Sunday, January 30, 2005

Back from my weekend in Nagoya. A quick run through the events of the weekend goes like this: saw Howl's Moving Castle (in Japanese), saw The Phantom of the Opera (in English), beat Tadashi's ass at bowling, got beaten at pool by Tadashi, played many fun and strange games at a game center, had good Mexican (once again, wondering why my own hometown here is lacking it so badly and sadly), bought a pair of jeans that were the equivalent of 80 dollars (which is sadly not that expensive really for a pair of jeans here) and also bought (in Tokyo, on my way down to Nagoya) "In the Miso Soup" by Ryu Murakami, a sort of thriller that's been recently translated. It's really good. I read the first third of it on the bullet train down to Nagoya, the second third of it on the way back up today, and will probably finish it tonight before bed.

Some extended notes.

First, "In the Miso Soup". I love this book because it's holding me in its narrative tight, the voice of the narrator, "Kenji", is wonderful. The one thing I'm sort of irritated by in this book is that I feel it's feeding in to an already xenophobic culture's ideas of Americans, the crazy foreigners who come from a chaotic society in the West and prey upon Japanese culture. Some of the observations that Murakami wants to make about Westerners are well founded, and occasionally he will also find it in his critical range to critique Japanese society as well, but often he makes criticism of Westerners that drops into vague unthought-out sterotypes without any substance. And when he brings up the problems that Westerners find with Japanese society, he just sort of says basically, "Well they wouldn't understand, and so why bother trying to explain it, even to ourselves." Which I just think is a cop out. I'd rather see him try to take a swing at putting down the defense of Japanese culture while he's criticizing another one. Like I said, he can occasionally do this, but it's far outweighed by a sort of xenophobic situation that is actually the drive of the entire plot. So I like it, I just wish the author's ideas were more his own and not culturally received stereotypes.

Secondly, "Howl's Moving Castle". Wow. That's all I can say. It was breathtaking. It's my favorite Miyazake now. It was wonderful to watch in Japanese too. I understood most of what was being said. There were only a couple of times I had to lean over and ask Tadashi something. Once when a curse was put on a character and I knew it was a curse but I wasn't what all the reasoning was behind it, and then again when there was a visit to the queen. I understood a lot of what she was saying, but once she got into a sort of highly politicized discussion about one of the other characters and a sort of history of the war that's in the background of the movie, I got a little lost and had to lean over again and ask for a bit of help. Not too bad...two hours of film, ten or fifteen minutes worth of it not completely comprehended on my own. I was a bit of a little kid at times when I'd understand something I recently have been studying and would repeat what they characters said and translate it to English and be given the nod that I was correct. I liked the movie so much I even bought a keitai (cell phone) charm of one of the characters, Kabu, the scarecrow. Tadashi got Heen, the wheezing little dog. The merchandise for the movie is so damned cool.

That's my weekend mostly. Hope you all had a good one too.


Blogger elad said...

hey Chris, do you know if Ryu is related to Haruki Murakami? Or is Murakami like a Smith variant over there? I saw Ryu in the latest issue of Zoetrope and was curious.

5:52 PM  
Blogger Christopher Barzak said...

Elad, many last names here are "Smith" variants. I probably have thirty Miyamoto's and hardly any of them are related, they say. I don't believe Ryu and Haruki are related, no.

2:35 AM  

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