The Summer is in Full Bloom

Hotarubi no Mori

I’ve just watched this anime called Hotarubi no Mori e (Into the Forest of Fireflies) based on a manga by Yuki Midorikawa.

It is so perfect and beautiful, but I am heartbroken.

This is the song that plays at the end of the film. I’ve included two sets of lyrics, the first is a poetic, freeform translation, used in the subtitles (in the film and also in the YouTube video embedded below); the second is a more literal translation. I think they each have strengths and weaknesses. And I’m sure there are Japanese idioms, metaphors etc that are lost in translation.


I Was Watching Summer

~ Written by Makoto Yoshimori

~ Sung by Shizuru Otaka

The cicadas laugh out in song
To the red evening sunset
The way back home is Long
But I promise to come here again tomorrow.
The summer is in full bloom.
Making you look more beautiful than ever.

I thought the tale would never end
But I realise now that something comes after
The crows too took flight
And went somewhere far, far away
The summer flies by
To hide away it’s treasures til next year.

I’ll never ever forget
Those golden summer days
That summer which brought joy
To my boring everyday life.
And look! Summer is here again
To help me keep my promise of that day.
The summer is still in bloom
Making you look more beautiful than ever.

More literal translation:

The laughter of the cicada’s song
The crimson color of sunset
The detour on the way back home
The promise to ‘See you tomorrow’.
I’m only in full bloom in the summer
To brighten up your life.

In this story without end
Before I realised it
The crows all disappeared
And flew off somewhere.
I only run by you in the summer
To keep your treasure.

I am forever nostalgic
For those golden days,
That casual daily life
Which lit up the corners.
Summer is yet to come
So keep your promise.
I’m only in full bloom in the summer
To brighten up your life.

(This translation is from Moonlight Summoner’s Anime Lyrics blog.)

Predictable Pleasures

A few months ago, I decided to watch the Korean romantic comedy series Romance is a Bonus Book. It took me just a few few episodes to get hooked and, since then, I have watched another two series: Strong Woman Do Bong-soon; and What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim.


They each comprise sixteen episodes and the plots are pretty formulaic. I noticed that all three have the following in common:

  • The male lead is always in a socially superior position. Although the female may be better than he is in other ways, the male is always financially better off, and socially more powerful than the female. In the three series I watched the male lead was the female lead’s superior at work. In two of the series he was her employer and actually the owner of the company.
  • There will be another male character that seems to be a serious contender for the female lead’s affections, but I cottoned on quite quickly that they do not stand a chance and are there just to create some tension between the male and female leads.
  • There are one or two romantic ballads that are played repeatedly throughout the series. They come on whenever the male and female leads have a ‘moment’, another clue as to who female lead is going to end up with.
  • In all three series I watched, the male and female leads have sex, but it is never explicit. In Bonus Book, if you blink or don’t pay attention to what the guy says, then you may miss the hint entirely. In any case, whether or not  the couple has sex doesn’t affect the plot. This is often also the case in Western films and TV shows, but the sex is shown anyway, i.e. gratuitous. I must say I prefer the ‘innocent’ nature of the Korean romantic series. They remind me of classic Hollywood films, which focus more on the romantic or comedic aspects of the relationship, relying on sexual chemistry rather than sex scenes to spice up the plot.

Speaking of chemistry, there is plenty between each of the three couples in the series I’ve watched. The courtship is always sweet and cute, the sort you would expect to experience as a pre-pubescent teen, but it’s appealing despite my great age and the debauched life I’ve led. Or perhaps it’s appealing because it’s so innocent.

I enjoy these series partly because they are so predictable and partly because of their wholesome nature. It’s good to know that a happy ending is coming and I prefer not to dwell on why the male lead always has to be in the position to pamper the female lead with expensive gifts. The woman is never a gold digger though, never greedy or self serving. She may enjoy the treats he lavishes on her, she might be in awe of his fine home and extravagant lifestyle, but she would be devoted to him even if he were a beggar and homeless. She is always thoroughly capable and talented; her lack of assets is not an indication of a want of talent or industry. When she gets the handsome and wealthy hero, you may be sure that she deserves him. And you may also be sure that she’s the sort of woman who will add to his fortune. Haha, I’m rolling my eyes here!

These series are like the Denise Robbins and Mills & Boon books I sometimes like to read. I don’t aspire to be like the women in them. Maybe I want to be as rich and generous as the men! Sure, these series (and books) are an escapist pleasure. They offer some harmless easy-to-digest entertainment in stressful times. How sweet the couples look, like children, so full of love and hope.

When watching the hero of Secretary Kim promise to always love and protect his bride-to-be, I found myself wondering how soon he would change. How soon would she? These frothy fantasies don’t succeed in making me totally forget about the real world. For just the duration of sixteen episodes, I kinda wish they would.



Sweet Sugar Dumplin’

DumplinI finally watched Dumplin’. For some reason, although it was released on Netflix in the States, it hasn’t been available in Malaysia. Instead, fat Malaysian girls get mindfucked with fatphobic trash like Insatiable.

Anyway, Dumplin‘: I liked it mainly because of the Dolly Parton songs and the drag queen bar. It’s a feelgood teen movie in which the teen in question has a predictably ‘difficult’ relationship with her mother. The usual mother-daughter irritation is heightened by the fact that mum (played by Jennifer Aniston) is an ex-beauty queen, who’s still involved in the local pageant, and daughter, Willowdean “Dumplin'” Dickson (Daneille Macdonald), is fat and imagines herself to be a disappointment and an embarrassment.

Macdonald is beautiful and fat. She also seems confident and happy, but has her moments, like when Bo, the boy she likes, kisses her and she freaks out when she feels his hands on her wobbly bits. Haven’t we all been there? I like that this was addressed, but I’d have liked to see more of that blossoming relationship. Of course, it wasn’t the point of the story, but I’m curious as to why a 21st century teenage male isn’t bending to peer pressure and social norms and picking the petite blonde Bekah instead. Also, I want to see how the relationship will deal with the uncharitable reactions its going to provoke. I wonder if there is a book out there that focuses on this issue.

Actually, it bothered me a little that Bo liking Willowdean was a thing in this story. Does there always have to be a romantic element in coming of age stories, especially those based on YA novels?

dumplinbookDumplin’ is based on Julie Murphy’s book by the same name. I haven’t read it, but this is an excerpt of the Wiki entry: ‘Willowdean, nicknamed “Dumplin’” by her mother and called “Will” by her friends, is an overweight teenager who has always felt comfortable with her body and herself. She doesn’t care that her mother was a teen beauty queen or that people have poked fun at her weight. All of that changes when she meets Bo, a handsome boy her age that has expressed interest in dating her. Suddenly Will is full of insecurities and can’t bring herself to date him out of fear of what others would say. In order to prove to her self-worth, Will has decided to enter and win the Miss Teen Blue Bonnet Pageant.’

Hmm … I don’t like the sound of that at all, although I suppose it is a realistic premise. I admit that I know what it’s like to be happy about my appearance until I am judged by a man, or think I’m judged by a man (or, actually, even another woman). Our self-confidence is so easily destroyed by others’ opinions. I don’t think this means that we don’t love ourselves enough. It’s a lot to expect a teenager to have that much self-belief anyway, but even as an adult, I think the need for approval is hard to shake off.

What I don’t get is having to enter a beauty contest to prove your self-worth. To me, beauty pageants are like the epitome of bullshit and evil. Anyway, I should read the book as it could be that it’s been misrepresented by its Wiki entry.

In conclusion, I don’t feel like I wasted my time watching this film. And I actually thought Jennifer Aniston was good in it!



Wifely Duties

I finished reading The Wife by Meg Wolitzer and also watched the film, starring Glenn Close and Jonathan Pryce.

I didn’t expect to be, but I was disappointed by both.

I loved Glenn Close in the film — she was very good, but then I have not seen her falter in anything. Pryce was good too, his character was both pathetic and odious, and he portrayed him well. (He almost made me gag because he reminded me of a creepy someone in the lit scene here!)

However, I wasn’t convinced by the story. (No spoilers!)

In the film, I felt it was not developed sufficiently and so, I had trouble believing it. In the book, I didn’t think we got to know Joan well enough to understand why she did what she did. Intellectually it made sense, but not viscerally. We know Joan (a little) but we don’t feel her and so we don’t feel for her either.

Wolitzer’s writing style did not appeal to me. I found her voice cold and distant. Perhaps Joan is those things because of what she’s been through, but the author doesn’t allow us to get under her skin. She doesn’t give us a sense that Joan is torn between love and hate; pride and shame; she doesn’t make us feel Joan’s desperation.

Glenn Close, in the film, is successful in bridging that gap between the character and the audience. Her portrayal of Joan allows us to experience (at least to some degree) the conflicting emotions that must engulf the character at every turn. Still, I didn’t feel much more than a fleeting pity for her. Perhaps the problem was ‘resolved’ too conveniently and quickly. Or seemed to be. I suppose Joan is left to live with the truth, and to decide how to deal with it. Perhaps Wolitzer needs to write a sequel!



Bad Parenting 101, or How to Screw-Up Your Kids with the Help of Ghosts

‘Now, I know I shouldn’t leave you alone with ghosts, but if I were a kind and reasonable mother, we’d hardly have enough for a ten-minute short film let alone ten episodes!’

I finished watching The Haunting of Hill House a few days ago. I enjoyed it tremendously (it has the right balance of creepiness, terrifying jump scares, psychologically traumatic events and emotionally tortured characters), but, as usual when it comes to horror films about families living in large spooky houses in the West, I was outraged by the way the parents treated their children.

If your children are scared witless because they’ve seen a ghost or monster at bedtime, why would you insist they continue to sleep alone? What sort of sadist does this to small children? I don’t care whether or not you believe in ghosts/ that your house is haunted — if your kids wake up night after night screaming, why would you leave them alone in their beds?

In Hill House, the parents say stuff like, ‘If you see [the ghost] come tell us and we’ll deal with it’ or ‘No, you didn’t see a ghost; it was a nightmare/your imagination/a shadow etc.’ How unhelpful! Can you imagine your parents saying that and then leaving you alone in a dark room? No wonder the Hill House kids grow up totally fucked.

I know the heartless parents are necessary to the plot: The Hill House storyline would be a lot different if it were set in, say, KL. There would be major exorcism carried out immediately, and the whole family would camp out in one bedroom until the problem was sorted out. Maybe the children would grow up to be famous mediums with their own temple.

I remember our priest, Father Martin, blessing our house before we moved in. This house was known to be haunted and so Father Martin blessed every room, even the outhouse! But the ghosts hung around anyway. They didn’t do much more than turn doorknobs and cause lights to go on and off though.