Initially daily but now sporadic blog about anime and world animation with a specific focus on the artists behind the work. Written by Ben Ettinger.
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Archives for: January 2006, 24

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

07:12:38 am , 595 words, 1230 views     Categories: Animation

Izumi Kyoka × Yasuhiro Nakura

When I was studying Japanese literature as an undergraduate, one of the authors I remember being particularly taken by was IZUMI Kyoka. He seemed to embody all the gothic wonder of the supernatural Japanese imagination that exterted such a fascination to me at the time. I have a particularly clear memory of writing a windy but earnest paper interpreting his story Osen and Soichi, based on the translation by Charles Shiro Inouye available in the book Japanese Gothic Tales. I don't even remember much about the story now, apart from something having to do with a frog and a bathing woman. I tend to be that way with my reading, remembering one small bit that had an impact on me for the prose or for the oddness of the situation, and blurring over the outline of the overall story. Having liked Kyoka so much, I thought it would be great to be able to read him in the original. Same goes for many of the other great authors I read at the time, among them Toshio Shimao, who retains the top spot in my canon. I had a wonderfully naive fantasy when I was younger that each language was merely a repository of literary classics just waiting for me to come acquire them, and that's one of the things that led me to learn this language. I still find the language beautiful and think that it exercises the brain to read regularly in a language other than your native tongue, but that early wonder definitely wears off. But for Shimao it's never worn off. He's one of those authors who's made it worth it; one of those people who writes with a prose that embodies everything that attracted you to the language. Well, what about Kyoka? I've heard many great things about Kyoka's prose, and enjoyed his stories, so I was very curious to have a stab at his writing. So I did. Then came the surprise of finding out how much the Japanese language changed in the first few decades of the 20th century. For some reason I've never been able to read his work, or that of any other pre-Showa Japanese, even though I've made efforts. I don't blame the education system that never taught me classical Japanese, because his work was written in the Taisho period when the patois was infiltrating literature, and I'm sure I could sludge through it if I made the effort, but I find I've become rather lazy in my old age. All of this reminiscence was brought on by hearing that one of his stories, Tenshu Monogatari, was recently adapted into an episode of animation in the Noitamina series. I was taken by the urge to try again to read him in the original, and even found an online text, but upon perusing a bit I'm afraid that I might not get very far and may wait for the cliff notes of the adaptation.

Sweetening the pot is the news that Yasuhiro Nakura of Tenshi no Tamago fame returns to animation with the piece as designer and animation director. By this point I never actually expected to see him come back to animation. There will be two other episodes, and I'm equally eager to see the adaptation of Bakeneko (by ?), which features FX animator Takashi Hashimoto as CD/AD. The excellent and underrated Satoru Utsunomiya/Shinji Hashimoto episode of the Hakkenden OVA series (#9 in total count) told the story of a bakeneko or demon cat, so it will be interesting to see if/how the two compare.