Sunday, June 01, 2008

Lovely Film - Kamikaze Girls!

Yesterday's film was the amazing Japanese comedy Kamikaze Girls, aka Shimotsuma Monogatari. That could be translated as "Shimotsuma's Tale", or "Shimotsuma's Story". Mark and I watched it and it was brilliant. Lately, we have been watching loads of Japanese films, since they are my favourite, and this one was such a nice surprise... I took ages to get it, and it was a real treat.

It tells the story of the very unlikely meeting of two Japanese girls from completely different backgrounds: Momoka is the goth-loli sweet and dreamy girl, who wishes she was living in the Rococo era, and thus dresses up in frilly outfits and lacy headbands. The other girl is Ichiko (in reality, Ichigo, but she hates being called by her real name). Ichigo is a "ianki", or a rebel (juvenile delinquent, I would say!) and member of the infamous Ponytail (poniteiro) girls motorbike gang from the Ibaraki region (where their hometowm, Shimotsuma, is located).

Their fashion sense is very diverse, although that is the exact thing that ends up by uniting them. Momoka commutes to Tokyo almost everyday to buy her frills in the most amazing Goth-Loli shop: Baby, The Stars Shine Bright. That is her salvation from the local Jusco (oh that so makes me think of our local Tesco here!) supermarket mega-store and their dull, suburban outfits. She lives with her Dad, an ex-Yakuza, and her Granny (who plays the senile lady when convenient). Mum and Dad are divorced, and the whole story of how they met and how and where they ended up is hilarious. At any rate, her wacky Dad is an entrepreneur: he produces counterfeit goods "by" Versace (VersaCH, ha ha!) and Universal Studios (that he understands to be Universal STADIUMS) and sell them in the streets.

Momoka, in need of some money, advertises them in the Internet and that's how she meets Ichigo - who was desperately needing an amazingly embroidered jacket for the Gang's leader wedding.

Well, the plot from then on will revolve around a mythical embroiderer, the discovery of Momoka's hidden talents, visits to Baby, The Stars Shine Bright, mopeds X motorbikes, pachinko parlours, Ichigo's first (frustrated) love and a near-death experience, none the least.

Amazing characters, beautiful colours and cool effects that make this movie seem like a "moving manga". No, not an anime in this sense, which would be too obvious, but a how a manga would look like if it was in colour, and real life and flesh. Brilliant, funny, and light.

The girls change quite a lot after meeting each other and it's great to see how they exchange their own distinct experiences and tastes, and how their friendship is reinforced by their differences and ideals.

Kamikaze Girls is based on the novel of the same name by Nobara Takemoto, published in 2004, and the author was twice nominated to the Mishima Prize of literature. He is also a clothes and accessories designer for Baby, The Starts Shine Bright that are now opening their first store in Paris. Yeah, it's a REAL store! Takemoto-san also creates some Gothic-Loli outfits for the Hello Kitty series, and I have some of his designs in my collection, as you can see below:

Very pretty, no? This is exactly how Momoko would dress herself up in the film! If you click on it, you'll be able to see a picture if Nobara Takemoto as well, quite charming (in a dark, gothic way that is!).

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posted by Andrea Leite Marques at 7:16 PM 0 comments

Friday, May 30, 2008

Death Note - The Movies

We finished watching the live action Death Note films yesterday and it was too good! I've ordered these from YesAsia, for they have the Hong Kong version, with English subtitles (quite a good translation, it must be said).

There are 2 films: the first one is Death Note, and the sequel is Death Note - The Last Name. They were both released in 2006 and I must say the adaptation is excellent, and that everyone who loves the manga should run and watch the films.

It is even better than the anime series, which is too close to the book. The films bring some changes to the original storyline, without modifying the basic premises and it all takes place in less time, not over the years as it happens with the books. They really did a good job here. The ending is a bit sad, but I may also say so from the manga.

(It's also great to hear the Red Hot Chili Peppers in the soundtrack! It goes really well with the story somehow!)

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posted by Andrea Leite Marques at 11:04 AM 2 comments

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Yaji & Kita: The Midnight Pilgrims

... or... Mayonaka no Yaji-san Kita-san

Another Japanese gem we have watched last night! It's brilliant, surreal, absurd and hilarious. The plot revolves around a couple of gay samurai in the Edo era (1603 to 1868). Kita-san is a drug addict and Yaji-san, his married lover. Since Kita-san can make "no heads or tails of reality", Yaji-san decides to bring him in a pilgrimage to Ise Sanctuary, after picking up an ad about the place. Ise-san is said to be the solution for all problems, the cure for anything, thus ideal for a junkie such as Kita-san.

I have scanned the ad for your delight (up above!) - now if you can imagine a samurai getting such a leaflet in the Edo era, you can have an idea of the wacky stuff awaiting for you in these 2 hours +.

To arrive to Ise-san they have to follow the old Tokaido road and, on their way, they stop at several inns and meet a bunch of really funny and bizarre characters. The Laughter Inn (where to be accepted you simply must present the funniest stand-in comedy routine, for example), a green tea plantation in Shizuoka where they meet a drag queen with a daughter who cannot sing to save her own life (thus causing Mt. Fuji to be hazed all the time), a group of cute school girls that are die-hard fans of a famous local Yakuza boss, a guy who impersonates King Arthur in a tribute/reference to Monty Python (or so it seemed), the Souls Inn, and an undead bartender in the middle of the forest, whose drinks are made from magic mushrooms etc... Well, think about Alice in Wonderland meets Priscilla Queen of the Desert... Or something along these lines.

But that's not all. Yaji-san is actually being wanted for the murder of his wife Ohatsu (did he, did he not?), and Kita-san believes to have fallen in love with the singing-challenged Shizuoka girl who, by her turn, has fallen in love with no one else than Yaji-san! Not to mention that they also manage to record a CD and become famous as a result.

Some more hilarious characters here are the Police investigators (Kin-kin and assistant Non-no), the she-demon Datsueba, the bearded courtesans, and what have you...

Photography, soundtrack and costumes are all brilliant and colourful, and the film is loaded with puns and jokes, some of which are much probably lost in translation, but still quite enjoyable. I absolutely love when they arrive to what they think is Ise-san, but in fact is the department store Isetan, in the middle of Tokyo's Shibuya. Surreal, and straightforward hilarious.

Note that the beginning of the film is in black-and-white, until Yaji-san shows the leaflet to Kita-san and then everything seems to come to life and the colours appear - as if their lives now have gotten a meaning and aim (a quest in search of redemption/healing at Ise-san, that is). There is even a fantastic dream scene where corpses floating in the river become pieces of a supernatural Tetris game, and that's certainly one of my favourites.

Now I just need to find myself the soundtrack!

(Directed by Kudo Kankuro, dated 2005, starring as Yaji-san and Kita-san: Nagase Tomoya and Nakamura Shichinosuke II, respectively).

(Pictures scanned by me, from the DVD inse
rt, by Asmik Ace Entertainment Inc., DVD ACBD-10302).

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posted by Andrea Leite Marques at 7:03 PM 0 comments

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Woman of the Water ("Mizu no Onna")

This gorgeous film has been recommended by fellow blogger World of Overcast. It is (of course!) a Japanese movie, starring Asano Tadanobu and the singer Ua. It was the first time I heard about her by the way, and she has a beautiful, strong voice (from what I could grasp from the film soundtrack).

Mark likes to call Tadanobu the "Japanese Ralph Fiennes", since he always appears naked in his films... Well, jokes apart, he is perhaps 90% right here! (Lucky us viewers, I must say...)

The film is directed by Sugimori Hidenori (dated 2002) and is a real gem. Somehow it recalls the beautiful images and words from Overcast as well, and it is a quiet, melancholy movie, almost like a watercolour - shades of blue and green seem to dominate most of the time.

It tells the story (or rather tale) of Ryo, whose life's meaningful events are always announced by rain. She is also a Pisces and, as her fiancé mentions in the beginning, could only be surrounded by water. Actually, she works with her Father in a bath house and, one day, during a rainfall, her Dad and fiancé both die in separate incidents. From now on, it is Ryo starting from scratch, new life, new beginnings.

She gets involved with Asano's character, Yusaku, a young man obsessed with bonfires. She hires him to work in the bath house working the fire, and they start a relationship. It happens that Yusaku is a wanted pyromaniac, as we find at one stage.

There are other characters in the plot, two females, who represent other elements: Midori, the crazy homeless woman who Ryo calls "Mom" and seems to symbolise Earth, and Yukino, an artist that Ryo befriends during a trip to Mt. Fuji and whom she meets again when it's time to repaint the Mt. Fuji's landscape in the bath house walls, and she comes with the master painter. This woman, a free spirit, always wandering around, may be associated with the Wind/Air. This interview with the director explains well this concept of the 4 elements and their symbolism in the film, worth having a look.

The relationship between Ryo and Yusaku relies on a fine balance. They both seem to complement each other: no questions asked, no demands, beautiful dialogues, poetic lovemaking. She is water but becomes strangely more "fiery" and assertive than Yusaku himself, whereas he seems to plunge more deeply inside the turvy waters of his memories and past.

Midori, the "green" homeless woman, has a crucial role in the conclusion of the story, which I will not disclose here, naturally.

I strongly recommend this little gem of a film, although I can understand it is not for everybody. From what I've seen, some people find it to be extremely boring and slow, but believe me when I say it is a beauty. And not because I am a Pisces as well, and my element is Water, and etc... No, not because of that, but simply because it is extremely rewarding. Now, please go ahead; you won't regret it!

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posted by Andrea Leite Marques at 4:16 PM 0 comments

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Take ir or leave it - Tetsuo The Iron Man

For some time, Mark has been insisting that I should watch "Tetsuo The Iron Man", and I finally found it for a very reasonable price in Play. I ordered it, and last night, we sat together to watch it.

Short little masterpiece, I would say (to start with). Think unglamorous, monochrome (entirely B&W), grainy and dark. And gory.

Subjacent theme is a sort of post-industrial grudge. A man obsessed with metal fetishism, is ran over by a car and dies (at least, I think he died). The car is driven by this salary man and his woman who, instead of helping, start having sex in front of the (dead or alive by then) body. They dump the body into a ravine and he suffers a mutation. Or to put into alchemical terms, a transmutation. At the same time, the salary man starts to hallucinate and sees himself changing in real life, culminating in his metamorphosis into a pile of retorted metal - or something to that effect. This realisation of the change and how to cope with it is memorable, but I won't give details here.

Soundtrack is brilliant and the film edition is amazing, I must say. From the metamorphose onwards, the story enters a frantic pace and things start to gradually make sense.

Visually, it reminded me of H. R. Giger's artwork and some 1920's expressionist films (makeup, facial expressions, body movements etc). I recall Wegener's "The Golem" for the dark atmosphere and the inhuman character of the protagonist(s), albeit in a totally distinct scenario of course. Also, "Metropolis" may come to mind for the post-industrial, man-machine relationship theme. The black and white footage and lack of dialogue lends it an air of silent movie almost, which greatly contributes to such associations, I guess.

I think it's brilliant because the story hardly needs any words to be understood (that is a merit, in my point-of-view), except perhaps with the flashback scene with the doctor, and the last scenes where the two main characters talk to each other and one of them says something like:

"Together we can rust this world. With our love we can destroy this world together", while entering a post-apocalyptical Tokyo scenario, empty streets, abandoned buildings and no other human beings, dead or alive, to be seen.

Homosexual metaphor. Metal mutation epidemics. Technopop hallucination. Cyberpunk fable. I think it's all these things together perhaps. And perhaps none of them at all.

Who is Tetsuo in the end? None of the two male characters is called Tetsuo. But the being resulting of the salary man and the fetishist's fusion. Almost like a homunculus born from a twisted alchemical process, a perverted "conjunctio". That is Tetsuo, or at least that's how I see it.

The film is directed, produced and starred by Shinya Tsukamoto - as the fetishist guy. We recently saw him as the main character in Takeshi Shimizu's "Marebito", which, truth to be told, failed to impress (not him as an actor, but the story itself). In the other hand, he directed a little gem of a film called "Vital", with Tadanobu Asano, one of my favourite J-Horror films (although I personally don't see it as "horror" at all). All that makes me think he must be no short of a genius.

(Thanks Mark, for introducing me to Tetsuo. Owe you one!)

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posted by Andrea Leite Marques at 8:46 AM 4 comments

Monday, August 27, 2007

When language fails

On Friday we watched Babel, a "strange" little film which happens to be a masterpiece. Or at least one of those films that will be either loved or hated, with no "yeah, but" in between. I happen to love it.

To me it seems like a tale about communication (or lack thereof), diversity and understanding. Babel comes from the Hebrew word Balal, meaning "to confuse" or "to confound". The film is composed by 4 intertwined stories taking place in 4 different parts of the world: the border between the US and Mexico, Morocco and Tokyo. The protagonists of these micro-stories are all linked by a weapon, and for some of them, their lives will be irremediably changed.

4 languages are heard throughout the film. The characters all have their own issues in dealing with the world: an American couple separated after the death of a baby and now holidaying in Morocco, a Moroccan family where one of the kids had just shot a bus by an unfortunate accident, a Japanese girl who is deaf-mute, has recently lost her Mom and strives in interacting with her own Father, that same accidental shooting in Morocco that now risks to become an international crisis, two American kids going to a wedding in Mexico with their Nanny, the Nanny being arrested for crossing the border "illegally" and unable to communicate with the US authorities in equal terms, the same American couple united by tragedy and now striving to understand each other, and so on. Depressing situations, sad outcomes, one misunderstanding after another.

The actors were excellent (especially Rinko Kikuchi and Adriana Barraza), conveying the excruciating pain of being misunderstood and not being able to communicate themselves properly. It's sad to see Chieko desperately trying too have sex and attract the guys - who seem to be repelled by her being a deaf-mute. For her, in her own silent world, words do not work - it becomes clear in the night club scene. She has no words for people around her and, when she flashes her "hairy monster", it's like she is trying to make love to that same world that rejects her, trying to make herself comprehended by other means. If words cannot be said and thus, understood, then her actions may.

It's also hard to see Richard (the American guy played by Brad Pitt) trying to shout and be understood in the little Moroccan village in the middle of the desert, while his wife risks to bleed to death. Or when the Moroccan boys escape with their Dad thinking the American woman "has died". Or Amelia being questioned and humiliated by the US authorities. It can be quite uneasy.

Sad and depressing it is, but nonetheless worth seeing. Not for entertainment, not for fun, but as something that must be seen, because it shows how things happen and how people involved in these events may be connected, for good or bad.


posted by Andrea Leite Marques at 7:50 AM 1 comments

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Animation - "Corpse Bride"

We watched Corpse Bride last night and it is a gorgeous little film.

I love the way Tim Burton has turned "death" into something cute. The characters are so likeable and human, and I think it's great for kids so they can be a bit more understanding of death, maybe. Even us, grown-ups, are not so understanding, but this film lightens up such a gloomy and scary theme. Somehow.

The soundtrack by Danny Elfman is also remarkable, especially the piano solos played by Victor and Emily, and the musical pieces taking place in the world "below", very funny and well-choreographed.

It is also cool to see the contrast between the rigid, grey real-life world and the bright colourfulness of the world of the Dead. As if the Dead guys were the ones "released" whereas their "alive" counterparts are those restrained to a colourless, almost monochrome existence.

The characters of the brides (Victoria and Emily) are brilliantly voiced-over by Helena Bonham-Carter and Emily Watson, who bring emotion and grace to their roles. Victor, as one may expect from Burton, is of course Johnny Depp - also impeccable as the very Brit and shy groom-to-be Victor Van Dort.

Needless to say the animation is superb, and those characters are so pretty (well, the good ones at least!) that you end up by falling in love with them. They have big, soulful eyes and the expressions are perfect, as well as their movements. They seem to float effortlessly and you detect no stiffness or harsh moves at all. Lightly and gracefully. Beautiful indeed.

My favourite characters are the brides of course, and also the corpse-dog Scraps - who used to belong to Victor when he was a little boy. The plot is not only simple (no unnecessary frills here), but very clever and funny, something to be enjoyed by both adults and kids.

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posted by Andrea Leite Marques at 10:27 PM 0 comments

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Mousehunt tonight!

Mousehunt was the super-funny film we watched tonight. It was not our first time watching it of course, but it's so cute and so funny, that I can really watch it over and over again. Mark did not watch it until the end though. He likes a lot of films, but he does not quite appreciate watching them lots and lots of times. Unlike me, he he!

Amazingly versatile Christopher Walken plays a very good character here: Caesar, the wacky exterminator, who tries to end our adorable mouse's career in the old house.

So, that was what we saw tonight. I expect to watch something else tomorrow, after we come back from Dundrum for some shopping. Meanwhile I will be going to bed now and try and have a nice sleep. Last night it was quite bad, for I had a terrible migraine and could only get some sleep around 5am... And of course I slept for most of the day today, such a waste!


posted by Andrea Leite Marques at 12:31 AM 0 comments

Sunday, August 27, 2006

This weekend's flicks

Yesterday... March of the Penguins. One beautiful piece of cinematography about the emperor penguin's struggle for survival in the whites of Antartica. Even better was the documentary included in the DVD's special feature: "Of Penguins and Men", showing all the hard work behind the cameras. An adventure not to be missed.

Today... Lady Vengeance. A Korean production about a woman in search of vengeance and justice. Wonderful photography and soundtrack, and brilliant actors. Dark sense of humour and some quite melancholy moments make of it a piece of perfect and delicate balance. You should check that out.


posted by Andrea Leite Marques at 9:41 PM 0 comments

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Nonsensical and delightful: Survive Style 5+

I ordered "Survive Style 5+" from Play some weeks ago and we just watched it last week. The film is great fun and visually amazing. Colorful and surreal. Think about an Almodovar flick mixed with some Clamp's "XXXHolic", and then you can have an idea. Aesthetics to die for. A bit kitsch, a bit psychedelic. Sometimes gothic, but never in shades of black. Everything is colourful and bright there. The interior of the houses is also fabulous, as are the clothes.

The story is about 5 different groups of characters whose lives end up interacting at one stage or another:

- Aman, played by the gawjus Tadanobu Asano, who keeps trying to kill his wife but she always comes back to life;
- Yoko, who is a publicity/creative director who records her wacky ideas for commercials on a little voice recorder. She has an affair with a stage hypnotist - who is a celebrity and bit of a jerk;
- Mr. Kobaysahi is a businessman who gets tickets to take his family (wife and 2 kids) to that hypnotist's show;
- An English hitman (and a bit of an Angel of Death it seems!) played by Vinnie Jones , that arrives to Japan and, in the company of his translator/sidekick, also goes to the hypnotist's show but with a very clear function (telling which would be a bit of a spoiler though!);
- A trio of hoodlums, which are rather very sympathetic and not quite the badasses, which goes around town breaking into houses and ends up meeting the hitman in an onsen.

I cannot tell much more, but the situations are hilarious. I especially like Yoko when she observes the things happening around her and then giggles in delight imagining the potential ads that she can create from that. And I love when the Kobayashi family enter their car and start singing like mad on the way to the hypnotist's performance!

The clothes used by Aman's wife are wonderful. A bit déco sometimes, and not unlike a Pucci frock straight out from the 60's. And their house is fantastic, with "eyes" being a recurrent theme (even on Aman's coat, who seems to be the one obsessed with them). Eyes on the curtains, on the chairs, on posters and paintings. Everywhere.

"Survive Style" is a black comedy with a happy ending. Everything is stylish and beautiful: clothes, décor and music. The story is hilarious and touchy at the same time. It's definitely worth watching it. I will be getting the soundtrack very soon.


posted by Andrea Leite Marques at 6:39 PM 0 comments

Friday, July 14, 2006

Swing Girls!

We got yet another fantastic film from CDJapan (where on Earth would I be without them?): "Swing Girls".

It is an exhilarating, charming little comedy, with great, funny moments and you can just feel good while you watch it. And the feel-good effect will last for some hours afterwards, that's for sure!

There is one specific scene involving the girls and a wild boar that is just completely different from everything you have ever seen in a comedy, and absolutely hilarious and unexpected. Surreal, I would say.

The family scenes are also woth a mention, and the little girl that plays Tomoko's sister is a joy to watch.

The actors are excellent. Actually all the musical pieces in the film have been performed by themselves, and not dubbed at all, which is just very impressive. They have been taking music lessons for several months beforehand at the Yamaha Music School - whose headquarters do play a role in the film - since not many of them knew how to play an instrument (in real life). I think it's just brilliant how talented they are.

The DVD is a little gem, packed with extras, everything superbly produced, masterly directed and beautifully acted. In one word: perfect. Mark loved it too, since it's not a chick-flick, but a film for everybody. If you love great comedies, please try to get a copy of this! It's not to be missed!


posted by Andrea Leite Marques at 8:32 PM 0 comments

Wednesday, July 05, 2006


Last night we watched a very good Korean horror film, "Acacia", directed by Ki-Hyung Park, same director of "Whispering Corridors". It is a fantastic film, with beautiful photography and music. A little work of art.

I don't see it as much as a "horror" film, but rather as a drama. It tells the story of a childless couple longing for a baby. Since the baby doesn't come, they decide to adopt. The Father is a ob-gyn consultant. The Mom works as an art critic, exhibition judge or something like that.

They visit an orphanage and she sees the drawings of the kids, and is intrigued by a drawing that looks very much like Edvard Munch's "The Scream". As an art critic, she is fascinated by that and asks to meet the kid who drew it, an adorable 6 year-old, called Jim-seong. She decides to adopt him and the kid goes to live with his new parents.

In the end, she ends up getting pregnant and having another baby boy. Jim-seong starts to feel rejected and becomes very troubled and somber, which is quite understandable. He is jealous, his parents seem to have eyes for the new-born only, and do not seem to care very much about him. He then becomes attached to a dying acacia tree in the garden and claims that the tree is his "real Mother". At the same time he befriends his little neighboor, a lonely - and somehow precocious - 8 year-old girl, Min-ji.

But one day Jim-seong disappears and the family starts to live a nightmare of guilt and loss. More I must not tell, but the film grows increasingly sadder and a wee bit creepy as well. The images are beautiful though, everything looks like a dream, like a picture book. It is a deliberate tribute to Munch and his colours, and fantastic, dreamlike scenarios.

The acacia tree is an old symbol for innocence, purity and immortality. It is an evergreen. According to the Egyptian myth for example, Seth killed Osiris by locking him into a golden sarcophagus and setting it afloat on the Nile. The sarcophagus ended up in Byblos, and a beautiful acacia tree grew all around it, as if to protect the god's body. That acacia tree being so lush and fragrant, it was used to build a pillar for the King's palace, until Isis finally found it and broke it as to release her husband. Horus himself was born from inside an acacia tree, in one of the versions of the myth. Therefore, the acacia is associated to rebirth, immortality, and triumph over death - similar to the Phoenix. It is a key symbol in Freemasonry also. We would spend more than a week perhaps just to mention all myths and traditions where the acacia appears as a symbol of immortality, and rebirth.

In relation to the film though, its symbolism has been very well captured and treated, albeit with a modern twist and inserted into a family drama. Worth checking it out. It's a beautiful, melancholy piece of cinematography.

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posted by Andrea Leite Marques at 10:23 PM 0 comments

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Another Takeshi Kitano's tonight...

... and it was "Kids Return" (aka "Kidzu Ritan"), a lovely coming-of-age tale. Great as everything Kitano does, and with Hisaishi's soundtrack - always excellent. The story is about two high-school bullies, Shinju and Masaru, and how they grow up, and things do not go exactly as they expected. It's a funny, and touchy movie at the same time. I could identify very much with the characters, in the sense that when I was young I had all these dreams (becoming this and that, doing one thing or another, and so on) and in the end, it did not come out exactly as I had planned.

Shinju and Masaru, and their shy colleague Hiroshi, try to do their best (as a boxer, a Yakuza's man and a taxi driver respectively) and things just do not seem to work as expected. They are still very young though and can easily make a new start. It's a fun film, light and well-acted, albeit slight melancholy. A must-see.


posted by Andrea Leite Marques at 8:27 PM 0 comments

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Koji Suzuki part 2: a brief comment...

I am almost past the 1st half of "Loop". I was reading it last night, after writing about Koji Suzuki's work.

Actually, this book seems now rather like a sci-fi story than a horror one. Or a sci-fi-horror mixed altogether.

Right now, it is a bit like an episode of the "X Files" blended with "The Matrix". Some things are not what they seemed to be! I am a bit shaken myself!

Again, no more details on that. Go and read it by yourself kudasai!

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posted by Andrea Leite Marques at 11:44 AM 0 comments

Koji Suzuki's Books...

This scene is a classic. Taken from "Ringu" (aka "Ring"). Sadako coming out of the telly, crawling, hair on her face, bleeding nails, desperate, vengeful.

I love Koji Suzuki's books. The film (the original Japanese, of course) was very, very good, and I don't tire of watching it. From the Ringu trilogy (the films) my favourites are, with no doubt, "Ring" and "Ring 0".

As for the books, I am now reading the 3rd one: "Loop". The first two were "Ring", of course, and "Spiral". "Spiral" was quite good and you start to understand Sadako Yamamura's motivations and actually empathise with her. I did, at least. She is a fascinating character. She is very well portrayed in "Ring 0", by the way.

You see more of her in "Spiral" and there are some freaky scenes that can make your blood chill. But what I like about KS's style is the way he writes about things as a journalist would do, namely, very normal things (or apparently so). Yet suddenly you will start to feel the chill underlining every one of these normal, run-of-the mill situations, as if some time soon, blood would come out of the pages of your own book. That scene of Sadako's coming out of a TV set is quite similar to Koji's storytelling style. When reading "Ring", the book becomes your very own haunted TV set, and spectral Sadako will make her appearance pretty soon. So it seems to me. Is there anything creepier than that? I'm afraid not. The man is good. Real good.

"Ring" the film, by its turn, set a new standard for horror films: the dishevelled woman seeking for revenge. Dishevelled, hair on her face, wet, crawling, crackling almost, and coming out of some unexpected device or place (a well) or window, from a "little darkness" somewhere. As a broken puppet.

That image can be proudly put beside some other horror classics: Jack Nicholson's face in "The Shining"("Here's Johnny!"), the stabbing in the shower scene from "Psycho", Regan's rotating head in "The Exorcist" etc... And of course has influenced a countless number of other Asian horror scenes. And hilarious satyres, naturally.

As for "Loop", I am still sort of "getting acquainted" to the story and new characters. I hope Ando, Sadako and Ryuji will be there! I am feeling a bit lost without them. New characters (some interesting ones) are being introduced little by little. There's lots of science, human conflicts, emotions, diseases, conspirations etc, so far. But I cannot tell more, otherwise I may spoil it.

By the end of the year, a new book from KS will be released in the US and UK: "Birthday". I am waiting anxiously, needless to say.

(By the way I haven't yet read the manga based on KS's books. Hope to do so sometime soon though).

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posted by Andrea Leite Marques at 1:13 AM 0 comments

Saturday, May 13, 2006

New Asian Horror Films

I have decided to get some new Asian horror films for my collection! Scaaaary! And I got quite a bunch of them from both Play and Amazon:

- "The Ghost" (aka "Ryeong");
- "Whispering Corridors" (aka
"Yeogo Goedam");
"Memento Mori" (aka "Yeogo Goedam 2");
- "Wishing Stairs"
(aka "Yeogo Goedam 3");
- "Premonition" (aka
- "Ju-rei: the Uncanny" (aka
- "The Eye 2" (aka "Gin Gwai 2").

Yesterday we watched "The Ghost", which seemed like a hybrid of "Dark Water" and "The Grudge". Lots of creepy and crawly hairy women coming out of the water (sounds familiar, huh?). The plot is a bit confusing. A group of high-school bullies in a dark tale of friendship and revenge. Average, I would say, but nonetheless entertaining.

The rest of the DVD's did not arrive yet, but since they will arrive while Mark is in Malaysia, I will not have the chance to watch them until he's back. I really do love horror films to bits, but I could not possibly watch them by myself, alone at night...

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posted by Andrea Leite Marques at 2:24 PM 0 comments

Thursday, May 04, 2006


I have received the DVD this week, from my beloved CDJapan, and what a lovely surprise! "Waterboys" is a light-hearted, witty, adorable comedy about these high-school boys that - initially trying to have a go at their new, attractive (female) swimming teacher - end up by forming a synchronised swimming team! Yes, all because the teacher was specialised in synch swim and a bit insecure about teaching in an all-boys school. Thing is, Sensei is pregnant and goes on maternity leave.

Meanwhile, they are discovered by the local news and cannot go back now and give up their plans for the school Festival - where they would hold their first presentation. It's funny to see them struggling with their fears and insecurities, and how they end up being "trained" (well, sort of!) by a wacky dolphin trainer guy (Isomura-san), in the local Seaquarium.

The humour is light, with some unexpected, hilarious scenes and unforgettable situations. It would look great in manga, I think, for its fast pace, very graphic scenes and daydreaming moments. There is, for example, a super-cool scene where the main character (Suzuki-kun, the leader) meets his soon-to-be girlfriend, and another where Sato-kun's afro hairdo goes on fire. All very well-performed and directed. All in all, if you love fun for the sake of fun, and clever, uncompromised entertainment, you should defo give it a go!


posted by Andrea Leite Marques at 10:23 PM 0 comments

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Shura no Hana, Lady Snowblood...

I bought two mangas some days ago, ie, volumes 1 and 2 of "Lady Snowblood", by Koike Kazuo, illustrated by Kamimura Kazuo, and edited by Black Horse.

These have been written in the early 70's and became very popular in Japan at the time. Immediately after their publication (73, to be precise), the film "Lady Snowblood" ("Shurayukihime") was released. This is one of my favourite films, which 30 years later would strongly influence (or rather inspire) Tarantino's "Kill Bill". "Kill Bill" by its turn was primarily inspired by the manga itself, which is pure pulp.

I love "Kill Bill", and think it's great fun to watch. However after seeing "Lady Snowblood" I must say the former pales in comparison with the latter (the "original"). In this sense I nowadays see "Kill Bill" pretty much as a rip-off of "Lady Snowblood", with due respect to Tarantino and his work. But yes, even the camera shots seem like copies of "LS". Well, I believe "Kill Bill" may be a tribute of sorts to "Lady Snowblood" manga and films, but then again, I am not a film expert to say.

Tarantino used the two famous and astounding songs from the original, "Urami Bushi" (aka "My Grudge Blues" ) and "Shura no Hana" ("Flower of Carnage"), both sung by the gorgeous Kaji Meiko - who is also the star of "Lady Snowblood", this pretty and gloomy flower of Hell, white snow tinged with blood and moonlight.

The manga is very graphic. Lots of violence and sex. Mark thought the violence was a bit over the top, but we must agree that Yuki was a professional assassin, thus, she would do that for a living. She needed money (lots of it) to pursue her revenge, her family grudge.

He also thought she was taking her own clothes off all the time, however it's not her doing that in fact - but her foes, of course, who also try to rape her every so often. He restarted reading it and quite liked in the end. Caution here: if you don't like violent plots and scenes that some few people would certainly classify as "hentai", just keep clear of these books.

In the other hand, if you love manga, and are a fan of either "Kill Bill" and/or "Lady Snowblood", please grab your copy now.

Yuki, our Lady Snowblood, looks gorgeous as well in the books, however sometimes the body proportions do not seem quite right. Most of the time, she looks quite realistic and with a truly beautiful, almost angelical face, as well as the other characters and scenarios, which are very well drawn. No "big eyes" though, or cute magic girls and talking animals! Everything looks and feels quite real here.

To buy the books, you can go to my favourite manga site, JustManga. They deliver everywhere and have the best prices. To buy the films and CD's, go to Amazon or CDJapan, making a search for Kaji Meiko (Japanese form) or Meiko Kaji (westernized).

Now you may ask: which is more violent, books or film? I must say definitely the books.

"Crimson roses have their sharp thorns.
I don't want to hurt you, but I have to stab you with my thorns
Burning, it's burning,
It keeps on burning within my grudge blues"

From "Urami Bushi" - "My Grudge Blues", sung by Kaji Meiko

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posted by Andrea Leite Marques at 1:18 PM 0 comments

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Back to the cold - and loving it...

I am back home, since Tuesday night. Our flight had a 12hr delay, which makes come back to my Mom's apartment for some hours before going to the airport again. And we did not depart directly from Rio, but took a charter to São Paulo and from there, the BA flight to London, at around 2:30 am. A pain, really. But I managed to sleep this time. At least.

Well, it seems I am still jet-lagged. I was suposed to go to the office today, but could not. I am not well, quite congested and very fatigued. I also had a strong headache again. In the left hand-side of my head and back of the neck. Really sore. Hopefully, I have an appointment on Monday with my new consultants in the St. Vincent's Neuroinflammation Clinic. I am anxious because I am changing consultants since I was diagnosed in 2002. It will be better now, I am sure.

One quick message here for fellow blogger Treebob, btw...

Hi Treebob, the cockroaches did not attack me anymore! I thought that one had a funny shape because it was already dying, since all the apartment block has been sanitised two weeks before! The problem is, they fly. Leave the windows open and they may come in to haunt you. But I did not se a single one after that episode, thanks to the Gods above! I also like your extra faves. Of course you don't use makeup, he he, but just in case one of my girl friends read that, who knows! Hope your wife and kids are doing great, say hello to them for me. I will read your blog later, to keep myself up-to-date with the news. I am still floating on a limbo between Ireland and Brasil.

Yes, Ireland and Brasil... Temperature here at the mo must be between 3 and 5 Celsius. In Brasil... God knows. But most certainly obscenely hot. Irish weather is great. I love it. Although I must admit that I feel better (healthwise) in Brasil. One says hot weather is better for one's health and I must agree. Although the cold makes me feel much more comfortable and "light".

I was looking at some of my old drawings in Rio. My Father used to collect my drawings in albums, that he would classify by age: "Andrea 3-4 yrs old", and so on. Some of them are quite funny. I had a bit of an obsession with Rabbits, Mice and Astronauts, it seems. Also Beauty Pageants (Miss Universe and so on). And my astronauts and beauty queens were most frequently rabbits and mice as well! Weird!

I found the drawing below, that I made when I was 8-9 years old. It shows a bit of my obsession with manga. I based it in something else, a magazine, or God knows what. I still remember my Japanese cases and notebooks, with cute characters and the usual manga-girls: at that time, huge and long curly hair, and those bigger-than-life eyes! But this one seems like an odd character, something between manga and The Simpsons, no?Anyway, I have decided to call him "Captain Manga". In those times I did not worry much about the media used. This was done with hydrographic pens over a pencil sketch, and I used some old diary pages - you can still see the lines on the sheet. Later on, that would be replaced by Fabriano paper and watercolours and Caran d'Ache pencils, among others. Much nicer, must say!

Yes, the Oscars! I need to add a quick note on it! I am SO happy with Ang Lee's winning! So well deserved! I knew it would be him. I did not see the new film, but I am a big fan of his work and was sure he would get it! As for the Animation oscar, I was cheering for "Howl's Moving Castle", of course, but was sure "Curse of the Wererabbit" would win this time. Anyway, I also love "Curse", and am quite happy about it. It is a cute, well-done animation, with also lots of work involved and the result was excellent. The humour is superb too, very subtle and well-spotted. If you did not see it yet, please go. It's lovely!

Well, that's my report for today. Tomorrow I am back to work, hopefully. Tonight, we will have dinner with Mark's brother, Kevin, who's back from the Emirates. They are both out now, running in the cold! Now, that's some courage!

Later then!


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posted by Andrea Leite Marques at 5:58 PM 0 comments

Monday, January 02, 2006

Happy New Year

Happy New Year! I still have a cold and still cough a lot, so yesterday we did not do much. Well, we did nothing at all to be more precise, just stayed at home, had a lovely M&S steak, some chocolate roll and mulled wine, and watched a bit of TV. I also spent some time updating my agenda for 2006, with lots of Sanrio stickers and all possible birthdays and engagements for next year. So far, so good.

Tonight, we were watching (well, Mark more or less - he was half-watching and half-playing a game on his Nintendo DS) "The Exorcist" on TV, the director's cut. It is quite a good film, very good acting, especially Ellen Burstyn. And I love the Mike Oldfield tracks. I must add it is not quite "appropriate" for this time of the year maybe (if I may say that?), but still a horror classic nonetheless, right?

On the bright side, we also watched part of my "Howl's Moving castle" DVD. Not the film itself though, because we just watched in the theatre, but the extra DVD with some Studio Ghibli short animations, a real gem for any Miyazaki fan. This DVD is a 4 disc edition that I got in CDJapan. I did not want to wait for DVD to be released in our region, so I bought it as soon as it was released in Japan. What I loved as well was the interview with Diana Wynne Jones, the lady who wrote the book on which Miyazaki based the script. Very interesting. I ordered the book last week, for I did not have it. Mrs Wynne Jones was Prof. Tolkien's pupil in Oxford, by the way. I did not know that before, so, I will probably love to read her books too! I got the "Art of Howl's Moving Castle" book as well some time ago, and it's brilliant. Beautiful hardcover editions with plenty of wonderful artwork, interviews with the staff, conceptual art and other tidbits. A joy to read and swoon about!

Well, these are the news so far. Not much I'm afraid! And no New Year resolutions for me either. Believe it or not, I did not think about it. Actually, I never do. The closest I get to something like that is organising my agenda, and that's done already, ha ha!

Well, enough for tonight. I'm too tired and need to rest now. Good night,

a.The above is the art poster for Studio Ghibli's next animation film, "Tales from Earthsea" (Gedo Senki) to be released in July in Japan! More information to be found in the Studio Ghibli website (in Japanese, though). The film is based on the Ursula LeGuin's Earthsea fantasy series - which I did not read yet! And must, of course.
(Would that count as a new Year resolution, by the bye?...)

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posted by Andrea Leite Marques at 12:27 AM 6 comments

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Today's CD: Composer Meets Director...

I got a new CD yesterday: Joe Hisaishi Meets Kitano Films. It is a selection of great music composed by Joe Hisaishi for some of the most memorable Takeshi Kitano's films.

It is a must-have for Kitano's fans, truly capturing the mood and atmosphere of those films. This is my very first Hisaishi's CD, whose work I really love: his soundtracks for Hayao Miyazaki's films are equally magnificent, real gems, and that's how I actually got acquainted to his work. Then, watching Kitano's films I thought: "Who is this composer, this music is so gorgeous..." And I saw it was Joe Hisaishi again. Not surprised though, he is just brilliant.

The music is perfect. If you see these films, you may feel how beautifully it flows through the story, and the sceneries, acting, everything. It can be jazzy in parts, traditional in others, sentimental, and violent when required. Just perfectly synchronised with the plot - be it a Kitano or a Miyazaki production.

Piano, Japanese drums, synthesizers and haunting vocals are sure to please not only die-hard Kitano's fans, but even people who are not familiar with his films. The tracks on this CD come from several films such as Hana-Bi (definitely one of my favourites, including the mesmerizing track "Thanks For Everything" ), Kikujiro, Sonatine, Brother and A Scene at the Sea.

Follows the CD cover... In case you are interested, it can be purchased at Amazon:

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posted by Andrea Leite Marques at 11:12 PM 1 comments

Sunday, September 04, 2005


Long time no blogging, it seems! Today I am back. First of all, a report of the weather here: just the way I like it. Rainy and fresh now. Lovely breeze coming through the windows... Relaxing...

My Mother is arriving to Dublin on Tuesday, so, I managed to clean the house to perfection today. And by myself, because Mark has a back ache. He normally helps me out. Actually he still did: since the kitchen is his territory, he scrubbed it so clean that it would make Aggie and Kim very proud! (Yeah, the ladies from the TV series "How Clean is Your House").

While I write this, I am listening to a wonderful Japanese singer. Her name is Shiina Ringo. She has a wonderful voice and sings not only in Japanese, but also French, English and even Portuguese, to my surprise! Her choice of a Brazilian song is "Manhã de Carnaval", an old Vinicius de Moraes' song from the classic Brazilian movie "Orfeu Negro". I love her singing in French, the accent is just perfect. She sings "Feuilles Mortes", alternating between French and English, and it is such an original, almost funky version. Just beautiful. Well, that lady simply rocks. The arrangements are superb, needless to say, and the album presentation is amazing, as only in Japan we can find. Check that out:

CD Title: Utaite Myouri, 2CD, Toshiba- EMI.

Finally, Mark has been to Washington DC some days ago and came back last weekend. He took lots of pictures, which are quite good. I hope he will be posting them soon. Anyway, he took one that I especially loved. It's from a shop that sells Japanese goods, called "Ginza" (what else???) He told me he could not go in because it was closed by the time he passed by, but look at that!

As you can see, all things
I love are there (just click on the pic to see it bigger): Manekineko, Hello Kitty, nice ceramics and who knows what else! I really wish I was there, can you imagine? That would be paradise!

Now I need to go, we are starting to watch "Violent Cop" by the ever-so-wonderful Takeshi Kitano. Just love his films... They are, I know, very violent, and it's strange to see someone who so much loves "cute" things to appreciate this kind of films, but there we go. I love them. From soundtrack to acting, Kitano's films are something everybody should watch at least once. Meaning, you should not die before you do it! Ditto.

See you later then!

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posted by Andrea Leite Marques at 8:03 PM 0 comments

Monday, May 09, 2005

The Most Beautiful Short Animation Film Ever...

... must be "Overtime". I watched that on TV last weekend, in TV3's "Wonderscreen" and was simpy amazed. If you are a bit blue though, get a box of tissues because you will definitely have the tears flowing.

Basically, "Overtime" is a tribute to the Muppet Show creator, Jim Henson (1936-1990), and is a wonderful black and white, 3D animated short film of more or less 4 minutes. The music is very beautiful, and the story is simple, and very touching.

The film shows how a pupeteer, who creates kermit-like cute rag dolls, is found dead on his bed by his little creatures. It seems they quite do not understand (or do not accept) what has happened to their Master. Nonetheless they strive to keep living "as normal" and try to cheer up their creator, as they would normally do while he was alive: playing, cooking, eating, and having fun together. Until they finally realise that he will not wake up anymore.

The film has been created and executed by Oury Atlan, Thibaut Berland and Damien Ferrié as a graduation project, from what I could find in the web. It also seems it has received several prizes in competitions all over the world. Very well deserved, I just hope they will release a DVD one day!

Oury Atlan's website is noteworthy, and you can see some of his work (and CV) there:

Directed, Written, Animated, Filmed & Edited by: Oury Atlan/Thibaut Berland/Damien Ferrié
Music: Sielberman Ochestra/Ornadel and the Starlight Symphony
Producer: Supinfocom

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posted by Andrea Leite Marques at 10:38 PM 2 comments

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Contemporary Fairy Tale??...

Well, I just arrived from the cinema with Mark, where we watched The Village by M. Night Shyamalan.

I don't know what to say, except that I was deeply disturbed by the film, since its very beginning. Not only because it's creepy (and I do love horror films mind you). It's not even that. I was feeling really uncomfortable with the story, almost like a personal matter. Don't ask me why. I was about to get up and leave the theatre at one point.

The atmosphere was very unsettling, very dark, disturbing, oppressive, almost like a vivid nightmare, one of those where you want to wake up but cannot. Or, even worse, one of those bad moments in one's life, when one sees there's no escape. The actors were superb though, especially Joaquin Phoenix. Adrian Brody was excellent as well, maybe not as great as in The Pianist, but then again, it's a completely different style, and character, of course.

Again, I am not sure why it has made so uncomfortable, and wanting it to be over. At the same time, I was morbidly curious about it and wanting to see where it would go, or how it would end. I had the impression that everything in that "village" was archetypical, ancient, hidden somewhere deep inside every single inhabitant. As it seems to be the case. At any rate, I don't have much to add about it and, still now, at home, I am feeling a bit strange, and not very comfortable when I think of it.

And the fact that tonight is one of those windy, cold nights (yes, whistling, howling Northern winds!) does not help either!

At any rate, please go see it. I cannot say that I really liked it. I much prefer his Sixth Sense, or Unbreakable, since they did not make me feel unsettled, or weird. Maybe I should just think about it a bit more... But Mark loved it and I want to check what he has to say about it now.


posted by Andrea Leite Marques at 10:31 PM 1 comments

After a Long Time...

... I have decided to post again. I've been too lazy lately, that must be said and not much keen to write much. But today, I'm back!

We have just watched 2001 A Space Odissey on DVD. That was such a remarkable film. I still remember my parents telling me about it when they firstly saw it, ages ago (to be precise when the film was released, was that the 60's? Anyway, a long long time ago). I was very impressed by their opinions about it, although I did not understand much - I was still a little girl. But those things always interested me. At that time I dreamt about being an astronomer, and all the images they described to me were just perfect: the Moon and Jupiter, the monolith, the pitch black, soundless space. I saw it at least 8 times in my adolescence. And it's a film I still love. It's perfect, and it looks "clean". Not like the new Sci-Fi films, where the locations, spacecrafts and even people look quite dodgy, and almost "dirty", dark, dusty... Well, after my parents told me about it, the perspective of a year "2001" was always in my mind: where will I be, how old will I be by then, and what will I be doing. I did not become an astronomer though. And here I am...

What else happened these days? I started a new medication 2 weeks ago, Provigil it's called. The neurologists give it to narcoleptic patients, and MS patients suffering of fatigue (my case). It seems to be working OK, but sometimes I have my doubts. I was quite tired today and spent most of the day in bed (asleep of course), but I also have a cold, so, I cannot really say those pills are not quite working. We never know, and at any rate I will keep taking it unless the docs say otherwise.

This week I received another Hello Kitty doll. These dolls (they are wonderful, so perfect, so detailed) I buy them in a very cool website: JBox (or JList). They are based in Japan (part of it is based in America though) and sell all sorts of Japanese things: from snacks to multi-region DVD players and lots of Anime DVD's and manga. And Kitty-Chan! Needless to say I do love it...

My first doll was Kitty-Chan dressed as Fuji Musume, or the Wisteria Maiden, from a famous Kabuki play of the same title. Mark has posted a picture of her in his blog, and she looks too kawaii to be true! And this one, I found her in JBox some days after I received my Fuji Musume. Now her character is called Shizuka Gozen, or Lady Shizuka.

Lady Shizuka is a character of another kabuki play, Yoshitsune Senbonzakura - that means something like "Yoshitsune and the (Yoshino) Cherry Trees". She was the lover - or concubine - of the great warrior Yoshitsune, from the XIIth Century Japan, in the Heian Era, and originally a sacred dancer in a Shinto srine. She was renowned not only for her beauty and loveliness, but also for the power of her sacred, magical dance.

Herself and her lover were being persecuted by his envious half-brother, the Shogun at the time, Yoritomo. Well, the story is long and sad. She was pregnant of Yoshitsune's child, and arrested by Yoritomo's troops in Kyoto. She's been interrogated on the whereabouts of Yoshitsune but, of course, did not say a word. Knowing that she was pregnant, Yoritomo ordered that, in case the baby was a boy, it should be immediately killed. Any male descendant of Yoshitsune would mean a threat to his rule. And so it happened. When the baby was born, it was indeed a boy, and immediately snatched from her arms and killed in a deserted beach.

Before letting Shizuka go, Yoritomo was determined to see her perform one of her famous dances. She resisted, of course, but convinced (and fooled) by the Shogun's servants, went to a nearby shrine to perform a sacred dance, a supplication dance as per their suggestion. The Shogun was observing her, hiding behind a bamboo blind in the shrine. Everyone looking at her dance at that moment was bewitched, enchanted, mesmerised. She realised then she has been fooled and changed from a dance to a love song in honour of her beloved.

That enfuriated the Shogun, of course, but at the same time, it was undeniably beautiful, and he just let her go back to Kyoto and did not harm her at all. Arriving there though and still separated from her beloved, she cut off her long hair, completely shaved her head and decided to become a nun. Yoshitsune meantime, has been tracked down by Yoritomo's warriors and killed. It seems she died of grief one year after.

Well... Too sad, but most kabuki plays are like that. It seems Shizuka was only eighteen at the time. It also seems she is not a real character, but part of the world of legends. Yoshitsune, however, was a real warrior, as was the Shogun, Yoritomo.

Well, back to Kitty-Chan dressed as Shizuka Gozen: she wears kimono, a golden obi and red silky obijime, and also a juban (under-kimono). She graciously bears a tiara, or kanzashi pin in her head, decorated with delicate silver flowers. Finally, in her left hand she holds a ko-tsuzumi, which is a small hand-held drum used in kabuki and noh plays and dances. Have a look at her:

As for the display sign, I am not sure what it means, but I know the very first kanji at the top reads her name, Shizuka. If anyone can read the other two kanji, please let me know!

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posted by Andrea Leite Marques at 1:50 AM 2 comments