I. Opus [1995/96] by Satoshi Kon – ★★★★
I am a huge admirer of Japanese director Satoshi Kon (1963-2010). In his animations Perfect Blue , Millennium Actress  and Paprika , he created worlds that fuse reality and fantasy, playing with such concepts as memory, identity and perception. Opus is his manga work that was released before his first animated debut, and it also mixes up reality and make-believe to a curious effect. In this story, Chikara Nagai is a manga artist who is creating a manga series titled Resonance. One of his characters is special agent Satoko who has telepathic powers and who is set to bring down the leader of a mysterious cult known only as the Masque, who, in turn, has a goal to “brainwash” the Earth’s population. Nagai draws the ending to his manga instalment, but then realises that one of his characters does not want to submit to his sad fate, as Nagai’s real-life and fantasy worlds collide. This is a tale of a creator who “lives and breathes” his work, and, in consequence, is becoming lost in his own creation (similar to A-ha’s music video Take on Me), but the focus is also the characters, who all start to experience an existential crisis.
Continue reading “Japanese Graphic Novels: Opus, The Strange Tale of Panorama Island, & The Solitary Gourmet” →
Hell Screen [1918/1948] by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa – ★★★★★
This is a short story by “the father of the Japanese short story” who is probably best known for such short stories as Rashomon  and In a Grove . Said to be the reworking of the Uji Shūi Monogatari, Japanese tales written in the thirteenth century, Hell Screen tells the story of Yoshihide, an eccentric painter and allegedly a despicable human being, who resides at the court of one powerful Lord Horikawa. When the Lord requests Yoshihide to paint the picture of Hell, the artist takes this request too close to heart. Moreover, slowly, Yoshihide’s beautiful daughter becomes the centre of the newest rumour and intrigue. Akutagawa’s story may be short, but it also evokes the most powerful imagery. The author was a master of story-telling, and in this story we are presented with vivid descriptions that he also coupled with the peculiarly Japanese literary minimalism. The outcome is one disturbing, unforgettable story of obsession and damnation. I read Hell Screen thanks to the amazing post by Juan Gómez-Pintado titled “10 Extraordinary Tales of Terror“.
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A is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie  by Kathryn Harkup – ★★★★★
When it comes to morbidly-curious books, it does not get better that this book. The author takes a deep look into all the poisons that Agatha Christie used in her books to “kill off” her “victims”, and the result is a read that both fascinates and informs – Full Review.
Doctor Glas [1905/1963] by Hjalmar Söderberg – ★★★★1/2
“Truth is like the sun, its value depends wholly upon our being at a correct distance away from it” [Söderberg/Austen, 1905/1963: 138].
This little novel is a Swedish classic written in a diary form from the perspective of one dutiful doctor Tyko Gabriel Glas. He is a rather lonely and introverted individual who is used to handle expertly delicate matters of city inhabitants. That is, until he meets the charming wife of one “repulsive” priest Rev. Gregorius. As he gets entangled in the affairs of this couple, the doctor also starts rethinking his stance on life and his thoughts turn darker. Soon, torn between his medical ethics and objective morality on the one hand, and his rising sense of injustice and romantic emotions on the other, Doctor Glas is quite ready to commit the unthinkable. Deemed highly controversial upon its release in 1905, this tale of obsession, suppressed emotions, sexual frustration and jealousy is now rightly considered to be a national classic. Existential angst and hidden psychological torments mingle ominously within the pages, with the author making a sober, but surprisingly potent statement on the power of the unconscious in human actions and condition.
Continue reading “September 2020 Wrap-Up” →