Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Hire & Fire

Lately I'm not happy at work. It's not the work itself, it's everything surrounding it.
Our departement manager sucks, he annoys everyone with his ignorance and stupidity, and he has hired a girl for my team leader who's not qualified for the job. She's not a team player herself, so she knows nothing about how to lead a team and is doing an awful job at it.
Our company has problems and fired some people, among them some in our departement and in my team. And now another team mate has quit (not surprisingly, she didn't get along with our team leader either). Which leaves our team down from 5 to 2 - my team leader and me.
I work in a mail order company and for some reason there's a rather hostile attitude towards eCommerce (where I work). It results in bad cooperation and last week comparatively many people from our departement were fired, which makes no sense considering the development away from the catalogue towards the internet. It doesn't give one the feeling that this company fit for the future, and the mail order business in Germany is in a tough spot anyway, with two big players already down.

My mum keeps telling me that I should look for another job. But I wasn't sure. I like the work I'm doing and there's some benefits to working in this company, like a 37,5 hrs working week.
But if it's annoying me too much and making me unhappy, should I not leave?
I don't know where to go though. I'd be fine with getting out of eCommerce, I never wanted to work in this area anyway, it just kind of happened. But I like the flat I'm living in, I like the city, it's close to my hometown; I really don't want to move again. And since there are hardly any jobs for me in this city, the alternative would be commuting.
I guess I should start updating my LinkedIn profile...

And another thing I'm worrying about: what if the next place isn't any better? I thought this place was better than the last, and though I like the tasks better, the working environment got worse and worse. How can I know it's not the same at the next job?

I wonder whether I'll find a job that I'll like, even after years, a place where I can stay. Or will I have to change jobs every 2 or 3 years? I don't think I'd like to live that way. Read more on this article...

Sunday, July 29, 2012

reviews: Brave 10, Kuroko no Basket

It's been a while, but here's more anime reviews.

Brave 10

Brave 10 is a reverse harem full of bishonen samurai/ninja. Yay?

Unfortunately it has the annoying helpless female lead, too. Isanami is the usual useless anime girl - you could substitute her with a dog and it wouldn't make much of a difference.
There's the big-breasted ninja woman with ridiculous clothing, too, but she's not as kick-ass as she could be.

The male characters are more interesting. There's a bunch of fighters of different kinds. You'll know some names, because some are based on historical people. This isn't an historical story though, it's more fantasy.
Saizo is an interesting main character, trying to find his way. Is he better off without a master, or will he feel better serving Yukimura Sanada?
The writer of the manga apparently does yaoi, too, and it shows in the outfits. I'm not complaining though. There's a little fan service and some shonen ai hints, but nothing really obvious. Well, except for Kamanosuke Yuri, the bat shit crazy guy with a blood-fetish who's falling for Saizo. A lot of people seem to be unsure about whether he's a woman or a man; I think it's obvious that he's male, but apparently his sometimes non-gender-typical behaviour confuses others. Yuri is one of the most entertaining parts.
Sanada totally reminds me of Shunsui Kyōraku from Bleach. Sasuke's really cute, being all shy and with his animal friends. Rokuro Unno, the uke-ish servant of Sanada - what's with that outfit?! I wish he'd have had more fighting scenes though. The others are interesting, too, Kakei Juzo and Nezu Jinpachi (and Ishida Matsunari), but they don't get enough character development.

Actually no character gets enough development. It's really frustrating: there's all these guys with so much promise, but you just don't get anywhere. The anime clearly suffers from having only 12 episodes. I'm really not sure what story would work with 12 episodes. This one hardly does; it's really a shame. Especially the last episode is a complete letdown.
Also, there's too much talk during the fights.

But since I found the setting and characters interesting, I started buying the mangas. Those are much more "ecchi" than the anime, the girls' nipples show all the time and not only that... But I'm really looking forward to the onsen trip and the drunk party on Jinpachi's ship - my favourite parts of the anime.

TV Tropes

Kuroko no Baskuke

I started this one after seeing fan art on deviantART. I thought, ok, I'm not interested in basketball, but I loved Chihayafuru even though I never heard of the card game before.

I couldn't stop watching! Seriously, I was glued to the screen. The suspense in some episodes was so intense, it was very nearly physically exhausting just to watch it.

Kuroko is a strange main character. You hardly get any background on him and he's not the strong hero, that's Kagami. He always seems serious and is really innocent-looking (apart from when he gets down to business in a match). He's only really good at passing and otherwise weak, but he can still change a game - and it's not only his special skill. There's something else, but I can't place my finger on it. He seems as uke as one can get, but in a way he isn't (though judging from the fan art out there I might be the only one thinking that).
There's a whole bunch of other male staff, of course, but they're not as interesting as Kuroko. Since it's a shounen anime, there's not a lot of fan service for girls. There's also the big-tits-girl versus small-tits-girl - seriously, I'll never understand what's up with that.

As far as basketball goes, it's probably not realistic; even though I don't know anything about sports, I can see that. But come on, who expects an anime about basketball to be realistic?
The extremes (the next player being amazing, the next even more amazing, the one after that...) are a bit annoying, but Kuroko no Basket is very entertaining and hard to get away from.

TV Tropes
Read more on this article...

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Remember Koom Valley!

So, at the moment I'm re-reading Thief of Time by Terry Pratchett. And just somewhere in there, easy to overlook, I found this one little annotation.
It's about history and about the battle of Koom Valley. The Discworld Wiki says about that battle:
“Remember Koom Valley!” Hundreds of years ago, the trolls and the dwarfs met in a battle at Koom Valley. It was a remarkable battle in that each side ambushed the other and, of course, in being the historical event symbolizing the enmity between trolls and dwarfs. Nowadays, dwarfs celebrate the Battle of Koom Valley Day, on the same day that trolls celebrate Troll New Year. Sometimes, in a city where both dwarfs and trolls live (e.g. Ankh-Morpork), the two groups are careful enough to plan their celebratory marches so that they are coincidentally on the same street (see Men at Arms).

And here's the annotation (Thief of Time, p. 215):
Every society needs a cry like that, but only in a very few do they come out with the complete, unvarnished version, which is 'Remember-the-Atrocity-Committed-Against-Us-Last-Time-That-Will-Excuse-the-Atrocity-That-We're-About-to-Commit-Today! And So On! Hurrah!'

By the way, the book was released in 2001. I couldn't find any exact date, but Terry Pratchett must have been done writing before September of that year. Read more on this article...

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Bromance! - Womance?

I've been re-watching Saiunkoku Monogatari and one thing I really like is the friendship between Ran Shuuei and Li Kouyuu. Apparently a lot of fanfiction revolves around those two, too - slash fanfiction that is. And once again I disagree with it. I do like yaoi, but as I have mentioned before, sometimes the friendship is just too precious. A sexual relationship just doesn't fit them, in my opinion.
There are many relationships in manga and anime like that, for example Kyōraku and Ukitake of Bleach and Kotetsu and Barnaby of Tiger & Dragon. Nowadays this is called "bromance", I guess.

And there's quite a few epic friendships like these, not only in anime. There's Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. There's all the buddy movies, Bud Spencer with Terence Hill, Leathal Weapon, Rush Hour. There's Miami Vice and Dr. House and Wilson. Of course there's Merry and Pippin in Lord of the Rings, Silk and Barak in the Belgariad, there's Captain Kirk and Spock and Luke Skywalker and Han Solo.
Epic bromance is everywhere to be found!

And what about women?
According to wikipedia, there's "Womance". Which, honestly, sounds like a weak copy of the male version...
And it's hardly visible. There's Thelma & Louise, of course. But otherwise? Hardly anything deserving the description "epic". There's Buffy and Willow, but they had Xander, so does it count? As for mangas/animes, there's Nana.

I think there's a lack of epic friendships between women.
Or is it only me? Are they just of a different nature? Read more on this article...

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Comfort Zone

I read the wikipedia article about Comfort Food recently - I have no idea how I stumbled upon it. I wanted to add German comfort food, but haven't gotten round to it.
Then yesterday I had a really bad day; stress, TBE vaccination, the hot weather, and whatever else, taking it's toll and I did something incredibly stupid at work. I kept thinking about how embarrassing it was and was shocked at how and why I had such a mental black-out. But later that evening, after watching some anime and listening to some music, I felt much better.
So I realized there's not only Comfort Food, there's other "Comfort stuff", too.

Comfort Food
I grew up with my Canadian relations, so Mac & Cheese (or Kraft Dinner, how's it called in Canada) is definitely comfort food for me. (Unless I eat too much of it.) Then there's also Lasagne - made by my mum, of course.
Chicken Soup is a favourite, too (this one seems to be nearly international), especially chicken noodle soup.
Something that always reminds me of my childhood is bread and gravy, it's basically just dipping good bread (without butter) into good gravy. It's something you only get in a family home, with left-over gravy.

Now over to the sweet stuff. Hot chocolate of course! Ice cream in summer.
Then there's "Pudding" which in German means something else than what you'd probably think of in English. It's a creamy dessert. Hot chocolate pudding - that one's probably my number one sweet comfort food. Followed by Grießbrei (a sweet semolina pudding) and sweet rice pudding - hot or cold.

I can't cook, so either these foods I only get at home, or they're convenient food. Mac & Cheese only counts as the convenience food by Kraft.

Comfort Movies, TV and books
The publishing company who publishes Bollywood movies in Germany has "Bollywood macht glücklich" (Bollywood makes you happy) as a slogan. And it is true - if you have enough time to spare for a traditional Bollywood movie, which usually last about 3 hours. The average Bollywood movie is a "masala movie, which means it has a bit of everything, and probably a happy ending. My favourites are probably Main Hoon Na and Paheli.
Then there's a couple of fantasy movies from my childhood, like Labyrinth and Willow, the one or other odd newer movie (like Penelope) and a few Ghibli movies, especially Howl's Moving Castle (you can read about the movie and the book in my recent blog post, too).

A few years back, when I was suffering from depression, one of the only things that made me laugh was Ranma 1/2. I got to the TV everyday in time to watch it, and dearly missed it on the weekend. It was my first anime. but nowadays other series took its place: I'm currently re-watching and enjoying Saiunkoku Monogatari. Ah, who wouldn't love some Seiran in their life?
I've also been thinking about watching Star Trek - The Next Generation. I only have one DVD box, so I've been thinking about buying the complete series. Star Trek TNG is a special TV series, one in a million. Not only is it Star Trek and has great actors like Patrick Stewart. I really appreciate the philosophy behind it (and agree with much of it) and the wisdom it countain; and what makes it a comfort TV series is the underlying positive attitude.

Then there's books. The perfect way to flee from reality.
Lord of the Rings: long enough to get you through some serious troubled times. That one helped me a lot when I was suffering from depression and living far from my home and family. Sometimes I think it saved my life. I got through the day because then I could go home and read.
Howl's Moving Castle is another one of these books. And books by Terry Pratchett; not all, but many.

Comfort Music
Queen of course. Queen has been with me all my life - it's hard to describe what their music means to me. When I hear Freddie's voice, I feel my shoulders relax and it all doesn't seem half that bad. It reminds me of my childhood, safe, carefree times.
Then there's Bruce Springsteen - he's also connceted to happy childhood memories. But also some of his newer songs have that uprising "Yes, we can" spirit.
Also, maybe Marillion.

Read more on this article...

Sunday, June 24, 2012

How to find friends - not

I got anothe rone of these newsletters: "Finding Friends".

So what tipps do they give?
- Visit events that make you talk to other people, e.g. flea markets.
- Talk with random people on the street, e.g. don't bring a watch and ask people what time it is.
- Do smalltalk. Like talking about the weather.
- Don't be hard to approach, look people in the eye.
- Invite acquaintences to something.

I wonder do these people ever read what they wrote? It's so obviously written by someone who never had to try to find friends. Flea markets? Seriously? And how many have ever made a best friend by asking what time it is?
People complain that nowadays you can make friends online by clicking on a button - and they claim they're not really friends. Yeah, but the person you talked with on a flea market counts as a friend? Why do people think that the medium plays such a big role (and face-to-face is superior per se) and not the content or the value?

Why don't they understand that "friend-less" people are not all so shy that they can't talk to anyone?
I've been in many yoga courses - I never made a friend there. I've met people at concerts (some even repeatedly) and chatted with them - none of them are my friends. Just recently I talked with an elderly woman on a packed train about where she lives and where I live and about the train service - but we'll never be friends.

I'm afraid that the further you stray away from the mainstream, the harder it is to find like-minded people.
But the mainstream won't understand that. Read more on this article...

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Howl's Moving Castle

I just spend the whole day reading the book. Again. I just love this book, it's fantastic!

It's a shame that a lot of people don't know that there's actually a book. They only know the anime movie by Hayao Miyazaki.
I was like that, too, but then I learned that there was a book written by Diana Wynne Jones, I read it and I loved it. I read the two sequels, too. And the Chronicles of Chrestomanci by the same author (another great set of books). There's still many books by her that I haven't read, and I'm looking forward to reading them all.
In March 2011 Diana Wynne Jones sadly passed away.

I love the disctinct British touch about Howl's Moving Castle (like with Pratchett and Rowling). It's witty and funny. Things don't turn out like you'd expect them to, so it's not your usual fantasy story.
There's romance. This part is a bit cliché, with them seeming to dislike each other at first. But I enjoyed their fights too much.
The best part is the characters. Especially Howl - he's impossible in so many ways, but you can't not like him. The main characters have their bad habits, weak points and flaws. Actually a lot of things in the story happen because of them making mistakes. And even Sophie's sister and stepmother have distinct personalities, even though they're not mentioned that much.

I can't really put into words how awesome this book is. I think it's one of the best I ever read (and I read quite a few).

By the way, I love the movie, too.
A lot of people always complain about the movie being so different from the books. But it has to be! It's a completely different medium.
The movie has a very Miyazaki touch to it. You have the beautiful, detailed backgrounds, the steampunk-like fantasy setting, the wonderful soundtrack. And the pacifist morale. Miyazaki added a war that was only imminent in the book. The plot is simplified and altered quite a bit, so that even if you know the movie, you'll still be surprised by the book.
Howl's all the charming, handsome, vain young man he's supposed to be, and really like his voice. I love the scene where he meets Sophie - I like it better than in the book, actually. The castle is great, too, but it doesn't look too much like you think a castle would.
Except for the war, the movie is very much "chibi-fied", made more fitting for children. Calcifer, the fire demon, is more cute than frightening (but I love this Calcifer!). Michael, Howl's assistant, is a lot younger, and as such of course doesn't get engaged. Howl's womanizer character isn't mentioned. Then there's the dog and the scarecrow. And the biggest difference is probably the other wizards, especially Witch of the Waste, who is not the beautiful, powerful, cunning heartless person she's in the book, but rather a fat, old lady - and her fate is much better, too. This is one thing that bugs me a bit: everyone was afraid of her, but the anime movie kind of makes you wonder why. The whole end of the plot seemed kind of strange.
But Howl's Moving Caslte still one of my favourite Miyazaki movies.

Read more on this article...

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Do you think you're better ev'ry day? No, I just think I'm two steps nearer to my grave.

I was told a million times
Of all the troubles in my way
How I had to keep on trying
Little better ev'ry day
But if I crossed a million rivers
And I rode a million miles
Then I'd still be where I started

I've already blogged on my opinion about the pressure to be ambitious and "great" here, and Keep Yourself Alive fits nicely into this (though of course Queen and Freddie Mercury are a bad example).
Well they say your folks are telling you
To be a super star
But I tell you just be satisfied
To stay right where you are
The rest of the first Queen album is great, too. It's not what you'd expect from Queen if you only know their Greatest Hits, I guess. But there's many great songs like Liar, Doing All Right, The Night comes Down and the very metal Modern times Rock 'n' Roll.
To me it's a very "fantasy" kind of album (though not as much as Queen II) and of course there's a great deal of nostalgia and childhood happiness involved (as with most of the Queen albums).
Read more on this article...

Monday, May 21, 2012


Work has been quite depressing today.

The issue was that we're supposed to implement something that will send all customer data (name, adress, birthdate, email-adress) to another company, without asking the customer or even informing them about it.
I don't think it's legal. Actually I think it's pretty obvious that it can't be legal.

Still, when I protested on Friday, I've been told that it's already been decided.
A co-worker who wasn't there on Friday got the news today and also protested. She agrees with me that it can't be legal.
The answer of our team leader: she (our team leader) is no legal practitioner, so she can't judge whether it's legal or not. Besides, as long as there's no customer complaints...
Also our devision manager already decided that it's gonna be done. The legal departement is being consulted and when they raise objections we'll just take it out again. By the way, there's rumours that he's friends with the boss of the other company...

I might be naive, but I really have a hard time accepting this. There's two things that are annoying me most about this.
First of all, the attitude that I think I feel, especially in my team leader. Like it's stupid of me and others to be concerned about this. That legal concerns are useless and only an obstacle. That not wanting to break the law is stupid in our field of work.
And secondly I'm annoyed at myself that I care. I mean, it's not gonna change anything. It just ruins my mood.

I really wish I could care less.

"Bedenkenträger" is a German word for someone who always raises concerns/objections. Read more on this article...

Monday, May 14, 2012

Pride & Prejudice - BBC series vs. Hollywood movie

Pretty much every spring I get a yearning for the British Isles. I don't really know what's causing it. Maybe the weather.
This spring I decided to fight it with Pride and Prejudice.
Some time ago I got the BBC series from 1995 on DVD but I hadn't watched it yet. And after that I watched the movie from 2005.

I do like the TV series and of course it can explore the characters better. In the Hollywood movie it all seems so rushed. Darcy never seemed to dislike Lizzy at all.

As for the casting, I like the main actors in both the series and the movie.
Keira Knightley's Elizabeth is more lively. I can see more of her friendship with Charlotte. But I also like Jennifer Ehle, maybe even a little better.
I might like the looks of Matthew Macfadyen a little better, but Colin Firth is great, too.
Mr. Bennet is amazing in both - almost steals the show.

But there are a few differences. Mrs. Bennett for example: she's much too overacted in the TV series. No one could stand living with a woman like this. The movie tones it down a bit, while still keeping her characteristics obvious.
Mr. Bingley is a bit very clumsy in the Hollywood version. And what the hell is up with that hair?
Rupert Friend as Mr. Wickam in the movie is a better cast in my opinion, too - who wouldn't be swept away by those looks? (Is it just me or does he look a lot like Orlando Bloom?)
I like Colonel Fitzwilliam in the Hollywood version a little better. And of course there's Judi Dench as Lady Catherine de Bourg.
But the biggest difference, and one I hard a hard time dealing with during watching, is Jane Bennet. She's supposed to be really, really pretty, everyone mentions it all the time. What drove the people responsible for the BBC cast? I don't want to be insulting, but... I just don't understand that.

One thing I find amazing about the Hollywood movie is the cinematography. I don't know why this wasn't awarded or even nominated. The landscape. The lighting especially is amazing. I was in awe in some many scenes, it's just so beautiful.
If there's a movie that makes you want to visit Britain, it's this one.

So, it looks like the movie wins by points.
But I really couldn't say "watch this" or "watch that" - so I say "watch both".

Fun fact: I've been compared to Elizabeth Bennet in the past.
I do think it fits, partly. I am intelligent and I might be proud of my "wits". I also get upset and embarrassed by the stupidity and bad manners of others. I like to think I have nice eyes, too. But I certainly don't fit the "lively, playful disposition, which delighted in anything ridiculous" part and neither is my figure very light, I'm afraid. Read more on this article...

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Magazine for Freaks

I recently thought that it would be nice to have a magazine that is made for people like me.
Sure there are magazines for themes like tattoos, classic rock, metal, anime, etc. But they're too focused on one thing. It should be more diverse like the common women's magazine.

For example there could be editorial about steampunk fashion, recipes for singles, Goth make-up tutorials, video game reviews, anime convention reports, portraits of classic rock musicians...

Any ideas for other things that could be featured? Read more on this article...

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

My day at work

Well, I promised to write more about my life, so here I go.
Today was quite a nice, diversified, busy, but not too stressful, day at work, so I decided to tell what I've been doing. I work in website management, we take care of a webshop that exists in several European countries.

My alarm clock rings at 7 AM, but I stay in bed a little longer. I take the bus at about 8:15 AM, it takes 15 minutes and additionally I have to walk a bit to get to work.
Today the bus took a little longer, so I arrived at 8:40 AM. I have a digital time card, so I can check later on in the intranet the time at which I arrived. It also keeps track of how many hours I worked and it's a kind of prepaid card for the canteen, too.
While my computer boots, I make myself some tea. I don't like coffee, so for caffeine I drink guarana tea. I get some fruit salad from the canteen as a second breakfast, check Google news and chat with colleagues. I also check our company Facebook and Twitter page - I'm not responsible for that, but I like to keep up with what's happening on there. I also check my mails, the intranet and sign in to my personal Twitter account.

The rest of the morning is spend with testing. We go live with changes to our webshop once a week, so there's a tight testing schedule.
Today I first had to test some bugfixes to the product recommendations in the webshop. You know product recommendations from amazon: "customers who bought this item, also bought..." - the like. We make quite some money with those, so we recently upgraded to a newer system. I was project manager for that project and we're still in the "aftermath".
That didn't take too long, but then I had to test an adress validation tool which we implemented in two forms in our Swiss shop. It checks for errors in the adress a customer typed into the form and gives feedback and suggestions for correction. Our Swiss shop is available in German and French, and I had to test all kinds of errors a customer could do, and in several browers, too, so testing took more than two hours.

At noon we all go for lunch together in the canteen. This time the food wasn't too good though.
After that we go for a walk "around the block". It's a habit I took on at this workplace. I sit at the computer all day, so the walk really is a nice change. And healthy.

Back at my desk I checked my mails again and answered a few. We want to have product recommendations in our newsletter, too, and I'm helping with organising the hosting. Actually I feel like I'm just forwarding mails and questions, but oh well... They absolutely wanted my help because I arranged the hosting for our webshop recommendations, too. It's not like I know anything about servers and hosting.
I also take the time to check some professional eCommerce blogs. It takes up some time, but it gives me an overview about what's going on in my field of work and sometimes there's valuable information or a good idea in it, too.

At 2 PM I had a meeting with a colleague who works on another webshop in Switzerland (we belong to the same company, I have no idea why we have two different webshops in Switzerland...). This was again about product recommendations - as you might have guessed, I'm the "recommendation expert" in our company. They don't have any recommendations at all in their shop, so I explained the system, helped her plan the next steps and told her what decisions she has to make.
After that I had some free time again, checking my mails again, the usual. I also put a note down about the aforementioned hosting in a project status report. Those status reports were installed by a former boss of mine - I don't think anyone else is doing this anymore, but I think it's a good idea. Then I got hungry, but the canteen was closed early because there was a presentation about how to prevent burn-out. So I had to get something from the vending machine.

At 3:30 PM I had another meeting. This time it's about coupons. We use coupons in an Advent calendar each year. Now the team leader responsible for this feature is supposed to do the controlling (planning how much it will cost us, checking the status, etc). I made an Excel file to keep track of the numbers (planned and actual) for each coupon, each country, keep track of changes, etc. some time ago. I explained to him how the sheet works and the meeting was a lot shorter than originally planned. That's because my Excel file is awesome, of course.
Since I had it opened anyway, I added sheets for the next two seasons. We have two seasons per year: spring/summer and fall/winter. The planning now already starts for spring 2013 (and the deadline for plan figures was today).

After that I finally had some time to work on the concept for a "My Shop" section we want to implement - again product recommendations. The concept contains what I plan the new section to look like, design and technical specifications. I'm almost done, but not quite. I had to look up some things in the manual, test stuff, etc.
When I'm finished, I'll talk it through with my team leader, I guess. Then I'll give it to the design and texting team, so they can come up with an actual layout and text. The texts need to be translated into French and Dutch, too. Also the programmers take a look at the requirements, so they can tell me whether it's actually doable and how long it'll take.

At 5 PM I leave work.
Today I got off the bus two stops earlier because I wanted to do some shopping at Lidl. The weather was nice, so I walked home from there. Read more on this article...

Monday, April 30, 2012

Posts about my life?

I was thinking about doing some more blog posts. Smaller ones. Maybe some other than manga/anime reviews, but also posts about my life, life as a single woman, travelling, work.
I mean, it's not like anyone is actually following this blog and interested in my life. But just... I don't know... just because.

If - against all my exceptions - there is someone reading this: feel free to post what you'd like to read about.

I also thought it'd be nice to get someone else on board again, but I'm not sure who to ask. Read more on this article...

Saturday, April 28, 2012

I am what I am - I am my own special creation

I'm most definitely not lesbian. I'm not even bisexual.
If I was Native American I'd probably be called a Two-Spirit. I'm not really a tomboy - that implies being sportive or aggressive. I don't dress or look androgynous.
I guess I could be called bigender - though I don't think I change inbetween different behaviours. I guess the newest trendy word would be "genderqueer" - but honestly I think that's a lot of bullshit.
I don't have some disorder, neither am I not part of some secluded LGBT community.
I have no doubt about identifing as a woman.

I am what I am. I am me.
I have my very own personality. Mine might be a bit more surprising than some others, but that's all.
"I am what I am. I don’t want praise, I don’t want pity.
I bang my own drum, some think it’s noise - I think it’s pretty."

That doesn't mean though that this little peculiarity of mine doesn't give me a hard time sometimes...

This blog post's title is taken from "I am What I am" by Jerry Herman. Read more on this article...

Monday, April 16, 2012

reviews: Hanasakeru Seishounen, Heart no Kuni no Alice, Kuragehime

Hanasakeru Seishounen

And another reverse harem anime...
There's lots of nice bishonen guys (I especially like Li Ren), and at first the main female character Kajika Burnsworth doesn't seem too annoying. The plot does a transition from the expected romance with a weird set-up (her father plays a "find the husband" game with Kajika - when she's 14!) to focusing on the political affairs within one country, how some companies are mixed up in it and some Burnsworth family secrets. That part was actually quite good. The last few episodes then go back to the romance theme and get completely ridiculous.

The annoying thing about Kajika is that she's supposedly perfect. Everyone likes her, even her enemies. She heals severe depression with suicidal thoughts and panic attacks and helps everyone out with her wisdom. She's not pushing the plot forward herself most of the time, but just reacting, while most other characters act. But still all the hot guys fall in love with her and will never want another "woman"...
She's also 15. Of course most of the time she's acting much more mature - or else no-one would watch it. If they let everyone act more mature than they're supposed to be, why don't they just make them older?

Still: Li Ren rocks.

Also this series holds the record for the most useless bodyguard ever: Toranosuke

TV Tropes

Heart no Kuni no Alice

Called "Alice in the Country of Hearts" in English, this is another one of those Otome games made into a reverse harem manga. As such we know what we have to expect: one girl, surrounded by guys, who all fall in love with her. Actually even the manga itself mentions that this is what it's all about: they all fall in love with her. At that point you'd think it's a parody, but the rest of the story doesn't feel like that. But who cares, we didn't really expect a plot and all the expectations towards the bishonen guys are fulfilled. Additionally, since this is a kind of "Alice in Wonderland" adaption, it doesn't need to make any sense anyway.

One thing that's rather unusual is the amount of violence. It's never really gory, but there's more murder than you'd expect in that genre. A life isn't really worth much in Wonderland, so killing is either a every-day job or a fun past-time.
While the main female charater in my opinion isn't as cynic and strong as the description claims (she's got a sadistic streak though), she's not totally annoying. So we can concentrate on the hot guys better.

There's a movie, but I couldn't get any information whether it will ever be published in Europe.

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I knew I might like "Princess Jellyfish" when I saw the opening with all the movie references.
It's about Tsukimi, a young illustrator, who lives in a flat-sharing community in Tokyo with a bunch of other nerdy girls, who all shun contact with popular and pretty people - and especially with men. Then one day Tsukimi gets in a fight about a jellyfish (she loves jellyfish) and gets helped by a beautiful young lady who then uninvitedly crashes in her room - and the next day turns out to be a pretty boy who's been cross-dressing! Kuranosuke (a fashionista, but neither gay nor a transvestite), who comes from a wealthy family of politicians, takes a liking to Tsukimi, so he decides to show up there frequently. Since no boys are allowed in the flat, they have to keep Kuranosuke's real identity a secret. Soon Kuranosuke gets more and more involved with the inhabitants.

I got a little sceptical when it seemed to turn into yet another "ugly duckling" storyline and the guys only seemed to be in love with Tsukimi when she's dressed up. But luckily it didn't turn out quite that bad (though it certainly has moments like that).
The characters are exagerated, which makes it a bit harder to identify with them, but I guess that's the comedy element to this slice of life anime. I'm really glad that the main characters are basically a bunch of freaks, not kawaii or moe at all - and that it's fine like that (mostly; I can accept that for business matters some dressing up might be required).

The anime is rather short, only 11 episodes. After finishing it, I think I'd like to read the manga. But apparently it's only licensed n France and Italy (and the anime only available in the USA) - what a shame, it's so hard to find decent josei.

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Monday, April 9, 2012

It's so easy - all you have to do is fall in love.

I've been out of the game of love for quite some time now. I'm not quite sure why or what happened. It might have to do with my depression. Or it might not.

I often feel like I'm a bit different. Alright - that's an understatement. I am different.
I'm very far from your cliché woman. But I'm not a sporty tomboy cliché either. I'm just myself.

In my experience guys like clichés. Maybe everyone does.
But I think, as much as they complain about it, most guys actually want a woman who takes ages in the bathroom, who bitches at them, who spends large amounts of money on shoes, clothes and make-up. If she's bitching about something, she'll get chocolate or flowers - doesn't sound like punishment, does it?
So, there's not a lot of men who'd be interested in me. Even less with me having gained some weight, I guess. Also, I'm getting older, and many men my age are already in a relationship. So, the fish in the sea are getting less.

At the same time, I'm not interested in most men.
I'm not really sure whether that's a good thing or not. I don't think I'm asexual.
Of course I might have high standards. I don't know. I'd want someone who has about my level of intelligence. I guess that rules out the majority of people...
Sometimes I worry that I might have a case of ephebophilia. On the other hand, I don't think that's it. But I think that there's something about young men that I find attractive, and that is harder to find when they're older. I can't quite put my finger on it, though. Maybe a lack of adjustment to general society? Or maybe a more androgynous body frame?

Sometimes I think about one night stands.
While I wouldn't have a moral problem with it, I just can't seem to be able to do it. Maybe because I'm afraid. I didn't have very many opportunities either. It seems like only British men are interested in me like that - I only ever got offers in England or Ireland. And on these occasions I wasn't interested.

It's all just one big mess, and I can't see a way to find out of it.

Or maybe I just fail at relationships.

This blog post's title is taken from "Play the Game" by Queen. Read more on this article...

Monday, March 12, 2012

review: Saiunkoku Monogatari

by Sai Yukino (illustrations by Kairi Yura)
Rating: 5/5
manga: 8 (ongoing);
anime: two seasons with 39 episodes each
Mature content: no
Genre: Shojou(-ish)

Like Koukaku No Regios this anime also is an adaption of "light novels", a book series for teens. So far there's 22 books - but they haven't been translated into English.

It is set in an ancient Asian country, which is divided into eight parts, governed by eight families, who are named after colours. Nine years ago there was a civil war in which all but the youngest of the sons of the ruling family were killed. So the country is left with the scars from a civil war and a very young emperor, who shows no interest at all in reigning his country.
Young Shūrei and her father are really poor, even though belonging to one of the most powerful family clans (their poverty a result of helping the commoners during the civil war). With them lives Seiran, who is a mixture between a servant and soldier and a family member. Shūrei dreams of working as a civil servant - but women aren't allowed to take the entry exam. To make ends meet, she takes up several jobs and when a high court advisor offers her a large sum for a temporary job at the palace, she immediatly agrees - without yet knowing that this job will be living at the court as a consort to the young emperor (who according to rumours prefers men over women) in order to motivate and teach him, basically to make a good ruler our of him.

At first the anime looks a lot like a reverse harem or like one of these series modeled after an otome game: a young girl surrounded by lots of good-looking men. But there's more to it.

More than the romance series it first looks like, Saiunkoku Monogatari is a fantasy and adventure series. The plot contains intrigues, power struggles, manipulations. There's some fighting and some magic here and there. I think it's a very good and entertaining mixture. There are dark moments, but in the end everything turns out alright (more or less). There's a few very funny scenes, too (usually caused by the emperors bluntness or Seiran being a meanie).
Also the female characters are actually normal, not whiny and dumb; many of them are even quite powerful. That's something rather rare and I find the absence of whiny, stupid characters with huge tits very refreshing.
All characters have their strengths and weaknesses. They're not black and white, they have some depth, while most of the time still staying clearly on the good or bad side.

Shūrei might be a bit naive sometimes - after all when the story starts she's only 16. But she's clever and frank, very hard-working (I wish I had just half of her energy) and most of all she's a very good speaker. Though sometimes it seems like she becomes too much a "legendary hero" sort of character, always full of energy, never giving up and always winning in the end.
Among my favourite characters are Seiran, Kōyū and Rin Sai-Tei. The latter doesn't have a big part in the story, but I think she's a very interesting character. Kōyū is a genius, but has a hopeless sense of direction. He has a bit of a short temper, but I really like his friendship with Shūei Ran. Seiran is absolute eye candy, an amazing fighter and always there for the ones he loves. But on the other hand he can be quite mean and absolutely ruthless and definitely has a dark past. What I think is confusing about Seiran is that I can't pierce together his past, when he came to Shūrei's family he looked a lot younger than he should have been.

Unfortunately I had a little trouble keeping some characters apart, with some names sounding very similar - that they are written with different kanji doesn't help me. In the anime the colour coding of the families (people tend to wear the colour of their clan) helped a little, but since the clothes are rather colourful it didn't help much.
I also find it very hard to judge the age of the characters. There seem to be either old or young men at the court, but maybe it only looks like that because the middle-aged men look very young (with the exception of Shūrei's father).
There are a few events that are confusing in the anime, why certain people show up and what their connection to other characters is, why people do or don't do certain things, what their motives are, etc. The manga explains things a lot better, so if you liked the anime I definitely recommend getting the manga.
But those are all minor drawbacks, nothing that really spoils the joy of reading or watching Saiunkoku Monogatari.

I really can't wait for the next manga coming out in English - and I really hope they won't stop publishing for a long time.
I wish the novels were translated and the anime available on DVD (Region 2 with English subs), too.
Saiunkoku Monogatari is not getting the attention it deserves.

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Free manga preview at shojobeat.com

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Sunday, February 19, 2012

review: Nana

by Ai Yazawa
Rating: 4/5
manga: 21 (ongoing);
anime: 47;
j-drama: 2 movies
Mature content: not really (though in the manga you can sometimes see half-naked women)
Genre: Josei

On the train to Tokyo Nana meets Nana.
One Nana (later going by the nickname Hachi to avoid confusion) is following her boyfriend from a small town to the big city to live there. The other Nana, a punk girl, is going to Tokyo to become a professional singer. Shortly after they meet again and decide to rent a flat together. And so their friendship begins...
The story is mostly told by Hachi and focuses on her love life, the strong friendship between the two of them and their circle of friends. But also money problems, finding a job, unexpected pregnancy and, of course, the music business are issues covered.

Hachi got her nickname because she reminded Nana of a dog (Hachiko was a Japanese dog famous for it's loyalty). She's more or less your average shoujo/josei girl: careless, clueless, cute and caring. She's fickle, weak-willed, slightly possessive (esp. concerning Nana), a drama-queen, she flirts around and falls in love with every second guy she meets - no matter whether she has a boyfriend at the moment or not. When she starts out in Tokyo she really is a bit clueless and heavily depends on others to help her, but this gets a little better. Maybe clueless isn't quite the right expression; she is, in some ways, clueless, in other ways she's fake, manipulating and not as innocent as she looks. She doesn't seem to have acquired any skills and expertise and her only goal in live seems to be getting married. Even though this really sounds bad, for some reason she's not quite as annoying as the usual annoying anime girl.
Nana is proud, ambitious and honest. She is independent in a way, but also greatly relies on her friends in times of need and can be possessive, too, at times. She can be a little self-conscious regarding her quality as a singer. It is quite often mentioned that she acts like a guy, but I think that's only compared to the average girl in Japanese culture. She considers Hachi as some kind of pet for her and her band mates. Their relationship becomes very close, though, and several times it's hinted that they might be in love with each other.
The other characters are also well described. I kind of like Shion, though at first I found her suspicious. I like Miu, too.

I really loved the story until about half way into the anime (which I watched first). After that it just became very whiny and too much of a drama. It started out so promising - and then ended in another episode after episode of crying girls. But even so I kept on watching. The narration seems to come from the future looking back on things, and there's some comments here and there that made me wonder what happened. The last episode of the first season was a bit of a bitter-sweet one, with a glimpse into the future - but still leaving quite a few questions to be answered.
I wonder if there was a second season planned. The anime stops at chapter 42 (Volume 12) of the manga.

Because I was curious I went on with the manga.
There's more "flashes" into the future in the manga. The crying is a lot less annoying - probably because you can just flip over it (and don't have to hear it).
The manga finally reveals a very tragic event that is the big turn-around that apparently leads to the future events that are hinted at throughout the anime and manga. Naturally there's even more crying, but this time there's a valid reason. But I don't want to spoil...
So far there are 84 chapters released.

I dislike that this manga/anime really doesn't promote a healthy livestyle. Half the people are serious chain smokers, there's frequent drinking sessions, cheating on partners, self-harming, drug abuse, reckless driving and a 15-year-old boy working as a prostitute.
Besides, Yazawa's drawing style makes people look extremely thin. I don't really like that, but I got used to it. I do like the attention she gives to clothes and fashion.
I'll definitely will follow that one. The way the story is told - changing in between two different time settings - really makes you wonder what happened, you want to get to that point where the two different time setting finally meet.

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Saturday, February 11, 2012

short reviews: Chihayafuru, Uta No Prince-Sama, Koukaku No Regios


At first I thought it was a bit weird - an anime about a card game? But I've really grown to like this one. It's generally classified as josei, there's 18 episodes so far and it's still going on.

When Chihaya befriends her new classmate Arata, he introduces her to the competetive card game karuta. She becomes obsessed with the game and starts dreaming of becoming the "Queen", the best female karuta player in Japan. When Arata moves away, she vows to keep on playing karuta.
Later when she's in high school she meets her old childhood friend and former karuta teammate Taichi again. She convinces him to try to form a karuta club at school. They need five members to officially form a club, so they look for suitable candidates.
The plot then follows them becoming friends, trying to get better, going to tournaments, etc.

What I really like about Chihayafuru ist that they don't magically win everything. There are defeats and set-backs. The characters are distinguishable, have their own strengths and weaknesses and all get some character development.
It's heart-breaking how Taichi - nice, good-looking, good in school, rich, good in sports - obviously loves Chihaya, they're such an amazing team, but she's completely oblivious of it and goes on raving about Arata.

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Uta no☆Prince-sama♪

Another one of these otome game adaptions (13 episodes). But what can I say - I like bishonen reverse harem. And as long as the girl is a flat character, there's a chance she's not totally annoying.

The story (if you can call it such) takes place in a boarding school for artists. There are pupils who want to become "idols" and ones who want to become composers, there's a mad principal and falling in love is against the rules. Naturally the story is full of music, songs - and innuendos. And besides it being an otome game adaption, there's also lots of possibilities for yaoi couples (though there's not even hints at such).
I really like the drawing style. Nanami, the main girl, has yellow eyes though, which I found rather strange and distracting. She also has an annoyingly high voice and is rather clumsy, and an airhead... the usual. But of course everyone wants to pair up with her. The usual. But there's a mysterious cat, too, so that's a bonus point. I also like the voices of some of the voice actors, especially when singing.
You don't watch these for the plot, you watch them for the dream that maybe someday, someone like these guys will turn up in your life and love you. Don't you?

Still. Like with Starry☆Sky I kind of wish this one would have gotten a bit more time and depth. It would have been a great opportunity to get more into the single characters and their friendship. And what's up with that cat? Even on the basis of an otome game, it could have been much more than just these 13 episodes.
Good news is that I heard there's gonna be a second season - so let's hope they'll take the chance and build this up to a good story.

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Koukaku No Regios

Chrome Shelled Regios (its English name) is an anime adoption of a teen book series.

Sometime in the future Earth is polluted and humans are living in mobile cities, called regios. Outside of those they can't breathe and there's giant "filth monsters" roaming about.
Layfon Alseif had to leave his hometown - where he was a member of a group of special warriors - and tries to start a new, peaceful life in an academy city. Layfon seems like an average nice guy (and most girls fancy him), but turns into a total badass when fighting. His superior fighting abilities are soon discovered and he's coaxed to join the martial arts students and the 17th platoon.

This is a quite good shonen anime. It's not too long (24 episodes), the characters are all likable (even most females) and the plot is suspenseful. I also like how women are treated absolutely equal to men.
Sometimes it gets a bit gory (but not very often) and there's these flashbacks in bad English that apparently explain the back story - but I didn't get it. I also would have liked to get to know some characters better, like Harley. Maybe there'll be another season?

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Saturday, January 28, 2012

Goin' Back

I think I'm going back
To the things I learnt so well in my youth.
I think I'm returning to
Those days when I was young enough to know the truth.

Now there are no games,
To only pass the time.
No more colouring books,
No Christmas bells to chime.
But thinking young and growing older is no sin.
And I can't play the game of life to win.

I can recall a time,
When I wasn't ashamed to reach out to a friend.
And now I think I've got
A lot more than just my toys to lend.

Now there's more to do
Than watch my sailboat glide.
And every day can be
My magic carpet ride.
And I can play hide and seek with my fears,
And live my days instead of counting my years.

Then everyone debates the true reality,
I'd rather see the world, the way it used to be.
A little bit of freedom's all we lack,
So catch me if you can, I'm going back.

I really like this song. Not only Freddie's voice and the music (I'm aware it's a cover).
Sometimes I wish I could revive those childhood days. There seemed to be no sorrows. When was the last time I played a game, just to pass the time? The last time I was drawing something? And wasn't it so much easier to say "do you want to be friends" back then? When is the last time I was running - just for fun? Sometimes I see a playground and I want to go there, climb on things, get on the swing (maybe I will some time when no one is around).
I think I really had a happy childhood and I'm grateful for that. Read more on this article...

Winter Sleep

For the last few months I find myself in a strange mood.

I like to sleep a lot. If I make myself some food, it's mainly soup. I want to cuddle up in fluffy blankets. My consumption of hot chocolate has peaked.
When I was at my parent's over my birthday and the holidays, I took a hot bath nearly every evening.
I've been reading a lot, real books again, not mangas. Fantasy. I re-read the Belgariad and started the Kingkiller Chronicle.

I also hate getting out of my comfort zone even more than usual.
For example I really would have loved to see The Answer together with The Union in London. It's not uncommom for me to travel to see a concert - after all I travelled to Berlin to see The Answer. And I love Great Britain. But for London I'd have to get on a plane. I've been flying a lot last year, but I dislike it. I hate the whole issue of packing liquids the right size, arriving early, the security checks, the flying. So I won't be going.

I really don't think it's a bad thing. Maybe it's just natural and I keep following my instincts. I just never noticed it like that. Read more on this article...