[Anime] Mawaru Penguindrum, a spiritual-mythical drama (Part 3)

[Continuing from Part 2]

The Children Broiler, the Most Abhorrent and the Least Looked Upon

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The Children Broiler, where “abandoned children” go to be “thrown into the trash can”.

The thing with Greek tragedies – in particular the ones that dramatize family curses – is that if one were to identify the original cause of How It All Went Wrong, one often arrives at a point back in time whereupon an adult inflicts some callous injury to an innocent young person.

The Theban tragedies all began with King Laius raping a young prince who is the son of his friend, and this young prince, suffering shame, committed suicide. The tragedies of the House of Atreus all began with its patriarch Tantalos cutting up the flesh of his own son Pelops to serve to the gods just to satisfy his own curiosity as to the omniscient powers of the gods.

These transgressions naturally angered Apollo and/or Artemis (who are divine protectors of children and youth) and revenge is exacted in the form of curses that pass down the descendants of these families with incredibly powerful, blind fury.

For instance, even after the noble-minded Oedipus blinded himself and died an outcast, the curse bought on by the sins of his father did not end, but went on until every member of the House of Thebes is dead and the curse is at last spent. Likewise, the curse of the House of Atreus went on to the sons of Tantalos, Atreus and Thyestes, who jointly killed their younger brother and finally turned themselves against each other – Atreus killed the children of Thyesters and made him eat their flesh; Thyestes raped his own daughter and raised the child of incest as an instrument of revenge.

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Children on the way to the “shredder” and “trash can”.

If there is anything in Mawaru Penguindrum that is “evil” beyond a shadow of doubt – it must be the Children Broiler, where “abandoned” children are put to undergo a kind of death by a thousand cuts and finally deposited into the trash can.

Interestingly, the Children Broiler is one of few places in the show that is devoid of Sanetoshi’s ever present penguin labels; moreover, it is said to be a place that his agents on earth cannot go. Together these hints seem to suggest that the Children Broiler is actually a state of mind, which may symbolically represent at least three levels of psychological trauma:

1) The trauma of individuals being “abandoned” by their families, for all the usual and familiar reasons of parental abuse, neglect, clashes of expectations, etc.

2) Quiet despair of a helpless younger generation being “cheated” of their futures by the older generation, in the form of social cohesion to fit into the anthill/beehive economy at the expense of their inborn unique gifts, and social systems facilitating unequal distribution of wealth and resources, etc.

3) Trauma of the whole of modern civilization caused by a conflict that is much older than the individual, or even the individual’s parents – namely, the abandonment of qualities and values from earlier “childhood” stages of mankind’s history that are now considered “primitive,” “infantile,” “childish,” “silly” and unworthy of respect from the mature, progressive, rational civilization we believe we now live in.

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[Anime] Mawaru Penguindrum, a spiritual-mythical drama (Part 2)

[Continuing from Part 1 of this series]

In the Beginning, there was a Crisis at the Godhead…

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The courtship of the force of Habit and the force of Novelty – in which Sanetoshi tells Himari that she is Fate’s Bride

Matter and spirit, reality and imagination, law and love, old and new, habit and novelty – such are the opposing principles that make up the dance of the cosmos.

Viewers of this show who have a literal bent to interpretations have probably asked: “What’s with Sanetoshi’s pedophilia in trying to court Momoka and/or Himari to be his lover/bride?” Given what we have already covered in part 1, the answer should be obvious. A better question to ask is probably: “Why does Momoka/Himari reject Sanetoshi?”

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[Anime] Mawaru Penguindrum, a spiritual-mythical drama (Part 1)

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Mawaru Penguindrum (2011), directed by Kunihiko Ikuhara and produced by Brain’s Base.

Mawaru Penguindrum is a show that throws the gauntlet at you and say, “crack this!”

It tells of a story on at least three levels:

  1. a human drama of individuals working out their family tragedies, unrequited loves, challenges of friendships, career aspirations, health problems, financial situations and what-have-you.
  2. a socio-economic drama commenting on the origins and after-effects of the 1995 sarin terrorist attacks in the Tokyo subway by the doomsday cult Aum Shinrikyo.
  3. a spiritual-mythical drama that tells of a crisis at the godhead and how the human being transcends the demiurge world of dualities with imagination powered by love.

It is the the third – the spiritual-mythical level – that I would like to focus on in this series of posts, as I believe it holds the key to all the rich, baroque symbolism in the show. I mean, how else is one to make of a story – loosely based on the 1995 sarin terrorist attacks – that begins with an image of a sleeping, sick girl (herself the embodiment of all the Sufferings of an Unjust World) and ends with her self-sacrificing brothers ascending to the starry skies?

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[Anime] Kyousougiga: commentary & analysis

What a hermetic show this is.

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Kyousougiga (2013) – TV anime produced by Toei Animation

(And lest you miss how hermetic it is, the producers of this show even give names like “learning preparation” [予習] and “learning review” [復習] to certain episodes, as if to emphasize that you are supposed to be “studying” it.)

The story began with a Buddhist priest named Myōe (loosely based on the historical Shingon / Kegon-sect monk Myōe who lived between 1173–1232), who has the magical power to make anything he draws come alive – which scares a lot of people away.

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[Aesthetics] The face of Aphrodite, the face of Rilakkuma

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Head of Aphrodite

Have you ever noticed, that the facial expressions of Aphrodite in statues from antiquity are almost entirely absent in modern advertisements for things that one would normally associate with her domain – such as fashion labels, cosmetics and perfumes?

One can observe and understand shifting perimeters of ideal feminine beauty down the ages – but, facial expressions?

If you suspend for a moment all the information you have been fed of Aphrodite being the Olympian Sex Symbol, you may find that, in looking at pictures of her face from times immemorial, hers is actually not a face of seduction, but a face of tenderness, harmony, trust and subtle mirth, as though whatever or whoever her gaze falls upon are endowed and animated with a soft, golden, joyous, divine glow; as though she delights in all creations in the world, and quietly revels in her appreciation of beauty in them.

The sort of face that you may find in some Old Master portraits of the Madonna.

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[Idea] Sex, as a service to others out of compassion

The Japanese historian, Ryotaro Shiba [司馬 遼太郎], in his magnum opus Kono Kuni no Katachi [この国のかたち], traces the socio-sexual system in pre-modern rural Japan – called wakashu-sei [若衆制] – as having common roots with similar systems in Polynesia, Melanesia, Indonesia and other Oceanic countries.

The system works like this:

  • Young men of the village, once they come of age, are taken out of their parental homes and rounded up in a lodge or inn, called yado, where they will work, eat, sleep and live together with other young men.
  • As a group, these young men undertake tasks and responsibilities, such as fire-fighting, rescuing fellow villagers from calamities at sea, defence against skirmishes with other villages, preparatory work for festivals etc.
  • The leader of these young men are given equal social status as the predominant elder of the village.
  • Sometimes, these young men protest against grown-ups they do not like with pranks and acts of vandalism, and they are given tacit, communal license to do as they please.
  • A young man living in a yado is free to crawl into the home and bed of a young woman he likes at night. This night-crawling practice is called yobai [夜這い]. Sometimes, several young men crawl into the bed of the same young woman this way. If the young woman gets pregnant, she would have the right to name the father of the child and he would have no right to protest or refuse – he would have to marry her and leave yado. Sometimes, the child born bears physical resemblance to another young man, but it does not bother anyone, as all children born are regarded as children of the community.

Once, I described wakashu-sei and yobai to a young woman of modern sensibilities, and she was indignant and incredulous: “wouldn’t it be rape to the young woman?”

Perhaps the modern concept of sexuality (free and liberated as it claims itself to be) is befuddled in this way by any other concepts of sexuality, so much so that it even finds the idea of “giving sex” or “sharing sex” (as opposed to “having sex”) foreign and alien.

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[Anime] Visions of the creator god/goddess/godhead

Once upon a time, anime series were mostly stories with a Bildungsroman slant for children – stories that tell of the protagonist’s growth through the perfection of some craft, his/her travails and triumphs, support from his/her friends and mentors along the way, and finally his/her eventual attainment of some life-important goal.

And then at some point, all that changed. Just as the Hero is an archetype, the Small Potato, too, is an archetype. The Small Potato archetype manifests itself in a character who undertakes an enormous amount of effort to convince you (the audience) and/or other characters in the story just how perfectly unremarkable he/she is.

But my subject today is not the Small Potato archetype and its persistent manifestations as the main character in escapist harem fantasies. As above, so below – at the same time harem fantasies expanded as a genre in the anime industry, its opposite twin – the hermetic series full of recondite metaphors and complex commentary on the nature of Existence – also emerged.

And just as the Small Potato is a stable of harem fantasies, the Creator God/Goddess/Godhead is likewise a stable of the hermetic show – to the extent that the “main character” is sometimes (but not always) the Creator him/herself.

Seriously, can you count how many times you have met the Creator in anime?

Mind Game

In Mind Game, the Creator is perceived by the human mind as a series of changing images flashing at crazily high speed. The Creator appears as a pink creature in one second, a bird next, and then a sexy woman, a blue talking balloon, a bull, a sumo wrestler… you get the idea.

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[Aesthetics] For the love of beauty: cell phone made of Japanese cypress, furoshiki, and women’s lingerie

If you need any evidence of how beauty and craftsmanship are fused into objects of mundane life in Japan, I point to you a line of niche cell phones made of Japanese cypress wood called Touch Wood SH-08C.

TouchWoodLest you miss the point, the DoCoMo promotion flyer of this spells out in small print that:

The wood grain and texture of each handset is different.

The fact that it is a handset offered by a mainstream carrier like DoCoMo speaks volume of the aesthetic sensibilities of Japan. (And let’s not forget that Japanese cypress is a scented wood too.)

Another manifestation of this artistic infusion into daily life that fascinates me is furoshiki - I have a collection of nearly 100 of them in different sizes and fabrics. I rotate them as the season changes; in spring, I use the ones with spring patterns such as cherry flowers; in summer, those with bamboo patterns, and so on. Below is a portion of them in photos:

The PRM collection of furoshiki #1
The PRM collection of furoshiki #2

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[Idea] From how to use Twitter as an I Ching oracle, to Jungian synchronicities, to Groupname for Grapejuice

meihuayishuIn the Song Dynasty, the Chinese philosopher Shao Yong (1011 – 1077) was watching two birds fighting over a plum tree branch one day, and became inspired to perfect a way to obtain I Ching hexagrams that did away with the traditional methods of counting yarrow sticks or throwing coins altogether. He method was that the adept should rely on his inner intuition and sensory perception of the outer world, take combinations of any of the below random elements that seized his attention when he had a question in mind, and convert them into corresponding trigrams/hexagrams to answer his own question. The elements are (but not exclusive to):

  • The year, month, date, hour when something happens (ie. time of birth, the appearance of a visitor, an event etc) or when you ask the question
  • The number of countable objects
  • The number of sounds (ie. cries of animals, knocks on the door etc)
  • The numerical measurement of objects (ie. its length and width etc)
  • The number of strokes of Chinese words (ie. of something someone says in speech or writing, of the name of someone or something etc)
  • The shape, colour or texture of objects
  • The profile of an individual (ie. random people you run into the street like an elderly man, a maiden or a grown man, what they are wearing or holding in their hand etc)
  • The cardinal directions of north, east, south, west (ie. of some animal coming towards you, the source of the wind or sound etc)

For example, you may take the date and hour when you ask the question and convert the number into the inner trigram, and take the number of knocks on the door you heard just now and convert the number into the outer trigram, and combine the two into a hexagram.

In other words, the adept should be able to compute a hexagram in his head without moving a finger – just by sitting there and letting the outer world impinge on his senses. Continue reading

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[Anime] “Mou Hitotsu no Mirai wo” – animation short by Production I.G. x Kenji Kamiyama

To those of you who wonder whatever happened to Kenji Kamiyama (director of Ghost in the Shell: Standalone Complex, Seirei no Moribito, Higashi no Eden), he has been working on this:

The above is the first of a 3-episode SF series called Mou Hitotsu no Mirai wo [もうひとつの未来を] which is, in a nutshell, part of KDDI’s marketing campaign launched in December 2013.

The story is set in “au Future Laboratory” [au未来研究所] where a new mobile phone technology to make one-way calls to the future is being developed. In the story, only two young people, Daisuke Kido and Yu Mizue, are found compatible with this technology. In a test call, Daisuke finds out by phoning his friend in the future that he has died from an explosion accident at the laboratory…

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