Ghibli Talk: Favorite Movie

High action. Complex characters. Talking animals. Princess Mononoke was destined to be my ultimate favorite Ghibli film. Truthfully, it is my favorite film of animation or live action, but that’s not important for this post.

I was still in middle school when I saw Princess Mononoke. I’d watched Castle in the Sky, Kiki’s Delivery Service, and Spirited Away before I stumbled on Hayao Miyazaki’s more mature film. It didn’t become my all-time favorite until I was older, but the seeds were buried in my heart

MPW-53071Why is this my favorite? It comes down to Ashitaka. And a quote. When asked why he was there, he replied, “To see with eyes unclouded by hate.” This struck me. It latched onto my soul, as though those were the words that shone light onto who I was, or at least wanted to be in my core.

Throughout the film, Ashitaka is on middle ground. Iron Town loves him, but wants him to stay with their cause to live and survive in the fight-against-nature way. On the forest’s side, San accepts him as an odd human who really shouldn’t give the humans any leeway. The Forest Spirit likes him, anyhow.

Each side wants him to choose. Industry. Or the environment. Ashitaka is instrumental in the events throughout the film, but he doesn’t lose the perspective he has as someone from the outside. He wants all of the people he meets to be happy and healthy at the end of the day, but he’s not willing to let the hatred they have for each other consume his judgement of anyone.

The end goal isn’t on the polar opposite ends, rather, somewhere in the middle. In peace. Not a compromise. People and nature living in harmony.

And that’s why Princess Mononoke holds my heart as my favorite Ghibli (and every) film. As I’ve gotten older, it has been harder to keep my eyes clear of the hate around me, but I strive for that philosophy to be who I am.

Besides, it’s gorgeous to watch. And the English translation is by Neil Gaiman.

What is your favorite Ghibli film? Why? Comment below!

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Manga I Would Buy: Private Prince by Enjoji Maki

 

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In the last year, Enjoji Maki finally broke into the American manga scene with Hapi Mari?! (Happy Marriage?!). Other than a difficult “official” translation (I prefer the fan-translations I’ve found), I don’t care for the story. At all.

I don’t think I’ll ever purchase Happy Marriage?!, but if publishers ever put to print Private Prince, I’d buy it in hardcover.

Why Private Prince? The story of a woman catching the eye of a prince and falling in love isn’t groundbreaking in the romance genre. But this one is entertaining, and so much fun!! The main character is a great heroine, and the love-interest, with his faults, isn’t too bad himself.

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Miyako, the studious

Graduate-student Sakuragawa Miyako is stubborn, intelligent, and driven to be the best in her field. Juggling part-time jobs and school is trying on her health, but without the blessing of her mother, she’s on her own. Miyako’s history dissertation is on Princess Ritsuko, a Japanese noblewoman who fell in love with a prince and traveled to his kingdom, Estolia. She knows everything about the princess, but she needs primary resources: records or diaries, to put into her thesis.

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Handsome! But…

 

What luck! The great-grandson of Princess Ritsuko, Prince Wilfred, has started his studies at her university. Miyako has no way of approaching the courteous prince with the hordes of admirers surrounding him at school. Finally, connections through her best friend Chiri’s father gives her a chance to meet him at a fancy function. No posse of admirers to get in the way!

Upon meeting, the handsome gentleman isn’t what his reputation precedes him to be. He mistakes her advances as an attempt to get laid (primarily due to the dress Chiri convinced her to wear), resulting in a less-than-positive first impression. Turns out the ethereal prince has a breast fetish! And the dress she wore showed off her’s with little need for imagination.

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She knows what she wants!

Miyako’s world is turned upside down. Will finds her fascinating because she has little interest in him, just his great-grandmother. He asks her to be his friend, since he doesn’t have any in Japan (and he needs to dispel his boredom, the jerk). Like a child, he agrees to give her access to the diaries once she falls in love with him. (Honestly, I’ve never understood this trope in manga. Shouldn’t that be the objective after you’ve fallen in love the person?)

Chaos ensues! The spoiled prince acts without thinking a lot, resulting in many unfortunate situations for Miyako. All she wants to do it study!

The series is not without problems. Miyako is not a ‘normal woman,’ being into her research and unaffected by handsome guys advances. When she doesn’t give the expected attention to Will, she’s reprimanded. Will pushes her even when she says ‘no’ clearly, and at the beginning of the relationship, he has no regard to how she feels about the situation.

Overall, the series is great. Five volumes of character growth. If the series was any shorter, the relationship of Miyako and Prince Will would’ve seemed forced and illogical. The problems I listed before are ironed out in a way by the end, something that wouldn’t happen in a one shot. They each rub off on each other in all the right ways, becoming better people from their being together.

I’ve found this series published in Spain–seriously considering buying it from there! I’d really like it to be enjoyed by other people in the USA, though. It’s only a decade old. That’s not too much to ask, right?

What’s a series you’d love to buy in your language that doesn’t exist yet? I’d love to hear!

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As an avid reader of manga scans, I click through the fan-translated manga pretty quick. Many times, I don’t recall the name of the manga once I click on a new page. Or the characters’ names. Or the plot.

Other times, though, there is a series that captures my attention that I keep going back to.

Manga I Would Buy: Game Over by Mizutani Fuka

As an avid reader of manga scans, I click through the fan-translated manga pretty quick. Many times, I don’t recall the name of the manga once I click on a new page. Or the characters’ names. Or the plot.

Other times, though, there is a series that captures my attention that I keep going back to.

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~~SPOILERS for the first chapter. Since this is a short one, it was best to do the write-up this way~~

The slice of life, josei manga Game Over by Mizutani Fuka is simple and adorable. Whenever I read it, I grin from ear to ear, blushing with the characters.

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Akemi

Game Over is the story of how working woman Akemi and student Shouta’s lives softly fall into place. There’s no love triangle, no outside drama trying to pull them apart. Only their own insecurities and mutual attraction to affect their relationship.

Akemi takes the bus to work and plays a game. She picks a man to sit next to, and if he looks at her twice (once to see her, a second time in surprise or fluster that a beautiful woman is next to him), she wins. This little victory energizes her in the monotony of her days.

 

Shouta becomes one of her targets, but things don’t go as planned. Unlike the other men, he doesn’t acknowledge her–rather looks out the window. This unprecedented situation takes up all Akemi’s imagination for the next few days. She tries different ways to catch his attention: perfume, “Level 2”–What can she do to make him notice her?

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Shouta

 

When Shouta takes his bike instead of the bus, she realizes she was being intrusive on the poor guy. At work, her co-workers comment that she seems down, unlike how energetic she was the last few days. Trying to get Shouta to notice her had made her really, really happy.

Down and out, Akemi gets on the bus and sits in a window seat, not playing her game on anyone. To her surprise, Shouta gets on the bus and sits next to her. His reflection is in the window. Realization strikes her–he was always looking at her, just through the window.

The story is only five chapters long, setting up important moments in their relationship: meeting, dates, proposal, wedding. This adorable story is a quick read, and I’ll pick is up when I need a little, simple happiness in my life.

If I ever had a paper copy of this manga, it would be worn down so the binding had no more cracks (hardbound preferred). It’s fairly new, from 2010, so this isn’t too much to ask, right??

What’s a manga you’d love to have in print in your country? Comment below!

 

 

Nostalgia: The Immortals quartet by Tamora Pierce

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Cropped from an Image on the Wiki

Many of the books and movies I’ve come to categorize as ‘my favorites’ all can be credited to chance. The Immortals quartet by Tamora Pierce is one of those great random finds.

There became a time that the bookmobile no longer had enough variety for 11-year-old me. A girl can only check out the volumes of The Boxcar Children and Garfield so many times before she needs something new. Luckily, the library system had recently gone digital, and readers could place books on hold from a plethora of libraries in the southeast corner of Wisconsin to come to your location.

Typing in “fantasy” and “young adult” bombarded me with many new reading adventures. At that age, I also added “animal” to thin out the search. I’d click on whatever book cover I liked and read the description to see if it was worth having sent to the bookmobile.

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Daine!

What was to come up but The Immortals quartet? I accidentally put Wolf Speaker on hold first (wolves, duh!), realized it was the second book to four, and had to wait another week for the first book to come in so I could start to read.

Daine was the perfect heroine to introduce me to young adult fantasy. Brown hair and loved animals, just like me! The fact that her magic revolved around animals was my dream (I wanted to be a veterinarian for forever). I was also about her age in the first book, 12, when I first started reading her story. This was the perfect concoction to pull me into all of Tamora Pierce’s works.

(I am ashamed to admit, but I called her “Diane” in my head forever until I was a part of an anthology community on DA and figured out is was Daine, not Diane. Am I kicked out of the club??)

In high school, I found a greater connection to Keladry from The Protector of the Small, but The Immortals quartet will always hold a place in my heart–maybe one day I’ll purchase different covers than the photoed one’s I ended up buying because I needed to own the series.

What was the series that introduced you to Tamora Pierce’s books? I’d love to know!

Manga I Would Buy: A Delicious Relationship by Makimura Satoru

 

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As an avid reader of manga scans, I click through the fan-translated manga pretty quick. Many times, I don’t recall the name of the manga once I click on a new page. Or the characters’ names. Or the plot.

Other times, though, there is a series that captures my attention that I keep going back to.

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Momoe-chan

A Delicious Relationship by Makimura Satoru presents Fujiwara Momoe’s journey from incompetence to brilliance as a chef. Naive and unworldly Momoe must push forward into her newfound cooking dreams or get married per her relatives’ expectations.

 

 

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Miki-san

The story doesn’t shy away from the male-dominated dynamics of the chef world when a woman tries to enter. The reader even gets a two-point perspective on different ways women may act to get into the professional cooking world. Momoe loves being a woman, even if it sets her at a disadvantage in the eyes of her colleagues–stereotyped as not as smart or capable to be a chef, while a female rival, Miki, acts like a man to blend in and gain attention and respect. These two women are going towards the same goal, but rub each other the wrong way in their individual paths to professional chef. Their differences, though, help them each grow into their dreams more completely.

 

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Kanako-san

Opposite Momoe’s rival in the kitchen is her rival in love.  Kanako is a beautiful and smart woman who naturally moves into a relationship with Momoe’s teacher, Oda-san. Their relationship progresses through most of the series while Momoe takes on different challenges at another restaurant (in an attempt to stay on her dream because her heart couldn’t stand being near Oda and Kanako, poor girl). Even with her looks and her smarts, though, Kanako is not left with perfection. She struggles with insecurities inside herself that affect her relationships.

The theme of romantic love is soft and natural throughout the story, not being the focus. Always the story revolves around the challenges Momoe faces inside and outside herself.

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Epic Chiyo-baa-chan

This post cannot go on without acknowledging the incomparable Chiyo-baa. This granny is the curator of many successful men who were under her cooking tutelage after her husband died. She has spunk, a sharp tongue, and doesn’t miss a grain of rice. Her observation of other people is always spot on, though she is proven wrong on Momoe’s account. Anything she says is acted upon immediately. All her students are struck with fear upon any time she comes into their restaurant. This amazing woman is a glue to the characters in many ways–bringing other people in to challenge her students and being a rock for Momoe to return to.

 

Some harder themes that show up in the story are depression (one of Momoe’s most intriguing arcs), other mental illnesses, suicide, and familial deaths. These are handled with truth, without illusion. In a shorter story, these themes couldn’t have been tackled with such respect and humanity.

The story is wonderfully long and allows for the pacing of the growth of the characters to be natural. Including the love arcs. Every chapter is entertaining and includes food. Food food food! The reader learns along with Momoe the ins and outs of a restaurant and feels the love she has for the entire process. By the end of the series, the reader feels like they know all about restaurants, just like Momoe-chan.

Now if only a publisher would pick this up in America! It’s an older series, from 1993, and has never been printed in English. I love this series, though, and would totally buy it if it was ever produced here!!

 

 

 

Manga I Would Buy: Alexandrite

 

As an avid reader of manga scans, I click through the fan-translated manga pretty quick. Many times, I don’t recall the name of the manga once I click on a new page. Or the characters’ names. Or the plot.

Other times, though, there is a series that captures my attention that I keep going back to.

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I read through Alexandrite by Narita Minako every few months. Alexandrite is the spin off series of Narita’s series Cipher. The main character is Alexandra (Alex) Levine, a guy who is starting college in New York with his friends (some of who were main characters in the previous series). Sometimes mistaken for a girl (huge insecurities there), super talented in karate and judo, an inspiring work ethic, and head-over-heels in love with his childhood friend, Alex is an incredibly adorable, thoughtful, and intriguing protagonist.

My favorite thing about Narita’s work, especially in Alexandrite, is that the characters feel so real. The way they act and react, the time they take to make big decisions. All the relationships! Not talking romantic relationships, mind you, though that arc is paced great with the proper changes of heart at the right time. She acknowledges a few heavy subjects, too, such as step-family dynamics, homophobia, AIDS, rape, and others. These issues are handled with respect, and don’t overtake the storyline. They just exist in the lives of these characters. And, without fail, I love the diversity of her cast.

A lot of time in manga, I find very few other races (to be expected, when the story is set in Japan)–and if they are present, they are influenced by the stereotypes of that race from American TV media. Every one of Narita’s characters, main or minor, is a true human with flaws, aiming towards their own goal.

A good example of this is Marcus Campbell, a man who challenges Alex to a basketball match towards the end of the series. Really, he’s sizing Alex up in case they ever end up in a karate match. After a few misunderstandings, they become great friends. Marcus is a black man with a determined and gracious character. Many Japanese depictions of black men in manga have been unfortunately violent and troublesome. Instead, Narita has Marcus, a hard worker striving to be the best at karate, which earns him a reputation amongst the dojos. His family is broken–his father left them with a ton of loans to their shop. But Marcus decided to rise and meet the situation his father put his mother and him in. He’s a true friend to Alex.

Alexandrite came out in 1991, in the year after I was born, so it isn’t a surprise even if it was available in print in the USA I wouldn’t find it. Maybe I’ll have to learn to read Japanese and find a copy from Japan.

A fear as always buying a printed manga is that it isn’t going to be the same as the fan-translation you’ve known and loved. With this manga, though, I really really want a physical copy. Even if the tone of the characters change in an official translation, this is one manga I’d love to have on my bookshelf.

Do you have a manga you wish would be sold in your language? I’d love to hear! Comment below!

You Are What You Read: The Scarlet Pimpernel

With the internet pointing out that the first masked hero was written by a woman, I needed to pick up that book and read it.

The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emma Orzcy wasn’t an easy book to get into. The first chapter was okay, and the next few chapters were like trudging through molasses. Once the main heroine, Marguerite, took the point of view, I couldn’t put the book down.

What’s not to love about a woman described as “magnificent presence and regal figure”? Marguerite’s charisma fills every room she enters and hit you in the face. She is constantly asserting her intellect and strength while she is under pressure by Chauvelin to find and turn over the Scarlet Pimpernel to the French authorities.

Percy… Percy Percy Percy. The attraction he and Marguerite have towards each other is heartbreaking and fills me with glee. My favorite quote, one I hope have a Storiarts scarf, deals with their attraction:

[Marguerite] knew in a moment that for the past few months she had been mistaken: that this man who stood here before her, cold as a statue, when her musical voice struck upon his ear, loved her, as he had loved her a year ago: that his passion might have been dormant, but that it was there, as strong, as intense, as overwhelming, as when first her lips met his in one long, maddening kiss… Suddenly it seemed to her that the only happiness life could ever hold for her again would be in feeling that man’s kiss once more upon her lips. (126)

Sigh.~

The book is a great read, but I’ll be honest–the movie is better. The movie (with a young Ian McKellen), helps the story flow by making the events linear rather than comments about the past. Anthony Andrews is amazing flipping between the disguises of Percy Blakeney. The first time I saw it, my idea of who Percy was changed into a clearer idea. Jane Seymour as Marguerite is gorgeous and smart–embellishing an already wonderful character. Nothing is added to the movie that isn’t some way in the book. It’s a great book-to-movie adaptation. 10/10 would recommend.

What book are you reading right now? Is there any book you can see yourself in? Comment below!!