Sunday, January 24, 2010



"Dreams don't come true that easily, right"
"Of course. We can't fight reality"
"So every dream is difficult to fullfill"
"But not every thing that is difficult to fulfill is a dream"
Me and Zerosaki, "Kubishime Romantist"

Maybe, some kind of alarm in my head should have gone off when a teacher supervising research papers said that Kyushu University's JLCC program can't be compared to language and culture programs at other Japanese universities. Because different from the study-a-bit-and-play programs at other universities, he said, you're supposed to study till you die at Kyushu University (Sadly enough, he literally used the words 死ぬほど勉強する). In retrospect, the word die should have resulted in a reaction. Maybe I read too much detectives. Words like die just lose their meaning.

So the reaction is here now, severely delayed. I'm temporarily following 75% more classes compared to last year, and somewhere in between I'm also sqeezing in reading Japanese academic papers for my research, which suddenly has taken a different turn as I still have not decided what I'll do, but combining both Edogawa Rampo and modernization seems too much (especially in Japanese!), so now I'm contemplating either Edogawa or Japanese detective fiction in general and modernization. Or something like that. After I read the next article, I'll probably change my mind. Again. But yeah. Time. It's gone. Can't seem to find it. Need vacation.

And this might be a semi-random musing, but why in heaven's sake would a Japanese academic paper need a summary in German?! I actually hoped the whole paper would be in German, as it would take less time compared to Japanese, but still...

Busy with classes (ack, the ancient Greek exam in Japanese! The papers on stuff like Human Chairs, the Dutch Generation Y and the Dutch secondary education system! Another junior high presentation! ), I don't actually have time to do other stuff, so the most exciting things these days are things like finding out that whale meat taste awfully a lot like beef (which is, in retrospect, not very strange), experiencing real Korean kimchi which indeed is a lot tastier than the stuff they sell in the supermarkets here, finding out that the Tuna Burger of MOS Burger is not as tasty as one would hope, watching Japanese movies during the Japanese movie course, which is a lot more fun compared to the Leiden one enjoying myself at the 4-koma manga course. Reading the immensely popular Chibi Maruko-chan is surprisingly fun, but I'll probably never get that tune out of my head. Just like the Duck Tales' opening.

Today's Song: 大久保賢 (Ookubo Satoshi) - Violet Sky

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Finishing Stroke


"The owner of this shop used to say this. 'Just like how the human body is composed of proteins and vitamins, the human soul is composed of time and memories. That's why looking back at yourself in the past, is to get to know who you really are in the present." You have to remember it. 'What made me what I am?"
 "The Kingyo Old Book Shop"

Bara no Labyrinth ("Labyrinth of Roses"), a short story collection starring his main detective, Nikaidou Ranko. Having read an earlier book starring her, the awesome House of Vampires and some non-Ranko short story collections by Nikaidou, I was expecting much of these stories. Just looking at the titles of the stories made me excited. The Phantom of the Circus? The Face-Eating Monster? The Blazing Devil? How could it not be great, I thought.
Contuining my Nikaidou Reito reading spree, I first took up

Which was a big, big mistake. With only mediocre stories and even a bad story (rabies?!), I was genuinely shocked. I actually had trouble making my way through this book and with every story was hoping it would improve, but it was not to be. Not even once did I get the feeling Nikaidou was really trying with this collection. While nowhere near Murder in Monkeyland-horrible (which would be an accomplisment, I guess...), it was just disappointing how different it was compared to other stuff I read written by him.

Not too fond of the protagonist either. I can't remember how it was handled in House of Vampires, but Ranko is so bland (besides being a super-smart university student), I don't understand why Nikaidou is using her. Heck, if Nikaidou wasn't writing about how beautiful her hair was and how Ranko could've been a model (Every. Single. Story.), you wouldn't even know she was a girl. She might as well be a man. Or a ghost. Or a computer. She is just...there.

Luckily, he made up for it with Kikounin (Collector) no Fushigi ("The Mystery of Collectors"). It was the book I would have written had I been a writer. And had I not been genre savvy enough to see how blatantly self-referencing this book was. Being the story about a) a group of Tezuka Osamu fans who b) also collect rare manga and c) and one of them gets robbed of his rare books and murdered in a locked room, it was like Nikaidou looked straight in my mind when writing this.

And what if the locked room was nothing special? What if the detective was once again Mizuno Satoru, the super Otaku bishounen, who never really gets developed enough. The dialogue, which show how much a Tezuka expert Nikaidou Reito himself is, is full of information on Tezuka, manga releases, the world of rare book collectors and just plain fun to read. For manga/bibliophiles. Visiting bookshops in groups in hopes for that rare find? Done that in real life. Looking for obscure releases? Done that. I have read detectives which touched the subject of bibliophiles, but as this was actually about manga, Collector no Fushigi was even closer to home. Seldom have I read a book which was so recognizable and so much fun. I would have Gary Stue'd myself in this story, had I been the writer. Although I could indeed recognize myself in that victim. Besides the being dead part. 

Original Japanese title(s): 二階堂黎人 『バラ迷宮』/ 「サーカスの怪人」 / 「変装の家」 / 「喰顔鬼」 / 「ある蒐集家の死」 / 「火炎の魔」/ 「薔薇の家の殺人」; 『稀覯人(コレクター)の不思議』

Friday, January 1, 2010

The Unicorn and the Wasp

「えーご無沙汰しております。皆さん、お元気でした?あそうですか。えー早速ですが皆さん、占い信じますか?私の場合どう しても今ひとつ信用出来 ないんで す。私のことを典型的な乙女座のA型という人がいます。頭が切れる割に情に流されやすく以外にミーハーである。性格は神経質でかなりねばり強い。うん、確 かに当たってます。しかし一番肝心なのは、私は、A型でもなければ、乙女座でもないということです。えー占いと言えば・・・」
『古畑任三郎: 岩田博士の 恐怖』

"Ehm, it's been a long while. How has everyone been? Is that so? Ehm, this is rather sudden, but do you believe in fortune telling? I for one can't believe any of it. They say I am the classic bloodtype A Virgo. A smart person who is easily moved to emotions and also trendy. A neurotic and stubborn personality. And yes, this is all true. But the main point is, I'm not bloodtype A, nor am I a Virgo. Talking about fortune telling..."

"Furuhata Ninzaburou: The Horrors of Professor Iwata"

Hey, 2010 is going to be the year of the Tiger. My year. Not sure if that's supposed to mean anything. This year I'll at least try to stop forgetting my camera. But I might as post these phone pictures. Myeah. Text will be minimum, I think. Anyway, the end of Time the year and the new year means mochi, Kouhaku Uta Gassen and Hatsumoude in Japan. And a new Doctor in the UK.

The first day of the winter vacation (Yes. Some time ago. Timey-wimey stuff.) we went to a sort of home for the elderly, where we did mochiduki, the process of making mochi by pounding rice. Which was fun. Pounding stuff. And eating mochi. Though I'm somewhat between neutral good and straight-out don't-like regarding mochi. Zouni, one of the New Year mochi specialties, though was a lot tastier then plain mochi. But nothing beats pounding stuff with a gigantic hammer.

And I still don't get why Japanese people go shrines when they don't even believe in the stuff. And after asking them, apparently Japanese people themselves don't understand why. They're slightly more consistent with Christmas, as this isn't a Christian country and thus stores are in business on the 25th. As well is university (but why~ is everyone going to KFC on Christmas?). But for the new year, we went to Hakozakiguu, a shrine which is pretty much next to the Hakozaki campus.

There was also a tamasaseri matsuri, which involved half-naked men fighting for possession of a ball while being splashed by water. And yes, it was quite cold. I say, wearing with three layers of clothing and a jacket and not getting splashed by water.

Also, visiting Shintou ceremonies right after watching Doctor Who is not a good idea. Instead of being mesmerized by the Shintou priests preparing the balls for the tamasaseri with several ancient sacred rituals, the only thought in my head was 'Timelords in silly hats'.