- Koinaka') excelled at her job as high school teacher and loved encouraging her students to follow their dreams, including an aspiring singer named Dan who would frequently record himself singing in empty classrooms. But Asuka's dedication and can-do attitude were taken advantage of
by colleagues who harassed her and foisted their work onto her, and after misunderstandings caused most of her students to turn against her too, Asuka had no choice but to quit because her anxiety became too overpowering.
- Four and a half years later, Asuka's now-former student Dan has already debuted as the leader and songwriter of a boy band called 8LOOM ("Bloom", originally an idol group of eight members, now only seven). But 8LOOM is currently floundering; they're not selling records, they're not ranking on the charts, and no fans are hyping them up anywhere on social media. So the president of their record company (Hanamaki Records) announces that they'll be dropped from the label unless they can reach #1 on the streaming charts within the next six months.
- Meanwhile, Asuka has received psychiatric treatment, has recovered from
most (not all) of her work PTSD, and is working for her sister's bento food truck
business. She responds to a job ad and gets hired to be 8LOOM's live-in housekeeper/cook (寮母, ryoubo, "dorm mother" or "housemother") to get their lifestyle habits and self-discipline back on track. The educator in Asuka is determined to help the guys triumph, but will her past failures and anxiety flare up in the process? Will Dan learn to stop trying to be his own grumpy island? And might something "bloom" between Dan and Asuka?
What have you noticed lately?
Wednesday, April 12, 2023
The J-Drama Drop #31
Tuesday, February 28, 2023
BOOKS! (The Mutations + In Love & Trouble)
|RIP, Toffee. Nice meeting you.|
"'Why me?' asked most of her patients, as they tried to comprehend the scale of their misfortune, but Teresa, who years earlier had consigned that narcissistic question to the garbage, tried to lead them down a different path, into the basement of unfulfilled desires that fed their fear of oblivion" (17).
"Good health wasn't a state of peace and harmony with the environment, as naturopathic quack healers proclaimed. In fact, it was quite the opposite—a fleeting victory over chaos, a balancing act on a tightrope stretched over an abyss of turmoil. The 'health' touted on TV was the opium of a century of narcissists, an effective illusion for marketing vitamins, salads, and activewear, but useless for understanding the body's relationship to the world. Just like the plague and tuberculosis in other eras, cancer revealed this 'natural balance' to be a gargantuan sham, the missing clothes of an emperor not only naked but wasting away" (119-120).
"He understood her anger: she had done everything she could, and the doctor had let her down. Nevertheless, it wasn't his job to apologize like a hotel manager to an unsatisfied guest. Medicine was a rudimentary and to a large extent intuitive trade, from which it was impossible to expect perfect results" (151).
"'No, Ramón,' she said gravely, 'they're going to miss you. It'll be a huge loss for them... there's something really important you still need to do for them. Say goodbye slowly, teach them how to say goodbye. Nobody tells you this, but it's something that can be learned. My grandmother taught us how... She gave us all a gift and told us all something special. It was a master class in farewells... You can't abandon your children just like that, otherwise how will they know what to do when their own time comes?'" (166).
"He took me in his arms, right there in the grape arbor... After that, a miracle happened. Under Mordecai's fingers my body opened like a flower and carefully bloomed. And it was strange as well as wonderful. For I don't think love had anything to do with this at all." (from "Really, Doesn't Crime Pay?", p. 17)"I gloat over this knowledge. Now Ruel will find that I am not a womb without a brain that can be bought with Japanese bathtubs and shopping sprees. The moment of my deliverance is at hand!" (from "Really, Doesn't Crime Pay?", p. 18)"She will read every one of the thick books in her arms, and they are not books she is required to read. She is trying to feel the substance of what other people have learned. To digest it until it becomes like bread and sustains her. She is the hungriest girl in the school." (from "We Drink the Wine in France", p. 123)"His eyes would get all misty and he would sometimes cry out loud, but we never let it embarrass us, for he knew that we loved him and that we sometimes cried too for no reason." (from "To Hell with Dying", p. 134)
Wednesday, February 8, 2023
ドラマ (Dorama) Time! 30
- Kikazaru Koi') and Sou were high school sweethearts whose relationship was aided by their mutual friend Minato. (Minato was best friends with both and had feelings for Tsumugi, but kept those feelings to himself when he realized that Tsumugi had a crush on Sou.) Tsumugi fell for Sou's voice when he read an essay of his at a school assembly, and as a couple they bonded over their shared love of music (especially the band Spitz).
- But then Sou got diagnosed with hearing loss soon after the trio's graduation, and he was so overwhelmed that he hid his disability from his hometown friends by moving to Tokyo for college. After going completely deaf in college, Sou broke up with Tsumugi via a text claiming he'd fallen for someone else, when really he loved her so much that he believed it'd be too painful for both of them to no longer hear each other's voices or enjoy music together like before. Now, in the present, eight years have passed, and Tsumugi shares an apartment in Tokyo with her little brother while working at a record store and dating Minato. She thinks she's over Sou and is about to move in with Minato, until she unexpectedly crosses paths with Sou at a subway station on her way to an apartment viewing.
- Tsumugi almost immediately begins taking sign language classes to better communicate with Sou, and Minato—grateful to have his best friend back and sensing that Sou and Tsumugi's romance might eventually be rekindled—amicably breaks up with Tsumugi before his own potential resentment and jealousy can ruin the trio's renewed friendship. As the series approaches its conclusion, seemingly everyone in Tsumugi and Sou's lives is asking them, "Why aren't y'all together?" The lead exes do want each other back, but can they make a relationship between a hearing person and a non-hearing person work? Can Sou stop fixating on what they've lost and still might lose enough to give their love another chance?
- This is one of multiple Asian adaptations of the American, largely NYC-focused, romantic anthology series 'Modern Love' that were released in 2022.
Speaking of bonuses, I also thoroughly enjoyed episode 7, the shortest and the only anime episode of 'Modern Love Tokyo'. In it, an
office worker named Tamami who doesn't feel special often spends time at a
bar drinking wine and doodling. When the bartender unknowingly plays her favorite song from high school ("You May Dream" by Sheena & The Rokkets), Tamami reminisces about her short-lived romance with one of her schoolmates. Back then, she found a boy named Rin playing that song on the piano in their school's empty gym/auditorium, and they bonded over being Sheena & The Rokkets fans. Thinking
about that time also reminds adult Tamami of how her art teacher encouraged her
to have confidence in her skills, which motivates her to start posting her drawings on Instagram. She gains a following there, which leads her to reconnect with Rin, who's a professional musician now.
Each episode is under half an hour long, but it took me a while to finish all 50 of them because I would only watch this show when I was eating. 'Shinya Shokudo' tends to be quite mellow and cozy-feeling, and since I'd already seen most of it previously, I figured watching it while eating my meals would help maintain my attention span as I progressed through the series. I wouldn't always remember to turn the show on when I sat down to eat, but I remembered often enough to start mentally referring to my viewing sessions as, "Let's eat and cry while watching other people eat and cry." (There's a lot of eating and crying on this show, y'all.)
Even though I'm not left with any more affection or nostalgia for 'Shinya Shokudo' than I already had before, there are no words to describe how powerful it was for me to see the "Cream Stew" episode (S2E6) again. I saw the young sex worker in the all-white suit and her white shoes and her updo come on screen, and memories of studying that episode and its script in class with Matsuhima-sensei at JCMU came flooding back to me. That was the episode that started it all, that inspired me to seek out the rest of the series in the first place, so taking that episode in anew meant a lot to me.
I can't say that the Netflix seasons add anything spectacularly new to the series overall, and that was probably intentional on the production team's part since aside from brighter lighting and clearer film resolution, the visual and tonal continuity between seasons 1-3 and seasons 4-5 is pretty seamless. The ending theme songs are switched out almost every season, but "Omoide" by Suzuki Tsunekichi (RIP) reigns as the opening theme song for every single episode. With everything that matters about the show remaining the same, much of the plot being centralized inside or around one location (the titular diner run by everybody's favorite gangster-turned-chef), and many of the same actors making multiple appearances... honestly the most obvious signs of change and the passage of time that I noticed were the cellphones that characters used. You glimpse the full gamut of how cell phone technology in Japan evolved from 2009 to 2019, and I don't know why that's so fascinating to me, but it is.
So there you have it, a shorter than usual J-drama roster this time around. If I had to pick a favorite between the two new shows I watched—which I do, because I always pick a favorite when reviewing J-dramas—I'd have to give it to 'Silent'. Even though it didn't give me what I was looking for romance-wise and was pretty subdued as a whole, learning more about deafness and the deaf community in Japan made seeing the show worth it. The care and dignity with which it's written are top notch, and watching the film CODA (2022 Oscar winner for Best Picture) in the midst of watching 'Silent' made me appreciate the latter even more. Give it a try if you are interested in representations of disability in media, prefer gentle love stories, or want to hear "Subtitle" by Higedan again and again.
Now, off I go to find more J-dramas!
Thursday, January 19, 2023
10th Anniversary of DeelaSees
Well now! Today somehow makes 10 WHOLE ENTIRE YEARS since I started this blog. On January 19th, 2013 I was a college sophomore who had just turned 20 and had so many hopes for... welp. And I tried so hard to... oop. Never mind. Let's not dwell on that. Or those. Any of those.
Now, on January 19th, 2023 I'm a month and a half past 30 and... I don't know. That's the only answer I can think to give to any question that I might have for myself, or that anyone might have for me, about anything. I simply, truly, with astounding bafflement and searing disbelief, do not know.
In the first collaboration (of now two!) that I did with my book blogger friend Rachel, I mentioned how this blog has changed and how my future plans for it—other than to keep doing like I been doing as best I can—were uncertain. DeelaSees started out as an online diary of sorts. Then after I graduated from undergrad, my life seemed to get a lot less interesting (plus I got deep into pen-and-paper journaling and became increasingly wary of oversharing here), so I focused on continuing to write book reviews and J-drama reviews. And in that 2019 collaboration with Rachel, I mentioned potentially sunsetting this blog and starting a new one upon turning 30, keeping DeelaSees available as a record (relic?) of my 20s. And I still would like to do that, if my means and the events of 2023 permit.
(Maybe something like a professional website or an online portfolio, with my real name all over everything, is overdue? This blog is its own website, Young, Gifted and Abroad is another, I own the domains for both. But maybe it's time, been time, for an all-encompassing site that showcases all my work as well as me the person?)
But until then, I say all of the above to say this: Yeah, DeelaSees is 10 years old. I've kept this blog looking the way it does to help me grasp the sense of wonder I had when I started. And Danielle Grace—me, the person who created this blog, hey, hello again—is still here. I am still here. A lot less has changed than I assumed would by now, especially in the ways I assumed. But in the meantime and in between time, I'll continue to be here, writing my reviews... for now. And if you're still here to pick up what I put down? Then thank you!
Saturday, December 24, 2022
BOOKS! (Before I Let Go)
Why am I putting out a book review on Christmas Eve, you ask? Well. I'm not going to see my family in Louisville for Christmas this year because I have to help my mom recover from something (long story), and the only holiday-related plan I have for this weekend is to make a butter pecan cake for just me and Ma. (My cousin requested it since she's hosting Christmas dinner at her house, and I'd already gotten the ingredients before I knew that I wouldn't be there.) I just finished this romance novel the other day, the day before winter officially started, so I figured why not write about it before December is over? I'm reviewing this book by itself, in the foolish hope that within the next week I'll actually finish and review two short books that I've been planning to pair together since late summer.
Before I Let Go by Kennedy Ryan
Before I Let Go has been all the rage on social media especially during this final quarter of 2022, but the draw for me was specifically the way I saw Nichole Perkins (Sometimes I Trip on How Happy We Could Be) posting about it back in August. Most notably, I remember Perkins commending BILG's "grown folks steaminess" (underscored by four red hot pepper emojis), and remarking how Kennedy Ryan writes like someone who has a Southern grandmother. Such praise already had me convinced, and then somewhere online I came across this line from chapter 39 that further sold me on BILG beyond any potential doubt:
"'This body gave me my children,' I tell her, sliding down to lift her knees over my shoulders. 'And it will always be beautiful to me'" (329).
What's even left to deliberate after reading something like that? So I pre-ordered BILG ahead of its mid-November release. (When I finally got around to ordering, I was actually just about to get Octavia Butler's Kindred because I knew the TV adaptation would be coming out before year's end, but I was also eyeballs-deep in the Broken Earth trilogy and didn't think I could handle another story about slavery so soon, so I opted for something lovey-dovey to take the edge off instead.)
For the longest, Yasmen and Josiah Wade were the epitome of #BlackLove, #CoupleGoals. HBCU grads who got together when they were broke, built a thriving business together in Atlanta (Grits, a soul food restaurant based on the recipes of Aunt Byrd, who raised Josiah), had two kids and another on the way. But then Yasmen and Josiah were visited by death, twice, in relatively quick succession: Aunt Byrd died suddenly of a heart attack (Josiah was the one who found her body), and their third child Henry was stillborn after Yasmen accidentally tripped and fell alone at the restaurant and couldn't get help right away. These losses sent Yasmen into a depression where it took everything in her just to stay alive and make sure her kids were taken care of, whereas Josiah went into overdrive shouldering all the administrative and financial burdens of keeping Grits going. Grits just barely survived, but Yasmen and Josiah's marriage didn't; the fighting became too much, Yasmen resented Josiah for refusing to go to therapy and embrace his grief, and Josiah resented Yasmen for retreating within herself and wanting to chance another dangerous pregnancy to replace Henry. During a particularly raw confrontation full of low blows, Yasmen insisted on a divorce in hopes that it would put an end to their fighting and lessen the pain they were in, not realizing that pushing Josiah away like that would break his heart the most.
Now, almost two years since their divorce, Yasmen and Josiah seem to be moving on. They're co-parenting their 13-year-old daughter Deja and 10-year-old son Kassim. Yasmen's made new best friends through attending yoga classes, and time, therapy, and antidepressants have made it possible for her to return to co-running Grits and planning events for their neighborhood's community association. Josiah has moved into Aunt Byrd's house with Aunt Byrd's dog (a Great Dane named Otis, after Otis Redding) and is dating Vashti, Grits' head chef. But then Yasmen begins feeling quietly jealous as Josiah and Vashti become more involved with each other, so she starts dating a white politician named Mark who's been crushing on her for ages, which in turn makes Josiah quietly jealous. All the while, these exes are each having annoyingly vivid and persistent sex memories about each other. And all the while, everyone around them peeps their lingering affection for each other, even as Yas and Si stubbornly insist that they are over.
And then, during a disagreement in their shared office at Grits, Yasmen gets in Josiah's face, and the heat of that moment has both of their defenses slowly unraveling over the weeks that follow. And then, as staff and family gather at Yasmen's for Thanksgiving (Josiah and Vashti included), she and Josiah each get privately nostalgic about the times they used to share together. In fact, Josiah is so moved by tasting Yasmen's successful attempt at Aunt Byrd's
stuffing dressing recipe, and so flustered by what to do with his latent feelings for his ex-wife, that he breaks up with Vashti that same night. And then, Yasmen and Josiah have to take an overnight trip together to Charlotte to scope out a potential second location for Grits, they're forced to stay in the same hotel room, and after finally starting to have an honest conversation about where they each went wrong in their marriage and how they've coped with losing Henry, Yasmen kisses Josiah. Josiah agrees to have sex with her, but only once so they can get each other out of their systems, and then move on like nothing ever happened. They actually do the do twice that night, but who's counting? (I am.)
They uphold their deal upon returning to Atlanta, but as the holiday season continues on and a new year arrives, Yasmen finally admits to herself that she wants her ex-husband back. Then "once" in Charlotte leads to another time in Yasmen's garage in the backseat of her car, another time in the backstage area of their kids' private school's auditorium, and several times in Yasmen's bedroom (the one they used to share) when their kids aren't home. They agree to keep their trysts casual, secret, and exclusive, but it's difficult for them to think of each other as strictly casual sex partners when they're both falling hopelessly in love with each other all over again. (Even as Josiah shuns the idea of fully getting back with Yasmen, because he can't allow himself to trust that she genuinely wants him and won't cast him aside again.) Will Yasmen and Josiah get back together for real? Can they recapture what they once had? Or maybe this is a rare opportunity for their relationship to become something different altogether? Not merely a second chance, but a chance to develop something even deeper, more honest, more vulnerable, and more enduring than they ever thought possible?Beloved Bookishness" —similar to a famous book column that rhymes with Elf Wife—and in response to the prompt "Book That is Like Comfort Food (ex. A Read That is Chicken Soup For The Soul)", I wrote the following:
I’ve been reading Kennedy Ryan’s Before I Let Go since Thanksgiving, and “warm” is the first word I can think of to describe it. It’s a steamy romance novel about a divorced Black couple in Atlanta (who are also co-parents and restaurant co-owners) gravitating back towards each other after suffering huge losses, so it’s warm in that obvious lovey-dovey, will-they-won’t-they-oh-they-definitely-will sense. But it’s also about grieving, going to therapy, cooking and eating soul food, loving your people, and engaging with your community (or your overlapping communities) in a real way. There’s plenty of angst and longing and regret, but there’s also an abundance of tenderness and Black people (especially Black women) in the South just being themselves. All of that, plus the burnt orange background and the Black woman with the smoky eye and gigantic afro featured on the cover, make Before I Let Go feel invitingly warm. Its essence is warmth, just like comfort food.
"I'm ready to reclaim the space that loss and shit luck tried to take from me" (13)."It's so affirming, even that simplest sprinkling of praise. It makes me realize how arid I've been inside, how badly I've needed watering" (113)."There was just something... liberating? Freeing? Right about telling this stranger everything. Nothing changed, but somehow I felt better. I don't completely understand it, but after all the shit of the last few years, feeling better is worth something" (146)."What if the most right moments tonight were the ones we shared alone in that cellar when our lips almost met? When our hearts beat like talking drums through our chests?... Could it be that what I thought were ashes were actually embers, waiting to be rekindled?" (284)."Horny and highly favored!" (313)."'Live long enough,' Dr. Musa says softly, 'and you'll lose people, things. We just need to learn how to deal with it in ways that aren't isolating or destructive. You have to decide if being afraid of losing Yasmen again is worth never having her again'" (361).
Wednesday, November 30, 2022
BOOKS! (The Stone Sky)
As the Moon rises and Nassun accepts that she can make neither Schaffa nor the world better, she decides it's time to end it all by crashing the Moon into the earth. She goes near the obelisk pit at the center of Corepoint and begins connecting obelisks together in the sky but is distracted by the sight of Schaffa, reanimated by Father Earth, entering a building near her and heading underground. Nassun follows him into what's revealed to be Warrant, the Guardian-only comm that's been referenced in book 1 and book 2, but that no one except Guardians have known the location of. In Warrant, Nassun finds Schaffa in a huge hall where implant surgeries are performed, and where all the hibernating Guardians are stored. Schaffa's implant has just been removed and he's been restored to full consciousness, as a gesture of goodwill from Father Earth. Perhaps, now that Schaffa has been revived, maybe Nassun can ensure he remains alive by not destroying Earth, and going the planet-full-of-stone-eaters route instead? So Nassun changes her plans, and returns above ground just in time to run into her mother for the first time in two years. Nassun turns her back on Essun, she opens the Gate, she and Essun fight as I've already described, and as Essun accepts defeat and dies in statue form, Nassun is transfixed by the sight of her mother smiling at her. (Apparently Essun had never smiled at her own daughter before?) She realizes that even in the end, her mother still believed there was something in the world worth saving, and that something was Nassun. At just that moment, the still-activated onyx communicates Essun's last wishes to Nassun, and Nassun changes her plans again at the very last minute, bringing the Moon back in alignment with Earth since her mother couldn't.
|For Essun. The pomegranate is a separate thing.|
"They're afraid because we exist, she says. There's nothing we did to provoke their fear, other than exist. There's nothing we can do to earn their approval, except stop existing—so we can either die like they want, or laugh at their cowardice and go on with our lives" (109)."But there are none so frightened, or so strange in their fear, as conquerors. They conjure phantoms endlessly, terrified that their victims will someday do back what was done to them—even if, in truth, their victims couldn't care less about such pettiness and have moved on. Conquerors live in dread of the day when they are shown to be, not superior, but simply lucky" (210)."I want to understand what she means us to learn... I also want to simply look at her face and bask in that deep, powerful orogenic presence of hers. It's nonsensical... I want her to look at me. I want to speak to her. I want to be her.I decide that what I'm feeling is love....I think of what life I might want for myself, if I could have a choice... I think of living with Kelenli. Sitting at her feet every night, speaking with her as much as I want, in every language that I know, without fear. I think of her smiling without bitterness and this thought gives me incredible pleasure." (205, 261)."Impossible to delude oneself in a moment like this. Impossible to see only what one wants to see, when the power to change the world ricochets through mind and soul and the spaces between the cells... Impossible not to understand that Nassun has known Schaffa for barely more than a year, and does not truly know him, given how much of himself he has lost. Impossible not to realize that she clings to him because she has nothing else—But through her determination, there is a glimmer of doubt in her mind... Barely even a thought. But it whispers, Do you really have nothing else?Is there not one person in this world besides Schaffa who cares about you?" (381-82)."'The Fulcrums are wrong... Imprisonment of orogenes was never the only option for ensuring the safety of society.' I pause deliberately, and she blinks, perhaps remembering that orogene parents are perfectly capable of raising orogene children without disaster. 'Lynching was never the only option. The nodes were never the only option. All of these were choices. Different choices have always been possible.'There is such sorrow in her, your little girl. I hope Nassun learns someday that she is not alone in the world. I hope she learns how to hope again" (395-96).