Your Name: Disastrous Places and Liminal Spaces

Management: This essay is meant to be less of a review and more of analysis of the show being examined. It contains plot spoilers for the Your Name anime.

We’re acquainted with these tales of from folklore and myth, the premises of horror stories, those testimonials people caught on special TV channels: a place of some awful significance is haunted by undead spirits. Moldering graveyards, abandoned asylums, scarred battlefields, places of disaster… In the fields of Gettysburg, for example, some locals claim that they can hear the dead, soldiers from long ago who haunt the former battlefield. Gettysburg was the location of the American Civil War’s bloodiest battle, and its legacy as the site of mass slaughter has made the more superstitious perceive it as a site of restless energy. In the popular imagination, these places serve as liminal spaces, locations and sites where all-too-natural dichotomies are not normally observed: death intermingling with life, life intermingling with death. The dead have not passed into the afterlife, the ether, or permanent rest as they ought to have. Instead, their undead spirits wander the grounds, bound to some place of awful significance.

While Your Name is not a horror film in the way the genre is conventionally understood, the narrative of Your Name plays an awful lot with liminal spaces. The concept of liminality in religious and anthropological studies has a definition that’s a little broader than just the spaces the mortal and the infinite. Liminality is the concept referring to transformation and intersection, where clearly delineated dichotomies of “one” blur and bleed into the “other,” branching into or becoming new and distinct entities. Life and death is the domain of liminality, but so is the profane and the sacred; the child and the adult, the individual and the communal, this direction and that, this person and that, and even time and space itself. Directed by Makoto Shinkai, Your Name is a story layered with examples of its characters passing through various thresholds, states, and spaces of liminality to resolve a conflict. The film starts with the blurring of one traditional dichotomy: the inexplicable bleeding of its two protagonists into each others’ lives, a body-swap. Midway, the film grounds its supernatural gimmick with its extant reason: a place of disaster.

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Angolmois: The History Behind the First Mongol Invasion

Management: This essay is meant to be less of a review and more of analysis of the show being examined. It contains plot spoilers for the Angolmois anime.

Introduction

Under the leadership of Genghis Khan, the destiny of the Mongol people was transformed. From the squabbling horse tribes of the steppe, they were now the mounted conquerors of empire. Unified as a people, the Mongols challenged the august authority of the Celestial Empire: China. They took that authority for themselves, tearing the stars from their skies, crushing Chinese resistance in the north and declaring themselves China’s new rulers. The grandson of Genghis Khan and the third leader of the unified Mongol horde, Kublai Khan turned his conqueror’s appetite toward the Land of the Rising Sun and ordered the first of two Mongol invasions of Japan.

It is in this historical backdrop that Angolmois: Record of Mongol Invasion finds its setting and conflict: Tsushima, 1274 – the first frontline of the first invasion of Japan by the Mongols. Kuchii Jinzaburo and a band of exiles – a fellowship of petty scoundrels and disgraced warriors – find themselves ferried out of death row and shipped into a battlefield. There, those among them willing to fight alongside Tsushima’s defenders make their own contributions to s drama of bloodshed and sacrifice that, judging by the history, will amount to little more than a delaying action for the Mongols’ ultimate goal: the Japanese mainland.

But how did it come to this? How do the events from the history inform this animated fiction?

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[Update] About One Month into Living in Japan

Non-management: Long time, no hear? Well, this hiatus in blogging hasn’t been as long as others I’ve taken. Some of you still might be curious about when I’ll get back to writing. I’m curious myself about when I’m going to have the time and drive to get back to writing. My hope is that I’ll be able to do so pretty shortly now that I’ve settled my Japan situation.

Right. I’m living in Japan now.

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[Crunchyroll Article] “The True Meaning of Anime Haircuts”

Non-management: My latest article for Crunchyroll discusses a variety of shows.

I’d like to give a big thanks to Crunchyroll for commissioning my article. Below is the (summary) short to the article. If you’re interested in reading it, click the link embedded in the title or at the end of the short:

The True Meaning of Anime Haircuts

When a haircut isn’t just about getting rid of your split ends

If you ask people which part of anime characters’ designs most catch their attention, chances are good many of them will point to anime hair. Anime hair comes in all sorts of over-the-top styles, and in garish and unnatural colors. In general, it sticks out as something unique to the medium. Whether you’re a fan of it or not, anime hair exists for a reason – to make characters look more striking and by extension… more memorable.

Anime’s hair craze doesn’t stop there, though. It’s also obsessed with haircuts… READ MORE HERE

[Anime News Network Article] Homelessness in Japan and Hinamatsuri

Non-management: Hinamatsuri caught me by surprise. It was a show that was marketed ostensibly as a comedy that managed to deliver some excellent character drama alongside its laughs. The intersection between these two elements is, admittedly, not unheard of in anime. Hinamatsuri shares similarities with Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, in that respect. What actually caught me off guard about Hinamatsuri and prompted me to write about the show was its commentary on homelessness in Japan. It was a commentary that that at once sympathetic to the homeless and damning against the privileged in the other, both compassionate in its approach to the subject material and outraged over its existence as a real-world issue. Not since Satoshi Kon’s Tokyo Godfathers have I seen an anime address Japanese homelessness. Using its examples of aged homeless men, I sought to use Hinamatsuri as a springboard into a larger discussion of homelessness in Japanese society. I pitched what I wanted to write to Anime News Network, and it got accepted as a Feature Article.

I’d like to give a big thanks to ANN’s Zac Bertschy for commissioning my article, and Jacob Chapman for editing it. Below is the (summary) short to the article. If you’re interested in reading it, click the link embedded in the title or at the end of the article sample:

Homelessness in Japan and Hinamatsuri

Hinamatsuri is supposed to be a comedy, and it’s true that the show delivers its hilarity in spades. However, for an anime that primarily markets itself as the whacky adventures of two girls with psychic abilities (and one girl that’s an underaged bartender), Hinamatsuri also delivers some excellent character drama. This series can dip into some heavy territory before resurfacing back to making us laugh without missing a beat, and one example of this is its unexpected focus on the issue of homelessness in Japan. Not since Satoshi Kon’s Tokyo Godfathers has anime dared broach the topic of Japanese homelessness in recent memory, let alone approach the subject of homeless Japanese in a pertinent and sympathetic manner.

Like with homeless populations in other parts of the world, Japanese homeless have a troubled history and relationship with their Japanese society, but every culture has unique aspects that distinguish the struggle of their homeless populations from others. What Hinamatsuri does well is capture the face of that homelessness in Japan in ways that help illustrate the issue to audiences around the world… READ MORE HERE

A Reflection on Weird Things Eaten in Golden Kamuy and Real Life

Management: This essay is meant to be less of a review and more of analysis of the show being examined. It contains plot spoilers for the Golden Kamuy anime.

My undisputed favorite comfort meal to eat is Dinuguan. I remember falling in love with it back when I was little. It’s a Filipino delicacy, a savory stew made of garlic, vinegar, peppers, spices, pork bits, and… pig’s blood. I wasn’t aware that it was made with pig’s blood until my parents told me when I was much older. My reaction?  The news of it unfazed me. All that mattered was that it tasted good. I realize that that kind of reaction isn’t the norm for my friends and acquaintances. Many of them aren’t Asian or or particularly adventurous with what they eat. I’ve seen several of them balk at me while while I’m selling Dinuguan to them. Pig’s blood isn’t something that’s normally stocked in Western retail markets. It’s more commonly encountered in Asian grocery stores. Pig’s blood turns black when you cook it, and it coagulates into jelly when you leave it be. You typically find the stuff sold in portioned up cubes, in plastic tubs or shrink-wrapped packs . It’s kind of an inside joke among Filipinos to tease and trick the beknownst into trying it by calling it “chocolate soup.” Filipinos do have a recipe for something soupy with chocolate, but Dinuguan is most assuredly not soup with chocolate. It’s, again, pork stew made with pig’s blood.

Why does Filipino cooking incorporate pig’s blood in the first place? I don’t think that I’m knowledgeable enough to answer this question for certain, so a better follow-up inquiry might be: What makes the cuisines of some cultures more likely to use more parts of the pig than other cultures? My impression of American cooking is that it tends to dismiss pig’s blood as waste to be discarded. In contrast, my impression of Filipino cooking is that pig’s blood is valuable enough to be turned into a meal. That goes for the other peripheral parts of the pig like the ears, the neckbone, and the head. Filipinos subscribe “nose to tail” philosophy when it comes to turning livestock into a meal, and it seems like the Ainu have a similar “all parts of the animal” mindset when turning their game into something edible. To me, the reason for these similarities in cooking philosophy is connected to shared experiences of food scarcity.

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[Crunchyroll Article] “Love is the Greatest Mystery of All in Hyouka”

Non-management: My latest article for Crunchyroll is on Hyouka.

I’d like to give a big thanks to Crunchyroll for commissioning my article. Below is the (summary) short to the article. If you’re interested in reading it, click the link embedded in the title or at the end of the short:

Love is the Greatest Mystery of All in Hyouka

The amateur investigators final case is to crack their own feelings

Hyouka is about solving mysteries, and mainly mundane mysteries at that. No murderer needs to be found. No crime needs to be immediately uncovered. But in its mystery-solving, Hyouka just as interested in uncovering the “why” of its mysteries as the “how”. The show isn’t merely content with the clever puzzles or sensationalist circumstance more conventional mystery series trade in. Why, after all, do people set up these elaborate puzzles in the first place? In exploring the “why” of its mundane mysteries, Hyouka gives its story an excuse to explore its characters, one particular aspect at a time. We have Oreki’s growing interest and empathy in others like his teacher. We have Satoshi Fukube’s chronic jealousy of Oreki’s critical reasoning prowess. And then we have the budding romance between Oreki and Chitanda… READ MORE HERE