Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Kimi ni todoke (From Me to You) 1 by Karuho Shiina

This was a very cute beginning to a lovely story.

I found it most interesting to read from a cultural perspective. I felt I learnt a lot about Japanese high school life, and superstitions.

Manga novels, traditionally written in Japanese, are read right to left, and it took a minute for me to adjust. The English translation is a bit humorous, as well, and now that I've read a fair bit of manga I realize this is a common eccentricity. Its as though I can see the translator in his room holding an English Thesaurus in his hand and he is wondering which word will best describe the equivalent Japanese word. After much googling he finally chooses a word he feels is perfect, when actually its seemingly centuries old to the average North American.

However, the odd peculiarities of the English spoken only add to the unique experience of Kimi ni todoke.

Sawako Kuronuma is a very pretty young girl who tries to do a good deed everyday, but unfortunately she is the spitting image of a character from a horror movie, Sadako, and is treated like a ghost.

Her shy, and subservient demeanor doesn't seem to help her much as most misunderstand it for anger or coldness. A rumor is spread that no one can look in her eyes for longer the 3 seconds without being cursed. Even the teachers become superstitious.

All except Kazehaya-Kun, who always acknowledges her with a friendly "hello." Even remembering her real name, and not the mean nickname that everyone has given her.

Kazehaya sees how kind and good she is, and he wants to get closer to her. However, there is a problem, he too can't seem to look in her eyes for longer the 2 seconds.

Kuronuma believes his interest in her is just kind benevolence, no more.

It is a sweet story highlighting the virtues of kindness and modesty that heroines so often lack.

I can't wait to read book 2 to see how this love story develops...

Click here to see a copy of Kimi ni todoke vol 1 by Karuho Shiina

Olympos by Aki

Manga is such a large section of the book store that I work at, I felt unread to have never sampled some. After briefly flipping through several books I came back to Olympos by Aki - which was my first choice, due to the beautifully illustrated cover, and final choice due to the color and the lovely artwork within.

Let me restate that the illustrations are absolutely gorgeous. I was constantly marveling at the beauty of the characters. Also, the story told was most intriguing, poignant, and sad.

As the title implies, this is a story about the gods of Greek mythology. Apollo is depicted as a beautiful female (though she is referred to as a he, because I believe all individuals of authority are referred to as hes in Japanese) who is terribly bored and mischievous. Not unlike Poseidon, and Hades. Immortality seems to be a bit too unending for them all.

In a beautiful garden, Zeus created in an unknown space, Apollo drops a beautiful young princess (called a prince in the story due, again, to Japanese translation of authority figures) Ganymede who is granted immortality. She becomes quite a piece of entertainment to the gods as they enjoy watching her endure eternity with them.

Ganymede discovers the true nature of the gods is in stark contrast to the way they are portrayed in human fables. Mocking her at one point, Apollo asks what it is mortals thought she did.

What surprises me is the strong philosophical/symbolic undertones. Aki seems to want to show readers the allusiveness of the idolized, truth, good and bad, and immortality.

For instance, in a discussion Apollo and Hades have with Ganymede, she explains that the existence of darkness (Hades) is necessary for the light (Zeus). Hades "is the god of the shadows that are created by the light."

Will the gods end everything for amusement? ...

Click here to see a copy of Olympos by Aki.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

The irony of Commitment

Do you ever feel like the universe is trying to send you messages?

I was reading a post by The Mind of Kevin - Freedom and Cages that reminded me of a profound moment in my life.

I was starting to realize my life was headed in a very routine direction... it scared me! A wave of panic was coming over me every time I looked at my planner or thought about my life. I didn't know if I was making the right decisions for me. - And decisions that seemed overly organized just didn't feel like me.

During this time of a pre-pre-midlife-crisis, I did something routine. I went to Starbucks in the morning and got my Cinnamon Dolce Latte. - There is comfort in some routines.

My cup seemingly screamed at me as I read the quote:

"The irony of commitment is that it’s deeply liberating — in work, in play, in love. The act frees you from the tyranny of your internal critic, from the fear that likes to dress itself up and parade around as rational hesitation. To commit is to remove your head as the barrier to your life." - Anne Morriss

Commitment is deeply liberating! - Could this be true? Was the universe trying to tell me something? The more I thought about it, the truer it seemed.

The truth is routine, and structure isn't actually all that scary. In fact, there is nothing more stressful and tiring than a crazy schedule that has no order. - Trust me, I know.

I took on 3 part-time jobs just to prove this theory. I thought a structure-less life would be fun, and exciting. A new adventure everyday. I never knew what I would be doing one week to the next.

The irony of my crazy experiment was that it was most un-liberating. I was too tired and scrambled to fit in time for my friends, hobbies, and even trying to keep a healthy diet was difficult. Without a plan I didn't really get to accomplish as much as I could have.

As Kevin Ferguson brings out in his blog there is a comfort in what we are familiar with. Like my Starbucks Lattes. As appealing as it may seem, living in the eye of a hurricane is not that great, long-term, at least. A lot of stress can be added to one's life by living chaotically.

So now I have presented myself with a new challenge. I challenge myself to being super organized. - However, now I'm making plans and creating routines around things that add joy to my life.

I have a job, people in my life, and hobbies that I love. They are worth planning for. Its a good life.

We shall see how liberating it is...