Post-Coitus (Authors Notes and Random Thoughts)
I went to Japan two years ago, I was introduced to a cartoon that most people believed had the running power of Dragon Ball Z. More than one afternoon was spent watching the cartoon, in its original Japanese (which only confirms how poorly I speak Japanese) and I howled with laughter and wept with empathy in all the right places.
After I got back, I started watching the English version, which, of course, doesn't exactly come on cable, but I live close a really good anime store that does rentals. Frankly, and maybe it was from the mood I had watching the originals, I liked the English version better. Sure, Kenshin sounds much younger than he actually is, and you can see the replacements of Japanese with English terms that make sense to English speaking people, but somehow, I liked it. It did a better job of conveying the feeling of each moment because of the tonal nature of English, which is extremely different from the tonal nature of Japanese, and hard for us English speaking folk to grasp. It's okay, I'm Southern, and my nature of softening my voice and smiling when I get angry or mean was quite amusing (and confusing) to my friends in Japan.
This story is, in a lot of ways, a fictitious study of Japanese religion, which was best phrased as a "Religious Buffet." The time period at issue in the series was a fantastic time for looking into this, as Christianity was just starting to take hold, and western influences were leaking their way in around the seams of a once carefully closed off country. There was a saying that the Japanese are born Shinto and die Buddhist. The saying that came about after the Meiji Era was that Japanese are born Shinto, marry Buddhist, and die Christian. To them, all religions are the same, coming from the same place and essentially achieving the same goals. Religion is a part of nature, and so too, is man, who should show it the degree of respect it is due. People who live in typhoons, I have noticed, have a healthy respect for nature.
I found it an interesting challenge to my Catholic psyche to take a deep look at most of the world's religions and find the commonalities. Druidism (in the old Celtic style, not the Wiccan stuff of today, which is too modernized to fit into this era) blends surprisingly well with Shinto. I used honest Buddhist/Shinto structure in the process of death and advancement, and the concept is largely what I understand to be the concept of religion as a whole to the Japanese.
Japanese beliefs about death say that the spirit separates from the body over the course of 49 days. From there, the spirit becomes a Buddha, enjoying the enlightenment of death and the freedom from the mortal world. After that, the spirit becomes a Kami, and becomes a protector of his family. Trying to think and follow in that course: the road to the bridge takes 49 days, the bridge is representative of the time as a Bhudda, when a spirit can choose between staying an enlightened Buddha, or accepting the responsibility and becoming a Kami. Those who choose to remain Buddha, are absorbed into the enlightenment of the Divine Consciousness, all of their mortal petty concerns are dropped into the Infernal Consciousness. Kami are somewhere in between, neither entirely good, nor entirely evil, they protect something or someone.
Hikari was a difficult character to build. She had a definite physical presence in my mind, and as I was building the personality, I had to find a real balance between something that essentially lives forever and acts as an agent of the world's concept of Justice; and someone who has spent so much of Earth's history in service that she has a limited freedom, and, by nature, a degree of humility. This required a long look at what Justice actually is, and it's a strange balance between revenge, correction, and punishment. So Hikari had to have the ability to think as simply as a child, as lovingly as a mother, and as forceful as a victim, all while being sufficiently detached because impartiality is very much a trait that we like to attribute to Justice. So, while I tried to make her not overbearing, she did have to have a certain degree of arrogance about her. And while I tried not to make her craven, she had to have a complete understanding of where she is on the food chain.
Not that I expect everyone to understand the complexities of the relationship between Hikari and Kenshin, some of you might notice that she was in love with him as a mortal, and took on more of a motherly aspect when he came into her world. I put a great deal of thought into that, as well. She fell in love with the mortality of him, his desire to live. His spirit, she felt protective toward, believing that it could be nurtured.
I also spent a great deal of time in dealing with Kenshin's perspective of his past and came to the conclusion that much of his past troubles came about because he had believed himself separate from that life. The Battousai as a separate personality formed to exonerate him of the responsibility of his past and gave him a focus for his blame, and gradually, all the parts of his personality he didn't like about himself. In watching the OAVs, you see that he really is a child at that point, much like any of us were when we were 14 to 18. We didn't have our own real sense of direction, so we went where we were told. The Battousai personality is a crutch for Kenshin, as he states several times in the Kyoto Arc that he can't defeat Shishio without reverting to the Battousai, and even before that, within the first eight episodes when Kaoru is kidnaped by Genji. Sometime before the Tales of the Meiji started toward the whole Son of God series, he seems to stop leaning on the personality as a separate individual. Or, as my husband so aptly put it, he apparently went to one of those anger management seminars that teaches you to use your anger toward something constructive. I suggested that he had been medicated and that his MPD was under control, thanks to Lithium. The result was the compromise place.
I have a hard time grasping many of the female characters in Rurouni Kenshin because they are designed to mock the women that actually existed. Japanese women are nowhere near as impulsive or hysterical as they are portrayed in anime. And they are the true Sensei of the DBSC School of Revenge (Dish Best Served Cold). They get upset about the same things we get upset about. However, rather than start an actual fight over it, they find another way around it. Anime tends to portray women as hysterical for two reasons: (1) it is so unlike a real woman that it is funny, (2) men are a little scared of women in Japan, since they are taking up so much of the workforce now, and literally consuming entire fields of employment.
So that's about it. Umm, as a rule I don't ever apologize for my work, so I'm definitely not sorry that I wrote this. I enjoyed it immensely and posted it because I needed somewhere to put it as my HD is getting too full of the articles and stuff I am supposed to be getting done. I do, however, wonder how I'm going to avoid actually working now that I'm done with this? :)