Friday, August 21, 2009

Authentic Anime...?

I've been eagerly awaiting "Ponyo", Hayao Miyazaki's newest animation (or anime in Japanese). I'm glad to see that it received favorable reviews in the NYTimes. And it's even MPAA rated "G" - you don't see that very often these days!

However, am I asking too much to see this anime in it's original language with English subtitles? Does this make me a film snob? A purist for Japanese language?

Walt Disney Studios (who does the American production and marketing for Miyazaki's films) REALLY loads up the star-studded voice actors: Cate Blanchett, Noah Cyrus (Miley's little sister), Matt Damon, Tina Fey, Frankie Jonas (yes, one of the famous brothers), Liam Neeson, Cloris Leachman...and the list goes on. So I have no doubt that they will do a great job portraying Miyazaki's characters. But is it too much to ask to release BOTH versions in the U.S. theaters?

I guess I got spoiled living in Japan. Whenever we would go out to see Disney's animated films (Tarzan, Toy Story, etc.), we had a choice: English with Japanese subtitles or Japanese dubbing. And, hey, it's why not show it in both languages? Now the reason for this was simple: Japanese people LOVED to see the animations in learn English! Or people who didn't want to engage their brains as much could watch it in Japanese.

I would be grateful for the same opportunity when it comes to finding an authentic anime. I live in a pretty urban place - with a Japanese neighborhood not to far away. Can the Ritz (or some other "artsy" theater) help me out here?

I think that the U.S. of A. should at least offer a authentic screening in the original language in a second-run theater , don't you?

Although my hopes are high, reality tells me that I will have to wait until it comes out on DVD to watch it in Japanese.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Bound: Mirror for an Asian adoptee (Pt. 2)

The "mirrors and windows" technique is used as a means of communication when you are reflecting on your own culture/yourself (mirror) or discovering a new culture/seeing beyond yourself (window). Believe it or not, reading Bound by Donna Jo Napoli through the lens of being an Asian American adoptee mirrored so many things in my modern, American life.

I immediately feel a connection with Xing Xing (prounced Shing Shing) on a few levels. I, too, was separated from my biological mother and father and now get to live out my life's journey without them physically present to guide me. I, too, am Asian and enjoyed the setting in China (see previous post). And as an adoptee, I can sometimes feel like the misfit of the family - accepted and taken care of...yet I can never BE of the same physical, genetic material as the rest of my family. Don't get me wrong - I did have commendable adoptive parents who loved me and raised me with plenty of love and guidance. And my siblings are great, too - I AM their sister. But I still have a sense of kinship with a traditional Cinderella story.

Xing Xing is a wonderfully resilient character (a trait that I see in lots of adoptees/stepchildren). She holds on to her talents of writing poetry and Chinese calligraphy: gifts that were encouraged by her father, when he was still alive. I truly believe that everyone is born with gifts/talents that are locked within. It just takes the right people and circumstances to unlock these talents, much like a puzzle box or a combination lock. Not that the combination has to be good people or great circumstances. For Xing Xing, it is in the face of adversity and hardships that her talents are able to shine.

"To be a star, you must shine your own light, follow your own path and don't worry about the darkness, for that is when the stars shine brightest" - Anonymous

Thanks, Ms. Napoli, for providing a mirror for me through a Chinese Cinderella story.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Book Review: Bound, Pt. 1

Now that it's August, I desperately trying to finish all the books that I've started earlier this summer. I'm almost done with Life on the Color Line; The True Story of a White Boy Who Discovered He Was Black by Gregory H. Williams and about halfway through The Asian Mystique by Sheridan Prasso. But I also need to make sure my kids finish THEIR summer reading, too.

This year, Donna Jo Napoli will visit their school so they each must read one of her books. Luckily, she writes for all ages, from picture books through young adult, and she provides great variety in her works. In solidarity, I decided to read one of her books and picked up Bound, because I can't resist anything Asian. Ms. Napoli tells a Chinese Cinderella story, complete with cruel stepmother, pitiable stepsister and charming prince.

What I really love about her telling of the story is all of the Chinese traditions she has woven into the story. While it's heart-breaking to relive the foot-binding tradition (and can make my stomach turn at times), it is the reality of these traditions that give the story a rich depth which doesn't always happen in young adult novels.

Another point I appreciate about this book is how the heroine Xing Xing (pronounced "Shing Shing") carries the spirits of her deceased mother and father with her wherever she goes, as a guiding spirit to provide Xing Xing with wisdom. Ms. Napoli writes with such respect and sensitivity for the Chinese culture - it's truly palpable.

I highly recommend this book as Donna Jo Napoli’s writing proves that depth of character and plot CAN be found in young adult novels.

Has anyone else read her works?

(Stay tuned for Pt. 2 - where I make parallels between Xing Xing and myself.)