Reviews, rants, and tidbits from an overpassionate novelist

Archive for September, 2009

DENSHA OTOKO: BEAUTY AND THE JAPANESE GEEK

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Last week in my class Japanese Society and Culture through Film we watched the movie Densha Otoko directed by Shosuke Murakami. The subject of the class: the otaku.

I’m not kidding. My college is the best.

I enjoyed the movie for personal reasons and quickly realized I had to blog about it.

As defined by my professor, “Otaku is Japanese geek.” Really, there’s a bit more to it than that. An otaku is anyone with an obsessive and possibly “nerdy” interest, such as anime, computer games, video games, computer software, etc. I have long considered myself a mild anime otaku. So does my roommate, and so do a good number of my friends from Fort Mill.

This movie concerns itself more with the “hardcore otaku”: the type so lost in their own worlds of anime and computer games that they care little for contact with the outside world.

Train Man, the movie’s main character (called Aoyama in the TV show), is based on a 23-year-old Akihabara dweller. Yes, it’s a True Story story. One of my absolute favorite kinds. One day on the bus, he spies a beautiful girl. When a drunk starts harassing her, our timid, nerdtastic little hero stands up, setting in motion a train of events that will change his life.

The things I liked about the movie included the creative approach to creating the otaku’s world. The opening credits and the pixelated fireworks, the ways they portrayed his chat with various people and used the chat messages to creative ends. That much was amazing. So was the movie’s ability to get a room full of college students laughing. When you’re with a group, the boy with the bunny is hysterical.

Then there was the climax, which seemed to take forever. In American and Western fiction, a climax is generally one moment, one scene, one critical point. In Japanese ficiton, I’ve noticed, climaxes drag out. They function less as a point and more as an extended segment. A part of me feels like whining, “Get on with it,” even though it’s probably a more realistic approach to storytelling. In real life, there’s rarely a neat one-scene climax.

Also interesting is the attractiveness of the supposedly repulsive otaku. Even in his horrible getups or his horrible moments of pathetic weakness, a majority of the girls in the classroom were sighing and saying they wanted to hug him. The boys couldn’t believe it. You have more allure than you think, nerds!

To be perfectly honest, this movie is probably not great. But I enjoyed it profoundly. Therefore, I shall grant it:  3 1/2 Stars!

But I love it. ❤

More later!

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A Great and Terrible Beauty, Rebel Angels, & The Sweet Far Thing – More Thoughts than Review

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When I read A Great and Terrible Beauty about a year ago, I had to force my way through the characters’ catty moments, but in the end I was impressed with the artistic elements and fearsomeness of the work. I expected–hoped–that the sequels would prove cutting-edge at the end and impress me as well.

I’ll go ahead and say it:  Not so much.

I read Rebel Angels a few weeks ago, enjoying it at some points and feeling wary about others. The subplot with Gemma’s father was good. The subplot with Ann’s deception, less so. The overall story having to do with the fantasy was soporifically predictable.

I mean, knew who Circe was from the end of Book One. Anybody else feel me?

In my humble opinion, 80% of the beauty of A Great and Terrible Beauty was the way it used convention to provoke surprise. A parent dies, the girl is thrown into a new world, struggles to make friends, ends up discovering a magical destiny. Nothing too new. Libba gets you comfortable in her world of cliches and cattiness. She clarifies the nature of a world where girls are strictly controlled. You think something is taboo today? It was a thousand times more taboo back then. We’re living A Little Princess all over again, except with less honorable characters. You start to snore.

Then she shocks you. With a number of things. Real-world issues you never considered had an impact back then. Drugs. Mental disorders. Sex. Ferality. Blood. More nudity. At the very end, these catty, naive, bratty schoolgirls finally get a dose of reality strong enough to knock some compassion into them–we can only hope.

I picked up book two expecting to experience more surprising artfulness, more things to learn. And it just didn’t happen. I was bored with the magical story line now that the realism was gone. I was sick of the bratty schoolgirl scenes. Kartik alone kept me reading. Two hundred pages into The Sweet Far thing, even he wasn’t enough. I read the last 100 pages or so and I was done with it.

I will give Gemma her great act of compassion, though she does it begrudgingly. I will give Ms. Bray credit for what she does with the end. The way the girls choose to live their lives. As for the sacrifice, I would have preferred a different fate for Gemma and Kartik–one that would have shown more growth on both their parts. I’m not sure what to think of the path that Gemma chooses. I’m curious to know what others think:  sufficiently poignant and symbolic or too corny?

Overall, I shall give it:  *** Three stars:  all for the elements of surprise that made me think and brought history into new reality.

Prom Nights from Hell ~ Thoughts on The Exterminator’s Daughter by Meg Cabot

I’ve always been a Meg Cabot fan–ever since 5th grade when the Princess Diaries movie became an obsession of mine. It’s been a while, though. I probably haven’t read any new Meg in a couple of years.

Considering that A) I had possibly outgrown her, B) this was a vampire story, and C) it was told via alternating narrators, never an easy trick to pull, I had a lot of doubts I would enjoy The Exterminator’s Daughter.

But I did.

I have to say, I have not outgrown her at all. Yes, she’s easy to read. That’s a strength. Lots of drive in her voice. Okay, her voice is outright addictive. I was impressed with how well she pulled off the alternating narrators. Yes, it’s annoying to get yanked out of one head and into another. But that sense of annoyance didn’t last long. I enjoyed being in Adam’s head almost MORE than I liked being in Mary’s. ‘Twas not a problem.

It was still a vampire story, though. I’m sick to death of those. And it was very predictable. Can’t give it plot points. Le sigh.

Overall rating:  3 1/2 stars.

A few notes about Kate McKean of Howard Morhaim Literary

I just wanted to say she seems like a nice lady. The open-minded sort. She was another one who made the South Carolina Writer’s Workshop worthwhile for me last year, suggesting I email her at the very last moment of the conference, shortly after the last class. I had asked a question during a panel about young writers and whether my age was something appropriate to mention in a query. She said yes – It’s a marketing point and a strength.

Dream Diary:  I dreamed about getting to see my long-distance boyfriend!

Word Count:  Still around 20,000.

My Whole New World ~ The Little HS Author Starts College

Sorry for the long time no see! My life has been a little crazy as I’ve made a rather epic transition. I am no longer little Fort Millian high schooler. It’s to Columbia with me, to the Honors College at the University of South Carolina.

Sweet freedom. Sweet change. Sweet refuge from dramaaa…

For the last three weeks or so, my focus has been all on the changes and not on my writing. Regrettable. But necessary. Now I am ready to buckle down and GO.

I spent a nice hour in the bookstore today doing my Cinderella Mouse thing – gather stacks of books so high I have to use my chin to keep them from falling. Then I sit down with them and scan through the pitches and acknowledgements pages, taking notes on the books that sound interesting and literary agents I need to check out. (I’ll type my notes up below.)

I LOVE doing this.

I also realized something pretty epic when I was in the bookstore today. There used to be about nine shelves filled with teen fiction. Within the last three or four months, that number has grown to eleven.

If I miss this wave, I will not know what to do with myself. Thanks to Miss Stephanie Meyer and Mr. Edward Cullen, my genre is skyrocketing, maybe just in time, maybe in time….

Meh Notes:

Title – Author ~ Agent
Waiting for You – Susane Colasanti ~ ? *(I found this one interesting because the acknowledgements made references to depression and anxiety, topics of personal interest to me.)
Bait – Alex Sanchez ~ Miriam Altshulter
Snap – Carol Snow ~ Stephanie Kip Rostan
My Soul to Take – Rachel Vincent ~ Miriam Kriss (Interesting for its language. I read the first page.)
Shiver – Maggie Steifvater ~ Laura Rennert
Breathless – Jessica Warman ~ Andrea Somberg (Gorgeous cover on this one, but the only word in the pitch that caught my interest was “semiautobiographical”)
Graceling – Kristin Cashore ~ Faye Bender
Kissed by an Angel – Elizabeth Chandler / Mary Claire Helldorfer (This is one I should read because it resonates so well with my life and the stories I tell, but I haven’t been able to find this lady’s agent if she has one.)
Twenty Boy Summer – Sarah Ockler ~ Ted Malawer (I think this title was a bad idea.)
Reincarnation – Susanne Weyn (This has the potential to be FASCINATING.)
Radiant Darkness – Emily Whitman ~ Nancy Gallt
The Fetch – Laura Whitcomb (I’ve heard this ones really good.)
A Kiss in Time – Alex Flinn ~ George Nicholson
As You Wish – Jackson Pearce ~ Jenoyne Adams


I left the store with:

Crank by Ellen Hopkins (I need to read her books. I just need to.)
Odd Hours by Dean Koontz (So I don’t have to borrow it from Megan again)
Prom Nights from Hell by Meg Cabot, Kim Harrison, Michele Jaffe, Stephanie Meyer, and Lauren Myracle (Needed this too.)
Pride & Prejudice  by Jane Austen (An extra copy because I shall be reading it for SCHOOL ^.^)

More later! ❤

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