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Category Archives: Reviews – Teens

These book reviews have been written by teens you know!

Anime Review: Serial Experiments Lain

Posted on January 27th, 2016 by jkenney@private.bpl.org in Movies, Programs, Reviews - Staff, Reviews - Teens, Teen Services

serial lain

Serial Experiments Lain [R 17+] is a powerful science fiction anime series from 1998.  This psychological thriller centers on the experience of Lain Iwakura and her introduction to cyber-life in “The Wired” [Internet].  After a tragic suicide by a girl in her high school class, she and many other classmates receive emails from the girl after she has died.  This mystery sets the scene for the main thrust of the story.

Other characters include Lain’ best friend Arisu Mizuki and her larger circle of friends, Masami Eiri – apparent designer and god-like figure of The Wired, Knights – “men in black” who are ambiguously involved with the wired, Lain’s family and father who is a computer expert, and a group of younger children who provide another perspective to the developing sense of cyber-life.

Masami serves as the main foil in the series.  A large portion of the plot centers on ideas of self, divinity, physical versus spiritual, real versus virtual, and other wrenching questions often faced in the teen years.  The visual palette contains strong use of “white field” contrasts and fills as well as other shadow fills using “blood pool” and collage-like patterns.  The white fields get repeated emphasis as a sunlight effect in the morning scenes as Lain leaves her house for school.  After a few appearances, the technique is familiar and the artistic style of the series is clearly set apart.  Its continued use serves to amplify the sense of drudgery and emptiness that Lain experiences going to school.  At the same time, the technique itself is stark and almost blinding, creating a confusing crosscurrent to an otherwise static and low energy scene.  It’s truly masterful.  The soundtrack is very strong with its selection of music and an audio “hum” effect that is used to represent the ever-present activity on The Wired. It is usually combined with views of power lines and transformers at scene changes.

Serial Experiments Lain has received notable praise from the critical community and I strongly recommend it for Anime fans.  You can watch it for free on Kissanime.com and Animefrost.com

Scholarly Books on Anime

Posted on January 25th, 2016 by jkenney@private.bpl.org in Books, Movies, Reviews - Staff, Reviews - Teens, Teen Services

anime napier anime adapt

The Hyde Park Branch recently added two books on Anime to our Teen non-fiction collection.  Anime from Akira to Howl’s Moving Castle, by Susan J. Napier and Anime and the Art of Adaptation, by Dani Cavallaro.

Napier’s work was well researched and effectively supported with lots of end notes and references to the works she examined.  She covers a lot of ground including controversial genres and the edges of popular culture.  She also provides a lot of insight on the influences of Japanese political and economic history.

Two titles she analyzed in particular were of great interest to me.  Akira, the groundbreaking film from 1988 and Serial experiments Lain, a powerful television series from 1998.  With Akira, she interprets the surrealistic and cataclysmic ending in a different way than I did.  I did further research and found corroboration for my interpretation from criticism of the original Manga and film versions by other authors.  Still, the symbolism and dramatic devices she addressed are clearly present and used to great effect in the film.  Serial Experiments Lain is a mesmerizing psychological thriller in the form of cyberspace science fiction.  Napier’s analysis inspired me to watch the series.  Lain lived up to her criticism and I was very impressed with the visual and audio effects in the series.

I have only just started Anime and the Art of Adaptation, by Dani Cavallaro.  I was pleased to see a still from Grave of the Fireflies used as the cover for the book.  It gets analyzed in chapter two under the title “The Nightmare of History.”  The atomic bombings that ended WWII had a deep and far-reaching impact on modern Japanese culture.  It’s effects can be seen in many different areas of the Anime genre and should be explored by all fans.  We Anime Otaku [Anime Fans] are all too familiar with the challenges of adapting Manga titles to moving animation and I look forward to reading more.  Cavallaro’s book is also well researched and includes a filmography and extensive bibliography.

Book Review: Dreaming in Indian: Contemporary Native American Voices

Posted on February 13th, 2015 by rschmelzer@private.bpl.org in Reviews - Staff, Reviews - Teens, Teen Services

Edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale

Edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale

“If your imagination isn’t working-and, of course, in oppressed people that’s the first thing that goes – you can’t imagine anything better. Once you can imagine something different, something better, then you’re on your way.” -Lee Maracle

New to BPL’s shelves, this book is a beautiful collection of art, photography, poetry, personal essays, songs and stories. Put together they tell a story of modern Native Americans outside of Hollywood movies. At times fascinating and sad to learn about current social injustices that Native Americans still face to date. At the same time, this book is a wonderful exploration of universal themes that Teens can relate to, such as bullying and finding one’s own identity.

Pages 84 - 85 features the merging of traditional Coast Salish art with everyday pop culture objects by Louie Gong.

Pages 84 – 85 features the merging of traditional Coast Salish art with everyday pop culture objects by Louie Gong.

Grave of the Fireflies

Posted on January 27th, 2015 by jkenney@private.bpl.org in Movies, Resources, Reviews - Staff, Reviews - Teens, Teen Services

grave of the fireflies

This older Studio Ghibli film dates from 1988. Grave of the Fireflies, is a tragedy about a young sister and brother and their struggle to survive the fire-bombings of Japan during the Second World War. It is a moving study of humanity’s strengths and weaknesses. Who is your enemy? Who is your family, friend or neighbor? While their father is out at sea with the Japanese navy, their family is further fragmented in a fire-bombing raid. The children seek shelter with extended family but encounter callousness, neglect and exploitation. Some total strangers show more compassion than their own families and the older brother struggles to care for his sister and keep them all alive. The story of these children teaches us all about the horrors of war, and both the angels and demons of human nature. I imagine the title makes reference to the short life and light of fireflies. The artwork shows its age in the rendering style compared to more modern works, but expressions and animation are still top quality Ghibli. The voice acting in the English dub that I saw on Netflix was adequate, but I prefer to listen to the Japanese and read subtitles. This can be challenging during rapid dialog. Audiences should be ready for heartbreak when watching this film. It may be interesting to compare it with The Wind Rises, about the designer of the famous Zero fighter plane. But that recent film deals more with life before the war and Japan’s notable achievement in aeronautics. To me, the most powerful part of Grave of the Fireflies comes at its most cruel moment, when so-called “friends” stoop to staggering depths of avarice and disrespect. Grave of the Fireflies is a great film, but one to be watched with care.

Coming soon to the BPL DVD collection:

Posted on January 21st, 2015 by jkenney@private.bpl.org in Movies, Resources, Reviews - Staff, Reviews - Teens, Teen Services

princess kaguya 2

Featured earlier this month at the Brattle Street Theatre near Harvard Square, The Tale of Princess Kaguya is a splendid new masterpiece from Studio Ghibli. The BPL has several copies on order so place your requests now to borrow a copy when they arrive. Princess Kaguya is a classic Japanese fairy tale about a magical girl who mysteriously appears in a bamboo stalk while an aged bamboo cutter is working in the forest. The tale tells a multifaceted story about family joy and longing, a girl coming of age, and the deeper spiritual mysteries of the human experience. The artwork is revolutionary for studio Ghibli. Set in a more rice paper/watercolor style, the animation, use of light and shadow, and extreme dynamic effects reminiscent of expressionism captivate the viewer throughout the film. The artists employ unique cell work with dappling shadow overlays as the characters interact and move through the bamboo groves and deeper woods. The overall palette of rice paper-style imagery completely immerses the viewer in an authentic Japanese artistic world. The dynamic effects during dream sequences and storm scenes are gripping, even in their minimalism. I strongly recommend this film for all anime fans. Even loyal Studio Ghibli fans will be impressed by this new direction in artistic style. The story is classic and refreshing at the same time. Beyond its imagery, Princess Kaguya is a bold venture into the depths of the human struggle.