Wednesday, October 2, 2013



I watch/read/consume a lot of foreign entertainment. I mean if I was only going to watch British, or even worse, English entertainment I'd quite rapidly run outand be bored to tears in the meantime. But as the current trend seems to be to divide the, SPHERICAL, world into some kind of post-colonial longitude-based separation with me at the centre being as I reside on the dying husk of an attempt at global tyranny and therefore find myself classed as 'Western'. I should say that I watch/read/consume a lot of 'Eastern' entertainment. Why? Well I'm glad you asked.

When I mention my love of such things to those-who-do-not-know I am often greeted by a statement along the lines of 'oh but cartoons are for children' or 'I prefer things that are more realistic'. Such comments invariably make me pull THIS face. If you want to know what THIS face looks like, look in a mirror right now. It's that same look of baffled indignation that you get when someone expects you to know what face they are pulling when your only connection to them is through text. Confusing and infuriating no? I pull that face not because of the inherent ignorance of all that is represented within the medium, but because of the much more worrying underlying premise. That somehow the worlds of fantasy portrayed are, by nature of their medium or scope, too fantastical. This offends my very core.

Imagination and fantasy are incredible abilities of the human intellect. If there is truly anything that places us above the other lifeforms on our planet it is that we have the ability to envision other realities within our minds and alter them at our will. We can figure out whether a concept will work before actually physically testing it. We can remove, alter or apply limits to scenarios irrelevant to those we actually operate under. We can imagine the pain of sticking our collective finger in the ethereal plug socket without the need to do so. More than this by continually imagining more and more impossible things we have made our previous imaginings commonplace. How many Icarus's stared longingly at the clouds before the Boeing 747 came along? The answer is a lot less than if we'd waited for evolution (or *cough* unspecified deity number 8) to provide us with wings. In my mind it seems imperative for us to dream big, else how are we going to drag ourselves along afterwards. Each new idea that the collective human consciousness creates is a reach forward, maybe it won't find something solid to hold onto, but that is not the point. If we are not trying something new with each motion then we will never find another handhold.

'Realistic' fictions are no less fantastical than abstract ones. Once an idea is being portrayed outside of this physical reality it is at the exact same distance from us as every other idea. The lost and confused family man in unfortunate circumstances may seem more relatable to you than a wizard, but both are as unreal and unknowable as each other. We can learn something from both, but in actuality you will probably learn more from the wizard. Why? Because most of the family man's experiences will be ones you already have undergone. It may make you feel good to watch your own troubles from another angle, but to then abstain from experiencing anything else will just result in a stale cycle of repetition. This is how that horrific entity known as 'reality tv' operates. You watch terribly boring people doing terribly boring things and feel good about yourself because you aren't them. No, instead you are you. A person sat watching terribly boring people doing terribly boring things. Great. The financial undercurrents of the entertainment industry are built around trying to sell the same idea to as many people as possible, as many times as possible. Good for them, that's capitalism right on the bat, make large piles of intermediate bartering promises in return for no useful output. Whatever, such things are unimportant. We created a fantasy mock-up of such creatures centuries ago. The dragon who sits on a pile of gold, powerful, irritable, but ultimately a foolish and wretched thing only waiting for someone interesting to slay it. The important thing is for you to recognise when you are being sold the same idea for the 40th time, sure enjoy it, but don't allow it to dull your appreciation of something new. When something different comes along, give it a go, allow it to carve new channels in your grey matter. Don't balk at the first instance of deviation from what you've come to expect.

Which is where I will come to my little sales pitch for anime/manga/Eastern animation. Animation as an art form is fantastic, in all forms of the word. Without the restrictions of actors a whole host of limitations for ideas are removed. This can only be a good thing. It means stories, characters and ideas can be portrayed in ways a 'westerner' cannot begin to conceive because you haven't yet experienced the cultural backbone of such. In fact a vast amount of the 'groundbreaking' shifts in western popular culture have come from well-established ideas within Eastern entertainment. As too were many ideas taken from western entertainment by the forefathers of that generation. Cultural mixing is a wonderful thing. For example the series I have currently been embedding myself in, and which has whipped me into such a fervour of philosophical thought is 'Ghost in the shell', originally brought into being by Masamune Shirow. Everyone with ANY interest in science fiction or philosophy should bury themselves in this collection of works. If 'the matrix' seemed an unusually expansive and interesting concept for a movie, here you will find one of the key inspirations for that film and also why it is terrible that intellectual properties have to be so dulled down to be sold to western audiences. At its heart the thing is simply a cop show, a series of stories about a secret police unit dealing with terrorism in a future that still sits on our horizon as plausible. People are replacing they're bodies with technology, this is happening currently, but in this future it is nearing perfection as a science. So far, so average sci-fi. Only in G.I.T.S. the actual to-ings and fro-ings of a morally ambiguous group of policemen is only the brilliantly well-orchestrated icing on a much more flavoursome cake. For our unlikely bunch of possibly heroes are not just 2-dimensional clich s running round an interesting setting, their people who aren't quite people anymore and this bothers them. The obstacles they have to face are not just clear cut 'bad guys' or even 'socially misunderstood guys'. For an entire series of this show you will find yourself watching a bunch of people running around in robot tanks trying to arrest an idea. If that doesn't sell you this as something interesting to inhale I'm not sure what will.
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