Month: January 2020

  • ๐Ÿ“‚

    Fun Summer Vacation

    On nights like this, I go out onto the streets, and suck blood out from women’s jugular veins.

    Souichi displaying some of his madness to Michina

    Fun Summer Vacation โ€” Synopsis

    Yuusuke and Michina have travelled on the train to see some relatives of theirs. These relatives are six people who live in the same home. The Mother; Father; Grandfather; two sons and the daughter. Most of the family are very warm and welcoming to the visiting brother and sister. However, they soon get to meet their reclusive, and ever-so-slightly evil, younger son โ€” Souichi.

    The very first thing that we see of Souichi, is him spitting a small metal nail at the visitors. This is as they try to take him some food up to his room. You see, by this time they had yet to meet him and so they are trying to say hello to him. Souichi’s first response is to be hostile towards them.

    As their family holiday passes each day, Souichi displays more strange behaviours โ€” sinister laughs; curses on the family; attacks with deadly nails. With his hostility specifically targeted towards his visiting cousins. But how far will Souichi go to make his presence known to them, despite being so introverted?

    Introduction to Souichi

    When I had previously thought about Souichi, I had only remembered him from the manga “Souichi’s Selfish Curse”. I think that is the most popular Souichi story, possibly due to it being an early episode in the Junji Ito Anime Collection. But I was surprised, and happy, to learn that there are in fact a whole bunch of manga stories involving the evil-doing, twisted young boy.

    What is perhaps interesting too, is that he isn’t really the central character of this particular manga โ€” Fun Summer Vacation. He is just the strange young son who seems to haunt his family from the shadows. Driven by some strange internal need to punish and hurt those around him.

    He is seen skulking about in his room, sucking on old nails and trying to curse people with his doll replicas of them. He isn’t the most likeable of Junji Ito’s characters but I would be lying if I said that I didn’t have a small piece of my heart set aside for this boy-terror.

    Does he just need some love?

    His actions towards Michina, although twisted and selfish, opened up a crack in his evil facade for me. I couldn’t help but feel that he was trying to curse her simply to get her to stay back at the family home with him. That way they could remain together, while the others went out to the swimming pool again. Maybe he was lonely after all and felt that he could only really connect with her. Perhaps he was even in love with Michina in some twisted sort of way?

    Despite his appearance of hostility, maybe Souichi is just a little boy lost? His mother seems to enable some of his behaviour by taking his meals to his room, and allowing him to stay locked away. His father doesn’t really seem to do much by the way of discipline either. And his older brother seems to just wish that Souichi was something that he isn’t. Perhaps if the parents had set similar boundaries and punishments as they presumably had for the eldest two siblings, maybe he wouldn’t be acting out in this way?

    Or maybe Souichi is just a little evil-incarnate brat who simply loves to see people in pain. Whatever it is that drives him, I can’t help but feel that there is more below his diabolical surface than meets the eye.

    In Conclusion

    I really want to say that I loved this story, but in all honesty it isn’t too high on my list of favourites. Now don’t get me wrong, this is still a good manga to read – especially as it is the first appearance (I believe) of the now-famous character of Souichi. However, I can’t recommend it over more memorable stories such as Flesh Colored Horror or Army of One.

    But despite the story not being one that particular drew me in too much, Souichi is definitely a favourite character of mine. Even if I’ve only seen him in three stories (including this one) at the time of writing this post. I trust Junji Ito enough to believe that he can take Souichi into some pretty dark and even comedic places before reaching the end of the crazy boy’s story.

    I’m looking forward to further exploring the world of Souichi, his curses, and just how those around him manage to survive.


  • ๐Ÿ“‚

    The Black Lighthouse (Uzumaki part 9)

    As I walked further… spiral patterns appeared on the walls and ceiling. They glowed eerily in the dark.

    Kirie describes her journey up the steps of The Black Lighthouse

    The Black Lighthouse โ€” synopsis

    After sitting abandoned for quite some time, the lighthouse on the coast of Kurouzu-cho suddenly springs to life. At dusk, it begins shining out a powerful swirling beam all around through the night. This beam begins to mesmerise the townspeople more and more as the time goes on.

    People can be seen in the streets running in circles as if possessed by the same spiral evil that now haunts the lighthouse. After some of these strange happenings some of the men in the town decide to head inside the lighthouse to get to the bottom of the mystery.

    After the men have gone missing inside for some time, Kirie spots her younger brother with his friends heading towards what is known as The Black Lighthouse. Although she warns him, her brother runs inside with his three friends. Of course, she has no option but to run after them, which she does with gusto.

    The further that Kirie climbs up the lighthouse steps, the stranger the place becomes. Patterns on the walls that give off a weird glow, lighting her way; the feeling of lost time and disorientation; and an horrific discovery that she finds towards the top.

    As dusk approaches and Kirie still searches for her brother and his friends, what awaits them all in the Black Lighthouse’s top floor? And just what gruesome discoveries will they all find?

    The Spiral Light

    This is perhaps the furthest reach that the spiral has had over the town up until now. From its smaller beginnings of affecting individual people and their family’s lives, to the larger moments within Kurouzu-cho school โ€” The Snail and Medusa, specifically. But never before has the spiral been so bold as to cast itself over the entire town at once.

    The light stretches out over the town leaving no-one and nothing outside of its gaze. Even the light rays themselves seem to be beamed out in a spiral fashion. I also found that it reminded me of the Great Eye from Lord of the Rings. I wonder if that was an inspiration for Junji Ito in this chapter? In fact, when Kirie arrives at the tower’s top floor, she is greeted by the melted lens of the lighthouse’s light source โ€” melted into a spiral-shaped eye!

    And just as the Great Eye had it’s vision set across all of Middle-Earth, so too does the spiral have its gaze across all that it sees. Even a small boat nearing the town’s coastline is pulled in and run aground. There is quite literally nowhere to hide from this town’s curse of Uzumaki.

    People of Kurozu cho staring at the light

    Claustrophobia

    Despite the fact that the nature of this aspect of Uzumaki covers the widest amount of space, it also causes some interesting claustrophobic affects on the characters.

    Although the power of the black lighthouse stretches out across the entire town and out to sea, the wider investigation of its power is done within its very narrow stairwell that seems to make those who ascend lose their sense of time. We see first-hand with Kirie the almost-dizzying effect this spiral staircase has on her, and the spiral patterns that emerge on the walls as she climbs higher. Uzumaki is literally closing in on her.

    The real pay off in this chapter though, comes when Kirie discovers the burnt bodies of the men that went in some time before her. Beside which she finds two of her brother’s friends sat shaking in fear.

    Spirals and charred remains

    I advise you to really take the time to look over the depiction of those men’s remains too, as morbid as that sounds. Junji Ito’s detail of how he shows those men’s remains are impressive images to behold. He has painstakingly drawn in levels of details that lesser artists would have perhaps left out. Every crease and piece of charred flesh is accounted for.

    And when I was taking the time to really focus in on those panels inside the stairwell, I then started to really notice the spiral patterns on the walls. Made up of hundreds of tiny little dots throughout every hallway depicted. A real inspiration and an insight into his patience and his craft.

    In Conclusion

    The Black Lighthouse is not my favourite of the Uzumaki collection, but it does however contain some of my favourite images from it. Namely the ones mentioned above with the fire-eaten remains of the men who went to investigate the lighthouse. As well as the spiral eye in the lighthouse’s lens remains.

    I also felt this had a very interesting part towards the end, when Kirie comes face to face with the town’s curse. Although not the centre of the spiral madness (that comes later on in the collection), with the lighthouse’s lens melted into a strange swirling eye, Kirie is able to look straight into it. Perhaps somehow into the heart of the spiral itself?

    I probably wouldn’t advise this being read out of the context of the collection, simply because I didn’t really feel it was able to stand apart from the greater cursed narrative that runs through it. As a part of the greater series arc it works really well and shows how the spiral is making itself more and more noticeable. However, it doesn’t stand as well on its own feet as perhaps chapters like Jack In The Box and The Scar do.


  • ๐Ÿ“‚

    Anything but a Ghost

    She died giving birth to me. When I came out, she was already a ghost. But she still cared about me. Even after that, she would come to breastfeed me.

    Misaki tells Shigeru about her twisted past.

    Anything but a Ghost โ€” synopsis

    Whilst driving through a mountain area, Shigeru finds a woman stood at the roadside with her back to the road. On leaving his car and walking up to her, he sees that she seems completely stunned whilst being covered in blood. Without hesitation, he drives her to the nearest hospital to get her checked out. As it turns out, the blood is not hers and she isn’t even injured in the slightest.

    After some time has past, Shigeru and his wife are going about their lives โ€” they even have a child on the way. Then out of nowhere there is a knock at the door. On opening it, Shigeru sees a beautiful young woman standing there, but fails to recognise her straight away. She introduces herself as the woman he helped by the roadside that day, and tells him her name is Misaki.

    But it seems that she is to have a negative impact on his life. Her and Shigeru begin seeing each other in secret and soon reveals a strange, twisted secret about herself โ€” one that he simply doesn’t believe. However, as the closing pages of this manga reveal themselves, not only does her secret show itself to be true, but things also get a whole lot stranger and a lot more darker.

    A twist on the ghost story

    Anything but a Ghost is a ghost story where the ghosts are not the ones to be feared. Misaki is a young woman who seems to be somewhere between that of a ghost and that of a human. And even though she is drawn as a very innocent and delicate looking woman, she always has an air of creepiness to her. This is helped largely due to how she is introduced to us. We know something is not quite right โ€” we just don’t know what it is at this point.

    When she mentions that she can see Shigeru’s ghosts following him, I immediately thought of them as malevolent things. I was sure these ghosts she talked about would be grotesque monsters that live in the next plain of existence, just waiting to come through. But the truth is far more sinister than that.

    I always enjoy how Junji Ito seems to be able to take our preconceived ideas of what typical sorts of horror stories are, and turns them on their head.

    Misaki shows her true self

    Strange food cravings

    In horror fiction, I think we are used to seeing monsters that prey upon the weak before eating them. Whether that be vampires, werewolves, other-worldly beasts or even cannibals. But this is the first time, as is a lot of the times reading Junji Ito’s work, that I have seen the idea of eating one’s victims in quite this way.

    The very idea of having a person who feeds on ghosts is an incredibly inventive one and, dare I say it, genius in it’s own way. But it doesn’t just end there. I absolutely loved how, when Misaki would bite down into her ethereal feast, somehow blood would spill out and cover her face. It’s almost like she is able to pull the ghosts of those who have passed, into our world, if only for a moment โ€” for one last taste of pain and suffering. As if death wasn’t enough.

    And without giving too much away, the visions that Junji Ito was able to put into my mind, purely by suggestion, were pretty horrific. When she bites into what she eats towards the end, I could see every single blood-curdling inch of it, yet Ito drew none of it. He is truly a master of not only his own imagination, but of toying with his readers’ imaginations too.

    In Conclusion

    This is an excellent stand-alone story from Junji Ito that is as unsettling as it is inventive. What was perhaps most noteworthy for me, was how it is completely grotesque โ€” especially with what she eats towards the end โ€” but without you actually seeing the action itself. Kind of like how Quentin Tarantino was able to gross out early 90’s audiences with his famous ear-cutting scene in Reservoir Dogs. Despite never even seeing the cut.

    You never actually see her biting into any pound of flesh. But the result is no less effective. If anything it’s perhaps more so.

    I would highly recommend this as a first read from Junji Ito’s catalogue of work. It is readable out in public without attracting people’s concerned stares, with no real displays of gore and flesh. However, it will perhaps leave you feeling like you have seen as much.

    Anything But A Ghost is anything but a standard ghost story.

    You can read Anything but a Ghost here. (Please support Junji Ito by buying his manga in your own language where available)


  • ๐Ÿ“‚

    I bloody love David Lynch

    What did Jack do? on Netflix

    A detective interrogates a monkey who is suspected of murder

    What did Jack do?

    No one but David Lynch. Love it – and I haven’t even watched it yet.


  • ๐Ÿ“‚ ,

    Dracula by Bram Stoker

    Selected Quotes

    Then came another rush of sea-fog, greater than any hitherto โ€” a mass of dank mist, which seemed to close on all things like a grey pall, and left available to men only the organ of hearing, for the roar of the tempest, and the crash of thunder, and the booming of the mighty billows came through the damp oblivion even louder than before.

    from Chapter 7 โ€” cutting from the dailygraph


  • ๐Ÿ“‚

    Selected quotes from Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

    This collection is currently not finished – still picking out my favourite quotes. ๐Ÿ™‚ โ€” 14th January 2020

    It was the critic Alexander who put me on my guard against unnecessary fault-finding. People should not be sharply corrected for bad grammar, provincialisms, or mispronunciation; it is better to suggest the proper expression by tactfully introducing it oneself in, say, one’s reply to a question or one’s acquiescence in their sentiments, or into a friendly discussion of the topic itself (not of the diction), or by some other suitable form of reminder.

    Meditations, Book 1 โ€” Paragraph 10

    Wrong, wrong thou art doing to thyself, O my soul; and all too soon thou shalt have no more time to do thyself right. Man has but one life; already thine is nearing its close, yet still hast thou no eye to thine own honour, but art stalking thy happiness on the souls of other men.

    Meditations. Book 2 โ€” Paragraph 6

    Never value the advantages derived from anything involving breach of faith, loss of self-respect, hatred, suspicion, or execration of others, insincerity, or the desire for something which has to be veiled and curtained.

    Meditations, Book 3 โ€” Paragraph 7

    If the inward power that rules us be true to Nature, it will always adjust itself readily to the possibilities and opportunities offered by circumstance. It asks for no predeterminate material; in the pursuance of its aims it is willing to compromise; hindrances to its progress are merely converted into matter for its own use. It is like a bonfire mastering a heap of rubbish, which would have quenched a feeble glow; but its fiery blaze quickly assimilates the load, consumes it, and flames the higher for it.

    Meditations, Book 4 โ€” Paragraph 1

  • ๐Ÿ“‚ ,

    1917

    Time is the enemy.

    The tagline from 1917

    1917 is the incredible film from Sam Mendes about two friends tasked with delivering an important message to save a battalion..

    Presented in one single take, or two depending on whether you count some unconscious hours as a cut, this film is a modern testament to stellar film-making.

    The Plot

    1917 centres around two friends stationed near the front line in world war one France. They are given the near-impossible task of taking an urgent order through no-man’s-land to the Front where a batallion of 1,600 men are about to run into a German-laid trap. Of course that is unless these two friends can get there to warn them in time.

    The story takes us, every single step of the way, through some of the most brutal, and at times beautiful, war-time landscapes. Along the way they meet other people who happen across their path, some friendly; some hostile, but neither stop them on their forward momentum to deliver their message of utmost importance.

    My Thoughts

    I’d heard from a few different people that this film was really good and demanded being experienced in a cinema. In all honesty I maybe wouldn’t have gone to see this, at least not on its weekend of release, however, my lady wanted to watch it so we went this weekend.

    It was absolutely incredible.

    The first thing that I couldn’t help but notice was the impressive single camera shot opening (no visible editing cuts), which I only realised about five minutes in.

    But that opening shot was more than just an opening shot – it became apparent to me that this was going to be a film that would be experienced in a single, unflinching scene!

    (I used to read up on films before seeing them when I was going through my media-student phase. But I much prefer it now, where I know next to zero about films before I go in – save for perhaps what is in the trailers.)

    Yes there would have been cuts throughout the film* – no film is going to be physically filmed in one single take, at least none have been to my knowledge. However, using some clever techniques, many of which no-doubt inspired by Alfred Hitchcock’s 1948 film Rope, director Sam Mendes has managed to pull off the same one-take effect but on a much grander scale.

    Beautifully shot

    The cinematography in this film was stunning to say the least – thanks to the film’s cinematographer Roger Deakins. From the close-ups of decaying corpses of both human and animal alike – half buried in the rubble and mud of battles past – to the wide-shot bold imagery taken against very grand battle-torn vistas.

    This film managed to bring to the screen all manner of brutal war imagery. Some I could have perhaps imagined, but also definitely some I could never have imagined.

    And the lighting! The lighting effects in some of these scenes just made my jaw drop, at least in my mind. One particular time was the beginning of the night-time sequence with the flares going up overhead. It looked both gorgeous and like something straight out of hell at the same time – not that the two have to be mutually exclusive.

    There were certain shots I still remember now very vividly, which I thought I would share here. I will create a gallery below when I can get a hold of the shots I want to share – probably when the film is released on DVD/Blu-Ray.

    An Emotional Story

    The story of 1917 is a simple one at heart – deliver this message over there before this time. However, woven into that story is an incredibly strong beating heart that I couldn’t help but be affected by.

    The way that we remain in these people’s immediate vicinity, and experience everything they do, couldn’t help but draw me into their lives. And the stories they tell about their homes and their backstory, helped to fill them out more as flesh and blood people – making their hardships even tougher to endure with them at times.

    Other Notes

    Main characters aside, I have to say that Andrew Scott was a stand-out performance for me. He is always enjoyable to watch on screen after I first saw him as Moriarty on TV’s Sherlock. And his role as the laid-back, battle-hardened Lieutenant Leslie was enjoyable too. Albeit if only for the 5 – 10 minutes that you actually see him.

    Thomas Newman’s score was incredible as always, and easy identified with certain sounds I felt reminiscent of from his earlier work on Shawshank Redemption and American Beauty.

    I couldn’t help but think of this film in terms of a computer game, with it’s varying ‘Levels’ and mini ‘Boss Fights’. I don’t mean this as a way to make the film’s techniques sound like a gimmick – after all games are true contenders in effective narrative storytelling nowadays, even more so than many films that are released. Just look at The Last Of Us, to name just one.

    *I could be completely wrong about this, so apologies if I am – I am making some assumptions in this post.


  • ๐Ÿ“‚ ,

    Star Wars episode IX : The Rise of Skywalker

    On New Year’s Day I saw my first film of the year โ€” Star Wars : The Rise of Skywalker. In all honesty I was expecting to not like it all that much, mostly due to reviews and comments I’d heard from people I know.

    But you know what? I really enjoyed it. It was a fun and visually stunning two-and-a-bit-hour romp across the galaxy. A true good versus evil tale that left me feeling like I’d had a good time at the cinema. And that is precisely what I was hoping for.

    If I’m honest I was hoping for more fight scenes with Rei and Ben as allies, like in the previous film The Last Jedi.

    The one thing that really did take me out of it though is the kiss between Rei and Ben right at the end. I didn’t feel that it was needed at all, and just felt weird to me. Is there really a need for the climactic kiss in every film?

    But on the whole I really enjoyed it. I’ll probably watch it again whilst it’s on at the cinema.

    As an aside, I don’t get why there is always a group of people who lose their shit when something in the Star Wars universe doesn’t go how they thought or wished it would. People who presumably consider themselves “true” fans or “die-hard” fans. To those haters I’d just like to say either get over your sense of entitlement or just watch a different film.


  • ๐Ÿ“‚ ,

    Animal Farm by George Orwell

    All animals are equal. But some animals are more equal than others.

    A single commandment

    The story of Manor Farm and the animals who revolt after being inspired to fight for a better life. But those who assume command inevitably become the enemy of the society they are trying to create.

    Animal Farm is a story that I was already aware of before reading โ€” like many other people no doubt. I was aware of the rough idea of the animals taking over Manor Farm and eventually becoming a particular type of society. But even knowing this, I still enjoyed the book so much that I read it in two sittings pretty much.

    The language of the book was pretty simple and to-the-point โ€” language that is too fancy and, dare I say it, flamboyant, tends to throw me off the story sometimes. But yes, Animal Farm delivered it’s message in a straight-forward and to-the-point way.

    I’m not sure if it was Orwell’s intention, or whether it was just my imagination working over it, but my internal pictures of the farm become more and more lacking in colour as it moved towards its conclusion. I pictured the farm and it’s inhabitants in a darkened black and white as they toiled over their labours towards the end.

    The pigs in the manor house, however, I pictured in full colour as the other animals watched on on that final scene from the window.

    I found some similar themes as I remember from Nineteen Eighty Four too. Namely the idea of rewriting history to suit the narrative being created by the ruling class. And then those under the boot just believe that they themselves must have been mistaken when originally reading their seven commandments.

    I knew that there was a reason this book was regarded as a classic. Now I understand why.

    Other book covers

    Here’s a collection of cool covers for Animal Farm that I’ve found. These could get added to over time if I stumble over some more.

    Pink Floyd’s Animals

    Animals by Pink Floyd is one of my favourite albums ever made. Definitely in my top 10. Until I read Animal Farm I hadn’t made the connection between it and that album. I mean how could I miss out on the giant inflatable pig and not link that with the pig in power from the book?

    Roger Waters inflatable pig

    Roger Waters, in his recent tours with his own solo band, has kept the spirit of this pig alive with warnings and messages to the people watching. Messages such as “Fear Builds Walls” and “Religions Divide Us“. Roger is one of my favourite artists from both his Pink Floyd-penned albums and his excellent solo material. I must write up my thoughts on his stuff soon.

    There is a decent article here that discusses some of the similar themes between the album and the book. It is written better that I could attempt right now.