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My 2018 Convention Haul

Today I attended a geek convention with my brother. I’m so glad I went. I wanted to distance myself from the idea of attending (like last year…and the year before…) but, regardless, that didn’t work and we went. Conventions eat up my wallet, they can be a distraction, and “family members” look down on my personal interests. But it was so fun and when it ended I didn’t have any regrets.

Today will be a personal kind of post I’m going to write about. I’ve been taking a break from aniblogging ever since school started so I apologize. I wanted to write an update about myself so  I’m going to talk about my recent convention haul!

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Manga and a fantasy novel from a local author!

Firstly, I got a volume from one of my most favourite manga called Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicles. The vendor where I got it from is called Rainbow’s End. They are a tiny bookshop from the valley and I used to visit them there. I remember the nice and hospitable people working there.

The book on the right, The Violet Fox, is a young adult fantasy novel from a local author. I’m eager to read it because the first two chapters were so far good and I have a goal of reading more books by local writers.

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Kawaii deco tape from Jin

Pictured above is some deco tape I found from an artist I was already following on Instagram. What a surprise! I’m glad that I can meet famous artists in person right in the city where I live!

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Akari-san! Drawn by Sockie

Finally, here is my most favourite purchase! It is a commission I asked for of Akari and President Aria from the Aria series. I love it so much and I can’t stop talking about it! Akari looks so beautiful and elegant. Thank you so much to the amazing artist!

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Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms Movie Review

Have you watched Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms yet?

It is a film about motherhood and sacrifice. It goes under the high fantasy category but the central themes is around universal human values. I thoroughly enjoyed this film. I watched it in theatres this summer with a special someone and teared up in a few parts.

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I watched Maquia this summer with a special someone!

Maquia was directed by Mari Okada. I’m sure you must of heard of her—she’s known for her works with long titles. She worked on Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day and The Anthem of the Heart: Beautiful Word, Beautiful World. So, I was eager to watch this.

I’m also a big fan of the background artist, the famous Kazuki Higashiji. It was from his Twitter where I learned he was working on this new film. If you’ve never heard of him, or vaguely remembered his complicated name, let me do an introduction. He’s worked on the backgrounds for Angel Beats, Hanasaku Iroha, and Nagi no Asukara. His clean 3-D backgrounds fits perfectly for the modern anime today. The way he draws his skies differs according to the setting and the atmosphere of the show. He said in an interview that in Nagi no Asukara, he had put his entire soul into the art. It was his first time drawing for a fantasy series, he said, so for reference he had to refer to emotions he had when he was a kid. And you can really see his efforts. If you go to his Twitter, it’s full of Nagi no Asukara. That was how invested he was into the series.

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The heroine, Maquia. The dub sounded so wonderful in the trailer. Credit: Eleven Arts

Anyways, I’ll stop talking about him and Nagi no Asu for now (because I can talk forever about him and the show).

If you liked Clannad, I think you will like Maquia. It’s another show about family and sacrifice. Maquia’s character development was well played.

I remember the time I watched The Anthem of the Heart in theatres—it was very boring and uninteresting. I just saw it as just another moe show about generic high schoolers. For Maquia, my opinion towards it was totally different. I had to ponder on why I liked it so much. Maybe it’s because I went in with absolutely no knowledge of spoilers. Or maybe the part about the baby growing up made me really emotional. The animation was beautiful and refreshing like the blue sky, and the character designs were so cute.

The ending theme song, Viator, is really nice. I even requested a Youtuber to play it, and she got someone to sing a cover of it too. I was thrilled. You can learn more about this movie at P.A. Work’s official website in English here. This movie is beautiful, moving, and pure, and I’m sure you will feel that way too after watching it.

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Credit: Eleven Arts

It’s all right, no matter what the future will hold

The sun will rise, surely…

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Commentary on the first few minutes of Violet Evergarden

I have been waiting for Violet Evergarden for 3 years, ever since Kyoto Animation released the first trailer in 2015.

You can imagine my excitement when it was confirmed it will finally air in 2018.

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The inaugural first trailer of Violet Evergarden, animated by Kyoto Animation, came out in 2015. Three years later, the first episode broadcasted this January.

I want to discuss and analyze the first scene of episode 1. Specifically the first 3 minutes of this series. It was a very important scene because it helped set the story and introduce the titular protagonist, Violet.

First, we see the Major walking with his back turned. Young Violet, dependant on her beloved Major, is following. This part is a flashback to the past and reveals the Major’s back who is assumes to be deceased. Immediately, Violet stops and stares at a green brooch. Her comment towards the brooch shows us a bit about herself. She’s in fact incapable of emotions. Her taciturn character makes the Major concerned.

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Violet’s startling blue eyes and bandaged arm. Credit: Fred Heiser

In the next scene, Violet awakes and is in bed. She’s covered in bandages and it is now the present. She could be recollecting the memory from the previous scene in a dream. Up writing a letter to the Major with difficulty, Violet drops her pen to the ground, and the wind takes it away from her. The wind behaves as if it knows a secret Violet doesn’t know. Or maybe, it was fate that took away her pointless letter. Anyways, Violet doesn’t acknowledge her fragile state of being, and shows us how abnormal and inanimate she is, just like a doll.

Continuing along, the letter floats up through the wind, explores the sky with a helicopter, runs pass train tracks, races through a town alley, and joins a celebration coming from a ship. Then, there’s typewriting sounds.

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The fictional city of Leiden. Credit: Fred Heiser

KyoAni put a lot of effort into this grandiose opening scene. Firstly, they made it very Disney-like. The music made it really apparent because my first thought was “is this show going to become like a Disney film?”. The transition from the first scene change was enigmatic. Then, the music sounded magical and exciting. Evan Call, the composer of the series, is from America. I’m sure he received lots of inspiration from Disney. I almost expected Tinker Bell to fly out of the corner (haha). I like how the sound of a typewriter was used in the music. Very creative.

The first few minutes of the series sets the plot and setting and introduces watchers to the start of Violet’s journey. I found the music and directing impressive and breathtaking, and I invite you to listen and watch to the details of the exciting first few minutes of Violet Evergarden.

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Over the Clouds, The Promised Place

Hiroki, did that beautiful, white plane reach the tower?

If you ask me what are some of my most favourite anime movies, I would say The Place Promised in our Early Days. It is a poetic masterpiece with meaningful symbolism, foreshadowing, and imagery everywhere. It’s a wonderful film to analyze and critique, just like with Shinkai’s other movies, but The Promised Place is particularly so.

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Let me give you a brief synopsis without trying to spoil you anything. Hiroki and Takuya, two hard-working middle schoolers, are best friends working towards a goal – building a plane left over from the war and flying it towards the mysterious, white tower that divides Japan from the rest of the world. Both boys admired two things: the white tower, and the heroine, Sayuri Sawatari, who befriends them. She and Hiroki and Takuya makes a promise together to fly the plane together when it is done and go to the tower. But after the summer of their third year in middle school, Sayuri mysteriously disappears.

I always have a premonition of losing something.

What did these mysterious words mean? In this movie, Makoto Shinkai made Sayuri very feminine by showing us screenshots of Sayuri’s very subtle movements. From her dainty fingers to her bare legs, to her puppy-like movements whenever she’s excited, Shinkai tried to emphasize the importance of her role in the story by making the audience grow to like her personality and qualities. Her sweet, innocent voice ringed like a bell and her conversations with the boys were endearing and cheerful. She was the centre of Hiroki’s and Takuya’s happiness in their last summer in middle school. Sayuri later takes an even more important role in the movie, and become a valuable figure in the conflict of the movie.

Makoto Shinkai treated Sayuri as of she’s almost a sort of goddess. She’s pure, kind, and the smile she gives Hiroki and Takuya comes as if it’s from an angel. The scene where Takuya gazes at Sayuri as they go home after school is an excellent example. The sunset shining behind Sayuri at twilight made her look beautiful and ephemeral. This scene looked as if a goddess was standing there before Takuya.

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Despite negative reviews saying that the movie was “utterly slow” and that people were “bored to death”,  I think it’s one of the most beautifully crafted movies I’ve ever seen. Makoto Shinkai masterfully pieced together story-telling techniques that are very noticeable if you look carefully. I invite you to try to critique and give a commentary on the literary devices and techniques seen throughout the entire movie. For those who never learned or had zero grasp on this subject in high school’s English class, I encourage you to try as well. What do you think the tower symbolizes in general in the movie? It can symbolize war, separation, beauty, or the unknown future. Where can you find foreshadowing of events in the movie? The thunder seen in the side of the sky when the trio walks home having fun after making their promise. Where was dramatic irony (remember this term)? Watching a movie this way is interesting and can be quite enjoyable, at least for me, and doing this can make you appreciate The Promised Place, or any movie, even more.

The Place Promised in our Early Days is sadly underrated, but I strongly encourage you to give it a chance. For me, watching it was an experience I will never forget. If you come from the your name hype, sadly, I would tell you not to watch it. But if you thoroughly liked 5 centimetres per second, you might find satisfaction in this slow, quiet, and beautiful movie. Do not come to watch for complete drama or to cry a waterfall of tears.

There is a little sci-fi, a little romance, a little action and fighting, some fantasy, and that’s just about it. But the backgrounds are oh-so-breathtaking and eye catching, which made up for it. There are finger clenching, quiet gasps, and some tears too. Like how Pachenel’s Canon is played, this movie builds up drama slowly. As the movie progress, the tension rises. At the same time, the movie becomes more dramatic but beautifully pieced and then, everything comes together for a bittersweet ending.

I highly recommend the dubbed version. The English voice acting conveys the character’s emotions so well that you might as well watch it so you can enjoy the backgrounds more. Come watch this moving sci-fi and fantasy movie for a meaningful and poignant experience.

My Motto

My motto used to be “Get stronger! Much stronger!”

It came from my most favourite manga at the time, Tsubasa Chronicles. Syaoran’s motto was to get stronger and improve himself so he can help Sakura find her precious memories. Syaoran’s determination in the manga moved me greatly and from then on it became my motto in life too. I endured bullying, isolation, and tried to turn sad things to positive moments. No matter how many hurtful words were thrown at me, I always smiled back and tried not to let it affect me.

Later, it changed to “Don’t give up!”

Academics became demanding, with no end in sight. Trying to juggle in extracurricular activities and volunteering tested my ability to manage a busy life. I endured the never-ending demands of a rigorous curriculum, and as a result was well prepared when I reached university. But, university offered more challenges that high school doesn’t teach you.

I built a hard shell and became selfish. I focused solely on getting good grades, personal fame, and pride.

I ignored things such as taking good care after my health and maintaining good connections with my friends. I thought I could endure my symptoms but it only got worse. I didn’t get to hang out with classmates more, and now I feel distant and lonely.  My motto became “endure everything, endure everything!”

The lifestyle blogs and study blogs I follow on social media all make you feel like you have to be perfect like them. It’s fun looking at their photos and get inspiration. But these photos have been filtered, cropped, and altered to perfection. Everything is photoshopped and, to put it bluntly, fake and artificial. Their “ideal life” pressures me to spend on things I don’t need, and their “expectations” really stresses me out.

Now that my third year as a university student is over, I feel bad and regret a lot of things. I made a lot of mistakes. I took the things I see on social media too seriously, and it had negatively impacted my life as a student. My jealousy towards others didn’t help at all. I would compare myself to others all the time and feel sour. I am a mess.

Therefore, I decided to focus on starting over. Go back to before all of that started. My motto is now “everything will be all right!”, “I’ll do what I can!”, and “I can do this!”

Sakura from the CCS series used the first two lines and I always feel a surge of positive energy whenever I repeat those lines out loud. Same with the third line. These lines give me hope, and from here on, I hope I can get better.

 

Hina and Tamako – Similarities in 3-Gatsu no Lion and Tamako Market

Hina Kawamoto from March Comes in like a Lion and Tamako Kitashirakawa from Tamako Market are both optimistic and energetic girls whose families own a Japanese sweets shop. There are many similarities between the two characters, and I would like to talk about what I like about them. I love both of these shows and they have become one of my favourite animes!

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During the winter season, I loved March Comes in like a Lion the most! I’ve watched the anime and read the manga, and now I am a big fan of Chica Umino. On the other hand, I watched Tamako Market a few years ago back when I was in high school. I remembered loving this unforgettable, happy, cute show, and it had a great movie too.

First of all, both Hina and Tamako are daughters of a Japanese sweets store. Tamako’s family makes only mochi, while the Kawamotos make wagashi and other traditional desserts too. The entire family, old to young, helps out in the store, and everyone loves what they are doing too. There is a family devotion that I find admirable, especially with Hina and Tamako. Their optimism and enthusiasm in sweets is contagious.

Hina and Tamako both have sisters who they are very close too. They argue sometimes but they support each other all the time. They care about their father/grandfather, the head of the shop. In the anime, we get to learn about their worries for the girls, and also their encouragements.

Hina and Tamako both don’t have a mom. Both have passed away when they were very young, and it left a sad memory in Hina’s and Tamako’s childhood. As they got older, the subtle scars is still there in their hearts and whenever they are feeling down, they think about their moms. The passing of their mothers played a big part in their insecurities and consciousness. From the flashbacks, they seemed to have passed away during a difficult age for Hina and Tamako, and it looks like they are still trying to get over their death.

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At the same time, just thinking about their mothers leaves a warm, kind expression on their faces. As a reminder of their memory, they go to visit their altar often. Tamako honours Hinako’s existence by putting up a new flower everyday. We see Hina give her dead mother and grandmother curry as an offering, and she talks to them sometimes. Both girls are determined to honour their mothers, continue the legacy they left behind, and work at the sweets shop even when they get older.

In terms of personality and qualities, both Hina and Tamako are brimming with positivity. They try to not let anything bring them down and always look at the bright side of things. Hina has demonstrated strength that not many people, even myself, have in the face of bullying. Tamako acts clueless and completely confused in the face of situations involving her, but in the TV series and in the movie she was able to overcome them with the support of everyone who loves and cares about her.

Hina strongly believes in her values, and she can discern what is good or bad. Tamako’s greatest quality is that she loves everyone, and everyone loves Tamako back. Both are stubborn, caring, and enthusiastic in everything they do. They both wear pigtails, and both act childish and somewhat younger than people their age.

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Finally, both characters have found a love interest that will last the rest of their life. Besides, who wouldn’t fall for these cute, fluffy, cheerful characters? I am so glad Hina and Tamako received a happy ending. Hina’s bullying arc and Tamako’s Love Story was a great exemplar of character development in overcoming weaknesses, growing up, and staying positive in whatever comes at them.

Happy Friends

Today I am going to talk about my friends in university.

When I was on Instagram, I stumbled upon a new post from one of the artists I was following. She was named Akumarathon and she was super friendly with everyone on Instagram. She was always positive because her mascot, a baby duck, symbolizes optimism and positivity. Suddenly, she decided to disappear for a while because she was facing some negativity in her life. I was concerned, and waited for 5 whole months.

When all hope seems lost, she came back, seeming more energized and free than ever. She went to Japan and posted pictures from her trip. She looked so happy, and I was instantly reminded of one of my friends in university. Her name is Stephanie, and is one of the most popular and friendliest people at school. I met her in first year and she first reached out to me to do a group project together. She noticed I was a very shy girl and invited me to lunch to meet other people. I was so happy and thankful for her because I became friends with an art student from Dartmouth who later moved to Toronto. Akumarathon’s innocent and happy smile at her visit to Tokyo Disney immediately reminded me of Stephanie’s smile. I desire to be as happy as her and Senpai and I truly wish I can make a beautiful and carefree smile someday on camera.

I have just finished my second year of university and I admit I haven’t made too many friends this year due to being sick often. I am doing fine now, otherwise, I have made two best friends outside of SMU. Chloe and Jeffrey. They have both became very special to me. I deal with a lot of drama with them but I think that’s what having best friends at our age is like.

Senpai and Stephanie are my inspiration. My goal is to be happier! I want to make more friends in university. I only have two more years left, so I have to be more active! No need to worry about complicated stuff. Enjoy myself!