owlectomy: A panda in a barrel, reading a book (panda)
I'm surprising myself by following, not just one anime, but two this season!

The first is Sakamichi no Apollon, which I'll probably squee about another ten times. The second is Polar Bear Cafe, which (like Sakamichi no Apollon) is available streaming on Crunchyroll for you folks within the viewing area.

It's a show about an extremely lazy panda who goes out looking for a job at his mother's insistence (he asks at the convenience store, "Which of these [job-searching books] has jobs where you can earn money without working?") and finds a cafe run by a polar bear. "Oh," you think right away. "So the show is about how he gets a job working at the polar bear cafe and he makes friends there and grows as a person. Err, panda." No. This is not actually what happens. But he does become a regular at the cafe, along with a penguin, a sloth, a llama, and other anthropomorphic characters. (The world of the show is mostly populated by humans; the presence of animals who run cafes and live in houses passes without explanation.)

It has a very highly refined sense of the absurd, plus a handful of truly terrible puns, and all in all I can't remember the last time I've laughed like that at an anime.

I could see myself actually getting back into anime fandom. Perhaps, maybe. If I actually get better at locating the things that are worth watching.
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owlectomy: A squashed panda sewing a squashed panda (Default)
I'm smiling.

The last couple of months have just been hard. Tired, and anxious, and to where the good things kind of bounce off and the bad things leave a mark. I won't say that's all gone and vanished -- I let myself get unreasonably upset yesterday because the security guard in Kinokuniya told me not to take pictures, and I have been coming there for three years spending way too much money, most of the cashiers know my face, and I know not to take pictures, I was just checking my e-mail on my phone! -- But, seriously, I was like, "My mouth feels weird. What's going on?" and then -- "Oh. Right. Smiling."

So, things that are making me happy:

I have been watching Otome Youkai Zakuro. I tried out a few episodes, and loved the 1920s aesthetics (SO MUCH!) but found the humor slightly too broad for my tastes at first. I feel like as it goes on it's getting better at integrating the silliness and the seriousness, and the gender dynamics are interesting. I mean, it's typical for a magical girl show that the women are the powerful ones -- that's kind of what a magical girl show means -- but this one seems to go to a particular effort to underline how it's the 1920s and the men are in the army and the women wear kimonos and yet it's the women who are capable of doing anything about big giant gory monsters.

I thought that I should finish reading Marginal in case I get put on a particular panel at WisCon, and I think I'm wrong about that -- but, nevertheless, I haven't finished Marginal! Here is why: when Hagio Moto writes science fiction, it's science fiction. This is not space opera, this is mad scientists discoursing on genetic memory and the adrenal medulla. My Japanese isn't particularly better than it was when I bought the manga, but it's a little better, thank goodness.

There's something almost Tiptree-esque about it -- the pessimism about humanity's flaws being written into our biology, and the horror around sex and reproduction, and the ways those things intersect. I also kind of want to compare it to Oooku, since they both depict worlds with a severe gender imbalance, but they're doing very different things.

I find 70s shoujo manga to be incredibly wordy and dense compared to modern ones. I don't want to make any overgeneralizations like older manga being more interested in telling intricately plotted stories, or newer manga shifting the focus from storytelling-in-dialogue to visual storytelling. I just find it interesting. It does make Hagio's manga kind of hard to read, though.

Finally, a piano cover of Blitzkrieg Bop.
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Today I watched Kiki's Delivery Service! Which I have not seen since it first came out in the US, when I was in high school. I felt that I needed to see it, and I think I did; it is such a story about work, and art, and losing faith, and regaining it. It was also my first time seeing the Japanese version. Sakuma Rei voicing Jiji is VERY different from Phil Hartman voicing Jiji, which was an extremely Disney choice.

Every time I watch a Ghibli movie I am surprised by the silences in the background music. But the score is so beautiful -- I noticed it more, I think, because I picked up the piano solo book at Kinokuniya a while ago (not that I can play any of it -- I can just pick out the melodies).

I did not get all my words today, because of that and grocery shopping and laundry, and because I had to write almost everything from scratch. Also, it seems that it takes up a lot of memory to have two novels and a bazillion web browser tabs and a DVD player open at once and my computer started to get crashy. This is okay; I'm still reasonably ahead, for now.
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owlectomy: A panda with its face in a book (yonda-panda)
On a 1 to 10 scale of dub vs. subtitled purists, I am a 9.7. I was going to say eleven but on second thought I can very happily watch the Disney dubs of the Miyazaki movies (though I would still prefer the subbed version). This is partly because I can say that it's Educational if I'm listening to Japanese and partly because I feel like dubs still often aren't that great when it comes to emoting (which is partly an awkwardness inherent in translation, in that sometimes you have so much to say that the only way you can say it is in one big emotionless breath).

I started watching Fruits Basket on Netflix, and got turned off when I realized it was a dub, and then decided to give it a chance only to realize that the voice actors really got on my nerves.

(And now that I look it up, Kyo's Japanese voice actor is Seki Tomokazu -- ♥ -- and Yuki's is Hisakawa Aya, who was Sailor Mercury! -- and I am extra resentful that Netflix didn't have the subbed version.)

But once I'd watched an episode I watched another episode and then another one and then I was crying because of the rice balls with plums on their backs. It's been that kind of week.

I really like that even though it's the kind of show where the main character ends up living with a bunch of attractive men, her female friendships are still very important to her. Uo is my favorite!

Sometimes the thing you need to hear shows up when you need to hear it -- which it did with Fruits Basket, and also with DIVE!!, the novel I'm reading for Read More Or Die. It's about a corporate-sponsored diving club that's doing so badly financially that it's in danger of closing after the death of the sponsoring company's CEO. His granddaughter happens to be a hotshot diving coach, though, and the diving club will stay open on the condition that one of its members gets into the Olympics in Sydney. Which are only a year and a half away. And the club only has one high school diver. It follows the conventions of sports stories, but there are still some surprises along the way, and it has a lot of good things to say about whether it's worth it to sacrifice for your dreams -- how much it's worth to sacrifice for your dreams -- how the work itself always has to be the real reward, rather than anyone else's accolades. Mori Eto is fast becoming one of my favorite Japanese writers; I found her adult short stories beautiful but full of advanced vocabulary. Since this is a YA book her vocabulary is simpler, but still vivid and graceful without the tics -- the endless eyebrow-knitting! -- of some light novels.

There is a movie, apparently! YES I WILL WATCH THAT PLEASE. But maybe not until I finish the novel, because the only thing that's keeping me up in the Read More Or Die rankings is the need to find out what happens next.
owlectomy: A squashed panda sewing a squashed panda (Default)
I cannot say
that I have gone to hell
for your love
but often
found myself there
in your pursuit.
--William Carlos Williams, from "Asphodel, That Greeny Flower"

It was reading Hana no Kishi that got me thinking about Utena, which it shamelessly borrows from right down to one of the main characters – and the hugely wealthy and influential family she belongs to – having the name of Ohtori. And Utena got me thinking about Song of the Wind and Trees.

And I'm going to warn you, this is like 2000 words long )
owlectomy: A squashed panda sewing a squashed panda (Default)
In preparatory conversations for the WisCon panel on Miyazaki, it came up that Thomas Lamarre, who teaches East Asian Studies at McGill -- I had three classes with him and he is amazing -- has come out with a book on anime called The Anime Machine.

I can kind of hear his voice as I'm reading it, which brings back an intense feeling of nostalgia and fondness, and then all of a sudden I remember why I decided a Ph.D. was not for me, because being a YA writer means I never have to say post-Heideggerian thinking or post-Lacanian viewing.

E. Lockhart got some good mileage from Foucault. But I'm not E. Lockhart.

I'm not making fun of this kind of academic writing, just acknowledging that it's not my thing... this bit is really chewy and fascinating:

Yet at the outset it is crucial to point out that I do not think of the postmodern in terms of a break with the modern, as what comes after the modern. Rather I propose that we think the postmodern as a situation in which the modern appears at once intractable yet indefensible, neither easy to dismiss nor available for redemption.
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owlectomy

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