Flashback Friday #1: October Edition

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First, let’s make things clear: I used to collect Megami magazines.

The first time was merely out of curiosity. Back then, there were hardly any Japanese periodicals available in my country that could interest me; but seeing that my local comic book store stocked at least one of these copies a month, it seemed like a fun enough incentive, if only to supplement my then burgeoning grasp of the Japanese language. Of course, I had no idea that this magazine title was decidedly more “raunchy” than other members of its cohort, like Newtype Magazine for example. Still, there was some excitement to be had — albeit at a premium — to flip through its pages full of titillating anime goodness.

It goes without saying that this was quite a while back. I could only afford so much, and perhaps the only time I really splurged on buying as many of these magazines as I could was whenever I visited the venerable Mecca of Anime and Manga itself (Akihabara, in case you were wondering), and really, could you blame me? These things sold for up to four times its cost after importation if I bought it in my home country, so splurging on them whenever I was in Japan was a no-brainer.

So here, I’d like to look back at some of the older publications I have dating back 8 years to see just what exactly was going on in the colorful world of animu land. Perhaps some of these shows were the very thing that got you into anime in the first place? Let’s see what was going around in the October 2010 issue of Megami Magazine.

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March comes in like a Lion – Episode 1

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“Some shows are simply meant to be in the animé format.”

Whether or not you agree with the production values of recent film adaptations like Full Metal Alchemist is one thing, but it can be said that certain tonal qualities are best conveyed through animation alone. Director Akiyuki Shinbo is perhaps a good example of how best to convey emotional head spaces through the use of a wide gamut of animation spectacles. In ef: a tale of memories, for example, the use of light and shadow helps convey the duality of perceptions (i.e. there are always two sides to a story), and the means by which stories have varied interpretations depending on the characters telling them. Arakawa Under the Bridge juxtaposes its nonsensical comedy with questions of metaphysical unease  by utilizing various types of animation styles aligned with the supposed seriousness of a given sketch. This same style of “serious humor” juxtaposed with inconsequential gags is even seen in Sayonara Zetsubô Sensei. And when he isn’t dealing with humorous themes, his varied use of space, facial close ups, and camera swings help to elevate dramatic sequences, as is seen in the more serious moments of the Bakemonogatari Series; even thematically focused shows like Puella Magi Madoka Magica are elevated to a level of seriousness that perhaps is not initially expected based on the appearances of its characters alone.

In fact, there are a lot of shows under the director’s belt that show a distinct style of animation and direction, perhaps not unlike an auteur. Indeed, there is a certain deliberateness to the director’s selection of themes to portray, which for many reasons makes it feel appropriate that Akiyuki Shinbo should pick up a series as nuanced as March comes in like a Lion. And in no small way is such a happenstance more meaningful than in the realm of animation. I will say this once, and probably several times more — but March comes in like a Lion was simply meant to be graced by such a skillful director in the animated format. It seems that whatever advantages there are to be gained through animation — be it in the visualization of mental concepts that simply cannot be fathomed through live-action cinematography alone — all of it was consolidated and brought to life through the artistic methods of Akiyuki Shinbo. And no less are the words “Some shows are simply meant to be in the animé format” any less true in the first episode of this remarkable show.  Continue reading

[Update] What happened and why I’m still alive

Yes, I disappeared.

There really is no other way to put it. To be honest, I wanted to write a bit more, but certain things happened in real life, and to make a long story short, someone very close to my heart died as a result of end stage cancer. It was a sudden diagnosis, and her course was just as swift — lasting only two-and-a-half months from diagnosis to the time that she passed away. Since then — and even up until now — I’ve been living in a strange, surreal world that feels off-kilter. Like something is missing, and I can’t put a finger on the sort of emotions I’m feeling.

I picked up a rather prophetic book before all of this happened: Haruki Murakami’s “Men without Women”. It’s ironic, looking back at it, how I purchase that book simply because I admire the author. Little did I know that I would become one of the characters in the very same novel. Regardless, I knew I had to read the book, and true enough, I’ve found some semblance of clarification in the sort of emotions I’m feeling. But the emptiness remains, and probably will remain for a while.

Maybe I’m depressed. That wouldn’t be surprising. But then I felt the need to write. I tried picking up a journal and I’m currently working on it, but then I felt the need to get back into watching anime. Probably not as actively as I used to — striving to inform readers about the must-sees of the season — rather, something a bit more reflective and “me-centric”.

Hence, I decided to pick up watching March comes in like a Lion again. I feel like there’s something in the series that I can relate to more earnestly, given I’ve always looked at the series with a clinical eye. I see patients with depression on a day-to-day basis, so it’s easy for me to look at characters like Rei as a clinical case. But there’s something disingenuous about looking at the show this way — and as much as I know I’ve said I loved the production, I feel the urge to watch it again, if only to find solace in what it means to actually nurse an emotional scar.

This is a deeply personal entry, and pray I ask you humor a sad individual like me who has found himself caught in a quagmire of sorts. But I think this is the first step towards healing. Of course, I will interject a couple lost in translations and editorials as I go, but my focus will be to look at March comes in like a Lion and reflect on how its morals speak to me on a deeper, personal level.

So with all that said, guess that means: I’m back.

[Opinion] Everything that’s wrong with Card Captor Sakura Clear Card

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I consider myself fortunate for not being able to watch Card Captor Sakura Clear Card consistently over the past Winter 2018 season; and the only reason why I couldn’t watch it as often as I should have was because I was studying for a board examination. But again, it would appear that I was lucky that that was the case, and for all intents and purposes this “luck” was for all the wrong reasons. Because after binge watching the show, it has become clear to me that Clear Card is a painfully slow show that probably would have been nothing but intolerable if I were to actually watch it as it aired. And I would’ve been fine to have just left it at that, but the truth is I am quite the Card Captor Sakura fan, and I can’t help but feel frustrated in the many missed opportunities that the series had to shine as a pseudo-reboot of sorts. For a franchise that I pretty much grew up with, it is with both love and hate that I tear this season’s offering apart in the first Opinion article for this blog.  Continue reading

[Editorial] Stepping out of the Anime Closet

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Midday at a coffee shop. Two hours into the most boring transcription on viral uncoating and mechanisms of anti-retroviral drug resistance in HIV (as if it couldn’t be any more boring than that) and I was desiring a break. Anything to breathe some color into the monochromatic cloud that had seeped its way into the establishment like a dense thicket of smoke from some unknown source. I had recently updated my copy of The iDOLM@STER Cinderella Girls: Starlight Stage for the on-going event, so I figured it a great opportunity to let out some steam through some furiously timed button mashing. In goes the headphone jack into the audio jack of my cellphone and on goes the game, only for me to realize that the jack wasn’t all the way in. And to my horror, the opening fanfare blared out of the built-in speakers at full blast:

AIDORU-MASUTAA-SHINDERERAA-GAAAARUZU-STAAARAITO-SUTEEJI!!!

The shrill tone of teenage girls shouting full blown Engrish resonated from my spot in the center of the cafe, and all eyes were on me. The monochromatic haze was replaced with an even heavier hue of red, and my face was flush and salmon. I tried not to seem fazed — nonchalant almost — to the point that I acted just as offended as anyone else in the room (although in retrospect, I never did look at anyone’s reaction — I just assumed they were offended in some way). And just like that, my break came to an abrupt end as I decided to clear out the jumbled color space of the now red-heavy cafe back to a stale monochromatic grey. Continue reading

Lost in Translation #20 – Card Captor Sakura Clear Card

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Wow, we’re finally at our 20th entry for Lost in Translation! I’m pretty sure I could’ve gone much higher, much quicker; but yeah, at least we’re finally getting somewhere. This week, we’ll look into something that’s pretty close to my heart from both a nostalgic and gastronomic perspective. And yup, food and Card Captor Sakura pretty much go hand-in-hand, so sit back as we look into this little tidbit from Episode 2 of Card Captor Sakura Clear Card! Continue reading

Lost in Translation #19 – March Comes in Like a Lion

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Wow, I’ve been gone for a long time.

That’s a separate post for a separate day, but for now, I’m gonna try and ease myself back into the groove of writing something by doing some Lost in Translation, this time coming from Episode 35 of March Comes in Like a Lion. Continue reading