A Silent Voice Spoke to Me

Last night I watched A Silent Voice, the anime adaptation of the manga by the same name. I’d previously read the first volume of the manga, so I had an idea what the movie was about and expected it to be an emotional film, but it surprised me with its masterful and deliberate techniques. It brought a few tears even to my eyes, and I very rarely am able to cry.

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A Silent Voice focuses on the relationship between Shōya, a young man who was once a habitual bully, and Shōko, the deaf girl who used to be his favorite person to tease and bother. The movie weaves naturally between the memories of the past and the raw emotions of the present day, wherein Shōya is trying to make amends for the callousness of his past actions.

Many moments of the movie hinge upon the subtleties of communication and mixed messages— through spoken word, written word, and sign language. It also touches upon the delicate ties maintained between former friends and acquaintances, and how efforts to rekindle or mend former friendships can open oneself to vulnerability and shame.

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At the same time, A Silent Voice highlights the maturity and bravery of making choices that open up this vulnerability, and the struggles and rewards that are born of it. The deeply personal messages of the film, as well as the several gutdropping and heartstopping moments throughout, punctuated by moments of silence and crescendo, make for a truly thoughtful and moving film.

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Rilakkuma and Kaoru on Netflix!

It’s out! And I just binge-watched the whole thing!

I was waiting and waiting for this from the moment I saw the trailer: Rilakkuma and Kaoru, an adorable Netflix original made using stop-motion animation!

Rilakkuma is by far my absolute favorite cute character to emerge from Japan. Rilakkuma (the brown bear) is a character from SanX. He made his debut in 2003, and is a lazy bear with the most endearing face I’ve ever seen. Just seeing Rilakkuma, or his friends Korilakkuma and Kiroitoiri, gives me a really warm, happy feeling that is instantaneous and all consuming.

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I don’t know quite what it is that makes Rilakkuma so squee-inducing. Perhaps it’s his black eyes— perfectly round and peering into my soul— or the placement of his ears, or the way he creases when he moves. Everything about him is proportioned and outfitted to positively scream “CUTE”. Japan has cute down to a science. I have my own Rilakkuma and friends at home, I just couldn’t resist them.

I enjoyed Rilakkuma and Kaoru very much— at first glance it might look like a simple children’s show, but it’s got a lot more depth than one might expect. Kaoru is an office worker in Tokyo who comes home one day dreaming about getting a pet cat, only to find Rilakkuma has randomly appeared in her apartment, with Korilakkuma (the white bear) following shortly after. Kaoru, and her pet bird Kiroitori, quickly become accustomed to having these two strange bears around, and they build a friendship.

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Kaoru struggles with questions that any young woman might- why am I so indecisive? What is my worth in this life? What am I meant to do? Am I being held back? Will I decide what I want in life? Rilakkuma and friends are there as a comforting presence and help Kaoru learn lessons throughout the show. They are also very funny, ridiculously cute, and genuinely heartwarming.

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This is the kind of show that I will probably watch again someday, and put on an episode now and then to have as a comforting background while I go about my day— the stop-motion animation is lovely in its details, and the overall feel of the show is very calming, relaxing, uplifting and cosy.

That said, it often went places I totally wasn’t expecting, and certainly wasn’t boring. Without giving too much away, I’ll just say that not even aliens or ghosts are immune to the charms of Rilakkuma!

 

 

New Fruits Basket- First Impressions!

Takaya Natsuki’s Fruits Basket was one of the first manga series I began collecting in my teen years, and I also loved the original anime.

When I moved out from my parents’ house, I left behind my Fruits Basket manga in their attic (there were too many for me to fit in my suitcase!) and eventually ended up donating them to a library a few years later (still couldn’t fit in my suitcase!)

I haven’t read Fruits Basket, or watched the original anime, since those years long ago, so I was excited to see that the manga was being remade and accompanied by an anime reboot! I have a Crunchyroll subscription, so I watched the first new episode today and found myself getting sucked back into the story.

This new Fruits Basket keeps the humour, optimism, and sentimentality of the original while presenting a fresh, detailed new art style that I really love. The shading is lovely and the highlights really pop!

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For me, the casting and animation of Tohru is most important for this story- she is the main protagonist of course, but more importantly she’s also someone who was really inspiring to me when I was younger, so for me to enjoy this new reboot Tohru has to feel right. Happily, I wasn’t disappointed! The voice acting by Iwami Manaka captures Tohru’s bright personality perfectly.

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When I worked my first job in high school, as a grocery store cashier, I was thrown onto the till with very little training, and customers would get mad at how slow I was ringing through their purchases and looking up their product codes for produce. The store I worked at was very busy, lines were long, and I struggled a lot at first. I would sometimes be driven to tears.

During this time I specifically remember looking up to Tohru as a role model- from the very beginning of the story we come to know that she has a hard life, but she works hard through every circumstance to try to make things better, not just for herself, but especially for others. Her work ethic made me want to be strong too- and I did get better at my job eventually!

The story of Fruits Basket involves the animals of the Chinese zodiac- each member of the Soma family is cursed with an animal form, so it’s fun to see each one revealed as the story progresses. In the first episode we see three such transformations happen in quick succession- I love the powdery & otherworldly mist that is unleashed in the new anime!

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Most die-hard fans of Fruits Basket (that I knew of, anyway) were either Team Kyo or Team Yuki- these two boys are the major contenders for Tohru’s heart, but I found it hard to pick sides, myself!

I always did have a little thing for Shigure, though…

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There are also lots of other interesting characters who will be revealed as the show goes on, each with very distinct personalities, so it will surely be increasingly entertaining!

Overall, I’m impressed with this first new episode, and I’m sure that this new Fruits Basket will capture the hearts of fans both new and old!

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Mini Review: Maquia- When the Promised Flower Blooms

If you fall in love, you will become truly alone.

This is the sentiment that forms the undercurrent of Maquia, a standalone high-fantasy story centered around the lorph- also known by humans as the “clan of the separated” because their near-immortality has caused them to live isolated lives and become the stuff of legends.

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Maquia is a woman of the lorph. When a power-hungry kingdom raids her village, she is torn away from her kind and finds herself rescuing a human infant despite her deep knowledge of the heartbreak that will inevitably ensue.

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Maquia is a rollicking story of adventure, with heaps of drama, spoonfuls of humour, and touches of romance. It’s also quite emotional- if you are a crier, be prepared to cry. By the end of it my husband looked at me and said “I feel like they’re trying their damnedest to make me cry”.

One aspect of the story that I really like is the Hibiol- the lorph are weavers and have a unique language of the cloth which they use to record history and share messages amongst themselves.

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The film carries along at a good pace. It is interesting to see Maquia’s adopted son Ariel and the other humans in the story growing up steadily around the ever-youthful lorph characters. The way the characters developed and the decisions they made surprised me in some instances.

Another engaging aspect is the existence of the Renato- huge dragon creatures capable of flight that the kingdom of Mezarte have enslaved to do their bidding, but which are slowly but surely dying off from a mysterious “Red Eye disease”.

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A word of caution- if, like me, you prefer sub over dub, stick with the Blu-Ray for this one. Sub and dub options are usually included on both the DVD release and Blu-Ray for most anime nowadays, but this is an exception- I borrowed the DVD from the library and then realized that it only had an English dub, so we had to watch it with English voice acting. The BluRay, I found out, does have both a sub or dub option.

Overall I really enjoyed this film and would totally watch it again someday. I think that, since it’s an engaging standalone film with a PG rating, it would be a good movie to introduce someone to anime, to share with your family, or to enjoy on a date. Or, just cosy up and enjoy it on your own!

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Nerds At A Table

My friend Jake volunteers at Shaw TV and they were looking for a fun new local program to pick up. He pitched an idea and they liked it! And so, he enlisted myself and a few other geeks to come together for a show called Nerds At A Table (where we, some nerds, play tabletop games- get this- at a table!)

Local business Tactical Magic Games is letting us film on location in their store. We’ve filmed 3 episodes with Shaw so far, and I can’t wait until they air (they’ll also be available online!)- for now, here is our intro teaser!

Somehow I was bestowed the title “Punny Mastermind” (ok yeah, I love puns and use them liberally, but I wouldn’t say i’m a mastermind of any sort XD)

Each episode we will have a guest player from the local nerd community joining us.

No matter what ultimately happens with our show (local legend? public access cringe compilation?) I’ve really enjoyed filming it so far!

 

My Pirate Crew Tag

Megan from A Geeky Gal posted her Pirate Crew with an open invitation tag for anyone who wanted to play along, and I couldn’t help imagining who I would choose! Thanks for sharing Megan! And thanks to Lynn Sheridan for creating this fun tag!

The Rules:

  • Display the My Pirate Crew logo and add ‘My Pirate Crew’ as a tag.
  • Thank the blogger who nominated you and post a link to their blog.
  • Link back to the original post here (so I can compare your crews to mine).
  • Select seven anime characters and give them a position on the crew. These are the positions you can fill: Warrior, sniper, chef, doctor, scientist, navigator, strategist, mechanic, entertainer.
  • Nominate 5-10 bloggers.
  • Set sail and rule the seas!

 

So, here is my miscreant crew- scallywags, the lot of ’em!

 

Warrior: InuYasha

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I’m not copying you Megan, I swear! InuYasha is the first anime warrior who stole my heart, he’s totally badass, and I would definitely bring him along in my crew. Plus, who needs an anchor for the ship when you can just strap him with some rope, toss him over, and yell “SIT, BOY!!!” (I know, I’m terrible.)

 

Sniper: Mey-Rin

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Sorry if this is a spoiler for anyone, but you know Mey-Rin from Black Butler? You eventually come to know that she’s actually more than meets the eye…

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Yeah, she’s a crack shot with a variety of types of guns. Plus, we can squee about Sebastian together! Eeeeeee!~

 

Chef: Ignis

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In FFXV Ignis has more than proven his skill at improvising some delectable grub with meager rations while out in the wild, and I feel certain he’d be able to keep us from getting scurvy.

***Pastry Chef: Najika Kajami

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Ok, I added Pastry Chef as an additional crew member because dessert is VERY IMPORTANT TO ME OK? I feel like Najika Kajami is just the kind of pâtissier that I want on the crew- observant, in touch with the seasons, innovative, and creative. She would also bring a cheerful positivity to the crew.

Doctor: Naoki Irie

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Ok, I’ll admit he’s a bit harsh sometimes, but he knows his stuff and cares about his patients. And, Kotoko is smitten with him, so she’ll probably tag along, meaning we have 2 medical professionals on board instead of 1! I’ll admit that I haven’t read the manga or watched the anime, but I am a big fan of the Japanese edition of the drama series!

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Scientist: Reiji Sakamaki

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Let’s count all of the benefits of having Reiji as our on-board scientist, shall we?

  1. He makes a mean cup of tea
  2. He will probably bring a large collection of books with him
  3. He’s skilled at bloodletting, so no need to have leeches on board
  4. He’s a vampire, so like Dracula he could take care of the ship’s rat problems easily if needed (though he’d surely complain that it’s dirty work below his honour)
  5. Mey-rin will have her glasses off most of the time (she’s our sniper, after all) so Reiji can be our dedicated megane character
  6. He’s a sadist, so… if you’re into that… >.>

 

Navigator: Sailor Mercury (Ami Mizuno)

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Ami’s precise, mathematical mind would ensure her success as the navigator of the ship. She is skilled at data gathering and calculations. I imagine she would have the foresight to take necessary precautions and avoid potential misfortunes while at sea.

Strategist: L

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L may not be the most socially aware or tactful, but I like his aesthetic and vibe. He’s a brilliant strategist, there’s no denying that- he sees through deception and knows how to plan effectively. Plus, with him around I’m sure we’d never run out of candy!

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Mechanic: Impey Barbicane

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Impey is a skilled mechanic as well as a comedic optimist and ambitious dreamer. He’ll keep our spirits up and our ship running all the way to the moon!

 

Entertainer: Ren Jinguji

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Ren is my fave playboy from UtaPri and he plays a mean sax. What’s not to like? I mean, for that matter can we just bring the entire band onboard?

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*** BONUS- Pet: Roen

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I need to be around animals or I get really sad. We would need to have a pet on the ship- we just would! Preferably a dog. Roen would be great kuz he’s super cute and fluffy, plus he can transform into a human to help out with combat or whatever else is needed.


 

Well, that’s it for my crew! The sky is red- we set sail in the morning!

 

I tag me hearties:

Neko

Pete

Emma  (where would your ship travel to, I wonder?)

Kris and/or Rachel 

Michelle

and anyone else who is reading this and feels inspired to dream up a crew!

*p.s. sorry if I tagged you and you’ve already done this, and please don’t feel pressured, it’s just for fun if you feel like it 🙂

Japan Memories: Videos!

Last October was the 1 year anniversary of our 2017 trip to Japan, and I revisited all of the memories in a series of daily blog posts featuring my photographs and journal writings (check them out if you’d like, starting with day 1 here!)

I miss Japan very much- it’s like a reverse homesickness where I have a special place in my heart that aches to visit this far away place again. I am still thinking about Japan every day, and I convinced Dustin that we need to go back sooner rather than later- so we are going to spend Christmas in Tokyo this year!

When we went in 2017 we traveled around from Tokyo using a JR pass to get to Gunma, Kyoto, Osaka, and Kinosaki. We saw so many gorgeous places and ate so much amazing food. It was a fantastic trip.

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This Christmas we are planning to spend the whole time in Tokyo so that we aren’t moving from place to place so much (resettling into new inns and hotels, moving our luggage around) and we can just explore at leisure from our home base in Ikebukuro. There are so many spots in Tokyo that we have only barely explored, or not at all. I can’t wait. I even have 2 tattoo appointments penciled in with a studio in Shibuya!

Wish us luck! I’m saving all of my pennies… (well, figuratively- they don’t make pennies anymore in Canada…)


 

I finally made some videos with clips from our 2017 trips around Japan 🙂

These are just mashups of videos taken from my cell phone, my camera, and probably a little bit of Dustin’s cell and camera too. Some parts are a bit shaky but I kept them in because they were still cool memories. A few of these seem to be things that I didn’t even realize I was filming at the time… each video has a whole bunch of quick clips featuring some of the cool and beautiful things we saw in Japan.

Video 1: Tokyo- Ikebukuro, Ikebukuro street festival, Shinjuku, Shinjuku park, Shibuya, Shin Okubo, Harajuku, Ueno, Nagano Broadway, etc.

Video 2: Gunma- Takaragawa Osenkaku onsen ryokan (family run hot spring inn)

Video 3: Kyoto, Osaka- Higashiyama, Fushimi Inari Shrine, Universal Studios Japan, Harry Potter World, Kyoto Station, etc.

Video 4: Kinosaki- Mikunia onsen ryokan and ryokan town (hot springs town), autumn street festival, kaiseki meals, etc.