Part 2 of my, uh, delicate dissection. *wields scalpel*

Red Seas Under Red Skies

Narrative structure. Ahhh… I was honestly confused when I read on forums complaints about Mr. Lynch’s use of flashbacks, and what they called ‘infodumps’. Certainly not! Detect my indignant tone! I loved those interrupting interludes, and the way the book was sectioned into different parts, or books: c’mon, do you really want all the books ever written in life to be written in the same damnably boring straightforward pointA-to-pointB style, which besides being didIsayboring would also mean the death of a huge part of literary study and also necessitate the abuse of authors that dabble in such analepsis for example toni morrison alice sebold yann martel and about half the literary canon? *wheeze* Don’t make me come after you with meat cleavers. I only hope that Mr. Lynch didn’t seriously consider those comments as representative of all his readers’ opinions, and that instead, the lack of good flashback, infodumping scenes in Red Seas Under Red Skies was only because he had a clever interwoven flashbacky structure in The Republic of Thieves, Gentleman Bastard Sequence book 3. I loved the Half-Crown War interlude, for example, very nicely played, kept right until just after the “Complication” part of The Lies of Locke Lamora. In Red Seas, I did like the scenes revealing how Jean and Locke got away from Vel Virazzo, and the abseiling practice session had me giggling throughout, but later on, there weren’t any interludes to check the plot before it went bubbling into pieces. Melted pieces. On a sponge.

Meaning I found the second half of the book messy. In a way, the narrative structure of The Lies of Locke Lamora was so tight and focussed it knew what it wanted to deliver and did just that. It didn’t pretend to debate morals and ethics, nor elements of mythology nor symbols pointing toward some great flaw in humanity that we needs address. It wasn’t trying to win the World Fantasy Award (though getting nominated was probably a nice experience for Mr. Lynch…*jealous*) so much as entertain its readers. Red Seas Under Red Skies, on the other hand, wound up a dance of strangers, no character being really fleshed out enough to get my hate or my lifelong affection, and scenes or ideas being introduced too late – the part where Jean and Locke hurriedly list the members of the Priori confused me, for example. I thought it was my memory telling me it’d gone bust with disuse before I realised Cordo and Lyonis and the others had never been mentioned before. Would it really have been so difficult to include a hint of them earlier? I don’t know. Mr. Lynch is the master; I’m just the disgruntled reader who finds messy writing leads to detached reading, which is never good except when approaching textbooks thicker than an inch.

Since we’re talking in comparison to Lies, another major cause for dismay was the prologue. While Lies‘s prologue set an atmosphere of possibilities – that Locke was highly skilled, highly capable, “and therefore look out! the rest of the book will be as highly skilled and highly capable and you will be shocked”, Red Seas‘s prologue threw a storm over our heads, some bolts of lightning, devastated the landscape and replaced it with a heath, made Locke old and bearded and wearing a crown of thorny twigs and shouting “Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks!” and Jean a Fool tagging along behind. OK, so even if Locke didn’t quite make the definition of Shakespearean tragedy, his apparent ‘betrayal’ by Jean made us wary of everything Jean said to Locke in the book. Only to finally reach that opening scene later in the book, and have it resolve just as quickly as it was introduced. Besides, since some of us were pretty certain Jean would never betray Locke, we spent a lot of time wondering what trick Jean was working, and just how intricate it would be, and perhaps it would be just sneaky enough to prove Jean almost as quickwitted as Locke himself and therefore a better partner than we thought. To resolve all that speculation so rapidly seemed a waste. So putting that scene in the prologue made it all rather melodramatic, and would have worked better left only in the main story, so that you felt that same horror as you did when Barsavi toppled Locke into his cask.

Oh! How could I forget this – I had a pretty damn hard time accepting the Salon Corbeau section. Why? I know some of you loved it, but I really couldn’t get over how it seemed to stick out like a sore thumb. It seemed so deliberately contrived to get our sympathy for the sacking of an entire city, and yet, it didn’t seem gruesome enough – not as gruesome as, say, Sage Kindness’s glass-massage in Lies. I almost winced at it; it’ll be some time before I can go back and read it without recoiling mentally. That’s just me, of course, and people who know me will probably say I’m a stickler for the very subtle, over the overt. Go ahead and disagree – that’s what the comment box is for πŸ™‚

That’s the jist of my quarrel with Red Seas Under Red Skies. See earlier post for some of it. Characterisation – Ezri, Zamira, Stragos, Rodanov, flat. Merrain might have been a mystery, but the kind inspired out of an annoyance over loose ends on your carpet, than the Grey King’s implacable, reticent, hatred. Mood and setting – oh, not too bad. Camorr was more tangible. More charismatic. I’d love to go back there one day. Book 5, perhaps, Mr. Lynch? πŸ˜‰ Plot and narrative – the list of names Locke and Jean rattle at one another? Why are these people significant?

Not exactly important, but I did miss the, hm, constructive detail, so to speak. The Lies of Locke Lamora had Camorr’s Beautiful Arts, the Shifting Revel, ‘teeth lessons’, Falselight, crow’s cages, ‘first touch’, and even the mention of Locke’s vocabulary games being a sign that he was confident – it also had references within itself, like having Lorenzo Salvara as a boy appear in the House of Glass Roses interlude. Red Seas didn’t have that. Of course, Locke and Jean were in a new and unfamiliar city, and no interludes into faire childehood had been scheduled, so… well, let’s just say I’m anticipating The Republic of Thieves with more enthusiasm than I usually anticipate books following not-so-hot books. Was that deliberate? I wonder. Are all authors of sneaky con-books as sneaky as their characters?

But there are good scenes, of course. Really good scenes. My favourites have to be the abseiling practice session, which was plain rollicking good fun, the opening Carousel Hazard game, with all of the Gentlemen Bastards’ “look who’s really winning” blithe smart-mouthing, and for some reason, the legerdemain display in Requin’s rooms. I love picturing things like that. Pouring wine for the ‘gladiator’ in the wasp cage under the guise of disdain – terrific. The ‘reverse burglars’ comment had me in stitches. (Actually, that whole break-in scene reminded me of that part in FF7 where Cloud breaks into the Don’s mansion dressed as a girl, and threatens his manhood. Bloody ingenious, that. Still wish it’d been done in literary form. Would have loved to have read it!) And love the ending; Locke must be a step ahead of Jean, or else how can he be garrista? Like someone said on asoiaf forums – another ending where the Gentlemen Bastards wind up “slightly more fucked” than how they started out.

In conclusion (What’s my word count, sir? Funny how I’m using time I’d set aside to write my philosophical essay to write this. Scott Lynch now owes me about 4 hours), I was disappointed, yes, but no more than I was with Robin Hobb’s Soldier Son trilogy – like her trilogy, this sequel carries the same writing style, the same quirks that mark each author as separate entities and not growing appendages off one pulsating blob of authorship, and also the same unravelling of tight plot structure. To me, anyway. Argue with me as you wish. …Actually, I was bitterly disappointed, downright pissed, with the Soldier Son trilogy, so my relatively mild dissatisfaction with Red Seas Under Red Skies is really just that – mild. Nothing to stop writing over, Mr. Lynch. *winning smile*

Nice book, all in all. 3.5 star rating. Wouldn’t reread it all that much though.
What is written, is irreversible. You cant take it back. So, even though I’m in all kinds of excitement to read book 3, I do so hope Mr. Lynch takes his time, as much as is possible, with book 3: to slow down, reread, feel it out, explore his characters and his cities, show them to us in all their full, vibrantly coloured exteriors and rotten, corrupt interiors. Reading is one thing. You got to get your readers rereading. *goes off to buy new version of The Lies of Locke Lamora, replete with sexy French cover*

***1/2 (3.5 out of 5)
Some extra speculation. Sabetha and plays. Obvious link. Three line synopsis on Mr. Lynch’s official webpage: very, very suggestive. Interview with Mr. Lynch, mention of the Falconer of Karthain’s mother. Ooh. Named Lady Patience. …she better not have an attendant named Lacey. Plus, poison hanging over Locke. All this makes me just as excited to read book 3 as I was to read book 2. And here’s a question for you to think about … I reread Lies’s chapter on Locke travelling to the farm he was to ‘apprentice’ on, and caught in Chains’ voice what seemed like emphasis on “country bandit“, when he explained to Locke the benefits of learning the country people. I instantly thought: aHA! Trav! … πŸ˜› What do you think?

The second novel in the Scott Lynch’s Gentleman Bastard Sequence, following The Lies of Locke Lamora. Erm, ‘ware spoilers. This isn’t a review so much as a dissection. πŸ˜‰

Red Seas Under Red Skies - II

I hate that Australia, despite being one of the first countries to experience ‘tomorrow’ as ‘today’ compared to the rest of the world *cough* the US *cough*, always seems to get her books last. It’s like the other countries carry out clandestine transactions behind her back while she courageously essays forth to greet the day first; and only when she’s bludgeoned the night away do her followers offer her the dregs of the deals. Bah! See, Red Seas Under Red Skies finally hit local bookshelves just a week ago, here in Brisbane. September! Damn! September!

But it was worth the wait. Psyched myself to the point of breaking tradition and buying the large paperback version, tackily shimmery as it was. (I’m even going to buy the recent Gollancz SF version of The Lies Locke Lamora, with its remodeled-French-version cover – sexy figure on cover, sexy.) I actually stood there in Borders for a few minutes, exulting that it had finally come. Then I got home, swept with supreme carelessness PHIL2140, Charles Dickens and Joseph Conrad off my desk, grabbed French Onion Kraft dip and some Arnotts and thenceforth seated myself beside Locke and Jean at Carousel Hazard. There was a prologue, but my version of Lies already had it as a teaser at its very end, so it wasn’t going to stop me much or make me go “GAH! Betrayal!!” since I’d already gone and done that.

It was a pretty good book. Entertaining, funny, occasionally clever, more lighthearted than epic-dramatic and that’s a darned good thing, when you’ve been like me and read Robert Jordan, George R. R. Martin, and Robin Hobb on end. Mr. Lynch definitely has a knack for writing good dialogue, and he knows it well; he doesn’t need to put in flowery adjectives or long unintelligible monologues in the stream-of-consciousness style to get across what his characters are experiencing. *points smug smile at Molly Bloom* But I’m afraid, good as it is in its own rights, it definitely didn’t match the standard set by The Lies of Locke Lamora. Yes, I know there are glowing reviews saying Red Seas Under Red Skies is either almost just as good as, equally good as, and even better than, Lies, but I just can’t agree.

“Well, why? C’mon, you incompetent, half-pint, mangy little girl-whelp, Locke was awesome when he charged the Jeremite Redeemers all by his scrawny self!”

True, that. And also true that it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what was wrong with the book. In fact, there’s nothing at all ‘wrong’; it tries very hard indeed to please its readers with the same plot, character and wit mix that the first book gave us oh-so-pleasingly. And that, I think, is where the problem lies. It seems to try too hard to have all those things. I got the impression that the book was written too hastily, too feverishly, and without enough of the backward glance that checks to see if the world it left in its wake is really a complete and three-dimensional one. So let’s see what gave me that idea…

The characters lacked real depth this time around, especially the female characters. There were a couple of people at asoiaf.westeros.org that thought the same thing I did, that is, that the female characters were remarkably predictable, and flat, and that Ezri and Zamira, the two females that accompany Locke and Jean for most of the book, were disappointingly simple – Ezri tellingly so. Her past was glossed over, her appearances were mostly used to complement Jean’s character, and you already knew that because of how straightforward these things made her character, she was going to die. It was kind of a vicious cycle thing – you knew she was going to die, so it seemed kind of pointless to really attach yourself to her, which made her seem even more superficial. I spent most of the time wondering what Locke was doing and thinking during those Ezri/Jean scenes, than concentrating on Ezri. Zamira…her initial showing, when threatening Jean to see Locke’s response, was brilliant – sharp, intelligent, very efficient: a female Barsavi with double his mental clarity. She seemed to fade after that though. I expected her to do something interesting at the pirates’ meeting. She didn’t though. Just talk. Pity.

Selendri was probably the most appealing female character on scene. Only half a real woman, but twice as dangerous as any other. And she oozed a bold pride to match Locke’s; flaunting her scarred side as disconcertingly much as her whole one, was just fantastic. She was underplayed of course, being Requin’s sidekick. That was another pity, putting Requin and the Sinspire game aside for most of the book, since Requin was much more charming a character than Stragos, who just seemed a little Hitleresque for my taste, what with his dreams of the future. This is part of what gave a fair number of readers, including myself, the strong feeling that the first half of the book being much better than the second.

An aside: why do I keep thinking of non-protagonists as NPCs? Weird. The peripheral characters here were certainly not NPCs, a fact which bugged me a great deal. They were more PC than I ever wanted. I hate reading the other characters’ points-of-view, especially when they’re on the ‘enemy side’ – it reminds me of those children’s books that attempt to teach us that nobody is truly evil. Really now, by the time you get to reading Lies and Seas without having your parents gasp at the amount of liberal (but very amusing πŸ˜€ ) swearing in them, you’ll have understood that moral very well, and you’d expect books to be describing the difficulty of dealing with the problems that cause such ‘evil’ to be done, rather than explaining it. And that description won’t involve POVs from their side. I admit Requin’s narrative at the end of the book was pretty necessary, to explain succinctly what was going to happen to the government of Tal Verrar, however, the effect of Strago’s POV, and Merrain’s, took away the latent danger of atmosphere that Lies so effectively gave Camorr. Barsavi’s potential to absolutely ruin Locke and Jean’s life had no parallel here – you expected Locke to stay on top.

– ok, this post is getting too long. If you’ve been a patient reader, click here for the next part.

…no seriously, I was thinking that was a hell of a hilarious name, until I realised Locke would never use that name. *pouts*

Still, Leocanto Kosta has a nice ring. And I was giggling again when I saw them using the old ‘Tavrin Callas’ persona. Wouldn’t be too surprised to see the name tossed around in every subsequent book, so that by the end of the sequence, all the powers that be in Locke’s world will be trembling at the varied talents (which includes dying several times, and reappearing nevertheless, and often in places rather far away) of the elusive Tavrin Callas. Hah!

But more on Red Seas Under Red Skies after I ponder on Sabetha and plays. Not that we actually get to see Locke’s lady-love just yet. I wonder at Scott’s self-control – and mine, as a dear, desperate reader – in introducing her on the first book’s very first page, and never letting us hear more than a fragmented barebones mention of her before Locke throws his sullen glares and heavy sighs around and everyone shuts up. She’d better turn up in the next book. In some Locke-worthy sneaky way. On a stage perhaps. *muses*

***1/2

Full dissection/review coming up next.

but that isn’t what kept me legitimately busy, but what kept me really exhausted, because i was juggling spending time getting to know my uncle well, acquainting myself with my other uncle’s family and his exceedingly spoiled children, and – schoolwork! uni work, really. i just think of it as school again though, since on some days i keep hours long enough to remind me of JC back in ol’ Singapore. so i did my Ulysses close reading assignment. i realised it was my very first advanced level assignment on the morning it was due, and so duly panicked and went through an hour of frantic revision and editing and other stupidmereflections, before finally dropping the damned thing off at uni and heading down to the gold coast to join the family. spent the 3 hour trip reading Charles Dickens’s Bleak House for classes this tuesday, and i can say, with sincere and whole-hearted enthusiasm, that i’ve become a dickens fan.

i wasn’t before, simply because i was one of those asian children brought up in awe of the english language and consequently the ‘great english classics’ – so tomes like dickens’s bleak house really, really scared the crap out of me. especially with a name as uh, bleak, as bleak house. but then i got through the introductory passage on the law and court ethics of the time, and then through the first chapter, with surprising ease, and then when i met the rather farcical characters – as they were represented in their introductory chapters, at least – of sir leicester and lady dedlock, i realised i was going to be changing my mind about dickens. and fairly soon. tulkinghorne was a delight.

then i got to jarndyce! not that esther wasn’t fascinating in herself. she is, really. just that jarndyce gave me my first real – to follow popular Internet slang – LOL moment. laughoutloud moment. jarndyce fleeing out the back of the house to avoid accepting ada’s thanks was just priceless. as was his charming explanation to esther: “This, you must know, is the Growlery. … When I am out of humour, I come and growl here.

*laughoutloud*

i have little to say to people who have yet to read dickens – except that i will call them ‘people yet to read dickens’ simply because i think it almost immoral not to read a book that has been commonly held to have defined a certain part of human history. you could argue that statement, i think. i could, if i could get myself to wake up enough to tackle it.

mr vholes and his dead gloves. *laughs* and you can just hear miss flite’s manner of speaking – not quite patronising, but certainly arresting. πŸ™‚

speaking of arguments – i was thinking to-day what a terrible public speaker i am. and in that respect, i am a huge, huge liar. i can’t begin to count the number of people i’ve met, whom i’ve since found out, thought me one of those bright and bubbly, self-assured and confident individuals who find speaking to strangers perfectly normal and perfectly easy: they are wrong, wrong, wrong. i’ve never found speaking to strangers easy, and i used to be one of the most introverted people in my class, if not my whole firstgrade level. a shier girl you could never meet. (is that how you spell ‘shy-er’?) and i’ve never gotten over it, no matter how i appear to others (you’re deceived, deceived!). take, for example, the fact that i stutter and stammer my way through anything longer than a sentence spoken in public, despite the fact that i am probably one of the more vocal members of my social ethics lecture group, and that i haven’t not spoken in a single class yet so far. nobody else, i’m sure, begins her (apparently confident) speech with a flushed face, heart beating in the veins of her cheek and neck, saliva-lumpy throat, short breaths and an inability to hold the gaze of the audience! *sigh* i’m trying as hard as i can to be comfortable with speaking in public though. after all, i am expected to pass this course, and passing means i have to do the required seminar presentation…in few weeks from now.

hm, let’s muse. i discovered my lecturer knows my name. whether that is because i’m one of the few students of chinese race in the lecture, or whether he has a knack of remembering names and associating them with faces, or whether he thinks i’m a smashing social ethics student, or whether i’m rather memorable as the stuttering but pitiably determined-to-speak student, is up for grabs. (i refuse to grab, however. refer to my refusal to speculate about freud and my uncle. same premise.) anyway, it’s still wonderful to know someone knows your name, when you didn’t expect them to, but would like them to. i’m a somebody! i have an identity, outside of my self, my immediate family, and my honorary family – that is, my ‘most dear and sweet darling’ friends, to quote esther from bleak house – i have a name, and it is mine!

seriously though, it is a great feeling to be recognised as someone individual from the pack. a wolf with a name; a leaping salmon with more pink than silver in its skin.

so enough about identity and me. besides highly recommending getting round to reading dickens as soon as is humanly possible, without too violently harming your sleep cycles, try The Age of Innocence, by Edith Wharton. Again, i won’t even attempt to offer a critical analysis of the book, or of why you should read this, or even of why i liked it and felt enriched (refer to David Lurie, (c) J. M. Coetzee Disgrace) by the scandals within it. there’s plenty of resources on the Net for you to get what you want. what you DO want to know from me is that, as a novice classics reader, but an enthusiastic one, i was sweetly surprised by how easy and enjoyable a read it was, not to mention rather modernist, than victorian. just look at the ending – what do you make of Newland’s ‘old-fashioned’ remark? honest? deceptive? deceiving? but perhaps one could say, confidently, that at least we readers recognise that it certainly is true, whether Newland realises it or not: he’s been living a fantasy, and consigns the rest of his life to that same fantasy. who wants to stop dreaming a nice dream?

on a more personal level, i really am enjoying my classes. i can’t imagine what my life would be like now, the way i’m so caught up with classes as it is, without literature in it. my friend, my pillow, my huggybuggysnuggly bolster, that i sleep with. you can’t get anywhere near as personal or intimate with, say, a chemistry book, or a boiled scalpel. so i’m keeping my options open for now – if i got sponsored to do a PhD in Eng. Lit, i’d happily wave farewell to the MBBS part of my course, i think. πŸ˜›

the only class i’m regretting taking is the contemp lit subject. a first year, the only first year subject i’m taking now; it’s ridiculously easy, more JC1 (first year GCE A Levels) level than uni first year. and i have to admit, i feel rather like i’ve been dunked underwater; everything is slow, fascinatingly quiet, and muted in all sorts of odd ways. there certainly isn’t the same sharp and almost instinctive debate that always comes up so naturally in vict lit tutorials.

well, i was going to go on about what else has been keeping me busy, but i’ll separate that into another post. this is enough to bore a singaporean college student in the last phase of editing her PW written report.

so i might have mentioned that all content-confused and aimless posts like these where i basically blog to get my thoughts in order, will have the word ‘intermission’ somewhere in their titles. and for propriety’s sake – however conflicting that phrase seems in this context – the post’ll probably be written like this: carelessly. you know, sporadic punctuation, grammar, etcetera. i’ll throw in what i like, and say what i want, and hope that the more obtuse observations i make are lost somewhere in the jungle of it all – kind of like how you miss stuff that really is uber-important in ulysses. which was a delicious read, by the way. yes, i mean it. the closer you read it, the more fun it is: ‘Potato I have.’ *cackles* i mean, a potato in his pocket is a rather absurd image.

so let’s see, i’ve actually really been busy this past week or so, which explains why i haven’t gotten round to anything further than episode 3 of hana kimi JAP or the last instalment of byousoku – and i really do want to see more of both shows! but the real life thing happened, and besides, taking a break at the beach was fun. especially because this was the first time in my (fairly brief) life i spent serious time with my uncle, my dad’s twin brother… and i tell you, i need some time to think about this and what freud might say and what i don’t want to hear freud saying – what i mean is, it was pretty unnerving, and at the same time comforting, that my dad’s twin brother was so very natural to be with. without my dad actually being around, i didn’t have to compare him to anyone other than himself, and he sort of became a replacement-dad on me before i realised it. im not sure how far the fascination with him is normal of the daughters of twins. neither am i sure if he saw me as a replacement-daughter, or even just a daughterish figure, or if my treating him so comfortably, talking to him as if he really were my father, caused him to think of me as a daughter. i don’t know. all i do know is that after less than a week together, i was really, sincerely sad to see him go. and that was the first time i’ve really met him, and probably the last time for a while – i have a strong suspicion that when thrown back into our respective direct families, that ‘replacement’ relationship dissolves. oh well. a replacement serves only so long, eh? at any rate, my uncle reminded me of my dad so much i called him up to talk to him, as i haven’t done in a while.

interesting thing, father-daughter relationships. shut up, freud.

It’s out for viewing at Veoh, and subbed. Here’s the link to the video.

I haven’t watched it yet; got a lagging Internet connection at the moment and it’ll take some time. Once I have, rest assured I’ll go analytic and spoilerific. πŸ™‚

Meanwhile – enjoy watching this!!! If you’ve been waiting as eagerly as I have to see this, and the third and last instalment in the Shinkai’s latest work, definitely go to Veoh.com and check them out.

Thank to Seow-chan for letting me know!

*flips back to Veoh tab*

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.

Tracers!

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…)