Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Anime Review: Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Comedy wa Machigatteiru Zoku

Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Comedy wa Machigatteiru Zoku, Oregairu Zoku in short, may be one of the most awaited sequels in anime world. I began to watch this sequel that has been long awaited with a hope that I would see more of Hikigaya Hachiman’s epic wisdom as an outcast. I had been waiting for quite a long time that I forgot where it had left off. Thankfully, this sequel began by refreshing our memory on how the prequel left off. Some unpleasant talk with Hayama, I see. Not something too noticeable not to forget, I see. So the sequel began.

It began with the Service Club having its usual rhythm: Yuigahama enthusiastically talking about her day, Yukinoshita calmly listening, and Hachiman sitting from a significant distance to where his club partners usually sit. Then a request would come, and they would be discussing on whether they should take the request or not. If they agree to take the request, they would immediately set a preliminary discussion on how they would solve the problem.

Unlike the episodic nature of the prequel, this series consists of three main arcs, two of them ended with love confession attempts. Maybe three. I am not really sure about the last arc though. Does that make romance more prominent than the other elements such as comedy and friendship drama? At least I did not see it that way, and this series remained to be more about high school life as a whole rather than one specific theme or two.

Anyway, all of the arcs drove me quite mad. Not because the confession results or whether any ship becomes canon or not, but more because of the majority of the characters inside. Some of the characters are openly plain annoying, some are bloody indecisive and change their mind every few days to hours, some are simply pretentious, and the usually calm and collected Yukinoshita was acting like she expects everyone (Hachiman especially) to read her mind. In the first season, I had an impression that Yuigahama was among the less likable characters because she seemed flat (character-wise... *coughs*) and just went along with the flow. However, she is among the characters I truly respect now. She always try her best in her role as a bridge between the characters, and between the groups.

I guess that is indeed relevant to the central theme of this series, though. And it is completely realistic, I assume. At least I remember encountering similar treats during my junior high school to college days. In some cases, I found some of those traits in my past self. In some other cases, I found some in my peers, making me an annoyed or possible troubled outcast like Hachiman.

I wished for Totsuka and the chuunibyou guy (he was not shown much that I keep forget his name!) to show more. But now I realize that their appearance may would not contribute much to the story since on the contrary, they seem not to have much issue about themselves and their peers. They are doing fine with their quirks and how people perceive them. They have nothing to pretend.

Personally, I have mixed feelings about this series. As how I mentioned earlier, I got annoyed by many of the characters. In addition, I feel quite clueless about the open ending. My reaction when I saw the last seconds of this series was pure "????? is that it? what". Will this series continue so that I can see how they will go through such communication problem? Or should we read the light novel that has no official English or Bahasa Indonesia translation yet? Personally, I would rather read the printed copy if there is any that I can read.

Despite being annoyed many times with this series, I like how its speaks for many audiences, whether through Hachiman or through other characters such as Hayama or Yuigahama or anyone else. It speaks for different types of outcasts (cynical type, too-perfect-to-be-true type, chuunibyou type..). It speaks for popular guys who can get tired from living up people’s expectations. It speaks for the clique of averages who want to maintain the status quo of their group friendship. This is why this series is so much celebrated among its viewers.

According to my attitude towards selfies and group-fies, I have to say that I am more like Hachiman. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Book Review: Maya by Ayu Utami

Title: Maya
Author: Ayu Utami
Length: 232 pages
ISBN# 978-979-91-0626-1
Kepustakaan Populer Gramedia 2013

Maya is the third book of the Bilangan Fu series by Ayu Utami. This book is also linked to the Saman dwilogy that were published in early 2000s. During the read of this book, I tried to answer the question on whether we should read the previous books or it can be read as a standalone or without chronological order. Apparently it is the second and third option, but I felt the need to refresh my memory on the previous books’ plot as I began reading it. Later I found out that its position is as the transition between the Saman dwilogy to the Bilangan Fu series. But anyway, worry not, the beginning of this book would tell you the gist of what happened earlier.

This book is divided to three sections: Kini (present), Dulu (past), and Kelak (future). Kini was opened in a melancholic mood of Yasmin Moningka. In 1998, when The Reformation Era was just about to begin in Indonesia, she received three mails from Saman. Saman is a former priest who abandoned his faith after he got involved in some social resistance movements in South Sumatera. Saman was among the activists that were considered missing in the last years of The New Order Era. His story can be read in the first book of the Saman dwilogy, of which title uses his own name. The three mails Yasmin received contained three letters in Javanese and one gemstone which apparently shows the image of two Semars.

Yasmin met Maya, a midget albino dancer from the Saduki Clan that performed Ramayana shadow dance after hew meeting with Suhubudi. Suhubudi is a mysticism expert with whom Yasmin consulted about the three letters and gemstone she received from Saman. Some parts of this book portrays Maya’s view of the world as a midget albino. While the Ramayana shadow dance liberated her from her (apparently) hideous figure to the servant of beauty, the introduction of the world outside the Suhubudi compound brought her a shocking change of her paradigm. It was like how Adam and Eve was shocked by the exposure of knowledge after they tasted The Forbidden Fruit. This shows how different individuals would perceive the taste of new knowledge differently. Some will reach with enthusiasm and excitement, longing to know more. Some others will react with shock and terror. There are also some others who react with doubt or apathy. In Maya’s case, she was terrified. She was terrified by people’s unsympathetic reaction to her unusual figure. She was terrified to find that Ramayana is not originally from Java, that the purification of Sita was considered taboo among the Javanese in the ancient time. Furthermore, she was terrified that Semar, whom she idolizes, was not celebrated in the outside world as how the Saduki Clan and her celebrate him.

Dulu features more about Saman, Parang Jati, and their relationship. It was when the AMD (ABRI Masuk Desa - ABRI in the village) program was implemented and the farmers were required to plant the IRRI rice seeds to support the Swasembada Pangan (food self-sufficiency) program. We were shown the dark side of those development programs that a lot of ahistorical Indonesians long to return today, as well as the mysticism behind The New Order’s legitimacy. I am not sure whether the mysticism behind The New Order part is true though. It also presents some moments between Saman and Yasmin, and a bit about Larung Lanang, the character that becomes the title of the Saman dwilogy’s sequel.

Kelak emphasized how Maya was conflicted and terrified after the exposure of knowledge happened in Kini. Meanwhile, the Reformation movement started to emerge. Parang Jati decided to take a part in the student’s movement to end Soeharto’s regime, despite that he is still on duty to guard Yasmin and her daughter from something that is after the gemstone Yasmin carried. It was the first time Parang Jati acted without Suhubudi’s approval. Unfortunately, that was also the first time an incident happened under his responsibility. What will happened to Yasmin and her daughter? Why is the gemstone targeted? How will Maya overcome her internal conflict after she tasted The Forbidden Fruit? And most importantly, how is Saman doing now? Did he survive as a missing person?

Compared to Ayu’s other books, Maya is remarkably rich in melancholy. There are Yasmin’s search of Saman’s trace, Maya’s struggle to overcome her physical limitations and deal with the shocking exposure of knowledge, Saman’s spiritual struggle, and Parang Jati’s guilt. Meanwhile, as how her other books are, this book is also rich with historical reference and Ayu’s interpretation to those references. In this case, she interpreted Ramayana and the role of Semar as the Saduki Clan’s patron.

I always like the mystic atmosphere Ayu created in her texts. Sometimes it would cause your heart to beat faster and tremble. Sometimes it would grasp your heart, crush your feeling. The part when Bandowo lost his right hand broke my heart and made me want to stop reading for a few minutes to dive in the sadness. There are also some new-to-me facts presented, including how the Javanese used towritelikethis in the past. It reminds me of an old friend that likes to write in that manner on blogs and social media. Could it be related to that fact?

At the end of this book, Ayu provided some credits on the source materials she used during the research for this book. As usual, the book made me want to explore the ancient epochs from India that were adapted to create the Javanese feel. I would recommend this book to the historical fiction enthusiasts, especially if you have read the Saman dwilogy. Anyway, it is interesting that I finally this book with a bit about the myth of the Semar gemstone just when the gemstone fever is happening in Indonesia!

This review is an entry for 100 Hari Membaca Sastra Indonesia by lustandcoffee.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Tackle Your TBR Read-A-Thon

Hello to everyone who visit and read this blog. It has been quite a while since my latest update. I supposed to post a report on my visit to the Indonesia International Book Fair two weeks ago, but work has been hectic lately. I admit that when I have some spare energy after work, I would indulge myself in my cross stitch project instead of writing the event report lately ;P Anyway. I have been planning to participate the Tackle Your TBR Read-A-Thon since a few months ago. It is already started today and will end on Sunday, September 27th. You can click here if you would like to sign up. 

In this read-a-thon, I plan to finish reading at least one Indonesian literary novel. Once I finish it, I plan to continue reading Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I am still not sure about what to read after that. Maybe I will re-start reading Haruki Murakami's Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, or more Jane Austen. I am also looking forward to read the two books by Jared Diamond I just recently bought, Collapse and The World Until Yesterday. There are so many options!

I did not read much in my previous read-a-thon. I hope I can get to read a lot this time, as the project that has been taking most of my time and energy at work is nearing its end this week. I just hope I can have a decent amount of time for both reading and crafting then. 

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Book Review: Dari Parangakik ke Kampuchea by Nh. Dini

Title: Dari Parangakik ke Kampuchea
Author: Nh. Dini
Length: 423 pages
ISBN# 979-22-0303-6
Gramedia Pustaka Utama 2005

Dari Parangakik ke Kampuchea is a memoir of a French consular’s wife that took place after Jepun Negerinya Hiroko’s time frame. It is opened by an “abstract” that tells the gist of the whole book. The narration style is slightly more poetic and emotional than the two previous memoirs, despite that Dini admitted that she spent her early days in this memoir’s period in apathetic mood. Under Yves’ presence, Dini mostly let the days passed by all of its imperfections without trying to make them better. The gradual change in her relationship with her husband is shown in how she gradually refers her husband as “my husband”, “Lintang’s father”, even “the husband” and “Mr. Consular” more than using his name, compared to the previous two memoirs. The poetic mood may be due to the presence of a captain that will have a significant role in Dini’s life for the next three memoirs.

After a touristy trip to Greece, Italy and Rome, Dini and her husband stayed in an apartment in Versailles until Yves got appointed as the French consulate in Cambodia (formerly known as Kampuchea, hence this memoir’s title). The great deal on the cheap apartment turned out to be a small, humid “apartment” that used to be a storeroom. The worse thing was that they had to endure the coldest winter in the past 40 years in such inconvenient apartment. Dini had to struggle with the modest living and stingy husband for almost a year, in contrast to her convenient lifestyle in Japan. Thankfully, there was her beautiful daughter, Lintang, and a visit of her old friends, Francis and Anis, that helped her survive the tough time in France. When Yves finally got a job in Cambodia, Dini and Lintang was scheduled to travel by ship while the husband arrived early to settle their living arrangement in Cambodia. As usual, Dini’s sociability got her acquainted with a few passengers in the ship, including the captain that would put butterflies in her stomach. Her life in Cambodia was not just all about dealing with her difficult husband. Besides getting busy with all the consular’s household chores, she spent her days taking care of her daughter, contributing in Women’s International Club, and spent some time with the captain.

Like the previous memoir, the book contains tons of descriptions of the places Dini stayed in. There were also a bit more explanations on the historical background of those places, but mostly not on the events that were going on. An exception would be on what was going on in Cambodia under Norodom Sihanouk’s leadership in the 1960s, when Cambodia went through an impressive development progress after the World War II. Many reviewers on Goodreads praised her vibrant descriptions of the places and food Dini experienced in this memoir’s time frame. Her description on her living arrangement in Cambodia reminds me of an American consular’s place where my former employer once held an event. That brought such happy memory of my own experience, which is nice.

On the technical side, this book is noticeably thicker and text-heavier compared to the previous two memoirs. The font is also noticeably smaller to pack more words in a page. One thing that bugged me besides Yves’ hellish behavior is that Dini often uses the expression “...X, dengan siapa aku...” and “...Z, siapa yang...” like the direct, Google Translate-ish translation of “...X, with whom I...” and “...Z, who was...”. If I am not familiar with English grammar and structure, I would be confused with the text, as Bahasa Indonesia noes not normally work that way.

After reading three memoirs of Nh. Dini from the beginning of her adulthood as a stewardess, I have been thinking a lot of her and her family. I thought about how an impressive, well-disciplined working woman like her had to suffer under an unexpectedly unhappy marriage. Her husband once saw her as an intelligent lady, but as they embarked on marriage life, he started to limit her intellectual activities such as reading and writing. He even limited her writing because he perceived it as a non-productive activity that could not be monetized. And when Dini started to paint, he cynically whine on how art supplies are so expensive while her new hobby was seen as yet another non-productive one. As a reader; blogger; and crafter, I personally felt so sad for her and angry to her husband. While many readers judged her negatively because of her not being faithful in this memoir and the next three memoirs, I sympathize her pain and longing for a genuine relationship that respects and appreciates each other. It is very unfortunate for her, though thankfully she still managed to sneak her writing time out of Yves’ notice. Thanks to that, now that her books have been published and able to be read by many. In addition, she may also be enjoying the health benefits of those intellectual activities, despite that she still has to struggle with her vertigo nowadays.

I also thought a lot about her relationship with her children in the present. How is their relationship nowadays? How is Lintang doing at the moment? That may will be answered in her latest memoirs, which I have not read yet. Maybe not. She must be proud of her son, but is she actually? How she has to struggle with her financial condition, while her son must be enjoying his fruits of labor? I also found out how her son was born when I read the synopsis of the next memoir that took place after this one, Dari Fontenay ke Magallianes. I will not spoil on that to you as much as I was spoiled by many reviewers of her next memoirs (!!!), but I found that deeply saddening.

I had quite a hard time to finish reading this book, but that is just because a few parts of it felt emotional for me. Overall, I would recommend this book, especially to people who are about to read her next three memoirs: Dari Fontenay Ke Magallianes, La Grande Borne, and Argenteuil. This book will explain a lot of things you may will question in those three memoirs, especially those moral questions concerning her marriage and faithfulness to her husband. I do not have the next memoir yet and it is currently hard to find as I am writing this, but I have a few more memoirs of hers that are not in chronological order. However, as you may have already implied, I am having a kind of hangover after reading three of her memoirs consecutively.  I plan to take a break from reading her books for a while, and continue with reading another Indonesian literary author’s work after this. 

This review is an entry for 100 Hari Membaca Sastra Indonesia by lustandcoffee.