When I decided to take on the task of writing about every significant place I visited in Japan last May, I felt the most important article of all would be the one about the one short day and night spent in Sendai. At the time of writing, news headlines are again warning of an earthquake and tsunami with maps placing Sendai and Fukushima worryingly close to the epicentre. Even now, the international image of Sendai is that of a dot on a map near an earthquake zone at best, or a tsunami-ravaged city at worst.
When in reality it looks like this
Although enormous amounts of damage were done to coastal areas of the Touhoku region in 2011 and it was off-limits to visitors for a time, things have changed and if I were to fail to point this out I’d be doing this wonderful city and its million or so inhabitants a disservice.
*Note: I skipped the first two films due to personal laziness on the grounds of having seen the series twice, so I may have missed some important details. As of now I plan to watch all three of them.*
From a safe distance, out of the range of spoiler fallout, the fan reaction to the third Madoka movie was interesting to say the least. It certainly left me with mixed feelings over various aspects, but I think each viewer’s opinions about certain characters will influence their impression of the movie overall.
One thing that I think we can all agree on is that it looks and sounds fantastic. After following what Akiyuki Shinbo’s been up to over the years, it was interesting to see what he would do with a movie budget behind him: his TV work has a “making the most of limited time and cash” feel to it, but I’ve never seen a cinematic Shinbo project before.
Mushishi has been, more than anything else I think, the reason why I started blogging. Over the years my admiration for it was reignited by a sadly short-lived UK DVD release, gif sets on Tumblr, a one-off OAV and finally a second season proper. It has been heartening to see that it wasn’t forgotten by the fans, either: I expected few people to remember it, and even fewer to jump on the bandwagon at the second season.
The thing is, Mushishi isn’t the sort of TV show that draws attention to itself: it’s just *there*, doing its thing and letting people drift towards it and fall in love with its storytelling at their own pace and on their own terms. The iyashikei genre has sadly all but disappeared, so the fashion for chilled-out ‘healing’ anime isn’t what it was in the mid 2000s when I started getting into the anime fandom. But anyway. Mushishi is back. Hold onto that thought and cherish it.
We all have our particular quirks and biases, whether it’s due to personal preference or associations with something else. As far as teen drama goes, I tend to avoid it: the experience is partly down to cringing at the angst and ill-informed decisions – which itself is 50% annoyance and 50% refusal to admit that we were all like that at their age – and partly due to simple lack of interest. I mean, the degree to which I can relate to a story is limited when the cast of characters are half my age with different experiences and views on the world!
Nagi no Asukara is, in my limited experience of such stories, definitely above average though. It takes a while to really come into its own, so I initially had to contend with that nagging doubt that it would drown in a sea of its own angst. Even then I couldn’t fault the presentation and immediately decided that if I didn’t end up enjoying it, I would still recommend it to others on the grounds that it was very good at what it did.
When on holiday abroad it’s easy to be drawn to capital cities: the lights, the vibrancy, the higher probability that foreign language-speaking tourists will be better catered for…especially when the city in question is the high-tech cultural hub of Tokyo. Although it’s nigh-on impossible for the place to ever make me feel bored, I was conscious of the fact that, when you’re trying to get a feel for a country’s culture in a broader sense, you can’t judge a whole nation on your experiences of its capital city (e.g., London is NOT representative of the UK either!).
Partly worn down through sensory overload by the bustle, expense and relative familiarity of Tokyo – this was my third visit in five years – and partly motivated to see something a bit different, the consensus of the group I was travelling with was that we wanted to see more of Japan than its most sprawling and iconic metropolis.
Posted in Travel
I originally wrote this article in late October 2013 but suffered a crisis of self-confidence immediately afterwards, which stopped me publishing it. It then sat in my Drafts folder for ages, but you’re probably bored of me blogging about Type Moon stuff at the moment…so here you go.
I’m reluctant to pass judgement on anything concerned with foreign cultures that differ from my own. The simple fact is, I’m not a professional journalist and there are plenty of those around who do this stuff better than I can. I’m also a bit of a wimp when it comes to locking horns with other people on contentious issues, or voicing strong opinions on how I think other people should live their lives.
In recent weeks though I’ve seen not just one but two online articles and then an hour-long TV documentary with accompanying online article tackling the same topic in a way that I wasn’t wholly satisfied with, but it wasn’t until I read another piece posted by The Independent that I felt confident enough to spill some virtual ink on the subject. Maybe I’ll regret it when I’m flamed for it…who knows.
Before I do a long and gushing article about the Mirai Fukuin movie adaptation proper, I feel I ought to say a few things about the ‘Extra Chorus’ first. I went in knowing full well it was pure fanservice: there’s nothing there that moves the story forward, but it’s still enjoyable and makes you feel like you’re catching up with old friends. It also has a cat in it, which automatically makes it worth your time.
I guess it’s one of those consolatory things that filmmakers do when their fans go the extra mile in being particularly obsessive loyal in regards to the franchises they hold dear. Presumably, Ufotable felt sympathetic to their viewers, especially with Japanese cinema ticket and home video prices being what they are, so anticipating how Type Moon fans are such vocal completists with big hearts and fat wallets, they decided to animate other little side-stories that formed entertaining asides to the main chapters.
After the defeat of the main villain of the story, the last thing to be revealed in Kara no Kyoukai’s seventh chapter is the true identity of the serial killer who appeared right at the beginning (which is of course, thanks to the shuffled chronology, in the second chapter). In some ways it feels a bit anticlimactic that Araya’s demise doesn’t appear in the finale considering how all the Bad Stuff led back to him, but the shift in emphasis onto a relatively minor antagonist at such a late stage does perhaps highlight how this is a character-driven tale first and a supernatural murder-mystery second.
“…When I catch your fingers reaching for me/I can superimpose my dream in my dream/I had a dream of you…”
Although this is indeed the Big Reveal where the story behind Lio Shirazumi is explained and we see him face up to his crimes, the most important thing addressed here is the final stage in Shiki Ryougi’s emotional journey. For all the magic spells and amateur crime-fighting this is her story, and Shirazumi’s transformation from mere murderer to homicidal maniac is really a just one last particularly fucked-up planet of several that we’ve seen/read orbiting around her star.