The Garden of Sinners (2007) Review: The Story that Romanticized a Murderer

My mother once warned me not to philosophize too much about the darker things in life. It takes you to a very gloomy place devoid of warmth and life. Dive deep into the world of the unknown, you might just end up in a mental hospital. So, let’s not go there. But if you insist, then this anime is the one for you! Okay, I am harsh. Just kidding. This anime is soothing despite its dark content. I really feel like I’m in the movies!

Garden of Sinners is based on a novel series by Kinoko Nasu. It tells a story about a high school girl with a split personality. Her name is Shiki Ryougi. She has a supernatural ability to see death and has a devouring burden to kill. But why? If you are into big questions about your boyish aggression in finding pleasure in destroying everything your way (i.e., playing violent games), you might find this show super cool, but I wouldn’t say profoundly enlightening. Rationalizing the concept of what constitutes a murderer doesn’t justify the desire to kill as a noble behavior. The argument in this anime is that you’re not a killer if you kill to protect those you love but is that just an excuse? It’s an exhilarating emotion close to love, according to the show. Shiki, the protagonist is set free when she has the chance to kill off murderers like herself and the fighting scenes really do illustrate that point. She even wants to kill the man she loves! It’s a struggle. It’s so poetic! As an audience, I think we are supposed to sympathize with her. She is battling against her masculine side, the desire to destroy and kill everything!

According to Wiki, this show is classified as dark fantasy. But I like to think of it as a supernatural show with elements of philosophical horror. Sounds kind of cool, doesn’t it? You see, the show is different and purposely complex. I felt as if I’m taking an introduction class to philosophy, listening to young adults discussing morality. And apparently, no matter what culture you were born into, teenagers care a lot about being unique and different (referring to the villain). In addition, some of the movies have different running times. Some are 1 to 2 hours long. There are only 10 episodes altogether. Most anime break into 26 or 12 episodes. Did I confuse you yet? I know I was when the word movie was used interchangeably with the episode for someone who occasionally watches anime. But that’s okay! I think this anime is meant for those who enjoy watching a show for the second time around! Good for brain exercise. Good for philosophy class! Cheers!

Overall, these long episodes which are called movies left me feeling kind of jaded at certain times during my viewing. Perhaps, it’s because I already did all this philosophizing thing in my teenage years and in my 20s. So personally, I sort of exhausted myself from the deep conversations of philosophy, which is trying to understand one’s aggression in relation to the universe. Unnecessary complexity for the purpose of complexity’s sake is not a good thing in terms of plot and this show is just that unless I’m missing the entire point of the show due to loss in translation. If that is the case, it’s a shame because I really connect with the melancholic vibes from this anime.

I might sound rather nitpicky with my review when in fact I enjoyed this anime. It’s an attractive anime with pretty moving illustrations that made me feel as if I was at the cinema. You know the immersive feeling you get at the theatre sitting in a pitch-black room? Yes, I felt it through the anime visual presentation watching with my headphones on. The sound effects and soundtrack are of high quality. Unfortunately, I couldn’t appreciate it to its max since I don’t find the protagonist’s struggles relatable even though I like dolphins* and I find the order in which the movies are arranged a bit bothersome. But hey, at least I gave this a shot. I can only imagine how the tone of the anime would change if it is titled Garden of Saints. Yeah…that doesn’t sound so edgy.

Note: Dolphins* is in reference to the blog post over at I drink and watch anime: “Anime Fans are Murderers?” I thought it was funny how dolphins are used to illustrate that someone who likes dolphins can be murderous. Ouch! Nobody likes being attacked. Let’s not group and generalize people based on their interests. I think that was the point of her blog post.

Reflecting on the film An Education (2009): The Hardest Lesson Is Not Always Taught in School

There’s no shortcut to success. Well unless you are really lucky you might be able to live the high life depending on the variables of your circumstance and whether it works in your favor. If you were to ask me, I’m a big advocate for education but think the system is entirely broken and only the privileged benefit from it (I’ll try not to get political) and most of my good friends are book smart, but street smart not so much.

A good girl falls for the bad boy. It’s a classic tale that has been told several times. It’s as if most girls believe themselves to be Belle from Beauty and the Beast thinking they can tame the wild beast. My mature self is thinking: no dear, life is not a fairy tale and yet we girls were too born to believe it otherwise. Wolves simply don’t care. If they are hungry, they will devour you even if you are sweet.

This film, directed by Lone Scherfig, and written by Lynn Barbe, tells a story about a 16-year-old girl named Jenny who got seduced by a man twice her age. Pressured by her dad and school, Jenny sought anything but a boring life because she is nothing but boring. All she does is prep for the exams to get into Oxford University and once she gets her degree, she’ll continue the tradition. Yes, a boring life. One day, all of that changed when she got rescued by a guy who drove a fancy maroon car. He noticed her standing beside the street in the pouring rain with her cello and decided to pull up and offer her a ride, claiming he didn’t want the cello to get damaged by the rain. Sounds reasonable enough. Instantly, she is wooed by his random act of kindness.

Sounds kind of romantic but crazy at the same time. You see, not only was the protagonist blinded but her parents were also blinded by this seemingly charming guy when she brought him home. He’s a classy crook by profession. No seriously, he is a criminal that gets away with the law. That’s because he is so good at it. He’s so good that he deceived her parents into believing that he has an inside connection with Oxford University. Like any parent, they just want the best for their child. So, they fell into his deception and allowed her to date him even though he’s twice her age (I believe I mentioned his age earlier).

As an audience, the film sort of tried to make its viewers empathize with the situation but it was hard for me. I think it’s partially my cultural background as I was taught never to accept gifts from men, especially from strangers. So, I found some events in the film unconvincing even though I knew what it was implying. When dealing with a wolf in sheep’s clothing, it’s hard to put your guard up because everything happens so quickly. And when you are young, you lack experience so you don’t know any better. I was once a teenager too. We think we know but we don’t know and it’s not our fault because wisdom comes with experience and there is no shortcut. At least that is the message I got from the film.

Yes, I know I was stupid. The life I want, there’s no shortcut.

I quote the protagonist.

Overall, a decent film with dramatized effects. Good thing, the film is not all tragedy but a lesson to be learned. Perhaps, that’s why it’s called An Education. So go to school and get an education and be self-sufficient so that you don’t get your heart broken by a no-good sugar daddy.

3 Poetic Movies I Watched

I’m becoming a bit lazy with my introduction or maybe I don’t have much esteem for the fast pace society we have become. Not all of us like reading drawn out long rambling paragraphs. So, I will spare you the trouble and give you my list. Perhaps, you might find something worthwhile to watch.

Roman Holiday (on Amazon Prime)

  • Release date: September 2, 1953
  • Director: William Wyler

What is a real holiday? A one without a schedule? Being able to breathe and enjoy the simple things in the present moments that are. This film sure captures it –black and white breathtakingly beautiful shots, especially Audrey Hepburn who looks like a flower with her tiny waist. The male actor, Gregory Peck also looks a quite handsome pairing up with the actress. It’s quite wholesome, sweet, and just like a dream to watch two people flirting. It’s one of those feel-good films where you just want to take a short break from doing whatever you are doing and relax with a cup of coffee, tea, or a glass of wine, depending on your preference. Just let the stress melt away. Like a photograph, each scene was mesmerizing and I just realized movies are just moving photographs. Ah…I am dreaming of a holiday in the comfort of my living room.

Rear Window (on Amazon Prime)

  • Release date: August 4, 1954
  • Director: Alfred Hitchcock

I don’t think I have seen an artistic suspense film that occurs in one view, sitting by the window. I love the concept and I believe Silent Hill 4, a survival horror game for the Playstation 2, may have been influenced by this idea of being trapped in an apartment. The plot reminds me of the board game Clue, which involves solving a murder mystery. It’s far from scary but suspenseful enough to be entertained. A news photographer plays the detective and watches his interesting, colorful neighbors going about doing their business until he suspects a murder has been committed just from watching them from his window. The whole feel of the film reminds me of staring inside a doll house. It’s very staged and I sort of like that. Try the film, you might enjoy watching a glamor ad. The film did end with a fashion magazine Bazaar. Fashionably bizarre film indeed. Now, I want to live in one of those apartments, but I don’t want to be spied on by a peeping tom news photographer.

Words Bubble Up Like Soda Pop (on Netflix)

  • Initial release: July 22, 2021 (Japan)
  • Director: Kyohei Ishiguro

This cute animation made me realize teenagers these days must have it hard growing up with social media and smartphones. It only amplifies low-esteem and depression. At that age, I remember I was trying to find my identity through music. There wasn’t a lot of distraction from the outside world called Cable T.V., especially not in my household. We get our entertainment from video cassettes and public channels. So, I can only imagine feeling overwhelmed if I were a teenager from this time being exposed to so many influencers from all over the world. The result would be to hide in poetry. Like the male protagonist, I was a shy kid too. Some of us don’t like to draw attention to ourselves because we want to avoid involuntary blushing. Overall, the animation is vibrant and stylish. It feels old but new. Same teenager issues, but just set in a different time.

That’s it for my list of three. Hope you found something worthwhile to watch as well.

Reflecting on The Duchess of Duke Street Season 1

Lately, anything that inspires me to cook, I watch. And this English show is no exception! Cooking is something I’m not good at which is why I came up with Halsdoll’s Diner. How’s my progress so far you might wonder? My mother would have been proud. I gained 7 pounds since I started cooking, considering the fact I used to be shapelessly thin. And yet, I still have yet to find recipes I enjoy. You see, you got to have a passion for cooking and mine is not as strong as the protagonist Louisa Trotter who is known as the Queen of Cook and who is actually based on the real-life character, Rosa Lewis.

“I want to be a COOK!” said Louisa. And that’s all she ever wanted even till the end. Sadly, along the way she had to deal with the politics that come with it, especially being a woman in the 1920s when women are expected to walk in the shadow of their husbands. What I find so intriguing about The Duchess of Duke Street is to see an ambitious woman rising from the bottom as an assistant cook into a proprietor of a famous hotel in London. Of course, she didn’t do it all alone. The circumstance she was in led her to success. She caught the attention of royalty and got involved in an affair. Simply because she is a great cook and attractive. To cover up the affair, she was persuaded to marry her husband, a butler to whom she had no love. They moved into a house, and soon needed to make a living. So, they took over a hotel business. Unfortunately, her husband was a lousy manager and a drunk. Instead of bringing in revenue, he brought debt. As a result, she kicked him out and took up his manager position to turn the business around. Who says women can’t manage? Louisa Trotter can!

Not going to lie. I love strong resistant women. All she ever wanted was to be a cook and she had to work twice as hard to get where she wanted to be. Sometimes she didn’t always get the moral support from her female kinds. For instance, when her respectable trusted employee named Mary got into a dispute with her over a male guest, she called out the most hurtful thing to Louisa. She said Louisa “slut” her way into acquiring the hotel. It was a big blow to the ego. Louisa knew it was partially true. She was young and passionate when she started out and so there were a lot of male admirers. Trying to fend them off was not easy. After all, “Men are born to chase after women, otherwise, there’d be no human race,” said Louisa. Clearly, not only did she display a concern for her business but she also protected those around her. That’s what I called an amazing woman. Of course, it didn’t stop there. People started spreading rumors that the hotel is a brothel when it started to gain popularity. Working girls, you say? Not quite but they were indeed working hard to make a living in the hospitality industry. It’s not uncommon to see Louisa boldly surrounded by men.

Overall, The Duchess of Duke Street is a show about management, friendship, food, hard work, and love which made me realize not much has changed in regard to women’s struggles in the male-dominated industry. Luckily, I don’t have sophisticated big dreams. As long as I can find metaphors to write about on this blog and cook a nice meal that alone makes me very happy.

Halsdoll eating breakfast
Halsdoll’s Breakfast
Halsdoll’s Grilled Cheese Sandwich with strawberries on the side

Thanks for reading my thoughts on this T.V series. As mentioned, I am open for business on the day I say I publish a post. Perhaps, there’s something more worthwhile next time. For me, it was a comforting show because a bit of Louisa personality reminded me of my mother. I wouldn’t mind being her apprentice.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) Review: The Anti-Material Girl

Should I have changed my title for this review to a story about a Classy but Penniless Gold Digger who Can’t Survive on her Own? That would mislead the readers on what I think about the beloved character Holly played by Audrey Hepburn. To call her a gold digger is far from the truth. However, at a glance, it’s hard not to judge since that was the first impression I got from looking at the cover despite what critics said and what my older peers thought. In fact, an older woman recommended this film to me. Now I see why.

Before I provide you with my personal input about this classic film, let’s talk about the plot. It’s not all bad as it sounds if you are a carefree-loving wild cat and are on the liberal side of life. This film is about an unmarried woman who appears to be happy. She’s wild, fun, and entertaining. But underneath it all–she needs help more than anything. For example, she doesn’t know how to budget money; she makes her living through entertaining sugar daddies; She throws lavish parties; and does things out of the norm. Sometimes I wonder how a classy gal can afford such things. Then again, her acquaintances have big money. Also being beautiful has its perks. She draws men to her like moths to a bright lamp at night. Even her neighbor, a writer struggling to make it big–named Paul Varjak, comes to her aid when she needs him. What a lucky girl just for being beautiful. In the end, she settled with Paul out of love when she could have picked one of her millionaire acquaintances, which makes this film a heartwarming story. All it took for Holly to say yes to Paul is the prized ring found in the Cracker Jack box. The particular scene where Tiffany’s sales clerk agrees to engrave the initial on the Cracker Jack’s ring for 10 dollars implies that love doesn’t have a set price. And most importantly, what is the probability of finding love? It’s worth more than all the diamonds you can buy. It’s a bold statement to women that you don’t always need diamonds to feel loved.

In conclusion, films like Breakfast at Tiffany’s point out the cold hard truth about material women. What it got right about love is that “love is plenty enough,” I quote from the film. Now that’s gold because love is a rare emotion that some of us might never experience in our lifetime. So why trade emotion for material security to fill the empty void in our hearts? What women really need is emotional security. The film says no to material things, but yes to immaterial things. How ironic is that, considering Tiffany’s is a jewelry store? The writer Paul Varjak is the jewelry store. He makes her feel like a diamond. Great metaphor! Overall, I love this film!

Batman Begins (2005) Review: Conquer your Fears and Fight for Justice

Not going to lie, I miss going to the theatre, drinking overpriced fountain drinks, and eating popcorn. Batman Begins is quite fitting for this time, especially during this pandemic. As soon as I saw the film available on Netflix, I can’t help but draw the correlation with our current fear to bats as it is the likeliness original source of Covid-19. If you want to conquer the virus–you have to become it. That’s the only way we can get rid of the virus called Covid-19 fear. Okay, I shouldn’t joke around about the deadly virus so lightly. But sometimes you got to make yourself laugh at the situation. It’s good for your sanity. Understanding your fear is the beginning of conquering it. This film couldn’t be more fitting for the current major event. When it comes to hunting for metaphors, like Covid-19, I do not discriminate–that’s why I’m reviewing the western film for a change. So let’s dive into the cave, I mean review.

Batman Begins explains how Batman came to be and his role in Gotham City. To fight criminals you have to think like a criminal. Instead of abusing one’s power–Bruce Wayne rises above crookedness and corruption, which makes him a legend and the perfect defender of justice. It’s a great film in the sense we see a positive character development who is forced to tackle tough questions about good versus evil, but most importantly justice. My eyes were glued to the screen when I first saw this film in the theatre and it still has the same effect on me to this day: I watch the film from the comfort of my living room. There’s a sense of Zen when viewing this film, especially towards the first 47 minutes. It unfolds and lay out for the audiences to see the growth of Batman done beautifully. Young Bruce Wayne was lost when he lost his parents to a robbery incident which scarred him emotionally throughout his youth and adult life. Then later, he was found when he turned away from revenge, the path of destruction.

The fighting scene in the snow between Bruce Wayne and Henri Ducard–is one of my favorite scenes in the film along with the hide and seek scene with the ninjas in the temple. Why you may wonder? Simply because I love a good fight; martial arts is a form of discipline to master the self and one’s surroundings. I learned from this film that first you must ease your mind and accept that you have no control over issues that are out of your hands. Secondly, you must not walk the path of criminals as there is no light at the end of the tunnel. Third, you must conquer your biggest fear by becoming one with it. Lastly, you fight for justice if you are capable to do so. Living with a purpose to serve gives you a sense of direction in life. This is what it means to be a good person which leads to a good leader which ultimately gives birth to Batman. A strong beginning led to a strong ending. The total length of the film is 2 hours and 32 minutes.

In conclusion, the film is cinematically beautiful and it doesn’t go overboard with annoying supernatural special effects like the transformers’ action-packed films (I like substance; not all show). Batman, Scarecrow, and Falcon are all humans who use different methods to perform their deeds whether it’s for good or for evil in society. A weapon is only a weapon depending on who possesses it. Bruce Wayne uses his fearful power to fight for justice instead of oppressing people. He was once afraid of bats but then he became the fearful bat who brings terror to criminals and justice to Gotham City. He’s a well-liked iconic hero. Perhaps, that’s why I was fond of Batman as a kid and even to this day. He’s just an ordinary man in a cape, a good person. We need more of that: We need good leaders.

Ghost in the Shell (1995) Review: The Future of Humanity Is a Stream of Conscience

What are we? We are nothing more than a ghost in a shell. In the near future, the world will erase nations and races. What do we get, something beyond AI? Ghost in the Shell, based on a manga by Shirow Masamune is a film that I have never got around to watching until now. I wouldn’t understand it anyway if I were a kid. Let’s just say it’s some pretty deep stuff. It’s so deep that it’s almost omnisciently God-like. It made me wonder if God is a computer?! After all, life is nothing more than just information from simulated experiences. Are humans really different from machines?

In this animation, Major Motoko Kusanagi, a cyborg for Section 9, an anti-cybercrime Japanese Law enforced organization, was given the task to hunt down the cyber-criminal known as Puppet Master whose identity is sexless, originated from America and is the most extraordinary cybercriminal hacker. What is its intention? It seeks to spread its kind through the network of information. As a living organism, it is fated to die and therefore it wishes to merge with another entity to pass on its “DNA”. Who do you think is the lucky bride? The Major is a mirror of the Puppet Master.

It’s a great animation to watch if you want to dive into deep philosophical questions about what makes a human. The Puppet Master, also known as Project 2501, is a bug that has its own desire and free will separate from its programmers (sounds kind of scary). It wishes to complete itself from one particular frame of mind that is made up of a single entity. In other words, it’s trying to create an entirely new entity–something beyond humans and AIs; something like a godly being who knows and sees everything. After all, variety is good for the continuation of existence. Different viewpoints like the variety of genes, ensure a higher chance of the birth of stronger beings. I can see why this film is a masterpiece. Apparently, the bug in Project 2501, like humans, wants to procreate. Woah, that’s some deep stuff I just watched.