Archive for the Anime Category

King of Bandits

Posted in Anime on December 31, 2011 by esmay013

As you might have noticed from the blog’s background, side panel pictures, and the Anime lesson divider icon, I am a fan of the anime series, King of Bandit: Jing.  Some years back, if I told anyone this, they would be like, “What is that?” but then the OVA Seventh Heaven came out, and the show made its comeback.  It is awesomely random and feels like a surrealist painting set in a Halloween town.

Jing and Kir from Episode 01

“The King of Bandits steals stars from the sky…”  That is how Jing is remembered by those in the show, but no one actually knows who he is.  He isn’t a king like a ruler of a country, but the best of the best, even though everyone is always surprised that he is only a kid.  His companion is a perverted, talking bird named Kir, who can shoot a large ball of energy from his mouth if Jing wishes him to in an attack called “Kir Royale.”  Jing is the brains, but he doesn’t always tell Kir what is going on.

Postino from Episode 8

The only other recurring character is a motorcycle-riding mailman named Postino who runs into Jing and Kir while delievering his mail around the world, and is always ready to give Jing a passing word.

The greatest thing about Jing is nothing is as it seems.  It is one of those shows that always has a lesson at the end (but not those cheesy Barney ones about we are all friends and we should all get along).

Wikipedia noted that: “Each storyline arc features at least one person who is named after an alcoholic beverage, usually the “Jing Girl” (somewhat like a Bond Girl). In addition, each town or city is named after a cocktail.”  I don’t drink, so I never noticed that, except “Mimosa” was rather obvious (I always wondered about the name “Russian.”  Why was he the only one named after a country and why was he with Mimosa?  When I told my sister about the alcoholic references, she asked if someone was named “White Russian.”  Now it makes sense.  Well his name makes sense, not so much on the connection between a “Mimosa” and a “White Russian”).

It is ironic that someone who hates alcohol, like me, would love a show completely based around alcohol.  It all makes sense now.  (I am guessing “shot” which is used to refer to the episodes may be referring to a shot of alcohol or something like that; I just thought it had to do with being a thief and being shot at or something more James Bond-like).  So in honor of New Years, here are the Jing episodes with the alcohols for drinking inspiration for welcoming the New Year; please drink responsibly.

Episodes:

1st Shot “The Capital of Thieves”

Jing and Kir (” French cocktail made with a measure of crème de cassis (blackcurrant liqueur) topped up with white wine“; Kir Royale is made with champagne) enter the Capital of Thieves ruled by Lord Cognac (French brandy), to steal the mayor’s prized possession: one of the Double Mermaids.  Jing gets the help of old veteran bandit Vodka (“distillation of fermented substances such as grains,potatoes, or sometimes fruits and/or Sugar“) and an old hag to accomplish his goal.  The episode’s Jing girl is named Cidre (French cider = “a fermented alcoholic beverage made from apple juice”).

Postino’s Riddle: Have you heard? There is a rumor going around that the Double Mermaids have an even more valuable treasure sleeping inside of them.

Jing Quote: There can be tears of sadness… and there can be tears of joy…but they are far from the same.

A Double Mermaid

2nd Shot “The Ghost Ship of Blue Hawaii”

A gambling ghost ship appears around Blue Hawaii (“rum, pineapple juice, blue Curacao, sweet and sour mix, and sometimes vodka as well“) and Officer Rose (Rosé= “a type of wine that has some of the color typical of a red wine, but only enough to turn it pink“) must keep the peace and an eye on the Bandit King.  The ghost ship is actually the Monte Carlo Gambling House, managed by Grappa (“an alcoholic beverage, a fragrant, grape-based pomace brandy of Italian origin that contains 35%–60% alcohol by volume (70 to 120 US proof)“).

Postino’s Riddle: Jing, have you heard? It seems that the ghost ship is powered by greed and desire. (Just something to think about).

Jing:  That I would like to steal: the wants and desires that lie in our hearts.  What you said makes some sense.  Humans are greedy by nature, I guess, but some of us can resist our desires and not succumb to temptation.

3rd-4th Shot “The Adonis Capital of Time Part 1 -2”

Jing and Kir visits Adonis (Adonis Cocktail = “fino sherry, sweet vermouth and orange bitters, the drink is stirred over ice and then served ‘straight up’ with an orange twist“), a town protected by the Demon of Time that forces all residents to be on time, to find the legendary Grapes of Time.  Mirabelle (Mirabelle Plum Brandy eau-de-vie de mirabelle) is saved by Jing and Kir from her execution which is her “punishment for the crime of tardiness.”  In the sewers of the city, the dead live in Neverland lead by Captian, who has only one hand.  The town is controlled by Master Gear and his animal companion Sherry who can hear hears and also shoot energy from her mouth.

Postino: I should tell you not to approach the hourglass.  In that area, the flow of time is incredibly fast.

Neverland (Episode 3)

5th Shot “The Little Girl from the Technicolor Town”

In the Technicolor Town of Pompeii, Kir and Jing save Fino (” the driest and palest of the traditional varieties of sherry“), a living piece of art created by her father, Van Kuot, whose last piece was the unfinished and mysterious “The Painter’s Self,” from Mr. Drambuie(“a sweet, golden colored 80-proof liqueur made from malt whisky, honey, herbs, and spices“), an art collector and paint manufacturer, and his henchman, Rum (“a distilled alcoholic beverage made from sugarcane by-products such as molasses, or directly from sugarcanejuice, by a process of fermentation and distillation“).

Postino: The key to his last masterpiece lives inside her memory. Jing: Beyond this threshold is either a paradise of treasures or an empty, frozen hell? Only the angels know for sure.

Fino's Memory

6th-7th Shot:

Vermouth (“Grape wine base with additional alcohol and a mixture of dry ingredients, consisting of aromatic herbs, roots, and barks“) persuades Jing and Kir to join her on a quest.  They are followed by Pernod and China Lilet (Kina Lillet).

Jing: You know, Kir, I almost forgot about what’s important in life…Shining brightly even for a split second is far better than living a dull gray life in eternity.

8th Shot “Don’t Drop the Por Vora”

The only way to enter the town of Sangria (wine punch) is to deliver the explosive little creatures called Por Vora; Jing and a protesting Kir agree to deliver a wagonfull of Por Voras to the town’s mayor Goblet, so they can steal the last stones of the Systema Solari: Sun and Jupiter.  Izarra (“a sweet liqueur made in Bayonne in the French Basque Country“) wants revenge on Goblet.

9th Shot “The Musical Island of Coco Oco”

In the town of Coco Oco Island (there is Coco-Loco, which is a dark rum but supposedly “Coco Oco means empty coconut in their native tongue”) where “anyone who really loves music must visit at least once in their life,” Jing decides to take a break and enjoy his visit to Kir’s dismay.  Storming off, Kir takes to the beach, but is greatly disappointed by the lack of bikini-clad girls.  After almost drowning, Kir is saved by a castanet-maker’s apprentice, Mimosa (“one part champagne (or other sparkling wine) and one part thoroughly chilled citrus fruitjuice, namely orange juice“) who can only seem to get into arguments with the one she loves, Russian (White Russian = “vodka, coffee liqueurs, and cream served with ice in an Old Fashioned glass“).  There is a rumor on the island of the Ocarina of the Moon: “any couple who hears the music of that flute will stay in love forever and never separate.”; it is also called the legendary Treasure of the Trembling Heart.

10th Shot “Lullaby of the Por Vora”

While traveling to Zaza, Jing and Kir ended up on the wrong train!  They become lost and find more Por Voras in a forest; the creatures are protected by Elixir (“clear, sweet-flavored liquid used for medicinal purposes, to be taken orally and intended to cure one’s ills“).  Sweet & Bitter, and Mama Stout (“dark beer made using roasted malt or barley, hops, water and yeast“).

The true Elixir

11-13 Shot

My favorite story is the three-part finale with a character named Stir (when they call her Miss Stir, it sounds like Mister in the English dub, but her name must have been “Shaken, not Stirred” in relation to alcohol?).  Jing and Kir mistakenly enter the Masquerade Ball of Zaza, thinking masks and dancing but ending up in the “Mas Corrida,” (Corrida bull fight) which is really more like gladiator battles to decide who will take over the kingdom after Madame DuBonnet, who hides behind a mask as the only way to show her emotions.  Years before, a war raged and when it neared the end, Duke DuBonnet was killed.  Soon after their only son Lemon, Stir’s younger brother, was murdered by their uncle who wanted the throne.  To take revenge, Madame DuBonnet would forever force everyone to fight.  Stir desperately wants to help her country go back to how it was in the old days, while Jing attempts to steal the Vintage Smile mask.

The servants include Angostura Sr. and Jr. (Angostura Bitters). The first person Jing goes against is Maltick Danda; he also befriends Ginjou (ginjou-shu = premium sake).  The D’Ice Brothers– Baffle, Crash, Cube– are the ones presumed to win until the appearance of Jing and the mysterious Rising Son.

Jing: Hey, Postino, you’re not going to wear a carnival mask?

Postino: I can’t Jing.  It is my job to not discriminate and deliver letters to everyone equally, regardeless of whether they have a mask or not.

A Lifetime's Worth of Tears

OVA “Lost in Heaven,” “Dream in Heaven,” and “Awake in Heaven”

Jing and Kir end up in jail!  But Seventh Heaven is not just any jail.  Warden Maraschino (“a bittersweet, clear liqueur flavored with Marasca cherries“) warns Jing that juveniles don’t get any special treatment.

Jing informs Kir that the jail has a treasure: “Dreams gathered from all over the world.”  The inmate and magician Campari (“aperitif obtained from the infusion ofherbs and fruit (including chinotto) in alcohol and water”) created the crystallized dreams known as Dream Orbs and sold the collected dreams to the highest bidders.

The OVA was a disappointment; there were more random scenes in the OVA and the creatures are even weirder than before, since it is more dream-like than the drunken stories of the series; the art appears to be darker/richer and more detailed are CGI, which was not used in the series.  The story is far to deep into the character of Capari and Jing’s history is actually shown in the second episode.  I liked how Jing really wasn’t the main character in the series; he was the main character but he was more of a guide character in the Jing Girl’s hero’s journey, which in the end of the OVA, he is for Campari.

Many animes are very deep, but this deep and is more cartoonish than most; perhaps kid-friendly would be better (girls in skimpy clothing but no sex nor violence).  It is funny but it always contains a deep message.  Besides alcoholic references, there are many other references, usually city names, that go with the episode’s theme and final messages.

Since Jing is supposed to be a kid, it makes sense that the Japanese voices sound young (or as far as I can tell), but the English voices sound a lot older.  I find it more appropriate to have the older voices, because the young characters in the show have all had to grow up before their time.

Also I am not an emotional person, but Crystal Note, which is played on a piano during sad moments, makes me want to cry; I love that song, which contrasts greatly with the opening “Shout It Loud,” which is another favorite of mine.

So why use Jing as my background?  Besides being my all-time favorite anime, Jing emphasizes that things are not always what they look like.

Old Hag from Episode One

At first glance, Kir thought this old hag was a beautiful woman by her hair, but realized she was not what he expected, or was she?

Jing: Haven’t you heard that women, like wine, just get better with age?

Kir: Wine is one thing, but sour grapes, Jing!

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Christianity in Japan

Posted in Anime on December 23, 2011 by esmay013

Some people believe “that Nestorian missionaries arrived in Japan via India, China and Korea in 199 AD and by 400 AD had planted the first churches in Japan” (OMF Christianity in Japan).  The more accepted belief is that Christianity began with the arrival of Portuguese traders and Jesuit missionaries who arrived in Kyushu in 1542, but more importantly Jesuit priest Francis Xavier(1506 – 1552) in 1549 in Kyoto.  “Despite Buddhist opposition, most of the Western warlords welcomed Christianity because they were keen in trade with overseas nations mainly for military reasons” (Japanese History: Muromachi Period 1333-1573).

 

Oda Nobunaga from Hyouge Mono

Oda Nobunaga (1534 – 1582) accepted Christianity and Western technology, such as the musket, which he used “as a tool…to suppress Buddhist forces” (Wikipedia’s Tokugawa shogunate “Shogun and Christianity“).

“In 1587, Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1537 – 1598)  issued an edict expelling Christian missionaries. Nevertheless, Franciscans were able to enter the country in 1593, and the Jesuits remained active in Western Japan. In 1597 Hideyoshi intensified the persecution of Christian missionaries, forbade further conversions, and executed 26 Franciscans (Twenty-six Martyrs of Japan) as a warning . Foreign traders and missionaries had acted aggressively and intolerant towards native Japanese institutions in an era when their fellow countrymen were conquering and colonizing other parts of the world in the name of Christianity” (Japanese History: Azuchi-Momoyama Period 1573-1603).

Ieyasu Tokugawa from Sengoku Basara

“Though Christianity was allowed to grow until the 1610s, Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543 – 1616) soon began to see it as a growing threat to the stability of the Shogunate. As Ogosho (“Cloistered Shogun”), he influenced the implementing of laws that banned the practice of Christianity. His successors followed suit, compounding upon Ieyasu’s laws. The ban of Christianity is often linked with the creation of the Seclusion laws, or Sakoku, in the 1630s” (Wikipedia’s Tokugawa shogunate “Shogun and Christianity“).

Amakusa Shiro in Ninja Resurrection

For 250 years, a small group of Japanese Christians called Kakure Kirishitan (“hidden Christians”) continued to practice secretly  (Wikipedia’s Christmas Worldwide: Japan).  They went into hiding after the Shimabara Rebellion (1637–1638), which was led by the Christian Amakusa Shiro who is portrayed “as a tragic villain in Japanese popular culture” (Wikipedia’s Amakusa Shiro).  The Kakure Kishitan disguised Christian statues  as Buddhas while prayers were disguised as Buddhist chants; the Bible was passed on orally. (There is a documentary on the Kakure Kirishitan called “Otaiya: Japan’s Hidden Christians” (1997) by Christal Whelan).

Rurouni Kenshin, Lady Madgalena, Shogo Amakusa

The first Protestant missionaries arrived in Japan in 1859 after Commodore Matthew C. Perry (1794-1858) of the US Navy forced the end of Japan’s isolation in 1853 (OMF Christianity in Japan).

“In 1873 after the Meiji restoration, freedom of religion was promulgated, and especially since World War II the number of Japanese Christians has been slowly increasing again” (Christianity in Japan).

“Does God Love the Japanese?,” a Global Post article by David Nakamura, reported in 2009 “an estimated 1 percent of the 126 million Japanese identify themselves as Christian. By contract, in nearby South Korea, more than 25 percent of residents are said to be Protestant or Catholic.” (“Does God Love the Japanese?” Updated: 30 May 2010).

Jeanne d'arc from Kamikaze Kaito Jeanne

Japanese Christian Trope

Animes with Christianity:

Maria-sama

Catholic School Settings:

Priests/Nun Characters:

Manga:

Rosette from Chrono Crusades


Little Women

Posted in Anime on December 19, 2011 by esmay013

“Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,” grumbled Jo, lying on the rug (Little Women, 11).

Classics are constantly being remade to keep new generations interested.  This is something I have noticed with the American story Little Women, which had three famous American movies (1933, 1949, 1994), a musical (2005), and several animes in the 80s but more recently adapted into a manhwa.  (And since it is almost Christmas, this is the perfect story to discuss.)

Frank Merrill Illustration, 1880

Little Women was written by Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888).  It was originally two books: Little Women, or Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy (1868), and Good Wives (1869).  The book was followed by another two-parter that was kept as two  separate books– Little Men: Life at Plumfield with Jo’s Boys (1871) and Jo’s Boys and How They Turned Out (1886)–which follow the children that attended the school the previous main character, Jo, created with her husband.

Little Women follows the life of Josephine “Jo” March, a head strong young woman who wants to be a writer.  She lives with her mother, Marmee, while her father is in the Civil War.  Her older sister is Margaret “Meg,” a governess who dreams of falling in love.  Her younger sisters are Elizabeth “Beth” and Amy;   Beth is musically incline while Amy is artistic. Other important characters include  Aunt March, the father’s great aunt and the neighbors Theodore “Laurie” Laurence, who is friends with Jo and whose grandfather Mr. James Laurence dotes on Beth as he would have for his granddaughter who died.

May's Illustration

The book is semi-autobiographical; though unlike Jo, Alcott never married.  Louisa was Jo, Anna Bronson Alcott Pratt was Meg, and Elizabeth “Lizzie” Seawall Alcott was Beth.  (Abigail) May Alcott Nieriker was Amy and just like her character, May was an artist who illustrated “the first edition of Little Women, to a negative critical reception” (Wikipedia’s Abigail May Alcott Nierkier).  Lizzie died tragically like her character, but May died after childbirth leaving her daughter, Louisa May “Lulu,”  to Louisa unlike Amy who visits the school her sister creates with her daughter. After Louisa’s death, Comic Tragedies Written by “Jo” and “Meg” and Acted by the “Little Women” was published in 1893 with “A Foreword by Meg,” a.k.a. Anna B. Pratt who held the copyright; Anna died the same year.

Anime:

Little Women (1977): Amy, Beth, Jo, Meg

A 20-minute episode of the Little Women story, Wakakusa Monogatari, aired on 06 October 1977 as part of the series Manga Sekai Mukashi Banashi (“Classic Tales from Around the World”) (1976-79).   So far I have only seen one reference to this episode and very little information about the series.

Wakakusa no Yon Shimai, which translates to “Four Sisters of the Young Grass,” was created by Toei Animation in 1981.  Toei’s 26-episode series followed a movie version from 1980.  “Hayao MiyazakiIsao TakahataLeiji Matsumoto and Yoichi Kotabe have all worked with the company in the past” (Wikipedia’s Toei Animation); the company is known for Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball series.

Little Women (1981)

In the Toei movie and series, the hair color of the girls are completely mixed up: Jo has blond hair while Amy is a brunette! And Meg’s hair is never correct– in the 1977 episode she is a blonde while Toei has her with black hair!

“Margaret, the eldest of the four, was sixteen, and very pretty, being plump and fair, with large eyes, plenty of soft, brown hair, a sweet mouth, and white hands, of which she was rather vain.  Fifteen-year-old Jo was very tall, thin, and brown, and reminded one of a colt, for she never seemed to know what to do with her long limbs, which were very much in her way.  She had a decided mouth, a comical nose, and sharp, gray eyes, which appeared to see everything, and were by turns, fierce, funny, or thoughtful.  Her long thick hair was her one beauty, but it was  usually bundled into a net, to be out of her way.  Round shoulders had Jo, big hands and feet, a flyaway look to her clothes, and the uncomfortable appearance of a girl who was rapidly shooting up into a woman and didn’t like it…Amy, though the youngest, was a most important person — in her own opinion at least.  A regular snow maiden, with blue eyes, and yellow hair curling on her shoulders, pale and slender, and always carrying herself like a young lady mindful of her manners.” (14 Alcott).

Little Women (1980)

When she is introduced, Jo’s hair color isn’t really mentioned , except the “brown,” which might not be her hair color but  instead be her skin color compared to the “fair” of her sisters’ skin color.  (Beth’s hair color is also not mentioned but she is always portrayed as a brunette in animes which makes sense if Amy is the only one whose hair stands out and the elder two are also brunettes).  Jo had brown hair in the novel which is mentioned when she tried to reassure her family that she was okay with cutting off her hair–“[her] one beauty”– to get money by “rumpling up the brown bush and trying to look as if she liked it” (162 Alcott).

Ai no Wakakusa Monogatari, which translates to “Love’s Tale of Young Grass,” was created in 1987 by Nippon Animation for World Masterpiece Theater (Sekai Meisaku Gekijō); others shows in the World Masterpiece Theater include Les Miserable: Shojo Cosette (2007), Kon’nichiwa Anne Before Green Gables (2009), and Princess Sarah (1985) which was based on Little Princess (1905).

Little Women (1987)

This 48-episode series is followed by Little Women II: Jo’s Boys, or Wakakusa Monogatari Nan to Jō Sensei (“Tale of Young Grass: Nan and Miss Jo”), which aired in 1993. Though it’s English title is Jo’s Boys, the story is supposedly based on Little Men.

Jo's Boys

Manga/Manhwa:

Little Women manga (1985) by Yun Kouga, whose real name was Risa Yamada;  her work includes Loveless (2002) and Earthian(1988).

Little Women (1985)

Dear My Girls (2007), manhwa by Kim Hee Eun, is the author’s interpretation if the March sisters attended a boarding school in England.  The main character acts like Jo, but is supposed to be Beth the quiet one.  The author really lost the character of Beth in this.  The shy and loving Beth became high-strung and looked down upon by her schoolmates for being the only March sibling without a talent (in the original story, she was supposed to be musically talented). Laurie is in love with Beth just like he was with Jo in the original novel, and just like Jo, Beth doesn’t realize it.  Jo is a fencer instead of a writer while Meg is a teacher at the school.  Amy seems to be the most like her original self.  New characters include Greg, Adrian, and Leonora:  Beth falls for Greg, who is in love with Meg and the servant of the Avery family; Adrian “Ed” Avery is engaged to Lenora, has a strange love-hate relationship with Beth and is the love interest of Ravin Haven, who mistook Adrian for a girl when he was younger.  The head of the school, Leonora, dislikes Beth because her best friend /love interest, Jo, and fiancée, Ed, are more interested in Beth than her.  Since the author was quite creative while writing, why couldn’t she be creative enough to create four new character names while she was at it?

“Elizabeth — or  Beth, as everyone called her — was a rosy, smooth-haired, bright-eyed girl of thirteen, with a shy manner, a timid voice and a peaceful expression which was seldom disturbed.  Her father called her “Little Tranquillity,” and the name suited her excellently, for she seemed to live in a happy world of her own, only venturning out to meet the few whom she trusted and loved.”  (14 Alcott).

“There are many Beths in the world, shy and quiet, sitting in corners till needed, and living for others so cheerfully that no one sees the sacrifices till the little cricket on the hearth stops chirping, and the sweet, sunshiny presences vanishes, leaving silence and shadow behind” (46 Alcott).

Dear My Girls (2007): Meg, Greg, Adrian, Beth, Laurie, Amy, Jo

Little Women (2007)

YKids’ Manga Literary Classics came out with a Little Women manga for children 8 to 13 in June 2007.  YKids is part of YParent company Mediacorp Inc. located in Korea, so it probably would be considered a manhwa instead.

A Random Anime Note: The Disney dubs of Studio Ghibli films have several of the actors from Little Women (1994) —Claire Danes who played Beth voiced San in Princess Mononoke, Kirsten Dunst the younger Amy voiced the main character in Kiki’s Delivery Service, Christian Bale (Laurie) voiced Howl in Howl’s Moving Castle.

Tea and the Japanese Tea Ceremony

Posted in Anime with tags , , , on December 2, 2011 by esmay013

Whether it is European style or Japanese style, tea always seems to appear in anime.  But the most interesting tea appearance was in  Special A (S·A).  S·A is about the top class at an elite school with only 7 students ranging from freshmen to senior (the classes, A through F, are decided by students’ grades).  Akira Toudou forces her classmates to have afternoon tea everyday.  I don’t remember most of the teas, but one stood out from all the rest.  In episode 13, the students attended classes at a normal school.  To fix problems with her temporary classmates, Akira uses her “magic” and invites the class to her house for tea.  She presents a special type of tea: blue mallow tea.  When lemon is added to the tea, the blue color turns pink.

Special A: Blue Mallow Tea

~Add Citrus~

Special A: Blue Mallow Tea turns Pink

Tea

Tea comes from two varieties of Camellis sinesisChinese tea from Camellia sinensis sinensis, and Assam tea from Camellia sinensis assamica.

Types of Teas:

  • White Tea is made from buds and young leaves steamed and dried with the least amount of processing.   (Sources: Wikipedia’s White TeaWhite Tea GuideWhite TeaWhat is White Tea?White Tea Central)

    Black Tea

  • Green Tea is made of tea leaves “that have undergone minimal oxidation during processing ” (Wikipedia’s Green Tea).
  • Black Tea  is more oxidized than the rest of the teas, which gives it a stronger flavor (Wikipedia’s Black Tea).
  • Oolong is produced “through a unique process including withering under the strong sun and oxidation before curling and twisting…[S]emi-oxidised oolong teas are collectively grouped as qīngchá (Chinese: 青茶; literally “blue-green tea”)” (Wikipedia’s Oolong).
  • Dark Tea (Pu-erh Tea) is “a variety of post-fermented tea… Post-fermentation is a tea production style in which the tea leaves undergo a microbial fermentation process after they are dried and rolled” (Wikipedia’s Pu-erh Tea).

    Yellow Tea

  • Yellow Tea are “processed similarly to green tea, but with a slower drying phase, where the damp tea leaves are allowed to sit and yellow” (Wikipedia’s Yellow Tea).
  • Herbal Tea is made from “dried fruits, flowers or herbs” instead of the leaves from a tea plant (Wikipedia’s Herbal Tea).

Forms of Tea:

Tea Brick

Flowering Teas

The History of Tea:

  • Tea in China:
    • Origin Myth: 2737 B.C. Shennong the divine farmer accidently produced tea: while boiling water, leaves fell in.  He drank the concoction and figured out it had great medicinal importance (The Chinese Tea Legends).
  • Tea in Japan:
    • c. 1200, the practice of drinking tea enters Japan from China and is used to aid in meditation and spiritual training of monks in Zen temples.*
    • c. 1400s, those of the royal court and other levels of society start drinking tea.*
    • c. 1500s, Sen no Rikyu creates wabi-chathe ancestor of the modern Japanese tea ritual.

The Japanese Tea Ceremony:

The Japanese tea ceremony makes at least one appearance in every anime.  Not really, but most set in Japan seem to, especially if there is at least one character from a traditional Japanese family.  In Skip Beat!, the main character performs a tea ceremony as an acting test; she is offered the chance to learn, but she already knew it from when she was young because she lived in a traditional Japanese inn, ryokan.

Skip Beat!

“The Japanese tea ceremony is called Chanoyu, Sado or simply Ocha in Japanese” (Japanese Tea Ceremony).  The tea leaves are steamed, dried, and ground into a powerder called matcha.  “The host adds hot water to small scoops of powdered tea in a bowl and then rapidly beats with a bamboo whisk.”*

Weeks before the tea ceremony, the host must determine a theme, which will decide the perfect season and “the number and combination of guests.”*  Utensils, flowers, and paintings must express the theme in a process known as toriawase, “selecting and matching”; this is the “ultimate test of the master’s connoisseurship and creativity.”*   The room where the tea ceremony is performed is called chashitsu while the tea house preparation room is called mizuya.  Essential room decorations include hanging scroll, flower container, and incense container.*  Utensils for preparing the tea are kama (kettle), futaoki (lid rest), cha-ire or natsume (tea caddy), mizushashi (fresh water jar), kensui (waste water jar), chawan (tea bowl), a second tea bowl for after the first brew, chasen (tea whisk), and hishaku (water ladle).

The formal tea ceremony known as chakai, which can take 4 hours, includes kaiseki, a meal; koicha, a tea session using thick tea; and usucha, a tea session with a weak tea.  A chaji, a shorter ceremony, includes only tea session, usually usucha.

Note: Vocabulary came from Japanese Tea Ceremony and Wikipedia, besides (*)San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum Japanese Tea Room Exhibit (11/30/2011), but referencing every time would be too much.

Gokusen: Teenage Delinquents

Posted in Anime with tags , , , on November 12, 2011 by esmay013

I watched a segment on NHK World sometime ago that reminded me of an anime.  The segment was called Granny Loves You: The Probation Officer’s Tale:

Chikako (Tadako) Nakamoto

77-year-old volunteer probation officer Chikako Nakamoto was affectionately known as ‘The little old lady of Motomachi’ by the juvenile delinquents she took care of for 30 years in the Motomachi district of Hiroshima. She opened up her home to them, served her hand-made cooking, listened to their stories, and helped many of them to reform their ways. Last November, however, Nakamoto reached the year of retirement for volunteer probation officers. She often says, “Support from the local community is essential for the rehabilitation of offenders”. The program closely describes her daily life as she strives to entrust her role to the community.

I guess I must have watched it around October 9 since that was the day it aired; the documentary was part of “Hometown Stories,” a “four-part series, including human documentaries and a drama, portray[ing] the diverse aspects of regional life and culture in contemporary Japan. They [were] all award winners in domestic program contests in Japan in 2010 and 2011” (Japan Today “NHK World TV to Broadcast ‘Hometown Stories,’ portraying regional life“).

200 px

Image via Wikipedia

It reminded me of Gokusen(2004), which is about new teacher Kumiko Yamaguchi whose first teaching assignment is teaching Math in a high school for delinquents.  Unknown to her students, her clumsiness and scatterbrain personality is a cover to prevent anyone from knowing she is the “ojou” (young lady) of a yakuza (Japanese gang) clan.  Though she wants a normal life as a teacher, she is always willing to take over as acting-head whenever she is required.  She not only has to fight her “unteachable” students every step of the way, but also the vice-principal who wants to shut the school down.

Yankumi–the nickname her students “affectionately” gave her–is like Granny from the documentary, and Granny’s students are similar to Yankumi, especially Shin Sawada, the head of the class.

Shin is really too smart for his own good, which gets him into trouble.  He is the only one who realizes that Yankumi is not what she appears, so he challenges her; though Yankumi tries to prevent the duel from occurring.  She ends up learning from his friends that he attacked his middle school teacher who would not apologize for blaming a student of a crime he did not commit.  The teacher justified his suspicion, because the student was already a delinquent: “a kid like that deserves to be considered guilty until proven innocent” (English dub, Gokusen Episode 2: Duel Shin vs. Ojou).

In the documentary, one of the boys Granny looked after also “attacked a teacher” and was blamed for something he did not do.  Another boy was suspected of a mugging; Granny visited him in lock-up.

This second occurrence also shows up in Gokusen when the students of the school are suspected of mugging. The vice-principal claims that the sketch in the poster proves that “the suspect is obviously a teenager [and] [i]n addition all of the incidents occurred in a close proximity to th[e] campus.  There is no evidence to suggest it isn’t a student” (English dub, Gokusen Episode 4: Ojou Goes Blond! Whodunnit).   After Kumiko suspects her student Takeshi Noda is the thief because of a misunderstanding, he and his friends decide to find who the real criminal is, so they meet up at night to start searching.  Unfortunately while waiting for the remaining member of the group to show up, Noda and his friend are arrested for looking like the poster.  Kumiko is called in to vouch for the students at the police station.

Noda the Culprit?

The documentary was sad, because Granny was retiring and her replacements were unable to connect with the children as she did.  She was also leaving behind her neighborhood dinner which allowed the students and neighborhood adults to come together to understand each other; the adults included a couple who had been criminals in their youth but seemed to have changed.  Some of the other adults Nakamoto got the students into touch with were also once delinquents.  Some of the students she was leaving were able to turn their lives around, while others were not as fortunate, including one who was being sent to jail by the end of the show.

Both show that delinquents can change (though some will not) with the right kind of help; though Gokusen deals with it light-heartedly.

Gangsters and delinquents are in many animes and mangas.  Delinquents are called yanki (not “Yankee” as in an American) while yakuza is the term for Japanese organized crime.  A yanki doesn’t necessarily become a member of the yakuza once they are out of school; Yumiko reprimanded many of her students when they declared they didn’t need an education because they would join the yakuza.

Korean manhwa also has a lot of stories about schools run by a delinquent student jjang (gang’s boss); many of the stories include the accident replacement of the jjang or the female lead is constantly harassed by the jjang who loves her.   Another interesting show about yankis is the live-action Kamikaze Girls (2004) based on the 2002 light novel Shimotsuma Monogatari by Novala Takemoto (which was adapted into a 2004 1-volume manga by Yukio Kanesada) about lolita Momoko and her new acquaintance, the yanki Ichigo.

Gokusen was based on the 15-volume manga (2000) of the same name by Kozueko Morimoto.  There was also a live-action drama with three seasons (series) which began in 2002.

Live-Action Kumiko

Black Blood Brothers: Vampires in Japan

Posted in Anime with tags , on October 29, 2011 by esmay013

The only thing I got out of my first and only trip to an anime convention, San Jose’s FanimeCon, was the discover of one of my favorite animes, Black Blood Brothers (2006).  For those who have never gone to an anime convention, the convention center has rooms that continously plays anime.  My party entered the screeening of Black Blood Brothers during the middle of the second episode, so we had no clue what was going on, but it was so amusing, I looked it up when I got home and ended up loving it.

This series is based on Kouhei Azano’s 2004 light novel series by the same name.  Black Blood Brothers is about Jiro Mochizuki who is known as the “Silver Blade,” because of the sword he wield to kill his kind during the Hong Kong Crusade 10 years prior.  In the present day, he is the caretaker of Kotaro Mochizuki, his younger “brother.”  They head for Japan on a ship containing Chinese vampires heading for the Special Zone (an area of Tokyo where vampires and humans peacefully coexist); the only refugee to reach the Special Zone was the leader, Kelly Wong.  When the two brothers reach Japan, Kotaro befriends Mimiko Katsuragi, a mediator between humans and vampires.  The trio gets suck in a war between the vampires and their Kowloon Children relatives — vampires who drink their kind’s blood and turns them into puppets.  Jiro’s greatest enemy is his lover’s old friend Cassandra “Cassa” Jill Warlock, who became a Kowloon Child.  Sadly the series is only 12 episodes long, without a clear ending and potential for a second season that will never come.

Cassa, Alice, and Jiro

Besides this show, there are countless other anime series and films based on vampires.  Here is a history of Vampires in Japan:

Zelman Clock

Zelman Clock

The first recorded reference to a vampire was in 1047 with a Russian prince, Prince Vladimir Yaroslavich (Jaroslav) of Novgorod, being called “upir,” “Upir Lichy” or “wicked vampire”; some sites say the priest who transcribed the book signed it with this, while others say the prince called the priest this.  Wikipedia says Upir could be the translation of Opir, so this could just be a mistranslation.

Another early appearance of vampires was De Nugis Curialium by Walter Map in 1190.

And I cannot forget to mention Bram Stoker’s Dracula published in 1897.  Though not the first book on vampires, it is the most recognized of vampire literature.

Vampires have been referred to for a long time, but the word “vampire” first appears in 1734:

Alice Eve

The Oxford English Dictionary dates the first appearance of the word vampire in English from 1734, in a travelogue titled Travels of Three English Gentlemen published in the Harleian Miscellany in 1745…The English term was derived (possibly via Frenchvampyre) from the GermanVampir, in turn derived in the early 18th century from the Serbian вампир/vampir, when Arnold Paole, a purported vampire in Serbia was described during the time Serbia was incorporated into the Austrian Empire. (Wikipedia’s Vampire)

Judyth A. McLeod writes about vampires around the world in her 2010 book Vampires: A Bite-Sized History.  Though some countries in Asia independently discovered vampires, the Chinese chiang-shih for instance, the Japanese did not have a vampire until it was brought to Japan.

Kelly Wong

Water certainly seems to have been an adequate barrier to vampires, as Japan’s islands are blessedly free of early vampiric entities. Their only ancient vampiric creature seems to bear a similarity to some unpleasant mythological Celtic monsters in Scotland and Ireland that were renowned for lurking underwater, dragging the unsuspecting from the shore and causing them to drown, although the Japanese version, the Kappa, was also a blood-drinker. (“China and Japan,” McLeod)

Jiro

Besides the kappa, a Japanese cat that drains life through its victim’s blood and can take the form of a person it murders appears in “The Vampire Cat of Nabeshimawritten during “the Hizen daimyo of the Sengoku Era (1568-1615)” (Scott David Foutz’s SaruDama).

The Japanese word for vampire is kyuuketsuki.  The European vampire appeared in Japan during the 1930s.  In Fintan Monaghan’s article “Vampire of the Rising Sun” on Escapist Magazine’s website, he analyzes what vampires meant to the Japanese: “there remains a strong recurring theme of the vampire as foreign invader.”  Originally an analogy of the evils of western influence, now vampires can be the protagonists of the story, rather than the villain, and they could be aliens, like in Trinity Blood, instead of European nobility; still an “invader” but not necessarily European (though still old European style and nobility) nor evil.

Pre-Vampire Jiro

The vampire’s history and theme appears in Black Blood Brothers: Jiro is the only Japanese vampire (at least the only memorable Japanese vampire in the show); he was turned into a vampire by his lover, Alice Eve, when he was stationed in 19th Century London during his service in the Imperial Japanese Navy.  Even though he returns to Japan, the vampire community consists of vampires relocated from Europe and Asia.

[To get Jiro and Kotaro out of her apartment after they arrive in the Special Zone, Mimiko suggests that they] go introduce [them]selves to the head of the House that claims that area as its territory.  Because those of the same House live clustered together.  Those that don’t belong to any House are considered to be a guest of the House that controls that area…there are 3 powers in the Special Zone…One is The Mainland faction. Another one is the European faction. And the last one is a coalition of others. (Mimiko and Jiro, Episode 5 The Special Economic Zone).

Many of the main characters are from other countries:  The Warlock House headed by Cain Warlock is from Europe and was associated with Alice and Cassa before the war began; Kelly Wong and Sei are from China;and the head of the Coven is from Poland, Zelman Clock.  Many of the vampires attempt to live peacefully with the humans while others attempt to disrupt their brethren’s lives for fun, but they all come together to fight the Kowloon Children.

Sei and a Chinese Vampire

Modern Japanese interest in vampires outside of literature and movies include vampire teeth called “yaeba,” “cosmetic procedure that lengthens, sharpens and enhances a person’s canines to look like fangs” and a Vampire Cafe in Ginza, Tokyo.

Jiro, Mimiko, and Kotaro

For more references on vampires:

A List of Vampire Books and Descriptions” on the website Helium by Gillian Taber.

Vampires in Anime and Manga” on Llewellyn Worldwide by Danica Davidson

Vampire Junction has “Vampires: A Chronology,a timeline from The Vampire Book: Encyclopedia of the Undead by J. Gordon Melton.

Vampires in Japan” Answers.com.

Skip Beat!: Bullying

Posted in Anime with tags , on September 23, 2011 by esmay013

Wednesday I saw a clip on a young boy who desperately wanted to believe that “It gets better.”  He ended up taking his life when he could no longer take the bulling.  Gays are one of the many who are bullied, besides new kids, geeks, loners, those  who look different, and anyone else who does not conform.  Why is that?

I have never been bullied.  I have been very fortunate, but those around me haven’t been so lucky.

My friends were bullied.  One started school early then skipped a grade, so she was younger than her classmates.  She was brilliant, so she was bullied.  My other friend wore guy’s clothes, had a short haircut, and was really tall;  apparently many people could not tell if she was a guy or a girl.  Both of them actually could have passed for boys and that is why they were bullied.

Bullying like many other themes appear in mangas/manhwas/animes.

Skip Beat! by Yoshiki Nakamura is a funny manga about Kyoko, a high school aged girl who leaves her hometown to take care of her boyfriend as he attempts to become a singer.  She hears him explain to his mananger the reason he brought her to Tokyo was to take care of him and not because he cares for her.  She decides to take revenge on him and joins the company that rivals his own after much persuasion (in the harassing kind of way) on her part.  The only way she is allowed to join is to be part of the “Love Me” Section, which consists of people with talent but also personality problems–they can’t feel love.

Kyoko is constantly being bullied by someone throughout the series.  Obviously.  She is in the world of the celebs—dog-eat-dog kind of world where the person next to you is competing for the same job as you.  But she gets over each challenge and makes new friends, even if you keep asking yourself, “why do you want to be their friend?”  The bullying is usually light-hearted; something you can get over and move on, except in recently released (in America) chapters.

Kyoko makes it after a lot of hardship, but her first TV roles are bullies.  For a girl dreaming of becoming a princess, this is hard, but her previous past of being bullied by girls who liked her former boyfriend help her create two very scary bullies.

In Chapter 135, Kyoko’s character uses one of her minions to bully a girl apparently not from their group just for fun.  When I read this section the only thing that went through my mind was, “HOLY $H*T! WHAT THE FREAK WAS THAT?!”

This crazy chick just WATER-BOARDED some girl then threw NAIL POLISH REMOVER on her before THREATENING to light her ON FIRE.  DOES THIS REALLY HAPPEN?  I hope it is just an over exaggeration. Not like bullying of any type is alright, but this is just scary.  They are just supposed to be actors “method acting,” so where THE HELL did they get this?!

Kyoko’s previous character made a little sense in that she was bullied by her sister resulting in a disfigurement as a child and she lashed out at the heroine, her cousin, who was always happy and trying to deal with whatever happens to her.  Not saying she was in the right, but it makes more sense than this character who is middle class and supposedly from a normal family.  These bullies are freakin’ scary.

These are just scenes from the TV dramas the characters are acting in, but there are many mangas/manhwas that have storylines about bullying.  Arisa by Andou Natsumi is about a class corrupted by a person who makes wishes come true, the King; if anyone disagrees with the King, then they are harassed by the whole class until they try to commit suicide.  In Boys over Flowers (Hana Yori Dango) by Kamio Youko, the whole school tortures any student that the richest boys tell them to; in this story, the lead character falls in love with her tormentor who is reformed because of her (Why is that a good thing?  Why do you want the victim and torturer to hook-up?).    In Why do You Love Me? by Wann, the main character learns martial arts to protect herself from her female schoolmates.  In My Lovable Fatty by Lee Hee Jeong and Ugly Duckling to Swan (Miunohri to Swan) by Hwang Mi Ri, the main characters are fat ugly girls who attempt suicide and fail, resulting in magic taking pity on them and turning them into beauties that their bullies befriend.  The list goes on and on, and it is not only in Shojo comics.  There are many mangas with male leads who are also bullied.

I hate watching the news.  There is too much hate and mindless violence.  And then you see something about bullying, and you just ask yourself, “Why?”  Why do they do this? It is unbelievable that they expect people to sit down with students and have to tell them what they are doing is wrong.  These kids are too old for that (some adults do it too).  Didn’t they go to elementary school?  Ever hear of the Golden Rule–“Treat Others As You Want To Be Treated”?  We have to tell people that it is wrong to bully.  That is like telling a person to pull out a baby before closing a stroller—IT SHOULD BE COMMON SENSE!  And yet it isn’t.

It isn’t common sense that you shouldn’t invade another person’s privacy; it isn’t common sense to be nice to a new girl; it isn’t common sense to be sympathetic towards someone trying to figure out who they are inside; it isn’t common sense that life is precious and there is only one; it isn’t common sense that bullying is wrong.

Why do people think it is alright to bully another?  Do these people feel bad when their victims take their lives?  Do they feel like the murderers they are?  Was it worth destroying another’s life and possibly your own when you realize what you’ve done?

Humans can be so inhuman.