Skip to main content

More on anime, Japan and language

At the end of Paprika my husband whispered, "Well, that's Tokyo destroyed again." It is certainly a common occurrence in anime (and in Japanese film if one considers Godzilla and others). Do we consider these part of the "special" status that Japan holds as the only country to be attacked with a nuclear bomb? A few years ago there was an exhibit on whether that peculiar distinction has led to what is popular culture in Japan, from Godzilla to Gundam (giant robots) to Hello Kitty. There are actually Hello Kitty vibrators and feminine products for sale (don't ask me how I know)--not just cute and cuddly. The giant crater of Paprika, the blinding flash of Otomo's Akira, many others I can't recall at the moment--is this an attempt to deal with the aftermath? Too, is Satoshi Kon's obsession with what is repressed an effort to acknowledge what is publicly avoided by the Japanese--namely their own part in the atrocities of WWII?
I would recommend Ishiguru's "Artist of the Floating World" in the same vein.

I've mentioned Basilisk as something I was going to write about. It's a basic Ninja/Samurai anime, set in the beginning of the Tokugawa Shogunate. As an IMDB reviewer writes of Shinobi, the live-action version of the same story--it's like X-Men with Ninja (Shinobi, I learn is another word for Ninja because of the reading of the kanjii, rather like the recent upset regarding Iwo Jima/Iwo To). The story of the Koga Ninja Scrolls (the source) is of two warring factions of Ninja, the Koga and the Iga and how 10 from each side are set upon one another to determine the new Shogun (each clan backing a different contender). My husband lost interest because of the "super" powers. Ninja who could distort their bodies, draw the blood out of their enemies and become slugs did not interest him as much as ninja with possible (albeit improbable) skills of balance, accuracy and silence. He was even willing to go so far as mind control, but Basilisk (and I must assume the Koga Ninja Scrolls) goes much farther. This is not an analysis of Basilisk. While beautifully drawn, it is not an amazing anime. The ending is known at the beginning--the two thwarted lovers, the Romeo and Juliet, will ultimately face each other when no one else is left as their grandparents killed each other in the first episode. The tag line for the show is "My Beloved, please die." In some ways it is this inevitability which drives the show--you know it's coming, you just don't know how. The most exciting episodes were certainly the ones where the first five ninja of both sides destroy each other in spectacular ways--how would those super powers be used against other superpowers. Rather like the appeal of the X-Men. Then it starts to move into intrigue and court politics and slowed down a bit.
And that's what I want to look at. I started watching Bailisk in January. It finished two weeks ago. I'd have to check but that makes for at least 25 episodes to take 10 days of real time and by anime standards that's pretty fast. I've never finished watching Inuyasha despite it's humor because I would tire of the fact that roughly 5 minutes of real time would pass per episode--a battle could be stretched out over a month or more. The latest Simpson's comic mocks this by saying that the Simpon's comic in Japan is a weekly of 5,000 pages. What on earth are they filling these with? The old Speed Racer anime (soon to be a live-action major motion picture f(O_0) by the Wachowski brothers) used to have absurd amounts of dialogue in order to keep the mouths moving as long as the Japanese. " I must succeed because in succeeding I will bring honor to my family and that will mean success, ha ha!"

Which brings me to another point. Sub vs. Dub. It gets hashed at IMDB ALL the time. I'm definitely on the Sub side. Yes, it means you read and watch the movie at the same time, but hey, the people against it probably talk on their cell phones while they drive. I don't usually bother to see the Miyazaki's in theaters (and I wish I could) because of the band of hip, young Americans (and sometimes Brits) who are brought in to make it palatable to American audiences. For one thing acting styles are different in America and Japan. Let me hear the Japanese and decide how the translation fits. For another, as I've mentioned their are tropes of anime, from the crazy, old scientist to the strong jawed hero. Like Commedia d'el Arte, these archetypes are instantly recognizable to the Japanese and likewise their voices are of a certain type. Basilisk got several of these wrong and it was very jarring. There was the middle-aged, powerful harridan and in Japanese she would have a high voice, ingratiating and needling in contrast with her aged appearance. She was given a bass voice that made her seem like a prison matron. Watching Paprika we had the delight of hearing a character say "So-so-so-so-so." This was translated as "That's exactly right!" Yes, that's an excellent translation but for me it was fun to hear the original.

Which brings me to my final point. In response to Matt's comment on filler words in Japanese. You may or may not know that German is also full of these--aber, auch, denn, doch, mal, schon, ja--to name the ones I can remember. Aber translates as but, but it can also be inserted for emphasis. Ja is yes, but like the English (slang) "innit?" it often occupies a more vague position, or a pause to allow the listener to catch up. I sometimes wonder if this is why you get non-English speakers saying things like, "That's so, yes?" But others on the list have no real definition and can be added or left out at the speaker's discretion.

In writing (and sometimes speaking) I find myself using a lot of filler (and was sometimes corrected for it), however, in fact, anyway. I attribute this to reading too much Dickens as a child. They are not wrong, per se, but the writing and speaking could be simpler without them.


Popular posts from this blog

Driving in Boston

Inching along in a log jam of traffic yesterday on the Mass Pike I watched an Audi a few cars in front of me weave in and out of traffic determined to find the lane that was "moving" and yet for the whole half an hour that we sat there he ended up still only a few cars ahead of me. Sure there were times his lane pulled ahead, but then mine would catch up and he would switch back. The only thing he accomplished was to make the line that much slower. There was a great article that a friend sent me years ago on the physics of traffic and it has been determined that weaving in and out of tight traffic will really gain you nothing and in fact cause the very blockages that you believe you are defying. (Sidenote--an unfortunately side effect of so much of interest on the internet is that it is impossible to store all of the articles that interest you over the years in the vague belief that you will someday want to reference them to others) The article also pointed out that if all d…

The end of Cloud Atlas

Feel I must write this--promised it to myself, can I finish before midnight (when I said I would go to bed at 11)?

Where was I?

Oh, yes, section 5, where it gets interesting--because it's the future, at least 25 years, hopefully more. I say hopefully, because I don't want to be living in this future. The section is called "An Orison of Sonmi-451." An Orison (I had to look it up, proving I don't remember my Shakespeare) is a prayer, but in this future world where language has taken as many turns as in Orwell's 1984, it is more a confession or final statement. Sonmi-451 is a clone (as the name might suggest). The section is not entirely original. It owes much to Brave New World and Phillip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (made into the film Bladerunner). I find it interesting that 40 or so years ago--when Dick wrote his book he believed that future slaves would be Androids, replicants. Now we are much more likely to presume they will be clones,…

Adapting a book--The Prestige

I was completely blown away by the movie of The Prestige, and I thought then about reading the novel, but it seemed too soon. So I carried the author's name around with me for over a year (Christopher Priest) and then, finally remembered to buy it through an odd sequence of events. We watched The Painted Veil based on the novel by Maugham starring Edward Norton, and while I decided I didn't want to read The Painted Veil because of it's differences from the film (which was more romantic and tragic) it reminded me that I had wanted to read Fight Club (the movie version of which starred Edward Norton) and that reminded me that I had wanted to read The Prestige (which did not star Edward Norton, but was up against The Illusionist which did). it's all Edward Norton's fault.

The Prestige is a very good novel, and yet, the movie differs from it considerably. And I am still trying to figure out what exactly that means. The central premise is the same, AND HER…