Identity Genderless and Buddhist Transcendence in Land of the Lustrous

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 Land of the Lustrous anime.

You could say that the boddhisattva of compassion underwent a makeover of sorts as Buddhist missionaries spread their faith northward and eastward. They journeyed from India, establishing Buddhist followings in Central Asia, China, Korea, and eventually Japan.  Avalokiteśvara, as this boddhisattva was known as in India, is depicted in iconography as lightly clad. Kannon, as the boddhisattva came to be called in Japan, is depicted far more modestly. The boddhisattva in India is also depicted as a man. In contrast, the boddhisattva in Japan is depicted as a woman. This incongruity in the gender of this singular boddhisattva naturally arouses a couple of questions concerning (1) why the boddhisattva experienced a gender transition and (2) what the boddisattva’s gender is even. The answer to the second question is that the boddhisattva doesn’t have a gender. In the Mahayana branch of Buddhism, buddhas and boddhisattva have transcended it.

Given the sexless nature of the Lustrous and the Lunarians, I can’t help but wonder if the creator of Land of the Lustrous devised her characters with the Mahayana Buddhist conception of boddhisattva and buddhas  in mind. If she did, then that’s great. If she didn’t, then it at least gives me an excuse to talk about the show more, specifically in how genderless identity can be interpreted as being connected to Buddhist transcendence.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Flag: Photo Fixes are a Fool’s Dream

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 Flag anime. As a disclaimer, the article also contains some graphic depictions of real-life violence.

Many people have this habit of trying to understand complex conflicts and issues in neat and simplified terms. Their conclusions and solutions have a habit of being even more misguided, as though major conflagrations and crises were ever or could ever be wrapped up because of a singular event or factor. In 2015, a man by the name of Rodrigo Duterte was elected president of the Philippines. As one of his first exhortations from the bully pulpit, President Duterte called for the death of all those who contributed to the drug trade in his country, believing that their deaths would be beginning of the end for the Philippines’ problems. It was a promise he made on the campaign trail, and he was intent on honoring it. His administration would enact its own official motions to wage his ant-drug crusade. However, the foot soldiers of his war on drugs were vigilantes who felt they had their president’s blessing to shoot dealers and execute backers on their initiative. Dealers were shot dead. Some of their backers were executed too, including local politicians. Their more common victims, however, were suspected drug addicts, and on more than one occasion, innocent bystanders were caught in the crossfire.

Photographers for the news media snapped this photo of a grieving woman cradling her husband’s lifeless body. Her husband was rumored to be a drug pusher. Now he’s a casualty in Duterte’s drug war.

The news media quickly associated the above image with a sculpture by Renaissance master Michelangelo, La Pieta. At the point of his career when he started creating La Pieta, Michelangelo was able to sculpt the illusion of movement to give his subjects greater expressiveness. His talents, plus the Catholic commission, resulted in an exquisitely evocative work depicting the Mother of God cradling the corpse of her dead boy. Anyone with knowledge of Renaissance art or Roman Catholicism can appreciate the significance of the association. The postures and grief of both womanly figures are similar. The images are supposed to evoke compassion, or at least pity. The Filipino people are devout Roman Catholics, and the Catholic Church in the Philippines has disapproved of the violence as ungodly. With exposure from the news media, the Western community has called out the drug war as a violation of human rights. It’s a romantic notion to predict that this evocative image would be the beginning of the end of this reckless violence and hate. It’s 2018, however, and Duterte and his foot soldiers have only doubled down. Duterte retains popularity among Filipinos. Filipinos too believe that  Duterte’s brutal crackdown will solve their country’s problems.

The Philippines is a pretty poor country overall. Even as one of the faster growing economies in recent years, the wealth generated from the country’s growth hasn’t been anywhere close to approach equal distributed among Filipinos. Many were, and are still, quite indigent. The mindset among Filipinos is that if they continued to support his drastic campaign to kill all the drug people, then perhaps the aftermath of his bloody violence will be enough to lift them out of desperate circumstances. They believe, hope, and pray that his actions can end the corruption plaguing governments at all levels and establish order in the cities and the villages, once and for all. In light of these sentiments, to hold to the simple notion that a photo, however symbolic and moving, would be enough on its own to end a war is a fool’s dream. It’s the people working behind the scenes of these photos that determine whether or not there will be peace. In Flag’s quest to end a civil war in the fictional Uddiyana, photo-journalist Saeko Shirasu learns that lesson first-hand.

Continue reading

[Update] Setting Up a Ko-Fi Account and Recommending Another Blog

Non-management: In my efforts to continue finding employment that will give me a stable income and personal satisfaction, I’ve been writing on the side. I like writing. A lot of that writing is featured on this blog. Other examples of my work are on Crunchyroll. I do earn some income from paid freelance work, but I’m still not making that much money. Everything that I write on this blog, ultimately, makes me no money. I’m not exactly breaking even in my monthly expenses at this rate,  but I’m also not comfortable with asking people to contribute to me monthly either. I don’t put out steady and consistent writing. I also lack a large enough following to support my blogging activities full-time, and I really do need to spend at least part of my time searching and applying for other work.

I do some of my writing at a cafe every now and then, and order small coffees so I can justify staying inside for hours to work. It gave me the idea of setting up a Ko-fi account. I’ve seen other people use it as a tip jar for their creative content, and I eventually thought “What the hell.” Donations are limited to set dollar amounts of $3 for each transaction (roughly the cafe cost of a standard cup of espresso). People contribute whenever they want based on whether they liked something they read, all without me creating a hard expectation that I need to write regular content to earn their cash. It encourages me to write more without obligating me to write on a schedule in the event I need to suddenly focus on other things. To everyone who contributes, I greatly appreciate it. It helps me a little and lets me know that people enjoy what I’m creating.

So yeah. Please consider supporting me on Ko-fi every now and then if you enjoy my writing, but feel free not to if you can’t spare any money or think my writing sucks or something. 

Continue reading

[Crunchyroll Article] “Bubbles and Bullying in the ‘March Comes in Like a Lion’ Anime”

Non-management: My latest article for Crunchyroll is on March comes in like a lion.

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:

Bubbles and Bullying in the “March Comes in Like a Lion” Anime

Throughout the school bullying subplot, Hinata Kawamoto has been the target of pernicious harassment

March comes in like a lion concludes its school bullying subplot with a conversation between a substitute teacher and a class bully. The teacher asks why the bully did it. The bully describes feeling alienated by modern Japanese society. She feels that the working world is a dog-eat-dog one. Her ruthless behavior as a bully was just the logical conclusion to her bleak observations. She’s not responsible for her actions, really. Society is to blame. She would presumably apply that ruthless mindset to everything outside of school once she becomes an adult. The teacher says that a callous world doesn’t justify her malicious actions toward people who’ve done no previous wrong toward her. She responds by saying that neither her teachers nor her family understand. He replies that he’s hear because he wants try to, if only she’s willing to talk. As an educator, he feels that it’s his job… READ MORE HERE

Devilman: Adaptations Now, Then, and When

Management: This essay is meant to be less of a review and more of analysis of the show being examined. As a disclaimer, the article also contains some graphic nudity.

Introduction

So there’s these curious differences between multiple versions of a story that can tell you a few things about the era about when they were first told. These differences can manifest in even the most throw-away of details. As a related example,  A Certain Magical Index and A Certain Scientific Railgun are not only shows that share the same fictional universe. The events that take place in these shows also run concurrently with each other timeline-wise. The perspectives of their respective protagonists, Touma Kamijo and Mikoto Misaka, converge together toward the same events before diverging to cover different ones. Between these two shows though, there’s a continuity error. It’s an little error that doesn’t meaningfully alter their narrative contents in any drastic way, plot-wise.

In the second season of A Certain Magical Index, Touma uses a flip phone, depicted in the image above. He uses a smartphone after the events of the image below (aka after the SisterS arc). In the second season A Certain Scientific Railgun, he uses a smart phone (aka during the SisterS arc).

Using some logical deduction and quick historical digging, this little detail of different phones can reveal to knowledgable and attentive audiences a rough date of when these shows first aired.  Flip phones were developed before smart phones. They were popular where I lived before smart phones overtook them in sales and ownership numbers. I also used to have a flip phone before I switched to using a smart phone. The second season of Index (2010-2011) is older than the second season of Railgun (2013). Railgun likely featured Touma using a smart phone over a flip phone because smart phones were more commonly used in Japan by that point. Flip phones were still widely used in Japan over the smart phone when Index first illustrated Touma using a flip phone.

If these anime adaptations of Index and Railgun could communicate that much information about when they were animated based on that little error, what could the less throw-away aspects of different story adaptations of an iconic Devilman scene and set of characters tell us about different moments in time?

I’ll be discussing the original Devilman (1972-1973) manga , the Devilman G (2012-2014) manga, and the Devilman Crybaby (2018) anime.

Continue reading