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

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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

What manga can teach you about life

I know that this one's for girls in their tweens...but I unabashedly love CCS to pieces!!
I know that this one’s for girls in their tweens…but I unabashedly love CCS to pieces!!
And I’m completely willing to admit it!

Was flipping through one of my favourite manga again the other day, when I came across something that really made me reflect on the role that manga (and anime) writers often play in society, especially if their protagonists are school aged children. Of course, I’m only writing this up now because it has great relevance for Chihaya too.

** WARNING ** SPOILERS for CCS and Chihayafuru AHEAD **

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Chihayafuru Manga: Poem 139

Am I ready?

Poem 48 (Kaze wo itami):

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風をいたみ 岩うつ波の おのれのみ くだけて物を 思ふころかな

Kaze wo itami iwa utsu nami no onore nomi kudakete mono wo omou koro kana

Like a driven wave,
Dashed by fierce winds on a rock,
So am I: alone
And crushed upon the shore,
Remembering what has been.

** WARNING ** SPOILERS AHEAD **

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Some final comments on Macross Frontier part 1: ‘Canon’, creators and the fan community

Would the real Lynn Minmay please step forward?

Would the real Lynn Minmay please step forward?

Partake in the enjoyment of a franchise with works that span several different types of media, and you will inevitably encounter what I call the ‘canon obsession’. As one of the most well known Macross bloggers on the internet observed:

We also are, rightly or wrongly, continuity fanboys. We like our coherence, consistently, and symmetry. This is why Kawamori’s cavalier attitude towards canon is a curse upon our houses. We like looking back, remembering love for a single narrative continuity.

The “cavalier attitude” that ghostlightning refers to is what some derise as the ‘anything goes’ approach, which is how many fans interpret the various statements by series creator Kawamori Shouji, dating back to the 1980s, that all shows the shows and films produced in the Macross franchise are in-universe fictional takes based on events and individuals in the ‘real’ Macross history. The author’s notes for the Frontier novels, along with Kawamori’s endorsement of several manga iterations of Frontier, suggest that this approach extends to the other products that have his approval. That is to say, the TV show, the films, the manga and the novels all have the same level of validity in Macross ‘canon’. Which is also to say, given the many differences and inconsistencies across all these versions of the story, that there is no coherent and consistent ‘canon’ that fans can count on as being factual history. We will never know exactly what Hikaru, Minmay and Misa were like. We will never know if Michel actually died or not, nor if Alto really disappeared and never came back…

At least, that’s what some fans are concerned about. To those taking a quick look at the Macross fandom today, there might appear to be one question that everyone is concerned with: what was the real outcome of the main love triangle? Did Alto and Sheryl really get together? Or did real Ranka actually have a chance sometime after those real events in the history of the Macross universe? Using various interpretations of Kawamori’s ‘they’re all fictional’ comments, along with their own interpretations of what happened in one iteration or another, fans continue to argue for their own ship.

Which is mostly all fine and dandy in my book…well, the shipping part at least. I can largely ignore that and happily keep exploring the universe on my own. However, I have seen far too many people twist and interpret Kawamori’s words to fit their own theories about particular works. Given that I am one of the people who make his words available for the perusal of those in the West, the fact that my work has been used to perpetuate misperceptions and untruths about Kawamori and the people he works with gravely concerns me. Hence, I would just like to offer some research and comments on ‘canon’ and ‘canon’ in Macross that will hopefully help straighten the foundation of the debate. Pardon the long introduction, but so begins the first of three posts on Macross ‘canon’.

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

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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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Sukitte Ii na yo: a slightly more realistic high school romance

When ‘Japanese high school’ and ‘shoujo romance’ come together, the first title that comes to mind is probably Kimi ni Todoke (Reaching You). Reactions to that manga and anime are different, though the most common one seems to be that it’s somewhat unrealistic in terms of how slow ALL of the relationships move, or, to put it another way, how pure they all are. I won’t get into that particular debate, but this was one of the reasons I decided to try Sukitte Ii na yo (Say You Love Me), as it had been promoted as a more ‘realistic’ look at high school romance in Japan. I would say that that’s a pretty good description.

Tell me that you love me...

Tell me that you love me…

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The ninth memory of 2012: a certain unboxing…

Finally getting my paws on the Blu-rays for The False Diva and Wings of Farewell is something that almost had me singing on my recent trip to Japan. The main reason being that the film strips I found in them were from two of my favourite scenes:

...that date...

…that date…

AND

...and that first meeting...

…that first meeting…

I was somewhat nervous that I might be one of the unlucky ones that got saddled with the ‘no piracy’ video, so it was an extra-pleasant surprise not to get some shots of scenery or of the Galaxy moguls, for example!

The eighth memory of 2012: the poetry of a bittersweet romance

Well, Happy New Year…or, rather, あけおめ、ことよろ! And what better way to open up the year than with a story of endings and new beginnings?

Of all the series I watched this year, Utakoi was a funny one for me. A fair number of viewers seemed to think that it had been greenlighted because of the unexpected success that the Chihayafuru anime saw. Given that an anime series typically goes into pre-production up to a year or more before airing, I’m inclined to believe that both shows were part of an effort to highlight the beauty of traditional Japanese poetry, as represented by the Ogura Hyakunin Isshu (Ogura collection of 100 poems by 100 poets) amongst female anime viewers. However, much as I promised myself to invest more time in analysing this show in relation to the poems, I simply never got into it.

Neverteless, there is one story that completely captured my heart. Spanning two episodes (though with roots tracing back one more), the sharp banter between Sei Shonagon and Fujiwara no Yukinari and the way they danced around each other with words was a joy to witness. And then that parting, bitter yet with the taste of sweet memories that sustain them both in the paths they have chosen. If there is one thing about Japanese stories that Western ones – which I would say tend to value the notion of being together, whether in life or in death – do not often seem to explore, it is the importance of memory, of those recollections of happy times spent together, even if a loved one is no longer there.

Look back at those memories; they are there to push you forward.

Look back at those memories; they are there to push you forward.

In some ways, I feel that this is precisely why I write about this hobby of mine. It’s not just about the joy of the experience as a story unfolds, or the fun of discussing it with others, it also about reminiscing about that experience, looking back on the good times wherein one can often find inspiration to keep going. I find myself doing that quite often: skimming back over posts I made long ago, looking back over what I’ve written for AS, or the comments I’ve left elsewhere. Of course, you could argue that it’s a waste of time, but that’s the poetry of this bittersweet romance.

Utakoi: love and poetry in the Heian era

Perhaps the most emblematic poem of them all…at least for those of us that came across from Chihayafuru…

It’s probably incredibly strange that an anime like this even got green lighted. A lot of people put it down to the relative popularity of Chihayafuru, a sleeper hit that no anime/manga/game related company had wanted to sponsor, not even its manga publisher, Kodansha. The unexpected attention that Chihayafuru drew to the card game karuta, in turn drew attention to the Ogura Hyakunin Isshu with which the game is traditionally played. Hence, Utakoi, which is adapted from a manga that looks at the stories behind the poems of this particular collection, compiled by Fujiwara no Teika.

One thing that amused me: most of the adults never ‘aged’. Teika was actually in his late 30s when he was supposedly liaising with Princess Shokushi, and ~70 when he finished compiling the Hyakunin Isshu!

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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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