the first season of H&C belongs to 2005, if I’m not mistaken.) Nevertheless, I have gotten rid of one thing: my propensity to collect anime- another 10 series or thereabouts (all burnt on CD) to get rid of and I’m done. If only I could bring this across to the other collections… But on to the year in (brief) review…

Judging from my entries this year, Ouran takes the cake…but atm, I can’t decide between that and Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu, which has the draw of a wonderfully snarky Kyon to balance the insane titular character. I suspect that Blood+ and Honey & Clover (I’m treating it as one series here) will be joining the list once I’ve completed them. For personal enjoyment value, I also looked forward to Black Blood Brothers every week, but to be honest, that wasn’t a spectacular series. A major disappointment was Innocent Venus, for all it’s wasted potential. The others were what I expected (xxxHOLiC, Gakuen Heaven, .hack//ROOTS – which I’ll be finishing soon), or I simply didn’t continue watching them (Princess Princess). Ineligible for the list are some series I’m still watching, as well as NANA, Saiunkoku Monogatari, Bleach, Death Note and D.Gray-man…of which only DN will probably be continued from here on (if I can be bothered – I’ve never regretted reading a manga series more). Not that Kokumono and NANA are all that bad themselves, just that following the original sources is much more interesting.

Favourite seiyuu roles this year: Sugitan as Kyon (Haruhi), Kamiyan as Queen Saionji (Gakuen Heaven) and Takemoto (Hachikuro), Fujita Yoshinori as Kaoru (Ouran) and Ishida Akira as Shin-chan (NANA) whilst Hirano Aya as Haruhi (Haruhi) and Paku Romi as Osaki Nana (NANA) are the female standouts for me. Perhaps it’s strange that none of the three seiyuu I’m interested in (see sidebar) are on this list, but I still like them anyway…

Favourite opening are Haruhi’s “Bouken deshou deshou?,” xxxHOLiC’s “19 Sai” and Bakumatsu…’s “Kouya Ruten” whilst endings are more difficult – but I’ve loved BBB’s “Shinkirou,” NANA’s “A little pain” and Ouran’s “Shisshou,” whilst Haruhi’s “Hare Hare Yukai” takes the cake for a credit sequence/song combination (gotta love Kyon’s ‘what the hell am I doing’ expression).

In terms of drama series…I think I’ll be watching Nodame Cantabile ASAP, but I’ll never follow enough of these yearly to select any favourites in time. Live action films…of what I’ve seen from this year’s release, Casino Royale (because it was damn realistic this time around), but again, I haven’t got much to choose from (Batman Begins, The Constant Gardener and Russian Dolls were all from yesteryear).

edit: editing this has been a bit of a pain because once you start using HTML, going back to rich text just doesn’t work…I’m not going to be bothering with screenshots…