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Anime: Summer Days With Coo

When I was writing my post on my trip to Yanagawa, the kappa statues that I saw on the canal boat tour reminded me of Summer Days With Coo, a slice-of-life animated film that I watched some weeks ago.  

Made in 2007, it is a heartwarming story about a kappa, a legendary Japanese water spirit, which was buried alive in a stone during an earthquake in the Edo period, and miraculously survives till modern day Japan.  Rescued by a boy called Kouichi and given the name ‘Coo’, the kappa is subsequently adopted by the boy’s family. 

According to Japanese folklore, a kappa inhabits the ponds and rivers of Japan and its powers are derived from being close to water.  It has a humanoid appearance that is a cross between a frog and a turtle, possesses scaly reptilian skin, a beak for a mouth, and a flat water plate at the top of its head which must always be wet whenever it is away from water so as to retain its powers.  

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The animated film runs for close to 2.5 hours, which is fairly long, but it does not contain a dull moment, at least not for me. The story talks about how Coo discovers that the swamp that he used to live in has been replaced by a modern-day Japanese neighborhood and has to adjust to living in present-day Japan with his adopted human family.  He also has to cope with the disappointment of not being able to find fellow kappas in rivers to live with, and that he is solitary in this new strange world, as well as hide from the harsh, unwanted attention from inconsiderate human beings.  Coo finally realizes that he must leave his adopted family and find his own place somewhere else.

This animated film is very well-made, cute with an appealing family-themed story and loveable characters.  Worth every minute of my time!

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Anime: The Garden Of Words

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The Garden of Words, the latest anime film by Makoto Shinkai, is visually stunning.  The use of vivid watercolors and the intricate detail in the drawings make the beautiful artwork look so realistic.  I watched the film twice in a row, once for the artwork and the second time for the story.

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This story features a couple, a 15-year old boy and a mysterious 27- year old woman whom he encounters at the Shinjuku Park one rainy morning.  On rainy mornings, the boy cuts classes and goes to the park where he spends his time sketching shoes.  Coming from a broken family, his ambition is to be a shoe-maker one day.  

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Like the boy, the mysterious woman appears to be skipping work to go to the park, and there are clear hints that she is experiencing some personal troubles.  They start talking, without any formal introduction to each other, and grow closer as they meet frequently during the rainy season.  She takes an interest in his shoe-making, even letting him measure her feet to make a pair of shoes, and he cheers her up sufficiently for her to face up to her troubles.   He develops romantic feelings for her (and vice versa) learning belatedly that she is a teacher in his school.

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The ending is intense, sad, bittersweet and quite lovely.  I wished the film was slightly longer than 45 minutes, so that there was more time to develop the characters, their relationship with each other and others around them.   

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Besides The Garden of Words, I have watched Makoto Shinkai’s 5 Centimetres Per Second and his first piece of work, the five minute long anime known as She and Her Cat.  I like his animes and find his romantic, slice-of-life stories quite compelling.  I will get around to watching his other animes, Children Who Chase Lost Voices, The Place Promised In Our Earth and Voices Of A Distant Star, soon. 

If you liked 5 Centimetres Per Second, this is even better.

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Simpsons’ Tribute To Hayao Miyazaki

I found this anime clip on Slate where The Simpsons’ pays tribute to Hayao Miyazaki’s retirement with a montage of scenes from Miyazaki’s famous anime films. Spot Catbus in My Neighbour Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Howl’s Moving Castle, Spirited Away and Princess Momonoke in The Simpsons’.

I love all of Miyazaki’s animes. Hard to say which is my favorite – it would be a close fight between Kiki’s Delivery Service and Howl’s Moving Castle. Pity that he won’t be making anymore films after releasing his last anime film, The Wind Rises. I am looking forward to watching this.

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Anime: Hotarubi no Mori e

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I came across this animated film on Youtube known as Hotarubi no Mori e (translated to read as ‘Into the Forest of Fireflies Light’), based on a shoujo manga written by Yuki Midorikawa.  The film is quite a short one, running to about 40 minutes long.  It was beautifully made, with a touching storyline that is accompanied by artwork reminiscent of Miyazaki’s work.

This is a ill-fated supernatural romance story about a girl called Hotaru who meets a masked spirit, Gin, in the mountains when she was six years old one summer.  She got lost in the mountains while visiting her uncle, met Gin who led her out of the mountains.  They become friends.  Gin has a spell cast on him which would cause him to disappear if he touches a human being.  Hotaru visits him every summer till she reaches teenage-hood and they fall in love, always careful not to touch each other.   Without giving away spoilers, I would just say that the ending was heart-wrenching, not unexpected but still terribly sad, and it is a good thing that the story does not linger on.  It came swiftly and before the tears hit you, the film ends.  Then you rewind the last three minutes and watch it all over again.

I really loved the anime film and looked for the manga to read afterwards.  Glad that the anime follows the manga very closely.   Ah, it was such a satisfying piece of work to watch.  I will probably check out some of Yuki Midorikawa’s other mangas soon.

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Osamu Tezuka’s Black Jack

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I have read nearly all 17 volumes of Osamu Tezuka’s well-known manga, Black Jack.  I don’t yet own all copies of the English-translated manga, but I aim to get there some day. I like Tezuka’s art. His characters are quite Betty Boop-ish in style, and they are drawn in strokes that are bold and clear. It is very easy to follow the story through each frame.

Recently, I started watching the anime on Youtube.  The anime has over 80 episodes (almost like a long-running Hong Kong or Taiwanese soap drama), and I have watched approximately 15% of the episodes so far.

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^ Photo from Vertical, Inc.

Black Jack is a gifted but unlicensed medical doctor who operates on patients in the back of his house.  He is not accepted in the mainstream medical society, yet he is sought after by doctors and patients for his superhuman ability to cure almost any illness.  He is a bit like Batman or Robin Hood, someone who goes around helping the poor and needy while teaching the rich and arrogant a lesson. Regardless of one’s background, Black Jack asks for exorbitant medical fees, not because he is greedy, but because he wants to make sure that patients who seek his help understands that the value of life is worth far more than dollars and cents. He is a physician who doesn’t just cure people’s bodies, but mends their souls and hearts as well.

The anime is good fun to watch. While it follows the manga pretty closely, the anime feels alot lighter, and more humourous than the manga, which has a sombre undertone and at times, comes across as dark and depressing. The anime expanded the role of Pinoko-chan, and introduced a new character called Sharaku, as her close friend as well as a pet dog. I don’t recall characters such as Sharaku and the pet dog appearing in the manga.

Each story in the manga/anime is a standalone one, so you don’t have to start right at the beginning to be able to follow the story, but they are all full of warmth, and focuses on the messages of human decency, compassion and the value of life.

Good stuff.

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Anime: GTO & Gokusen

I have temporarily suspended my love affair with Korean dramas eversince the end of Secret Garden because I can’t seem to find any other production that interests me.

In the meantime, I have been watching Japanese animes online and reading the mangas online too.

After Itazura Na Kiss, I watched bits and pieces of Hana Yori Dango, then I went on to watch Great Teacher Onizuka (GTO) and Gokusen from start to end.

I loved the Japanese drama adaptations of GTO and Gokusen, especially the former. Both have a school setting, centred around maverick teachers trying to tame the most notorious class in the respective schools, with plenty of comic, touching AND sexist moments. 🙂 The perverted male teacher in GTO, Onizuka, was formerly a biking gang member while the geeky female teacher in Gokusen, Yankumi, is the heir apparent in a prominent Yakuza family.

Really really good stories with themes revolving traditional values such as honesty, loyalty, respect for the individual, etc.

Now, I’m reading the English-translated Gokuzen manga online. There is quite alot of stuff in the manga that was not shown in the anime or drama adaptation. If the Koreans decide to adapt this manga into a drama, I can totally see pretty bad boy types like Kim Jae Wook or Jang Geun Seuk as yummilicious Sawada Shin. With Gong Hyo Jin as Yankumi. Ooh-ooh-ooh.

That reminds me, I have to pick up City Hunter from where I left off.

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