Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Re-do post: J-horror

I figured I'd expand a little bit upon the J-horror genre, since my first post for it was kind of short. So most typical contemporary J-horror has a very dull gray over-crowded city feel, that helps display the sense of emptiness and hopelessness within the society. However, the stories in Kwaidan relate back to old Japanese ghost stories from the Edo and Meiji eras. The context of these stories are much more traditional, and are based upon old historical spirits from legend, where as more contemporary stories are based off of tragic murders of women and or children. The environments in Kwaidan are also much more described than in modern Japanese horror. I think I respect both for what they are, and appreciate that they are both different methods of storytelling. However I think I am more personally interested in the traditional Japanese folklore. Hoichi the Earless for example was a poor musician who resided within a temple and played his biwa lute for the spirits. He had the kanji for heart sutra written all over him except for his ears, so when the samurai ghost came, the only part of him he could see was his ears. Therefore he cut them off. Despite Hoichi's pain, he still played the music. He eventually recovered from his wounds and became a famous musician. I love the ancient folklore that's referenced in this. Writing kanji scriptures on one's body refers to ancient buddhist culture that they actually used to do to ward off spirits. This is another genre that holds particularly high interest in me, and I look forward to reading more of it.

Brother from Another Planet

Brother from Another Planet was a movie we started watching in class that kind of sparked my interest, so I looked further into it. Its certainly different from the usual alien set up. The protagonist escaped from another planet and wound up homeless on the streets of New York. He's picked up by a local family, and doesn't speak or communicate much. However he does have telekinetic powers which he uses for various reasons. It's particularly humorous how the arcade owner uses him to fix all of the broken arcade machines with his alien powers. Its not often to see an alien character disguised in this manner in a movie. Also, the "Men in Black" which are typically an alien hunters are also kind of spoofed in this story as well. They are in fact aliens as well and are dressed undercover to take this brother back to another planet with them. What I found interesting too is that the men in black are oblivious to skin color unlike the human characters within the film. They reference "three toes" as a way to convey that people having different skin color is no different than people having different numbers of toes. I think it was a nice underlying meaning to promote racial harmony, considering I think there was still issues of that in the 80's. A very interesting representation of an alien story to say the least!

Big Fish

I remember seeing Big Fish several years ago, and it was probably one of my favorite films at the time. I think at the time my brother and I were really interested in movies that Ewan McGregor was in just because we enjoyed his acting that much. The story itself had a lot of elements of a sort of Gothic Fantasy set in the southern U.S. state of Alabama. (That must've been another reason why I liked the setting of the movie, because I have a sister that lives in Alabama.) The whole movie is told through a series of short folk-tale stories of the main character Edward Bloom's life as he lies on his deathbed. The story starts off at his son's wedding, where he mentions the story of how he caught an enormous fish using his wedding ring as bait on the day his son was born. His son was so disgusted with him thinking that his father was such a liar that he could never trust him with anything, and worried that he might be the same with his own children someday. The two of them wind up not talking for three years until Edward is on his deathbed. His son and now pregnant wife fly back in to Alabama to be by his bedside and hear all his tall tales. I loved the plot of this movie because it almost reminded me of a Brother's Grimm folktale in the way it used supernatural elements as plot devices to move from one scene to the next. This is definitely one of my favorite genres of storytelling, and if definitely inspires me to make stories of similar elements.


I've always been a fan of the Cyberpunk genre, and Neuromancer is quite the example of this particular narrative style. What appeals to me is the high technology and low life aspects of it. Often the characters within a cyberpunk society are so overcome with technology, to the point where its even integrated into their own bodies (i.e. cyborgs) that they tend to lose site of what's really important in their lives. What's nice about Gibson in particular, is that he has this environmental narrative sort of way of telling his stories. He spends a lot of time introducing the whole environment and how it socially describes what's going on in the scene. Although some people tend to think it may be a kind of slow and boring approach, I enjoy it for its vast imagery. Plus, I appreciate for it's different method of storytelling. This method of storytelling is really visible right off the bat the way the story starts off. The opening scene is introduced as a sort of cyber bar, with all sorts of vulgar characters and people with prosthetic limbs, which really establishes the style. Of course the story is also set in Japan, which is pretty common for this genre considering how densely overpopulated Japan is with not only people but also advanced technology. The lead male protagonist in Neuromancer is a washed up hacker with a drug addiction and a damaged nervous system by the name of Henry Case. He meets up with Molly Millions, who happens to be a reoccurring female lead in Gibson's stories, who offers to help Case end his drug addiction if he offers his hacker abilities to help her out. I should probably mention too that this lead heroine is certainly no damsel in distress. She pretty much sets the bar for the cyberpunk female lead: a total badass street-smart girl that can certainly take care of herself. The characters go on a series of hacking missions for Armitage, who they barely know and investigate as the story goes along. They eventually meet up with the artificial intelligent Wintermute, who is one half of the same Super AI when paired with Neuromancer. They discover that Armitage is kind of a split personality in a way, with is other half being his old self, Corto.

I love how the stories within this genre kind of have a puzzle-solving element with trying to figure out who's AI and who's not. It's like you're not sure who's a human being and who's not, and I think that really attributes to the whole "we're totally screwed" atmosphere. That's why typically the protagonist is the only person with any sense of hope in the whole Dystopian world. Gibson's stories really inspire me, and I'd look forward to reading more of them in lieu of working on my own stories.

A Scanner Darkly

Phillip K. Dick is one of the most well known authors of the Science Fiction genre, and he pretty much set the bar for a lot of science fiction that evolved from that not only in other books, but other media as well: games, movies, television series, etc. The story of A Scanner Darkly is instantly introduced in a very twisted and vulgar sort of manner, which all based off of Dick's own personal experiences of drug abuse and schizophrenia. I kind of noticed this write away when it mentions about him constantly trying to wash the bugs off of him, and all the bugs he sees all over his dog and his apartment. Seeing bugs like that is one of the symptoms of schizophrenia. I can imagine this novel not being for everyone, but I certainly enjoy stories about abnormal characters with different psychological disorders. He definitely captured the atmosphere of what heavy drug users were like at the time. A lot of his concepts within the book, such as the rehab centers that were really drug smuggling centers seemed like they were based off of his own experiences with paranoia. These concepts are referenced a lot in not only his other works, but also the works of other writers like William Gibson, and other stories. I think these particular concepts like these help to bridge good plot devices within the story. At least, that's why I find most interesting about it. This is definitely an interesting read if you can tolerate some of the vulgar dialogue and presentation. I'm rather intrigued by the concepts within Phillip K. Dick's books, and I have a feeling they'll have an influence on ideas within my own stories as well. I look forward to reading some of his other works such as Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and The Man in the High Castle.

Friday, March 5, 2010

日本の 恐れ

The title of this post is pronounced Nihon no Osore, or Japan's Horror.

I’ve always been a huge fan of Japanese culture in general, and Japanese Horror is no exception. Japanese horror differs from American horror in a number of ways. For one thing, its based more on psychological fear, as opposed to a gory slasher flick. It also has its roots in spirituality, which typically stem from some history behind the story.

Most elements of J-horror are composed of helplessness and depression. Typically the context of the environment is very dull and dreary. I think that part of that is attributed to Japan’s high technological standards. Sociological standards seem to be asphyxiated on this world of technology, that people often forget about the importance of their lives. They become so lost and stop caring to the point of near suicide. In fact, most of the “mosters” of Japanese Horror are typically associated with a tragic death of a woman or child. There aren’t usually rich luscious environments in J-horror either; mostly very gray dull mundane cities. All of this helps contribute to the psychological atmosphere of the subject matter. A lot of Japanese horror movies really exemplify this: The Ring, The Grudge, Pulse, and many others that have grown in popularity over the years.

I started reading Kwaidon for the J-horror assignment, and have yet to finish it. But so far, I’ve enjoyed it, and noticed some differences between it and typical modern Japanese horror. For one thing the context is described more through visual imagery, as well as the situations being based off of ancient Japanese folklore. I believe that’s mostly because these stories have been around since before Japan’s modern technological society started to influence its literature.

I’ll have more to say about this one when I finish reading it.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Mythic Fiction and Magical Realism

It didn’t dawn on me that Neil Gaiman was the original author of the Coraline novel until we watched the movie in class. I never realized that he had such expansive list of his works for not just his own novels, but also for film and television. The story is told very well, in a rather dreamy manner. I loved the movie when I originally saw it, and the transitions between worlds. (It makes sense that Coraline’s parents were writers, since he based all the characters off his own life.)

Neil Gaiman is a rather intriguing fellow. I agree with what he says about children’s fiction really being the best. Honestly, I started reading Anansi Boys and thought it was okay. I mean, the story seems like an interesting concept, and it’s introduced in a cunning way. Oh this apathetic guy named Fat Charlie leads a rather mundane life, until one day he figures out of his father’s passing in an unusual and embarrassing manner. Not that that was really any different from how he was embarrassed by his father while growing up. He also figures out that he has a long lost twin brother named Spider, who can only be summoned by asking an arachnid. Spider is the exact opposite of his brother, charming, witty. Fat Charlie’s life is therefore changed and has to adjust with all these changes. Oh by the way, did I mention his brother takes his fiancé away from him, as well as other facets of his life? The story is an interesting idea, but I find Gaiman’s children’s fiction to be so much more intriguing. I do enjoy the way he writes, as it is easy to get into. I really want to get his Graveyard Book, as well as read the original Coraline book.

Gaiman is definitely a traditional storyteller in the act of telling a mythical folktale without explaining how things happened. I’d like to see Mirrormask too, but apparently the actor that was casted to be the protagonist is older than the character calls for. She’s an older teen, when really a pre-teen should’ve been casted for the part. I’m definitely looking forward to checking out more of Neil Gaiman’s work, as well as others within the genre.