The end of the year has been far, far busier than I ever dreamed, which means a lot less time to look at or talk about anything in detail. Much of that has been due to my regular, paying job(s), but the rest of it is me being the new Guide at Anime.About.com and having my hands super-full. Still, a couple of things have fallen into my hands that are worth commenting on. Rather than do full-blown writeups, I'll just nod as I go down the list.
The Gundam novels by Tomino — the three-in-one published by Stone Bridge Press earlier — made for an interesting read. Not just because they were written by the director himself, but because they are at least as much about the insides of all the character's heads as they are about the story, and I was fond of that. I'm dismayed by it being out of print, and grateful that my local library system had a copy (which was, uh, unexpected to say the least). The original series is up on Crunchyroll right now although I hope it doesn't vanish before I get to see it, as I understand there were some key differences between the TV series and the novels — not least of which were a couple of racier portions that you couldn't show as a prime-time anime! (Nod.)
Another curious item I found in the local library: Jinsei Annai ("Life's Guide"): Glimpses of Japan through a Popular Advice Column. As the title implies, it looks at various installments of a popular newspaper advice column and makes various sociological observations via both the questions asked and the answers given. It's probably dated a bit since it was published in 1991, right as the bubble burst, but I imagine many of the notes about family life or society in general are still on the mark. (Nod-nod.)
I also picked up for cheap a book I couldn't get through my library system: Murder Most Modern: Detective Fiction and Japanese Culture. It's another scholarly work, one that does a lot of extrapolation and theorizing, so it's not so much a general history of the subject. That said, there's some interesting material in here about folks like Rampo and a number of other undertranslated (or completely untranslated) authors. (Noddy.)
And on a totally unrelated note, a wonderful little movie about Zen-style three-bowl eating! Everything served there — the rice, the pickles, the soup — are all things I eat quite happily, but the presentation and the atmosphere of the whole thing make me muse that much more about life in a monastery. People talk about "austerity" but to me it's not that at all — it's having the good sense to not take more than you need, and to know your limits. Those are skills which our society doesn't seem to be in the habit of teaching.
... Yep, I think I'm adding "attend a Zen retreat" to my bucket list. I don't think I'd be able to handle a three-month break in my current lifestyle, but a week or so would be about right.