REVIEW: Enigma

Title: ENIGMA

Author / Artist: SAKAKI Kenji

Other works by mangaka: No other works (Her husband is USUTA Kyousuke though, so maybe there are similarities between the two)

Status: Complete (7 volumes)

Genre/s: Drama, adventure, mystery, psychological, supernatural, shounen

Enigma_Vol_1_Cover

My opinion:

A group of teenagers get chosen by a creature shaped like a jaw (?) and they have to find some passwords and get out of their school in a time limit, or else bad stuff will happen. I found this manga after finishing Kamisama no Iutoori (Fujimura Akeji version), wishing for something similar. But it’s not as good. As somebody once said before: “Imagine a boy with weird hair (but really well drawn) standing in a path of sunlight, with an index finger pointing forward bravely, saying “I will save everyone!”. That is exactly how the story is.

BUT I still liked it. The mysteries weren’t hard to solve, but they were interesting enough. All of the characters are very different people, which you rarely see in a manga by the same author, since people seem to have a limit to character creativeness. It is well drawn and well explained. It simply isn’t deep as I was expecting.

 

Average rating from Manga-updates: 7.4 / 10

My rating: 7.7 / 10

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Islands of Japan

Japan’s four main islands — Honshu, Kyushu, Shikoku and Hokkaido — comprise 97% of it’s total land area, as well as most of the people, but there are actually about 6,800 islands in Japan, though approximately 430 of these are inhabited. You may not have ever heard of them, but many actually have quite an interesting history.

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Gunkanjima Island, also known as “Hashima” or “Battleship Island”, has been entirely abandoned and now is a ghost town that has been completely uninhabited for over forty years, left to crumble and fade away, even if it’s at just an hour sail from Nagasaki. At the start of the 1900s the Mitsubishi Corporation discovered that the island was sitting on an underwater coal deposit, and therefore built a mine that for a very long time worked greatly. By 1941, 400000 tonnes of coal were produced. Though the ones working there like slaves were from Korea.

Ten-storey apartments were built to accommodate the miners working there, as well as schools, restaurants and gaming houses. In 1955, it was considered the place with highest population density, with nearly 6 thousand people living there. When the coal ran out, there was no point in staying there, so practically in just one night everyone left and the island was abandoned.

Since 1974 it was illegal to visit Hashima because the place wasn’t safe. If you were caught there, the punishment would be 30 days in prison followed by immediate deportation for us tourists, but in 2009 the island re-opened and tours were organised.

Miyakejima

Miyakejima in one of Japan’s Izu Islands just south of Tokyo. It is situated upon an active volcanic chain that has already erupted six times in the last century. Apart from this, another danger is the concentration of poisonous gases that comes out through the ground, mostly sulphur. In the year 2000, all the habitants of the island were asked to evacuate due to these gases after eruptions from Oyama-san (the main volcano of the island), but they were allowed to return to their home after eight years with the condition that they had to carry a gas mask with them at all times, once the high levels of sulphur lowered.

Miyakejima might not seem like a very attractive place to visit, but it is open to tourists and visitors and you can easily buy a gas mask at one of the shops upon arrival. They say the scuba diving is great and you can swim with dolphins there.

miwajima

February 11 of 1933 was the day 21 year old Kiyoko Matsumoto started the “trend” of committing suicide by throwing herself into Mount Mihara’s crater, the volcano of the island Izu Oshima. She did this because she had fallen in love with another girl, Masako Tomita, and lesbian relationships were taboo at the time. People started to travel to Mount Mihara to suicide themselves (or commit shinjuu – Japanese word for couple suicide) or simply to see people jump. In 1993, 944 people jumped into the crater. Luckily this has ended, since Mount Mihara now has enhanced security and you cannot travel to the island with a one-way ticket.

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REVIEW: Voices of Love

Title: VOICES OF LOVE (Ai no koe)

Author / Artist: HAZUKI Kanae

Other works by mangaka: Setsunai Koi, Suki o Choudai, Girls Drops

Status: Complete (1 volume)

Genre/s: Drama, josei, mature, romance, school life, smut

Voices of love

My opinion:

I have been wanting to read this manga for a long time because I see the picture from the cover everywhere. It has been on my list for a long time and two days ago I said “right, it’s about time I read this.” So here I am. It actually disappointed me quite a lot. The cover could very well be the best thing about the manga, in my opinion. Five one-shots in one volume.

All of the stories are the same; a love story between a girl and a boy. There’re the typical teacher-student relationship and a couple best-friend-wants-more-than-to-be-friends stories. The end is very predictable in all of them and the characters aren’t that likeable. Actually, the boys spend their days sleeping with any/every girl they can get their hands on, while the girls just sit in a corner and cry. They never think it might be a possibility for them to stand up for themselves. It is also an extremely sexist manga, so if you’re sensitive to that, I wouldn’t recommend it.

But the pictures are ok-ish. I liked the jumper the girl was wearing in chapter four.

I don’t recommend you read this manga for the pleasure of reading, but if what you want is to expand your manga-knowledge and don’t really mind whether it is good or not, then go ahead. It’s bound to come up somewhere when you search for “manga” on google.

 

Average rating from Manga-updates: 6.7 / 10

My rating: 5.3 / 10

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Kanji mumblings from Spirited Away

I found this very interesting text on tumblr about the kanji from the bathouse that come out in the movie Spirited away.

 

I always wondered why the symbol “ゆ” (said “yu”) was on the door to the bath house. I asked my Japanese teacher, and he wasn’t sure so I did a little research.

The symbol is used on the entrance to 温泉 (onsen) and 銭湯 (sento), or Japanese bath houses. The word “yu” is translated to “hot water”. So, makes sense to be on a bath house, yes?

Then I did more reading. During the Edo period, these public baths became popular for men because of women who worked at these communal baths, and functioned as prostitutes as well as bath attendants. These bath houses were called “yuna baro”. The woman were known as 湯女, or “yuna”. This directly translates to “hot water woman”. Guess what the woman who ran this bath house would be called?

ゆばば。

Yubaba. (translates directly to “hot water old woman”)

Yubaba is the name of the woman who runs the bath house in Spirited Away. If you watch Spirited Away in Japanese, the female workers are referred to as yuna.

Chihiro was forced to change her name to Sen. Kinda like how strippers get names like “Candy”.

カオナシ(No-Face) keeps offering Chihiro money. He “wants her”.

THEN I read interviews with Miyazaki. This was all put in intentionally. Miyazaki’s stories are filled with underlying themes and metaphors. He said he was tackling the issue of the sex industry rapidly growing in Japan, and that he felt children being exposed to it at such early ages was a problem. 

This can be frustrating because so much gets lost in translation, and people see it as this cute children’s movie and this “masterpiece of animation” (which it definitely is) instead of understanding the deeper meaning behind it.

 

Knowing how creative the Japanese can get with their kanji, you’d expect a whole new story behind every name of the characters as well. I would like to add also the hidden meaning behind the names Yubaba and Zeniba. As already said above, Yubaba is spelt with the kanji 湯婆婆 (yu-ba-ba), baba meaning old woman and the yu appearing at the bathouse entrance. The first kanji of Zeniba’s name, 銭婆 (zeni-ba) means “yen cent”, but it used to have the meaning “archaic, ancient”, therefore her name meaning “old witch”. If you join the first kanji from Zeniba’s name (銭) with the first of Yubaba’s name (湯), you get a whole new word: sentô, meaning “public bath”. And voilà, that’s another bathouse for you.

 

There are many other interesting kanji in Spirited away. The name Chihiro literally means “a thousand fathoms”, therefore mentioning water, implying the first meeting between haku and her.

Yubaba’s baby’s shirt is similar to the one Kintarô, from a popular Japanese folklore, is wearing. Kintarô has the first kanji of his name written on his shirt (kin), while Bô, Yubaba’s baby has the same shirt, plus the kanji of his own name.

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Hayao Miyazaki always gets the credit

Hayao Miyazaki seems to be one of the most popular and the most known Japanese animation directors out of Japan, and no wonder with movies like Spirited Away, Howl’s moving castle or Porco Rosso; movies you can, and want, to watch over and over again without ever getting sick of them. But apart from this amazing animator and his team and studio, other directors are gaining fame among manganime fans and deserve to be mentioned.

Satoshi Kon, though he passed away some time ago and therefore can no longer create new movies, was one of the first Japanese animation directors to have his movies transported to the occident. I’m sure some older fans had seen Perfect Blue when it first came out, or if not at least Paprika or Tokyo Godfathers. Satoshi Kon‘s works are heart-warming and usually have some sort of twist or double meaning. He manages to combine music, sound and picture to make astonishing masterpieces that keep you glued to the seat even after the movie has finished. His Millennium Actress is one of the best movies I’ve ever seen, counting both animation and “real people films”, and it never fails to bring a smile to my face.

I first heard of Mamoru Hosoda when I saw The Girl Who Leapt Through Time and immediately after watching it I ran to try and copy the artwork before I forgot about how lovely the characters were drawn. The backgrounds are extremely detailed and you can somehow relate to the plot and characters of his movies, as they are usually high-school teenagers in worlds similar to ours. I didn’t doubt for a second to buy his newer movies Wolf Children and Summer Wars.

Makoto Shinkai is becoming more and more known with his latest films and I dare say that his backgrounds are even more breath-taking than Hosoda-san’s ones. The pacing is usually slow and gives you enough time to enjoy the scenery; my desktop images change between the backgrounds from Shinakai’s The Garden of Words and 5 cm per Second. And the endings aren’t always predictable.

Keiichi Hara‘s works create a fine line between our reality and a world mixed with supernatural elements, therefore creating the allusion that kappas might exist (Coo’s Summer) or that once we die we can have a second chance, like in Colorful.

Hiroyuki Okiura recently presented himself to me with A Letter to Momo and I already desperately waiting for another movie of his to come to me. Definitely a promising new director.

And the list surely goes on, naming a great deal of talented directors that I won’t mention. My point in complimenting all of the above was to show that there is much more to Japanese animation than Hayao Miyazaki, who always seems to get the credit. That said, I’m now going to the movies to watch Miyazaki’s latest film, The Wind Blows, that just came out in my country.

One of my personal favourites

One of my personal favourites

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REVIEW: Cat street

Title: CAT STREET

Author / Artist: KAMIO Youko

Other works by mangaka: Hana Yori Dango, Matsuri Special, Sayonara o Arigatou

Status: Complete (8 volumes)

Genre/s: Drama, romance, school life, shoujo, slice of life

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My opinion:

It’s basically about a girl (Keito Aoyama) that is a childhood actress, but due to her weakness she fails and becomes a shut-in. Then she eventually comes out to the real world and has to deal with life, while joining a special school and making cool friends and the like.

I thought it was a great manga, especially after a long time of not reading any proper shoujo. The story’s main focus isn’t the romance either, but more “finding oneself” and “getting ahead in life”. The main character wouldn’t be what you call stupid, but I think she still could do with some extra screws to get into my cool-female-character list. I was disappointed to hear that the same mangaka also did Hana Yori dango (which I didn’t like AT ALL), but the series have little in common, apart from the art.

All in all (I still love this city), it’s worth checking out if you don’t get too frustrated with manga sometimes. Oh, and Momiji wears some great dark lolita dresses that are interesting and give you ideas if you like to draw.

 

Average rating from Manga-updates: 8.9 / 10

My rating: 7 / 10

By the way, did anyone get the Kiki’s delivery service reference in here?

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Deadman Wonderland and Chenzhuang Wonderland

This is probably just me over thinking things and trying to arrive to conclusions and see similarities in things that have nothing to do with each other, but have you read/seen the manga/anime Deadman Wonderland? And you know that the theme park-prison is called Wonderland? Well, there is actually an abandoned theme park in China called Wonderland, in a village called Chenzhuang, near Beijing. The theme park had started to be built but the construction stopped in 1998 after disagreements with the local government and farmers about land prices. In 2008, they tried to restart the construction again, but it didn’t work out. Now children and photographers can run around freely, at their own risk. Most of these photos were taken by David Gray; the pictures are from the Deadman Wonderland anime. I’m sure the mangaka of Deadman took at least the name from this place.

1. 1 2 2NOT 4 4NOT 5. 5 6 6NOT2 7. 7 8. 8 9. 9 jihuoj3 s_w03_RTR2V5FI

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