Edu-Manga: Anne Frank

“For two years, Anne Frank and her family lived in hiding from the Nazis in a secret annex. Though her young life was threatened on a daily basis, Anne channeled all of her fears and dreams into the pages of a private diary. Anne kept her hope for peace alive in the midst of the tragedy of war. Her indomitable spirit lives on to this day in the words of her very special diary.”

“Astro Boy can’t wait for you to meet this incredible young girl! Join him as he shares the day-to-day life of Anne Frank, her family, and the time they spent in the secret annex. Anne’s strength of spirit and joy in the face of impossible odds come together to create one of the most inspiring stories of our time.” (Text from the back cover)

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The life-changing manga of tidying up

“From the #1 New York Times best-selling author and lifestyle/cleaning guru Marie Kondo, this graphic novelization brings Kondo’s life-changing tidying method to life with the fun, quirky story of a woman who transforms her home, work, and love life using Kondo’s advice and inspiration.”

“Marie Kondo presents the fictional story of Chiaki, a young woman in Tokyo who struggles with a cluttered apartment, messy love life, and lack of direction. After receiving a complaint from her attractive next-door neighbor about the sad state of her balcony, Chiaki gets Kondo to take her on as a client. Through a series of entertaining and insightful lessons, Kondo helps Chiaki get her home–and life–in order. This insightful, illustrated case study is perfect for people looking for a fun introduction to the KonMari Method of tidying up, as well as tried-and-true fans of Marie Kondo eager for a new way to think about what sparks joy. Featuring illustrations by award-winning manga artist Yuko Uramoto, this book also makes a great read for manga and graphic novel lovers of all ages.” [ Penguin Random House website ]

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L’art subtil du commentaire-critique

On me demande souvent quels sont les critères que j’utilise quand j’écris des critiques (reviews) de livres ou de films. En fait, j’utilise les même critères que j’ai développé au cours des années alors que j’écrivais des critiques d’abord pour Samizdat (un fanzine de science-fiction et fantastique québécois, 1987-1994) et, par la suite, pour Protoculture Addicts (un magazine sur la culture, le dessin animé et la bande-dessinée japonaise, 1987-2008). J’ai été rédacteur-en-chef pour ce dernier pendant plus d’une vingtaine d’années et ce sont ces même critères auxquels je demandais à mes collaborateurs d’adhérer. Je vais donc profiter de la présente occasion pour vous expliquer un peu comment je procède. Et je suggère à quiconque qui désire écrire des critiques de suivre ces quelques lignes directrices.

J’aimerais d’abord définir la critique comme étant un simple commentaire et non pas une critique analytique. Cette dernière cherche à étudier, en profondeur, les moindres aspects d’une oeuvre: les motivations des personnages, les choix narratifs, le message de l’auteur, etc. Une simple critique, quant à elle, n’est qu’un commentaire qui se veut ni objectif, ni constructif, ni négatif : c’est juste une opinion, un ressenti, que l’on exprime. On aime ou on aime pas, et on tente d’expliquer pourquoi, en décortiquant brièvement les impressions que l’oeuvre nous a laissé.

Je préfère d’ailleurs parler de “commentaire” et non de “critique” car ce dernier terme fait plus pompeux et peut aisément être confondu avec son cousin analytique. Un commentaire donne une impression plus modeste. On ne cherche pas a donner de leçon mais simplement à dire ce qu’on en pense. Dans le cas d’un livre, on pourrait parler de commentaire de lecture mais comme on peut commenter aussi des documents audio-visuels (des BD ou des manga, des films (vu au cinéma, en Dvd, ou Blu-ray), ou même de la musique (concert, CD)) je préfère m’en tenir simplement à “commentaire.” Bien sûr, l’approche sera un peu différente selon le type d’ouvrage  que l’on commente (livre, cinéma, musique).

Une autre question que j’entend parfois c’est “pourquoi se donner la peine de faire un commentaire” alors que l’on pourrait bien se contenter d’apprécier une oeuvre pour ce qu’elle est sans trop se poser de question. Je dois avouer que pour moi c’est plus une déformation professionnelle. J’ai écrit tellement de commentaires pour les publications pour lesquelles je travaillais que maintenant je ne peux pas m’empêcher d’analyser et de penser à ce que je ressens au fur et à mesure que je progresse dans le livre que je lis ou dans le film que je visionne. Et tant qu’à avoir des idées ou des opinions, pourquoi ne pas les partager? Car la raison fondamentale d’un commentaire c’est cela: partager ses coups de coeur (ou de foudre!), son amour (ou parfois son aversion) pour une oeuvre, ou simplement donner son opinion. Parfois, aussi, il s’agit de vouloir aider les autres à comprendre et à mieux apprécier une oeuvre ou, tout au moins, à partager la façon dont nous percevons une oeuvre (à travers le prisme de nos expériences personnelles, de notre savoir, de notre vécu). Si nous sommes passionné par un sujet, il est tout naturel de vouloir partager cette passion. Le lecteur (du commentaire) en fera bien ce qu’il veut…

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FFM 2017 wrap-up

The 41st Montreal World Film Festival (FFM) is now over. This year was a slim pick for the Japanese cinema aficionado since there was only two Japanese movies (two others were co-productions with non-Japanese directors). Besides that, the festival went smoothly for me. However, the only question remaining above our heads is: will there be a festival next year? Of course Serge Losique wants to be reassuring and said that the FFM was here to stay. He even announced the dates for the next two years: August 23rd to September 3rd 2018 and August 22nd to September 2nd 2019 !!

One of the event that I would have liked to attend (but couldn’t by lack of time) was the press conference and Master Class held at L’Astral by Chinese Martial Art Filmmaker Xu Haofeng (The Hidden Sword) on Monday August 28th. It seems that it was one of the rares (if not the only one) press conference held at the FFM this year. I really miss those… (and the film market and the press room!)

The closing film of the festival was a surprise to be announced after the awards, just a few hours before its free screening. It was meant as a gift for the movie fans.

A press release announced the awards for the 48th Student Film Festival: for the Canadian competition it went to Land by Samiramis Kia (York University, Toronto) and for the International competition it went to Elene by Seven Kayhan (Koç University, Istanbul, Turkey).

Another press release announced the awards for the festival itself: the Grand Prix of the Americas (Best Film) went to And Suddenly the Dawn by Silvio Caiozzi (Chile) and the Special Grand Prix of the Jury went to Dear Etranger by Yukiko Mishima (Japan). Check the press release for the other awards.

To summarize, I’ve seen and commented on two Japanese movies:

I also wrote a few informational posts about the festival:

Finally, here are the latest comments about the FFM in the media:

 

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Capsule reviews (02.017.247)

Bande-dessinée

Yoko Tsuno #28: Le temple des Immortels

Une autre aventure plutôt invraisemblable de l’électronicienne nippone. Leloup développe ici des éléments de récits qu’il avait laissé en plan dans des albums précédents ( #12: La Proie et l’ombre, #25: La Servante de Lucifer, #27: Le Secret de Khâny ). Comme c’est souvent le cas dans ses oeuvres plus récentes, le récit semble un peu précipité alors qu’il essai de raconter son histoire dans le cadre étroit  du format traditionnel de quarante-deux pages. On a l’impression de vivre le récit en accéléré…

Le problème avec des albums qui font sans cesse référence à des volumes précédents est qu’on ne se rappelle pas toujours des détails qui s’y étaient déroulés, ce qui laisse des lacunes dans la bonne compréhension (et l’appréciation) du récit. Toutefois l’idée de moines médiévaux avec des Vinéens et des tributs celtiques vivant au creux de la terre, dans un gouffre profond, a quand même du charme. C’est une lecture nostalgique mais tout de même un peu décevante, donc d’un intérêt moyen…

Cela donne le goût de relire de vieux albums (car étrangement je suis resté sur ma faim — c’est presque toujours le cas avec ces très court albums à l’européenne). Comment un artiste peut-il vivre en publiant juste de tels albums aux deux ans? C’est un dur contraste avec les mangakas nippon qui produisent en moyenne une quantité de pages similaires (en noir et blanc toutefois) CHAQUE SEMAINE (!) pour la pré-publication en périodique…

[ AmazonBiblioDupuisGoodreadsWikipediaWorldcat ]

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Magazine

AnimeLand #216

Le numéro de juin-juillet 2017 nous offre des dossiers sur l’importance du visuel dans la société nippone (“Quand la 2D se tape l’incruste”), sur le marché de l’anime en France en 2016 (qui ne progresse pas aussi positivement que celui du manga car divisé, à 70% / 30%, entre le DVD et le Blu-ray et considérablement affecté par la popularité du simulcast, qui a toutefois l’avantage de faire régresser l’utilisation de sites illégaux de diffusion), et sur les anime “engagés” (socio-politiquement: Harmony, Genocidal Organ, Ghost in the Shell S.A.C., Galactic Hero Legend, Gundam; ou écologiquement: L’école emportée, Conan: Fils du Futur, Nausicaa, Princess Mononoke, Pompoko, Ponyo sur la falaise, Earth Girl Arjuna, etc.).

Comme toujours, AnimeLand nous fait découvrir de nombreux anime (Hirune Hime, Dans un recoin du monde, Golgo 13, Le grand méchant renard, My hero academia, Atom: The Beginning, la saison 2 de L’attaque des titans, Dragonball Super, Boruto: Naruto Next Generations, Rage of Bahamut: Virgin Soul, Capitaine Flam), mangas (Kenshin, One Piece, Mob Psycho 100, Les mémoires de Vanitas, Reine d’Égypte, Voyage à Tokyo, Tenjin, Gloutons et Dragons), et jeux video (Persona 5, et un article sur les mondes ouverts). On nous trace aussi des portraits de seiyu (Mamoru Miyano) ou de musicien (Akira Yamaoka) et nous présente une dizaine d’interviews avec Kenji Kamiyama (Hirune Hime), Eric Goldberg & Neysa Bové (Vaiana), Masashi Kudo (Chain Chronicle), Yasuyuki Muto (Rolling Girls), Studio La Cachette, Nobuhiro Watsuki (Kenshin), Kiyo Kyujyo (Trinity Blood), Tatsuki Fujimoto (Fire Punch) et Chie Inudoh (Reine d’Égypte). Finalement, on retrouve les indispensables actualités et commentaires sur les parutions récentes.

Nul doute que AnimeLand est une source inépuisable d’information sur l’animation et la bande-dessinée japonaise, et le seul magazine francophone sur ces sujets. Toutefois, je n’ai rien trouvé de bien excitant dans ce numéro…

[ AmazonSite webWikipedia ]

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Manga

Pline #2: Les rues de Rome

Ce second tome, s’il nous offre beaucoup moins d’action que le premier, n’en est pas moins intéressant car il approfondit de beaucoup notre connaissance des protagonistes. Euclès découvre la maison (remplit de manuscrits!) de son nouveau maître, Pline. Celui-ci souffre grandement de l’asthme mais se méfie beaucoup des médecins. Il finira cependant par se soumettre au traitement du médecin grec Silénos, qui lui recommande surtout l’air pur de la Campanie. Euclès tombe amoureux d’une jeune esclave, Plautina, qu’il a rencontré par hasard, mais celle-ci est aussi tombé dans l’oeil de l’empereur Néron! Celui-ci se sent un peu égaré sans les conseils de son précepteur, Sénèque, qu’il a exilé. On y découvre une image plus humaine de Néron, qui apparait moins comme un tyran qu’un jeune homme cultivé mais moralement faible. Poppée, qui n’est pas très aimée du peuple, se fait lancer des pierres. Elle annonce à Néron qu’elle est enceinte, ce qui le convainc finalement de la marier et de régler le sort d’Octavie. Felix, le garde du corps un peu frustre de Pline, a une famille à Rome mais sa femme se plaint de ses absences prolongées et surtout des conditions de vie difficile dans les insulae romaines. Alors Pline leur offre de s’installer dans l’une de ses maisons. Mais le personnage le plus important de ce tome, c’est sans doute Rome elle-même alors que l’on découvre plus en détails ses bas fonds et ses lupanars!

C’est une lecture passionnante si vous êtes amateur de manga historique et de Rome antique. Et ce qui est particulièrement remarquable dans cet ouvrage c’est le grand détail et la qualité du dessin de Mari Yamazaki et Tori Miki. À lire absolument!

Voir aussi mon commentaire sur Pline #1: L’appel de Néron

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Movies

Jackie

Slow, boring movie that shows a not very sympathetic, selfish Jackie, control freak of her image and obsessed with Lincoln funeral and the fact that his widow died destitute and penniless. Is this a well researched bio pic or just an iconoclast fiction? In the end, it is all about the making of the modern myth of the American camelot.

After John‘s death, Jackie meets with a journalist and reminisce about her traumatic ordeal in order to reshape her husband’s presidency. What makes a president great and be remembered like Lincoln was? His accomplishment or his image?

 

[ AmazonBiblioIMdBOfficialWikipediaYoutube ]

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TV Series

Samurai Gourmet

Someone recommended to my wife this Japanese TV series streaming on Netflix. The subject is cool, I had already heard about the writer of the original manga and the main character is played by an actor that I like, therefore I had no hesitation to subscribe to Netflix in order to binge on this mini series of twelve episodes of twenty minutes each. I have absolutely no regret. It was quite funny and very interesting as I leaned a few things about Japanese cuisine. Highly recommended!

Nobushi no Gourmet (野武士のグルメ) is based on a manga written by Masayuki Kusumi and drawn by Shigeru Tsuchiyama (first pre-published in November 2013 by Gentosha Plus web magazine and then in print in June 2016 — I have already commented on the very similar manga that Masayuki Kusumi did with Jiro Taniguchi in 1994-96 titled Kodoku no gourmet). It tells the story of 60-year-old salaryman Takashi Kasumi (Naoto Takenaka) who just retired. Having lost his corporate title and the support of his company, he finds himself with lots of time on his hands. His wife Shizuko (Honami Suzuki) is always busy with something (choir practice, etc.), so he goes for a walk, wandering around and decides to enter a restaurant. For the first time he has a beer in the afternoon and rediscovers the pleasure of a good meal! Being a great fan of Sengoku Period samurai stories, he often imagine what a masterless samurai (played by Tetsuji Tamayama) would do in his situation — which always creates hilarious scenes!

As most of the episode is made of showing off food and the protagonist inner monologue, you might think it is quite boring: in the contrary, it’s an excellent series (see comments on Japan Times, Eater, Thrillist) as proven by a 97% rating on Rotten Tomatoes!

[ IMDbNetflixWikipedia ]

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Dear Etranger

Based on the novel from Kiyoshi Shigematsu, this is the story of Makoto Tanaka, a 40-years-old who has remarried. His wife is Nanae and they care for 2 daughters from Nanae’s prior marriage. Makoto tries to have an ordinary family but Nanae becomes pregnant and things are bound to change.

 

 

 

 

WARNING: May contains trace of spoilers! People allergic to the discussion of any plot’s elements before seeing a movie are strongly advised to take the necessary precautions for their safety and should avoid reading further.

Dear Étranger is an average Japanese family drama: it’s both funny and sad, offers excellent acting but is rather slow moving. It’s a touching story about Makoto, a man in his forties, who has remarried and must deal with the difficulties of a blended family. He has one pre-teen girl (Saori) from a previous marriage (with Yuka). His new wife, Sanae, has two daughters (Kaoru, a tweenager, and Eriko, a preschooler) from her own previous marriage (with Sawada, who used to beat her and the children). When she gets pregnant, the delicate balance of their couple is challenged. Of course, in such situation, the children are suffering the most (with emotional or psychological stress). Can they really call themselves a “family”? Can he call himself a “dad”? Can he succeeds to keep a good relationship with BOTH his tweenage daughters? Or is he just a “dear stranger” to them?

The movie tackle quite realistically many aspects of the modern Japanese society: divorce, one of its causes (domestic violence) and one of its increasingly frequent consequences, the stepfamily. Divorce in Japan is relatively similar to what it is in the West (although there is no joint custody). Still not as frequent as in the West, the Japanese divorce rate has been steadily increasing (up to one in three marriages, quadrupling the rate of the post-WW2 era — mostly among retiring-age couples) but it has recently started to decrease due to a corresponding diminution in marriages (men are too busy at work and don’t feel economically confident enough to seek marriage and have children). The Japanese society is evolving and it is not surprising that we also see an increase in the number of female movie directors, who are more likely to want to use sociological theme in their storytelling.

I cannot pass over in silence the superb inclined elevator that regularly appears in the film. The Nashion inclined elevator (ナシオン斜行エレベーター  / Nashion shakō erebētā) is located in Higashiyamadai, Nishinomiya (Hyōgo prefecture) near Kobe and Osaka. Many scenes were shot in that area. It offers a beautiful scenery but might also symbolise the hardship of the main protagonist as he must step up to resolve his delicate situation.

Anyway, when you put together two interesting writer and script-writer, a skilled director (who already came to the FFM in 2014 with A Drop of the Grapevine) and a great cast of actors, you can only get a good movie. And, apparently, the Jury of the 2017 Montreal World Film Festival agreed with this, since they awarded Dear Étranger with the Special Grand Prix of the Jury (a kind of “second best” award).

Dear Etranger (幼な子われらに生まれ / Osanago Warera ni umare / lit. “Children born to us” or We’re having a Baby): Japan, 2017, 127 mins; Dir.: Yukiko Mishima; Scr.: Haruhiko Arai (based on a novel by Kiyoshi Shigematsu); Cast: Tadanobu Asano (Makoto Tanaka), Rena Tanaka (Nanae), Shinobu Terajima (Yuka), Raiju Kamata (Saori), Sara Minami (Kaoru), Miu Arai (Eriko), Kankurô Kudô (Sawada), Shingo Mizusawa, Narushi Ikeda.

Film screened at the Montreal World Film Festival on Friday September 1st 2017 (Cinema Imperial, 19:00 — the attendance was about an hundred people) as part of the “World Competition” segment. Shinji Sakoda, the international sales representative from Pony Canyon, was there to introduce the movie.

 

For more information you can visit the following websites:

[ AsianWiki — IMDbOfficial webVimeo —  Youtube ]

Dear Etranger © 2016 「幼な子われらに生まれ」製作委員会 .

See also the comments of Mark Schilling (Japan Times) and Claude R. Blouin (Shomingeki).

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Noise

Eight years have passed since the Akihabara massacre. A pop star whose mother was killed in the incident, a teenager who left her home of Akihabara, a delivery boy who turns his anger to the city. This is a story about the characters striving to grasp the string of hope within the darkness surrounding the city, the incident, and the people.

 

 

 

WARNING: May contains trace of spoilers! People allergic to the discussion of any plot’s elements before seeing a movie are strongly advised to take the necessary precautions for their safety and should avoid reading further.

In this movie we see Japan like we rarely see it in movies: people being poor, homeless, destitute, at their wits’ end. Japan is interiorizing everything, hiding the pain, the ugliness and sometimes the boil needs to burst. The Akihabara massacre wasn’t the cause of anything, it was a symptom. It also shows the ugly underside of Akihabara, the low level idols that are struggling, the delivery guys who deliver goods by feet because they lost their driving licenses in accidents, the almost-sex industry exploiting young girls, etc.

This docudrama is interesting because this director is willing to show us what others wouldn’t dare: the price Japan is paying for past economic crises and for a rigid society that must always preserve the appearance. Unfortunately, this young director is lacking the skills to express all this in a beautiful, well-organized manner. The result is a loud (it’s called noise isn’t it?), disjointed, awkward, disorganized movie. There are too many characters, scenes transition that comes without warning or coherence which makes the story quite difficult to follow. However, it is  compelling and the actors’ play is excellent.

It is a hard movie that requires patience like most unpolished gems. In the end, it gets easier to understand as we get to know each character better. Noise has potential with such an interesting subject and its great acting, but it unfortunately doesn’t succeed to be artistically good enough. However, it is entertaining and well worth watching.

Noise : Japan, 2017, 124 mins; Dir.: Yusaku MATSUMOTO; Cast: Kokoro Shinozaki, Urara Anjo, Kosuke Suzuki, Kentaro Kishi, Takashi Nishina, Kenji Kohashi, Hiroshi Fuse.

Film screened at the Montreal World Film Festival on August 25th, 2017 (Cinema du Parc 1, 20:15 — the attendance was around fifteen people out of a capacity of about two-hundred seats) as part of the “First Feature Competition” segment. There was no production team member to introduce the movie or do a Q&A.

For more information you can visit the following websites:

[ IMDbOfficial WebVimeoYoutube ]

Noise © 「Noise」製作委員会 2017. All rights reserved.

See also the comment on this movie by Claude R. Blouin (in french).

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Ghost in the Shell

At first glance, the story of this live-action version seems rather faithful to the original. If the manga offers the base of the story (chap. 1, 3, part of 8, 9 and 11), it follows more the storytelling of the animated movie. Shirow’s manga is rather disorganized with lots of silly or humorous moments, while Oshii’s anime movie is more linear, but with lots of reflective and philosophical pauses (maybe a little too much). In this regard, the live-action movie seems more balanced. Of course, they changed a few things here and there but the spirit is all there (no pun intended). My main complain is that this story doesn’t show any Fuchikoma (think tanks, a.k.a. Tachikoma (in the TV series): spider-like robots with great sense of humour that assist in combat) and it is missing the incredibly beautiful music by Kanji Kawai, which is heard in the movie only in the end credits. However, the biggest change is in the background stories of both the puppet master and of the Major, which were completely altered in order to link them together. I am not sure (I can’t really remember) but I think they may have taken a few elements from the TV series and OVAs (at least the part on the origin of the Major). They also kept a hint of philosophical reflection (not too much, but just enough) to preserve the mood of the original movie—the age-old existential question of what’s make us “us”. They also paid an homage to Mamoru Oshii by putting his favourite dog (basset hound) in the story (actually, Batou’s dog comes from the second movie, Innocence — which is itself based on chap. 6 of the manga).

I heard plenty of negative comments. People complained they chose an American actress to play a Japanese character (first, this comment came out in the midst of the Hollywood whitewashing scandal and, anyway, not many Japanese actresses would have the action and language skills to play that role — although I like that Takeshi Kitano acts only in Japanese). They also complained that her acting lacked expression (come on, she plays a human turned into a machine, wondering if she’s still human, so it’s part of her role). On the other hand, some purist fans complained that they changed this or that. It’s not a perfect movie (personnally, I hate the design of the spider-tank!) and it was obviously not good enough for many since it didn’t performed well at the box office (which barely exceeded the production budget) and received lukewarm reviews (45% on Rotten Tomatoes !).

Of course, I don’t know if someone who has never heard of the Ghost in the shell universe would be able to follow, understand and really appreciate it. Because I am a fan, I am probably biased. So I wonder: purely in a technical point of view, is it a good movie? I think so. The story is captivating and interesting as it asks some relevant questions about human nature and it remains one of the best depiction of the cyberpunk genre I’ve seen. The storytelling is fluid and easy to follow (unlike Oshii’s movie), the acting is good and the special effects are superb. In the end, what else should we expect from a movie? Ghost in the shell is a complex universe, first in its story (socio-political cyberpunk) but also in its making as the franchise includes several manga, movies, TV series and OVAs, so maybe we should try to see the live-action more as what it is in itself than try too hard to compare it to the manga or anime. For my part, it’s an excellent entertainment and I enjoyed it a lot.

Ghost in the shell: USA, 2017, 107 min., PG-13. Dir.: Rupert Sanders; Scr.: Jamie Moss, William Wheeler, and Ehren Kruger (based on the manga by Masamune Shirow); Phot.: Jess Hall; Ed.: Neil Smith, Billy Rich; Mus.: Clint Mansell, Lorne Balfe; Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Takeshi Kitano, Michael Pitt, Pilou Asbæk, Chin Han, and Juliette Binoche.

[ AmazonGoogleIMdBWikipediaYoutube ]

 

Ghost in the shell (攻殻機動隊 / Kōkaku kidōtai : Gōsuto In Za Sheru / Mobile Armored Riot Police: Ghost in the Shell) : Japan, 1995, 82 min.; Dir.: Mamoru Oshii; Scr.: Kazunori Itō (based on the manga by Masamune Shirow); Phot.: Hisao Shirai; Ed.: Shūichi Kakesu, Shigeyuki Yamamori; Mus.: Kenji Kawai; Voices: Atsuko Tanaka, Akio Ōtsuka, and Iemasa Kayumi.

An excellent adaptation of the manga although with a little too much philosophical pauses. If the sequel movie is also nice (Ghost in the shell 2: Innocence) it doesn’t follow the manga. My favourite part of the franchise is the TV series Ghost in the shell: Stand Alone Complex (there’s also an OVA series: Ghost in the shell: Arise – Alternative Architecture).

[ ANNAmazonBiblioGoogleIMdBWikipediaYoutube ]

 

Ghost in the shell (攻殻機動隊 / Kōkaku Kidōtai / Mobile Armored Riot Police) by Masamune Shirow (translated by Frederik L Schodt and Toren Smith). Milwaukie, OR: Dark Horse Manga, 2004. 368 pg. $24.95 US / $33.99 Can. ISBN 1-59307-228-7.

This is one of my favourites manga. It offers an excellent cyberpunk story (although the storytelling is a little episodic and disorganized), with an awkward mix of action and humour. The second part, Man-Machine Interface, has a better graphical quality and incredible cyberpunk scenes, but the complexity of its political and terrorist plots makes it a little hard to follow.

[ ANNAmazonBiblioGoodreadsGoogleWikipediaWorldcat ]

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Movie capsule-reviews (02.017.204)

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

The latest Luc Besson’s movie (The Professional, Fifth Element, Lucy) is based on the comic series Valérian and Laureline by writer Pierre Christin and artist Jean-Claude Mézières. That series is one of my favourite comics and it has a quintessential place in my heart as it is one of the series that made me discover science-fiction (in the comic magazine Pilote). The movie looks like a Fifth Element on speed and a darker Star Wars. It respects the spirit of the comic but doesn’t really FEEL like it. However, despite many criticism I’ve heard, I found the acting to be faithful enough to the original characters (at least as they were portrayed in the latest albums): a somewhat clumsy Valerian (however, I admit that, barring some occasional heroism, he is far from being an action hero in the comic) and an intelligent, kick-ass and beautiful Laureline! I am also sure that some dumbass will complain that the spaceship looks a little like the Millenium Falcon in Star Wars but, since the comic series was created ten years before Lucas’ franchise, I am sure it is the other way around.

Although the title might let us believe that it’s an adaptation of the Empire of a Thousand Planets, the movie’s story is, in fact, based on Ambassador of the Shadows (the sixth album: L’ambassadeur des ombres) and is relatively faithful to the original. However, in the movie, Central Point is rename Alpha and its origin story has unfortunately been changed to make it centred on Earth (it evolved from the Space Station) and the humans are kind of in control of the Council (this human-centred aspect goes against the spirit of the comic — although it reflects the imperialistic ambition of the humans in the comics). We find in the movie some of the critters from the original story like the shingouz (the three informants) or the transmuteur grognon de Bluxte (the converter) — but the role of the latter is quite different. And the biggest change of all: in the original story it is Laureline who conducts the investigation to save Valerian who was captured with the ambassador (and not the contrary as in the film). And of course the movie ending is more positive (for Earth) than in the comic but it is still a kind of love story between Valerian and Laureline. All in all, it is a nice adaptation of the original story.

My only complain is that the time-traveling aspect has been totally erased from the story — because, above all, Valerian & Laureline are spatio-temporal agents! That omission is rather annoying. But, since there will never be another Valerian comics (unless, of course, the authors feel the movie’s pressure), this adaptation is surely the next best thing (slightly above the animated tv series). The 3D effects are superb and provide quite an immersive experience. The story is good, the acting great and the movie offers excellent workmanship (although quite expensive). I can’t ask for more. All in all, despite the fact that the reviews are not that good (maybe people can’t appreciate french sci-fi?), I was entertained and enjoyed it thoroughly.

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Fantastic Beast and where to find them

This movie is really fleshing out the Harry Potter universe and giving it a different perspective, this time from 1926 New York (the relations between wizards and no-majs [muggles] is completely different). It makes the Potter’s alternate universe much more interesting. The acting is good but it is especially the designs and the special effects for the beasts that are commendable — although by moments it looks a little too much like a bestiary (menagerie catalog). The period sets and costumes are really excellent. Over all it’s quite a good entertainment. I am looking forward for the next movie (after taking the effort of creating an all-new cast of characters for this spin-off, I guess it would be a shame not to make it at least a trilogy!). Strangely, the extras on the BluRay Disc are almost as long as the movie itself!

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Silence

The movie is set in the same era than the TV mini-series Shogun (James Clavell‘s best-selling novel was inspired by the fascinating life of English navigator William Adams). While Shogun was mainly concentrating on the political reasons that brought Tokugawa Ieyasu to ban christianity and the Jesuits from Japan, Silence explores the religious reasons. The Japanese mind-set (buddhism, shinto) was said to be incompatible with the Church teachings which was often distorted by the local followers. Also, like in the 2nd century Roman Empire, a religion empowering the poor and disfranchised was seen as subversive. Finally, the shogunate was quite wary of the political interferences caused by the religious and economical rivalries between the European superpowers of the time (Spain, Portugal, England, Netherland). Japanese had no patience toward the European arrogance, although they would gladly use their knowledge (medicine, science, technology) when it was needed and trade with the Dutch — who didn’t care much about spreading their religion.

Along with The Last Temptation of Christ and Kundun, Silence is part of a trilogy of movies where Scorsese explores the struggle with faith, a subject that seems dear to him. Based on the novel by Shūsaku Endō (which had already been adapted to the screen in 1971 by Masahiro Shinoda), the story is inspired by the life of Giuseppe Chiara, an Italian Jesuit who went to Japan during the Kakure (hidden) Kirishitan period in search for fellow priest Cristóvão Ferreira. In many aspect, Silence is similar to The Last Temptation as the main character wonder why the terrible suffering he witnesses is met only by God’s silence. He is also constantly pushed to renounce his faith by Japanese officials and then tempted by his tormentors to reveal he didn’t!

It is a quite beautiful movie on a very interesting and deep subject (although, personally, I find it hard to comprehend how people could endure this kind of hardship for such a silly belief) but it is a bit long, cerebral and offers several cruel scenes. Despite great acting, the movie received quite a lukewarm reception, not so much amongst the critics [see reviews from The Guardian, The Atlantic, The New Yorker] as from the public (the box office was abysmal). It’s understandable for a beautiful but difficult movie that was released against a though competition (the Martin Luther King holiday weekend also saw the release of Hidden Figures, La La Land and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story !!!). Despite all this, I liked it very much.

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Warcraft

Even if I never played any of the World of Warcraft games, I liked this fantasy movie because somehow it felt familiar. The world is obviously well developed (i.e. numerous video games, novels and comics), the story is interesting, the acting is good enough and the special effects are excellent. When it comes to those so-called “blue-screen” movies (actually they’re green), where most of the scenes involves some sort of special effects, I am always afraid the story will be shallow, but it is not the case here. Despite the fact that there has been plenty of other high fantasy movies and TV series around recently (The Hobbit & Lord of the rings, Shannara Chronicles, etc.), this one offer something original enough to be interesting and entertaining. Of course, you still have humans, dwarves, elves and, most importantly, orcs, but the mix doesn’t feel stale. It is interesting to note that Warcraft was directed by Duncan Jones (Moon, Source Code), the son of David Bowie.

Although the ending clearly leave the way for a sequel, none has been produced or announced so far (after a year). The movie did quite well at the box office (nearly three time its budgets) but probably not as much as expected or at least not enough to entice the producers to green-light a sequel. And to me that’s probably the most disappointing aspect of this movie. However, SOMEONE was obviously disappointed by the movie (the game fans? the muggles?) because the critics were not very good (seriously? 28% on Rotten Tomatoes!). Well, it was good enough for me.

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Il Divo

After seeing Paolo Sorrentino’s The Great Beauty, Youth and his TV series The Young Pope, we were curious about his only major film that we hadn’t watch yet. It doesn’t have the depth and beauty of the other movies, but the story is interesting from an historical point of view. I vaguely remember earring in the news about events like the Aldo Moro’s kidnapping and murder in 1978, but don’t know much about the Italian political scene. So, I learned a lot with this movie. It is a biographical drama about Italian seven-time prime minister Giulio Andreotti who allegedly had ties with the mafia — most of his opponents or critics were murdered — but nothing was ever proven in court. It is set between his seventh election in 1992 and his failed bid for presidency and trial in 1995. Like most European movies, it has a slow pace and long scenes so north American viewers can be easily bored (although there’s a lot of violence). But for me it was worth seeing.

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Pline #1

La grande fresque historique par l’auteure de Thermae Romae.

“Pline était un naturaliste de la Rome antique dont la vie entière fut guidée par une imagination sans limite et un amour inconditionnel de la recherche. Son Histoire naturelle est une encyclopédie monumentale née d’une inextinguible soif de connaissance appliquée à l’ensemble des phénomènes se produisant sur notre planète. Aujourd’hui, nous ne disposons que de très peu de sources nous permettant de nous faire une idée de l’homme qu’était Pline, aussi devons-nous nous en remettre à notre imagination. Un exercice qui, personnellement, me donne la chaire de poule ! Comme j’aimerais que nous puissions remonter dans le temps, mon complice de choc et moi-même, afin de vivre en immersion dans le monde de celui que je considère aujourd’hui comme un mentor !” — Mari Yamazaki (rabat de couverture intérieur et site de l’éditeur)

J’ai découvert ce superbe manga par un article dans un numéro récent d’Animeland. Pline (titre original: プリニウス / Plinius ) est une biographie du naturaliste romain Pline l’Ancien par Mari Yamazaki (Thermae Romae) et Miki Tori. Prépublié au Japon par Shinchôsa dans le périodique Shinchô 45, ce manga seinen, qui est toujours en cours, a déjà cinq tomes de paru au Japon dont trois ont été traduit en français par Casterman.

Le premier volume débute avec Pline s’apprêtant à évacuer Pompéi lors de l’éruption du Vésuve en 79. Il ne se presse pas, prend le temps de prendre un bain et de manger avec son hôte, Pomponianus, car il veut sans doute observer l’éruption aussi longtemps que possible. Il semble n’avoir aucune crainte, contrairement à son scribe, Euclès. Le chapitre suivant nous raconte, en flashback, comment Pline a rencontré Euclès. La maison de celui-ci venait d’être détruite par une éruption de l’Etna et Pline était de passage en Grande-Grèce (Sicile) pour inspecter les lieux et faire office de gouverneur substitut. En mal d’un scribe pour prendre en notes ses observations, il engage Euclès, qui a une formation de grammairien. Toutefois il doit couper court à sa tournée lorsque l’empereur Néron, qui souhaite sa présence pour un concert, le rappel à Rome. Il choisit cependant de rentrer non par bateau mais par la route, ce qui lui permettra de continuer à faire des observations.

Le récit est entrecoupé par ce qui se passe à Rome, à la cour de Néron: les cauchemar que lui laissent encore les souvenirs d’une mère dominatrice, sa concubine Poppée qui le presse pour le mariage et que faire de sa femme, Octavie, qu’il a exilé dans l’île de Pandataria ? Il nous est présenté comme un artiste troublé, au caractère instable, qui n’est pas fait pour diriger un état mais qui est bien entouré, notamment par Vespasien. Après un arrêt à Puteoli pour un bain, Pline arrive enfin à Rome. Il habite dans un quartier mal famé, où se côtoient voleurs et prostitués. Il y rencontre par hasard Néron… Le volume se termine sur une interview avec les auteurs, qui discutent la genèse de leur manga.

Après avoir complété Thermae Romae, Mari Yamazaki voulait faire quelques choses de sérieux sur la Rome Antique et Pline s’est offert comme un sujet tout naturel. Elle s’inspire beaucoup (et cite abondamment) son Histoire Naturelle (Historia Naturalis), une sorte d’encyclopédie en trente-sept volumes qui rassemble la somme du savoir romain de l’époque et qui nous est maintenant très utile pour comprendre cette grande civilisation de l’antiquité. Toutefois, les hypothèse scientifiques de Pline ne sont pas toujours très solides, tombant parfois dans le farfelu et il inclut dans son ouvrage la description de créatures mythologiques comme si elles étaient véritables. Mais même cela nous en dit beaucoup sur la mentalité romaine, prompte à la superstition.

Normalement, les mangas sont le fruit du travail d’un dessinateur et d’un scénariste. Toutefois, dans ce cas-ci, il s’agit de deux artistes: non pas un artiste qui travail avec des assistants (comme c’était le cas pour Thermae Romae) mais bien deux artistes qui collaborent ensemble. Mari Yamazaki se charge du storyboard et du dessin des personnages, alors que Tori Miki se charge de dessiner en détails les paysages et les décors. Yamazaki semble intéressé à établir une corrélation entre la Rome antique et le Japon: déjà avec Thermae Romae elle avait traité de leur engouement mutuel pour les bains publiques et, avec Pline, elle exploite le fait que ces deux civilisations ont sans doute une certaine affinité car elles ont tous deux eut à vivre avec la constante menace des catastrophes due aux séismes et aux volcans: les éruptions du Vésuve et de l’Etna en Italie et les tremblements de terre de Kōbe (1995), de Tōhoku (2011) et Kumamoto (2016) au Japon.

Évidemment, l’histoire de Pline n’est pas un manga qui va passionner tout le monde car on n’y retrouve pas d’action ou de combats mais il offre un sujet très humain sur la curiosité, la découverte de l’univers qui nous entoure et la recherche constante de connaissances. C’est un récit biographique où l’on suit trois personnages: Pline, bien sûr, mais aussi son secrétaire Euclès et l’empereur Néron. On découvre peu à peu leur caractère, leur psychologie. C’est aussi une façon assez extraordinaire de découvrir la civilisation romaine et l’oeuvre de Pline. C’est vraiment intéressant, passionnant même, pour un amateur de manga historique. Et il ne faut surtout pas oublier la superbe qualité artistique du travail de Yamazaki et Miki. En conclusion, ce manga est un incontournable pour tout amateur d’histoire, de Rome et, bien sûr, de Yamazaki !

Extraits: pages 49, 52-53 et 88
Pline, vol. 1: L’appel de Néron, par Mari Yamazaki et Tori Miki. Paris: Casterman (Coll. Sakka), Jan. 2017. 200 pg, 13 x 18 cm, 8,45 € ($15.95 Cnd), ISBN: 978-2-203-13243-6.

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Pline © 2014 Mari Yamazaki, Tori Miki. © 2017 Casterman pour la traduction française.

Commentaire repris sur Goodreads et Les Irrésistibles

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