The cynicism continues.

Uncategorized — Shii / August 29, 2011 @ 9:04 pm

“Jidou Hanpaiki” by Hiroshi Masumura

It’s a hot summer in Tokyo and there’s a strange feeling in the air that something’s going to happen. Two boys want to buy some Coke in order to cool down. They stumble upon a mysterious drinks machine and surprisingly get two bottles with strange labels they’ve never seen before, and as the cans are pretty hard to open, they get more and more eager to actually see what’s inside. As they manage, they are enraged, because nothing seems to be in the cans.
But the next morning all of Tokyo is overgrown by gigantic plants and, as the other boy opens his can too, flooded by a huge wave. From now on, mankind has to live on the blossoms of the gigantic flowers…

Once again, mankind is destroyed, and once again, there’s an absurd moral behind the destruction, that Masumura puts explicitly on the last page of his one-shot: The next time you buy a can of Coke, you may save the world, if you don’t open it.
Even though the stories get repetitive, I could read a dozen more without boring myself. Maybe it’s because I’m a sucker for stories that make mankind seem immensely inferior to nature (that’s the only aspect that I liked about Avatar, actually), maybe it’s because of Masumura’s sarcasm, maybe it’s because Tokyo looks much more beautiful with plants growing out of its buildings.

Cats with thumbs…

manga — Shii / June 6, 2011 @ 10:59 pm

“Rikashitsu no Chika de” by Hiroshi Masumura

Cravendale was right: It’s like they know it’s only a matter of time!

Rikashitsu no Chika de is another short story that was published in the amazing one-shot collection Eien Naru Hitomi no Mure. And in several ways it’s similar to the two stories that I’ve posted about before. 1. Ignorant teenagers sense something mysterious going on. 2. They get kicked in the ass. 3. Humanity gets kicked in the ass. 4. All of that illustrated in wonderful detail by master Masumura.

The plot is simple, but still effective: Asaura-sensei has changed. He used to be the friendly and nice teacher that had a big heart for his children and was even active in the volleyball club. So what’s the reason that he has suddenly changed into a monster who forces his class to write far too difficult tests every single day? Koike has got the worst results in a test, which is why the teacher wants to talk to him in private after school – in his dark and moody lab. Two friends accompany him and what they see is awfully strange…

That’s right. The teacher is actually part of a secret underground kitty movement that tries to destroy the world by melting the whole mankind in big tanks they build in the basements of schools. Well, that is, they are actually successful. The last page says: “They needed 8 years and 3 months for the destruction of humanity.” Jog on, kitties.

30 is even more difficult than 10 or 5!

movies — Shii / May 11, 2011 @ 8:04 pm

Well, well. Since I dared to say/write aloud that I have been thinking about a similar list of 30 favorite movies as the one Oneesama has come up with, she came upon me with the enchanting request to post it in my blog. So, here I am.

I don’t have a particular order for the list, the numbers just indicate how fast the specific movie came to my mind. I’m not sure whether I have done a good job, because I’m definitely not satisfied with the list: There is no Nouvelle Vague film on the list? No Almodóvar? No Tim Burton whatsoever? No Taxi Driver? No Lawn Dogs? In general: Old(er) films are far too underrepresented! What the heck?
As you can see, it’s not a strict list of 30 films. I cheated, because I just didn’t want to exclude even more from the list of about 60 films that I originally set up. XD

1. Tystnaden / Fanny och Alexander / Scenes From a Marriage / Cries & Whispers: All of them have been really disturbing and still beautiful experiences for me. The dying scene in Tystnaden, the “God” dialogue in Fanny och Alexander, Karin in Cries & Whispers, just every single sentence in Scenes From a Marriage. I also disliked some of the movies by Bergman that I’ve seen, but with most of his works I’m just glued to the screen and I’m both satisfied and depressed afterwards.
2. Night on the Galactic Railroad: Haven’t I already written something about this film in the posting about Hiroshi Masumura? XD
3. My Own Private Idaho: I love Gus van Sant’s madness for details and subtle allusions. It’s so much fun watching the two protagonists interact with each other. All the random elements (Udo Kier, wth?!), the beautiful landscapes, the Shakespeare references and River Phoenix just turn the film into a gem.
4. Donnie Darko: The best teenie movie that exists. A well-written and at times sarcastic fun ride that I have watched a million times, I guess, and it still never bores me.
5. Mulholland Drive: Llorando! Lloraaaaando! I think I like it for similar reasons as Donnie Darko. I like movies that are built up like puzzles. And, well, the David Lynch style just beats everything.
6. 2001: The scariest movie that I have seen not only in the last few months, but, I guess, in general. The slow pace makes it all just more intense!
7. Harold and Maude: :3 Would Harold and Maude work, if you switched the gender of the protagonists? Older men starting a relationship with younger girls are widely considered creepy and perverted, aren’t they?
8. Babel / Amores Perros: I watched Babel in a small cinema in Innsbruck and apart from me there were just two other people in the room. That’s a special feeling. Of course, the plot is just a big construct in order to speak about “the issues of today’s globalized world” – the more astonishing that the story and every single character in the movie actually work out.
9. Closer: Oneesama once said that for her, the movie is similar to The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Well, for me too.
10. Before Sunrise: It’s strange that by now I live in that romantic city that Jesse and Celine walk through. I walk by some of the sceneries every day and sometimes I still think “Haha, in Before Sunrise you see the Votivkirche from the exact same angle” or, walking on the Donaukanal, “Milk shake!”. Impact, impact, impact, impact.
11. A Short Film About Love / Trois Couleurs: Kieslowski must have been an extremely fascinating, intelligent, sensible and still sociable (and humorous) person.
12. Dancer in the Dark / Breaking the Waves / Dogville: Dancer in the Dark is probably the saddest movie ever made, followed by, uhm, Breaking the Waves?
13. Lost in Translation: There’s so much style and still substance in it. The music has grown on me a lot too. I can’t imagine a world without waking up to the sounds of Just Like Honey.
14. Paris, Texas: Long, long, long walking scenes in North American deserts combined with what is probably one of the best monologues of film history.
15. E no Naka no Boku no Mura / Nobody Knows: Actually those two don’t go all that well together? Well, at least both are Japanese movies about childhood, but that’s about it. Oh, no, wait! E no Naka no Boku no Mura is one of those movies that “nobody knows”. (My god, that pun is so awful?)
16. Tonari no Totoro / Mononoke-hime: Basically those two just represent everything that Studio Ghibli has ever made. There are no explanations needed, why these movies are masterpieces.
17. Coffee and Cigarettes: So many wonderful sentences (“So, Jack, tell me about your Tesla coil…”) and words and situations and actors (TOM WAITS!) and, especially, so much hilarious silence and intended non-speaking! Jarmusch should do some more shorts in this series.
18. Dreamers: The tension going around throughout the movie is impeccable.
19. Palindromes: This is probably one of the craziest and strangest motion pictures that I’ve seen. It’s a basically extremely dramatic story that the director constantly makes fun of by letting stereotypes fight against each other. Wonderful sarcasm!
20. Ohayô!: Ozu is best at mocking. Here, it’s Japan of the 50s. Just. So. Funny!
21. Memento: Even if i watched it today that I know most of the film by heart, it wouldn’t be boring. That’s an accomplishment.
22. Funny Games: For somebody who hates violence I watch lots of violent movies, and Funny Games is probably one of the most violent that I’ve encountered. I found it much more brutal and shocking than, say, Saló or Audition, because it’s not filmed like a shocker. It’s just a cold, bloody commentary on the behaviour of humankind, it’s a mirror for its audience. (The trailer?! AAAH!)
23. Universalove: Now that I create this list I realize how much that certain cinema that I’ve also seen Babel in means to me. Universalove, accompanied by Naked Lunch playing live in the cinema, making the concept of the film as a music video about love relationships authentic, was a one-time experience, I guess.
24. M – Eine Stadt sucht einen Mörder: Peter Lorre’s famous scene is just impressing.
25. Match Point: I guess I started appreciating opera, when I watched Match Point, or rather when I started listening to its soundtrack because I liked the witty and mean story of the film so much. And Scarlett Johansson.
26. Shinboru: The scene of him being in rage because he doesn’t have the last volume of that manga he’s reading is just one of the most hilarious ones that I’ve seen in recent times. XD I had so much fun watching this.
27. Sunset Boulevard: Gloria Swanson is the goddess of old Hollywood! I should finally watch some of the silent movies she was in.
28. Stalker / The Return: Apart from their production country, there are still several connecting links between those two films. Both celebrate the beauty of Russian landscapes, both turn nature into an (almost) mystic force and… I should re-watch both, for I have seen them only once!
29. Gegen die Wand: I like depressing stories involving unsatisfied love and attempted suicides, I guess? At least this list indicates so. Gegen die Wand is just really good and intense stuff.
30. Huozhe!: It’s impressing how a film can be a miniature of life itself. Huozhe! succeeds in so many levels.

Flower, uhm, power.

manga — Shii / April 23, 2011 @ 3:15 pm

“Natsu no Owari ni yatte kita Haru” (After the end of summer came spring) by Hiroshi Masumura

Manga Shonen was a magazine dedicated to genre stuff like science fiction, fantasy and light horror and was later turned into Duo, one of the first magazines targeted both at boys and girls. Big names like Leiji Matsumoto and Keiko Takemiya, who published her “To Terra” in the magazine, were regular contributors to the pages of the zine. So was Hiroshi Masumura who basically got his real start as an artist with Manga Shonen. In it the first chapters of his famous “Atagoul” series were released, but also a lot of short stories, such as “Natsu no Owari ni yatte kita Haru”, one of the manga shorts in the “Eien naru Hitomi no mure” collection.

The story starts out just like your typical “There is a dangerous killer virus in town!” manga (“King of Thorns” anyone?): Two pupils sit in a lonely classroom and just as their pale teacher wants to start class, he faints. They immediately know he’s just another one of the victims of the Murasaki Hanten sickness that’s going around town dramatically. On the streets there are several bodies that look like dead, but supposedly are still alive. The two protagonists – boy and girl – decide to visit the boy’s father, a renowned bacteriologist, and ask him about the sickness. He can’t really tell them anything at all. He and his research team don’t know any cause or cure, but just the symptons.


Exchanging mitochondria for chloroplasts…

That’s the point where the story starts to get unusual and beautiful. It jumps to the end of summer, where even the two protagonists have been infected with the virus. Suddenly, rain pours down on all the infected, lifeless bodies and all of them start to turn into flowers being overwhelmed by the good feeling the light of the sun gives them. All of the former humans have become blooming flowers. It’s not sickness, it’s enlightenment!

Selbstdisziplin digitiert zu…

manga,rant — Shii / April 22, 2011 @ 7:52 pm

(…GOMAMON.)

Three years of not paying any attention to my blog, huh? These days, I have two reasons to reactivate it: I bought some Japanese manga,that I’ve wanted to purchase for several years, but never did, because I thought, due to my awful skills concerning the Nippon-esque language, they’d just lie around (and ‘d be marvelled at by my aesthetic inner self), but wouldn’t be read or – understood. By now I am at least able to understand manga with furigana (still, by consulting the internet, of course), but I need my time for them anyways and thus some self-discipline. It’s less difficult to push myself to learning more Japanese, if I can tell other people (I’m looking at you, my dear readers! :D) about it. (I guess after having read some of the manga, it’ll be much easier though.) The second reason for the late renaissance of the French snow storm is that the books that I am going to blog about are rather obscure and hence (probably? maybe? eventually?) interesting for the internet fandom.

What I have available right now:

  • Eien naru Hitomi no mure: an early short story collection by Hiroshi Masumura
  • Kaze no Matasaburou by Hiroshi Masamura, based on a tale by Kenji Miyazawa
  • Cosmos Rakuenki 1-5 by Hiroshi Masumura
  • Mosaic Rasen by Moto Hagio
  • Pocket no naka no kimi by Saho Tono
  • Yuukan Club 1 by Yukari Ichijo
  • Betsuma Days: short story collection by Fusako Kuramochi
  • two Garo issues from the 70s
  • two Afternoon issues
  • Cross Game 1 by Mitsuru Adachi
  • Gin ni naru by Mari Okazaki
  • Haru tsuge komachi
  • Kakkou no musumetachi: a short story collection by Minori Kimura
  • Kuragehime 1 by Akiko Higashimura
  • Sayonara nante ienai 1 by Fuyumi Ogura
  • Shiko Shonen 1 by Kaoru Fujiwara
  • Youma 1 by Kei Kusunoke
  • some other manga that I randomly bought years ago and that I don’t consider to read

The list kind of represents my taste in comics right now. I love old shoujo manga (I don’t really have a definition for “old” though, maybe everything before the 90s/late 80s?), surreal or quiet stories (Hiroshi Masumura! Daisuke Igarashi! Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou! Aria!), kind of “alternative” stories (Kitoh, Furuya, Maruo, well-drawn horror manga, the Garo/Ikki/AX crowd and so on), readable and interesting classics (Of course I worship Tezuka and Shigeru Mizuki), josei manga or, basically, good stuff from every genre, country and time period.

Cover of

“Hyouzan 1977″ by Hiroshi Masumura

Anyway, to not just rant, but to start things off: Recently I began to read the works of Hiroshi Masumura that I bought. It feels like ages and decades that I first stumbled upon pictures by him in the awesome “Manga Design” by Taschen Verlag. I immediately fell in love with the creativity and the dreamlikeness of his imagery, but never got any chance to read anything by him, because his works haven’t been translated into a language that I understand. I’ve seen “Night on the Galactic Railroad” though, an anime movie made somewhen in the 80s that is based on his manga adaptation of a Kenji Miyazawa classic, and was so impressed by it that my desire to read his works just grew some more.

Masumura is best known for his cats. Because he’s bad at drawing humans (They all look a bit impersonal and… overly geeky?), he just decided at some point he’d go with furry animals behaving like humans or, in some works, penguins. (Great decision. I love cats.) What seems to be common in his stories is a certain almost kitschy fascination with stars as well as surreal and bizarre elements sometimes leading to subtly violent plots. Besides the probably just great “Cosmos Rakuenki” series I didn’t dare to buy Masumura’s most famous work “Atagoul” (that spans several series and still runs in “Comic Flapper” magazine), because I’d probably have been unable to cope with such a long series at the beginning, but instead bought the two one-volumes “Kaze no Matasaburou” and “Eien naru Hitomi no mure”, latter being a short story collection published in 1979 containing early and earliest stories by Masumura

One of the stories in “Eien naru Hitomi no mure” is “Hyouzan 1977″ (Iceberg 1977), which was published in Manga Shounen magazine in, as the title suggests, 1977. It’s just 18 pages long and doesn’t have all that much of a story. It doesn’t amaze with cats, but instead with dolphins, which is just as awesome! XD Two guys, skipping learning classes for their university entrance exams, randomly discover a mysterious iceberg nearby the coast and – young and adventurous as they are ;) – decide to step into the iceberg through a hole that, out of unknown reasons, leads into caves and halls inside the iceberg. There they meet aliens who have already been living in the sea for a long time in order to research humanity. Over the years, the aliens have frozen people who they have encountered and who haven’t done what the aliens wanted them to do, but have a different treatment for people who are obedient: They turn them into… dolphins, who are supposed to get their human bodies back after three thousand years. Why they are turned into dolphins and not, say, rabbits, isn’t explained, but I guess that’s based on a Japanese saying or myth.

The two guys discover a frozen dolphin human hybrid.

What’s interesting is that it’s the second time that I know of that Masumura refers to the Titanic. In “Hyouzan 1977″ the victims of the Titanic catastrophe are cited as an example for obedient people turned into dolphins. In “Night on the Galactic Railroad” Giovanni and Campanella, the two cat main protagonists, meet two human children who have died on the Titanic and step out of the galactic train, in which the plot is set in, to get into Christian heaven.

Let’s turn the boring humans into dolphins!

Eureka

movies — Shii / July 8, 2008 @ 5:39 pm

After being welcomed so dearly by my web host of doom and by my blogging idol I definitely feel the urge to write something. Because I have watched the Japanese arthouse flick “Eureka” yesterday, I naturally am going to write about that one.

The movie begins quite confusingly, with the phrase “A tidal wave is coming.” But shortly after this prologue the most actionful and most exciting scenes of the whole film begin to develop. The daily lifes of the protagonists are destroyed in one day, by something you could symbolically call a “tidal wave”. Almost three extremely slow-paced hours of reconditioning follow. These three hours (which were even longer in my case, since my computer crashed regularly) may become boring after a while, but if they weren’t and if the director Shinji Aoyama hadn’t decided for this length, the film wouldn’t be as impressing as it actually is.

The actors of the children don’t really have the chance to show their talent, because in the first two hours they are nothing but “the apathetic kids” and playing an apathetic person doesn’t really need talent IMO. On the other hand Kôji Yakusho has a role that he plays as good as nobody else could. When he coughs withouth interruption in the last third of the film, I almost wanted to cough myself. His acting is infectious.

The cinematography is probably the most exciting aspect of Eureka. The story may get boring after a while, but if you’re bored with the story, you can simply marvel at the astonishing images, mostly landscapes (*___*). Aoyama’s use of the camera could be compared to Andrei Tarkovsky (“Stalker”), who uses long takes in a similar way. I also liked that the film is kept in sepia colours, which underscores the depressing mood.

In my opinion the end is a bit too optimistic and unrealistic, although you – of course – can’t let a film like this one, which concentrates on the long and hard healing process of traumatised people, end pessimistically.

Writing about Eureka concurs with a certain impossibility of being satisfied with your text, because nobody (except for Aoyama himself) can be able to describe the visual impact and the emotional depth of this movie. The story and the direction are just too bulky. As long as you haven’t been the victim of a really traumatic experience (“really” being the operative word), you can’t understand the actions of this film’s protagonists. They act irrationally. They live isolated lives inmidst of people who can’t understand why they do. And they have the most gruesome nightmares due to feelings of guilt. I don’t know if the director himself actually has experienced a trauma like that, but I read somewhere that he created the story as a result to the bombings of the Aum sect in Tokyo in 1995 – so at least the society he lives in has.

Moved

rant — Shii / July 7, 2008 @ 8:27 pm

My blog has moved to a new server, which is why I am now part of the unbelievably elitist club of naruhodou websites. :P

And as you can see, I also have a new design, a pretty minimalistic, but IMO absolutely adorable one. Maybe the new design and the new server force me to write more regularly, haha…

Histeria Siberiana

books — Shii / June 29, 2008 @ 10:57 pm

Haruki Murakami is the most famous Japanese author in the Western world these days. It’s obvious why – he writes stories that describe modern (romantic) life of men in big cities. And the love life of a man in Tokyo is probably pretty similar to the one of a man in Berlin or New York. Well, even I could identify with a 15 year old Murakami character, when I was 15, although I was living (and still am…) in the tiniest village you can imagine. *cough*

Murakami has been named a possible future Nobel Prize winner, which, I think, is kind of a strange thought, because Murakami is neither a really revolutionary author nor a political author and he’s not a “my language is so OMFG sophisticatedly artsy” author. He’s an author of personal issues, an author of quiet nostalgia, an author of hinted symbolism, he’s an author who writes several books that are just like his others, but he’s also an author who makes you want to read his novels in one setting. He’s a popular author. And that’s not something that makes you win a Nobel Prize. But, well, we’ll see in the future.

The reason why I am writing a post about him is that I finished his novel “Kokkyô no minami, taiyô no nishi” today. Well, to be exact, I read “Gefährliche Geliebte” (translated as “Dangerous [female] lover”), the German translation of the English translation of the book… And I deeply despise the German title, because it sounds like the title of some cheap trivial piece of women’s porn literature. I like the English title (which is a translation of the original title BTW) “South of the border, West of the sun” much more, because it references to an actual scene in the book. I wonder why the German editors changed the wonderful title into such nonsense?

I’ve already mentioned the “OMG, this book is just porn” first impression you may get, if you just read the title or. You also may, if you don’t read the book carefully, but read it really superficially instead. There _are_ some sex scenes in the book that are described in a pretty vulgar language, but I think it’s intended that they sound as “technical” as they do.
By the way: because of these sex scenes some German literature critics had a dispute on a TV show, because one critic thought they were just stupid and unnecessary, and the others loved them. In my opinion that argument is just hilarious. (It’s so sad, that they all don’t have a clue what the meaning of the “-san” may be, that in the end it’s just funny again, haha… And it’s so geniously great how one of them just sits around and doesn’t say anything at all! Pure comedy! The only thought that I found somewhat interesting was the “Shimamoto stands for a death goddess” one…)

What I really liked about “Kokkyô no minami, taiyô no nishi” are some details (the Histeria Siberiana! the river and the unborn baby!) and especially the end, which, of course, is the highlight. I had the feeling that it’s a “the protagonist you identified with in the whole book has been crazy all the time, HAHA” ending, a mind fuck ending.
My modest interpretation is that Hajime has been paranoid for a long time, because, although he has a gorgeous family and a good job, his life isn’t able to satisfy him due to his past – the past with his first love, Shimamoto, who he just wants back, because the first love was the most intense for him, and the past with Izumi, the one he wants to apologize to. Because those two women are unreachable, because he just doesn’t know where they are today, he goes crazy. And in the end he realizes that all the time with the adult Shimamoto has just been one big hallucination.

If this was the first Murakami book I read I would probably adore it, but since it’s been my fifth one, I already know the Murakami world, which consists of the same characters and settings in almost every book (exception: “Kafka on the Shore”, my favorite), and after the fifth read it becomes somewhat unspectacular. So it resulted in me liking it, but definitely not adoring it.
Nevertheless: I still want to read “Hard-boiled Wonderland”, because one of my favorite anime, Haibane Renmei, is said to have some references to it and because it has a different setting (science-fiction?) – and I guess I also want to read some of the other novels, because they’re quickly read and because in every Murakami there are some amazing details that are worth the read.

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