Tag Archives: Romance


Tsuki ga Kirei – As the Moon, so Beautiful

As the moon, so beautiful follows the romantic relationship between Kotaro Azumi and Akane Mizuno, two junior high classmates. You won’t see world shattering events, or much in the way of melodrama. The plot centers squarely on everyday life, teenage conflicts with parents, stress of school and extracurriculars, and two young souls trying to find their way around romance. The story struck me as realistic and grounded. For once, the male protogonist isn’t a hothead or total dunce. He makes mistakes and often simply doesn’t know what to do. Likewise Akane isn’t overly sweet or combative. She, too, misreads Kotaro and makes mistakes.

I only found myself mentally calling Kotaro an idiot once throughout the 12 episodes, which is quite a feat for an anime such as this. Most of the time, male protogonists frustrate me with their foolish and superficially dense behavior. You don’t see such here. The fumbles Kotaro and Akane make are realistic and, even better, they realize they screw up and work to fix it. The story is filled with awkward, endearing moments of silence between them as they just don’t know what to say. But at the same time, the silence is never cold. It reverberates with the developing feelings they have for each other. They simply lack the vocabulary. Their feelings lack an overt sexuality too. They simply like each other for who they are. While some may view the innocence as unrealistic, I found it refreshing. Sexuality is overemphasized. Love can exist without sex. While sex may reinforce such feelings, we often confuse its hormonal drive as love.

I mentioned how As the moon, so beautiful feels realistic. In one scene, both use the Internet to research dating ideas. This realism extends toward a key element that Kotaro and Akane use to develop their relationship: a messenging app called LINE. Throughout the story, they use the app to keep in touch. They even comment in a scene how its easier to talk over the app than in person. This details captures modern dating culture well. Many people are more comfortable texting and sending online messages than talking in person, particularly at the start of a relationship. It can help people who are naturally quiet and, perhaps, a little shy–as with Akane and Kotaro. It also allows people to stay in touch when schedules refuse to cooperate, which is another detail the anime shows. In fact, LINE becomes essential to the Akane’s and Kotaro’s relationship as their schedules force them apart. Through LINE, they support each other’s efforts and cheer each other on. Akane with track and field. Kotaro with writing.

As the moon, so beautiful builds on the idea that people don’t need words to show their feelings. Akane and Kotaro act in little ways that cements their bond–little gifts, gestures, and even glances across the classroom. There is a great scene where Akane is running in an important event, but says she doesn’t want Kotaro to watch–even though she actually does. Kotaro picks up on this and goes to the event without her knowing (he messages his support over LINE) and then leaves before she could see him. Later Akane finds out he had done this, and it makes her happy. He had both supported her wishes of him not watching (which she says would fluster her) and her quiet desire for him to be there. Small actions like this shows an attentiveness to unspoken desires, which shows love. Granted, it’s easy to miss such things and expecting a partner to always realize what is unsaid can cause problems.

As the moon, so beautiful struck me as unabashedly Japanese.  Kotaro pursues traditional dance at a temple and takes part in traditional festivals. The festivals and temples play key roles in the course of the story–providing important moments such as Kotaro’s confession to Akane on temple grounds. In many school-related anime, Japanese culture is downplayed for the safer, and more accessible, secular school scene. Sure, there are Japanese elements even within this, but they are the typical mainstay of anime: culture festivals, kimono, and the like. As the moon jumps into the elements usually ignored or glossed over, but it doesn’t seek to make them exotic or anything. Like LINE, the cultural elements and festivals are just a part of everyday life.

The normalcy of the story and the delicate handling of romance–the awkward silences, the online messages, the clashing schedules–sets As the moon apart from most other romantic anime I’ve seen. Too often, such stories use comedy and superficial cluelessness to create a blunt, stereotype-laced stories. As the moon uses many of the same tropes, such as love triangles, but it handles them with subtlety and care. The English version of the title has a poetic feel, and the story throughout holds the same feeling as the title. It has a crisp beauty to it and avoids feeling saccharine. The soft animation matches its realistic, understated focus.

Some viewers may grow frustrated with its quiet, realistic pace. For many episodes, apparently little happens. That is, unless you pay attention to the subtext. Behind the slow pace, much is going on: commentary about the role of the Internet in relationships, the effects of others’ opinions on relationships, and how love affects friendships. But all of the messages are subdued and remain a part of the environment the romance develops within. There isn’t any fighting or action scenes. There isn’t any fan-service or sexual comedy. The awkwardness and the silent scenes may prompt some viewers to yell at the screen. But for those who like character-focused stories, stories of two people awkwardly learning about each other, stories based on realism, check this one out.


Fanfiction Review: The Heart of the Ocean. Chapter 2.

Alex continues her review of Mystrade in this mashup of Titanic and BBC’s Sherlock. For those who are not familiar with Mystrade fanfiction, the story concerns a yaoi pairing between Mycroft Holmes and Gregory Lestrade. The original fanfiction is written by somebodyswatson. You can read it here.

Starting off, you immediately share in Mycroft’s displeasure and lack of enthusiasm. Even though the air is humming with excited emotions, (trust me, you can feel them,) you feel as bored as a bookworm at a sporting event. In the middle of wanting to hit your head off of a wall, there is a pause. You can’t help but feel your chest swell with awe and wonder. Almost able to see the magnificent ship rising up in front of you in all her glory and splendor.

Moran is introduced in this chapter, (he is from BBC’s Sherlock for those who are unaware). He is the valet for, of course, one James Moriarty, (also from BBC’s Sherlock). Who struts in as a wealthy pain in the rear. (For our poor Mycroft at least). He flashes his wealth, is openly an arrogant jerk, and you feel the urge to either sock him in the face, or recoil and hope his slimy, high and mighty attitude doesn’t rub off on you. And he just HAS to be the one who says the infamous line, “God himself couldn’t sink this ship”. (…..thanks Moriarty. Thank you very much. Future deaths and tears that I will undoubtedly shed will be on you. A$$).

You continue to share in Mycroft’s unimpressed attitude. Possibly even frowning in slight disgust at the way Moriarty behaves. (He really takes the place of the wealthy, slimeball jerk role quite well. Way to go with that somebodyswatson, thumbs way up from me). You honestly keep swapping emotions throughout this chapter. Switching between bored, unimpressed, feeling trapped and caged, to excitement, awe, wonder, and bittersweet feelings from farewells of every sort. It’s done beautifully, and the feelings don’t overpower the details. And vice versa.

When they’re boarding the RMS Titanic, you’re in absolute awe. The details, the electricity in the air, the grim aura surrounding Mycroft, you’re completely sucked in. It’s like you’re actually there with him, experiencing everything. The throngs of people, the happy laughter of children, the hum of the ships engines and the sounds rising above it, you’re living it all. And the details, oh the details! You glance up from reading, and you half expect to be standing among the passengers outside waiting to board, in the halls of the Titanic, or in the suite the trio will be staying in. It’s amazing, it really is.

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( Predestination by Beginte on Deviantart.com )

Sherlock is mentioned again, and here a frown returned to my face once more. Poor Mycroft didn’t really have a choice with whatever is going on. (Well..I mean, he did. But he really didn’t). If you weren’t feeling bleak about his situation before, whatever his situation is, you should at this point. This ship is a prison. Basically a golden cage. From the moment Mycroft stepped from the automobile, boarding the Titanic, viewing their rooming arrangement, it was all a downhill tumble. Whatever happened with Sherlock, it wasn’t good. And it seems to have only gotten worse for our Mycroft from there. This ship is suffocating. This cruise is not a vacation or something to be enjoyed. And I can bet their destination isn’t something to be looked forward to either.

Mycroft is depressed, unimpressed, and living in a mini Hell. And, when he’s mentioning Sherlock, your heart aches. He loves his brother dearly. He did this, whatever this is, to save him. No regrets are held about saving his little brother. Mycroft loves Sherlock. Always has. Anything that has ever needed to be done to protect his brother, he has done. Anything that will ensure Sherlock’s safety, Mycroft will do. But..it doesn’t mean that Mycroft can’t mourn the loss of his freedom. Of his life. And you feel that. With all the excitement going on, through the events slowly unfolding, you share in Mycroft’s distress. His despair. His loss. But, Sherlock is alive. And Sherlock is safe. Losing him would have been worse than this Hell and the future that it seems to hold. And so, it’s on that note, that we continue on to chapter 3. (Impatiently awaiting the appearance of our dear Gregory).


Fanfiction Review: The Heart of the Ocean. Chapter 1.

Fanfiction sits in an important fandom niche. Fanfiction can encompass anime or, as in this case, Western stories. Alex reviews a fanfiction based on BBC’s Sherlock. While you may wonder what this has to do with Japan, Japanese culture has inspired modern fanfiction of all types. This story, “The Heart of the Ocean,” involves a pairing called Mystrade, a contraction of the names Mycroft Holmes and Gregory Lestrade. This story is essentially Western yaoi. You can read the fanfiction here.

Dang-cap-cua-Heart-of-the-Ocean-NecklaceThis fanfiction is based around the 1997 movie of Titanic. (The movie stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, and other actors and actresses who all make this movie come alive. I highly recommend it. But, I digress). Mycroft takes the place of Rose, (Kate Winslet’s character), and our dear Gregory replaces Jack, (Leonardo DiCaprio’s character). Others from BBC’s Sherlock take over roles that are in the movie. And while somebodyswatson follows details and scenes from the movie beautifully, some details are changed up a bit to help this amazing fanfiction flow more smoothly with it. But I’m not going to spoil everything.

The feeling of wonder and nostalgia is almost immediate. The events of April 14th, 1912, are known to many. The lives that lived, the lives lost, feelings, memories, almost nothing but history now. Pictures, words on paper, tales told and retold. For those who have seen the movie, and lovers of Mystrade, this tale will certainly not disappoint. Somebodyswatson wrote gold with this, they did a marvelous job.

Looking for stories to read, I go by what I’m feeling at the time, and by what catches my eye. Scrolling through Mystrade and Johnlock fanfics, the title caught my eye instantly. The tragic tale of the Titanic caught my attention at a young age, and I am a huge fan of the movie. I absolutely love it, and I cry my eyes out every time (But, back to the topic). Right away I grumbled to myself, because the death of one of my precious babies is something I do not enjoy reading. (It was also well past 1 in the morning when I stumbled upon this multi-chapter work of art). …but Mystrade. And Titanic. I needed this in my life. The curiosity would just kill me if I didn’t give in and read this. So, much as my grumblings tried to talk me out of it, I gave in. (As if I actually had a choice to begin with once I saw it). To cut off my personal ramblings, I continue with the review of this wonderful story. (Really, I can’t give it enough love. It’s fantastic. ..anyway).

*Review Start*

Infiltration

( Infiltration by scigirl451 on Deviantart.com )

Somebodyswaton did a bloody great job of blending characters in, following the movie, and making the feelings and emotions..the reader really feels everything from the get-go. Especially if you love the pairing and have seen the movie. As far as characters who are introduced in the first chapter, we have Mycroft and Anthea, (BBC’s Sherlock), and Lovett and Bodine, (Titanic. While Lovett is a real person, I believe Bodine was just a created character for the movie). Sherlock is briefly mentioned, as is Moriarty, (both from BBC’s Sherlock). But Moriarty will definitely be seen in this story from the sound of things. Our lovable Lestrade is also mentioned. (Also from BBC’s Sherlock). This being a Mystrade story, we will most certainly be seeing him later on.

Having seen the movie, I can hear the music from it as I’m reading this. (That’s how close somebodyswatson kept to the details of the scenes). The emotion started right off for me. It was like looking at an old photograph and reminiscing. Mycroft is spot on. His wit, charm, elegance, he’s all there. And it’s all shown beautifully. Anthea, ever loyal with her phone glued to her hands, is right by his side. This is just the first chapter, and I was glued from the first line. It starts off where the movie does, of course. Somebodyswatson didn’t miss a detail. (Seriously. If you haven’t seen this movie, go watch it. Now). And it cuts off right before Mycroft begins his tale of being aboard the luxury cruise liner.

Through the majority of this chapter, I was chuckling and grinning. Mycroft was being his usual classy, subtly sassy, genius self. (Just a few reasons why we love him). But the moments where he’s remembering, where he feels..the reader feels too. You see his face, you hear his thoughts, you experience everything. You are right there with him. And you remember. It happened. And, for this story, it happened to him. The heartbreak, sadness, pain, fear, you’re going to feel it, to experience it. But, along with all those feelings, there is also love, happiness, joy, living. You’re going to be pulled into it all. The curiosity of the crew, even if you know the details, read the book, watched the things, you’re going to share it. To sit in front of Mycroft, waiting, preparing yourself to hear his life. You’re doing that by reading the first words of this chapter, this tale. And that’s where you’re left. Waiting. Wanting to listen. Wanting more. And so, one chapter ends. But the story is merely beginning.


Dusk Maiden of Amnesia

Dusk Maiden of AmnesiaDo you believe in ghosts?

Seikyou Private Academy is odd for a school. It’s winding halls end in abrupt dead ends. There are stairs that go no where. One wing of the school, the oldest, is used for storage and is seldom visited. Ghost stories abound about that wing. The stories all share a name: Yuuko-san.

Teiichi Niiya likes those ghost stories. He found himself in one of the furthest rooms of the ramshackle school wing. An old mirror stands. Of course, there was a ghost story about that old mirror. It was said whomever gazed into the mirror should not turn around. Yuuko-san waits behind to steal souls. Teiichi hears a sound behind him and turns. It is just a story, after all. A girl dressed in an old school uniform regards him. Her hair, long and dark, floats in a wind that doesn’t blow. Yuuko-san.

dusk-maiden-of-amnesiaIt turns out Yuuko-san isn’t such a bad ghost. She only has a few problems. She’s dead. She’s lonely. She can’t remember her past. Teiichi and YuukoKanoe, as her name was when she was alive, found the Paranormal Investigations Club to look into Yuuko’s forgotten past and all the ghost stories surrounding the school.

amnesiaYuuko can only been seen by people who become aware of her. As a ghost, she is solid and enjoys eating. She is alive in most every way, but things are never quite what they seem. She appears to people as they expect to see her. Expect a demon, and she appears as one.

Teiichi and Yuukoare joined by Momoe Okonogi. Momoe is a high strung girl who cannot see Yuuko or any ghost. She enjoys the fear and digging up old ghost stories. Kirie Kanoe joins the group. She is able to see Yuuko but refuses to touch her. Yep. As you can tell from the same family name, they are related somehow.

dusk-maidenDusk Maiden of Amnesia focuses on the relationship between Teiichi and Yuuko. A human and a ghost should never interact, let alone develop a relationship. Yuuko’s mysterious past and death draws the pair together even as it threatens to tear them apart. This anime hints at harem relationships. Momoe and Kirie have some feeling for Teiichi. Yuuko has a jealous streak.

This series is creepy at times. Comedic hijinks, including the usual nudity jokes and boob jokes serve as a sharp contrast to the heavier, darker elements of the story. Teiichi and Yuuko are both likeable. Although in typical shonen stereotype Teiichi can be thick headed at times. At least he is a little more perceptive than the typical shonen hero. Yuuko is complex and tragic despite her lighthearted antics.

Dusk-Maiden-of-Amnesia-yukoDusk Maiden of Amnesia is a good story. Momoe gets annoying at times, but that is to be expected of Japanese comedic relief characters. The use of shadows and scenes is well done. The scenes are shot in ways that emphasizes the darkness that pervades the story. There are hints of this undercurrent even in the comedic scenes. Expect some fan service. Yuuko is a ghost, after all, who isn’t used to people being able to see her. Many of the scenes use cut out effects (small frames set against black) masterfully to convey the crushing loneliness Yuuko feels.

I am mixed about the ending. Without spoiling it, I will say that the ending could have been bold and memorable. It is still satisfying, but it dilutes the impact the series establishes.

I enjoyed this series more than I expected. It is an interesting love story laced with sorrow and despair. It has some rough spots, particularly with some of the comedy, but it is worth a watch if you enjoy mysteries and a love that cannot be.


Spice and Wolf Light Novel Volume 1

Spice and Wolf Volume 1 Cover Art

I am a fan of Spice and Wolf. Yet, I haven’t read any of the light novels. I haven’t read any light novels for that matter. I grew up reading behemoth books like those found in the Wheel of Time series. I decided to fix this little problem.

Light novels are an interesting format. The illustrations scattered throughout the first volume of Spice and Wolf are charming. The art style is expressive and compliments the text well. The illustrations fill in the gaps in the proses’ character descriptions and match up well with the anime’s art. The writing style is different from what I am used to reading. The first book reads like a folk tale. The story would be perfect for reading aloud. Many of the descriptions reminded me of oral tales like Beowulf.

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Unfortunately, I am a fast reader, but I enjoyed the few hours I spent with the first volume. I average one page a minute on books like Robert Jordan’s. I burned through Spice and Wolf a little too fast.  The anime follows the story closely, only a few details change. The dialogue is crisp and well translated. Although English lacks formal old speech (outside Old English), Holo’s formal, careful speech shines on each page. The dialogue makes Lawrence and Holo come to life in ways description cannot do.

The book opens with Lawrence, the traveling merchant passing through a town celebrating a harvest festival. His brief stay nets him a certain girl with ears and a tail that resembles a wolf. Fortune and misfortune follows when the merchant promises to see the woman wolf to her home in the north.

holo-and-a-chicken

Reading Spice and Wolf is a pleasant way to spend an afternoon. The story is unique. It lacks villains and evil threats. Instead the story focuses on economics, merchant schemes, and money. Characters are not evil. They are simply human. I find the method of storytelling refreshing. Holo and Lawrence are grounded in a richly sketched world.

I recommend this series if you enjoy banter and solid characters. There is little action, however. Business is the centerpiece for conflicts. Don’t expect fights and blood. Fights do break out, but they are limited in scope. Spice and Wolf doesn’t offer earth shattering conflict that changes the world. It is a story about life and companionship that is easy to identify with. I will be reading more of this series and look into more light novels. The light novel format is a nice break from the massive (800+ pages) works I normally read.


Red Data Girl: RDG

Red Data Girl IzumikoIzumiko Suzuhara has a knack for destroying everything electronic. If she just touches a cell phone it sputters and turns into a plastic and metal brick. Growing up at the Kumano Shrine is quite different from the city life the shy Izumiko wants to experience. Her long, twin braids and her lack of basic texting skills makes her the oddball in her high school.

If only her fellow students knew the truth of how odd she really is.

Yukimasa Sagara is a reluctant guardian for the awkward girl in pigtails. He is a monk in training and sworn to protect Izumiko. Never mind the fact she has no clue what she truly is and the havoc she can cause.

Red Data Girl is a fairly typical high school fantasy love story.  The story has some pacing issues; it feels a little rushed at times. There are identical triplets in the story (Mayura, Manastu, and Masami) that often swap places with each other. Sometimes this is rather confusing; Masami is a spirit his sister and brother summons to help them fight spirits.

RDG SagaraThe characters are interesting and show drastic personality changes over the course of the story. Izumiko and Yukimasa show the most pronounced changes. Red Data Girl is an interesting twist on the rather tired high school coming of age story. It is steeped in Shinto folklore and feels very Japanese. Some Western watchers new to anime and Shinto folklore may feel confused and lost. The manga was featured in Shonen Ace, but the story has a shojo feel to it. Most of the story is from Izumiko’s perspective.

So what is my weigh in? RDG is enjoyable enough to hold my attention for the duration of its 12 episodes.  The Shinto folklore kept my interest peaked. The characters were interesting if stereotypical. The high school setting negated the sense of danger the story tried to convey. There was far less threat to the characters from my perspective than the story tried to suggest. Much of the conflict felt like a soap opera rather than a serious confrontation between forces. This is mainly because the conflict was framed by high school concerns: student council maneuvers, student festivals, plays, and the like. The “villains” were far from sinister. They were teens after all.

RDG isn’t a show to go out of your way to see or avoid. It is enjoyable and entertaining, but it isn’t all the memorable.