March 30, 2008

Chapter 45 (The Shore in Twilight)

滝久閣 [えんきゅうかく] Enkyuu Palace (waterfall + long time)

Bush clover

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March 29, 2008

"Shadow of the Moon" revisions

Chapter 58 / 7-7

TP is the TokyoPop translation. EW is my translation.

1. TP: "You're supposed to wear that?" Rakushun asked, making a distasteful face as he picked up the brilliantly colored kimono and began to inspect it. "This is men's garb. Either they think you're a man, or the Ever-King is having a little fun."

EW: "This is what I'm supposed to change into?"
      Youko held up the florid fabric with a look of disgust. Rakushun inspected it. "Seems to be men's clothing. Maybe he thinks you're a man, or he knows you're a woman and he's having a little fun with you."

TokyoPop is correct, though "we" is probably better (the sentence doesn't have a subject):

      "This is what we're supposed to wear?" Rakushun held up the florid fabric, inspecting it with a look of disgust.

2. TP: Yoko felt dizzy. She held her head in her hands. "I forgot how crazy this world . . . I mean, I think I have a lot more to learn."
      "Seems that way." [1] The young man who stood smiling before her, calling himself Rakushun, was perhaps just over twenty years of age, and very, very human. He seemed perfectly healthy, if a little on the thin side.
      "What, you didn't think I was some kind of talking rat, did you? I told you I was a half-beast. Well, you saw the beast. This is me other half." [4]
      "You don't say," said Yoko, her face burning. Back then, when I hugged him . . . No wonder he told me I should learn a little restraint-- And they hadn't just hugged; they had shared the same room during their travels. She even vaguely remembered him [5] changing her clothes for her, when he found her that day long ago.

EW: Youko put her hands up to her face in mortification. Now she understood what Rakushun meant when she hugged him and he said that she needed to learn some "discretion."
      "I forgot that this might not have figured into your sense of things."
      "I'd say it didn't."
      He laughed, a handsome [2] man of twenty or so, of average height and somewhat thin. But in any case, a healthy young man. A "legal adult" really did mean a human who had come of age. [3]
      "An ordinary animal couldn't talk, right? I said I was a hanjuu, right?" [4]
      "Yeah . . . you're right."
      She felt her face burning. A hanjuu, a half-human, he had said. A legal adult, he had said. But she hadn't been paying attention. [5] They'd shared rooms together, and once upon a time he had undressed and dressed her.

2.1. TokyoPop is correct:
      "I forgot that some things here are still beyond the bounds of my common sense."
      "So it seems"
2.2. "Striking" might be better than "handsome": (LIT) "A striking human young person."
2.3. The term "seitei" is defined in the dictionary as "a healthy adult male between the ages of 21 and 60, according to the ritsuryo system of Tang Dynasty law." Literally, the text reads: "'Seitei' really did mean 'an adult man.'"
2.4. My translation here is close to literal.
2.5. I missed the verb here: "Not only had they hugged, but they'd shared rooms together, and a long time ago she seemed to recall that he had changed her nightclothes."

3. TP: "I thought you had your head firmly on your shoulders, but now I'm starting to wonder, Yoko."
      "You're not the only one. Why . . . why don't you always look human?" she demanded, not intending it to sound half as exasperated as it did.

EW: "Youko, just when you seem to have it all together, you can still completely miss the big picture."
      "I think so, too. So why aren't you always in human form, then?"

I missed the dialogue tag:
      "So why aren't you always in human form, then?" Youko asked, a peevish tone creeping unbidden into her voice.

4. TP: . . . his eyes filled with mirth. Yoko smiled.

EW: . . . but his tone was charming enough that Youko refrained from smirking in response to his apology.

Better: "but his tone was charming enough that Youko limited her response to a smile."

5. As in most of the formal rooms Yoko had seen in this world, this room had a screen standing in front of the door so the newcomer was invisible until he stepped farther into the chamber.

EW: There was a pair of screens inside the doors.

I left out the adverbial: "There was (as always) a pair of screens inside the doors." The additions are not in the original.

6. TP: "She hasn't got up to the palace, of course."

EW: As expected, clear sailing all the way to the palace.

TokyoPop is correct:
      "How are things going?"
      "As expected, they don't seem to have ascended yet to the Imperial Palace."

7. TP: Stepping closer to Yoko, Rakushun drew the character ki with his finger on her palm:

EW: Rakushun wrote out the character for "Ki."

The additions are not in the original.

8. TP: Her army has swollen to the point where the kingsmen would have little chance in open conflict." [1] At the word kingsmen, Rakushim wrote two more characters: __
      This must be the term for the true king's army, Yoko realized. Her army. [2]

EW: Her armies grow, but they can't match the might of our Imperial Army.
      Rakushun wrote "Imperial Army" using the characters, The Royal Masters of War.

8.1. TokyoPop is more correct: "Her armies have grown such that the Imperial Army dare not cross swords with them."
8.2. The addition is not in the original.

9. TP: The Ever-King proceeded to explain everything the two friends had told him of Yoko's arrival in this world, and all that had transpired since they met. [1] Enki sat quietly, listening in every detail, his stern and thoughtful expression making him look much older than a boy of thirteen. "So who's the fool who set a kirin to attack a human?" [2]

EW: The En gave him the abridged version. Enki listened silently and then leaned forward and said with sullen expression, "What kind of fool would assault a kirin?"

9.1. The addition is not in the original.
9.2. TokyoPop is correct: "What kind of fool would send a kirin to attack a human?"

10. TP: "I was brought to this world knowing nothing about it. I was brought to this palace knowing practically nothing. [1] You say I am the Glory-King, so perhaps that is so; you say some other king wants me dead, and that's probably true too. But I never wanted to be the Glory-King, nor did I contact you because I wanted some sort of of recognition, or glory. [2] I was just sick of being chased by demons and the guardsmen in Kou. I came to you to find a way to go home, to Wa. That's all."

EW: "Look, I was brought here totally in the dark. The Royal En says I'm the Empress of Kei, so I guess it must be true. Just as it's true that some king somewhere obviously wants me dead. But I never wanted to be the Royal Kei. It's not like anybody gave me a heads up beforehand, you know, said how they'd really like me to consider being their next Queen, or something. [2] I don't much care for getting chased around by youma, and I didn't particularly enjoy getting chased around by those soldiers in Kou, either. The only reason I'm here is to ask The Royal En for a way to get back to Japan . That's it."

10.1. The addition is not in the original.
10.2. TokyoPop is more correct: "I didn't reach out to you seeking some sort of recognition as the Royal Kei."

11. TP: "Sit," he repeated, more firmly. "I have a story to tell you, and the telling will not be quick."

EW: "Sit down. There's something I'd like you to hear, and it's going to take a while."

The second verb is more blunt than the first. I use "have a seat" and then "sit down." The adverbial "more firmly" accomplishes the same thing.

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March 27, 2008

Comics crossing over

Joss Whedon, novelist Jodi Picoult, and rapper Percy Carey talk about writing for the comics in this NPR interview. Included at the link are excerpts from Buffy and Percy Carey's autobiography, Sentences. Confirming my previous note on the subject, Carey's B&W approach--using established manga techniques such as frame-in-frame and dropped backgrounds--is far more inventive and expressive. The four-color, traditionally-drawn, and rather prosaic Buffy version seems mostly to be illustrated text, like manga that are created from anime simply by printing the key frames. The demands of color and the temptations of photorealism are a drag on the "American" style.

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March 24, 2008

The religion of Apple

Forget about the metaphorical "holy wars" between PCs and Macs, this is one of the most concise insights into the problem of criticism (constructive or not) in a religious context I've read in some time:

The [hostile media phenomenon] is particularly stark when it comes to opinionated reviews--however laudatory--of Apple products. That's because many Apple fans "want to pick up the paper and see in it a reflection of their own nearly religious zeal for the thing they love. They don't want a review. They want a hagiography."

This kind of reaction is understandable. I want you to love what I love, and the realization that you don't is deeply disappointing, even disconcerting. It's easier for me to believe (subjectively) that you are somehow defective than to accept (objectively) that aesthetic tastes and belief systems differ widely.

But at least dealing with this cognitive dissonance by ranting and raving (or becoming an otaku and starting a blog) is infinitely preferable to attempting to criminalize it into oblivion.

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March 19, 2008

Appleseed: Ex Machina

I approached Appleseed: Ex Machina with expectations set admittedly too high, in the hope that the sequel would get beyond the silly premise of the original. Instead, the sequel only left me appreciating how much better a film the first one was. Yes, the plot was incoherent at times, but better structured and more interesting overall.

The Matrix proved that carried along by a sufficiently complex and ingenious plot, an idiotic science fiction premise (starting with that business about the batteries) can be stretched out for ninety minutes. Appleseed managed that. Appleseed: Ex Machina doesn't (and neither did the The Matrix sequels).

All the eye candy and video game shoot-em-ups makes the movie an entertaining-enough diversion. But Appleseed did such a good job proving what a really bad idea it is to create an authoritarian society with utopian pretensions run by a bunch of genetically-engineered androids and a ginormous mainframe.

And then Appleseed: Ex Machina proposes that the answer to all those inherent problems are more dispassionate androids and a bigger mainframe, with even more total control of everything. We're even treated to crowds of mainframe-controlled zombies, looking as cornily Roger Corman as it sounds. As economist Donald Boudreaux puts it:

A far greater danger to Americans' prosperity than a President with a poor speaking style and a penchant for standard-fare political shenanigans is the spread of the belief that economic salvation lies in having someone "in control."

But back during the 1960s, the mainframe was the only way to harness enough computing power in one place to do anything useful. By the 1970s, the Cray supercomputer had further cemented the metaphor of the super-smart, centrally-located, all-powerful electronic brain, generously time-sharing out its intelligence to us mere mortals.

If anything, Appleseed is a tribute to a bygone era, when despondent Marxists could dream of benevolent dictatorships putting a chicken in every pot and making the trains run on time. But run by computers, which would make it all totally cool. Yet by the 1990s, Cray Computer Corporation was bankrupt.

The Internet was instead about decentralized, distributed computing using off-the-shelf components.

But the Star Trek universe is still ruled by mainframes. The Matrix universe is run by mainframes. The Star Wars universe is run by mainframes (all conveniently located in one location, without redundancy or backups). Hollywood has mainframes on the brain.

Recall that every other episode of the original Star Trek had one of these Edenic societies blowing a major fuse. At least they got that part right. "One ring to rule them all" became "One mainframe to rule them all." It does give the protagonist and easy objective: toss the ring into the volcano. Or nuke the mainframe.

And then rebuild the blasted thing all over again, exactly the way it was before. A never-ending public works project to beat all public works projects, I guess.

One notable exception is Ghost in the Shell, created by Masamune Shirow after he wrote Appleseed. Second time around, Shirow got it exactly right: a decentralized, distributed, chaotic world where nobody can be in control of everything, and the worst problems are caused by people trying to be in control of everything.

It becomes the contradictory job of the good guys in Section 9 to exert authoritarian force in resisting that authoritarian impulse (ditto: Jack Bauer). But good premises make good stories precisely because the conflict is built in and perfection is elusive. Not surprisingly, every Ghost sequel has equaled or exceeded the original.

Take seriously the notion that a technological, utopian paradise is possible in the here and now, and like all socialist realism art, the essential conflict can only boil down to evil (capitalistic) forces trying to destroy Eden. It sounds high concept at first, but it'll always end up as high camp in the James Bond/Austin Powers/Star Trek vein.

In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the end of the world (not again!) was turned into a running joke. The underlying plot devices in Ghost in the Shell, by comparison, are surprisingly mundane. Stop aspiring to perfection, and the challenge of wrestling with ordinary desires and frustrations opens the door to transcendence.

Consider the original and its four sequels in terms of the primary plot device:

Ghost in the ShellIndustrial espionage
Solid State Society    Medicare funding
SAC: IMedical drug trials
SAC: IITerrorism and separatism

To be sure, Solid State Society is a tad deeper than that, but the questions raised by a high-tech society with an aging population and a low birth rate—also explored in Katsuhiro Otomo's comic Roujin Z—are questions about the value of life itself. It makes sense why the various players would be driven to a murderous crime wave.

I thought the free-wheeling world of Star Trek: Enterprise made it the best of the series, though the Orwellian UN-in-outer-space meme still hovered there in the background. In Serenity and Firefly, Joss Whedon created the best space opera series to date by getting back to a messy libertarian world that was recognizably real.

Naive and idealistic politics, however well-intentioned, make for bad movies. Imperfect people battling an imperfect system make for good movies. As novelist Richard Russo puts it, "unrelenting virtue is not just unrealistic but uninteresting." Appleseed: Ex Machina takes on the task of making an uninteresting idea interesting. And mostly fails.

Related posts

The "uncanny valley"
Reframing the mainframe plot
The Medicator (they'll be back!)

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March 16, 2008

Chapter 43 (The Shore in Twilight)

Shirei can summon youma from the Yellow Sea, not "dangerous youma, but the small, harmless ones" (see chapter 34).

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Star Wars manga

A side-by-side comparison of Star Wars as done by Marvel Comics and done in Japan for the licensed manga version. As the commentary points out, the manga artists had the advantage of working with several more years of perspective, and thus had more material to work with.

However, the article illustrates the inherent superiority of B&W line drawing over (low quality) four-color offset. For one, page length becomes less of a financial constraint. Hence manga's use of "decompression," stretching out reaction shots and action sequences over several panels and even pages.

Also obvious is the greater tolerance in Y/A (shounen) manga for violence, and showing a bit more of Leia as she offs Jabba. American comics working under the Comics Code Authority are bound by tighter constraints. Manga manages to be both more explicit and more minimalistic.

Manga characters tend towards "types" (hence no need to make them look just like the actors), while background detail is often excruciatingly precise.

You may also spot a subtle shift in artistic styles in the manga from Star Wars to Return of the Jedi, reflecting a change in artists. Watch anime from this era (say, from Ranma through Ghost in the Shell), and you will observe similar stylistic trends.


March 14, 2008

"Shadow of the Moon" revisions

Chapter 57 / 7-6

TP is the TokyoPop translation. EW is my translation.

1. TP: Yoko had been worried about how the Ever-King would bring her and Rakushun to Kankyu. Perhaps he had some magical means of transport that had whisked him here on the very day they had sent that letter, yet there was no guarantee they would be able to partake of it. She knew the city was at least a month away by foot, and guessed that sometimes they might be forced to stay outside of the towns at night; it was beginning to seem that it might be even less safe inside the towns than out.
      When the two friends followed the king to the edge of town, however, a single sharp whistle on his fingers solved the mystery.

EW: When the En arrived at the outskirts of the city, he put his fingers to his mouth and sounded a high whistle.
      Walking all the way to Kankyuu would take another month. Moreover, at night, there was no getting in or out of the city. Youko was trying to figure out how in the world he was planning to get to Kankyuu when, seemingly in response to the whistle, a shadow appeared above the wall.

The additions are not in the original. TokyoPop reversed the order of the paragraphs. (I do it a lot too.)

2. TP: It had been all of two hours since their journey began.

EW: Seated behind her, clinging to her back, Rakushun pointed with his small forefoot off into the distance ahead of them, at a location perhaps another two hours away.

TokyoPop is correct: "Seated behind her, clinging to her back, Rakushun pointed with his small forefoot off into the distance ahead of them. At that point, two hours had passed since the journey began."

3. EW: Well, I suppose, Youko thought sarcastically.

Could also be translated: "But of course, Youko thought with a wry smile." (Omitted in TokyoPop.)

5. TP: Yoko gasped. Before the door was a large terrace, and beyond that stretched a sea of. . . Clouds. We're above the clouds!
      But that's impossible. We didn't climb that far.

EW: "Oh . . . " Youko unconsciously exclaimed. Before them was a wide terrace. They were already above the clouds.
      What miracle this was, she didn't know, but ascending those few steps had brought them already to the very heights of the mountain.

This passage is the third person narrative, not interior dialogue.

6. TP: "Why yes, a sea of clouds. Don't you call it that where you're from?"

EW: "Well, if there weren't an ocean, then we wouldn't call it a Sea of Clouds."

The addition is not in the original.

7. TP: "What do you think rain is?" said the Ever-King, smiling. "But seriously, if all the Cloud Sea's water fell at once, pity the poor souls beneath it.

EW: "Well," said the En, with a chuckle, "if the Sea of Clouds were to fall like rain, that would cause quite a bit of trouble for everyone.

The word "rain" is actually not in the original. LIT: "If the water in the Sea of Clouds fell down, everybody would be in a bind."

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March 12, 2008

Golden Compass resurrection

With a worldwide gross closing on $400 million, The Golden Compass has been hugely successful by any cinematic standards. This article in Variety confirms that a series of bumbling business and marketing decisions, including New Line's decision to sell off the foreign rights for pennies on the dollar, doomed the film domestically. The overseas distributors proved a lot smarter.

Says Italian distributor 01's Gaelle Armentano,

By having a dialogue with the Catholic press we were able to limit the controversy and all that anti-clericalism that was so devastating in the U.S. The Americans got started a bit late. We got an earlier start and really pushed all channels.

This is a problem that reaches well beyond the boardroom. The U.S. press corps in general doesn't really understand religion and so can't talk about it except in political terms, where agendas are to be exploited, with one side "winning" while the other side "loses." The concept of "dialogue" gets turned into a synonym for half-hearted compromise that no real believer wants to be associated with.

And the religious rabble-rousers at the other end of the spectrum are equally invested in exaggerating the threat and the stature of the enemy and preaching no surrender.

Two sets of contradictory values are at work here. First is to shift the blame for the sorry state of the world to somebody other than ourselves. In other words, we have met the enemy, contra Pogo, and the enemy is THEM. It is much more comfortable in this light to presume that Hollywood is corrupting us, rather than the other way around.

But if Hollywood (as a symbolic stand-in for all mass media) really can corrupt us with its art and its ideas, that must mean that our art and ideas could achieve similar ideological traction. We elevate the power and threat of the weapon wielded by Hollywood because we wish such a weapon for ourselves.

Hollywood filmmakers want to believe the same thing. If their ideas can change the world, it must follow that the ideas of other people with contrary inclinations can do the same. A superhero is boring without a supervillain. While dramatically true, I don't buy it. The truest thing Rush Limbaugh ever said was that he doesn't tell anybody what to think. He only articulates what his listeners already believe.

Didn't the huge popularity of The Da Vinci Code turn most of the population into a bunch of Opus Dei-bashing, first-century Gnostic followers of the Priory of Sion? Oh. It didn't? You mean, absolutely everybody who saw the movie would have a hard time now explaining what it was about except that Tom Hanks was in it and it had something to do with that Da Vinci guy?

As a life-long geek who finds theology as fascinating as physics, I must confess that what attracted so many people to Dan Brown wasn't religion but story. Philip Pullman is honest enough to confess that fact:

I'm a great admirer of [Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens], but I wouldn't want to be part of any movement that had an agenda. [Groucho Marx: "I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member."] I'm not arguing a case. I'm not preaching a sermon. I'm not giving a lecture. I'm telling a story. Any position I take is that of a storyteller who says, 'Once upon a time, this happened.'

Or as Sam Goldwyn famously said, "If you want to send a message, use Western Union." Either tell the story or don't tell the story. But don't look for a "happy medium." The Bible puts it even better: "Because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of my mouth." I think God would enjoy a good argument with a convicted atheist, and a good Christian should to.

I can't see heaven being filled with the sillier and more excitable twits of either persuasion.

UPDATE: More Philip Pullman commentary here, here, here and here.

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March 09, 2008

Chapter 42 (The Shore in Twilight)

悧角 [りかく] Rikaku (clever horn)

Drawing on Youko's theological musings in chapter 40,  Risai concludes that "Heaven must make mistakes. But those mistakes too could be amended. A Heaven that could not err could never correct itself."

This suggests that there might be loopholes in the strict legalism of divine law in the Twelve Kingdoms (articulated at the end of chapter 41).

Or as Jesus responds when pressed on the exacting terms of the Mosaic Law, "If one of you has a child or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull it out?" (Luke 14:5).

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March 04, 2008

"Shadow of the Moon" revisions

Chapter 56 / 7-5

TP is the TokyoPop translation. EW is my translation.

1. TP: Yoko shook her head no, and swallowed noisily.
      How did he get here so fast?

EW: "No, no, that's okay," said Youko, and couldn't think of anything more to add.

The expression also means: "To be at a loss for words," or "too taken aback to think of what to say."

2. TP: A full year ago, the Glory-King of Kei-- a woman like yourself --passed away. She was also called the Prophet--you know this?"

EW: One year ago, the Empress of Kei passed away. Posthumously, she is now known as the Late Empress Yo. Were you aware of this?"

The addition is not in the original. Here we again encounter the problem of attempting to literally translate names. "Yo" is the first character in "prophet," but by itself means "beforehand" or "in advance."

3. TP: Keiki immediately set out to find a new king and vanished from the royal court.

EW: Keiki immediately began the search for a new king.

The addition is not in the original.

4. TP: She cannot enter the palace, nor can she perform the royal spirit rituals. Because of this, I had thought little would come of her. However . . ." The Ever-King's gaze turned inward as if he were regarding a series of scenes played in his mind.

EW: "She cannot enter the Imperial Palace , and consequently, cannot govern the country. I knew this was a serious matter."

The addition is not in the original.

5. TP: "So, imagine my surprise [1] when Joyei set up camp in a governor's castle and from there announced her own ascendance as the new Glory-King. Of course, her people had no way of knowing the truth?that is, they had no reason to doubt her, and so they believed.

      Thereupon she claimed that the various governors of the land had collaborated in treason, preventing her from entering the palace. [2] This, too, the people believed, and so they censured the governors, who were in truth blameless. Joyei next declared war on the so-called 'corrupt officials of her land [3] and sent out a call for new administrators, new bureaucrats, and soldiers to form a new army.

EW: "Regardless, she set herself up within the fortress of one of the province lords and from there proclaimed her enthronement. The ordinary citizens had no way of judging the truth for themselves. They had no reason to question her authenticity, rather, they were ready to believe. The province lords joined together, barricaded their castles, and announced that she, a commoner, would never enter as their equal. But the people believed her and blamed them. Joei even dared to declare war and solicited new officials and soldiers.

5.1. He can't be all that surprised. This type of thing seems to happen unfortunately often (as in The Shore in Twilight). The first word in the paragraph could also be translated "However."
5.2. TokyoPop is correct: "She declared that the province lords had conspired together to prevent her--the rightful Empress--from entering the Imperial Palace."
5.3. TokyoPop is correct: "Joei even dared to declare war on her 'treasonous and disloyal subjects,' and solicited new officials and soldiers."

6. TP: Then, when the false king actually produced a kirin, there was little room left to doubt her.
      "Yes," he continued, answering Yoko's surprised look, [1] "Joeyi revealed a kirin--in beast form-- saying it had been recaptured from her enemies in the kingdom. [2]

EW: But then he was produced by Joei, making their position untenable. [2] The presentation of the kirin in its creature form made it hard for anyone to question her or rescue Keiki.

6.1. The addition is not in the original.
6.2. TokyoPop is correct: "She claimed Keiki had been rescued from her enemies who had kidnapped (taken) him."

7. TP: "Produced the kirin? How? It wasn't Keiki, was it?"
      "No . . . though I fear that he was captured and is held against his will."

EW: They produced Keiki. Then Keiki . . . . "
      "It seems he was captured."

The additions are not in the original. "It seems he was captured" is literal.

8. TP: The kirin may call upon the power vested in the sacred treasures of the kingdom to control the sirei.

EW: The king employs the special powers of the Imperial Regalia, and the kirin commands the shirei.

LIT: "The king uses the magical powers of the Imperial Regalia, and the kirin makes use of the shirei."

9. TP: Either it serves its master the king, or it is searching for the new king. Nothing else."

EW: The king is its lord, the king searches it out, but nothing beyond that."

TokyoPop is correct: "The king is its lord (LIT: "it holds the king as its lord"), and searches out the king, but nothing beyond that." Got my object and subject confused.

10. TP: As long as we have you under our protection here in En, you cannot be harmed. And I believe it will soon be apparent who has plotted the death of Kei's true Glory-King. Heaven will not turn a blind eye on this for long."

EW: As long as you are within our custody, no one will lay a finger upon you. The problem for your enemies is that Keiki, even in the form of a kirin, is not so easily disposed of. Were the kirin murdered, the king who ordered your assassination would be quickly revealed. Heaven could not overlook such an injustice."

Better: "The problem for your enemies is that Keiki is a kirin, and not so easily disposed of."

11. TP: We shall soon see which way the kingdom of Kei leans [1], and then we will know who has ordered these attacks on your life. However," he added, "the matter of your kirin is more urgent. [2] He is being held in Kei, and we must find a way to rescue him. For this, and for your protection, I will require you to come with me to a safer place. Can you depart from here?"

EW: "Better to leave it alone for now. With the kingdom on the wane, who is giving the orders will become clear." With that, the En laughed heartily. [3] "Keiki is being held in Kei. That alone would justify a rescue mission. In order to do so, and in order to protect your Highness, we must get you to a safe place. Shall we be going?"

11.1. The verb can mean "to lean," but it also means "to decline," as in: "The family's fortunes are on the wane [decline]." A better translation: "That kingdom will decline, and who is giving the orders will become clear." The reference here is to the divine law of consequences that rules international relations in the Twelve Kingdoms. En is saying that if Keiki were murdered, the culprit would be immediately revealed. But in any case, the chickens will inevitably come home to roost.
11.2. The addition is not in the original.
11.3. Should be: "'However,' the En said with a broad smile, 'that Keiki is being held prisoner in Kei alone justifies a rescue mission.'"

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March 03, 2008

Literary lexicons

Erica Friedman has posted on her blog a pretty comprehensive list of terminology commonly used when categorizing and criticizing anime and manga in the largely shoujo romance and melodrama genres (understandably, she doesn't touch upon science fiction, fantasy and other shounen-oriented categories in this particular glossary).

She also has an interview on specifically about the yuri genre.

Analyzing the generation of jargon prompts the conclusion that a field of endeavor hasn't come of age until it requires a specialized vocabulary to discuss it properly. The terminology generated by this relatively small literary niche is an indication of its vibrancy, as well as a reflection of the vastness of the medium as a whole.

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March 02, 2008

Chapter 41 (The Shore in Twilight)

The Sankou, or Three Ministers: Minister of the Left, Minister of the Right, and the Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal. More here.

The koseki (戸籍) census record system is still used in Japan. More here.

At the end of this chapter, Gyokuyou succinctly sums up the political philosophy of legalism that became a powerful political force in China two millenia ago. In contrast to absolute monarchy, legalism shares with modern constitutional democracy the concept of the rule of law. However, the implementation of the law is diametrically opposite.

The philosophy of constitutional democracy is perhaps best summed up in the Tenth Amendment, which states that the powers of the federal government are limited only to those granted in the Constitution. That is, the government can do only what the law says it can, while the people may do everything except what the law says they can't.

Legalism turns that on its head. It essentially says that nobody can do anything unless it's defined by law, and the government is empowered to use any and all means to enforce this totally embracing reach of the civil and criminal code. The letter of the law becomes all important.

The only way to check human selfishness and depravity was to establish laws that bountifully rewarded actions that benefited others and the state, and ruthlessly punish all actions that harmed others or the state.

Legalism was promulgated as a check on human folly and ambition. Unfortunately, as Lord Acton put it, absolute power corrupts absolutely. "All disagreement with the government was made a capital crime; all alternative ways of thinking, which the Legalists saw as encouraging the natural fractiousness of humanity, were banned."

So it quickly degraded into totalitarianism and despotism. Maoism can accurately be described as less a communist revolution than a resurrection of Qin Dynasty legalism. The legalistic impulse can also be recognized in various implementations of the Mosaic Law and Sharia.

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