Hana Kimi

Argh. I have been staying up late these few nights. Why? Because I got suck into Hana Kimi.

The original title is 花ざかりの君たちへ, Hanazakari no Kimitachi e ~ “For You in Full Blossom”, which is really a mouthful in any language. It is a Japanese manga series about a girl who disguised herself as a guy to attend an all-boys high school. Mizuki Ashiya is a Japanese girl who lives in the United States. One day, while watching a track and field competition on TV, she becomes enamoured with one of the high jumpers, Izumi Sano, and decides to transfer to Japan to attend the same school that Sano does.

Needless to say, there are plenty of jokes and funny scenarios of a girl living with a dorm-ful of high school guys, including overtones of homosexual loves. One of her classmates starts wondering about his sexual orientations when he finds his heart fluttering at the sight of her(him). Yes, a manga with a harlem of ikemen!! I don’t know how Mizuki manages not to blow her cover (to the whole world). I mean, Asian guys tend to be less muscular and hairy, and more androgynous, but still, to have her walking around in shorts… maybe she does have some hairy legs? Then I remember reading Norah Vincent’s Self Made Man, in which she disguised herself as a man with remarkable success, and mentioned that people choose to believe what they believe, and once they identified her as a male, she could be careless and still maintain her cover. Either way, once you let go and enjoy the manga, it’s actually a lot of fun.

It has been a while since I got that into a manga. The last one was Hikari no Go. I only have vol 1-9 on hand, so after blowing through them, I went on to YouTube to see what anime version they have. To my surprise I found that there are in fact two TV dramas made from this title, one Japanese and one Taiwanese.

This is a pic of the cast:

I am not sure about the Japanse Mizuki. I mean, NO ONE will for a moment mistake her for a boy. She looks like a girl with short hair, period. Not effeminate, but outright female. The Taiwanese girl, Ella, does a better job passing for a guy. In fact, I think most of the Japanese male cast scale a higher kawaii factor… I haven’t watched the Taiwanese version and opted instead for the Japanese first, but from what little I’ve watched, looks like the Taiwanese one is a very close redition of the original manga, while the Japanese one just takes the title and run away with it. They also changed the school, Osaka, from one that excels in academic and athletes to one that uses looks as admission criteria (and as a result the average IQ drop at least 3o points).

As for Sano… I didn’t know at the start that he IS Hanazawa Rui from Boys Over Flowers. Oguri Shun has lost a lot of baby fat since then… and most definitely handsomer… I like the manga version better though. Oguri seems to bring in too much of Hanazawa into this series, at least in the beginning. Moreover, being a monosyllable, expressionless, moping guy is one thing, but acting mean is not cool at all. The manga Sano is not mean. He does say a few angry words, but he’s a yasashii person through and through. There are a lot of tender moments in the manga. It’s really cute and heart warming how he goes from “what the heck do I do with a girl?” to “I want her by my side and protect her” from one moment to the next. He makes me wish I had a boyfriend like this. But in the TV drama, Sano is rather cold and said some very rude and hurtful things.

Nakatsu in the TV drama is excellent! Ikuta Toma totally steals the show, and deserves the Best Supporting Actor award he received. No wonder some fans would rather wish him to be Mizuki’s love. I would have picked him too. Interesting how the chemistry is different than the manga. In the manga, it’s so obvious Sano and Mizuki are deeply bonded, sorry Nakatsu you don’t stand a chance.

On the other hand, Umeda is so much more fun in the manga. Campy and sexy.

And… Nakao… This is the actor, Kimura Ryo’s pic on his official site. I am like, gosh, he can be Mizuki!!! What big beautiful eyes!

The handsomest of them all? My vote goes to Shirota Yuu. He’s Kagurazaka Makoto, Sano’s competitor from another high school. He’s half Spanish.

Ahem, really, it’s embarrassing to be oogling over boys a decade younger than me… Last week another BookCrosser commented that she wishes there were more manga in America that are not the typical shoujo high school romance genre, as she’s grown out of them. What failure I am!

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Published in: on August 8, 2010 at 10:42 pm  Comments (2)  

Throwaway Daughter

by Ting-Xing Ye, William Bell

I enjoy this book more than I expected and I was closed to tears several time when reading it. I know it will be about an adopted girl going back to China to look for her birth mother, and some tear-inducing moments are likely to appear, but this novel is so much more. I guess in part my tears is from the knowledge about the background of the story: the cultural revolution, the Tiananmen massarce, the abandonned baby girls, all intensely painful chapters of recent Chinese history that the mere mention, without any detail, is potent enough to stir up emotions in me. The author has successfully tie these events together in the story without appearing contrived.

The story was told by many voices. At first I thought it would be confusing, but after finishing the book, I felt it necessary to allow the reader to understand all the characters, and it would be a shame to cut out any voice. Sure, none of the facts will be missed, but the characters won’t be as authentic and complete.

Published in: on July 21, 2010 at 8:11 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Music of Dolphins

by Karen Hesse

A girl, raised by dolphins since she was four, was found on an unpopulated island off the coast of Florida. With long hair reaching her feet, her naked body covered with salt, seaweed and barnacles, the girl was rescued off to a research center where she can be rehabitated to a human life.

The book started out in very large font, which gets smaller as Mila’s language and cognition skills develop. (The progression and regression of the language reminds me of Flowers for Algernon) While the speech and vocabulary remains simple and unrefined, the thought is so eloquant, so insightful and so exquisite. Mila’s reaction and thoughts reflect her dolphin nature: she yearns for freedom, she yearns for companions, she is sensitive to emotions and vibes around her. Her mistaking the noises of cars as sounds of ocean reminds me of Heidi. Her longing for her dolphin family and her confusion of human behavior makes my heart aches, even as it is expressed in such simple and sparse language. This is one beautiful tale that will stay in your heart long after the book is closed.

Published in: on April 23, 2008 at 4:06 am  Leave a Comment  

When My Name was Keoko

by Linda Sue Park

I ocassionally read children’s book to take a break from more serious reading, but this book is much more than a diversion.  It is likely among my top ten of the year.

The story, partly based on the experience of the author’s grandparents and with historically accurate facts woven in, centers on a Korean girl, Sun-hee and her old brother, Tae-yul, who grew up in a Japanese-occupied Korea.  Like many war stories viewed through the eyes of children, the simple and sometimes innocent episodes they described is all the more powerful in suggesting a cruelty and hardship that goes beyond their understanding.

I knew very little about the lives of Korean under Japanese occupation, and this little book is an excellent introduction to that slice of history, and to Korean culture in general.  It was intriguing how Sun-hee learned to write kanji, got popcorn from the popcorn man,  and was taunted at school as a Japanese Lover for excelling in class.  As Sun-hee grew up learning only Japanese, she did not have a “before” picture to compare against.  It took her a while to “notice” the fact that her best friends were Japanese and daughter of a “traitor”.  The  increasing hardship of the war did not escape her though, from the food her mother served to the change in the color of the mountains as they were stripped of their resources. 

On the other hand, her older brother started with a better understanding of the reality.  Thus he could not play with the rubber ball the school distributed in celebration of Japanese occupation of Malaya, he cared not to stay in the classes to be brain-washed, and he wanted to help destroy the enemy.   Inside Tae-yul, there was the conflict of a teenaged boy fascinated with airplanes, yet keenly influenced by his uncle to resist the enemy; burdened by the tradition to respect his parents, yet despising his father for allowing the soldiers to take his bicycle without a fight.

This is one excellent fiction of WW2.

  

Published in: on August 27, 2007 at 2:47 pm  Leave a Comment  

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Dear darling hubby bought me a copy!!

I didn’t read it as fast as I could have though.  As it’s the last one, I kind of drag my feet so as to enjoy it slowly.  However, that being HP, you can’t really read it one chapter per day. 

Okay, SPOILER WARNING!!

There are people who are happy with vol 7, some who are not.  Overall I am pretty satisfied with it.  The middle part where they went searching for the horcruxes was painfully slow.  I don’t know if Rowlings intended it so to make us feel the depression caused by the necklace,  but it was just all around misery for everybody and not much going on at all.  Even Hermoine doesn’t seem to do much besides loitering around, reading and making feeble attempts at cooking. 

And some more thoughts:

Neville was able to pull the Griffindor sword out from the sorting hat.  It was brilliant though the scene was a bit chaotic.  Also, I can’t help sympathizing with the goblin.  No doubt the little folks are mad with the wizards.  They can be having a cocktail party, celebrating and admiring the sword, when a fat little hand appears in the air and pulls the sword away. 

It is moving how Snape asks Harry to look at him in his dying moments.  Okay, someone has called that creepy, some have called it sweet.  His memory doesn’t reveal much that a HP fan couldn’t have guessed already.  At least, we all know that Snape is smitten with Lily back when they go to school and Lily defends him in front of James.  We didn’t know that Snape and Lily goes all the way back as childhood friends, the fact deepens his love for her but doesn’t give any surprise in what we think Snape is and will do because of is love.

I am a bit disappointed though that after his death he isn’t mentioned at all.  I want something more than Harry naming his child Severus.   Well, Snape was the headmaster right?  He still held the title at the moment of his death.  So his picture should be up on the wall in the headmaster room.  There could have been just a brief mention, that while all the headmasters were applauding, Harry saw Snape’s picture and an understanding nod passed between them.  That would be suffice, and a nice closure.  Snape would not be patting Harry on his back, but he would likely give a stiff nod for a job well done.  Harry would like have yet overcome all those years of dislike to warmly thank Snape, but would attempt to give a thank for how Snape protected him and his mom. 

One question that bugs me – When the trio camped out, they put charms around their camp.  It was mentioned that when Ron stomped out, he couldn’t make it back even had he wanted to, because with the charms he won’t be able to find the way back.  However, after Ron and Harry found the sword, they didn’t have any difficulties walking back to the tent.  Now, if it weren’t a hole, I suppose an explanation is that Harry put up the charms himself, so he was able to find the way back.  The book didn’t exactly say who did the charm, though it makes more sense that Hermione did, because Harry was in a bad shape then and didn’t even have a ward.

Also, it’s a pity that at the epilogue, things haven’t improved much for their juniors.  The house rivalry are still there, although after the battle people were not sitting in their houses but all together.  And the term “pureblood” was thrown around, which means “mudblood” and “halfblood” were too.

I really like Kreacher in the end.  It’s amazing how such a despised character turns out so loved in the end.  I imagine him staying with Harry and turning out all kinds of delicious dishes? 

Published in: on July 26, 2007 at 1:30 pm  Leave a Comment  

The China Garden

by Liz Berry

Copying from Amazon.com, “Like a jewel box with hidden drawers and compartments, this finely crafted, multilayered novel holds many secrets.”  Indeed. It is fantasy, mystery, coming-of-age, romance, and more – a bit of green peace, a bit of family love.

Clare Meredith, 17 and waiting to hear the results of her school exams, goes with her widowed mother to Ravensmere, an ancient English estate, to care for its dying owner.  Somehow in the village, everybody seems to know her and expects her to save the day (a la Harry Potter style), and she starts having visions and stumbles upon a magical garden.  The story draws you in from the start and just keep getting better.  There are lot of historical and mythical references, making the story seems both real and magical at the same time.

While the plot itself is good, the character of Mark could use better development.  He was set up so negatively in the start that it’s hard for me to do a 180 switch to like him as the hero all of a sudden, and makes it hard for me to envision Clare herself doing so, without seeing her as a witless bimbo.

Published in: on July 20, 2007 at 4:30 pm  Leave a Comment  

Shiloh Season

by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor 

I loved the first book in the trilogy, Shiloh, and this one is equally excellent. I like how the story was told in a simple, honest way, really like a child telling it, and how the various messages of life are gently hidden in the story. Towards the end I had tears in my eyes. It’s a simple tale of a boy and a dog, but lovingly told.  It is as best as children’s books come.

Published in: on May 11, 2007 at 9:02 pm  Leave a Comment  

Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator

It has been a long while since I read his other books but this one is as genius as I remember the other ones to be. The part in the president office is hilarious. I was struck by the sad tone as Willy Wonka walked away from the quabbles of Charlie’s family when they fight over the Wonka-vite. It felt a little out of place, but gave the story a deeper level. Don’t go too fast reading this or you will miss out some of the jokes!

Published in: on January 28, 2006 at 4:45 pm  Leave a Comment