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Movie Review: Grave of The Fireflies (1988)

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Grave of The Fireflies

Source: Wikipedia

Plot Summary: Two siblings named Seita and Setsuko struggle to survive during the final months of World War II.

My Review: One of the best things about this film is the main characters Seita and Setsuko. Seita’s character is heartbreaking to watch as he is forced to grow up too soon to care for his younger sister Setsuko. Besides being very brave, he is the kindest brother toward Setsuko when he creates happy moments.

Setsuko is the sweetest little sister whose innocence is marred by the cost of war. Both characters loving nature toward each other is wonderful and sad to watch.

Another great aspect of the film is how the firefly is used as a metaphor for innocence. It is woven throughout the film in beautiful scenes as well as sad ones. It makes the film memorable and haunting for the viewer.

In addition, the soundtrack provides a poignant atmosphere for the film. It touches the viewer’s heart and lets you feel what Seita and Setsuko are feeling. Like the firefly metaphor, it is the most noticeable during certain moments.

Overall, this was a lovely and sad film to watch. If you enjoyed films like Schindler’s List, then see this film with some tissues.

Written by Serena Zola

March 17, 2014 at 10:00 AM

Why I Love/Hate Being a Geek and Some Favorite Geeky Things

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It’s geek week on YouTube and I’ve recently started reading the geeky section of BuzzFeed. Both of these things come on the heels of an article I read that “vindicates” anyone who was a geek in high school. As such, I’d figured this was a good time to show my geek pride and share some my favorite geeky things.

I like to think that I’ve been a geek since I was seven years old when I realized I loved books and Sailor Moon. Since that time, I’ve had great times and bad times. The great times came with discovering new anime and manga from Japan and reading the Harry Potter series. The bad times were in high school when I felt like the only black geek in existence and was bullied by my black peers.

My personal definition of a geek is someone who is obsessed with something most people aren’t, things like cartoons, sci-fi/fantasy/paranormal television, and comics. They may or may not be a brainiac.  I also think that some geeks (like myself) have eclectic tastes, that a geek can be geeky about many things.

I like being a geek because it allows me to discover new and creative things. Most of the time, being a geek makes for great discussion and fun. However, there are times that I wish people would take being a geek more seriously.

When I was in high school, I found solace for my geek outcast angst in books and alternative rock. However, there were times that I wished there were more realistic representations of a non-white geek in entertainment media. Seeing very few geeks of color in tv shows, movies, and books made me feel like  people like me had no place in society. Sometimes, I felt like it wasn’t worth being myself because the non-white geeks I did see were only made fun of and were not accepted as they were.

Growing up in the early 90’s, the only black geek I ever saw on television was Steve Urkel from the sitcom Family Matters. Since he was pretty much a stereotype and had the guy version of the “geek-turns-into-a-beauty-queen” moment, I loathed him. As I became a teenager in the 2000’s, things didn’t improve much.

During my sophomore or junior year of high school, I saw Akeelah and the Bee. Although I found it predictable, I thought it was a decent representation of a young black nerd and the impact they could have on their community.  Unfortunately, that was the only film I saw that was like that. Today, I still consider this film the only film to feature a black nerd in a decent manner.

In addition to the lack of diverse and realistic geek representation, the article I previously mentioned is complete trash because of the research but its findings. For me, being a geek is not about making a lot money. It is about sharing your interests, knowledge, and passion with others and knowing that other people are interested too. If you do make a lot of money and get sweet revenge on haters, then that’s just icing on the cake.

Now, I present some of my favorite geeky things:

1.  World is Mine AMVA fanmade anime music video featuring various anime and the song “World is Mine” by  Hatsune Miku.

2.  Japanese Sailor Moon Theme (Violin Cover)– A violin fan cover of the Japanese Sailor Moon theme by YouTube user JTehAnonymous.

3. Simple & Clean/Sanctuary Duet– A beautiful fan duet of the songs “Simple & Clean” and “Sanctuary” from the Kingdom Hearts video game series. Sung by YouTube users AmaLee and Adrisaurus.

4. What It’s Like To Be A Teen As Told By Harry Potter– Possibly the best Harry Potter related web post I ever read

Written by Serena Zola

August 6, 2013 at 2:27 PM

Book Review: Kojiki by Keith Yatsuhashi

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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.

Written by Serena Zola

May 20, 2013 at 10:00 AM

Sailor Moon: Personal 16th Anniversary

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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

Written by Serena Zola

April 21, 2013 at 11:00 AM

Rock Songs From Animation: For Girls

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I was chatting with my cousin last week on Facebook and somehow she ended up giving me a link to a rock song from Scooby Doo and The Witch’s Ghost. That got me thinking about the a few other female rock songs I know from animation.

1.  Rose from the Japanese anime NANA (see video description for lyrics)- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xX4BCwzz7qc

This song is the first opening theme from the anime and it is sung by Anna Tsuchiya. In the anime, the character who sings it is Nana Osaki.

2. Remember from the American cartoon Danny Phantomhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S70Oq3JqIcw

In the cartoon, the song is sung in the episode “Fanning the Flames” by a ghost named Ember McClain. Supposedly, the song tells the story of what she was like before she became a ghost. Her singing voice belongs to Robin Kimissle.

3.  We Are W.I.T.C.H. from the American cartoon W.I.T.C.H. (see video description for lyrics)-http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ldyraUyiU-A

This opening theme song is sung by Marion Raven.

4.  Hex Girl- from the American cartoon movie Scooby Doo and The Witch’s Ghost http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JObl7DEgSDM

In the movie, this song is sung by a female gothic rock band called The Hex Girls. The lead singer, Thorn, is voiced by Jennifer Hale.

Written by Serena Zola

November 8, 2012 at 8:14 PM

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