Tag: anime

Furuba

Fruits.Basket.full.1184173

And so, for the second time in my life, I have finished reading through Takaya Natsuki-sensei’s lovely manga series, Fruits Basket. This is a special series for me, because it was the very first manga I ever read, back when I was sixteen or so and just getting interested in Japanese culture. In some ways, this is an odd series to begin with, especially for a sixteen-year-old guy. It’s shojo, or “girl’s manga”–a genre specifically targeted at girls between the ages of 10 and 18. It’s a fairly well-known series, but it’s never gained the popularity of, say, Bleach or One Piece (which is a shame, because Bleach, at least, is a far inferior story). The only reason I ever knew about it was because it was recommended to me by a dear friend, to whom I am forever indebted for introducing me to this story. When I first picked it up, I’ll admit that the cover designs made me a little dubious.

Cover art for Fruits Basket: Volume 1.
   Cover art for Fruits Basket: Volume 1.

 

See what I mean? But I quickly got over that. It took no time  at all for me to fall in love with this series and especially with its characters. I enjoyed it so much that I was inspired to go on and read many more manga, and I’m pretty sure that Furuba (as the series is nicknamed by Takaya-sensei) was the real beginning of my interest in Japan and all things Japanese. I’d been doing karate for years by the time I read Furuba, so I’d had a curiosity about Japan for a long time–but this story really inspired me. Anyway, that’s a bit beside the point. A few years went by, I moved out  on my own, and I decided upon finding out that a good friend owned most of the series that it was time  to read it again. It didn’t take me long to remember why I liked the story so much–and also to realize that I’d forgotten most of what happened! I still remembered the most important points of the story, but I’d forgotten so much that it was almost like reading the manga again for the first time. This managed to push Harry Potter aside for the duration of my reading it–which is a huge compliment, coming from me! (although I should grant that this is my third or fourth reread of Harry Potter and I’ve also seen all the movies a few times) Anyway, I just finished my reread of Fruits Basket a couple of days ago, and so, I would now like to share a little bit about why I love this story so much.

 

Where to even begin…? Well, I suppose I’d better start with a short plot summary. This is how the story goes: a young girl named Tohru is living by herself in a tent on the edge of town, because her mother recently died in a car accident and she has nowhere else to go (although that isn’t quite true–more on that later). She discovers, while exploring around, a house belonging to fellow named Shigure Sohma, who is living with two other members of the Sohma family, Kyo and Yuki. They take her in when they realize she was living by herself in a tent, and all they ask in return is that she keep the house clean and cook their meals. She’s grateful to accept, and the story proceeds from there. It follows Tohru’s various trials and travails as she gets to know the members of the troubled Sohma family, who are afflicted with a curse: when hugged or held by a member of the opposite gender, they change into one of the animals of the Chinese zodiac. Over the course of the story, Tohru decides to break the curse on the Sohmas, and also eventually falls in love with one particular Sohma, Kyo.

 

Now I’ll get some technical stuff out of the way. For one, the anime: in my opinion, it’s hardly worth mentioning. It condenses the entire 23-volume story of Fruits Basket into a 26 episode anime series, and has to leave out so much that it’s hardly the same story. It’s still enjoyable, but, to use a reference to the character of Hatori Sohma, it’s the seahorse to the manga series’ dragon. The other technical aspect I want to touch on is the art–it isn’t terribly impressive. The best part about it is the expressiveness of the faces, which are admittedly some of the most naturally expressive faces I’ve ever seen in a manga. But other than that, the art is nothing to get excited about. Backgrounds are minimal enough to make me think that Takaya-sensei is either plain bad at them, or dislikes drawing them as much as I do. Characters are sometimes awkwardly proportioned, beyond the usual distortion of manga style, and the bare feet of the figures are always just a little bit “off”. But neither the lackluster anime nor the somewhat lackluster art are anything to judge this series by. The most important part of the artwork–the faces and body language of the characters–are done superbly, and that’s really all that matters.

 

So probably one of my favorite aspects of this series is its characters. There’s quite a few of them–the fourteen characters who are part of the Zodiac curse, Tohru herself, her friends, the student council at her high school (a group which Yuki Sohma eventually becomes part of), and a handful of other side characters. Without exception, they’re all fleshed out and complex. Most of them have painful pasts and, as the series begins, are living in confusion or struggle. Even the unpleasant ones are easy to fall in love with, because they all just hurt so bad. The main trio of the story–Tohru, Kyo, and Yuki–are developed the most, and it’s a mark of Takaya-sensei’s skill that they remain fascinating characters throughout the series, even once we know all their secrets. The characters and their relationships are the most important element of the story. Once you look a little bit under the hood, this story is really about a brilliant  beam of light–Tohru–shining in and dispersing the clouds that have gathered over the Sohmas. The whole meaning of the story could be best expressed in the simple phrase, “Love conquers all.” That would be an easy thing to overdo or to make sappy or to ring false, but Takaya-sensei expresses it beautifully through her story. Tohru is, for the purpose of this story, love. She is able to love truly, in a way that is very rarely depicted in fiction. She isn’t blind. She sees the faults of those she loves, maybe more clearly than anyone else does–and she forgives them. She would sacrifice anything for the people she loves. She is so kind, but she is also courageous, and even implacable. She will stop at nothing to show love to the people around her. I’ve heard it said that the depth of her love, combined with her humbleness, make her seem a little too good to be human. I disagree; I think it is possible for real people to love like she does and to be humble like she is, although that’s an ideal that might be reached for over the course of one’s entire life. But more than that, I don’t think Tohru is meant to be just a normal girl. I would say that she is a saint, and this story shows what might happen if a saint were to come along and impact the lives of a broken, hurting family. But her saintliness is balanced by her humanity. She has flaws and she’s always afraid. But she is still strong and admirable.

 

It’s the light of love shining through Tohru that softens and heals the Sohma family. She utterly changes their lives, turns their world upside-down. And it’s beautiful. This story is such a powerful expression of the strength of love and forgiveness, of the redemptive power of love, that I can’t help but be a little awed. As a Christian man who wants to write stories that can show those same truths–because they are truths central to my faith–I find this incredibly inspiring. Whether or no Takaya-sensei is a Christian, whether or no her characters have any belief whatsoever in God, there’s still a good deal of holy truth shining through this story. I can’t recommend it enough. The time reading through those 23 volumes of manga with girly fronts and painfully ridiculous blurbs on the backs will be most definitely time well spent.

 

~ Jared

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Avatar: The Last Airbender

Yes, I know I’m way late to be getting into Avatar. I always seem not to get into such things until after they’re already finished (Harry Potter, for example, I didn’t read until a couple years after Deathly Hallows was published). But anyway, I just finished the series. I liked it so much that I felt like writing a blog post about it, so allow me this brief bit of rambling about a favorite story, and then I’ll get back to my regularly scheduled programming (I promise I’ll write more Them Doctors! In fact, I’ve decided that the next installment will be extra-long and hopefully get the story moving pretty well).

 

Anyway, so Avatar: The Last Airbender. I’d had multiple people tell me it was really good and I needed to watch it, but I just hadn’t gotten around to it yet. I wasn’t terribly enthused, despite all I’d heard, because I’m not a big fan of American television. In fact I’m not much of a fan of television, period, and in general I only watch anime and some story-based live action shows such as Doctor Who and the BBC’s Sherlock. So I was a bit dubious. Then I started watching Avatar and got completely absorbed into it. It’s one of those stories that you can just sit back and lose yourself in, and those are my favorite kind. So many great elements to the show… I’m not even sure where to begin.

 

I suppose the characters and the way they were handled are my favorite aspects. This might sound strange, but I love that many of the characters were immature. They weren’t immature in an annoying way, though; they were immature in a realistic way. Most of them are under 20 years old, so it only makes sense for them to be so. Yet in so many fantasy stories with children and young adults as the protagonists, they’re either not immature, or they’re immature in the wrong ways. These characters behave realistically (although they’re not always treated quite as realistically, in my opinion). They act their age, yet they also show many good and strong and worthy characteristics. They act like kids who’ve been forced to grow up too fast, which is exactly what they are. Aside from that, I enjoyed their personalities quite a lot. Even Katarra’s–although for much of the series she seemed rather flat, by the end she was rebelling against her flatness, often trying to be “fun.” You’ve gotta love it when a character realizes how serious she is all the time and starts trying to act differently. Because, of course, that’s true to real life.Another thing I really loved was the treatment of Azula in the series. In the end she’s the most twisted and conflicted of them all, and she never repents as far as is shown. Her inner turmoil is never explicitly stated, never explained. But you just know she’s torn up inside, lonely, devastated, empty. I didn’t like her when she first came into the show. By the end, I pitied her as I’ve pitied few characters in fiction.

 

Anyway. I suppose all I really want to say is that Avatar: The Last Airbender had quite an affect on me. It’s the sort of grand adventure that seems to be rare these days. People often want to make their stories “gritty” or “edgy,” make them less innocent and more mature and dark. Here we have a story made for kids, which couldn’t be any of those things precisely because it was intended for kids. I think adults need more of that kind of story… that youthful, innocent sense of adventure, good striving for victory over evil, love and redemption and friendship. There’s a reason we tell those sorts of stories to our children. You don’t want to tell your child stories that would hurt his development as a person or put wrong or bad ideas into his head, or at least most people don’t. Why should something that is not fine for one’s children be fine for oneself? Now I’m not saying this applies all across the board. Plenty of good stories have things in them that you wouldn’t want your kids to see until they were of age. But never should an adult think that just because a story is “for kids,” it has no value for an adult. I think the world would be a better place if adults cared more about cultivating innocence and a sense of adventure in themselves….

 

Okay, I started rambling. Back to Avatar. There are a lot of things I could say about it, but… I think I’ll just end with this. Avatar has spirit and heart. It’s wholesome and satisfying on multiple levels, like a good savory meal. I highly recommend it to anyone who hasn’t seen it yet. And yep, I know how late I am. :P

 

~ Jared

Randomness

Well, hello there! It’s been awhile since I posted anything here. Sorry about that, I just get inspiration for blog posts so rarely. I don’t have much inspiration for one today, really, but I felt like posting something, so there you go.

 First off, what’s new with me! I should be starting an apprenticeship at a tattoo shop  very soon. I’m enjoying my second to last semester of college (unless I go on to a four  year school… I’m thinking of, perhaps, going to art school eventually). I’m editing the  story I wrote for 3 Day Novel (and it needs a lot of work, I can tell you!). I’m reading  some manga–Fullmetal Alchemist and Planetes, and soon to start Hellsing. I’m in the  middle of an anime, too: Trigun! Which, at episode 11, has finally gotten to be pretty  interesting.

In other news, I’ve also bought several new music albums recently.  I think that shall  be the focus of this post. I haven’t done any music reviews yet, so I might as well, eh?  Okay, so I bought four albums in the past week or so: The King is Dead by the  Decemberists, The Suburbs Deluxe by Arcade Fire, A Maid In Bedlam by the John  Renbourn Group, and The Saga of Mayflower May by Marissa Nadler. They are all completely different and very good. I’ve found, recently, that I’m leaning more towards this kind of music lately… the more folky, indie stuff. I used to be really into metal. Which I still love, but I’m not listening to it as much anymore. At any rate, the albums. I guess I’ll start with….

The King Is Dead

By the Decemberists

This is the Decemberists’ latest album. It’s fairly different from their previous works–a lot simpler, and rather shorter, at only 40 minutes. When I first heard it, I didn’t like it. I thought the songs were boring and didn’t approve of the somewhat Country-ish stylistic shift. After having heard the songs several times, though, something about it has taken hold of me: it’s still the same old Decemberists we know and love, just with a new sound. This album has a more friendly feel to it than many of their others, and the songs, though simpler than in the past, are just as good as anything the Decemberists have recorded. Is it my favorite Decemberists album? No, so far nothing can beat Picaresque. But it’s good and definitely worth buying, whether you’re a fan of the Decemberists or not. Now, on to….

The Suburbs (Deluxe Edition)

By Arcade Fire

Ah, Arcade Fire. A band I’d never even heard of until quite recently. Definitely an interesting band, and a masterpiece of an album. They are, I believe, on an independent label, which is generally a good thing as far as I’m concerned. The songs on this album are fascinating. Musically, they’re good–catchy, complex, a very cool sound–but the lyrics are where they really shine. I’ve never been one to listen much to lyrics, because I for some reason have a terrible time picking them out from the rest of the music. But this album has some really interesting lyrics about modern life that make it well worth listening closely. I’ve listened to it several times and I still don’t feel as if I’ve comprehended its full depth.

A Maid In Bedlam

By the John Renbourn Group

Musically, this is probably the best of the four albums that I bought. It’s got some really lovely, complex songs in the vein of Pentangle, except more traditional. In fact, John Renbourn was the guitarist for Pentangle, and the female vocals on this album are sung by Pentangle’s lead singer. So if you like Pentangle, you’ll probably like this! It is different, however, and a wonderful album in its own right. I’m fairly certain that all the songs on here are traditional songs from the British Isles. The general style sounds somewhat medieval, with a lot of guitar. Very enjoyable, beautiful music.

The Saga of Mayflower May

By Marissa Nadler

The Saga of Mayflower May has, to my ears at least, the most beautiful sound of any of these albums. Almost the entire thing is nothing but Marissa Nadler’s guitar playing and sweet vocals, but you hardly notice that it’s only one person playing, because it sounds so pretty. The whole tone of the album is very haunting and sweet. The songs are very melancholy. It’s one of those albums to listen to when you want to be transported elsewhere….

Okay, I’ve rambled long enough, and I need to do homework now. Bye!

~ Jared