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Strange fascination, fascinating me
Ah changes are taking the pace Im going through

(turn and face the strain)
Oh, look out you rock n rollers
(turn and face the strain)
Pretty soon now you’re gonna get a little older
Time may change me
But I can’t trace time
I said that time may change me
But I can’t trace time

Well David Bowie would totally understand what I am feeling about

I am itching to write about how I became such a cinephile,and I thought of that phase I have as a teenager. The anime phase that perhaps shaped me as this person.

What is a phase? Perhaps it is at that period of time where you got obsessed over these things and so. Perhaps there is a period of time where you are crazy about something and you are motivated to do that. As you grow older,you may not like it as passionately as before.

Like any usual teenager who searched for that identity ,you are looking for a place to belong. For me,I recall when I was 14-15 and recently transferred from a class that is not so kind to me. I saw one of my classmates who drew manga during my home economics class. That is where I got motivated to draw manga,and there I have the obsession of watching anime. I read random curiosity  religiously! I even asked my parents (who are pretty supportive) to get some merchandise of Fullmetal Alchemist (which I still owned til this day). I even tried cosplay (I only did it once and it was fun). Perhaps I though there is somewhere I belong

I think I started to slowly growing out of my anime obsession when I actually enter film school. I do leave cosplay for personal reasons. I got into a fight with a person I know in my film school,that I became jaded at anime figures who display hope and joy. I started to listen to 60’s-70’s Rock music. I discover the joys of film and sometimes it feels more fulfilling than seeing the animation on screen. Watching all types of films (including all animation) and diverging myself into reading all types of literature seems to intrigue  me more. I mean I get to somehow travel the worlds that are not simply one-dimensional.

I somehow look at myself in that phase,what am I in this phase ? I see that I was pretty lost and just desperate. I thought by looking at these two-dimensional figures with goggly eyes. I just want to masquerade myself in outlandish costumes to hide all my feelings.I do see anime as an art form. I do sometimes catch up with certain animes which I loved. However the joy of that it was over. It is not that I look at people being joyful at their obsession with anime with disdain,but I kinda look at it with bittersweet manner. I see that I grew out of it,it does not stick it out with me.

However if I look it with some form of gratitude,me scribbling reviews on my thoughts of what I watched in my anime episodes leads to me loving to research and write about film. I am glad that I do not get arrested for outrage of modesty as I read that hooha that an auntie arrested a cosplayer during AFA 13. I am glad that I appreciated animation and not to be too snobbish.

Sometimes you cannot turn back to the past but instead you move to the present.


Inochi no Namae,a look into the identity in Spirited Away

Spirited Away,perhaps the most beautiful anime films I ever watched. It stills holds the title of best animated feature of the oscars in 2002 and was recently added to the BFI list of Top 50 films you must watch before you turn 14.

I remember watching this on my DVD at home with myself and then with my parents. What struck me was not only the sublime animation,but the simple story of coming-of-age for a young girl.

Yes there are many interpretations on Spirited Away that I read but what stood me from this power of identity. Interestingly the title that I came up is from the insert song of Spirited Away is called Inochi No Namae (The Name of Life). So it would be fitting to start with it for my discussion on the theme of identity for Spirited Away.

Inochi no Namae-Youmi Kimura

Aozora ni sen wo hiku
Hikoukigumo no shirosa wa
Zutto dokomademo zutto tsuzuiteku
Asu wo shitte’ta mitai

Mune de asaku iki wo shiteta
Atsui hoo samashita kaze mo oboeteru

Mirai no mae ni sukumu teashi wa
Shizuka na koe ni hodokarete
Sakebitai hodo natsukashii no wa
Hitotsu no inochi manatsu no hikari
Anata no kata ni yureteta komorebi

Tsubureta shiroi BOORU
Kaze ga chirashita hanabira
Futatsu wo ukabete mienai kawa wa
Utainagara nagareteku

Himitsu mo uso mo yorokobi mo
Uchuu wo unda kami-sama no kodomo-tachi

* Mirai no mae ni sukumu kokoro ga
Itsuka namae wo omoidasu
Sakebitai hodo itoshii no wa
Hitotsu no inochi kaeritsuku basho
Watashi no yubi ni kienai natsu no hi

ENGLISH Translation

A line is drawn in the blue sky
By the airplane’s vapor trail
Continuing to nowhere, continuing forever
As if it knew tomorrow

In my chest, I was drawing out shallow breaths
I remember the wind that cooled my cheeks too

In front of the future, my cramped limbs
Are untied by a quiet voice
Missed so much that I could cry
The single life
The light of midsummer
The sunlight through the trees flickered on your shoulders

A crushed white ball
Flower petals scattered by the wind
The two float on the unseeable river
Singing as it flows

Secrets and lies and joy
Are the children of the God that bore the universe

In front of the future, my cramped heart
Will someday remember its name
Loved so much that I could cry
The single life
The place I’ll return to
An unerasable summer day on my fingers

As you seen in the lyrics of that insert song,it shows that desperation to find our inner selves,like the film itself. Chihiro (Sen) unintentionally looking for that self during that journey of realization. At the start of the film,we seen a farewell card written by her closest friends,it was interesting that it was written in the child-like manner especially Chihiro’s name which was written in hiragana (From my Japanese lesson,I learnt that children start learning how to write by using hiragana before moving on the kanji stage). She kept on whining on the trivial gift that she left in her old school. I called this the identity of the child. Even the soundtrack of the opening sequence have that recurring letimotif of Inochi No Namae,it was childlike,it was nostalgic and yet strong.

The leitmotif of Inochi No Namae was replayed again when Chihiro recalls the incident of the river bringing back to shore. Incidentally it triggered Haku’s memory as a river and he break away from Yubaba’s spell. It shows the power of identity of the self as mentioned in the lyric of Inochi No Namae “In front of the future, my cramped heart will someday remember its name.” During the progression of the film,Haku mentioned a faint memory of saving Chihiro from drowning while he was the river spirit. Now we seen that Chihiro have the power to recall a name,even to break a heavy spell Even at the end of film,when Chihiro looks back at the tunnel,we could see the new self of Chihiro,a strong young lady facing the world.

Secondly we look into the puns of the name,in Asian language particularly East-Asian words,the way it was written could mean different things. For Chihiro,it means a thousand fantoms,and when Yubaba ‘stole’ her user name-we are only left with the kanji word “Sen” which means thousand. With that idenity set for the Spirit World,Sen is trying to use that idenity she was given,to save her parents. During that process,she grows in the process,from being compassionate to her working peers like Lin,siding with Haku when he was gravely ill despite the objection from the above and even stepping out from their comfort zone to work. For me,personally I could see Chihiro’s loss of her name beneficial for her character,she started to realize the postivite aspects of herself and of course looking at the world in the different perspective.

While Haku’s case of his lost identity linked to Miyasaki’s films which he talked about the environment. As impiled in the film,he was once a powerful river that apparently saved Chihiro from drowing but however due to the urbanization,he was eventually ‘wiped’ out. You could see in his character design that he almost have a cold look which perhaps implied on the soulless society in Japan that they cared about advancing to society that they will simply wipe out identities. Eventually he gained his identity as the river spirit as he told Chihiro his real name.

Kao-nashi (literary means no-face),the spirit which Sen accidentally let him to the bathhouse could be another personification of identity in post-morden Japan. Kao-nashi is not satstified with his situation despite producing gold. There was a pivotal moment when he got Sen and repeat that same line “I’m lonely,I’m lonely” perhaps show the wanting to be connected to that identity but unable to because of the fast-paced changes of Japan which show by his massive greed of eating everything.

Lastly I would like to talk about the original title of Spirited Away “sen to chihiro no kamikakushi” which helps the theme of identity. From the research I did in regards to Spirited away’s title,kamikakushi means to be taken away without notice in Japanese. Sometimes it could be seen as an angry god taking them away as the punishment. Therefore it implies Chihiro’s disappearance of her attitude as a child by adding the verb “to” ,signaling her growth by tackling her tasks at the spirit world. It could be similar to Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland,where Alice was thrown into another world and she have to navigate it back. There is a moment in the book where rhe caterpillar asked her “Who are you” whcih was the rebuke of Alice’s identity. Therefore he questioned Japan where is that purpose of identity in an ever-changing morden world

Therefore I would like to conclude my short exploration of the theme of identity in Spirited Away. It could add that desperation of identity Japan needed by playing the letifmotif of teh insert song “Inochi No Namae” in the whole film. Miyasaki wanted to emphasized the identity theme by the power of names as seen in the change of Chihiro,by her stolen name or perhaps Haku’s loss in identity due to the urbanization or perhaps the consequences of loss of identity in Japan by Kao-nashi. Whenever the consequences are,we need to keep that dienity. Therefore I shall end my case-study with a quote from Miyasaki-san on his proposal of Spirited Away

In an era of no borders, people who do not have a place to stand will be treated unseriously. A place is the past and history. A person with no history, a people who have forgotten their past, will vanish like snow, or be turned into chickens to keep laying eggs until they are eaten.

If you are interested of that film,here is the trailer of that film. Hope you guys would like it 🙂

Does beauty matter? A look into Sophie Hatter in Howl’s Moving Castle

So hello guys,again my dearest apologies for the silence.. I have been busy doing Tumblr posts than neglecting this blog Thanks for the lovely comments for the posts! It definitely make me happy that you loved my analysis of the films

Today I will be re-visiting my favorite anime film Howl’s Moving Castle. I thought instead of putting a full analysis,I shall do it as a motivational post for us girls and also a in-depth look at that classic. Yes I read that novel of the film (if you guys are interested on the story it was from the late Diane-Wynne Jones) and I just hated it like crazy because I feel that Howl in the book is not so charming and I don’t feel much for Sophie

So guys if you did not watch this film,basically it’s about a hat maker Sophie was cursed by a spell after an encounter the mysterious (and handsome) Howl,by The Witch of Waste went through the journey to break that curse. I just fall in love with that film for its beautiful animation and a wonderful plot when I was 15. Of course any girl would be totally swooned by how damn good-looking Howl is (I dare anyone not to be swooned by Howl) and secretly wished that you are doing that sky walk with him. ( I would LOL)

However that is not the point that we have the most glorious liferuiner in animation history in our screens,what I am focusing on is Sophie’s journey. To me what struck me from this film again was Sophie’s character how she stopped being self-critical about herself and learnt how to accept for who she was.

Pixar’s latest addition Brave may bring applause for girls for making Merida a bushy red-headed with some fat,however Miyasaki did that treatment a while ago in Howl’s Moving Castle. Sophie is not your typical good-looking anime girl with those big sparkly eyes and fabulous hair that you seen in Sailor Moon. She was like us,bushy eyebrows,plain looking hair and not so much a great figure. However she seemed to be insecure as she did not interact with her fellow hat-makers and she said to her sister “that I rather stayed in the shop because I am the eldest.” as she fear that no one would appreciate her looks.

On the otherhand Howl was very handsome,but however he seemed to worry about his looks than his fellow companions as he lamented after Sophie somewhat screwed up his hair dyes-” I give up. I see not point in living if I can’t be beautiful.” While it was pretty hilarious to hear Howl crying and scolding Sophie for screwing up his spells,it proves to be heartbreaking for Sophie. To her those potions does not even matter to her,she still feel like an ugly woman.

It sounds like us,we often feel so insecure that we would try everything to make ourselves feel better physically. I heard so many many tragic stories of young girls wanting to have plastic surgery and it breaks my heart. However she does not cry for long after Howl’s tanturn,no she instructed Markl to help her switch on the hot water to bathe him and she even bring the slimy Howl up by her own hands. She seems to forget about herself and her own needs and instead focus on that little family. That is bravery,instead of wallowing over our insecurites-we should focus that negative energy on helping others in our positive way.

As the film goes,the spell she was plagued slowly weaned off by her strong spirit,you may seen in most Miyasaki-san films of strong females who defy odds. When times are rough for the house and Calcifer was poisoned by the peeping bug,she encouraged him to stay strong as a family unit,it may sound like stories of women in WW2 who stayed strong while their husbands are away for war which we could link to Miyasaki’s experiences encountering WW2 in Japan himself. It applied to us when times are tough for us,whenever it was studies or your life.  As Sophie encouraged Calcifer-“They say that the best blaze burns brightest, when circumstances are at their worst.” (I prefer the Japanese translation though)Never ever lose hope for yourself. Perserve against all odds no matter what.

That scene when Calcifer used Sophie’s hair as fuel was impactful after she said that quote,to me I seen her long hair as a symbol of her insecurity and her self-esteem. When Calcifer ate that braid as a fuel,it shows that Sophie is no longer looking at herself lowly. Girls please let go off that questioning if you are worth of yourself. Once you could let go of that burden,you could be free no matter what.

There are times where we actually doubt how beautiful we are,especially when others can see how beautiful we are. When Sophie asked Howl sincerely if he is going to be a monster and whenever she could be accepted. I just love Howl sincerely accept her and said “Sophie you are beautiful.” Howl can seen her inner beauty that he even stopped his cowardly ways of running away from his teacher’s spells and face the world as it was. Even Sophie even help Howl to calm down when both were encountered by a spell. It was a positive feeling for the people that met Sophie,Sophie was the first person who cared for Turnip-Head and in reslut cause a break in his curse as a handsome Prince Justin. Markl learnt to loosen a bit from his stiff ways as he cried to Sophie not to leave that family. It shows you by accepting yourself,we eventually impact people’s lives as Sophie did to her friends.

I know that it was difficult to swallow,Miyasaki-san asked us what is true beauty. Not it was not keeping up the appearances that Howl prided himself by his 10001 potions. Beauty do fade as it was seen in The Witch of The Waste,however it was the spirit that counts if we stop putting negative thoughts in our heads and start believing that we are beautiful ourselves. Like Sophie,we could impact lives and of course ourselves. I would leave with you an Avatar The Last Airbender quote (Yes I watched the last few epis of Avatar)

We may be confused on who we are and why we want to do,but slowly we could gain that strength soon.

Kaneda without a Cause

After watching Akira (1988) by Katsuhiro Otomo,I did some reading in IMDB and they say they are connected by Rebel Without A Cause (1955). I thought “hmmm” and I thought of that brillant idea to compare the quintessential 1950’s teenage classic to the anime film Akira. They may be made in different countries and different directors but I feel that both are interlinked in similar ways. So this will be my review/comparison topic for today.

Now I will brief you on the stories of these films

I find this a challenge to summarise Akira because it was pretty complex,so here I go-Set in 2019 Neo-Tokyo. That country suffered the effects of a nuclear bombing from WW3. Anyway we met our two protagonists-Tetsuo and Kaneda,so Tetsuo was sent to a secret venue where he was implanted with supernatural powers that could be equated to God. However he went berserk and his only friend Kaneda have to rescue the world from destruction. This film was a cult-classic and perhaps  catalyzed the love and obsession of anime in the West. This film made Katsuhiro Otomo a name to remembered in the anime world and so many people are influenced by his works.

Now to Rebel Without a Cause,the arch-typical teenage film in the 1950’s. It was a simple story about Jimmy (Played by the amazing James Dean) who have some problems in relating to society and his parents wanted to do anything in order to fit in. It gained it cult status because of James’s sudden death before the première. He was perhaps the model of the teenage-hood during the 50’s:Wayward and perhaps insecure as executed by James Dean’s sheer acting.

O.K if I just mention James Dean,everyone would totally think of that image of James Dean wearing that red wind-breaker with the simplest t-shirt and jeans. It was rebellious and it was so classic that I wanted to emulate in my dressing for myself. Actually Ray wanted to make this film in Black and White,however when Ray tried colour film-they have to think quickly for Jim’s outfit. Rumours said that he bought it from a Red Cross outfit and that is how it was born.

While James Dean have that famous jacket,Kaneda have his own red motorcycle suit.Well expect he have the capsule pill on his back which will be the recurring motif for the film on the psychic kids have to be dependent on medicine. It was interesting that it could be linked to imperialism as the japanese flag have the red sun as their motif. Even his motorcycle was also red too,if you are not wowed by that famous scene when Kaneda drove his motorcycle. Then I don’t know who would it be. I think Otomo subconsciously used that jacket image we get from James Dean to bring his idea about the alienated youth.

Secondly it was the complexity of the relationship between Plato and Jimbo can be similar to Tetsuo and Kaneda. We know that both came from dsyfunctional families.In Rebel Without a Cause for Jim-he have the difficulty to relate to his father who was passive. According to Senses of Cinema article “Finding the Father: A Psychoanalytic Study of Rebel Without a Cause”-Chris Wood added that ” his father lacks the courage to act upon it. For Jim, even the word “chicken” sends him into violent bursts, as it conjures up negative images of his father, who is “hen-pecked” by Jim’s mother. “She eats him alive,” Jim tells Juvenile Officer Ray, “and he takes it. He always wants to be my pal…If he had the guts to knock Mom cold once, then maybe she’d be happy…I’d never want to be like him.” He added his case with an analysis from Vicky Lebeau on Dean’s character that there is a “‘palpable desire’ for parental authority, and the alternative family set up by the adolescent rebel.” On the otherhand Plato’s father could be either absent or deceased,he craved that attention from the parents that Chris added that the acting of murdering the puppies could be seen as “Plato’s scrutiny of, and contempt for, any paternal gesture of kindness.” So they co-related each other as they wanted to have a secure family and a paternal feeling. It could be almost sexual as many theorised Rebel Without a Cause in regards to teh relationship between Plato and Jim. That energy was also felt in the set itself as recounted by Sal Mieno (Plato) on working his co-actor James Dean “I was in incredible awe of him. I was fascinated by him. I think it was sexual to an extent, but I had no idea or any understanding of affection between men. I really gave him hero worship, and I recognized later what it was, but the feeling then was that I couldn’t wait to just get near him… It was only years later that I understood I was incredibly in love with him.”

On the other-hand Akira is very different from Rebel Without a Cause if Plato really depended on Jim to be the fatherly figure that he could not have, Testsuo wanted to rebel from Kaneda-the father figure. In one scene when Tetsuo kept on punching one the Clowns bike gang member as a form of revenge,Kanada try to intervene the meaningless killing-“Do you wanted to get him killed,that is enough” and there he attacked him back “Do you know I was let-down,I don’t want you to protect me.” It seems that Testsuo desired the parental power that Kaneda have,he keep on swearing that he would acquaint with that power. Of he did through the “experiement” in the lab and he did gain that power. However it proved to be detrimental for Tetsuo as he suffered hallucinatory nightmares of his powers (thanks to the growth-regressed espers) and he formed to a mutated creature. Just like Plato in the end when he got accidentally shot by the police,Tetsuo disappeared or “died” from the existence of Neo-Tokyo. It is interesting that their relationship does not have an erotic energy as it was perhaps played down to show how humanity used its power.

Both Jim and Kaneda have almost similar character growth process,while Jim’s sensitive personality formed the new image of the masculine image during the 50’s by his ambiguous personality and a softer approach. Kanada is perhaps your typical brash Shoenen (Boys’ manga) male character-very brash and yet super loyal to his “nakama” which was pretty much the opposite to Dean’s image. However they have to reach a point of maturity when they navigate what the world is. For Jim,it is the realization that he must take up his role as ‘a man’ and learn how to take full responsibility to his actions. Chris Woods cite the ending of Rebel with this quote of the growth of Jim-“Jim’s covering Plato’s corpse with his jacket is a last display of paternal love for his fallen friend, and in a symbolic display of adult initiation, Jim’s father wraps his own jacket around his son’s shoulders. “Whatever comes we’ll face it together,” he assures Jim. “I’ll try to be as strong as you want me to be.” Jim’s father is now willing to help guide Jim into the symbolic world, although the boy seems to have made it there already.”  It showed about Jim’s maturity to take in responsibility in the world unlike Plato who wanted to retreat to his childhood. On the other-hand Kaneda have his growth as a character as he questioned on the power of that so-called “Akira” and the power of humanity when it encounters science. There is one scene when he recalled Kei saying the same line as one of the espers on humanity and how they used that power. He questioned what is that power on how it was used. We can see it in the end when Kei rescued Kaneba and he witnessed the shirking of his world and of course the inevitable disappearance of Tetsuro. As one of his motorcycle gang memebers asked “Where is Tetsuro” and just like Jim in Rebel,he gave a response to him “He disappeared.” and there was a happier ending as Neo-Tokyo have a brighter outlook unlike the somber ending of Rebel Without A Cause. In the end Kaneda and his companions can ride to the world safely thanks to Tetsuro and the espers’ sacrifice to save humanity.

In conclusion,it seems why there is a connection of Rebel Without a Cause and Akira despite being separate in genres and countries. I think Otomo wanted to use Ray’s teen angst to highlight the theme of Akira, externalism of humanity and its power. Whenever it was that familiar homage to that red windbreaker that James Dean wore during his rebellion with Kaneda’s motorcycle suit. Or the dymanics between Tetsuro and Kaneda that could be viewed as the father-son relationship without the homosexual edge. Even the way Kaneda developed as a character could echoed Jim’s growth to maturity. So I will end this comparison with the quote from one of the esepers Kiyoko that could summarise the aspect of Akira and rebel without a cause “The future is not a straight line. It is filled with many crossroads. There must be a future that we can choose for ourselves. ” Basically it just simply boiled down to personal choice and the journey the characters have to take. Is it why we enjoyed watching films,because we could relate to the main characters emotionally and mentally.

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