Friday, July 21, 2006

If you haven't yet read parts 1 and 2 of this diatribe you really ought to do that now. Otherwise you won't understand what on earth I'm on about.

For the Hatred of ElvesTM - Part 3

I am not the biggest fan of japanese anime and games, but after being forced by certain of my acquaintance to compromise at the video store, by playing games that I feel obliged to play and watching multicultural public television, I have come to admit that there’s something in it.
I’m not into all that cutesy, tentacly, big watery-eyed stuff. It’s not really my thing. But as someone pointed out to me once, there’s more to anime than that.

I applaud these Japanese creators for doing their research. I haven’t delved down to l33t levels with this material, but what I have seen gives me the impression that these are intelligent men and women of the world who are widely read, taking an interest in many different periods of history, geographical sources, philosophy, science etc., with all this resulting in a farrago of influences in their fantasy worlds. These people are clearly better educated even in our cultural history than many of us.

They do, it is true, often recontextualise and interpret their findings in odd ways (but haven’t we seen a swathe of European history given a bizarrely American treatment in countless games?). While they may use their Western borrowings in a manner that is sometimes a bit jarring, quaint or not comme il faut from our point of view, at least one doesn’t get the feeling that one is being assaulted by volley upon volley of the same old, recycled pseudo-medieval shite. After all, to bore another is surely the greater aesthetic insult. And even if the storylines are often a bit dull, the clothes are excellent, and it’s all so fresh, weird and wonderful to the jaded eye.

Perhaps Japanese artists feel a sort of freedom that their Western counterparts no longer enjoy. They go about breaking rules and mixing their cultural metaphors perhaps because they are not bogged down by the weight of expectations: by an audience that's going to jump up and criticise them for getting the number of Goblin toes wrong. Perhaps they care less about "authenticity" and established conventions and more about fantasy (I say this in full appreciation of the irony in doing so).

And most laudibly, they don’t seem to think that intellectual concepts are too high-brow for their audience. The deliberately confuse us, often don’t fill out their back stories (with those tediously exhaustive and over-literal tracts) and leave questions unanswered. They refuse to water down the strange and are unafraid of the unfamiliar.

to be continued...



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