14 January 2008

Celebrate! :: Coming of Age Day in Japan

Happy Coming of Age Day!

If you were walking around Japan today, you'd see girls in groups dressed in the finest kimono, with white fur around their necks to shield them from the cold. This is a special day for all who turn twenty this year. Why twenty? It's like turning eighteen here in the States. It marks the beginning of adulthood, responsibility, blah blah blah. Isn't it fabulous to celebrate a day for you on a day that is not your birthday? I suppose the down side is just how much of a financial burden this tradition can be.

Read about the specifics of this holiday here, see pictures of this year's fashion here, or watch a video of celebrity-hounding youngsters here.

And to personalize this entry a bit, here's a picture taken in Nara-ken, where I used to live. The girl in the red is one of my former students, Nana. She looked so gorgeous!

12 January 2008

Face Off! :: Death Note vs. Code Geass


Here is the "Death Note vs. Code Geass" entry I promised a month ago. This is mostly a comparison of the similarities between these ground-breaking manga/anime. To avoid spoiler spilling or keeping you from the joys of discovering these on your own, I've kept the descriptions as simple as possible.

Seriously, it's worthwhile to look into them if you haven't already. I've found that both guys and girls *devour* these series. Discussing/watching them would be a fabulous plan for an anime/manga club meeting, ne!

Death Note

Power holder and power giver::
Light Yagami (random human) and Ryuk (god, or kami)
Name of power::
Death Note. It is a mystical journal that kills the people whose names are written in it. The writer can even specify how exactly the victims die. The journal belongs to the kami Ryuk, who hangs around Light for the fun of it. And for the apples. He has a serious thing for apples...
Light wants a world free of crime and corruption. He takes it upon himself to get rid of evil-doers by murdering them through his Death Note.
Light's flamboyant, media-friendly persona::
Kira ("killer" in Japanese trying to be English). He is someone to be feared by criminals because they are his target. He is also being tracked down by the Japanese authorities.
Hyper talented arch-nemesis::
A brilliant and mysterious gargoyle of a man who goes by several names, including L. He does not approve of Kira's methodology but thinks enough like him to be frequently hot on his heels. Glorious!
More nail-biting action::
With all the characters for or against Kira, the story gets quite complex. For those of you familiar with the story, doesn't this girl look just the way you imagine Misa?
Further notes::
This is a true phenomenon! I enjoy seeing people get so immersed in this series. The chances for cosplay are titillating and exciting! Honestly, I'm much more a fan of the manga than I am of the anime. The former is beautifully spare, the latter is a bit flashier than necessary. I have not seen the live action or the movies. If you have, let me know what you think!

Code Geass

Power holder and power giver:
Lelouch Lamperouge (royal human) and C.C. ('supa' hot alien girl)
Name of power:
Geass. It allows Lelouch to make others do as he wishes, simply by making focused eye contact. A person can only be controlled by Geass once. This is key!
Like Light in Death Note, Lelouch also wants a more peaceful world. However, Lelouch's Japan is completely different. There are two forces at play: Area 11 (a defeated country formerly known as Japan) and the Britannian Empire (consisting of suspiciously European-looking people). Lelouch is a rebellious Britannian prince who wishes to make a safer environment for his blind-and-wheelchair-bound sister Nunnally.
Lelouch's flamboyant, media-friendly persona:
Zero. He is someone to be idolized by the "elevens" since he appears to be fighting for their rights.
Hyper talented arch-nemesis:
*GASP!* His close childhood friend Suzaku Kururugi, son of the former Prime Minister of Japan, is an "eleven" soldier who does not agree with Zero's implementation of justice. Hidden inside his big robot Knightmares, he fights the masked Zero, making both unaware that they are each other's enemies! And this while they're all in the same high school classes!
More nail-biting action:
As if the battling Knightmares weren't enough, there's also the secret identities of some of the eleven rebels and the Britannians. The characterization here goes beyond most action anime. Even though the character sketches were done by Clamp, they've been gloriously developed to satisfaction.
Further notes::
This is one of the latest superstars in the anime world. It just sucks you in and doesn't let you go. Needless to say, a series as popular as this is bound to have its own parodies, like this one of Code Geass with the trailer soundtrack of 300. Yes, Code Geass can be very violent. If you can get past the first few episodes, though, you'll be done in no time. The second season starts soon, and I can't wait!

What makes these series so special (and so similar) is the fact that both Light and Lelouch are dark heroes you wonder about. They have a generally good idea, or so it seems, but that is not enough to make them good people. In fact, there is a bit of evil in both, as they both set out to righteously change the world for the better through some pretty questionable means. Also, unlike many anime, there are only hints of romance. Nothing frilly, nothing concrete. The excitement comes through lots of action, suspense, and totally hot plot twists.

So if this is a face-off, which of the two wins? I've heard some people complain about where Death Note ends up. Also, when you start reading/watching Code Geass, prepare to re-read/re-watch because it can be quite confusing. Still, since Death Note came to me first and blew my mind so totally, I have to admit that I'm a Death Note girl all the way. The character L sits in my mind the way none of the Code Geass characters do. I know people who would disagree with me, and with reason, but I guess they can get their own website. Ha.

On a final note, I've made a couple of improvements to this blog. I'm going to start to use smaller pictures so that they don't take so long to load. Also, I've enabled comments to be anonymous, so feel free to post your opinions!

09 January 2008

Review:: Persepolis I and II (graphic novels)

"We can only feel sorry for ourselves when our misfortunes are still supportable. Once this limit is crossed, the only way to bear the unbearable is to laugh at it."
--Marjane Satrapi

Some teens prefer low-level reading material, and others just devour whatever you give them, no matter how complex it is. I figure, if they can handle adult books, then more power to them.

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi is an autographical graphic novel series-- mostly for adults because it deals with war, political ideologies, and loss of loved ones. However, it does portray certain topics that teens can relate to.
Identity crises!
Peer pressure!
Romance and the complete lack of it!

The first part of the series examines Satrapi's curious innocence during her childhood in Iran, and goes on to expose the complexity of her teenage and adult years both in Austria and Iran. This would be a great pick for a book club because it is thoroughly engaging both visually and emotionally. Its introspective depth into cultural perspectives and politics-- and how they affect the lives of everyone-- make for potentially enlightening discussions.

There are streaks of feminism throughout that demonstrate how Satrapi has always thought for herself, even when she made mistakes. I find this is the type of book that can inspire anyone to really look at how one reacts to one's surroundings.

8.9 of 9.
Glorious! You will fall in love with many of the characters' resilience and honesty. There were times that I really related to Marjane, and others where it was hard to respect her. To me, candid memoirs that include the good and the horrendous are the only ones that treat the reader with respect.
It fluctuates. At times it is so full that there is no room for distraction, and sometimes I felt the need to put the book down to reclaim my life.
Late teens and up. Basically, anyone mature enough to deal with violence, death, drugs, and what many consider brainwashing. Cynics welcome too.
Like it? Try this!::
Watch the movie. It's so terribly beautiful that I cried and laughed, often at the same time. Not only does it weave a heartbreaking and sometimes hilarious story, it creates visual effects with light and shadow that I've never seen in a movie before. It just got a Golden Globe nomination for Best Foreign Film and has won quite a few awards already, including the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival. It is in French, yes. You'll find yourself completely enthralled, even if you are a subtitle vegetarian. Watch the French fantastic teaser trailer here.
Also, listen to a band like DeVotchka or Beirut while reading this series. The melding of Eastern and Western musical influences really adds to the multicultural flavor.
Further Notes::
I can't help but be grateful that Satrapi created this series to provide us with a little perspective. It is sometimes too easy to be disillusioned with life... with failures... with desires... Her story is a reminder that the way we perceive life dictates how we choose to live it.

05 January 2008

Road Map:: New York, NY, and Philadelphia, PA

If I ever stop taking jumpy pictures, I'll be able to get back to reviewing anime and YA lit. But guess what? I got a fevuh and the only prescription is more library.

So here's a slice of our library frolicking in front of the New York Public Library (the one used for the movie Ghostbusters). I don't want to get into a habit of seeking out "celeb libs," since I am quite fond of the smaller library branches. I just couldn't pass up the chance to add to my collection, even on a drizzly New York afternoon. (12.27.2007)

For dramatic effect, I'd love to say that the next picture contains some dude who wanted a piece of the jumpy action. In fact, he is my sister's boyfriend-- a real darling with enough of a sense of humor to not mind being immortalized this way.

The following day, we headed to Philly, where we got a chance to do a drive-by shooting (of my camera) in front of the Independence Branch. It's total Thomas Jefferson territory, as it is close to where he wrote the Declaration of Independence. Rock!

And no, the Philadelphia Museum of Art is not a library, but I couldn't leave without my own homage to Rocky. Da na na music playing in my head and everything.

I promise to give the pictures a rest (I have many more, mua ha ha). There are a few anime that I want to review before my *last* semester begins.


Road Map:: Jersey City, NJ (library from Party Girl, '95 cult classic with Parker Posey)

So... when exactly did the public library turn into Guantanamo Bay? Shouldn't librarians be ecstatic when someone-- in this case, a library student-- shows interest in their library?

A few years ago, a librarian asked me if I had seen the Parker Posey flick Party Girl. When I confessed to ignorance, she gazed at me with pity. I instantly understood: any hip librarian hopeful simply must watch this movie. So I did. I laughed. I cried. I cringed. I reminisced about clunky card catalogs. I adored it.

And it was decided that on our way to New York, we would try to find the library where Party Girl was filmed. The end credits thanked the Jersey City Public Library, so we printed out the map to the main library, and off we drove. It really is quite a lovely branch. A few librarians that I spoke with were quite friendly and accessible, and they did say that Party Girl was shot there. Yay! It really held great promise...

... until it was decided that I was a bit of an infidel. My simple Jumpy Library Project became suspicious, and after a long waiting period, it was decided that my picture-taking should be ridiculously limited, even after I clearly stated I would not be making any money off the pictures. I was devasted, and honestly, a little upset. I was polite and gave them all my contact information-- even bits of info I would rather not have given out, had I known the verdict. The taste in my mouth after that was a bit dry. I'd never been treated like a nuisance at a library.

Maybe I shouldn't be so harsh. The person who makes those decisions was on lunch, and was probably highly annoyed at being bothered on their hour away from work. Maybe if this person had met me and I had described my project more clearly, it would have been different. Also, the librarians I personally talked to were quite gentle and sweet. They were in a difficult situation, because this was not their decision.

I suppose my experiences in Texas softened me. There, I would tell librarians I was in library school, and they usually responded quite warmly. I really haven't found that anywhere else, especially not in Pittsburgh. Here, as soon as I say that I'm a library student, I usually get indifference. I guess this is all part of the librarian experience. Sometimes we are greatly esteemed, sometimes not. Sometimes we play by the rules, and other times we are radical and militant.

Now that I am an official troublemaker with semi-contraband, I don't mind saying that it is more advantageous to ask for forgiveness rather than permission.

Jersey City Free Public Library: Main Branch
Jersey City, NJ (12.27)

04 January 2008

Road Map:: Quakertown, Perkasie, Center Valley, Allentown, and Bethlehem, PA

Akemashite Omedetou Gozaimasu!
Feliz Año Nuevo!
Happy New Year!

Here's to a productive and creative year filled with satisfaction in all endeavors, both personal and work-related. It's a tall order, I know, but if we're going to do it, might as well do it now. :D

My friends and I drove around eastern Pennsylvania in search of fabulous libraries the day after Christmas. For the first time since I started my Jumpy Picture Project this summer, I managed to get pix of multiple people participating in the madness-- as in, being captured in front of a library in mid-air. Ah, teamwork! Have you ever tried to take a picture of more than one person jumping in unison? Sure, the High School Musical kids make it look easy, but without a trampoline...

When we finally got our timing act together, we did successfully take pictures of all of us off the ground. I admit, we didn't stop taking pictures till we got the perfect unison pic, but I find the flawed "group practice drafts" much more endearing. So I posted those instead.

a) Bucks County Free Library James A. Michener Branch
Quakertown, PA (12.26.07)

When we visit libraries, we do not always have the time to go in and socialize with the librarians there. Here, though, we went to the reference desk out of necessity and were warmly welcomed. It gave me that warm fuzzy feeling that we library folk aspire to create...

b) Bucks County Free Library Samuel Pierce Branch
Perkasie, PA (12.26.07)

Oh, my poor darling husband. Not only does he print out maps of libraries, drive me around, and become one with my camera, he is also now forced to be in pictures with me. We took quite a few, but this one cracks me up because of his sheer height from the ground and the way his left hand cramped from the effort.

c) Southern Lehigh Public Library
Center Valley, PA (12.26.07)

There is really nothing much to report about this library, except that the restrooms were fabulous and the Friends of the Library had their own area towards the entrance for selling goodies. I would have bought a t-shirt if the material had been of better quality.

d) Allentown Public Library
e) Bethlehem Area Public Library
Allentown and Bethlehem, PA (12.26.07)

"Well we're living here in Allentown / And they're closing all the factories down /
Out in Bethlehem they're killing time / Filling out forms / Standing in line"
--Billy Joel

Ain't no mountain high enough. Snow and rainy conditions did not stop us from reaching our destinations in Allentown and Bethlehem, though it did make picture-taking a bit more difficult. By the time we finished taking the picture in Bethlehem, it was getting dark (which leads to fuzzy pictures with my camera) and it was time for some grub.

Still, not bad for one day's worth of library trails...