Persepolis is an autobiographical depiction of Marjane Satrapi’s life in Iran in the late 1900s. At the time, Iran was fraught with internal conflicts and external influence – a rebellion against the reigning Shah in 1979 followed by the war with Iraq, all of which resulted in Iran becoming a theocratic nation today, governed strictly under the rules of Islam.
Into a country where all kinds of media or potential influences against Islam go through strict scrutiny, Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis is a one-sided glass window. It lets the outside world peek into the life of Iranians at the time, particularly the author’s own life. The book is divided into two parts. The Story of a Childhood is about a young Marjane Satrapi who grows up in Iran when it was rebelling against its monarchy. The Story of a Return deals with a mix of teenage confusion and the sudden need for Western assimilation that she is suddenly faced with.
It is no doubt that what first draws any reader to Persepolis is the lure of a glimpse into life in Iran, a working model of a theocratic nation. What makes them stay is the endearing way that Satrapi honestly tells her story – all her mistakes and decisions and conflicts – her growth from being an all-knowing kid who boasted about her uncle’s torturous treatment in prison to a girl who tries to find her identity in a foreign nation while being emotionally stuck in her own country.
In a way, Persepolis takes Haruki Murakami’s quote and flips it over:
In the midst of [death], everything revolved around [life].
The most wonderful thing about the book is how light-hearted it remains despite being engulfed in war. Maybe it was a recollection of Satrapi being a child, thus being protected by her parents. Or it might have been a reflection of her personality – her rebellious side and her natural nonchalance – as described by one of her friends; the kind of personality people might silently evolve into to hold their own against an oppressive regime.
Despite high expectations, Satrapi has a way of making you fall in pace with herself. The smooth transitions between storytelling and narration makes it feel like you’re having a tete-a-tete with her. It also helps that she provides an unbiased and in-depth analysis of her own life. So when the gravity of her worries shift from the latest bombing to friends she feels alienated from, you understand the transition completely while still wondering at the extremities. You can see all the factors going into creating and re-shaping her personality – her nation’s political situation, her cross-culture exposure, her education, reading and the unconditional support of her parents. All things aside, Persepolis is also a shout-out to feminism, the urge of not conforming to society and continuing the journey to discover your identity. It is a reveling story illustrated such that the images will keep coming back to you for a long time.
If you’re not used to reading comics, you can still pick this up. But give yourself some room to adjust to the form of representation and don’t hurry yourself. While people say it easy to read comics, I feel the best illustrated ones are usually a tad more tedious to read than regular novels, because there is so much more information flowing into the brain. In the end, it will definitely be worth it.
Have you read Craig Thompson yet? And I swear I’m not cheating by putting the name of an artist here instead of a list of comics. It’s not like I don’t have a list. Pfft… How could you even think that? It’s just that the list is two specific books by Craig Thompson – Blankets and Habibi. In that particular order.
Blankets by Craig Thompson
Habibi by Craig Thompson
Thompson’s work, I believe, exemplifies comics as an art. I don’t know where to start talking about it – the exotic stories or the art that merges seamlessly into words. The ink splattered goodness is so heavenly, you can literally tear off every page of the comic (if you have the heart to), get them framed and hang them on your walls. I have lost count of the number of seconds (err… minutes) I have spent lost in a single page while reading the book. And not just while reading, but afterwords. Like googling a quote you’re itching to remember, I’m often stuck looking for a particular page from one of the books, or trying to replicate it by drawing it myself when I can’t get enough of it.
Books are supposed to teleport us into worlds different from our own. Most do it through stories and in novels, the writing style makes all of it happen. Comics, on the other hand, become a double-edged sword. While the images might complement the story, they might even be distracting for the reader, because there is a lot of input to the brain, the flashy images, the stills, the dialog boxes and the words themselves. Craig Thompson executes the style perfectly; so that you feel like the protagonist is holding your hand and leading you through all the confusion that is their story while still have time to swoon over the art.
Then their is the story. Or stories. All of them. The ones I have read till now and the ones I am saving for later, all of them justify the beautiful art they are soaked in. Be it Blankets, where Craig weaves you a story of his first love, each thread spun with nostalgia, or Habibi, a story of slaves and sheikhs as bitter as folklore. If the art is beautiful, the stories enchanting, and tempting you to peak into the future by turning just a few pages.
Even if you don’t read comics, I would urge you to make this one author an exception. If you’re looking for a comfortable spot to edge into the comic world, this is a good way to ease your foot in the door. For starters, I’ll recommend Blankets. And only of you absolutely love Thompson’s style, move to Habibi.
While Blankets is at the end a story – a fond remembrance of Thompson’s first love, Habibi is more of an artistic expression. At many places, it feels like a peak into the author’s mind and his drawing style rather than just a story. I liked the book, but a huge reason behind it is my admiration for Thompson’s art, which made occasional expansions and digressions in the book interesting as it let him expand on how he draws. But for readers who are just interested in the story, these diversions just put them off. In Blankets, the pace of the story is more suited to the readers.
So the verdict is, read Blankets for sure. And if you feel like you start craving more of Thompson’s style, give Habibi a shot.
I make myself a candy house everyday,
with new flavours – raspberry,
bubblegum, orange, guava, cherry;
with new tweaks – a cotton candy bed
or a swirling table with a chocolate seat at the head.
And everyday, the candy house protects
the brilliant colours and savory odours,
from the blackness of innumerous insects
that leave the house I carefully crafted to moulder
into hollowed nothings and ugly cuttings.
In my city I roam apprehensive
jealous of people living in wooden houses
that boast of splendid appearances,
and stay the same stable homes
through passing days and years gone.
And they think of my candy house
as an exquisite work of art,
ignorant of the pests that plough it to bits
or of the desperation that keeps building it up.
Again. Everyday. So I can keep up
the sweet appearances.
You tell me I live in a society. And societies have rules. Undocumented. Unsaid. Unanimous. Untampered. Unquestionable. I tell you I have a life. Mine. And while I know you are right. I also know that I’m not wrong.
When I make choices, I understand all the directions the repercussions might burst into. I may underestimate the magnitude, but I get the general direction. But the choice in itself is valueless to me. I accept the consequences as a payment for the freedom of making it. But your comments and your slights are not to be wrapped in the same packing. When I travel to a new place, I understand that I may be lost. When I stand on the stage, I confront the risk of drawing a blank. And when I get a tattoo, I know it’s permanent.
You don’t have to spell it out to me. I know how to read. Or listen. Or think. Or choose. Everything. The design. The place. The size.
You don’t have to protest about missing your vote on my pre-tattoo design deciding panel. I don’t need it. Your permission. Or approval. Or pat on the back. It’s still healing and I’d rather not get it infected.
It might surprise you to know that it wasn’t an impulsive decision. I did think long about it. But even if it was, I don’t get why I need to tell you about it. If I have to maintain a journal of my choices, I’d rather it be my body than the constricted puzzles in your brain.
I don’t need you to make me look for questions in my answers, when you really don’t care about the why or the what or the how. Because you’re too busy making the world fit into your own fancy mold to understand it.
Every statement that I make, does not need your approval stamp. And you can rant about your views in words that won’t sting more than an inked needle. And my mind will pay you no heed. Because opinions are like seashells. I’ll choose the ones I like and leave the rest to the waves.
Dedicated to all who made me think yet again about something I’d already been pondering over for years – getting a tattoo. And dedicated to all those who are still letting others steer your life when you’re one hell of a driver yourself.
Let me warn you first. There is a huge side effect of visiting the One Piece Tower. And that is a strong unbeatable urge to rewatch the entire damn series from episode 1. If you are a One Piece fan, you would know how dangerous this could be for your social life. I couldn’t fight it and now I’m stuck in Baratie waiting for Enies Lobby to happen and all those feels to hit again. So, consider yourself warned.
If you’re travelling on a Tokyo Metro pass, you can take the Hibiya Line to Kamiyachou station and then walk towards the Tokyo Tower (700 meter walk). The red tower is really easy to spot so you wouldn’t have much trouble.
Alternatively, if Toei line works too, you can take the Toei Mita line to Onarimon station (850 meter walk to Tokyo Tower) or the Toei Oedo Line to Akananebashi Station (650 meter walk after that).
One Piece museum globe exhibition in front of Tokyo Tower
Tips before you go
Try and get the tickets online here if you want to save on the 200 yen.
If you can, take atleast one person with you so you don’t have to randomly ask strangers to get that pic with Law. Go on a One Piece fan hunt if you have to. Going alone is not that bad either, just a little inconvenient
Check the timing of the live show when you reach and keep it in mind so you don’t miss it. There are machines near the entrance of the show where you can get tickets in advance and you need those tickets to get in. On a day with more rush, don’t forget to get those tickets as soon as you reach.
I cannot begin to describe what the One Piece tower meant to me. It was an afternoon of wonder and pleasant surprises. There are a lot of activities so maybe going in a group will help. But if the group is devoid of One Piece fans, you’ll find yourself in many awkward overexcited situations with your companions giving you a blank look probably rethinking your friendship.
The one piece segment spans three floors of the Tokyo Tower. The entrance ticket costs JPY3000 if you get it online and JPY3200 on spot. It is a horde of picture points and games. The picture spots made me regret going there alone a little but it was a successful visit nonetheless. There was one game for every member of the crew and also, a live show.
As soon as you enter, after watching a 360 degree theater with heartfelt scenes from across all seasons of the series, you end up in a dark room with the Strawhats lurking in every corner. The figurines are so realistic I almost lost my mind.
One Piece Museum Tokyo
Marimo and Curly brow
More of the crew’s Hangouts
Bone to be wild
Zoro’s Soul of Edge
The entrance to the attraction is an exhibition of all kinds of katana’s. You’d waste no time in spotting Mihawk’s huge sword hanging down the wall to your right as you go in. The line leads you into a small booth where they give you one (unreal) katana and make you stand facing a screen. You then have to fight a pacifista and random cannon balls as the software registers your real life moves. When the pacifista shows up, you have to get into a particular stance which is also the time when they take a sneaky little pic you can buy later for a 1000 yen. I didn’t have that much money so I just took a pic of the pic but I encourage you to make a decisive and amazingly Zoro like one so you are proud of yourself instead of laughing maniacally and spoiling the pic.
Robin’s Finding Poneglyph
Here they give you a real talking denden mushi. You heard it. A.real.talking.Denden Mushi. And you know who is talking from the other side? Can you guess? It’s Robin. Robin. She was talking in Japanese so I didn’t understand shit but I think I can rest in peace now.
The game itself is about finding hidden poneglyph marks all over the place, scanning it with the denden mushi and finding more of them. I drifted into all sorts of dark and probably non-visitor places in the amusement park carrying it, so the game can be a bit dangerous for overexcited people with no sense of social boundaries. While the game itself is pretty enjoyable, you feel like a stalker sometimes when you follow other groups with a denden mushi hoping they’d lead you to other poneglyphs. There are also nicer people who’d tell you where they found the hidden symbols themselves so you do not have to resort to your baser instinct. I turned out to be pretty bad with this though with a measly 56% of the poneglyphs found.
Brook’s Horror House
The name says it all. For me the funniest part of this attraction was the family in front of me. In particular, the son in the family in front of me. It was like a comedy skit. The boy was so scared of the house that he ran out of the place and then came to tell me it was too scary for him and that I should leave too. Two seconds later, his mom came rushing out looking for him trying to take him back in. Seeing her brother get all this attention, the little girl stomped out of the house and away from the attraction followed by her father asking her to come back. Somehow the entire family gathered and went back into the house, before the boy apparently decided he really couldn’t take it, got out again and walked towards the exit from the outside to wait for his family.
The horror house was not really scary (‘You’re a scaredy cat, little boy’), and if I’m saying it’s not scary, you can probably skip through it taunting all the wannabe demons. It was an alright attraction. The best part was catching a glimpse of the ghost woman, Perona.
Chopper Southend sunny issue Exploration
You have to go here. Actually there will be so much time you’ll probably go to all the attractions but I really took my time with this one. It had Sanji and the kitchen, Nami’s and Robin’s room with their cabinet and clothes and little animation snippets with Chopper and Brook.
Sanji in the Kitchen
Robin’s and Nami’s Closet
Nami and Robin’s Room
Luffy’s Endless Adventure
Can I just say this is the best part? It is like an interactive animation of the entire series and a retelling of the precious moments of all the Strawhats. I almost cried here. There was Shanks giving Luffy the hat, the Enies Lobby scene with Robin, a model of Nami’s map room at Arlong’s that Luffy destroyed and… Ace. It was like a tribute to all that has happened in the series till now. They played little parts of the movie on a huge screen at the end too.
Shanks bequeathing the Strawhat to Luffy
Enies Lobby – ‘I want to live’!
Tunnel of Flames – The road to Ace’s memory
Hall of Mirrors
THE DOOR!! The door where Luffy recovers from Magellan’s Poison
Strawhats in the News
The Live animation
Frankly, this was not as interesting as I thought it would be no matter what the pictures make you think. Infact it was a bit funny and kiddish at some points because the characters’ faces did not really match with the characters. A great experience nonetheless.
Scene from the live action show – Luffy, Law and Kizaru
Scene from the live action show – Sanji and Zorro
Mugiwara and Tongari store
The Tongari store is inside the amusement park. The best thing I found there was the Franky hand pillow (you heard it). The mugiwara store on the ground floor of the Tokyo Tower has a huge collection. The best part is the One piece soundtrack playing in the background while you shop.
I think that the One Piece Tower is a place all One Piece fans will enjoy. It is a half day in Tokyo you would never forget.
True I had been super excited to visit the Ghibli museum. True I had expected it to be amazing (unsuccessfully trying not to get my hopes too high). True I had been waiting for the originality and beauty of all those movies to flood my brain again. But I was still unprepared. I had still undermined how perfect it could be.
With breathtaking manuscripts of stop motion animation, oil paintings that looked like windows to other worlds that I know all too well, little unexpected animated features and reels and reels of film, they flaunted their skills unabashedly. And I could only stand and watch, trying not to gape.
I would suggest taking the JR Chuo line to Kichijoji Station and then walking to the museum through Inokashira Park. It’s not too far and the park is beautiful enough to make you forget about the distance.
Alternatively, take the JR Chuo line to Mitaka Station and the bus to Ghibli Museum
Tips before going
Tickets! Ghibli museum requires tickets to be booked one month in advance, so this needs to be planned. You can get them here.
If you get the 4 pm slot, keep in mind that the museum closes exactly at 6, and you might not be able to see the remaining parts of the museum after that. You might also want to get to the Laputa robot before it gets dark, as there is not much lighting around it, so put that first.
Brace yourself for the feels.
First, is the way to the museum itself. I had a 4 pm entry pass, but I left at 2 from Shinjuku station so that I would have a one hour margin. Though I had taken the ticket to Mikata, I got off one station before at Kichijoji, just because I could see a huge park in the maps on the walk from Kichijoji to Ghibli Museum. Retrospectively, this has been one of my best decisions of the trip. The Inokashira pond and the park enclosing it is a feast for the eyes. And as I was going to the Ghibli museum, the park and the autumn splendor really set the mood for it. It was a relatively peaceful place blanketed by shed leaves and dotted with numerous park benches. Here and there, you could spot students trying to capture the beautiful scenes in their drawing pads (I gave it a shot too, but the results weren’t exactly flattering). I spent an hour in the place, sitting and drawing and looking around, and almost got late to the museum. If I had any inkling about how pretty it could have been, I would have went with more time to spare.
You could imagine my excitement as I rushed to the museum. This could be the highlight of my trip to Japan. It was the first thing I had marked on the map when it was finally decided that I was going to Japan. Ghibli, and specially Miyazaki’s, movies have meant so much to me through all these years. They have been my inspiration, my solace, my musical haven and my friends during the shittiest moments of my life.
Inside the museum, I rushed to the Laputa robot at the rooftop as it was getting dark. The only way to access the rooftop is a spiral staircase which was a nice touch. Inside the museum, there are many rooms dedicated to the creation of Ghibli movies. The animation studio has wonderful live stop motion features that look magical even in real life. Then there is a catbus room where you can look through different models and sit in a life sized model of the bus from My Neighbour Totoro. My personal favourite was a room where original paintings and drafts by ghibli artists were pasted all over the walls. I was mesmerized by the level of detail that goes into each panel. The watercolors looked beautiful but the oil paintings were on another level completely. At first, I was sure they were photos and not real paintings. I could not imagine the skills, devotion, love and respect that went into each of them. And for the first time I felt as if the movies did not do enough justice to the quality of the artwork of Ghibli.
The Laputa robot
The Command Cube from Laputa
Laputa robot from a distance
In addition, there is a shop, a cafe and many other rooms in the museum. They also showed a cute little motion picture about a dog, Koro, in the museum which was around a 15 minute short story. There were no Engllish subtitles when I saw it, but there was not much being said in the movie and the story was pretty simple to follow. I could not get any pictures in the museum as it was not allowed >.< But take my word for it, it feels like an escapade into the Ghibli world, the most beautiful there can be.
The museum closes exactly at 6, so I did not have much time. Leaving was much harder than I had expected, and I felt a little jealous of the people working there (though I guess dealing with ghibli crazed fans who did not want to understand that 6 is the closing time no matter what could be a pain). Even if I had not been a fan of ghibli movies before coming to the museum (in some impossible parallel world), I would become one yet again after a visit here. I believe that it is a must for all those who’ve been grateful to studio ghibli ever in their lives.
PS – While I loved the experience completely, I do wish there was something about ghibli music too at the museum. They covered just the animation part. For me the music, especially by Joe Hisaishi, is as wonderful as the animation and story in the movies.
Thud. They laid the first plank.
They knew they had to be patient
After all, theirs was a thorough plan.
Two girls they were.
Two islands they belonged to.
Two different islands connected by a string of land.
A string of land frayed in the middle,
so a little leap was what got one into the other’s place.
But two different islands they belonged to.
One where the sun would rise
And the other which better bade it goodbye.
One which soaked its hands every day
to reap from fields of water on all sides,
And the other which picked up trinkets washed to its feet
to make wondrous treasures acclaimed far and wide.
Thunk. Thunk. They nailed another plank to the side.
A boat should be sturdy and strong at heart
if it was meant to ferry two souls through nature’s treacherous tides.
Droplets of sweat dripped into the sands
as the Sun glared at them hovering in the center of the sky.
And even though their villages would not see eye to eye,
the two girls looked at each other and shared a smile.
Kreesh. Another plank cried as they trimmed it the right size.
The daughter of the fishermen holding it tight,
as the progeny from the artists’ side
sawed at the doors to their future dreams and life.
For the first, while her people saw an expanse of nature to monetize,
She saw a sphere, a shell, engulfing her from all sides,
Gravity that pulled her to her house with all worldly strength
everytime she’d try to jump to the other side – the haven her heart desired.
And so she looked at her friend tying their makeshift sail to a pole,
weaving plans of flying to faraway lands in each knot,
knowing all too well that she held in her hands every dream she sought.
For the second, her hands were steady, as much as her mind was in a frenzy
Painting wild pictures of strange lands on the face of the sail in her hands.
She looked up into eyes that reflected her own thoughts,
for travelling to ever newer places to sell their store
was a work she could have sooner made her ideal world
than running between her house and the shore to collect worthless stones.
Two different girls. Each with the other’s wish,
they watched each other throw it away
with every plank laid as the boat was made.
They did not care for tomorrow but for days still farther
They did not know the sea as they knew their promising vessel.
They did not grasp anything of the world except what they wanted of it.
And so they dragged their cradle of dreams into the starving sea
the wanderer mooring it while the artist took a leap.
She stretched out her hand offering freedom to her human anchor,
and in taking it, she in turn, set them both free.