Wednesday, April 18, 2012

NHK ni Yōkoso and Everything that's wrong with the Japanese

Along the social commentary vein that I was discussing in my last entry with science fiction, I have brought you another manga; which did become a very successful anime, that is full of social commentary under the witty pros and the deep reaches of character development.

It is rare that one comes across such a manga that can unapologetically discuss some of the biggest problems in Japanese culture without disclosing their direct opinion on the issues. Of course, there is nothing that is published that does not state an opinion. Even trashy romance novels, no matter what period of time they are set it, state opinions of the cultures that they take place in. What is rare is the mostly indirect way that Yōkoso states the opinions of the mangaka or writers, in this case Takimoto and Ōiwa.

What this manga does so well is dredge up some of the then deepest darkest secrets of Japanese society and displays them in an almost satirical enjoyment. The manga is funny but almost unapologetically deep and thought provoking.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Science Fiction and Planetes

2 years before his death Science Fiction writer Philip Dick stated

"I want to write about people I love, and put them into a fictional world spun out of my own mind, not the world we actually have, because the world we actually have does not meet my standards. Okay, so I should revise my standards; I'm out of step. I should yield to reality. I have never yielded to reality. That's what SF is all about. If you wish to yield to reality, go read Philip Roth; read the New York literary establishment mainstream bestselling writers….This is why I love SF. I love to read it; I love to write it. The SF writer sees not just possibilities but wild possibilities. It's not just 'What if' - it's 'My God; what if' - in frenzy and hysteria. The Martians are always coming"

His quote also captures why so many readers have embraced not only the science fiction genre but also fantasy as well. It is that yearning for escape and rempant freedom of the imagination that draws people away from their own world and into the authors. It allows them to create it in their minds until it is not really a fantasy, but a living breathing world for their imaginations. It's very similar to how so many fandoms turn into living and breathing communities that allows the fans to mold and play with a world and finally personalize it. They are all expressions of creativitiy. 

As I was reading Planetes from mangaka Yukimaru Makoto, I was struck by many different ideas and quotes as I was reading. I wrote them all down as I was reading this rather profoundly short 4 volume manga. Tokyo Pop, may them somehow rise from the ashes, released it in English and I strongly urge whoever reads this to invest in it. It is thought provoking and timeless as any true science fiction work should be.