One of the only two new series that I am currently up to date with this season, Golden Kamuy is an interesting series that I didn’t expect. Of course when it comes to anime you always get what you least expect. Like one of the new series is about race horse girls. I definitely did not expect that. Golden Kamuy follows the adventures of Sugimoto a soldier who survived the Russo-Japanese war that ended shortly before World War 2 as he tries to make money by panning for gold in Hokkaido. Along the way he hears rumours of a hidden stash of gold that had been stolen from the Ainu and then hidden. He then partners up with Asirpa, a young Ainu woman, in order to both survive in the wilderness and find the stolen Ainu gold.
This is a series that interests me a lot because this is my first real exposure to Ainu culture. I knew they existed, I just didn’t know much about them. This is a series that takes its time to explain cultural differences between Japanese and Ainu customs, uses the quickly dying Ainu language of which there are apparently four dialects (only one is still spoken by 15 people as of 2013), and also occasionally acts as a cooking series with Ainu foods. One of the things I like about fiction is the fact that you can learn a lot from it. I will go over some of the traditions and cultural aspects of the Ainu that have been mentioned in the series so far. This post will contain spoilers up to episode 6.
But before I get into my list I think I should explain who the Ainu are. They are the indigenous people of Japan. Their ancestors came to the islands from North-Eastern Asia unlike the ancestors of modern Japanese people who immigrated from China. The Ainu are traditionally sedentary hunter-gatherers meaning that they don’t move a whole lot while living off the land. Golden Kamuy is set during the late Meiji period of Japan which was between the years of 1868 and 1912. During this time period policies were put in place by the Emperor to assimilate the Ainu with Japan. These policies included banning the Ainu language. You can see the effects of these policies in the series though the policies themselves have yet to come up.
So here’s my list of five things I looked up about the Ainu in relation to Golden Kamuy. I’m not an expert and there are a lot of things I don’t know so it’s possible that some information in this list may be slightly wrong since there is a lot of misleading and biased information on the internet. I recommend that you do some research of your own if you’re interested. Now here is my list.
The Title “Golden Kamuy” and the Bears
The Ainu people refer to anything that is of use to them as well as anything that is out of their control as “kamuy”. Kamuy were basically gods who came to help the Ainu. The word Ainu is the exact opposite of Kamuy. Ainu and Kamuy are meant to help each other and to scold the other group if they have done something wrong. They have a relationship of mutual assistance. Sometimes in English we refer to anything at the top as being golden so therefore “Golden Kamuy” refers to an Ainu god that is near the top. This could refer to the gold that the characters are all actively searching for or it could have something to do with bears.
One of the most important kamuy is Kim-un Kamuy or the god of bears and mountains which is rather fitting considering that a lot of this series has been taking place in the mountains and there have been multiple bears. I think that this is the main reason why all the bears in the series are drawn in a different art style so that they look like they don’t entirely belong. This had to have bene a conscious choice.
The Bear Cub
After Sugimoto uses a hibernating bear to deal with his pursuers in episode 3 he takes in the small bear cub. This leads to Asirpa bringing both him and the cub to her home village so that the cub can be raised. She warns him not to get too close to the cub because of an Ainu tradition where a young bear cub is taken from a wintering den and raised as an Ainu child. It is then sacrificed to send its kamuy back to Kamuy Mosin or the land of the kamuy. Ainu Mosin is the homeland where the Ainu live. Both the sources I was looking at stated this fact and I even found pictures of a bear cub being raised by Ainu.
Ainu women were tattooed around the lips when they were old enough to marry. Men don’t shave after they are old enough to marry which is a few years after women come of age. Everyone has hair that is about shoulder length. In the second episode when Asirpa and Sugimoto go to that town it is mentioned how she does not have tattoos because she is too young. She is also wearing traditional Ainu clothing. You can also see examples of clothing in the Ainu village.
Naming of Children
It is mentioned in an episode that Ainu children are given names of disgusting/annoying things in order to ward off the demon of ill-health. Once they reached a certain age they got their permanent names which would be related to their behaviour, events that already happened during their lives, or their parents’ wishes for their future. Another interesting detail about how children are named, the Ainu tried their hardest to name everyone something different so you don’t see too many repetitive names. This wasn’t mentioned yet in the series.
I didn’t find much about what they ate, however through my research I learned that the Ainu rarely ate raw meat. Asirpa has been shown multiple times already during this series preparing raw animal organs such as deer lungs and brains and getting Sugimoto to eat it. This was mainly done during hunting trips. I didn’t find anything about eating anything but organs raw so I don’t know about chitatap, however I’m sure that like many other aspects of this series research was put into portraying this culture.
I decided to end this post at only five aspects of the Ainu culture in Golden Kamuy. I did some quick research to learn more about this culture because I knew practically nothing about it before watching this series. If you want to learn even more go to the sites that I’ll list below. This is where I did most of my research. There are so many things about Ainu culture that have yet to be mentioned in the series.
So since this is a blog all about fiction and writing which to be fair it may have been a mistake to make my blog topic so broad, I’ve decided to write a post all about fiction. So I have been reading a lot since I was 7 or 8, started writing stories after I moved when I was 14, and started blogging when I was 18, so I’ve had a lot of time both to come to enjoy fiction and think about why I like it. I’ll probably write a post about why I like writing, however that post probably won’t be released until after I finish my Golden Kamuy post in at least two weeks. So here is my explanation of why I love fiction.
Ever since I started reading books longer than 150 pages I have been learning things from books. From A Series of Unfortunate Events I learned about anagrams, the correct direction to read manga in, as well as many other random facts. From The Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke I learned roughly what a brownie was before I went into Girl Scouts. You can learn a lot just by reading a book, watching a movie or television show, or by playing a game. Not only random facts, but also real life lessons. This is the main reason why I don’t think limiting what a person can read or watch or play too much is a good idea.
Another good way to learn from fiction is to read older stories like those published over half a century ago. It’s interesting to see how stories like Hamlet, Sherlock Holmes, and The Call of Cthulhu have influenced modern fiction. Hamlet is the most commonly quoted Shakespearian play and helped inspire movies such as The Lion King. It has been referenced in all mediums of fiction many times. New versions of stories about Sherlock Holmes are released quite often with multiple movies and multiple television stories. The Call of Cthulhu was the beginning of the ever expanding Cthulhu mythos. I find it fun to look at how older fiction has influenced newer fiction.
Of course one of my favourite parts about fiction is enjoying it myself then seeing it being released into another medium so that more people can experience these stories. I got so excited when the new A Series of Unfortunate Events Netflix Original series was announced because up until then the only adaptation we had was a movie which condensed the first three books plus the ninth book. The movie failed to include many of the things that made the books so great. Unfortunately it doesn’t look like people who never read the books really liked the Netflix series because of its absurdist qualities.
Of course most of the things I like about fiction are related to me thinking and observing rather than me interacting. I find that in any community I join I’m an observer and people tend to think that I’m either strange or they don’t actually see me. This is a problem I hope to solve and I hope I can remedy this by interacting more with people on the internet. The only thing that really gets in the way of me doing this is my mental health. Because another thing I love about fiction is the way people tend to group up in terms of what they enjoy. They discuss certain characters and events within the story and through art they show their love for it. Though fandoms can often be toxic, it is just so great how they can form in the first place.
And that’s why I love fiction.
A character has learned that something is going on however they learn that the proper authorities they need to tell about what is going on refuse to even listen to them because of their gender, class, religion, or race because it is Victorian England. Zeitgeist is a German word which means “the spirit of the times”. It is used to describe the spiritual and cultural attitudes, and the knowledge of a country or society during a certain time.
This is a plot device that can only really be used in historical fiction or time travel stories. Since I don’t usually read, or watch historical fiction I don’t have any examples of it other than Legends of Tomorrow, however I am delightfully surprised that I was actually able to find a plot device for “z” and it’s such a good word.
In order to use zeitgeist in a story you first need to do a little bit of research into the zeitgeist of the time period and region you want to set your story in. Look at all the difficulties your characters may have and look at how that could hinder the plot. After you are done with that use what you have learned to write your story.
A young character learns that they need to do something however their age gets in the way. Their adventure is made more difficult just because they are young. Sometimes in stories youth is used to slow a story down since there is so much a character can’t do when they’re underage. In contemporary they can’t drink, gamble, or feel welcome at gatherings with a lot of older people. Society also tends to look down on younger people making youth a great motivator for characters to show their strength in multiple aspects (strength of character, intelligence, physical strength). Youth can also be of aid to a character because people in most societies tend to have more freedom to do things when they’re younger.
Some young adult fiction and anime uses youth as a plot device. Most commonly the inexperience of the young characters is pointed out and it is up to these characters to show that even with less experience they can still do whatever needs to be done. Stories that use youth as a plot device include Darling in the FranxXx, My Hero Acadamia, and more.
To use youth as a plot device show how it either hinders or helps your characters. Show how other people react to seeing younger people doing whatever they’re going to do in your story. Show whether or not they believe what the younger people are saying. Or you can just have your characters grow up in a time skip after introducing them as children.
In a medical drama when it seems like there is nothing the doctors can do for a patient suddenly they take another look at the x-rays and after a quick epiphany it is clear. There is something the doctors can do however they must move quickly in order for it to work. An x-ray in a piece of fiction is something or someone that reveals key details to the characters and by extension the audience. They are common in crime and medical fiction, as well as mysteries. They can act as a trigger for anagnorisis.
To be fair for “x” and the next two letters of the alphabet I’m going to mainly be choosing a word that could be a plot device and explaining how it is one. In the example above an x-ray is used to push the plot in another direction. The x-ray doesn’t necessarily need to be an x-ray, it could be a computer, a person, or many other things. Stories that use x-ray’s as plot devices include Greys Anatomy, House, Criminal Minds, Sherlock, and others.
To use an x-ray in a story first look at what it reveals, and then show how it impacts the characters and their actions. Don’t make it appear like a Deus ex Machina by spelling the revealed information out. For instance don’t write the information clearly in a journal and have it be sent to your characters. In order for an x-ray to work there needs to at least some thinking and deciphering because x-rays should also show the intelligence and/or skill of your characters.
A group of characters finds themselves trapped in a difficult situation. They are facing a villain stronger than any they have ever faced before and it is clear that they are fighting a losing battle. Suddenly one of these characters rushes forwards, shouting for the other characters to escape. This one character uses as much power as possible to push the villain back. They do this with the intent of sacrificing themselves so that the other characters can survive this battle. The other characters can now either run like that one character told them to do or stand and fight with greater strength with the hope of defeating this villain.
This plot device is most commonly used in Shonen anime to inspire characters such as the protagonist to access power they didn’t know they had to defeat their current foe. It can also be used in any other genre to inspire characters. It doesn’t need to be a life that gets sacrificed. It can also be money, memory, limbs, sentimental belongings, emotions, or literally anything else. Anything can be sacrificed. Stories that use sacrifice as a plot device include Yu Yu Hakusho, My Hero Academia, How to Keep a Mummy, Mistborn, Star Wars, and many other stories.
To use sacrifice in a story you first must keep in mind that this plot device has the potential to become very dark. The impact a characters sacrifice has on other characters can be strong and can make for some very emotional scenes. Sacrifices do not need to succeed. A characters failed attempt at sacrificing themselves can greatly upset other characters. Of course these two points only have to do with a sacrifice of life. If anything else is sacrificed it tends to have more of an emotional impact on the character doing the sacrificing than any of the other characters.
A group of characters finds themselves trapped on a spaceship alone in space. Only they aren’t alone after the first character is found half eaten by the rest of the crew. That is when they realize that they aren’t alone, in fact they began to doubt if they ever were alone or if whatever ate this character is also what caused the ship to drift in the first place. Now the crew is trying to make sure they survive long enough to fix the ship and fly to safety. All the while there is a monster of some sort wandering about the ship looking for its next victim. Every time the crew thinks they’re safe the monster will find them and force the tension to rise much more. This is a common plot device in horror since it can help create a creepy tone for the story and provide sudden jump scares. It’s a plot device when it helps move the plot forward or when it prevents the plot from moving forward for a little while. The monster doesn’t need to be a monster, just a dreaded enemy.
Stories that use wandering monsters include Alien, Captain America: Civil War, Pirates of the Caribbean, Another, The Lost Village, Attack on Titan, and more. Wandering monsters are also common in video games only when they appear in games they rarely act as a plot device. Instead they act as motivators for the player, tests of skill, or unrequired challenges.
If you want to use a wandering monster in your story as a plot device you need to make it clear to your audience that the monster can strike at any moment and that no one is safe. Sequels to horror stories don’t tend to be as scary as the original movie when surviving characters are reused. That’s because it takes away the threat of death for that character away. Similarly if you know a character is going to survive for a sequel that already exists that threat is also taken away.