[ANIME] PUELLA MAGI MADOKA MAGICA

Summary: There exist familiars who have the power to grant one wish to a chosen girl. However, in return that girl must then become a magical girl and fight against witches, evil creatures born from curses that are responsible for murders and suicides. A schoolgirl named Madoka Kaname and her friend Sayaka Miki are approached by a familiar named Kyubey and a magical girl named Mami Tomoe with offers of becoming magical girls. Another mysterious magical girl named Homura Akemi tries to prevent Madoka from agreeing to the contract.

“Remember this… and take it to heart: kindness sometimes leads to even greater tragedy.”

  • Other names: Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magika, Magical Girl Madoka Magica
  • Studio: Shaft
  • Genre: Dark fantasy, horror, magical girl
  • Episodes: 12
  • Status: completed

“It’s not what you thought i1fe88af96511cad349bdb92202b91ad4-image-354x500t would be,” said friends who recommended this show to me. In 2011, Madoka Magica was advertised as a “high school girl show” before its release. But after 3 or 4 episodes, it turned out to be something completely opposite. Madoka Majica took Japan by storm that year. Of course, if you watch the show much later (like me), there is less of the surprise factor since you know what to expect. Still, Madoka Magica with its amazing plot and art is so mind-blowing that I hope to share some of my thoughts here. (Side note: There’s no spoiler in this review. However, I do talk about the central themes that are revealed later in the show. If you want to enjoy the anime WITHOUT any source of expectations or preconceived opinions about the, I suggest skipping this review and going straight to the show. And come back to read later! (´∀`•) )Read More »

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[NOVEL] THE WOMAN IN THE DUNES – KOBO ABE

Summary: After missing the last bus home following a day trip to the seashore, an amateur entomologist is offered lodging for the night at the bottom of a vast sand pit. But when he attempts to leave the next morning, he quickly discovers that the locals have other plans. Held captive with seemingly no chance of escape, he is tasked with shoveling back the ever-advancing sand dunes that threaten to destroy the village. His only companion is an odd young woman. Together their fates become intertwined as they work side by side at this Sisyphean task.

“Being free always involves being lonely.”

Many people said that this novel gives you a really “claustrophobic” atmosphere, with all the sand surrounding the main character. And it feels like the sand will eventually collapse on you. Admittedly, I feel the same. But don’t be discouraged! The Woman in the Dunes is an amazingly unique and intriguing novel I’ve read, since it leaves room for so many discussions and interpretations of its metaphors and images! A successful movie adaptation was made in 1964 by Hiroshi Teshigahara, and you can find the trailer here.
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[NOVEL] JOURNEY UNDER THE MIDNIGHT SUN – KEIGO HIGASHINO

Summary: When a man is found murdered in an abandoned building in Osaka in 1973, unflappable detective Sasagaki is assigned to the case. He begins to piece together the connection of two young people who are inextricably linked to the crime; the dark, taciturn son of the victim Ryojin Kirihara and the unexpectedly captivating daughter Yukiho Nishimoto of the main suspect. Over the next twenty years we follow their lives as Sasagaki pursues the case – which remains unsolved – to the point of obsession.

“If a wild cat is adopted when she has grown up a little, although she is friendly, she never really lets her guard down.”

journey-under-the-midnight-sun-1100x1100-imaee2bxczwebz5x.jpegI know right away whenever I find another favorite author: Keigo Higashino just joined the list! Journey Under the Midnight Sun is one of Higashino’s most favorite novels and was made into a TV series under the same name, a Japanese film (Into the White Night) and a Korean film (White Night). You can find Into the White Night’s trailer here. One thing to notice that all the quotes are my own translations, because I read the book in Vietnamese this time. Read More »

[NOVEL] GROTESQUE – NATSUO KIRINO

Summary: [Grotesque portraits] the malice and deceit that surround the female students of an elite all girls high school. ‘Here we have class based society in all its repugnant glory.’ [It tells the story of] the diabolically beautiful and nymphomaniac Yuriko and the isolated and aggressively competitive ‘outsider’ Kazue. Yuriko’s sister ‘Watashi’ (meaning ‘I’ – unnamed first narrator) feels deep resentment for the two, and tries her best to ruin them both. A monumental work of Kirino, which with overpowering literary style portraits the life of modern women (Øyvor Nybor’s translation of Grotesque’s summary Japanese version).

A woman who does not know herself has no choice other than to live with other people’s evaluations. But no one can adapt perfectly to public opinion. And herein lies the source of their destruction.

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I struggled a bit to find a nice summary in English that could sum up Grotesque; mostly because the English version has the tag “crime fiction,” and its summary makes the novel look like a thriller.

“Tokyo prostitutes Yuriko and Kazue have been brutally murdered, their deaths leaving a wake of unanswered questions about who they were, who their murderer is, and how their lives came to this end” (Grotesque’s summary English version).

There is really no detective game in this novel. Grotesque is about complex human relationships, especially women, in modern Japanese society. The author with her profound work has explored so many problems – feminism, prostitution, family and social hierarchy etc, so intricately weaved together to create a society that leaves our characters no way out. Instead of touching base on those problems, I will just talk about my impressions with Grotesque, and what sucked me in from the very first page. Read More »

[LIGHT NOVEL SERIES] BUNGAKU SHOUJO – NOMURA MIZUKI

Summary: Bungaku Shoujo series centers around Konoha Inoue, one of two members of his high school’s literature club, which he joined shortly after entering school, though the story begins when Konoha is already in his second year. The other member and president of the club is Tohko Amano, a third-year girl who loves literature. Tohko eats stories by consuming the paper they are printed on, and Tohko often asks Konoha to write her short stories as “snacks”.

“Why are you eating the parts that I balled up and threw away?”

Hinosaka.Nano.full.1238261This series of light novels got so popular that they have manga and anime adaptation, and art book. But the very first time I read them, I thought they were a little too much. The language was a little exaggerated, and the characters were unreal. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t expect everything to be real. In fact, I love unreal. I love mangas and books with mind games, strategy games, fighting scenes, exaggerated love story, etc. However, I wouldn’t expect such dramatic adventures from a series that starts with a two-member high school literature club. What makes Bungaku Shoujo worth reading, rather than real, is the ability to create to characters that any reader can resonate with.Read More »