Author Archives: Anna

live action manga & anime adaptations

I watched the first episode of Mars, a live action adaptation of the manga by Fuyumi Soryo . The tv show is currently airing in Taiwan, I think. It just goes to show, if something has geeky appeal, you can find it on the web! (via TokyoJupiter)

Mars was the first multi-volume ‘teen romance’ shoujo manga that I read from start to finish (thank you, interlibrary loan!). I just got hooked reading the trials and tribulations of Kira (a withdrawn, sensitive artist with a tragic past who fears men) and Rei (an outgoing, delinquent motorcycle racer with a tragic past who is a bit of a playboy). Both the manga and the tv show are pure melodrama. The TV show features much tormented crying, traumatic flashbacks, mournful piano music, and heartfelt love songs, with some humor thrown in so things don’t get too heavy.

The live action version is excellent and manages to pack a lot into one hour, Ling (aka Rei) and Qui Lo (aka Kira) meet first meet at a park. She is sitting on a bench sketching when he asks her for directions to a nearby hospital. His friend and mentor in motorcycle racing is recovering from an injury. Qui Lo isn’t able to speak to him, so she tears a page out of her sketchbook, quickly draws him a map, and runs away. Ling discovers a drawing on the back of the map, and when he finds himself in class with Qui Lo when college starts he is extremely persistent in his attempts to get to know her.

They gradually begin to form a friendship despite the problems (tragic pasts!!!!) that continue to haunt them. The tv show does a good job portraying two people who are totally different in personality who are drawn together and compliment each other in a union of opposites. The costume and production design always places an elemet of red near Ling– a shirt, backpack, carpet in his apartment, set backgrounds– which is very fitting considering what he symbolizes in the show. Qui Lo is always dressed in more muted neutral and pastel colors, which suits her retiring personality.

The story shifts its setting from high school to college, and some of the plotlines that were introduced over time in the manga are alluded to immediately, in the form of flashbacks (the tragic pasts!!!!). Still, many of the scenes are very faithful adaptations of episodes that took place in the Mars vol 1. The tv show and the manga are pure melodrama, but in a good way!

Other live action versions of anime/manga that I can think of at the moment:

Lone Wolf and Cub, Guyver
You’ve got Pretty Gaurdian Sailor Moon (which features Sailor Moon destroying rubber monsters by pirouetting), Great Teacher Onizuka, Peach Girl TV show from Taiwan, the future live action version of Neon Genesis Evangelion, Crying Freeman the movie, You’re Under Arrest, and City Hunter.

malaise

I’ve been feeling exhausted all week. I’ve been coming home from work at 6:30 and immediately falling asleep, waking up with a headache around 11:30 and then not able to get back to sleep again until 4:00am. It’s throwing me off a little bit. At first I was wondering if I was dying of consumption like Marguerite in La Dame aux Camilias. Then I looked at the allergy forecast for Massachusetts and realized that I’m only suffering from breathing in insanely high levels of Ragweed. Perhaps I should move somewhere without Ragweed, like Antarctica. I think there is probably a low demand for librarians there though.

I have even more Gmail invites. If you want one, let me know.

Chicago

I’m not writing about a lame band, poems by Carl Sandburg, or the city whose corrupt government forced me to pay a traffic ticket that was issued a year before I became a car owner for a car I did not own, on a day I was not driving or even a passenger in a car.

I’m writing about the manga Chicago by Yumi Tamura. The title Chicago refers to a bar in Shinjuku where “the food’s not much, but the drinks are strong”.

Much like Tamura’s other work Basara, Chicago is set in the future. The heroine of the story, Rei, works with her partner Uozumi as part of a disaster recovery team (Self Defense Force Rescue Squad Four). They are investigating a disaster site after a huge earthquake hit Tokyo when they find the bodies of people who have been shot. They hear a mysterious bit of music from Dvorak’s New World Symphony, and a plane flying overhead starts shooting at them. Uozumi steps on a mine, and Rei rescues him. The rest of their team isn’t so lucky.
The rescue mission is a failure, Rei and Uozumi are the only surviving members of Squad Four, and Uozumi loses his leg.

After the failed mission, Rei becomes a courier and Uozumi sits alone in a jail cell playing the cello. A mysterious man appears to recruit them, telling them to come to the bar named Chicago. At the bar a man named JJ asks them to go on a mission to rescue a kidnapped boy, saying that this new mission may also answer some questions they have about the loss of Squad Four.

Rei isn’t too happy about Uozumi having a girlfriend. Yet, when a stoic man named Shin who was also recruited by JJ shows up to join their new rescue mission, she is instantly attracted to him. Hmm…
The first volume of Chicago focuses on Rei, Uozumi, and Shin rescuing the kidnapped boy. The second volume provides more backstory about Rei and Uozumi, and they begin to learn more about the Dvorak loving mystery person who destroyed Squad Four.

Tamura has a (to my eyes) unique art style, the faces of her characters have stronger noses and more mobile and expressive mouths than you sometimes see in manga. I have to quibble though with the way she draws Uozumi playing the cello. Either he has really bad technique or he is playing some sort of weird avant garde piece, because he looks like he is bowing halfway up the fingerboard. Perhaps he is using the Suzuki method.

See, this is a rough approximation of how any sane cellist would hold their bow (I took these pictures in a mirror, so they are reversed):

good cello

This is how Uozumi plays the cello:

bad cello

Even though Uozumi might not be able to play the cello well, Chicago is still a good read. It contains more action elements than your typical shojo manga. Rei is a strong heroine, who is quick to come to the rescue of her male comrades. Sometimes it’s hard to commit to a long running multi-volume series, but since there are only two volumes of Chicago that isn’t a problem. Based on the author’s note at the end of the 2nd volume, it seemed to me as if there might have been a longer storyline planned, but the author might have run out of steam. It’s too bad, because I would have liked reading the further adventures of Rei, Uozumi, and Shin.

the time of our sweating

Oy! It was hot today!

For most of the day I suffered in a not very ventilated corner of the library. I kept eyeing my computer suspiciously, wondering if it was radiating heat and making me suffer more. The HVAC system wasn’t functioning well, and I really wanted to shave my head. My hair is very thick and it gets to be a bit too much in the summer. I haven’t gotten it cut recently either. I decided not to shave my head because the library doesn’t really have very good scissors or razors lying around and starting off the semester looking like Lieutenant Ilia from the first Star Trek movie might not be a good idea.

Hot Gimmick

Hot Gimmick is a great teen soap opera manga. Hatsumi lives in an apartment complex for the families of company workers. The complex is ruled by the nosy Mrs. Tachibana who exploits her husband’s high rank by surrounding herself with a gang of housewife minions. Hatsumi has an older brother (Shinogu), a flighty younger sister (Akane), and a baby brother.

The first few pages of the book set up a soap opera plot in grand fashion. Hatsumi’s day starts out very hectic. she has a run-in with Mrs. Tachibana and her minions, and on her way to school she sees that Akane is ill. They return home and Akane confesses that she thinks she might be pregnant and asks Hatsumi to go buy a pregnancy test for her. Hatsumi is totally mortified by her sister’s sexual habits and the thought of buying a pregnancy test. She does want to help her sister, so she goes to the corner store in a clever disguise accessoried by giant platform boots. I know whenever I need to do anything undercover, I wear my platform boots:

boots!

I might not be able to run, but at least I’m 4 inches taller!!!

She meets a devastatingly handsome boy at the store who offers to help her because she seems lost. She starts wondering, “does he know me?!” “does he live at the housing complex?!!” She quickly excuses herself, buys the test and makes it home, but she literally bumps into Ryoki (the evil son of Mrs. Tachibana). The pregnancy test goes flying, Ryoki picks it up and makes many insulting comments about the stupidity of Hatsumi and her family.

Ryoki seems to be without any redeeming qualities whatsoever. Hatsumi finds him terrifying because he used to bully her when she was younger. Ryoki quickly seizes on Hatsumi’s fear of bringing shame to her family, and blackmails her into promising to be his slave. Hatsumi rehearses what she would say to tell Ryoki off in her mind, but she is too afraid of what Mrs. Tachibana would do to her family if Ryoki tells her secret. Ryoki forces Hatsumi into a dark corner and starts to grope her, but suddenly the handsome boy from the drugstore appears on the stairs and yells at Ryoki to stop! He turns out to be Hatsumi’s best friend from childhood, Azusa, who moved away after first grade. And now he’s back and he saves her from the clutches of a misanthropic boy! And all of this happened in a mere 25 pages!!!!

One of the things I liked about this comic was the attention to character. Hatsumi has the mood swings typical of a teenager — she’s elated for two seconds and then something happens to remind her of her predicament and she is totally dejected. She vows to stand up for herself, and even rehearses what she is going to say in her thoughts, but something always happens to keep her silent. As the story goes on, you begin to learn more about the motivations of the characters. Even though Ryoki seems like pure evil, his motivation for making Hatsumi his slave is gradually disclosed (and it isn’t what you’d think at first). Azuza seems to have a hidden history, but I expect that his story will be explored more in later volumes.

shaolin soccer & hero

I’ve been sick with a summer cold recently so I’ve been feeling yucky. There is no better time to indulge in watching martial arts movies! Shaolin Soccer arrived from Netflix a couple days ago, and I watched it, fell into a cold-induced coma, woke up and watched it again. Even though I rented it I know I’ll buy it at some point. I don’t know what Miramax was thinking when they bought, chopped up, and buried the film. It is very nice that the dvd contains the US version and the uncut Chinese version. I will never think about kung-fu and soccer the same way again 🙂 Steven Chow is a cinematic genius. If real soccer games featured balls that turned into fire and levitating players, I’d totally watch it.

I dragged myself out of bed today to see Hero and it was gorgeous. The use of color reminded me of old technicolor movies. When I was driving home thinking about the movie I remembered Funny Face, because of the way scenes were totally dominated by one color. I’m not totally sure about the Rashomon style impressionistic plot, but the movie is so lovely to look at, the plot doesn’t matter. It is the highest quality eye candy. It’s not mere candy, it’s a handmade Belgian truffle. I really liked seeing Jet Li in a Chinese movie as opposed to a formulaic action flick with DMX.

3 gmail invites up for grabs

If you crave a gmail invite, e-mail me or post a comment. First come, first served!

Update: Even more invites suddenly appeared, I now have 3 to spare.

Update again: only 1 is left

Late update: invites are all gone for now