Restoring Relationships (and the Force) May04

Restoring Relationships (and the Force)...

Like all relationships, the ones in Star Wars have their challenges. In A New Hope, the first meeting between Obi-Wan and Darth Vader in almost twenty years isn’t as emotional as I imagine it should be. After all, Obi-Wan basically raised Anakin before eventually slicing his legs off. Emotional stuff. Instead, they simply speak a few short utterances to each other in cold tones. There’s no love between the two; their cords have been completely cut, and as such, they no longer see each other as human. For Obi-Wan, Darth Vader is “more machine now than man,” and for Vader, Obi-Wan is just another obstacle to tear through. In this bond built a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I see a challenge being forced upon me, to look at the broken relationships in my own life and think about how they became that way, and what I might do to repair them. In an imperfect world, we’re all bound to have broken relationships. I’ve said many things that have hurt others, and people have driven me away, too, either by cruelty or by simple indifference. The thing is, the longer I let time pass without reconciliation, the more bitterness will take root, and the harder it becomes to heal the damage. The task of pulling it up becomes too daunting to even try. And soon, the person I’m split from has become a memory to me. Any relationship we had dies, wasted and transformed into a nothingness, like the emotional space between Vader and Obi-Wan. Luke makes the sacrifice that restoration costs. Of course, it doesn’t just take realization to reconcile; it takes action. And action requires selflessness. I find that whatever reserve of that characteristic I have in storage...

If I Could Erase the Past Apr11

If I Could Erase the Past...

I wouldn’t say I’m jaded, but I do have some regrets. I wish I had spent more time deepening my friendships when I was younger. I wish I had opened up more to people. It seems that every time I look back to my college years, I’m not disappointed about what I did, but rather about what I didn’t do. This especially affects me because I believe my actions have eternal consequences. ERASED features Satoru Fujinuma, an unsuccessful mangaka (manga writer) whose mother has just recently moved in with him. Satoru is a depressed young man, mostly due to repressing memories of an event where his classmates were killed many years ago. He feels he could have personally prevented the murders and the jailing of a man wrongly convicted for the crimes. Even worse, the events of the past catch up with Satoru, as the real murderer fatally stabs his mother. Laziness, timidity, retribution, fear—these are the demons that pull at me. But this is anime, so fear not! Satoru has an ability to jump back in time. Usually, he is only able to move back a few seconds or minutes, but after his mother’s death, Satoru leaps all the way back his childhood. He’s given a second chance to act and maybe save everybody. Satoru, effectively an adult in a child’s body, attacks his task of saving children with a gusto that takes everyone by surprise. He knows the future, and will do anything to prevent these terrible crimes from happening. I am jealous. I want Satoru’s superpower. But since that doesn’t seem likely, what should I—someone who, you know, can’t travel back in time and correct wrongs—do in the here and now? Unlike Satoru, I’m stuck with the consequences of my actions,...

Lessons of a Pork Bowl Mar04

Lessons of a Pork Bowl...

I love my father to pieces, but sometimes I wonder how we get along at all. We’re fundamentally very different people. Growing up, I would spend most of my free time reading novels or watching TV, while my dad enjoyed maintaining the car and doing lawn work. When he would ask me to help change oil for our old Ford, I would politely reply, “No thanks,” and return to my books. Getting sweaty and dirty working on a contraption I knew nothing about seemed like misery to me. It was wholly out of my comfort zone. I was a lot like Yugo Hachiken, the bookish protagonist of Silver Spoon who is in his first year attending an agricultural-focused high school. Hachiken is completely out of his element at the institution, where he dirties his hands working with livestock, crops, and farming equipment from dusk ‘til dawn. Almost everything at the school is a challenge for Hachiken, who previously responded to trials by keeping stress bottled up inside or by running away. He can do neither at Ooezo Agricultural High School—not if he wants to succeed. And though it’s rough going, Hachiken discovers something I wish I had known when I was his age–by getting out of your bubble, you’ll grow into a person you never knew you could be. It wasn’t until years later that I realized all this running away had molded me into someone I didn’t want to be. This theme is illustrated very early in the series. Shortly after his arrival at Ooezo, Hachiken begins to care for a runt piglet he encounters during a practicum. Learning that it supposedly won’t grow large enough to sell as high quality meat, he decides to prove everyone wrong and raise it himself, waking...

Lifting the Curse Feb05

Lifting the Curse

A youth living as a princess among wolves. Giant boars possessed by demons. An elk-like spirit who gives life and takes it away. A monk who fights and curses as well as any warrior. “Distinctive” describes Princess Mononoke, Hayao Miyazaki’s masterpiece depicting humans at war with nature. But perhaps lost in the spectacle of gods and demons is a challenge that I find speaks directly to me. The film’s protagonist seeks to live a life free of bitterness and scorn, and that’s something I can relate to because I daily struggle to do the same. Ashitaka, the prince of a small tribe, has been cursed by a vengeful boar god who is driven mad by an iron pellet buried deep in his body. Ashitaka’s journey to find a cure for the fatal curse leads him to Irontown, an island settlement erected by Lady Eboshi, a shrewd and fearless businesswoman. She asks the prince why he’s there, to which he responds, “to see with eyes unclouded by hate.” As it is with Ashitaka, grace is the power to cast out hate, the power to absolve the curse. But his eyes are clouded by hate. Ashitaka’s eyes burn with loathing toward Eboshi as she proudly explains how her warriors chased off the bordering mountain’s boar gods through fire and gunpowder, all in the name of making her town the richest property in the world. They are the ones who shot the boar god, and thus are responsible for Ashitaka’s predicament. After his cursed arm begins to move on its own, attempting to assassinate the woman, he says of it, “If it would lift the curse, I would let it tear you apart, but even that wouldn’t end the killing, would it?” And Ashitaka isn’t the only...

Kenshin, Truth, and Love Jan22

Kenshin, Truth, and Love...

The subject of live action films, a long running television series, and multiple video releases, Himura Kenshin is one of anime’s most recognizable and enduring characters. The wandering samurai we know from the Rurouni Kenshin anime series is a kind pacifist, though we also know that he was once the brutal battousai (manslayer). Rurouni Kenshin: Tsuiokuhen (known as Rurouni Kenshin: Trust and Betrayal in North America) is a two-part release that pulls no punches in revealing his history; while beautifully animated and instilled at once with both cold and romantic tones, it’s also a very bloody work, a vast departure from the more light-hearted series, which makes it all the more striking. Himura Kenshin, a great swordsman with high ideals, is at the center of all the violence in Trust and Betrayal, usually inflicting it upon others. It’s a surprising path for a young man who grew up single-mindedly set on saving others by the strength of his sword. But in his eagerness to aid the common person during the revolution which would eventually lead to Japan’s Meiji Era, Kenshin easily falls for the pretext set forth by Katsura, the leader of a faction opposing the shogunate. Katsura takes the swordsman’s immeasurable abilities and uses him even though he knows that doing so will destroy Kenshin’s humanity. in truth, they found something solid to stand upon, something strong and just, something worth fighting for. To keep Kenshin in line so that he may continue to carry out assassinations, Katsura asks Tomoe, a woman Kenshin has affections for, to act as a calming “sheath” for the young swordsman. Tomoe, however, has a secret as well: her fiance was assassinated by Kenshin, and she is acting as a spy to deliver him to his death. What she didn’t...

Remember Jon Snow Dec09

Remember Jon Snow

Pick a quote! Any quote! “You know nothing, Jon Snow”? Classic. “The Lannisters send their regards”? Brutal. But my favorite Game of Thrones quote is the one that keeps on giving, the one that we continue to hear as the show progresses, the one that’s perhaps the most meaningful of all: “Winter is coming.” These three words, the motto of House Stark, hang heavy over Westeros. Early in the series, they function as a lyrical anchor, beautiful words that help us understand the Starks, the geographic location of their home, and their hardiness. But even then, we know the maxim belies greater meaning. A long, horrible winter is coming, and this frightful season will befall everyone in the series—the good, the bad, and all the others in the vast spectrum between. For five seasons now, ancient families and their armies (and sometimes dragons) have jockeyed for the throne. All the while the White Walkers, undead and hostile beings, have been looming as a threat, growing stronger as winter prepares to blow in. Most of the Game of Thrones’ events have solely focused on the the crown, despite warnings from Jon Snow and others that a much larger menace, one that could overwhelm the entirety of Westeros, is coming. What I do here and now has an eternal impact and time is short.In the eighth episode of Season Five, the White Walkers strike, devastating the wildling town of Hardhome (for which the episode is named). Though the wildlings put up a valiant fight, they are unable to stop the invading force, even with the help of the Night Watch. Zombie apocalypse: imminent. Or maybe not. During the battle of Hardhome, Jon Snow discovers that his sword, made of Valyrian steel, is able to annihilate White Walkers. Until this time, the belief...

Grave of the Fireflies and burying selfishness Nov04

Grave of the Fireflies and burying selfishness...

A teenage boy, dying from disease and starvation, sits leaning against a pillar in a subway station. Some express disdain towards the teen; others ignore him; one lady leaves a small bit of food next to him. This is the opening scene for Grave of the Fireflies, Studio Ghibi’s animated classic about the closing days of World War II. By nightfall, the boy, Seita, is dead. His spirit, however, is alive—and in the midst of glowing fireflies, he reunites with the spirit of a young girl (whom we soon discover is his sister Setsuko), and the two take us on a journey to the past, narrating what led them to their deaths. Grave of the Fireflies is difficult to watch—a cursory look through the Tumblr tag for the movie brings forth a common response: tears, and lots of them. After the children are left without their mother, as she suffered from severe burns due to the U.S. firebombing of their hometown of Kobe, Seita becomes a surrogate parent and leads his sister to a distant aunt’s house. There, the siblings are forced to take refuge. Their aunt cautiously takes them in, but as rationing becomes tighter, her callousness turns into outright scorn at having to share food with the children. Will we be satisfied within the comfortable confines of our lives and demonstrate that, in the end, we simply don’t care? Seita ultimately makes an ill-fated decision to take Setsuko and leave his aunt’s home, moving to an abandoned shelter. Though the two are happy at first to have their own dwelling, and even acquire goods and equipment that they purchase from a farmer, it isn’t long before malnutrition and disease set in. When Seita takes the declining Setsuko to see an unconcerned doctor,...

The pirate inside Sep14

The pirate inside

This October, Pan, yet another adaptation of J.M. Barrie’s classic work, will arrive in theaters. It’s the latest in a long time of properties featuring the boy that never grew up. My favourite work about Peter Pan, though, isn’t about the boy – it’s about the man that he becomes. Steven Spielberg’s Hook, featuring an adult Peter, turns 25 years old next year. By most accounts, the film was a disappointment. The beginning was too slow, the sword fights too silly, and the behind-the-scenes drama too distracting. But for my dad and I, both ardent fans of Robin Williams (Peter Pan) and Dustin Hoffman (Captain Hook), Hook was cinematic magic. Part of the beauty of the movie is that the dialogue is often lyrical, almost poetic. It’s eminently quotable. One of my favorite lines from the film is when Peter speaks at the movie’s closing. When asked by Wendy what he’ll do after his latest and grandest adventure, he replies: “To live… to live would be an awfully big adventure.” Peter didn’t need to have the mind of a child to become Pan—he needed to have a child’s heart. Today, that line reads like it belongs in a movie that is meant to inspire in the most inauthentic way. But as the closing of Hook, it means more—it’s the conclusion of an adventure and of one chapter of Peter’s life, and the beginning of a new one. It also speaks to the viewers, telling us that we, too, need to remember how to live adventurously. But how can we live an adventure? Hook gives us that answer as well. Becoming a Pirate The movie begins by introducing us to Peter Banning. Having forgotten his past in Neverland, he’s now grown up and more like...