Music Sundays: B.A.P – Hurricane

Sometimes you need to have a (not so) guilty pleasure. I used to think it was Big Bang, but then I got to be friends with J and she introduced me to a whole new world of music. Or, rather, she reminded me that kpop is more than just SM groups. And, well, here I am, a BAP fan. No, really.

My favorite’s the boy in gold, dancing his ass off. That’s Jongup, in case you were curious. Yes, I’m too old for this shit and no, I just don’t care.

Friday Links (are somewhat depressing)

  • Some truly beautiful photos. The View from Above: from landscapes to seascapes, from mountaintops to the valleys below, from Bhutan to Bismarck — a bird’s-eye tour of the world (Foreign Policy)
  • Another really interesting, somewhat unbelievable (but all too real) and ultimately depressing article. It’s also a good demonstration of how the internet brings people together more than it isolates us. Omar and Me: My strange, frustrating relationship with an American terrorist (Foreign Policy).

And now for some music, a little post-rock for relaxation. Enjoy the album Restore by My Cats A Stargazer:

Some of the links in this post came from the following newsletters: Longreads, NextDraft and Story of the Week.

Movie Review: The Girl Who Leapt Through Time

I’ve been watching a lot of anime recently, though I’m not sure what brought this on. I used to only watch the work of Hayao Miyazki (Princess Mononoke, Ponyo, etc) with only occasionally deviations. After all, Spirited Away is my favorite anime, why would I look beyond Miyazki. But if you spend enough time on tumblr, people will reblog pictures and gifs and I’ve run across enough pictures from really fantastic looking anime films that I decided I would start watching more. One of the movies I’ve watched was The Girl Who Leapt Through Time.

2011_JMAF_Hosoda_TheGirlWhoLeaptThroughTime_Artwork_800pxThis movie is loosely based on novel (of the same name and which I haven’t read) by Yasutaka Tsutsui. There have been a lot of adaptations, including a live action movie (which is currently available to watch on Netflix Instant and is in my queue), though I haven’t watched it yet. I’d heard a little about the anime and I think I might’ve checked it out of the library in the past, though without watching it. But this time, I did end up watching it and I’m glad I did.

It’s the story of Makoto, a teenager who discovers something that allows her to, well, leap through time. At first she uses it for fun (in the beginning of the film, her little sister eats her pudding and she uses the device to go back and get the pudding). But, as time goes on, Makoto ends up using the device for less trivial reasons. But that’s not really the root of the story. At it’s heart, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is (not unexpectedly) a coming of age story.

There are two other, important, characters in the anime. They are Makoto’s two best friends, two boys named Kōsuke and Chiaki. After school, Makoto meets up with both boys and they play baseball. I really love their friendship as shown in the film, because it’s rare to have female characters who are just friends with boys. The three of them grow up, in different ways, throughout the film. There is, of course, a love interest or two (but I won’t spoil that) and Makoto’s friendship with Chiaki ends up giving us one of the more poignant moments in the film.

While the scenery isn’t throughout the film isn’t as nice as some I’ve seen, the movie is still extremely pretty. The story is strong enough to

Chiaki and Makoto (and some beautiful scenery in the background)

Chiaki and Makoto (and some beautiful scenery in the background)

carry the film, of course, but the art that makes up the movie is what brings it to life.  What I didn’t expect, though, was how extremely hearbreaking the end of the movie was. Most of the film is a lighthearted story about Makoto and the people in her life, but toward the end, there’s a little darkness thrown in that surprised me. And, you know, the fact that I cried through the last 10 or so minutes was also a surprise.

As an aside, I did listen to the English dub. I know, that’s not the cool thing to do, but I’ve discovered that it’s more enjoyable for me, personally, to listen to the dub than subs when it comes to anime. Although it’s not always possible (I’ve been watching Captain Harlock on Hulu and that’s subbed, not dubbed) and I do enjoy watching shows and movies in Japanese, I just prefer dubs for anime.

Overall, I really enjoyed the movie. And if you like anime, and don’t mind being choked up at the end, I recommend it. It’s mostly lighthearted, though the ending isn’t really happy, it’s oddly satisfying (though it shouldn’t be).

Friday Links

  • The Chinese artist Liu Bolin's latest project in Beijing is documented by Jason Lee from Reuters. Liu is known as the invisible man for using painted-on camouflage to blend into the background of his photographs (via The Guardian)

    The Chinese artist Liu Bolin’s latest project in Beijing is documented by Jason Lee from Reuters. Liu is known as the invisible man for using painted-on camouflage to blend into the background of his photographs
    (via The Guardian)

    I’ve been to a lot of concerts, but not ones where I spent the night. But apparently people leave unbelievable messes, as seen here after the Reading Festival (Daily Mail).

  • The Twitter of Tomorrow (New Yorker): Most people noticed that Twitter started connecting the different tweets that make up a given conversation with a blue line. I noticed this and it totally confused me — I don’t like it because I don’t like Twitter messing with chronological order and the lines are actually super annoying — I’d rather they did conversations differently. I don’t care about reading other people’s conversations on my timelines most of the time. Ugh. I know, I hate change, but come on.
  • Two stories from NPR:
    • Compensation Funds For Victims Of Tragedy A ‘Small Solace’  This was a really good story I heard Sunday morning. It’s an interview with a man who hands out compensation to victims — and he talks about some of his experiences and what kind of job it is (as well as how difficult it is for victims/survivors/their families as well as himself).
    • The Voice Of Rocky And Natasha Earns An Emmy: A much happier story. I’ve always been a big fan of Rocky & Bullwinkle and it was really fun to hear this short interview with June Foray. I watched the show on Netflix, but it’s no longer streaming on there, but it is on Hulu now, so I can get my fix. And in case you were wondering, my favorite part of the show is Peabody’s Improbable History.
  • I emailed this to a bunch of people, but I’ll share it again here. A touching and pretty awesome story about a boy from Mongolia who used the internet and ended up attending MIT: The Boy Genius of Ulan Bator (NYT)
  • A new study of the snow leopard’s habitat across the Tibetan plateau has found that Tibetan Buddhist monasteries may be better equipped than formal preservation programmes to protect the endangered cats from poaching, retaliatory killing by farmers and other deadly perils. The key is their ability to extend their influence across administrative boundaries and maintain safe space for the animals.  (Tibetan monks and endangered cats via The Economist)
  • A review of The Grandmaster (which stars my favorite actor, Tony Leung Chiu Wai, and that I own and have watched, twice):  The Grandmaster: Returning to the Roots of Kung Fu (Tea Leaf Nation) I haven’t seen enough kung fu movies to review it adequately, but it doesn’t quite seem as good as the other Wong Kar Wai movies I’ve watched, though it is good. H and I saw it in Chicago (and got to see Tony do a Q&A in the theater(!) after the film) and I did notice what was missing (about 10 minutes were cut from the original, which is the version that I own). If you’re looking for a lot of kung fu action, this isn’t the movie you want. That being said, it’s a decent existential look at kung fu, which is what WKW is good at. I think it’s a good movie, I just think there’s a better movie in there, somewhere.

I know, this got kind of long, but whatever, I found a lot of good links. As a final note, here’s a commercial from Thailand that will make you cry (and then you can read more about it here, via The Diplomat):

Movie Review: Ace Attorney

Phoenix Wright (Naruhodō Ryūichi) played by Hiroki Narimiya

Phoenix Wright (Naruhodō Ryūichi) played by Hiroki Narimiya (gifs by creepynegra)

I’ve watched a lot of Japanese movies since I first watched Ace Attorney, but it was the movie that really started me on Japanese film (and tv). My friend B, who loves video games, had talked a lot about the game (which I had no device to play on), but I hadn’t really paid much attention to it. But then, as I was scrolling through tumblr (this is how these things usually start, I’m noticing), I stumbled across a picture of this dude that looked awfully familiar, but it was live action and not animated. After a bit of research, I discovered that the picture was, in fact, from Ace Attorney and that the character was Phoenix Wright (the English version of his name, it’s Naruhodō Ryūichi in Japanese). The actor playing him was Hiroki Narimiya (who is awfully, awfully cute, but has since been shoved down lower on my list of favorite Japanese actors, sorry dude).

So, I did what any curious fangirl would do, and I downloaded the movie. Why? Because it’s not available with English subs anywhere to rent/stream/purchase (and believe me, I keep checking — I desperately want to own this movie). I found a fansubbed copy and fell in love almost immediately.

Now, I need to get a couple of things clear, prior to seeing this movie, the only thing I knew about AA was that Phoenix Wright said ‘OBJECTION’ a lot and had great, stereotypical anime hair and that it was originally a video game (and has since expanded to include a lot of other characters). I didn’t know anything about the game itself or the fandom surrounding the AA franchise. I was just interested in it because I’d heard of AA in passing and also, Hiroki Narimiya seemed pretty cute. This means, of course, that I loved the film without any hesitation because I had nothing to compare it to (there are complaints based on how it differs from the game, but obviously that wasn’t ever an issue for me).

The movie, Ace Attorney (Gyakuten Saiban), is sort of the story of Phoenix Wright. He’s a new attorney and ends getting involved with a huge case when his partner is killed. Her sister is accused of murder and he must defend her. The movie stuffs a several of cases into the film (they all come from the game, I discovered later), but connects them loosely. Phoenix ends up going against his childhood BFF, prosecutor Miles Edgeworth (Mitsurugi Reiji, who is played by my friend D’s favorite Japanese actor, Takumi Saito), at one point and their interactions are endlessly amusing.

Miles Edgeworth (Mitsurugi Reiji) played by Takumi Saito

Miles Edgeworth (Mitsurugi Reiji) played by Takumi Saito (gifs by creepynegra)

Obviously, there’s a lot of comedy and overacting, which works perfectly (and was a really good introduction to Japanese acting) in the context of the movie. It looks really, really snazzy, too. Like a comic book brought to life. After I’d watched the movie, I decided I needed more of the AA world. I discovered there were a bunch manga (about both Phoenix Wright and Miles Edgeworth), and I now own all the English translated. Also, I emailed B and asked her if there was a game version on either iOS or Wii that I could play, she suggested iOS and I’ve been playing it (and loving it) on and off for a long time. I’m not very good, but it’s lots of fun (especially since I don’t have to interact with anything except the game itself).

Overall, it’s a super fun film. If you liked the game, you might enjoy see the characters in the live action context. Otherwise, I’m not really sure who this film appeals to (aside from fans of the actors). I loved it because it was ridiculous and funny and I had just enough background to understand it was an adaptation, but none of the hang ups of longtime fans. I really wish they’d release this movie with English subs, because I want to watch it again and again.

Series Review: Children of the Sea – Daisuke Igarashi

Daisuke Igarashi’s Children of the Sea is a profoundly beautiful five volume manga series that I picked up on a whim (one of my libraries owns the first four, I was able to ILL the fifth). The covers intrigued me, as they are beautiful. In many ways, Children of the Sea is more art than manga. There’s a story, but I felt it was almost secondary to the artwork that fills the five volumes.

Children of the SeaThe story centers on Ruka, a middle-grade Japanese girl who lives with her mother, after her parents separated. But everything in her world is not as it seems. In the first volume, we learn that when she was younger, Ruka saw a fish turn into light and vanish (which sets up the supernatural/fantasy elements that are elegantly woven into the story). This event changes Ruka’s life, though she doesn’t realize this until later. Ruka’s relationship with her parents is tenuous, like any teenager and near the beginning of the novel, she runs away and ends up meeting a boy named Umi. Though they go their separate ways, their paths are destined to meet again, and they do — but this time at the aquarium where Ruka’s father works.

Umi, and his brother Sora, sense something special about Ruka and the three of them become friends. The five volumes are filled with their adventures and artwork that wouldn’t look out of place in a Studio Ghibli production.  Interspersed through the five volumes are stories about these children of the sea and how they have changed people’s lives (I promise, you’ll want to read to find out more) as well as how the sea as a whole has changed the lives of the characters within the manga.

I loved this series because the characters are likable and the artwork is breathtaking. The ending was satisfying, if a little heartbreaking, but at it’s heart, Children of the Sea is a coming of age manga. Everyone grows up, but people also grow together. Igarashi also emphasizes the importance of relationships (friends and family) as well as the need to take care of our waters. Although the setting is like our world and the characters are diverse (from all over the world), he brings them together in a beautiful and thoughtful way.

This manga is not for everyone, especially people who crave a lot of action. But if you’re looking for something beautiful, something that will comfort you, Children of the Sea might be exactly what you need. You don’t need to be interested in manga or comics/graphic novels in order to enjoy this journey or the art that brings it to life.

Series Review: Fire and Thorns – Rae Carson

Note: This review does not include the novellas, which I haven’t read. You can find the complete list of titles here at LT.

Fire and ThornsPrior to getting into YA literature (before I was even a librarian, but after I had started library school), I had grown tired of fantasy. Obviously I hadn’t yet discovered the world of YA fantasy and had no idea what I was missing out on. But if it had magic, dragons, etc (except for Harry Potter), I just wasn’t interested in it. But once I got into YA, I discovered that there’s a whole world of fantasy that isn’t Lord of the Rings (sprawling, epic fantasy, no matter how popular it is, isn’t for me). In more recent years, I’ve looked for fantasy novels that have strong female characters (Kristin Cashore’s Seven Kingdoms series is one of the better ones), which is why I was so excited to pick up the first of Carson’s trilogy, The Girl of Fire and Thorns.

The series is about Elisa, who is the bearer of something called a Godstone, which results in her having some magic inside of her. She is smart, strong and devoted to her studies (religious in nature). Because of the Godstone, she is one of the chosen people and Elisa is left wondering what it is exactly she must do to fulfill this task, a theme which Carson weaves throughout all three novels. In the course of the first novel, she is required to marry into a neighboring kingdom and so the story of Elisa truly begins.

Throughout all three novels, Elisa must fight for her survival, those of her friends and loved ones as well as that of her people/kingdom. Elisa is strong and brave, but she’s more than that. She kicks ass, she fights back and she’s willing to make sacrifices that a queen should make. Carson doesn’t shy away from anything — including the death of characters we’ve grown to care for. The novels aren’t without love and Elisa does have a couple of love interests, but they are not the focus on the story, they are additions that give us a fuller picture. Carson is also good at writing her secondary characters and we learn about them as the story (and stories) progress. I read the three books soon after each of them came out, so there was about a year in between while I waited for the new ones to be published. But as soon as I picked each book up again, it was as though I’d never left.

Carson’s Fire and Thorns series is a fantastic bit of fantasy. It is appealing to both adults and young adults. Elisa is not your standard view of beauty, but you never question that she is, indeed beautiful. I would recommend this series to fans of Kristin Cashore, Tamora Pierce and Robin McKinley, as well as anyone who wants to a well written fantasy series.

Friday Links Are Back (and so am I)

I’m attempting to revive this blog. We’ll see how long this lasts!

  • One of my favorite authors, Seanan McGuire, reblogged this super cute comic about friendship. I’m lucky to have a couple of people (and my sister) who are my really good friends. I’d be lost without them (and they know who they are).
  • I’m still a fan of Big Bang and although I haven’t been watching the TV show Running Man, I’m excited about a few of the members (including my favorite, Daesung) being on the show again!

I know, it’s short. But here, have a video. It’s the newest MV from Drunken Tiger (Korean hiphop) and I absolutely love it: