Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A Valentine Day Special: The Ubiquitous Chapter

Imagine this scenario: a snow-covered school yard with the faint peals of the afternoon bell ringing through the crisp winter air. A young boy exits the building, his scarf wrapped tightly around his neck as he furrows his brow in contemplation. Suddenly, he feels a tug on his sleeve. He turns around and beholds a young girl standing behind him, with a beautiful heart-shaped chocolate in her hands, her cheeks red from a mixture of the cold and embarrassment. She takes a deep breath, as if to prepare herself for a mighty confession...when from out of nowhere, an elephant stampedes across the yard, grabs the unfortunate piece of chocolate, and hustles out the gate, leaving the boy still expectantly waiting for the now-chocolate-less girl to say something.


Friday, February 12, 2010

Valentines by the Numbers

For all the math nerds in the house, it's time for a statistical break down. Every year thousands in America rush to their nearest Hallmark store to buy cards, candy, and pink stuffed teddy bears. By doing a quick google, I discovered that Valentine's sells the most flowers and the fourth most candy of any holiday. The favorite flower? Red Roses by 48% of the sales according to aboutflowers.com . No need to guess about the favorite type of candy. It's chocolate all the way.

So sure, Valentine's is commercialized. It's hard to find a holiday on the American calender that isn't (Maybe Martin Luther King Day?). It's also commercial in Japan. While I was there, all the stores broke out elaborate boxes of chocolate. What a tempting sight it was! I almost bought a crate load for myself. Every chocolate truffle, an intricately crafted piece of art, wrapped perfectly in typical Japanese fashion.

In Shoujo manga however, heroines take a step back from the commercialism and cook up homemade Valentine's treats. I've hunted down recipes for a few of the more unusual desserts for your Valentine's consumption.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

A More Mature Polecat

As we venture farther and farther into 2010, the new year always sparks a deep reflection of my growth of a person. Or, in this case, of my change in manga tastes.

From those early days of Cardcaptor Sakura so many years ago, I've read thousands and thousands of pages, spanning all different genres, plots, characters, and art styles. However, no longer am I willing to let anything pass before my eyes. This past year, a sort of filter has grown over my previously indiscriminate manga appetite, and I am no longer satisfied by what I usually read.

What I usually read and seek out is shoujo. Nice, fluffy shoujo manga, the sugary sweet kind that could attract magnets by how polarized the good and bad characters are, and the kind that has lots of emotional anguish, tears, and cookie cutter characters. What I'm craving now is JOSEI.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Twisted Romance in Dreamland

Sympathetic Character = Mad Woman in Attic
We've all seen this scene before: a couple stands at the altar, just about to say their final vows, when a woman/man bursts in, interrupting the ceremony to declare her/his undying love for the bride/groom standing at the end of the aisle. They collapse in each other's arms. The crowd cheers. True love has won the day. In the inverted situation in Jane Eyre, the reader sympathizes with Jane's pain.

In the past, I would have cheered and sighed along with the crowd, but now I say, "Ba Humbug!"

Over the past three nights, I was visited by three dreams. In each, I was a blushing bride in typical wedding day scenarios.

I won't bother you with two of the dreams. They were typical dream fare. That is to say, more than a bit random and nonsensical, but the third proved that my subconscious can tell a good story if provoked.

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Search for Otome

Heileen, one of the few available English otome titles.
Last semester, Polecat, Starfish, and I found a number of ways of avoiding our always mounting work. In-between playing flash games (Winter Bells, anyone? Drench?), watching movies, reading the news, baking cookies, watching Buffy, and knitting, we sometimes fell into our fangirly, Manga Meditation-ish ways.

While I personally fell off the manga reading train, Polecat and Starfish continued to diligently log onto Manga Fox and One Manga and whatever other scanlation aggregates on the Internet. The three of us also continued our K and J drama nights; we're almost done with Hana Yori Dango 2, by the way.

Starfish took it further and began to delve deeper into the girly comics universe: Dating sims. If you know your shoujo manga, chances are you've at least heard of dating sims, and if you're even more dedicated, otome games.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Delightful Girl Choon Hyang: Initial Impressions

Not so delightful.
Well, I've begun the Korean drama Delightful Girl Choon-Hyang, and I'm very unimpressed. I was originally going to write episode summaries, or something semi-regular, but I've decided instead to write one review of the series as a whole once I've slogged through the whole thing, with a separate analysis following.

The reason I abandoned my original idea is that I'm having trouble just watching this thing. With it being one of the most popular dramas in the past ten years, I was expecting something really, genuinely good, something well-written, well-acted, and funny. Something on par with, say, Full House, My Girl, and, while it's a huge stretch, Coffee Prince (we're big fans here at MM). I knew it was too much to hope to see something as good as the latter drama, but couldn't it have at least been like My Girl?!

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Mangaka Review: Yoshizumi Wataru

The mangaka herself.
Yoshizumi Wataru's mangas hold a special place in my heart. While I had seen and read manga for many years, her works were the first I bought in earnest, back when the manga in bookstores did not occupy five bookcases. Marmalade Boy was not truly a standout manga in any sense, but for my impressionable, naive, eleven-year-old mind, she was a genius.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Mistakes a Pepper Makes

Look! Bloopers!

And if you're confused, please refer to this post.


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Intensive Korean Study: Week 3

Late, late, late! The theme of my week. I kept thinking I would get to this weekly blog at least by Monday, Tuesday at absolutely latest, but now it's Wednesday and too late to even be vaguely considered on time. Oh well.

I made more progress on the Korean and all, but am, of course, behind schedule. I'm halfway through the book! Yeah! But I also only have a week left. No!!

I blame it on the knitting. I've been knitting like crazy this past month, to the point of pure addiction. I know I should stop... I see the textbook glaring at me from across the table, the neglected schedule on my computer slouching in rejection, and the piles of knitted garments, symbols of the hours of life spent clicking two bamboo needles together.

I'm not a huge fashionista or anything, but when you see a mega awesome cute overpriced Anthropologie sweater selling for $200+, and you know you could possibly, just maybe knock it off in your size for a fraction of the price...

But enough, on to the updates.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Intensive Korean Study: Week 2

Another week! I was able to focus a lot more than last week, but it was still a struggle trying to catch up. I'm starting to think I might be trying to tackle too much; the textbook has been taking a lot more time than I expected, as is the Chunhyang side project.

Anyways, on to the progress report...

Chunhyangdyun Returns!: The Analysis

I admit that my review of Chunhyangdyun might have been skewed by the Chunhyang story itself. After all, it was a little hard for me to like the folktale considering the incredibly antifeminist message of the story. Many fairytales and folktales include those elements, but I guess what disturbs me more is that Chunhyang herself is meant to represent the ideal Korean woman.

There are a few details in the movie that initially suggest a break from the mold. When Mongryong first sees Chunhyang, his servant Pangja tells him that Chunhyang is not too easy to woo; although she is a courtesan’s daughter, she is “well read, and writes poems.” While the subtitles also note that she is “arrogant,” you could also interpret it to mean that she is headstrong compared to other women of the time.

Awesome! An educated, self-assured heroine. What’s not to love?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

I got nothing: A Chunhyangdyun Review

Pretty poster, boring movie.
People can usually appreciate a respectable work of art. I’m no aficionado, but it usually doesn’t take a scholar to recognize beauty.

No matter how beautiful, however, no matter how original, without depth or meaning a piece of art is useless. I like a good still-life, but see if I’ll sit around and stare at it for two hours.

This is the sentiment I had while watching the 2000 movie Chunhyangdyun. Directed by Kwon-taek Im, the movie adapts the old Korean folktale of the same name. The general story is that Chunhyang, a young courtesan’s (kisaeng) daughter, marries Mongryong, a governor’s son, in secret. Mongryong soon after follows his father to Seoul to complete a government exam, but Chunhyang cannot follow him; if their marriage is found out, Mongryong will be banned from taking the exam and also be disowned by his father. After Mongryong leaves, the replacement governor, Hakdo, makes advances on Chunhyang. She rejects him, remaining loyal to Mongryong, and is beaten and eventually sentenced to death for her disobedience. In the end, however, Mongryong comes back and saves Chunhyang.

For the Love of Peppers

Here's a quick post before the long Chunhyangdyun movie review coming up.

We here at Manga Meditation love K and J dramas almost as much as we love manga. And true to MM form, we also (lovingly) criticize those very dramas for their sometimes-more-than-campy qualities. It's part of their charm, after all!

The following video is a great K-drama parody titled Gochu (or "pepper" in Korean) by Unit 5 Films, submitted for a contest held by the magazine KoreAm. Think of this post as Manga Meditation's introduction to future K-drama critique. Enjoy!


Sunday, January 10, 2010

Intensive Korean Study: Week 1

And so ends my first week of intensive Korean study! Sort of. I only started Wednesday, and the whole process is taking a lot longer than I expected. Also, I just got the textbook’s accompanying workbook in the mail Thursday or Friday, so I haven’t gotten a good look at it yet.

Before I start my review of this week's progress, though, I should probably describe my previous experience with Korean. As a kid I was taken to Korean school to learn the basics of the language. To be honest, the only information I really retained was the reading and writing aspect which, if you know anything about Korean, is not that difficult in the first place. Basically, a dedicated person can learn Han’gul in a week. The rest of Korean that I know is thanks to the Korean I heard as a kid. Even though I don’t understand a lot of it or the actual grammar, it doesn’t sound unfamiliar to me, and I already understand sentence structure.

Anyway, this is what I've been up to...

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Wearing the Hyphen

Growing up as a "hyphenated" American is a unique experience, and one that can cause one to constantly feel that they are living at the margins of society. As a Korean-American, I had trouble reconciling both labels of my identity as something singular rather than as separate parts. There was the Korean side of me, which consisted of my family and the celebration of special traditions that I assumed other people would not understand or accept. The other half of my identity, however, constantly yearned to be accepted as not the "other," but someone as legitimate as anyone else in the United States.

Though I wanted to feel "American" in my own right, whatever that meant, the racial stereotypes in the media, the blatant stares, the simple tugging at the eyes, told me that I would always be different. Of course, as a child I didn't think of it in articulate terms.

It has only been recently, however, that I've begun to accept my identity as a combination of two elements. I realized that there were people outside of my family that were like me, and in that way I felt less isolated in my experience. But in trying to shape my identity as an American, my "outer" identity, the one I felt I had to exclusively wear, I neglected to also fully develop that related to my ancestry, the "inner" Korean identity that I used to think I could only show to my family. One might even say that I, myself, marginalized my own Korean half.