Grace. いただきます. Bismillah. Cultures across the world have developed means to express gratitude for what they consume. This is possibly borne out of an innate quality, as recent studies suggest, that rituals before a meal may alter our perception of its taste. The idea of gratitude being expressed serves another ancillary function: it staves off the guilt of consumption.
In this season’s The Eccentric Family (Uchōten Kazoku | 有頂天家族), we follow a family of shape-shifting Japanese raccoon dogs. Yasaburō, the narrator and main character who poses as a young human, spends his days avoiding and cavorting and playing with Benten, the powerful and dangerous psychic woman seen in the image above. The dialogue between the two is brisk and spry, with a back and forth that moves at a nice clip. But none of that is remarkable on its face to me, until we understand that she ate the young raccoon dog’s father in a year-end ritual meal and that it is common knowledge in their community.
Something almost unbelievable happened last night. Trigger Inc. set up a campaign to crowdfund the next episode of their 2013 Anime Mirai title Little Witch Academia, and in less than five hours, they met their $150,000 goal and more.
Pixar’s poetry lies in the mixing of pain with sweetness. What I love about some of their films is that there’s a true sense of heartache that fuels them underneath the mirth. Across fourteen feature films there have been several narratives they’ve explored, occasionally more than once; love and loss, parenthood, religion, self-improvement. The theme that strikes me as the most inherently interesting—and the most unusually brave considering its status as children’s fare—is the ongoing musing of talent vs. mediocrity.
“Could my body be any more inconvenient?”
Every move you make is carefully planned. You are limited in your capability, your capacity, your reach. To reach beyond what is allotted to you is met with struggle, strain, and pain. You cannot be frivolous in your actions, for each moment is carefully meted out as though you’re incapable of the responsibility yourself.
How would this color your outlook on life?
xxxHolic is a difficult series. The manga has a convoluted continuity tied up in several different franchises. The anime adaptation is easier to follow, but has its own hurdles with the extremely stylized designs animated on a modest budget. Truth told, I procrastinated on this series when I’d seen the roughness of the animation coupled with the relatively comedic tone of the first few minutes of the first episode. It wore through slapstick and familiar Japanese comedy routines, setting up certain expectations as I watched. I let my preconceptions doubt the story. I was wrong.
Or: Better Understanding Through Looking at Gender
A brown-haired girl sits in seiza, looking into the camera wearing a blue and pink kimono
I got into a conversation in another part of the anisphere about female main characters. The blog post was here and it compared Tohru of Fruits Basket to Sawako Kuronuma of Kimi ni Todoke (the inferior Sawako, if you ask me… Sawa-chan <3). At the culmination of the comments dialog I came to some interesting realizations about gender performance in our animated heroines and heroes. See, we talk a lot about the need for “strong, female characters”, but as Kate Beaton noted, they don’t always serve. I would like to take this time, instead, to proffer up an examination of how a close look at gender helps flesh out both simple, straightforward characters and more complex ones.
“Renton, people shouldn’t use up any more energy than what the sun shines down upon us. When you try to use up more than that, you end up having to dig for scubs to drain energy from, or having to build towers. You don’t have to do that. People can survive on what little land they are given to them.”
~Will Baxter, Eureka Seven
The announcement of Eureka Seven Ao last December sparked my dormant interest in its parent story, a story I began several months earlier and neglected six episodes later. Fueled by Twitter’s enthusiasm, I revisited Eureka Seven, swiftly engrossed in its universe. And as I huddled over the flicker of the 3.5” screen of my iPod Touch during the morning’s wee hours, Renton’s convalescence and education at the hands of William B. Baxter awoke memories of another tale. A tale of a young man on a journey not unlike Renton’s, encountering influential individuals not unlike Will Baxter. That tale was Lloyd Alexander’s juvenile epic, The Prydain Chronicles, and as a youth its perspective on everyday life influenced my own outlook on the world.