Posted in 2018, analysis, Anime, Fiction

Golden Kamuy and the Ainu

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.

  1. The Title “Golden Kamuy” and the Bears

    Screenshot (103)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.

  2. The Bear Cub

    Screenshot (107)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.

  3. Appearance

    Screenshot (100)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.

  4. Naming of Children

    Screenshot (109)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.

  5. Food

    Screenshot (104)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.

References

http://www.ainu-museum.or.jp/en/study/eng01.html
https://www.tofugu.com/japan/ainu-japan/

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Posted in 2018, analysis, Fantasy, Fiction, Fictional Legacy

Siegfried and Fafnir – Fictional Legacy

There are spoilers for Fate/Apocrypha, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, and The Hobbit below. You have been warned.


This is a blog post series where I attempt to how different historical, mythological, and fictional characters are portrayed in fiction and modern popular culture. The whole reason I decided to make such a series is because my most viewed post is my Atsushi Nakajima post with 1,223 views total in 2017. That is close to being a quarter of all my views from 2017. I also enjoyed making that post and I learned a little bit about Japanese literature so I decided why not try making more research “heavy” posts like that one.

For this post I’m focusing on two characters from Norse mythology, the hero Siegfried and the cursed dragon Fafnir. The whole reason why I want to focus on these two characters is because I just finished watching Fate/Apocrypha where Siegfried plays a big part and the legend about how he slew Fafnir ended up being a pretty important aspect of the plot. Also Fafnir recently appeared in Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid as one of the dragons and I think it will be fun to look at how the legend influenced his character in the anime.

Continue reading “Siegfried and Fafnir – Fictional Legacy”

Posted in 2018, analysis

Bingeability and Openings in Television

Before innovations such as Netflix or other online streaming services the only way to actually binge a series was to either buy or rent a DvD or VHS with at least part of that series on it. Today all you have to do to binge a series is to go online, find the service, maybe sign up for a subscription, and choose what you’re going to watch. It’s not that hard to do, sure sometimes you have to pay money but its worth it if you can watch hours and hours of content for the price of only two.

While I have been binging some older series I have noticed just how difficult to binge. Both Yu Yu Hakusho and Chrono Crusade, both anime series that I have been watching recently have openings that are 1.5 minutes long and which play at the beginning of every episode. Sure it makes it easier to skip the openings if there is nothing else before them, but I personally find it a little bit annoying. In addition to this if the last episode ended in the middle of an action packed scene the current episode will repeat the ending of the last episode. This is mainly because the directer and producers of these older series weren’t expecting people to sit and watch the entire series in a few sittings.

You also see it in the west, though not as often because over here we don’t care much about openings. The opening for the X-Files is pretty long. It was so long that its run time was reduced in order to allow more time for the actual episode. The opening to The Fresh Prince of Bel Air is actually almost two minutes long and though it is catchy and kind of a meme now it’s not fun to listen to the same song once every half hour as you’re binging it.

So yeah, many older series are not friendly to binging because their creators never thought that these series would ever be watched in such a manner. However many new series also suffer from being unfriendly towards binging. My main example for this is the fact that while some series, especially in the west have adapted an opening that is only a few seconds long, there are still many series, mainly cartoons and anime that not only have decently long openings but also have openings that start after a short pre-opening scene which makes it difficult to binge them. Even if you like the music it can be annoying to listen to it over and over again. Some series have fixed this issue by omitting the opening during multi episode action sequences but the problem is still there.

But is any of this really an issue. It is still possible to skip the opening of any series and if more streaming platforms do what Netflix does and give you a button which will bring you to the end of the opening most of the problem is no longer there. While I do agree this would be more difficult for some series, for older series such as the ones I pointed out above it would only take adding a timed button to each episode which will stay there until the end of the opening so that you can either skip it or watch it. Also while I did spend much of this post complaining about how unbingeable some series are, they actually aren’t. There are just a few issues that make binging these series more difficult.

Posted in 2018, analysis, Fiction, gaming, Writing

Fiction That Holds Your Hand – A Fictional Analysis

Have you ever played a video game that felt the need to remind you how to perform basic actions frequently until you finally reach its conclusion or gave you hints as to how to complete a puzzle or pass a certain area? Most likely you have and if you hadn’t this is known as hand holding. It is usually done so that the player can focus more on the story and having rather than actually getting good at the game. However the problem is that a big part of video games is that feeling of accomplishment you get when you finally progress further in the game. If the game is holding your hand than this feeling of accomplishment is a lot less and when you finally complete the game you may not have that same connection to it that you would have when completing a game with a brief tutorial at the beginning.

Not only that but you will have a higher chance of getting bored because if the game is holding your hand it can make the game way too easy, or it may make you annoyed because its as though the game assumes that you have already forgotten how to play the game. This is a common sign of both bad game design and bad writing. The game designer should be able to make the game assessable to new players without holding their hands. All they really have to do is put a tutorial level at the beginning of the game or add a level like in Portal 2 where the player can easily learn how new mechanics work without it being outright explained to them. They could also make a tutorial available from the main menu just in case the player wants to return to the game after not touching it for months so that they can return to the same playthrough.

While hand holding in video games is annoying, its not the only fictional medium that this problem is found in. I’m talking about novels, specifically novels with interesting world building that feels the need to outright explain every difference between the world of the story and real life. A good example of this happening comes from a book that I read just last year titled Snow like Ashes by Sara Raasch. In this novel the protagonist heads to another kingdom with the Winter resistance in order to get support so that they can regain their own kingdom. As the resistance enters this kingdom they are met with a few soldiers who decide to lead them to the capital. One of the soldiers expresses his surprise by saying a phrase that is unique to that kingdom and the protagonist for some reason felt the need to explain what he had just said even though all it was was the soldier swearing in surprise. I know that this is a very small aspect of an okay novel, but it just bugged me so much. Also if I just got a few aspects wrong in my description thats because its been a while since I read the novel.

Outright explaining things can come in two types. There is the type where the narrator explains something to themself as they look at something, hear something, or perform an action. Imagine if you were to explain to yourself how to use a keyboard every time you used one. Its not very realistic is it? The second type is the type where another character explains something that the protagonist should already know so that the audience can learn more about the world. The character obviously doesn’t know that the audience exists because if they did that would be breaking the fourth wall, so the only explanation is that the character thinks the protagonist is so stupid they cannot even understand the everyday going ons of their own world.

Hand holding is something that can make it look like the writer or game designer feels as though the audience is not smart enough to understand things on their own. It is also a sign of lazy writing because its far easier to write a scene where a character explains something to another character than it is to show certain aspects of this world through descriptions and dialogue. Basically the entire point of the post is to tell you that if you want to write a story its best to assume that the audience can figure some things for themselves. You don’t need to explain everything


Something that I want to briefly talk about that is unrelated to this post is what I’m going to be doing next Thursday. First of all there will be a video game review posted for sure. I was thinking of moving those to Sunday so that people will actually see it since my last video game review last week only got two views whereas the fictional analysis got way more than that, but I decided to try again. So look forward to that. Also if CrunchyRoll releases the nominations for their Anime Awards by then I plan on writing a post about all my votes. See you tomorrow.