A Dystopic Delirium #2 – The Nuclear Issue

We go back. The idea is this now. We go back. We go to the heart of the issue of dystopia themed art in Japan. We translate the fear that strikes the chord in these particular stories.

It was just a Little Boy and a Fat Man.

barefoot_gen_9

The NUCLEAR Art of Japan

This collective suffering of the Japanese still lingers on. People are still suffering from its effects. It is a theme undoubtedly repeated through many artworks, even if the piece of art itself is not clearly referring to the bombings. (see. Neon Genesis Evangelion, Akira, etc.)

CASE 1

Firstly, let’s take a look at a more ‘direct’ example. Isao Takahata’s —  Hotaru no haka (Grave of the Fireflies / 1988). What Takahata is doing is visually clear, he is creating a world of chaos, destruction, pain and injustice and the viewer is experiencing all that through the eyes of two innocent kids that just happened to be there. He is ‘forcing’ you to feel and he is triumphantly succeeding — from my own perspective that is. This is achieved through simple images, he is not trying too much and he is not hiding behind them. The image of planes going by in the skies, long horizontal lines against the small, vertical ones of the children, conveys perfectly the constant feeling of threat and vulnerability.

This balance shifts when the bombs start raining down and their downward movement now overwhelms the small lines of the children beneath emphasizing on the hopelessness and inevitability of their situation. The war reigns on and there is no escape. The children fight for their survival. But at the end, fire was not their single foe. This particular film does not dwell in the topic of nuclear disaster per se but the after effects of that attack. The results of any war really. Those who fight die and those who don’t die as well. Hunger, disease, mental meltdown; a whole film based on the the struggle for survival, the need to protect what’s yours, the futility of war and the inevitability of death. Both text and subtext, in Grave of the Fireflies, embody an endless nightmarish vision of passivity and despair. It suggests a history that can never be escaped or transcended but that must be continually experienced as harrowing, painful and relentlessly oppressive.

I know, it’s a Ghibli film, but Isao – senpai is not fooling around.

CASE 2

On the other hand, Keiji Nakazawa’s Hadashi no Gen (Barefoot Gen / 1983) conveys a feeling of resistance, hope and renewal, although depicting the same horrific war scenes, in contrast with the passivity and powerlessness of the Grave of the Fireflies.

Though it has been heavily criticized by the Hibakusha community, the graphics of the manga and anime help to “convey the unconveyable” of the bomb’s horror. “While Grave of the Fireflies uses the elegiac mode and realistic graphics to show a slowly dying world, Barefoot Gen indulges in the apocalyptic mode with a grotesque and frenzied graphic style to show a world paradoxically dynamic in its own destruction” (Napier, 2005)

Another core difference between the two films is the character of the protagonists. While Seita is caring and thoughtful but passive and oppressed, Gen is energized and rebellious going against the authorities and claiming what is his. Where Grave of the Fireflies seems to convey a message of passivity and slow painful changing in the world around the characters, Barefoot Gen seems to be filled with action and deals with the feelings of resistance and rebuilding. Grave of the Fireflies could be seen as a lament dedicated to the bombings disaster, a continuous story of pain and sadness using realistic depictions of the events. In contrast, Barefoot Gen is using intense and frantic images, filled with saturated colours and grotesque and twisted illustrations of the event; seemingly applying more ‘gravity’ to that single moment that everything changed.

To conclude this delirium, both films tell a story differently but both films end up in the same concept, the collective trauma of a whole nation and the creation of a dystopian life, a hell on Earth, where children are forced to grow up and die by the hands of the adults who are supposed to protect them.

Footnote: All this is but an introductory delirium on the war dystopia theme in manga and anime and will work as a stepping stone towards my future goal of undergoing a thorough research in the post-apocalyptic, dystopic world of manga and anime.
A Dystopic Delirium #2 – The Nuclear Issue

An Innocent Delirium

Innocence.

Is my innocence the same as yours? Is innocence being free of guilt? Are you innocent? Of what?

You surely are innocent of something. But you are no shoujo.

perfectblue1

Let’s talk about shoujo then. Aren’t they wonderful? With their oversized teary eyes, their casual/natural looks, their frail bodies and their free of makeup faces? So innocent. So pure. Almost magical.

The shoujo is the core of everything. She is what you wish to become; she is what you wish to possess; and she is what you’ll never be and what you’ll never have.

She is all that and she is trapped there. Trapped in her own image. She cannot grow up nor explore her sexuality. You could say she is almost unaware of her own, often mature, body. She is there to fulfill; to make you, the reader, satisfied. She is so fragile, so pure; she needs your protection. She is so submissive, so passive; she’ll do whatever you say, will she not? Isn’t that why you’re here? To empower your masculinity and project your fantasies onto her? Or to see your insecurities and weaknesses come to life and being taken care of by him?

As much as the shoujo stays frozen in time, ethereal and unchanged, she is also growing up. She may be still teary, but she is an adult now.

original Nana is a bad girl. A cool, smoking delinquent. 

This is a special type of shoujo; the one that ‘breaks the chains’. It’s a woman, created by a woman, for other women. She has another duty. She is to inspire. Celebrate feminine independence. Hogwash. She is as frail as the rest of her family, it’s the approach that changes. Her skin got thicker, her habits and looks got more mature; she even got a tattoo (!), but at the end she cries. She needs something — someone to complete her. But she is approaching it in an adult-way now. Smoking and drinking or even letting go; unrequited love is a prominent theme with this shoujo but that’s another topic.

Lastly, a third type of shoujo. My personal favourite.                                       The shoujo of Satoshi Kon.

Kon had always had a preference on female protagonists for his films; the most outstanding, for me, being Mima (Perfect Blue / 1997). Mima is a great example of a special case of shoujo. You see, Mima is sacrificed as a warning to all shoujo out there who want to break their chains completely. She is a pop-idol who wishes to pursue a, more mature, career as an actor thus turning the wrath of her fans’ male gaze upon her. She is the manifestation of what maturity and the loss of innocence could bring. But it’s not just that. Mima had lost her innocence a while ago. She is a woman, as much as her fans would not admit it. So, it’s not the shoujo that is not growing up; it’s us who don’t let her do it. We, who wish to possess her in her pure and untainted form and in extreme cases even become her (Mimania).

As an honorary mention I should also allude to the concept of the shoujo of Hayao Miyazaki and briefly touch on the subject of Sophie (Howl’s Moving Castle /  2004). Miyazaki loves all shoujo. They are, in the majority of his films, the key characters, protagonists or not. The words I would use to describe them would be simple, sincere, natural and maternal. I would go as far as to state that Nature herself is his favourite shoujo of them all but, oh well, let’s not go there.  In Sophie’s case, the young girl is forced into maturity, due to a spell which transformed her into an old woman thus beginning her travels alongside the peculiar Howl in order to lift the curse. To bring my delirium into a conclusion, by the end of the film, Sophie returns to her youthful self maintaining her grey hair, ‘a suggestion perhaps that it is time for Japanese cinema, or even Japanese society, to acknowledge that youth is not a permanent state and that, magical or not, all shoujo do eventually disappear’ (Napier, 2005).

vlcsnap-2011-11-28-16h30m33s46

 (No shoujo were harmed during this delirium)

An Innocent Delirium

A Dystopic Delirium #1

What is it that makes a dystopia so appealing? What is it with our urges to create, and even experience, a post-apocalyptic world?

tumblr_mz1xc6w5tO1qh45qto1_1280

The Art of Dystopia

We create in order to destroy

Waiting for the world to end

tumblr_mz1xc6w5tO1qh45qto2_1280

One of the most striking features of manga and anime art is its fascination with the theme of apocalypse. From Akira’s black crater in the heart of Neo Tokyo to Neon Genesis Evangelion‘s rendering of social and psychological collapsing, contemporary manga and anime are filled with images of mass destruction.

Just what exactly is the drive here? Do we like to destroy? Or do we like to rebuild? Most of the times (though the theme might seem to be humanity’s annihilation) ones story is all about the rebirth after that and how we would cope with our own extinction. Maybe. This is just my personal delirium.

We create in order to destroy

We destroy in order to create

So are the dystopias created in order to collapse and give place to a new, refreshed and remodeled world; a utopia? That may be true but you see, in many cases, we find out later on that a utopia is nothing more than a dystopia in disguise. When everything is running—oh so smoothly and everyone is happy in a perfect world where we have everything we need in-the-snap-of-a-finger, someone ‘wakes up’. Someone sees the system for what it is. And this is a motif we meet in many cases e.g in Hollywood films, as in the all too famous Matrix trilogy where our hero; the chosen one, wakes up from the utopic dream the system has caged humanity in and sees the real dystopia around us. Returning to the East, we see that this is a concept regularly used in manga and anime, e.g  in Psycho Pass where, again, humanity lives peacefully under a false feeling of safety and, again, our hero emerges and sees the system for what it truly is—a corrupted agent enslaving humankind for its own diabolic purposes. So if a dystopia is a dystopia; and a utopia is a dystopia; we’ve come a full circle.

 We create in order to destroy

So what’s up with that? Do we want to witness our own death? Do we create and see these films, tv-series, books, etc. as a warning? ‘If we are not careful this may be us in the future!’. Or is it as to say, ‘We are already living in this world, you just don’t realise it.’ ? On the other hand, though I love dystopian settings as much as the next girl, it wouldn’t be the same without our hero would it? What if all of these dystopian themed films and series ended with a desperate, bleak message for the world? What if the hero lost the fight and the humanity continued on, enslaved and oblivious to the system’s evil mechanisms? Would we like that? Well maybe; if we are talking about alternative, award winning and ‘accomplished’ art but, in my opinion, this is something popular art should not venture in. It would end badly for both the artist and the audience.

So…repent?

The end is nigh now

A Dystopic Delirium #1

A Machine’s Delirium #1

“By the very act of denying the existence of the ghost in the machine—of mind dependent on, but also responsible for, the actions of the body—we incur the risk of turning it into a very nasty, malevolent ghost.” – Arthur Koestler

Has Is Humanity Lost Real? This is not an art review. This is a serious contemplation visual based delirium.

The Ghost

The ghost is what we could call the consciousness—what differentiates us from machines. While reading Arthur Koestler’s ‘The Ghost in the Machine’ we grasp the feeling that Koestler wholeheartedly denies Cartesian dualism, which states that the mental cannot exist without the body (the mind = non-physical substance ≠ brain), and he then proceeds to locate the origin of the human mind in the physical condition of the brain. 

Shirō Masamune, mangaka of the Ghost in the Shell mangaon the other hand, defines the ghost as a phenomenon that occurs in a system at a definite level of complexity. The brain is only but a part of the total neural network (e.g if an organ is replaced then its ghost vanishes with it unless the stimulus of the existence of the organ is perfectly re-produced by a mechanical substitution).

23_ghost_shell

Shiro Masamune’s view of the ghost raises the question that was long ago posed by an ancient Greek thought experiment, the Ship of Theseus paradox: Does an object which has had all of its components replaced remains fundamentally the same object? And what if, all of the components that consisted the object before were gathered and create another, new object, which of the two will be the “original” one? (see: Thomas Hobbes)

So what if we were to be remade totally, except from our brains, will we still be the same as before? But what if, we took our brain and place it in a metal, square body still capable of experiencing all five senses? Are we the same then?

Some argue that the brain cannot function outside our body, that the brain alone is not the “soul”. Some, as in Koestler’s case, believe that the ghost resides solely in our brain, the brain as an organ is our whole essence, our entity. Masamune on the other hand tries to detach the ghost from this physical connection with the brain as an organ and looks at it more broadly. It would be helpful, I believe, in this case to distinguish the brain from the mind. It seems that by doing so we can see what Masamune thinks as the ghost.

If we seek out the definition of ‘mind’ in any encyclopedia we’ll come across this: ‘[…]the complex of faculties involved in perceiving, remembering, considering, evaluating, and deciding. Mind is in some sense reflected in such occurrences as sensations, perceptions, emotions, memory, desires, various types of reasoning, motives, choices, traits of personality and the unconscious’. So, to sum it up, the mind is pretty much described as everything we are, right? It is this non-physical substance, these phenomena taking place in our neural system’s network, that is possibly what Masamune is referring to as the ghost. So it might be safe to assume that Masamune is using the notion of the mind to create the definition of the ghost in the universe of Ghost in the Shell. In spite of detaching it from the physical ‘cage’ of the brain though, it still seems that the brain as an organ plays a vital role in the creation of A.I (e.g Ghost in the Shell’s main character, Major Kusanagi, underwent full cyberization with the only organic part of her remaining being a portion of her brain).

ghost-in-the-shell

Through his work, Masamune, draws the picture of a mechanical future where Artificial Intelligence is equal to evolution. Creating A.I is described as ‘the process of merging two sets of data (DNA) in order to create a third set which contains the most vital elements of the original organisms with some element of chance.’ In his future though, it seems there is really not much hope left for the human body—since it is treated as nothing more than a fragile vessel that is left to be controlled and transformed by outside forces.

“It can also be argued that DNA is nothing more than a program designed to preserve itself. Life has become more complex in the overwhelming sea of information. And life, when organized into species, relies upon genes to be its memory system. So, man is an individual only because of his intangible memory…and memory cannot be defined, but it defines mankind. The advent of computers, and the subsequent accumulation of incalculable data has given rise to a new system of memory and thought parallel to your own. Humanity has underestimated the consequences of computerization.”  – The Puppet Master

Technology ∼ Body ∼ Soul

One is out

Make your bids.

Continue reading “A Machine’s Delirium #1”

A Machine’s Delirium #1

A Tatami Delirium

“There is no such thing as the rose-coloured campus life. Why? Because there is nothing rose-coloured in the world. Everything is all a bunch of colours mixed up, you see.” – senpai

This is not an art review. This is serious contemplation a visual delirium.tatami_galaxy_1

Do we choose our reality or does the reality chooses us? Is the reality what we see or is our vision cheating us?                                                                                                             There are actually more than one realities, a vast/infinite array of them to be precise, it’s us who only choose to see one of them. We choose what we perceive as real; what we witness with our own very eyes has to be real. It has to. We believe in the path we choose, the one we chose over the million other paths we could have taken that time. We choose the path based on the false image of what we define as real and true. But what if the paths always lead to the same conclusion regardless of the journey? Would we choose the same path knowing that?

“After all, it doesn’t matter which path you take, you’ll keep ending up right where you are now. Would it be so bad to give yourself up and go with the flow? We’re connected by the black thread of fate, after all.” – Ozu

Your life is a prison only if you want it to be and if we limit ourselves there we start getting numb comfortable.

     314361-j_pwq_the_tatami_galaxy___11_931_2  tatami2-cc3b3pia     the-tatami_00320059  the-tatami-galaxy-yojouhan-shinwa-taikei-875563-1680x1050

If. What if? We are always displeased in the end with the path we choose only because of this small two-letter word. If. Because, despite its looks, it represents this endless buffet of possibilities that may or may not have made our lives better, easier. And deep down, we choose to believe that they would if we had picked one of them instead. We deny our path and blame it for things we claim we can’t control. We run away from its misfortunes and curse on the imperfections in our lives. But the acquisition of our dream is always there if only we could see it and not just dream of it. We could embrace all those imperfections, cuts and bruises in our life and stop depending on false images and made up gods.

And what about me? How special is my path? You see, practically everyone is called Watashi. After all, everyone around you is a path you, yourself could have taken. Everyone is an alternative version of you; as you are theirs.

A Tatami Delirium