Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Kiseki (I Wish)

Year: 2011 | Directed by: Hirokazu Koreeda | Roundup Rating: A+

For a few weeks now, I have been struggling to write a film review/analysis for this Hirokazu Koreeda hit film. Not because there's a conflict of emotions, but because as usual I was simply suffering from a simple case of writer's block. I feel like a deer in a headlights while sitting down in front of my laptop, no words flowing, as in zero, nada, nothing. But of course I have to start somewhere in order to get the ball rolling, and the introductory piece on my dried up state of mind is a perfect foot forward to the door. 

Koreeda's most recent film "Like Father, Like Son" is not the topic of my conversation for this entry but his prior work preceding the latter. I have to say, I've become a Koreeda enthusiast this year. There is something arresting about his films, regardless of them being in the dramatic genre  they were never soap operatic, what I mean to say is, never exaggerated or overacting. He just shows us life, pure and simple. 

Kiseki (Miracle in English) or I Wish is about two brothers (played by real life Maeda siblings) living apart in different cities after their parents separation. The eldest, Oosako, lives with their mother in Kagoshima, and the youngest, Ryu, chose to stay with their father in Fukuoka. 

When their parents separated Oosako and his mother moves in at his grandparents home. He complains every day about the ashes coming from the volcano and wonders why their school is erected at the top of the hill. Because he is surrounded by older people, a mother that is constantly concerned with her newfound responsibilities as a single parent, and becoming a middle school student in his next year, Oosako's experience throughout the film could be seen as his own "coming-of-age". His initial intention for making a wish at the two exact passing Shinkansen (bullet train) is for the Sakurajima volcano to errupt just so their family could be reunited like old times in Osaka. His friend reacted that "if that happens then all of us would die". Because he is a kid - driven by what he wants - he doesn't care about that major consequence, to him at that time, what matters most is getting his family back together and nothing else, not even the world. But afterwards, when he spend a day with his brother and friends, Oosako realizes that being alive and having the people you cherish into your life is already a miracle itself. He has grownup in a way, thereby, he waved his wish and accepted what he has at the present. 

Ryu, on the other hand, is a kid and remains as so during the beginning and ending of the movie. He is relaxed and happy-go-lucky compared to his brother; take into consideration that he lives with a father who is more of a friend than a parent. Ryu embodies a child's innocence, his attitude towards life is to enjoy and have fun with his friends. He doesn't take things too seriously, nor fret about a single argument he had with his brother, because to him everything would be okay later since they are a family. 

Kiseki may look and sound like a children's film but it's actually and essentially about adults. Only we are seeing it through the eyes and perspective of its children. What they think is their version of the truth, but no less than the truth of things. But more practical and less complicated if you ask me. There were moments in the movie where I kept on saying, "yes that's how it is...that's right." I think when people get older we made simple things difficult to understand, the answer is right there in front of us and yet we keep on skirting the details around. For example, when Ryu showed their father's CD to Oosako and he asked him what Indie means, his older brother said, "it means you have to work hard." What a spot on and simple answer to a question that older people tends to complicate about. (FYI: Indie artists have to work doubly hard to make their music and to have it heard by the world.) I think older people are simply stupid and it's through children we realized the important things that we always forget, that life is short and it is best spent when you are together with the people that you love. 

My favorite idea or part of the film is the sponge cake that the grandfather keeps on making for the opening of the new Kyushu Shinkansen. Oosako finds the flavor faint or mellow but admitted later on that it started to grew on him. He said to his grandfather that he fed Ryu the cake he made and asked him what his brother think about it and he said, "he's still too young." If you put it this way, the analogy on the flavor of the sponge cake is about "adjusting to life." We may not like our situation and may be it won't change the way we wanted it to be but we'll get used to it because that's how we survive. We have to accept and learn to love what we have even though it's not something that we like in order for us to grow as a person. 

Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Race - 2014 Best Foreign Language Film

76 countries made it to the shortlist for next year's OSCAR's Best Foreign Language Film. To read the complete list visit --

My top 10 early prediction or handpicks goes to the following films -- selected solely according to their track record at the moment (film trailer, festival performance, critical reviews and viewers reception). Please take note that these films are ranked in no particular order:

1. Wadjda - Saudi Arabia, Directed by Haifaa al-Mansour | Trailer
2. La grande bellezza - Italy, Directed by Paolo Sorrentino | Trailer
3. The Past - Iran, Directed by Asghar Farhadi | Trailer
4. The Hunt - Denmark, Directed by Thomas Vinterberg | Trailer
5. Transit - Philippines, Directed by Hannah Espia | Trailer
6. The Grandmaster - Hong Kong, Directed by Wong Kar-Wai | Trailer
7. Ilo Ilo - Singapore, Directed by Anthony Chen | Trailer
8. The Missing Picture - Cambodia, Directed by Rithy Panh | Trailer
9. The Rocket - Australia, Directed by Kim Mordaunt | Trailer
10. Metro Manila - United Kingdom, Directed by Sean Ellis | Trailer

So far, most of my handpicks are coming from Asia. Way to go! I am optimistic that the award will go to one of these titles. The only thing wrong in the shortlist is the absence of the obvious strong front runner "Blue is the Warmest Color" from France and Japan's "Like Father, Like Son". Both are winners from the recent Cannes Film Festival, unfortunately mishandled by their countries, jeopardizing their strong chances to take home the golden guy.

For my country's official entry, the force seems strong on Hannah Espia's Cinemalaya winning drama about the flight of Filipino contract workers in Israel and the deportation of their Israeli-born, Hebrew speaking children. Kudos to their excellent cinematography, writing and editing. I think the chances are high for the Philippines to receive their first nomination (or win) at this elusive award giving body. However, I'm not trying to be unpatriotic, but I would like to see Saudi's film entry 'Wadjda' by Haifaa al-Mansour to win at next year's OSCAR race for Best Foreign Language Film.

I'll be keeping up-to-date tabs about the nomination process, the final selection and winner for this particular category. Through the years, this is the only section at the OSCAR's that truly mattered to me.

Sensory Overload: Anime Fall 2013

I know it's cliche but I'll say it once again. So many anime's, so little time. In terms of quantity, this year's last quarter has sure surpassed all the other season for 2013. I have to scrutinized, dropped those anime's that failed to piqued my interest in order to narrow down my list. Without further ado, here is my ranking for the Fall season's new show based solely on first episode. 

1. Kyoukai no Kanata (Kyoto Animation)
Cute characters doing action packed sequences, what's not to like. After my distraught for Free! last season I'm glad KyoAni is back in their form, better and more fun. I love magic!

2. Kyousogiga (Toei Animation)
This is the anime sister of Alice in Wonderland, but crazier and much weirder. Put Kyoto in the picture and we'll have one hell of a festival. 

3. Nagi no Asukara (P.A. Works)
I'll be expecting tons of tears and drama along the way. P.A. Works as usual delivers an animation, character design and visual landscapes that makes them completely a class of their own. 

4. Kakumeiki Valvrave (Sunrise)
This flamboyant show continuous its winning streak after its three month hiatus. Not essentially the most original, regardless, it contains the best one-liners and punchlines ever on TV. Its ability not to take itself seriously, even at times of distress, would give you the kick. Valvrave you are the animal! 

5. Non Non Biyori (Silver Link)
I have a certain fascination for rural Japan and what a way to get my own fill by watching these cute country girls living a country life. 

6. Galilei Donna (A-1 Pictures)
The first episode has introduced our main characters, but the main premise is still on the way to be discovered. A-1 is doing a pretty good job this year and I'm certain this one won't be a letdown. 

7. Samurai Flamenco (Manglobe)
Along with all the crazy themes of this season's line up of shows Samurai Flamenco is sure up there to pump up the volume. 

And the other half of this list (from number 8 to 14):

Visit their websites:
Golden Time (J.C. Staff) 
White Album 2 (Satelight)
Yowamushi Pedal (TMS Entertainment)
Gingitsune (Diomedea)
Coppelion (Studio GoHands)
Kill la Kill (Trigger)
Tokyo Ravens (Studio 8-bit)

First Look: Samurai Flamenco

I lost count on how many times I've said to myself that "the hero is crazy". I'm completely unsure if he is just suffering from Chuunibyou or he never got over from that syndrome. The flamboyance of this show does come from his crazy antics. He wears a customized super hero suit and tries to save the world from jaywalkers and juvenile deliquents only to get beaten the living daylights out of him. But don't get me wrong, I do enjoy this show. Anything outrageous I'll take it with open arms. The first episode successfully established the tandem between Masayoshi and Hidenori. Their partnership reminds me a lot of Tiger and Bunny, another superhero show that doesn't lack on wacky. Hidenori is my guy choice, Masayoshi is too over-the-top for me. I think Samurai Flamenco will be capable of supplying unthinkable and enjoyable laugh-out-loud moments and I'll make sure to be right there watching. 

First Look: Non Non Biyori

When it comes to cute anime characters doing cute things I will be forever more their patron saint. I do have exceptions though, no ecchi plots, no fat breasted females, and no panty shots. Those concepts are not in the cards for me plain and simple. My thunderous applause goes out to the show's character designer, Mai Otsuka. 

Renge is such an adorable girl in my opinion. She won me over in a heartbeat after I heard and see her playing the recorder -- sometimes off key and short winded. It may be your typical shoujo slice-of-life anime on the surface, but the scenery and the set-up on rural Japan feeds my curiosity. They live in the country (according to my research the location was inspired by Tsuyama, Okayama), they don't lock their doors, they are cramped up in the same class room because there are only five of them all over the town that are school bound. And if you missed the bus chances are you have to wait for another two hours. What a life! 

P.S. I hope the Onii-chan gets more screen time and lines next time. 

First Look: White Album 2

The spring of their life. 

White Album 2 is based on a visual novel. I knew the story and its probable ending so I can pretty much vouch that there would be plenty of romance and drama in between. But I'm wondering how the story treatment for WA2 would be approach by Satelight given there are two routes from the original source. But I'm keeping my fingers crossed for less tragedy because I tend to take it deep into heart the things I watch despite it being over for a long time. 

And that song...only an insensitive fool would be uncarried by that moment. WA2 for sure would hit home to a lot of audiences, especially the ones who had their first brushed with love and heartbreak from their high school years. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

First Look: Kyousogiga

I expect many great things from Kyousogiga in spite of its not-so-moe animation and my lack of familiarity about it. They did an ONA and anime specials before, which I haven't seen yet. So the source of my knowledge about this series is amateur at best and only through the recap and first episode. And based on what I've seen this anime is going to be like Alice...falling down on a rabbit hole. It's a mishmash of fantastical ideas, filled with craziness and eccentricities, and we've only just begun. Seriously, I don't even have a Goddamn clue what the hell it's about, but I'm more than curious to find things out and be carried away by their bizarre nonsense or what. By its title alone it already live up to its name - Capital Craze. If you do not enjoy unconventional storytelling then this anime is not made for you. But if you like surprises enclosed in a bag of treats better hurry up and start watching this show ASAP. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013


Me and Abby (alongside Haide, Gena and Pam, yup the original "Untouchables"), we go a long, long way back more than the rest of our BS2 pals. My friendship with her started in the not so memorable Chemistry laboratory of Letran. But one thing is for sure that moment is emblazoned in our minds, just like the time we were caught late in that said class because we saw Stigmata at WalterMart...hahaha. And that's like 14 years ago and counting. Abby, thanks for being my John Lennon to my Ringo Starr -- because we share the same birthdays with these two Beatle members. For being my Marit Larsen to my Marion Raven -- because we're not only friends but also music buddies and we used to be the M2M's of BS2. For being my favorite cinema buster (Exorcist days and Harry Potter?). For always having my back. For listening to my craziness, boring real life stories, unrequited loves, and off-the-chart impossible dreams, Facebook or no Facebook. Thank you for the sleepovers, pig outs, SVH books unreturned courtesy of me, and for being so uber nice to my family. For you, I'd fight catfights, with matching claws and all. I've never known any one as pure and kind-hearted as you. You have inspired me to continuously reach for the stars and to shoot for the moon. We'll forever be young at heart even if we are both wrinkled and gray. Happiest birthday Abs! Wishing you the fulfillment of your dreams and heart's desires. We will always have Letran! Fat or nonfat. In this life we may not share the same parents, but I know you are my soul sister. Love you always! =)

Monday, October 7, 2013

First Look: Nagi no Asukara

P.A. Works for some time now has been getting famous for their "scenery porn", a term that is being coined by every one about their animation. And this is probably one of the best things I love about this studio. Most of their works such as Hanasaku Iroha and Tari Tari doesn't deliver with the story, but when it comes to their visual landscapes or flairs, my oh my, I can't simply take my eyes off of them. It looks so damn fine and real it makes me want to live in Japan even more. 

Based on the narrative from the first episode, the premise of Nagi no Asukara is about human beings -- as they were divided to live between the sea and land. Their differences in habitat has caused a rift in their relationship, which appears to be one of the major conflicts within the story -- besides the obvious love pentagon shared by our teenage cast. It could be said that it has some semblance with J.C. Staff's "Anu Natsu de Matteru", and although it is too early for me to say, but I am betting on Hikari's fate to resemble that of Kanna from the latter series -- he will not end up with anybody. But that's just a wild guess that comes from the fact that we have five characters in this show, meaning one of them would be left out. I know it sounds irksome, but do not take it so seriously because basically we've got a long way to go; long way, as in two cour. And you can bet your bottom dollar that it would be filled with lots of tears, both on-screen and off-screen, courtesy by us viewers. 

Breathtaking scenes. Check! Cute characters. Sure check! Music-to-love. Check! Potentially dramatic and tear inducing. Double check! I am ready P.A Works, so bring it on.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

First Look: Kyōkai no Kanata

If there is a go-to studio for anything moe then that title should be won hands-down by Kyoto Animation. They have done it time and again and proved it once more with their latest offering "Kyōkai no Kanata". Based on a light novel series by Nagomu Torii, the story is about two high school students, Mirai Kuriyama, a Spirit World Warrior who can wield her blood into a sword, and Akihito Kanbara, an immortal half-human, half-Youmo literature club member. We've seen KyoAni explore this familiar ocean of fantasy and action before from their successful anime Chuunibyou, albeit for a very short period. But I guess due to the urging of their insistent fan based and the warm reception from the said anime they have decided to expand their horizons and dive in to this not-so-new territory. When it comes to anything magical I could be a little biased about it because everything that has to do with that aspect is just my cup of tea, not unless they screw up the story big time. It is tad too early to judge Kyōkai no Kanata, but on the sole merits of its animation it would be too difficult to hate; just looking at the character designs and the special effects is already a visual eye candy that one must experience. The ending song by Stereo Dive Foundation is a love at first hear for me, to the extent of forecasting the song as a top contender for Best ED for my Fall roundup. With regards to the characters, most viewers have chosen Nase Mitsuki as their favorite, but I would stick to Mirai Kuriyama as my best girl for this series. I have a special affinity for socially awkward, clumsy, short-haired girls like her. What surprises me about Mirai is her tenacity and her headstrong personality despite of her sweet facade and poor social skills. Clearly, there is both light and dark in her character and I am curious and excited to see them unravel in the next episodes to come.  

Friday, October 4, 2013

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Anime 2013: Third Quarter Season Roundup

So here we are again. I haven't done much First Look reviews for the Summer as far as I can remember, but I'll try to write some Final Notes for selected anime titles before I get to my First Look for the Fall 2013 Season. It's been a real good journey for the Third Quarter and I sure enjoyed most of the anime's I've seen, to the point of having difficulty parting with them. In an attempt to do a formal farewell I've posted my roundup as fast as I could. This is subjective as it comes, so if you don't agree with me don't butt in and just shut up. 

Best Animation - Summer 2013
(A tie between Monogatari & Hakkenden)

I am fascinated with the visuals created by Shaft studio. There are so many layers at work with their execution; combination of graphic arts, architecture, still life shots, pop art, and their flair for cinematography. The animation for the time travel arc is, in my opinion, one of their superior achievements for the series, all I know is that they needed to be a part of this list. 

From start to finish Hakkenden's character design, landscapes and overall animation is flawless. There's not even a single episode in memory that were drawn poorly. It may not have the best story, but Hakkenden's animation makes it all so worthy to watch. 

Best Story - Summer 2013

Novels as sources are the best form of screen adaptation in my opinion. Anime interpretation based on manga and light novels are usually dependent on its marketability and sales. If they are ongoing stories most likely they would either or get an anime original ending, which is something I show no favor of. Novels on the other hand, moves freely without such influences and its story has a more finite direction and ending. Uchouten Kazoku, just like the highly acclaimed Shin Sekai Yori, may not have the best animation, but what it lacks in that aspect it gains in its excellent storytelling. Each chapter builds its characters, unveils an answer, leads us to a concrete direction, and solves every conflicts without any stone unturned. If you missed one episode you have to go back to grasp it entirely -- exactly the way that books require to its readerships. Out of all the entertaining anime's for this season Uchouten is ahead of everybody when it comes to its unique story and eccentricity, and that's what makes it terrific. 

Best Opening Song - Summer 2013

Jiyuu no Tsubasa - Linked Horizon

Where the first OP left off the second season picked up. Linked Horizon did a fantastic job with the song, the arrangements and the band, it's a feat unmatched by any of the anime from summer. Using the big guns with orchestra and choir -- on a grander scale this song defines the epic which is Shingeki no Kyojin. 

Best Ending Song - Summer 2013
Hello Especially - Sukima Switch
There are so many contenders for the best ED song, but the one that really stood out for me is Gin no Saji's Hello Especially by Sukima Switch. I love acoustic-guitar driven songs, and the feel of it totally sounded like the series it represents.

Best Original Soundtrack - Summer 2013
Shingeki no Kyojin by Hiroyuki Sawano

Favorite MC - Summer 2013

This Summer season has given me a tough job when it comes to my anime roundup. Believe me I have difficulty selecting (out of the many) favorites for most of the categories, and this one is not excluded from the said confusion. But if I have to give the "Favorite MC" title to one character and one character only then that would be Lance Corporal Levi from Shingeki no Kyojin. This is an obvious hands-down-choice. If you look up on search engines he wins the majority of polls as viewers favorite, surpassing the series lead, Eren Jaeger. And considering that his appearance is very minimal and he has no character development makes this distinction quite outstanding. But in a time where most male characters are just pretty and metro sexual everybody misses having a bad ass and brave face Shounen, and Levi gave everything and more to what we look for in an MC. My heart goes all toki doki for him. 

Best Girl - Summer 2013

This honor is supposed to go once again to Misaka Mikoto of Railgun S, but because of the unexpected arrival of this maladjusted misfit named Tomoko Kuroki there was a change of heart. Well, at least mine. Despite of her crazy antics I can't not help myself but love her to bits. There's a part of her that I see in myself -- that makes me sad and at the same time makes being alone less lonely knowing that there is a character representing the minority of us unfit in this cookie cutter world.

Best Supporting Character - Summer 2013

Armin's character did a lot of growing up during the first season of Shingeki no Kyojin. He is the epitome of character development. Because as the series progresses so does he. He used to be a weakling, but he knows how to capitalize on his best asset -- his brain -- and he uses it well. He is the thinking man's character, and while we are hating Eren for his poor decisions I like Armin more and more for showing us that people do improve over time. 

Best Villain - Summer 2013

The choice for this category goes out to the character that really got on my nerves this summer, and that is no less than Soun Ebisugawa, the patriarch of the Ebisugawa clan. I want to enter the screen and punch him in the face for what he did to the Shimogamos. He is the shit and the most loathsome. If a villain can do that to you then I think he is highly effective in his role, and that's what makes him the best villain in my opinion. 

Favorite Recurring Character - Summer 2013

Touma is actually the lead cast of the main franchise of this series and he is more of a guest starrer in Railgun if you ask me. But this is my blog and I think his role in the Sister's arc for Railgun S makes him a recurring character. He's been popping in this anime from time to time anyway to qualify as one. We all know that Touma is sincerely a nice guy, being nice is second skin to him, especially when it comes with women. But I think it's so damn cute for him to be there for Mikoto when she needed help the most. He kicked the butt of Accelerator, taught Mikoto to rely on her friends, made her blushed and forced the eternal tsundere to baked cookies. Now that's one cool guy. 

Most Underappreciated - Summer 2013

I'm sad that this series received such a lukewarm reception. RandomC did not even blogged this one. Along with the viewers from MyAnimeList we felt that this anime did a great job, but is completely overlooked by many. I haven't read the manga where this anime was based on but I think each episodes of the Second Generation Genshiken is truly enjoyable. Being a self-confessed fujoshi I think it is nice to watch a series that depicts the current standing of otaku's of this age and time. We've been seeing a lot of traps in anime and I like that Genshiken gave us a character that focuses on the mindset of one. Overall, this series is a study on society and it deserves a second look for the uninitiated.

Disappointment - Summer 2013

It can be wrong to have high expectations on one thing because in the process you'll be disappointed when it didn't live up exactly to your imagination. Given that this is made by KyoAni I have reservations of including it as a disappointment. However, the last two episodes sealed its fate for me. I've always like the works of Mamoru Miyano, but his role as Rin Matsuoka is just spiteful in my opinion -- he is so damn capricious and spoiled. While Haru's melancholia for Rin is so over the top. I don't mind the slight BL foreshadowing, heck I'm a fujoshi. But I want my guys to be guys, not a bunch of whining girlies. The only male swimmer that played appropriately here is Seijuurou. Gou on the other hand made watching this series worthwhile because of her fun and bubbly personality. There will be a second season next year, hopefully the story will be better and we can get some sense from each characters. 

Failure - Summer 2013
Honestly, the Dachshund is so adorable I want to hug him, while the female lead and the rest of the characters are so annoying. It gets worst each episodes right unto the finale. And I don't even need to explain much why this series suck. All I want to do is to say screw it, it totally reeks! Your time is better spent on other things. 

Exceeded Expectations - Summer 2013

Compared to Free! I didn't expect much from Blood Lad and I wasn't even too eager to watch it because of the fat breasted female lead. But when you throw in Ohsaka Ryota and the other talented seiyuu's in the mix, with a well constructed script that did what it could with its limited screening, and high production quality then you'll get this insanely fantastic anime adaptation from Brain's Base. It's so fun to watch you'll be engrossed from start to finish, even with just one sitting. 

Best Anime - Summer 2013
A tie between:

This is the most complicated, hard-to-do, category for my roundup and what made it more complex is the fact that I've decided to choose not one, but two titles for a change for my best anime.

Uchouten Kazoku is a riveting anime that may seem to appear fantastical on the outside, but carries a deeper message within its story about family and friendship, albeit their many eccentricities. Everyone can pretty much relate to the plight of the main characters, their ways in recuperating from the loss of an important loved on, and how they (the offsprings) view the pressure of living up to the image and likeness of their parents. 

Then there is Shingeki no Kyojin. Although it is not unique with its story and it doesn't have the best animation, but when it comes to adventure and all the works it has all the power to pull every viewers interest. I enjoyed the second cour of this series more than the first one. The female titan arc is so addictive, it's like watching a Hollywood movie or Game of Thrones. Major cliffhanger at the last episode is downright unforgivable, but it doesn't take away any points and would most likely be a curiosity factor for viewers to take a gander on the franchise. 

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