Posts Tagged ‘anime’

                                                                                           

FLCL, which is pronounced “Fooly Cooly” in English or “Furi Kuri” in Japanese, is a very strange frenetic anime series of which I am exceedingly fond.  It takes place in the city of Mabase, in the shadow of a giant clothes-iron-shaped building, one of the plants run by the mysterious Medical Mechanica company. The story centers around Naota “Ta-kun” Nandoba and is largely about his coming of age and coming to terms with his own emotions.

At the beginning of the first episode, Naota says that nothing ever happens in Mabase. But things do start to happen when, as he is walking along with Mamimmi, the high school girl who he believes was the girl friend of his older brother, who is away in America playing baseball, and who seems to have quite an interest in Ta-kun himself, a bizarre woman runs him over with her Vespa. She proceeds to give him CPR, then when he comes to, smacks him upside the head with her limited edition, pull-cord-powered, left handed Rickenbacker bass guitar. When he gets home, he discovers this woman, Haruko, has become his families maid. He also finds out, over time, that the blow to the head has opened a portal in his brain-case, causing various things, mostly giant robots, to come bursting out of his forehead.

Sounds weird? It is. Many aspects of the storyline are never fully explained, such as Haruko’s exact origins, though we learn she is using Naota to try and capture the powers of a being known as Atomsk, the Pirate King. The show is chocked full of references, innuendos and in-jokes, covering both American and Japanese popular culture, especially anime and manga. The show certainly makes a little more sense if you’ve seen a few anime and have at least a passing knowledge of Japanese culture. But at the root of the story are themes of coming of age emotionally and coming to terms with ones feelings. There is a degree of sexual awakening innuendo as well-Mamimi and Haruko both flirt shamelessly with Naota and one of his classmates clearly has a crush on him…plus which, several of the protrusions that grow from his head have a vaguely phallic appearance and implications, but it’s all handled in a very humorous way.  There are also themes like juvenile delinquency, the breakup of the family unit and various concepts of self-determination explored.

For reasons I myself don’t really understand, many of the images and themes of the show put me in a strangely nostalgic frame of mind; the series seems to me at once very Japanese and yet also very American in a peculiar way. Though not the first suggestion for anime newbies, FLCL is a very enjoyable series with more depth than is obvious from it’s surface that I think any fan of Japanese culture will enjoy. It is currently available on Netflix Instant Viewing, and Hulu as well I believe.

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So, last week I finished viewing the 13-episode anime series Kino’s Journey. I’d had it on my Netflix queue for ages and just hadn’t gotten around to it. It turned out to be considerably different from how I thought it would be or (I feel) how the description made it sound but it was, perhaps, better for that.

The series involves two main characters, Kino and the talking motorcycle (motorad) Hermes who are Travelers, roaming from one country to the next (though the “countries” often seem more like city-states) and spending exactly three days in each place. The series contains relatively little action and is very quite and meditative. It deals with a variety of emotional, philosophical and political issues, sometimes through the whole nature of a given country’s political or social systems, sometimes through the experiences of individual characters. Things often take unexpected turns-the storytelling is not formulaic and often exactly what you don’t think will happen is what does happen. The use, misuse, and avoidance of violence is an ongoing theme as to a lesser extent is the need people have for human contact and community…mused upon at times by the rootless always-moving Kino. For me however perhaps the most major theme of the series is the idea that the world is not beautiful…and therefore, it is (indeed the series is subtitled “The Beautiful World.”) Kino often makes comments about the unpleasant events that sometimes occur not creating any kind of discouragement toward traveling and continuing to see more of the world. This idea, that even the ugly and unpleasant things can be…and perhaps even, in a broad sense are what make the whole world, beautiful is very important to me and really resonates with my own recent lines of though.

I strongly recommend the series to anyone who is looking for something different and unusual that bucks expectations, and for all those interested in direct explorations of philosophical themes.

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So, I am developing some stuff for chapter 6 of my Roads novel. In this chapter, our intrepid main characters will be setting off on a journey to another part of the world, a different continent, by airship. The particular country to which they are heading…probably the whole continent…is a place I intend to have a strong East Asian/anime inspired sort of feel, on all levels including the names of people and places.

Luckily, I have access to the handsome, talented and multi-lingal  Stefan, who speaks Japanese. So I have no issues of information and inspiration. The thing I am contemplating at the moment is this: I do feel a slight temptation to just use Japanese outright. However, I have a vague fear that some may not care for that and, also, it feels a bit like cheating to just port things over whole cloth from “the real world.” Of course I’m doing that already with English but I can’t do much about that.

So, I am trying to decide how much I want to modify the Japanese, or what Japanese-to-my-own-elements ratio I need or want for these names and things. Therefore I ask all ye denizens of the blogosphere…how do you feel about this sort of thing in stories? I am pretty sure I need to put at least my own spin on it to some degree, but how do you feel about secondary world names or places that are clearly inspired by a real world language or place?

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