This blog is a storage space for various thoughts, observations and musings centering on shōjo manga (少女漫画, Japanese comics for girls), josei-oriented manga (Japanese comics for women) and manga created by women (in the widest sense). Topics from other fields of relevance, such as music, art, literature and film may be discussed here as well.

For the most part, Japanese names appear in their original order - surname first, followed by the given name.

For more detailed information about this blog, please visit the about page.


This blog is run by Dia. Please send any enquiries and comments this way.


Under construction

This blog was relaunched recently. Some elements might not be fully working yet while others might be completely missing at the moment but will be added soon. Thank you for your patience!

Viewing all posts in category: Various

Learning Japanese in the year 2000

Now that I’m more or less free to do what I want until classes start again, I decided to look through some old stuff that’s accumulated in my room in my parents’ house to throw away the things I don’t need to keep and make room for new things. I found a huge stack of Italian manga which I bought when I was, well, in Italy. They already had all the cool stuff back in 1999 or something, when the manga market here wasn’t really as massive as it is now. I bought lots of random stuff, basically anything I could get my hands on, mostly shounen and seinen titles like Macross 7 Trash, Gundam and Cat’s Eye – sadly no shoujo manga, though. No matter where I looked, I couldn’t find any manga for girls even though they were said to be already quite popular in Italy at that time. (We only had Sailor Moon back then.)

I also found old manga scripts that I’d printed out to read Japanese manga. Ah, the good old days as a manga reader! Yes, we actually bought Japanese manga and tried to read them in Japanese with the help of scripts kind souls with admirable Japanese skills had provided for us on the internet. This is how I learnt Japanese! I taught myself hiragana and katakana, got myself a good dictionary and started reading manga with the help of English scripts. I found scripts for Tenshikinryouku/Angel Sanctuary and other old Yuki Kaori titles, CLAMP stuff like X, Tokyo Babylon, RG Veda and Clover and more light-hearted shoujo series like Emura’s W Juliet. This way, I acquired quite an impressive range of vocabulary which I’d probably never been able to use in every-day life in Japan, including words like “organic angel” (yuukitenshi)…

I might not be doing what I’m doing now if I’d gotten into manga just three or four years later when the scanlation business took off and people became lazy and didn’t buy manga anymore but downloaded it and read it in English. Back in the days, you just had to learn Japanese if you wanted access to all the good titles…

(Does anyone remember fansub tape trading? So last century! ^_~)


Categories: Manga, Personal, Various.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .
Posted on Oct 8, 2008 (Wed, 1:06 pm). .

Berlinale 2008 impressions – Japanese films

(Japan 2007, directed by Koichi Imaizumi)

I wouldn’t have bothered writing a review for this movie, this is just too remind myself of what sort of film not to stand in line and pay for ever again: The fact that I did go and see it was because my friend was really interested in the subject of young gay people in Japan. I jokingly mentioned to her that I’d made a promise to myself not to see any Japanese lo-fi indie films at the Berlinale anymore due to some very bad experiences in the past. I told her that most of these films featured very shaky and/or blurry camera work without any sort of aesthetic intention, completely talent-free amateur actors, a thin storyline and at least one disturbing masturbation scene.
Hatsu-koi was no exception. It was basically a commercial to legalize gay marriage in Japan, one scene even featured the older characters (20-somethings) reiterating all arguments for legalization… not the subtlest way of bringing your message across but oh well. The story was so-so, the coming-out story of the school boy Tadashi was kind of cute, though I could’ve done with that godawful masturbation scene, thanks very much. The film handled sex scenes quite explicitly, one in the toilet of a bar felt extremely awkward. Quite a few people left the cinema, I think both due to the slightly gross sex scenes but also because the actors’ performances throughout the whole film where extremely inconvincing. The film had its serious, touching moments but on the whole it was just too silly, too amateurishly executed and too inconvincing on all levels.

Kabei – Our Mother (Kaabee)
(Japan 2008, directed by Yoji Yamada)

During World War II, Kayo Nogami, called Kaabee (a variant of okaa-san) by her children, is left too take care of her daughters Teruyo/Terubee and Hatsuko/Hatsubee (Mirai Shida, I’ve seen her in various dorama before, like 14 sai no haha and Watashitachi no kyôkasho) on her own because her husband Shigeru (Toobee), a professor for German literature, gets imprisoned under the Peace Preservation Law. To get through the hardships the war and her husband’s imprisonment bring with them, she can rely on the help from Yamasaki (Tadanobu Asano), a former student of her husband’s, her sister and an uncle. The film focuses on the everyday life during the war and lets you experience the propaganda and general madness from the inside. The family forms a sort of safe haven from all this. The life in the Noyami’s house is framed by the passing of the seasons, intouched by the war but affecting the house itself and its inhabitants. The movie finds a fine balance between serious, moving scenes, especially those set in prison where Noyami is treated so unfairly and cruelly or when his family reads out his letters, and the more lighthearted, funnier ones (usually involving Yamasaki).
The film was slightly episodic but never boring, always touching, true, convincing and deeply humanistic. Sometimes it was trying a bit too hard to be emotional but I think that’s a common trait of mainstream Japanese movies. The cinematography was solid, on the conventional side of things but offered new insights into a country at war, from the point of view of ordinary people. The set design was brilliant, especially in the town scenes where you could see the propaganda posters and larger crowds of people.
The film ran in the official Berlin International Film Festival competition. The director Yoji Yamada, the screenwriter Teruyo Nogami whose own life story this movie was based upon, Sayuri Yoshinaga (Kaabee), Mitsugoro Bando (Toobee) and Tadanobu Ando (Yamasaki) were present during the premiere screening. They all came up on stage afterwards and told a bit about the making of the film. Nogami, who worked for Akira Kurosawa for a very long time, expressed her gratitude for the fact that his movie had mad its way to Germany because her father who loved German literature so much never had the chance to visit the country himself. Needless to say, the audience was deeply moved by her words.

Add a comment

Categories: Film/TV, Various.
Tags: , , , , , , , , .
Posted on Feb 17, 2008 (Sun, 10:49 pm). .

Best Albums of 2007

Here’s my personal top 10 of records that came out this year. I went through a brutal day-long internal struggle, trying to decide which album should be on top of the list – but I just couldn’t say whose new album was better, The National’s or Interpol’s. As a result, there are now two records of the year because I couldn’t pick one over the other. The same can be said of the rest of my top ten, which I had to list in alphabetical order because judging the quality of a record by saying it is better than this but worse than turned out to be an impossible task…

Album of the Year I

The National – Boxer
This is an album of an incredible density – once the songs have drawn you in, you’ll find yourself unable to escape them. Matt Berninger’s seemingly calm baritone voice forces you to listen closely due to its slight monotony and thus creates a certain intimacy between himself and the listener. These songs speak to the audience through their familiarity of themes like everyday white-collar drama, the transience of youth and the path of uniform conformity a lot of people choose to take. You’ll find yourself haunted by melodies that are being pushed forward by sharp, precise rhythms of an almost hypnotic quality. The additional instruments (horn, cello, piano, violins etc.) aren’t just the icing on the cake but have a voice of their own and enhance the general feeling of menace and darkness. At the same time, the songs are very clean in their textures as they aren’t overloaded with layers. They never lose their aforementioned density which in itself forms a sort of strong connection, a thread that binds all the songs together into one brilliant whole.

Album of the Year II

Interpol – Our Love To Admire
OLTA shows a lot more variation than its predecessor Antics. It’s more open, more dramatic to a cinematic extend and it’s perfectly sequenced so when you listen to it in one go, you won’t have to skip one single song because they unfold like one big narration, with intricate songs carried by grand instrumentation followed by faster catchier songs which aren’t less beautiful. The two closing songs, Wrecking Ball and The Lighthouse, suggest a completely new direction to the band’s sound altogether and are so overwhelmingly intense… The album clearly has its faults and weaknesses, but it’s also a testament to the band’s growth and considering the album as a whole, as a sum of its songs, it’s simply majestic.
(Just where in the world did the bass go?)

Albums # 3-10 in alphabetical order:

3. Band of Horses – Cease To Begin

Small town idylls meet epic arrangements meet country elements meet lyrical love songs named after… Detlef Schrempf? Band of Horses have managed putting all of these things onto one record and the result is quite amazing!

4. Beirut – The Flying Club Cup

My favorite francophile album of the year. No seriously, I didn’t like the Balkan pop of the debut album but this one takes you on a voyage through France which, as a culture, I find ultimately more accessible as far as musical influences are concerned. A great and charming, at times pompous pop record.

5. Bright Eyes – Cassadaga

Wide in scope, this is a personal but at the same time universal record which is reflected both in the lyrics as well as in the music itself. It’s a bit of the private versus the political, and the songs focussing on the former are clearly the stronger ones as the political-themed ones often seem to be the exact opposite of subtle. Nevertheless a beautiful record!

6. Feist – The Reminder

This is an album that’s diverse in sound but brought together by themes like love and loneliness which Feist delivers in her truly unique, dreamy voice. The contrast of the music and the lyrics creates a good sort of tension, as even the most uplifting-sounding songs can quite unexpectantly bring tears to the listener’s eyes due to what the singer expresses in the lyrics.

7. Okkervil River – The Stage Names

Some might say Okkervil songs might be too weighty on the lyrics side to an extend that the music and the melodies suffer but I couldn’t disagree more, at least as far as this record is concerned. The music supplement the lyrics so well and in a few instances, the melodies are simply so fantastic they make you follow them so closely that you forget to pay attention to the actual words for a moment. When you do listen to the lyrics though, you’ll get to hear some dramatic, personal and sometimes downright hilarious (in all their tragedy!) stories you won’t forget any time soon.

8. Radiohead – In Rainbows

There’s absolutely no doubt that this is a fantastic and unexpectedly accessible album, the only question that remains is: could this album just as well have been released in 1997?

9. The Shins – Wincing The Night Away
I still love this album as much as when it came out, or even more now which is a surprise really because I first thought that one day I might grow tired of the catchy hooks and wonderful melodies of the album’s most outstanding pop songs like Phantom Limb (which features the best impressionist lyrics ever) or Australia – but that never happened even though this is one of my most-played records of the year! And even better: the songs that seemed slightly less accessible or maybe even bland at first revealed their true beauty after some time. So it’s a really rewarding album that also didn’t lose any of its initial appeal.

10. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Is Is EP

Simply the most powerful and sexiest of this year’s releases, period.


Songs from almost all of these albums (plus a few others) can be downloaded in the songs of 2007 post.

Add a comment

Categories: Music, Various.
Tags: , , , , , , , .
Posted on Dec 31, 2007 (Mon, 12:27 pm). .

|| Older posts || Newer posts ||