Movie Review: The Snow White Murder Case

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Date released: March 20, 2014
Directed by: Yoshihiro Nakamura
Written by: Kanae Minato (novel), Tamio Hayashi
Watched with Japanese audio and English subtitles.

Starring: Inoue Mao, Gou Ayano, Misako Renbutso, Nanao

I think this is my first movie review here and I don’t really know what format a standard movie review takes so I’ll just wing it. I don’t watch many movies. I prefer dramas (as opposed to Western TV shows because those are not very satisfying). But I did say that I’m going to venture out into new genres and do new things so here I am: venturing.

Right. The plot of The Snow White Murder Case is relatively simple. A beautiful office worker is found murdered in a forest some distance from the city in which she lives and works. A guy who works for a TV show gets a call from an old classmate, Risako Kano, who spills the beans about the murdered office worker, mainly that the dead woman used to be her mentor at work and the murderer is most probably one of the women she works with. Someone called Miki Shirono. The guy, Yuji Akahoshi, decides to work on this story and develop it into a segment for the show he works for. So the story is basically a murder mystery. However, the execution of this story is vastly different.

When we first meet Yuji Akahoshi, we find him tweeting compulsively. He’s a deplorable character if one judges him from his tweets which are simply lies and posturing that he does online to make himself look better than he is. Japan is big on Twitter. People love it so it’s unsurprising that modern Japanese literature delves into the phenomenon to create stories that are relevant to our times and our society.

The movie is a character study. Shirono Miki is shown from many perspectives and it is a testament to Inoue Mao’s acting prowess that she is able to show one character in so many different ways. As Yuji goes around interviewing the co-workers, lovers and enemies of both the murdered woman and the alleged murderer, Shirono Miki, complicated, often contradictory, testimonies of both women emerge.

Noriko is painted as a goddess by most of the coworkers while Miki is seen as a dour, jealous and plain rival (though Inoue Mao is anything but plain). Friends remember Miki as shy; ex-boyfriends as stalkery. A childhood friend remembers Miki as pure-hearted and kind. The real Shirono Miki and not just what she is perceived as by other people appears three quarters of the movie later and with her appearance, the mystery rapidly unravels until we are left with a chilling conclusion.

What makes this movie memorable is how relevant it is to all of us. Even though the movie is Japanese, considering the global love affair with social media, the message will transcend cultural and language barriers. Character assassinations on social media are, unfortunately, not new but such a poignant portrayal of it is. I don’t watch many Hollywood movies so I may be unaware but I don’t think a movie like this has been made here.

The movie contains no black and white characters and all the major players, except for Shirono Miki, are deplorable. Yuji who finds himself basking in attention and adoration after the first segment of the program is released finds himself unprepared for the backlash and hate leveled his way when the tides turn. Internet fame is fleeting and fickle and this is illustrated beautifully in the movie.

Also understated (and therefore having a greater impact) is a moment when Yuji finally meets the real Shirono Miki and fails to recognize her. The movie says a lot about humans, our lives and the realities we exist in.

Review: Earthling by Aisha Franz, Helge Dascher (Translation)

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Paperback, 208 pages
Published November 4th 2014 by Drawn and Quarterly
Source: Raincoast Books
Aisha Franz is a German cartoonist. Earthling was translated into English by Helge Dascher.

What do I say about Earthling? It’s honest, sincere and a bit uncomfortable. The graphic novel follows a mother and her two daughters who are all desperately unhappy. The mom feels like she has wasted her life becoming a housewife and a mother. Her husband has gone on a business trip on his own and afterwards is going on a vacation with their daughters—I don’t think she was invited. The older daughter is infatuated with a boy who is using her for sex, the younger daughter, Madchen, cannot understand everyone’s preoccupation with sex and in fact, discovers an alien in a field and she brings him home unbeknownst to her family.

The novel is sad, almost desperately so and the art reflects this. There is not much dialogue in the novel and this functions to keep the focus on the art and the mood and atmosphere created by the art. The heartache seems more pronounced through the medium precisely because of the lack of dialogue.

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All three of the characters escape, however briefly, into fantasy worlds that probably help them cope with the disappointments life keeps shoving at them. I most empathized with the mother because I felt her musings about her life were the most profound as she stared at a happier version of herself; the version who didn’t go to the club and didn’t meet the girls’ father, didn’t get pregnant, and didn’t drop out of college. The alien in the story is just a personification of Madchen’s feelings of being an alien in her life.

I really enjoyed this graphic novel. Though the ending is a bit abrupt, the novel did give me a lot to think about.

The Reading Forecast

I read books last week. A lot of them. I was feeling down for reasons and my way of coping with sad feelings is to read. A lot. So here’s what I got through. Prepare to be impressed.

  1. The Walled City by Ryan Graudin
    I liked this well enough but…
  2. Tiger Moon – Antonia Michaelis
    Bleh.
  3. The Dream Thieves – Maggie Stiefvater
    Just as fantastic on the second read.
  4. The Raven Boys – Maggie Stiefvater
    Loved it on the second read.
  5. Blue Lily, Lily Blue – Maggie Stiefvater
    I enjoyed this but not as much as the other two.
  6. Jamilti and Other Stories – Rutu Modan
    I liked this but it wasn’t my favourite.
  7. Children of War – Deborah Ellis
    Made my heart ache.
  8. 11 volumes of Me and My Brothers – Hari Tokeino
    I read this all in one night. O.O
  9. 4 volumes of Rere Hello – Touko Minami
    The art is extraordinarily good here. Plus, I like that the main character isn’t a typical shoujo heroine. I read translations.

So 22 books in total. Yep. Prolific, I was.

Now on to what I’m reading. Surprising no one, after my gluttony last week, I’m reading just one book currently:

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I’m enjoying this quite a bit. It’s definitely one of the creepier books I’ve read but since it’s not a movie, I’m not as scared as I could be. Good times.

And what do I plan to read?

Hmm.

Definitely Ms. Marvel. I have the book, I’ve just been waffling about reading it because the wait for the next one is so long. I will also read Earthling a graphic novel I was sent for review. Plus some picture books I got for review as well. I will also probably give Wheel of the Infinite by Martha Wells a try. Some other books I may give in and read include The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black and Love is the Drug by Alaya Dawn Johnson. We’ll see what I feel like.

The Habits of Bibliophiles: Observations

The distribution of these omnivorous mammals does not discriminate between gender, sex, culture, race and geographical location. They pop up anywhere and everywhere (though there are larger concentrations near places like bookstores). One way to identify a bibliophile is by the book bags they carry or if you are lucky enough to gain an invitation into their inner sanctum (devilishly difficult to achieve), by the books you will find cluttering up all available surfaces. Sometimes, they will have more than one e-reader because one is full of books they cannot bear to delete. Another way to identify a bibliophile is to check their browser history (if you do not care about being taken as a stalker and having charges pressed against you by the law enforcement). Most bibliophiles lurk around sites such as Goodreads, Amazon, Bookoutlet, library websites. See the frequency with which they access the sites; peek into their bookmarks. The internet will reveal all.

Eating Habits

Bibliophiles take food seriously–as long as it doesn’t interfere with their reading. Pastries are consumed in huge amounts as are other easy to make goods. Sometimes spouses and roommates find themselves in the unenviable position of being the designated cook for the entirety of the time they spend in close contact with the bibliophile. As for beverages, most bibliophiles drink tea by the gallon though many others prefer coffee. Then again, bibliophiles are not known to be too discriminating–as long as there is a beverage within easy reach, they will consume it.

Socializing Habits

Bibliophiles tend to stick together and rarely venture out into the “real world.” There are three reasons for this:

1. Most of their free time is occupied with the reading of books.
2. What socializing time there is left after the books have been read are spent discussing the books that were read. It is difficult to discuss a book with someone who hasn’t read it. (I have tried it.)
3. The art of Conversation with Non-Readers is very difficult to learn and most bibliophiles would much rather read another book.

Mating Habits

There are many bibliophiles who enjoy happy and fulfilling relationships with their partners who may or may not be bibliophiles. Sometimes, the partner may not start out as a bibliophile but after long-term exposure to the bibliophile, he/she/they has/have no choice but to commit to becoming a bibliophile.

For the rest of the the tribe, there are what the bibliophiles call “book boyfriends.” The “real world” keeps on insisting that book boyfriends are figments of imagination and do not have a 3D existence. They have yet to convince the bibliophiles of the veracity of their words.

Working Life

Bibliophiles work. They have jobs. The lucky ones work in the business of creating books and perpetuating the life-blood of bibliophiles: books. The unlucky ones work at work with the singular purpose of earning money to buy books first and food second. Sometimes there is even enough money left to pay rent. Money is also needed to go to signings and other events such as Book Expo America and any ALA event where there will be books.

A much more pleasurable job, though not one that pays, is blogging/vlogging about books. Bibliophiles show more passion in this job than any others they actually get paid for.

Reading

Bibliophiles read in many different ways. Some savour books for weeks and week, reading each word over and over again. Others tear through books in stormy ferocity, leaving librarians whirling from the swiftness with which they cycle through library books. Bookstore clerks are ready with masks and shields for the hordes that descend upon their stores when a new book is released. The police, firemen and ambulatory services are all on tenterhooks during these times, waiting for calls to announce book casualties. Other bibliophiles read at a steady pace, completing anywhere from ten to twenty books a month.

Weaknesses

Book sales.

Strengths

Book sales.

NaNoWri…I’m writing okay?

Here’s an update: I’m writing.

By which I mean that while I’m not writing a certain number of words every day (what target?), I am actually enjoying writing. This does not mean it has suddenly become easy because, jeez, far from it. Because this is my second time seriously writing a novel, I expected things to be easier. *snort*

And since I am also in the querying stage and doubting I’ll ever move out of it (hope, yes, hope), for a while there, I was wondering if writing was what I want to do. Forget the fact that it’s all I can do, (my skills are very limited), the rejections are difficult to cope with as it erodes the self-esteem I never had in high supply anyway. ANYWAY, I don’t want to be a Debby Downer (who is that? well, whoever she is, I don’t want to be her), I have discovered that the second book is more fun to write than the first one.

I have always liked puzzles; I like figuring solutions to things no matter how snarled and knotty things are. For a while with this second book, I was afraid I had bitten off more than I could chew. Then I realized that my pace was too quick. Since this is just the first draft, I figure I can take my time, write as much as I want, indulge myself. And once I told myself that, the world opened up. I probably will curse this attitude when I’m doing revisions but right now, I’m having fun figuring out how to worldbuild without information dumping. How to drive the plot forward in organic ways and how to avoid depending on obvious plot devices. But mostly, it is worldbuilding that I am most preoccupied with. I feel like the world I have created is so amazing (doesn’t everyone?) and the second book gives me a chance to explore it. So I’m seeing it just as the reader will and if the wonder I feel while creating it can be expressed through my words to the reader, it’ll be happiness.

 

The Reading Forecast

Last week was a slow plodding week where reading is concerned. It’s probably because I’m not liking the books I am reading or because they are heavier than my usual fare but whatever it is, I’m not feeling reading at the moment.Here’s what I did manage to read:

  1. The Gods of Amyrantha by Jennifer Fallon
    Decided to stop with the series here as I read some major spoilers (willingly) and let’s just say, I would have been angry had I gotten more invested in the characters.
  2. IraqiGirl: Diary of a Teenage Iraqi Girl
    This one was sobering. An eye opener and a heartbreaker.
  3. Uri Appa Chwegoya. Or in English, My Dad is Awesome. The Korean translation of My Dad by Anthony Brown
    This was very cute. Lots of humour. Plus, the Korean was easy enough to read. I figure I can work my way up to reading the more complex books.
  4. Today is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life by Ulli Lust
    Did not like this one at all. Ugh.
  5. Julia, Child by Kyo Maclear and Julie Morstad
    All sorts of adorable things happening here.

I’m currently reading:

  1. Tiger Moon by Antonia Michaelis
    Yeah, still reading it. I was going to finish this yesterday but every time I read a paragraph, I would start coughing and my mom  banished me. Should finish it this week.
  2. The Walled City by Ryan Graudin
    The story moves quickly enough. Split perspectives give me pause and marked lack of worldbuilding. Still, the writing is pretty.

What I Plan on Reading:

*shrug*

I have this super wicked cough which makes sleeping impossible so I can’t function properly or as humans do. Zombie impressions are me right now. NaNoWriMo is not happening for me anymore but it’s put me on track to writing Book Two which is good so I will continue writing it.

I’m reading like five pages of Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble so there’s that. It will take me months to finish it but at least I’m reading it. I’ll probably read some graphic novels. I have one out from the library that I need to get done. Some picturebooks I need to read and schedule reviews of. As I said before, I’m sick so not feeling reading at the moment. We’ll see. I’ll probably pick something up when I feel like it. I don’t know if I’ll finish Walled City this week either. Gah.

Presenting: Book Reviews, the Short Version

So I’ve read some books (*snort* understatement) and I figure I may as well do short reviews for them because why not?

18465601The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang, Sonny Liew and Chu Hing

This one is a retelling or reimagination of sorts of an old comic book series which had a short run due to lack of readers. Yang talks at length about how the identity of the original Shadow Hero is kept secret as in the original he is always resolutely turned away from the reader so his face is never visible giving rise to the suspicion that though his skin tone is that of a Caucasian, the comic book artist definitely wanted him to be Chinese. Speculation aside, this new retelling is solid both in its art and the story it tells. I liked it quite a bit.

578618The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery and translated by Katherine Woods

So I know this is a classic and most people really love this but for some reason, I had a vastly mediocre reaction to this. If I’m going to be completely honest, the little prince annoyed the heck out of me with this judging, patronizing ways. White privilege aside, there’s a skein of colonial discourse running through it where things (in this case nature and roses) are said to only have meaning when they are “tamed.” And yes, I’m probably simplifying the “message” but being told you can not mean something to yourself, you have to mean something to someone else to be good or have any kind of worth is well, rubbish. So meh to this.

18693704The Seat of Magic by J. Kathleen Cheney

I had been anticipating this sequel quite eagerly because the previous one had ended at such an intriguing place. The sequel lived up to my expectations mostly and gave readers a closer, more piercing look at the fantastical Portuguese people and culture in the book. The worldbuilding is solid and so is the writing. The characterizations are on point as well. If I had any complaints, it would be that the spotlight shines a bit too strongly on romance. When there is one couple in the book that is fine but when brothers and sisters of the main couple start finding love with each other, there is a danger that the book can seem campy or even cheesy and I think this book is too fine to go that route. We’ll see.

13594590The Nao of Brown by Glyn Dillon

This book is so fantastic. It follows a half-Japanese woman who is sometimes beset by these urges to do terrible things which erode her confidence as a person, as a good person. She never actually does anything but the scenarios that play out in her mind are terrible and she’s terrified that some day she’s going to slip and actually do some of the things she thinks about. Running concurrently is a story about this Nothing who was half turned into a tree and whose promise to bring back a wife is what will finally set him free from the monstrous form he has been given. The art is fantastic and the book is curiously philosophical but maintains a more positive outlook than one would think considering the premise.

16158565The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic by Emily Croy Barker

I really enjoyed this book on a very cerebral level. The title is not wrong–this book will mostly appeal to those who like slower paced books that take a long time getting to the point and enjoy exploring the details of worldbuilding and magic systems. This is a portal adventure and focuses on a grad student who goes through a graveyard into a world where she meets a beautiful woman, her incredibly handsome son and lands into a life of adventure and romance. Only all that is a sham as the beautiful woman is a fae and everything is Glamour. She is rescued by a gruff magician and finds out that she is not even in her own world now but in one where the status of women is somewhere nearer to the slop pile than to actual human being. The book does not shy away from portraying the realistic elements of a different world in a different time but rather than being overwhelmed by the nitty grittiness of it all, you learn to appreciate the subtler turns in the narrative. I enjoyed this quite a bit and cannot wait to read the sequel whenever it comes out.