Tag Archive: review


This review is about a 46-minute short film by Makoto Shinkai, ‘Garden of Words’ (2013).

As in any other Shinkai’s work, ‘Garden of Words’ is very beautiful in terms of its graphic, and its script.

‘Garden of Words’ is considered a romance and a drama, about the encounter between the 15-year-old student who aspires to be a shoemaker, Takao Akizuki, and Yukari Yukino, a 27-year-old woman who skips work most time, enjoying beer and chocolate. The plot develops as they continue to meet up in the Garden during every rainy morning.

Unlike his previous work, ‘Garden of Words’ is rather light, it doesn’t spend too much time on the setting, and leaves more time for the development of characters. This can be seen as improvement of Makoto Shinkai. So this short film probably provides Shinkai a valuable experience for him to produce his most famous work up to date, ‘Your Name’ (2016).

The plot in this film is very, very simple and common, just like some other romances. But the feelings of the two main characters are finely portrayed. In a short 46-minute film, audience can expect to feel more than they can feel from many more lengthy films. It perfectly describes ‘love can hurt people, but can also give hope to people’. I also like the ending: if Takao gets on with Yukari, the consequence may not be good due to the pressure from other people and the fact that Takao would not be able to pursue his dream; but if Takao pursues Yukari again when he has become a shoemaker (his dream), that would be a different story. So this film, in my opinion, is quite positive.
Rain comes too quick, for them to meet;
Yet leaves too soon, for them to leave.

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Today’s review is on the film I have watched many times, ‘Sex Drive’ (2008). This film is definitely a chill watch, and I would recommend to teenagers. At the time, there weren’t a lot of teen comedies, so ‘Sex Drive’ was definitely one to stand out.

The story is pretty basic, an 18-year-old virgin Ian hopes to get laid for the first time, so he tries to get know to girls online, and he finally meets a sexy girl (Ms. Tasty) online one day. In order to get laid, Ian arranges a meeting with the girl, and the meeting is quite far away. So, Ian asks his friends Lance and Felicia to go with him, driving his brother’s 1969 Pontiac GTO Judge. Then, they are on their journey!

The film itself is full of dirty jokes, which are normally the features of teen comedies. Nothing much to comment on this film, but i would say it is quite a funny film. If you like films of American style, I think you will probably like it.

Fireworks are beautiful, not only because they twinkle in the sky, but also because they carry the hopes and dreams of ours.

The review today is on an anime film, ‘Fireworks, Should We Watch It From The Bottom Or The Side’ (2017). Because the name is so long, it will just be referred as ‘Fireworks’ in this review.

Briefly, the story is about the girl Nazuna wanting to leave her home as she felt unhappy in the family. She then gets two boys in her school to have a swimming race: whoever wins, who gets the chance to leave with her. (What a weird start!) Our protagonist Norimichi, due to some accident, loses the race. On the way home, he keeps saying to himself ‘IF I had won the race, what could have happened?’… After that, (and of course something happens), the film goes to a series of the ‘IF’- worlds according to what Norimichi thinks.

Before I comment on this film, I must say ‘Fireworks’ and ‘Your Name’ (Kimi No Na Wa) have absolutely no relations to each other! Some marketing/ advertisement teams used ‘Your Name’ to promote ‘Fireworks’ to try to boost its popularity, it is just like using McDonald’s to promote some sort of sushi bar. That is just wrong! So I must say, you should not go watch ‘Fireworks’ JUST because you like ‘Your Name’, the two films have nothing much in common! I saw some comments online saying “After watching ‘Your Name’, I think ‘Fireworks’ is a down-grade”… To this, I must say, you don’t expect to find Big Mac in a Sushi Bar, right? The two films, are DIFFERENT, made by DIFFERENT PEOPLE! Don’t get fooled by the marketing team!

‘IF’ is a magic word, making us regret about what we could have done. I am sure everyone has experiences of saying ‘If I have done this….. then things would have turned out right…’ This is exactly the main idea of the film. Norimichi, the protagonist of the film, at one point, tries to get into the ‘IF’ worlds to ‘make everything right’ for him and Nazuna. Also, from this bit of the film, we could see that Nazuna doesn’t actually want to leave home. She just wants to have the last day of her childhood before her life get affected by her new family. That is why she sings her mum’s favourite song in the train, and tells Norimichi that she wants to be a singer. She hopes for freedom so much! At the end of the film, Norimichi apparently knows that he cannot always ‘hides’ in the ‘IF’ worlds, he has to go back to the reality one day. But before that, he at least spends some good time with Nazuna in his ‘IF’ world, or what we call imaginary world.

Well, the film actually has quite a confusing plot, with a lot of different ‘IF’ worlds, confusing the audience. When Norimichi enters a ‘IF’ world, it is easy to get confused that he gets back to the past, but the shapes of fireworks should tell you that it is just an imaginary world of his. But you really have to pay attention to the film to know what is happening as it is kinda an artistic piece of work.

Not much spoiler, but the ending is another controversy itself. The open ending allows people to have different thoughts. Some people think Norimichi drowns the death after Nazuna in his ‘imaginary’ world disappears (because she is just imaginary); some claim that Norimichi has always just been in Nazuna’s imaginary world (well this is getting more confusing), this is possible because some people in school claim that fireworks are flat (which is not true, thus being in an imaginary world), and Nazuna asks Norimichi ‘When we meet next time, which world would we be in?’, which kinda suggests that she has been to many imaginary worlds too. But I think that Norimichi learns that it is useless to hide in the ‘IF’ worlds, and that it is way more useful to actually go for what he wants. So, he goes to chase his dream!

This might be a very confusing review, but the film itself is pretty confusing itself. You probably have to watch it to understand it! I would especially recommend it to those who like to think about the plots or to read novels because this film requires some interpretations.

Loneliness is probably not a new thing to everyone. I believe everyone has experienced loneliness under different circumstances, especially during the Valentine’s Day (sigh)….

Today’s review is on Makoto Shinkai’s ‘5 Centimeters Per Second’ (2007). If you have heard about or seen the film ‘Your Name’, you probably have heard about Makoto Shinkai. As a Shinkai fan, I think ‘5 Centimeters Per Second’ is one of the most important work of his, as the film provides crucial experiences for him to create his later works, such as ‘The Garden of Words’ and ‘Your Name’.

The film itself is composed of 3 acts, and is set in Japan from the 90s to the present days (2007), with each act centered on a boy named Takaki. Briefly, the story is about Takaki and a girl named Akari. Takaki and Akari, due to similar family background and common interests, kinda get together during their childhood. However, reality checks in, that they get separated geographically as they have to move houses. They then decide to exchange letters as that is the only way they can communicate (when mobile phones are not common). After being separated by reality for many years, Takaki and Akari have already stopped their communication with each other at some point. Akari becomes someone’s wife; while Takaki still dwells on chasing the ‘shadow’ of Akari’. It is a shadow indeed, as Akari is not the Akari he knew before after time. But the ‘Akari’ in his heart is just irreplaceable. So it is like chasing a fairy.

Comments about this ‘5 Centimeters Per Second’ are pretty polarised: some people think the film is rather descriptive than progressive (not much plot); but some others think that the atmosphere Shinkai created in this film is effective to bring the audiences into the story.

I agree that the plot in the film is rather simple, and the film is very viewers-unfriendly. The excessive use of monologue makes the film much more descriptive than progressive. When the viewers don’t get enough information from a film, they get bored easily. However, I still like this film a lot.

Whether you like the film depends on how much you feel in it, Shinkai leaves space for you to fill your experiences in the film. Different people will interpret the ending differently. Some people would think that the smile of Takaki implies that he has finally given up chasing the ‘Akari’ in his mind, and the girl at the other end of the railway is just his imagination; while some people think that the smile is comprised of helplessness and bitterness, but not a smile of giving up. This is exactly the value of ‘5 Centimeters Per Second’, leaving spaces for audience’s imagination.

Although this film has so many problems regarding the progression of the plot and the excessive use of monologue, I would still recommend this film to everyone. Most other films aims at delivering ideas and messages to the audience; while this film requires you to fill your own experiences in it to get whatever you can get from it.  Well, hope you will enjoy the film!

P.S. the name ‘5 Centimeters Per Second’ refers to the falling speed of Sakura (a kind of flowers living on the trees)

 

“One doesn’t have to experience death, to understand the preciousness of life’

This is the sentence that popped up to my mind after watching the film ‘Colorful’ (2010), an animated film, but also one of the deepest films I have ever encountered. The story is set from the protagonist’s point of view: the ‘I’ in the film is a dejected soul, who got a chance to go through life although he didn’t want it. He was placed in the body of a 14-year-old boy named Makoto Kobayashi, who committed suicide before the dejected soul entered his body. No spoiler here, but this setting is pretty interesting.

As a film about suicide, ‘Colourful’ portrays precisely how and what makes people suicide (problems from schools, and family mostly), and ultimately brings out the theme that ‘humans are not just comprised of a single colour, but with so many different ones, whether they are bright or dull’. Compared to the school problems, I would think the family problems in the film are relatively more worth mentioning.

Makoto’s family is comprised of problems: the dad rarely goes back home for dinner; the mum is caught ‘cheating’; the brother only cares about himself…. However, after the suicide of Makoto (eventually not dying as his body is then occupied by the soul), there are observable changes in the family: the dad comes back for dinner everyday; the mum cooks all the meals and becomes a full time housewife. They seem to realise that family is a crucial to a person’s mental health. Family, friends, and everyone we encounter in our lives, make us who we are, giving us the colours of our lives. A person’s existence is not ONLY related to himself, but also the people around him.

To conclude, ‘Colourful’ is quite an outstanding piece of work in my opinion. In a 2-hour period, I felt like I had attended a lesson about life. Sometimes, life can be tough, but we should never forget that there are always people supporting us, and those challenges are what make our lives colourful. “One doesn’t have to experience death, to understand the preciousness of life”, I did not jot this down right after the film. But I will always remember it.

Before starting my new job, I have quite some free time, and I decided to watch an anime series. Having seen ‘Anohana’ and ‘The Anthem of the Heart’ directed by Tatsuyuki Nagai, I chose ‘Toradora’ (Tiger X Dragon) to be my company during my boring time as i know this director will not let me down.

By looking at the title (Tiger X Dragon), I thought it would be an action series. It was not until I started watching that I started to realise it was kinda a school-life anime about youth and growth. This anime, despite the slow and a-bit-too-normal start, hooked me up since the middle of it. I literally stayed up till 5am just to finish the whole series from the middle! It is a good anime with a strong after-taste, like a good slice of cheese! I used not to like anime about school-life because it’s usually terrible, but ‘The Anthem of the Heart’, ‘Your Lie in April’, and Toradora’ successfully denied my perception.

Toradora is a Japanese light novel series by Yuyuko Takemiya, with illustrations by Yasu. The series includes ten novels released between March 10, 2006 and March 10, 2009, and the anime comes out in 2008. Toradora is simply an anime with a simple love story, the plot can be predicted using your knee: about a gangstar-looking guy (Ryuji) having a crush on an all-time-happy girl; and another tiny and furious girl (Taiga) having a crush on the vice-president of the student association. Something happened, then Ryuji and Taiga begin to help each other to pursue who they like.

Not to include too many spoilers, Toradora has a very simple plot, but it includes all the element of a good anime, or even a TV series. To me, the best feature of Toradora is the developments of each main character. There are many anime films or series with good plots but they often try to put too many things in it and end up ignoring the importance of a deep development of the plot, characters, and the feelings. Toradora, on the other hand, under the direction of Tatsuyuki Nagai, has a smooth development of all the main characters, thus leaving the audience a memorable impression. The connection between each character is also portrayed perfectly, especially the uncluear relationship between Taiga and Ryuji. (You will see what I mean when you watch it) Well, youth is about uncertainty, when it comes to human connections and life goals. The anime portrays the uncertainty of every character perfectly: Ryuji is uncertain whether he likes Taiga, or the all-time-happy girl; Taiga also isn’t sure whether Ryuji is of any importance in her life. The plot keeps going around the theme of uncertainty.

The other interesting thing about the anime is that, you are presented with the first layer of personality of a character (e.g. Taiga being rude and careless), and then through different events, you notice the other side of his/ her personality. Ryuji is the same, he looks useless, but when it comes to the things that matter, he has got a strong determination to make things right.

Well, maybe people would say that ‘Toradora’ is a terrible anime because many things in the anime is about uncertainty. But well, life is full of uncertainty anyway, right? If you want some easy-watching, or chill anime which  can maybe make you think, I’d definitely recommend ‘Toradora’! 🙂

 

Having been a fan of A1-Picture (an animation studio) since ‘Your Lie in April’ and ‘Anohana’, I have decided to watch its said-to-be Masterpiece Sword Art Online with my friend. First of all, this is a horrendous story, with the two main characters being dragged into an online game, and this online game is a special one in which people actually die when they die in game.

Well, hopefully not much spoiler, here are my comments:

First of all, although the anime successfully got me engaged with the plot, the flow of the anime can be said problematic: the plot of SAO is like broken glasses, most episodes are not quite connected with each other. If you watch the first few episodes, you will probably recognise Kirito as the main character (not that difficult), but most of the other characters just appear for just one or two episodes and then they just disappear. Even Asuna didn’t quite appear as the other main character in the first 9 episodes.

Also, the atmosphere portrayed in SAO is horrendous. If it is a game of survival, I believe most players will come together (better together) to finish the game in order to get back to life. So they fight, fight and fight. And suddenly, you get the newly-wed life of Asuna and Kirito. When I try to adapt my mood to watch their peaceful lake-life, they went back to fight in just one episode. This jump is slightly too quick, and the atmosphere in SAO changes quick as traffic lights.

The ending of SAO (the first online game) is definitely a rushed-up. The boss on level 75 firstly appeared to be quite brutal, but then it got beaten fairly easily (within minutes), and it makes me feel like something is missing in the battle, and that they could have put more into it. When they finish killing that level-75 boss, normal viewers like me would probably look forward to the bosses on higher levels. But then, Kayaba suddenly appear and offer to fight so that Kirito can have a chance to win…. I was so speechless. And wow, it was a nice scene when Asuna tries to save Kirito, but she should have been paralysed, right? So how does she do that? And, Kirito is supposed to have died when fighting Kayaba, but he is like half-dead, and kills Kayaba? How does he do that? There are more question marks left on my head and my mind is like a pretzel. So, take a football match as an example, if Team A is leading 5-0 against Team B, and suddenly make an offer to Team B saying ‘if you score a goal, you win the whole match.’, I think everyone will wonder why? This is exactly like SAO.

So, second part of SAO Season one, the ALO game, so, what is the point of ALO? Is it a part just for Kirito to save Asuna? Is it a part for Kirito’s sister to appear as a character? To be honest, I think it is a less exciting part than the first game (first half season), this is not even an online game which can determine your life and death. Most importantly, this part of the season has nothing much to do with the first half (lacking continuity). If I say to my friends ‘Kirito is the main character and he tries to save Asuna’, then everyone of my friends can literally start watching from Episode 15 and not feeling missing anything.

There are several quotes in the anime such as ‘There is no meaningful difference between a real and a virtual world’ which appear to be quite ridiculous, but they probably mean it in the anime. If the plot can be more detailed, maybe those quotes will appear to be less ridiculous.

To conclude, SAO is quite an alright anime to watch, as it can actually get you engaged with the plot. But if you get too engaged you will find too many loopholes and stuff. It is good, but it shouldn’t be crowned as a Masterpiece. I don’t know if it is the fault of A-1 Pictures, but this is definitely not the best A-1 Pictures anime I’ve seen.

 

P.S. I didn’t even realise the girl with blue hair at the end was Asuna. Well apparently I am not the only one who didn’t know! This is an example of one of the weakness of the anime!

 

Plastic Memories Review

If you knew that your loved one has not got long to live, how would you two choose to spend the remaining time together?

Plastic Memories is a series with the protagonist, Mizugaki, working in a company called Terminal Service One. The story takes place in the near future, in which human works alongside androids which look exactly like humans and have human emotion and memory. Those androids are called Giftia. However, the catch is that  Giftia can only live for a maximum of 81,920 hours, and if they pass their expiration date, it causes personality disintegration, memory loss, and outbreaks of violence. This is when the Terminal Service comes into play, as the company retrieves Giftias who are close to the end of their lifespans from their owners, and erasing the Giftias’ memories. As Mizugaki works in the company, he sees a lot of different ways of human to say goodbye to their androids, and this is how the story begins.

The relationship between human and robots (or other non-human creatures) has always been a popular topic in sci-fic works (e.g. Frankenstein).However, what makes Plastic Memories different is that: unlike previous works, Plastic Memories neither discusses the existence of ‘spirit’ in Androids (or robots, not sure how they differ), nor explains whether the creation of androids or robots would bring catastrophic consequences to human-being. The sci-fic element in the story is basically the coating for it to develop its main them about life and death, about separation and such.

This is a rather flat anime when it comes to the plot. However, this is why I quite like it. There are many flaws in this anime indeed and I can only rate it ‘slightly above average’. However, I’d still like to recommend this to you because of the messages portrayed in the anime. When Mizugaki works for the Terminal Service, he saw many different reactions of different people when they have to say goodbye to their androids: some want to escape from the reality by running away from the Terminal Service team; some pray for miracles to happen; some feel betrayed by the android…. Then, how would Mizugaki react when he is in the same situation? No spoiler here, but what would you do? Yes, the value in this anime is the positive message behind it. I hope that if you do watch it, you will learn to treasure every day of your life afterwards!

So a few days ago, I was listening to 90s/ 2000s music while studying (probably not the best idea ever!), and I came across the song ‘Teenage Dirtbag’. This song reminded me of my ‘prime’ time in my second year, partying every night. I dwelt back into the time, and watched the MV. I found that the song is based on the movie ‘Loser’ (2002) (or the other way round, just that the two things are connected!) Anyway, so the song and MV initiated my curiosity for the movie, so I watched it yesterday.

Well, no spoiling for the plot here, but despite all the bad comments about the film, I have to admit that I found it quite sweet. Generally it is a high school, teen romance. There’s nothing very fancy about the film, the plot is simple, the soundtrack is quite good….. but sometimes simplicity is the beauty. I wouldn’t say the plot is very realistic, but for certain parts, you can really link yourself into it: there must be a moment in anyone’s life that he feels he does not fit in his social group, yea? Once again, it is a very simple film, but it did warm my heart a little. So, give it a go!

I also think Mena Suvari stood out from the film, she did a great job in being a pure, cute, cheeky, but struggling girl. I will definitely watch more of her films in the near future.

Lastly, here is the Teenage Dirtbag song for you!

‘La La Land’ won a lot of prizes at the Golden Globe awards. So yesterday, I went to see the film with my awesome friend. It was already dramatic at the cinema as we went to the wrong screen, feeling shocked and seeing people being so focused as if they knew all the plot during the first 5 minutes of the film….. well of course at the end we found the right screen!

So the film itself is, to my mind, good. Everything in terms of the effects, such as the music, camera angle, special effects…. are all great, all the hard effects are great. The song is definitely impressive, it is always on my mind now. However, I do believe the plot can be developed a little bit more. The story itself is quite simple: a dedicated jazz musician trying to set up his own jazz club somehow comes across an aspiring actress, and they encouraged each other somehow. They are two ships which passed in Sheep Meadow. Just a simple story with a ‘sad’ ending (as many viewers would say).

However, while some people don’t like the ending, I do find it quite okay, although it could be better. At the ending bit, you see when Emma Stone and her husband going to the jazz club set up by Ryan Gosling. When Gosling start to play the piano music, the scene go to the imaginary scene in which Stone and Gosling get together. After the scene, it takes us back to the reality of Gosling finishing playing the song, and Stone leaving with her husband. It is good, but I thought if it ends at the imaginary part, then it may be more open to interpretation and would be more interesting? That’s just what I think. But overall, it’s a good film, showing how some small decisions in your life can end up giving you a big change, just like if Emma Stone does not go away for her career, then she and Gosling would be together. Is it a happy ending or sad one? I don’t know, dreams or love, it depends on how people pick.