Isaka World Part 7- 死神の浮力 (Buoyancy of Death)

Diving right back into Isaka world, part 7: The Reaper returns.
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Shinigami no Furyoku is a sequel (spinoff?) to Shinigami no Seido, The Accuracy of Death. They both feature a shinigami (agent of death, reaper, whatever you’d like to call him) named Chiba who does work as a death investigator. His job is to make contact with and follow a person in the human world who is scheduled to die for seven days and send in a “Yes” or “No” report to his higher ups in the underground. If he sends a yes, the person dies on the 8th day, but if he sends a no, they continue to live. That said, most people get a “yes.”

The first book was a collection of short stories featuring Chiba and his work, but Shinigami no Furyoku is a full-length novel, and focuses more on moving along the plot and digging deeper into the psyche of the human characters of the story. And boy, what a story this one was.

The Yamanobes are a couple who have lost their young daughter to a manipulative psychopathic killer, and the novel starts with Chiba meeting them on the day the killer’s trial sentence- he is acquitted and found not guilty. This is the start of his sick game of dominance, and their quest for true vengeance.

Shinigami no Furyoku really reminded me a lot of The Lovely Bones. The ironic, satisfying end was also quite similar but still enjoyable.

What also makes this series enjoyable is how Chiba acts around humans. Generally, he does his job to the fullest, but he has no interest in humans and their doings aside from his job. He uses strange, out of date phrases and acts like he’s seen things that happened hundreds of years ago first hand (because he has, but the humans don’t know that.) His only motivation is music, with which he is obsessed to the point where it often is used in some way within the plot to make him inadvertently help or hinder his human subjects.  Also, it’s still always raining when he works.

It’s not my most favorite Isaka book, but it was still fun to read. It was kind of fascinating reading the parts about fearing death (or not) and the group mentality of dealing with a psychopath.

Quote of the day: (Chiba, on wanting to listen to music when a serious car chase is happening)
“So, if we take care of this, can I listen to it then?”

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Current Isaka Count: 21/33

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Isaka World, Part 5 終末のフール(The End’s Fool)

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Well, I sure did not expect to read another apocalyptic story since I stumbled across Alas, Babylon years ago in my local public library, (Which I especially liked, and which fully fulfilled me enough not to need any more similar stories in the future) but props to Isaka Kotaro for this interesting collection of short stories.

They take place in pre-apocalyptic Sendai, Japan, following the lives of a bunch of different residents of an apartment building two and a half years before a meteor is expected to crash into Earth, thus ending the world completely.

Interestingly enough, the story takes place before the destruction and also after the initial “end of the world panic” occurs. It’s a sort of weird peaceful time where people are still wary, but weary enough not to cause any trouble.

The book had a light but melancholic feel to it, and was the right mixture of hopeful, dreadful, suspenseful, and depressing.

It’s about the survivors still alive at that point in time, and the lives they’ve lived since the meteor was announced. Rather than big adventures or rescue missions, it’s just people living and surviving, in a terrible situation, making everyday choices. There are a few tense moments, like the brothers trying to get revenge on a TV announcer and his family by holding them at gunpoint, but there’s also the old couple awaiting their estranged daughter coming home, and a couple who need to decide whether they should have their baby or not with the future so bleak.

Whether people would really calm down after a few years of knowing that the world is going to end is extremely debatable, considering how people tend to freak out over the world ending in real life, but I found the stories all enjoyable, and they all have their little twists near the end, as usual.

The chapter titles are all stylized to use the same phonetic katakana pattern, which of course sounds awful in English but clever in Japanese:
The End’s Fool
The Sun Sticker
The Sieged Building (Beer?)
the Hibernating Girl
The Steel Wool
The Celestial Night
The Play’s All
The Deep-Sea Pole

…See what I mean? It was actually the title that made me take so long to read this particular Isaka book, because every time I saw it, it confused me. フール? It looks like pool and full, both of which make it incomprehensible, and even if you know it means fool, it still doesn’t make any sense until you finish the story.

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From 週末のフール(The End’s Fool)
「お父さんって、頭の良さってなんだと思ってるの?成績とか学歴とか、ステータスだとか、どうせそういうのでしょ。どうせ。そういうのは、わたしがひきうけるから、いいじゃん。ばかじゃないの。あのね、お父さんが馬鹿なばかりに、兄貴は不幸なんだって。」まるで、犯罪者を告発するかのように、康子はこちらを指差し、声を荒げた。「兄貴はもっと大きいことをやれるんだよ。」
“Dad, what do you even think it means to be smart? Good grades, or going to a good school? Status? That’s what you think, right? That’s fine, I’ll get all of those. You’re an idiot. That’s why my brother is so unhappy, because you’re so stupid.” As if she were pointing out a criminal, she raised her finger at me and said in a wild voice, “My brother can do even bigger things.”

From 深海のポール(The Deep Sea Pole)
生き残るっていうのはさ、あんあ風に理路整然とさ、「選ぶ」とか「選ばれる条件」とか、そういうんじゃなくて、もっと必死なもののような気がするんだ。「必死なもの?」「じたばたして、足掻いて、もがいて。生き残るのってそういうのだよ、きっとさ。」
“Surviving, I don’t think it’s that logical, like people are chosen, or that there’s categories that decide whether you’re chosen or not. I think it’s something more desperate.”
“Desperate?”
“Panicking, struggling, agonizing…I think that’s probably what surviving is more like, really.”

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Current Isaka Count: 19/32

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夏子の冒険- Natsuko’s Adventure

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So sometimes there’s this obscure story from a famous author that is brilliantly written and grabs you with the claws of a four-fingered-man-eating bear with its story and doesn’t let go until the cathartic end, yet nobody else seems to have read…

That would be Natsuko’s Adventure (Natsuko no Bouken), by Yukio Mishima.

Backtracking a little bit, Mishima is supposedly one of Japan’s best modern writers prose-wise, nominated (though not awarded) a few times for the Nobel prize in Literature. I think his style of writing probably doesn’t really translate well into English.

The guy was apparently a genius writer from a very young age and was also had a very chaotic, eccentric kind of personality, which kind of shows in his life and his novels that I’ve read so far.

When I first learned about him (we read one of his works and watched a documentary of his fascinating life) in Modern Japanese Literature class, I thought we was a bit unhinged and strange, and read his most famous novel, The Temple of the Golden Pavilion, in English. (Couldn’t read Japanese well enough just yet back then.)

I remember my opinion on it then was that the story (about a priest and his motives behind burning down a famous temple in Kyoto) was very intense. This one was intense, too. His stories have a sort of tension about them that I didn’t like at the time, but can now appreciate.
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Back to the main point! This novel I just read, Natsuko’s Adventure, easily made me want to read more of his novels. I thought it was excellent. It’s a great balance between humor, romance, and adventure/suspense. The story came to a complete circle, and the writing was witty and fun to read. Though it’s not well known, this story has the best female protagonist ever.

Storyline: Natsuko, the beautiful young daughter of a wealthy family in Tokyo, always stubbornly follows through with what she says (to the utter horror of her family), and she is tired of her life and the many guys that court her in Tokyo, who, no matter how successful they may be, are wussies who lack the one thing she wants to see… passion. So she drops put of school and decides to be a nun in Hokkaido. But along the way she gets sidetracked by a guy who is looking for revenge…on a four-fingered-man-eating bear. She sees his passion. The bear hunt begins. Hilarity and shenanigans happen.

Natsuko…is so fascinating. She’s beautiful and clever, but manipulative but stubborn, both the perfect girl and your worst nightmare. She has everyone rolling in the palm of her hand, yet she makes the most outlandish, crazy decisions, it’s amazing, I love her characterization. She’s both detestable and lovable at the same time.
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Also, one more thing: Murakami Haruki, that author I’m a bit unenthusiastic about, has written a novel called “A Wild Sheep Chase,” which is apparently a kind of spin-off of Natsuko’s adventure. I’ve actually read that one in the same class I mentioned earlier, but I remember really not liking it then. It never got anywhere and, unlike Natsuko’s Adventure, the ending seemed like a big mess. But now I feel like rereading it (this time in Japanese) to see if there’s any difference now. Not sure if I’ll ever get to it, but it’s definitely something to check out again.
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It was a perfect book to read in February, and a very pleasant surprise. I will definitely be giving Mishima a second chance. (He also may soon become one of my favorite Japanese writers…but I need to read a few more of his works to make that decision.)

When 900 Years Old You Reach…Look So Good, You Will Not. – Watching Star Wars, Part 5 (Episode VI)

Time to do a recap of Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, released in 1983. (When I was still not born.)

This concludes machete order. It’s been…a fairly peaceful and short journey. I’ve enjoyed myself a lot. I may have even become a fan of the franchise.

Jabba is absolutely disgusting.
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And finally, I understand what the famous Leia costume is all about…though doesn’t Jabba being next to her in most of the scenes where she’s wearing it make it kind of a waste?

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Why did I find this so amusing?

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I knew this guy would be back! It’s the bounty hunter’s kid clone, right? (That said, I was hoping for a better explanation of his story.)

So Yoda is 900. That answers some questions.
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And Luke and Leia are siblings…does everyone just ignore the fact that Leia kissed her brother in Episode IV??

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Am I the only one who finds the fish head scientist distracting?

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Hobbits! I don’t know what these guys are called, but they’re really cute.

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My favorite shot of this movie.

1) Let us never forget what a shitty father Vader was! He is domestically violent to his wife, completely ignores Leia, and only saves Luke at the very end. He also dies at the very end, abandoning them after being redeemed. A model parent, he is not.

2) I think that each trilogy is like a three-act play, no wonder they have Shakespearian versions of the movies in book form. I, II and III make a tragedy/tragic romance, IV, V and VI make a heroic epic drama…what will VII VIII and IX be?

3) So far, my ranking of the movies:

III&V

VI&IV

II

4) I do recommend Machete order for people who are watching this movie for the first time, though I imagine watching it in release order is good too. In the lucky case you aren’t yet spoiled for the big reveal, it’s definitely best to start with IV and V.

5) Strangely, It feels awkward calling it sci-fi. It’s more fantasy/adventure to me. Guess that’s why they call it ‘space opera.’ I imagine the story could work just as well even if it wasn’t set in space.

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Next: Episode VII: The Force Awakens (Yup, the new one. Went to see it over new years.)

To re-watch: Episode I: The Phantom Menace

“Started Making Sense, This Story Has” -Watching Star Wars, Part 3 (EPISODE II)

Okay, now on to Star Wars Episode II: Attack of The Clones.
It was released in 2002, when I was still in middle school.

After watching IV and V, we get to see what I’m pretty sure is Darth Vader’s origin story. Despite the up-to-date graphics and CG, we’ve taken a jump back in time. I do remember parts of this movie, which means I’ve watched it sometime before, but it’s a good refresher for what is to come. And after seeing IV and V, a lot of things make sense now. And there were so many references and call backs to the original trilogy that made it fun to watch.

Let’s see the blow-by-blow:

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First of all, I feel for Obi-Wan. This story was basically Obi-Wan doing his best not to screw everything up and Anakin making his life impossible. Poor guy.

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Even Jar-Jar looks like he’s pitying him. He knows what’s up.

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Part one of the game, “Where have I seen this before?”

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“Poison Dart” –> WHY are you touching it with your bare hands?!

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I don’t know who this guy is, but he looks evil. Also, he’s talking about immortality. Ergo, he is evil.

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Girls, if you tell a guy to stop doing something that makes you uncomfortable and he makes this face? Don’t fall in love with him. Call the police. Creepy, Anakin. Creepy.

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“I hope he doesn’t do anything foolish” –> Who wants to bet that he will later on in the movie?

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I love the small detail where he’s pulling up his pants.

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This face is extremely creepy.

 

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Winner of the “Prettiest shot” competition. I want a galaxy map like that.

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Wait…is this the couple that raises Luke in Episode IV???

 

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Creepy face #201

 

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Master Yoda’s badass entrance!

 

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I have a feeling we’ll be seeing this kid again soon. Revenge story?

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OOOOOHHHHH it’s the death star!! Things are coming together!!!

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#notimpressed

 

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Love the way master Yoda fights. He’s so fast all of the screencaps came out as a blur.

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It’s that guy from the hologram in Episode IV!!!

  • Things are finally starting to make sense. The Death Star, the Dark side, Obi Wan and Anakin too.
  • I really see now that I was deceived by Episode I Anakin, whom I assumed to be a good guy when I was a kid. (I was still in elementary school!) Do not be fooled by the cuteness, this kid is dangerous. Definitely villainous material.
  • Starting to see a trend of arms getting lopped off.
  • The character I really feel for is Obi-Wan in this movie. Nobody listens to his instructions.
  • I really want to know what happens in VI already, but patience, young padawan, patience.
  • The romance was very very awkward, and a lot of the acting was, too. But I’m pretty sure by now nobody is coming to see Star Wars for the acting.
  • The various outfits for Padme were interesting, I liked the blue long dress the best. (Also, the black one was obviously used to distract the audience from the acting during that terrible romance scene.Onwards to Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, which I have never seen. We’ve now hit the halfway point! No turning back now!

 

“No. I am.” Watching Star Wars, Part 2 (EPISODE V)

I watched Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

First thing I noticed: Huge jump in quality all around. There was more watching it for the story than scratching my head while thinking “There’s definitely someone in that robot suit” or “Hmmm…that food looks suspiciously like corn with the husk still on…” like in Episode IV.

Even the way people were falling down was better. The lightsaber fights were kicked up a notch too.

I also noticed the iconic Darth Vader theme music started in this movie.

Most importantly, the quote I’d learned was wrong. It’s “No, I am your father.” How did that become “Luke, I am your father?” It’s the biggest cinematic reveal in history and one of the most known movie quotes (even I knew it, and I hadn’t even seen the movie) and everyone is saying it wrong?

Screencaps and thoughts:

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I don’t really understand this relationship. It’s a red flag for me for Han and Leia romance, though I don’t really think it’s necessary. The following kiss with Luke was even more unnecessary.

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Awww Chewie you’re the best.

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This is my favorite scene so far, art wise. So pretty!

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Finally, Master Yoda appears! Just how old is this guy? Also, he’s much more eccentric and kooky than I remember in the other movies. Old age?

Thoughts- I liked the quality of the movie. Still not clicking emotionally with Luke (or Leia or Han for that mater) so it’s getting harder to root them on. But because of the non-human side characters (Chewie, R2D2, Master Yoda) it is still fun to watch.

Onward to Episode II- Attack of the Clones

“We’re doomed, sister.” (Watching Star Wars, Part One (EPISODE IV)

Here’s a little movie background knowledge about me:

First, I’m a true (younger) 90s kid, and I never had an 80s movie phase.

Second, I wasn’t too big on going to the movies growing up, preferring books, manga, anime, and soccer to everything else.

So as a kid, I was not quite as well inducted into Hollywood movie culture as well as my peers. I didn’t know the names of a lot of actors and actresses (preferring the characters within the movies rather than the real people acting them) and preferred story-based movies over action and Sci-Fi. A lot of things I thought I knew were actually second hand knowledge, for example the bullet dodging scene from The Matrix and “Luke, I am your father.”

Thus, I’ve never had a huge interest in Star Wars. I know, it makes me sound like someone who’s been living under a rock. Actually, I was living ON a rock in the middle of the pacific ocean, but…yeah. Let me educate myself.

I know now that the reason it never caught with me was because the first Star Wars movie I saw as a child was Episode I, the Phantom Menace, which after some short research online, is apparently the worst movie to start with of the entire series if you really want to enjoy it. First of all, the name is EPISODE I, which kind of sounds like the beginning of something, which it really isn’t. I also wasn’t aware of exactly how many movies there actually were and how they were all linked together as one story. I figured any earlier movies either weren’t relevant to the story or just stand alones (BIG mistake, I know. But remember, I wasn’t born when they were made. I didn’t even know the first trilogy existed!

I didn’t realize how awful my situation was until yesterday. (I will go into detail about this later). Watching Episode I, I was unable to understand or connect with any of the characters, and nothing made any sense to me. Everything was confusing, and the action, while exciting, was simply that, action. I remember most of the character names and some random events, but not what they contributed to the story.

This was followed later by Episode II, which, combined with my second-hand information of the original trilogy, just confused me even more for a variety of reasons, mostly including:

  • Padme and Anakin’s relationship, which is unrealistic? (Also, it’s borderline creepy. Come on, try imagining it with the genders switched, I dare you.)
  • There’s two Skywalkers? (Thanks to vague second hand information, I’d completely confused this information.)
  • All the boring people talking about boring things that made no sense in the senate.
  •  I’m pretty sure I thought that Princess Amidala was Princess Leia and Anakin’s full name was Anakin Luke Skywalker.

Basically, thanks to secondhand information, I was spoiled for best reveal in cinematic history forever and consequently confused it with the worst movie in the series. Sad, I know. I think I lost interest in the series altogether after that. I think anyone would after starting like this, it was brutal on my attention span as a kid, especially because I disliked anything without a proper story. In short, I was doomed.

But now, with all the hype about the new movie coming out, and a kind friend who explained that there’s a better order in which to watch them, I felt compelled to finally watch the rest of the movies. (He said to watch 456123, but I checked online and decided to go with Machete Order (from this website) So let me be free from ignorance from today on, for I have finally started watching these movies in this order: IV, V, II, III, VI, then I as an afterthought.

(Who in the world would think to start watching a series from episode IV, and completely ignore episode I? Think about it, it sounds absolutely ridiculous.)

Let my journey begin now, only when I’ve finished all prior movies will I allow myself watch the newest. Also, I’ll be documenting my thoughts and screencaps, because that sounds like fun.

For the record, this is my prior knowledge and what I could remember of Star Wars before starting. (From watching what I think are  Episodes I and II, or from second-hand knowledge.)

  • “Luke, I am your father”
  • Annakin being a really cocky son of a you-know-what
  • Pod-racing
  • That one scene where they’re tied up to pillars and have to fight monsters in a colloseum
  • The golden arm and kiss (My reaction then: ??????!!!!)
  • Yoda’s famous “fear leads to hate” speech
  • Yoda being badass
  • Jar Jar saying me-sa and you-sa
  • Darth Maul vs Qui Gon Jin -Maaaaasterrrrrrrrrr!!!!!!
  • The way Chewbacca cries
  • The girl switch

So let’s begin with Episode IV: A New Hope, released May 25, 1977. Here’s the scene-by-scene rundown of my thoughts:

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Awesome, characters I know. Didn’t Annekin make him?

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Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 8.21.54 PM.pngFirst impression of Luke Skywalker: He’s got a lot of hero-angst-itis . Biggest symptom: he whines a lot.

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First surprise: Obi Wan’s an old man? This made it easier to recognize that it takes place after episode one, though.

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I really want to nitpick about how they’re conversing in two completely different languages. But, remembering that this was made in the 1970s and is a made up world, let it pass. Also, my first impression of Han Solo is that he’s sassy.

 

Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 9.25.30 PM.pngThis fight scene! So low key! It made me laugh. Reminds me of kendo, without the yelling.

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So much sass!

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Oooh, pretty fireworks.

Thoughts after episode IV: Overall, it worked out nicely. I’ll continue to go with machete order. Despite the 70s graphics, episode IV actually has a story, and is easy to follow. It’s also interesting. Even the cheesy graphics were great. Nobody unnecessary showed up and most of all, it made sense.

Other thoughts:

  • Love how we know what R2D2 is saying to C3P0 without him actually speaking. That’s a creative way to move dialogues around.
  • Sorry, but none of the human characters were really likable. Props to the writers for not making everyone perfect. (My main problems with the main trio: Leia-bossy Han-sassy Luke-whiny)
  • I enjoyed the 1970s speech patterns, it was very distinct, sister.
  • Sensing a love triangle forming, but I really don’t think it’s necessary. Is that also Han and Leia foreshadowing? Seriously, they just met. And this is an adventure. Why force it?
  • Without R2D2 and C3PO, I probably wouldn’t have made it past the five minute mark.On to Episode V!

FOR N

Today’s home cooked lunch: Japanese snapper and salmon kaisendon with flying fish eggs. My review: really, really good.
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Recipe: Cook rice, cut fish (this time, Japanese snapper“madai” and salmon). Add furikake to rice. Add a shiso leaf. Arrange fish on rice. add fish eggs. Pour on sauce (this time, I used a regular shoyu). Enjoy. Cry from deliciousness.
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Last week, I read Minato Kanae’s  Nのために (For N).

The plot: A man and his wife, Mr. and Mrs. Noguchi, are found dead in their luxury apartment in Tokyo . Four other people are related to the murder. What really happened in the room on that January night? Reading through each person’s testimony, and their thoughts from 10 years after the case occurs, the truth is unraveled, bit by bit.

The players:
Noguchi Takayuki-Victim one. A very wealthy businessman who also has an impressive inheritance. Successful and well-liked…or is he?
Noguchi Naoko- His wife. Victim two. Beautiful, delicate, and feminine. Rumor has it that she is cheating on her husband.
Sugishita Nozomi-Girl Nozomi. Grew up on a small island in the country. Good at playing Japanese chess. Has a tendency to make a lot of food and store it in her fridge and freezer with tupperware.
Ando Nozomi- Boy Nozomi. Lives in the same apartment building as Girl Nozomi and Nishizaki. Also from a small island. Ends up working at Noguchi’s company.
Naruse Shinji-  Went to the same high school as girl Nozomi. Works at a high-class french restaurant in Tokyo.
Nishizaki Masato- Aspiring author living in the same apartment building as the two Nozomis.  Has a handsome face and a bad case of pyrophobia. The cigarette burns on his body may be the reason.

Read if you like:
-Multi-faceted female character depicted as strong, but not technically in a physical or evil way.
-Human relationship-based suspense
-Drama!
-Constant change of POV
-A well-thought out story
-Convoluted spider webs of motive and intent

Don’t read if you are triggered by:
-Domestic violence
-Books within books

Watch the Drama instead if you:
-Can’t read Japanese

Best quote that caught my eye:


誰かに愛されたいなんて思わない。愛されるための努力なんて絶対しない。それがいかに愚かな行為であるかということは、痛いほど身にしみている。
(I’ll never want to be loved by anyone, and I won’t put in any effort to be loved by someone. t’s been stricken painfully so deeply in my heart just how pitiful it is to do so.


The beautiful part of this novel was how Minato gave each person another person that they are basing all of their actions upon. Each N is working for a different N, and may or may not like or care about any of the other Ns.
There is also a drama made about it, which I haven’t watched yet, but would like to. My rating: a strong 4/5.

Kanji

When I first started learning Japanese, the first wall I hit was the Kanji wall.
It starts off nice and easy, with characters like 一 (one)、上 (up) 、日 (sun, day) that are easy to recognize and remember.

The first wall comes up at the intermediate level, when they start getting more complicated. I remember struggling with kanji like 練(to polish)、境 (border)、送 (to send)、and 曜(weekday) back in my second or third years of learning Japanese.

If you take the time to get past that first wall, you’re generally doing a great job, and can pretty much get by without much trouble.

Then, there’s the second wall,much taller and imposing than before.  It’s the Joyo Kanji wall, or all the Kanji learned up to high school, and the ones used in newspapers and publications.

For the past few years, I’ve been studying and taking the Kanji aptitude test, which is broken down into 12 levels, with level 10 being the easiest, and level 1 having a pass rate of about 10 %. I started from Level 5 about two years ago, and am slowly working my way up to level 2.

I just took the Pre-2 level last weekend. It covers about 1940 characters. I have to wait another three weeks for the results, which I believe I have about a 50% chance of passing.

Somewhere along the way, after hours and hours of intense studying, I’ve learned to like Kanji characters quite a bit.

It helps that I’m also learning calligraphy, but there’s something amazing about spending the time to learn almost 2000 different characters with various meanings just to read. And the more you learn about them, the more stories they tell you about themselves.

The best thing I like about Kanji are the four letter idioms.
In the Japanese language, most wisdom can be shortened into a concise phrase using just four kanji characters.
The kanji aptitude test covers these idioms, and after buying a dictionary and copying down the ones that were relevant to my level, I found a few gems.

鯨飲馬食— Whale, Drink, Horse, and Eat.  It means, “To drink like a whale and eat like a horse.”

失笑噴飯 — Lose, Laugh, Erupt, Meal. It means, “To hear something so funny that you spray your food out of your mouth laughing”

I spent so much time studying that now, I’m actually feeling a sense of loneliness from not studying.  Perhaps I have a kanji studying addiction?

Isaka World Part 3- Eine Kleine Natchmusik (A Small Serenade)

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So last month I finished reading another one of Isaka Kotaro’s books.  He’s named it Eine Kleine Natchmusik, or A Small Serenade, which I found out after reading is a musical piece written by Mozart.
Apparently the Natch part means “night” as well, so it’s literally translated as ” a small night music.”

If you don’t know it, go listen to it, the novel fits the music to a T: Light, easy, playful, and classy.

It turned out to be fourth place in the 2015 Japanese “Book of the Year” award contest, and was actually one of two books he contributed that were nominated.

The format is Isaka’s usual style, with a bunch of short, unrelated shorter stories that eventually tangle up with each other nicely as the story continues.  The style, however, is a lot lighter than his other titles (no kidnapping, assassins, murders, or anything like that) and has a surprising amount of romance, though it’s definitely not presented in an overly sappy way, which I appreciate. In fact, half of the relationships didn’t even end up happily together, which made it so much more realistic. The theme of the entire book is “Encounters.”

There were so many plot twists and reveals that it still felt like reading a mystery. Behold, a new novel genre: Romance mystery. Do these already exist?

Among the chapters within the novel, I liked “Light Heavy” and “Looks Like” the best.

Light heavy includes an almost-relationship where the couple in question haven’t met in person (only talking on the phone) and the reveal that happens is completely hilarious.

“Looks Like” is a story about a relationship that didn’t work out in the end, covering a son who dislikes being told he looks like his father, and a past relationship of said father that ended in a break up, with awesome running jokes spanning generations and a fateful reunion.

And if Mozart wasn’t enough, the musical tie-in with Saito-san (A mysterious fortune teller used in some of the stories who uses music to communicate with his customers) is also great.
He’s actually based off of Saito Kazuyoshi, a rock singer in Japan, who collaborated with Isaka Kotaro to create a song based on the short story version Isaka wrote in 2011. The song is “Very Very Strong~Eine Kleine~“, and it rocks.

So yes, I found this particular book pretty awesome. 5/5 for me!
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Current Isaka World Count: 17/30

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