The Lolita Subculture – I love it!

So, next weekend in Malta there’s a yearly Comicon which takes place each year at the beginning of December. I’ve been attending this Comicon since its second year of running. I haven’t always worn a costume, and I admit the times I wore one, I wasn’t the one who made it – it was a bought costume, so shoot me lol. That being said, I dressed twice as Alice from American McGee’s Playstation game ‘Alice Madness’ (I love that character!) and twice I dressed as a Gothic Lolita.

The first time I wore an outfit I had purchased from Sai Sai in Camden Town, London – my fav clothes shop in all of London! Last year, my outfit was inspired by Shampoo, which is a character from the anime Ranma 1/2 – hence the blue wig. Yup, that’s me in the photo below!

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I honestly don’t know whether I am going to attend this year for various reasons. Still, the Comicon is not far from my thoughts, which is why I wrote an article on The Lolita Subculture, which was published in the online magazine EVE.COM.MT

Here’s the link to the article – http://www.eve.com.mt/2016/11/27/the-lolita-japanese-subculture/

Please feel free to comment!

Have you ever attended a Comicon or a Comic Convention? Did you dress up?

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Hell Girl – Anime Review

To be honest, I just started watching this anime yesterday so I cannot REALLY write a review as of yet, so this is more of a portrayal of what the anime has conveyed to me as such up to now, when I have only seen the first three episodes.

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First of all, the graphics are lovely. The characters are well drawn and the background scenes are very detailed. The anime is set mostly ‘in real life’, that is, in a city in Japan, however parts of it also take place in a surreal place – somewhere between heaven, hell and purgatory, somewhere in dreams perhaps, where the tormented spirit of the ‘Hell Girl’, Ai Enma, resides, with her three companions and servants. It is quite a dark anime, which may be considered to be gothic and/or horror too.

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Ai Enma, also known as Jigoku Shōjo, is a mysterious figure. Sometimes we are treated with short images of her past, when she was killed. We know someone who loved betrayed her, that she is angry about it and has looked for revenge for 400 years ever since, all the while being a ‘Hell Girl’, that is a powerful spirit who grants those who want revenge, the death of the people they name. Ai Enma offers a covenant – those who want her to rid them of someone, who is shipped to hell, are given a black poppet or doll, with a red string. If they decide to accept the pact, they untie the red string, on the condition that once they die, they too will go straight to hell, as payment for the debt owed to Ai. The ‘fun thing’ is the way they make their request in the first place – Hell has ‘gone modern’ in this case, since all they have to do is send an email request at midnight, and the Hell Girl promptly sends them a text message on their mobile to confirm the receipt.

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Very VERY interesting plot line. Each episode portrays a different story – a different client, and why they choose to sell their soul, in order to get rid of a particular person who is doing them, or a loved one, harm. Some of the scenes are fairly strong and psychological, in fact this is not an anime for children, but is marked 17+

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The anime is not short – having three seasons of around 23 episodes each. I have also discovered that there is a live action series, comprising of 23 episodes of half an hour each, which I definitely mean to get as well.

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All in all, I am really looking forward to continuing this series. Aaaaaaaa Anime <3!!!

Book Review – Coraline – Neil Gaiman

First let’s make this clear – this is a review of the book NOT the animated movie, although I loved the movie too (and it could still be construed as such).

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That being said, I think what touched me most about this book is that it is truly a book for children. The plot line is quite deep, the psychology behind it is disturbing and twisted, and most of the story itself is so metaphorical as to be almost frightening, and yet, it is set so as to not only enter into the world of children, but also make every child who reads it feel totally at home there.

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It captures everyday moments of every child’s life – the unlikeable ‘recipes’ served at dinner, the boredom of rainy days, the loneliness of children with no other brothers or sisters, the sense of loss when one’s parents seem distant and busy with their own lives, the way children’s opinions are glossed over and ignored when it comes to practical matters like choosing clothes for school.

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Most importantly, it offers two different perspectives of parent-hood. On the one hand, we have Coraline’s normal family – her two working parents who both work at home and have their own studies there, who sometimes have no time for Coraline and who have forgotten what it’s like to be a child, and therefore do not understand her, yet who love her and would sacrifice themselves for her.

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On the other – there are the Other parents – especially, the Other mother. She is a perfectly frightening representation of those clutching needy mothers, who need something to love so much, that they literally stifle their children, bottling them up in a bubble of fake smiles and repression – until finally the childrens’ individuality is squeezed into nothingness… which is what they become.

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This metaphor of the needy cold mother, who selfishly does not really care about who Coraline is or what she actually wants, is the prevalent ‘monster’ in the story, and is all the more terrifying in that there are so many real monsters like her out in our world.

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Coraline’s natural communication with the animals around her is so normally-portrayed as to be totally believable, and not relegated to the label of ‘magical’ or ‘supernatural’ at all. Cats talk, mice dance, rats can be spies – it is presented as a fact, and so it is.

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This short book reminded me of the premise of ‘The Ocean at the End of the Lane’, where family issues are combatted by children through metaphorical intervention. Totally brilliant.

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Anime Review – Shiki – A Japanese Vampire-Story

Genre – Horror
No. of Episodes – 24
Anime released in – 2010
My Overall Grading – 3 Stars

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Shiki was a random find. I’ve been combing the anime market for good horrors/psychological thrillers for ages now, and wanted something good with a Japanese cultural flavor. Shiki seemed to fit the bill, even though the romaticised vampire plot-line made me a bit wary, since we’ve seen sentimentalized semi-pornographic versions of it so many times before.

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The anime itself was quite good. It sports Higurashi-like traits, in that it is set in a small, almost cut off, town in rural Japan, with its own customs and legends, where, obviously, something strange starts to happen during one hot Summer, when a large number of people start to mysteriously die off. There the story totally deviates from Higurashi however, in that, although interesting and at times, agonizingly full of emotion, the characters in this anime somehow still fail to gain that certain depth of perspective and credibility. The characters in Shiki are thin, cardboard-like and insubstantial. Although we are given sketchy backgrounds of almost each one, we know that the ten-minute background interlude is gifted to us each time, exactly before said character either dies (which does not mean that they do not actively appear on-screen any more) or otherwise falls into some misfortune. The characters never evolve, they never develop, and, alive or dead, their reactions are hardly credible or even probable.

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That being said, the art used in Shiki is very pleasing, when portraying kawai characters like Sunako, but totally irritating with bland ones like Kaori – and seriously, what’s with all the stupid bombastic hairstyles? And the BOOBS… Lol. Anyways, the guys are all hot, and I loved Megumi’s fashion sense too ;p

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I also loved the fact that in the end, we are so steeped in the lore of the town of Sotoba, that we don’t even see the undead as vampires anymore, but we really and truly perceive them as Shiki. They are blood-thirsty, they are romanticized, but in the end, like their human counterparts, the Shiki just want to live a normal life, they are afraid, they make mistakes, they need help – but no one helps them. The (hot) priest Seishin perfectly persnonalizes the troublesome issue everyone in the village, not to mention we the viewers, feel – the Shiki are parents, friends, husbands, sisters, mothers, loved ones who are just trying to survive – is killing them murder, or is it just self-defence?

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Although the characters leave something to be desired, the issues presented by this anime are quite clear and very deep. In the end, I couldn’t, however, give the anime 4 stars as it still had something lacking, but I would still recommend it.

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BOOBS, BOOBS and more BOOBS in Anime. And Mirai Nikki! ;p

It is so hard to find good psychologically-deep animes these days! Most of them seem to focus on fan-service – boobs, boobs and more boobs. Nonsensical scenes where the protagonist, surrounded by good looking willing females, always seems to end up tripping on something and falling on someone’s BOOBS, grabbing a BOOB by mistake or inadvertently catching sight of one of the female characters in a changing room, and obviously seeing her BOOBS in all their glory.

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And what about all those lesbically-oriented all-female scenes in bath together? Washing each other’s backs and massaging each others BOOBS and what-not. Does that actually happen in Japan??

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Anyways, as I was saying before, like many animes, I got side-tracked in all the BOOBS, yes finally I found another good anime. After Elfen Lied, after Death Note, after Higurashi: When they Cry, after Another, and Serial Experiments Lain… there came MIRAI NIKKI.

Or Future Diary, as you prefer.

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The anime is not overly-long, being made up of 26 episodes and an OVA. *sigh* And that is another thing, some fairly good animes are just TOO LONG. I really TRIED to watch Bleach, and I liked it too. But seriously, 366 episodes?! Please! I hardly made it through Inuyasha, even though I loved it to bits, and that was ‘just’ 167 episodes!

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Anyways, Mirai Nikki has a fairly interesting plot. God is dying and he needs a successor. He chooses a number of people and gives them Future Diaries which predict the future. Thrown into an insane game of life and death, the contestants must kill each other, in order to become the new God. The twist in the plot is that each diary is different and unique, so each contestant needs to understand the abilities pertaining to the other diaries, before s/he can combat and defeat its owner.

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I don’t wish to give any spoilers, suffice it to say that we not only get to meet many diverse and mostly insane characters, and made to understand their psychology and perspective, but we also get to face some of life’s most difficult choices and problems too. Issues like child abuse, betrayal, love, relationships, friendship, and self-esteem.

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A couple of years ago I started to buy those animes which I deemed ‘worthy’ to be in my collection, in blue-ray. Up to now I have Elfen Lied, Full Metal Alchemist, Death Note and Another. I could not buy Higurashi, as its second season was never released in DVD *sob*. I wonder… shall I buy ‘Mirai Nikki’ too? I’m half-way through it right now. I guess I’ll decide when I’ve finished it.

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P.S There are a lot of BOOBS in Marai Nikki too anyways ;p

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‘Paprika’ – Not just a spice, but a brilliant Anime Movie!

After four years, yesterday I re-watched the animated movie ‘Paprika’ (2006). This Satoshi Kon masterpiece had always remained in my mind as one of a kind in its genre (that is, anime movies), and my perception of it did not change after re-watching it.

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Apart from the plot-line, which is bewitching and exclusive in and of itself, the characters are wonderfully mysterious, yet with understandable motives and feelings, and, most importantly, the graphics and colors, apart from being unusual and perfect for the dream-sequences pertaining to the storyline (which, in fact, concerns dreams), are vivid, yet in a way, horrifically nightmarish. The theme of the hellish circus is captured perfectly, and wonderfully juxtaposed with the clinical and cold atmosphere of the labs. The soundtrack is also exceptional – in fact this was the first animated movie to use a VOCALOID – that is a singing voice synthesizer software.

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What entirely fascinated me apart from all this (yes there is MORE) was the double and split identity of Doctor Chiba, whose dream-self is the sexy, cute and pixie-like Paprika. Able to navigate through dreams, free as a bird and always smiling, she is totally different from her genius down-to-earth counterpart. This is what we hide inside us – another self – which is only free when we are asleep.

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And the question comes naturally to mind – what is my dream-self like? If I had such an advantaged technological device that enabled me to control my dreams, would I also have such a different dream-self? Self, but not self? A part of me, but, as Paprika says, with me being also a part of her? Who would be the strongest between us, the conscious me, or the subconscious one?

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‘Paprika’ is not a children’s anime. Not only does it have violent, sexual and very disturbing connotations, it also has a very convoluted plot. One which makes us thing and debate, frown and wonder. The term ‘fucked-up’ also comes to mind lol.

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Unfortunately, its director, Satoshi Kon, died in 2010, so we will have no more of these gems coming our way. Another anime of his which I’ve been hearing for years about, and never got around to watching, is the psychological thriller ‘Perfect Blue’ (also by Satoshi Kon), which not only has an immense cult following, but is also described as being one of a kind.

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‘Perfect Blue’ is even older than ‘Paprika’ since it was produced in 1997. Certain animes, like certain movies, are ageless.