Kyoko Mogami is an innocent, hardworking, and sincere girl. She left school to follow her long time crush, Sho Fuwa, to Tokyo as he became a superstar idol. Kyoko grew up with Sho, and now that they live together in Tokyo she is taking care of all the housework and the bills while he pursues his career. She is head over heels in love and will do anything for him, despite his often cold and selfish behaviour. One day when Kyoko visits his work to drop off food for him, she overhears him telling another woman how Kyoko is basically his slave and a pushover, and he doesn't care about her at all. She is heartbroken at this revelation, but instead of falling into sadness she is consumed with anger. She vows revenge on him. Kyoko changes her look and goes into show business so she can one-up him in his own field. Her persistence and passion drive her to Sho's rival talent agency where she begins a show business career of her own (after harassing a scout into acquiescence). It is also where she meets Sho's self-proclaimed rival, Ren Tsuruga. Ren is Japan's number one actor who is talented, handsome, and aloof.
Kyoko is a wonderfully comical choice for a romance heroine since her heartbreak has sworn her off love forever. Throughout the series there are moments that normally would have a shojo manga heroine all a-flutter but Kyoko remains oblivious. She wants nothing to do with romance, to the point where she doesn’t even notice her own affections. It makes for a wonderful slow-burn romance story. It is also nice to see her remain innocent in a lot of ways, despite her anger. Her innocent and excitable pursuit of friendship with fellow actress Kanae proves that Kyoko is still the sweet girl from the beginning of the first book. Her dedication to her new craft shows us that she is still as hardworking as ever. I can’t help but root for her success, in show business, in getting her revenge, and in opening her heart once again. The romance that is slowly building in the series is a beautiful relationship built on many factors. It is a nice change from some of the more superficial relationships that can be found in romance stories. These characters truly respect and care for each other, and watching their relationship unfold is delightful.
Skip Beat! has a strong and endearing heroine, and a wonderful supporting cast of characters. This is not your average romance story, and the differences are like a breath of fresh air. Kyoko’s intensity and outlook are unlike any other shojo heroine I have encountered before. As the story unfolds and we learn more backstory, mysteries are discovered which often bring more questions than answers. These books are so fun to read and hard to put down. If you are looking for a story with the perfect blend of silly and sweet, this is the series for you!
Dir. Sidney Lumet, 1974 & Dir. Kenneth Branagh, 2017
To my fellow Hercule Poirot fans, I give you a comparative study (executed on my couch in PJs) of two film versions of Agatha Christie’s Murder on The Orient Express: one from director Sidney Lumet in 1974 and the other from actor-come-director Kenneth Branagh, in 2017. Express is one of Christie’s most serious works, wherein a bizarre murder forces Poirot to rethink his view of justice. The detective is pushed to the brink when forced to see good and evil in shades of grey.
The 1974 depiction strikes an incorrect note. It’s too lighthearted, too farcical. It’s a beautiful film to watch: an extravagant menagerie of sumptuous sets, period costumes and long atmospheric shots. It’s a throwback to films of the 1930s and employs old fashioned tropes that result in flat characters. It boasts a star-studded cast, but relies on their celebrity for character development - Anthony Perkins’ character is given Norman Bates-like neuroses, and Lauren Bacall’s Mrs Hubbard is more bawdy than busybody. Albert Finney, as Poirot, speaks gruffly and laughs often, failing to capture the detective’s fastidious, brilliant and empathetic character.
Branagh, on the other hand, does great justice to Poirot - with his expansive moustache, eye twinkle, and characteristic peculiarities. This version also drew some of the best actors in the biz, and their talents are on fine display. Characters are well developed, with emotional and political storylines pursued. Each is pretending to be someone they’re not, but in the wilderness of the train shed, disguises are fashioned primarily out of racial and cultural stereotypes.
It’s a fitting analysis of a novel embedded in a backdrop of xenophobia. Willem Dafoe’s character marauds as an Austrian white supremacist, but later confesses that he is actually an American Jew. Colonel Arbuthnot (described by Christie as “Indian” yet cast as white in 1974) is re-imagined as a black war veteran forced to conceal his love affair with the white Miss Debenham. The era’s narrow conception of womanhood is also turned on its head when Michelle Pfeiffer (as Mrs Hubbard) removes her coiffed blonde wig and drops the Mae West act to reveal an age-worn woman with a sad, deep voice and scraggly brown hair. She is exposed as the brains behind the operation, transforming her from a caricature to a complex figure of female grief, autonomy and rage.
In summary, while the 1974 version of Express is a tasty bit of escapism and a feast for the eyes, the 2017 is by far superior. The acting and writing bring new life to this classic, and through a historical lens, address issues highly relevant today. Check them both out from the Kitchener Public Library today, and see what you think!.
- Ellie, Information Services
What We're Reading
by Naomi Novik
Uprooted is a wonderful fantasy novel by Naomi Novik, which uses elements from traditional Polish fairytales to create a unorthodox tale of a magical forest, a wizard in a tower, and an intrepid heroine who rises up to battle the corruption and evil that threaten her village, kingdom, and those she loves most.
Agnieszka, the protagonist, dreads the day that ‘The Dragon’, a wizard who is the lord of her small village, will come to take away a girl from the village to be his student. Agnieszka knows it will be her best friend, Kasia, but when the day comes, it is Agnieszka herself that the Dragon chooses. She soon is thrust into a complex new world of magic and mystery as she struggles to memorize the spells the Dragon teaches her, and learns more about the long, generations-old fight against the dark, enchanted Wood that creeps ever closer to her village, and the rest of the kingdom.
I found Uprooted to be refreshing yet nostalgic, as the book uses a very traditional folklore type setting, but the protagonist was an incredibly capable, strong-willed female character who is far from being a helpless princess. Instead, she’s constantly confounding those in power, choosing her own way, and upending stuffy tradition by following her gut.
Furthermore, Novik’s storytelling is beautiful, and her description of magic creations and spells is enthralling. Uprooted is a standalone novel, but I would love to read more of Novik’s writing in the same world, and have already lined up her most recent novel, Spinning Silver, for my next read!
From the moment the film I, Tonya began, I was absorbed in a black comedy which certainly was not making me laugh. This biopic about infamous figure skater Tonya Harding, first woman in the world to land the triple axel and mired in scandal over the Nancy Kerrigan incident, is filmed in an intriguing docudrama style. You hear “testimony” from Tonya (Margot Robbie), her husband Jeff (Sebastian Stan), Tonya’s mother LaVona (Allison Janney), Jeff’s delusional friend Shawn (Paul Walter Hauser), reporters, coaches and more combined with artfully shot scenes from Tonya’s life. The conflicting testimonies were intriguing; leaving me with a sense of never knowing who was untruthful to protect their reputations and who might have be living in their own concocted world.
As I did not have a strong background in Tonya Harding’s history, I found myself fact checking events happening in the film. I would suggest this Vulture article as a resource to quickly fact check details.
I, Tonya is not a film I would recommend if you have difficulty processing scenes of physical abuse. I struggled to finish the film for this reason, but decided finish the film because Margot Robbie absolutely captured me with her performance of Tonya. Tonya is portrayed as brassy, strong, and a fighter in many ways despite her vulnerabilities and the horrible home situations she faced as a child and during her marriage. While the film does feature the attack with a police baton on Nancy Kerrigan before the 1994 Winter Olympics, the focus is on Tonya’s life, which makes for a gripping, fierce narrative worthy of a watch. To watch this film on DVD, click here or view digitally on Hoopla here.
- Amanda, Information Services
Kitchener Public Library 85 Queen St. North Kitchener, Ontario N2H2H1 519-743-0271 http://www.kpl.org/