jaydinitto.com

abounding with verbosity

Tag Archives: Japan


Feudalism in Noragami

For reference, see Ed’s post here, summarizing ANE (Ancient Near East) feudalist social structure.

Noragami is about gods and their work in Japan as they battle phantoms that plague the country’s citizens. The gods are essentially humans in form, with obvious special powers, mostly invisible but can appear to anyone if they decide to. All the gods utilize Regalia (shinki), who are humans who have passed from the Near Shore—the land of the living—under unfortunate circumstances. The wandering human spirits are adopted in the god’s service at his pleasure, thought adoption is too weak a word to describe the relationship. Regalia are essentially covenanted into the god’s service, but are under little obligation to stay. Regalia normally have nowhere else to go except into another god’s service, so “god-hopping” is unusual and rather frowned upon, as serving more than one master, especially at the same time, is distastful.

Regalia are called into service by the god granting the human spirit some of his life force and giving it two names: a new human name and a vessel name, as means of establishing the contract. The spirit then becomes human in form, like the god, and just as invisible. When the god calls the vessel name, the Regalia transforms into some object to defeat the phantom. Usually it’s a weapon, but it can also be an assisting tool, or even an animal or mode of transport.

Yato, a god of calamity, recruits a new Regalia:

It’s worth mentioning that the connection between god and Regalia goes much deeper than slave and master, or even parent and child. The two are linked much more closely, so that what the Regalia does and feels actually affects the god physically. The result is that Regalias risk hurting their master if they make immoral decisions, or get upset or angry. So the Regalia has a duty not only to obey their master, but keep their own sense of well-being. In turn, the god offers the Regalias protection, guidance, and a sense of belonging to a family—all things they didn’t have when they were an isolated spirit. Many of the more successful gods have physical shrines dedicated to their existence, but that comes as a reward for dedicating their power to help humanity. The core of their existence as gods comes from their relationship with their Regalia and their combined efforts to answer the prayers of Japanese citizenry.

In Noragami and countless other series like it, you’ll notice a strong presumption of the supernatural interceding in everyday Japanese life. “First contact” with beings or phenomena are met with merely mild surprise, as though it were not precisely predictable but still inevitable. Contrast this with a more Western view of the supernatural in film and television, in which human characters presume malice on the supernatural world; ghost stories intersect very strongly with horror.

At What Point Does Nancy Drew Become Not Nancy Drew?

There’s a pilot ordered for a Nancy Drew series on CBS:

Described as a contemporary take on the character from the iconic Nancy Drew book series, the CBS project will center around a diverse, 30-something title character. A more mature version than the classic story, Nancy is now detective for the NYPD where she investigates and solves crimes using her uncanny observational skills, all while navigating the complexities of life in a modern world.

So…it’s basically another hour-long crime drama, and dare I call this darkwashing? Nancy Drew—yes, I read some of the books when I was younger—went through a lot of changes and iterations since the books started in the 30s, but three things were constant: she was white, suburban, and a girl. This depiction destroys two and a quarte of these things…the “quarter” part comes in because Drew was depicted as a teenager or a college-to-mid-twenties aged person. I don’t remember her being thirty years old at all, and thank God they didn’t make her a man. It’s sillier than making Thor a woman or Dr. Watson a Chinese woman living in America, but not as silly as using a half-Danish, half-Jewish actress portray Motoko Kusanagi from the upcoming Ghost in the Shell live action film. Don Quixote as an Indian auntie? Wonder Woman as a man? When does the Ship of Theseus become another ship?

But there’s degrees to this, and the live action version of Ghost in the Shell compared to its more canon material is a good specimen. Casting Scarlett Johansson as Kusanagi is wrong for fundamental plot/expository reasons: Kusanagi is an ethnic Japanese, a Japanese national, heavily involved with Tokyo politics and white-collar, technological crime. All of her prosthetic bodies are female and Japanese (there’s even an episode where a colleague asks why she chooses the same body type every consciousness transfer). Contrast this with the casting of as her co-protag, Batou. Batou is a French national that got involved with Shell’s Section 9 during a world war. Pilou Asbæk is portraying him in the 2017 film, yet he is half-French and Half-Danish, and a Danish citizen. Not completely off the mark, especially physiognomically, even if Asbæk were a 100% Dane. Batou’s Frenchness could be rewritten since it’s not essential to his character; that he’s not Japanese is, and Asbæk would still fit that bill.

Castle in the Sky – Sheeta and the Pirates

Castle in the Sky - robot flower
Bear with me if you’ve never seen Castle in the Sky, or you’ve forgotten it. Some time ago, on Facebook or on some message board had mentioned the odd interest the pirates took in Sheeta’s presence on their ship. If I had a clip of the relevant scenes, I would link them here, but it’s a film distributed by Disney so its been outlawed from being viewed anywhere online.

I call the interest “odd” because Sheeta, as well as Pazu, are portrayed as early teenagers or younger (depending on which version you’re watching), and having grown men a few steps short of accosting a fairly captive young girl is inappropriate for any movie geared somewhat towards children. But there’s no overt indication that the pirate’s interest in Sheeta is prurient. They live on a ship with their mother, Dola, as the only feminine presence in their life, and she’s far from matronly. How could she not be? She has to keep her sons and ship in line—like Mama Fratelli from The Goonies, she has no avenue to really fill the mom role. Sheeta played that part well, however temporarily, while on their ship.

Yes, there’s the lolita culture in Japan, but Miyazaki’s films have been largely immune from it. I think the suggestion of Sheeta vs Dola’s gang as being prurient is more a western or American perception. Some of us just can’t help but read sexuality into ambiguities.

Movie: The Place Promised In Our Early Days

I rewatched this movie last night on the Crunchyroll channel, but it’s also on Youtube for free in its entirety (see above), in decent quality.

It’s worth watching, even if anime isn’t your thing, because it has the sense of a semi-sci-fi movie from a Western producer…but animated. It helps to think of it as a Studio Ghibli film but more geared towards adult sensibilities and pacing. Many typical anime plot elements are here: American imperialism, the “large explosion” typology/legend, science-and-mysticism*, and schoolkids doing odd things in their spare time.

And even if that doesn’t appeal to you, there’s some excellent background scene art.

* If you think of the tower much like Clarke’s/Kubrick’s monolith from the 2001 universe, you’ll be on the right track.

In Which I Bloviate About Melt-Banana

I first heard Melt-Banana when a fellow grocery store warm body lent me their Scratch or Stitch release. It held my interest for a few listens: an album full of layered ray gun guitar effects, fuzz bass pounding, ADHD drumming, insane cat-bark yipyap vocals, song titles bordering on Engrish hilarity. Something that was experimental but not boring or self-indulgent. Even if that sort of thing repulses you, you just kind of have to listen for a little bit to experience the trainwreck.

But there were some fatal flaws to keep me from really enjoying it. It was lo-fi and I was in the midst of an obsession with metalcore, a genre that tends to enjoy higher production values. Additionally I was going through an irritating yet mild “Christian-only music” cloistering phase—a fever that neophytes to the scene can easily catch.

I forgot about them until recently, when for some reason I listened to “Cracked Plaster Cast” from Bambi’s Dilemma once, and the once turned into listening to the whole holocaust of an album about a few dozen times and counting. And this turned into exploring their back discography. They had changed into a more accessible rock sound while retaining the weirdness aesthetic.

Please bear in mind, though, that this is a relative change. They are no more traditional than they were in their loopy years. It’s more accurate to say that their songs can be slightly longer and have more structure. That’s about it. Yasuko’s vocals have more diversity but are still not quite punk, not quite rock, not quite grindcore, not quite rap. It’s like she just said, “You know what? F— it. I’ll keep doing it but someone else figure it out.”

Below is a short documentary and live set from a recent tour. Hit play and fall in love with the time-traveling plasma rifle rainbow.