Hana Yori Dango: Why the Japanese version is still the best

It is one of the most easily recognizable names in Asian entertainment. The manga Kamio Youko created back in 1992 has now been adopted into an anime series, two movies, a Taiwanese drama, a Japanese drama and a Korean drama. Hana Yori Dango (Boys Over Flowers) is that quintessential Cinderella story that took Asia by storm.

We all know the story. Makino Tsukushi attends the prestigious Eitoku High School. She’s a mere commoner, she can’t stand her elitist classmates and she hates the “F4”, the four most powerful boys in the school who rule Eitoku with an iron fist and handsome faces. But she has one and a half year more to go so she bears it quietly, hoping to be left alone by whatever it is the rich and the wealthy in Eitoku do. But as fate would have it, her wish is not granted and her life is soon entangled with that of “F4”. A whirlwind of quarrels, bickerings, love, confusion, friendship and heartbreaks ensue. The Asian entertainment world decided they wanted such whirlwind and on comes three dramas from three different countries – Taiwan’s Meteor Garden, Japan’s Hana Yori Dango and Korea’s Boys Over Flowers. What came after was the inevitable comparison between the three – which is the best Hana Yori Dango version of them all?

I pick that which nearly all the rest did – the Japanese version.

Here comes the inevitable comparison. Should I somehow cause offense to anybody, I don’t care. This is my blog, why don’t you go and bash my review in your own? (I’m saying that in a nice tone..)

METEOR GARDEN (Taiwanese)

The first of the three. I wouldn’t deny its ‘phenomenon-ality’. It swept Asia into a frenzy of squealing girls, opened numerous doors for its five stars and successfully dared to take the name of the “F4” and made it into one of the most popular Asian bands. Oh the screams and the many posters of different sizes I saw everywhere when it aired. Was it a very good television series? Perhaps, I guess it was okay, even if I was never taken aback by it. Although the acting improved as the series went on, no one acted very well, the characters weren’t that developed, and I couldn’t feel the closeness or the chemistry or the easy friendship between Shan Cai and the two other members of the F4, Xi Men and Mei Zuo (it actually made me think they weren’t that close at all), heck, I didn’t even feel any of the strong friendship the F4 supposedly represents. I didn’t like the production or the set design – instead of a luxurious, prestigious school, they presented a dull elite school shot with too much darkness and far less color. And the drama series dragged on. Where were the expensive brand names, the vibrant colors that showed luxury, the closeness between the characters? Where was Shan Cai’s youthful and spunky personality? Kamio Youko’s manga was not a chapter by chapter crying fest. It was an alternate, and a sometimes snychronic mixture of comedy, drama, and the touching moments in between them. Where was the comedy?

For all its faults, I would give Meteor Garden two things: one, they were the only ones who remained faithful to the manga; and second, they hit, spot-on, the ideal physical embodiment of the “F4”. They were tall, they were handsome, and their smiles did made girls giddy. And they had, physically at least, the most perfect version of Hanazawa Rui, or in this case, Hua Ze Lei.

BOYS OVER FLOWERS (Korean)

Here is a Makino who shouts at her mother. I hated their Geum Jan Di. I didn’t like her one bit. They didn’t get the character at all. She was suppose to be spunky, not loud – there’s a world of difference between the two. And she certainly is not supposed to be innocent and stupid.

Now that I’ve got that out, this is what I have to say:

I admire Boys Over Flowers for their ambition. They had taken a much too recycled plot line and gave it a refreshing tweak. Instead of taking the straight path so many had treaded on, they had dared to take the sidelines and walked the road not taken by those before them. Were they successful? Perhaps. Was it good? It was as any average Korean drama is – enjoyable. And therein lies the answer.

The truth of the matter was that it wasn’t good good. It was eyecandy toppled over a drama series that could have been better. It wasn’t among the best Korean dramas there is, dear God no. Where did it go wrong? Certainly not in the clothes, the look of luxury, the production design, and the style. Where then? They were too caught up in becoming the best version they didn’t realize that the drama has dragged on too much. They added a lot of twists that there were too many things going on that had nothing to do with the actual story. They looked at the big picture and tried too hard they forgot the little essential things – like understanding Makino’s (Jan Di’s) actual character, the development of all members of the F4, and the building of the main plot. It lacked proper direction and suffered from far too many wrong decisions in its script. And the acting was a mixed bag. The F4 gets the good side of that bag. The show promises that Lee Min Ho can, without a doubt, act. For a complicated character like Gu Jun Pyo, he played him well. Koo Hye Sun as Geum Jan Di gets the other side of the bag though. She overacted too much it made me cringe. And although she improves as the show progresses nothing will ever change the fact that she didn’t understand her character at all.

Did they aim too high they failed? Perhaps not. Korean dramas had never failed to give both the romance and the drama. Boys Over Flowers is not an exception. It made girls sigh and smile and await wide eyed as the drama unfolds. The F4 was as stylish, tall and good-looking as could get. If Meteor Garden had the physically ideal Hanazawa Rui (Hua Ze Lei), Boys Over Flowers had the physically ideal Domyoji Tsukasa (Gu Jun Pyo). My only complaint though is that they were styled too much it made them look so gay. Yoon Ji Hoo, for example, was too blonde I had to frown at his hair whenever he’s on screen. Why stylists would do that is beyond me.

Did Boys Over Flowers deliver? Perhaps for some. It was an average Korean drama that aimed a bit too high it missed the spot. Its popularity can be partly attributed to the good looks of its lead actors, the Hana Yori Dango obsession, and the reason why people watch korean dramas. But it was eyecandy. And for me, that isn’t enough.

HANA YORI DANGO (Japanese)

because i’m bias, their picture is bigger.

The Japanese version cannot boast to have the best looking F4. With the sole exception of Oguri Shun as Hanazawa Rui, they are not, physically speaking, the ideal F4. But they can boast to have the best Makino Tsukushi and they can boast that they were held by majority of those who have seen the three versions to be the best of them all.

The manga is 241 or so chapters long, Hana Yori Dango spans for two seasons, the first a mere nine episodes and the second with ten episodes. With a manga that long, you would think the directors and producers crammed it all up and in the process botched up the series. You are quite wrong. It is a highly focused show and no moment is wasted. But it respects the manga, it understands it and so nothing is quite rushed. The characters are perfectly fleshed out and developed in a short period of time with their relationships perfectly established and shown. It is well directed, it is well-written and with all the clothes, the luxury and the stylish brand names, it is well-financed. It is well acted as well. This is a fine example of a drama done right.

from left to right: Hanazawa Rui, Domyoji Tsukasa, Makino Tsukushi, Nishikado Soujiro and Mimasaka Akira

Here is a version that shows the friendship that borders on familial between the members of the F4, here is a version that shows the easy friendship between Makino Tsukushi and each of the members of the F4 (yes, that includes the other two). And finally, a version that has managed to introduce us to each and every member of the F4 and left none of them at the backburner.

It has topnotch character development.

Makino Tsukushi (Inoue Mao)

We see Makino Tsukushi played to the teeth by Inoue Mao, spunky, youthful and kind as Kamio Youko has envisioned her to be. We watch as her feelings for Hanazawa Rui turn from crush to friendship, we watch at her surprise as she slowly finds herself falling for Domyoji Tsukasa, and we watch as she establishes a friendship with the group she had so previously hated (F4). From the very first few minutes of the series, we know they got the character of Makino spot on, and we like what we see.

Domyoji Tsukasa (Matsumoto Jun)

Matsumoto Jun proved himself a highly capable actor, able to display the differing aspects that makes Domyoji Tsukasa a complicated character to play. The other versions never showed how violent and arrogant Domyoji Tsukasa can be, but here the show unapologetically introduces him as such and we are left disgusted and annoyed. But the want for justice is lost when we are shown just how lonely and vulnerable he is. We don’t wonder why the critics have penned Matsumoto Jun as the real Domyoji Tsukasa.

Hanazawa Rui (Oguri Shun)

Hanazawa Rui is, without a doubt, Makino’s Prince Charming. He is and will always be her Knight in Shining Armor. He is that for the viewers as well. Played by Oguri Shun who certainly looked the part of a Rui who is really still so much a young child at heart. His acting may not be the best, but it’s believable. We still see the delicateness behind the cold, aloof and quiet exterior. The series makes sure that we are saddened that he didn’t realize his feelings for Makino sooner, had he did they would have been together. It sees to it that we still want him to get the girl for once, despite better knowledge.

The relationship between the three is well-established. We see the unbreakable connection between Makino and Rui, the love between Domyoji and Makino and the strong friendship between Domyoji and Rui. The love triangle is strongly shown and the emotional connections laid bare. There is a particular scene in an earlier episode where Rui and Makino are talking in that stairway corner that has always been strictly theirs, they are intimate and we see that they really have a chance to be together; Domyoji, who had been following Makino, quietly stumbles upon them. The look of guilt etches on Rui’s and Makino’s faces and our hearts break with Domyoji as he sadly and frustratingly looks at them both and quietly leaves. A touching scene that only a strong direction can pull off. In a lesser drama, they would have featured rotating camera angles, but here they do not, and by doing so, they capture the raw emotions as they are.

heartbreak and guilt

The other core characters are well-developed as well. We finally get to know the other two members of F4 – Nishikado Soujiro and Mimasaka Akira and the roles they play.

Nishikado Soujiro (Matsuda Shota)

Nishikado Soujiro (Matsuda Shota) is the heir of a tea company and one of the two playboys in the F4. He is kind, he is a charmer, he is one who keeps the peace in the group but he loses his temper easily when things don’t go well. In the manga and in the other two versions it is shown that Soujiro and Makino’s close friend fall in love with each other, but here it isn’t. Which is a pity.

Mimasaka Akira (Tsuyoshi Abe)

Mimasaka Akira (Tsuyoshi Abe) is the playboy who loves older women. Perhaps owing to the fact that he comes from a family who is powerful in the Japanese underground, he is the only member of the group who keeps his cool and rarely loses his temper.  He is, inarguably, the most mature and kindest member of the F4 and is the glue who keeps the group together. Makino’s friendship with the two of them, especially with Akira, is shown and is unquestioned.

One of Hana Yori Dango’s strongest points is the chemistry between each of the lead actors. And for a mangaka who values character development in her works, each of the key players are laid bare. But is it without fault? Of course not. With all its character development and focus on the main storyline the romance aspect of the series suffered. Of course there were still romantic scenes but they’re not as romantic as the Korean version can present. The sidestory of Soujiro and Yuuki, Makino’s close friend, is left, to my disappointment, unexplored. Nine episodes is a short amount of time for some feelings to fully develop and when they do it seems like it comes out from nowhere even when there has been hints or explanations from the previous episode. Moreover, we are left to wonder exactly when and how Rui realized his feelings for Makino. – Luckily, all these isn’t too noticeable. They are faults and observations that are easily forgiven and are left in the corner owing to its strong direction, a well-written script and top-notch acting. Those plus an incredible number of background music impeccably timed, not to reflect, but to perfectly enhance the emotions of a scene.

The Japanese version of Hana Yori Dango is the best because it showed us a quality drama can be made over a recycled plot. It makes us laugh and cry without shoving the scenes or emotions down our throats. It is one of the strongly-directed, best produced, well-written and most entertaining shows that can be seen. The manga is noted for its high character development and quality story, it received the Shogakukan Manga Award and is considered as one of the best shoujo manga ever written. Finally, here is a live action version that gives the manga the quality it deserves.

love so sweet

the scene where Domyoji wins the hearts of the viewers and hers as well.

The Tsukushis

After all these years, it still bothers me that F4 stands for “Flower Four”. I mean, seriously???

*The Japanese version was not much of a hit in the Philippines. It is for the reason why Filipinos love Korean dramas, why we watch Philippine soap operas, and why Japanese dramas just don’t really market here. An unfortunate thing, really, for it is in Japanese dramas that I’ve seen two of the best drama series to have graced the small screen, one of them being Hana Yori Dango and the other Nobuta Wo Produce.

* This blogpost is owed to my mother. She who asked me to buy the Boys Over Flowers DVD and ordered me to download the Hana Yori Dango jdorama. It’s because I’m rewatching it.

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Higashi no Eden (Eden of the East): the best conspiracy 10 billion yen can buy

Boy meets Girl.

Here is an anime whose plot is like a ripoff out of a Robert Ludlum novel: On November 22, 2010 ten missiles strike Japan. However, this unprecedented terrorist act, later to be called “Careless Monday,” does not result in any apparent victims, and is soon forgotten by almost everyone. Fast forward three months later, a guy wakes up in Washington D.C. with no memory. He is stark naked, he has a gun in his right hand and a phone on his left – a mobile phone charged with 8,200,000,000 yen in digital cash. Who is he, really?

Jason Bourne has an anime lovechild.

This is not your typical anime series.

Higashi no Eden opens with Saki Morimi on a graduation trip in the United States. She takes a detour and heads to Washington DC where she makes it a personal mission to throw a coin to the White House fountain. Problem is, the fountain is several feet away from her, there is a huge iron gate in between her and the fountain, and it is the White House. But she endearingly tries so we forgive the absurdity. This sentiment is however, lost on the two burly policemen who has spotted her. They approach her and in the midst of her panic she is saved by a nudist with a gun and a cool cellphone.

yes, this scene had me going “WTF!?”

i think all three of them had the same reaction too.

Grateful for having saved her, Saki lends the man whose only cover is a distracting white squiggly moving lines  her coat, he accepts it and leaves. It would have been her last meeting with him, but as belated realizations would have it, her wallet and passport are in her coat. Saki ends up chasing him who has, because of his cellphone, now found his apartment.

It is a charming opening scene. But when we later see the numerous passports the man has in his apartment, the number of weapons he has, his highly specialized cellphone that is connected to a computer who calls herself ‘Juiz’ (Portuguese word for ‘Judge’), his suspicious looking documents, how easily he blew an entire room by using a toaster, and how he can effortlessly dodge the police, the show is quick to remind us that this is a mystery thriller. And so when Saki finally catches up with him and asks him his name, he takes one of the names in his passports and says ‘Akira Takizawa’. And we wonder, who is Akira Takizawa?

Higashi no Eden boasts, among others, the best opening episode I have ever seen in an anime series. NihonReview said it best when they wrote: “When it’s done right, the mystery genre can produce some of the most absorbing and unique stories in anime. Eden of the East is a fine example of the mystery genre done right, and it’s utterly captivating from its first few minutes. ” Indeed, it proves to be a remarkable original, never once diminishing its quiet charm and charisma, its sweet innocence and subtle humor as the story progresses. We smile at the not-quite-friendship friendship between Akira and Saki, and we smile over the other supporting characters as well: Saki’s friends and family, Akira’s allies and even his enemies.

Production I.G., the studio that brought us anime series such as Ghost in the Shell, Blood+, and FLCL, has never failed to give us quality-driven shows. It continues to do so now. Feature it with Chika Umino’s (Honey and Clover) character designs and you’ve got an unlikely match made in heaven. Generally, the mystery thriller genre can never be perfectly mixed with the words ‘charisma’ and ‘sweet innocence’ but in Higashi no Eden it takes an exception and mixes them in a way that no one has successfully done before. Its character designs reminds us that these are well-meaning characters with a heart and Production I.G. was finally able to do what it had tried to do before: give us characters with such humanism it is impossible to not like or soften up to them. Its visuals is, in one word, disarming.

Higashi no Eden is one of the best anime series I’ve seen. As the story progresses, it strives to be more than just a mystery thriller that could be straight from a Ludlum novel. As it mirrors the daily realities of current events of our world we see that it struggles for political and social significance. It is one of the very few anime out there laden with movie references and parodies, most notable of which is when Akira imitates Taxi Driver‘s infamous line “You talkin’ to me?” and at one point, he even has a poster with the phrase “The World is Yours” (Scarface) printed on it. It is a smart anime.

Noel Gallagher. Oasis. Seeeeeeeeeeeeee.

… Aaannd its opening song is “Falling Down” by the Oasis. (I don’t know about you but that garners plus points for me.)

Later, we are introduced to the very core of the series’ plot: the 12 Selecao (Portuguese for ‘Selected’) (Akira is the 9th). Who are they? What is their connection with these missile attacks? Are they terrorists? If not, then why do they each have 10 billion yen in digital cash? Who is Juiz? Who is Mr. Outsider?

What is going on?

– A good question that sprouts more questions. It takes eleven episodes and two movies to answer each of them. But as NihonReview puts it: “My only major complaint can almost be seen as a good thing: with the hanging ending, comes confirmation that there’s still more to come.”

the cooool Selecao cellphone that answers with a “This is Juiz and I will be your conscierge.” And ends with a “Noblesse Oblige. Please continue being a messiah.” I want one.

akira takizawa and saki morimi

 

A line from Shakespeare’s Julius Ceasar, “The abuse of greatness is when it disjoins remorse from power.” behind the icons of the 12 Selecao . In other words, there’s a connection.

.: I believe I once quickly ranted about Higashi no Eden and promised to do a review. well self, here it is.

Harry Potter, The Boy Who Lived Forever

Harry with Hedwig

There is, in every decade, a phenomenon that marks it. It etches the world and casts its name into Eternity’s elusive memory, forever remembered, forever loved.

In 1990, J.K. Rowling was sitting in a train station. While she was waiting for the delayed train that would take her from Manchester back to London, young Harry Potter was born. In a few years, this bespectacled, black haired boy took over the world. Harry Potter became a phenomenon.

“It is an ancient need to be told stories. But the story needs a great storyteller. Thanks for all of it, Jo.” – Alan Rickman

J.K. Rowling has quite an imagination. And what an imagination it is! She showed us a world whose society, culture, beliefs, politics, educational system, social mores and traditions are so like ours. It is a world like our own, but not quite. She gave us Quidditch, she made us wonder what butterbeer tastes like, she showed us Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, she singlehandedly sacked Boogeyman and replaced him with Dementors, and she gave humankind another scientific name, Muggles.

She is also blessed with a frightfully terrific talent at writing.

pottermore

I remember the first time I met Harry; it wasn’t the most promising of memories. It was through an article in Newsweek chronicling how the release of the fourth book, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, has made millions of people in the world line up outside bookshops. It didn’t interest me much, I didn’t know Harry then. (Though I wondered what force in the universe made people line up the whole night outside of bookstores – of all places.)

I had my answer two years later. Despite the initial disinterest, I wanted to know what the hype was all about. I borrowed the books from classmates who had Php 1,500 in their family budget to spare. (Naturally, I was never able to read them in chronological order, but no matter.) I read my first Harry Potter book, The Goblet of Fire, with a blanket over my head. I knew the book was good when I laughed out loud in the middle of the night. A year after that I was able to read another two Harry Potter books, The Philosopher’s Stone and The Chamber of Secrets. The other four came years later. J.K. Rowling didn’t have me at ‘Hello’. J.K. Rowling had me in the last thirteen words of the first chapter of The Goblet of Fire, “95 miles away, a boy named Harry Potter woke up with a start.” (I’m still not certain how that happened.)

 

“Yer a wizard, Harry.”

In both the first book and the first movie, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the half-giant Rubeus Hagrid, tells the scrawny boy who had just turned eleven a few minutes before, “Yer a wizard Harry.” They are in the middle of nowhere, there is a storm, and the scrawny boy’s dreadful, portly family, The Dursleys, cower in the background. The boy’s name is Harry Potter, and he is a wizard. But he doesn’t know that at the moment so somebody has to tell him. Hours later, Harry is introduced to the wizarding world, which, a decade ago, had already been introduced to him.

And so starts Harry Potter’s adventures. The world followed. And the rest was, as they say, history.

Now, the series has drawn to a close: the horcruxes has been broken, Hogwarts has become a battleground and allies and foes meet in one final showdown. As Harry says to Lord Voldemort, “Let’s finish this where it started. Together!” we are reminded that this is an epic tale, and the hero fights alone in the end.

Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows 2 gave a satisfying conclusion to a franchise that deserves nothing less. Tears were shed, mouths laughed, hands clapped – we know it was a befitting finale to the decade-old tale.

The eighth movie was the best Harry Potter movie for me simply because it was the only one which satisfied me through and through. The first four were okay (good, even), the next two were dreadful, and the seventh I cast-off as a more of a build-up to the tension-filled finale. This last movie, now this was inspired.

We Solemnly Swear That We Are Up To No Good

Harry, Ron and Hermione have grown up. They are no longer the children they once were, their innocence had been clamped down by what they had gone through. No longer do they prance around like children on a mission to satisfy their curiosity, here, they know the danger of their task and face it with both trepidation and bravery. They fear for their lives and for others, but they accept the risk and the inevitability. Hermione isn’t the-girl-who-knows-everything anymore, Ron has become mature – they are no longer the insecure lovebirds who can’t quite tell each other how they feel. After four movies, they finally kiss. (And when they smile after, I know everyone in the audience smiled too.) But the giddiness ends quickly. Ron and Hermione both fade into the background as the movie lets Harry walk the hard path every hero has to take, Harry has become somber, he is now a fighter, and he is ready.

How To Get Through Puberty

Other characters have changed too. Neville Longbottom the most. No longer is he the chubby, unexceptional, poor Neville. He has become lean, tall, strong, and the go-to guy of the school – and he has the right amount of facial stubble to prove it. (In the books, Harry and Neville became Aurors – who would’ve thought Neville would become one? But he did.) Neville is the wizard poster child of loser-turned-hot-cool-guy (I don’t know about you, but I did not see that one coming.) He wielded The Sword of Gryffindor, beheaded Nagini, and in my head he gets the girl in the end (said girl being Luna Lovegood.. yeah, I’m shipping them). There is much to be surprised in him.

Come over to the dark side, they have him

Draco Malfoy finally, grew up. He is no longer the snarling, Slytherin bully. From the Half-Blood Prince we have seen his vulnerability, confusion and helplessness. He is still all of these things in the last movie, and more – there is a haunting in his eyes now. It was a bless to see him in Hogwart’s side (Initially. But I don’t blame him when he walked over, it was his parents after all. Besides, all three of them walked away from the battle.)

As it ends, I remember the great many characters I have come to know over the years. Strangers whose names were once foreign to my tongue now echo with eager familiarity: Professor Severus Snape, Bellatrix Lestrange, Professor Minerva McGonagall, Lucius Malfoy, Rubeus Hagrid, Professor Albus Dumbledore, Dobby, Sirius Black, Remus Lupin, Nymphadora Tonks, Tom Marvolo Riddle/Lord Voldemort. I love the fact that almost each supporting character is played by a British film legend, Richard Griffiths (Vernon Dursley), Fiona Shaw (Petunia Dursley), Alan Rickman (Professor Severus Snape), Helena Bonham Carter (Bellatrix Lestrange), Maggie Smith (Professor Minerva McGonagall), Jason Isaacs (Lucius Malfoy), Gary Oldman (Sirius Black), David Thewlis (Remus Lupin), Michael Gambon (Professor Albus Dumbledore), Ralph Fiennes (Tom Marvolo Riddle/Lord Voldemort). I’ll stop throwing names now. But it can’t be helped. They – each of them – has the ability to steal the scene just by standing there (or in Bellatrix case, sashay madly around). All they have to do is be in the camera angle, and my eyes zero in to them.

I believe this blog post has gotten a bit too long (and there’s already too much pictures). I just didn’t have the heart to have this in a few mediocre paragraphs. Ten years of unparalleled emotional investment wouldn’t just permit that.

Look how much you made me care, J.K. Rowling.

IT WAS SUCH AN ADVENTURE.


“No story lives unless someone wants to listen. The stories we love the best do live with us forever. So whether you come back by page or by the big screen, Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.”
– J.K. Rowling

Scarlett O’Hara, she is my heroine for all time

“No, my dear, I’m not in love with you, no more than you are with me, and if I were, you would be the last person I’d ever tell. God help the man who ever really loves you. You’d break his heart, my darling, cruel, destructive little cat who is so careless and confident she doesn’t even trouble to sheathe her claws” – Rhett Butler

*****

Gone with the Wind opens with a statement that contradicts what the world knows about its heroine: “Scarlett O’Hara wasn’t beautiful.”

That might be how Margaret Mitchell imagined her as, but Hollywood certainly didn’t share the same vision when they picked Vivien Leigh to play the southern belle. Mitchell’s words didn’t ring true anymore, Scarlett was beautiful.

I have never been one to admire another. It is a rare thing that I put in such a high pedestal another, much less to have one in such high regard. The closest I have come to admiring are Madonna and Lady Gaga. The former for being, well, Madonna, and the latter for saying what a lot of others would not have the guts to do so. Madonna will always have my approval for shocking conventionality and proclaiming that she loves sex, and Lady Gaga had my respect the moment she acknowledged that she wanted fame and she is willing to pay the price for it. I admire them for their defiance.

I admire Scarlett O’Hara for that same defiance. But I love her for everything she stands: she is vain, she is selfish, she is spoiled, she is self-absorbed, she is brutal, she is strong, she survives, she is beautiful, she is a woman beyond her century, and she is blind. But admire and love her I do. She is my heroine for all time.

In the movie, we first see Scarlett flirting with the Tarleton twins. She learns that Ashley Wilkes, the man she secretly loves (and believes to love her too), will be married to sweet Melanie Hamilton (her polar opposite). On that famous scene where she finally tells him how she feels, the audience sees three crucial things: one, Ashley Wilkes wants Scarlett, but he loves Melanie and doesn’t have the guts to tell Scarlett that; two, Scarlett is a woman in love; three, when Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler finally meet face to face, we see that he isn’t a gentleman and she is no lady. As the movie goes on, Scarlett marries thrice: the first time because Ashley had scorned her, the second time to save herself and her family, and the third because Rhett Butler asked her to. And during all these time she wishes she was married to Ashley instead. During all these time, we see her love for Ashley as it truly is: she was in love with the idea of Ashley, but she wasn’t in love with him.

But despite her measly love-life, Scarlett O’Hara remains as among the strongest female characters in literature and in cinemas. Her sheer will to survive the Civil War was astounding. No longer was she the spoiled, bratty child we first saw. She survived the war and the inevitable aftermath. She transformed in front of our very eyes when she declared, “As God is my witness, as God is my witness they’re not going to lick me. I’m going to live through this and when it’s all over, I’ll never be hungry again. No, nor any of my folk. If I have to lie, steal, cheat or kill. As God is my witness, I’ll never be hungry again.”

the love triangle of Scarlett, Ashley and Melanie

I could write about the three other characters of Gone with the Wind. I could write about Rhett Butler and how I wished he’d stayed when Scarlett finally realized it was him she truly love. I could write about Ashley Wilkes and his inability to tell Scarlett he loves Melanie. I could write about Melanie Hamilton and how she’s the most honorable character of them all. I could write a lot of things about the movie, about Rhett and Scarlett, and about Scarlett, Ashley and Melanie. But I won’t, Because right now, I only write about Scarlett.

I love Scarlett O’Hara. Maybe because I see a lot of myself in her – the movie version at least (or at least, I think so). I think there’s a Scarlett in all of us.

Oh, fiddle dee dee.

Scarlett: “You, sir, are no gentleman.” Rhett Butler: “And you, miss, are no lady. Don’t think that I hold that against you. Ladies have never held any charm for me.”

Gaspard Ulliel

One of the perks of French movies. (Though I’m not that shallow as to watch it just for him.)

But still, eye candy doesn’t hurt. And he can act too. Oh yes, he can.

And his voice! Good Lord. And, I never thought scars could look sooo sexy until I saw him.

A Very Long Engagement (2004)

Jacquou le Croquant (2007)

Hannibal Rising (2007)

The Princess of Montpensier (2010)

Snapshots

An Alias fanfiction (because a long time ago, I was in love with Alias). The story is mine, Alias is not. The lyrics aren’t as well. “Snapshots” – an isolated observation. The briefest of memories made still, forever captured by an observer.

Sydney Bristow and Michael Vaughn


I.

“How did you find me?” She asked as he sat down on a bench, their backs to each other.

“You told me a couple of months ago that when you feel the need to disappear you go to the observatory. But, the observatory was closed. Then I remembered you said the pier calms you down, but you weren’t there. And you weren’t at the bluffs in thePalisades, either.

“You didn’t really go to all those places…”

“Yeah, I did. And then I remembered you like the train station, too. Normal people go to their normal jobs.”

These fragile bodies of touch and taste.

“I can’t believe you remembered all that.” She whispered, awed. A faint smile playing on her lips.

“Well.. I did,” he softly answered.

This fragile skin, this hair like lace.

Spirits open in the thrust of grace.

Silence.

Never a breath you can afford to waste.

“Listen,” he said. His voice foreign to his ears – almost hesitating, “when you’re at your absolute lowest, at your most depressed,” he paused, unsure if he should continue. “I’m in,” he finally said. Finishing what he believed she already knew. His voice no more than a whisper. “If you need me.”

Worldly sounds of endless warring were, for a moment, silent stars.

Worldly boundaries of dying were, for just a moment, never ours.

II.

He looked at her. Remembering the person she had been thirty years ago. The woman he loved, and as circumstances had permitted it, had grown to hate. Her wife. Or so she was in the pretentious illusion of their marriage.

“I missed you,” she gently said as she pressed a palm in the cold glass that separated them. She sounded sincere, and she was. She smiled when he kept his silence, knowing instantly and almost painfully, that he had not believed it.

She watched him. Unflinching for the thousand time at his cold gaze. He was a façade of intrigue and detachment. An embodiment of irony, and, to her, of freefall. Unwanted defeat.

I stood on the edge tied to a noose.

“Thank you,” he replied. His tone not losing its note of doubt and sarcasm. As if burdened that he had even said that. Hesitatingly, he lowered his eyes to meet her stunned gaze. “I missed you too.”

And then silence. Always silence. They stood there facing each other. Her, inside a chambered room which was her prison. And him, in momentary annoyance and loathing. Lost in the thin line that bordered between love and hate. The captor and the convict. He frowned, unsure if he should say the words that had crossed his mind before he had stood in front of the woman who so betrayed him.

And I stand and smile and breathe.

Nevertheless, he said it.

“You’re right. Technically, we’re still husband and wife.”

At that place, at that time,

And slowly, he stepped back and walked away.

I knew you better than anyone.

III.

He stood as the black sedan swerved across the driveway and halted to a stop. As if on cue, the door on the driver’s seat swung open, the glint of the dimly lit driveway giving it an almost solitary glow as a woman came out and slowly walked towards him. For a split second, he gazed at her but as circumstantial acknowledgments would have it, he looked away.

She stopped five feet away from him. “Hi,” she greeted. A polite smile on her face.

He raised his eyes and looked past her. “Hi.”

I know you can’t be knowing for me

They were back where they had started: Him at her side. And her beside his. But never too close. Momentary consents through stolen glances. Through every brush of hands, every clash of gazes, every word none of them ever dared say. But never stepping on solid ground.

and I hope that you’re not hoping for me.

“Yesterday,” he began, breaking the silence between them that hung only seconds ago, “when you told–” But she cut him short.

“No. You don’t have to explain.”

Sweet thing.

He flinched, offended by her callousness. Nonetheless he continued. “Yesterday, when you told me—”

“Seriously,” she said yet again. Almost a demand. “Don’t explain.” She remained looking down. And as if knowing he would not say anything this time, she looked at him. A sad smile in her eyes. “Lie to me,” she whispered. Her voice threateningly fragile.

with hopes like that

He raised his eyes and met hers momentarily lost in its turbulence.

you’re going to need help avoiding the fact.

“Everything will be alright.”

IV.

The sky never looked as ugly as that night. In the darkened corner of an abandoned alley lay the shadowed figure of a man. Silent and still save for the deep breathes he took every now and then. He crouched; his head bent forward as he held in his arms the unconscious body of a woman.

It’s always you, or some reflection of you.

“I’m sorry,” he quietly said. Almost wishing that she could hear him. Slowly, he held her closer to him, the handgun by his side and the gold ring that he wore in his finger long forgotten. Two years had passed since he last saw her. A lot has happened, a lot has changed. But, as unwanted as it may be for him then as it is now, she still mean the same things to him as she did years ago: freefall, intricacy, torment. An accident waiting to happen.

Carry every wish we never dared make.

He sighed, lightly brushing her hair that hung delicately in her shoulders. And, surrendering to the moment, he gazed down at her unconscious form. As if longing for something he had never had.

“I love you,” he whispered knowing that she would never hear.


Pride and Prejudice (and husband-hunting women)

“I cannot fix on the hour, or the look, or the words, which laid the foundation. It is too long ago. I was in the middle before I knew that I had begun.”

I stayed up late for this. I was squinting my eyes, absentmindedly grinning like a megalomaniac at four in the morning, just so I can finish the remaining one hundred pages of the book. (Yes, one hundred.) You see, I didn’t want to put Mr. Darcy down. Not when there are only a hundred more pages to go before I finish the novel.

It was worth the 4:30 a.m. start of sleep.

Back in 1813, Jane Austen sat down and wrote what would be her most cherished novel, Pride and Prejudice. Two hundred years later, it is still among the world’s most beloved literature.

It is a testament to Jane Austen’s ability to write witty romance stories without being silly or cheesy. It comes to a point that to categorize Pride and Prejudice as a love story makes me feel like such a label actually cheapens it. (Although perhaps such an impression simply stems from the fact that there are but a few romance novels that are beautifully and richly portrayed.)

But no matter.

Pride and Prejudice is a comedy of manners and morals. And, for the sake of labels, it is a love story. One that endearingly opens a window to 18th century marital standards. For indeed, what else can the tone of a novel’s plot be when it opens with the sentence: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” And, with such an opening, a story filled with husband-hunting women starts. It is quite quite endearing.

Darcy

Lizzie

The title, Pride and Prejudice, is rooted from the primary nature of the main characters (although it isn’t an exclusive trait.) With Pride is tall, handsome and possessing of a ten-thousand a year Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy. He is excessively concerned with morals, decorum, and was described by the townsfolk of Netherfield Park as aloof, proud, haughty and arrogant after thirty minutes of meeting him. With Prejudice comes tolerably pretty and wise-eyed Ms. Elizabeth Bennet who has a tendency to judge based on first impressions. (See the interplay?) Darcy’s and Elizabeth’s first meeting held no promise of a blossoming romance. How can it be when he described her as “… tolerable. But not enough to tempt me.” Elizabeth hears this and quickly decides that he would be the last man she would be prevailed on to marry. While Darcy, no sooner had he said it, began to be intrigued by her. And so the story goes. Elizabeth remains clueless of his affections, while he remains tormented by his till he finally decided to woo her. When he finally says he loves her in what would be the most insulting proposal in history, the real story begins.

It is an understatement to say that I love Pride and Prejudice (though I can’t think of other words that rank higher so I’ll settle with it.) It is easy to understand why Elizabeth Bennett is one of the most popular characters in British literature. It is for the same reasons why she is among my favorite heroines. (Lucky girl, that one.) And for a character created two hundred years ago, it is very noteworthy that Darcy can still make women born in these modern times fall in love with him. Every girl I know who has read the novel wants their own Mr. Darcy. Those that don’t either a) didn’t like it; b) halfheartedly read it; c) has no soul or heart or; d)  is just a snob who think she’s better than all the rest.

The novel is graced, not only with remarkable main characters, but with memorable supporting ones as well.

“I have been the most pompous arse.”

There is also Darcy’s best friend, the well-liked, five-thousand a year Charles Bingley and Elizabeth’s beautiful sister, Jane Bennett. Theirs is a love story about two very kind people, but on the outset makes him look like an ass and her an Ice Princess. But I love them nonetheless. (But not as much as I love Darcy and Lizzie.)

The Bennets

There is also the colorful, interesting Bennett Family. It is composed of a bookish, intelligent, passive father; a foolish, narrow-minded mother; a trying-hard sister (Mary); a frivolous flirtatious youngest sister who lacks common sense (Lydia); and an equally flirtatious but slightly has a presence of mind sister (Kitty). Jane and Elizabeth differ from their mother, Mary, Kitty and Lydia tremendously.

Jane Austen has been called as the finest novelist of English language. I have to agree with that. Pride and Prejudice (like all her other novels) is witty, sarcastic and enjoyably written. She gave us a delightful love story between two opposite characters and made it so unorthodox-ly romantic and sweet that we forget that not once did Darcy and Elizabeth kiss or embrace.

i leave you with my favorite scene in the movie 🙂

“Curiouser and curiouser!” The Magic of Alice in Wonderland

“Why, we’re all mad here. I’m mad, you’re mad.”

Lewis Carroll ought to have an altar somewhere. But then, perhaps having such an earthly altar would not even come close to his magic and enchantment? For what else can Alice in Wonderland be but those?

You see, I am quite at awe. I have never started and finished a book in a span of two hours. And I have never grinned like that in every chapter. And I never would have thought that Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland can do that. (You see, just until the minute before I started reading the book, I didn’t like Alice that much. I even wondered why a lot of people love it… Oh, the shame..) And by God did it do that.

I do love it. I find it most enchanting, superbly witty and fully engaging. It is now among my favorite classics (along with Peter Pan and others). And I shall recommend it to every person that goes my way (which I did, actually). I can quite say that if I were to post my favorite lines from the book here, I’d be posting something from every chapter.

I have one more thing I’d like to say:

The Mad Tea Party (the one with the Mad Hatter) is probably actually mad. Their conversations were so…. confusing and dumbfounding it left me with question marks popping in my head. And the Chesire Cat (you know, the eternally grinning almost-creepy fading cat?), he’s my favorite character.


Higashi no Eden (Eden of the East)

 
 

“The abuse of greatness is when it disjoins remorse from power.” – William Shakespeare, Julius Ceasar

 

A guy wakes up in Washington D.C. with no memory, stark naked, with a gun in his right hand and a phone on his left – a mobile phone charged with 8,200,000,000 yen in digital cash.

Jason Bourne has an anime lovechild.

Higashi no Eden: The best conspiracy ten billion yen can buy.

  1. I love the story. Best opening episode I have ever seen.
  2. I love the characters.
  3. I love the art style.
  4. I love the Oasis opening song. (The fact that the song was sung by Oasis is amazing by itself.)
  5. I love the Selecao phone.
  6. Somehow, the show has quite an interest in johnnies. (‘Johnny-Taker’. “My johnny gave you a reply.”) 

I feel like I there’s nothing more to say. The fact that it’s The Bourne Identity‘s lovechild is more than enough to make me watch it.

But I love it so much I can’t help but put this comment from NihonReview:

When it’s done right, the mystery genre can produce some of the most absorbing and unique stories in anime. Eden of the East is a fine example of the mystery genre done right, and it’s utterly captivating from its first few minutes. However, as the story evolves, it not only becomes more intricate, it also strives for relevance, making commentaries on politics, society and the corporate structure in Japan. All this is done with production values that are simply gorgeous: the animation is technically proficient, but Umino Chika’s character designs also lend it a quality of sweet charm and charisma. My only major complaint can almost be seen as a good thing: with the hanging ending, comes confirmation that there’s still more to come.

P.S.: I’d like to write an actual  review after a few daysweeksmonthsnear future one day. My laziness stops me from writing further than a note.

Amelie Poulain, she’ll change your life

“Amelie still seeks solitude. She amuses herself with silly questions about the world below, such as “How many people are having an orgasm right now?”

This was my introduction to french movies. And it was smart, funny, memorable. It was lighthearted, witty, charming, absurd, ridiculous. It was each and every one of those.

Amelie Poulaine is a heroine apart from the rest. She takes pictures of bunny clouds and when she finds old letters on the floor of her apartment, she meddles, schemes and helps. When she sees the old man who wrote those letters happy by what she had secretly done, she promises herself to make everyone happy. And so Amelie becomes a secret matchmaker, a guardian angel, and an adorable meddler to the people in her life. Nobody knows this, save for that painter she has befriended. She delights in her meddlesome ways, she likes how she helps people.

She delights in this so much that when she sees a man who takes discarded photographs from a photo booth, she is intrigued. The second time she sees him she left behind a photo album. We know she’s smitten when she takes it. Amelie realizes this too, but she doesn’t quite know what to do about it. And we see how much she doesn’t know what to do with it during the rest of the movie.

Amelie is quirky, and we are offered an equally quirky love story. And it is quite unforgettable. Do you know the song ‘I Knew I Loved You Before I Met You’ by Savage Garden? I think this song fits the movie quite quite well.