Tag Archives: Curiosity

Attack on Titan: Analogy to World War II

Okay, I just had to get this off my chest…

The Japanese manga and anime series Attack on Titan made absolutely zero sense to me until I realized it is an unmistakable analogy to World War II.

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All over the internet, I kept seeing disturbing images of a giant human with no skin. I’m not particularly squeamish about violence in the media — most horror movies drive me into a fit of hysterical laughter. Plus, I’m generally fascinated by the macabre.  But certain things just get to me. Like the part in the brilliant Pan’s Labyrinth when Captain Vidal’s face is mutilated and he sews it back together (though I adore the Pale Man). Or in Boardwalk Empire (one of my favorite shows) when Richard Harrow (one of my favorite characters) scalps another character without hesitation.  And this giant skinless human is no different — sending shivers down my spine!

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Image from Attack on Titan
Disclaimer: I do not own this image!!

I soon discovered that this giant skinless human is from a series called Attack on Titan (進撃の巨人, Shingeki no Kyoujin). When I first became interested in Japan around middle school, I used to watch a lot of anime. But I tend towards live-action series or movies nowadays (a wonderful tool for practicing my language skills). I do find the occasional anime series like the amazing Gankutsuou (巌窟王): The Count of Monte Cristo (which is actually the most faithful adaptation of Dumas’s masterwork) and the gripping Monster (モンスター) (scheduled to be adapted into live-action for HBO by Guillermo del Toro). In other words, I’m usually extremely picky about my anime. But, after being utterly confused by the Attack on Titan Wikipedia summary, I decided to give the series a try out of pure morbid curiosity.

So, I’ve been working my way through the episodes on Hulu. It might be a bit melodramatic at times and the so-called “Vertical Maneuvering Equipment” that allows the characters to leap around is pretty implausible. But it has a relatively well-constructed plot line and decent character development. The main characters Eren and Mikasa have particularly tragic yet compelling backstories. But I couldn’t help a strange feeling of déjà vu

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A page from Barefoot Gen by Keiji Nakazawa
Disclaimer: I do not own this image!!

And then it hit me! I realized that certain elements of Attack on Titan bear a striking resemblance to the renowned manga Barefoot Gen (はだしのゲン, Hadashi no Gen), about the bombing of Hiroshima and its survivors.

For instance: In Attack on Titan, Eren and Mikasa attempt to free Eren’s mother from underneath their collapsed house. But Eren’s mother begs them to save themselves. Eren and Mikasa, with the help of a city guard names Hannes, flee from danger as Eren’s mother is killed and eaten by a titan. This directly parallels Barefoot Gen. After the atom bomb drops on Hiroshima, Gen and his mother Kimie discover Gen’s father Daikichi and Gen’s siblings trapped underneath their collapsed house. Gen and Kimie attempt to free the rest of the family before they are consumed by the fire that has broken out all across the city. But Daikichi begs them to save themselves. Gen and Kimie are forced to flee from danger.

This parallel leads me to believe that the humanoid titans may have been inspired by the victims of the atom bombs. In Hiroshima and Nagasaki, many victim’s skin melted off or hung from their bodies in tatters. These victims must have been in excruciating pain and are depicted moving very slowly and blindly, almost like zombies. Although the titans are not meant to be sympathized with (at least not yet) as one would sympathize with the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, their movements are very similar. In this context, the one skinless titan makes so much more sense to me. I really won’t be surprised if the series reveals that the titans are resulted from a human scientific experiment gone wrong and that we are indeed meant to sympathize with them.

Attack on Titan‘s analogy to World War II does not stop with the atom bombs. The series often explores themes related to militarism, group mentality, and self-sacrfice — topics often associated with Japan during World War II as well as World War II across the board.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Perhaps I’ll post more correlations between Attack on Titan and Barefoot Gen as I continue watching!

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Copyright 2013 by G. E. Gallas


October 2010: VAMPS at Roseland Ballroom, NYC

I can’t believe it’s already been two years since I saw VAMPS in New York City. I made so many great friends in line, and I still communicate with them via Facebook today! –G. E.

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Waiting for Hyde:

Curiosity Killed The Average New Yorker

It was 7 in the morning when a skinny, middle-aged woman in a tracksuit jogged up to us and asked “What are you guys waiting for?”

Carey, one of many fellow fans I had met for the first time that very morning, asked her friend Shannon to hand her the signs. After receiving the pile of lined paper from Shannon, Carey proceeded to display the first page to the skinny woman. In crude Sharpie marker, the sign read:

We are here for VAMPS.

After staring at the words for a moment with a confused expression on her face, the skinny woman responded by asking, “What is that?” Carey tucked the first page behind the others to reveal the second sign.

They are a Japanese rock group!

“VAMPS” is the popular side-project band of Japanese rock star Hyde. In Japan, “Hyde” has been a household name for over a decade.

Hyde’s major band, L’Arc~en~Ciel, keeps busy dishing out one hit single after another and playing Tokyo Dome (a venue with more than twice the capacity of Madison Square Garden) for the umpteenth time. This year, the band celebrates its 20th anniversary.

Hyde performing at the Roseland Ballroom in New York City.

Although Hyde doesn’t sport fame in the United States equivalent to that of bands like Green Day per se, his fame among American Japanophiles is enough to earn VAMPS a spot in the 2009 Vans Warped Tour and a 2010 World Tour including four concerts across America.

On Saturday, October 9th, I attended VAMPS’s concert at The Roseland Ballroom in New York City.

After reading the second sign with an increasingly confused expression on her face, the skinny woman asked “How long have you all been here?” Carey revealed the third sign.

Yes, we’ve been here ALL DAY.

VAMPS fan Carey and her signs.

My friends thought me insane for heading over to the venue at 5 in the morning. But I knew better. By the time I got to Roseland, there was already a block filled with VAMPS fans standing in line for the 8 p.m. concert.

By “standing,” I mean fans huddled in blankets, sleeping sprawled out on the dog-piss-covered Manhattan sidewalk.

Chatting in line, I could tell that these fans were truly dedicated.

According to Josh (a friendly, chubby VAMPS fan dressed in a kangaroo costume for some unknown reason), some fans had been waiting in line since Wednesday.

Many had come in from Syracuse, Connecticut and the like. Some – such as die-hard fan Mayline – had flown all the way from faraway places – in Mayline’s case, Puerto Rico – just for the concert. Mayline had even lied about a death in the family just to get time off work.

The skinny woman, confused as ever, continued asking questions. And for every question, Carey had a pre-made sign with the corresponding answer. “7 in the morning, and Carey was already an expert at this,” I thought to myself. “Only 13 hours to go.”

Taxi drivers stopped at the light would shout out their windows at us. We would shout back and, once the light turned green, they would drive away still chuckling.

Tourists stood with their cameras snapping pictures of us. Fans in line would retaliate with their own cameras. Upon seeing cameras flashing in their direction, the tourists would flee.

Theater-goers would ask us, “Is this the line for Jersey Boys?” or “Is this the line for Promises, Promises?” They would leave moping about how young people don’t appreciate Broadway anymore.

Sometime during the afternoon, the VAMPS American tour manager came around and handed out flyers with Hyde’s face on them. We figured the flyers would make our lives easier, a visual tool to show curious passersby.

VAMPS World Tour official flyer.

Unfortunately, the flyer just seemed to confuse people more.

Around 5 p.m. and about the gazillionth curious passerby, VAMPS fans in line started getting fed up with all the questions. Down the line, we started hearing people walking past, complaining, “Why didn’t anyone tell me there was a Justin Bieber concert today?”

By that time, the VAMPS line must have already reached the Letterman Show a few blocks up. I can only imagine the kind of hell that part of the line was getting. “What, you’re not here for Letterman? What’s wrong with you?”

After all her questions were answered, the skinny woman seemed disappointed. As she jogged away, she sighed, “Okay then, enjoy yourselves.” She didn’t even stop to read Carey’s last sign:

Thank you for your time! :)

Perhaps the skinny woman would have been less disappointed if Carey’s first sign had read “Bette Midler.”

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2012: L’Arc~en~Ciel went on to become the first Japanese band to headline Madison Square Garden. The “WORLD TOUR 2012 LIVE at Madison Square Garden” concert DVD will be released December 26th.

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Copyright 2012 by G. E. Gallas


Tchotchkes

I created this post a while back, but I only just now got around to completing it.

The other day, I decided to photograph a series of tchotchkes that inhabit my room. I think you can tell a lot about someone from their room/house, especially by what kind of items are just sitting around collecting dust.

For those unfamiliar with the word “tchotchkes”…

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a “tchotchke” is a knickknack, trinket, bauble, doodad, curiosity, etc. The word is Yiddish and, according to Wikipedia, “…has long been used by Jewish-Americans and in the regional speech of New York City and elsewhere.” Furthermore, according to Wikipedia, “Depending on context, the term has a connotation of worthlessness or disposability, as well as tackiness…”

I don’t really consider these things “worthless” or “disposable,” because each object comes with its own memory and nostalgia. But, as you may observe, these objects definitely err on the side of “tacky.”

(Click on images to enlarge.)

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For more updates, don’t forget to follow me on tumblr and/or twitter.

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Copyright 2012 by G. E. Gallas


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