kaigou: this is the captain. we may experience turbulence and then explode. (3 experience turbulence)
Spent the last three weeks either frozen in overwhelmed stress, or churning mentally through everything on the to-do list (and only managing to get motivated to tackle in the last-minute panic of being down to the wire), thanks to various relatives visiting for graduation week. Somehow I managed to make it through almost five days of parent & step-parent visiting without throttling anyone, or regressing into a petulant sixteen-year-old arguing with my father. Except for the last little bit of Saturday evening, when I was already exhausted from the morning at graduation followed by an afternoon and evening of a stream of guests for an open house, and I'm still rather pissed at my dad, but haven't decided what to do about it. Eh, well. Now I sit here, feeling like I should be going go-go-go in frantic mode, yet... there's no longer any reason to be frantic.

Meanwhile, got a copy of Gender Pluralism: Southeast Asia Since Early Modern Times. (Also got The Signore: Shogun of the Warring States which is a really misleading sub-title, since Nobunaga was never shogun, but otherwise it's a great book, except it caught the MiL's eye and she asked to borrow it to have something to read on the plane. Figures.) Anyway, Gender Pluralism is a fascinating text. Well-written, nicely foot-noted but not overwhelmingly so, balanced between interpreting folklore/legend (ie Siva and other archetypal role-model gods) and contemporary eye-witness reports of the various cultures. Especially, doesn't conflate "this is acceptable, even expected, for gods" (ie intersexuality or bisexuality) with "this is therefore just fine for humans" since the opposite is too often true. All in all, fascinating text on systems of gender understandings that aren't dominated by the West's man vs woman premise.

Also, between following only three series this season (Mouretsu Pirates, Sakamitchi no Appollon, and Eureka Seven Ao), also been mainlining... wuxia. That's right, wuxia. I've come to the conclusion that wuxia is China's analogue to epic fantasy in the Western world, but with more fart jokes. Analogue as in: highly romanticized and somewhat sanitized take on ancient times, with magic and the usual extra heapings of chivalry and 'odd band of merry fellows'. Except that wuxia's band of merry fellows seems to be more likely to include fellow-ettes, who do their own fighting, thank you.

Various reviews: Strange Hero Yi Zhi Mei, Chinese Paladin 3, and The Young Warriors. )

Currently downloading Dan Ren Wu (Big Shot), because I haven't seen anything with Nicolas Tse, and I figure the romantic storyline should be a nice change after Young Warriors (hedging my bets that the series will have some rocks fall, since it is the Yang Clan and they're kind of known for the rocks falling part). Also sitting around waiting for someone to show up and seed The Holy Pearl... which apparently is a Chinese live-action retelling/adaptation of -- I am so not making this up -- Inuyasha. Noticeably, Kagome (now Ding Yao) is not a school girl, but an archaeologist's daughter in her mid-twenties; if nothing else, wuxia doesn't seem to fetishize the prepubescent/adolescent female half so much as K-dramas and J-dramas. The whole bit about the sacred jewel has been Chinese-ified into a pearl leftover from when Nuwa created the world, and Wen Tian (the Inuyasha role) is now a human-dragon hybrid.

Me: I'd never heard anything about a live-action television adaptation of Inuyasha, but then, as soon as you have a jewel in pieces and a half-demon male protagonist, people always start crying that it's Inuyasha.

CP: It's not like Takahashi invented the idea of a sacred broken jewel.

Me: Or the idea of half-demons. But we'll see... if I can just get a seed. I'm just not convinced it's really based on Inuyasha. I mean, it's only thirty-two episodes! You can't possibly adapt Inuyasha in only thirty-two episodes.

CP: Unless each episode is ten hours long.

Also, my copy of The Confusions of Pleasure: Commerce and Culture in Ming China just arrived. Yay!

ETA2: I could've just cut to the chase and linked to [personal profile] dangermousie's list of things learned from wuxia. I'd add more, but then I realized some things are universal -- from wuxia to romcoms -- like when one character starts the story insisting on undying hatred. If the object of hatred is same-sex, then the story ends with forgiveness (even if mid-rock-falling). If the object of hatred is opposite sex, Houston, we have OTP.
kaigou: pino does not approve of where the script is going. (2 pino does not approve)
[Edited/consolidated to reduce where I rambled. Wow, those cold meds are something.]

For a little background, read [personal profile] phoebe_zeitgeist's A perhaps-obvious point about shipping and voice work, and don't skip the comments, which are equally insightful.

The TL;DR version is that voicework can completely alter our impression of a work, which is (as Phoebe says), probably completely obvious. I think there's a side-issue at work, though, which is that the voicework can also tell us how the voice-actors, themselves, approached the work—and our impression of the work, therefore, is informed by the actors' interpretation. That is, interpretation as the output (the voice recordings) and interpretation as the input (their own view of a character, a story, the conflict, and so on). I'll refrain from quoting too much of the original post & replies, since you can read it there, but I do want to call out this example, from [personal profile] aquila_black:
...my first introduction to Naruto was one of the movies, dubbed into English and shown once at our local theater... The movie had interviews with several of the American voice actors, the Japanese voice actors, and the manga-ka himself. The middle-aged American lady voicing Naruto was embarrassingly informal and unprofessional, and had nothing interesting to say about her character. The Japanese voice actress gave the camera a serious, well-thought out response about the responsibility she felt, at portraying the emotional complexities of an orphan who projects a relentlessly cheerful exterior, while often feeling desperately alienated and alone. Needless to say, it was a night and day difference. The Japanese actress convinced me that her character was worth my time.

In short, I see the output-interpretation as hampered or stifled by the lack of input-interpretation. Or, in the instance of the Japanese voice actress, the output is significantly enhanced by the amount of input she gave it.

This is not that unusual for Japanese seiyuu, from the interviews I've seen. It's the English-speaking VA who spends considerable time watching the original, thinking about the character, that's the unusual one (and they do exist, but there's plenty more who don't know of the original or seem to care). A similar case in point, for me, was watching the VA interviews that came with the US release of the Cowboy Bebop movie. Spike's VA (from the series) didn't do the movie-Spike [See comments in re this statement.] Faye's VA... well, I recall the question was something about playing Faye, and the answer was mostly about how awesome it was to hang out with the gang, and we all get along well, and blah blah blah.

(Not saying VAs are the only ones who do this; I've seen many actors/actresses asked about their character and answer with how hard the filming was, or doing their own stunts, or how close the entire cast got to be. Okay, some actors/actresses just don't like to analyze a character, and insist it should be left to the audience. Except I'm not asking for the definitive meaning; I just want to know the actor/actress or VA actually gave characterization as much thought as I'm going to give it while ripping it apart.)

The reason the other VA non-responses stood out was because Edward's VA spent no little time explaining how much thought she'd put into trying to communicate Edward's utterly-Japanese wacky dialogue into an English equivalent (IIRC, the VA doesn't know Japanese). She put time and effort not just into understanding Edward, but into crafting the translated dialogue with the director and scriptwriter, to "find" Edward's English voice. That's a lot of extra work, though, for a job where you're probably only making a pittance, anyway. Not everyone can, or will, or even is allowed to, go beyond like that.

But criticisms like mine do put a lot of weight on VA shoulders, and I think we need to shift some of that to where it belongs: the director. If you're in a play, and you don't know or haven't yet seen where the story's going, it's the director who says, "read the line like this," or "the character is actually feeling like ___ but showing an expression of ____ because s/he is thinking ___." There's a reason for the old joke about the actor asking, "what's my motivation!?" When all else fails, the one who can best answer that is the director... and I think we may have a substantial lack of directors in US VA work, from the results I'm seeing. Either that, or the English-speaking VAs are so incredibly bad that no amount of directing would save 'em. Hard to tell from the final product.

Now that's out of the way, time for the main course: Kuroshitsuji, and some side-by-side comparisons. )

This took all day on benedryl, so I think I'll turn the mic over to the rest of you, now.

ETA: forgot to mention this, but at least one member of the English Kuroshitsuji cast does deserve some mention: the VA for Meiran did a remarkable job of matching the Japanese VA's peculiarly hoarse-raspy-funny delivery. It's not a total match-up, but the VA gets points from me for not only mimicking the Japanese Meiran-style, but doing it with a low-class Brit accent as well. Well done, that.
kaigou: (1 olivia is not impressed)
Been watching Fate/Zero, which seemed (so far) intriguing, so I thought I'd watch some Fate/Stay_Night, just so I'm not completely lost.

TL;DR: just read the wiki entry and save yourself the pain.

Let's see. Where to begin, and yes, here there be spoilers. Technically. Me, I think the premise's treatment already stinks, so hard to spoil it any further.

Well, for starters, the hero -- Shirou -- is a textbook case of TSTL. I mean, we could teach entire semesters just on his stupidity alone, he's that textbook. Granted, it's not entirely valorized in that other characters voice their annoyance with his stupidity, but at the same time, the instant he tries to lift even his teeniest finger he's praised as being very good, a natural at something. Someone mentions spell-casting spots, and he identifies one immediately. He gets attacked by a champion, picks up a baton, and changes it into a weapon, first try ever. He tries sparring and he's a natural with powerful moves and assurance! It just makes his stupidity the rest of the time even more painful. I mean, if he at least struggled with what he can't do, then I'd be less likely to see his TSTL traits as, well, so damn stupid. Instead, he just comes across as naively unthinking, and I don't mean that in a cute way.

In the wiki entry, one of the antagonists -- Shinji -- is characterized as narcissistic (he is, definitely) and chauvinistic. Not sure about the latter, but I can say that Shirou is without a doubt one of the most sexist characters I've come across in awhile. He's facing the spiritual embodiment of King Freaking Arthur (aka Saber), and because (in what could've been a cool twist) King Arthur is more like a Joan of Arc character -- being female -- Shirou is adamant that she, uhm, shouldn't fight. Because girls are to be protected. And it's not like she's even facing death; as a non-corporeal entity, if she loses a battle, she just fades back into oblivion until the next time someone summons her. I'm not seeing a major issue here, in terms of the final cost of omg-death kind of cost.

But no, Shirou's got to jump in the way of a major baddie and get himself almost killed, because he's that adamant that girls should be protected. If Saber just hauled off and smacked him, I'd be all for it, but this story is more of the transitional same: the writers gave the girls guns, but took away all the ammo. Makes for a female character, like Saber, being a lot of talk but nothing to back it up. She tells him she's trained for combat, but caves almost immediately and agrees to let him (the untrained TSTL twit) fight; she hares into battle but the script makes sure to trip her up. Either it's her opponent calling a halt (like you didn't see that coming), or it's the script's setup that Shirou doesn't have enough "energy" to feed her spiritual needs. She's rendered helpless because the hero is a loser, but the result's the same: presented as a great hero, King/Queen Arthur is a lot of flash and not much kicking ass.

My reader-writer-analysis brain finds it all so frustrating... )
kaigou: And now I, chaos butterfly, shall flap my wings and destroy the world! (2 chaos butterfly)
[Note: get a drink and have a seat. This is almost up to my usual levels of longwindedness, but this time, I do have a point! Other than the one on the top of my head.]

I came across an insightful comment the other day while researching, and the comment resonated with me strongly in light of the requirements compiling I was tackling at the same time.

"If you're not paying for it, you're not the customer; you're the product being sold." -- blue_beetle

Think about that for a bit, but first I want to run past everyone some of the thoughts bouncing in my head as a result of researching Delicious, Diigo, Pinboard, and various other (past and present) bookmarking applications. One particular journal entry (from 2008) compares Delicious and Diigo, though I'll rephrase some of the author's conclusions, since I think he got his main summary backwards. Here's the basis of his argument, thought:
Delicious, an original web 2.0 company, still has “user-generated” as its core raison d’être. Diigo has the later-stage web 2.0 philosophy of being a “social network”.

In essence (and to undo the backwards of his summary): Delicious is grounded in using content to find users, while Diigo emphasizes using users to find content. Somehow, I'm not surprised that so far, of the folks replying to my informal poll, that most of you have indicated that you follow the content and then, as a secondary step, discover like-minded users -- seeing how many of you have said you preferred old!delicious and don't like or care for the diigo approach.

Granted, these two things (users, content) are intertwined: you find a tag you want to follow, you start seeing the same names pop up, you realize the same people are marking things you're also liking, and you may switch your focus from the tag to the user, in hopes they'll lead you to even better stuff.

Here's the crux, though: what is the actual product?

This shit ain't free, y'know. Servers and storage and developers and designers don't just grow on trees. It's got to be paid for, either in cash or in kind or in stock or in some way, but usually cash since most landlords & mortgage companies don't accept vegetables, these days. If you see a product that you can consume, and it's free, someone paid for it. Maybe not you, but someone: NSTaaFL, after all.

Let me step back here, to the days when I first found an investor, wrote a business plan, and opened a bookstore... and other commentary about the dot-com and post-dot-com business models. )

More thoughts later. For now, it's your turn.
kaigou: this is what I do, darling (1 Sebastian smile)
First, for context: read [personal profile] phoebe_zeitgeist's The Second of our Reign at AO3 (Ciel/Sebastian, rated M for adult situations), or for gen, read Anorexia (the catfood overdub). For gen, read Phoebe's gleefully geek-law draft for The Phantomhive Cases: CERTIORARI TO THE HIGH COURT OF MINOS, or a bit of her comment!fic, both of which I really hope don't end there (and can see end up being intertwined, come to think of it).

And then, the discussion, gacked from PZ's post/replies, but repeated here in case anyone else can think of additional examples, counter-arguments, or other insights. It starts with Phoebe's reply to my review (posted on her journal, since AO3 doesn't give that option to non-members). Trimmed some where we regressed into flailing fandomness. (You can read the original on Phoebe's journal, if you want it unedited.)

Phoebe: They have so much fun being Ciel and Sebastian! Their official authors gave them multiple canons that are essentially curtain!fic, and these are characters who never get curtain!fic, not even from fans, let alone from canon. And so many glorious hints that can be extrapolated from, and what have to be deliberate inconsistencies to allow for getting around any bits of canon one doesn't find desirable! I still can barely believe the source even exists, it's such a match for all my private weirdnesses.

...is this actually a perfectly ordinary, stereotypical pair of characters in the broader anime/manga universe? I've seen and read just enough now to be used to some of the more common tropes: the beautiful villains with tragic pasts; the hot sociopath paired with, or obsessed with, the beautiful idealist who loves humanity; the nice, faintly ineffectual-on-the-surface guys who're brilliant and deadly in pursuit of their true agendas, but without ever losing their sweetness and awkwardness in any other situation. I haven't seen Ciel and Sebastian anywhere else, or at least, not in ways that are right upfront in the text, and don't need to be constructed from implications in canon; but that could be because I haven't seen or read very much. Have I missed dozens of instances of the same dynamic, do you think? Or is Kuroshitsuji genuinely doing something one doesn't see in every other work for this slice of the audience?

Kaigou: I don't veer [much] into shoujo and [never into] Clamptastic worlds, so there may be corners where you could find another Ciel or a Sebastian. But I can't think of too many where you'd find *both*. )

kaigou: first I'm going to have a little drinkie, then I'm going to execute the whole bally lot of you. (2 execute all of you)
Yesterday I read Warchild, then Burndive, and quit a chapter or so into Cagebird, and then read reviews to see if I was the only one feeling the lack. (Far as I can tell, I am.)

When I was a teenager, I read Majipoor Chronicles, which was a collection of short stories within a framework (honestly, the only kind of short stories I'll tolerate; entirely unconnected short stories just aren't my thing). Several of the stories in that book dealt with, or implied, things like child prostitution, rape, and/or abuse -- as have other SFF books I've read over the years. While I've rarely read full-on-id all-the-details page-time in mainstream SFF, I've also rarely read truly oblique glossing. A good writer can let you know that two characters had sex (consensual or not) without wallowing in it.

I've learned to ping on when a work is ex-fanfic (or the author is). The id gets page-time (often deep emotional)... and then it's wiped with no warning. It's like the story's voice/flow was suddenly truncated by an embarrassed author, censoring lest the story show its idtastic origins or influences. The narration loses its honesty; it becomes evasive. The author doesn't just require me to read between the lines; I'm being forced to insert lines that aren't there, before I can even read between those deleted lines.

Unreliable narrators, storytelling pattern-breaks, Barbara Cartland, word of god is not my canon, aliens vs Asia, and geisha as the final straw. )

Now I'm reading Eleanor Taylor Bland's Done Wrong. It's not the first book in the series, but I already have five books reserved on interlibrary loan and I really wanted to read Bland's series, so I picked the earliest in the series that was actually on the shelf. It's another genre-jump, as Bland writes present-day Chicago homicide investigator mysteries, but already I'm sucked in. Will report back, next time I come up for air.

(After this, it's onto Anita Rau Badami's The Hero's Walk.)
kaigou: this is what I do, darling (2 never get to work on time)
Awhile back I posted about damselfied action girls, and several comments protested my exclusion of non-fighting female characters in the cited animanga. The counter-argument was that although the female characters were not as strong as the male characters (physically, martially), the female characters contributed in other ways. Then, and now, I don't disagree, but I still think such an argument borders on disingenuous if taken in light of a story's embedded standards.

The majority of stories -- in any format, from nearly every culture, at least from what I've seen, read, and researched -- revolve around male characters. It takes a pickax and night goggles to find the exceptions that pass the Bechdel Test, and that's not exactly a really high standard. It's just taken as a given that the center of a story will be the male protagonist. Either he's the hero, right-up, to get the focus, or he's the woman's objective (and therefore becomes the focus) -- even if, in the latter case, the story is predominantly through the woman's point of view. Her perspective is, more likely than not, going to be fixed on the male character/love interest, and that means the male character remains effectively in the center of the viewing screen. Hell, he'll probably be her main topic of conversation even when he's not on-screen.

That's a duh to most women viewers, I think (and if it's not a duh, or comes as a surprise, you may be reading the wrong journal) but it means that the default is to judge secondary/female characters within a framework, or against a standard, of that main male protagonist. Thus while it may be true that women in Naruto or Bleach do contribute in some way to plot, development, or general support, they're still inferior when measured against what makes the hero so great.

If the hero's main qualification (to be declared/considered the hero) is that he's a strong fighter, the women around him may be savvy, sharp, and wildly successful at whatever they do... but they're inferior when measured against the story's criteria for "what makes the main character be the main character". For a story that posits the hero (or love interest) is worthy of this singular attention -- from the narrative or from the main female protagonist -- by virtue of some quality, more likely than not, the female character will have less of that quality in comparison, and in some cases, may even lack it altogether.

I only just realized this as I've begun watching more East Asian dramas, where there is a greater likelihood (especially in Taiwanese, Thai, and Chinese dramas, at least what I've seen so far) that the female lead will have some ass-kicking skills. In some cases, she's actually a better fighter than the male lead. It's when I analyze what's supposed to set the hero apart that I realize: the more a story emphasizes the woman's fighting skills, the more likely it is that what sets the hero apart isn't his fighting prowess but his mental prowess.

Thus, it's the flip side of Naruto and its "smart girls, bad fighters". Where the hero/male prowess is predominantly defined by intelligence, knowledge, or worldly experience, either the narrative or the other characters (possibly including the male lead) considers the female characters as less-intelligent, even outright stupid. The story sets its value-priority on the hero's brain, not his brawn... which means there's plenty of room to be brawny, for the female, but little room to be brainy. The hero's already gotten first and second shares of that quality.

Read more... )
kaigou: (1 buddha ipod)
Women in Movies and TV: Why Does Hollywood Always Portray Women as Weak and Helpless?
So brainwashed is the public that women should always be portrayed as weak, hapless and defenseless, that a most-brilliant Nike commercial was pulled shortly after it was aired on TV: Woman is sleeping. Man with chainsaw breaks through front door. Woman bolts awake and escapes through window into the dark. The chainsaw man storms through house and out same window. Woman is running through woods. Viewer hears chainsaw man in pursuit.

But something is peculiar here. The woman is running with beautiful strides, easily clearing forest-floor obstacles, and doesn't stumble! The scene switches back and forth between the agile woman and the increasingly out-of-breath man. Woman continues to run effortlessly, while man eventually slows, panting heavily, stops completely and can barely catch his breath.

Next scene against a black screen are the words: Why sport? It just might save your life. Nike. Just do it.

This brilliant ad was pulled because of complaints it was "offensive." Shame on anyone who complained. These overly sensitive viewers just couldn't grasp the concept of a woman outrunning a man. Yet I wonder how many of these feeble-brained viewers have enjoyed movies and TV shows showing women clumsily running from men, then tripping and falling, then being captured by the men.

A solid rant, with several good points to keep in mind when it comes to those damned drama wrist-grabs. Sheesh....and more. )
kaigou: this is what I do, darling (5 offering bowl)
Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation was a hushed and poignant film about the experience of being lost in an unfamiliar world, where all communication fails: between the male protagonist and his estranged wife, between the female protagonist and her ambitious boyfriend, between the two American protagonists and their inability to bridge the language gap with the people around them. In one light, it both specified Tokyo via its use of specific places within the city, and at the same time used its distance from the average (American) viewer to riff on the stranger-in-a-strange-land trope. In another light, it's also an exceedingly problematic film, in that Tokyo and its denizens are exoticized as something so foreign and incomprehensible that no translation could ever truly be possible.

If you've ever wondered whether the East had an answer to that multi-layered movie that Othered both its environment and its own protagonists, it just might be The Longest Night in Shanghai. If Coppola's story posited that isolation -- being lost with no meaning -- is an unavoidable aspect of life, this story posits that communicating -- finding the translation -- is the key to gaining one's meaning. (And it does it without requiring that anyone be Othered.)

A joint Japan/China production, directed by Zhang Yibai (Spring Subway, Curiosity Killed the Cat), it's nearly pan-Pacific in its casting: Vicki Zhao (PRC), Motoki Masahiro (Japan), Dylan Kuo (Taiwan), Sam Lee (Hong Kong), and other Japanese, PRC, and even a few American bit players. From the DVD description:
Japanese makeup artist Mizushima Naoki (Motoki Masahiro) is in Shanghai on a job. Wandering by himself at night, he takes a knocking from reckless taxi driver Lin Xi (Vicki Zhao), but is luckily unharmed. After some language confusion, Naoki gets into the taxi, mistaking Lin Xi's insistent friendliness as an invitation for a free tour of Shanghai. Little does he know, Lin Xi is planning on taking this well-heeled foreigner on a very roundabout tour of Shanghai, with the meter running. As Naoki's worried colleagues set off in search for him, Lin Xi and Naoki slowly develop a bond that transcends their language gap.

Unfortunately for her plans, he's walked out of the convention center without his bag (containing his ID and passport), his cellphone, or any idea of the name of the hotel where he's staying. He hadn't planned on not going back, but now he's lost somewhere in Shanghai, and despite the taxi driver's multiple attempts to foist him off on someone else (a low-rent motel, the police station, etc), each time she ends up going back for him, unwillingly sympathizing with this lost soul in her city. They're both lost, really: Mizushima's relationship with his partner/lover, Miho, is strained and too business-like; Lin Xi harbors a secret long-term love for her best friend, a mechanic at a local garage.

He understands no Mandarin; she speaks no Japanese. The one language they have in common is (ironically, to me) English, but it's pretty limited, even then. But in that way all people have when faced with someone who is a stranger and doesn't understand what you're saying, the honesty that each begin to express reveals communication despite the lack of translation between them. And, eventually, transcending it; in the end, unlike Coppola's protagonists who are permanently lost somewhere in the translation (including a final line between them that's not even audible to the audience), Zhang's protagonists find themselves in, and despite, translation.

Read more... )

The Longest Night in Shanghai: wikipedia entry / yesasia listing, HK version / amazon listing, JP version
kaigou: this is what I do, darling (3 scare the devil)
I just finished a series that retells a Korean legend and also riffs off the story of The Little Mermaid. As for the issue of feminist critique, well, the Hong sisters really hit it out of the park with this one. Like, into the next state. With bonus sparklers.

There's a lot of different places to begin, so instead I'll start with two videos. Might as well get it out of the way that GU MI-HO -- a mangling of the Korean title for "nine-tailed fox", "gumiho" -- played by Shin Mina -- slays me with the cute. Every time those dimples appear, I am down for the count. Lee Seung-gi plays opposite her, as CHA DAE-WOONG, and his dimples aren't bad, but she steals every scene and there's nothing anyone can do about it.

About the Hong sisters' retelling of an old Korean legend, the Hans Christian Anderson story 'The Little Mermaid', and the questions of earning humanity and deserving love. ) I won't tell you how the Hong sisters tweaked the last few fox-tails of the Korean legend, but I will tell you that if you want a feminist (or proto-feminist) retelling of a horrific fairy tale that's long overdue for a serious woman-positive reworking, then you need to find yourself a copy of My Girlfriend is a Gumiho. Even if you do risk death by dimples before the first episode ends.

Trust me, you'll find it's neomu neomu neomu neomu neomu neomu neomu neomu worth it.
kaigou: this is what I do, darling (3 scare the devil)
One of the things that didn't really strike me hard until watching Kekkaishi was an implication that I've seen repeated in plenty of other animanga (and western comics) but never really gave much thought: that girls are, by definition, weaker in every single way.

If we're going to argue that "weakness" is based on a physical standard, then in general it'd probably be relatively true to say that, overall and on average, a woman is "weaker" than a man. (This requires we discount the outliers like "men who spend their days sitting at a desk" contrasted with "women who are Olympic athletes".) If the average height of the American woman is 5-foot-3-inches, and the average height of the American man is 5-foot-11-inches, height and weight and basic build would imply that a man, on average, would probably have more basic strength than a woman when it comes to lifting, shoving, pushing, kicking, and other fundamental ergonomic forms of power.

Coming at it from a former athlete's point of view, I sometimes get annoyed with this simplification, though, because there are different types of strength. There's power -- which is explosive strength: the ability to compress one's muscles and release the compressed power into a single drive. This is the power measured by ergometers (rowing machines). Then there's endurance and stamina, which are a type of strength but one that relies on consistent, long-term, repetitive motion and the ability to continue that motion indefinitely. You can have a lot of explosive power but little stamina, and vice-versa. There's also elastic strength, which is repeated compression and expansion of muscles at rapid pace, like in gymnastics. Someone could do six handsprings without breaking a sweat but still have difficulty moving a washing machine. There are other classifications of strength, but that should be enough to make it clear that we can't simply say that one person is "weak" compared to another person based upon one type of measurement.

Now, in most Western comics, when we talk about superheroes, there seems to be a fundamental assumption that what's powering the hero (or heroine) is, underneath it all, a measurement of physical strength. Catgirl can only get so far against Batman; his larger muscle-mass, height, reach, and explosive power outrank hers, so it appears we have no compunction accepting that in an even fight, he'd eventually have the upper hand. Contrast this to animanga, where there's a supernatural aspect, and the source of power is not innate to the person's physical body. It's rooted in something spiritual or supernatural, where the wellspring is within the person but not necessarily on a physical plane. )

Excuse me, I'm going to go rewatch the first five episodes of Seirei no Moribito to make myself feel better.
kaigou: sometimes it's better to light a flamethrower than curse the darkness. (2 flamethrowers)
For the sake of clarity, I'm going to use the term 'folklore' to refer to all the little stories -- from the mythos of a culture, its anonymous but oft-repeated fairy tales up to its attributed greatest works/stories, to the minutiae of daily life and the advice elders give the next generation. (In essence, there is no reason for anyone to say, "my culture doesn't have that," because if you look at the list and the previous posts, you'll realize that although you may lack in one area, no one lacks in all areas, thus, everyone is raised with some type of folklore.)

The phrase I used before was "cultural currency," speaking in terms of external-culture authors "purchasing" a cultural bit of folklore -- but that's actually rooted in thoughts I was having on a macroeconomic, or macrocultural, scale. If you look at the exports of Japanese anime and manga, a significant number of them are moving along lines of cultural exportation (and the same goes for Korean manga), and an awful lot of the biggest of these exported products also incorporate significant distinctively-Japanese elements.

Letters to Santa, urban folklore, Japanese v. Korean v. Chinese comics, the folklore impact of the Cultural Revolution, and white-American culture, all in three pages or fewer. I think. )

Hmmm. Dunno. Just a thought, really. Okay, a bunch of them.
kaigou: under this playful boyish exterior beats the heart of a ruthless sadistic maniac (2 charming maniac)
Thoughts here are mostly stemming from watching/reading Gegege no Kitaro and Nurarihyon no Mago, but it's a topic I've messed with before (see here, here, and here). The bottom line is a really obvious one, but I'll state it anyway just so you know where I'm coming from: informal, orally-transferred just-so folklore is a huge foundation of any culture, whether we agree with it, believe in it, or even realize it.

I don't mean iconic national images; those are often loosely based on historical events (and more often than not, shading into myth as the decades and centuries pass), though they can certainly become part of what I'm talking about, in a way. I mean simpler things, tiny things you've probably heard a hundred times growing up, that you never give any thought to, because these are just Things We Say.

Here's one I bet most Americans may've heard: "don't open the umbrella inside the house, or the house'll get hit by lightning." Who the hell even believes umbrellas will cause lightning, even on a clear day? "Don't kill that spider, you'll make it rain!" Oh, right, there's a scientific cause-and-effect. You can call all these superstitions, and utter nonsense, and stuff that's just Things We Say (But Don't Really Mean). You can say, you're an adult and you know none of this is true... but these are a huge part of our personal stories. )

[not done yet, just too busy to make this all one post]
kaigou: this is what I do, darling (3 love the stars)
A few months ago I was reading an article on Gegege no Kitaro, or more precisely an article on the first live-action film adaptation of the classic, and I figured, this is a classic. I should see this. All I can say is: it's so endearingly charming, with just enough kookiness. Scary enough to frighten the under-four-foot crowd, but never sustaining that scariness long enough to do more than give them a slight jump, and almost always followed up with either humor or similar to make it clear the good guys are still good and in one piece... but with enough Shinto-elements that the bad guys don't get their comeuppance in the Western tradition, but are forgiven and given a chance to start over. (I'd say the resolution is a deus ex machina, but more like a deus ex vulpina.)

Okay, okay, so there's a good-sized dose of overacting, but hey, this is a kid's feature -- but it's also got what has to be one of the largest budgets for CGI that I've seen in a Japanese film. Really, it's up there with Pixar/Hollywood levels, spare no expense, even if that meant purchasing extra sets just for some of the actors to chew with wild abandon. And chew, they did! But still, so much fun. No, the acting is not Oscar-level, but -- kid's film! -- and enough of the actors are clearly having fun along the way, and there are enough nods here and there to classic yokai that it's almost like spot-the-cameo.

(My personal favorite was the Tengu King and his guards -- and when the tengu police come for Kitaro is an awesome scene.)

After that, I tracked down the sequel -- Gegege no Kitaro and the Millennium Curse -- which is a slightly darker storyline that also tried to cram in as many yokai as possible (past the point where the budget could CGI all of it, it seems), but hey. Again, kid's movie, and one point in its favor is that the female characters hold their own better than I'd expected; even Sunakake Baba takes out her share of the bad guys.

Unexpected crossovers of an unexpected houseguest, the origins of manga, and making it all new again. )

The last few paragraphs aren't neatly argued, are even more disjointed than usual, because I kept interrupting the writing to go do woodwork... so I guess I'll either revise later or we can all do the happier usual and discuss it in comments. Besides, this is actually just a stop on the way to where I eventually ended up while pondering this, but I'll save that for the next post.
kaigou: (1 mushu reads the news)
We can blame this entire post on [personal profile] ivoryandhorn.

First: apprentices. It's a long tradition (West and East) of apprentices going through the chop wood, carry water period before ever being allowed to touch any tools of the trade. In the West, the real learning doesn't seem to start until one becomes a journeyman, having graduated out of the simplest practices and general grunt-work of the apprentice. A long way to say: I'm willing to accept that apprentices do grunt-work and are often just barely a step above slaves -- what gets me is when stories treat such extreme apprentice-abuse as funny.

This has been bugging me about D.Gray-man, which to be honest I'm only watching because there's little else right now that has my attention, and watching means moving away from the computer. In other words, it's a mental break, although I don't particularly care for the fact that I'm taking quite that much of a mental break. (I mean, honestly, is the entire first season nothing but freaking filler? I don't think I would've made it past about the fourth episode if I hadn't read the manga and knew it'd be getting better... well, sort of.)

Anyway, the manga implies a lot about Allen's time as an apprentice, while the anime goes into considerably more detail and flashback. Both treat Allen's experiences as a kind of joke, though Allen himself (at least in the manga) seems to withhold purposefully any further details, preferring to let any discussion pass with a hand-wave/smile rather than go into detail (where, it implies, he might not find it so easy to pretend like it was nothing). The anime-version, however, treats the entire thing as funny, in the narrative, I mean: other characters both reinforce the "it's so funny" as well as outright undermine Allen's own obvious reluctance for the telling and dislike of what he's telling. I might even be amused by the irony of a female character basically telling the male character right up that the male character's impression/understanding is wrong (because normally it's the other way around: male --> female )... if I weren't so annoyed by the narrative treating outright abuse as somehow a source of amusement, even of admiration!

...and a little more on that first thing, and then the second thing: hard choices, wherein yet again Arakawa shows me the way. )

Other thoughts as they come, again, with all blame due (for once, not on Duo) to I&H.
kaigou: (1 Izumi)
One of the oddest by-products of watching anime and/or reading manga comes from the issue of whether animanga-style illustrations show white/anglo faces or asian/japanese faces. Ever since the neighbor asked the almost textbook question, I've been thinking about my own first exposure(s) to anime.

First there was Spirited Away, which I never even thought in terms of race (as in, "are these characters ___") because the story itself was so incredibly, unquestionably Japanese, swamped in folklore in nearly every frame. I couldn't watch it and not say, "this is a Japanese story."

Having watched that, I went back to the classmate who'd recommended, and asked, "what else?" And he sent me onto FLCL and Rurouni Kenshin. The former, again, I never even thought of raising the question of "who are these characters (in racial or cultural context)" because I was too bloody busy going, what the hell is going on, here? The latter I watched, somewhat ambivalently, while it was broadcast on Cartoon Network, but even with the English-language soundtrack -- and the random odd haircolor or facial feature or clothing -- the story remained unquestionably Japanese: the backdrops, the clothing, the cultural references, and so on.

But the next major-length anime I watched from start-to-finish was Gundam Wing, and that's about as far from the previous as you can get, especially when you raise the issue of racial identities. The characters are canonically given (or fanonically, where canon goes silent) a variety of cultural/national connections, so visual-style I'd learned to associate with "this means Japanese" was being re-associated with "this one is American, and I simply have to accept that even if otherwise he generally looks the same as the one being identified as Arabic, or even the one identified as Japanese." In fact, what leapt out the most at me was that the only character in that series who gets major racial identifiers that I could reasonably peg was the Chinese character (and no, I'd say I didn't miss the racial/cultural implications of that detail).

Watching the various animes -- because later, there was Saiyuki* and Cowboy Bebop and then Escaflowne and then Serial Experiments Lain -- and the latter two on DVD and thus finally with subtitles -- I couldn't not associate the stories as Japanese, couldn't un-see them to see them as non-Japanese. If I ever slipped for a second, there was the dialogue to remind me that I was watching another culture's story. If I saw anything that for a second made me think, "hey, that's like me," the dialogue would remind me: this is not a character "like me," except insofar as this might be how someone else, in that other culture, might see someone "like me".

Things that make me go hmmm: animation visual styles, cold-war-era thrillers, representations of other-language in this-language, privileged characters in plot points take seventeen, exceptions to the racism rule, and back again to animanga. )

kaigou: so when do we destroy the world already? (3 destroy the world)
note: uncharacteristically, I wasn't inclined to or wasn't up to or whatever other lack o' motivation, thus in writing this I found myself without the energy to spell everything out as I might normally do -- so if there are any blanks for you (history-wise, mostly), please refer to the comments, where others have taken the time to carefully delineate what I let pass with vague implication. I know, unlike me! But still. I can't always be writing 10-page posts at the drop of a hat.

If you've watched your share of mecha (and related) anime, you've probably seen this trope several times, maybe even enough to know it by heart: madman acting out of self-proclaimed altruistic means, which usually amounts to, "if I destroy the world by (a) dropping a big honking meteor/planet/space-colony (b) launching a massive mushroom-bomb of horrendous power (c) whipping up the entire world against me so it stops fighting each other and instead fights only me whereupon I crush everyone (d) ending the world as we know it by some other means (e) pretty much killing everyone and blaming it all on the two-step maneuver of war and peace because anyone with a clue knows "rebellion" is just a self-justified synonym for war, you morons who can't count..."

...and that by doing so, WE GET PEACE.

Because, apparently, if you're a self-proclaimed lover-of-humanity with psychotic but ultimately altruistic intentions, of course it's perfectly logical to you that if you burn everyone's retinas with the ultimate war, that they'll all immediately come to their senses and want peace at any cost. And that of course, humanity has always become immediately pacifist upon surviving a horrendous war of attrition. I mean, look at World War I -- boy, Europe and the Americas were just swept by a craze of pacifism as a result!


This is not logic that resembles my earth logic, but then, a lot of anime doesn't resemble my culture earth, either.

Anyway. That's the basic logic: you've got your Gundams drop-the-colony versions, you've got your "I'm so depressed the whole world should suffer along with me" variation a la Eureka Seven, hell, even Naruto's gotten into the act with a combination of both of the above. In the end, it's all different harmonies to the same melody, that if one achieves peace through war, ergo a really BIG war should bring about a really BIG peace.

That was in my head, with some amusement at the lack of parallel, when reading the FMA manga... and the eventual realization that Arakawa really doesn't play nice with some of the biggest animanga tropes. ) Wah. It just makes me wish all the more I had at least a smattering of Japanese, to be able to write Arakawa and tell her about how I've got a little shrine to her brain, right here beside me in my office, because what a brain it is. Man, I've not thought this much about a series after it's ended since, uhm... never Gundam. Okay, since Gundam, but I defend that on the grounds that Gundam was my first introduction to the madman-says-BIG-war-makes-BIG-peace trope, so I guess an evolution to the next level naturally gets me going all over again.
kaigou: this is what I do, darling (1 Edward armor)
This has been bugging me, thinking about the implications of the final showdown in FMA. Since I can't really avoid spoilers (duh), it's all behind a cut ...shorter version: wherein there's question of reset buttons. )

Maybe there weren't a lot of gaps in the course of the overall FMA storyline... but I can sure see a whole lotta possibilities for fanfic when it comes to grappling with the consequences of questions Arakawa left unanswered.

kaigou: this is what I do, darling (3 get down from there)
[continued from pt1]

Where I meander, I'm also busy trying different ways to approach and/or assess the evidence at hand. In case you weren't already aware of my hermeneutic habit trails.

Whenever I read of Authors dismissing fanfiction as intentional (if not outright malicious) distortion, and the way that such tarrings sometimes spread to an implied tarring of all fandom (beyond just the writers and their readers), it strikes me as ignoring a benefit that might outweigh that of the distortion-risk drawbacks.

By that I mean: there is a derivative benefit to Authors from the connections that exist between fans not by virtue of their shared baseline fandom (focus on an original story) but on their participation in fandom itself, as a generalized entity or way of being.

What got me, in considering the dynamics at play, was ... that on the face of it, it'd seem like one would want fans of one fandom to connect with others, and hope for a bit of cross-pollination, as it were.  )
kaigou: this is what I do, darling (4 distraction factor)
Recently, while following links on something else entirely (as usual), I came across a presentation from TED, by Seth Godin (author of Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us). Right about the same time as watching that short video, I also stumbled across a post by [personal profile] obsession_inc called Affirmational fandom vs. Transformational fandom, which posits that:
In "affirmational" fandom, the source material is re-stated, the author's purpose divined to the community's satisfaction, rules established on how the characters are and how the universe works, and cosplay &etc. occur. It all tends to coalesce toward a center concept; it's all about nailing down the details. ... "Transformational" fandom, on the other hand, is all about laying hands upon the source and twisting it to the fans' own purposes, whether that is to fix a disappointing issue (a distinct lack of sex-having between two characters, of course, is a favorite issue to fix) in the source material, or using the source material to illustrate a point, or just to have a whale of a good time.

The two theories/perspectives (Godin, [personal profile] obsession_inc) are wildly divergent in terms of their origins, and (I would argue) to their external intentions -- that is, the former uses the premise as a springboard for activism, while the latter operates independent of any such consequences. So, in some ways, there's only a passing resemblance, but it's there to me all the same.

Meanwhile, of course, reading essays on postmodernism and its clash with feminist theory, and browsing my way through various pseudo-academic (and outright academic) texts on Japanese animation, I kept coming across oblique references to fandom and fan participation. Or, not-so-oblique, if we get into talking about Azuma's arguments. Regardless, this all simmered, and the following illustrated meta-story, or meta-theory, is all that capped off by the discussion on my previous posts over fanfiction and the question of whether fandom has influence on the creative process or whether it's simply a backdrop to what may sometimes be a process independent of any community.

And, of course, the not-yet-dead discussion of Published Authors Behaving Badly when it comes to fanfiction.

So, to start, in this first picture we have ourselves a newly-published original story.

Because when I said it comes together in pictures, I wasn't kidding. Adobe Illustrator FTW, with scattered hints of potentially controversial suppositions, so consider yourself warned. )

FYI: if you haven't noticed, here I'll say it explicitly: the use of 'analysis is my chocolate cake' as a tag indicates 'this topic is open for debate/discussion', while the 'at play' and 'league' tags mean it's genre-focused and fandom-focused respectively, and the 'half-asleep' tag means it's related to fanfiction.


kaigou: this is what I do, darling (Default)
锴 angry fishtrap 狗

to remember

"When you make the finding yourself— even if you're the last person on Earth to see the light— you'll never forget it." —Carl Sagan

October 2016

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