Now that the initial controversy has subsided I finally feel able to form and voice an opinion on Aku no Hana. The art style didn’t put me off, surprisingly. I actually had reservations about whether the main characters would be so flawed and twisted that it would be impossible to form any sort of attachment to, or interest in, what happens to them. It is in fact a breath of fresh air due to its unusual approach, and is a textbook example of ‘grimly compelling’.
I also started following the graphic novel after learning that it’s currently ongoing, and it’s a fascinating piece of work. Thematically it reminds me a little of, as some other viewers have pointed out, Shunji Iwai’s All About Lily Chou-chou, plus Tetsuya Nakeshima’s Confessions but also a bit of Onani Master Kurosawa I think (only without the fapping). It’s a top-tier piece of suspenseful psychological character study that plunges a literary probe into the deepest recesses of its protagonists’ minds, and for this reason alone I’d recommend it.
In a recent discussion with the Metanorn boss lady over on Twitter, she echoed my own spoken opinion on moe; I hope she doesn’t mind me quoting it as being that of “meh”. I started wondering why then I’m enjoying Hyouka so much because it seems to be the latest in a long line of shows that to stick to a common formula. This would mean it’s subject to the “meh” attitude I have towards moe, which incidentally gets in the way of my enjoyment of commercialised TV anime sometimes.
Futhermore, I normally can’t get excited about the prospect of watching one “high school romcom in which nothing much happens” story after another, so was initially worried that Hyouka would also rely too heavily on that ‘after school club’ format. Neither of these aspects are proving to be problematic though, so I’m finding it to be really quite charming.
It’s pretty bleeding obvious that my writing schedule has repeatedly derailed (my music and creative writing projects are at least progressing though). I don’t have one particular reason why it’s happened; everything feels like I’m driving with the handbrake on, and I feel like I have nothing new to say.
The past couple of weeks have changed that though. It would seem that at least part of the problem was that there wasn’t much around that was worth writing about. After months of new DVD releases and simulcasts that didn’t make me want to sit down and pay attention, Spring 2012 has given me that old nudge of “oh yeah…this is why I’m a fan…”
I hadn’t followed the development of what’s commonly known as ‘that 4chan eroge about disabled girls’ but since the finished product isn’t really anything like that, maybe I was better off in blissful ignorance after all. The initial reactions at its full release, claiming it was tasteful and respectful towards its subject matter, were what caught my interest; reading the developers’ blog archives, I realised that it evolved independently from the infamous /a/ board and I eventually came to the conclusion that it’s not an eroge about disabled girls either.
It’s no more an eroge than Tsukihime and F/S N are if I’m honest. I would’ve thought the story-to-smut ratio would have to be lower for it to qualify since, like those Type Moon forays into the genre, Katawa Shoujo involves a lot of reading to get to the H-scenes so it’s plot-driven before anything else; outside of fiction written for a young audience, characters end up in bed together every now and then in many romantic drama stories anyway.
I think REC must be a forgotten gem because I’ve never read or heard much about it at all. In fact I stumbled on it purely by accident when the premise of “boy meets girl, girl becomes roommate after her house burns down and romantic awkwardness ensues” read exactly like the early strips of my favourite webcomic, Questionable Content. Even so, my hopes still weren’t high because it didn’t sound like anything out of the ordinary.
Satisfied that I’d at least discovered something about the lives of characters who were out of high school I then learned that it was directed by Ryutaro Nakamura, which was another happy coincidence. As a matter of fact the storyline of REC is itself founded on happy coincidences and how things sometimes just…happen. Nakamura’s involvement may also be the crucial factor that tips this from being a likeable yet ordinary story into something a bit more special.
I must admit I didn’t hear about Perfect Blue until around 2004, when the only anime I’d watched were Miyazaki’s Laputa, Anno’s Evangelion and Tsurumaki’s FLCL. It was an eye-opening experience to say the least, but that day was a pretty significant turning-point in making me the fan I am today.
I’m sure the obituaries and tributes to Satoshi Kon from his family and friends will be formed as I type and my sincere condolences go out to them. I’m afraid I know nothing about who he was as a man: I sadly never had the opportunity to meet him. His work however is something I’ve become very familiar with over the years, and it’s my love of this that I want to express, as my way of acknowledging what he achieved.
Tokyo Sonata is a domestic drama from Kiyoshi Kurosawa, a director who has made his name in the horror genre with the likes of Kairo and Bright Future. This film then is a marked departure for him but it is also unlike most titles in Japanese cinema that I’ve seen on international home video release. Its quietly powerful realism and topical themes make it, for me, one of the most important Japanese films of recent years.
If there’s one thing I find fascinating about contemporary Japan it’s the presence of contrasts that are baffling to an outside first-time visitor. This has been heightened in the past decade or two by fundamental changes that are inexorably altering the society’s status quo, so the ramifications for its defining features of harmony, tradition and smooth routine are quite striking.
“By changing your viewpoint just a bit, you can see familiar things in a whole new light. It happens a lot. And really works.”
I’ve no idea what’s up with the current fad for live-action adaptations of anime and manga these days, although I’m pretty excited about the feature-length effort of Solanin. The thing is, it’s so easy for me to imagine how well Inio Asano’s graphic novels can make the jump from paper to big screen since he has such a keen eye for scene composition and, to coin a hackneyed phrase, a finger on the pulse on what makes ordinary ‘real life’ people tick. He captures snapshots of everyday life events with the flair of a skilled photographer; What a Wonderful World! pre-dates it by several years but the intentions, and end results, are similar.
I don’t know if my readers take this for granted but I don’t set out to write *reviews*; not the objective, completely logical or helpful variety, anyway. I’m doing this article for instance purely on my feelings concerning the visual novel Narcissu that are very subjective and not necessarily helpful at all. Fundamentally your appreciation of it hinges on whether it moves you; it moved me a lot so I got the inevitable compulsion to write about it.
This won’t be the best Narcissu article around so I do at least apologise for that. Its subject matter, approach and underlying messages are quite unusual so I suspect a definitive judgement on my part wouldn’t be particularly valuable anyway. So, yeah…bear that in mind when I recommend it (it’s free and completely legal to download, after all) and you later read it for yourself and think, “hey, I thought you said it was good…” Needless to say there are spoilers after the jump.
I’ve been interested in twentieth-century history for as long as I can remember – before my fascination with Japanese popular culture even began I was drawn to the issues surrounding the atomic bombings of 1945. Fumiyo Kouno is one of many writers and artists who have taken on the subject but her approach is one that conveys the human cost of the events in an unusual way. Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms is a short, surprisingly sweet but nevertheless powerful work.
Her graphic novel is not an historical document. The whimsical slice-of-life angle doesn’t prevent it being meaningful though: fundamentally, history is about people and the relevance today of the events that occured then. This story is therefore very relevant even though the individual stories of this event are fictional; it also manages to convey hard-hitting subject matter with subtlety and restraint.