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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

Book Review: Japanese Fairy Tales by Yei Theodora Ozaki

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Book Version: E-book, downloaded from Project Gutenberg

In a nutshell, this book is an English-translated collection of stories, most of them originally written by Sadanami Sanjin. These aren’t meant for people studying folklore, just entertainment. By having Ozaki translate, there are Japanese expressions that have been preserved.

Since Japan is my favorite Asian country and I knew a smidge of their mythology, I thought I would enjoy this book. In all, there are twenty-three tales. I only enjoyed six of them.

With the six fairy tales, three words describe why I like them: sweet, innocent, and magical. All six stories have one or more of these qualities. The stories that best embody sweetness and innocence are “The Adventures of Kintaro, The Golden Boy” and “The Story of Princess Hase”. The former is a good story to tell to little boys, the latter to little girls.

The other stories, “My Lord Bag of Rice” “The Tongue-Cut Sparrow”, and “The South-Pointing Carriage” had interesting elements of fantasy. However, the final story in the book, “The Stones of Empress Jokwa” has the best fantasy and is my favorite story in the book. Considering all I had to struggle through before I read it, it is pretty sad.

The main problem with most of these stories was that they were boring. Sometimes, they were boring for a reason. For instance, stories like “The Bamboo-Cutter and the Moon-Child” and “The Happy Hunter” were too drawn out. Other stories such as “The Farmer and the Badger” and “How The Old Man Lost His Wen” were disturbing because of graphic violence or Satanic moments.

It is only because of my affection for Japan and the aforementioned six stories that I am not deleting this book off my Kindle. However, I almost wish that Project Gutenberg had a collection of Japanese mythology to make up for this book.

Written by Serena Zola

October 4, 2012 at 7:43 PM

Book Review: Eon

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In the Empire of the Celestial Dragons, a twelve-year-old boy named Eon has been studying magic and sword-play in order to be chosen as a Dragoneye, an apprentice to one of the twelve energy dragons of good fortune. However, Eon is actually a sixteen year-old girl named Eona. Females are forbidden to use Dragon Magic; the penalty is death. When Eona’s secret is danger of being revealed, she is plunged into a struggle for the Imperial throne.

One of the good things about this book is its refreshing setting. While most of today’s popular fantasy is inspired by Europe, Eon’s world is inspired by China and Japan. This makes the story authentic and gives readers something new to experience.

Another good thing about this book is its protagonist Eona. A reluctant heroine that is armed with magic and the way of the sword, she is reminiscent of the protagonists of fantasy author Tamora Pierce. Something that sets Eona apart from most heroines is that she is crippled in one leg. While this causes her to be looked down at by others, she displays a resilient and compassionate spirit despite the odds.

Fast paced and daring, Eon is a fantastic start to the Eon/Eona duology.


Written by Serena Zola

May 10, 2012 at 8:02 PM

Kingdom Hearts 10th Anniversary

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This year marks the ten year anniversary of the Kingdom Hearts video game series. First created by Tetsuya Nomura in 2002, the series has released the latest chapter of the saga in Japan: Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance. The game will be out soon in North America and everywhere else later on. In the meantime, fans are replaying the old games and reminiscing.

When Kingdom Hearts first came out with the original game, I thought it was just a kiddie Disney thing. However, one day in 2006 I was surprised to receive Kingdom Hearts II as a gift. Before I opened the game, I was happy and excited for some reason. Maybe some part of me knew how much I would enjoy the game.

As I progressed through it, I realized that the Disney, Final Fantasy, and original characters created by the creator were a part of a big story involving heart, friendship, love, light, and darkness. I was hooked on the storyline because I connected to some of the characters. Also, I had fun kicking bad guy butt with cool abilities.

After a while, I beat the game. However, I wanted more and so ended up borrowing a CD of the video game’s soundtrack. Eventually, this would lead me to reading Kingdom Hearts fan fiction, purchasing some of the Japanese manga adaptations, and trying out the original game. Although I haven’t been able to play every game, I will always be a fan of the series.

And now, for those who are fans or just curious, I present the special opening for Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance. Not only is it a proper homage and celebration of the series’ anniversary, it is awesome for being shown on a building wall in Japan!

This is best viewed in full-screen:

Written by Serena Zola

April 7, 2012 at 8:39 PM

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