Thursday, 12 January 2012

So I Need to Lose 15 Pounds

Disclaimer: I know that everyone who’s reading this is already a perfectly formed and svelte individual. As such don’t be offended if I recommend this book to you as there’s more to enjoy on top of the weight-loss angle.
This manga almost passed me by completely, and only on one of my aimless journeys of online book browsing did I randomly fall upon it and decided to give it a chance. The title describes the content of the book exactly: ‘So I Need to Lose 15 Pounds’ is a comic-diary where the artist attempts to lose weight over a period of 5 months. From her first encounter with her editor to the final weigh-in, we get to read the artist’s experiences of various techniques. Different diets are applied alongside working out and health plans while suffering both to positive and negative outcomes of each treatment. A pretty rigorous scheme gets out initially reluctant artist through 27 such methods from jogging to hypnosis via way of saunas and colon cleansers. There’s a constant stream of new things to try (with varying results) and we get a monthly update as the mission continues throughout the book.
Those considering this as a fool-proof manga guide for weight loss should be warned that this is predominantly a work of entertainment. There’s very little science involved in any of the techniques - some could even be argued as being detrimental to your health (I’m certainly no expert to judge that however). There are a couple of tables and graphs at the back of the book with starred recommendations for each of the methods which give the impression of a proper health guide, but this book is more about trying to keep up with pensioners while jogging or avoiding the family when they’ve bought home a massive cake. This is one person’s unique experience of losing weight – not a valid health guide in the slightest.
The charming and light-hearted art is drawn in a simple style that reflects our sometimes flaky heroine quite accurately. The everyday sense of fun is really appealing and while I doubt it I’ll be applying any of the book’s contents to myself I’m very glad to have found it.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Whisper of the Heart Art Book -「バロンのくれた物語」の物語

It’s no real secret that I’m a big fan of Ghibli, and any excuse to talk a bit about them makes my day. I love their work, and I especially love their artbooks in all their various shapes and sizes (I’m a sucker when it comes to pencils and watercolours). Alongside the recent Arrietty, the next few days will see the release of Whisper of the Heart on Blu-Ray. It’s a sublime film and if you haven’t already seen it I strongly encourage you all to seek it out. As for the artbook for the film, it’s a bit of a weird thing.

I could be wrong, but after hours of hunting through places such as Ebay and Amazon Japan, I couldn’t actually find an artbook specifically for Whisper of the Heart. None of the film’s depiction of Japanese suburbia exists in book form or even character sketches of the main cast were available to me (if there is such a book please let me know!). The volume I was able to come up with though focuses solely on the Baron – the cat figurine that features briefly in the film. This book is dedicated entirely to around 5 minutes of the entire film in miniscule details, so fans of the Baron who want to check out his origins will get a kick out of this book. I’ve taken a couple of photos but please forgive the blur:

What you get inside are watercoloured and pencilled storyboards for the Baron’s sequences, about 20 pages of content, with the rest presenting an extensive look at the fantasy backgrounds. The reproduction is lush, but anyone originally after any content even vaguely relating to its parent film might be a little disappointed at this somewhat slender 96-page offering. I’m proud to have it on my shelf as it opens a window to something that passes so fleetingly in the main film (and I’m a fan of the Baron too which helps), but these books don’t exactly come cheap so it’s always good to give a heads up to anyone who might be tempted so they know what to expect.

Sadly Whisper of the Heart turned out to be the only film directed by Yoshifumi Kondo before passing away. For those interested in his work I recommend checking out his artbook ふとふり返ると近藤喜文画文集, perhaps even more so than the Whisper of the Heart book.

Naturally as a non-Japanese reader I can’t tell you much about the book’s real intentions, but inside is page upon page of delicate drawings made with coloured pencils. Everyday scenes or people riding bikes, getting caught in the rain or just having fun are depicted. It has about 100 pages and is a sturdy hardback. While it has no actual relation to Whisper of the Heart at all, the vibe of the gentle nondramatic instances of life this is really worth checking out as a spiritual accompaniment to the film.