Anime roundup 11/20/2014: Cultural Learnings

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Yona-7 Yona of the Dawn #7 – Usually your epic fantasy heroes have to be dragged kicking and screaming into accepting their destinies. Not so with Yona, who’s already decided that she’s going to fight whatever forces are taking over her kingdom before the prophecying even gets started. But she’s gained enough humility to accept any advice and help she can get, so Ik-su sets her on a quest to find the four warriors who founded the four subject tribes of Kōka, and thus wake Hiryū, or some component of his power.

Carefully not noted in all this exposition is that while the other four tribes were founded by warriors with dragon gifts, Yona is herself descended directly from a dragon, something that explains her oddly colored hair and her inner fire to retake the throne. And Soo-won has the dragon heritage too– I wonder if that’s part of why his mysterious ally sought him out?

Soo-won’s father, meanwhile, has also turned out to be less good than first described, just like Il. Perhaps being passed over for kingship was blowback for expelling the priests.

Just as the story kicks it up another notch, the music’s been turned down and the opening credit sequence has gotten an upgrade. This show just keeps getting better and better.

Celestial-Method-7 Celestial Method #7 – Mix a native animist religion with a bit of imported ancestor worship, and you have the Japanese tradition in which the dead are not fully gone from this plane. Most bodies are cremated and buried in an existing family grave, and members of the family will visit from time to time to wash the gravestone, burn incense, and leave offerings. The most popular time of year is during Bon, during which tradition says that the souls of the dead visit the living en masse, but any occasion which feels meaningful enough will do, such as, in this case, the deceased’s birthday.

More than just another bonding experience, the trip to her mother’s grave allows Nonoka to fully articulate why she forgot about her friends in Kiriyako after moving away. Because it was all bound up with the experience of her mother dying a slow, wasting death, she blocked it all out.

The trip also give Sōta his first chance to interact directly with Noel. As she has with the others, she brings out his recollection of the strong bonds he shares with the rest of the circle of friends that summoned her. She’s like a gentle gravity well at the center of their group, pulling them all back together.

It is also, by the way, considered perfectly normal in Japan for three middle-schoolers to take an long-distance trip to a place they’ve never been before without any adult supervision.

Kokkuri-san-7 Gugure! Kokkuri-san #7 – Kohina finally finds someone who’s willing to accept her for what she says she is, only to discover that the life of a pampered doll isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. But as the most intelligent and resourceful person around, she’s able to free herself while everyone else is basically useless against the cat spirit. As for the fake Kohina doll, all I can say is that if you didn’t already find dolls creepy, that could put you right off of Hina Matsuri.

Kohina’s family has a long connection with the supernatural. We still haven’t learned anything about her parents, but one of her ancestors was the sorcerous equivalent of a mad scientist, leaving behind a pile of boxes containing curses along with mocking messages for the unwary who trigger them.

As Kokkuri points out, the trope requires the message left for the victim to contain a clue to how to undo the spell. But where would the fun in that be, really? And Kokkuri doesn’t seem to have taken the surprise change of gender very badly, at least until Shigaraki shows up.

Mushishi-15 Mushishi #15 – It’s a difficult job translating mythological concepts from one language to another, and it’s understandable when one legendary being turns into a completely different one for the sake of brevity. But translating tennyo as “angel” in this case means the loss of an allusion to a folktale that even Westerners with only a passing knowledge of Sino-Japanese mythology might understand.

A tennyo is one of the celestial maidens who live in heaven but sometimes fly to earth, using the power of their magical robes. The best-known story about them concerns one whose robe was stolen by a fisherman or shepherd while she was bathing in a stream. Unable to fly home without the robe, she became his wife. (In some versions, he relented and gave the robe back, but she chose to stay on earth.)

So it’s only natural that a kid seeing a human-ish in the sky and finding a mysterious shimmering robe would think of a tennyo. Of course it is going to be somehow connected with mushi instead, though the connection is very vague this time around. There’s no explanation for Yura’s sudden ability to draw the life out of things, nor for how reuniting her with Gen fixes everything. Gen’s father’s insistence that the two not see each other feels very arbitrary as well. Despite the lovely, lovely art and effects, this is not one of the better-written stories of this series.

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