Thoughts on the DVD of Makoto Shinkai’s first real production. (****)
Hoshi no Koe

“Luke Skywal – ah! Ie, Noboru-kun wa daisuki…” …heh, come on, you thought the same thing…

Makoto Shinkai‘s status as a heavyweight in the Japanese animation industry is only disputable in that ‘heavyweight‘ is a severely ill-chosen word for Shinkai. You’d need to have watched some of his work to understand – in terribly insufficient words, Shinkai’s productions are highly-tempered, finely-tuned, reflective, retrospective, introspective; a confection of delicate (and sometimes surreal) beauty with a central, solid core of some true observation on life. His latest work, Byousoku 5 Centimeter, was essentially a treatise on distance, love, and longing – while Byousoku focuses on spatial distance, Hoshi no Koe focuses on a more abstract form of distance: time. His characters in Hoshi are removed from each other by miles, yes, thousands and thousands of miles, but their situation is compounded by their being unable to communicate in any form other than by cell-phone messages, and those messages, like delayed carrier pigeons facing the approach of winter in the olden days, take increasing amounts of time to reach each other. By the film’s last quarter, this length of time, as Noboru reflects, pretty much means ‘forever’.
Being only 25 minutes long, Hoshi no Koe doesn’t actually have a whole lot of emotional journeying to take us on. An air of the bittersweet introduces, surrounds, and concludes the film; in between, we get more comfortably (uncomfortably? disturbingly? I rather think that we all enjoy getting depressed in this movie though) acquainted with melancholy and longing. And yet, at the end, there’s also hope – Mikako’s meeting with her own self, imagination or projection, is reassuring, and probably a little cathartic. Besides, if you watch with a careful eye for Noboru’s newspaper clippings and the sign he glances at towards the end of the film, Shinkai seems in favour of reunion. Perhaps a little surprising, considering that Shinkai chose to go the realist’s way in Byousoku 5 Centimeter, and perhaps not, because one gets the feeling Shinkai is really a sentimental fellow at heart. All the same, I don’t think the conclusion is the most important part of Shinkai’s work so much as the characters’ persistence in love and remembrance, and yet in acceptance, is significant. It looks like Shinkai’s aim is in portraying the conflict between moving on and ‘staying here’. Like good short stories and manga, he leaves the problem open and doesn’t attempt to solve it for us. That would be pre-emptive. We would be indignant.


Graphics-wise, Hoshi no Koe was Shinkai’s garden in new spring. He’d already established a kind of balance between CGI and pen-and-paper that was significantly his own: take, for example, the outset scenes of Mikako entering her school’s staircase up to the classroom. The flitting between sketchy lines and fully-shaded animation was intriguing – perhaps it reflects Mikako’s brief journey into a place from her past, into the unreal. While it isn’t quite the same effect, I’m reminded of Byousoku‘s transitions between shots of unnervingly realistic environment detail, like the moving floors of the train carriages, against the two-dimensional faces of the characters. And all of this is combined with an ethereal beauty throughout: curtained snow, single sakura petals, crested roads, ruffled leaves, the looming, wondrous backdrop of Jupiter, the sleek, smoothed edges of the Tarsians. Note that while Byousoku dwelled heavily on the daily and the ordinary, Hoshi takes advantage of the surreal space setting to inject a sense of wonder, of alien-ness (the what am I doing here? pressure), of the unbelievable and the impossible and vast loneliness.

The DVD I borrowed from my (most accommodating) local library also had a bunch of special features that made it worth putting a 25-minute film on DVD – a ‘director’s cut’ (more…)


…Turned out pretty good. Different from the Taiwanese version plot-wise; very different from the Taiwanese version in terms of style and presentation.

Find all episodes so far at … here.

So I finally got round to watching episode 1 of Hanazakari no Kimitachi e, or For You in Full Blossom – the Japanese version! After my disappointment, and then gradual come-around, with the Taiwanese take of Hisaya Nakajo’s manga, you can imagine that I was stewing in a slow broth of both dread and anticipation (flavoured with a healthy dose of cinnamon. Mm mm.) when I started loading episode 1 … what if it was worse? what if it changed the plot completely? what if *gasp* Ella turned out to be a better Mizuki than Horikita Maki? (more…)

…I’ve never figured out quite how to pronounce the title. (****)

WHY the extra E?!

Planet-ehs? Planet-suh? … I should probably check up Planetes’ entry in Wikipedia, or look up its romanji name, but I’m currently running on preoccupied-don’t-have-the-time mode, as per my previous idling entry. Actually, it’s the:
I-don’t-give-a-damn-’cause-I-have-other-terribly-fascinating-worlds-and- imaginary-realms-to-immerse-myself-in mode, but that doesn’t give me a very flattering image.

So, I pronounce Planetes pla-nee-teeze, and a damn good manga series. I suppose I’ve always gravitated between light, comical shoujo and sober, reflective vignettes on life (Honey and Clover is kind of a mix in my opinion, which gives it double the points), and Planetes is more of the latter. It’s basically a sci-fi manga set mostly in space, lunar bases, spaceships, etc; little actually happens on earth, but being set outside of the world doesn’t make the manga any less in touch with worldly and earthly themes. The main character, Hachimaki, is a young astronaut with hopes and worries like any young man of our time, struggling to make sense of his goals and what he really wants in life. His companions also portray some of the manga’s themes, like Yuri, who faces his wife’s death in a long-ago spaceship mishap and learns to move on, and Fee, whose son causes her plenty of troubles, though possibly not as much as Yuri and Hachimaki when they crew their spaceship together collecting space junk. Even the seemingly unimportant characters are poignant in their own various ways – I was particularly touched by that girl on the moon (yes, I forgot her name) who declared that she was perfectly content to stay on the moon for the rest of her life, never seeing Earth’s luscious blue oceans, because the ocean of stars above her was all she’d ever want.

Perhaps my favourite character right now, besides good ol’ crusty Fee, is Goro, Hachimaki’s eccentric dad. His POV pages at the finish of volume 3 were beautifully touching and terse both, and his relationship with his colleagues was just so cute, I had to laugh.

Anyway, I’ve only read up to the end of volume 3, because that’s all I could manage to request from the local library before I owed too much to request anything at all. I can bet the rest of the series is every bit as good as what I’ve read so far though. Thoughtful, poignant, deliberate (but still with some comical moments), and really, really well-drawn. Love the moonscape. And there was a tree in such detail I wondered if they’d just used a camera and photoshopped it down to a sketch-like look.

****(4 out of 5)

…episode 5 of Hanazakari no Kimitachi e, also known as Hua Yang Shao Nian Shao Nu, the Taiwanese drama.

I can’t believe I’ve waited 2 months for this next post. My apologies, all.

Here goes…episode 5!

Episode 4 ended with several threats and ultimati. Jin Xi, Rui Xi’s brother, reiterates his threat to take Rui Xi home if Quan fails to make the jump at the match. Shen Le uses a few stern glares on Quan and Quan returns them with some of his own expressionless ‘fury’, although really, Quan should be thanking the guy for helping motivate his return to full form.

Full form? Well, let’s see.

Episode 5 begins with Quan at practice, with Rui Xi cheering from the side, a little book in hand. It turns out the book is a handbook on high jumping, and Rui Xi is using it to identify where Quan might be making mistakes. Quan manages to snatch the book from her, and while in the midst of teasing playfully on the high jump landing mattress, the two collapse on top of each other (as is usual between them *cough* ) accidentally. As Rui Xi struggles back to her feet, embarrassedly thinking about Quan’s ‘drunk kiss’ back the other night, Shen Le appears. Shen Le says he’s come to look for a friend, but Rui Xi accuses him of spying on Quan’s practice. Shen Le then taunts Quan about being afraid of him, and being a poor jumper enough not to be able to make that mere height. Shen Le then tells him he’ll show him a proper jump, and easily flies over the bar. Just as he comes back, Jin Xi appears from afar, to watch without being noticed. Quan then attempts the jump, but fails, his leg seeming to hurt. Shen Le tells Quan high jump isn’t a game, and he should start training seriously, because at this rate, he can never make it. Quan finally responds, saying now he is jumping for more than himself, and that is why he will make it. After Shen Le stalks off, Rui Xi notes that Shen Le seems to be encouraging Quan, rather than abusing him. As they walk off the field, Rui Xi supporting Quan, Jin Xi muses over Quan and the competition.

The next days see Quan and Rui Xi training together, and then having lunch. Quan asks (more…)

…Yes! I’m not kidding. A Japanese made, Japanese released, Japanese casted drama is coming out this July.

I only just found out, when a buddy turned up on MSN with “Oguri Shun as Sano Izumi” as her nickname. Naturally, our conversation devolved into mindless squeals of affection and delight. The new definition of ‘chat’.

More information here. I’ll see what else I can dig up, and elaborate in another post. For Hana Kimi fans who read the manga before watching the Taiwanese drama Hua Yang Shao Nian Shao Nu – you’ll probably be every bit as ecstatic as I am: a chance to excel where the Taiwanese did NOT!

I’m just wondering whether Fuji TV began production knowing what the Taiwanese version was going to be like. Probably. In that case, we can hope for a different take on the same plotline…perhaps not so comedic, perhaps more sweet, perhaps with plot changes?

O, the agony of deliberation!

And oh, look, a Hana Kimi livejournal!

Got to run, got another exam tomorrow.

…manga, anime, OSTs, dramas, doujinshi…sate all those desires!

Another quick linkdropper. This time for The Evil Empire, a primarily manga download site that hosts even the more obscure manga, along with other items of value: a good trove of ebooks, lots of anime and drama episodes, nice stash of OSTs and doujinshi and artbooks. Most are in great condition, i.e. good scans/subs quality, but a few of the download links may either not work, or be inconvenient (multipart files that need reassembling). The really fantastic thing is that if you’re looking for licensed or old lost things, you might well find them here.

Often there’ll be a little review or comments that allow you get a little knowledge about the download items, but on the whole, The Evil Empire works best for those who know what they want, and just go there to search the hallways of the Dark Castle, aka download section.

All you need to get unlimited downloads is to post in the forums 10 times, and that can be done within half an hour, less if you’re not really reading the posts and just adding thoughts :p though please do participate more actively. It’s always fun to debate whether Kikyo should die or not. *cackle*

I got my Saiunkoku Monogatari OST from there. Now I’m searching up other Sumomo Yumeka material, and getting their ebooks…George R. R. Martin’s books for one, because the library’s always out of his books. His books are just that good. Anyway, get going to the empire, and have fun! 🙂

…”Why can’t siblings love each other?” – Nanoka

Nanoka from Koi Kaze

This is admittedly taboo material, but good taboo material – because it attempts to present the consequences of trying to live by those taboos, and questions why it is a taboo at all. What’s taboo here? Why, incest.

I was researching the Westermarck effect, and its counterpart phenomenon, Genetic Sexual Attraction when I discovered this manga (and anime, which was made after the manga); and after a bit of looking up in the trustworthy ol’ Anime News Network, the manga looked pretty good ratings-wise and art-wise so I went ahead and downloaded it, chapter by chapter, from It’s 5 volumes in all, but very well paced, so that there’re hardly any parts I wished elaborated more and none that I thought were elaborated too long on. But onto a synopsis of the story, first.

恋風, literally love’s zephyr, a Japanese term for being bound by one’s love for another. …taken from Wikipedia.

Drawn by Yoshida Motoi (family name Yoshida), the story circles around a 27 year old, emotionally and sexually frustrated and detached man, Saeki Koshiro, and the sister he was separated from years ago, Kohinata Nanoka, who at 15 years of age comes to live with Koshiro and their father. The reason for their separation is their parents’ own divorce years ago, leaving Nanoka with their mother and Koshiro with their father. Nanoka seems a fairly typical teenage girl, a little more quiet than most perhaps, a little sadder, but not less obstinate. Koshiro on the other hand, is introduced to us as rather gruff, unsure how to handle emotion, especially love and hurt – Wikipedia’s description of him as a ‘bear of a man’ verging on ‘unintentional boorishness’ hits the mark completely. He is also fairly quiet, more out of a lack of necessity to speak than any real shyness.

At the manga’s opening, Nanoka has come to live with Koshiro and their father Saeki Zenzo (more…)

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