January 7, 2024

With 2024 upon us, it’s time to continue the endless consumption of art as a form of distraction rather than genuine entertainment or enrichment! In all seriousness, I went to a Hayao Miyazaki marathon at the Egyptian on Saturday, so that was an absolute blast.

Boiling Point (1990 Movie)

Image credit to IMDb

When you watch a Takeshi Kitano film you just know you’re in for a treat. His directorial work is unmistakable and idiosyncratic to the highest degree, specializing in tranquil slice-of-life interspersed with brutal yakuza violence. Boiling Point is only Kitano’s second film after Violent Cop, and as such it isn’t quite pushing the potential of his formula. However, it’s still incredibly heartwrenching, shocking, disgusting, and meditative. This man definitely knew what he wanted to do as soon as he sat in the director’s chair for the first time and I couldn’t possibly admire him more.

The End of Evangelion (1997 Movie)

Image credit to HubPages

DEFINITELY not my first watch. Evangelion’s cinematic finale is one of the best films ever made and I don’t have anything at all to add to the discussion surrounding it. Did you know this movie takes place on New Year’s Eve, and if you press play at exactly 10:54:46 p.m. “Komm, süßer Tod” will start exactly as the clock strikes midnight? No better way to start 2024 than with the third impact… and news of a major earthquake hitting Japan. Maybe the timing was far from great, actually.

His Girl Friday (1940 Movie)

Image credit to TCM

The perfect film to have an anxiety attack to. His Girl Friday is a romcom as fast and frantic as Crank: High Voltage, and another excellent addition to Howard Hawks’ filmography. Grant and Russell have fantastic chemistry. It’s rare to see such a fucked-up couple in a code-era film and I’m all for it. I’ll be quoting this one a lot, so if you know me online prepare to hear “you’re wonderful in a loathsome way” a lot over the next week or so.

Howl’s Moving Castle (2004 Movie)

Image credit to Wizard Dojo

As with a lot of Miyazaki fans, my relationship with Howl’s Moving Castle is somewhat complicated. It’s a structural mess, not particularly interesting on a thematic level, and unimpressive as a screenplay. I used to dislike it on those merits alone. However, in recent years my perspective on it has evolved in a dramatically more positive light. This is truly the movie Miyazaki was dying to make ever since he started his career. As a pure audiovisual spectacle, Howl is nothing short of magical. I don’t think it needs to be anything else.

My Neighbor Totoro (1988 Movie)

Image credit to IMDb

Can you feel it? The wind flowing through the air. The leaves quietly placing themselves on the grass. The water streaming down into the sun-baked sea. It makes you want to dream. My Neighbor Totoro is a movie about nature transforming itself into mysticality through the minds of the youth. There’s something so valuable about childhood imagination which can’t be articulated through words, but it’s achieved so effortlessly through film.

Princess Mononoke (1997 Movie)

Image credit to dvdcheck

While humans thrive and create because of nature, we also serve as a massive threat to it. Miyazaki knows this best of all. He’s taken the thoughts & emotions he conjured up from the Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind manga and placed them into an original picture. Princess Mononoke isn’t willing to shy away from the grim reality humanity faces, and it only makes those intimate moments between man and nature all the more powerful. A very spiritual film for sure.

Spirited Away (2001 Movie)

Image credit to screenrant

I should be tired of Spirited Away. I’ve seen it like eight times now. No one will ever shut the fuck up about it. Even then, it’s still such a beautiful and touching experience. On this watch, I mostly paid attention to all the little nuances in the animation. The rat and bird have such a fantastic visual dynamic!

Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story (1987 Movie)

Image credit to Museum of Arts and Design

Despite being acted out entirely with Barbie dolls, Superstar feels far more real than almost any other biopic I’ve seen. Karen’s struggle with anorexia is detailed in an intense way, but what struck me most is the esoteric presentation. Haynes frames Carpenter’s surroundings almost as if it were a prison, and the uncanny aesthetic nails that aspect further in. Love how her music was used throughout the movie, as well. Legitimately terrifying stuff.

ef ~ A Tale of Memories & ef ~ A Tale of Melodies (2007-2008 TV Series)

Image credit to IMDb

Not my first watch. However, I have read the original visual novel since I last watched it, and I’ve come to appreciate just how incredible of an adaptation ef is. It’s strikingly different from its source material, transforming a very structured and streamlined work into something far more chaotic. Although the anime has a weaker emphasis on the narrative and thematic parallels between each couples’ story, the internal struggles within each character have more intrigue.

What really makes this adaptation shine, of course, is the incredible work done by SHAFT. ef is the only project from pre-exodus SHAFT which wasn’t hemmed by Akiyuki Shinbou (instead being the work of one Shin Oonuma), yet his influence can be found in every nook and cranny. Dare I say that it’s potentially the most surreal and creative work ever done by the studio. Definitely the best visual novel adaptation I’ve seen and honestly it could very well be one of the best television anime ever made.

Early Rance Games (1986-1990 Video Games)

Image credit to CRPG Addict

This week I played Little Princess (1986), Little Vampire (1988), Rance: Quest for Hikari (1989), and Rance 2: The Rebellious Maidens (1990). All of them were short and breezy, especially since I used guides rather liberally. Little Princess and Little Vampire are nothing more than basic, charming adventure games. The next two are more interesting, leaning heavier into RPG mechanics while still maintaining that ADV feel. I was worried about the sexual violence going into these, but the charming presentation and lightheartedness made it hard for me to get offended or uncomfortable.

White Album: Memories like Falling Snow (2010 Visual Novel)

Image credit to Fuwanovel

While not particularly unenjoyable, White Album is pretty damn standard. A regular dating sim that doesn’t exactly push any boundaries. Some great tunes and fun character interactions can be found here, though. Yuki and Rina have the most amusing routes while the other heroines are a bit of a chore to get through. 

Paradise (2015 Album)

Image credit to Spotify

This relatively new T-Square release is extremely pleasant to listen to, albeit a bit too bubbly for me. It does really feel like you’re drifting away on an island… I’d imagine it’s nice, but boring after a while. “Night Cruise” is the obvious highlight.

Spring Is Here (1987 Album)

Image credit to Discogs

It’s not quite here in the United States, but I thought I’d give Spring Is Here a listen anyways! This marks my formal introduction into the work of Makoto Ozone. Definitely a lot cozier than I was expecting, and those last few tracks are utterly brilliant.

Watching the Hayao Miyazaki marathon at the Egyptian Theater was an experience I’ll never forget. That doesn’t overshadow everything else I’ve gone through this week, though. Getting into the Rance series has me a little concerned, but I’m sure I’ll push through. Starting the year off with The End of Evangelion was a great choice, His Girl Friday caused permanent damage to my sides, and rewatching ef reignited my love for that golden era of SHAFT. Madoka Magica’s return could very well be the best thing from the year if it manages to reach the heights of the third movie…

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February 11, 2024

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