Reflecting on Evangelion – A Personal Statement

Today I sat and watched the 10 minute and 30 second teaser for Evangelion 3.0 + 1.0. It left me with a lot of questions of what to expect in the final film, though I doubt the ones I have will actually be answered. Mostly relating to what they did to Paris at the end of the clip, and the logistics of having spare parts for Unit 02 just underneath Paris. But what it really got me to think about was Evangelion as a whole.

I discovered Evangelion in 2004. A magazine series run by Manga Entertainment here in the UK released a new anime DVD every few weeks. Early on in that magazine was a copy of Neon Genesis Evangelion: Death and Rebirth. A few weeks later this was followed by The End of Evangelion. To the best of my knowledge this was one of the only UK DVD releases of The End of Evangelion. I was ill around the time both of these made it into my collection, and without any knowledge beyond the 4 pages of text that came with the discs, I sat and watched them. I was 11 and had no idea what was going on. But I enjoyed it. it intrigued me. I watched them again a few times hoping that I’d eventually understand what was going on. I sort of did. I knew that the pacing and structure of End of Evangelion made a lot more sense that Death and Rebirth. The reason for that? Death and Rebirth was a cut down version of 24 episodes of a television series, told out of order with some new footage as a refresher for those about to watch End of Evangelion. The more access to the internet I got, the more I learned about the TV series that spawned these two DVDs. I managed to track down all seven of the Platinum edition DVDs for the whole series and watched them back to back, finally getting what the hell Death and Rebirth was trying to explain.

Not long after engrossing myself in this world, in 2006 that is, the franchises creator announced the Rebuild of Evangelion project. Hideaki Anno wanted to retell Evangelion the way he had always pictured in. Wanted to do it his way without the budget problems of the original series, or the backlash of the films. I loved this idea. Maybe it would give me some of the answers I was looking for. Originally, the four films making up the Rebuild series were to be released by the early 2010s. It’s currently August 2019, and I’ve just seen teaser footage for the final film. Which given the track record, even if it came out at the end of this year, it probably wouldn’t see a UK release until 2022.

It’s strange to think of the Rebuild series finally coming to an end. Originally this was supposed to have finished around the time I’d finish High School. I now have a Batchelor’s and Master’s degree, I’m a visiting Lecturer in media studies, and about to start my PhD. Thinking back on it, studying Evangelion as a kid influenced my research style as an adult. Because of Evangelion, and my attempts to try and decode the series. I found myself looking at problems from different angles. I learnt more about authorial intent and the creative process. The cultural history of media, theology and existentialism. Just from being a goofy kid wanting to know what this random DVD was trying to say.

I’ll happily watch Evangelion 3.0 + 1.0 when it comes out. It will be interesting to finally see an end to this series. While I’m not as invested as I once was, I still have to admire the impact it has in my life.

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Yuri!!! On Ice – Complete Series Blu-ray

Love, passion and figure skating.

At 23 and after suffering a last place position at the Grand Prix Finals, figure skater Yuri Katsuki returns home to Japan to try and decide what to do with his life. While at his childhood skating rink, he performs for a friend a routine famously done by his idol. Victor Nikiforov. Unknown to Yuri however, his friend’s children film the routine and it goes viral. Attracting the attention of none other than Nikiforov. What follows is a whirlwind year of training with Victor by his side. Rivalries with long-time friends, international champions, and the hot headed Russian Yuri Plisetsky, as Yuri returns to the Grand Prix and tries to make history.

Yuri!!! On Ice is the latest beautiful boys doing things well anime, after Free! And Haikyuu!. Directed by Sayo Yamamoto, who previously directed Lupin the Third: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine and the opening animation of Persona 5. Yuri!!! On Ice is a stunning display of animation at work and an enjoyable story in one. Praised for its portrayal of both homosexuality and anxiety. The show tackles both of these rather well and in a realistic manner. It’s the fantastically animated figure skating scenes that take up the majority of the shows time. Stunningly choreographed and performed by figure skater Kenji Miyamoto, the animation leaps off the screen in this stunning portrayal. The addition of rotoscope techniques give the show an eerily realistic beauty. With plenty of care and attention given to each interpretation of routines. Adding to the numerous takes on performances.

Both the Japanese and English voice actors perform their roles well. Though the English is subject to somewhat awkward attempts at Russian accents and vocabulary. The shows Japanese leads, Toshiyuki Toyonaga (Yuri Katsuki) and Junichi Suwabe (Victor Nikiforov) carry the show exceptionally well. Bringing a real passion and weight to their relationship. Filling out the cast with an entertaining and colourful array of supporting characters. As said, the English cast is fine, though contains cases of actor’s attempting accents they are not too familiar with. For example, Michah Solusod (Yuri Plisetsky) and Jerry Jewell (Victor) both affect Russian accents for their characters. No easy feat, but it can become somewhat grating during long watch sessions. Extra credit to Solusod who did get a dialect coach and added Russian words in when appropriate to add some authenticity. Either language is worth it depending on your preference.

With the amount of times certain skating routines appear, the music for the show has to be on point. Something Yuri!!! On Ice hits right out of the park. With a soundtrack composed by Taro Umebayashi and Taku Matsushiba. The incredibly addictive opening “History Maker” by Dean Fujioka, and ending theme “You Only Live Once” by Wataru Hatano are both complete ear worms. Sure to have you singing along or even dancing to their infectious charms.

The Blu-ray release includes the beautiful textless opening and ending credits. Episode commentary with Michah Solusod, Chris Sabat and Jeremy Inman. Along with the shows English language director.

A simple but affective story, with a fun and interesting cast. Yuri!! On Ice is a great binge watch and something that can be revisited to your hearts content. Feel free to fall head over skates for the charms of Yuri and Victor.

Black Clover: Season One – Part One

In a world where magic is everything (get used to hearing that), a lone mage rose up to defeat a beast attacking the kingdom. His bravery and strength awarded him the title of ‘the Wizard King’. His exploits went down in history and became legend, the title itself became passed down to those who proved themselves the strongest in the land. Years later, two young orphans grow up hearing of the mage’s legend and decided that their dream is to become the Wizard King themselves. In competition with each other, with the goal of using the fame, wealth and power to rebuild their church and help their small village. Now at the age of Fifteen, the boys, Asta and Yuno come of age to inherit their own Grimoires. Books that increase the user’s magical ability and bind themselves to their users. They can finally set off on their journey to become the Wizard King. There is just one problem. While Yuno is considered one of the most gifted young magic wielders seen in many years. Asta is a rarity. While he is the loudest to shout out his dreams and aspirations of being the Wizard King, he is also the only one in the kingdom without the ability to use magic.

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Adapted from the manga by Yuki Tabata and published in Weekly Shonen Jump. Black Clover is the latest Shonen fair from Studio Pierrot. The studio that previously brought us Naruto (2002 – 2007) and its sequel series, Naruto Shippuden (2007 – 2017). Directed by Tatsuya Yoshihara, who previously helmed Monster Musume: Everyday Life with Monster Girls (2015). Black Clover is being pitched as the new Naruto. More so for it replacing Naruto as Studio Pierrot’s main cash cow. A new show to pick up the slack. The show follows many of the same tropes as modern shonen, particularly that of Naruto. Helped by the fact that both original manga are or were published in Weekly Shonen Jump. For those that have never seen the likes of Naruto, Dragon Ball, or maybe Soul Eater. Black Clover will feel very fresh and exciting. The underdog protagonist, the high goals and battles will likely keep you entertained and wanting to press on. For those heavily familiar with shonen tropes, this may come off as a little boring, or a lot of flash and no substance. However, every anime has the potential to be someone’s first, and there are worse shows to pick up and start with.

As a protagonist, Asta plays like your generic Shonen Jump protagonist. A happy-go-lucky kid with a tragic backstory, that of being an orphan. Who is held back and mocked by those around him because he is different. In this case, his utter lack of magic. But doesn’t let that get him down and is out to prove his worth. While he is a cookie cutter protagonist, he does have room to grow. This is still very early in the shows run. Though it’s worth noting that his somewhat creepy devotion to the Nun at his orphanage, going so far as to harass her and propose on a daily basis, does make him seem like a possible sexual predator in training. Not knowing when no means no. However, this could also be something he grows out of later. Just as he grows into his strength, and does grow up, he could very well put aside his childish tendencies and learn. Given this is only the first 10 episodes, there is still room to grow.

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For once, this maybe a case where it will be hard to find someone who prefers the original Japanese to the English Dub. Newcomer to the industry, Gakuto Kajiwara is a fine young actor when it comes to emoting, but with the amount of times Asta is required to scream, his voice becomes grating and ear piercing. With hope as the show goes on, Asta as a character will calm down and allow Gakuto Kajiwara to prove himself as the fine talent he has the potential to be. Dub wise, the cast also boasts an up and comer as it’s Asta. While Dallas Reid has had some experience in minor roles or smaller productions, Black Clover along with Sakura Quest (2017) are Dallas’s big break. An actor who handles himself well, and manages to include Asta’s screaming, without getting on the viewers nerves. A difficult feat in itself. Micah Solusod as Yuno has certainly come a long way since his earliest role, and even his run as Soul Evans in Soul Eater (2008 – 2009). He gives Yuno a calm tone throughout but can easily bring subtle humour through inflections that gives the character another dimension. The cast is nicely rounded out with the likes of Jill Harris, Christopher R. Sabat, and Ian Sinclair.

Early on, the show is guilty of over explaining and a needless use of flashbacks. This can get very grating as it feels like the information could have more casually been slipped in through conversations or as background text. The frequent use of recycled animation is down to Studio Pierrot themselves, due to their practice of cutting corners. However, when the show does want to look good it can. Though freeze framing at times will still reveal cut corners and smear frames. But it motion, it does indeed look interesting.

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The Blu-ray for this first half of season one contains the first 10 episodes of the show. With episodes 4 and 7 including some fun and light-hearted commentary from the English voice actors. From episode 3 onwards, episodes end with ‘Clover Clips’. Short vignettes including the characters to either expand upon the world or characters. As well as a 16 minute piece talking about the casting and production process at Funimation.

Black Clover is very much ‘baby’s first Shonen’. Relying heavily on tropes on those that came before. But it’s harmless. In this first 10 episodes, there’s nothing offensive, but nothing to set the world on fire either.

Black Clover: Season One – Part One is available on DVD & Blu-ray, August 20th.

Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Black-Clover-Season-Part-Blu-ray/dp/B07DKQ8JDJ/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1534359304&sr=8-6&keywords=black++clover

Zavvi: https://www.zavvi.com/blu-ray/black-clover-dual-format/11780966.html

The Concurrency of End of Evangelion 0.00 – The Instrumentality of Confusing Endings.

The television series Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995 – 1996) has garnered itself an intense and dedicated fan base. Something it didn’t just gain over time but has been there since early in the shows existence.

The show is set in the then future of 2015. 15 years after a disaster known as Second Impact. A disaster that struck at the planets north pole, causing the earth to shift on it’s axis and sea levels to rise. As the character Fuyutsuki describes it, the planet has now lost Autumn. That it now exists in a perpetual summer. Enter 14-year old Shinji Ikari. Summoned to the city of Tokyo-3, built on the remains of Old Tokyo. His mother long since passed and abandoned by his father. Shinji finds himself summed to this city by the father he despises without explanation. But when a creature known as an Angel attacks the city, Shinji is whisked away to NERV. A facility run by his father and charged with protecting humanity. It is explained to him that the Second Impact was in fact caused by these Angels and the soul reason Shinji has been summoned is due to humanities last line of defence. The EVA series. Giant robot creatures that can only be piloted by children that never knew the world before and can synchronise perfectly with these machines. Indeed, beyond Shinji fitting the criteria, the main reason for him being summoned is due to the primary pilot, a young girl named Rei Ayanami, is too injured for the time being. That Gendo Ikari finally has a use for his abandoned son.

Evangelion deals heavily with the themes of depression, isolation, existentialism, self-preservation, familial ties and feels of insignificance. A show that began as a monster of the week, giant robot show, devolved into intense character studies of not only the child characters, but the adults and the supporting cast. Shinji, a young boy who sees himself as disposable and only exists to please others. Asuka, a German girl who wanted to make her mother and father proud, even after her mother slowly went insane. Calling a small doll her real daughter and eventually committing suicide, something witnessed by Asuka at a very young age. Misato, a major attached to NERV and Shinji’s guardian through the series. The only survivor of the expedition to the North Pole that caused the Second Impact. Haunted by the death of her father who died to save her. A history with her long time lover Kaji that at times she despises and at others longs for. Every character in the series carries their emotional baggage through the show, but at its core they all seem to long contact and to feel understood. Things that become more and more prominent as the final plan is enacted. Instrumentality. The destruction of the boundaries between people. The merging of the world’s consciousness into a single being. So, no one is ever alone.

While the show was ramping up to a definitive conclusion, complete with the death of the final angel in episode 24. Fans were met with a confusing final two episodes that take place entirely in the characters minds during the events of instrumentality. This disappointment among fans even led to death threats being sent to Studio Gainax and the shows creator/director Hideaki Anno. This disappointment was encouraged due to episode previews that showed Asuka fighting creatures in EVA Unit 02 in the final two episodes. These previews were included in the directors cut of episode 24, The Final Messenger.

Even outside of its fan base, Evangelion did cause a shift in the perception of original television anime. While I do not agree with his content, the Youtuber Digibro, or as he now calls himself, Otaku Gonzo Journalism. Covered this well in his video How Evangelion Altered Anime Eternally.

With the fan backlash surrounding the ending, reports of a diminishing budget that caused these final episodes, and the new found popularity of the series. Anno was given the opportunity to direct a full length feature to close the series out. Resulting in 1997s The End of Evangelion. An equally confusing film which showcases the other side of episodes 25 at 26. If the shows ending takes place in their minds, then the film is what is happening outside.

Over 11 years ago, I recall stumbling across articles and opinion pieces on personal websites discussing the film and show’s ending as one large entity. Possibly written my Leporati, though the original post I have been unable to track down. I recall the post in particular discussing where in the film would the episodes take place. The original conclusion placed them 15 minutes before the films ending. However, the most intriguing part of the article discussed live action footage shot but not included in the final film. The last remnants of it were a short live action montage. This mythical unused footage does in fact exist. Depicting a world in which Shinji never existed. Something the original ending of the show also tried to do, though depicting a world where Second Impact never happened. These were shown as possibilities. Worlds that could have been if humanity made other choices.

Clearly there was a much larger picture that Anno wanted to explore.

Enter the fan edit project The Concurrency of The End of Evangelion 0.00. A two and a half hour edit by Raymond Chan/SommenRider that combines the television ending with the deleted footage and the film. Instead of simply dumping the tv content into the 15 minutes towards the end of the film. It is carefully sorted into the most logical order. Using small clues in the footage to try and match the inner thoughts (TV) with the outside world (Film). For example, a moment of episode 25 focusing on Asuka and her reason for piloting briefly shows her curled up in Unit 02s cockpit. So, this is edited into place at the point where she is hidden underwater in the Unit.

The final project is indeed interesting, there are moments that seem to sync up wonderfully as though the two endings were always meant to be seen this way, especially in the case of Misato. Though there are problems with audio overlapping and jumps in music, though given that this is a passion project by fans, it’s level of quality is impressive. Incorporating both versions of “a world without” also gives a better contrast with the world we know. Some other minor issues include the inclusion of the shows opening and ending theme directly into the middle of the film. These do not help the narrative and come off more as an Anime Music Video mistakenly included. The obvious change in aspect ratio could also bee seen as a flaw, though it could also provide a dream like quality to there inner thoughts. A stark contrast between fantasy and reality. Giving us a similar, unsure and confused feeling as Shinji himself.

While Anno started the Rebuild of Evangelion project over 10 years ago and seems to have little interest in revisiting The End of Evangelion itself. This may be the closest to knowing what Anno’s true vision for the finale was. An instrumentality in itself of confusing endings.

 

My Hero Academia: Season Two, Part Two

“For those that are already in love with the world and our students of the U.A. Academy, then this is a must in your collection!”

my-hero-academia-season-2-part-2-limited-edition-blu-raydvd.jpgIn the near future, 80% of the population is born with super human abilities. In a world like this, becoming a superhero is more than just a fever dream. Superheroes are everywhere. Working every day to keep the world safe. They are respected, and idolised, and none is more well-known than All-Might! The symbol of peace. Students all over Japan dream of getting into U.A. Academy, the number one high school for superheroes in training, none more so then Izuku “Deku” Midoriya. Unfortunately for him, despite spending his entire life studying and trying to understand what it truly means to be a hero, Midoriya is one of the 20% born without abilities. Constantly ridiculed by his classmates and those around him for ever thinking he could be a hero, Midoriya still studies hard in hopes of being the first U.A. Academy student without abilities. It’s during a fateful encounter with his idol All-Might, and his own heroism trying to save a classmate, that Midoriya’s life is changed forever.

Based on the manga by Kohei Horikoshi and published in the renowned Weekly Shonen Jump. The same magazine that gave us Dragon Ball, Death Note, Naruto and Haikyuu!!. My Hero Academia found its audience almost immediately, to the point that an anime adaptation was practically inevitable. It’s 13-episode first season exploded in popularity both in its native Japan and oversees thanks to Funimation’s simulcast. And now, coming off the amazing Tournament arc that makes up the first half of season two. Part two is back and in full force with a brand-new release from Funimation!

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After the events of the tournament arc, it’s time for our heroes to go out into the world and get some real-life experience. Something every teenage high schooler either dreads or can’t wait for. Work Experience! But this is no ordinary work experience. Our heroes come face to face with their idols, learn more and more about their industry. Improve themselves in ways they couldn’t imagine, and even comfort a force more powerful then they could imagine. No one ever said work was easy, but when you come face to face with a dreaded, blood thirst serial killer, then you’re really put to the test!

Continuing its stunning animation change, season two, part two looks incredibly! Every punch, spark and movement are punctuated with exquisite detail. Iida in particular continues to benefit from this animation update, not only in the added hand gestures, but in the painful and determined looks upon his face during his arc. It’s clear that returning director Kenji Nagasaki is doing an amazing job.

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This new release of Blu-Rays not only contains all 13 episodes remaining of season two, in both English and Japanese. But includes the San Diego Comic-Con: IGN Interview, Inside the Episode features from Funimation and the textless opening and closing songs.

Season Two, Part Two of My Hero Academia raises the stakes and the enjoyment to even greater levels. Amazing characters, action pact experiences, all time highs, and bitter sweet lows. For those that are already in love with the world and our students of the U.A. Academy, then this is a must in your collection! My Hero Academia: Season Two, Part Two is available for pre-order and due for release June 11th on Blu-ray and DVD.

Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/My-Hero-Academia-Season-Blu-ray/dp/B07CF6X6ZT/ref=tmm_blu_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

Zavvi: https://www.zavvi.com/blu-ray/my-hero-academia-season-2-part-2/11731779.html

Salinger in the Shell – The Intertextuality and Literature of Stand Alone Complex

The Ghost in the Shell franchise has taken many forms in its history. Beginning as a manga series by Masamune Shirow [Shirow.1989-1990], with two sequel books [Shirow.1991-1997] [Shirow.1991-1996]. The property was then adapted into a cult film from director Mamoru Oshii [Oshii.1995]. Since this, the series has expanded to include multiple television series [Kise.2013 – 2015], sequel films [Oshii.2004], and a live action American adaptation [Sanders.2017].

In 2002, the first season in the show Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex [2002-2005: Kamiyama] began airing. A show that has gained critical acclaim and become a cult favourite among the Ghost in the Shell fanbase. Both seasons of the show developed its cast of characters wonderfully, as well as exploring different themes ranging from identity, artificial intelligence, war, profiteering and terrorism. However, the first season draws heavily from literary references. Especially the works of J.D. Salinger. Primarily his novel, The Catcher in the Rye [1951: Salinger].

The novel follows the character of Holden Caulfield as he recounts the few days after leaving his boarding school in Pennsylvania and spends several days walking around New York. We see the world from Holden’s perspective. The people around him, the ‘phonies’ of the world and his overly protective nature of his younger sister. The story is a classic if controversial coming of age story about a young man finding his place.

The first season of Stand Alone Complex however, follows the counter terrorist unit, Section 9. Lead by Major Motoko Kusinagi. As they go up against a terrorist plot thought gone for many years. But as it suddenly rears its head again, Section 9 are deployed in order to stop it before anyone else is hurt. The return of the ‘Laughing Man’ leads to uncovering the many coverups and deceptions of the Japanese Government and health care system.

The logo of the eponymous Laughing Man character of the series, displays a blue smiling face with a portion of text moving around the edge. This text is a quote from the books twenty fifth chapter. “I thought what I’d do was, I’d pretend I was one of those deaf-mutes” [Salinger.1951:178]. The phrase shows up repeatedly in the show, in the episode Portraitz [Kamiyama.2003], one of the main characters, Togusa, while undercover discovers the phrase written on the inside of a telephone box. He repeats the phrase several times through the show, pondering it’s meaning. In the book, the phrase is part of a larger portion discussing Holden’s desire to just get away from everyone and never have to say anything or listen again. The name itself, Laughing Man, comes from the short story of the same name [1953: Salinger]. A story within a story of a boy taken from rich family by the mafia, who becomes horribly disfigured when his parents can’t pay the extortionate ransom. The boy grows to live among the mafia, having to permanently wear a mask to hide what they did. Secretly destroying the mafia’s plans from the inside.

At the end of the season, when the true Laughing Man is confronted about everything that’s come from this. He leaves a red hat at the building’s entrance, that Major Kusanagi eventually brings back to him. While in a different style. The notion of a red hat and the character of Holden does have a connection. In the books third chapter, Holden describes a hat he had bought earlier that day. “I took off my coat and my tie and unbuttoned my shirt collar, and then I put on this hat that I’d bought in New York that morning. It was this red hunting hat, with one of those very, very long peaks. I saw it in the window of this sports store when we got out of the subway, just after I noticed I’d lost all the goddam foils. It only cost me a buck” [Salinger.1951:015]. While the hat that the Laughing Man owns is not a hunting hat. The hunting aspect remains in the character through his actions in the series. Hunting down those he felt had wronged the critically ill by the government’s suppression of information that could have saved lives.

The first time we see the Laughing Man in his civilian identity, he is masquerading as a deaf-mute boy in a hospital. This is also in the episode Portraitz. Through out the episode, as he is quietly wheeled around, he is seen holding a left-handed catchers mitt, something that also appears prominently in the book. “So what I did, I wrote about my brother Allie’s baseball mitt. It was a very descriptive subject. It really was. My brother Allie had this left-handed fielder’s mitt. He was left-handed. The thing that was descriptive about it, though, was that he had poems written all over the fingers and the pocket and everywhere. In green ink. He wrote them on it so that he’d have something to read when he was in the field and nobody was up at bat. He’s dead now. He got leukaemia and died when we were up in Maine, on July 18,1946” [Salinger.1951:033]. This connection between an ill loved one, and a left-handed catchers mitt is made stronger by the location of the hospital and sick children taking up the majority of the cast for the episode. As the episode ends, he leaves behind the catcher’s mitt for the children, but now with a quote written on the side. Having something written on it being a node to Allie’s habit of writing on the glove. What is actually written on the glove as the Laughing Man leaves, is a corrupted and shortened quote from the books twenty second chapter. “’You know what I’d like to be? I mean if I had my goddam choice?’ ‘What? Stop swearing.’ ‘You know that song “If a body catch a body comin’ through the rye”? I’d like – ‘ ‘it’s “If a body meet a body coming through the rye”!’ old Phoebe said. ‘It’s a poem. By Robert Burns.’ ‘I know it’s a poem by Robert Burns.’ She was right, though. It is ‘if a body meet a body coming through the rye.’ I didn’t know it then, though. ‘I thought it was “if a body catch a body,”’ I said. ‘Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody’s around – nobody big, I mean – except me. And I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff – I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I’d do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it’s crazy, but that’s the only thing I’d really like to be. I know it’s crazy’” [Salinger.1951:155-156]. This is condensed down to just three lines, “You Know what I’d like to be? I mean if I had my goddam choice, I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all” [Kamiyama.2003].

When the Laughing Man and Major Kusanagi finally meet in the episode Scandal [Kamiyama.2003]. The pair talk about ideology, the events so far, and each of their respective goals. Kusanagi gives the Laughing Man a piece of advice, a quote. This also ties back into the novel, as the same advice is given to Holden by a former teacher of his. “He went over to this desk on the other side of the room, and without sitting down wrote something on a piece of paper. Then he came back and sat down with the paper in his hand. ‘Oddly enough, this wasn’t written by a practicing poet. It was written by a psychoanalyst named Wilhelm Stekel. Here’s what he – Are you still with me?’ ‘Yes, sure I am.’ ‘Here’s what he said: The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of the mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one.’ He leaned over and handed it to me, and then I thanked him and all and put it in my pocket” [Salinger.1951:169]. While the relationship between the Major and the Laughing Man is different from that of Holden and his teacher. The point of the quote remains.

The ’Laughing Man incident’ is often brought up in the early episodes of the show, and later shown towards the end. The incident involves the Laughing Man taking a public figure hostage and pointing a gun at him, screaming about how it’s not fair. Even bringing him in front of a news camera and telling him to tell the world the truth. In this case, to admit that the government has been suppressing life saving information. The intertextual references to the works of Salinger is perhaps most strongly connected here. Rather than tying it to a book or character, this incident parallels the real-life death of John Lennon. This incident is paralleled again at the end of the show when Togusa takes up this same obsession and briefly considers shooting the same public figure out in the open. Complete with a copy of the book in his jacket pocket.

One episode in particular includes two very unusual references to Salinger’s work. In the Episode Escape From [2002: Kamiyama], an A.I. driven tank known as a Tachikoma escapes from Section 9 and spends the day exploring the city. The curious machine stumbles upon a young girl and ends up helping her as she explores the city trying to find her lost dog. As they travel, the young girl asks the Tachikoma if he know the story of the Secret Goldfish. The story she is referring to comes from the first chapter of The Catcher in the Rye as a story written by Holden’s older brother, D.B. “He used to be just a regular writer, when he was home. He wrote this terrific book of short stories, The Secret Goldfish, in case you never heard of him. The best one in it was ‘The Secret Goldfish.’ It was about this little kid that wouldn’t let anybody look at his goldfish because he’d bought it with his own money. It killed me. Now he’s out in Hollywood, D.B., being a prostitute.” [Salinger.1951:001]. The story she tells the Tachikoma is identical, and is ultimately her way of telling the machine that she knows her dog is dead, but doesn’t want to admit it as they finally arrive at a pet cemetery. Towards the end of the episode, the Tachikoma brings back a device he found during his adventures. When the Major investigates the programming inside, she finds a virtual movie theatre. While she’s exploring a poster can be seen in the background. ‘A Great Day for Banana fish’, a reference to Salinger’s short story A Perfect Day for Banana Fish [1949: Salinger] from his Nine Stories collection. The same collection that contains The Laughing Man story.

A final but subtle reference can be seen in the final episode. As the Major goes to confront the true Laughing Man in the library, her hand moves over the handrail of the stares to reveal that someone has scratched in the words ‘fuck you’. While only a second on screen, this could be a double reference. When going to pick up his younger sister at her school, Holden finds the words ‘Fuck You’ scratched into the banister. He frantically tries to clean it up, hoping his younger sister didn’t see it. But at an earlier part of the book, in a far more pessimistic tone. Holden states, “That’s the whole trouble. You can’t ever find a place that’s nice and peaceful, because there isn’t any. You may think there is, but once you get there, when you’re not looking, somebody’ll sneak up and write “Fuck you” right under your nose. Try it sometime. I think, even, if I ever die, and they stick me in a cemetery, and I have a tombstone and all, it’ll say “Holden Caulfield” on it, and then what year I was born and what year I died, and then right under that it’ll say “Fuck you.” I’m positive, in fact. “[Salinger.1951:183]. The words her in the show appear both right under the Major’s hand, possibly so out of place that she never even noticed it. But also, in a place that should be peaceful. Anger and hatred infecting a place of peace and knowledge.

Salinger’s estate is noticeably protective of his work. With The Catcher in the Rye in particular having no licences for adaptation. [Salerno.2013] However, these intertextual references, not just confined to Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, but it in other media, may be the closest we get to a full-fledged adaptation.

 

  • Ghost in the Shell. (1995) Film. Directed by Mamoru Oshii. [Blu-ray] Production I.G.: JPN.
  • Ghost in the Shell. (2017) Film. Directed by Rupert Sanders. [Blu-ray] Paramount Pictures: USA.
  • Ghost in the Shell 2: (2004) Film. Directed by Mamoru Oshii. [Blu-ray] Production I.G.: JPN
  • Ghost in the Shell: (2013 – 2015) OVA. Directed by Kazuchika Kise. [Blu-ray] Production I.G.: JPN.
  • Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. (2002 – 2005) Directed by Kenji Kamiyama. [DVD] Production I.G.: JPN.
  • Salinger, J.D. (1951) The Catcher in the Rye. Penguin Books. London: UK.
  • Salinger, J.D. (1949 – 1953) For Esme’ with Love and Squalor and Other Stories. Penguin Books. London: UK.
  • (2013) Film. Directed by Shane Salerno. [DVD] The Weinstein Company: USA.
  • Shirow, M. (1989 – 1990) Ghost in the Shell (Kokaku Kidotai). Kodansha Comics, Tokyo: JPN.
  • Shirow, M. (1991 – 1997) Ghost in the Shell 2: Man-Machine Interface. Kodansha Comics, Tokyo: JPN.
  • Shirow, M. (1991 – 1996) Ghost in the Shell 1.5: Human Error Processor. Kodansha Comics, Tokyo: JPN.

Another (2012)

Another is the Final Destination of anime. A blood bath for all those involved, that makes you wonder who and how the next person will die rather than who is the answer to the mystery.

Set in 1998, after moving in with his grandparents while his father is away on business. Koichi Sakakibara is enrolled in Yomiyama North Middle School, in class 3 – 3. Due to his own illness however, he is forced to start in May rather than the beginning of the term. He is briefly visited by students to give him some information, but after they leave, he stumbles across a girl in the same uniform. Pale skin, dark hair, an eye patch over her left eye and a sad expression on her face. The last time he sees her that day, she’s making her way down to the morgue. Upon starting school a few weeks later, he finds his classmates very friendly and begins to settle in well. However, the girl seems to be ignored by everyone, as though she doesn’t exist. As life goes on, Koichi is made aware of the curse that haunts class 3 – 3, that ever year the class takes measures to prevent the students and their loved ones from dying. That for the past 25 years an extra student always appears, one who had previously died, and once they show up, death follows. The question is, who is dead?

An interesting mystery and admittedly beautiful visuals are the true attraction to this series. Studio P.A. Works have certainly used their budget to great effect. In way of horror it does very little to scare the viewer. At most you may find yourself tugging at your collar during the first death 3 episodes in. The 12 episodes are adapted from a novel of the same name by Yukito Ayatsuji, and in many ways it feels as though the scares would work better in novel form. Allowing the reader to imagine all the gory details in their own way. The mystery itself is rather compelling, especially the more you learn, mixed with some rather clever casting choices in both the English and Japanese.

However, it feels as though an extra episode here or there to flesh out the world around Class 3 – 3 would have strengthened a defining point of the reveal. Allowing the viewer that extra opportunity to catch a point that was known to the lead, and not to us. Koichi is established to be a lover of horror fiction. Reading Stephen King in the first episode and Lovecraft a few episodes later. His visits to the hospital are also accompanied by the nurse referring to him as “Mr. Horror Lover”. This point is hammered in greatly in the early episodes and is largely forgotten by the end. Something that felt like a set up for a later point only to be dropped. While this does work to give Koichi some character, the more blatant and unnecessary references to it could have been used to flesh out the rest of the school and town.

The cast is very well defined. Each with their own distinct characteristic or quirk about them. Despite the blood bath that does ensue throughout, it’s made clear early on that despite Koichi due to main character immunity, anyone could die at any moment.

An enjoyable and eye-catching series despite the lack of true horror. It’s 12 episodes that nicely wraps up and leaves the viewer satisfied.