I'm back!

There will be a few more catch-up trip posts, as there's tons of stuff I never got a chance to write up. Such as the obsession of many people we met with Cameron's movie Avatar. I swear, every other conversation, someone would mention it. I was beginning to think it would be impossible to escape back to the US without getting dragged to a screening. We probably would have been, except that we fled to Hong Kong... where Oyce called her Dad to tell him we'd arrived safely, and caught him in a movie theatre, watching Avatar.

The next day, we were having dinner with her aunt and uncle, and asked them if there were any good Chinese movies playing.

"Nothing's good!" said her uncle.

"That's not right," said her aunt. "What about that movie with the blue people?"

In an unrelated incident, I also want to mention something which happened in China. We went to a temple complex dedicated to the journey of the Buddhist monk Xuanzang (aka Tripitaka) to India. This was immortalized in the novel Journey to the West, which was remixed in one of my favorite manga, Saiyuki, where he was called Sanzo.

In an infamously poorly subtitled bootleg of the anime of Saiyuki, Sanzo, who might reasonably be called a monk or priest, is called a rabbi. The place he comes from, usually translated as Shangri-La, is called Asgard. Add to that some oddly-translated epithets, and the bootleg is known, at least to me, as "Rabbi Sanzo and the Fuck-Monkey of Asgard."

I cannot begin to convey my glee when I discovered that every one of the scholarly and otherwise well-translated plaques at that complex referred to "Rabbi Xuanzang."

I am guessing that both the anime and the temple used the same (strange) dictionary. There were also references on the plaques to amrita, the immortality-giving drink of the Gods, which is usually translated as nectar, or sometimes ambrosia or elixir. Here it was called a "wonder drug." Not very elevated!
I was on several panels, including a rather intellectually elevated one on writing academic papers on anime, during which the panel of professors frequently name-dropped Foucault and Derrida, and one on writing manga, which thank God I dragged [livejournal.com profile] telophase to because otherwise I would have been the only person on the panel.

But the Panel That Will Live In Infamy was the one on Saiyuki, which consisted of me (presumably to discuss the manga) and American dub actors Greg Ayres (Goku) and Monica Rial (lots of minor characters.) I showed up on time. The room was packed with bright-eyed Greg Ayres fans, several of them armed with video cameras. (This whole panel might be on YouTube, for all I know.)

Greg and Monica didn't show up. And didn't show up. I finally said, "I know you're all here to see Greg Ayres; I'm sure he'll be here in a moment; let's just wait a bit."

Ten or fifteen minutes past the time the panel should have started, I said, "I'm sure Greg will get here eventually, but since this is a panel about Saiyuki, I'll start talking about it, and Greg can jump in when he arrives."

Crazed fangirls: Collective groan.

Me: "Let's have a show of fake enthusiasm!"

Crazed fangirls, who thankfully had a sense of humor: "Woo-hoo! Yay!"

I introduced myself and began to discuss the manga. Just as I was starting to get warmed up, Greg Ayres walked in. He looked about my age (32) or a bit older, a short guy with a pink face and wispy blue and green hair.

Crazed fangirls: Genuine hysteria.

Greg Ayres and I begin to discuss Saiyuki (both of us) and tell amusing anecdotes about the life of a voice actor (him.) This went fine until I attempted to agree with him that the relationship of Goku and Sanzo was not sexual in nature by referring to Saiyuki Gaiden, a prequel series which is licensed and scheduled, but not yet available in English.

Me: "Let me just tell you what Gaiden is, for those of you who haven't read it in scans--"

Greg Ayres (breathing smoke): "Hold it right there. Scans are totally wrong! How dare you mention scanlations! You should never read them! They're stealing, they're evil, they're--"

Me: "Um, let me clarify. I'm not talking about reading scans instead of buying the official release. I buy the English releases of everything I read in scans. I'm just talking about reading ahead."

Greg Ayres (shooting flames from his nostrils): "It makes no difference! It's still stealing! I never do that! You should never do that! It's totally immoral! And illegal! And unethical! It destroys the livelihoods of manga creators! It's like breaking into their houses and stealing! I know of many mangaka who cannot ever be licensed in English because their work had been scanned!"

Note: I wish I'd asked him who he was talking about. It's not that I think he was lying; I just wonder if there's more to the story, as an awful lot of manga that has been scanned gets licensed anyway.

Me: "I think we'll have to agree to disagree on this. By the way, I am a manga creator, and there's more than one side to this issue. I know of some mangaka whose work was licensed because it had an online fanbase."

Greg Ayres: (Head explodes.)

Me: "Um... do you mind if I refer to Gaiden? I do actually read Japanese, so I theoretically could have read it in Japanese. It's just that it's difficult and I'm lazy... Oh, wait, I forgot, it's in the anime too! We can just say we're talking about the anime!"

Greg Ayres (pointing to crazed fangirl): "You!"

Crazed fangirl: "Can I hug you?"

Greg Ayres: "Uh... after the panel."

Crazed fangirl: (Hand pops up again.)

Greg Ayres: "Yes?"

Crazed fangirl: "Can you say, 'I love you, Sanzo?' In your Goku voice?"

Greg Ayres: "I love you, Sanzo."

Entire room: "SQUEEEEE!"

The panel then continued in a less awkward manner, except for a slight hiccup when Greg Ayres mentioned watching a series that has not yet been released in English. "I don't own this!" he added hastily. "I saw it at a friend's house! And it was a legal version! We watched it in the original Japanese! Without subtitles!"

Later that day, I spotted Greg Ayres walking by, as I sat behind [livejournal.com profile] telophase's table piled high with unauthorized fanart.

"Hi, Greg!" I said.

He stared at me like he had no idea who I was. As it had not occurred to me that he was seriously angry at me-- I thought we'd just had a disagreement, as reasonable people may do-- I assumed that, like I often do, he had merely failed to recognize me.

"I'm Rachel Brown!" I explained. "From the panel this morning."

A large, blinking neon sign reading, "I HATE YOU" materialized over his forehead. Shooting me a look of utter loathing, he seemed to struggle with words for a moment. Then he spat out, "You and I have very different opinions!" And turned his back, and stomped away.

If any of you ever meet Greg Ayres, I've got some good links to illegal download sites you can pass on with my compliments.
Reading Saiyuki makes me wish I knew more about Buddhism. [livejournal.com profile] loligo has a terrific post exploring some of the issues involving Sanzo and non-attachment-- and I'm not sure that she had at that point read volume nine, which adds a new wrinkle to the concept, so I'd be interested to hear if she has since.

I have also heard a lot of Zen parables, and I bet you have too. Here's a small archive of them.

There are several I've heard which involve someone asking a master a dumb or over-intellectualized question, who responds by bonking them over the head, at which point they sometimes become enlightened. This seems very appropriate to Saiyuki, if you imagine Goku with Nyoi-bo instead of an old man with a shinai.

They frequently involve a sudden insight delivered by way of an action that is also a metaphor: an overflowing teacup representing a mind full of pre-conceived ideas, or a perfect tea ceremony as the reflection and representation of the tea master's state of perfect discipline and calm.

This is a good way of teaching in real life: an overflowing tea cup, or even the story and mental image of it, is more memorable and more likely to produce real insight than just telling someone, "If you are already convinced that you know everything, you won't be able to learn anything new."

In Saiyuki, Goku has several very significant moments when he delivers similar lessons via physicalized metaphors to the other characters, which gives them the insights that he already instinctively grasps.

Goku is literally a child of Earth. He loves physical, earthy things: food, fighting, physical activity in general, and a few other people. (If he was old enough, I'm sure he'd be into sex too.) In particular, he loves Sanzo, and is not at all afraid or ashamed of his feelings. Goku represents nature, natural feelings, natural desires, and instinct. He understands some very complicated and sophisticated concepts instinctively, on a gut level. Unlike Sanzo, who is more likely to use words, Goku communicates these, when he does, mostly through metaphoric action.

It's not accidental that the "kun" (Japanese reading) of the "go" in "Goku" is "satori--" enlightenment.

spoilers for volumes four and nine )
In the comments to this lovely Saiyuki picture of Koumyou, Kid!Sanzo, and a butterfly, I suggested that the butterfly be a Monarch, because Monarchs are orange and the character in the picture is associated with orange paper airplanes, and so it would be thematically appropriate.

[livejournal.com profile] telophase asked if Monarchs exist in China. I replied, "Do they have Jeeps and Marlboros in (ancient) China?"

She wrote, "Point.

(See why I get wrapped up in background detail whe attempting to write soemthing? I wanna be able to write something and throw in whatever the hell I want and have it work like it does in Saiyuki! Is it even possible to do that in prose?)"

I wrote, "Do I really want to reveal to you the secrets of writing? But then you won't need me any more! [She is drawing a manga I'm writing, Project Blue Rose aka "Gay Mutant Black Ops.]

This is a very common writing problem, actually, and yes, you can do that in prose, though manga is the only media I've seen that does it on a regular basis.

The key is to decide what level of realism you want. There is no such thing as perfect... you know what, this is a post and I'll make it on my own LJ."

And here I am, to discuss levels of realism.

Saiyuki is very consistent/realistic in terms of imagery, character, and emotional relationships. It is moderately consistent/realistic in terms of plot-- ie, the events generally fit together in a coherent and logical manner, but there are some gaps, plot holes, and implausibilities-- some of which could be explained later, but haven't been yet. (ie, Gonou got from Hyakugan Maoh's castle to Gojyo's neighborhood how, when he was in no shape to travel and the castle appears to be quite far away when they all go there later.) The background is deliberately anachronistic, and also not realistic in other ways, which can be summed up in the question of what a gazillion berserk youkai are doing to the economy.

Given that, in a Saiyuki picture, if it makes emotional sense and is consistent with the imagery to have an orange butterfly, you should put one in even if they do not exist in ancient China. Because in that story, what really existed in ancient China is totally irrelevant, but the association of Koumyou with flying orange things, and what that means in emotional and thematic terms, is essential.

In Samurai Champloo, the background of Edo-era Japan is meticulously correct, except when it is deliberately broken. This is different from Saiyuki, where the background is not especially period-accurate even when it's not deliberately anachronistic. In the former, if coins are seen, they ought to be either Edo-period coins or modern yen or nickels. In the latter, coins are just coins.

The important thing, then, is not to be realistic, necessarily, but to be consistent. Even deliberately inconsistent, non-realistic narratives like those two above are inconsistent in a very consistent and internally coherent manner.
In honor of International Saiyuki Week, I have switched my default icon and am posting about Saiyuki. Please do the same if you wish to participate.

I have also uploaded more jaw-droppingly gorgeous and sexy Saiyuki pictures to the gallery labeled "Salty Dog IV," from Kazuya Minekura's art book of the same name. Feast your eyes.

Because I am running short on time, I am cribbing this explanation, for those not in the know, from one I gave to [livejournal.com profile] the_red_shoes elsewhere.

My very favorite manga, Saiyuki, by Kazuya Minekura, is a whacked-out, deliberately anachronistic retelling of the ancient Chinese classic, Journey Into the West, in which two demons, a Buddhist monk, and the Monkey King travel across China to fetch some scriptures back from India. But since it's more about the journey than the destination, it's one of the world's first road trip stories.

Minekura's title uses a kanji that's pronounced the same as "west," but means "extreme." (Isn't Japanese great?) In her version, four bad-ass bad boys travel across ancient China in a Jeep, fighting bad guys, making wisecracks, male-bonding, angsting, and fighting in the back seat. The Jeep is actually a small white dragon who can transform into a Jeep and is the pet of Hakkai, the dark-haired guy. The journey is sponsored by the Gods, who issue Sanzo a gold card to pay for it.

The story starts off a bit episodic, and a lot of people don't fall madly in love with it till volume four. There are twelve volumes currently out in English, and the writing and characterization and art just keep getting better as it goes along. The dialogue is witty, the art is beautiful, the story is much more coherent and tightly plotted than is immediately obvious, and I am madly in love with all the characters and how their individual dysfuctionalities somehow combine to make one very functional, if odd and tempestuous, beautiful friendship.

The story kicks off when a "minus wave" causes most youkai, who are a different race from humans, to go berserk and slaughter people. They may wear "power limiters" which make them look human, and a lot of them have a weapon that they can materialize. The Sanzo-ikkou (Sanzo's crew) are traveling west to figure out what's going on and to fix it.

Sanzo, the blonde guy, is a Buddhist monk with a very special sutra, a gun, and a very bad attitude. He is a total misanthrope, but...

Goku, the Monkey King, who starts out as a teenager and grows up through the series, is attached to Sanzo at the hip. This is because Sanzo rescued him from being locked in a cave for five hundred years. Goku is literally a force of nature who's always hungry and adores Sanzo and loves fighting and eating, and is a lot more emotionally healthy than the other three.

Hakkai is the dark guy with glasses. He can be very sweet and cheerful, but he has a really dark past full of deep angst. I think he's by far the scariest of the bunch. Hakkai is a very special kind of youkai, but we rarely see his youkai form. He is totally boyfriends with...

Gojyo, the guy with red eyes and long red hair. Really, they used to be roommates in a teeny house with one bed, and they act totally married, although Gojyo also likes to flirt with women. Gojyo is half-youkai, which is why he's got all that red, and he had a tragic angsty childhood because of this. He's got low self-esteem which he tries to cover up with a lot of bluff and attitude, but he is a total softie who would save kittens if he ever found any in need of saving.

Which brings us to Saiyuki Gaiden, the prequel series where they were all Gods in Heaven before Goku showed up and his presence started a chain of events leading to Goku getting his memories wiped and gettting imprisoned for 500 years, and the rest of them going through a bunch of reincarnations before they finally all met up in Saiyuki. Saiyuki Reload is the continuation of the series. The name change is because it switched publishers, but also marks the end of one arc and the beginning of a new one.
I have been practicing my reading on a copy of the manga Saiyuki number five, which is not yet available in English. Most of it is an extended flashback to the first meeting of Hakkai and Gojyo, and how the two of them met Sanzo and Goku.

This entry http://www.livejournal.com/users/coffee_and_ink/382363.html?mode=reply from Mely's journal prompted me to write this entry, which may be thoroughly boring for anyone not interested in the Japanese language and/or my current obsession, the manga and anime Saiyuki. But I came across a certain bit that I thought was an interesting example of how translations are made, as it's obviously quite colloquial and funny, and it so happens that I have two different translations of it in addition to the original.

All the same...

Read more... )

Anyway, this gives me a lot of respect for translators.
rachelmanija: (Default)
( Aug. 20th, 2004 11:28 am)
Yesterday my refrigerator defrosted, which I of course didn't notice until after eating something from it, after which I felt vaguely nauseated all day and had to replace everything in the fridge, which luckily was not much. (Do pickles go bad after a defrosting incident? What about mustard?)

I took that as an excuse to go to the Japanese market with the used manga (in Japanese only) adjunct store. The women there do speak English, but they'll let me practice Japanese on them as long as I don't take too long to understand what they're saying. If I hesitate more than ten seconds, they'll translate. It makes me feel like I'm on Japanese Jeopardy, and makes shopping there a bit unnerving.

Me: "Saiyuki wa arimasu ka?"

Two ladies and young man: Blank stares.

Me: "Ah, Gensomaden Saiyuki?"

Two ladies and young man: Blank stares.


Young man (enlightenment dawning): "SAI-yuki?"

Me: Hai!

Two ladies: Ah, SAI-yuki!

Me (in my mind only): Huh?

The young man led me to-- score! -- volumes two, three, and-- double score! five-- in Japanese, two bucks each, original Japanese covers, oversize format the better to ogle the guys with, and also with lettering large enough that the hiragana cheats next to the kanji are mostly legible.

I spent much of this morning attempting to read volume five. My Japanese sucks. I wouldn't have understood any of it if I hadn't seen the anime already. It's the one that's mostly an extended flashback to everyone meeting for the first time-- well, the first time since Heaven-- beginning when Gojyo picks Hakkai up off the middle of the forest path and then after a lot of spoilery stuff they become roommates. Or possibly "roommates." There was a drawing of condom wrappers with an explanation I couldn't understand at all, but was probably, "They're for Gojyo's girlfriends. Girlfriends. Definitely girlfriends. To repeat: girlfriends."

Also, if anyone has read that far already in Japanese or scanlations... how shall I phrase this... does it make any sense whatsoever for Hakkai to wear a monocle? I mean, is that explained at all? Do the monks have really incredible healing powers that Sanzo himself never learned?

I also bought a CLAMP comic I never heard of called REX, about a cute little dinosaur. I wanted to buy some X, but they only had volumes I already had, with no additional or different art.

The market offered some new Pocky flavors: coconut milk, orange/chocolat, cream, cookies and cream, and maple custard.

what flavor pocky are you?

[c] sugardew

I also bought some darling little teeny weeny kawaii miniature sushi/sake sets, the ones that come in little numbered boxes where you have to collect all five hundred to get a complete banquet set. They also come with little white tablets. I'm not sure if those are candies or drying pellets. After the defrosting experience I was afraid to try one.
rachelmanija: (Default)
( May. 16th, 2004 02:53 pm)
I'm on the fifth disc of SAIYUKI, and still enjoying it very much in all its male-bonding homoerotic over-the-topness. Those guys really love each other, and there's something quite touching about the emotionality of their relationships as they alternate bopping each other over the head with paper fans with carrying each other through the desert when someone is wounded or collapses from exhaustion after saving everyone's lives. You get the picture.

It's interesting how often anime has teams of characters who are pitted against another team who are in some sense their doubles or mirror images. You see this in X/1999, FUSHIGI YUUGI, and SAIYUKI. In the latter, the antagonists (who are not villains) are explicitly paired, one each, with each of the protagonists: one brother on each team, leader vs. leader, the impulsive boy Monkey King against the impulsive little sister of the opposing team's leader, and the courteous gentleman Hakkai against the courteous lady on the other side. They even each have a dragon who acts as their transportation.

You see some of this in non-anime Western stories, but it's not that prevalent and not usually that emphasized. The characters' back stories and inner conflicts are also paralleled and contrasted in complicated and intriguing ways.

The SAIYUKI discs are very well-designed and all feature a sexy picture of one of the characters, bloodspattered and bandaged and looking tough, regardless of whether any of that character's blood is actually shed in those particular episodes. The first disc caught my eye with one of those pictures-- I'd never heard of the series, but I went "Ooh!" and rented it, so I guess the designers know their demographic.

I could have bought an action figure of Hakkai with his little white dragon Hakuryu the other day in a bookshop, but though I was tempted I'd already bought fifty dollars worth of manga, so I refrained.


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