Tag Archives: Japanese

Conflicted About “47 Ronin”

Related Post: Attack on Titan: Analogy to World War II.

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From Left to Right: Rinko Kikuchi, Tadanobu Asano, Hiroyuki Sanada, Keanu Reeves, and Kou Shibasaki.
Disclaimer: I do not own this image!!

I am very conflicted about going to see 47 Ronin starring Keanu Reeves in theaters December 25th.

On one hand, the film seems to have little to do with Chūshingura (忠臣蔵), the original kabuki (歌舞伎) play I read in the “Traditional Japanese Literature” class I took at Sophia University (上智大学) in Tokyo. Moreover, the film has reportedly not done well with Japanese audiences.

BUT, on the other hand, I really want to support the amazing selection of Japanese actors cast in the film. And, for that reason, I’ve devised the following list…

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Disclaimer: I do not own this image!!

Hiroyuki Sanada (真田広之)

  • Best known for in the U.S.: Dogen on Lost (Season 6).
  • Notable Accolades: He performed with the Royal Shakespeare Company and received an honorary MBE award.
  • Why is he awesome?: While filming The Last Samurai (2003), he almost cut off Tom Cruise’s head (“Cruise has brush with death”).
  • Film Recommendations: Sanada-san stars in my favorite samurai film The Twilight Samurai (2002). This film has only two fight scenes (one short and one long), but they are both jaw-dropping in their seemingly effortless choreography and will have you on the edge of your seat!

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Disclaimer: I do not own this image!!

Disclaimer: I do not own this image!!

Kou Shibasaki (柴咲コウ)

  • Best known for in the U.S.: Mitsuko Souma in Battle Royale (2000); she was slated to play Gogo Yubari’s twin sister Yuki in Kill Bill, but dropped out due to other commitments.
  • Notable Accolades: She won a Japanese Academy Award for her performance in Go (2001).
  • Why is she awesome?: She starred in the first Japanese television drama I ever watched called Orange Days (2004) in which she played a deaf character, performing all her lines in Japanese sign language.  Plus, she’s an adorable pop singer (“KISS Shite” by KOH+).
  • Film Recommendations: Shibasaki-san stars alongside Joe Odagiri in one of my favorite Japanese films called La Maison de Himiko (2005) about a young woman who is asked by her dying father’s young male lover to work in her father’s nursing home for gay men.

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Disclaimer: I do not own this image!!

Rinko Kikuchi (菊地凛子)

  • Best known for in the U.S.: Mako Mori in Pacific Rim (2013).
  • Notable Accolades: She was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance in Babel (2006).
  • Wh is she awesome?: She’s the first Japanese actress in 50 years to be nominated for an Oscar! Plus, she’s appeared in a number of films with Tadanobu Asano (see below) including his directorial debut Tori (2003).
  • Film Recommendations: I absolutely adore The Brothers Bloom (2009), starring Rachel Weisz, Adrien Brody, Mark Ruffalo, and (of course) Rinko Kikuchi!! :) Kikuchi-san silently pantomimes throughout this film and is an absolute delight to watch.

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Disclaimer: I do not own this image!!

Tadanobu Asano (浅野忠信)

ONE OF MY ALL-TIME FAVORITE ACTORS!

Some of these film recommendations might be hard to find outside of Japan. If you’re having trouble finding a title and really want to watch it, message me at gegallas@hotmail.com and I’ll see if I can help! :)

Also, for those of you who go see 47 Ronin, leave a comment here and let me know what you think!

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Copyright 2013 by G. E. Gallas


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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Please visit my store: thepoetandtheflea.storenvy.com!

For more updates, follow me on facebooktumblr and twitter.

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Copyright 2013 by G. E. Gallas


Cannes/London 2013: Compilation

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Here is a compilation of all the posts regarding my Cannes/London 2013 trip. Please enjoy!

  1. Pre-Travel Planning
  2. Bon Voyage, See You in June!
  3. Saturday May 11th
  4. Sunday, May 12th
  5. Monday, May 13th
  6. Tuesday, May 14th
  7. Wednesday, May 15th
  8. Thursday, May 16th
  9. Friday, May 17th
  10. Saturday, May 18th
  11. Sunday, May 19th
  12. Monday, May 20th
  13. Tuesday, May 21st
  14. Wednesday, May 22nd
  15. Thursday, May 23rd
  16. Friday, May 24th
  17. Saturday, May 25th
  18. Sunday, May 26th
  19. Monday, May 27th
  20. Tuesday, May 28th
  21. Tuesday, May 28th @ Tate Britain
  22. Tuesday, May 28th @ Tate Britain, William Blake Rooms
  23. Wednesday, May 29th
  24. Wednesday, May 29th @ National Portrait Gallery
  25. Thursday, May 30th

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Copyright 2013 by G. E. Gallas


Cannes/London 2013: Thursday, May 30th

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Eros in Piccadilly Circus.

Today — Elena, Laura and I explored the William Blake historic sites. We met at Piccadilly Circus and walked over to Saint James’s Church, where Blake was baptized. The baptismal font is still there, with very intricate carvings of Adam and Eve. It’s amazing to think that Blake was once a baby who could fit in that font!

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St. James’s Church.

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A Blake quote welcoming visitors of St. James’s.

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Another side of St. James’s.

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The baptismal font.

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Closeup of the baptismal font.

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Inside St. James’s.

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A different angle inside St. James’s.

Then, we took a double-decker bus through the city all the way across the Thames to Battersea to visit Saint Mary’s Church were Blake and Catherine were married. We almost got lost since there were a number of similar churchs in the area, but we managed to find the right one. The ladies in the church were a bit confused at first by our presence. But when I told them that we are Blake enthusiasts, they immediately understood.

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Inside the double-decker bus!

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St. Mary’s Church Battersea

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View across the Thames.

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Inside St. Mary’s.

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Inside St. Mary’s: stained-glass window commemorating Blake.

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Detail of stained glass.

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Another detail of stained glass.

After that, we went to visit Blake’s grave at Bunhill Fields. It was a very old but charming cemetary, and it was fascinating watching them in the process of restoring some of the old crypts and tombstones. I left a simple offering at Blake’s gravestone — an apple — and also explored the green where Blake’s physical body is supposed to have been buried (I believe The Friends of William Blake are trying to raise money and/or petition for a special monument at Blake’s actual burial site).

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Bunhill Fields is quite serene.

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A memorial obelisk to Daniel Defoe.

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Blake and Catherine’s grave marker.

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A simple offering.

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Blake’s actual remains are somewhere around here, I think.

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Didn’t get a chance to go in… Next time!

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John Bunyan‘s tomb.

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Another angle of Bunyan’s tomb.

Then, we went to visit Westminster Abbey. Here, I unfortunately got separated from Elena and Laura, and we couldn’t find each other again. :( But I’m glad I went, even though it was a bit overwhelming to take in. I especially enjoyed the Poets’ Corner where I saw commemorations to Lord Byron, Lewis Carroll and Blake among others.

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Big Ben/Elizabeth Tower.

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Approaching Westminster Abbey.

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Westminster Abbey!

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I spy the London Eye!

The absolute highlight of my day — and possibly even my trip — was the British Museum’s Department of Prints and Drawings. I didn’t get to see all that much of the museum proper, but inside this department I was allowed to handle and examine an original print of Blake’s Songs of Innocence and of Experience. When I say “prints,” I mean a copy made by Blake himself on his own printing press!! I was able to see many of my favorite poems — “The Tyger,” “The Fly,” “The Sick Rose,” etc. The prints are indescribably complex and beautiful, and surprisingly tiny. It was amazing rereading these poems as they were originally meant to be read! After that, I enjoyed afternoon tea at the museum for a surprisingly reasonable price. And I ate every last sandwich, cake, and scone. :D

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Inside The British Museum.

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Afternoon tea is about to commence.

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Now I feel that my trip is complete.

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I ate every last crumb!

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Scones and clotted cream.

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That was fun!

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See ya’ later, British Museum!

Tomorrow, back to San Francisco!

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Above is the last entry of the journal I wrote during my Cannes/London trip.

Overall, this trip was an amazing experience and I’m glad I was able to do almost everything I planned to.

I met so many amazing people along the way and was inspired by everything I encountered.

I hope you all enjoyed reading these posts!

Best,

G. E.

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

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Copyright 2013 by G. E. Gallas


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