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.

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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.

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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. :)

Suisei no Gargantia: the first three episodes

September 13th, 2014

I wanted to celebrate my return to anime by watching Mushishi Zoku Shou, as it seems to be the runaway selection for anime of this year. I have also obtained its ten episodes. I only realized it was subtitled in Chinese only when I opened it, so I have to download those episodes once more (although if you guys know where to get *.srt files of the series, please share your information).

As with most medical clerks, I have had a massive backlog of anime series, but the only complete one I haven’t touched before was Suisei no Gargantia, so that’s where I’m re-starting my hopefully more consistent anime blogging. I may not sustain this seeing that residency training or further studies lurk in the distance, but I’ll try to make up for lost time.

Suisei no Gargantia, from its first three episodes, is a generic sci-fi and mecha action series. Beyond that I really have little else to comment: I’m not watching Mushishi or Tatami Galaxy, after all. It’s not something I would recommend, but it’s not bad.

The absence explained: the journey to becoming a medical doctor

September 5th, 2014

I looked at my previous posts and the last one I made was nearly a year ago. I’ve clearly put anime on the back-burner, but it’s for a very legitimate reason: the physician licensure examination began two weeks ago. There are a few things more important to me than anime, but being a licensed doctor is a lot more important than writing anime articles (for now).

I'm actually a doctor now.

I’m actually a doctor now.

In all honesty, I didn’t care much about medical school. That was primarily the reason that I was able to produce articles during the time period between 2009 and 2012. I stopped writing because I had to deal with menial work during my year in clerkship. The work was not only physically draining, however, but also mentally exhausting. At certain unlucky instances I would not have sleep for 40 hours; and particularly benign duties (24 hours long, plus 12 more hours of post-duty work) would allow me three hours of troubled sleep. I didn’t have time to watch anime, or be productive whenever I got home at the end of a 36-hour shift; and I would sleep early the next day in preparation for another 36-hour shift.

When I finally graduated in medical school I decided to properly prepare for the boards. I may not have had the passion for medicine as most of my peers, but I had enough responsibility to stick by my decision, which was to become a medical doctor, and I was going to be a medical doctor out of gratitude for a damn fine father. Gratitude is miles different from love, however: even now, I still honestly cannot say I love medicine.

I got my backlog of classic novels out of the way during the first two months of my post-graduate internship, and then started to prepare for the licensure examinations as rigorously as I knew how, which was to read as many reviewers as I possibly could with my spare time from duty. I had that much to catch-up to: all those barely passing marks came to bite me in the back, and I had ‘studied’ medicine for four years without really learning anything much. I’d say I cruised through it, rather than really studied it. I wrote a lot of articles about anime, and wrote pretty consistently because I spent time doing things other than studying. I could have passed as a part-time writer, DotA player, and overall bum, but not as zealous medical student. That description was for my classmates.

In the ten months I had left prior to graduating as a post-graduate intern (or PGI), I slowly culled the classics and literary reading from my backlog and kept on adding medical reviewers. This determination reached its apex during January through April this year, where I would read reviewers every spare time I had in between duties. My parents also acquiesced in enrolling me in a review center, just to bolster my chances of becoming a medical doctor.

The reader may think it quite queer for someone to be so determined at something one does not really love: I think this can be explained by my personality quirk which is the possession of an intense fear of failure. I think I am a serious person for the most part because I have this fear, as I don’t want to disappoint myself and others important to me.

When the formal review started, another four months passed with nothing more than reading through the different subjects. The breaks I allowed myself were: first, between five to six hours of sleep; and second, occasional excursions to the nearby mall for some novel food.

I could not allot any time for anime during all this time, and the reasons why are now quite obvious.

The results of the licensure examinations came out yesterday, and I am now a licensed physician. It’s time to start writing about anime once more. :)

Top 10 Books Read for 2013

January 2nd, 2014

To me, this has been a pivotal year for me as regards literature. It’s probably the first year that I’ve read more than 100 significant works of prose, and it’s a great feeling that I finished reading 140 at the end of the year.

I’m writing this note as a reminder to myself of what I deemed the best books I have read over the course of this year, as well as a sort of instructive write-up of sorts to those who may be interested in reading books that I (among others) highly esteem. Here goes.

10. Persuasion – Jane Austen

I don’t like to read romances for the most part. It’s not that I’m a cynic regarding love; it’s just that I don’t like escaping from my failures in love into fantasies. That’s probably the reason why I read classics for the most part. Rather than being entertained, I like reading for the sake of edification. I like to combine observation with reflection, and I like learning, and that’s why I read.

Persuasion is Jane Austen at her most mature, though. Anne Elliot is no longer youthful: she toes the line of spinsterhood, and yet she still waited for the only person she loved. It was, of course, her fault that she was persuaded against her heart, but I totally understand: in the final analysis, love is not the only thing that keeps us alive. There are so many factors and intricacies involved in living that romance is merely an aspect. Anne, being a pragmatic person, simply silences herself while paying the dues for her repudiation of Wentworth.

She is intelligent, forbearing, and patient. She watches her tongue. I like her, because I’m reminded of myself by her.

Aside from that, though, it’s really Wentworth’s letter that sealed the deal. It’s probably among the sweetest, most loving words I’ve read from the entirety of literature: ‘I am half-agony, half-hope. I have loved none but you.’

9. The Art of Clear Thinking – Rudolf Flesch

This was a zeitgeist, a history book, and a tome that taught one how to be more organized with thought. It had some fun tests in it, and was a joy to read.

8. How You Can Be a Better Student – Rudolf Flesch

This was a book that gauged one’s intelligence in most mental aspects. Not only that, it also helped one boost his vocabulary, and write better. I made friends with this book, but it was also very helpful to me in the aspect of more efficient studying.

7. Gone with the Wind – Margaret Mitchell

I read this novel over the course of two days.

I’d say this wasn’t even a romance novel, because Scarlett wasn’t really effusive with love. Despite her demeanor, though, to see her struggle through the Civil War from destruction to rebuilding and then to failure once more was really breathtaking. I lost sleep over this novel because it was just that exciting to read.

The ending was also very apt. Scarlett deserved every bit of what Rhett did to her. I can’t remember most of the details, but the panoramic breadth and the color of the novel is more than enough for its price of admission.

6. Some Do Not and No More Parades – Ford Madox Ford

I’m glad I first watched the mini-series. It made understanding the first two novels of Parade’s End a lot easier.

I really like this novel because its protagonist, Christopher Tietjens, is essentially ‘the last gentleman.’ Even though he was cuckolded by his wife, cheated by her lover, and left hanging by his friend, he persisted to being upright and proper even as his world fell around him. Although he finally capitulated with his love for Miss Wannop after his wife took everything that could be taken from him, he still remained a true gentleman, and the Last Tory.

The two novels are both complex and beautiful, and beautifully represent the decline and fall of conservative values as modernism loomed. Great work.

5. The Bridge over the River Kwai – Pierre Boulle

In a certain battle, the Japanese defeated the British and brutally treated them as prisoners-of-war. However, as the Japanese require a bridge across Burma to transport supplies, they needed the help of the POWs to build the bridge. Despite abuses, Col. Nicholson staunchly opposes being made to work as if they were privates, and refers to the Hague Convention for their rights in war. Eventually, the Japanese leader capitulates, and a bridge of wood was made with speed and efficiency.

The bridge, however, has to be destroyed, and eventually allegiances are questioned. Should pride be placed above duty? Should honor be placed above work? These are questions that the book posits and offers no answers to. All there remains is a pithy, well-written tragedy.

4. The Mansion – William Faulkner

‘But you can me’

When Faulkner writes a love story, it becomes a classic.

Liberal Arts and The Mansion have a similar age-difference in their love stories. But unlike Liberal Arts, however, The Mansion features vicarious love. Because Gavin Stevens, the protagonist, could not love the mother as she wouldn’t allow it, he takes care of the beautiful, energetic child instead and tries to lead her toward the right way. Her name is Linda Snopes: her father is one of the most devious representatives of the Snopes family, the American representation of Faulkner for uncompromising avarice. Stevens tries to give her books, direct her to become a more educated, more knowledgeable lady, and she slowly gets to appreciate all that he had done and was doing for her. But he could not love her the way she needed to be loved, and he could not give what she wished for.

This is a love story and a thriller at the same time, and is the final novel of the Snopes trilogy. It’s proof that a ‘lesser’ Faulkner work is probably most other writers’ masterpieces.

3. The Idiot – Fyodor Dostoevsky

‘If Jesus Christ were placed in the 19th century, would he have the same fate?’, Dostoevsky asks.

He answers with a resounding yes. The Idiot features a sweet, angelic prince in Myshkin who comes into fortune after some coincidences. Two women fall in love with him: the first is someone totally virtuous, and the second is ‘a fallen woman.’ The fallen woman cannot accept love from him, so she ruins herself; the virtuous lady could not understand that his love for the fallen woman is different from his interest in her, so she runs away.

Ultimately, he retreats into his own shell, still full of goodness, but never returning to the world.

The novel is a great reflection of the evil that man possesses, and the goodness that man can no longer have. Revelatory and prophetic, The Idiot is one of Dostoevsky’s greatest novels, and arguably one of the greatest novels ever.

2. The Violent Bear it Away – Flannery O’Connor

Before I graduated from my clerkship, I strongly reacted when one of the consultants told me that she did not know who Flannery O’Connor was. In our graduation party, the novel was used to identify me. I unhesitatingly grouped this novel into one of my all-time favorites – and it remains to be so.

Nearly a year removed from reading the novel the very first time, I’m still thoroughly impressed. O’Connor tackled the question of faith through her grotesques, and although I may have misunderstood some of its parts (it’s a highly complex novel), just reading about the reality that one never really can run away from God was a great catharsis of sorts for me. No matter how much Francis Tarwater tries to run from God, he is nevertheless still drawn toward him. Indeed, only those violent with the love of God can carry the Church away from its demons. It’s a dark, difficult work, but it’s made me reassess my faith and actions towards God.

1. The Glass Bead Game – Hermann Hesse

I thought nothing could beat The Violent Bear It Away. I was so sure.

Then I read The Glass Bead Game. I don’t think both works could be compared to one another, but I saw myself in the struggles of Joseph Knecht. To become the Master of the Game, he had to sacrifice everything else except knowledge: he was intelligent, diligent, and responsible, and that was the reason why he had reached the highest possible post in Castalia. Even then, however, it wasn’t enough. Or rather, it wasn’t right.

Eventually Joseph realized that hiding in the high tower of one’s intelligence was no better than those people who hid in caves just to escape the light. Both were equally wrong, and equally contemptible. Knowledge and wisdom in a human being remains to be nevertheless steeped in the real world. One cannot live without being in society, and one cannot escape society. In the end, he still wanted out of their cabal of intelligence because he argued that life isn’t lived inside a glass bead.

I realized that he was right. I pursued intelligence and knowledge so much that I had ignored and was insensitive to the needs of other people. Before, people were mere stepping stones to the build-up of my intelligence. Feelings were insignificant. While I had changed for the better even before the book, The Glass Bead Game elucidated what should be done: wisdom is useless in solitude.

I agree, and that’s why The Glass Bead Game is my best book of 2013.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Is this the strongest season in two years?

October 27th, 2013

I may have been selling myself short with Infinite Stratos 2. With Kyoukai no Kanata, Coppelion, and Samurai Flamenco, this might be one of the stronger seasons of recent years. I’m totally sucked in by attractive, bespectacled women as well.

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And the newest anime I’m watching goes to…

October 22nd, 2013

The first anime I watched after Psycho-Pass wasn’t some classic or critically-acclaimed series.

It was Infinite Stratos 2.

After all this time, I’m still in love with Charlotte Dunois. I love a beautiful, smart, and demure lady. Whereas all the others are passive-aggressive toward Ichika, Charlotte has been consistent with her emotions for Ichika.

I’d love to meet a girl like her.