Thursday, March 10, 2011

Japanese Influences, Part One

Oh, Japan.

I am…tremendously sorry to hear about the 8.9 earthquake in the country. I am a world away (maybe two or three, even) and I want to write something that talks about how incredibly influential that country's media output has been in my life. Without anime, I wouldn't be writing this. I would be a completely different person. I would be leading a completely, different life. God, high school and college and bits of middle school would have been unrecognizable to me now.

In celebration of that, I'm going to write! Japan taught me that the world could be more interesting, that the world could be stranger.

(I've been reading Planetary. Can you tell?)

There are two of these things and they are broken up into Things That Touched Me Out Of Japan That Are Not Videogames and Things That Touched Me Out Of Japan That Are Videogames.

Here we go.

Ronin Warriors and Dragon Ball Z. I think are best described as…things that showed me there were different ways of the growing up process. I latched on to those shows. Looking back now, they're corny as hell and they're borderline unwatchable and ridiculous. (The costumes for Ronin Warriors alone make me smile and shake my head.) Still. It looked really cool to me as a kid and gave me the idea that I could do really interesting things if I was willing to go against the mainstream.

Gundam Wing might be the seed of my strangeness. When I think of Gundam Wing, I think of being a teenager and being in a friend's house and watching them with him. It's the one mecha anime I got into. It's philosophy is laughable now and heavy handed and obvious. But it blew my mind all the same: Pacifism in the face of war. Weapons so terrible that could not be wielded by human beings without breaking the humans leveraging them.

Duo Maxwell (the funny teenager with the good head on his shoulders that wasn't stoic, sociopathic or terribly pliable) killed an entire colony of people trying to master Gundam Wing Zero. There was switch that was flipped when I saw that. I don't think I could ever be the same. Good people can be forced to do terrible things and..yeah. I didn't see it in Japan's timeline and it would probably have made more sense to me if I did, but that feeling of the character I loved being taken over and massacring millions of civilians drunk on power stuck with me since the first time I viewed the episode.

Cowboy Bebop is just really cool. Start here. Mixing the cowboy aesthetic with bebop was something that only makes sense in Cowboy Bebop's long, long shadow. It's immediate, it's vivid and it could be ridiculous and dramatic and painfully funny in the same episode.

It's a noir. It's a space comedy. It's a pulp. It's ridiculous and unique. It's a love story. It's an anime. It's a redemption. It's a…all of these things at the same time. It didn't have the stakes of DBZ or Ronin Warriors, but it's certainly smarter and asked, in a way no teenager could resist, "Hey, those other shows are huge, but they're trying too hard. Want to see something cooler?"

Trigun. Trigun is something I remember for individual moments. Trigun is something I remember because it got me into an argument that I couldn't admit I was wrong about (Was it with Fitzee, Sonia or Elizabeth? I don't remember. I think it was one of those three.) that was the impetus for me going into philosophy. It was the whole Knives/Vash thing and I fixated on the idea that killing things with self-awareness was kind of bad and that Knives didn't have a right to do that but couldn't explain it in those terms.

I think.

The other person was right with their point (I remember, somehow, this being on a train platform. Now we might be getting into things that are apocryphal or memories blending together.) and I was wrong. That moment made me resolve to argue better and, since 2007, there's a public record of that aftermath.

The death of the Nicholas D. Wolfwood was...surprising and almost made me cry.

I got drunk with a couple guys and we started talking about Trigun (in Rome!) and that last fight in the final episode, in which Vash has lost both his super powerful guns of death and instead uses Wolfwood's cross of guns used to stop Knives from killing him. It's Vash, an angel, using the tools of human worship to stop the extra-terrestrial weapons of Gods.

For a piece of errata: Samurai Champloo. It's here for the baseball episode. Basically, copy and paste everything I said about Bebop and replace bebop with hip-hop and it'll work. That baseball episode literally cry with laughter. Tears of joy. Tears of happiness.

The end of the series has one really great twist: One character who is a "lesser" swordsman kills another one, but not by feats of swordskill, but instead by understanding that if he took a non-killing blow to his body he could get an opening for a killing blow on his more talented opponent. It's a grisly stratagem, literally, in this case and it worked.

Mishima. I've only read Patriotism and I cried when I finished it. Reading the disemboweling of the main character was literally painful. There were parts where I had to put the book down because his suicide was so vivid. I have another Mishima book in Chicago and I want to get back to that one (I think it's the first one in his tetra logy. I think.) when I'm back.

Murakami. What I Talk About When I Talk About Running makes me want to write, myself and Dance Dance Dance I just wanted to spend more time with all of the characters. Murakami's works saved a mediocre trip to Milan and meant I got something out of the experience. (Protip: Don't waste your money. It's expensive and like an American city. Go to Florence instead.) Murakami, oddly enough, uses words I already know, but uses them very precisely and tells strange stories with them.

Envy should be clear by this point. Towering, torrential post-screamo that's gorgeous. Incredible beauty from far away. Like watching someone get disintegrated in an anime in a cool death sequence, with the volume off.

I've found my love for The Explosion's last officially released full length called Black Tape. This song was the single from it and it was amazing live. Enjoy.

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