I had trouble putting into words how I felt about Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms. It was powerful yet quiet; whimsical yet jarring. This story involves people who lived through the atomic bombings of WWII and the generations that come after them. But instead of being about the bombings proper, it’s really about their lasting meaning and effects. These are personal anecdotes the first of which is a poignant and sad, while the second is about understanding and the future which is a nice way of contrasting them. It would almost seem patronizing to see the first story play out happily. However much these bombings bring a string of emotions to the surface, the stories are kept even by the drawing style which is charming. A beautiful and just a little thought provoking read.
I picked up Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms entirely on a whim while entering a raffle for a trip to Japan at Kinokuniya. This is definitely a prestige release that will win awards and praise from critics but will be avoid by mainstream readers. The manga is about two interconnected stories about how two generations deal with the bombings on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. A powerful story that deals not only with how the Japanese people had to rebuild but the stigma of the bombing as well. The first story is very melancholy while the second story is lighter but does not break the mood. Both stories go quickly. It only took me about half my train ride to finish the whole book. It was a solid mature story that looks at an important but ugly time in modern history without being preachy or depressing. This is first and foremost the story of the charters whose lives are touched by the bombing more than the bombing itself. But this is the best way to talk about such events. The art is very light and vibrant which helps keep the story refreshing despite the weighty material. A great read for anyone who wants something with a deeper message than your average manga.
I finally saw The Princess and the Frog this week and much as everyone told me, it was amazing. I’m not going to bother recounting the plot here, but I want to mention some stand out moments I noted about the film. First and foremost is the attention to the setting and how much life it had. From the clothing to the characters to the backgrounds to the music, especially the music, the whole of New Orleans was poured into this movie. And it really culminated in the soundtrack which lifts from the swinging jazz beats and ragtime music that found their life throughout the southern U.S. in the late 19th century. It was a Disney soundtrack, a Disney musical, and it was like fresh air. Tiana, our heroine, breaths just as much freshness into this fairy tale. The way she handles hardship seems very purposeful. Disney princess movies almost all have a moment where the heroine throws herself down somewhere sobbing, but this is absent from The Princess and the Frog. Tiana only sheds tears once in the film and it is over someone else’s circumstance, not her own. That isn’t to say she isn’t feeling heartache, she just chooses to handle it with a deep breath and a shake. Along with this is that Tiana’s struggles (and the Prince’s) are not fairytale ones minus the whole being turned into a frog thing, she is working hard, trying to make a living, and dreaming of opening her own restaurant in memory of her father. And the fairytale problems, well, Tiana tackles the villain on her own in the end while the prince is captured! Equally impressive was the chosen ending where both Tiana and Naveen make the decision to carve their own place in the world. Disney chose well a story they could play with and really create a heroine who was active with a modernity about her. I believe this movie can usher in a new age of Disney films, filled with the old magic and music, but with an eye on the future.
With the upcoming release of the Higurashi no Naku Koro ni sound novels by MangaGamer I decided to dig out my copy of the first Higurashi live action movie. Overall it is a decent adaptation I really have yet to like any of the adaptations as much as I have liked the anime but I have still have hope that sound novel will impress me. The movie is an adaption of the first chapter of the game series otherwise know as the Onikakushi-hen chapter. The plot is basically the same as we see Keiichi slowly get more paranoid and distrustful of his friends when he learns about the murders that have taken place in Hinamizawa. They make Keiichi more angst filled in the movie which I found an odd choice but made sense in the context of the film. They thankfully bumped up the ages of Satoko and Rika because if they were the ages they were in the game I am sure their performances would have been painful. I had a good time watching despite the lack of impact that earlier iterations had. If you really like the series it might be worth a watch but most other people are better off starting the franchise with either the anime or the manga.
Yu-Gi-Oh 5D’s is the story of Yusei whose best friend Jack betrays him, steals his duel-runner and best card, then heads off to New Domino City where he promptly becomes the champion card dueler! Then when Yusei confronts Jack . . . wait . . . who the hell cares? Yu-Gi-Oh 5D’s is as silly, or more, than you might imagine it is and yet I can’t stop watching it. I’m in the middle of the first tournament right now (about episode 20) and Yusei has pretty much made friends with everyone he has come in contact with up to this point. Unless of course they are pure evil. The dialogue is hilariously dramatic and this is made even better by Jack’s strange Aussie accent. I think they highlight so far has been when Yusei was in prison, but I’m sure it can still deliver. It is so terribly, terribly entertaining.
I was fortune enough to win the brand spanking new release of the 5 Deadly Venoms by Dragon Dynasty through a contest on R5 Central. When the master of the Poison Clan is about to die he gives his youngest student a dying request: he must track down the five senior students and see if they are using their training for good or evil. If they are using their martial arts for evil he must stop them. But he has not being given enough training to defeat any of the students by himself so he must try to find at least one good student to help him. The main problem is that all the students of the Poison Clan wear masks during training. All he knows is the details of their styles and that they are all in one city looking for the treasure of the Poison clan. This leads to the movie being half detective movie on top of being martial arts movie. I think this richer but still simple plot plot separates it from some of the great but very simplistic martial arts classics. I really enjoyed the mix of intrigue and kung fu. I admit I did find it funny that once the big fight scene ends the remaining cast basically ties up all the lose ends with a few quick lines of dialog. But the movie knows once the climax is over you don’t need much more than reassure that everything will soon be wrapped up. By the way there is an excellent review of the 5 Deadly Venoms on the Greatest Moive EVER! podcast. It is filled with spoilers for those who care about such things but it is a great insight into what makes this a good film and some good overall discussion of martial arts films.
Because basically since I saw it I can’t stop talking about the movie: