AKIRA and Buddhist Philosophy

akira-filmIt hasn’t been easy finding time to write on a blog because of family medical issues. Fortunately mine have taken a turn for the better. Recently, in the middle of this process, I actually saw the groundbreaking anime film AKIRA for the first time. I’d heard for years it was “hard to understand” but found myself understanding it very easily… because my mind had been prepared by seeing material with a similar philosophy in the background. This would be Buddhist philosophy. In brief,

  1. The world is really, really messed up. Buddhist thought considers “this transient world” to be a pretty nasty place, and it’s not good for the soul to be too attached to it whether out of greed for money, power, lust, violence, and so forth. In short, the future Tokyo of AKIRA takes everything people saw as vulgar “worldly affairs” in 1980′s Tokyo, cranked it to an Xtreme level (to use a modern cliche) and used these images to demonstrate why salvation is necessary.
  2. We’re not ready to be saved – yet. Our protagonist has the universe hand him incredible psychic powers on a silver platter. Does he stand up for world peace? Eliminate hunger? Save the environment? No, he blows stuff up, kills the people who cross him, kills some of his old friends who annoy him, gets his best friend spending the latter third of the film trying very hard to kill him, and in general demonstrates that handing a little kid a laser cannon is not going to lead to good things.
  3. But anyone can be saved who turns towards the Path. Yet by the end of the film, not through being a better human being like the titular Akira, or a lost soul like one of the stunted growth psi-children, our protagonist Tetsuo loses control, leaves the boundaries of the flesh, and, while his former best friend is saved by an act of mercy by the aforementioned psi-child, Tetsuo, by leaving the shackles of the flesh behind, discovers a greater, more enlightened universe awaiting mankind. Even evildoers who spend a great deal of time off the path can still be saved if they get on the path at the end – if not by their own agency, but rather the acts of others and the whims of the universe. Tetsuo, facing agonizing death, was finally ready for the change, and found it.
  4. There is thus hope for us all. If that bastard can do it, then as the final words of the film suggest, perhaps not so far in the future, we can, too, in spite of, well… humans sucking in general as they are currently constituted.

So that’s it in a nutshell. Humans suck, but there’s still hope for us, we can be saved, we just need shock therapy and to get with the program already. After you’ve watched a few Evangelion movies it’s hard to be shocked by the notion anymore. Besides, this all fits in neatly with left-wing academic thought of long standing, whereby modern progress is destroying Gaea, humanity must radically change to embrace the planet and renounce, if not all modernity, then certainly excessive wealth and production, and just in general, humans need to suck less, cooperate to settle their differences and then… maybe… in spite of our previous unworthiness, we can find Nirvana, perhaps right here on this planet. Or, at least make the vulgar world more livable in the meantime. I don’t necessarily subscribe to all this in a blind smattering of huge, but that’s not the point. The insanity in AKIRA is not a bug; it is a feature of a much older philosophy that shaped Japan through the centuries. If the movie is hard to understand, it’s nothing against the intelligence of the viewer; it’s simply not having been exposed sufficiently to a particular world-view and its accompanying intellectual argument. So yeah, in my case, watching more anime (and reading a little) made me “get” it.

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Signs of LIfe

Hi everyone. I’ve been on an extended hiatus from blogging for quite legitimate reasons, some of which I’ve posted about in the past. To quickly summarize where I am:

- My father survived a bone marrow transplant that kept him in the hospital for five months. He is about six weeks or so out of the hospital.

- I suffered a setback with my own foot problems, aggravated by the chaos surrounding my father’s return from the hospital, but I am doing VERY well at the moment. I get some antibiotics by IV, give my left foot a ton of rest every day, and I have relatively new, badly needed “offloading” footwear to keep the pressure off the parts that need to heal.

So, I’m doing a lot less “running around” so to speak. I’m fortunate my treatment doesn’t need to be more intensive and that I’m back on track and, thanks to the footwear, making big strides forward so I can put all my recent health problems behind me.

I just didn’t want to blog with too much negativity in the air. My father’s tests say he’s cancer-free, but it’s just taking a good long while for him to get his strength back. The rest is… not worth griping about. I’ve annoyed my closer friends with rants about this or that in the world over time, but I want to be more positive for the wider world.

Also, I’ve been doing a LOT more video gaming than anime watching of late so I haven’t had as much to say about Japan stuff for a while. Also some subjects are too depressing and controversial to contribute much about… and those are the ones that pop up in the Western media, usually.

Mostly it’s just a matter of time and energy. I’ll see what I can do as inspiration strikes.

Take care everyone.

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Anime Review: Hentai Ouji to Warawanai Neko


warawanai neko

English: “The Hentai Prince and the Stony Cat” 

Here’s a good example of another light novel adaptation. For the most part, this is a comedy series dominated by the interpersonal relationship between the main character, who is an ah, let us say, enthusiast about the female physique, but not someone who would hurt a single hair on a girl’s head, and a pair of unfairly adorable younger girls who acquire crushes on him. The broader plot is very deeply about “be careful what you wish for“.

Quick note: No porn, nothing hardcore, not even close. Plenty of teases and suggestive situations, but they never cross the line into actual “hentai” territory. I thought you’d like to know that early on.

Wishing upon statues of the Cat God has both comic and very serious consequences for the characters of this show. The most long-lasting consequence that we see on the surface is the leading heroine, depicted above, who surrenders her on-the-surface emotion and becomes a “stony cat” herself in that sense, which lends fuel to the entire show by making her so adorable it hurts.

There’s other girls worth noting, though I’m not actually going to note them here; there’s some nice girls involved and that’s sufficient for a quick review. More importantly, I want to note that the plot is zany, a sort of “truth and consequences” theme with a lot of very weird situations and people in between, and those expecting a coherent plot expect in vain. This is character exposition, interpersonal conflict, and a lot of eye candy, which makes me rate it a solid 8 out of 10 for keeping me entertained and having cute girls without so much sugar one gags on it, which is actually an impressive feat.

Nonetheless, the limitations of a 12-episode anime run are evident in spades here and one has the feeling that the novels might be a tad more fascinating, but obviously well beyond the reach of most anime viewers. There’s also a very strong sense that more could have been done with this material, and could have been, but we’re not going to see it here. That’s a shame in some sense, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles.

 

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Anime Review: Devil Survivor 2 The Animation

BlackFrostSMT3

 

“Translating” a video game to anime is always risky business because the experience cannot but be different. In the first place, players with a given video game generally have a wide number of choices, or at least a few highly critical ones, which shape the direction of the ending. Directors therefore must choose one option, stick to it, and try to make the viewing public like it. Full disclaimer: I have not played the game. I have heard complaints from those who have, though.

Devil Survivor 2: The Animation takes thirteen episodes to tell its story, charting its own independent path, killing off characters just to show they can be at times (since the people who have played the game say such-and-such can’t be killed off in the game itself, for instance). This is part of a certain tradition in anime, an end-of-the-world story where people fight for the opportunity, not to prevent the end, but to shape the new beginning. However, in this case, our protagonist, Hibiki, given power he did not ask for (but deep down wanted when it came down to saving others), is the boy standing astride the apocalypse yelling, “Stop!”

Essentially a narrative is shaped, filled with fixtures of the Shin Megami Tensei game series such as “demonic” beings summoned by humans, such as the Godzilla-sized, “evil” version of the cutsey series mascot, called (in English) Black Frost, whose picture graces the top of this post. Such is the symbiotic supernatural power that is used to combat the “monsters” that assail humanity, part of a trial by a being/ system that views humanity as unworthy of continued existence. The real conflict is still man vs. man, between one iron-willed individual who thinks that humanity as it stands now truly isn’t worthy of continued existence, and Hibiki, who wants to save not just the world, but also Yamato, the strong-willed individual in question who tries to take the whole world on his shoulders (even as it is consumed by the void).

So does it work?

I found the show to be tolerable because the varied core characters were mainly worth watching, and because the high powered battles were, broadly speaking, done well with a lot of action. Thirteen episodes wasn’t enough time to slow things down and take one’s time. While I’m not as big a fan of the mouthpieced philosophical debate at work – you shouldn’t have to try this hard to justify stopping global universal genocide – my bottom line is, the protagonist and antagonist are both well-acted (so to speak) and carry their crosses convincingly. You don’t have to agree with both of them – or either of them – to take away the sense that the characters believe what they’re saying and believe that they’re right. Any show that can’t produce a credible conflict is difficult to watch, and this show does have a conflict, and does resolve it. That’s important.

I would not nominate this show for true greatness, so I’ll give it a 7 out of 10 with a nod to the animation and song work, but as much as I think the character designs were mostly outstanding, this is a conflict that has been done before and which was handled in a way that feels heartfelt to the main character (at least), but certainly not original. There are also minor characters who were “weakly acted” and deficiencies in the writing, but hey, video game adaptations are hard, and decency is something we should be grateful for. I enjoyed my time and that is that.

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Reviving the Blog

Hi, it’s been way too long and I know a lot of blogs that go into hibernation stay that way, but it’s finally time I did some writing here. I won’t dwell too much, but to make a long story really short, I came down with some health problems and only now, when I know I am doing extremely well on the recovery side but am not yet free to work in “the real world”, that I wanted to get back into blogging at all.

I mean, I don’t want to whine about life, and I won’t. I’m just fortunate my part is going to be OK, because a lot of other things are not certain. This includes my father’s fate, since he has the basically perfect donor match he needs for a stem cell bone marrow transplant he must have to get his rare marrow condition cured, which involves chemo-ing his existing marrow to death first and therefore carries the risk of infection and death. So, as he puts it, it’ll either cure him or kill him. His odds are as good as they’re going to get, but… who knows? I don’t, no one can.

In the meantime, his tool invention – patented in the US and trademarked in Canada, with the patent here pending without serious problems – still awaits its final form, with the final redesign being made into digital drawings and new physical prototypes being made. It’s the family’s best bet for the future whether he makes it or not… which is hard to say, but it’s true. Few inventions make it and few solve a real world need, well. Even so, the process is out of my hands, and while it looks like they’ll get things done before he gets his transplant (and in principle they have to be done, he is the inventor and needs to see this process through), I can’t make it go faster.

So, in the meantime I’ve been catching up on novel reading – I’ve just finished the book, 1st of its series, A Game of Thrones (source of the HBO series, which I have not seen yet) – and pursuing other interests. I’m certainly not just idling around; I’m helping my father when and where I can, but I’m a patient too. I’m better off than he is, but I know my limits.

What you’ll see here on this blog is more opinion. That is, I’ll be commenting when and where the mood strikes me. No one needs to hear me give opinions on much in the real world, which brings enough problems and follies, so I choose to apply myself mostly to things like anime and culture, like old times. Maybe sometimes a little language too, but as a curiosity.

The Japanese word fukkatsu (復活,ふっかつ) means revival, restoration, and so on. It combines “restore” with “living”. So, it’s kind of like bringing the blog back to life.

I just wanted to make sure at least some words were written about it before I just start up again. Most people will probably just see the anime/ culture/ life related articles from Google searches, and believe me that’s fine. See you in the blog posts ahead.

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What Was Happening

So, I’m sure people noticed, but I haven’t been using this blog for months. Part of that was that I had some foot surgery, but that ended up being a fairly minor component.

Mainly, my father lost both his lower legs and nearly died.

It wasn’t diabetes, which is by far the leading cause of such things. For reasons that have not, in spite of a large and well qualified medical staff searching over weeks and months, been fully ascertained, my father’s platelets reached a point where he had blood clots all over the place. A large one in the aorta seems to have let go, disintegrated, clogged up his legs, and denied circulation to his lower extremities. Eventually both had to be removed, one above the knee and then later the other below the knee. After the second, he was in very serious danger from stress having bodyslammed his kidneys and so forth.

From this position, he made as big a recovery as you could hope for, and has been at home for two months.

For three months, I was ‘stranded’ with my father’s newer computer, without access to my old one and without easy access to things like cookies and passwords for certain things, and besides that, I was busy, distracted and stressed. It is only now that a great deal of the issues that were coming up – mind you, issues relating to his having survived, which was not always a certainty – like insurance paperwork, property taxes, and so forth. With help from the community and from family, it has been a little less painful, and as the insurance picture clears up, we’re getting on a long term path.

On Tuesday (6th of Nov), both my father and I were visiting our surgeons, though in wildly different locations four hours apart. He’s finally been cleared for rehab; it seems there was some miscommunication involved, but that hardly matters since he wasn’t healed up enough to do it until relatively recently anyway. He did have minor rehab for coming home (and it’s better to heal at home than not, mind you), but he’s a prosthesis candidate so that’ll be the star attraction. I hope for the best. Beyond that, it’s finally time to push his tool invention forward to the finish line… and in the midst of all this, he WILL get his patent. It’ll be on half the original claims. That’s not bad at all.

For my part, my healing process was drawn out by some tissue infection that has now been completely beaten down. The final issues are extremely small compared and the emphasis now is simply on making sure there is no backsliding. My surgeon is very happy and hey, so am I. But, I’ll still have very little time for blogging; one way or another my family needs me to do things in “real life”, so I’m approaching the day when I have my full driver’s license back after a long hiatus so that I can be my father’s proper errand boy, something he does need. At present he can’t drive; his newer, better car is a standard, a dying breed to be sure. I can drive standard, but with no lower legs, he can’t; automatics can be modified however. So, I’ll be doing a lot in the interim. Until now a cousin of mine has stepped up to be a gigantic help, but his availability is time limited by “life” and I need this and my family needs this, so that’s how it is. No complaints.

So that’s how it happened. The fact of the matter is, my legs are “better than new” due to a long-term imbalance being solved. A little conservatism won’t kill me. However, the fact is, even for the blogging and for my Facebook effort, English Idioms, I’ve plucked the low-hanging fruit already. There are many things in culture which are better explained holistically; I’ve done what I can for drive-by reading, but hey, there’s a lot I’m still appreciating freshly. There’s parts of Japanese culture and language that are inspired, and others that are just crazy, like most things in this world. It seems I am destined to live it more than talk about it for a while. Best wishes to everyone, thank you, and hey, if I actually have the time to comment on something current, I’ll make the effort. Thank you, and see you later – more “mata ne” than “sayonara”.

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Japanese Emperor: Cremate Me To Not Burden Japan

Sorry for the lack of posts, life intervenes. Now, the subject: Japan’s Emperor and Empress  (together) requested cremation rather than elaborate state burials out of consideration for the financial state of Japan (exacerbated by the tsunami last year). It’s seriously big of them. They didn’t have to. Details here.

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Hanashi Ga Aru: We Need To Talk.

話がある

Hanashi” is the root for the verb “hanasu” (話す、はなす), or “to talk”. Hanashi is “a” talk, more specifically. It is speech; it can also be taken as conversation, though we’d use “kaiwa” for conversation per se, and “soudan” for a discussion per se.  Continue reading

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Grammar in Anime: B Gata H Kei

Small Words. Big Trouble.

Sometimes it’s simpler for me to point something out in anime and, in so doing, give it context. Today’s subjects are the words “kata” () and “kei” (). When playing second fiddle in a compound word, “kata” -> “gata”, but “kei” remains the same. (That’s because “H Dei” would be really, really awkward to say.)

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“I’ve come to keep my promise!”

I have solemnly come to crash this wedding.

約束、守りに来ました!

At the end of a recent anime (High School DxD), a forced wedding is being crashed by the above youth (with the fancy gauntlet). He couldn’t accept being defeated and seeing the lady he served carried off in a wedding she didn’t want. That, of course, is because the bridegroom is a complete jerk.

Continue reading

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