Secret: a flawed masterpiece

August 13th, 2015

I’ve been a fan of Korean dramas since 2006. It’s almost been ten years, and I’m still besotted with their engrossing stories and beautiful ladies.

It's a great romance, but flawed story-wise.

It’s a great romance, but flawed story-wise.

I watched Secret Love on a whim. I hadn’t really been fond of Hwang Jung Eum because her face looks extremely plastic. I also wasn’t able to finish any of Ji Sung’s dramas, although I made it up to more than half of Royal Family. I came in expecting nothing. Since it was on a number of critics’ top drama lists, however, I jumped in.

It’s similar to the revenge-dramas I’ve watched before: Hwang Jung Eum’s character goes to prison for a crime her boyfriend committed, yet he leaves her in the lurch. Ji Sung’s character is the boyfriend of the hit-and-run victim ran over by Yoo Jeong(or Hwang Jung Eum)’s boyfriend, and so he seeks a way to torture her in prison and abrogate her parole. He eventually develops feelings after he realizes that she is a good person through-and-through while stalking her, and together they eventually unfold the secrets behind the accident and within their lives.

Secret Love’s strength is not in its plot. There are points where the plot seems to be all over the place, but I can’t really say more because I’d be spoiling a good drama. Its strength lies in its actors. There’s a reason why it won all four acting prizes during the year it was aired: the protagonists and deuteragonists are simply just that good. Hwang Jung Eum’s face even grew on me (I finally saw her beauty) when I saw her act so well. Ji Sung, as her partner, was no slouch either. Bae Soo Bin, as Hwang Jung Eum’s foil, also acted well. They carried the mediocre plot of the series and made it so deliciously addictive to watch.

The ending was very satisfying as well, because it did not rely on some deux-et-machina. The series is akin to Leo Tolstoy’s God Sees the Truth, but Waits placed in a more modern setting. I enjoyed it very much, but from an emotional standpoint. Ghost, on the other hand, was simply a masterful techno-thriller with an extremely sinister villain in Uhm Ki-joon. It was technically and story-wise a better drama, but it didn’t have the addictive factor of Secret Love.

Tokyo Story: an elegy to parenthood

August 4th, 2015

My father was a year old when Tokyo Story was released back in 1953. To put things into context, I am only 27 years. Tokyo Story is more than twice as old as I am.

The best film of all time for directors

The best film of all time for directors.

Why did I attempt to watch such a dated film?

I watched it because Tokyo Story is considered by both directors and critics alike to be among the best films of all time. It’s not enough to read about a great film: a film is truly experienced only when one watches it. I had initially obtained a copy of it back when I was still an intern, but forgot about it because I had to attend to responsibilities inside the hospital and out. I then watched glimpses of it, but it was only two days ago that I had finally completed the film in its entirety. (It doesn’t help that the film has a slow, pensive, and elegiac quality in it. Patience is extremely important when one attempts to watch this movie.)

I don’t think it to be the greatest film of all time. First, I am neither movie critic nor director, so my understanding of film theory is marginal at best. I have a few films I think are more appealing to me. (These films are often thrillers, like The Killing and Army of Shadows.) Yet I cannot discount the greatness of this film and the eternal timeliness of its subject matter: Tokyo Story talks about family.

The story is simple. An elderly couple from rural Japan decide to visit their children in Tokyo. They are slowly being pushed aside, however, because of their children’s responsibilities to their family and to their work. Shige is the most obvious offender, bordering on subtly disrespecting her parents. Noriko, on the other hand, is a widow of the couple’s son. Despite that, however, she showers the most love and concern toward the couple, and it is this realization by the patriarch that moved me to tears. The blood siblings rush back to Tokyo a little after one of their parents died: only Noriko remained to help.

It’s so easy to summarize the film, because it tells a simple story. Its greatness, I believe, lies in its artistic expression as one watches the film. There are no true villains in this movie: there are only children who have drifted apart, and parents who have grown old.

I know and believe it’s natural to drift away from one’s parents. I guess I am lucky that I grew up in a close, traditional household that me and my siblings’ ties to our parents are still strong despite our adulthood. One day, I would have to be separated from them as well. I’m just glad that we were raised with filial respect that has still endured even despite our misgivings as regards our parents. I’m glad that I’ve watched the film, because I saw myself in the character of Koichi, who was a small, neighborhood doctor. While patients are indeed important, the film reminded me that my parents, who have given me life, are also important. Sometimes I take them for granted, but I appreciate them even more now that I’ve seen the film. While I would still get pissed off at them sometimes, as children normally do, I have the utmost respect and love for them. I hope having my own family in the future will not efface that.

This post is my own reminder.

When everything becomes F: episodes 5-10

July 20th, 2015

And I already thought that the first four episodes were pretty good.

The third case is the series’s eponym, and I thought it was the best case in the entire series. Subete ga F ni Naru was complex, intelligent, and yet emotionally charged as well. It is the first encounter of Sohei with Dr. Magata Shiki, a person I could also call Irene Moriarty. I believe the writer of this series congealed both personlities (Adler and Moriarty’s) together, although Shiki has less murderous intent than Holmes’s Professor Moriarty.

The construction of the case was absolutely brilliant. In a hermetically sealed room, inside a closely-guarded laboratory on an island hours away from civilization, a corpse dressed as a bride came out of Magata Shiki’s room. The corpse had her hands and legs amputated, and she was riding on top of the delivery robot used to transport packages inside the laboratory. No one was noted to have come in or gone out of the room for fifteen years.

Who was the culprit? I admit, despite scratching my head and reviewing key scenes from the fifth episode, I could never have imagined such foresight and such daring in order for one to execute such a cunning plan so perfectly that there were very few hitches. Knowing the meaning of ‘everything becoming F,’ however, was a bit sad.

* * *

The ending of the series was quite good, although it still was a lesser case than the titular Subete ga F ni Naru. I think that the closing cases were more focused on the explication of the major characters’ perceptions and beliefs: I think it’s enough to say that I loved Saikawa’s character primarily because he mirrors my own. I’m not a very showy person, but I do treasure the people I love.

I can’t say anything more, can I? I just hope that you guys could give Subete ga F ni Naru a chance despite its jarring opening scene and Moe’s antics.

Subete ga F ni Naru: episode 1 – 4 impressions

July 18th, 2015

I didn’t watch a J-drama for the longest time. The last J-series I completed was Proposal Daisakusen back in 2006. I am, after all, more of an anime and K-drama fan than a J-drama fan. I was intrigued, however, by the poster of this series. It was such a teaser. It hadn’t been anything deep as I didn’t look what Subete ga F ni Naru was about: I just knew I was going to give it a chance, and was going to watch its first few episodes.

I admit, this teaser was what hooked me.

I admit, the teaser was what hooked me.

Since I started working and had gone back to playing DotA 2, I forgot about this series until about a week ago. When I looked up the upcoming series for Noitamina (one of the best anime blocks ever), I saw F as an upcoming series. I then recalled about the drama, and decided to watch its first episode.

True to my intuitive side, I was hooked. The initial interview of a cute Emi Takei (of Rurouni Kenshin) towards a seemingly intelligent and twisted doctor was a bit out-of-place, but was entertaining enough. When the two leads started investigating the first case, I knew I was going to love this series.

When I was younger, I read most of the stories in a short story collection. One of them featured Jacques Futrelle’s The Problem of Cell 13. The story had impressed me a lot that I would often appreciate media featuring locked-room mysteries. Even before Cell 13, I had already read most of Poe’s Dupin mysteries, including The Murders at the Rue Morgue. I was attracted to the cases and their resolution as well, so it was no surprise when I was impressed at how the first case constructed the locked-room murder.

Two colleagues who were about to get married were found murdered in the middle of an experiment, and a locked room mystery was revealed. Like most good cases, there were quite a few red herrings, and the culprits weren’t whom I had expected. It was a good case, with a good resolution.

The second case, however, was more impressive. It was an even simpler locked room, with only one room and no other way to exit or enter. The resolution, however, was a bit more elegant. I was able to narrow down the culprits to two suspects, and I was right with my hunch. How the locked room was created, however, and how the murder weapon was conceived was a lot more creative than the first case.

I also welcomed the interplay between the two major characters, because the lady, despite being intelligent, has an obvious crush on the even more intelligent professor. Both of them have a history, and while the professor cares for the lady, it remains to be seen whether he will realize his emotions by the end of the series. (When Moe solved the difficult math problem mentally, I knew I would have a hard time letting go. Intelligent heroines do me in.)

Some drawbacks of the series include the cheesy multiple-personality synthesis of facts by Professor Saikawa in his resolution of the case, and the occasionally saccharine desire of Moe to be, at least, tended to by her professor. Other than that, the construction of the cases were very well-thought of. The high incidence of suicide among the cases also offer more color to the series, leading to the difficulty of actually guessing the culprits. To be fair to the series, however, careful, analytical viewing leads to results: at the very least, it will help remove the red herrings of the series. Since I didn’t pursue a major in Physics, the science is sometimes beyond me, although I was quite impressed with how the weapon in the second case was constructed.

Fans of quirky detective cases with colorful main characters will probably like this show. I like this show doubly because there is an undercurrent of romance present. As with my favorite anime series, I love shows that have romance as a focus, yet the romance is not its sole focus. That was the case with The Tatami Galaxy, illustrating a bildungsroman with a romance; that was also the case with Steins;Gate, being a science-fiction story with a romance as well.

I hope you guys could give it a shot.

Steins;Gate: Fuka Ryouiki no Deja Vu : time-travel STILL done right

July 11th, 2015

I was in third year of medical school when I first watched Steins;Gate. I recall being delayed with watching the TV series: I watched it during the December prior to my clerkship period.

I'm sorry, just being one of the great anime films of all time.

I’m sorry, just being one of the great anime films of all time.

To be honest, I had many doubts with the series. I have experience that the popular series are most often not critically good. I wasn’t impressed with the first few episodes, however. It all changed during the sixth episode, however, when the series became more and more intriguing. Like a freight train going at full speed, either, it never stopped. It became better and better.

It was late in the series when I realized that I had been watching one of the best series I had ever seen. It was extremely rare that I’d root for the primary couple in any show: whenever that occurred, it would most likely be a very good series as the two protagonists are well-fleshed out. That was the case with The Tatami Galaxy. It was also the case with Cross Game. Steins;Gate was no different.

Okabe took some time to grow on me, but I fell in love with Kurisu the moment she appeared in the series. I’m a sapiosexual, and she was special among anime heroines in that she was very intelligent. When she finally bared all her feelings toward Okabe during the 22nd episode, I knew I had been watching something brilliant. That kiss was scintillating, and despite being bittersweet, it simply congealed the unspoken feelings between the two. She was also heroic in that she was willing to part with him so long as he could save the two people most important to him: on the other hand, Okabe was willing to say goodbye to the world line that had Kurisu fall in love with him. He instead decided to live in a world where despite the fact that Kurisu doesn’t know him, she and Mayushii both live. This world is known as Steins;Gate.

I’d forgotten about Steins;Gate when I started my fourth year in medical school. I forgot about anime altogether. The final years of becoming a medical doctor is never easy anywhere, and I wasn’t an exception. Although I’d still sporadically watch anime series, I forgot about Steins;Gate until a month ago.

It was then that I discovered that the Steins;Gate franchise had released a movie. I let the movie percolate in my computer for about a month, only watching it a few days ago.

After watching the movie, I had re-awakened my love for the franchise. It was just as brilliant as the series, because the movie finally showed the perspective of the other half of the main duo: it showed Kurisu’s perspective. Despite the fact that the Kurisu in the Steins;Gate world line wasn’t familiar with all of Okabe’s sacrifices for her, feelings cross the disparate lines and manifest as deja vu. In short, the other Kurisu’s feelings reverberate through the Steins;Gate world line, and she still has strong feelings for Okabe.

The movie, similar to the series, gradually reveals the depth and gravity of her emotions toward him. She only comes to realize how she truly feels toward him, even in Steins;Gate’s world line, when no one else remembers him except her. She was the very first one to palpably feel his loss, and she was also the one who actively sought him. As if forming a complete circle, she also felt how he had felt after losing him to an accident during one of her time-skips.

To make him remember everyone, and where he belongs, she had also given him his first kiss. This ties into Okabe giving him her first kiss in the original series. Akin to the circular flow of Finnegans Wake, their feelings and love recirculated toward one another, saving the both of them.

It’s an absolutely brilliant movie from an absolutely coruscating series. I highly recommend this film if one’s a fan of the series already.

Hiatari Ryoukou: an underrated masterpiece

July 3rd, 2015

I first heard of Hiatari Ryoukou! back in 2006. I had just ended my first year in university, and its first few episodes were released by MJN. I had never heard of Mitsuru Adachi before, but I read its synopsis and was impressed by that enough to try its first few episodes.

hiatari_ryoukou_094832_8

Despite its dated animation (it was originally aired last 1987), I was hooked. I was hooked because the series relied on crisp characterization and sparkling dialogue to make up for its characters’ lack of facial expressions. I liked the frank and upfront nature of its main characters, and I absolutely loved the subtlety in their dialogue. Sadly, MJN subbed only up to the eighth episode.

I never forgot about Hiatari Ryoukou, however. I had been much impressed with its first eight episodes that I looked up Mitsuru Adachi and religiously watched his anime series (except H2, because I heard it was bad). Touch was good, while Cross Game is one of my favorites. I kept on waiting, however, for future Hiatari Ryoukou releases.

I recently resumed my anime watching after I did away with my review and board exams. To my surprise, I discovered that HR had been subbed by ray=out until the 24th episode! I started from the first episode (having last watched the series back in 2006), and I grew to appreciate the series even more. The dialogue between the different characters was absolutely scintillating in its subtlety and suggestion – and that’s just from the first twelve episodes.

Though people are more familiar with Adachi’s later works (except Touch, which had preceded this series), there is a reason why the few who have watched this series feel strongly positive about it. In contrast to his other series that I’ve seen, this has less focus on the sport baseball. This series places more emphasis on its characters’ interactions, and that is why one should watch this with proper focus. Adachi masterfully illustrates and presents to us the slow conversion of Kishimoto Kasumi toward the charms of the equally confident and equally cheeky Takasugi Yuusaku.

And unlike more modern series, its major characters aren’t evil. They are determined to win the person they love, but they are upfront and frank with regard to their actions. For example, Keiko, a character besotted with Yuusaku, reminds the protagonists that Kasumi has a boyfriend whenever the two of them would seem to cross the line. Yet she does this matter-of-factly and without malice. Yuusaku, who is also interested in Kasumi, tries his best to take care of her but never crosses the line: in one episode, he even offered to take Kasumi’s pictures to send to her boyfriend.

I like this series because it is a throwback to the time when love was not adulterated, and when competition between prospective lovers wasn’t a vipers’ tangle. The main characters are sincere with their feelings, and show their love in their own special ways, but never undermine the emotions of others. That’s why I pray that more people should watch it.

It is that good.

(Also, please support ray=out! They’re currently searching for competent QC staff to help finish the series. They also accept donations. :) )

Gay marriage and Christianity: can both coexist?

June 27th, 2015

Under the law, everyone should be equal. In essence, this is what propelled the five American justices to allow the legality of gay marriage. It makes perfect sense: people should be free to love whom they love, whether they are of the same sex or not.

I believe in Christ, however. While that does not make me a Christian, as I am extremely sinful, the foundation of my belief lies in one book known to many as The Holy Bible. God loves us all: he does not choose among us, and loves us all equally, whether one tends toward the same sex or not. It is, however, also clearly stated in the Bible, no matter what translation you look at, that sodomy is an abomination to God.

Leviticus 20:13 (NIV): ‘If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.’

These terms are in no way unclear: the act of sodomy is detestable to God. Homosexuality is not a sin, but if you are going to get married legally and still be within the tenets of Christianity, then the marriage should be platonic. If you are to remain a believer in Christ, there must be nothing carnal within a homosexual marriage. If one can’t tolerate this, then better change religions – or be an atheist.

The Philippines, with a very strong church, will make the passage of a law such as this nigh-impossible. It is very hard to put the idea of ‘gay marriage’ in consonance with Catholicism.

I made this post in response to the people who speak of homosexuality not being condemned in the Bible. In a way, they’re right. But there has to be little else. The sensual and erotic side of such a marriage must never exist within the bounds of Christianity. There is, after all, a reason why male-to-male intercourse is known as sodomy: God destroyed Sodom.

Why I also like Rebuild of Evangelion

June 24th, 2015

Just when I said I was going to write about anime, real life again interrupted. I admit, I was also lazy, with a lot of my write-ups started with fire but ending up embers.

Rei_smile_(Rebuild)

Her smile makes everything all right

It’s been almost fourteen years since I’ve become addicted with anime. From the humble beginnings of Gundam Wing, I’ve managed to watch a lot of anime into my college years. In fact, I’ve even managed to insert some anime-watching during medical school! I’ll probably never get over my love for anime.

One of the earliest anime series I’ve watched was Neon Genesis Evangelion. While I didn’t like it as much as Gundam Wing or Elfen Lied, it was among the series that made me realize that anime was so much than children’s cartoons. In contrast to the faux-happiness of series like Pokemon and Monster Rancher, it felt realistic.

It was violent. It was, at times, horrible. But it was and is a mature series. Like many other fans, I fell in love with Rei Ayanami; like them, I cringed at Shinji’s indecisiveness. I also felt flummoxed at its ending.

When Rebuild of Evangelion was announced, I was ecstatic. I wanted to see a different Evangelion: I wanted to see an Evangelion made by a non-depressed Anno, and he didn’t disappoint. The second movie was perhaps the highlight of the series: Rei had become truly human, and one of the most enduring un-realized love stories between Rei and Shinji had suggestions of actually becoming reality.

The third movie, however, was an utter disappointment in that regard. I was back to the Third Impact. I was back to the struggle against even more powerful angels, and I was back to an emotionless Rei. But I was content with this Evangelion.

Why?

This Evangelion was more realistic. I couldn’t curse Shinji anymore because he no longer hid from reality. His animus was no longer a coward. He was afraid, but he fought to make things right, in the previous movie and in this one. This was much unlike a Shinji tossed around by the people around him. This was a Shinji, at least, who chose. Even if he was distraught and devastated at the end of the third movie, Shinji chose for himself. Ultimately, that is why I like this iteration of Evangelion. These are more similar to teenagers conscious with their actions and the repercussions their actions entail: Asuka remained angry at Shinji, but she wasn’t that embittered. Even when he went against her, she still tried to save him, and didn’t physically molest him.

Rei, on the other hand, even chose for herself despite being another clone. She chose to go against the Angels. The teenagers are no longer mere pawns: they are human characters, and that is why I also like Rebuild.

Cunning Single Lady: the modern-day Persuasion

October 13th, 2014

Elizabeth had succeeded at sixteen to all that was possible of her mother’s rights and consequence; and being very handsome, and very like himself, her influence had always been great, and they had gone on together most happily. His other two children were of very inferior value. Mary had acquired a little artificial importance by becoming Mrs Charles Musgrove; but Anne, with an elegance of mind and sweetness of character, which must have placed her high with any people of real understanding, was nobody with either father or sister; her word had no weight, her convenience was always to give way — she was only Anne. -Persuasion, Jane Austen

This is my drama of the year (so far).

This is my drama of the year (so far).

I watched Cunning Single Lady with the shallowest of reasons: I have been a fan of Lee Min Jung ever since I watched Big, simply because she is a beautiful lady. I have followed her series since (I also watched All About My Romance) last year. I like her because alongside Kim Tae-hee, Min Jung seems to have the least amount of plastic surgery done on her face. I doubt if any of them had their face done, however. Read the rest of this entry »

Selling affordable classic books

September 27th, 2014

I’ve been gone for about two weeks because I was organizing all the books I could live without. In a few months we will really be moving to a smaller house so I decided to get rid of some of my less loved novels.

Please visit or share The Classics Bookbin at http://www.facebook.com/theclassicsbookbin

I’ve really tried to select only the best, so I hope you also enjoy my selection. :)