Authoress Note: I’d like to thank Mr. Yatsuhashi for allowing me to review his book and for giving me an advanced reader’s copy.
Plot Summary: When eighteen-year-old Keiko Yamada’s father dies unexpectedly, he leaves behind a one way ticket to Japan, an unintelligible death poem about powerful Japanese spirits and their gigantic, beast-like Guardians, and the cryptic words: “Go to Japan in my place. Find the Gate. My camera will show you the way.”
Alone and afraid, Keiko travels to Tokyo, determined to fulfill her father’s dying wish. There, beneath glittering neon signs, her father’s death poem comes to life. Ancient spirits spring from the shadows. Chaos envelops the city, and as Keiko flees its burning streets, her guide, the beautiful Yui Akiko, makes a stunning confession–that she, Yui, is one of a handful of spirits left behind to defend the world against the most powerful among them: a once noble spirit now insane. Keiko must decide if she will honor her father’s heritage and take her rightful place among the gods.
My Review: One of the most compelling things about this novel its plot. It is a fusion of the anime movie Spirited Away, the monster movie Godzilla, and a hint of the novel The Phantom of the Opera. Also, it is mostly fast-paced, with plenty of action and adventure. There are times that it is disorienting, especially when characters are being introduced. However, the author slows it down at the right time so the reader can catch their breath.
Another intriguing aspect of the book are its characters. They are inspired by different aspects of Japan such as mythology, anime, and history. The main character Keiko is reminiscent of the character Chihiro from Spirited Away because she is unsure of herself when she is thrust into the world of spirits. Yet, Keiko is also wise, showing self-control and empathy during key moments. Furthermore, she is courageous. However, an aspect of Keiko that is slightly disappointing is that she is less of an offensive force when it comes to her special power.
As for the supporting characters, they were very well done. Yui is strong, brave, and driven. These qualities become very admirable during the climax of the book. When it comes to the spirits, they were memorable because they were more human than they appeared to be. They experience love, heartbreak, anguish, and grief in a way that is haunting. As the story unfolded, I was reminded of the Proxies from the anime series Ergo Proxy.
Finally, the themes of harmony and balance are poignant because they create a powerful moral using the characters and plot. When is it okay to have what you want, instead of what you need? Can you have harmony without suffering? To gain balance, what are you willing to sacrifice? These questions are answered within the novel and may stay with the reader long after they finish the book.
Overall, this was a riveting read. I recommend this book to any anime or fantasy-fiction fan.
Most people know Joan Jett for her cover of The Arrows “I Love Rock n’ Roll” with her band The Blackhearts. When I heard this song a few years ago, I thought it was awesome. Yet, I didn’t want to hear more of her music for a few reasons. At the time, I wasn’t too open to old music. I also pegged Joan Jett as a butch rocker who only wrote music that said “I’m a woman, I’m rebellious, hear me roar!” after checking out the album I Love Rock n Roll. As it turns out, this 80′s rocker is so much more than what she appears to be.
One of the best things about her is her vocals. She has a soothing yet aggressive voice. The soothing vocals are best seen in slower songs like “Love Hurts”, and “Crimson and Clover”. Of course, her aggressive vocals are seen in more up-tempo songs like “Bad Reputation” and “Victims of Circumstance”.
Another thing I enjoy about her is how passionately she performs live. She’s not kidding around when she says she loves rock n roll. Whether she is playing her own songs or a cover, she puts her heart and soul into doing it. One of my favorite live performances is her performing Sly and The Family Stone’s ‘Everyday People”. I love the jam session her and another guitarist has almost three minutes in.
Last but not least, her songwriting. It is rare that I have a favorite album by anybody. Whenever I do choose one, it is something that I appreciate as a fan and as a critic. In this case, it is Joan Jett’s 1994 album Pure and Simple. Joan Jett might not have the most complex lyrics, but some of them are very meaningful and touching.
On this particular album, Joan Jett has less of the tough girl stuff and more vulnerable and empowering material. My personal favorite songs are “Activity Grrrl” , “Go Home”, and “Brighter Day”. In “Activity Grrl” Joan Jett tells of an everyday girl trying to make a difference by empowering herself and others. With the lyrics and rare music video for “Go Home”, she tackles rape and violence against women. With “Brighter Day”, Jett discusses social issues and the fight for hope.
Links and a video:
“Everyday People” Live- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sEizmNjyuMo
“Activity Grrrl”Audio- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hqAiHUvFoiI
“Brighter Day”Audio- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TYYOsP6OoIo
“Go Home” Music Video
The recent front-page feature of TIME magazine is about Millennials. Mr. Joel Stein has written an article on how my generation is lazy and selfish and then attempts to soften the blow by saying, “we’re empowered” and that “we’ll save us all.” He has taken the old “Millennials are going to Hades” argument and “improved” it with studies, statistics, and academic quotes.
Normally, I brush a news article like this off. However, the way the article was written and supported is condescending and insulting.
First, the photographs. A girl taking a picture of herself? Captions that show how many followers this girl or guy has on YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook? Way to say, “Look, look, I told you these kids were selfish and shallow!” Is Stein proud of becoming a hypocrite?
Also, the “interviews” with millennials were only a couple of sentences long, whereas the interviews with non-millennials like casting director Doron Ofir have a paragraph. Since Mr. Stein thinks that millennials are too busy social networking and texting to speak long, I guess it can’t be helped.
Furthermore, there is the fact the interviews of millennials and most captions refute Mr. Stein’s argument For instance, Mr. Vali Shekhanzi, 25 , is an entrepreneur and have a tourist service. Meanwhile, 17 year-old Tavi Gevinson runs an online fashion magazine named Rookie. Aren’t they supposed to be lazy and selfish?
Besides that, there is the fact that I think that we do have a culture to rebel against. You’re either society’s definition or your own definition. In other words, you’re either Mr. Stein’s (or somebody else’s) stereotype or yourself. I personally think that for every Barbie and Ken doll, there is a geek or freak.
Lastly, there are the things that are supposed to represent us. Kim Kardashian? She’s the epitome of the Stupid Girl epidemic (listen to P!nk’s song “Stupid Girls”). Also, if my entire generation actually watches reality television, then I’m Sailor Moon. We didn’t “grow up” on it; we inherited it after 2008′s Writer’s Strike!
All in all, Joel Stein’s article mostly is cow manure. The only thing that he is correct about is millennials being more accepting of differences. Most millenials, like myself, are diverse (I’m bi-racial) or have been exposed to enough diversity to become tolerant of others.
Guess what, Mr. Stein? We are not a statistic or a guinea pig. We are human beings who deserve to be judged honestly and fairly.
Plot Summary (Taken from IMDB): Determined to make her own path in life, Princess Merida defies a custom that brings chaos to her kingdom. Granted one wish, Merida must rely on her bravery and her archery skills to undo a beastly curse.
One of the notable things about this film is that Merida is Pixar’s first female protagonist. She certainly isn’t a damsel in distress, because she can use a bow and arrow well and hold her own in the wild. Once the beastly curse shows up, Merida does her best to overcome it.
Another notable thing about the film is the soundtrack. Since the film’s setting is in Scotland, Celtic music was used to immerse the viewer into the land. It gave the film a magical ambiance that was enjoyable. Some notable songs include “Fate and Destiny”, “I Am Merida”, and “Noble Maiden Fair”.
Besides Merida and the soundtrack, the animation was beautifully done. According to a TIME magazine article, the animation system had been rewritten. It hadn’t been done in twenty-five years, but it worked. The most striking thing in the film is Merida’s long mane of curly hair, which looks so real you could touch it.
Despite the positive aspects of the film, the plot ruined my enjoyment of it. The film’s trailer did a good job not revealing it, showing just enough to attract people’s interest. When the plot was revealed in the film, my reaction was, “That’s it?” Given Pixar’s reputation for great stories, I was expecting something more thought out and creative. Instead, the plot felt like a magical version of a certain 2003 Disney family film.
Simply put, this film could have been so much better. If you love animated fantasy films, then feel free to give this a shot. However, if you are a huge Pixar fan like me, then you might want to avoid this one.
Jess is a young boy who loves to run and draw. While drawing makes him an outcast at school, running is his ticket to approval. He plans to be the world’s fastest runner, until Leslie shows up. Together they create their own world called Terabithia and change each other’s lives forever.
One of the best things about this book is the successful blending of reality and fantasy. For instance, likening a female bully to a troll to make her less of a threat in real life. Then, making her human again by giving her some depth. It was great characterization. Also, the bridge made a good metaphor for linking childhood and maturity.
Another thing that was well done was the use of death as a theme. Not only does it assist in the blending of reality and fantasy, it makes a good metaphor for change. Grief was described well enough so that is tangible and poignant.
The one flaw that was in the book was its description of Terabithia. It seemed dull somehow. It was hard to visualize a kingdom when all you have is a few lines about the forest and some creatures. If Terabithia were described like C.S. Lewis’s Narnia, then it would have been more believable.
All in all, this was a touching book. I recommend it to anyone who likes a mix of reality and fantasy.
Last year, the Sailor Moon manga (comic book) and anime (animated series) franchise celebrated its 20th anniversary and announced that a new series would premiere in Japan during the summer of 2013. Since I completely missed the chance to commemorate it, I thought it would be nice to celebrate a more personal anniversary. It’s been sixteen years since Sailor Moon came into my life and introduced me to the awesomeness of manga and anime.
It was 1997 and I was six years old and in elementary school. I’m not sure of the exact date I started watching Sailor Moon or if I watched the series from its premiere date. All I remember is coming home from school one afternoon and turning on Cartoon Network. The next thing I know, I’m sucked in by a blonde crybaby and her friends as they transformed from ordinary schoolgirls to superheroes.
Out of all the characters known as Sailor Scouts, it was Sailor Moon that I admired the most. Even though she was a crybaby and lazy, she was also kind and protective of her friends and family. At times, the latter qualities combined with her looks to make her beautiful inside and out. I could relate to Sailor Moon because I could be a lazy crybaby and enjoyed doing the same leisure activities she did. More importantly, Sailor Moon’s kind and caring nature made me want to be the kindest person possible.
Sailor Moon was the first cartoon from Japan I ever watched. I loved it and I wanted more. Soon, I was watching Pokemon too. As the years went by, I became exposed to another shojo (girl-targeted) anime called Cardcaptors. When I became good friends with a few guys, I started watching shonen (boy-targeted) anime like Yugioh!
Meanwhile, I started reading manga thanks to Shonen Jump!, a magazine filled with action-adventure Japanese comics aimed at boys. Another influence was boys and girls bringing manga to school. I ended up buying at least one volume from some of my favorite series. Of course, one of them was Sailor Moon.
Since the original Sailor Moon anime ended in the United States in 2000, I’ve discovered many aspects of manga and anime. Some of the artwork is gorgeous and some of the themes and lessons are memorable. Recently, I’ve rediscovered shojo manga after not having read it for many years. I’ve even managed to finish the Sailor Moon manga series where the English anime left off. Sailor Moon isn’t my number one favorite manga or anime, but it holds a special place in my heart.
Here is a fan-made AMV (animated music video) tribute to the character Sailor Moon