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Works by Kyoto Animation

I’ve watched almost all of KyoAni’s works. One of the first animes I’ve watched during my time in high school was from them. I used to love the comfy stories and adorable characters.

I was an happy and carefree introvert girl who loved watching anime at home as a hobby. After a busy week of school, I used to make Friday my “me” time by watching anime and brewing some tea. I think KyoAni characters have helped shape me to who I am today. I have some life advice at the bottom of this post, so please read to the end 😀

Starting from the first series I’ve watched…..

Clannad

After watching Anohana, I learned that Clannad was a must-watch and a big tear-jerker. And boy, were they right. I was in grade 10 when I watched Clannad. I loved the music and I used to sing to Lia’s songs and “Dango Daikazoku.” Love the fantasy parts of the story. Wah….Nagisa…..

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Air

I immediately watched Air after Clannad. I remember watching the last episodes on New Year’s. Some of my friends really like Air. Another huge tear-jerker. It was a lot darker than Clannad. Air is a summery but very, very sad story.

Kanon

This is also a really nice series! It takes place in a winter setting. There are a few terrifying parts. And yes, I love the opening song by Lia the most here.

Chuunibyo Demo Koi ga Shita

I watched this in grade 11 and I really liked it >< I think Rika is so cool. I think I can understand why an adolescent would wish to stay in a imaginative world instead of facing reality. I recommend this show to everyone! Stories about a character with a mental/physical problem is really popular nowadays. Another wholesome, Cinderella-like story about how love and acceptance can save the female protagonist.

Tamako Market

I really like this show a lot because it’s so cute >< I like Tamako and the way she loves mochi is so adorable! The movie, Tamako Love Story, is one of my favourite movies.

Beyond the Boundary

A cool story about magical users, defeating monsters, and a girl who fears the power in her blood. Another story of a girl who just wants to be accepted.

K-ON!

What a fun, cute, and wholesome show! And their songs are so cute and catchy! It was never, ever boring for me.

Hyouka

I find myself re-watching this series a lot over the years. It is a slice-of-life and mystery series. I think I just like the “old-school” and “mystery” vibes it gives off. Hyouka stands out to me because it is not your generic high school series with romances or drama. Chitanda is so traditional, elegant, and graceful, and I aspire to be like her when I grow up!

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Violet Evergarden

KyoAni’s best work and a complete masterpiece! I love the music so much. As you can see, that is really important to me. I really love historical fiction too…..

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~Afterword

I’m known to be a person who is attracted to positive, pretty, and cute things. If I didn’t have KyoAni’s anime during my stressful life as a student, I believe I would have become a different person. In this world where we live amidst perilous times, it is HARD to stay positive. Reading about sad news and trying to survive in this competitive environment makes us feel angry, stressed, confused, and helpless. Learning that those close to you  suffering makes us feel sad inside too. Life sort of feels like a survival game.

But despite all the negativity in the world, we should focus our time and energy on the positive. There are a lot of good things in the world. And if we are facing a tribulation, we should find ways to be calm and fix the problem. Or, we can tolerate it, and wait for it to pass.

I think young people, like me, are especially vulnerable to negativity or when things don’t go the way they imagine. Life is not about fame, success, and riches. Those photos you see of your friends? It had been cropped, altered, and photo-shopped. Your old classmate now works at a big corporation? Focus on your own path instead of being jealous of others.

I think what really helps is to surround yourself with positive things and people who support and accept you. Remove any bad habits, toxic friends you have in your life, and anything that makes you feel negative (ex: unfollowing negative people, deleting certain social media platforms). I hope my advice helps anyone out there!

#prayforkyoani

 

 

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Dedication to Honey and Clover

Happy Spring!

The season of warm weather, blooming magnolias, and graduation cheer is here. What better way to celebrate this season than with Honey and Clover?

Do you love that warm and fuzzy feeling after watching a good show? I do a lot, so let me talk about this series that is an oldie but a goodie. This will be both a review and personal post.

As you may or may not have heard, Honey and Clover is a josei/shojo manga series by Chica Umino. It is a romance, slice-of-life, and comedy story depicting a group of friends at an art college. It was published from 2000-2006 and ended after 8 volumes. It won a Kodansha Manga Award in 2003. 

The story starts off with Yuta Takamoto, a junior-year architecture student, who resides inside an old building with the cheapest rent in Tokyo. His friends and roommates are Takumi Mayama, a hard-working and reliable person also studying architecture in his final year, and Shinobu Morita, a capricious and hilarious seventh-year. They start the new school year by meeting Professor Hanamoto and his niece, prodigy Hagu Hanamoto, who is starting her first year in the painting department. Immediately after meeting Hagu, who resembles a koropokkuru, Takamoto falls in love at first sight. Incidentally, Morita falls for the tiny girl as well. Last but not least, Ayumi Yamada from the sculpture department appears and becomes friends with all of them. She unluckily holds an unrequited love interest with Mayama, who has his eyes on an older women. 

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You can watch the anime on Crunchyroll! From left to right: Morita, Takamoto, Hagumi, Yamada, Mayama.

Honey and Clover starts off as a fun and comedic read. As you know, it has love triangles which makes the drama all the more engaging. It portrays an accurate picture of all the good things and bad things of college life. Being broke, sharing food with friends, and spending sleepless nights on projects are something all post-secondary students can relate to. The series also delves into the feeling of helplessness about what to do after graduation. It includes themes of “adulthood” ambiguity and unrequited love. In case you were wondering, H&C has nothing of the sleazy things you think of today once the word “college” comes up.

Personal thoughts

I’ve longed to be part of a supportive group of friends like in H&C. In university, I hadn’t put too much effort into forming stable friendships. It was more of “Hi” and “Bye” and some questions about the course. Lunch partners were rare. I always left class quickly and walked back home which was just 15 minutes away. My excuse was that I needed to study.

The year I had the most success in friendships was in first year. I guess since everyone was eager and willing to meet new people it was easier to make friends. Unfortunately, those friends have graduated, left the city, or broke ties with my mutual friends once the year was over. On top of that, I started to become sick often.

If I recall, the last time I was a part of a group of friends like H&C was in my final year of junior high. We were all laughs and jokes and a plethora of different personalities. I don’t know what they think about me now, but I get sentimental whenever I think about those days. Once I reached high school, my parents transferred me to a private school and I quietly left them.

The character I feel bad for the most is, without a doubt, Yamada.

While I didn’t have many memorable times in university, I like to think that the characters in H&C have become a part of mine. I’ve read the series over the span of my university years and have finally finished the last volume this month. H&C was the fun I didn’t get to experience in university, and the manga series sits happily on my bookshelf.

I haven’t graduated yet as I withheld it to try to find out what to do with my life. It really is scary (finding out what you want to do) and it preys on my mind everyday. Takamoto was obsessively thinking like that too, and took another year before graduating. After traveling half-way across Japan by himself and working for temple-restorers, he eventually realizes his best course of action. I’m sort of starting to get an idea of post-graduation too – maybe travel overseas to visit my Hong Kong-nesque cousin and find a job here at home (as the economy here encourages post-grads to stay). I hope I can end up satisfied once my graduation arrives.

I love Chica Umino’s world and you can see how much love she puts into her characters and artwork. One of her habits is drawing the girls in her colour illustrations in a doll-like fashion. Reading the story makes you adore the characters and feel warm inside. I also love her comedy and narrative. This is the first series I’ve read that is inside a college setting and I can relate to the story so much. 

Whimsical and wonderfully quirky, Honey and Clover is a memorable story that sticks with you. There’s an anime, movie, and two drama adaptations. I particularly enjoyed the Japanese drama. Chica Umino is also the mangaka of March Comes in Like a Lion, an ongoing series that is equally as amazing. This series told me that it is okay as an adult to not know what you want to do with your life yet. Honey and Clover is now considered a classic that anybody can enjoy to this day.

The End ~

Side Note: Embarrassing story, but I once mentioned Honey and Clover to some friends at a Christmas party. Once they heard the name, one of them said “Isn’t that a really old series?” and “It’s really, really, old.” I realize the series was from over a decade ago, and I didn’t feel very cool that time ////////

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Review on Aria: The Masterpiece Volume 1

Welcome to Neo-Venezia!

Join Akari Mizunashi on gondola as she takes you around the picturesque city of Neo-Venezia.

Set inside a terraformed Mars affectionally known as Aqua, Akari arrives at Neo-Venezia to become an undine, which are gondoliers who conduct sightseeing tours. She becomes a trainee at Aria company and works with her mentor, Alicia, and company president and mascot, President Aria. In these pages, she meets new Venetians and friends and shares her endless wonders and joys the city has to offer her.

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Source: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/DyBKHjFWkAAnQJC.jpg

I can talk about Aria forever. My deep admiration for this series will be posted in another day (titled “How Aria Changed My Life”) so let’s get into the review for the first book in the Masterpiece series!

Just to let you know, Aqua is the prequel series while Aria is the main one. Aqua is made up of only two volumes. The first volume of Aria: The Masterpiece is a reproduction of the prequel.

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This series is set in the future of 2301 where normal citizens and tourists from Manhome (a.k.a. Earth) are able to travel to Neo-Venezia. Akari leaves Manhome and travels through space to accomplish her dream of becoming an undine. We don’t know what Manhome is like during this time period but Neo-Venezia proves to be peaceful utopia. It is harmonious and rustic and it is described by the characters as “inconvenient” but “strangely calming.” Akari immediately falls in love with the city upon her arrival.

The last chapter is one of my most favourite stories. I can relate to the feeling of being left out of an activity while my friends go have fun. I can understand the feeling of insecurity whenever I think that people have more fun without me. Nevertheless, it is sweet story and makes you feel a little ticklish inside. 

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Aria is known as the epitome of slice-of-life. I love to immerse myself into the beautiful world of Aqua and Neo-Venezia. Tokyopop has released this masterpiece version in a gorgeous paperback with gold lettering and exclusive coloured illustrations. What’s also different from this version is that the pages are larger too!

Endearing and whimsical, Akari’s optimism is contagious. Whenever she’s joyful, I feel the same. Whenever she cry, I also (literally) cry. If I recall, she rarely cries so, heh, that’s a good thing for me.

I was thrilled to see Aria being picked up again by Tokyopop. In the past its publication in North America has ceased midway through the series but now it has made a grand return. I am looking forward to having the rest of the series on my bookshelf 😀

Aria is a wonderful series you will never forget about after reading. Amano Kozue, the author, also made Amanchu! That series had recently got turned into an anime. I recommend this series to everyone, especially if you really like slice-of-life such as Amanchu! and Flying Witch.

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Source: https://www.pixiv.net/member.php?id=4152550

Also, if you can, please buy the book! It appears it isn’t generating a lot of sales. It is really concerning, as this is such a wonderful story ^^

 

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Traditional Japanese Dishes Found in Hyouka’s School Festival Arc

Many delectable food shows up in Hyouka. I love trying out new food and Japanese food is one of my most favourite. I am going to talk about the Kamiyama High School Festival Arc where Chitanda Eru takes part in the cooking contest. She whips up some traditional Japanese dishes that look really unique and exquisite. I was so curious (haha) and I just had to know what they were called.

The cooking contest! Source: Andy Hanley

This anime is a mystery and slice-of-life series adapted from the novel by Honobu Yonezawa. I never get tired from watching it and it is one of my all-time favourites. I started to pick up the book last year and have just finished up the school festival arc.

I had a hard time searching up these dishes on the internet (and I bet many watchers too) but here is a list of what I’ve found from some digging!

1. Giseyaki

Chitanda’s family owns farmland. This refined young lady can cook these traditional Japanese dishes with such ease. She makes giseyaki, and it is basically a tofu mixture cooked with a layer of black sesame seeds on a pan. Apparently it is very aromatic. The effect is a visually refined, sophisticated, and healthy side dish that wowed judges and spectators.

Source: anime-food

2. Imo-mochi

I learned that this appetizer is also known as Potato Mochi. I tried making these and it was pretty good! They are a tasty and savoury snack. I shared the recipe below. Just remember to control the heat (I burned mines) and be extra careful.

Bonus: Shiroae

I just want to mention another traditional Japanese dish that is just as quaint. It’s called shiroae and it is eaten like a salad. It is made from mashed tofu and spinach and covered with a nutty sesame paste. There is a lot of squeezing and drying. I made this over the summer and it was very easy!

All these dishes are healthy and goes well with rice. Are you curious to try now?

Happy cooking!

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Irony and Symbolism in Angel Beats

Hey guys! Wondering what I have been up to? I’ve been watching Angel Beats (Dub) and am rediscovering how much I enjoyed this show. I’ve also discovered some new themes and insight so I want to share this with someone. This anime is so fun and engaging >.<

I found that there is so much irony in Angel Beats! and how much music is ingrained into the series. I don’t know where I should start talking but I guess I’ll start with the OP.

The OP starts off with an vivid image of Kanade playing the piano. A pure and beautiful angel playing the piano. What’s as enchanting as that? She plays while all the characters are introduced. Since she is the “angel”, she is on top of the tier to everyone so that is why she gets most of the screen time in the OP.

An angel is God’s servant. They are gentle and help others. Kanade tries to make peace with the characters and let them enjoy a youth, and pass on. Of course, Otonashi helps her out with that. Although, on the battlefield Kanade is anything but gentle.

Heart rate indicators are depicted in the OP and series title. As the title suggests, heart beats depicts living people. But in the world of Angel Beats, the characters are actually dead. So there is dramatic irony there. It makes a good visual aesthetic.

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Source: John

And the music. Do you know how important music plays a role here? It’s prominence is everywhere. Girls Dead Monster uses powerful and meaningful lyrics about life and living amidst struggles. There’s verbal irony in their singing. They are popular with the NPCs and even have big fans, and there is situational irony there.

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I used to play drums did you know? Source: Sharrhar

Additional comments:

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Hinata tells her reasons why he is willing to marry Yui despite her disability and she cries tears of happiness. Source: infinitezenith

Do you remember this scene? This was so heartwarming. Hat’s off to Hinata; he and Otonashi are such cinnamon rolls. It’s been a very long time since I last watched this anime but the story has, in fact, resonates in me more than ever.

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Source: http://neverwillknow.tumblr.com/post/59050232198

Kanade and Otonashi. This part was so bittersweet. My heart was agonizing with pain, but it was the good kind. I ship both of them >.< They coincidently have names that complement each other. Yuzuru means to pluck strings and Kanade means to play a song. And Kanade’s lingering feelings lead her to this world and thank the person who gave her a heart. Kanade and Yuzuru were able to meet each other and they both have the same heart~

Watching Angel Beats! feels like meeting old friends again. I laughed a lot and cried a lot. It is probably because that I am again reaching my graduation year. I was watching this on the whim and I am so glad I did that.

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Current Impressions on Iroduku: The World in Colors

The Fall 2018 season is nearing its end, and now is the time to review our thoughts so far and get ready for the finale. I’ve been watching Iroduku: The World in Colors, and I thought the latest episode was so poignant and touching!

Iroduku is P.A. Works’ latest production. It is about a 17-year-old girl, Hitomi Tsukishiro, who’s got send back 60 years to the past by her grandmother. She comes from a family of magicians. Without proper instructions, she is told to go and meet her grandmother’s 17-year-old self. Hitomi arrives safely and was able to make friends and join the photography-arts-magic club. Despite the confusion and troubles, she was able to meet her grandma, a mage-in-training, Kohaku.

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Seventeen-year-old Hitomi gets send back in time by her grandmother to the year 2018. Credit: Sean

Hitomi is colourblind. She views the world around her in monotone. She is always looking dejected and glum. After a certain mishap, she meets Yuito Aoi and is shocked to see colours in his art. She becomes thrilled over that and they both form a special connection. Meanwhile, Kohaku studies to find ways to cure her colour blindness and send Hitomi back to the future. She also teaches her how to use magic.

This anime hails from a company who’ve produced popular drama/slice-of-life shows. This is an original series directed by Toshiya Shinohara. For your information, he had played the same role in Nagi no Asukara (2013)I was excited to see Shinohara again with a new production. It was through that promotion that I heard about Iroduku.

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Hitomi’s POV. She’s colour blind but she sees colours in Aoi’s art. Credit: marthaurion

Time travel? Check. Magic? Check. Girl with an impaired deficiency? Check that again. Iroduku begins with a compelling story where the protagonist time travels to the year 2018. Can you imagine meeting your grandma during the time when she’s the same age as you? What would it be like? That would be very cool. Heck, if I’m allowed one wish to be granted, it would be to travel back in time.

The characters are relatable and likeable. Hitomi befriends five other people, including Kohaku and Aoi. The interaction between them is natural and not forced. This example can be seen between Hitomi and Aoi. I remember reading in a book where the president of P.A. Works had said he wanted their anime to be something he would watch. He means that they want to create something appreciated by a wide audience and not only to anime watchers. This is why these characters are all so charming.

The composer of this series, Yoshiaki Dewa, also makes a return from Nagi no Asukara. And you do not know how much I love the soundtrack of Nagi no Asu. I own the CD of it. I play the OST on the piano. Ahem, the music points in some parts in Iroduku are cued exceptionally well. I love it when the music starts playing in an emotional scene. Nagi Yanagi sings the ED of the series too

The greatest strength of this series is, without a doubt, its animation. P.A. Works amazes its audience again with its lovely eye candy of scenic backdrops and use of colours. Even the black and white scenes from Hitomi’s POV looks gorgeous. I’d say the company’s repertoire is looking even better than before. I know that you would have oohs and aahs moments throughout the series.

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Club activities. Hitomi and Aoi takes pictures before a pretty skyline and chat. Credit: marthaurion

I can see many similarities between this series and Nagi no Asukara. A lot of key players are back doing the same roles. The vibe I get from both of them is also similar. Asagi with her one braid behind her ear immediately reminds me of Chisaki. While Nagi no Asukara was an emotional rollercoaster, Iroduku is another slice-of-life exhibit with a bit of fantasy. It’s a peaceful and easygoing show. Unlike its sister, it is to be aired in only 13 episodes instead of two full seasons.

I’ve been following Hitomi’s adventures this fall and it such a nice show to watch during a break from my studies. You can watch it on Amazon Video. If I have to admit its fault, it is, yes, slow. But the stunning animation and idyllic character interactions kept my attention. And I want to learn more about Hitomi. After she’s made so many friends and finally see colours, how will she face the fact about going back home? And that ending of the latest episode….

**Spoilers below, continue with caution**

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The last scene in episode 11. Hitomi embraces. Credit: Sean

…was so poignant and sad, man.

Get ready for the feels train.

Finally, let’s get this ball moving.

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Commentary on the first few minutes of Violet Evergarden

I have been waiting for Violet Evergarden for 3 years, ever since Kyoto Animation released the first trailer in 2015.

You can imagine my excitement when it was confirmed it will finally air in 2018.

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The inaugural first trailer of Violet Evergarden, animated by Kyoto Animation, came out in 2015. Three years later, the first episode broadcasted this January.

I want to discuss and analyze the first scene of episode 1. Specifically the first 3 minutes of this series. It was a very important scene because it helped set the story and introduce the titular protagonist, Violet.

First, we see the Major walking with his back turned. Young Violet, dependant on her beloved Major, is following. This part is a flashback to the past and reveals the Major’s back who is assumed to be deceased. Immediately, Violet stops and stares at a green brooch. Her comment towards the brooch shows us a bit about herself. She’s in fact incapable of emotions. Her taciturn character makes the Major concerned.

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Violet’s startling blue eyes and bandaged arm. Credit: Fred Heiser

In the next scene, Violet awakes and is in bed. She’s covered in bandages and it is now the present. She could be recollecting the memory from the previous scene in a dream. Up writing a letter to the Major with difficulty, Violet drops her pen to the ground, and the wind takes it away from her. The wind behaves as if it knows a secret Violet doesn’t know. Or maybe, it was fate that took away her pointless letter. Anyways, Violet doesn’t acknowledge her fragile state of being, and shows us how abnormal and inanimate she is, just like a doll.

Continuing along, the letter floats up through the wind, explores the sky with a helicopter, runs pass train tracks, races through a town alley, and joins a celebration coming from a ship. Then, there’s typewriting sounds.

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The fictional city of Leiden. Credit: Fred Heiser

KyoAni put a lot of effort into this grandiose opening scene. Firstly, they made it very Disney-like. The music made it really apparent because my first thought was “is this show going to become like a Disney film?”. The transition from the first scene change was enigmatic. Then, the music sounded magical and exciting. Evan Call, the composer of the series, is from America. I’m sure he received lots of inspiration from Disney. I almost expected Tinker Bell to fly out of the corner (haha). I like how the sound of a typewriter was used in the music. Very creative.

The first few minutes of the series sets the plot and setting and introduces watchers to the start of Violet’s journey. I found the music and directing impressive and breathtaking, and I invite you to listen and watch to the details of the exciting first few minutes of Violet Evergarden.

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Over the Clouds, The Promised Place

Hiroki, did that beautiful, white plane reach the tower?

If you ask me what are some of my most favourite anime movies, I would say The Place Promised in our Early Days. It is a poetic masterpiece with meaningful symbolism, foreshadowing, and imagery everywhere. It’s a wonderful film to analyze and critique, just like with Shinkai’s other movies, but The Promised Place is particularly so.

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Let me give you a brief synopsis without trying to spoil you anything. Hiroki and Takuya, two hard-working middle schoolers, are best friends working towards a goal – building a plane left over from the war and flying it towards the mysterious, white tower that divides Japan from the rest of the world. Both boys admired two things: the white tower, and the heroine, Sayuri Sawatari, who befriends them. She and Hiroki and Takuya makes a promise together to fly the plane together when it is done and go to the tower. But after the summer of their third year in middle school, Sayuri mysteriously disappears.

I always have a premonition of losing something.

What did these mysterious words mean? In this movie, Makoto Shinkai made Sayuri very feminine by showing us screenshots of Sayuri’s very subtle movements. From her dainty fingers to her bare legs, to her puppy-like movements whenever she’s excited, Shinkai tried to emphasize the importance of her role in the story by making the audience grow to like her personality and qualities. Her sweet, innocent voice ringed like a bell and her conversations with the boys were endearing and cheerful. She was the centre of Hiroki’s and Takuya’s happiness in their last summer in middle school. Sayuri later takes an even more important role in the movie, and become a valuable figure in the conflict of the movie.

Makoto Shinkai treated Sayuri as of she’s almost a sort of goddess. She’s pure, kind, and the smile she gives Hiroki and Takuya comes as if it’s from an angel. The scene where Takuya gazes at Sayuri as they go home after school is an excellent example. The sunset shining behind Sayuri at twilight made her look beautiful and ephemeral. This scene looked as if a goddess was standing there before Takuya.

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Credit: The Whatnauts

Despite negative reviews saying that the movie was “utterly slow” and that people were “bored to death”,  I think it’s one of the most beautifully crafted movies I’ve ever seen. Makoto Shinkai masterfully pieced together story-telling techniques that are very noticeable if you look carefully. I invite you to try to critique and give a commentary on the literary devices and techniques seen throughout the entire movie. For those who never learned or had zero grasp on this subject in high school’s English class, I encourage you to try as well. What do you think the tower symbolizes in general in the movie? It can symbolize war, separation, beauty, or the unknown future. Where can you find foreshadowing of events in the movie? The thunder seen in the side of the sky when the trio walks home having fun after making their promise. Where was dramatic irony (remember this term)? Watching a movie this way is interesting and can be quite enjoyable, at least for me, and doing this can make you appreciate The Promised Place, or any movie, even more.

The Place Promised in our Early Days is sadly underrated, but I strongly encourage you to give it a chance. For me, watching it was an experience I will never forget. If you come from the your name hype, sadly, I would tell you not to watch it. But if you thoroughly liked 5 centimetres per second, you might find satisfaction in this slow, quiet, and beautiful movie. Do not come to watch for complete drama or to cry a waterfall of tears.

There is a little sci-fi, a little romance, a little action and fighting, some fantasy, and that’s just about it. But the backgrounds are oh-so-breathtaking and eye catching, which made up for it. There are finger clenching, quiet gasps, and some tears too. Like how Pachenel’s Canon is played, this movie builds up drama slowly. As the movie progress, the tension rises. At the same time, the movie becomes more dramatic but beautifully pieced and then, everything comes together for a bittersweet ending.

I highly recommend the dubbed version. The English voice acting conveys the character’s emotions so well that you might as well watch it so you can enjoy the backgrounds more. Come watch this moving sci-fi and fantasy movie for a meaningful and poignant experience.

Peach Blossom Spring

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By Wang Hui. Source: China Online Museum 

On a misty morning, a fisherman

felt the mountains calling out to him

and went out on his boat.

 

How lovely are the boughs of peach blossoms

greeting him over the stream with pinks and whites.

Petals on the stream conceal

and reveal

the path.

 

The great mountains loom above him

The ethereal beauty prompts him forward

Mist swirls, protecting the village.

 

Downstream, the petals are fewer

and stops.

Reaching the grotto

pine and willow trees hail the entrance.

 

The journey downstream

will be wide and narrow.

He will have no trouble

if he follows the peach blossoms.


“Peach Blossom Spring” is a response to a piece of artwork by Qing Dynasty painter Wang Hui (1632 – 1717). This artwork itself is a response to a prose poem by Tao Yuanming. It tells a story of a fisherman who stumbles upon a village resembling a utopia after following a river with peach blossom trees. He finds out he is unable to return, thus it is a story about finding a utopia you cannot return to and discovering a whole new world off a beaten path.

Fascinated by the beauty of peach blossoms, a fisherman is called inland and later finds a grotto with an entrance. Squeezing through, there is a village where the old and the young live together in harmony. The villagers tell him that their ancestors escaped here during a time of political unrest and that no one knows of their existence for generations. The fisherman stays for a week and enjoys their hospitality. As he leaves, he plans a return but the villagers tell him that it is useless. They tell him no one has ever returned or fond them again. The fisherman goes back home, and tells others about his findings. They go to search for this utopia, but with no luck.

This ekphrasis poem is my favorite piece out of my portfolio because exploring Chinese paintings was very eye-opening. Critics of ancient Chinese paintings describe the detailed lines and brushstrokes as a dedication to nature or the Dao.

This story inspired a common Chinese proverb, shìwaì taóyuán (世外桃源). It means to find something wondrous off the beaten path.

This story also reminds me of the Land of Immortals that appears in Dragon Spring Roads by Janie Chang. Appearing twice in the book, it is a door that leads you to an everlasting paradise where there is no pain nor tears. Some characters in the novel decide to go there, each with their own different reasons. It is accompanied by sweet music and the inviting smell of peach blossoms. Now you know that peach blossoms can take you to heavenly paradises!

I first read the original story of “Peach Blossom Spring” here! Hope you enjoy, and thanks for reading 🙂

How to Beat Writer’s Block

Staring at a blank screen? Stuck for ideas? Feeling uninspired and unmotivated?  This is a list on how to beat writer’s block, or for anything creative you are working on. I have just finished a creative writing course I was taking online and learned a lot from the experience. I had procrastinated a lot because I was unmotivated and had to deal with writer’s block when preparing for my final portfolio.

Criticism can be very honest and straight to the truth. It can demotivate you and this has always been something I fear and struggle. It can make you feel down and personally frustrated. But in order to improve your craft, you should learn as much as you can from experts.

In this course I learned how to find things to write about. I also learned how to write short stories, poems, and sonnets! My feedback was always “more concrete, specific detail and imagery” and “write as if you are shooting a movie.”

Here is what I find helpful for beating writer’s block:

  • Listen to music from a genre that makes you feel happy/productive or is somehow related to the subject you are writing about. For me, I like listening to anime covers played on the marimba (I used to play it). It inspires me to finish whatever assignments I have.
  • Read your favourite books. Remind yourself the reason why you love the author and his/her stories. Is it because of the themes they address or the memorable characters? What about it makes you like it?
  • Write about your family heritage. You will find plentiful stories about your family members if you ask. Their stories are worth sharing.
  • Write about your childhood. Memories from younger and simpler days appear to be the most vivid. What do you remember about your hometown? Who do you remember from elementary school? How about events from high school?
  • Write about first’s. Those memories can be the most poignant as well. What was your first love like? First trip overseas? First day at a new school?
  • Re-visit your favourite role models. Visit their site, blog, or social media account.
  • Remember the 5 W’s! Who, what, where, when, and why. Surely you can put something on paper from that.

I have yet to receive feedback for my portfolio so I will update this list again and time to time ^^ I may upload my writings too. If you have any ideas, you’re welcome to comment below!

Spring Book Hauls

I’ve seen a lot of “manga hauls” on Instagram. Let me show you what I’ve collected in my travels!

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Manga Haul at Kinokuniya (Left to Right: xxHolic: AnotherHolic, Honey and Clover Volume 10, and 5 Centimeters per Second: one more side).

I’ve travelled to New York City last month and was so excited to visit Kinokuniya. It’s a bookstore that sells English and Japanese titles and their upstairs is full of manga!

xxxHolic: AnotherHolic by Nisioisin have been on my wishlist for 5 years…… so glad to have this in my hands now. Did you know it was one of the first light novels to be released in North America? It is a quick and entertaining read and the author at my age was known to be a influential and prolific writer back then. 

For Honey and Clover Volume 10, I bought it because I read the entire series online and I really love this series. There is an unexpected plot twistat the ending ^^’ but, yeah, the author had to end it somehow. No wonder people were saying that the ending was bad. Nevertheless, I am still a big fan of Chica Umino and her work. The epilogue is said to appear in 3-Gatsu no Lion or the movie.

And phew, 5 Centimetres per Second: one more side. Super sentimental read; the characters in this romance story sound really depressed most of the time. The artwork for the cover, specially created for this release, was by another prolific person, VOFAN. He hails from Taiwan and his use of light and shadow is really amazing. The reason why I picked this up is because one of the characters, Akari, is said to be a literature major. I am currently studying in that field as well ^^ Makoto Shinkai was one as well. I saw his art book on the shelves there as well.

Well, then. The food in Flushing was amazing. No pictures, but I have it in my memory. I went inside a HK cafe and got myself the best red bean milk drink I’ve had in a long time and read H&C. I was pleasantly surprised of how authentic the drink was so I bought their fried noodles too. That wowed me even more. I found out later that I had their Taiwanese fried noodles.

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Cute, little buds.

This week I went to see apple blossoms in the valley. They are one of my favourite flowers and they are quite special here where I’m from. Here are some pics. If you ask me, I prefer apple blossoms than to cherry blossoms ^^

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Wow, looks amazing.
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Tweet, tweet.

The valley’s quaint Main Street has a bookstore and I went in. I bought Twin Spica Volume 1. I have the entire series at home except for volumes 4, 5, and 6. It is a really magnificent series that touches upon many themes. I know I’ve probably said this with a lot of others, but Twin Spica is really something I would recommend if anyone asked me about what to read. Me and my old friend highly recommend Twin Spica by Kou Yaginuma.

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Tea and book. Maybe I will write about Twin Spica in the future.

Of course, I have to visit cafes at the bucolic valley. Just Us! is my favourite coffee shop and I really like their fair-trade and organic tea. They go the traditional way to connect with famers around the world and sell coffee beans, sugar, chocolate, and tea. I can tell their tea is very special and one-of-a-kind. I got their Christmas tea. It smelled really nice anyways.

So yeah, this is just a little update! Writing is a really good de-stressor. Until then 😀