Every good story, nay, every story, has a question at its heart. A question that the story revolves around, a question the story not only seeks to answer, but presents itself as an answer to. Every story, except some
Understanding this question can often shape the way you look at a story. Things that you did not understand their “Why?”, the reason they occured, and that had seemed meaningless, are suddenly seen in a new light. You construct the story and give it a theme, of answering the question, of resisting the question, and so on.
Most interesting is the analogy of coloured glasses, or a point of view. Many people see a different story being told, a different theme. And in many cases, there are many “legitimate” answers, and switching from one question to another can help you consider the story from different directions.
An anime I absolutely love is Code Geass. Many people have found Code Geass, and especially its second season to be lacking, in some way. I try to get them to look at this “question” that the series poses as its theme in order to help them see the series as I see it, and hopefully appreciate it as I do. The question Code Geass poses is this, “At what cost victory?”
The first season is quite light-hearted, in a way. We see what Lelouch is willing to do, who he is willing to quash, what he will do in order to secure victory, and the world he is looking to establish. The second series is where the question which the protagonist thought he answered decisively in the first season returns, and the protagonist is told that his answer is unsatisfactory, his resolve untested, and that he must demonstrate further conviction.
This blog post will discuss, or at least raise the question, of what exactly is a Mecha Anime, and raise the argument that most anime where mecha appear are in fact not fact Mecha Anime.
China Miéville, for those who don’t know him is a British sci-fi/fantasy author whom I am quite fond of, and who is to put it succintly, an “Urban Author”. China Mieville wrote King Rat, which also deals with London, and the city’s feel, and environs. China Mieville writes in a word called Bas-Lag, the first book deals with the city of New Crobuzon, and the politics of the city, its ethnic (of races) make-up, etc.
His book from 2009 (which I am dearly waiting to acquire) is titled The City & The City, and I assume you can see how cities stand at its core.
The point I am trying to make is, that while in most stories we have cities, in most of them these cities are a backdrop to the action, and don’t figure heavily into the narrative. They are not major characters in the story, and far too often are not even truly supporting characters.
Not so in Mieville’s books, where the city is often as important a character as any of the protagonists and antagonists who make up the story, and while it often doesn’t show itself in any concentrated manner, it appears in small ways interweaved with anything that occurs.
So, this is the point from which I wish to discuss mecha in anime. Just like in many books and series, the city is just a backdrop, or even glossed over completely, in many anime series, including ones that bill themselves as “mecha anime”, the mecha are not a core part of the story, and even if they supposedly are, it’s not often in the “right” way.
Foreward: This entry was written by myself back at April 2007. The last book was not yet written. I thought it’s interesting, so I am going to share it (with minor cleaning up); especially seeing what I covered in my 100th post, regarding slash-fic. Anyway, onward we go.
There is no sex in Harry Potter.
As far as we know, all the non-parent characters are virgins. We know Harry is a virgin, Ron is a virgin unless he got some action during his summer vacations, which is unlikely, living at home and far away from civilization and other humans.
Hermione is the most likely one to have had sex, seeing she spends her summer vacations amongst humanity, and we know very little of what she does during that time.
We know the characters’ parents, and parental characters had sex, but we only know of it because they have children.
This is a rather prudish way of handling things.
Sometimes you come across something that is perfect. A moment frozen in time that you can return to time and time again. Books can be good at that. Such a perfect book for me when I was a child, that I still read every several years, is The Brothers Lionheart, by Astrid Lindgren who is best known for writing Pippi Longstocking.
I first read this book in the third grade. A story about life and death, a story about living under occupation, of fighting for freedom where freedom should be assured for you, for life after death, about death after death. It is a story about sacrifice, of growing up, of love, of loving your older brother, of being loved by your older brother. It is a story about being weak. It is a story about mythology.
What is the plot about? Karl adores his big brother Jonatan, and they die, then they get to live in this land beyond death, but treachery and an evil tyrant loom over the peaceful valleys. And things progress from there.
When I tell you that the book is perfect, and that I really love it, I mean it. Look on its Amazon page, out of 53 reviews, 50 give it a five stars. That’s almost unprecedented. We have two copies of this book in our household, as I was unwilling to give the book to my younger siblings to read. This book, it is just mine.
This book does not cut corners. The protagonist is a ten-year-old boy. I read it as a nine-year-old boy, the first time. And yet, as you can see, those are some really heady issues that the book does not shirk from. You get to face these issues squarely as Karl, the protagonist, does. This book speaks to children without making light their capability to understand these topics. As such, it’s also a book that you’d be perfectly happy to read as an adult, because it’s a book that speaks in the language it does, not trying to speak to children or over their heads.
I don’t have much to say of this book, because I have SO much to say of the book. I could write thousands and thousands of words about the book, but it’d be best if you’d read it. I could write thousands upon thousands of words regarding the book, but I’d rather do it in a discussion with you guys, and not here from my position as a blogger.
I have said often before that one of the main criteria I use to judge books is its emotional impact. I can use that criteria to judge this book. Both using that criteria, and not using that criteria, this book is just about perfect.
This book gets a 10/10 score, and only because I can’t give it 11.
So what are your favourite childhood books, and why? And do you think you’ll still enjoy them today?
Discworld and Deus Ex Machinas; Foreshadowed DEM are still DEM.
So I’ve been reading, well more like re-reading, some of my old Discworld novels recently (ny Terry Pratchett), and something hit me as I reached the book that stopped the manner in which I’ve read them, the onslaught, the flood. The book was Making Money, the second Moist von Lipwig book.
The fact that I’ve read that book reasonably recently probably also had a part in it, as my memory of it was still pretty fresh. But the issue that came up in this book is one that had come up in other Discworld books as well, in a manner at least, but it is in another iteration what makes up for Discworld’s “charm”. The issue is that of Deus Ex Machinas, so to speak.
Discworld books often have iterations and re-iterations of things. We have a specific issue crop up time and time again in a book, and that is part of what makes it “Funny”. Scare-quote funny in parts, genuinely funny in others. Anyway, it is the repetition that gives things power, as we either get the same idea across time and time again in the same manner, or with subtle changes.
The idea that comes up, or the sentence, in The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, for instance was “He could to take down a dog,” which is usually applies to rats, so it’s quite some feat. At a certain point in the book we’re told that X was strong enough to take down a dog, but Y was strong/mad enough to take down a wolf. And let me tell you, after we read the same sentence time and time again, in the context that this was posted, it made me all teary-eyed. It hit hard, the way that it was changed.
Yes, I know this post is long overdue, but once you slide off, it’s really easy to keep not posting. I am posting this now and not procrastinating (even longer) because once I get this up, I will return to posting. Expect some editorials on what I’ve been doing (miniatures mainly), and the promised “Geekhood in Israel” which will be interwoven with my own personal story of ascending to Geekhood Godhood, because it’s my story.
Speaking of stories (which is one of my favourite topics), you might remember my Micro-Fiction of the “Nameless man”. That was a homage, and as such, it really was a “genre” snippet.
Writing or telling in genre can be easy or hard. When your goal is to mimic and recreate a genre, it’s sometimes hard to not overdo it, to make it clear that you are drawing and referencing ye olde favourite genre while not being too hackneyed. It also keeps you very self-conscious, because genres are often less about what you tell and more about how you tell it; both the shape and form of the story, and the construction of the sentences. You really pay attention to every word.
Of course, some people just write, and since they think in this genre, whatever comes out will be of the genre, without them giving this much thought. But then, it’s not really homage, it’s just how they write.
Anime is a medium, but it also is a genre to a degree. It has tropes to itself, and certainly to its subgenres, such as “Determinator Shounen”, “Moe”, “High school”, “Dating sim romance”, etc. And part of what I’ve spoken about before regarding comedies, and how we’re all about the “insider jokes” to show and prove (even if only to ourselves) that we are “in the know”? That’s not just tidbits, it’s also the genre-trappings, the things that happen which show us we are actually watching something “of the genre”.
Anyway, here’s a small genre-entry. You guys shouldn’t have a hard time recognizing the genre; provided you like reading
The God-Machines of Atria Crumbled.
Well, this month had school, school, and some more school. Anime offerings were a bit sparse, but I made up for it elsewhere. I think this month I’ll make a separate post again for the monetary expenditures, heh. I think I’ll give some items here a bit more details.
This is one of the main sections of the Basterds, who are not really the main characters, if you ask me. It also makes you think (if you watch it in an inquisitive mindset), about who’re “The good guys”.
Words like “Atmosphere” are usually reserved more for our other senses: Movies, theatre, music. Yet, look at Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, by Susanna Clarke, where if you come reading the book solely for the story, you may very well leave satisfied, but you will also have to come equipped with considerable patience, whereas those who come for the atmosphere will be sated throughout the whole lengthy book (1,024 pages).
Whether the book gives the atmosphere prevalent in the period it occurs (early 19th century) I do not know, but it is saturated with atmosphere. The language and spelling used also calls back to that used in England a couple hundred years ago, as reading Hume‘s “A Treatise of Human Nature” would shew you.
Furthermore, the book makes extensive use of footnotes, by the author of the text (whoever that is), in which we both learn (fictional) historical details, mainly of magic, and old fables from the world Clarke had crafted. These footnotes sometimes go on for several pages, but the content they add is both charming and gives off the sense that this is a semi-academic write-up on the topic, which considering Mr Norrell’s nature, is not entirely misplaced.
I’ve recently re-read the book, which indeed was somewhat of an undertaking, and surprisingly, it wasn’t as slow as I have remembered, but it was still somewhat slow. Considering the length of the book, if you look at a certain percentage of a book as exposition, then this book’s may be longer than most people would accept. You see, while what is happening in the beginning of the book is definitely interesting, it is also quite slow.
The first section begins with a quote from later in the book, regarding Mr Norrell, who is the main character in the first section, which goes, “He hardly ever spoke of magic, and when he did it was like a history lesson and no one could bear to listen to him.” Now, to be frank, Mr Norrell is an unsympathetic little git whom none of you would like. He is tedious and petty, but at least in that section much of the emphasis is placed upon the social circles of London at the time.
Once we reach Jonathan Strange, the story picks up considerably, being more interesting, being more action-packed, with conflicts between people and nations, and magical mischief taking place. Though the book does sag again slightly for a while towards the end, but it contains depths upon which to feast yourself, and the pace may be intentionally slow.
Now, if you read for the story, which you look at as what “happens” in the book, then it may take a while for it to get going, but if you are willing to sit back and enjoy the atmosphere, the panorama laid out before you, then you’re in for a treat, at least, if you like that sort of atmosphere. It’s a seven-course meal, and stamina is necessary. The story is not bad, but it’s not the book’s strongest suit, which is the feel it invokes.
Now, for a slight comparison, look at movies, which we often go to not for the message they carry, or the story they tell (which is what I accused Watchmen of lacking), but for the emotional response they raise within us. Sometimes they do it with cheap tricks we can see, and sometimes we are affected nevertheless. Eastwood’s Gran Torino is an example for a movie that I liked, regardless of any message it may tried to pass. It hit you, and that was enough. That it was well crafted was a bonus.
Scores? Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell wins 5 barometers, and 3-3.5 on the story front, and Gran Torino lays out 4 punches to the gut.