Monday, June 23, 2008

Manga to Love - "Cat Eyed Boy"

Cat Eyed Boy Vol. 1

This manga is deliciously trashy! I can also detect a big Tezuka influence here, by the way, just in case you appreciate that "old-school" manga style.

By referring to it as "trashy", however, I do not intend to minimise its importance by all means, but just to relate it to the aesthetics of some American horror films (and even ads) from the 50's and 60's. As an example, check out this text on the back cover:


Reading it is pretty much like being carried away in a delirious ghost train ride, in a black-and-white amusement park of yore. And, as such, a delightful experience, and almost nostalgic.

Cat Eyed Boy is a horror manga, written by a master of the genre, Kazuo Umezu.

The hero (Nekome kozo, that is, yours very truly Cat Eyed Boy) is a very interesting character: half-monster, half-human, feared by the former and hated by the latter. An outcast in both worlds.

Wherever he goes, tragedy and horror ensue. But in spite of all that you cannot but empathise with him. He is cute, agile, and witty. You even feel like calling him "kitty"...

Some scenes (as expected from a horror manga) are quite disturbing and grotesque, but the story is nicely told through a very bold and strong artwork - almost old-fashioned at that. Some of the situations portrayed end up being quite funny as well, with the protagonist taking turns between hero and villain, in a sort of creepy ambiguity that even makes him look (almost) human.

It's a big book, this first volume of the series, with more or less 500 pages and published by Viz.

Cat Eyed Boy is not your usual, run-of -the-mill manga and, precisely for that reason, worth reading and highly recommended.

Cat Eyed Boy Vol. 2

This sequel to Cat-Eyed Boy is quite good, but not as great as the first volume, in my opinion.

Equally big (again, 500+ pages), it has a special "bonus": some coloured pages from the middle onwards.

The tale The Meatball Monster deserves a special mention here: utterly freaky and dark, you can almost "smell" it! (And that's not necessarily a good thing, I'm afraid).

If you enjoyed the 1st volume, you need to put your hands on this one as well, even if it does not live up to its predecessor.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Sony, yay!

We just bought a Sony hifi system! It's this one here: CMT-HX90BTR. We will be picking it up on Saturday, it just arrived to our local Sony store now, but we need the car to carry it home, I think.

It looks great:

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!).

Vogue Japan - Hello Kitty Wears Dior

I finally managed to put my hands on the massive issue of Vogue Japan Jun'08! Why, and what is that, that I was so anxiously waiting for? Well, nothing less than a special edition featuring Hello Kitty dressed by no one else than John Galliano!

Well, it also displays some celebs that have succumbed to Kitty-chan's spell, but I wouldn't care less for them, especially the bimbo sisters Paris and whatzername-Hilton. No, that doesn't matter. I'd rather forget about it, even... Oh well...

What is really great is to get the drawings for 60 outfits Galliano designed for her, as well as pictures of her visiting the Maison Dior in Paris - kawaii indeed! To die for!

(It makes me think of Alexandre Herchcovitch - a wonderful Brazilian fashion designer - who also designed some pieces featuring Kitty-chan 4 years ago...)

I also got a special freebie, which is a lovely mascot of Kitty holding a Vogue banner. Here it is, at your left - I scanned it, but it doesn't look great. Just click on it to get a better idea.

Now I just need to know if the Kitties (60, in total) will be released as mascots or straps, so I can get some (my favorites at least)!