Sometimes, the key to a story is finding the proper format for it. That was certainly the case with "The Revelation of John."
Four of the stories that went into Jack Daniels Sessions and Hard Times Blues were started in 2007-2008, during my graduate studies at the University of Maryland. At the time, I was reading a lot about Jim Crow, and had ideas for a number of segregation-era stories. I would publish them all together in a book called Elwin Cotman's Most Depressing Book Ever. I was thinking about how fantasy could be applied to my political interests, and also reading Charles de Lint. As de Lint culls from different mythologies, I wanted to do the same. The Bible seemed ripe for some riffing.
I don't know how it hit me to combine the Flood with the Book of Revelations. As a Bible reader, I've always found the New Testament pretty boring, with the exception of Revelations (aka the founding text of all things metal). I wanted to explore the idea of apocalypse. I wanted to speak to this infuriating oppression that happened around the Flood. It seemed appropriate to look at the Old South through Christian mythology, as it is so important to black culture. I first learned about the flood from references made during Hurricane Katrina (though never made in the corporate media). After all, 1927 was the first time the levees broke. The subject took hold of me and, King James Bible at my side, I wrote "The Revelation of John" as a prose piece with Biblical language.
It got excoriated at workshop. The prose was hyperbolic and purple. The line between fantasy and reality was confusing. I'd long ago learned not to catch feelings over what people say in workshops. Whatever critique you feel lacks merit, you disregard. I agreed that it looked strange as a straight piece of prose. The best advice came from the professor, which was to make the apocalypse more localized, more Mississippi. I worked on it a little longer before putting it on the shelf.
Flash forward to 2011. I was doing the Interdisciplinary Writers Lab, and wanted to work on an experimental piece for the anthology. So I dusted off "Revelation." The performance aspects of the story were developed while studying under Brenda Wong Aoki. I saw where I could rework it in order to make it richer.
I read Rising Tide, which has a plethora of info about the sociopolitical climate in the Delta leading up to the Flood, and of the abuse toward black people that took place during and afterward. Everybody should read it. The Flood of 1927 was a major event in US history, especially regarding the Northern Migration. After the savagery visited on them, it made perfect sense for black people to be like "fuck y'all niggas, I'm outta here" and move to Chicago.
I learned more about Mississippi folklore and worked that into the piece. More importantly, I gained a better understanding of the Book of Revelations. It's a screed. A political work, written by a political prisoner. The symbols of lambs and dragons are jabs at Rome, using the then-new concept of Christian eschatology. Pretty much everything in there is representative of something else. I worked symbolism into "Revelation of John." I included more historical elements. After four years, it was almost like writing an entirely new piece.
"Revelation of John" did not go into the IWL anthology. As documented in a previous blog entry, I could not find a space in which to type the story when I was on 2011 tour, and ended up submitting "Pulp" instead. But I performed "Revelation" for the IWL shindig at the end of the workshop. I found myself in the strange situation of having a piece that worked better as performance than prose.
Last semester at Mills. Last MFA workshop. I submitted "Revelation," only this time it was formatted like the Bible. Well, not exactly. The language of the Bible can get really repetitive ("And...", "And...", "And...") which doesn't fit my style. So I used it as a jumping-off point to write a sort of prose poem. "Revelation" was my return to poetry.
The response from this latest workshop: "So, all the biblical references. I don't get it. Maybe you should include footnotes."
I wonder if John of Patmos had the same problem. And if he just told people to Google it.
The biblical formatting was a relatively late element in the story's evolution, but one that changed it completely, and for the better. Now I'm thinking of other old pieces that might find their way if I change them to another genre. Using the Bible format was inspired by a Bible as Lit course I took at Mills, where I was reminded that much of the book is poetry. The Song of Songs and the Psalms, for example, are straight verse.
So I got inspiration from workshops and lit classes. I did most of my research at Mills, and wrote most of the story at Mills. Could it be that all of this schooling has actually helped my writing? Naaah. Probably not.
What I thought might be an inaccessible story got a lot of positive reactions when I was on tour. I'm glad, as it's subject matter I feel people should know about. "The Revelation of John" is probably, pound for pound, the densest story I've ever written. No footnotes included.
Saturday, September 28, 2013
Tuesday, September 24, 2013
So, I haven't updated lately. That's because I've been working pretty hard, even though we live in a post-employment economy. Instead of jobs, we have internships; instead of employees, we have contractors and adjuncts. People in the service sector can't even afford food and rent. But at least they get food stamps! Oh, wait. The millionaires in DC are cutting food stamps? Let them eat cake, I guess. This country is going down the tubes so fast it's silly, and frankly, all the "pull yourself up by the bootstraps" bullshit isn't going to fix it. In two years, ain't nobody going to be questioning what Occupy Wall Street's message is.
In the midst of this apocalypse, I write essays about anime. I'm writing one right now about how the writing of different continuities helped Leiji Matsumoto redefine Bushido after the Second World War. Below is the linguistics essay I wrote recently that inspired me on this particular scholarly path. I took out the works cited, as I'm sure the reformatting on blogspot will make it look awful. If you are at all interested in linguistics, or space opera comics, I think you'll enjoy the paper.
“Only a Woman’s Pride!”:
Language and Gender in Space Pirate Captain Harlock
Gender is an intrinsic part of Japanese communication, both verbal and written. The language is known for its sentence–final particles (SFPs) that express the speaker’s attitude toward the information and the person receiving it. These particles are arranged along gendered lines—those for women indicate indirectness, humility, and indecisiveness, while men’s articles are assertive and blunt. Particles are one way in which language is gendered in Japanese society; honorifics and vocal pitch also work into the complex set of rituals used by speaker/author to acknowledge the presence and status of the audience/reader. This is called keigo: a system of verbal choices used to honor the “other” in conversation. The Japanese call this cultural value aite no mi ni naru, or “take the other’s perspective” (Inoue & Wessell 76). Women are predominantly expected to show this deference in common speech.
The arts, particularly the 19th century novel, were instrumental in the development of Japan’s gendered language. According to Mayako Inoue, the late Meiji Era (1880-1910) “occasioned a shift in political climate toward a more reactionary position, skeptical of rapid Westernization, and people sought a ‘return’ to Japanese tradition, including imperial absolutism and Confucianism” (Inoue 396), which in turn led to “advocate[ing] the traditional virtues and values of ideal womanhood, such as obedience to father, husband, and, later, eldest male child. Far from primordial, this ideology derived from the Confucianism espoused by the ex-samurai class and from the imported Western cult of domesticity.” In the drive to create a Japanese literature to match that of Europe, linguists needed a uniform speech for female characters, formed around the concept of the obedient woman. Thus began not only the ascendance of a uniform language, but gendered speech distinctions.
This linguistic movement extended to the world of manga, one of Japan’s most enduring cultural exports. The Japanese tradition of sequential art enabled post-World War II artists to make strong statements on their nation’s changing identity. Famous mangaka of that generation include Osamu Tezuka, Keiji Nakazawa, and Leiji Matsumoto, the creator of Space Pirate Captain Harlock, Galaxy Express 999, and co-creator of the television series Space Battleship Yamato. Matsumoto’s sprawling, epic, yet often whimsical space operas deal with issues of honor, duty, and coming-of-age. Born in 1938, Matsumoto grew up under the American occupation. As a response to Japan’s demilitarization and the increased Western presence, Matsumoto’s heroes typify bushidō, the samurai code. In his essay “Heroic Honor: Chikamatsu and the Samurai Ideal,” C. Andrew Gerstle describes the post-feudal discourse on bushido as “concerned principally with duty, responsibility, and loyalty . . . Another influential . . . is that of Ito Jinsai and his followers who . . . placed emphasis overall on individual morality rather than on the individual’s relationship to the state, or the role of the state in controlling individuals” (Gerstle 310). Also, “By the end of the seventeenth century, terms such as haji (shame), na (name or reputation), and toku (virtue) were central to the samurai-led discussion on the concept of honor . . . The samurai myth remained heroic at its core: fearless readiness to die for honor” (314). These ideals, particularly those of death before dishonor, individual morality, and honor before institutional loyalty, are embodied in Matsumoto’s most famous creation: space pirate Captain Phantom F. Harlock the 99th. The futuristic pirate is portrayed time and again as an iconoclast among humankind that has grown lazy and complacent, or who advocate surrender. In the 1982 film Arcadia of My Youth, the parallels between Earth and the postwar occupation of Japan are made explicit, and Harlock refers to himself as a samurai. Like his contemporary Yukio Mishima, Matsumoto advocates traditional warrior values in order to reclaim Japanese identity.
Matsumoto’s work takes place in what fans have affectionately deemed “The Leijiverse,” a realm of colonized planets in which his characters have adventures. Among the qualities that define the Leijiverse, I have found two of particular interest: the multiple continuities that eschew linear narrative, but whose recurring archetypal characters reflect the language of myth; and elements of European folklore, from medieval imagery to whimsical story structure. Since the late 1970s, a majority of Matsumoto’s work has been adapted for the screen, with comics such as Galaxy Express 999, Space Pirate Captain Harlock, and Queen Millennia being turned into anime series only a year after their serial runs began. Adaptation has always been a key element in the proliferation of Matsumoto’s work and themes.
The first TV adaptation to gain widespread popularity was Shigeyuki Hayashi’s 1978 version of Uchū Kaizoku Kyaputen Hārokku. The series revolves around an invasion of Earth by an alien race called the Mazone. Harlock and the crew of his space battleship, The Arcadia, are the only humans putting up a fight against the well-armed and crafty extraterrestrials. What is immediately noticeable is that the Mazone are predominantly female, and their conflict with Harlock is often put in gendered terms. The name Mazone itself, derivate from Amazon, evokes both the feminine and the Western heroic stories that inform Matsumoto’s work. The nature of manhood is a major theme in Captain Harlock. For instance, in episode 3, Harlock entreats the young scientist Tadashi Daiba to join his crew. “If you’re a man,” he says, “you’ll do what you have to before you leave” (“A Woman Who Burns like Paper”). After giving Daiba a tour of The Arcadia, Harlock tells him, “You may not be impressed, but if you are a true man, come aboard Arcadia.” In Matsumoto’s universe, manhood is associated with individuality and duty, even if all around you have given up. The gender dynamics of the show arise in that Harlock, the ultimate masculine character, is thwarting a matriarchal society.
Before examining how gendered speech works in adapting Matsumoto’s themes for television, it is necessary to establish what masculinity and femininity represent in the Leijiverse. I have found that Matsumoto’s male and female characters follow two different western motifs, respectively: the epic and the fairy tale. Harlock is unique among anime characters in that he is distinctly European: his squinted eyes and chiseled features contrast with the round eyes and smooth features of others around him; he is both tall and realistically proportioned, unlike most of his crew, who are chibi caricatures. His two costumes are a skull-and-crossbones pirate outfit and an astronaut suit, and he wears spurs that jangle when he walks. Thus, Harlock represents several Western mythic archetypes. This is made most explicit in Matsumoto’s 1998 adaptation of Das Rheingold, in which Harlock takes the role of Siegfried. Masculinity is associated not only with the samurai code of honor, but with Western ideals of chivalry (knights) and individuality (pirates/cowboys). While the Mazone are an ever present threat, the true enemy in Space Pirate Captain Harlock is apathy. In this dystopian future, humans have lost all initiative. The leaders of Earth’s government are buffoons more concerned with playing golf and going to the horse races than staving off the impending alien invasion. Matsumoto’s heroes are active, and defy the urge to tie themselves to institutions. Masculinity in the series is characterized by decisiveness, individuality, and engagement with problems. As Matsumoto was writing during the Space Race, it seems only natural that outer space is the last frontier for his heroes to exercise their manly code.
Women, however, come from the fairy tale mold. They are often mysterious, magical, and some form of royalty (Princess Starsha, Queen Emeraldas, Queen Prometheum, Queen Millennia, Queen Lafresia). Matsumoto has a unique female character design: women, no matter the race, are tall, sylph-like, long-haired, and almost entirely identical to each other. The elfin design contributes to the idea of females as otherworldly. Besides fighting as fiercely as the warriors their name evokes, the Mazone take the forms of sirens, fairies, and other fairy tale tropes in order to inveigle Harlock’s crew. It is implied that the Mazone infiltrated Earth thousands of years ago, and were the witches and sorceresses whom humans based their legends on. I have narrowed Matsumoto’s representations of women to five categories: the Mysterious Woman, the Evil Queen, the Girl At Home/Damsel in Distress, the Grandmother, and the Force of Nature. These characters invariably serve as guides, muses, and enemies for the male heroes. The Mysterious Woman can be friend or foe. For instance, Emeraldas (who appears in the series as an early incarnation called “Emeralda”) is as mysterious as the Mazone agents, but she helps Captain Harlock. What defines Matsumoto’s Evil Queens is that they start out with good intentions, but become corrupted. Queen Lafresia in Captain Harlock is a prime example of this: she wants nothing more than to save her people by giving them a home on Earth, but becomes increasingly cruel and callous in her efforts to win.
I believe the reason Matsumoto chose fairy tale tropes for his females is because, in fairy tales, women are inherently magical. Mundane characteristics such as beauty, decency, and royal birth take on fantastic properties. While Matsumoto has created iconic females, his universe is male-centric. Females are predominantly supporting characters for the young boys who headline his bildungsroman stories. As such, the feminine, and feminine language, must be evaluated through its subordination to the male. The male represents individuality and steadfast commitment. In following his code, a man encounters beauty and glory, as represented by the angelic women who aid him. However, there is an inherent danger in the feminine, a threat to the rigid code of bushidō. The Mazone represent this, as well as representing the conflict in trying to live by a code. The Evil Queen trope from fairy tales is an analogy for moral corruption; Snow White, or any heroine, could grow up to become the apple-poisoning stepmother. Queen Lafresia is the series’ most interesting character in that she tries to live honorably and fails. Men like Captain Harlock cannot compromise their ethics because they are meant to be infallible heroes. Thus, women like Lafresia serve to show the other side of the coin.
In this essay, I will examine gendered language in Space Pirate Captain Harlock, and how it translates Matsumoto’s themes about manhood and bushidō. I will analyze dialogue in episodes that focus on the conflict between the sexes, fairy tale tropes, and challenges to honor. These are episode 3, “A Woman Who Burns Like Paper,” episode 15, “Tragic Love! The Northern Pole Aurora,” episode 26, “A Long Way Away Voyage,” and episode 30, “My Friend, My Youth.” As Japanese linguistics is highly gendered, a look at how the anime employs such language can shed light on how dialogue enforces the themes of an adaptation.
Elements of Japanese Linguistics
Language in Japan is predicated on levels of politeness. As women are expected to be gentle, feminized speech contains markers of “softness,” following the system of keigo honorifics. In The Japan Times, Jenny Uechi describes keigo thusly: “ ‘Sonkeigo’ (honorific language to elevate someone), ‘kenjogo’ (humble language to lower yourself), ‘teineigo’ (polite language ending in ‘desu’ or ‘masu’), ‘teichogo’ (a form of humble language that doesn’t require the speaker to be on the receiving end of an action), and ‘bikago’ (beautifying language, when ‘o’ or ‘go’ is put in front of a noun)” (Uechi). All Japanese phrases must end with a particle that indicates the speaker’s feelings toward the expression (Smith 60). The –masu suffix is attached to the ends of verbs to make the sentence polite, while -desu is the polite form of the Japanese copular verb da (to be). In relation to beautifying language, the prefix o- is attached to nouns and verb stems to indicate respect for the subject or action. Some SFPs are considered masculine in that they show aggression or emphatic assertion (zo, kai, ze, na) while others are considered feminine because they “soften” the expression, indicating humility (ne, kashira, wa, wa yo, wa ne, ne no, no yo, no ne), while others are gender neutral (Jref.com). As Miyako Inoue states, the gendering of particles is not an ancestral part of Japanese language, but comes from the early 20th century move to establish both an ideal Japanese woman and a uniform linguistics. The sources from which the Japanese linguist movement created these particles that would define their national communication seem, at times, arbitrary. For instance: “Schoolgirls were reported to use a set of distinctive final particles, including teyo, dawa, and noyo, many of which are the essential linguistic features identified today as women’s language” (Inoue 406). Besides using schoolgirl slang to create a feminine language, Japanese linguists feminized regional particles that were considered vulgar slang at the time, then normalized the morphology through domestic novels such as those written by Natsume Soseki (405).
Regarding masculine speech, a recent study by Cindi Sturtz Sreetharan found that “Japanese men are reported to use polite forms of verbs less frequently than women do, and to use more verb endings that are assertive, blunt, and more direct than those women use . . . [T]hey use a smaller and less emotionally charged lexicon . . . [and] they interrupt and take control of the conversational topic more frequently than women do” (Sreetharan 84). The notion of assertive speech is relevant to my research is that the TV series focuses on two different leaders, both of whom are perpetually giving directives to subordinates. According to a 1992 study by Janet Smith, Japanese directives are divided into three categories: imperatives (worded as orders), requests, and desideratives (worded as indirect desires). Imperatives are naturally the least polite form of directives (Smith 66), but within those parameters, there are varying levels of politeness determined by the SFD that is used. They run the gamut from the most direct, the –ro particle, to the least direct, which is the use of “please” through -te ne yo (64-65). Imperatives are certainly not unique to men, but less polite speech is associated with the masculine.
In lieu of the themes in the TV series, I am looking for language that equates manhood with individuality, associates femininity with danger, uncertainty, or wonder, and language that differentiates active from passive. I will examine specific episodes of Space Pirate Captain Harlock looking for:
· Use of the desu/masu forms to indicate politeness. Inversely, use of the da form to indicate aloofness and impoliteness.
· Feminine and masculine SFPs.
· Kenjogu, or humble language used to denigrate the speaker.
· Use of directives.
In exploring which characters adopt the masculine and feminine linguistic forms, and under what contexts, I will analyze how language contributes to the themes of following bushidō, its relation to manhood, and the complications of pursuing an honorable life.
Space Pirate Captain Harlock
In analyzing the language of Space Pirate Captain Harlock, it is important to note that the dialogue is not Leiji Matsumoto’s. It is an adaptation and should be regarded as such. To learn more of the ethics espoused in the 1977 manga, I read an online translation by a group called Gantz Waiting Room, published on mangapark.com. The anime and manga follow the same storyline: the discovery of the Mazone threat, the murder of Tadashi Daiba’s father, Daiba’s persecution by the Earth government and his choice to join The Arcadia, then the war against the Mazone. Whole panels are reproduced from comic to show. Similar or identical lines of dialogue indicate that the themes espoused on the show are the same ones from Matsumoto’s serial. For example, the equation of manhood with honor is in the frontispiece: “When all seas disappeared, mankind believed the world had come to an end. Men pitied themselves, without even thinking of the infinite space lying overhead . . . Only a handful of men, believing in humanity’s brilliant future, had enough courage to go and explore the ‘sea above’” (Matsumoto 3). In both texts, Harlock challenges Daiba to join the Arcadia if he would be a man. In both, the Earth government is portrayed as weak and apathetic, and this disgusts the protagonists. It is clear from comparing the two that the anime is loyal to the themes and storyline of the manga.
A Woman Who Burns like Paper
The third episode of Space Pirate Captain Harlock is essentially the beginning of the story, as it follows where the manga begins. The association of manhood with comradeship appears as soon as the theme song. The last stanza says: “Tomo yo ( my friend) . . . Inochi wa sutete ore wa ikiru (I will throw away my life and live)” (“A Woman Who Burned Like Paper”). The SFP yo is used for emphasis, and is primarily associated with the male, as the “soft” or feminine form is wa. The phrase roughly translates as “O friend,” emphasizing a great friendship between two male comrades. Ore is the masculine form of the first-person pronoun (the feminine form is watashi). Through choice of pronouns and particles, the idea of living by a personal code is tied in with the masculine before the episode even starts.
The world of the TV show exists in the ruins of great civilizations. The remains of the Statue of Liberty and the Parthenon are shown in a desert. This visually enforces the theme of civilization gone stagnant. The audience is introduced to Dr. Daiba, whose language is aggressively masculine in how blunt and short his speech patterns are. When the leaders of Earth will not listen to them, he calls them “Bakayarou!”, or “fools!” He is equally blunt in communicating with his son Tadashi, using “itte kure,” the least polite request form (Smith 65). This is juxtaposed against the Prime Minister of Earth and his manservant. When Dr. Daiba barges into the minister’s bedroom, the servant entreats him to leave using the “soft” -itte kudasai particle. While hiding under his bedsheets, the Prime Minister tries to calm Daiba by referring to him as “Daiba-kun,” -kun being an affectionate suffix primarily used by women. He also asks questions using the ne particle, indicating uncertainty. The meaning is clear: Dr. Daiba is a man of honor, as indicated by his manly speech and virtuous actions, and the feminized bureaucrats will be nothing but obstructions.
Dr. Daiba father is not a fighter, but through his responsibility and initiative embodies bushidō. His strong masculine language builds the connection between manhood and bushidō ethics. Ironically, another character who speaks with the informal, and thus the masculine, is Queen Lafresia, who uses the SFP “no da” in telling her assassin to kill Dr. Daiba. The copula da implies an aloofness and directness. In this world, women are hard, while men can be incredibly soft, with no loyalty or honor. This linguistic choice ascribes mystery to the feminine: who are these calm women, portrayed in silhouette, who so blithely make choices about life and death?
The young Tadashi Daiba meets Harlock after the Mazone murders his father. Harlock is the archetypal assertive male, giving imperatives to Daiba while asking no questions. His language is gender neutral and emotionally moderate. Within the same episode, Tadashi meets Miime, who is both mysterious (she is an alien with no mouth) and the series’ most feminine character. She wears a long dress, has a soft voice, is demure and subservient to Harlock. In Japanese, women are expected to have both higher pitched voices and spend a longer time enunciating words than men. The voice actress does this when she says, “Watashi wa Miime,” drawing out the words. Miime is as feminine as Harlock is masculine. In this episode, Hayashi tie in the notion of manhood with responsibility and duty, and gives an air of mystery to both good and evil female characters.
There are two women on The Arcadia, and both are very feminine in their expression. The navigator Kei Yuki ends every question with the inquisitive ne, refers to Tadashi as “Daiba-kun,” and frequently softens her sentences with the desu/masu form. She enunciates all of her verbs (“Mashita!”), whereas Harlock will say the abbreviated “yosh!” instead of “yoshi!” for “okay!” Both Harlock and first mate Yattaran use abbreviated words, and Daiba is prone to muttering and sighing to show emotion. Meanwhile, Kei and Miime are constantly acknowledging the “other” in the conversation. These feminized verbal affects indicate comradeship, which is part of bushidō, and stands in contrast to the Mazone, the corrupted women who hardly acknowledge one another in speech. In this episode, Miime shows herself to be as brave as Harlock, introducing herself to the villain as “the woman who has dedicated her life to Harlock,” before defeating her in what could only be described as a magic battle. Through these very feminine heroes, the showrunners indicate that it is possible for women to follow bushidō, as well. Feminized language aids the images, such as Miime speaking her quiet dedication to Harlock while following him into a blizzard in her long dress.
The use of English words marks Harlock as an idealized hero. In “Tragic Love!”, Harlock speaks more English than any other character. This includes “screen,” “curtain,” “blizzard,” “engine,” “local” (as in “localized blizzard”), “percent,” “bullet,” and “pulsar cannon.” These words are used functionally, in order to give instructions or convey information to subordinates. They are not only English terms, but terms reflecting technology. Considering how little dialogue Harlock has, giving him a significant amount of English was a very deliberate linguistic choice. Captain Harlock was made at a time when space travel was seen as the pinnacle, if not outright goal, of modern technology. With America at the forefront of aeronautics, the English language held a great deal of cultural capital in the field. Even the nominal techs in the crew of The Arcadia do not use English as frequently as the title character. This serves a two-fold purpose: emphasizing Harlock’s connection to the West and the European mythic hero, and showing his mastery of technology. Matsumoto’s stories aggrandize engineers to mythic levels; for example, Harlock’s friend, Tochiro Oyama, designed and built the space battleship Arcadia by himself. Harlock’s use of English associates him with the mythic grandeur of space and technology, increasing his cache as a bushidō hero.
On the inverse, Harlock is also the least verbose character, and this emphasizes the Matsumoto worldview on how a hero should act. Harlock is taciturn and monosyllabic, doing much of his communication through sounds. In “Tragic Love,” Harlock uses gasps to express surprise, whereas other characters say “Nani [what]”; he says “Hmm” as an affirmation, whereas others give a declarative “Hai [yes].” Harlock gives orders in simple affirmatives such as “Yosh [alright]”, giving the impression of one always in charge of the situation. He does not have to talk much to get others to obey, and usually speaks in order to move the plot forward. In deemphasizing the protagonist’s dialogue, Hayashi emphasizes him as a man of action.
The repeated use of Harlock’s name emphasizes his stature as a mythic hero. Harlock is assigned specialness by the fact that characters always address him directly. For instance, when Harlock goes into the blizzard to face the Mazone, Miime says, “Harlock, let’s return. Hurry . . . Harlock! . . . No, you musn’t go, Harlock . . . Even you [Harlock] might not be able to beat her . . . Harlock, you musn’t go. Harlock!” Of the six utterances of his name, five are used to get his attention. Naturally, throughout the scene Harlock is ignoring Miime, excited to face whatever foe is causing the blizzard. The implication is that Harlock follows his own initiative, which echoes back to Matsumoto’s themes of independence and individuality. The act of naming Harlock also ensures that he is center of attention, from allies and enemies; all the supporting characters are prone to beginning or ending any sentence directed at him with “Harlock.” This speaks to the bushidō concept of na, meaning name and reputation. The name is important because it is associated with honor, and Harlock will not compromise his reputation by running from an enemy. This presents Harlock as an epic hero in the mold of Beowulf or Odysseus, whom are lionized through name repetition in their respective epics. Harlock is also referred to a “kyaputen,” the Japanese pronunciation of “captain.” This stresses the character’s role as a pirate, and thus a rebel against the system. No other authority figure on the show has an English honorific, underlining the Western influence of the character. At the end of “Tragic Love,” the name works as a mantra, casting Harlock in messianic terms. There is a scene in which Harlock’s goddaughter, Mayu, is praying in a church. She hears the sounds of The Arcadia and runs outside, happy to see he is still alive. Meanwhile, a men’s choir sings a cappela over the soundtrack, their words translated as: “I wander amongst distant stars. People call me: Captain Harlock! Captain Harlock! I hoist my flag in this sea of no tomorrow. I live freely. The bird is singing. Under my flag, under my flag, I live in freedom.” The words “God” and/or “Jesus” are not mentioned in this scene, but the name “Captain Harlock” is, and the implication is clear.
The characters’ speech also reflects Matsumoto’s gender dynamics, being that women analyze while men act. Colloquial or unadorned speech is distinctive of other male characters, such as first mate Yattaran, who will use slang such as “yare yare [oh my]” to express exasperation. The audience avatar character, Tadashi Daiba, exists almost purely to give exposition, and expresses rage through profanity. This stands in contrast to the ethereal Miime. When the crew sees an aurora over the North Pole, Miime states: “Auroras were commonly seen on my planet. Particularly around the time the plant life made its rebellion, there were many auroras beautifully shining.” To which Yattaran replies, “Eh.” The adverb “beautifully” is an element of translation, developed from an adverbial clause around utsukushii, meaning “beautiful.” Miime engages with adverbial clauses while the men of the crew use unadorned language.
Female characters often use repetitive word phrasing. This is used to evoke feelings of antiquity and mystery, which reflects the Matsumoto trope of the fantastical female. In “Tragic Love,” Harlock encounters a Mazone who lives in a European-style palace in the North Pole. She appears to be made of ice, has unexplained powers, and her character design calls to mind Hans Christian Andersen’s Snow Queen. The ice witch tells Harlock, “I have been waiting a long, long time for you to come here.” In a later scene, she says, “Day after day [itsumo itsumo], afternoon and night, all I’ve thought about is killing you.” Again, Hayashi ascribes verbosity to the feminine. In Matsumoto’s fairy tale world, women are highly powered to the point that they seem either magical or dangerous, good witch or bad witch. Hayashi employs dialogue to make this particular character seem ancient. The language works in tandem with the visual fairy tale elements, such as her castle, and the way she imprisons Harlock in an ice coffin reminiscent of “Snow White.” Also, as men like Harlock are not allowed to emote, Miime uses repetition to establish concern over the witch: “She is powerful. Dreadfully powerful.” Repetition puts the acknowledgment of fear where it belongs in Matsumoto’s universe: the female.
All of the women are more prone to description, in line with traditional views of gender. Kei describes a bird as a “poor little creature.” Queen Lafresia is the series’ most eloquent character. In Episode 41, “Duel! The Queen vs. Harlock,” she tells Harlock: “To the despondent, travel-worn citizens, and to all my the demoralized soldiers, I said: ‘Look, that shining blue planet is Earth . . . The lifeblood of us, the almighty Mazone.’” Adjectives speak to a need to explain and clarify. This is important in that Lafresia is trying to reconcile her compromised ethics with her royal duties. Harlock’s worldview holds no such complications. As a man, he reacts to situations through action. The Mazone, a race of women, are longterm planners. Hayashi phrases the dialogue to represent that women reflect while men act. However, this does not prevent women from action. At the end of “Tragic Love,” to explain how she overcame the witch, Miime says, “When she’s fighting for her life, even a woman becomes a strong warrior.” This is kenjoku, self-denigration by the speaker. Miime, the very embodiment of keigo principles, is showing how bushidō exists in the traditionally feminine. Also, her understatement serves to point out the fact that she has goddess-like powers, connecting her with the mystique of the feminine. She could just as easily be speaking about the Mazone, who fight fiercely. Through the content and morphology of the dialogue, Miime enforces the inscrutability of women.
A Long Way Away Voyage
Episode 26 deals primarily with the internecine conflicts in the Mazone ranks, and is where Hayashi uses female characters to show the ways in which bushidō can be compromised. The Mazone leadership is arguing over what to do about the civilians, who are tired from constantly fighting Harlock, and desire peace. Some advocate letting them go; others want to use the civilians as shields. All of them are facing conflicts with their moral compass that affects them on a deep level, making them more than cartoon villains. In this scene, the all-female characters are predominantly using the impolite da verb form. They give imperatives with gender neutral terms like koto (used to emphasize an order without being overtly impolite). Even the directives are neutral on the politeness scale, such as “Cleo no okunasai! [Retrieve it, Cleo!],” but lean more toward the masculine in their informality. This is in contrast to the masu/desu-inflected speech of Kei and Miime. It is also in contrast to the kindly Arcadia doctor, Zero, a male who communicates with female crew members using the ne particle. In other words, the Mazone talk at each other, while the crew of The Arcadia talks with each other. A room full of women speaking so impolitely to one another in anomalous in Japanese culture, demonstrating their problematic bushidō through a linguistic schism.
Much work is done in this episode to set up Lafresia as Harlock’s double, and Hayashi does so through honorifics. It is telling that Harlock gets the more modern moniker, whereas his enemy Queen Lafresia is always called “Joou Lafresia.” Her name connects her to the fairy tale just as his connects to the epic. The structure of Lafresia’s name is semi-Westernized, and in pronunciation the o in joou is emphasized. This in turn stresses her role as “queen,” which has a fairy tale context. Japanese honorifics such as -san, -sensei, or -hime are attached as suffixes to the end of names. Japan was ruled by empresses, not queens, and under Japanese honorifics she would be titled Lafresia-tennō. Thus, linguistically, Lafresia is a European monarch. The continued utterance of “Joou Lafresia” works in tandem with her representation: a coldly beautiful woman in dark colors who spies on The Arcadia through a crystal globe, similar to the magic mirror from the Disney version of “Snow White.” In this anime, a romanticized pirate/cowboy is fighting an Evil Queen. This is one more way in which Hayashi ties the series back to Matsumoto’s fairy tale elements. The other character in the series that gets a Westernized name is, of course, Captain Harlock. This sets up the female antagonist as a magical character, symbolic of the dangers men face when they enter the unknown. It is also sets up the difference between the two leaders. The pirate moniker “captain” indicates that Harlock is a rebel, while the title “queen” connects Lafresia to institutions.
As mentioned earlier in the paper, Meiji Era bushidō privileged individual honor over institutional loyalty. Harlock’s crewmates either refer to him by his name or as “kyaputen.” This is a very casual way to speak with a commanding officer. The Mazone refer to their queen as “Joou Lafresia-sama,” the addition of the honorific –sama, meaning “lady,” adding more reverence to her title. This large level of sonkeigo works in tandem with the visuals of Mazone generals pledging their undying loyalty to Lafresia, a scene reminiscent of Nazi propaganda films. This scene of identical women swearing loyalty is intercut with a scene of Lafresia crying in her swimming pool. She has just murdered her friend Tesius, who sided with the civilians, and is telling herself that she can cry, as long as afterwards she is utterly merciless in order to defeat Harlock. With this linguistic touch, Hayashi characterizes the Mazone society. They are so built on maintaining order that they have developed a cult of personality around their monarchy. This desire to live up to the institution compromises the honor of both Lafresia and her subjects. Underneath the honorifics, they are fractured, disloyal to one another, the opposite of The Arcadia. As stated, Matsumoto employs his fallible female characters to explore the failure to follow bushidō. Lafresia wants to do right by her people, but the stress of the situation breaks her. The Mazone are not wrong because they are women, or because they are warrior women. They are wrong because, time and again, they compromise their ethics. Ironically, these women who use “rough” masculine language are cast in the same dishonorable light as the feminized men who run Earth.
There is one trait of feminized speech the Mazone maintain in this episode, and that is verbosity. Lafresia explains her actions through monologue. When Cleo is sent to bomb Tesius and the other defectors, Tesius tells her to tell Lafresia, “No matter how you forge it, steel without pliancy is quite brittle. The same can be said of a heart without mercy.” Men in the Leijiverse are not capable of such eloquence, as their manliness requires they be taciturn. Through women, who make the hard decisions, Hayashi can elaborate on the situation in an eloquent way.
My Friend, My Youth
The flashback episode “My Friend, My Youth” has several themes related to bushidō. It contains the most obvious comparisons between Harlock and Western archetypes, because in his past he was a cowboy on a desert planet. In order to emphasize this, Harlock orders “whiskey” at the saloon, while the other cowboys still order sake. This is the episode that introduces Harlock’s deceased friend Tochiro Oyama and his lover Emeraldas, and through them explores different aspects of bushidō.
Tochiro gets in a bar fight with cowboys at the saloon. It is the point where they question his manhood that he attacks them, reinforcing the importance of manliness. The cowboys beat him to a pulp, showing that he is no warrior like Harlock. It is during this point that Tochiro meets Emeraldas. The female space pirate, while a fighter, is entirely feminine in her language. She introduces herself as, “Watashi wa Emeralda, des,” using the female first-person pronoun watashi and a short form of desu. When she apologizes she says, “Gomenasai,” –nasai being a polite particle. In her speech, Emeraldas is every bit the ideal Japanese woman whom the linguists conceived of in the Meiji Era.
While her language is obedient, Emeraldas is not. She is wealthier than Harlock and Tochiro at that point in time, and tries to hire them for a job. She is more experienced than them and tracks them to their secret hideout. At one point, she rescues the heroes. The beautiful woman does become attracted to Harlock, but to the squat, bespectacled Tochiro, and only after she sees that he is an engineering genius. Through her language, Hayashi emphasizes how superficial gendered speech is. Emeraldas addresses others with respect and still maintains both control and independence. In her 1992 study of Japanese professional women in leadership positions, Janet Smith wrote, “They routinely cited the ease with which they were accepted by male (and female) subordinates as long as they were gentle, open, and considerate, when, in their own words, they stressed solidarity over authority” (Smith 63). If feminized language constitutes a show of solidarity in powerful women, then Emeraldas is practicing her own form of bushidō by respecting her comrades.
Throughout the episode, Harlock refers to Tochiro five times as “tomo yo,” meaning “O [male] friend.” This speaks to the value of loyalty. Tochiro is not a physically intimidating person, but he demonstrates the same courage as Harlock when they escape a cowboy posse, or break out of the prison camp. Just as Emeraldas is an atypical samurai, Tochiro is atypical. Harlock’s mantra of loyalty, “tomo yo,” puts them on the same level, as warriors.
There is a point in “A Long Way Away Journey” in which Lafresia commands Harlock to stop fighting her, and mocks his pride. Harlock replies, “The pride you speak of is merely a woman’s pride. A man’s pride is not the same thing.” At first this seems like a case of 1970s sexism. On closer examination, Harlock is simply throwing her taunt back at her. The ideal samurai is invoking haji, casting shame on an enemy who has lost her honor. The Leijiverse is a man’s world. One need not look farther than the narrator: the omniscient voice is that of a man speaking of traditional male values. Matsumoto’s choice to combine epic and fairy tale characters demonstrate his symbolism. As shown by gendered speech in Space Pirate Captain Harlock, to be a man is to be stable, unwavering in honor and ethics. To be a woman is to be inherently strange and changeable. It is the female that metaphorically represents the sublimity that men encounter when they follow their dreams. However, for the actual female characters in the Leijiverse, all have the opportunity to follow bushidō in their own way. Matsumoto’s redefinition of the samurai ideal shows why his work is still relevant after five decades.
Saturday, September 14, 2013
Blackgate Magazine is one of my favorite online journals about fantasy. Pretty cool to write about my recent tour for them. Shoutout to the Beelen Street punks.