On British Literature & Fate: What it Means to be Remembered || OWLS “Legacy”

Chances are that if you were linked here from another blogger pal, then you might be new. To those first-timers, “Hi, I’m Takuto, welcome to my anime cafe!” For the OWLS blog tour’s second monthly topic of 2020, “Legacy,” I’m gonna stand on the soapbox for a bit and just talk about my own experiences with the word, while also making  connections to some of my favorite stories, both in anime and literature.

We have mentors, teachers, coaches, and role models whose stories inspired us in some way. Even when these role models are gone, their stories will live on from generation to generation. For this month, we will be exploring stories that have inspired or taught us some important lessons about life.

This will be a shorter post, but hopefully one still with merit to it. Thanks Lyn for the prompt!

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Of Legends and Lore

So I’m currently taking this Survey of British Literature class at uni and we just read (well for me reread) the old manuscript of Beowulf. In case you didn’t know, Beowulf is the titular protagonist of the oldest poem in English literature. Set in what is currently the areas between southern Sweden and Denmark, the folk epic recounts the tale of one of the world’s oldest documented heroes. Battle-brave, brazen, and bold, Beowulf is a champion all throughout his lifetime—and for his mighty deeds and charisma, his glory continues to live on well over 1,000 years as students are told and retold the story of bravery, loyalty, and honor.

Our society likes heroes. Typically, such figures like Beowulf (or anyone from the popular MCU) provide icons we can admire or stories to fall in love with. Beowulf defeats the wretched, demonic Grendel, slays the beast’s sea-witch of a mother, and even conquers a dragon—the very representation of the mythical and the divine—transcending his mortality at the tragic cost of his own life. In his last moments on earth, Beowulf performs this unbelievable feat, and is rewarded for his courage and virtue by becoming a figure forever enshrined in the hearts of his men. Truly, Beowulf is a hero.

Even if it’s not the most “stimulating” read, I enjoy this Old English poem a great deal. The timeless values of a warrior society often feel much easier to discern than the overtly emotionally-conflicted minds of, say, a Shakespeare work. At its core, Beowulf is a simple tale, yet one that imparts upon the reader a vision of the past—of whale-path waves crashing against the beaten rocky shore, and of powerful sailors that can command these swan-road seas on a whim. As we behold a man in his final hours transcend heroism from one thing to something else, we find that Beowulf embodies the changing spirit of this long-lost warrior society—as well as its very best parts.

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Knights of the Round

We flash forward a few centuries with a different set of morals and mindsets, but the same human heart, with the Arthurian legends. No more are people barbarians at sea; this is a time of knighthood, and with it comes refined honor and bravery, courtliness, gallantry towards women, and most of all, chivalry. Like most chivalric romance, Arthurian poetry employs the motif of a quest to tell its tales, which always comes in a familiar set of 3’s: a challenge, a journey, and a test.

Whether conquering an enemy’s castle for the sake of one’s kingdom or fighting off the nasty temptations of Morgan le Fay and at times even Britain’s own Queen Guinevere, upholding the virtues of a knight was certainly not the easiest task to accomplish. Courtly love can lead the men and women of this time to spiral into all kinds of romantic trouble, but the chivalric code must always be upheld. Stories like Lanval and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight perfectly illustrate the delicate balance between desire and doing what is right. 

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Despite being some of the hardest Old English literature out there to decipher, endless fun can be had with Arthurian lore. Today, the names of King Arthur and his knights are often trivialized, which is saddening given how excruciatingly poignant the tragic irony of a given character’s betrayal or death can be.

Yet, when done justice, we get incredible works like those from Type-Moon’s Nasuverse, including the Fate/Grand Order mobile game, Yoshiyuki Asai’s Fate/Apocrypha, and Gen Urobuchi’s masterpiece of pseudo-historical fiction, Fate/Zero. Fate‘s portrayals of Artoria (Arthur) Pendragon, Lancelot, and Mordred are easily my favorite ones out there, as their combined cinematic lore is almost as deeply interwoven as the original legends themselves are.


I suppose having your name recorded in the history books is a form of immortality. But if that just means your name gets passed down for two thousand years and nothing else, I’d have preferred to have even a hundredth of that added to my actual life. — Rider, Fate/Zero


And while on the subject of past deeds influencing the present, seeing how intensely Alexander the Great (Iskandar) continues to influence young Waver Velvet’s life even a whole ten years after the Holy Grail War in The Case Files of Lord El-Melloi II lends allegoric proof to the fact that history’s greatest heroes can especially impact our hearts with the legacies they leave behind.

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Even Heroes Die

The tales of Beowulf and King Arthur’s knights have long-since been told. While we know they lived valiant lives, we’ve also come to understand that even heroes die. Unfortunately, we are past the time in which we can rely on a single hero. We can’t rely on just one person solely to be responsible for watching after us all. And so, we must become heroes in our own lives, even if our deeds often go unrewarded. We can choose to embody the fiery bravery of a warrior, the dutiful chivalry of a knight, or even some other code of honor that I didn’t discuss in this post.

We don’t have to be the strongest or the greatest. We can be weak heroes, for even a weak hero is still a hero. This sentiment is echoed in K-pop sensation BTS’s “Anpanman,” which describes the popular red bean bun mascot’s determination to help those who are closest to him, even if he’s no Batman or Superman.

Anpanman is the local hero in our own lives we can rely on time and time again. The best part is that we can be each other’s Anpanman, so long as we are willing to help those in our lives who need it most. We can be heroes, too. And just like those who inspired us to be great, our legacies can live on in the lives we touch, and maybe—just maybe—be remembered for a long time to come.

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Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you. — Shannon L. Adler


Afterword

For the first time, coming up with a single series to talk about proved more difficult than it should have. Maybe that is why I settled on this loose discussion over something current and relevant to my life: Brit lit. Or, perhaps, I had been wanting to talk about these famous knights and warriors from the days of old for a while now . . .

Regardless, I had one more quote running through my head as I was writing this: “We all die. The goal isn’t to live forever. The goal is to create something that will” (Chuck Palahniuk). As a blogger, artist, and musician, all I can do is create things. And thus, even if this blog is the only thing even remotely memorable I can leave behind, I’d still be eternally grateful for the opportunity to share my words with people like you. Please, continue to chase after your dreams and your passions, for what you can share with others will only add to the stories they will share about you!

This concludes my February 8th entry in the OWLS “Legacy” blog tour. Megan (Nerd Rambles) went right before me with a post about the literature that has left an impact on her, which you can read right here! Now, look out for Aria (The AniManga Spellbook) with a post over the recently aired Magia Record anime on Tuesday, February 11th! Thank you so much for reading, and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

Shin Godzilla is a Terrifyingly Realistic & Meaningful Ode to History | Review

A brief discussion on the summer 2016 Japanese film “Shin Godzilla” (also known as “Godzilla: Resurgence”), produced Toho, co-directed by Hidaeki Anno and Shinji Higuchi, based on the original story by Anno (Evangelion). 

*I am not overly familiar with the Godzilla franchise (meaning I cannot properly decide whether it is a particularly “good” or “faithful” addition), but I do respect it and the impact it has had on the Japanese people and the rest of the world.*

“A God Incarnate. A City Doomed.”

This is how Funimation captions the deadly film containing the biggest, baddest Godzilla known to mankind, and accurately so. (He’s literally the tallest in the franchise!) But before the King of Monsters surfaced from the deep, it was just another quiet day for Japan. Chaos quickly floods the scene when a giant, strange gilled creature explodes from the ocean’s surface and begins tearing through the city.

Prioritizing citizen safety above all else, the government attempts to keep the situation under control, only to realize that their technicalities and formalities are useless in the face of true terror. It’ll take a rag-tag team of volunteer scientists, engineers, and public safety officials to come up with some sort of way to combat this seemingly perfect lifeform. “But time is not on their side—the greatest catastrophe to ever befall the world is about to evolve right before their very eyes.” – Funimation

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More Than BOOMS! and BANGS!

Despite boasting action (it’s a Godzilla film for crying out loud), there’s a surprising amount of substance, particularly a possible social commentary on the hierarchy of the Japanese government and they way the nation handles foreign affairs during war time. Specifically, we are frequently shown how frustrating and slow policy can be. The film’s first half centralizes on political officials arguing about who should do what, when, and their reactions to the unbelievable events unfolding—most were consumed with disbelief, in fact, except for the young yet forward-thinking Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Rando Yaguchi, our basically-main character (and wow, what a title).

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We join Yaguchi in his frustration against the higher-ups, as well as his struggle to make amends with the innocent lives lost because of the government’s inability to act early on. While those above him in rank merely wish to hold fast to their comfortable, well-paying seats, shrugging off the impending doom that is about to likely kill them all, Yaguchi pulls together every asset that he can to find out what Godzilla is, and solve the mysteries surrounding Goro Maki’s research on the subject. It’s sad to admit how painfully real the execution of this all is.

Unlike the other officials who merely bicker about bureaucratic protocol and semantics (and not take things seriously), Yaguchi deals with exactly what’s in front of him. He knows he’s trapped within the system’s web, but he doesn’t fear questioning those above him in order to do his job correctly and honorably. Actor Hiroki Hasegawa conveys the complexity of Yaguchi’s character impressively, balancing fitting facial expressions for each emotional hit: a mix of concern, anger, sadness, and confusion.

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As I side note, I thoroughly enjoyed the excitement that came with watching Godzilla transform from the weird gilled lizard on all fours to the menacing tower of terror we’ve come to know and love. It was so much fun! One small small complaint that I did have was (and I’m not sure if this actually counts) that I couldn’t really tell if the CG done on Godzilla was “good” or not. Seriously, I couldn’t. Was he creepy lookin’? Sure, but I’m not sure how this makeover compares to previous ones. Also, while his explosive beams later on looked absolutely terrifying, I didn’t like the cheesy sound effects for the explosions—they felt like they were missing a low boom to ’em, or perhaps an epic bass you’d expect from a Hollywood explosion.

Intense Dialogue, and the Engrish Doesn’t Help

Most of the film’s complaints are targeted at the lead female, Kayoko Ann Patterson, portrayed by Satomi Ishihara, whose unfortunate script is loaded with English-heavy dialogue. In an interview, she even stated “Sometimes it’s so frustrating, I just want to cry,” and by NO means is any of this her fault—that’s a director issue. Her character is meant to seem very American, and while we definitely get that feeling, I can’t help but think that her normal Japanese speaking would’ve sufficed the whole way through. Anyway, I still love Kayoko to death because of how her character acts as an excellent foil to Yaguchi’s—both see themselves in higher positions, but for now, they work together efficiently with what they’ve got in their own ways.

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The Engrish problem is solved by switching the language settings to Funimation’s English dub, which is especially wonderful because the subtitles just fly by! Shin Godzilla is a film about talking through the problem, and less about any spectacular human actions. The political nonsense in the first 20 minutes, as well as the ending with solving Maki’s quote (which I’ll get to) are much easier to understand with the dub. If you don’t mind live-action dubs, do give this one a go—it could help immensely with understanding the film’s main messages.

Understanding the Legacy of the Atomic Bomb

More than having knowledge of the franchise, it’s historical context that is needed for full emotional effect here. Japan was rocked not once but twice by an evil that shouldn’t have even been unleashed on the planet: the atomic bomb. History has learned that the destruction that follows an atomic bomb is not cool. It’s not something the U.S. or any country should glorify, and this film makes sure of that. Godzilla was birthed once the long-term effects of radiation poisoning revealed themselves as something just as fearsome and frightful as the bomb itself—gosh, perhaps worse.

This brings us back to the film, which could stand an allegory for nuclear war and its long-standing effects, Godzilla itself mirroring the disastrous earthquakes, tsunamis, and radiation that hit the poor nation all at once. Unlike normal action films where you’re just waiting in anticipation for the bad guy to unleash their awesome powers, I was left not cheering, but shaking with fear of the results that, very closely, mimic an atomic bomb. The theme of destruction is a powerful one, a scary one, and that’s how this film shocked the viewers—the moment Godzilla unleashes its wrath is one that can only be witnessed . . . and feared.

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The People that Made this Experience Special

1. Sharla (Sharmander on YT)—Being one of my favorite YouTubers, it’s rare to ever hear about her work life as a dialogue coach, and so I was ecstatic once she put out a video saying that she worked with the cast (particularly Yaguchi and Kayoko on those stubborn English lines) and Anno himself.

2. Shiro Sagisu—Known for his epic music in Evangelion, Shiro gives the film a really neat character. His famous “intense operations planning” music that plays throughout the franchise makes several appearances in this film, and though it felt overplayed at first, a second watch through with the dub made it all feel like it blended seamlessly, as if Eva and Godzilla were truly “a match made in kaiju heaven!”

3. Hidaeki Anno—THIS MAN puts me through so much stress, and yet I can’t ever look away whenever I hear his name involved in a project. He is the reason I jumped into this foreign franchise, after all, so that’s got to mean something, right? He perfectly combs together realism, destruction, and rebirth in such a way that merits a masterpiece with every work. In Shin Godzilla, he took me back to the first time when I saw Evangelion and was impacted in such a way that I’d never be the same without it. I’m glad Anno took the break between 3.0 and the final Rebuild film, because hey, sometimes we have to “Do as we please,” and I respect that.

Thank you for giving me my Evangelion fix—it was an incredibly enjoyable experience!

“Do as you please.”

These are the few words left by the enigmatic Maki, and yet, they remain the strongest message within the work. It’s something so simple, to do as you want to, though I get the impression that it’s not a common Japanese lesson taught. No, this isn’t a wish or a passing thought, but a statement aimed DIRECTLY at Japan. Towards the end of the film, the Prime Minister must either give consent to or deny the United States’s declaration against Godzilla: “Take care of it now, or we will nuke it.” That’s right, history will repeat itself. Japan would risk losing the pride and dignity it spent so many years recuperating to the humiliation of starting at ground zero once again.

With the titular creature MIA towards the end and the U.S.’s threat, it almost begs the question: Are humans deadlier than Godzilla?

But oh, “Danger is an opportunity for personal growth,” remarks the U.S. President in the film. Yeah, not for this country. The true climax of the film comes down to a duel between philosophies—to accept help and then rebuild, or own up to the situation. And when Japan finally does decide to take matters into its own hands, fighting the way only they do best by studying their enemy, the scientific team makes work of the King of Monsters in a way that, without spoilers, makes me proud to be human. Using science, mankind’s greatest weapon, the team transforms the impossible into plausible—theory into reality.

It’s that moment when you realize you CAN stand for yourself WITHOUT having to kill another being—THAT is the big takeaway. Take pride in the things you can create and accomplish together, NOT destroy. And finally, for ONCE in your overly obedient life, do as YOU please, NOT what the others want.

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Shin Godzilla is incredibly smart, realistic, meaningful, and genuinely scary at times. Most of all, my god, if this film had come from my country, I’d be overflowing with pride, too.

“Accountability comes with the job. A politician must decide to own it or not.” – Rando Yaguchi 

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(None of these screenshots belong to me. No copyright infringement is intended.)


Have I been completely Godzilla-fied? Haha, not quite, but I will definitely be keeping an eye out for future installments, including the wildly anticipated CG Godzilla film directed by Gen Urobuchi, another one of my favorite directors in the industry! Shin Godzilla may not be anime, but I’ll let it slide into the “Caffe Mocha” selection as grade-A movie material for sure, and for everything it stands for. Shout-out to Scott (Mechanical Anime Reviews) for hyping me up about it, and for covering the film way better (and quicker) than I did here.

Lastly, thank you so much for reading, as this was a film that has grown to mean a lot to me. I’m dying to know what you thought about Shin Godzilla, especially regarding its production, so let me know your thoughts in the comments! Until next time everyone, this has been

– Takuto, your host