When I started the first book, A Hero Born, I was a bit overwhelmed by the list of characters at the beginning. What was I getting myself into? But soon, I was caught up in the story, and the character list came in handy to refresh my memory.
I was very curious as to how they could describe the fast-paced action of the wuxia movies, but Jin Yong (and the book translators) do an amazing job of imaginatively describing and naming the different moves and it’s incredibly fun to follow along. I love the heroes, and love to hate the villains. My favorite character is Cyclone Mei, who is featured in the illustration above. She’s one of the villains, but… it’s complicated! 😀
I read the popular She Who Became the Sun by Shelly Parker-Chan, but didn’t enjoy the story or characters at all. The Legends of the Condor Heroes is way more my type of book.
There’s a Chinese television series from 2017 that I will watch after I finish the books. Besides spoilers, I don’t want my imagined versions of the characters to be influenced by the actors in the drama. I prefer to look to the illustrations (which are sparse) from the book.
This evening I watched the Chinese animated films White Snake 白蛇：缘起 and Green Snake 青蛇 back-to-back. I thought the animation in both was great, but enjoyed White Snake much more than the sequel.
The setting of White Snake’s ancient China was more appealing to me than that of Green Snake’s dystopian mish-mash city. White Snake was filled with stunningly beautiful scenes, whereas Green Snake was filled with non-stop action, which was hard to take for two hours.
I believe there will be a third movie in the series, but it looks like it’s going to jump a thousand years into the future… oh well.
As far as the plot of both movies, they were nothing special. I think the main draw for me is the beauty of the animation (where the first film really shined). But I am still hoping for a more interesting plot to tie up the series.
I finished Keiichiro Hirano’s novel At the End of the Matinee today. I thought it was excellent… in fact it had me awake until 1 am the other night, totally engrossed in what would happen between the two main characters, Makino and Yoko. But for this blog post, I wanted to compare it with the movie adaptation.
******** SPOILER ALERT *********
Simply put, this is a case of “the book is so much better than the movie”. But it’s because there is so much more in the book that could possibly but shown on-screen. First off, I’d say the book was one of the best I have read in a long time, whereas the movie was kind of “meh”. There’s so much internal dialogue in the book that would be impossible to bring to the big screen, including elements of PTSD, survivor’s guilt, as well as large episodes of how the long-distance romantic relationship between Makino and Yoko. In the movie, these are only quickly touched upon and make it seem like the two are jumping into their romance (and even breaking off engagements!) without much thought. There is a scene in the movie where Makino says he would kill himself if Yoko ever committed suicide. It happens so out of the blue (and makes Makino seem like the kind of person you should not be alone with), in just their second in-person meeting that it seems implausible for him to have those feelings. However, the book details in length their internal struggles and feelings, the conversations in their Skype calls, and the development of their the long-distance relationship that happens before that in-person episode even takes place. With that back-story, his declaration doesn’t seem so out-of-the blue. I would say that character/relationship development is the most interesting part of the book. I think it’s impossible to translate or convey that on the big screen.
One of the problems with reading the book and then watching the movie is that I can’t objectively watch the movie without thinking of the book. I know so much more about the characters and what is going on inside their heads and hearts, and that knowledge gives life to the on-screen performances. So I am only guessing that the movie version doesn’t work well on its own… but maybe it does? My viewing experience must be very different from those who only watch the movie, but is the same as those who have read the book.
Perhaps a better way to look at it is that the movie is a companion to the book, adding visual illustrations to “the real” story (ignoring some of the substitutions like Paris/Baghdad). In that sense, I am pretty satisfied with the casting of Masaharu Fukuyama and Yuriko Ishida in the main roles. They pretty much fit in with what my mind’s eye saw when reading the book, but the actors had an impossible task to show the characters’ depth and feeling in just a few scenes. The movie did attempt to convey the serious internal struggles of each by using some “intense” cutscenes but these were just unsatisfying and cliché. The scene in which Makino agonizes over Sanae’s betrayal was so terrible, it actually reminded me of the infamous Darth Vader “Nooooo!” scene.
But speaking of the book, I mentioned it was one of the best I have read in a long time. In fact, I gave it a 10 on my 2021 movie/book list! I was very interested in the story of two people in their 40s developing a romantic relationship and all the feelings that come along with it. The huge plot twist where Sanae puts a stop to the Makino and Yoko’s reunion in Tokyo was amazing. That was the part that kept me reading late into the night. I was expecting for the deception to be revealed quickly and the consequences to Sanae’s deplorable actions to be dealt out with conviction. But it didn’t happen that way at all. The plot took a much more satisfying and plausible turn. The two main characters continue with their separate lives, wondering why the other suddenly cut off the relationship. I guess this is where the 40-something-year-old’s life is different from a 20-something-year-old’s. Even Sanae’s deception was understandable. (Book version FTW!)
But throughout the years where Makin and Yoko continue with their separate lives (an the ups and downs), they often think back to each other and realize they still love each other, even though they have new families. So do they ever meet again? Well, you’ll just have to read the book or watch the movie to find out. And I would steer you towards the book version. 😀
Today I finished up watching the last episode of Rikokatsu リコカツ starring my favorite actress, Kitagawa Keiko 北川景子 as Saki. Co-starring with her is Nagayama Eita 永山瑛太 as her husband, Koichi. The premise of the story is that the couple meet by chance and marry quickly, and later decide that they have nothing in common and should divorce. Along with them, their parents are also divorcing, as well as Saki’s sister.
It’s a very lighthearted comedy, and Eita’s comedic acting is hilarious. I was laughing out loud several times watching this dorama because of him. Besides the humor, there were also a few times that tugged on the heart-strings which is something I always appreciate in a movie or dorama. 😭
I thought the story itself was just okay, and a bit repetitive and predictable. It’s a typical melodramatic Japanese dorama, so if you are in the mood for it (or a fan of one of the actors as I am) Rikokatsu is a decent choice.
One of the characters that I disliked greatly was Minazuki Ren, a novelist to whom Saki is assigned as editor. Minazuki’s behavior is infuriating, exhibiting sexual harassment, power harassment, and literal thievery. He’s a total asshole. I kept hoping he would get his lights punched out. I know this is not a serious dorama, but normalizing that kind of behavior (without any repercussions) is awful. Towards the end, we learn he had a difficult childhood and is struggling to become a better person, but the way he treats everyone just makes my blood boil.
Okay, back to the positives… the ending where Koichi bends a bit to make a compromise so that Saki can live her dream was pretty cool and well-done. The long-distance relationship and video calls were funny and during this pandemic time, everyone can relate. I enjoy anything Kitagawa Keiko is in, but in this dorama it was refreshing to watch her as a “normal” person. In Ie Uru Onna 家売るオンナ, her character is very one-dimensional, outwardly emotionless, and never smiled. After watching two seasons of that character, it was nice to see her acting as a person with a range of relatable emotions, and is not always dressed/made-up perfectly.
I saw Children of the Sea at the theater with my good friend, and I thought it was excellent! I wasn’t so sure about the character design at first, but the facial expressions quickly grew on me. The landscapes, clouds, and background art were amazing, and the word “Wow” was constantly running around my head.
The story itself was interesting, but I wasn’t a fan of the “2001: A Space Odyssey” moment, as my friend so accurately called it. Still, I liked all the characters. A very fun and beautiful film, well-worth watching, in my opinion.
What I also noted was that the soundtrack is fantastic. Joe Hisaishi captured the mood with a minimalistic orchestration perfectly. I loved it so much. Give the Spotify playlist a listen at the end of this post if you are curious!
I hope you get a chance to watch Children of the Sea, especially if you love the warm summer ocean breeze. 😊
My camera & photos
I use a Fujifilm X-series camera for most of the photos on this site and my Instagram. Why not pick one up for yourself?