Tag Archives: shoujo ai

When Marnie Was There

Studio GhibliWhen Marnie was There

Written by Keiko Niwa, Masashi Andō, & Hiromasa Yonebayashi/Produced by Yoshiaki Nishimura & Toshio Suzuki/Directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi/Music by Takatsugu Muramatsu/Based on When Marnie Was There by Joan G. Robinson

My rating: 4.5 of 5

Anna very well understands the way the world works, the fact that some people are accepted and others are necessarily outsiders for whatever reason. She doesn’t question that she herself is an outsider, alone at school, ill-tempered at times, a worry to her foster parents. When her asthma causes the doctor to recommend she be sent away to get some fresh air away from the city though, things begin to change a bit. She stays with relatives (of her foster parents) on an out-of-the-way island where everything seems to be more laid back and she can spend time exploring and drawing alone without being fussed over so much. And in her explorations, Anna finds herself drawn to an old, abandoned manor house across the bay . . . . and it’s at that old manor that she meets Marnie, a girl who will change her life in all sorts of unexpected ways but also a girl who will baffle Anna in many ways.

Okay, before anything else, I’m just going to say that there are going to be spoilers here. Because I have no idea how to honestly review this movie without spoilers. Sorry. So . . . I truly enjoyed When Marnie Was There, although I was kind of baffled through most of the story. It was worth sitting through the confusion, because when everything was explained it was extremely moving to the point that I cried. The way the story develops is almost dreamlike at parts, or rather, it’s as though dreams are being woven throughout Anna’s reality. Or perhaps it’s more as though two disparate points in time are briefly connected. In any case, although at times confusing, the friendship that develops between Anna and Marnie is really sweet and cute. And this is where the spoilers come in: the story totally seems like it’s shoujo ai through most of the plot, but the end reveals something very unexpected and different and absolutely touching. All in all, it’s a sweet story that’s developed quite nicely with plenty of drama and mystery. I appreciate that it also delves into deep issues like child neglect and the insecurity that orphans can feel sometimes even in loving homes. And of course, being a Studio Ghibli film, the art is absolutely stunning; I always enjoy their attention to all the fine details that make the illustration not just nice but amazing. Essentially, I would recommend When Marnie Was There to pretty much anyone, although I will note that if you’re not comfortable with shoujo ai, you might find watching this a bit weird (even though it’s technically not).

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Cardcaptor Sakura

cardcaptor sakuraMangaka: CLAMP

My rating: 4.5 of 5

Ten-year-old Sakura is basically your average girl–cheerful, fun-loving, bad at math, a little overly prone to sleep too late–but she also has a secret. You see, she has magical powers, and she’s been chosen to retrieve and master all the Clow cards, a set of magical cards that manifest as beings or phenomena in the physical world when released as they were at the death of their former master, Clow. Sakura is aided and guided in her quest to capture all the Clow cards by Kero, one of the guardians of the cards, and all her exploits are costumed and videoed by her best friend Tomoyo. But don’t think for a moment that Sakura spends her whole life devoted to capturing the cards–actually you could probably say she doesn’t devote herself enough. She actually has a busy life full of school, family, friends, and the hope of love. Sakura’s a pretty incredible girl.

I’m probably one of the few people who can say they didn’t grow up watching Cardcaptor Sakura at one point. I actually only discovered the manga after I fell in love with CLAMP’s writing and read several of their other manga; I’ve never watched the anime. I have to say that I really love this manga though. It’s so cheerful, even when it gets dark–and yes, at points it does get dark, especially in the second half. But Sakura’s such an optimistic character that she keeps the story bright throughout. And I love that even though this is technically a mahou-shojou/cardcaptor series, it’s fleshed out to be much more than that. There are numerous enjoyable facets to Sakura’s life that are presented here, as well as a number of really sweet love stories besides her own. This is one area in which I have complaint against the series, however; one of the fourth-grade students has a romantic relationship with one of the teachers, which is a totally CLAMP thing to do and is presented in a sweet and innocent way, but still NOT okay. And that, in addition to some of the complexities of the other relationships, is the primary reason that I can’t see this as a middle-school girl’s manga, even though it’s usually presented that way. It’s cute and sweet and funny, and yes, middle-schoolers would probably love it . . . but still. I do think there is a lot here for older teens and adults to love, though. Like I said, sweet story, great characters, and by the way, incredible art throughout. Absolutely beautiful. So in all, in spite of a few things I’m uncomfortable with in the story, I think Cardcaptor Sakura is an adorable, delightful manga that I would definitely recommend.

Note: I’d recommend getting the Dark Horse omnibus editions if you’re buying this. It’s only 4 volumes that way, and the binding is really nicely done. Plus, there are some incredible color pages included.

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How They Met and Other Stories

Author: David LevithanHow They Met

My rating: 4 of 5

Love is perhaps one of the strangest things in the world. It’s universal, and yet so often uncomprehended, misunderstood, and frankly baffling. It can begin in the most bizarre, unexpected places and situations. It can develop along lines you’d never imagine. Sometimes it gets a little help along the way. All too often, it doesn’t work out. But when it does, it’s amazing, a real-life miracle and a precious, surprising treasure.

Throughout the years, David Levithan has written short stories as Valentines Day gifts for his friends–sounds like a much better gift than chocolate to me! Anyhow, a number of those stories have been collected here in How They Met and Other Stories. This is truly a delightful, if eclectic, short story collection featuring love in its many, surprising facets. The stories range from sweet and funny to serious and heartbreaking, but one thing ties them all together: they are all written with Levithan’s keen observation of people. It’s remarkable how he can craft even a super-sappy coffee-shop romance and not make it Hallmark-ey (ick). And some of his stories are truly deep and thoughtful. Personally, as an intentional single, I really appreciated his story featuring a girl who got to the point where she decided she didn’t need to be in a relationship to be a complete individual; seriously, singles don’t get enough credit and society pressures relationships way too much. Anyhow, sidetrack there. But seriously, How They Met and Other Stories has something for everyone (the stories aren’t even all “young adult” for what the label’s worth)–check it out!

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Soul Eater NOT!

Bones Studio

Directed by Masakazu Hashimoto/Music by Asami Tachibana & Yuuki Hayashi/Based on the manga by Atsushi Ohkubo

Tsugumi Harudori is your average 14-year-old, dreamy-eyed Japanese schoolgirl. Or so she thought, until she started having parts of her body transform into weapon-like forms. Turns out, she’s your average 14-year-old, dreamy-eyed Japanese schoolgirl who just happens to have demon-weapon blood in here genes and who can transform into a halberd at will . . . or at least, she will be able to just as soon as she figures out how to control her powers. And so, Tsugumi ships off to the Death Weapon Meister Academy in the United States to get some training and pair up with a meister. She quickly makes some good friends there including two aspiring meisters–the tsundere Anya, who is fascinated with commoners and who clearly has a hidden past, and Meme, who is clearly capable and whose past might be just about anything . . . if she could only remember! Tsugumi’s life gets a bit more complicated when the three start rooming together–and when both of them declare their interest in partnering up with her. But with her groundless optimism, Tsugumi’s bound to find some way to work things out, right?

Soul Eater NOT! is a super-fun spinoff of Astushi Ohkubo’s master work, Soul Eater (which I highly recommend). While Soul Eater is rather dark and ominous–in a cool and adventuresome sort of way–Soul Eater NOT! is much more cute and slice-of-life (and just mildly shoujo ai). It’s a great story in its own right, but I think it has the greatest appeal for those who already know and love Soul Eater; NOT! is dated prior to the events of the original story, and it features all kinds of cameos and back-story to flesh out what you already know from the original (like how Jackie & Kim got together or the Thompson sisters’ job at Deathbucks coffee, complete with maid uniforms!). But even if you don’t know the original or like such an intense, action-packed story, Soul Eater NOT! has a certain appeal, definitely–the characters are wonderful, and the story is cute, fun, and just exciting enough. The art in the anime is very cute (the manga is too, but I haven’t had the chance to read all of it yet  and will review that separately)–it’s like a brighter, lighter version of the art in Soul Eater, but still stylistically consistent. The voicing and music is great, too, very fitting for the setting. (By the way, this is done by Bones Studio, one of my favorite anime studios ever. They do great work.) Soul Eater NOT! is definitely a recommended anime, especially for Soul Eater fans, but also for anyone who likes a cute, kind-of shoujo ai, kind-of mahou shoujo sort of story.

Note: This anime consists of 12 episodes. As of now, there is no English dub (not that I’d watch it anyway), but I am hoping for an American release sometime soon–please?

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Every Day

Author: David Levithan

A has never known what it’s like to have a family or a steady place to live. Actually, he’s never known what it’s like to have a consistent body, gender, or location–and even the name “A” is something he gave himself. A exists as a soul alone, going from body to body, changing each night at midnight, with no control over whose body, whose family, whose life he will take over for the day. He’s mostly learned to accept this life, living in the moment and trying to disrupt the life of his host as little as possible, clinging to nothing much for himself, but observing everything. That is, until he met Rhiannon and found his world irreversibly changed in a single day.

What an incredible story! Wow. I found myself completely drawn into Every Day from the first page–actually from the back cover! The concept itself is fascinating–a soul, an individual, with no body, one that exists in the bodies of others, sees their lives, experiences the vast variety of human existence, yet never is able to confide or experience intimacy personally. Levithan takes this concept and blows the doors off the possibilities it holds, providing a deep commentary on a plethora of aspects of humanity that are challenging to deal with. I love the perspective that he provides through the eyes of A. Plus, I just like A–he’s a smart, nice guy–a one-in-a-million guy really. Which makes the struggles he goes through even more poignant. The romance developed between A and Rhiannon is something beautiful also–I love the idea of falling in love with an individual, a soul. The ending is sad in my mind, but in a way that works well with the story (and just proves what a great person A is). I definitely would highly recommend Every Day, although I warn that it’s a challenging read, particularly for those with set thoughts on above mentioned challenging aspects of humanity.

Note: I know I’m referring to A as a guy–because there’s no good way to refer to a genderless individual in English–but A really has no specified gender and appears in both male and female bodies with equal aplomb. It works incredibly well in this story, particularly with the first-person narration.

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Lonely Wolf, Lonely Sheep

Mangaka: Fuuka Mizutani

Just what is the probability of encountering someone with the same name, born a day apart from you, in the same hospital to be treated for the same type of injury? Next to nothing, right? So when small, cutesy Imari Kakimoto and tall, tomboyish Imari Kakimoto find themselves in just that situation, well, it must be fate is what they think. (Their taste for daily horoscopes and such probably doesn’t help diminish that idea.) Over time, these two lonely girls come to accept each other, including all their issues and imperfections. Perhaps, just being together will be enough for them to overcome these challenges.

Lonely Wolf, Lonely Sheep is the first story I’ve ever read in the shoujo-ai genre, and I’m really not into that sort of story personally, Still, it was cute and had a mature josei feel that was refreshing after all the shoujo manga I’ve been reading recently. The art is pleasant–visually appealing, yet down-to-earth somehow. Cute. The characters are also nicely done–sweet people, but ones with personality problems as well. As for the story, because it’s just one volume of manga, you really only get the highlights of their relationship. It works, but I would have enjoyed seeing more daily-life detail, like in the omake at the end. Still, if you have a taste for shoujo ai, Lonely Wolf, Lonely Sheep is a cute, slightly mature story that’s enjoyable to read.

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