Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Mat Som

Source: kcbmanyala
I was in primary school when Mat Som came out. During that year end school holidays when my parents went for umrah, I was at my grandmother's in the kampung. In between the trips to river and the paddy field, I would reread Mat Som countless times, even when I didn't understand parts of it.

When I reread it recently, those parts finally made sense.

The 80s I remember from the movies and TV dramas is filled with young people from the kampung trying to make it in the big city. Kuala Lumpur, in particular. Mat Som is no different. He left his idyllic kampung in Perak for shot at becoming a reporter at a big name newspaper company.

There comes a stage in life when a man must make something out of himself. Basically, to stop leeching off the parents and to stand on one's own feet. And be a good Muslim, of course. Mat Som finds that stage to be his present. And so do I.

Often times "making it" means "get ready for a rough start." Without a permanent job, Mat Som makes his way by sending in pieces and waiting for the cheque to clear at the end of month. If that doesn't happen soon enough then it's a trip to the pawnshop. Out of kindness, his childhood friend So'ud's lets him crash at his rented setinggan house. In short, nothing to write home about.

Until home writes to him.

Like thunder on a clear afternoon, his father tells him to consider marrying Wan Faridah, the daughter of his close friend. They grew up together but Mat Som's memories of her isn't exactly fond. Meanwhile, his attention seems to be diverted towards Yam, a girl in his neighbourhood, for reasons he himself couldn't quite fathom. He keeps running into Yam but his conversations with her remains one sided and in his head only.

Mat Som was adapted into a movie by Hatta Azad Khan, with Imuda as the lead and Tiara Jacquelina, in probably her first major role, as Yam. I can't think of anyone else who could do justice to the character other than Imuda, although I did picture Mat Som more as a short dude and reasonably well-dressed as depicted in drawing by Lat. Imuda is not just an actor; he's done plays, drew cartoons for Gila-Gila and Dewan Pelajar, and is also a painter.

Mat Som is more than a comic; it's a testament of Lat's love for the arts. If you know your sasterawan and seniman, you'll be thrilled to see people such as Pyan Habib, Usman Awang (Tongkat Warrant), T Alias Taib and Ramli Sarip making their camoes appearances, either drawn or mentioned or both. There's even a funny scene between Mat Som and Lat's former boss, legendary editor and novelist A. Samad Ismail, which tempted me to conclude that Mat Som is semi-autobiographical, a recollection of his earlier days as a reporter at the New Strait Times.

Mat Som shaped my thoughts about how life as an adult would look like and I believe am now a better adult because of it. It's a real shame that Mat Som is not widely known or not widely read as Kampung Boy. Another shame is the sloppy design work done on the English translation. I would love to see Lat and the publisher redesign the English version (the one with the blue background on the cover) and for Lat to draw more stuff like this.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Preview: Usagi Drop

Although it's been quite some time since I last wrote anything about anime, it's not because I've given up watching anime. Not yet, anyway. It's because I haven't found anything worth writing about. There's a couple of reasons for that, and the main one is I'm no longer a teenager. Most anime cater for the younger crowd, and I want more than the usual giant robots and high school love triangles.

Which is why I find Usagi Drop a breath of fresh air.

I was initially reluctant to watch it because of the rumours about its ending. It's a controversial one to say the least, feel free to Google it if you wish. The manga it's based on ended earlier this year, and myriad of reactions ensued. I snooped around a few anime discussion boards before deciding to the first episode a try.

And I'm glad I did. I found a lot of things that resonates with current stage in life. The lead character, Daikichi, is also about the same age as me. I think this is the first time I found myself actually relating to an anime character.

Much of Usagi Drop is grounded in reality. Daikichi is a regular middle class, working guy whose grandfather passed away recently. He gets ready to attend the funeral, and is greeted with a surprise at the doorstep in the form of a six-year-old girl.

The girl is introduced as Rin, the illegitimate daughter of Daikichi's late grandfather. As preparations for the funeral goes underway, Daikichi notices that everyone seems to avoid talking to or about Rin. The whole thing is understandable since the idea of an octogenarian fathering a small child is a tad squeamish for some people to accept. And compounding the confusion further is the fact that Rin's biological mother is nowhere to be seen.

Daikichi makes several efforts to reach out to Rin, and in doing so gains her trust. He begins to sympathise with Rin who's too young to understand the situation she's in.

When the family finally sits down to discuss about Rin, things get a little heated. Nobody seems ready to welcome Rin into their home, and somehow perhaps due to confusion and embarrassment, the big picture is lost on everyone, except for Daikichi. He stands up, calls out to Rin and asks if she wants to go home with him, leaving everyone with their jaws on the floor.

Daikichi is single and living alone, and as the story has reveals even he realises that taking in Rin would severely affect his chances of finding a girlfriend.

I must say that I really admire Daikichi's guts. A character like him is rare in anime (heck, even in real life!), and this is reason enough for me to sit and watch till the end, no matter how it's going to end.

The next few episodes finds Daikichi making several important, life-changing decisions, including taking a demotion, as he hopes to spend more time with Rin at home. Having a child changes our life in huge ways. I suspect when one day I have one of my own, I'd be pondering over similar issues. I wonder too about whether there are young men like Daikichi out there, who'd selflessly give up the pleasures of the single life in order to care for somebody else's child. (And in Daikichi' case, the child is his own aunt!) I really hope do they exist.

Yeah, I know I'm starting to get all sentimental. Because, hey, I'm a 30-something-year-old anime fan. I'm supposed to.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Salam Aidilfitri 1432H Maaf Zahir Batin, walaupun hari ini sudah 5 Syawal

Balik kampung baru-baru ini membuatkan saya offline untuk beberapa hari, tanpa Internet sama ada berwayar atau tanpa wayar. Kampung saya agak dalam. Capaian Internet di sana masih rendah walaupun jiran kami dengarnya mempunyai WiFi. Saya mengambil peluang ini untuk melupakan seketika aktiviti menulis blog, berinteraksi di FB dan menyemak inbox emel.

Nyaman sekali rasanya.

Nyamannya udara desa.

Nyamannya mata memandang saujana luas.

Nyamannya beroffline.

Sekali-kala berdetik di hati, bagus juga kalau saya ada sebuah Blackberry atau iPhone. Cepat-cepat saya pejamkan mata. Saya menyedut udara nyaman desa dalam-dalam. Bau kuih dan lemang menyerbu rongga hidung. Bunyi mercun bola meletup, hilai ketawa sanak saudara, dan suara kanak-kanak bermain berlegar di kelopak telinga.

Lagi pun Internet tidak akan merudum tanpa saya.

Salam Aidilfitri 1432H Maaf Zahir Batin, walaupun Syawal sudah masuk hari yang ke-5. Sama-samalah kita puasa enam Syawal, dan bak pesan Ustaz Zaharuddin, lebih baik jangan hebah-hebahkannya.

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