Day 6 of 10 Days to 500 Anime: Grave of the Fireflies

Here’s a classic everyone has heard of, but I only watched it a few days ago.  It’s a very emotional film.  Knowing that, I steeled myself against the tragedy I knew was coming, which was probably the wrong way to watch the film.  Instead of riding the emotional rollercoaster, you might say I watched the ride sitting on a bench somewhere with a soft drink.  The result was that I examined the tragic flaws of our hero rather than grieved over the tragedy of the orphans’ plight.  My focus was on why they suffered instead of the how they suffered.

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In the case of firebombing the Germans and the Japanese in WWII, I can never reconcile myself to the legitimacy of this form of warfare.  With the nuclear bombs, one can legitimately claim destroying industrial parks and dockyards as the main objective, while terrorizing the enemy into surrender as the secondary objective.  Incendiary bombs, especially of the sort used in WWII, have no effect on factories built with steel and cement.  Firebombs work much better against wooden houses–especially houses of Japanese design.  When it comes to firebombing, terrorizing the enemy is still the secondary objective, but destroying civilian homes and killing non-combatants becomes the primary objective.

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The Latest Addition to My Top Fifty: Captain Harlock

Today, I have completed watching the forty-two episode long Space Pirate Captain Harlock.  I can recommend few series to my dear readers as heartily.  If you check my Top Fifty Anime Series list, you’ll see that I placed this classic in sixth place–below Wolf’s Rain and above Mardock Scramble.  (Soukou no Strain has sadly dropped off the list, leaving Gokudo precariously in last place.)  Nothing shakes up a top fifty list like watching acknowledged classics!  I heartily recommend Anime Classics Zettai! by Brian Camp and Julie Davis, which fairly represents the best anime OVAs, movies, and series until the year 2007.  Who knows?  You might find yourself a new favorite.

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Briefly, let me explain why Captain Harlock so deeply appeals to me.  My dear readers likely know that Japan’s martial arts tradition stands as my first introduction to Japanese culture.  I used to study Judo and Aikido and devoured books by and about Morihei Ueshiba, Gichin Funakoshi, Nitobe Inazo, and Miyamoto Musashi.  These books express the warrior-philosopher ethos known as Bushido.  In recent years, Japan has become much more cosmopolitan, and many anime refer to Bushido comically or treat it as old fashioned or obsolete.

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Ookami no Kuchi: How to Infuriate your Readers in 2 Chapters or Less

While browsing through my manga app, I ran across a manga titled Ookami no Kuchi: Wolfsmund.  At first, I was delighted to find that it was a manga based in 14th century Switzerland and that the artwork was quite brilliant.  However, it was disconcerting that it began with an execution of a Swiss freedom fighter; yet, stories that begin darkly often feature stronger struggles and make a happy ending more compelling.  So, I decided to read the first and then the second chapter.

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The first chapter was pretty grim.  A knight tried to smuggle the executed freedom fighter’s daughter across the border, because the tyrannical lord wished to execute his entire family.  Goaded by a claim I found on Baka Updates saying: “The author pulls no punches to show us just how brutal and inhuman the Middle Ages really were,” I must point out certain flaws in the manga on this point.  First off, it would be incredible for a medieval king to wish to wipe out a family’s womenfolk.  Most would not even make a serious attempt to kill all the men as long as they no longer posed a threat.  Exile and imprisonment were much preferred means of punishment until around the time of the Protestant Reformation, where the masses of people executed on both sides for heresy seems to have dulled people’s qualms about capital punishment.

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Anyway, the daughter disguises herself but she and the knight end up being discovered by the noble running a checkpoint known as Wolfsmund (Wolf’s maw).  The knight is killed by crossbowmen and the lady  executed on a chopping block.  Medievals never executed women unless they were found guilty of witchcraft.  The attitude of a 19th century American on the topic of hanging a woman differed not in the least with the attitude of a medieval man on the subject.  But, in this manga’s favor, I must note that the style of fighting employed by the knights, which uses the hilt and pommel as well as the blade, is very accurate–even if finishing one’s opponent off, which the lady’s knight was compelled to do, was not.

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Anyway, having been depressed by these events, I pressed on to the next chapter, wherein it is revealed that the freedom fighters are making great progress in ousting the tyrant ruling over them.  A pair of lovers is separated because the woman, a very capable fighter herself, is given a mission to pass beyond Wolfsmund to transport back money from a Florentine bank.  Need I say that a woman traveling alone is unheard of in the Middle Ages?  Especially in the disguise of an old woman?  That’s a very easy way to arose suspicion!  Better would have been to disguise herself along with a compatriot as nuns.  As it turns out, the poor girl is discovered by a trick the nobleman plays on her and thrown into the dungeon.

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From which, she herself manages to escape, only to be cornered atop a wall and killed by a thrown sword.  Now, the broadsword, unlike the katana, was never intended to be thrown.  The weight is balanced too close at the hilt.  The first throw does hit the girl hilt first, which is the most likely way it would land; while the second pierces her back–a blow only possible through incredible good luck.  Then, her corpse is displayed on a wheel–I did not turn the next page to see exactly how they displayed her corpse, but it must not have been pleasant.  At any rate, though male enemies’ corpses were sometimes displayed and mutilated during the Middle Ages; I doubt that a woman’s corpse ever suffered the same fate.  Despite popular opinion, medievals were not barbarians, and I suspect such an action would have brought the censure of the Church.

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At this point, I got the picture that the manga would consist of failed attempts upon the gate and the cruelty inflicted on the trespassers by the nobleman in charge of it.  No enduring protagonist had emerged yet, with the exception of the female owner of an inn (women owning inns was probably not uncommon at the time), who seems unable to help the good guys.  And so, I put down this novel which concerned itself more with exploring human suffering than telling a good story.