‘Kiki’s Delivery Service’ by Hayao Miyazaki (1989 film) – review

kikidoyouloveme-c537c2fbe895a651b76179c8b7a4f23bBeing a witch can be this fun. She can fly on a broomstick anywhere faster, higher and further and see the world in her own eyes, which takes her to a higher plane of existence. Perish the titular image of a spooky hag with an equally evil looking black cat flying together on a hackneyed broomstick on Witches Sabbath as a medieval invention of a woman laden with sexual and spiritual depravity. For a witch can be young, innocent, good-hearted and hard-working into the bargain who tries to live purposefully and meaningfully with what’s given to her as a result of responding genuinely and humanly to life’s challenges.  Such is a growing tale of Kiki’s Delivery Service, aka Witch’s Delivery Service.

Kiki, a thirteen-year old witch, leaves her mother and father for an independent one-year training of witchcraft at a faraway place where no other witch lives. Her companion is a witty and trusty talking black cat named Jiji that is more of kin than pet. When Kiki finds a place in the port city of Koriko that has the outlook of San Francisco, Marseilles and Nice beautifully combined, she sets up a delivery service as a messenger flying on a broomstick passed down to her in a long line of witchery by her witch mother. The business is in bloom because of her excellent customer service, positive attitudes and beautiful heart, boosting her self-confidence, filling her heart with the love of humanity. Her broomstick and craftiness in flying with amazing navigation skills are part of witchery, but her real magical power is her empathy with people that infatuates all with a sense of euphoria. Kiki comes to know that the real magic comes from within, not from supernatural entities.

Kiki’s Delivery Service is a 1989 Japanese animated film that was written, produced, and directed by great Hayao Miyazaki, which was an adaptation of the 1985 eponymous novel by Eiko Kadono. The fineness of Japanese animation is at the meticulous rendering of original literary source text to the animated version without losing the authenticity of the original theme and maximizing the emotional and visual effects. Also, there is a polyphony of pathos and affabulation found in Miyazaki’s animations, such as Graves of Fireflies, My Neighbor Totoro, and his other television works as presented in The World Masterpiece Theater. In fact, Kiki’s Delivery is a bildungsroman film of an adolescent girl who tries to establish her own place in the world while growing up, independent of the comforts of her home and conformity of lifestyles that is likely to be pinned down on her by a society’s convention. In a way, it is reminiscent of Jonathan Livingston Seagull in terms of his search of self-identity and growing into adulthood through the vicissitudes of life. However, Kiki’s rite of passage seems more adventurous, more libertine and more vivacious, all in the artistic mastery of Miyazaki’s creation of La Vie de Rose according to the eyes of young and resilient witch Kiki. Young, Old, Man, Woman, regardless of where you are or what you do, this is a film that will bring you all to the world of fantasy wonderfully anchored in reality that will entertain you with beautifully rendered scenery in detail and a story worth the keeping at heart.

Simple delights

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Olga Boznańska (1865–1940), Interior of the Artist’s Studio in Krakow (1906)

I’d rather have good books than designer bags;

A few good readers than a legion of followers;

and a faithful true lover than a band of admirers.

For a bloom of roses satisfies me more than a rope of rubies.

Dialogue on Five Ages of Man

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Horatio (L) and Larry (R)

Larry: I wonder what age we are currently in.

Horatio: How do you mean? You sound like a peripatetic thinker like Aristotle.

Larry: I mean the age according to Hesiod, the father of western narrative history. The name may sound Greek to you, my dear friend.

Horatio: So, you think I am a philistine because of my patently plebian appearance and mercantile profession? I take false shadows for true substances, buddy. I have read about Five Ages of Man according to Hesiod and can tell you that we are in Iron age to which Hesiod himself also belonged. In this age, we human beings must toil away for livelihood, get old quickly, are besotted by troubles and more troubles under constant stress and pressure. In fact, it’s not our mortals’ faults but those Olympians who continued a cycle of creation and destruction of a human race on their whims and caprice in epicycle. In the first place, Zeus and his ilk drove away the benevolent race of the golden age after Titanomarchy, a ten year war against Titans, then began a recycle of the races for the silver, bronze, heroic and iron afterwards because they did not like what they saw in the races on the grounds of morality and maturity. It’s like the Olympians regarded us humans as a sort of puppets or marionettes. Or they are playing chess of our destiny with our beings used as pieces to be moved on a chess board. Yes, we live in the iron age, but I reject the idea that we are all living in a doomed scenario because we human beings have amazing intelligence with its general multipurpose learning strategies to triumph against the outrageous Olympian pandemonium. So, my friend, fear not. Boldness be our friends. For as Shakespeare encourages us that “true hope is swift, and files with swallow’s wings.”

Larry: My dear friend, Horatio. Thank you for your sagacious thinking and brilliant advice on humanity. And let’s just say that for all what’s worth, mankind has resilience to spring back from the ashes of destruction with its fortitude and instinct for survival. It’s our human nature. And let us also remind ourselves of the dictum of Hemingway: “Man can be destroyed but not be conquered.”

‘Ocean Waves’ (1993 film) by Tomomi Mochizuki – review

ocean-waves-49Some stories are better told in animation. The characters become vividly alive in a way that your imaginary world effortlessly conjures up before your very eyes by a witchcraft of wondrous imagination. It’s a world of fantasy, but it is also a realm of parallel universe where reality is poetically translated through the avatars living in the creator’s make-believe world without the alloyed feelings and crafted emotions by way of thespian performance. It also enables the characters to perform feats of wondrous physical motions and a wealth of emotions effectually, which real persons can hardly accomplish. That said, animation as an established genre of performing art deserves of legitimate artistic appreciation and merits its own place in the canon of cinematography.

“Ocean Waves” a 1993 Japanese anime television film directed by Tomomi Mochizuki and written by Kaori Nakamura based on the 1990 eponymous novel by Saeko Himuro is worth noting the beautiful cinematic qualities and elegant storyline that spreads through the mind and lingers there in alterations so deep that they are felt almost physical. The setting of the film is in the city of Kochi, located on the Japanese island of Shikoku. It tells of the first love developed by Taku Morisaki whose story flashes back to his high school years in Kochi as he catches the sight of a familiar woman whom he has fallen for on the platform opposite at a Tokyo subway station. It’s Rikako Muto, a bright and beautiful new girl transferred to his high school. At that time, Taku did not realize that he was besotted with her. However, as Taku narrates the events that have brought her into his life, Taku comes to know that for all these times, he has been crazy about her. It’s a moment of great awakening of love, an epiphany of adulthood, all in the calm recognition of meaning of love as to see the essence of another human being in the inner most core of who the person is. Taku and Rikako has known their own faults and frailties since they first met in school, and now they see one another’s innermost core of their personalities, which are the essential traits and features of the beloved person to actualize their potentialities in love with awareness and understanding.

The emotions are elegantly nuanced in the narration, but we know that the feelings are all present in the ways that the characters move and talk. That is the beauty of this animated film that renders no less visual and dramatic effects than other genres of film. Director Mochizuki is a young, ambitious director whose punctilious attention to details and the authenticity of the ambiance and theme of this film speak to our lost days of innocence in this world of collapsed grand narratives, gratuitous sensual expressions and super abundance of raw, unbridled charge of emotions that are hard to be empathetic to the minds of those who are likely to find solace in quietude. Walt Disney said animation offers an effective medium of story-telling and visual entertainment which produces pleasure and story that people of all ages everywhere in the world can enjoy and relate to. For these reasons, this film is worthwhile to be noted.

‘The Great Fire of London in 1666’ by Walter George Bell- review

The Great Fire of London in 1666The Great Fire of London in 1666 by Walter George Bell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The great city of London was burning. The noble and the humble were all in together in the face of furious fires that looked something of the eternal flames of Inferno. It took from September 2 to September 6, 1666 for Old London – Shakespeare’s London- to disappear into the past. It was a scene to behold, it was a scene to record. The medieval City of London inside the old roman city wall became a gray detritus of ashes and more ashes, which changed the face of London forever – in a far better way that improved the conditions of living in the scandalously popular city, the city that had no regards for the lowly and the lowest. For out of the detritus of the devastation, came a phoenix hoovering over the gray skies of London with golden opportunities for the contemporary Londoners and even better for the progeny and the citizens of the world as magnificently illustrated in this telling book by Walter George Bell.

It all happened on the morning of Sunday, September 2nd, 1666 at the shop and house of one Farynon, King Charles II of England’s baker, stood in Pudding Lane, ten doors from Thames Street due to his lack of due care of the oven. Although the baker later vehemently disavowed such negligence that caused the Inferno, Bell confirms the tortious act on the part of the baker on the ground of “a calm consideration of the evidence” collected afterwards. However, at the time of and the immediate aftermath of the Fire, the public fueled by the demotic uproar of the angry mob decided that it resulted from a concerted plot of the Roman Catholics and Frenchmen. In fact, the unanimous vengeance upon Catholics and subjects of any Catholic countries was all the rage under the misbelief that they set fire on the city as punishment for the impudent English heresy against the Papacy. Even the supposedly judicious members of the Council were prejudiced against foreigners and Catholics in London despite the King’s speech to the homeless in effort to assuage such outrageous public agitation. In consideration of the ethos of the period, the speculated causes of the Fire related to religious motivations that all called for God’s punishment for heresy (especially Catholicism) and other cardinal sins that looked particularly rampant in “sinful London”.  Nevertheless, the Council finally relented by proclaiming that the cause of fire was no other but “God’s will, a great wind and the seasons so very dry.”

What seemed to be a scourge of God turned out to be a seismic labor pain of birth of a new city that was beneficial to those at the low rungs of a social ladder because the ecclesiastical city of bell towers and spires would be transformed into a commercial city of work and more work in new salubrious environment. Bell expounds that post-Fire London was a new breed of commercialism, making London culturally vibrant and famously cosmopolitan as a uniquely quaint city where modernity and traditionality were fashionably blended. Moreover, Bell points out that rebuilding of London after the Fire also improved living qualities of the inhabitants in terms of unhealthy housing and inconvenient pavement conditions with the reconstruction of the streets of London designed by Sir Christopher Wren. It also generated a plethora of trades that contributed to the betterment of economic conditions of people living in and coming to London for better life.

This book is at its most compelling when assessing the consequential events of the Fire drawn on a multitude of historical records and the author’s calm objective analysis of the Fire without a hint of religious proclivity or partisan social commentaries. It doesn’t turn out to be a stuffy history book that the topic indicates but an engaging nonfiction narrative that combines Orwellian journalistic perspectives with Thucydides’ standard of historical realism, all in the perspicacious use of plain English communicative to all. All in all, if you are curious about post-Shakespearean London or want to know about the history of London, this book will not disappoint you.