“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:

Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 8.19.17 PM.png
Awesome, characters I know. Didn’t Annekin make him?

Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 8.19.19 PM.pngI could watch a movie just about these two having their own adventures.

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.

Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 8.29.44 PM.png

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

Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 8.49.01 PM.png

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.

Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 9.32.11 PM.png

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!

一点の差 (One Point Difference)

Current Events: 

1. ‘Tis the time of Christmas/End of Year Parties and slightly snowy mornings, also known as the time of year you really have to be careful when driving in the morning. It’s also become that time of year when taking a shower at my house becomes an internal battle between wanting to be clean and surviving bare feet on half-frozen tiles. Onsen are such a blessing; I’m so glad we have a lot of good ones in this town.

2. My Kanji Kentei results came back in November and left me close to tears, as out of the 140 points I needed for a passing score, my score was…139. The pain of missing it by only one point was both heartbreaking and extremely frustrating. And yet, in true masochistic fashion, I continue my long, arduous journey in becoming a Kanji Master. (The next test will be in January.)

3. Learning how to play Christmas songs on the guitar. (As of now, my entire repertoire is Jingle Bells and Edelweiss.) I wish the ukulele was as deep and loud as a guitar, so I wouldn’t have to worry about messing up G and D and getting sore fingertips on my left hand, but on the other hand, it sounds so nice and is easy to sing along with.

4. Been working on more and bigger translation jobs, little by little. Also been able to translate articles and websites! There’s still a lot to learn, but I feel like I’m getting closer  with every job I finish. My sleeping time has suffered a bit from this, though. Weekend recovery time is crucial.

5. Joined the health boxing tournament for the third time this year. I was able to snatch a win (and a nice-fight trophy, too!) and keep my champion title!

6: Been catching a lot of colds, about once a month for the past three months. December’s hasn’t come yet, and I hope it doesn’t end up like last year when the whole family got influenza on new year’s day. That was an incident that should never be repeated, ever.

7: Read The Lovely Bones while recovering from one of above mentioned colds. Points to Alice Sebold for creating a super creepy villain that dies a very ironic and slightly humorous death, amongst the great amount of angst and drama within the story. I thought for a while that the story would end without him being caught, but chalk that up to my usual bad literary predictions. Props to the author for the very detailed yet unexpected foreshadowing.

8: Also reread Isaka Kotaro’s Grasshopper in commemoration of its move to the big screen. It was an okay movie, but some of the action was a little corny and the bad guys were watered down to semi-bad instead of dirty, rotten, shouldn’t be allowed to breathe the same air as decent human beings-bad. But the wasp assassin subplot was done very nicely. I really want them to continue the series and make Maria Beetle into a movie too, because who wouldn’t want to watch a movie about assassins fighting on a bullet train?


Wherein the Reader Expresses Her Thoughts Regarding the Tragic Hero, Don Quixote

Just finished Don Quixote (By Miguel de Cervantes) after quite a few months of on and off reading, including a period of not reading for so long I had to start again from the beginning. My boss recommended it after I asked for for something a little less tragic after reading Anna Karenina. It’s funny and lighthearted he said. You’ll laugh, he said.

My first impression was that Don Quixote is a very sad character, and my final impression is that the book should be labeled a tragedy. A tragedy in which a depressed middle aged man with a bad case of dementia or some other neurological issue, goes out on a journey to be a knight only to be mocked and used by the people he meets, before dying unhappily with a clear mind in regret of what he’s done.

Somehow, I couldn’t laugh along with the other characters at the Don’s eccentricities, in fact, the more the story continued, the more sorry I felt for him. And the other characters just seemed more and more cruel.

If there was one thing I really enjoyed, it was reading the chapter titles, such as

“Of the Wonderful Things the Incomparable Don Quixhote Said He Saw in the Profound Cave of Montesinos, the Impossibility and Magnitude of Which Cause This Adventure to Be Aprocryphal.”


“Wherein Are Related Some Trifling Matters, as Trivial as They Are Necessary to the Right Understanding of This Great History”


Chapter LXX: Which Follows Chapter Sixty-Nine and Deals with Matters Indispensable for the Clear Comprehension of This History.”

My favorite quote, demonstrating Don Quixote’s true nature among his “madness”:

Don Quixote and Sancho withdrew to the knight’s room, and there Don Quixote gave his squire advice about governing. He admonished him to be a champion of virtue always, to strive to know himself and not to puff himself up like a peacock, whose feathers, he bade him remember, were fine, but who had ugly feet.

Also, the saddest sentence ever:

The physician was of the same opinion as the curate and Don Quixote’s other friends: that melancholy and unhappiness were the cause of the present state of his health.

Overall, the writing was pretty good, if not a little choppy through translation. Eventually, I’d like to try reading the original in its own language, as I’m sure it would flow much better in Spanish. The humor, though, I only found in the chapter titles. Perhaps I wasn’t reading it with the right mindset.

Paso a Paso ー Baby Steps to Spain ー

This summer, I took a big leap and made my first trip to a country in Europe, which I have wanted to visit for quite a while now but never had the courage to do before.

The trip was planned rather hastily this time, so I ended up going with a Japanese tour that ended up being with 34 other people, which had its benefits, (like having a private bus all to ourselves and not having to book any hotels myself) and just a few inconveniences (such as not having enough time to go into the shops you’d like to visit). Overall, it ended up a big success, and now I have a little more confidence to try traveling to all those places I’ve been too scared to go to before.

I chose Spain this time because:

1) It was the cheapest and had the most available spots at the time I planned my trip, which was last-minute, and

2) I’ve been listening to NHK radio’s “Everyday Spanish” and using Duolingo to study the language for a while. It helped quite a bit, actually, though not necessarily with speaking. In fact, I had no confidence in my Spanish language skills whatsoever. However, I was able to read and understand more than I thought I would, and that was a lovely surprise. This little guy also helped me out of a few language barrier pickles, and I carried it with me the entire time I was traveling:


3) Also….The food! Of course the food. It wouldn’t be my kind of trip without trying out something I’ve never had before.

New words I learned that I remember the most: salida (This was everywhere), caballeros (I actually was able to guide a few of my fellow tour comrades out of a very potentially embarrassing situation by learning this), mayonesa (Which, when asked for at the paella restaurant, got us a cute mayonnaise dance and parody song via Gwen Stephani’s Rich Girl from the charming waiter)  girasol (sunflower), cava (sparkling white wine from the Catalonia area), natilla flavored yogurt (The two girls I was eating this with didn’t like it, but I thought it was good!) , jamón, moda, and probarme.

If you’ve noticed that a lot of these have to do with food, you’re absolutely correct. We spent a lot of time eating, and the food was excellent. My favorites:


Tapas! Ham, Cheese, Bread, and Salsa.


Beef and Four Cheese Empanadas @ a random Pizza place In Madrid.


Really expensive Iberico ham. The pigs apparently are fed acorns?


Squid Ink Paella!


Cold Andalucian Gazpacho, Wild Hare Meat, Fries and Spanish Beer in Mijas, the White Town. We had free time to explore, and I found this restaurant, where I ended up being the only customer at the time, and the owner was a kind lady who allowed me to used my broken Spanish to order and communicate. It was good practice.  The rabbit, which I’d never had before this, was tender and especially delicious.

Of course, I was able to have many great adventures and writing all of the details here would become an epic and then I’d never finish writing, so Instead of telling all the stories, here are the highlights of my trip, in my best shots taken there. Each is worth at least a thousand words.
I happen to be a terrible photographer, but Spain is very photogenic!


Alhambra Palace, Granada


Windmill and Tractor in La Mancha


Alhambra Palace, Granada


Flying Pigeons and streetlights @ Plaza de España, Sevilla


Siesta Time

Other thoughts and things I experienced there:
1) Reading Don Quijote in La Mancha, like a boss!

2) I would have liked to see the sunflowers when they were in bloom!

3) Next time, I’m also trying some pinchos!! and more tapas!

4) What’s up with the frog near the customs exit at Barcelona airport?

5) Spanish TV –Watching pokemon in Spanish was fun. Disney Channel was in English. Also extremely envious that fútbol is broadcasted so much.

6) I want to learn a lot more Spanish now. Motivation switch—-ON!

7) Just getting there was the longest trip of my life, not exaggerating. For the first time ever, My calves got really swollen and tight from sitting down so much.

8)Didn’t realize just how important olives are in Spain. It’s their main export?!

9) I may have caught the travel bug. I’m already thinking of where I want to go next, how it will go, how to get there…

10) I need to brush up on world geography and history.

11) Prado Museum was really cool, my favorite artist there was El Greco. Also didn’t know that Picasso was from Spain, but I’m glad I got to see some of his paintings in person. Also, not all of his works are that strange abstractly wiggly-squarey style of his.

12) There are SO many beautiful places to see in Spain. We zipped through about seven or eight different cities during this trip, but we could have easily spent the same amount of time at each city and it would have been just as satisfying.

13) Things I want to learn how say: “Thank you for the food, it was really good” and “It was good, but I can’t possibly eat any more” in Spanish, and “Thank you” and “Can I have this?” in Russian. (Round trip, we had layovers in Moscow).

14) I thought American TSA agents were grumpy, but the lady checking our passports in Russia?  Wow. Imagine an angry pitbul stung by a wasp, which then had that wasp’s stinger stuck on his ass for eternity.  That’s pretty much her in a nutshell.

15) Mixed feelings about getting the full-on foreigner English treatment there. Sure, it’s a service thing, but I would have liked to suffer and get through some language barriers by myself instead of always having that English shortcut pre-served to me. In fact, it was a rare feeling to get the foreigner treatment at all. I suppose I blend in too well in Japan to have experienced it here. Interesting how appearance changes everything.

16) A few words to describe Spain:  Laid-back, friendly, artistic, sunny, arid, circular and swirly rather than rectangular and straight, mosaic, olives. Before, I would have said “Passion,” “Flamenco,” and “Bullfighting.” Glad we got that sorted out.

So I Read Go Set a Watchman, and…

Now the hot, muggy Japanese summer is upon us, and school is winding down. Thus, more books!  Here is the first:

Go Set a Watchman: A Novel, by Harper LeeUS_cover_of_Go_Set_a_Watchman

The second is Kramer vs. Kramer: a Novel, which I will write about later.

I find the way they both have “A Novel” as a subtitle…a bit condescending? As if to wash away any doubt that it could have been based on a true story. Keep them guessing, publishers. You don’t have to baby us. Also, there are so many other cool catch phrases you could have used instead. Why miss the chance?

I was excited about Go Set a Watchman from the moment I read it would be published a few months ago. The wait was excruciating. It first caught my eye because…

1) It’s Harper Lee’s second book, after many years of only one published novel.

2) Something being published now that was probably written decades ago

3) Apparently, it was the first draft of To Kill a Mockingbird, and a sequel to it.

Which are all obviously some really good bait.

So wow, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I wasn’t too overoptimistic either, and was pleasantly surprised and enjoyed it very much (I read it in two days, out of excitement.) It probably helps that Scout is now close to my age now, and had some interesting things to say, and in a snappy way.

Things I liked about it:  (SPOILER ALERT!)
1) Scout growing from a tomboy to a lady, but keeping that lovely personality and curiosity and THAT MOUTH of hers.
2) Scout as a working woman in the big city.
3) Scout and her bantering with Hank. Very nice dialogue.

4) ATTICUS.  Oh, ATTICUS.  My two cents on him in this novel: I consider it human that he could be imperfect (aren’t we all?) and that it also makes him a better and more realistic character. The way he changed (or perhaps he was always like that, and only Scout’s view of him changed) also made sense and was relatable, especially when I think about my own parents and grandparents and how their generations definitely have lines drawn and thoughts and notions that other generations like mine may not agree with (and in some cases, find repulsive. Sometimes I listen and have to repress my
“Wow, do you realize that what you’re saying is actually quite racist /homophobic/ sexist/ xenophobic” remarks to them.) So, points to Lee for doing that, I thought that was one of the awesome points of the novel. It would have been really interesting if it had been left there in To Kill a Mockingbird, though. Imagine that.

5) The prom story (you know the one), which was hilarious.

Things that surprised me:
1) JEM.
2) Lack of Boo Radley. He must have been added in later.
3) There were a lot of explicit and implicit politics going in in this book, and the general political stance seems a bit different than To Kill a Mockingbird. Not completely, but definitely a little bit.

My favorite quotes:

”She was almost in love with him. No, that’s impossible, she thought: either you are or you aren’t. Love’s the only thing in this world that is unequivocal. There are different kinds of love, certainly, but it’s a you-do or you-don’t proposition with them all. She was a person who, when confronted with an easy way out, always took the hard way. The easy way out of this would be to marry Hank and let him labor for her. After a few years, when the children were waist-high, the man would come along whom she should have married in the first place. There would be searchings of hearts, fevers, and frets, long looks at each other on the post office steps, and misery for everybody.”

Hank: “Well, as a general rule, most women, before they’ve got ’em, present to their men smiling, agreeing faces. They hide their thoughts. You now, when you’re feeling hateful, honey, you are hateful.”
Jean Louise: “Isn’t it fairer for a man to be able to see what he’s letting himself in for?”
Hank: “Yes, but don’t you see you’ll never catch a man that way?”

“First,” he said dispassionately, “hold your tongue. Don’t argue with a man, especially when you know you can beat him. Smile a lot. Make him feel big. Tell him how wonderful he is, and wait on him.” She smiled brilliantly and said, “Hank, I agree with everything you’ve said. You are the most perspicacious individual I’ve met in years, you are six feet five, and may I light your cigarette? How’s that?” “Awful.” They were friends again.

“Well,” said Jean Louise, “it takes considerable getting used to. I hated it for two years. It intimidated me daily until one morning when someone pushed me on a bus and I pushed back. After I pushed back I realized I’d become a part of it.”
“Pushing, that’s what they are. They have no manners up there,” said Claudine. “They have manners, Claudine. They’re just different from ours. The person who pushed me on the bus expected to be pushed back. That’s what I was supposed to do; it’s just a game. You won’t find better people than in New York.”

“You’re color blind, Jean Louise,” he said. “You always have been, you always will be. The only difference you see between one human and another are differences in looks and intelligence and character and the like. You’ve never been prodded to look at people as a race, and now that race is the burning issue of the day, you’re still unable to think racially. You see only people.

Lastly, the reason why I think that, though racist, Atticus is still a good father:

“Well, I certainly hoped a daughter of mine’d hold her ground for what she thinks is right–stand up to me first of all”

Dear publishers, here’s the subtitle I would have used: To Set a Watchman: Battle of the Generations.


Today’s home cooked lunch: Japanese snapper and salmon kaisendon with flying fish eggs. My review: really, really good.
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.

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
-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:

(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.


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)


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!
Current Isaka World Count: 17/30

isaka world


Thought of the day:

There’s just something special about elementary school graduations in Japan.
Beautiful chalkboard art drawn by a teacher at my school.

It says, “Congratulations!  May all your futures be full of happiness!”

Spring is finally here.


I should have seen that coming.

In my last post, you may remember that I wrote about how I am reading Anna Karenina and that I was hoping for an unhappy ending, right? And how I used that train wreck metaphor to explain how I felt reading it?

Well, I finished it last night.
And yes, I really should have seen that coming. But I didn’t.

My prediction was eerily and quite ironically spot on now that I look back on it, but I wasn’t actually expecting it to turn out that way, so props for Tolstoy for that brilliant ending and for scaring the bejesus out of me. It turned out even more frightening than I imagined.

For the record, I went into this novel knowing absolutely nothing about it, so my first expectation of it was that it would read like something by Jane Austen, and I instead got something closer to Crime and Punishment.

That’s what I get for reading Tolstoy, I suppose. Can someone recommend me some happy Russian literature? I need a break from the passion and drama and “I hate her/him/people” monologues.

The wonderful writing I noted down this time:

“All this world of ours is nothing but a speck of mildew, which has grown up on a tiny planet. And for us to suppose we can have something great–ideas, work–it’s all dust and ashes.”

“Alexy Alexandrovitch expressed the idea that the education of women is apt to be confounded with the emancipation of women, and that it is only so that it can be considered dangerous.”

“It is a vicious circle. Woman is deprived of rights from lack of education, and the lack of education results from the absence of rights. We must not forget that the subjection of women is so complete, and dates from such ages back that we are often unwilling to recognize the gulf that separates them from us.”

“His father and his teacher were both displeased with Seryozha, and he certainly did learn his lessons badly. But still it could not be said he was a stupid boy. On the contrary, he was far cleverer than the boys his teacher held up as examples to Seryozha. In his father’s opinion, he did not want to learn what he was taught. In reality he could not learn that. he could not, because the claims of his own soul were more binding on him than those claims his father and his teacher made upon him. Those claims were in opposition, and he was in direct conflict with his education. He was nine years old; he was a child; but he knew his own soul, it was precious to him, he guarded it as the eyelid guards the eye, and without the key of love he let no one into his soul. His teachers complained that he would not learn, while his soul was brimming over with thirst for knowledge. And he learned from Kapitonitch, from his nurse, from Nadinka, from Vassily Lukitch, but not from his teachers. The spring his father and his teachers reckoned upon to turn heir mill-wheels had long dried up at the source, but its waters did their work in another channel.

” He was happy; but on entering upon family life he saw at every step that it was utterly different from what he imagined. At every step he experienced what a man would experience who, after admiring the smooth, happy course of a little boat on a lake, should get himself into that little bad. He saw that it was not all sitting still, floating smoothly; that one had to think too, not for and instant to forget where one was floating; and that there was water under one, and that one must row; and that his unaccustomed hands would be sore; and that it was only to look at it that was easy; but that doing it, though very delightful, was very difficult.”

I believe that last one rang the most true to me of all I read in this story this time.

Though I’m not married, I expect that’s exactly how it would be.