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.

A Compass made of Gold

Phillip Pullman’s spiritual novel of education is becoming quite the delightful read. Stories of children growing up in double worlds of reality and fantasy are a personal favorite of mine. They’re similar to stories that I’d like to create.

It invokes a lot of underlying themes based off of religious references that spark my interest. The fact that each child has another spiritual being that they’re attached to in another realm, and how it translates as them being innocent until they grow up is really intriguing.

It exemplifies a lot of religious themes, albeit transcribed in a different manner from Pullman’s point of view. Even though the majority of religions look at Adam and Eve taking the fruit from the tree as the origin of sin, it seems more like Pullman’s point of view is that of humans first being exposed to the truth of wisdom. It’s as if even though he doesn’t side with religion, he still points out that mankind has the choice between sinning and not once he realizes knowledge of what sin is. And that knowledge of difference between sin and not is what makes us human. It’s a rather interesting opposition to make.

The main character Lyra still has her own decisions to make. When Lord Aston wants to remove her spirit animal so that she may not grow up into a tainted adult, she chooses to escape. Also when she gains the ability to use the compass (althieometer?) because she’s acquired enough Dust, it’s as if it symbolizes her growing knowledge of the adult world and how she can apply it to situations that help her. Also towards the end when Lord Aston jumps into the portal asking her to follow. She chooses not too. Lyra does not follow this symbolized Satan because she makes the right decision for herself.

The way Pullman presents themes within The Golden Compass is the part that intrigues me the most. I really thoroughly enjoyed this story.

The Heroic Journey of a Hobbit

I used to be obsessed with Tolkien in Jr. High into High School. I remember the first time I read the hobbit was in 8th grade. That was around the time that the first Lord of the Rings movie came out. Having experienced Bilbo’s Journey and the Fellowship of the Ring at the same time made me really interested into figuring out as much about this fictional Middle-Earth as possible. I recall one of my friends having a map, and how we’d look through it trying to pinpoint all the locations of where things happened in the story. Its things like that that really bring interest into younger adolescent readers. They get intrigued by the mythical adventure, but also grow to understand the story behind it. It’s interesting going back and reading The Hobbit again as an adult and realizing all the good plot devices that so many common fantasies lacks these days.

The story can be defined as escapist literature. You’ve escaped from the jail of your life into a fantasy adventure. Tolkien really builds the whole world of middle-earth. It’s not linear, it goes in a direction and then its like “oh that reminds me of …” It’s really reminiscent of ancient folktales in it’s storytelling.

The thing with the Hobbit over other medieval fantasy is its really cunning an intelligent. Because Bilbo is a hobbit, a small humanlike creature that’s the size of a child even though he’s a middle-aged man, he results to outsmarting his enemies with wit as opposed to having an epic battle. He can’t physically defend himself the best, but he tricks Gollum by asking him the question about the ring. Gollum goes crazy looking for his ring, and Bilbo asks him if he can guess what’s in his pocket. Gollum guesses incorrectly, and Bilbo slips on the ring and vanishes out of sight.

The Hobbit has always been a tale that I’ve most enjoyed, as well as any of Tolkien’s other middle-earth stories.