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Archiv der Kategorie ‘Roman’

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (Toki o kakeru shōjo) Part 7: The Anime in the Age of the Visual Novel

Mittwoch, 6. November, 2013

Warning! This article contains spoilers for HOSODA Mamoru’s The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Glory of Heracles III, YU-NO, Mother and World Destruction/Sands of Destruction.

The third movie adaptation of TSUTSUI’s novel from 2006 was the first to get some recognition in the West, thanks to it being an anime. It was also a sequel rather than a remake like the second movie, with Kazuko’s niece Makoto becoming the new heroine. The fourth movie from 2010 returns to the live action format but follows the anime’s sequel approach and had Kazuko’s daughter become the next heroine. In HOSODA’s anime, Kazuko is apparently still single and works in a museum, taking Mr. FUKUSHIMA’s function of explaining the strange power to the young girl.

Again we find the heroine in a triangle relationship with two boys, Kōsuke and Chiaki. They’re 17, one year older than the characters in the first movie who were in turn one year older than in the novel. They play baseball instead of basketball and start out as inseparable, as they were in the novel.

I won’t do a detailed analysis for this movie and instead again recommend you watch it for yourself. As opposed to the other versions it is widely available, I even caught it on local TV. What I’m going to do is I will pick up a few core elements of the narrative and put them into our larger context of video games influenced by TSUTSUI’s story.

If you compare this 2006 movie to previous versions the most notable difference is how Makoto is using the power. Kazuko hardly used it at all, wanted to get rid of it and be normal again. Makoto on the other hand finds plenty of uses for it and alters time to her liking, something which the original novel warned about, even claimed it were impossible.

Another notable difference is the nature of the accident. In the original Kazuko and Gorō were careless but still followed traffic rules when they were trying to cross the street as pedestrians. The reckless truck, while appearing similar to Gorō, was an outside force that almost killed the two. Makoto on the other hand is alone, on the street riding her bike and it’s her broken brakes that endanger her life. She is going too fast and is unable to stop, as opposed to the speeding male truck in the original.

Gorō’s new version Kōsuke becomes part of the same accident though when he borrows Makoto’s bike and rides it with his new girlfriend. Again it is Makoto’s responsibility but it isn’t even her who is injured but the girl she helped to get together with Kōsuke. These changes reflect the changes in society, Makoto is a more confident and emancipated girl than Kazuko was, not afraid to use the power and an active participant of street traffic.

But the heavy rewinding and branching of time lines also reflects certain new game genres, something which might have influenced HOSODA and his script writer OKUDERA, who later demonstrated an interest and deep understanding of video games in their 2009 movie Summer Wars.

Continue

When TSUTSUI originally published his novel in 1965, video games didn’t even exist. Still, his story was a prophetic description of game structure: Die, but return to an earlier point in time where you still live, retaining knowledge of what will cause your death. In games we have restart and save points and in a way the player’s experience is similar to that of Kazuko when she escapes death in a likewise manner.

But this kind of “time travel” is usually only part of the player’s meta plane, not of the game’s narrative. When you restart from a save point the game hero isn’t aware he’s doing things again for the umpteenth time. Yet there are games that bring this player experience explicitly into the game world. A prime example would be Ico, in which you save by taking a nap on stone banks. If you die, it will be a dream of the future the hero had and the knowledge of which he can use to avoid it the next time.

Ico incorporates this aspect into its game narrative beautifully but it wasn’t the first to do so. Mother also interpreted the events leading to the game over as a bad dream when you decide to restart from an earlier save. But Mother being a Dragon Quest type of RPG, it included an even better option. Return to the place where you last saved but retain experience and items you picked up. Glory of Heracles III also is a member of the Dragon Quest school of RPGs and since your heroes are immortal they can restart from save points without losing anything, not even money.

NOJIMA admitted to using motifs from The Girl Who Leapt Through Time in Final Fantasy VII, but he also already connected the novel with video game narratives in Glory of Heracles III. This is a major spoiler but a certain catastrophe is undone in this game by means of time travel. NOJIMA must have felt that TSUTSUI’s story was a perfect fit for video games and ITOI might have too, as it wouldn’t be surprising if certain shared motifs in Mother originated in TSUTSUI’s story also.

Despite all the inspiration NOJIMA takes from TSUTSUI, the time travel aspect itself he rarely uses explicitly. Final Fantasy VIII is one of the few examples, also showing NOJIMA’s particular interpretation of video games as time machines. Squall and his party several times find themselves in the past, taking over the bodies of his father Lagoona and his party. But they aren’t able to change anything, only experience the past events. This stays true to the explanation of TSUTSUI’s Kazuo, that history cannot be changed. Yet learning from his father’s history, Squall can make his own decisions in the yet unwritten future.

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The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (Toki o kakeru shōjo) Part 6: Return, Reset and Finding That Person Again

Freitag, 25. Oktober, 2013

Spoiler warning! This article contains spoilers for Chrono Cross, Persona 2 Innocent Sin, Final Fantasy X, its sequel X-2 and Lost Odyssey.

With his movie ŌBAYASHI made the connection between The Girl Who Leapt Through Time and The Wizard of Oz. This children’s book classic represents a number of similar youth novels in which a protagonist from the real world travels to an unreal fantasy world. TAKAHASHI mentioned Narnia in his text on Mother; there is also Alice in Wonderland which comes to mind, or The Never Ending Story. This last example is interesting as the fantastic world traveled to is actually the narrative of a book, which emphasizes the common theme in these novels: The reader is supposed to identify with the real life protagonist and his journey to the strange world is actually the reading of the story. When the story ends, the protagonist returns to the real world.

Now let’s compare this to The Girl Who Leapt Through Time. Here instead of one (or few) real person(s) traveling from reality into the fantastic, one person from a fantastic future comes into reality. He does return but to make the fantastic disappear his influence has to be undone, so in place of a return for Kazuko there is a reset. Kazuko never leaves reality, cannot return in a spatial sense, instead she returns to an earlier point in reality, before the fantastic occurred.

Fushigi Yūgi

The cover of volume 14 of Fushigi Yūgi by WATASE Yū. It shows heroine Miaka and her lover Taka/Tamahome in the background.

The movie version of Oz has the same actors who play the characters in the world of Oz also play the people from Dorothy’s reality in Kansas. This indicates that fiction is based on reality, that the made up characters are reflections of people that live in reality. In Fushigi Yūgi, a manga for girls from the 1990ies, after going on an adventure by being sucked into a book that tells of a fantastic ancient China the story doesn’t end with the return to the real life setting. Instead there are several volumes dealing with a guy resembling the love interest from the fantastic part transferring to the school of the female protagonist and them falling in love again.

It is a more pronounced version of Kazuko meeting Kazuo again, minus the reset. Fushigi Yūgi’s Miaka doesn’t forget her Tamahome, instead she returns from the fantasy and meets his reincarnation Taka. I have talked about how The Girl Who Leapt Through Time influenced Final Fantasy in part 3 and how another video game, Mother, fits in with the same themes present in The Girl Who Leapt Through Time in part 4. There are more video games that share themes from it and I will give two examples that use the “reset and finding a person from the fantastic adventure again in reality” motif. Both came out for the Playstation and after Final Fantasy VII.

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The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (Toki o kakeru shōjo) Part 5: The Parody

Samstag, 19. Oktober, 2013
Impaled Professor: Collection of short stories containing Scenario: The Girl Who Leapt Through Time.

Impaled Professor: Collection of short stories containing Scenario: The Girl Who Leapt Through Time.

In June 1983, one month before the first screening of the movie adaptation TSUTSUI also returned to his story and published a parody of it called Scenario: Toki o kakeru shōjo in SF Adventure, a popular SF magazine of the time running stories of that genre. It was later collected in Kushizashi kyōju (Impaled Professor, 1985) and is only about 10 pages long.1 Pages 155-164. TSUTSUI assumes his readers already know the original story and only uses some key scenes to retell it. Instead he introduces new story elements taken from the contexts of contemporary society like school violence and let’s his characters comment on the upcoming movie version.

Scenario: The Girl Who Leapt Through Time: The original script for the movie.

Scenario: The Girl Who Leapt Through Time: The original script for the movie.

In the same month, KENMOCHI’s script for the movie was also published using the same title: Scenario: Toki o kakeru shōjo. The word scenario in the first instance refers to the screen play and TSUTSUI’s parody approaches the style in which such screen plays are usually written, describing what the camera shows and giving the lines of the characters. Yet it only loosely follows this format and there are some major differences. In the second instance scenario refers to a potential outcome, like the future envisioned in the original story with a highly advanced educational system. Which doesn’t seem so likely with a present that sees violent outbreaks of students against adult authorities and teachers in particular.

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  1. Pages 155-164. []

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (Toki o kakeru shōjo) Part 4: The Mother Connection

Dienstag, 8. Oktober, 2013

I started this article series with The Girl Who Leapt Through Time and arrived at Final Fantasy in the last installment because that’s the chronological order the works were released in and could have influenced one another. But me personally of course I started by playing Final Fantasy and then discovering the older works that had influenced it. And The Girl Who Leapt Through Time was one of the last sources I discovered, thanks to the Famitsū interview with NOJIMA.

Glory of Heracles I had discovered earlier and even without KITASE saying so in interviews the parallels between GoH3 and FFVII were very obvious. Not just that, the common theme of saving the planet made another influence on these games also very obvious. Let’s take a look at Gaia from Glory of Heracles III:

planet_gaia

She literally is the planet all the characters from the game live on and like a kind mother she forgives the injury humans caused her.

Now let’s compare Gaia to Aerith from FFVII. Aerith’s name closely resembles the word earth, even would be an anagram save for one letter. She can talk to the planet, kind of speaks for and represents it.

She is slightly older than Cloud, by Japanese custom of relating everyone in terms of family members she would be an older sister which by the same logic hierarchically puts her on a similar level as a mother. Cloud even accidentally calls her mother in the movie Advent Children, her and Zack appearing like his parents, the older generation. Cloud comes to Aerith asking for forgiveness.

Now let’s take a look at Aerith’s first appearance in the game’s opening:

planet_aerith01

planet_aerith02

A similar pose, standing and holding her hand(s) to her chest, looking at the screen. A similar backdrop, a starry sky surrounding Gaia, sparks surrounding Aerith. The color green, decorating Gaia’s head and neck and lighting Aerith’s face.

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The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (Toki o kakeru shōjo) Part 3: The Influence on Final Fantasy

Freitag, 27. September, 2013

I mentioned at the beginning of the first part that Final Fantasy VII was inspired by The Girl Who Leapt Through Time. Let’s take a closer look at what writer NOJIMA Kazushige had to say about that connection and how the game actually draws upon this source work.

Final Fantasy director and producer KITASE Yoshinori repeatedly said in various interviews that he thinks former director and producer SAKAGUCHI chose NOJIMA to write FFVII because of his critical acclaimed work on Glory of Heracles 3. He also said he wanted NOJIMA to make FFVII as mysterious and surprising as that game.

Asked by Famitsū about how Glory of Heracles influenced FFVII, NOJIMA mentions The Girl Who Leapt Through time as another influence on FFVII. From the Famitsū interview from issue 1224, 2012 5/31:

Famitsū issue 1224, 2012 5/31 page 58

About the Influence of The Girl Who Leapt Through Time

Famitsū: Did you want to make FFVII into a mysterious story like the ones in the Glory of Heracles series, which you wrote before you came to Square?
NOJIMA: Even before I could decide something like that KITASE-san had already asked me to write it that way (laughs). Even though it’s a pretty straight forward story I guess you could say it uses mysterious imagery. With this as the base plot I added ideas from the database server [into which the other staff members uploaded their suggestions]. Speaking about these ideas, since the team was reading my half finished scenario they kept adding new settings and drawings so we were influencing each other during the writing process.
Famitsū: What kind of ideas did you use?

Famitsū issue 1224, 2012 5/31 page 58NOJIMA: Someone posted a setting about „mysterious men in black coats“, which I turned into the Sephiroth clones. I also borrowed imagery from movies. I especially took inspiration from The Girl Who Leapt Through Time starring HARADA Tomoyo. With FFVII, I wanted to recreate the impression of a „mysterious story“ you get from watching that movie. Of course I didn’t just completely copy lines and settings one to one. I simply borrowed phrases like „To the lab room on Saturday“ from the movie and using it as a motif turned it into „To the makō reactor 7 years ago“. …but no one seemed to notice that (laughs).

If you read the previous installments you of course know that going back to the lab room on Saturday, where it all started, going back to the root of the problem, or the Crisis Core in Final Fantasy VII terms, is what resolves the mystery of the story by TSUTSUI. The longer scene in FFVII in which the adapted quote comes up serves a very similar function and I want to revisit this scene to show how NOJIMA adapted motifs from TSUTSUI’s and ŌBAYASHI’s original works. Spoiler warning!

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The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (Toki o kakeru shōjo) Part 1: The Original Novel

Dienstag, 24. September, 2013

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (Toki o kakeru shōjo) is an SF youth novel by TSUTSUI Yasutaka first published as a series in 1965 in Chūgaku sannen course, with the later of the 7 installments published in Kōichi course. Both are educational magazines published by Gakushū kenkyū-sha, intended for 3rd year middle school and 1st year high school students respectively. This is partially true for the West as well, but in Japan in particular, same way as with manga, youth publications are often aimed at a particular gender readership and there are shōnen shōsetsu (novels for boys) and shōjo shōsetsu (novels for girls). But despite the female protagonist, because of the nature of the publication it was part of, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is a general youth SF novel rather than a shōjo shōsetsu.

The story was later collected in book form in 1967 by publisher Tsurushobō. The illustrations for the series publication by ISHII Naoru were replaced with new ones by TANI Toshihiko. In 1976 the novel was re-released by publisher Kadokawa bunko, with new illustrations again by TANI. There were more rereleases from different publishers after that but this article is based on and the illustrations are taken from the 1976 version. To this day, TSUTSUI’s original story has repeatedly been adapted for TV and the big screen and it’s the only Japanese novel that has had four movie adaptations since 1980, the first in 1983 and the last one in 2010. It’s a true classic that transcends the ages.1 http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/時をかける少女

In the West, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time became known thanks to the 2006 anime adaptation by director HOSODA Mamoru which saw an English version in the same year. TSUTSUI’s novel has also been available in English translation since 2011, translated by David James Karashima and published by Alma Books.2 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Girl_Who_Leapt_Through_Time Not many people in the Western hemisphere know this but The Girl Who Leapt Through Time also served as a major influence for the scenario of the 1997 hit game Final Fantasy VII, as writer NOJIMA Kazushige told Famitsū in an interview in their 2012 May 31 issue.

Spoiler warning! It is highly recommended that you read the novel before this analysis. The anime’s story is different as it expands on and modernizes the original story but some key plot developments are the same as in the novel so if you plan to watch the anime, do so before you continue reading this article. (mehr …)

  1. http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/時をかける少女 []
  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Girl_Who_Leapt_Through_Time []

For the Frog the Bell Tolls

Mittwoch, 24. April, 2013

Kaeru no tame ni kane wa naruI first heard about Kaeru no tame ni kane wa naru (For the Frog the Bell Tolls) during my stay in Kyoto in 2002. A female Japanese student named Minori I met at Kyoto University brought it up as a favorite game she had played when she was younger. This Gameboy classic from 1992 was never officially localized for the West and if it weren’t for the fan translation it would be still completely unknown to non Japanese gamers. The Gameboy Zelda game Link’s Awakening on the other hand, which reuses Kaeru’s engine, is widely appreciated over here as well.

Unfortunately my exposure to this game which forms the base for one of my favorite games ever (Link’s Awakening) remained limited to what I heard from Minori, who also recommended Yami no purple eye to me, since I told her I liked Chie SHINOHARA’s manga, and the Momojiri musume series of books by Osamu HASHIMOTO. I bought and read the latter two recommendations but Kaeru escaped me until very recently when it was re-released on the Japanese 3DS virtual console.

It is a short and easy but very entertaining take on the RPG genre, using the classic Ernest Hemingway novel For Whom the Bell Tolls as a loose base to tell its parody fairy-tale story. It may not be immediately apparent but despite the change in setting, game and novel really share a wealth of motifs and themes and reading and comparing the original novel with the game further enhances understanding and enjoyment of the game’s scenario written by Yoshio SAKAMOTO (known in the West for his work on Metroid and Wario).

Takarazuka adaptation of For Whom the Bell Tolls

Hemingway’s novel is set during the time of the Spanish civil war in the 1930ies and describes the three days Robert Jordan, an American dynamiter, spends with a band of Spanish guerillas preparing for an important attack on a bridge, which could turn the tides of war in favor of the partisans. The planned attack remains central throughout the novel but the outsider Jordan also sheds light on the country Spain and its people in his interaction with the other characters. For this the author draws upon his experiences as a journalist in Spain covering the civil war as it happened.

In the last chapter when the bombing of the bridge finally happens, one of the characters becomes impatient and says, „Is he building a bridge or blowing one?“ And this is exactly the point, for a non Spanish reader the novel becomes a window into Spanish culture as seen by Hemingway. It bridges cultures and ethnicities. Language becomes a bridge as well, a theme echoed in the Nintendo game where transforming into animals will also enable the player to speak the language of that animal.

The hero of the Nintendo game, a prince out of a European fairy-tale inspired fantasy and named by the player, also travels to a foreign land, to save a kidnapped princess or so he is lead to believe. His rival, Prince Richard, which our hero just never seems to be able to beat at fencing, turns the saving of the princess into yet another contest which in his opinion obviously only he can win. This rivalry is a central theme in Kaeru and one can easily get the impression that the game has nothing in common with Hemingway’s novel at all since this rivalry seems to have no counterpart in the similarly named Hemingway novel.

I will come back to this seeming disconnect between the two works later. Let’s just turn our attention to the more obvious references to Hemingway that also abound in the game. Jordan has to destroy a bridge and the whole narrative is a build up to this crucial event. The Gameboy hero, the Prince of Sable, on the other hand has to restore a bridge to even set foot into Mille-Feuille and travel to its first town, Alamode (wordplay on French à la mode meaning fashionable). The thief Jam tells the prince how to do this: the bridge is controlled by the Geronian invaders from Ecclere Shrine at the center of Mille-Feuille, which the invaders turned into their fortress.1 The player has to return to this temple several time to explore more and more of it. A similar design mechanic was later used in Zelda: Phantom Hourglass for the DS. The prince, who unlike Jam cannot swim, succeeds in finding the switch to close the draw bridge and makes his way to Alamode.

The bridge

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  1. The player has to return to this temple several time to explore more and more of it. A similar design mechanic was later used in Zelda: Phantom Hourglass for the DS. []

Electric Pinocchio I: Brat Begins

Mittwoch, 2. November, 2011

As a child, once I had learned to read I was constantly grabbing books to read from libraries and people around me. But one of the first books I bought for myself was Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi. My mother had read it as one of her first books when she was sick as a child as well but didn’t keep the copy to pass it on to me. In my late teens I was reading less and less books and more and more comics, especially Japanese ones once I had discovered them. I also started to learn Japanese to read them in their original language, as well as play Japanese games.

One of the manga I read back then was Battle Angel Alita by KISHIRO Yukito or Gunnm (A Dream of Guns), as it is called in Japanese. Another one was Dragon Ball, which of course was preceded by the more light hearted Dr. Slump by the same author, TORIYAMA Akira. Dragon Ball, Dr. Slump and Gunnm were among the first manga I tackled in Japanese, although I was reading Alita in translation as well, simply because it was available which then wasn’t true for the TORIYAMA ones.

What did strike me was the similarity of motifs between Pinocchio and those android hero manga like Gunnm and Dr. Slump. Pinocchio being a world classic of children’s literature it’s not far fetched to assume that indeed Pinocchio could and must have influenced the latter two. I didn’t watch it much but in my childhood there was an animated TV series based on Pinocchio running in Germany which was made in Japan so this was already proof that the Japanese must have had some exposure to this classic.

Looking at Wikipedia now Pinocchio was translated into Japanese as early as 1920, by NISHIMURA Isaku, who narrated the story to his 12 year old daughter Aya reading and translating word by word from a Western version of the book. Aya wrote the story down and it was published by Kinnotsunosha the same year.1 http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E3%83%94%E3%83%8E%E3%83%83%E3%82%AD%E3%82%AA%E3%81%AE%E5%86%92%E9%99%BA#.E4.B8.BB.E3.81.AA.E6.97.A5.E6.9C.AC.E8.AA.9E.E8.A8.B3, 31.10.2011 A more official one was published much later in 1970 by children’s story author ANDŌ Yukio1 http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E3%83%94%E3%83%8E%E3%83%83%E3%82%AD%E3%82%AA%E3%81%AE%E5%86%92%E9%99%BA#.E4.B8.BB.E3.81.AA.E6.97.A5.E6.9C.AC.E8.AA.9E.E8.A8.B3, 31.10.2011, decades after the 1940 Disney movie adaption of Pinocchio was screened in Japan in 19522 http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E3%83%94%E3%83%8E%E3%82%AD%E3%82%AA_%281940%E5%B9%B4%E3%81%AE%E6%98%A0%E7%94%BB%29, 31.10.2011. The god of manga TEZUKA Osamu adapted Pinocchio as a comic3 http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E3%83%94%E3%83%8E%E3%83%83%E3%82%AD%E3%82%AA%E3%81%AE%E5%86%92%E9%99%BA#.E6.BC.AB.E7.94.BB, 31.10.2011, also in 1952. And in 1972 the first anime adaption by Tatsunoko Pro Studios ran on Japanese TVs4 http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E6%A8%AB%E3%81%AE%E6%9C%A8%E3%83%A2%E3%83%83%E3%82%AF, 31.10.2011, years before the 1976 version by Nihon Animation that also ran in Germany5 http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E3%83%94%E3%82%B3%E3%83%AA%E3%83%BC%E3%83%8E%E3%81%AE%E5%86%92%E9%99%BA, 31.10.2011. So it’s fair to say that this world classic had similar influence on Japanese children as it had in the rest of the world.

Carlo Collodi’s 1883 original story portrays Pinocchio as a wicked boy, who keeps on disappointing his well meaning father Geppetto and to a slightly less degree also the fairy who becomes his mother substitute in the longer second half of the story. This certainly owes to it being written over a century ago but also to certain Christian ideas of man being inherently evil and having to be raised to be good. Dr. Slump’s robot girl Arale on the other hand is a perfect example of the Japanese idea that children are pure and good, as opposed to adults like her creator father Senbee, who are already corrupted by mature traits. Arale also is a bit mischievous at times and gets Senbee into trouble but she’s never portrayed as wicked rather than naïve and excessive in her usage of her super human powers endowed to her by Senbee. She’s certainly not put through harsh hardships like Pinocchio to become a better person either, instead Senbee is ridiculed for being much more wicked than his daughter. In 1980 Japan was also a much wealthier place than Italy in 1883, so the authors Collodi and TORIYAMA simply had different backgrounds to put into story. In Gunnm Gally and her ‚creator‘ Ido are even more idealized morally, both having to kill for a living in a bleak future where almost everyone has cyborg parts but neither being portrayed of bad character really. The setting does provide enough hardship and opportunities for character building to match Pinocchio in this regard though.

Pinocchio is of course also a novel of education, or bildungsroman as it is called in German, a term often used in reference to works of manga and games in Japan. Geppetto is an avatar for his author as much as Pinocchio was one for his readers, cursed to be a puppet which cannot grow up until it meets the high standards of its parents. Looking at and comparing some of the early motifs in these three stories I want to show how the relationship between parent and child is portrayed in these works.

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  1. http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E3%83%94%E3%83%8E%E3%83%83%E3%82%AD%E3%82%AA%E3%81%AE%E5%86%92%E9%99%BA#.E4.B8.BB.E3.81.AA.E6.97.A5.E6.9C.AC.E8.AA.9E.E8.A8.B3, 31.10.2011 [] []
  2. http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E3%83%94%E3%83%8E%E3%82%AD%E3%82%AA_%281940%E5%B9%B4%E3%81%AE%E6%98%A0%E7%94%BB%29, 31.10.2011 []
  3. http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E3%83%94%E3%83%8E%E3%83%83%E3%82%AD%E3%82%AA%E3%81%AE%E5%86%92%E9%99%BA#.E6.BC.AB.E7.94.BB, 31.10.2011 []
  4. http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E6%A8%AB%E3%81%AE%E6%9C%A8%E3%83%A2%E3%83%83%E3%82%AF, 31.10.2011 []
  5. http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E3%83%94%E3%82%B3%E3%83%AA%E3%83%BC%E3%83%8E%E3%81%AE%E5%86%92%E9%99%BA, 31.10.2011 []

Vampires in Pop Culture: The Queen of the Damned by Anne Rice

Donnerstag, 30. Dezember, 2010

Foreword

I first wrote this analysis of Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles in March 2004 for a seminar on literary theories but the original intent to write it was born during my earlier stay in Kyoto the year before. During that exchange year I started to understand a lot about the themes present in popular literature and it was also when I wrote my original interpretation of Final Fantasy X which I later reworked for publication on this site (German).

I had rented the movie adaption of Queen of the Damned despite the bad reviews and it turned out every bit as bad as its reputation but I nevertheless wanted to form my own opinion on it so I watched it anyway. It was still very much worth watching because when I thought about what was missing from the movie I really began to understand the actual depth of the original novel. The way Akasha is defeated, instinct ripping off ratio’s head, discovering this symbolism was the real starting point for this analysis.

The paper originally was titled „A Lacanian Approach to The Queen of the Damned by Anne Rice“ and was supposed to be an application of Lacan’s theories to an actual piece of literature. I had read up a bit on C. G. Jung for my FFX analysis and wasn’t really much of a fan of Freud. But although Lacan is Freudian I found some common ideas with Jung in his text which gave me further grounds to showcase the psychoanalytical approach already evident in Rice’s book. Basically I’m just spelling out what is said in the quotations already, using Lacan’s lingo.

This version is more strongly modified than my later Ghost Dog analysis and I didn’t stop at implementing the corrections by my lecturer Andrea Lutz but also tried to explore the meta-novel aspects of the Vampire Chronicles, as suggested by her. I added a short summary of Lacan’s ideas as well which took some rereading of his text “The Insistence of the Letter in the Unconscious”. This is also why this article took so long to be ready for publication on this site, with Ghost Dog I could basically copy and paste the paper I had handed in years ago only making minor corrections.

I also want to note that in one of the seminars I took following writing this paper I had the pleasure to meet four different students named Claudia all taking the same seminar. Claudia is by no means a rare name but this still was a curious coincidence considering the role of the character of the same name from Rice’s novel.

Riddel in the Forest

Riddel in the Forest

While Rice has given up on her vampire novels, thanks to Buffy the Vampire Slayer by Joss Whedon and the more recent Twilight by Stephenie Meyer vampires continue to be a mainstay in popular culture and they have a similar importance in Japanese comics and games as well, which of course is my focus on this site. In fact there is a shōjo manga by HAGIO Moto with a similar constellation of two male vampires raising a girl in one of its episodes. The Poe Family (Pō no ichizoku) by HAGIO predates Interview with the Vampire by a few years but Rice’s original short story was still some years earlier than the episode with the vampires‘ adoptive daughter in HAGIO’s manga.1 Serialization of The Poe Family started in March 1972 and ended in June 1976. The episode Rideru: Mori no naka was published in April 1975. Rice started work on her novel Interview with the Vampire in 1973 and it was published in 1976. It would be far-fetched to assume that they influenced each other given the temporal and language barriers but maybe they share a common influence that made them both write about male vampire couples raising a girl.

It’s interesting to note that in the Japanese variant of this story it’s the male vampires that are condemned to stay children forever and watch their adopted daughter grow older and older. In Rice’s story the adopted daughter is also turned vampire and thus denied her coming of age which her male parents had already passed when they quit the life of the living.

Today’s vampire literature still shows strong traces of Rice’s and HAGIO’s earlier works which is why I decided to juxtapose my analysis with some clips from Buffy and other recent vampire stories for this republication. They’re not directly related to each other but there are common underlying themes, some of which also contributed to this analysis. I was watching the end of Buffy season 6 specifically during my stay in Kyoto.

(mehr …)

  1. Serialization of The Poe Family started in March 1972 and ended in June 1976. The episode Rideru: Mori no naka was published in April 1975. Rice started work on her novel Interview with the Vampire in 1973 and it was published in 1976. []

Megami Tensei: Novel turned game turned novel

Freitag, 24. September, 2010

NISHITANI Aya, born in 1955 in Mie prefecture. Graduate student of economics at Hokkaidō University. Mostly known for his Digital Devil Story books but also for other horror/fantasy light novels.

While the Megami Tensei series never quite enjoyed the same kind of success the other two big JRPG series Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy have, it still is one of the major RPG franchises in Japan, spawning many sequels and countless spin-offs which in turn often grew into their own series, like Devil Children for Game Boy or Devil Summoner for disc based consoles. The anime-heavy Persona spin-off series even surpassed the original series‘ success and also put Atlus on the Western JRPG publisher map during the Playstation era. After the first real Megami Tensei game published outside Japan, Shin Megami Tensei III Nocturne, was released in the US in 2004 Atlus USA started slapping the SMT moniker on every spin-off title including the recent Persona games but not many Western players are aware of the roots of the franchise which is based on a light novel series by NISHITANI Aya published starting in 1986.

DDS1: Megami Tensei (1986)

Megami Tensei was actually the subtitle of the first book in the Digital Devil Story series1 Digital Devil Story might remind some readers of the Digital Devil Saga games for PS2 which were named to allude to the series‘ roots. which started as a trilogy but got an even longer running sequel. Like other light novels the DDS books feature manga-styled covers and both color and b/w illustrations, the former at the beginning and the latter spread throughout each volume, drawn by KITAZUME Hiroyuki. The story is a mix of SF, fantasy and horror and its aesthetics and subject matter strongly appeal to fans of manga and games which is typical of light novels. The original trilogy follows the adventures of genius programmer NAKAJIMA Akemi2 中島朱実. NAKAJIMA’s first name is sexually ambiguous, like many Japanese names it can be both male and female, this one being more commonly female. This fits in with NAKAJIMA often being described as effeminate and rivaling a girl’s beauty. The author’s first name Aya is equally ambiguous. and his female classmate SHIRASAGI Yumiko. NAKAJIMA writes a program that unleashes digitally summoned demons into the world, in part because, like any genius scientist who discovers something new, he can, but also because he wants to get revenge on two other classmates, the ruffian jock KONDŌ Hiroyuki and TAKAMIZAWA Kyōko, who instigated KONDŌ to beat up NAKAJIMA for allegedly harrassing her the day before. Realizing what he has done he rises to become the hero to fight the demons he himself unleashed. He gets help from the recently transferred3 Yumiko being a transfer student (転校生、tenkōsei) is linked to her being reincarnated by the characters used to write the word. If just one is left out tenkōsei becomes tensei, which means reincarnation. Yumiko, who not only becomes his lover but also turns out to be a reincarnation of Izananami-no-mikoto, an ancient goddess,4 Fußnotenauszug: Izanami-no-mikoto is also the mother of the world. In the Japanese world creation myth a human-like goddess gives birth to the world after discovering sexual intercourse with her husband, Izanagi-no-mikoto. This myth is much more concrete and founded in real life experience than the Judaism/Christian equivalent, i.e. in the bible world creation (by an abstract being) and discovery of sexuality (by... hence the title Megami Tensei (Reincarnation of the goddess).

Yumiko finds out about the demon summon program making her a target of Loki.

The demons lead by the norse god Loki aren’t willing to retreat from the world once summoned and soon endanger Yumiko. With her divine abilities and NAKAJIMA’s demon summon program they manage to fight back Loki, getting help from another demon, Cerberos, who NAKAJIMA befriends. The demons represent NAKAJIMA’s violent and dangerous feelings, resulting in Loki killing NAKAJIMA’s classmates, as much as his potential for heroism, wielding a flame sword and riding Cerberos. In the world of the DDS novels NAKAJIMA’s ability to program computer games that make professional efforts pale in comparison, as his friend TAKAI comments, is exaggerated in the fantasy narrative enabling him to summon real demons by simulating their every detail on his computer. The esoteric and mysterious sounding assembly code becomes actual spells, IT becomes the spiritual successor of Kabbalah and witchcraft. It seems like a childish fantasy but is actually an interesting allegory for how games can be perceived by the player. It’s like the gruesome scenes seen in some games have become reality. Every game has its hero fighting the cruel villain but NISHITANI actually acknowledges the programmer’s role in also creating the adversary, the adversary actually being a part of the creator.5 Fußnotenauszug: Hero and villain necessitating each other also is common theme in American superhero comics since the late 70-ies, when the mutant heroes of the Uncanny X-Men were becoming as feared as their evil counterparts. Should the victims be thankful of the hero saving them from the villain or the hero be thankful of the villain for making his adventures more interesting than saving cats from trees and cat...

Coming to the rescue

But the story is also one of coming of age and of sexual awakening. Like Yumiko NAKAJIMA is a reincarnation of an ancient god, Izanami’s husband Izanagi. Rescuing Yumiko from the demon attacks, like Loki’s tentacles, he often gets to hold her naked body aftwards. The aggressive sexual assaults of the demons are juxtaposed with NAKAJIMA’s own timid affection towards Yumiko. Unlike Kyōko, Yumiko is kind and doesn’t ridicule him for his effeminate looks, unlike his absent working mother she is there for him and stands by his side. A reincarnation of a kind ancient mother goddess she’s the one he chooses to protect, to be his lover.

DDS2: Mato no senshi (1986)

In the second novel Mato no senshi (The Warrior of the Demon Capitol) NAKAJIMA’s teacher EBARA, who was raped by Loki in part one, gives birth to Seth, another demon adversary, but only after killing NAKAJIMA’s mother before his and Yumiko’s eyes to get revenge for him slaying Loki. The demons infiltrate more and more of the world including the sphere of politics and the younger brother of Charles Feed of the MIT (a friend of Richard Craft who helped NAKAJIMA write the demon summon program) decides to use the demon summon program again even though NAKAJIMA chooses not to. Yumiko is summoned to a mythical plane to be trained by the real Izanami how to use her divine abilities while NAKAJIMA and his American friends keeps the demons at bay in their home town. They even go to outer space from where the demons start their big invasion.

Snake in Outer Space

When faced with the decision to either save the whole world from being overrun by demons or save Yumiko from dying he chooses to save his lover. After losing his mother, first to her career, then to his evil pregnant teacher (who in a way is the antithesis of his mother as the villains Loki and his son Seth are the antithesis to the heroic NAKAJIMA), he cannot bear to also lose the girl that is supposed to be her substitute, the reincarnation of the mother goddess.

DDS3: Tensei no shūen (1988)

In the last volume, Tensei no shūen (End of the Reincarnation), NAKAJIMA and Yumiko face off with Lucifer himself, whose advent to the human world is heralded by a spreading cult which the frightened humans succumb to. But first NAKAJIMA has to find a cure for Yumiko’s loss of her eyesight. NAKAJIMA seems destined to become the world’s Messiah but like Jesus he is seduced by Lucifer and unlike Jesus he cannot resist Lucifer’s control over his actions. Izanami has to kill NAKAJIMA as he turns on Yumiko. Of course the story doesn’t end with NAKAJIMA’s death, there’s a 6 volume sequel series, Shin Digital Devil Story (The New Digital Devil Story) which continues the battle against Lucifer.

Digital Devil Story Megami Tensei (1987)

The game adaption, which NISHITANI also wrote the scenario for, shares the same title as the first novel, Digital Devil Story Megami Tensei6 The only difference is that Story is written in Chinese characters instead of Latin or Japanese characters like in the novels but it still is meant to be read as Story. and adapts the story of NAKAJIMA. The game skips the exposition and depictions of real life Tokyo and instead starts right with NAKAJIMA and Yumiko entering the demon lair and is basically one big dungeon separated into five areas. NAKAJIMA and Yumiko have to fight off and negotiate with demons to make the needed allies to get through the dangerous mazes until their final confrontation with Lucifer. Unlike the book NAKAJIMA can become the Messiah this time. The series‘ mainstays like befriending demons and the fusion system to make stronger demons are already introduced in this first installment. Unlike most other original Japanese RPGs of the time it also used a first-person perspective and an alignment system differentiating along the axis of Good-Neutral-Evil, which both were common in Western RPGs.

Digital Devil Story Megami Tensei II (1990)

The sequel Digital Devil Story Megami Tensei II was made without NISHITANI’s involvement and continues the story established in the first game ignoring the novel sequels. It actually has a much stronger narrative than the first game and introduces another element typical of the later Megami Tensei games, choice. The player still can’t choose or in any way affect his alignment, which remains fixed at Good, but depending on a few choices at crucial plot points he can get a different ending than the standard one.

Blinded Yumiko, NAKAJIMA and Cerberos

The story is set in a bleak future after World War III. The atom bomb has been dropped on Tokyo and people hide in shelters. In one such shelter a boy and his friend, both named by the player, play a video game called Devil Buster7 In the ending Devil Buster is revealed to be the demon summon program written by NAKAJIMA Akemi.. It is very similar to the first DDS: MT game but with a top down perspective switching to first person for the battles, reminiscent of the Dragon Quest style of presentation. A male hero is coupled with a magician girl, like NAKAJIMA and Yumiko in the first game. They befriend demons to beat the boss of the dungeon. Once the boy and his friend clear the dungeon something weird happens. A demon addresses them and tells them about demons coming to their own reality. He explains to them how they can use the game soft to summon demons in the real world and that they have to use them to save the world. When they stop playing they find themselves in the shelter which is seen from a first-person perspective indicating their return to the „real world“. The Dragon Quest-style game fantasy has been replaced with the more realistic game setting of Megami Tensei again.

NAKAJIMA chooses Yumiko.

The boy’s friend takes the place of the girl from the game and they travel ruined Tokyo together. Until they make their way to Tokyo Tower where they meet the girl from the game in the real world.8 The girl in the game is of course a symbol and a projection of the hero’s image of women as based on his closest female reference, his mother. Finding her in the real world outside the game is an allegory for the shift from affection towards the mother to love for same age girls. She seems to know how the player can become the Messiah but the boy’s friend doesn’t want him to listen to her. The player doesn’t have a real choice here and must ask the girl into the party at some point which causes him to have to split up with his male friend. Who then becomes an evil demon summoner trying to stop the player from restoring the world.

Lucifer battling Izanami

At a later stage the player can show mercy to a defeated boss turned frog. This decision leads to the possibility of uniting him with another boss to restore the god Ba’al who then can join the player. With Ba’al in his party the player doesn’t have to fight Lucifer who instead explains to him that devils are just gods of other religions.9 The two demons reunited as Ba’al, Bael and Beelzebub, are actually both interpretations of the same god Ba’al as an evil devil. The player can then choose polytheism over becoming the Messiah of a monotheistic god. This is actually the true ending which leads to the world being restored. If the player decides to become the Messiah he helps build the biblical 1000 year kingdom in which according to the game only the strong survive.10 This becomes the law ending in the later Shin Megami Tensei games. This can be seen as an expression of the mixed feelings of the Japanese towards the patriarchal values of post war Japan stressing importance of education and achievements in school and the work place and the suppression of some more lenient Japanese values like maternal kindness.

Shin Megami Tensei (1992), PSX Version (2001) Opening

For the next installment developer Atlus chose to reboot the series and interpret the original narrative of NISHITANI’s novel in new ways. The title was shortened to just Megami Tensei but with the prefix Shin added. Shin usually means new, as in the New Adventures of or the New Tales of, but here it is written with the character indicating true. In the opening someone is entering cryptic computer code that turns into ancient spells and when he enters the title Shin Digital Devil Story the beginning part Shin is at first converted to the usual New, then to God and finally to True. Digital Devil Story is then converted to Megami Tensei making the title read The True Reincarnation of the Goddess.

Major story motives of the original, like the demon summon program (this time written by Steven, a man in a wheel chair), the death of the hero’s mother, the friendly demon Cerberos (who is created by fusing the hero’s dog Pascal with any demon), politicians controlled by demons11 In the game the American ambassador Thorman turns out to be the Norse god Thor who drops an atom bomb on Tokyo because of the Japanese millitary allying themselves with demons. Thorman (トールマン) is obviously a play on words; if one character is displaced it becomes Truman (トルーマン), alluding the ambassador’s decision to the historical bombing of Hiroshima in World War II. and cults spreading are reinterpreted. Also a new alignment axis is introduced: Good-Neutral-Evil is changed to Light-Neutral-Dark and Law-Neutral-Chaos is added12 These are the same two types of alignment also present in D&D, the original RPG to come up with the alignment system in the first place.. This latter alignment changes with the player’s actions. There’s also two more heroes, the law hero who is accused of having killed his girl friend and the chaos hero who is beat up by ruffians. The law hero actually dies and comes back to life after 3 days to become the actual Messiah13 The alleged murder of the law hero’s girlfriend can be seen as a symbol for war crimes the generation of the law hero haven’t themselves committed. The law player seeks to distance himself from this past and becomes a Messiah type hero. while the chaos hero seeks strength so desperately that he decides to fuse with a demon to gain its power14 Being frequently bullied the chaos player seeks a way out of being pushed around, resulting in radicalization.. Both try to convince the player to join their side but it’s up to him to remain neutral or choose either one. Law is linked to the Messiah church and chaos to the Gaia church, the former representing patriarchal systems like Christianity in which the mother only serves to enforce male values, the latter maternal goddesses of the world which are similar to Japanese folklore.

Choosing when to fight, choosing who to treat as friend or foe, choosing your own actions and ideology to follow, if the game is a virtual mirror of the real world then giving the player this kind of freedom must be empowering. Shin Megami Tensei also avoids associating either religious stream with light/good or dark/evil. In fact both the law hero and the chaos hero are aligned with light.

Shin Megami Tensei Jerusalem 1 (1994)

This element of choice made a big impression on the Japanese gaming scene and NISHITANI was inspired by this game to revisit his creation, writing his own version of Shin Megami Tensei (The True Reincarnation of the Goddess). The hero-heroine team of reincarnated ancient Japanese gods is replaced by a heroine becoming the mother of god and a secondary hero protecting her (or failing to protect her from the demon rape). In the afterword of the first volume NISHITANI explains his aim with this new novel:

I belief that no work of art is ever created by just one single individual. The music of Wagner for example could only exist because of traditional German folk tales, opera, the environment of his family and the harsh historical background he lived in.

The Pillow Book15 Makura no sōshi, written by court lady SEI Shōnagon in the Heian period. also is a literary work which could only exist because of the overripe culture of the nobility, the life at court and the author’s hereditary genius.

A great artist is like a priestess medium, sucking a certain something out of his era. The part emerging as a work of art is but the tip of the iceberg and in the depths of it there is a hidden huge core, of which the artist isn’t even aware.

The bigger this hidden core is, the deeper its layers and the more profound its meanings. The game Shin Megami Tensei seems to me like a large bloom coming out of the border line of such a core.

I’ve heard that most of the development staff of Shin Megami Tensei created the game leaning towards chaos or neutral.

Among the people close to me at least there is no one who played the game taking the lawful route.

As for myself, I only beat the game the lawful way.

Many people assume that the lawful hero route is, in a nutshell, just like any other RPG, but I don’t agree.

Law is not about doing what is right but believing in an absolute ruler and accepting the fate you’re given.

The conduct of a typical benevolent hero like the one in Ultima is not what you would call lawful virtue in theological theory. That is nothing more than a relativistic law. In fact Shin Megami Tensei is the only RPG that contains a lawful standpoint in the true sense of the word.

But there’s something severly missing from the lawful world portrayed in Shin Megami Tensei.

I’m speaking about „Mary“.

Christianity, which represents the lawful ideology, could only become a world religion because of Mary worship. The protestants deny Mary worship but in catholic belief Mary, who in theology is positioned only slightly beneath Jesus, sustains Christianity.

A few years back when I visited Jerusalem I went to a graveyard church built on mount Golgotha, the most holy of places.

The statue of Mary standing there didn’t smile gently like the depictions of the holy mother usually do.

She was grieving for her crucified son, shedding tears and calling to the heavens.

As I saw her sobbing expression all the doubts I had about Christianity were suddenly cleared up.

The world portrayed in the game is truly like the year 0. It’s the world just before Mary would give birth to the son of god.

Just like the prophets of old were telling of coming change this game is now telling of something being born.

I’m giving my all to draw out the lawful element in this.

NISHITANI understands that his novel has taken a life of its own, that it has grown into something bigger than what he created. His world is now shaped by the software developers he teamed up with earlier. So maybe he seeks to claim his part in forming this techno pseudo religion. But he also stresses that Shin Megami Tensei’s achievement isn’t just to provide an alternative to the standard good RPG hero. He points out that this law stance is unique to Shin Megami Tensei and that it might have more in common with the chaos stance than is first apparent. For NISHITANI law is still a viable choice and Shin Megami Tensei includes this option as well.

  1. Digital Devil Story might remind some readers of the Digital Devil Saga games for PS2 which were named to allude to the series‘ roots. []
  2. 中島朱実. NAKAJIMA’s first name is sexually ambiguous, like many Japanese names it can be both male and female, this one being more commonly female. This fits in with NAKAJIMA often being described as effeminate and rivaling a girl’s beauty. The author’s first name Aya is equally ambiguous. []
  3. Yumiko being a transfer student (転校生、tenkōsei) is linked to her being reincarnated by the characters used to write the word. If just one is left out tenkōsei becomes tensei, which means reincarnation. []
  4. Izanami-no-mikoto is also the mother of the world. In the Japanese world creation myth a human-like goddess gives birth to the world after discovering sexual intercourse with her husband, Izanagi-no-mikoto. This myth is much more concrete and founded in real life experience than the Judaism/Christian equivalent, i.e. in the bible world creation (by an abstract being) and discovery of sexuality (by humans created in god’s image) are split up into two stories. Izanagi and Izanami are thus at the same time similar to Adam and Eve and to the Jewish/Christian creator god. []
  5. Hero and villain necessitating each other also is common theme in American superhero comics since the late 70-ies, when the mutant heroes of the Uncanny X-Men were becoming as feared as their evil counterparts. Should the victims be thankful of the hero saving them from the villain or the hero be thankful of the villain for making his adventures more interesting than saving cats from trees and catching bank robbers? In the end both are projections of the comic creator. Same is true of novels and games. []
  6. The only difference is that Story is written in Chinese characters instead of Latin or Japanese characters like in the novels but it still is meant to be read as Story. []
  7. In the ending Devil Buster is revealed to be the demon summon program written by NAKAJIMA Akemi. []
  8. The girl in the game is of course a symbol and a projection of the hero’s image of women as based on his closest female reference, his mother. Finding her in the real world outside the game is an allegory for the shift from affection towards the mother to love for same age girls. []
  9. The two demons reunited as Ba’al, Bael and Beelzebub, are actually both interpretations of the same god Ba’al as an evil devil. []
  10. This becomes the law ending in the later Shin Megami Tensei games. []
  11. In the game the American ambassador Thorman turns out to be the Norse god Thor who drops an atom bomb on Tokyo because of the Japanese millitary allying themselves with demons. Thorman (トールマン) is obviously a play on words; if one character is displaced it becomes Truman (トルーマン), alluding the ambassador’s decision to the historical bombing of Hiroshima in World War II. []
  12. These are the same two types of alignment also present in D&D, the original RPG to come up with the alignment system in the first place. []
  13. The alleged murder of the law hero’s girlfriend can be seen as a symbol for war crimes the generation of the law hero haven’t themselves committed. The law player seeks to distance himself from this past and becomes a Messiah type hero. []
  14. Being frequently bullied the chaos player seeks a way out of being pushed around, resulting in radicalization. []
  15. Makura no sōshi, written by court lady SEI Shōnagon in the Heian period. []