Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Review: Wandering Son, by Shimura Takako

This is a years-spanning story of the characters Shuichi Nitori and Yoshino Takatsuki. The former, a girl assigned male at birth, the latter, a boy assigned female at birth. One may think that in Japan, as in the West, the subject of transsexuality would be depicted in a sensationalist if not mocking fashion in popular media. Even in the rare cases where the subject is given the respect it deserves, it can quickly take a turn for the dark, dwelling in bigotry and hatred.        

But read any review or description of this series and chances are you will come across the word 'gentle.' The work's gentle analysis; the work's gentle treatment; the work's gentle story telling. And, indeed, it is this gentleness that makes the series special.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Review (Adaptation Comparison): Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo (adapted from The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas)

The grey faced man, with hair running past his shoulders and fangs protruding at every laugh, invites two young aristocrats to witness the heart of the festival on Luna: a public execution. Holding a pardon to his chest and setting three cards face down, each bearing the initials of a condemned, he proposes a game to Viscount Albert de Morcerf: pick a card, any card, and he will save the life of one doomed man. ‘Yes, it almost feels as if one has actually become God,’ says the man, the Count of Monte Cristo. So begins Gankutsuou, an interesting, if increasingly imperfect, Eastern adaptation of one of Western literature’s greatest works.     

Monday, 22 December 2014

Review: Heart of Thomas, by Moto Hagio

We start with the death of Thomas. A suicide, most likely, triggered by the harsh words of Juli, his unrequited love. Devastation grabs the student body, and not a single corner of the boarding school remains silent. Their little “fräulein” was the friendliest, most charming boy one could hope to meet.
Juli, a prefect of most upstanding character, however, has no time to dwell on the past. That is until Erich, a boy the spit, but utter opposite, of Thomas, arrives at the school.
To find an LGBT work that never addresses homophobia is a rarity; to find one amongst that rarity of any artistic merit is even rarer. Where most writers who forgo bigotry do so to create non-confrontational trash, Hagio forgoes it because she is not exploring homosexuality. Male homosexuality is one, among many, aesthetic flourishes employed to add weight to her central theme: 'When does a person learn love? When does one awake to love?'*

Review: The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas

To note two things before I begin: 1) A third of my way through the novel I switched from the 1852 translation to the 1993 Robin Buss translation; 2) I will spoil a sizable portion of the book’s first-half. The former consideration owes to my learning that the 1852 edition, for reasons of mass appeal and (Victorian) morality, altered the text, removing classical references and certain subtexts. The latter stems from the book’s twelve-hundred page length. Hundreds of pages comprise the narrative’s opening, as such, I must spoil hundreds of pages.
Edmond Dantès, a man with too much going for him. His captain’s death sets him to command his own ship, the trading-ship Pharaon, by age nineteen. Add to this his engagement to the beautiful Mercédès, and even he fears a bad moon on the rise, musing that ‘[m]an does not appear to me to be intended to enjoy felicity so unmixed’. How right he is, for his seemingly unimpeded upward climb has fostered enemies. Danglars, jealous career-wise, Fernand, jealous love-wise, and Caderousse, just jealous, realise all it would take to topple their enemy is an anonymous allegation calling Edmond a Bonapartist, a claim that would be supported by the letter left him by the Pharoan’s late Bonapartist captain. Fernand sends the accusation, leading to the arrest of Edmond on his wedding day.
His last hope for salvation crashes against the public prosecutor, de Villefort. An ambitious royalist, de Villefort realises the incriminating letter is addressed to his father, a revelation which, if made public, would shatter any career hopes he has and doom his father. Left no choice he burns the letter and condemns Edmond to life imprisonment in the Chateau d’If.
Years pass with the only thing keeping Edmond sane his teacher-pupil relationship with the abbé Faria, who promises him a vast fortune if they ever get out. After fourteen years Edmond escapes, making his way to the island of Monte Cristo where he finds the treasure. Now armed with nigh-on unlimited funds, the patience of a prisoner and the knowledge taught him by the abbé, he vows to hide in plain sight among his malefactors, as the Count of Monte Cristo, so as to inflict on them suffering equal to his own.