August 28, 2008

Comics Worth Reading -- With the Light

I keep meaning to review this.

With the Light is a touching, funny, heartwarming, and heartbreaking story about a family in Japan coping with raising a child with autism.

Each volume clocks in at over 500 pages. That's a lot of story. I found I didn't want to read it all in one sitting. It was overwhelming. Not because it wasn't good. Quite the opposite. It was extremely good! That's what made it so overwhelming. You're drawn in as you experience the life of this family and the cultural, societal, and familial troubles they are forced to face, while at the same time taking care and learning about their child.

With the Light is graphic storytelling at its best. It creates characters with depth, a storyline that engages, and becomes an experience, not just a quick read. I found it to touch me in an emotional way that no other graphic novel I have ever read has ever managed to do.

The story is based on a number of different real people's experiences, in Japan, raising a child with autism. Like all good fiction, you experience a life unlike your own. I found myself not only learning -- through empathetic fictional experience -- about autism, but about Japanese culture as well.

This is not escapism, I should point out. If you want to read a book that will let you escape into a fun world, get something like this. (EDIT: Please note, I suggest that you get something like that not because it's a bad thing -- quite the opposite -- but rather as an example of good escapism.)

With the Light is a story that is difficult to read at times. But it is also powerful. Yeah, sometimes it's great to read the latest story about a superpowered man in tights punching the daylights out of another superpowered man in tights to save the day. But stories like this, which are about a different breed of hero, need to be read sometimes too.

EDIT: Some people have asked me for more information about this series. 

First, the author and artist is Keiko Tobe. A search on Amazon for Keiko Tobe only brings up the four "With the Light" volumes, but that doesn't mean much. I'm sure Keiko Tobe has done other things, I just don't know what. She based the characters in the book on many different people from interviews and research. In Japan, under the original title Hikari To Tomoni, the manga received an Excellence Prize at the eighth annual Japan Media Arts Festival. It was adapted into a television drama, which also won a bunch of prizes. (I only know this because I read the back of the book.)

~ Ben

Nano Film Review #17 -- Pan's Labyrinth

Just to get this in quickly, since I did the Hellboy II review . . .

Pan's Labyrinth is brutal and beautiful. Savage and whimsical. Realistic and fantastic. Not for the weak hearted, but also not for the callous hearted.

Hey! A "Nano Film Review" that lived up to it's name!

~ Ben

August 27, 2008

Nano Film Review #16 -- Hellboy II

I've been looking forward to this movie. Guillermo del Toro is a director I've come to love, mostly through his movie Pan's Labyrinth, which is a visual feast. It's also a beautiful (and horrible) statement about fairy tales and hope and all that stuff.

Hellboy II got looked over, I think, partially because of all the hubbub about Dark Knight. Heck, I looked it over. I intended to write this when it came out, but Dark Knight took my attention away.

But it deserves some recognition. Where Dark Knight was, in essence, a crime drama about a superhero (seriously, put Dark Knight up next to Heat), Hellboy II was, in essence, a High Fantasy movie about a superhero.

Seriously. Put Hellboy II up next to Lord of the Rings.

The character designs are fantasy.

The sets . . .

Heck, even the plot. They must stop the evil fairy/elf from finding the object that can raise an evil army to take over the world. Okay, I simplify it . . . but if you take the Reader's Digest version of Hellboy II and put it up next to the Reader's Digest version of Lord of the Rings . . . you're reading two Reader's Digest stories that are quite similar.

Truth be told, Hellboy II is, like Pan's Labyrinth, a visual feast.

Indeed, when the fantasy parts were the best parts. When the characters leave that world, you almost feel bad. Like you didn't want them to leave that world because you don't want to leave that world.

If you like High Fantasy and you like smart Alec superheroes and you don't mind getting a bit of peanut butter in your chocolate, check it out.

Images from Yahoo Movies.