Calling Every Odd Creature a Demon

Dream Eater Merry recalled a qualm I have about people who sub and dub anime. They translate most supernatural creatures from Japanese folklore as “demon.” The word demon points to a specific kind of creature: an intellectual spirit who refused to serve God and was damned for all eternity. They now roam the earth in order to tempt others into the same fate—for ultimately the same crime.

You might point out that the word demon did not originally mean devil. The ancient Greeks imagined that various places in the natural world had deities attached to them. These spirits were unknown within standard Greek mythology, and the pagans called them demons. Yet, it’s good practice to spell this kind of demon as daimon or daemon in order to help the reader separate this kind of spirit from a fallen angel. After all, Socrates claimed that he had a daemon who would tell him not to do wrong. The notion of a demon telling someone to avoid sin strikes one as preposterous.

Obviously a demon.

Very often, the same creatures referred to as demons in anime are more accurately called fairies. Yes, the Japanese do have a word which tends to get translated as fairy—yousei. But, if you look at European folklore, you’ll see that fairies or the fair folk or the longaevi cover a wider spectrum than small humanoids with tiny wings. Also, fairy can describe a malevolent, benevolent, or indifferent kind of creature—unlike the malevolent beings we call demons.

Still, I do imagine audiences would laugh at seeing Inuyasha boast that he wishes to become an “honest-to-goodness full fairy.” (There are at least two senses in which the above is funny; though, the slang for a man with same-sex attraction might be far from their minds when dealing with youkai.) Why not simply use the word youkai? English does this all the time when we come to unfamiliar concepts. Just make the word English with a properly Anglicized pronunciation. Let the viewer expand their horizons. Only use the word demon for akuma, which is how the Japanese translate the Christian concept of a fallen angel.

In Dream Eater Merry, the supernatural beings are not exactly “dream demons” but muma.  According to my big, fat kanji dictionary, muma is simply Japanese for nightmare or a disturbing dream.  Why not then translate muma as “nightmare”?  The heroine Merry originally calls herself a nightmare, but later becomes known as a baku for defeating nightmares.  Baku are spirits which eat nightmares but might turn around and devour a child’s hopes and dreams if called too often.  Oddly enough, there is one nightmare in the series who only does the later.  One might describe the battle between her and Merry as one between two baku–one good and one evil.

True enough, nightmares are not usually beings with personal agency.  In that way, the nightmares in Dream Eater Merry are more like demons in having agency.  But, the author is obviously personifying nightmares, and a viewer would eventually go along with this personification.  My main gripe still stands: stop calling every odd creature in anime a demon!

Long Awaited Manga Reviews

Remember how I promised  that other half of manga reviews a very long time ago?  Here they are!  My promise of that time and the one made just a few hours ago doubly bound me to write these reviews, and I hope that they shall be to your pleasure.  If not, may you enjoy your displeasure.

Picture of good ol' Revy.

Picture of good ol’ Revy.

The titles which I propose to review are Genshiken, Kurenai, Sengoku Youko, and Hanako to Guuwa no Tera.  The last one is a horror manga which I highly enjoyed.  Horror stands as one of my least favorite genres nowadays.  In the past, I used to get a kick out of watching Hammer Films’ Dracula films and werewolf movies of all sorts.  It was fun commenting on how the movie makers would mess with the lore attached to these creatures.  I loved the Gothic style of the vampire genre, and the fright of a big bad wolf coming at one with your only hope being a well placed silver bullet.  Now, horror movies are overly gory, and I find myself less intrigued by them.

Christopher Lee as Dracula

Christopher Lee as Dracula

Hanako to Guuwa no Tera by Sakae Esuno attracted me from the start because they melded horror with the private eye genre.  Our hero runs  an agency dedicated to ridding the world of harmful “allegories.”  These allegories are based in Japanese folklore or the fads of popular culture.  The interesting thing about the monsters here are that they derive from people’s unbalanced states of mind.  The detective, Daisuke Asou, has collected a couple of allegories in his line of work, some of which give him power.  One, named Hanako, acts as his information gatherer.  Our story begins when Kanae Hiranuma seeks Asou’s help in ridding an allegory which has been haunting her: the axe man under the bed. For this reason, she has not been able to sleep in days and is petrified to stay in her own room.  Doesn’t it sound childish?  This haunting begins a long, happy relationship for the two of them.

Don't worry.  It's available in English.

Don’t worry. It’s available in English.

This story really shines in the way the author delineates relationship between the characters.  This draws one into all the struggles which they endure against allegories, and the wide variety of opponents keeps the reader turning pages.  This manga has ended in 2010, and consists of just nineteen chapters.  The manga also really shines in creating a likable couple.  Too many series have rather annoying couples, which make one wish that the author had not bothered with a love interest.  But, Kanae is quite capable, and there is the right amount of tension between the two to make for an interesting dynamic.  I recommend this better than average manga to you horror fans out there.

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Now to review the most problematic manga for me: Genshiken.  As many of you know, this manga focuses on the otaku lifestyle of the club members of a club known as Genshiken, which means Society for the Study of Modern Visual Porn–I mean, Culture.  My biggest problem with this manga must lie in that I am not otaku enough to relate to any of the characters.  As a matter of fact, Saki is my favorite character, and she only joined Genshiken so that she could hang out with her lover, Kousaka.  I can’t help but feel sorry for her in that Saki must endure the porn and ero-game loving ways of her partner.  Now, this makes for great comedy, but a guy has absolutely no excuse for using pornography if he has a lover.  After all, is not having the thing better than a mere vicarious experience?  Anyway, Saki herself brought up this complaint.  She has the patience of a saint when it comes to dealing with the idiosyncrasies of her boyfriend.  (Not that  I approve of sex before marriage, but such relationships at least offer the chance of leading to marriage, while pornography is engaging in an empty activity.)

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At any rate, a college freshman named Sasahara is brought into the group and enmeshed into their otaku lifestyle of ero-games, anime, conventions, porn, and video games.  The story often succeeds in being hilarious; but there are too many problems of identification for me, and their preoccupation with porn irritates me.  So, I won’t be getting the second omnibus volume.

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Even bald men deserve to be loved.

Kurenai is a real joy for me to read.  The fights are very well done, and the humor driven off of the harem situation is most amusing.  Women can’t seem to help falling for the strong, modest, reliable Shinkuro.  But, the author presents us with some very likable characters, even if some characters are rather stock–heck, all of them might be stock characters to tell you the truth; but, that only speaks to how well the humor and plot are executed.  This show also uses a favorite trope of mine: a young man is in charge of taking care of girl much younger than himself.  (Perhaps the reason for my predilection lies in that I have a sister 10 years younger than myself, so identification is easy.)

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Shinkuro works as a dispute mediator–more like a dispute finisher considering most disputes are ended with his fists–for a capable, mysterious woman named Benika.  At the start of the manga, we already know that he’s been taking care of Murasaki, a young girl from a powerful, incestuous family.  You see, she’s been destined to marry his older half-brother.  She warms up to Shinkuro because of his gentle and strong nature.  However, her family comes after her, and Shinkuro must display all his martial skill to finally free Murasaki from this fate.  Then, the action turns toward a criminal syndicate, which decides to make Shinkuro himself a target.

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Besides the fights, this manga excels in delineating the relationships between the characters, i.e. Shinkuro and his ever expanding harem.  The manga manages to balance the romance and slice of life chapters very well with the action packed ones, which means that the reader is never bored.  Everything works to keep the reader turning pages, and I look forward to each new chapter of this ongoing manga.

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Lastly, I was fortunate to find the manga Sengoku Youko.  This is another ongoing manga, but it’s set in fuedal Japan as a historical fantasy.  This manga is a very character driven work, the fights and the plots are rather simplistic.  The characterization goes a long way to make up for these flaws though.  I must comment that the setting feels much like Inuyasha: youkai and samurai are juxtaposed to each other during the Sengoku Era.  Also, traveling is a major part the action, and the side characters all display prejudices of some kind or another, human-hating youkai or youkai-hating men.

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Our heroes, Jinka, Tama, and Shinsuke, meet while the first two were on a bandit hunt.  Tama unsuccessfully tries to convince the bandits that they are leading an immoral life.  At which point, Jinka, a hanyou, is forced to beat them all down.  Jinka has a strong prejudice toward human beings, while Tama, a fox youkai, believes humans and youkai must be judged on an individual basis.  Their adventures lead to them picking up one more party member and discovering an insidious plot by Tama’s mom and her human lover.  This is a great manga for light reading, especially if you liked Inuyasha.

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I hope that you enjoyed these reviews.  Pressing work will deter me from blogging for at least a week.