Book Review: Naoko

“What they were living through was certainly mysterious, but apparently not without precedent in the world.”

On a trip to a ski resort in the winter holidays, a mother and her daughter are getting seriously injured in a bus accident and are brought into a hospital. Naoko, the mother, suddenly dies. Monami, a girl at the age of fourteen, survives her injuries. When she wakes up from the coma, however, it turns out that she speaks odd with the voice of her mother, and she also behaves quite like her.

The daughter’s father is frightened, but soon it becomes clear that Naoko’s spirit has taken possession of the body of her daughter Monami and lives on. The husband/father makes some research whether this really can happen and comes across a scientific explanation. He is glad that his wife and daughter have survived, but unexpected difficulties are coming his way.

Higashino Keigo 東野 圭吾 was born in 1958. He is a famous writer of more than sixty books and short story collections in Japan.

Higashino Keigo was the president of the organization “Mystery Writers of Japan” 日本推理作家協会 (2009-2013) and is mostly known for his mystery novels such as “The Devotion of Suspect X” (容疑者Xの献身, Yōgisha Ekkusu no Kenshin), part of his Detective Galileo series.

The original title of “Naoko” is “秘密 (himitsu)” which stands for “secret”. It is a novel and was published in 1998. The English translation was made available in 2004. It was made also into a Japanese movie in 1999, and a European remake “Secret” was produced in 2007.

When I read the beginning, I rolled my eyes and thought, what a strange paranormal nonsense this book is. But when I accepted the premise, namely that the spirit of the dead mother takes possession of her daughter, a real dramatic story came to live.

This story is a tragedy. And even if you do not believe in paranormal conditions, then the story of “Naoko” is extremely exciting and remarkably real from a psychological point of view. The story is surprisingly good and has some touching moments in store.

Reviewed Title

東野 圭吾. Himitsu (秘密), 1998. (Japanese cover)

Keigo Higashino. Naoko. Translated by Kerim Yasar, Vertical 2004 (English cover).

Movie Review: The Tale of Princess Kaguya

movie poster Princess Kaguya

“All life on Earth is cyclical — birth, growth, death, and revival…”

A bamboo cutter finds a tiny girl in a bamboo sprout and takes her home.
He and his wife raise the girl like a daughter of their own. They notice that she is something very special and call her “Hime” (princess). Hime grows up in a natural environment where she leads a happy simple life with her foster parents. In doing so, she establishes contacts with her neighbors’ children in a carefree way. She feels a special friendship with the boy Sutemaru.

One day, the bamboo cutter finds a gold treasure in the bamboo grove and regards it as a sign to offer Hime a comfortable and rich life in the city. From then on, the couple and Hime live in a palace with many employees and a lady-in-waiting who is supposed to teach Hime the appropriate etiquette. But Hime is unhappy and longs for the simple life back in the mountains and finds it difficult to get used to the new life. As the story progresses, it becomes clear that Hime is a divine being who originally came to Earth from the moon and must return there as well.

Princess Kaguya is based on one of the oldest Japanese fairytales: “The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter”, a fairytale of the 10th century. (Japanese: “竹取物語” Taketori monogatari. (link to English translation of the fairy tale and to the Japanese version).

“The Tale of Princess Kaguya” by Ghibli Studios is an artistic anime
with an unique impressionistic animation style. Osamu Tanabe is responsible for the character design, animation design, and the layout. Kazuo Oga created the artwork. Isao Takahata states in an interview given to Wired: “All life on Earth is cyclical — birth, growth, death, and revival — as in the songs I wrote for the film. I consider this to be the basis for everything.”

This is a wonderful and beautiful movie! My rating is: (5 of 5 stars) ★★★★★ (Review by Japan Kaleidoskop)

Genre: Animation, Fantasy, Drama
Year: 2013
Title (Japanese): かぐや姫の物語
Director: Isao Takahata
Writer: Isao Takahata
Screenplay: Isao Takahata and Riko Sakaguchi
Studio: Studio Ghibli
Length: 2 hours 17 minutes

movie trailor:

Art on Tuesday: Gardens

On the left we have the “Flower Park and Dangozaka Slope in Sendagi” (千駄木団子坂花屋敷, Sendagi Dangozaka Hanayashiki) which shows a cherry orchard and the pavilion of the violet spring.

On the right it is the “View to the North from Asukayama” (飛鳥山北の眺望, Asukayama kita no chōbō), which is located in the Asukayama Park. Shôgun Tokugawa Yoshimune was fond of the garden, so he ordered to plant many cherry trees here. You can still visit this park today. Both woodblock prints are part of the “100 Famous Views of Edo” by Utagawa Hiroshige.