Sunday, December 21, 2014

worrywart

It's christmas holidays, I have a quite a few days off work and I should be happy and relax.

But I'm not relaxed at all. I'm note even able to think of a good title.
The reason is that from tomorrow on I'll be owning an apartment. Sounds rather joyous, but I'm worried.
The thing is, my parents own this apartement and it's not yet completely paid for. So I'll not only be taking over the apartement, but also the debts. If I don't take it, my parents will eventually have to sell and move out. It's all very complicated, together with the rights for my brother a right of abode for my parents and all. The debts are in several building loan contracts, which I want to end because it amounts to quite a lot per month. At the moment credit is cheap, so I want to take a new credit and use it to pay off all the building loan contracts. I'll not be able to live there, because I work in another town (which means I'll have to pay rent anyway).

I see this as a retirement arrangement. Investing in residential property is a good thing at the moment, everyone says. And I want to keep the apartement in the family, it's where I grew up, I love this place. It's a good time to take a credit, everyone says. It is not that much money, and I know that pretty much everyone who buys or build a house will be in debt. I know all this. I know it is probably overall a good idea.

But it is a risk.
I've never been in debt before. And it'll take about 20 years to pay it off.
What if we do something wrong with the contract? What if I don't get a better credit? What if something happens to someone in my family? Will I be able to support my brother with some money like I used to?

I'm a procrastinator so I'm a little late about arranging the credit. I feel bad about this, but there's nothing I can do now. I feel like I have to do more research, gather more information. At the same time I really hate this issue. I want to relax, too. I feel like I really need to. I try not to brood over it too much, I have to be able to sleep at night, but at the same time I feel like I should think about it more.
I'm so glad once all this is over and decided. But I'm afraid it'll take some time with the credit.

So from tomorrow on, I'll own an apartement. And I'll have a debt of several thens of thousands of euro.
I hope I'll be able to sleep. Read more on this article...

Sunday, November 9, 2014

red-golden leaves

I just came back from an afternoon walk. It's a nice autumn day, actually quite warm for November. The sun makes the trees glow in red-golden colours. Beautiful.



I like going for walks because it soothes the mind. You're not doing anything else, you're not going anywhere.
You're not on your bike to reach some point, you're not running to train your body, you're not walking your dog - you're just enjoying the surroundings, smelling the nature and listening to all the different sounds around you. And maybe talking to someone, if you're not alone.

I thought that I should really do this more often.
I'm usually spending my weekends at home because there's so much to do. During the week I don't sleep enough and I'm commuting, so I'm gone from home for at least 12 hours a day. I don't get anything done during the week, except for doing the laundry once in a while. So I have to get things done on the weekend. I have to do the grocery shopping for the next week, clean and do all the things that need to be done. And catch up on sleep.

Sometimes I'm wondering whether I could do some volunteering work. When I'm especially pissed off with society I think of going into politics. Or maybe join an environmental NGO.
But then I realize that I don't have the energy to do that. I'm still not sure why I feel like I lack energy. I'm taking vitamin B12 now and my iron level should be ok. I'm aware that clinical depression is looming and threatening, but as long as it's not acute I should not be this affected.

But I'll try to go for a walk on the weekend more often. Read more on this article...

Sunday, October 19, 2014

manga review: Hana wa Saku ka (Does the flower bloom?)

This is the best yaoi I've come across in a while. I've read through it online in just a bit more than a day, then ordered all available volumes. I'll certainly check out other work by this artist.

by Hidaka Shōko
Rating: 4/5 
Volumes/episodes: 5
Mature content: yes, later on (volume 4)
Genre: slice of life, shōnen ai, yaoi

37-year-old Kazuaki Sakurai works long hours for an advertising company. He used to be a promising art director but lost his spark over the last few years. He just bought an apartment but lives alone in it since his last relationship broke up; something he's rather used to.
One day on his way home he bumps into a young man and a rare magazine of his gets damaged. Luckily the young man owns the same one and offers to swap. His home is not far away and Sakurai is amazed when it turns out to be a beautiful old mansion, a boarding house, surrounded by a big wild garden.
A few days later Sakurai collapses from high fever (according to anime and manga that seems to be very common in Japan...) at the subway station. He's seen by boarders of the boarding house who think he's friends with the owner Youichi and bring him home. From this day on, Sakurai visits more often and becomes acquainted with the residents.

Sakurai enjoys the boarding house and the surrounding gardens

Youichi Minagawa is nineteen, an arts student and the owner of the boarding house. He's usually quiet but if he says something he's rather blunt (by Japanese standards), especially towards Sakurai. He reminds me a little of Haru from Free!, they share the same Aspergerish tendencies. He's very reclusive, only has closer contact with very few friends. His father used to be a great painter and a very beloved member of the Minagawa family clan, so the wealthy family takes care of Youichi and he's living quite a sheltered life.

Youich's wondering about his social abilities

I can identify with both Youichi and Sakurai. Though I'm not as bad at communicating with people as Youichi, I often feel out of touch with the world and most of the people in it. I prefer to withdraw and occupy myself with the things I like. "You're friendly to everybody, but the truth is, you're not interested in anybody" - as much as this is true for both Youichi and Sakurai, it might also be true for me. And I'm not working Japanese hours but like Sakurai I feel like I work too much, don't get enough sleep and am always tired. I don't feel like what I do is great work, we're both just going through the motions, really. Plus, my plants always die on me, too.

At the beginning it seems like Sakurai and Youichi dislike each other. At least they're not on very friendly terms, Sakurai especially seems to be irritated by the younger man. But people around Youichi are surprised at his behaviour since he's usually not interacting this much with people at all and they try to bring the two of them closer together - in a platonic way, I guess.

This is one of the things I find strange with the story: it just seems a bit strange for Sakurai to form this kind of friendship with the boys from the boarding house. I mean, their age gap is unusual. Even the adults around Youichi don't seem to mind, on the contrary. Are they so desperate for a change in Youichis behaviour? What makes them think that Sakurai is the right person to be a mentor for Youichi? Did it never cross their minds that it's not platonic feelings of friendship that pull Youichi towards Sakurai? It's rather obvious to Fujimoto, a fellow student.
Or maybe this has a cultural aspect that I don't quite understand. Maybe with the history of wakashūdo, a kind of samurai mentorship that included sexual activity, it would be more accepted? (Though thankfully Youichi is of age.)

Fujimotos warning

Fujimoto knows what's going on between them the moment he sees the two of them together. He's fallen for Youichi, too - can't blame him, Youichi is both fascinating and beautiful - and he instantly recognizes Sakurai as a rival, so he tries his hardest to seperate them. He's also the one to point out the impossibility of a relationship.
It's also not long until Sakurai realises the nature of his feelings for Youichi. He had forgotten what it feels like to fall in love - and then this time it's with a man. And the age gap is a big problem, too. He knows he shouldn't even be starting a relationship, he tries to be sensible and stay away, but to no avail. Youichi goes into this with a kind of childish innocence, he blurts out the most suggestive things and seems unaware of  the effect it has on a confused Sakurai. And just as the older man comes to terms with his feelings and the fact that Youichi might be feeling similar and decides to start something - he's about to be transferred to another branch of the company for three years.


So, about the yaoi part...
Youichi seems to be perfectly fine with desiring another man. Maybe he's glad to have found the answer to why he's never been interested in any girls before. Sakurai has previously only had sexual relationships with women, but that's not his biggest problem - though this may change when their relationship becomes more obvious to their surroundings. Youichi is a lot younger than him (nearly 20 years!) and completely inexperienced. Plus Youichi seems like he's always just going along with whatever happens, so Sakurai doesn't know what he's feeling. With his close friends and acquaintances the young mans silence somehow works but it's a big problem in his relationship with Sakurai. Youichi is very young compared to Sakurai and Sakurai feels the weight of all the responsibility on his shoulders.

Sakurai is also unsure about what is expected from him

I thought the erotic scene was rather realistic. It wasn't "I like you - you like me - let's have buttsecks - yay" like it's often portrayed in yaoi. Though Sakurai is generally more experienced, he's also inexperienced when it comes to having sex with men. It's still obvious that he knows a lot more about what's going on, and I think that's a good thing for Youichi (I think it's better when at least one of the partners knows what he's doing). Sakurai worries about him, but is also turned on by his innocence. It's adorable how Sakurai tried to think things trough, even watched some gay porn and bought some "supplies". It's also cute how fast Youichi comes the first time (ah, young men...).
Actually I think of all the "first times" I've seen in manga, this was probably the best. Though, of course, I actually have no idea about gay intercourse...

Youichi's green but Sakurai seems to like it

Two things that bugged me a little: I'm aware that calling someone by their first name only is a bigger deal in Japan. But I think being seen during an orgasm is something very intimate and after they did what they did together, I think it's strange that Youichi still calls Sakurai by his last name. I'm really looking forward to when he'll finally call him by his first name.
And I don't need very explicit scenes in mangas, but I didn't quite like how the mature content scenes were drawn. I felt it was too heavily censored. It's not like I have to see all body parts in detail, but I sometimes was a little confused as to what exactly they were doing and it's distracting wondering about that.


More aspects that confused me were that the manga jumps a bit within the time span of several months in the beginning. And sometimes it's a bit hard to tell what the characters are only thinking and how much they're actually saying out loud.


But I like the workplace setting of Sakurais life. It's a nice change to read about office work again, haven't had that in a while. Overall Hana wa Saku ka reminds me of Tramps Like Us (one of my favourite josei mangas) which is about the unusual relationship between a hard-working woman and a younger artistic man, and Fruits Basket with the boys living alone but the main family still deciding on their lives (it seems a bit strange to me, this family clan business). Then there's a little Kuragehime in there, too, I guess.

I've only been talking about the relationship between Sakurai and Youichi, but there's other interesting characters in it, too. There's also more in it about the relationship of Youichi with his fathers legacy. But I already rambled on too much.

beautiful Youichi

It's mentioned at the end of the fourth volume that the author intends to finish this up in fife volumes. But I've read the first four and a few additional chapters now and I can't imagine how things could be wrapped up in just one more book. Especially since a new "problem" has been brought up in the last few chapters. The story's pacing was slow so far, and I liked that, so it seems weird to rush now. I really hope there'll be more. and the author doesn't ruin the story with a hurried ending. Read more on this article...

Saturday, September 20, 2014

writing ideas that never go anywhere

Recently on a sunday morning I've been lying in bed and suddenly these two characters came into my head. Since I've found some beautiful pictures on Pinterest, I've been interested in danmei (Chinese version of yaoi apparently) and wuxia (martial arts/fantasy hero stories). Well, out of that, half asleep, Han and Li were created. Those are just "working names" right now, actually they resemble the names of two co-workers which inspired their characters. Another inspiration are Shūei Ran and Kōyū Ri of Saiunkoku Monogatari. I made up the story of how Han and Li became lovers - and later that day forgot most of it.

I'm still keeping those two in mind and working on it (often as a distraction when I get depressed about my current work situation) - though most probably there will never be a story. I'm not good at stories. I can make up characters and individual scenes, but I can never think of a proper plot.
It's a bit of a shame, really. While cleaning up my parents cellar recently and sorting through my old stuff I found a folder full of material about the U.S.S. Phoenix: I made up a Starfleet ship, with the whole bridge crew, their backstories and even drawings. But I never could think of a good story, so that went nowhere.

This song kind of represents the atmosphere I'm having in mind for Han and Li:
(Love this song, but unfortunately it's not available as a download in Germany. It's the ending of the anime Uragiri wa Boku no Namae wo Shitteiru.) Read more on this article...

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

What it all comes down to is that I haven't got it all figured out just yet.

I feel drunk but I'm sober, I'm young and I'm underpaid.
I'm tired but I'm working.
I care but I'm restless, I'm here but I'm really gone.
Alanis Morissette - Hand In My Pocket Read more on this article...

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Summer season 2014 anime short reviews

So here's a roundup of the animes I'm watching this season (apart from Free! Eternal Summer). I didn't like last season too much, but this time there's a few good ones.

DRAMAtical Murder

This is a strange one.
I really like the setting, futuristic, people in gangs, personal assistants in the form of robot animals. I also really like the character design, very diverse, colourful, creative, a little crazy. My favourite is Koujaku - an adorable and sexy hairdresser (!!) and gang leader with an old-fashioned samurai-ish outfit, tattoos and long dark hair.

I've read that this is based on a yaoi game, but so far it's rather harmless; there's just one kiss and that was more of a WTF moment than romantic or sexy.
I can't say too much of the plot yet because DRAMAtical Murder is one of these animes in which you need a lot of episodes to figure out what's going on. But it's not confusing enough to make me drop it (like some others), but rather entertaining enough to continue.

The big problem DRAMAtical Murder has is the animation. I don't usually care that much about animation quality but here it's at times so bad that even I notice. I do hope the studio manages to improve.
I'm also not too fond of the opening and ending, especially the music, but that's not too important for me.

Cyberpunk and yaoi - sounds like a good mash-up. Kind of makes me want to play the game and read the manga.




Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun

Chiyo Sakura has a crush on her schoolmate Umetarou Nozaki but when she tries to confess... she gets mistaken as a fan. Turns out Nozaki-kun is secretly the mangaka of a popular shōjo series. And while Sakura tries to get closer to him, she somehow ends up as his assistant.

There's really not much more to the plot. But the characters are awesome.

This is a hilarious shōjo parody. Everytime it seems like it's turning into your typical romantic high school drama for girls - something wacky happens and turns it all around.



Ao Haru Ride

And here we have the shōjo Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun is making fun of...
When Yoshioka Futaba starts High School she wants to change her image. She had been hated by the girls in her school because she was the cute type whom the boys like, so now she's going for a tomboy attitude. Then she unexpectedly meets her former crush Mabuchi Kou who had had moved away suddenly. But he has also changed a lot and while she tries to find out what happened, despite everything they become friends again. Prompted by Kous snarky remarks she tries to lead a more authentic school life with less shallow friendships. And so somehow an unlikely circle of friends forms. But things get complicated when Futabas new best friend falls for Kou.

It might sound weird but I kind of like how she likes his smell and how she's fascinated by the nape of his neck (a very intimate and sensitive area of your body) - it's those things that make it seem more realistic. And maybe somehow it makes me feel a little nostalgic. Also the pacing of the story is really good.

I know it's a rather typical high school romance, but I really quite like it. I even started reading the manga (which is also good).







Love Stage!!

Love Stage!! is a "gay" love story set in the entertainment industry in which an otaku from a famous family and a rising idol star discover that they are not as heterosexual as they thought they were.

I've read the manga before (and then forgot about it, like so often) so I started to watch the anime, too. I was a little surprised to hear of an anime adaption since the manga is quite explicit. In the anime there was ony one of these scenes so far and that one was of course heavily censored.

What I didn't like - in both manga and anime - was the sexual assault scene. I dislike how often these are used in manga/anime with a "I just couldn't help myself" and shortly after everything's ok because it was done because he loved her/him so much. I think that's a sickening attitude to spread. Sorry for that little rant.

Aside from that Love Stage!! is actually pretty funny and entertaining.





Barakamon

The handsome uprising calligrapher Seishuu Handa wins an important price but when he's critisized for being too conventional, his pride his hurt and he punches his critic, another famous calligrapher. As a punishment and to improve his art, the young man has to leave Tokyo and live on a remote island. As a city boy he's having a hard time dealing with the rural community, especially little girl Naru who is delighted to have a new playfellow available all day.
So we watch "Sensei"s (everyone just calls him that) quest to find his own style in calligraphy, which is sometimes heartwarming and most of the time extremely funny. The animation style is beautiful and the opening and ending songs are good and fit the mood.

Barakomon might be the best anime this season. I wasn't sure after the second episode because I felt it was too much slapstick with no good pacing, but the other episodes are great.


Read more on this article...

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Crave

Your eyes, your ears, your mouth, your nose
Your arms, your legs, your heart, your soul
Touch me, touch me, touch me, touch me
My body craves your touch


Nuno - Crave


Read more on this article...