The Samurai and the Dragon (A Gay Shapeshifter Erotic Asian Folktale)
I threw myself into researching the structure and behavior of disease, and the structure and behavior of the organizations which fight disease. I learned things I was happy about, and no one else wanted me to know, largely because I am also a fan of sharing. My editor, being a brave and valiant man, tolerated my gleeful burbling about yellow fever and patterns of infection, partially, I think, because he wanted to see how it would all come together. What would a totally artificial disease do, given free run of the human race? What adaptations would our immune systems make as our bodies tried to deal with the virus?
Would it make any difference that our immune systems no longer needed to deal with cancer or colds? And in the same vein…after a generation or two, would pursuing a cure really be in our best interests, as a species? Suddenly finding yourself free of zombie virus, but also free of inherited immunities, and surrounded by all those carcinogens that we stopped worrying about when cancer went away…that could be more of an issue. Deadline also wound up being about psychological contagions, like fear, and paranoia, and greed. Who controls the spice controls life, according to Herbert; well, who controls the medical establishment controls everything , after the zombies start to rise.
The big idea in Deadline was one of disease, whereas the big idea in Feed was all about infection. On the plus side, it meant I got to have crazy Canadian scientists with big dogs and shotguns. On the negative side…. In talking about her new novel Nightspell for the Big Idea, author Leah Cypess gets a little meta… about the concept of a big idea, and how it relates to writing books, and, of course, specifically this one. And while this sort of recursive examination of big ideas is interesting, considering the context, what it also reveals in a larger sense is how writers can change their approach to writing over the years, and how those changes can benefit the writing.
Cypess takes it from here. When I was a teenager, I was not a believer in Big Ideas in fiction. I wanted my books to tell me good stories and keep me entertained and that was enough; I had plenty of school time for, you know, learning things. I did like intricate plots, though — I read Agatha Christie even more often than Edgar Rice Burroughs — so when I started writing Nightspell at the age of 17, its Big Idea was purely about plot.
Colette Balmain Introduction to Japanese Horror Film | Lalesca Fravoline - hwinterview.dev.conversionagency.it
What if there was a society where murder victims came back as ghosts to try and solve their murders? What would a murder mystery written in that society look like? I wrote about 50 pages of that book, longhand in a spiral-bound blue notebook, before I ran out of steam. The characters never crystallized and the plot spiraled downward in a series of unnecessary complications.
Eventually I gave it up and started writing something new. It took ten years for me to open that notebook again; and during that time, my tastes in fiction had changed. I still think the primary purpose of a story is to entertain… but I also think it can do more than that. I had been won over to the Big Idea concept. It was one of the best classes I took in law school, and only partly because the professor decided to hold it in his living room with an awesome view of the Hudson and provided doughnuts. The class was small and discussion-oriented, and since it was on a Friday morning, the students who enrolled did so because they were sincerely interested in the subject.
My fellow classmates included Mormons, Catholics, agnostics, and undecided; if I recall correctly, two of them had formerly studied to be priests. One of the agnostics maintained that the only way for Americans to live in harmony is for us to all agree on everything not surprisingly, he thought we should all be agnostics. Others argued that it is possible — though difficult — to believe people are completely wrong, and that there are terrible consequences for their wrongness, but to respect their beliefs anyhow.
When I finally re-opened that blue notebook, these questions were still living in my mind. Killers would begin taking care to hide their identities from their victims, so the legions of ghosts would grow larger and larger: Eventually, they would overtake and threaten the living, creating a two-tiered society with suspicion and prejudices on both sides. Or at least, not entirely.
In the end, Nightspell is a combination of two ideas. The book is still set in the world of vengeance-seeking ghosts that stuck in my mind for over ten years, still a murder mystery with princes and swordfights and tangled family relationships. Read the first three chapters.
Follow Cypess on Twitter. For longtime fans of the urban fantasy genre, the Bordertown series of anthologies hardly needs an introduction — it was literally one of the foundations of the genre when it emerged on the publishing scene in Now Welcome to Bordertown , introduces a new generation of readers to that gritty, magical place — and in doing so will open the door for them to a larger gathering of writers and readers who have been there before them.
Well, maybe you can just write a short introduction. And by the way, could you check all the stories to make sure the street names are right? And what are the rules about getting to Bordertown, again? Which left me happily sitting back and writing jacket copy. But maybe I do owe some sort of introduction to the new volume. My first novel, Swordspoint, was still looking for a publisher, without much success. As she explains in her Introduction, a publisher had asked Terri to come up with a new Shared World anthology.
So she was inviting some of the authors she had been nurturing to write something that combined traditional, folkloric elf stuff with the kinds of cities most of us were actually living in: And there I was in the kitchen, hearing all this Bordertown stuff going down, and feeling all uncool and left out. As if I was too busy or too important or too literary or something. But it turned out that the stories were supposed to be about teen runaways meeting on the mean streets, kids who trusted only each other because adults were dangerous.
Other kids were mean to me! After the tightly controlled language and emotions of Swordspoint , writing in the voice of the angsty romantic teen Charis was a fabulous slalom down the slope of story. And it kept on happening.
At a time in my life when I lacked both confidence and discipline, I managed to write a story for every single one of the four volumes of the original anthology series. I could do this because Terri was with me every step of the way. When I was out of ideas, she brainstormed with me. When I was out of confidence, she praised me as in: And when I was out of energy, she gave me a deadline. She wanted there to be a place for all of us to meet, a liminal space between the elfin lands and the life we actually lived.
Which is just what Holly and I are hoping to do with the new volume. Visit the Bordertown series Web site. Nick Mamatas is a hustler; just ask him. Starve Better , his book on writing, and Sensation , a new novel. But Mamatas maintains that despite the difference in the formats of the books, the two works are tied together by a particular set of circumstances. Here he is to tell you what they are. We can blame the current global economic crisis for the existence of my books Starve Better and Sensation , and two previous recessions for the way they were written.
I had a bit of a knack for words, but limited access to computers—I depended on the lab at the New School for Social Research, where I was studying media—and a great and growing need for extra money. When a professor asked me to write something for a special digital-themed issue of Artpapers he was editing, I cranked out a portentous little piece on TinyMUDs, and got a hundred bucks and five contributor copies for my troubles. Being hooked on anything, especially in New York City where everything is possible, is bad news. I can write some short thing, then sell it, I thought, but really had no idea where to begin, despite already having begun.
My friend Kap Seol and I took on a project we actually thought was commercial—translating and editing a first-person account of the US-backed Kwangju Massacre in South Korea—and yes, we were those doofuses who ran home to check the mail every day in case there was a big check waiting for us from whatever tiny left-wing publishers we had submitted the book to. Term papers were short, and I could sell them. I was using an ancient PC with a baud modem to research and write them.
Then the recession was over and the dot. And I even had a clip thanks to that old Artpapers essay. My little left-wing book even found a publisher, a division of the University of California Press. I was never a millionaire on paper remember that term? I even started dabbling in fiction, and blogging. Clearly, I was doomed. A doomed dabbler with a blog. War was in the air. I had to move from dabbler to pro, and quickly. Fifty cents a word, baby, on Genesis P-Orridge, who told me that magick was being fifty years old and never having had a day job.
It was about prison. I even did a political piece on the Iraqi election, and a less political one about crazy ex-girlfriends. I wrote and sold a short novel, to an independent press, of course, and started publishing stories in a variety of venues—horror, SF, porn, and offbeat markets of all sorts. Then I sold another novel, also short, to some old punk publishing friends who were straining to go legit. There was another economic bubble, and it burst. I can write some short thing, then sell it. In , when capitalism shuddered and nearly collapsed again, a lot of people began asking me for advice on going freelance.
Basically, my friends and readers needed to know how to fix a story and sell it now; they needed to find some venue about a topic they were expert in, and get some kind of clip and some kind of payment from a magazine or journal, immediately. All stuff I was aces at. Advice is always autobiographical, so Starve Better is a writing advice guide for people like me. I also cover query and cover letters, finding freelance work, interviews and reviews, and content mills—non-fiction still pays better, and makes it easier to starve better, after all.
I wrote that novel as a lurch toward commercial respectability. My agent had a great idea: I should write a more serious novel, perhaps in the mode of Don DeLillo. What would be my version of him? I could take on the social questions of life after the Internet, show off literary technique, put in a married couple and a divorce, maybe. Make fun of capitalism, I thought, we can sell that for a lot of money! So I wrote it.
Sensation is a mix of fictional blog posts, faux newspaper and magazine articles, text messages, police interrogations, personal correspondence and business letters, YouTube missives and performance art, the results of psychological examinations, you name it. It got this-editor-no-longer-works-here letters. It got this-imprint-is-defunct letters. Honestly, I suspect that I was the only person in publishing to get, rather than lose, a job in And out here I met some people who led me to some people who introduced me to PM Press.
Almost as though they had been expecting another global meltdown all this time! I even ran into the publisher, Ramsey Kanann, in the grocery store. It was punk publishing all over again. I wrote something short, and sold it. Because of an economic crisis, not despite it. The struggle, and the hustle, continues! See a preview of Sensation. See a preview of Starve Better.
Author Maria Dahvana Headley , in her new novel Queen of Kings , essays one of the most famous women of all time: But how does one approach writing about someone who has already been immortalized in words so many times? There are about five Big Ideas behind Queen of Kings. The vampirism and shapeshifting are justified in this story and in ancient Egyptian myth , I promise.
The central Big Idea is easy: She lived in a magical culture, after all. She herself was a living god. What would the ramifications on the Roman world be, in a story in which the Queen of Egypt became, through magic, something else? What kind of story would that make? I grew up in a person town in Idaho, making periodic pilgrimages to the Boise Library, an hour away. Pretty early on, I convinced everyone at my tiny school that I was a witch, and I got bitier from there, until there was a general assumption that I should go to both Special Ed and Gifted.
Which I did, for a while. The books I got teleported me into a life I had no actual experience of, into cities filled with people who thought for a living, into myth and memory, into magic, and all of that taught me how to be a writer. My first loves were gods and monsters, sirens and Scylla.
Category: Big Idea
It was entirely disappointing to hit college, switch to the more boundaried Literary Fiction shelves, and realize that the stories meant for adults in our own time were devoid of such inventions. Instead of monsters, we had marriages. Instead of Gods, entire pantheons in all their spangled, irrational glory, we had only the one guy, unknowable and hungry for hymns. Eventually, something became clear to me. I was going to write the magic back.
It was going to be a combination of all of my childhood loves, turned into one big, crazy adult novel. I wanted to write a bloody, epic, secret history full of magic and witches and gods. An old-fashioned story — very old fashioned — like something Homer might have written, but with modern language and post-Freudian access to the hearts and minds of the characters. Now, we substitute computers for Cereberus, and hospitals for Hades. The Superbowl for gladiatorial combat. None of the original monster epics have female protagonists.
None of them have monsters as heroes, either, for that matter. But I loved the idea of mixing things up. At one point, there was nothing off limits about this kind of thing. Histories were regularly rewritten, revised, lost and reconstructed. Reality mixed with poetry, and there were gaps left in the historic narratives of Suetonius and Plutarch, places where I could see the potential for invention. There were many more parallels between all of these things than you might imagine there would be.
All this got tied together with the history of Antony and Cleopatra and the fall of Egypt to Rome, and the rise of Augustus. Even in the historic versions of that story, the ones that outline the battle strategies, Dionysus marches invisibly through the streets of Alexandria the night before Egypt falls, trumpeting and singing, abandoning Antony for a new position beside Octavian, the man who would soon be emperor.
That happens here too. Here, though, a Goddess comes into Alexandria and starts negotiating with the Queen for a precious item. Watch the book trailer. Hey, I have an idea: It has one, and in this case, it involves a very small word. The biggest idea in The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland , the one that sits at the center of the book like a seed, is saying yes.
After all, saying yes is dangerous. It is frightening and unsafe. You never know what might happen. Saying no means nothing has to change, and the outside world can be kept outside. A portal fantasy goes: He or she, while frantic to get home, ends up coming to love the magical world and saving it, often from its own worst impulses or native tyrants. And the thing is, if at any point in my life, including this one, I found my way into another world, my first impulse would not be to reject it and seek a way home.
As a child, I wanted magic, desperately. I would have given anything for a door to open in a wood and let me out of my life. Not all places of safety are home-like. But I would have run wild through a magical kingdom and never looked back. Give it right here. I would have said yes to all of it. There are exceptions, of course. Portal fantasy is enormously popular. The film version of The Wizard of Oz , for example, is an exemplar of this mode, but the later books are altogether stranger and more interesting.
It butters us up, tells us that our lives are the better lives. Our world and the minutiae of it better than the most beautiful dream. It teaches us to say: Especially since I was going to be sending a girl. I wanted my girl to choose, to find power in saying yes, to make her own story—and of course her own ship. But she knows what she wants, which is everything wild and magic. In many ways, what Fairyland and Palimpsest are both about is want and the satisfaction of it.
Palimpsest is the very adult version. Fairyland is a more universal story, younger, more playful and innocent, but no less canny and feral. September is strong and loyal, and embraces everything she finds, even when it hurts her to do it. Her story is not even particularly about saving Fairyland. Without spoiling the end, what September saves is the possibility of saying yes, for herself and everyone else.
I wrote a book about a girl who never said no. The Green Wind shows up at her door riding a flying leopard and asks if she wants to go. If she wants to leave this world and grasp for another, a mad and gorgeous place, sight unseen, results uncertain. Read an excerpt of the novel. See the book trailer. President, and who from time to time does certain tasks that only an undead creature could undertake. How did current events catch up to a presidential vampire? I always knew my novels would get tangled in the real world.
I am not going to lie: I was stupendously lucky. Then I pulled out an old idea that my agents had hated. Based on an obscure factoid excavated by Charles Fort, the story began with a ship that ran aground out of Boston Harbor in Onboard were two bloodless corpses and one sailor who was still drinking from one of the bodies. The papers called him a vampire. But for some reason, President Andrew Johnson pardoned him and the man spent the rest of his life in an asylum for the criminally insane. But what if that was just the cover story?
What if the man really was a vampire? What would the President of the United States do with an asset like that? And what would the U. In a world where our illusion of invulnerability had been stripped away, we needed someone on our side. Someone who could face our nightmares with his own teeth. Someone who fought terror with terror.
For the second book, I was more concerned about the effect the War on Terror was having on us. In fighting monsters, sometimes we became all too human. I wanted to set the novel inside one of those Black Sites where prisoners disappear. I was surrounded by reports on torture, on CIA assassinations, on conspiracy theories — a neck-deep pile of soiled American flags. Worse, it was boring. Now I feared I was turning into the guy who wakes up in Reno wondering where the money went. The only thing that really worked in the first draft was the prologue — a short piece about how Cade tracked down Osama Bin Laden as the al-Qaeda leader escaped the bombing of Tora Bora.
After an intervention by my agent, I realized I had to start over with just that scene — and the tone that ran through it. I turned Osama into a villain worth fighting. I turned him into an Innsmouth-inspired lizard-human hybrid and put him fang and claw against Cade. The battle ends — spoiler alert — with bits of Bin Laden painted all over the rocks.
It was my version of Captain America punching Hitler in the jaw. Osama Bin Laden was finally dead — less than a week after Cade killed him on paper. People use stories to make sense of the real world. Writers should gather everything they can: And using all that, my job is to take you out of the real world and give it back to you with explosions and humor. My job is to survey the mayhem and try to rearrange the bloody pieces in a colorful manner. Anything else is just description. Perhaps unsurprisingly, there are already people who insist that Osama Bin Laden is either alive, or his reptilian corpse has been on ice for almost 10 years.
The president insists that Bin Laden was taken out by a U. I take him at his word. Author Kevin Hearne had a novel way of getting to his novel Hounded — a way that involved equal parts of geekery, stubbornness and alcohol. Given who the constituency is here, I know I now have your attention. When nerds get drunk with their nerd friends, they often suggest crazy hypotheticals and then try to defend them from the scornful derision of all the other nerds. Sometimes the shot-down nerd will remember the argument the next day, approach it soberly, and then deliver defiantly his proof that his drunken idea was, in fact, quite a good one.
Here is the original drunken idea I offered to my nerd friends: A Druid in the modern world! My research began the next morning. I needed to figure out a way to plop a genuine olde-tyme Druid into the modern world. What if one of the old Druids never died? The herblore of Airmid she knew herbs and what to do with them , the ales of Goibhniu better than Guinness, I understand , or the hogs of Manannan Mac Lir the Bacon of Youth!
A truly ancient Druid walking among us, talking to his dog and shapeshifting like the old myths said they could? Further immersion in old Irish tales and Irish ales eventually suggested several possibilities. There were also tales of a magical sword named Fragarach that could cut through any armor. There is no record of Conn ever giving it back, nor of anyone using it after that time. All pantheons would be alive, all gods equally valid, just as their worshippers imagined them. The story began to snowball: Once Atticus stops hiding, he and Oberon have to watch out for each other as not only the Irish, but the pantheons of the Norse, Chinese, Finns, Russians, Romans, and Native Americans seek to use him for their own ends.
I hope everyone enjoys the result of my Defiant Drunk Nerd Syndrome. To my nerd friends, I would like to add: Read an excerpt of Hounded. Books should be fun. And she has questions of her own for you at the end. Nothing deep or serious here — just fun. Back in high school, I discovered epic fantasy books by the likes of David Eddings, Terry Brooks, and others. As I read more and more epic and other types of fantasy books, I realized something — I always liked reading about the assassin characters.
Because there were just so many different types of assassins out there — cool assassins, crazy assassins, government assassins, reluctant assassins, psychotic assassins, and every variation in between. But the more books with assassin characters that I read in the fantasy genre and beyond and the more movies and TV shows I watched, the more I realized something — that a lot of the assassins were, well, whiny.
Seriously, seriously whiny and all angsty and emotionally conflicted about their profession. It always seemed to me like there was a very simple solution to this problem — quit being an assassin! Problem solved, angst gone. Somewhere along the way, I thought it would be cool to write my own assassin character with my own magic and world building. Someone who was actually okay with being an assassin because she knew that there were worse people in the world than she was — real monsters that she could protect good, decent folks from.
More importantly, someone who was definitely not whiny. With no whining at all. But back to the fun part. I like writing fight scenes, and I love figuring out how Gin can use her deadly skills, along with her Ice and Stone magic, to take down the bad guys.
For Simner, it meant going deeper, and taking a closer look at the world she lived in. I began writing Faerie Winter during the early scorching days of a desert summer—dragon season, when the sun stings my eyes, the hot wind caresses my skin, and any object left too long in the sun seatbelts and steering wheels included can turn hot enough to raise blisters when touched.
Faerie Winter is a sequel to Bones of Faerie , and Bones of Faerie was set in a world where the deciduous trees—trees that had developed a taste for human blood and bone during the war with Faerie—were now always green, no matter how cold the air. Most of us believe instinctively that gray winter will give way to green spring eventually. So as I wrote, I did all I could to remember different seasons, the seasons of my more deciduous childhood and young adulthood. While I pulled on my broad-brimmed sunhat, I thought of what it was like to have wind bite through my scarf and gloves, to feel like no matter what I did, I could never get my feet warm.
In June, I love and welcome the desert heat. Sounds pretty much like how I once felt when I went three weeks without seeing the sun. I know people who leave Tucson before summer begins and return only after it ends. Even Liza can appreciate her winter: Choices, motivations, and the unintended consequences thereof — heady stuff for any novel, much less a series. In The Unremembered , the debut fantasy novel from Peter Orullian , which is in itself the first novel in a six book series, each of these things is considered, and weighed, and tested before being put into practice.
Orullian is here to explain why it all matters, for the book and beyond. Who atones for a savior? Put aside your personal views on religion for a moment, and think about that question. Of course, the first thing that you must assume is that a savior or messiah figure would need such help. But in the context of a fantasy novel, it was one of the germinating Big Ideas that led to The Unremembered. I like to explore motivation, choice, and consequence. They seem to me like a set of pipes that run out from the heart and mind and right back in, often siphoning back a rather damaging bile.
But, if I tax the metaphor, a few things result from this potentially toxic return flow: See, because people fail. And if someone is relying on you, and your limitations or unwillingness become the reason they suffer. But rather, this idea of failing someone and again, maybe failing many got inside me. Nor have I any agenda. Still, as I told the story of people and even gods whose help was needed and who could not or would not be able to offer that help. That all sounds rather deep. As is the inverse: It really has more to do with my intention which I uploaded into my subconscious and then promptly forgot that choices must matter, for good or ill.
Which then dovetails nicely with another of the Big Ideas that I believe, and hope, has shaped The Unremembered. Some choices have the power and opportunity to touch two eternities. What I mean by that is perhaps best related in an example given by Dan Simmons, who first introduced me to this notion, albeit slightly different. Dan used to be an educator, so he knows the score here. I love and frankly tremble at this idea. Now a life—even that of a character in a fantasy novel—could get painfully doctrinaire or just flat boring if every decision carried such weight.
I had no interest in that. And two stripes of such decisions occurred to me: And then this idea, for me, kind of turned the whole thing to eleven: What might happen if all this stuff were restored to the character, all these choices—their consequence, the harm, the joy, the disappointment, the shame, the hope? And in The Unremembered , specifically, my creation myth holds that the gods have decidedly abandoned the world. That abandonment, that decision to withdraw, influenced how I developed and wrote about the world of my book.
Regardless the reasons of these absent gods, you can imagine the underlying potential for hopelessness. Oooh, I almost waxed poetic there. And then, you know, how do my characters make that right? If they even care. Are they, afterward, even a hero? Similarly, Creed, in The Monstrous-Feminine: For Wells in The Horror Genre: Insightfully, Schneider points to a number of theorists, including Creed, who see the horror film as a repository of male castration anxieties and patriarchal fears around female sexuality.
Other theorists, such as Neale, in Genre, focus on the male monster, although female sexuality is to blame for the psycho- sexual pathology of the male killer. According to this paradigm, the threat of castration absence and lack posed by images of the female form in Hollywood cinema is contained through a sexualised objectification of that form, whether fetishistic- scopophilic woman displayed as erotic spectacle, rendered unthreatening by the controlling male look or sadistic-voyeuristic woman investigated, demystified, and eventually controlled through punishment in nature.
As the theoretical approaches to horror film criticism, as we have seen, operate almost exclusively using the form of American horror cinema as the paradigmatic example, it becomes difficult to adapt these wholesale to Japanese cinema without erasing historical, cultural and racial difference.
- Standing On A Shore Of Sand..
- Big Idea – Page 35 – Whatever;
- The Samurai and the Dragon (A Gay Shapeshifter Erotic Asian Folktale).
It is necessary therefore to locate cinematic texts historically and culturally rather than using a grand narrative that can erase differences. This — historical trauma — as Lowenstein points out can help to think through theoretical impasses in film theory Major Motifs in the Fairy Tales of Japan is particularly insightful and can help explain the specific cultural context and intertexts of horror cinema. The same is true of horror cinema. It is divided into two broad sections, the first of which considers the origin of contemporary Japanese horror film during and in the aftermath of the Second World War.
In addition, the imposition of democratic values on what was still a largely feudal state, with the emperor at the centre, caused social and cultural anxieties around the demise of tradition, as embedded in the ie system of obligations and duties that determined relationships. Untrammelled individualism is often the cause of horror, as in Tales of Ugetsu Mizoguchi: Internet and mobile technologies wall in individuals, isolating them and killing them, as can be seen in films like Suicide Circle Sono: The increase in domestic violence as a result of the recession provides the major theme in contemporary films, including Ju-On: Absent mothers, bad fathers, and abused children seem to be all too present in Japanese horror films such as Ring and Carved: A Slit-Mouthed Woman Shiraishi: In addition, as much of Japanese horror, especially in the s and s, was concerned with sexual violence, issues around gender representation and the theme of rape as a major trope in Japanese culture are explored in some detail.
Anderson and Richie However, as we have seen, this is a two-way process, as shown by the influence of Japanese decorative art and aesthetics, or Japonisme, on the West in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Without doubt, the growth of the studio system in Japan in the early twentieth century owed as much to the model of Hollywood cinema as it did to the emphasis on genre, especially during and after the Allied Occupation.
This conflict not only is a dominant theme of Japanese horror cinema in the s, but also is perhaps the very condition of its emergence. This chapter explores the relationship between Japanese cinema, traditional aesthetic and theatrical forms, and the West in the first part of the twentieth century until the early s and provides the foundation for subsequent chapters. Popular stage hits, as well as popular novels, were adapted to screen, and exhibited in theatres alongside the live perfor- mances of a star dramatic narrator and musicians.
Japanese adaptations of European and American stories were also made, but shifted to Japanese locations and peopled by Japanese characters. Freiberg Following the success of magic lantern shows in the late s mainly imported from France , the first cinematograph was introduced into Japan in , and in a screening of the first Japanese film was shown at the Kabuki-za a Kabuki theatre in Ginza, Tokyo. Kabuki, one of the foremost traditional Japanese theatrical forms, would provide rich material for the burgeoning art of the visual image and would become the template for many Japanese horror films since.
The development of the studio system in the s and s, analogous in many ways to that associated with early Hollywood, would enable films to be seen by a much wider demographic group as well as maximising profitability. However, while most Hollywood directors had little or no power in terms of choice of material, with the selection of their crew, including the cinematographer, being made from the contract employees of the studio, in Japan the director system meant that directors were able to gather around them teams of people whom they trusted and would be associated with for most, if not all of their careers.
The oldest film company, Nikkatsu, was founded in , and divided production between its Kyoto and Tokyo studios. The Kyoto studio concen- trated on traditional period dramas, jidaigeki, while the Tokyo studio focused on contemporary dramas, or gendaigeki, set after These days Nikkatsu is remembered more for its roman porno romantic pornography of the s and s. Nikkatsu would eventually close its doors for good in Originally a theatre playhouse, the Kabuki-za, established by Takejiro Otani, it would become one of the most profitable studios, associated with directors such as Yasujiro Ozu and Akira Kurosawa, and more recently Miike, of Audition and Ichi the Killer.
At the same time, linguistic and cultural barriers meant that Hollywood films were less easily consumed by Japan than in the West Freiberg The strength of the Japanese studio system is clearly demonstrated by the fact that, within a year, domestic films accounted once more for most of the films screened Wyver Kobayashi bought two other film companies, and built a large production studio in Kinuta.
Abandoning the star system, which was the driving factor in Japanese cinema at the time, Kobayashi established a producer-based approach to cinematic production. Due to competition from foreign films and from television, Daiei went bankrupt in , only to emerge as Kadokawa Pictures in , renamed Kadokawa Herald Pictures when it merged with Herald Pictures in March But the distinction between independent and studio films is not as easily identifiable as in the US, as Domenig points out: The studios Shochiku, Toei and Toho make very few in-house productions and participate in barely a dozen films as co-producers annually.
Earlier attempts at independent film in the s and in the late s were doomed to failure, as they were unable to compete effectively with studio-produced films. In fact, independent film was totally squeezed out of the market in at the apex of the studio system, when there was not one independent production Domenig And in the s, independent pink cinema pinku eiga outperformed studio productions struggling to compete with television and foreign cinema. Pink cinema would prove to be the saviour of the main studios, including Nikkatsu, as independent eroductions were transformed into sexploitation cinema.
Just as the studio system influenced the production of films, it was tradi- tional Japanese art forms, and in particular theatre, that would influence the shape and form of these films. All three dramatic arts were derived from travelling storytellers who used a biwa a type of short-necked lute to accompany the relating of their stories.
The biwa would later be replaced by the shamisen a three-stringed instrument like a guitar , and would form a central part of the performance in Kabuki theatre. Both Kabuki and Bunraku can be traced to the Tokugawa Period — The master puppeteer is the only one visible, as the other two wear black and have hoods covering their faces. Chikamatsu was a prolific playwright who wrote plays, mainly for Kabuki but in the latter 20 years of his life for Bunraku. Like Bunraku, Kabuki is a formative influence on both early and contem- porary Japanese cinema.
One of the most famous Kabuki plays, which has been adapted for the screen no less than thirty times, is The Ghost Story of Yotsuya, first performed in The first film adaptation was by Makino in , but the most famous is the Nakagawa version. Interestingly enough, a temple priestess invented Kabuki, and yet it quickly became a patriarchal male- centred art form, with all the female parts being played by men onnagata after the reigning Shogun put a stop to women being entertainers.
Kabuki and Bunraku share obvious similarities: However, the component elements of Kabuki would have more of an impact on the newly minted art form of the moving image. In particular, the use of a revolving stage kabuki no butai allowed the seamless and uninterrupted flow of the story with no need for halting the narrative in order to change the scenery. The stage itself in Kabuki was particularly suited to ghost stories, with a number of trapdoors seri beneath the stage allowing ghostly apparitions to emerge at will.
Further, the Kabuki stage has a passageway hanamichi coming out into the auditorium at right angles, dissolving the spatial distance between the actors and the spectators. The hanamichi allowed actors spectacular exits, and they would stop at a certain point down the passageway known as shichisan , using exaggerated poses and expressions to draw the attention of the spectators to themselves. Depending on the play, the hanamichi could signify a body of water, a corridor, a road: Another integral element of Kabuki is the use of sound. As already mentioned, Kabuki utilises the shamisen to provide musical accompaniment shamisenongaku , played by musicians on a raised platform at the back of the stage.
The use of make-up and costume, again as in Bunraku, completes what are known as the four elements of Kabuki. There are more than fifty types of make-up used to signify character and emotion in Kabuki. Colours are central to the meaning-making system, with red signifying youth and justice, whilst blue, black and brown are used for monsters and wicked people. The final element of Kabuki is the stunning costumes — rich, highly decorated kimonos, noted for their beauty and complexity. However, in contemporary Japan, Kabuki is seen by some critics as an outmoded form, as a consequence of its highly formal language.
In many cases, the waki would take the form of a wandering priest whose journeys would bring him into contact with these strange supernatural beings. The Tale of the Heike is an example of what is called in Japan gunki monogatari military tales in which the core themes were loyalty, sacrifice and honour. In the award-winning Kwaidan Kobayashi: What Hoichi does not realise is that the lord and his entourage are in fact ghosts of Heike. The dead are not necessarily figures of horror, as we will see in the following chapters, but tragic suffering entities unable to come to terms with their defeat or the untimely manner of their deaths.
Dance and poetry, in conjunction with masks, are used to express emotion rather than narrative or dialogue. One day, the jealous older woman steals a demonic mask from a passing Samurai in order to frighten her daughter-in-law and put a stop to her passionate affair with Hachi. Her plan works to begin with, but slowly the mask takes over the woman; try as she might, she is unable to remove it. An argument can be advanced that the Japanese horror film draws on the storylines, structures, performance practices and iconography of traditional theatre as much on the traditions and mechanisms of western horror.
First and foremost was the figure of the benshi, adopted from Bunraku. Rather than onscreen intertitles, Japanese films utilised a narrator or benshi, who from an off-stage position would relate the story of the film, acting out all the different character roles. This allowed the assertion of the spectacular form of the cinematic image. By relieving the film text of the need to narrate a story, he enabled Japanese film-makers to concentrate on extra-narrative embellishments of the visual text, on surface play, and thus transgress the norms of Hollywood-style narrative efficiency continuity editing, crisply cut to tell a story, shot-reverse-shot dialogue exchanges, eyeline matching, use of 90 degree shooting space.
Benshi became stars, with fan followings, and could command a great deal of money for their performance. The benshi became so powerful that Japan was later than other countries in introducing sound to film. McDonald argues that the three characteristics of early Japanese cinema were the use of onnagata, the benshi as narrator and finally the centre-front long take which followed strict continuity guidelines In addition, one of the most overt connections between theatre and early cinema was, following the practice of Kabuki theatre, the division of cinema into two main genres: These two genres were different not only in terms of time period, but also in terms of location.
In addition to this, it was common for films to use theatrical actors: Kabuki-trained actors for the period films and Shimpa New-Wave Meiji-Era theatre, largely melodramatic -trained actors for contemporary films. Stars of Kabuki and Shimpa became the first stars of the silver screen. Souls on the Road introduced the close-up to Japanese cinema, bringing with it a sense of intimacy and humanism that was new to audiences, used to the static shots and presentational perspective of the fixed camera along the imaginary fourth wall.
In the late s, fast cutting, dramatic angles and moving camera were increasingly employed … in jidai-geki, and swordplay scenes became much more exciting, in part through studying the action and shooting style of the Hollywood western. But the stories were taken from the Japanese theatre — late kabuki plays about the escapades of disreputable ronin and yakuza and popular sentimental plays about wandering outlaws the sub-genre known as matatabi-mono ; and the swaggering gait, wild grimaces and macho posturing of the heroes in scenes of confrontation followed by the aragoto style of Kabuki performers.
In the West on the other hand, since the eighteenth century, our major narrative arts — the novel, the theatre and more recently the cinema — have tended towards a kind of narrative saturation; every element is aimed at conveying, at expressing, a narrative essence. Indeed, the use of the benshi in early Japanese cinema meant that, as in Bunraku, narrative was separate to spectacle, rather than an integral component of it. Famous benshi were well known for embellishing narratives and thus transforming their meanings. In these terms, early Japanese cinema, before sound, was presentational rather than representational.
It was, however, the outbreak of the Second World War which would ultimately have the biggest impact on the direction that Japanese cinema would take in the s and s. The war was subsequently fought on two fronts: On 4 December , Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. The following day the United States declared on war on Japan. It would take two atomic bombs, the first on Hiroshima on 6 August , and the second on Nagasaki just three days later, to bring an end to the war in the Pacific.
The Allied Forces insisted on uncon- ditional surrender from the Japanese, the worst possible result for a nation that favoured honourable death over defeat. Between and , the former colonial power of Japan became itself a colonised power, occupied by the Allied Forces. The occupation of Japan would have a significant impact on the direction of Japanese cinema. Often this would be expressed as a conflict between the pre-modern and the modern, the Japanese ie system and the democratic values of the West.
The domestic drama was perhaps the most open to Hollywood influence, as it was the least tradi- tional of Japanese film genres Freiberg In addition to this, audiences would have been widely exposed to American films as they premiered on double bills with Japanese films. As in Hollywood, film was carefully policed by a set of regulations, which were introduced in Japan in These regulations were put in place to ensure that no film would in any way at all undermine the emperor; contain obscene references; focus on inappropriate sexual relation- ships between people; and show criminal violence.
In , responsibility for ensuring the propriety of Japanese film and its adherence to the regulations was placed under the control of the Ministry of the Interior. Censorship in Japan, as elsewhere, had an impact on Japanese cinema, with Article of the Penal Code becoming law in Article regulated the sale, distribution and possession of obscene images, with a fine or up to two years in prison for breaking the law.
The law was vague as to what constituted obscenity, with definitions changing over time. For example, in obscenity was considered to be anything that went against national policy. Yet by the s, obscenity was fixated on female genital hair — which, as Allison points out, is a paradox in a society predicated on masculine potency and female violation, and given the ubiquity of sadomasochistic imagery: In particular, the close-up shots of male and female genitalia were considered to be particularly repugnant to the Japanese sensi- bility.
Even in the pink film, with its soft-core pornographic visuals, genitalia could not be viewed and female pubic hair was always airbrushed out of any sex sequences. It was this that directly led to the regulation of sexuality and images associated with sex. To counteract this negative image of its culture not based on Japanese categories of morality or social mores but Eurocentric ones stemming from Judeo-Christian ideology, the Japanese government imposed regula- tions on such customary practices as mixed bathing … In order to gain face as a modern nation, in other words, Japan inscribed shame where it had not been located before: Allison argues that this patriarchal anxiety over female pubic hair can be explained in terms of gender relationships in Japan, which seek to infantilise women and codify male dominance over the female as object.
In Japan in the s, as elsewhere, there were concerns over the tension between cinema as entertainment and cinema as education and purveyor of public morality. In Japan, there were two main categories that caused anxiety: The left-wing tendencies of some films in the s were of particular concern to censors.
The Prokino was outlawed in , but these leftist tendencies would re-emerge in the New Wave cinema of the s, and many of the horror films of the decade, such as Pitfall Teshigahara: In the s fear of a foreign invasion and corruption by Western consum- erist society shifted the direction of film production towards national propa- ganda emphasising traditional Japanese values of self-sacrifice. This, however, would shift in the aftermath of the Second World War and the subsequent Allied Occupation. Alongside political and economic reform, the Allied Occupation regulated the output of Japanese cinema, making it unlawful to produce films that in any way valorised the old feudal system and glorified military history.
In particular, Kabuki narratives, with their emphasis on feudal loyalty and themes of revenge and self-sacrifice, came in for criticism. Consequently, jidaigeki films, with their sword- fighting sequences kengeki , were prohibited. One way of doing this was to change the historical period by situating the action in the Meiji Period. Another way was to copy foreign sources. At the same time, the Occupation saw the liberalisation of traditional Japanese values towards sexuality, which, as we have seen, were paradoxically constructed in relation to the West. Both Anderson and Richie Previously, even in Japanese films with romantic overtones, couples were never seen kissing.
On May , two films opened simultaneously: Standish suggests that films of the s and s denied questions of sexual and gender difference through the exclusion of woman in narratives. This myth of romance, used as a way of re-establishing traditional values, can be seen in foundational horror films such as Godzilla and Tales of Ugetsu.
For the occupiers, the emperor seemed to be the lesser of two evils. Richie points out how this enabled a return to traditional Japanese values: The Japanese no longer needed to regard themselves as model citizens of the future. Cazdyn defines the conflict in terms of a need to find a middle ground between the demands of the collective and those of the individual: It can now be framed between the individual and the collective, between the need to differentiate individual wants and desires to appeal to the ideals of democracy as well as cultivate a domestic consumer market while restricting these needs and desires to the requirements of the collective in order to idealize sacrifice and legitimate exploitation.
However, directors such as Ozu would return to tradi- tional aesthetics as a point of resistance against the Westernisation of narrative forms. Japanese Cinema as National Cinema Although Japanese cinema was clearly influenced by the West, it managed to retain the traditional elements of a presentational aesthetic, both in the theatre and in film. Neither can Japanese cinema be understood in terms of a distinction between art and popular cinemas.
Examples of this type of approach are epitomised by the work of Burch and Desser Yoshimoto points out that: This means that the positioning of Japanese cinema as radical and opposi- tional, in comparison to the inherent and perceived conservative ideology of mainstream American cinema, functions simply to consolidate Japan as a place of inalterable difference and exoticism. And while generally Nihonjinron is associated with post-war Japan, its origins can be found much earlier, as a response to the modernisation undertaken as a consequence of the Meiji Restoration.
Nihonjinron is formulated on the basis of evaluative comparison Befu It aims to demonstrate not only that Japan and Japanese language, culture, people is different uniquely unique from the rest of the world but also that it is superior or better. Iwabuchi labels as self-orientalism the process by which Japan defined itself in terms of existing definitions on the part of the West Patterns of Japanese Culture , based upon interviews with prisoners of war in Allied camps; in fact, Benedict never visited Japan, instead basing her conclusions solely on interviews with Japanese immigrants and extant written materials.
As such, the search for what was distinctive about Japanese society operated within pre-existing Orientalist assumptions about Japan and the Japanese rather than differing from them. The idea of the community as fundamental to the ie system of kinship, was situated in opposition to the traits of an imaginary America associated with rampant individualism, selfishness and commodity fetishisation.
And as Chaudhuri points out, East Asian territories have a unified experience of late modernity when compared to the West. In addition, Chaudhuri writes that pan-Asian countries: Confucian ethics, based on filial obligations and loyalty between rulers and their subjects, and between family members and friends; Buddhism; supernatural beliefs; classical theatre … and Chinese classical painting, characterized by the subordination of figures to landscape and the absence of the illusion of depths. Nor can its difference be dismissed as a failure, a failed imitation of Western models, or as a sort of non-imperial empire Instead, these myths are a result of cultural nostalgia on the part of the West, for some exotic imagined Japan of cherry blossoms, geisha and tea ceremonies The success of both The Last Samurai Zwick: Indeed, Memoirs of a Geisha caused uproar in both China and Japan, particularly around the casting of Zhang Ziyi, a Chinese actress, in the lead role as Sayuri.
In fact, the other two leading female roles are also played by Chinese actresses or Chinese-Singaporean in the case of Michelle Yeoh. Japanese actresses had to be content with secondary roles. China promptly banned the film, as no one had bothered to think about the atrocities committed by Japan on China in the s. In Japan, the fact that a Chinese actress was cast to play a geisha, instead of a Japanese actress, was no less palatable. Cultural odour, according to Iwabuchi, can be erased through the deletion of racial, ethnic and bodily characteristics associated with the nation of origin.
For Iwabuchi anime and computer games are paradigmatic of this erasure of bodily odour: Neither is distinguishing between Japanese cinema as art cinema and Western or First World cinema satisfactory, as Japanese genres, such as horror, often merge the formalist modernism of directors such as Ozu with the melodramatic nature of mainstream narrative. In addition, Japanese cinema shares common features with other nations in the pan-Asian world and therefore cultural proximity is as important a factor in the construction of Japanese cinema as its relationship to the imagined West.
The importance of film as an industry and the development of a studio system, the transformation of cinematic vocabulary as a result of the relationship with Hollywood cinema, and the importance of indigenous theatrical arts and religious belief systems all lead to an understanding of Japanese cinema as national cinema in terms of cultural specificity without denying the impact that the relationship between Japan and the West had on the construction of Japanese cinema from its early days until after the Allied Occupation.
The facts and figures are stark: Saturation bombing raids on Tokyo and the dropping of the atomic bomb, first on Hiroshima on 6 August and then on Nagasaki three days later, left much of Tokyo in ruins, Nagasaki devastated and Hiroshima a burning wasteland. Victims not immediately killed by the bombs would die slowly and painfully, and generations to come would be effected by the fallout as the full horror of radiation poisoning became evident. And whilst the emperor was reinstated towards the end of the Occupation, his role was reduced to a largely symbolic one, with no real power.
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Post-Occupation Cinema This tension between pre-modern Japanese paternalism and modern Western democratic values would constitute the main thematic trajectory of post- Occupation Japanese cinema. There was also a return to the period film, or jidaigeki. Not surprisingly, given the physical devastation and psychological trauma that the Japanese had suffered during and after the Second World War, the s saw a rise in popularity of the horror film. The two most important films that would influence the growth of the horror genre, and pave the way for its contemporary success in a global market, are Tales of Ugetsu in and Godzilla in In Godzilla, the monstrous mutant reptile with its atomic breath functions as a reminder of the devastation caused by nuclear weapons and critiques modern technological warfare, whilst simultaneously mourning the loss of tradition.
Similarly, Tales of Ugetsu expresses fears around moderni- sation, implicit within the growth of a consumer society dictated by material desires, as embodied by the seductive female ghost. Whilst it is not my intention to discuss the monster genre, or daikaijueiga, generally in Japanese cinema, Godzilla clearly elucidates societal, economic and political concerns in Japan at the time of production that are mirrored in the ghost story, which emerges almost simultaneously. While better known in its truncated version in the West as Godzilla: King of Monsters Honda and Morse: The Grudge with their sequels and American remakes.
It is significant therefore that the opening image of the film is a long shot of dark waters and crashing waves accompanied by a crescendo of violins, trumpet horns and the clashing of cymbals. In the following scenes, an explosion, from which emanates a brilliant white light, sets a fishing trawler, the Eiko-Maru, alight. In this sequence, a series of associations are made between nuclear bomb the explosion , nature the savage seas and human suffering the fishermen.
At the same time, the image of fishing boats caught up in a nuclear explosion would have been all too familiar to Japanese audiences, not only in light of the use of the atomic bomb, but also coming soon after another incident in which, once again, the Japanese were unwilling victims of nuclear warfare. On 1 March , a tuna trawler, the Lucky Dragon, became caught up in testing of the H-bomb, being carried out by the United States. Many of the fishermen became ill with radioactive poisoning and some of them would later die.
It is not surprising that this was a major news story in Japan at the time or that it caused a public outcry against nuclear testing. This can be seen in the manner in which the cross-cutting between the doomed fishing trawlers and the fishermen on board not only provides a human face for the scenes of devastation, but also constructs a discourse of victimology which helps to deflect any guilt associated with the historical events that underlie the images.
Although an investigation is started, neither the fishing company nor the military is able to provide a reason for the mysterious destruction of the Eiko-Maru or that of two other ships that are sent to the scene of the explosion, which suffer the same fate. The explosion wakes Godzilla, a prehistoric and pre-modern monster, from his repose on the ocean bed. Yamane discovers giant footprints, the presence of radiation strontium and trilobite an ancient fossil in the sand by the shoreline. Tsutsui points out that: One of the most surprising aspects of the Gojira … is how little time the monster actually spends on screen.
Indeed, as much attention is given in the film to a melodramatic, sentimental subplot as the rampages of Godzilla. Scenes of Emiko and Ogata together are cross-cut with those of Godzilla throughout. It is key, therefore, that we are introduced to the couple immediately after the scenes of the sinking of the trawlers.
It is clear from expression, body language and the brief words that they exchange with each other that Emiko and Ogata are romantically involved. However, as Ogata receives a phone call from the shipping company, shadows fall over the couple, hinting at the presence of some malevolent force which threatens their happiness.
But this is an outside which is also on the inside. Godzilla, as we shall see, is aggressor and victim, self and other, his identity as subject caught up in the discourse of the situated self, which is central to Japanese linguistics. The visual imagery associated with Godzilla is that of the profane — darkness, disease, and death. Purity, however, is not an original state of innocence, as associated with Christianity in which Adam and Eve are tempted by earthly pleasures and fall from grace. This situates heterosexual romance as a mechanism through which to defeat the destructive Godzilla.
Standish argues that the functioning of romance in post-war cinema provides a point of departure from the social repression and often the absence of woman, which was at the centre of national policy or propaganda films: As such, Serizawa is aligned with Godzilla, as he also threatens the happiness of the couple who can be considered as emblematic of the nation as a whole. Serizawa is a recluse, who spends most of his time in the darkened gothic laboratory where he carries out his experiments, and as such he is visually connected to Godzilla.
As such, both Godzilla and Serizawa are doubles in that they are both positioned as victims of nuclear war. The romance between Ogata and Emiko also functions to map out changes in the social structure in Japan after the Allied Occupation. Writing about the radical changes in Japanese socio-economic structures as a consequence of the democratisation of Japan during the Allied Occupation, Noreiga points to the fact that most of the reforms implemented went far beyond what could be found at the time in America: Reform gave women full legal equality and ended the authority of the clan over the family and the father over adult children.
So-called reform exceeded what American society would have accepted for itself at that time, indicating that the purpose was more to undermine the patriarchal basis of Japanese society than to reform it. American capitalism invaded Japanese feudalism, bringing with it the ideal of the bourgeois nuclear family and a concept of the boundaried self that was foreign to the collectivism that had underpinned Japanese society for centuries.
Although the democratic values of the West, as applied to Japan during the Occupation, attempted to break down the rigid vertical structure of Japanese society, remnants of the ie system can still be found at work in contemporary Japan, dictating relation- ships with parents, employers and perceived superiors. As this is such a funda- mental structure of Japanese society, elements of which still exist today, and often provides a pivotal theme in Japanese horror cinema, it is worth sketching out the ie system in some detail.
The foundations of the ie system were laid down during the Edo Period — , during the reign of Tokugawa Ieyasu the Shogunate or Shogun. This system consisted of five classes with the Samurai on top, followed by peasants, then artisans and finally merchants. Responsibility for the family was clearly defined as belonging to the head of the household, who was then responsible to the larger community, and ultimately to the emperor.
The eldest son of the family was the automatic successor, while younger sons were expected to make their own way in the world and arranged marriages were made for daughters of the household. In the absence of an heir, it was common for families to adopt a suitable successor who would then carry on the family name. The system, however, was predicated on the repression and oppression of women, for whom the rules of appropriate behaviour were dictated by her obedience to her parents, husband and children, in that order. The ie system, based upon the worship of ancestors Davies and Ikeno Understanding the functioning of the ie system, along with the rapid changes in Japanese societal structures, can therefore elucidate our understanding of the centrality of romance in Godzilla.
Serizawa, to whom Emiko is engaged, is the natural and adopted successor of Yamane as dictated by the ie system. On is the system of obligations that bind the living to the dead in terms of the debt giri that is owed to them. Littleton foregrounds the need in Japan to maintain face known as tatame in Japanese , in which the loss of face necessitates acts of atonement on the part of the community in order to make up for the violation of the social code Known as kami often translated as deity , they are found everywhere: The Shinto tradition does not believe that there is an absolute dichotomy of good and evil.
Instead, Godzilla can be interpreted as a physical manifestation of the disruption of wa, or the harmony between man and nature. For Shapiro the distortion in the relationships between people and nature is the main theme of post-war Japanese cinema: This explains the reason why Japanese atomic bomb cinema focuses less on the protagonists than in comparable Western films dealing with the atomic bomb.
It could be argued that, in American cinema, monsters are often interpreted as symptoms of an individual psychosexual crisis with their fairy-tale structure hero defeats monster and rescues the damsel in distress, undergoing a transformation — from boy to man — in the process. In Godzilla none of the protagonists goes through this transformation of self and, as such, it is difficult to interpret the monstrous Godzilla as a projection of inner sexual conflict, unlike King Kong in the film of the same name Shapiro argues that the fighting between the men over Godzilla and Emiko creates a vacuum or ma the term in Japanese aesthetics for an empty or blank space which needs to be filled , which can only be remedied by Emiko as repre- sentative of the female principle.
The repeated images of pollution and bodily corruption are central to the imagistic system of destruction, disease and death associated with Godzilla, and are thus associated with the disruption of harmony. In Godzilla, pollution is signalled by the annihilation of all life from the water near to where the explosion happened. At the same time, pollution was becoming a cause of concern in Japan, not only as a lingering aftermath of the Second World War, but also in terms of industrial pollution, caused by a mass exodus of people leaving the country for the cities.
One such example is Minamata Bay, used as a dumping ground for industrial waste in the s by the Chisso Corporation. The resulting pollution contaminated the fishing waters and impacted on the livelihoods of a substantial proportion of the villagers living in Minamata, a small factory town miles from Tokyo. Estimates suggested that in a period of 36 years, between and , 27 tons of mercury compounds found their way into Minamata Bay. By the mids some villagers were displaying symptoms associated with a degenerative condition, which became known as Minamata disease.
This can be clearly seen in the confrontation between Ogata and Emiko, and Serizawa, when the lovers try to convince Serizawa to use the oxygen destroyer to kill Godzilla. In this sequence, the three are sitting around a table, on which stands a square fishbowl with fish swimming in it. The fishbowl functions as a symbol of life and harmony. This is opposed to the death of the fish in the large tank seen earlier when Serizawa demonstrates his invention to Emiko.
There are a number of ghosts and monsters associated with water, including the Kappa Fig. Others include the playful Shojo, a sea ghost with red hair who enjoys nothing better than a good party; the giant mermaid or Isohime, who tortures and then devours her victims; and Umi Bozu, a gigantic bald ghost with staring eyes. In the middle of these scenes of disaster, the fate of a young mother and her two children adds a tragic dimension to the scenes of destruction. Huddled in a corner by the Matsuszakaya department store, she passively awaits her fate, telling her children that they will soon be in heaven with their father.
This is an iconic image of mother and child that, as we will see, becomes a key feature, if not the key feature, of Japanese horror cinema from the s onwards. Hamamoto comments on the reception of the film in Japan: Their terror, he feels, came across as authentic, because they were able to draw on the real horror of witnessing entire cities firebombed into burning rubble.
In the light of the merciless destruction caused by Godzilla, some Western critics have dismissed the creature as both profoundly alien and absolutely evil: Incinerating and crushing whole cities, Godzilla — evil, overwhelming, and profoundly alien — clearly is intended to embody nuclear warfare, waged against helpless Japanese civilians. Steele However, to interpret the figure of Godzilla as a simple symbolic represen- tation of the threat of America to Japan, as Steele does, is too simplistic. This concept of the relational self suggests a mobility of identity as encapsulated within the shifting boundaries of inside, uchi, and outside, soto.
In these terms, as we have seen, the anxieties expressed about Godzilla are as much about Japan, as uchi, as about the threat from the United States, as soto. Standish argues that the sacrificial hero is an important mechanism through which traditional identity is restored in the face of encroaching Westernisation.
His suicide is the triumph of light over darkness, purity over pollution, and thus restores temporary harmony to the world. The death of Serizawa metaphorically signals both the breakdown of the traditional Japanese value system and the reaffirmation of those same values. In addition, the romance, just like the monstrous rampages of Godzilla, undermines the paternalistic function of Yamane and his position of power within the household. As such, Yamane is a predecessor of the absent father, who, like the iconic mother, will become another identi- fiable trope of Japanese horror.
In a key scene in which Yamane and Ogata argue about whether to study or kill Godzilla, Ogata is placed in a higher and more dominant position within the frame than Yamane, thus mirroring the disruption of the vertical boundaries that determined relationships between people in the ie system. But with the final words of the film, which are given to Yamane, who warns of the possibility of the emergence of another Godzilla, it could be argued that lost power is restored to the symbolic father figure. Ghostly Returns In Old Japan, the world of the living was everywhere ruled by the world of the dead — the individual, at every moment of his existence, was under ghostly supervision.
In his house, he was watched by the spirits of his fathers; without, he was ruled by the god of his district. Along with Ozu and Kurosawa, Mizoguchi is considered one of the most important directors of Japanese cinema. Unlike Kurosawa, Mizoguchi was concerned with depicting the struggles of ordinary people rather than the exploits of Samurai and emperors.
According to Tucker, Mizoguchi: Rarely do his characters attempt to act against that system. Their interwoven narratives provide a savage indictment of post-war masculinity and the loss of traditional Japanese values in the light of encroaching Americanisation, associated with commodi- fication and materialism. Both men associate happiness with material wealth and status, and are discontented with their simple life.
As in Godzilla, the pathological nature of modernity is situated as threatening to a sense of national identity based around collectivity, filial obedience and frugality. After their village is ransacked, Genjuro and Tobei are determined to escape the confines of the village and their peasant status, and attempt to leave by boat. The fog-enshrouded waters, menacingly absent of all life, hint at the presence of the supernatural. Eventually, however, the group come across another, seemingly empty, boat. As the boat draws near, they find a dying man in it, who warns them of danger ahead.
Concerned for the safety of his wife, Miyagi Kinuyo Tanaka , and his son, Genjuro persuades them to return to the village.
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Through the vagaries of fortune, both brothers find what they seek. The theme of abandonment runs throughout the film, with both men abandoning their wives and their duties as husbands for the empty trappings of material success. Dressed in white, with a kimono veiling much of her features, Lady Wakasa has a status which is signalled both by the opulence of her kimono and by the fact that her servant accompanies her. The shots of their first meeting make the class differences between the two clear; Genjuro is framed from the point-of-view of Lady Wakasa who looks down on him as he sits on the ground surrounded by his wares.
When she invites him back to her house to deliver his pottery and to collect his money, Genjuro finds himself unable to say no. In a sequence echoed in later Japanese ghost films he follows her home, walking behind her servant, to a grand mansion. His life with Lady Wakasa is in direct opposition to the scenes of simple peasant life with Miyagi and his son with which the film begins.
Unrestrained physical appetites associated with materialism, including carnal desire and gluttony, are situated as the causational factor leading to the neglect of family duties and obligations. It is thus particularly poignant that Miyagi not only is forced to beg for food for her son, but is attacked by a group of men for that scrap of food. In the ensuing altercation she is fatally wounded, and the last shot shows her struggling to make her way home, using a large branch to aid her.
The rich, as epitomised by Lady Wakasa, are shown as idling their time away, whilst the poor are forced into animal-like behaviour in order to survive. Too late, Genjuro comes across a priest, who tells him that he bears the mark of death. He learns that Lady Wakasa is a ghost, who, having died prema- turely, has become tied to the world in order to experience love. The priest paints Buddhist mantras on his body to keep him from falling under her spell. Realising that his life with Lady Wakasa is an illusion, Genjuro is freed from the spell she has cast on him. In the ensuing fight, Genjuro faints.
When he wakes up, the palace is a deserted and burnt-out shell, and Lady Wakasa and her nurse have disappeared. To make matters worse, the money that he has managed to save is then taken off him, and he returns home as poor as he was when he left. When Genjuro returns, he finds his house empty and in a state of disrepair.
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He sits with Miyagi and his son, a picture of domestic bliss. Later that night, Genjuro falls asleep with his son in his arms. Awaking the next morning, he finds his wife gone and his home destroyed. In an ironic twist, he discovers that, whilst he has been living a life of luxury, his wife also died and, like Lady Wakasa, she too is a ghost. The film ends with both men picking up their duties as head of the household, with a voice-over by Miyagi mourning the fact that it is only now that she is dead that Genjuro can be a proper husband. In an interview with Schilling, Japanese director Juzo Itami discusses how the demise of the ie had catastrophic consequences for Japanese society after the Second World War.
But in Japanese society that role has become extremely weak, particularly in the post war period. Because Japanese men fought the war and lost it, their value as role models has really declined. When the film begins, Genjuro is situated as a poor role model in that he abandons his wife and child without hesitation.
Harmony is only restored and guilt expiated through the death of Miyagi. Linked to consumerism and illusion is the figure of Lady Wakasa. She is the physical embodiment of seduction and sensuality, and therefore aligned with capitalism and modernity. Richie views Lady Wakasa more sympathetically, as the double of Miyagi: The spirit in the haunted mansion is to be equated, not contrasted, with the loyal and loving wife. Lady Wakasa is the prototype of the beautiful but dangerous Japanese ghost who haunts Japanese horror cinema.
Their appearance is often accompanied by floating flames, called hitodama. Again, as this is such a fundamental component of Japanese horror, it seems worthwhile exploring it some detail. Iwasaka and Toelken define On as: On entails not only an awareness of having received a favor, but carries with it the absolute necessity to respond and repay. For the Japanese, the world of the living and the world of the dead are therefore intimately bound together, as demonstrated by the Buddhist Obon festival in which the dead are honoured. Toelken writes about the importance of the continuing responsibilities towards ancestors in Japanese culture: Further, the etymology of the worlds of the living and the dead suggests a close connection between the two.
As such, the two worlds exist simultaneously, occupying the same space and time, with permeable boundaries between the two. This permeability of the boundary between kono-yo and ano-yo provides the plot line for many Japanese horror films, including Tales of Ugetsu. Toelken argues that obligations are intensified rather than negated by death: If the proper memorials and celebrations are observed by the living family, the spirit slowly evolves into a local deity, called a sorei or kami, and responds to the petitions of the living by exercising concern for their fortunes: In other words, the obligations and debts that are thought to exist between generations of a Japanese family are not interrupted by death but are intensified by it.
Godzilla and Lady Wakasa are transitional figures, caught between tradition and modernity, mourning the loss of an authentic identity as embedded in the community, in the light of the imposition of Western democratic values on Japanese socio- economic structures through a problematisation of the family unit.
Further, the disruption of wa, as constructed through the fragile relationship between man and nature, is reformed in Godzilla and Tales of Ugetsu through the female principal: Emiko in the former and Miyagi in the latter. If Emiko is a woman of will, Miyagi is a typical example of the suffering woman who endures selflessly and becomes more beautiful through this endurance, as such embodying the iconography of the hibakusha.
Further, the idea of individual sacrifice as atonement for guilt of another, as articulated by the self-sacrificing Serizawa and Miyagi, is another feature that can be seen in Japanese horror cinema. If Godzilla adds the atomic bomb and the possibility of apocalyptic destruction to horror cinema, Tales of Ugetsu foregrounds a number of themes that will become central to the Japanese ghost story: Both Godzilla and Lady Wagasa are external aliens, who threaten social order from outside and problematise the concept of identity in a rapidly trans- forming society.
Deceitful Samurai and Wronged Women W ith its period setting, deceitful Samurai and wronged women, Tales of Ugetsu laid the foundations for the Edo Gothic ghost story, which accounted for most Japanese horror films during the s and s. Once again, an obsession with status and material wealth provides the narrative motivation for murder, blackmail and adultery. Once again, it is the women that suffer the most. Japanese cinema in the late s and early s can be best understood in terms of a distinction between mind seinshin and body nikutai , as expressed through the opposition of romantic love and carnal desire.
The difference between films on the left concerned with nikutai and films on the right concerned with seinshin can be thought of in terms of acceptance of the status quo on the one hand, and social protest on the other, although, as Tucker points out, this division is actually more complicated than it seems: Yet films can be made in which characters exemplify completely mono- no-aware and yet be implicit criticism of the status quo, and at the other extreme a number of films have been made which had an overt intention of being critical towards the accepted social mores yet ended by supporting them.
Edo Gothic films were tradi- tional and tended to reinforce conservative values, with their helpless victims trapped in nightmarish gothic landscapes, articulated through the expres- sionistic surfaces of a subjective rather than objective reality. We saw one manner in which this post-defeat victimisation worked in the discussion of Godzilla in the last chapter. However, the boundaries between self and other become increasingly problematised, as the external alien turns inward. It needs to be noted that Japan was not the only country to use a period setting and the gothic form to articulate anxieties around modernity, identity and rationality.
There was a definable trend in the s towards gothic horror. And in America, Roger Corman directed some of the all-time classic adaptations of the work of Edgar Allen Poe, including: In Japan, as in the West, gothic fiction served to function not only as a mechanics of transgression of propriety, morals and values of patriarchy , but also, somewhat paradoxically, as a means of reasserting social and ethical boundaries Botting In the West, gothic literature and film allowed a reconstitution of identity through its confrontation with sheer otherness Botting At the same time, in its Buddhist sensibility and privileging of spirituality, Edo Gothic is markedly different.
Buddhist suffering aris[es] out of desire and craving in a spirited world. Desire may cause self-division, dramatized by the dangerous doppel- ganger, but the Japanese solution is rarely found in the reaffirmation of self. It is, instead, the emptying of the self that constitutes cosmic achievement … In translation, life is not a battleground for God and the Devil — the two grow naturally together in the field of life. The centrality of suffering to Edo Gothic, connected to the quest for the empty self, is commonly expressed in the symbiotic relationship between mother and child.
Further, while the concept of ancestry is important to Western gothic forms, it does not have the same currency as it does in Japan. The ie system and the symbolic functioning of debt as fundamental to On mean that the concept of ancestral duties has a much greater currency in Japanese gothic literature and Edo Gothic film. On the occasions when Japanese horror does draw on religious iconography derived from Christianity and Catholicism, it is usually for aesthetic rather than symbolic reasons.