Monday, April 14, 2008

Samurai from Space

Samurai From Outer Space: Understanding Japanese Animation by Antonia Levi

I recently read this book. Overall it is a pretty good and fairly informative book though I do not agree with everything it said. This is an older book so some of it was out of date for example buying sub vs dub since most anime is now released on DVD with both dubbed audio track and subtitles. Though it is interesting on how anime fans differ from now and the the time the book was written.

Since I mostly write on Ranma ½, I think I'll stick to telling what the book said about it. The book credits Rumiko Takahashi (creator of Ranma ½) for things she actually wasn't involved with. Sure they were her characters but she had very little involvement with the anime and the movies (as far as I know she was only consulted for a few of the very first episodes). For example; The first movie was written by Shuji Iuchi and the second movie was written by Ryota Yamaguchi. I've heard rumors that the second movie is a parody of the Asgard Saga in Saint Seiya but I haven't watched Saint Seiya and don't know if it's true or not.

The book mentions that Takahashi sees that ninja has no place in the modern world citing Sasuke as an example. She did not create that character the anime writers did. As for having no place in the world I don't know about that Ranma at least in the manga frequently uses ninja techniques.

The book does do a pretty good job explaining religion in Japan which isn't that easy to do. It also did a fairly good job in explaining the Sempai-Kohai relationship between Ranma and Tatewaki Kuno. Basically Ranma doesn't comply. Since Kuno is Ranma's upperclassman Ranma should show Kuno respect regardless of personal merits something Ranma does not do. Kuno as Ranma's upperclassman is basically allowed to boss Ranma around, but Ranma doesn't like people doing that.

Something that I found interesting is that it made mention of Ranma learning about being a girl. In particular it mentions receiving unwanted male attention (Kuno and Mikado) and discrimination for being female. This is true Ranma does encounter that but I don't think Ranma sees those as being solely problems females have after all Ranma also has unwanted female attention (Kodachi and Shampoo) and has been discriminated for being male (Akane amongst others has done so). Ranma also will use the positives of being female to his advantage as well for example, If he wants to do something that is socially unacceptable for a male to do he'll turn female.

The book mentions something blatantly wrong. It says “it is Ranma's support that allows Akane to make her first statement of individuality by cutting her hair short.” Akane did not cut her hair out of some statement of individuality, she didn't cut her hair at all. It got cut accidentally during a fight between Ranma and Ryoga then was styled by Kasumi. The reason it was cut is I think two fold. Reason one: It's a pun something Takahashi loves. The pun is the words "kega nakatta" (she wasn't hurt) and "ke ga naku natta" (her hair went away). The second reason is in Japan when a girl gets her hair cut it is a sign that a girl was dumped by her boyfriend in this case it symbolizes she's going to give up on Dr. Tofu.

She mentions how Japanese mothers rule the household and generally bring order to the house hold and is the backbone of a family. This is one of the reasons so many anime have dead mothers and useless fathers. Using Akane's mom as an example would be ok since the mother is not there to bring order to the household. Problem is she use Ranma's mom. Stating how Ranma's mom brought order to the household. While my view of Ranma's mom is based on the manga and not the anime so it maybe true she brings harmony to the tendo house in the anime. In the manga, not so much her presence just brings a different type of chaos which can be easily seen if you look at the pill box fiasco and the plan to make Ranma look manly in her eyes (having Ranma sneak to view Akane bathing).

Overall the book is an alright read and what it talks about culture and history is pretty accurate. What it says about anime or specific animes is not so accurate. Part of why the view on comparing anime with the american viewpoint is not accurate is simply because of how the american view point changed and her choice of anime. Personally I feel the book would have been better if it talked less about fandom and western viewpoints. It should have stuck to explaining Japanese culture and history and how it effects anime.

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