February 24, 2011
Anime genre horror (2)
Horror is a popular genre in manga and anime, especially Twilight Zone-style short stories and an often preachy permutation in which a supernatural grim reaper deals out justice and balances the cosmic scales, an existential Death Wish. I'd put Kino's Journey in the former category, and xxxHolic and Hell Girl in the latter.
I enjoyed the feature-length xxxholic: A Midsummer Night's Dream because it told the story and wrapped everything up in an hour. Mushi-shi is one of the most inventive permutations, about an Edo Period "Bug Master" who controls swarms of supernatural insect-like creatures. Unfortunately, I kept waiting for some interesting relationships to develop, and none did.
With series, after a couple of episodes, no matter how slick and clever, seen one, seen them all (sorry, but the same goes for Twilight Zone episodes too). I want to watch it adding up to something, not be told it did. Give me "high concept," bubble-gum actioners or take the time to develop a character arc beyond "indifferent hero makes sure jerk gets what's coming to him."
No discussion of Japanese anime horror is complete without a discussion of tentacle porn. But like splatter flicks, it is too devoid of ideas to offend me other than aesthetically. It also doesn't interest me in the slightest, even after a prurient fashion.
I seem to recall that the original Demon City Shinjuku (1988) movie had some tentacle porn. I'm translating the novel right now for Digital Manga. I've only got forty pages to go and haven't encountered any tentacle porn, so it seems to have been "creative" addition. In any case, the book is a lot better.
Japanese writers don't let a paucity of knowledge about the subject get in the way of borrowing heavily from European tropes and Christianity in general. In fact, that is a source of a lot of the fun! (Peter Payne likes to point out that Japanese are similarly unoffended by ignorant Hollywood nonsense about Japan.)
Hellsing (original preferred) definitely qualifies. It's the Church of England versus the Vatican! With big guns! And vampires! I love it! Its Miltonesque protagonist proves that, indeed, the devil gets all the good lines. What if the devil decided to fight on the side of good, not because he got his soul back like Angel, but because evil was so utterly hackneyed and boring?
Witch Hunter Robin is yet another X-Files/Angel-type mash-up. Super-secret police organization for tracking down supernatural ne're-do-wells employs a real witch, who uncovers bigger conspiracy Behind It All and Must Be Stopped! Japanese SF/F writers love this formula. Again, it posits the Catholic Church as the omniscient, omnipresent Smoking Man.
You know you've arrived as a world-wide religion when it generates so many stories about world-wide conspiracies.
Someday's Dreamers is not horror per se. Yume is a witch, but as with Kamichu! and Kiki's Delivery Service, this is a given in the modern world. Think Harry Potter without the muggle divide and no vaudevillian bad guys. The series begins with Yume arriving in Tokyo from the sticks to get her witch's license, which has a lot more in common with social work than magic.
The animation is so-so and the episodes clunk along didactically at times, but the concept itself is executed almost perfectly (I define a great concept as one I immediately want to rip off).
Two oddly similar and very good non-horror, life-after-death dramas: Haibane Renmei and After Life (live action).
And for something completely off the supernatural wall, the manga Saint Young Men is about Jesus and Buddha hanging out together in Tokyo. It's iconoclastic but not sacrilegious (if you don't mind divine beings kicking back and poking gentle fun at each other), and is very sweet at times without becoming cloying. (No authorized English edition, but scanlations aplenty).