Non-management: During my latest trip to Tokyo, or I guess it’s more accurate to say the Kanto, there were two kinds of Buddhist temples that struck out to me: Tendai and Zen. In many ways, the differences between the two temples are night and day: Zen temples are serene and Tendai temples are metal. That’s not to say that neither of these Buddhist denominations are lacking in grandiose buildings. Far from it, the most impressive temples I visited of these Buddhist orders, the Tendai Kita-in Temple in Saitama and the Zen Enkakuji Temple in Kamakura, boasted larger-than-life structures and sculptures placed down over vast tracts of land. They also charged me entrance fees, those cheap tonsured bastards… or is it me that’s being unreasonable? I imagine it costs a lot to maintain these massively historical properties, and following Meiji Restoration “reforms”, active temples could no longer count on estates of parishioners supporting their conditions and activities. While they probably don’t appreciate the occasional obnoxious party of tourists, the monks and laity at the bigger temples probably count themselves lucky their centers of worship are big tourist bonanzas, complete with nearby omiyage storefronts and sweet-smelling food stalls. The smaller temples of old probably struggled adapting to the changing age. But I digress.
Non-management: I’d like to say that the cherry blossoms are in full bloom now and the seasonal warmth has returned like a lover’s caress, but it’s still freaking cold here. On the bright side though, the days are long enough now that I can enjoy sunset walks after work, and the mosquitoes have yet to emerge out of their spawn pools in force. Wait until the middle of spring and the approaching summer though, and you’ll see me taking a piss again about the bugs and heat. I’m always complaining about something.
Though I admit some of those “somethings” are things that are somewhat in my control. I do feel like that I’ve slipped in my diligence at learning Japanese. I hope to rectify that somewhat come the Japanese spring break, but mere hopes do not translate into results. Effort’s needed. Teaching elementary school students, I remember my own elementary school days, struggling with learning the ins-and-outs of English. Thinking about how much I struggled with English grammar back then, it’s a wonder that something thinks I’m adept enough now to teach English as a second language. Between all the time allotted in a week, I spend it assisting hundreds of students in English, writing about anime when the mood strikes hot, and self-medicating on videos to stave off a gnawing sense of inadequacy.
That inadequacy stems less from anything about Japan specifically (because that inadequacy’s more or less followed me from America) and more broadly from a gnawing sense of loneliness. I’ve been trying to spread out more, being social with people without being weird, visiting landmarks that I’ve always wanted to see. I’m an introverted nerd in the end who hasn’t fully shaken off his lifetime of social awkwardness though. There’s only so many days I can take off for extended vacations and mini-holidays. And… I suspect that I’m in love.
Non-management: I wrote before in a previous article that I thought Land of the Lustrous had the makings of a modern Buddhist classic. Well, I have a second story with that characterization to nominate: Dororo. I actually ended up getting noticed by ANN for said Land of the Lustrous article when initially pitching to write for them. Land of the Lustrous is a show that’s far too over and done with right now to write about again for the website, but I’ve been waiting for an opportunity ever since I was accepted as freelance to write about Buddhism in anime again. Dororo was that opportunity, and what’s more, the show was set in Sengoku Jidai. I had plenty to write about, and not enough space to write it all. I did the best I could fitting in all the relevant information, but some things I’d like to have mentioned had to be cut out. Regardless, I hope the article helps the anime community understand the history and culture of their favorite media better. I’ve seen too many anime fans scratch their heads and gawk with incredulity at the foreign beliefs and values professed in their anime. Their reactions make some sense: Dororo was primarily made for a Japanese audience. But context does not that doesn’t preclude people from learning about the world outside them.
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 a summary short of the article. If you’re interested in reading further, click the link embedded in the title or at the end of the article sample:
The blood of a cleric coats a sanctum’s interior like mud. The broken neck of an idol resembles a tree wrenched crudely from its stump. Dororo begins not with the adventures of its mischievous and eponymous protagonist, but with the bloodshed and sacrilege behind his future friend Hyakkimaru’s birth. Dororo takes place during the Sengoku Jidai era, a time when warfare was rampant and religiosity ran deep in Japan. Confronting its viewers with the religious and political violence of the era, this show lets its audience know up-front that the history of Sengoku Jidai is a history of war and faith.
People can enjoy Dororo without knowing the history of its setting. The show’s direction is compelling on its own, the animation is stunning, and the heroes are equal parts sympathetic and badass. Anything by the renowned “godfather of manga” Osamu Tezuka is worth a look, and his reputation precedes him in this story of a wandering swordsman and his plucky companion. However, the layers Tezuka wove into Dororo‘s story produce a depth that draws its power and inspiration from real history… READ MORE