Kanae Minato: Confessions

Comparisons between an adaptation of a written work and the original are always interesting, even if the piece of film or TV is inferior to the story that it’s based on. In rare instances the adaptation proves to be even more enjoyable than the book that inspired it (the only one that springs immediately to mind however is Satoshi Kon’s mind-bending animated film of Yasutaka Tsutsui’s novel Paprika) but it can still encourage you to view the source material in a slightly new light. It feels a bit awkward to me when I experience the adaptation first though, because there’s that nagging feeling that my appreciation of the original is being clouded somehow.

For instance: I picked up (and reviewed, if you’re interested) Tetsuya Nakashima’s schoolroom psycho-thriller Confessions long before the English translation of Kanae Minato’s novel. If you have seen the film and are familiar with the story right up to its shocking denouement, I still recommend the book: inevitably, there are certain plot points that were edited out to fit the flow of the movie, but the shift in emphasis means that the novel is still a refreshing and rewarding experience. You certainly won’t get *quite* the same feeling as you would from the film even if, say, you read it with a Boris album playing in the background or something.

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MONO: Rays of Darkness and The Last Dawn

Just when you start to wonder what one of your favourite bands is up to, their next offerings turn up like buses: long awaited, and arriving two at once.

It’s a real challenge for music artists who work the treadmill of recording and touring to keep their output fresh and varied, especially when their line-up remains unchanged throughout their career. MONO have apparently been grappling with that issue, and although they’ve broadened their horizons by contributing to a TV mini-series and collaborating with a couple of indie filmmakers since their last studio effort, the move to release not one but two albums at the same time is I think quite a turning-point.

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Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and the Murakami dilemma

If I were to write a ‘proper’ objective review of Murakami’s latest, it would probably begin and end with “this is just another Haruki Murakami novel.” Considering his strengths as a writer, this isn’t ‘just’ anything, but so many tropes and themes are being revisited here I don’t think it’s an unfair way of summing it up.

For your reference, this is the city of Nagoya, one of the settings of the story. Pretty, huh?

Murakami’s popularity isn’t wholly unjustified: although he has yet to win that Nobel Prize for literature, fans still queue outside bookshops as soon as each new work is published. Although I’d join them in saying I enjoyed Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and his Years of Pilgrimage, it hasn’t changed my mind over my opinion that he’s a writer who’s talented without being Nobel Prize-worthy. What’s worrying is that I’m not enjoying it in the same way that I used to.

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Terror in Resonance: the language of terror

I’ve started the task of learning the kanji, which at the time of writing stands at around 480…which isn’t as impressive as it sounds, given how many I have left to learn in total. My fascination with this writing system also encourages me to look up the meanings of stuff like people’s names and the titles of songs, movies and TV shows; not to mention nuances or double-meanings that are lost in translation when converted from kanji too (anyone who’s looked into authors like Nisioisin and Kinoko Nasu will understand this!). It’s quite fun and educational.

The title for Zankyou no Terror for instance uses the kanji characters 残 and 響, the の particle and ‘terror’ written in katakana, which is popularly translated into English as ‘Terror in Resonance’. I’m far from being a kanji expert at this point and I won’t pretend to be able to explain the nuts-and-bolts grammar of the particles yet either, but the ‘resonance’ of the title, which can also be read to mean ‘echo’ or ‘reverberation’ is interesting. And no, I’ve not reached the stage of learning these two particular characters! I had to look them up on Denshi Jisho first, which is by the way an excellent kanji resource.

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Japan 2014: Hiroshima and Miyajima

When trying to decide what to write about for my next blog post, I sort-of forced myself into talking about my experience of visiting the Hiroshima region. Today marks the annual anniversary of the atomic bombing of the city, but my feelings on that are difficult to sum up. Hiroshima is, for many people, a name from the news headlines; long before Sendai crept into the our consciousness as a name that continues to spark the nuclear debate, this otherwise ordinary industrial city has the unfortunate status of being the world’s first battlefield of a nuclear war.

I don’t want to go  into the politics and morality of what happened in August 1945; the complex ethical and historical arguments could spawn a whole series of posts on their own, and ought to be written by people better-informed than I am. What struck me more than anything when walking through the clean, friendly and sunny Hiroshima of 2014, which includes the iconic memorials such as the Eternal Flame and the A-Bomb Dome, was how it’s pretty much a normal Japanese city. That’s it.

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A tourist’s eye view of Sendai

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.

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The ‘Akuma no Uta’ that is Madoka Magica: Rebellion

*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.

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Mushishi, as science fiction for chilled-out people

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.

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Nagi no Asukara: of time and tide

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.

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Japan trip 2014: Nagoya

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.

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