July 30, 2017

Prison of Dusk (6)

The economics of the allotments is explained in chapter 25 of A Thousand Leagues of Wind. All citizens receive a plot of land when they reach their majority, equal to approximately one hectare. The allotment provides enough land to supply the food and a house for a family.

In a hamlet, eight families farm nine allotments (eight plots plus a commons). Three hamlets make a village. This structure is reflected at the national level, with nine provinces, one of which is the capital province run by the kirin.

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July 27, 2017

The bosozoku squat

In chapter 1 of Fox & Wolf, after giving him a thrashing, Yuki squats next to Jirou "bosozoku biker style, forearms resting on her knees, feet flat on the ground."

Courtesy of Dan Szpara, here's a veteran bosozoku (暴走族) biker dude showing how it's done.

As Szpara points out, the bosozoku have become a cliché, so in many cases the "acting out" just turns into "acting." Still, a few have kept the faith. Kyra Sacdalan describes the true believers as

a gang, now a lifestyle, still notorious amongst police enforcement. So much so that certain colors and stylings of their flamboyant West Side Story meets Lost Boys uniform are illegal in Japan.

As with the yakuza, the police in Japan have carte blanche to crack down as hard as necessary to maintain (the appearance of) public order. So these "wild ones" have to be careful about where and how they rebel.

But Harley-Davidson riders? "They appear to have an attitude which is carefree, cordial, and genuinely passionate."

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July 23, 2017

Prison of Dusk (5)

The old Chinese proverb Sotsuyuu cites is 「以刑止刑」 (yi xing zhi xing), or "Abolish punishment with punishment." A close western version is "Spare the rod and spoil the child" It's based on Proverbs 13: "He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes."

In this chapter, Sotsuyuu articulates a longstanding argument in regards to the U.S. Constitution and the death penalty. The question is whether capital punishment can be ruled "unconstitutional" (short of the amending process) when the Constitution itself assumes its lawful existence.

Rakushun explains the Divine Decrees in chapter 42 of Shadow of the Moon.

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July 16, 2017

Prison of Dusk (4)

Rikkan literally means "six ministries," the equivalent of the cabinet: Administration, Education, Protocol, Defense, Justice, Public Works. Also known as the Ministries of Heaven, Earth, Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter.

The Chousai (title) heads the Ministry of Earth and serves as the "Chief Cabinet Secretary" of the Rikkan.

Lingchi (凌遅), often translated as "death by a thousand cuts," was a form of torture and execution used in China from roughly 900 AD until it was banned in 1905.

"Eikou knelt and bowed with his hands locked together in front of his chest." The word in Japanese is kyoushu (拱手). The Chinese reading of the word (gong shou) should be familiar to viewers of Chinese historical dramas.

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July 13, 2017

Sub vs. dub

Watching stars like Keanu Reeves and Tom Cruise and Diane Lane on Asa-Ichi (NHK's morning show) plugging their latest movies, I'm impressed at what great interviewees they are--not only at ease going through a translator, but setting everybody else at ease too.

Charisma is a real thing. Of course, lots of practice doing lots of interviews helps too.

But it's also a reminder of how rarely American television viewers have to work through the intermediary of a translator. The Il Divo guys default to English on Asa-Ichi. It's easier than arranging for French, Spanish, and German translators everywhere they go.

2017 Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato did his post-race interview in English. Though he's more the exception than the rule. Due to the feudalistic posting system, Japanese baseball players come to the American game midway through their careers, too late in life to bother getting fluent.

Come to think about it, sports is where you're most likely to listen to an interviewee through a translator. English is the world's lingua franca, if not as a first language then as the default second.

Which also means that American rarely have to read subtitles. Unless you are an anime fan, in which case it is a perennially lively topic of discussion. I can't ever remember seeing the subject discussed on a mainstream American chat show the way it is on mainstream Japanese chat shows.

In Silence, Martin Scorsese believably minimizes the use of subtitles. The Shogun miniseries eschews them altogether, depending on in-context translators and the occasional Orson Wells narration. And 47 Ronin has Japanese actors speaking dang good English throughout.

(47 Ronin is a movie with a plethora of problems, beginning with a script that was never going to appeal to American or Japanese audiences. But it does demolish the canard that Japanese actors can't speak English well enough for standard Hollywood productions.)

When subtitles do pop up in lower-brow fare like John Wick II, the director tries awfully hard to pretend the subtitles aren't really subtitles. They're misplaced opening credits! Read them! They might help!

As a general rule, I prefer subs to dubs. For languages other than English and Japanese, my fluency is zero. But when I watch Inspector Montalbano, for example, half the fun is listening to Luca Zingaretti speaking Italian.

I saw an interview with Zingaretti (his English is quite good) in which in said that he plays Montalbano a bit over the top, more "Italian" than the typical Italian. You would miss that in a dub, unless perhaps he dubbed himself. Or recruited Al Pacino or Nick Stellino for the part.

I don't totally discount the possibility of a good dub. Thanks to John Lasseter, Studio Ghibil films can attract top-tier talent. Most U.S. anime releases can't rely on Disney's cache or deep pockets. Though I always hope to be, and sometime am, pleasantly surprised.

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July 09, 2017

Prison of Dusk (3)

The cruelties of the legal system in the Kingdom of Hou are documented in A Thousand Leagues of Wind. The Imperial Hou was eventually toppled in a coup.

The growing problems with imperial governance in Ryuu are also discussed in "Kizan." Traveling undercover on a fact-finding mission, Shouryuu meets up with Rikou of Sou, who's there for the same reason.

By now, the Kingdom of Ryuu was renown as a kingdom of law and order. And yet it was hitting the skids. To Rikou, this was an entirely unexpected turn of events.

When he said as much, Fuukan [Shouryuu] tilted his head doubtfully. "Unlike you, I'm surprised the dynasty lasted this long. When Rohou acceded to the throne, he didn't strike anybody as regal material. He'd been a county supervisor and then a governor in the provinces. The locals thought well of him, but not so much that word of his accomplishments ever made it to the capital. Nothing much to set him apart from the next guy."

Fuukan knew Rohou's given name as well, evidence that he moved in the same circles as Rikou.

"Well, you'd expect a man from En to know about such things. You're next door neighbors, after all?"

"I guess so. I swung by shortly after the coronation. A middling choice, was my impression. Like a ship that looked nice sailing out of port but would sink during the first real gale."

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July 06, 2017

Peeks at a post-Ghibli world

With Hayao Miyazaki again coming out of retirement to direct his (absolutely positively) last film, Renato Rivera muses about the Studio Ghibli legacy. At this stage, Miyazaki is a one-man show, recruiting free-lancers to work under the Ghibli banner on one-off productions.

Directors like Mamoru Hosoda, Makoto Shinkai, and Hideaki Anno are readily mentioned as heir apparents, but Rivera points our attention to what lesser-known Studio Ghibli alumni have been up to.

Debuting this summer is Mary and the Witch's Flower, with ex-Ghibli staffer Hiromasa Yonebayashi at the helm (The Secret World of Arrietty and When Marnie Was There).

At least based on the previews, what we have here is Kiki's Delivery Service meets Spirited Away (and perhaps Howl's Moving Castle), which certainly has me interested.

And for something completely different, an ad campaign from Francois, a Kyushu-based bakery chain. It's been going on now for ten years now. Edited together, the ads tell the ongoing story of Cassis and Arle.

The work of Ghibli veterans, it's Kiki's Delivery Service (Kiki lives above a bakery) meets Whisper of the Heart meets Only Yesterday

In these videos it's easy to spot almost identical scenes from original Ghibli productions. Not that there's anything wrong with that. I put it down to great artists stealing. Often from themselves.

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July 02, 2017

Prison of Dusk (2)

Japan has the death penalty and uses it, not often but consistently and with little fanfare or public controversy. Execution is always by hanging. Seika's arguments in this chapter are a good reflection of how the general public in Japan thinks about the subject (when they think about it at all).

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