the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘Japanese

Kizumonogatari_Cover_(English)My other half is a huge fan of the Monogatari series.  He enjoys the anime series, and the Kizumonogatari (Wound Tale) novel.  A series of light novels that were turned into anime series, this paranormal story is told non-chronologically to enthralling effect. You can watch or read the stories in the order in which they were written, or in their chronological order, for a completely different experience.   What’s unusual about this series is that the characters actually come out and say exactly what they are thinking – which is rather unusual for your typical character be they in a Japanese story or an American story.  How would our lives be, if people said what they were thinking?

Take it away, other half!

 

scroll artwork

from Serdar Yegulalp’s review of Kizumonogatari (Wound Tale)

“Such was my experience with Kizumonogatari (“Wound Tale”), now in English courtesy of Vertical, Inc. It is ostensibly the story of a young man made into the thrall of a centuries-old vampire, and tasked with returning her severed limbs as payment for being restored to humanity. I say “ostensibly” because while that’s more or less what happens, it’s not what the story is about. The real subject of the story is Nisioisin’s way with words, and how much you enjoy this book — or any of his books — will be directly proportional to how much you savor watching an author make his sentences do handstands and jump through hoops.”

 

 

I did not particularly agree with the review though, I find many people see Araragi as a boy obsessed with boobs and panties and Hanekawa as just a generic damsel in distress. This is both incorrect and short sighted. Westerners seem to both love and hate sexuality; we watch simulated sex all night on Game of Thrones or True Blood and then go to work and complain about how anime is only for weeaboos because it has panties. Sigh.

Araragi ‘says’ internally what many/most teen and not so teen males think but saying the truth is not popular with the American crowd. Araragi is also deeply separated socially from everyone around him and is somewhat suicidal; not so much because he wants to die but because he cannot see the point of living. Hanekawa Tsubasa is a girl who is intelligent, well mannered and attractive but is also filled anger and violence at times, often towards herself, and who also would like to break out of being a good little Japanese school girl.

kizunamonogatari-2012

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A while back I got talking about my cookbook collection. The husband and I have been on an Asian food kick lately – Pakistani food, Thai Food, Malaysian curries, fancy Ramen, Chinese dumplings.  We’ve been exploring the joys of curries thanks to this cookbook:

curry cuisineand one of our favorites out of here is Japanese Curry Rice. I think I explained it to my parents as “imagine your favorite beef stew kicked up with curry spices and then served over rice. It’s not as spicy as it sounds”.  Well, I lied. it IS as spicy as it sounds. That’s what the rice is for.  Plain full-fat greek yogurt on the side is good for cooling your mouth down.

I called this blog post “One way to make Curry Rice” because I’m sure there are a million ways. This is our way,  slightly adapted from the Curry Cuisine recipe.

NOM NOM NOM

NOM NOM NOM

Ready for lots of badly lit photos of delicious food? Are you prepared to dirty every saucepan and measuring spoon in your kitchen? let’s go!

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the best Japanese science fictionThe Best Japanese Science Fiction Stories, edited by John L. Apostolou and Martin H. Greenberg

published in 1989

where I got it: purchased used

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Although this anthology was published in 1989, translation of included works began in the 70s when anthologists Judith Merrill, Grania Davis and Martin Greenburg, and editor and fan of Japanese literature John L Apostolou spent what would end up being nearly a decade of intense work with Japanese authors and translators of science fiction.

 

The planet is much smaller now, but try to put yourself into the mindset of an American in the 1980s.  What came to their mind when they thought “Japanese Science Fiction”? Godzilla? Astroboy? Remember, manga and anime were barely available if at all, and very few Japanese speculative fiction novels had been translated at the time.   I count myself very lucky to be reading speculative fiction in a day and age when magazines and anthologies and e-zines are printing works from all over the world, where fans clamor for translated works, where I can walk into Barnes and Noble and buy Manga that was published last month in Japan.  E-mail and Skype and Twitter make communicating across the planet as easy as shouting across the room, but that interest had to come from somewhere. I like to believe that some of it came from this anthology.  If you can find a copy of this collection (there are plenty of used copies available on Amazon), I highly recommend it.

 

I don’t care if this sounds cliche, but I love that science fiction means different things to different people.  Everything is contextual and cultural, and what you grew up with is going to shape your SFnal dreams.  I grew up in a suburban land of plenty.  Many of the authors in this anthology lived through Hiroshima. Quite the difference in experience there.  For the most part, these are not stories of first contact with aliens, they are not stories or space exploration or adventure, there is no futuristic technobabble and little gadgetry to speak of. They are intimate and low stakes, often ominous, everything from laugh out loud funny to horrifically hard to read, more fantastical than SF. But still, all of them are worth the read. Check out Two Dudes in an Attic’s review as well.

 

Here are a few words on my favorites:

 

Cardboard Box by Ryo Hanmura (1974) – These self aware cardboard boxes are seeking to fulfill their destinies – to be completely filled up. Because of course, what else would be the purpose of a box? Filled with fruit, and enroute to a grocery store, the boxes on the truck discuss what might happen to them after their fruit is removed. Will they be reused? Will they be thrown into the incinerator? broken down and stomped on and put in the trash? Their yearning to be completely filled up is hilariously sexual, and one box does in fact, become completely filled by taking an unexpected and possibly deadly path. Good luck getting through this story without laughing your head off and not blushing next time you put stuff in a box.

 

The Road To The Sea, by Takashi Ishikawa (1981) – A little boy runs away from home, insistent on seeing the sea. He’s seen pictures of it in books, how far away could it possibly be?  People he meets on his way try to convince him to go back home, but the child is determined to see the sea. This story put me a bit in mind of Cecil Castellucci’s We Have Always Lived on Mars.

 

The Savage Mouth, by Sakyo Komatsu (1979) – At first, I thought the protagonist was planning to, or threatening to commit suicide. And then we get a look at the room in which he will undertake his procedure, which includes an automated operating table, a stack of prosthetics, and a restaurant quality kitchen, complete with seasonings and cast iron frying pans.  This is one helluva gag reflex triggering horror story, with extra pressure coming because you can’t believe anyone would actually *do* this to themselves.  First, he amputates his leg, and attaches a prosthetic.  Think about that fully equiped kitchen, and I’ll bet you can guess what happens next.  One of his many justifications is that he’s not using the planet’s diminishing resources, he not eating an animal, he’s not harming other animals to feed himself.  Like some people get addicted to piercings or getting tattoos, our protagonist gets addicted, in a way, to his slow self immolation.  But he is sustaining himself with calories, and planning the next steps in the most scientific way possible. So, is it suicide or science? No one has ever done what he’s doing, no one has ever survived it. he could be the first person to taste his own eyeball, his own lung tissue, his own brain tissue!  By the time the cops find the lab, there isn’t anything left of him to put to questioning, and the cops assume some kind of sick murderer tortured his victim.  Like I said, gag reflex triggering horror story.

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.