Sunday, 26 February 2017

Good is Enough: A Review of 'Secret of the Princess' (2012-5 manga)

Sometimes, a well-done love story is enough. In Milk Morinaga yuri oeuvre, there’s manga with more depth and scope. While such qualities can elevate a work to greatness, a merely decent story is nothing to scoff at. Secret of the Princess somewhat explores the shackles of heteronormativity, but this seems thematic gravy to what is a well-done yuri love story.

Miu’s mother raised her to snag a prince. Miu lives by her mother’s advice, making herself cute and girly so she can marry a handsome guy. Trouble is, she goes to an all-girls’ school. For all her girliness, Miu’s had no practise dating. What if she finds the one only to mess up their first date? When Fujiwara, Miu’s tomboyish upperclassman, smashes a vase, she begs Miu to keep quiet. She’ll do anything in return. Anything. Miu demands she and Fujiwara start dating – just so Miu can practise for her future prince, of course. But is Miu’s prince closer than she thinks.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Someone Else's Nostalgia: A Review of 'Mai Mai Miracle' (2009 anime film)

Full Disclosure: I backed this film’s Kickstarter. I have buyer’s remorse. Also, spoilers.

Mai Mai Miracle wants you to feel things, other than boredom. Great animation veils undercooked characters and an unfocussed plot. Unfortunately, the film is otherwise so competent, that no dunderheaded artistic choice will distract you from how much of a slog the film is.

In 1950s Japan, there forms an unlikely friendship between an outgoing, rural tomboy and a shy, city girl. Our tomboy, Shinko, has a vivid imagination. She transforms the countryside into the ancient Land of Suo’s capital. She dreams of a lonely princess, who wants only to meet a girl her age. Our shy girl, Kiiko, can’t quite grasp Shinko’s fantasies, but reaches out to them regardless. Our heroines, alongside four boys, adventure through the countryside, until one of the boys has his life changed forever. 

Sunday, 12 February 2017

You Can't Teach an Old Dog New Tricks: An Analysis of Jason's 'Lost Cat' (2013 comic)

Contains Spoilers for the Entirety of Jason’s Lost Cat

You wouldn’t think a detective tale of a dead-eyed, anthropomorphised dog suffering mid-life crisis could be a tender examination of resignation. Jason tells a Chandler-esque crime story, which isn’t really a crime story. He tells a love story which isn’t really a love story. He tells an alien invasion story, that only becomes so by the end. Jason tells the story of Dan Dellon, a man who can’t change, but almost knows he should.

PI Dan Dellon finds a lost cat on leaving his office. When he returns it, he strikes up a conversation with its owner, Charlotte. He asks her on a date, which she accepts. Charlotte doesn’t show. Two men claiming to be Charlotte’s brothers come snooping. Dan smells a fish. But that’s a red herring. An old man, Dumont, hires Dan to find a nude painting of his former sweetheart. But that’s a red herring. When Dan closes Dumont’s case, and surrenders to the dead ends of Charlotte’s case, Dan lets years pass. He lives alone, accompanied only by a fantasy of him and Charlotte growing old together. During an alien invasion, Charlotte returns to Dan. She was a scout, and is just now coming to say goodbye. After Dan waves a gun at her, calling her a liar, Dan embraces his fantasy of Charlotte, the real Charlotte having left him.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

'Stars have Fallen in a Stagnant Pool': A Review of Akira Kurosawa's 'Scandal' (1950 film)

[Warning: Spoilers for the entirety of Akira Kurosawa’s Scandal]

Akira Kurosawa’s Scandal is a masterfully directed first draft. It is a potentially great film where one can see every mistake dragging it down. When writing, Kurosawa and Kikushima seemingly started with, ‘What if two innocent people got libelled in a sex scandal?’ As they continued, however, their interest shifted from the libel victims to their lawyer, Hiruta (Takashi Shimura), and his redemption story. In early drafts, such shifts of focus are fine, but the writers neglected to make the whole script fit this new focus.

The painter Ichirou Aoye (Toshiro Mifune) and the singer Miyako Saijo (Shirley Yamaguchi) vacation in the mountains, separately. A chance encounter leads Ichiro to chauffeur Miyako to their inn, where they have a platonic conversation in her room. Two tabloid photographers trailed them. They take a photo of this famous singer and her ‘paramour’. The tabloid has plastered their libel all over Tokyo’s streets when our heroes return. Help arrives in the attorney Hiruta, a poor, weasly-looking man, with a consumptive daughter. Can Hiruta save them?